Sunday, August 31, 2003

John Kerry’s political mentor: Homer Simpson

There’s a Simpsons episode called “Trash of the Titans” where Homer runs for city sanitation commissioner: his campaign slogan is “Can’t Somebody Else Do It?” He promises the people of Springfield that his garbagemen will attend to every unpleasant task. Homer wins the election then, through his incompetence, proceeds to turn Springfield into “America’s Trash-hole.”

It appears that Senator Splunge has adopted Homer’s successful platform. Kerry’s “Meet the Press” appearance today repeatedly hit the same theme of easy answers through deferred responsibility. I’m pretty much working off memory here – the transcript will be out in a couple of days – but on issue after issue, Kerry took the simplistic route of “Can’t Somebody Else Do It?”

On Iraq: Can’t the United Nations do it? One of the “first things” Kerry would do in his administration (shudder) is “repair” the American rift with the United Nations. Then we’re sure to see the same success in nation building that the U.N. brought to bear in Somalia.

On Cuba: Can’t other nations lift the trade embargo first? Kerry once supported the easing of the trade embargo but on “Meet the Press” he now says he wouldn’t do it “unilaterally.” This fealty to the notion that the United States shouldn’t do anything without the approval of other countries disturbs me greatly, especially for someone who wants to be President. (The Cuba question was a real curve ball for Kerry. You could practically see one of those “Blind Date” bubbles above his head reading: “This wasn’t in the briefing book!”)

On funding the government: Can’t the rich do it? Kerry would repeal tax cuts on everyone making more than $200,000 but leave the middle class tax breaks in effect. Russert essentially asked why Kerry wanted to punish those people who produce and generate jobs and the Senator resorted to a cheap populist mantra.

On saving Social Security: Can’t the rich do it (again)? Kerry floated an idea of raising the limit on taxable income to increase Social Security revenues but (to an incredulous Russert) insisted this wasn’t a tax increase. When pressed as to what the new taxable income limit should be to support this cornerstone of the New Deal, Kerry responded “I have no idea.”

Now I’m just some seldom-read Internet pundit, but I have some pretty clear thoughts on what I believe should be done on issues of foreign policy and economic policy. They may be wrong, but I’m willing to express them and debate them. Kerry, who I often call “Senator Splunge” for his inability to make up his mind, has “no idea” on a critical federal program. On Cuba, he blandly announces we have to “re-evaluate” our position on Cuba but won’t say anything about the trade embargo. He essentially says: “Stuff! We have to do stuff!” On North Korea, we have to do…something. On Iraq, we need to spend more money and bring in the United Nations, but not for U.S. troops, who will essentially keep on doing what they’re doing, but safer. Very rarely does Kerry present a position that is specific and every proposal is all ice cream and no broccoli – all benefit but no thought for cost.

Well, we can all be happy in the knowledge that no matter what the government pays for, somebody else will be taxed. You know, that rich guy.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

I'm the greatest Spy Hunter player ever

Pejman wondered about the inclusion of personal information in blogs and concluded his post with "What do you all think?" But when I tried to post a comment I got a "You cannot post comments" error. What's up with that?

OK, Pej, you want some personal data? Here goes: of all the video games I played as a lad, I became the king of Spy Hunter. Oh, it was the greatest arcade game ever invented. It required every limb (feet for brake/acceleration, hands for steering and weapons), it was a driving game, it was a shooting game, it had strategy and a pinch of fantasy. And *I* was the Spy Hunter Jedi Master.

Now add me to your blogroll, you Persian chess-head.
The continuing battle

Fred Pruitt on Rantburg has a powerful, important, and lucid post where he responds to the release of the 9/11 transcripts. He wants people to remember that the world is still a dangerous place:

It's been almost two years. We've made a lot of progress. The Taliban are gone. Saddam's gone. We're killing terrorists every day. But our people are starting to forget. I'm ashamed that's happening.

Damn straight. Read it all.

Little Green Footballs is "beginning to think the number 19 may be important to Al Qaeda operations" after reading this Fox News story about 19 suspects arrested in connection to the Najaf Bombing:

Two Iraqis and two Saudis grabbed shortly after the Friday blast gave information leading to the arrest of the other suspects, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The others include two Kuwaitis, six Palestinians with Jordanian passports, Iraqis and Saudis, according to the official.

Wow, two citizens from the country we liberated from Iraq along with some Saudis. Never saw that coming.
The Many Faces of Senator Splunge

Zogby Blog found this Insight magazine article titled "The Many Faces of John Kerry" that elaborates on his political ambition mixed (paradoxically?) with his inability to take a stand on issues. The web page features a headshot of Kerry with the caption: "Sen. Kerry frequently has found himself staking out positions on all sides of controversial topics."

Even Garry Trudeau couldn't stand Kerry: "His personal arrogance was so notorious that a Doonesbury cartoon from the era, created by fellow Yale alumnus Garry Trudeau, pictured Kerry as a shameless self-promoter."

Splunge! It means ... it's a great-idea-but-possibly-not-and-I'm-not-being-indecisive!
Don't make me wouldn't like me when I'm angry

From "Worried Democrats See Daunting '04 Hurdles" in the NY Times:

Many prominent Democrats said that Mr. Bush might be vulnerable, given problems with the economy, and continued American fatalities in Iraq. But they said he could be unseated only by an aggressive, partisan challenge that builds on Democratic anger lingering from the 2000 election, and by a nominee who somehow managed to survive a complicated nominating fight that was pulling their party to the left.

Can the Democratic Party really be so adrift that it has to rely on "anger" from three years ago? How much longer can they flog that mythology?

Friday, August 29, 2003

Candy for everyone!

I took a break from bashing Senator AWOL today, but that didn't stop Steven Taylor at PoliBlog from looking deep into Kerry's new economic plan and wondering: "Now, how is any of this going to guarantee new jobs?" Short answer: it won't - and his desultory giveaways will make the federal deficit even deeper.

Political Wire noted that Kerry will be on Meet the Press this Sunday. If I know Tim Russert, he'll hammer on Kerry's economic plan and force the Senator into a corner. It should be good television.

"Of course, if Dean continues to lead Kerry in NH by 21 or more point, it will all be rather moot."

Right on.
Vladimir Lenin hocking homemade North Texas cheeseburgers

The caption reads:
America Won
Vladimir Lenin 1870-1924
Odessa Crane Factor 1992

Have a great weekend, everyone!
The Professor slams Bustamante and Dems

Glenn Reynolds isn't fooling around on this MeCha issue: "The question is, why are the Democrats going along? The answer, I guess, is that they care more about winning than they do about racism."
Doonesbury pulled from papers; but only for a week

The wrenchingly unfunny comic strip “Doonesbury” is taking a holiday from some newspapers next week because it will focus in part on masturbation. Trudeau used to be funny, edgy, and relevant. Now he’s preachy, formulaic, and mundane. Time for another hiatus, Garry.
No links in this post…move along

I didn’t watch but word on the street is that Madonna did something shocking at the MTV Video Music Awards. How predictable. And expected. And unshocking. Do you know what would have blown me away?: if Madonna came out in a smart evening dress and started singing “At Last” (think Etta James). Then, after she’s done, she would acknowledge the applause with a small head nod and walk off the stage.

That would be shocking.
"You can do whatever you have to to get to, uh, the air."

The transcripts to some of the conversations from 9/11 are now available; upon their release, the judge asked the media to use discretion. Not to be cynical, but I’m waiting for the Democratic Underground-types to start claiming that the release of the tapes is a ploy by the Bush Administration. Right Wing News will probably have something by this afternoon.

Update: Susanna reflects on "So Many Voices".
Voting with their feet

Daniel Henninger has a great piece in the Wall Street Journal today about how the “Blue” states (those that went for Gore) are experiencing negative migration while the “Red” states (for Bush) are growing.

According to a report out this month from the U.S. Census Bureau, an astounding 2,204,500 Californians threw in the towel from 1995 to 2000 and highballed it out of the "Golden State." The state's net migration figure for the period is minus-755,536, and would be worse if Latin American immigrants didn't still drop in for a look. This is the first time the net migration number for California has ever gone negative.
. . . . . . .
If you look down the Census Bureau's coming-and-going column nearby, the consistent breakdown of Democratic blue-state population losers and Republican red-state gainers is striking (there are exceptions; Oregon and Washington state gained, while Louisiana lost). This may leave the blue states bluer than ever, but not very pleasant places to live if their most industrious, motivated citizens are loading up one-way U-Hauls.

