Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Blame the Bush tax cuts - U.S. economy expanded at a 4.3% pace in third quarter: “The U.S. economy grew at a 4.3 percent annual rate from July through September, the quickest since the first quarter of last year and evidence of resilience in the face of record energy costs.” Also sales of new homes hit an all-time high and consumer confidence soared in November.
Confused by yet another entitlement

Don’t you hate those cloying stories about people who have won the lottery griping about how tough they have it? Starting January 1st, senior citizens will gain the prescription drug benefit which will cost over a trillion dollars in the next ten years. The burden of the program’s cost will, of course, be borne by younger workers who already pay for Social Security and Medicare benefits for the grey set.

But it’s never enough. Today WashPost house liberal Harold Meyerson complains that those poor, bewildered seniors just can’t figure out the details of the new benefit. Isn’t that terrible? Maybe we should scrap the whole program and save a couple billion.
General Motors is not nimble enough for the 21st Century – Robert Samuelson reflects on the entrenched management at GM, where inertia rules the day. Here’s an interesting factoid: “In 1950 hourly wages in the auto industry were 24 percent higher than average manufacturing wages; by 1990 they were 34 percent higher (where they remain today). With 2.5 retirees -- receiving health and pension benefits -- for every active worker, GM's high costs would challenge even the most brilliant management.” And now there will be 30,000 fewer active workers at GM because management either wouldn't or couldn't adapt.
The perils of withdrawal - Christopher Hitchens says: “We’re sticking with Afghanistan. Why would we ditch Iraq?”
Apparently it’s a secret

Here’s a good question from the Christian Science Monitor article “Republican woes won’t rescue Democrats from their confusion”:

But eventually, the Democrats have to be the party of something more than "we're not them." They have to decide what it is they believe. And the questions are much deeper than whether they voted for or against invading Iraq or No Child Left Behind.

The questions go to the core of the party. What does it mean to be a Democrat?
For extra fun, here’s Ruben Navarrette with “Democrats have given nuance a bad name”:

Democrats lost the last two presidential elections, in part because they sent forth candidates who -- in their eagerness to get as many votes as possible from the left, right and center -- took both sides of every issue, flipped positions, parsed phrases, eschewed straight talk and gave nuance a bad name by taking complicated policy positions that were impossible for most Americans to decipher.
And speaking of the Democrats’ last loser, Gay Patriot West calls John Kerry (whom I call “Senator Splunge”) the “perpetual weathervane.” What a stark contrast to former VP candidate Joe Lieberman who has discovered declarative statements such as “Our troops must stay.” Doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Amazing Race update – The long run

The four remaining teams started out from Salt Lake City in the middle of the night in search of Park High School. There they found a clue box which instructed them that a shuttle would be leaving in the morning to take them on hot air balloon rides. Thus, the recently-yielded Weaver family caught up to everyone as they bunked in their campers for the night. The next morning, the unhinged Weavers were brash and loony, taunting the Linz family. Ugh.

The hot air balloon was another in a long line of “go here and admire the scenery” stop in this Family Edition of the Amazing Race. Teams went up, teams came down in the order they arrived. Next stop: Heber Valley Railroad in Utah and the Detour. Teams may either “spike it” and build a 20 foot length of railroad track or “steam it” by hauling 400 pounds of coal to a tender. All teams pick “spike it” except the Weavers who pick up a spot by passing the Godlewski sisters who use up more energy bickering with each other than driving spikes. Next stop: the “Tree of Utah” at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Once again this is just a “isn’t this cool” stop where the teams are directed to Bear Lake in Garden City, Utah to sleep for the night. The Linz famly, who finished the Detour first, inexplicably arrive at the campsite last (although there’s some note about technical problems that may have delayed them.)

In the morning, teams stagger their departures by 15 minutes and head to Pine Valley, Wyoming and the Roadblock: two members from each team must “cowboy up” and do the “City Slickers” bit by herding a small group of cattle. Nothing much to note here as teams arrive and depart in order, separated by 15 minutes. From here teams are directed to Yellowstone National Park to view Old Faithful. The geyser erupts every 92 minutes and each team must view an eruption before they can go on. Team Powerpuff arrives first followed by Team Florida and they see the first waterspout while the Godlewskis and Linzes must wait an hour-and-a-half later until the next one.

Cut away to the Bransens and Weavers searching for the next stop: a ranch somewhere in the middle of Wyoming where they must “search for Phil.” Strangely, there’s no mention that this is a Pit Stop for what is already an unusually long leg of the Race. The Bransens arrive at Phil (a mat but no "welcome to Wyoming" greeter) only seconds ahead of the Weavers and Phil springs the big surprise: he hands each team an envelope and says that this is not a Pit Stop and this leg continues. By my rough estimate, the teams have driven 600-700 miles by this point and they’re not done yet.

Standings after half-leg

First – Bransen family – Team Powerpuff (and Wally)
Second – Weaver family – Team Florida
Third & Fourth - ??? – Team Scream and/or Team Cincinnati

Next week: As sure as the sun rises in the East Joe Biden appears on a Sunday talk show, the Weavers say something nasty about another team. Oh, and they get pulled over by a cop who probably doesn’t taser them because of the TAR camera crew in the front seat. Darn.

Extra – This spot reserved for recaps by Kris at Dummocrats and Pat at Brainster. BTW, just as Kris is enamored with Nick Linz, I think I’m falling for Megan Linz. She is total grace under pressure, by which I mean she is unflappable in the face of her brothers’ adolescent behavior.
Merry Christmas, you blockhead


The classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is 40 years old.
Why don’t I find this reassuring? - “CIA Director Porter Goss, saying his agency struggles to penetrate terrorist sanctuaries overseas, insists that "we know more than we're able to say publicly" about Usama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.” Right now the only thing I want to know is their body temperatures.
Who said that? – The Iraq game (HT: Ankle-biting Pundits)
Can’t beat something with nothing

Mort Kondracke: “Despite woes, GOP confident for 2006

Carville and Greenberg advised that Democrats combine attacks on GOP failures with a promise, akin to the one the GOP made in its 1994 "Contract with America," to pass an agenda within 100 days of taking control of Congress that includes an increase in the minimum wage, lower Medicare drug prices and a windfall profits tax on oil companies to fund alternative energy sources.

But in an interview, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman told me that "if you look at the polls, you'll see that Democrats are not seen as having a clear agenda. In the last 20 years, every time one party has been down, the other party has been up. But not now. It's true, we have difficult poll numbers. We need to change the numbers. And we have a plan to do so. But the Democrats also have bad numbers - just as bad. That tells you a lot about where they stand."
On “This Week” on Sunday, George Will noted that the eleven months until November 2006 is a “lifetime” in politics. The Iraqis will have their elections next month and this will almost certainly lead to a draw-down of American forces. Couple this with relatively good economic news on the domestic front (e.g. oil slipping well below $60/barrel and 5% unemployment) and the Republicans will likely hold control of both houses of Congress. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the Democrats’ attempt at a “Contract with America” will be the most milquetoast and amorphous agenda ever proposed (see above: "a windfall profit tax?" Puh-leez.)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Liberals go down – “Canadian government toppled by no-confidence voteDamian Penny of Newfoundland is following events.
Everybody wants some – From Opinion Journal: “Power to the People Washington policy makers stand in the way of sensible energy policies.”
Time to add Daniels to the roster – George Will has written an absolute love letter for Indiana governor Mitch Daniels in today’s WashPost. A Republican governor from a key Midwest state with a dynamic economy looks like a strong candidate in 2008.
I'm not so sure about #10

Physicist Alan Lightman has a new book out called “The Discoveries” about the most important scientific breakthroughs of the 20th Century. Here’s the list:

