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June 30, 2007

Happy Blue Moon, y'all!

It also happens to be the lowest to the horizon of any full moon this year. A cool end to a beautiful day.

June 29, 2007

Warren Buffett's silly economics

Warren Buffett is upset because he paid 17.7% in taxes last year, while his secretary who earns $60,000 paid 30%. He thinks that's terribly unfair.

I agree with him. If that's true, his secretary clearly needs a tax cut. I know that's not the conclusion I'm supposed to draw. I know that if I were really enlightened and compassionate I would understand that the obvious way to help the hapless secretary is not to reduce her tax burden, but to double or triple Buffett's. I don't really get it, but I'm sure it all made sense to his audience. Iit was a Hillary Clinton fundraiser after all.

But I'm officially calling B.S. on Buffett's numbers. If he says he paid 17% in taxes, I'll take him at his word. If most of his income came from long term capital gains, that sounds about right. But how does his poor secretary end up in a 30% bracket?

Assuming the worst case scenario for the secretary (no itemized deductions and filing single) I used the rates table to determine she would have had a total tax burden of around $10,300. That represents an effective tax rate of (are you ready?) 17%. And again, that's the worst case scenario. Chances are it was significantly lower.

It would be easy to dismiss this as yet more nonsense from a guilty rich liberal, but I think it's a bit more pernicious than that. This kind of misleading silliness fuels a common misperception that the existing tax code is somehow woefully regressive. The facts are that the top 1% of income earners shoulder more than a third of the entire tax burden, while the top 10% shoulder nearly two thirds. There's enough misinformation and class warfare out there already without people like Warren Buffett contributing to it.


Chinese restaurants often have trouble with their translated English, but I'm not sure that explains this bumper stick on the door of "Number One Chinese Food to Take Out" in my neighborhood. I'm mystified.

June 28, 2007

Old (but recent) TV

My wife and I have a peculiar habit of watching TV shows long after most other people. Now that we're going through Sopranos withdrawal, we've finally decided to start on "Six Feet Under" from the beginning.

It's good, my wife says. Very good. But not as good as "The Sopranos." Not even as good as "Battlestar Galactica."

Now you see why I married her.

The Bloomberg boomlet

Okay people, joke's over. I mean seriously, what in the hell do you see in this guy?

At first I was willing to write the Bloomberg candidacy off to the overactive imagination of the news media, but now I find that his long defunct campaign site has suddenly been reactivated.

Okay, I'm convinced. He's running for president. The only question is why?

I continue to be astonished by the number of people I know, left, right and center, who react positively to the idea of a Bloomberg presidency.

To all you, some of whom are my dearest friends and closest family, I can only say... "WHAT THE F**K!??!"

Seriously, y'all, look. One of my favorite bloggers referred to him as a libertarian's "worst nightmare." My own lovely wife described him as an "anti-libertarian."

No doubt both are right. So I have to ask, where does the appeal come from? Look, I understand completely that everyone can't be a libertarian. I get that. We're nuts. Fine. But at the same time, isn't an "anti--libertarian" a bad thing? Can't we all at least agree on that? That the primary occupation of our elected official probably shouldn't be to make mundane, day-to-day life decisions for us? Hello? Anyone? Bueller? Hello? Am I truly alone here? Will anyone stand with me? What happened to the liberalism of old? Where's Lou Grant? Where's Clarence Darrow? Are we all meek sisters who stand quietly and deferentially by while President Bloomberg tells us what kind of baseball bat our kids have to use in Little League?

Seriously, what the f**k? One of my friends, whom I respect highly and disagree with so seldom that I have to question my own sanity, thinks that Bloomberg would be a great choice because he's a successful businessman, and that's what it takes to run large governments these days.

