Friday, November 30, 2007

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

Thursday, November 29, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally - Big roundup on Memeorandum.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Amazing Race update - Gold, goats and Ouagadougou

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

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

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

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

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

Final standings:

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

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

Saturday, November 24, 2007

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

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

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

Friday, November 23, 2007

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

Friday, November 16, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 15, 2007

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2007

Taking a stand at UMass

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

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

Sunday, November 11, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final standings:

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

Next week: Lorena loses it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sunday morning lineup - It's all the Presidential hopefuls tomorrow morning including Barack Obama on "Meet the Press." I've got nothing against the guy but I'm pretty sure that Tim Russert is going to demonstrate why Obama is not Presidential timber.
Fred Thompson tries to energize his campaign by grabbing the third rail

Well, I applaud his effort to lead on this issue. From the WSJ: "Thompson sets Social Security view"

Although former Sen. Fred Thompson entered the presidential race late, he ventured Friday into an area few rivals have tread: advocacy of a fundamental overhaul of Social Security.

The Republican candidate laid out a detailed, four-page proposal calling for the creation of voluntary personal retirement accounts and a change in the formula for future retirees that would result in lower Social Security benefits.

It is a risky move for the former actor and lawmaker from Tennessee. He is the only presidential candidate so far to make Social Security an anchor of his campaign. Although all of the presidential candidates have spoken, when asked, about the need to fix the Social Security system, none has offered such a detailed plan nor talked so eagerly and often about the issue.
I'd like to believe there will be an honest and forthright debate on the entitlement issue, but it's ten-times more likely that Thompson will be accused of robbing Grandma. Once the Baby Boomers head into retirement, they'll have nothing else to do than collect Social Security checks and vote down benefit cuts. (HT: RCP)
Don't let the facts upset your rhetoric - Bob Herbert had an article so shabby in facts and opinion that even liberal economist/blogger Brad DeLong couldn't let it slide: "How has the New York Times managed to pick Bob Herbert out of the 75 million liberal adults in America? It is a mystery." I'm tempted to say that he fits a certain ideological requirement that finds support from the Times editorial board, fact-checkers be damned.

More - From Q&O and Death by 1000 papercuts.
The future of journalism? - The Boston Globe redesigned their site and if you look down the right column, there are "Reporters' questions" where they're inviting readers to fill out stories for them. For example: "Do you commute more than two hours each way on a daily basis? If so, tell the Globe about your drive." Interesting.

Friday, November 09, 2007

"You should be concerned about global warming, random Iowan" - From Fox News: "Clinton Campaign Confirms Planting Town Hall Question, Says It Won't Happen Again"

Extra - More from Wuzzadum (HT: Patterico)
Just in time to fund S-CHIP, people keep on smokin'

From the WashPost "Decades-Long U.S. Decrease in Smoking Rates Levels Off": "The decades-long decline in smoking by Americans has stalled for three years, the first time smoking rates have leveled off for that long since the federal government began collecting statistics more than 40 years ago."

Smoking. Do it for the kids.
Praise Jesus, let's watch "Cops" - Joe Biden stumbles upon the truth.
Random movie quote - "Attention. Here's an update on tonight's dinner. It was veal. I repeat, veal. The winner of tonight's mystery meat contest is Jeffrey Corbin who guessed "some kind of beef."
AG Mukasey and waterboarding

Captain Ed makes a salient point:

Mukasey doesn't get to classify waterboarding as torture. As I have repeatedly pointed out, the AG and the DoJ don't get to write their own laws. Congress writes the laws, and the AG makes sure that they are enforced. Congress has explicitly forbidden the Pentagon to use waterboarding as an interrogation technique, but has not yet passed that same restriction on other agencies -- and until they do, any instance of waterboarding cannot be said to be explicitly illegal.
Well, then, why doesn't Congress simply outlaw waterboarding at the CIA?

Congress does not want to take responsibility for restricting the options for time-critical interrogations. Many of these same Senators have thought what a future commission looking into a massive terrorist attack on the US might say if we had a member of the conspiracy in custody and failed to save hundreds or thousands of American lives through coercive interrogation techniques. They want to make sure that they don't have to answer for their choices in those circumstances as those involved in building "the wall" between law enforcement and intelligence agents did after 9/11. They like being in the position of demanding to know why dots weren't connected when they kept putting barriers between the dots themselves.
Even the NY Times reported that Mukasey could not take an explicit position on waterboarding since it would evince an opinion he was not authorized to make, either as a nominee or as attorney general. This authority rests with the executive branch unless Congress steps in to force a change in policy.
400 investigations and no spending bills

Some guy has an article on Opinion Journal titled: "A failure to lead - The Democratic Congress is more interested in acting out than in taking positive action"

This week is the one-year anniversary of Democrats winning Congress. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid probably aren't in a celebrating mood. The goodwill they enjoyed after their victory is gone. Their bright campaign promises are unfulfilled. Democratic leadership is in disarray. And Congress's approval rating has fallen to its lowest point in history.

