Friday, December 31, 2004

It's about the tragedy

The United States has announced that it will increase it's contribution to disaster relief by ten-fold, from $35 million to $350 million. Naturally, this will trigger a round of "less than the cost of a B-2 bomber" or "a fraction of what America spends on video games." John Podhoretz reminds everybody that "It's about the tragedy - not more Bush bashing."
This morning on Fox News, the reporter from Indonesia nearly burst into tears while reporting from the tsunami devestation. She stood in front of a makeshift wall covered with pictures of children who had gone missing and her voice was shaky and cracking. She kept apologizing. Journalists are usually so detached from their subjects, but she just couldn't help herself. And what's wrong with that? Nothing.

Follow-up: Mark Kilmer saw the same report and identifies the woman as Jennifer Griffin. Thanks, Mark! (P.S. – Love your spiffy new site design.)

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tis a voting booth, English - While Joshua Muravchik explains “Why the Democrats keep losing” the Washington Post thinks it’s because Bush brought out the Amish vote.
Nice T-shirt, dude.
One of my fave bloggers, Mark Kilmer, has his year-end "MAKPA" 2004 awards, part 1 and part 2. I should make a similar year-end list, since all the cool kids are doing it.
Hard to comprehend - The official death count of the Asian tsunami is currently at 115,000 but the toll could easily top a quarter-million since the threat of disease is everywhere. The lack of clean water and sanitation has always been the greatest killer and even with truckloads of bottled water and purification kits, it’s going to be near-impossible to reach so many people quickly.
Liberal hate speech

From the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby reviews the year in left-wing looniness (abridged version: when in doubt, Republicans are Nazis):
Overwhelmingly, though, political hate speech today comes from the left. It has increasingly become a habit of leftist argumentation to simply dismiss conservative ideas as evil or noxious rather than rebut them with facts and evidence.

That is why there was no uproar when Cameron Diaz declared that rape might be legalized if women didn't turn out to vote for John Kerry. Or when Walter Cronkite told Larry King that the videotape of Osama bin Laden that surfaced just before the election was "probably set up" by Karl Rove.
The list is comprehensive without mentioning Michael Moore once.
I'm back!

Monday, December 27, 2004

Maybe my commute isn't so bad after all - BTW, I'm posting from down here in Pennsylvania where I spent a good chunk of the day lounging around and watching "The Worst Jobs in History" on the History Channel.
Big surprise: Washington to hit the "rich" on Social Security

When Jayson on Polipundit referred to an opinion piece in the Washington Times as an essay on the "National Ponzi Scheme" I knew exactly what Jayson was referring to. The article notes that President Bush has left the door open to raise the income cap which is taxable under Social Security. The taxable income cap is currently around $88K, but raising the cap would soak the rich a little bit more, essentially erasing all doubt that Social Security is a welfare program and not a pension program:

As it is, there is already an increasingly tenuous relationship between taxes paid and benefits received by high-income workers. According to the Congressional Research Service, in 1980 a retiree with lifetime earnings at or above the Social Security wage cap got back all of his and his employer's contributions in 3.1 years. By 2000, it took 24.9 years and by 2010 it will take 35.3 years. Under current projections, a high-income worker retiring in 2030 will need 55 years of benefits to get back all his contributions.
Even FDR, the architect of Social Security, recognized the dangers of a pension system that depended on taxes from wealthy individuals and would, in turn, have to pay out proportional SS checks. The current mood among Democrats and some Republicans (like Lindsay Graham) is that Social Security should grab more income while keeping benefits flat. This is a recipe for politicial and class conflict.
It looks like the gloves are coming off in the U.S. Senate.
The tsunami is claiming an ever-escalating toll. Australia-based Tim Blair has the latest including support contacts.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas

I'll be traveling all over for the holiday, so posting is likely to be spotty. However, let me just take a moment before I sign off to thank everybody for coming by and reading my random thoughts. It's been a blast running this blog - especially during the election - and I greatly appreciate your messages of support and encouragement.

I hope everybody has a healthy and happy holiday! God bless - Eric
Heading for a showdown

Refusing to be brushed off by Democratic opposition in the Senate, President Bush plans to nominate for a second time 20 people who did not receive up or down votes on their nominations for federal judgeships.
I’ve always thought that judicial nominations was something of a hidden issue with Americans, obviously not as important as Iraq or the war on terror, but a possible tipping factor for people who belive that the Constitution gives the President the right to frame the judiciary. After getting their clocks cleaned in the Senate (losing four seats in November) will the Democrats stand in the way again?

I’m inclined to believe they will. As I’ve opined before, the Democratic party is now a completely reactionary presence in Washington. They have degenerated into the party of Professor Wagstaff (from Horse Feathers):

Professor Wagstaff: [singing] I don't know what they have to say / It makes no difference anyway / Whatever it is, I'm against it. / No matter what it is or who commenced it, I'm against it! / Your proposition may be good / But let's have one thing understood: / Whatever it is, I'm against it. / And even when you've changed it or condensed it, I'm against it! / For months before my son was born / I used to yell from night till morn: / Whatever it is, I'm against it! / And I've kept yelling since I've first commenced it, I'm against it.
My advice to President Bush: say to Harry Reid “Please filibuster the judicial nominees.”

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Sometimes it’s easy to believe in something…

I’m always amused that the same people who doubt the mathematical bankruptcy of Social Security also know that global warming is a genuine threat to mankind. According to George Will, author Michael Crichton is trying to disabuse the eco-true believers in his latest novel:

Crichton's subject is today's fear that global warming will cause catastrophic climate change, a belief now so conventional that it seems to require no supporting data. Crichton's subject is also how conventional wisdom is manufactured in a credulous and media-drenched society.

Various factions have interests -- monetary, political, even emotional -- in cultivating fears. The fears invariably seem to require more government subservience to environmentalists and more government supervision of our lives.
Maybe that’s the common theme for statist leftists: government control and regulation = good. Freedom = bad.
…while other issues require nuance. Lots of nuance.

Boy, it’s been a while since I picked on John Kerry, but Senator Splunge just can’t make up his mind. From the Boston Herald: “Kerry not ready to tilt at Cape windmills

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who championed renewable energy in his presidential bid, yesterday said he won't take a stand on the proposed Cape Cod wind farm until the Army Corps of Engineers completes its environmental impact report next year.

Kerry had been expected by some observers to weigh in on the controversial wind farm after the Army publicly released its voluminous draft environmental report last month. The failed Democratic presidential nominee, who has helped lead the fight against drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as many other environmental causes, has refused to take sides on the controversial Cape wind farm, even as he touted wind power and other forms of renewable energy during the 2004 race.
It’s complicated for the Senator. If he followed his malleable beliefs, he would come out in favor of the wind farm and renewable energy. However, he would probably fall out of favor with the elite set in Nantucket and miss the next social season. Perhaps a ride on his $6,000 bicycle will help to claify the issue for Kerry.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Massachustts is the only state to show a population decline – Mass Backwards asks: “Do you think that, just maybe, the taxpayers in central and western Massachusetts as well are finally waking up and deciding they're sick and tired of having their elected officials throw their money down the s---hole we call the Big Dig?” Yes!
Stop the humanoid!

