Thursday, July 31, 2008

Best headline today, hands down - Boston Globe: "A cone of silence for ice cream trucks." Somebody is a "Get Smart" fan.
Zimbabwe dollars less valuable than Schrute bucks

Boston Globe: "Zimbabwe drops 10 zeros from inflated currency"

Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono announced he was dropping 10 zeros from Zimbabwe's currency, effective tomorrow. The move comes a week after the issue of a 100 billion-dollar note - still not enough to buy a loaf of bread.
Dwight: Very good. You have earned one Schrute buck.
Stanley: I don't want it.
Dwight: Then you have been deducted 50 Schrute bucks.
Stanley: Make it a hundred.
Dwight: Wh...don't you wanna earn Schrute bucks?
Stanley: No. In fact, I'll give you a billion Stanley nickels if you never talk to me again.
Dwight: What's the ratio of Stanley nickels to Schrute bucks?
Stanley: The same as the ratio of unicorns to leprechauns
Even G-d can't help Obama

From Obama's "private" prayer: "Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair."

A couple days later: "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Distractions - A one-man blog can be challenging sometimes, such as when I have work, home, and my Project Management class to worry about. I hope to get back into the swing soon.

Monday, July 28, 2008

In statistics, this is known as an "outlier" - Everybody take a deep breath: "Gallup/USA Today poll shows McCain +4 among likely voters." Start of a trend or an aberration? YMMV depending on political affiliation.

Extra - Adam Nagourney of the NY Times whines: "Where's the bounce?" for The One.
That's the "funniest"? - A lot of self-satisfied Gen-Xers at MoveOn must have thought this was a great ad. Meh. The cooties one is much, much better.
Unfortunate - John McCain is backing down from a "no new payroll taxes" pledge to address the building Social Security crisis. The Club for Growth is not amused.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Worst NASCAR race ever - What can I say about today's Brickyard 400 except 1) it had little to do with the cars or drivers and 2) there was no "racing." Because the Goodyear tires were falling apart after 15-20 laps, NASCAR officials decided to engage a never-ending sequence of "competition yellows" so that teams could replace tires. The longest green flag "racing" was twelve laps long, meaning that on a huge track like Indianapolis, there was virtually no opportunity to move up. The entire "race" was reduced to a pit stop contest.

After three or four competition yellows, NASCAR should have told the pit chiefs: "OK, you know what to expect in terms of tire wear. For the second half of the race, the strategy is yours to make." Instead, I waited two weeks to see this farce of hiccupping, stop-and-go, awfulness.

Damn...when does football season start?
Files? What files?

Remember the story about how a disproportionate number of Boston firefighters were claiming enhanced disability? And how one of them was collecting tax-free disability due to a "back injury" before it was found he finished eighth in a bodybuilding competition? Well, it looks like somebody was trying to bury the evidence before investigators could dig any further. From the Boston Globe: "Firefighter files vanish as FBI looks into claims":

The medical files of three Boston firefighters who claimed career-ending on-the-job injuries disappeared from Boston Fire Department headquarters in recent weeks as federal investigators were pursuing an inquiry into dozens of questionable disability claims, according to two senior public officials.

The possibility that someone removed the files in a bid to hamper the investigation has now spurred a parallel federal investigation of possible theft and attempted obstruction of justice, the officials said.
Smooth move! Nobody will suspect a thing.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Quote of the day - Via Redstate, here's law professor Jeremy Rabkin on the "impeachment" proceedings in the House: "The tone of these deliberations is slightly demented." Hey, man, you're talking about Dennis Kucinich there.
Pressing the "do nothing" Congress on energy policy - According to Betsy's Page, the Republicans in Congress may use procedural tricks to keep Congress working through the August recess. Of course, the rules on Capitol Hill declare that the ruling party can block any legislation - and the Republicans certainly exercised this power when on top - but it seems contrary to (small "d") democratic principles to block a vote on something as important as keeping the lights on.
Post title of the day - From Ace: "If It's Saturday, the Least-Read News Day of the Week, It Must Be Time for AP to Admit the Surge Has Worked Spectacularly"
The Economist sez: we're spoiled but perceptions rule

