Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year, everyone!
Huck chucks mud - Have you ever seen anything as monumentally silly as Mike Huckabee's brave stand against negative campaigning, complete with Romney attack ad? Understandably, the reporters couldn't keep from laughing.
Deval Patrick, watch this show - I caught the A&E "Intervention" marathon today and there were a couple episodes showcasing people with gambling addictions. Our beneficent governor should see what he's getting Massachusetts into when he pries his attention away from the all-important revenue windfall. Two not-so-insignificant facts: millions of Americans are problem gamblers and one-fifth of those will attempt suicide.
Crispy crumbs - Hooray! The Toast-O-Meter is back!
What media bias? - Oh, that media bias: notable quotables from 2007. (HT: Blue Crab.)
William Safire, circa 1996: "Americans of all political persuasions are coming to the sad realization that our First Lady -- a woman of undoubted talents who was a role model for many in her generation -- is a congenital liar."

David Geffen, earlier this year: "Everybody in politics lies, but they [the Clintons] do it with such ease, it's troubling."

Hillary Clinton: During my very dangerous mission, Bosnian snipers put me at risk, along with Sinbad and Sheryl Crow.
The death of shame

Geez, I wasn't going to write anything about the story with the Hannah Montana tickets but the follow-up drives me up a wall:

The mother who wrote a fictional essay that won her 6-year-old daughter tickets to a Hannah Montana concert said she never claimed the story she wrote about the child's father dying in Iraq was true.

"We never said anything like this was a true story - never," the mother, Priscilla Ceballos, insisted. "It was just an essay. We do essays all the time. It did not say that it had to be true."

"We did the essay and that's what we did to win," Ceballos said in an interview with Dallas TV station KDFW. "We did whatever we could do to win."
Indeed you did, miss. Wait a second. Didn't I hear a similar sentiment expressed about a week ago?

"I left Flick to certain annihilation. But BB gun mania knows no loyalty."
I'll be the Old Man used the "son in an iron lung" ploy to get his Major Award, too. Bastards.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Amazing Race update - Traffic in Mumbai

Teams started out in Florence, Italy and needed to make their way to Mumbai, India. At the airport, there's a scramble for the earliest flight and TK & Rachel end up with the slowest route to the former Bombay. Remarkably, Kynt & Vyxsin arrive first which is a big break for them since they will be facing the first ever "Speed Bump" somewhere along this leg - an extra task only for them because they came in last on the previous leg. Of course, this all doesn't matter since the newsstand with their next clue doesn't open until 6am the next morning. Everybody's bunched up.

As I predicted before the episode started, somebody (Nathan) made a comment about the smell. Mr. Miyagi slept on the street with a mask over his face.

Once at the newsstand, teams needed to find a small ad in the Times of India instructing teams to a tailor shop and the next clue. Team Generic Couple starts freaking out when all the other teams find the clue ahead of them and head off. Jennifer expends ten-times more energy complaining than focusing on the task at hand.

At the clue, it's a Detour: Paste 'em or Thread 'em. Teams may either put up movie posters on a wall or put together wedding garlands. Meanwhile, Team Sexual Confusion hit their Speed Bump: they must stop racing long enough to do some yoga poses with a yoga instructor. Ronald, as usual, starts yelling at his daughter when their Detour doesn't go according to plan. He's like the typical Dilbert-style manager. Meanwhile, slow and steady wins the Race as Nicolas and Donald finish the movie poster pasting job and lurch into first place. Caution: U-Turn ahead.

TK & Rachel arrive first at the next clue at a traffic circle and they're simply directed somewhere else. So this is just a drive around Mumbai. At the next clue, it's a Roadblock: one team member must deliver six tanks of propane gas to addresses around the city. Ronald, Donald, and TK are hauling tanks up stairs while Team Confusion and Team Generic Couple race to the traffic circle and the U-Turn. Nathan & Jennifer had finished their Detour first but Kynt & Vyxsin arrived at the clue box first and U-Turned…Nicolas & Donald? They're already past the clue, so this U-Turn is meaningless unless Karma is in play.

Back at the Roadblock, TK finishes first and Team Birkenstock heads off to the Pit Stop at Bandra Fort where they arrive in first place. It's a race for last place between Kynt and tiny Jennifer who seems driven by adrenaline and yet constantly on the edge of meltdown. She finishes the Roadblock first while Kynt has to go back because he forgot receipts for the propane tanks. Team Sexual Confusion arrives last to the mat and they are eliminated, although Phil compliments their sartorial choices which ran the gamut from black to pink.

Final standings:

1 - TK & Rachel - Team Birkenstock
2 - Nicolas & Donald - Team Rude Boy and Gramps
3 - Ronald & Christina - Team Miyagi and Grasshopper
4 - Nathan & Jennifer - Team Generic Couple
5 - Kynt & Vyxsin - Team Sexual Confusion - PHILIMINATED

Next week - Looks like China. TK & Rachel either jump ahead or fall behind.
Iowa horserace - David Yepsen handicaps the "electability" factor for the Presidential candidates. (HT: RCP) All the front-runners are crowding around the Sunday morning talkshows this morning. Joe Biden's there, too.
Taxachusetts, again

Jeff Jacoby is hoping against hope that 2008 will be the year that Massachusetts abolishes the state income tax:

"Civilization costs something," the governor says, echoing the 1904 dictum of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: "Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society."

Maybe so. But in Massachusetts lately, taxes are also the price we pay for Big Dig corruption, for larcenous public-employee pensions, for state-owned golf courses, and for wretched public schools. Higher taxes are no guarantee of a more civilized society.

As a matter of fact, when Holmes defended taxes as the price tag of civilization, there were no federal and state income taxes. Massachusetts didn't begin taxing incomes until 1916, which means that for most of its history, the Bay State survived - even thrived - without an income tax. As Howell's ballot proposal advances, the fearmongers will shrilly warn that voting yes will plunge us into the Dark Ages. Like all addicts, those hooked on high taxes are terrified by the prospect of giving up their drug. They cannot imagine how much better they will feel when they learn to live without it.
Good luck with that. The Bay State income tax rate was "temporarily" increased up from a baseline 5% rate back in the late eighties and it hasn't come back yet. Jay Tea recounts what happened in 2000 when Massachusetts voters finally had the temerity to ask for the old rate back:

In 2000, in a rare display of common sense, the people of Massachusetts had a referendum on their income tax rate. They voted, 59%-41%, in favor lf slashing it from 5.85% down to 5%. (It had been raised as a "temporary, emergency measure" in the 1980's.) The then-speaker of the House didn't care for losing control of that much money, so he got the legislature to "freeze" the cut at 5.3%, with plans to jack it back up later.
So much for vox populi. They don't call it the "Commonwealth" for nothing: your money is the state's money.
Name dropping and some history - P.J. O'Rourke reviews Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr: "Yet Journals is so much more than gush. Its pages also crack open a hellgate to give us a peek at the eternally consuming fires of egotistic solipsism to which the soul of a liberal is forever condemned." So, then, he didn't like it.
"That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah" *

From BBC News, via Fark - "Malaysian row over word for "'God'" : "A church and Christian newspaper in Malaysia are suing the government after it decreed that the word "Allah" can only be used by Muslims."

Free speech is a funny thing. I remember during the whole flag-burning kerfuffle somebody asking if it would be OK to pour lighter fluid on a non-flammable metallic American flag and set it on "fire." Those are the kind of distinctions that must be made whenever it's decided that certain words cannot come out of somebody's mouth. But what if a person is indecisive about lunch? "I'll...ah...have the BLT." How about if we non-Muslims give Allah a "code name" so we won't offend Malaysians? "Mohammad's Big Guy?" "Dr. Jihad?" How about something simple like "Melvin?" "Melvin Akbar!" Eh, needs work.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Perfect Patriots - The New England Patriots just became the first team to go 16-0 in the regular season, the first since the Miami Dolphins to go undefeated (14-0 in 1972), Tom Brady broke Peyton Manning's TD pass record and Randy Moss passed Jerry Rice's TD reception record. What a game. The Giants kept it too close for comfort with a final score of 38-35 but a smothered onside kick sealed the game for the Pats.