Here’s a man earning the respect of literally dozens of nerds:

A man who has spent at least two hours practising on a vintage video game for the past 25 years has secured what he says is the highest ever score.
Gary Whelan, of Duckinfield, Greater Manchester, has been playing the space invaders game, Galaxian, since 1980.
He said he had set a world record of 399,290 points, beating the previous record held by a Californian.
Mr Whelan said he would not stop playing until he had reached at least a million points.
It’s been a loonnggg time since I wore parachute pants, but I’ll still lay claim to top ten scores in Berserk and Spy Hunter (with well over 300,000 points on the upright version of Spy Hunter – my left foot was completely numb by the end of the game.)
Quotes! Tim Blair is lousy with quotes from 2004. Just keep scrolling.
How much for a Big Mac? $5.46 in Switzerland. $1.26 in China.
The economy is in trouble in great shape!

Here’s American Prospect editor and all-star liberal Robert Kuttner, November 2003 in “Stunted Growth: Why Bush’s policies make economic recovery unsustainable”:

Sooner or later, these deficits will lead to higher interest rates as public borrowing starts competing with private demand for capital. And those higher rates will choke off the consumer borrowing and spending that has been the other engine of recovery.
Kuttner, Sept. 2004:

The tax cuts didn't create jobs. No Child Left Behind is big government without the resources. The deficit will sandbag the economy for decades. The Medicare drug plan is a fake. Privatizing Social Security will leave retirees worse off.
Kuttner, today, in “What Social Security crisis?”

For years, the Social Security Trustees have used very conservative assumptions about future rates of economic growth, productivity growth, and growth of the labor force. These assumptions, in turn, affect the projected payroll tax collections that will fund Social Security payouts.

Five years ago, in the late 1990s, they estimated the long-term economic growth rate at just 1.7 percent. The reality has been well over 3 percent.

Most economists now believe the economy can do a lot better than 1.7 percent annual growth. In its 1997 report, the trustees projected that the system would no longer be able to meet all its obligations by 2029. Just six years later in 2003, based on their acknowledgement of stronger economic growth, the trustees moved the crisis date back to 2042. So if the system can gain 13 years of life in six years, there's not much of a crisis.

But that's just the beginning. In June, the bipartisan Congressional Budget office used more realistic assumptions about economic growth. CBO puts the first shortfall year at 2052, not 2042, and it projects Social Security's 75-year shortfall at only about four-10ths of one percent of gross domestic product. Currently, that's about $40 billion a year, or one-fifth of the revenues that the Bush administration gave up in tax cuts for the wealthy.
No need to reform Social Security: the expanding economy will supply revenues as far as the eye can see! You heard it here first, folks.
I told you I had a bad feeling: WA recount said to swap winner

The head of the state Democratic Party said late yesterday that recount results from King County give Democrat Christine Gregoire an eight-vote victory in the closest governor's race in state history.

Neither King County nor the Republican party could confirm the hand recount results last night. But if the Democrats' analysis is correct, it's a stunning reversal in the gubernatorial race, which has been hotly contested ever since Election Day.
Stunning” is right.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

For all you Williams College trivia players joining together next month: “Winner of porniest country in the world is Tonga with an incredible 7.7 pages for each of its 110,000 inhabitants.” (From the Register-UK).
Amazing Race - missed it!

OMG, I had no idea they had moved up the time slot for "TAR" tonight. I missed the whole thing. (At least I got a pretty good rundown on Television without Pity, where many posters were also upset to have missed tonight's episode.)

I just sent a message to CBS asking them to re-broadcast tonight's episode. (You can too.) Do it for my "TAR6"-crazed kids.
20 Americans killed in Mosul - I know it somehow eases the shock by saying things like "This is a desperate last gasp by the insurgents" and such, but man. Right before Christmas, too. The post-election Iraq better find the strength to control its own destiny because American support for troops is going to plummet after the January elections.
House for sale: broken furnace, large window suitable for major award

By way of Knowledge is Power, the house from “A Christmas Story” is up for sale on Ebay. Accessories sold separately.
Let’s get reaaaaaaaaady to rumble!

There’s a new Amazing Race tonight, an episode my cable guide titles “They Should Get Some Counseling” (here’s my review of last week’s show). The NY Post has a behind-the-scenes article titled “Race with the Devil” today which reveals that the producers did indeed speak with Jonathan about his abusive and erratic behavior:

Jonathan Baker — the foul- tempered, world-trekker on "The Amazing Race 6" who has scandalized fans with his berating abuse of his wife on the streets of Berlin — was so out of control producers told him to "chill out" before last week's infamous shoving episode.

"I had many conversations with him," executive producer Bertram van Munster told The Post yesterday. "I told him you've got to tone it down, you have to stop this kind of stuff, it's not cool — until then, I'd never given advice to a reality show player before to chill out."

On last week's edition of the show, Baker, 42, shoved his wife, former Playboy pinup Victoria Fuller, 32, in anger, and yelled at her as she tearfully struggled to carry both of their heavy backpacks across the finish line during a challenge. As a result, they came in second.

The Internet has lit up with talk among outraged fans who have turned Baker into the kind of reality-TV villain that hasn't been seen since bad-girl Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth turned up on "The Apprentice" last spring.
It’s a shame that just as “TAR” is hitting the heights of popularity, it’s also saddled with some of the most unsavory contestants I’ve seen since the show started (including Ike Turner-wannabe Jonathan, “these Africans keep breeding” Kendra, clueless Rebecca and whiny man-child Adam.) Please, Buddha, let Team Dysfunction lose tonight.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Wisdom from the only Christmas special that actually mentions Christ: The true meaning of Christmas
More end-of-year silliness - The 25 dumbest quotes of 2004 and the runners-up.
The Anti-Casino Act of 2005

Of all the arguments against private savings accounts for Social Security, there is none so condescending as the belief that Americans are just too dumb to entrust with their own retirement funds. In today’s Washington Post, Sebastian Mallaby writes that too many choices will distract and confuse us poor hicks:

The fact that freedom triumphed over the totalitarian systems of the 20th century should not be read as proof that people want all freedom, all the time. The East Europeans who overthrew communism were escaping from an anti-choice extreme. But the American system, which features more risk and inequality than any other advanced society, is over at the opposite end of the spectrum. It shouldn't be assumed that Americans want to embrace individualistic risk more than they do already.
Thank you, Comrade Mallaby, except private savings accounts will not be foisted upon unsuspecting workers. From the very beginning, the savings accounts have been proposed as a voluntary program for those willing to risk a better return in exchange for reduced guaranteed government benefits. If you’re a worker under 30 who harbors strong (and justified) doubts that Social Security will be around for your golden years, maybe you’d prefer to roll the dice. (A apt metaphor that leads perfectly to my next point!)

However, if the government believes that young workers can’t be trusted with Social Security money, what about Social Security recipients? We’re told that Social Security is designed to prevent poverty among the elderly, but can we really trust senior citizens to use this money wisely? Evidence is mounting that we cannot. From the Boston Globe: “Casinos a refuge for elders – at a cost”:

Kario and Stern are among thousands of senior citizens in California who have become regular customers of the state's growing number of Indian casinos, which now look to the elderly for half their business, specialists say. Casinos actively encourage the trend by dispatching fleets of buses to retirement communities and senior centers and by offering incentives such as buffet vouchers.

The trend reflects a national pattern: The federal National Gambling Impact Study Commission in 1999 found that the fraction of US seniors who gambled jumped from 20 percent in 1974 to 50 percent in 1998, a surge unmatched by any other age group during a period when casinos proliferated across the country.
If young Americans are too stupid to save responsibly, then clearly older Americans are too dumb to spend responsibly. The time has come for the government to live up to the true intention of FDR’s plan and ensure fiscal security for all retirees by tracking every dime from taxation through distribution. Pass the Anti-Casino Act of 2005! Thank you!