1. THE QUANTUM
Max Planck (1900)
2. HORMONES
William Bayliss and Ernest Starling (1902)
3. THE PARTICLE NATURE OF LIGHT
Albert Einstein (1905)
4. SPECIAL RELATIVITY
Albert Einstein (1905)
5. THE NUCLEUS OF THE ATOM
Ernest Rutherford (1911)
6. THE SIZE OF THE COSMOS
Henrietta Leavitt (1912)
7. THE ARRANGEMENT OF ATOMS IN SOLID MATTER
W. Friedrich, P. Knipping, and M. von Laue (1912)
8. THE QUANTUM ATOM
Niels Bohr (1913)
9. THE MEANS OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN NERVES
Otto Loewi (1921)
10. THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE
Werner Heisenberg (1927)
11. THE CHEMICAL BOND
Linus Pauling (1928)
12. THE EXPANSION OF THE UNIVERSE
Edwin Hubble (1929)
13. ANTIBIOTICS
Alexander Fleming (1929)
14. THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION OF ENERGY IN LIVING ORGANISMS
Hans Krebs and W. A. Johnson (1937)
15. NUCLEAR FISSION
Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann (1939); and Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch (1939)
16. THE MOVABILITY OF GENES
Barbara McClintock (1948)
17. THE STRUCTURE OF DNA
James D. Watson and Francis H. C. Crick (1953); and Rosalind E. Franklin and R. G. Gosling (1953)
18. THE STRUCTURE OF PROTEINS
Max F. Perutz, M. G. Rossmann, Ann F. Cullis, Hilary Muirhead, Georg Will, and A. C. T. North (1960)
19. RADIO WAVES FROM THE BIG BANG
Arno A. Penzias and Robert W. Wilson (1965); and Robert H. Dicke, P. James E. Peebles, Peter G. Roll, and David T. Wilkinson (1965)
20. A UNIFIED THEORY OF FORCES
Steven Weinberg (1967)
21. QUARKS
M. Breidenbach, J. I. Friedman, H. W. Kendall, E. D. Bloom, D. H. Coward, H. DeStaebler, J. Drees, L. W. Mo, and R. E. Taylor (1969)
22. THE CREATION OF ALTERED FORMS OF LIFE
David A. Jackson, Robert H. Symons, and Paul Berg (1972)

The link to the Boston Globe article doesn’t go into the details from the Sunday paper, but Lightman said that Einstein’s paper on special relativity and the Watson and Crick paper on DNA were the easiest to choose for the list.
Throwing it all away – What compels the elite, whether professional football players or Congressmen, to risk everything for a couple of bucks or a cheap thrill? It’s got to be a misplaced sense of imperviousness and a poor sense of history.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Sunday morning lineup – Joe Biden? Yes, Joe Biden! Go Joe!

Follow-up – Here’s Mark Kilmer’s Sunday morning roundup. God bless him, because I just can’t sit through these shows anymore. The only thing worth watching is the weekly argument between Brit Hume and Juan Williams on Fox News Sunday.
Can’t possibly be true

That’s what I said when I read this in Wired magazine’s Jargon Watch:

Weblogistan
n. The Iranian blogosphere, where activists go to vent anonymously in the face of Iran's oppressive regime. Weblogistan is now so vast that Persian is the fourth most widely used language on blogs.
Fourth? Wow, I’d like to believe it, but that seems awfully high.
It’s amazing how your credit improves when your car won’t start

A company in Revere, Massachusetts sells cars to people who otherwise could not get a loan but with one catch: if they fail to pay up, a kill switch prevents the car from starting. From the Boston Globe – “Engine-shutoff device gets drivers to pay loans on time”:

According to CNW Marketing/Research in Bandon, Ore., 27 percent of drivers with poor credit fail to pay their bills on time and 15 percent end up having their vehicles repossessed. The research company says approximately 3 percent of so-called subprime drivers skip town and can't be tracked down.

Car owners with the On Time device in their vehicles do a much better job, according to CNW. Only 3 percent fail to pay their bills on time, 3 percent end up having their cars repossessed, and less than 1 percent skip town.
I love stories where private and public interests come together. The auto dealership gets to sell cars while people who either couldn’t get a loan or would have to pay exorbitant interest rates can afford personal transportation.
Biden strains to stay in the spotlight - Captain Ed: “Senator Joe Biden writes an op-ed for today's Washington Post that gets the entire war on terror fundamentally wrong -- and demonstrates why the Democrats have entirely failed to provide any leadership on Iraq and the wider war.”

I was also going to comment about Biden’s editorial, but what’s the point? It’s the same nonsense that John Kerry put forward in the Presidential campaign: everything we’re doing now except faster.

Follow-up (11/28) – From Q&O: “The Democrats have not come up with a new Iraq Policy. They've jumped onboard the Bush administration's existing policy, with the novel new suggestion that we stay the course...but try harder.” That sounds familiar.
Spoil sport - John Bolton is ruining all the fun at the United Nations.
Last vacation story (for the night) - In an effort to end the night on a somewhat humorous note, here's a quick story. At Disney-MGM Studios, we saw one of the green army men from "Toy Story" posing for pictures. It was a very impressive costume right down the the wide plastic feet. My son handed him an autograph book and I was curious to see what such a minor character would sign. Sure enough: "Green Army Man." Natch.
Allah would be proudHomicide bomber kills 30 in Iraq: “A homicide bomber blew up his car outside a hospital south of Baghdad on Thursday while U.S. troops handed out candy and food to children, killing 30 people and wounding about 40, including four Americans.”
The silly and smarmy New York Times

How the mighty have fallen. Today, the Times has a profoundly titled editorial “Of dollars, deficits, and destiny” about how the U.S. should seize a rare fiscal opportunity to balance our finances.

It is obvious that the administration and Congress should be taking advantage of this easy- money period to rein in deficits. Waiting to do so will make dealing with them much more painful. And yet, the Republican leadership in both the House and Senate have pledged to pass more unpaid-for tax cuts when they return to Washington in mid-December. The House version of the budget would increase the federal budget deficit by an estimated total of $7.7 billion over five years; in the Senate version, the deficit increase would total $31.8 billion.
The NY Times is publicly wetting itself over an eight or even a $32 billion deficit increase over a five-year span due to tax cuts. Meanwhile, it’s written precious little about the multi-trillion dollar deficit looming due to massive increases in Medicare and Social Security spending just over the horizon. But then, that’s the Times for you: the only way to reduce the deficit is to raise taxes. Never, ever breathe a word about the other side of the equation and reining in spending. How can anybody take the Times seriously anymore, I have to ask.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Wax on, wax offPat Morita dies at 73. His biography is pretty wild: he was an invalid, then spent time in a WWII internment camp, then worked with computers at an aerospace company before finally breaking into acting.

Follow-upMcQ notes that Pat Morita made it to the top due to the promise of the American Dream: “And yet he survived and eventually thrived, a classic example of how the American Dream works. No one said it would be all sweetness and light. No one said it would be easy or fair. But, like Morita and everyone who applies themselves and works hard, they still have a chance in America…” Well-put. Hell, even that Canadian William Shatner had to come to America to make his bones. (Pun intended)
Amazing Race update – Abridged version

Yes, I did manage to catch a portion of the Amazing Race during my vacation. After all, we are not savages. If you want a much more detailed review of this week’s leg, check out Kris at Dummocrats or Pat at Brainster. My quick take is this: the teams went to Utah and had to rappel down a cliff, or take a bike ride, then at the Roadblock they had to glide down a ski lift and do a flip.

All that is incidental to the Weavers vs. Everyone subplot. And let me start out by noting that Pat believes reality shows are “reverse engineered” such that the drama is manufactured in the editing room such that the (eventual) winners appear to have overcome hefty odds. I have it on good authority (although I forget where I read it) that the editors of TAR do not know who win in the end. They are given hours of videotape and forced to splice together 45 minutes of the best material. Thus, I submit that all the “evil Weavers” footage is not to build drama, but to show them as they truly are. For those of you not watching TAR8: the word “hypocrites” comes to mind as well as “annoying,” “insincere,” and “un-Christian.” I bristle every time they pray to Jesus then belittle another team. On this particular leg, the Weavers were driving past some bikers in Utah and Rolly Weaver yells out the window “You wish you were Lance Armstrong.” What a jerk, but then the apple doesn’t fall far from the family tree.

The Weavers seem truly baffled that all the other teams hate them. They’re so nice! They’re trying to be good people! All the other teams will only spend the prize money on boob jobs! Wait…they said that? Yes, yes they did.

The only team in the history of the Amazing Race got Yielded for a second time but this was a non-elimination leg, so they get to stick around. Whatever. Even Phil seems annoyed with their antics.