Well believe me, I'm very sympathetic to that argument. But I think if you look at Rudy Giuliani's record as NYC mayor, you'll find that he's at least as good a "businessman" on fiscal policy as Mike Bloomberg is. I know that both men have their own peculiar personality problems, but at the end of the day? I'd rather encounter government resistance in trying to obtain taxpayer funding for a blasphemous work of art, or in sqeegeeing a commuter's car, than in cooking french fries or trying to decide what kind of light bulbs to put in my overhead fixtures.

Seriously, you guys. (And I mean this with all due respect.) What the hell are you thinking?

Thank God that's over

So Bush's immigration bill is dead, and I suppose that's a good thing. I consider myself fairly liberal on the issue of immigration, but I was a bit taken aback by the reactions of some of my friends on the right. The usually sensible Wall Street Journal, for example, responded with outright hostility to anyone who dared suggest we actually enforce the law. Indeed, they went so far as to suggest that anyone who didn't want to turn a blind eye to the law of the land was a racist. The White House was little better, with its arrogant, condescending treatment of conservatives who opposed this bill.

On the other hand, some of the hardcore opposition to the bill did indeed seem to contain a very unattractive vein of nativism, much as I hate to admit that to Paul Gigot. Basically, I'm glad it's over. I'll some up the lessons this taught me as follows.

  1. I like Jim Webb more and more every day.
  2. I don't like bills it when Congress cobbles together bills in secret and then tries to shove them down an unwilling electorate's throat.
  3. I find talk radio almost unlistenable these days, but when conservative talk radio goes head-to-head with the likes of Trent Lott, I (reluctantly) cast my lot with the former.
  4. I'm really starting to believe the whole Bush family are some leftist plants to destroy the Republican Party. Bush's entire handling of this measure was to walk right up to the small, small, tiny minority that still supports him and piss all over them.

Well, that's pretty much it. Mostly I'm glad it's over. Secondly, I'm glad it didn't pass. Maybe now we can move on to issues I'm slightly more interested in. You know, like Paris Hilton.

June 27, 2007

Am I the only one...

...who thinks Paris looks better after three weeks in the clink? Maybe it did her some good.

June 26, 2007

Governor Bloomberg

If Mike Bloomberg is serious about furthering his political career, maybe his next step should be a job he actually stands a chance at getting. This recent poll suggests that Bloomberg might give Governor Spitzer a run for his money. Perhaps Mike was a bit too hasty in abandoning the GOP.

June 25, 2007

Jim Crow in Tennessee

I know this is probably redundant since Instapundit posted it a few days ago, but I still think it's worth a mention that this guy had to eat concrete merely for exercising his Constitutional (not to mention Tennessee-approved) right to bear arms.

I've had a concealed carry permit for most of my adult life, and I almost never exercised my right to carry. Why? Because I don't want to end up like this guy from Utah, who ended up cooling his heels for five days in a New Jersey jail for the crime of... obeying the law.

Let's face it, folks. We're living in the Jim Crow era of gun rights. Regardless of what our rights are on paper, we're still subject to the capricious whim of local officials, who won't hesitate to abrogate that right without regard to what the written law has to say. And sadly, they often do so with the tacit (or even explicit) encouragement of those whom they pretend to serve.

June 22, 2007

Microsoft's big-ass table

This made me lol.

The poor are much better off than they used to be

Want proof? We have anti-poverty centers providing assistance to multi-millionaire trial lawyers (emphasis mine.)

John Edwards ended 2004 with a problem: how to keep alive his public profile without the benefit of a presidential campaign that could finance his travels and pay for his political staff.

Mr. Edwards, who reported this year that he had assets of nearly $30 million, came up with a novel solution, creating a nonprofit organization with the stated mission of fighting poverty. The organization, the Center for Promise and Opportunity, raised $1.3 million in 2005, and -- unlike a sister charity he created to raise scholarship money for poor students -- the main beneficiary of the center’s fund-raising was Mr. Edwards himself, tax filings show.

  • The haircuts don't matter because John Edwards cares about poor people.

  • His lucrative consulting gigs for tax-dodging, Cayman Islands-based hedge funds don't matter because it helped "educate him about the relationship between poverty and wealth."

