I’m sitting here, looking out the rear sliding door of our rented condo, situated at the extreme southern tip of Kauai (Makahuena Point, Poipu). We’re right on the rock cliff’s edge and can see the sunrise to the east, and sunset to the west. We’ll be here throughout the week. I’ll toss up some pics later.
Archives for February 2005
Billy Beck, the big show-off, parades his considerable depth of knowledge in the long-range geopolitical consequences of military history.
I recommend taking the time to not only read, but understand.
Ann Althouse delivers a good summary on the topic of comments on blogs, which, since I just enabled comments on this blog, is of some interest to me.
Perhaps someone has mentioned this before, but I think there are two kinds of blogs that transcend the left vs. right divide. Some blogs, like Instapundit, exist primarily as clearing house for links and a quick description of current events, mostly of a political nature. Other blogs, like mine, exist primarily as an outlet for my rage, joy, ideas, and analysis (i.e., commentary on a variety of things). For the former, since the point is to direct people elsewhere, comments make no sense. For the latter, it seems to me that they do make sense if one is interested in what others might have to contribute–including corrections or refutations.
Of course, there are lots of blogs that do both, probably the majority. In that case, it makes sense to me that if the point of your post is only to direct people elsewhere, you disable comments for that post, and if the point of your post is to delve into some topic in more depth, you enable them.
Rachel Lucas, who had a very popular blog, then quit, then started again, then quit again, and then started a whole new blog…is never at a loss for words (unless she forgets about her blog for a while).
Shocking news out of the NYT:
…President Bush unveiled a $2.57 trillion budget for 2006, the largest in the nation’s history. The cuts he called for, in areas like veterans’ medical care, farm subsidies and vocational training, were met in Washington with doubts that they would ever get through the Republican Congress.
The Cato Institute, a libertarian research institution, says overall federal spending has increased twice as fast under Mr. Bush as under Mr. Clinton. At the same time, the federal deficit is projected to hit a record high of $427 billion this year.
"The era of big government being over is over," declared Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist Democratic research organization. That would certainly seem to be borne out in the record of the Republican revolutionaries, known as the "Class of 1994" for the year they were elected. Of the 30 who are still in the House of Representatives, 28 sponsored bills in the last Congress that would have increased government spending overall, according to the National Taxpayers Union, an antitax group.
"Too many people started to believe that the surest path to re-election is to spend money rather than cut government," says Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican. "The material that comes from the Republican caucus is not to call for the elimination of this program or that, it’s to brag that we have increased the budget for education by 144 percent."
That is not surprising, says Mr. Wittmann of the Democratic Leadership Council. "Yesterday’s revolutionaries are today’s pragmatic politicians," he said. "It’s a classic tale of any revolution. They start out as revolutionaries wanting to storm the Bastille and the end up as ‘All the King’s Men.’"
Mr. Flake, the Arizona Congressman, said the future of his party hinges on the revolution’s revival. "If voters want bigger government," he warned, "then sooner or later they’ll return to the genuine article, and that’s the Democrats."
It looks to me like the voters who "want bigger government" (virtually all voters do, by the way, which is why they vote) are doing just fine and dandy by the Republicans. Both parties have always been about bigger government—always—in spite of all fraudulent rhetoric to the contrary.
All Republicans who vote Republican are fully complicit in perpetuating a fraud.
Law Professor Ann Althouse gives an interesting summation of her speech on blogging to the the University of Wisconsin at Madison Physics Department.
No wonder neither the right nor the left have any capacity whatsoever to tolerate it:
“The danger in free speech does not lie in the menace of ideas, but in the menace of emotions. If words were merely logical devices no one would fear them. But when they impinge upon a moron they set off his hormones, and so they are justifiably feared. Complete free speech, under democracy, is possible only in a foreign language. Perhaps that is what we shall come to in the end. Anyone will be free to say what he pleases in Latin, but everything in English will be censored by prudent job holders.”
– H. L. Mencken; Baltimore Evening Sun, Nov. 18, 1929
Jeff Jocoby, at townhall.com:
You don’t have to be a financial wizard to know that Social Security is a lousy investment. Unlike the money you deposit in a bank or salt away in an IRA, you don’t own the money you pay into Social Security. You have no legal right to get those dollars back, and when you die you can’t pass them on to your heirs. Nor can you use your Social Security account before you retire — you can’t borrow against it and you can’t cash it in. You aren’t allowed to put the money into a balanced portfolio. You can’t even watch as the interest accumulates, since your Social Security nest egg doesn’t earn any interest.
Your nest egg, in fact, doesn’t even exist. Because Social Security is financed on a pay-as-you-go system, the dollars withheld from your paycheck today aren’t being saved in an account with your name. They are immediately paid out to retirees. The benefits you receive when you retire will be funded by the payroll taxes then being collected. But because the ratio of workers paying in to retirees taking out is steadily shrinking — it has plummeted from 16 to 1 in 1940 to 3 to 1 today — Social Security is headed for a crisis.
