Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In vino veritas – Slate has an interesting book review of what the reviewer calls “The most useful wine book ever” aka “The Oxford Companion to Wine.” I’m somewhat partial to the California reds such as 3 Blind Moose and Smoking Loon, sipped from my Alsatian green-stemmed wine glass.
Kim blinks – From Fox News: “North Korea to rejoin disarmament talks” This is a victory for the White House only in the sense that it convinced China to crack down on their crazy uncle to the South.
Everything you need to know about Kerry

“…a veteran, someone like me…”
Yes, we know.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Virginia Senate – Remember when George Allen was being described as Presidential timber? Good times, good times. The polls turn red-blue-red-blue in this super toss-up.
Dead tree update - Circulation at the major U.S. papers is way down, except for the New York Post. Q&O runs through the thesaurus.
The election should be a choice, not a referendum

Here’s David Lightman in the Hartford Courtant with his analysis of the midterm elections: “Tired of GOP, wary of Dems

The mood on the streets of this small Virginia town is the same one dominating the political landscape across key states in this last full week before the Nov. 7 election: People are fed up with Republicans, but not sure they want to vote for Democrats.
The Democrats have managed to turn this election into a referendum on Republican rule by assiduously avoiding any mention of what they would do if elected:

On national security, the House Democrats' plan offers more goals than details. Who could disagree with promises to "eliminate Osama Bin Laden, destroy terrorist networks like al-Qaeda, finish the job in Afghanistan and end the threat posed by the Taliban" or "redouble efforts to stop nuclear weapons development in Iran and North Korea?" But the hard part -- on which Democrats offer no details -- is how that is to be done.

On Iraq in particular, the agenda calls for "the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces," with "Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country." Again, what's missing are the details of what "responsible redeployment" might look like. "Insist that Iraqis make the political compromises necessary to unite their country and defeat the insurgency," the Democrats say. Okay, what if that insistence doesn't yield the desired result?
At this point it’s looking likely that Nancy Pelosi will be the new speaker of the House. But I also remember a Democratic operative on November 2nd, 2004 saying of John Kerry: “Now Americans have to vote for him.” If Americans take a second look at what the Democrats aren’t saying, the Congressional shift may fizzle out.

Extra - James Lileks on the Democrats' first 100 days. Now that's an agenda.
George Will doesn’t like football – All right, George, we get it: baseball is the only sport for thinking men like you. In his latest article, he complains that football has instant replay while elections do not, although Americans expect an unrealistic degree of uncomplication: “Democracy is not a mere game. But -- write this on a piece of paper, using a No. 2 pencil -- neither is it an activity from which it is sensible to demand more precision than can reasonably be expected when, on a November Tuesday, 100 million people record billions of political choices.”
ManBearPig alert – From Fox News: “British government report: Global warming could cripple world economy.”

Let’s make a deal. I’ll never again write a snarky word about Al Gore and the myth of anthrogenic climate change if Ted Kennedy agrees to give up his pristine view off Hyannisport and allow the Cape Wind project to move forward. After all, if global warming is such a dire problem - a genuine threat to life, liberty and fortune - surely Ted would support a wind power project, even if it is in his own backyard. After all, sacrifices must be made.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Amazing Race 10 update – Swim, stall, salt, sea, sail, and snipe

Teams started out in the middle of the night in Kuwait City and needed to make their way to Mauritius, which almost everybody mispronounces as they talk to the travel agents. (More-it-tie-us?) Team Blonde tries to book plane tickets for Tyler & James, jumping ahead of the Alabama moms; words are exchanged. Hard to believe, it appears that everybody must take a circuitous flight to London first before they can continue on to Mauritius off the coast of Africa.

Once in Mauritius, teams take a marked car and they need to find a boat in Grand Baie that matches a model in the car. Everybody needs to swim to the boat, which looks about a hundred yards out, but the Amazing Race helpers provide life vests so nobody drowns. The Southern teams are not very hydrophilic and they struggle in the water. Meanwhile, Team Rehab is driving in circles. At the boat, the next clue directs the teams to the post office in Case Noyale.

Eventually everybody’s on the road again but the automobile gremlins are being puckish. Team Bicker starts up again as Rob cannot get his car in gear and he petulantly storms away from Kimberly. Dustin from Team Blonde smashes her car into the back of a bus but they still arrive at the next clue first to find the Detour. Rob & Kimberly get a replacement car but, as we’re reminded, they get no time credit for their bad clutch.

Detour: Salt or Sea. Teams may either dig through massive piles of salt for a salt shaker, or sail to a small island and use a treasure map to find a sailboat mast and sail back to shore. Everybody chooses the Salt (except Team Blonde) but then once they get a feel for how much digging is required, everybody (except Team 16 Tons) gives up and heads to the Sea Detour. In typical form, Mary decides the best way to help is to nag and gripe to victory; she sits on a pile of salt as David shovels away.

Dustin & Kandace complete the Detour first and take their little sailboat back to the Pit Stop at the Chateau Bel Ombre. Back at the Salt pile, Mary wears down David down to a nub and he agrees to switch to the Sea detour even though they know they’ll be in last place. What exactly is the logic behind this move? And why can’t David stand up for himself just once? They deserve to lose and I’m hoping this is not a non-elimination leg tonight.

Teams Ergo, Alabama and 16 Tons are all traveling in a row as the final three teams heading for the Pit Stop. Two teams turn left and one turns right. Once Team 16 Tons realizes they’ve headed in the wrong direction, Mary helpfully tells David to “back up then go straight.” They arrive in last place (again) and (again) this is a non-elimination leg for them; if they don’t arrive first in the next leg, they’ll incur a 30-minute penalty. Since all my Peter hatred now needs to find a new outlet, I’m praying that Mary will go next week and take David with her.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Blonde – Dustin & Kandace – Prize: motorscooters
#2 – Team Rehab – Tyler & James
#3 – Team Bicker – Rob & Kimberly
#4 – Team Ergo – Erwin & Godwin
#5 – Team Alabama – Lyn & Karlyn
#6 – Team 16 Tons – David & Mary – Non-elimination leg

Next week – Another new twist to the Race: the “Intersection” where teams who hate each other must work together. Watch for Phil’s evil arching eyebrow to make an appearance.

Extra – This space reserved for updates from Pat and Kris.
America’s accountant on the “Fiscal Responsibility” roadshow

David M. Walker is the head of the General Accounting Office and he’s setting up the evangelical tent to convince Americans that the crush of entitlements will bankrupt the government. From MSNBC: “Fiscal roadshow warns of trouble ahead

Walker doesn’t want to make balancing the federal government’s books sexy — he just wants to make it politically palatable. He has committed to touring the nation through the 2008 elections, talking to anybody who will listen about the fiscal black hole Washington has dug itself, the “demographic tsunami” that will come when the baby boom generation begins retiring and the recklessness of borrowing money from foreign lenders to pay for the operation of the U.S. government.

He’s dubbed his campaign the fiscal wake-up tour.
Here come the scary numbers:

Their basic message is this: If the United States government conducts business as usual over the next few decades, a national debt that is already $8.5 trillion could reach $46 trillion or more, adjusted for inflation.

A hole that big could paralyze the U.S. economy; according to some projections, just the interest payments on a debt that big would be as much as all the taxes the government collects today.

And every year that nothing is done about it, Walker says, the problem grows by $2 trillion to $3 trillion.
What we’re essentially doing by ignoring the entitlement problem is giving quiet approval to Chinese ownership of America since they would be lending us the cash to pay for Medicare and Social Security.
Sunday morning lineup - It's Ben Cardin vs. Michael Steele on "Meet the Press" in the tightening race for Maryland's senate seat. Joe Biden will be bringing his own microphone to "Late Edition."
But the power’s still on – It’s very very windy here today.
Speling skilz not needed at Fox – Apparently the concillation of “Studio 60” is iminent.

At least they’re right about this: “Sorkin and friends will argue that NBC has done something wrong, or that the audience isn’t smart enough.” Fer sure.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Osama’s dead again

Analysis from Canada’s Globe and Mail:

Sporting his thick, greying beard, a black turban and metal-rimmed glasses, it was the seventh video that Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda founder and right-hand jihadist to Osama bin Laden, has recorded since June, a period during which Mr. bin Laden has made no public statements at all.

