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Willisms

« November 2006 | WILLisms.com | January 2007 »

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 85.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

lardymclarderson.gif

The actual caption:

A passenger waits for a delayed flight at Heathrow airport's terminal four in London August 12, 2006. Dieters may find some welcome assistance from a new nasal spray that could help resist the appetizing aromas of cinnamon bun stands, pizza parlors or tempting bakeries. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, January 3. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email them in.

Last week's photo:

Elton pirate.jpg

Winners from last week:

1.

Rodney Dill:

DRUDGEBREAKING: After brief negotiations Elton John turned down the position of Captain Morgan Rum spokes person, saying that the brands slogan -- Everyone has a 'little' Captain in them. -- just didn't ring true in his case.


2.

DaveD:

The classic masculine image of pirating was being significantly hurt by the legislative mandated "don't ask, don't tell" policy.


3.

elliot:

..Welcome guests - are friends of the groom or the groom?


He who captions last, captions best.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 December 2006 07:55 PM · Comments (61)

Quotational Therapy: Part 118 -- Churchill, On Wartime Christmas.

Merry Christmas-

churchill1941.gif

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, at the lighting of the U.S. National Christmas Tree, in December of 1941:

"Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let gifts of Father Christmas delight their hearts; let us share in the full in their unstinted pleasure before we turn again to the stern tasks in the year that lies before us. Now, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied the right to live in a free, and decent world."


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Churchill Versus Annan.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 December 2006 06:52 PM · Comments (1)

Christmas Gifts, From WILLisms.com To You.

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Read More »


Posted by Will Franklin · 25 December 2006 10:59 AM · Comments (2)

Merry Christmas...

merrychristmasfromwillisms.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 December 2006 08:16 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 392 -- Economic Freedom Produces Better Economic Outcomes.

Economic Freedom Wins-

The Pacific Research Institute offers some thrilling conclusions about economic freedom. Thrilling, at least, for those who love liberty. First, an examination of the most and least economically free states in America (.pdf):

distributionofeconomicincom.gif

Okay, resembles the familiar red/blue dichotomy a bit. To be expected.

Now, zoom in on this, eh:

In 2005, per capita personal income grew 31% faster in the 15 most economically free states than it did in the 15 states at the bottom of the list. And employment growth was a staggering 216% higher in the most free states. It hasn't been a "jobless recovery" in states that have adopted pro-growth tax and regulatory policies.

Compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. has a uniformly pro-growth economic climate. But policies vary dramatically from state to state and the biggest single policy states have to get right to out-compete the other states for jobs and high-skilled workers is taxes. Taxpayers paid 14% less in "effective tax rates" in 2005 in the most economically free states than did the taxpayers in the least free states. Effective tax rates are based on what people actually pay after deductions, exemptions and credits. This helps explain why entrepreneurs are attracted to more free states and why personal income and jobs are growing so much faster there.

Though typically tax cuts are opposed with the argument that slashing rates will force state revenue to fall, new data from the Nelson Rockefeller Institute shatters the myth that budget deficits are caused by supply-side policies. In 2005, the 15 states with the most economic freedom saw their general fund tax revenues grow at a rate more than 6% higher than the 15 least free states, despite their lower effective tax rate. Instead of blowing a hole in state budgets, lower tax rates rewarded productivity and risk-taking and allowed the economy to grow. As the economy expanded it also generated more revenue for the state Treasury as capital and people flowed in. Census data shows an astounding 245% difference in net state-to-state migration rates in 2005 between the freest states (net inflow) and least-free states (net outflow). "Live Free or Move" is fast becoming the national motto.

Awesome. Proof, meet pudding.

Economic freedom means economic success. Freer economies grow faster and otherwise perform better, than less free economies. Economic freedom improves lives and lifts people up like no central planning committee can.

In graphic form, the economically freest states saw higher per capita income growth (.pdf):

percapitapersonalincome.gif

Meanwhile, the economically freest states created more jobs (.pdf):

employmentgrowthfree.gif

And even with lower effective tax rates, the economically freest states saw greater growth in tax revenue (.pdf):

lowertaxeshigherrevenue2005.gif

And, most profoundly of all, Americans voted with their feet, moving from economically unfree states to the most economically free states (.pdf):

inflowoutflow.gif

Pudding, proof. Proof, pudding.

In a society where packing up and moving to another state is not all that unusual, Americans are taking advantage, moving to economically free states from relatively oppressive states. People are voting with their feet.

"Live free or move" indeed.


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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Entitlements Versus Pork.

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

Quotational Therapy: Part 117 -- Winston Churchill vs. Kofi Annan.

Two Speeches By World Leaders In Missouri, Sixty Years Apart-

ironcurtainspeech.gif


VS.


kofiannan.gif


Cue Churchill, comforted by American nuclear (and other) supremacy:

churchillironcurtain.gif
"The United States stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power... No one country has slept less well in their beds because [atomic] knowledge, and the method and the raw materials to apply it, are presently retained in American hands... We should possess so formidable a superiority as to impose effective deterrents upon its employment, or threat of employment, by others."


Enter Kofi, warning against America looking out for American interests:

annan.gif
"None of our global institutions can accomplish much when the U.S. remains aloof... Security must be collective and indivisible... No nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over all others... We all have to recognize, no matter how great our strength, that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please..."


Back to Churchill, expounding on Anglo-American exceptionalism:

churchillironcurtain.gif
"We cannot be blind to the fact that the liberties enjoyed by individual citizens throughout the United States and throughout the British Empire are not valid in a considerable number of countries... We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man, which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world, and which through the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English Common Law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence... This is a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States of America... If there is to be a fraternal association of the kind that I have described, with all the strength and security which both of our countries can derive from it, let us make sure that great fact is known to the world, and that it plays its part in steadying and stabilizing the foundations of peace."


And Annan, opining that big mean Anglo-American exceptionalism is no fair:

annan.gif
"Governments must be accountable for their actions in the international arena, as well as in the domestic one... As things stand, accountability between states is highly skewed. Poor and weak states are easily held to account, because they need assistance. But large and powerful states, whose actions have the greatest impact on others, can be constrained only by their own people, working through their domestic institutions... And that makes it very important to organize those institutions in a fair and democratic way, giving the poor and weak some influence over the actions of the rich and the strong... New members should be added [to the Security Council], on a permanent or long-term basis, to give greater representation to parts of the world which have limited voice today."


And... back to Churchill, warning that America must rise to the challenge to defeat enemies of civilization:

churchillironcurtain.gif
"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent... The Communist parties or fifth columns constitute a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilization... But we should be most unwise not to face them squarely while time remains... I have felt bound to portray the shadow which, alike in the West and in the East, falls upon the world... Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere waiting to see what happens. Nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement. What is needed is a settlement, and the longer this is delayed, the more difficult it will be, and the greater our dangers will become. I am convinced that there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness. For that reason, the old doctrine of balance of power is unsound. We cannot afford, if we can help it, to work on narrow margins, offering temptations to a trial of strength. If the Western democracies stand together in strict adherence to these principles, no one is likely to molest them. If, however, they become divided or falter in their duty, and if these all-important years are allowed to slip away, then indeed catastrophe may overwhelm us all. Last time I saw it all coming, and I cried aloud to my own fellow countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention."
Finally, over to Kofi, urging America to rise up and defeat... global warming, while only projecting power when a consensus of the world's worst dictators and bureaucrats call for it:
annan.gif
"We must do more, and urgently, to prevent or slow down climate change... When [America] appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused... When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose – for broadly-shared aims – in accordance with broadly-accepted norms... More than ever, today Americans, like the rest of humanity, need a functioning global system through which the world's peoples can face global challenges together. And in order to function, the system still cries out for far-sighted American leadership in the Truman tradition. I hope and pray that the American leaders of today, and tomorrow, will provide it."

Ah, Kofi Annan, guardian of the Truman legacy. Gatekeeper of Missouri wisdom. Oracle of truth and justice. Pinnacle of greatness and wonder. Kofi Annan, man-- uh, person-- of the century.


