Friday, January 6, 2012

The Final Five: January 6, 2012

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
January 6, 2012

I apologize for the incorrect date in last night's final five. The issue has been fixed on the blog post, but unfortunately I cannot fix it on the e-mail version in your inbox.

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Cop Allegedly Tracks Down Issued Speeding Ticket to Ask Woman on Date
A police officer issued a ticket to a woman. Then he returned to her house and left a note on her car asking her on a date.

Topic One: ObamaCare
American Thinker had two great articles on ObamaCare today. Joe Herring's article discusses care in Britain as a parallel for what we will experience here. "A recent audit by the Royal College of Physicians has revealed that in one hospital group alone, more than 50% of the patients who were put on a palliative care protocol known as the "Liverpool Care Pathway" (LCP) have had those decisions made solely by the attending physicians, without consult or notification of the patients family. In another group of hospitals, only 1 in 3 were informed of the life-ending decision." This is Britain's cross of death panels and Jack Kevorkian: a physician has the power to order the end of a patient's life without the consent of the patient or the family.

Dr. Steven Goldfien's article discusses how to save the health care system (Hint: it doesn't involve Washington). "The experience of the last fifty years proves that the United States government cannot solve the problem of how to provide high-quality healthcare to all its citizens at a price the country can afford -- at least not without rationing, lowering the quality of care, and destroying the medical profession as a profession. Only the ingenuity of the private sector can create the healthcare system the public desires, but this can't happen until the federal government's iron grip on healthcare is broken."

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"Mitt Romney says President Obama's promises are like Kim Kardashian's wedding vows. President Obama shot back. He said Romney’s positions last about half as long as a Kim Kardashian wedding."
-Jay Leno

Topic Two: Iran
Iran is behaving like it would just be a wonderful place to live. In a move that just reeks of freedom, Iran is censoring web sites and installing cameras in places that have public internet access. Internet cafes will be required to store personal information on customers and document their online footprints. Iran is also attempting to launch its own intranet system that would insulate its citizens from western culture. It is ironic that we are expected to have a diverse, multi-cultural view while nations like Iran can "insulate" itself from outside influences.

Meanwhile, the EU nations are trying to work out an agreement to join the US in economic sanctions against Iran. However, Kerry Patton at American Thinker argues that sanctions only help Iran win the fight in the long run. Iran referred to the sanctions as economic war. Meanwhile, Iran is also getting involved in an actual war: helping the Taliban as it fights American troops in Afghanistan.

Debt Watch:
On Thursday, the government was able to reduce the debt by $347,517.79, bringing the total debt to:

Topic Three: The Economy
The new unemployment figures came out today: unemployment is down .2% to 8.5%, and the economy created 200,000 jobs in December. Sounds like good news, but as our tweet of the day (below) points out, the unemployment rate would be higher if the workforce had not shrunk during the Obama Presidency. Donna Addkison argues at HuffPo that unemployment benefits are a necessity. If this were true, how did America ever survive without them? WSJ discusses the cheapening of American labor.

Tweets of the Day:
James Pethokoukis (@JimPethokoukis): 10.9%: The unemployment rate (U-3) if the size of US workforce was the same as when Obama took office, not 8.5%

Topic Four: The Wisconsin Recall
Scott Walker received a big boost in his efforts to thwart the attempted recall when a judge ruled that Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board must do a better job at analyzing signatures. This means that signatures by citizens named Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, and Adolf Hitler would all be refused. Signatures would also be entered into a database to be analyzed for duplicates before being accepted. Without this ruling, Walker's team would have had to analyze the signatures and challenge each fictitious or duplicate signature in order for it to be removed, something that would have been impossible given the legal timeframe to complete it. I particularly like this quote from the judge's ruling: "Counting the signature of Bugs Bunny is something only lawyers could try to make seem OK." A great article from Nick Schulz at USA Today argues that America should support Walker.

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"Repeal that [welfare] law, and you will soon see a change in their manners. St. Monday and St. Tuesday, will soon cease to be holidays. Six days shalt thou labor, though one of the old commandments long treated as out of date, will again be looked upon as a respectable precept; industry will increase, and with it plenty among the lower people; their circumstances will mend, and more will be done for their happiness by inuring them to provide for themselves, than could be done by dividing all your estates among them."
-Benjamin Franklin

Topic Five: Recess Appointments
There has been much fallout from yesterday's "recess" appointments. Politico discusses the definition of recess. Peter Wehner says that Obama has become indifferent to the law. NY Post says that this shows Obama's weakness. Mike Razar at American Thinker argues that the right can use the "living constitution" argument to show that recess appointments are not necessary anymore. House Democrats tried some games on the house floor, but they didn't go over well. There's a simple way to play this game: if Obama can redefine "recess", Congress can redefine "session." They could call each day's work or each week's work a session, and at the end of the first one, the recess appointments must go if not confirmed.

Tomorrow in History
January 7, 1927 - New York and London become connected through the first transcontinental telephone service.