  • His half-acre mansion doesn't matter because Edwards started an anti-poverty center.

  • A permanent campaign slush fund masquerading as a tax-exempt anti-poverty center doesn't matter because... well, it just doesn't.

How long until this position becomes untenable even to Edwards' most stalwart supporters?

June 21, 2007

You'd better sit down for this, Part II

Hot on the heels of this groundbreaking report on left-wing, anti-American bias at the BBC, we now have this stunner: journalists donate overwhelmingly more money to Democrats than to Republicans.

Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 17 gave to Republicans....

The pattern of donations, with nearly nine out of 10 giving to Democratic candidates and causes, appears to confirm a leftward tilt in newsrooms....

This confirms what most of us already knew. Namely, that journalists are... bad at math. Because that looks more like a seven-to-one ratio to me, but whatever.

Anyway, not all media outlets allow these kinds of political contributions from employees. Chief among these is the New York Times. Why not, one wonders? This was actually my favorite bit.

As the policy at the Times puts it: "Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributors, any political giving by a Times staff member would carry a great risk of feeding a false impression that the paper is taking sides."

Yeah, God forbid that people perceive a bias at the newspaper that hasn't endorsed a Republican for president since Eisenhower. Wouldn't want public donor records to lead to any "false impressions," you know. One wonders why the Times thinks that allowing donations might reinforce "false" impressions of bias. If their staff is so bloody impartial, then what's to fear from campaign finance records?

By the way, the article states that in addition to the Times, donations are strictly forbidden at The Washington Post, ABC, CBS, CNN and NPR. Any guess as to how they would skew the numbers if the ban weren't in place? Maybe that seven-to-one ratio would be more like nine-to-one after all.

June 20, 2007

Well, look on the bright side

If you add Congress's 14% approval rating to Bush's 32%, you get... (okay, hang on a minute here...) Okay, I got it. A 46% approval rating for our nation's government. Nothing to write home about, perhaps, but I've seen worse.

All hail the New Feminism!

Far out. My fellow Jersey blogger and longtime sparring partner Jill has incurred the "wrath of Althouse" (check out the comments section) by suggesting that educated, successful women who criticize Bill Clinton do so because he never made a pass at them.

This is a far cry from the feminism I encountered back in college, which told me I was a rapist because I was born with a penis. This new breed of feminism seems to suggest that if a woman espouses the "wrong" political opinion, it's only because the right guy hasn't grabbed her ass in the Chappaqua Starbucks.

Both feminisms still seem a bit strange to me, but I have to say I much prefer the new version. I'd call that progress. "I am woman, hear me roar...."

I for one welcome our new nanny overlords

What do you suppose a Bloomberg presidency would be like? Maybe his first act would be to appoint Sheryl Crow as Secretary of Telling Americans How Many Squares of Toilet Paper They Can Use. Then he'd conduct elaborate sting operations against stores accused of selling more than one roll per month to a customer.

I know a lot of people like the guy, and I guess I understand that. But what I don't understand is how many of them are liberals who thought Giuliani was too authoritarian. Hello? At least Giuliani had remarkable accomplishments to offset his occasional excesses. What has Bloomberg ever done besides not making the city fall apart while he's busy telling us how to cook our french fries? Ah well, maybe it's just me. He did give me a free radio once, so I guess he's not all bad.

Anyway, I think Soobee is right. The guy's clearly gearing up for a third-party presidential run. As terrible as I think a Bloomberg administration would be, I do kind of like the idea of a Bloomberg campaign. For one thing, it would probably be easier to get laid at a science fiction convention than to actually elect the guy, so I think I can safely relax. But it would make the campaign more interesting, wouldn't it? And anything that shakes up the two-party duopoly in our system has to be a good thing, doesn't it?

And speaking of that, I wonder what the odds are that Ron Paul will run on the Libertarian ticket this year? He wouldn't make as big a splash as a Bloomberg candidacy, but he'd almost certainly garner a lot more than the half percent he got when ran on the LP ticket back in '88, given the recent boomlet he experienced in the first rounds of the GOP debates.

