Monday, October 31, 2005

A real Poindexter, and not the good kind

Princeton classmates remember Sam Alito:

Andrew Napolitano '72, a senior judicial analyst for Fox News and a former New Jersey Superior Court judge, said Alito hasn't changed much since their college years.
"He's a teetotalling, early-to-bed and early-to-rise legal scholar," Napolitano said. "He's modest, charming and brilliant ... There is no arrogance in Sam whatsoever."
NERD! Man, it would have been so much cooler if somebody said: “Yeah, I saw him shotgun a Molson in two seconds flat then he burped ‘Go Tigers’”. Now I’m not so sure I can support this nomination.
Agree/disagree with Captain Ed – Agree that there’s no chance the Gang of 14 will decide that the nomination of Judge Alito rises to an “exceptional circumstance” and there will be no filibuster. Disagree on the vote count: no way will Alito get a 65-35 confirmation vote. After all, he’ll be replacing the vaunted O’Connor seat and the Democrats will show their displeasure with a near-straight line vote. Alito will be confirmed by 55 Republicans and maybe two conservative Democrats.
The WashPost comes to bury Social Security reform

Today’s Washington Post has a lead editorial on Social Security that seems to be a compendium of all the points I’ve been making for two years (along with others):

The Bush administration's declining fortunes have buried the prospect of Social Security reform. Congress was never keen: Democrats united against personal accounts; Republicans were divided as to what sort they wanted. But although President Bush's critics may celebrate this defeat, delaying Social Security's reform makes the eventual change only harder. Both sides should acknowledge their contributions to this debacle -- and reengage.
Well, that’s just great. The time to show support for reform was at least a year ago when President Bush declared that he would “spend” his political capital to ensure the solvency of the program. Now with millions of baby boomers within grasp of their “free” money, we’re strapped in:

Starting 12 years from now, pensions will cost the government more than it collects from the payroll tax that's supposed to finance them. This shortfall, coupled with the much larger drain from Medicare, threatens to consume resources needed for other government functions. It is unsustainable.
Fat lot of good your call for reform does us now, WashPost. A useless waste of ink and electrons, too little too late.
Why communism will never work

Tonight I sat on my front porch with a large bowl full of candy. When kids came, I extended the bowl and they usually took one, maybe two pieces. Then, before we sat down for dinner, I filled the bowl to the top and placed a sign: "take one." Midway through dinner, the bowl was empty; this was repeated ten minutes later. Basically more candy was taken in 20 minutes than in the previous (supervised) two hours.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Looks like Luttig – Erick with a K over at Red State is reporting rumors that Samuel Alito will be tapped to be the next Supreme Court justice. Therefore he’s doomed: “As the editors are privately joking, let me apologize in advance to Judge Alito for sabotaging his chances by putting up his picture. When the picture goes up, the judge strikes out.”
Call the ACLU, or not - Generation Why says so much for that “innocent until proven guilty” stuff: “Funny how quick liberals are to toss out Constitutional rights when they belong to Conservatives.”
Hate-fest on Boston Common

It was a beautiful, crisp fall day in Massachusetts yesterday. Perhaps some Bostonians or tourists decided to walk down to Boston Common where 230 years ago men such as Paul Revere and Samuel Adams discussed the blessings of liberty. Unfortunately, they probably needed to cover their children’s ears. From the Boston Globe: “Anti-war protesters march on Common

One demonstrator carried a sign that read, ''Bush Wants Your Children For Cannon Fodder," and another that accused the president of causing the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Some of the musical performers sang antiwar anthems that could have played on any coffeehouse stage. But others led the demonstrators in chanting choruses laced with expletives against the president and the war.
Cindy Sheehan, the Left’s favorite mother, made it clear she wasn’t cut from the June Cleaver mold:

''She said, 'Cindy, don't you want to use a little nicer language, because you know there might be people sitting on the fence that you offend,' " Sheehan told the crowd. ''And do you know what I said? I said, 'Damn it, why is anybody on that fence still?' "
Then they all went home, having convinced exactly zero people to their viewpoint, yet warmed by their glow of their profanity-laden rhetoric.
A must-read from Mark Steyn, he said redundantly - “Don’t expect a joyride from Scooter”: “Just for the record, Scooter Libby is the highest-ranking Scooter in the Bush administration, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. All last week, lefty gloaters were eagerly anticipating "Fitzmas," their designation for that happy day when federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald hands down indictments against Libby, and Rove, and maybe Cheney, and -- boy oh boy, who knows? -- maybe Chimpy Bushitlerburton himself. Pat Fitzgerald has been making his list, checking it twice, found out who's naughty or nice, and he's ready to go on a Slay Ride leaving Bush the Little Drummed-Out Boy and the Dems having a blue blue blue blue blue-state Christmas in November 2006, if not before.”

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Good question – Powerline asks: “Having now read fifteen or twenty news stories about what a devastating blow the Lewis Libby indictment was to the administration…I couldn't help wondering: does anyone remember who Al Gore's chief of staff was when he was vice-president?” It was that guy, the one who was always standing and walking. Rory Calhoun!
Sunday morning lineup – Mark Kilmer has the guest list for the Sunday shows but seems unsure about who will be on “Late Edition”: “Host Wolf Blitzer will talk with someone or other about Scooter and about Harriet.” Maybe somebody whose name rhymes with “Moe Slidin” hmmm….?
Another Scalia would be sca-lightful

From the WashPost:

President George W. Bush on Saturday was narrowing his choices of Supreme Court nominees to replace Harriet Miers as Republicans said the short list consisted of highly credentialed, solidly conservative judges.

Among the candidates most talked about were appeals court judges Michael Luttig and Samuel Alito. Bush, who is spending the weekend at his Camp David retreat, was expected to unveil his choice within days.
Judge Luttig (4th Circuit) once clerked for Scalia and Judge Alito (3rd Circuit) has been given the nickname “Scalito” for “his Italian heritage as well as his reputation for conservatism and a strong intellect.” Either one would thrill the conservative base.

(P.S. - Worst post title ever? Maybe!)

Extra – SCOTUSblog says let’s get ready to rumble: “Conservative organizations, without a doubt enthusiastic about either Alito or Luttig on the basis of thoroughly conservative records on the bench, will be ready to get their promotional machinery going again.”

Even more – By way of Ryne, the online contracts for Alito (check the table on the right) are thumping Luttig by a 2:1 margin.

Follow-up - Mark Levin utterly plagiarizes my post: “Luttig or Alito? A conservative dream! Let's get ready to rumble!” Time stamp: 11:24pm.
Fred Barnes: “Karl Rove’s survival is a boon for the Bush White House
California cosmology - Michael Crichton names five books that you won’t find on Greenpeace’s coffee table.
Somebody call Detective Columbo – I wonder who could be responsible for this and this. My first guess: radical Presbyterians.
Not-so-merry Fitzmas

The New Republic on the morning after:

Well, that was much ado about nothing. I don't really think the indictment of the man who served as the Vice President's Chief of Staff--and whose role in the administration was in fact much larger than that--is no big deal. It is. But the way Democrats were talking about this case leading up to the indictment, this has to come as a letdown. After all, liberals believed that Patrick Fitzgerald was going to cripple the Bush administration and reveal the lies and deceptions behind the Iraq war. There was speculation that Fitzgerald would shine a bright, unflattering light onto the inner workings of the White House Iraq Group. There was talk that he was going to name a "Constitutional officer"--namely Cheney--as an unindicted co-conspirator. And there were rumors that he was seeking to empanel a second grand jury to investigate who ginned up the fake "Niger documents."

