Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Longest month ever - I'm positively exhausted after Halloween, the lowlight of my wife's minivan transmission imploding, and the highlight of the Red Sox winning the World Series. I must be getting old because I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving so I can lounge around and watch football for one day.
World to end tomorrow, women and minorities to be hit hardest - Via Willisms, here are the details of a new study on media bias. Newspapers, in general, are awful.
Democratic lawmakers flip over the checkerboard

Here's David Karki with "Democratic Congress: A perverse pride in doing nothing"

"If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?"

"If Congress takes tons of votes but passes nothing, has it really voted?"

Congress under Democratic leadership has reduced our legislative branch to little more than a philosophical question, so little has it accomplished in a year. They have passed none of the budget bills the federal government needs to operate, and wasted much time with multiple Iraq withdrawal and S-CHIP bills that they know will get vetoed, just to create issues for the 2008 elections and to curry favor with their lunatic base. They are on a pace to write the fewest new laws in 35 years, since the height of Watergate when President Nixon and a Democratic Congress were bitterly at odds.
The country is operating on a string of continuing resolutions, which are just placeholders for the work of actually passing a budget. And as Roll Call reports (via Q&O), the vexed Democrats are prepared to scrap minority rights in the House:

Exasperated over Republicans' continued efforts - and occasional success - in thwarting the House floor schedule, Democratic leaders acknowledged Tuesday they are reviewing the chamber's rules to determine how to curb the minority's ability to put up roadblocks at critical moments in the legislative process.
As McQ notes, the "motion to recommit" is one of the only tools for the minority in the House of Representatives and has stood untouched since 1822. But just like freedom of speech, the rights for people of the wrong political persuasion are transitory and expendible, especially when you're fightin' for the people.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Voter fraud in Seattle - From the Seattle Times "Three plead guilty in fake voter scheme": "The defendants were all temporary employees of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, when they allegedly filled out and submitted more than 1,800 fictitious voter-registration cards during a 2006 registration drive in King and Pierce counties."

Extra - Liberty Pundit asks: "Who tries to steal elections again?" Maybe a better question is what's the ratio of Left Wingers convicted for election-day crimes vs. Right Wingers?
Punch and counterpunch - From Politico: "New Congress at war over everything"
Smoke for the kids - I didn't understand what the girl was saying. I think it's "flu season's coming."
C'mon people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together

David Broder wants all the Presidential candidates to sit quietly as the Senate takes up entitlement reform:

If I had the power to summon all 16 of the people running for president to be in one place, I would want them in a Senate hearing room for a session that is taking place tomorrow morning.


What brings all these worthies together is an effort to revive the idea of a bipartisan effort to head off the bankrupting of America by runaway entitlement programs.

They and others, including Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, clearly see that unless ways are found to reform the financing and benefits of Social Security and Medicare, the demands imposed by the retirement of millions of baby boomers will consume the federal budget and blight the prospects of the next generations.
Yes, it's time for another bipartisan committee to slug it out. The only thing that would give the commission real power is if Congress is bound - one way or another - to vote on their recommendations.

Monday, October 29, 2007

At least there were no underwear questions

Good headline: "Obama, Clinton Focus on Social Security"

Bad detail: "Social Security was a distant idea later in the day as Obama appeared before about 150 college students at an event sponsored by MTV and streamed live on MySpace."

That's great. Here's the comptroller general of the United States David Walker on what these college kids have to look forward to over the next twenty years as they're trying to build their careers and raise families:

Walker says we have promised almost unlimited healthcare to senior citizens who never see the bills, and the government already is borrowing money to pay them. He says the system is unsustainable.

"It's the number one fiscal challenge for the federal government, it's the number one fiscal challenge for state governments and it's the number one competitive challenge for American business. We're gonna have to dramatically and fundamentally reform our health care system in installments over the next 20 years," Walker tells Kroft.

And if we don't?

"And if we don't, it could bankrupt America," Walker argues.
Instead, what kind of questions did Barack Obama face today?

Who would play Mr. and Mrs. Obama in a film, one woman asked? He hesitated before answering, suggesting Denzel Washington or Will Smith for himself.

Extra - PJ O'Rourke with "Generation Vex": "The pittance that is a current Social Security payment was intended to maintain the doddering retirees of yore in their accustomed condition of thin gruel and single-car garages. Such chump change will hardly suffice for today's vigorous sexagenarians intent on (among other things) vigorous sex, in places like Paris, St. Bart's, and Phuket."
Letters to the editor - Rebutting Keillor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune
The "fork it over" mentality - Protein Wisdom on Robert Reich's cash grab: "Certainly, this isn't about fairness in the tax code. Reich, Rangel, et al have no interest in "fairness". What this is about is property rights and who ultimately gets to control them. What we have here are not "liberals" but statists who cover their envy of others' success with sanctimonious socialism. Reich believes that people have no right to own more than 50% of their earnings and they must pay yearly rental to the government of their property."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Driving fast, turning left

Yesterday: "Who's gonna win tomorrow? Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon?"

For the record, it was Jimmie Johnson. Yawn. My trajectory of sports fandom has taken me from football (strike), to baseball (strike), to hockey (strike) and now to NASCAR. Maybe I'll start watching wrestling or roller derby. Still, I'll watch the Red Sox win tonight which will give me an excuse to wear a T-shirt to work tomorrow.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I've seen this movie - "I am Legend" = "The Omega Man" + "The Quiet Earth"
Dice-K indeed

The Red Sox are poised for a World Series sweep. Again. Wow...this is so much better than the lousy NASCAR Chase. Who's gonna win tomorrow? Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon? The suspense is palpable!