This just in - From the Boston Globe: "Patriots are perfect 16-0"
Time and travel - Blogging has been slow because I've been motoring all over the Eastern seaboard visiting relatives for the (extended) holiday season. So far my favorite Christmas present has been Mark Steyn's "America Alone" which compounds my fear over demographics in America (vis a vis Social Security) with a new fear over what groups will be filling the demographic void (hint: they pray to the East a lot). It's a fabulous and funny page-turner about the collapse of modern society.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Riots, of course - Here they come. From Gateway Pundit: "10 dead following Bhutto assassination"
Health care for all, paid by some - Over at Q&O, McQ has some questions about whether it's really the responsibility of the government to provide health care for all. Illuminating fact: "Did you know that 5% of the population spends nearly 60% of the health care dollars (and 10% spend 70%). In fact, .5% spend 25%." The resistance to required health care coverage in Massachusetts is primarily from younger, healthier workers who don't want to incur an expense for coverage they don't want. Maybe this is short-term thinking, but is it the government's responsibility to force them into paying for coverage? This is nanny state legislation coupled with an unfunded benefit. As McQ notes, health care rationing can't be far behind.
Foreshadowing - Only four days ago, Jeff Jacoby had an article in the Boston Globe on "The Islamist war on Muslim women." And now the most famous woman in the Muslim world has been assassinated. Madness.

More - News and blogger reaction over at Memeorandum.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas, everyone

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

Abraham Lincoln
First Inaugural Address, 1861
John Kerry tries self-parody - From Swamp Politics "Kerry threatens NFL if Patriots-Giants not on NBC": "Kerry asked football Commissioner Roger Goodell today to move the game to NBC – and threatened Senate hearings if he does not."

Wow. This is like a whole new level of "do you know who I am?"
Here come those unintended consequences again - Jay Tea on Wizbang recounts what happened in Massachusetts when private companies were compelled to provide health insurance under state law. Some dropped full coverage to employees to spread minimal coverage to all employees. Others split their companies into smaller companies with fewer than 11 employees to gain exemption. Why won't people submit to the will of Beacon Hill and take on an expense they don't want? Selfish, that's what that is.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

As well they should

It's Christmastime, so let's roll out that old seasonal chestnut: "Unpaid credit cards bedevil Americans"

An Associated Press analysis of financial data from the country's largest card issuers also found that the greatest rise [in delinquencies] was among accounts more than 90 days in arrears.
Brilliant! People who don't pay their credit card bills after two months are unlikely to pay them after three months.

Experts say these signs of the deterioration of finances of many households are partly a byproduct of the subprime mortgage crisis and could spell more trouble ahead for an already sputtering economy.
Yeah, and they're partly - oh, let's just say "mostly" - caused by juvenile, irresponsible people who actually fall for the Siren call of the credit card companies who urge us all to spend, spend, spend and worry about the payments later. Should the federal government also bail out those poor, misled Americans who can't afford a 60-inch television? Can you say "moral hazard"? I knew you could.

Extra - "Don't Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford"
Amazing Race update - Tattoo you, Leonardo

There's only five teams left in a relentless series of eliminations and everybody is heading to Split, Croatia on the way to a ferry heading to Italy. Once across the Adriatic, teams must drive 200 miles to Empoli, Italy and find a certain vineyard. The teams are given a Blackberry for incoming emails but they're told they cannot use the device for any additional information (foreshadowing?). TK & Rachel leave their clue on a table at a cafe while asking for directions and start blaming each other for losing it. They turn around and head back to find it, which is not good for them. Eventually they find the clue and head off to Empoli.

Back on the road, everybody's Blackberrys spring to life with email from friends and family. Teams are night-driving in a strange country, trying to figure out the best route to the next clue. Nathan & Jennifer arrive at the vineyard first but it doesn't open until 7am the next morning, so what difference does it make? Hard to believe, but TK & Rachel arrive second since they managed to drive around a (genuine) roadblock that closed the road for the other teams.

At the clue, it's either a Roadblock or a Fast Forward. For the Roadblock, one team member must take a 30-minute ultraflight ride to find the name of their next destination down on the ground. In the Fast Forward, one team must head off to "Fabio Studios" where - only once they're there - do they discover it's a tattoo parlor and both team members must get a small tattoo. Both Team Generic Couple and Team Birkenstock decline to take the Fast Forward for the ultraflight ride. Arriving fourth at this stop, Nicolas & Donald decide to try the Fast Forward and jump ahead. Maybe.

Back at the Roadblock, Nathan finds the letters "Vinci" on a wheatfield and tells his pilot to return; teams must now head to the birthplace of Leonardo Da Vinci. Kynt & Vyxsin haven't even arrived at the Roadblock yet, so they're bringing up the rear. But TK seems unable to find the huge letters "Vinci" down below after multiple flights.

Speaking of Vinci, Nathan & Jennifer find their way to the birthplace of Leonardo to find the Detour: Invention or Tradition. Teams may either lift up a stone with an elaborate crane or learn a flag routine. Meanwhile, Nicolas & Donald grab their first #1 finish (maybe their first next-to-last finish) by getting tattoos and heading to Boboli Gardens and the Pit Stop. Nathan & Jennifer, then Ronald & Christina choose "tradition" and learn the flag routine; Kynt & Vyxsin take one look at the "invention" and also head over to the flags. But their car is busted and they abandon it to run to the Detour. Meanwhile, TK & Rachel finish the crane and head off to the Pit Stop. But wait! They're also having car trouble as they blow a tire on the way to the Pit Stop.

While they're completing the Detour, Kynt & Vyxsin are provided with a replacement car according to the rules of the Race. But the time spent heading back and forth is more time than it takes for TK to change a flat tire, so Team Sexual Confusion arrives in last place. However, this is the first of only two non-elimination legs so they're spared the early trip home. But there's a brand-new twist for the NEL. In the past, teams had their money confiscated, or their backpacks, or were required to finish in first place on the next leg. Now Phil informs us that Kynt & Vyxsin will face the first "Speed Bump" - an undefined extra task that may appear at any time along the remainder of the Race. That's going to be good.

Final standings:

1 - Nicolas & Donald - Team Rude Boy and Gramps
2 - Nathan & Jennifer - Team Generic Couple
3 - Ronald & Christina - Team Miyagi and Grasshopper
4 - TK & Rachel - Team Birkenstock
5 - Kynt & Vyxsin - Team Sexual Confusion - NON-ELIMINATION LEG

Next week - Looks like India, maybe. Ronald is a jerk.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Come to the Cabernet, my friends - From the Economist: "In 2008 America will become the biggest consumer of wine in the world, overtaking both Italy and the previous champion, France."
The year that was - Via Wizbang, AP picks the top 10 news stories of 2007. It's positively silly that "global warming" is at #6 since I can think of about a dozen other issues more important and, um, non-mythical.

(Note to Exxon/Mobil: still have not received large check. Please check outgoing mail.)
Man of the Year - Weekly Standard picks the anti-Putin: "Gen. David Petraeus" More from Gateway Pundit.
Pressuring Zimbabwe - From the Boston Globe: "Standing up to Mugabe"
The last 18 songs I downloaded off ITunes

Usually I shoot for 20 per CD but I ran out of online credits. Fortunately, I'll likely get some new ITunes cards for Christmas.

