Alex's Outlook

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Massachusetts state senator Guy Glodis (D) has suggested burying Muslim terrorists in pig blood and entrails as a method of deterring terrorism, because some Muslims believe they are barred from Paradise if they're buried with anything having to do with a pig. The Muslim protest industry in the US is already freaking out, but I think it's the best idea to come from a Democrat since JFK's tax cut!

Consider: when US Gen. Pershing had just suppressed a Muslim revolt in the Philippines, he lined up the fifty captured rebels/terrorists/whatever. He had his soldiers soak their bullets in pig's blood. They shot 49 of the 50 rebels, dumped them in a hole in the ground and dumped the pig entrails on top. They let the 50th man go, and there wasn't another Muslim terrorist incident for 42 years. Who can argue with that kind of success?

Apparently half of Brits think Tony Blair should quit. The WMD issue, which has barely harmed Bush at all, appears to have destroyed Tony Blair. Fifty-eight percent of Brits think Blair is untrustworthy; 48% think he should quit. Approximately 52% of Brits think Labour's record on crime, immigration, health, and transportation is bad.

Chalk up another failure of tax-and-spend statism and gun control. Blair has increased health funding by 20%, but there has been no commensurate improvement in service. Every type of crime is through the roof thanks to gun control, immigration issues and the total disaster of the Labour war on drugs. However, Labour is unwilling to go for broke by hiking taxes and spending. Labour's top tax rate of 98 percent in the 70's and extreme favoritism towards labor unions threw them out of power from 1979 to 1997, and they don't want to risk that again.

Sadly, the Labour-Liberal left wing still dwarfs the Conservatives in approval ratings. Labour and the Conservatives each have 35% approval, with the Liberals at 19%., meaning that a healthy majority of the UK is still pretty leftist. It remains to be seen whether the Conservatives will stake a clear free-market position to contrast themselves with Labour, or adopt Rockefeller Republican at-least-we-aren't-as-statist-as-they-are policies.

Fear Howard Dean

It's become conventional wisdom that Howard Dean is 2004's George McGovern, sprinting so far to the left that he will drag his entire party down with him. That is completely wrong. Howard Dean is the strongest possible Democratic candidate, in my opinion. He can mobilize the most hardcore Democratic support, but also has a lot of moderate appeal. He was a fiscal conservative who kept Vermont's budget balanced all the time without (as far as I know) any tax hikes. He established a statewide healthcare initiative. He got straight A's from the NRA all the time as Governor, which means that the NRA will have to sit this election out unless Dean flipflops. That's important, because the NRA has become essentially a get-out-the-vote arm of the Republican Party. By its own estimate, it can mobilize about 1.5% of the vote on election day, which is huge. Dean has "triangulated" gun control the same way Bush has done with health care.

I think all the Democrats are going to be easily beatable in 2004, but Dean can outflank Bush on the deficit, and maybe health care.

Lieberman seems like the weakest one to me, because he offers voters nothing that Bush doesn't offer already, not to mention that he is old and an insufferably dull public speaker. Gephardt has some steam in the primary because of his union clout, House endorsements and health care boondoggle, but his ideas are basically 15 years too old. Kerry and Edwards are both seen as sleazebags who wanted to have the Iraq issue both ways. (Kerry is still potent; Edwards' campaign isn't going anywhere.) Graham, Sharpton, Braun and Kucinich should never have gotten in the race to start with.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Al-Aribiya reports that Ayman Al-Zawahiri has been arrested along with al-Qaeda's top spokesman in Iran. We can only cross our fingers, I guess... the mullahs will probably use him as a bargaining chip to make Bush publicly promise to stop intruding on their nuclear program, or something. Bush is going to have to pay something to get Zawahiri.

Howard Dean has won 44 percent of MoveOn.org's online Democratic primary. Dennis Kucinich was a distant second with about 24%, with Kerry third at 16%. Nobody else made double digits. Because nobody got above 50%, MoveOn.org will not endorse anybody yet. (I heard there was going to be a runoff in the future, but I'm not sure about that yet.)

