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Saturday, November 18, 2006

THEY COULDN'T HAVE DONE THIS BEFORE THE ELECTION?   The GOP digs up the dirt on Pelosi and Murtha:
Republican lawmakers say that ties between Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and his brother's lobbying firm, KSA Consulting, may warrant investigation by the House ethics committee... The calls come as Murtha, a former Marine and pro-military Democrat, has made headlines this week by coming out in support of a rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq...KSA directly lobbied Murtha's office on behalf of seven companies, and a Murtha aide told a defense contractor that it should retain KSA to represent it, according to the LA Times.

In early 2004, Murtha reportedly leaned on U.S. Navy officials to sign a contract to transfer the Hunters Point Shipyard to the city of San Francisco , according to the San Francisco Chronicle. A company called Lennar Inc. had right to the land, and Laurence Pelosi, nephew to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was an executive with the firm at that time.

Thanks to Jameson Campaigne for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:12 PM | link  


Friday, November 17, 2006

BOEHNER WINS TOP HOUSE MINORITY JOB   For those of us who see John Boehner not being enough of a pro-reform break from the GOP's tainted past, here are some words of comfort from my DC lawyer/lobbyist friend:
Boehner 168, Pence 27, Barton 1. No totals yet on Blunt win.

What's this mean? Members want experience and Shadegg didn't work it hard enough. Resist the easy instinct to think it "sends a message" or is insufficiently reform-oriented. The problem is that Blunt is viewed as having screwed up the Vietnam free trade vote but Shadegg is viewed as having zero whipping skills – hence, his promise to keep Blunt’s deputy Eric Cantor (R-VA) if he beat Blunt.

The Whip has been involved in legislatures since early in their history. The term comes from England, borrowed from the "Whipper-in," a special rider who kept the dogs in line by riding behind. Policy is determined by those who win, not by those whose policy pronouncements are said to be "better."

As Winston Churchill said, Democracy is the worse form of government, except for all the others.

Not sure I agree on Boehner. Economy policy-wise, he believes all the right things. But he goes along to get along, and that attitude might have played into the culture of corruption and spending that cost the GOP the last election. Mike Pence is more a conservative ideologue. Maybe not pragmatic enough to have led a majority, but why not just the man to lead a minority? Who needs a minority to "get things done"? The job of the opposition is just to be very clear and consistent in its ideology, if only with respect to that which it opposes. Can Boehner do that better than Pence would have? We'll have to see.

Update... My friend responds,

OK, here’s my rejoinder. Pence got only 27 out of 196 votes. This morning, he proved he can’t lead a team which decides everything by casting ballots! Leaders have followers after all.
Well... I really can’t accept the logic of that argument. It sets too high a bar, or makes too strong an "efficient markets" argument. Just because a population of followers selects a certain leader doesn't mean that leader is ideal. The followers might be wrong. These particular followers seem to have been wrong a lot lately!

Update 2... David Hogberg intends to remind Boehner of this 2003 statement:

Even though we share many ideological similarities, Republicans are not libertarians. Libertarians are generally more hostile to government involvement of any kind on any level; Republicans share this antipathy to the extent that wherever and whenever possible, power (wrongly usurped in the first place by Democratic leaders) should be devolved from the federal government to the hands of states and localities.

But Republicans also are far from being purely conservative. A conservative would like to see the government shrink; a Republican does too, but -- in acknowledging political realities (a new defensive posture after September 11th for one) and the multitude of stakeholders in government after years of liberal control -- has often had to settle for simply slowing its rate of growth. Republicans have accepted such realities as the burdens of majority governance.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:35 AM | link  


Thursday, November 16, 2006

MILTON FRIEDMAN, R.I.P.   Milton Friedman has passed away. He is the reason why I made my career in investment and economics. When I read his work in the late 1970s when I was just starting out, his ideas were the only ones that made any sense to me -- that is, they were the only formal statements of economic theory that seemed to have relation to reality. And they were deeply moral, rooted not only in the actual dynamics of human nature, but revealing how economic behavior is connected to the ideal of human freedom.