Grab Bag - Interesting Stories to Conclude Your Evening
White House proposes federal employee pay raise

Shocker: Union official wanted for voter fraud

Rubio to Obama: You're turning America into a deadbeat nation

#OccupyCellphones: The top 1% of uses occupy 50% of the bandwidth

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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

This article was originally published on June 14, 2011.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...” (Declaration of Independence)

Companies and organizations today often establish mission statements. Writing a mission statement for a company may seem like a small task, but it can be a very important one. The mission statement is what sets the company's goals, and its priorities are often judged against its mission. While the United States does not have an official mission statement, I think the best example of the mission of the American government is contained in this quote from the Declaration of Independence.

It was in 1776 when Thomas Jefferson, with input from several other men, penned these words that are known so well by Americans. While Jefferson was setting the stage to present his argument that the British government had overstepped these guidelines of governance, Jefferson certainly knew that should their revolution be successful, the 13 colonies would be faced with the task of setting up a government for their new country. This paragraph lays out the three purposes of government: protect life, protect liberty, and protect the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, it appears that many of our leaders have forgotten these purposes of government, and our government is failing at protecting these three basic rights.

First, the government is failing in its protection of the right to life. The government protects the right to life for those who can say that they want it, but it appears to have ignored it for those who cannot speak for themselves. A “fetus” grows in exactly the same manner prior to birth that a newborn child does following birth, yet only the newborn baby's right to life is protected by our government. Some may argue that a pregnancy affects a woman's pursuit of happiness, and this certainly could be a valid point. However, in all but a few cases, a woman finds herself pregnant because of the choices she made. Terminating the right to life of an unborn baby should not be just a way to reverse the consequences of bad choices. Furthermore, the government allowed Terri Schiavo to be starved to death in 2005, based on the request of her husband due to some statements he claimed she made. Death or even torture by starvation is prohibited for prisoners of war under the rules of the Geneva Convention, but the government views it as acceptable for an American citizen.

The government is also failing to protect the right to liberty. Liberty is the freedom to make choices independent of government control. However, we are finding that more of our choices are being made by the government rather than us as individuals. New York recently considered regulation of children's games such as wiffle ball and red rover at day camps in the state. Since I have never seen a serious injury from either of these games, it makes me question whether the state is looking to “protect children” or just force everyone to register and be approved by the state. The recent health care bill also infringes on our liberties by forcing us to purchase a product rather than allowing us to face the consequences of our own decisions. Day by day, Americans are giving up liberty to a growing government that seems to be seeking more and more control over our lives.

Finally, the government is failing to protect the right to pursue happiness. Each person will choose to pursue happiness in a different way. However, the government has adopted a philosophy that it is better to make everyone happy than to protect the ability to pursue happiness. We have waged the “War on Poverty” for years, yet it has made little impact on poverty. We have tried to guarantee a “living wage” for everyone working, but the cost of living keeps increasing at a faster rate. We tax the rich at a higher rate so that we can afford to give it to the poor through social programs and tax credits, yet the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow. Our government must change the philosophy that results in trying to make everyone happy and replace it with a philosophy that each person should have the ability to pursue happiness in the manner of their choosing.

America has become a great nation because America has protected these basic rights. However, this nation is starting to fail at its duty to protect these rights. We do still have some protection in each of the three basic categories, but we are regularly seeing more of these rights being taken away by a government who feels that it knows what is best for us. If America is to remain “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” it must return to protecting these basic rights for all.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Final Five: January 5, 2012

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
January 5, 2012

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Wedding Ring Lost for 16 Years Found Growing on Garden Carrot
16 years ago, a Swedish woman lost her wedding ring when she took it off to bake. 16 years later, it was found growing on a carrot in the garden.

Topic One: The Global Economy
Unemployment numbers will be released at 8:30 tomorrow. Unemployment claims dropped last week, but will improved hiring only force the discouraged workers back into the market and raise the rate again? Obama announced the creation of an initiative to help with summer employment. Obama also appointed Richard Cordray to the CFPB post in a recess appointment (more on that later); the US Chamber's Tom Donohue says the CFPB appointment will hinder our economic recovery.

Two good articles on spending. First, John Tamny discusses the 3 lies about budget deficits. "...would we prefer a balanced budget in the U.S. that coincides with $3 trillion in annual spending, or an annual budget deficit of $500 billion occurring in concert with spending of $1 trillion?" Tamny argues that using the philosophy that governments destroy capital while the private sector expands it, the better option is the deficit with reduced spending. Second, Nita Ghei discusses the spending increase that will take place during the 10-year "spending cut" period that came with the debt ceiling increase.

