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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Try This, Shooters

I know, I said limited blogging, but I needed a packing break, and my wife told me about this incredible story from a few days ago, so I thought I'd blog it really quick.

Anyway, they've decided a police shooting in Seattle was justified. It was pretty evident that the suspect was aiming a loaded gun at the officers when they shot him. Why? Well one of the officer put a bullet down the barrell of the suspects revolver! (See picture below).

Since a few of my regular readers are either shooters, or cops, I gotta ask, Wyatt Earp, Conservative UAW Guy, and Lone Pony, could any of you hit this shot??

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Regurgitating Old Names

In attempting to find a suitable primary challenger for Hillary Clinton, the left has starting tossing out some old names, in hope that one will catch.

While they won't come out and tell Her Majesty Ms. Clinton that she's unelectable as president, the mainstream left knows that she is. There would be no single way to energize the GOP base, and money, than to have Hillary as the nominee in 2008.

John Kerry has gotten tons of news time over the last month, but little traction as a possible challenger. Bad publicity over raising money to sue the Swift Boat folks out of existance, and his own strange actions in congress will doom him.

John Edwards, the failed Veep nominee has been less than quiet of late, showing he might be tossing his hat back in the ring in 2008.

Now the new issue of Newsweek has not one, but two articles on Al Gore, and a possible candidacy. Eleanor Clift does an interview on his new movie and slide show on global warming, and a column on whether or not he's going to run.

By tossing former candidates, who lost close elections to Bush out there, the hope is the base that energized on the left in 2000 and 2004 (to a lesser extent) will come back out and play in '08. Those folks have to show up to neutralize the base of the right that will if Clinton is seen as the only possible candidate.

The problem for the Democrats is all three of these names are the wrong one's to win the White House in 2008. Each has too much baggage, and is too polarizing to get the support needed to win. Two have already proven it, and the third (Clinton) polls horribly against the "unnamed Republican Candidate". She shows even worse against one with a name, like McCain.

They have folks working on setting up shop for 2008 that could bring in new blood to the party, instead of pandering to the vocal minority on the left. But they get ignored, and tossed about as weak challengers. Mark Warner, much like McCain, has shown bipartisan appeal in his homestate, and successfully worked with a GOP lead legislature to get things done in Virginia. Yes, he carries some "tax and spend" baggage, but that's a lot less baggage than losses in national elections, and memories from them.

How does someone like Warner gain a foothold in 2008? That's easy, if the Democrats don't take the House in November he can (and should) start running against the "old party" showing them as weak and ineffective at getting a message across. Directly challenge the direction of Clinton, Kerry and Gore, and show it to be the road to nowhere.

He, and other centrists in the party, need to start making subtle noises about the polarization of Congress; show that partisan bickering hasn't advanced the party agenda, or the nation. With Congressional Democrats approval ratings just as bad as President Bush's, he has something to point to on that front.

The loud left, the netroots, and the Kos Kids will come out to shout him, and others down, because they believe centerist Democrats to be just as evil as Republicans. However, the center can point to the supported candidates of the far left's lousy election showings since 2000 as proof that isn't the winning ticket.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

New Bush Scandal Costly

How about some new intrigue and scandal that could carry a couple million dollar price tag for Mr. Bush? By noon today it will be the only thing you hear about on certain TV channels.

Seems some freebies, worth between $55K and $100,000 were funneled through Mr. B's family, gifts were given, promises exchanged. But he got caught, and now it's probably going to cost up to $10 million dollars!

I'm of course referring to Heisman Trophy winner (for now) Reggie Bush. Seems his family was living rent free, or freeloading depending on who's side of the story you listen to. The house was owned by a sports marketing firm, and the parents supposedly were evicted for $54,000 in back rent, according to them. According to members of the firm, the parents were living rent free and getting cash from the company.

Now there is a lawsuit, by the firm, talk of possible extortion issues between New Era Sports and Bush and his family. Supposedly someone connected with New Era threatened to release "embarassing details"about Bush and his family.

The reason you will hear about it so much today, the Houston Texans signed Mario Williams as the first selection in the draft already, working out a deal on Friday night. ESPN will start live coverage at noon eastern.

While they had been negotiating with both, Williams signed, and being number one is great, falling to 2, as Bush probably did will cost him at least 6 million up front money, and possibly as much as $10 million over the life of the contract, because of the way draft pick checks get slotted.

Houston said that the Bush controversy wasn't an issue, it was his request of a 20% increase over last years number 1 pick, Alex Smith of San Francisco's contract. The Williams signing, for about 10% over Smith's numbers, will also cost everyone in the draft a little bit, since number 2 never gets paid more than 1, etc.

I don't wonder, though, if the issues with New Era, and the Texans aren't related in another way, maybe Reggie just started believing the hype and got greedy on both counts. It's cost him millions already, and if the NCAA finds that he violated rules, it could cost him his Heisman.

Tracked back at: Rhymes With Right, Blue Star Chronicles, Stuck On Stupid, thanks for providing open trackbacks folks.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Krauthammer on Oil

Today's column by Charles Krauthammer on oil, and a brief history of Congressional investigations into the cost of it is a reminder of how spoiled we became in the 1980's and 1990's with cheap gas prices, and cheap oil.

It comes down to three major issues, supply, demand, and fear. Supply and demand are easy, we produce less oil in the US, and Congress continually agrees to keep it so. We want more oil for our huge SUV's, but China and India want more for their industrial expansions also. So Demand is up. Supply is also limited by problems in Iraq, and Nigeria. The fear comes from Mullah's in Iran rattling sabres, and whacko's like Hugo Chavez constantly threatening to cut supplies. Those factors add up to a cost of $70 per barrel of oil, or $1.70/gallon of gas just on the raw end.

Now add in transportation to the US, refining and blending, more transporation to get the product to the pump, and you get an industry with under a 10% profit margin. On top of what they paid for their "product pipeline", you get to add state and federal taxes, and then as in the case of Wisconsin and many other states, required profit margins. Check with your state and see what the "minimum markup law" says the gas station is required to charge you over their cost.

While on the subject of 'Big Oil', since everyone was shocked that Exxon Mobile made an $8 billion profit last quarter, they should get the companies tax bills. Here's a link to their 2004 4th quarter report, (last one I could find online). Go down to page 9 and read the total tax line, $86,779,000,000. That's right, ~$86.8 BILLION in taxes for the company's FY 2004, or about 30% of gross revenue.

Granted, not all of that was paid in the US, but it shouldn't be, since they made over 75% of their money outside the US.

That's the reason I find congress looking at tax records laughable. Yes, they should cut some of the loopholes that are out there, but at the same time, while oil companies are making large profits, congress is getting fat tax checks from them already based on those profits.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Learn English!

Okay, I've been pretty calm on the immigration debate, until this evening. The Lovely Wife pointed out this ABC News story on a Spanish version of the Star Spangled Banner being worked on. The Washington Post also has a story here about the song's debut.

The writers of the song, to maintain it's rhythm and the rhymes in the song had to change some lyrics, and a little of the flow. But that's not my problem. My problem is the language. If you want to show you are patriotic, and working hard to assimilate into the US, then sing the song in English.

I would be much more impressed with a hispanic person singing in broken English, showing he or she is trying to become "American", than one singing the song in Spanish, to show how little they've learned of the American culture.

In fact, I was very impressed last Saturday by an Iraqi immigrant at the milblogger conference, who struggled with his English, but was proud of being able to convey his feelings to the audience. That's part of becoming an American.

