A bizarre scandal has struck Mitt Romney’s campaign in Arizona, just four days before a crucial Republican presidential debate. According to the Phoenix New Times, an illegal Mexican immigrant claims that he was threatened with deportation if he refused to be silent about a homosexual affair with the sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona.
Sheriff Paul Babeu, who had been co-chairman of Romney’s Arizona campaign, resigned from that position Saturday and admitted he is homosexual, but denied that he or his lawyer had threatened to deport the Mexican man with whom he had been sexually involved. David Catanese of Politico reports:
“All of the allegations are false except one, I am gay,” Babeu said.
The nationally renowned Pinal County Sheriff called a news conference to address the explosive story by The Phoenix New Times that he pressured a man only identified as “Jose” into signing an agreement to conceal their relationship or face deportation.
The piece, posted late Friday, also includes text messages Babeu exchanged with the man and pictures he posted on online gay websites.
Babeu repeatedly sidestepped questions about his personal life but acknowledged a relationship with the man in question.
“What I do in my personal life and private life is my business,” he said.
Sheriff Babeu resigned his volunteer position with the Romney campaign, but said he would continue his GOP primary challenge in Arizona’s 4th Congressional District against freshman Rep. Paul Gosar.
The scandal is a major embarrassment to Romney, who is due to appear Wednesday in a debate in Mesa, Arizona, to be televised on CNN. The former Massachusetts governor had benefitted from the endorsement of Sheriff Babeu, who had a reputation as a fierce opponent of illegal immigration. Yet the sheriff has now admitted a gay affair with a man whom he knew to be an illegal immigrant.
Although Romney had been expected easily to win the Feb. 28 Arizona primary, the latest Rasmussen poll showed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum rapidly closing the gap after defeating Romney Feb. 7 in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado.
Rick Santorum’s speech the other day at the Detroit Economic Club is really good stuff. It might lack pizzazz, but it is heartfelt, sincere, delivered without a prepared text yet still fluent, and it is almost entirely on target on policy and philosophically deeply rooted in Burkean conservatism. One of the better parts comes near the end of the speech (near the midpoint of the entire video, which includes Q&A), when he talks about the role of “mediating institutions” between the individual and the government. Families, churches, schools, community hospitals, local charities: These not only provide wonderful services, but they also provide a buffer between us and government, without which freedom is endangered. The speech is well worth watching.
The FBI arrested Amine El Khalifi, a Muslim from Morocco here in the United States illegally, for attempting to detonate a suicide bomb at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. He was detained a few blocks away from the Capitol.
However, the device El Khalifi was carrying wasn’t real and his arrest came in an undercover sting operation. He had been monitored by the FBI for some time and had been apparently planning to bomb a synagogue or launch an attack at a restaurant frequented by U.S. military personnel before deciding to set his sights towards the Capitol. El Khalifi had said he would have been happy to blow up himself up and take 30 people with him.
I have a feeling though that we will hear accusations of entrapment on the part of the FBI as we have in other cases. It will once again be a case of pity the poor terrorist.
Yesterday, Joe Kennedy III, son of former Congressman Joe Kennedy (better known these days for doing commercials for Hugo Chavez) and grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy, launched his bid for Congress yesterday. The 31-year old former Assistant Middlesex County DA wants to replace Barney Frank in Massachusetts 4th Congressional District. Frank announced he would not seek re-election in the redrawn district last November. Until this month, Kennedy was living with his mother in Cambridge but has now since moved to Brookline, the town where President Kennedy was born. Congress has been Kennedy free since Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Ted Kennedy, opted not to run for re-election in his Rhode Island seat in 2010.
Standing in the way of JK3 (as he has been affectionately dubbed by The Boston Herald) is Republican Sean Bielat who gave Frank fits in 2010. Although Frank defeated Bielat by ten points, Bielat got under Frank’s skin that his boyfriend and soon-to-be husband heckled him following a candidates debate. Alas, there was no joy in Newtonville.
According to a poll conducted by the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Kennedy leads Bielat by 32% (60% to 28%). But anything could happen in 8½ months. Could Bielat be the Scott Brown of 2010? Of course, come to think of it, will the Scott Brown of 2012 be the Scott Brown of 2010? But the people of Massachusetts’s Fourth District will have to decide if it’s Barney Franks’s seat or if it’s The People’s Seat.
Ross Kaminsky is a Senior Fellow of the Heartland Institute and former member of its Board of Directors as well as an occasional donor to the organization. He has never been paid anything by the Heartland Institute, but has been a donor in support of its pro-free market work. Nobody from the Heartland Institute has ever attempted to influence the content of Mr. Kaminsky’s writing.
Earlier this month, on more than one occasion, someone pretending to be a member of the Heartland Institute’s Board of Directors deceived a Heartland staff member into sending him documents related to Heartland’s upcoming Board of Directors meeting. These documents, along with another note which Heartland spokesman Jim Lakely describes as “a total fake apparently intended to defame and discredit The Heartland Institute” were then posted on a web site called DeSmogBlog.com, a project of Jim Hoggan, a self-styled public relations expert, global warming alarmist and aggressive member of the climate thought police.
The documents are being treated by the hyperventilating climate alarmism industry as a smoking gun when in fact they disclose nothing surprising or particularly secret except for certain donor information.
Everyone who is involved in this debate knows that Heartland works hard to counter the alarmism industry, not because Heartland is shilling for any particular group or industry, but because my former colleagues truly believe that the science is at best unsettled, and that the economic disaster of so-called “solutions” to this dubious problem must be prevented if our standards of living and our economic and political liberty are to be preserved.
The Heartland Institute takes its educational role seriously, and I’m proud to be associated with them in our efforts to stop those anti-capitalists who have found the “climate change” debate a useful tool with which to try to achieve their far-left policy aims.
The Heartland Institute is in contact with law enforcement officials, which may have the perpetrator feeling a little nervous.
One obvious suspect in the Heartland document theft — and this is just my speculation — is Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security and a true enemy of the Heartland Institute. Gleick is a committed alarmist rent-seeker who seems quite bitter that he shares Forbes magazine’s pages with Heartland’s James Taylor.
The document which the alarmists have been trying to make the most of is called “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy.” It appears to be of a similar nature to the forged “Rathergate” documents which ended Dan Rather’s long career promoting leftist views disguised as news.
First, the Heartland document is written in a way which makes it appear unlikely to be genuine. As a commenter on a Forbes.com article about this mini-scandal notes, “It uses the term ‘anti-climate’ to refer to Heartland’s own position — a derogatory term which climate skeptic outfits never use to describe their positions (and…) it is written in the first person, yet there’s no indication of who wrote it. (Have you ever seen a memo like that?)”
Downloading the document, I find that the document properties list no author and say it was created on Monday by a scanner.
A check of the same sort of data for other documents, such as the Board directory and a notice for the January 7th Board meeting, show authors (including Heartland President Joe Bast) and show that the documents were not created (as PDF files) by a scanner but by software instead.
If the document thief could convert any documents received by e-mail from Heartland into PDF files with software, he could convert all of them. Or, if Heartland distributes its documents as PDF files, then the thief would have received a PDF dated prior to the last theft of documents. In either case, this document seems remarkably, suspiciously unlike the various stolen documents.
Furthermore, as others have noted on the web, the data shows that the file was created on a computer set to the Pacific time zone (signified by the -08:00 in the timestamps), where Gleick is based but where Heartland does not have an office. The stolen documents show their creation in the Central time zone.
In other words, all evidence so far supports Heartland’s emphatic assertion that the document is a forgery.
Interestingly, Gleick, who would normally be preening and prancing in glee at this sort of attention to the Heartland Institute has so far been utterly silent at his Forbes blog and on his Twitter feed.
One has to wonder if Peter Gleick or an alarmist fellow traveler he knows is concerned about an FBI agent knocking on the door sometime soon. Perhaps people should keep an eye on the dumpsters around Gleick’s house for discarded computers or an Epson scanner.
Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is expected to announce his retirement from Major League Baseball later this afternoon. Wakefield pitched for 19 seasons, 17 of them with the Boston Red Sox. He finished his big league career with exactly 200 wins.
Wakefield was drafted as an infielder by the Pittsburgh Pirates back in 1988. However, it quickly became apparent that Wakefield couldn’t hit a lick. Fortunately for Wakefield, he knew how to throw a knuckleball and his career was saved. The Pirates called up Wakefield to the bigs late in the 1992 season and he was an immediate sensation. Wakefield threw a complete game against the St. Louis Cardinals striking out ten batters in his MLB debut. He went on to post a 8-1 record with a 2.15 ERA. Despite making only 13 starts, he finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting behind Eric Karros of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Moises Alou of the Montreal Expos. Wakefield then won two games in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves but it wasn’t enough to overcome Sid Bream’s mad dash to home and the Pirates have not had a winning season since.
