Saturday, April 30, 2005

Andy Card is making the rounds – Mark Kilmer has the Sunday morning talk show lineup. Solidifying his second-tier status, George S. will be interviewing Nancy Pelosi on TW. Ugh.
Over 60 miles per hour – Military satellites indicate that the Italians who ran an blockade in Iraq were traveling at a high rate of speed and American GIs were justified in their defense. This and more from Captain Ed.
Making sure Bill Gates gets his Social Security check

My brain is turning to tapioca on the National Ponzi Scheme. Anyway, here’s the latest from the NY Times titled “Social Security: Help for the poor or help for all?” It seems that some Democrats are opposed to Dubya’s plan for “progressive indexing” because the political support for the program derives from the fact that everybody receives a check:

In choosing to preserve benefits for the less well off and not raise taxes on more affluent people, Mr. Bush sought to cast himself in the Democrats' traditional role as a defender of the poor. In his radio address on Saturday, he said: "By providing more generous benefits for low-income retirees, we'll make good on this commitment: If you work hard and pay into Social Security your entire life, you will not retire into poverty."

But critics, including most Democratic lawmakers, say that such an approach would undermine a central bargain conceived during the New Deal: that Social Security is not just a welfare program for the poor but a form of social insurance that people at all income levels pay into and reap rewards from.
And here’s a shocker: instead of paring back benefits, the Dems want to raise taxes on the rich. Whatever. Pass me another beer.
The party for the 21st century: Mario Cuomo gives Democrats’ weekly radio address
Initial stages of Operation Form-180 going smoothly –Mark at Decision 08 updates us on the procurement of a pen and other logistics.
Last night, my son ran the category on Jeopardy! for "NASCAR Team Sponsors." I wish it had been "world geography" or something but, hey, he was proud of himself.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Luke, I am your blogger

Too funny: the Darth Vader blog. Hat tip to Pej by way of Q&O.
Frist “confident” he has the votes – I agree that this is getting tedious, but Frist needs to make sure we don’t get a “Voinovich moment” if he decides to make the rules change. Plus it’s quite probable that he was waiting until after the budget resolution passed through Congress just in case the Democrats decide to gum up the works after the nuclear option. The time draws near.
Is there an echo in here?Stanley Kurtz on the Corner: “Poll fluctuations may not show this, but I think the public recognizes that this president thinks and acts on the big picture and for the long term. That’s why I think the president’s social security plan is still very much alive. He’s made good adjustments to his plan. These will make it even harder for the Democrats to refuse to offer a plan of their own. They’ll also take away some of the key arguments against the president’s plan. Over time, I think the president is going to win the social security issue. Either he will get reform, or he will be forced to bow out without paying a political price. The public understands that there’s a serious long-term problem with social security. It’s the Democrats who are going to pay a price if this problem doesn’t get solved.” It seems to me I’ve heard those sentiments somewhere before.

Extra - Ace gets it too.
Harry Reid enters the fifth stage

Denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance:

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid raised a few eyebrows yesterday on the Senate floor when he said it would take a "miracle" for Democrats to win enough races next year to take back the Senate.

"I would like to think a miracle would happen and we would pick up five seats this time," he said during a floor debate over the filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees. "I guess miracles never cease."

Republicans were delighted by what they called an "admission" from the highest-ranking elected Democrat in the country.
Hat tip to Ex-Donkey who adds: “Actually the real miracle will be if the Dems don't lose more seats in 2006.” Welcome to the permanent minority, Harry!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Call and respond – Here’s the transcript for last night’s press conference along with reaction by Lorie on Polipundit and the Anklebiting Pundits. Also, Opinion Journal reposted the article by Robert Pozen detailing his Social Security reform plan.
President Bush’s press conference

Clearly the big story tonight was Dubya’s passion to solve the looming Social Security problem. IMHO he had a strong grasp on the issue and the only thing I could possibly quibble about is that I wish he had noted that if nothing is done, there will be automatic across-the-board cuts for everyone once the Trust Fund runs out. (He did, to his credit, cite the CBO figure that every year without reform costs us another $600 billion in unfunded liability.) It looks like Bush is throwing his support behind the Robert Pozen plan of “progressive indexing.” In this plan, lower-income Americans will keep the same benefits formula which is largely indexed to wages while higher-income Americans will see a shift towards price indexing. In all cases, the future benefits for everyone will at least equal the current value of the Social Security benefit today. But since wage growth is typically larger than the rate of inflation, the wage growth benefit will be much larger in constant dollars in the future.

[Get ready for the Democrats to demagogue this point as a “cut” because for many workers they would receive less than the current formula offers. (Once again: nobody would receive less in constant dollars under price indexing.) In their mind, a 20% cut by design is much, much worse than an automatic 20% cut in the future.]

Despite Bush’s strong argument for personal accounts and expanding the “investment class,” I don’t think he really “moved the ball” on this issue. The opposition will continue to oppose as if that’s a badge of principle – well, good for them. My feeling all along is that the Social Security fight is a win-win proposition for President Bush. I know this concept confounds certain people, but Bush is fighting both the battle and the war. Even if reform is sent down to defeat, almost certainly by a Democratic filibuster, as a minimum Bush will have demonstrated leadership on a contentious issue and raised the profile of a fiscal crisis that will affect all Americans.

In fact assume that a Republican bill to reform Social Security does not pass through Congress. In every poll taken on this issue, the desire for personal accounts rises dramatically depending on age. With no government-sponsored personal accounts, younger Americans will see the handwriting on the wall and set up their own “add-on” accounts, pouring money into 401(k)s and IRAs. As time passes, it will become apparent that Social Security offers a very low (and in some cases, negative) rate of return. When the social and fiscal justification for Social Security as a retirement supplement becomes irrelevant, the political support for this Ponzi scheme will collapse.

I’ve said it before: if the Democrats truly want to save Social Security, they’ll engage the President, propose ideas, and try to shape the debate. They can defeat reform now, but the unchangeable reality of demographics and generational inequity will push working Americans into the investor class, one way or another.

Background: Fox News poll on President Bush and Social Security (story / poll)

Overall, fully 79 percent of the public think people under age 55 should have the right to choose between keeping all of their Social Security contributions in the current system and investing a portion of their funds. That support goes up to 84 percent among respondents under age 55.
And it’s approaching unity for the 30 and younger (aka the "automatic cuts") set.
Democrats reject Senator Bill Frist's outlandish offer for 100 hours of debate per judicial nominee followed by a traditional up-or-down vote. Harry Reid demands "a big wet kiss." All this and more on the filibuster fight at Confirm Them!
Again with this

Here’s an excerpt from a WashPost editorial on the 2006 federal budget:

The resolution would take from the poor and give to the rich. It would provide for easy passage -- no Senate filibuster allowed -- of what's likely to be $70 billion in tax cuts over the next five years, the benefits of which would tilt heavily toward wealthier Americans.
How tiresome is this class warfare trope? If taxes were cut 1% for the richest Americans but 20% for everybody else, the “rich” would still receive the majority of the dollar sum of tax breaks because they pay all the taxes.
Here’s a headline you don’t see everyday: “Priest at Vatican is called a spy Polish cleric said to aid Communists as Pope urged resistance
Speaking of partisan, extremist, right-wing religious zealots – Here’s Mort Kondracke with “Democrats still don’t ‘get it’ on religion
The Gore-bot speaks

Here’s the keyword rundown:

“partisan” – 5
“extremist” – 7
“danger/dangerous” – 6
“right-wing” – 4
“religious/religiosity” – 10
“zealous/zealots” – 4
“lust” – 2

Al Gore apparently missed the irony of speaking before MoveOn and starting his oration with a re-hash of the 2000 election.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

There must come a point in the process where the majority rules

The New York Times runs an editorial declaring “Time to Retire the Filibuster”:

One unpleasant and unforeseen consequence has been to make the filibuster easy to invoke and painless to pursue. Once a rarely used tactic reserved for issues on which senators held passionate convictions, the filibuster has become the tool of the sore loser, dooming any measure that cannot command the 60 required votes.
On a completely unrelated note: “Vast majority says news reporting is biased.”

