Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Yet another bipartisan Social Security commission

Well, here’s my snap review of the State of the Union address: it was essentially a foreign policy speech with some small potato domestic proposals thrown in. But on the enormous issue of entitlement spending, everything President Bush said was 100% accurate:

We must also confront the larger challenge of mandatory spending, or entitlements. This year, the first of about 78 million Baby Boomers turn 60, including two of my Dad's favorite people - me, and President Bill Clinton. This milestone is more than a personal crisis - it is a national challenge. The retirement of the Baby Boom generation will put unprecedented strains on the Federal government. By 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire Federal budget. And that will present future Congresses with impossible choices - staggering tax increases, immense deficits, or deep cuts in every category of spending.
This dire conclusion has been reported by public and private institutions alike and the Democrats are well aware of the looming crisis. Nevertheless, they actually celebrated* their obstruction to reform while offering no solutions of their own.

Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security [*Democrats cheer], yet the rising cost of entitlements is a problem that is not going away - and with every year we fail to act, the situation gets worse. So tonight, I ask you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of Baby Boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This commission should include Members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan answers. We need to put aside partisan politics, work together, and get this problem solved.
Half a loaf, I suppose. This is the umpteeth commission on entitlements and I’m skeptical it will succeed because of the continuing bad faith of the Democrats who are incapable of looking at policy without keeping a stray eye on political gain.

Extra – From Michael Graham on the Corner: “When Democrats began celebrating wildly the fact that they have done nothing to rescue Social Security, they handed Bush an opportunity to step away from the text and point out the partisan cynicism of celebrating failure. My comment would have been "Remember that applause 13 years from now when Social Security goes broke."” Exactly right.
Congratulations, Judge Justice Alito

Alito Sworn In as Nation's 110th Supreme Court Justice
Cindy Sheehan will be at the SOTU tonight – “A spokesman for Sheehan says she decided to accept the invitation two hours prior to the speech. The spokesman also said that Sheehan will be respectful and listen to the address because she is a guest of a member of congress.”

I don’t believe that for a nanosecond. If Sheehan actually does show up, and is allowed into the visitor’s gallery, it’s a sure bet she’ll make some kind of spectacle.

Extra – Lorie Byrd is torn: “But isn’t Cindy Sheehan a great representative of the modern day Democratic Party? Don’t we want to see her on television as often as possible? I have not yet made up my mind on this one.”

Follow-upThere she goes. There she goes again.
Kerry, you magnificent bastard

Deborah Orin looks back on the Alito “flop-buster” and wryly notes:

The joke in Republican circles now is that if John Kerry didn't exist, Karl Rove would have to invent him.

Republicans loved 2004 loser Kerry's flop of a filibuster against Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito because it had Democrats tearing each other's eyes out — over a fight they couldn't win.
Meanwhile, Ed Whelan lists the “Achievements of the filibuster.” I think this reason is the most potent:

By using the filibuster weapon against a nominee whom the public rightly recognizes to be superbly qualified, Kerry and Kennedy have undermined Democrats’ future use of that weapon.
True enough. What are the Democrats going to say when – for example – a spot opens up for Souter’s or Steven’s seat? They’ll unload all that tired overheated rhetoric again and, like the boy who cried “bigot!” nobody will believe them. Super-chillin'-time.
Rest in peace – Coretta Scott King passed away today at 78.

Monday, January 30, 2006

It’s all because of that evil, spawn-of-the-devil Fox News

You know the Left is getting desperate for scapegoats when they eat their own in the MSM. From Tom Bevan’s “The Left’s latest conspiracy”:

This should concern Democrats who are serious about winning elections. The mainstream media has been, and for the most part continues to be very sympathetic to Democratic causes and candidates. Latching on to some harebrained, up-is-down theory of GOP media manipulation to help explain Democrats’ recent failure at the polls is more than a sign of frustration, it’s a signal that some in the party are in deep denial and aren’t willing to face up to certain realities and deal with them accordingly.
Also, check out John Leo’s column “The Left Now Joins the Right In Attacking Mainstream Media” and John Hawkins’ thoughts on the chimerical right-wing media: “liberals believe a lot of dumb, obviously false things, so why should this be any different?” Heh.
Exxon rakes it in. Alaskan permafrost remains frosty.

Wait…wasn’t the argument against drilling in ANWR that it would be a “windfall” for the oil companies? From Fox News: “Exxon profit soars on high prices

Exxon/Mobil posted record profits for any U.S. company on Monday — $10.71 billion for the fourth quarter and $36.13 billion for the year — as the world's biggest publicly traded oil company benefited from high oil and gas prices and demand for refined products.
What else besides “demand” drives up oil prices? Caribou.
Cletus alert - Do you think Britney Spears wakes up every single day and thinks: “What did I do?” and "Where's my ATM card?"
Let the good times roll!

Do you know how I’ve been warning everybody for years to save their money because Social Security is going to go belly-up and the government is heading towards bankruptcy paying for entitlements?

Yeah, well, I don’t get a lot of traffic here: “Savings rate at lowest level since 1933”: “Americans' personal savings rate dipped into negative territory in 2005, something that hasn't happened since the Great Depression. Consumers depleted their savings to finance the purchases of cars and other big-ticket items.” We love our credit cards! Gimme, gimme, gimme!
25 Senators say: “Elections don’t matter

Or maybe they’re saying: “We’re trying to raise money
Or “I’m running for President and pandering to the base
Or “Show me where in the Constitution it says the President gets to pick judges
Then “I meant a Republican President

Whatever. By noon tomorrow, it’ll be over. This might be a good time to take stock at the Coalition of the Chillin’. My entry on the “extraordinary circumstances” threshold meshes perfectly with this whiner on Daily Kos:

CNN is reporting the "Gang of 14" will meet today, presumably to declare the possibility of a filibuster of the Alito nomination dead. That the Gang is getting together to say so is, we must assume, a declaration that the now-infamous "extraordinary circumstances" bar has not been cleared.
Righty-o, boyo. (HT: Decision08)
Houston, we need a jury

It’s going to be a chore picking a jury for the trial of Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. From Slate’s Today’s Papers:

The NYT takes the most reader-friendly approach and describes how difficult it will be to find Houston jurors who don't have an opinion—especially a bad one—about Enron. A jury consultant for the defense pointed out that of "among 280 questionnaires, 'greed' appeared 272 times and 'crook' appeared 55 times." Only 18 respondents didn't have anything negative to say about Enron.
Whew - (pulling on tie) - rough crowd!
Black ops putting the DNC in the red – Memo to Karl Rove: agent double-O-zero is dangerously close to blowing his cover.
In which I disagree with the National Review

This post by Wendy Long sends the wrong message: “Senators who vote for cloture today but will vote against Judge Alito tomorrow are silly to think the cloture vote will be a fig leaf for them to hide from their constituents.”

Perhaps Democratic Senators will face the wrath of the KosKids, but at least a “yes on cloture”/”no on confirmation” vote has a whiff of principle. That is, a Senator who votes against Judge Alito can maintain that he/she also believed the nominee deserved an up-or-down vote and that the majority should rule, at least on judicial nominees. It’s the Schumer types who believe that the Supreme Court should be a political appointment that are perverting the long-standing tradition of judicial nominations.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Hooray for Hamas

So says the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby who writes that when the Palestinians voted for the terrorist group, they erased all pretensions about their views on the Mideast conflict. From “Hamas victory is good news”:

Like Hamas, Fatah -- the PLO faction Abbas and Arafat co-founded 45 years ago -- advocates Israel's destruction in its basic charter. Like Hamas, Fatah has an ''armed wing" -- the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- that is guilty of horrific terror attacks. Fatah's emblem shows crossed rifles against a map of ''Palestine" that depicts all of Israel; on the Hamas emblem, the map is the same, but the crossed weapons are swords. The only important difference between the ousted Fatah party and the incoming Hamas leadership is that for PR purposes the former sometimes pretended to accept Israel's right to exist, while the latter is openly and unabashedly committed to Israel's elimination.

