February 5, 2012

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Mark Steyn Alert. He will be on C-Span 2   Sunday from noon to 3 o’clock.

Pre-Game Show

If you’ll forgive some end-of-week plugola, as you might have noticed from various promotional graphics around the page, I’ll be on C-Span2?s Book TV this Sunday just ahead of the Superbowl from 12 noon Eastern for a full three hours talking about my oeuvre, and taking viewers’ questions thereupon. Oeuvre-wise, I’m flattered they think mine will stretch to a full three hours, but, if it doesn’t, I’m happy to do wardrobe malfunctions by request.


Charles Krauthammer thinks getting rid of Assad in Syria is important for many reasons.

Imperial regimes can crack when they are driven out of their major foreign outposts. The fall of the Berlin Wall did not only signal the liberation of Eastern Europe from Moscow. It prefigured the collapse of the Soviet Union itself just two years later.

The fall of Bashar al-Assad’s Syria could be similarly ominous for Iran. The alliance with Syria is the centerpiece of Iran’s expanding sphere of influence, a mini-Comintern that includes such clients as Iranian-armed and -directed Hezbollah, now the dominant power in Lebanon; and Hamas, which controls Gaza and threatens to take the rest of Palestine (the West Bank) from a feeble Fatah.

Additionally, Iran exerts growing pressure on Afghanistan to the east and growing influence in Iraq to the west. Tehran has even extended its horizon to Latin America, as symbolized by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s solidarity tour through Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Cuba.

Of all these clients, Syria is the most important. It’s the only Arab state openly allied with non-Arab Iran. This is significant because the Arabs see the Persians as having had centuries-old designs to dominate the Middle East. Indeed, Iranian arms and trainers, transshipped to Hezbollah through Syria, have given the Persians their first outpost on the Mediterranean in 2,300 years. …


Ted Olson, attorney for the Koch brothers, tells what it is like to be on Obama’s enemies list.

How would you feel if aides to the president of the United States singled you out by name for attack, and if you were featured prominently in the president’s re-election campaign as an enemy of the people?

What would you do if the White House engaged in derogatory speculative innuendo about the integrity of your tax returns? Suppose also that the president’s surrogates and allies in the media regularly attacked you, sullied your reputation and questioned your integrity. On top of all of that, what if a leading member of the president’s party in Congress demanded your appearance before a congressional committee this week so that you could be interrogated about the Keystone XL oil pipeline project in which you have repeatedly—and accurately—stated that you have no involvement?

Consider that all this is happening because you have been selected as an attractive political punching bag by the president’s re-election team. This is precisely what has happened to Charles and David Koch, even though they are private citizens, and neither is a candidate for the president’s or anyone else’s office.

What Messrs. Koch do, in fact, is manage businesses that provide employment to more than 50,000 people in North America in legitimate, productive industries. They also give millions of dollars to medical researchers, hospitals and cultural institutions. Their biggest offense, apparently, is that they also contribute generously to nonprofit organizations that promote personal liberty and free enterprise, and some of those organizations oppose policies advocated by the president.

Richard Nixon maintained an”enemies list” that singled out private citizens for investigation and abuse by agencies of government, including the Internal Revenue Service. …


Charles Murray has written a new book. David Brooks gushed about a few days ago. Of course, the Brooks solution involves government coercion.

… Today, Murray demonstrates, there is an archipelago of affluent enclaves clustered around the coastal cities, Chicago, Dallas and so on. If you’re born into one of them, you will probably go to college with people from one of the enclaves; you’ll marry someone from one of the enclaves; you’ll go off and live in one of the enclaves.

Worse, there are vast behavioral gaps between the educated upper tribe (20 percent of the country) and the lower tribe (30 percent of the country). This is where Murray is at his best, and he’s mostly using data on white Americans, so the effects of race and other complicating factors don’t come into play.

Roughly 7 percent of the white kids in the upper tribe are born out of wedlock, compared with roughly 45 percent of the kids in the lower tribe. In the upper tribe, nearly every man aged 30 to 49 is in the labor force. In the lower tribe, men in their prime working ages have been steadily dropping out of the labor force, in good times and bad.

People in the lower tribe are much less likely to get married, less likely to go to church, less likely to be active in their communities, more likely to watch TV excessively, more likely to be obese.

Murray’s story contradicts the ideologies of both parties. …


Pickerhead got off his own rant about Omaha Scrooge in the August 21, 2011 Pickings. Now, the Dark Side of Saint Warren comes from Charles Gasparino.