Dean's candidacy is getting pretty impressive steam. He seems like a clone of George McGovern, except for his very pro-NRA gun credentials. (I suspect that Dean will modify that stance as he jockeys for support of Dem interest groups.)

Money Quote

"I don't need Bush's tax cut. I have never worked a f**king day in my life."

-Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)

Thursday, June 26, 2003

"It is my hope that the funding authorized in this bill will allow a last-chance window of opportunity for an Amtrak turnaround," said Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican and chairman of the Transportation Committee.

At that, Don Young's Transportation Committee approved $6 billion for Amtrak, the for-profit federal corporation that has never, ever made money. Young is a sleazebag who also wants to hike the gasoline tax by 5 cents a gallon, which would bring in $375 billion over the next ten years. Young may be the biggest tax-and-spend Republican in the House, and the Club for Growth would do well to put him on its 2004 hit list.

Ward Connerly has written a masterpiece on Monday's disgraceful upholding of affirmative action. So rather than read a subpar reproduction of it, head on over there and read it. It should be required reading for O'Connor, the U-Mich faculty and everyone else who supports the outright bigotry and condescension of affirmative action.

According to TCS, a consortium of private mercenary units has offered to enforce a cease-fire in the war-torn Congo for $200 million.

One of the more interesting and less pondered questions of globalization, I think, is the potential for multinational corporations/consortia to train and equip their own private armies (essentially eliminating the monopoly of force by the state). There are countless potential markets in war-torn areas to be pried open by military force, and if a band of mercenaries manages to succeed in pacifying a country the size of Congo for $200 million, war might become profitable, at least in the Third World. In any case, mercenary pacification of the Congo would be a lot more humane than the blood-drenched tribal vendettas and cannibalism that are going on right now.

Speculation abounds about a Supreme Court retirement later today. The White House is probably desperate not to have a vacancy, because Bush's popularity would probably end up as collateral damage no matter whom Bush nominates. But Sandra Day O'Connor might retire no matter what Bush wants (thank god). Some people still think Gonzalez is the frontrunner for the nomination, but I think Bush would be nuts to nominate such a confirmed liberal. He has really pushed his base around on Medicare, the deficit, growth of government, farm subsidies, campaign finance and free trade. Settling on a confirmed prochoicer like Gonzalez would only prove to pro-lifers that the last 30 years they've invested in politics has been entirely in vain.

If Bush is smart and gives Gonzalez a pass, there are tons of staunch conservatives out there. California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown is a highly conservative black woman, which places her at the front of the line by default. I'm not sure her stance on abortion is clear, however.

Other conservative judges' names thrown around are J. Michael Luttig and J. Harvie Wilkinson (4th circuit); and Edith Jones and Emilio Garza of the 5th cuicuit. (Garza is possible because he's Hispanic.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

NASCAR is "the last bastion of white supremacy," Rainbow/PUSH (Jesse Jackson's extortionist front) board member Bill Shack hyperventilated. Ironically NASCAR has given over a quarter of a million dollars to Rainbow/PUSH in recent years and is a PUSH "platinum sponsor."

NASCAR should know better than to try to appease Jesse Jackson. The more he gets, the more voracious his appetite becomes.

Stephen Moore, president of Club for Growth, takes a break from taxes and rips into the 55-mph speed limit. Contrary to Ralph Nader and a bunch of other liberal kooks, eliminating the 55-mph speed limit did NOT result in more deaths (Nader predicted 6400 more corpses a year). It's nice to see that some Republicans realize that accidents are caused by reckless driving, driving drunk and talking on cell phones while driving - not speeding. Some states now have 75 and even 80-mph speed limits on interstates. Auto accidents are at their lowest point in a long time, and the much higher speed limits have saved Americans millions of man-hours.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

The Senate Rules Committee has passed the much-ballyhooed "nuclear option," which, if passed, would eventually eliminate the filibuster, at least as far as judges are concerned. Unfortunately, the Senate requires 60 votes to amend its own rules, which guarantees that the nuclear option is roadkill once it hits the Senate floor.