UPDATE: And now Ralphie?

June 19, 2007

Jimmy Carter is a pathetic old fool

You've almost got to feel sorry for him. He worked long and hard to rehabilitate his image in the years after his failed presidency. It took some time, but it eventually paid off. Through his humanitarian work with Habitat for Humanity, his efforts in promoting free and fair elections around the globe, and countless books, speeches and op-ed pieces, he finally earned his place as an "elder statesman," and commanded a respect that nothing in his political record ever would have ever merited.

Sure, he's angered conservatives with many of his stances in recent years, but he's also endeared himself to the left in the process, so it was probably a wash. I found him to be a tiresome but largely harmless left-wing moral scold, and although I found some of his views on the Middle East troublesome, it didn't really start coming apart for me until this book hit the scene. I couldn't believe that the man who brokered the only lasting, significant peace of our lifetime in the region would throw away all his credibility and goodwill over that hateful, idiotic and self-indulgent little tome.

I wasn't the only one who had that reaction. Carter alienated himself from much of the Jewish community, and many erstwhile allies felt the need to dissociate themselves from the ex-president. Allegations of anti-Semitism began to circulate in some corners. You'd think it would have been a wake-up call. You'd think he'd take a step or two back from the precipice.

I guess not. Carter is now taking the U.S. and the E.U. to task for the sin of favoring Fatah over Hamas -- an Islamist terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel, that violently seized political power in a coup of stunning brutality earlier this month.

I've never particularly liked the guy, but it's almost painful to watch an old man glibly trash his own reputation so utterly and so thoroughly, particularly after he'd labored so assiduously to rebuild it. Still, all doubt has been removed at this point. Jimmy Carter is nothing more than a doddering old fool. And if you think that's too harsh, then believe me, it's the most charitable assessment I can possibly give the guy. Seriously.

June 18, 2007

You'd better sit down for this one

The BBC has a liberal, anti-American bias, and "...an almost teenage fascination with fashionable causes."

Thanks to the Beeb for blowing the lid off that one themselves. Who knew?

(Hat tip: Ace)

Will Jim Webb do the right thing?

I don't think this will surprise anyone, but now it's official: The gun that Senator Jim Webb's aide was arrested for carrying was, in fact, Webb's gun. Webb owes no one an explanation for why he felt the need to be armed, but I do agree with Glenn on one point. This would be an excellent opportunity for Webb to sponsor a national concealed carry bill. The federal government could formally recognize the right that forty states already have.

I'm not holding my breath for that, but I will be watching Webb's voting record on guns very carefully. I've always had a more or less positive opinion of Webb, who is easily one of my favorite Democrats in Congress. I want to see whether he'll continue in that vein, or simply become yet another hypocrite who thinks the rules shouldn't apply to him.

June 15, 2007

Credit where credit is due

I've busted Michael Moore's chops a lot in this space over the years, so it's only fair that I give him props when he does something like this. Check out Moore's response to questions about people pirating his new movie, "Sicko."

June 12, 2007

Yeah, no s**t

From Reuters:

U.S. voters may face outbreak of "campaign fatigue"

I've got it already, with a year and a half left til election time.


Is anyone paying attention to what's been going on in Gaza lately? It's a preview of the kind of "peace" we can enjoy in the Middle East if Israel pulls out of the West Bank, I guess.

June 08, 2007

O, the humanity!

Paris Hilton is headed back to the slammer. I guess trying to do her court appearance by telephone didn't go over so well. Am I the only one who thought Drudge's "Phoning it in!" headline was just a figure of speech? Silly me.

June 07, 2007

Thank God...

... she can once again breathe the sweet air of freedom.

More about rights

All right, I said yesterday that I didn't want to get into this, but I'm too bored to write about anything else so why the hell not? I implied in a previous post that while Americans enjoy the right to free speech, or to peaceably assemble (or to peacefully split infinitives) or to keep and bear arms, they do not have a right to health care, or a "living wage."