Extra SS stuff – Via Xtreme Blog, here’s Scrivener evoking Elvis Costello with “Is the Social Security Trust Fund worth Less than Zero?”
And from the Boston Globe: “Retiree accounts gaining adherents
I can’t believe Krugman didn’t even get an honorable mention: The Most Annoying Liberals in the United States 2004.
I’ve got a bad feeling about this

All but one country in Washington state have completed the manual recount for the governor’s race and Republican Dino Rossi still leads by a mere 49 votes. However, the last county to report is heavily-Democratic King county. No county in Washington thus far has produced a swing of more than 30 or so votes in the manual recount, but King county (home to Seattle) has the largest population by far. No matter what happens, I’m forecasting another appeal to the courts.

Extra: Sound Politics has a glimpse into the future.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

It's Dubya

Ratings for reality TV coming down with two notable exceptions: “But for every story of a sinking show, there's a counter-tale of success. This season, ''Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" has catapulted into Nielsen's top 20, and critics' darling ''The Amazing Race" has finally found an audience.” Yes.

I saw that the title for this Tuesday's "TAR" is something like: "I think they need some counseling." Hmmm...I wonder who they're talking about?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

John Warner and Carl Levin!?! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…Mark Kilmer has the Sunday morning talkshow lineup. BTW, The Capital Gang is now officially unwatchable.
CDs I own for (pretty much) one song

Lisa Loeb – Firecracker – “I Do”
Chris Cornell – Euphoria Morning – “Can’t Change Me”
Buckcherry – Buckcherry – “Borderline”
Ben Folds Five – Naked Baby Photos – “Tom & Mary”
Hackers soundtrack – “Connected” by Stereo MCs
Liz Phair – Whip-Smart – “Supernova”
Phish – Farmhouse – “Heavy Things”
The Raspberries – Greatest Hits – “Go All the Way”
Nina Simone – Best of Nina Simone – “Sinnerman”
Red Sovine – Greatest Hits – “I Didn’t Jump the Fence”
Now 15 – “Toxic” by Britney Spears
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here – “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” (OK, that’s a bit of a joke for you real music lovers out there)

Postscript: As I typed in this post, I’ve been listening to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Pack up the Plantation – Live! If you’ve never heard this CD, it’s a live recording of a Tom Petty concert and when he performs “Breakdown” he doesn’t need to sing the first verse. Everybody in the audience knows the words. After the chorus, Petty faux-laments “You’re gonna put me out of a job.” One of the better concert CDs, IMHO.
Jon Stewart didn’t make the list, yet Ken Jennings is #10?

Well, that’s just wrong. From Bob in Accounting: The 25 Worst and Most Annoying Newsmakers from the past year
Everything you ever wanted to know about Social Security

An excellent review on Opinion Journal: “The Social Security crisis - Without reform, it will destroy itself

These are all facts that can be found in countless studies by countless experts, and in the reports by the Social Security Trustees. FDR's New Deal retirement system is headed toward a great collapse all by itself, as more and more voters seem to understand. The people who would really destroy Social Security are those who want to leave it alone.
Demographics are destiny: this Ponzi scheme cannot continue in its current form. The anti-reformists have circled the wagons against private accounts and faulted them for their putative “uncertainty” (e.g. the stock market might go down). This is a little like saying the lifeboats aren’t as luxurious as the Titanic.

Extra: Donald Luskin dispatches Paul Krugman’s latest attack against reform. I was going to respond to Krugman the other day, but I figured Luskin was on it.

Friday, December 17, 2004

It’s time for those end-of-year reviews

Rob at Business Pundit links to a story on commercials and advertisements that were banned and/or fined by the FCC in 2004. Alternate title for the article: “What Janet Jackson’s tit wrought.” (Heh heh, that should be good for some search engine hits).
Racist hoaxster gets her due – Matt Hoy has the story
Merry Christmas!

Saudi Christian convert arrested and jailed

A Saudi citizen converted to Christianity has been arrested and jailed. Emad Alaabadi was taken into custody last November 29, at Hofuf, a town in eastern Saudi Arabia, but the news was reported only a few days ago by the International Christian Concern (ICC), a Washington-based human rights group. AsiaNews local sources have confirmed the report, and also say that he “is not the only Saudi Christian in jail at the moment: there are also others”.
Shades of a modern-day inquisition: “On December 4, he managed to contact his mother, who lives in Australia, by telephone, to let her know what had happened and where he was. The mother reported that he sounded very weak: ICC said that the Muttawa agents probably tortured the Christian-faith Amad to reconvert him to Islam.”
Now that’s what I call “serendipity

Look what I found on Andrew Sullivan’s blog this morning:

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Americans will accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic or a dope fiend, but if a man doesn't drive, they think there must be something wrong with him" - Art Buchwald
Unfortunately, his link for the quote goes to a Dear Abby page. (?) Here’s a more complete version of Buchwald’s wisdom.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

For better or worse / The year in verse

THE second of November and the morning of the vote,
The candidates seemed neck and neck and not inclined to gloat.
By midnight, though, it all was clear, the prize had gone to Bush,
The hammer of Saddam Hussein, Iran, the Hindu Kush.
A warrior the voters chose, a man to love and dread,
A Christian, a patriot, who'd paint the country red.

AND red indeed it looked next day: both Senate and the House,
Were redder than the day before, the Democrats would grouse.
Moreover, in 11 states the fate of marriage gay
Had fallen foul of prejudice and men like Tom DeLay,
Who'd mashed the map of Texas, despite the protests heard,
With help from one Bush liked to call the Blossom of the Turd.
From the Economist: January-June & July-December.
Could it really be anybody else? Betsy says that President Bush is Time’s Man of the Year. Sorry, Patrick.
Social Security round-up

First of all, I must apologize to a couple of readers who sent me links to stories or posts on SS yesterday: something screwy happened with my computer and then my wife needed it for, you know, “real” work.

From the Boston Globe: “Kudos and caution voiced at economic summit”:

A White House-picked parade of specialists lauded President Bush's policies at an economic summit yesterday, but some peppered their praise with warnings that the economy could tumble unless the White House comes up with viable plans to overhaul Social Security and halve the deficit.

Martin Feldstein, the Harvard University economics professor who has been mentioned as a candidate for chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, said the economy was on solid ground. But he warned: ''If Social Security is not reformed, the payroll tax required to finance benefits would go from the required 12 percent to about 20 percent."

In an interview, Feldstein said Bush and the Congress are not likely to approve any such increase, but he said other measures such as the private investment account should be adopted soon. ''The longer we wait, the more nervous I get," Feldstein said later. ''The fiscal problem of dealing with the aging population is the most serious problem.
From the NY Post: “Are you too dumb to invest?”

The upcoming debate will reveal the core differences between Republicans, who believe most Americans can manage a portion of their Social Security in private accounts, and Democrats, who think most Americans are just "too dumb" to handle the responsibility. Thus, those same Democrats will fight any form of privatization tooth and nail.
The Volokh Conspiracy takes this one step further with “Is Social Security ‘Stupidity Insurance’?

It is not clear to me why a 64 year-old cannot be trusted not to invest his social security entitlement in the stock market wisely prior to retirement, but can be trusted as a 65 year old post-retirement to spend his money wisely. So unless we actually control every investment someone makes, we are not providing destitution insurance anyway.
From today’s USA Today: “Don’t delay reform

As for transition costs [to private accounts], skeptics should worry more about the price tag of the status quo. If we do nothing, Social Security will owe $27 trillion in promised benefits during the next several generations of retirees. Social Security's trustees say the system will have to cut promised benefits by about 25% in 2042 — and that's just for starters. Talk about risk: Workers now paying into the system will be speeding toward a financial cliff if the system isn't fixed.
Star Parker gets right to the point in “End Social Security” (Hat tip to Bad Hair Blog)

In my view, there is only one honest approach to Social Security: fulfill obligations to pay benefits to those who have already paid in and allow the rest of us as quick and expeditious an exit out as possible. Then shut the doors forever.

