Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Blue Wednesday - I’m just not in the mood for blogging tonight. The insurgency in Iraq appears to be growing stronger and the incident at Haditha is going to launch a thousand My Lai references. The Republican base is depressed due to epic mishandling of immigration and other issues. The only humor to be found is the story about William Jefferson trying to hide papers from the FBI, but the GOP-led House managed to bungle that by trying to pass a law putting Congresspersons above the law of us common folks.

What am I going to do? Laugh at Al Gore and Helen Thomas? That’s just like eating Cheetos: an unhealthy and temporary filler.

*Sigh* I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Today’s cleverest opening line

The opening of a NY Times article about Americans sending bricks to Congress in support of tougher borders:

Talk about constructive criticism.
Score! Here’s more from the article:

Advocates of tougher border security have sent thousands of bricks to Senate and House offices in recent weeks to make a none-too-subtle point with lawmakers about where many of their constituents come down on emerging immigration bills.

Leaders of the campaign, which has delivered an estimated 10,000 bricks since it began in April, said they had hit on the idea as a way to emphasize the benefits of a fence along the border with Mexico.
Wow: 10,000 bricks? Methinks the biggest winner in this campaign may be the U.S. Postal Service.
Now let’s find D.B. Cooper – From Fox News: “FBI Ends Search for Jimmy Hoffa's Body at Detroit Farm” Next from the FBI: the search for a quarter-million dollars in taxpayers’ money.
Unintentional plagiarism? - Tonight I heard "Engine Engine #9" by Roger Miller, which was a hit for him in 1965. It seems to have the same rhythm and melody of the Everly Brothers' 1961 hit "Walk Right Back." And here's the proof: they both hit #7 on the Billboard chart. Any other music fans want to back me up on this?
Political junkie overload – Now we have Wizbang Politics to join Election Projection, NRO’s Sixers, and The Hedgehog Report. Meanwhile, James Taranto takes down the AP’s Ron Fournier’s far-fetched sequence of events for a Democratic victory: “In other words, all it will take for Democrats to win by a landslide is for everything to happen differently from the way it does in almost all other elections.”
Oil is everything and everything is oil

The stock market slumped 184 points today because:

Crude futures rose amid expectations of greater fuel demand during the summer driving season, and as forecasters warn of hurricane activity in the coming months. A barrel of light crude surged 78 cents to $72.15 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
And because Walmart posted weak sales:

Wal-Mart blamed its modest sales on the impact of rising gasoline and utilities prices on its customers.
And because consumer confidence is down:

The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index for May fell to 103.2 from a four-year high of 109.8 the month before, topping estimates of 100.9. But while many on Wall Street have been hoping for a gradual economic slowdown, some fear that persistently high energy prices could trigger a sudden dropoff that leads the economy into a downturn.
But whatever we do, let’s not disturb those caribou in Alaska.
The Boxer of Searchlight

Senate minority leader Harry Reid appears to have accepted some free tickets to a boxing match:

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid accepted free ringside tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three professional boxing matches while that state agency was trying to influence him on federal regulation of boxing.
Some believe it’s a sign of Democratic hypocrisy while others think it’s a tempest in a teapot. Regardless, I thought this statement by Reid spiked the B.S. meter:

Reid said he would never change his position because of donations, free tickets, or a request from a staffer-turned-lobbyist.

“People who deal with me and have over the years know that I am an advocate for what I believe in. I always try to do it fair, never take advantage of people on purpose,” he said.
Well. Apparently the incorruptible Harry Reid has the super-human ability to always vote his conscience, regardless of how many free meals fall his way. Remarkable. Meanwhile, that weakling John McCain paid $1,400 for his tickets – somebody has a guilty conscience, no?

Extra – Is Harry Reid losing his constituency in Nevada? We won’t know until 2010 anyway.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Indianapolis 500 summary from Fark: “Somebody besides Danica won the Indy 500, dashing hopes of men around the world that she would have to kiss the Indy Queen. We understand he has a name, but who really cares?” Well put.

In other news, Kasey Kahne just won NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600. The prospects for my fantasy team were destroyed when both Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch wrecked their cars.
Unemployed in Europe

Every Sunday, the Boston Globe has the “Globalist Quiz” about events or trends in the world and (almost) every week, I get the answer wrong. Here’s today’s question:

The recent protests in France put a spotlight on the employment prospects of young people in Europe. While the French government has relented and withdrawn the Youth Labor Law, which made it easier to hire and ?re young workers, unemployment among young people remains a problem throughout Europe. Which of these nations has the highest rate of unemployment for young people?

A. France B. Switzerland C. Italy D. Poland
Answer here. That’s a lot of unemployed kids.
Sunday morning wrapup – From Mark on Redstate: “On NBC's Meet the Press, Chuck Hagel argued that it is not amnesty and his bill is not Simpson-Mazzoli. Jim Sensenbrenner countered that it is so amnesty and that Hagel's bill is so Simpson-Mazzoli.” Here’s my super summary of Chuck Schumer on Face the Nation: sphincter.
Summer wind - Wow, it sure it quiet here tonight. Almost as if everybody went away for the weekend.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

TranscriptPresident Bush’s speech at West Point today. “This is the first class to arrive at West Point after the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. Each of you came here in a time of war, knowing all the risks and dangers that come with wearing our nation's uniform. And I want to thank you for your patriotism, your devotion to duty, your courageous decision to serve. America is grateful and proud of the men and women of West Point.”
Sunday morning lineup – Will Bill Frist and Dick Durbin appear on Fox News Sunday together? My guess is no.
The intolerance of the Left – From Decision08: “Firedoglake: Where hate speech will always have a home.”
NASCAR culture – During tonight’s Busch series race (Carl Edwards won) they trained the TV camera on a section in the stands completely barren of spectators. “Did a bus driver get lost?” quipped one of the commentators. It turns out that NASCAR engineered this empty section to separate the alcoholic section from the non-alcoholic, or “family” spectators. So there you go.
Canada blinks – From Volokh: “Canada’s largest retail bookstore bows to fear of anti-cartoon demonstrations.” Yep, it’s the Mohammad cartoons again.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Garden State

Here’s my prediction from December 2005: “Running on his father’s name, Tom Kean Jr. is elected Senator from New Jersey.”

From Hedgehog Report: “Kean up by 3% in Senate race.” That’s a GOP pickup.
Summer of Dubya

Bill Kristol declares President Bush “A Recuperating Duck”:

For a president who is (allegedly) the lamest of lame ducks, George W. Bush had a pretty good month of May. Not quite a merry month of May. Certainly not a Lerner-and-Loewe-like lusty month of May. But a pretty good month, and perhaps a sign of better things to come.
Tax cuts were extended, the economy is booming, and the Iraqi government is coalescing. Given the recent polls, Dubya’s got nowhere to go but up.
Undisclosed location - ABP on the Capitol Hill shooting report of loud sounds: “Queue the Dick Cheney jokes.
The yuan is undervalued and the euro is overvalued – Thus pronounces that playful paragon of purchasing power parity, the Big Mac Index.
Awkward class reunions

“Hey, how’s it going?”
“Good, you look good.”
“Well, another year and we haven’t blown up anybody.”
“Yeah, by the way, death to America.”
Stuff I did not know: “John Lennon’s Imagine was banned in the US after 9/11.”
People like lists – The 50 greatest conservative rock songs, complete with a surprise Graham Parker entry. Graham, if you’re reading this, please do a show in Northampton this summer. Thanks.
Hooverville redux – “Economy zooms forward”: “Economic activity zipped ahead at a 5.3 percent pace in the January-March period, even speedier than initially thought. But a less energetic housing market and high energy prices are now taking out some of the oomph.”

