Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Chris who? – Here’s Jay Leno on Connecticut’s senior senator: “Christopher Dodd said over the past few weeks he's been having a conversation with the mirror about running. The bad news? Today, the guy in the mirror came out in favor of Barack Obama.”
More confusion – According to AJ Strata it emerged in the Scooter Libby case today that Joe Wilson’s 2002 trip to Niger debunked his own report from 1999? Huh?

Tom Maguire bandies up the reviews of Judith Miller’s memory problems but concludes: “But the gist of her story - Libby discussed Plame with her before he claims to have heard and absorbed it from Tim Russert on July 10 or 11 - remains as a problem for the defense.” Next up: Matt Cooper who apparently makes Judy Miller look like Edward R. Murrow.
The hidden costs of health care

Robert Samuelson looks at health care proposals across the U.S. and here in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts:

Look at Massachusetts. Last year, then-Gov. Mitt Romney made headlines bysigning legislation to cover all the state's uninsured. The law required that those whose income exceeded three times the federal poverty line buy "affordable" insurance (those with incomes below that threshold would be subsidized on a sliding scale). Romney suggested that annual premiums for a single worker might total $2,400. But when insurance companies recently provided real estimates, the cost was much higher: $4,560. Is it sensible policy to force workers making $30,000 -- about triple the poverty line -- to spend almost a sixth of their pretax income on health insurance, as opposed to food, rent or transportation? Good question.
And one that should have been studied, answered, and considered before Romney plunged headlong into legislation affecting millions of Bay Staters. Also, Samuelson gives praise to President Bush’s dead-on-arrival proposal for reform plan, if only because it seeks to reveal the true cost of health care to Americans, who don’t see (and don’t care) as long as employers are picking up the tab.
Shortest presidential campaign ever – Joe Biden just adores the sound of his own voice and this is what happens. Of course, a year ago I revealed why Biden could never be President.

And remember this quip from Dave Barry? “The U.S. Senate reaches an agreement ending a stalemate over the confirmation of Bush-appointed judges, thus avoiding the so-called ''nuclear option,'' under which Sen. Joe Biden would be allowed to ask a question, thereby shutting the federal government down for months.” Heh.
The Muslim problem in England – It’s not getting any better: “British Police Arrest 8 Allegedly Plotting 'Iraq-Style' Kidnapping” Expat Yank is on the scene and reports the intended victim is a Muslim soldier who had served with the British army in Afghanistan.
Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ – CNN Money: “Economy grows more than expected - GDP posts healthy 3.5% annual growth rate for the fourth quarter, up from 2% gain in third quarter.”
Drunk Ted gets zinged over the Big Dig

Ted Kennedy has been wallowing in his bloated self-regard lately, castigating Republicans for failing to move fast enough on the minimum wage bill working through the Senate. We’re an evil lot, fulminates Ted, brimming with “hostility to working families.” The holdup is that Senate Republicans want to attach tax breaks to small businesses which would be adversely affected by the wage increase. How much would such a tax break cost? Senator Jim DeMint demonstrated:

Then Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican and a leading critic of wasteful government spending, brought to the Senate chamber a poster-sized chart depicting two piles of cash.

One pile, labeled $8.3 billion, was the value of small-business tax cuts that Republicans want to include in a minimum wage bill. The other pile, slightly larger, representing $8.5 billion, depicted the federal contribution to a certain controversial public works project in Kennedy's home state.

"This is just a chart that compares the amount of what some of us would call pork-barrel spending, what we call the Boston Big Dig," DeMint said. "The federal government's part of bailing this out is $8.5 billion."

He said that $8.3 billion in tax cuts would help create jobs for thousands of workers across the country.

DeMint's stunt speaks to the lingering resentment in Congress over the Big Dig, the massive construction project with a runaway budget that cost federal taxpayers $8.55 billion before lawmakers shut off the money spigot in 2000.
Yeah, now I have to pay for it. Thanks Ted!
Vista is out - Run for your lives!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Panic on the streets of London – OMG, the human race has only ten years left to save the planet. Here’s a debate just begging for another Simon-Ehrlich wager.
Nifty – Right Wing News re-designs. I prefer to stay with the "Classic" Blogger look.
NO extended warranties – From the Consumerist: “10 shopping tricks that stores hate” (HT: Fark)
Silly season for scientists – Iain Murray on the Union of Concerned Scientists own brand of junk science: “The fact that these so-called scientists went ahead regardless exposes them for the partisan media manipulators they are.”

Meanwhile, Dartblog perfectly nails the high-minded “debate” on climate change, you Exxon-lovin’ Christian.

Extra – From ABP: “Anonymous government scientists send Waxman into a tizzy
More memory mishaps at Scooter’s trial

Yesterday at the Scooter Libby trial, Ari Fleischer testified that he told (then) Time reporter John Dickerson and NBC reporter David Gregory about Valerie Plame’s relation to Joe Wilson. Well, John Dickerson doesn’t remember it and David Gregory isn’t talking.

Today, Judith Miller remembered stuff that never came up in her initial testimony to the grand jury:

In his most telling foray, [defense attorney] Jeffress asked how she could testify that Libby was agitated on June 23 when she couldn't even remember the meeting in her first grand jury testimony. He played a tape of a broadcast interview in which she had said "it's really easy to forget details of a story you're not writing." She testified she never intended to write a Plame story herself.
More problems for the Fitzgerald case: according to the peerless Tom Maguire, Miller isn’t willing to name other sources that may have discussed the Plame-Wilson connection. It seems she, um, forgot:

Miller is being asked by the defense about other sources for Wilson and Plame news and claims she does not remember them.
Tom’s assessment: “I smell mistrial.”

More – Even left-leaning Salon can’t hide it: “Scooter Libby's defense team is finally drawing blood, and it belongs to former New York Times reporter Judith Miller.”

Monday, January 29, 2007

Gotta run - I'm getting a "virus threat detected" here. Time to scan.
A retirement in poverty?

From the Motley Fool: “You won’t retire because you can’t

Instead of traditional pensions, most of us now have 401(k) plans at our jobs. But in general, we're not making sufficient use of them. According to the CRR, "Median 401(k) assets, including IRAs, for workers in their 50s are just $60,000."

Think about that. If you have $60,000 socked away at age 50 and it grows by the market average of 10% annually until you hit 65, it will grow to about $250,000. You might make some additional contributions along the way, but even so, that's not so much to live off of in your golden years -- particularly considering that you're only supposed to withdraw 4% per year from your savings in order to make them last. At that rate, your retirement savings are kicking out just $10,000 per year to you. Not good.
Of course, most retirees will have other assets to draw upon, most likely a primary residence. Still, considering that corporate pensions can disappear (think United) and Social Security is lurching towards bankruptcy, Americans would do better to err on the side of caution.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Five stars: "Little Miss Sunshine"

What a great movie! Of course, you can't go wrong with a road movie but the characters, forced to interact in the crucible of a VW bus, take this film to another level. Check it out: I hope it wins the Oscar for Best Picture.

Update (1/29) - LMS wins the Screen Actors Guild award for "Best Ensemble" - essentially Best Picture.
Losers of a feather – I know I said I wasn’t going to write about John Kerry anymore…and I’m not! So go read MacRanger on that traitorous jerk. Glenn Reynolds adds: “Like Jimmy Carter, he'll never forgive America for rejecting him, and he'll console himself with the approval of America's enemies.” More from Hot Air.
Bad – Your airplane steward asks: “Is anyone onboard a doctor?”

