Sunday, December 31, 2006
SCIENTISTS are conducting experiments to change the sexuality of “gay” sheep in a programme that critics fear could pave the way for breeding out homosexuality in humans.
The technique being developed by American researchers adjusts the hormonal balance in the brains of homosexual rams so that they are more inclined to mate with ewes.
It raises the prospect that pregnant women could one day be offered a treatment to reduce or eliminate the chance that their offspring will be homosexual. Experts say that, in theory, the “straightening” procedure on humans could be as simple as a hormone supplement for mothers-to-be, worn on the skin like an anti-smoking nicotine patch.
The research, at Oregon State University in the city of Corvallis and at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, has caused an outcry. Martina Navratilova, the lesbian tennis player who won Wimbledon nine times, and scientists and gay rights campaigners in Britain have called for the project to be abandoned.
Navratilova defended the “right” of sheep to be gay. She said: “How can it be that in the year 2006 a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments?” She said gay men and lesbians would be “deeply offended” by the social implications of the tests.
I'm agnostic on whether homosexuality is wired and whether people "choose" to be gay or choose to be "bisexual." Whether homosexuality is a choice or determined by genetic makeup I don't know. Either way gay men and women arrive at what they are and endowed with certain inalienable rights like the rest of us.
However, I find it richly ironic that science which is the handmaiden of everything so progressive (see stem cells and the debate over evolution) now puts some social liberals in a tough bind.
If a person wants to change his biology and become transgendered (supposedly OK), then why can't a person become rewired from gay to straight. Or, to follow the logic: straight to gay? Shouldn't that choice be available? And what of the rights of parents or a single parent? They current enjoy birth control and abortion rights do they not? Why not sexual orientation rights? In the privacy of their own bedrooms, no less?
If parents (in their privacy of their doctors' office) want to make sure their kids are hetrosexual then what's the problem? Abortion is a choice made to foreclose a life never mind a sexual oreintation and I know leftists don't ever have a problem with abortion. So why in God's earth would they ever have a problem with sexual orientation selection?
In India parents use ultrasound to determine whether to continue the pregancies with grave consequences for fetuses that are female. We know how that story ends. But then what a woman does with her body is her business, right even if its atavistic?
I pose this as an intellectual question and I'm not being coy in any respect (For the record, I'm pro-choice by Roe v Wade standards and can't get excited about gay marriage either way.)
But we know that what this really means: liberals are fucking hypocrites and that hey are as closed-minded as any reactionary -- particulary when science doesn't cut their way.
It also means that Martina should stick to tennis.
If Ms. Heaton has made her surgery fair game, her political views are not so easily pigeonholed. Some derive from the “seamless garment” doctrine of her “devout Catholic upbringing” (she opposes both abortion and the death penalty) while others are clearly her own. (She supports gay rights and the use of most birth control.) And she is not, in person, prudish or judgmental. Most of her friends have had abortions, she said, and they’re still her friends.You have to laugh at boycotting liberals. As a group they really are rather vile.
It isn’t so much her views that cause her trouble as her unwillingness to finesse them for public consumption. She is compulsively honest, though she feels that’s not so much a virtue as “an illness, like Tourette’s.” Even her more extreme positions are stated without hedging: If it were up to her, she said, there would be no abortion for any reason. But she offers such thoughts with a sense of helplessness, as if she were trapped by the implications of her core principles.
And then there is her un-wingnutlike desire for conciliation. As soon as she realized what had happened, she sent Mr. Fox a message saying that she was sorry and that she prayed for his recovery. He responded graciously (the amendment passed with 51 percent of the vote) and later said, “If we can have a healthy dialogue about issues that people see differently, that’s marvelous.”
That’s a big if. Most of the dialogue, Ms. Heaton said, has been brutal: “People saying they hope my kids get sick and die so I’ll know what it’s like to need medical research.” Colleagues have attacked her at industry functions; gossips claiming to know her have described her as a horrible person. A theater Web site recently ran a discussion thread on boycotting “The Scene.” And castmates have told Ms. Heaton that their friends were saying things like: “You’re working with her? You know what her thing is, right?”
“Listen to this,” Daniel Levitin said. “What is it?” He hit a button on his computer keyboard and out came a half-second clip of music. It was just two notes blasted on a raspy electric guitar, but I could immediately identify it: the opening lick to the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.”Revealing all the mysteries of life sometimes eats away at the soul.
Then he played another, even shorter snippet: a single chord struck once on piano. Again I could instantly figure out what it was: the first note in Elton John’s live version of “Benny and the Jets.”
Dr. Levitin beamed. “You hear only one note, and you already know who it is,” he said. “So what I want to know is: How we do this? Why are we so good at recognizing music?”
This is not merely some whoa-dude epiphany that a music fan might have while listening to a radio contest. Dr. Levitin has devoted his career to exploring this question. He is a cognitive psychologist who runs the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in Montreal, perhaps the world’s leading lab in probing why music has such an intense effect on us.
“By the age of 5 we are all musical experts, so this stuff is clearly wired really deeply into us,” said Dr. Levitin, an eerily youthful-looking 49, surrounded by the pianos, guitars and enormous 16-track mixers that make his lab look more like a recording studio.