Extra – Ace notes the MSM headline: “U.S. Economy: Growth May Slow From 5.3% Annual Rate” No doubt that woman and minorities to be hardest hit.
No holds barred! – Why does every story I see about Dennis Hastert have to include a wrestling reference? From the WashPost: “Suddenly, it’s a steel-cage match with the White House.” We get it, we get it. He used to be a wrestling coach.
Will Al Franken work pro bono? – Franken has made millions from his books and personal appearances and the exposure of his Air America gig has only helped. But now, according to the Radio Equalizer, Air America must slash their budget or face cancellation by their Clear Channel parent. Will Franken give some back for the “cause”?:

[Randi] Rhodes and [Al] Franken provide particular challenges for any budget- cutter charged with making the company viable. Not only have they fought for incredibly high salaries and outrageous perks, but they've also successfully insisted on huge, contractually- mandated staffing levels for their shows.
I take that as a “no.” Looks like some low-level staffers will have to go.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lost connections – Jack and Claire are brother and sister? That means that Aaron is Jack’s nephew. Bernard is Hanso? How do they know all this? I thought I had a handle on this thing.
Let me check the couch cushions

From USA Today: “Retiree benefits grow into monster

Taxpayers owe more than a half-million dollars per household for financial promises made by government, mostly to cover the cost of retirement benefits for baby boomers, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

Federal, state and local governments have added nearly $10 trillion to taxpayer liabilities in the past two years, bringing the total of government's unfunded obligations to an unprecedented $57.8 trillion.

That is the equivalent of a $510,678 credit card debt for every American household. Payments on this delinquent tax bill must start soon if financial promises to the elderly are to be kept.
Read the whole thing. Unless you’ve been reading my blog, then you’ve heard it before.
Kavanaugh advances – Despite my earlier skepticism, the very last vote the Senate took before the long weekend was a cloture vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit. It advanced the nomination for a vote with a 67-30 tally.
It’s only $90 grand in the freezer – From the WashPost editorial on William Jefferson’s FBI search: “Constitutional provisions designed to protect lawmakers from fear of political retribution, such as the speech-and-debate clause, counsel restraint and caution in circumstances such as these. They do not transform congressional offices into taxpayer-funded sanctuaries.”
Well, Social Security is doomed. But there are company pensions.

Right, right? Well, no.

Pension reform is high on the overloaded agenda of Congressional leaders. The need is obvious and immediate: Lots of companies have defaulted on their defined-benefit pension plans, and for many others, the clock is ticking on woefully underfunded liabilities that total a staggering $450 billion. The shortfalls--and there will be lots of them--will ultimately fall to the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., which is in no position to receive them. In fact, the PBGC currently has a roughly $23 billion deficit and counting.
Some commentators have lamented the demise of the corporate pension, but that’s like bemoaning the dearth of blacksmiths. I’d much rather have a defined contribution into a 401(k) than a pension that can be cut at any time if a company declares bankruptcy. As I’ve said many times before, the only person you can depend on for your retirement is you.
There’s always a catch

From the Boston Globe: “Mass. Senate endorses tax cut”:

Senate lawmakers voted yesterday to lower the income tax rate from 5.3 percent to 5 percent…

…if state spending on education and local aid is restored to levels last seen before the fiscal crisis of 2002.
D’oh! A tax cut in Massachusetts? It almost got mighty cold in Hades.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I'll be back in 108 minutes to press some buttons.
Today’s oxymoron: “credible Pakistani government sources – From Rantburg: “Pakistani government sources tell ABC News they have "credible reports" that Osama bin Laden and his entourage have moved down from high mountainous peaks along the Afghan border to a valley area 40 miles inside the Pakistan border.” Uh-huh.
All and all, it’s just another flip on the wall – John Kerry flip-flops on immigration. He’s a laugh riot, that guy.
The Gore record – Everybody’s buzzing about Al Gore’s new movie today. Let’s not forget that when he was President of the Senate, that august body voted 95-0 to reject the Kyoto Protocol.
Developing the negative

From a New Yorker Q&A on the Democrats’ prospects in 2006 and beyond:

But that’s all about negatives—the President’s negatives, the congressional Republicans’ negatives. Can the Democrats win on the negatives alone, or do they need to have a positive program to offer?
The Democrats can probably win on the negatives for the 2006 elections, but those who think they can go negative and win the White House in 2008 are kidding themselves. For one thing, George W. Bush won’t be running in 2008; it could be someone like John McCain. Even now, it’s not the easiest thing to be solely negative. Americans are optimists; they want to hear positive solutions to problems. The Democrats don’t have one stellar spokesman for the party, or an overwhelming unified message.
Which is why I think this ploy will end up as a marginal negative for the Democrats:

Social Security is baack! But this time Democrats are going to ride it, attacking the failed reforms pushed by President Bush. It's an old scare tactic, but it works. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who runs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, plans a "big discussion" about how the Republicans would use their re-election to majority power this fall to privatize the program. And at a time when many are worried about their economic security, Democrats say, they don't want their retirement benefits messed with.
In other words, the Democrats are happy to imperil the long-term fiscal health of the country for short-term political gain, while offering no solutions. Here’s what the green eyeshades say in the Social Security Trustee report:

Although the program passes our short-range test of financial adequacy, it continues to fail our long-range test of close actuarial balance by a wide margin. Projected OASDI tax income will begin to fall short of outlays in 2017, and will be sufficient to finance only 74 percent of scheduled annual benefits in 2040, when the combined OASDI trust fund is projected to be exhausted.
Tough luck, kids! Thanks for all the payroll taxes, suckers!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Does him feel all better now?

From Columbia Journalism Review: “Harper's Ben Metcalf Throws Hissy Fit, Spits Up”:

In the end, all of Metcalf's rage adds up to quite a spectacle -- like watching a toddler in the midst of a temper tantrum, clenching his fists, and smashing at his tinker toys with his favorite Tonka Truck. Several thousand words in, we found ourselves thinking, "Go ahead Big Guy, keep going, get it all out of your system..."

Not that Metcalf's column is without its merits. Along the way, he succeeds at the previously unlikely feat of making his "Notebook" predecessor, Lewis Lapham, sound like the soothing, moderate voice of reason.

No doubt, many Harper's readers who share Metcalf's insatiable rage at the president will embrace his wild child routine as a daring bit of truth telling. But, at the same time, Metcalf's pompous personal attack on the president will also provide some great fodder for anyone looking to dismiss the legitimate investigative reporting and well-reasoned political criticism found elsewhere in Harper's -- that is, the type of writing that keeps us picking up the magazine.
I used to subscribe to Harper’s back when it had thoughtful articles on topics like the sugar industry and the World Series of Poker, before 80% of Americans had heard of it. Now, like Rolling Stone, it’s morphed into a fever swamp of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Too bad. (Hat tip: Free Republic)
I can’t improve on this – From the Superficial: “Madonna kicked off her new tour by crucifying herself on a giant mirrored cross and wearing a crown of thorns. The difference between Madonna and Jesus? When Jesus did it everybody in the world didn't want to punch him in the face.” Ho-freakin'-hum, Madonna. Why not try something really controversial and come out with a Koran stuffed down your pants? That'll get people talkin'!
Tenth most important foreign policy goal for Democrats

From a Boston Globe story on the Democrats’ shifting foreign policy:

Consider: After Sept. 11, most Democrats agreed that defeating al Qaeda should be foreign policy goal No. 1. Now, while most Americans still share that goal, Democrats rate it 10th, according to a Security and Peace Initiative poll last year; withdrawal from Iraq is named first. Another survey, from MIT, showed that doubts about interventionism have spread beyond Iraq: As of November 2005, only 59 percent of the party-versus 94 percent of Republicans-still supported the invasion of Afghanistan. [Emphasis in original.]
Tenth. No wonder they won’t articulate a foreign policy.
The federal court – According to Confirm Them, Bill Frist filed a cloture motion for Brett Kavanaugh. Allegedly there will be a vote this week, therefore I expect there won’t be.
Fact-filled forays - Opinion Journal sets the record straight on global warming and Iraq. Bookmark these for later.
Dem-ja Vu

Going into the midterm elections, it seems the Democrats have chosen a strategy of tactical ambiguity, hoping that Americans view the election as a referendum on Republican leadership instead of a choice.