Shine a Little Light - ELO
The Happiest Girl in the whole U.S.A. - Donna Fargo
Little Green Bag - George Baker Selection
Bad Blood - Neil Sedaka
Isn't it Time? - The Babys
Why Can't I? - Liz Phair
Heat of the Moment - Asia
The "In" Crowd - Ramsey Lewis
Allentown - Billy Joel
Smoke Smoke Smoke that Cigarette - Tex Williams
So Into You - Atlanta Rhythm Section
Killer Joe - The Rocky Fellers
Both Sides Now - Judy Collins
Carefree Highway - Gordon Lightfoot
Wake Up Call - Maroon 5
Music is my hot hot sex - CSS
Rhinestone Cowboy - Glen Campbell
You Sexy Thing - Hot Chocoate


Friday, December 21, 2007

Long live the queen - From the Boston Globe "Queen reaches milestone - oldest British monarch": "Elizabeth, 81, passed the mark set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria. Her son, Prince Charles, closed in on the title of longest-waiting heir to the throne."
The bill on unsustainable promises - Know how I go on and on about the federal entitlement crisis? As Bulldog Pundit reminds us, in some states, there is a pension crisis just waiting to explode: "However, if you live in New Jersey, the pension fund is well below the required amount needed to be set aside - but the real shock is that there is a $21.6 billion bill coming due over the next few decades for non-pension retirement benefits - and the state has set aside nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. The same is true of New York, California, Texas, Florida and Illinois."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Zimbabwe introduces the kajillion dollar bill - From the BBC: "Zimbabwe to issue new banknotes." How high will it get? With an annual inflation rate of 8,000% (not a typo) the government is phasing out the now-worthless $200,000 bill which was introduced only five months ago.
Please come to Boston - From the Globe "Smaller Mass. colleges court out-of-staters": "With Massachusetts experiencing minimal population growth, and demographic studies predicting that the ranks of high school graduates in the region are poised to sharply decline, many private schools in New England with limited national profiles are increasingly courting students in the fast-growing Sun Belt."

And by "minimal" population growth, we mean "no" growth, which dovetails with the Bay State's anemic economic growth rate (which is why I have to work in Connecticut.) Some people think the answer lies with pro-business policies and lower corporate tax rates to attract companies and jobs to the Bay State. Others are betting on slot jockeys, buffets, and lounge acts. Sigh.
Put your best two fingers forward - From Down Under: "How to best win at rock, paper, scissors" (HT: Fark)
Overdue redesign - New England Republican finally has a redesigned site. I always saw formatting errors in the past but now it's nice and clean.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No thanks - Hillary's Christmas gifts to America. That's strange: why is my wallet empty?

Extra - From Riehl World View "Now HERE is a dumb Christmas ad": "I can't get over this. So, she's going to take your tax dollars and give them back to you, or, more likely, someone or something else, and that's giving???"
Quote of the Day - From the appropriately-named David Obey: "Rep. David Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Democrats "have tried every way known to man to bring this war to a conclusion."

In the end, they even tried throwing another $70 billion at it.

Extra - Fred Barnes: "An Astonishing Turnaround on Iraq"
The boxer - Weekly Standard: "Does Harry Reid Need a Psychiatrist?"
"Roll them bones, Pilgrim!"

Who can figure out Bay State governor Deval Patrick? From the Boston Globe: "Patrick plays his hand in battle over casinos"

Governor Deval Patrick launched a dramatic campaign yesterday for his plan to introduce three resort casinos in Massachusetts, telling a packed State House auditorium that gambling has long been part of the state's history and would not change the character of the Commonwealth.
This I gotta hear:

"For a very long time now, gaming has been in practice in Massachusetts, and gaming revenues have been used to support public projects," Patrick said. "In 1762, John Hancock raised lottery money to rebuild Faneuil Hall after a fire. Lottery funds were used to finance the Revolution."
There you have it: lotteries are the "gateway drug" to hardcore gambling. Can we "just say no?" Nope, we need the cash.
And all is right in the world - On word that her other famous (and underage) daughter is knocked up, Lynne Spears book on parenting has been indefinitely delayed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

There's no crying in baseball the Senate - Harry Reid is unclear on the concept of "turnabout is fair play."
Principles are for Republicans - Q&O comments on how the Democrats only want a candidate who is "electable": "That was how John F. Kerry became the last "electable" Democrat to ride it into the ground. It isn't principles, it isn't policies, it isn't experience - its electability."
It's a John Edwards headline night

From David Yepsen in the Des Moines Register: "Don't rule out surges by Edwards, Thompson"

Sounds promising. MSNBC: "Edwards leads in Iowa"

Looking good! Wait, what's this? Ah, probably nothing.

Extra - More from the Radio Equalizer.
Big Dig whack-a-mole: plug-a-leak

This headline in the Boston Globe is belied in the first paragraph: "Study sees progress in filling Big Dig leaks"

Construction crews have plugged hundreds of Big Dig leaks, but the tunnel system is still on pace to collect and pump out the same amount of water this year as it did in 2006, according to a study presented to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board yesterday.
So fewer "leaks" but just as much water. This is "progress?"

Monday, December 17, 2007

Best Congress ever, continued - From Politico: "This much is clear: Democrats in Congress buckled under pressure from the White House to hold spending near the administration's specified limit, and they're poised to give the president more war money with no strings attached. But the buckling didn't stop there."
A new form of torture - I foolishly left on ABC tonight while writing some bills and had the misfortune to catch the network's newest game show called "Duel." To call it the height of tedium would be an understatement: I've never seen a show try to build so much suspense on so little foundation. I think they asked eight questions in an hour-and-a-half. At one point, even the contestants were exasperated and cried out "just tell us the answer!" The host churlishly responded "just for that we'll reveal the answer after this" [five minutes of commercials.] Awful in every conceivable way, ABC should cancel it before the week is out.
The perfect Christmas gift? - Oh, you'll laugh about it afterwards and tell the story over and over again to friends and family.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Special "air quotes" news analysis: Terror suspect "escapes" in Pakistan

Fox News: "Pakistani Authorities Say Terrorist Suspected of Plotting to Blow Up Trans-Atlantic Flights Has Escaped"

Pakistani authorities are "hunting" for a British man suspected in an alleged plot to blow up trans-Atlantic jetliners who "escaped" police custody, a deep embarrassment to the government of President Pervez Musharraf.

Rashid Rauf "fled" Saturday after appearing before a judge at a court in the capital Islamabad in connection with an inquiry before his extradition to Britain, Interior Secretary Kamal Shah said Sunday.

Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz assured Ambassador Robert Brinkely that the suspect's capture was a "priority," [ed.: ironic quote marks in original] British High Commission spokeswoman Laura Davies said.

Rauf "managed to open his handcuffs" and "evade two police guards" who were supposed to "take him back to jail" in nearby Rawalpindi, police said Saturday.

Shah said security teams were "searching the country" for Rauf and would report back within three days.
And so on from our "ally" Pakistan.
The holiday for the rest of us - From the AP "Festivus pole proposed at Green Bay City Hall": "The putting up of a nativity scene at Green Bay's City Hall has prompted a tongue-in-cheek request from a suburban man for permission to display a Festivus pole on the overhang of the building's northwest entrance." (HT: Fark)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sunday morning lineup - Via Mark Kilmer, we find that John Edwards will be making the rounds on the morning talkshows. Meanwhile, Newsweek suggests that Edwards could be the surprise winner in Iowa. (HT: RCP)
Not playing along - You know, Fred Thompson isn't my favorite candidate but you have to admire this from Red State: "Not a pander bear."
Ron Silver good as gold

In this Pajamas Media blog entry, the only conservative in Hollywood gives Paul Krugman a well-deserved smackdown:

In Krugman’s reading of history, our president has damaged our democracy more than the Alien and Sedition Acts during John Adams’ tenure; more than the suspension of habeas corpus during Lincoln’s, more than Eugene Debs (a leader of the labor movement who opposed Woodrow Wilson as the Socialist Party candidate in the 1912 presidential election) going to jail, under the Espionage Act, to serve a 10-year sentence for making an anti-war speech during the Woodrow Wilson years. The Espionage Act was passed at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson, who feared any widespread dissent in time of war, thinking that it constituted a real threat to an American victory.
None dare call it BDS. (HT: Sister Toldjah)
That's a lot of cardboard - I ordered eight or nine things on Amazon last week and I think it's all coming in six separate shipments. They're just shoving stuff in boxes willy-nilly and sending 'em out. Imagine what that place is going to be like around, say, Wednesday.
The wisdom of Vito Corleone - Junkyard Blog reveals the brains behind Mike Huckabee's foreign policy. I guess they don't employ fact-checkers over in the Huck campaign, or at least somebody with a good head for movie trivia.

