Thursday, November 30, 2006

No new FICA taxes – Personal savings accounts have been abandoned, and now the fear is President Bush is going to raise taxes to strike a deal on Social Security reform. The Wall Street Journal calls that “Not so Grand Bargain.”

More SS fun – From Greg Mankiw, in a survey of economists “85.3 percent agree that "the gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged.”
The future is now

From “Sleeper,” two doctors from the future discuss the diet of a recently re-animated Woody Allen:

Dr. Melik: [puzzling over list of items sold at Miles' old health-food store] ... wheat germ, organic honey and... tiger's milk.
Dr. Aragon: Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?
Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
Dr. Melik: Incredible!
From the Boston Globe: Red wine and dark chocolate protect the heart.
Quote of the Day

From an article in the Boston Globe about a man suing the Scotts company because they caught him smoking:

Rodrigues said he decided to file suit because, "What's to make them stop at just cigarettes? If they're a Republican company, can they try and figure out who you vote for and if you vote for the Democrats, they'll fire you?
And I say: why not!
I’ll see your hyperbole and raise

George Will had a column in today’s WashPost, suggesting that incoming Virginia Senator Jim Webb may have been indecorous to President Bush during a courtesy meeting with incoming Congresspersons. However, Will’s characterization of the exchange omitted some words, leading to this post from Greg Sargent:

This is one of the rankest displays of journalistic dishonesty I've seen in some time. In today's Washington Post column, George Will assails Dem Senator-elect Jim Webb over his now-well-known confrontation with President Bush at a White House reception. To do so, Will badly distorts the reporting his own paper did on the episode, and it's quite clear his distortions were entirely deliberate.
Emphasis added. Wow, take a breath junior. It was worse than Dan Rather’s “fake but accurate” TANG memos, or CNN’s soft-pedal of Saddam Hussein’s regime, or the NY Times' Abu Gharib whiff? C’mon already. In fact, I’m tempted to say that this post was the worst thing ever written in the history of the English language and – why not? – the author is worse than Hitler.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Let’s see the plan, Charlie

From the Daily News: “We must alter Social Security, Rangel says

Raising retirement age or reducing benefits can't be ruled out if the Social Security system is to be saved from going bust, Rep. Charles Rangel said yesterday.

"All of these things are on the table to find some way to make certain that Social Security is solvent," said Rangel, who is poised to take control of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
But Paul Krugman told me everything was fine! Somebody’s fibbing.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Hard to believe, but this ruling did not come from the 9th Circuit: “Judge Orders Treasury Department to Make Paper Money Recognizable to Blind People

Here’s the lineup of scents proposed for each denomination:

$1 – Virginia baked ham
$5 – Kentucky bluegrass
$10 – Sawdust
$20 – Old Hickory
$50 – Jack Daniels
$100 – Um, you don’t want to know
The third shoe to drop

Right about the time that the bill comes due for Social Security and Medicare commitments, state pension programs are going to discover that the, um, “unique” accounting used to calculate liabilities has left government workers in the lurch. So writes Thomas Healey in the Boston Globe with “The ticking time bomb in state pensions”:

At first glance, state plans seem to be nearly as healthy as their corporate counterparts: they face a shortfall of $348 billion under current accounting rules, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators . This implies they are 86 percent funded, versus 90 percent for corporate plans.

However, these projections are misleading. The real shortfall of state-defined benefit pension programs is closer to $1.3 trillion, which translates into the plans being 64 percent funded. This alarming gap could set off a crisis whose magnitude would dwarf the $200 billion government bailout of the savings and loan industry in the 1980s. Just as disturbing, this threat is largely ignored because of opaque accounting.
Something’s gotta give.
The news from Iraq: all bad

WashPost: “Civil war in Iraq near, Annan says
WashPost: “Bush to Press Iraqi PM on Sectarian Violence
NY Times: “Hezbollah Said to Help Shiite Army in Iraq
WashPost: “Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker

Even the conservative commentators are discouraged:

Christopher Hitchens: “The objectionable thing about the proposed Baker-Hamilton "talks" is not that they are talks but that they give the impression of looking for someone to whom to surrender.”

Stanley Kurtz: “I’m afraid the notion that elections were bringing us democracy has been largely wish fulfillment. Purple fingers notwithstanding, voters weren’t thinking nationally, much less liberally. They were voting communally. And with armed non-governmental militias at large, this amounted to voting for quasi-secessionist entities.”

And Mark Levin: “Nobody is talking about victory. We had many very severe setbacks during all of our major wars, from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to World Wars I and II. Our country brought together the greatest minds NOT to devise ways to hold discussions/negotiations with the enemy, but to develop strategies to defeat them. That doesn't exist today, or if it does, those voices are drowned out by a variety of "I told you so" claims.”

Radical groups like Hezbollah and Hamas gain popular support because they often provide services that national governments cannot (or do not). The weakness of the Malaki government is that it can't do anything right, even with the strength of the U.S. military behind it. Forget about "standing up" - they haven't learned to crawl yet.
Playing the victim – From the Boston Globe: “Imams protest at airport pray-in Urge apology after clerics were barred from jet” If half of what Power Line reveals in “The Flying Imams” is true, US Airways acted prudently and correctly.

