Friday, April 27, 2007

One for the record books

Larry Kudlow brings to our attention a broken record that perhaps some government economists and the pro-tax crowd don't want people to know about:

Get this: US tax nonwithheld receipts from individuals hit a record one day $48.7 billion increase on April 24th. The prior record was a year ago at $36.4 billion. This reflects, almost always, capital gains tax receipts from the bullish market at the record low 15 percent marginal tax rate on investment. Did someone say Laffer curve?
Since the Bush tax cuts of mid-'03, the fiscal years '04, '05, '06 and we're almost halfway through '07, nonwithheld tax receipts up $144 billion, or 59 percent.

More from Kudlow on how taxes have affected the economy here:

Question: What do Neil Cavuto and most of the folks over at Fox News; Steve Forbes, Rich Karlgaard, and much of the intellectual inventory over at Forbes magazine; Larry Kudlow, Art Laffer, Don Luskin, Brian Wesbury, and most of the other money types who pop up around 5 p.m. EST each weekday on CNBC; the crowd over at the Wall Street Journal editorial page; and the full complement of writers right here on NRO Financial have in common?

Answer: They stuck to their models when the financial world was awash in pessimistic hysterics, and reminded all who would listen that the underlying economy was strong, that the 2003 tax cuts would do their magic, and that smart investors and entrepreneurs would act accordingly and put their money to work. They were ridiculed. They were shouted down. They were attacked. And they were ignored by the vast hoard of pundits and talking heads. But in the end they were right.

Dow 13,000.

Yet another argument for a fair and simple tax

Via BizzyBlog:

The Institute for Policy Innovation talks about a number that comes from The Tax Foundation (link to USA Today article added by me):

$300 billion. (Note: The Tax Foundation link actually says “$275 billion and rising” — Ed.)

That’s how much the Tax Foundation estimates Americans—individuals and businesses—will spend this year on tax preparation.

That’s about 20 percent of the $1.5 trillion we’ll pay in income taxes.

Tivo-blogging the Democratic debate

Ann Althouse Tivo-blogs the Democratic candidates debate so you don't have to. Part I is here. Part II is here. Here are some key excerpts I found interesting:

Clinton on the Iraq war vote:

We go back to Clinton, because she was attacked (though Edwards tried to act like it wasn't an attack). She says she takes "responsibility" for her vote and that she would not have voted as she did if she knew what she knows now. The real question, she says -- correctly! -- is "what do we do now?" But then she runs Bush down for "stubbornly" refusing to accede to the "will of the American people," which makes me wish I could ask her whether she thinks the role of the President is to adopt the military strategy that the polls show the people preferring (which would be completely incompetent).

Richardson on troop funding:

Richardson is asked if he would fund the troops if he were in Congress. He says "no." The war is a "disaster." He would "withdraw all of our troops" by the end of the year. But he'd apply "intensive diplomacy" that would have the three religious factions working out their problems. He'd have a "security conference" that would include Iran and Syria. And he'd have other countries take over the reconstruction and security. Okaaaay. He's for magic. Great.

Clinton, when asked about Giuliani's statement that "America will be safer with a Republican president", gives an answer that blames the current President for not doing enough. Althouse responds with:

There is absolutely nothing there about why she would do a better job as the next President, and we were just reminded of Giuliani. Who do you want to trust, Clinton or Giuliani? That's the question. She gives not one shred of a reason here to go with her. Is there some way she would secure our borders and ports better than he would? Picture her standing at a debate next to Giuliani a year and a half from now. That's what you ought to do if you're trying to pick the best Democratic candidate. Is she the one you Democrats want standing there?

Althouse points out what I would consider the most important part of the debate:

Let's read something important. Obama is asked "how would you change the U.S. military stance overseas" if there were another attack on two American cities and we knew "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that al Qaida did it...

Go to Althouse to read the full responses, too much to excerpt over here, but I liked Ann's comments on their replies:


The first thing he thinks of is Katrina. Bush failed there, don't you know. Think fast, Senator. It's another 9/11! What is the military response? Show us you can think like a Commander in Chief...


