Saturday, May 31, 2008

We gotta get out of this (high tax) place - Will Franklin has run the numbers on how liberal policies are unsustainable if everybody packs up and heads to Texas.
Angry Democrats gather - Great video from Red State of a diehard Hillary supporter unloading on Obama. When asked if she's sitting out the election, she responded: "I'm voting McCain, are you kidding me?"

Extra - From the Stump: "Of the eight Hillary supporters I quiz at the protest (six of them women), only one says she'd even consider voting for Obama in the fall."
Obama quits his church, joins a mosque - Well, not really on the second part...for now. From NY Times: "Senator Barack Obama is ending his membership at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, a congregation he has belonged to for about two decades and one that had become a lightning rod in his Democratic presidential bid."

Wasn't this the same church he could "no more disown" than he could his grandmother? It's getting crowded under that bus.

Extra - Flopping Aces "Obama runs from Trinity": "Why now? Has the church suddenly changed from when you joined 20 years ago? No, it has not. Instead, its become a political albatross. So you, being that typical politician, have jettisoned it."

More - Gateway Pundit has updates from Obama's speech.

Even more - Jennifer Rubin asks "What took twenty years?": "Well, we can now call Obama's claim that he is devoted to the church and not Wright "inoperative." This seems to undermine the argument of his apologists that there was nothing wrong Trinity United and lots of people attend places with rabbis or ministers with whom they "disagree." Now that it is plain that this church welcomed and celebrated anti-white, anti-woman and anti-Semitic hate speech it is fair to ask why now, why only now would he leave? Well, he's got a general election to run and the old Obama - the one with Rev. Wright and Father Pfleger as mentors - needs to be pushed out of view."
Tech upgrade - Maggie's Farm has a cool picture of one gigabyte of memory "then" and now.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Rope-a-dope, not roundhouse haymakers

The Economist explains how Obama won the Democratic nomination with non-flashy methodology:

But as this AP story reports, and as many previous versions have also said, it's because his campaign fought to win on the one metric that counted: delegates. Not states, not swing states, not states that begin with M, not the super-duper important state of the week, not votes, not votes minus caucuses, not media victories, not haymakers landed. One word: delegates. He racked them up, wherever he could. A telling detail: he won as many net delegates over Mrs Clinton in Kansas as she did over him in New Jersey. His team mastered the minutiae and won on the score that matters.

But this is also why his victory has come to seem almost a little hollow. Every time the media fixated on the huge contest of the week or month, he didn't win. He just won every other one-those states nobody paid attention to on Super Tuesday, and that long unbroken run in February. Sure, nobody covered the Mississippi primary. But it netted him quite a lot of delegates. Technically precise, and yet somehow emotionally unsatisfying, as if Rocky were actually a great point fighter, good footwork, flawless jab, no weaknesses, taking a hook and a cross here and there but ultimately beating Apollo Creed on all three judges' scorecards, winning 9 rounds of 15.
Borrrring! Maybe this is why, even with all the baggage of the GOP, John McCain is (theoretically!) ahead in the latest electoral projection. Or maybe it means Obama is going to bring the same discipline to the general election and make history. Either way.
A stroll through Boston

Me, last month: "The lowlight of my trip was a stroll through Boston Common, interrupted by a half-dozen (obvious) drug addicts, loudly cursing at each other as tourists looked on, mortified."

Today's Boston Globe: "Officers shoot man on Boston Common"

While Boston Common bustled early yesterday evening with people walking their dogs, playing Frisbee, or relaxing on park benches, Boston police chased a man they believed had a gun across a portion of the green and then shot him near the park's visitor center.

Boston police have stepped up patrols of the common in the past year in response to complaints by area residents and business owners about drug dealing, drug use, and prostitution.
That's about as close as I get to reporting and it might be as close as I get to Boston Common again.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Al Gore doesn't debate - Via Gateway Pundit: Czech president Vaclav Klaus wants to debate the Goreacle on global warming. He shall not accept the challenge.
Call the toe truck - "Hey Eric!" you're asking. "What's with all the extra high-quality blogging today?" Well, I was home after nearly breaking my toe last night, jumping over my geriatric dog. It's been so long since I'd been to a doctor, I was purged from their computer system.
Kickin' cancer like those thugs in "Road House" - According to the Superficial, it looks like Patrick Swayze is responding well to cancer treatment. So he's not a Ghost and you don't need to notify his Next of Kin. Dirty Dancing. SNL's Chippendale's skit after the jump.
Will somebody in the GOP do something, anything? - Weekly Standard: "I've always scoffed at the notion that the Democrats could win control of a 60-seat filibuster-proof Senate majority in November, but the Hill's Aaron Blake points out that "Democrats have now polled ahead or within the margin of error in 11 Republican-held seats, as polls conducted in recent weeks show openings in second-tier targets including Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas."