Worse – Your airplane steward asks: “Is anyone onboard a pilot?”

(Hat tip: Fark)
The elusive tune - I'm a real music lover with hundreds of CDs overflowing my shelves. Since ITunes came around, it's been a vital tool to fill in the gaps in my music collection.

One song I can't seem to get my hands on is "Clair" by Gilbert O'Sullivan. It's not offered on ITunes, nor does it show up on any of those Seventies compilation CDs, unlike "Alone Again (Naturally)" and "Get Down." Normally, I would just purchase O'Sullivan's greatest hits but it appears that record is available only as an "import" and costs around $30 on Amazon. Even on EBay, O'Sullivan's CDs are available only from the UK with a delivery cost higher than the CD itself.

It's like there's a conspiracy to keep me from hearing O'Sullivan's creepy ode to his manager's daughter.
The song remains the same

From the Boston Globe: “Six-figure pay for care plan overseers - Salaries at new state agency stir concern

Employees of the new state agency established to provide health insurance to the state's low-income residents have been hired at an average salary of $111,000 a year, with 12 of the 22 staff members making more than $100,000 and six earning more than Governor Deval Patrick and his Cabinet secretaries.

The state's landmark universal healthcare law, approved last year to provide affordable coverage to the state's approximately 500,000 uninsured residents, has created a bureaucracy with a salary scale like that of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority or the Massachusetts Port Authority, two quasi-independent agencies that Patrick and former governor Mitt Romney have railed against for their overly generous compensation packages.
What a shocker: a new government agency is (already) rife with overpaid pols and inherent waste. Thanks for the good intentions.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Inconvenient choices - Charles Krauthammer on energy independence: “Our debates about oil consumption, energy dependence and global warming are not meant to be serious. They are meant for show.”
Hate the war, love the warrior – The Senate unanimously confirmed General Petraeus even though every Democrat and a few Republicans are vocally against the strategy he supports. Kate O’Beirne suggests the reason why: “Because Gen. Petraeus is an experienced, credentialed, credible advocate of the new strategy, Senators have no interest in tangling with him. When you're playing at being a military strategist you sure don't want to go up against the real thing, so better to have an unpopular commander-in-chief be the face of the new mission rather than the veteran general who will be in command.”

Extra - More on the Petraeus hearings from Q&O.
Maneuvering on the minimum wage – Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) tried to introduce an amendment to the pending minimum wage bill that raises the minimum by $2 in each state. That’s because several states, where the cost of living is higher, already have state-mandated minimum wages. For example, the new federal minimum wage would help exactly nobody in Massachusetts because the baseline wage is already $7.25/hour. Shouldn’t we help Bay Staters whose cost of living is much higher than, say, people in Alabama? No! say the Democrats, calling the amendment a “poison pill” which must be code for “we want to squash economic freedom in the red states.”

Extra - Captain Ed on another minimum wage "distraction."
Is this trip necessary? - Hugh Hewitt: “Fight the Biden resolution

I have to confess that I’ve never heard of a filibuster of a non-binding resolution.
Right back at-cha! – In a shameless example of circular linking, I have to highlight this paragraph from Bulldog Pundit’s post referring to my post on public pension costs in the Bay State:

I know this isn’t the “sexiest” of topics, but in terms of impact on the lives of everyday people, it is the one you will likely be feeling most directly in the form of higher taxes, since legally these promises cannot be taken away from current retirees (nor should they).
Yes, yes, testify brother! On local, state, and national levels, our legislators and leaders have made increasingly expensive promises that simply cannot be kept. I know discussions of pension reform and demographic shifts are as stimulating as an Ambien chased with red wine, but it’s these meat-and-potatoes issues that will determine the long-term fiscal health of our government.
“Refreshed” memory – The Scooter Libby perjury trial this week featured two prosecution witnesses with *ahem* “evolving” memories of the events around the Wilson-Plame nothingness. Considering that this trial is anchored on Libby’s recollection of events, it’s not making for a strong case. As Tom Maguire notes: “Geez, and these are the prosecution witnesses.”
Air America update

Boy, I haven’t had one of these in a while. From the Santa Cruz Sentinel “Liberal AM radio fails to pay its own way in Santa Cruz” here’s KOMY station owner Michael Zwerling:

"We didn't sell a single ad in a year and a half," Zwerling said Thursday. "I thought liberal radio would work as a viable advertising business in the most liberal town in America. I was wrong"

"It's an angry, nasty, pissing and moaning format where the only thing they say is 'Bush stinks' or 'Bush is bad'," he said. "No commercial advertiser wants to be associated with that"
Yeah, that’s about the sum of their programming. Will the French family save this tree falling in the forest? I know you won't stay tuned.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Godspeed and tough luck

From today’s WashPost main editorial:

On Tuesday, nearly every member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warmly endorsed Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, and a number wished him success or "Godspeed" in his mission. Yesterday some of the same senators voted for a resolution that opposes the increase of troops for Gen. Petraeus's command -- even though the general testified that he could not accomplish his mission without the additional forces and hinted that such a resolution could encourage the enemy. Such is the muddle of Congress on Iraq: A majority may soon go on record opposing the new offensive in Baghdad even while encouraging the commander who leads it.
As James Taranto notes, the Democrats are still “figuring out” how to support and oppose the troops.
Massachusetts is broke too – From Robert Pozen in the Boston Globe “Paying for public retiree healthcare”: “While the burdens of retiree healthcare benefits on General Motors are well known, Massachusetts residents will be surprised by the large unfunded obligations of the public sector to pay similar benefits.”
Depressing – The Ford Motor company lost $24,000 per minute in 2006.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The deficit is down, but it’s about to go way up

It’s a small bit of good news in “Congress Office Forecasts Drop in U.S. Deficit” but you have to go to the very end of the article to see the long-term fiscal picture:

Over the long term, the Congressional Budget Office said, the real budget problem will be the surge in spending on Social Security and Medicare as baby boomers retire.

It echoed Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, who told Congress last week that the recent improvement in the budget was merely the “calm before the storm” and that the nation would face “draconian” choices between severe cuts in benefits and steep tax increases if it failed to act quickly.
President Bush made a perfunctory reference to entitlement reform again last night:

Finally, to keep this economy strong we must take on the challenge of entitlements. Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are commitments of conscience -- and so it is our duty to keep them permanently sound. Yet we are failing in that duty -- and this failure will one day leave our children with three bad options: huge tax increases, huge deficits, or huge and immediate cuts in benefits. Everyone in this chamber knows this to be true -- yet somehow we have not found it in ourselves to act. So let us work together and do it now. With enough good sense and good will, you and I can fix Medicare and Medicaid -- and save Social Security.
Is there really any hope for reform in this Congress? The Magic Eight Ball took one look at Senator Max Baucus and declared: “All signs point to NO.”
Richard Lugar on the Senate resolution on Iraq – Driving home today, I heard Dick Lugar’s statement to the Senate Foreign Relations committee on C-Span radio. He opposes the surge in troops but he gives a very detailed and incisive list of reasons why the non-binding resolution is a bad idea. Check it out.
America responds – The SOTU address gets a shrug and an “OK”: “More than three-quarters of Americans who watched President Bush's State of the Union address had a positive reaction to it, although the reaction was muted from that in past years, according to a poll released Tuesday.” Here’s the transcript.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

You are not reading this - Well, it looks like Blogger isn't updating. I guess I'll play some video poker.
The SOTU on Valium - It was the "hero" introductions and (thud) the conclusion. Very subdued and forgettable speech.
Blink - What is the deal with Nancy Pelosi's eyes? She's blinking three times a second. Distracting.
The laundry list – Here’s the White House’s preview of the topics to be covered in the State of the Union tonight.