Of course, I’m an industrious citizen but my wife won’t let me move from blue Massachusetts; the nearest “red” state is New Hampshire and even that was a close contest.
It’s a fact: If Cruz Bustamante was white, he never get a pass for his association with a racist group.
The most dangerous country for terrorism? - Columbia

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Leonardo Da Vinci painting stolen from Scottish castle

"Madonna with the Yarnwinder"
More bad news for Dems: “The U.S. economy emerged from the doldrums in the second quarter of this year and grew at a solid 3.1 percent annual rate, a better performance than the government thought just a month ago.”
A day after Jane Galt writes that the Democrats have become the puppets of special interests, Fox News reports that…Democrats have become the puppets of special interests.
A concept that baffles liberals: “More prisoners, less crime”

George Will ridiculed the New York Times on this subject on “This Week” recently; the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby takes on The Christian Science Monitor today. Jacoby’s article are always a pleasure to read because he assiduously researches a subject and backs up his argument with copious statistics. (Paul Krugman, take note.)
Real Clear Politics makes a prediction: “Bottom line, barring some nugget from Arnold's past blowing up into a huge scandal, it is highly likely that Arnold Schwarzenegger will be the next Governor of California.”
Cell phone follies

For a number of personal and business-related reasons, I wanted to get a cell phone. So I researched phones and services, but it was near-impossible to get information on cell phones in Western Massachusetts (I live near Amherst, for perspective.) What I really wanted was a posting or a bulletin board by somebody saying “This phone worked great” or “The service from this company was awful” but Google searches turned up nothing but cellphone outlets. So this posting is a retelling of my cell phone tale, strictly for information purposes, and (probably) of little interest to anyone beyond Western Massachusetts.

To start out, what I really wanted was a phone strictly for emergencies and/or for business travel since I couldn’t see myself talking for more than an hour a month. I was lured to the siren call of the prepaid phones since I wouldn’t have to be tied down to an annual contract. The Virgin Mobile phones seemed like a good bet for a number of reasons: 1.) Virgin piggybacks its service on the Sprint PCS network, 2.) You only have to purchase $20 of service every 90 days and the minutes don’t expire and 3.) there were some neat features with both the phone and service. When they went on sale at Best Buy, I picked up a Kyocera “Super Model” phone and activated it over the Internet.

One small problem: this phone couldn’t pick up a signal worth a damn.

I don’t know if it was the phone or the Virgin service – I don’t care. I work in Connecticut and commute down I-91, driving past Bradley International Airport. This phone would barely pick up a signal at certain spots, never showing more than one-bar on the signal strength, even driving past the airport and through the middle of Hartford. The weekend after I bought it, we drove down to Pennsylvania and it picked up no signal while driving past Newark International Airport. It was utterly useless.

To their credit, when I returned the phone to Best Buy, they promptly refunded my money. (Side note: the woman in front of me in line was also returning a Virgin phone – draw your own conclusions.) I sent an E-mail to Virgin telling them I ditched the phone and to cancel my account. Then these damn limeys told me I had to call them and that I couldn’t just stop service with an E-mail. WTF? So I called, got put on hold for several minutes, and hung up.

Now, at no point did I ever give Virgin my credit card information (although they asked for it several times during the application process, for “automatic account replenishments”) so what were they going to do if I didn’t call? Nothing. After a couple of months they’ll note that I’ve never used or purchased any minutes and cancel the account anyway.

There were a couple other pre-paid plans, but they were just as restrictive and expensive as contracted plans. For example, T-Mobile has an “Easy Speak” phone that allows you to add minutes with cards, but the minutes have to be used within a certain time period. The Verizon network map didn’t seem to extend into Western Massachusetts – I guess you can’t “hear me now” there. The Tracfone service seemed shaky to me and I wasn’t crazy about their time plans either. The AT&T Wireless “Go” phone was laughable: you weren’t required to sign up for an annual contract, but you did have to sign up for a monthly contract. In other words, it’s not exactly “pay-as-you-go” and the AT&T Wireless coverage in W.Mass isn’t impressive.

So if I wanted quality, I needed a quality phone and a quality service. I was drawn to the Sprint system, but the whole Virgin experience spooked me away. Verizon and AT&T were out because of shaky coverage. This left T-Mobile and Cingular, so I started to scope out phones that worked on these services.

There are many many phones out there and typically they’ll work on a certain frequency band and transmission technology (e.g. CDMA, TDMA, and GSM). Right away, I was powerfully drawn to the multi-network (GAIT) phones because they operate on two or more different services for the widest coverage. Since Nokia phones have a good reputation, I settled on the Nokia 6340i that operates with both TDMA and GSM, serviced by Cingular.

As I mentioned, I live in Western Massachusetts but work in Connecticut, so during my lunch hour I headed over to the Staples to pick up my new cellphone. To be frank, I probably could have picked a better time than high noon the week that all the kids are going back to school. To compound problems, I got a guy who was a trainee flying solo because the regular guy called out. Long story short, this guy was trying hard but just couldn’t get it together; I took over his computer and started typing in my information because he just couldn’t do it while on the phone with the home office asking for instructions. I’m assigned a new cellphone number but it’s in the 860 area code and not my MA area code of 413. “Oh, it’s easy to change over. You just have to call Cingular customer service,” he assures me and hands me a business card with the service number.

This is stone-cold wrong. Warning: do NOT purchase a phone outside the area from where you live.

I tried to call Cingular, got put on hold for five minutes, and then got disconnected (by Cingular). I called back, got put on hold for ten minutes, explained my situation and was told to return the phone. That was their answer: return the phone in Connecticut and buy one in Massachusetts. Unreal.

Back to the CT Staples, where a different wireless salesman called the mysterious all-knowing home office to see if he could straighten things out. I’m absolutely convinced that these wireless companies assign 95% of their energy to signing up customers and 5% to helping them. After nearly an hour (on top of the hour the previous day) I’m told that all I have to do is find a Cingular store in Massachusetts and get a new “SIM” card and I’ll be able to get a 413 number. Fine.

I get off at Exit 15 on I-91 at the Holyoke Mall exit and head to the Cingular store on the corner. After waiting another 15 minutes, I explain my long story to the guy behind the counter.

Let me interject at this point to say: “Tom C. at Cingular outside the Holyoke Mall – you rock!”

Tom took pity on my tortured soul and straightened everything out, even though it still took another 20 minutes on the horn to Cingular. He complimented me on my phone choice and noted that the Nokia GAIT phones were back-ordered for 90,000 units. He apologized for my experience on behalf of Cingular and was thoroughly professional – he must have been in the 5% training class.

Anyway, the phone is great. It always gets a strong signal and I’ve been able to experiment with the text messaging and E-mail. I’m not sure how much I’ll use it but it’s comforting to know that if my family needs help, they’ll be able to reach me.

That’s my little public service announcement. Hopefully this anecdote will be instructive to anybody heading off to the Happy Valley this week to start a college education or anybody else thinking about getting a cell phone in Western Massachusetts. Good luck.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Dodd carries the melody

Since I've disabled comments, Ipse Dixit has graciously set up comments for those who want to offer up campaign songs for the Democratic Presidential nominees. There are some gems there - go see.
Ah-nold up again

Los Angeles Times: Bustamante up 35-22%
KABC: Schwarzenegger up 45-29%

And then there's this: "Democrats say they have aggressive advertisements "already in the can" and are just waiting for the right time to unleash them. They also are expecting to hold a press conference of Hollywood liberals to denounce the Schwarzenegger candidacy."

Somehow I have the feeling that Susan Sarandon and Ed Asner ganging up on Ah-nold will only backfire. But then who can figure out California...
The Taco Bell poll - rigged against Taco Bell stockholders!

Rand Simberg carries this story: "Democrats say Taco Bell poll is rigged." Of course it is: Ah-nold the beef taco is trouncing Gray Davis the chicken taco. [Chairman of the California Democratic Party Art] "Torres said beef tacos always outsell chicken tacos, which cost twice as much at the restaurant chain. In Sacramento, Torres said, Taco Bell sells beef tacos for 74 cents and chicken tacos for $1.50. "

Now if I were a Taco Bell stockholder, I would be asking why Ah-nold's vote wasn't tied to the more expensive chicken taco and super-unpopular Gray Davis wasn't associated with the cheap beef taco. That's a missed opportunity to make some money, right there.
"We know, we know, you were in 'Nam"

That's the title of this New Republic article on how Kerry has worn out his best angle:

It has become clear that the Kerry campaign will now relentlessly flog its major comparative advantage: Its candidate is a Vietnam veteran with a chest-full of medals. And if you miss this point the first time, the Kerry campaign will make sure that you catch it the second and the third.