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"Experts say traffic deaths are down because the bad economy means more cars are being repossessed, and all the unemployment means we don't have as many people driving to work. So you know what that means? The White House economic plan is also their highway safety plan."
-Jay Leno

Topic Two: The Election
New Hampshire is now experiencing what it was like to live in Iowa seven days ago. Hugh Hewitt says that 2012 is shaping up to be similar to the 1976 election. I agree on all but the argument in favor of Romney's health care reform. While I understand the problems facing the state, Romneycare was still the wrong solution. HuffPo says that the result of Iowa is that hardly anybody voted, and nobody won anything. I think that Obama was the big winner in the Republican caucus. He ended up with three frontrunners for the spot opposing him: one is a isolationist wacko, one lost his last election by almost 20 points and has no organization and little money, and one is known for his health care reform and reforming companies by laying off people. Finally, an interesting satire from Al Eisele on the disaster in Iowa now that the caucuses are over.

Debt Watch:
On Wednesday, the government spent an additional $10,324,758,838.56 over its revenue, bringing the total debt to:

Topic Three: The Recess Bell
Obama made some recess appointments yesterday, despite the fact that Congress claims it is not in recess. John Steele Gordon asks what constitutes a recess? Unfortunately absent from this debate is an answer to that question from the President. If the President believes that the Senate is currently in recess, then he should explain why he feels that way and what is the minimum amount of time the Senate must adjourn for it to be considered a recess. Boehner issued this response from his office today.

Tweets of the Day:
Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank): Presence of Romney flip-flops on key issues is less worrisome than near absence of key issues on which he has not flip-flopped.

Topic Four: Judicial Activism
Newt Gingrich created quite the discussion over his ideas to curb judicial activism. An interesting discussion took place on Ricochet. Richard Epstein argued that the constitution provides an independent judiciary. I usually agree with Epstein, but I do not completely agree with him here. Judicial activism is a real problem that needs to be solved. Gingrich does not have the right solution (Congress could potentially call any judge to Washington for any opinion that goes against the prevailing ideas), but he is right to call attention to the legislating from the bench. Dave Carter responds to Epstein's article. Epstein then wrote a response with further explanation.

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth."
-George Washington

Topic Five: Defense Cuts
There has been a lot of buzz on the blogs about the press conference yesterday regarding the defense department's budget. Probably the best was by RedState Diarist Jeff Emanuel, who makes the case that this type of strategy was what Rumsfeld originally wanted. HotAir argues that a troop reduction is not the best way to handle budget cuts. Hugh Hewitt agrees with HotAir. While our military is important to our security, we must also remember that we are making ourselves vulnerable through our debt-ridden financial policies. It is a difficult dilemma to solve, and I am certainly glad I am not the one who has to solve it.

Tomorrow in History
January 6, 1759 - Martha Dandridge Custis was married to someone with a more familiar name, George Washington.

Grab Bag - Interesting Stories to Conclude Your Evening
Chevy Volt needs a fix

Feds want to force laptop owner to give up password and incriminate herself

How much does online piracy really cost?

GymPact app charges you $5 every time you do not go to the gym

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Good Apologies, Bad Apologies

Just before Christmas, Barney Frank wrote an Op-Ed for Politico titled, "Apology Is Not a Bad Word". In his article, he points to legislation he helped through Congress that apologized to Japanese-Americans who were placed in internment camps during World War II. (The legislation would later be signed by Reagan.) Frank contends,
"By today’s Republican presidential candidates’ standards, that statement should not have been made, and Reagan should have vetoed it once it was. Fortunately, Ronald Reagan had in many respects higher standards than those Republican candidates who seek to succeed him regarding the duty we owe each other to treat one another decently."

However, all apologies are not equal. Reagan was right to sign the apology to the Japanese-Americans interned during World War II: it was something that was both morally wrong and unconstitutional. Some have argued that the internment was a means of protecting the fact that we had cracked Japan's secret code. Even if we accept that argument as fact, it is still difficult to morally justify rounding up thousands of people because of the guilt of a few. Furthermore, there was no constitutional justification allowing for this to be done to Americans. While it is understandable that we would want to maintain our sources of intelligence, it must be done in a constitutional manner.

Reagan signed the apology because he recognized that the government had overstepped its boundaries. However, it is difficult to see similar oversteps of boundaries in the apologies that Obama has issued. In one instance, the President apologized for not partnering with the Europeans. There is no constitutional requirement that the United States partner with any other nation, and there is nothing morally wrong with America choosing to pursue its own course of action. There was no need for Obama to apologize for America's course of action.

In another instance, Obama's State Department apologized to the family of a Samir Khan, a recruiter for al-Qaeda who was killed alongside Anwar al-Awlaki. There was no need for us to apologize for Kahn's death: even if he were totally innocent, if he is sitting next to an avowed terrorist when the missile comes in, perhaps he should have considered who he was with before that happened. However, as the publisher of an al-Qaeda magazine, Kahn was certainly not innocent.