Kentucky! North Carolina! Texas! Can Idaho and Oklahoma be far behind? Good gravy, will somebody re-animate Lee Atwater and put up a fight?

Oh, yeah, hat tip to Ace who laments: "I thought Secretary of State John Kerry was the worst news today."
It's times like this I wish I knew Photoshop

The Plank notes that Chelsea Clinton is seeking suggestions for Hillary Clinton's next last campaign T-shirt. Here's mine:
Minions of Dogbert - From MSN: "The Customer Service Hall of Shame"
A giant among men

I don't often dwell on obituaries, but this past weekend the chief trauma surgeon at Boston Medical Center, Dr. Erwin Hirsch, died in a boating accident. By all accounts, Dr. Hirsch was highly esteemed with a medical reach that extended far beyond Boston:

Dr. Hirsch, who was 72 when he drowned Friday in a boating accident in Rockport, Maine, "was iconic," Ullian said. "I cannot think of anybody at this medical center who was held in the same esteem that Erwin Hirsch was."

"He had an impact not only at the Boston Medical Center, but also on how trauma is practiced in the city and in the state as well - and in the country, it would not be unfair to say," said Dr. Peter A. Burke, chief of surgical critical care at Boston Medical Center. "He had a national reputation as a person with an enormous amount of experience. Trauma, unlike other specialties, is something that requires experience because no trauma is alike and you're always dealing with the unknown, really."
He's referred to in the article as a "rock star in the trauma community" which he would have laughed off, but clearly he was a modern-day American hero.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

He had good intentions - Via the Radio Equalizer, the liberal radio network's founder was arrested in Guam today: "Until today, Evan Montvel-Cohen must have been feeling downright almighty. After all, the Air America Radio co-founder and former chairman somehow escaped punishment when the shady diversion of taxpayer funds he helped to orchestrate came to the public's attention in 2005."
Columnists who don't like stuff - I usually ignore the Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson but today's column titled "Getting Big Oil to feel our pain" is a lesson in adolescent foot-stomping. His peevish rant, brought to sophomoric conclusion, is that the oil companies make a lot of money and the next president should "wipe the smirk off their faces." You go, girl!
When advertising campaigns go horribly wrong

I hear commercials for LifeLock on the radio all the time: the company's CEO rattles off his Social Security number, confident that he's safe from identity theft. And then something funny happened on the way to the TRW report. From Wired: "Lifelock sued again"

LifeLock, the ID theft protection service whose CEO regularly provides his Social Security number in advertisements, is being sued by customers who claim the service doesn't work as promoted. The proof, they say, lies in the fact that the CEO's own identity has been stolen numerous times.
You were just asking for it, buddy.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

NASCAR fun - At one point in tonight's Nationwide race, Kyle Busch and David Ragan were vying for the lead and the announcer joked that it wasn't a "political contest." Heh-heh.

Update - Not so much fun: near the end of the race, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski tap-tapped each other under caution. After the race, their respective pit crews started throwing fists. The NASCAR trailer will be busy tonight.
Wishful thinking, at best - Politico says: "GOP strategists mull McCain 'blowout'" which assumes a GOP pickup in Michigan. Good luck with that.
Global warming alarmists admit: we're full of crap

From the UK Telegraph: "Global warming may stop"

Global warming will stop until at least 2015 because of natural variations in the climate, scientists have said.

Researchers studying long-term changes in sea temperatures said they now expect a "lull" for up to a decade while natural variations in climate cancel out the increases caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The average temperature of the sea around Europe and North America is expected to cool slightly over the decade while the tropical Pacific remains unchanged.

This would mean that the 0.3°C global average temperature rise which has been predicted for the next decade by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may not happen, according to the paper published in the scientific journal Nature.
The computer model (see below) predicts that after 2015, ManBearPig will pose a threat once again and this time the scientists are "super serial."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Gas is expensive - Yow, Matt Hoy has a longer daily commute than me. I think we both hope the lawsuit against OPEC goes well.
Another day, another global warming debunking - Who ya gonna believe, the facts or those lyin' computer models?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Negotiating can backfire - Betsy's Page: "When Kennedy met Khrushchev."
Are they still doing that "Worst That Could Happen" song? - The Brooklyn Bridge is 125 years old.
Nice call - Despite the early buzz, Ann Althouse called the "American Idol" winner. I heard that they didn't announce the winner until 9:59pm EST. Great job, Fox.
And that's that

The Field appears to have a scoop:

The Field can now confirm, based on multiple sources, something that both campaigns publicly deny: that Senator Clinton has directly told Senator Obama that she wants to be his vice presidential nominee, and that Senator Obama politely but straightforwardly and irrevocably said “no.” Obama is going to pick his own running mate based on his own criteria and vetting process.
You can understand Hillary's peevish tenacity: she knows that the Democratic candidate has an excellent chance to win the White House this year and why not her? The best answer is that, as George Will notes, Americans are forward-looking and all Hillary offers is nostalgia for the (Bill) Clinton years.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Must be "The Onion" - CBS News: "Hillary compares Florida primary to Zimbabwe."