Yet that is why the Hamas landslide is good news. It will now be much harder to wish away the unpleasant fact that after a dozen years of PLO misrule, Palestinian society is deeply dysfunctional, steeped in hatred and violence. All but the willfully blind can now see that the Palestinian Authority is no ''partner in peace." Until it is decisively defeated and thoroughly detoxified, the Palestinian people will never enjoy the blessings of liberty and decent governance. Ironically, the ascendancy of Hamas may have brought that day a little closer.
I guess the issue is whether it’s preferable to tolerate a low simmer or brace for a large explosion. The times they are a’changin.
Quote of the day – It’s from Joan Vennochi in “Tilting at Alito”: “Kerry's enthusiasm for a filibuster is harder to fathom, except as more of the same from a perpetually tone-deaf politician.”
When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail

New Jersey’s governor Jon Corzine is considering his options to close a huge budget shortfall. I know you’ll be shocked at the Democrat’s proposed solutions. From the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Corzine advisers calling for taxes”:

Expand the sales tax to include clothes and online purchases. Tax 401(k) retirement accounts. Raise the gas tax. Consider a temporary increase in the state income tax.

With New Jersey's finances "perilously close to ruin," Gov. Corzine's budget advisers have recommended these unpopular solutions and more to fill what they estimate to be a $6 billion hole in the state's budget.
For years, I’ve been warning that the only way the federal government can close the massive shortfall caused by entitlement spending would be to tap into the pool of money stored in millions of private 401(k) accounts. But I never imagined that a state governor would have the temerity to propose such a confiscatory cash grab.

I hope he tries it. As Alexander McClure correctly predicts, such an unpopular move would pave the way to restore Republican leadership in Trenton.

Toren, back me up here!
Temper, temper – Have you ever been at work and seen somebody with a paycheck problem? It’s not pretty. From Oxblog comes this factoid of the day: “In the next week, the PA must cough up salaries to over 150,000 employees, but its treasury is empty. The fault is partially Fateh's: in the leadup to the election, it added thousands to the PA payroll in an attempt to win votes.” That can't be good.
Howard Dean does it again

DNC chairman Howard Dean was on Fox News Sunday this morning and said that Democrats who may have provided service for Jack Abramoff or his clients would be “in trouble.” Whoops:

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Sunday that Democrats who took money from Indian tribes represented by Jack Abramoff and who did something on behalf of those tribes have "a big problem."

Dean made the statement apparently unaware that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has reportedly done exactly that.
Oh, I know, it wasn’t directly from Abramoff and the $66,000 sent to Reid’s political group was all in quarters or something.

Extra – The lowdown on direct and indirect money from Q&O.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sunday morning talkshow lineup – President Bush is going to be on Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer. Joe Biden is back from his trip to Palestine; he’ll be on Late Edition, undoubtedly blaming Bush for Hamas. Finally, for pure comedy, Howard Dean will be on Fox News Sunday.
Alcohol was the culprit - Funny/crazy wedding stories on Fark. Most of them fall into the “wedding from hell” category. Voting is enabled.
A wonderful time was had by all – Today, I took the family to the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, MA. It was big slice of Americana with ice cream on top.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Having, earning, giving – Will Franklin details how different states rate on the “generosity index” for charitable contributions. There’s a distinct trend.

For the astronauts of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia. NASA home page.

From CNN: “NASA honors fallen astronauts”: “NASA employees throughout the country paused Thursday to rededicate themselves to space exploration and remember their 17 astronaut colleagues who died pursuing it.
Taking a page from the Kerry playbook – Diane Feinstein was against the Alito filibuster before she was for it.

Do you know what would be a lot of fun? If a handful of GOP Senators swapped their votes at the last moment so that cloture barely passes 60-40. MoveOn and Kos would go ballistic. Ooooh….so close!
The Minuteman elaborates – In response to this post (I’m sure) Tom Maguire gives a lengthy analysis of Scooter Libby’s apparent defense strategy. Nut quote: “My Not So Bold Prediction - this trial will mark a watershed in the history of the media in America.”

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Is that guy still around? - John Kerry calls for Alito filibuster and Tom Elia has it right: “The absolute tone-deafness of this decision by Kerry couldn't be better for the GOP if it was drawn up in a Republican strategy meeting.” (HT: Michelle Malkin)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: please run again, Johnny. You have that rare penchant for overweening self-regard combined with Spicoli-level underachievement.

Extra – Pity from bRight and Early: “Massachusetts conservatives, you have my sincere sympathy. The rest of the state owes US an apology.” Yeah, well, what can you do?

MoreMega-roundup from Memeorandum.

And there’s this – John Kerry’s statement on Daily Kos.
Let’s just get it over with – From Byron York: “Word is, there will soon be an agreement between the parties on how much more time to allot to the debate, after which there will be a vote on confirmation -- no cloture process needed.” Seriously, let’s hope the Senate votes on Judge Alito before the New York Times freaks out again.
Hamas wins, everybody loses – There’s no use putting lipstick on this pig: the democratic election of a terrorist group is a huge setback for the Mideast peace process. With the imprimatur of the new government of the Palestinian authority, attacks within Israel will almost certainly rise. Watch for a hard line shift in Israel in response. The only possibly silver lining is that Hamas needs to show what it can do better now that it has control.
Robert Novak this morning: “That has opened the door for conservatives to turn the Alito confirmation into a political asset in the 2006 elections. Two unnamed donors have contributed $100,000 for current TV ads in the Dakotas to influence Democrats Kent Conrad and Tim Johnson.”

This afternoon: “Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota has announced that he will vote for Alito's confirmation.”
Maryland aims for Wal-Mart, hits workers

From Opinion Journal – “Hard Line State Big Labor’s war on Wal-Mart claims casualties among poor Marylanders”:

The consequences of our Legislature's override of Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich's veto of their "Fair Share Health Care Act" on Jan. 12 will be tragic for some of the state's neediest residents. The law will force companies that employ over 10,000 to spend at least 8% of their payroll on health care or kick any shortfall into a special state fund. Wal-Mart would be the only employer in the state to be affected.

Almost surely, therefore, the company will pull the plug on plans to build a distribution center that would have employed 800 in Somerset County, on Maryland's picturesque Eastern Shore. As a Wal-Mart spokesman has put it, "you have to take a step back and call into question how business-friendly is a state like Maryland when they pass a bill that . . . takes a swipe at one company that provides 15,000 jobs."
Those lost jobs in Somerset would have boosted the county’s tax revenues by over $19 million on employee compensation topping over $46 million. I wonder if Wal-Mart will shutter other stores until they employ exactly 9,999 Marylanders.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Court time - The White House has released the latest nominations sent to the Senate for confirmation. Jayson at Polipundit comments on judicial nominees Brett Kavanaugh and Michael Chagares.
The New York MTA to the Transit union: Suck it
Air America update - The Radio Equalizer asks “Did Al Franken's Outrageous Demands Slow Boys & Girls Club Repayment?”: “Despite mixed reviews, low ratings and a perpetually shaky cash outlook, Franken was handed a virtual blank check by Piquant. Even as the extent of the Gloria Wise crisis became clear to an ever-changing series of managers, Franken pushed ahead anyway with an eye-popping 2005 compensation package.”
Typical - In a Washington Post live chat, Glenn Reynolds explains why he does not host comments on Instapundit. Right on cue, the Associated Press validates his point by smearing Little Green Footballs.
I’m chillin’ like Matt Dillon

Obviously, I firmly believe that the Coalition of the Chillin’ has been vindicated.