Frank classifies apologies into two categories: apologies for accidental events and apologies for national policies. He then goes on to claim that the Republican candidates would oppose all apologies in the second category. However, this is not the case. We have not been and will never be a perfect nation, and there definitely are times when we need to apologize for our actions. However, America does not need to apologize for its position as a world leader or for killing someone who has dedicated his life to recruiting people to kill Americans. This is the distinction between a good apology and a bad one.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Final Five: January 4, 2012

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
January 4, 2012

Tonight's Crazy Story:
New Year In Far East Puts Twitter Offline for Over an Hour
Twitter is apparently very popular in Eastern nations such as Japan. As midnight dawned in Japan, the New Year brought about tweets at a rate of 16,197 per second, which was possibly the reason people had problems connecting to the site during the holiday.

Topic One: Iowa & New Hampshire
Can't decide if you should take the time to vote in your primary? Look at last night's caucuses: eight votes. I'm sure there are Santorum supporters who wish they'd gone to the caucuses and Romney supporters who are glad they did go. Politico has 7 takeaways from Iowa. WaPo has 8 lessons. As I wrote on the blog (link available on the side), it appears that a Romney nomination is fast becoming inevitable. The other candidates still have a chance, but it will take quite a turnaround for someone in order for anyone else to win.

On the campaign trail: Bachmann is out. No surprise there. Romney is headed to New Hampshire, the state he was actually focused on winning, anyway. John McCain is expected to endorse Romney today. Huntsman is still in New Hampshire, and he hopes he can do in New Hampshire what Santorum did in Iowa. Perry said he was going to reassess his campaign, but today, he tweeted "And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State...Here we come South Carolina!!!" along with a link to a picture of him jogging. Santorum is heading to New Hampshire, but he's not expected to perform nearly as well there. Newsmax says he has several big needs going forward if he is to compete nationally.

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"The U.S. government is selling $30 billion worth of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. Yeah, it’s part of a new initiative called, 'Operation Regret This In Five Years.'"
-Jimmy Fallon

Topic Two: Education
NY Times has had two "Room for Debate" sections on education. The first discussion was on teacher pay. The first article argues that teachers receive pay similar to others with similar SAT scores, but they receive much better benefits. I would not dispute this claim, but I would contend that the focus should not be on the SAT scores of teachers, but on the SAT scores we would like our teachers to have. One of the problems in education is that some people choose that field because their lack of skills prohibit employment in other sectors. In my home state (Kentucky), a degree in education is virtually a guaranteed job due to shortages of teachers. Increasing teacher pay would make the job more attractive to others and would create competition for these jobs, ultimately improving the quality of teachers.

The second topic discusses classroom technology. There are certainly technologies that can improve the quality of education, but is it worth the cost? HuffPo has a great article on opting out of state testing. I am not a supporter of these tests, but I also understand that the poor quality of some of our teachers (see above) means that we must have some way to evaluate teachers. I will write more about teacher evaluation on the blog soon, but test scores should be one of a variety of factors used in teacher evaluation. Finally, Larry Ferlazzo describes his ten education-related predictions for 2012.

Debt Watch:
Due to the New Year holiday weekend, up-to-date figures from the Treasury are unavailable. As of last Thursday, the national debt stood at:

Topic Three: Iran
Iran told a US aircraft carrier yesterday that it should not attempt to return to the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz. However, the US dismissed the threat, claiming Iran acted outside of its boundaries. Meanwhile, oil went above $100 per barrel yesterday on word of the threat.

In economic news from Iran, Iranian money took a slide yesterday on the currency markets due to the new economic sanctions imposed by the US on Iran's central bank. Elliot Abrams says that this could have happened during the Bush administration if we had not believed Iran's propaganda. "There are some lessons here. One is that whenever the Iranian regime defiantly says it isn’t afraid of something and that thing will backfire–whether it be moving more U.S. aircraft carriers to the Gulf or sanctions against the central bank–we ought to see quickly through their propaganda and go ahead with it. Indeed the more defiantly the ayatollahs say they are not afraid, the more afraid they most likely are."

Tweets of the Day:
Toby Harnden (@tobyharnden): Ron Paul admits to CNN he doesn't do own tweets, re 1 last night: "I didn't send it...I don't understand what's going on there."

Topic Four: The Economy
December's unemployment report comes out Friday. People are feeling more confident about the economy, but John Crudele says this could mean a bad report. A large part of this rests on the definition of "unemployed". In order to be considered unemployed, you have to have actively looked for work during the month. If you did not look for work, you are no longer a part of the labor force and not considered as part of the unemployment calculation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also publishes a rate that includes those underemployed (part-time workers desiring full-time work) and those who have dropped out of the labor force. Real Clear Markets has a good piece analyzing the trend in this rate.

There were several other interesting economic pieces published recently on various topics. First, Investors Business Daily discusses California's economic failure while solving the wrong "problems." "California's in trouble. Businesses are leaving along with intellectual and investment capital and skilled workers. But rather than face up to serious problems, legislators pass silly laws." Richard Epstein has a great piece on the problems of the "living wage." Jared Bernstein offers us some "then and now" stats on Obama's economy. Finally, Clive Cook disputes the claim that capitalism has failed, and instead argues that our President has failed us.