If you insist on singing a Spanish version national anthem, I know of a bunch of countries that have them. Move to one of them, and if you insist on staying here, learn the language.

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Channel Fever

For anyone who's done a deployment with the Navy, they know what Channel Fever is. For those who haven't, it's the night before you return to your homeport. No one sleeps, everything gets kind of rowdy on the ship, and hundreds of grown adults act like kids waiting for Christmas.

I've been suffering a case of it the last few days. Tomorrow is my last day with Mega-Corp, and then I come back to the apartment, do more cleaning, more packing, and start getting ready for the move back to Illinois on Monday.

Work has been tough this week, with lots going on, so that has helped a little bit, but today I only had students for about 3 hours this morning, then started the process of checking out of the company, and Navy command I teach at. Suddenly I found myself cleaning out my desk, turning in all of my classified information, and the other mundane things you do when you quit a job.

I'm sitting now, waiting for a call from the new boss, to find out when I get to leave Illinois and head to the Boston area for training. After not living with the family for 18 months, they should be able to handle a few 3 week trips to Beantown while I settle into the new job.

I'm also waiting to find out my primary responsibility. While I was hired as a Field Service Engineer, the rumor is I'll be working more on training customers on new equipment and software, and less on the technician end of the job. That's fine by me, training is where I've worked for years, so I understand their reasoning.

Anyway, time to eat dinner and then do some more cleaning.

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Oh, That Culture of Corruption!

Corruption, it's sweeping the Capital these days. Now we find out a congressman has a sweetheart land deal with the head of a company which he voted on legislation favoring. In a Cunningham like moment he reminds us it's just an old friend he's dealing with, nothing but above the board dealings.

Then steers $150 million in projects towards local non-profits, including one that is run by a former staffer, who he and his wife partnered and bought $2 million worth of land. It's good to be on the appropriations committee when you have friends in need.

He even resigned his position on the House Ethics Committee because of all of this. In four years his real estate holdings have jumped by over $5.7 million dollars, and while land prices have gone up, it's not been that fast in the areas he's buying. Another Cunningham like excuse from the Congressman, remember, it was increasing homes prices that netted Randy all that money on his place in San Diego.

Where is all this information, well buried on page A6 of the Washington Post, "No Quid Pro Quo In Land Deal, Says W.Va. Democrat". I wonder if we'll hear Nancy Pelosi waxing poetic about the shame of Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.), another corrupt Congressman. My guess is not, because she keeps reminding us that congressional corruption is exclusive to the GOP.

Don Surber has much more up on this, from his West Virginia perspective.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

How To Really Screw Up Oil Prices

In their infinite micromanagement to look like they care, Congress has come up with a new way to screw up oil prices, and screw the consumer.

First, the micromanagment. Because the IRS obviously is the wrong institution to audit tax records, the Senate Finance Committee has demanded 5 years of tax records from the 15 largest oil and gas companies.

While I'm all for holding companies, and individuals, to the fire when it comes to paying their taxes, that's the IRS's job, not a congressional committee's. Just more show to make the public think Congress is doing something, as I mentioned in "Politics as Usual".

Now, how to screw up prices, the Senate is looking to require different accounting practices for oil held in inventories by oil companies, or at least the 5 biggest. The justification is an extra $800 million a year in taxes for the next 5 years.

Congress, of course, assumes that the companies won't change the way they operate to avoid the new tax. Of course, Congress doesn't ever consider what others will do when they do stupid things. Instead of paying hudreds of millions in extra taxes for their inventories, they'll just reduce them to bare bones levels to avoid it.

What does this new accounting mean to you, the consumer? Well, next time there is a hurricane and supply is interrupted, the buffer that oil companies try and maintain won't be there. So instead of $4.00 you'll see higher prices, and lines as more stations run out of gas. Of course, when that happens Congress will be up in arms wondering why they aren't maintaining the inventories.

There is of course another option for the oil companies, sell their product in countries more tax friendly to them. In a very tight supply market like we have, Japan, China, India, and other countries would gladly have the companies keep their reserves in their countries. And again, we'd come out the losers. But Congress wouldn't realize that, either. While they are good at passing laws, they never seem to have studied the law of unintended consequences.

Robosquirrel linked with "What You Don't Know Hurts Everybody"
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We Need Some Cajones

To help prove they don't like the idea of "earmark" spending reform, the Senate added $14 billion to the 'emergency appropriation' for Iraq and Afghanistan, pushing it to $106 billion for this year.

Unlike a lot of editorial boards, I like the way we are handling the funding for Iraq and Afghanistan, it makes it easier for the folks who want to track the cost to do so. Though most of them do so dishonestly, by including the non-related earmarks into the cost of war. It's easier than figuring out what congress buried in those bills.

If you remember, during his State of the Union address, the President asked congress to pass earmark legislation reform. They laughed heartily as they ignored him; if they actually did that they'd need to pass a bill to spend $50 million on a bridge for 8 people, or $700 million to relocate a rail line that local governments and railroads have refused to move out of a hurricane prone area.

This isn't a new thing, back in the 1980's the cynical Democratic congress used to do the same thing, only in reverse. They'd pass a bill that was nothing but pork, and amend it to fund a few million of Social Security, then go on TV when Reagan threatened a veto to tell the old folks he was going to kill their Social Security checks.

Very soon we will need a president with the cajones to out PR congress on the issue of pork barrel spending. The way to do it is pretty simple, during the State of the Union promise to veto any bill with nonrelated spending attached to it, regardless of what it is.

This would require, every time it happened, an Oval Office PR blitz, explaining why the bill was being vetoed, what pork was in it, and who was responsible for it. It might even include the drastic measure of shutting down certain government functions, and being clear why.

Bush had he opportunity to do this last year with the highway bill that showed up 15% larger than what he requested, and he caved on his promise to veto it. While there was a lot of pork, Congress (both parties) was sure to add enough junk to it that would look bad if vetoed to kill the threat.

Because he caved on that, Congress is now adding earmarks more often than Charlie Sheen buys hookers, and we get to pay for it.

Congress isn't honest about this either, they always sell these projects as important stuff, that is necessary for their district. The truth is, if it's that important, and necessary, then it should be able to stand on it's own as bill before congress for funding. Precisely because they aren't either important or necessary is why they are buried as riders on legislation that is needed.

In the 1990's Congress passed a half hearted line item veto, that I'm pretty sure they knew wouldn't pass muster with the Supreme Court. They could say they were doing something, and lay the blame on the court when it died.

Congress doesn't want a true line item veto, because it would make it easy to kill their pork, so hoping for reform on that front is probably dead in the water. That leaves a President with cajones as the solution; to step up and stomp on Congress a little bit to get their attention, and get them to be better stewards of our tax money.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Politics as Usual

Gas Pump Rubes

I was reading the papers and online news tonight, and find at least 4 articles on new folks calling for tougher laws on price gouging for gas. Many of these are the same folks who were calling for, and never passed, tougher laws on price gouging last year.

What this shows is the attention span of the US consumer. Last year 'we' were all up in arms about prices of gas, Congress bitched, held a few hearings, and shut the hell up. This year we'll get the same treatment from them.

Sure, the President asked for a probe into prices today, but what will it really show? Refining capacity is still down about 5% due to post hurricane repairs, and futures on oil are over $73, that makes for expensive gas. The relaxing of some EPA gas rules won't mean much, since most states made the switch to summer gas already, or will next week. That means refineries have already switched production.