This summer he published “This Is Your Brain on Music” (Dutton), a layperson’s guide to the emerging neuroscience of music. Dr. Levitin is an unusually deft interpreter, full of striking scientific trivia. For example we learn that babies begin life with synesthesia, the trippy confusion that makes people experience sounds as smells or tastes as colors. Or that the cerebellum, a part of the brain that helps govern movement, is also wired to the ears and produces some of our emotional responses to music. His experiments have even suggested that watching a musician perform affects brain chemistry differently from listening to a recording.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
SOMALIA’s prime minister has asked clan elders in Mogadishu to surrender Al-Qaeda suspects who are believed to be sheltering in the city after his forces, with Ethiopian military support, drove out Islamic militias which controlled the capital.
Washington has accused the Union of Islamic Courts, which threatened to overrun the government, of trying to turn the country into a safe haven for terrorists and demanded the handover of three suspects who it believes were behind the bombing of its embassies in east Africa.
Islamist leaders abandoned their city to the clans late on Wednesday night. Many of their militiamen simply melted away in the face of Ethiopian tanks and warplanes.
Ali Mohamed Gedi, whose government has so far had little support in the capital, has been locked in negotiations with tribal leaders about how to take control.
A source close to the government said that the prime minister had asked the elders to take over administration of the city in return for information about three men suspected of masterminding attacks on American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
“The message they forwarded was that there are certain people wanted by the international community and by us and if you can tell us their whereabouts we would appreciate it, and that would be a sign of collaboration,” he said.
The request was made in a private meeting with leaders of the Habar Gidir clan. Their Ayr sub-clan is believed to be sheltering Fazul Abdullah Mohamed, from the Comoros Islands, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Kenyan, and Abu Taha al-Sudan, from Sudan.
Friday, December 29, 2006
We keep thinking that the Americans don't have a stomach for war without goals and timetables. But most Americans who hold that view should support non-military means of contesting an adversary particularly one as vile as the Iranian government.
The sanctions adopted by the United Nations are too weak, too puny and too late to have any deterrent effect on Iran's drive to build a nuclear bomb. But there is something the U.S. government, state governments, labor unions, pension funds and each of us as individuals can do: We can stop investing in companies that help Iran exploit the oil and gas resources on which its economy depends. Investment funds - including pension funds - all over America are helping Iran develop the nuclear weapons that will eventually threaten us by investing in companies that directly subsidize Iran. We must all band together to stop these self-defeating investments.
Frank Gaffney, a Reagan-era Pentagon official, is pioneering the way via his group, disinvestterror.org. Sarah Steelman, Missouri's state treasurer, has followed his lead - the billion-dollar state pension funds have pulled investments in any company that abets terrorism.
Among Steelman's first targets were the Swiss giant UBS Finance and the French firm BNP Paribas Finance Inc. Both got kicked off the Missouri funds' list of approved brokers. UBS got the message and pulled out of Iran; it's now seeking readmission to Missouri's list. But BNP Paribus still works there.
Indeed, it's an old friend of the Iranian regime. It headed a consortium that lent $1 billion to Iran Petrochemical Commercial Co. in September 2005. In 2002, it was central to Iran's sale of $1.1 billion in bonds - the first foreign Iranian bonds for sale since 1979.
Gaffney's targets include Royal Dutch Shell, the multinational oil conglomerate. It has extensive holdings in the key Iranian offshore oil fields Soroush and Nowruz, where its investments have been pivotal in raising oil output by 190,000 barrels per day - about an 8 percent increase in total Iranian output. (In October, Shell diversified its terror portfolio - winning contracts to search for and pump oil in Syria.)
In an ideal world, of course, there'd be real U.N. sanctions against Tehran, as well as strong action by the federal government. But vested interests make either near-impossible to achieve.
Back in the '90s, for example, then-Sen. Alfonse D'Amato pushed through sanctions against foreign firms that do business in two terror-sponsoring nations, Libya and Iran. But the Europeans protested vigorously that the law was an extraterritorial infringement of their sovereignty. So, while President Clinton signed the bill, he took the advice of National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and waived any application of the law.
Question: If the Americans divest will other nations step in?
Sweden is not all that it's crack up to be. Not a terrible economic basket case, at least not yet. In fact it's welfare state model, built mostly for a uni-cultural society, works a lot better than the French or German one. Sweden encourages people to get back into the work force a lot quicker than the continentals. However, there are some underlying problems.
How Sweden handles increased internation competition as it moves to a more multicultural society is an experiment worth watching.
The political left has for many years portrayed Sweden as the ideal liberal experiment; a nation that has maintained a vital market economy alongside a large welfare state. Many Americans and Europeans alike seem to see our system as a proof that you can achieve full employment despite rigid labor markets, and very high labor discouraging taxes and benefits.
In reality, Sweden has considerable economic problems as its population has adjusted to the many years with welfare politics and is increasingly taking advantage of government programs. High taxation, extensive regulations and comprehensive systems of government handouts discourages individuals from work and have resulted in a drop in entrepreneurship and working ethics. The best estimates of true unemployment figures for Sweden are somewhere around 20 percent, almost four times higher than the more flexible U.S. economy. Note here that discouraged workers and those who are underemployed are not included in either country, but that the figures are again higher in Sweden than in the United States.
The problems with high unemployment, low working morals, lack of entrepreneurship and dependence on government programs are not unique for Sweden, but shared with other European welfare states such as France and Germany. In all three countries, voters are dissatisfied with the ruling political parties, but as many are dependent on government handouts, few are willing to accept reforms that scale down the size of government benefits.
Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Britain will transfer 43 million pounds ($84 million) to the U.S. Treasury tomorrow, the final payment on a debt used to finance the World War II defeat of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.
The U.S. extended $4.34 billion in credit in 1945, allowing the U.K. to stave off bankruptcy after devoting almost all its resources to the war for half a decade. Since 1950 Britain has made payments on the debt at the end of every year except six.
At the time it was granted, the loan strained trans-Atlantic relations. British politicians expected a gift in recognition of their contribution to the war effort, especially for the lives lost before the U.S. entered the conflict in 1942.
"The U.S. didn't seem to realize that Britain was bankrupt,'' said Alan Sked, a historian at the London School of Economics. The loan was "denounced in the House of Lords, but in the end the country had no choice.''
The loan, the equivalent of 119 billion pounds in today's money, was double the size of the U.K. economy at the time. Today it's a fraction of the Treasury's 550 billion-pound debt burden, about 36.4 percent of the economy.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts about a third of the state's drivers won't be able to benefit from the new and lower mandated rates.
The magnitude of Pataki's betrayals - of his allies, of his obligations as a government administrator and, most importantly, of the people of New York - is hard to capture in a single column. Indeed, it's hard to believe unless you've seen it first hand.Read Fred Dicker. He's tough.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
You hear much praise about the passing of President Gerald Ford. Years from now the historians will be re-assessing the presidency of Bush 43 and finally appreciate the hard choices that had to be made.
President George W. Bush, vilified by many, supported by some, is a hero to me.
Why do I say that? It's not because I agree with the President's domestic agenda. It's not because I think he's done a perfect job in the White House.
George Bush is a hero to me because he has courage. The President does what he believes to be in the best interest of the United States. He sticks with his beliefs, no matter how intense the criticism and invective that are directed against him every day.
The enormous defeat President Bush suffered with the loss of both Houses of Congress has not caused him to retreat from his position that the U.S. alone now stands between a radical Islamic takeover of many of the world’s governments in the next 30 or more years. If that takeover occurs, we will suffer an enslavement that will threaten our personal freedoms and take much of the world back into the Dark Ages.
Our major ally in this war against the forces of darkness, Great Britain, is still being led by an outstanding prime minister, Tony Blair. However, Blair will soon be set out to pasture, which means Great Britain will leave our side and join France, Germany, Spain and other countries that foolishly believe they can tame the wolf at the door and convert it into a domestic pet that will live in peace with them.
These dreamers naively believe that if we feed the wolves what they demand, they will go away. But that won’t happen. Appeasement never works. The wolves always come back for more and more, and when we have nothing left to give, they come for us.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
So far: very, very interesting. Murray contends there are objective standards for greatness in the arts and science. And, as Murray argues, they are not "socially constructions" as claimed by post-modernist relativists. Bach is better than the Beatles, not to disparage the modern pop idols. Shakespeare is more vital to our civilization than Maya Angelou and so on.
Hopefully I'll finish the book in early 2007.
There will be much to write about for sure. This is but one example. Governor Deval Patrick will provide the fodder, I'm sure.
There are still those who claim that Bush is worse than Saddam. What idiots!
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Saddam Hussein urged Iraqis to embrace "brotherly coexistence" and not to hate U.S.-led foreign troops in a goodbye letter posted on a Web site Wednesday, a day after Iraq's highest court upheld his death sentence and ordered him hanged within 30 days.
A top government official, meanwhile, said Saddam's execution could proceed without the approval of Iraq's president, meaning there were no more legal obstacles to sending the deposed dictator to the gallows.
One of Saddam's attorneys, Issam Ghazzawi, confirmed to The Associated Press in Jordan that the Internet letter was authentic, saying it was written by Saddam on Nov. 5 - the day he was convicted by an Iraqi tribunal for ordering the 1982 killings of 148 Shiite Muslims in Dujail.
"I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking," said the letter, which was written in Arabic and translated by the AP.
"I also call on you not to hate the people of the other countries that attacked us," it added, referring to the invasion that toppled his regime nearly four years ago.
Against the backdrop of sectarian killings that have dragged Sunni Arabs and Shiite Muslims into civil warfare over the past year, Saddam urged his countrymen to "remember that God has enabled you to become an example of love, forgiveness and brotherly coexistence."
But he also voiced support for the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency, saying: "Long live jihad and the mujahedeen." He urged Iraqis to be patient and rely on God's help in fighting "against the unjust nations."
Saddam said he was giving his life for his country as part of that struggle. "Here, I offer my soul to God as a sacrifice, and if he wants, he will send it to heaven with the martyrs," he said.
Despite his calls for conciliation among Iraqis, Saddam's legacy is brutal. He put suspected foes to death without trial, oppressed Kurds and Shiites, waged war on Iran and twice fought U.S.-led armies. He left an impoverished nation now gripped by sectarian bloodshed and an insurgency against the U.S. presence.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Secular liberals believe in sustainable populations (read: birth control etc.) and other such nonsense as the end of natural resources. As such they tend not to have many children. The result is that most of the developed world is facing a population dearth, particularly those venereated welfare states that need younger workers to replenish the tax revenues. Unlike the U.S., Europe faces low native birth rates. Secular liberals in France and elsewhere seem intent on rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. To replenish the population they use mass immigration from countries that offer little more than low-skilled labor.
