Friday, March 31, 2006

Blogging hiatus

I’ll be away all next week at a fiber optics conference in Strasbourg, France. Trivia: did you know that the Notre Dame de Strasbourg cathedral was the tallest building in the world for over 400 years? In the meantime, be sure to visit all the sites on my blogroll on a regular basis and say nice things about me. Smell you later.
Le mot juste - The Radio Equalizer looks back on two years of Air America and gives his one-word assessment: Debacle.
Slappy update

In a press conference today, Cynthia McKinney took responsibility and sincerely apologized for striking a Capitol police officer….

Gotcha! No, no, she played the race card: “A lawyer for Rep. Cynthia McKinney, the Georgia congresswoman who had an altercation with a Capitol Police officer, says she was "just a victim of being in Congress while black." Had you going there, didn’t I? (Much more from Kim on Wizbang)
You know you want to see it - Gather the kids around and watch this amazing video: it's a guy playing the piano with his balls. (SFW, I promise)
Chicks dig goals and success. Boys? Eh, I forget and don’t really care.
The shame of baseball

From Slate’s review of “Game of Shadows,” Stephen Metcalf puts the blame of baseball’s steroid scandal on the sport itself as it tried to regain fans after the 1994 strike:

Baseball is supposed to be everything but a game of shadows—more like a sun-dappled pastoral frolic. You don't have to believe that baseball says anything about our innocence or our agrarian past to find the steroid scandal deeply offensive. Where the other major American sports are populated by freaks—in basketball, the abnormally tall; in football, the abnormally hulking—baseball doesn't (or at least, didn't) reward the over-specialized body type. It was a game pre-eminently of repetition, patience, and skill, played by the normally proportioned. But after a crippling strike that canceled the World Series in 1994, baseball was in a bind. It could continue to stress its human scale—its intimacy, its lazy summer pacing, its ancestor worship of such untouchable greats as the Babe and Ted Williams—until George Will sat alone in the stands, weeping at the game's poetry. Or it could woo back legions of disaffected fans and change its nature, reproportioning itself to the inhuman scale of basketball and football.
Juiced baseballs and juiced players are part and parcel of this dying American game. Thank heaven for NASCAR: I have the Busch brothers and Junior in my fantasy league this weekend at Martinsville.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Zinger of the day – From Fark: “World record set for enclosing most people inside bubble. No, it wasn't set by” Burn! (Here’s the real story).
Caveat blogger – “Job applicants’ online musings get hard look”: "Employers hoping to gain insight into the character and personalities of job applicants are increasingly likely to peruse blogs, Google, and social sites such as and Friendster for clues about the applicants' likes, dislikes, and habits."
Moment in the sun - One of my favorite bloggers, Mark Coffey of Decision 08, was interviewed for the National Journal's daily Blogometer. How cool is that?
Good news roundup

Jill Carroll freed in Iraq

Sago mine survivor leaves hospital

Corporate profits lift GDP - Economic growth revised up to a 1.7 percent annual gain in 4Q, in line with forecasts, on strongest gain in corporate profits in 4 years; inflation measure rises.

Unconfirmed: Fidel Castro is dead (more on the rumor from Publius Pundit)

And Newt Gingrich and David Merritt take a look at the new prescription drug benefit in “A healthy Medicare drug plan”:

Amid the shrill cries that the sky is falling on senior citizens comes news on how Medicare beneficiaries view their new prescription drug benefit. According to two recent surveys, conducted on behalf of America's Health Insurance Plans, of more than 800 randomly selected seniors enrolled in the Medicare drug benefit, 84 percent who signed up voluntarily experienced no problems enrolling; two-thirds say the benefits are worth the time and effort to evaluate their options and plans; 59 percent of self-enrolled seniors say they are saving money; and 90 percent of beneficiaries who were automatically enrolled, most of whom are poor, have had few problems getting their prescriptions.
And now back to your regular programming.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The ongoing crisis - If this guy gets 30 years for plotting to assassinate President Bush, then the sheer depravity of the guy who tried to run down students at the University of North Carolina has got to warrant the death penalty.
A wind blows past Nantucket

From a NY Times article about the Democrats’ so-called “agenda”: “The Democrats' paper also calls for the United States to achieve "energy independence" by 2020 by increasing production of alternative fuels.”

Well, here’s Ted Kennedy and John Kerry’s chance to show their commitment to this bold plan for energy independence:

The Massachusetts Audubon Society gave its preliminary blessing yesterday to a large-scale wind power project off Cape Cod, saying its studies show that turbine blades are not likely to cause significant harm to birds, as the group had once feared.

Support from the environmental group, one of the most respected in the state, is important because the threat to birds has emerged as a controversial aspect of the five-year-old proposal to turn stiff sea breezes into a source of electricity.
John Kerry in particular has been windsurfing around this issue since 2004. All forms of energy require some kind of sacrifice, but the Massachusetts senators have been blocking the Cape Wind farm because of so-called aesthetic considerations. Coal is too dirty, nuclear too dangerous, oil upsets the caribou – but we can’t have wind power either because it’s too ugly.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Amazing Race update – Laundry and Fiats and statues, oh my

Teams started out from Munich, Germany and had to make their way to Palermo, Italy. That’s “Pah-LAIR-Mo” not “Pahler-MO,” Monica. The first portion of tonight’s episode is mainly dedicated to airport skills as teams try to find the fastest flight to Sicily. Somehow Team Burning Man arrives first, with the Frat Boys close behind. By the way, the show was barely three minutes in before these two made a sexist remark. They’re such scamps (*cough* gay *cough*).

Once in Palermo, teams needed to find an opera house and the next clue. This one just told them to take a marked car and drive to a seaside town and the next clue. Dani & Dani violate one of the major rules of the Race by failing to learn how to drive a stick. (1. Learn to drive manual 2. Learn how to climb 3. Learn how to eat disgusting stuff.) They fall way behind as teams race for the box and the Detour: Foundry or Laundry. Teams may either go to a foundry and pick up a 110 lb. bell then deliver it to a church or search hundreds of pieces of laundry for one of sixteen with a yellow-and-red tag. Team MoJo and Team Volcano do the bell while everybody else searches through clothes. This task is physical but straightforward; both Joseph and Ray carry the bell up the steps on their individual shoulders. BJ & Tyler find their laundry right away and head to the next stop at the Teatro Disigesta (spelling probably very wrong).

Once they drive about 15 miles to the Teatro, it’s the Yield then the Roadblock: teams must put together a Greek statue which has two extra and unnecessary pieces. No matter: BJ finishes quickly and they head off a mile down a hill to the Pit Stop where Phil greets them as Team #1. It’s there I notice that they’re wearing T-shirts that read “Bowling” and “Moms” – a nice homage to a former team.

By this point all other teams are heading for the Roadblock. Ray & Yolanda get very lost on the Italian roads while Team Pink struggles with the stick shift. Team Nerd arrives only moments ahead of Team Ole Miss, who stupidly go in the wrong direction despite a TAR arrow pointing them to the next task. Lake is the Wrong Way Corrigan of this race, always heading in the wrong direction and then unleashing a string of “dang it”s while secretly blaming Michelle. After Lake & Michelle go a mile the wrong way, they head back to the Roadblock and see the girls arriving. In a panic, Lake decides to yield Team Pink, meaning that they must wait an hour before they can go on to the Roadblock task. The girls from New York get a little teary since the end looks near.

Meanwhile, in another dumb move, Lake is performing the Roadblock of assembling the statue. Did I miss something or did they rescind the “Chip and Kim” rule that no team member may do more than six Roadblocks? By my count, Lake has done every single Roadblock so far meaning that because of poor planning, Michelle will have to do nearly every Roadblock for the remainder of the race. Every time Lake puts one of the statue pieces together, he whoops like a cowboy. Dani & Dani are sulking outside.