Source: Shamelessly ripped off from CFIF.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Newt Gingrich

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 December 2006 02:04 PM · Comments (0)

Barack Obama: There's No 'There' There

Obama.jpg
Barack Obama

Barack Obama is the perfect politician for those who hate politics. Obama studiously avoids substance, thereby avoiding all that nasty give-and-take that far too many people believe actually hurts democracy. He is a perfect darling for moderates who have arrived at their mushy middle position more out of political ignorance than pondering the issues deeply. Obama does not threaten their lazy equilibrium. Above all, Obama is not 'divisive', as if divisiveness in a democracy is somehow the gravest possible sin.

As for Obama's fresh-faced Mr. Smith Goes To Washington image, there is a natural wariness among the chattering classes, believing that something too good to be true probably is.

Stanley Crouch states that yes Obama is black, but not really 'black' - "other than color, Obama did not - does not - share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves." Someone - I thought it was also Crouch, but I haven't been able to find the link again - opined that Obama does not seem to get much traction with African-Americans. Perhaps many blacks feel that if white people like him so much, there must be something wrong with him. There is no easier way to lose street cred than being a non-threatening black, I suppose.

Mickey Kaus - "this isn't a question of 'where's the beef', it's a question of 'where's the bun' - there's nothing there." Kaus also insightfully states that character is properly expressed by grappling with the issues, not by grappling with your own character.

Peggy Noonan - "He is uncompromised by a past, it is true. He is also unburdened by a record, unworn by achievement, unwearied by long labors."

Noonan has seen his type before, he is a 'destiny boy' who thinks he is qualified to rule based on little more than his overweening confidence in his own charisma. I would add that he suffers from the Clintonian conceit that attainment of celebrity is far more important than any achievment of substance - and that this is all that is necessary to carry the day, and all that history will remember. This is precisely what made Bill Clinton a C+ president at best.

Or . . . perhaps he is like a certain one-term Senator whose push forward into the White House was fuelled much more by charisma and literary achievment than by any legislative successes. That would of course be JFK, who upon arriving in the White House proved that he was no vacuous lightweight. So, perhaps there is hope after all.

These moderates might change their opinion of his non-divisiveness if they, you know, actually investigated his record, as compiled by Teri O'Brien over at The American Thinker:

  • Sponsored a pointless and burdensome unfunded mandate requiring local police departments to racially profile every traffic stop (because of course categorizing citizens by race is the most important problem local law enforcement must address. One wonders: if Sen. Obama gets stopped, which box do the police check for him? Is it just me or should he, given his mixed race parentage be the last person suggesting such a stupid law?)
  • Voted No on Constitutional amendment banning so-called "same-sex" marriage
  • Supported including "sexual orientation" in Illinois anti-discrimination laws
  • Opposes gun rights (NRA rating-F; Illinois Citizens for Handgun Control Rating-A)
  • Voted Against prohibiting early release for criminal sexual abusers
  • Voted "present" on a law prohibiting pornographic bookstores and strip clubs to be fewer than 1000 feet of schools and churches
  • Supported legislation making health care a "constitutional right," promoted by left-wing Physicians for National Health care, whose goal is socialized medicine for America, a goal Obama apparently shares
  • Opposed the state version of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which would require medical attention be given to babies fortunate enough to survive a botched abortion
  • Favors allowing partial birth abortion, which his wife called a "legitimate" medical procedure in a fund-raising letter
  • Voted "present" on a law requiring parental notification before a minor's abortion

In Obama's defense, he did vote for the Secure Fence Act, and has incredibly advocated military strikes against Iran.

What to make of all this? He is perfectly poised to take out Hillary Clinton. Hillary is a policy wonk with a nasty personality, an opportunist agenda, and poor political instincts. Obama is the anti-Hillary: naturally affable, leftist bona fides intact, unencumbered by embarrasing votes that anyone has bothered to notice, and with a great political nose. Or ears, if you prefer.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 21 December 2006 11:34 AM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 391 -- Entitlements Versus Earmarks.

Pork Ain't Nothin' Compared To A Few Select Programs Running On Auto-Pilot-

Pork spending has exploded in recent years:

The number of congressional spending earmarks totaled 10,656 in fiscal 2004 (costing $23 billion), 13,997 in 2005 ($27 billion) and just under 10,000 this past fiscal year ($29 billion).

WOW! Explosion! Ka-plow!

endoftheworld.gif

Okay, maybe not.

fy2006porkandentitlements.gif

Similar to last year's numbers, from FY05 (Oct. 2004 - Sept. 2005) to FY06 (Oct. 2005 - Sept. 2006), pork spending went up by two billion dollars, while mandatory spending not including net interest automatically increased by 102 billion dollars.

Now, one might quibble with the definition of "pork." Indeed, many Americans might consider the entirety of federal spending outside of "providing for the common defense" to be "pork." One could also easily make the case that certain wasteful habits within otherwise valid departments and programs are "pork" (fully refundable plane tickets that go unused, government building thermostats set too low in the summer and too high in the winter, etc.)

And while wasteful government spending certainly is bad any way you slice it, to be classified as pork, a government expenditure simply must meet one of the following criteria, developed by Citizens Against Government Waste, the authority on pork:

* Requested by only one chamber of Congress;

* Not specifically authorized;

* Not competitively awarded;

* Not requested by the President;

* Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;

* Not the subject of congressional hearings; or

* Serves only a local or special interest.

So, ~1% of the federal budget-- 9,963 projects total over the course of 11 appropriations bills in FY2006-- was pork. That's just under 100 dollars for every man, woman, and child in America.

Cause of concern, particularly when you add the cumulative pork identified by CAGW since 1991: $241 billion. That's real money. More than 800 dollars for every single man, woman, and child in America today.

Meanwhile, annual mandatory spending (which runs on auto-pilot) has grown to more than 1.4 trillion dollars:

mandatoryexpenditures.gif

Per household, that's quite a bit of moolah:

mandatoryperperson.gif

Note the dramatic ratcheting up just after LBJ's time in office. Indeed, "The Great Society" drastically increased the mandatory household burden:

Mandatory spending per household has increased over $8,817 since 1962, with 50 percent of that increase occurring between 1962 and 1983.

And as the Baby Boomers begin retiring in droves, we're looking at a sustained ratcheting effect greater than the post-LBJ era ratcheting. That's why reforming and modernizing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid NOW is so darned important.

In other words, even if Congress ends earmarking and conquers pork, it's still hardly noteworthy in the big picture. If Democrats are willing to eliminate earmarking for a year or two (I'll believe it when I see it), they'll only do it in order to earn some "fiscal responsibility" political capital which they will turn around and spend, tenfold.

It's truly brilliant politics, too. Make the symbolic gesture toward spending restraint, get away with not reforming Social Security. Forgo that new science museum in your district, get away with filling in the "donut hole" in Medicare's new prescription drug benefit. Give up the bike path, get away with taking us one step closer to socialized medicine.

Clearly not equal tradeoffs, but in this media environment, they might as well be. In 2006, Americans clearly believed Republicans failed to control the growth of spending; Congressional Republicans paid for it at the ballot box. Had GOP House members and/or Senators taken note of the growing grassroots porkbusting angst in 2003/2004 and eliminated earmarking entirely in 2005 and 2006, it not only would have averted much of the libertarian abandonment of the Republican Party at the polls, it would have boosted the Social Security reform effort.

Had "pork" had been completely eliminated but "record" (not my term) deficits persisted, it would have begged the question, "why, then, is government spending increasing so rapidly?"

Answer: entitlement spending explosion.

For example, annual Social Security spending has gone up by $147,050,000,000 (147.1 billion) since 2001, to $548,573,000,000 (548.6 billion) in FY2006 (.pdf). SINCE 2001. We now spend 147 billion additional dollars per year on Social Security than we did in 2001. Automatically.

Showing some spending restraint on pork/earmarks would have earned Republicans some street cred on the overarching theme of fiscal responsibility, and it would have made it exceedingly difficult for the media and the Democrats to stymie reform.

Now, however, Democrats can come off as angels if they actually do eliminate earmarks, and their halo will pave the way for far more deep-rooted fiscal irresponsibility.


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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Minimum Wage Is Annoyingly Bad.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 December 2006 12:31 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 390 -- Minimum Wage.

The Worst, Most Popular Idea In Politics-

First up on the plate for early 2007: raising the minimum wage. It will pass easily. It will be a unanimous or nearly unanimous chorus of ayes among Democrats, with "liberal" support from the other side of the aisle, as well.