Maybe Fitzgerald just has a very impressive poker face, but it sure seemed from his press conference that none of those things is now going to happen.
Although the Libby indictments are a stain on the White House, the Left was positively giddy about the thought of Karl Rove in handcuffs. If Libby pleads out, it will be long-forgotten among most Americans (who don’t follow the story as compulsively as we do) by Christmas. (Hat tip: Polipundit)

More – The Washington Post gets it mostly right:

The special counsel was principally investigating whether any official violated a law that makes it a crime to knowingly disclose the identity of an undercover agent. The public record offers no indication that Mr. Libby or any other official deliberately exposed Ms. Plame to punish her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Rather, Mr. Libby and other officials, including Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff, apparently were seeking to combat the sensational allegations of a critic. They may have believed that Ms. Plame's involvement was an important part of their story of why Mr. Wilson was sent to investigate claims that Iraq sought uranium ore from Niger, and why his subsequent -- and mostly erroneous -- allegations that the administration twisted that small part of the case against Saddam Hussein should not be credited. To criminalize such discussions between officials and reporters would run counter to the public interest.
While the NY Times, well, let’s just say that they never fail to play to form.

Bonus – From Gay Patriot: “Libby indicted for doing what Wilson did, but under oath” – “Libby has now been accused of doing exactly what Joe Wilson has been doing since that “Administration critic” wrote the New York Times op-ed at issue in this whole mess. He deceived people. With one big difference. Libby lied under oath and Wilson did so in the pages of newspapers, in the pages of his book, on the lecture circuit and on a variety of talk shows.”

Finally - Welcome readers of Keith Milby’s blog!

Friday, October 28, 2005

A small piece of good news in a rotten week – “Economic growth accelerated in 3rd quarter”: “The economy grew at a faster pace in the third quarter, the government reported yesterday, as stronger consumer and government spending helped offset the effects of two devastating hurricanes and soaring energy prices. The nation's gross domestic product rose at an annual pace of 3.8 percent from July to September, up from 3.3 percent in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said.”
Stop the humanoids! – Target to sell stand-up arcade cabinet, loaded with 12 Midway games, starting in November. Defender! Robotron! Oh, if it only had Berzerk, I’d be so there. (HT: American Mind)
The obligatory post on the recent unpleasantness

A couple months ago, I wrote a post titled “Rove must go” that declared if a White House official revealed the name of a covert source while the country is at war, there can be no excuse. Over time, however, I came to believe that Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame made a conscious and deliberate effort to undermine U.S. policy by misrepresenting the origin and conclusions of Wilson’s trip to Niger. As an extension of this, I believed the White House had an obligation to set the record straight by exposing Joe Wilson’s duplicity.

But, for heaven’s sake, what was Scooter Libby thinking? Although he wasn’t charged on the underlying crime of exposing an agent, he apparently invented from whole cloth conversations that simply did not take place. Sure, Rove wasn’t indicted (and probably won’t be) but there’s no mistaking that Libby’s testimony has brought shame to an administration that promised a higher standard.

What now? Libby has promised a fight and exoneration. But it’s extremely unlikely that Libby will go to trial if there’s a sliver of a chance it will expose Dick Cheney and President Bush to further discomfort. The only way I see a trial going forward is if there’s the belief there’s more to gain by exposing Wilson’s varied lies than lost in the media circus of a Washington trial. Although some might believe this a palpable scenario, I just don’t see it. Scooter Libby will likely fall on his sword and plead out a deal with Fitzgerald.

Extra - Here's an excellent review by Byron York over on the Corner.
The Libby indictment – I’ll get to my thoughts on the fallout of today’s events later tonight but for now I have a simple legal question: what exactly is the difference between “perjury” and “false statements?” It seems to me that perjury means that you knew something was untrue, but said it anyway. “False statements” may or may not imply such intent; as such, I can’t see how it can be illegal. Am I missing something here? I’ll have to check some legal blogs later.

Follow-up – Poster Eric J writes: “Perjury- lying under oath. False statement- lying to the FBI or other fed official. Separate statutes, but both illegal.” Now we know. I thought that all crimes related directly to the grand jury.
Ed school, schmed school – Arthur Levine, the president of Columbia’s Teacher College, issued a report saying that education schools were a waste of time. Check out “Teaching the TeachersWould you like to be a teacher? Skip grad school.”
Seems simple enough – From the Boston Globe: “Put a conservative on the court.” After all, what are elections for?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Social Security problem isn’t going away

David Broder calls for fiscal sanity from both sides in the political spectrum in “Will anyone pay the bills?

This message was spelled out by Maya MacGuineas, a panelist from the NewAmerica Foundation and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. As one who has worked with Republican moderates as often as with Democrats, she was particularly insistent that Democrats must ante up for any bipartisan solutions to become possible.

Specifically, the Democrats who have profited politically this year (as in the past) by opposing any change in Social Security must, she said, recognize the necessity of reforming the country's retirement system before it becomes an impossible economic burden on working-age Americans.
As I’ve noted many times before, the task of entitlement reform will become nigh-impossible once millions of (voting) baby boomers go on the dole.
Now let’s never speak of it again - Well, I was spectacularly wrong with nearly all of my predictions about Harriet Miers. The further along the vetting process progressed, it became increasingly obvious she was not ready for prime time. Decision08 has a huge roundup of reactions.

Follow-up – I was wrong here, too. Third time’s the charm: I’m going to pick Emilio Garza to replace Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat just one more time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Patent #6,958,096

A personal note: yesterday, I was officially granted my first patent. It’s for an applicator I invented over three years ago to place a protective coating over glass fiber; this optical fiber is then used in a variety of specialty applications. I haven’t said anything about it for fear of “jinxing” it, but now that it’s not only merely official but sincerely official, I’m really very happy. I only wish my old man could have lived to see it (Mom’s really proud, though).
PlameGate roundup – Tom Maguire has owned this story and tonight he makes his bold predictions: Rove walks, but Libby will probably face perjury and obstruction of justice charges along with some kind of conspiracy charge. Rick Moran encapsulates my take on Joe Wilson who was shopping his false Niger trip story to anybody that would put out a cheese plate in the green room: “Now, put yourself in the White House’s shoes. Here you have this loose cannon [Wilson] running around town 1) blabbing about a classified matter, and 2) spreading falsehoods about what actually happened.” Yet the media coverage has been all about Rove and Libby with nary a word about Wilson’s intentional mendacity to undermine White House policy.

We'll probably see indictments tomorrow but my prediction is that both Rove and Libby will face perjury and obstruction charges, while Libby will face an additional conspiracy charge. All will be revealed by Friday (unless Fitzgerald is petitioning the federal judge for an extension).
Andrew Sullivan said what?

The indefatigable Bush-basher reflects on 2,000 deaths in Iraq yet stands amazed at the progress made:
If someone had told me three years ago that by October 2005, Saddam Hussein's murderous tyranny would be over for ever, that Iraq would have a new constitution that emerged from a democratic process and that it will soon have a democratically elected parliament and government, I would have been thrilled. If I were further told that the inevitably embittered Sunni Arab minority had decided to throw itself into democratic politics to amend the constitution and protect its interests in a future Iraq, I would be amazed by how swiftly democratic habits can take root in a post-totalitarian country. If I had been told that, despite extraordinary provocation from Jihadist and Sunni Arab terrorists, the country had not dissolved into civil war, and that unemployment was dropping, I'd be heartened. If I had also been told that the United States had not suffered another major terror attack since the fall of 2001, I would have refused to believe it.
Considering how little effort and materiel required to launch an a terrorist attack, I'm also astonished that nothing else has occurred. (Hat tip: Balloon Juice)
Back in the blogger's chair

OK, well I'm back from Boston and, first of all, I want to thank Mrs. Viking Pundit for yesterday's "Amazing Race" update. Isn't she great?

One of the first things I checked on the Internet was the claim of my Boston Duck Tour operator that the "Ivy League" was so named because there were originally four schools and the Roman numeral for 4 is "IV." Completely false. Now what's my responsibility here? It seems wrong to allow 3,000 tourists a day to be exposed to such historical misinformation. Then again, the New York Times needs some competition.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Amazing Race Update:

The Race started out in New Orleans with Phil's disclaimer about the Race having been filmed in the weeks prior to Hurricane Katrina.

Teams immediately struck out for Panama City, Panama. The task was to take a boat across the Panama Canal and find the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Once there, teams would search for a man in a hammock named Ricardo Diaz. On Flight 1 were the Linz, Bransen and Paolo families. Flight 2, about 2 hours later, were the Weaver, Gaghan and Godlewski families. After a late evening arrival, teams discovered the boats wouldn't run until 7:00 am the next morning. All teams caught up.

