Patterico's Pontifications

2/26/2013

Bombs Found in New Orleans

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:30 am

Hope they figure this one out:

The eight suspicious devices that New Orleans police discovered inside an abandoned pickup truck in a Mid-City bank parking lot contained chemicals that could have caused an explosion, according to an NOPD spokesman. The devices contained a combustible compound, according to officer Frank Robertson III.

. . . .

About 9:30 a.m., a mounted police officer working a detail was alerted to the suspicious Ford F-150 pickup that had been in the parking lot all weekend.

The officer, who has military experience, opened the truck’s door, and found what appeared to be two incidiary devices sizzling and smoking inside, Robertson said.

I’m assuming they mean incendiary devices. Scary either way.

L.A. Times Continues Hysteria Over Slight Increases in Federal Spending

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:25 am

The handwringing continues as the L.A. Times tells readers how slight increases in federal spending are going to devastate California due to how slight those increases (which they call “cuts”) will be:

The parade of horribles marches on:

As the state braces for pain from so-called sequestration, there are warnings of long delays at airport security checkpoints, potential slowdowns in cargo movement at harbors and cutbacks to programs, including meals for seniors and projects to combat neighborhood blight.

If we only increase federal spending a little instead of a lot, seniors will starve!

The Los Angeles Unified School District is bracing for a loss of $37 million a year in federal funding. Supt. John Deasy said Monday that he is sending a letter to the California congressional delegation warning about the “potential very grave impact” of the cuts on Los Angeles schools.

Rachelle Pastor Arizmendi, director of early childhood education at the Pacific Asian Consortium for Employment in Los Angeles, said she anticipated that the cuts would cost her agency $980,000 in federal Head Start funding. That would force PACE to eliminate preschool for about 120 children ages 3 to 5.

“It’s not just a number,” she said. “This is closing down classrooms. This is putting our children behind when they’re going to kindergarten.”

As a reminder: the federal government will be spending more money next year than it did last year. It will be spending less than last year as a percentage of the total economy, to be sure, but spending will still increase.

Imagine the hysteria if they were actually cutting the budget.

What to do about all this? A great piece at the American Thinker explains how we can take care of the whole problem by just raising taxes. The writer calmly goes through the numbers, assuming (counterfactually) that a planned raise of $1 in taxes will actually yield the whole dollar, and explains how much we would need to be taxed to eliminate the deficit (not the debt, just the deficit). Assuming we don’t raise taxes on the bottom 47% who aren’t paying income taxes anyway:

If we equally distribute the deficit-busting new taxes among the remaining six brackets, new taxes for a $1 million household would be $1.1 million; $56,000 for a $200,000 household; $14,000 for a $100,000 household; and $7,800 for a $50,000 household. If we let the millionaire households keep a few bucks to live on and only ask them for around $500,000 each in new taxes, burdens for the remaining brackets go up to $65,000; $16,000; and $9,000 respectively.

Easy peasy. We just need to ask those who are already doing very well to do a little more. To pay their fair share.

And then seniors wouldn’t have to starve. You don’t really want seniors to starve, do you? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

2/25/2013

L.A. Times Scares Readers Re Those Awful Sequestration Non-Cut “Cuts”

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 7:48 am

The top article on the L.A. Times web page is a scare story about how awfully awfully terrible those horrible sequester “cuts” (which are not really cuts) will be:

When it comes to the nation’s debt, payback time might be here.

Years of low tax rates and rising federal spending, amplified by the devastating economic effect of the Great Recession, have driven the U.S. borrowing tab to more than $16 trillion from less than $1 trillion in 1981.

Deficit reduction has become the dominant issue in Washington. The first major tax increase since 1993 took place last month. And large automatic spending cuts — $1.2 trillion over the next decade — are set to kick in Friday.

