From ISIS to Russia


Days after authorities dismissed claims that ISIS brought down a Russian passenger jet, a U.S. intelligence analysis now suggests that the terror group or its affiliates planted a bomb on the plane.

British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said his government believes there is a “significant possibility” the plane was brought down by an explosive device. And a Middle East source briefed on intelligence matters also said it appears likely a bomb was placed aboard the aircraft.

Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed Saturday in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after breaking apart in midair, killing all 224 people on board. It was en route to St. Petersburg from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The latest U.S. intelligence suggests that the plane crash was most likely caused by a bomb on the plane planted by ISIS or an affiliate, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter.

I was a little suspicious of the way the Russians immediately dismissed the possibility of terrorism. It seemed awfully suspicious that this happened immediately after Russia decided to put its foot into the hornet’s nest that is Syria. This is not the first time Islamic terrorists have struck at Russia. Now we’ll see how the Russians respond.

Those Evil Vote Suppressing … Democrats?

Today is an election day in Pennsylvania. Turnout is expected to be very low, as it is in all states that time elections off of the federal cycle. There has been a movement afoot to get states to line up their elections with federal elections, something voters and citizens favor overwhelmingly.

Guess who is standing of this and why?

The consolidation bills, which were generally sponsored by Republicans, typically failed because of Democratic opposition, according to Anzia. By her account, Democrats opposed the bills at the urging of Democratic-aligned interest groups, namely teachers unions and municipal employee organizations.

Consider a 2011 bill in Michigan to move school board elections to November of even-numbered years. The Michigan Education Association, a teachers union, testified against the bill, as did associations of school boards and administrators. The bill ended up passing on nearly a party-line vote, with almost all Democratic legislators opposed and almost all Republican legislators in favor.

Looking at the 102 bills aimed at consolidating school board elections with other elections between 2001 and 2011, Anzia found that 72 were sponsored either exclusively or predominantly by Republicans, compared with 23 that were sponsored exclusively or predominantly by Democrats. The bills sponsored by Democrats were also generally much weaker than the Republican bills. For example, the Democratic bills typically permitted municipalities to hold on-cycle elections while the Republican bills required them to do so.

Moreover, for the subset of bills that went to a vote, Republicans were far more likely to vote “yes” than Democrats. For all the bills that went to the floor, Anzia estimates that Republicans voted for consolidation 60 percent of the time and Democrats 40 percent.

The difference is even starker when you look at the “strong” consolidation bills that would require local elections to move to the federal cycle.

There’s no mystery as to why unions want turnout for local elections to be low. It’s so that they can control them. In any local election, the unions turn out like crazy because they know that school boards and local politicians exercise immense control over spending and hiring. Without a federal election to drive up turnout, there is no counterbalancing force. In fact, Anzia’s research shows that public employees in areas with off-cycle elections get higher pay and benefits than those with on-cycle elections.

It is accepted wisdom in our society that Democrats are all in favor of everyone voting while Republicans want to suppress the vote, especially the vote of black people, to serve their special interests. Why else would Republicans want to require ID to vote … for free … like many other democracies? And at the risk of being accused of “saying both sides do it” — currently the gold standard for responding to revelations about Democratic chicanery — this shows a much more focused and naked interest.

And at least the Republicans have the public on their side. Voter ID laws are supported by 70-80% of the public, including a slim majority of Democrats. By contrast, having local elections off the federal cycle is opposed by the 70-80% of the public, including 70-80% of Democrats.

(The excuse being made is that, in a consolidated election, the ballot would be too long for people to have a good feel for each election. This would apparently be worse than … not voting at all.)

So … who exactly is sabotaging the elections in favor of their special interests? Oh, right. Must be the Republicans. ‘Cuz we all know they’re evil.

(PS – And you should check out the comments on 538’s site and their Twitter feed. The idea that Democrats are noble defenders of the electorate and Republicans are evil vote suppressing maniacs is a deeply ingrained faith.)