I’m already depressed. I'm also half-expecting some kind of demonstration on the House floor.

Extra – From Jules Crittenden at Pajamas Media: “The State of the Union is a disaster.”
Numbers don’t lie – American Academy of Actuaries on “Social Security reform options” (HT: Polipundit)
Social Security and the federal budget are not the same problem – I think somebody at the Boston Globe is trying to drive me crazy with this deeply flawed editorial about my least-favorite entitlement program. The Globe tries to conflate the federal budget with the Social Security program and only confuses the issue.

Social Security is a stand-alone program with a trust fund full of U.S. Treasury bonds, the safest investment in the world. When payments start to outstrip receipts, the trust fund will start cashing in T-bills and they will be paid. The government will raise taxes or borrow more, but the debt must be paid.

The heart of the problem is that Social Security’s health is dictated by demographics, which simply cannot support the system indefinitely. The Trust Fund will be spent by around 2040 and then all recipients will see automatic 27% benefit cuts. The program currently shows an investment return rate of 1%; a rate that drops into negative the closer we get to bankruptcy. In other words: forget about the federal deficit with regard to Social Security. The entitlement is already inequitable enough by taking a lifetime of taxes for a pittance, if you survive.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Judging “obviousness”

There’s an interesting case moving through the U.S. Supreme Court: it goes to the heart of patent law and what is meant by “obvious.” To be granted a patent, an invention must be unique, useful, and “non-obvious.” A Canadian company (KSR) designed a gas pedal for SUVs with an imbedded sensor; after a competing company with the patent sued, a District judge ruled that any monkey with a toolbox could invent it:

A U.S. District judge in Detroit agreed with KSR that Teleflex's patent wasn't valid, because combining a sensor with an adjustable pedal was just too obvious. Meaning any old Joe in the field could have thought up the combination, and so Teleflex's innovation wasn't special enough to warrant a patent.
The U.S. Court of Appeals invalidated that ruling and now it’s gone to the Supreme Court who has to figure out just what this means:

Under current precedent, the law works like this: An existing patent may be invalidated for being obvious only if there is clear and convincing proof that some "teaching, suggestion or motivation" exists that would lead a person "of ordinary skill in that art to combine art and create new invention."

But "clear and convincing" is a high standard of proof, falling between the traditional standards of "preponderance of the evidence" (used in most federal civil cases) and "beyond a reasonable doubt" (the standard for finding someone guilty of a crime).
Here’s why this is a case to watch: some big companies like Microsoft, Apple, and IBM want to lower the threshold for “obviousness” so that they can backhand all the junk patents that chip away at the intellectual property that anchors their businesses. Or, one could argue, it could consolidate intellectual property around only the biggest companies with the best lawyers, forcing smaller companies out of competition. Stay tuned.
Pile up the future debt

Here’s Michael Barone on Social Security:

However, the outcomes that appear most likely, in the absence of policy changes, involve rising budget deficits and increases in the amount of federal debt outstanding to unprecedented levels. For example, one plausible scenario is based on the assumptions that (1) federal retirement and health spending will follow the CBO's intermediate projection; (2) defense spending will drift down over time as a percentage of GDP; (3) other noninterest spending will grow roughly in line with GDP; and (4) federal revenues will remain close to their historical share of GDP–that is, about where they are today. Under these assumptions, the CBO calculates that, by 2030, the federal budget deficit will approach 9 percent of GDP–more than four times greater as a share of GDP than the deficit in fiscal year 2006.
Max Baucus of Montana is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which would control any reform legislation. It doesn’t sound like he’s worried, demagogue-ing it up for some Montana seniors:

"I'm the lead guy on this end, the person in charge of preventing privatization, and I love it," Baucus told a crowd of several dozen seniors at an AARP-sponsored event at UM-Helena commemorating 70 years of the Social Security program. "I've never had so much fun fighting for something that's right. This is one of the biggest battles I've confronted in all the years I've been in Congress."
There goes the proud captain of the Titanic.
What media bias? – Normally, yet another inaccurate piece about Joe Wilson’s fabled trip to Niger wouldn’t catch my attention, except this time the sloppy scribe is Dean Nicholas Lemann, the head of Columbia’s Journalism School. (More from Mark Steyn).
Shut up already

From the WashPost: “Confidence in Bush leadership at all-time low, poll finds

The president will use his speech to try to rally public opinion behind the troop deployment plan, but during the past 10 days he has made no headway in changing public opinion. The Post-ABC poll shows that 65 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops to Iraq; it was 61 percent immediately after the president unveiled the plan on Jan. 10 in a nationally televised address.
The more President Bush talks, the more his support withers. This is going to be a heckuva State of the Union address. Somebody, please, get Andy Card back into the White House.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hey, parents, leave them kids alone – New Jersey is building adults-only housing to avoid paying property taxes for the most expensive public education in the country.
Sunday morning lineup – Mark Kilmer reports that Senator Sam Brownback will announce his candidacy on “The Week” tomorrow. Of course, all the chatter will be about Hillary which is sure to make pretender-to-the-throne Joe Biden furious.

Were Presidential campaigns always two years long? We just had an election and already there’s about twelve candidates forming Presidential exploratory committees. Mark me down as “concerned” about the Republicans’ chances to retain the White House in 2008: one political party rarely holds the White House for three terms in a row. The most recent example was George H. W. Bush which most regard as “Reagan’s third term.”
Beacon Hill’s good intentions – Remember that super plan to make sure everybody in Massachusetts’ has health insurance? The geniuses in Boston have discovered that health care is wicked expensive. From the Boston Globe “Sticker shock for state care plan”: “A state panel yesterday outlined for the first time the minimum requirements for coverage under the state's new health insurance law, a package estimated to cost $380 a month on average for an individual, more than $100 above recent estimates.” It's for your own good.
The debate is over – All shall speak as one, or else: “Ms. Cullen has made a name for herself of late by calling for the American Meteorological Society to pull accreditation for your local television weather guy/gal if he or she doesn’t pay homage to the belief that humans are causing global warming.” For this and other weather-related nonsense, Matt Hoy has named her “Moron O’ the Day.” Matt also reviews "Unstoppable Global Warming" by two science-type guys who suggest global warming is on a 1,500-year cycle.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Viking Pundit tops 1,000,000 visits

Yes, it took a little more than four years but sometime early this morning the all-seeing Sitemeter tipped into seven digits. What can I say except: thank you to everybody for stopping by. Writing on this blog has been a great outlet for me and I’m thrilled to be part of the blogging community.

A couple of acknowledgments:

Moe Freedman of the now-defunct Occam’s Toothbrush first reserved a Blogger site for me under the title of my old website “Smarter Harper’s Index.” Since the format for that old site was a little different from blogging, I changed it to “Viking Pundit” in part due to my Swedish heritage and in part for my New Jersey high school: the North Arlington Vikings.

I have to give a major shout-out to Scott Elliott who saved my blog from oblivion during the great Blogger meltdown that claimed a handful of sites including Betsy’s Page. Thanks, Scott!