The problems the Democrats are now experiencing begin with the federal budget. Or rather, the lack of one. In 2006, Democrats criticized Congress for dragging its feet on the budget and pledged that they would do better. Instead, they did worse. The new fiscal year started Oct. 1--five weeks ago--but Democrats have yet to send the president a single annual appropriations bill. It's been at least 20 years since Congress has gone this late in passing any appropriation bills, an indication of the mess the Pelosi-Reid Congress is now in.
But what about all the roll call votes? And renamed post offices? That's something.

Extra - From RedState: "The 0.006% solution"

Thursday, November 08, 2007

No ice - There's only one survivor from the Titanic now that Barbara West Dainton has died. (HT: Fark)
Meanwhile, high above 43rd Street, reality takes a backseat to righteousness

This past election day, Oregon voters knocked down a referendum virtually identical to the proposed federal Schip program. This sent the New York Times into their usual apoplexy of moral indignation. You see, those dumb voters were duped by the tobacco industry:

The purveyors of Marlboro and Camel cigarettes did not win by disputing the urgent health care needs the initiative was meant to address, or the benefits higher cigarette taxes would bring by deterring smoking. They sought to hide behind a benign-sounding front group called Oregonians Against the Blank Check and proceeded to barrage voters with unscrupulous TV ads and mailings. Among other things, they stoked doubts that the funds raised would actually be used for children's health care, and they manufactured an overblown controversy over amending Oregon's Constitution.
Heavens, where did the death-stick merchants get that idea?

Billions of dollars from the nation's landmark tobacco settlement are being put to use across the country, but only about 5 percent is going to smoking prevention - about a quarter of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, a report released Saturday shows.

"It's moral treason to me," Mississippi Attorney General Michael Moore said in Saturday's The New York Times. "We got all this money, then legislatures and governors who were not even in this fight act like the money fell out of heaven and spend it on the political whim of the day."
I won't even comment on the irony that the Mississippi AG is named Michael Moore.

More - From the Corner: "The New York Times calls tobacco companies "shameless" for not lying down and allowing themselves to be looted by the state of Oregon."
Global warming solved - From Fox News: "Deadly 'Child of Krakatoa' Volcano Erupts in Indonesia"
The lassitude of Congress

Kate O'Beirne reports that spending bills are unlikely to be approved until after the Christmas break:

I spoke to OMB Director Jim Nussle this morning about everything that is not happening with respect to next year's appropriations. He reminded me that Congress has only five legislative days before its Thanksgiving break and then only six legislative days before the scheduled Christmas break. Not a single appropriations bill has been sent to the President and not a one in its current form would be signed if it did make its way to him. The president has veto strength in the House - and maybe in the Senate given yesterday's vote on the Labor/HHS bill. It's hard to see how these bills get signed before the end of the year. And Director Nussle, a savvy veteran of budget battles as former chairman of the House Budget Committee, explains that the Democratic leadership is "not reaching out at all" to work with the administration. It is even impossible to figure out who speaks for the majority. Reid and Pelosi appear to be at odds on policy and strategy and its unclear if Steny Hoyer and David Obey agree with the speaker or with each other. A budget train wreck seems to be on the horizon, but at the moment the decoupled cars aren't even on the track.
I've always felt that basic competence, or even a demonstration of labor, is a minimum requirement that Americans ask from their elected officials. Shutting down the government crippled Newt Gingrich's Congress and I'll insist to the end that John Kerry was sunk not by his personality or "swiftboating" but the fact that he has had no notable accomplishments since Vietnam. People want action, not a line of roll-call votes, so it's little wonder that this Congress is plumbing the new depths of unpopularity.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fighting and going broke together

Today's must-read is Megan McArdle with "Saving Social Security":

This article by Paul Starr makes the central error that comes over and over again in liberal analyses of Social Security: it acts as if the general budget problem arrives at the same time as social security's budget problem.

This is wrong. The budget problem isn't in 2041; the budget problem is now. Sometime after next year, the Social Security surplus will shrink, starting to put pressure on the budget. Democrats trying to implement spending plans will start to find their tax increases eaten, not by national health care, but by seniors. By 2011, the problem will be large. By 2017, money will be flowing from the general fund to social security. By 2025, the hole will be about as big as it's going to get. Around about 2015, social progressive plans will be DOA. Republican tax schemes will be DOA. The only thing we will talk about for the following 15 years is where to find the money to pay for Social Security and Medicare.