Lori of Team Nerd puts her whole statue together but, before she can get an envelope, takes it apart again because of the two extra pieces. Finally, the hourglass runs out on Team Pink and Dani starts assembling the statue. But now Ray & Yolanda have just (finally) arrived and Ray starts in on his puzzle. Lori finishes hers and Team Nerd heads to the Pit Stop. So it’s between Team Volcano and Team Pink and I wouldn’t put a lot of money on Lucy and Ethel completing anything remotely analytical. Plus, I figure, even if Ray & Yolanda finish a couple minutes behind, they’re both runners who could easily pass the girls in a one-mile sprint. Sure enough, Dani gets something wrong on her statue while Ray finishes hers. Despite a little TAR headfake that Team Volcano is “lost”, they make it to the mat while the girls are eliminated.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Burning Man – BJ & Tyler – Prize: some electronic stuff
#2 – Team Frat Boys – Eric & Jeremy
#3 – Team MoJo – Monica & Joseph
#4 – Team Kukla – Fran & Barry
#5 – Team Ole Miss – Lake & Michelle
#6 – Team Nerd – David & Lori
#7 – Team Volcano – Ray & Yolanda
#8 – Team Pink – Dani & Dani – PHILIMINATED

Next week – Fish mongering in Sicily.

Extra – This space reserved for Kris at Dummocrats and Pat at Brainster. Check out their recaps.
Confused codgers cadge cash, continue complaining - We’re already $5 billion in the hole on the way to a half-tril over the next decade, yet those baffled seniors won’t stop griping about the prescription drug benefit. But for those that can figure it out, they’re saving a bundle of money: “For some who solve puzzle, Medicare drug plan pays off.” Good for them.

Extra – There goes that mandatory spending up up up.
The guy with a dog named “Splash”

In “Kyoto No Go,” Pete DuPont implies that Ted Kennedy is hypocritical on energy independence:

Then construct two million new wind turbines--a 50-fold expansion of wind power machines. To function properly they must be far enough apart to allow wind pressure to flow between them, so about five turbines per square mile can be installed. But windmill construction is controversial. The environmentally dedicated Kennedy family has already forbidden wind power off their summer island of Nantucket. Why? Because, says Robert Kennedy Jr., a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Counsel, the wind farm would "damage the views from 16 historic sites." One of them, of course, is the Kennedy family summer compound.
For Teddy K., the Cape Wind project is a bridge too far.
Queries for the imam – Investor’s Daily has a series of questions about a literal reading of the Koran in the ironically titled: “Religion of Peace?
XM Radio for nerds – Driving home today, I heard almost the entire audio of the arguments before the Supreme Court in Hamden v. Rumsfeld. The best part was when Souter asked the Solicitor General if Congress really suspended the writ of habeas corpus inadvertently. Whoops!
I’m going to France next week. Hopefully, there won’t be any problems.

From the Boston Globe: “State department warns of violence in France”:

Three days before a visit to Paris by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the State Department warned Americans of violent protests in France and advised travelers to avoid city crowds. The security alert yesterday advised Americans traveling or living in France to ''avoid areas where crowds are expected to gather" and use caution because of sometimes violent demonstrations in Paris and other large cities over a divisive youth jobs law.
Isn’t that just dandy. For extra Gallic fun, read about France’s assimilation problems in “Absorbing Europe’s Muslims” and its economic woes in “In France, the politics of make-believe.” And for the record, I’ll be attending the Photonics Europe conference in Strasbourg and presenting a paper on “Effect of optical fiber coating abrasion on aging behavior.” Gripping stuff!

Monday, March 27, 2006

But there will be an Amazing Race update tomorrow – There’s two issues I just can’t get worked up about: immigration and March Madness. I know the immigration debate is deadly serious in California and Texas but I just can’t build up a head of steam about it. As for college basketball, whatever. In other news, my NASCAR fantasy team kicked ass yesterday when Kurt Busch finished first and Kyle finished eighth. Sweet.

ExtraMac & AJ have their perspectives on the immigration debate. The Political Junkie says: “The people who seem most angered by illegal immigration are immigrants who have had to navigate the bureaucracy to become legal. I think that is worth noting.” So noted.
Compare and contrast

Lawrence Kudkow: “France’s problem is a statist-run socialist economy
Sebastian Mallaby: “Why U.S. business is winning
Kill or be killed?

A commenter here wrote the following:

Future generations may curse the days the West failed to destroy Islam.
I thought that was, um, a little extreme. But then the American Thinker has an essay titled “Under the scimitar of Damocles” suggesting that the Koran all but dictates the destruction of all non-Muslims:

One of the most authoritative Koranic commentators, Baydawi (d. 1315/16) interprets this passage thus:

“Whosoever turns back from belief (irtada), openly or secretly, take him and kill him wheresoever ye find him, like any other infidel. Separate yourself from him altogether. Do not accept intercession in his regard” (cited in Zwemer, The Law of Apostasy in Islam, 1924, pp. 33-34)
The same article claims that Islamic law says that freedom can only be obtained by “perfect slavery” to Allah. Paging George Orwell.
The MA schism widens – Congressman Michael Capuano threw his support behind Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick who is competing with attorney general Thomas F. Reilly for the Democratic nomination. By the time their primary rolls around the Democrats are going to be so divided, Lt. Governor Kerry Healey will slide in to replace Mitt Romney.
Moussaoui is looking for his 72 virgins

Despite protests from his defense counsel, the “20th hijacker” took the stand during the penalty stage of his trial and just started making stuff up:

Al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui testified Monday that he and would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid were supposed to hijack a fifth airplane on Sept. 11, 2001, and fly it into the White House.

Moussaoui's testimony on his own behalf stunned the courtroom. His account was in stark contrast to his previous statements in which he said the White House attack was to come later if the United States refused to release a radical Egyptian sheik imprisoned on earlier terrorist convictions.
While Moussaoui was clearly up to no good, there’s no evidence he conspired with Richard Reid. Maybe the guy’s figured he can’t get a fair trial in America, so he might as well shoot for the death penalty and martyrdom.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pro-freedom rally in London – I love this T-shirt! More pics at Samizdata: note the cowboy hats and Thomas Jefferson quotes.
Breaking newsAbdul Rahman to be freed: “An Afghan man threatened with execution because he converted from Islam to Christianity is expected to be released from custody at the end of the day, a Western diplomat told CNN Sunday.”

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Condi is making the rounds – Via Mark, here’s the Sunday morning lineup.
Weirdo - This guy really likes “99 Luftballoons. (Via Fark)
Quote of the Day

It’s from Sir Charles Napier on the former practice of “suttee” in India:

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks, and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."
Found via Mark Steyn, making a point about Abdul Rahman. In the years leading up to the American Civil War, abolitionist John Brown was called the “meteor of the war” because his execution galvanized the anti-slavery movement in the North. I look at the Rahman case and wonder if he’ll be the example that will convince the world that Islam and the modern Western world are incompatible. We’ll see.
Reading, writing and arithmetic. That’s all.

To meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind, schools are “narrowing the curriculum” to focus on the basics. From the NY Times: “Schools cut back subjects to push reading and math

Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush's signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.

Schools from Vermont to California are increasing — in some cases tripling — the class time that low-proficiency students spend on reading and math, mainly because the federal law, signed in 2002, requires annual exams only in those subjects and punishes schools that fall short of rising benchmarks.

The changes appear to principally affect schools and students who test below grade level.
Gentlemen, start your metaphors!

"Only two subjects? What a sadness," said Thomas Sobol, an education professor at Columbia Teachers College and a former New York State education commissioner. "That's like a violin student who's only permitted to play scales, nothing else, day after day, scales, scales, scales. They'd lose their zest for music."

