Monday, July 31, 2006

The reality-based network - Mary Katherine Ham spends “A week with the Left” and lists all the things she learned from Air America Radio. (Hat tip: Betsy’s Page).

Brian, call your office.
The greatest generation of slackers

From the NYT - “Men not working, and not wanting just any job

About 13 percent of American men in this age group [between 30 and 55] are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960’s. The difference represents 4 million men who would be working today if the employment rate had remained where it was in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Question: How do they do it?

But the fastest growing source of help is a patchwork system of government support, the main one being federal disability insurance, which is financed by Social Security payroll taxes. The disability stipends range up to $1,000 a month and, after the first two years, Medicare kicks in, giving access to health insurance that for many missing men no longer comes with the low-wage jobs available to them.
Answer: Free money!
Opinion Journal asks “Will the Center hold?” – “Two primaries do not make a trend. But if next week, political commentators wake up and find Ms. McKinney has been ousted a second time from Congress while Mr. Lieberman has overcome the vitriolic onslaught of the liberal bloggers, they will have to acknowledge, that reports of the death of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party have been greatly exaggerated.”

Sunday, July 30, 2006

This will leave a smile on my face for three days – “Hellmuth and Brunson Knocked Out of WSOP”: “Phil Hellmuth made his traditional grand entrance into the main event late, of course, and with lots of fanfare. Not long after sitting down, though, the 10-time winner at the World Series of Poker was back on his way out.”

Not long = six hours.

Good. Good good good. There is a God and Justice in the world. Can’t wait for the ESPN video. (Hat tip to Red State)
Lieberman vs. not-Lieberman

The Washington Post and Hartford Courant have endorsed Joe Lieberman while the New York Times backs Ned Lamont with this rousing show of support:

Mr. Lamont, a wealthy businessman from Greenwich, seems smart and moderate, and he showed spine in challenging the senator while other Democrats groused privately. He does not have his opponent’s grasp of policy yet.
Ehhh…he’ll do. Mark on Decision 08 hits it:

Basically, it’s a poorly written screed that spends hundreds of words saying one thing: we don’t like George Bush, and since he’s not running, Joe Lieberman is his proxy.
IMHO, I refuse to believe that petulant Connecticut voters will jettison an experienced Senator who has voted with the Democrats 90% of the time for a dilettante who claims he’s ready for the Senate because (as his latest commercials note) he once volunteered to teach school in Bridgeport.

Extra – From the Lamont blog: “Ned will be on the Colbert Report, taking on ultra-conservative pundit Stephen Colbert.” “Ultra-conservative”?!? Bwahahahaha!!!
The Globalist quiz

From the Boston Globe:

Today, the Democratic Republic of Congo goes to the polls to elect a new president. Under President Mobutu Sese Seko, who died in 1997, Zaire (as the country was then called) saw its per capita gross domestic product decline by an average of 4.9 percent per year between 1980 and 2000, the worst record among countries for which data are available.

As Congo heads to the polls, we wonder: What is most remarkable about its recent past?

A. Fastest economic growth rate
B. Received more development aid than any other country
C. Highest birth rate in the world
D. Lowest income per capita in the world
Answer here.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Drunk Ted whines: “I don’t like conservatives

Jonathan Adler on Ted Kennedy’s tirade against Justices Roberts and Alito: “Senator Kennedy is simply upset that President Bush nominated, and the Senate confirmed, two intelligent, conservative jurists. I don't agree with all of their legal opinions thus far, but it's hard to claim that either Roberts or Alito was unqualified or should not have been confirmed.”

And here’s Matthew Franck on Bench Memos: “From start to finish, this column amounts to one long whine that Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito don’t share Senator Kennedy’s view that Senator Kennedy’s policy preferences should be enacted by the Supreme Court. What Kennedy doesn’t have is anything resembling a legal argument against a vote cast, or an opinion written or joined, by either of these two justices.”

I agree that the painful pas-de-deux called the judicial confirmation process is a sham where one party tries to unearth political leanings while the nominee repeates he/she will be unbiased. But if Democrats (such as Kennedy and Schumer) want to insist that political philosophy is a factor for confirmation, then what reason could they have for denying a President his choice for the federal bench? After all, the President is elected with that Constitutional right and turning down a judge due to political philosophy would amount to a repudiation of the people’s will by proxy.
This is John Bolton’s fault – “Iran Will Reject Proposed U.N. Resolution on Nuclear Program” Shocking, I know.
That sinking feeling

So many things offend me about the Big Dig. As an engineer, it’s an indictment of my profession. As a taxpayer, it’s an outrageous boondoggle. And as a resident of Western Massachusetts, the cost overruns will be borne in part by residents of the state who will receive almost no benefit. But now I’m getting the sickening feeling that everybody involved with the Boston tunnel project is a rank, ass-covering, liar:

Officials at the Big Dig construction company where safety officer John J. Keaveney worked in 1999 have been unable to locate a memo that Keaveney said he wrote warning his superiors that the Interstate 90 connector ceiling could collapse, a construction industry official said yesterday.
Keaveney insists he wrote and sent the memo. But the other day I characterized his story about a third-grader questioning the tunnel design as “unreal” and it looks like I may have stumbled upon the truth. Now there will be search for this precocious child which will likely lead to nothing. The Big Dig saga continues to sink from the bothersome, to the ridiculous, to the tragic.
Today’s quiz

Definition of “Elastic loaves”?

A) A psychedelic band from the late 1960s
B) The latest offering from the makers of “Silly Putty”
C) The new Iranian word for “pizzas” courtesy of crazy President Dinner Jacket.
Sunday morning lineup – Except for Lance Armstrong on This Week, it’s all Middle East fighting.
Breaking news – No link yet but CNN reports: “Two Islamic Jihad militants were killed by Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank -- one of them the head of the military wing of the group, Palestinian sources told CNN.”
U.S. says: We should inspect safety at the Big Dig – This is a classic example of closing the barn door after the horse escapes: “US urges full review of Big Dig - Inspector seeks $2m to oversee broader probes." Hey, what's another $2m among taxpayers.
So it’s come to this – Utah teen wins text-messaging contest. OMG.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Call it terrorism - An “American Muslim” kills Jewish women in Seattle. This is the new face of jihad. Update and links from Jawa. Then let's all keep pretending that Western values and Islam are compatible.
Macsmind has moved – But he was nice enough to keep me on his blogroll as “Vinking Pundit.” Nice.

Update - Spelling corrected! All is well.
Try, try, try to understand, he’s a magic man - If you haven’t heard of James Randi, aka “The Amazing Randi,” he’s a professional skeptic who received a Macarthur “Genius” Award to carry on his work debunking psychics and other quacks. He’s also a partner-in-uncrime with friends Penn & Teller. Anyway, the Amazing Randi reveals the foolishness of everybody’s favorite forehead application in: “Head on into quackery.”
Out of his league – John Kerry gets owned by John Bolton. Maybe the Senator from Massachusetts should have attended some hearings of the Senate Intelligence committee.
Political points first, principles last.

Here’s Peter Beinart in the WashPost with “Pander and Run”:

Then, in June, the media reported that the Iraqi government was considering an amnesty for insurgents, perhaps including insurgents who had killed U.S. troops. Obviously the prospect was hard for Americans to stomach. But the larger context was equally obvious: Unless Maliki's government gave local Sunni insurgents an incentive to lay down their arms and break with al-Qaeda-style jihadists, Iraq's violence would never end. Democrats, however, rather than giving Maliki the freedom to carry out his extremely difficult and enormously important negotiations, made amnesty an issue in every congressional race they could, thus tying the prime minister's hands. Once again, Democrats congratulated themselves for having gotten to President Bush's right, unperturbed by the fact that they may have undermined the chances for Iraqi peace in the process.

