March 31, 2011

Overnight Open Thread
— Maetenloch

So Who Cheats At Taxes?

Via Powerline comes the result of a recent study that tries to answer this question:

The typical American tax cheat is male, single and under the age of 45.
And it's not just taxes - they tend to cheat at everything.
"Their willingness to cheat is not limited to their taxes but spans a wide range of situations and behavior where they are looking to get away with something," said James Lou, U.S. chief strategist at DDB.

Tax cheaters are even more likely to steal money from a child. The survey found that while only 3% of non-cheaters would ever take money from their child's piggy bank, 28% of cheaters said they would.

Why? Because they believe they're morally superior:
Many cheaters also try to justify their behavior. Far more tax cheats said they are 'overall better people' and that they are 'special and deserve to be treated that way', compared to the people who said they don't cheat.
Ace has made the point many times that one of the big conceits on the Left is that by merely holding the correct political beliefs you immediately become a morally superior, more intelligent person. And when you think you're superior, well you also tend to assume that you deserve some not paying all your taxes.


Posted by: Maetenloch at 04:57 PM | Comments (808)
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NATO: Hey, We'll Bomb The Rebels, Too
— Ace

National Review linked this with a "Who's on first?" quip. But I don't know.

Members of the NATO alliance have sternly warned the rebels in Libya not to attack civilians as they push against the regime of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, according to senior military and government officials.

As NATO takes over control of airstrikes in Libya and the Obama administration considers new steps to tip the balance of power there, the coalition has told the rebels that the fog of war will not shield them from possible bombardment by NATO planes and missiles, just as the regime’s forces have been punished.

“We’ve been conveying a message to the rebels that we will be compelled to defend civilians, whether pro-Qaddafi or pro-opposition,” said a senior Obama administration official.

It certainly sounds like a clusterfark, but...

If America wants to enter other states and declare a monopoly on sanctioned violence, well, that's a good way to keep outrages against civilians low, but comes at the cost of using American troops for every damn fight in the world.

If you're going to go a different way -- supporting indigenous fighters with air capabilities and intelligence -- you have to accept that there are going to be some vicious slaughters of civilians by "freedom fighters," but certainly you want as few such massacres as possible.

What do you do? You can threaten an end to air cover and supply. But that doesn't thwart a slaughter in progress.

I'm not sure a threat to attack the rebels we're supporting is necessarily a bad thing. We need them to keep it clean. The temptation in any war, especially a civil one, is to get dirty and vicious as soon as possible and then keep topping yourself. Our troops don't do that (except for the occasional psychopaths who are then court martialed), but we don't want to have to insert our troops into every situation where we might want to flex some military might.

If we're going to fight in this limited fashion (and I think the old Cold War model of limited support is well worth revisiting), we do need to let our "freedom fighters" know that there are some things we just won't/can't countenance, and there's no way we can stay in a fight if our "freedom fighters" decide to unleash their inner Al Qaeda.

As for actually bombing them, though: I really can't think of a more preposterous situation than bombing both sides in a civil war.

Oh, and meanwhile, SecDef Gates said there won't be any ground troops in Libya as long as he's serving in his job. So, like, implicitly, he's threatening to walk.

People point out that we already have had troops on the ground -- one of those shot-down pilots was almost certainly evacuated care of a SEAL team in a helicopter, and I'd imagine they touched boots on the ground during the operation.

I think he means apart from such things.

Although, of course, any time you have pilots in a war it means you're just one shoot-down away from a hostage situation.

Posted by: Ace at 01:00 PM | Comments (463)
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Funny If It Weren't So Sad
— LauraW

Thanks to Dave L.

Posted by: LauraW at 10:09 AM | Comments (156)
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The Real Budget Debate?
— Ace

Many people argue this, including, I think, Miss80sBaby. That the difference between $33 billion and $61 billion is trivial when neither sum is even 1% of our current yearly deficit (nevermind the whole budget, or the whole debt) and that the real fight is over structural, multiyear spending.

It's a good argument. My problem with it, though, is that I am tired of the Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Manana, Manana non-plan plan for reducing spending. We cannot be told always that big changes are coming in the future. That's how we got here -- we just kept permitting these problems to grow worse as we talked always about future changes.

So here's my basic problem: If you don't have the guts to fight for possibly-unpopular and fairly trivial cuts now, why on earth should I believe you're suddenly going to be filled with piss and vinegar and fighting spirit tomorrow, especially when it comes to the untouchable, third-rail, middle-class welfare programs?