Update - Bottom of the 7th, it's a one-run game. Uh-oh. Blogged too soon.
First it was gasoline - Why is the cost of every translucent brownish liquid going up? From MSNBC: "Beer drinkers beware: Shortage to boost costs" Noooo!!! (HT: Fark)
Looking for leadership - Fox News: "Barack Obama Accuses Hillary Clinton of Dodging Tough Questions About Social Security"
Get health care or we'll kill you

Here in the utopia of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we've made it a law that everybody must have health insurance. But as Jay Tea points out, the magic pixies can't compel people to sign up for the program:

Jarrett Barrios, president of the Blue Cross Foundation, says the outreach effort needs to "move into the trenches" to address more directly the reasons that make people choose not to apply.

"That choice jeopardizes not only their own health, but may jeopardize the entire project of health reform," he said.
Get that? If health care reform fails, it's the fault of the people who refuse to sign up for the program, who will then be fined for not having health insurance. But they can't afford the fines either, so...well, you see where this is going.
That's a good list - Kim lists 15 people who should just fade from memory. (HT: Maggie)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Megan McArdle's horrible no-good non-stay at Comfort Inn - There's a couple of lessons to glean from Megan's recent travel problems. But, hey, that's what blogs are for: "There are only two things I can do: rant to you, and file a new learning away in the indelible memory box: when you have a choice between any "Choice" hotel, particularly a Comfort Inn, and especially the Comfort Inn, Jamaica, Queens, choose the fleabag that rents rooms by the hour. At least the people who mug you there won't try to convince you that it's your fault." (P.S. - I like Hampton Inns, too.)
Hope for the GOP in '08?

Bill Kristol thinks so in "Hold you conventional wisdom"

"In case you missed it, a few days ago Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock concert museum. Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at the time." This jab by John McCain at Hillary Clinton at the most recent Republican presidential debate received the evening's only standing ovation. Admittedly, those standing were partisan Florida Republicans. Still, it was a moment--in its combination of high-spirited playfulness and polemical sharpness--that made me think happier days may lie ahead for the GOP...

...And then there's the McCain moment. Why did it galvanize the crowd? Perhaps because it brought together three Republican themes: the Democrats are the party of big spending (the museum earmark) and cultural liberalism (the Woodstock concert), while the GOP is the party that understands war ("I was tied up at the time"). It's true that McCain is uniquely qualified to make that last point--but if he's not the presidential candidate, he can advance it as the vice-presidential nominee or as a prospective Secretary of Defense. At a time of war, in a culturally conservative country with voters suspicious of Big Government liberalism, it would be foolish to underrate the chances of the presidential nominee of the more hawkish, socially conservative and anti-Big Government party.
Charles Krauthammer also saw something brewing:

So no more gnashing of teeth. Republicans have 4 1/2 good presidential candidates. All five would make fine Cabinet members: Romney at Treasury, Thompson at Justice, McCain at Defense, Giuliani at Homeland Security, Huckabee at Interior. All the team needs now is to pick a captain who can beat Hillary.
When 50% of Americans declare they will not vote for Hillary (including 48% of independents) and stories like this are starting to bubble up, maybe it's early to measure the curtains. A year is an eternity in politics.
Would you say you're doin' a "heckuva job?" - Fox News: "FEMA Employees' Role at News Conference on California Fires Raises Newspeople's Eyebrows" What is wrong with these people?
When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, part MLXVII

I love the lead-in to this CNN story on Charles Rangel's plan to overhaul the tax code:

AMT repeal. Lower corporate tax rates. A bill by Rep. Charles Rangel offers $1 trillion in cuts. Here's how he would pay for them.
Hmmm...I wonder! Something innovative and original, but fair to all taxpayers?

Rangel said on Thursday the bill "would reform the tax code to provide a greater sense of equity and fairness."
Sounds promising!

The bill proposes that high-income filers would pay at least a 4 percent surtax on adjusted gross incomes (AGI) above $200,000 for married couples filing jointly or above $150,000 for single filers.
My foray into first-hand reporting

For once, this blog can be a source of clarification. Here's a story from Western Massachusetts: "Suspicious device at UMass-Amherst declared harmless"

State and federal authorities are investigating the origins of a suspicious package that prompted the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to close its campus for several hours yesterday morning while the State Police bomb squad determined the device was harmless.

The bomb scare prompted the university to activate its emergency-notification system, including mass e-mails to 30,000 students, faculty, and staff and an announcement on the school's website. College officials said the alert went well, although the website was overwhelmed by the sudden volume.

Authorities said wires were sticking out of the device, but would not otherwise comment on its size and appearance or whether it was a hoax. Authorities cordoned off Herter Hall, an academic building in the center of campus, and the surrounding area and urged students to remain in their dormitories during the investigation.
But Pioneer Valley native Viking Pundit can: my wife told me it was a 30-pack of empty beer cans with a bunch of wires attached and a sign reading "Don't move this or it will blow up." Those UMass pranksters!
Red Sox win! - Hey, I'm not a huge baseball fan, but I'll watch the World Series. Schilling may have pitched his last game, but it was a dandy defensive battle with the Sox on top 2-1.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I'm a little distracted tonight - The transmission in my wife's 1995 Plymouth Voyager is on life-support, making unsettling noises at every shift. There's really no choice other than to look into a new car since it's questionable to dump $3K into a car worth $500 (according to the Blue Book.) Still, it's a big, sudden expense and that's no fun.
Free speech and pizza - George Will has a great column today titled "The $114.69 speech police" that lays bare the unconstitutionality of campaign finance laws because it's impossible to de-link money and speech.