Extra from Poliblog: “…the current situation marks the first attempt at an en masse blocking of Appeals Court nominees in the history of the Republic via the use of the filibuster. There is no disputing that fact by anyone who will address the facts with dispassionate honesty. As such, the party that is changing the de facto rules of the game are the Democrats, not the Republicans.” Scroll around the site since Dr. T. has many good posts on the filibuster and the disingenuous “checks and balances” argument.
Quick SS roundup – The WashPost reviews the hearing in the Senate Finance Committee yesterday while the Democrats held a rally “blasting Bush” on Social Security. Whatever.
Anything for some attention – Here are the new shows on Air America.
Let them all talk - Pete DuPont tracks the love-hate relationship the Democrats have with the filibuster. Q&O suggests the “conventional weapons” option to break the filibuster by forcing a true “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” scenario.
Like Jonah and the whale

We’re going to be swallowed up by entitlements. Here’s the conclusion of Bruce Bartlett’s article “Understanding the Long-Term Finances of Today’s Entitlement Programs”:

The chilling conclusion is that virtually 100 percent of all federal taxes, on a present value basis, do nothing but pay for Social Security and Medicare. Unless there are plans to abolish the rest of the federal government, large tax increases are inevitable.

Avoiding such tax increases is the best reason to reform Social Security now. It's too bad that President Bush made the Medicare problem so much worse before trying to fix Social Security.
If you read the article, you’ll see that Bartlett is referring to the massive new prescription drug benefit added on to Medicare two years ago, which pushed us further into the hole. But there’s an important point here for Democrats opposed to reform. If nothing is done, entitlements will crowd out all discretionary spending – all the things that most people refer to as “government.” Our future will be a hard choice between "starve the beast" and "soak the taxpayers."
Et tu, Boston Globe? – I’m not sure if this was always their policy but I was prompted by the Boston Globe for a login. Sigh. This would be a good time to remind everybody that Bug Me Not allows you to bypass registration on newspaper sites. Use it, if you must, to view this opinion piece on John Bolton: “The Right Bull for the UN China Shop.”
The juiced-up, knocked-down, ho-hum game of baseball

As yet another legend is dogged by twin allegations of betting and steroid use, there’s a growing impression that all the mythos has vanished from our once-proud national pastime:

There isn't much poetry being written about the opening of the 2005 baseball season. The gee-whiz, renewal-of-spring angle seems to be unavailable this year.
The crackdown on steroid use will likely cause a precipitous decline in fan-pleasing home runs, followed by the fans themselves. It’s enough to make Barry Bonds cry.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A “nuclear” story that’s not about filibusters – “In the current debate over the energy bill, one important factor is being all but ignored: A global renaissance in nuclear energy is gaining momentum, and it could have greater implications than any or all of the other proposed methods being discussed for dealing with our energy problems.”
Amazing Race update – It’s nobody’s business but the Turks

Teams started out from Jodhpur, India and had to make their way to Istanbul, Turkey. All teams make the same travel arrangements and all start out on a plane to Delhi. Once there, Uchenna makes a phone call to a travel agent and finds an earlier flight to Istanbul; Team Africa and Team Codger take seats on a flight that arrives at 6:20am. Meanwhile, Team Survivor and Team America go to Turkish Airlines (sounds logical) but are told the earliest flight arrives at 8:20am. Later, we get to chuckle at Boston Rob as he calls the teams on the earlier flight “stupid” and “the blind leading the blind.”

The first two teams arrive in Istanbul and make their way to Kiz Kulasi – an island lighthouse. There we get a product placement as teams must search the island for a Travelocity gnome that they must carry to the Pit Stop. Uchenna & Joyce, then Meredith & Gretchen finish 1-2; later we see a shocked Rob discover that two teams beat him to the lighthouse. “Unbelievable, Ambah!” Team America is bringing up the rear and Kelly all but accuses Ron of getting out of the military by becoming a prisoner of war. (Ron, you should have wore a dress!) After the lighthouse, teams needed to make their way to a tower in the middle of Istanbul for the next clue.

Detour: Columns or Kilos. Teams must either travel to an ancient Turkish well and search among columns for numbers that open a locked trunk, or head to a public square and weigh people on bathroom scales. Everybody decides to take Kilos, except for Ron & Kelly who actually finish up Columns pretty quickly. Not much to note here except a couple of the people who agreed to be weighed on the street objected to the results, proving that people are the same all around the world. After this teams needed to head to a castle fortress in the center of Istanbul, overlooking the Bosporus.

Roadblock: “Storm the Castle” – one team member must climb up a rope ladder to the top of the fortress, find a key, then rappel back down. Team Africa arrives first and Uchenna flies up the ladder then back down to a waiting (and bald) Joyce. A guard opens the fortress door and, inside the compound, they find Phil to arrive as Team #1.

Team Codger arrives outside and, for some reason, Gretchen opts to perform the Roadblock. I’ll admit, she’s been pretty annoying in the Race so far, but she somehow found the energy to make it up that ladder. Team Codger is funny: they always seem to arrive about third from the bottom on every leg and in this case, with four teams left, they’re an impressive Team #2.

There’s really nothing complicated about this Roadblock so when Team Survivor arrives ahead of Team America, it looks pretty likely that Ron & Kelly will be in last place. Sure enough, Rob is rappelling down the castle wall just as Ron is making his way up and Team Survivor arrives as Team #3. Team America finishes up and – good news – this is a non-elimination leg so they get to compete in the next leg of the Race. Bad news: they lose all their accumulated money and must make their way with only the clothes on their back. But then good news again: that gnome they’ve been carrying has a plane on the bottom and Team America wins a $20,000 travel package from Travelocity. Which is nice.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Africa – Uchenna & Joyce
#2 – Team Codger – Meredith & Gretchen
#3 – Team Survivor – Rob & Amber
#4 – Team America – Ron & Kelly – NON-ELIMINATION LEG

Extra – Of course, as usual, here’s Kris’ excellent Amazing Race 7 recap: “If last week's episode was all about the frenzy of India, tonight's episode was all about the hubris of Rob.” And BTW Kris – I would also love to go to Istanbul someday.

Bonus - And here's Brainster's take.
How did this slip by the NYT editors?

Wonder of wonders: a columnist for the New York Times wrote an article on Social Security and it includes *gasp* numbers! It makes economic predictions based on Earth-based mathematics! Wow! Don Luskin is beside himself.

Anyway, new columnist John Tierney traveled to Chile to see how their experiment in personal accounts has worked out in “The Proof’s in the Pension”:

Still, you may argue, Chileans may someday long for a system like Social Security if the stock market crashes and takes their pensions down with it. The relative risks of the Chilean and American systems are a question for another column. But I can tell you that Pablo is an economist who appreciates the risks of stocks and has no doubt about where he wants to keep putting his money.
If only we were as fiscally sophisticated as the Chileans. Read the whole thing.
Err America update – Here’s the Radio Equalizer: “Get ready for another round of excuses, as a fresh batch of radio ratings have been released tonight and things still don't look pretty for Air America/liberal talk radio.”

The future looks bleak for liberal talk radio with no measureable growth in listeners and a miniscule audience share. In deep-blue Los Angeles, the Air America affiliate is ranked 44th. (Hat tip: GOP Bloggers)
Harry Reid renames his party “Deomcrats”Dummocrats rejoices, then considers copyright infringement lawsuit.
The communal idea of Social Security, retooled for the modern day

The other day I was reading a letter to the NY Times that started: “As members of the human race…” I immediately stopped reading. Anything that starts out like that is always a didactic appeal to communal sacrifice, colored with mawkish sentimentality. (Think Mrs. Lovejoy’s cloying moralizing to “Think of the children!”) The “we’re in it together” argument has a powerful pull, but at what cost to personal responsibility? Here’s an excerpt from William Voegeli’s excellent (long) article in Opinion Journal titled “FDR’s Card Trick The cynical idealism behind Social Security.”

Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria recently told an interviewer, "People often say, 'How could you, living in India, end up a Reaganite?' Well, the answer is, live in India. There are two things that people don't understand. One is the degree to which a highly regulated economy produces masses of corruption because it empowers bureaucrats. It just has to be seen to be believed. The second is that you are very quickly inured to the charms of preindustrial village life. Whenever someone says the word community, I want to reach for an oxygen mask."
We all want a community where the fire department comes to the rescue and your neighbor lends you a garden hose, but at what point did Social Security cross the boundary from social insurance for the elderly poor to a fund-transfer program from the young to the relatively well-off old? Surely the answer lies somewhere between the original tax rate of 2% and the current rate of 12.4%. As the nation gears up for the debate on Social Security reform, we need to face up to some indisputable facts: 1.) considering that 80% of Americans pay more in payroll taxes than incomes taxes, we cannot continue to raise this regressive tax, 2.) a program invented in the 1930’s needs to be modernized for the 21st century 3.) we need to put aside the demagoguery that a minor adjustment to Social Security will lead to legions of destitute people lining street corners:

President Bush is now endeavoring to redress the looming embarrassment of Social Security's obligation to pay more than it will take in. The semantic argument about whether this shortfall constitutes a crisis, a problem, or a banana daiquiri is pointless. The gap must be closed, either by reducing the program's obligations or increasing its revenues. The president's approach calls for restraining the growth of Social Security benefits, while compensating for that reduction by letting younger workers divert a portion of their taxes to build up their retirement savings. The logic is that while blackening the skies with criss-crossing dollars is a zero-sum game, participating in capital formation through investments is not. Wealth can be multiplied, not just divided.

Few Democrats or leftists of any stripe have come forward to applaud Bush's pragmatic, experimental social policy. Yet, they can't confess that their "principle," that government must always grow and never shrink, is something they pulled out of the air. Nor can they draw on the credibility they built up the last time a welfare state program was scaled back. In the Clinton-era debate over welfare reform, we were told (in The Nation) that Aid to Families with Dependent Children was crucial to "the fragile state of grace that suggests we are our sisters' and brothers' keepers. That is what community is fundamentally about." And we were warned that ending AFDC "will destroy that state of grace. In its place will come massive and deadly poverty, sickness, and all manner of violence. People will die, businesses will close, infant mortality will soar, everyone who can will move. Working- and middle-class communities all over America will become scary, violent wastelands."

Show us, please, all those hellish wastelands that have sprung up in the last nine years--and then tell us why we must not make any changes to Social Security.
Democrats would have us believe that Social Security is like a soufflé that cannot be touched, else we invite the penury of the Great Depression. America is better than that.
Get your fill, buster, on the filibuster – Oh, that was awful. Anyway, How Appealing has gobs of links on the Senate and the fight over the rules change.
Must readInterview with a Marine back from Iraq (HT: Winds of Change)
Must readInterview with a Marine back from Iraq (HT: Winds of Change)
The problem was they didn’t spend enough taxpayer money

From the Boston Globe: “Time, money, and the Big Dig.”

Adds [Congressman Stephen] Lynch: ''I think the pressure was growing to reduce costs. They cut it to the bone." Eliminating rebar, he said, ''was one area where they chose to cut costs."
Wow…$15 billion is a lot of fat to cut off that bone.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah, meeting with President Bush yesterday in Crawford, Texas, offered a long-term increase in oil production. (Story – “Saudis offer little gas price relief.”)

Monday, April 25, 2005

That’s not Hootie

From a Slate article on weird TV commercials:

Likewise, Burger King's notorious Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch spot—the one with a country song performed by Hootie (of the Blowfish)—tried almost desperately to focus on the sandwich at hand. The song had lots of sandwich-related lyrics, and there were even props like giant onions and buckets of ranch dressing. Of course, all anyone will remember is Darius Rucker (aka Hootie himself), the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders in skimpy outfits, and the generic spokes-hottie Brooke Burke—all of them thrown together, in a surrealistic stew, for reasons utterly unclear to us and utterly divorced from the product.
From the group’s biography page: “The group had formed at the University of South Carolina in the late ’80s, naming themselves after the nicknames of two of their college friends.”

From VH1: “The name [Hootie] refers to two friends of the band, not Rucker and the group itself.”
Too late for Social Security reform?

Fred Barnes thinks the Bush administration should throw in the towel:

President Bush needs an exit strategy on Social Security. With luck, he may never have to use it. There's still a chance a sweeping reform bill will pass this year. But despite Bush's valiant efforts to sell Congress and the nation on the idea of modernizing Social Security, the prospects are dim. History will surely vindicate Bush for trying to solve a serious national problem before it becomes a staggering mess. What's required now, however, is that he be ready to accept defeat in a manner that saves Republicans from losses in the 2006 election and allows him to pursue the rest of his agenda effectively.
Well, there’s still a chance that Dubya can turn things around perhaps by shifting the argument from solvency to financial freedom. But, whatever may occur, I believe that Republicans will be rewarded – not punished – for taking on the issue of Social Security’s long-term solvency. It would be wrong to think about the midterm elections when there is a strong case for responsible reform.
Hey, I know that song! - This weekend, I picked up "Youth & Young Manhood" by the group Kings of Leon. I gave it a shot because the song "Molly's Chambers" is that song used in the Volkswagen commercial where the young couple is playing music too loud for their downstairs neighbor. It's good!
Captain Ed on Howard Dean: “The Democrats have wound up with the worst of both worlds with Howard Dean. He's too radical to appeal to the voters in the center with any credibility at all, and if he gives more than a token effort to do so, he'll lose the people who put him in power at all.”

The DNC’s new slogan – “Vote for us, you Jesus freaks!” - isn’t going to win many, um, converts.
Iraq needs blogs! – Interesting article from Sebastian Mallaby noting that oil-rich states have a problem with democracy when they lack the checks of an established judiciary and a vibrant media. He cites Nigeria as an example, but I immediately thought of Venezuela where Hugo Chavez has passed a “no badmouthing” rule.
Pat Sajak on Air America: “What will eventually kill Air America is its redundancy.” (HT: Boots & Sabers)

Sunday, April 24, 2005

If it’s a bluff, it’s a magnificent one

I’ve been doubtful for some time whether the Republicans would find the fortitude to vote for the “nuclear option” and change the rule to override the Democrats’ unconstitutional filibusters of judicial nominees. Senate majority leader Bill Frist has been threatening to take action for weeks now. Yesterday, the GOP’s vote counter in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, announced he has the votes to institute the rule change. Well, they must have the 50 votes because the clincher was the sudden wobbling of Senate Democrats:

Also yesterday, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, suggested a possible compromise on the nominations of seven judges that have been delayed. Biden suggested on the ABC program ''This Week" that ''the two most extreme [nominations] not go through," which would enable a fast vote on the other five.

Manley, Reid's spokesman, said Democrats would be open to discussing such a compromise, but it was not clear whether Republicans would be interested.
Quite right. This counter-proposal is designed to establish the axiom that the Senate filibusters are legitimate and that a contravention to the Constitution – in both theory and long-standing practice – is acceptable. The Senate leadership should reject it out of hand.

Extra - Power Line hits the same note: “The last thing the Republicans should do at this point is accept Biden's deal. The explicit premise of the "compromise" is that President Bush's nominees are "extreme," and the two that the Dems will block are the "most extreme." This is not only false, it is insulting to every judge whom President Bush has nominated to the bench, and to the President himself. Unable to win today, the Democrats are playing for the future--for the President's first Supreme Court nomination, for next year's elections, and for history.”

Bonus – From Prof. B by way of Decision 08, here’s a graph from the Economist on the judicial confirmation rates of previous administrations. (More here.)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The $14.6 billion hole in the ground

Boy, it's been a couple of weeks since we've had a good Big Dig story. From Fox News - House panel probes Big Dig tunnel leaks:

Turnpike officials have said taxpayers won't be saddled with the cost of fixing leaks in the $14.6 billion Big Dig highway project — but a top federal watchdog isn't so sure.