In high school my history teacher -- an avowed Marxist -- was proud that his Ph.D. thesis had been a refutation of Friedman's classic Capitalism and Freedom. He thought it was terribly clever that his thesis had been titled "Capitalism aux Friedman." Somehow in my drug-addled youth I got from that the idea that Friedman's middle initial was "O", so when as a young man first discovering Friedman's work I wrote a letter to him, asking him if he would meet with me, I addressed it to "Milton O. Friedman." He replied with a handwritten note scrawled on my letter itself, saying he didn't have time to meet -- with the middle initial "O" crossed out with a pencil-stroke indicating rather extreme annoyance. In more recent years I ended up meeting him several times at Cato events. I got his name right -- but I was as giddy about meeting him as I would have been decades earlier. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay to him is to report that he didn't disappoint me -- his intellect and sparkling wit lived up to my highest expectations (and believe me, they were high).

So many obits and personal reflections have started pouring forth from all over the world, it's hard to begin to catalog them all here. Ben Bernanke's seems to say it all:

"Among economic scholars, Milton Friedman had no peer. The direct and indirect influences of his thinking on contemporary monetary economics would be difficult to overstate. Just as important, in his humane and engaging way, Milton conveyed to millions an understanding of the economic benefits of free, competitive markets, as well as the close connection that economic freedoms bear to other types of liberty. He will be sorely missed."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:54 PM | link  

KNEE JERK? OR JUST A JERK?   With hundreds of individual races decided across a diverse nation in last week's election, ideologues (and idiot-logues) with an axe to grind can imagine whatever pattern they wish in the result. For example, we see knee-jerk Social Security reform opponent Dean Baker making this claim:
One aspect of the election that the media have largely ignored thus far is the fact that Republicans who were prominently associated with Social Security privatization took a beating on Tuesday. At the top of this list is Rick Santorum, who actively embraced President Bush's proposals. Last year, Santorum held town meetings around Pennsylvania touting the benefits of Social Security privatization. Last night, the people of Pennsylvania voted to send him out of town by a double-digit margin.

Clay Shaw, one of the leading proponents of Social Security privatization in the House, was also sent packing by his Florida constituents. Chris Chocola, an Indiana congressman who briefly flirted with Social Security privatization, was also soundly defeated in what had previously been a safe district.

After Tuesday's vote, the only politicians who are likely to be pushing Social Security privatization are those looking for a change of career.

Here's the reality.

* 23 of 24 sponsors of comprehensive reform bills that would allow workers to invest Soc Sec payroll taxes in personal accounts were re-elected. Only Cong. Northup lost.

* 50 of 54 sponsors of reform bills of one kind or another were re-elected.

* The other three defeats, other than Northup, were by members who sponsored investing general revenues (not worker payroll taxes) in personal accounts (Shaw, Chocola), or who embraced only a demonstration of personal accounts in the absence of reform (Santorum.)


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:40 AM | link  

THE NEWSPAPER OF RECORD   New York Times columnist Steve Levitt points out a New York Times howler:
"Woods’s Steak Snapped"

That was the headline of a sports briefing in my copy of yesterday’s N.Y. Times. The article was about how Tiger Woods finally lost a match. It further stated that Woods’s veal chop was slightly bruised, but his chicken piccata emerged unscathed.

There’s only so much that spell-check can do.

Thanks to our correspondent "Irrational Exuberance" for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:42 AM | link  


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

DEMS CAUGHT THE BUS, NOW WHAT DO THEY DO WITH IT?   Probably chew on the bumper for two years. But here's the reality:
"No longer is it good enough to say that the president's plans for Social Security are a radical departure from the 1935 vision of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Now the Democrats have to say what they would do to keep the system secure, or whether they would change public expectations of how much help Social Security will provide Americans when they retire.

These two choices -- win or leave, strengthen Social Security or cut public expectations and public disbursements -- may seem stark. But those are the choices. Neither problem, both signature challenges of our era, is ripe for fuzzy responses or fuzzy math. Choose one, make the argument, take a vote, live with the consequences.

...One thing no one, including the ascendant Democrats, says about President Bush is that he is unwilling to make a choice and live with it. A short time after Sept. 11, 2001, Thomas D. Rath, the New Hampshire political strategist, encountered the president at a White House event. Mr. Rath is a congenial man, his impulse unfailingly to offer comfort. To Mr. Bush, like the rest of the country still dealing with the immediate shock of the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, he said something along these lines: Nobody asks to deal with something like this. Mr. Bush responded immediately and forcefully: Some people do.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:47 AM | link  

NOT TO MENTION THE CULTURAL POLLUTION   The AP reports:
Special effects explosions, idling vehicles, teams of workers building monumental sets — all of it contributes to Hollywood‘s newly discovered role as an air polluter, a university study has found.

