Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sunday roundtable wrapup – Mark Kilmer has his review of the Sunday shows which was most welcome to me since I was traveling all day. Apparently, Tim Russert delivered the “duh” question of the day: “Oil demand is up. Supply is down. So why are prices rising?” Somebody get that man an Economics 101 textbook.
Those awful oil company profits

They pay for all those neat things the government spends money on:

Politicians calling oil companies "greedy" is more than a little ironic. Tax Foundation studies have shown that state and federal treasuries profit handsomely from oil industry sales. The average American motorist pays taxes of 46 cents a gallon on gasoline, of which 18.4 cents a gallon goes to the federal government. States and localities pocket the rest.

The nation's energy companies are already providing a "windfall" of taxes. According to Department of Energy data, from 1977 to 2004, federal and state governments extracted $397 billion by taxing the profits of the largest oil companies and an additional $1.1 trillion in taxes at the pump. In today's dollars, that's $2.2 trillion — enough to buy a Toyota Prius for every household in the nation.

In fact, oil companies have paid in taxes more than three times what they earned in profits during those 28 years.
At both the state and federal level, the government loves to vilify those evil companies that fill our gas tanks but not so much to take drastic (and unpopular) steps to curtail consumption such as raising CAFE standards. George Will noted the same duplicity with tobacco taxes: the government wants taxes just high enough so that the cigarette tax gravy train will keep on rollin’:

If smoking policy were still primarily a public health policy, cigarette taxes would be calibrated to produce ``sticker shock'' just short of what stimulates smuggling, and to produce revenues trending toward zero. But with states facing their worst budget problems in a decade, many are becoming as addicted to cigarette tax revenues as some smokers are to cigarettes. These states have a large interest in preserving a large number of smokers.
If Americans were not paying $6 or more in taxes at each fill-up, we may not be in the midst of a price uproar. But taxes never go down and, in fact, the government calibrates them to extract maximum revenue. Ironically, that kind of “profit taking” is A-OK.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Good lyrics

Last week, some Brit poll declared that a U2 lyric was the best ever. Well, to each his/her own but as a major music fan, here are some of my favorites: I’m going away for the weekend, so feel free to add your own in the comments.

For the best barfight imagery, there’s Jim Croce’s “Bad Bad Leroy Brown”:

Well, two men took to fighting
And when they pulled them from the floor
Leroy looked like a jigsaw puzzle
With a couple of pieces gone
Ouch. Best logic from Dire Straits’ “Industrial Disease”:

Two men say they’re Jesus
One of them just be wrong
Pithy statement award to Janis Joplin and “Me and Bobby McGee”:

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose

(Honorable mention: I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday)
As poetry goes, I love the rhyme and rhythm of “Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart:

On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolour in the rain
Don't bother asking for explanations
She'll just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat
Anybody who works in Peter Lorre deserves a nod, but how about Bert Kaempfert as in Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week”:

Bert Kaempfert's got the mad hits
You try to match wits, you try to hold me but I bust through
I’ve always been a big fan of Graham Parker, one of the greatest musicians who never hit it big. Here’s his “you can’t go home again” song “Back in Time”:

You stop in the old cafe where you used to play pinball
And look for the air-raid shelter but it's gone and the cafe seems so small
And all the gardens that had trees and stolen apples
Now have small businesses flourishing in cinder blocks
I could go on all night but let’s stop with Bob Dylan and “My Back Pages”:

My guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now
Good stuff.
Voodoo economic mumbo jumbo – Charles Krauthammer writes that gas prices are high because of supply and demand. Crazy!
Who will stand up?

I apologize in advance, since this particular post references a rather obscure film. But every time I hear the latest news from Iran, I can’t help but think of a 1967 movie called “The Incident.” (Here’s Roger Ebert’s contemporaneous review). In the film, two young hoodlums terrorize people on a cross-town subway car. Nobody wants to confront them and everybody’s willing to keep quiet as long as somebody else is the focus of their violence. In the end, it all becomes too much for a Southern soldier on leave (played by Beau Bridges) and, with one arm in a sling, he subdues the hoods.

Now we have Iran which, in direct defiance of the United Nations and the world, has announced it will develop nuclear weapons. (Or nuclear power, with a huge tongue-in-cheek which then calls for the destruction of Israel). They cannot be reasoned with and, thanks to oil, they can’t be economically subdued. Eventually, Iran may enrich enough uranium for a crude nuclear bomb. Everybody’s secretly praying that the Israelis take care of the problem.

But I fear the world will be as docile as those subway riders, unmindful of Winston Churchill’s adage that “An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile hoping it will eat him last.”
Hooverville - U.S. Economy Expanded at a 4.8% Annual Rate in First Quarter: “The U.S. economy expanded in the first quarter at an annual pace of 4.8 percent, the fastest in more than two years, led by resurgent consumer spending and a rebound in business investment that gave the economy momentum going into the second quarter, a government report showed.”
Please, John Kerry, ignore Ellen Goodman

From today’s Boston Globe: “Don’t run, John Kerry

John Kerry is a good, honorable, thoughtful man. And a lousy presidential candidate. He couldn't do ''ideas" the first time. He wouldn't do them the second time. It's just not in him.
But what about his long, distinguished legislative record? Those dolphins aren’t going to save themselves.
Not to worry: New York’s not a very liberal town.

From Spinal Tap:

Ian Faith: The Boston gig has been cancelled...
David St. Hubbins: What?
Ian Faith: Yeah. I wouldn't worry about it though, it's not a big college town.
And now it’s official. From Media Week: Air America to lose New York flagship station on August 31. The Radio Equalizer called it weeks ago. What next? San Francisco?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Energy roundup

Boston Globe: “Kennedy faces fight on Cape Wind Key lawmakers oppose his bid to block project
Slate: “Gas: A subject that makes congressmen stupid.”
WashPost: “Warming Up to Nuclear Power - Energy Source Gets Another Look As Fuel Costs Reach New Heights
WashPost editorial: “Phony war on gas - Attacks on 'price gouging' make good politics, but they don't help consumers much.”
Speaking of spending too much – Human Events ranks Social Security as the “most harmful government program.”
Back to basics – John Hawkins has 10 pieces of advice for Republicans in Washington. It might be too late to take my advice – stop spending so much money – now that the Medicare prescription drug benefit is in full swing.
Gen X seeks RVs – From the Boston Globe: “Roll out the second home A younger generation develops a passion for RVs

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Fitzmas never comes

Via Byron York, here’s Karl Rove’s lawyer:

Karl Rove appeared today before the grand jury investigating the disclosure of a CIA agent's identity. He testified voluntarily and unconditionally at the request of special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to explore a matter raised since Mr. Rove's last appearance in October 2005. In connection with this appearance, the special counsel has advised Mr. Rove that he is not a target of the investigation. Mr. Fitzgerald has affirmed that he has made no decisions regarding charges. At the request of the special counsel, Mr. Rove will not discuss the substance of his testimony.
The Minuteman declares: “A great day for Karl Rove!” Exclamation point, analysis, and many many links over at Tom Maguire’s blog. (HT: Mark) And MacRanger sez: “The Plame Game is done.”

And lest we forget what this is all about: “Someone close to the White House had the audacity to point out that Mr. Wilson was an anti-Bush partisan whose only claim to authority on the matter was the result of wifely nepotism. Mr. Wilson has since been thoroughly discredited, including in a bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee. But former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Scooter Libby is still being prosecuted as the result of a media-instigated investigation into the "leak" of Valerie Plame's not-so-secret CIA identity.”