We Are Still Pikers

Life would be so much easier if I could just check my brain at the door and become a progressive (for that matter life would be easier if I was gay, but that is grist for another mill). I live in the land of the heathen, the SF Bay Area, where Sanctuary is given to illegal alien criminals, where Hillary is breaking all kinds of donation records, where freedom of speech and expression is shunned-especially on college campuses, and where a conservative is rarer then a Bill Clinton female acquaintance who does not have rug burns on her back. The folks, the news media and the local academicians all walk in lock step of each other, eyes glossed over like the alien children in Village Of The Damned. To blend in I could just make that awful hissing sound like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (OK, too many scary movie references, it was just Halloween) but I can’t do it. No cowards way out for me, and pointing out the obvious, even on a venue like MSNBC, should never be discouraged or avoided;

Morning Joe, probably the only show on MSNBC worth watching, is on too early for me, but I have always liked Joe Scarborough. Funny, but the right wing blogosphere routinely castigates Joe and his show, I guess because he does not walk lock step with their particular brand of conservatism. I would DVR it, but who has 3 extra hours in the day? I can only assume that Mika slept with Scarborough early on and is willing to spill if she is ever canned, now that’s job security.

But the bias in the MSM is a huge problem. Gone are the days when news was reported objectively, now it is filtered and dressed in commentary. So when the RNC told NBC to go f#ck themselves, I was nonplussed. It matters not a twit that the liberal media doesn’t like it, labels GOPers as whiners, and paints them as thin skinned prima donnas, they were never going to have anything nice to say anyway. When a candidate is ultimately chosen from each side, only then do we need to go on hostile networks. But right now these debates are to determine who will represent the GOP and is aimed at GOP voters, why in hell should dopey commentators (or networks) who never voted Republican in their lives, why should they got to ask these candidates anything? There are no Democratic debates scheduled to appear on Fox, what do they understand that we don’t?

Clearly, poking and prodding, lumbering through hoping not to run into any walls is still the order of the day with the GOP. The Democrats are still better at this than we are. In between their groping sessions, you never see Clinton or Sanders attack each other. They do class warfare better, they do racial animus better, they offer free stuff much better. Your college tuition? Let the rich pay for it. Open borders? Only those nasty Republicans stand in your way, vote for us and the champagne (and welfare for all) will flow.

What chance do we really have?

Croney capitalist billionaire wants to stop others from getting rich like him

Say what you want about Bill gates, but as of late he has turned into a giant bag of dicks. The man that managed to successfully create and hold a incestuous monopolistic relationship with big government that allowed the mega corporation he ran to crush competition and make him a fucking billionaire, now in his old age, is basically trying his best to limit membership to the exclusive he belongs to by asking that the bar that keeps the riff-raff out of the new American aristocracy be raised even more.

Never mind the idiotic fact that the crony capitalism of the last few decades that has all but subverted and destroyed the small business industries that used to keep our overregulated and overburdened economy growing by some miracle, is a direct byproduct of big government socialism he tells us we need more of. He pleads his case by calling of all things on the idiotic and discredited big government booga-boo of climate change.

Seriously? Of course they need socialism to cure climate change, duh! In fact, the people that champion this idiotic cult’s teachings were hoping that they could scare everyone else with their doomsday climate change predictions to get even more oppressive socialism that would otherwise never be acceptable rammed down people’s throats.

Don’t be fooled by these mega rich assholes, like Gates or Buffet, whom for some ungodly reason seem to push anti-capitalist bullshit. They do this for personal gain. They know they have enough power and wealth to keep anyone from taking theirs, and they push for more corrupt government control precisely because it will both benefit them personally while making it possible for them to control whom gets allowed in the credentialed aristocratic circle the left has managed to create in this country.

Capitalism died a long time ago, right about the time government inserted itself in the middle of any business transaction between willing participants, through mechanisms that control entry and protect special interests while pretending to be done to serve the public.