Final standings:

#1 – Linz famly – Team Cincinnati – Travelocity trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming
#2 – Bransen family – Team Powerpuff (and Wally)
#3 – Godlewski family – Team Scream
#4 – Weaver family – Team Jesus loves us but not you – Yielded / Non-elimination leg
Happy (belated) Thanksgiving – I’ve noticed that some have blogged about their Thanksgiving so here’s my story. We spent the holiday at the Cape May CafĂ© at the Yacht and Beach Club Resort at Disney World. I had a delicious Caesar salad followed by Prince Edward Island mussels along with clams and peel-and-eat steamed shrimp. Then I had the most delicious carved turkey ever (sorry Mom) along with veggies, mashed potatoes, stuffing, candied yams, cranberry sauce and gravy. All this was followed by a decaf coffee and sinful desserts. Yum.
I'm back!

Yes, I'm back from a long - and expensive - trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was 78 degrees and sunny this morning. Now it's 22 degrees and there's snow on the ground. My exposure to the news was limited to a glance at the USA Today every morning before the bus to the Magic Kingdom arrived, so I'm going to need some time to catch up.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Vacation, all I ever wanted. Vacation, have to get away

This blog will be on the Big Sleep until after the Thanksgiving holiday. Be sure to check all the great sites on my blogroll for the latest commentary. I hope everybody enjoys their Thanksgiving by eating too much and falling asleep while watching football.
The prevailing opinion

I’m almost done with General Tommy Franks’ autobiography “American Soldier” but I’d thought I’d share this passage from page 418:

I met with King Abdullah II of Jordan in his home in Amman on the afternoon of Thursday, January 23, 2003. “General,” he said, “from reliable intelligence sources, I believe the Iraqis are hiding chemical and biological weapons.”

The Jordanians did have reliable intelligence sources in Iraq. I trusted them, and I trusted the king’s judgment. And I wasn’t surprised at what his sources had reported. I’d spent days and nights over the previous twelve years worrying about Saddam’s WMD program, and the effect that such weapons could have on our troops – or on my country. I thanked the king, left his home, drove to the hotel, and straight to the Comm room to pass the information I’d been given to Secretary Rumsfeld.

[snip section about how General Franks’ plane was diverted to Cairo, Egypt]

Hosni Mubarak was friendly as always. But he was clearly concerned with our military buildup and the tension in Iraq.

He leaned close and spoke to me in accented but readily comprehensible English. “General Franks,” he said, choosing his words carefully, as Abdullah had done. “You must be very, very careful. We have spoken with Saddam Hussein. He is a madman. He has WMD – biologicals, actually – and he will use them on your troops.”
The maddening fact is that Hussein, indisputably, had weapons of mass destruction; and almost nobody believed he willingly destroyed his arsenal.
Backed into a corner of their own construction

From the NY Times -“G.O.P. Tries to Split Democrats With Vote on Iraq War”:

House Republicans are attempting to split the ranks of the Democrats tonight by offering a resolution to withdraw American troops from Iraq immediately. The Republican-controlled House is expected to defeat the measure in a vote that the Republicans hope will leave the Democrats in disarray.
The Democrats will surely denounce the quick vote on Jack Murtha’s resolution as a stunt but, if so, it’s a good one. The Dems have been thrashing on Iraq for months now without having to define where they stand on this critical issue. They were probably hoping to leave the question open before the Thanksgiving break; now they can look forward to weeks of Tim Russert and Chris Matthews asking why, when pressed, they backed down from their own rhetoric.

UpdateLorie Byrd is live-blogging the debate and call-in show along with Leon on RedState and No End But Victory.

Another update – Final roll call vote: 403-3 with McKinney, Serrano, and Wexler voting “aye” and six other Democrats declaring “present.”

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Touchdown Jesus says “it’s good!”


From the NYT - “On Ohio flatland, a megachurch’s eye-catcher dominates”: “Postcards for sale in the church's gift shop refer to it as the King of Kings. Many locals call it Touchdown Jesus, since, a bit like the famed mural at the University of Notre Dame, it resembles a robed and bearded referee signaling a score at the goal line. Others call it Super Jesus, MC 62ft Jesus (for the technomusician of a similar name) or simply Big J.”
John Kerry decries lack of information that he was too busy to get

Here’s Joan Vennochi in the Boston Globe: “Poll-watching pols now say no on Iraq

In his recent speech at Georgetown University, Kerry said, ''The country and the Congress were misled into war. I regret that we were not given the truth."
Maybe he should have showed up for some briefings of the Senate Intelligence Committee, long before 9/11 and Iraq:

A Bush-Cheney '04 ad released Aug. 13 accuses Kerry of being absent for 76% of the Senate Intelligence Committee's public hearings during the time he served there. The Kerry campaign calls the ad "misleading," so we checked, and Bush is right.
If Senator Splunge had showed up for work maybe he wouldn't have been misled.
Let Scooter go - Washington Times editorial: “Withdraw the Libby indictment
Boston aims for Walmart, hits small businesses

Lawmakers in the Bay State are considering a 5% payroll tax for businesses that do not provide health care benefits to their employees. The idea is that large corporations should help to shoulder some of the costs picked up by the state through programs such as MassHealth. But some small businesses are balking at the new measure including this Cape Cod coffee shop owner:

If the House payroll tax became law, [Caroline] Geishecker said, she would try to blunt its effect by hiring fewer people, eliminating paid holidays, and paying less than the $9 an hour her lowest-paid workers now earn.

''Not to be mean, but I have to look at the hard bottom line," she said.

Raising prices to counter the cost of a health insurance tax would not be an option, she said. ''You can't charge $4 for a cup of coffee. Nobody would pay it." While the House bill would affect all businesses with more than 10 workers, large chains and businesses with higher profit margins could more easily absorb the costs, she added.
Wait, wait, wait a second. Are you telling me that if you increase the cost of hiring employees, businesses will hire fewer employees? They’ll offset government-mandated costs by suppressing wages? I’m shocked! Only on Beacon Hill.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fitzmas fizzles and flops

From the WashPost: “Woodward could be a boon to Libby

The revelation that The Washington Post's Bob Woodward may have been the first reporter to learn about CIA operative Valerie Plame could provide a boost to the only person indicted in the leak case: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Legal experts said Woodward provided two pieces of new information that cast at least a shadow of doubt on the public case against Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, who has been indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

"I think it's a considerable boost to the defendant's case," said John Moustakas, a former federal prosecutor who has no role in the case. "It casts doubt about whether Fitzgerald knew everything as he charged someone with very serious offenses." Other legal experts agreed.
The only thing that’s going to bring down Karl Rove now is kryptonite.
Funniest. Closing. Credits. Ever.

I just saw the end of the South Park episode lampooning Scientology. Stan denounces it as a global scam and the Scientologists angrily declare that they’re going to sue Stan for defamation. Stan yells back: “Go ahead and sue, I’m not afraid of you. Sue me!”

Then the credits roll and every single name is either “John Smith” or “Jane Smith.” Beautiful. Oh and Tom Cruise finally came out of the closet.
Well, this really is a bizarre twist

Sources: Plame learned covert status from Woodward

I’m playing catch up with this story, but check out the comprehensive reviews from Decision 08, Macs Mind, Strata-Sphere, Ankle-Biting Pundits and (of course) the Minuteman.

Extra – With the Woodward revelation, Kate O’Beirne wonders why everybody else is allowed to have a rotten memory but only Scooter Libby has been indicted. Good point. Also, is it really so crazy to suppose that Libby heard about Plame from reporters as he claimed when everybody in Washington seems to be in on the secret? I need to check the Tradesports contracts on Libby’s conviction.

Update: Not much movement. Still hovering around 50-50 for a Libby conviction. Or acquital, such as it is.
Rebound - Jeff Jacoby writes that President Bush should have responded more forcefully to the charges leveled against him. But he also feels that Bush will bounce back because the Democrats offer nothing as an alternative: “Like the Kerry campaign in 2004, the Democratic Party in 2005 pumps out great foggy clouds of platitudinous bombast, but rarely counters Bush's policies and performance with a well-defined alternative of its own. If you can't beat somebody with nobody, as the old maxim has it, you also can't beat something with nothing. And so far, as Howard Dean demonstrated on ''Meet the Press" the other day, the Democrats' ''vision thing" is a whole lot of nothing.” Yeah, everybody’s still buzzing about that train wreck.
AARP is mortgaging America’s future

That’s the upshot of this jeremiad by Robert Samuelson in today’s WashPost: “AARP’s America is a mirage

AARP would have you believe that it's trying to balance the interests of retirees and workers. It has just released a report, "Reimagining America," that rightly poses these questions: "Can America afford to grow older? And can we do so with intergenerational fairness -- that is, without burdening our children and grandchildren with the bills?" It then spends 41 pages not answering those questions. On the one hand, it concedes that "as a nation, we are not now ready for the retirement of the baby boomers." On the other, it argues that "the problem is overstated." Nowhere will you find a precise agenda of what ought to be done.