"When you only have so many hours per day and you're behind in some area that's being hammered on, you have to work on that," said Henry Lind, the [Cuero, TX] schools superintendent. "It's like basketball. If you can't make layups, then you've got to work on layups."
I’d rather have a violin player who can make layups than a basketball star who has lost interest in playing the violin.
Too close for comfort – Scott Elliott updates his Senate projection with a (weak) Dem gain in Montana, thank you very much Conrad Burns. Right now, it’s looking like a 53-47 GOP split in 2006.
Not a four-star review – The author of “V for Vendetta” doesn’t like the film much.
Religion of peace/Abdul Rahman update

Last night, there was a movie on HBO called “The Hamburg Cell” that tracked the movements of 9/11 terrorist Ziad Jarrah. At one point in the movie, a friend of his parents is imploring him to give up his radical lifestyle and return to his studies. He dismisses his cohorts as trapped in the Dark Ages: “Oh, they hate everything modern. Except their guns…they love their modern guns.” The movie captured hypocritical moments like that over and over as the terrorists plan jihad while chatting over Nokia phones and IMing on Apple laptops.

Speaking of the Dark Ages - From the BBC:

"The Prophet Muhammad has said several times that those who convert from Islam should be killed if they refuse to come back," says Ansarullah Mawlafizada, the trial judge.

"Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, kindness and integrity. That is why we have told him if he regrets what he did, then we will forgive him," he told the BBC News website.
If not, this religion of peace and tolerance is going to put a bullet through his head.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Why Joe Biden will never, ever be President

While I was looking up some info on Biden and his bout of plagiarism, I noticed something: Joe Biden’s middle name is “Robinette.”

Let me repeat that: “Robinette.”

Anyway, here’s the lowdown from Wikipedia:

Controversy broke Biden's candidacy for the U.S. presidency in the 1988 Presidential campaign. He was found to have plagiarized a speech from British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. The plagiarism was considered all the more serious, because it included details of Kinnock's life which were not true in Biden's case. After Biden withdrew from the race, it was learned that he had correctly credited Kinnock on other occasions but failed to do so in an Iowa speech that was recorded and distributed to reporters by aides to Michael Dukakis, the eventual nominee. Dukakis fired the senior aide responsible, but the damage had already been done to Biden.
Yeah, whatever. “Robinette” – oh my stars.
Kill, crush, employ – Students in Paris try to create new jobs for car manufacturers, insurance adjusters, mechanics, and glaziers by burning cars and smashing windows. It's a novel approach, I'll grant them that.

ExtraTim Blair: “The cause: a proposed law that would allow employers to dismiss young workers without notice. Difficult to imagine anyone wanting to fire such evidently responsible and hard-working youngsters.”
Rendell may break Pennsylvania’s “eight year cycle” for governors – Via Real Clear Politics: “PA’s Rendell is vulnerable in ‘06” Governor Lynn Swann? I'll believe it when I see it.

Well, I’ve obviously come in way too late to add anything to the Ben Domenech debacle. But while I was reading around, I made a shocking discovery. Take a look at this post on Right Wing Nuthouse; now compare it to this essay on The American Thinker. They’re practically the same! Now that’s some heavy-duty plagiarism.
World's shortest list: Bluegrass songs about PC memory problems

Occasionally, I like to listen to Bluegrass Junction on my satellite radio and 99% of the songs are about mountains, moonshine, and mudflaps. But today I laughed my rear off at Tim O’Brien’s song of downloading problems on a poorly equipped PC. Here’s “Runnin’ out of memory for you” (a bluegrass song):

Well I got an email from you darlin
It said you'd sent me a file
It was a full-length picture, jpeg format
But I never got to see you smile
I thought of what you might be wearin
Just then my server software froze
I tried rebooting, tried compression
But it would not open past your nose

My color screen won't even function
It's one big solid field of blue
My hard drive it went soft
My application coughed
And I'm a runnin out of memory for you

I sat alone there at my work place
Just a thinkin of the good times that we had
I was dumpin data to a zip drive
I was strokin on the old mouse pad
I went down to my computer center
Just to buy me a megabyte of ram
Then I hurried on back to my work place
I had my memory module in my hand

I opened up my PC casing
I thought I knew just what I'd do
But it was all for naught
There were no expansion slots
And I'm a runnin out of memory for you

My color screen won't even function
It's one big solid field of blue
My hard drive it went soft
My application coughed
And I'm a runnin out of memory for you

For extra credit, check out Weird Al Yankovic’s “It’s all about the Pentiums

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Vive le joblessness

The Christian Science Monitor looks at the labor reforms in France:

One could brush the demonstrations aside as typical French protests - practically a rite of spring in la république. But they point to an overall resistance that will make economic and social reform that much harder in the future.

Each year of delayed reform will only prolong the sluggishness of the French economy and high joblessness. According to an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development index that measures restrictive job environments, French job inflexibility is nearly 15 times higher than in the US, where workers can expect to change jobs six times in their career. The US jobless rate is less than 5 percent, while in France it hovers near 10 percent.

Slow growth and high unemployment is not limited to France, and European countries are grappling with how to reform expensive social systems and restrictive labor practices without provoking unrest.
Meanwhile, violence is spreading among French students who must think they’re playing out Les Miserables.
Find out what “WWAADD” means – Check the Carnival of the Clueless on Right Wing Nuthouse
Those Islamofascists took all the romanticism out of terrorism – From the Boston Globe: “Basque separatists renounce violence Cautious Spain hopes ETA declaration ends a long, bloody conflict”: “It follows a fierce crackdown under the previous Spanish government and a period of rumored negotiation, officially denied, with the current administration. ETA has also seen its popular support fade amid public outrage over deadly bombings in Madrid two years ago by Islamic radicals.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Chef is dead, long live Chef - Well tonight's South Park didn't disappoint: Chef returns after joining a perverted "club" which bears absolutely no resemblance to Scientology. None at all. The funniest part was that they still used Isaac Hayes' voice, except it was clearly spliced together from old episodes.
Johnny get angry

A new poster on Daily Kos resuscitates the old stand-by strategy for winning elections: “Are you mad enough yet?”

Red State retorts: “What does it say about the "reality-based community" that a fundamental tenet of its world-view is profoundly unreal?... It is, certainly, an anger at not having a thing they never had a right to expect.”
A “left-leaning, feminist, agnostic, environmentalist internationalist” on Iraq

In today’s Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby recounts the writings of Australian journalist Pamela Bone and “The humanitarian case for war in Iraq”:

Bone's words appear in an essay she contributed to ''A Matter of Principle: Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq," a 2005 collection edited by Wellesley College sociologist Thomas Cushman. To read her essay this week, with the war entering its fourth year, is to be reminded of the abiding moral power of the liberal case for the war. While most of the left was always opposed to liberating Iraq, a small but honorable minority never lost sight of the vast humanitarian stakes: Defeating Saddam would mean ending one of the most unspeakable dictatorships of modern times. Wasn't that a goal anyone with progressive values should embrace?

That was why, ''in February 2003, when asked to speak at a rally for peace, I politely declined," Bone writes. ''But I added, less politely, that if there were to be a rally condemning the brutality Saddam Hussein was inflicting on his people . . . I would be glad to speak at it."
It’s unclear if she was invited to speak in that context. Junkyard Blog reminds us the face of American protest.
Subtle as a sledgehammer

Hillary’s oh-so-casual reference to religion:

Surrounded by a multicultural coalition of New York immigration advocates, Clinton blasted the House bill as "mean-spirited" and said it flew in the face of Republicans' stated support for faith and values.

"It is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scriptures," Clinton said, "because this bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself."
Hoo boy. I guess Hillary didn’t get the memo from pollster Alan Quinlan: “Authenticity matters most.

"How will Democrats get out of the desert?" That is the million dollar question I am asked a million times. And after each election--each loss--a lot of familiar people go on TV and write articles, explaining their version of how Democrats can win again based on why we lost. They say, "We lost because of the war." "We lost because of abortion. " "We lost because we didn't talk about God. " "We lost because of taxes."