Oh, the drama. Why not just say it’s $200 quintillion over 30 years? Ginormous “cuts” in the future that will never happen are a fiction, and the L.A. Times treats them like fact. But it’s a joke. You can’t control anything past this year, and Marc Thiessen explains what’s really going on this year:

The problem with the sequester is not the amount of cuts it requires. Cuts of $85 billion this year is about 2 percent of our $3.5 trillion federal budget, or about nine days of federal spending. Even after the sequester, we will still spend about $15 billion more this year than we did in last year. The sequester does not actually “cut” spending — it simply slows its growth.

At no point does the L.A. Times story put the “cuts” in their proper context — that they aren’t even cuts from last year’s spending. Instead, it’s Scare City:

In addition, government officials said the looming spending cuts would affect most federal programs. The effect would be widespread, hitting state and local programs that depend on federal aid and businesses with government contracts.

But some would directly affect the general public, with the furloughing of government workers leading to fewer food safety inspections, reduced hours at national parks and longer waits at airports.

For example, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the $600-million cut facing the Federal Aviation Administration’s 2013 budget would force the agency to furlough the “vast majority” of its 47,000 employees for at least one day every two-week pay period, reducing staffing at airports and forcing the closure of 100 small air traffic control towers starting around April 1.

“This is very painful for us because it involves our employees, but it’s going to be very painful for the flying public,” LaHood told reporters Friday.

Also, we’re told, the federal government spending less is somehow supposed to hurt the economy:

But Democrats and Republicans, along with many analysts, said the indiscriminate nature of the budget cuts make them a bad move right now when the economy still is struggling to grow.

This is how people stay “informed.” By reading garbage like this.

We have to change it, somehow.

WaPo Reporter to Reader: Those Who Oppose Gay Marriage Are Like Racists and Oppose Fairness

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:23 am

The WaPo ombudsman publishes an exchange between a reporter and a reader about the paper’s coverage of gay marriage. The report is interesting for the reporter’s unapologetic rooting for a pro-gay stance, and lecturing the reader about what conservatives “ought” to believe — all while asking the ombudsman that he remain anonymous.

The reader writes in to make this complaint:

The overlooked “other side” on the gay issue is quite legitimate, and includes the Pope, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, evangelist Billy Graham, scholars such as Robert George of Princeton, and the millions of Americans who believe in traditional marriage and oppose redefining marriage into nothingness. . . . Is there no room in The Post for those who support the male-female, procreative model of marriage?

The reporter responds:

The reason that legitimate media outlets routinely cover gays is because it is the civil rights issue of our time. Journalism, at its core, is about justice and fairness, and that’s the “view of the world” that we espouse; therefore, journalists are going to cover the segment of society that is still not treated equally under the law.

The reader responds:

Contrary to what you say, the mission of journalism is not justice. Defining justice is a political matter, not journalistic. Journalism should be about accuracy and fairness.

Good journalism also means not demeaning conservatives as “haters.”

The reporter does not seem to agree:

As for accuracy, should the media make room for racists, i.e. those people who believe that black people shouldn’t marry white people? Any story on African-Americans wouldn’t be wholly accurate without the opinion of a racist, right?

Of course I have a bias. I have a bias toward fairness. The true conservative would have the same bias. The true conservative would want the government out of people’s bedrooms, and religion out of government.

Oh, thanks for telling us what the true conservative would want — because you so deeply understand the true conservative!

The ombudsman then gives a totally unsatisfying peroration, in which he says the paper needs to understand conservatives better — then proceeds to reinforce what the reporter says: it’s all about fairness, and reporters care so very much about fairness; why it’s in their blood! — while showing zero understanding of the conservative view that he claims reporters need to understand better.

What is most interesting about the whole thing, to me, is that the reporter wishes to remain anonymous in the column. I can understand why the reader doesn’t want to have his views revealed in the pages of the Post. He just got compared to a racist. He’s the “bad guy.” Why let the paper slam his name?