Their Muslim co-citizens don't believe as much. Like all religious people, they believe in the future: They have children. This is not a bad thing for nations.
But expanding the population in this post-911 world presents a few problems. The most popular name for newborh boys in Britian is Mohammed, not George but Mohammed. This speaks volumes to the current condition. A minority of the Muslims (and certainly not all), living at the edge of a liberal Western society they loathe, have a plan to take over Europe through asymmetrical warfare, propanganda and the generosity of liberal democracy itself. Dismissing all the European Union sentiments about diversity and co-existence, some cultural conservatives in Europe are sounding the alarm: Get out if you believe in freedom. This isn't an optimal strategy for survival.
Even some European gays are taking notice at the changing demograhic and not liking what they see. They see the advent of an intolerant sub-culture; the kind not conducive to sexual liberation. Yet some people would rather get "raped" than fight for their freedom.
The German author Henryk M. Broder recently told the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant (12 October) that young Europeans who love freedom, better emigrate. Europe as we know it will no longer exist 20 years from now. Whilst sitting on a terrace in Berlin, Broder pointed to the other customers and the passers-by and said melancholically: “We are watching the world of yesterday.”
Europe is turning Muslim. As Broder is sixty years old he is not going to emigrate himself. “I am too old,” he said. However, he urged young people to get out and “move to Australia or New Zealand. That is the only option they have if they want to avoid the plagues that will turn the old continent uninhabitable.”
Many Germans and Dutch, apparently, did not wait for Broder’s advice. The number of emigrants leaving the Netherlands and Germany has already surpassed the number of immigrants moving in. One does not have to be prophetic to predict, like Henryk Broder, that Europe is becoming Islamic. Just consider the demographics. The number of Muslims in contemporary Europe is estimated to be 50 million. It is expected to double in twenty years. By 2025, one third of all European children will be born to Muslim families. Today Mohammed is already the most popular name for new-born boys in Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and other major European
Broder is convinced that the Europeans are not willing to oppose islamization. “The dominant ethos,” he told De Volkskrant, “is perfectly voiced by the stupid blonde woman author with whom I recently debated. She said that it is sometimes better to let yourself be raped than to risk serious injuries while resisting. She said it is sometimes better to avoid fighting than run the risk of death.”
In a recent op-ed piece in the Brussels newspaper De Standaard (23 October) the Dutch (gay and self-declared “humanist”) author Oscar Van den Boogaard refers to Broder’s interview. Van den Boogaard says that to him coping with the islamization of Europe is like “a process of mourning.” He is overwhelmed by a “feeling of sadness.” “I am not a warrior,” he says, “but who is? I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it.”
Thursday, December 21, 2006
In an age where the book is becoming obsolete, why not try McWhorter's idea?
I see nothing disturbing in an alternate universe where most students of what we now think of as freshman age are, instead, out in the world learning to ply a trade, be it in an office, workshop, or conservatory. Instead, they spend six years after 10th-grade gamely tolerating several dozen courses, most with only the vaguest relationship to the jobs they will seek — or who they will be as people.
Obviously, however, the solution is not to strand students with an eighth-grade education as it currently stands in America. Rather, education should be "front-loaded." In much less time than we take students' time up with now, they could be given a substantial but no-nonsense education tooled to preparing them to be productive citizens. This can be done without the pretense that any but a few Americans need to be plied with "book learning" over several years beyond this basic toolkit.
The Bristol County district attorney yesterday defended throwing out OUI charges against a politically connected socialite who flunked four sobriety tests and two breath tests, blaming red tape for blocking prosecutors from getting the Breathalyzer report.
This case could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” said DA Paul F. Walsh Jr.
Walsh’s office dropped OUI charges against Suzanne Magaziner last week despite a police report alleging that she twice blew .12 on the Breathalyzer, which is above the legal limit of .08.
But Walsh said his prosecutor, Roger Ferris, decided he had little chance to win the case, mainly because the DA’s office couldn’t get reports proving the accuracy of the breath test machine used in the April 4 arrest.
Another factor was that Magaziner had no prior OUI charges, he added.
State police refused to comment on the case.
Rep. William Delahunt has called for a congressional investigation into the U.S. Office of Cuban Broadcasting, following its decision to air anti-Castro programming aimed at Cuban audiences on local Spanish-language TV and radio stations.
Delahunt, D-Mass., said Wednesday he also was concerned about the recent indictment of a senior executive at the broadcasting office, as well as other allegations of mismanagement at its Radio and TV Marti stations.
"Is the investment of taxpayers dollars in Radio and TV Marti a worthwhile investment for the American taxpayer? Does it accomplish anything? And is it being mismanaged?" said Delahunt, who recently returned from a bipartisan congressional fact-finding trip to Cuba and favors ending the U.S. embargo of the communist island.
U.S. law generally prohibits government broadcasting aimed at foreign audiences from airing within the country to avoid the appearance of government propaganda. But the law allows for the broadcasting of Radio Marti if Cuba jams its signal there. TV Marti can be aired on local airwaves if done so inadvertently in an effort to reach the Caribbean island.
Joe O'Connell, a spokesman for Office of Cuban Broadcasting that oversees the Cuba programs, said all the congressional committees with jurisdiction over the programs had approved the decision.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
A politically wired campaign fund-raiser with ties to Gov.-elect Deval Patrick and former President Clinton has been cleared of drunken driving charges, despite allegedly failing sobriety tests and blowing over the legal limit on a Breathalyzer.