It's timely because I saw Hillary talking about Obama yesterday and she was peeling an orange. Hmmm...
Editorial of the day - From the Boston Globe: "Cars and snow don't mix"

Tell me about it. Here it comes again.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Best Congress ever

Everybody's upset with Congress including the Democrats themselves. I think they're doing a fine job, especially since they've taken no action on their agenda from Iraq, to energy legislation, spending priorities, and tax policy. In "The Delta House Congress," the Wall Street Journal editorializes that the Democrats are smitten with token votes they know will fail to demonstrate "action" to the Nutroots:

As they careen toward the end of their first year in charge, Congressional leaders seem capable of nothing but futile gestures. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid failed once again to get enough votes for an energy bill, having refused to remove a $21.8 billion tax increase on energy that President Bush has promised to veto in any case. Mr. Reid was vowing to try again as we went to press.

Meanwhile, in Nancy Pelosi's House of self-inflicted pain, the Blutarsky strategy played out yesterday in one more hopeless attempt to pass a tax increase to "pay for" Alternative Minimum Tax relief. The Senate has already voted 88-5 against any such tax hike, so this House bill is dead before arrival. But Ms. Pelosi's troops are just the guys to do it anyway.
Could this guy do any worse than Harry Reid?

I think not!
Hillary tries to turn lemons into lemonade

Hillary Clinton gave a press conference today where she pitched herself as a known quantity. It's "no surprises" from her:

"I've been tested, I've been vetted," she said. "There are no surprises. There's not going to be anybody saying, 'I didn't think of that, my goodness, what's that going to mean?'"
I've written before about the Rule of 14 and the suggestion that Americans shun candidates who have been in the public eye for too long. This personal appeal seems like a bizarre strategy for a candidate who, let's face it, is not very well liked.

"You know me"? Yeah, all too well.

Extra - Larry Kudlow wonders if this is 1972 all over again. I don't think so because I'm not sure Hillary is capable of crying.

More - Via Belmont Club, here's the chair of the Wyoming Democratic Party: "For reasons I don’t agree with and don’t completely understand, most voters in Wyoming seem to hate Hillary Clinton. This is in part due to the perception of her as being someone who supports big government, most notably through a federal government takeover of the health care system." Known quantity, indeed.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bipartisan commission, save me!

CNN/Money has a guide called "Saving Social Security" with links to the presidential candidates and how they'd deal with the program's pending insolvency. For example, here's an excerpt from Hillary's "solution":

Proposal to pay for the funding gap: No specifics beyond saying what she won't do: cut benefits or raise the retirement age.
Bold leadership! At least Obama and Edwards have the guts to propose a tax hike, which is the wrong approach, but as a minimum addresses the heart of the problem. Mike Huckabee's plan is some foolish "wealth tax" which erases Social Security's vaunted universality. Giuliani is no better than Hillary: "Hasn't come out with a position." At least everybody agrees that political cover in the form of a bipartisan commission will fix everything. How depressing.

Iowa stubborn *

Here's Frank Foer on Hillary's "Parking Lot Obstacle" in Iowa:

But Hillary has a much bigger problem on her hands. When you caucus, you don't just dump a secret ballot into a slot. Caucuses are social events and individual decisions on caucus night are shaped by social pressures. Gephardt veterans like to describe how their 2004 free fall occurred in the moments between the time that caucus-goers parked their cars and sat down to do the evening's business. That's when they encountered the enthusiasm for Kerry and Edwards with their own eyes; they grew ashamed to cast their votes for someone so seemingly fusty as Gephardt. Sticking with Gephardt became an act of social courage that stunningly few made--at least relative to his stronger pre-caucus poll numbers.

Clearly, Obama is shrouded in an excitement that Hillary can't match at present. So, how will Hillary's soft supporters respond when confronted with this excitement on caucus night? Will they hold firm to their commitment to Hillary in the face of this enthusiasm? Or will they decide to give into Obama as they make their way from the parking lot. Hillary is hardly doomed to a Gephardt-like crumble on caucus night. Enthusiasm for Obama could wane between now and January 3rd. And she could solidify her support. But if I were her people, I'd be worried about such a doomsday scenario.
Well, I'm sure Hillary's charisma and likability will carry the day. The question here is the depth of Hillary's support in Iowa which seems (to me) as fleeting as Howard Dean's in 2004. On the eve of that caucus, I tracked some other bloggers' predictions and only one picked Kerry over the favorite Dean. Who knows what the children of the corn will do in three weeks?
National Review in the Happy Valley

Last night, Jonah Goldberg visited my neck of the woods out here in Western Massachusetts where he gave a speech at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst). His take:

More in the morning, but I must say I can't remember visiting a campus where the leftwingness seemed more intense or pronounced. And I've been to a lot of campuses.
Frankly, I'm surprised they afforded him freedom of speech. I can only guess that it's because the campus liberals are too busy studying for finals.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

That's quite a headline - From the WashPost "Democrats Bow to Bush's Demands in House Spending Bill": "House Democratic leaders yesterday agreed to meet President Bush's bottom-line spending limit on a sprawling, half-trillion-dollar domestic spending bill, dropping their demands for as much as $22 billion in additional spending but vowing to shift funds from the president's priorities to theirs." Always with the vows, those guys.

(Welcome, Real Clear Politics readers!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Viking Pundit to run Citigroup - What? Oh. Never mind, it's Vikram Pandit. You can understand my confusion.
Battle of the dogmas - Pope B. takes on Al Gore. It's green vs. God, baby!
Political speech = free speech. Let it be.

George Will heaps scorn on the very notion of the Federal Election Committee in today's WashPost: "Paralyze the FEC? Splendid."

What if we had deregulated politics -- including the sort of presidential campaigns that produced 33 presidents (including some pretty good ones -- Lincoln, TR, the sainted Coolidge, FDR, Truman, Ike) before the Federal Election Commission was created in 1975? Most of the rules, the possible nonenforcement of which has The Post in a swivet [" The Missing Referee," editorial, Dec. 7], are constitutionally dubious abridgements of freedom of speech and association, so sensible citizens should rejoice about the current disarray of the FEC.

The six-person FEC -- three members from each party -- enforces the rules it writes about how Americans are permitted to participate in politics. You thought the First Amendment said enough about that participation? Silly you.
The machinations of the FEC have only made election rules more Byzantine but elections are no less corrupt. We should have more faith in democracy than to try to enforce arbitrary restrictions on free speech, which are often crafted as a kind of incumbency protection scheme.

Extra - From the Hill: " New 527 group takes aim at campaign contribution limits"
Al Gore: "As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, 'Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice.' Either, he notes, 'would suffice.' But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet."

Charles Montgomery Burns: "Oooh, so Mother Nature needs a favor?! Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys! Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she's losing. Well I say, hard cheese."

Monday, December 10, 2007

No blogging tonight - Unavoidable homework instead.

However, I can't resist posting this one thought: the judge in the Michael Vick case should have sentenced him to only four months in prison, then bumped it up to 28 months to account for the standard seven-to-one "dog years" conversion.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Amazing Race update - I saw the harbor fights

Wow, it's been a long time since we've had a non-elimination leg in the Race with five straight teams knocked out. The remaining six teams started out from Vilnius, Lithuania and had to make their way to Dubrovnik, Croatia and find the Fort of St. Lawrence. It's very late at night so everybody's bunched up at the airport and they're all suspicious of each other's actions. Kynt & Vyxsin get some attention in one airline office and Ronald responds unfavorably when they don't share information. Azaria turns Mr. Hyde on his sister as tensions mount even though it looks like everybody's going to end up on the same connecting flight.

Whoops - big mistake for Team Alpha Siblings. They got tickets in business class and the rules of the Race are very clear that only economy tickets may be purchased. They rush back to the ticket counter but all the economy seats on the plane they want are booked. However, they make another flight through Frankfurt and the agent tells them that all the teams flying through Prague will be late due to delays. Everybody is scrambling across Europe, through Vienna and Zagreb, trying to get to Dubrovnik.