That, experts and acquaintances say, likely means something's gone awry inside al-Qaeda. Some speculate the world's second-most wanted man, a pioneer in the use of suicide bombings and martyr videos, has become the group's new No. 1.
And then there’s this not-dead guy: “Last Wednesday, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro may have slipped into a coma.”
How much closer can this get? – It’s going to be a long election night. Rassmussen reports that Tom Kean Jr. has edged into a 2-point lead in the New Jersey Senate race. Kean 43% - Menendez 41%. The rolling average in this race is a coin flip.

Also, Charlie Cook has moved the Maryland Senate race from “leans Democrat” to “toss-up.” So there are two tight races in Democratic leaning states; I’d say the Republican candidates are going to have to pad those leads to overcome the built-in voter base.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Congratulations – To the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals and AJ Strata for reaching his one-millionth visit. It's all good.
Colorful language – Is it the Pope or Australian imam Sheik Hilali? You be the judge!
You may need that after November 7th – CNet News has a list of the “worst political web sites” and Republican Kay Granger’s homepage has a recipe for “killer” margaritas. “Granger's campaign slogan is "Celebrating Our Nation's Values," and there's nothing more American than getting sloshed on wacky recipes you find on the Internet.” You go, girl!
Garden State politics – New York magazine asks: “Could Jersey go red?” – “Control of the Senate could turn on one of the bluest states—and one of the nastiest races—in the country. And Jon Corzine is sweating it.”
Quixotry!


Two weeks ago, a Massachusetts carpenter shook the world of Scrabble by racking up the most points ever in a sanctioned game. From Stefan Fatsis on Slate:

On Oct. 12, in the basement of a Unitarian church on the town green in Lexington, Mass., a carpenter named Michael Cresta scored 830 points in a game of Scrabble. His opponent, Wayne Yorra, who works at a supermarket deli counter, totaled 490 points. The two men set three records for sanctioned Scrabble in North America: themost points in a game by one player (830), the most total points in a game (1,320), and the most points on a single turn (365, for Cresta's play of QUIXOTRY).
Wow. I played Scrabble at lunch today (I lost) and my flashiest achievement was MUON played onto a triple word score while intersecting with SOU.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Options for reform – Will Franklin has a handy graph showing the depletion of the Social Security Trust fund under several different reform scenarios; the current situation is decidedly “unsustainable.”
Quote of the Day – Ambassador from Mexico Enrique Berruga on the United Nations: “Most members don’t want this place to be turned into a mockery.”
Mmmmmm…..uncovered meat.
That darn Walmart – From TCS here’s “Forget the World Bank, try Walmart”: “With an estimated $23 billion in Chinese exports in 2005 (out of a total of $713 billion in manufacturing exports), Wal-Mart might well be single-handedly responsible for bringing about 38,000 people out of poverty in China each month, about 460,000 per year.” There are many footnotes and even Paul Krugman is cited.
Close race in New Jersey – I’ll admit that the race between Bob Menendez and Tom Kean Jr. is #1 on my midterm election radar. I grew up in New Jersey when Tom Kean Sr. was governor and if Junior can’t win against a frumpy Democrat under federal investigation, then I give up on the Garden State. It’s still an uphill battle for Kean given the blueness of the state, but two recent polls have it as a dead heat. And now the NRSC is going to open its wallet and pump $5 million into Kean’s campaign.
Scott Adams speaks! – Well, this is such a strange story that I’m tempted to believe that it’s all a hoax. The creator of Dilbert has lost his voice – permanently. But he had a good day when he “remapped” his brain to temporarily speak again. Weird.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Speaking of survival

The GOP is depending on terrorism, taxes, and turnout. From President Bush’s press conference today:

I think the coming election is a referendum on these two things: which party has got the plan that will enable our economy to continue to grow and which party has a plan to protect the American people.
And there’s this in the WashPost: “The GOP leans on a proven strategy – White House courts conservative base.
Gotta love the internets – Just in time for tonight’s episode of “Jericho” I received in the mail a copy of a nuclear survival guide. Used via Amazon for the outrageous price of 14 cents (plus shipping).
Malthus was a fraud – Writing in the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby refutes the “population pessimists” on the occasion of the 300 millionth American: “If presidents seem less than thrilled about the population milestones reached on their watch, perhaps it is because they have been unable to shake off the prophecies of doom about "overpopulation" that date back at least to Thomas Malthus's prediction that starvation and misery were the inevitable consequence of population growth. That was in 1798, and we have been hearing from "Malthusian" alarmists ever since.”
Massachusetts governor’s race – There was a time when I thought Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey had an excellent chance to be elected governor. After all, Mitt Romney is a popular (current) governor and a lot of people in the Bay State view the governor’s office as the only check against an overwhelmingly Democratic state house.

However, she’s run an awful campaign which is detailed in “Kerry Healey’s backfiring campaign ads”: “Like all political candidates, Healey is ultimately responsible for her own campaign. However, she must realize by now that the strategists around her are guilty of political malpractice. She adopted the wrong tone for this time in Bay State politics; and I doubt it will ever be the right tone for any female candidate seeking statewide office. It's sexist but true. There's a very fine line between tough and witchy.”

The latest polls show Kerry way, way behind Democratic candidate Deval Patrick; it would take a miracle for her to catch up now.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One less Bay Stater to tax – Bruce at Mass Backwards is packing up and moving north to New Hampshire, leaving me all by myself. It doesn’t look like he’s conflicted about the decision.

Remember this story? “Massachusetts lost more residents than it attracted in recent years, at a greater rate than any other state but New York, according to Census Bureau estimates released today.”
Are the Iraqi insurgents trying to sway the U.S. elections?

The Economist (UK) seems to suggest as much in “Iraq’s bleak future”:

If one were to consider only the news from inside Iraq, there would be many reasons to be depressed. The month of Ramadan, which is just coming to an end, has often seen extra bloodshed. This time around insurgents, some evidently aware that George Bush and the Republicans face disgruntled voters at the mid-term elections at home, have stepped up attacks. Violence between Sunni and Shia groups seems to be worsening, with massacres of civilians, especially in Baghdad. Add to that the fighting between Shia factions, as well as the activities of criminal gangs and extortionists. Few would now deny that Iraq is embroiled in a civil war.
Which is why we’re now seeing stories like this: “General weights 2nd troop shift to calm Baghdad.” Not good.
Quote of the day – Here’s Republican pollster Frank Luntz from “This time, it’s not the economy”: “I don’t know of another election cycle in which the economy was so good, yet the election prospects for the incumbent party looked so bad.”
Cleaning up elections in Missouri

Polls across the nation have shown firm support for identification at the voting booth, but every voter ID law has faced court challenges by groups crying “poll tax.” The Opinion Journal editorial explains why voter ID has faced opposition in Missouri in “The Don’t Show Me State.”

But there's a reason that Democrat partisans are more interested in raising the specter of Jim Crow than in protecting the integrity of the voting process. And here's a clue: While the Missouri Supreme Court was preparing its decision earlier this month, the Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran front-page stories about the thousands of fraudulent voter registrations submitted by Acorn, a national left-wing group financed in part by organized labor.

According to the Star, Acorn's voter registration drive generated some 35,000 applications, "but thousands of them appear to be duplicates or contain dubious data." The report went on to note that "[n]ear the top of the fishy list would be a man named Mark who apparently registered seven times over a three-day period using his mother's home address and phone number." Mom told the paper he hadn't lived there in six years.

Acorn and its affiliates have been among the most active and vocal opponents of voter ID laws in Missouri and nationwide. Now we know why.
This is all part and parcel of the Left’s idea of “fair game.”