Economist (UK): "Workingman's blues"

Americans have grown accustomed to extraordinary prosperity. Poor Americans today are more likely to have fridges, dishwashers and air-conditioning than average Americans were in 1971. Young voters have no memory of a serious recession, since the last one was in the early 1990s. Some do not even realise that cyclical downturns are normal. Only 18% of Americans think they are worse off than their parents were at the same age. But elections hinge on shorter-term concerns. Four-fifths of Americans say it is harder to maintain a middle-class lifestyle now than it was five years ago. That probably means the election is Mr Obama's to lose.
Probably, but then Obama has coasted on a mantra of "change" that has been a policy souffle without any filling. The policies he has revealed have followed a pattern of higher taxes and income redistribution.

Friday, July 25, 2008

It's Friday - let's dance!

Can anybody read a map? - Bruce at No Looking Backwards has an open invite for anybody who wants to drop by for a cold one. Heh.
Public pensions, Massachusetts style

Boston Globe: "Special pensions cost state millions - Among the winners are 6 ex-Pike managers expected to reap $3.7m in lifetime benefits"

State and local governments over the last five years have committed to spending an estimated $115 million to $235 million on 386 public employees who were allowed to invoke an obscure part of a state law to win earlier and significantly larger pensions, a Globe analysis has found.

At the financially troubled Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, for instance, six former employees, including high-level Big Dig managers who were in their 40s and 50s, have taken advantage of the law to reap a combined $3.7 million in pension and lifetime health insurance benefits beyond what they would receive under normal pension rules, an average of more than $610,000 each.
It sounds to me like the Boston Globe decided to investigate the graft exposed by their token conservative columnist:

Then there are all the other public employees milking the Massachusetts pension system. Dozens collect payouts of more than $100,000 a year - former state Senate president William Bulger, for example, rakes in more than $197,000, a fitting cap to a long career spent gorging at the public trough. Scores of "double-dippers" retire early on full pensions, then get themselves hired back on the public payroll at full salaries. When ex-Big Dig director Michael Lewis retired last year, his pension was tripled and became immediately payable under a nutty state law that rewards government employees whose positions are eliminated. For the rest of his life, Lewis will receive more than $72,500 annually, despite the fact that he is only 46, and is making $130,000 a year as Rhode Island's secretary of transportation.
Let's see: pensions, the Big there anything else we can add to the tax burden of the average Bay Stater?

At the heart of the problem is the state's estimate that subsidized Commonwealth Care coverage and Medicaid will cost the state at least $120 million more than projected.
Of course.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Et tu, Fox News?

From Investor's Business Daily: "Putting Money Where Mouths Are: Media Donations Favor Dems 100-1"

Don't worry, though. Any hint of bias is quickly overpowered by the media's superhuman, Columbia-trained objectivity. It's a skill that we bloggers could never understand. (*sniff*)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Perspective - Jeff Jacoby delivers in today's Boston Globe: "Voices of reason keep trying to point out that conditions are not nearly as bad as they were the last time consumers were this despondent. That was in May 1980, during the final year of the Carter administration, when the "misery index" - the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates - hit an excruciating 21.9. Inflation was then at 14.4 percent; unemployment was 7.5 percent. The numbers today are 5 and 5.5 respectively." This explains the absence of Okies heading west to pick oranges.
I've read "The Grapes of Wrath." This isn't it.

Working backwards from David Brooks' column "The Culture of Debt" led to Gretchen Morgenson's front page article in this past Sunday's New York Times titled: "Given a Shovel, Americans Dig Deeper Into Debt"

Just two generations ago, America was a nation of mostly thrifty people living within their means, even setting money aside for unforeseen expenses.