I think we have to fight on all of this and am really tired of feeling the fool because I bought into another "we promise we'll do all this great stuff next year" claim.

Posted by: Ace at 09:42 AM | Comments (221)
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Bill Whittle: Michael Moore's Right: We Can Balance the Budget By Taking Money From The Rich!
— Ace

Ah, but there's a catch. Great video; stay with it. more...

Posted by: Ace at 09:14 AM | Comments (73)
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Midday Cuteness Break
— Ace

From a website called Zooborns, specializing in pictures of adorable baby animals born in zoos, baby elephant bath-time: more...

Posted by: Ace at 08:58 AM | Comments (50)
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Oh, Dear: Now I Do Think A Lame Sell-Out Compromise Has Been Reached On Spending, Because The Liberals Are Spinning It As A Conservative Victory
Update: Could Just Be More Liberal Spin

— Ace

Read Ed's post, which includes this reportage by Chuck Todd:

If the current Washington fight over spending was a game of chicken, the Obama White House would already be pulled over on the side of the road, as House Republicans continue to barrel down the deserted highway. The fact is, the White House and Senate Democrats keep caving, while House Republicans — at least publicly — have yet to budge an inch. The latest development, as Politico reports, is that the administration has agreed to an overall cut of $33 billion, which is near the number that the House leadership originally proposed (before the Tea Party caucus forced it to go higher). And now the White House appears to be backing away from its demand that no riders be attached to the deal. Press Secretary Jay Carney said there is no veto threat from the White House on a deal that contains ANY riders, as was originally the position.

You know why I don't like that?

Consider yesterday the story was "GOP gives up and agrees to pitiful $33 billion in cuts."

Now, today, the story seems to be: "Democrats cave and agree to huge $33 billion in cuts."

See? In both cases, it's the same figure, which I am capable of deciding for myself whether I believe it constitutes a win or loss.

My belief is this: Word has gone out. The Republican base won't accept the compromise-- so the Republican leadership can't do what they want to do.

But what if we can convince the base that the same lame $33 billion constitutes not a defeat for the GOP but a defeat for Obama and Reid? If we cast this as a victory, are they dumb enough to now call the same figure a win where before they'd call it a loss?

This could be the price of the deal -- Democrats, and their media allies, agree to put out the "Gee you sure whipped up but good" spin, which permits the Republicans to cave to the Democrats.

If someone has climbed into a tree and is all a-scared and wants to get back down, sometimes you have to help him in his climb-down.

Am I too cynical? I don't think so. All I know is that a deal I thought was a liberal victory yesterday is today being spun by liberals as a liberal defeat.

And I have to ask myself, "Why?" Why is a narrative being created here, that $33 billion, just three billion more than the Democrats' opening bid of $30 billion, is somehow a great victory for conservatives?

Is it because they want to help the conservative cause via positive messaging and tales of great triumph?

I rather... doubt that.

So why?

Oldest diplomatic move in the book: Allow an opponent who doesn't want to fight a face-saving out so he can withdraw with his honor superficially intact.

Actually... Now that I think about it, there's no strong reason to accuse Republican leadership of complicity in this scam.

As pointed out earlier, the Democrats are eagerly feeding stories to their liberal stenographers about deals being made and Republicans walking away from them.

This spin -- "We caved and caved and gave in on everything important and still those extremists wouldn't agree!" -- could just be part of that battlespace preparation. It's all of the same piece, right? It's all the same basic meme, in slightly different versions.

Thanks to RWC for pointing out that possibility -- which, I have to admit, has fewer moving parts and less of a conspiratorial vibe to it than mine does.

Posted by: Ace at 07:58 AM | Comments (137)
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Oh No: Libyan Rebels Number Less Than 1,000, According to One Reporter
Plus, Grim Tidings: Is Qadaffy Preparing a War-Winning Abdication In Favor of His Daughter?

— Ace

Via Jim Geraghty, the reporter also says as far as actual "soldiers" the number's still lower.

Even with NATO (Sasha Fierce!) acting as their air force the rebels are still unable to take and hold territory.

Libyan rebels fled in headlong retreat from the superior arms and tactics of Muammar Gaddafi's troops on Wednesday, exposing the insurgents' weakness without Western air strikes to tip the scales in their favor.


The Libyan army first ambushed the chaotic caravan of volunteers, supporters and bystanders outside Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, then outflanked them through the desert, a maneuver requiring the sort of discipline the rag-tag rebels lack.