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"My anxious recollections, my sympathetic feeling, and my best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever, in any country, I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom."
-George Washington

Topic Five: Obama 2012
Even though we are likely at least two months away from knowing who will be the Republican nominee, there is already a lot of discussion about the general election. A large part of his strategy will involve opposing the unpopular Congress. If you thought 2011 was a bad year for getting things done in Washington, just wait until July or August of this year. Fred Barnes says that Obama will spend the year focused on his reelection campaign, without taking the time to lead or govern. (Isn't that what he has already been doing?) Meanwhile, the Republican Party is also developing its strategy. As Daniel Halper argues, they do have something they did not have in 2008: a paper trail. A Boston Herald Op-Ed describes why a moderate cannot beat President Obama. (Didn't we already try that with McCain?)

Tomorrow in History
January 5, 1759 - Happy 253rd Anniversary to George Washington, who married Martha Dandridge Custis on this date.

Grab Bag - Interesting Stories to Conclude Your Evening
TSA lists its top catches of the year

Obama makes non-recess recess appointment

3 Swiss bankers helped hide $1.2 Billion from IRS

Buddy Roemer's tweets during Iowa caucus

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Victory, By Default

Throughout this election season, I have avoided claiming--and even believing--the claims of many pundits that Romney was the inevitable nominee. However, after Iowa has voted, it now appears that claim may be accurate. Romney won the Iowa caucus, albeit by a mere eight votes, but now he appears ready to make history by becoming the first non-incumbent Republican to carry both Iowa and New Hampshire. No candidate in the modern nominating era has ever won without carrying either Iowa and New Hampshire, and the first sweep of the two states will likely propel Romney to the nomination.

In Iowa, Romney had two main competitors: Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Ron Paul benefited from Iowa's somewhat open caucuses: even though everyone participating must be a Republican, a person can register as a Republican on caucus night. Some of Paul's support came from libertarian Republicans, but much of it came from the younger crowd that traditionally votes for Democrats. Indeed, the entrance polls showed self-identified independents (crossover Democrats) went strongly for Ron Paul.

Rick Santorum did a great job of campaigning in Iowa, and it appeared that at the end, the results showed that. Unfortunately, Santorum's votes do not reflect his campaigning as much as they reflect the default support of the "not Romney" crowd. Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and Gingrich had all been scrutinized by this group and rejected, and Santorum surged so close to the caucus date that there was no time to analyze his record. Furthermore, Santorum does not have the organization in other states that Romney or many of the other candidates have, and he will struggle to build it in time for the March primaries when it becomes difficult to personally campaign effectively in each state.

The "second tier" candidates will struggle, as well. Newt Gingrich's numbers are in decline nationally. Rick Perry is polling last in New Hampshire, and he will certainly lack momentum going into South Carolina, where he was in single digits. Jon Huntsman has staked his campaign on succeeding in New Hampshire, but polling shows him 30 points behind Romney. Finally, Michele Bachmann just announced she is dropping out of the race following her sixth-place finish in Iowa.

All of this means that Romney's probable sweep of the first caucus and primary will likely create enough of a wave to propel him to the nomination. Looking at the current situation, I can see only three scenarios under which Romney loses the nomination:

1) Santorum rides the wave of his eight-vote loss in Iowa and picks up the needed support from other candidates. This is probably the most likely of the three possibilities. In this scenario, Santorum benefits from Bachmann and Perry dropping out and becomes the clear choice of the "conservative" candidates. Santorum posts a respectable second in New Hampshire, and then he goes on to win in South Carolina. The majority of the staff of the Bachmann and Perry campaigns decide to work for Santorum, and he benefits from the organization they have established. The race becomes a two-person race between Santorum and Romney, and Santorum is able to squeak out enough victories to wrap up the race by the end.

2) A second-tier candidate from Iowa picks up enough support to win South Carolina. In this case, either Gingrich or Perry benefits from the vetting of Santorum and Bachmann's dropping out. As supporters of these candidates become "undecided" again, either Perry or Gingrich make a strong case for their support. Romney wins New Hampshire while Santorum falls and is beaten by the surging candidate for second or third place (depending on Huntsman's finish). That candidate is then able to carry that surge to victories in South Carolina and Florida. Eventually, this also comes down to a two-person race where Romney is again defeated narrowly.

3) Jon Huntsman becomes the choice of the "not Romney" group. This is the most unlikely of the scenarios, but it is still a possible one. Huntsman is the only "not Romney" candidate that has not yet experienced a surge. Huntsman has run his campaign as a moderate, but he does have a conservative record on fiscal issues that other conservatives might prefer to Romney. In this scenario, Huntsman's New Hampshire campaign finishes a strong second to Romney while exceeding expectations (say a 20-25 percent finish to Romney's 30 percent.) Huntsman begins touting his conservative credentials in South Carolina and Florida, and it works. He pulls support from Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry, and he becomes the candidate to challenge Romney. In the end, conservatives get behind him because they prefer his record as governor to Romney's.