If this seems radical, I'll ask one question. If Social Security did not exist, and we attempted to enact today a system like we currently have, would it pass? The answer is unquestionably no. There is no way that any working American would agree to turn over to the government 12.4 percent of his or her paycheck in exchange for a benefit that has no guarantee, on which ownership has been relinquished and that is less than what could be obtained by buying risk-free government bonds. No way. Zero chance.
The payroll tax rate has been raised 40 times from 2% of income to 12.4% today. Yet all the alternate plans to private savings accounts (and, admittedly, the $2 trillion in borrowing required for transition) involve raising the payroll tax just a little bit more. At some point, Americans need to say: “enough” – no matter how “successful” the program.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Geez, Chevy Chase is still alive?
Turkey one step closer to the European Union - "EU leaders were poised on Thursday to set a date to start accession
talks with Turkey, as Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan arrived in
Brussels in an optimistic mood for a spate of last-minute diplomacy.
Amazing Race 6 update: Wife-beating isn’t fun to watch

If you’ll indulge me for a moment: watching “The Amazing Race” is an event for my family. I like “TAR” because it shows exotic places and cultures around the world and, in an entertaining fashion, teaches my kids about geography, history and sociology. (My son tracks all the locations on a National Geographic world map.) Also, as the teams race around the world for a $1 million prize, there’s an underlying lesson about strategy, communication and teamwork. As readers of this blog will attest, I’ve been a tireless cheerleader for what I consider the best show on television.

That said, it’s been increasingly difficult to watch (and expose my kids) to the train wreck of Team Jonathan & Victoria. Jonathan is a complete prick who spends every second on camera verbally abusing his wife. Victoria displays all the signs of victim of battered wife syndrome, seemingly unable to stand up for herself or walk away. Up until now, it’s been somewhat bearable because “TAR” needed to follow around eleven teams at the start. But with the fourth team eliminated last night, the pack is diluted and viewers are forced to witness more and more of Team Dysfunction every week. “TAR” and CBS made a real mistake bringing on Jonathan who has all the markings of a half-crazed cocaine fiend who needs to win the money so he can pay off the Russian mafia before they cut his legs off. (Although that’s the kind of reality television I can get behind).

Now for the update:

The teams started out from Goree Island in Senegal on the west coast of Africa. Their first stop was the Slave House which was the final embarkation point for many slaves before they were taken from Africa. All the teams had to pay tribute by placing a rose at the doorway through which the slaves passed. At least one team had the sense to stop to say a prayer; most other teams were silent. Team Gus and Hera – the black team – had to hold up for a second because Gus got very emotional. Later he admitted that he didn’t cry at the funerals of either his mother or father, but this experience caught him unawares.

Afterward, Team Don and Mary Jean have a problem. Since they came in last on the previous show, but it was a non-elimination leg of the race, they have no money for transportation (ferry) off the island. They can’t possibly ask the Senegalese for a handout, so they ask the other teams if they can pitch in a couple dollars and they all oblige. (You see, Jonathan? It’s only a race.) Everybody heads to the airport because we’re off to Berlin, Germany.

After the Berlin Wall and an old church, teams hit the Detour: “Brats or Beer.” Teams must either go to a sausage factory and make five feet of sausage or a bar where they must carry large steins of beer and collect five coasters. Teams Kris & Jon, Freddy & Kendra, Hayden (wearing a tank top again!) & Aaron, and Gus & Hera serve beer. Teams Dysfunctional, Gus & Hera, Lori & Bolo, Adam & Rebecca, and (eventually) Don & Mary Jean make sausage. The only thing worth noting here is that Gus really likes beer. He kept taking sips from the mugs he was supposed to be delivering and then pulls the old “You go on ahead, I need to get my bag” trick so he can take another drink. Hera is not amused and eventually piles him into a cab.

Roadblock: Teams head to a mountain outside Berlin where they must speed down a course in soap box racers. Nobody fails to do it in less than 37 seconds (the required time) and then it’s off to the Pit Stop: the Brandenburg Gate. At this roadblock we learn that Jonathan loves speed and “owns a Ferrari.” I’m sure he also has a really long powerboat and a stereo with huge speakers…if you know what I mean.

All the teams head to the Pit Stop pretty much in the order they left the soap box derby. Team Dysfunctional leaves first so it looks like they’ll capture first place for once. What follows was both the most satisfying, yet disturbing, moment in the Race so far. After the teams get out of the cabs, they have to run about 100 yards to the Brandenburg Gate and victory. Jonathan is stepping out of the cab to his constant refrain of “Move it!” when he sees Freddy and Kendra’s taxi pulling up.

He f----n’ freaks out.

I mean he goes ape s—t. The abusive screaming at Victoria to move faster than the speed of light was simply otherworldly, as if the fate of the galaxy depended on them reaching Phil Keoghan first. “Move it! Run! Drop your bag!” Victoria breaks down in sobs: “My bag is so much heavier than yours!” Panicked at the approach of either the Russian Mafia or the Headless Horseman, Jonathan drops his bag and runs ahead, but Victoria won’t drop hers as the combination of crying and running leaves her gasping for breath. Germans all around are staring in puzzlement and disgust, proportions depending on their understanding of the English language.

Team Freddy and Kendra zip ahead of Team Dysfunctional and host Phil declares them team #1. Seconds later an annoyed Jonathan drops his pack dramatically as Phil declares them team #2. Victoria is a complete basket case at this point and stumbles away while an uncaring Jonathan starts sputtering something about the race. Behind Phil’s eyes you can see him thinking: “What an a—hole” but he says something like “You should take care of Victoria.”

At this point, let’s review some of the “characteristics of the batterer” from this page on Battered Wife Syndrome:
Publications and newsletters from women's shelters and psychologists around the nation note the consistent traits of batterers to be as follows:

1) possessive, jealous; 2) controlling behavior; 3) externalizes blame; 4) hyper-sensitive; 5) low self-esteem; 6) believes in and desires very traditional male-female roles; 7) displaces anger; 8) lacks empathy; 9) comes from a violent background; 10) Jekyll/Hyde personality; and 11) overuse of drugs or alcohol.
Check and check. Should I let my kids (aged 7 & 9) watch last night’s episode and expose them to this filth? Or would it be better to show them the wrong way for a man to act? Or should I just fast-forward and skip the parts with the Wife-Beater? I’m leaning towards a stern lecture on how a real man behaves, delivered both before and after the show.

Anyway, the pretty teams take the next couple spots and Team Wrestlers (Lori & Bolo) stay alive as Team #7 to the Pit Stop. However, Team Don & Mary Jean can’t keep pace with the youngsters and become the fourth team eliminated from the race.

Footnote: I normally try to avoid profanity on this blog, but there was no other adequate way to describe that festering pustule of monkey dung. CBS goofed big time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

For the confused, Florida is a town in Western Massachusetts

Joan Vennochi nails it in today’s Boston Globe – “Cape Wind: too ‘ugly’ for the rich?”

Ugliness can be good for you -- especially if you are not rich, powerful, or politically connected.

After a massive draft environmental analysis, the controversial proposal to construct a wind farm in Nantucket Sound is coming down to aesthetics. Governor Romney -- a supposedly pro-business, anti-government regulation, cold-blooded venture capitalist -- made that clear during recent testimony before the US Army Corps of Engineers. "We cannot trash this extraordinary resource," Romney said, referring to Nantucket Sound. "I've seen wind farms, and they are not pretty."