Also – Proving my long-held theory that everything Lawrence O’Donnell says is wrong: “For what it's worth, the buzz among the Washington press corps right now is that Rove asked to return to the grand jury.” Scroll down for some classy comments too.
Amazing Race update – Heading Down Under

Team started out from Jabreen Castle, Oman and had to make their way over 9000 miles to Perth, Australia. Because they came in last on the previous leg, BJ & Tyler have no money while the other teams start out with $181. Team Kukla leave $20 in the hippies’ car while the Frat Boys leave a $100 IOU. My dislike for them instantly rises to the surface once again. On the way to the airport, though, Team Burning Man picks up a hitchhiker who happens to be the most generous Bedouin in Oman. At the local gas station, he pays for their gas, some juice and a couple of Snickers bars. The hippies race to the airport where they just barely make the plane to the consternation of the other teams, especially Team Mojo. Monica whispers: “I hate the hippies.”

Once in Perth, teams have to take a taxi to King’s Park for the next clue. While in the cab, BJ & Tyler reveal that they panhandled $300 while on the plane proving once again that the non-elimination leg penalty is almost meaningless. At King’s Park, teams find the clue directing them to Rottnest Island; since the first ferry to the island doesn’t leave until morning, all teams are bunched up again.

Morning breaks and all five teams pile onto the ferry taking them to the island. After they arrive, the teams must take tandem bikes 3 miles to a lighthouse and the next clue. Team Frat Boys take the lead while Ray & Yolanda – who have thighs like tree trunks – somehow fall to last place. After the lighthouse clue, teams bicycle to Salmon (?) Bay and the Detour: Sand or Sea. They may either drag a pile of branches 126 meters from one side of the beach to the other, or dive down in a marked area and retrieve two crayfish. Team Frat Boys and Mojo put on Speedos while the other teams drag branches. Monica and Joseph put to bed any doubt that they are illiterate by failing to read the clue correctly yet again: they return with one crayfish, not two, and have to go back into the ocean.

After the Detour, team had to bike back to the ferry dock (mucho biking!) and head to Fremantle and the abandoned prison. Eric & Jeremy just barely make the first ferry off the island, earning them a significant time advantage. It’s a ferry frenzy and taxi tornado as team try to break into prison. Once there it’s the Roadblock: one team member must first search a cellblock and find a Duracell flashlight and four Coppertop batteries. From Duracell! (/end product placement). Then they must descend into underground tunnels (previously used to bring fresh water into the prison) and search for the next clue. Despite their time advantage, Team Frat Boys can’t find the tunnel entrance and Jeremy bounces off one wall to another. Team Mojo arrives and Joseph finds the entrance only a couple of minutes behind Jeremy. After some dark searching, Jeremy finds the next clue which directs teams to the Fremantle Sailing Club and the Pit Stop.

After leaving the prison, a cab driver tells Team Frat Boys that the sailing club is just a mile down the road and they can walk there. They do. Monica and Joseph, meanwhile, pile into their waiting cab. It’s man vs. machine and these two teams need to sprint out onto a jetty where Phil is waiting on the mat. The Frat Boys edge out Team Mojo by two steps and grab first place. The remaining teams arrive and leave the prison in the same order and, despite a tremendous run, Fran & Barry fall to last place and are eliminated.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Frat Boys – Eric & Jeremy – Prize: Trip to Hong Kong
#2 – Team MoJo – Monica & Joseph
#3 – Team Burning Man – BJ & Tyler
#4 – Team Volcano – Ray & Yolanda
#5 – Team Kukla – Fran & Barry – PHILIMINATED

Next week: Crikey! It’s crocodiles!

Extra – Check out the recaps from Kris and Pat for more TAR fun.
Air America slightly more popular than white noise - Did you see Drudge’s big “scoop” that Air America’s New York ratings had dropped from an anemic 1.6 in winter 2005 to a barely-registering 1.0 share in winter 2006? As Brian Maloney reports, Drudge was being generous: Air America’s flagship station in New York only pulled in a 0.8 share. It appears AA's audience is now composed of mostly "accidental" listeners.
New York’s a lonely town when you’re the only surfer boy around

Via Popular Mechanics, here’s the cost to drive a car from New York to California using various forms of energy:

Electric - $60
Compressed natural gas - $110
Gasoline - $213
Biodiesel – $231
Ethanol - $425
Methanol - $619
Hydrogen fuel cell - $804

Environmentalists take note: that cheap electric ride is generated from a ton of sulfur and carbon-dioxide producing coal.
From flip-flopper to fabulist – John Kerry, just making stuff up.
Who got the loot?RNC maintains huge fundraising lead over DNC. Hey, who knew that Dean Koontz was a big Republican? Even more surprising: who would believe that Chevy Chase had $25,000?
Religion of Darwin Awards update

The last terrorist attack in Egypt killed ten times more Muslims than foreigners. Now two geniuses have attacked a peacekeeping force on the Sinai Peninsula:

The bombers in Wednesday's attack killed themselves but no one else, said Magdy Rady, a spokesman for the Egyptian prime minister.
Speaking from Cairo, Rady told CNN that the first bomber was riding a motorbike. He exploded himself near a multinational force vehicle at around 11:10 a.m. local time (0910 GMT).
The second bomber exploded himself near a police command post at 11:25 local time, Rady said.
He said there were no other injuries or "material damage."
Well, they did lose a perfectly good motorbike.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The word “obstreperous” was not used - According to the Superficial, Britney Spears and Kevin Federline had a huge fight that was characterized as “full blown war of words.” Somehow I think a “war” would require words with three or more syllables.
We should, but we won’t

Robert Samuelson presents his wish list for government action. Sadly, I think this ship has sailed:

We should be preparing for aging baby boomers. Projected Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid costs could expand the federal budget by 30 percent to 40 percent by 2030. To limit these huge increases -- implying much higher taxes or draconian cuts in other programs -- we should gradually raise eligibility ages for Social Security and Medicare, as well as curb benefits for wealthier retirees. Instead, Bush worsened the outlook by enacting the biggest-ever expansion of Medicare. The new drug benefit will cost $792 billion from 2006 to 2015, estimates the Congressional Budget Office. Not surprisingly, Bush's ill-fated Social Security plan would also have increased spending.
Unfortunately, we now have a huge demographic group that has access to a whole grab bag of entitlements...a group that votes. There’s not much left to do but wait for the inevitable clash of generations.

ExtraMore on Social Security from Don Luskin and Red State asks why spending cuts are nowhere on the GOP’s radar.
Panic in the halls of Congress

Most of the conservative websites join the chorus against the White House and Congress for their gas price pas de deux:

Opinion Journal: “Gas prices rise, and Republicans panic
National Review: “Our Gaseous Capitol
Jim Glassman on TCS: “Bush on gas prices: who’s he kidding?”

Monday, April 24, 2006

Free Republic scoops DrudgeTony Snow to be White House press secretary. You heard it here, um, second.
The revolution will not be televised

Because there will be no revolution:

A thorough, continually revisited analysis of the races in all 435 House seats and 33 Senate seats being contested this year projects that if the election were held today, Republicans would hold at least 54 seats in the Senate — one fewer than today — and 224 seats in the House, seven fewer than now; one contest for the Senate and nine for the House are currently tossups.
That’s it? One lousy seat in the Senate? Hell, if gas prices go down the Republicans might capture a filibuster-proof majority. Political Wire quotes the Rothenberg report: “The five most vulnerable Senate seats up this year are all held by Republicans." They are: Rick Santorum (R-PA), Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Jim Talent (R-MO).” Not so vulnerable so far, what ho?