Another thing that was brought up was more tax subsidies for those who buy hybrid vehicles. Great, if I buy a Chevy 1500 hybrid pickup, which get about 18 mpg I get a tax break. I traded in my 2500HD for a car that gets 35mpg (a 120% increase in milage) and get squat, other than my gas bill is down to 30 a week.

I don't mind a hybrid tax credit for vehicles that get decent milage, but the Lexus and Chevy models out there right now are still gas guzzlers, they just guzzle 10% (about 2mpg) less, which isn't much. If we want to reward folks for saving gas, give the credit to anyone who buys a car with a 35mpg or more CAFE rating for the highway, hybrid or not.

Now, when the mullahs in Iran and their wack job President finally calm down, or get whacked, or when the futures market on oil falls out and prices go down again, then what. Congress, and the Prez, will forget about us until the next time gas hit $3.00 a gallon, then they'll roll out the rhetoric again, and still do nothing.

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That Idea Is Old And Stale

EJ Dionne writes in today's Washington Post editorial page of "The Left's Big Ideas", some thoughts for the left of center movement to try and regain power in DC.

He correctly notes a few interesting things:
New ideas," "bold visions," "detailed solutions" and "courageous policies" almost never originate with politicians, especially politicians in the middle of election campaigns. Political consultants, with a few honorable exceptions, don't do "vision" either.

It's pretty easy to point out that Reagan in 1980 and Gingrich in 1994 were the last two who really showed "vision" during an election. Dionne does point out that Reagan's vision was more of a rehash of William F. Buckley and other's writings, but moved to a much wider audience.

He then gets into the "big idea" the left needs to sell, the common good; unfortunately, it's going to be a tougher idea to sell than it was 30 or 40 years ago. Part of the reason for that can be traced to Bill Clinton and welfare reform, the rest to Reagan's vision of "a hand up, not a hand out".

Unfortunately, for the left, both of those worked exactly as the right said they would. While the far left cried that millions would end up on the streets because of welfare reform, instead there are millions of new homeowners and workers, less people living in poverty and the masses that were going to flood the streets never materialized.

Other than the farthest left end of the spectrum American's have come to realize that a "common good welfare state" ends up a failure, on all levels. It allows a permanent underclass to fester and not attempt to move up, and ends up a drag on those who wish to move upward in society.

I pick on "Old Europe" a lot in my musings because nearly every idea of the "progessive left" is rooted in something they do over there; most of it endin up as an abject failure. The "common good" mantra of Europe has left Germany, France, Italy and Spain as shells of their old selves, supporting an ever growing dole, as jobs vanish to "New Europe", where upward mobility, and personal accomplishment are still rewarded.

The idea of tough labor laws that make it impossible to get rid of poor workers has given France it's huge unemployment rates. The "common good" idea of regulated drug prices has destroyed the European pharmaceutical industry, which now produces about 20% of the worlds new drugs, down from 66% twenty years ago.

Strict, protectionist measures in their economies has destroyed the chance of an EU Constitution, and huge government subsidies, that have helped a few businesses, have taxed others off the continent.

Does that mean there can't be tweaks to our system to make it better, and more accomodating, absolutely not. But at the same time those tweaks need to be rooted in fact and ideas that can actually work, not the fantasies that have proven to fail over and over again.

For instance, prescription drug prices are constantly lamented in the US, rightfully so. We are one of the few major countries left that allows profits in the pharmaceutical industry to offset R&D costs.

Instead of deciding, as Europe and Canada have, on an arbritrary price, based on other nations controlled prices, we need to take a different tack. Impose an export tariff on drug to countries that don't calculate their price to include the US wholesale cost. Use that money to cover the cost of the new Medicare prescription drug benefits, and help low income people pay for their prescriptions.

Along with that would have to be an agreement between the drug companies and the government to pass any additional profit from countries who do recalculate back to the consumer.

Europe has proven what capping prices does, it stifles innovation, and if we decide to take that road "for the common good", we'll watch our own drug companies leave the US for China, India, and other countries that understand that.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

More From Milblog Conference

There is some more great info, insight, and reflection from the Milblog Conference I attended this weekend this weekend up on the web. I'm sure it's taken a few days for this stuff to get posted, because unlike me, these folks have lives, and many traveled to get to the conference.

Besides, I didn't do the pub crawl with them after the conference, so I could type on Saturday night (and Sunday).

OpFor has the MOAP, Mother of all PodCasts online, a 45 minute interview/discussion with some of the bigger names in military blogging. Capt. Z from TC Override, Matt and Uncle Jimbo from Black Five, and Lt. Smash.. Oops, that LCDR. Smash, as he reminded everyone at the conference. A few spots of the podcast are a little shaky but it's one of the best listens you'll ever hear if you are interested in the military perspective of the war on terror, and other subjects.

Stars and Stripes gave some good press to the conference, and the milbloggers call for DOD to use common sense in regulating military bloggers. h/t Mudville Gazette who has a good round up of other blogs and articles about Saturday.

Silke at Hooah Wife has her impressions up today, and I'm blushing. Thanks for the kind words, it was great to meet you too, and I understand after a few hours why Greta likes you so much and has you on her blog.

That's it for today's round up of other stuff to read. Check out the links, and definitely listen to the podcast, it's long but worth it.

Updated: One person I've now forgotten twice, and feel really bad about, is Melinda of Most Certainly Not, who has a great assessment up, plus some insight into the media in general.
You'd think, since they gave us a note pad and pen at the conference a guy with a reasonably high IQ would have used it to take notes on who he was talking to :)

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A Fairer Tax Code?

John Iron's has an interesting op/ed piece in the Washington Post, calling for a comprehensive tax code overhaul. In the article itself he's very shy about actual details of the idea. However, he does link to a group of presentations at Center For American Progress on the ideas behind his editorial.

When I went through the power point, I noticed that they complained that in 2004 the average person in the middle 20% of income (about $30-45K from my numbers, they don't say) got a $647 tax cut, which they found too small.

Under their proposal, the average tax payer under $200k would see a $600 tax cut. For some reason, that was an okay number under their plans.

Their presentation of the idea to "fix" the tax code has a few problems, and one thing I actually agree on.

What I agree on is restoring "PayGo", which they credit to Bill Clinton, but was actually a GOP compromise so he wouldn't veto tax cuts when they took over Congress. It needs to come back; for those who don't remember, PayGo required tax issues to be revenue neutral, you cut taxes you cut spending.

The presentation gives no other spending based solution, and because CAP's proposal is (supposedly) going to increase revenue (be a tax increase), it wouldn't require any spending cuts under a PayGo plan. Anyone who's looked at federal income since 2002 realizes it's gone up faster since then than it did from 1999-2001; revenue isn't the problem, it's spending.

That's where their second problem is. By lumping all kinds of taxing and spending, in a manner that is never explained into one group, the presentation is very skewed. For instance, it claims we've become more and more reliant on the payroll (FICA) tax to cover federal spending. DUH!, Social Security spending has increased by about 25% over the last 15 years due to retirements.

The CAP proposal addresses that by lumping all taxing into one category, money earned, and and removes the distinction between social security and other spending that's written into law now. Not necessarily a bad idea, but a reform of what's done with the Social Security Surplus would probably be better for the economy than the massive tax hike they suggest. Their suggestion only delays Social Security going broke. Their solution only reduces the 75 year imbalance by 50%, just pushing off fixing the system another 15 years or so.