Two days later, the Romney administration announced support for windmill projects in Florida and Monroe in Western Massachusetts. Residents there also worry about the aesthetics of 20 340-foot-tall turbines and the overall impact on streams, wetlands, and woodland.
Now a group called Green Berkshires is also opposing the wind farm, claiming that Western Massachusetts is just as much a national treasure as Nantucket Sound. Alas, we have few Kennedys out here, so we’re probably going to end up with the turbines.
Paging Joanne Jacobs: “We can do better at teaching kids math

Remember that there are three kinds of people in this world: those who can count and those who can’t.
Outrageously funny

Monday, December 13, 2004

The inescapable facts of Social Security

If you haven’t been reading along, then make no mistake about it: I believe Social Security is an inequitable system of asset transfer that will end up bankrupting this country once the army of Baby Boomers retires. When Social Security started in the mid-1930s, benefits were paid at age 62 at a time when the life expectancy was 60; most older Americans are now living well into their eighties. Between rising life expectancy and the Baby Boom bubble, the demographics are inescapable. Where there were once dozens of workers per retiree, there are now only three workers supporting every Social Security recipient and soon there will be only two.

So I think it’s a serious problem, which is why this article in the Sunday Boston Globe strikes me as unserious – almost flippant – about the problems facing Social Security. Some manner of economic columnist named Charles Stein wrote “Scare tactics obscure Social Security debate” that included incisive factoids such as this:

But is Congress really likely to shut off the spigot? Social Security has been around since 1935. Even without change, the system will still be writing checks to seniors in 2035.
This is like saying: “I’ve been driving my car at 60mph for 10 hours and there’s no reason to believe it won’t continue at this rate” as the gas tank empties, the radiator explodes and the wheels come off.

With snide asides designed to belittle personal savings accounts, Stein offers no incisive analysis of the Social Security issue. Instead, in what can only be called a “Krugmanian style,” Stein writes an economic essay completely void of numbers or statistics. But he wants to see those numbers!

I am looking forward to the Social Security debate. I am planning to focus heavily on the numbers.
Here are ALL the numbers that Stein lists in his half-assed jeremiad against Social Security reform: 2001 (year), 535 (politicians), 1935 (year), 2035 (year), 401(k) – a retirement plan designed to generate personal wealth (heresy!). Has he never heard of the Internet? Look at all the cool numbers you can find about Social Security:

1. Social Security will begin running a deficit by 2018.
2. The average worker can expect a rate-of-return of less than 2% on his or her Social Security taxes.
3. The Social Security payroll tax rate has grown from just 2 percent in 1949 to 12.4 percent today.
4. Social Security faces an unfunded liability of more than $26 trillion.
5. "Saving" Social Security without individual accounts could require a 50% increase in Social Security taxes or a 27% cut in benefits.
6. The Supreme Court ruled in Flemming v. Nestor that there is no legal right to Social Security benefits.
7. Social Security taxes have been raised more than 40 times since the program began.
8. The maximum original Social Security tax was just $60. Today it is $11,000.
9. In 1950, there were 16 workers paying Social Security taxes for every retired person receiving benefits. Today there are 3.3. By 2030, there will be only 2.
10. 46 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, including 32 million retirees, 7 million survivors, and 7 million disabled workers.
11. Social Security pays more than $450 billion in benefits each year. If nothing is done, by 2060, the combination of Social Security and Medicare will account for more than 71 percent of the federal budget.
12. 18-to-34 year olds are more likely to believe in the existence of UFOs than in the future existence of Social Security.
13. According to Gallup, reforming Social Security is a top priority for 33% of investors.
14. Nearly 80% of Americans pay more in Social Security taxes than they do in federal income tax.
15. Every two-year election cycle that we wait to reform Social Security costs an additional $320 billion.
16. The full retirement age today is 65 years and four months. It rises by two months every year, gradually increasing to age 67 for people born after 1959.
17. By 2030, there will be 70 million Americans of retirement age--twice as many as today.

In this fact-deficient article, Charles Stein joins Paul Krugman in a chorus of “Who are you going to believe: those right-wingers and their so-called statistics or me?”
Why did Kerry lose? It wasn’t for want of money.
The best energy source

True story: a couple years back a Greenpeace-type activist came to my door asking for donations to shut down a nearby energy plant, or clean water, or something. I asked her why environmentalists oppose nuclear energy. The predictable response: nuclear waste. I said that coal-fired plants release more radioactive isotopes into the air and that at least the radioactive waste was contained and could be stored at Yucca Mountain. She responded by saying that the area was an ancient Indian burial ground which was complete fiction. I waved my hand at her – there’s just no talking to those people.

In terms of a combination of reliability and friendliness to the environment, there is no better energy source than nuclear which currently accounts for one-fifth of all energy production in the United States. Now the industry is promoting the green side of atomic energy: “Nuclear plants say they deserve credit for ‘green’ energy”:

As the nuclear power industry stages a nationwide comeback, New England is emerging as a major battleground in the industry's campaign to be recognized as a ''green" energy source.

Last year, the Seabrook reactor in New Hampshire became the first nuclear plant in the country to win credits for not polluting the air. Emboldened by that success, nuclear plant owners are now pressing to receive similar credits under a nine-state plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

Nuclear plants now provide about 20 percent of US electrical power and generate no acid rain or greenhouse gases -- unlike coal or gas plants, which can spew millions of tons of carbon dioxide and other gases into the air each year.
New reactor designs are “Chernobyl-proof” but there is so much fear over nuclear that a new reactor has not been ordered in America for over twenty years. This is going to cause a strain on energy delivery as old reactors are de-commissioned over the next generation. We can re-think nuclear or settle on burning more coal.
Sorry for the light posting - very busy day. For now, let's all laugh at the French.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The problem and prospects of Social Security

David Brooks frames the debate over Social Security reform:
The outline of the problem is clear. When the Social Security program was created, there were 42 workers for each retiree. Now there are about three workers per retiree, and in 2030 there will be two.

The White House is heading toward a reform plan that would tie the benefit levels to prices rather than wages, which is a serious benefit cut. It would then use the power of the markets to compensate retirees for those cuts and to create a reserve fund to make the system solvent.
And he's cautiously optimistic that a compromise can be reached:
I may be a complete idiot, but I actually believe that Democrats and Republicans can reach a grand bargain that includes personal Social Security accounts while addressing Democratic objections.
I disagree: the Democratic Party has become a completely reactionary entity in Washington, poised to simply oppose any reforms that the White House puts forward. They do so at their own peril since around 2018 the Social Security trust fund will start cashing in the billions in IOUs it has in government bonds. This will put a huge strain on the U.S. Treasury and only then will we see the enormity of the mistake of avoiding reform. (Hat tip to Betsy, who has some thoughts of her own).
Five Blogger Years - Congratualtions to Sean Hackbarth of The American Mind! Boy, has the Internet even been around that long?
My Google suggest number is 10.1, thanks largely to Eric Lindros. (From Jerry Kindall by way of Dean Esmay)
Religion of Peace update: “A powerful explosion ripped through an outdoor market packed with Christmas shoppers in the southern Philippines on Sunday, killing at least 15 people and injuring 58 others, the military said.” Looks like the work of Abu Sayyaf.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Memo to CNN: A long time ago, The Capital Gang was a snappy half-hour show but now it's an hour long drag headed up by the unbearable Mark Shields and his left-hand man Al Hunt, who seems to have lost his comb sometime after November 2nd. Scale it back to a half-hour and bring in some new blood.
Washington state governor’s race recount update: Rossi keeps slim lead as recount crawls on. As of Friday afternoon, Rossi has picked up an additional 28 votes.
Well, this joke just writes itself

Mark Kilmer wondered if President Bush was telling a fib when he blamed his minor weight gain on “eating too many donuts” during the presidential campaign:

It might be time for filmmaker/author/political scientists/activist/motivational speaker/poet Michael Moore to lug his cameras down to the local Krispy Kreme.
I think he knows the way.
The Dutch exodus

Here’s an absolutely riveting article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard on how the middle class in the Netherlands is leaving for foreign shores. There’s a general fear about immigration, punctuated by two high-profile murders, and resentment over a society that fails to reward hard work:

Ellen, 43, a lawyer and banker who votes for the free-market Liberals, said the code of behaviour regulating daily life in the Netherlands was breaking down.