Ricardo provided this Race’s one and only Fast Forward: go to the Pacific side of the Panama Canal and complete a tandem bungee jump. The Paolo's decided to go for the Fast Forward. The eldest son is afraid of heights [and chose to jump with his mother?!] After the commercial, the second Paolo pair finally jumped; to the dismay of the Gaghans who were waiting in the wings hoping they would chicken out.

The Paolo’s proceeded to the Pit Stop at the Miraflores locks.
Prize: a trip to Panama (Aw Phil! You’re too generous!)

Ricardo provided the other teams with this week’s Detour: Rhythm or Coos: In both cases teams take a bus, known as a Diablo Rojo or Red Devil, to either a) collect 4 musical instruments [saxophone, trumpet, conga drum, trombone] and deliver them to a band director, or b) use binoculars and spot wooden replicas of birds hidden in the trees. They must correctly identify and circle 5 birds on an aviary chart. If the wrong birds are circled, teams must start over. Weavers and Bransens chose the birds; Godlewskis, Linz and eventually Gaghans chose the instruments.

The next clue had them traveling 2 miles to a baseball stadium where they received a Roadblock: play baseball. One member of each team must get a base hit or home run off Little League pitcher. Each player gets 3 balls then goes to back of the line. (It seemed that as long as they connected with the ball, players were allowed to make it to the base and receive the next clue.)

Finally, they travel to the Miraflores locks and the Pit Stop. In an “exciting” end to the Race, the Godlewski family got stuck on the baseball challenge and the Gaghans got stuck in traffic. In anticipation of a non-elimination leg, the Godlewskis donned as many clothes as they possibly could.

Final Standings
#1 – Paolo family – Team Joisey – Travelocity trip to Panama
#2 – Weaver family – Team Florida
#3 – Bransen family – Team Powerpuff (and Wally)
#4 – Linz family – Team Cincinnati
#5 – Gaghan family – Team Rugrats
#6 – Godlewski family – Team Scream – Non-elimination

Next week: A Rainforest and the Weavers are “tired of doing things [they] can’t do!”

This update brought to you by Mrs. Viking Pundit with the approval of Senor Mas Importante who returns to his normal duties tomorrow.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Come back to Boston

Nothing much new to report, other than I watched the World Series in the hotel sports bar last night to its exciting conclusion. A cold drizzle all day prevented much exploring beyond the frou-frou shops in the Prudential Center. At the convention today, I checked out the poster session which is where people who don't want to do an oral presentation just put up pictures and Powerpoint slides of their research. The vast majority of these are from foreigners for whom English is their second language. All others are simply cowardly Americans! Get up there and defend your work!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Reporting from Boston

Very quickly because I'm using a computer designated to check E-mail: took the kids on the Boston Duck Tour yesterday. Our driver was the "Karaoke Cowgirl" who wore Western garb and fake six-shooters. When she casually asked if there were any Yankee fans on board today, she lifted up the gun for all to see. Funny. (There were no admitted Yankee fans.)

She also said the "Ivy League" was so named because there were four original colleges and the Roman numeral for 4 is IV. I gotta check on that one.

Later, we went to Boston Common where they were trying to break the record for the most lighted pumpkins at once. I don't know if they broke the record (haven't seen a paper today) but there was a steady drizzle all day, so it might have been hard to light the candles. I've been hiding out in the hotel/conference ever since.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Pahk my cah in Harvahd yahd

I’m going to be away for the weekend and part of next week at a fiber optics conference in Boston. I’m not bringing a computer but it’s a good bet I’ll find Internet access somewhere. If I can’t post my much-anticipated “Amazing Race” update, I may have to turn control over to Mrs. Viking Pundit. See you soon.

The Buckminster Hotel is seen Friday, Oct. 21, 2005, in Boston. It was here, at the Hotel Buckminster, that Chicago White Sox first baseman Chick Gandil met with a gambler bidding to fix the 1919 World Series and promised him: 'I think we can put it in the bag.'

Friday, October 21, 2005

I *heart* the Internet - "The Godfather" was on Bravo tonight and there's that scene in the Italian restaurant where the Turk and Michael Corleone speak to each other in Italian. Now I know what they said. Cool.
Everybody wants a little attention

From Mickey Kaus: “If the harm to the country was so great, why did Plame's annoyingly egomaniacal husband, Joseph Wilson, thrust himself into the public spotlight in a way almost guaranteed to eventually cause his wife's employment to be discovered and publicized?”

Good question. Wilson was a washed-up former ambassador before his wife sent him on the trip to Niger. It’s probable that Wilson saw a win-win scenario by provoking the White House to respond to his bald-faced prevarications. If they ignore him, he can go on the lecture circuit making thousands repeating his repudiated lies. But if the White House tries to defend itself by pointing out correctly that Wilson’s wife (and not Dick Cheney) sent him on the trip, he can claim his wife (who may not have been covert) was “outed.”

Joe Wilson is a proven liar. But he may also be a vainglorious liar who was trying to drag down the West Wing while securing himself a couple more weekends on “Meet the Press.”
The wheels are coming off – From the Economist: “GM and Ford in need of a big overhaul” – “General Motors and Ford have both reported heavy losses. GM has also announced a breakthrough in negotiations with its unions that will reduce the firm’s crippling health-care liabilities, while Ford says “significant” plant closures are on the way. Both firms need a radical overhaul to avoid bankruptcy.”
Dark matter – You can’t see it or detect it but scientists have postulated that it makes up a quarter of all matter in the universe. Or not.
Two out of three ain’t bad

The other day, I predicted 1.) Bush wouldn’t withdraw Miers 2.) Miers wouldn’t withdraw herself 3.) Miers would pass out of the Judiciary committee and 4.) gain approval from the Senate.

Predictions #1 and #2 look solid:

In an interview with National Review this morning, a senior Senate Republican said he firmly expects President Bush to continue to stand behind Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. The Republican said the president is absolutely convinced, without question, that Miers is the right choice, and that even if Miers herself wanted to withdraw, the president would not accept it.
But #3 looks shaky, making #4 moot:

Under a bipartisan agreement, Supreme Court nominations can't be killed in committee. But if all the Committee Democrats and even one Republican vote against her, the vote will be 9-9 and Miers will go to the Senate floor without a recommendation that she be approved. This will make it much harder to get Miers confirmed on the Senate floor. It will be harder still -- probably impossible -- if ten or more Senators vote against her in committee.
Maybe Charles Krauthammer has it right: time to look for an exit strategy.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Plame roundup - From Investor’s Business Daily: “As special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's mandate expires, Karl Rove's only crime may be not that he "outed" Valerie Plame as a CIA operative but that he exposed her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, as a liar.” Also, be sure to check out this extended review by AJ Strata and this post from Macsmind.
Bad TV – “The Apprentice” was a complete farce tonight. The “Capital Edge” team was supposed to build a parade float to market the film “Zathura.” The float was awful and the project manager mispronounced the film’s name during the presentation. It was a complete disaster. In the boardroom, both of Trump’s assistants said the project manager should be fired for a terribly executed project. Typical: Trump always needs to show who’s in charge and fires the other chick. Puh-leeze. What a tool.

Good TV – The South Park episode tonight about “Two days before the day after tomorrow.” Brilliant and absolutely hilarious.
Western Massachusetts update - Almost forgot to mention: on this past Sunday's episode of "Grey's Anatomy" George was wearing a sweatshirt that clearly said "Chicopee Falls." FWIW.
Approaching “toast – I was willing to give Harriet Miers a chance to explain herself in the vetting process, but so far she seems to be making her situation worse. Patterico is despondent, Michelle Malkin is in revolt, and now it looks like George Will has an article this weekend that may sink the nomination for good. Via the Corner: “if I were a pro-Miers Republican, I would dread getting out of the bed and opening the paper on Sunday. It's that powerful.” Yikes. What an unholy mess.