Extra - Betsy has more on how colleges spread ideas by limiting free speech. Wait...what?

And this - More open exchange of opinions at Emory: "In what has become an all too common occurrence at our universities, open discourse was once again squashed by militant and boorish behavior from members of the audience at yesterday's lecture by David Horowitz."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Who's the boss? - There are a number of stories making the rounds that Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Barack Obama (among others) intend to filibuster FISA legislation extending immunity to telcom companies. What? I thought the Democrats controlled the Senate; how can they filibuster their own majority? There seems to be some confusion on this matter.
Global warming problem solved

From the NY Times: "How to cool the globe"

What can be done? One idea is to counteract warming by tossing small particles into the stratosphere (above where jets fly). This strategy may sound far-fetched, but it has the potential to cool the earth within months.

Mount Pinatubo, a volcano in the Philippines that erupted in 1991, showed how it works. The eruption resulted in sulfate particles in the stratosphere that reflected the sun's rays back to space, and as a consequence the earth briefly cooled.

If we could pour a five-gallon bucket's worth of sulfate particles per second into the stratosphere, it might be enough to keep the earth from warming for 50 years. Tossing twice as much up there could protect us into the next century.
I'll tell you why the tree huggers will never go for this idea: a central tenet of the religion of environmentalism is that man must repent and redress his sinful ways. Penance must be paid and throwing soot into the atmosphere is too expedient.
The Social Security duck-and-weave - From the WashPost blog The Trail, here's Dan Balz with "Clinton slips Social Security questions": "Tracking Hillary Clinton's views on Social Security is becoming a full-time job. Over the past two months, she has been tantalizingly explicit in her views, deliberately vague about what she thinks, publicly steadfast in saying she doesn't want to talk about specific ways to ensure solvency and privately willing to share her thoughts when the situation has suited her."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

California is burning - This is the only story today: "Serious drought, tree-killing bark beetles and truck-flipping winds. Southern Californians have known for years they were living with the ingredients for devastating wildfires, but this time they are mixing with such violence it shocks people who thought they had seen it all." All the news sites have lots of photos, all very red.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Don't leave New Jersey, the taxes will follow you

Reading the New York Times blog is a trip into a whole different mindset, where rocking-horse people eat marshmellow pies. Here's one blog entry about how a majority of people in New Jersey want to get the heck out of the Garden State because they're fed up with sky-high taxes, especially property taxes.

But please don't take your tax revenue from New Jersey, begs the NY Times. There's some history and stuff:

New Jersey is rich in history, from the Aaron Burr-Alexander-Hamilton duel, to the invention of the lightbulb. And it has produced a steady stream of great Americans, such as Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, Frank Sinatra, and Bruce Springsteen.
And, besides, you'll eventually have to pay higher taxes wherever you go, so you might as well just stay:

In any case, there is a flaw in the grass-is-greener thinking. As more and more people needing more and more government services head to less populated areas, over-development, and congestion, and taxes are likely to increase there as well.
Yeah, the pursuit of happiness is for chumps. Now sit down, you're blockin' the TV and the Giants are on.
Valerie Plame vs. Valerie Plame's book

Mrs. Wilson is making the rounds on "60 Minutes" and elsewhere making the pitch for her new book. There's little point in retracing well-traveled ground since there's no chance of changing the liberal narrative that Plame was "betrayed" by the White House. But you'd think they'd get their story straight within the book:

One other matter begs clarification. As Rozen notes in the afterword, there is "an undeniable irony to Valerie Wilson later being exposed by the White House in a subterranean tussle" over prewar intelligence because "Valerie was not one of the intelligence community dissidents arguing against the threat posed by Saddam Hussein."

Quite the contrary: Wilson makes clear in "Fair Game" that she and her colleagues in the Counterproliferation Division were very worried that Iraq would use chemical or biological weapons on U.S. forces. They were dumbfounded when no weapons of mass destruction were found, and, in a telling passage, she says their spirits were "briefly buoyed" when coalition forces in northern Iraq discovered curious flatbed trailers that the CIA thought, at first, might be mobile bio-weapons labs.
Whoops! So Valerie Plame believed that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and certainly this opinion of the CIA carried weight in the White House. But, if you believe the Left, Plame and Wilson were the beacons of truth standing athwart a Bush Administration that was willing to betray Plame's cover for political gain. However, after the Fitzgerald investigation, the WashPost knew where the real betrayal started:

Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.
Extra - MacsMind recalls Plame's less-than-truthful testimony to Congress.

