January 14, 2005

The Big Cat

One of the great ballplayers who got the Colorado Rockies Baseball Franchise off the ground, Andres Galarraga was a big fan favorite in Denver. "The Big Cat" was beloved by all, especially Spanish-speaking fans.

He has non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and has released a Motivational Video about his battle.

Newsday reports that he has signed with the Mets at 43 and is one HR away from 400.

Hat-tip (oddly enough) Samizdata

Posted by jk at 12:08 PM | What do you think? [1]

Lone Star Madman

...just doesn't seem to have the punch. Yet a certain "Kill-it-and-Grill-it!" author, and Gibson Byrdland maven has decided to vote with his feet. John Fund notes in today's WSJ OpinionJournal Political Diary:

Political scientists are turning up evidence that people are increasingly relocating to states where residents share their basic political values. Count the Motor City Madman, rocker Ted Nugent, as one of them. The lifelong Michigan resident, an enthusiastic conservative and gun owner, has pulled up stakes and turned Texan. He's even donating his services to help the local Crawford High School band raise the money needed to perform at the inauguration on January 20. He will hold a concert tomorrow night that he expects will raise a grubstake of $25,000.

Mr. Nugent says he still loves his native Michigan, but his new lifestyle can't be beat. "The folks are friendly, they have their heads screwed on right and I can shoot game almost outside my door," he told me last year. Mr. Nugent said he only wishes some of his liberal fellow celebrities would follow his example and move to places where they might find the neighbors' political views more congenial. "They always claim they want to move to France or Canada, but they never do," he added.

Posted by jk at 11:06 AM | What do you think? [0]

Virginia Postrel

I hope y'all are reading Virginia Postrel's Dynamist Blog every day. Hers is a great example of a "long-tail" blog. Her posts are infrequent but very insightful. They probably lend themselves better to an RSS blog reading system than to daily visits.

She has been on a tear lately. If you haven't clicked in a bit I would go read her top seven posts. Two of them are on Sarbanes-Oxley. I think she has captured the Conservative Zeitgeist once again. Buyer's remorse of this high-intentioned but ill-thought bill is really starting to set in:

Taxes and spending get most of the attention, but regulations can be just as expensive and far more wasteful. Take the Sarbanes-Oxley bill, passed in the post-Enron panic as a demonstration that Congress and the administration cared and were doing something. Compliance costs a fortune, siphoning funds from productive investments (including hiring); that the law took effect in the middle of a recession didn't help the economic recovery. More significant is the long-term effect. The law threatens to block smaller firms from going public, cutting them off from a major source of capital. That effect will filter backward, making venture capital funding more difficult by eliminating one way VCs get their money out.

Indeed, this bill was cited as a contributing factor toward the US's drop out of the Top Ten Freest Nations, and the Wall Street Journal has highlighted how it scares good people off of corporate boards, where they could really help governance.

This is a bad bill, passed in haste, to prove Congress could "do something about Enron." Well, yes, we could shut down all Corporations, that's one way to cut corporate corruption...

Posted by jk at 10:00 AM | What do you think? [0]

What We're Up Against

The administration gets much legitimate criticism for profligate spending under its watch.

Legitimate because my guy has pushed two very expensive expansions to entitlements in the Medicare Drug Benefit and the No Child Left Behind Act (must...resist...crack...about...Armstrong...). No, he is not a Reaganite, small government conservative.

Yet nobody seems to credit the administration with just how hard reform is. If they cut $10 from an ineffective program, and give $20 more to one that works, the headline will be "Bush Cuts $10 from Poor!"

Don't believe me? Here is the Lead Editorial in my WaPo politics mail alert this morning: "Bush Plans Sharp Cuts in HUD Community Efforts."

The White House will seek to drastically shrink the Department of Housing and Urban Development's $8 billion community branch, purging dozens of economic development projects, scrapping a rural housing program and folding high-profile anti-poverty efforts into the Labor and Commerce departments, administration officials said yesterday.

"drastically shrink," "purging," "scrapping," and "folding high-profile anti-poverty efforts," all in the lede.

Obviously, this President likes poverty. Or does he? The second paragraph doesn't use bold language, but admits:

The proposal in the upcoming 2006 budget would make good on President Bush's vow to eliminate or consolidate what he sees as duplicative or ineffective programs. Officials said yesterday that economic development programs are scattered too widely in the government and have proved particularly ineffectual at HUD.

Those who don't have time for all that reading can just read the caption below Barney Franks's picture: "Rep. Barney Frank calls the proposal 'just appalling.' "

Posted by jk at 08:26 AM | What do you think? [1]

January 13, 2005

CBS News: Top 10 List

Late Show with David Letterman : Top Ten

Top Ten Proposed Changes At CBS News

10. Stories must be corroborated by at least two really strong hunches.
9. "Evening News" pre-show staff cocktail hour is cancelled until further notice.
8. Reduce "60 Minutes" to more manageable 15-20 minutes.
7. Change division name from "CBS News" to "CBS News-ish"
6. If anchor says anything inaccurate, earpiece delivers an electric shock.
5. Conclude each story with comical "Boing" sound effect.
4. Instead of boring Middle East reports, more powerball drawings.
3. To play it safe, every "exclusive" story will be about how tasty pecan pie is.
2. Not sure how, but make CBS News more like "C.S.I."
1. Use beer, cash and hookers to lure Tom Brokaw out of retirement.