Extra - Rick Moran writes that the flying imams "may just take the prize for Best Original Performance by a Put-Upon Minority."
The legends are true – “Women talk three times as much as men, says study” (HT: Pajamas Media)
Boeing isn’t flying high – From Fox News “Durable goods order plunge in October by most in 6 years”: “The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that demand for durable goods fell a larger-than-expected 8.3 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted $210 billion, reflecting a big drop in demand for commercial airplanes, a category that had soared in September.”

Monday, November 27, 2006

Selective projections and trends

Compare and contrast:

Disco Stu: “Did you know that disco record sales were up 400% for the year ending 1976? If these trends continue... A-y-y-y!”

Maxspeak: “The chart shows the program levels for the next 20 years, the official MaxSpeak correct Federal budget planning time horizon.”

Dean Baker: “The Post is more honest than usual in today's column, noting that the program is solvent for the next 35 years according to President Bush's Social Security Trustees (40 years according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office) and that the projected explosion in health care costs implies that Medicare is a much bigger problem, but then argues that workers need time to plan for their retirement. While time for planning is great, one might think that 20 years is plenty.”

So, you see, there’s no need to reform Social Security; there’s plenty of funds for twenty or thirty years. Just don’t look beyond that horizon where the Social Security Trust Fund drops off like Village People record sales in 1982:

From the 2006 Social Security Trustee Report on “Projections of future financial status”:

The year-by-year relationship between income and cost rates shown in figure II.D2 illustrates the expected pattern of cash flow for the OASDI program over the full 75-year period. Under the intermediate assumptions, the OASDI cost rate is projected to decline slightly during 2006 through 2008 and then increase up to the current level within the next 2 years. It then begins to increase rapidly and first exceeds the income rate in 2017, producing cash-flow deficits thereafter. Despite these cash-flow deficits, beginning in 2017, redemption of trust fund assets will allow continuation of full benefit payments on a timely basis until 2040, when the trust funds will become exhausted. This redemption process will require a flow of cash from the General Fund of the Treasury. Pressures on the Federal Budget will thus emerge well before 2040. Even if a trust fund's assets are exhausted, however, tax income will continue to flow into the fund. Present tax rates would be sufficient to pay 74 percent of scheduled benefits after trust fund exhaustion in 2040 and 70 percent of scheduled benefits in 2080.
The inescapable fact about Social Security is that demographics is destiny. When Social Security was formed there were sixteen workers for every retiree; now there are three and in 30 years there will be two. This is why a team of actuaries at the Social Security Administration has extrapolated this less-than-rosy fiscal scenario. Some would say we should reform a system borne out of the Great Depression and drag it into the 21st century. Others warn that it’s all just a right-wing trick to dismantle the cornerstone of the New Deal. But only one of us has math on our side.

Extra - From today's editorial in the Washington Post:
Some Democrats dispute the urgency of the problem, arguing that the notional assets in the Social Security trust fund are sufficient to pay all the benefits promised to retirees for the next 40 years. But a retirement system needs to make credible promises that last longer than that: A worker who is 30 can't entrust her retirement to a program that will run short of money as she turns 70. Moreover, a solvency fix for Social Security requires a long lead time. Cuts in benefits must be signaled years ahead so that workers have time to plan for them. Any increase in the payroll tax needs to be implemented soon in order to keep the size of the increase to an acceptable level.
And Sebastian Mallaby makes the case for personal/add-on accounts with "A Fix for Social Security? How personal accounts could please both sides."
Don’t go there! – TV Land’s top 100 catchphrases (HT: Fark)
Quote of the Day – Pollster Peter Brown on John Kerry: “Americans know who he is, and have pretty much decided they don't like him.” Ouch. That's my Senator!
Everybody on the peace train, except for you Salman Rushdie.
And if you win, you get this shiny fiddle made of gold

Fox News: “Chavez Vows to Beat 'Devil' In Upcoming Re-Election Bid

Also, from the Boston Globe “Venezuela’s Great Divider”: “In the '70s and '80s, American liberals established a legacy of opposing right-wing, authoritarian regimes throughout Latin America. They should not stain that legacy by embracing the authoritarian Chávez simply because he comes from the left and joins them in fighting President Bush.”
Big Dig update – From the Boston Globe “AG, alleging negligence, will sue in tunnel cave-in”: “Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly plans to file a lawsuit today against seven companies involved in the design and construction of the fatally flawed ceiling in a Big Dig tunnel, charging that their negligence led to the collapse that killed a 38-year-old Jamaica Plain woman last July.”

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Amazing Race 10 update – The Final Four in Morocco

Once again, the Race has boiled down to the point where I have to root for the team I dislike the least. I guess that’s Team Blonde, sure, why not? The four remaining teams start out from Kiev, Ukraine and must head to Ourzazate, Morocco and find an antique shop where they’ll pick up an amulet. The Blondies grab the first flight but it looks like the connecting flight to Ourzazate is late in the evening so a’bunchin’ is a’comin’. However, they miss the connecting flight in Milan while the other teams take a connecting flight through Paris. No matter: everybody’s together again.

In Morocco, teams take marked cars to the next clue. Team Alabama arrives at the antique shop first where they are then directed to Atlas Studios and a “Yield ahead.” The other teams seem lost and they pick up locals to direct them to the shop. It appears that Team Alabama is poised to yield Team Blonde, saying “what goes around comes around.” Huh? What, exactly, have the beauty queens done to Lyn & Karlyn? They’re nuts. No matter: the studios don’t open until 8am so it’s a footrace to the Yield.