So, be strong. But mainly just try very hard to figure out how they did it and how we can defend against the next attack. His idea seems to be about winning the hearts of the next generation. How do you fight the terrorists? Why not make them love us so they won't want to be terrorists anymore? Surely, if they see the Democrats have brought their new tools into the White House, they'll feel the love.


Attack! Destroy! Thank God, one of them is willing to say it. Hillary wins.


That beats Hillary. Richardson is my favorite of the Democrats. And Obama and Edwards are unacceptable.

All emphasis mine.

Read the whole thing over at Althouse.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Carbon Credits... um... not have much credit?

Found an interesting article regarding Carbon credit offsets, and some quick digging led to some very unsurprising though bad news. Seems that carbon credits aren't all they're cracked up to be, do little to actually help the so called carbon dioxide crisis, and that companies who invest in carbon credits are doing so in a high risk, unregulated market. Sounds like some shady business practices afoot. You can guarantee that if this was another business the government would be all over this to nail down those who do it.

read more, here.

Hat tip: Instapundit
Hat tip: Newsbusters

Bill Roggio's Daily Iraq Report 4-26-07

Today Bill Roggio reports on General Petraeus' testimony to Congress and his subsequent press briefing and Pentagon briefing:

In this morning's Pentagon briefing, Gen. Petraeus highlighted Iran's involvement in Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq's dominance of the Sunni insurgency, and the importance of disrupting the Shia militias. He also stressed that the Baghdad Security plan is still in its early stages, and a full evaluation of the operation cannot be made until September at its earliest. He noted that sectarian violence has decrease by about two-thirds since the inception of the Baghdad Security Plan, and ongoing operations against al Qaeda cells are yielding good intelligence on al Qaeda's network.

After yesterday's testimony to Congress, Gen. Petraeus highlighted the very real progress in Anbar, which used to lead all Iraqi provinces in attacks per capita. An American intelligence official informs us that attacks in Ramadi, which used to be the most violence city in Iraq, have dropped from a peak of 50 a day last September to 2 - 4 a day currently.

But don't expect the Democrats to listen to a General they approved to handle things in Iraq.

Bias? What media bias?

CBS News' Brian Montopoli makes his known:

So what Montopoli appears to say is that since media thinks there’s a problem of gun availability in this country, it’s up to media to fan the flames of the people to demand more gun control laws. Notice that he doesn’t want to use a story of how some citizen prevented a killing or ended a tragedy as the “hook” for the “discussion” but rather the horrific and rare shooting at Virginia Tech as such.

Tax deadbeats

It's not who you think:

"Over 450,000 Federal Workers Are Tax Deadbeats"

The worst offenders? Try the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Government Printing Office. Just out of the top 10? The Tax Court.

As usual, big hat tip to Instapundit.

Hugh Hewitt interviews Fred Kagan

Fred Kagan visited Iraq and says that the debate in Washington is "...lagging behind reality in Iraq.":

HH: You come back from Iraq, you see these changes, you talk with it, and then you hear Harry Reid declare the war is lost. What was your reaction upon hearing that, Frederick Kagan?

FK: It’s very disappointing. I think a lot of people, there is a lot of hyperbole, there’s a lot of exaggeration, and we really need to look this squarely in the eye, and recognize that most wars, you don’t know who’s going to win until the end. And there’s been, there were rosy optimistic scenarios from the Bush administration early on, and declarations of victory that were mistaken, and now you’ve got Democratic opponents of the war rushing to say that the war’s lost, and that it’s hopeless. And the facts on the ground just don’t support that. The war isn’t lost. We certainly can still win, and it’s really very disappointing to hear the Senator majority leader just throw up his hands like that.