In 2004, the hand wringing was constant and it was difficult to watch. It was difficult to watch because the reason we lost became painfully clear. Somehow over the last 30 years, Democrats stopped being authentic.
Once the Democrats master the art of fake sincerity on these issues, they’ll have it made.
Michael Moore won’t be filming this

From “Delphi, GM reach deals with UAW on buyouts”:

About 100,000 GM workers will be eligible for payouts of between $35,000 and $140,000 depending on their years of service. At Delphi, up to 5,000 workers will be eligible to return to GM, Delphi's former parent company, while 13,000 U.S. hourly workers will be eligible for a lump sum payment of up to $35,000 to retire.
Heartless corporate monsters!
Least surprising development today: France surrenders – From the Boston Globe: “France tries to assuage student rage on job law Prime minister says flexibility is possible

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Amazing Race update – Schnell, Deutschland

Teams are either washing trolleys or opening nesting dolls on the “to be continued” leg from last week. Eventually all of them make it to Phil on the mat behind Red Square in Moscow where he hands off the next clue: fly to Frankfurt, Germany then take a train to Stuttgart and find the Mercedes-Benz factory. Eric & Jeremy arrive first; David & Lori last. Team Frat Boys make the first flight out of Moscow to Frankfurt while everybody else waits for the computer to reboot at the Aeroflot counter. (No kidding). While everybody is still either at the terminal or on the tarmac in Moscow, Team Frat Boys jump way ahead by catching the train to Stuttgart. Team Ole Miss and Team Burning Man manage to catch the last night flight out of Moscow; the other teams must wait until the morning.

At Stuttgart, the first three teams must wait until 8:30 a.m. for the factory to open and they’re all given a ride on a test track that includes a “Wall of Death.” Very fast. After they’re done with this diversion, the teams take the cars and must drive to Elbach Field in a town off the autobahn and search for a Travelocity gnome in the field. Although this is possibly the easiest Roadblock in the history of the Amazing Race, Michelle convinces her husband Lake to run through a field. (If they make it any further in the Race, they’re going to run up against the 6-6 rule on Roadblocks; then Michelle will have to bungee jump or something.)

The remaining teams arrive at the cow field in the order of their map-reading abilities. Team Kukla somehow arrives first of the lagging teams, finds their gnome, and heads off. Meanwhile, Team Boricua gets lost on the autobahn, driving in the wrong direction. They’re followed by Team Pink who figured it would be a good idea to just follow Wanda & Desiree rather than read a map themselves. That would require, you know, thinking and stuff. After the field, teams must head to Bavaria Film near Munich for the next clue.

Team Frat Boys arrive first and hit the Detour - Smash it or Slap it: teams may either break bottles (the movie kind) over their heads until they find a marked label, or learn a difficult German dance. Frat Boys, Team Burning Man and Team Ole Miss all do bottles and these teams leave pretty close together. While fooling around with the bottles, Eric & Jeremy flirt with the St. Pauli girl stationed nearby. Those guys are so gay.

All the other teams are putting on lederhosen and either breaking bottles or learning that German slap-dance. Team MoJo then Team Volcano start with bottles but give up and try the dance. Meanwhile, Team Pink and Team Boricua are just arriving in the cow field so you know one of these two will be last unless some other team gets majorly sidetracked. Sure enough, Dani finds the gnome and Team Pink is off.

After the Detour, teams are heading to the Pit Stop at the Siegestor in Munich. The gay frat boys arrive first and Phil tells them they’re real Casanovas; Jeremy responds that they hope the girls arrive so they can play some tongue hockey. Phil gives the classic look of revolted disgust, his eyebrows pulled back, the cartoon balloon above his head reading: “Tools.” Well, that’s what I imagined. Their mothers must be so proud of their car wash attendant sons.

Anyway, Desiree is walking around the cow field with her headlamp on, pretty much conceding defeat. Which is a shame, because I really liked them as a team, and fans of the Race have seen plenty of teams make a major comeback if they just keep moving. But even though they’re only a couple of minutes behind the girls, Wanda & Desiree arrive last and are eliminated from the Race.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Frat Boys (again!) – Eric & Jeremy – Travelocity trip to Africa
#2 – Team Burning Man – B.J. & Tyler
#3 – Team Ole Miss – Lake & Michelle
#4 – Team Kukla – Fran & Barry
#5 – Team Nerd – David & Lori
#6 – Team MoJo – Monica & Joseph
#7 – Team Volcano – Ray & Yolanda
#8 – Team Pink – Dani & Dani
#9 – Team Boricua – Wanda & Desiree – PHILIMINATED

Next week: Looks like Italy.

Extra – Check out Pat at Brainster and Kris at Dummocrats for their recaps.
Stop the presses – The U.N. springs into inaction on Iran. What an indispensable institution.

The now-defunct “The Ben File” was one of the first blogs I ever linked when I still had my old Smarter Harper’s page. Ben has now moved on to the brand new “Red America” blog at the Washington Post and he comes out swinging:

Any red-blooded American conservative, even those who hold a dim view of Patrick Swayze's acting "talent," knows a Red Dawn reference. For all the talk of left wing cultural political correctness, the right has such things, too (DO shop at Wal-Mart, DON'T buy gas from Citgo). But in the progressive halls of the mainstream media, such things prompt little or no recognition. For the MSM, Dan Rather is just another TV anchor, France is just another country and Red Dawn is just another cheesy throwaway Sunday afternoon movie.
Oh boy. I can see the editors at the WashPost huddled together with loosened ties wondering aloud: “What have we done?”

Extra – “It keeps me warm” - Quotes from Red Dawn.
Here comes the iceberg

From the San Diego Union-Tribune: “GOP – Dems, too – must tackle entitlements” (HT: Real Clear Politics)

For five years, we've been bickering over why our spies didn't see 9/11 coming and do something about it. But for at least 25 years, our leaders – Republican and Democrat alike – have seen the baby boomer entitlement crush coming and done nothing about it. If there is a Guinness Book of World Records' category for Worst Misgovernance, there is your winner.
President Bush touched upon entitlements in his press conference today:

I think the American people now are beginning to get the picture; that if we don't do something, Social Security and Medicare will go bust. If we don't do something, future Congresses, not this Congress, but future Congresses are going to be confronted with some serious decisions about raising taxes enormously or cutting benefits drastically or other programs drastically.

And so that issue sunk in. It's just that there wasn't that connection with action inside the body of the respective chambers, although there were some noble efforts made by some members of Congress to get something started.
It’s like we’re on a collision course, but we won’t turn the wheel until the very last moment…and then it’s going to be a very hard correction indeed.
Whither (or is it "wither") France?

Between a hostile business environment and a wave of immigration, France’s high unemployment rate is a ticking time bomb. Brussels Journal states the case even more starkly:

France is dying. We are witnessing its agony, while the patient refuses to take the medicine that can cure him.

[Prime Minister] Villepin proposed the CPE to provide jobs for young workers, a group with staggering unemployment rates. Job creation in France is severely hampered by “social” legislation which makes it virtually impossible for employers to lay off employees unless the latter are paid high damages.
Businesses refuse to hire workers because of the high cost and unemployment is running at 10% for all of France and 25% for workers under 25. Yet students and unions are fighting the CPE because it’s designed to make the cost of employment bearable for businesses. Unemployment will remain high and immigrant tension will continue to simmer: great idea.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Stupid NY Times

I’m a little tired tonight, so I’ll just end the day with a correction from the New York Times:

A chart in the sports section on Feb. 24 with an article about Jimmy Rollins's 36-game hitting streak with the Philadelphia Phillies misstated the year in which Paul Molitor hit safely in 39 consecutive games. It was 1987, not 1945.
Yeah, that would have been quite a feat for Molitor, born August 22, 1956.
Blog news - Congrats to Q&O for their 2,000,000th visit.
Carry that weight - Dangerously, yet hilariously, overloaded vehicles. Those poor shock absorbers.
Senate outlook - From NRO: "March to the Senate" seems a little too optimistic for the GOP. Is Pennsylvania (Santorum v. Casey) really a "toss-up" right now? Hmmmm.....
Musical interlude – Today on satellite radio, I heard the 1968 instrumental “Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited. Little known fact: this is the backing music for a minor song for Barbara Acklin called “Am I the same girl?” The Acklin song was later covered by the 80s Brit-pop group Swing Out Sister.
Message muddle