Here’s precisely how the Democrats got backed into a corner: the Gang of 14 made the stipulation that a nominee to the federal court could be filibustered only for “extraordinary circumstances.” At the time, many on the Right clamoring for the “nuclear option” seethed that the Democrats could make “extraordinary circumstances” anything they wanted to block a nominee.

Not true: by its very syntax, “extraordinary circumstances” implied that the criteria to block a nominee would be reasonable to the average American, an acceptable disqualifier to the federal bench. For the filibustered judges, as well as Samuel Alito, the Democrats couldn’t find the foothold to raise policy differences to the “extraordinary” level. (The judiciary committee Dems embarrassed themselves trying to attack Judge Alito on the quality of his jurisprudence.) The Gang of 14 deal all but assured that the President’s judicial nominees will get a fair vote. It’s a big win.

More – AJ Strata is gathering opinions for a Carnival of the Coalition; here’s an entry from Coalition founder Mark Coffey.
Let freedom ring – It’s 9 steps forward but 4 steps back, according to Freedom House, which characterized 2005 as “one of the most successful” for political freedom since the group was formed. (HT: Ace).
Ach! The demographic time bomb hits Scotland

Mark Steyn looks across the pond to Scotland where the number of pensioners will outpace the number of schoolchildren in three years – “The Celtic canary in the UK’s coal mine”:

Seems straightforward enough: the country's demographic death spiral is accelerating faster than expected. And, as far as the Scotsman is concerned, the alarming thing about this development is that it could put cushy state teaching jobs "in doubt".
That or gut the Scottish economy, which will not be helped by immigration in the same way as continental Europe. Read the whole thing, if you will.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Caving in

Christopher Hitchens writes “Al-Qaeda is losing”:

I have been attacked for callousness and worse for saying that Bin Laden did us a favor on 9/11, but I am increasingly sure I was right. Until that date, he partially owned Afghanistan and his supporters were moving steadily toward the Talibanization of Pakistan as well. There were al-Qaida sympathizers within the Pakistani intelligence services, armed forces, and nuclear establishment (which then included the A.Q. Khan network). There was also an active Saudi support system, consisting mainly of vast tranches of money, for jihadism worldwide. Now, Afghanistan is lost to Bin Laden and Pakistan has had, at least officially, to modify its behavior considerably. The A.Q. Khan network has been shut down. The Saudi ruling class identifies its state interest with a repudiation of al-Qaida, inside and outside its own borders. And the one remaining regime that openly preached holy war and helped train jihadist forces like the "Fedayeen Saddam"—the pseudo-secular terror state in Iraq—has been irretrievably smashed. Wherever Bin Laden is now, it cannot be where he wanted or hoped to be four and a half years ago.
Only one side is offering a “truce” and it’s the guy huddled in a cave.

Follow-up – Others beg to differ. From the NY Times (natch) here’s “Al Qaeda’s big boast”: “Yet, while Osama bin Laden has seldom used the word "truce," the vision outlined in the rest of the message is not new: a withdrawal of the United States from Muslim lands and a rebalancing between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds. (One Qaeda spokesman has insisted that only when America has lost four million people would the field be even.) In other words, this "truce" must be preceded by total capitulation.”
Steve Jobs is (very) wealthy
Alito advances – what’s the next delay?

Jim Lynch ponders: “I just can't help wondering what stunt the Democrats are going to pull next. We've already had the needless delay to start the hearings and the needless delay going into today's vote. It's sort of like watching America's Funniest Home Videos; You know before the show is over some guy is gonna get it in the "onions".”

Byron York may have the answer: “A non-filibuster filibuster.” I swear, for once, can Bill Frist grow a set and take control of the Senate? Alito should be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court by the end of the week.
High hopes – Iraqis and Afghans among the most optimistic in the world
Down in the dumps – Italians and Zimbabweans
Scooter Libby puts the MSM in a bind

Via Blogs for Bush comes this story: “Lawyers for a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney told a federal judge Friday they want to subpoena journalists and news organizations for documents they may have related to the leak of a CIA operative's name.”

As Mark Noonan notes: “From what I understand, Libby was indicted for lying to the Grand Jury because his version of events didn't match up with the version related by reporters - given this, it is only fair that Libby get to look at all the reporters' notes, recordings, e mails, etc related to the matter.”

Interesting: if certain journalists refuse to reveal their notes and sources, it could be the basis for a mistrial. I think I need to hear the Minuteman’s take on this one.

Monday, January 23, 2006

All even now

Political Wire illogically titles a post “Democrats make inroads” and links to this Gallup Poll article which contains this quote: “Overall, in 2005, basic party identification was even -- 33% of Americans each identified as Republicans, independents, and Democrats.”

Some inroads: if you look at historical data for party identification, the Democrats have been steadily losing voters for decades. In the seventies and early eighties, Democrats held a double-digit lead on party identification; now it’s down to zero. Hooray!
Oh Canada – Here’s the CBC election link and be sure to check Damian Penny (more election links on the right) and the Free Republic thread for all the latest in the Canadian elections tonight.

Extra – With a Conservative win at hand, Pardon My English has the new map of North America. (HT: Ace)

Follow-up - Harper wins Tory minority government, CBC News projects: “Conservative Leader Stephen Harper will become Canada's next prime minister, as Canadians have elected a Tory minority government and ended a 12-year reign of Liberal rule, CBC News projects.”
Credit where credit is due – Kerry Howley wrote back in 2003 that the prescription drug benefit would be a big mess: “But if the baby boomers are leaving the younger generations with a huge bill to pay, at least they've also provided some sage advice: Never trust anybody over 30.”
Impeach Judge Alito

I must simply stop being so shocked by the contents and tenor of the New York Times editorial page; it’s become a parody of itself. Today’s hatchet job is aimed at Samuel Alito in a last-ditch effort to derail his nomination to the Supreme Court:

As senators prepare to vote on the nomination, they should ask themselves only one question: will replacing Sandra Day O'Connor with Judge Alito be a step forward for the nation, or a step backward? Instead of Justice O'Connor's pragmatic centrism, which has kept American law on a steady and well-respected path, Judge Alito is likely to bring a movement conservative's approach to his role and to the Constitution.
So, by the Times’ logic, the suitability of the candidate for the Supreme Court depends on the person he/she is replacing. This thin gruel of an argument holds as much weight as the color of Alito’s tie. By advancing the specious “Alito for O’Connor” scenario, the Times attempts to avoid a debate on the criteria by which a Supreme Court justice should be confirmed.

The original benchmark used to be the jurisprudence of a justice. But given Alito’s unanimous “highly recommended” rating by the American Bar Association, along with glowing, bipartisan reviews from his fellow judges, that argument was a dead-end for the Times. Better to move on to ideology and a frightening tale of a “radical” judge scheming “to reduce the rights and liberties of ordinary Americans.” [thunder/lightning flashes] This spurious charge aside, President Bush surely made no secret of his intention to nominate conservative judges to the Supreme Court given the chance. By impugning Judge Alito based on his conservative ideology, the Times is essentially saying that elections don’t matter.

But assume that all the sinister things they say about Judge Alito are true. This raises another question: can we allow such a radical judge sitting on the Third Circuit Court? Why it would be unthinkable! Sure, he was unanimously confirmed to the court fifteen years ago, but now, now!, we know better. Defeat and impeach – Bill Keller would want it that way.

Extra – Similar thoughts on the Times’ insipid editorial from Captain Ed, Rick Moran, and Bench Memos.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

John Kerry in 2008!