Here’s Donald Lambro in the Washington Times with “In search of an agenda” (Hat tip: Q&O):

The Democrats' election-year agenda is still a work in progress as party leaders attempt the impossible: to draft a document that appeals to all of its disparate ideological factions. But the word coming out of the Democrats' inner sanctums is, there's deep disagreement over its contents and core message and a brewing argument over the timing of its release.
Even the party faithful is getting antsy about presenting some kind of message. Here’s Paul Begala on the Huffington Post:

I am deeply frustrated with a party establishment that does everything except tell people what we stand for. They spend millions on voter files, field work, phone banks, staff, consultants, etc...and yet people don't know what we stand for. I am not opposed to hiring organizers. I'm opposed to pretending that hiring organizers is in any way a substitute for having a message.
Message, shmessage, say the Democrats. Victory will be assured by simply repeating: “We’re not the Republicans.” I seem to recall that this was a winning strategy for somebody else on the national stage:

Though [“Inside the Bubble”] director Steve Rosenbaum refers to himself as "a lifelong Democrat" and Kerry supporter, the film's press release describes it as following "a disorganized, contentious, self-absorbed team that thought they could win by 'not making mistakes,' and keeping their candidate in the public eye without clarifying a position on anything."
Then there’s taking every side of an issue:

Equivocating politicians are sometimes accused of trying to be "all things to all people," but few have taken the practice of expedience and shifty opportunism to Kerry's level.
Just what were the core beliefs of the Democrats’ presidential nominee? Maybe Kerry’s press man Jim Loftus can explain:

After the swirl of the campaign is over, Loftus is interviewed and offered as a sage to pinpoint the Kerry team's one great weakness. "What was the overarching point of the campaign?" he asks. "I don't know what the hell it was … I don't know now. I lived it for 11 months, admittedly intoxicated and exhausted and strung out from cigarettes and arguing with the press and sappers and the whole thing. I don't know. That's a problem.”
Of course it helps to have support from a sympathetic press corps:

The expectations had gotten so out of control that, on Tuesday afternoon, we reporters gathered in the ballroom of the Fairmont Copley Plaza had already moved on to the second-, third-, and fourth-day stories. The exit polls seemed to show such a clear sweep of the battleground states for John Kerry that the news of his victory already seemed stale. What would the more solidly Republican Senate mean for Kerry's ambitious health care plan? Who would he appoint to replace ailing Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist? Most important, how could Kerry co-opt John McCain, a Republican frontrunner for the 2008 presidential election? Yep, it's true. We were already speculating about the dynamics of Kerry's reelection campaign.
And the credulous “reality-based” wing of the blogosphere:

In detail. Tied race, incumbent fatigue, good closer for an opponent... those tied polls with Bush's numbers actually dropping may not tell you what the final Kerry percentage will be, but it's looking pretty bad for Bush any way you slice it.
Failing to have learned from their own history, the Democrats are poised to repeat it. Add me to the chorus that predicts: “come November, the Democrats will once again be wondering how they let an opportunity that seemed so golden slip away.”

Monday, May 22, 2006

Musta got Lost - I meant to post more tonight, but I got sidetracked watching the Season 1 DVDs of Lost. Now I'm all ready for the finale Wednesday.

4 8 15 16 23 42
See you again at the height of beach season – Yet another government probe into price gouging leads to yet another dead-end: “An investigation by U.S. antitrust authorities found no evidence that oil companies illegally manipulated gasoline prices or constrained oil refining operations, the Federal Trade Commission said Monday.” Thank heaven that political investigations are a renewable resource.
New digs – Lorie Byrd, formerly of Polipundit, has found a new home at Wizbang. Good for her.
The Breck Girl returns – You know, I wouldn’t mind John Edwards so much if not for his overwhelming self-regard. He’s a one-term Senator and he spent half of his tenure running for the vice presidency. Before that, he was an ambulance chaser. The American Thinker asks if Edwards was “The worst vice presidential candidate in history?” I assume it’s limited to American politics.
The wild Left and the mild Left – Opinion Journal reflect on “Days of Rage John McCain and Joe Lieberman feel the wrath of the antiwar left.” However, by all accounts, Condi Rice received a warm welcome during her commencement address to Boston College today.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Cold cash

I don’t know why the FBI is making a big deal about Representative William Jefferson and his methods of storing money:

All but $10,000 was recovered on Aug. 3 when the FBI searched Jefferson's home in Washington. The money was stuffed in his freezer, wrapped in $10,000 packs and concealed in food containers and aluminum foil.
Nothing suspicious about that at all! (There goes the “culture of corruption” meme.)
Presented without comment

Here’s an excerpt from an interview with historian Morris Berman that appeared in today’s Boston Globe:

Q: Isn't the war on terror protecting the American way of life?

A: The real question is where 9/11 came out of. Americans have trouble getting their minds around the fact that what happened on 9/11 was reactive rather than offensive. We had been doing certain things to the Arab and Islamic worlds for decades, and finally they decided they weren't going to take it anymore. That does not mean that it's OK for 3,000 citizens to get slaughtered, of course not. But are we interested in how many of their citizens we slaughter? How could they do this when we're so good? George Bush said. Well, examine the possibility, as Jimmy Carter suggested, that we're not all that good.
Read the whole thing.
While American kids waste their time learning fractions

From the WashPost: “This is a Saudi textbook”:

Fifth grade: “Whoever obeys the Prophet and accepts the oneness of God cannot maintain a loyal friendship with those who oppose God and His Prophet, even if they are his closest relatives.”

Eight grade: “God told His Prophet, Muhammad, about the Jews, who learned from parts of God's book [the Torah and the Gospels] that God alone is worthy of worship. Despite this, they espouse falsehood through idol-worship, soothsaying, and sorcery. In doing so, they obey the devil.”

Eleventh grade: “The greeting 'Peace be upon you' is specifically for believers. It cannot be said to others.”
That last one wins the “unintentional irony” award.

Extra - Many links over at Memeorandum.
Kyle Petty wins

Well, he didn’t win the NASCAR All-Star challenge tonight but came in eight essentially by not wrecking. Coca-Cola has already dedicated a quarter-million dollars to his Victory Junction campaign:

Behind the wheel of a special MyCokeRewards racecar, Kyle Petty will continue his hard-driving campaign for the health and well-being of chronically ill youth.
During driver introductions tonight, Kyle came out with a Victory Junction kid who was obviously thrilled to be in the spotlight.
Now 20% less boring! - Al Gore is cereal about ManBearPig global warming.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sunday morning lineup – Condi Rice is making the rounds, so the new Iraqi government will be discussed.
Nagin or Landrieu? - New Orleans mayor updated results.

At this writing, with about half the precincts reporting: Landrieu 52% - Nagin 48%.

Update - Nagin wins, 52%-48%; boards school bus for victory party.
Free speech for me, but not for thee - If I had been John McCain, I would have scrapped my commencement address to the New School and replaced it with a speech about the intolerance of the Left to opinions that don’t align with their own.

Extra – From Southern Appeal: “This story immediately made me think of Buckley’s famous quip, “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”
English only – From Opinion Journal: “Top 5 books on the history and use of English” I might have added “The Story of English” by Robert McCrum, which was the companion book to the PBS series.
A step in the right direction – From CNN: “Iraq’s new unity government sworn in” – “Iraq's first permanent government since the fall of Saddam Hussein was approved by parliament and sworn in on Saturday, despite the failure to fill three ministry posts because of political disputes.”

Friday, May 19, 2006

Promises made that cannot be kept

Writing on Asymmetrical Info, “Winterspeak” notes that state governments now have to explicitly take into accounting the massive future liability of healthcare expenses:

I like this step because it does not change any part of the entitlement process, which is politically problematic, it's simply more honest and upfront about costs. I'd like to see the same thing happen to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I don't think those systems can be reformed without first making their costs explicit.
Well put. The present unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare range between $60 and $70 trillion. (That’s “trillion” with a “T”.) Americans are going to get the first taste of the entitlement tsunami when payments start to outpace revenues and the Social Security trust fund starts to cash in T-bills. Then, instead of using the surplus to mask the true size of the budget deficit, the Treasury will have to (somehow) find the cash to cover those securities. From then on, the problem will just continue to snowball.