The rebels had advanced, their pathway cleared by missiles, but Qadaffy's mercenary ground forces then just ejected them again.

A video report by Jake Tapper shows the retreating (running, really) rebels, and notes the CIA is "on the ground" in Libya and ready to help.

On that last point -- that sure seems like a politically helpful leak which is strategically harmful. Obama hands want to show the public they're "serious" so they put that out there. But if they were really serious, and not just trying to make a show of it, wouldn't that be withheld?

The world continues to ponder arming the rebels (um, what is there to ponder? You've chosen sides and chosen war and now you're going to refuse them weapons?), but if there are so few rebels, lacking any kind of battlefield discipline, what sort of weapon can help them?

Via Hot Air, Qadaffy's shelling the last western rebel-held town of Misrata...

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shelled the rebel-held city of Misrata on Thursday and dozens of civilians have been killed in the past few days when their homes were hit, a rebel spokesman said.

Misrata, the last big rebel strong-hold in western Libya, has been encircled by pro-Gaddafi forces for weeks and repeated Western air strikes aimed at protecting civilians there have not so far succeeded in halting the attacks.

... and Qadaffy is now arming pick-up trucks with light weapons, hoping they won't draw the attention of NATO jets but will get the job done.

And the Vatican is confirming 40 civilian casualties in NATO airstrikes on Tripoli.

Now, if Obama has in fact arrived far too late and backed a losing cause, he's going to have to face a serious dilemma.

1. "Americanize" the war and win what the indigenous forces cannot.

2. Allow the rebels to lose in a war in which American prestige has been put into play.

I know how most presidents have answered this dilemma -- they've gone with 1. Since "Who Lost China?" was a potent political question in 1949-1950, American presidents have tended to become personally, egotistically, self-interestedly determined not to have a "loss" on their record (in addition to the better reasons for fighting a war), and have committed the US to slow-walking escalation and increasing direct involvement when faced with such a loss.

At first I didn't think this was a major worry because Obama is by nature a pacifist and the left would truly abandon him (I think) if he actually gave the order to inject American ground-fighters into a war of sketchy importance.

On the other hand, he is also a very vain man with what seems to be a messiah complex. And he's a political animal to his core.

I am now worried that if the rebels can't take the country (and it seems as if they can't) Obama will find himself justifying the deployment of ground troops into another country, not because it's vital to the national security, but just because he wants to seem "tough" in November 2012.

And on that note -- since Obama will not be able to run on his domestic accomplishments (it seems), the New York Times is suggesting he run as a "foreign policy president" in 2012.

A foreign policy president needs W's, doesn't he?

I supported an intervention on the premise that our involvement would be limited, and that we would, in fact, be willing to walk away if a limited intervention wasn't enough to win the war. That is, that we took a more grown-up attitude about it, calculated our exact level of desired involvement and refused to go any higher than this, and had the discipline, like a professional gambler, to fold the hand if it wasn't a winner. And not just keep pouring more money into the pot, hoping to get lucky.

I don't think Obama is wise or disciplined or mature, but I was counting on his basic pacifism to serve as a proxy for those virtues and keep our involvement in the skies.

I'm less confident of that now.

If the rebels are as few and undisciplined as it seems the only way to win the war is by lobbing a missile right on Qadaffy's head. And even that won't end the war, necessarily, because it's not Qadaffy's charisma and brains that keeps him in power, but the billions in gold from oil he's sitting on, and if he dies, presumably his son and daughter just start signing the mercenaries' checks.

And on top of that, it's not easy to hit a person with a missile. I remember during the War in Iraq that for a period of weeks we kept getting reports that we may have hit Hussein, but the missile was always just a little late, or the intelligence a little stale.

Here's a nightmare scenario I'm now worried about:

Qadaffy is now deploying his "sexy" blonde daughter Aisha as a sort of Arabic Joan of Arc to rally troops.

Aisha, dubbed the Claudia Schiffer of North Africa, is known for her designer sunglasses and supermodel looks...

The mum-of-three has been stripped of her role as a UN Goodwill Ambassador because of her support for her brutal dad.

The rumoured death of one of her closest brothers, Khamis, 27, last week is said to be behind her rallying call.

Aisha has hated the West ever since she was nine, when her adopted sister Hanna was killed by a US air raid on Tripoli as they slept. Since then Aisha, who married her cousin Ahmed al-Gaddafi al-Qahsi in 2006, has spoken out in support of the IRA and worked as a lawyer for former Iraq tyrant Saddam Hussein.