Gates open! Wow, now Team Alabama has something to legitimately complain about: Team Blonde arrives at the mat third and yields Lyn & Karlyn. This is the Roadblock one team member must take a chariot around a course and do the Ben-Hur thing while grabbing flags off a line. By the way, I always love it when teams who were planning to yield somebody else get delayed themselves: then the whole concept of “fairness” gets turned on its head. Teams must drive somewhere and then find a café.

Team Bicker gets a flat tire on the way to the next clue. Rob handles it with his usual aplomb. He can’t figure out how to get the jack out of the car. Team Alabama, showing their boundless sense of fair play, quip “You should have yielded the Blondes” as they blow past them on the road.

Next it’s the Detour: Throw it or Grind it. Teams may make two pottery pots or grind olives; the twist is that either task only has three stations so everybody can’t choose the same task. After Team Bicker finally gets their tire changed, they decide to join the others grinding olives, unaware that everybody else is grinding. No matter: the Blondies get way lost on the way to the olive detour and must wait until one of the three teams finishes. The other teams finish and head to the Pit Stop which is a Berber camp in the middle of the desert.

On the way, all the teams are criticizing the Blondies with Team Alabama calling them “evil.” That must be a code word for “racing very well” at least until tonight. Team Blonde arrives last to the Pit Stop but it’s a non-elimination leg so they’ll be around for the next show. Won’t the other teams be upset!

Final standings:

#1 – Team Rehab – Tyler & James – Prize: Treo phone
#2 – Team Alabama – Lyn & Karlyn
#3 – Team Bicker – Rob & Kimberly
#4 – Team Blonde – Dustin & Kandace – Non-elimination leg

Next week – It’s the Rob and Kimberly mutual meltdown.

Extra – This space reserved for recaps from Pat & Kris.
Entitlement reform update - Lawrence Lindsey writes that raising payroll taxes to “save” Social Security is the wrong approach. Hey, didn’t I just say that too?
Today’s least surprising headline: “Palestinian militants attack Israel despite Gaza truce.”

Extra – From Gateway Pundit: “Palestinians Take About An Hour to Break Ceasefire

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Wow, it’s quiet here – Anyway, here’s the lineup for the Sunday morning shows. Looks like a fair representation of the Midwest states plus Governor Ahnold from Cal-ee-forn-ya.
The Iraqi insurgency has cash

Mostly from skimming off oil profits with the help from complicit Iraqi officials, but there’s a little help from the Europeans:

As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid for hundreds of kidnap victims, the report says. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments — previously identified by American officials as including France and Italy — paid $30 million in ransom last year.
That’s $30 million to kill American soldiers. Thank you, NATO “allies.”
Tis the season – The Economist on “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” My goal this year is to set not a foot into brick-and-mortar establishments.
The backlash in Holland

From the Economist: “Islam in Europe: Hostility at Home

Once a country renowned for tolerance of minorities of all stripes, the Netherlands now risks being known for an ugly debate over its growing Muslim population. As preliminary results emerged from general elections on Wednesday November 22nd, it became clear that a previously insignificant far-right party, the Party For Freedom, may claim as many as nine seats in a parliament of 150. The party had campaigned for a halt to all immigration, and in particular was hostile towards Muslims, calling for a ban on the building of religious schools and mosques and for a ban on veils worn by Muslim women.
As I’ve noted before, because European countries are heavily dependent on immigration to prop up the social state, it has led to an influx of people who do not meld with the liberal secularist society. Conflict is inevitable.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Americans love Walmart – Sometime tomorrow, we’re going to get a preliminary figure on the gazillions spent at Walmarts all across the country on Black Friday. Here’s some perspective on the world’s largest retailer from James Lileks via Betsy’s Page and from DJ Drummond on Stolen Thunder.
Everything falls apart

From Fox News: “Shiite group threatens boycott of Iraqi parliament” – “Followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Friday threatened to boycott parliament and the Cabinet if Iraq's prime minister meets President Bush next week, a lawmaker said.”

Meanwhile, David Ignatius writes that only the Arabs can save themselves:

The idea that America is going to save the Arab world from itself is seductive, but it's wrong. We have watched in Iraq an excruciating demonstration of our inability to stop the killers. We aren't tough enough for it or smart enough -- and in the end it isn't our problem. The hard work of building a new Middle East will be done by the Arabs, or it won't happen. What would be unforgivable would be to assume that, in this part of the world, the rule of law is inherently impossible.
Why would Ignatius - who earlier in the article darkly stated “the killers always seem to win in Lebanon” – believe that some culture change would resurrect the rule of law? Further, what kind of rule of law excludes the excesses of the Saudi princes but finds reach enough for this: “Saudi court sentences rape victim to 90 lashes.” It has to be said: these are not rational people.

More – “We’re proud of our suicide bombing grandma

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving! - Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Everybody here at Viking Pundit wishes everyone a happy holiday. May we all be napping by 5pm.

Also - Lincoln, Gettysburg, and Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Make the curve go up (or at least flat) – Here’s professor of economics Andrew Samwick with his take on Social Security reform: “The Administration essentially has to win one key point about the goals of the debate: that the standard for reform should be that under current projections, the final product achieve "sustainable solvency" for the system: a positive and rising Trust Fund balance at the end of the projection period.” (HT: Memeorandum)
The search for resolve - Here’s Tony Blankley on RCP with “Making the last mistake in Iraq”: “If we, the most powerful force on the planet, in a fit of disappointment and anger at our bungling policies to date, decide to shrug off our responsibilities to the future -- we will soon receive, and deserve, the furious contempt of a terrified world.”