Posted by jk at 02:24 PM | What do you think? [0]

Supply Side Cuts Work

While media pick through the Treasury Report for bad news, Larry Kudlow finds some news he predicts "you won't find in tomorrow's front pages"

The really big budget story is the explosion in tax revenues prompted by tax-cut led economic growth over the past eighteen months. Under 50% cash bonus expensing for the purchase of plant and equipment, productivity-driven corporate profits ranging around 20% generated a 45% rise in business taxes. At lower income tax-rates, employment gains of roughly 2.5 million are throwing off over 6% in payroll tax receipts. Personal tax revenues are rising at a near 9% pace.

Kudlow says W is off to a roaring start on his second term even before inauguration day. I hold with him and his (very-Democratic) partner James Kramer that we are on the threshold of a Bull market that will raise all boats and help pass an ambitious agenda.

UPDATE: If you can handle more acronyms, percent signs and dollar signs, read Noel Sheppard's piece in TCS. He says "Frankly, with depressions like these, who needs expansions?"

Posted by jk at 11:57 AM | What do you think? [0]

JK & Beinart

I read The New Republic to discourage "cocooning" where I read only things I agree with, to keep an eye on the "other guys," and -- most importantly -- to brag about how open minded I am.

Most of their writers are too deep into the Democrat swamp for me to agree much with, but Editor Peter Beinart always gets me thinking and every now and then we agree. In Golden, he suggests that Democrats take Gerrymandering as one of "their" issues.

And the response shouldn't be limited to the Golden State. Democrats across the country should jump on the Schwarzenegger bandwagon, demanding that their states also take redistricting away from the state legislatures that deny voters a real choice over who represents them. In a state like Florida, where the GOP has absurdly gerrymandered to ensure a mass of safe Republican seats, such a change could bring real Democratic gains and perhaps even help put control of the House back in play. More importantly, it would reinvigorate American democracy. Nothing would make our politics more responsive, more dynamic, and more fun than hundreds of contested congressional elections, all over the country.
Amen, Brother Pete! Somebody has to fix this. It would not be a bad partisan theme for the Ds. Like Beinart, they could use it to further demonize Rep. Tom DeLay. And it would position them as restoring little-d democracy, power to the people, make every vote count, eat all your peas, and all that.

Beinart is also right to make it effective in 2011 after the census. I don't think the current lines ultimately benefit Democrats or Republicans but they benefit every incumbent. Voting in 2005 for something that will not affect them until 2011 might encourage a less self-serving decision.

Posted by jk at 11:44 AM | What do you think? [1]

The Most Important Story You Won't Hear

Well, you'll hear about it because you've developed resilience to my pedantic prose, but MSMers aren't likely to hear about MidEastern boom times which curiously correspond with the Deposition of Saddam and his wacky lads from Iraq.

A guest editorial today in the WSJ today (free site) says "The region is prospering in the wake of Iraq's liberation."

A search of newspaper and magazine stories in 2004 reveals more than 3,338 articles including the words "Middle East" and "war and terrorism"; only 102 stories linking the "Middle East" with "growth" and "recovery" can be found.

Yet definitive policies to normalize the Middle East have made regional and global market investors bullish, repatriated capital exported (or that had fled) from the region, and encouraged a sea change in foreign direct investment. The end of Saddam's regime sent a major, unconfused market signal after the West's years of disinterest in the Middle East as a Levantine backwater. Subsequently, every major capital market index in the Middle East has risen.

Regionally, stock markets rose over 30% in 2004 and represent a market capitalization of $470 billion. This has been accompanied by a surge in regional property values and a higher number of tourists. The main Egyptian equity index has increased 165%, while that of Saudi Arabia has gone up by 158%. The Saudi market's stellar performance is especially striking given the great amount of attention paid at the moment to that country's security problems. Israel's leading index has risen by 32%, the benchmark index of Kuwait's exchange by 73%, Jordan's by almost 60%, and that of the United Arab Emirates by 110%.

Rebuilding the Middle East in a free market model is going to take a lot longer than I thought. I was one of those starry-eyed neocons. I extrapolated a unique Iraqi affinity for freedom from viewing Iraqi ex-pats in Dearborn, MI.

Because something is hard, doesn't mean it won't happen. And there is nothing more important than economic freedom. Markets and FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) tell the tale -- and it's looking like a pretty good story:

Until recently, the region attracted less than 1% of global FDI and only 4% of FDI directed at the developing world. The average annual amount of FDI for the three years preceding the war (1999-2002) was only $6.7 billion. According to our research, FDI for the entire Middle East since regime change in Baghdad will be up 76% or $4.8 billion to an average of $11.5 billion for the 2003-05 period. Overall, Middle Eastern countries are striving to make their economies more attractive to foreign investment. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Iraq. A new foreign investment law was passed on September 2003 permitting 100% foreign ownership of firms in all sectors of the economy aside from oil and other mineral extraction. Profits from foreign investments into this previously highly centralized, state monopoly economy can now be repatriated freely from both tax and capital controls.

Sounds like the ingredients for a bull market to me. While I don't forgive terrorists because of poverty (most of them seem to be well off), you can't help but think increased economic activity would add -- greatly -- to stability.

Posted by jk at 09:37 AM | What do you think? [0]

January 12, 2005

President Clinton on TV -- Now There's a Surplus

Shhh. I don't want anybody to know, but "The U.S. government ran a $1 billion budget surplus in December, helped by a rise in corporate tax payments."

I'm sure you probably read this on Page One of the New York Times this morning, or heard it on NPR, but for everybody else, we're keeping it quiet.

WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. government ran a $1 billion budget surplus in December, helped by a rise in corporate tax payments, the Congressional Budget Office said in its latest budget report released on Friday. The surplus, which compared with an $18 billion deficit in the previous December, helped create a smaller fiscal deficit for the first three months of the 2005 fiscal year, than in the same quarter of the prior year. "In December, most corporations make their fourth quarterly payment of income taxes," the CBO said, adding that corporate tax refunds were lower than in the previous December. Congress' nonpartisan fiscal watchdog said the 2005 shortfall now stands at $114 billion, about $16 billion less than for the same period last year. The 2005 fiscal year began on Oct. 1.
I did see President Clinton on TV the other day -- it's probably his doing.

Hat-tip: Gay Patriot

Posted by jk at 01:30 PM | What do you think? [0]

A Stunning Admission

The RaTHergate Panel failed to go there, but Newsweek's Howard Fineman pens a column on the MSNBC website that describes MSM as a political party, the AMMP (American Mainstream Media Party), and pretty much says that the Democrats were subsumed into it.

The ideological energy of the New Deal had faded; Vietnam and various social revolutions of the '60s were tearing it apart. Into the vacuum came the AMMP, which became the new forum for choosing Democratic candidates. A "reform" movement opened up the nominating process, taking it out of the smoke-filled backrooms and onto television and into the newsrooms. The key to winning the nomination and, occasionally, the presidency, became expertise at riding the media wave. McGovern did it, Gary Hart almost did (until he fell off his surfboard); Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton rode it all the way.

Heady stuff from a serious player. I don't always agree with Howard but he brings a serious journalist's perspective to TV punditry.

Where I part on this piece is his assertion that, at the beginning, when Walter Cronkite soured on the war, and the WaPo took on President Nixon, that this movement's beginnings were benign and desirable.

The crusades of Vietnam and Watergate seemed like a good idea at the time, even a noble one, not only to the press but perhaps to a majority of Americans. The problem was that, once the AMMP declared its existence by taking sides, there was no going back. A party was born.

Fineman is burdened with zero doubt that the US's abrupt betrayal of our South Vietnamese allies was a good thing. I don't want to refight Vietnam until Senator Kerry runs for President again, but I fail to see how the public was served by a media that discarded objectivity to pursue an agenda -- just 'cause it's one Fineman likes.

It is a good column and an important admission. I think he is dead-on about both the rise and the fall of the AMMP. I quibble with his credits to the early institution.

UPDATE: Glenn thinks Howard is looking for good old days of objective media that never were.

UPDATE II: Jonathan Last wonders if the panel would not underscore the (obvious to most) fact that the documents were indeed fraudulent, what else was left out?

Leave aside the "no political bias" finding; leave aside the kid-glove treatment of Dan Rather and Andrew Heyward. This abdication of responsibility by the panel in the face of their own expert's conclusions is so startling that it legitimately calls into question--by itself--everything else in the report.

Posted by jk at 12:41 PM | What do you think? [0]

Sullivan Doesn't Get Blogs

Quite an accusation, n'est ce pas? But reading the blog pioneer's post today on Howard Fineman's article is like the RaTHergate report: good facts, bad conclusion:

Are we now the establishment? Fineman says we are. His admission that the mainstream media have acted as a de facto political party for three decades strikes me as a big deal - the first crack of self-awareness in the MSM. But I truly hope the blogosphere doesn't become its replacement. Blogs are strongest when they are politically diverse, when they are committed to insurgency rather than power, when they belong to no party. I'm particularly worried that the blogosphere has become far more knee-jerk, shrill and partisan since the days when I first started blogging. Some of that's healthy and inevitable; but too much is damaging. In challenging the MSM, we should resist the temptation to become like them.

The Fineman article is important (post coming up on that!) it is a watershed moment.

But Sullivan misses the idea of the blogosphere. As individual blogs become more partisan and shrill, that does not mean the same happens to the blogosphere en masse.

And in the middle is an unfortunate pot-kettle-black moment. He is "particularly worried that the blogosphere has become far more knee-jerk, shrill and partisan since the days when I first started blogging." Funny, I am particularly worried that he has become far more knee-jerk, shrill and partisan since the days when he first started blogging.

Posted by jk at 09:42 AM | What do you think? [0]

January 11, 2005

Nope, No Bias Here. Move Along.

At the risk of adding nothing new, I have to post my opinion of the RaTHergate report. Like many, I was stunned with its clarity and thoroughness. I expected a quick whitewash, released Friday at 5. And it is not that. As the WSJ Ed Page says (paid site):

CBS promised last fall to get to the bottom of Dan Rather's discredited September 8 broadcast on President Bush's National Guard service. Yesterday's report by the independent panel charged with investigating the "60 Minutes" segment fulfills that vow. It is a thorough, no-holds-barred look at how it happened. If only it were as good at explaining why.

It was a thorough report, providing proof of serious allegations. But, stunningly, its conclusions are preposterous! More WSJ Ed:
It pins the blame instead on Ms. Mapes's "myopic zeal" in pursuit of a ground-breaking story that other news organizations were also pursuing. So we are supposed to believe that the flawed CBS segment was the result of overeager journalists' desire to be "first" with a will-o'-the-wisp of a story that was at least four, and arguably closer to 10, years old -- and, by the way, that it was merely coincidental that these eager beavers pushed the story out after Labor Day amid a bitter election campaign.

The discussion on motives includes a section titled "Factors that Support a Conclusion that a Political Agenda Did Not Motivate the September 8 Segment." And the No. 1 example is "The Previous Work of Rather and Mapes." Really.