Sad to say, I don’t believe that putting these liabilities “on the books” would change anything in Washington.
Obviously, somebody put a little Irish in his morning coffee - Scott Adams of Dilbert fame believes that Joe Biden can win the presidency. *Gong* Thanks for playing.
With a name like “Howell” you know it’s got to be snooty

Slate’s reviewer Jack Shafer doesn’t think much of former NY Times editor Howell Raines self-serving memoir:

How much of the crap sluicing through this book does Raines really believe? All, I'm afraid. In Chapter 33 he boasts of possessing a "high regard for factual and moral truth," even in memos to the staff, the implied conclusion being that inferior forces at the newspaper—the dullards, lifers, and militant traditionalists whom he threatened—toppled him for speaking straight.
Raines also takes a swipe at “brainless bloggers” even though we have more credibility than Jayson Blair. Remember him, Howell? No? (Hat tip: Spartacus)
Energy shortages rock – I got to work this morning and the power was completely off. They told me to go home, which I did reluctantly. No, wait, that’s not the word. Whatever the opposite of “reluctantly” is.
Happy first blogoversary to AJ Strata! (Now how about a link?)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Okily, dokily Ned! – The original political commercial is weird and slightly disturbing but the remix is funny and fantastic. Fear the latter, Joe Lieberman. Or not.
Your tax money at work – Why do I have to pay a dozen FBI agents to find Jimmy Hoffa? Geraldo Rivera probably would have done it for free.
Democrats unserious about energy policy

Once a year or so, Robert Samuelson writes an article about the budget deficit and Amtrak. The reason he picks on Amtrak is that it’s a symbol for the government’s inability to make hard decisions:

As for Amtrak, it swallows ever-larger subsidies to provide mediocre service for a small minority of travelers. In fiscal 2005 it's receiving $1.2 billion for carrying about 25 million people. By contrast, airlines carried 636 million domestic passengers last year.
But now that Americans are outraged about high gas prices, the Democrats have seized the opportunity to submit an anodyne, toothless, and feckless energy plan. The centerpiece of the plan is encapsulated in this bullet point:

Free the US from foreign oil by 2020 by supporting research, development, and production of alternative energy sources.
The singing of “Kumbaya” is optional.

If the Democrats were truly serious about energy independence and leadership-by-example, they would support the development of the Cape Wind project off of Ted Kennedy’s beloved Nantucket. This is their Amtrak moment, the token step that would indicate that they’re truly serious about a long-term energy policy. Throw in some strict CAFE standards also instead of the milquetoast “Provide consumers with more fuel efficient vehicle choices” and we’ll be on to something. Yet their “plan” doesn’t even contain the word “nuclear” which now accounts for one-fifth of all electricity generation. So whatever you do, don’t pretend these so-called “ideas” will do anything to substantially mitigate America’s energy problem:

Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said his party's bill was an answer to critics who had accused Democrats of lacking ideas. "This is a big idea," he said.
Yes, the problem is big. The Democrats just don’t provide any real solutions.

Extra - From the Financial Times and "The Do-Nothing Party": "Whether it is putting flesh on their call for US "energy independence", addressing America's rising health and education costs, or seriously addressing how to solve the crisis in Iraq, Democrats need to go beyond the politics of slogans."
Amazing Race follow-up

All the teams appeared on the CBS "Early Show" this morning and BJ & Tyler were presented with their $500,000 checks. Then Phil directed the stage over to Ray who started to say some mundane things about racing with hippies and frat boys before getting down on one knee and proposing to Yolanda.

She totally did not see it coming. It was classic.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Amazing Race finale – The Hippies prevail!

After an extended recap of the season past, the final three teams started out from Bangkok, Thailand and had to travel 75 miles by cab to a town to find an elephant. In another product placement, the teams needed to get a T-Mobile Sidekick from the elephant for the next clue. Predictably, the elephant park doesn't open until morning so it's a typical Last Leg bunchup before the final sprint.

The clue directs everybody to the Shibuya which is the Times Square of Tokyo, Japan. Tyler is stoked: he has a Japanese girlfriend and appears to speak fluent Japanese. Unfortunately for Team Burning Man, the other teams grab the last seats on the first flight from Thailand to Tokyo. Team Frat Boys and Team Volcano arrive a couple hours ahead of the hippies and take a marked car to the "busiest intersection in the world" where the teams must search the flashing billboards for the next clue. The clue says "Find Hachiko" which is a statue of a dog in the square with the next clue.

This is the Detour: Maiden or Messenger. Teams may either travel to a tea garden and carry a women a couple hundred yards in carrier and then engage in a tea ceremony, or play bike messenger and deliver a pair of packages. The hippies figure they can find the buildings fast with their language skills and they may be right. The Frat Boys struggle under the weight of the wicker carrier while Ray & Yolanda haven't even gotten to the Shibuya yet as we break for commerical.

Eric & Jeremy finish the Detour first and the next clue sends them to the Capsule Land Hotel where people sleep in little pods because space is so limited in Toyko. Jeremy actually says something funny and not sexist: "I hope we don't wake up and it's 1972." A Futurama reference would have been better, but hey. BJ & Tyler arrive next followed by Ray & Yolanda. In sequence, the teams receive cards informing them that departure times are 9am, 9:15am, and 9:30am.

The next morning, the teams head to an amusement park on the foot of Mount Fuji. The next clue is a Roadblock: one person must ride on three different thrill rides and look for a man holding a yellow-and-red sign pointing them to the next destination. On the last ride, Jeremy & Tyler both see the sign for Lake Yamanaka which is the next Pit Stop. There the teams must take a pedal boat shaped like a swan to a bigger swan hotel boat. The hippies pedal fast and arrive as Team #1; they win T-Mobile Sidekick and 3 years service. Hooray. The Frat Boys are bitter at their #2 finish and warn the hippies they're playing for keeps. Ray & Yolanda come in last but it's a non-elimination leg meaning they'll be penniless and language-challenged heading into the final leg.

[Extra long CBS commercial break. They're really milking it tonight.]

The final leg starts and the teams start out in the middle of the night for Anchorage, Alaska. It looks like BJ & Tyler left Team Volcano a couple of bucks and they pick up a couple more yen at a local restaurant. Team Frat Boys and Team Burning Man head to the airport after some Internet shenanigans at the hotel. The hippies get a later flight to Anchorange but make a switch at the airport back to the same flight as Eric & Jeremy. Ray & Yolanda sneak onto the plane also so everybody is bunched up again in Taipai waiting for the flight to Anchorange. Even again.

It's cold in Alaska. Teams must drive to Mirror Lake some 10 miles from the airport. Strangely, Team Volcano and Team Burning Man, who were both supposed to have "just the clothes on their back" due to non-elimination leg penalties have winter coats. Hmmmm....there must be some kind of survival rule on the Amazing Race. At the lake, it's the Detour: Drill it or Deliver it. Teams must drill 10 fishing holes in the ice using a hand auger then set up a fishing shack OR they must deliver "medical supplies" to an outpost via ice plane. Nevermind option #2: the pilot informs the teams that the weather has the planes socked in so everybody chooses to drill ice holes. The Frat Boys finish first and head to the next clue at Kincaid Park.

All three teams are now heading towards the park where they have to don snow shoes and find a chalet. The Frat Boys head out first while BJ & Tyler walk right past the snow shoes propped up on a ledge outside. Eric & Jeremy find the clue first: fly to the Race's final destination in Denver, Colorado which is where the Race began. So this is truly a race completely around the world. Unsurprisingly, there aren't many flights from Anchorage Alaska to Denver and all teams are together on the final flight of the Race.

