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Willisms

« January 2006 | WILLisms.com | March 2006 »

Heidi Franklin Update.

Heidi, the Weimaraner, has doubled in size since we've had her, from four and a half pounds to nearly ten pounds.

heidiplaying.gif

She loves basking in the Texas sun.

luxuriating.gif

She loves tennis.

playingtennis.gif

Oh, and she tells me that she is in favor of Social Security reform-- and of personal accounts specifically.

Good dog.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 February 2006 04:27 PM · Comments (7)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 282 -- State Tax Revenue Way Up.

States Awash In Cash-

State government coffers are filling up once again. Tax revenues are once again up thus far in 2006. Indeed, despite some of the campaign rhetoric from Democrats about how Bush's tax cuts have burdened state and local governments, revenues have been up consistently since the major 2003 federal tax relief package (.pdf):

statesawashincash.gif
State tax revenue in the July-September 2005 quarter grew 9.2 percent compared to the same period in 2004. This was the fastest third-quarter growth since at least 1991.

But not all regions are created equal. Some states are growing more, some are not.

The Great Lakes states and New England, mostly blue states with relatively high state tax burdens, saw the slowest revenue growth, while parts of the country with a more low-tax libertarian streak experienced the fastest revenue growth (.pdf):

changesintaxrevenue.gif

More cash, all around, especially in states that weren't tempted to raise taxes during the most recent recession. Don't let them raise taxes in your state. Despite what politicians tell you, they don't need more money.

Source:
"State Tax Revenue Off to a Flying Start for Fiscal Year 2006," The Nelson A Rockefeller Institute of Government (.pdf).

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Tax Cuts For The Rich.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 February 2006 04:05 PM · Comments (4)

Funding Palestinian Dysfunction

Is this farce, or tragedy?

From The Australian we learn that not only is the U.S. going to fund Hamas once it takes over the Palestinian Authority, but the European Union also may soon be funding Hamas as well:

THE European Union gave the Palestinian Authority a temporary lifeline of $US143million ($194million) yesterday [hey, I need a 'temporary lifeline' over here too! - ed.] after special Middle East envoy James Wolfensohn warned it was on the verge of collapse.

The one-off EU payment, which will tide over the Palestinians until a Hamas government takes over, came in response to a plea from Mr Wolfensohn, who told the EU the authority may need as much as $US360million in new funding to pay the bills for February and March. "Unless a solution is found, we may be facing the financial collapse of the PA within two weeks," he said.

God forbid that Hamas should end up broke!

Here is a message to the Palestinian people: you want funding?

Grow up and act like you deserve it.

If you act like barbaric children, murdering civilians in pizzerias, on buses, and rocketing homes, you will be treated like barbaric children. Poor barbaric children. Notice that I am addressing not the PLA or Hamas here, but the Palestinian people themselves. They are the ones that have empowered, funded, and voted for terrorism, and they should be held to account.

Mature, respectable societies do not threaten to drive their neighbors 'into the sea', nor do they take blood libels like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion seriously, nor do they hope to 'finish what Hitler started', nor do they promise to drink the blood of the jews, and this is what Hamas, the PLA, and yes the Palesinian people stand for.

The Palestinians are a people defeated in the mind and soul. They have become nihilists, caring about nothing, not even their own future. No one can help them now but themselves, and perhaps like alcoholics they need to reach the very bottom before they recover. We should not help their dysfunction along by funding them. Whatever complaints they have pale in comparison to the grievous bloodlettings they are responsible for.

Hamas has pledged violence in the event that they do not get funded. Naturally they have it backwards - they should not get a dime until they renounce terrorism and live up to their words thereby. Bribery-for-peace is a recipe for disaster, and guaranteed to fail. Hamas will eventually have to prove that they are serious about their threat, meaning that somewhere in Israel right now there are innocents who will be murdered when the bill for this blackmail comes due.

This does not even get into the issue of rampant corruption within the PLA, something that the ever-honorable Hamas has pledged to clean up. If Hamas is only one-tenth as corrupt as the kleptocrat Yassir Arafat was, it should give us pause for concern. I just hope the EU ends up paying as much of the inevitable graft to come as we do.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 28 February 2006 02:45 PM · Comments (26)

Iran Begins Enrichment

Iran has already begun to enrich uranium, according to a confidential report leaked from the International Atomic Energy Agency:

The report, which will be formally submitted to the IAEA's board of governors at its meeting next week, says that the Iranians are currently testing a 20-centrifuge cascade of machines and actually enriching uranium in a 10-centrifuge cascade. Thousands of centrifuges must be in operation to produce enough enriched uranium for nuclear weaponry.

The IAEA board of governors did not even wait for this report to come out before voting 27-3 to refer this matter to the UN Security Council. Three members of the Axis of Ignorance - Syria, Venezuela and Cuba - voted against the referral.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 27 February 2006 09:10 PM · Comments (10)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 281 -- Tax Cuts For The Rich?

The Real Story On Taxes-

Are the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor because of those "tax cuts for the rich" the Bush administration has persistently pushed for since 2001?

No.

The very lowest income quintiles pay remarkably little in taxes.

whoactuallypaystaxes.gif
Between 1979 and 2003, the share of income taxes paid by the highest-earning quintile jumped from 65 percent to 85 percent. Their share of all taxes paid (includ­ing social insurance, cor­porate, and excise taxes) increased from 56 percent to 66 percent. Upper-income taxpayers are pay­ing more, not less, of the tax burden.
incomequints.gif
...from 2000 to 2003, the share of all individual income taxes paid by the bottom 40 percent dropped from zero percent to –2 percent, meaning that the average family in those quintiles received a subsidy from the IRS. By contrast, the share paid by the richest quintile increased from 81 percent to 85 percent. Clearly, the tax cuts have led to the rich shouldering more of the income tax bur­den and the poor shouldering less.

When Democrats talk about Bush's "tax cuts for the rich," they are playing the class warfare card, not dealing in reality.


Source:
Heritage & CBO (.pdf).

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Young Americans Are Not As Liberal As Advertised.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 February 2006 05:07 PM · Comments (6)

Quotational Therapy: Part 77 -- John McCain, On The UAE Port Imbroglio.

McCain-

It's now late February of 2006, which means that the 2008 presidential race begins 9 months from today, just after the 2006 midterm elections.

This is the Season of Political Independence™. With the Republican primaries and caucuses fast approaching, dozens of presidential hopefuls now desperately seek to position themselves correctly on any number of unimportant-but-symbolic issues perceived as potentially important for primary voters.

Thus, while many 2008 presidential hopefuls on the GOP side of the aisle have been quick to jump on the labor union-instigated bandwagon against the barely-newsworthy Dubai port deal, it is refreshing to see one probable candidate taking his job seriously.

"I think that near-hysteria about this is not warranted, particularly in light of the other major crises that we are facing throughout the world. the Iranian nuclear weapons issue is the greatest single threat we have faced since the end of the Cold War."

-Arizona Senator John McCain.

azsenjohnmccain.gif

While McCain would not currently be my first choice, or even second or third choice, for president in 2008, he is consistently solid on national security issues. In the series of "debates" we can expect to see on Fox News and CNN in 2007 and 2008, McCain's seriousness on national security will be a profound benefit to his candidacy.


-----------------------------

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

A French Free Marketeer.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 February 2006 12:14 PM · Comments (9)

Pundit Roundtable

Greetings! Welcome back to PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE. I am your host, Ken McCracken. Well, it seems we have gotten beyond trivial issues such as quail hunting accidents, and on to a real, meaty issue, as put to our pundits this week in the form of this question:

Where do you stand on the issue of letting a Dubai company run American ports? Has your view changed since you first heard about the story? What do you make of the fact that George W. Bush did not know about this deal until it broke in the news?

Our first guest is Roundtable newcomer Mick Wright of Fishkite. What are your views on this Mick?

There's a reason John Kerry mentioned port security in each of the three presidential debates in 2004, and it isn't because they are the central fronts of the war on terror. Guarding our ports is no more important than protecting our borders to the north and south, enforcing our immigration laws or keeping the rest of our infrastructure secure.

In fact, when Kerry argued, "[y]ou have to close the borders," he wasn't talking about America but rather Iraq. Kerry made a point to discuss Iraq's border security in each of the debates, but only once did he happen mention our own borders, and that came only in direct response to a question about immigration in the third and final debate.

Port security was and is a disproportionally important issue for John Kerry and the Democrats because it's one area where no level of protection can ever be proved sufficient. Considering America's powerful role in the global marketplace, no administration could possibly allocate enough resources to completely inspect every item, every box, every shipment passing through our airports, seaports, railways and roadways without crippling our economy and slowing international trade to a grinding halt. Adopting Kerry's "plan" would require ever-expanding big government measures and dramatically increased spending, but it would never be enough to guarantee our safety.

But even if we could spend enough on the ports, how much emphasis should we put on securing them when thousands of other weaknesses could just as easily be exploited, when "an advanced grad student" could unleash a biological weapon using little more than standard lab equipment, when the economics of terrorism is far more agile than the economics of security, and when a small group of terrorists with the right access could bring a lumbering regional bureaucracy to its knees?

Of course, prudent security measures can and must be implemented in each of these areas, but President Bush rightfully acknowledged the futility of trying to fight the war on terror from a defensive posture. Instead, he drafted a grand strategery -- we would fight the terrorists on their own turf as much as possible, shut down their financial networks, tap into their intelligence and, most important of all, fan the flames of democracy in the Middle East so that people in the region would join the rest of the world in freedom and in peace.

If he ever understood that proactive strategery, Kerry certainly never adopted it. And when port security returned to the headlines this week, you have to assume half the Democratic press releases had already been written. In other words, it wasn't a big surprise when the otherwise diversity-sensitive, U.N.-happy liberals objected to the UAE company's proposed acquisition, which would give it management of terminal operations at five U.S. ports.

What may have come as a bigger surprise was how quickly some of the administration's most reliable national security advocates took exception to the proposed deal. On the other hand, I would have been worried if such people didn't have an initially negative gut reaction the idea that an Arab-owned company would acquire such an important slice of the operational pie.

Should we be worried that turning our ports over to Dubai may compromise our national security? Yes, I think we should. But probably not moreso than we should worry about terrorists slipping into the ranks of a British company, or an American one, and no moreso than we should worry about any other number of potential terrorist plots.

As the President argued during the debates, in the half-charming, half-awkward way only he can, "we have to be right 100 percent of the time. And the enemy only has to be right once to hurt us."

An alarming Drudge headline reads, "Homeland Security Protested Ports Deal," but the article goes on to report that the DHS's early objections were settled later in the government's review of the proposal. Even though these objections were smoothed over, you might think that word of this pending deal would have been important enough to have required the President's attention. On the other hand, one of the oft-touted strengths of the Bush administration is its decentralization; the President trusts the people he has appointed, and that quality has generally served him well.

But the most profound exception to that rule has been the President's PR team, if in fact such a creature exists. A stronger, steadier, speedier public relations effort has always been one element most conspicuously lacking in the administration. In this information age, better PR could have taken the edge off the disappointing intelligence shortfall, the war in Iraq, the Katrina disaster and any number of "-gates" that besiege(d) the White House.

To that most bloggers will attest, but I have yet to see anyone point to one member of the administration who should take the fall for this PR deficit. I think there is one such person; I blame Vice President Cheney.

Who but Cheney could have been the President's advocate in the Senate while his judicial nominees whithered on the vine? Who else should have been rallying the nation to the President's side on the war on terror, rather than continue to hide out in his undisclosed location(s)? Who else could have been on the ground representing the White House and directing Katrina relief efforts, rather than sending FEMA's sacrificial lamb? And who could have been out in front on this port issue if not Dick Cheney, who happened to be... at the hospital bedside of his friend, after shooting him in the face?

Of course, I don't blame the Vice President for that last mishap, but I do think he deserves the brunt of the criticism for failing to respond quickly afterwards, just as he's failed to respond appropriately in each of these other situations. An immediate veto threat was certainly not the way to go; the Vice President should have been fully briefed on this deal and should have been its main advocate. If he had been doing his job, Cheney would have been in the Senate herding those cats, as even Majority Leader Frist strayed from the reservation.

Why is port security still an issue? That's a good question for the Vice President, if you can find him.


Our next guest is a returning pundit, Dr. Steven Taylor of PoliBlog. Steven?
I haven’t written all that much on the ports issues that has been a headline topic for the last week or so. Still, I have paid attention to it from the beginning and have given it some thought.

My initial reaction was that while I could understand why there would be questions about a state-owned firm from the UAE being engaged in US ports, that the overall reaction to the situation by some members of Congress, and then some members of the chattering class (especially some bloggers and talk radio types) was well overblown. I do think that there was some Arab-specific xenophobia underlying some of the reactions.

Now, the fact that two of the hijackers were from the UAE was an understandable emotional red flag, but it seems ludicrous to use that as a method of judging this situation. And yes, I am aware of the fact that UAE recognized the Taliban and that there has been considerable money laundering associated with terrorism in the region. All of these things seem to signal the need for reflection on the situation, not hysterical over-reaction.

Both the press and the various overreacting politicos also fed the hysteria because it was clear from the early coverage that no one really knew what this company was going to be doing—indeed, the initial discussion made it sound as if they would be buying and wholly controlling the actual ports, rather than managing an aspect of the port’s operation. As such, the lack of good information on how ports work was missing from the story from the beginning.

The commensurate response from the White House was quite ham-handed, and instead of quelling the rising cacophony of complaints simply escalated it. Regardless of any other factors, it should have been obvious that the granting of the contract to a state-owned company from an Arab state was going to raise concerns. As such, the administration should have been ready with answers. The fact that no one seemed to think of this ahead of time is remarkable, and speaks poorly of everyone who worked on the project.

That the President’s initial reaction was also one of public stubbornness was no helpful, and reinforces the notion that the administration’s first response is to share information, but to dig in heels.

In regards to when the President knew of the deal—I was not especially surprised that the President of the United States was not involved in such a matter, which strikes me as relatively routine aside from the Arab factor. However, I remain surprised as to the strong nature of his response to the press and the Congress (threatening his first veto right out of the gate) given that he had only just learned of the situation.

My view remains that this is largely much ado about nothing, and the more I learn, the more that view is reinforced. However, I do not see any problem with a delay, including making sure that the proper review of the proposal was completed.

Here are some of my previous posts on the subject:


Next we have newcomer and regular WILLisms.com commentor KipEsquire. What do you say Kip?
Before I state my position, let me answer Ken's two latter questions first. I think the recent revelation that the Department of Homeland Security "voted against the deal before they voted for it" may be the death knell for this transaction. Regarding the question of whether security is really an issue, it's hard to deny now that there is a "there" there. As for the President's lack of direct knowledge, to me that seems more of a political guffaw than a policy error — I don't expect a president to be "in the loop" on everything.

I oppose the transaction for a very simple reason. We should not be doing port business with the UAE government because we shouldn't be doing any business with the UAE government.

As I demonstrated at my blog, the UAE has one of the worst human rights records in the Middle East — and that's saying a lot.

On Friday, President Bush said the following in response to the despicable destruction of a holy site in Iraq:

Democracy takes different forms in different cultures. Yet, all cultures, in order to be successful, have certain common truths, universal truths: rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, a free economy, freedom of women, and the freedom to worship. Societies that lay these foundations not only survive, but they thrive. Societies that don't lay these foundations risk backsliding into tyranny.

Democracy, free and fair elections, purples fingers — all very nice and inspirational indeed. Except in the UAE, which has no elections of any kind. None. Zero.

Freedom of women — except in the UAE, where women cannot leave the country without their husband's permission. Men can have multiple spouses in the UAE, but women can't. UAE citizenship is determined by the citizenship of the father alone and not the mother. A Muslim man in the UAE can marry a non-Muslim, but a Muslim woman cannot. A woman who becomes pregnant in the UAE out of wedlock can be flogged.

Freedom to worship — except in the UAE, where Sharia courts enforce Islamic law. In the UAE, it is a crime to attempt to convert a Muslim.

Freedom of speech — except in the UAE, where the government censors both the news and cultural media. Brokeback Mountain is banned in the UAE.

Freedom of assembly — except in the UAE, which refuses to recognize any local human rights organizations.

Rule of law — except in the UAE, where, for instance, gay sex is punishable by death.

The Bush Administration tries to counter the UAE's horrific regime with a succinct bullet point: "They are an ally in the War on Terror."

So what?

First of all, isn't the concept of "probation" appropriate in global relations? It's been less than five years since September 11th, and the UAE had blood on its hands that day. Is it really inappropriate to say, "Yes, we're thrilled that you've reformed and atoned for your sins, but for now we'd still like our port terminals to be run by companies and 'allies' that have a slightly better track record. Check back with us in a decade or two..."?

It is not "Islamaphobic" to mistrust people who have so recently and so proximately caused us to be mistrustful. Facts are never "racist." The UAE is a despicable country run by despicable people who would, were it not for oil, be treated on a par with Cuba, Cote d'Ivoire or Burma. We are not required to add insult to injury, even when doing so poses no threat to homeland security.

A generation ago, the United States propped up countless dictators — including Saddam Hussein — and their oppressive regimes because they were "allies in the Cold War." Do we really want to make that same mistake by embracing any and all regimes, no matter how badly they behave, simply because they are "allies in the War on Terror"?

That is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition.

If the UAE's autocrats are so intent of this deal going through, then the answer is simple: divest Dubai Ports World — which, remember, is a socialist enterprise and not "just another global competitor." The best way to salvage a tainted transaction is by removing the taint.

The Host's Last Word: This is difficult issue to parse in my view, because there are excellent arguments on both sides of this question. My initial reaction was skepticism that this is a good idea, but now I think the risks to national security are not really that great here as long as the United States retains full and complete control over security at the ports. The ports are our most important entry into the nation, more important than the border with Mexico or our airports, because the ports are where the really really dangerous stuff such as dirty bombs, chemical weapons and *god forbid* nukes would get into this country - these items are probably just too bulky to enter the U.S. through any vector other than containerized traffic. But, because of the critical nature of these ports, our security should be top-notch and a top priority regardless of who runs the ports. It shouldn't matter if it is an Arab firm, a Dutch firm or a Japanese firm running it - these facilities need to be tight as a drum.

I just don't think there is any greater security risk from having an Arab firm run these terminals, because I don't believe al-Qaeda will be able to get its hands on the mechanisms that would allow access. But I think it is profoundly unfair to label those that think there is a greater risk 'islamaphobes' or 'racists' - because as Kip points out facts are not 'racist', and the fears associated with the UAE running these terminals are quite reasonable ones. I just don't happen to share them.