And why not thank the Blogfather, Glenn Reynolds, who first linked to Smarter Harper’s and has thrown me a couple of links over the years. By FAR, the most traffic I’ve ever received for a post was a link to a story in the Boston Globe about a pizza shop owner in Boston who packed up shop before the Democratic National Convention. The links I got from Instapundit, Hit & Run, and Fark probably accounted for over 100,000 hits alone.

During the 2004 election season, I contributed to Blogs for Bush. Matt Margolis is a stand-up guy and I had the fortune to meet with him for lunch this past fall while at a conference in Boston. Good luck with the book, Matt.

I’ve followed Lorie Byrd from Polipundit to Wizbang and I’ll follow her wherever she goes next.

Mark Coffey and I joined forces in the Coalition of the Chillin’ which unclogged the judicial logjam before President Bush added two justices to the Supreme Court.

Mark Kilmer has also been a friend to Viking Pundit; he’s now working a shift at Red State.

Will Franklin has been a kindred spirit on the topic of entitlement reform. Now that Scrivener has packed up, it feels like we’re the only Social Security bloggers left. We shall be vindicated!

I’d like to thank the handful of contributors who have thrown some money in the tip jar. Considering all the time I’ve spent here, it comes out to far below minimum wage. As in you need a bathysphere to see that far down. ;-)

And a final hat tip to all my fellow bloggers, especially all my favorites on the column to the left. Share the love.

What’s in the future for Viking Pundit? Well, now that I’m heading back to school, I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for blogging. But I’m going to keep at it because it’s been a rewarding experience and if the next million hits take a decade, then so be it.

So thank you, thank you, thank you, dear reader. Now where do I pick up my green jacket? What? No jacket? OK, well, I’m taking the weekend off. See you soon.

-Eric Lindholm
Guess who – In Commentary, Joshua Muravchik on “Our worst ex-president.”
Democrats celebrate legislative success, Americans ask: “What?” – Via Strata-Sphere: “Democrats seen as wandering aimlessly.”

That might be unfair. This Democratic Congress has fresh new ideas for the 21st century like raising the minimum wage and vilifying oil companies.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

No, we’re not there yet – From CNN: “The 6 most annoying things kids say -- and the best ways to respond
Another craaaazy alarmist on entitlement spending

It’s Fed chair Ben Bernanke:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned Congress Thursday that the economy could be gravely hurt if Social Security and Medicare aren't revamped and urged lawmakers to tackle the nation's thorny fiscal issues sooner rather than later.

"If early and meaningful action is not taken, the U.S. economy could be seriously weakened," Bernanke said in testimony to the Senate Budget Committee.”
Ted Kennedy responded sarcastically: "Oh, sure! And alcohol kills brain cells."
Brave, brave Al Gore

Surely somebody so learned, so dedicated to his sacred cause, would crush ManBearPig global warming disbelievers at every carbon footprint. Or not.

The interview had been scheduled for months. Mr. Gore's agent yesterday thought Gore-meets-Lomborg would be great. Yet an hour later, he came back to tell us that Bjorn Lomborg should be excluded from the interview because he's been very critical of Mr. Gore's message about global warming and has questioned Mr. Gore's evenhandedness. According to the agent, Mr. Gore only wanted to have questions about his book and documentary, and only asked by a reporter. These conditions were immediately accepted by Jyllands-Posten. Yet an hour later we received an email from the agent saying that the interview was now cancelled. What happened?
He didn’t want to enter an intellectual battle unarmed.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It is decided – You need to be lucky to play poker. From Fox News “U.K. Court: Poker Is a Game of Luck, Not Skill”: “In the end, good fortune had the stronger hand. A jury decided yesterday that luck, not skill, played the greater part in poker in a landmark ruling on the status of gambling in Britain.” Of course, when I’m winning in poker, it’s obviously a game of skill.
If it ain’t broke, let’s break it – Following up on the drumbeat of vilification against the pharmaceutical companies, Democrats are preparing to tinker with Medicare’s prescription drug benefit despite its evident success. Betsy has all the details.
Lame lame lame – CBS announces the teams for “Amazing Race: All Stars” and the insufferable Rob & Amber use up more reality TV oxygen. I think I’ll start watching after they get eliminated.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Video fun – It’s the extended song “I’m no Superman” from “Scrubs.”
The former Garden State

What happened to New Jersey, the state where I used to play street hockey in the shadow of Giants Stadium? As Steven Malanga writes in City Journal: “Jersey is cratering

For decades, New York City residents and firms, seeking a haven from high taxes and overregulation, fled to New Jersey, boosting the state’s population and its economy. But a steady diet of New York–like tax increases and business-toxic legislation has reversed that trend, sending residents and businesses rushing for the exits and putting Jersey’s economy into a tailspin.
And here’s more on Governor Jon Corzine’s tax and tax some more policies in “The mob that whacked New Jersey”: “But today Jersey is a cautionary example of how to cripple a thriving state.” (HT: Free Republic)
Frozen orange juice – From Fox News: “Most of California's Billion-Dollar Citrus Crop Lost to Freezing Weather
The religion of environmentalism and its acolytes

In the Boston Globe, Cathy Young notes that while Greenpeace Warriors love to vilify the global warming doubters (“shills of Exxon!”) the environmentalistism movement gathers support because its goals dovetail with traditional liberal values:

People can easily see economic motives to bend the facts and abuse the science. Ideological motives are less readily apparent, but no less real; and, for quite a few people, environmentalism has become a matter of not just ideology but quasi-religious zealotry.
Furthermore, it’s important that climate change solutions be the right solutions:

Similarly, those on the left who embrace environmentalism as their substitute religion don't want to hear about scientific and technological solutions to climate change -- from nuclear power to geoengineering, the artificial manipulation of the global environment -- that do not include stepping up regulation and curbing consumption.
Finally, let’s not forget the feel-good, self-esteem high of the American Left:

The principal feature of American liberalism is sanctimoniousness. By loudly denouncing all bad things — war and hunger and date rape — liberals testify to their own terrific goodness. More important, they promote themselves to membership in a self-selecting elite of those who care deeply about such things.... It's a kind of natural aristocracy, and the wonderful thing about this aristocracy is that you don't have to be brave, smart, strong or even lucky to join it, you just have to be liberal.
If I use that quote a lot, it’s because liberals love to revel in their self-regarding solipsism but, like paying taxes, feel that somebody else should do the heavy lifting. If the global warming fanatics truly believe we’re on the cusp of a terraforming meltdown, the colleges would be jammed with environmental sciences majors searching for a solution. Instead, they’re picking up cans, playing hacky sack, and scolding the rest of us in the manner proscribed by Lord Protector Al Gore.

Update - Bad link fixed. That last quote was from P.J. O'Rourke.
The backlash continues – Writing in the Boston Globe, Peter Canellos psychoanalyzes Jimmy Carter and questions his motives in “Does impassioned Carter speak for people – or self?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor not a video editorJourney into the mind of Star Trek (HT: Wizbang)
Bizarro World update – Democrats claim that we can’t raise the minimum wage (in American Samoa) because it will cost people jobs. Well, the right people anyway.