… in all my years in journalism, I’ve never seen a business figure get such a free pass from the media even when his public pronouncements are oozing with hypocrisy, let alone when he steps over the line into sleaze — as Buffett has done on more than one occasion.

But then “St. Warren” wears his liberal politics on his sleeve: He wholeheartedly backed Obama back in 2008, and now is lending his name (and his secretary’s) to Obama’s cockamamie tax scheme, a k a the Buffett Rule — which would barely make a dent in the federal deficit, but would certainly squeeze small-business owners and other job-creators.

Now, Buffett’s hypocrisy on taxes is well known to readers of these pages: He decries the fact that rich investors like him get taxed mainly at the lower capital-gains rate of 15 percent. Yet he made his vast fortune enjoying that favorable treatment, and largely kept his mouth shut until now, as he nears the end of his long career. Plus, he plans to use a charitable trust to further shield much of his income from taxes.

Much less has been said about Buffett’s unsaintly investment record. I won’t bore you with every gory detail of his questionable associations, which include no-lose investments in Goldman Sachs and General Electric just before the companies received massive federal aid during the financial crisis.

But other items really take the shine off St. Warren’s halo — like his insistence that the ratings agencies didn’t play a key role in setting up the 2008 financial meltdown.

In fact, the ratings biz was rife with conflicts of interest, since the agencies were paid by the same entities they were rating. Most people figure that’s why these “watchdogs” ignored major signs of trouble in the housing markets as they slapped all those Triple-A ratings on the toxic housing-related debt that was at the heart of the financial crisis.

But Buffett has publicly defended the rating agencies as bit players in the debacle, caught up in the mania much like nearly everyone else. His obvious motive: He held a major stake in rating agency Moody’s Investors Service, so Berkshire got a nice cut out of all those fees that Moody’s “earned” as it fueled the crisis.

It’s hard to believe a conservative businessman would be able to get away with that hypocrisy — not to mention the association with a business that helped do so much damage to the US economy. …


Caroline Baum tells government; Just fix the darn potholes, we’ll do the rest.

… I’m all for changing the tax code — to something we can comply with via a postcard-size return. Creating new exemptions or tax breaks to induce companies to do what the government wants them to do isn’t the answer.

The tax code shouldn’t favor manufacturers over service providers; farmers over miners; exporters over importers; borrowers over savers. As part of the oath of office, presidents should be required to commit to the following:

The tax code should be designed to raise the revenue the government needs to perform its legitimate functions (Obama and Ron Paul may disagree on what constitutes “legitimate”), not to produce socially desirable behavior (buy homes, have children).

It should promote economic growth, not punish success.

It should be constant, not an ever-changing vehicle for managing the business cycle.

When it comes to the government’s involvement in the private sector, we need more Darwin (natural selection) and less Lenin (central control). Everyone knows the government can’t pick winners and losers. …


Four charts from Kenneth Green at American.com show the slowdown of Gulf oil permits the administration denies.

Thanks to the people at the New Orleans Regional Economic Alliance, one can cut through all the claims about how oil drilling in the United States is back to normal since the Gulf oil spill.

The figures below show the trends in both shallow- and deep-water drilling permit approvals in the gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As can be seen, the Obama administration did not let that crisis go to waste, it used it to implement another plank in its anti-fossil fuel agenda. …

… Regardless of the Obama administration’s claims that they aren’t hindering oil exploration and development in the Gulf, a few minutes of looking at their own data tells the real story: they’re both cutting it down, and stretching it out.


Imagine; last year you’re playing in a college bowl game, and one year later – the Super Bowl. WSJ has a story on the Giants’ 12 rookies on the field today.

For almost two weeks now, Tyler Sash has tried to stay out of David Diehl’s way. Because every time Diehl, the veteran offensive lineman, catches sight of Sash, the rookie safety, he shakes his head, frowns and mutters something:

“You lucky rookies.”

“Your first year in, and you’re in the Super Bowl?”

“How is this fair?”

So much for no crying in football.

“No, I get why he says all that,” Sash said. “Kind of.”

And there’s the beauty to the Giants’ enormous rookie class: They only kind of get this. Here on Sunday, against the Patriots, they will be a part of Super Bowl XVI, the greatest spectacle of sport in America. They will compete for the Lombardi Trophy and immortality—and not one of the Giants’ 12 first-year players is fully registering what that means. According to Stats LLC, only six Super Bowl teams have had more first-year players, including the 2007 Giants. …

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