But the reporter was being refreshingly if arrogantly honest, presumably under his own name, in the emails. Yet his pride in his position doesn’t extend to publicly revealing his name. Now why would that be, do you think?

I, for one, am curious as to the identity of the reporter — and if the reader stumbles across my post and wants to send me the reporter’s name, I will happily protect the reader’s name while publishing the reporter’s. Email me at patterico AT gmail DOT com.

Just don’t be surprised if the paper or reporter publishes your name in retaliation. There’s fairness and there’s getting even, and which do you think the paper will see as the higher goal in this situation?

2/24/2013

Escort: Menendez Paid Me For Sex

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:23 pm

Another unsubstantiated claim we should all just ignore:

A professional escort who travels the East Coast seeing clients in cities from Miami to Boston has identified a photo of Senator Bob Menendez as a man who paid her for sex. The woman, in her late 30s, told The Daily Caller prior to seeing Menendez’s photo that she had been paid to provide sexual favors to several U.S. senators, including a New Jersey Democrat and other politicians who are no longer living.

I keep hearing that the FBI is closing in. For what it’s worth.

Michelle Obama Surprise Appearance at the Oscars

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:19 pm

Ace says it best:

Dan Riehl pointed out that Reagan addressed the Oscars while President.* So it’s not like this sort of thing is unprecedented.

But the thing is, I liked him. And, more relevant to Ace’s point: they didn’t.

So you’ll permit me to be totally disgusted.

*Well, he was scheduled to address the audience on March 30, 1981, in a pre-taped segment. John Hinckley tried to kill him on that day, and it’s not clear to me whether the taped segment was actually shown or not.

UPDATE: Apparently the ceremony was postponed for a day, which only seems appropriate.

Oscars Open Thread

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:45 pm

As usual, I am sitting at the breakfast table working, while the rest of the family watches the show in the next room. But there is a difference between this year and previous years: this year, I am not proud that I’m not watching. I have become more aware how our culture affects politics and law, and while I am still annoyed by the Hollywood culture, I can’t continue to ignore the effect that it has on our electorate.

That said, I’m still here in the breakfast room, working — not because I’m too proud (this year) . . . but because I have work to do. And the memo that’s due tomorrow morning takes precedence over any desire I might have to watch television.

My children know this (it’s a common occurrence) and it’s my hope they’ll learn something from it. If I have any contribution to make to our culture, that’s probably it right there.

I can hear the show in the other room, and my family will keep me apprised. Help me keep up to speed in the comments.

UPDATE: Let’s be honest: I probably couldn’t stomach it even if I had time. These people really do annoy me.

UPDATE x2: Hooray, it’s . . . Michelle Obama.

Glenn Reynolds on Russ Roberts’s “EconTalk” Podcast — Plus, An “Army of Davids” Idea for Changing the Culture

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:11 pm

On this deadly newsless Sunday, allow me to put in another plug for Russ Roberts’s “EconTalk” podcast. This time there’s a twist: Russ has interviewed someone you’re all familiar with . . . Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame. Listen here.

Glenn is in his element here, talking with a friendly like-minded libertarian about the ways that we can promote freedom in this country. The conversation hits points such as: how intrusive government has become; the fact that it will come to an end due to budgetary reasons, because “something that can’t go on forever won’t”; how a Constitutional Convention might restructure our polity; the idea of a third House of Congress designed to repeal bad laws; the Louis Seidman piece about giving up on the Constitution (Glenn’s reaction to this is priceless and worth the time to listen to); and Glenn’s music career. It’s far reaching and interesting. A great way to spend an hour of your time.

One thought that is occasioned by this comment Glenn made in the podcast:

Culture comes before politics. And politics come before law. So, I think that the culture has to change first.

This is a subject on many people’s minds lately: how can conservatives fight the tide of leftist thought that seems to be washing over the electorate? Prof. Reynolds has written a piece encouraging conservative billionaires to invest in things like women’s magazines, with the thought in mind that we could include the same articles that all the other women’s magazines publish, but instead of every tenth article being about how awesome Barack Obama is, that article could be about, say, how the tax system punishes women — or whether Obama’s White House is giving women equal pay.