Extra – From Q&O: “Tuna by any other name is still fishy
Great minds think alike

Mike Pence (R-IN) says “No new taxes for Social Security”:

Despite the fact that Republicans have already turned off millions of conservative Americans by runaway federal spending, some conservatives are expressing support for a Republican tax increase. They believe that through shrewd negotiating, the administration will get Democrats to agree to benefit reductions without a net tax increase, meaning a removal of the payroll cap could lead to a reduction in the payroll tax or the offering of tax credits to low-income workers. Such hope is folly disguised. Democrats are not likely to agree to reductions in promised benefits without exacting an actual tax increases, unless of course, "tax credits" are a thinly veiled attempt at passing a new entitlement for low-income workers through the tax code.
Social Security was supposed to be the government benefit for “everybody”; indeed, last year Democrats opposed reform proposals to index benefits because it would undercut the program’s political support. But the drumbeat for reform is still heading in the same direction where Social Security morphs into a welfare program. Let me add (cynically): where else could it go?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

He’s Brady-licious (he’s hot hot!)

From the NY Times: “Brady’s steady hand points the way again

Take away the receivers, take away the coordinators, take away the home-field advantage, and the New England Patriots are still left with Tom Brady at quarterback.

In January, he is all they seem to need.
After throwing three interceptions and a series of ankle-level incompletes, Tom Brady seemed to flip a switch in the fourth quarter. Talk about grace under pressure: he promptly marched down the field twice to score eleven unanswered points. IMHO, the AFC championship game is going to be the proxy Super Bowl with Payton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts playing at home against the Patriots.
The deeply disappointed Democrats – Ace goes on a tear with “Democratic cravenness” on the war in Iraq. As far as I know, only Ted Kennedy has proposed legislation in Congress to cut off funding and, while I don’t support it, you have to respect that he’s taking a firm stand. Few others Congresspersons, on either side of the aisle, have taken on the mantle of leadership on Iraq.

More – For example: Chuck Hagel.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A boy, a girl and a universe? And space Nazis – Via Hot Air: “The original unbelievably crappy trailer for Star Wars
President Dinner Jacket has been quietIranian nuclear program stalled?
Boneheads on Capitol Hill – Bill Kristol looks at the contortions made by members of Congress who know something must be done in Iraq, but are unwilling to say what: “But wait--that doesn't sound like leadership. That doesn't look decisive. And, if you're a Democrat--you didn't put in all that effort getting elected just so you could get a lot of grief from your own activists. If you're a Republican from a Democratic-leaning state--you didn't put in all those hours getting elected just so you could alienate the swing voters you need. So why not take the next step? Condemn the president's approach! There. That's a position.” Prepare the non-binding resolutions. (HT: Pajamas Media)
Who’s laughing now?

Oh boy, didn’t we have fun chuckling at Howard Dean? How we derided his “50 State” strategy? Good times, good times. From the WashPost “West Is Going in Democrats' Direction - Choice of Denver as Convention Site Reflects Political Shift in Mountain States”:

When the major political parties gathered for their national conventions in 2004, Colorado had a Republican governor, a Republican-controlled legislature and a Republican edge of 5 to 2 in the state's congressional delegation. Today, Colorado's governor is a Democrat. The Democrats control both houses of the legislature. Four of the seven congressional seats are held by Democrats.

That transformation, mirrored in varying degrees across the Rocky Mountain West, is a key reason the Democratic Party decided this week to hold its 2008 nomination convention in Denver, the financial, governmental and transit hub of the mountain states. As party leaders ponder how they can regain the White House in the next election, the region looks more and more essential to an electoral-vote victory.
George Will seems to believe that we’ve entered a new Congressional cycle where control changes between parties every decade or so. I’m doubtful. It’s always been my belief that the Democrats have a built-in advantage because they’re the party who are going to tax “the other guy” and give you all kinds of free stuff. When the Republicans fail to live up to their pledge of fiscal responsibility, they blur the distinction between the parties…and lose. This Democratic creep into the Midwest is a sign of bigger problems down the road until the GOP gets its act together.
It’s a black fly in your chardonnay

Breathe deep this headline, from the New York Times, no less: “Democrats in Senate Fail to Block Bill on Ethics

After campaigning for months on a promise to tighten ethics rules, Senate Democratic leaders tried unsuccessfully Thursday to block a measure that would shine a light on the shadowy practice of earmarking federal money for lawmakers’ pet projects.
It looks like the Democrats in the House passed a strong ethics bill with the assumption that their partners in the Senate would simply squash the measure. But Republican Jim DeMint had the bald temerity to introduce an amendment and the motion passed 51-46 over Harry Reid’s opposition “surprising almost everyone in the Senate.” Ooops. Oh yeah, that's good squishy.
Good news, bad news – The deficit continues to shrink, but entitlement problems loom. From Willisms: “In the short run, we're doing great. We'll have federal budget surpluses by sometime near the 2008 presidential election. Over the long run, however, the picture is not so special.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Nifong cries ‘uncle – From Fox News: “Duke DA Asks State Attorney General to Appoint Special Prosecutor to Take Over 'Rape' Case” Interesting that they put “rape” in quotes. North Carolina should drop the case before the students own the state park.
Cold as ice

Some would say that Barbara Boxer’s comment Condi Rice was heartless or at least a little impolite. But Barbara Boxer insists she was speaking truth to power:

Boxer released a statement Friday to through her spokeswoman, Natalie Ravitz, saying:

"I spoke the truth at the committee hearing, which is that neither Secretary Rice nor I have family members that will pay the price for this escalation. My point was to focus attention on our military families who continue to sacrifice because this Administration has not developed a political solution to the situation in Iraq."
It must feel good to realize that only you, a mother and grandmother, could understand familial sacrifice. Never apologize, Senator.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Now where did I put my backpack?

It’s been 15 years since I graduated from Rutgers and I never thought I’d be heading back to school. But I seem to have settled into a career limbo of sorts, so I’ve decided to pursue a master’s degree from Western New England College in engineering management. The classes are offered in the evening so I probably won’t be doing any posting during those days. (I took off work today to make sure I get to my first class.) So wish me luck; I have my pencil box and milk money all ready to go. Gosh, I hope the kids like me.
Let the invisible hand rule – From the WashPost ‘Medicare And the Market - Government Shouldn't Be Negotiating Prescription Prices”: “The success of the Medicare prescription drug benefit provides strong evidence that competition among private drug plans has contributed significantly to lowering costs.”
New Congress, old habits - Opinion Journal: “A Cynical Opposition - Democrats criticize Bush without taking any responsibility” The old argument was that they were out of power, and couldn’t do anything in the old “rubber stamp” Congress. Now they’re a deeply disappointed and concerned rubber-stamp Congress.
Giving up on the peanut farmer – Last month, I suggested that some kind of tipping point had been reached and people are just fed up with Jimmy Carter. Now, via Little Green Footballs, fourteen members of the board for the Carter Center have resigned en masse in protest to Carter’s book on Palestine. In Jimmah’s defense, he has finally agreed to speak at Brandeis University but he won’t debate.
Like I said – Here’s John at Powerline: “In the past, I've often said that President Bush has been more effective in televised speeches than he has been given credit for. Not tonight. I thought he came across as stiff, nervous, and anxious to get it over with. The importance of the issue seemed to overwhelm the President's ability to communicate. I suspect that only a few listeners absorbed more than a general impression of what the new strategy is all about.” It was a swing and a miss, both in style and substance. OK, that’s all.

