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Saturday, March 31, 2007
 
Once Upon a Time

There was a girl named Phoenix Woman who imagined that everything would be right in the world if only the Democrats won every election. But jealous forces have conspired to keep Phoenix Woman from her dream world, and she was very unhappy. And so she retreated into her own world, where Al Gore had won in 2000.

May 5, 2001: National Security chief Sandy Berger, at the urging of his staffers John O'Neill and Richard Clarke, presents President Gore with a PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing) warning of imminent plans by bin Laden to attack New York, America's financial center, with hijacked commercial jets used as flying bombs. The suspicion is that Al-Qaeda will try to succeed where they had failed eight years earlier and attack the World Trade Center. Gore consults with former Senators Gary Hart (D-CO) and Warren Rudman (R-NH), who chaired a terrorism commission formed by President Clinton in the late 1990s; they concur with the PDB's findings.

May 6, 2001: In response to the May 5 PDB, Gore orders the FAA to implement the proposals made by his 1996 commission on airport security, but which the Democratic party had backed away from after the airlines had protested. Northwest and Delta Airlines further weaken their precarious financial states by buying millions of dollars of radio ads depicting the new procedures as wasteful and costly to the air traveler. Gore, per O'Neill's and Clarke's recommendations, also orders the FAA to watch for Middle Eastern students at flight schools who are interested only in steering planes, not in performing takeoffs or landings. On his syndicated radio program, Rush Limbaugh proclaims that "Crazy Al Gore is out to kill off the airline industry!"

June 1, 2001: Republican Senators James Jeffords and Lincoln Chaffee, disgusted with the demagoguery of the GOP, switch parties and become Independents who inhabit the Democratic Senate Caucus. This throws control of the Senate into Democratic hands.

June 5, 2001: Jobless numbers for the month of April fall by 300,000, continuing a strong pattern of job growth that Gore inherited from Clinton. New numbers from the Office of Management and Budget indicate that Gore's fiscal policies are paying down the Federal debt faster than predicted. Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, noting that the soft economic landing of 1999 and 2000 had been followed by the dramatic rise of the stock market in the first months of the Gore term, warns yet again to beware of "irrational exuberance".


It gets every more pathetic, with Al Gore saving New Orleans from Katrina, and even nominating a hack prosecutor named Ronnie Earle to the Supreme Court. Just a hideous batch of nonsense. I'd call it a masturbation fantasy, but most masturbation fantasies have more resemblance to reality.

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Friday, March 30, 2007
 
Rudy Giuliani: Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative?

I don't think there is any doubt that the first half of that description fits the bill; Hizzoner is pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control. And, I hasten to add, these are positions that should not disqualify one from being the Republican presidential nominee. My objection to Mitt Romney was not that he was a social liberal, but that he was trying to pass himself off as a social conservative.

But we do have to look closely at the second half of that billing. Is Rudy a good steward of the people's finances? Does he put on the green eyeshades, sharpen his pencil and carefully mind the bottom line?

Let's start with a recent piece in Slate.

Perhaps the biggest difference [between Giuliani and his successor, Michael Bloomberg] is on fiscal issues. Giuliani, who lost interest in curtailing the growth of city government in his latter years, left behind a fiscal catastrophe—a $6.4 billion deficit proportionately bigger than the hole that caused the 1975 fiscal shortfall.


That's pretty bad, but of course the question is whether it's 9-11 related. A Business Week article from 2002 indicates that much of it is not:

It's not just because of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Bloomberg has also been forced to confront two dismaying facts: First, New York's economy is more cyclical than the nation's because it depends heavily on Wall Street, whose profits are highly volatile. Second, New York has high fixed costs, including more debt per dollar of property value than any major city except long-suffering Philadelphia and perhaps Detroit. That combination--a cyclical economy and high fixed costs--virtually guarantees a fiscal crisis during an economic slowdown


Translation: You've got to manage spending during the good years. So the question becomes, how well did Rudy manage spending during his tenure?

Answer: Not all that well. According to New York's Independent Budget Office, total budgeted expenditures grew from $31.8 billion in 1995 (Rudy's first budget year) to $44.6 billion in 2003, an increase of 40.3%. By comparison, the inflation rate from January 1995 to January 2003 was 20.89% according to this inflation rate calculator. Thus, New York City's spending under Rudy grew at a rate twice that of inflation.

Now, in fairness, some of this was 9-11 related, but the Manhattan Institute notes that even if 9-11 had not occured, the city was facing a sharp budget shortfall caused by overspending during the good years:

But even if the events of September 11 had never occurred, the next mayor was destined to confront hard fiscal times. Recurring expenditures were on track to exceed recurring revenues by at least $2 billion in Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s last budget—an operating deficit he temporarily covered with prior year surpluses. Sooner or later, something was going to have to give: spending, or taxes.