I actually believe that most Americans understand the consequences of a Saigon-type withdrawal from Iraq. But I also think they simply don’t give a damn, they just want the troops home. Finally, I’d like to believe that a liberal democracy is the creed of every person in the world, but recent circumstances would suggest otherwise. Those proud purple fingers seem like artifacts from a different era.
Time to negotiate on Social Security

Is there still a chance for Social Security reform? The Wall Street Journal writes that a chastened President Bush is still committed to fixing the problem:

President Bush tried and failed to fix Social Security's long-term finances with his own party in control of Congress. His determination to keep trying, even as Democrats take over, is fueling speculation that he is ready to meet their price for coming to the bargaining table: dropping his goal of letting workers create private retirement accounts.

While Democrats don't take over the House and Senate until January, already some in both parties are reading tea leaves for signs of administration flexibility, including in recent remarks by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten.

Were the president to drop private accounts and call their bluff, Democrats would be challenged to make good on their professed willingness to help ensure Social Security's solvency.
This is in line with a report in the WashPost – “Social Security up for discussion”:

With the elections over and Democrats poised to take control on Capitol Hill, the Bush administration is making a fresh push to persuade them to help rein in the rising costs of Social Security and government health-care programs by offering to open talks with "no preconditions."
Well, I would prefer one precondition: if the White House is going to drop private savings accounts, the Democrats should agree to no additional FICA taxes. Already, some 70% of Americans spend more in payroll taxes than income taxes due in no small part to the fact that the payroll tax rate has steadily risen over time. When Social Security was in its infancy, the rate was 1% - it now stands at 6.2%; some (like me) would argue the rate is actually 12.4% since employers have to match your payment. Of course, since this expense doesn’t live in a vacuum, businesses are forced to pass on the cost in either higher prices or depressed wages.
Fruit of the vine – If you’re somewhat of an oenophile, Slate has an interesting profile of “the greatest vintner in America” by the name of Paul Draper.
Happy Thanksgiving! – From the Boston Globe: “Airline offering a free beer on Thanksgiving flights

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Trouble sought, found - It’s starting to look like those imams forced off a flight in Minneapolis were attempting to instigate a reaction. Now they’re working with CAIR to set up a boycott of U.S. airlines. Howie at the Jawa Report echoes my reaction: “Well go right ahead and do that.”
Typical college “tolerance” in the Pioneer Valley – Here’s Mike Adams’ account of his reception at the University of Massachusetts here in my neck of the woods: “I was in Amherst, Massachusetts – a place somewhere in America. Or so they say.”

Extra – More open minds at Brown University.

More – From the UMass Daily Collegian’s account of the speech:

"I think it's a dang shame that we couldn't have a dialog." says Berra Denow, a first year student from Hampshire College who came to protest the speech.

Denow, who considers himself to be a progressive democrat, feels that while that the majority of the students protesting Adams' speech were there to take part the debate in a calm and reasonable manner, a few were not.

"It's about freedom of speech, and changing people's minds is about having a dialog. The best thing you can do for your side is to represent yourself well, and I think most of the people in this audience were doing that, there were just a few crazy people who came up, ranted and got off topic, and I think that's a dang shame," said Denow.
Keep shuffling those papers, Katie – On the CBS Evening News a segment at the end of the show went awry, so Katie Couric just ended the broadcast. What follows is two minutes of standing around, even after a commercial break. Classic. (HT: Ace).

Monday, November 20, 2006

Uncomfortable juxtaposition of blog posts

Surfing around tonight, first I found this:

China has finally admitted that most of its transplantable organs come from executed prisoners, and many of those are sold to foreigners. The LA Times quotes one kidney-seeking American who went to Guangdong for a quick replacement, and it's fairly clear that other Americans have benefited from the harvest.
Then this:

It took 12 surgeons, six operating rooms and five donors to pull it off, but five desperate strangers simultaneously received new organs in what hospital officials Monday described as the first-ever quintuple kidney transplant.
Keep hope alive – John Kerry still believes that John Kerry has a chance to be president. Who are we to squash his futile dreams? Go Senator Splunge!
Apres Britney, le deluge – Funny story from Defamer: “House of Blues staff unable to trick people into taking free K-Fed tickets” (HT: Fark)
Quote of the Day – From Victor Davis Hanson: “Governance is not the same as easy criticism. Already the Democrats are learning, as is eternally true of our wonderful political system, that loud opposition is not the same as being responsible for governance.” For extra fun, check out the Captain’s: “Forced to Govern.”
Democracy and gay marriage in Massachusetts

No matter what side you fall on with the issue of gay marriage, everybody should be appalled by the behavior of the Beacon Hill politicians who decided to ignore the state Constitution. That document declares that when the government is petitioned by the people, they “shall” vote on the matter. Instead:

Conservative and religious groups gathered a record 170,000 signatures on a petition to put the proposed ban on same-sex marriages on the 2008 ballot, but the measure also requires the support of at least 50 legislators in two consecutive sessions to qualify for a statewide referendum. On Nov. 9, legislators voted 109 to 87 to go into recess rather than vote on the gay marriage ban, all but dooming its chances of appearing on the 2008 ballot.