Overstated? Well, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid constitute more than 40 percent of federal spending. Given the baby boom, longer life expectancies and rising health care costs, these programs are projected (by the Congressional Budget Office and others) to grow by about two-thirds or more during the next 25 years. To cover these costs, we'd have to do one of the following: Raise all federal taxes by 30 to 50 percent (depending on whether today's budget were balanced); eliminate defense spending and 30 percent of other federal spending, excluding interest payments; run budget deficits three times present levels.
Samuelson has been my journalistic soul-brother on the issue of exploding entitlements and he makes some apt comparisons to the automotive and steel industries, where promises simply outpaced the ability to pay.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Yet another reason why American automakers are going bankrupt – From a Consumer Reports survey on automobile reliability: “Of the 31 cars that earned top rating, 29 were Japanese. Of the 48 cars that earned the lowest rating, 22 carry American nameplates, 20 are European, 4 are from Japan (all from Nissan and its Infiniti division), and 2 are from South Korea.” What a great slogan: "Slightly better than a Yugo." USA! USA!
The national (yawn) pastime - After record-low ratings for a World Series, the creaky game of baseball is trying to restore credibility with tough new penalties for steroid use. Whatever. As home run records fall earthward and fans turn to the new national pastime, watch for this policy to slowwwwwwly fade away.
No Phil of the arching eyebrow – Sorry, no “Amazing Race” update tonight. CBS is hosting the Country Music Awards. What’s up with that?
It’s not nice to trick fat drunks – From Ace: “Ted Kennedy – Punk’d!”
Apres Baby Boomers, le deluge

Nobody listens to me but here’s the comptroller general of the United States (I had no idea there was such a position). From USA Today: “A fiscal hurricane on the horizon

"We face a demographic tsunami" that "will never recede," David Walker tells a group of reporters. He runs through a long list of fiscal challenges, led by the imminent retirement of the baby boomers, whose promised Medicare and Social Security benefits will swamp the federal budget in coming decades.

Sadly, it's no laughing matter. To hear Walker, the nation's top auditor, tell it, the United States can be likened to Rome before the fall of the empire. Its financial condition is "worse than advertised," he says. It has a "broken business model." It faces deficits in its budget, its balance of payments, its savings — and its leadership.
It’s a sad commentary that nobody holds out much hope that the leaders in Washington will take the necessary steps to keep the country solvent (see the article). The likely scenario I see is that U.S. Treasury Bonds slip from their vaunted position as the safest investment in the world and domestic and foreign bankers impose some sanity on runaway entitlement spending.
Xenu be praised! – Tomorrow’s episode of South Park will be hitting Tom Cruise’s crazy “religion” ( *cough* cult *cough* ) of Scientology. (Hat tip: Ryne)
The predictable NY Times

Matt Hoy performs a thorough fisking of today’s New York Times lead editorial today. I particularly liked this call and answer:

NYT: “It's hard to imagine what Mr. Bush means when he says everyone reachedthe same conclusion. There was indeed a widespread belief that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons.”

Hoy: “Umm, the second sentence answers the first one -- geniuses.”
Read the whole thing.
Walmart sucks

As heaven is my witness, I’m never shopping at Walmart again. Every time I go there, I hit the same problem: glacially slow checkout. The Walmart in Avon, Connecticut where I work refuses to add a “cash only” line or a line for a very small number of items. Instead they have the ridiculous “20 items or less” lines; other than Christmas, who is regularly checking out with 20 items?

Today I got behind a woman paying with a check, then the check verification machine wouldn’t work, then the supervisor went to open another line rather than help the poor cashier on register one…ugh. After an interminable amount of time, I finally paid for my single bag of dog food – with cash – and left.

Never again. For now on, it’s Target all the way.

Monday, November 14, 2005

It has to be said – The Black Eyed Peas song “My Humps” is the dumbest song I’ve ever heard. Insipid lyrics, a non-existent melody, and an exploitive reliance on Fergie’s sexuality to pull it off. (BTW, Fergie will be appearing on the Sopranos next season as an undercover cop/stripper.)
Chirac gives the “malaise” speech

From CBS News: ‘French President sees ‘profound malaise”:

President Jacques Chirac said Monday that more than two weeks of violence in the poor suburbs of France is the sign of a "profound malaise" and he ordered new measures to reach out to troubled youths and fight the discrimination believed to be at the root of it.
One of Chirac’s actions was to urge businesses to “support employment for youths from tough neighborhoods” - a useless admonition when the economy is dragging and joblessness hovers in the double digits.

Extra – Gah! Bulldog Pundit had the same idea.
Democrats raise questions but have no answers

I’m sorry I missed “Meet the Press” yesterday. It sounds like Tim Russert was really trying to pin down DNC chair Howard Dean as to what exactly the Democrats would do differently in Iraq (via Wizbang):

MR. RUSSERT: But is it enough for you to say to the country, "Trust us, the other guy's no good. We'll do better, but we're not going to tell you specifically how we're going to deal with Iraq."
DR. DEAN: We will. When the time comes, we will do that.
There you go: on the single most critical issue of our time, the Democrats have nothing to offer aside from criticism. It's all so obvious what to do until you ask them. Washington Post columnist Fred Hiatt sees through the Democrats’ game in “The Politics of War”:

Whether Iraqis are in fact committed to a life-or-death struggle for democracy will become clear as its army does, or does not, continue to shoulder a greater burden. But the aptness of Mahdi's view of the United States is already evident in Congress, which pours most of its Iraq-related energy into allegations of manipulated intelligence before the war.

"Those aren't irrelevant questions," says Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). "But the more they dominate the public debate, the harder it is to sustain public support for the war."

What Lieberman doesn't say is that many Democrats would view such an outcome as an advantage. Their focus on 2002 is a way to further undercut President Bush, and Bush's war, without taking the risk of offering an alternative strategy -- to satisfy their withdraw-now constituents without being accountable for a withdraw-now position.

Many of them understand that dwindling public support could force the United States into a self-defeating position, and that defeat in Iraq would be disastrous for the United States as well as for Mahdi and his countrymen. But the taste of political blood as Bush weakens, combined with their embarrassment at having supported the war in the first place, seems to override that understanding.
Seeing how Jay Rockefeller, Harry Reid, and countless other Democrats have cynically twisted history for political gain, it’s not a leap to declare “liberals are unpatriotic.”
Damn! – Nathan Vasher’s 108-yard runback in yesterday’s Bears-49ers game makes the ESPN Damn! Moment of the Week.
Time to speak up – Via Lorie on Polipundit, here are five questions that non-Muslims would like Muslims to answer.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Second amendment diary – Home on the firing range

Although I’m still waiting for my class A license, a neighbor of mine took me to a firing range today so that I could shoot under his license. (He checked with the local police department to make sure everything was kosher.) He had a 0.22 caliber Ruger rifle which he completely broke down and re-assembled so that I could see the mechanics. We placed targets at 50 and 100 yards and took turns from 10-round clips.

This was the first time in literally 20 years that I’ve fired a gun. My uncle had some property in Sussex County, New Jersey and we’d go skeet-shooting with double barrel shotguns. This was my first trip to a firing range with a rifle. I tensed up on my first shot, but the 22-caliber has almost no recoil and I felt silly for being nervous. Anyway, we shot a couple hundred rounds each although neither one of us managed to put many into the 100-yard target. I had more luck at 50 yards and on my “final exam” I put four shots within the 1-inch center; two missed the target completely.

Anyway, it was a great time on a bright and cool New England afternoon.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tell it like it is – Tim Blair reports that the Australian treasurer stated: “We will never be an Islamic state.” Can you guess what followed? Yeah, you’re right.