Bonus – Sleep soundly, Republicans! Scott Elliott of Election Projection has officially declared the House of Representatives safe in 2006.
Let the pandering begin

From the Boston Globe: “Legislators want windfall tax for oil companies”:

The government should consider a tax on oil companies if they make excessive profits amid rising gasoline prices, a leading Republican senator and several Democratic lawmakers said yesterday.
Isn’t that special? Companies are expected to make profits and thereby provide employment while paying corporate taxes. But if it teeters on that tipping point of “excessive,” then watch out! But while Exxon made record total profits, its profits as a percentage of revenues was a modest 9.6% (25.3b profit / 264b revenues). The real excessive profiteer last year was Bank of America, pulling in an obscene 21.6% profit on 65.5b of revenue. They were tied with those pill-pushers at Pfizer who also hauled in an “excessive” profit rate of 21.6%.

This perennial vilification of the oil companies always falls into a predictable pattern: Americans feel helpless in the face of rising gas prices and refuse to accept the laws of supply and demand. Spineless politicians (from both sides of the aisle) fill the void with populist rhetoric until investigations are held. These investigations always conclude that it was stupid capitalism all along.

Extra – John Hawkins picks up on the theme with “In defense of Exxon.”

Follow-up – Well, this is just great: “Bush Orders Gas Gouging Probe Amid Lawmaker FightingIf When this investigation finds no collusion, can I have my tax money back?

But – Maybe it’s working! “Oil falls $2, OPEC keeps output steady
Honeymoon in Egypt – Have I ever mentioned that I spent my honeymoon taking a cruise down the Nile? That was 1992 and I always tell people that while the pyramids are incredible beyond description, I’ll never go back again. Now Egypt’s tourism business is going to take another hit with 23 people dead in Dahab. Answering Osama Bin Laden’s call to fight against the Crusaders, the terrorists blew up a hotel, killing 20 Egyptians and three foreigners. Well, they can always hope there were a couple of Coptics in the mix.
Unlike my politics, it looks like I’m a leftist

Taking the advice of many to “practice, practice, practice” I made a stop at the Smith & Wesson Sports Center tonight. A helpful fellow answered some of my questions and then showed me how to break down my 9mm for cleaning. Then I rented a lane and popped off eight clips at a target about 10 yards away. Almost every shot landed on the left half of the target despite (what I thought was) a pretty steady stance.

After I was done, the guy behind the counter immediately asked “are you right-handed?” Apparently, I was pulling my pistol while squeezing the trigger, sending most of my shots over to the left. He suggested I practice “dry-firing” to avoid twisting.

Then I purchased a decent cleaning kit and two more boxes of ammo which, along with the lane rental, brought the cost of my evening to $68. Oh well. Clean up tomorrow.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Conservative twin powers, activate!

The Boston Globe profiles Aaron and Matt Margolis of Hub Politics, Pardon My English, and GOP Bloggers. I used to write for Matt’s Blogs for Bush during the 2004 campaign and he was nice enough to send me a nifty “Blogs for Bush” T-shirt. It’s always a big hit in Amherst and Northampton.
Venezuelans protest unsolved murders – Check out this photo on Publius Pundit and see if you can spot the zombie.
Earth Day in the Happy Valley – The hippies were out in full force yesterday, playing Frisbee on the Amherst town common and singing folk songs, despite a steady, cold drizzle. You’d think that Mother Earth would give ‘em a break. For the other side of the climate change argument, check out Junk Science and a rebuttal to Al Gore: “The ‘real’ inconvenient truth on global warming.”
Quote of the Day – From the Economist’s excellent article on the upcoming midterm elections and the state of the political parties: “The Republicans have a crackpot fringe, too, but the Democratic Party often sounds as though it consists of little else. “

Here’s the concluding paragraph of the article:

Somehow, the Democrats must harness their activists' rage without themselves sounding unelectably shrill. And it would help if they offered voters some bold, purposeful reasons to back them. Their current platform is not, as Newt Gingrich put it, a mere “Contract with San Francisco and Vermont”. But neither is it a compelling vision of America's future. That said, it may be enough to win in November. After looking at the latest opinion surveys, a Republican pollster called Tony Fabrizio said: “The good news is Democrats don't have much of a plan. The bad news is they may not need one.”
There’s that Contract with America again. I find it baffling that the Democrats dismiss the extraordinary success of that 1994 GOP campaign as an anomoly. Essentially, the Dems are in a sub-radar crouch on the issues, hoping that gas prices stay high.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Progress, such as it is, in Iraq – From Fox News: “The Shiite hard-liner tapped as Iraq's new prime minister promised Saturday to swiftly finish building a unity government after parliament elected a top national leadership, ending months of political deadlock as the nation spiraled into chaos.” Gateway Pundit has a huge roundup.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Worst movie list ever

Roger Ebert Jim Emerson lists the 101 movies you must see before you die. Omission of “This is Spinal Tap” = instantly discredited bunk. (I’ve seen 51. HT: Fark)

Update: Whoops. It was on Roger Ebert's web site, but the list is by Jim Emerson.
Rummy stays put – Enough already on the Donald Rumsfeld attacks from the Democrats, the generals, and the media. He’s not going anywhere.

I have a theory why Bush will not replace Rummy: any new Cabinet nominee would have to go through the same grandstanding, brow-beating, and public humiliation of sitting in front of a Senate committee. Condi Rice is one of the most accomplished persons in government and she had to endure two days of Joe Biden’s incessant prattle. No thank you.
Immigration demagogueryFactCheck: “A Democratic National Committee (DNC) radio ad claims Republicans would "criminalize...churches just for giving communion" to illegal aliens. The claim is nonsense.”
There goes another talking point

First the Democrats had Cynthia McKinney who demonstrated her dedication to national security by walking around a metal detector then punching a cop. Now the “culture of corruption” mantra is about to be muted:

The top Democrat on the House ethics committee, Alan Mollohan, will leave the panel — at least temporarily — while he defends his own financial conduct, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday.

Mollohan's decision comes in an election year when his party is accusing majority Republicans of allowing a "culture of corruption" in Congress.
Next up: Al Gore buys a Chevy Tahoe.

ExtraH-Bomb called it.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Am I going to make a comparison to Social Security? You know it!

The federal program designed to insure corporate pensions is about to take a series of hits that it simply cannot afford. From the WashPost - “The Next Big Bailout? - Addressing the Insolvency of the Government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation”:

In the 1980s, as the American public realized that many savings and loans were insolvent, they discovered that FSLIC, a government corporation, was itself insolvent. Now as the public is realizing that many pension plans are deeply underfunded and that companies obligated to remedy the underfunding can- and in a number of cases do- go bankrupt instead, they are also discovering that the PBGC [Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation] is also insolvent.
This article appeared the same day that General Motors announced a $323 million quarterly loss. Aside from health benefits, GM is creaking under the weight of pensions based on promises made when the car maker made huge profits and owned half the U.S. market. But those days are long-gone. Some say that General Motors’ pledge to its workers is sacred and they must keep their promises no matter what. Others believe that honoring these promises made during GM’s salad days set the course for certain bankruptcy.

Surely the same can be said about Social Security, formed in another era with 22 workers for every retiree. Now there are three workers per retiree, heading to two. The immutable laws of demographics and economics dictate that these two workers will have to pay a larger portion of their income to support retirees. Is that fair? Or is it time to face the reality that we cannot keep taking money from younger (poorer) workers and supplementing older (richer) retirees?