Today, Americans carry $2.56 trillion in consumer debt, up 22 percent since 2000 alone, according to the Federal Reserve Board. The average household's credit card debt is $8,565, up almost 15 percent from 2000.
Only a couple paragraphs into the article, it's soup kitchen time and "Sixteen Tons":

While the circumstances surrounding these downfalls vary, one element is identical: the lucrative lending practices of America's merchants of debt have led millions of Americans - young and old, native and immigrant, affluent and poor - to the brink. More and more, Americans can identify with miners of old: in debt to the company store with little chance of paying up.
The main difference being that instead of owing your soul to the company store for a loaf of bread, Americans can't stay off EBay. Of course, no story of woe and betidings would be complete without some down-on-the-luck tale of a woman who has been brought low by the "merchants of debt":

Earning a livable wage at Verizon Yellow Pages, Ms. McLeod finally decided to leave her marriage and buy a home of her own in February 2003. The cost was $135,000, and her mortgage required no down payment because her credit history was good.
Danger, danger, Will Robinson!

"I was very proud of myself when I bought the house," Ms. McLeod explained. "I thought I would live here till I died." Adding to her burden, however, was about $25,000 in credit card debt she had brought from her marriage.
So she purchased a home with no money down, carrying with her 25-large in credit card bills. Those unscrupulous lenders! Then illness hit and our subject re-assessed her life and financial situation. Just kidding:

She made matters worse during her recovery, while watching home shopping channels. "Eight weeks in bed by yourself is very dangerous when you have a TV and credit card," Ms. McLeod said. "QVC was my friend."
Unscrupulous vendors, selling stuff! Take a look at poor Ms. McLeod on the NY Times site: she owes over a quarter-million dollars ($237,000 mortgage plus $34,000 in credit card debts) yet she's sitting outside her home smoking a cigarette, jewelry on both arms, while a Starbucks coffee drink sits nearby. Meanwhile, personal responsibility has curled up under the porch to die.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Taxachusetts suspends taxes!

For a weekend, anyway: "Massachusetts legislators give OK to tax-free holiday next month"

State legislators on Tuesday voted to approve a sales tax holiday for Aug. 16 and 17.

The state House of Representatives voted 139-15 and the Senate, 31-6, to approve the tax-free weekend. It will be the fifth consecutive year for a sales tax holiday in Massachusetts.

Supporters said the event gives consumers a break and boosts business for retailers. They said it will generate back-to-school sales and help businesses during a slow month for shopping.

"It's wildly popular with consumers, wildly popular with retailers," said state Sen. Michael R. Knapik, R-Westfield.
True dat. I find it remarkable that people will spend so readily, foregoing a better deal down the road, just to avoid the Bay State's 5% sales tax. There has to be a component of "sticking it to Beacon Hill" that drives consumers into a frenzy of shopping.
What media bias? - Newspaperman Matt Hoy weighs in on the New York Times' rejection of John McCain's offering: "Not an objective broker."
UCM and PBGS and motorcycle shopping - This FR post wasn't quite as funny as the article below it from a former motorcycle salesman dealing with aging baby boomers trying to return to their sixties roots.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Viking Pundit misses the cut, just barely - VH1: "40 greatest Internet superstars"
Shocker! The media misrepresents a report favorable to Obama - A rare lapse of objectivity, I'm sure. CNN "Iraqi PM disputes report on withdrawal plan": "But a spokesman for al-Maliki said his remarks "were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately." Alas, this will not put the cap on Josh Marshall's long line of fawning posts on the Obamessiah's perfect grasp of foreign policy.

Extra - Gateway Pundit: "It's as if they are rooting for Obama or something." Something like that.
The entitlement crisis, again

Economist Tyler Cowen argues for means testing of Medicare:

Right now, the United States is in the midst of a financial crisis, but even more pressing problems may lie ahead - and the presidential candidates aren't addressing them.

No matter who sits in the Oval Office next year, there won't be many degrees of freedom in the federal budget. That's because spending on entitlement programs is largely locked into place, and the situation will become much worse as Americans age and health care costs rise. Even if the government is conservative in its spending, just paying out promised benefits implies that tax rates will rise to a crushing level - a range of 60 to 80 percent of income - well before the end of this century.
A certain blogger has raised these very points many, many times before: the government has made promises it simply cannot keep, yet we're reaching (reached?) a tipping point where so many voting Americans receive benefits that reform has become impossible.