By the way, on "General Likeability" TNR gives Kerry a grade of a "D". Hat tip to Duck Season.
Helpful data for all you Buddhists out there from Fox News: The Ten Commandments
New Hampshire: Dean crushes Senator AWOL in new Zogby poll

Oh happy day. Here's the press release from pollster John Zogby:

Dean Surges Into Wide Lead Over Kerry, 38%-17%, in Zogby Poll of Likely Democratic Primary Voters in New Hampshire; All Other Candidates in Single Digits; 64% Say Bush Re-Election Likely

Pollster John Zogby: “This is stunning. Dean’s surge seems to be at a heavy cost to Kerry, who led Dean in previous New Hampshire polling."

The Polipundit notes: Karl Rove must be very happy indeed. The thought of a Democratic presidential nominee who will finally be honest with voters about what Democrats want to do - raise taxes, torment businesses, appease terrorists and fill the judiciary with ultra-liberal extremists - has Republicans salivating.

And Terpsboy lists why he likes Howard Dean. What's not to like?

By the way, the Boston Globe article (see post below) says that Dr. Dean likes to enter a room to the remix of "A Little Less Conversation" by Elvis. Good choice!

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Democrats trying to find the right tune...

...for their presidential campaigns. The Boston Globe reports on how the Kerry people are strugging to find the right song to go with their candidate. The last two grafs of the article are fab:

The supporters have found reasons to shelve a few others. In nearly a week's worth of postings, they dissected the communist underpinnings of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," questioned whether Vietnam protest songs were hopelessly old, and pondered what the Republicans might say about the Edgar Winter Group's "Free Ride."

And when someone proposed John Mellencamp's "Pink Houses," someone else shot back that the lyrics are a no-go, because of these lines: "They told me, when I was younger, / `Boy, you gonna be president' / But just like everything else, those old crazy dreams / Just kinda came and went."

If I still had comments, I would love to hear suggestions (E-mails still open!). On Kerry's voting record, I would choose "Nowhere Man" while for his lack of clarity on issues, I might pick "Best Imitation of Myself" by Ben Folds Five - a choice that is sure to receive the Ben Domenech seal of approval.
Texas Democrats are shocked to learn they’re spending their OWN money

From "Standoff costs Democrats about $400,000"

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- In 30 days of self-imposed exile, 11 Texas Senate Democrats have found different ways of bearing the costs of their political fight.

Senate Democratic Caucus chairwoman Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, estimated the Democrats' stay at Albuquerque hotels will cost at least $100,000. That doesn't count legal expenses estimated at $300,000

Somebody's been into the mini-bar.
Can you hear the sustain?

Well, you would.
The sub-culture of Spinal Tap

Couple years back I was watching a baseball game on TV and there was this pitcher who had the habit of holding his glove closely to his face before throwing the ball (sorry, I'm not a big baseball fan, so I don't know who it was.) Somebody in the bleachers had put out a banner reading "Smell the Glove" and I laughed out loud as the announcers tried to figure out the cryptic message.

Now my buddy sends me the latest Nigel-ism, courtesy of Merriam-Webster. Check out their home page. Heh-heh.
Vinny at Insignificant Thoughts has a gift for nuanced rhetoric: "France is a worthless P.O.S. country" Using small words, he shows the frogs why Hamas is a terrorist organization.
Liberties – for lefties only

Here's Debra Saunders in the SF Gate:

HOW SPECIAL: Some of the very people who are attacking the Patriot Act on civil libertarian grounds are raising questions as to whether Attorney General John Ashcroft has the right to lobby in its favor.

Do they allow such thoughts in San Francisco? Isn't there a city ordinance against conservatives?
Moe Freedman joins the ranks of the Blogcritics with an excellent review of James McManus’s “Positively Fifth Street”.
Look, I know there was a war and now an occupation. I realize the economy has been slow and tax revenues have been flat. But DAMN.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Worst ever: "Gigli" jumps to the top of the list!

Or...the bottom, such as it is.
"He now reminds us, incessantly, that he served in Vietnam"

William Fielder writers for Accuracy in Media: "Is Kerry Up for the Presidency?" An excerpt:

On the bombing of the UN compound on August 19th, Kerry said... ‘...the administration...lacks an adequate plan to win the peace and protect the troops.’ In this report there was no indication that Kerry thought the attack on those giving humanitarian aid, feeding the hungry, finding shelter for the dispossessed, and supervising the clearing of minefields, was an inhuman outrage, which required decisive counteraction. Rather, he apparently saw it as merely another opportunity to blame America first, and criticize our leaders, rather than the terrorists.

I think Kerry is in a Dean-engineered panic as he watches his Presidential aspirations squashed by a Vermont upstart. But instead of broadening his message, he returns to his military service again and again. It's become so oft-repeated that one has to wonder if he ever really meant to protect his country, or whether is was all a carefully-planned scheme to burnish his resume.
Free Speech for me, but not for thee

This past weekend, Robert Novak offered up this “Outrage of the Week” on the Capital Gang:

NOVAK: In South Dakota, the Rushmore Policy Council is running newspaper ads against Senator Tom Daschle calling on the Senate Democratic leader to permit votes on President Bush's judicial nominations and contending that Tom Daschle won't let America drill for oil at home.

That's permissible criticism under the First Amendment, isn't it? Not in the opinion of Senator Max Baucus, the Finance Committee's top Democrat. He has written the IRS commissioner attacking the Rushmore Policy Council's tax-exempt status. Will the senator demand the same of labor unions? Don't be silly

But, according to this AP story, Max Baucus has a risible explanation: the Rushmore Policy Council is engaging in (*gasp!*) “overtly political activity.”

Puh-leeze. Where were Baucus and all the other Democrats (with the laudable exception of Bob Kerrey) when the tax-exempt NAACP was running ads during the 2000 Presidential campaign equating Bush with hate crimes in Texas? That kind of invidious speech is fine for the Democrats; it’s only the speech directed against them that should be banned.
Least surprising headline this morning: “France: No proof Hamas and Islamic Jihad are terror groups
The High Cost of Hillary

From today's New York Post Page Six:

August 25, 2003 -- HILLARY Clinton's memoir "Living History" earned the junior Senator an $8 million advance, but some say it cost 75 employees at Simon & Schuster their jobs. Just weeks after S&S published Clinton's autobio, the publisher laid off 75 employees. A company rep says "there's no connection" between Clinton's fat payday and the mass layoffs, but the New York Press begs to differ. The paper points out that even if Clinton manages to sell 1.5 million copies - 1.2 million have been sold since June 9 and sales are slipping rapidly - the publisher can't possibly make back the money it lavished on her. Of course, S&S can dole out whatever obscene sums it wants, but, the paper notes, it "should be known that the result of the overpayment . . . is that 75 men and women no longer have jobs."

It might be unfair to blame the job losses at S&S on Hillary, but isn't it an axiom of liberal thought that if somebody gets rich, somebody else must be made poor?

Sunday, August 24, 2003

David Brinkley - even in his current state - would be better

The Drudge Report has a teaser on the main page reading: "ABC'S REVAMPING OF 'THIS WEEK' MAY START WITH A NAME CHANGE: One leading contender -- 'Sunday With Stephanopoulos'..."

Ugh. I caught "This Week" today, against my better judgment. The show is unwatchable: Stephanopoulos is a pretty-boy lightweight and the only saving grace is George Will (who, incidentally, had a vicious piece on European vacations today.) ABC should ditch the boy-wonder and bring on Charlie Gibson or John Stossel or anybody else.
The South Carolina source

Jeff Quinton of Backcountry Conservative passed on some tidbits on John Kerry. He's sure to be on the scene when Kerry stages his photo-op in front of the Yorktown. Check out Jeff's site.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Democrats eject one of their own to weaken campaign finance reform

The New Republic has a great article by Peter Beinart called "Compound Interest" about FEC commissioner Scott Thomas. Thomas, a Democrat who has served in the FEC since 1986, wants to enforce campaign finance reforms passed under McCain-Feingold. So the Democrats fired him:

Scott Thomas went to work for the FEC soon after it was founded in the wake of Watergate, and he has served as one of its commissioners since 1986. Appointed by President Reagan, then reappointed by Presidents Bush and Clinton, he has, by any honest measure, done an outstanding job. As the American Enterprise Institute's Norman Ornstein wrote in Roll Call last month, "No one knows the law and the history of campaign finance better than Scott Thomas. No one better understands the fiduciary responsibility of a member of an independent regulatory commission."