Extra – From Best of the Web: “The Miers debacle is beginning to remind us of New Coke--a product introduced in an effort to expand market share, which instead infuriated loyal customers. If Bush wants to "save his presidency," the way to do so is clear: withdraw the Miers nomination and reintroduce Court Classic.”
Yet we still use QWERTY keyboards – Video companies will stop producing VHS format videos sometime in 2006.
The first salvo of the intergenerational war

The General Motors/Delphi saga is only a prelude to the battle this country will face when the government is essentially transformed into a money transfer station, moving massive sums of cash from younger workers to older retirees. From George Will’s “A right turn back to making cars”:

The bankruptcy of Delphi is another pebble -- a big pebble; Delphi has 185,000 employees worldwide, 33,000 of them unionized Americans -- in an accelerating avalanche of corporate decisions dismantling "defined-benefits America." As a result, intergenerational strife, which has long been anticipated, may at last be at hand: Delphi proposes cutting the compensation -- pay and benefits -- of younger workers from $65 per hour to $20 or less, so it can fulfill the promise to retirees of a fixed percentage of their salaries.
The current structure of entitlement spending will lay a double-whammy on younger workers: it’s likely that payroll taxes will increase to support older Americans but when the Social Security and Medicare trust funds go bankrupt, automatic benefit cuts will go into effect. In other words, Americans under 40 right now will pay more and get less.
Free the Tatooine Seven!

James Lileks has a new Screed. This one is about a futile effort by the United Nations to stop the pernicious spread of wicked American culture.

In another sense, the UNESCO effort is pointless. No: toothless. More posturing from an international body that convenes to strike pleasing poses, nothing more. But some will see the US position as more American mulishness. The New York Times put it thus: “As with the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty and the treaty creating the International Criminal Court, (The US) will likely remain a critical - and perhaps obstructionist - outsider.”

Imagine that! The killjoy nation. Monarchy, Communism, Fascism, Socialism, now Tribalism – the US never quite joins in the fun. Everyone else jumps off the bridge, and we hang back, taking notes. Like we’re special or something.
The effort to stop “Sopranos” reruns is being spearheaded by the French who are so convinced of the superiority of their culture that all others must be banned.
Err America update. Also, “Jack” gets whacked

If Air America broadcasts in Washington, D.C., but nobody is listening, does it really exist? From the Washington Post:

Air America, the liberal talk network carried on WWRC-AM (1260), went from bad to nonexistent. After WWRC recorded a mere fraction of a rating point in the spring with syndicated shows from the likes of lefty talkers Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo and Stephanie Miller, Arbitron couldn't detect a measurable listenership for the station this time around.
Tee-hee. Also in radio news, New Yorkers have shunned radio format “Jack” which abruptly replaced oldies mainstay WCBS-FM last summer:

New Yorkers have officially — and loudly — rejected "Jack," the controversial format that replaced Cousin Brucie and beloved oldies on WCBS-FM (101.1).
The multi-format, big-playlist, no-DJ format formally debuted in lowly 22nd place in Arbitron's summer ratings — replacing a rebounding WNEW-FM (102.7) as the lowest-rated FM station.
Just last winter, CBS-FM was in ninth place and that wasn't good enough for station-owner Infinity Broadcasting
You shouldn’t mess with Cousin Brucie. (HT: Radio Equalizer)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Two perspectives on General Motors

In today’s Boston Globe, Derrick Jackson suggests that GM could save itself by cutting back on the sales of its most profitable line of vehicles (SUVs). His next great proposition is that because General Motors cannot control health care costs for its workers, national healthcare is the answer. To borrow an expression, if you think health care is expensive now, wait until it’s free.

Sometimes it’s altogether possible that there are problems in America that do not require a massive new government program. It’s true! For a more proximate review of General Motors woes, check out Robert Samuelson’s “The fate of ‘Made in the USA’”:

In 2004, GM's average selling price of $26,479 was $435 lower than in 2002, reports the consulting firm J.D. Power and Associates. Unfortunately, the resulting revenue pinches profits or pushes high-cost producers, such as GM and Ford, into the red. True, GM's distress (and hence Delphi's) stems partly from unappealing vehicles that don't sell well even at lower prices. Since 1999, GM's U.S. market share has dropped from 29.6 percent to 26.4 percent. But high labor costs are also a huge problem. GM and Delphi's hourly wages average about $27 under similar contracts with the United Auto Workers (UAW). Counting fringe benefits and retiree costs (health care and pensions), these soar to $65 for Delphi and $74 for GM.

Since 1948, the UAW and GM, Ford and Chrysler have crafted contracts that turned the companies into mini-welfare states, providing above-average hourly wages (today's average for all manufacturing: $16.60), rich fringe benefits and strong job security. For example, laid-off UAW workers essentially get full salary and benefits indefinitely. With limited competition, companies could pass along common labor costs to consumers and compete on styling and performance. No more. The protected market has given way to imports and foreign firms with nonunionized U.S. plants. Price competition is fierce.

Now comes the reckoning. The market and the welfare state collide.
The realities forced upon General Motors are not unlike the chasm between federal entitlement promises and the ability to pay for them. Washington would do itself credit (for once) to grasp the comparison now rather than later.
Hands down the best review of the Plame kerfuffle: Victoria Toensing in Human Events with “The White House’s legal Katrina
The journalistic and fiscal decline of the NY Times

Here’s Jay Rosen last week:

Just one man's opinion, but now is a good time to say it: The New York Times is not any longer--in my mind--the greatest newspaper in the land. Nor is it the base line for the public narrative that it once was. Some time in the last year or so I moved the Washington Post into that position...
Debunking the liberal bias of the NY Times and its columnists is a full-time job for some, which is why this story fills me with schadenfreude: “N.Y. Times Earnings Fall in Third Quarter.”
State admits damn lax oversight – “State admits lax dam oversight

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Amazing Race Family Edition update – Southern Fried Racing

Before tonight’s show, Phil came on to announce that the episode was filmed in Louisiana and Mississippi “weeks” before the region was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. I seem to remember that in the last Race, teams had traveled through Indonesia only weeks before the tsunami hit. Could it be that where the Amazing Race goes, disaster follows?

Teams started out from Huntsville, Alabama and needed to find the world’s largest office chair in Anniston, Alabama. Nothing to note (another “go here” diversion) as teams find the chair and receive the next clue: go to the Talladega Speedway. This causes some anxiety among the Weaver family because their father was killed in an accident at the Daytona Motor Speedway in Florida. (The Weavers are characterized as “Widow and kids.”) Once at the speedway, teams need to mount a “party bike” and make a lap around the track; the bikes are sufficiently slow such that the teams leave in the order they arrive, allowing for no suspense. After completing this task, teams needed to head to Hattiesburg, Mississippi and “find the Southern Colonel.” This is a trailer home park and teams search thorough all the homes to find one of three departure times the next morning: 7:20am, 7:40am, or 8am.

Side note: a little nudity on the Race? One of the Powerpuff girls mooned the Linz siblings as they passed by on the way to Talladega. Oh those crazy flirty kids.

After a night in a double-wide, teams left at their designated times to head to…a BP gas station down the road. Subtle product placement, this was not. Teams received a clue at the station which directed them 150 miles south to Madisonville, Louisiana and the Fairview State Park. The Schroeder family is from Louisiana and they recognize this as an advantage for them…immediately before taking a wrong turn.

At the park, teams hit the Detour: Work or Play. Teams may choose to use lumberjack saws and cut four slices from a 12” log or they may take a canoe to a riverboat and play blackjack until each family member wins a hand three times. I thought the better choice was the Work, especially for the younger teams, but who can figure out the teams’ rationale at any given time? The Paolo family, a weak team thus far in the Race, finishes cutting first and heads to the Pit Stop: New Orleans.

For the final sprint in this leg, teams had to drive across Lake Pontchartrain, down the unflooded Esplanade, to a dry French Quarter and Preservation Hall. There seems to be quite a bit of confusion finding the Hall on the mostly empty streets of New Orleans (was it a weekday morning? Probably). Although the Paolo family seemed to have had a sizable lead after the Detour, the Bransen family arrives literally seconds ahead as team #1. Team Nawlens, which seemed allergic to obtaining information in either phone books or maps, fell back to last place and were eliminated in their own backyard.