We need to engage rather than isolate Middle Eastern nations that are in any way disposed towards us in a kindly way, and the UAE has been a brave and staunch ally. This is a way to draw them closer to being the democratic and open society we want them to be. Shunning them at this point threatens to push them into the other camp.

Finally, I do not expect the President to be on top of each and every issue such as this because, well, the man has a lot on his plate. But you bet he is on top of it now! Having the President say that he knew nothing of this deal until he read about it in the papers was an oddly refreshing sort of admission.

Thanks for coming by folks, and come again next Sunday for our next edition of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 26 February 2006 01:13 PM · Comments (7)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 280 -- Young People & Support For War.

Twenty-somethings more supportive of military action than you might guess-

If we are to believe that Rock the Vote actually represents the political attitudes of those under 30 today, young Americans are a bunch of liberal ninnies who love socialism and perpetually protest meat and the WTO and SUVs and the war on terror and Bush.

Wrong. Young people are more conservative than you might think. On the Iraq war issue, even, younger Americans have consistently been more supportive and less opposed as an age cohort than the general public, since the beginning.

youngpeopleandiraqsuppor.gif

Taking differences in levels of support and adding in differences in levels of opposition, young people have consistently been the most supportive age cohort of the Iraq war. When wild draft rumors were flying around in 2004, support clearly dipped (and has never fully recovered), but young people still supported (and support) military action in Iraq more than the general population.

Interestingly but not surprisingly, young people are also more supportive of more open international trade:

freetradeyoungpeople.gif

But it's not just national defense and free trade. Young people are far more likely to support Social Security reform, with personal accounts. On any number of individual issues, young people are eye-openingly less left-wing than people perceive. For the most part, young people, despite the bands of weirdoes you occasionally see on the news, are not hippies or anarchists or punks or even really all that angry with the world. It's no wonder Rock the Vote is struggling.

Source:
Pew Research Center: Youth and War.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Houston's Law & Order Might Show New Orleans A Thing Or Two About Justice.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 February 2006 10:53 AM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 279 -- New Orleans Crime.

New Orleans Crime: Now Houston's Problem-

It's well-established by now that Houston's crime rate spiked up immediately after Hurricane Katrina, as the city absorbed all those hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the destruction. Indeed, the Houston Chronicle noted a direct anecdotal correlation between failures in the New Orleans criminal justice system and the spike in the Houston crime rate:

...when he was released in Shreveport on Nov. 3, Harris became Houston's problem and a key figure in Houston's new crime controversy.

Harris is among 11 Katrina evacuees suspected of transferring their New Orleans turf battles to Houston and carrying out homicides, robberies and kidnappings that began after his release from Shreveport. Houston police classify the suspects as extremely violent.

But it's more than anecdotal. Check out the disaster known as the New Orleans criminal justice system.

First, note how the New Orleans arrest record doesn't match the national arrest record (.pdf):

ratiosofcrimenousa.gif

Weak. Drug offenses are not as serious as violent offenses, or even property offenses.

Notice the lack of convictions for violent crimes (.pdf):

convictionsneworleans.gif

Terrible.

But this is the most damning part (.pdf):

incarcerationinneworleans.gif

Think about what this means. Even New Orleans' "strength" in arrests and convictions bonks at the incarceration stage. And even with so few arrests and convictions on more serious charges, New Orleans still couldn't put those folks behind bars. One might guess that the low numbers of arrests just meant police spent their resources carefully on a limited number of cases. Nope.

While the nation's crime rate fell dramatically in recent years, it rose in New Orleans. This was no accident.

The New Orleans criminal justice system, in failing to convict and incarcerate criminals, failed to protect its citizens (.pdf):

• Only 5% of all convictions in CDC were for violent offenses.

• Sixty percent (60%) of all convictions in CDC were for misdemeanor offenses, 47% for misdemeanor drug possession or possession of drug paraphernalia, essentially making CDC a misdemeanor court.

• Two out of three (67%) convictions were for simple drug possession.

• Only 7% of those arrested by the NOPD in 2003-2004 were eventually sentenced to prison, a 41% decrease in the incarceration rate since 1999-2000.

Awful.

While some may be inclined to say "I told you so" about Mayor Bill White's welcome mat approach to the Katrina evacuees, I would just predict that Houston's crime rate will stabilize once the bad guys meet the Texas criminal justice system. It may just take another several months or more. Indeed, it's already calming down substantially:

Police say they are making inroads in dealing with a rash of violent crimes attributed mostly to New Orleans gang members who evacuated to Houston along with other hurricane victims.

They asked this week for help in finding five Katrina evacuees believed responsible for three murders and two thefts. Last month, they announced the arrests of eight others in connection with the deaths of 11 fellow evacuees.

While the city had "a huge explosion of murders" in November and December, police Sgt. Brian Harris said Friday that the homicide rate has stabilized and is up only slightly from this time last year.

He credited a growing confidence that hurricane evacuees have in Houston police and increased cooperation among law enforcement agencies in cities with large numbers of Katrina evacuees.

Failures of New Orleans' criminal justice system, not of Michael Brown or President Bush or FEMA, led to most of the pure madness and mayhem in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Madness and mayhem aren't inevitable, though. Let's see if Houston's criminal justice system can prove that.

Source:
The Metropolitan Crime Commission (.pdf).


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Fewer & Less Competitive Districts.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 February 2006 08:58 PM · Comments (17)

Germany Gave Secret Help During Iraq Invasion

The German government admitted that two of their spies helped the United States during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, including possibly selecting bombing targets:

The German agents provided U.S. officials with "descriptions in isolated cases of Iraqi military forces along with geographic coordinates". It said these were provided only after the agents were convinced the Americans already had the information.

Responding to media reports that the agents had given the United States coordinates that could be used for bombing, the report said the BND provided "no support for the strategic air offensive" in Iraq.

And now because someone in the German government had the temerity to harm the interests of their good friend Herr Saddam, the extreme left Greens are demanding an inquiry.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 24 February 2006 12:00 PM · Comments (22)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 278 -- Less Competitive Congressional Districts.

Safe Seats-

Do Democrats have a chance to take back the House of Representatives for the first time since 1994?

The succinct answer: No.

There just aren't many competitive districts.

competitivehouseraces.gif

There may once again be more competitive districts, but not this time around.

...the number of competitive races for House seats has dwindled in recent years from a high of 111 competitive races in 1992 to a low of 32 in 2004. While 32 sounds like an ominously small number, it is not that much smaller than the mere 37 races that were up for grabs in 1988. Two years later the number of competitive races swelled to 57, by Cook's calculations, and in 1992 it jumped again to its recent high of 111.

The percentage of safe seats has gone way up in recent years.

percentagesafeseats.gif

Chalk some of it up to post-2000 Census redistricting/gerrymandering. Chalk most modern gerrymandering up to the Voting Rights Act. In order to guarantee a certain number of "minority-majority" districts, oddly enough, cartographers must draw the lines such that the adjacent districts then become whiter, more conservative, and more safe for Republicans.

Ironically, although the Voting Rights Act essentially requires map makers to guarantee the election of enough African-Americans to Congress, this same process ends up boosting the number of "win the primary and you're in" GOP districts.

But chalk much of this phenomenon of more safe districts up to the fact that people are increasingly self-selecting their districts based on partisanship and ideology. Young liberals are moving to hip urban centers to blissfully commune with one another on various modes of public transportation. Married people with kids (who tend to be more conservative) are moving to the safe suburbs, with their good schools and larger homes. And so on.

In many ways, Americans increasingly seem to want their own Congressional districts to be safe seats. Many Americans are concentrating into safe Congressional districts because they want to be around like-minded people. It just makes life easier. And it makes the task of forecasting the 2006 midterms much easier.

Source:
Pew Research Center.


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Democrats Love Them Some Lobbyist Cash.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 February 2006 10:12 AM · Comments (3)

Quotational Therapy: Part 76 -- Jean-Baptiste Say, On Taxation.

A French Free-Marketeer-

Believe it or not, France was once a bastion of free market thought. Ahead of his time, Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Say was one of the original free market economists, supporting free trade against the common demagogic urges of nationalist protectionism that often still prevail today. He also supported low taxes.

jeanbaptistesay.gif

Here's what he had to say in 1803 on taxation:

It may be urged, that the pressure of taxation impels the productive classes to redouble their exertions, and thus tends to enlarge the national production. I answer, that, in the first place, mere exertion cannot alone produce, there must be capital for it to work upon, and capital is but an accumulation of the very products that taxation takes from the subject: that, in the second place, it is evident, that the values, which industry creates expressly to satisfy the demands of taxation, are no increase of wealth; for they are seized on and devoured by taxation. It is a glaring absurdity to pretend that taxation contributes to national wealth, by engrossing part of the national produce, and enriches the nation by consuming part of its wealth….

Hence, it is manifest that, although taxation may be, and often is, productive of good, when the sums it absorbs are properly applied, yet, the act of levying is always attended with mischief in the outset….

Admitting these premises, that taxation is the taking from individuals a part of their property for public purposes; that the value levied by taxation never reverts to the members of the community, after it has once been taken from them; and that taxation is not itself a means of reproduction; it is impossible to deny the conclusion, that the best taxes, or, rather those that are least bad, are

1. Such as are most moderate in their ratio.
2. Such as are least attended with those vexatious circumstances that harass the taxpayer without bringing anything into the public exchequer.
3. Such as press impartially on all classes.
4. Such as are least injurious to production.
5. Such as are rather favorable than otherwise to the national morality; that is to say, to the prevalence of habits, useful and beneficial to society.

-Jean-Baptise Say, A Treatise on Political Economy, 447– 49.

Source:
The Dallas Fed (.pdf).


-----------------------------

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

George Washington, Questioning The Patriotism Of Democrats.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 February 2006 07:59 AM · Comments (0)

Happy Birthday, Marbury v. Madison

February 24, 1804 was the day Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall handed down the decision in Marbury v. Madison, the case that established the power of judicial review for the third branch of government, which has meant that ever since, the Supreme Court has had the power to strike down laws it deems to be unconstitutional.

It is a notoriously (and needlessly) complex case, and also a rather odd one, in that John Marshall asserts the power to strike down laws, but then declines to do so because the petitioner's claim is really a political question which Marshall deems off-limits to the court. The opinion is written backwards, in that the question of jurisdiction comes last, which has always been a source of confusion in sorting out Marshall's reasoning.

The opinion can be found here, and is not for the faint-hearted.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 24 February 2006 12:47 AM · Comments (18)

Hamas And Iran Buddy Up

Hamas is becoming a spoke on the Axis of Evil, according to Israeli Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:

Officials at the closed-door meeting quoted Mr. Olmert as saying that Israel will not transfer any more money to the Palestinian Authority. That amounts to about $50 million a month in tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

The United States and Europe are also threatening to cut nearly a billion dollars a year in aid to the Palestinian Authority, on grounds that Hamas is a terrorist organization seeking the destruction of Israel.

But Hamas has found a new donor. Iran pledged to support the Palestinian Authority, following meetings in Tehran with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

Israelis spokesman Avi Pazner says Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and therefore he says, its alliance with Hamas is an "axis of evil" [emphasis in the original].

Via GlobalSecurity.org.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 23 February 2006 11:53 PM · Comments (2)

Coup Attempt Fails In Philippines

Via Al-Jazeera of all places, we find that Phillippines security forces have foiled an attempted coup d'etat against the regime of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo:

General Generoso Senga, the chief of staff of the armed forces, said that Brigadier General Danilo Lim, the commander of the Philippine Army's elite Scout Rangers had been taken into custody on Friday.

Lim and another senior officer are being detained as alleged leaders of "misguided elements who are planning to join a march," against Arroyo on Friday.

"We believe that we have quashed a coup," Lieutenant-General Hermogenes Esperon, the army chief, said in an interview on an early morning television news programme.

Is the word 'march' a filippino euphemism for 'coup'?

In any event, the shaky nature of civilian control of government in the Philippines has gone largely overlooked, what with the Danish cartoons, mosque bombings and port takeovers looming large in the news lately. Keep in mind that the Philippines is a very important battleground in the War on Terror.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 23 February 2006 08:33 PM · Comments (8)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Forty-Seven (Our Aging Population).

reformthursdayblue.gif

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays. And reform is a long-haul process, not a fleeting event. So we're going to keep plugging along with the case for reform, even as the issue goes off the political radar screen.

That's why WILLisms.com offers a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.

This week's topic:

America's Aging Population.

The first wave of Baby Boomers are now retiring. The demographic iceberg is-a-comin' for us, and it's not going to be pretty if we fail to act now.

First, however, some good news:

Since 1960, the U.S. population over 65 has doubled and the nation’s economy has nearly quadrupled.

Awesome. A strong economy does offer us a bit of a buffer against that iceberg. But that buffer works when dealing with small icebergs. When "the big one" hits, it could wreck our economic buffer, magnifying the problem beyond what is even projected.

Indeed, America's population over 65 is rising rapidly. Not only that, but America's population over 85 is projected to rise substantially in the coming years:

85andolder.gif

Personally, I tend to believe that with medical and scientific innovation, the numbers of Americans living beyond the age of 85 will dramatically rise-- and rise more than these projections predict. And that's a good thing.

I sincerly hope, mostly out of self-interest, that these projections underestimate the power of technology over the next few decades to prolong health.

It's great that Americans are living longer. It would be terrible if the average life expectancy were only 25 or 30 or even 40, as it once (even recently) was for humans.

But living longer is terrible news for the sustainability of Social Security.

With so many people collecting benefits, with relatively fewer people paying into the system, Social Security is simply not on a solid foundation.

Indeed, as entitlements creep upward as a percentage of federal spending, it hurts our ability to project power and prestige into the world. It hurts our economy. It hurts our ability to respond to crises, current and future, at home and abroad.

Social Security and Medicare have grown remarkably over the past 4 decades:

staggeringentitlementgrowth.gif

In a grad school seminar a while back, I brought up that out-of-control entitlement growth will eventually preclude the United States from acting, militarily, in the event of a world crisis that negatively impacts our national security.

The lefties in the seminar eagerly conceded the point: "Exactly."

So, that's the whole idea? Seriously? To load up the government with entitlement programs until they cripple America's ability to project force. I know academia is a little disconnected from reality, but geez.

Fortunately, because of our rapidly growing economy over the past half century, we've had a buffer against a national security collapse. We spend less, but we're still the big dog on the block. Nonetheless, if entitlements grow as they are projected to, the lack of resources available for national defense will indeed become a problem for American foreign policy in a changing world with less-than-friendly superpowers emerging.

But the lack of Social Security reform will hurt us more than just militarily. As we siphon off more and more of our economy into this awkward government-run confiscation/redistribution pyramid scheme, we fail to actualize those dollars in the free market economy, the same free market economy that made us so great to begin with.

The problem is clear. Can we all at least agree on that one?

The solution is either more of the same (raising the tax rate, raising the tax cap, cutting benefits, raising the retirement age, and so on), or something innovative, such as personal accounts.

For those of us under the age of 30, there's no reason to expect to retire at age 65. There's also no reason for us to expect to receive a meaningful Social Security check at retirement.

Thanks for that, AARP, Rock the Vote, the DNC, squishy GOPers, and all you other great socialists out there!

Not.

It's time for reform.

The clock is ticking:


--------------------------------

Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:

-Week One (Costs Exceed Revenues).
-Week Two (Social Security Can't Pay Promised Benefits).
-Week Three (Americans Getting Older).
-Week Three, bonus (The Templeton Curve).
-Week Four (Fewer Workers, More Retirees).
-Week Five (History of Payroll Tax Base Increases).
-Week Six (Seniors Living Longer).
-Week Six, bonus (Less Workers, More Beneficiaries).
-Week Seven (History of Payroll Tax Increases).
-Week Seven, bonus (Personal Accounts Do Achieve Solvency).
-Week Eight (Forty Year Trend Of Increasing Mandatory Spending).
-Week Nine (Diminishing Benefits Sans Reform).
-Week Ten (Elderly Dependence On Social Security).
-Week Eleven (Entitlement Spending Eating The Budget).
-Week Twelve (Benefit Comparison, Bush's Plan versus No Plan).
-Week Thirteen (Younger Americans and Lifecycle Funds).
-Week Fourteen (The Thrift Savings Plan).
-Week Fifteen (Understanding Progressive Indexing).
-Week Sixteen (The Graying of America).
-Week Seventeen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Eighteen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Nineteen (Reform Needed Sooner Rather Than Later).
-Week Twenty (Global Success With Personal Accounts).
-Week Twenty-One (GROW Accounts: Stopping The Raid).
-Week Twenty-Two (Millions of Lockboxes).
-Week Twenty-Three (Support for Ryan-DeMint).
-Week Twenty-Four (KidSave Accounts).
-Week Twenty-Five (Latinos and Social Security).
-Week Twenty-Six (AmeriSave).
-Week Twenty-Seven (Cost Of Doing Nothing).
-Week Twenty-Eight (Chile).
-Week Twenty-Nine (Entitlement Spending Out Of Control).
-Week Thirty (Reform Better Deal Than Status Quo).
-Week Thirty-One (Social Security As A Labor Cost).
-Week Thirty-Two (Social Security And Dependence On Government).
-Week Thirty-Three (Social Security, Currently A Bad Deal For African-Americans).
-Week Thirty-Four (Longer Life Expectancies Straining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Five (Howard Dean & Salami).
-Week Thirty-Six (Growing Numbers of Beneficiaries Draining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Seven (The Crisis Is Now).
-Week Thirty-Eight (Disability Benefits).
-Week Thirty-Nine (Broken Benefit Calculation Formula).
-Week Forty (German Social Security Disaster).
-Week Forty-One (Crumbling Pyramid Scheme).
-Week Forty-Two (Overpromising, Globally).
-Week Forty-Three (Demographic Wave).
-Week Forty-Four (The Jerk Store).
-Week Forty-Five (Defined Benefit Plans).
-Week Forty-Six (Even The Empty Promises Are A Bad Deal).

Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important graphical data supporting Social Security reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 February 2006 01:43 PM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 277 -- Democrats Cozier With Lobbyists Than Republicans.

Culture Of Hypocrisy-

Democrats are staking their 2006 fortunes on their ability to convince voters that there is an unprecedented culture of corruption in Washington today, instigated solely by Republicans.