Specifically, while many of his fellow commissioners have brazenly tried to undermine the nation's campaign finance laws, Thomas has actually tried to enforce them. The discrepancy has been particularly stark throughout the last year, as the FEC--in a series of rulings that John McCain has called "disgraceful" and Thomas has called "beyond silly"--has created gaping loopholes in the newly enacted McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, patently contradicting the intent of its framers.

You might think all this would make Thomas a hero among congressional Democrats, who overwhelmingly voted for McCain-Feingold last year. You would be wrong. This year, Thomas came up for renomination. By tradition, each party appoints three of the commission's six members, so, as a Democrat, Thomas's fate lay in the hands of Tom Daschle and Nancy Pelosi. And last month they sent him packing. Rather than renominate Thomas, Daschle and Pelosi selected Robert Lenhard, associate general counsel of AFSCME, in his place.

The article concludes on a happy note (for me) by stating "it's 1984 all over again". Heh-heh, wasn't that the year that Mondale won Minnesota?

Friday, August 22, 2003

Schoolhouse Rock

My kids rented a "Schoolhouse Rock" video from the library the other day and I sat down to watch with them. It's the oddest thing when, quite involuntarily, the lyrics for a song you haven't heard in twenty years start spilling out of your mouth. Ah, Conjunction Junction, what IS your function?

Anyway, this site has all the lyrics to Grammar, Multiplication, History, and Science Rock, so you can re-live a little piece of your youth. Enjoy!
You fooled 'em all, chief!

From the Chicago Tribune:

MEDFORD, Ore. — Old Man Howard spent decades chasing children off his farm, shotgun in hand, watching little legs spin like windmills into the distance.

Generations considered him the meanest man in Jackson County. But to others, Wesley Howard was simply an oddity: a loner who never married, who never left Oregon and who lived his whole life in the same place he was born, a century-old farmhouse without phones or toilets. Kids saw it as a haunted house; passersby photographed it as an artifact.

In March, at age 87, he died of a stroke, enigmatic and inexplicable to the end. Howard, it turned out, was rich. Few knew. He bequeathed his entire estate, worth more than $11 million, to create a youth sports park on his 68-acre farm.

The surprise gift has cast Howard in a whole new light, causing residents to question whether they ever knew the real Wesley Howard

$11 mil - what a story - read it all.
Canada Arrests 19 in Case with Sept 11 Parallels

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian police arrested 19 men last week in a case that, according to court documents obtained by a newspaper, has eerie parallels to the preparations for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Watch this story.
A tiny helping of blogger fame

Viking Pundit got a mention in the local Western Massachusetts paper this past week: effect on traffic unknown. Still, it's cool.
It's the weekend - stop working and go home

From the Economist:

Since 1990 average working hours have dropped sharply in Japan and in most European countries, but have scarcely fallen in America. The gap in work effort is now the single biggest reason why GDP per head is lower in the European Union than in the United States. By contrast, lower productivity is the main reason why other OECD countries are less prosperous than America.
Krugman: Intellectual slob

Paul Krugman is the Oscar Madison of exposition. As the bloggers circle to attack, you’d think he’d tighten up his arguments and back them up with hard statistics. Last week, I characterized his Friday column as “slovenly prose” – this week doesn’t show much improvement. Take this paragraph from today’s column, with emphasis added:

One look at the numbers tells you that his story is fiction. Since the mid-1990's California has added jobs considerably faster than the nation as a whole. And while the state has been hit hard by the technology slump, it has done no worse than other parts of the country. A recent study found that California's tech sector had actually weathered the slump better than its counterpart in Texas. Meanwhile, California isn't a high-tax state: through the 1990's, state and local taxes as a share of personal income more or less matched the national average, and with the recent plunge in revenue they're now probably below average. What is true is that California's taxes are highly inequitable: thanks to Proposition 13, some people pay ridiculously low property taxes.

There you go: a “recent study,” a specious comparison to another state, an indefinite qualifier, and “probably” – who knows? Not me! says the Professor. It looks like Robert Musil is first today, debunking Krugman without mercy. For extra credit, read this great review of California’s economic problems by Alan Reynolds: the California state income tax is 9.3%, the sales tax is around 8% and the corporate tax is 8.8%. Ouch.
Pete DuPont in the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal surveys the coming crisis in Social Security: "Have you ever fallen off a cliff? If you are younger than 40, you are about to. Social Security is fast approaching a financial precipice that will plunge benefits and smash retirement plans for millions of Americans."
This is a quagmire, General McClellan!

Here’s my slightly modified version of the opening of E. J. Dionne’s “Behind the Failure” in today’s Washington Post:

Can we now please admit that the Lincoln administration's policies in the South are a terrible failure?

The federal retreat at the Battle of Bull Run in Manassas this week also blew up the pretensions of an arrogant strategy that assumed the United States could do nation-rebuilding on the cheap. It was an approach that assumed we needed little support from traditional allies, only a limited number of troops and relatively modest expenditures to rebuild a shattered country.

Perhaps even more disturbing than the administration's indifference to the truth or falsity of the various claims it made before the war is the fact that it seemed to believe its own propaganda. President Lincoln and Vice President Hamlin really thought that if they wished it, it would come -- "it" in this case being not only a quick victory in the war but also a rapid rallying of the South to the new American standard afterward

Dionne goes well beyond the limits of reasoned discourse and over the cliff into shrill partisan rancor. His thesis is that the Bush administration horribly miscalculated how Americans would be received in Iraq after the invasion, as evidenced by the terrorist truck bombing this past week. To Dionne, this single, desperate act spells failure in Iraq. Pay no mind to the Marine who sent this report to the Wall Street Journal:

The "Arab Street" I've meet in Iraq loves--that's not too strong of a word--America and is deeply grateful for our presence. Far from resenting the American military, most Iraqis seem to fear that we will leave too soon and that in our absence the Baath Party tyranny will resume. This sentiment is readily apparent whenever we venture into the city. We don't make it far outside of our camp before throngs of happy, smiling children greet us.

But at least Dionne has an answer to the “failure”: more troops. How additional soldiers would have prevented the suicide bombing at U.N. headquarters or any of the other last gasp attacks by the Islamofascists is beyond my ken. Maybe E.J. can explain how a Humvee becomes impervious to an RPG attack when it has four Americans riding along instead of two.

There is no “failure” in Iraq – just the increasingly desperate actions of a small few who wish to derail American progress at any cost. E.J. Dionne shouldn’t, however tangentially, define their terrorism as a “success.” The Bush administration would do well to ignore the writings of this modern-day Horace Greeley.
Senator AWOL and the company he keeps

From today’s New York Post Page Six:

THE 2004 Democratic wannabes are going all-out to court gays. So it raised eyebrows that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) had his Columbia, S.C., headquarters opened yesterday by a candidate who was accused of gay-bashing last year. While running for U.S. Senate (he lost), Alex Sanders called Rudy Giuliani "an ultraliberal" because "he supports gay rights, he supports banning all handguns, he supports abortion. His wife kicked him out, and he moved in with two gay men and a Shih Tzu. Is that South Carolina values? I don't think so." Kerry's campaign spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said the remark "clearly was wrong." An unrepentant Sanders told The Post's Deborah Orin that he's pro-gay rights and his crack at Rudy was legit, since it came in response to a charge that Sanders, who was backed by Barbra Streisand, was "ultraliberal."

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Wouldn't it just be easier to vote Yes once?

Another reason to dump Davis: he doesn't understand the concept of a double negative. The headline from California is "Davis: Vote No Twice"
California recall update and prediction

Political Wire has a post titled “Large Turnout Expected for Recall” noting “89 percent of Californians say they are following the recall closely, while 77 percent say they intend to vote in the Oct. 7 election.”