Kenneth Mead, inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation, said the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority faces huge hurdles in its effort to force contractors to pick up the tab for the leaks.

"While the authority has said its contractors, and not the taxpayers, will pay to fix all the leaks, we are not entirely confident of this," Mead told the House Government Reform Committee.
The original cost of Boston's Big Dig was estimated at $4 billion. We will never stop paying for this boondoggle. We might as well start saving up for the "Big Dig Collapse Clean-Up Fund."
I guess Janet Reno was right after all - Cuban Castaway Elian Gonzalez Thanks Americans for Helping Him Return Home to Cuba

Friday, April 22, 2005

Public service announcement - Blogging may be spotty/non-existent over the next couple days as I'm heading down to Atlantic City to see Elvis Costello. Be sure to check out all the fine sites on my blogroll. See you soon.
Never throw anything away – British man finds 1965 magazine describing Moore’s law, collects $10,000 reward from Intel (Hat tip: Fark)
It’s well-known that FDR did a wicked Helen Keller impersonation

From here, via Anklebite Pundits, with a hat tip to Lorie:

Between a speech he delivered without notes and a question-answer session, [Howard] Dean regaled an appreciative audience for nearly 90 minutes without once raising his voice, as he did after last year's Iowa primary election. But he did draw howls of laughter by mimicking a drug-snorting Rush Limbaugh.
Oh, Howard! You’re the gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A question – According to the American Spectator, the John Bolton nomination may be in real trouble. Does President Bush have to nominate somebody else? Could he leave the position open as a kind of protest against the United Nations? That might be an even better outcome. Karl Rove, you magnificient bastard!
The greatest band in music history vs. J-Lo

Via the incomparable Smoking Gun, here’s a lesson for all you no-talent warblers (that means you, Mariah). The Beatles backstage rider requested such ameneties as a “trailer with electricity and water” and clean towels. Then there’s Jennifer Lopez who demanded – for a charity event – well, see for yourself.
Moonbat Central: “As one who listens to talk radio primarily to be entertained, I say that the main reasons Air America appears destined to suffer the Mario Cuomo Show's fate has less to do with leftism's so-called "complexity" and more to do with the fact that, unlike its conservative counterparts, Air America’s political message is negative and depressing, its programs are terribly boring and its hosts are insufferably lame.”

A commenter claims Air America is “beyond my ability to endure” and I heartily agree. I’ve tried to look at it from the other side, but how many times can you call Bush a moron and fume about Tom DeLay? It’s like Orwell’s “Five Minute Hate” extended perpetually – nobody can maintain that much bile.
The anti-Sullivan – Enobarbus is offering a blogger refund while he goes on hiatus to play Brutus in Julius Caesar.

In response to this news, the Sully monitor hit “chagrined.”
The absurdity of the U.N. Human Rights committee and other fun

I couldn’t possibly quote from Jay Nordlinger’s excellent Impromptus, but he has some great observations on the following topics:

John Bolton (He believes Bolton will still be confirmed).
A vote on the UN Human Rights committee to condemn Cuba (Cuba voted no!)
Name-calling by the Democrats
Why Tom DeLay is the perfect target
Rhetoric on the death tax
…and much more.

Check it out: the roll call on the U.N. vote is a gas and only underscores why we need somebody like Bolton to shake things up.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Robert Novak cooks that Byrd – “Re-inventing the Filibuster
Can somebody explain this to me?

The House of Representatives voted to move forward with oil development in ANWR, over Democratic objections:

The bill's sponsors said oil from Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as much as a million barrels a day, will be needed to help curtail the country's growing dependence on oil imports. Opponents argued the oil wouldn't be available for a decade and even then at levels that would not significantly affect oil prices or imports.
What does that have to do with anything? In fact, isn’t it a reason to start development now so that the oil could be potentially available in case of another 1973-type oil shock? I have never understood this illogical “ten years away” argument.
Butch lives! – Via Snopes, here’s what happened to all those Little Rascals.

Alfalfa does not.
Equal time

Well, if I can criticize the GOP, then James Carville and Paul Begala can criticize the Democrats. Here they are in USA Today: “Democrats must change everything.”

Sure, we'd like it if Democrats were seen as the party of faith, family and the flag. And we'd like it if Democrats would fight corporate interests more and take their special interest money less. But the biggest problem the Democrats face is not that they're seen as standing for too many liberal issues or standing for too many conservative positions. It's that Democrats aren't seen as standing for anything.
Unfortunately, most of their advice to “believe in something” reads like a John Kerry stump speech, long on bombast and short on specifics (i.e. “we need reform.”) Last month, I noted that Democrats have no discernable opinion on a centerpiece of Democratic politics: Social Security. Election 2006 is going to be a battle royale between the Democrats’ nihilism and the Republicans’ fecklessness.

How depressing.
Wanted: political courage

Me, last month:

Even this past week, Congress couldn’t vote to slightly slow the growth of Medicaid; where will they ever find the backbone to trim Medicare or Social Security?
Tony Blankley, today:

Neither the British, the Germans, nor the Canadians, nor we have the slightest clue how to maintain funding for the levels of health care their populations assume will be available to them through their retirements. Those politicians who say solve Medicare before Social Security are in effect saying don't solve Social Security. If we don't have the political will to solve the easier problem of Social Security, my advice to boomers as they get older is: Don't get sick.
The whole entitlement debate has re-kindled my affection for term limits. If we had just a handful of Congresspersons who weren’t constantly preoccupied with fundraising and re-election, maybe there would be more courage to talk about unpopular, yet necessary, reforms. I don’t know. Between the Bolton nomination fiasco, Bill Frist’s tease over the “nuclear” option, and a general inability to kick-start debate on entitlement reform, I think the Congressional Republicans are floundering. The only Republican on Capitol Hill with any vigor to push conservative legislation is Tom DeLay, which is why he’s target #1.

Extra: This Beltway Buzz reader echoes my thoughts as does this post on Jackson’s Junction.
Strangest search term I’ve ever seen here – Apparently I’m #2 on a Google search for “Goofus got around to kicking the absolute living snot out of Gallant”
Today’s hoot (as CBP would say): The Andrew Sullivan emotional alert code

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Amazing Race update – A passage across India

In the second half of a two-part episode, teams continued the Race in Lucknow, India. Even though Meredith & Gretchen were way behind the other teams, it all didn’t matter since the next clue instructed teams to gather at the Lucknow train station and wait for a train on platform 2; there the teams find the marked train doesn’t leave until 9pm. After a 24 hour (!) train ride to Jodhpur, India, teams needed to find a clock tower in the local market. Surprise: that doesn’t open until the next morning so it’s a bunching double-whammy.

As the sun rises, we see the remaining five teams head up the clock tower to find the next clue and it’s a Fast Forward/Detour combo. One team may choose to take the Fast Forward and this time it’s Uchenna & Joyce who leap at the chance. All the other teams must choose between Trunk or Dunk: for the Detour they may either move a heavy teak elephant down the street to a temple or dunk a bunch of sheets in tie-dye to find the next clue. All teams pick the Trunk and push the elephants down crowded street, enlisting help from the locals along the way. Teams finish this Detour pretty much in the order of their athletic ability with Team America first, followed by Team Survivor, Team Showtunes, and then Team Codger who were somewhat handicapped by the fact that (for some reason) Gretchen decided to ride on top of the elephant instead of helping to push. The next clue instructs teams to head to a local farm and off they go in cramped auto-rickshaws.

Meanwhile, Team Africa is searching for a riverfront temple and the Fast Forward and idly wondering if this is task requiring that they shave their heads. Obviously, they’ve seen season 5 of TAR where one team (Brendan & Nicole, who happened to be professional models) refused to take the same challenge. Of course, as part of an Indian custom, they must shave their heads to complete the task. This is meaningless for Uchenna who is completely bald, but Joyce has beautiful hair. Even so, she doesn’t hesitate for a moment and the Indian man starts cutting away. But once Joyce’s locks start falling around her, she starts to cry a little and Uchenna tries to console her by repeating “you look beautiful” for the remainder of the show. After Joyce is done, they receive the clue instructing them to head to the Pit Stop at Jaswant Thada – a stunning castle on the heights of Jodhpur – and they arrive as Team #1.