It's not going to work, because it makes no sense whatsoever, and people know it.

The culture of hypocrisy is alive and well, though. Our friends on the left are engaging in a bit of psychological projection, as well as denial.

It's projection, because the claim is that Republicans only enact legislation if big money (perhaps from a lobbyist) lines their pockets. In other words, Republicans have no principles and just act as coin-operated automatons, serving whichever special interest master puts in the most quarters.

What is so odd about this argument is that the GOP is clearly more of a cohesive ideological and philosophical unit, with some definite exceptions, while the Democratic Party is far more of a hodge-podge amalgamation of contradictory and conflicting special interests.

It's also denial from the Democrats, because they get so much more "big money" than Republicans do. The GOP fundraising advantage comes from lots of relatively small, hard-dollar donations from middle class folks. A thousand here, fifty there, a couple hundred there. Lots of them. And they add up. Republicans also get donations from special interests, to be sure, but these campaign dollars pale in comparison to the special interest money on the other side of the aisle.

Democrats, meanwhile, rely on ridiculous amounts of soft-dollar help from a few ultra-wealthy individuals, funneled through 527 organizations. Money from labor unions and trial lawyers also provide the backbone of the DNC money magnet.

Labor unions:

laborunionpolcontributions.gif

Okay, so, yeah, unions force their members to give to left-wing causes. Honestly, I am only outraged at this sort of thing commensurate with the level of hypocrisy Democrats display about GOP campaign money.


Lawyers & Lobbyists:

lawyersandlobbyistspolcontr.gif

Some people, though, don't view "big trial attorney" money the same way they view lobbyist money. So how about a breakdown of lobbyists, exclusively.

Just Lobbyists:

justthelobbyists.gif

Indeed, Democrats have zero room for rhetoric on lobbyist money, on soft money, or any other kind of special interest money:

Since the 1990 election cycle, Democrats have accepted more than $53 million from lobbyists while Republicans have taken more than $48 million for their election campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Data provided by the nonpartisan group also shows that when Democrats controlled Congress in the early 1990s, they consistently hauled in more than 70 percent of the town's lobbyist money....

When the Democrats were in charge, they were getting an incredibly higher amount of lobbyist money compared to Republicans," said Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Now that the tables are turned there is parity between the two parties."

Last year, for instance, Republicans took in 55 percent of the lobbyist money, which roughly corresponds to their majority share in Congress.

That's a pretty reasonable argument. Lobbying dollars have obviously gone up substantially in recent years, but it is interesting that the percentages of dollars going to Republicans since the 1994 takeover of Congress are often not even as high as the percentages of Republicans in Congress. For example, the lobbyist money broke down like so:

2004 campaign cycle: 48% Democrats, 52% Republicans.
2002 campaign cycle: 51% Democrats, 49% Republicans.
2000 campaign cycle: 49% Democrats, 51% Republicans.
1998 campaign cycle: 51% Democrats, 49% Republicans.
1996 campaign cycle: 50% Democrats, 50% Republicans.
---***---GOP TAKEOVER---***---
1994 campaign cycle: 75% Democrats, 25% Republicans.
1992 campaign cycle: 70% Democrats, 30% Republicans.
1990 campaign cycle: 74% Democrats, 26% Republicans.

When Democrats ran the place, they took in lobbyist money (not even counting trial lawyer money) in proportions far exceeding their majorities. Now that Republicans run the place, they don't even take in as much cash, relative to their majority status.

Just to be fair to the Democrats, let's look at "big oil," the source of all big money evil if we are to believe Nancy Pelosi and friends:

Oil & Gas:

oilandgaspoliticalmoney.gif

1. How many Democrats represent oil and gas producing regions (think Texas, Louisiana, Alaska, Oklahoma, California, etc.) in Congress? Probably less than 25%.

2. Notice how small the oil and gas industry's political money footprint is compared to labor unions and trial attorneys.

For that matter, notice how small lobbyist money is in comparison to labor and legal money. The "culture of corruption" assertions from Democrats are hilarious, in that they are clearly projecting their own insecurities about their own "big money" onto the GOP. The large donations the Democrats receive simply dwarf the donations the GOP receives.

Denial is more than a river in Egypt. It's also the source of the "culture of hypocrisy" the Democrats have taken to a whole new level with regards to this "culture of corruption" business.

Source:

The Washington Times & The Center for Responsive Politics.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Health Care Spending WAY Up.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 February 2006 10:50 AM · Comments (4)

Kool-Aid Is For The Kos Kult

Harriet Miers.
Immigration reform.
Budget deficits.

I guess we can add giving the United Arab Emirates control over six U.S. ports to the list of issues proving that Republicans are not hypnotized by the supposed 'cult leader' George W. Bush.

But then, this message is not for you Republicans, because of course you know better.

Rather, this is a slapdown to liberals such as Glenn Greenwald, who has been pulled into the orbit of the Kos Kult, a real cult centered at the Blog-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, where the slightest dissent is met with gales of hatred, filthy language and playground logic. Just try to suggest that Howard Dean is anything less than the messiah or that the War on Terror has accomplished some good things, and see how long you last outside of the kult kompound.

With Republicans however, principles always come first, and especially before mere personality. I happen to think George W. Bush is charismatic, and I may very well be in a minority in this view even among Republicans who are loyal to him. I have not been 'charmed' into following him however: I follow him because he is clear on his ideals, adheres to them, and uses them to guide his leadership. His leadership is solid because it is grounded in good principles, such as not bowing to expediency, continuing to do what you know is right in spite of huge political obstacles, not falling for the bait laid out by your political opponents, and not worrying about being liked (which is the huge personal failing that kept Bill Clinton from ever being anything other than president-lite).

I feel perfectly comfortable criticizing those I admire in my party. No Kos Kid can claim this, because their movement is not about ideas and principles, but rather is based in paranoia, helplessness and insecurity. Prime candidates for cults, in other words. If they dare criticize their leaders, they risk being cast into the wilderness of reality.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 22 February 2006 08:23 PM · Comments (7)

Puppy Propaganda

Will it take silliness to get people to take this issue seriously?

Thanks to Hoodlumman for putting the idea in my head, from his comment in this post introducing the world to Heidi Franklin, the wonder puppy that just might save Social Security!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 22 February 2006 04:28 PM · Comments (6)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 276 -- Spending Cuts.

Schmending Cuts-

Earlier today, I was watching a few minutes of Fox News, and a political advertisement came on claiming that the administration is trying to drastically cut spending on health. The poor, the elderly, and so on would be hurt. Yadda yadda. A woman dressed as a nurse appealed to viewers to contact Congress and tell them to stop the administration's spending cuts that would hurt America's health.

What a crock.

Spending on health care is skyrocketing upward:

Since 1990, health spending on the poor has more than doubled from 3.3 percent to 7.6 percent of all federal spending. In that time, the Medicaid population has increased from 25 million to 55 million, while the average (inflation-adjusted) payment per beneficiary increased from $3,839 to $4,873.

Since 2001, Medicaid has added 10 million par­ticipants to its rolls and increased spending by 40 percent to $182 billion. Spending for the new State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) has increased by 39 percent while insuring 4.4 million Americans.

The facts don't lie. Spending just can't continue going up this way, or we're going to drive our economy into the ground:

healthcareassistancespendin.gif

Indeed, anti-poverty spending is WAY up in this country over the past few decades. The Bush administration has in no way radically scaled back spending, as the rhetoric would suggest. In fact, much of the spending is considered "mandatory," rather than discretionary, meaning the entitlements were promised long ago, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

antipovertyspendingwayup.gif

That fake nurse on that political ad should be ashamed of herself. Spending is up at an unreasonable and unsustainable pace. Cuts, schmuts.

Source:

Heritage.


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Kyoto.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 February 2006 03:59 PM · Comments (1)

The Fifth Mainstream Melee.

mainstreammelee.gif

It's a non-blog adventure.

I.

OpinionJournal.com: "Ports of Politics: How to sound like a hawk without being one. "

Super Succinct Synopsis-

The demagoguery over the UAE port deal is a perfect chance for Democrats to score cheap political points.

Super Succinct Snippet-

...the notion that the Bush Administration is farming out port "security" to hostile Arab nations is alarmist nonsense. Dubai Ports World would be managing the commercial activities of these U.S. ports, not securing them. There's a difference....

As for the Democrats, we suppose this is a two-fer: They have a rare opportunity to get to the right of the GOP on national security, and they can play to their union, anti-foreign investment base as well.

This whole thing started as a ridiculous union/Lou Dobbs type of story, a total non-issue that a few people got riled up about. Once Bill Frist and other Republicans sided with the faux-populist idiot brigades, it gave the Bush-hating media a chance to pounce. Unfortunately, the Bush administration, believing correctly that this is a complete non-issue, didn't realize how irrational and zany this story would become and thus failed to develop a rapid-response communications strategy to explain why there is no downside to this deal at all.

This deal is not even newsworthy. The fact that it could become such an issue is almost enough to make one become cynical about politics.

Almost.

---------------------------

II.

Washington Examiner: "Bashing Wal-Mart: No One Gains"

Super Succinct Synopsis-

Wal-Mart may not be perfect or even good, but the orchestrated campaign against them is more left-wing nonsense than genuine economic concern.

Super Succinct Snippet-

New Labor Department data show that from 1987 to 2004, labor productivity rose an astonishing 7.6 percent a year in the part of retail trade in which Wal-Mart operates, well over double the increase in the economy as a whole. One of the leaders of the anti-Wal-Mart legislation, the UFCW union, represents workers primarily in a sector of retail trade, grocery stores, which had only a miniscule (0.2 percent) annual productivity advance. Thus this effort might be viewed as an attempt by persons in a stagnant and declining sector of retailing to thwart their more efficient and successful competition.

The "Wal-Mart is evil" notion is the reason why the Dubai/UAE port brouhaha even became a brouhaha in the first place. Unfortunately, and unlike with Wal-Mart, it spread to the mainstream largely due to misformation and disinformation.


---------------------------

III.

Forbes: "Gutierrez: Pirated Software 'Unacceptable' "

Super Succinct Synopsis-

China, you better shape up. These winds of economic nationalism that are blowing in this country may lead to a political situation where this administration, or a future administration, must take actions against your comfortable little set-up you've got right now.

Super Succinct Snippet-

The administration is not satisfied with China's progress in cracking down on rampant piracy of American copyrighted material, and one of the biggest offenders is the Chinese government, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

Seriously, China. Police yourself, because your flaunting of the rules of global capitalism will be a lot worse than you realize.


---------------------------

IV.

The Weekly Standard: "Revenge of the Panda Hugger: The Bush administration's China policy is hardening. "

Super Succinct Synopsis-

No, really. Don't make us pull this car over.

Super Succinct Snippet-

Fifteen months ago, just two days before George W. Bush's reelection, the Chinese government's English-language mouthpiece, China Daily, reprinted a blast by senior diplomat Qian Qichen against a "Bush Doctrine" marked by "cocksuredness and arrogance." President Bush no doubt believed, in the last days of an extremely tight race, that Qian's comments were an attempt to influence the result of the election, or at the very least an attempt to ingratiate Beijing with John Kerry, then slightly ahead in the polls. Upon his reelection, President Bush was apparently not amused.

Since then, his China policy has evolved away from its once-cautious optimism that Beijing might possibly, somehow, be persuaded to join Washington in maintaining a rules-based world order on such issues as nonproliferation, trade, human rights, energy, environment, and health policies. The official U.S. agnosticism about where China's rise will take it--and the world--seems to be ebbing. Instead, the administration seems ready to conclude that China is not going in the right direction and that the United States must hedge its bets.

China, we've given you plenty of chances, plenty of subtle warnings, and plenty of forgiveness for wrongdoing. Now it's time to straighten up. Americans obviously wouldn't mind sticking it to you, economically. Just don't force us to do so.


---------------------------

V.

The Economist: "Japan, land of the rising indicators"

Super Succinct Synopsis-

Remember when it was popular to buy American to stick it to the Japanese? Remember when everyone worried so much about Japan taking our jobs and ruining our economy and so on? Well, after 15 years of weakness in the Japanese economy, the signs are finally pointed in the right direction. Let's celebrate, because we need an economically strong Japan.

Super Succinct Snippet-

...at long last, those Japan-watchers are starting to believe that the country may have turned the corner on its long stagnation.

Root for Japan's economic reforms, spearheaded by Bush buddy Junichiro Koizumi, to succeed. A strong Japan is good for the United States, economically, as well as geopolitically.


---------------------------

The previous Mainstream Melee.

WILLisms.com and many other blogs sometimes focus too much on our fellow bloggers, while excluding well-done professional journalism from our posts.

The Mainstream Melee is a quick survey of five non-blog sources, coming atchya at completely random intervals. The stories are either underreported, particularly well-written, interesting, or otherwise important to the big picture. But generally there will be a theme of some kind in the choices.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 February 2006 03:10 PM · Comments (2)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 44.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

boehner.gif

The actual caption:

Newly selected House Majority Leader John Boehner, R- Ohio, right, whispers to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., prior to President Bush signing bill S. 1932, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 in the East Room of the White House in Washington Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2006. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, February 28. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

behereallweek.gif

Winners from last week:

1.

Hoodlumman:

At little Billy's bar mitzvah, the ventriloquist was poorly recieved as everyone could clearly see his lips moving.


2.

John:

After an extraordinarily successful 5 year secrecy campaign, President George W. Bush reveals his conjoined twin, Pepe.


3.

DaveD:

"Ladies and gentleman, Michael Feinstein here certainly has a curious way of dancing cheek to cheek."


Honorable Mention #1

Cox:

Sensing something awry, Mike Feinstein glances down just before he's tackled by a Secret Service agent. Unfortunately, the agent was too late to protect the President from a "bad touch."


Honorable Mention #2

Rodney Dill:

(in Tiny Tim Falsetto)

♫ Tiptoe to the window, by the window that is where I'll be......
Come tiptoe through the tulips with me! ♫


Honorable Mention #3

Rob B.:

George Bush seemed to have no problem but Michael Feinstein struggled in the newest edition of "Skating and Debating with the Stars."


Captioning is high in fiber and has zero trans-fat.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 February 2006 10:17 AM · Comments (20)

Christopher Hitchens Has A Great Idea

Stand Up For Denmark:

And there remains the question of Denmark: a small democracy, which resisted Hitler bravely and protected its Jews as well as itself. Denmark is a fellow member of NATO and a country that sends its soldiers to help in the defense and reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. And what is its reward from Washington? Not a word of solidarity, but instead some creepy words of apology to those who have attacked its freedom, its trade, its citizens, and its embassies. For shame. Surely here is a case that can be taken up by those who worry that America is too casual and arrogant with its allies. I feel terrible that I have taken so long to get around to this, but I wonder if anyone might feel like joining me in gathering outside the Danish Embassy in Washington, in a quiet and composed manner, to affirm some elementary friendship. Those who like the idea might contact me at christopher.hitchens@yahoo.com, and those who live in other cities with Danish consulates might wish to initiate a stand for decency on their own account.
Via RealClearPolitics.

P.S. Was just thinking, would not a solemn, civil, respectful demonstration or vigil on behalf of Denmark be an excellent counterpoise to all the irrational nonsense being directed at Denmark and other western nations? Would it not be doubly excellent if a great many rational, thoughtful muslims joined in?

Cross posted from Say Anything.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 21 February 2006 07:51 PM · Comments (4)

400,000 Visitors.

The ole sitemeter, which I added to my site sometime in March of 2005, ticked upward beyond 400,000 today.

If I only had a dollar for every visitor, I could finally afford that baker's dozen of bungalows on beaches in third world countries all over the world.

Previous hundred grands:

December 7, 2005: 300,000.
September 12, 2005: 200,000.
June 26, 2005: 100,000.

UPDATE:

The chart that I should have made.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 February 2006 03:03 PM · Comments (12)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 275 -- Kyoto.

Climate Change-

How is that little Kyoto environmental experiment going?


Not that great
:

The Kyoto Protocol requires industrialized countries to cut carbon dioxide emissions by an average 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. But 13 of the 15 original members of the European Union have increased their emissions since 1990, not reduced them. New data by the EU's own European Environmental Agency show that by 2010, the 15 nations' emissions collectively will exceed 1990 levels by seven percent.

Meanwhile, the economic growth costs are not to be ignored:

Handicapping Kyoto's future is the fact that the treaty is economic suicide, and most European nations know it. According to the Brussels economic research organization International Council for Capital Formation (ICCF), the UK's gross domestic product will fall more than 1 percent in 2010 from what it otherwise would be, Italy's by more than 2 percent, and Spain's by more than 3 percent as a result of Kyoto's emissions targets. The UK, Italy, and Germany each would lose at least 200,000 jobs; Spain would lose 800,000.

There is a better way, however:

Enter the Asia-Pacific Partnership, a new coalition of Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the United States, committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the development of new, clean technologies. The gang of six, who first met officially last month in Sydney, will invest in new R&D promoting cleaner sources of energy and work with China and India to utilize them. By comparison, Kyoto failed to sign up China and India, the emerging industrial giants that together emit over 20 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.

Think about that. The ever-revered Kyoto Protocols did not even include these two heavy-polluting countries. As China and India grow, their increased emissions will dwarf the hypothetical decreases Kyoto demanded. But European countries are not even close to meeting their goals.

There's a reason why the United States Senate voted 95-0 during the Clinton administration to reject Kyoto.

Indeed, Kyoto forgot to include the entire developing world, while handicapping its signatories, economically. And for what?

This, apparently:

europekyotoemissions.gif

Why on earth should the United States have signed up for such a lose-lose contract? And why does anyone still listen to European leaders when they whine about America's carbon emissions?


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Our Complex Tax Code.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 February 2006 10:51 AM · Comments (4)

Quotational Therapy: Part 75 -- Washington Is Questioning Your Patriotism.

President's Day-

geedub.gif

George Washington-

George Washington's farewell address, on September 19, 1796:

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness—these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens."

I think the original G.W. is calling out about 80% of the modern Democratic Party. I think he's even questioning their-- gasp-- patriotism.

Happy President's Day to all, and to all, a happy President's Day.


-----------------------------

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

The Gipper, On Government.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 February 2006 06:34 PM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 274 -- Our Complex Tax Code

These Costs Aren't Chump Change-

Because the tax code has gotten so complex, the cost of complying has become ridiculous:

In the last century the cost of tax compliance has grown tremendously. This is due partly to the inherent difficulty of taxing income, but also because of growing non-economic demands lawmakers place on the tax code. As Congress debates the tax reform recommendations of the President’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, Members should address this growing compliance burden, and work to reduce it through tax simplification and reform.