Raising the minimum wage is, hands down, the most popular and worst idea in politics today. While raising the minimum wage is rotundly opposed by economists and wonks and such, Americans from all political and ideological persuasions support raising it-- and raising it by a lot, fast. This is not a new trend. Support is about where it's always been in the modern era, through good times and bad. So many people support raising the minimum wage because, heck, it's better than welfare. With minimum wage, at least we aren't giving someone something for nothing. And who wants to be the one to tell a hardworking man he's not getting a raise this year?

Well, that's all well and good, but it's all misguided. Raising the minimum wage, especially as rapidly as Democrats want to do, will not ameliorate poverty. It won't reward throngs of patrician family men for working hard. It will mostly just eliminate entry-level jobs for teenagers, 20-somethings, and part-time second income earners.

Michael Novak explains:

The total number of people on the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is many fewer than most people imagine: as of 2005, under 1.9 million workers. Sixty percent work only part-time, and a majority (53 percent) are under the age of 25--most of them students or weekend workers. Within this disproportionately large pool of youth "minimum wagers," two-thirds come from families with at least one other family member earning income. Four-fifths belong to families above the poverty line. In fact, the average income of the family of a young individual earning minimum wage is just over $64,000.

More:

Only 12.7 percent of the benefits from a federal minimum-wage increase would go to poor families, while 63 percent would go to families earning more than twice the poverty line and 42 percent to those three times above the poverty line. The reason: the majority of minimum wagers are youths, most of whom come from well-off families.Meanwhile, a hike in the minimum wage will hurt low-skilled workers most because those jobs will be increasingly difficult to find. In 2003, the median hours worked by the highest earner of a poor household was 1,720 -- significantly less than full time: 2,000 hours per year.
"only 3.7 percent of the benefits from a $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage would go to poor African-American families. Only 3.8 percent would go to poor single-mother households." Despite the fractional benefit received by these demographic groups from increases in the minimum wage, history has shown that under such regulations African-Americans have faced severe detrimental effects: unemployment.

Yet more:

Over the years, one of the most vulnerable sectors of the American labor force--black teenage males--has suffered dramatically from raises in the minimum wage. In 1954, before minimum-wage laws were expanded, joblessness for black youths was nearly even with that of whites, at 14 percent. Over the next few decades, the minimum wage rose sharply (from 75 cents to $3.35 per hour). In this same period, the unemployment rate for black teens soared to 40 percent, while the unemployment rate for white youth went largely unaffected. By contrast, Ronald Reagan refused to raise the minimum wage in his two terms as president (1981-1989). Accordingly, unemployment among young black males declined from 38 percent to 32 percent--the lowest rate since 1973. The correlation continued in the early 1990s. Following two hikes in the minimum wage in 1990 and 1991, black teen unemployment shot back up to 42 percent in 1992.

More, out of Waterbury, Connecticut:

Only 1.5 percent of hourly paid workers in America older than 25 make the federal minimum wage and most of them belong to two-or three-paycheck families with an average income of $43,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Moreover, blue states already have higher minimum wage levels to go along with their higher taxes, slower economic growth, slower job growth, and higher rates of population migration to other (red) states. Notice anything familiar about this map?:

minimumwagemap.gif

Raising the minimum wage is terrible public policy. Other than repaying an electoral debt to the unions for their unprecedented Get-Out-The-Vote efforts in 2006, the minimum wage won't even accomplish any of the bleeding heart stuff the Democrats suggest it will.

Oh well. At least once passed, it will eliminate a major "plus issue" for Democrats (and a "negative issue" for the GOP) in elections to come. And maybe, just maybe, there will be a sprinkle or two of tax relief thrown in as a compromise.

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Republicans & Fewer Federal Employees.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 December 2006 06:49 PM · Comments (2)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 84

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

Elton pirate.jpg

Here is the actual caption:
Sir Elton John (R) and his partner David Furnish arrive in costume for the reception following the civil partnership ceremony of British television and stand-up comedian Matt Lucas and his partner Kevin McGee, in central London December 17, 2006.

You believe that caption? There must be a better explanation for what's going on here . . .

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, December 26. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

Winners from last week: 1. DEC:

I see you decided to follow Mr. Baker's recommendations to talk to us, Mr. Cheney. I like your hat, wig, and beard. Most certainly, no one will recognize you.

2. Tigerhawk:

Ahmadinejad: Hamid, that Orthodox Jew get-up is really hilarious. Are the tzitzis scratchy?

3. Marv:
Great show for the media tonight, Rabbi. Time to hit the showers.

Honorable Mention #1 Cobb:

Aww crap, the joy buzzer didn't work...

Honorable Mention #2 elliot:
..So a Priest, a Rabbi and a Nun get on a plane..stop me if you heard this one.

Honorable Mention #3 Ken S :

No tongue.

Captioners of the world, unite! Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 20 December 2006 12:44 PM · Comments (14)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 389 -- Shrinking The Federal Government.

Smaller Federal Government-

Some facts on the size of government:

...total federal employment peaked under President George H.W. Bush at 3.4 million in May 1990. That number, as measured by the BLS, fell to 3 million by the time Bush the Elder left office. President Bill Clinton continued the trend while president, and is one of two Democrats (the other was Harry S. Truman) in the postwar era who presided over a decline in total federal employment. Government jobs also dropped under Republicans Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gerald R. Ford.

As of the latest jobs report, total federal employment under George W. Bush was 2.7 million in May 2006. That represents a loss of more than one in every five federal employees since 1990.

So, some moderate success at the federal level in preventing bureaucratic bloat. However, much of the downsizing of government throughout the 1990s was due to the false "peace dividend" we thought we could get away with following the Cold War. Still, having fewer federal employees is absolutely imperative for the small government movement.

On the other hand, state and local governments have grown substantially over the same time period, often with subsidies from the federal government (for Homeland Security, for example). Nonetheless, bringing the government closer to the people is preferable to growing the leviathan in the District of Columbia.

One also wonders whether, as advancing technology has boosted productivity, the shrinkage could have been even greater. Because of "the internets," one or two people can now do the work of a few people. A few people can now do the work of several people. And so on.

From the BLS (.pdf):

bushadministrationfedemploy.gif

Unfortunately, a lot of this shrinkage is simply attributable to streamlining at the USPS. Still, fewer federal employees, even after the 9/11 Effect, is the sort of thing that "the base" would have loved to hear about. Unfortunately, because so many Americans believe we are in some sort of job-gushing recession, "we eliminated jobs!" was obviously not the slogan of choice for Republicans in '06.


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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Hope For '08 & Beyond.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 December 2006 08:38 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 388 -- GOP Nearly Bottomed Out In 2006.

Almost-Sweep Presents Opportunities For 2008-

Americans for Tax Reform notes that, in a slightly right-of-center country, a big victory for the left means big vulnerability in the next election (.pdf).

opportunitiesabound.gif

Indeed, that number might even be slightly higher now, with Republican Henry Bonilla losing to far-left lunatic Ciro Rodriguez last week in the special runoff election.

In 2004, President Bush won 51% of the popular vote. A mandate, sure, and the first outright majority since 1988 (yes, Bill Clinton didn't even win a majority of the popular vote against Bob Dole), but not really a Reagan-style landslide. In other words, there is every reason to believe that a strong Republican candidate in 2008, with some moderate coattails, would win 51 or 52% of the national popular vote and help elect Republicans in a dozen or two of the "red" districts currently held by Democrats.

Some interesting facts to ponder (.pdf):

If in 2008 the Republicans only won those districts that performed 58% or more for Bush in 2004, they would pick up 20 seats.

If in 2008, the Republicans only win those districts that performed 55% or more for Bush in 2004, they would pick up 33 seats.

Now, neither of those things is going to happen, but compare those facts to these facts:

If in 2008, the Democrats win all of the districts that performed 58% or better for Kerry in 2005, they would pick up zero seats. They already control those seats.

If in 2008, the Democrats win all of the districts that performed 55% or better for Kerry in 2005, they would pick up zero seats. They already control those seats.

Republicans just have far fewer vulnerable seats than Democrats do, for 2008.