Final standings

#1 – Bransen family – Team Powerpuff (and Wally) – Travelocity trip to Orlando
#2 – Paolo family – Team Joisey
#3 – Linz family – Team Cincinnati
#4 – Godlewski family – Team Scream
#5 – Weaver family – Team Florida
#6 – Gaghan family – Team Rugrats
#7 – Schroeder family – Team Nawlens – PHIL-LIMINATED

Next week: A flight “to another country.” Must be America Junior Canada.

Last week’s update.

Extra – This space reserved for updates from Dummocrats and Brainster.
I would have added “The Shipping News – Time magazine’s list of the top 100 English-language novels from 1923 to present. Discuss amongst yourselves.
Good question - Wanted, dead or alive: Where's bin Laden now?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Even more complicated - A Stitch in Haste looks at federal tax reform and finds it lacking: “With reform like this, who needs stagnation?”
The secrets of Karl Rove’s garage, revealed!
Something’s gotta give - From NY Times: “General Motors and union reach agreement on health care costs” – “Seeking a way out of its deepening financial crisis, General Motors said today that it had reached a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers union to cut $1 billion worth of annual health care benefits for hundreds of thousands of American retirees. At the same time, G.M. reported a $1.6 billion third-quarter loss, its largest quarterly loss in more than a decade.”

This can’t go on either: “Jobs bank programs -- 12,000 paid not to work: Big 3 and suppliers pay billions to keep downsized UAW members on payroll in decades-long deal.”
Myth? Myth? – “Yeth?” – This is about the hundredth post I’ve seen about a 70-page report by Bill Galston and Elaine Kamarck called “The Politics of Polarization.” The Democratic analysts write that their party has fallen under the spell of four myths which perpetuate the Dems’ defeat. I would rather that the Democrats continue to believe that Americans support their amorphous positions if they only articulated them a little better. That’s the ticket.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Blasé Iraqis turn out to vote, mutter “yeah, whatever

Sometimes heading over into the fever swamps of Daily Kos has its moments. They’re in full Karl Rove-Valerie Plame frenzy right now, and I had to scroll way down to find anything about Iraq. Here’s the spin: while people are voting and the constitution will likely pass, the Iraqis are – gosh darn it – just not enthusiastic about it.

So unenthusiastic, in fact, they crowded into the polls. From the UK Guardian – “Large turnout for Iraq constitution vote”:

Sunni Arabs voted in surprisingly high numbers on Iraq's new constitution Saturday, many of them hoping to defeat it in an intense competition with Shiites and Kurds over the shape of the nation's young democracy after decades of dictatorship. With little violence, turnout was more than 66 percent in the three most crucial provinces.
“Intense competition” but, you know, cool and understated. You dig?
Iraq update – “Numbers show Iraq constitution approval likely”: “Iraq's constitution seemed headed toward passage Sunday despite strong opposition from Sunni Arabs, who turned out in surprisingly high numbers in an effort to stop it. The apparent victory was muted, though, by the prospect that the result might divide the country further.”

Meanwhile: “Al-Qaeda propagandist caught”: “A propaganda cell leader for Al Qaeda in Iraq was captured in a raid on a suspected terrorist safe house in Karabilah last month, Multi-National Forces said in a statement issued Sunday.”

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Support the troops – Betsy recounts the experiences of her student and her father.
Last throes? – Yesterday, I suggested the Iraqi insurgents were getting lazy. Tonight, GOP Vixen notes that during the last round of elections in Iraq there were 347 terrorist attacks - today there were 13. That's the way it should be - people everywhere just wanna be free.
The new gender gap - As the father of two boys, I always cringe a little at stories like this about the widening education gap. My book review of “The War Against Boys” stirred up some interesting comments over at Blogcritics.
Sunday morning lineupCondi, Condi, Condi, Biden!
Big time – I saw Lorie Byrd and Erick with a K on CNN tonight discussing the Harriet Miers nomination. Good for them. Despite Lorie’s self-criticism, I thought they both did a fine job.
Scooter Libby off the hook…or is he?

From Fox News: “Miller 'Can't Recall' Who Leaked Name in CIA Case

In a first-person account released Saturday on The Times' Web site, Miller recounted her recent grand jury testimony, which focused on her conversations in 2003 with Cheney's closest aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Miller said she "didn't think" she heard covert CIA officer Valerie Plame's name from Libby. "I said I believed the information came from another source, whom I could not recall."
Yet here’s Miller’s account of her testimony on the NY Times.

My notes indicate that well before Mr. Wilson published his critique, Mr. Libby told me that Mr. Wilson's wife may have worked on unconventional weapons at the C.I.A.

My notes do not show that Mr. Libby identified Mr. Wilson's wife by name. Nor do they show that he described Valerie Wilson as a covert agent or "operative," as the conservative columnist Robert D. Novak first described her in a syndicated column published on July 14, 2003. (Mr. Novak used her maiden name, Valerie Plame.)
So Miller didn’t hear the name “Valerie Plame” from Libby although he hinted that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA. This doesn’t seem like a mitigating factor to me, even if Libby was trying to counter “selective leaking” by the CIA which was trying to cover up for pre-war intelligence. But then, given that the White House was trying to discredit Joe Wilson well before his NY Times article, it indicates they had concerns about an agent of the government actively working to undermine White House policy. As it turns out, those concerns were justified:

On July 22, 2005, the New York Times published a lengthy, front-page article detailing the work of two senior Bush administration officials, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, on the Niger-uranium story. A seemingly exhaustive timeline ran alongside the piece. In 19 bullet points, the Times provided its readers in considerable detail with what it regarded as the highlights of the story. The timeline traces events from the initial request for more information on the alleged Iraqi inquiries in Africa to Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger; from the now-famous "16 words" in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union to the details of White House telephone logs; from Bush administration claims that Karl Rove was not involved in the leak to the naming of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, and on from there to the dates that White House officials testified before the grand jury.

As I say, seemingly exhaustive. But there is one curious omission: July 7, 2004. On that date, the bipartisan Senate Select Intelligence Committee released a 511-page report on the intelligence that served as the foundation for the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq. The Senate report includes a 48-page section on Wilson that demonstrates, in painstaking detail, that virtually everything Joseph Wilson said publicly about his trip, from its origins to his conclusions, was false.
John Hinderaker of PowerLine believes that Libby is in the clear:

In general, Miller's story seems to exonerate "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, with whom Miller had a series of conversations about Joe Wilson. In the course of those conversations, Valerie Plame's name was mentioned a couple of times, but there is no suggestion that either Libby or Miller had any idea that she was a "covert" CIA employee, rather than an analyst. (In fact, as far as I know, she wasn't.) Reading Miller's account, the impression that this investigation is much ado about nothing is only strengthened.
It does seem that Peter Fitzgerald’s case for indictments is getting more difficult. If Libby didn’t tip off Judith Miller and Karl Rove didn’t tell Robert Novak, it’s not at all clear how this implicates the White House.
Iraq votes

From the NYT – “Polls close in Iraq’s Constitutional referendum”: “Iraqis walked through silent streets this morning to begin voting on a new constitution that, if passed, would mark a major step toward the formation of the country's first full-term government since the toppling of Saddam Hussein.”

Early reports indicate that turnout is high, even in Sunni areas. Good news. More up-to-the-minute blogging at Iraq the Model – keep scrolling.
Irony overloadEnvironmentalists sue to shut down wind farms in California. It’s for the birds.
Hang ‘em high - Who needs evidence? It’s Tom DeLay!
Every once in a while, Massachusetts does something right

From the Boston Globe: “Engineering gains a younger following” about how the Bay State is pushing for more engineering courses in middle and high schools:

Responding to a national need for more engineers, Massachusetts is moving faster than other states to bring engineering into primary and secondary schools. It was the first state to recommend that engineering be taught at all grade levels and is the only state to have an engineering exam as part of statewide testing.
I’ve imagined that you could teach a class called “How to build a bridge” running through the gamut of engineering disciples from the tensile strength of steel to the load bearing on a truss. Something like a year-long project with blueprints and everything. Better than dissecting a frog in my opinion.