Within 15 years, the system will be paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes. Its shortfalls will grow larger and larger. Bankruptcy will loom. To save Social Security, Congress will have no choice but to sharply raise payroll taxes, go even more deeply into debt, or slash the benefits paid to retirees.
This of course is the background to President Bush’s campaign to create personal investment accounts, which for the first time would allow workers to own and invest — really own, really invest — part of the Social Security tax taken from their paychecks. With personal accounts many of the features that make Social Security such a crummy deal for today’s workers would be transformed into a package most of them could support. A social-welfare program created in the age of gramophones and the Model A would be updated for a world of iPods and superhighways.
But to many Democrats, such talk is heresy. Letting Americans own some of their Social Security would be too risky, they argue – another way of saying that Americans are too dumb to be entrusted with their own money. Much better to continue entrusting it to Washington, which has managed Social Security so skillfully that workers younger than 50 know they will never get back in benefits what they are paying into the system now. (Perhaps that explains why 58 percent of Americans under 50 support personal accounts, according to a new poll by Zogby International.)
Social Security wasn’t always a sucker’s game. As with all Ponzi schemes, players who got in early made out like bandits. For many years, Social Security deductions were minuscule. Until 1949, the combined employer/employee tax rate was only 2 percent, and it was imposed on just the first $3,000 of income, for a maximum payroll tax of just $60 a year. The first Social Security recipient was Ida May Fuller of Ludlow, Vt., who retired in 1940 after having paid a grand total of $44 in payroll taxes. By the time she died in 1975, she had collected $20,933.52 in benefits — a return on her "investment" of more than 47,000 percent.
It wasn’t really an investment, of course. It was a forced transfer of wealth from younger persons to an older one. And as the number of Ida May Fullers grew, and the value of their benefits increased, the amount of wealth that had to be transferred kept climbing. By the time I entered the workforce in 1975, the Social Security withholding rate was 9.9 percent, applied to wages of up to $14,100. Maximum tax bite: $1,395 a year — more than 23 times the $60 of a generation earlier.
And a generation later? Today Social Security skims off 12.4 percent of the first $90,000 earned – one-eighth of every paycheck. There are no exemptions, no deductions. It kicks in from the very first dollar of income. It is the biggest tax the average American household faces — 80 percent of us pay more in Social Security taxes than we do in income tax.
One tiny notch at a time, payroll taxes have been ratcheted up to a level that would have been unthinkable in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s day. No wonder Social Security is so unpopular among the young. It provides no security for their retirement, while it impoverishes them in the present. In exchange for an eighth of their earnings today, it guarantees nothing but higher taxes tomorrow. That there are politicians who defend so regressive an arrangement wouldn’t have surprised FDR. But how shocked he would be that they call themselves Democrats.
A couple of months ago, everyone, present company excluded, was all abuzz about a new blog called "Libertarian Girl," that sported a pink design template and a large photo of a reasonably attractive blond.
But her posts advocated all sorts of wacky things for a libertarian to advocate, such as a "breast-implant tax." Now, had people actually stopped to think right then and there, they might have smelled something fishy. But no.
So, yesterday, Catallarchy posts the scoop. Within hours, the gig was up.
Hilarious. I wish I could say that I wasn’t had. While I stayed out of the assault leveled by other blogs, I never suspected the scam for a second.
Stupidity; and too much time on one’s hands…
Ann Althouse asks:
These are starkly opposed positions. What mental leaps are required to decide to believe one or the other? Is it perhaps possible to hold in one’s mind the possibility that either might be true or that both might be part true and to make careful case-by-case decisions as we go along?
Both Sharansky’s and Buchanan’s arguments ring true. Sharansky is correct that democracies, in general, are peaceful. Buchanan’s claim is also true: that the U.S presence in various parts of the world is a source of resentment, and that such resentment culminates in attacks on the U.S., both here and abroad. However, I don’t agree with the conclusions Buchanan draws from his assemblage of the facts.
Buchanan misses the point. Most of the “resentment” that’s being touted is just simply irrational, and that’s a very critical distinction that I never see anyone making. A bunch of religious zealots want us off their nation’s public property because we’re defiling their soil? Our culture is polluting their youth? Etc. I think there are surely reasonable cases to be made about the U.S. being too adventuresome or meddling, but the above examples, and ones like it, are not reasonable or rational in any context. To top it off, they redress these faux grievances through terrorism.
This leads to the real reason for doing what we’re doing. Regardless of how well this turns out, those numbskulls over there aren’t going to suddenly love America any more than most of us are going to start loving their stupid culture (yes, I think it’s debilitatingly stupid on just about every level I can imagine). Setting them up with a democracy and economic stability through some degree of free trade is going to change the way that they seek redress of their grievances—not to mention employ the losers who currently have far too much time on their hands. In a multi-party democracy and modern economy, those offended by the U.S. will then have political means by which to [futilely] air their grievances, just as we do here.