The following season, Wakefield struggled with a 6-11 record and a staggering ERA of 5.61 ERA and would spend all of 1994 in the minor leagues before being released by the Bucs early in 1995. A short time later, the Red Sox took a chance on Wakefield and the magic returned. With Roger Clemens injured much of the season, Wakefield became the ace of the staff winning 16 games including a 14-1 start en route to the Red Sox first AL East pennant in five years.
Wakefield would remain in a Red Sox uniform through 16 more seasons which given the volatility of the knuckleball had more than their share of ups and downs. Between 1999 and 2002, Wakefield worked predominantly out of the bullpen due to injuries to other pitchers and the lack of available arms. Sometimes this kept him in games in which another pitcher might have been ordinarily removed. But because of his durability, he often took one for the team and his stats suffered because of it. Had Wakefield been used exclusively as a starter he probably would finisher with close to 250 wins.
In 2003, Red Sox manager Grady Little returned Wakefield to the starting rotation and was the team’s most effective pitcher during that post-season against the New York Yankees. Unfortunately, Wakefield gave up a walk off homerun to Aaron “Freakin’” Boone in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 7 of the ALCS. If not for that pitch, Wakefield might very well have been the ALCS MVP.
But Wakefield stayed around to earn World Series rings with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007 and made his only AL All-Star Team in 2009. He also became known for his charitable endeavors and in 2010 was bestowed with the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award. In 2011, Wakefield won his 200th big league game. It took him eight attempts to do so however and as it turned out his 200th win would be his last. Wakefield had hoped to pitch in 2012 because he needed only seven more wins to pass Cy Young and Roger Clemens to become the winningest pitcher in Red Sox history. Cy Young and The Rocket each tallied 192 wins for the Bosox.
Unfortunately, in the midst of the Red Sox collapse last September, Wakefield took some heat for saying the fans deserved to watch him try to break the record. Under any other circumstances those comments probably wouldn’t have raised many eyebrows and had the Red Sox made the post-season he probably would have been brought back for 2012. But the Sox didn’t make the post-season and when the finger pointing began Sox fans criticized Wakefield (unfairly) for putting himself ahead of the team. Given all the changes that have taken place in the off season, it was clear that the Red Sox were not going to offer Wakefield a contract and Wakefield did not want to pitch in any other big league uniform.
It’s too bad that Wakefield could not have retired under happier circumstances but when you consider that his baseball career nearly ended almost as soon as it started he got to spend nearly 20 years playing Major League Baseball. As Ronald Reagan put it, “All in all, not bad. Not bad at all.”
I recommend Tony Massarotti’s biography of Wakefield, Knuckler which was released in 2011.
In his article about Jewish Republican David Storobin’s efforts to be elected to the New York State Senate next month, Ross Kaminsky notes that the only GOP presidential candidate to earn 40% of the Jewish vote since Warren Harding in 1920 was when Dwight Eisenhower was re-elected in 1956. However, Ronald Reagan did come quite close to that figure in 1980 when he earned 39% of the Jewish vote in his landslide victory over Jimmy Carter. It was the first time a Democratic presidential candidate had received less than 50% of the Jewish vote since James Cox could only muster 19% of the Jewish vote in 1920. Socialist Eugene Debs received twice as many Jewish votes.
Although Reagan lost some of the Jewish vote in 1984 he still managed to garner 31% of it. In 1988, George H.W. Bush recevied 35% of the Jewish vote although four years later it would collapse to 11%, representing the lowest total received by any GOP candidate since Barry Goldwater attained 10% of the Jewish vote despite the fact his father was Jewish. Of course, some of that owed to the presence of Ross Perot on the ballot but a lot of that decline was due to the elder Bush’s overt hostility towards Israel. Arguably the greatest foreign policy differential between Bush 41 and Bush 43 was over Israel. Indeed, George W. Bush actually picked up Jewish support in 2004 going from 19% to 24%. In 2008, John McCain won 22% of the Jewish vote against 78% for Barack Obama.
Over the past five presidential elections, Democratic candidates have been able to rely on between 75% to 80% of the voting age Jewish population to support them. That’s not as high as FDR who received between 80% to 90% of the Jewish vote even though he didn’t lift a finger to rescue Jews persecuted in Europe during the WWII despite the best efforts of his Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau. Still, Jews remain a reliable constituency for Democrats and I suspect this will be the case in 2012 although I don’t think Obama gets 78% of the Jewish vote this time around.
There is no doubt that President Obama’s anti-Israel posture hasn’t done him any favors but it probably won’t hurt him all that much either. I suspect this in part because Obama hasn’t said much about Israel recently and has let others in the Administration do the talking for him most notably Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Unless Obama steps into the breach again close to election time (which is a possibility where it concerns Israel and Iran) much of what Obama has said about Israel will have been forgotten. There are, of course, many Jews who simply don’t care about Israel and aren’t particularly concerned about Iran’s intentions toward the Jewish State as demonstrated in this 2010 interview Bill O’Reilly conducted with Jon Stewart. Indeed, some Jews engage in moral equivalence between Israel and terrorist organizations like Hamas as has Stewart himself.
This isn’t to say that Jews are particularly pleased with Obama where it concerns Israel. Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz comes to mind as he recently likened Media Matters to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright? Dershowitz has gone as far as to say, “The Obama Administration cannot have Media Matters and me or people who look to me for advice. We cannot be in the same tent. The tent is not big enough to include us.” Well, to start with, Reverend Wright didn’t stop Obama from being elected and if Obama’s association with Reverend Wright didn’t stick why would his association with Media Matters? Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine the likes of Dershowitz voting for Romney, Santorum or Gingrich, never mind Ron Paul. To the extent that there are liberal Jews who are offended by Obama’s anti-Israel policies, I think it’s far more likely that they would stay home rather than vote Republican. Of course, if enough Democrats were to stay home on election day it could cost Obama the election but it still isn’t the same thing as voting Republican.
So why don’t Jews vote Republican in large numbers? The most fundamental reason is that many Jews believe (fairly or not) that Republicans are hostile towards racial minorities, women, immigrants (be they legal or illegal) and the LGBTG community. Many Jews intrinsically identify with groups who are seen as being on the short end of the stick and see themselves (and in some cases members of their family) in their position and thus feel compelled to speak out and act on their behalf. As Rabbi Hillel asked, “If I am only for myself, than what am I?” In the grand scheme of things, it is only natural to wonder, “Well, if Republicans don’t like gays and lesbians then what do they think of me?” Now I happen to think some of that thinking is unfair especially where it concerns racial minorities although I do think there’s credence to it when it comes to the LGBTG community.
Nevertheless, while many Jews keep Rabbi Hillel’s second question in mind, in so doing they forget his first and most important question, “If I am not for myself, then who is for me?” For Jewish voters sympathetic both to Israel and gay rights, it is worth remembering that both President Obama and Rick Santorum think marriage should be between a man and a woman. With this in mind, would you rather hedge your bets with Rick Santorum who has stood up for Israel while having spent years warning us about Iran long before making its nuclear ambitions known? Or would you rather stick with President Obama who is angrier at Israel for building housing in Jerusalem than he is at Iran for building a nuclear weapon?
US interests in the Southeastern Mediterranean seem pretty clear: We should be empowering secular democratic political actors in Egypt to compete in the future with the currently ascendent Islamists, and meanwhile maintaining strong ties with Israel — our only truly stable ally in the region — to deter belligerence by actors within Egypt who might be itching to tear up the Camp David Accords. More specifically:
1. Withhold aid to Egypt’s military government until they reverse course on repression of organizations like the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which train activists in the nuts and bolts of political organization;
2. Maintain support for said organizations;
3. Strengthen military ties with Israel;
4. Avoid diplomatic friction with Israel.
In the budget proposal released Monday, the Obama administration proposes to do the opposite of all of these things.Continue reading…
Happy Birthday! The Stimulus is 3 years old (ABC News)
Candidates ramp up for Super Tuesday (RCP)
Media Matters admits David Brock’s bodyguards did carry firearms (Daily Caller)
Foster Friess’ aspirin joke (USA Today)
Real unemployment hits 15% (Townhall)
GM union workers recieve $7000 profit sharing checks (USA Today)
The downside of the insider trading bill (WSJ)
Paul Krugman’s interview in Playboy (Playboy)
Sheldon Adelson’s strategy (IBD)
Obama judicial appointee under fire from Bobby Jindal (Weekly Standard)
Bernanke: low rates good for banks in long run (WSJ)
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood threatens to reconsider treaty with Israel (NY Times)
German president steps down (Washington Times)
VIDEO: Tim Geithner vs. Rep. Paul Ryan
One of my heroes is gone. Today, cancer claimed the life of Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter at the age of 57. Carter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last May and despite a valiant fight, it was one he could not win.