The other portions of their proposal have been shown, time and again, to fail miserably, yet CAP want's to try one more time, thinking this time will be different. The first bad idea is treating all revenue sources as straight income, in other words capital gains, dividends, etc. become just another line on a tax form.

Why treat them differently like we do now? Because those are generally where a large amount of economic investment occurs. As I mentioned a week or so ago, since the latest reductions in the capital gains tax the number of small start up ventures that benefit from those reductions has tripled from when the rate was 28%.

The second job killer will be the method they've decided on to increase social security revenue, which is to lift the income cap on the employer end of the contribution. While it sounds good in theory, in practice what it will do is slow wage growth for the upper middle class pretty quickly. Companies aren't going to just hand out money over $90k per year, because it will cost them an extra 7.65% for each dollar over that amount.

For some folks that sounds like a nice wage, but if you live in San Diego County, or Alexandria Virginia $90,000 doesn't qualify you for the average mortgage. How will companies make up for that extra taxing, the way they always do, cut spending on wages by laying folks off to make up the difference.

The number of layoffs to make up the tax differences on companies aren't discussed. I understand why, when you are trying to sell the point that "evil corporations" need to be taxed more, why put the down side of the equation into the story. (The right is as guilty when it comes to the first year revenue drops that come with tax cuts).

The bottom line, with the editorial, and tax policy in general is that we still rely on linear models to calculate non-linear behavior. Does anyone at the Center really believe that if you put me into a 36% tax bracket I'm not going to find a way to reduce that to a reasonable number?

Do they truly believe that no business is going to adjust it's payroll to make up for the extra taxes, or that investors won't just hold onto investments, instead of paying 36% on gains again?

If they really do believe those things I'd suggest they do a study on the effects of cuts and increases over the last 45 years (Since JF Kennedy cut taxes because they were too high), and see how the economy reacted.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Crack Based Editorials

I'm reading the editorial "Tex Mex Marshall Plan" in today's Washington Post, and wondering, how much crack did the writer (Steven Hill) smoke before he wrote this thing?

I say that, in all seriousness, because he either believes absolutely no one is capable of finding information on the internet, or he was high, that's all I can figure.

The basis of his article is that if the US invested billions (of tax payer dollars) in the Mexican Economy, and built a "North American Union" similar to the European Union it would solve our economic and immigration problems.

There's a serious flaw in his logic though, and he basically lies about it in his last paragraph:
In the meantime, the United States is missing out on huge economic opportunities while the European Union has grown to the largest trading bloc in the world, poised for the 21st century. Old Europe is looking spry on its feet, while the United States is looking clumsy and stuck to the flypaper of old ideas.

Old Europe doesn't look spry, in fact it looks rather flat, with an economic growth in the Franco-Germanic end of the EU looking to be around 2% again, while this quarter the US economy will grow by a 5% annualized rate.

Contrary to his assertations, jobs haven't stayed in Germany and France, and Italy, they've left them for the other countries that just joined the EU. Along with that, immigration isn't equalizing between old and new Europe. Instead, because of the social benefits structures of the old European countries, they are still seeing large number of immigrants vying for fewer jobs. While a lot of that immigration is from North Africa, there is just as much from the new EU members, where the investment still hasn't kept them home.

A spry "Old Europe" wouldn't have unemployment rates in the double digits, it would look more like the "sluggish American" rate of 4.7%.

The truth is, the only "Old Europe" economies that are experiencing growth like the US are the one's that have gone to a more supply sided economic method. Denmark and Britain have low unemployment, and double the growth of France, Germany and Spain.

The other truth he's ignoring is that the US has been investing billions per year in Mexico for a couple of decades. From the maquiladoras plants along the border, to energy exploration, and manufacturing, and tourist businesses. The difference is instead of coming from government coffers, it's been spent by the industries that wish to be there.

That investment has helped lift the Mexican standard living, not to the US level, but light years from where it was. The major problem with getting to the rest of their people is a corrupt government and patronage system that makes Illinois look like some sort of model of honesty.

This is a better model for both the US, and Mexico. It doesn't stress US taxpayers for the bill of building Mexican plants, and infrastructure, and it allows Mexico the ability to decide what is best for it's own country. However, they need to work on their own corruption problems before it will work for the benefit of the whole country.

On the idea of a regional government, he obviously missed the news that the EU can't decide on it's own constitution, government subsidies, etc. In fact, it's basically a shell of what it's supposed to be because of the infighting between the members. Why he thinks it will work in North America is beyond me. Each of the three major players on this continent has it's own agenda, and they are vastly different, which would make that type of union pretty difficult.

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Look Who Wants To Run Again

John Kerry has been all over the news of late, thumping his drum, and trying to see if he has any support for a 2008 run at the White House. I hope he runs, it'll be fun to listen to him whine as he gets wiped out in the primaries.

Please quit with your tired old "attacking my patriotism" line of crap. It's not your patriotism, it's your motivation that gets attacked. Yes there are a couple of right wing nuts who claim it's sedition, but the truth is most of us just think it's politics, and bad politics at that.

With guys like you, Murtha, and most of the Democratic party, we don't question that you love America, and want it to be around forever, we question why you think it's right to lose in Iraq.

The truth is, you want to abandon Iraq not because being there is wrong (You urged Bill Clinton to invade in the 1990's), but only for your party's own political gain. To have Iraq end up a stable democracy would mean George Bush was right, and we know that above all things, your party can't tolerate that. It puts you on par with Richard Nixon, who negotiated a peace treaty he knew wouldn't hold in Viet Nam just to win in 1974.

Update: For those who do want to run, because it isn't worth it, read this and see if it helps. (h/t to Subsunk at Black Five)

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

What A Great Day

I had the pleasure of attending the Milblog Conference held in Washington DC today, what an incredible experience. I was considering skipping it, because I really need to start cleaning and packing for my move, but decided that I should go. I'm so glad I did, I would have kicked myself for months if I would have skipped it.

First, thanks to Andi of Andi's World for putting most everything together. She did an incredible job with the panels, location, sponsors, and speakers. She also allowed me to meet a few of my favorite bloggers, so thanks again!

The first people I saw when I entered, no surprise volunteering to help out at the welcome table, were Greta and Silke (who's name I can now pronounce) from Hooah! Wife. Greta has every bit of energy I imagined she would, and looks just like the picture on her blog.

If you ever hold an event and need someone to walk around with the microphone for speakers, Greta did an awesome job :) Silke is a wonderful lady also, and I'm glad I got a chance to meet her in person. It never dawned on me how close she actually lives, we could have met sooner.

I had a great time with them, and Toni from Bear Creek Ledger at lunch (thanks Military.com, great chow). It's not often I get to sit with a table full of lovely ladies at lunch.

I also got to meet David, of the Thunder Run, who frequently links with his web recon posts. Thanks for the publicity.

A real pleasure was meeting Uncle Jimbo and Matt from Black Five. While I read their blog regularly, I was amazed to find out just how much Matt does for the military blogger community. Jimbo is as funny in person as on the blog, and Matt is as good a speaker as he is a writer.

Speaking of people who do a lot, Holly Aho from Soldiers Angels was there, that's a group that does a ton of good things, and can always use some extra support.