Meanwhile, Real Clear Politics has updated their California Recall page with the latest poll showing Ah-nold with a 5-point lead over Lt. Governor Cruz “Gray Davis? Never heard of him” Bustamante. RCP also averages the current polls and estimates 58% of Californians for the recall and 37% opposing.

As a final stat to mull over, take note that Gray Davis continues to wallow with a 72% disapproval rating. Based solely on the motivation factor, I’m predicting that whatever the recall poll says is low by at least 5% - therefore, recall wins with 63% of the vote – indicating that nearly two out of three voters (including some Democrats) want Davis gone. I’m also giving Ah-nold the “Jesse Ventura motivated vote” and an easy win with, oh, 25% of the total vote.

Keep an eye on the highly accurate Taco Bell poll.
Dean Esmay has an awesome photo of the U.S. during the blackout. There’s a huge gash of darkness around Lake Erie.

Update: Well, everyone now says it's Photoshop. That Photoshop is more trouble than that "Not Me" in The Family Circus.
Paul Krugman deeply saddened: “Jobless Claims drop to lowest level since February
One commenter wrote: "This is the funniest thing I've ever read involving a bed, a girlfriend, and string." I find it hard to disagree (via Silent Running).
What liberal media? Nice catch from Dodd.
Follow up: Hei Lun at Duck Season finds a wacky quote on Ben Domenech's blog about the DNC web site hijacking: “You have to ask to post somebody's logos and link to somebody's site," said Boston 2004 executive director Julie Burns.

(This post includes unapproved links to Duck Season and The Ben File – legal action is pending)
A whiff of panic in the Kerry camp

New Hampshire is the meat in the Massachusetts-Vermont sandwich and is critical to the presidential aspirations of John Kerry and Howard Dean. But as Senator AWOL’s polls drop in both Iowa and the Granite State, he’s looking Dixie-way to salvage his campaign. From the Boston Globe today: “Kerry to head South for announcement”:

To political junkies, Kerry's revised itinerary speaks volumes. With all due respect for the usual caveat about polls being snapshots at a moment in time, current polling snapshots do not paint a breezy political picture for the Kerry presidential campaign in Iowa or New Hampshire. The first Iowa poll conducted by the Des Moines Register and published Aug. 3 showed former Vermont governor Howard Dean leading with 23 percent. Dean was followed by Richard Gephardt with 21 percent and Kerry with 14.

Dean also pulled ahead of Kerry in New Hampshire for the first time in a monthly poll ranking the Democratic candidates. Dean received 28 percent in the August survey conducted by the American Research Groups Inc. of Manchester, N.H., compared with 21 percent for Kerry. A similar poll in July showed Kerry leading Dean 25 percent to 19. News of the New Hampshire poll and the Kerry announcement itinerary inspired the Massachusetts GOP to send out a press release headlined, "Kerry heads South -- in polls and for his official campaign announcement

Senator AWOL is going to have to eat a lot of corn dogs if he thinks his Boston pompadour is going to sway the voters in the birthplace of the Civil War. Suggested question for a South Carolina press conference: "Can you name five NASCAR drivers?"
I thought he was dead! Fox News reports: "Chemical Ali" has been captured

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

God doubles up on 11, draws a deuce

A bolt of lightning hits east of the Stratosphere Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, August 19, 2003. A powerful thunderstorm dumped three inches of rain in about 90 minutes in the northwest section of the city causing major flooding and stranding many motorists.
Hosed again

Blogging has slowed to a near-halt as I'm forced to use my AOL dial-up to update because the multiple virus attack has shut down my daytime connection. Well, I'll try my best tonight.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

COTV - The latest Carnival of the Vanities is up and running at Outside the Beltway. Nice football graphics!
And yet, signs of hope

Little Green Footballs details how some Iraqis react to Americans. The hyperlink says it all: "Bush Good, Saddam Bad!" There's even a dig at the French.
The Religion of Peace strikes again

I think President Bush hits all the right notes with his comments on the cowardly truck bombing in Iraq today. Meanwhile, Brian Chapin has some stronger words for Mahmoud Abbas and others from the religion of peace on the Israeli bombing.
Frozen out

My Internet connection was down today so I was totally blocked from updating. So I did the next best thing and updated my Smarter Harper's page. But it's pretty half-assed this month; I'll get back into the swing next month.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Political Hijinks? Somebody’s playing games with the Dems

Say you’re looking for some info on the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston next year. You do a Google search on “Boston” + “Democrats” + “2004” and the first choice is this site.

Curious….it looks official. But there’s a huge Bush/Cheney banner in the center of the screen! Further down in very fine print is this: “This website is in no way endorsed by or affiliated with the Democratic party, Democratic National Convention or it's Committees.”

Keep your eye on this one! I smell a lawsuit. Hahahahahaha!!!

Update: "Rogue Web Site Claims Democratic Convention Status"

BOSTON -- Democratic convention officials are trying to shutdown a rogue Web site that is posting fake sponsors, soliciting ads and luring would-be volunteers in cyberspace.

The site -- -- claims to be the Official Guide for the Democratic National Convention 2004 in Boston. However both the Democratic National Committee and the Boston 2004 host committee said there is nothing official about the Web site

Tee hee
Why we need standardized tests

Through Joanne Jacobs comes this posting by Kimberly Swygert of Number 2 Pencil about a New Orleans high school valedictorian who failed to pass that state’s Graduate Exit Exam. Although Bridget Green passed the English portion of the test, she bombed on the math portion, failing to meet the requirement after five attempts. On the standardized ACT test, Valedictorian Green’s score was in the first percentile – that is, 99% of all test-takers performed better.

Critics of standardized tests (like the MCAS here in Massachusetts) often complain that it forces teachers to “teach to the test.” Well, the alternative of setting no objective standards leads to students that can’t read or add. Which is more intolerable?
Headlines that make me smile: "Green Party Happy to 'Spoil' Democratic Presidential Run in 2004"
The continuing humor the NY Times Corrections page: “Some maps in the grouping mislabeled the state southeast of Ohio. It is West Virginia, not Maryland.”
Democrats love misery

As I’ve noted many times before, the Democrats have set themselves up such that the only way they can succeed is for America to fail. The depth of their desperation was on full display this past weekend as prominent Dems took to the airwaves to Blame Bush for the Blackout:

One of the first was New Mexico Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, a former energy secretary in the Clinton administration, who quickly appeared on at least two cable news networks wringing his hands over what he sees as an antiquated power-delivery system.
No one questioned Richardson as to why he didn't make the system better when he was in charge of the nation's energy policy, but he had plenty of suggestions as to what the Bush administration should do.

And of course, no inconvenience of modern life should pass without a trite metaphor by Senator AWOL:

"It underscores a blackout in this administration on energy policies," said Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Bravo, Senator. That speechwriting staff of yours deserves a raise.
California Recall

Real Clear Politics has set up a special CA recall page with the latest news and polls. According to the RCP composite poll, Ah-nold should beat Bustamante by 9%. A great source for all your recall info.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Weekend's here! Let's go home

See you Monday
2004 is “Year of the Kickback” in Santa Fe

Via Terpsboy, I found this article from an owner of a steakhouse chain in Santa Fe, where the minimum wage is going up to $8.50 in 2004 and $10.50 in 2008. Ed Tinsley won’t open another Santa Fe steakhouse and other businesses are looking to escape.

Watch this story: I guarantee there will be a torrent of stories next year about 1.) small businesses fleeing Santa Fe and 2.) assorted schemes by employers to recoup payroll expenses (e.g. charging for uniforms, docking pay for long lunches, etc.) Nobody is going to pay pizza delivery boys $8.50/hr and expect customers to cough up $25 for a large with pepperoni.
Dr. Weevil finally found a job teaching Latin. Congrats, Dr. W!
Uh-oh. Soon after I posted my Krugman screed, I noticed “” on my Sitemeter. Comrade Professor – is that you?
Krugman and the Dismal Science: You gotta accentuate the negative

There’s no doubt in my mind that Paul Krugman believes that the articles he provides to the NY Times constitutes “work.” In some foppish and fanciful rationalization, he must stare at his paycheck and decide he performed “labor.” Nobody gets a nice haircut from Paul or takes a Krugman-made product home from the market. He’s selling his thoughts and opinions – he pronounces, the NY Times pays. Nice work if you can get it.