As we saw it, the last election included the most one-sided political reporting we've ever witnessed, including the coverage of Richard Nixon circa 1972-74. Most of the established media outlets favored John Kerry -- which is fine by us if they would only admit it. CBS's reporters made the further mistake of letting that bias so color their judgment that they were willing to believe phony documents from a partisan source without proper authentication. Good for CBS for coming clean about the process, but good luck convincing its viewers about the lack of partisan motives.

The best roundup is probably Glenn's column on glennreynolds.com:
And that "no political agenda" bit is why CBS is only half-clean. So a network noted for its anti-Bush sentiments airs a story based on obviously bogus documents (How obvious? Just look at this animated gif comparing the allegedly typewritten memos CBS relied on with the same material typed into Microsoft Word using its default settings.) runs with a story just in time to swing the election, but there's no politics involved? Well, short of the Vulcan mind-meld, I guess there's no way to be absolutely certain what's in people's minds. But on the other hand, as law professor Jim Lindgren notes, CBS's panel is happy to level accusations of political motivations at its critics.

Nope, no bias here. That cannot ever be admitted I guess. But, like "Hindrocket" says at PowerLine:
True enough, but let me offer this alternative theory: the fundamental problem that led to the downfall of 60 Minutes and, perhaps, CBS News, was the fact that no one involved in the reportorial or editorial process was a Republican or a conservative. If there had been anyone in the organization who did not share Mary Mapes's politics, who was not desperate to counteract the Swift Boat Vets and deliver the election to the Democrats, then certain obvious questions would have been asked[...]

Competitive pressure. Not bias. Just another casualty of Michael Barone's "Hard America." They will admit everything but the obvious. And the story was obviously driven almost entirely by liberal bias at CBS. The Swift Vets provided better scoops, but they were on the wrong side.

UPDATE: Larry Kudlow weighs in:

The shocking thing is that Andrew Heyward did not lose his job. Had Heyward been fired, it would have suggested that CBS is reevaluating the biases and blindnesses that led them to air the report in the first place. It's clear, now, that CBS will be doing nothing of the kind. (The report goes so far as to explicitly deny that political motivations were primary for the CBS team, insisting that competitiveness with other news outlets drove them to it.)

The good news is that the MSM has lost its monopoly.

Posted by jk at 10:06 AM | What do you think? [6]

New On The Blogroll

GayPatriot says he's not "the new Andrew Sullivan." Fair enough, we're all individuals ("Yes, we are all individuals!").

Longtime readers will know I was a big Andrew Sullivan fan. He is my archetype of a blogger, and I copied his style as well as my lack of writing skills allow. A link, an excerpt, and an opinion -- that's blogging to me. The blogosphere then becomes an organic reading machine, allowing an obscure thought to rise to the top if a few readers find it interesting. Hayekian Journalism -- distributed knowledge and authority.

Sullivan's writing skills and his depth of thought still impress me. I hate to turn on somebody because he doesn't agree with me anymore. The not-new-sully-gay-guy has got it right:

The real question isn't where the GP site is the "new" Andrew Sullivan. The question is was Andrew Sullivan ever anything more than a blow with the wind conservative? The other term for that is -- a Clinton Democrat. If the polls supported the war in Iraq by over 66%, Sully was for it. If they start to head down below 50%, Sully bolts. He reminds me of a Philadelphia Eagles fan, circa 2004.

(PS -- Andrew, the Eagles are an AMERICAN football team. That's the game with the helmet, not the bloody knees and broken teeth. In America, we have another name for rugby -- its called hockey.)

Andrew's main problem is that he, along with his fellow Clinton Democrats, do not understand Red State (and the majority of) America.

I am adding GP to the blogroll and will start to read it because my vision of the GOP is a lot more gay-friendly, as we libertarian and lasseiz-faire social customs folk expand influence.

Sullivan was an important voice in that to me. Now that voice is no longer there. I'll be reading GP.

Posted by jk at 09:24 AM | What do you think? [4]

January 10, 2005

Better Living Through Bloggers

We're all aware of the tremendous impact the blogosphere has had on our society in recent months. Now, the beat goes on in Washington State. From John Fund:

"In his new book, "Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation," radio host and law professor Hugh Hewitt calls the new media a form of "open-source journalism" in which gatekeepers can no longer control what reaches the public. Readers and listeners interact with bloggers and talk show hosts so that a free market of ideas and information can emerge. "Blogs analyzed the Washington state election shenanigans in a more sophisticated and comprehensive way than the mainstream media," he told me."

And what has been the result? "A poll taken last week by Seattle's KING-TV found that by a 20-point margin state residents back a new election, and by 53% to 36% they don't think Mr. Rossi should concede."

The rest of the column is good stuff, detailing some of the voting "irregularities." For example, "At least 1,200 more votes were counted in Seattle's King County than the number of individual voters who can be accounted for." And worse. Take a look.

Posted by JohnGalt at 08:38 AM | What do you think? [5]

January 07, 2005

90s Nostalgia

The Clintons were always so good at releasing bad news Friday afternoons at 5PM Eastern. Glad to see they haven't lost their touch. AP Friday 5:08 PM: Sen. Clinton's Finance Director Indicted

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (news - web sites)'s former finance director has been indicted on charges of causing false campaign finance reports to be filed with the Federal Election Commission (news - web sites), the Justice Department (news - web sites) said Friday.

The indictment of David Rosen, unsealed in Los Angeles, focuses on his fund-raising for an Aug. 12, 2000, gala for Clinton in Los Angeles. The New York Democrat was still first lady at the time.