Fans in New York will remember his two out, two strike hit against Calvin Schiraldi in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Carter’s single sparked a rally which eventually led Mookie Wilson hitting a groundball which eluded the glove of Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner. If Carter doesn’t get that hit, the Red Sox would have broken the Curse of the Bambino eighteen years earlier. Instead, Carter refused to make the last out and the Mets won Games 6 and 7.
As for me, I remember him as a Montreal Expo through and through. Drafted by the Expos in the 3rd round of the 1972 draft as an outfielder, the club actually moved him behind the plate so he wouldn’t get injured. Usually it’s the other way around. Carter made his big league debut late in the 1974 season and had a sensational rookie campaign in 1975 finishing runner up in NL Rookie of the Year balloting to San Francisco Giants pitcher John Montefusco. By the end of the decade, Carter had supplanted Johnny Bench as the premier catcher in the NL. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Carter was part of an Expos team which included the likes of Andre Dawson, Warren Cromartie, Tim Raines, Tim Wallach, Larry Parrish, Steve Rogers, Rodney Scott, Scott Sanderson and Ellis Valentine. In 1980, Carter finished runner up in the NL MVP balloting to Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt. Not coincidentally, Schmidt homered against the Expos to clinch the NL East during the final weekend of that season.
Carter was traded to the Mets prior to the 1985 season for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans. After spending five seasons in Queens, Carter had stints with the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers before returning to the Expos in 1992 where he had his number 8 retired at the end of the season. Carter finished his career with a .262 lifetime batting average, 324 homeruns, 1225 RBI, 11 NL All-Star selections, five Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves and a World Series ring. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.
After his playing career ended, Carter spent several seasons as a color commentator for the Expos and then later for the Florida Marlins. In recent years, Carter had tried his hand at coaching. He served as a manager in the Mets minor league system from 2005 to 2007. Carter would manage independent league teams in 2008 and 2009 before turning to the college ranks in 2010 accepting the coaching job at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Two weeks ago, Carter made his last public appearance when he attended PBAU’s home opener.
Not to nitpick Quin, but the Ron Paul fans can still criticize Rick Santorum’s record: while both candidates’ National Taxpayer Union ratings were good, Paul’s were higher than Santorum’s. Paul has also never ranked lower than 10 while Santorum has ranked as low as 33. Paul ranked first four years in a row while Santorum never ranked higher than third.
That being said, these ratings have their limits. (I say that even though NTU is one of the more discriminating.) Take a look at Santorum’s: he gets basically the same rating when Republicans were trying to restrain the growth of Medicare spending (with Santorum’s vote) as he did when Republicans were approving a massive unfunded new entitlement in the form of Medicare Part D (also with Santorum’s vote). His grade is barely higher when Republicans were reforming welfare and cutting farm subsidies than when they were increasing non-defense discretionary spending at the fastest rate in years. (It should be noted the 2002 farm bill was one piece of Bush-era big government Santorum voted against.)
Simply put, there is something screwy about ratings that don’t make these distinctions. The Club for Growth strikes me as pretty fair in its assessments of the candidates’ records.
I usually write about matters Middle Eastern, but today, I’d like to draw your attention a little closer to home.
A consortium of investors is on the verge of buying the failing Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. The struggling papers have experienced a generation of decline — battered hard by backsliding readership in an internet age and a flight of revenue dollars gone digital. The prescription is standard: streamline through merger and announce the inevitable layoffs. Nothing left but the crying. Just the latest nail in the coffin for print media. Right?
Nope. It’s much worse than that.
The investment group in question is helmed by Edward G. Rendell, former district attorney and mayor of Philadelphia, governor of Pennsylvania and general chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). In his column for the New York Times today, longtime Philadelphian and former Inky reporter Buzz Bissinger informs us that “the Guv” is backed by Lewis R. Katz and George E. Norcross III – two Democratic kingpins and local business magnates who bankroll the party bosses and political machines that run Philly and South Jersey.
Listen, it’s no secret that regional newspapers are no longer reliable financial investments…so what interest could this powerful troupe of savvy Democratic investors have in salvaging a lead balloon like the Philly press?
Well, their own political and business interests, of course. Reports are surfacing of politically charged coverage of competing bids being silenced and backroom threats to not sour the sale in progress.
If Rendell and Co. are already swinging substantial weight around — before purchasing the papers – imagine the control they’ll wield when they take command of the most influential news conglomerate between New York and Washington…in one of the most important swing states on the electoral map…months before the 2012 elections.
As Bissinger puts it:
If the sale goes through, Philadelphia will become the first major city in the country to actually cease to have a real daily newspaper. There will still be print and online products, sure, but those products will be owned by a group of power-hungry politicians and politically connected businessmen who, far from respecting independent journalism, despise it.
As a native Philadelphian, it pains me to watch my city – this cradle of liberty – fall victim to the worst sort of propaganda and plutocracy. So much for the free press in the City of Brotherly Love.
In another column of mine today, this time at CFIF, I explain the dangers of the interplay between the Common Core State Standards for education and the Obama administration’s (mis)use of waivers and grants to try to create a national curriculum — against the law, as is explained in this great new paper by two former Department of Education top lawyers. Again, this is a perilous power grab by a power-mad administration.
At the twelve23 site, I explore the more far-reaching ramifications of the Obama contraception/abortifacient mandate.
[T]he HHS regulations don’t merely affect Catholic practices related to contraception. Instead, they would allow the government to interfere almost at will with any economic- or health-related policies of any denomination or religion. Orthodox Jewish charities conceivably could be forced to do work on the Sabbath. Amish could be required to use electricity to comply with rules promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Or, if liberal cultural warriors have their way in the long run on “medical marijuana” or “compassionate assisted suicide,” regulations could force Baptist hospitals to provide those services as well. It’s not that these scenarios are likely; it’s that, under the legal theories being assumed by the administration, there would no longer be any constitutional barrier to such policy choices. Alas, as plenty of experience shows, that which the federal government is not forbidden to do usually ends up, in the long run, being a power the government actually exercises.
For all who care for freedom, the administration’s decision on this subject should be a call to arms, because it is a direct threat to all we hold dear.
Yesterday, Canada’s House of Commons passed third reading of legislation which would abolish the Canadian Firearms Registry. The bill now goes to Canada’s Senate for passage before being signed into law by the Governor General.
The Canadian Firearms Registry came into being by the Liberal government of Jean Chretien back in 1995. It has long been plagued by cost overruns and there is little evidence to suggest it actually reduces gun crime. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has wanted to abolish the agency since coming to office in 2006. However, the Tories were in a minority government situation and the opposition parties wouldn’t have it. But after the Tories won their elusive majority in the House of Commons last May, it was only a matter of time before the registry was going to be scrapped.
Interestingly, two members of the socialist New Democratic Party (NDP) voted with the Tories yesterday. The two NDP MPs in question, Bruce Hyer and John Rafferty, represent constituencies in my hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Both Hyer and Rafferty have long supported abolishing the registry which is unpopular in rural areas and especially amongst hunters. Despite their long standing opposition, when Hyer and Rafferty voted in favor of the bill on second reading, interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel stripped Hyer and Rafferty of the critic portfolios and committee assignments as well as prohibited them from participating in Question Period or making public statements. Turmel has warned that more sanctions will be brought about against Hyer and Rafferty. It is worth noting that the NDP will select a new leader next month. If that new leader insists on disciplining Hyer and Rafferty for voting in the interests of their constituents then the NDP can kiss Northern Ontario goodbye in the 2015 election.
It’s interesting how urban-rural schism can split the Left when it comes to gun politics in Canada. On a personal note, when I was a parliamentary intern for former NDP MP Nelson Riis back in the fall of 1994, I had the opportunity to sit in on a few NDP caucus meetings. I was there when the Liberals introduced the firearms registry legislation and back then nearly every member of the NDP caucus opposed the bill as they represented constituencies in Western Canada (mostly in Saskatchewan) that were either predominantly or partially rural. The only NDP MP who supported the registry at the time was Svend Robinson who represented a constituency in a suburban Vancouver.