"People no longer know what to expect from each other. There are so many rules, but nobody sticks to them. They just do as they want. They just execute people on the streets, it's shocking when you see this for the first time," she said. "We've become so tolerant that everybody thinks they can fight their own wars here. Van Gogh is killed, and then people throw bombs at mosques and churches. It's escalating because the police and the state aren't doing anything about it.

"There's a feeling of injustice that if you do things right, if you work hard and pay your taxes, you're punished, and those who don't are rewarded. People can come and live here illegally and get payments. How is that possible?"
Can the European social system endure if talented professionals (i.e. the taxpayers) leave for America and elsewhere? I can’t see how.

Friday, December 10, 2004

All I want for Christmas... some "The Amazing Race" merchandise. But the CBS Store only has stuff from four seasons ago (old logos and kitsch). They should treat the greatest show on television - and two-time winner of "Best Reality Program" - with more respect. EBay ahoy!
The Man without Qualities, a week after the election: “How long will it be before the Democrats decide that the real problem was in the primary schedule…”

Today: “Democrats mull changes to primary schedule.”
Maybe I’ll turn this into an all-Social Security blog

It seems to be my favorite topic lately. Today, an exasperated Matthew Hoy reviews the latest Paul Krugman article on Social Security and writes: “I've largely stopped bashing Krugman for two reasons. First, he so seldom writes anything original anymore -- he's got about four different columns and all he does is move a few of the words around.”

Ain’t that the truth. One of Krugman’s most tiresome tropes is to compare American economic policies with Argentina, as if anything we do remotely similar to that country will lead to the dusty collapse of the American dream. It’s all the more duplicitous because Krugman conveniently ignores the spectacular success story found in Argentina’s neighbor, Chile. In the early 1980’s, Chile instituted personal savings accounts to replace their creaky public pension system. Today, it stands as a testament to the power of “ownership, choice and personal responsibility” in the words of Jose Pinera, who was the head honcho in Chile for the transition.

When the system was inaugurated, one-fourth of the eligible work force signed up in the first month. Today 95 percent of covered workers participate. For Chileans, their retirement accounts represent real property rights. Indeed, the accounts, not risky government promises, are the primary sources of security for retirement, and the typical Chilean worker's main asset is not his used car or even his small house (probably still mortgaged) but the capital in his retirement account.

Since they have a personal stake in the economy, workers cheer the stock market's surges rather than resenting them, and know that bad economic policies will harm retirement benefits. When workers feel that they themselves own a part of their country's wealth, they became participants and supporters of a free market and a free society.
Freedom”? “Choice”? Krugman and the Dems shiver and recoil at such heresy. Ironically, Krugman titles today’s screed “Borrow, Speculate and Hope” which is the best case scenario for Social Security. If we do nothing, you can bet your bottom FICA dollar that the future will be “Slashed benefits, massive taxes, and despair.”
An American woman will remain locked up in a Peruvian jail until 2015. Why? She’s a terrorist.
Poor choice of words

By way of Mark, here’s an article in today’s NY Times about Gerald Reynolds, who has been tapped as the new chair of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

Mr. Reynolds said he did not relish the limelight and offered an olive branch of sorts to the civil rights groups he has criticized, though he promised not to back down from his principles.

"I've found chinks in my arguments and I would appreciate some help from traditional civil rights groups, if they would offer thoughtful, constructive criticism," he said. "That would help me. But that's a rare exchange. Unfortunately, it often becomes a food fight."
Oh dear.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

How cool is Brett Favre? This cool.
Occasionally, the truth spills out

In an appropriate follow-up to the post below, here’s White House press secretary Scott McClellan after fielding many, many questions on Social Security at today’s press briefing:

MR. McCLELLAN: I know you all are all committed to fixing Social Security, as well. At least the younger ones in here.
Heh…nice one, Scott. And here’s a related WH press release: “President Bush meets with Social Security trustees.”
A tax hike here, a tax hike there – pretty soon you’re talking real money

There have been a flurry of articles on Social Security lately, probably because it looks like President Bush is serious about reforming the system before it swallows the entire federal budget. The Democrats, showing that they can’t kick their half-century habit of scaring Grandma, have reflexively opposed any meaningful reform while offering no alternatives of their own. Here’s Senate minority leader Harry Reid on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday:

MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, there are now 40 million people on Social Security. In the next 20 years, there's going to be 80 million. Life expectancy used to be 65 years old. It's approaching 80. If you have twice as many people on these programs for 15 years, you've got to restructure them in some way, shape, or form. What is your solution?
MR. RUSSERT: What is your alternative?
SEN. REID: Tim, all experts say that Social Security beneficiaries will receive every penny of their benefits that they're entitled to--100 percent of them--until the year 2055. After that, if we still do nothing, they'll draw 80 percent of their benefits. I want those beneficiaries after year 2055 to draw 100 percent of their benefits. But this does not require dismantling the program. For heaven's sakes, they're crying wolf a little too regularly here. There is not an emergency on Social Security. We can do this. The president should not try to jam this private accounts in an effort to destroy Social Security.
In the early--when Social Security came before the Congress, who opposed it? The Republicans. And they have a long memory. They've been trying to destroy Social Security for a long time and now they think they have an opening to do it.
Did you catch the alternative? There wasn’t one. Russert persisted in vain:

MR. RUSSERT: Would you look at increasing or raising the age of eligibility? Would you look at means testing? Would you look at any reform?
SEN. REID: Of course. There are reforms that probably can happen in Social Security, and we're not, you know, saying don't even touch it. Let's take a look at it. I said I want people after the year 2055 to be able to draw all of their benefits. And, sure, we'll take a look at it, but don't give the ball to Wall Street.
The Democrats are not going to raise the retirement age, they’re not going to look at means testing, and they’re not going to support a review of benefits. After they’re done berating Republicans for dismantling “the most successful social program in the history of the world” (Reid’s words) they’ll propose another round of tax hikes. Enough already: as I’ve noted before, the payroll tax has been raised 20 times and nearly 80% of American workers now pay more in payroll taxes than income taxes. No matter what the virtues of Social Security, we cannot simply keep raising taxes on young workers, especially since many of them believe they will see a UFO before they see a penny from Social Security. As Rich Lowry pointed out, the X-Box generation may hit a breaking point where they revolt against additional taxes:

As Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute points out, what is more likely to create a revolt against Social Security is ever-higher payroll taxes funding an ever-worse deal for younger workers as they support more and more baby boomer retirees. This is precisely the AARP solution to the program's looming financial problems: Lift the cap on the amount of wages to which the payroll tax applies from $88,000 to $140,000. For the AARP, piling more taxes on people who aren't retired — i.e., working people — is always the best option.
And James Lileks trains his razor-sharp wit to ask “Why are Democrats intent on alienating young workers?”:

Everyone knows the system will explode in a shower of shredded promissory notes at some point. Every year the drop-dead date gets massaged and moved around, but you have a great number of people who read the new Projected Year of Doom, run the numbers in their head, and think: Well, I'll be dead.