It’s comforting to think that the corporation or the government will always be there to support workers in the golden years. But a fat 401(k) is far more secure – and comforting – simply because it’s owned by the worker. Ultimately the only person you can trust in retirement is you.

Cold, but true.

Extra – Will Franklin looks at China’s imploding pension program. It’s all about the demographics.
We gotta get out of this place

From the Boston Globe: “Bay State exodus second only to N.Y.”:

Massachusetts lost more residents than it attracted in recent years, at a greater rate than any other state but New York, according to Census Bureau estimates released today.

The estimates show that between 2000 and 2004, more residents left Massachusetts than moved to the Bay State -- with an average annual exodus of 42,402 people. That amounts to a rate of 6.6 people leaving the state per 1,000, second only to New York's rate of 9.6 residents per 1,000 during that period.
Apparently Dave Loggins’ plea is falling on deaf ears. For all the latest on the Massachusetts governor’s race, check out Hub Politics.
Sunset – Ryne McClaren packs it in. Too bad. I’ll leave the light on, Ryne, in case you change your mind.
Everybody hates Bush, loves cheap gas – President Bush hits a new low just as the Dow hits a new high. Perhaps this graph explains Dubya’s spiraling numbers.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The right man for the 24-hour news cycleJack Bauer replaces Scott McClellen as White House press secretary. (I could not confirm this story, but Bauer yelled at me: “I don’t have time for this!” before shooting me in the leg.)
Amazing Race update – Oman, it’s hot in Oman

There are only five teams left in part because there has not been a single non-elimination leg in the Race yet. They all start out from Greece and have to make their way to Muscat, Oman, on the tip of the Saudi peninsula. The hippies, who were way late in the last leg, miss the first bus, then the first plane to Oman. No matter: the park where they need to go next opens at 6am in the morning so all teams are bunched up. The interlude gives Ray & Yolanda an opportunity to snipe at each other.

Once the gates open, all teams run up to a giant incense burner and grab the next clue: they must drive 135 miles to the fishing village of Sur and find the ferry. Most teams find their way, but Team Volcano falls behind with some wrong turns. Once at Sur, it’s a Detour: Camel or Watchtower. Teams may either load a camel into a pickup and deliver it to a desert Bedouin, or search among three watchtowers on the water for a message box and deliver that to a goldsmith. Team Frat Boys and Mojo choose the camel while Teams Kukla and Burning Man search all along the watchtowers; Team Volcano arrives much later and packs the camel.

After the Detour, teams head to the village of Al Hawiyah and the Roadblock: one member from each team must dig among 117 mounds of sand in the desert, searching for a cache of spiced lamb that is “cooked” underground. There’s not much time difference between the first four teams, even though Eric & Jeremy got lost on the Detour (correctly referring to themselves as “idiots.”) It’s a hot, hot day in Oman to shovel sand. Monica in particular is smokin’ hot in her tight, un-Islamic “MOJO” T-shirt and she finds the lamb first. Team Mojo heads out followed by Fran & Barry then the Frat Boys. B.J. is having a Lena flashback: he’s unearthed dozens of mounds of sand but can’t find the treasure. The nearly-forgotten team of Ray & Yolanda arrives and she finds the lamb to pull ahead of a worn down B.J. Eventually he digs up the right mound of sand and Team Burning Man heads to the Pit Stop.

The Pit Stop is Jabreen Castle in the town of Nizwa. Navigation is tricky enough but the Frat Boys decide they’ll take a “short cut” to catch up with the first two teams of Mojo and Kukla. As they get more and more lost, I had a twinge of sympathy for these guys who were obviously humbled after a string of first-place finishes. (It passed.) And speaking of passing, while Team Mojo stopped for directions, Fran & Barry raced ahead to a bemused Phil who announces they are Team #1. The Frat Boys stumble in at fourth, leaving the hippies in last place. But Phil hesitates…and we’re told this is a non-elimination leg and Team Burning Man is spared for another week.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Kukla – Fran & Barry – Prize: Travelocity trip to Rome
#2 – Team MoJo – Monica & Joseph
#3 – Team Volcano – Ray & Yolanda
#4 – Team Frat Boys – Eric & Jeremy
#5 – Team Burning Man – B.J. & Tyler – NON-ELIMINATION LEG

Final editorial comment from a long-time Race fan: a most excellent leg tonight, and clearly the best this season. Now that Lake & Michelle are gone, there are five likable (although sometimes annoying) teams left racing. The hippies used to bother me, but I was glad to see them get a break tonight. This leg had it all: travel strategy, physical challenges, animal husbandry, a handful of luck to mix things up, and an exotic travelogue. Even Phil was funny. Thumbs up!

Next week: Way down under (as in cave) in the Down Under.

Extra – This space reserved for recaps by Kris “Hippies Saved” and Pat.
There goes plan A…and B

Former NYC mayor Ed Koch writes: “Democrats can win, but not by bashing Bush

The party should now clarify its positions and its platform should be intelligent and reasonable.
Ha ha ha! Well, it could happen.

Follow-up – From the liberal American Prospect: “What the Democrats still don’t have is a philosophy, a big idea that unites their proposals and converts them from a hodgepodge of narrow and specific fixes into a vision for society. Indeed, the party and the constellation of interests around it don’t even think in philosophical terms and haven’t for quite some time. There’s a reason for this: They’ve all been trained to believe -- by the media, by their pollsters -- that their philosophy is an electoral loser. Like the dogs in the famous “learned helplessness” psychological experiments of the 1960s -- the dogs were administered electrical shocks from which they could escape, but from which, after a while, they didn’t even try to, instead crouching in the corner in resignation and fear -- the Democrats have given up attempting big ideas.
What happens when you have no sports program - MIT and Caltech rekindle a prank war.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Our man in MSM – Who better to comment on the Pulitzers than news guy Matt Hoy? – “First Maureen Dowd wins a Pulitzer, then Givhan. Just goes to show you that I’d need to kill just about every one of my brain cells to actually win that prize.”
The dance commences – National Review has a new blog for the 2006 midterm elections. Is it too early? Never! Set your bookmarks.
Unlikely scenario – Egypt and the Arab League condemn the Tel Aviv bombing. Go figure.
We all have jobs. We just can’t afford to commute to them.

Good news: “Stocks Soar on Rate Outlook, Earnings; Dow Up Nearly 200 Points

Bad news: “Oil prices close above $71 a barrel” McQ explains why oil prices may be approaching a permanent high.

Monday, April 17, 2006

No justice, no piece of chocolate! - The White House practices age discrimination at the annual Easter Egg Roll: “The First Lady avoided commenting on the gay couples and before the event her office noted the rules: children of all ages are welcome but there must be at least one aged under seven in each group and no more than two adults in each group.” It looks like a fun time was had by all (Bruce had some concerns).
Too bad the midterms aren’t until November

Everybody’s gabbing about this WashPost article: “Anger at Bush may hurt GOP at polls.” Well, maybe I’m just whistling past the graveyard here, but at this point there’s little indication that the Democrats can generate the momentum to take over either the House or Senate. Michael Barone makes some good points in his article on Real Clear Politics on the difference between a referendum election and a choice election.

If the 2006 midterms are a referendum on Republican leadership, there could be a lot of Maalox flowing at RNC headquarters. But to make this work, the Democrats are going to have to dip into the “anger” well one more time. This strategy worked wonders in 2000, 2002, and 2004 for Al Gore, Tom Daschle (who?) and John Kerry, respectively. Now Harry Reid of the stern finger and Nancy Pelosi will try to convince America that any change would be better than none at all.