Finally at the clue, it's a Roadblock. One team member must help rebuild a harbor war by finding the one brick that fits jigsaw-like into the wall. Ronald & Christina do this right away and head to the next clue, via tandem zipline over the harbor. Now it's the Detour: Short & Long or Long & Short. Teams may either rappel down a wall then climb up another wall before searching for the next clue OR take a swim, then row a boat around the harbor to the next clue. The rowing seems more physical although it's a shorter search through the harbor plaza for the clue. Ronald loses steam quickly and Nathan & Jennifer try to paddle the boat like a canoe. Team Sexual Confusion chooses to go down-rope then up rope-ladder. Where are the remaining teams?

Team Generic Couple arrive seconds ahead of Team Miyagi and Grasshopper at the clue and they're all directed to the Pit Stop at the Stone Cross. But Nathan & Jennifer are turned away from a taxi because they're wet from the rowboat. Ronald & Christiana hop into a less-discriminating cab and speed off to the Pit Stop, leaving Jennifer behind spiraling into meltdown mode. They beg some guy (not a taxi driver) to take them to the Pit Stop and arrive in second place. However, Phil gives them the disapproving look and sends them back down to the harbor because they took a non-official mode of transportation. Down they go, then back, but Kynt & Vyxsin pass them in the intervening time to snatch second place. When Team Generic Couple arrives, they celebrate with a frigid handshake. Meanwhile the other three teams are just arriving in town with Team Alpha Siblings bringing up the rear.

It's a two-way sprint for Nicolas & Donald vs. Azaria & Hendekea for the last slot. Team Alpha Siblings are in much better shape, but it looks like Team Rude Boy & Gramps have a fair lead ahead. Sure enough, we get the fake drama (shaky camera up the steps!) until we see it's Nicolas and Donald grabbing their second next-to-last slot in a row. Team Alpha Siblings come up short and are not spared with a non-elimination leg. For the sixth straight leg of the Race, the last place team is booted.

Final standings:

1 - Ronald & Christina - Team Miyagi and Grasshopper
2 - Kynt & Vyxsin - Team Sexual Confusion
3 - Nathan & Jennifer - Team Generic Couple
4 - TK & Rachel - Team Birkenstock
5 - Nicolas & Donald - Team Rude Boy and Gramps
6 - Azaria & Hendekea - Team Alpha Siblings - PHILIMINATED

Next episode - Two weeks away, Donald looks like he's near the end.
He sees the green light - From Hot Air: "Former anti-nuke protester: Increase nuclear power use to save the world"

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Who invited that guy? - Robert Mugabe attends the EU-Africa summit and Gordon Brown backs out in protest.
Compare and contrast these Obama quotes

Speaking for Barack, here's Oprah: "For the first time in my life, I feel compelled to stand up and speak for the man that I believe has a new vision for America."

And speaking against Obama, here's civil rights figure Andrew Young: "He's [Bill Clinton] probably gone with more black women than Barack." But he was just "clowning" so it's OK.
The gambling life here in the Bay State

From the Boston Globe "Groups mobilize against casinos": "Gambling opponents are emerging from months of relative inactivity and mobilizing against Governor Deval Patrick's casino plan, hoping to capitalize on a tepid effort by the governor to secure its passage." The groups have organized under an umbrella group called Casino Free Mass.

And in other gaming news: "Massachusetts state lottery hopes to pay winnings to ex-convict."

Elliott, 55, is a two-time convicted bank robber who was accused last month of violating the terms of his probation when he bought a $10 scratch ticket and won $1 million.

"We would like to see him get his money," Dan Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the lottery, said yesterday. "What we are talking about is the integrity of the game. He played the game. He won the game. The integrity of the game is very important to us. That's our business."
Yes, we wouldn't want to sully the reputation of the lottery or casinos. It's all wholesome fun whether you're a slot jockey or an ex-convict.
Somebody's going down

From the Boston Globe - "White House advised CIA to keep tapes":

White House and Justice Department officials, along with senior members of Congress, advised the Central Intelligence Agency in 2003 against a plan to destroy hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the interrogation of two operatives of Al Qaeda, government officials said yesterday.

The chief of the agency's clandestine service nevertheless ordered their destruction in 2005, taking the step without notifying the CIA's top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, who was angry at the decision, the officials said.
I thought the Director of National Intelligence was supposed to bring order to the intelligence communities, but we're still wandering in an intelligence nebula while top officials continue to do as they please. Infuriating.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

It's the massive marginal tax rate. Young, skilled Danes are getting out of town, leaving the government to wonder who's going to pay for all the social programs. From the International Herald Tribune: "High income taxes in Denmark worsen a labor shortage"

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is based in Paris, projects that Denmark's growth rate will fall to an annual rate of slightly more than 1 percent for the five years beginning in 2009, reflecting a dwindling supply of a vital input for any economy: labor.

The problem, employers and economists believe, has a lot to do with the 63 percent marginal tax rate paid by top earners in Denmark - a level that hits anyone making more than 360,000 Danish kroner, or about $70,000. That same tax rate underpins such effective income redistribution that Denmark is the most nearly equal society in the world, in that wealth is more evenly spread than anywhere else.
Yeah, income redistribution is great unless you're one of the top earners getting their income redistributed away. So many young Danes have moved to London for the lower tax rate that it's jokingly referred to as a Danish town.

Extra - Mark Steyn on the clash of cultures brewing in Europe. Why did I add this? Because as skilled workers flee high tax rates, the labor force needs to be filled by large-scale immigration. Demographics is destiny.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Stark raving mad - "George Bush ruined my marriage" and other nutty quotes from Daily Kos in 2007. Keep in mind that these are contributors and not commenters.
Stop me before I charge again

As I've written before, I hate credit card companies and they hate me. So I should have gathered some glee from this story: "Lawmakers grill credit card execs - Senators want issuers to do away with multiple fees and pegging rates to credit scores. Companies warn tighter policies would limit credit and raise prices."

The problem is that I believe in the free market and that, if you don't like your seller, you don't have to be a customer. The same is true for credit card companies which is why the example the senators used to showcase corporate "abuse" fell flat:

[Senator Carl] Levin highlighted the case of Janet Hard, a Discover Card customer who testified about her experience at Tuesday's hearing.

"Janet pays her bills on time and has never exceeded her credit limit," Levin said. "In 2006, Discover Card raised her interest rate from 18 percent to 24 percent because her credit score had dropped but they didn't tell her why it had dropped."

With the higher rate, most of Hard's monthly payments went toward covering her finance charges instead of bringing down her principal debt.

"We paid our bills on time and never accrued a balance over our credit limit," said Hard, a registered nurse who is married with two children. "I thought the 24 percent rate was an error. But the company said they ran a spontaneous check that put us at a risk of defaulting on our payments. I feel sick. It's hard for me to get my mind around that."
Heartbreaking, except nearly every credit card issuer will offer a new card for a transferred balance at zero percent interest for six to twelve months. Shift your debt and cut up your Discover card. Janet seems to think that the credit card companies are good neighbors out to lend a hand; they're not, and they depend on the financially ignorant to prosper. Don't be so shocked.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Not so relentlessly - From the NYT "U.S. says Iran ended atomic arms work": "A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb."

Captain Ed shares his thoughts: "Hmm. What might have happened in 2003 to convince Teheran to stop its nuclear-weapons pursuit?" Read VDH also.

Another thought - From Q&O: maybe our intelligence agencies don't have a clue. That, too.
Poof goes the Clinton candidacy?

Here's Ron Christie on The Hill blog, proffering that the Clinton campaign is on its last legs:

And now Sen. Clinton has decided to dig a bigger hole for herself by attacking the integrity and candor of Iowa caucus front-runner Obama. And Clinton is attacking a political candidate for his integrity and candor? As “Dandy” Don Meredith used to sing on “Monday Night Football” decades ago late in the fourth quarter: “Turn out the lights, the party’s over. All good things must come to an end.” Attacking Sen. Obama, a fresh face and generally positive campaigner, with the Clinton War Machine will remind voters once again why they have tired of Clintons posturing and preening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Turn out the lights: After losing Iowa and New Hampshire, the Clinton party will be over for 2008.
Oh how I'd like to believe it, but Clinton's War Machine is extremely well-funded and organized. Then again, if the Rule of 14 has taught us anything, it's that Americans get fed up with national figures and then start to wonder if they want them in their living rooms for four (more) years.
There's no crying in baseball - From Opinion Journal on the nomination of Judge Jim Rogan: "How much more partisan and petty can Washington get? California's Sen. Barbara Boxer is refusing even to allow a hearing for a judicial nominee who has the backing of prominent Democrats, in part because she harbors a decade-old grudge about the Clinton impeachment."