Two final comments on these scenarios. First, I see no scenario where Ron Paul has a chance at winning the nomination. Much of his Iowa support came from groups outside the Republican party, and those groups will be excluded from many of the future contests. Second, each of the scenarios hinges on the race coming down to Romney versus one candidate. A split vote among many "not Romney" candidates will likely make the Romney nomination inevitable. Unfortunately, a split vote also seems to be the most likely scenario. While any of the remaining candidates (excluding Paul) still has a chance, it seems that Romney appears well-positioned to win a victory by default.

Mid-Week Media: Great Presidents, God & the Founders, Tebowing, Racism, and Waffling

It's Wednesday, so that means it's time to take a look at the best media published over the past week.

American Crossroads analyzes Obama's "fourth best President" statement:

Bill Whittle's Afterburner takes a look at three years under Obama:

Dick Morris discusses God and the Founding Fathers:

A good question on what is wrong with Tebowing:

Re-gifting is never a good idea, especially when it's someone else's gift:

When debating an issue, this is the card you always want to have:

Eric Holder, master of the race card, playing it on Fast & Furious:

For once, a brief moment where Obama did not tell a lie:

And finally, The Waffle Song describes the flip-flops of various candidates:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Final Five: January 3, 2012

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
January 3, 2012

Tonight's Crazy Story:
No Sale: Million-Dollar Bill Gets North Carolina Man Arrested at Walmart
A North Carolina man bought $476 worth of items at a Walmart and then attempted to pay for it with a $1 million bill. When the cashier refused to take it and the man still insisted it was real, the police were called and the man was arrested. Lesson for counterfeiters: if you're going to create counterfeit money, it might be a good idea to make a bill that actually exists.

Topic One: Voter ID
The debate over voter ID laws has been garnering much attention. Amy Goodman calls it voter suppression. Robert Knight explains why it scares Democrats. (I agree with Knight's assessment.) Jeffrey Kuhner asks if Obama plans to steal the 2012 election. "Stealing an election is not beyond this administration. After all, it’s the Chicago Way." Brad Friedman thinks its strange that Republicans are not requiring ID for voting in the caucuses. Part of the reason could be that the caucuses have their own built-in fraud prevention mechanism: everyone is present to vote at one time. Imagine the fits that Democrats would throw if Republicans proposed requiring everyone who wanted to vote to show up at the polling place at a particular time and stay for 1-2 hours.

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
(The late night shows are in reruns this week, so we are running some of the best comments of last year.)
"Obama will participate in a town hall meeting hosted on Facebook. So just like everyone else in America, Obama will be on Facebook when he should be working."
-Conan O'Brien

Topic Two: Congress and the People
Most people feel a disconnect between their elected officials and the people. I have heard many comments about the availability of my congressman as compared to the representatives from other districts. RedState has an interesting infographic on the wealth of Congress. Pittsburgh's Post-Gazette analyzes the impact of wealth and middle class concerns. "Another way to see the growing gulf is that in 1984 the median net worth for a member of Congress was nearly 14 times that of the American family median. By 2009 the congressman's was 35 times that of the family's." Finally, Alan Greenspan analyzes the deadlock in Congress. The distribution of the electorate through most of the post-1945 years has been a dominant centre, slightly to the left or right of centre. This enabled legislative compromises to be reached with relative ease. But a political tsunami has emerged out of our past in the form of the Tea Party, with its ethos reminiscent of rugged individualism and self-reliance."

Debt Watch:
Last Friday, the government spent an additional $97,041,069,053.90 over its income, bringing the national debt at the end of the year to:

Topic Three: The Election
Decision day for Iowa, although the actual delegates will not be selected tonight. It appears that the race will be a three-way contest between Romney, Paul, and Santorum at the top. Perry and Gingrich appear set to battle for fourth place. I still find it hard to trust the vast majority of the candidates: Paul for his ridiculous foreign policy views, Romney for his record, Huntsman for his social liberalism, Gingrich for his more recent views on some issues, Bachmann for her inaccurate claims, Santorum for his endorsements, and Perry for his views on immigration. Finally, Craig Crawford gives us ten reason to ignore Iowa.

Tweets of the Day:
Hotair's Allah Pundit (@allahpundit): I'm actually more interested to see who finishes fourth tonight between Newt and Perry than who wins the caucus #southcarolina

Topic Four: Occupy
Occupiers attended the Rose Parade yesterday and received a loud reception, although it probably was not the reception they wanted. Protesters also disrupted a Romney event. Rick Moran writes at American Thinker, "It is becoming clear that as the OWS movement goes along, they don't have a clue about how to achieve any of their goals except to take from those who have more and give to those who have less. ... The numbers of OWS protestors have fallen catastrophically and their only strategy appears to be mugging for the TV cameras. As clowns, they make good entertainment. As a political movement, they are a joke." David Henderson wrote a four-part series on his conversations with occupiers. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4)

The occupy movement shows its peacefulness by issuing a wanted poster for an officer who used pepper spray on protesters. Allison Kilkenny asks why there is such a rush to preserve items from occupy. Finally, an elementary school in Virginia is coming under fire for an Occupy song performed as part of a children's program.