Will Americans buy that? I’m unconvinced. I just don’t see how the Democrats can gain with a message-less message. Maybe it’s an effective ploy for Presidential candidates (e.g. Nixon’s “secret” plan to end the Vietnam war) but legislative positions are fought out on policy differences, not national sentiment. The Democrats are so fractured, they could never promote a unified policy such as Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract with America. As a result, they appear more concerned with getting elected than leading the country, never an attractive choice.

Still, if policy and positions don’t shape the midterms, here’s another non-trivial factor:

In its most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, the DNC reported raising $50.1 million so far in the 2005-2006 cycle and had $5.8 million cash on hand at the end of last year. The RNC had raised $103 million and had $34 million cash on hand.
Let’s keep our powder dry. California-50 may have been the first sign that there is no groundswell for the Democrats, despite the warning signs we’ve heard over and over in the past.
Answer: He never left the hotel

Question: “How did the CIA's special envoy miss Zahawie's trip to Niger?” Here’s Christopher Hitchens in “Clueless Joe Wilson”:

In other words (I am prepared to keep on repeating this until at least one cow comes home), Joseph Wilson went to Niger in 2002 to investigate whether or not the country had renewed its uranium-based relationship with Iraq, spent a few days (by his own account) sipping mint tea with officials of that country who were (by his wife's account) already friendly to him, and came back with the news that all was above-board. Again to repeat myself, this must mean either that A) he did not know that Zahawie had come calling or B) that he did know but didn't think it worth mentioning that one of Saddam's point men on nukes had been in town. In neither case, it seems to me, should he be trusted with another mission that requires any sort of curiosity.
Somehow Joe Wilson’s rank ineptness in the Niger mission has taken a back seat to whether his wife was outed by Scooter Libby or Robert Novak, and the press has been happy to play along.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter!

Good news: Christ sacrificed himself for the sins of mankind then was resurrected. “Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” [John 20:21]

Bad news: No NASCAR today.

But, in terms of degree, there’s quite a bit of difference between the two.
Or not - From the Boston Globe: “Blogs essential to a good career

I’ll bet Bill Hobbs would beg to differ.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The NY Times on Iran’s nuclear ambitions: let’s talk it out

Sometimes there’s nothing more predictable than the editorial page of the New York Times. When it comes to Iran, it’s all Bush’s fault and diplomacy will solve all:

Let us not kid ourselves. Iran's drive to develop nuclear weapons technology would pose an enormous challenge for Washington even if the Bush administration had not tied United States ground forces down in Iraq, squandered its diplomatic credibility over Baghdad's nonexistent nuclear program and pursued a reckless energy policy that has made America the world's most extravagant oil guzzler and helped maximize Iran's petroleum leverage.
It’s astonishing to think that Iran would respond to diplomatic pressure, whether wielded by the Americans, the French, or the Russians. As Hemingway wrote: “it’s pretty to think so.” The mullahs want their bomb and no amount of talking will convince them otherwise. As for the U.S. energy policy, oil is a fungible commodity and the Iranians won’t care if they sell to China or the U.S. If the Times is so concerned about lining the Iranians (or the Saudis, or the Venezuelans) pockets with oil cash, they would support exploration in ANWR. But the religion of environmentalism is a stronger force than even the power of diplomacy, so that’s right out.

What is left is the military option and here’s where the Times gets the issue 180 degrees wrong. It used to be the conventional wisdom in the Middle East that the U.S. didn’t have the stomach for military action; at least not the kind of action that put soldiers in harm’s way. Osama Bin Laden, no less, cited the high-altitude bombings in Chechnya and cruise missile attacks in Afghanistan as evidence that America had no constitution for the fight. Afghanistan and Iraq almost assuredly changed this viewpoint and Iran should think twice with an American base stationed fewer than a thousand miles away.

But those disastrous decisions have left Washington with far fewer plausible and credible tools than it might have had for managing a crisis that very much needs to be managed. The prospect of Iran's acquiring nuclear weapons, even in ten years' time, rattles people and governments, not just in Israel, but across the Middle East and beyond.
Life’s a constant burden when you’re the world’s only superpower. Nowhere in this editorial does the Times consider the economic and military pressure that could be brought to bear by Iran’s neighbor to the north, Russia. (Well, Turkmenistan, but you know what I mean.) But then that would divert attention from the true scapegoat for all things wicked and ugly.

Because Iran has natural uranium supplies and the technological know-how to convert uranium into bomb fuel, the only conceivable long-term solution is to somehow persuade Iranian leaders that they have more to lose from building nuclear weapons than from not building them.
Like a massive strike by NATO forces?

The logical method would be concerted and coercive diplomacy.
Guess not.

And that's where the costly policy mistakes of the past few years come in. Some of the countries Washington most needs to work with are still wary of the Bush administration's intentions, consistency and commitment to multilateralism. And the Iranians, with their increasingly strong hand in Iraq, do not seem to be feeling very coerced.
Hey, you can lead a horse to water…. If Iran develops missile technology, it won’t be capable of reaching Chicago but it will threaten Delhi, Karachi, Bombay, Riyadh, Tbilisi, and perhaps parts of Eastern Europe including Athens, Rome, and Kiev. But when NATO members veto the movement of supplies to protect another member, you know the Iranians are laughing at our multilateral response.

A flurry of reports about possible preparations for airstrikes seems to have alarmed American military and foreign policy specialists more than the Iranians — and rightly so. With no realistic military solutions available, Washington needs to redouble its diplomatic efforts.
Will that be enough? Perhaps a quadrupling will do the trick, with a larger conference table and some of those really nice pastries.

That should include a willingness to talk directly with Iran about the nuclear issue and to take a fresh look at some of the proposals now floating around that might give Iranian leaders a face-saving way to substantially slow their enrichment efforts. Even if such an approach produces no satisfactory agreement, it will help strengthen the basis for joint diplomatic action through the Security Council.
And there you go: the United Nations will save us with a flurry of strongly-worded resolutions written on stern parchment with black ink.
Madness takes its toll

This WashPost article about Lefty bloggers may set the record for the most “[expletive]”s in a column. From “The Left, online and outraged”:

Then George W. Bush was elected. Then came 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, the Patriot Act, secret prisons, domestic eavesdropping, the revamping of the Supreme Court, and the thought "It has come to the point where the worst people on Earth are running the Earth." And now, "I have become one of those people with all the bumper stickers on their car," she says. "I am this close to being one of those muttering people pushing a cart.”
Apparently, Americans need to “wake up.” I’m sorry, “wake the [expletive] up!” Yes, much better.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Babs speaks – For the record, Barbra Streisand has a new “statement” today about WMDs in Iraq and how “everybody” knew they weren’t there.
UNbelievable – How much more evidence do we need that the United Nations is a complete and utter farce? John Bolton should sit in the Security Council with IPod earplugs on and do crossword puzzles, stopping just long enough to veto anything these clowns propose.
Agent double-O-scream – Noam Scheiber on The New Republic details how Howard Dean’s 20-year plan for the Democratic Party is running up against the Democrats two-year cycle.
Let’s not jump to conclusions here – The Jawa Report on those crazy Coptic-stabbing Egyptians: “Well I question the sanity of the act too but it seems there is quite a bit of contagious insanity in the Middle East. So either Arabs are the most insane people on earth or there is some other factor. Seems to me that shouting, “There is no God but Allah!” right before you attack innocents could indicate there may be some Islamic angle to this. But that’s just me.”