Here’s Mark Kilmer from the review of John Kerry on ABC’s This Week this morning:

And on TW, JF Kerry again played the buffoon. Several times in what appeared to be an interview conducted for Democrats only, he repeated BushLied™ material.. He seriously argued that the terrorists have not attacked the U.S. in four years because they have been so successful elsewhere.
I think Mark understates the level of buffoonery radiating from my senator. On the very first question, Kerry responded to a Dick Cheney quote about doing everything to fight terrorists by bringing up…Tora Bora. A visibly exasperated George Stephanopoulos tried to direct Kerry back into the present discussion, but with mixed results. Later, Steph asked why, if the NSA program is “illegal,” Kerry hasn’t moved to defund the program. “That’s premature,” responded Senator Splunge. “Plus it probably involves paperwork” – well, he didn’t say that, but you get the picture.

Because, gosh darn it, John Kerry is working hard for the American people. And that includes a laser-like focus on Samuel Alito, who could tip the balance of power in the judiciary branch:

Steph asked him if his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee failed because they concentrated on Alito's personal life instead of his extremist views. Kerry said he wasn't here, as he was "on this trip," but he heard snippets and that is what these snippets told him.
Government by snippets. Oh thank you, thank you, Ohio.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sunday morning talk show lineup – Sometime Senator John Kerry will be on This Week. I’d like to know if that’s really him posting on Daily Kos. I think it’s an elaborate hoax.
Krazy Kos Kids strike again

Mark Coffey found a post on the popular Lefty blog Daily Kos asking that burning question: “Is Bush collaborating with Bin Laden?” It’s not satire; it’s full-blown looniness dipped in Oliver Stone paranoia and rolled with Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Lorie Byrd notes: “You know what the difference between the wacko blogs on the Right and the wacko blogs on the Left is? The wacko blogs on the right don’t draw high traffic from conservative readers. Liberal blog readers, however, have driven their wacko blogs to the top of the traffic rankings. Many of the top ranked right-leaning blogs could be described as edgy, but none come close to the wacko factor of DailyKos.”

This is, of course, an echo of a famous quote by US News & World Report columnist Michael Barone: “So what hath the blogosphere wrought? The left blogosphere has moved the Democrats off to the left, and the right blogosphere has undermined the credibility of the Republicans' adversaries in Old Media. Both changes help Bush and the Republicans.”

Extra – More on how blogs have upset the media monopoly on Spartacus.
In lighter news - My son legitimately beat me in a bowling match today. He's 8. In my defense, the ball I was using was a lot heavier than his.
Bad news Saturday

Trapped West Virginia coal miners found dead
Whale stranded in Thames dies after rescue attempt
Fate of hostage Jill Carroll is unknown
The search for Bin Laden and other Islamic militants has gone cold in Pakistan

Friday, January 20, 2006

He didn’t say “nyah nyah, ya missed me!”Captain Ed notes that the recent Zawahiri audiotape of his favorite poetry failed to mention the rocket attack in Pakistan that targeted Al-Qaeda’s #2. Seems like something a breathing man would mention.
All over but the shouting

The Committee for Justice Blog has a post on the possibility of a filibuster of Judge Alito titled “Filibuster theory unconvincing.” Part of it is a rebuttal to a Red State post, but the upshot is that Curt Levey doesn’t see a filibuster congealing:

Under either scenario, Senate Democrats look like obstructionists and in a much higher visibility setting than the battle over circuit court nominees. Also, under either scenario, the Democrats ultimately lose. Fighting to the last might make the Democratic Party faithful happy. However, huffing and puffing then striking out will not present an attractive image to swing voters. Since the Democrats can’t stop Alito, it makes much more sense for them to look somewhat bipartisan, as they did with Roberts.
Exactly right: the Democrats could get away with filibustering circuit court judges because it wasn’t a skirmish that a lot of Americans were giving much attention. The elevation of a Supreme Court justice is quite a different kettle of fish. The Democrats would need extraordinary party discipline to assemble the votes for a filibuster at this point, and several Dems (Nelson, Byrd, Feinstein) have already indicated they would not support the maneuver. Let’s vote already.
Bookmark this page – California Yankee is updating the committed votes in the Senate for Judge Alito. As of this writing, it’s 13 for, 9 against.

Extra – John Hawkins reminds us why elections are so very, very important.
More Democrat-bashing

Why can’t these Fox News-lovin’, right-wingers leave the Dems alone?

Most important, Democrats have not clearly and courageously stated what they stand for and what they stand against.”

But politics sooner or later becomes a test of character and not merely a paint-by-numbers exercise in low-risk electioneering. These are key weeks for the Democrats to decide whether they believe in anything other than polls and the frail hope that the Republicans will self-destruct.”
Whoops – that was James Carville and Salon’s Walter Shapiro.
Now look what you’ve done!

From Opinion Journal this morning – Peggy Noonan with “Not a bad time to take stock

This afternoon: “Dow, Nasdaq Sink on Oil Worries, Earnings
Is our college students learning? – “College students lacking skillz
Don’t eat those grapesBad coaches

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Alito update – Opinion Journal has the running tally. Here’s a shocker: Ted Kennedy is voting ‘no!” Wendy Long on Bench Memos unleashes: “Senator Kennedy's announcement today demonstrates once again the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the opposition to Judge Alito.” Ah, I can’t get worked up over Fat Ted or Schumer anymore: Alito is going to be confirmed, no doubt about it.
There are no guarantees

Read this WashPost editorial titled “Fake Retirement Security” and then replace every instance of “corporate pensions” with “Social Security.”

But how much retirement security is there in an underfunded plan? If workers are going to face risk, they might as well have 401(k) accounts. At least these make no pretense of guaranteeing income in retirement.
Testify, brother, testify! Corporate pensions (think United and Delphi) as well as Social Security can be scaled back at any time. The only way to ensure your retirement security is to have control of your own money.

Extra – More from ABP: “My question is why politicians and the MSM continue to spread the lie that Social Security provides a guaranteed benefit, and why is it that they can't be honest with us and let us more easily provide for our own retirement security?” It’s all part of the conspiracy to keep you poor and stupid.
Everybody hates Wal-Mart…

…which is why it’s now the largest company in America. George Will looks at Maryland’s latest cash-grab scheme from the country’s #1 employer:

Something not easily distinguished from theft recently occurred in Annapolis. In legislation ostensibly concerned with any company with 10,000 employees but pertaining only to one, Maryland has said Wal-Mart must spend 8 percent of its payroll on health care, or must give the difference to the state.
Will views this novel maneuver as just the latest version of looking-for-quarters-in-the-couch-cushions approach to funding state governments:

This is part of the tawdry drama of state politics as governments grasp for novel sources of money. Forty-eight states are to varying degrees dependent on revenues from gambling. Forty-six states are addicted to their cut, to be paid out over decades, from the $246 billion coerced from the tobacco industry by using the specious argument that smoking costs their governments huge sums. As a result, 46 states have a stake in the long-term profitability of tobacco companies.

Maryland's grasping for Wal-Mart's revenues opens a new chapter in the degeneracy of state governments that are eager to spend more money than they have the nerve to collect straightforwardly in taxes.
Unless they turn back from the abyss, Maryland will face the same economic ruin visited by every government that tries to squeeze businesses for short-term revenues. From McQ on Q&O:

The good news, in this particular scenario, is that Wal-Mart has the ability and the will to make Maryland and others regret such legislation. The sad part of that is to do so, it will probably affect the lives of many of its present employees within that state, and that's a pity. But when the pink slip comes, and when the store in the neighborhood closes, ex-employees and consumers can thank the Maryland legislature. Hopefully their thanks will come in the form of a vote against those in the legislature who perpetrated this absurd law.
There’s a reason that 48 states have a lottery: it’s essentially a tax on people who can’t do math. In a more perfect world, state governments wouldn’t try to trick its citizens into thinking that a windfall is just six numbers away. The lack of spending restraint – along with balanced budget laws – has forced state governments into imaginative new ways to scavenge revenues. Unfortunately for those unfamiliar with the definition of insanity, the lure of deep-pocket businesses invariably leads to policies that hurt the people in the long run.
Beyond the grave – Reuters is reporting that a new Osama Bin Laden audio tape is about to be released. (HT: Rantburg). Unless he gripes about how Troy Polamalu’s interception was called back, I’m going to assume this is a greatest hits re-run.