Extra - Right after I hit "publish post" I thought "I should have checked Silent Running." Here's their take with the full quote.
Sunday morning lineup, via Mark Kilmer on Red State. The camera-shy Charles Schumer will be on “This Week.”
The King of Clubs is dead

From the NY Times: “Death of Hussein aide is confirmed

Former officials of the Baath Party confirmed Saturday on their Web site the death of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the last of Saddam Hussein's inner circle still at large in Iraq and a man long sought by the American military command as the effective leader of the Baathist insurgent underground here.
American officials are commenting, but it’s believed that Ibrahim was a “crucial figure” behind the Iraqi insurgency.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Sharia in Strasbourg Amsterdam? - From Parapundit: “Rising Number Of Dutch Public Figures Have Bodyguards Against Islamists” As Randall notes: “This is nature’s way of telling you that Muslim immigration is bad.” Excellent linkage action. For extra info, be sure to check out this Economist article on the Dutch model.
President Bush’s Veterans Day speech

For background, check out Norman Podhoretz’s essay from Commentary magazine.
Veterans Day


Members of the Marine Honor Guard stand next to the Tomb of the Unknowns for Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery.
No!!! – “It looks like curtains, too, for FOX's comedy "Arrested Development," which never translated its Emmy Award and critical raves into a broader popularity. FOX didn't announce the end of the show, but said it wouldn't order a full season's worth of 22 episodes. Barring a miraculous turnaround, that usually means a series is kaput.”
"Socrates doesn't have feathers" – Via Arts & Letters, here’s a funny article from a member of a college’s hiring committee: “But can you teach?” Many apply, but few are chosen.
Romantic environmentalism smashes into cold realities

Echoing a post I made yesterday (including an old quote by him) here’s Charles Krauthammer today with “Pump seriousness into energy policy”:

For decades we've been dithering over drilling in a tiny part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Look, I too love the caribou. They are sweet, picturesque and reputedly harmless. But dire predictions about the devastation that Prudhoe Bay oil development would visit upon the caribou proved false. They have thrived. Let's get serious. We live at the edge of oil shortages and in perpetual vulnerability to oil blackmail. We have soldiers dying in the oil fields of the Middle East, yet we leave untouched the largest untapped oil field in North America so that Lower-48ers can enjoy an image of pristine Arctic purity. This is an indulgence bordering on decadence.
Meanwhile, Steven Milloy of Junk Science reviews how scientific proof of global warming seems a secondary concern to the technical people lauded in this month’s Rolling Stone.
Downtime - For reasons beyond my control, my Verizon DSL was utterly unavailable today. Now it works. There’s really no point in calling DSL support so they can ask me stupid questions like: “Is your modem turned on?”

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A small piece of good news for the GOP

Joe Biden says “I’m running” for President in 2008:

Biden's apparent declaration of his presidential intentions is a step further than he was willing to go in an August appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" when he told moderator Tim Russert: "I'm going to continue the quest to determine whether or not I can put together a campaign and raise the money and be a viable candidate for president. That's my intention."
Joe Biden breaks every rule for Presidential candidates: 1.) a Senator, 2.) the “Law of 14”, 3.) small electoral college vote state and (most critically) 4.) the “living room” rule.
Social Security reform Thursday – Will Franklin looks at the rise of payroll taxes, debt and unemployment in Germany. Is it a glimpse into our own future? It's not encouraging.
Overheard in Jordan - “Burn in hell, Zarqawi
More on election year 2005

From Opinion Journal: “GOP wake-up call”: “About the best thing Republicans can say after Tuesday's election debacle is that at least it happened in an off-off year. This was a Democratic rout any way you look at it, from the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey to the ballot initiatives in California. If the GOP learns the wrong lessons, it'll happen again next year, when a lot more will be at stake.”

The WashPost has an editorial titled “Lessons of 2005” along with an analysis by Dan Balz: “For GOP, 2006 now looms much larger

With a little perspective, here’s my abridged take on Tuesday’s tea leaves. I’ve criticized the Democrats as a party without ideas, but now it’s the Republicans who are lost in the wilderness. The GOP used to be the party of Reagan and limited government; now we have record deficits even before massive entitlement spending kicks in over the next decade. As I type this, reports are coming over the wires that Congress can’t find the spine to cut a couple tens of billion dollars over a multi-trillion dollar 10 5-year budget. And if you believe as I do that domestic energy development is not only an economic but a security issue, there’s no excuse for the back-tracking on exploration in ANWR.

The Republicans gained control of Congress and the White House by establishing their principles and allowing the American people to choose (think 1994). If they don’t want to assert these principles, they should prepare for significant losses in 2006.

UpdateRed State has more on the Deficit Reduction Act: “This is the biggest vote of the 109th Congress – period. It is the first time Republicans are attempting to seriously address out-of-control spending since 1997 by reducing its rate of growth by saving $50 billion over five years. However, this vote has become far more about symbolism than substance (although the substance is good), and it is now about the soul of the House Republican majority.”
Freeze-out

From Fox News: “House drops Arctic oil drilling bill provision

House leaders late Wednesday abandoned an attempt to push through a hotly contested plan to open an Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil drilling, fearing it would jeopardize approval of a sweeping budget bill Thursday.
Charles Krauthammer once called ANWR the “poster child of cake-and-eat-it-too eco-petulance.” Americans hate paying $3 for a gallon of gas. After 9/11, I thought that Americans would support exploration and development of domestic petroleum sources because every dollar of oil we generate at home is one less dollar going to the Saudi government. But no. We can’t even explore for oil in a land covered in ice three-quarters of the year because it might displace some caribou. Bulldog Pundit asks the right question given how the Republicans have caved on this and other issues: do they deserve to be in the majority? (See also “Why Republicans lost” on GOP Bloggers).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Carried a “one” to the wrong column

From the NY Times: “General Motors to restate earnings from 2001” - it won't be "up":
General Motors Corp. said Wednesday it plans to restate its earnings from 2001 because an accounting error led the company to overstate its earnings by up to 35 percent. In an unrelated action, Fitch Ratings lowered GM's debt deeper into "junk" status Wednesday and the automaker's shares tumbled to a 13-year low.
Unrelated action”??? You must be joking.
A continuing theme: “The French eat their young Paris needs less red tape and a lot more jobs.”
Election 2005 wrap-up

John Podhoretz reviews:

To sum up: Incumbent party victories in two states and one city. A Republican state rejected Democratic initiatives. A Democratic state rejected Republican initiatives.

Don't let the Democratic spin doctors fool you. Election Day 2005 has nothing to tell us about where the electorate is going in the wake of Bush's terrible year.
Maybe, but Larry Kudlow isn’t so carefree. Michael Barone and Deborah Orin think the strength of the Democratic candidate in Virginia means good news for the presidential aspirations of Mark Warner and bad news for Hillary Clinton. Ex-Donkey adds: “This result is a major boost for Mark Warner in his expected bid for the Presidency in 2008. Hillary was hoping to avoid a nasty primary battle, but with Warner hitting her on the right, she'll need to rally the moonbats, which should make for a lot of fist-pounding and high-pitched shrieking in here speeches.”

Back in March 2004, I expounded on the value of a Southern Democratic governor on John Kerry’s ticket and obviously many of those qualities would make a good Presidential candidate. It’s going to make for an interesting primary with the Clintonites squared off against the “most electable” faction that ended up with Kerry.
I’m sure there won’t be any populist grandstanding in Congress today – “Oil executives face Senate scrutiny Explanations sought for higher profit” I guess "supply and demand" just won't cut it.

Follow-up – Stevie Wonder could see this coming: “Senators vent on oil company executives
Arrogant? The French? No!

Here’s Jim Hoagland in the WashPost with “French Lessons”:

The French -- and the angry, nihilistic Arab and African youths in their midst -- are also "victims" of that country's immigration and assimilation policies and, indirectly, its paternalistic social welfare system. Mark them as casualties of a particular brand of politically correct arrogance that French politicians have practiced for 30 years, and you begin to get something like a whole story.
Although cultural differences surely play a part in the violence, there’s no denying that economic stagnation is stirring resentment. Here’s an absolutely stunning statistic from an Opinion Journal article yesterday:

Since the '70s, America has created 57 million new jobs, compared with just four million in Europe (with most of those jobs in government). In France and much of Western Europe, the economic system is weighted toward the already employed(the overwhelming majority native-born whites) and the growing mass of retirees.
Europe has more than twice the population of the United States and yet created less than 1/14th the number of jobs even as government spending on retirees has skyrocketed. So, you’re a young worker in France and either you can’t find work or, if you can, a massive tax is imposed on your paycheck to pay for retirees and other social programs.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Amazing Race Family Edition – Sink, swim, fly and bail

Teams started out from Costa Rica early in the morning and had to swim out in the Playa Maracas to retrieve the next clue from a floating buoy. The Paolo family sends Papa Tony to swim out (instead of one of his younger sons, for some reason) and he can’t find the strength to swim back to shore. He calls for the rescue swimmers and some Baywatch lifeguards help him back. During this time, the Linz and Bransen families pass Tony and I’m waiting to see what penalty the Paolo family will incur for failing to complete a task: a half-hour? Four hours? As it turns out, there’s no penalty at all.