Privately, some Democrats, while admitting that they haven't exactly been taking the high road, say they have no choice, that in a competition with Karl Rove, nice guys finish last. But even politically, that's probably wrong. The Democratic Party's single biggest foreign policy liability is not that Americans think Democrats are soft. It is that Americans think Democrats stand for nothing, that they have no principles beyond political expedience. And given the party's behavior over the past several months, it is not hard to understand why.
Meanwhile, the Democrats have rolled out their “Six in ‘06” agenda, a plan for governance so thin as to be practically ethereal. For example, the plan for “retirement security”? Stop privatization of Social Security. Nevermind the program’s mathematical insolvency. Energy independence? “Stop subsidies to oil companies.” Right.

To paraphrase John Lennon: whatever gets you through the midterms.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Who loves his brainwashing and always wants more?Spongebob Squarepants in China
Private wealth vs. corporate welfare – Will Franklin notes that many U.S. companies realize they cannot meet future obligations from promises made a half-century ago. Why should Social Security be any different? It’s because politicians don’t have the same fiscal responsibilities of a board of directors.
Big Dig update

Boston Globe – “Man dies on detour to Boston hospital”: “Despite a State Police escort through detours caused by Big Dig tunnel closings, a 64-year-old man died yesterday during the 50 minutes it took to get him from Logan International Airport to Boston Medical Center by ambulance , officials said.”

Fox News: “Massachusetts Turnpike Chief Resigns After Pressure to Step Down” - “Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Chairman Matthew Amorello, under fire since heavy ceiling panels in a Big Dig tunnel collapsed on a motorist, agreed Thursday to resign after weeks of pressure on him to step aside.”

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What the Internet was invented for – A web site dedicated to Princess Leia’s Metal Bikini from “Return of the Jedi.” Finally! (HT: Maggie’s Farm)
Did they check the couch cushions?GM loses $3 billion: “General Motors Corp. lost $3.2 billion in the second quarter because of heavy charges for layoffs and early retirements - part of its massive restructuring program. But, without those charges, the world's largest automaker scored a profit that blew Wall Street away and bolstered management's claim that the turnaround is working.” So it’s short-term bad news but long-term good news.
Generating more heat than light - Jeff Jacoby on “Demonizing the GOP at the NAACP”: “Today's Democratic Party is nothing like the racist stronghold it used to be; anyone who claimed otherwise would be trafficking in foul demagoguery. Which is just what [Julian] Bond traffics in when he speaks with equal foulness about today's Republican Party. The NAACP is better than that, and perhaps Bush should have said so.”
Plame/Wilson update

Byron York: “A concerted effort against Valerie Plame? The CIA lawsuit’s shaky foundation

Christopher Hitchens: “Case Closed: The truth about the Iraqi-Niger ‘yellowcake’ nexus.”

If Iraqi officials tried to obtain nuclear material, as Hitchens convincingly details, the Administration would be derelict if they didn’t try to set the record straight. This lawsuit is all about one thing: publicity to extract a lucrative book deal.
And so a child will lead them

In my haste to post the Globe story on the Big Dig this morning, I missed this tragi-comic moment:

He [safety engineer John J. Keaveney] said he really began to worry about the ceiling after a third-grade class from his hometown of Norwell came to visit the Big Dig for a tour in spring 1999. He showed the class some concrete ceiling panels and pointed to the bolts protruding from the ceiling, explaining that the panels would one day hang from those bolts.

A third-grade girl raised her hand and asked him, ``Will those things hold up the concrete?"

He started voicing concerns among his colleagues and then to managers after that. ``It was like the [third-graders] had pointed out the emperor has no clothes," he said. ``I said, `Yes, it would hold,' but then I thought about it."
Seven years ago – From the Boston Globe “Memo warned of ceiling collapse – Safety officer feared deaths in 1999, now agonizes over tragedy”: “The on-site safety officer for the Interstate 90 connector directly warned his superiors at contractor Modern Continental Construction Co. that the tunnel ceiling could collapse because the bolts could not support the heavy concrete panels, and feared for his conscience if someone died as a result.”

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The war against Holy Joe – Sister Toldjah has a update/roundup of commentary on the Lamont/Lieberman fight in Connecticut. Driving home today, I saw a Lieberman poster in the street, ripped from the lawn of a house I pass on my commute (the “Malloy for Governor” poster was unscathed.)
Viking Pundit: Apply directly to your blogroll
Viking Pundit: Apply directly to your blogroll
Viking Pundit: Apply directly to your blogroll

Seth Stevenson extols the brilliant simplicity of the television commercial for “Head On.” I believe this may be the only TV ad he’s ever given a grade of “A+”.
Loose is loose – I don’t know why the Boston Globe insists on reporting that “the bolts had pulled out of the ceiling by half an inch” in the Ted Williams tunnel. What difference does a half-inch, a quarter-inch or a millimeter make? If the support bolt has moved at all, that means it has broken free of the epoxy used to hold up panels in the tunnel. It can hold no weight.
A thin record on Capitol Hill

One of my major gripes about John Kerry is that, after 20 years in the Senate, he’s authored three bills of any consequence: two “save the dolphins” measures and one for small business loans. Here’s how Salon described his acceptance speech at the 2004 Democratic convention:

"Judge me by my record," John Kerry told voters during his acceptance speech in Boston last month, but he gave them precious little evidence to go on. In a 5,000-word address that stretched on for nearly an hour, Kerry managed to find time for only 73 words about his two decades of service in the U.S. Senate.
For somebody so ambitious, Kerry seems allergic to the nuts-and-bolts work required to pass legislation. But his resume is lavish compared to Georgia’s Cynthia McKinney, according to her primary opponent Hank Johnson:

But besides developing a reputation for inflammatory and counterproductive conduct, what has my opponent accomplished? She has passed exactly one bill over the course of her career - to rename a post office.
She so crazy.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Universal threat – An interesting analysis from Publius Pundit. In “The Jihadist Split”, Robert Mayer writes that pan-Arabism is (mostly) dead and Iran is now “the common enemy of Arabs, Israelis, and Westerners alike.”
The South Park guys speak

Get the skinny on Tom Cruise and Mohammad over on GOP Vixen. I’m super-serial! Key quote from Trey Parker:

“This is South Park, and we rip on absolutely everyone in really horrible, terrible ways. And if you're saying that this is the one thing we can't do, besides Tom Cruise, because they're threatening violence, well, then, I guess that's what everyone should do.”
ManBearPig re-runs this Wednesday. Everybody’s super-stoked on Al Gore.
U.N. official excoriates Hezbollah – From Fox News: “The U.N. humanitarian chief accused Hezbollah on Monday of "cowardly blending" among Lebanese civilians and causing the deaths of hundreds during two weeks of cross-border violence with Israel.”
Old wine in a new bottle

That’s how Hotline On Call characterizes the Democratic Leadership Council’s buzzword-laden “American Dream” plan. Here are some of the quote-unquote specifics:

"cutting wasteful corporate subsidies"
"third party reporting of capital gains"
holding schools and students accountable
Provide incentives for savers
Tax credits to stimulate innovation
A "smart energy policy"
Greater accountability in corporate governance
A "home mortgage deduction for everyone"

Here’s one proposal with a number attached:

An American Dream grant that "rewards" states based on the number of students who graduate and attend college. It'll cost $150B over ten years.