Here's a fetching picture of her, with the troops:

Other pictures make me wonder who should be more insulted by the phrase "the Claudia Schiffert of North Africa," Claudia Schiffert or North Africa? All I can think is that I'm at a country club mixer and Rodney Dangerfield just said "last time I saw a mouth like that it had a hook in it."

But here's how Qadaffy can win the war:

Abdicate and place his daughter in the presidency, or whatever they call Tyrant for Life there.

What would the West do? Would we attempt to kill a mother of three that's supposedly pretty?

Wouldn't that move be a coalition-defeating ploy? Couldn't they claim that constitutes a "compromise," in as much as Qadaffy himself is out of power and, supposedly, "reforms" can now proceed, and wouldn't the Arab League desert us at that point? (For all that counts for, which isn't much.)

I'm wondering if Qadaffy isn't raising his daughter's profile and getting her headlines calling her "Woman of War" in order to execute just this ploy.

And what do we do then?

And check out Aisha's psychological profile -- she hates the West because Reagan's airstrike on her father killed her sister, and she supports the terrorist IRA and worked as a lawyer for all-around champion democrat Saddam Hussein.

Worst of all possible worlds?

Contingency Plan: Waterhouse points out that, as it looks currently, Qadaffy can probably win this thing militarily, so he probably doesn't need to resort to my tricksy tyrant-swap-out.

That's a good point. But in that case I suggest it as his Plan B. I mean, I don't suggest it in the sense I'm trying to give the guy useful advice. I mean, I speculate that this might be a contingency plan.

Posted by: Ace at 07:40 AM | Comments (164)
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The AARP: aka The Professional Left
— LauraW


According to this blockbuster report, released today by the House Ways and Means Committee, AARP’s support of ObamaCare and, specifically, the Medicare cuts was entirely rational and self-serving. The Committee found, after an 18 month investigation, that AARP stands to reap an extra billion dollars in profits from ObamaCare. (Yes, that is billion with a B.) Worse, this extra profit is largely BECAUSE of the Medicare cuts.

AARP’s members may face uncertainty over their future health care because of the cuts, but AARP faces certain windfall profits for itself.

And best of all, this is almost pure profit, because AARP does little but rent its name to others.

How do all these leftists make a fabulous income in a capitalistic society while constantly opposing it and contributing as little as possible to it?


The moral of this history lesson is this: if given power, the Professional Left becomes a danger to society and themselves. Closing down their shop will not just save the country and the economy - it will also save these "professionals" from their own kind.

Don't compromise, and never forget that their morals are crooked, their logic is flawed, their honor is stolen, their motives are corrupt, their methods are criminal, and their goal is a disaster.

They don't see themselves this way, of course; if you are a socialist, then 'working' in one of these organizations must feel like being a conscientious objector of some sort.
You get a good life while keeping at arm's length the despicable beast that provides it.

Posted by: LauraW at 07:07 AM | Comments (42)
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Trump: Maybe Obama's Sitting on the Birth Certificate Because It Says He's a Muslim
— Ace

I'm starting to get a little worried by this.

My old position was that this was Obama's problem and that it really couldn't hurt Republicans because the question "Then why doesn't he just release the damn thing?" would strike most people as a reasonable one.

My new worry is that he's pushing this so hard it will force others to take and re-take and re-re-take positions on this, which isn't really in the party's interest.

I know people who are convinced he's an alien (and yeah, he would be an alien, if neither natural-born nor naturalized, and he definitely was never naturalized) think this is all to the good because at the end of the day there's a big payoff.

I don't. I think he has the birth certificate and, if pressed, will release it, which will damage (although not fatally, but still) anyone who's made an issue of it.

Mainstreaming a theory is only a good thing if that theory is actually true. If it's false, and provably so, it's damaging to be among those mainstreaming it.

As of yet I still think, overall, this is pretty harmless, because most in the GOP aren't rising to the bait (whether it's Trump's bait or Obama's sucker-punch bait). And it's never a bad thing to have someone off flanking you to your right; by comparison, you can claim to be "moderate," even if you're pretty rightist.

Still, I'm worried that if this gains some traction and politicians see a (short-term) advantage to pushing this position, it will wind up burning them.