Indeed, if these eight Republicans elected in Kerry-leaning districts could survive the massacre of 2006, they can all probably survive just about anything:

safebluegop.gif

Sure, they are all, by definition, "at risk" or "vulnerable," but they each showed some serious survival skills, and it is difficult to imagine any of them losing with a strong Republican at the top of the ticket.

Meanwhile, here are the Democrats holding seats won by President Bush in 2004:

unsafebluepeople.gif

Some of these are flukish victories for the Democrats. Last-minute redistricting and Republicans having to field a write-in candidate in Texas, a few totally unrelated scandals in Ohio and Florida, and so on, enabled Democrats to pick up several seats they wouldn't have even won in this massacre of an election year under normal circumstances.

Add in the inevitable (eventual) retirements of some of those 60%+ Bush district incumbent Democrats, and we're looking at a significant turn of fortune in the next several years, simply based on structural things.

With the 2010 Census and reapportionment also looking extraordinarily favorable for Republicans (to the tune of approximately ten additional net seats given to GOP-leaning states at the expense of liberal states), the Democrats shouldn't get too comfy in their new offices.

And these are just the overarching structural things, not even the certain ensuing political developments that will undoubtedly take some of the shine off of the current Democrat honeymoon. Add those political developments in, and there is ample reason for optimism among Republicans.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: We Are Wealthier Than Ever.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 December 2006 06:37 PM · Comments (1)

Quotational Therapy: Part 116 -- Newt Gingrich, On Free Speech.

Making Sense-

NGINGRICH.gif

Newt Gingrich had the opportunity to respond to and elaborate on the "controversial" comments he made regarding Islam and the First Amendment:

MR. RUSSERT: Are you concerned, however, that with carte blanche, that the government could move in and say, “This mosque is closed, this Web site is shut down”?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: No. You have—you have more censorship in the McCain-Feingold bill, which blocks the right of free speech about American campaigns than you have from the FBI closing down jihadists. We’ve already limited the First Amendment right of free speech by a set of rules that are stunningly absurd. In California, you can raise soft money to run negative commercials attacking your opponent through the state party and you cannot raise soft money to run a positive commercial on behalf of your own candidate. That’s California state law. It’s stunningly stupid and a clear infringement of free speech.

So we’ve had a 30-year period of saying it’s OK to infringe free speech as long as it’s about politics. But now if you want to be a jihadist, and you want to go kill people, well who are we to say that’s morally wrong? I think that’s suicidal. I’m using the word deliberately. A country—a Supreme Court justice once said “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” This country has every right to defend itself, and you saw the same thing recently on this U.S. Airlines provocation, where you had six people go way out of their way to cause trouble, and then claim they were infringed upon. And I think, frankly, the president should invite that U.S. Airlines crew to the White House and thank them, because we ought to set a standard that if you’re provocative about killing people, we’re not going to show you any mercy.

Indeed. It is truly amazing that we are so willing as a society to surrender our free speech rights in the name of "campaign finance reform," but the moment that anyone suggests shutting down jihadi/terrorist websites or arresting Imams for inciting violence, well, that's just going too far.

And not-so-incidentally, Newt Gingrich really needs to be in every single primary/caucus debate for 2008. His "electability" is not his greatest asset, but Newt Gingrich is one of the few political figures out there today who has steadfast conservative principles AND creative/pragmatic solutions to real world concerns. He is also the single individual who comes to mind when considering who "the right" would make its debate team captain. Newt Gingrich is not necessarily the handsomest or the media darling with the highest approval rating, but he is someone we-- at the very least-- need in the debates. And in "the debate," more generally.

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Washington

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 December 2006 03:01 PM · Comments (2)

Sunday Night Heidi Weimaraner Update: 11 Months Old.

Heidi, the Weimaraner puppy, is now 11 months old. She'll still pretty photogenic:

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She's in the upper 50s in pounds. She likes life.

Read More »


Posted by Will Franklin · 17 December 2006 07:15 PM · Comments (3)

Quotational Therapy: Part 115 -- George Washington

George Washington-

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From George Washington's farewell address, some advice for diplomats the world over:

The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur.

So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.

How relevant is that to today, on so many levels?

Mark Steyn, in the November WILLisms.com Classy book recommendation of the month, America Alone, adds (p. 160):

"That neatly sums up the Euro-American relationship: the United States has become a slave to its habitual if largely misplaced fondness for Europe, while Europe has become a slave to its habitual if entirely irrational hatred for America."

Indeed. Can you imagine what someone like George Washington would think about the United Nations and the fact that the U.S. must gain the permission of the likes of Congo, Tanzania, and Qatar (all current members of the UN Security Council) before doing just about anything, internationally?

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Milton Friedman.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 December 2006 07:29 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 387 -- The Simple Bare Necessities Of Life.

Luxury Items No Longer-

Measuring incomes and household wealth and GDP per capita and so on is nice, but here's a great anecdotal reminder that things are getting better all the time:

necessities.gif

In addition, 5% now call a flat screen television a "necessity," while 3% call an iPod a "necessity."

While America's wealth has exploded upward over the past few decades, the middle class has benefited not just in numbers, but in quality of life metrics. People have larger homes, with fancier kitchens and bathrooms, than before. More Americans go further away to ever more exotic locations for vacations than in past decades. More Americans are attending and graduating from college than ever before. More Americans can afford to eat out regularly, rather than just on special occasions. We have more variety of better quality food, including items that would have been considered extravagant luxuries years ago, at the grocery store. Americans have more and better home electronics and appliances and tools than before, for relatively less. We have more and better of just about everything, for less.

Sure, some things were better and simpler in the "good old days," but as much as "Republicans want to go home to the United States of the 1950s while Democrats want to work there," few Americans would actually give up their new kitchens and plasmas and SUVs and high speed internet, now widely accessible to a middle class that is wealthier than ever before, to live in an America with-- perhaps-- less "inequality" or less "globalization" or whatever else is supposed to be so uniquely frightening to today.

To the extent that Republicans want to go back to the fifties, it's that we wish people had more integrity, honesty, and better manners. Some of us long for a time when pop culture was not so crass, when prayers over the loudspeakers at high school football games were not offensive or controversial, and when you could leave your door unlocked and let your kids run around freely the with the other neighborhood kids.

To the extent that Democrats want to go back to the fifties, it's that they wish more of us had steady, life-long factory jobs. They wish we could revive a time and place where America was more insulated from creative destruction and more protected from the economic pressures of the developing world. They wish we had a 1950s-era tax structure, where, after taxes, the top earners don't take home much more than the average earners.

I'll take progress and growth and advancement with some inequality, over equality of outcomes, any day of the week.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: A Rape Epidemic In Norway.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 December 2006 01:36 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 386 -- Rape In Oslo.

Immigration-

The Brussels Journal points out this bit of disturbing news out of... Norway:

The reported number of rapes in Oslo is now six – 6! – times as high per capita as in New York City...

Norway? Really?

Indeed, Norway. Rapes are up 40% in Oslo since 1999.

Some interesting demographics behind this rape surge:

While 65 percent of those charged with rape are classed as coming from a non-western background, this segment makes up only 14.3 percent of Oslo's population. Norwegian women were the victims in 80 percent of the cases, with 20 percent being women of foreign background.

Islam: religion of peace, archery, disco dancing, rape, and table tennis.

So, these crimes would probably meet the definition of "hate crimes," to use an American nomenclature. Which got me wondering about hate crimes in the U.S.

Here's a moderately informative table about the sorts of crimes that were categorized as hate crimes in 2005:

hatecrimes.gif

Of the three rapes, one offender was white, one was black, and one was unknown (based on this table from the FBI). One of the three rapes was anti-black, one was anti-homosexual, and one was anti-mental disability (according to this table). One took place in California, one in Missouri, and one in Nevada. Now, they don't tell us which offender did what to which victim and where, but matching the information could almost be one of those LSAT logic games.

With three rapes, not a huge "hate" rape epidemic in America, in other words.

Can you imagine the backlash in the United States if, as is now the case in certain progressive European cities, bands of "youths" were raping American women with great regularity? For all the worry about American political correctness, we have nothing on the Europeans.

Incidentally and totally unrelated, just for a few kicks at the expense of the FBI, 204 of the 935 "anti-white" hate crimes in 2005 were committed by...

wait for it...

white people.

