December 14, 2006

Meet the New Pork, Same as the Old Pork?

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:00 pm

Seems quite possiible, according to a Bob Novak column earlier this week:

WASHINGTON — The sterile, confused lame-duck session of the Republican-controlled 109th Congress ended with a quiet victory by reformers that staved off an estimated 10,000 earmarks. But it could not be called a farewell to pork. Last Thursday, as the House neared adjournment, Democrats signaled they may countenance a return to free and easy spending ways when they assume the majority Jan. 4.

The hero of the lame-duck session was freshman Republican Sen. Jim DeMint. He was instrumental in blocking a Senate-House conference on a military construction appropriations bill, which would then be used as the last train out of town to carry pork. But just as the reformers were cheering last Thursday, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats defeated a procedure designed to inhibit Pentagon earmarks.

That leaves an unanswered question for the new Democratic majority. ….. does (Rahm) Emanuel’s concept of reform go beyond new lobbyist control regulations and extend to the bipartisan addiction to pork-barrel spending?

Having the shoe on the other foot will indeed be interesting. For every “Waste Ted” Stevens on the GOP side, there appears to be a potentially worse Jim Moran (four-letter word is present at link):

Moran, D-8th, told those attending the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner on June 9 that while he in theory might oppose the fiscal irresponsibility of “earmarks” – funneling money to projects in a member of Congress’s district – he understands the value they have to constituents.

“When I become chairman [of a House appropriations subcommittee], I’m going to earmark the s*** out of it,” Moran buoyantly told a crowd of 450 attending the event.

I would have to say that the early prognosis for improvement is not good.

Weblog Awards Daily Post (121406)

Filed under: General,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 1:03 pm

(Huff, puff) The WLAs end tomorrow at 11:59 PM ET. Vote for BizzyBlog here. You have two more chances to vote (today and tomorrow, and they must be 24 hours apart). If you’re new here and in evaluation mode, see the biz/econ-related posts in the “Top 20″ near this page’s top right. Also, vote for Viking Spirit, Right Angle Blog, Pundit Review, Hot Air, Brussels Journal, Willisms, Sean Gleeson.

Shameless Plug: Yikes — It seems that my competitor for 4th place found a groundswell of support, and has pulled ahead. HELP!

Carnival Barking (121406)

Filed under: Biz Weak,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 10:12 am

Newshound’s 52nd, marking a full year (congrats!), on Ohio politics is here.

Boring Made Dull’s 24th on Econ and Social Policy is here.

Google and Centcom.mil — An Irritating Update

There’s nothing new. See the latest on this matter as of last weekend here.

The good news is that the delay is partially due to very detailed and I believe ultimately very significant help from a blog commenter.

More will hopefully be coming next week.

Between These Two, Who Is Catching More Grief?

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:13 am

The candidates are:

1. Jim Rutz

At WorldNetDaily, Mr. Rutz did his level best to trash everything Joe Farah has attempted to build over the past decade by entertaining us with the following:

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That’s why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today’s rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t homosexual.” No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can’t remember a time when excess estrogen wasn’t influencing them.

Rutz received the richly deserved limb-from-limb treatment from all corners of the blogosphere within 24 hours of his column (4th major item at link). The twenty-plus blogs listed were surely a tiny fraction of those who took after Mr. Nutz Rutz.

2. John Reid (link is to transcript from Australia’s ABC Radio; HT Slapstick Politics via Hot Air)On the other hand, this Swinburne (AU) University’s Brain Sciences Institute neuroscientist of apparently high reputation “merely” prescribed massive worldwide population decline as the only way to “save the planet”:

….. If we do not delude ourselves, and if we accept the calculations made by the Global Footprint Network and WWF (and I know of no scientific analysis that refutes the basic validity of the model) there is only one ineluctable conclusion. The population of the world must be very quickly reduced to 5 billion (that is, if 6 billions equals 120% of capacity, then 5 billions equals 100%). And then, as the average level of affluence rises, fairly quickly reduced further to, say, 2 to 3 billion.

Reid is just (if you excuse the expression) warming up:

The most humane way to achieve a reduction in the human population would be for people to voluntarily stop breeding, but this would never happen.

….. One small, but appropriate, token gesture would be to ban immediately all forms of assisted conception, including the use of donated sperm or ova.

….. The next most human way to reduce the population might be to put something in the water, a virus that would be specific to the human reproductive system and would make a substantial proportion of the population infertile.

….. The world’s most affluent populations should be targeted first.

You just KNOW where he’s going next:

….. A triage approach will be necessary so that scarce medical resources go to those who can contribute most to the long-term viability of the planet. Consequently, many middle-aged-to-elderly people will die uncomfortable deaths. Not every problem is solveable.

Finally, then he gets, uh, theological:

….. My plea is that we should face reality and begin to discuss the unspeakable. Humanity must undergo a mind-shift. If you must have a God, at least recognise he/she/it did not give humanity licence to trash the planet, whatever the Bible may tell you.