Phi Beta Cons has already addressed the unintended consequences of this plan:

Obviously, this doesn't really keep costs down, but only spreads the costs around to federal taxpayers. It also creates the same kinds of incentives that states often create for K-12 funding — money depends not on educational results, but on the number of bodies. If this idea were to become law, we can expect more gimmicks to get weak students into college and to keep them there until graduation.
And, of course, here’s a favorite of mine:

Requiring every employer to open a retirement account for every worker

Why? Is there a problem with Social Security?
Sock puppet theater – I say GOOD DAY to you, sir! (I’m serial, check it out. HT: Fark)
Relax – This Boston Globe headline says it all: “Big Dig tunnel workers given the weekend off.”
Keystone State politics – Here’s a little trivia from George Will’s article about the Pennsylvania governor’s race: voters in Pennsylvania have never defeated an incumbent governor. Will claims it’s because they “savor continuity” which should provide some small measure of comfort to Rick Santorum.
The truth is an absolute defense – Joe Wilson’s lawyer claims that the CIA never verified that Valerie Plame recommended her husband Joe Wilson for the trip to Niger. Tom Maguire’s response: “Send better lawyers.”
Boston Globe: surgeons and lawyers make too much, dagnabbit

Back in the good old days, grumps the Boston Globe, a man could earn a living. Now he can barely afford a new plasma TV:

But from 1968 to 1998, income inequality increased. The dream was deflated by well-known culprits: lost manufacturing jobs, expensive housing, single-parent households, the declining worth of the minimum wage, and pay lavished on highly skilled workers while the income of regular folks stagnated.
What is the world coming to when people who work their way through college and medical school are making more than telemarketers? Is this still America?

Extra – A rebuttal on income inequality stats from the Heritage Foundation.
Well that’s just great – From Fox News: “Gas prices hit record high

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sports news – Floyd Landis won the Tour de France and Tiger Woods won the British Open. In the words of Homer Simpson: “USA! USA! USA!”
Big Dig update: nothing but bad news

Is there any positive news, at all, about the Boston tunnel system? Here are some stories making the rounds today.

Boston Globe – “Massport rejects parts of Big Dig”: “The Massachusetts Port Authority is refusing to take ownership of a 3/4-mile section of the Ted Williams Tunnel and a nearby elevated ramp leading into Logan International Airport, saying the structures are in poor condition and require significant repairs, according to documents obtained by the Globe.”

Boston Globe – “Original plan had lighter tunnel ceiling”: “The Interstate 90 connector tunnel was originally intended to have a much lighter ceiling than the one that caved in and killed a woman on July 10, according to the state engineer overseeing tunnel safety inspections. But, partway through the tunnel construction, managers of the Big Dig project switched to a design that called for a heavier concrete ceiling that would be less expensive and easier to install, said Alexander Bardow , state director of bridges and structures.”

Boston Herald – “Big Dig technician reveals: I witnessed bolt failures”: “A Big Dig technician says he witnessed critical bolt failures in the mid-1990s during installation of Ted Williams Tunnel ceilings and started photographing construction because of concerns about a possible disaster. The technician, whose job was to test the strength of ceiling fixtures, revealed shocking photographs to the Herald yesterday that show workers in the Ted Williams Tunnel using methods to install epoxy bolts that were flagged as problematic by inspectors.”

Washington Times – “Ceiling collapse tip of Big Dig problems”: “So many setbacks have plagued Boston's Big Dig during its 15-year history that a more appropriate nickname for the $14.6 billion underground highway project might be the Big Debacle.”

That’s $14.6 billion and counting, but at least we saved money on those cheaper ceiling panels.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sunday morning talkshow lineup – Not to be confused: White House chief of staff Josh Bolten will be playing musical chairs with UN ambassador John Bolton. This Week will be pre-empted by the British Open.
Things you can say when you’re running uncontested - Robert Wexler (D-FL): “I enjoy the company of prostitutes because it’s a fun thing to doHilarious clip from the Colbert Report.
Gather round ye nerds - From Wired: A gallery of classic comic book covers. Meanwhile, Dean asks “Why did cartoons and comics go out of style?” Oh, I don’t know, I think a lot of adults enjoy Spongebob. And FYI: I'm the world's biggest "Futurama" fan.
Eric’s Music Corner – The Austin Powers movies feature Mike Myers’ fake band “Ming Tea” which includes Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, formerly of the Bangles. Those two decided to team up and make a CD of sixties song called “Under the Covers, Volume I.” I just got my copy from Amazon a couple of days ago and it’s a rare treat. Hoffs still has great pipes, especially on the Stone Poneys’ “Different Drum” and the deep track “Care of Cell #44” by the Zombies. Groovy, baby, give it a spin.
Rotten Apple – MacRanger is having trouble with his Macbook (natch) and sends his raspberries to Apple.

Of course, this gives me an opening to recount a story about how big a megalomaniac Steve Jobs is. When Apple was first starting out, co-founder Steve Wozniak was designated employee #1. This drove Steve Jobs bonkers since he could not be second banana. So he made himself employee #0.
Enemies in our midst – Take a look at this T-shirt from a pro-Hizbollah rally in Los Angeles. “I will die to establish Islam.” In America. Scary.
He can’t dance – Scott Adams of Dilbert fame is getting married today. Will this change America’s favorite comic strip? Will Dilbert find love and straighten out his tie?
A new gig - Ed Morrissey is now blogging at the new Heritage Foundation Policy Blog. Of course, I scrolled right down to the post on Students to Save Social Security.
Corruption in Boston is not isolated to Big Dig officials – From the Boston Globe: “Hunt is on for other police corruption”: “Boston police and the FBI will investigate whether a corruption case reaches deeper and higher into the department than three officers accused in an intricate network of schemes that included stealing the identities of unsuspecting motorists, protecting truckloads of cocaine, smuggling illegal immigrants, and guarding after-hours parties where uniformed officers mingled with drug dealers and prostitutes.”
GOP Bloggers has been redesigned. Also, they’re having a GOP straw poll over there.
On the moveIsraeli forces push through Lebanon border
Plastic turkey alert

Derrick Jackson in the Boston Globe criticizing Bush’s speech to the NAACP:

His praise of the Voting Rights Act was, of course, the most ironic moment of his speech, considering how he gained the Oval Office with the massive disqualification of black ballots in Florida.
A remarkable conspiracy that, employing the unlikely assistance of Democratic voting officials in Democratic districts somehow discerning the race of a voter based on his/her punchcard. Selected, not elected! (The Rovian version of spoiled ballots by those liars at the WashPost here.)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Excuse me while I whip this out - Via Betsy, here’s MSNBC’s list of the Top 10 least politically-correct movies. Unsurprisingly, “Blazing Saddles” sits astride the rest.
I would have added “Falling Down” and Michael Douglas as the angry white man wreaking havoc against minorities, skinheads, and poor fast-food service in Los Angeles.
Deep in the future red

From Bloomberg: “U.S. is bankrupt in one way that counts”:

[Economist Laurence] Kotlikoff's comparison of the U.S. to a failing company is too interesting to dismiss out of hand. The place to start is with the books, beginning with the liabilities.

Here the case is strong. As Kotlikoff, a professor at Boston University, points out, the ancient entitlement of Social Security is only the start of the problem. Medicare, Medicaid and President George W. Bush's new prescription drug plan make matters worse. Economists used to hope that economic growth would keep up with future increases.

The data suggest the opposite. In the past four years, Kotlikoff notes, real Medicare benefits have increased at an annual average of 3.5 percent per beneficiary, whereas real wages grew .002 percent. By Kotlikoff's math, the U.S. confronts a $65.9 trillion fiscal gap over the long term.
This is probably my thousandth post on this issue. In the wise words of Herbert Stein: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” (Hat tip: Real Clear Politics)
Stocking the bomb shelters – From Opinion Journal: “The Taepodong Democrats - Still against missile defense, even in the age of Kim Jong Il.”
Who can unravel this mystery?

From Fox News: “Indian police arrest 3 for Mumbai train bombings”:

Indian police investigating the Mumbai train bombings have made their first arrests, picking up three men who officers said Friday were linked to terror networks across South Asia.