Wow, Hillary, just wow. Here's the latest news from Mugabe-land "Zimbabwe inflation rate now over 1 million percent": "As stores opened for business Wednesday, a small pack of locally produced coffee beans cost just short of 1 billion Zimbabwe dollars. A decade ago, that sum would have bought 60 new cars."

One billion dollars for coffee? Starbucks is for pikers!
Do something - Congressman Paul Ryan is introducing broad legislation which he outlines in today's Opinion Journal: "How to Tackle the Entitlement Crisis." There's not much I disagree with except Ryan's bill is so all-encompassing that it's easy to see representatives quailing at the aggressive actions to reform entitlements. An incremental approach would be better, and more politically viable - something would be better than nothing, which is what we're likely to get until it's too late.
The annual public flogging - Fox News: "Oil Companies Defend Large Profits Before Senate Judiciary Committee"

Every year, I wait for the oil executives to defend themselves and say something like "I won't be spoken to like this" then storm out. Instead they just sit through the theater and try to explain Economics 101 to grandstanding senators:

"The fundamental laws of supply and demand are at work," said [Shell chief] Hofmeister. The market is squeezed by exporting nations managing demand for their own interest and other nations subsidizing prices to encourage economic growth, he said.
The percentage of oil we get from foreign sources now accounts for almost 50% of all U.S. consumption, a record level much higher than the 28% in 1973. What this means is that any disruption in supply will have a crippling effect on the U.S. economy. Having failed to learn history, we've put our future into the hands of foreigners. Of course, this wouldn't be terrible if it were the Canadians or the Brits, but it's mostly the Saudis and Hugo Chavez.

Extra - Dave in Texas saw some pushback.

More - Via Q&O, 10 questions for Senators.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Less is more - The Boston Globe had an article today about how people are fed up with airlines. Somewhat surprisingly, the airline with the highest marks - by far - is low-cost leader Southwest, #1 in passenger satisfaction for 15 years running.

I read in one of my operations management textbooks, in the "lean manufacturing" section, that the reason Southwest performs so well is that it uses exactly one kind of plane: the Boeing 737. By standardizing to one kind of plane, Southwest minimizes the cost of maintenance, parts, staff, and operation.
You can't soak the rich - Via Opinion Journal, here's Hauser's Law: "No matter what the tax rates have been, in postwar America tax revenues have remained at about 19.5% of GDP."
Senator - Boston Globe: "Senator Ted Kennedy's career in public service"

Monday, May 19, 2008

So much for the politics of hope

Jim Wooten on Obama's Social Security "plan," such as it is: "Obama scares the old folks"

Campaigning Sunday in Oregon, a state he should win handily on Tuesday, Obama did what Democrats have done for decades: Spooked the old folks on Social Security. He told a crowd of about 130 at an assisted living center in Gresham, Ore., that John McCain will threaten their Social Security checks. Sleazy. What a hypocrite. Takes the high-horse to complain about the politics of division and diversion and resorts to the only game Democrats running nationwide know: Scaring the daylights out of grandma and grandpa, the vulnerable, weak and confused.
Obama needs Hillary's older voting base so his general election strategy will be: whatever Grandma wants, Grandma gets.

Obama also said he would eliminate income taxes on any retiree making less than 50,000 a year. "If your income is less than $50,000 a year, I don't think you should have to pay income tax on your Social Security. This would completely eliminate income taxes for 7 million seniors across the country and provide a savings of approx $1,400 per person each year."
Well, it's about time that somebody did something for the seniors in America. The age of neglect will soon be over:

The federal government spent $952 billion in 2007 on elderly benefits, up from $601 billion in 2000. It's the biggest function of the federal government. States chipped in another $27 billion in 2007, mostly for nursing homes.

All three major senior programs - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - experienced dramatically escalating costs that outstripped inflation and the growth in the senior population.
Rev up that pandering machine, Obama. Grandma wants her cash!
Double-stuffed means double-traffic

AP: "14 tons of spilled Oreo cookies snarl Illinois traffic"

Police say a trailer loaded with 14 tons of double-stuffed Oreos has overturned, spilling the cookies still in their plastic sleeves into the median and roadway. Illinois State Police Sgt. Brian Mahoney says the truck's driver was traveling from Chicago to Morris on Interstate 80 around 4 a.m. Monday when he fell asleep at the wheel and slammed into the median.
"The boxes came out of the trailer and boxes were ripped open," he said.
The crash about 50 miles southwest of Chicago remains under investigation.
Police have released this sketch of a suspect:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The generational battle is forming