What’s up with that? It seems unfair to the other teams to assist one team through a task, but maybe there’s some pre-determined agreement on certain challenges. Anyway, all teams swim out and retrieve the clue which directs them to a relocated Belgian church in Costa Rica. Detour: Brush or Barrel. Teams must either drive to an ox-cart farm and paint two ornate wheels for a cart or head to a sugar cane farm and load a ton of sugar cane. The Paolos and Linzes load cane while the others paint wheels; the next clue directs them back to the U.S.A. and Phoenix, Arizona.

Considering there can’t be many flights out of Costa Rica, this presents a “bunching” scenario and it looks at first like all the teams are going to arrive in Phoenix within a couple of minutes. Before the flights can leave, however, Team Florida confronts DJ from Team Joisey and asks why he Yielded them in the last leg. He lamely says something like “it’s a race” and Mama Weaver responds: “We have a Yield to play now and you don’t.” All teams arrive in Phoenix pretty close together. They must find a marked car at the Phoenix airport and the Paolos who can’t take a single moment to stop bickering walk around the parking lot while the other teams drive away. Teams must find a go-kart track and the Roadblock: race around the track 50 laps.

The Godlewski sisters arrive first and start right away, putting in a dozen laps before the next team arrives. Team Florida arrives and Widow Weaver wastes no time in telling the driving instructor that her husband was killed in a racetrack accident. (So we’ve heard.) Teams finish up pretty much as they started and head to the Pit Stop at Fort McDowell’s Adventures. Although the Bransens were third off the go-kart track, they get lost on the way even though they stopped at a hotel and then a liquor store for directions. The Paolos believe they’re last (they can’t count how many cars are at the Pit Stop?) and start putting on clothes in case it’s a non-elimination leg. The Bransens pull up and the panicked Paolos race for the mat where they arrive as team #4. Team Powerpuff starts for the mat, but the Paolos warn them to put on clothes before stepping up as the last place team. Good advice: the Bransens are last but they are not eliminated. On the next leg, they start with no money and only “the clothes on their back.” (This peculiar penalty has been a source of much humor in the past two seasons of The Amazing Race.)

Leg #1 final standings

#1 – Godlewski family – Team Scream – Prize: Travelocity trip to Belize
#2 – Weaver family – Team Florida
#3 – Linz family – Team Cincinnati
#4 – Paolo family – Team Joisey
#5 – Bransen family – Team Powerpuff (and Wally) – NON-ELIMINATION LEG


Leg #2

Teams who had arrived around noon in the previous leg leave around midnight in this next stage: head to Mesa, Arizona and Fighter Combat School. Right away, you can see the teams are going to be bunched up waiting for the airport to open in the morning. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a little sex and drama: the Bransen girls head to a nearby casino to beg people in the parking lot for cash. Meanwhile, Team Cincinnati gets pulled over by the police while asking for directions. They tell the officer they’re “in a race” and need to find an airport, only realizing afterward the humor in telling a cop you’re racing in the middle of the night.

At the airport, a Roadblock and teams must go up in a fighter and perform a 360 degree loop. A pilot takes them up, does some tricks, then turns control over to the Racer. The Linz famly dubs Megan as “Air Biscuit” for some reason; they’re easily having the most fun in this Race while the other teams argue and snipe at each other. The Weavers finish first and head to the next route marker at Lipan Point at the Grand Canyon. This is just a “go here” stop before they have to continue on to Page, Arizona and the Glen Canyon Dam.

On the top of the dam, teams find the next Detour: Bearing or Bailing. Teams may either find a clue box and follow a series of compass directions until they collect markers, or find a partially-submerged boat, bail it out, and lift it onto a sandbar. The Weavers, who never miss an opportunity to belittle other teams in private, can’t understand why everybody is so impolite to them while getting this clue. Here’s a hint, Weavers: “character” is what you do when nobody’s watching. I’m starting to see why all the other teams dislike them. But I still want the Paolos to face elimination tonight, so I’m happy to see them fall far behind on the drive from the Grand Canyon.

At the bailing Detour, the hale and hearty Linz family finishes first and heads to the Pit Stop at Lake Powell where they need to find a particular houseboat. Meanwhile, the Weavers complete the compass points, followed by the Godlewskis and then the Bransens. Team Powerpuff is heading back on the river to their car just as the Paolos are heading out to the Detour. Once there, the frustration of last place leads the Italian family to say hateful and ugly things that seem almost unimaginable (e.g.: “It’s a big river, Mom, I could kill you and they’d never find your body.”) Nice.

Once at Lake Powell, Team Cincinnati gets temporarily disoriented and heads to the wrong set of boats at first. This is all Team Scream needs to pull ahead: although all the teams are provided with similar boats and outboard motors, the Godlewski’s boat is carrying much less weight and they zip ahead of the Linz family. They arrive at the houseboat as Team #1, followed immediately by the somewhat chagrined Linz siblings. The Weavers and Bransens follow soon afterward and the Paolos, in last place, are eliminated. We’re treated to the mandatory “I love my family” speech. Hey that’s great: all I can say is that after the Baywatch moment in the beginning of tonight’s two-hour show coupled with their bottomless capacity for shrill criticism, karma finally caught up with the Paolos.

Final standings:

#1 – Godlewski family – Team Scream – Prize: an RV camper
#2 – Linz family – Team Cincinnati
#3 – Weaver family – Team Florida
#4 – Bransen family – Team Powerpuff (and Wally)
#5 – Paolo family – Team Joisey – PHIL-LIMINATED

Extra – This space reserved for updates from Kris and Pat; check out their TAR reviews.

P.S. – I miss the Gaghans.
Hot cheerleaders in lesbian love tryst – This sort of story isn’t really my cup of tea, but I could use the Google search traffic. Via the Smoking Gun, here’s the arrest record of the Carolina Panthers cheerleaders who were, um, interrupted from some kind of sex act before one of them cold-cocked a woman waiting to use the bathroom. One of them looks like Britney Spears and the other like, oh, Keira Knightly. Why not?
From Opinion Journal: “Why Immigrants Don’t Riot Here

Short answer: They’re too busy working.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Hang fire


The latest news out of France is that they’re setting curfews to quell the violence in the streets: “France will impose curfews under a state-of-emergency law and call up police reservists to stop rioting that has spread out of Paris' suburbs and into nearly 300 cities and towns across the country, the prime minister said Monday, calling a return to order "our No. 1 responsibility."

The use of the word “curfew” is appropriate since it comes from the French for “cover fire” – “originally a signal, such as the ringing of a bell, to damp the fire, extinguish all lights in the dwelling, and retire for the night. The custom originated as a precaution against fires and was common throughout Europe in the Middle Ages.”

Ah, the minor amusements of a word nerd.
As if the bird flu wasn’t enough - From the NY Times: “Five cases of polio in Amish group raise new fearsPolio? It’s like something from the Depression. Yikes.
Air America update – Progressive radio founder Tom Athans has shut down Democracy Radio so that he can watch over the demise of Air America.
Lede of the Day - From CNN: “Actress Sutton Foster was rehearsing a number called "I'm An Accident Waiting to Happen" earlier this week when she fell and broke her arm.”
What? There’s an election tomorrow?

I’ve been half-paying attention to the New Jersey governor’s race, if only because the Garden State is where I grew up. I knew Republican candidate Doug Forrester was doomed when he couldn’t beat crinkly old Frank Lautenberg, who stepped in to replace the thoroughly corrupt Robert Torricelli in the 2002 Senate race. George Will heaps scorn on Democrat Jon Corzine in today’s WashPost:

Sen. Jon Corzine, the New Jersey Democrat, brings his characteristic grandiosity even to his buyer's remorse. In 2000 the former chairman of Goldman Sachs pulled $60.2 million from his wallet to buy a U.S. Senate seat. But just four years after the most expensive Senate campaign in American history, he decided to escape from that seat -- for which he paid $27,489.03 a day, prorated over six years -- and try to become governor.
I don’t know what happened to New Jersey since I left for Massachusetts. When I was in high school, our beloved governor was Republican Tom Kean, who later was tapped to head the 9/11 Commission. Since then, there’s been a string of awful Democratic governors (Jim Florio, James McGreevey) yet New Jersey has turned deep blue, with a property tax rate (highest in the nation) to match.