Don't expect to hear much about targeted benefits anytime before November. Such proposals would acknowledge the painful but probably realistic notion that we don't have many good ways to control health care costs.
In other words, don't just do something: stand there.
Instant karma - Drunk driver dresses up like convict for Halloween, judge sends him to prison for two years. Let's all enjoy a Mr. Burns' "excellent!"
It wasn't my imagination

I was watching an episode of "Scrubs" today and I could have sworn that something Dr. Cox said was overdubbed. I was right:

When Elliot and Dr. Cox are talking in the break room for the second time, and Dr. Cox is talking about whiny interns coming to him for cookies and hugs, he mouths, "I swear to Allah" but the audio says, "I swear to Aisha." As this episode was probably filmed before the September 11th Attacks, the line was no doubt over-dubbed out of sensitivity to the political tensions of the time.
Original air date: October 9th 2001. Discuss amongst yourselves.
I think it's parody, but it feels so real - The Onion "Time publishes definitive Obama puff piece": "Hailed by media critics as the fluffiest, most toothless, and softest-hitting coverage of the presidential candidate to date, a story in this week's Time magazine is being called the definitive Barack Obama puff piece." Take that, Newsweek.

Extra - Charles Krauthammer is not as thrilled: "Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?"
Hunger in America - Gateway Pundit has the NPR story on a mother and daughter trying to stretch their food budget in Ohio. There hasn't been a more heart-wrenching story of poverty since Patricia Guerrero had to take off her Tiffany bracelet before entering the local food bank.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The enduring nanny state - Ramesh Ponnuru is quite correct in his criticism of Congress for sticking their nose into the fight between merchants and credit card companies: "There's no good reason for the government to supervise negotiations between consenting adults." Quite right. In a capitalistic system, there are no barriers to prevent merchants from shopping for better rates, or even dropping the services of credit card companies altogether.

More election-year busy work. Can we have some oil now?
Unintentionally humorous quote of the day

Today's prize goes to E.J. Dionne on Al Gore's energy proposals:

Voters say they hate gimmicks and insist they want bold solutions. Well, Gore is testing that proposition.
He sure is!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sorry, Barney, that'll be $100 billion

From the Boston Globe: "Zimbabwe's economy's woes keep adding up"

Despite the recent currency shortage, the Zimbabwe dollar has continued to slide against the US dollar and shopkeepers are increasing their prices steeply. The price of the state-owned Herald newspaper leaped from 200,000 Zimbabwean dollars early this month to 25 billion now. Before the crunch, a beer at a bar in Harare, the capital, cost 15 billion Zimbabwean dollars. At 5 p.m. July 4, it cost 100 billion ($4 at the time) in the same bar.
In their defense, it was a Michelob.
A model of monumental mismanagement

Today's top story in the Boston Globe should be familiar to readers of this blog: the debacle known as Boston's Central Artery project, otherwise known as the "Big Dig." Some highlights from "Big Dig's red ink engulfs state":

Massachusetts residents got a shock when state officials, at the peak of construction on the Big Dig project, disclosed that the price tag had ballooned to nearly $15 billion. But that, it turns out, was just the beginning.
Now, three years after the official dedication of the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel, the state is reeling under a legacy of debt left by the massive project. In all, the project will cost an additional $7 billion in interest, bringing the total to a staggering $22 billion, according to a Globe review of hundreds of pages of state documents. It will not be paid off until 2038.

The state is paying almost 80 percent of its highway workers with borrowed money; the crushing costs of debt have pushed the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which manages the Big Dig, to the brink of insolvency; and Massachusetts spends a higher percentage of its highway budget on debt than any other state.

The debt is a big part of why Massachusetts had the highest tax-supported debt per capita in the United States last year.