Well, today there’s are far more urban composition to the NDP Caucus especially from Montreal where there is greater support for the registry. There are also no NDP MPs from Saskatchewan, the cradle of Canadian social democracy. But it also seems there is less tolerance for those with dissenting views which is curious because those dissenting views were once the prevailing views within the NDP Caucus not so long ago.
On Monday, Jamie Dimon, Chairman, President, and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, and therefore one of the most important bankers in the world, had some not so kind things to say about economic policies of recent years.
Dimon, whose strong early support of Barack Obama was often termed a “bromance,” recently had a private meeting with Mitt Romney, perhaps emblematic of Wall Street’s sense of betrayal by a candidate they supported aggressively with votes and cash. They should have known better, but at least they’ve learned their lesson: Barack Obama is what he is, and your cash doesn’t change that.
Dimon dodged the question of his not supporting Barack Obama in this election season.
Dimon’s comments make no partisan references and his frustration seems bipartisan, including with the “debt ceiling crisis” and with the lack of certainty around tax policy. He also notes how many complaints there are about Dodd-Frank and how damaging current over-regulation is to small banks, and makes a specific point about the damaging impact of Washington “denigrating business.”
Still, most of these issues are the fault and policy of Democrats and the Obama administration. Even if Dimon doesn’t come right out and say it, it’s hard to miss his anger and frustration with our current government and their persistently anti-business approach.
See a clip of Dimon’s interview with Fox Business here.
Media Matters accepted $50k to fact check religious broadcasts (Daily Caller)
Obama leads all Republican candidates (CNN Poll)
Chances of brokered convention as likely as “space alien attack” (Washington Times)
GOP demands apology about Obama campaign’s “chimichanga” attack (The Hill)
Megadeth frontman backs Rick Santorum (Politico)
In 1990, Santorum claimed he’s not a Reagan Republican (HuffPo)
Romney’s staunchly anti-trade op-ed (WSJ)
Is Mitt Romney running out of money? (Buzzfeed)
OBM Director slips up in committee, forgets Obamacare is a tax (Politico)
Sen. Tom Coburn endorses gas tax hike (Roll Call)
Fed open to stimilus action (WaPo)
The Babyccino (New York Magazine)
The new American dream: renting (Reuters)
VIDEO: Joe Kennedy runs for Barney Frank’s congressional seat
Long time Houston Astros radio play-by-play broadcaster Milo Hamilton will be calling Astros game for one more season and then will pass on the mike. Hamilton will remain with the Astros in a yet to be determined capacity when the team moves to the American League in 2013.
Hamilton has been in the radio booth for nearly 60 years. Only legendary Dodgers play-by-play man Vin Scully has been broadcasting baseball games longer than Hamilton. He first began broadcasting back in 1953 with the St. Louis Browns. Hamilton has also broadcast for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs (twice), Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves. The Baseball Hall of Fame bestowed with the Ford C. Frick Award in 1992.
Although Hamilton has been with the Astros for more than 25 years, he is undoubtedly best remembered for calling Hank Aaron’s then record setting 715th homerun on April 8, 1974 towards the end of his stint in the Braves broadcast booth.
Read it and weep, Romney and Paul fans. Rick Santorum was a real conservative, even under G.W. Bush. he still is.
Yesterday, I wrote about Elie Wiesel calling upon Mitt Romney to speak out against the Church of LDS’ practice of baptizing by proxy deceased Jews, particularly those who perished in the Holocaust. Despite the Church of LDS stating it would refrain from such a practice, it was recently done to the parents of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and Wiesel found out there were plans to baptize him (along with his father and maternal grandfather) despite the fact he is very much alive.
Much of the commentary to this blog post was negative towards Wiesel and some of it was quite derogatory. Amongst other things, Wiesel was called “a weasel”, “an obnoxious blowhard”, “a shakedown artist” and was also accused of “making a living off the Holocaust.” A former student of Wiesel’s at Boston University felt to compelled to state that these remarks made against Wiesel was “disgustingly cruel.” I couldn’t agree more.
I’ve long been taught that we must never forget the Holocaust and it was Wiesel, perhaps more than anyone, who has driven this message home. I am sorry to hear that there are people who would rather forget about the Holocaust and prefer that Wiesel not speak out. For those who accuse Wiesel of profiterring, let me state without equivocation that Wiesel doesn’t spend his life telling the world what happened to Jews in Europe for personal gain but because it is his solemn duty. At a time when Iran seeks to bring about a second Holocaust never has Elie Wiesel and his message been needed more.
Now let’s get back to the question at hand. There were some commenters who wondered why Wiesel was taking Romney to task while ignoring President Obama’s hostility towards Israel. Yet I would point to Wiesel’s open letter to Obama in April 2010 following his row with Benjamin Netanyahu concerning housing construction in East Jerusalem. So let’s be clear. Wiesel does not play favorites.
I did find one interesting comment which I would like to address:
I am confused by Elie Wiesel on this issue. I understand that Mr. Wiesel and others are true to Judaism and evidently find Mormon baptisms as an offensive conversion practice. But why be offended by another congregation of the faithful trying to demonstrate their love of their fellow man, particularly when you have personally suffered from man’s inhumanity to man and at a time when there is so much hostility in the world? Baptisms are performed to be available to the spirit if the spirit desires it, but it is up to the spirit to accept it. Think of it as an opening a door; an expression of welcoming, but you need not walk through.
Directing this issue to Mitt Romney, and particularly at this time, makes it political. A sincere concern would be better addressed to the head of the Church.
I accept the proposition that most Mormons are horrified by what happened during the Holocaust and want to honor the memories of those who perished. Their intentions are good but we all know what can happen with good intentions. Anyone who has an elementary knowledge of the history of Judaism will know that Jews have repeatedly been compelled to baptism under the threat of expulsion or death. So if one wishes to honor Jews who perished in the Holocaust a baptism, even by proxy, is the worst possible way of going about it.
As for the suggestion that this issue is best taken up with the Head of the Church of Latter Day Saints, well, therein lies the problem. The Church of LDS has repeatedly promised not to permit this and yet they seem to have trouble keeping their word. As Wiesel notes Romney is “the most famous and important Mormon in the country.” Wiesel further acknowledges, “I’m not saying it’s his fault, but once he knows, morally he must respond…He should come out and say, ‘Stop it.’”
Given that the Church of LDS has repeatedly failed to live up to its agreement concerning the proxy baptism of deceased Jews, Wiesel’s query of Romney is entirely fair and reasonable. Romney would be wise to answer Wiesel on this matter.
Let’s take something I’ve been debating in the comments and hash it out here on the main blog: If Rick Santorum won the nomination, could he keep the Democrats from turning the election into a referendum on contraception?
The case that he couldn’t: Santorum holds a fairly unpopular view on the use of contraception. He holds it sincerely and has been willing to talk about it when asked. He also rejects the Griswold decision and holds a fairly expansive view of state police powers. The media is going to harp on these things endlessly even if Santorum can somehow be persuaded to stop talking about condoms and pills himself. And many people will conclude he favors a birth control ban as a matter of policy, even if the actual evidence they cite stops short of establishing this as a fact.
The case that he could: Most, if not all, the Santorum contraception quotes making the rounds predate his recent surge. They were from interviews before he was a major candidate for the nomination or before he was a presidential candidate at all. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Santorum seems to have avoided making the dangers of the pill a major feature of his standard stump speech.
Consider the politics of the HHS contraception mandate. While the poll results vary depending on how the question is asked, a large percentage of the public sympathizes with Catholic institutions’ unwillingness to subsidize contraception over their moral objections (almost certainly a higher percentage of the public than sympathizes with those moral objections). Secular conservatives and libertarians have opposed the mandate. Democrats have divided over the issue and the Obama administration has floated a compromise, while Republicans are mostly united.
That suggests that Democrats don’t see the mandate, at least, as an unambiguous political winner for them. It also suggests that sustained attacks on Santorum’s religious beliefs — especially if he doesn’t make personal contraceptive use a major focus of his campaign — could backfire with voters Obama needs. Of course, there is no guarantee that Santorum wouldn’t be the one who overreaches on this issue.
On the main site today, Robert Kirchhoefer does make one important distinction between the health care bill signed into law by President Barack Obama and the Massachusetts bill signed into law by then Gov. Mitt Romney: conservative supporters of the individual mandate, whether at the state or federal level, were trying to prevent something further to the left from passing; Obamacare supporters were trying to pass something further to the left and ended up with the individual mandate-driven system as a compromise.