The Villages in Florida is now, according to this article, the world's largest gated retirement community. The complete segregation of seniors from the rest of society in this retirement Fantasyland has larger implications for America:

Q. Will the baby-boom generation reinvent retirement living?
They already are, in the sense that many such communities being built in the North are closer to cities and family, as well as within commuting distance for work. But age-segregated communities - even ones designed by developers - are still utopias, and utopias invariably fail. When people are segregated, they lose touch with their commonalities, and cooperation is replaced with strife. One of the nation's oldest age-segregated communities, Sun City in Arizona, defeated 17 school-bond measures in 12 years.... I'm left wondering how generous these schoolchildren will feel when they grow up and inherit nearly $10 trillion in national debt as well as senior entitlement programs on the verge of bankruptcy.
We're facing an America with tens of millions of retirees who have no use for the younger generation except through the Social Security checks they pay for. Plus, the only thing that seniors love more than "Matlock" is voting to make sure they get their checks. What's the logical conclusion to a scenario where a majority of voters decides that the minority should pay for the humongous accumulation of entitlement and pension liabilities? It's not going to be pretty.
Mobile meets medical - Great article in the Globe today about how cellphones are being used by doctors for quick analysis: "As wireless networks proliferate, the cellphone finds a niche next to the stethoscope as a medical tool."
We gotta get out of this place

Boston Globe: "At a loss - A litany of woes, from taxes to high cost of housing, is driving many residents out of Massachusetts, and the state is struggling to woo others to come here, report says"

More than 2.2 million natives of Massachusetts now live elsewhere in the country, while 1.2 million people from other states live here. Massachusetts is the country's ninth worst in attracting residents from other states, the study shows. It ranked 48th in terms of losing residents to other states.

"The problem is that we just can't get people to come to Massachusetts as much as they want to leave," said Andrew Sum, the center's director and author of the report. "We need to start asking what we can do to make Massachusetts a more desirable place to live, why people don't want to come here to live."

Between 2000 and 2007, only Louisiana - which saw thousands flee after Hurricane Katrina - and New York lost more residents to other states, according to the report. More than 300,000 residents - about 5 percent of the state's population - left Massachusetts during that time, while the state's fertility rate ranked 46 out of 50 states.
Later in the article, the Globe suggests that, aside from the cold and high taxes, people are turned off by "the deep blue hue of the state's politics." Elsewhere in today's Globe is this section in an article by Jeff Jacoby about how Bay State taxes are spent in a deeply-Democratic government:

The Boston Globe recently reported that retirements are suddenly spiking at the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. Why? Because a new law taking effect in 2009 slightly reduces benefits for workers who retire before age 65. The major change: As of next year, retirees will have to pay 15 percent of their health insurance premium. Current retirees get free healthcare for life. That's in addition to their pensions, of course. MBTA workers can retire with a full pension after just 23 years on the job, at which point they are perfectly free to find another government job and get right back on the public payroll.

Such double-dipping is common in the public sector, just like so many other lucrative perks that government employees take for granted and most private employees can only dream about. "The nation is dividing into two classes of workers: those who have government benefits and those who don't," USA Today noted in 2007. "The gap is accelerating in every way - pensions, medical benefits, retirement ages." According to the Congressional Research Service, the pension collected by the average private-sector retiree is worth less than half of what a typical government retiree can expect. If you don't have your snout in the government trough, you can expect to work ever-longer hours and pay ever-higher taxes and fees to support those who do.

Those, for example, like Michael Mulhern. He is the 40-something former MBTA general manager who "retired" in 2005, began collecting a $130,000 annual pension, then hired on as head of the MBTA retirement fund, a job that pays about $225,000 annually. Mulhern's total take: more than $350,000 a year. He is just one illustration of a huge problem growing more urgent by the day - the staggering sums that taxpayers are shelling out for the care and feeding of avaricious public employees. In Massachusetts and nationwide, a backlash is coming.
It's not exactly pitchforks and torches at Beacon Hill, but the backlash is that Massachusetts residents are trekking south to find bigger houses, lower taxes, and more opportunity.
Payback's a, well, you know - Boston Globe: "As Clinton chances wane, old slights come due - Some prominent Democrats recall past grievances"
McCain on "Saturday Night Live" - He was good! And he has the "oldness" to lead the country.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Something maybe nothing in the Mideast

The Economist "An election in Kuwait":

First sentence: "What does a parliamentary election in Kuwait, on Saturday May 17th, suggest about the progress of democracy in the region as a whole?"

Last sentence: "If such pressures increase, in Bahrain, Kuwait or elsewhere, the demand for more democratic changes may rise, too."