Suzanne Magaziner, a Patrick campaign organizer married to ex-Clinton adviser Ira Magaziner, was busted April 4 in Mansfield after a trucker spotted her swerving on Interstate 95, the Sun Chronicle of Attleboro reported.
State police who pulled over Magaziner, 54, said she had bloodshot eyes, alcohol on her breath and failed sobriety tests. She also reportedly blew a .12 on a breath-alcohol test, which is above the state’s legal limit of .08.
But the case was tossed out of Attleboro District Court on Friday at the request of a prosecutor from Bristol District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr.’s Office. The prosecutor, Roger Ferris, told the Sun Chronicle the case was dismissed at the request of his superiors.
Neither Ferris nor officials from Walsh’s office returned calls.
Reached last night, Magaziner denied she had been drinking behind the wheel. Asked if her influential husband had intervened in the case, she replied “Oh my God, no.”
Ira Magaziner was an adviser to Clinton on health care and Internet issues while Patrick served in Clinton’s Justice Department.
The Magaziners have donated $2,000 to Patrick’s campaign over the past two years while family members have given another $2,500.
The family also gave $2,000 to Patrick’s running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect Tim Murray, records show.
Patrick spokeswoman Cyndi Roy said the Magaziners are “friends” of the governor-elect but said, “Deval did absolutely nothing to intervene in the case.”
The Magaziners have also donated $12,000 to the campaigns of Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), and $1,000 to state Attorney General-elect Martha Coakley.
Suzanne Magaziner helped organize a 400-person fund-raiser for Patrick at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston,along with former Gov. Michael Dukakis’ wife, Kitty, Patrick’s wife, Diane, and Thaleia Tsongas Schlesinger, sister of former Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Lowell).
Didn't see anything in the Globe on this, did anyone?
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 19, 2006 – Only one in five Americans believe that the “next Bill Gates” will come from the United States, according to a new telephone poll released today by Zogby International and 463 Communications.
The Zogby/463 Internet Attitudes poll found that practically half of all Americans (49 percent) believe that the next great technology leader will come from either China or Japan. Twenty-one percent believe that “next Bill Gates” will come from the United States while 13 percent believe he or she will come from India.
"The next Bill Gates has already been born, and time will tell what country is providing the environment of innovation, entrepreneurism and opportunity to enable him or her to flourish with the next great idea," said 463 partner Tom Galvin.
WASHINGTON -- Consider it a good omen. In October, the U.S. trade deficit dropped unexpectedly to $58.9 billion, about $5.4 billion less than in September. Although the largest cause was lower oil prices, strong American exports -- up 14 percent from a year earlier -- also contributed significantly. And that's exactly what the economy needs in 2007: an export surge. It would ward off recession and narrow today's dangerously large global trade imbalances. We need what economists call a "rebalancing'' of our economy and the world's.
Fannie Mae's stock price has been on an upswing since late summer, reflecting investor confidence that a Democratic Congress would make strict scrutiny of the mortgage giant less likely (see the nearby chart). And there's no doubt that with Barney Frank wielding the gavel in the House Financial Services Committee, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will have a pal on Capitol Hill. Mr. Frank is already talking about expanding the companies' operations (and thus taxpayer exposure to any financial accident).
Fortunately, James Lockhart is still running the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, or Ofheo, and he's shown no appetite for tolerating the shenanigans of the two lobbying powerhouses. This week he filed a 101-count notice of civil charges against Franklin Raines, Fannie's former CEO, and two other former executives. The suit seeks $115 million in restitution of ill-gotten pay and another $100 million in
fines for six years' worth of proven financial misrepresentations at Fannie.
This is something for Mr. Frank to consider as he negotiates with Treasury over an Ofheo reform bill. Few big businesses inspire the Massachusetts liberal's regulatory forbearance the way Fannie and Freddie do. This is ironic, because the fact that the two companies are government-sponsored and hold an implicit government guarantee on their debt means they deserve more scrutiny than the average private company. The companies are playing in effect with House money.
Fannie's friends on Capitol Hill ran out the clock on a stronger oversight bill in the GOP Congress. And with Democrats back in charge, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is now trying to negotiate a compromise. One of Mr. Frank's demands is the creation of a new "affordable housing fund" that the mortgage giants would finance -- a several-hundred-million-dollar Fan-and-Fred tax to dole out to such partisan liberal outfits as Acorn. Whether funded as a percentage of profits or revenues, such an annual patronage bonus would give Congress one more political incentive to see the siblings grow.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
The grand strategy that wins out in the end may be the one that --regardless of specific positions on Iraq or terrorism -- convinces Americans that it is possible to have free and fair trade at the same time. By a hair, then, the front-runner is Lieven and Hulsman's ethical realism. By economizing on other forms of power projection, ethical realism potentially frees up resources to cushion the domestic costs of globalization.
At present, however, there is little consensus on a Kennan-like grand strategy. But remember, Kennan's strategy looks a lot better now than it did during the Cold War. The precise definition of containment "was at best ambiguous and lent itself to misinterpretation," Kennan acknowledged in his memoirs. Certainly, Jimmy Carter interpreted containment differently than did Ronald Reagan, who interpreted it differently than did Henry Kissinger.
The foreign-policy establishment may be stumbling around right now, searching for the one strategy to rule them all. It is possible, however, that what looks like disarray today may appear smarter, better -- grander? -- in the future.