During the last three years, Massachusetts spent the most of any state, by far, 38 percent of its highway budget, on debt payments, according to Globe analysis of federal data. The median is less than 6 percent nationally.

The state has also been forced to meet payroll demands for 1,400 Massachusetts Highway Department workers with borrowed money because it does not have enough cash to pay them. That means that painters and clerical workers paid around $18 an hour cost the state $28.80 an hour. The 80 percent of the workforce being paid with borrowed money compares to 14 percent before the Big Dig work began.

The authority's annual payments on its Big Dig debt are $115 million now. Those payments will level off at $145 million annually by 2020 and continue for another 18 years. The capital budget for construction, paving, and inspection for the Big Dig and the 137-mile Massachusetts Turnpike, meanwhile, has been slashed to $22 million, about 19 percent of the debt expense.

There are two sources of state highway funds: state borrowing and reimbursement to the state on federal gasoline taxes collected in Massachusetts. The Big Dig, which makes up 7.5 miles of an 11,000-mile system, gobbled up about 40 percent of those funds during the last 17 years, data show.
Breathe that in: almost half of all state highway funds have been squandered on 0.07% of the Bay State's roadway system. This is why my daily commute is a slalom course of orange barrels, jersey barriers and potholes. And while project management has become a modern-day vocation for some, there's no getting around Milton Friedman's axiom that spending other people's money is the high road to waste and abuse. Although new gas taxes are being ruled out (duh), tolls are being hiked and Massachusetts lawmakers are looking at the income tax to close this yawning gap. But, for now, a big pile of money is being loaned to the state which only means that the next generation of Bay Staters will have to cover the cost of that hole in the ground.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

If only we had some oil of our own - Via MSN, with oil at $140 a barrel, Saudi Arabia and Iran have enough (potential) cash to buy the whole United States.

Extra - We just saved Nebraska! Patterico: "Bush ends executive ban on offshore drilling and oil prices drop 7% in two trading sessions."
Cinematic sour de force - This past weekend, I stumbled upon a dreadful movie with Whoopi Goldberg and a dinosaur. I had to check IMDB to find out it was called "Theodore Rex" and the user comments are priceless.
No end in sight

Fifteen billion dollars later, Massachusetts residents still can't escape the costs of the Big Dig which arrive from all directions. From the Boston Globe: "State tries to rescue Pike from huge debt." Why don't you try to rescue me from more taxes?

The Patrick administration is engineering a large-scale financial rescue of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority that would allow the cash-strapped agency to refinance $800 million in debt to avoid potentially ruinous repayment terms.

The House, acting swiftly at the administration's request, gave initial approval yesterday to legislation that would allow the Turnpike Authority to use the state's higher credit rating to refinance its debt to lower its interest costs. The move means taxpayers would be responsible for the turnpike's debt if the agency defaults. [snip]

The turnpike has said it may have trouble making higher payments that could come due in January under the terms of complex loans that were used to help pay for the Big Dig. While they have not sketched a plan to fix the agency's debt problem, turnpike officials have indicated that one of the primary options for fixing its finances is to increase tolls.
Of course. We in Western Massachusetts love Boston's Big Dig and all the time it saves on our mutual commutes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fuzzy math v. nanny state

Moderate Voice: "Social Security compare and contrast"

I find myself highly disappointed in both of the candidates' positions (or lack thereof) on this issue. I give full credit due to Obama for recognizing that something needs to be done and that it might involve some pain in the pocketbook to address it, but I will have to give a very, very halfhearted tip of my hat to McCain on this one. I would call on Senator McCain to firm up the specifics of his plan, (which may change my final decision) but the nanny state attitude and weak sister political waltzing around the tax issue by Obama scares me away from awarding him the point on this one.
When Social Security was started in the 1930s with a retirement age of 65, life expectancy for women was 62 and for men it was only 58. Yet three-quarters of a century later, any talk of bumping up the retirement age seems to be heresy.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Annie Leibovitz is well-represented - From the L.A. Times: "Ten magazine covers that shook the world"
Firehouse fraud

Boston Globe: "On injury leave, firefighter stood out as bodybuilder"

For Boston firefighter Albert Arroyo, March and April were ostensibly rough months. He reported falling on March 21 and suffering a back injury so severe that, a few weeks later, his doctor wrote that Arroyo should be granted an accidental disability retirement because he is "totally and permanently disabled."