Kit and Heidi from Euphoric Reality were there, and live blogged the event (here's a link to the third panel's discussion). They did an awesome job of getting the event up in close to real time on their blog. It was a delight to meet them since they did so much to help get my traffic up when the Murtha proposal went before the house. By the way, how many points do I get for leaving Kit speechless?

Finally, the highlight of my day was meeting two very special people, Carla from Some Soldiers Mom, and Stacy from Keep My Soldier Safe.

While I've been deployed, and been in harms way, I never experienced it from a "family member" standpoint until the soon to be son-in-law made his first trip to the desert. These two wonderful women have put into words on their blogs a lot of what I thought about the whole time he was gone. Who knows, maybe someday I'll have a third of Carla's talent with words, or Stacy's incredible humility and down home charm.

As soon as I met them both they asked about him, and my daughter, when his next deployment is, what's up with wedding plans. Knowing how many readers they both have, it amazed me that they remember so much.

I won't try and describe the panel discussions, and what they covered, check out LaShawn Barber who is a wonderfully friendly person, and Euphoric Reality and the others who live blogged the event, and Mudville Gazette for the wrap up.

Thanks to the VFW, Military.Com and all the others who made the event possible, I appreciated all of your efforts.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Liberals V. Conservatives

Seems I've touched some liberal nerves lately with posts on taxes and Wal-Mart. But it brought to light some standard liberal misunderstandings of conservatives.

For instance, on person, who is a frequent commenter, and usually pretty good guy couldn't resist using the "pot calling the kettle black" line over my statement that the 60% of American's not understanding who pays taxes.
And you really think 82% of America doesn't know what they are talking about? I thought that was what you always claim that the "liberals" do. We know better than you, the uneducated masses. Look at the pot calling the kettle black!
The truth is conservatives generally use the "limousine liberal" and "liberal elite" lines when liberals try and tell us something non-quantifiable is for our good.

The example in my response was gun control. The "liberal elite" have come out in force in Wisconsin, and Florida against concealed carry laws. In the case of Florida even putting out bogus press releases about how it won't be safe for tourists.

Neat emotional plea, no place in reality. Check the stats, every state that has enacted concealed carry has seen it's gun crime rate go down, not up. The flip side, Chicago and DC, with some of the toughest handgun laws in the US have the highest murder rates. Which law works better to prevent crime?

In the case of taxes, 82%, to use his number, of America is grossly uninformed on the facts around the individual income tax. I made the numbers available for download, so he could do the math himself on where the taxes come from. Instead, emotional pleas with no roots in reality was the response.

In the case of Wal-Mart the comment was about the unethical thought of employees not getting benefits, and making enough.

I am a liberal American and I wouldn't expect a conservative American to see it the same way. While liberalism has its own flaws, I see this as one of the largest flaws in conservatism; the human element just doesn't mean anything unless it can be shown as nothing more than a net gain, or a net loss on a spreadsheet at the end of the tax year.

He's partially right, but misses a key point in the thought of employees as part of a spread sheet, and that point is value, and availability.

In the case of Wal-Mart, and other retailers, why should they pay more than Wal-Mart's full time worker average of $10.11/hr, or the retail median of $7.86/hr? When Wally World opened their new store outside Chicago over 3,000 people applied for 325 jobs. The skill set isn't difficult, either run a register or stock shelves. In other words there is no need to pay more, there is an availability of willing labor.

Now, take the job I'm leaving next week. It will in all likelihood have about 2 applications for my position, and it may take a year to fill, at considerably more than $10.11 per hour. Even with great wages, excellent benefits, it will still be a hard job to fill, because the pool of qualified candidates is pretty small, and there is a good deal of competition for them.

The truth is, labor is a commodity, at any level, from CEO to janitor. Overpaying for either is bad business, when there is willing, qualified workers who will do the job for less.

When Wal-Mart opens it's new store in the town I'll be living in soon, they expect around 2,500 applicants for the 300 or so jobs. If 2,500 are willing to work for what they pay, why would, or should they offer more? If no one showed up to apply, they would need to consider it.

As I stated in my reply, there are producers, and there is deadweight. Some producers chose to stay at the bottom of that scale, for what reason I don't know. There are HUNDREDS of different programs for folks in low wage jobs to get ahead that are under used. Pell Grants, free student loans, scholarships, HOPE and Life Long Learning tax credits.

The higher level producers work to get farther up, either where they are, or somewhere else. Yes, you might work a bunch of extra hours, and go to school in off work time, etc, but in the end they think the sacrifice is worth it.

The top level producers pull a bunch of people along with them. They pick the one's to come to the top with them based on what they do to get there, hard work, expanding their knowledge base, etc. Sure a few get up on the "good old boy" network, but usually don't last long if they shouldn't have been there.

The dead weight bitches no one will move them to the top as a starting point.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Not All The News Was Good To the Left

While a lot of folks on the left are happy to see more folks in Bush's cabinet get axed, and see Karl Rove lose some of his responsibilities, not all the news was good yesterday.

It seems Ronnie Earle has lost another round in his fight to convict Tom DeLay, an appeals court rejected his request to reinstate a felony charge of violating campaign finance law. Sorry Ronnie, but that makes two levels of the court that have a hard time justifying charging someone with a crime that wasn't on the books when the action happened.

On the other end of the spectrum, Karl Rove giving up some of his duties is causing me to laugh at a lot of editorialists this morning. These are the folks who've been clamoring for a second term shake up, as most presidents have done. Two months ago they wrote it would be a sign of good faith from the president that he's listening to the masses. Now that some folks have moved on, and some reassigned, or had jobs realigned, the same stooges call it a sign of weakness.

I'm not sorry to see Scott McClellan go as Press Secretary, I've always found him to be annoying, and not very good at the job. And Rove needs less duties, it give him more time to be evil, and plot the theft of the upcoming 2006 Congressional elections. That will be the accusation in November when the Democrats don't win Congress back.

Now, anyone expecting Bush to bring on Nancy Pelosi as his cheif advisor is going to be disappointed, even in the mini shake up he's not going to go out and hire anyone that the left will find appealing. Instead he'll do like he always does, (and as every other president has), he'll find someone of a like mind, who he trusts to give decent advice.

As for the White House spokesman, Jay at Stop the ACLU has a great idea to fill that job. I'm not a big fan of the guy he's suggesting, but can see the appeal.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wal-Mart Costs You Nothing For Health Care

I was over at Gun Toting Liberal today, reading his post on Wal-Mart caving in on benefits by lower co-pays to $3 on certain prescriptions when I got to thinking, why has this whole Wal-Mart benefits thing been nagging at me?

Then it hit me, bad math, that's why it bugs me. The huge gripe has been that states are having to pick up the tab for Wal-Mart's employee health care, and it's not fair. But it doesn't cost them anything more than they were already paying.

You see, for Wal-Mart to be putting a drag on a states medic-aide costs, the employee would have had to left a job that paid better, and had benefits better than Wal-Marts. If they didn't, the state was, in all likelihood already picking up their health care costs.

So if we are to believe the folks on the left, Wal-Mart has some kind of supreme, black magic power that allows them to suck hundreds of workers out of good paying jobs, with benefits to work for them. If that isn't so, then how are they costing the state more?

In fact, if only one employee is taking Wal-Mart up on their offer of benefits, they are instead saving the state money. Unless the folks at Wake Up Wal-Mart, or Wal-Mart Watch can show some proof that none of the employees were using state aid before they took jobs at Wal-Mart, their contention is wrong, period.