More on "ethical realism" at Radio Open Source.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
about the pompous, ineffectual, blame-America-first outgoing Secretary General of the United Nations, a body so beneath contempt that it now simply amusing. Darfur anyone? More people have died as a result of the U.N. ineptitude than in Iraq.
I pity the Americans who do not have the computer expertise to access the exposés of lies of corrupt politicians and gullible television anchors, biased newspaper headlines, and anything from the Associated Press. If it were not for the Internet and Lucianne Goldberg's Web news forum, I would never learn the truth behind the Times headlines as pitched by the Drudge Report.
Matt Drudge, who may or may not be a willing accomplice to the distortion of news reporting, must be held responsible for the dissemination of the bias in the liberal press. Studies have shown that the readership of the Times is down — as it is in other liberal publications — and so are the television ratings of the alphabet networks and CNN and MSNBC, while Fox News is up.
Nevertheless, the propaganda of the enemedia — an excellent descriptive term coined by one poster to Lucianne.com — continues to sully news coverage, thanks to Mr. Drudge. A study of press bias by a professor of political science at the University of California-Los Angeles, Tim Groseclose, listed the Drudge Report as one of the most liberal sites on the Web because it consistently posts articles from left-of-center sources.
My patience with the Drudge Report ended when I saw a photo of Frank Rich of the Times posted on the site along with his words: "We are losing in Iraq." It isn't too encouraging to the morale of the nation, but posts like this are common on Drudge.
The site gives top billing to every possible negative statement about the Iraq war and the Bush administration, and it gets about 13 million hits a day. Is it any wonder that President Bush has record low approval ratings?
The week before, Mr. Drudge posted a quote from the new secretary of defense, Robert Gates: "We are not winning in Iraq." Did he really say those words? No. At Mr. Gates's confirmation hearing, Senator Levin, a Democrat of Michigan, asked him if we were winning in Iraq, and he answered, "No."
Lucianne, of course, pointed out that Mr. Gates went on to say we're not losing, either. His exact words were: "Our military forces win the battles that they fight; our soldiers have done an incredible job in Iraq. And I'm not aware of a single battle that they have lost. And I didn't want my comments to be interpreted as suggesting that they weren't being successful in their endeavors."
Mr. Gates, you can be 100% certain that everything you say from now on as secretary of defense will be misinterpreted by a certain New York publication headed by Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger.
This is the man who in the 1960s, according to author Harry Stein, when asked by his father whom he'd rather see shot when an American soldier runs into a North Vietnamese soldier, replied: "I would want to see the American get shot. It's the other guy's country."
Friday, December 15, 2006
Rocker Johnny Hallyday is just one of the famous or anonymous French nationals who pull out of the country's tax base daily in a rarely discussed phenomenon fueled by European fiscal competition.
"Like many French people, I've had enough of the taxes we are forced to pay and this is it, I've made my choice," Hallyday told French radio Thursday during the launch of a Hallyday fashion line at a Paris boutique.
The 63-year-old, who has sold 100 million discs over the past 40 years, will now live part of the year at his Swiss chalet in the tony ski resort of Gstaad.
Shockwaves from Hallyday's announcement spread quickly, rocking the campaign he strongly supports of Nicolas Sarkozy, France's interior minister who has thrown his hat into the ring for the 2007 French presidential election.
A former Georgia congressman who helped spark President Clinton's impeachment has quit the Republican Party to become a Libertarian, saying he is disillusioned with the GOP on issues such as spending and privacy.
Bob Barr, who served eight years as a Republican congressman before losing his seat in 2002, announced Friday that he is now a "proud, card-carrying Libertarian." And he encouraged others to join him.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The good folks behind the Granite State Fair Tax Coalition must not think very highly of New Hampshire people.How long can the anti-tax crowd hold out?
Based on their public statements, coalition members have to believe one of two things: 1. The people are being duped by politicians into accepting a "morally bankrupt" pledge not to raise taxes. 2. The people themselves are morally bankrupt by insisting that politicians take the pledge.
"Morally bankrupt" was the term used by Rev. William E. Exner, vice president of the coalition, to describe New Hampshire's famous anti-tax pledge, that great bogeyman of big-government aficionados. The coalition last week launched a campaign to wipe the pledge from New Hampshire's political landscape.
"The 'Pledge' perpetuates a burdensome property tax," states a coalition resolution.
That's funny. We always thought it was the people who perpetuated the burdensome property tax because it was a lot better than an even more burdensome sales or income tax.
The clueless romantics who envision New Hampshire's people trapped in the grip of a beast called The Pledge completely ignore the actual political history of New Hampshire while fantasizing of a future in which the people are released from their misery by higher taxes.
CONCORD – They came not to praise but to bury the pledge against broad-based taxes in New Hampshire.Nice sentiment Governor, but don't tell us the election of a Democratic majority in New Hampshire hasn't emboldened the liberals to start a push for new taxes. The Kerry "victory" in 2004 in the Granite state and now the vastly energized Democratic majority in Concord leads one to think they everything that's sacred like the Pledge is on the table.
The Granite State Fair Tax Coalition kicked off an ambitious three-year campaign to build support at the local level to urge the Legislature to keep an open mind when it comes to fundamental change of the state tax structure.
The first goal of the group is to bring their message and encourage a healthy debate at churches, public libraries and town halls across the state according to David Lamarre-Vincent, the group’s president.