The youth of America, however, are suspicious about ever seeing dime one. The youth of America have a hard time putting down the gaming console every four years and making it to the polls, so there's not much hay to be made reshaping the system to reassure them.

But this will change once they marry, spawn and start looking at their own golden years.
The generational war of Social Security is coming: this Ponzi scheme that started out with 16 workers per retiree cannot be sustained when there are only two taxpayers sending the kids’ college tuition to Florida. “Let’s take a look at it?” Do, please.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Yes, Virginia is a red state…

…and Santa Claus is a Democrat. So says discredited pollster John Zogby:

A plurality of likely voters say that longtime Christmas fixture Santa Claus is a Democrat, a new Zogby International poll reveals. The same survey found voters even more sure of the political leanings of two other Christmas icons: Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch are likely Republicans.
Isn’t it obvious that the Grinch is a member of the Green Party? More bad exit polling, I suppose.
After raking in $14 billion over a decade, I’m sure the Big Dig contractors are laughing this off: “State to file $100m suit over Big Dig” Sure!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Amazing Race 6 update

Talk about culture shock: tonight the teams traveled from Stockholm, Sweden to Dakar, Senegal on the west coast of Africa. Once again this season, we see teams failing to get a fixed price from taxi drivers who simply double-triple-quadruple the cab fare at will, leading to intense arguments.

At the first detour, teams must either take a boat into the ocean and try to catch four fish or stack hundreds of fish on a drying table before they can move on. Here’s a tip: whenever a detour involves going up in the air or out on the water, always choose the task that keeps your feet on solid ground. Six teams stacked fish while Team Don & Mary Jean and Team Gus & Hera head out into the ocean. As expected, the stackers finish first while these two teams bring up the rear.

At the roadblock, one member from each team must wade out into a salt lake and collect enough salt from the lake bottom to fill a wicker basket. The male audience of the Amazing Race must have enjoyed this one immensely since all the women chose to perform this roadblock (except for Hera). And, yes, I’m including the man-child Adam as a “woman” since I’m quite sure that teammate Rebecca has a bigger set than him. For heaven’s sake: the guy is supposed to be a physical trainer and the women whipped him good. Afterward, all the teams head to a ferry that takes them to the pit stop.

On the last episode of TAR, in a fit of immature bravado, man-child Adam told Rebecca he would throw himself under a train if she said she didn’t love him. Tonight, sensing that Rebecca has had enough of his preschool whining and looking for some sympathy, Adam says: “I’m going to jump off this boat.” Rebecca calls his bluff and replies: “That would be great.” Sadly, Adam does not jump off the boat.

Team Kris & Jon win yet again, serving notice that they’re the team to beat in the race. As predicted by yours truly, Team Don & Mary Jean come in last. However, lucky for them, this is the first non-elimination leg and they’re still in the race.
ESP-undit - Tonight on Jeopardy! the final question was on "Playwrights." Before the question/answer even came up I correctly guessed "Who is Henrik Ibsen?" Weird!

Putting my formidable powers of clairvoyance to the test, I'm going to predict that the token elderly couple of Don and Mary-Jane go home tonight on "The Amazing Race." Usually these older couples hang around long enough to make a respectable showing, before the younger teams beat them out on endurance. We'll see.
A secret dissident in a blue state

I joke that I’m “the only conservative in Western Massachusetts” but about one million Bay Staters voted for President Bush in the 2004 election. In today’s Boston Globe, Joan Vennochi prints part of a letter by another Massachusetts Bush-voter who could not back Kerry because she had no idea where he stood on vital issues of national security:

"Long ago, I gave up the idea that presidents actually do anything to make public schools better or healthcare more affordable. For me, this election was all about homeland security and the war in Iraq. Kerry never sold me on how he would do a better job with either one. To this day, I don't understand his positions on the war, or what his plan was to bring home the troops. Kerry didn't understand that I was a long way from seeing terrorism as a `nuisance' and that I needed reassurance that if we were attacked again, he would strike back. I wanted plain speak, and he gave me nuanced rhetoric.”
Vennochi concludes with this warning for Democrats:

If Democrats persist in stereotyping the Bush 2004 voter, they will never figure out how to win back voters in 2008, like the woman described above. Registered as an independent, she voted for Al Gore in 2000 and holds a professional job in a bastion of local liberalism. But traditional Democratic constituencies -- women, minorities, and labor -- no longer perform like trained seals. They need reason beyond party affiliation to vote for any presidential candidate.
The Democrats need some serious introspection, but instead they’re still – still! – flailing away in Ohio. Rock on, Terry McAuliffe.
Three years ago – Taliban
Today – Karzai sworn in as Afghan President
Everyone knows it’s Windy

I love updates on the Nantucket Sound wind farm. For those of you new to this topic, a group called Cape Wind Associates wants to build wind turbines off Nantucket sound in Massachusetts to generate clean energy, enough to power 170,000 homes. Last month, a report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declared that the project would have a negligible effect on ship navigation and wildlife. However, the largely-liberal denizens of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are trying to stop the plan because – simply put – sacrifices for clean energy should be made elsewhere.

One Cape resident spoke about worries he had over oil that would be stored at a staging platform on the 24-square mile project. Others worried about fishing grounds and urged a far more comprehensive review of the project. One woman's concerns over aesthetics brought her to tears.
Won’t somebody think of my ocean view? And my property value?” And then this kid threw some cold water on the proceedings:

"You all should be embarrassed about the world you [are leaving]," said 16-year-old Emily Lindsey of West Tisbury. "I can't vote, but to my elders I say stop exploiting the earth and future generations. Use wind."
I can only imagine that every speaker after Emily must have sounded like a Halliburton executive.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Self-parody alert - By the way, did anybody catch "The Simpsons" last night? There was a media circus in Springfield and all the news trucks for the major networks were in town. Kent Brockman says "...and there's the Fox News van" whereupon an huge truck rolls on screen. At first all you see is the Fox News logo, followed by an enormous "Bush/Cheney 2004" sign while Queen's "We are the Champions" plays in the background. It was hilarious.
The 3rd Annual Warblogger Awards at Right Wing News – I was happy to see my choice of E.J. Dionne for “least liked columnist who is not a blogger” made #3 on the list.
Still at it - Democrats vow to continue probe into Ohio voting: “Democrats have vowed to spend “whatever it takes” to complete a rigorous investigation into voting irregularities in Ohio, the state which ultimately decided this year's US presidential election in favour of President George W. Bush.” Good luck with that.
No retreat, no surrender, no power

Here’s Armstrong Williams in Human Events Online:

The final tear came after the election. [NAACP President Kweisi] Mfume suggested sending a letter to President Bush, mapping out ways that they could work together to help the community. [NAACP Chairman Julian] Bond rejected the idea. Mfume sent the letter anyway. To Bond, this was an unforgivable. A few weeks later, Bond had Mfume voted out. The message was clear: There is no room within the NAACP for intellectual diversity. Just loyal servitude to the Democratic Party.
President Bush ignored the NAACP in 2004 and his percentage of the black vote went up by 2% over his 2000 ratio. If Julian Bond persists in his jihad against the “American Taliban” of the GOP, then he can continue to lead his organization into irrelevancy.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Eyewitness report: President Bush at the Army-Navy football game.
Q&A on the Big Dig - Except for all the leaks, the tunnel is perfectly safe: “The drainage system was built with an expectation that about 500,000 gallons of water would leak into the tunnel annually. Over the past 10 months, the amount of water has reached 26 million gallons.”