While the event allegedly cost more than $1.2 million, the indictment said, Rosen reported contributions of about $400,000, knowing the figure to be false.
The indictment charged that Rosen provided some documents to the an FEC compliance officer but withheld the true costs of the event and provided false documents to substantiate the lower figure.

I think I'll go home and put my Spin Doctors CD in...Watch Seinfeld reruns...

Posted by jk at 03:27 PM | What do you think? [3]


Jonathan Last at Galley Slaves links to a Meryl Yourish post about Saudi Arabia's response to the tsunami.

It seems that after some called the Saudi offer of $10 Million "stingy" (with or without a Norwegian accent), the princes dug deep and increased the official government offer to $30M. And a telethon raised supplies and an additional $31.2M.

The AP article points out that other telethons for Iraqi affected by the war and for Palestinian martyrs also raised "tens of millions."

Yourish digs up the exact figure paid to the Palestinian terrorists martyrs and he and Last and jk question their priorities:

Embarrassed for only putting up $10 million for the tsunami victims, the Saudi's have upped their ante to $30 million, with the help of a nationwide telethon.

But it turns out that this isn't the first time the Saudis have dug deep for others. In 2003 they raised $11.5 million for Iraqis--and $109 million for Palestinian "martyrs."

It isn't that Islamists don't know how to give to a good cause. It's that they have very different ideas about which causes are good.

We would do well to remember this in the future.

Posted by jk at 02:39 PM | What do you think? [0]

Damn Fundamentalists!

Now this is funny! It comes to me through GOPUSA. I suspect it is factually true, though the articles are biased. Oliver Stone tells a London crowd that "Alexander" bombed because fundamentalists couldn't handle a gay character:

Despite nearly universal disapproval from U.S. movie critics of the Macedonian conqueror film starring Colin Farrell, Val Kilmer, and Angelina Jolie, Stone blasted what he called "a raging fundamentalism in morality" in America for the film's poor performance in the U.S. while attending the British premiere of the film in London on Wednesday.

"I was quite taken aback by the controversy and fierceness of the reviews about a character we don't really know too much about," Stone told reporters in London on Wednesday. "I operate on my passion and sometimes I'm naive, I don't think about the consequences."

Stone ridiculed people from the South in the Bible Belt for causing the 3-hour saga, which cost nearly $200 million to make and market, to earn less than $35 million since its American debut on November 24.

"From day one audiences didn't show up," Stone lamented. "They didn't even read the reviews in the South because the media was using the words, 'Alex the gay.' As a result you can bet that they thought, 'We're not going to see a film about a military leader that has got something wrong with him.'"

"Despite nearly universal disapproval from U.S. movie critics" well, I'm sure most US film critics are confirmed gay-hating fundamentalists.

Perhaps the movie, ummm, was no good?

Posted by jk at 10:48 AM | What do you think? [0]

January 06, 2005

Quote of the Day

From today's OpinionJournal's Political Diary

"Here's one thing (liberals) need to do now: Find our Arnold. The Dems need to embrace Hollywood because they don't know how to tell a compelling story that people connect to in a visceral way... The Republicans discovered that America loves Hollywood, loves actors, and when given a chance they vote for actors. Reagan, Arnold, that guy from the Love Boat, Sonny Bono. The Republicans run professional actors and really good amateur ones, like the one in the White House, that bumbling Gilligan, the genius at his craft" -- Nation magazine editor Katrina Van den Heuvel.

Katrina Van den Heuvel called the President a genius -- that's news!

Posted by jk at 11:18 AM | What do you think? [0]

NED Bless Jonah

A Corner Post:

NEW DRINKING GAME [Jonah Goldberg]
Every time Specter mentions his experience as a prosecutor, do a shot. And why does he say "Patriot's Act" instead of Patriot Act? Maybe you should chug a beer when he says that.

I'm proud to be at work, missing the hearings today; Leahy would just drive my blood pressure up. I heard a rumor yesterday that my new Democratic Senator, Ken Salazar, plans to support Gonzales.

I hope this is true. While I supported Mr. Coors, I think Senator Salazar might be a responsible Democrat, joining forces with Evan Bath and Barak Obama, and Harold Ford when he gets there. Here's to hope!

Posted by jk at 09:02 AM | What do you think? [0]

January 05, 2005

Where do we find these people?

AnySoldier.com is a great place to go if you want to know how and where and what to send our military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also a moving reminder of the decency, compassion and courage of these fine men and women.

1SG John Molamphy, somewhere West of Mosul writes

05 Jan 2005:

All of us are doing fine. Thanks for all the incredible support.

My guys and I would really be grateful if you'd do something for the survivors of the earthquakes and tsunamis. Some of us would like to do something but it's a little difficult from over here. Save the cost of a care package and donate it on our behalf to whatever relief effort you feel is worthy. No, I'm not trying to be nice; it's just those guys got their collective butts handed to them and they can't fight back.
Thanks and have a great new year.

John P. Molamphy
"Blackjack 7"

Thanks to all who serve! We got a Christmas letter from a jazz-loving soldier we sent some CDs and a small package to. Very cool.

Posted by jk at 02:15 PM | What do you think? [0]

For This We Elect Republicans...

Usual, reflexive, party-cheerleading has been canceled for this post. John Fund writes in OpinionJournal's Political Diary today, that House Republicans have decided to wait for a rainy day to cut spending.

On Monday, a group of conservative House Republicans tried to get their party's caucus to endorse tough rule changes that would have made it harder to increase federal spending. Many Republicans say they are concerned about the spending surge since President Bush took office, but apparently not so concerned as to actually put some muscle behind their rhetoric.