Friday, October 14, 2005

In the news - King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia says he may let women drive someday. In an unrelated story, cell phone sales doubled in Saudi Arabia yesterday.
The latest wacky Fitzgerald grand jury theory – What if it’s really all about the forged documents about uranium in Africa? The American Thinker lays out the case. (HT: Tom at Libertarian Leanings).
Chillin’ with my homey

Mark and I think alike on a lot of different subjects. Above all, we’re cool as cucumbers. I haven’t written much on Harriet Miers because she deserves at least one day of hearings before we throw her off a cliff. Who knows: maybe she’s the female John Roberts with a dazzling knowledge of Constitutional law. But all this hand-wringing and tearing of shirts – oy, get a grip people. Here’s Mark:

If the conservative movement is torn asunder by a Supreme Court appointment, it wasn’t a hell of a movement to begin with.
Well put. Look, I’m not crazy about Harriet Miers, either. But let’s review some salient points:

#1 – There is no chance that President Bush will withdraw the nomination. That’s not how the Bush family operates.
#2 – There’s no way that Harriet Miers would voluntarily withdraw her nomination. A cursory review of her career reveals an ambitious, headstrong personality; nothing on heaven or earth would force her to turn back now.
#3 – Unless Miers makes some huge gaffe in the Judiciary hearings, she’ll be voted out of committee.
#4 – Despite grumblings from the right, all the Republican senators will support the President and vote for Miers.

If you follow this sequence, Miers will be confirmed to the SCOTUS. Whining about the choice, now that it’s been made, is useless.

Follow-up – Point #3 may be in danger: Andy McCarthy doesn’t believe Miers will get enough votes on the Judiciary committee. Byron York says that doesn’t matter.

Extra – From Opinion Journal: “Give her a break - Bush's judicial picks have been great so far. Why should Miers be any different?” We’ll see.
Color him unimpressed - Expat Yank on Harold Pinter’s Nobel prize: “A Pin-head wins.”
A star is born – One of my favorite bloggers, Lorie Byrd, will be on CNN tomorrow night talking about Harriet Miers. Welcome to the big league!
Next up: ringing the Centcom doorbell and running away – The Iraqi insurgents are really getting lazy if they think a power outage will stop the vote tomorrow.
Time to build the ark

It has been raining almost non-stop here in New England for a week now. On my commute home today the display outside the local Springfield newspaper, which normally just reads the time and temperature, read: "Enough already."

Just then "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" by Nine Days played on the radio: "This is the story of a girl, who cried a river and drowned the whole world." How appropriate.

Ugh – Waterlogged Northeast braces for more rain
Today’s must read – From Sergeant Ron Long about the so-called “staged” interview with President Bush:

It makes my stomach ache to think that we are helping to preserve free speech in the US, while the media uses that freedom to try to RIP DOWN the President and our morale, as US Soldiers. They seem to be enjoying the fact that they are tearing the country apart. Worthless!
Emphasis in original. Michelle Malkin has more comments and links in “Lights! Camera! Projection!”
A deeper level of junk

Boy, you don’t see a phrase like that very often. From the Economist: “Delphi's bankruptcy highlights the danger of ballooning legacy costs—namely pensions and health care—and is further bad news for its main customer, General Motors.”

Reckoning that GM will not be able to escape a) supply disruptions if Delphi plunges into open warfare with its workforce and b) some contribution, perhaps as high as $11 billion, in pensions and benefits to Delphi’s past and present employees, both Standard & Poor’s and Fitch have cut the carmaker’s bond ratings to a deeper level of junk.
And here’s a related article – “Now for the reckoning”:

The numbers are awful. GM's credit rating was lowered again by Standard & Poor's on October 10th. GM expects to spend over $5 billion this year on health care alone, up by $1 billion since last year. That adds up to about $1,500 for each car made by GM, or some 3% of the firm's revenues. Much of this money is for GM's former workers: it now provides health insurance to over 1m retired Americans.
And from the WSJ, excerpted on Free Republic:

General Motors Corp. has signaled to the United Auto Workers union that an agreement to cut GM's $5.6 billion annual U.S. health-care bill must come within the next few days, or the company could act unilaterally to cut UAW health-care spending, among other cost-cutting moves, according to people familiar with the matter.
Analysts at the Bank of America now estimate that there’s a 30% chance that General Motors will declare bankruptcy, up 10% after the Delphi announcement.
The religion of global warming

Here’s some more grist for the environmentalism mill from Fox News: “What Arctic warming?”

Over the last 30 years, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide increased by about 15 percent, from about 328 parts per million to about 372 parts per million. But the Antarctic temperature trend for that period indicates a slight cooling. Thisobservation contrasts sharply with the relatively steep Antarctic warming observed from 1949 to 1974, which was accompanied by a much more modest increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.

The hypothesis of global warming alarmism posits that increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide should lead to increasing temperatures, particularly with respect to Antarctica’s super-cold, super-dry air mass. But the data seem to indicate just the opposite.
For extra fun, go back and read this Senate testimony by author (and doctor) Michael Crichton on the “politicization of research.”

Thursday, October 13, 2005

It’s a baseball metaphor – I’m only a casual viewer of “The Apprentice” but Trump’s acolytes are absolutely addicted to the phrase “step up to the plate.” “He/she really stepped up to the plate this week” and “We needed you to step up to the plate in this task.” Once you notice it, it’s distracting beyond belief.
Andrew Stuttaford on Harold Pinter: “Under these circumstances, Harold Pinter's signature on this letter should be seen for what it is, a particularly tasteless attack on an America he despises, whose hospitality he has recently accepted, whose checks he has just cashed and whose dead he now insults.”
Here I go with my Cassandra act again

And indeed, the burden of Cassandra's "gift" is evident in mythology. She predicted the outcome of many disastrous events. In one memorable example, Cassandra announced the dire consequences of the Trojans accepting the infamous Wooden Horse from their Greek opponents. But as Apollo made certain, no one believed Cassandra when she warned her companions about the future. And this, in the end, was to be Cassandra's tragic fate.”

Oh well. Here are some stats from the Heritage foundation, shamelessly lifted from The Conspiracy to Keep you Poor and Stupid:

Unless Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are reformed, lawmakers face three options:
A) Raise taxes every year until taxes are 60 percent ($11,000 per household) higher than today.
B) Eliminate every federal program except Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid by 2045; or
C) Do nothing and watch the federal debt expand so much that even a minor interest rate response would induce a spiral of rising debt and interest rates, threatening the entire economy.
I know, I know. Move along. There are some “boobies” posts on Fark today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Don’t go away mad – From the UK Guardian: “Schröder bows out with swipe at Blair
What letter? What constitution?

Here’s Little Green Footballs:

Has anyone seen the letter from Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri to holy head-chopper Abu Musab al-Zarqawi covered at Daily Kos: State of the Nation?
Me neither.
I did see this post on Sunday about last minute changes to the Iraqi constitution: “Fat chance now. Just idiotic how this was done.” Alas, no recent updates on this story either: “Iraq Parliament OKs Constitution Compromise.” Oh well.
Things that can’t continue, don’t – a lesson for Social Security

This past week, auto parts maker Delphi filed for bankruptcy. The facts of the case are culled from this WashPost article:

- Delphi lost $4.75 billion in 2004.
- “Workers at Delphi plants make about $27 per hour in wages alone. With health care and other benefits added in, Delphi workers' compensation amounts to about $65 per hour.”
- “When a factory is idled or closed, Delphi and the other Detroit-based auto companies have to pay union workers nearly at the same level as if the plant were fully operating.”

Nice work if you can get it. Unfortunately, consumers are less-than-thrilled to pay for the union premium attached to every new GM car:

Furthermore, foreign auto companies, including Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., BMW AG and Hyundai Motor Co., now have U.S. factories. They have generally put down roots in Southern states where jobs are scarce. Because the factories are new, they do not have the burdens of pension and health care costs that bedevil the American auto companies. The UAW has not had much success in bringing these workers into the union.
WashPost house liberal Meyerson wallows in nostalgia and blames Delphi, GM, and “the combined onslaught of globalization, de-unionization and deregulation” for the problem – everybody except for the virtuous UAW union. It seems to me that a company losing $1 billion a quarter can’t be credibly accused of stiffing its workers. Delphi can’t raise the price of their parts yet they can’t reduce the cost of their production. This industrial welfare state cannot continue, so it’s off to bankruptcy court.