More - From Tom Maguire: " Was Joe working for the Kerry campaign in the summer of 2003 when he penned his NY Times op-ed? The Boston Globe said so, and Joe admitted as much on NBC News, but that factoid eluded Ms. Plame and her publisher."
Maybe the mob is interested - It's a gambling free-for-all here in Massachusetts. From the Boston Globe "Group pushes to privatize lottery": "As Governor Deval Patrick's casino bill is being debated on Beacon Hill, a group of Republican lawmakers is pushing another way for the state to reap a large gambling windfall: privatizing the Massachusetts lottery."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Back soon - Goin' to see Mom this weekend.
No action on artificial goals - Doesn't it feel good to warm up around the good intentions of reducing greenhouse gases? Until, you know, you actually have to do something then...well...we can't do that.
And fluff up them pillows! - Fox News: "Alabama Couple Catch Burglar, Make Him Clean Up at Gunpoint"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Violence in a Muslim country - Hard to believe, I know. From Fox News "Twin Explosions Near Bhutto Vehicle Kill Over 100": "Former premier Benazir Bhutto narrowly escaped a suicide bombing that shattered her homecoming procession and killed 126 people hours after she returned to Pakistan from exile pledging to fight extremism and promote democracy."
The ole Gray Lady ain't what she used to be

From ABC News: "How the New York Times fell apart"

As hard as may be for younger readers of this column to believe, twenty years ago, the New York Times was unquestionably the newspaper of record for the United States and (with the London Times) for much of the rest of the world. It had the most famous reporters and columnists, its coverage set the standard for all other news, and its opinions, delivered ex cathedra from the upper floors of the Gray Lady on 43rd Street set the topics of this country's political debate.

Incredibly, almost every bit of that power has been squandered over the last two decades. It's been a long time since anyone considered the Times to be anything but the newspaper of opinion for anyone but the residents of a few square miles of midtown Manhattan.
The author opines that the Times' decline has less to do with the Internet than how the paper pandered to a certain viewpoint at the expense of its reputation. And remember this brilliant move?

At the Times, this philosophy peaked with the amazingly stupid decision to put the paper's columnists, still among the most influential on the planet, behind a subscription firewall. The Times eventually backed down, but after years of reducing those writers to secondary players in the national conversation, their influence had been seriously diminished.
Now the joke is that people would pay to keep Paul Krugman back behind the firewall.

Extra - The NYT employee entrance exam.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Suddenly personal retirement accounts

Writing in the WashPost, George Will examines the innumeracy, or at least the shifting justifications, of the Democrats:

George W. Bush made this case in his advocacy of personal accounts financed by a portion of individuals' Social Security taxes and invested in funds based on equities and bonds. When he proposed this, Clinton stridently opposed him, and not just because she thought it would undermine Social Security's solvency and political support. She also said it was a dangerous gamble that would make retirement insecure by linking retirement savings to the stock market. Echoing a trope from Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, she said investing retirement funds in the stock market was a "risky scheme."

Today her Web site calls her proposal a way to save for "a secure retirement." After an undisclosed epiphany, she belatedly recognizes that 401(k) funds invested in equities are a foundation for security.
It's a fact that the investor class in the United States has grown just as the rate of return for Social Security has plunged below a that of a simple savings account. Hillary is simply acknowledging something that almost everybody with a 401(k) understands: private equities are better than public programs.
Mugabe's hyperinflation, carefully calculated

I'm not sure if the word is "pathetic" or "bathetic," but here's the sad punchline from a story on Zimbabwe's economic crisis:

Zimbabwe's inflation rate accelerated to a new record high of 7,982.1 percent year on year in September from 6,592.8 percent in August, the government's Central Statistical Office (CSO) said on Wednesday.
Good thing they added on that extra 0.1% inflation. Somebody might have headed to the supermarket with only 12 wheelbarrows full of currency.
Cause and effect - The New York Times editorial board starts a blog Monday and today Morgan Stanley dumps all their NYT stock.
Much thanks - Somebody threw me a rare donation at the Amazon Honor System, which was nice. I've accepted that this blog is a mostly solitary affair, but it's cool to get some recognition once in a while.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Social Security: protection against old-age poverty cash for boat payments

Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the signing of the Social Security Act, August 14th, 1935:

"This social security measure gives at least some protection to thirty millions of our citizens who will reap direct benefits through unemployment compensation, through old-age pensions and through increased services for the protection of children and the prevention of ill health.

We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age."
From USA Today: "Social Security hits first wave of boomers"

Casey-Kirschling recently moved with her husband, Patrick Kirschling, a university professor who turns 62 in March, into what had been their summer home on Maryland's Bohemia River. After years of working, they want the good life: time with family and friends, volunteer work, a villa in Florida and a 42-foot trawler to get them there. Its name: "First Boomer."

It gives me a warm feeling knowing that my FICA taxes, which I could have put into my kids' college fund, will go towards teak decking and nickel slots at the casino. God bless America!

Reminder - At the last census, the poverty rate for children under 18 was nearly double for those 65 and older (17.8% vs. 9.8%).
The silver tsunami - Brian Doherty shudders as the first Baby Boomers line up for Social Security: "The real beginning of the end of the 20th century." Also, in the WashPost, Dana Milbank repeats everything I write in every third post in "Smile, you're on Social Security."

Extra - Bulldog Pundit @ ABP: "The fiscal train wreck begins"
Won't somebody think of the children? - Remember the SCHIP program that was supposed to be for the kids? Well, in six states, there are more adults covered under the program than children. But it's not a pathway to socialized medicine, no sirree.

Extra - According to Gallup, lollipop-stealin', kid-hatin' Americans think that President Bush has the right approach to the SCHIP program. Wizbang and Don Surber have the details.
A foul wind blows off Nantucket - And it's the Cape Cod Commission, which is trying to block the Cape Wind wind farm project citing "insufficient information" after a three-year review.
Moonbat nightmare scenario - Randi Rhodes is "beaten" while "walking her dog" in New York City. Her attacker: Mychal Bell.


More from Captain Ed, Wizbang, and IMAO.