"We are here to declare the good news in New Hampshire," said Lamarre-Vincent who is executive director of the state Council of Churches.Other member organizations include the American Friends Service Committee, the League of Women Voters and societies for the Unitarian and United Church of Christ Churches.
The Democracy of New Hampshire, World Fellowship Center and Women Making a Difference are also supporting the group.
Coalition officials stressed they would not advocate a specific tax and will not lobby the legislative or executive branches of state government.
Group leaders acknowledge they are getting organized right after an election in which Democrats won sweeping victories, but only in part because they abandoned any desire to impose a sales or income tax.
“We are pointing towards 2008. We recognize that influencing the Legislature in 2007 is not a winning strategy, but the debate over an adequate education we believe is going to lead to a meaningful discussion of tax reform down the road,’’ said Mark Fernald, the group’s treasurer and 2002 nominee for governor.
Gov. John Lynch has recently repeated his vow to veto either tax.
The devolution of New Hamsphire into a Blue State courtesty of the influx of Massachusetts residents will wreak havoc over the long term.
Meanwhile, I have a question for the pro-tax Democrats: Can you guarantee that new income or sales taxes will stop the rise in property taxes?
I bet they can't make such a "pledge."
Monday, December 11, 2006
If Republicans can't win New Hampshire and the Mountain West, they can't win a national majority. And they can't win those states without libertarian votes. They're going to need to stop scaring libertarian, centrist, and independent voters with their social-conservative obsessions and become once again the party of fiscal responsibility. In a Newsweek poll just before the election, 47 percent of respondents said they trusted the Democrats more on "federal spending and the deficit," compared to just 31 percent who trusted the Republicans. That's not Ronald Reagan's Republican Party.Read the whole article.
One more bit from our post-election Zogby poll: We asked voters if they considered themselves "fiscally conservative and socially liberal." A whopping 59 percent said they did. When we added to the question "also known as libertarian," 44 percent still claimed that description. That's too many voters for any party to ignore.
Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) told her Libertarian challenger after a debate, "If you weren't sitting in that [wheel]chair, I'd slap you." It took 10 days to certify her re-election, perhaps because that Libertarian took more than 7,000 votes. A better strategy for her and other Republicans would be to try to woo libertarians back.
There's no better way to get people worked up about something than to call on their sympathies for their beloved grandkids. The last thing that I want to do is to burden my own grandchildren with the sins of profligacy. But we should stop feeling guilty -- at least about government debt -- because we are in better shape than conventional wisdom suggests.
Theory and practice tell us that the optimal amount of public debt that maximizes the welfare of new generations of entrants into the workforce is two times gross national income, or GDP. This assumes 1% population growth, 2% productivity growth, 4% real after-tax return on investments, and that people work to age 63 and live to age 85. Currently, privately held public debt is about 0.3 times GDP, and if we include our Social Security obligations, it is 1.6 times GDP. In either case, we could argue that we have too little debt.
What's going on here? There are not enough productive assets -- tangible and intangible assets alike -- to meet the investment needs of our forthcoming retirees. The problem is that the rate of return on investment -- creating more productive assets -- decreases as the stock of these assets increases. An excessive stock of these productive assets leads to inefficiencies.
Total savings by everyone is equal to the sum of productive assets and government debt, and if there is an imbalance in this equation it does not mean we have too little or too many productive assets. The fix comes from getting the proper amount of government debt. When people did not enjoy long retirements and population growth was rapid, the optimal amount of government debt was zero. However, the world has changed, and we in fact require some government debt if we care about our grandchildren and their grandchildren.
If we should worry about our grandchildren, we shouldn't about the amount of debt we are leaving them. We may even have to increase that debt a bit to ensure that we are adequately prepared for our own retirements.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
One of the greatest ambassadors the United Nations, Jeanne Kirpatrick stood up against the McGovernie Democrats who belittled their country and gave us the post-Vietnam syndrome that serves as a media template today. Could a person of Kirpatrick's calibre make it through the nomination process today? I doubt it. But she helped lay the foundations for winning the Cold War when liberals were pandering to the nuclear freeze.
R.I.P. A great American!
Friday, December 08, 2006
BOSTON --Gov.-elect Deval Patrick's new budget chief said Thursday that local option taxes on meals, hotels and other services should be one of the things the state considers as it seeks to create a stable long-term financial picture.
Leslie Kirwan also said she isn't sure she can find the $735 million in wasteful spending Patrick said he wanted to eliminate during this fall's gubernatorial campaign.
At the same time, the outgoing financial official for the Massachusetts Port Authority said she isn't sure the state can cut property taxes, as Patrick said he hoped to do when he said he opposed a rollback in the state income tax rate during this fall's gubernatorial campaign.
Kirwan, a former aide to Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis and Republican Gov. William Weld, did say she will undertake a top-to-bottom review of state finances so they can plot the most financially secure course for achieving the governor's policy
"I think it's a matter of how you approach them and what the ramp-up is, and I think there will be options for introducing these policies in the first budget and building on them over time," Kirwan said as she joined the governor-elect at a news conference in a downtown hotel.Patrick himself said he wants his new Administration and Finance secretary to "lean forward" as she seeks creative solutions to state financial problems, and to improve the state's relationship with city and town governments.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Andrew McCarthy thinks that President Bush ought to be faulted for his lack of leadership. He makes a good point. But it's hard to think that FDR or any other president would have executed this war any better. In today's frentic, media-drenched environment, could FDR have moved the nation as he did for World War II? What defined long term victory in World War II? Was it to defeat the Axis or impose democracy?