Romneycare was intended as more or less than final step, while Obamacare is the first one. That, and the fact that state governments have police powers the Constitution doesn’t give to the federal government, are the two most significant differences. But conservative defenses of Romneycare still unwittingly make Obamacare harder to overturn or repeal.
First, such defenses tend to accept (at least for the sake of argument) the idea that the individual mandate was necessary to address the free rider problem. There are good reasons to think the individual mandate isn’t necessary for solving the free rider problem. More importantly, Obamacare’s mandate is as much about making the ban on preexisting conditions workable by pushing healthy workers into the health insurance market as it is about free riders. These are central policy and constitutional justifications for Obamacare.
Second, these defenses tend to emphasize (and sometimes exaggerate) the conservative pedigree of Obamacare. This makes it harder to work for its repeal politically. And with a Supreme Court that is reluctant to overturn domestic legislation of this scale, it makes the Obama administration’s interpretation of the commerce clause seem less outside the mainstream.
I mentioned earlier that Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) put acting Obama budget director Jeffrey Zients in a tough spot. Based on Garrett’s question, Zients could either stick to his claim that the budget doesn’t raise taxes on individuals making less than $200,000 a year and families making less than $250,000 a year or repeat the Obama administration’s legal argument that the individual mandate is a tax.
Here’s the video.
My friend and New Orleans radio/TV host Jeff Crouere and I will do an online chat at 11:30 Central time (20 minutes from now) about the presidential race. The chat will be on-line at www.wgno.com the website for the ABC affiliate in New Orleans, Channel 26.
People can participate by going on www.wgno.com at 11:30 a.m. CST. There will be a big front page link for the chat on the home page of the site. Once they click on the link, they will go to a chat box where they will be able to see questions, answers and responses from other people. They will be able to ask questions, make comments, etc.
UPDATE: This link might be better: http://www.abc26.com/news/local/wgno-ringside-politics-web-chat-the-gop-presidential-race-can-rick-santorum-hold-his-lead-atop-the-polls-20120214,0,2998685.htmlstory
As Jeffrey Zients, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, prepared to testify before Congress, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan recognized the enormity of his task. “With the departure of Mr. Lew from OMB just last month, we understand that you are testifying on short notice, and we recognize the difficulty of that,” Ryan said in his opening remarks. “And unfortunately, your job is even more difficult than usual - you are in the position of having to defend a budget that essentially dodges the most difficult challenges our country faces.”
Indeed, Zients has struggled a bit. First he got into a testy exchange with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) that culminated in the Senate Budget Committee’s ranking Republican asking Zients to consider resigning if his numbers were wrong (video below). Then Zients undermined the legal case for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by appearing to concede that the individual mandate was not a tax. Zients did so under questioning from Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), who asked him if the fine paid by people making less than $200,000 a year who elect not to carry health insurance constitutes a tax. The dilemma was obvious: Politcally, the Obama administration can’t say it has raised taxes on anyone whose income is below that magic number; legally, their case for the individual mandate is that it is a tax.
Here’s Zients’ exchange with Sessions:
The primary point of my first book, The End of Secularism, was to demonstrate that secularism doesn’t do what it claims to do, which is to solve the problem of religious difference. As I look at the administration’s attempt to mandate that religious employers pay for contraceptive products, I see that they have confirmed one of my charges in the book.
I wrote that secularists claim that they are occupying a neutral position in the public square, but in reality they are simply another group of contenders working to implement a vision of community life with which they are comfortable. And guess what? They are not comfortable with many of the fundamental beliefs of Christians. Regrettably, many secularists are also statists. Thus, their discomfort with Christian beliefs results in direct challenges to them in the form of mandatory public policy.
Collectivism is often very appealing to Christians who want to do good for their neighbors. Unfortunately, collectivism is frequently a fellow-traveler of aggressive secularism with little respect for religious liberty. The veil has slipped. I hope we do not too quickly forget what was revealed in that moment. Collectivism gives. But it also takes. And what it takes is very often precious and irreplaceable.
Bill Kristol takes Mitt Romney to task. Kristol, one of the very first analysts to see real potential in Rick Santorum, has good political sense. Four years ago, he was probably the first serious writer to start suggesting that Sarah Palin would energize conservatives if John McCain picked her as veep (months before the selection was made). Whatever one thinks of Palin, Kristol’s analysis about her effect on the conservative grassroots was right on target. Other examples abound. As a pure political analyst, Kristol is usually ahead of the curve. And I think he’s on to something here when he says that Romney’s attacks on Santorum so far are falling flat.
Justin Trudeau is once again causing a stir in my home and native land. During an interview with Radio Canada (the French language service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) on Sunday, Trudeau made some sympathetic remarks about Quebec independence. He said:
I always say that if ever I believed in Canada was really Stephen Harper’s Canada - that we were heading against abortion, against gay marriage, that we were going backwards 10,000 different ways - maybe I would think about wanting to make Quebec a country.
Never in my wildest dreams did I entertain the thought the phrase “maybe I would think about wanting to make Quebec a country” would ever cross the lips of the someone named Trudeau. When his father Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister fought the idea of Quebec separatism tooth and nail and his rivalry with Rene Levesque, Quebec’s first separatist Premier, was legendary. Even after he left office, Trudeau dismissed the idea that Quebec needed to be bestowed with special powers as demonstrated in this 1987 interview on the CBC with the late Barbara Frum (yes, she was David Frum’s mother) following the introduction of the Meech Lake Accord.
Suffice it to say, the younger Trudeau had to explain himself. Yesterday, outside the House of Commons, Trudeau said, “I live this country in my bones, every breath I take and I’m not going to stand here and somehow defend that I actually do love Canada because we know I love Canada.” However, when that response proved unsatisfactory to the media scrum, he angrily stormed off.
However, later he seemed once again open to Quebec independence when he told a reporter, “If Quebecers get it and, honestly, Canadians start to not get it, I start to see their point about not recognizing Canada under Stephen Harper.”
I think the comment of Mario Dumont, former leader of Quebec’s now defunct conservative Action démocratique du Quebec (ADQ), is apt here. Dumont said, “It’s like it’s more important for him to be on the left than to be Canadian.” He also went to say these comments could damage Trudeau’s ambitions to follow in his father’s footsteps to become Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister.
Even if Trudeau does eventually become leader of the Liberals, as long as he maintains this hot headed disposition, I think Canadians will stay with Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. And if Justin Trudeau doesn’t like it then he can always quit federal politics, join the Parti Quebecois and set his sights on being Premier of Quebec.
Here. None of us are accustomed to the sorts of corruption that these people are practicing.
Deal reached to preserve payroll tax cut (NY Times)
Media Matters may face new scrutiny from Congress over tax-exempt status (Daily Caller)
Venture capitalists play key role in Obama’s Energy Department (WaPo)
Obama is in Hollywood today to fundraise after anti-piracy law failure (The Hill)
US weighing steep nuclear arms cuts (AP)
5 budget challenges no politican talks about (CSM)
Romney faces serious challenges in Michigan (WaPo)
Hermain Cain turns down Dancing with the Stars offer (AJC)
Another solar company files for bankruptcy (Detroit Free Press)
How corporate tax rates hurt the middle class (AEI)
Francis Fukuyama inteviews Peter Thiel (American Interest)
Zurich is world’s costliest city (WSJ)
VIDEO: “Rombo” ad in Michigan, with Mitt Romney shooting a mud gun
For those of you interested in the nuts-and-bolts of financial markets…
It’s been an insane few days at work for me, as I’ve been trading, with something quite unlike success, the VIX. The VIX is the CBOE Volatility Index, and you can trade futures or options on it.
So, stay with me here for a minute:
The Standard and Poor’s 500 index is essentially a derivative, derived as it is from the capitalization-weighted prices of its 500 underlying stocks.
Options on the S&P 500 are derivatives of the S&P 500.
The VIX index which measures the implied volatility of options on the S&P 500 is a derivative of those options. However, there is no way to trade the VIX index directly.
VIX futures and options are derivatives of the VIX index. (There are also ETFs like the VXX which buy a time-weighted mix of VIX futures, and are themselves derivatives of VIX futures, and there are options on those ETFs! I’m trading those a little bit too. VXX and other VIX-related ETFs have had massive volume in recent days, with VXX alone trading over 45 million shares on Tuesday…more than the total number of VXX shares outstanding as the product has been a popular short-term trading vehicle.)
Therefore, this insane products that I’m trying to trade are basically a 4th or 5th or 6th derivative of the stock market.