Monday, October 15, 2007

First baby boomer applies for Social Security

Here they come. Here's the situation:

Under current law, Social Security won't have enough money to pay promised benefits in 2041 but there is another crunch much, much sooner, the result of the the federal government relying on Social Security to pay for its annual spending.

When Social Security gets payroll taxes it pays out most of the money in benefits. The rest is supposed to go into a trust fund. Instead the government has been spending the money on other government programs, and putting IOUs into the trust. When Social Security needs the money it'll turn to the government waiting for the payback. But the government won't likely have any.

"This money has been borrowed, it's been spent, and there's no easy way to put it back," [former Democratric congressman Tim] Penny said.

The loan is expected to be called in 2017, when the largest bloc of the boomers - those born between 1946 and 1964 - will be retiring. By the mid 2020s, the federal government will have to fork over more than $200 billion a year, and then it climbs to more than $300 billion a year.

At the same time, all that is money that was being used for federal programs will no longer be available, meaning everything - from education to defense to the environment - will face a financial crunch.
In other words, without reform, everything we call "the government" will go towards entitlement spending. So far it appears that the only Presidential candidate willing to propose something resembling a solution is Fred Thompson, who advocates indexing benefits to inflation instead of wage growth:

"The only way to fix Social Security is to reduce benefits or increase taxes," said David John, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation who provided the deficit estimates. "At least Thompson has been honest enough to adopt one or the other of those approaches."
Otherwise the political parties are falling into two camps:

Most Republicans are opposed to raising the level of income on which Social Security taxes are collected; currently, the taxes stop after an individual reaches an annual wage of $97,500. Most Democrats, meanwhile, have ruled out cutting benefits, while leaving the door open for tax hikes on wealthier Americans.
Raising taxes on rich Americans? Who says the Democrats are out of fresh ideas?!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The upside to Katrina

An educational failure and an administrative basket case, New Orleans' schools are seeing an education revival. From the Boston Globe: "The schools that Katrina built - How New Orleans could end up saving public education in America"

The destruction of the New Orleans public schools was part of the larger human tragedy that befell the Crescent City, but it is not a loss that many residents are mourning. Before the flood, New Orleans had become a poster child for what is wrong with urban education in America, with a long list of failing schools, the worst test scores in the state, and a history of corruption and fiscal mismanagement. The public schools in New Orleans were under water long before the levies broke.

What has happened since the disaster, however, is redefining urban public education. Instead of simply rebuilding the old district, based on the old institutions, policy leaders in New Orleans and Baton Rouge decided to start from scratch, fashioning a public education system based on new ideas and promising models of reform from around the country. From the wreckage, New Orleans is emerging as a bold experiment in what a city school system can be.
How bad were the schools in New Orleans? Between 1998 and 2005, enrollment fell by one-quarter as parents pulled their kids out. But there is new hope in the Crescent City now that the old bureaucracy has been washed away:

But if New Orleans emerges from the devastation of Katrina with a diverse system of excellent schools, we will see what urban public education can be without the political-bureaucratic structures that have so successfully smothered the reforms of the past. Such a real-life, large-scale example of a totally redesigned school system, developed under extraordinarily harsh conditions, promises to transform the debate about what is possible in public education.
Of course, it sounds like there's no place to go but up.
Drew Carey, call your office - Cleveland dissolves, future of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame unknown.
Getting caught up - Oooh, I missed this great WashPost editorial from Friday "Tiptoeing on the third rail": "When it comes to the presidential race, the problem of runaway entitlement spending is something like the weather: All the candidates complain about it, but few want to get specific about what they would do to change it. Indeed, some candidates -- the most egregious example is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) on Social Security -- are happier describing what they wouldn't do than what they would." Hmmm...that sounds familiar.
But that's not what the Syrians said

From CNN: "Report: Israeli airstrike targeted Syrian nuclear reactor"

Syrian President Bashar Assad has said Israel bombed an "unused military building" in the Sept. 6 raid. Israel has been extremely secretive about the affair. It only recently relaxed censorship to allow Israel-based journalists to report that Israeli aircraft attacked a military target deep inside Syria.

In the weeks that followed the attack, U.S. officials said it was aimed either at a nuclear or missile facility that Syria operated jointly with North Korea.
Who are you going to believe? Your geiger counter or your lyin' eyes?
Praying to Jesus? That's a paddlin' whippin'.

Exposing your bare skin to show whip marks? That's another whippin'.
Mix the nuts - I like this idea from Michael Barone: a bipartisan Presidential debate. "In the process viewers heard [in the 1987 precedent] the talking points and propaganda of not just one party but of two, and the prospect that the other side would soon get its turn to speak may have deterred candidates from the kind of cheap shots which would evoke cheers from a one-party audience. My impression, which was reinforced by reading the transcript this week, is that there were fewer of these than in the debates I've watched this year. And viewers got more of a preview of the arguments that would be made by either side once the nominees were determined, along with some basis to measure the candidates of one party against those of the other." (HT: Real Clear Politics)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fair and balanced - Some reporting was done on Hillary Clinton and you'll never guess who passed Journalism 101: "It's a very sad day for a reputable news organization when it finds itself badly outdone on accuracy by Fox News, but that's exactly what happened to the Associated Press today."
Tough luck, kids - Let's put aside the Frosts and their fleet of gas-guzzlers to focus on the Democrats' plan for SCHIP expansion. To fit within the confines of their spending expansion, the program would climb to almost $14 billion in 2012 before dropping to $7.8 billion in 2013. That's right: those heartless Democrats are legislating the future expulsion of sick children off the insurance rolls. Have they no sense of decency?