Extra – More details via Bulldog Pundit: “I wonder if the Dems are going to be highlighting their opposition to the NSA surveillance program today.”
Anybody seen Krugman’s cat? – “Jobless claims at lowest since 2000”: “The number of U.S. workers making new claims for unemployment benefits tumbled unexpectedly last week to 271,000, their lowest level in nearly six years, the government said on Thursday in a report suggesting a robust labor market.”
This is all Spongebob’s fault!

From the Boston Globe – “Activists look to sue over cartoons in cereal ads State may become battleground in war on childhood obesity”:

Saying Massachusetts could become a legal battleground in the war over childhood obesity, a Washington, D.C., nutrition group yesterday threatened a lawsuit here against the Nickelodeon cable network and Kellogg Co. for using cartoon characterslike SpongeBob SquarePants and Tony the Tiger to sell junk food to children.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest gave the two companies 30 days to curb their junk food advertising to children under 8 or face a lawsuit under the Massachusetts consumer protection act that could trigger penalties in excess of $2 billion.
Oh for heaven’s sake, is there no end to the perpetual nanny state? Only Massachusetts would entertain such a Froot-Loop lawsuit.

Extra – More thoughts on feckless parenting over at Wunderkraut.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Remember when all those coal miners were rescued? - I have an uneasy suspicion that there will be a retraction of this story by the morning. Hope I’m wrong.

For example: “Of course, the identity of the fellow is not 100% at this point.” Know why? The Predator atomized his molecules.
End of an era – Justice Sandra Day O’Connor hears her last case in the Supreme Court. But maybe a little humor. “Her recent Christmas card showed a picture of the Supreme Court with a sign out front saying "Gone Fishing." In parentheses underneath was written "almost."”
The good news and bad news on Iran

The bad news is there’s no good news. Charles Krauthammer writes in “The Iran Charade” that two years of European negotiations has allowed Iran to harden its position on nuclear capability and, because of oil and a fractured world response, there’s little we can do:

Such consequences -- serious economic disruption and possible naval action -- are something a cocooned, aging, post-historic Europe cannot even contemplate. Which is why the Europeans have had their heads in the sand for two years. And why they will spend the little time remaining -- before a group of apocalyptic madmen go nuclear -- putting their heads back in the sand. And congratulating themselves on allied solidarity as they do so in unison.
Two years, two years of “negotiation.” What the hell did these people talk about for 100 weeks?

European: “Will you give up your nuclear program?”
Iraqi: “No.”
European: “See you tomorrow.”

Follow-up – From the NYT: “The rest of the world cannot deter the will of the Iranian people to pursue their nuclear program, the country's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Wednesday, the official IRNA news agency reported.” Sadly, he’s probably right.

More - From FoxNews - “Condi Rice: Iran can’t have nuclear weapons capability.”
Separate and unequal families produce separate and unequal economic fates.” - Writing in City Journal, Kay S. Hymowitz identifies America’s chief source of inequality: The Marriage Gap
Mixed bag – The Boston Globe’s token conservative Jeff Jacoby writes on Judge Alito, the “unilateral” Bush administration, and Ray Nagin’s comments on Martin Luther King day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Senate attends to the people’s business

From the WashPost:

On Friday, the day Alito's confirmation hearings ended, Frist placed pressure on the Democrats to allow a quick vote. Frist announced that, unless the final vote takes place this week, he would cancel a week-long Senate vacation next week -- a step that he took yesterday, according to his chief of staff, Eric Ueland.
That’s right! No vacation for you! Senators will just have to wait until the one-week holiday in February.
And March.
Then the two-week break in April.
The last week in May.
Fourth of July week.
And the whole month of August.

But then it’s all work until October 6th.
You (probably) don't work there - The 100 best companies to work for - 2006 edition (Via Fortune magazine)

Follow-up – One of the companies on the top 100 list is Whole Foods whose motto is: “Drive your car to us because we use wind power.” Something like that.
A barrel tapped at both ends

That’s how Benjamin Franklin described New Jersey, a state dominated at its extremes by New York and Philadelphia. It also aptly describes the flow of Massachusetts tax receipts: they go to Boston and the Big Dig on one end and Springfield on the other:

Eighteen months after Governor Mitt Romney signed a bailout package to rescue this city, Springfield is teetering close to the edge of bankruptcy, with new estimates that municipal debt could grow to $100 million within six years.
Like an impatient parent, Beacon Hill asks: “What did you do with the money we gave you?”

Springfield has tapped roughly half of the $52 million loan the state approved in 2004. But as 2005 drew to a close, the state halted payments because the latest debt projections made it clear the city would have no hope of meeting its obligations for repayment on time.
But have no fear: we have found a scapegoat. Although Springfield has been governed by Democratic mayors, town councils, school boards and state representatives since the dawn of time, it’s all the fault of the only Republican in the state (besides me):

Labor leaders in Springfield suspect the Republican governor [Mitt Romney] is exploiting their city's crisis to impose radical conservative changes they say undermine workers' rights.
Yes, well, everything’s been going swimmingly up until now.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Resolved – The Democrats are like two-year-olds who sit in front of those toy car dashboards, turning steering wheels that control nothing, and honking their horns every once in a while so that you’ll know they’re there.

Yes, yes, big boy. We see you. Very nice honking.
I don’t have time for this – The 24 Drinking Game
The U.N.’s last chance

From Fox News:

The United States, EU, Russia and China met Monday to discuss Iran's nuclear program, with Washington and the European Union pushing to bring the Islamic state before the U.N. Security Council.
The European Union was in “negotiations” with the Iranians for two years before they broke the seals on their nuclear compounds. This may be the final chance for the United Nations to prove its relevancy. My guess is that they’ll talk and talk and dither away time until these guys take control of the situation.
Mr. Kettle wags a finger at all the pots

The WashTimes on Senator Harry Reid’s red state tour: “Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, during a tour of Republican red states last week, was peppered with questions about campaign contributions he took from Indian tribes connected with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff."

John Hawkins lets out a little chuckle: “Even by Washington's standards, this is staggeringly hypocritical, so much so that even the liberal press is having trouble giving him a free pass.”
Quip of the DayMark Steyn on the Democratic attacks on Judge Alito: “Even smear tactics require a certain plausibility.” Right on, amigo.
Religion of peace update

From the Boston Globe – “For Muslim women, a deadly defiance ‘Honor killings’ on the rise in Europe”:

As Europe's Muslims become increasingly conservative, growing numbers of women are being killed or mutilated in the name of ''family honor," according to law enforcement agencies, women's activist groups, and moderate Islamic organizations. These cases usually involve an attack on a Muslim woman by a close relative -- typically a brother or father -- angered by her refusal to accept a forced marriage or her insistence on leading a Western-style life.
A woman in the story by the name of Hatun Surucu fled from an arranged marriage to Germany where she studies four years at a vocational school to be an electrician. She wore blue jeans and went to movies. So her three brothers lured her to a street corner (promising reconciliation with her estranged family) and shot her dead.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Best typo today

From Mark Kilmer’s roundup of the Sunday talk shows:

Graham said that if the Dems filibuster Alito's nomination, "there'll be a hug backlash."
That’s right: we’re going to kill ‘em with kindness. C’mere Ted, you old softy!
Mass. exodus

According to the Census Bureau, Massachusetts was one of only three states to lose population last year, and the only to shed citizens two years in a row. The Boston Globe’s token conservative Jeff Jacoby puts some of the blame on cold winters and a sluggish job market, but saves the bulk for an entrenched and unresponsive government:

I suspect that fewer and fewer people want to call Massachusetts home not because of its oppressive winters but because of its oppressive and demoralizing political culture. In the state that produced Michael S. Dukakis and Sen. Kerry, the concerns of ordinary citizens are so often met with disdain, while the political class lets nothing get in the way of its own appetites and priorities. A state legislature that stays in session year-round? A supreme court that turns same-sex marriage into a constitutional right? Public ''authorities" that answer to no one? In most of America, no way. In Massachusetts, no problem.