It remains to be seen whether the Republican caucus has the backbone to use the Senate parliamentarian to declare the Democratic filibusters unconstitutional and thus ignore them completely. That is the only way they are going to get any solid conservative judges confirmed, but it will offer the Democrats an easy way to score points against the GOP - and the Rove-Bush-Cheney axis of weasel never likes to let the Democrats score points on anything, even if it costs $7.5 trillion.

EDIT - it actually takes 67 votes to amend Senate rules. In other words it will not happen.

Monday, June 23, 2003

More whining about the "unacceptable" level of military deaths in Iraq. We have lost 26 soldiers to combat-related deaths since May 1 when Bush declared an end to the fighting, which is probably fewer than the number of people who have died in Washington, DC.

According to the Wall Street Journal editors, the US had $50 trillion - yeah, almost 500% of GDP - in unfunded liabilities. But Bush is so hell-bent on buying votes and building a great GOP coalition so he can, uh...cut taxes more...I mean cut spending more...oh yeah, everything is a sacred cow now so we can't cut anything! What the hell does Bush want a GOP coalition for now that he's co-opted the Democrats on education, Medicare, farm subsidies, tariffs and big government? (Memo to Karl Rove: the Leave No Democrat Behind education advantage that Bush bought with so many billions of taxpayer dollars is now gone, even though it may have gotten him a Senate seat or two. The Democrats now enjoy the same old advantage on education that they always had. Are we now going to see Bush throw away $7.5 trillion on a prescription drug entitlement so he can get one more Senate seat in 2004, only to lose that advantage in 2006? How much in entitlement money is one Senate seat worth??)

I don't even see any logic in this if Bush is planning amass political capital to appoint prolife justices on the Supreme Court. (That was my best attempt at rationalizing this latest explosion in government, in case you were wondering.) For a lot people, however, the pro-life/pro-choice issue is larger than any other, and throwing away a few trillion at prescription drugs isn't going to change how most people feel about prolife justices or how they will vote in November 04.

I am really starting to wonder if I can support Bush and "compassionate conservatism" anymore. Compassionate conservatism - ie big government liberalism - doesn't work if you cut taxes at the same time, as this year's fat deficit shows. (Even if this year's deficit, big as it is, is sustainable over the long run, the US government will have to assume major responsibilities over its entitlement programs that will make this year's deficit a drop in the bucket.)

According to this Wa-Po poll, Americans support using force to prevent Iran from acquiring nukes by 56% to 38%.

Check this out: "Americans overwhelmingly favor an affirmative action system that assists women and minorities - but only if it doesn't do so by disadvantaging white men, an ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll finds. "

LOL. Are people really that stupid?

Bush is now The Education President, The Farmers' President, The Seniors' President, The War On Terror President and The Child Tax Credit President. He will also presumably sign the House's $66 billion sop to the energy industry, among other things. I am really interested as to where he plans on cutting government spending.

If health care, education, homeland security, social security and the pentagon are all sacred cows, there is virtually nothing left to cut. Even factoring in the cost of the Iraq war, the deficit will probably still be at least $350 billion, which is around 3.3% of GDP. 3.3% annual deficits are actually sustainable, but that's not counting the spiraling cost of Medicare (especially after this $400 billion boondoggle that will cost way more than $400 billion). If Bush is planning on reforming Social Security without cutting benefits, well, that's going to take at least 1% GDP - $120 billion in 2004 and more every year after that. Realistically, Bush will have to borrow closer to 1.5% of GDP to privatize it in less than a quarter-century. Even 1.2% of GDP, however, would still put the annual deficit at 4.5% ($500 billion for today's economy), which is not sustainable at all.

Selling out to special interests - namely the farmers and the AARP - does not pay over the long run. Just ask George Pataki, who sold out to every union, lobby and other special interest within reaching distance and now finds all hell broken loose in terms of fiscal sanity and his own approval ratings, not to mention his prospects for a national Republican ticket.