The grim realities at Delphi are paralleled in the Social Security program which will see it’s own revenue-expense imbalance crisis starting in 2017. From Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe “Social Security still needs fixing”:

Social Security is hurtling toward a cliff; that is clearly one of the ways in which it is getting worse over time. Because it is a pay-as-you-go scheme, with current retirees' benefits paid from current workers' taxes, it can remain solvent only as long as the ratio of workers to retirees stays comfortably high. But that ratio is plummeting -- from 17-to-1 in the 1950s to only 3-to-1 today. In little more than a decade, payroll taxes will no longer be enough to cover benefits. Social Security's deficits will rapidly explode. By 2020, it will be losing $72 billion a year. By 2030, losses will be $275 billion a year. To keep the system from collapsing, Congress will have no choice but to massively hike taxes, slash benefits -- or both.
General Motors, Delphi, and the United Auto Workers should have looked to the future and made gradual changes in wages and benefits to conform to fiscal realities. By failing to act, workers face an abrupt and sharp drop in wages and benefits. When Social Security and Medicare start gobbling up every federal dollars we can tax and borrow, Americans are going to look back and wish that reformers had done the same.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Good news – From Fox News: “Iraqi negotiators say deal reached on Constitution”: “It boosts the chances for a constitution that Shiite and Kurdish leaders support and the United States has been eager to see approved in Saturday's vote to avert months more of political turmoil, delaying plans to start a withdrawal of U.S. forces.”

More – From the WashPost: “Deal in Iraq Raises Hopes For Passage of Constitution

Captain Ed wonders “Will the changes be enough?”

Austin Bay notes: “In February 2004, Zarqawi acknowledged a democratic Iraqi state would mean defeat for Al-Qaida in Iraq. To defeat democracy, he has pursued a strategy of relentless, nihilistic bloodbath. It's a brutal irony of war: In doing so, he is losing the war for the hearts and minds.”

And Mark Coffey found some polling numbers you may not have heard of: “A recent survey by the Iraqi Center for Development and International Dialogue found 79 percent of Iraqis favor the draft constitution while only 8 percent opposed it.
Amazing Race Family Edition update – The Weight

Teams departed in the middle of the night for the next city: Charleston, South Carolina. In the first airline trip of the Race, all teams left from Dulles and took staggered flights to Charleston where they needed to find a gazebo at The Battery. Detour: Forrest Gump or Muddy Waters.

In this Detour, teams had the choice to either de-head 200 pounds of shrimp on a shrimp boat, or drive a 4x4 Jeep across a muddy field. Most of the teams headed to the ocean while the Weaver, Aiello and (later) the Gaghan families tried the mud bog. There’s nothing exciting to report about the shrimping; teams performed the task and got the next clue. Oh but there was dirty, dirty drama at the mud bog. The Weavers started out first but after a dozen attempts, simply gave up and headed to the shrimp boat. The Aiello men, however, kept at it and were on their 13th attempt to cross the field when the Gaghan family arrived. On the first episode of the Race, the Gaghan family ran ahead of the Aiellos while pulling Amish buggies most likely because Mom and Dad Gaghan had to pull about 300 fewer pounds than the Aiello men. In the mud field, a Jeep loaded with 500 lbs. of Team Rugrats sailed through the Detour in a single try while 900 lbs. of Team Male Bonding looked on helplessly. Eventually, the Aiellos made it through (I think on their next try, actually) and they raced to the next route marker.

After the Detour, teams headed to the Charleston Visitor Center and signed up for one of two buses, staggered at 3 and 5 pm, leaving for a mystery location. Teams Linz, Schroeder, Godlewski, and Bransen were on bus #1; the rest were on the second. Hopped up on adrenaline and not knowing when they might have to jump and run, teams were restless and exhausted. Little did they know it was an eight hour drive to Huntsville, Alabama and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. The Weavers in particular were frazzled and bewildered when the bus stopped at a Waffle House for nourishment.

At Huntsville was the Roadblock: two team members must ride in a centrifuge until it achieves 3.2X gravity (3 “g”s). It wasn’t really much of a challenge and teams arrived and departed in the order they arrived at the centrifuge. They might as well have said: “stand on this spot for five minutes before continuing.” The remainder of this leg was the same: teams had to go to some museum and – in a shameless plug – log onto AOL to get the next clue which was “go somewhere else.” Yawn. So after this desultory step, teams had to find the space shuttle Pathfinder which was the Pit Stop. With minimal suspense, the first four teams off the bus arrived in the order they completed the centrifuge. Fun.

(One semi-humorous aside: was that the Star Trek “Amok Time” theme song playing during the centrifuge rides? "Da-da-daaa-daaa-daaa-daaa-da-da-de-da!" I think it was!)

The second bus pulled up two hours later and, after driving from the bus stop to the Space Center, the last four teams all pulled up to the clue box simultaneously. The teams that skipped down to the “first come, first served” section of the clue quickly realized that this would be the bottleneck and raced for the red tags indicating order on the Roadblock. The not-so-fleet-of-feet Aiellos were smoked by the younger teams and pulled tag #8 – not good. What more to say? The TAR editors tried to make it look like the other teams were lost finding the Pit Stop but seasoned viewers know better. Team Aiello lumbered up to the mat last and they were eliminated.

Final standings – Leg #3

#1 – Bransen family – Team Powerpuff (and Wally) – Prize: free gas for life (!!!)
#2 – Linz family – Team Cincinnati
#3 – Schroeder family – Team Nawlens
#4 – Godlewski family – Team Scream
#5 – Weaver family – Team Florida
#6 – Paolo family – Team Joisey
#7 – Gaghan family – Team Rugrats
#8 – Aiello family – Team Male Bonding – PHIL-LIMINATED

Next week – In an attempt to wring the tears out of Team Weaver, who recently lost their husband and father in an accident at the Daytona Speedway, teams head to Talladega Raceway.
Last week’s update.

Extra – This space reserved for Kris at Dummocrats and Brainster’s updates.
Thanks and good luck, Patrick! Don’t forget about all us lowly bloggers while you’re reclining in your leather armchair smoking a fat cigar and twirling brandy.
Do hybrid cars save money? Short answer: no. (HT: Scrivener)
You and me both, brother

Here are comments from Delphi CEO Steve Miller who related the pension problems at the now-bankrupt auto parts maker with the towering obligations of federal entitlement spending:

My worries go beyond the auto industry. What I am describing is also embedded in our debates over Social Security and Medicare. The overwhelming voltage in the political third rail of touching these entitlements will forestall corrective action for years, but the problem will only grow. I fear something like inter-generational warfare, as young people increasingly resent having their wages reduced and taxed away to support social programs for their grandparents’ income and health care concerns.
The analogy that Miller makes is that a business cannot long endure when a premium must be passed on to consumers to pay for retirees, some of which spend more time in retirement than in labor. By the same coin, expanding entitlements cannot be dumped on younger workers without incurring resentment, especially when there’s little chance that they will see those benefits in the future.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Who are you going to believe: the MSM or the bloggers? – Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff suggests that Karl Rove may be in trouble for a recently uncovered E-mail. Frankly, I don’t see how since the message to deputy national security advisor Stephen Hadley confirms much of what has been leaked about the Rove-Cooper conversation. Is this late piece of information the sole reason for Rove’s fourth appearance before the Fitzgerald grand jury? The Minuteman (natch) provides more background than you can shake a subpoena at. Meanwhile, by way of Strata-Sphere, Macsmind floats the theory that it will actually be Joe Wilson brought up on charges for engaging in the “most elaborate scheme ever devised against an Administration.” That kind of twist would turn Washington inside-out, I'll tell you what.
What might have been

With Social Security reform nearly dead, it’s time to look back with perfect hindsight and see what could have been done differently. From USA Today: “Bush's plan dies quietly, leaving lessons for next time

The failure of Bush's plan no doubt delights Democrats. In the past five years, they've been routed on issues ranging from tax cuts to Medicare. They never unified behind their own plan to bail out Social Security, nor did they have much incentive to do so. Merely killing Bush's protected their interests.