It’s possible that any Republican candidate would have been rolled by Corzine’s massive war chest, but the NJGOP should have found somebody better than Forrester, that’s all.

Update – The Hedgehog Report has all the latest NJ polls showing Corzine with a small but solid lead.
Global war on terror update – “Australian Police Arrest 15 People in Terrorism Raids”: “Australian police arrested 15 people in Sydney and Melbourne for allegedly stockpiling explosive chemicals and planning a ``catastrophic'' terrorist attack that may have killed hundreds of people.” With its proximity to Indonesia, Australia is truly on the front line in the war against radical Islamics.
A blog lives again - Scott Elliott’s Election Projection is back up and running, a year before the 2006 midterms. Welcome back, Scott!
Revise and extend your remarks - Armed Liberal compares Josh Marshall’s version of events in the Wilson/Plame affair and the official report of the Senate Intelligence committee. (Be sure to check the comment thread for the real debate. Yow.)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Always always stay cool - AJ Strata: “I think the Coalition of the Chillin’ is about to be completely and permanently vindicated.” Der Kommiser has much more on Joe Biden’s backtrack from the Alito filibuster threat he knows won’t materialize. The Democrats made the judicial fight unnecessarily larger than it needed to be and, now that they don’t have the votes, the climb down is worse. The Republicans (mostly Bill Frist) made the same mistake last week with Harry Reid’s Senate shutdown stunt, but at least the memory of that incident will be mercifully short. Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court seat will be a reminder for decades to come.
Sharia in Strasbourg? - Here’s Mark Steyn with “Wake up, Europe, you’ve a war on your hands”: “For half a decade, French Arabs have been carrying on a low-level intifada against synagogues, kosher butchers, Jewish schools, etc. The concern of the political class has been to prevent the spread of these attacks to targets of more, ah, general interest. They seem to have lost that battle. Unlike America's Europhiles, France's Arab street correctly identified Chirac's opposition to the Iraq war for what it was: a sign of weakness.” (Hat tip: Memeorandum)
Counterpoint – This morning on Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol made the point over and over that the White House should respond forcefully to all the criticisms about “lying” about pre-war intelligence. It was largely a replay of his Weekly Standard article: “Fight back, Mr. President.”

Extra – Welcome, Polipundit readers. For more on this topic, be sure to check out Lorie Byrd’s article “It’s time to set the record straight” over on Townhall.
On Opinion Journal – Victoria Toensing says: “Investigate the CIA - An "outing" was the result of either incompetence or an effort to undermine the White House.”
Dustin Hoffman is cool

Meet the Fockers” was on HBO tonight and tonight I found this fantastic piece of trivia on IMDB:
Dustin Hoffman played a few practical jokes on Barbra Streisand during the shoot, the biggest of which was played during a meeting she had with several crew members. He arranged for them all to be wearing "Bush 2004" buttons.”
By the way, when I was still at Rutgers, I managed to see Dustin Hoffman on Broadway playing Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice." Hoffman had insisted that a certain number of seats in the theater would be reserved for students at a reduced price. I saw the play with my then girlfriend/now wife from the next-to-last row, but I saw it nonetheless. Thanks, Dustin!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Sunday morning lineup – As Ryne accurately notes: “Joe Biden will be making his 6,495,424,531st appearance on a Sunday morning show.” Please please please Joe - run for President.
Best post title today: “Nevermind the Bollocks, here’s Harry and the Potters
Funny EBay listing: DKNY Men's Leather Pants I Unfortunately Own (HT: Dean’s World)
Speaking of whiny crybabies

Oh for heaven’s sake – “John Kerry suspects election 2004 was stolen”: “Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, has told acquaintances over the past year that he suspects that the election was stolen, but that he didn’t challenge the official results because he lacked hard proof and anticipated a firestorm of criticism if he pressed the point.”

Let’s put this rumor to rest once and for all: we stole it. We stole it good! That is, our buddies over at Diebold made sure that those touch screen voting machines had the magic touch, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.
Love to see them lose

Before I even opened this link for “Why it’s great to watch these guys lose” on Fox Sports, the very first name that popped into my head was “Phil Helmuth.” But then I thought that poker isn’t a real sport and…he’s #7.

I would like to have Phil Helmuth losing poker hands playing on a loop in my house, office and car so any time I need a little pick-me-up I can just glance up at the screen and see the brat throwing a tantrum.

How is it that no one punches him in the face?
In the 2005 World Series of Poker, Helmuth lost a huge hand when another player caught the very card he needed (a Jack) on the river. The crybaby ranted and then openly insulted this guy (who was built like a NYC firefighter) before retreating to his psychiatrist wife sitting on the sidelines. I was wondering why the guy didn’t ask Helmuth to step outside but, seeing as he just took almost his entire stack, what was the point? Loser. (Hat tip: Fark)
It was an “accident” – see the quote marks

From the NY Post, by way of Free Republic: “NYC Firefighter crashes into Oliver Stone’s movie

A drunken firefighter plowed a stolen truck yesterday into the Chelsea set of Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone's controversial film about 9/11, police said. No one was hurt in the wild early morning incident.

Investigators said Scharf's boneheaded actions did not seem to stem from any anger over Stone's contentious film, but was just a coincidence.

The movie has stirred some resentment among 9/11 victims' families and firefighters because of Stone's love of blame-America conspiracy theories.
Nothing to see here, move along from that grassy knoll.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The difference between Americans and Canadians

Early this morning, before I left for work, I flipped on the TV and caught ten minutes of an apocalypse-themed movie called “Last Night.” Here’s a blurb from Roger Ebert’s review:

Note: On a talk show in Toronto, I was asked to define the difference between American and Canadian films, and said I could not. Another guest was Wayne Clarkson, the former director of the Toronto Film Festival. He said he could, and cited this film.

"Sandra Oh goes into a grocery story to find a bottle of wine for dinner," he said. "The store has been looted, but she finds two bottles still on the shelf. She takes them down, evaluates them, chooses one, and puts the other one politely back on the shelf. That's how you know it's a Canadian film."

An interesting coincidence considering that Sandra Oh’s big breakout role was as Stephanie in the wine movie “Sideways.” (Hey, I like merlot)
Abu Masab the Syrian captured – Winds of Change has background and links.
Rove in jeopardy? - The Minuteman suggests that Karl Rove may be in trouble…unless he adequately “clarified” his testimony in his final appearance before the Fitzgerald grand jury. My feeling is that if the charge was clear, Fitzgerald would have indicted Rove along with Libby.
Second amendment diary – Fingerprinted and processed

Last night, I (finally) found the time to stop by the police station and pick up my certificate for the gun safety course I took last month. Then I handed in my application for a “license to carry” and went through fingerprinting and pictures. I expect I’ll get my permit in a couple of weeks. Still moving forward.
Is Steven Taylor my evil twin brother, separated at birth? – This is just weird. Today the Poliblogger (Dr. T) listed some criteria from an NPR story about the “average American.” Every single attribute he listed matched up with mine, some of them exactly including age (37) weight (210), height (6’2”), and, um, showering time. Creepy.
Air America update – When a radio network has to send out letters begging for money, you know it’s going down in a heap. From Radio Equalizer: “If a liberal radio network falls in the forest (hitting a few spotted owls on the way down) and there isn't anyone around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Be sure to scroll down the comments of Ned Rice who notes, correctly, that AAR personalities are getting more shrill (if that can be achieved) now that desperation is setting in.
Wall of helium

Driving home tonight, I heard the following songs in sequence on XM radio:
"Peanuts" by Little Joe & the Thrillers
"My Boy Lollipop" by Millie Small
"Ronnie" by the Four Seasons

Sadly, there was no Tiny Tim for the super-fecta.
Too conservative? Too bad

Michael Kinsley on Slate asks: “How conservative is too conservative?”

The Democrats have declared war on President Bush's latest Supreme Court candidate, Samuel Alito, without much in the way of weapons. Only two, really: the filibuster and the power of persuasion. And the filibuster—because it seems (and is) unfair and anti-democratic—will backfire unless people are persuaded that it is saving them from something really bad.