I’ve been highly critical of the Democrats for their inability to present a message on Iraq, Social Security, anything. Now, according to the WashPost, the Republicans are facing the same problem heading into the 2006 elections. Yet Red State responds that it’s the Democrats who have more to fear by elucidating their agenda while Protein Wisdom speculates on what that agenda might entail.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Air America not dead yet – Contrary to previous reports, it appears that AA will renew its contract with New York flagship station WLIB. Brian Maloney says the lease agreement is more a “stay of execution” (only three months?) than a long-term agreement. Stay tuned.
Death for a convert - Islam is kind of the Columbia House of religions. You can never really get away.
Iraq & movies - Here’s the Pundit Roundtable on Willisms. I contributed a short entry, but Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit has a very thorough review of how far things have progressed (and how wrong some pessimists have been) over the past three years. Many links and graphs are provided. Mark Coffey of Decision 08 also makes his case although he chooses a French film.
Another four-point plan from the Democrats

Senate minority guy Dick Durbin was on Fox News this morning and I could have predicted the exchange that ensued based on previous performances:

Chris Wallace would ask about topic X
Durbin would say that the GOP has done a lousy job
Wallace would ask what the Democrats would do differently
Durbin would say something vague like “We’d fix [topic X]”
Wallace would say: “You haven’t said anything.”

And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened:

WALLACE: This week, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser to Jimmy Carter back in the '70s, accused the Democrats, his own party, of political desertion on Iraq. And let's put up his quote, if we can.

He said, "Democratic leaders have been silent or evasive. They have not offered an alternative to the war in Iraq. It's easy to criticize." Senator, you talk about the lack of an administration plan. What is the Democratic plan? And be specific. What's the Democratic plan for Iraq?

DURBIN: I'll be very specific. But I can tell you, to start with, failed policies such as the one we have in Iraq gives us few options. And we understand that. We've been painted into a corner in this situation.

WALLACE: Well, that's criticism, sir. What is your plan?

DURBIN: Well, hold on, if you will, please. What we propose and what Senator John Warner accepted as a bipartisan approach in the Senate includes the following. This year, 2006, a year of transition, where the Iraqis take control of their own security and defense.Secondly, the Iraqis are put on notice they have to form a government that embraces all of the factions within Iraq so that we can see finally a government of unity leading to some sort of progress for the people of Iraq.

And finally, we have to have from this president accountability, clear accountability, where he says every three months what progress is being made. His first report, incidentally, was not an encouraging one. It's an indication that despite all the rhetoric, we have not made progress this year.

WALLACE: But saying a year of significant transition, with all due respect, sir, is just a phrase. I mean, you know the situation there. There are 133,000 troops on the ground.Is it the Democratic plan that you could get all of them out by the end of the year, 30,000, get under 100,000? What's the Democratic plan?

DURBIN: My wish is to bring the troops home as quickly as possible.

WALLACE: Well, that's everyone's wish, sir.
The plan: 1.) 2006 is a year of transition, 2.) Iraqis must work together 3.) we need benchmarks and 4.) bring the troops home as quickly as possible. This sounds suspiciously like every other four-point plan the Democrats have proposed.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sunday morning lineup – Dick Cheney will be on Face the Nation while a desperate Joe Biden has to settle for the catch-all of Wolf Blitzer’s Late Edition.
Lazy, healthy codgers are bankrupting America

That’s my non-P.C. paraphrase of this William Saletan article in the WashPost titled: “Curse of the Young Old”:

I hope you have a long and happy life. I just hope your kids don't end up paying one-fifth to one-third of their incomes to subsidize your retirement and mine. Because that's what awaits them: more and more boomers living to age 65 and beyond, perfectly healthy but collecting checks for decades. To head this off, we need a radical change in Social Security. I'm not talking about privatization. I'm talking about rethinking, and possibly abolishing, the whole idea of payments based on age.
How about this for a kick quote: “If you thought last week's budget fights over Iraq and Katrina were bad, wait till you see the bloodbath over retirement benefits.” Read the whole thing.
Take that, Old Grey Lady! – A letter writer zings the New York Times for a deeply dumb editorial.
A pre-emptive strike at the AmeriSave plan

Word on the street is that the Democrats’ long-awaited agenda will include their “plan” for retirement “security” dubbed AmeriSave. Only it’s not really a plan. Instead, it’s main purpose is to suggest a patina of responsibility while providing a token counterpoint for real Social Security reform.

As the Heritage Foundation notes, the program has some good points, mostly the provisions that helps workers to set up their own IRAs and 401(k) accounts. But the heart of the AmeriSave scheme is that the government would match $1000 for workers who invest in these plans. No details are given as to how the government would pay for this matching, but I think Bastiat’s Window sees through the Democrats’ plan:

Begin at the beginning: If the government is going to give Worker A an extra $1,000 entitlement, then that $1,000 has to come from somewhere else. Some possibilities: It can raise Worker A's taxes by $1,000 to fund his own $1,000 government match. That may sound perverse, but that never stopped the government before. And of course it would do nothing to increase Worker A's savings.
The other scenarios include taking a grand from Worker B and giving it to A and hoping that Worker A will vote Democratic.

The most outrageous aspect of AmeriSwindle is that it offers nothing – absolutely nothing – to address the Social Security crisis looming over this country.

Even if Democrats were serious about this AmeriSave business, Social Security's current trust fund surplus would still become a deficit in 2017, Social Security would still be unable to pay its promised benefits beginning in 2041, we'd still see the same miserable rate of return on the 1 out of every 8 or so dollars we earn that goes toward Social Security, and Social Security would still have an unfunded long-term liability of 11 trillion dollars.
AmeriSave is just a cynical and irresponsible ploy to give the appearance of action without actually having to address the real crisis. You’d think the Democrats would be ashamed to dangle another “free money” scheme in front of Americans, but it’s the only tool in their box.
The hottest site in real estate (according to the Boston Globe) – Zillow

Type in your address and they’ll show a satellite image along with an estimate of your home’s worth. Talk about a transparent society: now your neighbors can figure out how much you can expect to get for your house, instantly.
The money pit

From the Boston Globe: “Massachusetts attorney general seeks 108m in Big Dig refunds”:

The office of Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly has demanded $108 million in refunds from Big Dig contractors, the first time his office has stated an amount it believes taxpayers are owed because of shoddy work.
It’s like it just dawned on them that the Big Dig is costing a lot more money than they thought. Like $10 billion (with a “b”) more. If Massachusetts had put the Big Dig on its Discover card, we’d be getting that 1% back automatically.
The last 20 songs I downloaded off ITunes

“Radiation Vibe” – Fountains of Wayne
“Love will keep us together” – Captain & Tennille
“Chuck E’s in Love” – Rickie Lee Jones
“Groove is in the heart” – Deee-Lite
“Without Love” – Clyde McPhatter
“Here’s where the story ends” – The Sundays
“There’s no getting’ over me” – Ronnie Milsap
“Video killed the radio star” – Presidents of the USA
“Atlantis” – Donovan
“It would take a strong, strong man” – Rick Astley
“Cream” – Prince
“Feel Good, Inc.” – Gorillaz
“Lookin’ for Love” – Johnny Lee
“Viva Las Vegas” – Elvis Presley
“Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen
“It’s up to you” – Ricky Nelson
“Playboy” – Marvellettes
“Boulevard” – Jackson Browne
“All Cried Out” – Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam Force
“Wonderful! Wonderful!” – Johnny Mathis


Friday, March 17, 2006

And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make

One final word before I sign off for the night: even before the Blogger meltdown, I was wondering if the whole experience was worth my time. It was super during the 2004 elections but since then it’s been just OK. But now I feel like a guy who’s heard all the eulogies at his own funeral: you like me! You really like me! [/sally field]

I feel rejuvenated and I’m gonna get back onto that saddle and blog the hell out of these Internets! Thanks again to everyone – embarrassingly too numerous to mention – for all your kind words of support. The Viking Pundit will abide.
From the “It’s only racism when Republicans say it” file – Here’s Senator Chuck Schumer on the Dubai ports deal: ““Let’s say skinheads had bought a company to take over our port,” [Sen. Chuck Schumer] said. “I think the outcry would have been the same.” (Hat tip: Ankle Biting Pundits)
Did we say $8 billion? We meant $10 billion. – GM restates their losses for 2005, sending their value down another half-billion on the stock market. That’s with a “B” as in “bankruptcy.”
Amazing Race update – Back in the USSR

Well, normally I write my TAR update immediately after the show but I’m going to have to do this mostly from memory. Pat at Brainster has his contemporaneous review and you can read more at Phil’s Blog on the TAR main site.