And I think that’s what makes him maddening to bloggers. There are so many great web logs, updated daily with a week’s worth of Krugman’s contribution, most with far better research and quality. No self-respecting blogger would make a statement without a link to back it up. Not so for the Professor, who gets away with slovenly prose like this:

So is a real, unambiguous recovery just around the corner? Recent economic reports have had a "good news"-"bad news" feel to them. Businesses are starting to buy some equipment; that's good. But they seem to be engaging in replacement investment, not capacity expansion; that's bad. Consumers are spending; that's good. But rising interest rates seem to have ended the refinancing boom that put cash in consumers' pockets; that's bad. And so on. [Emphasis added]

And so on” – yadda yadda yadda – you know what I mean. Everything seems better, but not really, because there’s bad news too.

Well, no shit, Sherlock. There’s always two sides to economic data. To wit:

- The dollar is trading weaker with foreign currency – that’s bad. But a weaker dollar helps to narrow the trade deficit – that’s good. (Reuters: “June US Trade data belatedly reflect weaker dollar”)

- Interest rates are low – that’s good if you’re taking a loan. Sucks if you’re trying to earn interest income on a savings account.

- Productivity shot up last quarter – that’s good. But when workers are more productive, companies don’t need to hire as many people – that’s bad. (USA Today: “Companies do more with less”)

Strange how Krugman failed to mention the productivity jump since it’s a critical component of his thesis that joblessness is intolerable (take note that the Comrade Professor wants nothing less than “full employment!”) But then the productivity data is “good” news that must be ignored. Next time PK, to borrow a phrase: do your homework.
Lileks on non-rioting New Yorkers

The Fox news guy was outside Penn Station, where thousands of people were - brace yourself - patiently waiting for electricity to return. He seemed a little annoyed that there wasn’t a brawl or a riot. I’m sure no one was happy to be standing there in the dead black dark, but what could you do? Stick someone up, take his credit cards and fashion them into a small portable fan? Stab someone in the foot, and hop he hops around and creates a small breeze? Set yourself on fire to take your mind off the hunger? He corralled a couple of New Yorkers off the sidewalk, wisely ignoring the three shiny-faced moth-balls behind him who were drawn to the camera light. Two women, one of a certain age, the other in her thirties. The first woman was a leathery old bird with a big smile and a shade of lipstick no one’s seen since Gimbels had a close-out in the late 40s. She took it all in stride. “It’s an adventure,” she smiled, shrugging. And then she added: “And who needs it.”

I saw the same segment on Fox and that woman’s reaction was priceless: she had this huge “I’m-gonna-be-on-TV!” grin on her face. You go girl!
“Kerry Lied” – wasn’t that a song by Steely Dan?

Al Gore couldn’t seem to shake the impression that he lies (or at least exaggerates extravagantly) during the 2000 campaign. As Polipundit catches another John Kerry lie this morning, the parallels are beginning to coalesce. It was such an obvious lie, by the way, because Kerry claimed he voted on something.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

The Great Northeast Blackout of 1965 (with good linkage)
California recall update

DNC chair Terry Mcauliffe in July: "I want the folks here in California to know that we are not going to have another Democrat on the ballot. I think that is the single biggest message I can give today," DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe said at a downtown news conference Thursday.

And today’s San Francisco Gate: “The field includes 50 Democrats, 42 Republicans and 32 independents, as well as members of small parties such as the Greens and Libertarians.”
Damian Penny links Kathy Shaidle who links Media Life Magazine who sez: "Fox’s “Futurama” had the highest ultra-liberal index for any broadcast network program."

But...but...I love Futurama!
Matthew Hoy thinks (the increasingly Krugmanesque) Bob Herbert ought to lay blame for the mess in California on California. But that kind of straightforward logic will never get you a gig at the NYT, Matt.
Razor on FauxPolitik explains the etiquette (such as it is) of ordering a Philly cheese steak.
Kerry’s bold stance on Social Security: “We should…something.”

If you read between the lines of this Boston Globe article, you can smell the flop sweat of Senator AWOL as he’s confronted by a question on Social Security. Some fool Iowan asked him how he would fix the system that is destined for insolvency once the baby boomers retire. His answer:

1.) Stop paying Social Security to “rich” people
2.) Increase the income cap that is taxable from the current maximum of $86,000

What income level should we raise the cut-off so that Social Security can be saved?

"Maybe people ought to pay up to $100,000 or $120,000, I don't know," the senator said.

O principled leadership, thy name is Kerry!

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Nader a la mode

The Cracker Barrel Philosopher found the sought-after picture of Ralph Nader covered in pie. The pie-thrower got away; Al Gore's whereabouts at the time are unknown.
Western Massachusetts loves taxes and the Quote of the Day

The Boston Globe published an article today titled about attitudes towards taxation in Massachusetts. According to a study, Bay Staters in southeastern Mass consistently reject tax hikes while: "The protax towns are all clustered in the Western part of the state," said John Barrett, director of research at the Beacon Hill Institute.

Any compelling reason why Western Mass embraces higher taxation?

Representative Ellen Story, an Amherst Democrat, said that people in her community believe that taxes help pay for necessary government services. "I think it shows that Amherst and the other towns surrounding Amherst all understand that taxes are the price you pay for a civilized society," she said. "Amherst does have three institutions of higher learning, two colleges, and one university. Often, when there are more educated people, they do understand that taxes are worth paying."

Sweet tap-dancing Moses! She didn’t really say that, did she? So that’s why all us gun-totin’, NASCAR-lovin’, Fox-watchin’ types don’t like taxes – we’re dumb!

It must give Ms. Story a warm feeling to fork over her earnings, secure in the knowledge that she can see the big picture. Al Gore intimated the same liberal superciliousness, the same moral perceptiveness, when he said the only reason Americans support conservative policies is because they’ve been hypnotized by a GOP propaganda machine. And recently George Will dedicated a column effectively lampooning the theory put forward by some professors that conservatism is a mental disease. The liberal cause is rooted in the mythology of socialism that automatically imbues true believers with moral superiority. It is inconceivable to them that others might think differently so, as the case with the psych professors, it can’t be that conservatives have actual “reasons” for their ideology, it’s because they suffer from fascist tendencies brought on by a short circuit in the brain.

One final word on Amherst. I live right next to Amherst and, for nine months out of the year, the local economy is sustained by the influx of thousands of students to the Five-College system (Amherst, Hampshire, University of Massachusetts, Mt. Holyoke (Holyoke) and Smith (Northampton). The vast majority of these students don’t have to worry about the crush of taxes; even if they’re working, they’re in the lowest bracket. So there’s a whole class of students largely unburdened by taxes under the tutelage of professors who, in the rarefied fantasy world of the Happy Valley, spend their spare time organizing anti-war rallies and protesting the American flag. But, in their twisted world, conservatives are the ones who need to understand.
Looking for something?

Outside the Beltway is pulling in hits from people looking for pictures of Britney Spears, and specifically the pics of her from the British edition of Elle magazine.

Oh, sure, you’ll get traffic from search engines if you seem like a destination for Britney or Pamela Anderson photos, but blogging shouldn’t be about pumping up your traffic stats. That kind of naked opportunism, why it’s as unseemly as Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher dating (I can’t believe he dumped Brittany Murphy!)
Swiss cheese does NOT go on a Philly cheesesteak

How did I miss this John Kerry story? Zogby Blog reports on the “Sandwich Scandal” in Philadelphia – Senator AWOL is already writing off Pennsylvania.

Senator Kerry, would you like some mayonnaise for your pastrami sandwich?
Spin Control

Jane Galt revisits the delicious conundrum of well-to-do left-wingers on Martha’s Vineyard trying to block an offshore wind farm:

Rich liberals on Nantucket and environs are arguing pretty much openly that while of course they are in favor of renewable energy in theory, they are only in favor of it in practice when it does not interfere in any way with the comforts (and property values) of rich liberals. Presumably the right sort of wind farms are located in midwestern farmland, where the only people who will be bothered are people who don't matter.

In fact, as I’ve noted here, that’s precisely the argument made by the likes of Walter Cronkite: that the wind turbines should be moved to “inland New England.” Because no sacrifice is too great for Walter Cronkite unspoiled dockside view.
Pop Quiz: Finish this sentence from Robert Samuelson’s article “Smug Journalism”: “No place in American journalism is so smug and superior as the ___ ____ _____.”
Viking Pundit: Ahead of the curve!