Yet, on May 3, after being out of work for six weeks and collecting his full salary tax-free, Arroyo achieved a remarkable feat: He finished eighth in a men's bodybuilding competition, the 2008 Pro Natural American Championships.
The Globe had previously reported that a suspiciously large number of Boston firefighters were injured on the very day they were filling in for absent superiors, resulting in a supplemental pension payout of about $10,000/year.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Oh no he didn't

From Jonah Goldberg: "Ego-bama, swallow some of that pride"

The overarching theme to his entire campaign - "We are the ones we've been waiting for," and all that - is that voting for Obama is proof of the cosmic superiority of ... Obama voters.

In a speech in Madison, Wis., Obama told his supporters that rallying to his cause was today's equivalent of the "greatest generation" rallying to defeat Hitler and Tojo. Oprah merely calls him, "The One," saying he will help us "evolve to a higher plane."

Someone get that man one of those "I'm Kind of a Big Deal" T-shirts.
Wow. Some former Obama supporters are wondering just what was in that Kool-Aid:

How does anyone know what Obama really believes or, even more problematic, what beliefs he'll decide are worth expending political capital on once he's elected?

We don't. I think that's a direct consequence of his having campaigned on generalities like change.
Hat tip to Flopping Aces, which has more. I think I've written before that Obama's message of change is only going to take him so far once voters start asking what exactly it means. Maybe we're already seeing the fading halo as, even with all the headwind against McCain, the latest polls are showing the race is a dead heat.

Jann Wenner! We need another cover!

More - PowerLine: "The resistible rise of Barack Obama"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Walt Disney and camping

I just finished this biography on Walt Disney, who was both a visionary and a bit of a heel; although maybe all paradigm-changing visionaries are not much fun. Anyway, I'm going away camping for the next couple days so I'll leave you with this Walt Disney cartoon of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy camping. With Swedish subtitles! That's a triple play.

See you soon.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Where there's Smoke, there's fire

This is kind of a big deal in the world of NASCAR: Tony Stewart is leaving Joe Gibbs Racing

After 10 years together in the Sprint Cup Series, Joe Gibbs Racing and Tony Stewart are parting ways.

The news that the two-time Sprint Cup Series champion would leave Joe Gibbs Racing at the conclusion of the 2008 season was made official this morning in a release from the team.
It's almost impossible to think of another driver in the Home Depot #20. Good luck, Tony!
Man of the cloth - CNN: "Jackson apologizes for 'crude' Obama remarks" Drudge Report has the "crudeness" and I suspect the audiotape will be the talk of the Internets tonight.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Dear anonymous Amazon angel - Thanks!
Quote of the day - From black (!) New York Times (!) columnist Bob Herbert: "But Senator Obama is not just tacking gently toward the center. He's lurching right when it suits him, and he's zigging with the kind of reckless abandon that's guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash." Bonus for using the rarely-heard gerund "zigging"!
Exactly wrong, Yglesias

Today, Matthew Yglesias couldn't be bothered to read an article in the Washington Post titled "Candidates Diverge on How to Save Social Security":

I think I'm afraid to read past the lede of that particular story.
That didn't stop him from pressing forward to make backward assumptions and tendentious arguments to how McCain plans to "phase the program out" while Obama will "keep Social Security very much as it is." In fact, if Matt has made the Herculean effort to get to paragraph two, he would have found that McCain's proposal is as follows:

McCain's aides said he favors a bipartisan approach and is open to working with Congress on finding a solution to the long-term solvency of the New Deal-era program, indicating he could support an array of ideas such as raising the retirement age, reducing scheduled increases in benefits and allowing younger workers to put money they currently pay for Social Security taxes into personal savings accounts.
[Emphasis added] Yglesias focuses solely on the personal accounts angle which, as the WashPost reports, is but one of the ideas McCain could support including the less-controversial proposals of raising the retirement age and slowing benefit growth, possibly by altering the indexing formula. McCain has ruled out raising taxes which have risen over time from 2% to 12.4% of payroll to the point where about 80% of Americans pay more in Social Security taxes than federal income tax.