The remaining teams are heading from the Detour to the Roadblock: one team member must “race” a camel cart around a track (“race” as in the team members have help from a driver and another guide.) Kelly edges out Amber and Team America heads off to the Pit Stop with Team Survivor close behind. Meanwhile, Lynn is racing against Meredith and they finish the course a couple minutes later. All four remaining teams are then shown in their auto-rickshaws heading to the Pit Stop and, although you have a rough idea of everybody’s position in the Race, you never can tell.

For the second time this season, Team America’s taxi driver needs to stop for gas and Ron lets out a series of church-approved expletives (“consarnit” and such). This allows Rob & Amber to catch up and they arrive at the Pit Stop only a split-second behind Ron & Kelly. Meanwhile, Team Showtunes is taken to the wrong place (the other Jaswant Thada?) and they need to turn around and head back. This opens the door for Team Codger who, in one of those TAR twists, step on the mat as Team #4 to race another day. (Phil also notes that they’re the oldest team to make it so far in the Race.) Lynn & Alex eventually make it to the end, but they are eliminated. Gratefully, they spend their last moments on the show praising each other instead of griping about Rob & Amber.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Africa – Uchenna & Joyce – FAST FORWARD
#2 – Team America – Ron & Kelly
#3 – Team Survivor – Rob & Amber
#4 – Team Codger – Meredith & Gretchen
#5 – Team Showtunes – Lynn & Alex – ELIMINATED

Extra: Kris is back! After a hiatus last week (for shame!) Kris has her own excellent Amazing Race recap.

Bonus: Brainster also has a TAR update.
Can you hear me now? No? You customers demand too much.
Didn’t Sullivan promise to go away? – Apparently he just won’t shut up despite pleas and ridicule from Ace and Professor Bainbridge. I stopped reading Sully months ago…when he claimed he was packing it in.
Voinovich scotches Bolton nomination – With the vote delayed yet again, the Freepers are not amused.
Domestic terrorist gets eight years in prison

On the ten-year anniversary of Oklahoma City (many links at MM) here’s another account of domestic terrorism:

A Caltech graduate student convicted of helping to firebomb scores of sport utility vehicles was sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison and ordered to pay $3.5 million in restitution.
Cottrell, 24, was convicted in November of conspiracy to commit arson and seven counts of arson for an August 2003 vandalism spree that damaged and destroyed about 125 SUVs at dealerships and homes in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles.
Cottrell was acquitted of using a destructive device Molotov cocktails in a crime of violence. That was the most serious charge he faced and it carried a sentence of at least 30 years in prison.
At his trial, the prosecution had accused Cottrell of "arrogance" and a "towering superiority" toward people who did not share his environmental views. Cottrell had testified that SUV dealers were evil.
Cottrell’s Earth Liberation Front co-conspirators have fled the country.
Fear of freedom? - I caught a little flak with my post on the WashPost article about lower-income Americans who are wary of Social Security reform. Don Luskin hits many of the same points in his acerbic rebuttal. Meanwhile, Opinion Journal has an article titled: “It Really Is Black and White . . . Private Social Security accounts will help lift minorities out of poverty.”

Monday, April 18, 2005

More from the Social Security tour - From the White House: President Discusses Strengthening Social Security in South Carolina
What a gyp!Wes Roth packs it in only a week after I erased my Drudge Report link. No fair.
How to engage the Fairness Option

Mort Kondracke made a very good point today in “Before firing ‘nukes’ Senate should debate Senate picks.” The putative reason for a filibuster is to extend debate, so let’s force the Democrats to make their case against President Bush’s judicial nominees. Here’s a dream scenario (disclaimer: I am not an expert on Senate rules so this may be incorrect):

1 - A cloture vote is called for a judicial nominee.
2 - The Democrats filibuster and prevent the close of debate.
3 - The Senate leadership extends debate on the nominee for, say, two hours.
4 - Another cloture vote. Another filibuster.
5 - The Senate chair extends debate for four hours.
6 - Another cloture vote. Another filibuster.
7 - The Senate chair extends debate on the nominee for eight hours.
8 - Filibuster.
9 - After, say, 24 hours of continuous debate, the rules change is made to end the filibuster of judicial nominees.
10 - Judicial nominees get an up-or-down vote.

In sum, it’s important for the Senate leadership to demonstrate that the Democrats are not really interested in debate and that they’re intent on subverting the Constitution to block the President’s judicial nominees. So let's debate, then let's vote.
Err America update

From the LA Times: "Why the Liberals Can't Keep Air America From Spiraling In"
The liberal Air America Radio, just past its first birthday, has probably enjoyed more free publicity than any enterprise in recent history. But don't believe the hype: Air America's left-wing answer to conservative talk radio is failing, just as previous efforts to find liberal Rush Limbaughs have failed.
Hat tip to Real Clear Politics. Sometimes I'll tune into Morning Sedition for the pure humor of listening to Marc Maron spit out "crypto-fascists" and "zombie death cult" like a brain-addled parrot.
Why haven’t you linked Viking Pundit?

I edged onto Lorie Byrd’s list of “Favorite Blogs of A-list bloggers” on Right Wing News, beating out many lesser blogs such as Power Line. Hey, I’m not above a little end zone dancing.
Everybody loves a winner – “The Republican National Committee raised a record $32.3 million from January through March, more than double the Democrats' total.”
Hix in stix nix Social Security investment mix

It’s rare to find a more condescending and tendentious article than this one in today’s WashPost: “Bush Social Security Plan Proves Tough Sell Among Working Poor.” Bottom line: because a handful of lower-income workers don’t understand Social Security reform and simply refuse to take responsibility for their long-term financial security, we’re all stuck with a compulsory program careening towards insolvency.

"I don't know what's going on with it [retirement savings]," she said one night at a tax clinic in Southeast D.C. "I just know I have these three accounts, so I just say, 'Let's hope and pray. Let's hope and pray it's not going into Enron. Let's hope and pray it's not going into Tyco.' It's just hard to absorb all I'm supposed to absorb."
Said the woman studying to be an accountant. How would you like to have her preparing your taxes? “Let’s pray we don’t get audited.”

Nowhere in the article does reporter Jonathan Weisman disclose that any personal account program would be completely voluntary. Furthermore, there’s no mention that current proposals stipulate that any benefit cuts would be subjected to “progressive indexing” such that low-income workers would receive the full benefit as calculated under the current system. These are both highly relevant points omitted from the story in favor of a winding discourse about bus routes.

And, most critically, if there is no reform then automatic benefits cuts kick in when the mythical Trust Fund is exhausted. This point was not lost in the heated rebuttal from the Ankle-biting Pundits:

And if the Post was honest it would point out that she doesn't have to join the new system and she's still going to get her check. But that check is going to be a whole lot less if we stick with the old system.
I’ve been appalled at the self-serving rhetoric from groups like the AARP who appear to find virtue in keeping lower-income Americans in an endless cycle of dependency. Voluntary personal accounts, for all their flaws, offer the opportunity to build real equity that can be passed on to family members. But because some people “don’t want to think about it,” all Americans will remain chained to this Ponzi scheme.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Time magazine clowns fall for spoof protest

Ann Coulter is going to be on the cover of Time magazine this week and I don’t know if this picture will be included in the magazine but it’s up on the website now. The subtitle is “Protesters blast Coulter at the G.O.P. Convention in New York City last year.”

The two groups “protesting” against Ann Coulter are Communists for Kerry and Protest Warrior. Nice going, MSM suckers!

Extra: Here’s the post from Free Republic “Idiots at Time mag fall for Protest Warrior satire.”
Democrats govern by their core principles focus groups

From AP: “Democrats adjust Social Security stance

House Democrats have decided to quit emphasizing that they will not negotiate changes to Social Security until President Bush drops his idea for private accounts. The switch in strategy comes after Democrats learned from focus groups that people frown on the lawmakers for being obstinate.
By way of the Cracker Barrel Philosopher who quips: “The Democrat party can't break wind without a focus group.” Some additional thoughts from Matt Margolis here.
Missed the Sunday morning shows?