Yeah, sure, OK.
My senator, America's senator - Prayers up for Ted Kennedy

Friday, May 16, 2008

Leave me alone, I'm a family man - Sorry for the light posting, but this week has been a whirlwind of bake sales and polite sitting. Tonight my kid had a band concert which ran a bit too long between music, dance numbers, and general tomfoolery on a sixth-grade level. The highlight of the night was seeing a band called The Primate Fiasco which played a kind of hepped-up Dixieland jazz. They'll be introducing their debut album at the Iron Horse next month and I'm going to try to make the show.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A timely piece for the gas-weary - This is funny: I was just musing the wife the other night about getting a scooter to battle high gas prices. From today's Boston Globe: "75-120 miles per gallon makes parsimonious turn to scooters."

By the way, if any scooter-owners out there have any advice, I'd appreciate it. Right now, I'm thinking a low-end (<100cc motor) just for getting to the supermarket and back.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Do the math

In a silly, empty gesture today Congress succumbed to the pressure of high gas prices by suspending shipments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The savings are in the bank:

It's uncertain how much effect - if any - putting 70,000 barrels a day of crude onto the U.S. market that uses more than 21 million barrels a day would have.
Earlier in the day, the Democrats in the Senate filibustered a GOP bill (with majority support) to increase production by opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve and certain offshore sites to exploration.

"We can't drill our way to lower prices," said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
Well, the annual investigations of the oil companies haven't helped. Maybe - and I'm just spitballin' here - maybe we should try to increase supply and reduce demand.

More - Thomas Sowell: "No, supply and demand is not too "complex." It is just not very emotionally satisfying."
This just in - Clinton's not pulling out of the race tonight. She's making the "I can win in the states that matter" speech again.

Extra - Super WV roundup at Pajamas Media.
West Virginia really doesn't like Obama - He's getting crushed two-to-one in the Democratic primary tonight. But the numbers are worse: he's losing WV women, WV independents, fares badly on the values question, and a huge percentage of Clinton supporters will not back Obama if he's the candidate. Maybe West Virginia is an aberration, but the trends can't be comforting.
Nevermind - Well, they're still counting and recounting in Zimbabwe and dictator Robert Mugabe seems impervious to shame or pressure from other African leaders. Here in Western Massachusetts, the University of Massachusetts is about to correct an error. From the Boston Globe "UMass chief asks degree to be rescinded": "University of Massachusetts president Jack M. Wilson backed growing calls yesterday to rescind an honorary degree awarded to President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who is facing international scorn and sanctions for his authoritarian regime's bloody campaign against political opponents." It would be the first time that UMass revoked an honorary degree.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The first election map - Marc Ambinder has the first Obama-McCain matchup projection and it's a slight lead for McCain right now: 245-221 with leaners.
It's not just Massachusetts

Remember how I warned about the unfunded liabilities in the Social Security and Medicare programs? That's just the hidden federal bill. The creative accountng used by the states to calculate the health of public pension funds is going to come back to bite everybody:

The funds that pay pension and health benefits to police officers, teachers, and millions of other public employees across the country are facing a shortfall that could soon run into trillions of dollars."

But the accounting techniques used by state and local governments to balance their pension books disguise the extent of the crisis facing these retirees - and the taxpayers who may ultimately be called on to pay the freight, according to a growing number of leading financial analysts.
Just like federal entitlements, the state governments failed to recognize the demographic trends and made promises way beyond their ability to pay.
Tax-free vs. democracy-free Massachusetts

From the Boston Globe: "Activists push to repeal state income tax"

A group of antitax activists launched a campaign over the weekend to abolish the state income tax, setting the stage for a contentious public battle if the measure is added to the ballot this fall.
This was attempted six years ago and Beacon Hill had a scare when the referendum nearly passed with 45% of the vote. But even if the so-called binding referendum passes, there's no guarantee that the Massachusetts government will listen to the people:

An initiative petition is intended to be binding if it passes, but the Legislature has found ways to buck the will of the people in the past. In 2002, lawmakers halted a gradual income tax rollback approved by voters two years earlier, prompting howls that they were bucking an edict from the populace. And though voters passed a ballot question in 1998 that called for publicly funded campaigns, the Legislature famously refused to pay for them.
It seems the ideals of "democracy" take a back seat on Beacon Hill whenever our state "representatives" decide the people should be ignored.
It's not Cancun and there will be no pina coladas

Fox News has a lead story up titled "'Bonnie and Clyde' Jet-Setters Sign Plea Deal in Massive ID Theft Case." If you hadn't heard of this tale of identity theft, I urge you to go and read the Rolling Stone article on two of the most carefree and careless criminals ever. Super fun quote (via Philly Examiner because the Rolling Stone link isn't working):

These two were complete idiots. If this was two fat (expletive) from South Philly, it would have been Turner and Hooch.
Zing! At least you can see some photos of the young couple, living the good life on somebody else's dime. Now they're facing a 2-5 year vacation in sparser accommodations.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Congratulations, Jenna

CNN: "First daughter Jenna Bush and Henry Hager, the son of a well-connected Virginia Republican, said "I do" Saturday on President Bush's 1,600-acre ranch near Crawford, Texas."