Posted by: Ace at 06:39 AM | Comments (314)
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Update: GOP Insider Claims No Deal; Says Democrats Are Claiming A Deal In Order To Accuse Republicans of Backing Out and Shutting Down The Government
— Ace

You know, as a first thing, I think all of this government-shutdown stuff is mostly bark and no bite. 75% of federal employees will keep working and all the essential stuff (entitlement checks, military, pretty much everything except park rangers and other third-order stuff) keeps going. Resulting in savings during such a spell.

But as a second thing, a GOP insider says the "deal" is a lie.

“They are setting us up by saying there is a deal,” the source says, “so when there isn’t one by 4/8, they can claim they had a deal but we backed out.”

And the GOP has actually been saying that for at least a day, probably more than that. In an article published yesterday, Eric Cantor signaled that this talk of a deal was apparently only going on on the Democrat side of the aisle:

“Time is up here,” said the Virginia Republican, telling reporters that a short-term continuing resolution “without a long-term commitment is unacceptable” and that the leadership must push for the full $61 billion in spending cuts approved by the House last month.

“That is the House position. That is what we are driving for,” Cantor said. When asked specifically about a potential compromise framework that would restore about $26 billion of the House cuts, Cantor said he had no knowledge of those discussions from fellow Republicans.

“I have not been told by both sides that,” Cantor said. “So that is what I am saying. There is a difference in my knowledge base.”

Boehner's comments seem consistent with that:

Regarding the ongoing negotiations, the speaker said: “There are a lot of numbers that have been discussed and thrown around. The fact is there is not an agreement on a number and, secondly, nothing’s agreed to until everything’s agreed to.”

Yes, Boehner is talking a lower number (who knows what) but, he says, he hasn't agreed to anything.

Bear in mind that it takes two sources to confirm a story -- even if both of those sources are on the same team and can create a political advantage for themselves by claiming, falsely, a deal has been struck and it's the other side that's walking away from an honorably-negotiated contract.

I'm guessing that the media's sources for this deal are the Democrats they just love talking to. About movies, cute boys, how True Blood totally pwns Twillight... all sorts of things, gabbing and gabbing all night long.

Posted by: Ace at 06:09 AM | Comments (91)
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Improvement in Initial Unemployment Claims Slowing?
— Geoff

Everybody's biggest economic fear, right after the one about total economic collapse and anarchy, is that we may fall into the second trough of a double-dip recession. We had been seeing some improvement on the business front (not, as Monty points out, on the debt front) - several of the indicators were looking better, but the last few months have not been so encouraging. Today we're seeing Initial Claims data which are also not very uplifting.

This blog was one of the first to note that Initial Unemployment Claims stopped improving back in November 2009, and one of the first to point out that they started improving again in August 2010. So let us be the first today to say that it looks like the improvement might have stalled once more.

Today the Department of Labor reported initial claims of 388,000, down 6000 from a revised number of 394,000 for last week (last week's original number was 382,000: the +12,000 correction was one of the largest I've seen). It's encouraging that it stayed below 400,000, but as you can see from the plot, the lovely downward trend we've enjoyed since last August seems to have stopped in January. Now we're just crawling sideways. Again.


It's a little early to say for sure - we should know within three or four weeks whether the doldrums persist.

Posted by: Geoff at 05:24 AM | Comments (60)
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DOOM! in my pocket like grains of sand
— Monty

You can read this news two ways. Optimistic: Fewer people are losing their jobs! DOOM!: Labor force participation is at a 26-year low; job losses are decelerating because there's no one left to lay off. Still, since unemployment is a lagging indicator, this does give some strength to the argument that the "recession" ended about six months back.

Nicole Gelinas at NRO steps into the debate about whether public-employee pensions are sustainable or not. She agrees with Veronique de Rugy (and me) that the rate-of-return many states are basing their contribution calculations off of are basically nonsense, but somewhat agrees that pensions aren't the biggest budgetary problems facing states right now. My take? It's true that pensions aren't an immediate funding threat to most states (that problem is centered more on municipalities at present) -- but they are going to consume an ever-larger proportion of general-fund revenues in coming years, and if borrowing rates go up or returns are lower than actuaries expected (or both), five or ten years from now the situation may go from "bad" to "catastrophic" pretty damned quick. In states like California and Illinois, this situation has already arrived.

Ireland is "stress testing" its banks, and unless Ireland decides to go full retard and hide the gruesome results, either the ECB will have to pony up additional bailout funds (with the associated austerity conditions that the population is unlikely to accept), or to default in some way (preferable to the populace, but it's unclear how Ireland could do this and still retain the Euro as the currency).