Teams neeed to find a clue at a park in Golden, Colrado and the Frat Boys find it first: head to Red Rocks amphitheater and (another) next clue. The Frat Boys and then the Hippies arrive very close together and it's a Roadblock: one team member must search among 285 flags in a field and find the nine national flags from the countries visited on the Race: Brazil, Russia, Germany, Italy, Greece, Oman, Australia, Thailand, and Japan and then place them in the order visited. The other team member may assist, but cannot help physically. BJ does the Roadblock for the hippies. Both of them have their flag order completely wrong. Meanwhile, Ray & Yolanda are still back in Golden.

The hippies have their flags all in the correct order but shifted over by one because they couldn't initially find the Russian flag. Eric & Jeremy keep asking the judge if their flags are correct (they aren't) and then get desperate and start swapping flags indiscriminately. I think they tried an African flag and this might be the only Race ever not to go to Africa. Eventually BJ discovers his error and places the Russian flag after Brazil then shifts all the other flags down. The judge gives the thumbs up and they race to Phil and the mat.

And there they are, all by themselves, as the eight other teams before them applaud their finish. Team Burning Man, the hippies, BJ & Tyler arrive first and win the Amazing Race.

Final standings:

Winners of the Amazing Race 9 - Team Burning Man - BJ & Tyler
Prize: $1,000,000

Second place: Team Frat Boys - Eric & Jeremy
Third place: Team Volcano - Ray & Yolanda

Editorial comment – The best Amazing Race ever? Well, I think I missed one season but this one was darn good. Super sites from nine different countries, excellent competition, likable teams, Phil’s arching eyebrow – this one had it all. The cherry on top was watching a dejected Frat Boy gripe: “I guess I’ll have to go back to waiting tables.” That’s right, chump! T-TOW!

Extra – This spot reserved for Kris and Pat. T-TOW! to them too!
Sweeps month mayhem! - For those of you tuning in for the Amazing Race update, it's going to be slightly delayed tonight due to a conflict with "Lost" and a lack of usable VCRs in my home. Rest assured that I'm on the job.

Curiously, there has been no buzz leaking through about who might have won this season. (I couldn't resist making sure the Weavers didn't win last time). So it's going to be a real surprise.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

#5 should be #1 – From Blender: “The 50 worst artists in music history” The list is pretty good if only because there isn’t one on there I would say: “No way!” I might have added Rod Stewart post-1980.
For most, the answer is “no - Tonight on PBS is a Frontline special: “Can you afford to retire?
Just like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn floating down the Mississippi

In Peabody, Ovel Santiago, Chayanne Vasquez, Scott Ingham, and Keiana Christiansen floated down Walnut Street yesterday on a piece of styrofoam they found. (Bill Greene / Globe Staff)

Boston Globe story: “Flooding besets region; more rain in forecast.” Yeah, it’s wet.
We’re all soldiers now – From the Boston Globe: “Profiles in courage on September 11th: Ordinary people do fight terror.”
Much like my high school social life, this blog is a solo effort

I’ve pretty much steered clear of the immigration debate, not because I don’t have an opinion on the matter, but because others have much stronger opinions. However, never did I imagine there’s be a topic so volatile to split apart one of the best group blogs. Nevertheless, Polipundit decided there was no room for debate on immigration prompting contributor Lorie Byrd to jump ship. In response, John Podhoretez wrote a critical post on the Corner titled: “The inability to stomach disagreement.”

It’s a classic lose-lose situation since Polipundit will be a weaker blog with a single voice while Lorie and the other Polipundit contributors will have to retreat to their less-traveled personal blogs. Plus it makes Polipundit (the blogger) appear intolerant to dissent, a defect we usually associate with the moonbat Left.

The lesson here: don’t get stuck in entangling alliances.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The MSM mind, revealed

I know news anchors make mistakes all the time, but why does it always seem to go one way? Here’s Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room today:

"And a veteran GOP congressman under investigation for corruption went before the cameras in New Orleans just a short while ago. That would be a Democratic congressman, William Jefferson of Louisiana. He announced he would not resign, and he declared he did not -- quote -- "sell my office." Jefferson says he will not plead guilty to something he didn't do.

Earlier this month, a Louisville businessman pleaded guilty to bribing Jefferson to promote his firm's high-tech business in Africa. Jefferson denies accepting payments in return for government service. Once again, Jefferson is a Democrat, not a Republican."
So noted.

Follow-upWhoops! CNN makes another “mistake.”
Socialism + racism = famine + economic ruin

From the WashPost: “Desperate Zimbabwe moves to lure back white ex-farmers

Other former farmers have treated the government's offer with suspicion bordering on contempt. President Robert Mugabe encouraged landless black peasants to invade commercial farms beginning in February 2000. He portrayed the longtime white owners -- about 4,500 farmers who owned most of the country's best agricultural land -- as thieves who had deprived the 12 million black Zimbabweans of their birthrights.
The downward spiral of Zimbabwe can be blamed on nobody but Robert Mugabe who stoked the flames of racism and encouraged a violent melee of land redistribution. As a result, Zimbabwe has degenerated from the former “breadbasket of central Africa” to a top recipient of international food aid. Six years later, Mugabe can no longer blame Whitey for Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation, privation and ruin.

Extra - Will Franklin has a much more on Zimbabwe: “When "reducing inequality" becomes the primary goal and function of a government, economic disaster is on its way. Guaranteed.” Word.
Democrats waste money and engage in disgusting habits

That’s what uber-liberal Paul Begala had to say on CNN:

BLITZER: Very quickly, is Howard Dean in trouble?

BEGALA: No. I think Candy's report was spot on.

He -- yes, he's in trouble, in that campaign managers, candidates, are really angry with him. He has raised $74 million and spent $64 million. He says it's a long-term strategy. But what he has spent it on, apparently, is just hiring a bunch of staff people to wander around Utah and Mississippi and pick their nose. That's not how you build a party. You win elections. That's how you build a party.
(Hat tip: Sixers)
Nuke-U-Ler is the way to go – From the Boston Globe: “Nuclear should be a part of our energy future.”
Uh-oh – Tom Maguire is predicting a 70% chance for a Rove indictment. His sourcing is at least as impeccable as the rumor that Karl was about to be frog-marched from the White House.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Do you want to know a secret?

Well, I finally finished all 983 pages of “The Beatles” by Bob Spitz. Here’s the abridged version:

1 – John Lennon was a right bastard.
2 – Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles.
3 – Paul McCartney (not dead!) is raw ambition personified.
4 – George Harrison started writing great songs just as the band was splitting.
5 – Ringo Starr spent much of his childhood in a hospital.
6 – Everything fell apart after Brian Epstein died.
7 – The Beatles stopped touring because they could not hear themselves on stage.
1000% inflation

Robert Mugabe’s slow-motion destruction of Zimbabwe continues unabated:

Zimbabwe's inflation rate has surged past the 1,000% mark signalling that the African country is struggling to keep its economy functioning normally.

The annual rate of price growth was 1,042.9% in April, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) said, having risen 129 percentage points from March.

It means average goods are about 11 times as expensive in April 2006 as they were 12 months earlier.

Zimbabwe is suffering from shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency.

President Robert Mugabe blames domestic and foreign enemies for the problems.
Of course he did. The highest value currency note is a Z$50,000 bill; a daily newspaper now costs Z$80,000. It kinda puts $3 gas in perspective.
This is a super idea – The NY Times political reporter Adam Nagourney asks: “Hey Democrats, why win?” and submits it would be better for the Democrats to remain in the minority to improve their long-term prospects. Listen to that man. He went to journalism school.
No looking back

According to the Boston Globe, people who have fled the People’s Republic of Massachusetts have no regrets:

A majority of people who moved out of Massachusetts last year report they are very satisfied with life in their new state and would not move back, a Boston Globe poll has found.

Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said they live in a home that is bigger than their home in Massachusetts was. Fifty-four percent said their standard of living is higher now.

The top reason people gave for leaving Massachusetts was a better job, followed by the cost of housing, family ties, and the weather. In a separate set of questions, 50 percent of those surveyed said the cost of housing was a ''major factor," and a better job was cited as a ''major factor" by 39 percent.