We are staying in Iraq until we win. Great. But what is winning? What is the ?victory? we are seeking? On this, there is no consensus. That is why Americans have soured on Iraq. History proves that the American people have plenty of stomach for a hard fight, however long it takes, if they understand and believe in what we are fighting for. And this, consequently, is where history will condemn the Bush administration. Leadership, too often, has been rudderless.Question: Do we, the IPOD nation, have the stomach for war?
After 9/11, the president deployed our armed forces but told the American people the best thing they could do was go on with their lives go shopping, lest the terrorists win. There was no sense of shared sacrifice. No stressing that the nation as a whole had a vested interest in facing down not just a relative handful of terrorists but a fundamentalist ideology, shared by millions, calling remorselessly for our destruction.
Our military, alone, was left to bear the burdens. The 9/11 attacks were left to speak for themselves ? and they faded from elite memory in about the time it took for
habitués of the New York Times? West 43rd Street offices to forget those two tall buildings they used to gaze on from their windows.
Perhaps worse, after rallying and winning reelection strictly because Americans trusted him more than Sen. Kerry to protect our security, the president went dark. From November 2004 until the middle of the following year, President Bush, leading a nation at war, was virtually mum on the subject. There were political reasons for this ? there always are. We hadn't found Saddam's weapons; addressing the war risked reminding the public of intelligence failures and premature "mission accomplished" bravado; the administration wanted to use its pre-lame-duck months
to focus on Social Security, immigration, and the rest of its legislative agenda; and so on.
On Iraq, the president decided his reelection meant he had already won the argument. But when you're at war, and you're the president, you've got to win the argument every day. If you're not winning it, you're losing it ? and with it the public support essential to war-fighting.
Read the whole piece.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Virginia Postrel has more on the topic as does Julian Sanchez.
The classically liberal-inclined (read:market liberal) Economist "newspaper" has this to say.
Cut taxes that are too high and revenues increase. Another supply-side triumph.
Revenue estimators suggested the capital gains tax reduction would lose $5.4 billion in fiscal years 2003-2006. As a result, the Congressional Office (CBO) in January 2004 (7 months after the tax cut was enacted) forecasted capital gains tax revenues would be $44 billion in FY 03, $45 billion in FY 04, $49 billion in FY 05, and $54 billion in FY 06. With capital gains tax revenue collections coming in at $57 billion in FY 02, CBO predicted capital gains tax collections would be lower in FY 06 at $54 billion than they were in FY 02. This prediction was made by CBO despite 2002 being the last year of one of the worst bear markets in US history.
Sounds absurd right? But this is how Washington works and this is how information is provided to members of Congress before they take votes on critical legislation.CBO dramatically revised their forecast of capital gains tax collections in January 2006 which reflected our initial forecast. CBO revised their capital gain estimates up to $50 billion in FY 03, $60 billion in FY 04, $75, billion in FY 05, and $81 billion in FY 06. This new forecast showed, without question, the capital gains tax cut paid for itself at least 16 times over.
Monday, December 04, 2006
The southern evangelicals may have played out their hand with Terry Schiavo and stem cell research -- two wedge issues that alienate the Republicans' libertarian wing. Having had enough of southern, big government Republicanism, and not satisfied with divided government, libertarians are considering the previously unspeakable: joining the Democrats. Picking up on Cato's Brink Lindsey's dispatch in the New Republic, (sorry it's gated), the Washington Post's Sebastian Mallaby has more.
Why react to the temporary corruption of a party by abandoning it outright? Lindsey's answer is that Republicans are not merely failing to live up to their principles; the principles have altered. The party has been virtually cleaned out of the Northeast; it has suffered setbacks in the Mountain West; it increasingly reflects the values of its stronghold in the South. As a result, it has lost its libertarian tinge and grown more religious and traditionalist.
There has always been a tension between Republican libertarians, who believe that individual choices should be unconstrained by received wisdom, and Republican traditionalists, who believe pretty much the opposite. In their history of the conservative movement, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge recall that Barry Goldwater believed Jerry Falwell deserved "a swift kick in the ass;" and Goldwater's wife, Peggy, helped to found Planned Parenthood in Arizona. But for a long time the two wings of the party could paper over these differences. Christian conservatives and libertarians agreed that misconceived government programs were harming traditional values. Schools forced sex education on children. The tax system and the welfare system penalized marriage.
Those days are gone in part to the souring mood about Iraq. Is this what the neocons have wrought in the Big Tent GOP?
Marginal Revolution has more on the libertarian-conservative fissure with comments.
But Reason's Hit and Run Katherine Mangu-Ward doesn't trust the Democrats.
Meanwhile Pat Buchanan, thumping away, says the Republicans and Bush lost big but conservatives did not.
I think I'll plan on getting a haircut that day.
A 25-million-ton 820-foot wide asteroid called 99942 Apophis will most likely whiz by the Earth at about 20,000 miles out on that day, according to an article on killer asteroids in the current issue of Popular Mechanics. If this space mountain were to strike the planet it would hit with a force of 65,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs and could cause an 800 -foot tsunami. In other words, bad news for Mother Earth and for us.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
What was I doing when this band hit the scene? Gee, Frank that was 1996!!! I really need to get out more often.