I know I did since I’ve been traveling this weekend. Be sure to check Mark Kilmer for updates and the Rightsided Newsletter. Frankly, it doesn’t look like I missed much since everybody is jabbering about Tom Delay who – mark my words – ain’t goin’ nowhere.
Scalia the radical must be stopped! – “Scalia says Constitution, not society, is his guide”: “Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia disagrees with judges who believe the Constitution should be reinterpreted as society changes, saying that allows courts to bend the law to suit a political agenda.” Heretic.
Unsurprising - by way of Conservative Dialysis: “Rangel plays race card with Social Security” Rangel would play the race card with a toll booth.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Tongue twisterFive filibuster myths fuel Frist’s fight
Mickey Kaus on John Kerry’s still-unsigned military records form: “I think I've figured it out: There is so much positive, helpful information for Kerry in those military records that he's waiting until January, 2008 to sign the form! Hillary won't know what hit her.”
Just in time for tax day

From the Economist – “The Case for Flat Taxes” – “Pioneered in eastern Europe, flat tax systems seem to work because they are simple

The Americans are talking about [tax reform]. Meanwhile in Europe, east of Vienna and as far afield as Russia and Georgia, they are actually doing it. In 1994, Estonia became the first country in Europe to introduce a so-called “flat tax”, replacing three tax rates on personal income, and another on corporate profits, with one uniform rate of 26%. Simplicity itself. At the stroke of a pen, this tiny Baltic nation transformed itself from backwater to bellwether, emulated by its neighbours and envied by conservatives in America who long to flatten their own country's taxes.
The companion article, called “The flat tax revolution” further notes that Estonia’s economy has flourished and that by exempting a certain base income, the flat tax still maintains a level of progressivity. Very interesting stuff.
It’s a red state now - I’ve given up on displacing both my senators but David Wissing runs some numbers on West Virginia’s Robert Byrd and asks “Can the Republicans win West Virginia?”

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Frist ready to go nuclear? – “Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is all but certain to press for a rule change that would ban filibusters of judicial nominations in the next few weeks, despite misgivings by some of his fellow Republicans and a possible Democratic backlash that could paralyze the chamber, close associates said yesterday.” (Via Wes Roth).

After unconstitutionally blocking judicial nominees, the Democrats seem to think that Americans will respond to the “unchecked power” argument, throwing in Tom DeLay for good measure. I think they’re preaching to the Michael Moore/MoveOn wing of their party. We’ll see.
What’s said in the green room… Two Democrats reveal the Tom DeLay game behind the scenes at CNN
Freedom of speechdisallowed for conservatives (or, at least, pie-laden)
Something is politically incorrect in the state of Denmark

From the UK Telegraph: “We must show our opposition to Islam, says Danish queen

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark has called on the country "to show our opposition to Islam", regardless of the opprobium such a stance provokes abroad.
Her comments further undermined the image of Denmark as a liberal haven for those seeking a new life in northern Europe.
Perhaps the Queen has been keeping an eye on events in the Netherlands.
No, they said no, they won’t, no

Put aside, for the moment, the debate over personal accounts/partial privatization or any of the other suggested proposals to save Social Security. According to the Daily Debunker, the Democrats are being counseled to ignore the issue and essentially do nothing to recognize that there is even a hint of problem with Social Security. In other words, they’re saying two-thirds of America is crazy:

4. If changes are not made, do you think the Social Security system is heading for a crisis down the road, or not?

YES – 71%
NO – 23%
The Democrats would do well to listen to their own pollsters: “To say there is no problem, simply puts the Democrats out of the conversation for the great majority of the country that want political leaders to secure this very important government retirement program.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Red-state Democrats backing off from filibuster? – The Hill reports that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) might be looking for a way out in “Let’s make a deal.”
The wisdom of 62 million – John Kerry has been doing everything possible to prove that the American people made the right choice in November. Lorie on Polipundit recounts the Senator’s latest ploy to stay in the political spotlight by gathering soldiers around him to highlight their plight instead of celebrating their production.
My favorite quote

Well, one of them. It dovetails so nicely with the Social Security debate:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” - C. S. Lewis
I think I might have mentioned this before, but this is the only quote I have on my desk at work. Word up.
Triple dog dare

In “Too Great for its own good,” Philip Klein notes that if Democrats are so sure that personal accounts would drive millions into poverty, they should let partial privatization fail and validate the liberal tradition of Social Security:

But if liberals believe that most Americans don't want the voluntary personal accounts, their savviest move would be to endorse President Bush's proposal. They should let all of us wacky free marketers invest part of our payroll taxes in the stock market. Since there are so few of us, the transition costs ought to be pretty low.

Decades from now, having gambled our retirement away, we will subsist on macaroni and cheese, envious of our government-loving brethren who indulge in pan-seared filet mignon. The shame will be too much to bear. Sheepishly, we will crawl back to politicians on our hands and knees, begging government to take care of us. It will be the ultimate triumph of liberalism.

But liberals would never accept this wager. While they may be skeptical of personal accounts, they also fear that maybe, just maybe, the accounts will be a smashing success.
Just so.
Democrats are just making stuff up - From Factcheck “A Rigged Calculator”: “Democrats harness false assumptions to generate projections that individual Social Security accounts would be losers.”

Shocking, I know. Here’s some more background from Blogs for Bush. FactCheck is a little late to this party, but they’re welcome anyway.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Amazing Race update – Running out of Lucknow

The five remaining teams started out from Khwai, Botswana and started the long journey to Lucknow, India: first to Francistown, Botswana, then to Mumbai, India and finally into Lucknow the next morning. The only thing worth noting here is that Gretchen was trying to purchase a backpack at the airport with the $125 received at the start of the leg and the cheapest was, well, too expensive. I think she left with a child’s backpack.

Once in Lucknow, the teams needed to take a taxi and go to a shrine for the next clue. The taxis there are pre-paid and some wild haggling ensued at the airport. Once at the shrine, female team members needed to cover their heads before proceeding inside. The next clue instructed teams to head to a steel factory – caution: Yield ahead. From the shrine, teams take a horse-drawn cart to the factory which appears to make hundreds of metal boxes. Ron & Kelly arrive first and foolishly choose not to yield Rob & Amber, who arrive seconds behind them. For once I agree with boorish Rob who calls Team America “not the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree” (although he’s not exactly Mensa material.)

This is the Roadblock: one team member must search through hundreds of metal boxes to find one of ten clues hidden. Amber finds hers first, then Kelly, and they both head off. The other teams arrive, find the clues, and travel by bicycle rickshaw to the next clue at a gas station a mile away. It seems that any mode of transportation can only travel as fast as a lumbering cow and teams slowly wind their way through the packed streets of Lucknow.

At the Detour, it’s Solid or Liquid. Teams can choose to go to a quarry, break up some coal, and transport 175 lbs. to a charcoal store; or they can take a tea cart to an office building and track down five people and serve them tea. I would have assumed that the younger teams would pick the strenuous but straightforward Solid task, but all teams opted to deliver tea. All teams arrived and departed the office building and completed the Detour in the same order they started. Therefore, Team Survivor finished first and received the next clue before Team Codger – who fell way behind at the Roadblock – even started the Detour.

There’s only five minutes left in the show so this must be the Pit Stop, but when Rob & Amber open the next clue it only instructs them to “meet Phil on the roof” of a nearby apartment building. Hmmm... By this point, all the teams are visibly exhausted from lugging backpacks through the crowded streets while serving hot tea. Team Survivor makes it to the rooftop first and there’s Phil and the bathmat, but no traditional Indian greeter or location box reading “India.” Hmmm...what’s this all about?

Phil does not say “Rob and Amber, you’re Team #1.” Instead, he says “welcome to Lucknow.” Huh? Then he says: “You probably thought this was the Pit Stop, but it’s not. I have your next clue – you’re still racing.” It’s a twister-oo! It’s the old “to be continued” trick! Next week, all five teams continue the Amazing Race.