The findings underscored the difficulties of living, raising children, and earning enough money in Massachusetts, and suggested that these fundamental aspirations of the American middle-class are often easier for people to achieve outside the state.
I have to commute to Connecticut every work day (2 ½ hours on the road) to work at a job that will pay my Massachusetts taxes.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Sunday morning lineup – Except for Laura Bush on Fox, it’s a pretty boring schedule. Happy Mother’s Day.
Now what did Bluto and D-Day do?

According to that nut at UNC, it was much more serious than dropping fizzies at the swim meet:

A man charged with trying to kill students at UNC Chapel Hill by driving through a popular campus gathering spot says in a series of letters that he does not deserve punishment.

Mohammed Taheri-azar said in letters answering three-dozen questions from a reporter at the university's student newspaper that he won't plead guilty, as he previously planned, because his attack was justified and he doesn't deserve punishment.

"I aimed to exact casualties from an enemy responsible for thousands of casualties among Allah's followers," Taheri-azar wrote to the Daily Tar Heel.
Sounds like a very reasonable fellow. BTW, he was born in Iran but has lived in the United States since he was two years old.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Irony overload – Boston’s Peace Weekend starts out with a bang. MassBackwards has the details.
Tap my phone, please! – “Most Americans support NSA’s efforts”: “A majority of Americans initially support a controversial National Security Agency program to collect information on telephone calls made in the United States in an effort to identify and investigate potential terrorist threats, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.”
Stupid math tricks

Political junkies can get their fix with the WashPost blog of the top 10 Senate races. Math geeks can get a snort at this brilliant bit of mathemagic:

1. Pennsylvania: Two polls released this week painted vastly different pictures of the contest. The first -- by Republican firm Strategic Vision -- showed State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D) with a 49 percent to 41 percent edge over Sen. Rick Santorum (R); the second -- conducted by Quinnipiac University -- had Casey ahead by a wider 49 percent to 36 percent margin. Which is right? Here's a little trick The Fix learned from political analyst Charlie Cook (our former boss): When two polls show varying results in the same race, take the two and split the difference.
Congratulations, you’ve discovered the “averaging” theorem.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Good books

The NY Times polled a bunch of literary types for the best American fiction over the last 25 years and found that “Beloved” by Toni Morrison was tops. Well, I can’t give an opinion on that although I did read Morrison’s “Sula.” I also read runner-up “American Pastoral” by Philip Roth and honorable mention “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole.

Personally, I would have added “The Sportswriter” by Richard Ford, “Paris Trout” by Pete Dexter, and “The Shipping News” by E. Annie Proulx.
Turn that frown upside down

Sure, the polls are bad and the base is depressed, but if the Republicans have nowhere to go but up then check this out:

CQ has an interactive map up to chart the 2006 races. For ALL the negative stuff we've heard over the past few weeks, CQ, as of today, has Republicans holding both the House and the Senate.
Just like Scott predicted. Also, Jay Cost says to ignore the generic polls before Labor Day and the WashPost reports that the Democrats are broke and fighting. Finally, Rich Karlgaard in Forbes explains “Why the Dems won’t win in November”:

The hate that animates the American Left today is a sad thing … so different than the search for common good, quality and social justice which used to animate progressive politics, says Brad Carson, a former Democratic Congressman from Oklahoma. He’s right. That’s why I don’t lose too much sleep worrying about Speaker Pelosi.
It’s a long way to November, kids.
Yes, yes, Death to Israel, we know – Does this guy ever shut up? Meanwhile, James Lileks transcribes Ahmedinejad’s letter to Bush.
Renewable energy is for the little people, continued

From the Boston Globe: “4 legislators weigh in on wind farm measure

Four Massachusetts congressmen say they will vote for a measure that could kill the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm as the face-off over the project intensifies on Capitol Hill. US Representatives William Delahunt, Barney Frank, Edward Markey, and Richard Neal plan to vote for the provision, according to an AP survey.
Every kind of energy requires some kind of sacrifice but the Kennedy clan and its acolytes stand against wind power because of the aesthetic “impact” on their Nantucket vacation homes.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Update from the Hanso Foundation - The code for the sublymonal message is: Heir Apparent


Follow-up - Well OK then - Lost creator J.J. Abrams says: “The ending of this year in Lost blows the ending of last season out of the water. It's an incredible finale…it's the greatest finale I have ever heard.”
The second time was to get his hatLorie Byrd on Polipundit: “Judicial Watch has been successful in getting the White House to release their visitor logs and it appears that Jack Abramoff visited the White House – brace yourselves – two times since 2001. Two! Wow. That is one more than one.” Lorie also compares Abramoff’s access to certain other visitors to the White House.
Amazing Race update – Thai-dyed hippies

The final four teams started out the Race from Darwin, Australia and had to make their way to Bangkok, Thailand in the middle of the night. The hippies were last in the non-elimination leg last week so they start out with no money and the clothes on their backs. This normally wouldn’t be a big deal except BJ hit the mat with no pants or shoes. Yolanda leaves a pair of purple pants which look ridiculous on the hippie while the Frat Boys contribute a pair of sandals. Before heading to the airport, BJ & Tyler beg for cash at the local Darwin hot spot and the Australians appear to be very generous. The bad news, however, is that the other teams get the last spots on the first plane to Bangkok so Team Burning Man is starting out with a big disadvantage.

Once in Bangkok, teams need to take a taxi to a bus depot and then find the Three Spire Pagoda which is surrounded by “sacred” monkeys. Team Volcano and Team Frat Boys get the first bus at midnight while Team MoJo gets bad advice from their cab driver who tells them the first bus doesn’t leave until morning. This gives the hippies a chance to catch-up and they wait outside the pagoda until morning as MoJo slumbers.

At daybreak, all teams except MoJo rip open the next clue to find an envelope reading “open at the pit stop” along with a Roadblock and a Fast Forward. The Frat Boys, who took the last FF couldn’t take this one, so Team Volcano and the hippies both head out to a restaurant two miles away. The Fast Forward task is that each team member must eat a bowl of deep-fried crickets and grasshoppers. Ray & Yolanda balk then head back to the Roadblock leaving BJ & Tyler to eat insects. Portentously, buckets are provided (and they are later used). But if they can chug bugs, the hippies skip all remaining tasks and head directly to the Pit Stop.

Back at the Roadblock, the other teams must create a feast for the monkeys by cutting up a bunch of fruit. This is made more difficult by the fact that the monkeys swarm around the fruit arrangements as the teams try to finish them. Eric, then Joseph, then Yolanda finish and turn and head to Koh Kret island for the next clue. This is the Detour: Move It or Alter It. Teams may either transport 72 clay jugs on flat boards to the river or apply gold leaf to a Buddha statue. The Frat Boys and Ray & Yolanda put gold leaf on Buddha while Monica & Joseph choose to transport jugs.

Meanwhile BJ & Tyler are barely making it through their feast of crickets and for a second they eye the taxi that could take them back to the Roadblock. But that’s not really an option so they plow ahead. Tyler is especially having trouble (the bucket is close at hand) but he eventually finishes. Team Burning Man heads directly to the Pit Stop where they arrive as Team #1, going from worst to first.

Most of the camera action is on Monica and Joseph since there’s not much fun it watching people paint statues. They try to balance the ceramic jugs on the planks but Monica can’t seem to carry much without pots crashing to the ground around her. It takes them three trips to carry all 72 pots; in one trip Monica carries exactly two pots while Joseph carries more than 20. Back at the Buddhist temple, Eric & Jeremy finish their statue followed by Ray & Yolanda. Team Mojo finishes their task and now all teams are heading to the Pit Stop at the Marble Temple.

It’s a heavy traffic taxi ride to the Pit Stop and the tension builds. The Frat Boys arrive as Team #2. It appears that Team Volcano and Team Mojo arrive pretty close together and Yolanda is ordered to put on something to cover up her bare arms before entering the temple. Team Volcano arrives as team #3 and also win a Travelocity yacht cruise around Sydney (the "open at pit stop" envelope). Team Mojo hits the mat for the last time as they are eliminated; they take the news surprisingly well.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Burning Man – BJ & Tyler
#2 – Team Frat Boys – Eric & Jeremy
#3 – Team Volcano – Ray & Yolanda
#4 – Team Mojo – Monica & Joseph – PHILIMILATED

Next week: The final three teams race to the finish line and the $1 million prize.