Why is the city’s fiscal condition deteriorating again after eight years of a mayor who initially embraced such a fiscally conservative agenda? After a promising start, where and how did his policies go wrong? And what should Mayor Bloomberg learn from Giuliani’s experience?


Answer:

The scope of government was not reduced at all. The mayor abandoned his most visible initiative in this sphere—the proposed sale of the city hospital system—after a struggle with the unions and defeats in the courts. He did cut costs in social services; even before the new federal welfare reforms took effect in 1997, the city had begun to significantly reduce caseloads. But money saved on social services has only helped to subsidize big increases in other categories. Today the array of social services sponsored and partially funded by the city—from day care to virtually guaranteed housing—is as wide as ever.


And:

In 1995–96, the city entered into a series of collective bargaining agreements with its public-employee unions. In addition to granting pay increases that ended up roughly equaling inflation, the city promised not to lay off any workers for the life of the contracts. These agreements were expected to add $2.2 billion to the budget by fiscal 2001. But that estimate didn’t reckon with renewed growth in the number of city employees. After dipping in Giuliani’s first two years, the full-time headcount rose from 235,069, in June 1996 to over 253,000 by November 2000. Thanks largely to this growth in the workforce, the total increase in personnel service costs since 1995 has been $4 billion.


How about debt? The IBO noted back in 1998 that the city was piling up debt:

Over the past quarter-century, New York City has experienced two periods of steep economic decline accompanied by fiscal crisis or stress, followed by two extended periods of growth. In both economic crisis periods (1970-77 and 1989-93) the city's fiscal problems were compounded by rising debt burdens which forced the city to set aside larger shares of shrinking or stagnant budgets for debt service payments. During the two economic expansion periods, however, the city has taken different paths in terms of debt management. Over the 1978-88 recovery and growth period, New York City sharply reduced the mountain of debt it had inherited from the fiscal crisis. In the current recovery and growth period (dating from 1994), the city's debt burden has become heavier relative to ability-to-pay.


The New York Times noted in 2003 that the city's debt per capita was very high compared to other cities:

New York City's debt burden is twice that of other large cities in the United States, and the cost of repaying it accounts for 15 cents of every dollar the city collects, according to a report released yesterday by Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. Nonetheless, the report said that the city's level of indebtedness, although high, is still $8.5 billion below the legal limit of $40 billion. Municipal debt in New York, which pays for capital projects like school construction and bridge repairs, totaled $5,645 per resident in the fiscal year that ended in June, a 127 percent increase since 1990, the report said. By comparison, per capita debt was $3,600 in Chicago, $1,700 in Los Angeles and $1,400 in Boston.


This despite the fact that New York the most heavily taxed city in the US:

“The 1997 Local Tax Effort In New York City ($7.99 Per $100 Of City Taxable Resources) Was 79 Percent Greater Than The Average Local Tax Effort For The Next Nine Largest U.S. Cities ($4.47).”


How's he on tax cuts? Steve Forbes recently endorsed him, apparently forgetting that Rudy opposed his flat-tax plan back in 1996.

Back in 1996 when he was mayor, Giuliani dismissed Forbes' notion of a flat-tax as a "mistake," saying "the flat tax is not for me" because it would give states and cities more authority but less resources.


Indeed, although Rudy did cut some taxes, he has been extremely resistant to any serious tax-cutting. Consider his 1994 endorsement of Mario Cuomo:



Why did he endorse Cuomo? Because he opposed Pataki's platform of tax cuts for New York State.

The most spectacular maneuver was executed by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani when he crossed party lines to endorse Mario Cuomo over George Pataki - "giving artificial respiration," as Bill Buckley put it, "to a political corpse far gone in decomposition" - on the grounds that the corpse would aid the city more generously. In so doing, Mayor Giuliani jettisoned one of the chief rationales for his own campaign last year. By pinning the city's hopes on government largesse rather than on reformist tax policies, he embraced the timid, static analysis of former Mayor David Dinkins. If Giuliani is right now, Dinkins was right then; so why should Giuliani be mayor? Mr. Giuliani also dimmed his future in Republican politics at the state or national level. Instead of urging conservative Democrats to join the Republican coalition - the strategy of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan - he broke Republican ranks to bolster a liberal Democrat.


Indeed, resistance to tax cuts seems to be a habit with Giuliani. In the late 1990s, Giuliani fought hard against the repeal of a commuter tax on people who work in New York City but live elsewhere.

Over the objections of a furious Mayor Giuliani and city legislators from both parties, the New York state legislature has abolished the New York City commuter tax. The action, done to apparently affect a local legislative race in suburban Rockland County, could cost New York City $360 million.