On the other hand, Obama's plan will most definitely NOT "keep Social Security very much as it is." Obama's plan to impose an additional tax on income over $250,000 without providing for scaled benefits irreversibly alters Social Security from a universal flat tax system to another vehicle for wealth redistribution. That is changing FDR's vision for Social Security at it's most fundamental level and that's why Yglesias tries the old "Medicare is broker" bait-and-switch. Nice try, Charlie - you're wrong.

Extra - Here's Robert Samuelson with "The Candor Gap": "We could lighten the burden of aging by curbing government benefits for wealthier retirees and raising Social Security and Medicare eligibility ages to reflect longer life expectancies. These changes would move federal retirement programs back toward their original purpose -- a safety net for the most vulnerable."
Guilty guy pleads guilty - A year ago, Wired magazine had a fascinating article about a Linux programmer who (probably) killed his wife. I mean just because the passenger side of his car was completely removed and the floor had been recently cleaned and he had been seen fighting with her just before she disappeared and he was trying to evade police surveillance and he's never explained why his car suddenly appeared a couple miles from his home and there were traces of his wife's blood found, well...that doesn't prove anything. But he was convicted in April and just before his sentencing hearing today, he led police to the body in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Time to regroup - Apologies for the brief hiatus but I've had some personal issues to take care of. I expect to be back entertaining my dozens of readers with new material tomorrow sometime after my online class. Don't like it? Tough...I'm not here to make friends.
Don't be a fool, stay in school

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Google's "don't be evil" philosophy challenged - I'm sure there's a lesson in fiscal conservatism to be found in this article about how Google is raising the cost of their in-house day care by 75%. It's easy to lavish perks on employees when the stock is flying high, but beware the backlash when things slow down. No more bottled water and M&Ms for you.
Obama courts NASCAR fans - I feel compelled to report that at last week's race in New Hampshire, I saw a fellow wearing an Obama T-shirt. Politically speaking, he was definitely in the minority at the track.
Zimbabwe update - How bad is it when you're the only candidate on the ballot and you still have to rig the election? (Or is he just a pawn of the military?)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!
75% > 3% - Via Marc Ambinder, there's a World Bank report out that claims biofuels have driven up world food prices as much as 75%. That sounds high, but the previous guess of 3% sounds way low.

Extra - A good analysis of our energy future over at Q&O. Protein Wisdom also has some stuff.
Since they won't have another shot at the White House Easter Egg Roll - Gateway Pundit: "Loons Disrupt Bush at July 4th Naturalization Ceremony" Stay classy, Code Pink.
What would Dilbert do?

Scott Adams sums up the Presidential contest:

When it comes to picking our next president, I can't decide if I prefer the smooth-talking, inspirational candidate who promises to give my money to people who don't work as hard as I do, or the old, short, ugly, angry guy with one good arm who graduated at the bottom of his class and somehow managed to shag a hot heiress and become a contender for president. It seems dangerous to underestimate that guy.
What principles?

Charles Krauthammer on Obama: "A man of seasonal principles"

Two weeks ago, I predicted that by Election Day Obama will have erased all meaningful differences with McCain on withdrawal from Iraq. I underestimated Obama's cynicism. He will make the move much sooner.
Look, unlike others, I didn't fault Obama for breaking his pledge and opting out of public financing. When you're sitting on the kind of money he commands, it's political suicide to toss it aside. What's starting to bug me about this guy is that he seems to be sending a double message to his Nutroot supporters: "I have to say this stuff now, but you know the score once I'm in office":

As Obama assiduously obliterates all differences with McCain on national security and social issues, he remains rightly confident that Bush fatigue, the lousy economy and his own charisma -- he is easily the most dazzling political personality since John Kennedy -- will carry him to the White House.
Of course, once he gets there he will have to figure out what he really believes. The conventional liberal/populist stuff he campaigned on during the primaries? Or the reversals he is so artfully offering up now?
I have no idea. Do you? Does he?
Oh, I think I do and he does. Obama is going to dive to the center and wink at his rabid supporters. It's all about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue now.