In 2005 individuals, businesses and nonprofits will spend an estimated 6 billion hours complying with the federal income tax code, with an estimated compliance cost of over $265.1 billion. This amounts to imposing a 22-cent tax compliance surcharge for every dollar the income tax system collects. Projections show that by 2015 the compliance cost will grow to $482.7 billion.

The costs are growing because of the necessity of tax planning, the inevitability of audits and lawsuits, and the complication of tax preparation:

taxcompliancecosts.gif

Interestingly, these costs represent a fairly high percentage of taxes collected by the federal government:

percentageofrevenues.gif

Imagine a simple tax code. With lower, flatter rates. Not as much rigamarole. Simple. Straightforward. No H&R Block or Turbo Tax necessary. Why not?

Source:

The Tax Foundation (.pdf).


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Our Congressional Districts Are Getting Huginormongous.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 February 2006 11:54 AM · Comments (3)

Pundit Roundtable

Hi folks! After a hiatus of a few weeks, we are back with the PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE, and I am your host, Ken McCracken.

We have a special treat this week, a mini-interviews with Dean Esmay of Dean's World, who is in fact our very first interviewee, and Will Franklin.

Dean's blog is one of my daily stops in the blogosphere. He if often pegged, incorrectly in my view, as a hard-right blogger. In fact, his blog, and his co-bloggers, reflect a much broader perspective than that, and I don't think Dean would ever characterize himself as a party-line Republican. I think this erroneous view comes from his uncompromising stance on the War on Terror.

Here we go:

How did you get into blogging?

In the late 1990s I had my own domain, syndicomm.com, for a business I used to run. On that site I would occasionally write essays, because I always had the writing bug (see, for example, this and this). That got to be too much hassle, and I eventually sold the business and the domain and gave up writing on the internet. But, the bug wouldn't leave me, so I started up a mailing list of friends to mail essays to. I would post occasionally to Usenet too, but I just didn't like doing that as much, it was too chaotic.

Right around the turn of the century, my buddy Jerry Kindall started telling me I needed to get a blog. I didn't know what that was and was short on time so I blew him off, until one day he purchased a domain name for me, and set up a blog on it for me, and handed me the keys. I took to it like a duck to water and never went back. I wish I hadn't waited so long!

Do you have a favorite topic you like to post about?

Nope. I write about the war effort mostly out of a sense of duty and obligation. I prefer otherwise to write about philosophy, science, history, and current events (if usually from a historical or political science perspective). I also like turning my skeptical guns to conspiracy theories, scientific crackpottery, and showing where the professional press tends to get things wrong.

What fulfills you the most about blogging?

Learning from my audience.

What are the downsides to blogging?

Being the subject of harassing and nasty behavior from people who don't like what you have to say.

Do you have any blogging goals you want to achieve?

I wish to continue helping America toward victory, to help the spread of liberal values through the world, and to make Dean's World a place people visit because they find it entertaining, challenging, and interesting. If I can keep doing that I'll be happy.

What is the best thing you have achieved so far?

I helped found Operation Give and am still officially a board member.

Is there a statement of purpose you could point us to, or would you like to make one?

"Defending the liberal tradition in history, science, and philosophy."

Ken adds: See? Defending the liberal tradition in history, science, and philosophy. Does that sound like a hard-right ideologue to you? We righties often forget what the broad term liberal really means, and today's 'liberals' too often seem to have forgotten it as well . . .


We also have a mini-interview with Will Franklin, whom you all know as the founder of WILLisms.com. You might be wondering why I would be interviewing Will, considering that I blog with him, but I really didn't know how he would respond . . .

What are you trying to achieve with WILLisms.com?

I want to educate, motivate, entertain, inspire, elucidate, and occasionally upset my readers. I am a conservative. I am a Republican. Hopefully my readers can win the heck out of arguments with lefty colleagues and friends and family members. Hopefully my readers can put things in perspective. Hopefully WILLisms.com will help more tax-cutters, more Social Security-reformers, more freedom-lovers, and so on be able to articulate WHY lower taxes are better, WHY Social Security reform would be a good thing, and a bunch of other WHYs. Hopefully WILLisms.com can help the right kinds of candidates get elected, as well. This being an election year, WILLisms.com might change focus slightly toward the game of politics. We'll see.

Is it a lot of work?

It can be. And it can be tedious. Some posts take 10-20 minutes (or less). Some take an hour or two. Staying abreast of the latest blog trends can consume quite a bit of time, as well. Doing the graphics can also take a lot more, or a lot less, time than I estimate. It just depends. Over the past year, it's gotten a lot easier, and I have gotten much faster and whipping out graphics. Unfortunately, the available time is increasingly sporadic and rare.

One thing about blogging is that I could probably spend 8-10 hours a day, produce essentially the same quantity and quality of commentary found on major news websites. But I would get burned out after a few days of that. Or, I could probably sit down at my computer several times a day and find something funny or interesting, then post it. Wham. 10 minutes to find something. 2 or 3 minutes to post it. Several times a day. But I want to provide the sorts of details that are often unavailable elsewhere. Quality over quantity, for the most part.

Then there's the maintenance if the software malfunctions. Administrative things are a pain. I am not one of those guys who can sit down and write/debug a computer program in half an hour. And even if I were, I wouldn't be the kind of guy who would enjoy doing that. So the computing side, the coding, the fixing problems... all of that is tedious.

A lot of bloggers must spend hours every day promoting their sites, too. Or maybe it just seems like it. It helps having a Zsa Zsa to promote your site non-stop around the blogosphere, because I pretty well stopped doing so a while back.

What do you get most out of blogging (other than the HUGE bucks!)?

In many ways, I treat it like any other hobby. In the beginning, I spent more time trying to get noticed and linked by the bigger bloggers and so on. Traffic to the site was fulfilling. My first couple of comments and emails from readers were thrilling. Now, I still enjoy comments and emails, even the hate ones, but I do this more for myself than anything at this point.

As far as money goes, I could see it being a money-maker if I treated it like a full-time job, added advertisements galore, and so on. The money I make on the site, minus the costs of server space and software and so on, probably breaks down to something like 5 cents an hour. Or less.

Mostly, I believe in the power of freedom. Economically. Politically. Here and abroad. I feel very fortunate to have grown up in such an amazing country, and I want to keep us on the right track, and help get others there, as well. My blog is just one of many thousands that contributes to that. It's just too bad there are so many anti-American, Marxist, hateful blogs out there that are so popular.

How did you get into blogging?

I started WILLisms.com about a year ago after writing for the University of Houston school paper as a grad student. I got irritated with my news pieces being edited, often with errors ADDED that I didn't have. I also got frustrated writing letters to the editor that nobody would ever read. Blogging seemed like a neat way to compete in the marketplace of ideas and win.

Do you have a favorite post, or topic?

The Babe Theory post was fun to do. I plan on updating it (actually, doing more of a sequel) in the next few months sometime, with fresh events and pictures and so on.

I also still enjoy Social Security blogging. It can be irritating, but it's not going away, and there are some very, very interesting solutions out there. Anything with numbers I enjoy. I wish I had the time to post at least one big numbers post per day, one well-developed commentary per day, plus other items.


Well there you have it, the Roundtable's first two interview victims! Come back next week for our next edition of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 19 February 2006 02:33 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 273 -- Our Burgeoning Congressional Districts.

Less Representative Representation-

Our House of Representatives is less representative than it was at the birth of our nation. And because the House is capped at 435 seats, we'll continue to have larger and larger Congressional districts with each passing Census.

congressionaldistrictsgetti.gif
The average congressional district in the next decade will have almost 715,000 people, up from 647,000 after the 2000 census. Compare this to 37,000 per district after the 1790 census and 210,000 per district after 1910 census, when the number of House members was fixed at 435.

This isn't necessarily a terrible thing, however. Do we really want to double or triple the number of Congressmen just to make the average Congressional district a bit smaller?

Meanwhile, with technology, our world is getting smaller. Thirty-seven thousand people in 1790 might have felt about like 647 thousand people does today.

Still, if this trend holds, we'll likely see a shift in the way Americans view their own members of Congress. Right now, Congress is viewed negatively, but people today usually like their own local Representatives. If America's population expands to 435 million people, and each district grows to roughly 1 million folks, we may see a bit more alienation. Which, again, might not necessarily be such a terrible thing.


Source:
AEI.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Illegal Immigration.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 February 2006 11:12 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 272 -- Undocumented Migrants.

Illegals-

Immigration is a definite sleeper issue in upcoming elections. You can almost just see the panel of several GOP candidates, in one of those "debates" on CNN or Fox News, each individual trying to prove he or she is the most serious on the immigration issue.

And immigration is quite a serious political issue. Illegal immigration has far-reaching policy consequences. Some good. Some bad.

Some states, obviously, have more illegals than others:

undocumentedmigrant.gif

States with high levels of illegal immigration face correlating high levels of government spending on services, schools, and such. As property taxes creep upward in places California and Texas to pay for increasingly crowded schools, people are demanding action.

Interestingly, Mexico's economic growth has shifted toward the U.S. border in recent years, largely due to NAFTA:

shifttonorth.gif

It's often said that if Mexico could develop a thriving middle class and a healthy political culture, the United States might become a less attractive destination for Mexicans seeking wealth. If Mexico can develop a thriving manufacturing base just South of the Rio Grande, that middle class may indeed grow.

Opportunities, economic and otherwise, within Mexico, might be the key to the illegal immigration issue.

Incidentally, it should be noted that it's not exclusively uneducated, unskilled folks moving to America:

probabilityofmigration.gif
...the three groups with the highest migration probability were, in descending order, those with nine to 12 years of education, those with zero years of education and those with 13 to 16 years of education....

Declining migration costs for those with more education—possibly related to greater English proficiency among the more educated—could explain the larger migration of individuals with medium levels of education.

If Mexico continues to export so much of its college-educated talent, it's difficult to imagine a thriving middle class becoming a reality in the near term.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Happiness.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 February 2006 10:17 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 271 -- Happiness.

What Makes One Happy-

Are you happy? Which of our fellow Americans are most happy?

Judging from some of the emails I get from our left-wing friends, it's not the liberals. Indeed, it's become a relatively well-known fact of social science that Democrats and liberals are more pessimistic than the rest of us. Even when they held power.

Not all that surprisingly, Republicans say they are happier than Democrats and Independents:

republicanshappier.gif

In many ways, money does buy happiness. But controlling for income, Republicans are still happier than Democrats within each wealth zone:

republicansstillhappier.gif

And conservatives are happier than liberals, within each party:

conservativeshappier.gif

Meanwhile, married people are happier than unmarried folks:

marriedpeoplehappier.gif

Churchgoing people are happier than non-churchgoing folks, people living in the sunbelt are happier than those outside the sunbelt, suburbanites are happier than urban and rural folks, and college-educated folks are happier than those with no college experience.

So, the key to being happy begins to resemble the traditional American Dream. A decent income, a sunny home in the suburbs, with a spouse, a church home, and conservative Republican politics.

Source:
Pew Research Center.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Political Representation Is Correlated With Sports Prowess.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 February 2006 01:54 PM · Comments (5)

Quotational Therapy: Part 74 -- Government Leviathan.

Ronald Wilson Reagan, On Government-

ronaldwilsonreaganblue.gif

Ronald Reagan, on eternal life:

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!

Sad.

True.


-----------------------------

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Abe Lincoln.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 February 2006 10:19 AM · Comments (1)

Heidi Franklin, Weimaraner Puppy.

My puppy:

heidigirlblueeyes.gif

And another:

babyblueheidi.gif

I am pretty sure she likes us.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 February 2006 08:31 PM · Comments (20)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Forty-Six -- Social Security Is A Bad Deal.

reformthursdayblue.gif

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays. And reform is a long-haul process, not a fleeting event. So we're going to keep plugging along with the case for reform, even as the issue goes off the political radar screen.

That's why WILLisms.com offers a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.

This week's topic:

Even The Mythical Version Of Social Security Could Be Much, Much Better.

Let's play the Pretend Game™ for a minute, how about. Let's pretend that the Social Security program will indeed be able to pay out what is currently promised to everyone, for all time. To believe that, you have to forget that Social Security begins paying out more than it takes in in about 10 years. You also have to forget that the Social Security Trust Fund (which is actually just a series of government IOUs to itself sitting in a filing cabinet in West Virginia) will become entirely depleted in 2041.

But let's pretend that Social Security will be able to meet its obligations. The returns are retched, and getting worse:

diminishingsocialsecurityre.gif

Awful.

For those of us in our 20s, even the false promises of Social Security are lame.

And this really is one of the more compelling cogs in the case for Social Security reform. It's a terrible deal today.

Easily, we could make it a great deal, while simultaneously addressing the sterile issue of solvency.

It's time for reform.

The clock is ticking:


--------------------------------

Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:

-Week One (Costs Exceed Revenues).
-Week Two (Social Security Can't Pay Promised Benefits).
-Week Three (Americans Getting Older).
-Week Three, bonus (The Templeton Curve).
-Week Four (Fewer Workers, More Retirees).
-Week Five (History of Payroll Tax Base Increases).
-Week Six (Seniors Living Longer).
-Week Six, bonus (Less Workers, More Beneficiaries).
-Week Seven (History of Payroll Tax Increases).
-Week Seven, bonus (Personal Accounts Do Achieve Solvency).
-Week Eight (Forty Year Trend Of Increasing Mandatory Spending).
-Week Nine (Diminishing Benefits Sans Reform).
-Week Ten (Elderly Dependence On Social Security).
-Week Eleven (Entitlement Spending Eating The Budget).
-Week Twelve (Benefit Comparison, Bush's Plan versus No Plan).
-Week Thirteen (Younger Americans and Lifecycle Funds).
-Week Fourteen (The Thrift Savings Plan).
-Week Fifteen (Understanding Progressive Indexing).
-Week Sixteen (The Graying of America).
-Week Seventeen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Eighteen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Nineteen (Reform Needed Sooner Rather Than Later).
-Week Twenty (Global Success With Personal Accounts).
-Week Twenty-One (GROW Accounts: Stopping The Raid).
-Week Twenty-Two (Millions of Lockboxes).
-Week Twenty-Three (Support for Ryan-DeMint).
-Week Twenty-Four (KidSave Accounts).
-Week Twenty-Five (Latinos and Social Security).
-Week Twenty-Six (AmeriSave).
-Week Twenty-Seven (Cost Of Doing Nothing).
-Week Twenty-Eight (Chile).
-Week Twenty-Nine (Entitlement Spending Out Of Control).
-Week Thirty (Reform Better Deal Than Status Quo).
-Week Thirty-One (Social Security As A Labor Cost).
-Week Thirty-Two (Social Security And Dependence On Government).
-Week Thirty-Three (Social Security, Currently A Bad Deal For African-Americans).
-Week Thirty-Four (Longer Life Expectancies Straining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Five (Howard Dean & Salami).
-Week Thirty-Six (Growing Numbers of Beneficiaries Draining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Seven (The Crisis Is Now).
-Week Thirty-Eight (Disability Benefits).
-Week Thirty-Nine (Broken Benefit Calculation Formula).
-Week Forty (German Social Security Disaster).
-Week Forty-One (Crumbling Pyramid Scheme).
-Week Forty-Two (Overpromising, Globally).
-Week Forty-Three (Demographic Wave).
-Week Forty-Four (The Jerk Store).
-Week Forty-Five (Defined Benefit Plans).

Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important graphical data supporting Social Security reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 February 2006 04:13 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 270 -- Where The People Are.

Demographic Destiny-

America, especially "Bush Country," is growing:

If we assume that the states continue to grow at the rate they have since 2000, then by 2010 America will have grown by 10 percent, having added 29 million people, and will have more than 311 million people. From 1990 to 2000, we grew at an even faster clip, by almost 33 million people, or 13.2 percent.

And the growth, as we know, has not distributed evenly:

Growth in the United States is regional. The Northeast and Midwest states are our Europe, creeping along, barely growing or even shrinking. Since the 2000 census, the District of Columbia and North Dakota have shrunk. Massachusetts and New York were estimated to have lost population last year and will join Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and others as states that will gain less than 4 percent population in a decade.

The top growth states are again Nevada, which has for the past 35 years been the fastest growing state, and Arizona, which is not far behind. Nevada projects to increase by 43 percent, or 800,000 people, and Arizona by 32 percent, or 1.7 million. Almost half the U.S. population growth will occur in four states: Florida will gain 3.7 million, or 23 percent; Texas 4 million, or 19 percent; California 4.4 million, or 13 percent; and Georgia 1.8 million, or 22 percent. Florida will be larger than New York, Arizona larger than Massachusetts and Georgia and North Carolina larger than New Jersey.

As a fan of sports, and a political junkie, I am constantly drawing parallels between the two.

In my mind.

But I rarely talk about them, for whatever reason.

So here's a theory I have been bouncing around for a while:

As America's demographics continue to change, regions/states/localities with the most robust economic and population growth will gain political power and influence at the expense of stagnating and/or shrinking regions/states/localities.

Duh. Everyone knows that.

But add this to the equation:

College sports teams within those diminishing regions/states/localities, even traditional powers, will lose status relative to teams within the growing regions/states/localities.

In other words, as states like Texas, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Georgia continue to gain population at the expense of states like Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, colleges within those states will gain and lose status, accordingly.

Then, factor in that certain states (usually the same ones gaining people due to domestic migration) have higher birth rates, even taking out Latino immigrants, than other states.

You get power, wealth, and prestige. You also get:

I. Lots of political representation.

II. Lots of suburban high schools. Lots of kids.

III. Lots of good college sports teams.

It will take decades to materialize, but it will materialize. Indeed, in some ways, it has already materialized. Florida's explosive growth over the past 50 years has allowed that state, with no collegiate sports tradition or history to speak of, to develop at least three major top-tier sports programs (Florida, Florida State, and Miami).

Don't think the same thing won't happen in Arizona. It will.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten conference, with all those rust belt states, will experience diminished relative resources, diminished talent, diminished everything. Ohio State and Michigan, two traditional college football powers, could become diminishingly relevant.


If political power is highly correlated with collegiate sports success, watch for trends in these states:

Projections are for Texas and Florida to gain three seats, Arizona two and California, Georgia, Nevada and Utah one. Balancing those gains will be losses of two seats each from New York and Ohio and one from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Louisiana.