Extra – Betsy has much more on Missouri and the voter ID argument.
The enemy as we know it - A U.S. Army translator has been kidnapped in Iraq while visiting relatives in Baghdad. Just once, can we see a resolution to this story that doesn’t end in torture and murder? Maybe the insurgents can reveal a hint of humanity this time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Accounting board urges honesty in stating Social Security costs

From the Houston Chronicle – “Social Security accounting change sought”:

Advocates of a change in how the books are kept on future Social Security and Medicare benefits say Americans need a better sense of the government's fiscal health.
The change, if approved, would have no impact on benefits themselves. It would, however, show just how much the social programs truly cost, which proponents say would highlight the need to find long-term fiscal fixes.
Yes!
The move is the brainchild of an obscure panel, the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board, that is recommending how the government should maintain its books. Bush administration representatives on the board are adamantly opposed to the proposal and could kill it.
No! What?

However, administration and other government officials on the advisory board say such a system wouldn't paint an accurate long-term fiscal picture. And, they say, current calculations of federal retirement benefits are in no way a legal contract like a private-sector pension plan.
Ha! Oh, yeah, those private pension “contracts” are super-safe and all legal-like. From today’s Boston Globe, here’s economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff with “The Great Pension Swindle”:

Over 1 million private pension participants have seen their pension funds go belly-up. Their pension benefits are "guaranteed" by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), a government-established insurance company. But since the corporation limits the amount of benefits it insures, most of these participants have seen or will see tremendous benefit cuts. And there's no guarantee of the PBGC's "guarantee." The corporation is already short $23 billion and needs another $150 billion to deal with pending defaults.
Excuse me while I check my 401(k). It’s been heading up lately and it might go down again, but it will always be my money.

More – From the Heritage blog: “Tough new accounting rules proposed
Garden state politics – New Jersey Senate candidate Tom Kean Jr. gets a long profile in today’s Washington Post. If the son of a former NJ governor can’t win election against an unpopular candidate who is “under federal criminal investigation” (as Kean notes repeatedly) then there’s no hope for my former home state.

Extra – Matt Hoy asks: “Are New Jersey voters stupid?” Hey, I still have family in NJ, Matt. Watch it.
Political junkie heaven – If you haven’t checked out Scott Elliott’s Election Projection, then head on over and check out his latest analysis. Want more? Scott is offering a “name your own price” offer for premium content.
The death throes of the Lamont campaign – There’s not much sunshine on the GOP horizon, despite the brave face of the White House. But we’ll always have that burger-flipper Ned and his irrelevant campaign. Now the guy who’s almost entirely self-funded his campaign is delving back into petty cash spending by the Lieberman campaign during Connecticut’s Democratic primary. Hey, good luck with that Ned.
Because Steve Jobs is a dictator – Forbes has an interesting article about the rise of the IPod in “Why Apple Won.” Short answer: Steve Jobs pushed his engineers relentlessly, taking home the latest versions over the weekend and returning on Monday morning with a long “to fix” list.
Which will rule? American law or Islamic law?

From the Boston Globe: “Muslim could be first in Congress

While there is no such thing as a sure thing in politics, congressional candidate Keith Ellison is a good bet to join the freshman class of 2006 in the US House of Representatives.

If he does, Ellison, who is the Democratic nominee in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, will take the oath of office with his hand on the Koran and not the Bible -- the first Muslim in American history to be elected to Congress.
That would be the Koran that dictates that any Muslim that chooses another religion must be put to death. When Ellison takes the oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, how can he square this with Islamic law that stands – in many aspects – in direct contradiction to the freedoms we hold “self-evident”? I’m troubled.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Amazing Race 10 update – Two words: automatic whips

Before we start out, a recap from last week: Team 16 Tons came in last on a non-elimination leg but instead of the traditional penalty of taking all their money, David & Mary need to come in first this week or they will incur a 30-minute penalty. Since they’ve been near the back of the pack on every leg so far, it’s unlikely they’ll come in first; they better hope for some very bad luck by some other Team.

Teams start out in Chennai, India and they must make their way to Kuwait City, Kuwait and find two globe-topped towers based on a visual clue. (Later, we find out they’re called the Kuwait Towers.) Everybody needs to connect through Mumbai so it’s a bunching situation with everybody on the same flight to Kuwait. Once there, they pick up marked cars to drive to the Towers where they pick numbered tags and wait for the observation deck to open at 11am.

Once the clue is revealed, there’s both a Fast Forward and a Roadblock. The Fast Forward is a task only one team can do but they can skip the rest of the leg. Team Ergo hints that they will do the FF to scare other teams off, then they let Team 16 Tons take it. David & Mary must go to an oil field, don fire equipment, and retrieve a clue from a clue box next to a simulated oil-well fire. Meanwhile, everybody else must do the Roadblock which is to climb a ladder on the exterior of the Kuwait Tower and grab a satchel with puzzle pieces. This doesn’t look especially difficult if you’re not afraid of heights; both of the brothers in Team Ergo admit they are.

Here we go again: the Roadblock, which involves a climb up a narrow ladder, is performed by one-legged Sarah instead of Peter who – once again – is shown lounging around yelling, ‘C’mon Sarah.” What is wrong with that guy? While everybody is working on the Roadblock puzzle, Team 16 Tons fights the oil fire and grabs the clue directing them to the Pit Stop at the Al-Sadiq Water Towers. Unbelievably, they arrive as Team #1.

Back outside the Towers, teams finish their puzzles; they must find a garment store on a remote street for the next clue. Everybody seems to get really lost except for Team Rehab. This clue is a Detour: Manual or Automatic. Teams may either fill ten 100-lb. camel feed bags and stack them or go to the camel track and race camels with tiny automatic jockeys. These robots are hilarious: they have a little remote-control whip to drive the camel along. Everybody is having an awful time navigating around Kuwait.

The younger teams – Team Bicker, Team Blonde, and Team Ergo – are all stacking camel feed bags. Team Leg Up and Team Rehab are hopelessly lost. Team Alabama finally finds the camel track. Peter congratulates himself for spotting a TAR arrow, big man, but it’s the Fast Forward! Psych! They’re still lost. Tyler & James find the camel club.

The sun is going down in Kuwait and Team Leg Up arrives at the Detour well after dark. When they open the clue, it merely says: “Go to the Pit Stop” which pretty much sums up their fate. They arrive at Phil’s mat and he informs them that they have been eliminated from the Race. Both Racers say some uncomplimentary things about each other (e.g. “hard headed” and “not nurturing”) before they’re shown walking away, far apart.

Final standings:

#1 – Team 16 Tons – David & Mary – Prize: Travelocity trip
#2 – Team Blonde – Dustin & Kandace
#3 – Team Bicker – Rob & Kimberly
#4 – Team Alabama – Lyn & Karlyn
#5 – Team Ergo – Erwin & Godwin
#6 – Team Rehab – Tyler & James
#7 – Team Leg Up – Peter & Sarah - PHILIMINATED

Next week – The Blondies crash their car.

Extra – This space reserved for reviews from Pat and Kris who cheers “Whooooo!” Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, Kris.
Ned Lamont for Senate – Because he’s no damn good at driving a forklift.
Red lights flashing everywhere

I just finished Lawrence Wright’s excellent “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11” last night and the single biggest lesson of the book is that the failure of the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA to cooperate and share intelligence was comically tragic:

The FBI agents investigating the case sought permission from headquarters to examine Moussaoui’s laptop, which was denied because the agents couldn’t show a probable cause for the search. When the Minneapolis supervisor pressed the matter with headquarters, he was told he was trying to get people “spun up.” The supervisor defiantly responded that he was “trying to keep someone from taking a plane and crashing it into the World Trade Center” – a weird premonition that suggests how such thoughts were surging through the unconscious of those who were reading the threat reports. [p. 351]
There are many other head-shaking examples of bureaucratic inertia and interagency ego. But there are also tales of success, mostly by driven men who found ways around the roadblocks like FBI agent John O’Neill. After the attacks, it’s incredible to think that the U.S. had exactly one lead to Al-Qaeda, a man who was supposed to videotape the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. (He was being held in Yemen for "suspicion.") But thank heaven for one unsung hero, FBI agent Ali Soufan, who managed to break him down after days of interrogation to pull back the curtain on Al-Qaeda. A must read.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ford’s bad form