But where he's wrong is to think that Democrats have some choice in the matter. They don't. They, like their political opponents, are going to see most of their dreams crash on the shoals of the Baby Boomer retirement.
Opponents of reform like Josh Marshall want to paint the entitlement reform movement as a Grandma-starving scheme dreamed up by the Right to push through tax cuts, but we're all in this leaking boat together. As Megan points out so eloquently, there won't be money for tax cuts, there won't be money for education, there won't be money for defense, roads, food stamps and all the other things we call "the government." We're heading down a road where the primary function of the government will as a cash way-station, taking taxes from workers and send 'em off to seniors (SS), hospitals (Medicare) and banks (interest on borrowing).
A shocker in Western Massachusetts - I never thought the voters of Springfield would throw out octogenarian Charlie Ryan, but city counselor Domenic Sarno ran a campaign on crime and trash taxes and that was enough. From the Republican: "Sarno upsets Ryan in Springfield."
Religion of tolerance - Gateway Pundit: "Islamists Blow Head Off Ancient Buddhist Statue in Swat"

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

They voted for impeachment before they voted against it

From the Weekly Standard: "Dems outmaneuvered on impeachment"

It's interesting that on such a weighty question as impeaching the vice president of the United States, votes can change so quickly. While the roll calls are not yet available, it seems there were plenty of Democrats who voted to go forward with impeachment when they thought it would fail, who suddenly voted against impeachment when it mattered. I guess it was all just about politics after all -- even for the supposed 'true believers.'
It's good that Congress is tackling this important matter instead of, oh I don't know, passing the appropriation bills to run the government:

On the budget front, because Congress has yet to pass any of the 12 appropriations bills to fund the federal government for fiscal year 2008, it will likely have to pass another Continuing Resolution to keep the government financially afloat past November 16, when the previous one expires.
Your government at "work."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Swamped - I'm exhausted from daylight savings time and tonight I had to finish a take-home exam for my class. Blogging to resume soon.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Amazing Race 12 update - More of the same

Did you know the new Amazing Race started tonight? Yeah, I didn't know until about a week ago and advertising on CBS has been sparse. But here it is and on the first leg teams started out from sunny Los Angeles and headed to soggy Shannon, Ireland. Tempers flare as teams head to some old church (Inishmore?) to sign up for staggered ferries the following morning.

What can I say about the teams at this point? Of the eleven teams, I think seven of them are from California once again proving that this is the most critical factor for getting onto TAR. There's the eye candy, the family teams, a pair of Goths, the bickering young couples, and the requisite gay team; this one a lesbian couple who also happen to be ordained ministers. Still, as usual, the Race is a beautiful travelogue showcasing corners of the world little seen by most, so it makes up for the typical and stereotypical casting.

At a farm, teams need to take tandem bikes over a muddy road and the next clue. This is the Roadblock and one team member must take a high-wire bicycle over an ocean cove while his/her partner hangs below. This task looks pretty hairy, especially if you're afraid of heights. After this, teams must fill a donkey cart with blocks of peat and walk back to the farm. One donkey knocks over a temporary fence and the baffled urbanites don't have the slightest idea how to make them move. Have they never heard of the adjective "mulish"? One guy actually says: "we have the most stubborn donkey in the world." Crying does not seem to influence the beasts of burden.

After delivering the peat, teams must head to the Pit Stop. The teams who cannot move their donkeys are getting passed by much later teams, which drives them bonkers. It's just the luck of the draw and the team of Ari & Staella (such weird names this season) can't get their ass in gear. They arrive to the Pit Stop last and Phil kicks their asses out of the Race.

Final standings:

1 - Azaria & Hendekea - prize: trip to Alberta, Canada
2 - Kynt & Vyxsin - (those are the Goths)
3 - TK & Rachel
4 - Lorena & Jason
5 - Nicolas & Donald
6 - Shana & Jennifer
7 - Ronald & Christina
8 - Kate & Pat
9 - Marianna & Julia
10 - Nathan & Jennifer
11 - Ari & Staella - PHILIMINATED

Next week: Family conflict and more mud. Team names soon.
Prepare the nachos - Today the undefeated New England Patriots are playing the undefeated Indianapolis Colts in what some have dubbed "Superbowl 41 ½". You won't see a more bloodthirsty editorial than this one in today's Boston Globe: "Go ahead, run up the score."

Last I checked the spread was 5 points for the favored Patriots, who have beaten the spread in every game this year. My prediction: Patriots 37 - Colts 23.