Assumed positions of teams after first half of this leg:

#1 – Team Survivor – Rob & Amber
#2 – Team America – Ron & Kelly
#3 – Team Africa – Uchenna & Joyce
#4 – Team Showtunes – Lynn & Alex
#5 – Team Codger – Meredith & Gretchen
Our own government-controlled Enron

Here’s yet another Social Security review and why not? From Stuart Butler in the LA Times (use BugMeNot for registration if needed):

As the Social Security system itself has aged, payroll taxes have grown relentlessly and the return on those taxes has fallen dramatically. When Social Security began, the payroll tax was just 2% of income. Now it's 12.4%. Today, the average male worker about to retire will typically get just a 1.27% return on his lifetime of taxes — less than he'd get from a savings account. That's bad enough, but the younger you are, the worse it will get. A 25-year-old worker can expect a return of minus-0.64% — he loses money.

Some retirement "security" program. Imagine what Congress would say if a private company was taking in billions of dollars from millions of working Americans and then giving them back less money in retirement.
That’s Social Security for you: a system so great, they had to make it compulsory.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Memo to John Kerry: this was a joke in the 2000 election also. At least Al Gore had the good sense to refrain from calling his voters stupid. Extra commentary from the Captain and Dr. T.

Late “Bone-us” Kerry moment: “Senators may have blown cover of CIA agent
Happy 2nd blogoversary to Wizbang!
Election 2006

Is it too early to start speculating about the midterm elections in 2006? Not if you’re a political junkie! Specifically, let’s focus on the Senate and this piece of trivia, courtesy of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

Never in modern times has a president been able to add Senate seats in the dreaded sixth-year election. Of course, look at George W. Bush's remarkable electoral record so far. Sooner or later, there's always a first time for every mark in the record book.
Sabato points out that the average loss for the President’s party in the sixth-year is three Senate seats. Thus, even if the Republican lose only a couple of seats, the White House can still spin it as a minor victory. But can the GOP actually pick up seats in the Senate? Jayson over at Polipundit thinks so, estimating a net pickup of one seat in 2006. And here’s the long view from Michael Barone:

In the long run, Republicans are well positioned to increase their numbers in both the Senate and the House. Some Democrats hold seats because of personal popularity or moderate voting records. But when they retire, Republicans may well succeed them. In the short run, very few Republicans run great political risks by supporting Bush. Significantly more Democrats run great political risks by opposing him. Obstruction doesn't work well for Democrats in Bush seats: Just ask former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. And at the moment, on Social Security, as Democrats Stan Greenberg and James Carville wrote last month, “Voters are looking for reform, change and new ideas, but Democrats seem stuck in concrete.”
It’s for this reason that, at this juncture, I agree with Jayson that this could be the first instance where a second-term President picks up Senate seats. Forget about the red state-blue state demographics. The fundamental problem for the Democratic party is that they are a party adrift, with no ideological moorings except for blind obstructionism. Today the Boston Globe carried an article of such a comic Pollyannaish quality, at first I swore it was a parody. Titled “Foes cite progress vs. Bush agenda,” it portrayed the efforts of the Democrats to block everything as – bizarrely – a sign of “progress.”

''The Democratic caucus has never been as unified, and you've seen it on Social Security, the budget, and judges," said Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada. ''It took a while for us to realize that we weren't in the majority. I think, though, we have learned the lesson well. And we have also learned that the majority party won't be in the majority forever."
The Republicans have been in control of Congress for ten years now.

Democrats acknowledge the strategy carries the risk that members will be viewed as obstructionists, focused on what they can stop instead of what they can accomplish. Republicans hope to use Democratic opposition as a weapon in 2006 elections, and Bush still has time in his second term to guide his priorities into law.
As Peggy Lee once sang: “Is that all there is?” Is this the anemic state of the party that once gave us the Cross of Gold and the New Frontier? Now comes a modern rallying cry for the new “block” party: “Holding up legislation for America.” I find it hard to believe that Americans will support a party so drained of ideas that it derives self-esteem from mindless obstructionism.
Waiting – Paul Krugman now says he has the solution to health care reform, but Matt Hoy is still waiting for his promised answer to Social Security reform.
Life imitates a Super Bowl commercial

A South Boston native robbed a couple of banks by mimicking the mannerisms of an Ameriquest ad. From the Boston Globe - “Robber allegedly steals from TV ad”:

His technique, police said, is similar to one used in an Ameriquest Mortgage Company commercial that debuted during the Super Bowl. In the commercial, a man talking on his cellphone at a convenience store tells the person on the phone that he/she is getting robbed, and the store clerk thinks the store is being robbed.

''Watching the surveillance tape, he mimicked that commercial exactly," said Officer Michael McCarthy, a spokesman for the Boston Police Department.
The dumb crook was nabbed after hitting a bunch of cars on Beacon Hill then driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Without a license.
Today’s most debatable statement - From the WashPost’s tepid endorsement of John Bolton: “But the United Nations is more than a debating club or a bureaucratic agency.” True, they also have a gift shop.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Hancock Park Elementary scoops gossip mags, MSM

From the NY Post’s Page Six:

A fourth-grader at Hancock Park Elementary School in Los Angeles was able to do what no seasoned journalist has in recent weeks — score an exclusive interview with Britney Spears on the state of her marriage to Kevin Federline. When 10-year-old Veronica You read that the pop star was staying at the L'Merigot Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif., a few weeks ago, she slipped a note under Spears' door asking for an interview for her school paper — and Spears herself called, telling the tyke to "ask anything you want." Among her revelations, Britney told her that the best thing about her marriage to Federline was "just having somebody that always has your back no matter what. No matter what goes wrong, somebody is there for you." Although Spears wouldn't confirm if she was pregnant, she did say she wanted a baby soon — and didn't care if it was a boy or a girl. Young You told PAGE SIX that Spears was "super sweet" and when her cellphone accidentally cut out, the star even called right back and apologized. As we've reported, there are lots of rumors of strife between the newlyweds.
This was followed immediately by an angry article from David Shaw, denouncing Veronica You as “unschooled in First Amendment issues” and “not a real journalist…like me.”
Willis on Young Pundits is looking for info on tax rates for Social Security, but when tried to post a comment I was refused by the "Webmaster." OK. Here's a good page of quick facts from the Cato Institute and here's a post from Social Security Choice about the ever-rising payroll tax rate.
Checking out “Green Eggs and Ham” again, Mr. Lindholm?

Do you know that much-feared provision in the USA Patriot Act that allows the feds to look into library and bookstore records? Jeff Jacoby says “It’s a crock” in “Patriot Act no threat to libraries”:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that in the three and a half years since the Patriot Act was enacted, Section 215 has been used 35 times -- but only to obtain driver's license, credit card, and telephone records, not library or bookstore reading lists. Deeply invested though some of the law's critics may be in the notion that the Bush administration lives to pry into the reading habits of law-abiding Americans, there is simply no evidence to back it up.
When has that stopped the conspiracy theorists on the Left?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Engineers = analytical = conservative (small “c”)

I’m not a big fan of Vodkapundit who has never thrown me a link, not even a passing glance (even though I have him on my blogroll). And now to find he’s a fellow engineer, well. But I very much agree with his opinion about the political persuasion of engineers:

In over ten years of professional work, I think I've encountered maybe four working engineers who would admit to voting for a Democrat. There are a few who lean libertarian, but they're also in a considerable minority. The overwhelming number of engineers whom I've encountered (at least those who voluntarily express political opinions; I don't go around asking) are conservatives who vote for Republicans.
That’s been my impression also. In fact, in my senior class at Rutgers there was one self-declared liberal that I ridiculed relentlessly. (Oh, it was all in good fun.) Everybody else in my engineering class was neutral to conservative, although I’m pretty sure I represented the right-wing extreme.
Ashlee Simpson’s concert rider: No Evian! Evian makes me lip-synch! (Via Fark)
Drudge sucks - For not the first time, my computer seized up after trying to access the Drudge Report, probably because of all the nonsense pop-up ads that publicity whore has embedded in his site. I'll be using the Roth Report for now on (note to Wes - please add a Boston Globe link to your site).
Time to face reality

OK, so Dubya recognizes that personal accounts are going nowhere: Republicans are shaky and the Democrats are united against them. But Americans realize that there’s a fiscal Titanic in the future and that changes made now will ameliorate the hard crash that occurs when all the IOUs are gone. From the NY Times: “Bush to shift his Social Security focus to solutions.” We’ll see what happens now.