Update: David Broder in the Washington Post says that Harry Reid is the Democrats' Gonzales:

On "Fox News Sunday," Schumer offered this clarification of Reid's off-the-cuff comment. "What Harry Reid is saying is that this war is lost -- in other words, a war where we mainly spend our time policing a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis. We are not going to solve that problem. . . . The war is not lost. And Harry Reid believes this -- we Democrats believe it. . . . So the bottom line is if the war continues on this path, if we continue to try to police and settle a civil war that's been going on for hundreds of years in Iraq, we can't win. But on the other hand, if we change the mission and have that mission focus on the more narrow goal of counterterrorism, we sure can win."

Everyone got that? This war is lost. But the war can be won. Not since Bill Clinton famously pondered the meaning of the word "is" has a Democratic leader confused things as much as Harry Reid did with his inept discussion of the alternatives in Iraq.

Nor is this the first time Senate Democrats, who chose Reid as their leader over Chris Dodd of Connecticut, have had to ponder the political fallout from one of Reid's tussles with the language.

Hailed by his staff as "a strong leader who speaks his mind in direct fashion," Reid is assuredly not a man who misses many opportunities to put his foot in his mouth. In 2005, he attacked Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, as "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington."

He called President Bush " a loser," then apologized. He said that Bill Frist, then Senate majority leader, had "no institutional integrity" because Frist planned to leave the Senate to fulfill a term-limits pledge. Then he apologized to Frist.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Update 2: Joe Lieberman is sticking to his guns:

Rather than condemning the attacks and the terrorists who committed them, critics trumpeted them as proof that Gen. David Petraeus's security strategy has failed and that the war is "lost."

And today, perversely, the Senate is likely to vote on a binding timeline of withdrawal from Iraq.

This reaction is dangerously wrong. It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of both the reality in Iraq and the nature of the enemy we are fighting there.

What is needed in Iraq policy is not overheated rhetoric but a sober assessment of the progress we have made and the challenges we still face.

In the two months since Petraeus took command, the United States and its Iraqi allies have made encouraging progress on two problems that once seemed intractable: tamping down the Shiite-led sectarian violence that paralyzed Baghdad until recently and consolidating support from Iraqi Sunnis -- particularly in Anbar, a province dismissed just a few months ago as hopelessly mired in insurgency.

Read the whole thing. Hat tip to Pajamas Media.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I can't remember why I voted for him.....

Well, well and truly into Arnie's 2nd term and I really have to say I've lost any and all respect for his work as the governator after he's declared that the state will sue the EPA for not acting on the request to allow California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. While I'm no fan of the EPA of federalism, this practice of suing it so that California gets to regulate an unproven theory the earth going through a warming trend is foolish, and a very bad use of state funds. He's pulled quite a few environmental headline grabbers lately, and I'm wondering if he's always been this way and hidden it, or he's flipped on the environmental agenda. His agenda was to clean up the fiscal mess of California, and bring it back to a well run state. Last I heard it was still in a big mess.

Bill Roggio's Daily Iraq Report 4-24-07

Read it here. Excerpt:

In Iraq's Anbar province, the Anbar Salvation Council continues to gain steam in its fight against al Qaeda. Seven new tribes have just joined the Anbar Salvation Council's political movement, the Anbar Awakening. Last week, the Anbar Salvation Council announced it was forming the Iraq Awakening, a national political party which would "oppose insurgents such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and reengage with Iraq's political process." The Iraq Awakening is scheduled to meet in May, and will be the first Sunni political party to openly oppose al Qaeda in Iraq.

Iraqi and Coalition forces continue to maintain pressure on al Qaeda's network nationwide. Yesterday, Coalition forces netted 19 al Qaeda facilitators and foot soldiers during raids in Karma, Taji and Anbar. Today, 10 al Qaeda were captured in raids in Fallujah and Baghdad.

SNP Debate

It seems that next week the Scottish National Party will be set to take over Holyrood. Via the Globe and Mail, they cite the flagging confidence that people have in Labour, and are going to a new party. While many predictions about the possible mess that the SNP will put Scotland into abound, I really am not sure how much of a shift will take place. Having spoken to an SNP MSP who belongs to my church, my view is still unclear. As a result, I will be blogging a little about what an SNP takeover may mean. Stay tuned.