Extra – Even Arab News (!) wrote: “It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.”
You can’t go home again

From Steven Malanga’s “The Mob that Whacked Jersey” in City Journal:

But today Jersey is a cautionary example of how to cripple a thriving state. Increasingly muscular public-sector unions have won billions in outlandish benefits and wages from compliant officeholders. A powerful public education cartel has driven school spending skyward, making Jersey among the nation’s biggest education spenders, even as student achievement lags. Inept, often corrupt, politicians have squandered yet more billions wrung from suburban taxpayers, supposedly to uplift the poor in the state’s troubled cities, which have nevertheless continued to crumble despite the record spending. To fund this extravagance, the state has relentlessly raised taxes on both residents and businesses, while localities have jacked up property taxes furiously. Jersey’s cost advantage over its free-spending neighbors has vanished: it is now among the nation’s most heavily taxed places. And despite the extra levies, new governor Jon Corzine faces a $4.5 billion deficit and a stagnant economy during a national boom.
I grew up in New Jersey and went to college at Rutgers before moving to the People’s Republic of Massachusetts. The last time I was back to visit my hometown, I could barely recognize the place. Main Street was overrun with liquor stores and nail salons. At least they can still make good bagels.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Just what the heck is a salmon helmet? – Anyway, Little Green Footballs has the censored South Park/Muhammad/Family Guy video.

Follow-upDr. Evil: “My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds- pretty standard really.” Well, that's close.

Extra - The Anchoress has much more South Park fun.
The irony meter explodes

From Fox News:

Zacarias Moussaoui on Thursday blasted his lawyers for not doing enough to keep him off of Death Row and said he would like to see attacks similar to the ones that killed over 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001, "every day."
No word if the lawyers rolled their eyes and made the “see what we have to deal with?” gesture to the jury.
Promises that cannot be kept (without an automatic 27% cut)

George Will makes a not-so-veiled reference to the entitlement crisis in his article today about General Motors’ problems in “The Road to Bankruptcy”:

Bankruptcy -- seeking judicial permission to shred contracts improvidently entered into -- should be so costly that it cannot become a routine management tool for private-sector welfare states. And America's welfare state cannot seek what is called "bankruptcy protection." Detroit today is having what Washington will eventually have -- a wrenching rendezvous with promises that seemed compassionate, or at least convenient, when originally made but that cannot be kept without ruinous consequences.
Those consequences include massive tax hikes and/or deep benefit cuts; there is simply no way around the math. Will Franklin has been falling behind with his Social Security Reform Thursdays but here’s his last entry.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Amazing Race update – A Classics degree may help

Last week’s episode (sorry I missed the update) had teams spread way out and I predicted a lot of bunching this week. Sure enough, teams started out in the middle of the night and needed to make their way from Sicily to Rome. But the train doesn’t leave until eight in the morning so all remaining six teams start together from the station.

Once in Rome, teams must find a man on a red scooter next to Trevi Fountain (above) where they’re handed a clue and a piece of sheer paper with part of a Leonardo Da Vinci picture on it. Movie plug time! This clue has something to do with “The DaVinci Code,” which is a book handed out at airports the way the Gideons distribute Bibles. Anyway, teams must then go to the Spanish Steps and find the second part of the clue on some horse carriages and then it’s off to the next location: Athens, Greece.

Only one plane is leaving Rome for Athens and all the teams are on the same 7:25pm flight. Then they need to go to the Ancient Agora, which doesn’t open until 8am the next morning. And there was much bunching again. The next morning, it is pouring rain at the Ancient Agora where teams find the next clue and the first Fast Forward. One team may go to a nearby restaurant and break plates until they find the one with a TAR marker inside. Team Mojo, Frat Boys, and Kukla all head to the FF while everybody else just continues on to the next stop in Corinth, Greece via train and bus. By dumb luck, Eric & Jeremy find the plate and head to the Pit Stop at the Fortress of Rion; Monica & Joseph and Fran & Barry follow after the other teams to Corinth.

Those other teams are Team Burning Man, Team Ole Miss, and Team Volcano who must take the train directly to Isthmus station. But they get off prematurely then take a bus the rest of the way. (Foreshadowing alert). Teams Mojo and Kukla stay on the train, less than an hour behind. The next clue is a Roadblock: one member of each team must bungee jump off a bridge. Everybody does this just fine except Fran who looks pretty terrified but eventually takes the dive.

Immediately after the Roadblock, teams must head to a Detour: Herculean Effort or It’s all Greek to Me. Teams may either opt to perform three Olympic tasks – discus, javelin, and wrestling – or collect Greek alphabet pieces and translate them to find the name of a Greek town. Teams Volcano and Mojo choose the sporting events while Ole Miss and Kukla put together pieces. But where are BJ & Tyler? They’re shown pulling off the highway only to discover that they’ve driven an hour past the Detour. Ooops.

All throughout this episode of the Race, the ugliness of Lake towards Michelle is bubbling over. Within ten minutes of this leg, Lake unbelievably calls his wife a “bitch” on national TV. He calls her “stupid” and tells her to “shut up” repeatedly. Later, Lake declares there’s “a lot of stress” on the Race but that does little to excuse his behavior. Hey, I know it’s a million dollars but rational people need to ask themselves whether it’s worth it to destroy your relationship and look like a jerk.

Anyway, back to the Detour. While the Frat Boys are cooling their heels at the Pit Stop after the Fast Forward, Team Mojo then Volcano finish their mini-Olympics, followed by Kukla and Ole Miss; BJ & Tyler haven’t arrived yet and the rain is starting up again. Teams start driving to Patra and the Pit Stop while night is starting to descend. Tempers flare again as teams try to find their ways in the rain, in the dark, on foreign roads.

At the Pit Stop, we see Ray & Yolanda mount the steps and step on the mat as Team #2. But wait! Because they failed to follow the letter of the clue, Team Volcano incurs a 15 minute penalty before they can be “checked in.” As they sit and wait, Monica and Joseph show up and, since they were on the second train, they’re in as Team #2. A couple minutes later, Team Volcano is Team #3. Team Kukla arrives as Team #4. This leaves Lake & Michelle and BJ & Tyler, who accidentally gave themselves a two-hour penalty. Can they possibly catch up? They can! Team Burning Man, to their complete surprise, arrive as Team #5. But they must also sit out for a 15 minute penalty, which seems silly to me, since Lake & Michelle would have to serve the same penalty. Nevertheless, Team Ole Miss, who must have gotten wicked lost, arrive later and they’re eliminated.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Frat Boys – Eric & Jeremy – FAST FORWARD – Prize: Trip to the premiere of “The DaVinci Code.”
#2 – Team MoJo – Monica & Joseph
#3 – Team Volcano – Ray & Yolanda
#4 – Team Kukla – Fran & Barry
#5 – Team Burning Man – BJ & Tyler
#6 – Team Ole Miss – Lake & Michelle – PHILIMINATED

Next week: Break out the hajibs, ladies. We’re heading to the Middle East.

Extra – Kris has her update over at Dummocrats while Pat will probably check in later with the Brainster recap.
Kerry gets a ‘D’ – David Adesnik of Oxblog gives his lowest grade ever for John Kerry’s appearance on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday. (Hat tip: Mark)
Now let’s go racing!

