Alex's Outlook

Thursday, May 29, 2003

A Nebraska legislator is so fed up with Nebraskans crossing the border into Iowa that she proposed going to war with Iowa.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

As part of my senior thesis I am reading the Koran. I'm not nearly done with it yet, but it's already plenty surprising. Not because of the verses I'd read that exhorted Muslims to military jihad - every verse I've seen so far has been immediately preceded or followed by a caveat about not launching a jihad unless first attacked - but rather because of the Koran's statements regarding women. For example,

"They will also question thee as to the courses of women. SAY: "They are a pollution [emphasis mine]..." [Sura 2:222]

"And it is for women to act as if [husbands] act by them, in all fairness; but the men are a step above them. God is mighty, wise..." [Sura 2:228]

"With regard to your children, God commandeth you to give the male the portion of two females..." [Sura 4:12]

You can conceivably argue that Islam is a religion of peace, but I don't think you can argue that it promotes equality of the sexes.

More on the Ardmore frat party

National Review online has an excellent piece on the Texas redistricting mess.

Basically, what the GOP is doing may be partisan, but it's only undoing previous Democratic partisanship. The Democrats have so skilfully gerrymandered the state that although the GOP controls all 29 (!) statewide offices in Texas, won the Senate and governorship races there by about fifteen points and has significant majorities in both houses of the state Legislature, there are still 17 Democratic Representatives to 15 Republicans. Tom DeLay's plan would reverse that to about 21-11 or 22-10 in the Republicans' favor, making the House Democrats and the Main Street Partnership (a cabal of "moderate" Republicans) all but irrelevant, at least as far as the House is concerned.

The good thing is that the Democrats and Republicans in the state houses have to resolve a lot of issues by next Monday, and the Republicans can just stonewall if they want. That would force Rick Perry to call a special session to pass some 233 bills killed by the walkout. And in a special session, only a simple majority is required to be present, rather than the two-thirds quorum that allowed the walkout in the first place.

Furthermore, the Texas Democrats may have irreparably crippled themselves. Fifty-nine percent of Texans think the walkout was "very wrong".

Saturday, May 24, 2003

A poll by the Charlotte Observer shows John Edwards extremely vulnerable - 32 percent would vote for him, 33 percent would vote for someone else and 35 would consider voting for someone else (undecided). Edwards may very well be the most vulnerable Senate incumbent in the country.

You have to love Tom DeLay. "The President's budget indicated $1.3 trillion in tax cuts, and you bet we're coming back for more," he said after sending the $330 billion tax cut to the White House. The final "itty bitty" package cuts capital gains and the top dividend tax rate to 15 percent through 2007 (zero for lower-income investors). It also accelerates all the scheduled income tax cuts to now, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2003.

DeLay needs to do something about the Texas Democrats' coup two weeks ago that killed the GOP redistricting bill. DeLay's job would be safe if he got another seven seats from Texas, but Rick Perry doesn't want the political flak and Texas House leader Tom Craddick has already gotten a lot of flak for it. If he gets it through this year, any possible backlash would have cooled off by 2004.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

I just finished reading a "racist" article from the UK Spectator. It's a little frightening, if one can trust it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Liberal NY Mayor Mike Bloomberg must be getting desperate about NY's money woes, as 19-year old Jesse Taveras will tell you. A police officer recently gave him a ticket for "unauthorized use of a milk crate". "Blame Bloomberg," the officer explained.

According to this article, "Republicans, who pride themselves on being frugal with taxpayers' money, were bigger spenders than Democrats in state legislatures over the past five years, a USA TODAY analysis shows. "

When both the state legislature and the governorship are controlled by Republicans, spending rises an average of 6.85%. When Democrats control both chambers, the average is 6.79 percent! With a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature it's 5.9%, and a Democrat governor/GOP legislature yields the lowest, a 5.74% increase. Spending was 14% less when control was divided.