All but one of the budget changes offered by conservative House members were defeated in a meeting of the GOP caucus. Some of the defeated amendments would have required a three-fifths vote to increase entitlement spending; required a "rainy day fund" for emergency spending; required roll-call votes on bills costing more than $50 million and repealed a rule that allows automatic passage of a debt ceiling. Plans to let caucus members vote in secret on Monday may have backfired, since it allowed the pork barrellers to vote one way while talking another.

House leadership aides insist they still plan on tough measures to restrain spending but insist they will do it "our way," meaning taking on faith that this year's budget can be restrained by force of will alone. Consider this a thumb in the eye of the National Taxpayers Union, which strongly endorsed the rule changes. "What most taxpayers and even some avid followers of politics don't know is that Congress's own rules create significant incentives for higher levels of spending, and make it exceedingly difficult for lawmakers to maintain oversight of the massive federal budget," points out NTU Director of Government Affairs Paul Gessing.

Before you forward the Democrat Registration forms, though, I still have to vote for the people who at least talk about what I like. The GOP talks about shrinking government and fails -- the Ds talk of expanding government and deliver.

Join me and change it from the inside!

Posted by jk at 11:26 AM | What do you think? [2]

January 04, 2005

We're Number 11, We're Number 11!

No, not the Broncos who will have their hands full next week with Indianapolis's starters...

I'm discussing our nation's ranking as the eleventh freest nation in the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom.

I quote this study all the time (including a sad Christmas exchange) because of the correlation. As Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes in OpinionJournal(free site)

Policy makers who pay lip service to fighting poverty would do well to grasp the link between economic freedom and prosperity. This year the Index finds that the freest economies have a per-capita income of $29,219, more than twice that of the "mostly free" at $12,839, and more than four times that of the "mostly unfree." Put simply, misery has a cure and its name is economic freedom.

This, friends, is my belief in a nutshell. "The affluence that our liberty has brought us" is a line I bore people with.

So, it is bittersweet to see the US ranked 11th, based on a high corporate tax burden and regulatory environment. I am glad to see freedom on the march (my beloved Ireland is kicking our ass at 5th...) but I don't plan to leave the US and hate to see the light of the world slide.

I read an article in The Economist that claims "A growing body of evidence suggests that the meritocratic ideal is in trouble in America." I did not share its pessimistic outlook. The main focus is on "income inequality" which to me is a sign of meritocracy, not a warning sign. The dynastic/not dynamic look at the political class was more worrisome -- the blood of our candidates does run pretty blue, but I don't think that is on the rise.

Before discarding the whole article, some points are well worth considering. Some of the "stickiness" impeding social mobility is the product of hyper-successful upward mobility in the 20th Century. Those people now naturally seek to entrench themselves and their children, drawing the gates behind them on some level.

My conclusion? Mirabile dictu, it's partisan! It is too easy to believe in our freedom and its concomitant prosperity. Yet each new tax and regulation draws us more toward France than Hong Kong. The GOP has been maligned as a vehicle for the religious right, but I say this study proves the real and more-present danger is a slow, eroding socialism as Democrats tax, regulate, control, and coerce a little more every Congress. Time to turn the State back.

Posted by jk at 10:26 AM | What do you think? [3]

Remembering the Lamm Years

A good friend e-mailed text of a speech "How To Destroy America" by former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm.

The speech was delivered to "an immigration-overpopulation conference in Washington, DC" and I found the text on this site

Governor Lamm made some good points about the historical records of great nations who have "committed suicide" by dividing and embracing multiple cultures and languages.

I don't want to do him a disservice in paraphrasing, the speech is short, punchy and well worth a read. The audience, including Rep. Tancredo and Professor VDH, was moved:

"Having made America a bilingual--bicultural country, having established multiculturalism, having the large foundations fund the doctrine of 'Victimology', I would next make it impossible to enforce our immigration laws. I would develop a mantra: "That because immigration has been good for America, it must ALWAYS be good. I would make every individual immigrant sympatric and ignore the cumulative impact of millions of them." In the last minute of his speech, Governor Lamm wiped his brow. The profound silence allowed me to hear my heart beating. Finally, he said, "Lastly, I would censor Victor Hanson Davis's book 'MEXIFORNIA'. His book is dangerous. It exposes the plan to destroy America. If you feel America deserves to be destroyed, don't read that book."

There was no applause. A chilling fear quietly rose like an ominous cloud above every attendee at the conference. Every American in that room knew that everything Lamm enumerated was proceeding methodically, quietly, darkly, yet pervasively across the United States today. Every discussion is being suppressed. Over 100 languages are ripping the foundation of our educational system and national cohesiveness. Barbaric cultures that practice female genital mutilation are growing as we celebrate 'diversity'. American jobs are vanishing into the Third World as greedy corporations create a Third World in America-take note of California and other states-to date, 10 million illegal aliens and growing, fast.

I'll offer my response (as a way to recycle an email as a blog post):
Gov. Lamm makes some good points and it grieves me to differ with Prof VDH as he is about 6000 times as smart as me.

But I think they are both off track on this. Gov Lamm made great waves during his tenure with Malthusian population predictions. The joke at the time said "The Governor's baby weighed eight pounds at birth -- when it weighed 16 pounds he said 'My God! in 11 years this child will weigh 64,000 pounds!!!!'"

That relates to his population theory and much of the current debate. It's worthy to look at long-term issues but extrapolation should be taken with a grain of salt.