Teams started out early morning in Brazil and headed to a zip line which was really just an excuse to show a lot of Racers screaming. At the bottom of the line, teams were handed the next clue: go to Moscow. As in Russia. Southern boy Lake is upset that he has to go somewhere cold. Quite honestly, I have never seen a Racer complain about a destination. Team Burning Man is in their typical “look at us!” mode.

Man, it’s a super-long flight from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Frankfurt, Germany then Moscow, Russia. All teams are on the same flight and break out of the airport into cabs – the drivers don’t appear to speak a word of English. Teams need to sprint to an outdoor pool and the Roadblock: one team member must dive off a platform then dive down for a clue. The clue for this Roadblock is “Who wants to take the plunge?” Yolanda, who can’t swim, and Wanda, who is afraid of depths, choose to do this task.

Next it’s off to a pretty cool cathedral then the clue for the Detour: Scrub or Scour. Teams may either go clean a bunch of trolleys at a train yard or head to a theater and open hundreds of Russian nesting dolls until they find one of ten clues. Half of the teams scrub trolleys in a straightforward but physical Detour; the other half opens dolls. Team Frat Boys somehow find their clue first and it reads: “Find Phil at St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square.” Hmmmm…the words “Pit Stop” are curiously absent.

Sure enough, Eric & Jeremy arrive at the mat (Lake & Michelle are close behind) and Phil declares them “the first team to arrive” (not “Team #1”) and hands them another clue. This is the dreaded “to be continued” and Team Frat Boys shuffle off to continue the Race.

Since there’s no finish to report, I’ll rank my favorite to least-favorite teams:

#1 – Dave & Lori – Team Nerd never fights and seems to be having the most fun in the Race. Only a dozen teams a year have a chance to travel the globe – why stress over the top prize when you probably won’t win anyway? Go Team Nerd! (Spoiler: if you read Phil's blog, he hints that Dave & Lori have fallen way back in Russia)

#2 – Wanda & Desiree – Mom/child teams never seem to go very far but these two are a lovable pair.

#3 – Monica & Joseph – Team MoJo has settled down quite a bit. They’re the cute couple in the mold of Kris & Jon.

#4 – Dani & Dani – Team Pink is OK. I think they’re slowly discovering they can’t use their superpowers to hail a cab.

#5 – Ray & Yolanda – Meh. Ray’s got the personality of an Easter Island statue.

#6 - BJ & Tyler. If people stop looking at Team Burning Man, they disappear. They're crazy, those two.

#7 – Lake & Michelle – Lake is too intense and refuses to admit errors that are all his fault. How many wrong turns can this guy make?

#8 – Eric & Jeremy – These guys must be latent homosexuals since their endless sex patter is surely designed to cover up their Brokeback Mountain feelings. Shut up already.

#9 – Fran & Barry – Did I just say “shut up?” That goes double for Team Kukla who say exactly two things: “Where’s the clue?” and “We’re going to be eliminated.” Incessantly defeatist, a hopeless grind. Go already.
Group hug!Betsy’s back too.

Update (10:50pm EST) - Um, or not. What happened?
I’m back

OK, here’s the story: my blog was automatically deleted by Blogger as part of the “automated spam prevention system.” How I fell into this category, I have no idea since I have no blogads, backtracks or other things beyond text and some picture links.

This afternoon, I received a message from Blogger saying that they’re sorry and my blog has been “whitelisted” so that it won’t happen again. But it looks like my archives are completely gone (I have to go in and try to re-publish them). Before I could reclaim my page, though, I had to delete the “new” Viking Pundit blog that Scott Elliott had saved for me.

Scott Elliott: you rock. You saved my bacon, man.

So I deleted the “new” VP and reset my address from the temporary “vikingpundit2” to the regular “vikingpundit.” Problem solved.

Big big thanks to Scott and Lorie Byrd and everybody else who sent such kind messages. Now we have to get Betsy Newmark back up and running and we can put this whole ugly incident behind us.

Is this thing on?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Chef quits

Fox News: “Isaac Hayes has quit "South Park," where he voices Chef, saying he can no longer stomach its take on religion.”

Alas, it’s a Scientology thing. It was OK for Hayes when Jews, Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Blainetology, Catholics, and Hindus were being ridiculed. But a little parody about Tom Cruise sends him packing. Here’s “South Park” co-creator Matt Stone:

Stone told The AP he and co-creator Trey Parker "never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."
You got that right, chil’ren.
Profile in courage

George Clooney on the Hollywood Huffington Post: “I’m a liberal. There, I said it!”

Humorist Tom Lehrer in the intro to “The Folk Song Army”: “One type of song that has come into increasing prominence in recent months is the folk-song of protest. You have to admire people who sing these songs. It takes a certain amount of courage to get up in a coffee-house or a college auditorium and come out in favor of the things that everybody else in the audience is against like peace and justice and brotherhood and so on.” (circa 1965)
Nicely played, Senator Frist

I’m not a big fan of Bill Frist, but this maneuver showed some moxie:

A short, but sharp partisan skirmish broke out on the Senate floor Monday when Majority Leader Bill Frist tried to schedule a vote for Monday night or Tuesday on Wisconsin Democrat Sen. Russ Feingold’s resolution to censure President Bush.

Frist said Democratic senators ought to be on the record voting for or against the Feingold resolution.

“If the Democratic Party is going to be attacking the president in a time of war, then we are ready to vote and let’s see what the Democratic Party says,” Frist told reporters right after the floor skirmish.

“I don’t know where the Democratic leadership is right now,” he said, but if they support censuring Bush “then I want them to all be on the record.”

But Democratic leaders objected to a roll call vote and it was postponed indefinitely.
With such a bald move for the political spotlight, Feingold isn’t finding many allies in the Senate - “Feingold draws little support for censure Democrats distance themselves from Wisconsin Senator’s effort to censure Bush.”
The midterm outlook – For political junkies only, here’s Jay Cost on Real Clear Politics with “Last week’s myths about 2006
Least surprising headline today: “Anti-Semitism seen rising among France's Muslims
Through a ketchup bottle, darkly

Here’s John Kerry last week:

''There's a very different John Kerry now who is absolutely crystal clear about how I communicate what I need to communicate. . . . People are going to be looking for leadership."
And here he is laying out his crystal clear agenda in New Hampshire this past weekend:

“Don’t let anyone tell you we Democrats don’t know what we stand for. We know who we are and we know what’s worth fighting for. Let me tell you how Democrats will lead if you give us the chance in 2006,” Kerry said at the first joint dinner for the Nashua City Democrats and the Hillsborough County Democrats at the Nashua Country Club.