John McCain officially announces he is running for President

I'm not a big John McCain fan, but this part of his speech I like:

We all know the war in Iraq has not gone well. We have made mistakes and we have paid grievously for them. We have changed the strategy that failed us, and we have begun to make a little progress. But in the many mistakes we have made in this war, a few lessons have become clear. America should never undertake a war unless we are prepared to do everything necessary to succeed, unless we have a realistic and comprehensive plan for success, and unless all relevant agencies of government are committed to that success. We did not meet this responsibility initially. And we must never repeat that mistake again.

Emphasis mine.

Patrick Lasswell and Michael Totten in Kirkuk, Part II

Patrick Lasswell at Moderate Risk and Michael Totten continue their story of Kirkuk, where a young man caught shooting off his gun while riding a motorcycle is brought to the home of General Rostam. Patrick's account can be found here:

Even before one of the most distinguished of all people in Iraq confronted the drive by accomplice, the young man was having just about the worst day of his life. The story coming out is that he gave a friend a ride on his motorcycle and the friend got stupid and started shooting. This is not an auspicious beginning to one's day, and then he got caught. Hauled away to what is obviously a big shot's house, he is getting smacked around by a police chief who is both extremely competent and seriously pissed off. Two Americans are going nuts getting him on film, one of them is even taking stills with one hand and shooting video with the other. Then in walks somebody who could give Dirty Harry lessons in being a badass and he's not taking any excuses. The smack Mam Rostam gave that kid made a sound like his brains had popped out of his head and dented the truck.

Michael Totten's account is here and continues his interview with General Rostam:

“If America pulls out of Iraq, they will fail in Afghanistan,” Mam Rostam said.

Hardly anyone in Congress seems to consider that the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan might become much more severe if similar tactics are proven effective in Iraq.

“And they will fail with Iran,” he continued. “They will fail everywhere with all Eastern countries. The war between America and the terrorists will move from Iraq and Afghanistan to America itself. Do you think America will do that? The terrorists gather their agents in Afghanistan and Iraq and fight the Americans here. If you pull back, the terrorists will follow you there. They will try, at least. Then Iran will be the power in the Middle East. Iran is the biggest supporter of terrorism. They support Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Ansar Al Islam. You know what Iran will do with those elements if America goes away.

Emphasis mine.

Austin Bay on Harry Reid

His latest column is up at StrategyPage:

I distinguish Harry Reid Democrats from Harry Truman Democrats. Between these two Harrys spreads a vast moral chasm that 60 years of history do not fully explain.

"Give 'em Hell" Truman possessed a large quotient of common sense, as well as the courage of his convictions.

Assess Reid for yourself. Last week, the Senate majority leader said, "Now I believe myself ... that this war is lost, and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday."

But within minutes after declaring Iraq lost, Reid returned to the mikes to backtrack. "The (Iraq) war can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically, and the president needs to come to that realization," Reid said,

It's lost, but can only be won, if if what? If "Give 'em Hooey" Harry Reid is in charge?

How refreshing if Reid had the courage of his defeatist convictions, except his convictions aren't convictions, they are postures. Reid tosses a line to Democrat defeatists, then when he discovers his mistake, edges toward reality with an oily pirouette.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Common Sense Savings: Switch to Netflix

I love movies, always have. I've spent countless hours watching and discussing movies with my friends, whether it was what was the best sci-fi movie of all time or reciting lines from Snatch or The Godfather, it's always been a favorite past time of mine. Somehow I have always managed to find time to watch movies, particularly since I am not a big fan of TV. In fact, before I got married I never had cable, relying simply on an indoor antenna and the major networks that I received - my TV and receiver was more or less a device for watching DVDs.

There was a time in my younger years when I was going to the movie theater with friends and family almost once per week, in addition to renting from the local video store. But as ticket prices went up, crowds became more unmanageable, and, in my opinion, the overall theater experience became less savory AND less safe (I distinctly remember one alarming incident where off-duty policemen had to threaten to draw guns before escorting 2 violently feuding couples from a movie we were watching) I found myself renting DVDs more often as opposed to heading to the theater. For a while this sufficed, but soon I grew frustrated with the local video store's lack of selection and concentration only on new releases.