All three suspects were picked up Thursday, and "we have definite evidence that these people are linked to terrorist activities," one of the lead investigators, K.P. Raghuvanshi, told reporters Friday. "They have connections with groups in Nepal and Bangladesh, which are directly or indirectly connected to Pakistan."

Pressed for details, Raghuvanshi would only say: "We will place the evidence before the court."
Three men of an undetermined quality. Perhaps their names can shed some light on their backgrounds: Khaleel Aziz Sheikh, Kamal Ahmed Ansari and Mumtaz Ahmed Chowdhury.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Kofi Annan, making no sense: “While Hezbollah's actions are deplorable, and as I've said, Israel has a right to defend itself, the excessive use of force is to be condemned.” Break out the excessive-o-meter.
Legacy costs and the auto unions – From Bulldog Pundit: “UAW coming to realize their own irrelevance in the 21st century
Connecticut Senate race is a toss-up.

Ned Lamont has pulled ahead of Joe Lieberman in the Quinnipiac poll meaning that, if Joe wins the Democratic primary, there is no turning back from accusations of voting fraud and conspiratorial Diebold machines.

Who will save Joe from ignominious defeat?

Lieberman's decision to collect signatures does not mean that he is giving up on his campaign to win the primary. The latest evidence? Former President Bill Clinton, a beloved figure among liberals, will campaign for Lieberman next Monday. The two men have known each other since 1970 when Clinton worked on Lieberman's campaign for the state Senate.
Democrats love that guy!
The deficit and the DEFICIT

Robert Samuelson wonders why, with near full-employment, the government cannot run a surplus in “No shame, no sense and a $296 billion bill.” But he also notes that the current gap will look like some lost spare change compared to the entitlements explosion:

What truly matters is government spending. If it rises, then future taxes or deficits must follow. There's no escaping that logic. The spending that dominates the budget is for retirees. Social Security, Medicare (health insurance for those 65 and over) and Medicaid (partial insurance for nursing homes) already exceed 40 percent of federal spending. As baby boomers retire, these costs will explode. Unless they're curbed, they'll require tax increases of 30 percent to 50 percent over the next 25 years.
Samuelson concludes that political impasse means that nothing will be done about deficit spending until we’re in crisis mode. My fear is that the overwhelming political leverage of the Baby Boomers means that, even in the midst of a fiscal meltdown, there will be no meaningful reform until the money is all gone.

Extra – Will Franklin finally got back to his Social Security Thursday posts again. (Ooops: credit where credit is due. That post is by Willisms contributor Justin B.)
Headline of the Day“Paris Hilton: ‘I like to pretend I’m stupid’
Busted!Patterico and Ace (keep scrolling) have found some curiously laudatory comments about Glenn Greenwald all coming from his IP address.
Wow - Congratulations to Scott for his five-millionth visitor!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Only Nixon can go to China – Charles Krauthammer notes in “The only exit strategy” that only Israel can expel Hezbollah and stabilize Lebanon’s democracy.
The Big Dig and the failure of government spending

Writing on TPM Café, Nathan Newman faults big business for the failure of the Big Dig in “Corruption of Privatization.” He’s half right. Bechtel and the Big Dig contractors, beyond a doubt, delivered a sub-standard product. But Boston wasn’t merely a customer and the city’s failure to provide robust oversight is juxtaposed to another huge project: the clean-up of Boston Harbor. That project was also budgeted for $6 billion but finished on time and under budget. The Big Dig, decidedly, did not.

The core problem, however, isn’t just oversight but the inefficiency of government spending. Here’s Jeff Jacoby again:

Only in the public sector, where market discipline is nonexistent and financial losses are the taxpayer's problem, would such mismanagement be tolerated for so long. Only in the public sector, where political considerations far outweigh the bottom line, and where consumer satisfaction carries little weight, is such shoddiness and lack of oversight routine. In the private sector, incompetent performance generally means lost business, reduced earnings, or even bankruptcy. Only in the public sector -- under Democrats and Republicans both -- are negligence and failure commonly rewarded with ever-increasing budgets.
Echoes of Milton Friedman, explaining the four ways to spend money:

There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you're doing, and you try to get the most for your money.

Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I'm not so careful about the content of the present, but I'm very careful about the cost.

Then, I can spend somebody else's money on myself. And if I spend somebody else's money on myself, then I'm sure going to have a good lunch!

Finally, I can spend somebody else's money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else's money on somebody else, I'm not concerned about how much it is, and I'm not concerned about what I get. And that's government. And that's close to 40% of our national income.
The “privatization” of the Big Dig, such as it is, did not cause the now-lethal mess of a public project. Quite to the contrary, if the Boston Tunnel system had been sold to the highest bidder with the agreement that the company could collect tolls for twenty years, it’s much more likely that the project would have been completed on time and somewhere in the neighborhood of the original estimate. The reason is that a private company would have a fiscal interest in doing the job efficiently, safely, and correctly. As long as the federal dollars were flowing to Beacon Hill, neither the Massachusetts government or the private contractors had a stake in the outcome. Too bad for Milena Del Valle.
Extra innings for Georgia's 4th – Just to clarify, I thought Cynthia McKinney won the Democratic primary but, because she had less than 50% of the vote, it now goes to a runoff.
Maryland requires health care from companies rhyming with “Tall Smart”

Today a federal judge struck down a Maryland state law requiring companies with more than 10,000 employees to provide health insurance to employees. The law was so narrowly defined that the only company so affect was Wal-Mart. I would have thought the law would violate some “equal protection” statute but it turns out it was overturned due to interstate labor laws:

Retailers said the Maryland law violated the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which governs health and benefits plans offered to employees.

The judge agreed.

"The act violates ERISA's fundamental purpose of permitting multi-state employers to maintain nationwide health and welfare plans, providing uniform nationwide benefits and permitting uniform national administration," the judge wrote.
So that’s that, for now.
Why couldn’t it have been a spending bill? – Bush casts his first veto to kill the stem cell bill. I’m torn on this issue: there’s a genuine potential that stem cells can lead to medical breakthroughs but I’m convinced the supporters of this research are over-selling this potential. We’re not going to solve Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease overnight.

Extra – From Oak Leaf on Polipundit: “Private embryonic stem cell research was legal yesterday, is legal today and is legal next week. President Bush is the first President to ever provide funds for embryonic stem cell research. The Administration has made available more than $90 million for research on existing embryonic stem cell lines. This small amount of funding is dwarfed by the research budgets of the pharmaceutical companies.”
Some monument to Tip O’NeillJeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe: “All politics is local, Tip O'Neill famously said, and it surely doesn't get any more local than when a 6,000-pound slab from a project championed by the late House speaker falls on a 38-year-old newlywed from Jamaica Plain, crushing her to death as her husband drives her to the airport. O'Neill died in 1994, but the political culture he epitomized is alive and well and enshrined in the Big Dig, a slough of corruption, callousness, and cover-ups that had become a synonym for government mismanagement long before it killed Milena Del Valle on July 10.”

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It’s primary night in Georgia – Have voters in the Fourth District finally had their fill of cop-slappin’, no-legislation-passin’, debate-ducker Cynthia McKinney? As of this writing (10:30 EST) with 27% of precincts reporting, she’s losing to Hank Johnson 48.8%-41.2%.

More – Follow the tracking on this Free Republic thread. Gotta go to bed.