Sometimes in politics, there’s a moment that firmly turns voters away from a candidate that has nothing to with issues. Maybe the best example is Al Gore’s impolite off-camera sighing at George W. Bush’s comments in 2000’s first Presidential debate. I think we may have witnessed another example yesterday as Harold Ford Jr. crashed a press conference by Bob Corker in Tennessee. What was that all about? If it was a stunt, it was a silly and ineffectual one that smells of desperation, even though both men are essentially tied in the polls for the open Senate seat. These kinds of antics don’t sit well with voters; watch for a bump in Corker’s numbers.
I think Will photoshopped in the “Whee!” – Here comes that Social Security shortfall, graphically represented over at Willisms. We’re broke.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Not the intended result – What happened when OPEC declared they would cut production? “Oil on Friday fell more than 2 percent to a 2006 low below $57 a barrel on speculation that OPEC members would not follow through on plans to make deep production cuts to stem a three-month price slide.”
IDs will be required at the polls – At least in Arizona they will, according to the U.S. Supreme Court which struck down a ruling by the 9th Circuit (yet again). The Court noted that it was not giving an opinion on current law but merely upholding an initiative approved by Arizona voters in 2004. (HT: Polipundit)
Names in the news - John Hawkins of Right Wing News swings the microphone and interviews Bob Corker and Larry Elder. Check it out.
A little Constitutional logic now and then

I’m behind on the news today, but I did read this book review of Judge Richard Posner’s “Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency”:

The apt title is drawn from a 1949 dissent by Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who warned that a failure to "temper … doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom" would risk turning the "Bill of Rights into a suicide pact." This is the heart of Judge Posner's legal philosophy, pragmatism. Best explicated in his 1995 book, "Overcoming Law," Judge Posner's approach is, as he puts it, “instrumental": practical, not dogmatic.
I’m a fan of Antonin Scalia but even he gets tripped up with “originalism” when confronted with Brown vs. Board of Education. By the same coin, it’s a tenuous argument that the Constitution bars us from listening in on phone calls from Yemen.
Let’s not get crazy – Hey, I’m all for the GOP holding the Senate, but Rick Santorum has never cracked above 50% in tracking polls which is a bad sign for an incumbent. Still, Kathryn Jean Lopez on the Corner says: “And mark my words: Santorum wins.” Yeah, I don’t think so.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dow 12K – “Dow Industrials close above 12,000 for the first time” My 401(k) has been reflecting a healthy boost. And the cherry on top is I can still depend on a 1% return rate on my Social Security account. Snap!

Meanwhile, George Will urges everybody to shake those fiscal blues and get happy!
"Lost" jumps an ocean of sharks - Just what the heck was that last night? Do they plan on any plot development this season, or will it be all flashbacks and puzzled scowls? Silly stuff.
Boston sticks it to New York; Red Sox players seen snickering

From the WSJ, via Free Republic: “Boston Globe doesn’t deliver for the Times

When the New York Times Co. bought the Boston Globe in 1993 for $1.1 billion, the family-run New York newspaper said it was betting heavily on the future of the highly educated, affluent Boston market.

But now that brainy, well-heeled populace turns out to be on the leading edge of a digital migration that is pummeling the Boston Globe so badly that it is on track for its first unprofitable year in its recent history, according to people familiar with the company's finances.
All together now: it’s the Internet’s fault!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

High self-esteem = low math scores

From the WashPost: “For math students, self-esteem might not equal high scores

According to the Washington think tank's annual Brown Center report on education, 6 percent of Korean eighth-graders surveyed expressed confidence in their math skills, compared with 39 percent of U.S. eighth-graders. But a respected international math assessment showed Koreans scoring far ahead of their peers in the United States, raising questions about the importance of self-esteem.
In response there's this: “5 out of 4 U.S. teachers reject math-esteem study” (HT: Joanne J.)
The limits of free speech, a continuing series

Jeff Jacoby demonstrates how tolerance of conservative ideas stops before it starts:

In Seattle, two teachers are suing the affluent Lakeside prep school for illegal racial discrimination and the creation of a hostile work environment. “Among the plaintiffs' complaints," reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “was Lakeside's invitation to conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza to speak as part of a distinguished lecture series." But D'Souza, a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution and a veteran of the Reagan White House, never gave the lecture: Faculty members opposed to his views howled when he was invited, and the school's headmaster, bowing to the censors, rescinded the invitation.

Asked about the campaign against him, D'Souza had said: “I am coming to speak on one day. If they think what I am saying is so awful, they have the rest of the year to refute it." But that isn't enough for the enemies of free speech. They insist not only that speakers with politically incorrect opinions be shunned, but that anyone offering them a platform be punished as well.
D’Souza undoubtedly saved himself from the usual intellectual rejoinders of the left wing including cream pies, salad dressing, shoes, and more cream pies.
Looking for the 21st century Yugo – My Subaru Outback Sport is approaching 180,000 miles and I really need a new car soon. Gearbox contributor Seth Stevenson reviews the cheapest cars on the market and falls in love with the Honda Fit. Right now, I’m leaning pretty heavily for the Toyota Matrix aka Pontiac Vibe. Anybody have hearts or darts for the Matrix/Vibe? I’d love to get another Subaru but they stopped making bodies small enough to fit in my garage.
Protest signs, but no bullhorns – The Explainer on “What are the protests like in Gallaudet?” Short answer: “Chants and cheers in American Sign Language.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Red state television – The TV reviewer for Slate recently begged for the salvation of NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” and he may be on to something. The show is unflinching in dealing with issues of relationships, religion, and football frenzy in a way that television rarely treads. I read the book a couple years ago and the representations of confrontational boosters and former players are spot on; the town draws its identity from the football team and a loss is intolerable. Check it out.
Jumping on the bandwagon

P.J. O’Rourke switches sides!

Opposing Republican hegemony is not without cost. It's going to cost me my marriage if I keep hanging around the house drinking beer. But I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the GOP loses. And I promise to stay involved in my children's' lives, occasionally picking them up at day care as they madly scratch their scalps. It takes a village, etc.

No price is too high to pay for principled idealism. And as soon as high-minded indignation has defeated the Republicans, there will be the impoverishment from protectionism, the horror of nuke-wielding petty dictators, and the increased killings by terrorists to prove it. Deep-thinking people will be relieved that Dennis Hastert can no longer cover up misbehavior in the congressional page program.
Meanwhile, Big Lizards asks: “Can all the polls be screwy? Of course they can.”
No love lost – The Boston Globe has the latest “John Kerry for President” article but nothing quite matches the loathe-fest by readers of the Globe. It’s pretty clear that the only posters in support of a second Kerry run are Republicans spoiling for a fight.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Getting really close now – This is a great feature: the Census Bureau has a counter up showing the number of Americans as it gets close to 300 million. (299,996,970 at this writing)
Judges know better than you

In a debate with Nadine Strossen of the ACLU, Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia observed:

Arguing that liberal judges in the past improperly established new political rights such as abortion, Scalia warned, "Someday, you're going to get a very conservative Supreme Court and regret that approach."

"On controversial issues on stuff like homosexual rights, abortion, we debate with each other and persuade each other and vote on it either through representatives or a constitutional amendment," the Reagan appointee said.

"Whether it's good or bad is not my job. My job is simply to say if those things you find desirable are contained in the Constitution," he said.
Right on. In a related article, Opinion Journal details “How judges threaten direct democracy.” Surprise! Massachusetts is cited in one example how the will of the people is thwarted:

Government officials pay homage to democracy, but this election year some are actively trying to undermine it. While the 79 citizen-sponsored initiatives that will be voted on this year is up 25% from 2004, courts have become increasingly aggressive in throwing them off the ballot, often for dubious reasons.
Hey, I’m still waiting for Bay State politicians to roll back the state income tax like voters dictated back in 2000.
Start sinking quick

From New York Magazine: “Could the Democrats lose?

Democrats are flushed. Democrats are giddy. They see 2006 shaping up as a rerun of 1994, with the partisan polarities reversed.