Overall, the red or Republican states (won by Bush in 2004) will net a six-seat gain and blue states will lose six. But there is some question whether high-growth, high-immigration states such as Nevada, Arizona and Florida might turn more purple as they grow.

If you are afraid of growth, move to Europe, or to Ohio. But remember that most of your friends are moving to Phoenix, Dallas and Miami, and they’ll have more say in future congresses.

And more say in the hunt for the national title.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Costly Tax Code Compliance.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 February 2006 09:25 AM · Comments (10)

Great Aphorists: Ludwig Von Mises

Ludwig Von Mises, 1881-1973

Mises is the patron saint of libertarianism, an adherent of the very influential Austrian School of economics. The aphorisms here are from his 1949 classic Human Action.

My favorite aphorism, because it sums it all up so well:

What pays under capitalism is satisfying the common man, the customer. The more people you satisfy, the better for you.

More gold from Mises:

Government and state can never be perfect because they owe their raison d'etre to the imperfection of man and can attain their end, the elimination of man's innate impulse to violence, only by recourse to violence, the very thing they are called upon to prevent.

The criterion of truth is that it works even if nobody is prepared to acknowledge it.

Competition on the market aims at assigning to every individual that function in the social system in which he can render to all his fellow men the most valuable of the services he is able to perform.

If history could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization.

Historical knowledge is indispensable for those who want to build a better world.

The worst evils which mankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments. The state can be and has often been in the course of history the main source of mischief and disaster.

Progress is precisely that which the rules and regulations did not foresee.

For the sake of domestic peace, liberalism aims at democratic government. Democracy is therefore not a revolutionary institution. On the contrary it is the very means of preventing revolution and civil wars. It provides a method for the peaceful adjustment of government to the will of the majority.

Economics is not about things and tangible material objects; it is about men, their meanings and actions.

Facts per se can neither prove nor refute anything. Everything is decided by the interpretation and explanation of the facts, by the ideas and the theories.

Progress cannot be organized.

Previous Great Aphorist: Friederich Nietzsche

P.S. As a side note, I would like to mention my penchant for Wikipedia. I try to use it whenever I need a link to a definition or explanation for a term or concept, because I think it is a great starting place, deserves support, and actually is a great product. You have to use your judgment about the veracity of the articles sometimes . . . but isn't that true for anything you read? Besides, it is a self-correcting organism that should, in theory, fix itself when errors are present. Just like a blog(?).

Posted by Ken McCracken · 15 February 2006 08:28 PM · Comments (7)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 269 -- Tax Code Complexity.

Huge Tax Code Has Huge Consequences-

Last year, American businesses, individuals, and nonprofit organizations spent 6 billion hours doing their taxes. It also cost Americans more than a quarter of a trillion dollars just to comply with their taxes.

And it cost lower income folks more than wealthier folks to comply with the labrynthine tax code, on a relative basis:

When examined by income level, compliance cost is found to be highly regressive, taking a larger toll on low-income taxpayers as a percentage of income than high-income taxpayers. On the low end, taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) under $20,000 incur a compliance cost equal to 5.9 percent of income while the compliance cost incurred by taxpayers with AGI over $200,000 amounts to just 0.5 percent of income.

Flatter, simpler tax code, anyone?

"Progressives" would solve this problem by sticking it to the rich and/or just raising the heck out of taxes and taking away those increasingly complicated deductions everyone loves (mortgage, etc.). The rest of us would gladly support major tax reform, making our tax code extremely simple and straightforward, to avoid this (.pdf):

taxcompliancebyincome.gif

Flatter, simpler, lower. It's worked before. It'll work again.

Source: The Tax Foundation(.pdf).

Stay tuned for more on America's tax code, as we near April 15.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Windfall Taxes? How About Not.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 February 2006 03:35 PM · Comments (0)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 43.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

behereallweek.gif

The actual caption:

Broadway singer Michael Feinstein, right, tries to show a dance move alongside President Bush at the end of entertainment at a Valentines Day Social Dinner in the East Room of the White House in Washington Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2006. Bush said he would not dance with Feinstein in front of the cameras. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, February 21. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

sleeprumsfeld.gif

Winners from last week:

1.

Rob B.:

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace had tried and tried to tell Rumsfeld that using gang signs was a 'bad idea' when pitching this budget to the NAACP but it was to no avail as Rummy asked the crowd,"Who let the Pork out!"


2.

Buckley F. Williams:

"Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld entertains the crowd during a news conference at the Pentagon with his air-piano rendition of 'Stairway to Heaven' while Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace rocks on to his right."


3.

DaveD:

Rumsfeld again misjudges his audience by using sign language to deliver a speech on defense policy to a crowd of blind partisans.


Honorable Mention #1

Jim Rose:

After Donald Rumsfeld demonstrated his new hypnotic technique at a recent Pentagon briefing, the press reaction was unanimous: "I love it! Much better than Cats! I'm going to see it again and again!"


Honorable Mention #2

Laurence Simon:

Shut up, settle down, and you all can have the antidote when the conference is over.


Honorable Mention #3

Hoodlumman:

"A la tuhuelpa legria Macarena! Que tuhuelce paralla legria cosabuena! A la tuhuelpa legria Macarena,

Aaaaaaa, Macarena!!"


Captioning is golden, silver, and bronze.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 February 2006 12:00 AM · Comments (22)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 268 -- Oil Industry Taxes.

Large Oil Industry Tax Payments Undercut Case for "Windfall Profits" Tax-

Oil companies earn a lot these days. But they also pay a ridiculous amount in taxes:

windfalprofitsoiltax.gif
When the federal statutory corporate income tax rate of 35 percent is added to the weighted average of state corporate income taxes, the resulting rate of 39.3 percent means that corporations in the United States are currently at an international competitive disadvantage. In fact, as recent research has indicated, the top combined state and federal statutory corporate income tax in the U.S. is higher than any other country in the OECD.

Furthermore, the average effective tax rate on the major integrated oil and gas industry is estimated to equal 38.3 percent. This exceeds the estimated average effective tax rate of 32.3 percent for the market as a whole.

You can't simultaneously wean America off of foreign sources of energy and keep taxes so relatively high.

It's also interesting that the solution some have for high gas prices (which aren't in the news anymore now that they're lower) is to raise the gas tax. How John Kerrian.

The faceless entity that is "big oil" won't feel the punishment. They'll just pass along those additional taxes onto real people:

If the corporate income tax burden is entirely borne by their employees, the tax ranges from $198,179 per Chevron employee, to $276,732 per employee at ConocoPhillips in 2005. It is important to note that these calculations are exclusively based on corporate income taxes paid and neglect the vast assortment of additional taxes previously noted.

Conversely, if the corporate income taxes are passed on to American consumers, we all share in the burden by paying higher prices on products—most notably a higher price of gasoline at the pump. The debate over who ends up paying the bulk of corporate taxes is far from conclusive, but the undisputed and most significant fact is that corporations do not pay taxes; people do.

Source:
The Tax Foundation
.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Property Tax Relief.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 February 2006 10:48 PM · Comments (4)

Texas Longhorns Visit The White House.

Life is good for The University of Texas Longhorns.

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Don't Mack Brown and George W. Bush look an awful lot alike:

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The Longhorns have taken over the executive palace. A coup is underway. Vivan los Longhornes.

banneratwhitehouse.gif


Even the now-mythical Karl Rove is getting in on the action:

rovelonghorn.gif

Awesome.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 February 2006 08:10 PM · Comments (7)

FDR Lied About Weapons of Mass Destruction

While doing some research on Iran's nuclear capabilities, I came across an article at the incredible GlobalSecurity.org site about FDR's preemptive strikes against a suspected WMD site:

Late in 1938, Lise Meitner, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman discovered the phenomenon of atomic fission. Physicists everywhere realized that if chain reactions could be tamed, fission could lead to a promising new source of power. What was needed was a substance that could "moderate" the energy of neutrons emitted in radioactive decay, so that they could be captured by other fissionable nuclei. Heavy water was a prime candidate for the job.

Allied forces were determined to stop Nazi Germany from developing the atomic bomb. Of two materials to control a nuclear reaction -— pure graphite and heavy water -- the Germans chose heavy water because of a mathematical error in calculating the use of graphite. The German nuclear research community relied on a supply of deuterium oxide [heavy water] from the Norwegian Norsk Hydro plant, the only commercial production facility. This plant in Vemork, Norway was the world's major source of heavy water in the early 1940s.

Read the whole thing here.

Obviously, Roosevelt was WRONG about Norway having Weapons of Mass Destruction, thus proving that he LIED about our need for a preemptive attack.

Why oh why didn't we impeach this guy?

Posted by Ken McCracken · 14 February 2006 05:23 PM · Comments (1)

Unbounded Faith

I share George W. Bush's unalterable belief in democratic peace for the Middle East. Many world-weary, too-clever-by-half discontents think such faith is naive.

Perhaps George W. Bush is naive - I am not. I understand perfectly well the absurdity of my faith. While the definition of Faith is belief in that for which there is no evidence, my faith is more stubborn yet, because it comes in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary:

-

-

"Certum est, quia impossibile est." - "It is certain because it is impossible," said Tertullian of his faith in Christ. And what is more intractably impossible than democratic peace in the Middle East?

So, why not faith? Another christian apologist, Blaise Pascal, urged The Wager, stating that if you believe in God and it proves to be correct, you have won. If you believe in God and your belief proves to be misplaced, what have you lost, really? It takes no more brainpower or effort to be an optimist than a pessimist, after all.

So why not faith and optimism?

Posted by Ken McCracken · 14 February 2006 02:07 PM · Comments (35)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 267 -- Property Taxes.

Property Taxes-

As a new homeowner, property taxes are suddenly on my mind quite a bit. I knew property taxes were somewhat exorbitant, but now I know they are. It's just plain shocking to think that such a high percentage of my mortgage payment is actually taxes.

And I don't think I am being a paranoid, fundamentalist, anti-tax zealot about this, either. Property tax rates have crept upward over the past quarter of a century (.pdf):

propertytaxeswayup.gif

Interestingly, some states have it worse than other states.

About 3 dozen Trivia Tidbits ago, we noted that Massachusetts actually has a lower state and local tax burden than its reputation would suggest (17th lowest among the 50 states). New Jersey, meanwhile, has the 10th highest state and local tax burden.

Part of that formula is the income tax rate. But a lot of it is property taxes.

Here is the tale of two states, one that passed property tax reform (Massachusetts), another that did not (New Jersey) (.pdf):

propertytaxreform.gif
In 1977, Massachusetts had the highest property taxes in the nation while New Jersey had the second highest property taxes in the nation. As the table below demonstrates, in 1977, Massachusetts residents paid $97 more per capita than New Jersey residents.

In response to voter dissatisfaction, both states attempted to deal with property taxes in very different ways. Massachusetts voters, through the initiative process, instituted local spending limits. Conversely, New Jersey amended its Constitution to create an income tax with all the revenues used specifically for property tax relief. The two contrasting measures produced very different results and should serve as an instructive guide for policymakers in dealing with property taxes.

....

While Massachusetts adopted Proposition 2 ½ and was reaping the benefits of a flexible, stable property tax system, New Jersey took a different avenue. Rather than limiting the property tax levies through a method similar to Proposition 2 ½, New Jersey lawmakers increased state taxes to finance additional local government spending. This had very little effect on reducing property taxes but did pay for more government spending and more property taxes. The result: New Jersey has now overtaken Massachusetts as leader of the property tax pack.


The proof is in the pudding.

Ideas matter. Policies matter. Ballot measures matter.

Property tax reform. Now. Let's do it. In Texas. Everywhere.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Weimaraners & Other Puppies.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 February 2006 08:17 PM · Comments (6)

Quotational Therapy: Part 73 -- Not Abraham Lincoln.

America's 16th President-

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Abraham Lincoln, had he not been assassinated, would have turned 197 years old on Sunday. Many quotes were attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Some of them, he never uttered.

Lincoln did not say this:

"To sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men."


Lincoln did not say this:

"There's no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There's nothing good in war except its ending."


Lincoln did not say this:

"The strength of the nation lies in the homes of its people."


And Lincoln did not say this, either:

"You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."


But he did say this, in dedicating the military cemetery at Gettysburg:

"...that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."


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Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Commies At The Olympics.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 February 2006 07:26 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 266 -- The Most Popular Dog Breeds.

Heidi-

It's the "Year of the Dog" in China. It's also the day of the puppy in the Franklin household. Meet our new Weimaraner Heidi, with Mrs. WILLisms.com:

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According to The American Kennel Club, Weimaraners rank #29 out of officially-registered purebreeds:

For the 16th consecutive year, the Labrador Retriever is the most popular purebred dog in America, according to AKC® registration figures released today. The Golden Retriever held onto the number two spot and the Yorkshire Terrier made significant gains — beating the German Shepherd Dog and Beagle — to become the third most popular dog in the country.
mostpopulardogs.jpg

Interestingly, the Taco Bell advertisement has finally worn off, but small dogs are "in" right now:

The Miniature Schnauzer, which hasn't been in the "Top 10" since 1990, wags its way into 10th place this year, displacing the popular Chihuahua, which drops to 11th place.

The trend in small dogs continues to be evident with increases in the following breeds over the past 10 years — Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (735%), French Bulldog (305%), Brussels Griffon (231%) and Papillon (132%).

The most common breed, of course, is the glorious and awesome mutt. Interestingly, there are just shy of 1 million AKC-registered purebreed dogs in the country. Out of the many, many tens of millions of dogs out there, 1 million registered purebreeds is very small.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Tax Revenue Way The Heck Up.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 February 2006 10:16 PM · Comments (12)

Dick Cheney Needs Gun Control

In more ways than one.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a man during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, his spokeswoman said Sunday. Harry Whittington, 78, was "alert and doing fine" after Cheney sprayed Whittington with shotgun pellets on Saturday at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, said property owner Katharine Armstrong.

Armstrong said Cheney turned to shoot a bird and accidentally hit Whittington. She said Whittington was taken to Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital by ambulance.

(h/t Say Anything).

UPDATE:
WILL adds: File it Under has an exclusive photo.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 12 February 2006 04:39 PM · Comments (24)

The Liberal Lexicon

One of the reasons for friction among liberals and conservatives is that we often don't even speak the same language. Words can take on a very different meaning when used by the other side, and so to help everyone sort it out, here is a quick list of words and their leftist meanings:

Freedom Fighter = jihadist holding aloft Danny Pearl's head.

Terrorist = anyone working in the Bush administration.

Freedom of Speech = liberals uttering nonsense.

Hate Speech = pointing out liberal nonsense.

Racist = fallback position when you have nothing else to argue.

Intolerant = actually believing that some things are wrong.

Economic Justice = gimme gimme gimme.

Spending Cuts = not as much government growth as we'd like.

Tax Cuts = the worst idea since anti-communism.

Torture = anything causing discomfort.

Mainstream = killing unborn children and men marrying men.

Nazi = anyone who disagrees with me.

Moderate = anyone to the right of Pol Pot and to the left of Hubert Humphrey.

Hero = Fidel Castro.

Enemy = Joe Lieberman.

Bipartisan = Democratic legislation.

Divisive = Republican legislation.

War on Terror = a fake war that unfortunately pummels us at the polls.

Social Security = insignificant problem that will go away on its own.

Update: Whistleblower = upstanding citizens who tattle on the Bush administration.

Leaker = dirty rats who try to expose liberal plots against Bush.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 12 February 2006 03:57 PM · Comments (31)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 265 -- Spending Increases High, Revenue Increases Higher.

Booming Government Revenues-

"Spending is out of control! And it's getting worse every year!"

Okay, great. Duh. We know.

"It's the pork! We've got to end the pork!"

Okay, great. Sort of. Can we start classifying entitlements as pork?

Amazingly, thus far in Fiscal Year 2006 (which actually started a few months ago), the U.S. government is taking in much more revenue than it did last year. And last year, it took in far more than the year before.

Incredibly, even with all that crazy spending we all talk about ad nauseum, and all those crazy spending increases, revenue increases have actually outpaced spending increases.

The government is rich. It's too rich. It's too easy to keep spending when revenue keeps flooding in. There's no government-cutting urgency because of all of this additional tax revenue. There's no "let's-do-this-now" impetus for reforming entitlements, because the government is awash in cashola. Sure, deficits persist, but they are getting smaller, WITHOUT EVEN CUTTING SPENDING.

It's more a little frustrating. But let's keep it factual, here.

First, revenue growth is outpacing spending growth (.pdf):

fy2006morethanfy2005.gif

Once again, the largest items thus far in Fiscal Year 2006 (which, remember, started in October, not at the beginning of the actual year) are (.pdf):

#1: Social Security - $178,738,000,000
#2: National Defense - $170,725,000,000
#3: Income security - $105,355,000,000
#4: Medicare - $98,816,000,000
#5: Health - $84,731,000,000

What percentage of Americans would be able to identify Social Security as the most expensive government program?

What percentage, meanwhile, would erroneously identify "pork" or "the war" or "welfare" or "schools" as the most expensive program?

If Americans were aware of these facts, I have no doubt whatsoever that they would demand immediate action on entitlement reform.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Race & Medicine.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 February 2006 01:32 PM · Comments (1)

Quotational Therapy: Part 72 -- Protesting The Olympics.

"Imbeciles"-

Protestors at the winter Olympics. Glory:

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"We're not trying to close the Olympics," Hutter said. "But in seven years of planning, they could have made a change for good — they could have cleaned the air."

For Luca Ferraro, an organic farmer from a small town in Turin's Piedmont region, corporate-produced fast food should be one of the key Olympic issues.

"It's all a big media operation to make us believe we need to drink Coca-Cola," he said by telephone from his farm in Pianezza, where he was planting peas. "We don't need foreign products. We've got very nice wine and cheese in the Piedmont."

Ah, Communists. What are they good for?

Laughs, clearly.

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Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Sir Cowperthwaite.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 February 2006 10:12 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 264 -- Race & Medicine.

Race & Public Health-

Most of us, as modern Americans, wish to live in a truly colorblind society. Increasingly, and ironically for some, it is conservatives rather than liberals who are more likely to judge individuals on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Think about affirmative action, or about the way certain African-American Republicans are treated by liberals.

But people are different. There are differences between and among races. Biologically. Culturally. And so on. The great American melting pot hasn't changed that.

We've seen numerous collegiate football coaches and commentators in recent years get in trouble for suggesting there are physical differences between and among races, or that African-Americans are great athletes.