Oh, Jenna, with your jaunty little strand of hair covering your left eye...good luck and all that.
No fusion - A writer for the Atlantic is against an Obama-Clinton ticket: "Magnanimity is one thing. Spinelessness is another."

There are two reasons why you'll never see Barack and Hillary waving from the same platform, hands clasped together: Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama.
George Schultz to the rescue - Reason Online: "Putting our entitlements in order" (HT: Maggie's Farm)
Hey where'd everybody go? - No wonder my traffic has dipped: "These are terrific numbers for McCain. But they aren't enough. In the overall match-up, McCain trailed Obama (43 percent to 46 percent). The explanation for this seeming paradox is quite simple: The Republican base has shrunk. In 2008, there are fewer Republicans."

The GOP is not so grand anymore because it seems constantly on the defensive. The Party needs to define its principles and then forcefully and confidently articulate and defend them. Get scrappy!
He's tired - Obama has a senior moment. John McCain would do well to save this one up for the first debate.
You can't tell the players without a scorecard - Gateway Pundit: "Al Qaeda declares war on Hezbollah." Confused yet? All you need to know is that somebody, somewhere, is stockpiling ammo in a mosque.

More - Commentary has "The lesson of Lebanon": "What does the crisis in Lebanon teach us about Hezbollah? It teaches us the same lesson we learned from Hamas when it took Gaza: Islamic supremacist groups, despite their claims to the contrary, cannot be integrated into states or democratic political systems."

Friday, May 09, 2008

Now to tie it together - Robin Hood + runaway environmentalism = taxing the "windfall" profits of oil companies because, goshdarnit, they have lots of money and we don't like 'em.
Windmill operators for roughnecks - Via Planet Gore: Green jobs and the Broken Windows fallacy.
Cats and dogs living together: the Boston Globe agrees with me

From the Globe's editorial page: "How to strangle an economy"

His amendment to the House budget calls for a study of a 2.5 percent assessment each year on university endowments over $1 billion. The tax would affect nine of them, and in theory could generate an enormous amount of revenue; Harvard alone, with its endowment of $34 billion, would be on the hook for $840 million a year. But a tax of this magnitude on the state's universities and colleges would be economic suicide.

Major research universities are the closest thing Massachusetts has to a goose that lays golden eggs. The nine schools in question employ a total of 27,000 people and pay $4.5 billion a year in wages and salaries, according to the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts. They bring in brainpower and outside research dollars. They fertilize the local healthcare, technology, and financial-services sectors - three other cornerstones of the local economy. And like most higher-education institutions, the targeted nine are stabilizing forces, since enrollments generally do not drop even in lean times.
The Robin Hood mentality dies hard.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

"It's like Florida taxing oranges"

Now that Deval Patrick's casino scheme has fallen through, Massachusetts lawmakers - unable to cut spending - are searching for a whole new scheme to fund the state government.

"Let's see," thought the geniuses on Beacon Hill, "it should be an institution with deep pockets that's also unable to move out of the state. It would be a bonus if we could portray them as elitist and unwilling to share their wealth." Voila! From the Boston Globe: "Lawmakers target $1b college endowments"

Massachusetts lawmakers desperate for additional revenue are eyeing the endowments of deep-pocketed private colleges to bolster the state's coffers by more than $1 billion a year, asserting that the schools' rising fortunes undercut their nonprofit status.

Legislators have asked state finance officials to study a plan that would impose a 2.5 percent annual assessment on colleges with endowments over $1 billion, an amount now exceeded by nine Massachusetts institutions. The proposal, which higher education specialists believe is the first of its kind across the country, drew surprising support at a debate on the State House budget last week and is attracting attention in higher education circles nationally.
I hardly know where to begin with this state-sponsored kleptocracy. After expanding Keno to rake in cash from the senior citizens and problem gamblers, it's still not enough for Massachusetts. So it's time to punish the success of the state's institutions of higher education, some of which predate Massachusetts itself.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Let's balance things out with a feel-good story - Via the Chicago Sun Times: a violinist leaves his $4 million Stradivarius in a cab. Cabbie returns it. Violinist performs lunchtime concert to 200 cabbies in thanks. Louie DiPalma seen furtively wiping a tear from his eye. (HT: Fark)
Fine by me - CNN: "D.C. sniper says: "Murder this innocent black man.'"
Burma tragedy - Fox News: "The top U.S. diplomat in Myanmar says the death toll may reach 100,000 from a cyclone and its aftermath. She said the country's military junta is "paranoid," about the United States but is not blocking American aid in retaliation for past criticism." Google has set up a page for donations to the victims.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Another great prediction! - I called a 5% margin for Hillary in Indiana. My North Carolina guess was, um, not as close. Meanwhile, Marc Ambinder notes this stat that might give Howard Dean the sweats: "The percentage of Clinton voters who say they'd choose McCain over Obama in a general election is approaching 40% in Indiana. Put it another way: in North Carolina, less than HALF of folks who voted today for Hillary Clinton are ready to say today that they'd definitely vote for Obama in a general election." OTOH, Jonathan Cohn opines that Democrats will unite in the face of a sputtering economy. Maybe, who knows, but what if the economy (gasp) improves? Oh, boy.