I would of course like to see more assimilation, English supported as the sole national language and less censorship against those who question diversity and multiculturalism. Yet there are some strange bedfellows in that movement with which I am not comfortable. Even Professor Hansen sees an immigrant as a mouth to feed rather than a worker contributing to the economy.

For the record, I like W's guest worker program a lot. Provide a legal way to work, then tighten the restrictions on long-term visits and citizenship.

Like the Libertarian Party, I am sympathetic to their ideas but many of these guys are too wacko for me to join (Tom Tancredo [R-CO[ and the lovely Michelle Malkin come to mind, as does Bill "Put the Army on the Border!" O'Reilly).

I'd add that the title of the conference undercuts its credibility. Immigration and Overpopulation? Immigration is the key to curing underpopulation, a severe problem for Europe and a developing problem for us. The immigrants who are assimilating will keep our culture alive.

Posted by jk at 09:00 AM | What do you think? [5]

January 03, 2005

Thomas's Embarassment

Harry Reid (D - Nev) will be Senate Minority leader when the 109th Congress is formed. Very little ink has been shed on his disparagement of Justice Clarence Thomas. Outside of Taranto's Best of the Web Today very little.

Senator Reid said of Justice Thomas "I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written." Taranto has called for interviewers to demand an example of a poorly written opinion.

It seems that on CNN's "Inside Politics" he did, saying that in Hillside Dairy v. Lyons the difference between Scalia's dissent and Thomas's was "like looking at an eighth-grade dissertation compared to somebody who just graduated from Harvard."

Follow the link to read Thomas's very brief dissent if you feel like a little "judis crituqueus" but don't look for Scalia's -- it doesn't exist!

That's right, there was no Scalia dissent. Scalia joined the court's majority opinion, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, as did every other justice except Thomas, and he dissented only from Part II.

Reid's substantive criticism of Thomas--if it can be dignified with such a description--turns out to be equally empty. According to Reid,

Scalia "doesn't want to turn stare decisis precedent on its head," while Thomas does. Presumably this refers to Thomas's rejection of the court's "negative Commerce Clause" jurisprudence. In his Hillside Dairy opinion, as we've seen, Thomas does not elaborate on this, instead pointing the reader to his lengthy dissent in the earlier Newfound/Owatonna case--a dissent Scalia joined. In other words, Thomas and Scalia both would overturn Supreme Court precedent in this area; the only point of disagreement in Hillside Dairy was whether to address the question in this particular case.

We suppose Reid will find some staff knucklehead to take the fall for this appallingly shoddy research, but the question remains: Why is the Democratic leader of the U.S. Senate so intent on insulting the intelligence of Clarence Thomas, the only black member of the Supreme Court?

I like Reid well enough. He will be far less objectionable than most of the Senate Ds, but I don't think he should get a pass on this.

More alarming still -- If President Bush names four more ultra-right-wing justices, the protection afforded our citizenry by Hillside Dairy v. Lyons could be taken away -- this President will roll the clock back to 2003!

UPDATE: Hey, my dumb joke made WSJ's Best of the Web today!

Posted by jk at 04:12 PM | What do you think? [2]


I was happy to see that President Bush had teamed up his dad and President Clinton to spearhead a tsunami relief fundraising project. I thought that it was a good move, even though I suspect that Mom won't like it!

AlexC at pstupidonymous finds the best part of the story:

So who's missing?
Hint: Michael Moore sat next to him at the DNC Convention this summer.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Posted by jk at 03:37 PM | What do you think? [0]

That Muslim Brotherhood

-- or "who's stingy?" Jonathan Last reports on Galley Slaves which countries are not topping the charity lists:

But keep going down the list and you'll find some very rich countries who are doing next to nothing.

Take, for instance, Saudi Arabia ($10 million), Kuwait ($2 million), and Iran ($627,000). This, for their Muslim brothers and sisters? These are countries for whom wealth flows from the very earth which killed so many. The Saudi princes do not work or create. They shop and harvest. And yet here they stand again--they and the rest of the Middle East--sitting on their hands and expecting the rest of the world to take care of their Islamic brothers. How much is Islamic solidarity worth for Iran? About 16,000 barrels of oil.

That's fine, so far as it goes. It's their choice. But remember it the next time you hear a bin Laden tape blaming the West for the destruction of civilization. Remember it the next time you hear an Islamist imam castigating the Jews and infidels for defiling their lands. Remember it the next time you hear an al Jazeera story about how infidels are disrespecting Islam. Remember it the next time you hear how Islamic "solidarity" with other oppressed Muslims is what keeps this or that country from fully joining in on the war on terror.

Were Michael Dell a Muslim nation, he would rank second; Sandra Bullock fourth. (I do hope the Sandra Bullock nation has relaxed laws on feminine apparel...)

Posted by jk at 03:20 PM | What do you think? [0]

Is Communism Really So Bad?

Yes. For those who cannot grasp it, Victorio Matus has an early book review in the Galley Slaves blog:

Next month Philip Short's long-awaited biography, Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare (Henry Holt), comes out, and from my brief perusal of an advanced copy, the term "nightmare" cannot begin to describe the horrors Pol Pot unleashed on the Cambodian people. Especially disturbing are the passages regarding S-21, the notorious interrogation camp where almost 20,000 prisoners were executed. But as Short explains, "the role of S-21 was not to kill but to extract confessions. Death was the finality, but it was almost incidental." Incidental or not, the unspeakable acts of torture, murder, and infanticide must not be forgotten. (And those who had shrugged off the threat of the Khmer Rouge must also face up to the terror to which they had once turned a blind eye.) It must have been a dreadful task, assembling such a history. For this, Short should be thanked.