But aren't there physical differences between and among racial groups, on average?

Don't answer that one. It was rhetorical.

We'd all prefer a colorblind society, especially with regard to our laws and the enforcement thereof, but ignoring well-known racial differences when treating patients for the sake of some vague sense of social justice and harmony strikes me as odd, counterproductive, and ultimately very detrimental to health.

For example, African-Americans are more likely to have/develop sickle-cell anemia, diabetes, and other ailments. White people are more likely to have/develop other diseases. It's just statistics. We can either ignore the facts, or use them to help us.

Fascinatingly, smoking impacts different racial groups in different ways:

Cigarette smoke may not be an equal opportunity carcinogen. According to a report in last week's New England Journal of Medicine, the same amount of cigarette smoke was associated with higher rates of lung cancer in African-Americans and Native Hawaiians than other groups. Despite comparable low-to moderate exposure, whites were about half as likely to develop lung cancer and Latinos and Asians were about half as likely as whites to develop it.

Differences. Based on racial groupings.

These bits of information, rather than being used to discriminate against African-Americans, are important for our public health professionals. Some people, astoundingly, consider these sorts of studies to be racist:

"This [study] feeds into the 19th-century notion that these categories really separate people in terms of their physical and biological characteristics," said Troy Duster of New York University. (Only the most scientifically illiterate today believe this straw man of race. As early as the 1770's, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, considered the father of physical anthropology, remarked that "innumerable varieties of mankind run into each other by insensible degrees.")

Bioethicist Jeffrey Kahn of the University of Minnesota told the Washington Post that he worried the findings could be used to further discriminate: "The danger would be to sort of view lung cancer as a minority disease, and so something we don't have to worry as much about."

Ugh.

No.

This really should not be a political issue. Pragmatism, people. Come on.

Interestingly, white and black patients, culturally, or for some other unknown reason, behave differently:

Lung cancer was the subject of "bias" speculation when Peter Bach and colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center published a 1999 study in which they examined records of over 10,000 Medicare patients who received diagnoses of operable lung cancer. Seventy seven percent of white patients underwent surgery compared with 64% of black patients. Five years later, one-third of the white patients, but only one-quarter of the black patients, were still alive.

Those numbers understandably aroused concern, but many unanswered questions remained. One question was whether black patients refuse surgery more often than whites? The answer is yes. In 2003 researchers at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center presented their survey of over six hundred patients with pulmonary disease from three veterans hospital sites across the country. They found that more blacks than whites (61 percent versus 29 percent) maintained the folk belief that the spread of lung cancer was accelerated when the tumor was exposed to air during surgery and would oppose surgery because of this (19 percent versus 5 percent). A study of patients with operable lung cancer conducted at Detroit's Henry Ford Health System found refusal of surgery by black patients over three times more common than by whites. (Both whites and blacks were offered the surgery at similar rates.)

Differences. That we can address responsibly. Or ignore.

More:

Researchers, physicians and readers of newspaper health stories appreciate the complexity of race. That is, at minimum, they grasp that social aspects and biological aspects are intertwined. One can't help but think that it is the professional handwringers, like sociologist Duster and bioethicist Kahn, who keep worrying the thorn of racial discrimination. The public displays a common sense desire to improve health through many viable pathways and has moved past politically correct clichés.

Too often, President Bush and other Republicans are accused of neglecting the needs and concerns of African-Americans. Meanwhile, the modern Democratic Party includes, as part of its nonsensical, contradictory, tenuous coalition, the kind of folks that want to neglect the needs and concerns of African-Americans, for the sake of equality.

Hmm. Might be time to re-think that coalition over there, guys.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Wasn't Howard Dean Supposed To Be A Good Fundraiser?.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 February 2006 10:46 AM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 263 -- Money Talks.

Grassroots Fundraising-

There sure is a lot of hubris on the left today. I could be mistaken, but most members of the Internet Left actually believe they have a chance of winning big in November. Emboldened by who-knows-what, they rant and rave and gnash and flip and flop and curse and accuse and and giggle and self-congratulate and yell and jeer and denounce and "yeeeaaaaaarrrrrrrgh!", all with the sort of wild abandon usually reserved for parties that actually have their act together.

One bit of evidence sometimes given for the alleged coming GOP demise is that the Republican Party is too fractured, and people are bailing out. "Rove's homophobic grassroots," as they call them, that reelected Bush in record numbers are not going to show up in 2006 or beyond.

Hmm. Setting aside that every single poll shows President Bush's approval rating among Republicans at stable, record highs, there is a pretty decent way to measure grassroots political enthusiasm.

Hard money campaign contributions. Party committees and candidates, unlike certain cash-rich 527 groups, are limited to taking hard dollars. Hard dollar contributors cannot give millions or even hundreds of thousands of dollars the way George Soros and pals gave to MoveOn.org and other radical left-wing groups in 2004.

Thus, hard dollars are a pretty decent indicator of grassroots support-- or lack thereof.

Based on data released by the FEC on Thursday, February 09, 2006, the Republicans are dominating the hard dollar race:

gopfundraisingadvantage.gif

Bigtime money advantage for Republicans. And, again, this is hard money, so it's a relatively good indication of grassroots support. A hundred bucks here, a few hundred there, and so on.

The glaring exceptions in the trend, obviously, are the two Senate campaign committees. Democrats have raised more money there, which is understandable given the Senate GOP leadership's dilly-dallying on certain meat-and-potato issues, and given the NRSC's support for socialist progressive RINO types like Lincoln Chafee.

Source:
OpenSecrets.org.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: The Downfall Of Rock The Vote.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 February 2006 02:20 PM · Comments (0)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Forty-Five -- Defined Benefit Pension Plans.

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Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays. And reform is a long-haul process, not a fleeting event. So we're going to keep plugging along with the case for reform, even as the issue goes off the political radar screen.

That's why WILLisms.com offers a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.

This week's topic:

Defined Benefit Pension Plans.

Some thoughts from Milton Friedman:

At the end of World War II, government spending was 15–20 percent of national income. Then it went up dramatically so that by 1980 it hit 40 percent largely because of programs ranging from Medicare to environmental regulation to Social Security. From 1980 until 2005, it has remained static. We haven’t beaten the tendency or rolled it back. We’ve just stopped the growth. This is an argument that supports your thesis, I’m afraid.

On aging societies, there is no reason why a country that has a lot of old people can’t be prosperous if, during their working lives, individuals provide for their retirement. The only reason there is a crisis about Social Security in the US and pensions in Europe and Japan is that you cannot maintain a “Ponzi” scheme indefinitely. We have collected from today’s young to pay today’s old and counted on tomorrow’s young to keep doing so. That was a fine scheme as long as the number of young people was rising faster than old people. When that ratio comes to an end, such a system also has to end. It all would have been much better if individuals saved for their own old age.

Why is it that private insurance companies are not in trouble because people are getting older? Aren’t they subject to the same demographics? The difference is that they’ve accumulated a fund, not a pay-in, pay-out system.

A defined benefit pension plan (Social Security is one of those) does not and cannot meet its promises when it relies on a pay-as-you-go intergenerational wealth transfer (again, that's Social Security).

Ironically, one hurdle Social Security reform faces is public fear and confusion. We hear quite a bit these days about failing corporate pensions. And not just the blue collar union pensions, either. We're talking IBM, Verizon, Sears, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, and many more large, well-established, well-respected companies in solid financial health, abruptly doing away with defined benefit plans, often to the disgruntlement of thousands of employees.

In other words, companies in good shape currently are learning lessons from the airlines and car manufacturers and other heavily-unionized industries (which once were, but now aren't, in good shape), and instead of hoping the problem goes away, are doing something about it before it becomes crippling (bankrupting, even).

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College released some interesting data just this week, noting how prevalent the shift away from defined benefit plans has been in recent years in the corporate world (.pdf):

definedbenefitout.gif

Some point to the trend in the corporate world away from defined benefit plans and toward defined contribution plans as proof that we need to keep Social Security "the way it is" in order to buffer the harsh realities of the global economy. As if that's an option, keeping Social Security "as it is."

Social Security is broken. There's no keeping it the way it is. It's broken mainly because it is so troublingly similar to those broken corporate defined benefit plans the corporate honchos are fleeing. Thus, without reform, we're looking at a serious lack of a buffer against the harsh realities of the global economy.

The factors that have caused the problems in Social Security, and the factors that have caused problems in defined benefit plans are eye-poppingly similar. Most obviously, the promises in both public and private defined benefit plans are made to an ever-growing number of people, all of whom are, on average, living longer than ever.

Meanwhile, most corporations are leaner and meaner than before. They have less currently productive workers.

Where have we heard this before?

America's present workforce, relative to the number of retirees, is shrinking every day as the first wave of Baby Boomers begins to retire and draw pensions and Social Security benefits.

More retirees. Less workers. It's not complicated math. At all.

The National Economic Council's Charles P. Blahous offers another striking similarity between Social Security and corporate defined benefit pensions:

The defined benefit pension system has often gotten into trouble because it has opaque accounting that overstates the assets that are really in the system and leads to a false sense of security about an employer's retirement situation. We have seen over and over again in the employer defined benefit world, you have these employees, and they go to work every day, and are told every year, year after year, that your pension is funded, or 90% funded, or 95% funded, and according to federal laws/regulations, it is.

And then the pension plan terminates. And then everyone is shocked to find that the plan was only 50% funded, with respect to the cost of termination. We've seen this in very vivid and painful ways over the past couple of years. People lost benefits, pension benefits, that they were counting on, because the system has misled them as to what was really in the system, what assets were really there to pay for benefits.

The Social Security system suffers from a very similar problem in that regard. We have a system that actually really overstates the financial health of the system. Trust fund accounting is very problematic in terms of being straight with the public about what is actually involved with paying benefits. The trust fund, if there are assets in the trust fund, they are debt to the rest of the federal government to an exactly equal degree. And to treat it as a net asset, a net pot of money, to sort of pay benefits, overstates the actual cash on hand and the actual cash coming in to pay benefits in a way that is going to be a very rude shock to people in 2017 and beyond, when the system enters its cash shortfalls.

So both systems suffer from this problem of overstatement of assets, understatement of liabilities, and overstatement of the funded capacity-- and opaque accounting.

Moreover, there's another very troubling similarity. In the defined benefit pension system, people have got into trouble because they have been either required or heavily incentivized to have all their eggs in one basket. You look at the Enron situation, or any of these plans that went belly up. We have all these people that are invested in the company's stock. They didn't diversify, they weren't diversified, and when something went wrong, that basket, then they were out of luck.

Social Security has a very similar problem. People are not allowed to diversify, they're not allowed to choose investments outside of what's the equivalent of company stock, which is the federal government investing in itself. Everyone is being compelled to have all their eggs in one basket. That exposes them to a tremendous amount of risk as a consequence of their inability to diversify their investments and have some money that's not under the control of the sponsoring entity.

So all these problems lead to similar problems in the defined benefit pension system and in Social Security, and the difficulties we've seen in the defined benefit pension world are an omen in what is to come in Social Security if we do not reform the system.

The demise of defined benefit pension plans, far from being a weapon in the demagogic anti-reform arsenal, ought instead to serve as impetus for Social Security reform as soon as possible. Before it's too late.

It's time for reform.

The clock is ticking:


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Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:

-Week One (Costs Exceed Revenues).
-Week Two (Social Security Can't Pay Promised Benefits).
-Week Three (Americans Getting Older).
-Week Three, bonus (The Templeton Curve).
-Week Four (Fewer Workers, More Retirees).
-Week Five (History of Payroll Tax Base Increases).
-Week Six (Seniors Living Longer).
-Week Six, bonus (Less Workers, More Beneficiaries).
-Week Seven (History of Payroll Tax Increases).
-Week Seven, bonus (Personal Accounts Do Achieve Solvency).
-Week Eight (Forty Year Trend Of Increasing Mandatory Spending).
-Week Nine (Diminishing Benefits Sans Reform).
-Week Ten (Elderly Dependence On Social Security).
-Week Eleven (Entitlement Spending Eating The Budget).
-Week Twelve (Benefit Comparison, Bush's Plan versus No Plan).
-Week Thirteen (Younger Americans and Lifecycle Funds).
-Week Fourteen (The Thrift Savings Plan).
-Week Fifteen (Understanding Progressive Indexing).
-Week Sixteen (The Graying of America).
-Week Seventeen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Eighteen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Nineteen (Reform Needed Sooner Rather Than Later).
-Week Twenty (Global Success With Personal Accounts).
-Week Twenty-One (GROW Accounts: Stopping The Raid).
-Week Twenty-Two (Millions of Lockboxes).
-Week Twenty-Three (Support for Ryan-DeMint).
-Week Twenty-Four (KidSave Accounts).
-Week Twenty-Five (Latinos and Social Security).
-Week Twenty-Six (AmeriSave).
-Week Twenty-Seven (Cost Of Doing Nothing).
-Week Twenty-Eight (Chile).
-Week Twenty-Nine (Entitlement Spending Out Of Control).
-Week Thirty (Reform Better Deal Than Status Quo).
-Week Thirty-One (Social Security As A Labor Cost).
-Week Thirty-Two (Social Security And Dependence On Government).
-Week Thirty-Three (Social Security, Currently A Bad Deal For African-Americans).
-Week Thirty-Four (Longer Life Expectancies Straining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Five (Howard Dean & Salami).
-Week Thirty-Six (Growing Numbers of Beneficiaries Draining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Seven (The Crisis Is Now).
-Week Thirty-Eight (Disability Benefits).
-Week Thirty-Nine (Broken Benefit Calculation Formula).
-Week Forty (German Social Security Disaster).
-Week Forty-One (Crumbling Pyramid Scheme).
-Week Forty-Two (Overpromising, Globally).
-Week Forty-Three (Demographic Wave).
-Week Forty-Four (The Jerk Store).

Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important graphical data supporting Social Security reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 February 2006 12:53 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 262 -- Rock The Vote.

Rock The Vote Is Awful-

Great news.

Rock the Vote is hurting, financially:

Saddled with about $700,000 in debt, the group has cut its staff from more than 20 people in 2004 to just two today. Its president, who left last summer amid disagreement about the organization's direction, has yet to be replaced. And last month, Rock the Vote was sued for the second time in just eight months.

How fitting that Rock the Vote, which lobbied so hard against saving Social Security for young people, would manage its own money so poorly.

I could go on for pages about how ironic and wonderful this is, but I won't. Here are some of the details:

From 2000 to 2004, Rock the Vote's annual fundraising grew 69%. The group raised a total of $10.4 million in that period, IRS documents show. But in the same period, the organization spent more than $11.1 million and ended two of those years owing more than it had in the bank.

"They basically ran out of money," said Mark Weiner, president of Financial Innovations, a Rhode Island-based merchandising firm. Weiner says he does not expect that the group will pay the $50,000 it owes him.

Given the cyclical nature of campaigning, political organizations often overspend during presidential election years. Still, it is unusual for a group as established as Rock the Vote to live so close to the edge.

For instance, fundraising at the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group, fell 60% in 2003 to $1.4 million, but the group significantly scaled back spending and ended the year with $575,000.

By comparison, Rock the Vote's fundraising fell by a comparatively modest 22% in 2003, to $1.3 million, but the group spent $1.66 million, ending the year $241,000 in debt.

According to Ayeroff and other board members, the group's financial problems worsened last year, when it relocated its annual fundraising gala — typically held during Grammy week in Los Angeles — to Washington. The event drew lawmakers from both parties, but spiraling costs consumed most of the donated funds, Ayeroff said.

Just days after the gala, Rock the Vote was sued by fundraising firm ConklinScott, which the group owed $25,000. Both parties declined to discuss the pending suit.

Then last month, Los Angeles County sued Rock the Vote over a 2002 contract. The county had paid Rock the Vote $320,000 to develop an anti-discrimination public education campaign. But the organization mishandled the campaign and impeded its success, the county alleges. The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, is pending.

Awesome. Hopefully this heap of trash of an organization just falls apart, entirely.

Hat tip to Heritage for the find.


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Entitlements Trump Pork.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 February 2006 07:19 PM · Comments (6)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 42.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

sleeprumsfeld.gif

The actual caption:

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (R) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace discuss the military spending in George W. Bush's 2007 budget during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington February 6, 2006. The budget requests $439.3 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Department of Defense, a seven percent increase over last year's budget. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, February 14. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

hilleyes.gif

Winners from last week (this week was difficult to judge with such a profusion of great entries):

1.

DaveD:

A plantation worker from the House of Representatives thanks Senator Hillary Clinton for her support.


2.

Charles Simpson (via email):

“WHERE’S YOUR GOD NOW!!!!?!?!?!?!”


3.

Rob B.:

"Oh God, Sheehan is behind you with a Hillary '08 button. Don't look! Don't Look!"


Honorable Mention #1

Andy:

"So, I said to Bill... you see these stong white teeth? Remember them the next time you think about unzipping your trousers in front of an intern."


Honorable Mention #2

Hoodlumman:

An unexpected reaction between the Senator Clinton's Botox treatments and a Diet Coke couldn't be ignored no matter how hard she tried to play it off.


Honorable Mention #3

clay:

"I wait three years for a face transplant and the only one you could find is Hillary's? Are you frickin' kidding me?"


Honorable Mention #4

the paperboy:

Bill's inflatable love doll expells some hot air, becoming deformed.


Honorable Mention #5

Rodney Dill:

A horse is a horse, of course, of course.


Honorable Mention #6

Buckley F. Williams:

After a bitter public dispute with Alvin and Simon over song-writing credit on their hit single "Christmas Don't Be Late", Hillary the one time "fourth Chipmunk", split with the band and went on to pursue a career as a Communist.


Honorable Mention #7

BAD-D-D-DUDE (via email):

I said "no more wire hangers!"


Honorable Mention #8

DANEgerus:

Briefly forced to come up for air, Hillary gives her all, 'Sucking Up' to keep minority voters on the Plantation.

Honorable Mention #9

Trint:

"And I was like, 'Social security?! Oh no he di'n!' And she was like, 'Oh yes he did!' And I was like, 'Nuh uh!' And she was like, 'Shyeah, you know it!'"

Honorable Mention #10

Bubba Goop (via email):

"Aside from a swift knee to the groin, what method works best to keep Bill at bay", inquired a constituent to Senator Clinton Tuesday.

Honorable Mention #11

Zsa Zsa:

Hillary's poker face gives her away every time!...