Extra - Ants and grasshoppers from the Bookworm.
Step away from the credit card

Great story from Business Week:

A different breed of credit card marketer flooded college campuses across the country on Oct. 10: a counter-marketer. Credit card companies have been storming college campuses in recent years to seize a slice of the promising college market. But as student debt levels have surged, in some cases to dangerous levels, credit card companies have come under increasing scrutiny by federal and state lawmakers. Further hearings on credit card industry practices (BusinessWeek, 9/6/07) will continue through the fall before the Senate Banking Committee.

Now, activists groups are adopting the credit card industry's own practices to try to stop students from drowning in debt. Instead of credit card applications, these marketers are handing out information booklets outlining credit traps and unfair practices that can victimize students. Instead of Frisbees and T-shirts, these marketers are passing out lollipops that read, "Don't be a sucker."
The push for easy credit and overspending has sent the U.S. savings rate to its lowest level since the Great Depression. Send in the repo men.
Congratulations, Al Gore!

Al wins the Nobel Prize for his tireless crusade against ManBearPig. From Earth in the Balance:

"The Pacific Yew can be cut down and processed to produce a potent chemical, taxol, which offers some promise of curing certain forms of lung, breast, and ovarian cancer in patients who would otherwise quickly die. It seems an easy choice - sacrifice the tree for a human life - until one learns that three trees must be destroyed for each patient treated."
A beacon for humanity, that Al.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Max Cleland-ing of Graeme Frost

For what it's worth, here's my take on the whole S-CHIP/Frost uproar. The Democrats wanted to go for the emotional jugular by putting a human face on a political issue, instead of debating the insurance expansion on its merits. But instead of picking a truly needy kid, they picked 12-year-old Graeme Frost from Maryland and a compliant press was happy to promote the narrative.

Unfortunately, the Frost family became problematic for the Democrats because, ironically, they served to support the very argument the Republicans were making that an expansion of SCHIP would help people who had the means to help themselves. And no matter how high the dudgeon of the Left blogosphere, most Americans would agree that a family sending their kids to private school, taking in rental income on a $160,000 property, living in a quarter-million dollar home, while working "intermittently" in full-employment Baltimore simply doesn't fit the description of "needy."

So the narrative had to shift and it became "Republicans attacking a 12-year-old kid."

Weak. Once again, the Left has decided that the boundaries of free speech end the very moment when one of their own is attacked. It's exactly like the Max Cleland saga, the hero who fell from grace and could not be criticized for any reason, certainly not his Senatorial record:

If you can't criticize the Senate votes of a senator in a Senate race, what can you criticize? Throughout the race, Cleland tried to hide behind the idea that his patriotism was being questioned. A columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted in June of 2002 that "this 'how-dare-you-attack-my-patriotism' ploy, replete with feigned a device to put Cleland's voting records off-limits." It didn't work. Chambliss won the crucial endorsement of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which made its nod on the basis of the two candidates' differing records on national-security and veterans issues. The VFW wouldn't have been complicit in a gutter campaign based on smearing a Vietnam veteran.
So, back then, criticizing a Senator's record was taboo because he's a triple amputee. Then it was unthinkable to criticize John Kerry's Vietnam record - the raison d'etre for his Presidential run - because, well, he was in Vietnam. Cindy Sheehan was endowed with "absolute moral authority" and she also was above criticism. Even those who have the temerity to question global warming must be silenced. Now they roll out the Frost family and shut down debate with a wave of manufactured outrage.

Put down the human shields and debate the issues.

Extra - Captain Ed weighs in while Heading Right notes that there are an awful lot of adults taking advantage of the program designed for kids.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Homework tonight - I've gotta finish my homework. In the meantime, Real Clear Politics has the winners and losers from today's GOP debate. Back soon.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Plumbing the depths of hypocrisy, Democrats to propose personal retirement accounts

Harvard professor Martin Feldstein writes in the Wall Street Journal that a "Social Security Compromise" may be in the works with the possibility of personal accounts:
A recent proposal by Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, may point the way to a bipartisan compromise on Social Security. The essence of Mr. Emmanuel's proposal, unveiled on these pages last month, is to create universal personal retirement accounts funded by equal 1%-of-earnings contributions from employers and employees. Although enrollment would be automatic, participation would be voluntary since each individual could choose to opt out in any year.
This is almost exactly what President Bush proposed two years ago and here's where Professor Feldstein loses me. On the one hand, he claims that Democrats are not honest brokers on the Social Security issue, and will abandon reform if they can use it as a political cudgel:
The record strongly suggests that President Clinton was on his way to proposing a Social Security reform with personal retirement accounts. This didn't happen because the Democratic leadership in Congress wanted to use the Republicans' investment-based approach to Social Security as an issue in the 1998 election and persuaded President Clinton to drop his proposal.
But then he suggests that Republicans play Charlie Brown to the Democrats' Lucy one more time:
Reforming the tax-financed Social Security benefits to avoid a future fiscal shortfall is a bridge that need not be crossed now. The important point is to start the personal retirement accounts as soon as possible. The rapid aging of the population and the imminent start of the baby-boom generation's retirement make it important to avoid delay. The White House and congressional Republicans should reach out to Mr. Emanuel to see if the compromise needed to save Social Security and increase savings can now be achieved.
No thanks. Rahm Emanuel and his Congressional buddies can take the heat this time around.
Gore to take a fat 767 to Oslo - Rumors are flying that Al Gore may be awarded the Nobel Peace prize. Sure, why not? Gore can join other great winners like Rigoberta Menchu, Yassir Arafat, and Jimmy Carter. Give it to Bjorn Lomborg instead.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Wards of the state - This Mark Steyn blurb on the Corner takes a double-whack at media bias and the culture of entitlement that afflicts even those who live in half-million dollar houses.