From an interview with NASCAR driver Brian Vickers:

3. If you could be President of the United States for a day, what would your greatest accomplishment be?
Vickers: The two that come to mind right away would be something to do with education, and solving the country's dependency on foreign oil.
Hmmm. That seems like an odd (hypocritical?) concern for a guy who gets his gas tank filled in 12 seconds.
Justices deferred is/are justices denied

Ed Whelan on Bench Memos on “Clinton vs. Bush”:

In the first two years of his second term, President Clinton, facing a Senate controlled by Republicans, had 20 of his court of appeals nominees confirmed. In the 15 months since the beginning of his second term, President Bush, dealing with a Senate controlled by his own party, has had only eight of his court of appeals nominees confirmed.
To be fair, President Bush got two new Supreme Court justices.
Question: What would happen if Joe Lieberman decided to run for re-election as an independent?
Answer: Connecticut would have an Independent Senator.
The Tennessee precedent doesn’t bode well – Writing on Opinion Journal, Brendan Miniter reviews RomneyCare in “Bad Medicine”: “The rhetoric form the Bay State's governor notwithstanding, RomneyCare will turn out to be not only expensive but also a mandate for more government spending and more government intrusion.” Well that’s not good.
Oral and aural history – The Library of Congress adds some selections to the National Recording Registry. Jimi Hendrix makes sense. Sonic Youth? Eh.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Le slacker

I could not stop laughing at the Maynard G. Krebs of France, one Nicolas Dhelft, who has worked eight months over the past four years. From the WashPost – “Modern mind-set pays in out-of-date market”:

In contrast, [Nicolas] Dhelft, 29, has worked only eight months since graduating from a liberal arts college with the dream of becoming a research director. He has received government welfare or unemployment benefits for most of the past four years, something he feels "a little bit" guilty about but believes the government owes him.

"I could be sending out 10 résumés a day," said Dhelft, sitting at a Paris cafe, nursing a coffee as well as a wrist he sprained playing handball. "But it's not in my mentality. I'm more laid-back, and I'm not convinced sending 10 résumés a day would get more offers."
Now that’s an interesting theory. All those crazy fishermen putting out multiple lines – what suckers!

When he turned 25, Dhelft became eligible for welfare because he had never held a job. He received 350 euros a month, about $425.

Last year a nonprofit association where he interned in college offered him a seven-month job filling in for an employee on maternity leave. Dhelft earned 1,300 euros ($1,585) a month, and after the job ended he qualified for unemployment benefits for seven months at 750 euros ($915) each month. When the association called him back last January to substitute one month for an ill employee, Dhelft received partial unemployment pay -- 250 euros ($300) -- for the month he was working.

When his employment payments run out at the end of April, he will qualify once again for welfare because he won't be working or collecting unemployment.

Dhelft, who lives with his parents and volunteers as a handball coach for children, said of the government payment, "I don't feel bad taking it." He paused to reconsider, and conceded that perhaps he felt "a little bit" of guilt, but added, "I would feel more guilty if my parents had to pay everything for me." His mother is a homemaker and his father is an engineer for Peugeot, the French automaker.
Sure they pay for my room, food, electricity, my television, these CDs, and such. But do you see these Cheez-Its? That’s all Nicolas, baby. There are no handouts for me when it comes to snack foods. And pot.”

Having his parents and the government payments as a financial crutch is "a double-edged sword," Dhelft said. "You are protected, but you tend to be too protected to do something."

"I disagree with those who say French young people are lazy and don't want to work," Dhelft said. "They want to work, but they want to work the French way -- with a 35-hour week and a steady job. People want to be able to plan for the future and think ahead."He's watched the successes of some of his friends a bit wistfully.
Golly, a whole 35 hours? Talk about slave labor. And only two hours for lunch, too.

"Some, like Pierre, had a very straight path with no problems and are very successful," he said. But that route wouldn't work for him, Dhelft said. "I don't like business in general."
Quelle shocker!

Even so, a friend has told him about an opening at a bank. Three years ago, Dhelft would not have considered it. "I'm ready to lower my expectations," he said. "I don't have dreams anymore. I have to put aside my pride and dreams and make a living.

"My goal is to work at least a few years."
Pace yourself, Nicolas. After all, you’re only 29.
Mitt makes his pitch – In a move bound to garner national attention, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney writes: “Health care for everyone? We’ve found a way.” As P.J. O'Rourke likes to say, if you think health care is expensive now, wait until it's free.

Monday, April 10, 2006

That would imply some kind of bias - Gateway Pundit: Media Appalled that George Bush Dare Defend Himself.
Correlation is not causality

The Sunday Boston Globe had an article that was apologetic for equitable reporting of the global warming issue. The very thought that the Globe might stray from the Al Gore theology on the environment! Too bad they couldn’t wait a day for today’s article in the Telegraph: “There IS a problem with global warming…it stopped in 1998.”

For many years now, human-caused climate change has been viewed as a large and urgent problem. In truth, however, the biggest part of the problem is neither environmental nor scientific, but a self-created political fiasco. Consider the simple fact, drawn from the official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, that for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero).

Yes, you did read that right. And also, yes, this eight-year period of temperature stasis did coincide with society's continued power station and SUV-inspired pumping of yet more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Whoops. It’s those inconvenient events like the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period or even the melting ice caps on Mars that leave so much doubt in predicting climate change. Yet the environmentalists are so positive that something must be done right now – just like the last time we were on the brink of environmental calamity.

Extra - The Ex-Donkey has more on the religion of radical environmentalism. Being green means never having to say you're sorry, or wrong.
Is France 2006 = America 2016? – Michael Barone reviews the inexorable rise of mandatory entitlement spending in “Slouching towards France
Massachusetts seeks to reclaim Taxachusetts title

According to the Census, here are the top 10 states in terms of total tax per capita:

1 – Vermont
2 – Hawaii
3 – Wyoming
4 – Connecticut
5 – Delaware
6 – Minnesota
7 – Massachusetts
8 – Alaska
9 – California
10 – New Jersey

Here are the bottom 10 (lowest tax per capita):

41 – Oregon
42 – Georgia
43 – South Carolina
44 – Alabama
45 – Tennessee
46 – Missouri
47 – Colorado
48 – New Hampshire
49 – Texas
50 – South Dakota

Over at Q&O, McQ explains why Massachusetts is heading straight for #1 with its new health care program: “Massachusetts "health care" prelude to government takeover?
You don’t say

Demonstrating that Lois Lane knack for sniffing out an emerging trend, Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe discovers…wait for it…people are using the Internet to launch political attacks! I know!

Once a boon to candidates who wanted to market their positions to a wide, online audience, the Internet has increasingly become a forum to establish a line of attack and create a potentially devastating caricature of an opponent.
Blogs are mentioned, although (sadly) not Viking Pundit.
Today’s least surprising headline: France surrenders

Bowing to pressure from students and unions, French President Jacques Chirac on Monday unveiled plans to scrap a controversial youth-labor contract that spawned weeks of strikes and led to a complete political stalemate.
Jonah Goldberg says “France is doomed”: “It's difficult to draw any other conclusions. If they can't make it possible to fire 25 year-old, nose-picking malcontents and slackers from l'Blockbuster -- in order to give some hope to unemployed car-burning nihilist mobs in the outer suburbs, mind you -- they can't do anything.” France, and much of Europe, desperately needs to stimulate economic growth before the weight of their aging population shatters their social contract.
Baseball is dyingThe evidence mounts: “They are Boston's tired, its weary, its bored, its huddled masses already yearning for November. They are the legal aliens of Red Sox Nation: longtime New Englanders who, for reasons of accident, genetics, or fate, couldn't care less about Boston's baseball fortunes.” Base-what?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Good Leak

That’s how the Washington Post’s main editorial today describes the White House efforts to fight back against Joe Wilson’s lies:

Mr. Wilson subsequently claimed that the White House set out to punish him for his supposed whistle-blowing by deliberately blowing the cover of his wife, Valerie Plame, who he said was an undercover CIA operative. This prompted the investigation by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald. After more than 2 1/2 years of investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald has reported no evidence to support Mr. Wilson's charge. In last week's court filings, he stated that Mr. Bush did not authorize the leak of Ms. Plame's identity. Mr. Libby's motive in allegedly disclosing her name to reporters, Mr. Fitzgerald said, was to disprove yet another false assertion, that Mr. Wilson had been dispatched to Niger by Mr. Cheney. In fact Mr. Wilson was recommended for the trip by his wife. Mr. Libby is charged with perjury, for having lied about his discussions with two reporters. Yet neither the columnist who published Ms. Plame's name, Robert D. Novak, nor Mr. Novak's two sources have been charged with any wrongdoing.