Extra - They're losing the New York Times! "We are not shocked when a candidate moves to the center for the general election. But Mr. Obama's shifts are striking because he was the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics, the man of passionate convictions who did not play old political games."

More - At Memeorandum, of course.

Even more - The Obama cultists admit it's just for show. That's funny: I thought an election was a competition of policies and government philosophy. Now "winning" is a principle. Change you can believe in, America.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

You and me both Lileks

The other day, incomparable writer James Lileks reviewed "Wall-E" and noted:

I say this as someone who's become horribly vulnerable to the Disney brand, too. We could sit down and have a long talk about the company's machinations and marketing skill and evolution into the merchandising Leviathon [sic] it's become, but it doesn't matter when I'm in a big dark room and the Castle appears in twilight on the screen, reflected in the imaginary water, glowing in the imaginary dusk.
For reasons that probably have to do with re-capturing my own childhood, I've subordinated retirement savings and college funds to a periodic vacation to Disney World. The conservative in me screams "the cost!" but then the softie in me just wants to walk down Main Street and take a spin on "Test Track." There is no other expenditure on this Earth that makes me open my wallet so willingly and it's a foreign, yet irrepressible, compulsion.

Any other Disney fans out there? I know it's not just me.
OK, I fess up

NY Times: "Judge Orders Google to Turn Over YouTube Records"

This is what I've been watching at least once a week:

Happy now?
Yeah, it's not looking good for McCain - CBS Marketwatch: "Obama a shoo-in, forecasting models say" (HT: Hot Air) In other news, I got three solicitations from the Republicans today. Don't they read my blog? I'm broke.
Powering the state with good intentions, pixie dust

With much fanfare, Governor Deval Patrick signed some energy law saying everybody in Massachusetts has to use fluorescent light bulbs or something. Of course, there are unreachable goals:

Utilities will have to purchase a greater amount of their electricity from renewable power sources than under current law. By 2030, utilities would buy 25 percent of their power from renewables.

It is unclear whether that goal, one of the most ambitious in the nation, can be met, however. The current requirement of 3.5 percent has not been met, partly because of the difficulty in siting renewable projects. The utilities instead pay a fee to the state.
Proving once again that the Green movement is a modern-day religion, an earlier version of the law promoted coal gasification which is cleaner than regular coal-fired plants but this was rejected because it generates the sinful carbon dioxide. However, unless the Boston Globe article is incomplete, there isn't a whisper on nuclear energy which is the only reliable energy source that does not emit greenhouse gases.

Bring on the windmills.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Post title of the day - From Little Green Footballs: "The dreaded cute puppy dog of blasphemy." This is a greater insult than Burger King ice cream!
A Depression-era program that's depressing

Several writers to the Wall Street Journal vent on Barack Obama's Social Security proposal:

Mr. Furman [Obama's economic policy director] goes on to say, "Mr. Obama has stated that he would like to extend solvency while protecting middle-class families and asking those making over $250,000 to pay their fair share." I find this repugnant. I pay into the system precisely what Congress prescribes and will draw from the system precisely what Congress prescribes. The notion that I'm not paying my "fair share" suggests that I'm cheating. In fact, the system cheats me and it will be more onerous because, as Mr. Furman notes, under Mr. Obama's "fix" we will have to wait to see "the linkage between these tax payments and benefits."
I like this one too: "Let me opt out. The market is a heck of a lot safer than government promises unkept." Unfortunately, Social Security is the government program so good they had to make it mandatory.
Mugabe to the world: "Go hang"