Follow-up – With 59% reporting, it’s a dead heat! She’ll probably pull it out. After all, she gerrymandered the district.
Newt speaks – John Hawkins listened in on a Heritage Foundation conference with Newt Gingrich. What’s this all about: “Hezbollah intends to destroy Israel, they openly tell people that, and they shouldn't be believed if they say anything contrary to that. The FBI says we caught a Hezbollah team trying to cross the border into the US.” They did?
Voters are itching to send Joe Lieberman packing

Just not Connecticut voters. From NRO Sixers:

The Stamford Advocate is reporting that 70 percent of Ned Lamont's campaign donations have come from outside the state of Connecticut. Isn't grassroots support supposed to be, you know, at the local level? This is starting to look a whole lot like Howard Dean's pre-Iowa implosion where Joe Trippe [sic] had empty buses driving around for the benefit of reporters in a show of faux support. Howard Dean had a lot of supporters around the country in 2004, just not many in Iowa.
You know, I don’t live in Connecticut but I work there and get the Hartford stations up here in Western Massachusetts. If there’s a groundswell brewing for Ned Lamont, it’s the stealthiest campaign I’ve ever seen. Over the past four months, I’ve seen a single Lamont bumper sticker and I commute a hundred miles a day. My prediction: Lieberman wins the primary handily (sending Kos to a 0-21 record) and we’ll be wondering why we ever believed an inexperienced nobody from Greenwich had a chance against an experienced and well-regarded senator.
Something’s different in here – Flooring company installs carpet in the wrong home. Homeowner surprised.
Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying field tests?

From the Boston Globe – “Workers doubted ceiling method”:

Field tests by construction workers indicated that bolt-and-epoxy fasteners might not support the multi-ton ceiling panels in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel, but the firm that designed the tunnel persuaded Big Dig officials to use the system anyway, law enforcement officials said yesterday.
Absolute insanity. Everyday, we pull another layer off this $15B onion.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Quote of the Day – From Christopher Hitchens commenting on the Plame/Wilson nonsense: “When one thinks of the oceans of ink and acres of paper that have been wasted on this mother of all nonstories, one wants to weep for the journalistic profession as well as for the trees.” (HT: Decision 08)
Which came first: the infidel chicken or the egg?

From Reuters “Oddly Enough” section:

A chicken in a Kazakh village has laid an egg with the word "Allah" inscribed on its shell, state media reported Thursday.

"Our mosque confirmed that it says 'Allah' in Arabic," Bites Amantayeva, a farmer from the village of Stepnoi in eastern Kazakhstan, told state news agency Kazinform.
Of course, it might have been interpreted as “Burger King ice cream.”
The terrorists’ arsenal - Everything you ever wanted to know about Hezbollah’s Katyusha rockets but were afraid to ask. Key fact: they have a range long enough to reach 70% of Israeli’s population.
Discovery comes home

From CNN: “The space shuttle Discovery wrapped up its 13-day, 5.3-million-mile mission on Monday with a picture-perfect landing at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.” Thank heaven for that.
Suspend MBTA fares

Boston officials are staring at a commuter uprising over new delays in the Big Dig tunnels and are urging motorists to leave their cars at home:

Officials are urging commuters to take public transportation, alternate routes, or seek staggered work hours.

Acting Boston Transportation Commissioner Thomas J. Tinlin said today's commute will be the worst since Milena Del Valle died a week ago today when concrete ceiling panels fell inside the I-90 connector tunnel and crushed the car that her husband was driving to Logan.

“Our message to the commuting public is that if you have to come into the city of Boston, do everything you can to leave your vehicle at home,” he said. “Allow yourself extra time. The best way to get into the city at this time is the MBTA.”
That would be the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority which extends spider-like from Boston. If Mitt Romney truly wants to alleviate vehicle congestion in Boston, he should suspend all MBTA fares until such time as the tunnels re-open. Not only would this help Boston-area workers get to their jobs, the lost MBTA revenue would serve as a daily reminder to Beacon Hill the consequences of their failed oversight.
That sweater will be a big hit in Crawford

After his “major league” comment was captured by microphones in the 2000 campaign, you’d think President Bush would be a little more careful. Let’s skip over that for now and scroll down to the end of this WashPost article:

Bush also offered his thanks to Blair for what was probably a gift for the president's 60th birthday.

"Thanks for the sweater, it was awfully thoughtful of you," Bush said. Then he added mischievously, "I know you picked it out yourself."

"Oh, absolutely," Blair declared.
Those two.

Extra – From the Anchoress: “Yo, Blair! Wasssssuuuuuuuppppppp!!!!”

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Out of the frying pan – From the WashPost: “A Big Dig tunnel used by motorists to get around a section of highway where a woman was killed by falling ceiling panels was ordered closed Sunday for repairs to the same type of panel.” You just can't make this stuff up.
Amazing Race, Kashmir-style – The teams for the new season of the Amazing Race have been announced and it’s mostly the usual fare: the gay couple, the pretty girls (two former Miss USA contestants), the brothers, the Southerners, the father-daughter team. But then there’s the first-ever Indian team and the first-ever Muslim team. That should be interesting. (Hat tip to anonymous commenter).
Chirac’s pitiful record

From the Economist: “The man who deserves a red card”:

Mr Chirac was elected in 1995 on promises to cut taxes, to curb unemployment and to “mend the social fracture”. Yet, under his watch, France has slipped out of the world's top five economies. Its public debt has swollen from 55% of GDP to 66%; unemployment has never dropped below 8%. At the start of Mr Chirac's reign in 1995, France was paralysed by strikes against reforms, and governed by an imperious, unloved prime minister, Alain Juppé. Now, towards its end, France has seen 1m-3m people on the streets in a student-led protest against labour-market reforms, and is governed by the imperious, unloved Mr de Villepin. A president who promoted the construction of a strong Europe, to counter-balance America in a multi-polar world, failed to persuade his own people to vote for its new constitution in last year's referendum.
That gives me the perfect opening to use the word “Abracadabrantesqueagain. (HT: Polipundit)
A real solution – I know I often criticize the Democrats for failing to articulate their positions and come up with realistic policies. But Jane Harman (D-CA) sure showed me on “Face the Nation” this morning:

Bob Schiffer: “How could we have disarmed them [Hezbollah]?”
Rep. Harman: “How – well, we could’ve insisted that the Lebanese government disarm them.”
Schiffer: “I see.”
Brilliant. Now why didn’t Condi Rice think of that?
Air America update – Brian Maloney confirms: Janeane Garofalo is out.
Who gave cruise missiles to Hezbollah?

Jay Tea not only believes Iran transported cruise missiles to the terrorists, he also believes the Iranians launched them against Israeli targets, due to the technological challenges.

In the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby says “It all boils down to Iran”:

And so Israel finds itself at war again, this time on two fronts against two of the most lethal terrorist forces in the world. Except that the real enemy confronting it is not Hamas and Hezbollah. Terrorist organizations cannot function without state sponsorship, and no state anywhere sponsors more Islamist terrorism than Iran.
What’s to be done about Ahmadinejad's terrorist-sponsoring, yellowcake-enriching regime? Iran ignores every piece of parchment with a United Nations letterhead and economic sanctions will be useless with oil at $70+ a barrel. By arming and supporting terrorist groups, it almost seems like President Dinner-Jacket is inviting a military response.

Follow-up - Syrian rockets too.
The consistency of an ex-Enron advisor

Old Paul Krugman: “The causes of this increase in equality [from 1979 to 2003] are a subject of some controversy, but probably the most important cause is rapid technological change, which has increased the demand for highly skilled or talented workers more rapidly than the demand for other workers.”

New Paul Krugman: “There's a persistent myth, perpetuated by economists who should know better -- like Edward Lazear, the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers -- that rising inequality in the United States is mainly a matter of a rising gap between those with a lot of education and those without.”

Hat tip to Greg Mankiw.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Ready to come home - NASA web site for Discovery space shuttle STS-121
Sunday morning talkshow lineup – Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich will be on “Meet the Press” so I think I’ll watch my grass grow.
Election 2006 notes from Real Clear Politics

This will drive the Nutroots absolutely batty:

CT Senate: David Lightman of the Hartford Courant's Washington Bureau examines Joe Lieberman's voting record and comes to the conclusion: "By the numbers, Joe Lieberman is a true, consistent Democrat."