Republicans did, however, cut taxes much more than Democrats, 1.08% to .59%. But that will doubtless change after this electoral cycle because of many GOP state govs' insane tax hikes, as in Idaho, Nevada, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Alaska and Arkansas. Florida, Texas, Colorado and South Carolina are the only GOP states to even hold the line on taxes. Meanwhile, Democrat Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico has cut taxes more than any governor in recent memory. If the analysis were extended to 2004, the Democrats would be both bigger tax cutters and smaller spenders at the state level.

Libertarians might as well start voting Democrat at the state level.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

The New Republic has an illuminating article on extremist voting patterns by French Muslims.

I think it's a mistake to think that Western culture can re-package Muslim immigrants into freedom-loving Western consumers just as it has everyone else.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

It's funny that months after it came out, Google still hasn't fixed the "french military victories" bug. (Go to Google, type "french military victories" and then select "I'm feeling lucky", and follow the link.)

Just what do the Democrats stand for these days? I can't figure it out.

Complete, unfettered access to abortion and gay rights are the only clear Democrat planks that really come to mind.

Guns? The Democratic Party is completely split on this issue, probably because gun control is such a political loser nowadays. The "assault weapons ban" of 1994 is set to asphyxiate in the House of Representatives next year, with many House Democrats joining the GOP in terminating it.
Social programs? That's what they'd do if they had power, but they don't have power and they won't get back in power by endorsing Big Government.

Taxes? Except for Gephardt's audacious and apparently foolish gamble, not a single serious Democratic candidate for President is willing to raise taxes to pay for the deficit, new social programs or anything else.

"Universal health care"? Every Democrat wants that idea, but none of them has a clue as to how to fund it (except Gephardt). Besides, that issue consistently places at the bottom of almost every opinion poll.

The Democrats are in a real bind. They have no clue how to stimulate the economy. They had one good idea - a payroll tax cut - but they shelved it right after Mary Landrieu survived her Louisiana runoff because a payroll tax cut would take a monster bite out of Social Security, the ultimate Democratic sacred cow. They can't afford to endorse that, even though that tax falls most heavily on middle- and lower-class Americans. Any other kind of tax cut almost inevitably "favors the rich", so tax cuts are pretty much out of the question for Democrats. Keynesian hikes in public spending are out of favor, so the Democrats won't endorse that either. They won't hike spending for new programs and they won't cut taxes; they have no prescription for economic growth.

That wouldn't matter if the Democrats were merely torn between opposing viewpoints, or having some kind of policy debate; but they aren't. Other than the arch-liberal The Nation crowd, liberals really have no idea about what to do about the economy.

Joe Klein, a liberal journalist, wrote a lengthy piece about "how to build a better Democrat" in the latest issue of TIME. It was a long article, but there was no substance to it. He talked about being tough on national security, being brashly confident while campaigning, blah blah blah. The only new idea he could come up with was - get this - "digital highways" with a 70 mph computer-enforced speed limit! That strikes me as a great way to scare anybody who has ever been late for school or work. Anyway, the point is, not even the liberals have any clear idea about what to do. They are heading into 2004 completely rudderless. No matter what the state of the nation is, the Democrats won't win if they don't have a coherent alternative to Bush's socioeconomic vision.

I think that, unless the economy undergoes cataclysmic damage between now and November of 2004, Bush will be unbeatable even if the economy continues to mildly stagnate and even if there are no WMD found in Iraq.

It looked like Argentina might finally get a laissez-faire party under Carlos Menem and his New Peronist free-market allies. Unfortunately, Menem wasn't the right man to do it, and his extreme corruption obscured his message. He quit the race for the Argentine presidency, leaving socialist Peronist Nestor Kirchner as the winner by default.

Kirchner is an old-style Peronist who favors micromanaging the economy through huge public works programs and high taxes. He might consider looking at Japan, which has been pouring concrete by the truckload over the past ten years, trying to spend herself out of recession. (Her deficits have run at 7 percent of GDP annually with a cumulative total of 150 percent - which would be like Bush dealing with a $16 trillion deficit and running $750 billion in deficits this year.)