Update - Quote of the night from Paul Begala (via Instapundit): "We cannot win with egg heads." Echoes of Adlai Stevenson who, when told by a supporter that he was the choice of "every thinking man," responded "Thank you, but I need a majority to win."
The "Children of Men" scenario in Japan

As readers of this blog (both of them) know, I'm somewhat preoccupied with the shift in demographics being ushered in by the retirement of the Baby Boomers here in America. The fiscal burden has two components: growing federal spending on the elderly (e.g. Social Security and Medicare) and the ability of the government to collect taxes which depends on a steady stream of younger workers. Europe is coping with its aging population and low birth rate by importing a lot of immigrants which alleviates the fiscal problem but exacerbates social strains. But what if you have a country and culture that doesn't readily accept foreigners and immigration?

Japan is on the cusp of a demographic tsunami with a steadily aging population and dearth of children to populate the next generation. This combination means economic, social, and cultural disaster for Japan. From the WashPost: "Japan steadily becoming a land of few children"

For this is the land of disappearing children and a slow-motion demographic catastrophe that is without precedent in the developed world.
The number of children has declined for 27 consecutive years, a government report said over the weekend. Japan now has fewer children who are 14 or younger than at any time since 1908.
With no workers in the proverbial pipeline, economic growth will cease:

The economic and social consequences of these trends are difficult to overstate. Japan, now the world's second-largest economy, will lose 70 percent of its workforce by 2050 and economic growth will slow to zero, according to a report this year by the nonprofit Japan Center for Economic Research.
Population shrinkage began three years ago and is gathering pace. Within 50 years, the population, now 127 million, will fall by a third, the government projects. Within a century, two-thirds of the population will be gone.
Needless to say, the population that remains will be mostly elderly, which will create a tremendous demand for medical and social services as Japan struggles with a diminished tax base. Unless the Japanese start having kids - pronto - the only choice available will be to allow large-scale immigration, probably from Indonesia and the Philippines. The face of Japan, perforce, will transform when there are no more Japanese.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Five = Stayin' Alive - Predictions for tomorrow's primaries: Hillary wins Indiana by 5% and Obama wins North Carolina by 5%. The narrower-than-expected loss for Clinton in the Tarheel State means she'll keep on truckin'.

Man, I listen to way too much 70's music. Do the hustle!
Dutch treat - Welcome to the working week: South Koreans work an average of 45 hours a week while in the Netherlands, almost half the workers are part-timers, leading to an average work-week below 30 hours.
One toke over the line - Have I mentioned that A&E's "Intervention" is the greatest show on TV? Tonight an addict named Sara smoked meth at every conceivable moment when her family wasn't watching. Smoked before her probation hearing, smoked before her court-mandated urine analysis, then smoked after she failed it. At the intervention, she walked out, found a quiet place, then swallowed a baggie of meth. Then she returned and agreed to treatment; four months later, she was still clean.
Somewhere Paul Tsongas is smiling

From Politico - "Clinton: OPEC can no longer be a cartel"

Clinton's attacks on oil prices as artificially inflated, Enron-style, keep escalating, and today she appeared to threaten to break up the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

"We're going to go right at OPEC," she said. "They can no longer be a cartel, a monopoly that get together once every couple of months in some conference room in some plush place in the world, they decide how much oil they’re going to produce and what price they’re going to put it at," she told a crowd at a firehouse in Merrillville, IN.

"That's not a market. That's a monopoly," she said, saying she'd use anti-trust law and the World Trade Organization to take on OPEC.
Now that's pandering! Good luck with that WTO lawsuit, Hill.

More - Oh that darn voting record.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Disrespect at a 100K/year - Jeff Jacoby: "My respect for the Boston Firefighters Union"
Hillary's nuclear option - From Swamp Politics: "If Clinton does well or outright wins in Indiana and/or North Carolina this week, if her argument for electability takes hold and if enough party activists are willing to withstand the revolt that would ensue, Clinton could force a vote of the party's bylaws committee to seat the disputed, Clinton-rich delegations of Florida and Michigan and overtake Barack Obama's delegate lead."

Good gravy. It's hilarious how the specter of Bush v. Gore hangs over the Democrats nomination battle: Hillary deploys the "count every vote" mantra while Obama sticks to "listen to the people." No wonder Howard Dean looked like he was about to blow a blood vessel on "Fox News Sunday" this morning. Still, if this special election in Louisiana is any indication, 2008 is going to be a stone-cold Democratic year anyway.