All of which has got me thinking: disaster in the making.
Boo-ya!
Osama Bin Laden is laughing his ass off – “Lawyer given 28 months for aiding terrorism”: “Lynne Stewart, 67, was convicted in February 2005 of helping her imprisoned client, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, to contact the Islamic Group -- listed by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization -- with messages prosecutors said could have ignited violence in Egypt.”

So she’s a grandmother. Tough nuts. She should have been thinking about her family, and the potential consequences, as she assisted the original gorilla of American terrorism. Two years, what a joke.
Hey, sure, why not? Another nail in the coffin – “FBI searches Rep. Weldon daughter’s home”: “Federal agents on Monday searched the home of U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon's daughter, an FBI spokeswoman said, amid reports the Pennsylvania Republican used his influence to help his lobbyist daughter win contracts.” Isn’t this fun? Three more weeks to go!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Amazing Race 10 update – Driving a car in India is no small feat

Before tonight’s review, I need to point out something my son noticed: CBS’s Sunday night lineup rhymes:

“The Amazing Race”
“Cold Case”
“Without a Trace”

After the local news, this is topped off by repeats of “CSI: Someplace.”

The remaining seven teams started out from Vietnam and headed for Chennai, India. Everybody had to start off on a train for the airport at Hanoi so it was a bunching situation. Team Ergo had on great T-shirts with a picture of Phil and a large “LOST” on top. Peter tries to strike an alliance with Team Blonde who appear desperate for help. Everybody must obtain tickets from a travel agency since you cannot purchase plane tickets at the Hanoi airport; there’s a lot of jockeying as teams try to find the fastest route to India. Team 16 Tons and Team Alabama gamble on a connecting flight at Dehli but there was only room for Alabama, leaving David & Mary behind. Fortunately, they find another airline arriving only 30 minutes later.

Once in India, teams must take a bus to a craft store at Malla…something. Team Blonde then Team Leg Up arrive but there’s a sign saying: “Back at 11:30.” Huh? Didn’t the Amazing Race production crew give them a heads-up? Anyway, it’s a Detour: Wild Things or Wild Rice. In Wild Things, teams must subdue a crocodile; in Wild Rice, teams must use colored sand to create an intricate pattern on the ground. Given that teams are going to get a lot of local help with the crocs, it seems crazy to spend time with the sand puzzle.

Peter continues his bid for the title of “most loathsome person to ever appear on the Race.” He never extends a hand of assistance and harangues her with a drumbeat of “C’mon Sarah!” in all circumstances. Sarah starts to crack and tells him she’s “not having fun” with him; he petulantly replies that he won’t try so hard. Tool.

Team Ergo and Alabama actually go to the Wild Rice Detour and quickly change their minds for the crocs. They catch up with Team Bicker who were waiting for the next bus to Chennai. Once there, teams find the Roadblock: one team member must pass the Indian driver’s test at the Karthik Driving School. This seems pretty straightforward and teams head to Chettinad House and the Pit Stop. Team Leg Up arrives first followed closely behind by Team Blonde.

Back at the Detour, Team Rehab and Team 16 Tons are doing the sand pattern. This was one situation where David should have made a command decision and chosen the crocodiles. Instead, he spends an hour listening to Mary nag at him. They get to the Roadblock very late, as the sun has gone down, then arrive at the Pit Stop in last place.

This is a non-elimination leg so Team 16 Tons gets a reprieve. However! However, this season it looks like they’ve done away with the previous penalty of taking away a team’s money before the next leg – since it never made a bit of difference. Instead, David & Mary must finish the next leg of the Race in first place or they will incur a 30-minute penalty. As we saw on a recent leg, this shifted Tom & Terry from a potential second place finish to eighth, so this penalty could cripple a team’s chances.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Leg Up – Peter & Sarah – Prize: gym equipment
#2 – Team Blonde – Dustin & Kandace
#3 – Team Bicker – Rob & Kimberly
#4 – Team Ergo – Erwin & Godwin
#5 – Team Alabama – Lyn & Karlyn
#6 – Team Rehab – Tyler & James
#7 – Team 16 Tons – David & Mary – Non-elimination leg

Next week: Looks like the Middle East. Camels are involved.

Extra – This space reserved for recaps from Kris & Pat. Kris also likes the revised NEL penalty.
Denial? Or do they know something?

Maybe it has something to do with Diebold machines: “White House Upbeat About GOP Prospects

Amid widespread panic in the Republican establishment about the coming midterm elections, there are two people whose confidence about GOP prospects strikes even their closest allies as almost inexplicably upbeat: President Bush and his top political adviser, Karl Rove.

Some Republicans on Capitol Hill are bracing for losses of 25 House seats or more. But party operatives say Rove is predicting that, at worst, Republicans will lose only 8 to 10 seats -- shy of the 15-seat threshold that would cede control to Democrats for the first time since the 1994 elections and probably hobble the balance of Bush's second term.

In the Senate, Rove and associates believe, a Democratic victory would require the opposition to "run the table," as one official put it, to pick up the necessary six seats -- a prospect the White House seems to regard as nearly inconceivable.
Inconceivable” fills me with a kind of humorous dread, like that guy in “The Princess Bride.”

Extra – Scott Elliott has updated his Election Projection and it’s looking pretty blue. Can the GOP bounce back? It’s been said in some circles that John Kerry’s bid for the presidency was derailed when people actually thought about him in the White House. Turn back now, America! Speaker Pelosi! Boo!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Rutgers is the real deal – I’ve been waiting for the bubble to burst, but it looks like the Scarlet Knights have a genuine football team this year. They were a 2-point underdog to Navy and beat ‘em today 34-0 to improve their record to 6-0. Go team!
The missteps along the way - Glenn Reynolds has a long, link-filled “pre-mortem” of the GOP’s loss of Congress in three weeks, including critical moments where the Republicans failed.

If I may add my two cents: coming off his re-election, President Bush put Social Security reform at the top of his agenda and Congress handled the issue about as badly as one could imagine. The Democrats framed the debate as “stealing from Grandma” and the GOP never pushed back. The Republicans looked both weak and unprincipled, unable to even bring a vote on one of the most critical issues affecting the long-term fiscal health of the country.

Extra – But then there’s the X-factor - “Democrats have intensity, but the GOP has its machine”: “Republican strategists counter that they can compensate for any gap in enthusiasm with their legendary get-out-the-vote operation. The party has built its electoral success in the last two elections on identifying and producing nearly every obtainable Republican vote at the polls; this time may be more challenging, they say, but no different.”
Radioactive – Well, this isn’t good news: “A preliminary analysis of air samples from North Korea shows "radioactive debris consistent with a North Korea nuclear test," according to a statement from the office of the top U.S. intelligence official.”
Yawn – “In New Hampshire, Kerry throws down the gauntlet
Big Dig update – From the Boston Globe “Tunnel bolts never inspected”: “Despite a history of ceiling bolts coming loose during construction of a Big Dig tunnel, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority never inspected the fatally flawed ceiling in the six years after it was built, probably missing the last chance to prevent the accident that killed a woman this summer.” Remember that this is a project $11 billion over-budget.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Lights out


Or, as Don Surber puts it: "Capitalism, communism - any questions?"
Microcredits for all – Let’s face it: some of the Nobel Peace Prizes over the last couple years have been deep, deep disappointments, bordering on farce. But the Prize for Dr. Muhammad Yunus is a triumph for conservatism. Business Week notes: “Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus promotes peace not by brokering treaties, but by uprooting poverty through entrepreneurialism.” Yes, yes, yes.
Keep on scrolling – Brian Maloney at Radio Equalizer has owned the Air America story for months. Head on over for the latest updates on the aborted bailout of the liberal radio station and what happens now that AA has declared Chapter 11.
MAD and the mad Kims

Charles Krauthammer believes that the only deterrence against North Korea is the threat of utter destruction: “Deterrence is what you do when there is no way to disarm your enemy. You cannot deprive him of his weapons, but you can keep him from using them. We long ago reached that stage with North Korea.”