On Beacon Hill last week, the big issue for Massachusetts lawmakers was whether tuition should be reduced for illegal aliens at the state's public colleges. On Capitol Hill, the senior senator from Massachusetts was busy implying that Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. is a racist and a liar. Is it such a stretch to imagine that an awful lot of Americans look at Massachusetts and think: How can people stand to live there? Or that a fair number of Massachusetts residents eventually decide that they can't stand to live here?

This is a state in which a tax cut can be decisively approved by the voters yet never go into effect. In which grocers can be prosecuted for pricing milk too low. In which archaic blue laws decree when shops may and may not open for business. In which a $2 billion Big Dig ends up costing $14 billion. In which Ted Kennedy keeps getting reelected.
It goes without saying that the state Republican party in Massachusetts is moribund, capable of capturing only the governor’s seat as a check against Beacon Hill. My congressman, John Olver, only has to run a handful of commercials every two years and he’s re-elected without a second thought despite having achieved nothing perceptible in all the years I’ve lived here. I have to commute to Connecticut for work and now I’m paying taxes to complete that rapacious Big Dig in Boston. Yet, even after costing seven times the original price tag, Massachusetts officials don’t betray a hint of embarrassment over the boondoggle:

"The project is a success," declared Massachusetts Turnpike Chairman Matthew Amorello. Asked if after the leaks, the cost overruns, and the politics he'd do it all over again, he said, "absolutely."
It was so cold here today.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Irony overload – Casting an eye to her near-certain future, Britney Spears goes shopping while wearing a T-shirt reading “Rehab.”
UnbelievableFour Five turnovers. Four Five freakin’ turnovers and the game isn’t over yet. The Patriots handed that game to Denver. I can’t watch anymore.
Sunday morning talk show lineup – Having used up a month’s allotment of words during the Alito hearings, Joe Biden will not appear.
WashPost editorial - “Confirm Judge Alito

A Supreme Court nomination isn't a forum to refight a presidential election. The president's choice is due deference -- the same deference that Democratic senators would expect a Republican Senate to accord the well-qualified nominee of a Democratic president.

And Judge Alito is superbly qualified. His record on the bench is that of a thoughtful conservative, not a raging ideologue. He pays careful attention to the record and doesn't reach for the political outcomes he desires. His colleagues of all stripes speak highly of him. His integrity, notwithstanding efforts to smear him, remains unimpeached.
The Boston Globe begs to differ – “Not fit for the Court”:

On the right to a legal abortion, Alito said he would keep an open mind and repeatedly talked about respect for precedent. But Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, perhaps not overly helpful, got Alito to agree that if the court ''makes a mistake" and reaches a ruling that is ''repugnant," precedent need not have much weight at all.
Memo to the Globe: ever hear of the 58-year old precedent of Plessy v. Ferguson?
No vacation for you!Senator Frist wants a vote on Judge Alito. Seriously, though, do the Democrats really need to have a conference to figure out how to vote? This is just dilatory, peevish grandstanding for their MoveOn fundraisers.
Robert Bork picks his top five books on the Constitution.
All for grandma

FDR grandson James Roosevelt, Jr. comes to praise the prescription drug benefit but I can’t resist taking a shot at this:

In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. He believed that it had to be simple, guaranteed, and fair.
Yeah? What happened?
Midnight confessions – I’m going to be up somewhat late tonight playing a silly trivia game. Please, please, let’s have some confirmation of this before I go to sleep.

Update - Dang it.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Scary – The Anchoress asks: Did the NY Times tip off terrorists? Why are hundreds of disposable, hard-to-trace cell phones being purchased in Target and Wal-Mart? Very unsettling if you follow Occam's Razor.
The Senate showdown on Alito

Bill Frist appears to have grown a spine. Meanwhile, WashPost reporter Dana Milbank says the Dems are ready to MoveOn:

New Orleans, La.: What are the implications of the Alito confirmation vote on the 2008 elections? The more the Democrats are linked to their fringe support groups - NARAL, NOW, People for the American Way and the ACLU - the more Republicans seem to prosper. Is there any possibility that a Democratic Senator will support Alito in a version of Clinton's Sister Soulgah moment?
Dana Milbank: Ben Nelson will. Seems likely this vote will be ancient history in 2008, though perhaps not in this year's midterms.
From what I hear, Democrats are eager, having "fought the good fight" in committee, to get Alito through quickly and return to Abramoff etc.
Not hearing much of the f-word.
The "f-word," of course, is "filibuster" for you newcomers.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Cats and dogs living together

Here’s one issue in which I agree with Joe Biden:

Supreme Court nominees are so mum about the major legal issues at their Senate confirmation hearings that the hearings serve little purpose and should probably be abandoned, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden said Thursday.
Call it the “Bork” effect: nominees know that if they just appear reasonable and non-confrontational (e.g. beardless), they can probably get through confirmation without revealing much about their personal beliefs. Amid the circumlocutions, there were points during the Alito hearings when I was wondering if certain Senators were purposefully trying to get a rise out of him.

This might be a good point to note something about myself: I hate to be interrupted. When I’m speaking, it’s time for you to shut up. SO many times during the hearings, I wanted Judge Alito to stop and say (especially to Schumer): “Excuse me, but I was speaking.” Or “can I answer your question now?” Or (to Biden): “Oh, are you done? My turn?” Alas. I’m sure some administration official told Alito to bite down hard and take it for three days and then he’ll have a job for life.

Earlier in the week, I thought there was a lot of wisdom in this RCP article: “Don’t be surprised to see a filibuster.” Not anymore. Even the deranged Democrats must see this as a losing battle – better to move on and get back to Abramoff and such. There won’t be a filibuster but I’m still sticking with my 57-43 vote prediction which includes all the Republicans along with Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson and maybe Colorado Democrat Ken Salazar.

Extra – Pejman correctly notes that the confirmation hearings will continue because they’re fueled by unleaded vanity.
Death penalty update - Remember this guy who swore to the end he was innocent?


Extra – Maybe it was forged DNA: Jonah Goldberg reviews a letter on those other innocent victims, Sacco & Vanzetti.
Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass & Rathergate all rolled into one

Sometimes I imagine that Tom Maguire has a giant bulletin board at home propped up against one wall with all the “Plamegate” figures connected by colored yarn. In this post, he makes some wild speculations about how the media will be portrayed in the upcoming Scooter Libby trial:

Then on to the guesswork - the case can be made that the Libby trial will become the trial of the (new) century and shatter the credibility of the media in a way that makes RatherGate look as embarrassing and unimportant as on on-air sneeze.
First of all, I believe Libby will plead out to some lesser charge before a trial. But if, say, the New York Times is called by the defense to demonstrate a liberal bias and a reckless disregard for facts, well that’s going to be tough to prove.
Paging Herbert Hoover – “December business tax payments hit all-time high”: “The federal government posted the first budget surplus for December in three years as corporate tax payments hit an all-time high, helping offset a record level for spending, the Treasury Department reported Thursday.”
With an emphasis on the “bust” – Slate has a fascinating article about the missteps that led to the rapid decline of video renter Blockbuster. It’s now considered a “zombie” by Hollywood, who used to depend on the chain to get its product out. Now it’s been rapidly passed by Netflix and (surprise!) Walmart. But no more late fees – whee.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

As I go to sleep - I have just one final comment about the Alito hearings: Judge Alito has been on the federal bench for 15 years. He's presided over thousands of cases and written hundreds of opinions. He has the longest record of any justice nominated to the Supreme Court in over 70 years.