Honorable Mention #12

Mr. Michael:

"How long will wait to applaud at anything the President says, Mrs. Clinton?"

"Two weeks"

"Um, isn't the speech supposed to last maybe an hour?"

"Two weeks... two t-tt-t-two w-w-w-weeeks..."


Honorable Mention #13

Rodney Dill:

DRUDGEBREAKING: Rabid chipmunk attends State of Union Address. Developing ...


Honorable Mention #14

Izzy:

The golden rod, previously stuck up the former first lady's a$$, reaches her brain.


Honorable Mention #15

Mr. Michael:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton practices smiling in advance of President Bush's State of the Union Adress. In past years, Senator Clinton has been on the receiving end of criticism for her sour expressions during Bush's speeches, and is determined to silence those critics tonight. January 31, 2006. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Captioning is the choice of a new generation.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 February 2006 10:03 AM · Comments (26)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 261 -- Out-Of-Control Government Spending.

The Budget-

The government spends way too much of our tax dollars. Even some elected Republicans have forgotten why the GOP is the dominant party, and conservativism is the dominant ideology in the United States.

There's a problem out there somewhere? Throw some money at it.
Some interest group is threatening to say you hate the poor? Throw money at it.

entitlementsdwarfpork.gif

And so on.

And while it's fashionable to lump all elected Republicans and Democrats together, or even claim that Republicans are bigger spenders than even Democrats, or that Clinton was better on spending than Bush is, let's have a quick reality check.

First, the federal government had a deficit of 318 billion dollars last year. That's a lot. But it's down from 413 billion dollars the year before that, and because of the power of economic growth, the most recent deficit number is only 2.6% of GDP. That's quite low, historically.

Indeed, public debt has actually decreased relative to the size of our economy over the past decade:

...the public-debt-to-GDP ratio stands at 38%, which is actually below the level at any point in the 1990s.

That's all great news for those who believe large federal budget deficits, financed by public debt, could derail our economy. When people say we have "record" deficits or "record" debt, that's only true if we're also willing to say we have a "record" prosperity, "record" employment, and a variety of other "record" positive indicators.

The fact remains, however: spending is way up in recent years.

But, contrary to all the attention paid to the nuisance of "pork" by uberbloggers such as Instapundit, pork barrel spending is a drop in the bucket relative to the demographic tsunami of entitlement spending.

For example, this looks terrible:

27billionpork.gif

And it is terrible. But it's chump change compared to the way our pay-as-we-go entitlement programs are growing. Also, while some of that 27 billion is certainly unequivocally identifiable as pork, most of those dollars go toward programs that are at least vaguely justifiable in 8-second media soundbites. A member of Congress may go on television and leave the millions of viewers nodding in agreement, thinking, "oh, you mean they are building a facility to rehabilitate meth users. Oh, okay, that's not pork. I had no idea they were classifying my favorite local program as pork. We need that program."

That's what we're up against. It's a difficult battle, for relative chump change. Is gnashing and complaining about pork really the most efficient use of our anti-spending resources? That 27 billion in pork is nothing compared to entitlement spending growth:

entitlementssince1990.gif

Similar pattern of growth. Not at all similar numbers.

And it's not going to get better any time soon, even if we do take care of ALL the pork barrel spending in the entire budget:

Entitlement spending is projected to nearly double over the next decade. Medicare is expanding by 9% annually, Medicaid by 8% annually, and Social Security by 6% annually.

The total cost of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is projected to leap from 8.4% of GDP in 2005 to 18.9% of GDP by 2050.

That's not chump change.

We certainly shouldn't encourage or condone pork, or earmarking, or any other type of wasteful spending. But let's please, please, please keep it in context.

Since 2001, annual pork spending has gone up by several billion dollars.
Since 2001, annual Social Security spending has gone up by $121,782,000,000.
Since 2001, annual Medicare spending has gone up by $125,603,000,000.
Since 2001, annual Medicaid spending has gone up by $62,960,000,000.

Social Security, currently, accounts for the largest government program expenditure. Medicare is third place. Wedged between, in second place, is National Defense spending. Pork spending, meanwhile, is a lone mosquito on underbelly of the mighty wildebeest. Worth removing, sure, but not debilitating.

But the ever-burgeoning rhino saddled up on the wildebeest's back (that's entitlement spending for the metaphorically challenged) might be a bigger deal.

Source:
Heritage
.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Checking In On Terrorist Conversations.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 February 2006 07:48 PM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 260 -- Listening In On Terrorists.

Domestic Surveillance... OF TERRORISTS-

The media have desperately, concertedly, and sometimes hysterically attempted to make "domestic spying" a negative issue for the Bush administration. Trust me, this is a winning issue for the administration. And a huge loser for Democrats. Nonetheless, the establishment media have done their very best to frame the issue in a favorable light for Democrats.

Some results from an MRC study:

Civil Liberties:

Reporters most often framed the story as about government infringing on “civil liberties” (the focus of 29 stories, or 42%), followed by concerns the President was going beyond his constitutional powers (19 stories, or 26%). In contrast, the NSA program’s role in the war on terror was the focus of just seven stories (10%).

Bush-Bashing Experts:

The networks ran soundbites from 56 experts, including legal experts, authors and security/wiretapping experts. (This excludes partisan actors such as President Bush or Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, a prominent critic of the NSA program.) More than half of those (30, or 56%) condemned the ethics or legality of the NSA program, compared with just four (7%) who found the program justified, an eight-to-one disparity.

Everybody Is a Target:

Reporters offered their own description of who was targeted by the NSA surveillance program 134 times, just under twice per story. Only about a sixth of these descriptions (21, or 16%) stated that the government was focused on persons contacting suspected terrorists (12) or the suspected terrorists themselves (9)....

But most journalists portrayed the NSA as casting a wide net, targeting “Americans” or “U.S. citizens” (53, or 40%), or used terms such as “domestic” or “communications inside the U.S.” (60, or 45%).

spyingoneveryone.gif

Meanwhile, only a handful of stories included any mention of just how the heck the information got out in the first place:

Only five network stories focused on the leak investigation, most describing it as an act of retribution from an angry Bush administration.

Fair?
Balanced?
Professional?
Worth paying attention to?

Ha.

Source:
Media Research Center.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Pro football's popularity.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 February 2006 09:55 PM · Comments (13)

Quotational Therapy: Part 71 -- The Late Sir John Cowperthwaite

John Cowperthwaite, On Free Market Policies-

In the long run, the aggregate of decisions of individual businessmen, exercising individual judgment in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralised decisions of a government, and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster.
sirjohncowperthwaite.gif

Cowpertwaite shares credit for this legacy:

...in 1950 Hong Kong's citizens were 40 percent poorer on a per capita basis than the citizens of the oil rich African country of Gabon. By 1998, Hong Kong's residents were over four times richer than the Gabonese. In the long run, in other words, Hong Kong's free market policies proved more important than Gabon's natural riches or its more advanced starting position.

And this legacy:

...in 1960, the earliest date for which I have been able to get them, the average per capita income in Hong Kong was 28 percent of that in Great Britain; by 1996, it had risen to 137 percent of that in Britain. In short, from 1960 to 1996, Hong Kong’s per capita income rose from about one-quarter of Britain’s to more than a third larger than Britain’s. It’s easy to state these figures. It is more difficult to realize their significance. Compare Britain—the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the nineteenth-century economic superpower on whose empire the sun never set—with Hong Kong, a spit of land, overcrowded, with no resources except for a great harbor. Yet within four decades the residents of this spit of overcrowded land had achieved a level of income one-third higher than that enjoyed by the residents of its former mother country.

Policies matter. Ideas matter. Governance matters.

More on Cowperthwaite here.

-----------------------------

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Donovan McNabb, Black-On-Black Crime.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 February 2006 12:05 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 259 -- Superbowl Sunday.

The Explosive Growth Of American Football-

The Super Bowl is the most popular televised event in America. There's really not even any competition. None. NFL football is also America's sport, having officially usurped Major League Baseball (MLB) nearly two decades ago. Here are some results:

nflfootball.gif
Thirty-nine years ago this month, the first Super Bowl was played in Los Angeles, featuring Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers against the Kansas City Chiefs. Tickets cost $12 and the game was not a sell-out. Now, the Super Bowl is recognized as the premier American sporting event. According to at least one recent poll, professional football itself is the country’s favorite sport, too. In a Harris poll taken twenty years ago, football led baseball by only a single percentage point (24 to 23 percent).

Football has grown. It's even taken market share from America's pastime, baseball:

footballbaseball.gif

One interesting bit is that college football is the most Republican sport:

collegefootballrepublican.gif

Incidentally, my favorite sport is college football, followed by college basketball, followed by pro baseball, pro basketball, and pro football (each pro sport roughly close to one another).


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Malaria, A Big Deal.

Posted by Will Franklin · 5 February 2006 08:21 PM · Comments (0)

Pundit Pigskin Prognostication

Okay, so I really suck at picking football winners.

I thought the Colts were going to breeze through the Super Bowl and well into next season without a loss. I was wrong! (but I had a lot of good company).

I also thought the Bears would beat the Panthers in the playoffs - wrong again! Rick Moran got one over on me.

For what it's worth, I am rooting for the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl. Spread around the championships I say, the Steelers have enough already. Give an upstart a chance.

I hope I haven't just cursed their chances.

Will Franklin? Anyone else agree, disagree?

Update: wrong again!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 5 February 2006 01:25 PM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 258 -- Malaria.

Malaria. A Big Deal-

Nothing against AIDS, but malaria is the global scourge most responsible for suffering and misery.

Some facts about malaria:

* Forty-one percent of the world's population live in areas where malaria is transmitted (e.g., parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America, Hispaniola, and Oceania).

* An estimated 700,000-2.7 million persons die of malaria each year, 75% of them African children.

* In areas of Africa with high malaria transmission, an estimated 990,000 people died of malaria in 1995 – over 2700 deaths per day, or 2 deaths per minute.

* In 2002, malaria was the fourth cause of death in children in developing countries, after perinatal conditions (conditions occurring around the time of birth), lower respiratory infections (pneumonias), and diarrheal diseases. Malaria caused 10.7% of all children's deaths in developing countries.

* In Malawi in 2001, malaria accounted for 22% of all hospital admissions, 26% of all outpatient visits, and 28% of all hospital deaths. Not all people go to hospitals when sick or having a baby, and many die at home. Thus the true numbers of death and disease caused by malaria are likely much higher.

But there's some possibly good news:

The fight against malaria has scored a major victory. The U.S. Agency for International Development has elected to use nearly half of its budget to buy proven interventions against the disease, which affects 500 million people and kills more than a million children around the world each year. USAID has promised $15 million expressly for insecticides, recognizing their unique effectiveness in reducing the burden of malaria. The agency has opted to streamline more funding to fewer countries in order to improve accountability and focus on results.

This announcement follows USAID chief Andrew Natsios' resignation and marks an ideological shift in the agency's approach to malaria control. Since it joined the World Health Organization's global effort to roll back the disease in 1998, it has devoted most of its budget to U.S. consultants whose technical advice emphasized mosquito nets and largely ignored indoor residual spraying. This has proved a losing strategy. Recent estimates of malaria rates show they have increased substantially over the past decade.

Gotta use that DDT. It's far too important to play the vague "environment" card. Way too many people are dying or otherwise suffering because of this disease.

DDT works:

There is no guarantee that the money USAID has committed toward indoor residual spraying will be used to buy DDT. This chemical is the cheapest and most effective insecticide available for IRS. It brought malaria rates down by 75 percent in both Zambia and South Africa. A spokesman said USAID has previously followed environmentalists' ideology in avoiding the chemical, pointing to exaggerated and often unfounded accounts of its harmful effect on humans. Yet the science remains on the side of using DDT. Marginal side effects do not prevent the use of pharmaceuticals in the U.S. to treat far less devastating diseases than malaria. If asked, an African mother would rather risk a few squirts of DDT on the wall to save her child's life or to prevent an average of 300 mosquito bites a night during the rainy season.

Malaria is also correlated with poverty and poor governance:

povertymalariamap.gif

Malaria is not something the world has to live with. Singapore, for example, has essentially eradicated malaria-- and thrived. It's possible to do it. We have the know-how. We have the DDT. We just have to get past the unreasonable environmental concerns.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Leisure Time.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 February 2006 09:41 PM · Comments (2)

Guess Where Else Mohammed Shows Up?

Sculpted into a frieze inside the United States Supreme Court building, that's where.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 4 February 2006 07:51 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 257 -- Leisure Time In America.

Working For The Weekend-

Well, the weekend is here again. Time for leisure. Time for rest. Time for fun. Time for all that stuff for most Americans.

But for many of us, with our busy, complicated lives, this will not seem that familiar:

hammockeconomy.gif

An interesting factoid. It seems like liberals like Paul Krugman are always asserting that the European way of life is superior to the American way of life. More leisure and vacation is usually the main reason. This from an "economist."

Well, while it's true that the French are on vacation pretty much always, things aren't so bad in the United States, either:

Americans may put in longer hours at the office than other countries, but that is because average hours in the workplace in other rich countries have dropped sharply. In America, official studies tend to show women working more and men less, but the average working week has been fairly constant.

Indeed, "work/life balance" is a buzz phrase in many corporations these days. Surprisingly (or maybe not), Americans have increasingly more free time:

Over the past four decades, depending on which of their measures one uses, the amount of time that working-age Americans are devoting to leisure activities has risen by 4-8 hours a week. (For somebody working 40 hours a week, that is equivalent to 5-10 weeks of extra holiday a year.) Nearly every category of American has more spare time: single or married, with or without children, both men and women. The only twist is that less educated (and thus poorer) Americans have done relatively better than more educated ones (see chart). And that is not just because unemployed high-school drop-outs have more free time on their hands. Less educated Americans with jobs—the overstretched middle class of political lore—do very well.

But the world is less simple. Lives are more complicated. People are more sophisticated. Interestingly, our leaps forward in prosperity have created a situation where time is more valuable than ever before. Thus, people try to use up every moment "productively" (I know I can do this sometimes):

First, thanks to rising real incomes, an American's time is worth more now. A walk in the park is more expensive than it used to be. (When people complain to him about being too busy, Mr Hamermesh tells them that their real problem is too much money.) Second, economic advances allow people to squeeze ever more possible activities, both work and leisure, into a day, which encourages people to try to do too much.

A very interesting take on leisure time. Read the whole thing if you have the time.

Source:
The Economist.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Effectiveness Of Abortion Laws.

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 February 2006 04:08 PM · Comments (0)

Quotational Therapy: Part 70 -- Black-On-Black Crime.

Donovan McNabb, Overrated Idiot-

donovanmcnabb.gif

Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb is using the week of the Superbowl to play the pity card. Poor Donovan. And the race card. Poor Donovan.

Here are some of his comments:

Owens most famously took shots at McNabb during the offseason between the 2004 and 2005 seasons, and on into Philadelphia's 2005 training camp (though after declining his invitation to work out in Arizona, the two did not speak off the field until just before the start of the regular season).

But the one remark that caught everyone's attention was in another Owens interview with ESPN.com during which he agreed with friend and ESPN analyst Michael Irvin's statement that the Eagles would be better off with Favre at quarterback.

McNabb might have, at first, laughed it off when Owens, responding to questions about Irvin's statement, said, "That's a fair assessment, I would agree with that." But McNabb acknowledged Wednesday that Owens' statement hit him hard.

"In that situation, it was kinda like, 'That's unreal.' That's just like me saying, 'If we had Steve Largent, if we had Joe Jurevicius, we'd be undefeated. He'll now have to answer the question for the whole week about me saying it."

McNabb's selection of two white receivers was not by accident. He took Owens' choice of Favre as disrespectful to McNabb as an African-American quarterback.

"It was definitely a slap in the face to me. Because as deep as people won't go into it, it was [a] black-on-black crime. I mean, you have a guy that has been criticized just about all his career and now the last criticism is that I'm selling out because I don't run anymore, by an African-American [J. Whyatt Mondesire, the NAACP chapter president who ripped McNabb in a column that appeared in the Philadelphia Sun].

"And to say if we had Brett Favre, that could mean that if you had another quarterback of a different descent or ethnic background, we could be winning. That's something I thought about and said, 'Wow.' It's different to say if we had Michael Vick, Daunte Culpepper, Steve McNair, Aaron Brooks, Byron Leftwich. But to go straight to Brett Favre, that slapped me in the face, like what I've done and what I set out to do…"

There you have it. Donovan McNabb, ladies and gentlemen. Terrell Owens is one of the more objectionable players in the league, but these kinds of comments by McNabb actually make T.O. the sympathetic one. Of course Terrell Owens didn't want to play for this idiot. Of course some people in the Eagles locker room sided with T.O. over McNabb.

Now we know why.

Incidentally, the real reason for this ridiculous outburst is obvious, although nobody is saying it. McNabb, justifiably, is intimidated. He's intimidated by a force of awesomeness (who also happens to be an African-American quarterback) so great, it's difficult to fathom:

vinceyoung.gif

I had no plans of highlighting McNabb's comments in a Quotational Therapy session, but I also thought for sure that there would be more media hubbub over the sheer stupidity of McNabb's comments. I figured maybe something on par with the backlash Rush Limbaugh received for his comments about McNabb a couple years back. Nope.

The shine should hereby be off of Donovan McNabb, even if he remains a media darling.

-----------------------------

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Bush's 2003 State Of The Union.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy on Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 February 2006 02:13 PM · Comments (7)

The Fourth Mainstream Melee.

mainstreammelee.gif

It's a non-blog adventure.

I.

OpinionJournal.com: "Sick of Sausage: Today's voters crave ideology."

Super Succinct Synopsis-

Ideology is in. "The middle" is out.

Super Succinct Snippet-

At a time when the Democratic elites no longer have a vibrant ideology and the Republicans in Washington are deserting theirs, the public across the spectrum seems to be screaming for recognizable signposts, shared political principles....

People who crave the middle are simply going to be disappointed in 2008. The Democrats have abolished the middle, and the Republican middle has discredited itself....

....for the Web Democrats and GOP refugees from the Congress they thought they controlled, the puzzling is over. They're looking for candidates "who represent my ideas." Ideologues.

If Congressional Republicans read and buy into this notion, it's very good news. Conservative ideology beats liberal ideology. Every. Single. Time.

---------------------------

II.

Commentary: "How Divided Are We?"

Super Succinct Synopsis-

James Q. Wilson concurs that polarization is very real in America today, but he also warns that our geopolitical success may depend on unity.