I’ve been re-reading last month’s issue of the Atlantic and “The menace of North Korea.” One thing the author makes clear early on is that Kim Jong Il is not crazy, but instead has decided to use threats to gain what he otherwise couldn’t get through economic or political means:

Kim Jong Il’s succession was aided by the link that his father had established in the North Korean mind between the Kim Family Regime and the Choson Dynasty, which ruled the Korean peninsula for 500 years, starting in the late fourteenth century. Expertly tutored by his father, Kim consolidated power and manipulated the Chinese, the Americans, and the South Koreans into subsidizing him throughout the 1990s. And Kim is hardly impulsive: he has the equivalent of think tanks studying how best to respond to potential attacks from the United States and South Korea—attacks that themselves would be reactions to crises cleverly instigated by the North Korean government in Pyongyang. “The regime constitutes an extremely rational bunch of killers,” Lankov says.
Extremely rational” is not a common adjective for Kim, but if Kaplan and Krauthammer correct then North Korea may refrain from spreading nuclear technology for fear of a radioactive Pyongyang.
Shut up, Babs explained – Peggy Noonan explains the limits in free speech in “The Sounds of Silencing
Who says Friday the 13th is unlucky?

I had a great day today. First of all, I managed to bookmark on XM one of my favorite songs which, for some unaccountable reason, isn’t available on ITunes. (“Pilot of the Airwaves” by Charlie Dore.)
Then I beat a co-worker at lunchtime Scrabble.
Then I was tapped to give a presentation to the company’s president next week.
Then they gave the Nobel Peace Prize for a Bangladeshi banker who uses microloans to help people help themselves out of poverty.
Then China and South Korea agreed to (admittedly watered-down) sanctions against North Korea.
Then it was announced that no radioactivity was detected in the skies over North Korea, raising the speculation that their “atomic explosion” was either a fake or a super-dud.
Then I read that John Kerry has the highest negatives of any Democratic candidate in New Hampshire.
Stocks hit yet another record high, boosting my retirement fund.
And then Air America announced they were bankrupt.

Sweet!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rock on – From Business Pundit: “Everything I know about business, I learned from rock and roll

My excellent contribution: “Bright Future in Sales” by Fountains of Wayne
Welcome back to the fight, Will – Will Franklin is back on his Social Security Reform Thursday posts and it’s about time. Today, he looks at the historical rate of return of SS for a two-income couple. It's not good.
I shouldn’t laugh at this – WashPost: “Mosque suit says manager embezzled $300,000
Keeping you in the red – Did you ever get the feeling that the credit card companies are conspiring to keep you in debt? Well, as they say, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you: “Credit cards hidden costs – GAO study finds confusing, sometimes misleading practices” – “Credit card companies don't clearly disclose penalties, variable interest rates and other fees, leaving consumers confused about the true cost of using plastic to pay for everyday transactions.” If you really want to drive the credit card companies crazy, pay off your entire balance every month.
Kerry tries to get to the left of Hillary

For those of you who doubt that John Kerry is going to make another run for the White House, check out “Kerry voices deep regret for voting for Iraq war

“There's nothing -- nothing -- in my life in public service I regret more, nothing even close," Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, wrote in a dispatch on the liberal blog HuffingtonPost.com. "We should all be willing to say: I was wrong, I should not have voted for the Iraq War Resolution."
Not since pi has there been anything more calculated than Kerry’s position on the war.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Addendum to the Geneva Convention – This is the definition of torture: Blender magazine writer to listen to “We Built this Cityat least 300 times. Oh, the humanity. (HT: Fark)
Culture of corruption – Harry Reid’s response to a question about his $1 million Las Vegas land deal: (Click)

Extra – Captain Ed has been on this story for some time.
Who can you depend on for your retirement?

The Hershey company announced today that they were phasing out traditional pensions for enhanced 401(k)s. So I’ll take this opportunity to revisit a Sebastian Mallaby article I missed last week on Social Security:

If today's Democratic leaders were even a little bit awake, they would realize that the case for Social Security reform has grown stronger since the Clinton era. It's not just that the budget outlook has deteriorated or that the squandering of a decade renders a solvency fix more urgent. A new body of research shows how the lack of reform threatens core Democratic constituencies.

Social Security benefits were designed in the 1930s to protect traditional couples. But married couples make up a declining fraction of the adult population, particularly among minorities. Since 1970 the married share of the adult population has dropped by 10 percentage points for whites, 14 percentage points for Hispanics and an astonishing 22 percentage points for African Americans. Because Social Security benefits were not designed to protect singles, these changes in family structure are driving up poverty rates among the old. In the early 1990s, 2.4 percent of married retirees lived below the poverty line, according to the Urban Institute. But fully 21.2 percent of divorced retirees were poor, and the rate among never-marrieds was 16.2 percent.

If Democrats cared about poor women and minorities, they would be clamoring to reform Social Security. But instead they get a childish gratification out of stamping their feet and refusing to discuss the subject. They can't muster the courage to block the suspension of habeas corpus. But when it comes to blocking entitlement reform, the Democrats ride out to battle.
The Democrats cannot hold back the tide of retirement politics any more than they can prevent corporations from moving toward employee-funded retirement accounts. If they cared about Social Security, the Democrats would try to re-tool the program for the 21st century instead of insisting on preserving a system created in the wake of the Great Depression. Without reform, America will inexorably separate into people who can afford to invest in 401(k)s and those who cannot; the magic of compound interest will create income disparities magnitudes worse than any taxation or fiscal policy could design. By then, Social Security will be an afterthought.
Pac-Man fever – From Fox News: “Old-school video games gain new audience.” The old classics never die. Bring back Spy Hunter!
So much for the water’s edge – From Opinion Journal “Democrats reduce North Korea to political soundbites”: “North Korea's apparent test Sunday of a nuclear device raises large questions with which the United States and the world must now grapple in the months and years ahead. But it may also have finally settled the question of how much time this and future Administrations will have available to deal with genuine foreign policy crises before they become merely political. The answer, it seems, can be measured in milliseconds.” And why can’t failure presidents like Jimmy Carter keep their traps shut?
A terrorist only a mother could love – “Bin Laden’s mother worried sick”: “"For his dear mother's sake, I wish he'd carry out an attack," al-Attas continued. "Just so I know he's all right."”

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Boston Globe’s insipid editorial on North Korea

I hardly know where to begin with the Globe’s editorial today, which seems to have been written by Nancy Pelosi on lithium. It evinces either a willful ignorance of history or a hostility towards the Bush Administration that makes today’s New York Times editorial look like a John Birch polemic.

North Korea’s announcement of a nuclear test raises the specter of a nuclear arms race in Asia. Yesterday's explosion may also set off a sequence of events that changes radically the balance of power in Asia and weakens current constraints against the spread of nuclear weapons around the world.
That’s radically right: up is down, black is white. Japan is now poorer than Laos while Burma warlords are driving Escalades. And nukes for everyone! It only took Iran sixty years to replicate what American scientists did in three with 1940s technology.

The test also represents the most preventable, and one of the most damaging, failures of President Bush's foreign policy. The administration has stubbornly rebuffed the North's offers to cede its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for economic and security benefits in direct, two-party negotiations.
Oh. My. God. Is the Boston Globe really suggesting that Kim Jong Il was leaving message after message on the American answering machine while Dubya was screening the calls? Do they really believe that North Korea would give up nuclear development if only we gave them a little attention (along with some light-water reactors?) They can’t be that stupid, or are they blinded by the Boston strain of Bush Derangement Syndrome.

North Korea has persistently, repeatedly, and willfully violated every agreement they’ve made with the United States, the United Nations and all the other aid countries. Here’s Nicholas Eberstadt explaining, in July 2006, North Korea’s brand of “Nuclear Shakedown”:

Plainly put, North Korea’s survival strategy is a policy of international military extortion. North Korea’s rulers have concluded that it is safest to finance the survival of their state through the international export of strategic insecurity and military menace. Consequently, the leadership, as a matter of course, strives to generate grave international tensions and present sufficiently credible security threats in order to wrest a flow of essentially coerced transfers from neighbors and other international targets to assure the continuation of what Pyongyang describes as “our own style of socialism.”
As the Washington Post points out in their editorial, the only thing propping up North Korea is aid flowing in from China and South Korea who are trying to stave off a refugee crisis. It is absolutely ludicrous to believe that the United States can generate a lasting policy through bilateral talks with the Kim regime. For this reason, the United States has insisted on the six-party talks involving all the regional powers that are either supplying aid to North Korea or watching Nork missiles fly overhead.