I know that there are at least one or two folks who do economics who read this, please chime in and tell me how it could be different that I've just stated.

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Proving Everyone Correct

Last week I blogged about the folks at paderista, the boylove blog here on blogspot, and asked that folks complain about them.

A few days ago the blog disappeared, with no reason why, no answers from google about it, or anything else. So lots of folks were overjoyed that they'd left, hoping they were gone, at least from blogger, for good.

A poster, calling himself "Freedom" berated myself, Suzie at Assorted Babble, and a number of other bloggers for calling these folks out. Now, it appears we were right, and Mr. Freedom was wrong.

I've received a number of e-mails pointing out that the boylove blog was back up today, and this time with pictures to show what they love, graphically. That, Freedom, would tend to prove the point that the folks wanted to engage in illegal activity.

Suzie posted today to say that it had been taken down, but currently the blog is online, though with no pictures, just a bunch of google ads on it. Wonder if they know they are providing ads to folks

Freedom, I'll take your apology anytime, asshat.

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Enviromental Idiots

Anne Applebaum has a great column today on the enviromental movement, and a group that a power company exec called the "BANANAism" movement.

BANANA is short for "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything", and really is becoming the actual cause for many of our energy problems. Congress and the President can talk about anything they'd like, from Alaskan oil drilling, to new, more efficient nuclear power plants, but the BANANA crowd, along with their cousins, the NIMBY family will prevent it.

A good example, a few years back when WE Energy was trying to get two new clean coal plants licensed near Milwaukee, all the enviromental groups were out screaming about black lung disease and acid rain. They wanted WE to build natural gas fired plants instead.

Economically it would have been a non-starter, for the size of the plants natural gas isn't efficient enough a heat source. It's great for small peaker plants, but for major plants it's a problem, but that isn't my point.

At the same time these groups were showing up at public hearing to demand WE Energy use natural gas, other chapters were suing to stop a new natural gas pipeline, and a LNG (liquified natural gas) terminal. The ultimate in wanting it both ways.

That's the problem with the environmental movement, they want cleaner energy, but they want it free, and that's not going to happen. To make ethanol, switchgrass, corn or sugar beets are going to have to be grown. To reduce coal use efficiently will require more nuclear power plants, or other electric generating facilities that are efficient enough to make it economically feasible.

When we talk about a "hydrogen based economy" the hydrogen has to come from somewhere. Hydrogen is a naturally occuring substance, number 1 on the periodic table, but not available alone, it has to be broken free from other elements.

Right now about 90% of it from natural gas, which we don't want anymore pipelines or terminals to deliver. Water can be a great source of hydrogen through electrolysis, using electricity to split the hydrogen from the oxygen. The only problem is it's a net energy loser, costing more to make that you recover from the process, in fact the best efficiency rating for the process is 45%, at an experimental Dept. of Energy plant that uses a nuclear reactor to heat the water, and provide the electricity.

One of the big "green ideas" for producing hydrogen is using wind and solar to provide heat and electricity to more efficiently "crack" seawater for the process. Just imagine that you want to buy some land on one of our coastal areas to build a 100 acre solar and wind plant. Since you'd need a lot of sunshine, southern California would be the logical place. Any bets on that happening without a lawsuit?

So here we sit, complaining about coal, $3 gasoline, and what to do with nuclear waste. And at the same time suing to prevent distribution methods for natural gas, and the building of windmills because they might whack a bat. Maybe we are getting what we deserve.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Duke Dudes In Cuffs

Two of the Duke LaCrosse players accused in the alleged rape of a for hire stripper at an off campus party were arrested today. Both made their $400,000 bail (generally that means $40k to the bondsman), and are out awaiting their next hearing.

Jesse Jackson, who has already declared the entire team guilty, won't be happy but my guess is that they will walk. They won't walk because both of the hired strippers were black and they are white, they'll walk because of reasonable doubt, if they ever get to court.

A couple of the cops showed up on campus to talk to the accused, who were respesented but didn't have lawyers present. The DNA testing done was negative for any team member, and everyone at the party claims the stripper was already drunk when she showed up. And, supposedly the team has photos that show a timeline that blows up her story.

So why is this going forward, when it seems just from what's in the media that the case will end up a non-starter? One theory is that the DA, Mike Nifong, who is up for re-election, is looking for a high profile conviction to show he's tough. The fact that it's against some of the elite from Duke doesn't hurt the street cred of the DA, either.

The other reason it's going forward is Jesse Jackson and other prominent folks in the African American community have come forward to speak on behalf of the alleged victim. Even if the DA's case is as weak as the French economy the case would move, to keep the allegations of protecting rich white kids from coming up.

Do I think they are guilty? I don't have a clue, but if what's been leaked by the lawyers is true, I think that a conviction is going to be tough to get.

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Rummy and the Editorialists

Funny how one newspaper can have two or three completely different views on the (retired) generals who are clamoring for Donald Rumsfeld to resign as Secretary of Defense.

In the lead editorial "The Generals' Revolt" the Washington Post points out that there are a number of reasons that Rumsfeld should go, but a bunch of crying retired generals isn't one of them.

Oddly, I find myself agreeing with them that Bush should have taken his resignation when he offered it in 2004, but for different reasons.

Then, oddly in the last paragraph they take a shot, though I'm not sure if it's intentional, at E.J. Dionne, who has a column today "Roots of the Uprising".

Anyone who protested the pushback of uniformed military against President Bill Clinton's attempt to allow gays to serve ought to also object to generals who criticize the decisions of a president and his defense secretary in wartime. If they are successful in forcing Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation, they will set an ugly precedent. Will future defense secretaries have to worry about potential rebellions by their brass, and will they start to choose commanders according to calculations of political loyalty?
Dionne, in his column complains about the folks, like Colin Powell, who disagreed with Clinton on the gays in the military issue, and in fact complains that the military (uniformed) leadership is generally too conservative.

There is a difference, also, in Powell's dissent on the gays in the military issue, and the retired generals. Powell's stance was one that was made known in a press conference, and with the knowledge of his boss that he disagreed with him.

In the case of the current crop of generals, according to Richard Myers, who was Chairman of the JCS at the time, none of these guys were openly complaining about the issues during the planning phases. Or, if they did, after hearing the reasoning behind the numbers, etc, they acquiesced and did their jobs.

David Broder claims in "Listen to the Brass", that active duty generals began calling him shortly after John Murtha spoke out against the way things are going in Iraq, to support Murtha.

Which raises the question of honor among the Generals. If they were still convinced, at the time that the war started, or when Murtha spoke, that the entire direction was wrong, they had two ways to go. One, ignore it as they did, and wait a year or so, or two, retire and speak out then.

My guess is if a number (say six) fairly senior guys like these offered their retirement papers, explaining why, there probably would have been some changes to the plan. They wouldn't be the first generals in history to leave the service because of disagreements with the civilian leadership, and would have been more credible then than they are now.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

The Unhinged and Malkin

As I wrote the other day, I'm not a huge Michelle Malkin fan, I think she's a little too far right for my own taste on a number of issues.

However, I'll defend her on an ugly issue that came up today. The Student Against War at UC Santa Cruz sent out a press release bragging about shutting military recruiters out of a third straight job fair at UCSC. In the header, they included the names, phone numbers, and e-mails of their "ad hoc press team". Here's a link to the press release, that is still up on another website.