"The issue before us is not whether same-sex couples should marry. The issue before us today is whether 109 legislators will follow the constitution," declared Romney, promising to send the 109 lawmakers a copy of the constitution and their oath of office to underscore his frustration. "Let us not see the state, which first established constitutional democracy, become the first to abandon it."
Those on the Left who loathe judicial rule handed down by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court should be troubled by a social issue decided by a state court, leaving the people with no outlet to let the people decide.

Extra – From Wizbang: “Vox Populi, Vox Diddlysquat

Massachusetts Constitution: “Section 3. Amendment of Proposed Amendments. - A proposal for an amendment to the constitution introduced by initiative petition shall be voted upon in the form in which it was introduced, unless such amendment is amended by vote of three-fourths of the members voting thereon in joint session, which vote shall be taken by call of the yeas and nays if called for by any member.”

MoreIgnoring the people’s will in Michigan, too. Those stupid voters.
The population crisis in Japan

I’ve written many times before that if you want to see into the future of America’s generational conflict, look to Europe where a massive social state is propped up by a shrinking workforce. However, the same demographic bomb is ticking in the East also, as Fred Hiatt details in “Japan shrinks”:

For a population to hold steady, every woman must give birth on average to 2.1 children. When the birthrate drops below 1.5 and stays there for any time, it's almost impossible to recover, given the momentum of demographics. Below 1.3 is considered "lowest-low." China is at 1.7 and dropping. Japan last year clocked in at 1.25.

As a result, Japan's population, now about 128 million, is expected to fall to about 100 million by mid-century. Big deal, you might say. Wasn't Japan happy enough 50 years ago, when it blew through the 100 million mark on the way up?

Yes, but it was a very different 100 million then. In 1965 there were 25 million children in Japan, 67 million people of working age and 6 million senior citizens. In 2050 there will be 11 million children, 54 million potential workers and 36 million people 65 and over. No one knows whether such a society can maintain a spirit of innovation, or how its capitalists will adapt to a shrinking market. There will potentially be a lot more dependents for every productive worker.
Unlike the United States, Japan does not depend on immigration to keep the population growth steadily positive. The danger of an unbalanced worker-to-retiree ratio is that incentives disappear to earn an extra dollar (or yen) when it is swallowed up by government taxes. As they say in the article: “there will be some adjustment.”

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Democrats’ so-called alternative to Social Security reform

The business section of today’s Boston Globe has a story titled “How the Democrats plan to beef up your 401(k)” which details a scheme called “AmeriSave” to help out workers with a $1,000 matching contribution to the popular retirement savings plan. I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea: it will be very expensive, for sure, but if it softens the impact of Social Security’s collapse then why not? Best of all, it retains retirement security in 401(k) accounts instead of keeping Americans chained to the federal government for support.

But I recall that one of the Democrats’ arguments against private savings accounts was that those eeevil financial institutions would benefit from an influx of investment cash. But that was then:

While aimed at voters, the Democratic proposal also could generate support from the investment industry, including such Boston players as Fidelity Investments. These companies stand to receive billions of dollars in new flows of money to manage in mutual funds and other vehicles.
Oh, well, never mind that. A more fundamental question is whether lower-income workers can afford to put a grand into their 401(k)s. Ironically, these workers pay much more in payroll taxes – for Social Security and Medicare – than they do in income taxes. And thus the cycle of dependency continues unabated.
Amazing Race 10 update – Facing the music in Kiev

The five remaining teams continued on the extended leg of the Race (see last week’s recap) in Helsinki, Finland. After completing their rappel task, teams must head to Kiev, Ukraine. Team Rehab is annoyed because all the racing so far on this leg is essentially negated by a bunching situation while everybody waits for a plane to Kiev. Once there, teams must find a location on their clue written in Cyrillic and drive a Russian car to the next destination.

The next stop is a Roadblock: one team member must navigate a Soviet tank through an obstacle course. Team Blonde and Rehab arrive first and plow through the Ukrainian mud while everybody else is still looking for the tanks. James and Dustin complete the course and they’re directed to an apartment in Kiev for the next clue. After the Cho brothers finish the tank task they wait for Team Alabama to finish. I’m now officially annoyed with Team Ergo: it’s a race! It’s an Amazing Race! Karma catches up Team Bicker and their Russian car expires on the way to Kiev.

After the apartment stop, it’s the Detour: Make the Music or Find the Music. Teams may go to a hip-hop club and perform a rap song incorporating the names of the countries they’ve visited so far. Or they may travel to a music conservatory and search thousands of sheets of music for one particular piece and then find a pianist who needs the music. Both tasks apparently require a costume change: Team Blonde dress as rappers while Team Rehab dons tuxedoes (with tails) to find the music.

Meanwhile, Team Alabama gets fed up with following the Cho brothers who have stopped for directions at least four times to find the city of Kiev. Usually large urban centers have major highways leading to them, but Team Ergo seems lost. Lyn & Karlyn peel away and Team Ergo laments that their “alliance” is finished. Good.

Back at the Detour, Team Rehab finishes the classical music Detour first and must head to the Pit Stop at the Great Patriotic War Memorial in Kiev. Dustin & Kandace do an awesome job on their rap and head out to the Pit Stop next. Team Bicker isn’t quite so good but they get the next clue anyway. Team Alabama and Team Ergo are bringing up the rear.