Furthermore, what kind of message would the United States be sending to the world if we now agree to two-party talks in the face of North Korean threats? I can assure you that the Iranian mullahs are watching closely.

The Boston Globe has utterly lost the plot. Shame on them.

Extra - From Opinion Journal: "Nuclear test calls for active intolerance of the North Korean regime."

More – It looks like I was unconsciously channeling Rich Lowry: “A blast at the Lamont doctrine – North Korea’s response to today’s Democratic party.”
Not with a bang but a whimper – From Fox News: “North Korea nuke test may be less than claimed” – “A growing chorus of intelligence sources was leaning Tuesday toward the conclusion that North Korea's claim that it successfully detonated a nuclear weapon last Sunday may be more bluster than blast.” I find it hard to believe that even an underground explosion wouldn’t tick up radiation levels in the atmosphere.
That hole again - The largest paper in Western Massachusetts weighs in on paying for Boston’s Big Dig: “Western Massachusetts, as we've noted before, has had its fill of the Big Dig, and the repeated lame-brained attempts to get drivers out here to pay more than we've already paid.”
How do you knock the self-satisfaction out of a liberal? – Protein Wisdom takes a whack, with an assist from Professor B.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Interview with a North Korean defector

Here’s part of an interview with Kim Duk Hong from the PBS investigative show Frontline; he is described as “one of the highest ranking officials to defect from North Korea.”

A new administration in Washington is taking a tougher line in North Korea. Do you think is it proper?
I think that Bush knows how to treat Kim Jong Il. Don't trust Kim Jong Il, never, ever. What Kim Jong Il is doing is producing nuclear weapons to kill people in the world, and providing expertise in nuclear weapon development to countries which are anti-American. He kills our people, arrests people who are against his administration. He produces drugs. It's a national industry. He kidnaps other people from South Korea, or other democratic countries. He is doing all sorts of bad things, like the devil. Do not trust him, never, ever.

What do you believe the United States can do prevent North Koreans from acquiring weapons?
The only way is to kill Kim Jong Il. Possessing nuclear weapons is not dangerous. But the fact that Kim Jong Il has weapons is dangerous. I think that's why the Bush administration treats Kim Jong Il the way they do. Some people believe the problem can be solved by removing nuclear weapons in Yongbyon. However, if Kim Jong Il is still alive, he will make bombs again. I think that President Bush knows him. He is the only one who understands who Kim Jong Il is.
Mr. Kim also claims that the North Koreans resumed nuclear weapon development soon after signing the Geneva Agreed Framework “even before the ink dried on the paper.” Read the whole interview and more from the 2003 Frontline report: “Kim’s Nuclear Gamble.”
Election 2006 – You have to hand it to Scott Elliott, he really works the numbers over at Election Projection. His latest update has the Democrats capturing the Senate while the GOP (barely) holds on to the House. I continue to insist (hands over ears, “la la la!”) that Tom Kean Jr. will edge out Robert Menendez in New Jersey.
Kerry tries for a “do over”

It looks like my Senator is seriously gunning for a second chance at the Presidency by making stops in Iowa, Ohio, and New Hampshire. And I, for one, say more power to him:

“I have been through 38 states since the last election and see no enthusiasm for another Kerry run," said Charles E. Cook Jr. , publisher of the non partisan Cook Political Report. He described “a strong feeling among Democratic voters that they need to go with someone new, that he had his shot."
Ignore those naysayers, John Kerry! You’ve got that presidential hair and, um, other qualities I’m sure.

Extra – Bull Dog Pundit piles on a little.
Radioactive marketing campaign – North Korea explodes a nuclear device; Chrysler signs noted movie director Kim Jong Il to produce television commercials.
Americans look to sweep Nobel prizes – [Economics laureate] Phelps is the sixth American to win a Nobel Prize this year, meaning every prize save for the literature and peace prizes, which have not yet been announced, have gone to Americans.”

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Amazing Race 10 update – Row, row, row your boat

The remaining eight teams started out from a farm outside Hanoi, Vietnam and needed to find the Ly Thai To Garden. There, an audio clue directed teams to take a taxi across the river, to a bus, and then find the Hydrofoil Harbor. Bear in mind that it’s well-past midnight and all the teams are struggling to make their taxi drivers understand the directions. Some teams drag their drivers to the garden so they can hear the destination. This seems to work for some teams, but Rob & Kimberly are just totally freaking out as their taxi seems to make circles around the garden. No matter: all teams end up at the bus station which doesn’t open until 5am the following morning.

The bunched teams start out on a two-hour ride across Vietnam to Ha Long Bay. There they find a clue box and a Roadblock: “Who has strong arms and strong legs?” As we find out in a moment, one team member must climb up the side of a cliff. Stupidly, Team Leg Up decides that Sarah – with one leg – should perform this Roadblock. What is the rationale for this? Is it that Sarah must constantly prove that she can accomplish what everybody else can? Or is Peter just a major tool? (I’m leaning towards the latter).

After this task, teams must head to the Sang Sot Cave nearby and find the next clue. This is a Detour: Over or Under. Teams may either row a boat (over the water) and deliver fruit, or find a pearl farm and harvest thirty baskets. Some teams get nervous about the “under” part although there isn't any need to dive into the ocean. Mary reminds David about every four seconds that her ankle hurts – this is not an exaggeration. For either choice, teams must row a sampan and you’d think Americans had never seen a rowboat before. Here’s a tip: you should pull both oars together to move. Team Bicker stays true to their name and Peter snipes at Sarah that he doesn’t need encouragement, just directions. Everybody does the pearl farm except Team Alabama who end up doing a lot of rowing.

After completing the Detour, teams must row back to a junk which will take them to Soi Sum Island and the Pit Stop. Rob & Kimberly are at each other’s throats until the step on the mat as Team #1; Rob admits that he needs to learn to “chill out.” (He also needs to stop calling everyone – including Kimberly – “dude.”) Tyler & James arrive some time later after the crew of their junk discover they didn’t pull up the anchor – d’oh! Mary’s ankle hurts. Team Blonde stays true to their namesake by deciding to row their sampan to find Phil because their clue disintegrated in the water. This is sheer madness and eventually they figure out they need to take a junk. Tom & Terry give up on rowing and Tom decides to swim to the junk instead. Naturally, this eats up a lot of time and Team Stonewall is eliminated.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Bicker – Rob & Kimberly – Prize: jet skis
#2 – Team Leg Up – Peter & Sarah
#3 – Team Rehab – Tyler & James
#4 – Team Ergo – Erwin & Godwin
#5 – Team 16 Tons – David & Mary
#6 – Team Alabama – Lyn & Karlyn
#7 – Team Blonde – Dustin & Kandace
#8 – Team Stonewall – Tom & Terry – PHILIMATED

Next week: Snappy alligators and Peter is an ass.

Extra – This space reserved for reviews from Kris & Pat. Update: Kris used the same title for her post that I did and astutely notes that this has become the "Amazing Rock Climbing Race."
Allow me to nod approvingly – The local paper usually prints with a wedding announcement what song the couple has chosen for their wedding. Today I saw that somebody had picked “Do you believe in love?” by Huey Lewis & the News. Nice! So much better than that trite "At Last" by Etta James.
Now the nanny state has gone too far – New York City without the black-and-white cookie? Say it ain’t so, Mayor B.
Here comes the Big Dig bill

From the Boston Globe: “State panel to call for gas tax hike

A special state commission is expected to call for a 9-cent-agallon increase in the gas tax and reinstatement of tolls that had been eliminated in Western Massachusetts and in West Newton, according to two panel members.
Way down in the article, the “cost of the Central Artery” is cited as a reason to seek additional revenues. Highway funds to Western Massachusetts have already been slashed and, now that gas prices have dipped sufficiently to avoid an uproar, Beacon Hill is going to stick it to us again.
Murder in Amsterdam

The Boston Globe has a book review today of “Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance” by Ian Baruma. The reviewer (Bruce Bawer) doesn’t look approvingly upon Baruma’s interpretation of events and writes “time and again he seems to invite us to empathize with apologists for jihad.” Here’s the concluding two paragraphs:

Buruma's prescription for his homeland? Dismayingly, he supports Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen's call for an “accommodation with the Muslims," including toleration “of orthodox Muslims who consciously discriminate against their women." The Netherlands, Cohen argues, should accept ``opinions and habits even if we do not share them, or even approve of them." Including forced marriage? Wife-beating? Cohen, says Buruma, “deserves the benefit of the doubt." What doubt? What Cohen is proposing is the denial of fundamental rights to Muslim women and children.