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue; or in any manner affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change and can trace its consequences; a harvest reared not by themselves but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the few not for the many."
-James Madison

Topic Five: The Economy
The NY Times asks, "Is this as good as it gets?" While I disagree with its slam at Congress without making an equal slam at the administration, it raises some very good points about the economy's future. The Detroit News agrees, calling it a new year with the same worries. The Wall Street Journal analyzes the future of bank failures. George Melloan calls 2011 The Year of Governments Living Dangerously. Finally, a great article on the way that the decline in labor participation will affect unemployment.

Tomorrow in History
January 4, 1885 - William W. Grant performs the first successful appendectomy on Mary Gartside.

Grab Bag - Interesting Stories to Conclude Your Evening
Military technology to be used to detect potholes

Entire net worth of the Forbes 400 barely enough to cover debt ceiling increase

Now legal: indefinite detention of Americans

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Where Is The Media? We Have a Tax Cut for the Rich!

When President Bush was pushing for reductions in tax rates, the liberal politicians and the media complained about his supposed "tax cuts for the rich." However, despite his rhetoric about raising taxes on the rich, our current President has now signed two tax cuts that benefit the rich: the 2011 payroll tax cut and its 2012 extension. (This ignores the fact that Obama also extended the "tax-cut-for-the-rich" Bush tax cuts.) Where are the liberals? Where is the media? For some reason, they support this tax cut.

The tax cuts that Bush signed during his presidency were due to expire on Dec. 31, 2010. Republicans in Congress wanted to extend them, and even the Democrats seemed willing to agree to it. After much discussion on the exact terms of the extension, the two parties agreed to eliminate the $400-per-person Making Work Pay tax credit (established in 2009) and replace it with a 2% reduction in the Social Security tax rate.

Between the 2011 payroll tax cut and the 2009 Making Work Pay credit, the 2009 credit comes the closest to the liberal philosophy. It was a flat rate tax credit that applied equally to everyone under a certain income level ($95,000 for individuals or $190,000 for married couples filing jointly.) The "rich" received no benefit, and the less a person earned, the greater it reduced a person's effective tax rate. It seemed to be a perfect tax for those who support the redistribution of wealth, but Congress--with both houses still controlled by Democrats--decided to change it.

The result was the 2011 payroll tax holiday, a 2% reduction in the Social Security tax. However, unlike the credit it replaced, this credit benefits everyone, and it benefits the rich in even greater amounts. Let's have a look at how this change affects people of various income levels:

Single filer with annual income of $120,000
Making Work Pay Credit: $0 ($0/week)
2% FICA Reduction: $2136 ($41.08/week)
Benefits indididual by $2136.

Married couple with incomes of $75,000 and $50,000
Making Work Pay Credit: $800 ($15.38/week)
2% FICA Reduction: $2500 ($48.08/week)
Benefits couple by $1700

Single filer with annual income of $35,000
Making Work Pay Credit: $400 ($7.69/week)
2% FICA Reduction: $700 ($13.46/week)
Benefits individual by $300

Married couple with incomes of $25,000 and $15,000
Making Work Pay Credit: $800 ($15.38/week)
2% FICA Reduction: $800 ($15.38/week)
No benefit to couple.

Single filer with annual income of $15,080 (minimum wage for 40 hours/week)
Making Work Pay Credit: $400 ($7.69/week)
2% FICA Reduction: $301.60 ($5.80/week)
Hurts individual by $98.40

What can we learn from this? First, the payroll tax holiday was actually a tax cut for the richest Americans while forcing those at the lowest income levels to actually pay more. The two-month extension for 2012 has the potential to make this difference even greater if a one-year extension fails. Those making a little over $660,000 would reach the Social Security maximum within the first two months, giving them an even greater proportion of the tax benefit. The current legislation requires them to pay back the tax cut if the tax holiday is not extended, but it probably would not take much to get Congress to reverse this provision (especially in an election year).

Second, we can learn that the Bush tax cuts were "bad" (in the mainstream media's eyes) because of the person implementing them, not because they supposedly benefited the rich. The rich did benefit from the Bush tax cuts, but every taxpayer experienced a reduction in rates. However, the media and liberal politicians attacked these "tax cuts for the rich." If there was a tax cut that should be defined by that phrase, it would be something that benefits the rich the most while raising taxes for the poorest Americans. That sounds like a classic way to define Obama's payroll tax holiday. One would expect the media to be screaming about this tax cut for the rich, but they have been strangely silent on this topic.