And what are the Democrats obsessing over? Not his jurisprudence in any of these cases but whether of not he belonged to a college alumni group thirty years ago. Thus, they prove the axiom: if you can't argue the law or the facts, pound the table.
European chatter fails in Iran – From the WSJ: “Thus, even as Iran announced plans to break the IAEA seals on the centrifuges of its Natanz uranium enrichment facility, Austrian Chancellor (and temporary president of the European Union) Wolfgang Schüssel warned that it would be premature to discuss sanctions. Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, added that "every effort must be made to convince the Iranians to return to the previous situation, to negotiations." Mr. Solana's idea of getting tough with the Iranians is apparently to beg them to show up for lunch.”
Remember those documents that Ted Kennedy hotly demanded? – Bench Memos reveals: “I have been informed by a very reliable source that Senate Judiciary Committee staffers have reviewed the entirety of William Rusher's CAP documents at the Library of Congress and have determined that those documents make no mention at all of Alito.”

The Bush minions have infiltrated even the Library of Congress, the fiends!
At long last, Senator, have you left no sense of decency?

From Fox News – “Sparks fly at Alito hearing”:

After two days of accusations about the judge's relationship to a Princeton alumni group whose founder reportedly had written racist and elitist comments in the group's magazine, Martha Alito, the nominee's wife who has been sitting steadfastly behind her husband for the last three days, broke into tears.
The left-wing blogs will be characterizing this breakdown as a staged attempt to garner sympathy in 3…2…1….

Follow-up - GO!

DU message #1 – “She's sat there like a potted plant for two days just waiting to make her big splash! It's a set up!”
DU message #2 – “SHE IS NOTHING MORE THAN A DAMN STEPFORD WIFE! She's been sitting there with an evil smile on her face for days, and NOW she breaks into tears...give me a break, b---h!
Kos comment #1 – “This is the MOST blatant attempt to manipulate public emotion. She should go…[deleted]”
Kos comment #2 – “Yes, it was all timed. read the diary i posted. i believe this was staged.”
Kos comment – “Staged tears

That didn't take long.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Do I obsess over the wave of entitlement spending that’s about to hit this country? Am I too worried about an economy hobbled by skyrocketing tax rates and unimaginable deficits? Is anybody listening besides Will?

Well Scrivener has a long post about the accounting tricks the government uses to hide the incomprehensible debt we’re up against: “You thought the 2005 federal budget deficit was $319 billion? How about more than $3 trillion, by the accounting rules the private sector uses.”

The US government's budget deficit for 2005 was $319 billion, as officially reported by the Treasury. That's the number in the newspapers that everyone editorializes and op-eds about, representing the increase in the government's net liabilities, basically in the form of additional government debt issued during the year. And it's been reported as good news, being down from the $412 billion of 2004.

But wait ... the Treasury has published another analysis on its web site, in its 2005 Financial Report of the United States Government, that gives a very different number for the increase in its net liabilities, albeit one that receives very little publicity: more than $3 trillion.
In other words, forget about the $319 budget deficit – that’s pocket change. If the government used accrual accounting (like real companies) to calculate the current value of promised entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, we’re already in a multi-trillion hole that cannot be gapped by any imaginable combination of taxation or asset seizure without sending the entire U.S. economy to the bottom of the ocean.

There – [deep breath] – I feel better already. Read the whole post.
The shift from pensions to personal wealth

Here’s James Glassman on American Enterprise with “Good riddance to traditional pensions”:

IBM announced last week that it would freeze the old-style pension plans it provides to more than 100,000 employees and instead offer an improved version of its 401(k) plan. This is no run-of-the-mill accounting change or cut-costing measure. It is a major philosophical and economic shift for a bellwether corporation.

It means, in short, that International Business Machines is moving away from paternalism and giving workers more control over their own retirements. The U.S. government should do the same in reforming Social Security.
IBM is freezing pensions for new employees and shifting from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan in a 401(k). In exchange for the shift, IBM will match dollar-for-dollar up to 6% of an employee’s pay. Anybody saving 12% of their salary every year in a tax-deferred 401(k) account is going to get very rich by retirement as long as they’re not dumb enough to refuse free money.
Joe Biden’s voice is like crack to Joe Biden

The Corner - “I didn’t like Princeton,” says Joe Biden. "I really, really didn't like Princeton." But he had two kids who went to Ivy League schools. "But all kidding aside, I really wasn't a Princeton fan." I started writing this three minutes ago. Biden is still talking. UPDATE: Now it's 10 minutes. UPDATE: Twelve minutes. UPDATE: Fourteen minutes!”

Bench Memos – Biden’s questions: Biden 3673 words / Alito 1013 words

From Dave Barry’s 2005 Year in Review: “The U.S. Senate reaches an agreement ending a stalemate over the confirmation of Bush-appointed judges, thus avoiding the so-called ''nuclear option,'' under which Sen. Joe Biden would be allowed to ask a question, thereby shutting the federal government down for months.”

Monday, January 09, 2006

Joe Biden on Alito: “This may be one of the most significant or consequential nominations that the Senate will vote on since I've been here in the last three decades.”

America: “Huh?
Tis the season - Political pundit Charlie Cook looks to 2006 and sees the GOP holding on to both the House and Senate, although with slimmer majorities.
Prescription drug benefit backfires – So says Robert Novak in “Karl Rove’s blunder.” The entitlement plan was supposed to endear seniors to the GOP; instead the plan is too complicated for the codgers and too expensive for the kids. Is it too late to call the whole thing off?
Nobody can raid a personal account (well, except you) – Problems in the San Diego pension system – “Feds indict five in pension case”: “A federal grand jury indicted the former top executive of the San Diego pension system, its lawyer and three former trustees on conspiracy and fraud charges yesterday in the opening salvo in the federal government's latest corruption probe at City Hall.”

Extra - More on those awful 401(k) plans over at Ankle Biting Pundits.
Osama Bin Laden dead?

Normally when I see reports like this, it’s from a discredited news source like the “Bulgarian Gazette” or “Al-Alabra” or “The New York Times.” But here’s a (potential) blockbuster from the usually level-headed National Review:

And, according to Iranians I trust, Osama bin Laden finally departed this world in mid-December. The al Qaeda leader died of kidney failure and was buried in Iran, where he had spent most of his time since the destruction of al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
I was absolutely convinced that Bin Laden was pushing up poppies when he failed to release a video on the one-year anniversary of 9/11. Hopefully this story has some truth behind it although I think the kidney failure story is unconfirmed. We’ll see.
Chuck Schumer’s whopper

From the Boston Globe - “Democrats vow tough questions on Alito record”:

Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that if Alito refused to answer questions it would increase the chances of a filibuster. ''I haven't made up my mind about how to vote and certainly whether to block him or not. . . . But he's got to answer a lot of questions," Schumer said on NBC's ''Meet the Press."
Oh please. Not only has Chuck made up his mind, he’s already crafted the rationale to – I’m sure “regretfully” – oppose Alito’s nomination. No matter how completely Samuel Alito responds to questions, Schumer and other Democrats on the Judiciary committee will claim that he hasn’t been forthcoming on his political philosophy. For the record, here’s Professor Schumer’s handy guide as to how open a nominee should be on his/her personal beliefs:

- If a Republican nominee hasn’t been on the federal bench for very long, he has a responsibility to answer questions. (See: John Roberts)
- If a Republican nominee has been the federal bench for a long time, he has more of a responsibility to answer questions. (See: Samuel Alito)
- A Democratic nominee doesn’t have to answer questions. (See: Ruth Bader Ginsberg)

It’s very simple.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Culture of corruption – Via Gateway Pundit: 40 out of 45 Democratic senators took Abramoff money. Chief among them is Harry “I never met Abramoff, only his money” Reid.