Update - Pats win 24-20, after overcoming a 10-point deficit. Oh, ho, it's magic! You know. Never believe it's not so.
Damn statistics - From today's NYT, Greg Mankiw looks "Beyond those health care numbers"
Funny things I saw on Saturday Night Live tonight - Barack Obama said the "live from New York" intro and the musical guest (Feist) had three banjos on stage. Banjos!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Looking for the soft landing

Ramesh Ponnuru also responds to Josh Marshall on Social Security:

But there are some reasons you'd want to start with a non-traditional solution sooner rather than later. For one thing, if you want to rein in benefit growth, starting earlier allows you to take less drastic means to do that. If we wait until the middle of the next decade, we will have to choose between cutting benefits for people who are already retired, raising taxes, and changing benefit formulas so that one generation gets lower real benefits than the one that came before it. If we act now, we have more options (such as reducing the growth rate of benefits).

There is also, relatedly, the generational-equity point: The longer you wait, the more pain you impose on the age cohorts that are already getting a worse deal from Social Security.
Gosh, that sounds familiar, and yet I won't be getting a check from WFB.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Speaking of somebody who's going to be living off Social Security - From AP "Britney spends big": "Court papers released Thursday in Britney Spears' custody dispute with Kevin Federline show she spends lavishly on clothes and entertainment, and doesn't save or invest any of her roughly $737,000 monthly income." What's a double-wide trailer in Louisiana go for nowadays?
Delay is not an option, but it's what we're going to get

Josh Marshall has the right idea in "Stop saving Social Security" in that surplus payroll taxes are enabling runaway spending in the federal government. But his solution of holding off on a tax increase until the Trust Fund is drawn down misses the mark for two reasons:

The Social Security trustees estimate that to bring the program into actuarial balance for the next 75 years, payroll taxes would have to rise 16% right now. Obviously, this is meant to build up a surplus for a "soft landing" as money flies out of the Trust Fund. Waiting until the moment that payments outstrip revenues is inviting either a much larger tax increase or a payroll tax rate that will just get larger every year.

Second, Marshall never entertains the notion that benefits need to be pared back. If you promise the kids you'll take them to the Grand Canyon but then you lose your job, guess what? You're not going to the Grand Canyon. But the U.S. government has overpromised on what it can deliver and there's not a hint that it will tell the American people the truth:

"We'd have to have eight trillion dollars today, invested in treasury rates, to deliver on that promise," [U.S. comptroller general David] Walker explains.

Asked how much we actually have, Walker says, "Zip."
It's going to be so depressing in 2041 when Social Security benefits are (by law) automatically cut by 30% because of inaction today. Josh Marshall says to wait, and that's exactly what Washington wants to hear.
Boston Globe discovers odd relationship between competition and service

From the Globe: "Auto insurers readying their deals - As competition nears, benefits take shape"

Some Massachusetts automobile insurers are starting to gear up for competition, offering new policy benefits at no extra cost, adopting more recognizable names, and promising their agents competitive pricing.

Liberty Mutual Group of Boston and MetLife Auto and Home of Warwick, R.I., have both won approval from the Division of Insurance for enhancements to their existing policy benefits, which they plan to add at no extra cost to the customer. Both companies said the state's decision to move to auto insurance competition next year precipitated their filings.

The moves show that insurers are starting to distinguish themselves from rivals as Massachusetts prepares to introduce auto insurance competition for the first time in 30 years. To be sure, the full impact of competition won't be known until Nov. 19, when insurers are scheduled to file their rate plans for next year for customers who start renewing their policies after April 1. Customers may see even more insurers jumping into the fray, slashing rates and offering beefed-up policies.
Right now, insurance rates are set by Beacon Hill so Massachusetts can't gain from the competitive advantage offered by Geico or eSurance. Since price controls have such a long history of success, I can't imagine why the Bay State is reversing their policy.
Jason Varitek doesn't give out candy for Halloween

When the Butterfingers ran low, the Boston Red Sox catcher signed autographs. From the Boston Globe: "Fans catch treat at Varitek home"

This Halloween, Jason Varitek gave trick-or-treaters something infinitely more valuable than a king-sized Snickers bar. The Red Sox captain sat in a lawn chair at the top on his driveway and handed out autographs, signing baseballs, hats, shirts, pillow cases stuffed with candy, and a green alien glove from a youngster's costume.

Christopher Roberts, 10, dressed up as the catcher - a white number 33 Red Sox jersey, baseball pants, and red colored socks pulled up past his calves - only to find himself standing face-to-face with his hero.

"He signed my shirt, right on the first three," Roberts said.