What is particularly crazy about these products is that they measure current expectations of future expectations of market volatility. That means that even if the market is calm now, where you would normally make money selling volatility, if the market expects turmoil ahead the VIX product will reflect that rather than the current calmness.
And that’s just what’s happened over roughly the past week: The VIX has gone up dramatically even though the market itself has been quite dull.
Take a look at this chart, and you’ll see a flat line in the S&P 500, but a huge rise in the VIX. (At least if you look at the chart early on Wednesday, you’ll see it. I can’t vouch for the trend continuing for another day or more.)
So why is this happening? Seems like two main things:
First, fears that Greece’s financial situation will end in a more disorderly way than previous thought, although news late Tuesday seems to suggest they have the train nearly back on the rails as far as getting a needed EU bailout.
And second, fears that the stock market may suffer from profit taking after a 10 percent rally in the last two months.
The reason these translate into higher VIX values is that the market usually becomes more volatile on the way down and less on the way up. That’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s more common than not.
I’m still short this stuff, hoping that Greece, even if it doesn’t get absolutely settled in the short term (and it won’t) will come to be seen as a more isolated problem and not likely to spill over into Italy or Spain.
The market seems to be betting that way at this point with Italian government 10-year bond yields having plummeted more than 20 percent, from above 7% to below 5.5% over the last month, including a solid bond auction on Tuesday. Spanish government 10-year bonds at about 5.3% yield are also well off their high yields over 6.5% reached in late November.
All this as Greek bond yields remain just below their all-time highs, with the 10-year closing Tuesday around 33 percent yield. The rate on the 2-year note is an astonishing 184% as of late Tuesday.
[For those who want a little bond math: The reason for these very high rates is that the Greek government will never redeem these bonds for their full face value. The market understands this and is pricing these notes and bonds as if they’ll eventually be worth not more than 30 percent of face value, and perhaps substantially less. There is in fact a real chance that they will become worthless, though that is not the most likely scenario. So, for example, imagine there is a government two-year note that was issued with a 5% coupon with a $100 value. If you buy this bond, you get interest of $5 per year, and at the end of the bond’s life, the government then gives you that year’s $5 plus the $100 face value. If, however, the market comes to realize that the government will only pay back $30 rather than $100 at maturity, then the bond will trade for something closer to $30…a little more as investors believe the annual interest payments and $30 principal payment at maturity are safe, and less as they question the likelihood of those payments. If that note is trading at $25, then the apparent interest rate on it is roughly (100/25) x 5%, or 20%. This is what’s happening to Greek debt, as the market remains worried that neither the $30 principal nor the $5 interest payment are safe. The plunging prices making it appear that investors are getting enormous interest rates whereas they’re just hoping to get out of these things without losing too much more money.]
In other words, the market seems to be thinking that the Italians and Spanish may have things well enough under control that a Greek default (which seems likely even if they get a temporary shot of capital from the European Central Bank or the EU) will not turn into the first domino in a longer chain of sovereign debt failures across Europe.
An investor interviewed on CNBC on Tuesday noted that Greece’s population was about the size of Los Angeles’ population, and that Greece’s budget was about the size of Philadelphia’s budget. His point was that this need not become an issue of “contagion”.
I think that prediction by the market is better than 50/50 to be correct, but the uncertainty sure does make for difficult trading for someone selling VIX-related products. Perhaps I should be buying stock in companies that make blood pressure medication instead…
Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel is demanding answers from Mitt Romney over the Church of Latter Day Saints’ practice of baptizing deceased Jews.
Wiesel learned that his name (along with that of his father and maternal grandfather) had been submitted to a restricted Mormon website indicating he was ready for such a baptism. Of course, the 83-year old Wiesel is very much alive, well and is quite annoyed.
These proxy baptisms have long been sticking point between Jews and Mormons. It is estimated that 650,000 of these proxy baptisms have been performed on those who perished in the Holocaust. Despite an agreement by The Church of Latter Day Saints to stop the practice back in 1995 (with the exception of Jews who were ancestors of Mormons) the baptisms persist. Just today, the Church of LDS apologized for the proxy baptism of the parents of the late Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.
Wiesel wants to know if Romney is aware of this practice and if so to call upon the Church of LDS to stop it. For his part, Mitt Romney said in a 2007 interview with Newsweek that he had performed proxy baptisms although it isn’t clear if he’s performed them on Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
When The Huffington Post asked the Romney campaign to comment on Wiesel’s query, they received a reply intended for another Romney official that the query be ignored. Not good.
Now one could make an argument that Wiesel could also direct this question to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. However, if Elie Wiesel asks you a question then you had better well answer it. Romney would be wise to pick up the phone and personally invite Wiesel for a one on one meeting and put this matter behind him.
The Bangor Daily News is reporting that the Maine Republican Party is facing increasing pressure to reconsider its claim that Mitt Romney won the state’s caucuses until all the votes are counted. (Hat tip: Taegan Goddard.) Some caucuses were postponed due to snow and told that they won’t count in the final tally; towns that had their caucuses before February 11 were also inexplicably not counted.
The Bangor paper quotes a political science professor as saying “It sure looks like they counted what they wanted to count.” It is by no means clear that the missing votes would be enough to change the outcome, but even Republicans who didn’t support runner-up Ron Paul are concerned about the perceptions created by the state party’s handling of the caucuses.
UPDATE: Maine GOP says Romney win will stand “for now.”
In a conference call today, Romney surrogate Jim Talent slammed his former Senate colleague Rick Santorum for voting for the Medicare prescription drug benefit. A reporter on the call promptly noted that Talent had voted for Medicare Part D too.
This illustrates the extent to which the big government Bush years tainted many fiscal conservatives in Congress. Even Paul Ryan ended up voting for the biggest new entitlement program since the Great Society, one that actually increased Medicare’s unfunded liabilities by trillions of dollars. You can find plenty of conservative votes for TARP and No Child Left Behind too.
It’s tempting to write off Santorum’s deviations from limited government by pointing out that they mainly stemmed from loyalty to a Republican president or parochical concerns. But loyalty to Republican presidents and parochial concerns are exactly the reasons government tends to grow even when Republicans are in office. The fact is that Republicans are great fiscal conservatives when the Democrats are in power and tend to backslide when they are in power themselves. It’s a problem that faces Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich in varying degrees.
Acting OMB head Jeff Zients has a weak defense of the president’s budget in USA Today.
We put the country on a sustainable fiscal path, with deficits declining as a share of the economy, and we stabilize debt as a share of the economy, which is critical for business confidence and investment.
With spending cut so deeply, we invest scarce federal resources in areas critical for economic growth and middle-class security.
We’re talking here about a budget that increases spending from $3.8 trillion to $5.8 trillion by 2022, where the deficits and debt are all higher than the Congressional Budget Office projections, that counts money for Iraq and Afghanistan that wasn’t ever requested as savings, and also relies on the already concluded debt ceiling deal for savings. If this puts the country on a sustainable fiscal path, then Gisele Bundchen is my Valentine’s Day date.
Jonathan Chait makes an interesting point in assessing the electability of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. It is often assumed that Santorum will drive swing voters into the arms of Barack Obama. But what kind of swing voters?
In fact, there are, very roughly speaking, two kinds of swing voters. One kind is economically conservative, socially liberal swing voters. This is the kind of voter you usually read about, because it’s the kind most familiar to political reporters - affluent and college educated. But there’s a second kind of voter at least as numerous - economically populist and socially conservative. Think of disaffected blue-collar workers, downscale white men who love guns, hate welfare, oppose free trade, and want higher taxes on the rich and corporations. Romney appeals to the former, but Santorum more to the latter.
Chait goes on to point out that the coverage of Romney’s wealth could hurt his ability to win socially conservative downscale voters. When you move beyond swing voters to look at swing states, it is worth noting that Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina loom large on the list (though Virginia and Florida are states where Romney might be stronger).
The Obama campaign will likely portray Santorum as monomaniacally focused on social issues to the exclusion of all other considerations. That could work, especially if Santorum plays into their hands. It could also backfire, like the HHS mandate appears to have backfired up to this point. But the larger problem with Santorum as the nominee would be his need to throw together an organization on the fly rather than his social conservatism.
My friend Don Boudreaux, economist (and former Chairman of the Economics Department) at George Mason University is one of this country’s best writers and thinkers on the economics (and morality) of immigration.
Don approaches the issue with a decidedly libertarian point of view. And while many conservatives and immigration “hawks” (which I am not) might have an instinctively negative reaction to anyone arguing for increased immigration across all skill levels, I hope you all will carefully read Don’s latest essay on the topic, which can be found here.