I'll just take a moment to remind the Democrats that they have an excellent chance of re-taking the White House. So there will be no whining when Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans filibuster judicial nominees in 2009, 'kay?
Good news - From OTB: "Sudan pardons teddy bear teacher"
George W. Bush wins another election

From the Miami Herald:

Chavez himself has made a point of presenting the vote as one more chapter in the battle against ''the empire.'' 'Anyone who votes `No' is voting for George W. Bush,'' Chavez shouted to a sea of supporters Friday.
And just like every Dubya election, it was a nail-biter:

President Hugo Chavez suffered a stunning defeat Monday in a referendum that would have let him run for re-election indefinitely and impose a socialist system in this major U.S. oil provider.

Voters defeated the sweeping measures Sunday by a vote of 51 percent to 49 percent, said Tibisay Lucena, chief of the National Electoral Council, with voter turnout at just 56 percent.
This election reminds me of the 1990 presidential election in Nicaragua when Violeta Chamorro defeated Castro's buddy Daniel Ortega. A New York Times story at the time revealed that when Nicaraguans were polled, they overwhelmingly voice their support for the Communist president...unless the pollster was holding a blue-and-white pencil symbolic of Chamorro's UNO Party. Similarly, polls were indicating a tight vote in Venezuela but I was cautiously optimistic that the "silent majority" would come out to vote against dictatorship.

Extra - Lots of Venezuela info on Fausta's blog.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Updates updates updates! - Gateway Pundit is keeping an eye on the Constitutional referendum in Venezuela. Did Chavez lose or will he rig the results? Maybe he won, but probably not.
It's a free-for-all in Iowa - Here are some words I never expected to type: Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama are leading in the Iowa polls. It seems that Hillary has ticked off everybody in the state by calling during dinner.
"Intellectual venality" - The media critic for the Los Angeles Times absolutely excoriates CNN: "In any event, CNN has failed in its responsibilities to the political process and it's time for the leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties to take the network out of our electoral affairs." And yet it's Fox News which is network non grata among the Democrats.
Amazing Race update - Counting is, like, hard

I missed the first half of tonight's leg of the Race in part because my kid's swimming practice went way long. Teams were trying to get out of Africa and find the quickest way to Vilnius, Lithuania. Near as I can tell there was another Travelocity plug as teams needed to find dwarves and then carry them to the mat. But first there was a Detour: Count it or Step up. Teams may either count fence posts along a road in a rural town, or walk a couple dozen yards on stilts. If they miscount the fence posts, teams have to start all over; if they fall over on the stilts, same deal.

Jennifer (of Team Generic Couple) provides us with a blonde moment as she's shown counting: "87, 88, 89, 100." Unsurprisingly, her fence post count is off by exactly 10. Nicholas & Donald, who arrived on a late flight to Lithuania, catch up to the other teams and start counting fence posts. However, only after counting a bunch of posts do they re-read the directions indicating that they are not to count the gates along the fence. Using some clever arithmetic, they finish counting posts then go back and subtract the parts they erroneously added. Serendipity: the plus-then-minus strategy works and they end up with the right number. In doing so, they pass Team Fun Bags who couldn't seem to master the extended sequence of 717 posts. The blondes arrive in last place and are eliminated from the Race. This was a little surprising since this is now the sixth straight leg of the Race without a non-elimination round.

Final standings:

1 - TK & Rachel - Team Birkenstock Prize: Trip to Japan
2 - Kynt & Vyxsin - Team Sexual Confusion
3 - Nathan & Jennifer - Team Generic Couple
4 - Ronald & Christina - Team Miyagi and Grasshopper
5 - Azaria & Hendekea - Team Alpha Siblings
6 - Nicolas & Donald - Team Rude Boy and Gramps
7 - Shana & Jennifer - Team Fun Bags - PHILIMINATED

Next week: Tensions rise on the powerhouse Team Alpha Siblings.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Surprise proposal - On the set of "Scrubs." Great video.
Don't these people have jobs? - Thousands march in Sudan demanding harsher punishment for a British teacher: "Practicing the religion of peace in Sudan." And here's more from Expat Yank.
Why we're looking to Donald Trump to save our bacon - From Hub Politics: "Massachusetts ranks 49th in job growth." Bring on the casinos, government planners. Great idea.
Oil crazy - From CNN: "Chavez threatens to cut oil if U.S. questions vote"

Translation: "I'm going to rig this election no matter what."

Extra - From Publius Pundit: "Chavez and the avoidable Venezuelan apocalypse"
Random thought - Listening to Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" I was wondering if there's ever a situation where you wouldn't refer to your nose along with the verb "crinkle." With what other noun would you associate "crinkle?" A discarded piece of paper? Maybe.

Goodnight, dear readers!
What liberal media? - The White House vs. Helen Thomas

More - From Captain Ed.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thank heaven - From CNN: "Hostage situation at Clinton campaign office ends" - "Police took into custody a man they say walked into Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign office in Rochester, New Hampshire, and took several people hostage Friday."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Never heard of Iraq - Osama Bin Laden's latest audiotape exhorts the Europeans to quit Afghanistan. It seems like he's ignoring a bigger issue for some reason.
CNN: We're not embarrassed by our lack of journalistic integrity

Look, CNN can pick out whomever they want from the pool of YouTube entries, even known partisans, but the Clinton plant was out of bounds and easily checked on this little thing known as Google. But now CNN says they have nothing to defend. Except early this morning they seemed to feel guilty about something:

I watched the CNN re-broadcast of the debate this morning from 3-5am (the joys of morning drive radio), and I kept waiting for Col. Keith Kerr's question. He never showed up. CNN apparently deleted his entire appearance from the re-broadcast.
What's everybody getting so worked up about?

Extra - Stephen Green laments "the obviousness of CNN’s agenda" before he knew about the Clinton plant.

More - From Patterico, it's fair and balanced at CNN.

And this - Newspaper man Matt Hoy: "You can’t spell incompetent without CNN. Media. Wound. Self-inflicted."

Finally - Big roundup on Memeorandum.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Addictive timewaster for Scrabble fans - My high: 4328
The sole Big Dig legal case

Can't anybody do anything right when it comes to that black hole in Boston? As I predicted, Massachusetts won't recoup $1000 after spending $1 million in state taxes. The lawyers for Power Fasteners are arguing that the case against them has no liability basis:

In their motion to dismiss, lawyers for Powers Fasteners denied the allegations, saying the company did nothing wrong and briefed state highway department officials that fast-set epoxy was not safe for overhead use long before the tunnel ceiling was built.
And the state attorney general has a conflict of interest that invalidates legal action:

Because she was also seeking civil damages, she [AG Martha Coakley] could not be a "disinterested prosecutor," a right guaranteed by the US Constitution and federal and state law, lawyers for the company wrote in a 32-page memorandum filed last week. They argued that Coakley ignored evidence of errors made by state officials because indicting someone would help her chances of recovering millions in the civil case.
So, except for the lack of a factual or legal case, this has been a swell use of $1 million in tax money.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Making personal calls at work in America anywhere: warning from management

Making personal calls at work in North Korea: execution in front of 150,000 people
Boston's Big Dig: the gift that keeps on taking

From the Boston Globe: "Cost of probe on Big Dig nearly $1m"

The special prosecutor hired by Attorney General Martha Coakley to spearhead the investigation into the Big Dig tunnel ceiling collapse is billing the state almost $30,000 a week, running up a tab that already has reached nearly $1 million and could climb even higher in coming months if his contract is extended.