Salvation came when my wife and I took the plunge and decided on a trial offer from Netflix. That was more than 2 years ago and we have never looked back. For those of you who just discovering this wonderful thing called the internet or who somehow managed to avoid the plethora of Netflix ads populating the internet at large, Netflix is an online DVD rental service where you order DVD rentals online and, depending on the package you order, can rent as many movies as you'd like for as long as you'd like for one flat fee. There are a variety of packages you can order, but the 2 packages my family have used are the 2-at-a-time (unlimited rentals per month, maximum 2 movies out at a time) and the 3-at-a-time (unlimited rentals per month, maximum 3 movies out at a time). Basically, you can watch a lot of movies per month, it all depends on how quickly you watch and return them, the faster you return a movie the quicker you'll get a new one.

Netflix is a good deal not only because they have a vast, diverse collection that far exceeds anything you can find at your local Blockbuster (or even Blockbuster online) but also because it will save you a ton of money over the traditional methods of watching movies.

For example, let's say you sign up for the 3-at-a-time package, which means you can have up to 3 movies at home at a time and can watch as many movies as you want provided you return them fast enough. The price per month is $17.99, let's say $18 bucks to make it simple.

Let's say you watch 3 movies a week under this plan. That's 156 movies per year at a yearly cost of $216 - which comes out to a whopping $1.38 per movie.

Let's say instead of Netflix you and your wife have a typical cable package that includes HBO and a couple of movie channels like Starz, etc. that can run you roughly $80-90 a month. On top of that, you and your wife like to go to the movie theater about once a month: 2 tickets, small popcorn, and sharing one drink will cost you roughly $25 on the low end. That's over $1,200 a year to spend on movies. If you watched 12 movies in the theater per year + another 100 or so on cable movie channels (which assumes you can actually locate 100 unique movies on cable movie packages, good luck!) - that comes out to more than $10 per movie. And let's not forget that your expensive cable package most likely includes only recent releases and repeats them over and over again, whereas with a service like Netflix you can choose from tens of thousands of movies from all over the world in virtually any genre.

It took us awhile but my wife and I gradually made the permanent move to home movie watching. We rarely go to the theater anymore and then only when we have gift certificates or the occasional invite from a group of friends or family. We quickly got rid of our expensive digital cable package and moved to basic cable + ESPN (I need my baseball). Being avid movie watchers, my wife and I calculated that we average 3.5 movies per week via Netflix, which means we devour 182 movies per year minimum:

Before Netflix:
Cable - $90/month
Local DVD Rental - $8/month (about 2 rentals per month)
Going to the movies - $25 every 2 months

Total yearly cost spent on movies = $1326.00
Total monthly cost spent on movies = $110.50

Number of movies seen per year = roughly 90

Cost per movie = a whopping $14.73

After Netflix:
Cable - $37/month
Netflix DVD Rental - $18/month
Going to the movies - $50 per year

Total yearly cost spent on movies = $710.00
Total monthly cost spent on movies = $59.17

Number of movies seen per year = 185

Cost per movie = only $3.84 per movie

Total Savings:
Per Year - $616.00 (54% reduction)
Per Month - $51.33 (47% reduction)
Per Movie - $10.89 (74% reduction)

Any questions? And with today's technology and the proliferation of home theater equipment, it's fairly inexpensive and easy to set up a very cool looking and sounding 5.1 surround home theater system. No waiting in line, no expensive food concessions, no worries about crowded theaters or unruly patrons; you can pause the movie at any time to answer the phone, go to the bathroom, or rewind to re-watch a scene again or figure out who done what to whom.

Obviously cutting out movie theaters cold turkey isn't for everyone, and even with my family it took some time, but when we sat down and crunched the numbers, not to mention the convenience of the movies coming direct to our home through the mail, it was a no-brainer.