I sent Don a comment suggesting that in addition to the question of resource use (welfare, hospitals, schools), those who believe in increasing legal immigration will need to confront the issue of the impact of immigration on wages, especially on the wages of those Americans who only have a high school education.
I am convinced that immigration at all skill levels provides substantial aggregate economic benefit for the nation — especially in the long run — and it would be more so if we can deal with the welfare, hospital, and schools issue mentioned above.
But that does not mean that there are no losers in the process. In addition to the economic questions around those who lose when immigration increases, it is one of the most important political questions standing in the way of immigration law reform.
For the second straight column, Deroy Murdock hits a home run. This time he notes all sorts of other logical extensions of Barack Obama’s assault on the Catholic Church. And Murdock isn’t even a believer. One needs not be religious to object to an assault on religious freedom. Read it now. Superb column.
Three bombs went off today in Bangkok. The first explosion at a house was apparently accidental. The next two were hurled by one of the residents of the house - one at a cab and the other at police. The bomb that was thrown at police ended up blowing off the bomber’s legs. Four other people were injured in the bombings.
Police soon discovered that the now legless bomber and his roommate were Iranian and that his house was full of explosives.
So what are two Iranians doing in Thailand with explosives? While Thai authorities have not come to any conclusions given the bombing which took place yesterday in near the Israeli Embassy in India and the attempted bombing near the Israeli Embassy in Georgia, I think we have a pretty good idea about their intended destination.
St. Valentine’s Day was important to Ronald Reagan (Reagan Record)
Media Matters’ memo on investigating personal life of Fox News employees (Daily Caller)
David Brock’s hit list (Daily Caller)
GOP lawmakers to grill Panetta over cuts to Pentagon budget (The Hill)
Polling shows Santorum catching Romney (Pew)
Days after having a CPAC booth, Google’s doodle shows 2 men marrying (Google)
Republicans send Valentine’s Day cards to Obama and Democrats (Mediarite)
A lack of conservative journalists at CPAC (HuffPo)
House GOP agrees to payroll tax holiday without offsets (WaPo)
White House unveils most expensive spending proposal in history (Free Beacon)
Senator John Glenn at 90 (NY Times)
Christopher Hitchens on G.K. Chesterton (The Atlantic)
VIDEO: Happy Valentine’s Day from The American Spectator
…. within the Justice Department. And at Walgreen’s. And at other places where Jim Crow attitudes still abound.
This is an absolutely classic column. Read it. Read it again. And then email it to Eric Holder, so he can really fight the nation of cowards who force people to show photo IDs.
Then again, maybe we shouldn’t hold Holder to any standards of consistency and shouldn’t insist that he not be a hypocrite. Holder is black, you see. That immunizes him from criticism. And we know he’s black, because we can see his blackness on his photo ID.
I appreciate Reid Smith for informing us that the BBC now consider Abu Qatada, an al Qaeda sympathizer and quite possibly an operative, to be an extremist after all. As Reid notes, I made a fuss about it last week after reading Charles C.W. Cooke’s item at National Review Online and after doing my own research found, not to my surprise, that they had no qualms describing Israeli Jews as extremist. Cooke would later make note of my observations.
Reid is also kind enough to suggest that Cooke and I may have helped the Beeb to see the light. I am more inclined to think the BBC did its about face because of the mocking they faced by the likes of The Daily Mail than any dispatches that were written about it overseas. Nevertheless, if I played any part in shaming the BBC then I am more than glad to have helped.
Nevertheless, it isn’t the first time that the BBC has gone overboard with political correctness and it won’t be the last. While they might be less hesitant to call the Abu Qatadas of the world “extremist” I don’t think they’ll be any less hesitant to describe Israeli Jews as “extremist.” Where liberalism is entrenched so too is moral equivalence. Which is all the more reason for us to be vigilant about such things no matter which side of the Atlantic it takes place.
James Pethokoukis supplies more reasons to dislike the Obama budget:
All in all, Obama has proposed some $1.6 trillion in new taxes over ten years, taking tax revenue as a share of GDP to 20.1 percent in 2022 vs. a historical average of 18 percent. And despite all those new taxes, Obama’s plan would still add $6.7 trillion in new debt and make no progress in lowering the nation’s total debt levels as a share of output. The debt-to-GDP ratio is predicted to be 74.2 percent this year and 76.5 percent in 2022.
At the same time, federal spending would never fall below 22 percent of GDP. Indeed, Obama - if he serves two terms - would be the first U.S. president in history to spend 22.0 percent or more of GDP for eight straight years (and then beyond). And keep in mind that these debt and spending numbers claim about $850 billion in savings from unwinding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, spending about a quarter of those phony “savings” on highway funding.
This specific budget is almost certainly dead on arrival, since it can’t pass the Republican-controlled House and probably won’t get many votes even in the Democratic-run Senate. But it does illuminate the president’s budget priorities. It also reminds us that his party is committed to a permanent increase in the size and cost of the federal government.
Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed into law a bill that will make same-sex couples eligible for marriage licenses. The change takes effect on June 7.
Washington joins New York and New Hampshire as the states that have approved same-sex marriage by legislative action rather than judicial fiat. Legislative action on this front in Maine was undone by the state’s voters in a referendum.
Ron Paul has issued a pretty tough statement on the Obama administration’s contraception mandate:
In truth this mandate has nothing to do with healthcare, and everything to do with the abortion industry and a hatred for traditional religious values. Obamacare apologists cannot abide any religious philosophy that promotes large, two parent, nuclear, heterosexual families and frowns on divorce and abortion. Because the political class hates these values, it feels compelled to impose — by force of law — its preferred vision of society: single parents are noble; birth control should be encouraged at an early age; and abortion must be upheld as an absolute moral right.
Paul also notes that some Catholic leaders supported Obamacare.
President Obama has talked about tough choices and balanced approaches in his speeches about the country’s fiscal challenges, but his budgets have never lived up to the hype. His latest budget proposal is no different. The savings are mostly bogus — he includes $2 trillion in savings from the debt deal and makes dubious assumptions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and no major structural changes to entitlements are even contemplated.
Now, these presidential budgets aren’t even worth the paper they are printed on. Obama’s first budget projected a $581 billion deficit for this year; we are actually $1.33 trillion in the red. But this budget barely touches Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. It leaves most of the Bush tax cuts intact, with some populist tax increases on investment for high income earners. The “Buffett rule” won’t be sufficient to pay for our current spending commitments.
Here’s the bottom line: the president’s $3.8 trillion in spending for the next fiscal year is actually $230 billion above the Congressional Budget Office’s most recent baseline. Spending over the next decade is $2.7 trillion higher than the CBO baseline. The $6.7 trillion in deficits over that period is more than double the CBO’s estimates. The national debt will also be nearly $4 trillion higher in 2022 under Obama’s budget than the CBO projects.
And all this is despite the fact that Obama relies on much more optimistic economic growth assumptions than the CBO. Obama also jacks up the dividends tax rate from 15 percent to 43.4 percent next year. Capital gains taxes will rise from 15 percent to 23.8 percent. The effective tax rates will be even higher. More taxes, more spending, more borrowing, and more politics.
Last week, Aaron took the BBC to task for their skewed branding of “extremists.” Apparently the Brits reserve that label for ultra-orthodox Jews and settlers in West Bank, as opposed to violent radicals such as Abu Qatada. Charles Cook over at NRO — whose piece on the British broadcasting giant’s aversion to label radical Islamists with the “E” word — credited Aaron’s exploration of the BBC’s editorial license.
Well, it appears Aaron and Charles may have helped prompt a change of tune over at the BBC.
This morning, the BBC’s article on Abu Qatada’s release from detention led with the following:
Abu Qatada, accused of being one of the UK’s most dangerous extremist preachers, is to be released from Long Lartin top-security jail later.
Sidebar analysis from the BBC’s Home Affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani was similarly profuse with use of the word:
…if [Abu Qatada] crosses that line, hops on a bus or meets anyone on a long list of other alleged extremists, he will breach his bail.
Sounds like the BBC has learned a valuable lesson, as instructed by our own Aaron Goldstein…
Red State never has been a hotbed of support for Rick Santorum (to put it mildly), but one frequent, key reader/contributor lays out a strong case for the Pennsylvanian, here. Well worth a read.
I’m very pleased to let you know that the Colorado Springs Gazette ran (in their Sunday edition) a guest column by me which I wrote in response to Barack Obama’s exclusive piece in that same paper calling for a Homeowner’s Bill of Rights.
Obama’s socialist piece is here.
And my response is here.