Evidently, being students who protest instead of going to their journalism classes, they didn't realize that "For Immediate Release" usually means everything below that line is for publication. Malkin published them (linked here), and now they aren't happy, in fact she's gotten some interesting and disturbing e-mails from the unhinged folks on the left.

There are a bunch of folks, including Dan at Riehl World View, who have said she should have left the contact info out. I don't think she was wrong, though she probably could have gotten away with a little less of the info in her post.

At the same time since the post is still up on a lot of lefty sites, I don't think the students were that concerned about the info getting out, until it got to the right side of the political spectrum and they had to deal with disagreement. Welcome to the world of free speech, where sometimes folks disagree with you.

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The Post Gets It Wrong

The Washington Post lead editorial "Tax Gimmickry, Paying for tax cuts for the wealthy with . . . more tax cuts for the wealthy!" gets it wrong, as usual when it comes it issue of taxes.

First off, there is only one "tax cut" in the proposal, not two. The one in the proposal in the Senate they refer to is making permanent the extention of the capital gains cut. The other tax cut they refer to as "being for the wealthy" is a increase in the amount that can be put into Roth IRA's.

They get it wrong because they insist on using static numbers for calculating the cost of the tax, even though the last 10 years has proven that theory wrong twice (1997 and 2001). When Congress pushed through the 1997 cut, liberals claimed it would wreck the economy, and cause huge deficits. Then we ran a surplus for the next 3 years until the 2000 recession.

When the rate was cut from 28% to 20% in 1997 the income from capital gains went UP from $69 billion in 1996 to $79 billion in 1997, and to over 109 billion in 1999! A large amount of that growth came from venture capital investment, which exploded when it became "tax friendlier" to be in that business.

A 48% rise in capital gains income to the government was also seen from 1981-1983 when the rate was cut from 28-20%. Revenue from the tax grew much more modestly from 1983 to1997 when it was raised again.

The biggest misconception is that the money does nothing if it doesn't go to Congress to spend. In 1996 2004 businesses received venture capital funding, nearly 6000 received it in 2000.

Would those 4000 more businesses per year received the same amount of funding in those years? Probably not, since the number had been flat since the early 1990's. How many people were employed in those start ups who then paid income taxes, social security and medicare taxes and state taxes on the money that was spent?

The second misconception is that Roth IRA's, where taxes are paid now on deposits, but not on withdraws in the future are "for the rich". I'd say that if you make under $70k per year, have a mortgage, and a couple of kids, a Roth is probably a better choice than a traditional IRA. (I'm not a tax advisor, consult a professional).

I say this because the deductions for mortgage interest, child tax credits, and dependents will probably lower your tax bracket enough that the traditional IRA isn't a huge help. And, when retirement comes around, you keep more of your money, when you'll probably need it more.

Even if Roth's were only for the rich, a Roth isn't the equivelant of putting money in a mattress. It's invested by whoever is managing the acccount, meaning more investment by an individual has implications for more than just them. It ends up in the markets, fund more businesses, and generating more capital.

The Post's article goes straight to the heart of the liberal misconception that Government knows best how to use our money. However, by ignoring the history of the capital gains cuts, it ignores the truth, that investors have done more for us with that cash than the government.

A lot of information in here came from "A Capital Gains Tax Cut: The Key to Economic Recovery" I suggest that liberals who believe government to be the best stewards of our money not read this, it will ruin your day.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Cheney Returns

No, the title doesn't mean Dick has come out of his undisclosed location, it has to do with his tax returns, and the general publics lack of knowledge on who pays what.

A recent poll showed that 60% think that the middle class is paying most of the taxes, and the rich pay too little. (h/t MacsMind)

Cheney received a $1.9 million dollar tax refund this year, on income of 8.8 million. How did he get so much back? Well, he gave nearly $7 million to charities.

The Cheneys' charitable donations went to George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates Inc., for the benefit of the Cardiothoracic Institute; the University of Wyoming Foundation; and Capital Partners for Education, which helps low-income high school students. (from the WashingtonPost)

Wait, isn't he only concerned about the rich, then why did he give so much to universities and low income high school students?

Before you think he got everything back, on the $1.9 million he had left after the charitable deductions Cheney and his wife paid over $500,000 in taxes, or about 25%.

Why did I mention the general population's lack of knowledge on who pays taxes? Because the general population, like lemmings, has followed the line that the middle class pays all the taxes, when it's miles from the truth.

For instance, in 2003, the last year the numbers are up on the taxstats page at the IRS, the taxpayers at or below the $50K line, the middle class and poor payed a 12% of all income taxes, while the group above that, with 14 million less returns paid over 87% of the taxes.

In other words, 57% of taxpayers contributed 12% of taxes, and 43% contributed 87% of the taxes.

If you look at just the area most of us would consider middle class, $30-75K earners (adjusted gross income), they made up 43% of taxpayers, but paid only 21% of the income tax, 59% of that paid by the group from 50-75K even though they are only 47% of the "middle class".

If you want to play with the numbers yourself, the file is available here, it's an excel spread sheet.

The Bernoulli Effect also has a rant up about this.

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Nuclear Iran

There's been tons of stuff in blogs, on the web, and in the news about the new "Nuclear Iran", and what to do about them.

Of course much was made of the supposed US planning that included the use of tactical nukes as bunker buster bombs to destroy their weapons program. Anyone with military planning experience, even on a fairly small level understands the "fishbone diagram" method of planning.

Using cause and effect scenarios that go from most likely to least likely, you end up with anything from diplomacy and minor saber rattling working to the idea of full scale fighting. And on the far right, under "least desirable", tactical nukes taking out enrichment and R&D facilities.

People who don't understand the military, planning, and the "how's and why's" are appalled to think that we'd be working on something like this. The one's suffering "Bush Derangement Syndrome" think this is the first administration to have DOD working on such plans.

The truth is since the Cold War we've had plans in binders somewhere for such conflicts with a number of countries. There is a group at the Pentagon who's sole purpose in life is to keep them up to date, based on our new weapons, technology, and force structures, and those of the folks the plans are designed to be used against.

William Arkin at the Washington Post has an interesting article in the paper today concerning such planning, and how it's been working since 2003. The truth is the plans go back farther than that, some probably as far back as the 1979 overthrow of the Shah. They were undoubtedly updated in the 1980's during the Iran Iraq war, and the tanker wars in the gulf when we provided escort ships to keep the Strait of Hormuz open.

Arkin brings up an interesting subject near the end of his article, the lack of openness about this planning. He thinks we should be more forthright and admit it's going on. I think in different times we might actually do that, however it's probably not going to happen anytime soon.

The Bush administration is to hamstrung by current critics to and "gotcha folks" to admit anything of the sort openly. Everyone saw the reaction to Seymour Hersh's accounts of the US planning, and it was nothing less than stunningly silly. The moonbat left went crazy, the media was full of stories about it, with little if any thought to the "why" end of it.

If folks with saner heads were more prevalent in the opposition to Bush, dropping hints about what we are planning would be a reasonable idea. Given that Iran has made sure to fill the airwaves over the last month with their newest weapons and war games it should have been expected. Except saner heads aren't prevailing in the US, the folks that are getting the most airtime are the folks with a bone to pick, so saying anything is tantamount to admitting that Bush wants to expand "Imperial America" even farther.

The not funny, but ironic thing is that these same folks will be wondering why we didn't prevent Iran from nuking Israel, or shutting down the Strait of Hormuz if and when either happens. Bush will then be an "ill prepared President" who didn't see the obvious.