Extra – This space reserved for recaps by Kris & Pat.
College is very expensive - U.S. Judge Michael Luttig resigned his $171,800 seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals today to take a much better paying job at Boeing. He wrote this in his letter to President Bush: ""I am convinced," he added, that this is the right decision for me at this time, and most importantly, for my family. . . . This is especially so, as I am sure you can understand, given that" he has two children approaching college age." Yeesh.
Economics 001 – Dale Franks charts the price of oil and the price of gasoline to demonstrate where “those bloodsucking oil merchants” gouged us with an outrageous markup. Bring on the next investigation, I say!
We earn, we spend, we want more – Robert Samuelson looks at “Affluence and its discontents” in the WashPost: “Advanced societies need economic growth to satisfy the multiplying wants -- public and private -- of their citizens. The social order depends on it. But the quest for growth unleashes new anxieties and economic conflicts that disturb the social order.”
The GOP is in rough shape

But it doesn’t necessarily mean that the Democrats will benefit. From “No wonder voters doubtful about Dems” by Thomas Bray on Real Clear Politics:

Democrats hope that George Bush's miserable poll numbers will help them reclaim control of Congress this fall. But polls also show that the Democratic Party's overall approval ratings are almost as deep in the tank as the Republican rating. Voters may be expressing dismay at the alternatives.
The closer we get to election day, the greater the chance of a “Paul Wellstone” moment where the Democrats drop the mask and reveal their true agenda.
Why Johnny Massachusetts can’t read

The Bay State requires that all high school seniors pass a test called the MCAS to receive a high school diploma; the basic idea is that there should be some kind of standard applied to a diploma, including the ability to read and write. Every year, some school decides that standards and the law are secondary to just moving kids through the educational system. From the Boston Globe - “State warns New Bedford not to relax MCAS rule”:

Governor Mitt Romney and state education leaders threatened yesterday to cut the New Bedford school system's funding and rescind certification of administrators if they grant diplomas to high school students who failed the MCAS exams.

New Bedford school officials would violate state law on graduation requirements and will have to back down, state officials said. Three school systems vowed to give diplomas to students whether or not they passed the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests around the time the law went into effect in 2003, but the school districts, pushed by the state, later gave in.

''To say that we should graduate kids who haven't met the basic standards of reading and math is a gross mistake," Romney said during a press conference yesterday. ''It's a vote of no confidence in our kids. If there's no test and there's no standards, then the graduation degree doesn't mean anything."
Well put, Mitt. Also, from the NY Times: “Two Setbacks for Exit Exams Taken by High School Seniors.”

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Question answered – It doesn’t get more direct than this: “Is Lost a Repeat?
Another justice for the Court of Appeals – Senators on the judiciary committee grilled Brett Kavanaugh again putatively to gain more information but mostly to grandstand and ask questions they already knew the answers to.

Confirm Them reports: “It looks like Brett Kavanaugh will be reported out of the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, and then will be confirmed without a serious filibuster attempt.”

Meanwhile AJ Strata enjoyed Schumer’s angst: “The fact Kavanaugh could not be linked to anything left the Democrats to whine about nothing at all. Schumer looked particularly frustrated and defeated. Quite enjoyable.” The Coalition of the Chillin’ abides.
Angry and crazy – Captain Ed: “Will Rage undo the Democrats?” Also from Brothers Judd -“Today’s Left exists only to amuse the rest of us”: “They aren't just reactionary; they're delusional.”
Full mental jacket

From the NY Times: “In men, ‘trigger happy’ may be a hormonal impulse”:

Psychologists at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., enrolled 30 male students in what they described as a taste study. The researchers took saliva samples from the students and measured testosterone levels.

They then seated the young men, one at a time, at a table in a bare room; on the table were pieces of paper and either the board game Mouse Trap or a large handgun.

Their instructions: take apart the game or the gun and write directions for assembly and disassembly.

Fifteen minutes later, the psychologists measured saliva testosterone again and found that the levels had spiked in men who had handled the gun but had stayed steady in those working with the board game.
I’m not convinced this has anything to do with guns per se. I’m sure the same results would have been found with the following control-test pairs:

Led Zeppelin vs. Barry Manilow
Mustang vs. minivan
Buffalo wings vs. Caesar salad
NASCAR vs. baseball

Create you own!
Down the drain – Byron York examines how Bush lost the Democrats, then the independents, then the conservatives.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Unbelievably tactically stupid – That’s how Slate characterized Nancy Pelosi’s recent statements and her appearance on “Meet the Press” which parallels my pre-show assessment and further supports my prediction that the Democrats will find a way to lose in November, which is still a long ways off.

Extra – Much more from Gateway Pundit, who believes “add-on” is a code for a tax hike. However, it’s clear that Pelosi meant a government program paid for by taxpayers, which is completely different.
Outrageous profits - $3.19 a gallon? A 12.38% profit margin? When will Washington step in and put an end to the obscene cash grab over at Kraft Foods?
What the….? This prison isn’t very nice at all.

This is some serious convict regret: “Moussaoui Says He Lied on Stand About Role in Sept. 11, Asks to Withdraw Guilty Plea

Moussaoui's court-appointed lawyers told the court they filed the motion even though a federal rule "prohibits a defendant from withdrawing a guilty plea after imposition of sentence."
And you can forget all about that ‘God curse America’ stuff. Just kidding.”
Sink or swim at MIT

A practice held over since World War II, 14% of colleges still require a swimming test to graduate. Today’s Boston Globe has a hilarious article about poor Stephanie Yeh of MIT who pushed off the requirement until her senior year:

Seven days before the test, Stephanie Yeh stood in her sorority house and cried.

An electrical engineering and computer science major, she was set to graduate near the top of her MIT class next month and start a six-figure job as a Wall Street analyst.

Just one test, terrifying to her, remained. She, like scores of undergraduates at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had been putting it off for nearly four years. But Yeh and the others have to pass this exam to graduate.

She had to swim 100 yards, four lengths of a pool, without stopping.

The problem: Yeh never learned how to swim.
She makes it in the end, calling it “the hardest test I’ve ever taken at MIT.”

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Ridiculing Kerry is the highest form of patriotism - Ann Althouse asks: “Does John Kerry makes any sense?” Meanwhile, Tim Blair finds the Senator misquoting Thomas Jefferson yet again. Golly, I hope he runs in 2008.

Bonus – Welcome, Instapundit readers! Wow, see what happens when you don’t check your blog for a couple of hours.
Renewable energy is for the little people

Jeff Jacoby notes that Ted Kennedy likes regulations when it suits him, but not when it affects his view from Hyannis Port: “Kennedy doesn’t play by the rules”:

But like a lot of well-to-do Cape and Islands landowners and sailing enthusiasts, Kennedy doesn't want to share his Atlantic playground with an energy facility, no matter how clean, green, and nearly unseen. Last month he secretly arranged for a poison-pill amendment, never debated in either house of Congress, to be slipped into an unrelated Coast Guard bill. It would give the governor of Massachusetts, who just happens to be a wind farm opponent, unilateral authority to veto the Cape Wind project.
Both Ted Kennedy and John Kerry have twisted themselves into pretzels trying to present their green bona fides while opposing a renewable energy solution in their own backyard.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

What $13 trillion shortfall? - From Cato: “The Social Security sidestep” (Hat tip: Pejman)
People are fed up with crazy Tom’Mission’ fizzling – Box office imploding”: “Friday night's numbers are in for "Mission: Impossible III," and they aren't what Paramount or Tom Cruise might have hoped for. The JJ Abrams-directed blockbuster took in only $17 million according to website That's a good $3 million off the lowest predictions, and $8 million off what a real mega hit would have been.”
Sunday morning lineup – Nancy Pelosi will be on Meet the Press. That’s all you really need to know since she is, without a doubt, the worst interviewee in television history.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Nerds rule the world - Without revealing too much about my professional life, I wholeheartedly agree with nearly every bit of this post on Business Pundit: “Why business needs more geeks.”
Quick shots

I’m heading over to a neighbor’s house for a barbeque tonight, but here are a few stories that caught my attention:

That $15 billion boondoggle – “Big Dig probe expanding 6 managers at concrete firm facing fraud charges.” When you use low-grade concrete on roadways or garden walls, it just degrades a little faster. When you use low-grade concrete in the Big Dig, you’re drowned by the Charles River.