Super Succinct Snippet-

Sharpened debate is arguably helpful with respect to domestic issues, but not for the management of important foreign and military matters. The United States, an unrivaled superpower with unparalleled responsibilities for protecting the peace and defeating terrorists, is now forced to discharge those duties with its own political house in disarray....

Denmark or Luxembourg can afford to exhibit domestic anguish and uncertainty over military policy; the United States cannot. A divided America encourages our enemies, disheartens our allies, and saps our resolve—potentially to fatal effect. What General Giap of North Vietnam once said of us is even truer today: America cannot be defeated on the battlefield, but it can be defeated at home. Polarization is a force that can defeat us.

What better way to put an end (for a little while, at least) to harmful left-wing ideology than a few decisive conservative electoral victories. Then Democrats would then, at the very least, pretend they are America-loving patriots, committed to defeating radical Islam. Theoretically, (yet another) clobbering at the polls ought to unite the country again on national security.


---------------------------

III.

National Review: "Busting the State Tax-Revenue Boom"

Super Succinct Synopsis-

Remember in the early stages of the 2004 campaign when Democrats asserted that the terrible, evil Republican spending cuts merely forced state and local governments to pick up the slack? Yeah. Sure.

Super Succinct Snippet-

The nation’s strong economic growth is creating a tax-revenue boom for the states. State tax revenues jumped 8.7 percent in 2004 and about 8 percent in 2005. About three-quarters of state governments had tax-revenue growth of 6 percent or more in 2005.

Sweet. Unfortunately, many politicians will take this opportunity to once again ratchet up spending.


---------------------------

IV.

Forbes: "India: on Every Business Agenda"

Super Succinct Synopsis-

As Europe declines in relative importance, India is the key to Asia, the Middle East, and the world.

Super Succinct Snippet-

Trade between the U.S. and India increased from $5.5 billion in 1990 to $18 billion in 2003, with the U.S. becoming India's largest trading partner....

India is a natural partner for the U.S. in this volatile part of the world. Its economic progress still requires nurturing. We must manage this relationship carefully and well, keeping in mind that any renewal of hostilities among India, Pakistan and China would be disastrous for India's future--and, indeed, that of the world.

Embrace the India.


---------------------------

V.

Foreign Policy: "David’s Friend Goliath"

Super Succinct Synopsis-

America is the indispensible superpower, and a force for good in the world.

Super Succinct Snippet-

The gap between what the world says about American power and what it fails to do about it is the single most striking feature of 21st-century international relations. The explanation for this gap is twofold. First, the charges most frequently leveled at America are false. The United States does not endanger other countries, nor does it invariably act without regard to the interests and wishes of others. Second, far from menacing the rest of the world, the United States plays a uniquely positive global role. The governments of most other countries understand that, although they have powerful reasons not to say so explicitly.

We're the patient dad who understands that his 15-year-old daughter doesn't really hate him, even though her disdainful attitude is sometimes hard to take. And even if she did hate him, she needs him too much to do more than bluff about it. Sure, he can be a little awkward, embarrassing, and overbearing at times, but ultimately she knows that everything he does and says is in her best interest. She may admit this much one day, after college. Maybe.


---------------------------

The previous Mainstream Melee.

WILLisms.com and many other blogs sometimes focus too much on our fellow bloggers, while excluding well-done professional journalism from our posts.

The Mainstream Melee is a quick survey of five non-blog sources, coming atchya at completely random intervals. The stories are either underreported, particularly well-written, interesting, or otherwise important to the big picture. But generally there will be a theme of some kind in the choices.

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 February 2006 08:49 AM · Comments (1)

Buy Danish

No, not buy a danish . . .

danish.jpg

Mmmmm, raspberry danish . . .

What I mean is Buy Danish.

buydanish.jpg

You could buy Tuborg beer, for example. Or delicious havarti cheese, perhaps. Or you could build yourself a mansion out of Legos!

In fact, you could have all that fun, yummy goodness and fight the bullies of Islam.

You would also be protesting against the barbaric practice of fatwas and collective punishment.

I gotta say though, that is one handsome looking danish up there.

Update: Michelle Malkin has some of the cartoons, as well as the usual photos of insanely outraged muslims blah blah blah.

Update II: Hoodlumman alerts us to the Greek fatwa against depicting Jesus Christ as a naked surfer high on marijuana.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 3 February 2006 01:01 AM · Comments (11)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Forty-Four -- The Jerk Store Called.

reformthursdayblue.gif

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays. And reform is a long-haul process, not a fleeting event. So we're going to keep plugging along with the case for reform, even as the issue goes off the political radar screen.

That's why WILLisms.com offers a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.

This week's topic:

The Jerk Store Called.

Hiatus over.

The jerk store called. They're running out of Democrats.

Sure, there's plenty of reason to be angry at certain do-nothing Congressional Republicans, but it's the Democrats who proved once again how utterly worthless they are. Maybe worse than worthless, even.

Flash back, if you will, all the way to the 2006 State of the Union address (emphasis mine):

President Bush:

I am pleased that members of Congress are working on earmark reform, because the federal budget has too many special interest projects. (Applause.) And we can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto. (Applause.)

We must also confront the larger challenge of mandatory spending, or entitlements. This year, the first of about 78 million baby boomers turn 60, including two of my Dad's favorite people -- me and President Clinton. (Laughter.) This milestone is more than a personal crisis -- (laughter) -- it is a national challenge. The retirement of the baby boom generation will put unprecedented strains on the federal government. By 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire federal budget. And that will present future Congresses with impossible choices -- staggering tax increases, immense deficits, or deep cuts in every category of spending.

Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security -- (applause) -- yet the rising cost of entitlements is a problem that is not going away. (Applause.) And every year we fail to act, the situation gets worse.

So tonight, I ask you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of baby boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This commission should include members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan solutions. We need to put aside partisan politics and work together and get this problem solved. (Applause.)

That purply applause, those were the sophomoric cheers of Congressional Democrats.

Sort of a "Yay. We killed Social Security reform!" kind of deal.

They really showed their true colors with that one. And I have rarely been so incensed watching a State of the Union address.

John Tabin of The American Spectator (via Viking Pundit) put it rather succinctly, and colorfully:

On paper, this is a retreat: a tepid non-policy has replaced the ambitious ideas laid out at last year's address. But the Democrats clapped and hooted as soon as Bush said "Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security," giving Bush an opening to turn his bromide into a scathing attack: When he said "partisan politics," he had a visual aid to point to.

Suddenly it was as if Bush said "we mustn't act like clowns," and the entire Democratic caucus had shown up in multicolor wigs and greasepaint.

This is not a moment we conservatives should quickly forget. For those of you who complain about the parties looking too much alike ("Republicrats"), get over yourselves. Democrats-- these Democrats-- make it nearly impossible to claim there are no differences between the parties.

Indeed, Tony Blankley (also via Viking Pundit) notes that the cheering we saw just days ago was a defining moment in the Democrats' downward death spiral:

The Democrats' wild applause on behalf of doing nothing was more than a merely tactical political blunder. It displayed a deeper truth about them.

....

Their collective decision to cheer the failure of the body politic to provide for sufficient revenues to pay the benefits was an act of historic shame for the Democratic Party.

Worse than that for the Democrats, it shows how severely degraded their political instincts have become. Tip O'Neil's Democratic Party of 20 years ago would never have cheered the failure of Social Security -- even to try to make a small political point. To be sure, they would demagogue the issue ruthlessly, but never be seen to be walking away from the sacred program.

Until George Bush became president, the Democrats, for better and for worse, were a liberal party. Deformed by hatred of the current president, the Democrats have become a nihilist party.

They just aren't good at politics, Democrats-- THESE Democrats. Their leaders, their followers. Everyone, from the top down. Unfortunately, Democratic intransigence has consequences beyond internal party schisms and the failure to nominate/elect reasonable, likeable, effective leaders.

Those cheers are the achetypal example of juvenile partisanship at work. It's the sort of nonsense that produces (or doesn't produce) policy results that harm the rest of us reasonable folk.

If we had a responsible media in this country, the wild applause from Democrats on railroading Social Security reform would have been the singular headlining (domestic) moment from the speech. A responsible media would have spent 15 minutes of an hour-long post-game analysis session pointing out, again, why Social Security needs reform, and why this moment is a perfect example of wicked, destructive partisanship on the part of Democrats.

With a responsible media, President Bush could have ad-libbed something along the lines of, "congratulations, Democrats, you've just starred in some future Republican candidate's campaign commercial." And the media would have gotten it. They would have explained to the political novices, briefly, why that particular behavior is worthy of a GOP campaign ad (by the way, I hope this happens).

[UPDATE: Others had the same idea on the campaign ad, and here's the video.]

So, let's do the job the establishment media should have done.

First, a quick refresher on the approaching Social Security storm (from the CBO):

socialsecuritycboprojection.gif

At best, it's a bad situation. At worst, it's a BAD situation. Sure, it could end up just bad. But for that to happen, we'd need all of the following: stronger-than-anticipated economic growth (could happen), a responsible Congress that keeps Social Security benefit increases under control (not likely), stronger-than-anticipated youth population growth (maybe, with immigration), and slower-than-anticipated life expectancy increases for the old folks (fortunately, not gonna happen).

In other words, we're not likely to just have a bad situation. We're going to have a BAD situation.

These are the consequences of no reform. This is what Democrats were hooting and hollering about the other day on live national television in the Capitol.

Social Security reform is not dead. It's momentarily dormant. But the grassroots are growing and charging and ready to burst. Fundamentally, the case for reform is as strong as it has ever been, and it isn't going to go away as easily as these dim-witted, divisive Democrats hope.


It's time for reform.

The clock is ticking:


--------------------------------

Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:

-Week One (Costs Exceed Revenues).
-Week Two (Social Security Can't Pay Promised Benefits).
-Week Three (Americans Getting Older).
-Week Three, bonus (The Templeton Curve).
-Week Four (Fewer Workers, More Retirees).
-Week Five (History of Payroll Tax Base Increases).
-Week Six (Seniors Living Longer).
-Week Six, bonus (Less Workers, More Beneficiaries).
-Week Seven (History of Payroll Tax Increases).
-Week Seven, bonus (Personal Accounts Do Achieve Solvency).
-Week Eight (Forty Year Trend Of Increasing Mandatory Spending).
-Week Nine (Diminishing Benefits Sans Reform).
-Week Ten (Elderly Dependence On Social Security).
-Week Eleven (Entitlement Spending Eating The Budget).
-Week Twelve (Benefit Comparison, Bush's Plan versus No Plan).
-Week Thirteen (Younger Americans and Lifecycle Funds).
-Week Fourteen (The Thrift Savings Plan).
-Week Fifteen (Understanding Progressive Indexing).
-Week Sixteen (The Graying of America).
-Week Seventeen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Eighteen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Nineteen (Reform Needed Sooner Rather Than Later).
-Week Twenty (Global Success With Personal Accounts).
-Week Twenty-One (GROW Accounts: Stopping The Raid).
-Week Twenty-Two (Millions of Lockboxes).
-Week Twenty-Three (Support for Ryan-DeMint).
-Week Twenty-Four (KidSave Accounts).
-Week Twenty-Five (Latinos and Social Security).
-Week Twenty-Six (AmeriSave).
-Week Twenty-Seven (Cost Of Doing Nothing).
-Week Twenty-Eight (Chile).
-Week Twenty-Nine (Entitlement Spending Out Of Control).
-Week Thirty (Reform Better Deal Than Status Quo).
-Week Thirty-One (Social Security As A Labor Cost).
-Week Thirty-Two (Social Security And Dependence On Government).
-Week Thirty-Three (Social Security, Currently A Bad Deal For African-Americans).
-Week Thirty-Four (Longer Life Expectancies Straining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Five (Howard Dean & Salami).
-Week Thirty-Six (Growing Numbers of Beneficiaries Draining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Seven (The Crisis Is Now).
-Week Thirty-Eight (Disability Benefits).
-Week Thirty-Nine (Broken Benefit Calculation Formula).
-Week Forty (German Social Security Disaster).
-Week Forty-One (Crumbling Pyramid Scheme).
-Week Forty-Two (Overpromising, Globally).
-Week Forty-Three (Demographic Wave).

Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important graphical data supporting Social Security reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 February 2006 07:25 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 256 -- Effectiveness Of Abortion-Related Legislation.

Abortion Laws-

Some good news:

Following increases through the seventies and eighties, the number of abortions performed dropped by around 18 percent during the 1990s.

There were likely cultural forces at play in the drop. Freakonomics attributes the shift to the notion that people who would have statistically been having abortions were themselves aborted in the 1970s and early 1980s.

But what about the growing pro-life movement itself? Did it contribute to the decline? In other words, did abortion-related legislation, mostly supported by Republicans, succeed at making abortion "safe, legal, and RARE"?

While federal-level abortion measures were typically vetoed or scuttled or blocked, many states enacted peripheral laws relating to abortion:

* In 1992, virtually no states were enforcing informed consent laws. By 2000, 27 states had informed consent laws in effect.

* In 1992, no states had banned or restricted par­tial-birth abortion. By 2000, 12 states had bans or restrictions in effect.

* In 1992, only 20 states were enforcing parental involvement statutes. By 2000, 32 states were enforcing these laws.

So, a clear growth in reasonable abortion laws. Another one is the restriction of government-funded abortions through Medicaid. Some states choose to deny publicly-funded abortions except in the standard exceptions (rape, mother's life in danger, etc.).

And in those states with such laws, abortion rates were lower than in state without such laws. Duh. If a state has enough legislators willing to stand up to NOW, NARAL, and the panoply of other feminist groups, it likely indicates that such a state values life more than other states. In other words, maybe the people of a state like Minnesota (which has a surprisingly strong pro-life movement) are more anti-abortion, personally, than the people of a state like Massachusetts. Abortion laws might be more of a reflection of those existing pro-life values than an actual cause of lower abortion rates.

Well, possibly. It's a decent, logical argument, even.

But some states passed abortion-related legislation that ended up nullified, overturned by courts. Other states passed similar legislation that was not overturned by courts.

Voila, a natural experiment. Both states had voters who valued life. Some got pro-life laws. Some got judges striking pro-life laws down.

The results:

I.

...when an informed consent law takes effect, the regres­sion model predicts that the abor­tion ratio decreases by 10.34 abortions for every thousand live births and the abortion rate decreases by 0.86 abortions per thousand women between the ages of 15 and 44. Nullified-legislation states experience increases in both the abortion rate and ratio. More important, the difference between nul­lified-legislation states and enacted-legislation states achieves statistical significance.

II.

...when a parental involvement law is enacted, the abortion rate decreases by 16.37 abortions for every thou­sand live births and the abortion rate decreases by 1.15 abortions for every thousand women between the ages of 15 to 44. Parental involvement laws that are passed by a legislature and then later nullified by the judiciary result in modest increases in the abortion rate and a modest decline in the abortion ratio.

abortionchange.gif

Additionally:

...other types of legislation, including Med­icaid funding restrictions and partial-birth abortion bans, also result in reductions in the incidence of abortion. However, in these cases, comparisons between enacted-legislation states and nullified-legislation states cannot be drawn because no instance of judicial nullifications of Medicaid fund­ing restrictions could be identified. Furthermore, since the judicial nullifications of partial-birth abortion bans took place in the late 1990s, there are insufficient data to draw proper comparisons.

Interestingly, Medicaid funding restrictions are the most powerful component in deterring abortion, even moreso than being Asian-American (Asian-Americans just don't have many abortions, so that's seriously a big deal).


Source:
The Heritage Foundation.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Growing Tax Code.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 February 2006 05:32 PM · Comments (0)

Question For The Vichy Democrats

How do you like being called nazi collaborators by the Online Left, by the way?

You know who you are. You are the people in the Democratic Party that feel that listening in on al-Qaeda operatives is a good idea, and that we can't cut and run from Iraq.

You don't see Joe Lieberman as a horrid traitor to his party, and you remember a party that once welcomed people like Scoop Jackson or Zell Miller.

Maybe you winced a bit watching the Alito hearings.

You'd better not complain, just suck it up. After all, these folks control the purse strings of your party now. They want to make the idea of a moderate Democratic party 'radioactive' by heaping scorn on the DLC.

Do you want them to take you down yet again this fall?

P.S. speaking of the Loony Left, if Cindy Sheehan has lost her First Amendment rights, why am I hearing about her losing them?

Posted by Ken McCracken · 2 February 2006 09:01 AM · Comments (13)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 255 -- Costly Tax Compliance.

Tax Code Complexity-

Over the past half century, America's tax code has become exceedingly complex. The facts don't lie (.pdf):

complexityintaxcode.gif

We need to simplify our tax code. We need to do it this year.

We have a surfeit of reasons for doing so.

Want to cut down on "corruption" and special interest lobbying? Simplify the tax code.

Want to cut down on the costs of tax compliance?
Simplify the tax code.

Want to cut down on tax evasion, legal or otherwise?
Simplify the tax code.

Want to make the IRS irrelevant, or at least shrink it down substantially?
Simplify the tax code.

Want to fuel America's economic growth?
Simplify the tax code.

A flat tax, or near-flat tax (almost flat, but with a few widely popular compromises) wouldn't be so bad.

Source: The Tax Foundation(.pdf).


Stay tuned for lots more on America's tax code, as we near April 15.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Cable Deregulation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 February 2006 09:14 PM · Comments (2)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 41.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

hilleyes.gif

The actual caption:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) greets people as she arrives for U.S. President George W. Bush's the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 31, 2006. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, February 7. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

cheneythishigh.gif

Winners from last week:

1.

Jim Rose:

"So I said to Helen Thomas, 'You have to be this tall to avoid a ride on the Cheney Pain Train.'"


2.

DANEgerus:

So we flew low and slow over Democratic Party headquarters... you know... just to freak them out.


3.

Rob B.:

"Finally for our new NSA post on internal survalience I'd like to present our giant invisible rabbit Harvey."


Honorable Mention #1

Poole:

Cheney: "Lynne was telling me about her plans for the new garden and said she needed 'this much' fertilizer when Howard Dean walked up and said that he heard we'd been looking for him!"


Honorable Mention #2

Hoodlumman:

"Just give Boxer a quick Judo chop to the throat and she'll leave you alone for weeks..."


Honorable Mention #3

KipEsquire:

"And then I told him, if you eat all your vegetables, Mr. President, then you might grow to be this tall..."


Captioning pwns.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 February 2006 12:29 AM · Comments (53)