The Supreme Court blows it again. Basically, racial discrimination by a public institution is okay so long as it isn't done with numbers. Thanks a lot on behalf of all whites and Asians, guys.

In Rudy's latest interview with TIME (excerpted here), he concedes interest in the Senate or the governorship. But if he isn't going to challenge Schumer in 2004, he isn't going anywhere. Pataki is the governor for now, and his next term ends in 2006. But Hillary is too popular for Pataki (Hillary's term ends in 2006) and Pataki is way too liberal for the 2004 or 2008 ticket, so why should Pataki step down? Rudy might not like the prospect of a matchup with the super-funded Schumer, but he has a better chance against Schumer than he does against Hillary. Giuliani happens to be 100% pro-choice, so he won't land on the national ticket anytime soon. Thus it would make sense for him to go after Schumer. But he isn't going to. Any campaign is still "at least a couple of years" away, he said.

USA Today has an excellent article about state spending growth. As expected, the National Governors' Association whining that this is "the worst economy since the Great Depression" is just a smokescreen for governors' insane spending hikes during the boom, and now that the economy has weakened and tax revenues have fallen somewhat governors are unwilling to atone for their late-90's extravagance. The article also shows that Democrats have been much more effective at controlling spending during this latest cycle and Republicans have generally been the tax-hikers to stave off budget cuts. (California and Illinois, two Democratic bastions, are still among the worst performers, and Texas has a high rank and is a one-party Republican state.) Despite hyped layoffs of cops and firemen, states have added 74,000 employees to the public payroll in the last two years.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

I watched part of Howard Dean's Meet the Press interview with Tim Russert this morning. Russert was pretty hard on him. Dean looked pretty polished except when Russert would try to characterize certain things that Dean had said, in which cases Dean got extremely petty. It didn't come off well at all. It wasn't a disaster for Dean, but he certainly didn't pull ahead of the other dwarves in the Democratic primary; however, Dean is already way ahead of the other Democrats because he staked out an antiwar position from the very beginning while Kerry, Edwards, Lieberman, and Gephardt all voted for it.

The three frontrunners are Kerry, Gephardt and Dean, with Gephardt the real frontrunner because labor loves him. I think Edwards still has a remote chance of winning because I think a lot of the Democratic base really wants him to win, but he needs to be a lot more articulate and probably a little more liberal too. Gephardt has Iowa locked up, while Dean and Kerry are dogfighting over New Hampshire. Methinks Gephardt will win South Carolina.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Yesterday the Senate voted 62-28 to allow the importation of cheap Canadian drugs, which amounts to price controls on the US drug industry. However, the HHS Secretary must vouch for the safety of those products, and when Congress passed a similar bill during the Clinton years Donna Shalala refused to vouch for Canadian imports. Considering how much cozier the GOP is with the pharmaceutical industry than the Democrats, we have every reason to think that Tommy Thompson will also keep the Canadian imports out.

Friday, June 20, 2003

CBS has completed the first-ever public poll of Iraqis, and sixty-five percent of Iraqis want the US to stay until the country is secure. There goes another liberal argument.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

It's official: Redistricting is back in Texas.

Governor Perry (R-TX) has called a special session to reconsider about 233 bills killed in the Ardmore walkout, including Tom DeLay's gerrymander of Texas House districts. Four to seven Texas Democrats will be out of a job after next November. It doesn't matter that much anyway, because the Democrats were going to lose seats next November no matter what happened. Now they're going to lose a few more. The union-friendly GOP moderates will lose even more clout, and DeLay might be able to enact some union regulations - and more tax cuts - after next November. Dare I pray for some fiscal discipline too?

The House won't matter much unless the Senate gets more conservative, however. It looks like South Carolina and Georgia will be shoo-in Republican wins, although Georgia doesn't matter because Zell Miller votes with the GOP on everything anyway.