On the way to the Pit Stop, the Cho brothers head down a closed street and the police are not amused. In that classic tone of Soviet authority, the police order: “Show all documents.” I don’t know how long they were detained but, quite suddenly, it’s dark out and Team Ergo is shuffling up to Phil on the mat where they are eliminated.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Rehab – Tyler & James – Prize: Trip to Mexico
#2 – Team Blonde – Dustin & Kandace
#3 – Team Bicker – Rob & Kimberly
#4 – Team Alabama – Lyn & Karlyn
#5 – Team Ergo – Erwin & Godwin – PHILIMINATED

Next week: Chariots of fire.

Extra – This space reserved for reviews from Pat and Kris.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sunday morning talk show lineup – Lots of Democrats and John McCain. But if you’re itching for the humor that is John Kerry’s limitless equivocation, tune into Fox News Sunday.
$17 a barrel? – Israel may have found a way to produce synthetic oil from shale in a process that is cheaper and purer than conventional refining. This means that Israel can have energy independence and a steady source of income.

Oh, and it could collapse the economies of all the countries trying to destroy Israel. Call that a bonus.
Bolton on fire – After the United Nations passes yet another anti-Israel resolution, the U.S. ambassador John Bolton is “rocking the boat” again.
The greatest American hero – Not sure why, but I laughed out loud when I read this: “I don't know what it means to be a hero. If it's saving children's lives and pulling dogs out of burning buildings then yeah, I guess I am a hero. But if it means calling Paris Hilton a tranvestite on national radio then by golly Tina Fey is a hero. Some might even say the greatest hero ever to have lived.”

From the Lionel Hutz files:

Hutz: Mr. Simpson, this is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my suit against the film, "The Never-Ending Story".
Homer: So. Do you think I have a case?
Hutz: Homer, I don't use the word "hero" very often, but you are the greatest hero in American history.
Homer: Woo hoo!
Sweet charity - Liberals believe that charity begins in the government.
Ideological drift - George W. Bush: not a conservative. So says American Conservative magazine: “The problem is that he is generally called a conservative, perhaps because he obviously is not a liberal. It may be that Bush, in the magnitude of his failure, defies conventional categories. But the word “conservative” deserves to be rescued.” (HT: Arts & Letters)
Scarlet fever hits NASCAR: “The New Jersey based company H57 Hoodia announced they it will be adding the decal "Go Rutgers" to the side of its NASCAR Busch Series No. 70 Chevrolet competing for the series championship at Homestead Miami Speedway Saturday night.”

The improbable #7-ranked Rutgers takes on Cincinnati tonight. Go RU!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Clash of culture – From Fox News: “Dutch government proposes ban on wearing burqas in public places” – “The Dutch government announced plans Friday for legislation banning full-length veils in public places and other clothing that covers the face — putting the Netherlands at the forefront of a general European hardening toward Muslim minorities.” I have a bad feeling that this is going to get ugly.
The little one has a big mouth

From a WashPost review of the Dixie Chicks documentary “Shut Up and Sing”:

One of the excellent attributes of "Shut Up and Sing" is that it lets the cards fall where they may and really doesn't try to spin the Chicks themselves. It's quite possible, then, to watch the film and come to the conclusion that Natalie Maines has a big mouth. Spectacularly talented, the young singer is also a spectacular blowhard, and documentarian Barbara Kopple almost subversively focuses on Maines blabbering away at meetings without a serious thought in her head, no impulse control anywhere in sight, and, for some reason, always supine, as if her great status grants her the right to encounter the world from bed.
Yipes! Let’s run the video again.
Alcee Hastings’ inquisitor – The Florida congressman is set to chair the House Intelligence Committee. But as Byron York reminds us, it wasn’t a Republican who forced him from office almost two decades ago: “Eighteen years ago, Democratic Rep. John Conyers came to believe that Alcee Hastings, at the time a federal judge in Florida, was guilty of impeachable offenses. Hastings stood accused of conspiring to take bribes, and, although it is little remembered today, Conyers served as the chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee that investigated Hastings and unanimously recommended his impeachment. After the House voted 413 to 3 to impeach Hastings, Conyers went on to serve as one of the House impeachment managers who successfully argued before the Senate that Hastings should be convicted and removed from office.”
Why Iraq is crumbling – Charles Krauthammer writes that it’s all the Iraqis fault: “We have given the Iraqis a republic, and they do not appear able to keep it.”

Extra – Silent Running lists some observations from General Barry McCaffery (retired)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Air America update – As liberal talk stations fall one by one, there’s a rumor that Al Franken is leaving Air America. Unfortunately, he’s not leaving America.

Update – Brian sorta confirms. Stay tuned.
Another Rutgers grad, Milton Friedman, dies at 94 – “Friedman's theory that inflation results from too much money chasing too few goods inspired a generation of central bankers, beginning with Paul Volcker, who was Fed chairman from 1979 until 1987. Alan Greenspan and Ben S. Bernanke also credit Friedman's work as a blueprint for policy making.”
Irrelevant man walking – From Wizbang: “Schumer tells Kerry: ‘Get lost, creep!”
Confused yet? – From CNN: “Scientists: Pollution could combat global warming

Irony alert – Australia experiences a 50-year cold snap as Al Gore visits.
An inauspicious start

Here’s Bob Novak with “Pelosi’s first mistake”:

This is a no-win situation for Pelosi. If Murtha wins today, she will be accused of personal vindictiveness in derailing Hoyer, who is more popular in the caucus and better qualified for leadership. If Murtha loses, as is much more probable, she will be seen as bumbling her first attempt to lead the new Democratic majority.
I had C-Span radio on this morning and during the call-in program every single caller to the “Democrats” line voiced fervent support for John Murtha. So maybe Nancy Pelosi was playing to her base with the knowledge that Steny Hoyer would gain the majority position anyway. Or maybe I’m giving Nancy too much credit.