Yet Soviet Iconography is radical chic, as are Che T-shirts. Hitler is rightly recognized as evil (though not as a Socialist) but the Communist butchers are cool. I don't get it.

Posted by jk at 01:24 PM | What do you think? [0]

The Capital Surplus

Dr. Art Laffer is a hero of mine. He truly is the father of supply-side economics and his "Laffer Curve" (a sideways parabola drawn on a napkin) was the economic heart of the Reagan Revolution in economics. I signed up at YorktownUniversity.com just so that I could take a course from him.

Today he calls for bold laissez-faireism in the dollar and current account deficit "crises." He refers to the trade deficit as "The Capital Surplus;" it's not a euphemism, it's a better descriptor:

WSJ.com - Destination U.S.A. (Paid site, sorry!)

Just because the United States has its largest trade deficit ever doesn't mean that we're living beyond our means. Far from it. In fact, the characterization of the U.S. as a land of chronic overspenders, hellbent on selling themselves into global servitude doesn't make sense at all. And once the over-consumption model is put into question every policy remedy based on the presumption of squander looks pretty weak.

In an era of floating exchange rates the trade deficit (or more appropriately, the current account deficit) is one and the same as the capital surplus. The only way the U.S. can have a trade deficit amounting to 5.6% of GDP is if foreigners invest that amount of their capital in the U.S. It's a matter of simple accounting. But once you realize that the trade deficit is, in fact, the capital surplus you would clearly rather have capital lined up on our borders trying to get into our country than trying to get out. Growth countries, like growth companies, borrow money, and the U.S. is the only growth country of all the developed countries. As a result, we're a capital magnet.

Take a look around. Germany hasn't had a growth spurt since the 1960s when Ludwig Erhard was Bundeskanzler. France still has a mandated maximum workweek of 35 hours, a maximum income tax rate of 58%, a 1.8% annual wealth tax and government spending as a share of GDP greater than 50%. Finland, for goodness sakes, fines speeders a percentage of the speeder's income. Sweden, Denmark and Germany also fine speeders a percentage of their income, only with caps. Japan has had a stock market down by over 70% from its high in 1989 and both company and government unfunded liabilities in Japan are out of sight. Canada's economic policies are kooky and investments in Latin America, the Middle East, Russia, Southeast Asia and Africa are about as safe as running drunk blindfolded across the "I-5" freeway at rush hour.

So what's not to like about the U.S.? Whether you're an American or a foreigner the U.S. is the choice destination for capital. That's why we have such a large trade deficit.
But even changes in exchange rates have limits. The dollar under current circumstances can't go to zero or infinity. Without a corresponding rise in domestic dollar prices, U.S. goods and assets become relatively more attractive to foreigners and Americans alike when there is a fall in the foreign-exchange value of the dollar. Sooner or later the dollar would be such a bargain that there would be more buyers than sellers, therefore limiting the dollar's fall. Today, the dollar's value in the foreign exchanges fits nicely within its historical range.

On Jan. 1, 1999, the euro was born and was worth $1.17. In fact, if we look at the synthetic euro prior to 1999, the dollar's low was in 1992 when each euro could buy $1.47. The large dollar appreciation from 1992 to early 2002 saw the dollar peak at 83 cents per euro and our capital surplus (the trade deficit) go from less than 1% of GDP to almost 4% of GDP (and continue on to today's 5.6%). Well, the global economic environment is changing once again as are investors' perceptions of relative attractiveness.

It doesn't make it any less painful for me to visit Ireland, but I think he may be right.

I might quibble with a lesser icon over his respect for ECB head Jean- Claude Trichet. I think a little more liquidity in the Euro would fuel growth for Europe and ease dollar-stress.

Holler if you want me to mail you the whole article: jk [at] berkeleysquarejazz [dot] com.

Posted by jk at 09:53 AM | What do you think? [0]

January 01, 2005

Happy New Year

You know your musical career is on the skids when you're not working New Year's Eve! C'est la vie. I had a great night at home. Riza bought two concert DVDs. We saw live jazz Thursday and stayed home last night to watch:

Norah Jones and the Handsome Band Live in 2004
The new jk everything theory of life dictates that there are two good pop performers and two good tv shows every decade. Ms. Jones has the first half of the '00s nailed.

This performance shows a little more maturity than her earlier work without losing the freshness and joy. The instruments are pure, clean and acoustic. Her voice is not smothered in effects like a pop diva. And the music draws from the whole American spectrum, from Duke Ellington to Tom Waits and John Prine.

The music is textured, with subtle layers of dobro, mandolin, flute, and a drummer who is as likely hitting a box with mallets as playing a kit.


Harry Connick Jr. - Only You in Concert (Live from Quebec City)
Another who's had success on the pop charts in spite of actual talent! This is a good show. Harry leads a very large ensemble with stellar players (including Leroy Jones and John Allred, both of whom I saw last year).

He is playing the new CD here, which includes a lot of 50s and 60s pop songs. He does a great job and sneaks in a few standards to keep me happy.

I loved the stories from Ken Burns's Jazz series about Harry getting beat up every week by Wynton and Branford Marsalis; Papa Ellis was teaching the young lad piano.

His success does keep him from getting more attention from the jazz community, but in a lengthy piano cadenza he kicks a syncopated beat on the hard floor, snaps a contrapuntal rhythm on his left hand while playing a blaring and rhythmically interesting solo with his right hand.

jk-jo-bob gives 'em both five stars! Happy New Year!

Posted by jk at 10:32 AM | What do you think? [0]
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