….. The precepts of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam represent the quintessential perversion of the human mind. They must be abandoned and the notion of the sanctity of human life must be subjugated to the greater sanctity of all life on Earth.

Now there’s no denying that Mr. Rutz registers pretty high on the Nut-ometer, the Offense-ometer, and the Delusion-ometer. But I hope it’s not a stretch to say that Mr. Reid is far enough into the red zone on all three measurements that the equipment involved is in danger of disintegration.

Jim Rutz has some strange ideas and is a rich target for ridicule. John Reid is downright dangerous, deserves a lot more negative attention and widespread denunciation, and has received relatively little of either. I don’t the entire disparity in treatment can be passed off to each person’s home continent.

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UPDATE: Right Wing News appears to be the first signficant blog to pick up on Reid’s rant.

Novak Mongers Supreme Rumor; Will Harry Reid Channel Emily Litella?

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:28 am

From Novak’s December 13 report (HT Life News):

The rumor around Washington — originating from undetermined sources some time around the beginning of 2006 — is that Justice John Paul Stevens wants to be replaced by a Republican President, just as he was appointed by one, Gerald Ford. Stevens, a consistent liberal voice and vote on the high court, was also rumored to have wanted to step down after the 2006 election, so as to avoid making his replacement into a political issue. Although there is no way to determine whether Stevens actually intends to retire, it is not unlikely that one of the nine justices will in the next two years.

President Bush may appear hamstrung by the 51-member majority that Democrats will enjoy in the new Senate, but if he wishes, he can take his cue from incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Reid, himself a former trial lawyer, gave Bush an opening in June of 2005 when he discussed with reporters the possibility of replacing a justice with a sitting or retired senator. Reid mentioned three senators who come from the trial-lawyer industry.

“We have had approximately 10 members of the Supreme Court that come from the United States Senate over the years,” Reid said in June 2005. “There are people who serve in the Senate now, who are Republicans, who I think would be outstanding Supreme Court members.” Reid named three Republican senators: Mike DeWine (Ohio), Mel Martinez (Fla.) and Mike Crapo (Idaho). A South Carolina newspaper reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also received his imprimatur.

Yup, Reid said these things in June of last year (Tim Grieve also had this last year at Salon’s War Room, which requires a free day pass), and this none-too-happy Talk Lefter notes the additional recommendation of Graham in an excerpt of a Yahoo! News link that isn’t there any more. That same post excerpts another dead link where Graham apparently said he wasn’t interested.

Novak goes on to say that Martinez would now be a tough sell now because he heads the Republican National Committee.

It seems like an Emily Litella “never mind” act by Reid on three Senate colleagues (Crapo, DeWine, Graham) would be tough to finesse — not that he won’t be under immense pressure, if it comes to that, to try. Given his party’s thin Senate majority, and the prospect of some kind of filibuster by members of his own party over people he is on the record as approving of, the plot certainly has thickened.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (121406)

MaybeReefer Madnesswasn’t completely stupid.”

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This (HT Techdirt) is taking “Do Not Open until Christmas” to a ridiculous extreme.

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NATO, SCHMATO: I had a feeling things wouldn’t get any better in Afghanistan after NATO got involved there. This confirms it. Geez, let the soldiers be soldiers.

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Four layers of editing, and we get this?

The outgoing secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, paid a surprise visit to Iraq this weekend and said American troops should stay in the country until the insurgents were defeated.

Uh, shouldn’t that be “are” defeated?

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I would not be surprised if the problem described here (HT Techdirt) really exists in both directions.

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Well, I’ve blogrolled it (HT Michelle Malkin) in case it proves useful, but it’s hard, in light of the history, in Iraq (original column was in April 11, 2003 New York Times) and elsewhere, not to think that this is really Eason’s Revenge.

Hip-Hip, Mini-Hooray

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:19 am

From Wednesday’s OpinionJournal.com:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

Few things became the 109th Congress so much as its departure. After two years of missed opportunities and scandal, the Members were finally able to leave Washington on the weekend having made a few notable last-minute accomplishments.

At the top of the list, renegade GOP Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn led the charge against 12,000 earmarks that Appropriators had hoped to stuff into the remaining fiscal 2007 spending bills. Among the early Christmas booty was $4.9 billion in “emergency” relief for farmers, and millions for parking garages, jazz museums and bike paths. Also on the favor list was a too-creative $682 million tax credit for a New York City rail project that these columns highlighted last week.

Despite much howling from special interests and New York politicians, the rebels prevailed and Congress instead passed a stopgap “continuing resolution” that will fund the government at 2006 levels until mid-February and save taxpayers as much as $17 billion. The earmarks died. Democrats may well power up the spending machine come January, but at least it’s on idle for the moment.

If the spending machine gets re-powered, it will be clear who did it, but that’s about as good as the news gets. Those who spent years running the spending machine on overdrive aren’t exactly going to be convincing when they object to the machine getting turned on again.