Extra - More on the Dems' shortened honeymoon:
WashPost: "Time of testing for Harry Reid" - "As minority leader, Reid was remarkably effective in keeping the Democratic caucus united but far less successful as a public spokesman for his party. His partisan comments were often too sharp, his television appearances less than commanding. In his new role, he will be far more exposed, and his flaws more conspicuous."
And from the NY Times: "After win, Democrats revert to finger-pointing"

More on the battle from Decision08.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Time out

I need a break. I’m feeling out of sorts, had a terrible commute today and I’m just generally burnt out on the latest news. Trent Lott? Ugh.

So this is all I’m going to say today: Home Depot has a commercial out right now that absolutely cracks me up. The scene is two middle-aged guys at work and the first asks: “What are you doing this weekend?”

I’m going to Home Depot. We’re going to re-paint the entire living room.”

To which the first responds, with a perfect mixture of one-upmanship and comic prevarication: “I’m building an airport.”

Hahahaha!!! I love that guy! Who among us hasn’t felt a little self-conscious about the grand projects everybody else is working on? I hope that Seth Stevenson does an Ad Report Card on this one. Brilliant.

(Editor’s note: The author built a firewood stand this summer that came out so good that his mom thought he had assembled it from a kit. So there.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Iran’s weekly schedule

If it’s Tuesday, it must be time for Iran to make an “accidental” demonstration of its nuclear capabilities.
Wednesday is “Death to Israel” day.
Thursday is nuke-u-lar day.
Friday is “We’re trying to be reasonable” day.
Saturday is “Death to America” day.
Sunday is NASCAR day.
Going on the Christmas list – The NY Sun reviews Mark Steyn’s new book: “America Alone: The End of the World as we know it.”
Science and anarchy

The kidnapping of fifty Iraqis from a Baghdad research center immediately reminded me of this section of Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Agent” where an anarchist is explaining why an attack on science is a pure attack on reason:

“A bomb outrage to have any influence on public opinion now must go beyond the intention of vengeance or terrorism. It must be purely destructive. It must be that, and only that, beyond the faintest suspicion of any other object. You anarchists should make it clear that you are perfectly determined to make a clean sweep of the whole social creation. But how to get that appallingly absurd notion into the heads of the middle classes so that there should be no mistake? That's the question. By directing your blows at something outside the ordinary passions of humanity is the answer. …

But there is learning - science. Any imbecile that has got an income believes in that. He does not know why, but he believes it matters somehow. It is the sacrosanct fetish. All the damned professors are radicals at heart. Let them know that their great panjandrum has got to go too, to make room for the Future of the Proletariat. A howl from all these intellectual idiots is bound to help forward the labours of the Milan Conference. They will be writing to the papers. Their indignation would be above suspicion, no material interests being openly at stake, and it will alarm every selfishness of the class which should be impressed. They believe that in some mysterious way science is at the source of their material prosperity. They do. And the absurd ferocity of such a demonstration will affect them more profoundly than the mangling of a whole street - or theatre - full of their own kind. To that last they can always say: `Oh! it's mere class hate.' But what is one to say to an act of destructive ferocity so absurd as to be incomprehensible, inexplicable, almost unthinkable; in fact, mad? Madness alone is truly terrifying, inasmuch as you cannot placate it either by threats, persuasion, or bribes. Moreover, I am a civilised man. I would never dream of directing you to organise a mere butchery, even if I expected the best results from it. But I wouldn't expect from a butchery the result I want. Murder is always with us. It is almost an institution. The demonstration must be against learning - science.”
I don’t expect the Iraqi insurgents to know the works of Conrad but I suspect they understand the effect of random acts of violence on the public psyche.
Heading for the red

From USA Today: “Social Security: Easy to fix, but where’s the political courage?”

With people living longer, the program pays an unsustainable amount in benefits and would already be in the red if not for contributions from the massive baby boom generation, now on the verge of retirement.

Emerging from last week's elections, President Bush and congressional Democrats vowed bipartisan cooperation in solving the nation's big problems. Fixing Social Security before it's too late should be high on the list. But don't bet on it.
I’m not! Just leave me and my 401(k) alone and everything will be cool.
I can quit any time I want – From the WashPost: “Caught in the Web More people say heavy Internet use is disrupting their lives, and medical experts are paying attention

Monday, November 13, 2006

The “winners”? – From The Truth About Cars: “The 2006 Ten Worst Automobiles Today (TWAT) Awards” (HT: Pajamas Media)
Hey there, Mr. Blue Sky – From the Weekly Standard: “Why Tuesday wasn’t so bad.”
This will boost my traffic – Sex tape scandal in Iran: “Outrage in Iran as actress does a “Paris” and her sex video ends up on the net.” Bring it to me, Google!
Five yearsHappy Blogoversary to Matthew Hoy.
No time to cut and run

Mark Steyn makes the case for fighting the GWOT:

It has been a long time since America unambiguously won a war, and to choose to lose Iraq would be an act of such parochial self-indulgence that the American moment would not endure, and would not deserve to. Europe is becoming semi-Muslim, Third World basket-case states are going nuclear, and, for all that 40 percent of planetary military spending, America can't muster the will to take on pipsqueak enemies. We think we can just call off the game early, and go back home and watch TV.