Extra - Here's the background on that "needy" family from the Democrats' weekly radio address. You can't make this stuff up.
"Lexus lanes"

Remember the day when a traffic jam was an egalitarian affair, affecting everybody rich and poor? Well, since Massachusetts is desperate to raise highway funds (i.e. pay for the Big Dig) one of the options on the table is a special lane with variable tolls based on what time of day it's driven.

John "Two Americas" Edwards, call your office.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

All the dishes are Supreme

Erick Erickson recounts his dinner with Clarance Thomas:
Justice Thomas had a lot of great stories and really spoke highly of the other Justices on the bench with him. He said he gets along with all of them and they regularly eat together at Sandra Day O'Connor's insistence.
Heh. All I can think of is the image of Antonin Scalia showing up at O'Connor's house, bearing a plate of Rice Krispie squares. She asks him to wipe his feet.
Hooverville, it's not - Suitably Flip: "It's Official: Bush Economy Achieves Longest Period Of Job Creation On Record" I blame the tax cuts. (HT: Astute Bloggers)
Firefighting while intoxicated - Jay Tea has a follow-up story about two Boston firemen who perished in an August restaurant fire. It turns out that one of them was fall-down drunk, according to the autopsy report. I'm betting there's a lot more to this story that the firefighter's union doesn't want exposed which is why they're going after the leak.
It's a mystery - PowerLine: "In today's installment, the AP reports "Atlantic City mayor drops out of sight." And he apparently took his party affiliation with him."
And lo, the seventh seal was opened - After qualification today, Michael Waltrip is on the pole for the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Speedway tomorrow.

And in an ironic twist for both the UAW and Ford: non-union Toyota holds five out the top six starting positions while the highest qualifying Ford is starting at slot #15. U-S-A! U-S-A!
Big Dig update

They're not fooling around when they say "hang up and drive" in Boston. From the Globe: "Tunnel concerns block cell service"

The Big Dig tunnels, which state officials pledged to have wired for cellular phone service by summer, remain a dead zone after federal officials refused to approve the long-delayed project because they said the planned wiring could put too much weight on walls that are anchored in place with epoxy.
Commuters shouldn't think of the Big Dig as a roadway but as a $15 billion thrill ride. "Will we make it through alive? Wheeee!"

Friday, October 05, 2007

Oh those wacky Nobel laureates

From CNN: "Ig Nobel awards celebrate the sillier side of science"

This year's planned Ig Nobel program included a two-minute speech by keynote speaker Doug Zongker consisting only of the word "chicken," and a mini-opera entitled "Chicken versus Egg," performed by professional mother-daughter opera singers Gail Kilkelly and Maggie McNeil.
Sounds like a fowl affair.
Reel 'em in - Via MSN MoneyCentral: "Confessions of a credit card pusher"
That was quick

MSN: "Recession isn't an 'if' but a 'when'"
Larry Kudlow: "Recession off the table"
First the communists, now the casinos

From the Boston Globe: "Some foresee domino effect in N.E. gaming"

Early one morning a few weeks ago at his home in Hanover, N.H., Jim Rubens stared with dismay at an e-mail from a Massachusetts friend that carried news of Governor Deval Patrick's plan to bring three casinos to the Bay State.

Rubens, a onetime gubernatorial candidate who now heads the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, pounced on his keyboard and began dashing off e-mails to fellow gambling opponents warning that Patrick's move bodes ill for keeping slots out of New Hampshire.

"It was like sticking a hot poker in our eye," Rubens said. "You put casinos north of Boston and it's an invitation to our legislators who want casinos to say: 'Look at the money that is going to bleed out of our state.' "
The government shouldn't be in the business of profiting off of people's vices. But the monster is insatiable, so it's casinos and lotteries and alcohol taxes and cigaratte taxes, the last of which is carefully calibrated so that just enough people stay hooked to generate revenue. Brace yourself, Vermont! Ben & Jerry's is next.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Loser of the day

Here in Western Massachusetts, there are no responsibilities, only rights. And hurt feelings. So when there are hurt feelings, there's the right to sue. From the Boston Globe: "Student takes his 'C' to federal court"

Plenty of college students grumble when they get a mediocre grade and feel that they deserved better. When Brian Marquis got a C instead of an A-minus at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he made a federal case of it.