So now you have Portugal, Greece, and Ireland on the brink of default, and the ECB seems to be at a loss as to what to do next. Everyone insists that bond-defaults are not being seriously considered, but everyone also knows that this is a lie. Apparently, everyone is waiting for the Deus Ex Machina to descend from the clouds and magically resolve the situation. Somehow.

The old greenback, she ain't what she used to be.

Reason magazine looks into how Ohio Gov. Kasich plans to cut government increasing spending by 11%. It's a new thing we call "government math". You peasants just don't understand. (This is also why I despair of the GOP ever really getting a handle on our budgetary mess at the state and local level. They tend to love spending taxpayer money just as much as the Democrats do, just on different stuff.)

[UPDATE]: Wal-Mart CEO: Get ready for some serious inflation. As John McClane would say: welcome to the party, pal!

[UPDATE 2]: *Snif*. I'm so proud. If you type "california boned" into the Google, guess what pops up first?

[UPDATE 3]: Aaaah. This is how I like my DOOM!: fresh and piping hot. Bill Gross of PIMCO says that without entitlement reform, default is inevitable. Plus he uses a cartoon skunk as a framing device, which garners originality points.

[UPDATE 4]: John Tamny of Real Clear Markets says that GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is a nonsensical term. (He also says the same of "macroeconomics".) I'm not sure I agree entirely -- you have to have some way of measuring the output of a politically organized region, and while GDP is not the best way to measure output it's not the worst either. But Tamny understands that trade, and hence that amorphous beast we call "the economy" is truly global now, and completely interlinked. And this isn't true of just manufactured goods, either -- it applies to service industries as well (particularly in IT).



Posted by: Monty at 04:44 AM | Comments (60)
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Most Open Government Ever!
— Dave in Texas

The guy just kills me sometimes. President Accepts Government Transparency Award in Secret, Undisclosed Meeting.

The secret presentation happened almost two weeks after the White House inexplicably postponed the ceremony, which was expected to be open to the press pool.

This time, Obama met quietly in the Oval Office with Gary Bass of OMB Watch, Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive, Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight, Lucy Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Patrice McDermott of, without disclosing the meeting on his public schedule or letting photographers or print reporters into the room.

He's officially launched more cruise missiles than any other Nobel Peace prize recipient in history, AND he's the most transparentest open President ever.

Keep in on the DL.

Posted by: Dave in Texas at 03:19 AM | Comments (75)
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Top Headline Comments 3-31-11
— Gabriel Malor

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at 02:04 AM | Comments (146)
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March 30, 2011

Overnight Open Thread
— Maetenloch

Was out all day and only just got home. So tonight's ONT will have twice the suckage at half the cost. Such a deal!

Yet More Ukulele

Longtime readers know that I have an unhealthy abiding affection for the Hawaiian instrument. Well this time it's an electric ukulele played by 22-year-old Hawaiian virtuoso Taimane Gardner. A little Carmen at first then she's on to Bach's Toccata and Fugue.


Posted by: Maetenloch at 05:29 PM | Comments (503)
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Oh Dear: GOP Manages To Negotiate Democrats All The Way Up To $33 Billion In Cuts, A Full Three Billion Higher Than The Democrats' Opening Bid
— Ace

Wow. Just wow. What can you say?

The GOP proposed $61 billion in cuts, after promising $100 billion. The Democrats made a secret offer of $30 billion in total cuts. We've now agreed to $33 billion, I guess, which, unless I'm failing at math here, is a whole lot closer to $30 billion than $61 billion and nowhere at all near $1.6 trillion.

What have I been arguing against the whole time? Please do not sell us out on current substance and tell us "well we're going to fight on some proceduralist changes that will kick in in the future so it all balances out."

No, it doesn't balance out, because you never actually do that. If you give up on cuts today, you'll also give up on them tomorrow.

Well, that does in fact seem to be the deal we're being offered:

“Senate Republicans will finally unveil their balanced budget amendment tomorrow, this time with leadership (I.e., McConnell) on board.”

Great, an amendment that won't pass. Something for us to get all worked up about as if it matters.

I love this bargain. Because I'm stupid.

Today's GOP

We spent the country's last fifty trillion dollars but check out these wicked-awesome Magic Beans we got in return!

Posted by: Ace at 02:29 PM | Comments (479)
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NBC Takes Internet Criticism Seriously Enough To Redesign Wonder Woman Costume Based On Our Input
— Ace

So, they took your critiques to heart, and distilled, from your comments, that you wanted Wonder Woman to look less like a stripper and more like a demented bag-lady who thinks she's at a middle-school dance on Halloween night in 1983.