Deborah Orin of the New York Post says Hillary is kinda sorta backing Lieberman and also that, "more independents are registering as Democrats, presumably to vote for him."
Get ready for the wailing and rending of clothes over “impure Democrats” voting for Lieberman.
A rad ad – I can’t help but wonder at the genius behind the Cingular commercials where the audio goes silent when people are complaining about dropped calls. If you ignore TV commercials (as I do) you can’t help but look up when the sound cuts out.
I blame Al Gore - DJ Drummond has a long essay on Stolen Thunder titled: “A short history of modern political madness.” Here’s an excerpt: “It should be understood that strong emotions have played a role in American Politics since its beginning, especially on the national stage, but the present condition is far more pervasive and serious in its ramifications. The 2006 and 2008 elections will likely be the meanest and dirtiest in memory. This is because of two key trends; the sharp increase in post-election partisanship, and the terminal decline in political power of the Democratic Party.” Check it out.
Publius Pundit – What now for the Cedar Revolution?
President Bush may speak at NAACP convention

From the NY Times:

After not appearing before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for five years, President Bush has tentatively agreed to speak to the group on Wednesday in what aides said was the latest White House effort to improve relations with African-American leaders.
Is it a good idea to lend credibility to this *cough* “non-partisan” *cough* group? Just pick a random paragraph from chairman Julian Bond’s speech to the 2005 convention to see the hard-left ideology wrapped in a victim mentality. Here’s a good one:

They’re waging class war from the top down, literally taking food from the mouths of poor children and giving more largess to millionaires.”
The kids are alright

Thanks to movies like “Cars” and “Herbie Fully Loaded,” more and more children are being drawn to NASCAR. From the Boston Globe: “Fast learners - Disney's animated smash has kids taking to NASCAR with lightning speed

With its anthropomorphized cars, the box-office smash ``Cars" has revved up interest in NASCAR among kids, evidenced by the sea of RVs packed with families this weekend. While the movie wasn't made with NASCAR's participation, the flick features what are clearly NASCAR-like cars and races. In doing so, it has exposed the sport to younger fans, who tend to be drawn more to football and baseball than to stock-car racing.
Hard to believe, but here in my hometown there’s a 10-year old kid who is already on the racing circuit. And this isn’t South Carolina.
Big Dig update - From the Boston Globe - “Tunnel ceiling's collapse could lead to higher tolls on turnpike”: “The fatal Big Dig tunnel ceiling collapse could trigger, in a worst-case scenario, toll increases for the Boston Harbor tunnels and the Weston-Boston stretch of the Massachusetts Turnpike, according to bond rating firms that monitor Turnpike Authority finances.” So that’s what $15 billion buys you: a longer and more expensive commute.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Castro rumors persist – Hugo Chavez took an “urgent flight” to Cuba? Interesting.
Battle for Israel – NY Times: “Israel Vows to Rout Hezbollah as Violence Escalates
Blatant false advertising – From Jane Galt: “Despite my web moniker, I am not an objectivist.” What the?
Ideas are for chumps

From Jonah Goldberg: “What’s Liberals’ big idea? Who cares.”

But Bush-hatred is just one side of the coin. The other is this bizarre, almost pathetic yearning for Democratic self-esteem. It was amazing how much of the rhetoric from the recent Daily Kos convention in Las Vegas was about standing up, fighting back and feeling proud to be Democrats. This liberal-pride crowd likes "fighting Dems," and open expression of Bush-hatred is the litmus test for whether you're a fighting Dem. You can be a moderate, like Virginia Senate hopeful Jim Webb or former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, or a flaming liberal, like Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, and that's fine as long as you'll "stand up and fight" and refuse to take this (expletive deleted) from that (expletive deleted) anymore. In fact, you can believe anything you want. You don't actually have to have big ideas. The important part is that you care.
That sounds a lot like this quote from P.J. O’Rourke:

The principal feature of American liberalism is sanctimoniousness. By loudly denouncing all bad things— war and hunger and date rape— liberals testify to their own terrific goodness. More important, they promote themselves to membership in a self-selecting elite of those who care deeply about such things.... It's a kind of natural aristocracy, and the wonderful thing about this aristocracy is that you don't have to be brave, smart, strong or even lucky to join it, you just have to be liberal.
For political junkies – The Washington Post has an excellent tracker of all the Senate, House and Governor Races here. And after a brief hiatus, Scott Elliott is tracking polls and making predictions over at Election Projection.
Look at us! We’re covert! - Byron York on the Plame/Wilson lawsuit: “Left-wing blog with a legal caption” I haven’t seen a single article or blogpost explaining the legal basis for this civil lawsuit. Also, I imagine the “loss of job” complaint isn’t going to garner much sympathy what with the couple’s million-dollar six-figure book deals.

Extra – Here’s Captain Ed: “I've had a chance to review the lawsuit filed on behalf of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, and it has an amusing take on reality that I heartily recommend to all interested parties. Quite frankly, the defense will have a delightful time if this ever gets to court. This is one of those moments when one wonders what color the sky is in another's world.”
Tom Cruise is at it again

Today’s strangest headline is from the Denver Post: “Boulder deputy clubs menacing bridge ‘troll’”

A golf club-wielding man who tried to extort tolls from people crossing a bike path bridge while claiming to be the bridge's troll is facing menacing and drug charges, police said.

The troll's reign of terror came to an end, police said, when he threatened an off-duty Boulder sheriff's deputy, who snatched the clubs from the man and whacked him with one. Even after a Boulder police officer, with a drawn stun gun, arrived and ordered the man to the ground, the man "continued to be verbally antagonistic, yelling that it was his bridge ... and that he was a troll," according to a police report.
No mention, however, of Lord Xenu. Maybe it was Robert Downey, Jr.
Nevertheless, Massachusetts officials declared the tunnels safe” – A chronology of Big Dig problems.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A major, major escalation – Israel is striking back in all directions.

MoreMark Noonan on Blogs for Bush: “Things are getting pretty bad over there - world wars have started over far less.” Also, just keep scrolling at Memeorandum.

Update – Israel imposes full naval blockade on Lebanon and disables Beirut International Airport.
Good questionMatt Hoy on Plame/Wilson: “Can the American people sue Valerie Plame for nepotism or theft of government funds for sending her husband to Niger on his famous junket?” More on the 16th-minute of fame lawsuit by Sister Toldjah.
NASCAR update

It’s been a bad week for Matt Kenseth. In the Sunday race, he was just a couple laps from victory when Jeff Gordon “inadvertently” spun him out. Today he was on the way to practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when….

"On the way to the racetrack, I got ran into by a student driver. That was the start of my morning," Kenseth said, shaking his head after arriving at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for testing Monday. "They wanted to stop and fix it. I didn't care whether the bumper was laying on the ground or not, it was a rental."
Hey, he’s still #2 in the Nextel Cup standings.
More in demagoguery than in practicality – From the Wall Street Journal: “Energy independence: A Dry Hole?Experts across political spectrum challenge ‘emotionally compelling’ slogan
Is Howard Dean aware of this?