The distinction comes from what the term "right" means in this context. Starting from first principles, I agree with P.J. O'Rourke in that the only fundamental human right is the right to do as you damn well please. This right is not absolute, of course, and is subject to limitations to the extent that your right to self-determination interferes with someone else's. When I speak of someone having a political "right" to something, it means they are free to do whatever it is without government interference.

So why isn't health care a right? Let's say an indigent person feels entitled to quality health care as a fundamental human right. To whom does he present himself when he asserts this right? On whose time and services does he place this demand, and upon what authority? Suppose a given health care provider chooses not to treat this patient? Who, if anyone, will compel the provider to do so?

I have a right to keep and bear arms. But this right, as commonly understood, means that if I have the means and the will to arm myself, the government shall not stand in my way. It does not mean that I can present myself at my local gunshop and demand a rifle. It does not mean that if I can't afford a Glock, the government (or someone else) must provide me with one.

But when John Edwards speaks of a right to health care, that's exactly the kind of scenario he's talking about. A right means a lack of constraint on the activities of an individual, but does not include compulsion of another individual. There is no entitlement to the time, services, or property of another. That's why I disagree with John Edwards's touchy-feely laundry list about what should be rights and what should be privileges.

To be fair, part of the problem was the half-assed structure of the quiz. I'm not completely comfortable with the term "privilege" in some of these instances, and I think it's a false dichotomy to think that all desirable goals can be shunted into one category versus another.

It doesn't mean that people can't make just claim to health care, or that they shouldn't have access to it. It doesn't even mean that the government can't (or shouldn't) provide it. If Edwards' position is that he wants to guarantee all these things to all Americans, then fine. I may disagree, but that's a defensible position. But they're still not "rights," in my book, so let's call them something else.

And anyway, what really frosted me about the whole thing was how the Second Amendment, which was the one true legal right in the list, was the only one that Edwards demoted to "privilege." That was lame.

(Oh, and I almost forget. He gets $400 haircuts too.)

June 06, 2007

The "failed" surge

Think Progress is ripping on David Petraeus for, you know, waiting for all the troops to actually arrive in Iraq before pronouncing the surge a failure. This is clearly supposed to represent some horrible duplicity on the part of Petraeus, I guess.

I'll admit that I never expected the left to give the troop surge a chance to actually do anything, but I did think they'd at least wait until the instant the last boot stepped off the transport plane and onto Iraqi soil before celebrating defeat. I guess I gave them too much credit. What else is new?

(Hat tip: Jill)

John Edwards flunks simple quiz (badly)

Via this link at Patterico, John Edwards has just solidified his position of my least favorite presidential candidates among the serious contenders.

A YouTube interviewer asked Mr. Edwards to respond "right" or "privilege" to a list of six different things. Edwards, like most progressives, has a fairly expansive definition of what constitutes a "right."

Health care? Right.

College education? Right.

Liveable wage? Right.

And so forth. I don't even want to get into why I think he's wrong about all of these. The astonishing thing to me was how, against this backdrop, the only thing that Edwards unequivocally classified as a privilege was gun ownership. Ironically, that is also the only item on the list that is an enumerated Constitutional right. If Edwards had merely answered by flipping a coin, he would have been right half the time. As it is, he's completely bass-akwards.

Hell, Edwards even thinks surfing the goddamn internet is a "right." Sure, I remember all those Platonic dialogs and Augustinian pontifications about man's inalienable right to a DSL line and Boing-Boing, don't you? Edwards is even convinced that foreigners who work here for five years have an automatic "right" to U.S. citizenship (although if they only work here for one year, he does hesitate slightly.)

For my money, Edwards didn't just flunk this quiz. He scored a zero.

But I'll have to admit his hair looked terrific. (There are so many of my readers who would be disappointed if I posted about John Edwards without mentioning his $400 haircuts, so I couldn't let 'em down.)