Of course, Kirchner has no clue how to pay back Argentina's many foreign creditors while spending so much in the red. Either Argentina is going to default on her loans or Kirchner's gigantic public works program - including 3 million new homes - is going to crash and burn. Another grand socialist experiment is about to take place. Again it will fail - just like the New Deal, the Great Society, the late 70's Labour welfare state in Britain, and today's Japanese Keynesianism have all failed. Don't expect the media to make much hay out of that, though.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Bush continues to push for a bigger tax cut. He is courting two center-right Democrats, Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson, to make up for the Snowe-Voinovich-McCain-Chafee axis of taxes.

As Washington Republicans busy themselves with slashing a tax cut and hiking spending as they have ever since 1995, Republicans have been more successful at the state level insofar as conservative reform is concerned. The biggest fireworks are in Texas, where almost all the Texas House Democrats fled to Oklahoma to deny the Republicans a quorum. (The Texas GOP controls 88 of 150 Texas House seats, but 100 representatives need to be present for anything to get done.) This is because of Tom DeLay's aggressive redistricting plan, which will knock off between five and seven House Democrats and give the GOP a hammerlock on the House of Representatives. If DeLay rams through his proposal (he will) the Democrats won't have a chance at winning the House again until 2011, when the next round of redistricting begins. Anyway, if the Democrats aren't back by June to pass the state budget, GOP Gov. Rick Perry can just declare the Democrat fugitives' seats vacant and call elections to fill them. Even if he doesn't win any more seats, he will have terminated the political careers of 51 Democrats, which would be devastating enough. The Democrats' evacuation also holds up a drastic overhaul of state government, including government payroll cuts and medical-malpractice caps.

Gov. Jeb Bush is somehow dodging responsibility for not executing a ludicrous amendment to Florida's constitution which mandates much smaller class sizes in several years. Bully for him.

The Missouri Legislature has overwhelmingly passed concealed-carry legislation. If Democrat Gov. Bob Holden vetoes it, he will be roadkill in 2004. If he signs it, second amendment forces will have won a major victory and Holden will have alienated a chunk of his base.

Ever since their 2002 landslide, Minnesota Republicans have enacted concealed-carry legislation in their state. They look set to eliminate a large budget shortfall without raising taxes.

Colorado has enacted concealed carry legislation, toughened rules re illegal immigrants, launched the largest school voucher program in the country and has not had much of a budget shortfall problem.

The only discouraging sign is in New York. In the face of a large tax hike overwhelmingly supported by the New York Legislature (one house is mostly Democrat and the other mostly GOP), George Pataki will have no choice but to sign the budget. But Pataki was part of the problem. In order to get large union endorsements, Pataki threw billions at those unions. He overwhelmingly won reelection, but he shouldn't be crying now that he has buried himself in his own fiscal hole. He's trying to burnish his conservative credentials for 2004, but the only person he's fooling is himself.

Despite Republican tax hikes in Ohio and New York, GOP state governments are generally hanging tough on cutting services instead of hiking taxes. It's refreshing to look at GOP state governments for reassurance when Washington Republicans practically revolt against their own platform.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Bush Tax Cut, RIP

Senate Finance Committe chairman Charles Grassley has written a "tax-cut" bill. At about $41 billion dollars a year out of a $2.25 trillion budget (less than .2% of federal revenues), it cuts dividend tax cuts by one-third in 2003, two-thirds in 2004, and kills the dividend tax cut completely in 2005. Then the provision "sunsets" - and the dividend tax is back up to 38.6%. Oops. Even then, his bill still cracks the $35 billion a year ceiling of the "moderates'" , so Grassley is going to have to sock it to corporations relocating offshore to make up for the shortfall. (Maybe America's punitive corporate and dividend tax rates are precisely why corporations are running from the US in the first place?)

Still the Religion of Peace

The "most mainstream Muslim group in America" takes up the cause of a terrorist.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

In what may go down as the fastest conquest in history of a country of comparable size, three American divisions demolished Saddam Hussein’s regime in 26 days. Failure to find any significant evidence of WMD notwithstanding, broad majorities of Americans are glad we fought the war in Iraq. The question now on everyone’s minds, especially the Arabs’, is: where next? Should we attack Syria, which has knowingly harbored numerous Iraqi officials and which the Israeli Mossad alleges is hiding Saddam’s chemical weapons? Or Saudi Arabia, the largest sponsor of terrorism and Islamic extremism in the world? What about Iran, which has sent guerillas and mullahs to infiltrate the Shia a.reas of Iraq to undermine the American occupation? Or North Korea? We could also rest on our laurels and wait until later before launching another war.