Vermont’s Democratic Party is against Vermont Democrats:

Vermont's Democratic Party is maneuvering to keep the Democratic candidates for the state's open US Senate seat off the November ballot, as party leaders seek to clear the way for independent Representative Bernard Sanders in his bid for the Senate.
Remember: winning always comes first. Party loyalty, a governing policy, and leadership are lower on the list.
Big Dig update – Here’s what almost $15 billion will buy: “60 bad fixtures found in ceiling Bolt problem in tunnel known since 1999” Also from the Boston Globe: “Need for heavy panels was debated

Spoke too soon - Engineers find 240 more suspect bolts in Big Dig tunnel.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

So now Social Security is a problem

Yes, a lower budget deficit is cool, but given the overwhelming burden of entitlement spending over the horizon, it’s only a temporary reprieve. Still, the Democrats have some serious chutzpah for raising this issue now:

The other favorite line of critics yesterday was summed up by North Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad, who said the deficit would still "explode" in the long term because of the "coming retirement of the baby boom generation." But this is a political bait-and-switch. When Senator Conrad had the chance to do something about the "long term" by reforming Social Security in 2005, he refused. But now that the tax cuts he opposed are reducing the short-term deficit, he's back to fretting about the long term. At least Mr. Conrad is consistent in wanting a tax increase.

There surely is a long-term budget problem, driven largely by fast-growing entitlements for seniors. Federal spending is still climbing by 8.6% this year, with Medicare alone growing at an astonishing rate of 15.5%, or $33 billion in the first nine months of this fiscal year (which ends September 30). Thank the GOP prescription drug benefit for that future taxpayer burden. The only solution to the entitlement problem, short or long term, is to reform both Medicare and Social Security.
Let’s all recall that famous moment in the State of the Union address when the Democrats cheered the end of Social Security reform. They have abdicated their right to complain about entitlement reform now.
Energy baron wields influence to change public policy – Wow, if you think the oil companies are ruthless, they have nothing on the ethanol interests.
Closing the barn door after the horse escapes

From the Boston Globe: “In no one we trust”:

In the aftermath of the fatal collapse of a 40-foot section of ceiling in the I-90 Connector to the Ted Williams Tunnel, local politicians followed their usual stale scripts. Amorello overstated the breadth of his knowledge, claiming that the cave-in was ``an anomaly" and that ``the tunnels are safe." Romney persisted in seeing the situation as a simple power struggle, repeating his call for Amorello's resignation ``for a long list of management failures." Reilly, a Democratic candidate for governor, continued to ignore his ongoing responsibilities by launching a toolittle-too-late criminal investigation and promising now to take steps ``to make sure nothing like this happens again."

Again? It should not have happened at all.
Of course, nobody in eastern Massachusetts cared much as long as billions and billions of dollars were flowing into Boston. Nobody questioned whether something was seriously amiss as the Big Dig hit two, three, then four times the original projected cost. Just keep that money flowing, and we’ll worry about those leaks later.
Deadly déjà vu

The investigation has started on the Big Dig tunnel collapse that killed a woman and here’s the start of a Boston Globe story titled “Workmanship and design of tunnel are called into question - Problems with bolts, glue found in other tunnel in '98”:

Investigators unraveling how concrete ceiling panels cascaded onto a car in one of the Big Dig tunnels should focus on some basic, troubling questions about the way the tunnel ceiling was built, civil engineers and highway construction specialists said yesterday.

Officials from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority suspect that the accident that killed Milena Del Valle began with the failure of a single steel hanger that helped hold up the concrete ceiling, setting off a chain reaction that caused other hangers to fail and send 12 tons of concrete to the highway surface as Del Valle's husband drove underneath.
A threaded rod failed and a suspended load was shifted to other supports, which could not carry the extra weight, leading to failure. This sounds to me to be exactly the critical design flaw that lead to the structural failure of the Hyatt Regency walkway in 1981.


The two walkways were suspended from a set of steel tie rods, with the second floor walkway hanging directly underneath the fourth floor walkway. The walkway platform is supported on 3 cross-beams suspended by steel rods with nuts. The cross-beams are box beams built-up with C-channels welded toe-to-toe. The original design by Jack D. Gillum and Associates called for three pairs of rods running from the second floor all the way to the ceiling. Investigators eventually determined that this design only supported 60 percent of the minimum load required by Kansas City building codes.
The Big Dig has become a kind of slow-motion disaster where every three months another incident occurs, followed by a line of Boston officials waving their hands and insisting everything is safe.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Shocker – Via Hot Air: The prime suspect in the Bombay/Mumbai bombing is “Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Pakistani jihadist group Ibrahim has been known to fund, working in conjunction with the indigenous Students Islamic Movement of India.” Imagine that.

More – There’s analysis and a link roundup over at Strata-Sphere: “Al Qaeda needs more enemies.”
Quote of the Day – From Newt Gingrich: “I think the Republican Party has few allies more effective than the Daily Kos.”

Update - OMG, Lorie, I totally didn't see this until just now. Ha, ha! GMTA.
Big Dig neglect kills passenger – I’ve noted again and again, that it’s only a matter of time before that $14 billion boondoggle known as Boston’s Big Dig is closed down due to safety concerns. Yesterday, the Ted Williams Tunnel partially collapsed, killing a woman in the process.

Extra – More from Jay at Wizbang.
Glass half empty, half full. Entitlements will evaporate remaining water.

From Fox News: "Bush touts lower budget deficit figures"
The 2006 federal deficit will be lower than expected, thanks to added tax revenue, President Bush said Tuesday. Additional revenue generated from groups that pay their taxes quarterly — primarily corporations, small businesses and the wealthy — dropped the projected federal deficit for the 2006 budget year to $296 billion, a $127 billion decrease from a February estimate, Bush said.
That's good!
Calling the numbers a "concocted victory lap," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., released a statement saying the budget deficit "would constitute the fourth largest deficit in American history."
That's bad!
Though numerically the budget deficit is among the highest recorded, as a measure of gross domestic product, 2.3 percent, it ranks lower than the deficits in 17 of the past 25 years.
We're in good shape!
Bush said the short-term deficit has been a challenge, but the real threat of overspending comes from unsustainable growth for entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
We're boned!

Monday, July 10, 2006

The taxes aren’t so low in Oslo – From Aftenposten: “Weary of high prices and high taxes, Norwegians are smuggling goods into the country like never before. At least a third are believed to bring home more goods than their tax-free quotas allow, and it's not just tobacco and spirits that's being sneaked over the border.” My favorite: the 72-year-old woman smuggling 285 liters of beer.
The inevitable crackdown

The world’s largest Muslim country allowed a little freedom of press. Now they want it back. From the Christian Science Monitor: “Egyptian press fear rollback of reforms

In recent years Egypt's press has been allowed more room. A feisty independent newspaper began publishing last year and politically partisan weekly papers have launched one broadside after another against President Hosni Mubarak.

But Egyptian journalists allege a government backlash is under way and they're pushing back. Sunday, at least 24 daily and weekly papers withheld publication, and a rowdy demonstration of about 500 journalists and supporters was held at the parliament building in downtown Cairo, with one banner sarcastically declaring "Viva corruption. Down with freedom of the press."
One step forward, three steps back.
Sign at the church down the street

Put down Da Vinci
Pick up Da Bible

After resisting for several years, I finally gave in and started reading "The Da Vinci Code." They practically give it out in airports. I'm halfway through and it's, um, not great.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Those tolerant Bay Staters

Well, I’m just piling on Massachusetts today. From the Boston Globe Sunday magazine, here’s a letter posted in the Miss Conduct column:

My son is deployed in Iraq. He has given up six years of his life as a Marine Reservist and wouldn't have it any other way. Frequently people tell me what a waste it is for my son and the United States to be in Iraq and that my son must be stupid or cruel. All I say, in a sincere way, is "I am sorry you feel that way," but in response I get a tongue-lashing. I don't bring up where my son is in the first place, I don't insult these people, and yet I am left shaking and sad. If you have any suggestions on how I can answer these people, I'd appreciate it. He'll be there until November.
M.B. /// Halifax
Click the link above for Miss Conduct’s response (which is largely “ignore them” wrapped around a subtle anti-war jab).
You won’t love that dirty water – Advice for incoming Boston college students: when the Charles River freezes over, don’t walk on the ice. Apparently, this is necessary orientation.
Crybaby Bay State Democrats fear political ads