Hot ghetto mess:


Posted by: Ace at 02:08 PM | Comments (190)
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Sarah Palin's Not-Really-a-Problem Problem on Film & TV Subsidies
— Ace

There is no issue about her that can't turn into a fight immediately.

When Governor, Sarah Palin signed into law a bill granting subsidies to TV and film productions shooting n Alaska. The subsidy was 30% of all money spent in Alaska.

Later, her reality show benefited from just this law. On this last point, I think there's nothing really to talk about -- she could not have foreseen being an indirect beneficiary of this law. Further, she was just an indirect beneficiary -- Mark Burnett was the producer and would be doing the business end of things. Sarah Palin was the talent -- the talent usually doesn't do a lot of tax planning for the production.

But back to the first point, about the subsidies themselves. Some are making hay of this, because it seems to be contrary to the Tea Party spirit of very, very limited government intervention in the markets.

Let me propose something that people don't seem to take into account: We've been experiencing some serious ideological swings in opinion lately. What seemed to be a respectable opinion for a conservative to hold a few years ago has now become almost an anathema.

And people don't seem to even take this into consideration when judging politicians, except vindictively, to attack those they don't like.

Example: People used to attack no-longer-a-possible-presidential candidate Mike Pence for proposing a "touchback" compromise during the amnesty fight. I didn't like that nonsense compromise, but here's the thing: Conservative opinion on immigration and a possible amnesty changed in a matter of weeks as the fight occurred, and people finally started picking sides and deciding what they really thought.

A lot of people -- not just politicians, but conservative voters -- were wishy-washy before amnesty but as the debate crystalized became committed to one side or the other. I started out not thinking an awful lot about it, for example. When the lead blogger at PoliPundit (if I recall this bit of internet imbroglio right) declared that no coblogger on his site could have any position except firmly anti-amnesty, way back before the actual fight, like in 2004 o4 so, I wondered why he was so determined on an issue that seemed -- to me, to ignorant me -- so speculative and so far off.

Well, it turned out the issue was coming to a head more rapidly than I guessed. Where I'd once been squishy on it -- mostly because I hadn't really given it much thought or attention -- I became fairly convinced on the anti-amnesty side (or at least the "enforce first, confirmably, stop illegal immigration for at least 4 or 6 years and then we'll talk about some kind of limited amnesty or 10-year get-your-affairs-in-order visas for current illegals").

My point in defending Pence wasn't to say he was right to have attempted a lame compromise in a fight that really allowed for little compromise (either we'd have amnesty now or not, after all); but that mainstream conservative opinion on the matter had changed in a month from "leaning against amnesty but willing to consider it" to "no amnesty, at least until demonstrable, provable near-complete-success on border enforcement."

And my problem was that nailing him too hard on that touchback thing seemed to be a case of carpet-yanking -- we had changed our opinions (as a group) pretty swiftly, and had to provide some kind of grace period to allow stragglers to catch up with the group.

And as I always noted, too: Sarah Palin spoke nicely about John McCain's basic pathway-to-citizenship plan.

I give Tim Pawlenty a break on his cap-and-tax nonsense, too, because, if you remember, a short five years ago it seemed like we were pretty much destined to lose completely on this fight. I didn't (and still don't, actually) mind a little window-dressing to let Environmental Saps think we're really working on cars that run on sunshine and pixie-sweat.

I think of that as the Stupidity Tax -- the tax we must all pay to the stupid to be left alone from their plodding economic manslaughter. Obviously you want to pay as little in Stupidity Tax as possible, but sometimes, your choice is really between a low-ish Stupidity Tax (offered by a Republican giving dumb squishes some window-dressing) and a very, very high Stupidity Tax (offered by idiotic liberals who really believe this crap).

Anyway, that situation, too, has changed quickly, and I am willing to grant Pawlenty forgiveness -- a temporary insanity plea, if you will -- so long as I never hear this crap coming from him again. (Except for some window-dressing Stupidity Tax.)

Back to Palin: There are actually two strands of thought here, which aren't necessarily related:

1. That limited government is mostly a matter of actual cash-money tax rates -- taxes should be as low as possible on enterprise, and it doesn't matter much if this low-tax regime is achieved through special breaks and subsidies for wealth creators.