Although Hollywood seems environmentally conscious thanks to celebrities who lend their names to various causes, the industry created more pollution than individually produced by aerospace manufacturing, apparel, hotels and semiconductor manufacturing, the study found.

Thanks to reader Tim Daniel for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:41 AM | link  

BATTLE OF THE BRITS   We're reported on the two scathing critiques of the Stern Report on global warming from Lord Monckton (here and here). Now here's a scathing critique on Lord Monckton. Great -- now both sides in this debate have accused each other of being utter liars. Whom do you believe? Easy: you believe the one who confirms whatever point of view you had before either one said a word. Sigh.

Thanks to Dave Nadig for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:31 AM | link  

JOKE OF THE DAY  

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 4:14 AM | link  


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

JOHNNY, WE HARDLY KNEW YE   John Tierney, the "libertarian" in the "belly of the beast" leaves the New York Times op-ed page. Tragedy.
Whatever [the new Congress does over] the next two years, I won’t be here to kick them around. This is my last column on the Op-Ed page. I’ve enjoyed the past couple of years in Washington, but one election cycle is enough. I’m returning full time to the subject and the city closest to my heart: science and New York. I’ll be writing a column and a blog for the Science Times section.

I hate to abandon my libertarian comrades here fighting in the belly of the beast, but this is the right moment to leave. After six years of libertarians reluctantly electing Republicans as the lesser of two evils, we’ve finally had enough. We’ve voted out big-government conservatism, and the result is the happy state of gridlock. For now, our work is done. See you in January in a new column on a new page.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:16 AM | link  

SUPPLY-SIDE WISDOM   Isn't it funny how even inveterate tax-the-rich socialists are able to understand the incentive logic of the Laffer Curve when confronted with homey anecdotal situations? From a piece in the Left-leaning Guardian:
"There is something deeply disturbing in the very idea of taxing the hard-earned and often lovingly thought-through improvements so many people make to their homes. Why bother to improve them if such action leads only to greater taxation?"
Thanks to William Sjostrom at AtlanticBlog.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:44 AM | link  


Monday, November 13, 2006

PELOSI KNOCKS OFF RIVAL CRIME BOSS HOYER   The Hill reports via email alert:
House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will ensure that Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) wins his race for majority leader, a key Murtha ally said Monday night.

“She will ensure that they [the Murtha camp] win. This is hard-ball politics,” said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a longtime Murtha supporter. "We are entering an era where when the Speaker instructs you what to do, you do it."

For some reason this story was yanked from The Hill's website, and replaced with a far milder version that does not include the above quote.

Update... My DC lawyer/lobbyist friend points out this story from the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman on outrage that Pelosi is supporting a man who has so much corruption in his Washington background. So much for opposing the "culture of corruption." But for me the real revelation in Weisman's story is its tone -- the "guilty until proven innocent" style applied against Pelosi and Murtha is the same one we've heard so often over the last decade from Weisman applied to Republicans. Could it just be possible that some element of the press's seeming biad against the Republican majority has been, in fact, a bias against any incumbent majority? I hope so...

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:29 PM | link  

MORE GREAT INTELLECTUAL AMMO ON GLOBAL WARMING   The second installment of Christopher Monckton's savage debunking of the Stern Report on global warming has been published. It begins:
In the climate change debate, one figure is real. The Sunday Telegraph's website registered more than 127,000 hits in response to last week's article revealing that the UN had minimised the sun's role in changing past and present climate, persisted in proven errors and used unsound data, questionable graphs and meretricious maths to exaggerate future warming threefold.

The views of 200 readers who emailed me are in the link above. About a third are scientists, including well-known climatologists and a physicist who confirmed my calculations. Some advise governments.

Nearly all condemn the "consensus". Most feel that instead of apologising, the UN has misled them, especially by using the defective "hockey-stick" temperature graph.

Thanks to "Zoogler" for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:41 AM | link