More - Oak Leaf on Polipundit sees the backlash forming.
The Iraq gambit – The WashPost editorial on Bush’s strategy takes a “wait and see” attitude: “If the United States is not to abandon Iraq to its enemies, the U.S. mission needs to be sustainable, in both military and political terms, over the years it may take Iraqis to stabilize their country. Mr. Bush is betting that a boost in U.S. troops and aid can accelerate that process. If he is wrong, a continued American presence in Iraq may become untenable. The president must do more to persuade the country that the sacrifice he is asking of American soldiers is necessary. And if Iraqis do not deliver on their own commitments in the coming weeks, he must reconsider his strategy -- and suspend the U.S. reinforcements.”
Or else…what?

Last night, I read Mark Coffey’s take on Bush’s speech and (if you’ll read the first comment) let him know that I wasn’t so enthusiastic about Bush’s warning to Syria and Iran. I felt the threat was toothless and most of the address was unspecific and uninspiring. John Derbyshire hits the nail on the head:

The central and most glaring contradiction is the implied threat to walk away... Yoked to the ringing declaration that, of course, we can't walk away. So-o-o-o:

—-We can't leave Iraq without a victory.
—-Unless Maliki & Co. get their act together, we can't achieve victory.
—-If Maliki & Co. don't get their act together, we'll leave.

It's been a while since I studied classical logic, but it seems to me that this syllogism leaks like a sieve.
My greatest fear is that Iraq has now become a cause celebre in the Middle East, much like Afghanistan and Chechnya beforehand: it’s a rallying call for Islamo-nutters all the world over. If so, it means sectarian violence forever, a Baathist and Shiite dance to the death. Until Maliki discovers some way to fight the militias, there will be no end to the American presence in Iraq. We’ve backed ourselves into a corner where the only thing worse than staying is leaving; which means we're going to muddle through, constantly re-assessing the security situation.
And from the Economist

From “The President’s last throw”:

More American troops may or may not bring greater security. But they will offer more targets for insurgents to shoot at, and reinforce many Iraqis’ resentment of the occupation. More civilians could get killed, whether by error, carelessness or worse.

The surge, then, may be too small to make a decisive impact and yet too large for the American armed forces to bear. The tempo of troop rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan is already in breach of the Pentagon’s guidelines. Equipment is being lost in battle or worn out much faster than anticipated. A bigger army would help, but it will take years to recruit and train new combat units.

Mr Bush’s plan is to create some “breathing space”, bring down the violence to a level that the Iraqi security forces can manage and give them time to become more proficient. But to work, the military campaign has to be intimately bound up with economic and political progress.

The president’s “benchmarks” for the Iraqi government—sharing oil revenues fairly, spending $10 billion on reconstruction, holding provincial elections, revising the federal constitution and the “de-Baathification” process—are desirable. But they have mostly been heard before, and Mr Maliki’s government has failed to achieve them. In any case, big political issues may matter little to gunmen who are often fighting to control the local market, petrol station or street.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

President Bush’s address

Snap judgment: no matter what, Dubya is still the President of the United States, the leader of the Free World, but tonight he looked weak and chastened. He needed to exude strength and resolve but looked like a guy reading a teleprompter.

Furthermore, the speech needed a hook: an “axis of evil” or “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” moment. Where was the memorable, defining phrase to frame the issue and keep everyone reminded of the fight on hand? “Americans have never run from a fight?” Riveting. That’s one for the water cooler tomorrow.

At least Dick Durbin didn’t disappoint in the Democratic response: there was criticism for everyone (Bush, the Iraqis) except the terrorists and a fat non-binding resolution to show the new Congress is serious about being unserious.

Extra – Weekend Pundit says “Bravo!” Really? That's over the top.

AJ Strata: “Bush reminded people plans for failure are not an option. And while our hopes had not been achieved yet, our options for success are still wide open. Dower Durbin, the leader of the pessimist party, made the insane decision to go ahead and be the example of what Bush said was not feasible or safe.”

Dr. Taylor the Poliblogger has a list of legitimate criticisms, none of which I disagree with.

Betsy echoes my thoughts: “I don't think that his delivery was all that great tonight and the speech seemed devoid of any inspirational language. Unfortunately, it wasn't the speech that a Churchill, FDR, or Lincoln would have given when times were going badly for our troops.”

And finally, here’s Victor Davis Hanson: “After listening tonight to Wesley Clark, Dick Durbin, Tom Vilsack, Nancy Pelosi, etc. I still can't for the life of me learn what they want to do. Not one will support Ted Kennedy's cut-off of funds. Apparently the party line is that we can't win, but we're afraid to pull out in case we do, and so we will equivocate as we watch the battlefield and make the necessary rhetorical adjustments just in time.”
Preview – Here are some excerpts of President Bush’s address tonight from the Corner and Wizbang.

More – Jacob Weisberg says the Democrats are going to swallow it: “In theory, Democrats now control a co-equal branch of government. In practice, they seem so traumatized by their years of mistreatment at the hands of a contemptuous executive that they continue to cower and simper whenever master waves a stick in their direction.”
I am Robert Samuelson

It sure sounds like me in this must-read Washington Post article: “Entitled selfishness – Boomer generation is in a state of denial

As Congress reconvenes, pledges of "fiscal responsibility" abound. Let me boldly predict: On retirement spending, this Congress will do nothing, just as previous Congresses have done nothing. Nancy Pelosi promises to "build a better future for all of America's children." If she were serious, she would back cuts in Social Security and Medicare. President Bush calls "entitlement spending" the central budget problem. If he were serious, he, too, would propose cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

They are not serious, because few Americans -- particularly prospective baby-boom retirees -- want them to be. There is a consensus against candor, because there is no constituency for candor. It's no secret that the 65-and-over population will double by 2030 (to almost 72 million, or 20 percent of the total population), but hardly anyone wants to face the implications.
Read the whole thing including those implications, please. This article is so good, I might just make it a permanent link on my blogroll.

Extra – More from Right as Usual.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

College courses here in the Happy Valley

From the New Editor: “The 12 most bizarre college courses in the US

"Taking Marx Seriously"
Amherst College. This advanced seminar for 15 students examines whether Karl Marx still matters despite the countless interpretations and applications of his ideas, or whether the world has entered a post-Marxist era.
It certainly has, comrade. (HT: Conservative Grapevine)
Allergic to logic – Matt Hoy on a journalist’s sense of cause and effect.
D'oh! A deer!

Well, I hit a deer tonight. Relax, I'm sure he's off telling all the others how the horrified look on my face was just priceless.

He (she?) was standing stock-still in the middle of the road and I swerved left to miss it but I still heard a sickening thump. I doubled back, grabbed my flashlight, and imagined making a call to the local police, but the deer was long gone. Looking at the front of my car, there wasn't a scratch: no broken headlights, no new dents. But I must have clipped him with my right side mirror because it was dangling from some wires. Mr. Deer will have a bruise, but probably nothing more.

So, it was a scary moment, but it could have been much, much worse for all parties involved.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Damn, just damn – Did you ever get the impression that New Orleans is cursed? From the WashPost: “Killer bees tracked near New Orleans.”