Fuck these assholes and the horse they rode in on. What we really need is a culling of the new aristocracy.

RNC Whining vs. DNC Whining

After the last Republican debate, the GOP was miffed about the tone and content of the questions asked. Almost everyone thought the questions were terrible, that the commentators interrupted too much and the debate was even less informative than these things tend to be (all except Vox, because of course). In the wake of the debate, the RNC has suspended their partnership with NBC.

(One thing to clear up. This does cancel the broadcast of GOP debates on Telemundo, which is supposedly racist or something. But that’s a temporary thing. They could easily find another Spanish-language outlet. ABC has an association with Univision. Fox has their own Spanish-language channel. This is about NBC, not Telemundo.)

In the wake of this, every liberal outlet is bashing the GOP for “whining” about the debate. According to them, the Republicans are big babies. Their proof of this? Fox News asked tough questions too. But in making that comparison, they illustrate precisely the problem. Fox News’ questioning was pointed, but it was not ridiculous. It was managed well and it did not try to pit the candidates against each other or focus on trivial nonsense. At one point during the debate, Chris Christie got some of the biggest cheers of the night for castigating the hosts for asking questions about fantasy football. Everyone — liberal and conservative alike — thought Fox’s questioning was at least solid. No one — liberal or conservative — thought CNBC’s was.

But here’s the real rub. The Democrats did the same thing in 2007, withdrawing from a debate hosted by Fox News because, ostensibly, they didn’t like some things Roger Ailes had said about Obama. They couldn’t specify what precisely Ailes said, but they assured us that, whatever it was, it was really really bad. The really real reason, of course, was that they were pressure from MoveOn and other liberals orgs that hated Fox News. So the Democrats did not have a Fox News debate in 2008. And they won’t have one this year. I realize that the Left has decided that Fox News is Objectively Evil. But I can’t help but wonder … just a bit … if that decision was made because Fox News is the only news channel that would challenge the Democrats. Every other host — NPR, PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, F/X, ESPN, VH1, TLC, MTV, Disney, Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network, the Sci-Fi Channel, THC, NG, CSPAN — would be friendly to them.

So … who exactly are the whiners who can’t face tough questions?

Debate Three: CNBC Faceplants

I was carving pumpkins and doing other things last night, so only caught bits of the debate. So only a few thoughts:

First, it’s time to winnow the field. It’s been nice having this big collection of politicians around. But it’s time to end the silly fantasies and cut the field down to, at most, seven candidates.

Second, the biggest cheers were for attacking the moderators. The moderators did do a poor job and kept interrupting each other and the candidates. Going after them is a cheap cheer, but a fun one.

Third, my impression of the candidates? Trump is still a joke. Carson is nice but has little clue about policy. Fiorina can debate but has yet to advance a coherent policy platform. Bush is sinking rapidly. I don’t care for Cruz or Huckabee. And I’m unclear on what Kasich, Paul and Christie are still doing around. Rubio still crosses me as the best candidate.

One final point I want to make: I am sick of all these bullshit tax cut plans. Every candidate, it seems, has some plan to massively cut taxes. And they are all huge steaming piles of excrement.

Not a single one of those plans is likely to happen. And they never should happen because we are still running a deficit with huge obligations for Social Security and Medicare bearing down on us. If the Republicans cut spending far enough to start running a surplus, then we can talk about tax cuts. Until then, this talk of trillion dollar tax cuts is a good reason to not take any of these guys seriously. It’s a good reason to hope for divided government.

Revenue-neutral tax reform would be fine. In fact, you could actually have tax reform that increases revenue but benefits the economy by eliminating the deadweight loss of our tax code (e.g., Reagan’s 1986 tax reform). I am all in favor of a massive overhaul of our tax system. But not one that blows trillion dollar holes in our finances.