Despite the bill, special assistant attorney general Paul F. Ware Jr. has so far indicted only one supplier - Powers Fasteners - in connection with the death of Milena Del Valle in July 2006. But even if convicted, the Powers Fasteners glue company faces a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine.
As somebody who has been following the Big Dig debacle relatively closely, it's my opinion that the case against Power Fasteners is particularly weak, meaning that Massachusetts won't even recoup that $1000. You can't make this stuff up.
That is one fugly bride

From CNN: "Official: Bride, groom stopped in Iraq actually terror suspects"

Soldiers manning a checkpoint near Baghdad stopped a wedding convoy to find that the purported bride and groom were wanted terror suspects, an Iraqi Defense Ministry official said Monday.

The soldiers became suspicious of the convoy because its members -- save the "bride" -- were all male and because one of the cars in the convoy did not heed orders to stop, the official said.

Also, soldiers said, the people in the car seemed nervous and the groom refused to lift his bride's veil when soldiers asked him to, according to the official.
There are some G.I.s who will be telling this story over beers at the VFW for fifty years.
Eyewitness account - President Bush welcomes non-President Gore to the White House.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Amazing Race update - Gold, goats and Ouagadougou

In case you missed it last week (like me) teams were in Burkina Faso and started out on this leg with $0 to spend. They needed to find a local tribal chief and take a "gift" of a chicken and the next clue; the chicken needs to travel with the teams to the next clue at a village 100 miles away. In other words, no chicken, no check-in.

This clue is the Detour: shake your pan or shake your booty. The teams may either mine an ounce of gold or perform a tribal "So you think you can dance" for a set of three judges who will decide if the teams have fancy feet. Jennifer (of Nathan & Jennifer) reminds us that she danced professionally so the latter Detour should be a snap, right? Unfortunately, they show no creativity and incur a 10-minute penalty before they can get the clue (but not try again?) Nicolas & Donald head for the gold as do TK & Rachel. Back at the dance floor, Azaria & Hendekea complete the tribal two-step and head to the next clue.

But wait! It's a new twist in the Amazing Race: the U-turn. Teams who arrive first may force other teams (behind them) to go back and complete the Detour they did not choose. The brother-sister team decide not to penalize anyone and take the clue which directs teams to a goat market down the road. But Shana & Jennifer see TK & Rachel just steps behind them while heading to the box and choose to U-turn...Lorena & Jason. The usual justifications follow ("it's a game", "it's for a million dollars") but you can't help but thinking that Team Fun Bags are jerks. Lorena & Jason are already in last place heading to the U-turn so it's looking very bad for them.

At the goat market, it's the Roadblock: one team member must deliver a lot of stuff on an overburdened bicycle. The clue reads "are you ready for a juggling act" and teams are worried over the cryptic clue. Azaria seems to speak a little bit of French which helps him to gain direction from the locals; he finishes first and brother/sister head to Hotel De Ville and the Pit Stop. Lorena & Jason are happily mining gold and masking their frustration.

Azaria & Hendekea beat Nathan & Jennifer to the mat by a split second for their third first-place finish. Jennifer complains a little about being beat again (as in the other team should have let them take first place) but Hendekea helpfully points out that - you know - it's a Race. Lorena & Jason arrive last to the mat, chicken in hand, and they are eliminated from the Race.

Final standings:

1 - Azaria & Hendekea - Team Alpha Siblings
2 - Nathan & Jennifer - Team Generic Couple
3 - Ronald & Christina - Team Miyagi and Grasshopper
4 - Nicolas & Donald - Team Rude Boy and Gramps
5 - Kynt & Vyxsin - Team Sexual Confusion
6 - Shana & Jennifer - Team Fun Bags
7 - TK & Rachel - Team Birkenstock
8 - Lorena & Jason - PHILIMINATED

Next week: Ron takes a tumble and the Blondes block a bus.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Quote of the Day - Via Red State on the failure of socialist collectives in Venezuela: "Supporters of the scheme say the biggest challenge is a deeply embedded culture of 'capitalist individualism'."

This may be a suitable moment to point out that at the "American Adventure" pavillon at Epcot in Disney World, there are a number of quotes engraved on the walls and the most prominent (center, straight ahead from the entrance) belongs to controversial, non-American Ayn Rand. How very strange.
A Brit in America - Stephen Fry is one of my all-time favorite British subjects and, inexplicably, I've read two of his books. Any-hoo, he has a blog (who doesn't?) and in this post he tries to explain an American viewpoint on global warming. He's currently traveling around America for a documentary and I'm wondering what it would take to get him to take a detour to Western Massachusetts.
Pretty sneaky cookie - Investigate the Media has discovered that the enlightened minds at the San Francisco Chronicle will delete your politically incorrect comments but they'll still show up only on your computer as if still present for all the world to see. None dare call it censorship, oh no. (HT: Ace)

Extra - From Patterico: "Automatically graylisting commenters who regularly submit dissenting views = Priceless"
Amazing Race update - I didn't see it last week but CBS has a very detailed recap on their TAR web site. Burkina Faso has to be one of the most remote stops for the Race.
Traffic stops - Drive safely this holiday season, you might meet this cop or this cop. (Be sure to read comments on the latter.)
Something funny I saw at the airport - Michael Jackson on the cover of Ebony magazine.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Speaking of epic - The collapse of the New York Mets this season makes the Sports Illustrated list of "Turkeys of the Year." They're joined by Dale "Blown Engine" Earnhardt Jr., who managed no wins and just one top five finish in NASCAR this year.
I'm back! - Now it can be told: I was at the Happiest Place on Earth. More specifically, I took the family to the Disney World Wilderness Lodge Resort for an epic vacation. Didn't read a paper all week, so I have a lot of catching up to do. First on the agenda: who was Philiminated on "The Amazing Race"? Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! - This blog is on deep hiatus until after the holiday weekend. Hope y'all enjoy your turkey. Be back next Saturday.
Terrible list - Via MSN: "Worst movie titles ever."

I'm going to pick the dreadful movie and title "The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh."
Across the Atlantic - The anti-immigration movement grows in Europe: "Europe is still in a paroxysm of anti-immigration anxiety, if not downright hostility."
Krugman is as Krugman writes

NY Times columnist Paul Krugman continues to vex the Times' public editors, one of whom forced him into a correction then noted: "When he says he agreed "reluctantly" to one correction, he gives new meaning to the word "reluctantly"; I can't come up with an adverb sufficient to encompass his general attitude toward substantive criticism." You would think that an economist who deals with numbers all day would be able to prove a point with geometric precision instead of engaging in red herring arguments and visceral claptrap.

I hardly know where to begin with his latest nonsense titled "Played for a Sucker" about how Barack Obama had the temerity to address the looming Social Security problem. I'm just gonna start typing and see what comes out.

Part I is about how Barack Obama (and Tim Russert and Chris Matthews) said that Social Security is in crisis and, apparently, a lot of people are stupid:

But the "everyone" who knows that Social Security is doomed doesn't include anyone who actually understands the numbers. In fact, the whole Beltway obsession with the fiscal burden of an aging population is misguided.
I would presume that the chief accountant of the United States, comptroller general David Walker "understands the numbers" but I'm willing to listen to Krugman's counter-argument.

As Peter Orszag, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, put it in a recent article co-authored with senior analyst Philip Ellis: "The long-term fiscal condition of the United States has been largely misdiagnosed. Despite all the attention paid to demographic challenges, such as the coming retirement of the baby-boom generation, our country's financial health will in fact be determined primarily by the growth rate of per capita health care costs."
Did you get that? We're misguided on the fiscal burden of an aging population because we're going to go broke from Medicare and not Social Security. I feel so chagrined.

If you think there's more to Krugman's article, you're wrong, because Part III is simply a replay of the first act where everybody is either misinformed or hysterically playing up the "crisis" angle for political gain:

But Social Security isn't a big problem that demands a solution; it's a small problem, way down the list of major issues facing America, that has nonetheless become an obsession of Beltway insiders.
Missing from this article from the Times' chief economist: any kind of exposition whatsoever on the financial burdens facing the country from Social Security, Medicare, health care costs, or rising ticket costs at Fenway Park. Krugman barely has the patience to beg the question, much less support his statement with, you know, facts.