Coming up next: Lake Pontchartrain turns to blood, Saints lose Super Bowl on trick “Statue of Liberty” play.
Read my lips: no new taxes for Social Security

Rumors are flying that President Bush, so desperate to salvage his promise to “save” Social Security, is holding open the possibility of a payroll cap increase (the limit on income subject to payroll taxes.) Forget personal accounts, here’s Bob Novak on the potential cave-in:

Eliminating the cap on payroll taxes would constitute the largest tax increase in U.S. history, estimated by the Heritage Foundation during the last Congress at $1.4 trillion over 10 years. This analysis predicted that such a step would cost nearly a million jobs and more than $55 billion in projected personal savings.

The economic woe that would result from higher payroll taxes would be matched by political damage to the president if this outcome were adopted by the Democratic-controlled Congress with his approval but support from only a few Republican legislators. That political calamity can be averted if Bush takes any payroll tax increase off the negotiating table, just as Democrats refuse to talk about a partially privatized Social Security system.
As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather see Social Security fall into the ocean before payroll taxes are increased, yet again, to prop up this inequitable system of wealth transfer from the working young to the (relatively) well-off elderly. As I’ve noted before, the payroll tax cap which is indexed to inflation, was set by FDR to insure that Social Security is a “universal” benefit. Last month, Opinion Journal expanded on what a cap increase means to the entitlement:

What liberals dearly want is to raise the payroll tax cap. Under current law, Americans pay a 12.4% Social Security tax on all wages up to $94,200 in 2006, and the cap rises each year with inflation. (There is also an uncapped 2.9% Medicare payroll tax on top of that.) So why not lift the cap a little more, say the taxers, perhaps to $150,000 if the trade-off is benefit cuts that will prevent even larger tax increases in the future?

One answer is that Social Security was always meant to be run like a pension program where the taxes paid by workers are linked to the benefits they get back during retirement. Eliminating or substantially raising the cap would convert Social Security into an overt income redistribution program. If that is the direction Congress wants to go, we should all then end the pretense that Social Security is some kind of "universal" insurance program and call it welfare for poor seniors.
In the middle of President Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address, Democrats applauded when Dubya noted that Social Security reform had been blocked. Here’s how Donald Luskin described the scene:

And as for those cheering Democrats, they didn’t applaud because reform is actually dead. They applauded to embarrass the president of the United States, and make it harder for him to promote reform in the future.

But reform isn’t dead. It can’t die. Reform is inevitable, because the Social Security system really is in crisis, in the sense that the accounting mirage of the Trust Fund doesn’t hold any real assets to pay off the system’s obligations. Even if it did, the assets would be exhausted in a few short decades as the baby boom generation retires.
Yet now, suddenly, Social Security reform is a hip issue again. As somebody who pays intense attention to this issue, I can’t help but feel the Democrats are on the cusp of an entitlement panic. Why should President Bush now cooperate with a party who happily, gleefully, and strategically played Social Security for political gain? The Republicans made a good faith effort for reform, taking personal accounts off the table and then proposing a price-index program that would protect poor retirees. No dice, said the Dems.

Well, fine, then. The Republicans should resist any tax increase and let the program wither away under the weight of it’s own overextended obligations. Goodbye New Deal.

Extra - Bulldog Pundit: "Will Bush repeat the sins of his father?"
Least surprising headline of the day – “Democrats not ruling out higher taxes for rich
The PAYGO farce

Lest you think that “pay as you go” – the exotic concept that Congress should only spend what it takes in – will change anything in Washington, read Brian Doherty’s take on the “fecklessness of the new majority party” from Reason Online:

“Pay as you go” spending rules that try to link spending increases with either cuts or tax raising—and, alternately, tax cuts with spending cuts or tax raises elsewhere? This is potentially a positive step toward fiscal discipline, though given the nature of D.C. priorities more a guarantee of no more tax cuts than no more spending hikes. While the language in H. Res. 6 on rules for the 110th Congress on “paygo” sound great, it also sounds too good to end up being true. Congress has managed to pass,and flout, similar rules many a time in the past. As a Heritage Foundation analysis explained, “not a single sequestration took place during PAYGO's 12 years as law. Instead, lawmakers repeatedly passed legislation that forbade OMB fromenforcing PAYGO at all….The PAYGO law that existed from 1990 through 2002 exempted from sequestration Social Security, net interest on the debt, nearly all Medicare spending, and several other entitlement programs. Overall, 97 percent of all mandatory spending--all but $31 billion--had been statutorily exempted from any PAYGO sequestration, according to 2002 OMB figures.” When the newresolution on "paygo" becomes practice, it needs to stay solid in ending “emergency” appropriations and be accompanied by a severe rethinking of the autopilot entitlement programs of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
Hat tip: Real Clear Politics. All of this talk about raising the minimum wage and cutting the interest rate for college loans is pure smoke and mirrors, designed to obscure the real debate America should be having about runaway entitlements.
Here come the benchmarks – From the NY Times “Plan sets series of goals for Iraq leaders”: “Without saying what the specific penalties for failing to achieve the goals would be, American officials insisted that they intended to hold the Iraqis to a realistic timetable for action, but the Americans and Iraqis have agreed on many of the objectives before, only to fall considerably short.” In other words: these are the benchmarks. If you fail to achieve them, we’ll set new ones.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Everybody’s talkin’ – Now that the election is over, it seems that everybody’s willing to talk openly about doing something to reform Social Security. The issue made an appearance on a bunch of the Sunday news shows this morning. As they say: the first step is admitting there is a problem.

Extra – More news from this morning: Joe Biden is running for president. The man simply will not go away.
Time to sink or swim in Iraq

I’ve been generally supporting of President Bush and the war in Iraq, despite the fact that we’re “not winning.” But that patience has officially reached the breaking point with talk of a troop surge to stabilize Baghdad. I don’t there’s a bit of evidence that additional troops in Iraq will help and good reason to believe it will make things worse. If 70% of all casualties in Iraq are caused by improvised explosive devices, I don’t see why we should add more targets for the insurgents. Furthermore, while the surge could send a message of resolve it would be neutralized by the impression that the “Crusader” armies of America are coming to keep the Muslims under heel. But, worst of all, it’s another crutch for the Maliki government. Here’s the conclusion from George Will’s article in the WashPost today:

Today, Gen. George Casey, U.S. commander in Baghdad, is in hot water with administration proponents of a "surge" because he believes what he recently told the New York Times: "The longer we in the U.S. forces continue to bear the main burden of Iraq's security, it lengthens the time that the government of Iraq has to take the hard decisions about reconciliation and dealing with the militias. And the other thing is that they can continue to blame us for all of Iraq's problems, which are at base their problems."

Baghdad today is what Wayne White -- 26 years with the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, now with the Middle East Institute -- calls "a Shiite-Sunni Stalingrad." Imagine a third nation's army operating between -- and against -- both the German and Russian forces in Stalingrad. That might be akin to the mission of troops sent in any surge.
Since the midterm elections, I’ve been saying that a troop surge was unlikely because the clear message sent in the Democratic sweep was that Americans want to disengage from Iraq. Bob Novak recently wrote that President Bush won’t find support from 12 out of 49 GOP Senators for a troop increase. Just yesterday, I was speaking on the phone with my conservative pal from college and neither one of us thought it was a good idea. And if you can’t get backing from two of the biggest right-wingers that Rutgers ever saw, well, you’re heading down the wrong track. I can understand that President Bush wants to try something to turn the tide, but the problems in Iraq are not the kind that can be solved with more American soldiers.