I observed the sniping on John Kerry's blog Monday, and today the Boston Herald reports: "Dean fans flog blog, rip Kerry to threads" - "The testy rivalry between presidential hopefuls John F. Kerry and Howard Dean has spilled over to Kerry's new campaign Web log, which has been swamped with mocking messages from Dean backers."
Cue the Ted-sicle jokes

From Fox News: "NEW YORK — Ted Williams was decapitated by surgeons at the cryonics company where his body is suspended in liquid nitrogen, and several samples of his DNA are missing, Sports Illustrated reported."

[Austin and Vanessa see a man decapitated.]
Austin Powers: Not the time to lose one's head.
Vanessa Kensington: No.
Austin Powers: That's not the way to get ahead in life.
Vanessa Kensington: No.
Austin Powers: It's a shame he wasn't more headstrong.
Vanessa Kensington: Hmm.
Austin Powers: He'll never be the head of a major corporation.
Vanessa Kensington: Okay, that'll do.
Austin Powers: Okay.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Nader takes a pie in the face

There's nothing on the Yahoo Photo directory, but please tell me someone has a picture! Here's the blurb from Reuters/WashPost:

Nader was speaking at an event to endorse fellow Green Peter Camejo for California governor when a man ran into the room where he was speaking, forced a pie in his face, and made a quick exit.

He's on the loose!
My Blogcritics review of "The War Against Boys" by Christina Hoff Sommers - check it out (esp. if you have boys).
Honeymoon in Egypt

I try to avoid blogging on personal issues since I consider it a lazy form of writing. But Steve Denbeste’s essay on the decline of the French tourism industry reminded me of my last trip overseas: my honeymoon in Egypt.

The wife wanted to go on safari in Africa, but I steadfastly refused to go sub-Saharan. The compromise was a cruise down the Nile river with stops in Luxor, Edfu, the Valley of the Kings, Memphis, and of course the Pyramids. The last standing wonder of the world truly is beyond comprehension or description. But my standard response whenever I’m asked about Egypt is: “I’m glad I went, but I’ll never go back again.”

The begging is relentless.

It’s not just street urchins, one of which ran behind our carriage wailing in a foreign tongue, hands outstretched. It also took the form of gentle gouging by bellhops, taxi drivers, bartenders and storeowners. It was as if I had “American ATM” tattooed across my forehead. Egypt has a special “Tourism Police” whose sole purpose is to protect tourists and the hard cash they bring to the country. (Egypt’s tourist trade – the top revenue generator for the country – topped $4 billion in 1999) The final straw was when one of these “policemen” took me aside, allegedly to show me some Sphinx statues, and then rubbed thumb to forefinger in the international symbol for “can I have a dollar?” Our final day before flying back, we hired a taxi driver to take us to the Pyramids one last time. We negotiated a price at the hotel only to find it had inflated somewhere along the way. I nearly punched him. There were other incidents I won’t mention here.

On top of this, October 1992 saw the first incident of terrorism aimed at tourists, occurring in the middle of our trip (there would be more to come). The crew of our tiny cruise ship huddled around the radio trying to figure out how this would affect their business. Meanwhile, I tried to get an English language news broadcast on my shortwave. Tourism revenue started to slide soon afterward and Egypt would lose an estimated $1 billion in tourism revenue in 1997 after terrorists massacred 58 tourists at Luxor. And as this October 2001 New York Times article indicates, Western tourism has evaporated after 9/11:

Tour operators there said they could not remember seeing a single American at the famous monuments since the attacks, with cancellations running between 70 and 80 percent for the fall. Visitors from Scandinavia, Britain, Japan and Australia have also all but disappeared.

And it’s not just Egypt:

Egypt is not alone in this. Saudi Arabia's nascent tour industry, for example, was expecting 35 to 40 groups from the United States and Europe to visit the southern Asir region between September and January. All of them canceled.

Well boo-hoo for Egypt, France and Saudi Arabia. I think American tourists are going to be much less tolerant of the tight-smiled mendacity of people who are silently contemptuous of (or hostile to) the United States. As for me, the last big vacation I took was at Walt Disney World. Yes, it was expensive, but I consoled myself with the thought that at least all my money was staying in America.
Squeeze the Saudis

Here's the concluding graf from "Shifting Sands" in the Economist:

As America increasingly takes the war on terror to Saudi soil, Saudi Arabia’s rulers face tough choices. They will want to preserve their alliance with America, which is the biggest buyer of Saudi oil and has traditionally protected the country from threatening neighbours, such as Iran and Iraq. There are concerns in the royal family that with America now invested in Iraq, putting down military bases and getting Iraq’s oil pumping, Saudi Arabia could lose out. (Indeed, America announced in May that it would pull its 5,000 troops out of Saudi, though it said this was because they were no longer needed to patrol the no-fly zone in Iraq, and denied that it was downgrading its relationship with Saudi Arabia.) But appealing too much to America brings its own internal perils. Ordinary Saudis are no fans of the superpower, owing to its support of Israel, its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and its perceived prejudice against Muslims. All of which leaves Saudi Arabia's rulers between a rock and a hard place. The released Britons can only be thankful that they are no longer there with them.

Um...another bodyguard

From Fox News: "RAMADI, Iraq — American forces on Tuesday bagged one of Saddam Hussein's former bodyguards and an Iraqi general during a series of raids carried out in the deposed leader's hometown of Tikrit."

I'm getting the feeling that capturing Saddam's bodyguards is like finding flygirls from J.Lo's entourage - there are hundreds of them.
Wesley Clark considers running scrambles for new URL

With a hat tip to Political Wire, here’s the lead on a Boston Globe article: “Clark seen planning Democratic nomination bid

WASHINGTON -- In the strongest signal yet that retired US Army General Wesley K. Clark, the former NATO commander, is planning to join the Democratic presidential race, Clark told volunteers last week to step up their efforts and prepare for an announcement on Labor Day.

The introduction of Clark into the Dem race will hurt John Kerry the most since it robs him of his “only candidate to serve in the military” edge. (Kerry served in Vietnam). I doubt Clark will swing any support from the Dean camp.
People who write letters to the New York Times

Before I upset my stomach by reading Paul Krugman's article, here's a letter to the editor:

To the Editor:
Re "How the 'Radicals' Can Save the Democrats," by Sam Tanenhaus (Op-Ed, Aug. 11):
Many of us haven't gotten over the theft of the White House in 2000. The Democrats in office thought that they could just go along with the war in Iraq and make it go away. Now we are spending almost $4 billion a month there that could be spent here on roads, schools, technology, local police and, most important, protecting our borders and coasts.
I knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction, and now the Democratic politicians act like foolish schoolchildren, claiming that they were tricked. They have allowed President Bush to saddle our future generations with astronomical debt.
Is it any wonder we are enamored of Howard Dean, a fresh face in the crowd?
Bridgewater, N.J., Aug. 11, 2003

Oh Kathy, Kathy, Kathy. Why didn't you tell us there were no weapons of mass destruction?

Monday, August 11, 2003

Some things never change

If you enjoyed Steven Denbeste's account on the decline of the French tourism industry, then you'll love this book review in the Washington Post on Vichy France. It's from a book titled "Verdict on Vichy: Power and Prejudice in the Vichy French Regime" - here's a key quote from the review:

If the French people had recognized Vichy legality for four years, and if the active Resistance had constituted a courageous but barely perceptible fraction of French society, then Free France had a weak claim on power in 1944 -- as Franklin Roosevelt had always argued. Furthermore, contrary to de Gaulle's assertion that France had liberated itself largely through its own efforts, the Allies had received only a feeble assist from an ultimately grateful but otherwise unanimously passive French population. If France had not participated fully in its own liberation, how then could it claim a leadership role in the postwar world?

They can't, not then or now.
Dead Man Walking

According to USA Today, 64% of registered California voters and 69% of probable voters will elect to kick Gray Davis out of office. Since I'm assuming the "Dump Davis" crowd consists of highly motivated voters, I would tack another 5% onto those numbers.
An important essay: Stephen Schwartz writes on "The Dysfunctional House of Saud" in the Weekly Standard.
Chuckle of the Day: John Kerry’s web site set up a blog to track Senator AWOL as he campaigns through Iowa and New Hampshire. The comments section for each blog entry seem to be entirely populated by Howard Dean supporters and Kerry staffers telling the Dean people to shut up.
I kept getting service errors last week, but I'm happy to report that American Realpolitik is back in action with some great editorial cartoons this morning.
"It turned out to be a really phony organization"

California attorney and talk show host Leo Terrell has done volunteer legal work for the NAACP for 13 years. But he supports California Judge Carolyn Kuhl who has been nominated by President Bush to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It turns out the civil rights organization isn’t tolerant…of other viewpoints:

"In a nutshell, I got a call from legal counsel in Washington, basically saying I am not an NAACP attorney. I said I have been volunteering my time for 13 years," said Terrell. "They said that the NAACP does not endorse Kuhl, and I said, 'That’s funny, because I do.'"