Do not misread this as opposition to the tax cuts. While I am concerned that this tax cut only makes Social Security's insolvency problem worse, I also believe that tax cuts will ultimately be good for the economy. However, these tax cuts do make it clear that the media selects what policies it will support and what policies it will attack because of the person proposing the policy, not because of the policy itself.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Final Five: January 2, 2012

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
January 2, 2012

Tonight's Crazy Story:
TV Camera Crashes to Field, Nearly Clobbering Player During Insight Bowl
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a...TV camera! Last Friday's Insight Bowl was delayed for around five minutes while the camera crews removed the camera and made sure the wire was out of the way.

Topic One: Iran
Two new developments related to Iran's military technology. First, Iran claims to have produced its first nuclear fuel rod. Second, Iran tested a surface-to-air missile. The missile reportedly has the ability to evade radar detection, and Iran is calling its test a success.

Meanwhile, Iran called for a new round of talks about its nuclear program. American Thinker's Rick Moran believes that it is a stall tactic designed to take our focus off of the issues. At the same time, the US is selling equipment to help bolster its allies in the region. Last week, we sold F-15s to Saudi Arabia, and then over the weekend, we sold missiles and other related technology to U.A.E.

There's Always Time for a Laugh:
(The late night shows are in reruns this week, so we are running some of the best comments of last year.)
"Obama called on Americans to have more grandchildren. Probably so there's more of them to pay off our debt."
-Jay Leno

Topic Two: The European Economy
In Europe, austerity measures reign supreme. NY Times says that 2011 will be the year governments lost their credibility. Hans-Werner Sinn says that this crisis has two possible outcomes: the American way of expecting the bond owners to assume risk or the European way of socialist guarantees. The Telegraph analyzes the circular problems in Europe. Rick Moran advises Europe that more debt does not solve a debt problem.

Debt Watch:
Due to the New Year holiday weekend, up-to-date figures from the Treasury are unavailable. As of last Thursday, the national debt stood at:

Topic Three: The Election
Undecided voters make up more than any candidate's current poll numbers. As such, any candidate could potentially win (except Huntsman). Rick Perry is starting to get larger crowds at his campaign events and he has a good ground plan in place. Perry has 1500 precinct leaders, which encompasses just about all of Iowa. (Iowa has 1700 precincts, but some smaller precincts combine.)

Santorum is now being forced to answer for his record, such as his support for Arlin Specter. He also served on the board of Universal Health Services, which runs Minnesota's PRIDE Institute, a mental health service focused on serving the LGBT community. Romney also called Santorum a career politician, despite the fact that Santorum has been out of politics for six years (similar to Romney's four).

Tweets of the Day:
David Sirota (@davidsirota): Shocking that same media spending this much cash on 24-7 coverage of IA caucus somehow pleads poverty when it comes to actual journalism.

Topic Four: Egypt
Egpyt continues it struggle toward some semblance of democracy. Democracy activists fear that the recent raids on pro-democracy institutions are the start of a larger clampdown. This comes as Islamists have emerged as the leading political force. Of course, we can always trust Islamic nations to become harbors of democracy and freedom. (Just look at the example of Iran.) The NY Times is attacking the "obstructionist generals" who are prohibiting progress. However, the US continues to support the military regime with aid, something some people think need to be stopped.

Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"A constitution founded on these principles introduces knowledge among the people, and inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming freemen; a general emulation takes place, which causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious, and frugal."
-John Adams

Topic Five: Occupy
Occupy protesters celebrated the new year by attempting to retake Zuccotti Park, resulting in the arrest of 68 people. They apparently also stopped an ambulance from transporting an injured police office. Meanwhile, if you really want to learn about the Occupy movement, you can now take a class on the movement at Columbia University. The Occupiers also got into the spirit of the Rose Bowl; marching the parade route with a 70-foot octopus of corporate greed. Finally, an occupier attempted to heckle Chris Christie while at a Romney campaign stop, but she forgot to watch where she was going.

Tomorrow in History
January 3, 1947 - The proceedings of the US Congress are televised for the first time.

Grab Bag - Interesting Stories to Conclude Your Evening
NRLB says symphony musicians can form a union

Everything you could want to know about North Korea

Teddy Roosevelt vs. Calvin Coolidge

Solis now concerned about kids working on a farm

EEOC says high school diploma requirement might discriminate against those with disabilities

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Congressional Update: January 2-6, 2012

Once the full House and Senate return to begin considering legislation for the year, I will begin updating the blog with a daily update. Since the two legislative bodies are currently only meeting in pro forma sessions, I will post an update for this week only.

The House and Senate are currently in a semi-recess, meeting every three days in pro forma sessions in an attempt to prevent recess appointments by the President. This week's meetings are currently scheduled for Tuesday, January 3 and Friday, January 6. The January 3 meeting will also coincide with the commencement of the second session of the 112th Congress.

Currently, the House is scheduled to convene to begin work on Tuesday, January 17, and the Senate is scheduled to convene on Monday, January 23.