Massachusetts is virtually synonymous with Democrats, but the only office they cannot seem to capture is the governor’s seat. Therefore the answer is to limit the free speech of the candidates. From the Boston Globe: “Democrats seek to curb attack ads

The state Democratic Party has created a four-member panel, headed by former governor Michael S. Dukakis, that will review campaign advertisements and publicly rebuke candidates who use negative attacks.
Oh dear, where to begin? Wasn’t it the Democrats who insisted that the NY Times had an absolute right under the First Amendment to reveal a secret program to track terrorist financing? Now a panel of Massachusetts Democrats (include John Kerry’s brother, Cameron “Boston Watergate” Kerry) is going to pass judgment on the political discourse of those mean old Republicans. Pathetic.
Air America quote of the day – Via Radio Equalizer, here’s the Clear Channel announcement that they’re changing programming at their Cincinnati station: “If all you diehard liberals who whined for Air American programming had bothered to listen to it, none of this would be necessary.” Harsh!
Red lines fade

Here’s Bill Kristol on North Korea:

The red lines, pink lines, and mauve lines of U.S. foreign policy seem increasingly to be written in erasable ink. What was "unacceptable" to President Bush a week ago (a North Korean missile launch) has been accepted. In retrospect, according to a draft Security Council resolution, the missile launch turns out merely to have been "regrettable." Our assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Christopher Hill, visited China at the end of last week, where he was rebuffed by Beijing on sanctions for Pyongyang. He settled for an agreement that we should all return to the six-party talks.
These talks have worked so well in the past…for North Korea. We send them food and energy aid and they agree to stop nuclear production. Which they do, for a couple of months. Repeat.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Social Security – As readers of this blog will attest, no issue gets me more worked up the than the Ponzi scheme known as Social Security. Everybody knows it’s going broke, but the Democrats seem content to demagogue this issue for short-term gain. Good for them. We’ll remember how they cheered to keep everybody poor and stupid.
Sunday morning talkshow lineup – A sleepy Sunday. Even Joe Biden is AWOL, that’s how slow it is.
Tax revenues drive down deficit

This I learned from the New York Times (!!!):

An unexpectedly steep rise in tax revenues from corporations and the wealthy is driving down the projected budget deficit this year, even though spending has climbed sharply because of the war in Iraq and the cost of hurricane relief.
Wait a second. According to liberal lore, lower tax rates should have resulted in lower tax revenues. Not so. The U.S. economy is the swizzle stick that stirs the drink.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Temper, temper - From oddly-named Are We Lumberjacks? – “Peace activist beats singer into coma”: “Liberals are in no danger of running out of hypocrisy any time soon. Whether it's Al Gore burning jet fuel or peace advocates inciting mayhem, their "causes" are often just beards for their anger.” Anger? Who’s angry?

Extra – More level-headed rhetoric: Osama Bin Laden & Tom DeLay – same difference.
The ‘real deal’ – From Fox News: “FBI Busts 'Real Deal' Terror Plot Aimed At NYC-NJ Underground Transit Link
Connecticut Senate race

Well, I missed the Joe Lieberman/Ned Lamont debate, but here’s one take from Hotline Blog:

We’re not in the business of judging winners and losers; there are plenty of well-informed Nutmeg State voters who can make up their own minds. But putting aside the (curiously ironic) blogger charge that Sen. Joe Lieberman's strong performance in last night's debate was marred by his rudeness, many Connecticut and nat'l Dems likely got up this morning asking themselves if they really want to stake their hopes with Ned Lamont.
Despite the narrowing polls, I still insist that Joe Lieberman will win both the Democratic primary and Connecticut’s Senate seat. In the end, Connecticut voters and voters in general are pragmatic and will stick with a experienced, well-connected, and respected politician over a businessman neophyte, no matter how revered by the Nutroots.
The London attacks, one year later – There’s no better site than Expat Yank for a review of the 7/7 terrorist attacks, with many flashback links.
Now that’s what I call science! – Right Wing News links to what John Hawkins calls “The greatest post ever in the history of the Democratic Underground” about a guy who punched some holes in a rabbit cage and simulated the World Trade Center with a patio block and a little wood fire. You know, I have a degree in engineering, but this guy has all the answers.

Extra – From Nova on PBS: “Why the towers fell” Those so-called architects claim it was the intense fire from the jet fuel that melted the steel supports. Sadly, no rabbit cages were used in their half-assed analysis. Pffffft.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Somebody smarter to me – Hard to believe, I know, but here’s the Ken Jennings blog. (Hat tip: Begging to Differ)
Save this series – The greatest comedy on TV right now is “The Office” which grabbed an Emmy nomination for best comedy. It’s been pretty low on ratings, so I’m hoping this will keep it running. After all, we need to see if Jim pulls a Benjamin (from “The Graduate”) at Pam’s wedding.
Me loves my broadband - Thank heaven I'm back home on my DSL line again. Dial-up blows! Also, my credit card indicates I'm now free of AOL. Sweet.
Meanwhile up in Connecticut – Dave Wissing is live-blogging the Joe Lieberman/Ned Lamont debate.
New Jersey Assembly caves – Sales tax rate to rise from 6% to 7%. Good luck with that.
Shut up!” they explained

From the Boston Globe: “Bloggers battle old-school media for political clout

When a writer for The New Republic, the 92-year-old doyen of elite Washington opinion journals, accused the nation's most prominent political blogger of using his online clout to hush up a potential scandal involving a former business partner, he knew there might be some backlash from the so-called ``new media."

But he didn't expect death threats.

This wasn't meant to be a big fight," a tired-sounding Jason Zengerle, senior editor for The New Republic, said in a telephone interview last week.
It sounds to me like Zengerle will be facing more enlightened dissent in the form of salad dressing and cream pies.
The crazy Garden State – The Democratic governor and the Democrats in the New Jersey government are at an impasse and have shut down the state because they can’t decide whether to raise income taxes, property taxes, or sales taxes. There are no other options!
Just in time for my 6-hour drive home – “Oil prices hit record $75 on international jitters
Hot rhetoric, cold action

Robert Samuelson is one of the best columnists out there, if only for his clear-headed analyses of economic realities (e.g. Social Security). Today, he turns his attention to global warming in “Global warming’s real inconvenient truth”:

No government will adopt the draconian restrictions on economic growth and personal freedom (limits on electricity usage, driving and travel) that might curb global warming. Still, politicians want to show they're "doing something." The result is grandstanding. Consider the Kyoto Protocol. It allowed countries that joined to castigate those that didn't. But it hasn't reduced carbon dioxide emissions (up about 25 percent since 1990), and many signatories didn't adopt tough enough policies to hit their 2008-2012 targets. By some estimates, Europe may overshoot by 15 percent and Japan by 25 percent.
One of the reasons I’ve harped on the Cape Wind project (and Ted Kennedy’s opposition to it) is that if so-called environmentalists were serious about global warming they’d be willing to build wind farms and nuclear plants and electric cars. But they’re not really willing to do so or impose these changes on an electorate which will reject them. Is Al Gore even really serious? I’m sure he believes it’s worth the thousands of tons of jet fuel he expends on his global warming tour to protect us all from ManBearPig.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

35 seconds over North Korea

On the very day the U.S. successfully launched the space shuttle Discovery, North Korea launched their “intercontinental” missile which promptly sputtered into the ocean:

North Korea test-launched at least five missiles Wednesday, including a long-range Taepodong-2 believed capable of reaching the United States, in a display of bravado that defied stern warnings from Washington and Tokyo, officials said.
It’ll be fun to see the official Nork response: “We showed you! Now give us some food.”