I have to admit: I’m getting increasingly pessimistic. I’d like to believe that the politicians will act like responsible adults and take the necessary steps to reform entitlements. But the Republicans lack the courage of their convictions while the Democrats are committed to obstruction above everything.
Compare and contrast

President Bush honors the Pope in his weekly radio address.
In the Democratic response, Harry Reid bitches about the nuclear option.
David Limbaugh – “Invoking the nuclear option – there is no other option

Friday, April 08, 2005

The upside of the nuclear option

The WashPost has an editorial today asking for a “Nuclear Freeze” on the Senate rules change, warning Republicans that the tables could be turned on them in the future. John Hawkins says “pull the trigger” and correctly notes that “there is no constitutional right to filibuster judges.” Meanwhile, Hugh Hewitt has a great post about the “filibuster” of Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas:

The issue is the Senate Democrats' hijacking of the cloture rule to block judicial nominees --which prior to 1968 had been limited to Abe Fortas in October of 1968, and which had never been used against even a single lower court nominee in 217 years.
I’m still ambivalent on the nuclear option. In my opinion, the Democrats have invented a new definition of “advise and consent”, one that did not exist in the Republic for two centuries and the GOP would be justified in breaking the logjam. On the other hand, there are both legal and political options the White House can take to fight back the Democratic obstruction without changing Senate rules on the fly.

In the end, I’m going to come down in favor of the nuclear option for a personal reason: it would be hugely entertaining to watch the reaction of the Democrats and the radical Left if the Imperial Forces of the GOP make the rule change. Think of the news releases from Barbra Streisand, Michael Moore and John Kerry, the gnashing of teeth at MoveOn and People for the American Way. It would be great fun. Bring it on!

A beer truck flipped over on a roadway overpass in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Monday, prompting local officials to comment on the tragedy.

"It is sad," Capt. Scott Logan of the Halifax Regional Fire Service told The Daily News of Halifax. "Chances are they won't recover any of the beer."

"I had a tear in my eye, actually, when I was watching it," said police Constable Mark Hobeck. "It was full of beer. We were hoping a Hostess truck full of pretzels would come by, but no such luck."
Oh, yeah, the driver of the truck was OK. But the beer! The beer! Lost forever (*sob*)
Didja know? - There are a lot of tall buildings in Hong Kong.
Coming soon to the Big Dig: fire exits!

I swear the sheer lunacy of Boston’s boondoggle could not get any more surreal. Now it turns out that several fire exits in the $14.6 billion (with a “B”) public project are boarded up, blocked, or, um, missing:

Fire Commissioner Paul A. Christian said yesterday that although he is concerned that fire exits are blocked and fire doors missing, Big Dig officials do not need to replace them immediately because the $14.6 billion project remains under construction.

The Fire Department's approval was the last hurdle before the tunnels could open to traffic, and that approval required all fire doors to be in place. The department approved the northbound tunnel in March 2003 and the southbound later that same year. The tunnels handle more than 200,000 vehicles a day.

Asked why that requirement isn't being enforced now, Christian replied: ''I'm not going to shut the tunnels down."
Ironically, many of the fire doors are blocked so that Big Dig officials can fix the hundreds of water leaks in the tunnel walls.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Can’t argue with that - “Sean Penn is an idiot”: “Sean Penn is the most hateable person on the planet, and it’s really not even close. You ever notice coal miners and fisherman never seem to get “exhaustion”. They don’t pull that crap because they know they’re buddies would just smack them in the head, call them lazy and tell them to get back to work. Sean Penn mumbles for a living. And he doesn’t even make up the stuff he mumbles. Someone else does that for him.” There's more - RTWT.
Social Security reform will be a cakewalk compared to Medicare reform

Now David Broder is buying into the argument that we should address Medicare before Social Security in “Fix Health Care First.” This is the same logic as “why should the police hand out speeding tickets when there are drug dealers on the street?” Yes, Medicare has funding problems of its own but if we can’t address the solvency of Social Security and the politics of retirement, how will we ever tackle the bigger and much more contentious issue of health care?

Background: “Report emphasizes shortfall in Medicare” – “The two independent trustees overseeing Social Security and Medicare broke with the Bush administration's trustees yesterday, saying Medicare's financial problems far exceed Social Security's and are in urgent need of attention.”

Extra reading: The Daily Debunker details dishonest DNC document. And Don Luskin explains to the NY Times why an IOU written to yourself is not really an asset.
Radioactive man – Via the Hill: “Frist will go nuclear” (HT: Ex-Donkey)
Jeff Jacoby: “The pope who turned anti-Semitism aside
Runaway alarm clock

My college roommate drove me insane with the snooze button on his alarm clock; it was not uncommon for him to hit it ten to fifteen times. Now the MIT Media Lab is developing “Clocky” – an alarm that rolls across the floor after the snooze button is pressed. You have to get out of bed to turn it off again. (Scrivener was ahead of the curve on this story, beating out the Boston Globe by a couple of days.)
Fake but accurate? - This review of a Kelly Clarkson concert (at CBGBs?) starts out plausibly enough. There’s even a low-quality cell phone picture. But then I think Jeff starts to, ahem, embellish his story.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Equal time for other half-wits

Buffoon of the Week: Lawrence O’Donnell
Jackass of the Week: Jane Fonda
Schiavo memo attributed to brainless Senate aide

Well, between this and Tom DeLay, the Democratic Underground will be all abuzz today – Michelle Malkin prints some of the love letters she’s been receiving. But I disagree with Armed Liberal that this is an “MSM 1, Blogs 0” moment. Mickey Kaus characterizes the memo as “non-fake but inaccurate” while Instapundit and Powerline detail how the media couldn’t help but portraying the disputed memo as handed down by GOP party leaders.
Social Security follies - Excellent commentary from Power Line on Social Security: “In the first place, the Dems cannot deny that what President Bush said was true [that the Social Security “trust fund” is full of IOUs]; their point seems to be that no one should tell the truth about Social Security. Second, President Bush plainly did not warn that the U.S. may default on its obligations; he warned that there are only three ways in which the government's IOUs to itself can be redeemed: through higher taxes, reduced spending in other programs, or reduced Social Security benefits. This statement is, in fact, a tautology; but it is one that the Democrats will never acknowledge, and they apparently think their voters are so dumb that they don't need to.” Right on - read the whole thing.
Headline of the Day: “Saddam sees Kurd become president of Iraq” – “After decades of brutal repression under Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Kurdish minority celebrated yesterday as their former rebel chief, Jalal Talabani, became the country's new president.”
Do you see that tax taken out of your paycheck? Double it

Robert Samuelson warns that raising taxes to meet entitlement demands could suppress economic growth, leading to lower tax revenues, leading to higher tax rates to meet entitlement demands, etc. etc. etc., in “Economic Death Spiral

Consequently, baby boomers' children and grandchildren face massive tax increases. Social Security and Medicare spending now equals 14 percent of wage and salary income, reports Bell. By 2030, using the trustees' various projections, that jumps to 26 percent. Of course, payroll taxes don't cover all the costs of Social Security and Medicare. Still, these figures provide a crude indicator of the economic burden, because costs are imposed heavily on workers via some tax (including the income tax), government borrowing (a.k.a. the deficit) and cuts in other government programs.
As Samuelson and others have flatly stated, benefits must be cut. If payroll taxes are not increased, the government will be forced into widespread borrowing that will be subsequently funded by income taxes. A tax by any other name would still cut as deep.