Who says bureaucrats have no sense of humor?


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: The Middle Class, Doing Just Fine.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 December 2006 10:24 AM · Comments (6)

A Couple More Days Of Voting...

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Seize the full potential of your internet access. Vote (here) in the 2006 Weblog Awards today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 December 2006 08:46 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 385 -- More On The Disappearing Middle Class.

It's Getting Better All The Time-

More on the vanishing middle class:

Reynolds continues by telling of a 2004 story in the Washington Post titled, "The Vanishing Middle-Class Job." The Post article pointed out that in 1967, nearly a quarter (22.3 percent) of households made between $35,000 and $49,999 in inflation-adjusted terms, but that that share was down to 15 percent by 2003. Reynolds notes that the same article showed that the percentage of U.S. households with a real income higher than $50,000 rose from 24.9 percent in 1967 to 44.1 percent in 2003. Moreover, the percentage with income lower than $35,000 fell from 52.8 percent to 40.9 percent. In other words, the "middle class" was shrinking because people were moving out of the Post's statically defined middle class into a higher income class.

And here's the graphical representation of those numbers:

vanishingmiddleclass.gif

So, again, to the extent that the middle class is vanishing, it's that it is moving upward. Even after the tolls of inflation, Americans are getting wealthier. When you consider that the income tax burden has fallen since 1967, Americans are doing even better.

We have a very good thing going in this country. Let's not mess it up.

It looks like I might need to get this book by Alan Reynolds, which is providing so many of these numbers.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Air Pollution Declining.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 December 2006 01:01 PM · Comments (6)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 83

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

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Here is the actual caption:
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) welcomes a participant of Holocaust conference in Tehran December 12, 2006.The conference, which drew widespread condemnation for questioning the killing of 6 million Jews by the Nazis during World War Two, agreed on Tuesday to form an international committee to study the Holocaust. Iran says it organised the conference to shed light on the reasons behind the formation of the state of Israel after World War Two and to allow researchers from countries where it is a crime to question the Holocaust to speak freely.

Clearly, there is more going on here than meets the eye! Help us out with a real caption.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, December 19. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

** Apologies and sincere regrets about last week's contest! **

Unfortunately, nearly all of the comment entries for last week were deleted in our never-ending battle against spam. Hopefully it won't happen again, but spammers are worthless losers with nothing better to do with their lives, so if your comment is ever accidentally deleted in the future, we apologize in advance.

Will adds: Really, it was totally my fault. I got a little distracted by Heidi, the Weimaraner, while purging hundreds of trillions of spams, and I just got a little trigger happy. Collateral damage happens in the fog of war. I hope you'll forgive me by entering this week's contest.

Captioning - not that there's anything wrong with it! Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 13 December 2006 11:09 AM · Comments (33)

A Little More Weblog Award Voting....

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Three cheers for democracy. You can "do it, to it" here.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 December 2006 06:42 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 384 -- Facts Not Fear On Air Pollution.

It's Getting Better All The Time-

Joel Schwartz, in a paper titled "How Regulators, Environmentalists and Scientists Exaggerate the Level and Health Risks of Air Pollution and Impose Counterproductive Regulations," offers up some very good news on air pollution trends:

airpollutiondown.gif

Among the many interesting and noteworthy facts the study notes, improving air quality is even more impressive, given that American coal usage is up 61%, total automobile miles driven are up 93%, diesel truck miles driven are up 112%, and our nation's GDP is up more than 114%, over the same period.

My take: economic growth is supremely good for the environment, and for mankind. Let's encourage it.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Upward Mobility.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 December 2006 06:37 PM · Comments (0)

Hate Mail Today: VY Style.

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It's been a while since the last installment of Hate Mail. But there's been a lot over the past year.

So, let's get right to it, then. The airing of grievances!

Most recently, Bill Plaxton sent this gem, I suppose in response to this amazingly prescient post, made prior to the end of the 2005 college football regular season, which declared Vince Young more worthy for the Heisman than Reggie "Illegal Benefits" Bush.

Here's Bill Plaxton's email:

from rj102990@yahoo.com
to willisms@gmail.com
date Dec 12, 2006 2:17 PM
subject Bush vs Young
signed-by yahoo.com
mailed-by yahoo.com

No offense, but that was the most idiotic drivel that I have ever laid eyes on. You cant even compare the two first off, because one is a RB while the other is a QB. Second, you state that Young had more yards and touchdowns than Bush. Well no shit! A quarterback SHOULD have more yards and touchdowns than a running back. A quarterback has many more oppertunities to score or gain yards. It helps if you can run the ball too. I am not saying this because I am a USC fan, because I am a Buckeye fan. I am saying this because Bush deserved the Heisman. He was the best player and most electrifying player in 2005.

No offense, Bill, but your email is one the dumbest things I have ever read in my entire life. Your email contains internal inconsistencies, and you fatally contradict yourself. The only explanation for such embarrassing idiocy is that you must have actually written it one year ago, December 12, 2005, at the height of the ESPN + Reggie = love affair and before the Rose Bowl, but somehow you forgot to press "send" until today.

No offense, Bill, but countless Heisman voters watched this game ...

vyscoresusc.gif

... and recanted their erroneous votes for Reggie Bush. They had realized the error of their ways.

Unfortunately, it took an otherworldly performance in the most hyped college football game of all time to open people's eyes, when, really, the evidence was there all along.

It wasn't a flash-in-the-pan one time sort of performance, either. Vince, in the Rose Bowl, just did what Vince does:

vyscoresmichigan.gif


Not only did Vince Young have the greatest year any college football player has ever had in 2005, statistically-speaking, he also owned Reggie Bush head-to-head when it mattered most.

Just a final recap of the statistics:

2005finalstats.gif

Why even compare stats this way? Well, because back in November/December 2005, when ESPN was in the middle of its full court press lobbying job for Reggie Bush, there were all sorts of comments about Reggie Bush's amazing "all purpose yards" (fewer total yards than Vince, that's for sure) and how great he was at returning kickoffs and punts (final national rankings of 38th and 77th, respectively), how awesome he was at receiving (not even ranked, nationally), how he could score every time he touched the ball (actually, and this one directly rebuts the Bill Plaxton's assertion that Vince Young did more because he had more touches: a TD every 14.4 times Reggie touched the ball, versus a TD every 12.6 times Vince touched the ball) from anywhere on the field (a weak 1.46 TD per game for Reggie), and so on and so forth. The numbers simply never supported any of the ESPN talking/lobbying points.

In terms of intangibles (leadership, making teammates better, meaning the most to your team, etc.) not measured by statistics, Vince Young beat Reggie Bush there, too. In terms of showing some consistency over more than a single year, Vince owned Reggie. In terms of this "most electrifying player" mumbo-jumbo, I've seen plenty of running backs, receivers, and kick returners all do much more amazing things on the field than Reggie Bush did last year. But for a QB to not only rank in the top 3 nationally in pass rating AND get over a thousand yards rushing on the season-- that was and still is unprecedented. Vince Young did things no quarterback has ever done, and not just statistically. His highlight reel contained just as many jaw-dropping moments as Reggie Bush's.

I had thought this matter had been put to bed on January 4, 2006, but because there apparently are some stragglers holding out in caves fighting for Emperor Tojo who still believe Reggie Bush was a better college football player than Vince Young, this post apparently was still needed in the world.

Even if you still think Reggie Bush was marginally better than Vince Young (because he is a shiftier runner, and therefore more "exciting," perhaps?), you have to admit that it was completely absurd for Reggie Bush to win in such a landslide, with a record* margin of victory (*also reported by ESPN, so take it with a grain of salt), over the greatest college football player in history.

For the sportsularly-challenged readers of this blog, think of the media bias in politics this year. It was far more slanted last year leading up to the Heisman vote, in favor of Reggie Bush. Far more.

Just for reference, before we stray too far from the topic of statistics, this year's Heisman Trophy winner, Troy Smith, who, like Reggie Bush, also took illegal benefits to play college football (anyone else noticing a trend, here) has 233 yards rushing, 1 rushing TD, 2507 yards passing, and 30 passing TDs this year.