Vulnerable Republican seats:

Alaska

Illinois

Vulnerable Democratic seats:

South Carolina

Georgia

North Carolina

Nevada

South Dakota

Florida is seen as a probable GOP pickup, but that assumes that Graham isn't running for it. Graham's nomination has gone nowhere fast, and I bet he'll bail out after getting creamed in the early primaries and run for re-election again. In that case, Florida will remain in Democratic hands. Barbara Boxer of California might be vulnerable, and John Breaux's seat in Louisiana could very well go Republican if he decides to retire. If the Republicans can net four more seats (counting Miller's), they will be able to legislate pretty much whatever they want.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Will Rehnquist and O'Connor please resign already so we can have a big political fight and make things interesting!

Democrat Sen. Schumer of New York, anticipating the coming war over the Supreme Court, wrote a letter to Pres. Bush that suggested Sen. Arlen Specter for the job. That will make a great weapon for Rep. Pat Toomey, who is challenging Specter in the Republican primary. Sen. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, pleaded for Bush to nominate a moderate (i.e. another Souter) to avoid a confrontation. The Democrats are afraid of Bush nominating a pro-lifer because they would be forced to filibuster, giving the GOP the excuse it needs to eliminate the judicial filibuster through parliamentary maneuvers, thus allowing Bush to make Scalia Chief Justice, replace Rehnquist and O'Connor, and finally fill all of Bush's federal appointments.

Domestically, not much is happening. Bush is trying to pass a vaguely market-oriented prescription-drug benefit for Medicare, but instead of raising hell like they usually do, a lot of Democrats are supporting it. As a political rule of thumb, if Teddy Kennedy is on the same side as the GOP on an issue, the GOP is selling out. Considering how desperate the Democrats are for an issue in 2004 and how Medicare is one of their stronger issues, the Democratic establishment's support seems extremely suspicious. My money is on the GOP caving on yet another issue (as they did with farm subsidies, campaign finance, tariffs and federal pork) to make Bush even more invincible than he already is.

The recall movement in California, given new life by Rep. Darrell Issa, has gained massive momentum. Davis squeaked by in 2002 against a lousy challenger by basically lying about the scope of California's deficit, and after winning he has proposed dozens of unpopular tax hikes and budget cuts to deal with it. Jobs are fleeing California because of enormous business costs imposed by the Democrats who own the state. Now it's mid-2003 and Davis is looking like roadkill. The recall effort needs some 900,000 signatures to go to ballot, and organizers say they've already gotten above 700,000. Davis could be ousted in a Democratic primary, though, probably by Dianne Feinstein. Either way, the governorship of the largest state could very well be won by the GOP.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in a recent speech: "This is really embarrassing...I can't remember the California governor's name, but I know you will help me recall him."

Gaza and the West Bank are boiling with Hamas-induced violence, and Sen. Lugar thinks we should send peacekeepers to Israel. But if Israel's army can't smoke out Hamas, what good will a few more Americans do? Ever since Iraq the US has rapidly assumed the mantle of world policeman again. Bush just sent 1800 Marines to Liberia (yes, that cesspool of tribal warfare in west Africa). Why? What possible interest does the United States have in Libera? Neoconservatism is about using force aggressively to defend our interests, not keeping Africa's tribes from each other's throats.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Trial lawyers got out of control a long time ago, but nobody I know has tempted the naked greed of the tort bar--until now. My aunt, Anne Schlafly, owns a retail store that had the misfortune of selling some dragees (tiny balls used on wedding cakes that supposedly contain trace amounts of silver). She was just named in a California class-action lawsuit suing everyone who has sold silver dragees to California. Ms. Schlafly tracked down the silver dragees she sold and found that none had actually been sold to California, so she called up the lawyer suing her and requested to be removed from his hit list. Sure, he said, for $500.

Woohoo! True to his word, Tom DeLay is already pushing new tax relief. He wants to make expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (a spending program for low-income families) a rider for more tax cuts, since there are about a trillion dollars in tax cuts still left in President Bush's budget. I think he will expand the income tax credit while also cutting capital gains some more. Although the bill would "probably have to get 60 votes" in the Senate according to CNN, I'm sure the Republicans can find a way around that.