And to make the challenge even more daunting, most of the usual tools of persuasion aren't available this time. Alito seems like a fine fellow, personally. His credentials and qualifications are beyond dispute. Unlike Robert Bork, he is not scary-looking. And another Anita Hill is too much to hope for. Those are the cheap shortcuts.
All that's left is a serious argument: Alito is simply too conservative.

The Republican counterargument will be fourfold: A) He is not very conservative; B) no one knows how conservative he is, and no one is going to find out, because discussing his views in any detail would involve "prejudging" future issues before the court; C) it doesn't matter whether he is conservative—even raising the question "politicizes" what ought to be a nonpartisan search for judicial excellence; and D) sure he's conservative. Very conservative. Who won the election?

I like “D” which reminds me: here are two great pictures from a year ago.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The social model at work in unemployment – I’ve only been lightly following the riots in France, but this statistic is eye-popping: “Overall unemployment in France is 9.8%, but for under-25 Frenchmen the figure is a stunning 23%. Oh well, at least they have "free health care."” Last year, France tried to artificially pump up employment by moving to a four-day workweek but employers simply shifted five days of work onto their employees. Businesses in much of Europe refuse to add workers because the cost of government-mandated benefits drive up labor costs beyond what the market will support.

Extra – From Publius Pundit: “The persistent joblessness, the inability to assimilate immigrants, the government control of every aspect of life and above all the lack of freedom are exactly what’s behind this spreading explosion.”
Reform now - It’s Social Security Reform Thursday over on Willisms and today Will looks at how the Byzantine SS benefits formula short-changes dual-income families.
Doctor, heal thyself – From the Union Leader: “Sen. Joe Biden made some interesting comments during his Manchester stop Tuesday night. He said too many Democrats were elitist and even unpatriotic, and he blamed them for helping Republicans paint the entire party as out of touch with America.” Well, you make it so easy Joe.
The sliding standard

Echoing a similar point I made, here’s “Why the Senate should confirm Judge Alito: the Democrats liked him before, and they don’t need to love him now”:

Judge Alito easily satisfies every merit-based consideration ... Indeed, the Senate concluded as much with respect to Judge Alito when it unanimously confirmed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1990 and as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey in 1987. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, D-MA, went so far during Alito's court of appeals confirmation process as to commend the nominee for his "very distinguished record" and "long service in the public interest," while Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, D-NJ, praised Alito's "impressive credentials" during Alito's confirmation process for U.S. Attorney.
ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsberg was confirmed with only three dissenting votes. It’s a discredit to the confirmation process that somebody as accomplished as Judge Alito will easily face more than three “no” votes in just the judiciary committee. (No need to guess how Kennedy and Lautenberg will vote now.)
New City Journal – The quarterly has an article on America’s response to radical Islam by Victor Davis Hanson and Stephen Malanga with “The Conspiracy against the Taxpayers.”

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Early Alito predictions - Even though red-state Democrats may be emboldened, any attempt to filibuster Judge Alito will fail if for no other reason than he was unanimously confirmed to the Third Circuit fifteen years ago. However, there will be a party line 10-8 split in the Judiciary and a 57-43 vote for confirmation in the Senate. The Coalition of the Chillin' wins again (although just barely).

Extra – George Will makes some good points on the battle for the judiciary in “Let the great debate begin.
The prescription drug benefit must go

Robert Samuelson castigates both sides of the aisle today in “Fiscal phonies.” While the Republicans have proposed spending cuts of $39 billion over a period when Washington will be spending $13.8 trillion, the 0.3% spending cut is less-than-token. But he also excoriates the Democrats for their “soak the rich” mantra which will bring in an estimated $30 billion per year which is not enough to cover the new Medicare benefit or the underlying deficits.

I know (and Samuelson does too) that killing the prescription drug benefit is politically impossible, but it’s the only meaningful first step to controlling the deficit. Read the whole thing.
Democracy in the Middle East? The MSM says: “whatever

Here’s Jeff Jacoby in today’s Boston Globe with “The good news from Iraq is not fit to print”:

What was the most important news out of Iraq last week?

That depends on what you consider ''important." Do you see the war against radical Islam and Ba'athist fascism as the most urgent conflict of our time? Do you believe that replacing tyranny with democratic self-government is ultimately the only antidote to the poison that has made the Middle East so dangerous and violent? If so, you'll have no trouble identifying the most significant development in Iraq last week: the landslide victory of the new Iraqi Constitution.

The announcement on Oct. 25 that the first genuinely democratic national charter in Arab history had been approved by 79 percent of Iraqis was a major piece of good news. It confirmed the courage of Iraq's people and their hunger for freedom and decent governance. It advanced the US campaign to democratize a country that for 25 years had been misruled by a mass-murdering sociopath. It underscored the decision by Iraq's Sunnis, who had boycotted the parliamentary elections in January, to pursue their goals through ballots, not bullets. And it dealt a humiliating blow to the bombers and beheaders -- to the likes of Islamist butcher Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who earlier this year declared ''a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy" and threatened to kill anyone who took part in the elections.

No question: If you think that defeating Islamofascism, extending liberty, and transforming the Middle East are important, it's safe to say you saw the ratification of the new constitution as the Iraqi news story of the week.

But that isn't how the mainstream media saw it.
There are people who don’t believe that we’re in a global war on terror, but do they all have to be journalists?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Amazing Race Family Edition update – “Donde es lefto or righto?”

Teams started out from the Panama Canal around 9pm and headed to the bus terminal to take a bus to Costa Rica. The buses were staggered in the morning, so teams that had just spent twelve hours resting at the last Pit Stop then waited an additional twelve hours until the morning. Three different buses arrived in Costa Rica, then teams needed to drive to an active volcano for the next clue. But then we find that the national park doesn’t open until the morning so teams have to sack out yet again. Between all these breaks, Team Godlewski had plenty of time to beg for cash proving once again that the money penalty in a non-elimination leg is not much of a penalty at all.

Once the volcano park opened in the morning, all the bunched-up teams raced for the next clue which was merely “go somewhere else.” At least we got a see a volcano. Teams then needed to race to the Doka coffee plantation – caution: Yield ahead. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, everybody wants to yield Team Florida. The Paolo family arrives at the coffee plantation first and yields the Weavers, meaning they need to wait an hour before they can perform the next task. This is a Roadblock and one team member must sift through a huge pile of coffee beans to find a single red bean. This is an all-woman event and teams appear to find the red bean in roughly the order they started, except for Tammy of Team Rugrats who simply cannot spot the red bean. The Weavers wait out their penalty then find the red bean, leaving the Gaghan family behind.

After the coffee plantation, teams head to the Costa Rican town of Jaco and a surf shop for the next clue. This is a Detour: Relic or Ripe. Teams may either traverse a series of rope bridges in a rain forest to find Mayan relics or head to a banana plantation where they must harvest 15 bunches of bananas. Everybody takes the Relic detour except for the Paolo family who seemed to finish the banana bunches fairly quickly. They head off to the Pit Stop in the town of Quepos as Team #1.

Meanwhile, all the other teams are working on an Amazing Race challenge that is neither amazing or challenging. Maybe it’s an unintended consequence of the Family Edition, but too many of the Detours and Roadblocks are designed such that teams finish the task in the same order they arrive at them. Thus, my despair for Team Gaghan sets in pretty early as they are the final team to arrive at the rain forest. Sure enough, that red coffee bean tripped them up; they arrive last to the mat and are eliminated. Little Carissa was pretty upset even though Mom and Dad were trying to cheer her up and Phil noted she was the youngest person to ever compete in the Race.

Final standings:

#1 – Paolo family – Team Joisey – Prize: Segway/jet ski/Vespa/ATV
#2 – Linz family – Team Cincinnati
#3 – Bransen family – Team Powerpuff (and Wally)
#4 – Godlewski family – Team Scream
#5 – Weaver family – Team Florida
#6 – Gaghan family – Team Rugrats – PHIL-LIMINATED

Next week: Team members yell at each other.
Here’s last week’s update by Mrs. Viking Pundit

Extra – This space reserved for Kris and Pat’s updates. Kris digs into the TAR archives to note that Team Gaghan got “Lena-ed” – very apt. And she also explains why the other teams loathe the Weavers since they mix Christian piety with condescending nastiness. Yeah, but the girls wear hot pants, so. That said, I wish they were gone and cutiepie Carissa could stick around for another week.

Bonus – The Closet Optimist criticizes last night’s Yield.