This reminds me of a quote by Marion Barry: “Aside from the murders, DC has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.”

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Yawn – Lefty blogs are cheating on the Weblog Awards (see Young Pundits, LGF and Nikita). How very predictable.
Sharia in Strasbourg?

The other day, I stated there were four Arab television stations in my Switzerland hotel room. I was wrong. There were six: Al-Jazerra, along with the state networks of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia (not Qatar). By comparison, there were only four English-language stations - three if you ignore the witless MTV Europe.

In Commentary magazine, David Pryce-Jones examines "The Islamization of Europe?":
In the opinion of Bassam Tibi, an academic of Syrian origins who lives in Germany, Europeans are facing a stark alternative: “Either Islam gets Europeanized, or Europe gets Islamized.” Going still farther, the eminent historian Bernard Lewis has speculated that the clash may well be over by the end of this century, at which time, if present demographic trends continue, Europe itself will be Muslim.
The laissez-faire Europeans may need to take an iron-fist approach to the Islamics who murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh and stoned to death a Tunisian woman:
Days before she was due to be married, Ghofrane Haddaoui, 23, refused the advances of a teenage boy and paid with her life. Lured to waste ground near her home in Marseilles, the Tunisian-born Frenchwoman was stoned to death, her skull smashed by rocks hurled by at least two young men, according to police.

Although the circumstances of the murder are not clear, the horrific “lapidation” of the young Muslim stoked a French belief that the country can no longer tolerate the excesses of an alien culture in its midst.
The Europeans (or the Americans) cannot ban Islam, but instead could insist on hard-line positions on sharia-inspired crime and fundamental civil rights for women. That might be enough to turn the "Islamization of Europe" into the "Europization of Islam."
This government-run enterprise has failed. Bring on the free market.

Musharraf: Bin Laden's Location Is Unknown – “Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said yesterday that the search for Osama bin Laden has gone completely cold, with no recent intelligence indicating where he and his top lieutenants are hiding.”

I’m going to repeat something I’ve said: let’s set up a “Find Osama” contest styled after the X-Prize. That’s $50 million to the first person or team who finds the terrorist mastermind. We’ll get Mark Burnett to follow the teams into the mountains and the whole thing could pay for itself.

Friday, December 03, 2004

He’s here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…and he’s all out of gum.

Fred Barnes explains why Bush is a different kind of President: “So where does all this leave us in understanding Bush? The first step is to abandon the original preconception of President Bush. He's different. The second step is to accept that he's attempting big things. And the third, as a result, is to get ready for a second presidential term like few we've seen.”
They’re just asking for it – When you live in the enlightened city of San Francisco, it must be a sublime joy to pay your taxes in exchange for this. (Via Jeff at Beautiful Atrocities)
You’re no good, baby you’re no good - I’ve had generally good experiences returning stuff to Best Buy. John Hawkins has not: see his “Piece of Crap” list. I wholeheartedly agree with most everything else including the awful “Steel Magnolias.”
Clarence Page says: “Send Bill Cosby to head the NAACP”. An excellent idea, that.
That $15 billion hole in the ground - Big Dig firm apologizes, considers fund for repairs: “Top executives of the company managing the Big Dig, testifying at a packed State House hearing yesterday, apologized for lapses that led to a massive leak in the Interstate 93 northbound tunnel wall on Sept. 15, and agreed to consider the creation of an unusual escrow fund to pay for future leak repairs.”

Don’t hold your breath. It would probably be far cheaper for the contractors to hire lawyers and string out payment for a decade or more.
Can't MoveOn, continued - Kerry campaign joins suit seeking recount of Ohio vote
Prepare to roll eyes

From the WashPost: “Steroid Controversy Deepens
As baseball struggled to come to grips with the latest and most damaging permutation of its ongoing steroid scandal -- the revelation that New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi admitted to using the drugs for three years beginning in 2001 -- Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday vowed to strengthen the sport's three-year-old testing program, while the Yankees began examining the feasibility of voiding the remainder of Giambi's contract.

Meanwhile, San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds also reportedly told a federal grand jury that he used a clear substance and a cream but that he never thought they were steroids, according to the San Francisco Chronicle Web site.
Sure, Barry, sure - it's all a big misunderstanding.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Vote for Viking Pundit! – Hey even I’m going to vote for Betsy, but if you like my blog, I’d sure appreciate your vote.

Here’s the full Weblog Awards ballot.
I’m gonna need you to come in Saturday, mmm-kay?

This is just awesome: HP has an advertisement for one of their PDAs and the user, one “Peter Gibbons” has a task to “review TPS reports.” Presumably after he finds Milton’s red stapler. (Hat tip: Fark)
What’s in a name? Years of therapy

It’s a bit of an ego-boost to find that you’re the only blogger listed somebody’s blogroll. In your face, Instapundit! Anyway, here’s a humorous post from the Liar on Dirty Lies: the updated ranking of the “Give your child an embarrassing name sweepstakes.” Julia Roberts squeezed in at #4.

Extra: Erick’s sister Liefje appropriately has some thoughts on strange names. Those Swedes are crazy.
Just can’t MoveOnFrom Michelle Malkin, we find that John Kerry is funding the recount effort…in the Washington State governor's race. Sad.
And in other obvious news: The BBC is biased

I’m trying to recall all my interesting experiences from this recent trip. The only English language television stations were MTV Europe, CNN, CNBC and the BBC, so I saw a lot of news and Britney Spears. (Maroon 5 is really popular too – go figure).

Anyway, there was a BBC story about how Palestinians were farming an olive garden somewhere in the occupied territories but that they were forced to pass through an Israeli checkpoint and often wait for hours before being allowed through. There was an unmistakable tilt to the story as the BBC camera focused in on the worn faces of Palestinian women as Israeli soldiers waved them through a checkpoint. Then the BBC provided some context from the Israeli side of the story: [pictures of razor wire] “Israel says the checkpoint is required to keep out suicide bombers.”

That was it. Well? Is it true? Have there been suicide bombing threats at this particular checkpoint or is it part of a larger security measure? In other words, are the actions of the Israelis justified or are they extreme? Who knows? Instead, the BBC provided that throwaway line that practically sneers: “You know how those Jews lie.” That was my immediate reaction at the time, anyway.
Smoking is bad? Who knew!?! - At the duty-free shop in Amsterdam, all the cigarettes had LARGE PRINT warnings like: "Smokers die early" and "Smoking reduces fertility rates" and "Tobacco is the tool of Satan." OK, I made that last one up, but I almost took a picture except I thought it would have been strange snapping a photo in a store.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Speaking of the Red Sox - When we landed at Logan Airport, the pilot said: "Welcome to Boston, home of the World Champions in both football and baseball." There was some spontaneous applause.
Righteous irony alert

It’s only one week until United Nations International Anti-Corruption Day!

Mark your calendar for December 9th. This means you, Kofi.
Scene from the Amsterdam airport

I know there may be some who read this post and say: “He’s being judgmental of other cultures.” Well boo-hoo and tough nuts. This morning at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, I saw a Muslim woman completely covered up with only a small slit for her eyes. I don't know the technical term but it wasn't a burka, but rather a full chador (?). Anyway, the sad part was that she had two young girls in tow and the smaller was a cute tyke carrying around a pink kiddie suitcase with the words "Red Sox" on this side. All I could think of was: in seven or eight years she'll be covering up for the rest of her life. Even at Red Sox games.