Commuter taxes are particularly pernicious, precisely because they follow the old gag of "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax the man behind the tree." Giuliani continued to lobby for reinstatement of the tax over the years, even after leaving office as mayor.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007
 
There's a Compound Word for This Story

And the first half of it is bull.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was close to leaving the Republican Party in 2001, weeks before then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) famously announced his decision to become an Independent, according to former Democratic lawmakers who say they were involved in the discussions.

In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain’s chief political strategist.

Democrats had contacted Jeffords and then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in the early months of 2001 about switching parties, but in McCain’s case, they said, it was McCain’s top strategist who came to them.

At the end of their March 31, 2001 lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Bethesda, Md., Downey said Weaver asked why Democrats hadn’t asked McCain to switch parties.


This is an attempt by the Democrats to sabotage a Republican presidential candidate, and nothing more. Get this bit:

Daschle said that throughout April and May of 2001, he and McCain “had meetings and conversations on the floor and in his office, I think in mine as well, about how we would do it, what the conditions would be. We talked about committees and his seniority … [A lot of issues] were on the table.”

Absolutely not so, according to McCain. In a statement released by his campaign, McCain said, “As I said in 2001, I never considered leaving the Republican Party, period.”

Some of the meetings Daschle referred to are detailed in the former senator’s 2003 book.


Let me go out on a limb here and guess that the book does not talk about the meetings being over McCain leaving the GOP.

The media are pushing this story because they are fully invested in the notion that McCain was angry over his supposedly shabby treatment by the Bush campaign.

Over at Hugh Hewitt's blog, Dean Barnett buys into the notion that McCain's campaign is floundering.

It’s hard to see how the already floundering McCain can survive the revelation that not only did he consider switching to the Democratic caucus in 2001, his people approached the Democrats to begin conversations on the matter. By way of comparison, Lincoln Chafee and ultimate turncoat Jim Jeffords only began to mull treason after entreaties from the Democrats to do so. When you come out looking like a worse Republican than Lincoln Chafee and Jim Jeffords, it can’t be good.


Of course, the campaign that's floundering is the one that Hewitt is pushing with his book, A Mormon In the White House? Mitt Romney is doing so poorly that some polls have him within the margin of error of having ZERO percent support.

The Power Line guys smell the BS:

With hindsight, the thought of McCain in the Democratic Party is ludicrous. Imagine a pro-life Joe Lieberman, and you're still only part way there. Given the way the Democrats have abandoned the war effort both in Iraq and globally, whatever grievances McCain has had against the Bush administration over the years are relatiely insignificant.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007
 
Straight Talk from McCain

I'm embarrassed to admit that I missed the opportunity to participate in a blogger conference call with Senator John McCain because of email problems (I have about 1400 unanswered emails from the last week or so due to extreme time constraints on some business transactions), and have not sifted through all the V1agra and C1alis offers.

Granite Grok says:

Having had a chance now to meet and engage in firsthand conversations with Senator McCain is certainly eroding some of the distrust I've long held for him, politically. There's no question you know that you're speaking with a genuine American hero and icon. I stand in awe and appreciation for what he sacrificed for our Country some thirty years ago. What is even more compelling in the present, however, is that he is so much more than just that. I find myself warming up to the notion of a President McCain, if it turns out that way. I'm convinced he'd do right by America. Beyond that, given the present state of mind of Americans, it's my belief he is on the short list of Republicans that actually stands a chance at winning in '08 at all...


David All Group has a partial transcript:

:26 Skip Murphy from GraniteGrok… Question about Iran.
:27 McCain: I hope that our pro-Israel friends understand. This is a radical group of very dangerous people. If they required nuclear weapons they would handle them recklessly. They’ve gotta understand that their actions…
:29 Murphy follow-up: Does sending somebody in to talk, will that really help?
:29 McCain: First of all, it wouldn’t be a negotiation. It would be a message from me as POTUS telling them what would happen. I would do it quietly. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying we’re going to war, I’m saying that we will not allow Iran to destroy Israel.


James Joyner of Outside the Beltway:

Overall, McCain seemed very chipper and actually extended the call a couple of times when the facilitator, Patrick Hynes, was trying to get him off to other appointments. He clearly enjoys bandying with people, including many who opposed him. Indeed, this is the first conference call with a major politician I’ve been on where people from the other party were invited to participate. He’s got a weird sense of humor, calling some people “jerks” and the like, but he made a good impression on the group, I think.


Let's remember that McCain charmed the pants off the media in 2000; if he can do the same to the bloggers over the next year, we could be looking at our 44th president:

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The Return of the ERA

Yep, as we remarked endlessly during the 2004 campaign, the Democrats seem stuck in the past, wanting to recreate that magic moment in the early 1970s when it seemed like the far left was taking over the party.

Just before they got crushed in the 1972 election. It may be somewhat forgotten, but the Democrats at that point had been running the country with only minor interruptions. Oh, sure, they had lost the presidency in 1968, but it was a tumultuous year and a very close election, and they still controlled the House and Senate by sizeable majorities. So they went out on a limb and nominated George McGovern, and suffered one of the worst defeats in American history.