Krugman's right about (precisely) one thing: Medicare is a much more massive problem than the shortcomings of Social Security. The reason I focus on the latter is that while Medicare serves an important public role, Social Security is a Ponzi scheme that has a date-certain point of bankruptcy (right when I retire, conveniently enough). Krugman doesn't deign to explain why SS is not a Ponzi scheme, and simply attacks the (numerous) messengers. If it's the "small problem" that he claims, why not propose a solution and move on to the much bigger problem of health care costs? But no: Barack Obama and all the other politicians who want to tackle the looming crises are just "suckers." What childish, tendentious drivel.

Extra - Cafe Hayek is on the same wavelength: "The only evidence that Krugman presents to support his case against the proposition that Social Security is headed for insolvency (unless it undergoes big changes) is simply that Medicare and Medicaid are headed for insolvency that's even worse." (Hat tip: Memorandum)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Something in Nevada - The oxygen in the blogosphere is being sucked up by a debate in Las Vegas. Everybody's live-blogging. "The Office" was pretty good tonight.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pretension personified - Writing in Slate, Timothy Noah does the Mad Libs for Lewis Lapham's "new" magazine: "How to write the sentence he has been redrafting for 40 years." There's a contest, too, much in the fashion of Nero's chariot races.
OMG - Blogrolling worked! For the first time in months. Wow.
Push against Al-Qaeda in Pakistan? - AJ Strata thinks so.
A conspiracy so deep - Ramesh Ponnuru: "A lot of lefty pundits have been criticizing Barack Obama for suggesting that maybe something needs to be done about Social Security. Joe Conason joins the bandwagon, suggesting that the program's fiscal problems exist only in conservative "propaganda." The conspiracy must be pretty vast, including as it does the CBO, GAO, the program's trustees, and officials in the Clinton administration—all of whom have said repeatedly that the program has a shortfall."

Oh, there are plenty more of us Illuminati working on the great Social Security conspiracy. We're!
Smackin' the bottomless pinata

Jonah Goldberg argues that the increasingly unbalanced tax system creates a disconnect between taxes and government accountability that discombobulates our democracy and sets on the path of the "oil states":

Let's take seriously for a moment the notion that rich people are an inexhaustible army of Energizer bunnies that just keep going and going, no matter what taxes you throw in their path. You can see where Democrats get this idea, after all. The top 1 percent of wage earners already provide nearly 40 percent of federal income tax revenues. The bottom 50 percent of taxpayers contribute only about 3 percent.

Taxes are a necessary evil. But their silver lining is that they foster a sense of accountability and reciprocity between the taxpayer and the tax collector. Indeed, democracy is usually born from this relationship. Widening prosperity brings a rising middle class, which in turn demands the rule of law, incorrupt bureaucracies, and political representation in exchange for its hard-earned money. You might recall the phrase "no taxation without representation."

The one great exception is what development experts call the "oil curse." In countries "blessed" with oil wealth or similar resources, the relationship between the government and the governed gets distorted. These "trust-fund states" (author Fareed Zakaria's term) don't need taxes, so their rulers worry little about representation and accountability, opting instead for paternalism or authoritarianism. Worse, the people are less inclined to see government as their expensive servant and more as their goody-dispensing master.

Today, our politics seem to be suffering from a "rich people curse." We treat the rich like a constantly regenerating pinata, as if they will never change their behavior no matter how many times they get whacked by taxes. And we think everyone can live well off the treats that will fall to the ground forever.
Barack Obama's (and probably Hillary Clinton's) answer to the Social Security shortfall is to raise the cap on taxable income and impose the largest marginal tax rate in history. Every new program proposed by every Democrat will be paid for by "rolling back the Bush tax cuts" and making the rich pay their "fair share" which is, I guess, an even larger proportion of the total tax revenues. The result is a society where fewer people pay the taxes and a much larger section of people vote for those people to pay the taxes. And why not?

I've made this same argument about ever-increasing cigarette taxes. What would happen if, suddenly, all those smokers went cold turkey? The state and federal governments would collapse. Now what if all the high-income earners decide "enough is enough" and it's not worth it to make that extra dollar just to have it snatched away? Ayn Rand may have been a shrill polemicist, but there's a kernel of truth to her story of a dystopia entirely dependent on the productive few.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Long day - I had class and homework to do tonight and me tired. But do check out Jon Henke's very good review of "The Social Security problem."

Extra - And there's this from the Minuteman: "Strategic positioning on Social Security"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Taking a stand at UMass

From the Boston Globe: "UMass-Amherst students plan to strike"

Student government leaders are urging University of Massachusetts at Amherst students to skip classes Thursday and Friday to protest a range of grievances they say university administrators have consistently ignored.
Wow, big sacrifice there, one that will be spent marching picket lines and not checking out the opposite sex at the local bars. No sir.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Obama's Social Security proposal - I really don't have time to give this issue justice (gotta work tomorrow) but Barack Obama's plan to raise the cap on FICA taxes leads to one very important question:

A central tenet of Social Security has been its universality or, if you will, egalitarianism. Everybody pays into the program and everybody receives a benefit proportional to the amount put into the system over a working lifetime. If, say, Bill Gates pays a much larger proportion of his income over the current cap of $102,000, will he receive a multi-million dollar benefit check when he turns 65? Or is Obama's plan to take the extra tax money and use it to pay other people's benefits, turning Social Security into a welfare program?

As I've noted before, the cap on the income subjected to FICA taxes was set by Franklin Delano Roosevelt because he knew the program would have no political support if the John D. Rockefellers of the world were receiving massive benefit checks. Obama (and others) seem willing to sacrifice the equality of the program to paper over institutional problems that cannot be solved with the largest marginal tax increase in history.

Extra - Much more discussion via Memeorandum.
Amazing Race update - Flipping over the pitch in a Dutch ditch

Teams started out from Galway, Ireland and headed to Amsterdam to search for a certain bridge in the city. Shana & Jennifer are upset that they haven't gotten a facial in, what, three days? This is really roughin' it. Teams pile up in the airport waiting for the Aer Lingus counter to open at six in the morning and they're all in a line to take the same flights. Everyone makes it on the first connection except sisters Marianna & Julia who have to wait for the next flight to Dublin. Ronald upbraids Nicolas for being rude at the stand-by counter, leaving him speechless. Three teams are on the later flight to Amsterdam, so they're on the endangered list.

At the bridge, it's a Detour: Hoist It or Hunt It. Teams may either lift five pieces of furniture up to an apartment building, or search for two bicycles in a huge lot and then take them five miles away for the next clue. Azaria and Hendekea decide to find the marked bikes but are shocked when they see a three-story bike lot; still they keep searching. Nearly everybody else lifts furniture with few complications, the hardest trick is tying the straps to the furniture correctly so things won't slip.

After the Detour, teams need to take a bus to the rural village of Ransoorp for the next clue. The teams in Amsterdam are split up on buses just as the last three teams are arriving on their Dublin flight. This next stop is the Roadblock: Ditch Vault. One team member must grab a pole and vault over a muddy Dutch ditch. Jason does it on his first try and they head off to the Pit Stop. The final three teams all go for the bikes at the Detour and Ronald keeps yelling at his daughter in a truly immature manner. Kate & Pat miss the last bus to the ditch-jumping farm.

On the way to the Pit Stop from the farm, teams must pedal bikes with carts in the front for a rider. Hilariously, TK & Rachel go right by Phil standing on the side of the road, looking on with arched eyebrow. (Eventually, they turn around). Kate & Pat arrive last and they're eliminated from the Race.

Final standings:

1 - Lorena & Jason - Prize: Sports bikes
2 - Nathan & Jennifer
3 - Shana & Jennifer
4 - Kynt & Vyxsin
5 - Azaria & Hendekea
6 - TK & Rachel
7 - Marianna & Julia
8 - Nicolas & Donald
9 - Ronald & Christina
10 - Kate & Pat - PHILIMINATED

Next week: Lorena loses it.