“Here’s what we’ll do. Tell the truth. Find Osama bin Laden and secure our ports. Stop subsidizing big oil and start investing in energy alternatives. Make access to affordable health care a right and not a privilege. Fight for American jobs that restore the American dream. Obey the law and protect our civil rights. Fire incompetents and restore competence and integrity to Washington,” he said in prepared remarks.
Now that’s some agenda. Kerry went on to declare (boldly!) that “oxygen is good no matter what the Republican leadership says.” (HT: Wizbang)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Bill and Hill double shill

Here’s Joan Vennochi in today’s Boston Globe about how Bill Clinton is acting as the wink-and-a-nod frontman for Hillary’s ambitions:

Husbands and wives are free to disagree on politics. But with the Clintons, when does a policy disagreement become a strategy to straddle both sides of the issue? Should voters take Hillary Clinton's policy statements at face value? Or should they see Bill Clinton winking and conclude what he says out loud is what Hillary is really thinking?
Vennochi concludes – big surprise – that Hillary’s only true conviction is that she should be president. Everything else is malleable to the moment.
Second amendment diary – Well, I am a handgun virgin no more: today a friend of mine took me as a guest to his shooting club and I managed to get off about 80 rounds on my 9mm. Let’s just say that the targets indicate there’s room for improvement when it comes to accuracy.
Hussein’s paranoia won the day in Iraq

Interesting story in today’s NYT: during the Iraq invasion, Saddam Hussein was so concerned about a mass uprising that he crippled the defense against coalition forces. From “Even as U.S. invaded, Hussein saw Iraqi unrest as top threat”:

As American warplanes streaked overhead two weeks after the invasion began, Lt. Gen. Raad Majid al-Hamdani drove to Baghdad for a crucial meeting with Iraqi leaders. He pleaded for reinforcements to stiffen the capital's defenses and permission to blow up the Euphrates River bridge south of the city to block the American advance.

But Saddam Hussein and his small circle of aides had their own ideas of how to fight the war. Convinced that the main danger to his government came from within, Mr. Hussein had sought to keep Iraq's bridges intact so he could rush troops south if the Shiites got out of line.
Saddam also micromanaged the war, held back information, and put a drunk general in charge of the Republican Guard because he was considered loyal. Boy, for a guy who was “re-elected” President with 100% of the vote in Iraq, you’d think he’d have a little more faith in his people.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

(Sung to the tune of “Macarena”):
Who’s gonna be, gonna be on Sunday talk shows?
Who’s gonna be, gonna be Meetin’ the Press now?
Who’s gonna set the stage for a White House run now?
Heyyyyyy! Joe Biden!

In other news, I might get my first opportunity to try out my 9mm tomorrow. A friend of mine set up an appointment to go shooting with the police chief of a nearby Western Massachusetts town, so you know everything will be nice and legal. Hope it doesn’t rain. If I don’t get out, I’m going to stop by at the Smith & Wesson training center in Springfield sometime after work next week.

And then I’m going to cap the day with some NASCAR. Tomorrow’s Nextel Cup race is in Las Vegas and this season I’ve joined in a fantasy league with some co-workers. My drivers are Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Casey Mears, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior had a terrible qualifying run and will be starting in 42nd position; thus, he’ll be “sitting the bench” for my team this week (every week you pick three out of four of your drivers to race.) I’m hoping that hometown favorites Kurt and Kyle pull it out for me.
The Teresa Heinz Kerry name watch

Here’s a news blurb to remember from February 2005:

A campaign convenience is no more.

According to The Washington Times, Teresa Heinz, the erstwhile Teresa Heinz Kerry, has stopped using the last name of her husband, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, last year's Democrat presidential nominee.

Preceding its Women Who Make a Difference Awards dinner next month, the National Council for Research on Women is featuring "a conversation with Teresa Heinz," according to a release from the organization. The council failed to mention the final half of the Fox Chapel ketchup heiress' formerly elongated last name in several other references.

"I just checked and she no longer uses her (entire) last name; only during the (presidential) campaign did she use Kerry," campaign spokeswoman Tamara Rodriguez Reichberg said.
But according to the Boston Globe, John Kerry is considering another run for the presidency in 2008. That means at some point over the next year, Teresa Heinz will magically morph back into Teresa Heinz Kerry. That’s when you know that Kerry is going to run again. Watch for it.
Daily read - Real Clear Politics redecorates. I noticed that one of their links today is “Will Bush’s sinking polls hurt GOP in ’06?” by Eleanor Clift. Hmmm…I wonder how she’ll come down on this question. Not.
Milosevic dead – “Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, the so-called "butcher of the Balkans" being tried for war crimes after orchestrating a decade of bloodshed during his country's breakup, was found dead Saturday in his prison cell. He was 64.”

Friday, March 10, 2006

Iron Spice - Geri Halliwell says: “Margaret Thatcher was the original Spice Girl
MIA Specter - Judicial nominations slow to a crawl, including appointments for emergency vacancies. (HT: Betsy)
Baseball fans - 1. Castro - 0.

From CNN: “'Down with Fidel' sign sparks international incident”: “While Cuba played the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, a spectator in the stands raised a sign saying: "Down With Fidel," sparking an international incident that escalated Friday with fastball velocity.”
Hillary in 2008

Mark Coffey inadvisably advises the Democrats on their 2008 presidential choice. Why, Mark, why? Hillary is the man to beat! New Yorkers are firmly behind her for the presidency. Well, some of them:

Six in 10 New York voters believe Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is planning to run for president in 2008, but only about a third of her home-state voters say they would back her if she did so, a statewide poll reported Thursday.
Go Hillary!
Can’t Bush do anything right? – “Economy adds 243,000 jobs in February”: “Hiring gained ground in February with employers adding 243,000 jobs, the most in three months. Brighter job prospects sent people streaming into the labor market, however, pushing the unemployment rate up marginally to 4.8 percent.”
And why not?

If everybody’s paying you to leave the work force, what’s the down side? From the Boston Globe: “Retirement draws them in Many are leaving work a bit earlier, US survey reports”:

The findings have added importance as the first baby boomers approach retirement age. The oldest baby boomers are turning 60 this year, and the new report suggests that many of them already have left the labor force.

There are about 35 million Americans age 65 and older, a number that is projected to more than double by 2030, according to the report. About 59 percent of seniors are women.

The report attributed the declining work rate among older Americans to the growth in private pensions, Social Security, and Medicare benefits. As benefits for older Americans increased in the last half of the 20th century, fewer saw the need to work beyond age 65, said Mitra Toossi, an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Improved benefits, Toossi said, played a bigger role in retirement plans than the fact that workers were living longer.

But the biggest benefit programs face problems. Private pension systems have been defaulting at an alarming rate. Many companies are abandoning pension plans that guarantee benefits based on years of service and age at retirement.

Medicare, which has added a prescription drug benefit, faces insolvency in 2020, according to the trust fund that runs it, and Social Security, if left alone, is projected to go broke in 2041.
That means I’ll be able to collect Medicare benefits for zero years and Social Security benefits for six years before the whole house of cards comes down. But, hey, the Baby Boomers got theirs so who cares?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Moe Howard Dean

Slate lays into the Democratic figureheads in “The Three Stooges”:

Thus far, Pelosi, Reid, and Dean have been literally unable to develop such a national message for the party's congressional candidates. Not just a good message—any message. Their "legislative manifesto," originally promised for November, has been delayed more often than a flight on Jet Blue. When it eventually arrives, expect something benign and insipid. In 1994, Gingrich had the Contract With America. In 2006, Democrats will have another glass of merlot.
That “no message” meme is really making the rounds.
Now let’s get those poll numbers back up – A small victory: “Bush to sign Patriot Act renewal.”
UAE port deal goes poof

From Fox News: “Dubai company to give up stake in U.S. port deal” – “After Republican leaders warned President Bush that the House and Senate appeared ready to block Dubai Ports World from taking over some U.S. port terminal operations, the company said it would give up its management stake in the deal.

Well, I told you there wouldn’t be a veto. Mark Levin has the predictable Democratic response at the best issue they’ve had in years:

Thanks goes to the House Republicans. The Appropriations Committee vote was so overwhelming, that the UAE got the message and is now pulling the ports deal. Hence, there will be no confrontation with the president, or embarrassing veto override. And the reaction from Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and the appeasement wing of the Senate is hilarious: Reid is demanding a vote on a deal that no longer exists and Schumer is insisting on seeing the details of the now defunct deal. It's not easy being a weak-on-defense liberal.
Michelle Malkin, naturally, has a huge roundup. My feeling is that while the port agreement had certain merits, it could never overcome the political ramifications, especially when so many Americans take a dim view of Muslims. Now let's never speak of it again.