Marquis, a 51-year-old paralegal seeking bachelor's degrees in legal studies and sociology, filed a 15-count lawsuit in US District Court in Springfield in January after a teaching assistant graded a political philosophy class on a curve and turned Marquis's A-minus into a C. Marquis contends that the university violated his civil rights and contractual rights and intentionally inflicted "emotional distress."
Little did I know that my years at college were filled with so much "emotional distress." This is par for the course for the culture of entitlement here in the Happy Valley. At least the judge had the good sense to toss the case.
Can't anybody play this game? - Debra Saunders on the SCHIP mess: "It is as if Washington Dems and Repubs have reached a cynical pact - an agreement to pass bills which expand the size and scope of government, without ever coming up with an honest way to pay for them." So this shouldn't be a surprise: "Congress, Bush Approval Ratings Lowest Ever."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The unshakeable Joe Strummer - A tenacious commenter keeps swinging away at Matt Yglesias and his acolytes on Social Security.
Free speech for for me, but not for thee - Sister Soldjah assembles the evidence against Harry Reid and others: "Another liberal free speech hypocrite"
Stop spending money, it's already been spent many times over

From Heritage: "Increasing the National Debt Limit Should Spur Congress to Tackle Entitlements"

Although it has no immediate economic impact, debt held by the government becomes significant over the long-term. Such debt will eventually have to be converted into public debt, which means its economic impact will be felt by future generations. For instance, in 2017 the Social Security system will need to begin drawing from the Trust Fund in order to pay benefits. Since the Trust Fund contains nothing but government debt, the government will need to generate cash to pay back the money it has borrowed. Absent large budget surpluses in the future (a highly unlikely prospect), repaying government debt will necessitate that debt be sold to the public. This shifting of government debt to public debt will not by itself cause the total stock of debt to change, but it will force the Treasury to begin making interest payments that it was earlier able to avoid. As these new interest payments compound, the debt will rise significantly. Absent any other policy changes, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that net interest on the public debt will rise to 12.4 percent of GDP in 2050, which will amount to more than $9 trillion per year.
And here's the conclusion:

While today's $9 trillion debt seems high, it is small compared to the debt that future generations stand to inherit. In order to spare them this crushing burden, Congress must act now to reform entitlement programs, which will become the main drivers of government spending and borrowing. If it does not, Congress will have to raise the debt limit many more times, and future generations will pay the price.
The Democrats' transparent ploy with the SCHIP program is galling on so many levels. First of all, there's the idea that no good deed should go unpunished: the Republican-led Congress passed the children's insurance plan a decade ago only to have it used as a cudgel now by the Democrats. Second, here's a modest program that worked well and focused on the poor kids who need health insurance; now some states want to expand entitlements to people making $80,000 or more. The moral hazard, of course, is that with a new entitlement Americans will let the government pay for insurance - the first step towards the kind of socialized medicine that sends Canadians fleeing south. Finally, the Democrats expansion of SCHIP is paid for with a huge 61-cent cigarette tax (that will disproportionately fall on lower-income Americans) that still won't paper over the budgetary chicanery:

What happens in the sixth year, 2013, under the Democrats' plan? The projected SCHIP spending will drop by 92 percent. After five years of federal spending distorting the private health-insurance market, it will likely be impossible for families who will lose the SCHIP money to find affordable private coverage. When Republicans and Democrats - working together - created the SCHIP program in 1997, we made sure it had 10 years of stable funding. Democrats should follow that example, instead of endangering health coverage for millions of children.
Why re-new a good program when there's demagoguery to be made? I think Americans see the game of chicken the Democrats are playing at the expense of kids. They don't want compromise, they want an issue, and they might get one. There's no money left for a new entitlement at the moment in our history when a huge bill is coming due on a half-century of unsustainable expansion. Raise the cigarette tax? That's just the beginning.

Extra - From Captain Ed: "Vetoland, population 4"

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Busy busy busy - It's crunch time for me as I've just started my "Design of Experiments" class which is the final course I need for "Green Belt" certification. So that's why blogging is sparse right now. What? You didn't notice? Oh.
Not a talking point, a genuine problem

Megan McArdle does an admirable job of summing up how history has not supported the Left's insouciance over Social Security:

If economic growth were going to save us, it should have while we were paying for the unusually small age cohort that preceded the boomers. If productivity growth could save Social Security's finances, we should have seen it push back the date at which the government starts paying out more in OASDI benefits than it takes in in taxes. Instead, the reverse is true.
If there's one mantra that grips the Left on Social Security it's that the real problem is years away and, therefore, there's no crisis. True enough, but adopting reform today will significantly cushion the reckoning that's going to occur when the SS Trust Fund is dry around 2040. The "no crisis" position means no action and kicking the problem down the road.

Load up on your 401(k) kiddies, you're gonna need 'em.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Britney Spears gets a "parenting coach" - How bad a parent do you have to be to have a judge appoint somebody to tell you things like "Don't put Mountain Dew in your kid's sippie cup."
Things I did not know - According to this Fox News article, "Rolling Stone" is some kind of music-themed magazine. All this time, I thought it was a political pamphlet with Calvin Klein ads.
Dodge duck dip dive and dodge on Social Security

From today's WashPost's editorial: "Sen. Clinton's empty table - The candidate has no plan to fix Social Security"

Once there was a Clinton who understood three key things about Social Security: The system is not sustainable without changes; these changes entail either risk or pain; making them sooner is easier than making them later.

That Clinton, of course, was Bill Clinton, quoted above from December 1998. But listening to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), you'd think nothing ails Social Security that a little bit of fiscal responsibility wouldn't cure. If something more is needed, Ms. Clinton isn't saying what.
Golly, that sounds familiar. (This too.)

More - From Econlog: "I have this quaint definition of fiscal responsibility as anything that reduces government liabilities to bring them into line with realistic expectations of tax revenues. The future President's definition of fiscal responsibility appears to be that long-term liabilities of the government do not matter at all. If a corporate president were to defiantly announce that he planned to do nothing about the corporation's long-term liabilities until the short-term profit picture improved, I do not think his company's stock would do very well." (HT: Memeorandum)