Extra - Here's background from Factcheck on "DNC vs. McCain".

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Creeping Sharia - Jawa Report: "'Honor killings' is now becoming a silent, slow growing cancer spreading to the West."
Elections in England - Expat Yank (who else?) has reporting and perspective on Labour's fall. Just keep scrolling down.
Sunday morning lineup - Howard Dean will test the patience of the Nutroots by appearing on "Fox News Sunday." Just like last week, it's all Democrats and reps for the candidates.
Something's gotta give

Arnold Kling on "Fiscal Reality":

Message to the AARP: if Social Security and Medicare continue to be "untouchable," then y'all had better buy guns, because in twenty years there won't be any money left to pay for national defense, much less for any "worthy causes."
Hat tip: Q&O.
This can't be a good sign

From Jake Tapper:

Tragedy struck the first filly in the Kentucky Derby since 1999, as Eight Belles went down on the track after her second-place finish today, broke two ankles, and was euthanized.
Showing a sisterhood with the female horse, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., during a trip to Louisville this week had said she was going to bet on Eight Belles to win, place, and show.
Let's hope the former First Lady avoids a similar fate after she comes in second.

Extra - From Right Wing News: "Hillary's coup de grace"

Friday, May 02, 2008

One of my favorite scenes from "Scrubs" - Watch this video from the end of the episode titled "My Private Practice Guy" when J.D. confronts the Janitor. I'm absolutely convinced that the boy (Janitor's "son") has been given the stage direction to stand there silently as the dialogue unfolds. He seems a little bewildered as the Janitor tells him to get lost, then stay.

Bill Lawrence, if you're reading this blog tonight, please let me know how this scene was staged. Thank you very much. Signed, #1 Scrubs Fan.
Everybody get together, try to reform entitlements right now

Will Marshall from the Progressive Policy Institute shows why entitlement reform need not be a left-wing/right-wing battle:

What unites us is fear of what unsustainable growth in entitlement spending portends. Conservatives worry that taxes on working families will have to rise to crippling levels to pay for the promises made to retirees. Progressives want to prevent automatic entitlement spending from squeezing out space in the federal budget for such vital public investments as educating the young, fighting poverty, protecting the environment, keeping our military strong, and modernizing our energy and transportation systems.

Inaction in the face of the looming budget crunch is not wise. Putting entitlements on a fixed budget will, we hope, set the stage for the long-overdue debate over how to ensure that our venerable social insurance programs continue to serve future generations of Americans.
The Brookings Institute-Heritage Foundation mind-meld is urging that entitlements that are currently "off budget" get folded back into the federal accounting so that long-term funding issues are addressed. The alternative is the "auto pilot" status quo followed by "where'd all the money go?" in a couple of decades.
That reminds me - Hey Des, when's the next Williams Trivia contest? Oh, May 9th. I'm brimming with new bonus ideas, but I suppose I'd have to join a "real" team to pass them on.
Every Simpsons couch gag

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A corny conundrum - Betsy's Page reviews how Washington is taking a hard look at its ethanol addiction: "This will go down as one of the biggest blunders from Washington in a while. And it's bipartisan stupidity."
Home Depot messes with success, fails

Just yesterday, I was having a far-ranging discussion with my co-workers that eventually turned onto how badly Home Depot screwed up. It used to be a big, dare I say "exciting," place to shop and enhance the domicile. Now it's a chore - a drudgery - to go to Home Depot because the employees treat you like an inconvenience. Business Week saw it coming a year ago:

But among many of Home Depot's 355,000 employees, especially rank-and-file workers in its orange big-box stores, there was little sympathy as [former CEO] Nardelli dug himself into a deeper and deeper hole. They resented the replacement of many thousands of full-time store workers with legions of part-timers, one aspect of a relentless cost-cutting program Nardelli used to drive gross margins from 30% in 2000 to 33.8% in 2005. As the news of his resignation on Jan. 3 shot through Home Depot's white-walled Atlanta headquarters and reached stores, some employees text-messaged each other with happy faces and exclamation points.
It's said that the downfall of a number-based management is that it's difficult to attach a value to intangibles such as customer satisfaction. Now the pursuit of short-term gain has threatened the long-term health of a former giant:

The Atlanta-based company, under different leadership, a different growth philosophy and amid an ailing housing market, put the brakes Thursday on some of its future expansion plans and said it would do what was previously unthinkable -- close 15 of its underperforming flagship stores.

It is the first time the world's largest home improvement store chain has ever closed a flagship store for performance reasons. The move, to be completed within the next two months, will affect 1,300 employees.
I'm sure the housing slump hasn't helped Home Depot, but the company's policies were set for failure long before. How did Lowe's sneak into a market that Home Depot dominated for almost a decade? Big Orange took their eye off the customer, that's all.