He'll need 7 TDs (rushing and/or passing), 529 yards passing, and 817 yards rushing against Florida to reach Vince Young levels.

So, Bill Plaxton, no offense, but next time, if you are going to call someone out for writing "idiotic drivel," you might want to make sure that that person is not rubber and you're not glue, because your email bounced right off of me and is now sticking to you.

No offense, of course.


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


Much more juicy hate mail to come, including one from an almost-in-law (oh, does that hook you in?), in the next few days.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 December 2006 06:08 PM · Comments (3)

Good Riddance, Kofi Annan

Easily the worst Secretary General the UN has ever had, this December 31st Kofi Annan is finally, finally leaving the United Nations he tried so hard to destroy. Annan plumbed new depths of corruption, ineptitude and weakness from which it may never recover. He makes Kurt Waldheim look honorable by comparison.

Annan allowed, and perhaps even profited from, massive violations of the Oil For Food program that was supposed to deprive Saddam Hussein of the means to enrich or arm himself. The scope of the Oil For Food catastrophe makes it the largest financial scandal in all of human history:

According to an encyclopedia-length report into Oil-for-Food's manipulation, an inquiry led by former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Paul Volcker, the massive scope of the multi-billion dollar financial fraud is dizzying: $1.8 billion in illicit kickbacks from companies collected by Saddam's Iraq; illegal financial kickbacks from 66 U.N. member states; illicit surcharges by 40 U.N. member states; illegal oil surcharges paid to 139 companies and "humanitarian kickbacks" involving 2,253 companies worldwide. The vast majority of kickbacks involved the disguised sale of humanitarian goods in which contractors paid inflated "transportation fees" and "after sales services charges."
kofi muppet.jpg

Praise be to Allahpundit for this photo of Kofi and his staff.

You would think these charges alone would have consigned Annan to the dustbin of history, but he was just getting started. Annan's own son Kojo got stung in the investigation. Providing aid, comfort and support for tyrants was job number one at Kofi Annan's UN, and his enterprising son Kojo was also involved in the scandalous Harare airport project for Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe. Annan himself went to the mat for Saddam Hussein, opposing the Security Council resolutions against Saddam's Iraq, and stabbing the U.S. in the back by helping Saddam Hussein draft a letter purporting to allow full inspections and thus averting a new Security Council resolution. Saddam, naturally, failed to live up to the bargain. Annan waxed nostalgic for Saddam once he was removed from power, recently saying that life in Iraq is worse now than it was under Saddam. Annan had nothing to say about Russian brutalities in Chechnya, and dithered on Darfur until only last month, when he finally called for peacekeepers to be sent to Sudan. Annan has always had a blindspot when it comes to the murder of innocents - as head of peacekeeping under SecGen Boutrous-Boutrous Ghali, "Annan failed to sufficiently warn the UN of the growing threat that radical Hutus were posing in Rwanda. Shortly thereafter, in a month-long genocidal fury, more than 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered despite the presence of a small UN force. Then, a few months later, 7,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred in the Bosnian city of Srebrenica, again in spite of the presence of UN peacekeepers."

In Kofi Annan's UN, the foxes have always been in charge of the henhouse. The Commission of Human Rights ludicrously appointed states such as Cuba, Sudan and Saudi Arabia to its membership. The supposed cure was to reform the organization into the Human Rights Council in 2006, which promptly sat Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Cuba as members.

Annan hypocritically dared to criticize United States human rights practices today in his farewell address at the Truman Presidential Museum and Library, even though he presides over an organization that committed widespread sexual atrocities: "The range of sexual abuse includes reported rapes of young Congolese girls by U.N. troops; an Internet pedophile ring run from Congo by Didier Bourguet, a senior U.N. official from France; a colonel from South Africa accused of molesting his teenage male translators; and estimates of hundreds of underage girls having babies fathered by U.N. soldiers who have been able to simply leave their children and their crimes behind." A draft report on the abuses stated that several member states engaged in witness tampering and hindered the UN's investigation in an attempt to cover up the scandal. These crimes did not just happen in Congo - in Haiti and Liberia "girls have told of regular encounters with soldiers where sex is demanded in return for food or money," according to the BBC.

Annan even turned a blind eye to sexual impropriety happening right under his roof, by completely ignoring sexual harrassment charges aimed at UN High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers.

Lubbers' organization, the UNHCR, had a nasty habit of actually feeding refugees into the jaws of totalitarian monsters:

The UNHCR keeps an office in Beijing, with a budget this year totaling $4.4 million, to which asylum seekers have no access. Four years ago, a family of North Korean refugees actually stormed the premises and gained asylum after threatening to eat rat poison from their pockets if forced back out onto the street. Since then, the UNHCR has allowed China's security agents to better defend the compound against further visits by the people the UNHCR is supposedly in China to protect.

The credibility and authority of the UN is now completely in tatters. While this was certainly a group effort, Kofi Annan set the tone and blundered repeatedly, usually by failing to do a thing when accusations of impropriety surfaced. Will he pay for the damage he has done to this once-hallowed organization? Unlikely, but I predict that we will learn even more about the malfeasance of Kofi Annan once he is gone - with the possibility that he will finally be called to account.

Update: Yeah, I didn't even get into Annan's shameful coddling of Hezbollah, but DANEgerus did so quite nicely in the comments -

...allowing cross border incursions...

...refusing to release video evidence of those incursions...

...refusing to implement UN resolution 1559 to disarm Hezbollah...

...allowing Hezbollah to stockpile arms in UNIFIL patrol areas...

...allowing Hezbollah to use civilians as human shields...

...allowing Hezbollah to use UN positions as shields...

...using equipment to clear roads for Hezbollah during the war...

...diverting UN night-vision equipment to Hezbollah...

...condeming Israel repeatedly, but not Hezbollah who started the war...

...condeming Israel repeatedly, but not Hezbollah who clearly commited war crimes...

...reporting Israeli deployments to Hezbollah...

...implenting a 'Cease-Fire' to save Hezbollah...

...again refusing to disarm Hezbollah per UN resolutions 1559 & 1701...

...now refusing to prevent Hezbollah rearming...

...UN assigns Hezbollah's terror supporting regime Syria to watch Hezbollah...

...Kofi 'asks' Iran to stop arming Hezbollah while promising not to stop Iran from arming Hezbollah...

...Kofi 'asks' Iran to stop developing nuclear weapons while promising to resist the UN taking action while Iran develops nuclear weapons...

Posted by Ken McCracken · 11 December 2006 10:34 PM · Comments (3)

The Neverending Weblog Award Vote.

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You can vote here, if you please.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 December 2006 08:41 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 383 -- More On America's Middle Class.

It's Getting Better All The Time-

Several blogs today linked a piece by Diana Furchtgott-Roth, "Richer Than You Think."

Here's one of the highlights:

...over the past 25 years, more families have moved to upper-income brackets. In 2004, the latest year for which we have comparable information, 34% of families made over $75,000. But in 1979, only 21% did so, after adjusting for inflation. And we now have fewer families in lower-income brackets. Only 46% of families made less than $50,000 in 2004, compared with 54% of families in 1979. The stagnant real median family income that is supposedly the reason for last month's Democratic victory is not so sluggish after all. Real median family income was $54,000 in 2004. After inflation, that's 11% higher than in 1994, 18% higher than in 1984, 25% higher than in 1974, and 59% higher than in 1964.

Fantastic. Again, to the extent that the "middle class is disappearing," it's that it is moving upward.

Here's a graphic to illustrate the phenomenon:

disappearingmiddleclass.gif

This is even more noteworthy, given that the tax burden is now lower and families are smaller than in 1979. There is simply no good reason, other than fear itself (of globalization), to allow populism and protectionism to reign in America.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Europe & Poverty.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 December 2006 07:34 PM · Comments (1)

Quotational Therapy: Part 114 -- Milton Friedman.

Ain't No Party Like A Liberty Party, 'Cause A Liberty Party Don't Stop-

friedmanmilton.gif

Economic freedom is the key to human freedom:

...a major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it does this task so well. It gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.

-Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, 1962.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Krugman

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 December 2006 01:33 PM · Comments (2)

You Know You Are Doing Something Wrong When . . .

. . . you are voted as most annoying right-of-center blogger, and second most annoying left-of-center blogger, and second most overrated blog on top of it all, all at the same time.