All of the above countries present a threat to American security, with the exception of Syria, which is more of a nuisance than an actual threat. President Bush has gained considerable leverage with his quick victory over Iraq, and he is in a very strong position to change the behavior of these rogue nations in one way or another.

Syria will be the easiest country to bend to our will. Syria has supported terrorism for decades, and more recently has provided safe harbor for many of Saddam’s cronies and possibly Saddam himself. Bush has already turned the screws on Syria to some extent by cutting off a large Iraqi oil pipeline to Syria, which takes a $1 billion bite out of Hafez Assad’s $7.5 billion budget. But Bush needs to go further: demand the unconditional return of Iraqis and all chemical weapons transported into the country, or face war. Even if the American people are not in favor of a war against Syria, they won’t care after Assad’s ramshackle military has been pulverized and another hostile regime has been toppled. From a legal perspective, Bush already has the authority he needs to go into Syria. Hafez Assad knows all this, and once he realizes Bush is serious he will do whatever he needs to save his own skin.

Iran has been much more aggressive in her anti-American designs since Iraq fell. Suspected Iranian agents murdered the Ayatollah al-Khoei, a highly respected Shia cleric who happened to be the leader of pro-Western Shi’ism in Iraq. Iranian mullahs and guerrillas have infiltrated several major Shia cities, and the Iranian-backed protests – especially in Karbala, Najaf and Kut – are already gathering force. Iran also has extensive connections to terrorists, especially Hezbollah. Finally, Iran has a rapidly accelerating nuclear program in plain sight of American spy satellites. Allowing Iran to develop a nuclear weapon would make any possibility of removing the anti-American regime that much more remote. One of Bush’s few high cards is the smoldering dissent within Iran. Thanks to the total failure of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran is today the most progressive, democratic and secular nation in the entire Muslim world (except Turkey). A near-revolution in Esfahan, Teheran and other Iranian cities badly rattled the Iranian government in late 2002 and early 2003. By supporting indigenous dissent in Iran, Bush can at least give back what he’s getting in Iraq. Of course, if Teheran still doesn’t get the message, President Bush can always apply military and diplomatic pressure until Teheran either folds or is overthrown. The Iranians’ current secularism and modernity make the country an ideal candidate for regime change. Bush should be ready to pounce by July 3, when hundreds of thousands of Iranians will take to the streets to protest for a democratic, secular government. One way or another, Iran’s guerilla tactics in Iraq and nuclear program at home need to be stopped.

The other two problem countries – North Korea and Saudi Arabia – are best dealt with via nonmilitary means. North Korea’s utterly ruined economy would make it susceptible to blockade, although that would require Chinese support. But the Chinese government has no interest in a Stalinist lunatic playing matches next door, and they already turned the screws on North Korea for a weekend to make them return to nuclear negotiations by shutting off all oil pipelines to North Korea. The Saudi royal family will remain as decadent and beholden to the mullahs as ever without the price of oil plunging, and the United States could best bring that about by cranking up oil production in Iraq, flooding the market with oil and bankrupting the terror-supporting Saudis. Of course, if Iraq brings energy independence to the United States, then the United States can simply go to war without worrying about our previous oil dependence on the Saudis.

The victory in Iraq has brought President Bush not only abundant political capital, but enormous international leverage as well. No longer is he shackled by the imagined legitimacy of the United Nations, nor manacled by irrational fears of “the q-word” (quagmire). But Bush doesn’t have much time. With every passing hour, the Iranians come closer to completing their first atomic bomb, and the North Koreans closer to mass-production of nuclear weapons (allowing them to sell nuclear weapons to the highest bidder). The time to bring sanctions on North Korea and bleed the ailing Iranian regime dry is now – not, for instance, November 7, 2004.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

I don't normally enjoy criticizing Bush, but I thought this debate between George W. Bush and George W. Bush was hilarious.