Back in my earlier days when I was a sportswriter, in one of the five or six times I was around Jack Nicklaus (which isn’t many, but by being limited they were thus more memorable), I remember one time when he commented not on golf but on music. Alas, I can’t remember the scene, but just the comment. It was probably in the men’s grill at the English Turn course he designed in New Orleans, but it may have been as he waited out a rain delay near the Sixth fairway at Congressional in the mid-1990s. Anyway, somehow the subject of Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” came up. It may have been on the radio in the men’s grill in the background — or, for that matter…. now I’m really going to contradict myself, because the more I think of it the more I think I might have seen it on a TV feed at one of those events, so… oh well, it doesn’t matter where I was. What I remember was that Nicklaus smiled and saying something like: “Good song. I like that. Good message for the kids. Teach them self-reliance. Good stuff.”
True enough, especially compared to much of the trash that long has passed for pop/rock lyrics. Even when talking pop culture, Nicklaus has good sense. Whitney Houston was a diva, but even divas occasionally can find the right message (making allowances for not exactly being profound or deep) to go with the right voice. That’s why, in remembering Whitney Houston, we can use the title of a song by a tremendously talented diva of another generation who died in her 40s, Billie Holiday: “God Bless the Child.” R.I.P.
A car bomb was detonated today near the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, India injuring the driver of the car as well as a woman believed to be the wife of an Israeli diplomat.
There was also an attempted car bombing outside the Israeli Embassy in Georgia but fortunately the bomb was defused.
The attacks coincide with the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Imad Mugniyah, a senior official with Hezbollah in Lebanon who is widely believed to have played a role in the 1983 bombing of the barracks in Beirut which resulted in the death of 241 U.S. Marines as well as the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds Iran and its proxy Hezbollah responsible for these plots. As Iran gets closer to building a nuclear weapon and Israel contemplates action, I suspect we can expect more of these attacks by Iran and Hezbollah against Israeli interests around the world.
Paranoid David Brock uses drugs, had bodyguard with illegal handgun in D.C. (Daily Caller)
Obama to call for higher taxes, more spending in budget today (WSJ)
Weekend payroll tax cuts failed (Politico)
White House falsely claims Senate needs 60 votes to pass budget (WaPo)
Mitt Romney wins CPAC and Maine (Fox News)
Rick Santorum accuses Romney, Paul of rigging CPAC straw poll (National Journal)
Catholic Bishops oppose “compromise” on birth-control mandates (WSJ)
Critics of safety net increasing dependent on it (NY Times)
Record high 67% see bias in news media (Newsbusters)
New movement encourages sheriffs to arrest federal regulators (Denver Post)
Occupy movement regroups, plans for next phase (NY Times)
Greek lawmakers approve austerity bill and Athens is on fire (Reuters)
VIDEO: At CPAC, Andrew Breitbart promised videos from Obama’s radical college years (5:15)
Here are some thoughts on the 54th Grammys.
As one could imagine Whitney Houston was on the minds of everyone involved in the proceedings. Host LL Cool J read a prayer for her and later in the show Jennifer Hudson sang a stirring rendition of “I Will Always Love You.”
Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt also paid tribute to the recently departed Etta James with their rendition of “A Sunday Kind of Love.”
Taylor Swift gave a well received performance for her song “Mean” but I would have preferred to hear more of The Civil Wars, the country-folk duo who introduced young Ms. Swift.
Tonight was a triumph for the British singer Adele who won six Grammys and made her first public performance since having surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital here in Boston to remove a benign pollop on her vocal cords. She sang her monster hit “Rolling in the Deep” to a warm and rapturous standing ovation.
The Beach Boys reunited with Brian Wilson and were joined by Maroon 5 and Foster the People. Wilson’s vocals seemed off but Mike Love kept it together on “Good Vibrations” and the audience was sharing in them.
I also enjoyed the tribute to Glen Campbell. The Band Perry, a trio with which I was heretofore unfamiliar, performed a wonderful version of “Gentle on My Mind” while Blake Shelton did justice to “Southern Nights” before Campbell sang “Rhinestone Cowboy.” While the effects of his Alzheimers is apparent, the man can still sing and I’m glad he’s going out on his own terms. I will be seeing him in concert when he comes to Boston next week.
Stevie Wonder made a surprise appearance. After paying tribute to Whitney Houston he played a few bars of “Love Me Do” on harmonica before introducing Paul McCartney. The former Beatle sang “My Valentine”, a Cole Porter like tune from his newly released album Kisses on the Bottom. Accompanying Sir Paul was former Eagle Joe Walsh on guitar and Diana Krall on piano.
McCartney returned at the end of the show to perform a portion of the classic Medley from Abbey Road - “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight” and “The End” with a little guitar help from Walsh, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters.
And in the end I am left with a question. We are still singing Beatles, Beach Boys and Glen Campbell songs nearly half a century after they were first recorded. Will we be still be “Rolling in the Deep” a half century from now?
I spent a good part of the weekend watching the Australian Baseball League (ABL) Championship between the Perth Heat and the Melbourne Aces which aired on the MLB Network.
The ABL Championship was a best two out of three series and I saw Games 2 and 3 with booth games lasting 13 innings. Melbourne won Game 2 by a score of 3-2 while Perth clinched the championship today with a 7-6 victory. Perth scored the winning run on a wild pitch. It was Perth’s second consecutive ABL Championship.
It was pretty heartbreaking for Aces reliever Bubbie Buzachero. He had pitched eight innings of scoreless relief. In the top of the 13th inning, Buzachero hit the leadoff batter and he was removed from the game in favor of Andrew Russell. Although it was Russell who unleashed the wild pitch, Buzachero took the loss.
One of the most interesting aspects of watching the game was listening to the Australian broadcasters. Once I got past the accents, it wasn’t all that different from watching a game broadcast by an American or a Canadian crew. The most noticeable difference was that the speed of pitches was measured in kilometers rather than miles per hour.
The one other difference I noticed was early on in today’s game centered on a discussion about Perth starting pitcher Geoff Brown. The broadcasters noted he was drafted in 2007 by the Kansas City Royals in the 23rd round but that he opted to attend the University of Washington. They were puzzled that anyone would turn down an opportunity to pitch in professional baseball. But consider the case of Tim Lincecum, another University of Washington alumnus. He was drafted in both 2003 and 2005 by the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, respectively, but did not sign because he was drafted in low rounds. Lincecum would sign with the San Francisco Giants after they made him their first round pick in the 2006 MLB Draft.
Although not as popular as rugby or cricket, baseball does have a following in Australia and has been played there as long back as the 1890s. I actually got to see some Australian baseball in 2010 during a visit to Thunder Bay when I saw them play the United States in the World Junior Baseball Championship. Graeme Lloyd, who pitched with the Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins, New York Mets and Kansas City Royals, was the pitching coach. My Dad actually talked to him and told him he could still pitch. Lloyd replied that he had a sore arm. I mention this because Lloyd also served as pitching coach for the Heat.
Despite the array of programming on the MLB Network, I am counting the days until Opening Day. Watching baseball from Down Under has satiated my appetite for now.
A few thoughts on the passing scene:
1. Now that Mitt Romney won the CPAC straw poll, I guess it counts again.
2. Rick Santorum is accusing Romney (and Ron Paul in years past) of “rigging” the straw poll, the standard complaint of candidates who lose such contests. It’s impressive when someone can do as well as Santorum did at CPAC without spending much money. But the ability of a campaign organization to identify supporters and turn them out to vote is precisely what large straw polls measure. Romney beat Santorum fair and square.
3. Romney’s performance in Maine is less impressive. He barely eked out a win in a low-turnout New England state where he took 52 percent of the vote four years ago. His main opponent there exploded from 18 percent to 36 percent. If Romney hadn’t made a late push, he may well have lost Maine. He got the W, but concerns about his candidacy remain well founded,.
4. Paul supporters are undoubtedly disappointed to come up short in their best opportunity for a first-place finish since Iowa, but he did well enough to validate his campaign’s decision to bypass CPAC (which awards no delegates) in favor of Maine. The narrow loss does reinforce what I have deemed a flaw in their caucus strategy: Paul’s best states are states where Romney can be expected to do well too and Romney, unlike Hillary Clinton in 2008, is contesting most of the caucuses.
5. On the Sunday talk shows, the White House is pushing the line that Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget in eons because they fear a Republican filibuster. There is just one problem: the budget can’t be filibustered and needs only a straight majority vote to pass. White House chief of staff Jack Lew is a former head of the Office of Management and Budget, so he surely knows this.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online