Subtle stuff — but it’s pervasive.

A commenter writes to say they like the idea but they are concerned that conservatives will not invest in ventures that are clearly going to lose money (other than throwing money at losers like John McCain or Mitt Romney, of course). The commenter suggests, instead, an “Army of Davids” approach.

Are there folks out there who would be willing to contribute money to buy and operate ladies’ magazines and pop culture websites? My commenter suggests that the kids at College Insurrection could staff it, and could be tasked with coming up with ideas to appeal to young people. Folks like Prof. Jacobson and/or Prof. Reynolds could serve as consultants, and/or sit on a board of directors. My commenter adds: “it might be a place where young conservatives can intern, thus gaining experience in the media and someday increasing the number of conservatives in the media.”

Not a bad idea, huh? I think the key insight is this: we can’t sit around hoping for rich guys with wads of cash to swoop in and fix things for us. If we think the culture is a big issue, let’s do something about it.

I’m going to send this post to Profs. Reynolds and Jacobson and see what they think.

Obama Tells Falsehoods About the Origin of the Sequester, Says Noted Right-Wing Hack Bob Woodward

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 2:45 pm

Obama, moving the goal posts? Say it isn’t so, Bob Woodward!

The finger-pointing began during the third presidential debate last fall, on Oct. 22, when President Obama blamed Congress. “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed,” Obama said. “It is something that Congress has proposed.”

The White House chief of staff at the time, Jack Lew, who had been budget director during the negotiations that set up the sequester in 2011, backed up the president two days later.

“There was an insistence on the part of Republicans in Congress for there to be some automatic trigger,” Lew said while campaigning in Florida. It “was very much rooted in the Republican congressional insistence that there be an automatic measure.”

The president and Lew had this wrong. My extensive reporting for my book “The Price of Politics” shows that the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors — probably the foremost experts on budget issues in the senior ranks of the federal government.

If Woodward is right, I could actually give Obama credit for something good: proposing some form of limiting spending. But it looks like he doesn’t want it. Surprise, surprise.

2/23/2013

Sequestration Now, Sequestration Tomorrow, Sequestration Forever!

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:14 pm

OH MY GOD THAT SEQUESTER IS SO SCARY AND DAMAGING! Um, not really, as Bill Wilson explains:

But the current debate over sequester – an across-the-board $85 billion reduction of budget authority which translates into just a $53.8 billion cut to outlays this fiscal year ending September 30 – is notable for both its unfounded hysteria as well as a surprising role reversal.

. . . .

[T]he sequester would scale back just one of every six dollars in discretionary spending increases since 2008 – hardly a “huge blow.” Also, discretionary spending in 2008 was already tremendously inflated – having increased by more than 60 percent over the previous eight years.

In other words this isn’t even really a cut – “devastating” or otherwise – it’s a modest growth rate reduction following years of unnecessary, embarrassing and unsustainable excesses.

Where the sequester debate deviates from the norm is in its dramatis personae. Unlike prior spending debates, the sequester features Republicans attempting to shift the onus for cutting government onto Obama. U.S. Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly referenced “the president’s sequester” while decrying its “harmful cuts.”

What hypocrisy. Obama and Boehner both supported the sequester as an excuse for yet another unsustainable run-up of our nation’s credit limit – which exhausted its latest $2.1 trillion increase last December (after less than seventeen months).

They are talking about an increase in spending — but an increase smaller than the one they wanted — as a devastating set of “cuts” that are going to imperil the economy, delay plane flights, keep your checks from coming, blah blah blah.

It makes me sick, and the fact that Boehner is playing into it is a joke.

Via Drew M. at Ace’s:

I hear ya. But don’t get too excited, little guy. It’s not that much less, and you’re still screwed anyway.

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