Take a bow, Andrew Sullivan, for achieving this seemingly impossible feat.

I remember reading some interview somewhere with Sullivan where he claimed to have started in politics as a Thatcherite. In 2004 however he ended up supporting John Kerry, which a real Thatcherite just simply would not, could not, do. It is this type of ideological flexibility that has done him in, I think.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 11 December 2006 11:37 AM · Comments (1)

The Weblog Awards Go On Too Long...

The voting continues here.

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These things really should not go on so long.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 December 2006 12:05 AM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 382 -- European Definitions Of Poverty.

But.. There's Inequality In America-

This is funny.

The EU explains that "being poor is relative" (.pdf).

Okay, reasonable. In the United States, our poor would be among the wealthiest people in many other countries. The wealthiest people in some countries might be considered poor or barely middle class in the United States.

Here is how Eurostat defines "poverty risk" these days (.pdf):

...living in households with an “equivalised disposable income” below 60% of the median equivalised income of the country they live in. This means that around 72 million citizens are considered as at risk of poverty in the EU25.

But here's the thing. The EU25 includes some very poor countries, and some very poor regions within countries. That figure of 72 million could easily be far, far more, if "poor" is not a "relative" concept. Actual poverty-- or risk of poverty-- is not that important under the Eurostat definition. Disparity (or inequality) is all that matters.

Here is their chart (.pdf):

meaninglessnonsense.gif

So, instead of measuring actual poverty, the EU is measuring how far some of its citizens are from the local median incomes.

Got that?

As long as the dreaded "inequality" is not apparent, it's totally okay to have a lot of poor people. If everyone is poor, but there's no inequality, well, in European terms, you've got yourself a winning economy. On the other hand, although (actually, because) a country like the United Kingdom is significantly more successful economically than the EU average, the UK is said to have a higher proportion of people at risk for poverty than a much poorer country like Hungary.

If you earn a few thousand Euro per year in Hungary, you're fine. If you earn several times that in the UK, you are at risk for poverty. With our standardized poverty thresholds in the United States, we don't have the luxury to manipulate our poverty statistics that way. Can you imagine if we tried to do what EU does with its poverty numbers, region by region, state by state, or county by county? Oh, how our poverty rate would plummet. And overnight!

John Rosenthal adds:

...according to the EU's own comparative income data (2001 "Laeken indicators"), the median income in Portugal for a single adult is roughly €8,000 per year and for a family of four, just under €17,000. This implies that roughly half of the Portuguese population lives below the monetary threshold of poverty as defined by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

This is the same Portugal whose socialist leader-- and buddy of Howard Dean-- recently declared:

"Europe needs an America that is back on track," said Portuguese Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates, whose country is hosting the meeting.

"We need, today more than ever, to reinforce and renew the strategic alliance between the United States and Europe," Socrates said. "We know that a stronger Democratic Party is key for this to happen."

Got that?

Europe.

Needs America.

To get back on track.

Ha.

And yet, U.S. Democrats want to Eurocize the American economy, all while closing down trade. Whether or not we effectively resist these "populist" impulses will determine America's fate, economically, culturally, militarily, and otherwise, for many years to come.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Inequality.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 December 2006 11:55 PM · Comments (0)

De-Spamming

I am deleting hundreds of millions of spam comments and trackbacks. I think I may have deleted a ton of legit comments accidentally. So, if you were wondering about that, that's the reason...

Including the Caption Contest... ugh.

Ken adds: I think I have been guilty of this too, as well as deleting a few legit trackbacks here and there. Will, sorry I haven't always been as diligent as I could have been about deleting the garbage as well - it is a daily task and I have to remember to do that.

Spam just sucks.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 December 2006 09:45 PM · Comments (1)

Vince Young...

... is still amazingly clutch. And still better than Reggie "Illegal Benefits" Bush.

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And the Houston Texans are still fools.

That is all.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 December 2006 03:29 PM · Comments (5)

More WILLisms.com Bumper Stickers...

... Reminding you, yet again, to vote... yet again...

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... here.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 December 2006 09:31 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 381 -- When Policy Favors Equality Above All Else.

Inequality-

Left-wingers are obsessed with economic inequality. Far too many of them believe that America is a brutal land where the rich only get rich at the expense of the poor, as if wealth is a zero sum game. Far too many imagine an America that is unfair and mean. Far too many fail to recognize the fact that America remains the land of opportunity, with unparalleled upward mobility. Far too many resent or ignore the fact that Americans can take great risks and achieve fantastic dream-like success. Far too many believe that socialist confiscation and redistribution of wealth will solve America's inequality "problem."

They even sometimes offer unsolicited and random comments like this on blogs:

Huh--may be the the fact that a lot of working-class Americans are not seeing the benefits of the economy's strength. We're pretty much leading the world in terms of income inequality, if you didn't know, because of our currently regressive tax policies.

Sigh.

No.

To the extent that Americans actually believe that nonsense, it's due to an unconscionable and unethical media failure. In recent years, Americans have consistently rated their own current and future economic situations as rosy, all while telling pollsters how bad they believe the overall economy to be doing.

There's no way, with the widely enjoyed economic success America has experienced over the past few years, that these numbers should be so low. No way, other than a media dominated by liberals, disseminating consistently liberal viewpoints, to an unwitting audience

No matter how awesome things are going, there will be Marxists who want to go and ruin it with-- among other things-- "a heavy progressive or graduated income tax."

For example, The Economic Policy Institute, an ultra-liberal think tank owned by big labor, produced the following graph, tweaked slightly by yours truly (.pdf):

inequality.gif

So... that's the inequality we're supposed to work toward eliminating. Tim Worstall notes:

All those punitive tax rates, all that redistribution, that blessed egalitarianism, the flatter distribution of income, leads to a change in the living standards of the poor of precisely ... nothing.

Apparently it has not yet dawned on the socialists that American inequality coincides with, contributes to, and is a result of American greatness. We've always been a society predicated on inequality. As Don King might say, "only in America" can almost anyone with a good idea or some talent, simply willing to take calculated risks, get rich beyond their wildest dreams. This goes for entertainers, athletes, and entrepreneurs, alike.

But America is about more than chasing fabulous riches. The regular old middle class American dream is eminently attainable.

Indeed, Rich Lowry explains that, in an economy with 4.5% unemployment, simply working (rather than not working) is the key to avoiding poverty:

The key difference between the richest and poorest households, Reynolds finds, is simply work: “Most income in the top fifth of households is from two or more people working full time. Most income in the bottom fifth is from government transfer payments.” According to the Census Bureau, there are almost six times as many full-time workers in the top households as in the bottom, and 56.4 percent of the bottom households didn’t have anyone working at all in 2004.

The "working poor" theorem just doesn't hold up. And with 7 million net new jobs since the 2003 tax cuts, the non-working poor theorem also doesn't hold up.

More from Lowry:

“The vanishing middle class” is another claim Reynolds doesn’t buy. If the middle class is perpetually defined as those earning between $35,000 and $50,000, it will constantly be vanishing as people get richer. In this vein, one liberal study complained that 31.3 percent of families earned more than $75,000 in 2002, whereas only 11.1 percent earned that much in 1969. “By this measure,” it concluded, “America’s broad middle class has been shrinking.” No, members of the middle class were getting richer.

Our middle class is doing so well that, statistically-speaking, many liberals find it difficult to continue using the "middle class" nomenclature. To the extent that the American middle class is disappearing, it's that it is on the move-- upward.

America has lower unemployment and a faster growing economy (on top of an already-larger economy) than any other industrialized country in the world.

And after a few years of lagging wage growth, the case for raising the minimum wage has taken a major blow, with a brisk rise in American wages over the past year:

paychecksbeatinflation.gif

Indeed, the picture looks far better if you account for after-tax income. The tax relief every American has seen under this administration has led to after-tax, after-inflation income growth of 9.4% per person.

When left-wingers complain about inequality, they are really just complaining about success. When they want the United States to be more like Europe (with its wonderful equality), they really just hate precisely what makes America great. Their policy remedies for inequality amount to the worst sort of punitive socialism, and we should reject them outright.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Tax Cuts Equal Awesomeness.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 December 2006 09:27 PM · Comments (0)

Keep Voting...