More – Oliver North also opposes the surge. (HT: Powerline)
NASCAR loses a championBobby Hamilton succumbs to cancer at 49.
Wow, it was warm yesterday

I took down the Christmas lights while wearing a T-shirt and then I played basketball with my kid. (Kicked his eight-year-old ass!) Anyway, the Boston Globe notes that while ski resorts are suffering, everybody’s saving a ton on the heating bills:

Record-breaking temperatures are pushing thermostats down across New England, cutting heating use roughly 20 percent to generate significant savings that could boost the economy.

The savings has not only rippled across households but also government, schools, and businesses that can spend less on heat and snow removal. Other sectors have also benefited, such as construction companies, which can take on projects they normally would have put off until the spring. At the same time, traditional cold-weather industries, such as ski resorts, are hurting while retailers are finding it hard to unload snow shovels, wool coats, and hats.
Any more bad news, Al Gore?

Depressed demand for heating fuels, caused by the warm weather, has added to the surplus of oil on world markets, which some economists expect could lower prices at the gas pump.
For more inconvenient truths, here’s “A conversation with Bjorn Lomborg” of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” fame.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Coincidentally, I’m watching “Munich” on HBO tonight – From Fox News “Israel Planning Nuke Raid on Iran Uranium Enrichment Sites”: “Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons. Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.”


Friday, January 05, 2007

Our new governor

Yes, it was a historic day in Massachusetts yesterday as Deval Patrick was sworn in as governor, only the second black governor in U.S. history. It’s no secret that the Boston Globe is has been critical of Republican governors, but this hagiography of Patrick in the Globe’s main editorial today is Smithers-esque in its obsequiousness:

The sense of a new day for Massachusetts was palpable yesterday, borne on the exceptionally diverse and neighborly crowd. As the breeze freshened and the sun made a fleeting appearance, the Boston Children's Choir sang the gospel hymn "The Storm is Passing Over," written in 1905 by the masterful Charles Albert Tindley, who only learned to read and write after Emancipation. Keeping hope and realism in balance is just the first of Patrick's challenges.
Geez, get a room.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Rich Uncle Moneybags fights the Commies

From the NY Post book review of “Monopoly – The world’s most famous game and how it got that way’:

During the depths of the Great Depression, suggests Orbanes, playing Monopoly was simultaneously a way of escaping economic privation while aspiring to the power of a Morgan.

That's one of the reasons the Soviet Union outlawed the game until 1987, even though samizdat versions were as popular as Levi's jeans and rock music. It was a way of dissenting from the Kremlin's top-down dictates.

It wasn't an accident that Monopoly was prominently displayed in the 1959 American National Exhibition in Moscow's Sokolniki Park, made famous as the backdrop of Richard Nixon and Nikita Kruschev's "kitchen debate."
Brezhnev knew that once the Russian people saw that little car it was all over. (HT: Arts & Letters)
Bad tech – From PC Magazine: the worst products of 2006
Historic moment – Nancy Pelosi is the first female speaker of the House. My only hope is that she understands we’re in war with people who want her in a burka.

Update – “House Bans Lobbyist Gifts, Business-Sponsored Travel”: “The U.S. House of Representatives, after installing its new Democratic leadership, voted to ban lawmakers from flying on corporate jets and accepting gifts and meals from lobbyists.” The vote was 430-1 and, for the record, I always love it when there’s one guy (or gal) who stands against the tide. Except for that Jeannette Rankin.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The old Statue of Liberty play – Wow, I didn’t see the game but thanks to YouTube, we can all enjoy the razzle-dazzle of the Fiesta Bowl. Check out that two-point conversion, man, oh, man.
Stay productive, America – Robert Samuelson has an interesting analysis on the consequences of a slowdown in economic productivity, in terms of tax revenues, entitlement spending, and our standard of living: “Although government can't easily dictate higher productivity, its policies may perversely favor lower productivity.”
Zan from the Wonder Twins is #2 – He could turn into steam, water, or ice. Is there a third state of water? Water plasma? Nah. Via Pop Culture Addict it’s the top 10 Lamest Super Heroes.
Here are your farms back. No hard feelings. – From the Guardian “Zimbabwe poised to welcome back white farmers”: “In July 2005 Mr Mugabe declared that his land reform policy would be complete only when there was "not a single white on the farms". But a contracting economy, hyperinflation touching 1,100% and food shortages have forced the authorities to allow some interested whites to return.”

Whites who, you know, can run a farm. Famine makes even a guy like Mugabe to do crazy things.
Stupid, homophobic voters to decide gay marriage in Massachusetts

The Boston Globe takes a unique position towards the constitutional process: every issue is open to petition by the citizenry except civil rights:

When a final vote is taken by the new Legislature, the members must consider whether this is an appropriate issue to put to the voters. We believe Massachusetts voters would not take away this right, and a popular endorsement might be considered healthy. But civil rights are fundamental, and gay marriage should not be subject to plebiscite here, any more than it would have been appropriate to have Alabama voters directly decide school integration or Virginia voters decide interracial marriage.
Ye’haw, y’all, we’re all Southerners now! To recap: the Massachusetts Supreme Court discovers a right that didn’t exist for 200 years and, by fiat, makes it state law. Bay Staters collect the largest number of signatures on a petition in history asking that all Massachusetts citizens – and not four members of the Court – make that decision. But since the Globe can’t defend the Constitutional process, it has to attack the prejudiced citizens. Nice.

Extra – From Stop the ACLU: “Would-be dime-store tyrants in PlanetMass legislature finally do their constitutional duty, marriage amendment clears another hurdle

More – From Mass Backwards: “The Deval responds” With helpful translations.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

My throat is like a pony - It's a little hoarse. Signing out to get some lemon tea - 'night.
Today’s least likely story – Billionaire couple divorces; divides up assets without lawyers: “When they decided to divorce, they spent a single afternoon in the Beverly Hills Hotel, dividing it all up. With just two notebooks and a bottle of wine, the Blixseths -- California real-estate tycoons and founders of the famed Yellowstone Club -- finished the job in a matter of hours.” Good for them.
News from the Berkeley of the East – “Iran thanks Amherst”: “The town recently received a letter of thanks on behalf of the country for a town meeting vote urging the United States not to attack the country.” (HT: Fark)

Extra – They’re rounding up Christians in Iran: “According to one source, those arrested have been told they face 10 accusations, including evangelization activities and actions against the national security of Iran.” Evangelization activities?
The people have spoken

Today was a banner day for democracy and the constitutional process. First, a federal appeals court ordered Michigan to comply with a voter-approved ban on affirmative action. (Related story here.)

Then, here in the Bay State, Beacon Hill legislators decided to uphold the state constitution and allow a ballot measure to advance to decide the fate of gay marriage. It came with considerable prodding:

The [Massachusetts] Supreme Judicial Court ruled last week that it could not force lawmakers to vote but urged them to do so anyway, saying they had a constitutional duty to vote. That statement appeared to sway legislative leaders.
Imagine that! Allowing common citizens to decide state law. What’s the world coming to?

Finally, there’s this story in the WashPost that Democratic lawmakers in Congress are going to elbow Republicans aside for the first push of legislation:

But instead of allowing Republicans to fully participate in deliberations, as promised after the Democratic victory in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, Democrats now say they will use House rules to prevent the opposition from offering alternative measures, assuring speedy passage of the bills and allowing their party to trumpet early victories.
And why not? America has voted; they won and they can run the House any way they please within the rules. Of course that also means the GOP can obstruct the Democratic agenda, also within the rules. Gridlock forever!