Extra – From Rick Moran: “That thud you heard coming from the White House today was the sound of Karl Rove’s invincibility hitting the floor.” And AJ Strata is really worked up about the whole thing. Mac too.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

His fingerprints are everywhere – It’s not enough for Karl Rove to rig presidential elections, now he’s moved on to Democratic primaries in Texas. The fiend! Red State reminds us that this brings the Daily Kos endorsement record to 0-19.
There will be no veto – Because even Republicans are eager to override the port deal: “The House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to attach to a $92 billion emergency supplemental funding measure for hurricane recovery and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The committee vote was 62-2.”
Math is fun

From Citizen Kane:

Charles Foster Kane: “You're right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars *next* year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I'll have to close this place in... 60 years.”
Now here’s David Ignatius hyperventilating about global warming in the WashPost:

Every week brings new evidence that global climate change is real and that it's advancing more rapidly than scientists had expected. This past week brought a report in Science that the Antarctic is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year.
From Nova:

Antarctica has some seven million cubic miles of ice, representing some 90 percent of the world's total.
So we have some time.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Amazing Race 9 update – Brazil nuts

Teams started out from Sao Paulo, Brazil early in the morning for the Edificio Copan building; everyone received a measly $23 for this leg of the race. The building didn’t open until eight in the morning so we have our first mega-bunching moment of the race with all 10 teams waiting. The next clue is a Roadblock and it’s a “Fire Drill.” One member from each team must climb up spiral staircases attached to the building, then rappel down the side. It’s about a twenty story run up the staircases and, while everybody starts strong, they’re pretty much walking by the top. Teams essentially arrive and leave in the order they started.

The next clue directs them to a bus station where they must take one of three buses leaving at one-hour intervals. The staggered buses are heading 100 miles away to Brotas, Brazil, where 10 VW Bugs are waiting with the next clue. Once there, teams find the Detour: Press it or Climb it. Teams may drive to a sugar plantation and distill ethanol from pressed sugar cane (then use it to power the VWs!). The other choice is to travel to a waterfall and climb up to the top, a task that Phil describes as “extremely physical.” The three youngish teams on Bus #1: Frat Boys, Burning Man, and Mojo all climb up the waterfall and head off to a coffee plantation and the next Pit Stop. By this point in the Race, Eric and Jeremy have supplanted BJ & Tyler as the most annoying team on the show with their relentless sexual innuendo. We get it, already.

The teams on buses #2 and #3 split tasks with Team Nerd, Team Boricua and (much later) Team Glamazon opting to grind sugar cane into fuel while everybody else heads to the waterfall. This seems like a foolish choice for oldsters Fran & Barry of Team Kukla but they slowly make their way up the ropes with ascenders. Lake of Team Ole Miss seems to have two volumes to his voice: off and loud. Yolanda of Team Volcano has legs made for climbing. Team Pink also makes it up the waterfall climb and I’m so grateful that the Frat Boys aren’t around to make comments which would surely appear in “Talk of the Town” section of the New Yorker.

Now with all teams driving their VW Bugs towards the Pit Stop, the Race is mostly down to who can navigate and drive an ancient manual. Lake is screaming at the stupid locals who can’t understand English, while Lisa & Joni can’t get their car to behave. But Fran & Barry have the worst problems as their car breaks down completely. TAR rules state that if a car breaks down through no fault of the driver, teams are entitled to an operating car but that there’s no time compensation (it’s just bad luck.) Later, far after all the other teams have arrived at the Pit Stop we see two teams driving in the dark: Team Kukla and Team Glamazon. In the end, the oldsters’ luck wasn’t bad enough and they arrive at the mat as team #9, to their great surprise. An emotionally exhausted Lisa & Joni arrive last and are eliminated.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Burning Man – BJ & Tyler – Prize: Travelocity trip to Tahiti
#2 – Team Frat Boys – Eric & Jeremy
#3 – Team Mojo – Joseph & Monica
#4 – Team Nerd – David & Lori
#5 – Team Volcano – Ray & Yolanda
#6 – Team Boricua – Wanda & Desiree
#7 – Team Ole Miss – Lake & Michelle
#8 – Team Pink – Dani & Dani
#9 – Team Kukla – Fran & Barry
#10 – Team Glamazon – Lisa & Joni – PHILIMINATED

Next week: Back in the USSR.

In case you missed it: the recap of last week's premiere.

Extra – Kris has her review up on Dummocrats and she’s taken the same attitude towards the Frat Boys: “I loathe these guys.” Nuf said.

More – Pat’s back into the swing with his review. Welcome back!
The judge is not amused

From the Smoking Gun: “Motion denied because you’re an idiot

This gives me the perfect opening to re-post one of my all-time favorite legal decisions: “No Judge Ito.

“Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact — complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words — to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions.”
That’s gold. Gold!
The Democrats’ desultory direction, designed by Dionne

There were two big articles about the aimless Democrats recently and their inability to formulate a message going into the midterm elections. First, the NY Times had “For Democrats, many verses but no chorus”:

And while Democrats have no shortage of criticism to offer, they have so far not introduced a strategy for governing along the lines of the Republican Party's Contract With America, the 1994 initiative that some Democrats hold up as their model for this year's elections.

"It's certainly worth the effort, but it's damned hard to do," Charles O. Jones, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said of the Democratic effort to emulate the Republicans.

"If you're going to run a national campaign," as the Republicans did in 1994, Dr. Jones said, "it's helpful to have a message, not just 'The other guys don't know what they are doing.' If Democrats are using that strategy, I haven't heard that message yet."
I like that: “helpful to have a message.” Some might say it’s critical, maybe even the essence of what it means to be a political party. But I digress. This article was followed up today in the WashPost with “Democrats Struggle To Seize Opportunity - Amid GOP Troubles, No Unified Message”:

On Feb. 27, Reid and Pelosi appeared before the Democratic Governors Association. At one point in the conversation, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, noting that the two leaders had talked about a variety of themes and ideas, asked for help. Could they reduce the message to just two or three core ideas that governors could echo in the states?

According to multiple accounts from those in the room, Reid said they had narrowed the list to six and proceeded to talk about them. Pelosi then offered her six -- not all the same as Reid's. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said later: "One of the other governors said 'What do you think?' and I said 'You know what I think? I don't think we have a message.' "
The WashPost article has a particularly humorous progression where the Democrats plan to release their mission statement in November 2005, then January 2006, then “soon” then “this summer.”

But have no fear: WashPost columnist E.J. Dionne thinks that presenting a lucid strategy for governance is overrated. According to him, the Dems should keep up their amorphous mantra of nattering negativism:

The stories about the Democrats are by no means flatly false -- Democrats don't yet have a fully worked-out alternative program -- but they are based on a false premise, and they underestimate what I'll call the positive power of negative thinking.

The Democrats' real problem is that they have failed to show that their critique of the Republican status quo is the essential first step toward an alternative program.
Well. The obvious question here is that, after five years of reflexive opposition to everything Bush, when will the Democrats take that elusive second step? Maybe this summer we’ll see the details of the “alternative program” which currently sits in a locked safe underground, guarded by armed sentries, magical charms, and Cerberus.

Extra – Kevin on Pundit Review hands the Democrats a new slogan for 2006: “We stand for something! Just don’t ask us what.” Also, here’s the latest from Scrappleface.

More - H-Bomb asks the question on everybody's mind: "Does E.J. Dionne smoke crack?"
Peace in our time, 2006 edition – From Leon DeWinter in Opinion Journal, here’s “Soft Europe”: “After two years of disastrous dialogue, and more of the same in recent days, we can conclude that no diplomatic initiative can stop Iran from getting the bomb.”
Blogger scoops MSM on Air America debacle – Hey, how about a hand for Brian Maloney? He reported some time ago that New York radio station WLIB would jettison liberal network Air America once their two-year lease expired. Now the NY Post and others are picking up on the story. Cool.