2. That limited government is not merely a matter of cash-money tax rates, but also of the goverment's busybodying, bullying, hectoring and subsidizing; its intrusions into the marketplace, basically, and that government should be as non-interventionist as possible, and therefore there should be as few earmarks as possible and no special breaks or special tax subsidies for wealth-creators, either.

In other words, "limited government" can be charted on two axes -- one in terms of total government bite, and the other in terms of the level of interventionist subsidies and discouragements to this or that industry or this or that style of lightbulb. Whereas once the the Republican position was more to the right on one axis and sort of in the middle on the other (the picking winners and losers one), it now has shifted to be to the right on both axes.

Palin's tax breaks for TV and film crews would be "limited government" on axis 1 but not really "limited government" on axis 2.

I think people have to keep in mind that until five years ago there was no serious push against earmarks (a sudden shift in priorities that also caught Palin on the wrong side), and until recently the true libertarian, non-interventionist, leave-it-where-it-lie style of conservative limited government was also much, much less dominant -- the GOP, until recently at least, was in fact for generally keeping tax rates low but also, in the appropriate case, in favor of special breaks for what we call "wealth creators" and what other people call "businesses and rich people."

There has been, it seems to me, a pretty sharp turn towards the Libertarian concept of limited government -- and that means far, far fewer breaks, subsidies, and especially-favorable corner-case tax rulings -- and that it's kind of unfair to condemn Sarah Palin as Infidel for proposing a few years ago what was, at the time, considered perfectly ordinary "pro-growth" conservative meddling in the markets.

A lot of people are wedded to the idea of politicians as ideologues and thought-leaders. I'm not. They get elected, usually, by representing a consensus of opinion either on the right or the left, and usually -- let's just say "always" -- that consensus is itself a muddled and contradictory thing. Even on this site, which might be considered pretty darn heterodox on the matter of spending cuts, we do have a big minority (maybe 35%? 40%?) of readers and commenters who are pretty firm on the idea that spending cuts do not mean Entitlement spending cuts.

Some politicians are extraordinary, and are thought-leaders, and actually become successful not by creating a consensus but by making a new consensus; Reagan, obviously. But the fact that I am just writing "Reagan" instead of "Reagan, and X, and Y, and of course Z, and who could forget Z the Younger" should indicate how rare that is.

Most of the time a politician isn't going to have a terribly coherent ideological undergirding for his surface (expressed) positions; he usually just assembles a bunch of surfaces that are attractive to a majority of the constituency he seeks to govern.

Many in the party once considered "business-friendly" to include special advantages for this or that business. Actually, many in the party still do think that's what business-friendly means. But many have turned away from that and are now seeking a cleaner, more transparent, less interventionist, less feudal style of government with almost no winner/loser picking at all.

It's really not fair to slam Palin for having not made this ideological commitment to strict libertarian non-intervention before most of us made it ourselves.

The "mainstream" of conservative thought has changed pretty seriously in the past five years. If we're picking our candidates according to who was in the current mainstream five years ago, well ahead of the pack, on every single issue, well, I don't know who exactly would fit that profile. (Ron Paul!!1!! -- true, I'll grudgingly say the mainstream has moved closer to Paul on many issues, but still not close enough for Paul to actually be mainstream himself.)

Politics, like fashion, is always changing. Some lead the trends, others follow them. I'd concede it's better to be a thought-leader than a thought-follower but so long as someone is on my side now, when it counts the most, that's the most important thing, and I can excuse a little lateness in getting here, so long as they do get here.

Posted by: Ace at 01:01 PM | Comments (176)
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National Review is sounding the alarm bells -- this is the left's first attempt to litigate the 2010 election.

It is important that conservatives nationwide make this campaign their own. What is at stake in Wisconsin is not just one piece of legislation or one bill restoring a measure of sanity to the state budgeting process. The question to be answered in Wisconsin is: Who works for whom? Do the public employees work for the citizens, or are the citizens mere cattle to be disposed of at the pleasure of the bureaucrats and their union bosses? Every arrow in the quiver — court cases, judicial elections, recall, lawsuits, lies, libels, and brute thuggery — will be thrown at this case, along with lots of money derived from the union dues that state and local governments helpfully deduct from their employees’ paychecks on the unions’ behalf. Wisconsin may seem an unlikely battleground, but a line must be drawn, and this is the place to draw it.

You can't donate to Justice Prosser, but, oh, lookie here, it turns out you can donate to two groups running ads in his favor: The Wisconsin Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Conmerce.

Posted by: Ace at 11:35 AM | Comments (91)
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