He said the message was implicit — drop the endorsement or leave the NAACP off your resume. "It’s really horrible, this is two guys back in Washington calling me out here telling me to drop my endorsement or don’t call yourself an NAACP attorney."

So he decided to take their advice and quit

Sunday, August 10, 2003

The WashPost rips Gore's speech

The main editorial in the Washington Post today was titled "Mr. Gore's Blurred View" and there's nary a kind word for the former vice-president. My favorite part:

This notion -- that we were all somehow bamboozled into war -- is part of Mr. Gore's larger conviction that Mr. Bush has put one over on the nation, and not just with regard to Iraq.

You can see why he might want to think so. Mr. Gore believes, for example, that the Patriot Act represents "a broad and extreme invasion of our privacy rights in the name of terrorism." But then how to explain that 98 senators -- including all four Democratic senators now running for president -- voted for it? The president's economic and environmental policies represent an "ideologically narrow agenda" serving only "powerful and wealthy groups and individuals who manage to work their way into the inner circle."

But then why do so many other people support those policies? Mr. Gore has an umbrella explanation, albeit one that many Americans might find a tad insulting: "The administration has developed a highly effective propaganda machine to embed in the public mind mythologies. . . . "

There's also a little slam on John Kerry in the concluding paragraph, so it had everything. I caught most of Gore's speech on C-Span and Gore was just pandering to the audience, like a man starved for affirmation. Poor Al.
More Bush lies...ho hum

The Washington Post's main above-the-fold story today was about how the intelligence on Iraq was outpaced by the march to war in Iraq: "Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence". The Post article focuses in on the claim by the Bush Administration that high-quality aluminum tubes imported into Iraq could be used for uranium enrichment; in fact the tubes appear to be specially designed for rockets:

According to knowledgeable U.S. and overseas sources, experts from U.S. national laboratories reported in December to the Energy Department and U.S. intelligence analysts that Iraq was manufacturing copies of the Italian-made Medusa 81. Not only the Medusa's alloy, but also its dimensions, to the fraction of a millimeter, matched the disputed aluminum tubes.

Does this constitute another "lie" by President Bush? Well, as the article clearly indicates, there were elements within the intelligence community ("Joe") who believed that the aluminum tubes could be used for uranium enrichment. This leads me to a couple of conclusions:

1.) Bush believed the intelligence that represented a graver threat
2.) If doubts were raised on the intel, Bush chose to err on the side of caution by accepting a worst-case scenario
3.) If the tubes weren't used for U-235 enrichment, Saddam Hussein was still trying to build a rocket

I think it's same to assume he wasn't gearing up Iraq's space program.
I'm back! I read the Sunday papers on the ride back from Pennsylvania and something must be said. There's no way to sugar coat this: Funky Winkerbean is an affront to mankind. Persistently, stubbornly, unfunny. The Funky "spinoff" Crankshaft is equally loathsome. They probably survive only because of inertia. Comic Page Editors, I implore you, end the madness.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Blogging update part II: No free ice cream for a couple of days - on the road again. However, you're free to add me to your blogroll. Later days!
Blogging update

Sweet! One of my fave blogs, Ipse Dixit, put me on the blogroll - thanks Dodd! In exchange, I shall bestow blogrolldom onto Spartacus, a worthy scribe.

Dodd has a most excellent slam on Senator AWOL titled "Another Day, Another Kerry Flip-Flop" about Kerry's vacillation on his NAFTA vote (at least in front of Big Labor). By the way, watch for Kerry to backpedal like a Bizarro Lance Armstrong on this statement when the South Carolina primary heats up: "“We would raise it [the federal tobacco tax] at least a minimum of $1. I have no reservations at all in doing that.”
Senator AWOL: "It depends on what the meaning of 'untrue' and 'misleading' is"

Uh-oh. John Kerry, the non-Irish non-voting Senator is stretching the truth yet again: "Experts Question Kerry's 'First Prize' in Health Care Plans":

On the campaign trail and on his Internet site, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) boasts that a bipartisan group of policy experts has rated his proposal to reform health care "the best" among those offered by the presidential candidates, including President Bush's plan. He even features a "First Prize" blue ribbon on his Web site.

But the statement is, at best, a questionable extrapolation of a recent report on the candidates' health plans, say the analysts who rated them. The10 reviewers cited by Kerry say they did not choose a top health plan and would be at pains to label one "the best." In interviews, some of them described Kerry's statements as "completely wrong," "patently untrue" and "inappropriate and rather misleading."

It seems that the Kerry staffers just added up scores without regard to weighting of each category. Thus, presumably, Kerry's health plan got a "1" for coverage but a "9" for penmanship.
Ah-nold Ascending - Davis Descending

Robert Musil has been running a comprehensive series of posts on the incredible shrinking Gray Davis called "Davis Descending". In the latest installment, the Man without Qualities thinks that the entrance of Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante into the race will dissipate the "Right Wing Coup" attack that Davis was gearing up. Davis is toast.
Bitter Bitch wishes she had the talent to make humorous campaign slogans for Ah-nold. Two words: Radioactive Man

"Up and at them!" is OK. "The goggles do nothing!" could be morphed into "Gray Davis does nothing!" And so on....unfortunately, I couldn't find a good McBain/Rainer Wolfcastle site. Eh.
Red Forman for Wisconsin! - Boots and Sabers has the definitive list of possible replacements in case there's a recall of Wisconsin's governor.
Everybody's linking - so why not me? Lileks is back in style after a server crash. Very good today.
Senator AWOL receives a "Senatorial Fisking" from VodkaPundit. Quick summary: "Kerry lies."
The Maalox is flowing at DNC headquarters

Ah-nold is almost certain to win the governorship of the most populous state in the Union, overturning Terry McAuliffe’s single boast of the 2002 midterm elections that “'The good news is, 52 percent of Americans are waking up today and they now have a Democratic governor.”

The Democrats’ fervent hope that the economy sours was dealt a setback: “Productivity Soars, Jobless Claims Drop to Six-Month Low

America's business productivity soared in the second quarter of 2003 and new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a six-month low last week, a double dose of good news as the economy tries to get back to full throttle.

Meanwhile, conservative columnists are tagging the Dems as the party of anti-Bush vigor and not much else. Washington veteran Bob Novak notes:

Dean's campaign is a remorseless assault on George W. Bush, far exceeding his opponents'. Humorless and unsmiling, the country doctor with upper-class roots pummels the president. He has tapped into pure hatred by rank-and-file Democrats of the reigning Republican that I have never seen in 44 years of campaign watching. Not Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan or even Bill Clinton generated such animosity.

And George Will calls the Dems “The Venting Party” in the Washington Post:

Dean, who believes that extremism in denunciation of George W. Bush and all his works is no vice, has made himself the vehicle for venting by Democratic activists. They comprise the big bleeding liberal heart of the party's nominating electorate, whose detestation of Bush is a witch's brew of hatred and condescension.

Its three main ingredients are lingering resentment about Florida (they believe the U.S. Supreme Court should not have settled the 2000 election; that Florida's Supreme Court should have), fury about Bush policies from tax cuts to war and, most important, a visceral, almost aesthetic recoil from Bush's persona -- his Texasness, the way he walks, the way he talks. They would not like the way he wears his hat or sips his tea, if he did such things.

This is what happens when you have no ideas of your own: you reflexively lash out at those who do. Poor Dems - such disarray.
He's in!

From Fox News: "Well, Jay, after thinking for a long time my decision is ... " he began to tell Leno before the TV screen showed a "Please Stand By" sign. When the picture finally returned, he said: "That's why I decided that way."
When the actor finally confirmed he was running, "The Tonight Show" audience in Burbank erupted in whoops and cheers. A camera in the press room showed several reporters cheering as well.