When I raise this point, the usual responses are that “the tax cuts will pay for themselves” or “we need to starve the beast”. The former is only true when tax rates are extremely high — 70-90%. Just ask Kansas. To makeup the revenue of these tax cuts, we would need growth rates in excess of 10%. No one thinks this is going to happen.

I have addressed the later theory before:

Starve the Beast was the theory that if we cut taxes, it would force the government to cut spending because the resulting deficit would be unsustainable (this was before people decided that the Laffer Curve was, in fact, the Laffer Line and that all tax cuts paid for themselves). Starve the Beast sounded tempting, especially to faux conservatives who were big on tax cuts and not so big on cutting spending. But it ran aground on several rocks:

First, spending cuts don’t just fall from the sky. You have to actually cut spending at some point. And the people who had to cut spending were the same people trying to force themselves to cut spending. It was like trying to lose weight by eating a box of doughnuts hoping that will force you to go the gym.

Second, the lesson Congress learned from Starve the Beast wasn’t that they couldn’t tolerate big deficits. The lesson they learned was that they could. As a result, we’re now enjoying our fourth straight year of trillion dollar deficits.

Third, and this is a point I keep harping on, Starve the Beast made spending painless for the taxpayer. This was especially true in the Bush years when we started two wars and put in a prescription drug program while removing millions from the tax rolls. The impression given to the taxpayers was that wars and drug programs were free, or at least were paid for by somebody else (somebody rich). It has continued in the Obama years, with spending and taxes being manipulated so that Obamacare appears to decrease the deficit when it, in fact, does not and tax hikes only acceptable if they hit the dreaded rich.

I keep saying this and I am going to keep saying it: the most important aspect of any government budget is that spending should hurt. Spending should hurt either in cutting other services or in raising taxes. If you aren’t doing either of those things, you are giving people government on the cheap. And they will have no incentive, none whatsover, to support spending cuts.

Would you turn down services that are discounted 40-100%?

One of the problems we face in balancing the budget is that spending cuts are popular in general and unpopular in detail. When you ask people what spending they support cutting, the only thing that even gets 50% is foreign aide. But a big reason for that is that, for most Americans, government spending doesn’t hurt them. They can support all these wonderful things confident that the money for it will come out of somebody else’s pocket.

Until one of these guys puts forward a concrete plan to cut spending and balance the budget, I’m going to ignore their NeverNeverLand tax cut proposals. And I’m not going to take them seriously as responsible conservatives. A responsible conservative balances the budget first. Then … maybe … he talks about tax cuts.

Memogate Resurfaces

A little over a year ago, I wrote about a movie being made about Memogate, based on Mary Mapes’ book. Just to refresh your memory, Memogate was when CBS ran a story of supposed documents proving that George W. Bush skipped out on his Air National Guard Service. It became quickly obvious that the memos were forgeries.

The documents were such obvious forgeries that some of the liberal bloggers were the first to proclaim them as such. They were very evidently written on Microsoft office and printed on a laser printer. You can read Megan McArdle who goes point-by-point through CBS’s story and Mapes’ subsequent book pointing out that it was obviously a bad a story and any journalist who wasn’t sick the day they taught journalism in journalism school would have seen it.

When it came to the movie itself, I said this:

The thing is, I can confidently predict two things about this movie: it will be praised by the media and it will flop. This happens all the time with these liberal “issue” movies.

This movie will flop. It will make about a hundredth of what that shitty Shade of Grey movie is going to make. Because no one wants to see a movie about how poor poor Dan Rather and poor Mary Mapes were really the good guys when they put obviously forged documents on the air to try to influence an election. No one wants to hear their excuse-making about vast right wing conspiracies.

Still … it’s a good illustration of how the Left, including the Hollywood Left, are still suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome.