But one of the problems liberals have is that they refuse to learn from the lessons of the past, and hence they seem to be steaming full speed ahead into the same shoals that wrecked them 35 years ago.

The return of the ERA (renamed WEA, for Women's Equality Amendment) is just a symptom of this trend.

The ERA, originally introduced in Congress in 1923, gained popularity in the mid-1960s. In March 1972, it cleared the first of two hurdles: passing both chambers of Congress by the required two-thirds vote.

Thirty state legislatures ratified it the next year. Congress extended by three years its seven-year deadline for ratification, but the decade passed without approval by the required 38 states. ERA backers have since introduced the resolution in every Congress, but only now do they believe they have a realistic chance of success.


It is an open question as to whether the states that ratified it still count for the amendment, made murkier by the fact that several states later rescinded their ratification. It's probably going nowhere, but it will give Hillary Clinton a chance to push for something during her 2008 run that may buffer her support among single women. It will also give Phyllis Schlafly a chance to reprise her role from the 1970s as the chief opponent.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007
 
A Prayer For Tony Snow

Sad news indeed.

Snow is one of the few newsguys (when he was a newsguy) who smiled when he talked. Our best wishes for a complete recovery!

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It's the Same Thing

Rosie comes under fire from Stephen Spruell for her inane comments about how the standoff over the 15 British Navy men being held by Iran is another "Gulf of Tonkin" incident.

I agree with him, but this is wrong:

This latest conspiracy theory follows hot on the heels of Rosie's recent, unsurprising experimentation with 9/11-trutherism.


Actually it's part and parcel of her 9-11 Denial. These folks all talk about the Gulf of Tonkin incident being a "false-flag" attack, just as they claim 9-11 was the same thing. In fact, a lot of them believe that every incident that sparks a war is a "false-flag" incident, from Pearl Harbor to the Maine to 9-11.

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Monday, March 26, 2007
 
But They Support the Troops



(Obscene chants)

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For Which Party?



The Washington Post reports that NYC Mayor Bloomberg is thinking of running for president.

The answer? For the Bloomberg party:

Bloomberg, 65, has told confidants that he will not decide until early next year, when it has become clear whom Democrats and Republicans will nominate.

If he runs for president as a self-financed independent, New York could find itself home to a trio of presidential candidates, an oddity for a state and city often portrayed as far outside the mainstream of American political and social life.


And with endorsements like this, how can he fail?

"He would be a very compelling candidate," said civil rights activist Al Sharpton, himself a once and potentially future presidential hopeful from the Big Apple, and a friend of the mayor's. Sharpton called Bloomberg "Ross Perot with a resume" and predicted that "if he operates as he's done in other parts of his life, he will put both feet in."


They do mention one issue in passing:

Bloomberg could help fulfill that goal. But in conversations with friends, he has been realistic about his chances for success: "How can a 5-foot-7, divorced billionaire Jew running as an independent from New York possibly have a chance?" he has asked.


I suspect that far more important will be his political views:

He supports gun control, has raised taxes, backs same-sex marriage and signed a law banning the use of trans fats in fast-food restaurants. The mayor once filed suit on behalf of the city against two dozen gun dealers.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007
 
(This post will remain pinned to the top until Sunday night. Scroll down for newer content.)

I will be on the radio Sunday night with my good friend Andrea Shea-King on her eponymous show out of Orlando. If you're not fortunate enough to live in the WDBO area, you can listen in live on the internet. You can also participate in the live chatroom for the show by going here and typing in your nickname, city & state and clicking "Submit Query". Our segment will be broadcast at about 9:30 PM Eastern Time, 6:30 on the West Coast. We will be discussing the recent disclosures that a new version of Loose Change may be marketed by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban with narration by Charlie Sheen. We hope to be joined by Earl Johnson, a WTC 9-11 survivor who has recently lectured at the University of Wisconsin on the nuttery of Kevin Barrett.
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World to End Tomorrow, Poor to Suffer Disproportionately

Mort Sahl's old joke comes back to life today:

THE jobless would be hardest hit by carbon pricing, with new research showing low-income households would have to pay about $600 a year to fight climate change. The research by academic Peter Brain found carbon pricing would disproportionately affect people on low incomes, especially the unemployed.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence commissioned Dr Brain to analyse the impact of increasing the price of carbon for various types of Victorian households. He costed carbon as a component of all consumer goods, not just direct energy costs, with calculations based on household disposable income, including government subsidies and tax.


This illustrates something that hit me the other day. Al Gore's purchase of carbon credits (from his own company, no less) is reasonably painless for him. He's got a ton of money from his Google stock options, and makes something like $175,000 per speech. If he's gotta pay, say $20,000 to offset his carbon bigfootprint, well, that's just chump change.

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