Riehl World View and California Conservative both call out Diane Feinstein on her position on dealing with Iran.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Bad News For Brew-Town

Unfortunately Milwaukee is getting a double dose of bad news. First, two young boys missing for the last month were found drown in a park lagoon. If anything good can come of something like this, it at least looks as though foul play wasn't involved. My prayers are with the family, I can't imagine losing one of my children, much less both.

The second bit of bad news was the acquittal of three white cops of beating a black man senseless at a party in 2004. When I read the story I had to do a double take, how did these guys end up with an all white jury? With over a third of the city's population being black, that seems very odd to me. I'd hope the victims family asked the DA about that.

One of the three officers still faces some charges, but I can see this causing problems in the city.

I do have one issue, and that is the Mayor and DA's attempt to get federal charges filed, now that their case went to hell. I'm sorry, but if this rose to the level of a federal civil rights case, it should have been given to the feds when it happened, not now.

It gives the impression that the DA's office was trying to make a name for someone by trying it at their level, and now needs a conviction somewhere to save face.

Jeff Wagner, a radio talk show host in Milwaukee, and former prosecutor has some great insight into the issues with a federal prosecution in the case, and the botched prosecution by Milwaukee County.

The third bit of bad news for Milwaukee is politicians driving business away from the city, instead of attracting it. Charlie Sykes pointed this out on his website yesterday, with the above link to BizTimes Daily.

When a business tries to move it's 80 full time jobs and 300-400 seasonal jobs from the suburbs to a decaying city, the obvious answer is to keep putting up hoops until the look elsewhere. And they wonder why Milwaukee is dying.

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Religion and the 1st Amendment

Greta, the Hooah Wife, put up a post a few days ago about why she blogs, it was a great read, with some good logic and interesting points, and basically explained where she's coming from.

One of her issues is with the ACLU, which fired up one of her contributors, Brainhell and started an interesting conversation on the First Amendment and religion. Here on my blog, we've had one on the same amendment and free speech of late.

For instance, on the issue of religion and the First Amendment, many folks believe that Jefferson wrote the amendment to prohibit any government involvement in religion. This belief comes from a 1947 court ruling (Everson v. Board of Education) that quoted his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists shortly after his election.

The truth is that he didn't write, or even work on that amendment, and his letter to the Baptists was in response to their letter about problems with the State of Connecticut, not the National government. Connecticut was taxing religion, and sending the money to the Congregationalist Church, and it was difficult to get the money sent to one's own church.

Jefferson's letter was to reassure them that the Congregationalists couldn't become a national religion because of the establishment clause in the 1st Amendment. It had nothing to do with government involvement with religion per se, but establishing a national religion.

True, some of the amendment was based on his Bill to Establish Religious Freedom in Virginia, but it was actually Madison who was the "point man" in driving the Amendment through the first Congress.

The Founders Constitution has an outstanding recap of the debate on this clause of the amendment in the House of Representatives in 1791.

Mr. Sylvester had some doubts of the propriety of the mode of expression used in this paragraph. He apprehended that it was liable to a construction different from what had been made by the committee. He feared it might be thought to have a tendency to abolish religion altogether.

Evidently Mr. Sylvester's fears came true, as groups like the ACLU and others have tried to corrupt the meaning of the 1st Amendment to just that end.

Justice Jackson, dissenting in Everson made an excellent point on why the ruling was wrong. For history, Everson v. Board of Education had to do with the State of New Jersey reimbursing students for riding public busses to school, including Catholic schools, but excluding private schools.

In his dissent he noted that if it is indeed "taxpayer support of religion" to reimburse a bus rider for a trip to school, since taxes were used for such, then it would also have to be unconstitutional to allow firefighters to protect a church, since they are paid from taxes, or allow police to protect a churches property.

He argued that, correctly in my belief, that what the Congress was trying to stop was the practice of "tithing taxes", money raised for the specific purpose of supporting churches. Many states, lacking guidance from the Article of Confederation, or the Constitution as originally written had begun adopting these taxes.

Think how much easier this conversation would be if Madison had gotten his way and the religious clause had included the word "national", as he wished, and specified the laying of taxes for direct support, as he writes in many places.

Trackbacks at Blue Star Chronicles and Stop The ACLU, Pirates Cove, and Bullwinkle Blog

Ablur has a post on his site from about a month ago about the Everson decision.

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Glorifying Moonbats

The Washington Post has an interesting article about the angry left bloggers this morning. Unfortunately, what it really does is glorifies the unhinged moonbats on the left. By completely ignoring the fact that there are some well written blogs by liberals, they paint the whole group as Maryscott O'Connor types.

With nearly one full page of the five in the online story glorifying "Bush Derangement Syndrome" type comments on blogs, did they really do the left any favors with this article?

The fact is these folks have become the loudest voice of the left and the Democrats, but also the one that costs them the most. It was reported a few weeks ago that Kos backed candidates were 0-17 in elections since 2003, to which they retorted 2 had won. Okay, 2-17, is that the group you want speaking for your movement and for your party?

One of the reasons I only occasionally quote or link to Michelle Malkin is that she, to me, is the right's version of Kos as often as not. Hysteria from either side of an arguement doesn't advance anything. Both MM and Kos have occaisonal good articles up, but they often get drown out by some of the more hysterical charges and emotional writings.

The Post would have done much better to find some rational left wing bloggers to write about, instead of a lady who seems to make irrational seem like a virtue. From a conservative perspective I love their choice; the more folks see Maryscott O'Connor and her group as the left, the more elections the left will lose. From a purely American standpoint, I dislike it, I'd rather have a logic discourse on the country, than argue with raging moonbats.

Don't Go Into The Light has more on this, Reihl World View has an excellent take also. Pirates Cove chimes in with Beyond Moonbat Exposed, Gun Toting Liberal isn't a happy camper over this article.

Update 4/16: I found the link to Maryscott O'Connor's own take on the article in WaPo this morning. Her, and her readers found it a very complimentary story other than the picture.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Friday

This has been one of those weeks at work. Instead of my calender saying "Mon-Fri", it's Mon-1, Monday-2, Monday-3, Monday-4, Monday-5.

I think part of the problem is anticipating leaving here in a few weeks, which makes some of the mundane stuff tougher to deal with. The other problem is I have a class that isn't quite getting certain things, and it makes it tougher.

Since I'm burnt out on work, and don't feel like dealing with politics, immigration, pedophiles and general bad news this morning, I'll give you a joke instead.

Will I Live to Be 80?

I recently picked a new primary care physician. After two visits and exhaustive lab tests, he said I was doing "fairly well for my age".
A little concerned about that comment, I couldn't resist asking him, "Do you think I'll live to be 80?"
He asked, "Well, do you smoke tobacco or drink beer/wine?"
"Oh no," I replied. "I'm not doing either."
Then he asked, "Do you eat rib-eye steaks and barbecued ribs?"
I said, "No, my other Doctor said that all red meat is very unhealthy!"
"Do you spend a lot of time in the sun, like playing golf, sailing, hiking, or bicycling?"
No, I don't," I said.
He asked, "Do you gamble, drive fast cars, or have a lot of sex?"
"No," I said. "I don't do any of those things."
He looked at me and said, "Then why do you give a shit if you live to be 80?"

Live long, but have fun doing it. I'll be back to my regular ranting self this evening.

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