“Attacking religion,” Buruma contends, is not the answer to Europe's problems. In fact , frank criticism of Islam is as vital now as frank criticism of Christianity was to the Enlightenment. “Perhaps Western civilization, with the Amsterdam red-light district as its fetid symbol, does have something to answer for,” he suggests. No: What the West needs now is not this dismaying readiness to compromise liberty, but van Gogh's and Hirsi Ali's staunch refusal to sell out anyone's rights to pacify puritanical patriarchs.
It’s often said, half in jest, that Holland will be the first European nation under Sharia. Europeans need to answer this simple question: will the nation-state accommodate the Muslims or will the Muslims adapt to Europe’s liberal social order? There is no middle ground.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Go, John, go! – No matter how dark the political future, there’s always John Kerry there to cheer me up. Don Surber reports that his recent speech at Ohio State drew in an audience of 400 on a campus of 50,000. There's that 1% he lost in 2004.
Boy howdyFunny video of the “Dixie Chicks” singing “the little one doesn’t speak for us.” (HT: Wide Awake CafĂ©)
On the precipice – How much worse can it get? Here’s Stuart Rothenberg on the Real Clear Politics blog: “The national atmospherics don’t merely favor Democrats; they set the stage for a blowout of cosmic proportions next month.” On the other side is Bill Kristol who believes the Foley story ultimately has no traction with voters and the Republicans could respond with effect: “It might not be amiss for Republican candidates to remind the electorate which of the two parties has, shall we say, a more "nuanced" view of sexual scandal.” Ugh…we need an Osama videotape.
The “duct tape across the room” solution

From the Sunday UK Times: “America ponders cutting Iraq into three

An independent commission set up by Congress with the approval of President George W Bush may recommend carving up Iraq into three highly autonomous regions, according to well informed sources.

The Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by James Baker, the former US secretary of state, is preparing to report after next month’s congressional elections amid signs that sectarian violence and attacks on coalition forces are spiralling out of control. The conflict is claiming the lives of 100 civilians a day and bombings have reached record levels.

The Baker commission has grown increasingly interested in the idea of splitting the Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish regions of Iraq as the only alternative to what Baker calls “cutting and running” or “staying the course”.
IIRC, the autonomous regions plan was floated by Joe Biden; I’m sure he’ll make note of it on CNN’s Late Edition tomorrow. Of course the Kurds already have a de facto state across Northern Iraq, so this plan is designed mainly to keep the Sunni and Shiites away from each other. Oil revenue sharing and millennium-old hatred are two not-so-minor roadblocks to this plan.
Sorry about that backed up Big Dig and all – “MBTA will proceed with fare increases” Somebody alert the Kingston Trio.
Is that guy still around? – Yesterday I heard a Ned Lamont radio spot and, for the first 30 seconds or so, he seemed to be making the case that he’s not a one-issue candidate by talking about education and health care. But then it was back to the red meat in the second act, with Lamont pronouncing that he’d “stand up” to Dick Cheney. Good for you, big boy. Also , in the TV spot for the ad, Lamont may have bent the rules.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Pocketbook issues – The Economist: “Scandal has overwhelmed the campaign for next month’s mid-term congressional elections in America. But, underneath it all, the economy might matter rather more to voters
What we have here is a failure to communicate


CNN: “In protest, deaf students take over college building

Students at Gallaudet University remained barricaded inside one of the main campus buildings Friday, protesting the school's presidential selection and what students call a pattern of prejudice at the largely deaf institution.
Police broke in and pepper sprayed the students, going for the “Helen Keller double whammy.”
Indictments in Gloria Wise/Air America case – Brian Maloney (natch) has all the details on how the NY Boys & Girls club funneled $1.2 million into luxury cars, home renovations, and Air America. (More from Polipundit)
Comrade Pelosi lets the mask slip

Maybe this will refresh Americans’ memories:

"We must share the benefits of our wealth" beyond the privileged few, she added.
Hold on to your wallets, folks. (HT: B4B)

Extra – From Bright & Early: “Why there can never be a Speaker Pelosi
To the Moon!

From the UK Guardian: “UN despair at prospect of 'faceless' Ban Ki-Moon as secretary general

Senior officials at the United Nations expressed despair today at the prospect of Kofi Annan being succeeded as secretary general by Ban Ki-Moon, the South Korean foreign minister.

"The mood among staff is glum," one of the officials said. "We are not very excited about the outcome." With morale low at the UN after five years dominated by divisions, deadlock and corruption, they are sceptical about Mr Ban's ability to turn the organisation round or provide the strong, inspirational leadership they had been hoping for.
The United Nations should stop worrying about collecting pennies for UNICEF and re-focus its mission on important matters like Iran’s nukes and genocide in Darfur. The first thing the new Secretary General should do is flense some of the blubber from the U.N. bureaucracy.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I knew it – At the start of last night’s Lost, a character opened up a CD jewel case and I immediately shouted: “Talking Heads! Speaking in Tongues!” based on the distinctive cover art. It looks like Others caught it too.
Quote of the dayGeorge Will: “If, after the Foley episode -- a maraschino cherry atop the Democrats' delectable sundae of Republican miseries -- the Democrats cannot gain 13 seats, they should go into another line of work.”

Extra - Or, will they go the way of the Whigs?
Guess who has no opinion on the Massachusetts wine referendum?

Question 1 on the Massachusetts ballot this November is a referendum on whether supermarkets will be allowed to sell wine. The package stores are fighting the measure since it will cut into their business and they’ve enlisted the support from the police associations claiming it will lead to more drunk-driving deaths. The supermarkets are backing question 1 but guess what group has been very quiet?

Mothers Against Drunk Driving

The Massachusetts chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which has adopted a neutral position in the debate over allowing more food stores to sell wine, lists as sponsors two of the supermarket chains leading the fight for the wine measure.

Stop & Shop Supermarkets regularly contributes to MADD. It donated $15,000 to sponsor the group's recent Strides for Change fund-raising walk. Shaw's Supermarkets contributed $2,500. Big Y supermarkets has also been a financial supporter, MADD officials said.
They need that money to fight future referendums, I suppose.
Big Dig update – From the Boston Globe “Grand jury gets tunnel collapse”: “A special grand jury convened in Boston this week to begin hearing testimony from workers, managers, and others involved in the construction of the Big Dig tunnel that collapsed in July, killing a 38-year-old Jamaica Plain woman.” Sad to think that the death of Melina Del Valle will do what runaway malfeasance could not.
The downside upside of global warming – “Study foresees sultry, snow-starved New England.” Oh no, no snow!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Reform entitlements now, not later

The baby boomers are going to start to strain the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says that entitlement reform should be addressed:

Bernanke said that as the population ages, the United States will have to choose among higher taxes, fewer dollars for other programs, lower spending on entitlement programs, and a sharply higher budget deficit …or some combination of all those.

Government spending for Social Security and Medicare alone will increase from about 7 percent of the U.S. economy to almost 13 percent by 2030, and to more than 15 percent by 2050, he said.
At that point, you’re talking about a federal budget almost exclusively turned over to the business of taking money from workers and paying for Social Security and Medicare. That Ben Bernanke guy’s pretty smart; we should listen to him.

Extra – Here’s a typical debate/flame war on Fark.