Real Clear Politics: “No Leadership + No Urgency = No Solution To Energy Problem

John Derbyshire on Bush’s poll numbers and his loss of conservative support: “I hang out with conservatives, and I hear this ten times a week. If you bloat the budget, open the borders, and back off in the culture wars, you're going to lose conservatives. This is not rocket science.” I remain confident that the Democrats will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, right Mac?

And Porter Goss resigns – hmmm…that was sudden.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Time to apply Occam’s Razor

A Kennedy crashes his car and a patrolman reports that he “appeared intoxicated.” Was Patrick Kennedy:

1.) Late for a vote at the House of Representatives and impaired by cold medicine
2.) Drunk
3.) Coz is a fool
My John Kenneth Galbraith story

A couple years ago, I was in Boston for yet another fiber optics conference and met up with an old favorite teacher of mine from Rutgers who now teaches at Harvard. She took me to the faculty club for lunch and I wore my too-old suit. At one point she pointed over to a table with a number of very well-dressed men and whispered: “That’s John Kenneth Galbraith.” He was very old and very tall (I'm 6'3").

Anyway, it’s not nice to speak ill of the dead but George Will positively piles on in his article “Condescensional Wisdom”:

Although Galbraith coined the phrase ``conventional wisdom,'' and thought of himself as the scourge of groupthink, ``The Affluent Society'' was the distilled essence of the conventional wisdom on campuses. In the 1960s, that liberalism became a stance of disdain, describing Americans not only as Galbraith had, as vulgar, but also as sick, racist, sexist, imperialist, etc. Again, and not amazingly, voters were not amused when told that their desires -- for big cars, neighborhood schools and other things -- did not deserve respect.
Yeesh. Everything I know about economics I learned from P.J. O’Rourke’s excellent “Eat the Rich.” Concerning certain economic books, he writes this in the intro:

There are also certain books you should avoid, such as anything with the words Investment and Success in the title and everything ever written by John Kenneth Galbraith.
So noted.
That hole in the ground – And now I have to pay to prosecute six guys who poured old concrete into the $4 $15 billion Big Dig. The fun never ends.
Seeds of democracy?

Victor Davis Hanson looks at the glass half-full in the Middle East. From “Give Iran Enough Rope”:

The good news is that Iran, like all ossified societies in the current era of globalized communications, is unstable. The eighth-century theocrats in charge there could find their own citizens questioning whether a bomb is worth international ostracism and the threat of military strikes.

At the same time, what's happening now in Iraq must be of great concern to the Iranian leadership. Jawad al-Maliki, the new Iraqi prime minister, for example, is a nationalist. He, like other Iraqi Shiites, has shown he is not willing to be an Iranian pawn. As Ahmadinejad promotes death, how will Iranians react to images from Iraq of life-affirming free citizens in a new democracy?

In other words, will Iraq's new liberality prove more destabilizing to Iran than Ahmadinejad's agents can to Iraq? As Iraq's 300,000-strong army emerges as a well-trained and equipped force, one suspects the answer is yes.
Well, one can hope.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Amazing Race update – Survival of the fittest in Darwin

The final four teams started out from Perth, Australia where, in the middle of the night, they needed to find the Swan Bells (above). This bell tower doesn’t open until 8 a.m., so everybody’s bunched up again. The tension is starting to get thick as Team Mojo is very brusque with the hippies. Meanwhile, Ray & Yolanda are pretty much steering clear of the others. Just before the bell tower opens, all the teams call to reserve a taxi so that after they retrieve the clue and rush to the next stop. Eric & Jeremy then call back the taxi service and cancel both Ray’s & Tyler’s taxi (Joseph & Monica were in on the subterfuge).

Morning arrives and teams race up to get the clue: fly to Darwin, Australia. Team Mojo gets their taxi right away but Karma intervenes and Team Frat Boys’ cab is nowhere to be found. BJ & Tyler and Ray & Yolanda call for two more taxis and figure out that somebody cancelled their reservation. Tempers flare up a little at the airport and this underhanded move. Team Burning Man decides to stir the pot by suggesting that Eric has his sights set on Barbie girl Monica. Joseph is not amused.

Once in Darwin, teams race to Crocodylus Park where they walk through crocodile pens and pick up the next clue. This directs them to an airfield in the town of Batchelor – caution: Yield ahead. Both the hippies and Mojo have been threatening to yield each other and they both totally break the speed limit to get to the Yield first. At the airfield, it appears as if Monica & Joseph arrive first, but – what? – there’s Team Burning Man and they are yielding Team Mojo. Joseph is not amused again.

The airfield is, no surprise to TAR fans, a skydive Roadblock and one member from each team must jump from a perfectly good plane (in tandem, of course). BJ is first, followed by Eric, then Ray and finally Monica. The next clue directs them to Litchfield Park where they must search among these amazing Magnetic Termite Mounds. This clue is the Detour: Wet or Dry. Teams may either swim down river about a mile (while avoiding enormous spiders) or search in the forest for a didgeridoo player and then play a couple notes. The Hippies and the Frat Boys go swimming while Team Volcano and Team Mojo head into the forest. The “Dry” detour appears to be much faster and Ray & Yolanda, then Monica & Joseph finish first and start to head to the Pit Stop at Lake Bennett. Of course, the yielded Team Mojo is still way behind and Team Volcano arrives at the Pit Stop first as Team #1.

What occurs next is that rarity that makes The Amazing Race an amazing race. The remaining three teams all end up on the same road to the Pit Stop, driving in a line. All agree: this is going to come down to a footrace at the Pit Stop. The Frat Boys pull in first, the hippies next, and Mojo last; surely the guys can outrun a girl, right? Astoundingly, instead of just following the gangplank down to the pier, BJ decides to try a shortcut down the embankment and falls back just enough so that Monica arrives ahead of him (teams can only “check in” at the Pit Stop in pairs). Joseph is amused now and taunts them: “You yielded us!” However, this is another non-elimination leg and Team Burning Man is spared a second time although they must start the next leg with “the clothes on their back.” The camera pans down: BJ is barefoot.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Volcano – Ray & Yolanda – Prize: a Mercedes SUV (nice!)
#2 – Team Frat Boys – Eric & Jeremy
#3 – Team MoJo – Monica & Joseph
#4 – Team Burning Man – BJ & Tyler – NON-ELIMINATION LEG

Next week: Monkeys in Thailand. Monica is whining.

Extra – This space reserved for recaps by Kris (poetic version!) & Pat.
Three thousand Americans dead – Moussaoui gets life

From Fox News - “Moussaoui evades death, receives life in prison”: “Al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole on Wednesday for his role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "America, you lost. I won," Moussaoui said, clapping his hands as he was led out of the courtroom after the verdict was read.”

The “at-least-we-denied-him-martyrdom” argument is not playing well at Hot Air. But if you gotta live, existence in a Supermax prison might be as bad as it gets.

My only concern is how this plays out among the Islamofascists; that is, is it more or less likely to encourage terrorists attacks? Unfortunately, I think there was marginally less to fear from the martyrdom angle and this judgment may be perceived as a sign of weakness. As somebody once wrote (Samuel Johnson?), nothing sharpens the mind like a hanging in the morning. A caption reading “THIS is what we do to terrorists” would send the right message in the “weak horse/strong horse” debate.

Apropos of nothing – Remember when serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, convicted in the capital punishment-free state of Wisconsin, was bludgeoned to death by a fellow inmate? That was, ah, rotten luck.