It’s a year later and they’re still suffering from it, having been stimulated into a relapse by the Presidential campaign of Jeb Bush. Last night, Rather appeared on Maddow’s show. After a 20-minute segment in which she said the issue of whether the documents were real or not was “never really resolved” and that nobody was ever able to really say whether they were fake, she had Rather out to say that the story was true and the documents have never been proven to be forgeries.

This is bullshit. McArdle again:

The defenses mounted by Mapes and others amounted to saying, “Well, there were machines that did proportional fonts, and you could order a ball with a ‘th’ key or solder one on, and maybe the kerning is an artifact of the faxing of the documents.” All of this is true, but … at some point, as a journalist and presumably as a movie producer, you start having to ask yourself: What’s the likely story? That a Texas Air National Guard commander who couldn’t type found a typist who had ordered a custom machine that just happened to match the defaults in Microsoft Word? Or that the document was typed in Microsoft Word? The best journalistic bet is the easy, likely thing, not the ultra-long-shot coincidence.

Exactly. As I noted above, liberal bloggers were among the first to recognize that the documents were obvious forgeries, ham-fisted forgeries. CBS’s own experts recognized that they weren’t real. The forgery was so obvious that I know liberals, to this day, who think that the Killian documents were faked by the Bush campaign to discredit the stories about his Air National Guard service.

Now I will grant Rather and Maddow that there no notarized photographs of Bill Burkett actually forging the documents. But the burden of proof was on CBS. And they failed spectacularly.

Now, I expect this from Maddow. She claims she isn’t a Democrat but she is an openly anti-Republican hack with an openly anti-Republican show who nurses old grudges against conservatives and Republicans. Fine. But Rather was … or at least claimed to be … a journalist. For him to still be backing this story proves that CBS was absolutely right to fire his narcissistic ass. Hell, they should fire him a second time just to the point clear.

(As for the movie, it just had a limited opening to good-but-not-great reviews (65% on Rotten Tomatoes) with some Oscar buzz for the leads. It will go wider soon. I expect it to flop. You can read McArdle’s follow-up review here.)

Republicans Compromise With Themselves

I’m old enough to remember when a budget deal meant that Democrats got tax hikes and Republicans got spending cuts. But, apparently, a budget deal now means both sides get spending hikes:

The measure under discussion would suspend the current $18.1 trillion debt limit through March 2017.

The budget side of the deal is aimed at undoing automatic spending cuts which are a byproduct of a 2011 budget and debt deal and the failure of Washington to subsequently tackle the government’s fiscal woes. GOP defense hawks are a driving force, intent on reversing the automatic cuts and getting more money for the military.

The focus is on setting a new overall spending limit for agencies whose operating budgets are set by Congress each year. It will be up to the House and Senate Appropriations committees to produce a detailed omnibus spending bill by the Dec. 11 deadline.

The tentative pact anticipates designating further increases for the Pentagon as emergency war funds that can be made exempt from budget caps. Offsetting spending cuts that would pay for domestic spending increases included curbs on certain Medicare payments for outpatient services provided by hospitals and an extension of a 2-percentage-point cut in Medicare payments to doctors through the end of a 10-year budget.

There’s also a drawdown from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, reforms to crop insurance, and savings reaped from a Justice Department funds for crime victims and involving assets seized from criminals.

Negotiators looked to address two other key issues as well: a shortfall looming next year in Social Security payments to the disabled and a large increase for many retirees in Medicare premiums and deductibles for doctors’ visits and other outpatient care.

There’s a few good things here: putting the debt limit past the election and cutting farm subsidies. But it also contains some head-scratchers: increases in defense spending, increases in domestic spending and drawing down the strategic petroleum reserve at a time when oil is incredibly cheap.

Paul Ryan has made some noises against it, but this sounds more like he wants to get us back onto a normal budget process as opposed to the “budget by crisis” method we’ve been using for the last few years. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have hinted at a filibuster but that’s not going to happen with a budget bill. Absent a massive revolt, it looks like this is what we’ve got.

Update: Looks like the deal passed the house, with mostly Democratic support.