As Mr. Fitzgerald pointed out at the time of Mr. Libby's indictment last fall, none of this is particularly relevant to the question of whether the grounds for war in Iraq were sound or bogus. It's unfortunate that those who seek to prove the latter would now claim that Mr. Bush did something wrong by releasing for public review some of the intelligence he used in making his most momentous decision.
But – whatever you do – don’t let the facts stand in the way of the Left’s narrative. As Tim Blair would surely point out, the terrible no-good treasonous Halliburton-funded leak will equal the mythos of the plastic Thanksgiving turkey.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Immigration interrogation imminent - Sunday morning talkshow lineup
Just noticed - New England Republican, the other conservative in Massachusetts, has moved. Update your links.
Quote of the Day – From RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt: “John Kerry deserves credit for continuing to take himself so seriously, despite the fact that no one else does.”

Extra fun – Here’s New Republic editor Martin Peretz on “The Problem with John Kerry

Last word – From Ann Althouse: “It's always so painful when Kerry tries to show there's something more to him than politician. He only seems to bo even more of a politician.”
Big bearded brutes - Rubeus Hagrid’s causing trouble again. Heh.
Enervated by unions – This Opinion Journal editorial compares the decline of France, General Motors and New York State and how intractable labor laws have drained their capability to respond to fiscal pressures: “At first glance, they seem to have little in common. But the riots in France over labor reform, the slow-motion suicide of General Motors, and the continuing decline of the New York economy all share one defining trait: entrenched and unchangeable union power.Captain Ed and Betsy have more on the silly French and their otherworldly view of economics.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Why the French are always angry at us

Here’s a list of the movies playing in the movie house across the street from my hotel in Strasbourg:

Big Momma’s House 2
Basic Instinct 2
Final Destination 3
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
16 Blocks

Coming soon: Mission Impossible 3
No way, really? – The GOP can possibly pick off the governor’s seat in Maine. Maybe. For you real political junkies, Scott Elliott has set up running predictions on the top of his site over at Election Projection.
NASCAR hits back on NBC stunt: “Kudos, NASCAR Nation, for not taking NBC's bait” See also Michelle’s latest and Laura at Ace of Spades HQ with “Damn NASCAR Rednecks

In related news, I lost my NASCAR fantasy race last week because Brian Vickers finished in the top 20. Brian Vickers! Oof. Anyway, I’m racing Kurt Busch, Junior, and Casey Mears this weekend in Texas. Wish me luck.
Elected officials vs. career bureaucrats

Who should control the government’s foreign policy? It appears that defenders of Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame can’t abandon their “Treason!” mantra to address that fundamental question. When Joseph Wilson returned from Africa and wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, this overt act was designed for no other purpose than to subvert U.S. policy set by the Bush Administration. This is undeniable since the report was made up of untruths:

The [Senate Intelligence Committee] panel found that Wilson's report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And contrary to Wilson's assertions and even the government's previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address.

The report turns a harsh spotlight on what Wilson has said about his role in gathering prewar intelligence, most pointedly by asserting that his wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame, recommended him.
Rick Moran perfectly encapsulates my opinion on the matter:

But the question unanswered by the President’s critics is how do you pushback against unelected bureaucrats who are not only undermining policy, but also attacking the credibility of the Chief Executive of the United States of America? Do you sit in the Oval Office and simply take it? Do you allow these partisans who used selective leaking of classified information in order to deliberately try and defeat a political rival at the polls, to operate with impunity while American men and women are fighting and dying overseas?

The arrogance and hubris exhibited by the leaking clique in the CIA and State Department – unelected, unaccountable, unhinged – demonstrates the dysfunctionality of those vital departments. This incompetence and bureaucratic game playing led directly to the tragedy of 9/11 and will, if not stopped, be the death of many more of us.
So far, the Bush administration has been mum on the Plame investigation but I wish the President would come out and state the obvious: government officials, especially those who putatively report to the Executive Branch, cannot expect to make up lies out of whole cloth and then expect immunity when the game is exposed.

Extra – There’s probably no issue that has illuminated the importance of the blogosphere as a counterbalance to the fifth column fourth estate than the Plame case. See also Decision 08, Powerline, MacRanger, and the irreplaceable Tom Maguire who neatly rebuts the always-outraged MSM writer Andrew Sullivan thusly: “Call me naive, or old-fashioned, but I would like to see a scintilla of evidence before concluding someone is "nailed".”

Follow-up - Sullivan surrenders: “The president seems to have the power to do what he did.” But he tries to save face with the argument that the National Intelligence Estimate was only “selectively leaked” so that’s not right either. Try putting that on a bumper sticker.
Homeless in NYC – Brian Maloney breaks what he calls a Radio Equalizer exclusive: Air America will be kicked out of their flagship New York City home at WLIB-FM by the end of August.

In other news: “WDOD-AM, which switched to a liberal Air America format, has dropped off the [ratings] chart.” Oh that’s harsh.
Today’s vocabulary word: “Abracadabrantesque

The French have a word for Jacques Chirac’s handling of the CPE law:

When a law gets enacted by the president of the land, but he says it must not be applied, what is this called?

"Abracadabrantesque" is a word the French are using to describe the odd situation facing the country now that President Jacques Chirac has signed his government's youth employment contract into law, while at the same time instructing employers not to use it to hire anyone.
So it’s the law of the land, but don’t you dare obey it! That would be immoralnotillegal.
I'm back! And tired!

Well, a half-page of news from the Herald Tribune won't scratch the surface of everything I need to get caught up on. (Tom DeLay did WHAT? Scooter Libby said WHAT?) But before I do that, let me recount the Kafkaesque security procedure at Frankfurt airport:

1) Check-in. All checked bags are scanned before going up to the counter.
2) First security. All carry on bags are scanned. Pass through metal detector and get wanded.
3) Passport control. Stamp passport.
4) Second security scan. Only for American-bound flights. Re-scan bags and get wanded again.
5) Second boarding pass check.
6) Gate check - Boarding pass submitted.

By #4, I was freaking out, especially since I only had 10 minutes to catch my flight back the the United States. But it all worked out in the end...except they lost my bag. Allegedly it will be here tomorrow. (Sigh)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Greetings from Strasbourg

It's the fifth day of national strikes in France and nearly every building here in Strasbourg has "CPE NON" written on it in chalk. The student/union opposition to the new French labor law seems to be intensifying just as the government appears to be caving. The tram line into the heart of the city was diverted at Place Kleber due to demonstrations.

Late last night (early for you) the word came over CNN International that Moussoui (sp?) got the death penalty. Of course he'll probably languish in a federal prison for a decade, which may be preferable to making him a martyr.

My presentation went well. Public speaking always gets the adrenaline flowing. Now: puis avoir un biere s'il vous plait.