For the American people, though, there is less reason for cheer. All the problems that existed before the president's proposal still exist. However flawed his solution, he deserves credit for taking on the basic problem: Without reforms, Social Security will start running a deficit in 2017 and be unable to meet its obligations by 2041, according to the latest estimates from its trustees.
USA Today suggests that next time reform should start with 1.) a real bipartisan commission, 2.) a focus on solvency over personal accounts and 3.) “laying the groundwork honestly.” I’ll agree that President Bush was high-handed in his reform plan and unprepared for the pushback by the Democrats and their allies in the AARP. But I take exception at the “lay the groundwork honestly” bite. Bush laid out all the immutable facts about the “guaranteed” benefit, as clearly outlined by the Social Security trustees. In response, the Democrats offered nothing but criticism and absolutely no alternative to what even they admit is an expanding and unavoidable problem.

But then setting an agenda has never been part of the Democrats’ agenda. Here’s an article in the Economist, excerpted on Red State, about the institutional drift of the Democratic party:

Can anyone name a single exciting Democratic idea for dealing with poverty? Or crime? Or reforming the public sector? Or winning the Kulturkampf with Islamic extremism? In fact, can anyone name a single exciting Democratic idea, full stop? The Democrats have squandered their years in opposition railing against the Republicans rather than recharging their intellectual batteries. They may be winning a few political battles of late—largely because of Republican incompetence. But they are losing the vision wars.
In the ideological battle, the Democrats are largely unarmed.
Funny - The only problem with this joke is that the Boston Herald would never twist a story to conform to a politically correct point-of-view. You must be thinking of the Boston Globe.
Zinger of the day

Goes to Jon Henke of Q&O responding to Kevin Drum’s quote about expanding Medicare: “[Most] people do look forward to the day they qualify for Medicare. If national healthcare is such an abomination, why is that?”

Well, why do most people "look forward to the day they qualify for Medicare"? What is it about a lifetime health insurance plan that's paid for by somebody else that people find so agreeable?
Good point! I mean, what’s the upside? Sheesh. Read the rest of the post about Medicare’s spotty record of service.
Miers: “no – After a brief pause to review, the conservative blogosphere is turning against the Harriet Miers nomination. What was Bush thinking?

Extra – By the way, the guesses are all over the map in the Hedgehog Report’s Miers prediction contest from an outlandishly optimistic 96-4 vote in the Senate to “no vote” due to a defeat in the Judiciary committee. For the record, I’m guessing 12-6 in committee and 65-35 in the Senate for confirmation.
After the eight-count

Michael Barone believes that President Bush could rebound by focusing on an aggressive, invigorated agenda:

On domestic policy, Bush has been pursuing the plans he set out in his 2000 campaign, some of which seem blocked, temporarily or permanently. His gas tank is running low. Of course, the Democrats have little in the way of specific proposals, aside from repeal of the Bush tax cuts -- they've been running on empty since Bill Clinton left office.

That invites the public to say a pox on both parties. But it also provides an opening for Bush to lay out a more robust agenda -- maybe in his State of the Union next January -- one geared to the years ahead, instead of his priorities in 2000. Bush seems beset now, but he has a chance to rebound and confound his vitriolic critics once again.
The very first thing I would recommend is a one-year delay of implementation of the massive prescription drug benefit.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Today’s must read - From the LA Times “Peace is not the answer”: “It is the promise of freedom that the fascists who murdered the Iraqi teachers last month want to destroy. It is astonishing and discouraging that those who think they were taking the high ground in marching though Washington do not understand this.”
Imitation is the sincerest form of flatteryHoward Dean borrows GOP ideas for DNC
Tragedy - More than 20,000 dead in Asian quake. The Great Satan is sending millions of dollars in emergency supplies.

Update – Now over 30,000.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The rain falls without refrain - Man, I can't remember the last time it rained so relentlessly. My poor dog has been holed up inside all day because I can't find a window to take her out for five minutes.
Sunday morning lineup – As if we haven’t had quite enough, members of the Senate Judiciary committee say stuff about Harriet Miers. You know, I’m not crazy about her either and would have much rather had Emilio Garza or Priscilla Owen, but she’s the President’s nominee. Let’s see how she does in the Senate hearings before we all start calling for her withdrawal, which ain’t gonna happen anyway.

Extra – Alexander over on Polipundit makes some good points on the realpolitik of the Miers nomination.
My kids are named “Isosceles” and “Seven”

Joanne Jacobs links to an LA Times article about what celebrities call their children. Stories about wacky baby names always remind me of this “Saturday Night Live” skit where Nicholas Cage (who recently named his kid "Kal-El") keeps talking his wife out of names for fear their kid will be teased at school:

Wife: Okay.. fine.. what about Ben?
Husband: Ben! Oh, fine, we're giving birth to a big bear? Great! "Gentle Ben!" "Hey, Ben, where's Jerry? Get me some ice cream, or I'll beat the crap outta ya!"
Wife: We could call him "Benjamin."
Husband: Sure. Benjamin. Harrison! "Hey, Benjamin, how's that tariff coming? Montana a state yet?"
Nobody ever teased me for my mighty moniker since you can’t spell “America” without “Eric”. Plus it’s Teutonic for “all-powerful king” or something.
Massachusetts representatives help to pass energy bill

By their absence:

Republicans muscled the bill through by a single vote, only after 40 minutes of arm-twisting on the House floor persuaded several moderate Republicans to change their minds and vote yes. The measure is designed to spur construction of new oil refineries through relaxed environmental standards and by opening up abandoned military bases to construction of refining facilities.
. . .
(Three Massachusetts Democrats -- representatives William Delahunt of Quincy, Richard E. Neal of Springfield, and John W. Olver of Amherst -- missed the vote. Delahunt is traveling in Mexico and Neal was attending a funeral in his district, according to spokesmen for the congressmen. Olver's office did not return calls.)
Olver is my representative. Every two years he runs the same TV commercial with him traveling all over Western MA as if being peripatetic is some kind of virtue. But he’s a Democrat so he’ll hold that seat until he dies.
No way! – Stanford’s SUV wins DARPA robot race

From the Mercury News:

A customized Volkswagen SUV entered by Stanford University became the first autonomous vehicle to cross the finish line of a $2 million Pentagon-sponsored race across the rugged Mojave Desert on Saturday without help from a human driver or remote control.

The race announcer did not immediately declare a winner because 22 out of the 23 robots left the starting line at staggered times at dawn, racing against the clock rather than each other.

Stanford's Stanley started in second, but passed the pole position vehicle, a converted red Hummer named H1ghlander, at the 102-mile mark of the race. Stanley was closely trailed by H1ghlaner and a customized Humvee called Sandstorm, both by Carnegie Mellon University. Four other vehicles remained on the course.

A group of Stanford engineers and scientists erupted in cheers as Stanley passed the finish line.
Official site: DARPA Grand Challenge. Congrats to Stanford!

Friday, October 07, 2005

From IgNobel to Nobel

The IgNobel awards were just held at Harvard and here’s a great story (by roundabout way from Scrivener):

GLAUBER'S SWEEPING SUCCESS: Roy Glauber, who for ten years has humbly swept paper airplanes on the stage at the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, has just won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics. In this photo taken at the 1998 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, Professor Glauber serenely sweeps while Nobel Laureates (left to right) Dudley Herschbach, William Lipscomb, and Richard Roberts wear gigantic shoes in tribute to the 1998 Ig Nobel Statistics Prize winners. Nobel Laureate Sheldon Glashow can be seen in the distance at left as he rushes to join his colleagues. [Photo by Eric Workman]

He’s paid his dues!
Flying fish – The salmon-thirty-salmon (but was it really done on the taxpayers dime? – see comments)

Follow-up – It’s true: “The Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, created by U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens in 2003, made a big splash this week with a high-profile project: a $500,000 grant to Alaska Airlines, mostly to paint a giant king salmon on one of its jetliners.” OMG. It's times like this that I almost (but not quite!) wish the Democrats would gain control of the House. Maybe divided government is the answer.