Your tax dollars NOT at work (121406)

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:14 am

Speaks for itself (HT NTU Blog):

As the peak of the 2006 tax season approached last spring, the IRS discovered that a planned upgrade of the agency computer that red-flags potentially fraudulent tax refunds had failed. The discovery came after the IRS had shut down the older computer. The failure forced the agency to continue processing 2006 tax season returns — and issuing refunds — without its first line of electronic defense against fraud.

USA TODAY’s review found that the IRS lacks a comprehensive plan to recover the $200 million, which the agency said represents far less than 1% of all 2006 tax season refunds. That means most fraudulent filers who got federal checks in 2006 will likely never be caught.

In all, the Treasury audit concluded the IRS “inefficiently used” at least $20.5 million in development costs on the computer project. That comes on top of the $200 million in estimated fraudulent refunds. The audit also estimated that the IRS could have mistakenly paid as much as $318.3 million in fraudulent refunds during the 2006 tax season.

Outrageous Absurdity on Parade

Filed under: Business Moves,Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:09 am

This headline in Time Magazine is not a joke:

Should Illegal Workers Be Unionized?

Uh, maybe — When they get back to their country of origin.

Playing Some Pre-Emptive Big Pharma Defense

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Marvels,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:04 am

Since Big Pharma is scheduled to become the new Congress’s favorite target come January, a couple of voices for the defense would appear to be in order.

First, from Instapundit:

(in an e-mail to a Pfizer employee) we love Pfizer in my house because your exotic anti-arrhythmic drug Tikosyn has changed my wife’s life. It’s genuinely a miracle drug for her.

(in his post content) But it occurs to me that — while so-called “Big Pharma” may not be perfect — drug companies have done a lot more to make my life better than their critics have. Maybe someone should point that out more often.

And TigerHawk:

One often hears the claim that “big pharma” doesn’t really do much research and development, and that the creative work is done by small companies that then license their compounds to the big drug companies. That is to a great degree true, but it misses the point: the development of a drug is vastly more complex than the discovery of an active compound. Not only must that drug be tested and trialed at an unbelievable cost that goes beyond the financial and technical means of most small “discovery” companies, but it must then be sold before any patient can take it. There is nothing more complex than the selling of any new medical technology. Why? Because the person who must be persuaded (your physician) is not the person who will benefit (the patient), not the person who will stock it (the pharmacy), and not the person who will pay for (most) of its cost (your insurer or employer). The small discovery companies are as dependent on big pharma as big pharma is on them, and all patients everywhere are dependent on the symbiosis between them.

….. Big oil, big pharma, and Wal-Mart. It is apparently in our nature to attack the businesses that have done the most for our standard of living.

Positivity: Global Poverty to Be Reduced Sharply in Coming Quarter-Century

Filed under: Economy,Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

If you don’t think such a well-grounded prediction qualifies for the Positivity category, then consider my string of 463 days of posts back to September 7 of last year (first post; original announcement) broken.

I don’t, and I’m keeping score. :–>

The excerpt is from a Wednesday TCS Daily column by James Peron:

In a report out today, The World Bank looks both at current economic growth rates and projections for the next 25 years. The report, Global Economics Prospects 2007 says “developing economies are projected to grow by 7.0 percent in 2006,more than twice as fast as high-income countries (3.1 percent), with all developing regions growing by about 5 percent or more.” While these nations have only 22 percent of global GDP they accounted for 38 percent of the increase in global output. And they are expected to increase their share of global output by about 50 percent by 2030.

The report expects the world economy to grow from last year’s $35 trillion to $72 trillion by 2030. And this “is driven more than ever before by strong performance in the developing countries.” Only two decades ago the poor nations provided only 14 percent of wealthy nations’ manufactured imports. Today they provide 40 percent and by 2030 they are projected to provide over 65 percent.

As it was over the last 25 years it is the poor who will benefit the most.

….. A new middle class will be created in the developing nations. Today 400 million people in the poorer nations are consider to be in the “global middle class” with a purchasing power parity of between $4000 and $17,000 per capita. By 2030 there will be 1.2 billion.

For the next 25 years the report estimates that developing nations will increase their wealth by an average of 3.1 percent per year, above their average of 2.1 percent for the last 25 years. “That rate of increase will produce average per capita incomes [constant dollars adjusted for purchasing power parity] in the developing world of $11,000 by 2030, compared with $4,800 today, roughly the level of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic today.”

The net result is that the income of developing countries “will continue to converge with those of wealthy countries. This would imply that countries as diverse as China, Mexico and Turkey would have average living standards roughly comparable to Spain today.”

As good as this is the Bank says things could be even better. They believe their projections “are fairly impervious to all but the most severe and sustained shocks” but they also admit that “the possibility exists that the world will be even better than envisioned… thanks possibly to unanticipated technological improvements, more innovation in business processes that allow for an acceleration of globalization and widespread adoptions of good policies within countries.”

The press release for the study “Growth Prospects Are Strong, but Social, Environmental Pressures from Globalization Need More Attention,” is here.