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Vote here today in the 2006 Weblog Awards.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 December 2006 05:55 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 380 -- 7 Million New Jobs Since 2003 Tax Cuts.

132,000 New Jobs In November-

More cheers for tax relief!

Seven million new jobs over the past three years (.pdf):

plussevenmillion.gif

Unemployment rate at 4.5 percent (.pdf):

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Let's hope our new socialist overlords don't mess this up with higher taxes, economic isolationism, and other goofy Marxist goals.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Globalization Is Not Scary.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 December 2006 05:43 PM · Comments (0)

WILLisms.com '06

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The Weblog Awards continue. Vote here.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 December 2006 05:06 PM · Comments (0)

Silly String Defeats Jihad

Well I bet James Baker didn't know about this before delivering the Iraq Study Group report:
One thousand cans of the neon-coloured plastic goo known as Silly String have been packed off to Iraq to help save the lives of US troops. Despite living in an age of big-budget high-tech weapons systems, cans of the stuff - previously the preserve of kids' parties - are making a genuine difference. US troops in the Gulf regularly use the "string" to detect trip wires around bombs, as Marcelle Shriver learned from her son, who is a soldier there. Mrs Shriver organised a campaign to send cans of Silly String to Iraq.

Before entering a building, soldiers squirt the plastic goo, which can shoot strands about 12ft across a room. If it falls to the ground, no trip wires are present, but if it hangs in the air, it alerts the troops that the building is booby trapped.

With genius like this, can victory be far behind? Once again, it is proven that necessity is the mother of invention.

I heard an interview with Mrs. Shriver this morning on WLS 890 AM, Chicago, and she said that the military has been reluctant to discuss the role Silly String is playing in Iraq. Well, the tripwire is not likely to go out of style anytime soon over there, so the Silly String ploy is likely to be effective as long as there is an insurgency in Iraq.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 8 December 2006 11:34 AM · Comments (0)

Quotational Therapy: Part 113 -- Paul Krugman.

Incorrectly Predicting Recessions Since 2002-

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QandO Blog has a great post on the recent economic prognostications of a certain NYT columnist:

...consider the recent record of Paul Krugman.

* "right now it looks as if the economy is stalling..." — Paul Krugman, Sept. 20th, 2002

* "We have a sluggish economy, which is, for all practical purposes, in recession..." — Paul Krugman, May 29th, 2003

* "An oil-driven recession does not look at all far-fetched." — Paul Krugman, May 14th, 2004

* "a mild form of stagflation - rising inflation in an economy still well short of full employment - has already arrived." — Paul Krugman, April 18th, 2005

* "If housing prices actually started falling, we'd be looking at [an economy pushed] right back into recession. That's why it's so ominous to see signs that America's housing market ... is approaching the final, feverish stages of a speculative bubble." — Paul Krugman, May 27th, 2005


Will Krugman be right about a looming recession in 2007. Well, eventually, he has to be right.

Unfortunately, this sort of pooh-poohing of the robust American economy was not the exclusive territory of columnists and talking heads. Anchors and newspaper editors let this sort of pessimism seep into their "objective" stories over the past few years.

Which begins to explain why those who voted on the economy, voted for Democrats:

perceivedstateofeconomy.gif

Sure, the economy wasn't the central issue of the 2006 massacre, but it's an issue that's never, ever far from voters' minds. To the extent that the economy influenced voters, it was actually a drag on GOP hopes.

A strong economy, harmful for the incumbent party's political chances. This is truly the stuff of the Twilight Zone.

Thanks, media.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Pelosi

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 December 2006 10:02 AM · Comments (1)

Voting Has Commenced.

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Voting has commenced, and I've even made a new post, as promised.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 December 2006 11:11 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 379 -- Globalization Is Healthy.

Democrats = Economic Isolationists

There is a spectre haunting the American economy, a spectre of economic isolationism. Caterpillar CEO sums up the situation rather succinctly:

Owens said that international trade "has become a bad word" as a result of a "pronounced shift toward protectionism" in the U.S....

"There are no politicians who have enough knowledge or courage to try and educate the public. Instead, they're fanning the flames of public apprehension…creating adverse feelings toward trade," Owens said.

Indeed, the new Congress is likely the most hostile to free trade in generations. Yes, generations. Plural. Already, the United States has reneged on the Open Skies Treaty. Already, free trade agreements that have taken months or even years to negotiate may now be tossed into the trash heap. The New Protectionism means that Democrats "seem to have a ‘go it alone' attitude at a time when we need the nations of the world on our side."

Republicans share some of the blame. Rather than sticking up for free trade, many have taken the easy way out in the short run, avoiding the issue time and time again until-- in the long run-- the debate is lost.

The fact of the matter is that globalization has contributed to falling inflation around the globe:

declininginflation.gif

Globalization has also contributed to declining interest rates:

declininginterestrates.gif

This correlation is not arbitrary, either:

Since the mid-1980s, fluctuations in real GDP growth have declined roughly 35 percent from levels seen during the 1950s to 1970s.
When economies are more interdependent, booms and busts may become muted as excess demands in one part of the globe are filled by excess supplies in other parts, and vice versa. The economy’s equilibrating mechanism can dampen local shocks better when connected to a large market of diversified sectors with integrated flows of goods, services, financial capital and people than when the shock must be borne entirely locally. By helping stabilize the business cycle and enhance investors’ confidence about future economic stability, globalization reduces the real component of long-term rates and thus cuts risk premiums.

Free trade means that consumers can get more bang for their buck. It means consumers have access to better-- and a better variety of-- goods. Free trade means greater economic growth (.pdf):

Over the past four decades, total world trade (exports plus imports) as a percentage of global GDP nearly doubled from 24.3 percent in 1960 to 47.2 percent in 2003. This trend has been accompanied by a more than doubling of global per capita GDP from $2,622 in 1960 to $5,786 in 2003 (in constant 1995 U.S. dollars).
globaltradeandworldgdp.gif

The more open an economy is to trade, the higher the GDP (.gdp):

tradeopennessequalsbettergd.gif

Moreover, a "trade not aid" policy would not only be an efficient way to help those in developing countries, reducing trade barriers would also boost the American economy quite directly:

A Univer­sity of Michigan study concludes that reducing agri­culture, manufacturing, and services trade barriers by just one-third would add $164 billion, or about $1,477 per American household, annually to U.S. economic activity.

Free trade unequivocally has tangible benefits in the short run and the long run. If we withdraw from the global marketplace and fall into an era of economic isolationism, our nation's greatness will suffer.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Education Inputs & Outcomes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 December 2006 10:42 PM · Comments (0)

Finalist: Best of the Top 1001 - 1750 Blogs.

The 2006 Weblog Awards

I think that's a step down from last year (Best of the Top 501-1000 blogs), but, hey, that's awesome to be nominated without any lobbying whatsoever.

This probably means I need to get back into a posting routine ASAP, so people don't come here and go "what is awardworthy about a blank page?"

And if you are feeling like some nostalgia, click "Read More" to see some of last year's WILLisms.com campaign ads.

Read More »


Posted by Will Franklin · 6 December 2006 05:53 PM · Comments (0)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 82

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

little hugo.jpg

Here is the actual caption:
A supporter holds a puppet of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez outside the National Electoral Council (CNE) in Caracas December 5, 2006. Venezuela's electoral authorities on Tuesday officially confirmed Chavez had been re-elected with 63 percent of the vote in Sunday's election.

Oh come on now, that can't be the explanation! Please fill us in a bit better than Reuters here . . .

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, December 12. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

monkeydrink.jpg

Winners from last week: 1. Terry_Jim:

Wow, this stuff DOES put hair on your chest!

2. McCain:

I just knew Sheehan was on coke.

3. John:
Why did those human bastards cancel vanilla Coke?

Honorable Mention #1 Zsa Zsa:

The paws that refreshes!...

Honorable Mention #2 elliot:
Huh? Nuthin' Oh yeah, maybe I should open the can first.

Honorable Mention #3 Hoodlumman:

Sammy, Chet and Coco loved to have contests to see who could burp more of the alphabet after chugging a soft drink.

Captioning makes the world go 'round. Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 6 December 2006 08:28 AM · Comments (2)