Extra – More Harry Reid shenanigans from Country Store and Wizbang.
The Alito hearings begin – Betsy has some thoughts and links about Judge Alito, including the universal opinion of his colleagues that he’s a brilliant, hard-working justice. It’s pretty clear that the Democrats will throw all decorum out the window during the hearings and attack Alito for his political philosophy instead of his jurisprudence. If this is the new threshold for justices, ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsberg never would have received 90+ votes for confirmation from the Senate.

The old standard used to be that the President, elected by the people, had the Constitutional power to shape the judiciary. The new rule is that deference is still paid to the chief executive…if he’s a Democrat.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Blah blah blah - Here’s the Sunday morning talk show lineup via Mark on Red State. There will be much discussion of Samuel Alito from several Judiciary committee members. The question will be how far the Democrats will go with their ad hominem attacks on a highly qualified nominee.

Follow-up – Here’s the detailed review of the morning chat-fests.
My Saturday

Stopped by the post office this morning for 39-cent stamps. Question: doesn't anybody (besides me) use cash anymore? It's $7.80 for a new book of stamps; why can't people carry around a ten? Ridiculous. While I was waiting, I saw a poster that had guidelines on how to ship things in boxes. It said that the contents of the box should be blacked out, possibly to avoid theft. The example they used was a box filled with "VODKA." Heh-heh.

Bought in firewood and Christmas lights. Took a nap.

Used my Barnes & Noble gift card to pick up Belle & Sebastian's "Push Barman to Open Old Wounds." Then we all had a very nice meal at Applebees. Now the Patriots are romping on the Jaguars (currently 21-3). Cool.

Update - Interception ran back for a touchdown: now 28-3 Patriots. Sweet.
DeLay steps down

From FoxNews: “Embattled Rep. Tom DeLay on Saturday abandoned his bid to remain as House majority leader, clearing the way for leadership elections among Republicans eager to shed the taint of scandal.” Tom DeLay was a good legislator, but between the Ronnie Earle indictments and the Abramoff revelations, he was just carrying too much baggage.

Via the AP, here’s Nancy Pelosi’s statement:

For years, at the expense of the cultured American people, the corrupt House Republicans have enabled and benefited from the Republican culture of corruption engineered by corrupt Tom DeLay. The culture of corruption is so pervasive in the corrupt Republican conference that a single person stepping down is not nearly enough to clean up the corrupt Republican Congress. Culture of corruption.”
Statement slightly amended for clarity.
The sane newspaper on Alito - Here's the WashPost editorial on “Judge Alito dissenting”: “Judge Alito's dissents offer much with which we disagree. But they are the work of a serious and scholarly judge whose arguments deserve respect -- a respect evident among his colleagues even when their positions differ.” I wonder how the NY Times will respond.

Friday, January 06, 2006

More jokers - A couple years back, Yale students (presumably dressed as official Harvard representatives) handed out placards for Harvard students to hold up at a football game. The Economist has the hilarious results along with a brief history of pranks.
Democrats’ ace in the hole turns out to be a joker

Stephen Dujack will bury Samuel Alito in the judiciary hearings!

What? Oh, nevermind. *Poof*
Ten worst Americans

Captain Ed started the meme over Christmas week; here are my choices in no particular order:

Andrew Johnson
Jefferson Davis
Nathan Bedford Forrest
Rachel Carson
Benedict Arnold
Aldrich Ames
Timothy McVeigh
J. Edgar Hoover
Reed Smoot / Willis Hawley (tie)
Al Capone

Others here, here, here, here, and here. Mix and match, collect your own.
Love birds or flags? - Ann Althouse uncovers a secret government poll at the Post Office.
Don’t smell the corkHow to order wine without looking like a jerk (via American Mind)
Two bad

What can I add about the Abramoff scandal? Every decade or so, Washington gets caught with its collective hand in the cookie jar; this is followed by faux outrage and renewed promises to clean up the system, yet the money keeps on a-flowin’ into the pockets of politicians.

This problem has been going on since, oh I’d say, Rome.

That said, the line of (mostly) Republican lawmakers will surely suffer through the scandal and it may even spell the end to their Washington careers. Even the Wall Street Journal is suggesting that the GOP should clean house: “Banish the Abramoff crowd from polite Republican society, and start remembering why you were elected in the first place.” But Democrats should swallow a dose of reality before they envision a 1994-type sweep based on the “culture of corruption”: a CNN/Gallup poll indicates that Americans view both parties in Congress as equally corrupt.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

IBM freezes pensions, HAL laughs it up

Well, now even technological powerhouse has bowed to fiscal reality: “International Business Machines Corp., the world's biggest computer company, will cut its U.S. pension plans to help save as much as $3 billion in the next four years.” IBM pension deficit at $7.4 billion was fourth behind Ford, Exxon, and General Motors.

Companies, answering to stockholders, are facing up to their overextended promises. The U.S. government, answering to Baby Boomers, cannot. Down, down we go.
I’m still chillin’ too! – Hat tip: Mark (duh!)
Taking a step back on NSA wiretapping

I’ll confess that the question of the legality of the NSA surveillance is opaque to me. My reflexive instinct is that if the President seeks (and receives) the green light from the Attorney General, career lawyers at the Justice Department, Defense Department lawyers, along with tacit approval from Congressional leaders, he’s in the clear. The prevailing opinion among cooler heads on the blogosphere is that President Bush may have violated the FISA law, but since he derives his powers from Article II of the Constitution, he did nothing that may be considered illegal. Others, of course, may disagree and Debra Saunders suggests that they draw up “Articles of Impeachment”:

Angry leftists are so hysterical that they cannot distinguish between government agents eavesdropping on a president's political enemies, and the data mining of international phone calls in an earnest effort to thwart another Sept. 11 terrorist attack. They don't see that Bush, rather then trying to hide his role in the effort, signed off on the program more than 30 times.
The President’s enemies should take note of his unwavering position on this issue thus far: Bush hasn’t backed down one iota on the NSA wiretapping program. Maybe he’s seen the poll numbers showing a wide majority of Americans support surveillance on potential enemies receiving phone calls from Pakistan. Maybe (just maybe!) he just believes he should do everything within his power to track down terrorists. Here’s Dick Cheney in a speech yesterday:

"No one can guarantee that we won't be hit again, but neither should anyone say that the relative safety of the last four years came as an accident," Cheney said. "America has been protected not by luck but by sensible policy decisions."
The Democrats have become unhinged with madness. I wonder what Al-Qaeda thinks about a political party attacking the American President for taking steps to (over) zealously defend the country? After 9/11, Democrats and Republicans stood together and took action to root out the terrorists. Since then, the Democrats have watched the polls shift in the luxury of contemporary safety and decided that there’s political advantage to be gained.

At least until the next attack. Then the long knives will come out and the Democrats will declaim with great anger that “not enough was done.”
The difference - Here in America, dozens of news outlets erroneously reported the rescue of the West Virginia coal miners because it’s what so many people wanted to believe. And then there’s the Arab news outlets reporting on what they’d like to believe.