It doesn't work like that. Whatever it started out as, Iraq is a test of American seriousness. And, if the Great Satan can't win in Vietnam or Iraq, where can it win? That's how China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Venezuela and a whole lot of others look at it. "These Colors Don't Run" is a fine T-shirt slogan, but in reality these colors have spent 40 years running from the jungles of Southeast Asia, the helicopters in the Persian desert, the streets of Mogadishu. ... To add the sands of Mesopotamia to the list will be an act of weakness from which America will never recover.
Well, it’s hard to argue with Steyn but I’d like to think that America is made of stronger stuff and will survive this crisis. Yes, we may pack up and leave Iraq behind but we were also crazy enough to invade in the first place on faulty intelligence. Something to think about, Iran.

Extra – John Hawkins’ interview with Mark Steyn.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Amazing Race 10 update – North to muddy Finland

The remaining five teams start out from Madagascar and must travel to Helsinki, Finland. In a twist, the Amazing Race is providing teams with tickets to Paris to make a connection to Finland, due to the limited availability of flights. However, this flight doesn’t leave for almost 16 hours and everybody decides it would be quicker to fly to Johannesburg, South Africa then to Addis Ababa then Frankfurt and finally Helsinki. Team Alabama is wearing David’s University of Kentucky cap and the Cho brothers are wearing the “Friends in Low Places” T-shirts.

Once in Helsinki, teams must find a coffee house with computers and log onto (product placement!) Everybody gets video messages from friends and family back home. They get the next clue which directs them to a school outside the city where they must search for a clue box. So this was just a “stop here” AOL plug. Ugh. Everybody’s bunched up on the train to Tampere. Once they arrive, Lyn & Karlyn totally steal a cab (there’s a queue line) leaving Team Ergo to fume: “sometimes it sucks to be polite.”

At the school field, it’s a Detour: Swamp This or Swamp That. Teams may either strap on cross-country skis and slog through a muddy field or go through an obstacle course that is also in knee-high mud. Allegedly this is how Finnish Winter Olympic athletes train in the summer. Everybody gets very dirty and tired.

The next clue directs teams to take a train to Turku then drive a car to Lohja and a limestone mine. Team Rehab and Team Blonde get onboard while Team Bicker arrives just in time to see the train leave the platform. On the next train out, Team Ergo finds a guy who happens to work at the mine company. At the limestone mine it’s the Roadblock: one team member must take a bike underground and retrieve a piece of limestone which has the next clue. It’s too bad Team 16 Tons couldn’t have made it to this point. Team Rehab finishes first and heads to the Pit Stop at the Olympic Stadium back in Helsinki.

Displaying a lack of knowledge of common tools, one of the Blondies calls a chisel “the pointy thing.” The three teams from that later team all arrive at the mine together but – inexplicably – Rob of Team Bicker drives in the wrong direction and straight into a warehouse. Teams Alabama and Ergo take the tram down into the mine. Rob is freaking out at first but he passes Team Alabama in the mine. All three teams end up on the same tram back to the surface.

At Olympic Stadium, it’s not a simple run to the mat. Teams must climb a tower and then rappel down the tower face first; James of Team Rehab is afraid of heights and this seems like a pretty scary task. After he gets to the bottom, they receive their next clue: “Keep Racing!” This is not the Pit Stop but part one of an extended leg.

Next week: Tank warfare

Extra – This space reserved for recaps from Pat and Kris. (Of course, I should omit Kris for picking Louisville over Rutgers, but I’ll be magnanimous.)
Hooray! Conservatism wins!

More silver-lining searching this time from Jeff Jacoby writing in the Boston Globe:

Voters were fed up with Republicans, and they had every reason to be. In 1994, the GOP swept to power on its "Contract with America" -- a principled platform of fiscal restraint, smaller government, and cleaner politics. A dozen years later, the contract forgotten, the GOP had become an embarrassment -- a party of soaring federal budgets, gluttonous farm and highway bills, and earmarks from here to eternity. Instead of permanent tax relief and Social Security reform, the Republicans delivered a vast new drug entitlement and the McCain-Feingold crackdown on political expression. Worst of all, the party that had held itself out as the antidote to Democratic corruption now reeked of its own scandals. Week by week, the parade of sleazy Republicans seemed to lengthen -- Jack Abramoff, Bob Ney, Mark Foley, Duke Cunningham. Voters finally had enough.
I’ve written on my disappointment how, in the face of already-exploding entitlement obligations, the GOP made the problem much worse with the prescription drug benefit. If Republicans are just going to spend money, Americans are going to vote for Democrats because at least they’ll tell you the revenues for the spending will come from soaking the rich.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Dressing room must have lock – ‘cause all the chicks want some K-Fed. Via the Superficial, here is Kevin Federline’s hospitality rider. His stage act consists of speed-texting and extracting money from an ATM.
And on the Sunday morning talk shows – Oh, who cares? Some Democrats will do some fist pumping and then lay out a specific plan to disengage us from Iraq. Well, they’ll do some fist pumping.
This might be bad news – From the Astute Bloggers: “Why is Al Qaeda retreating from the Afghan border region?” It might be nothing, or it might be that the Taliban is scattering in anticipation of a retaliatory American attack.
Now what?

The Economist (UK) on the Democrats’ plans: “Old-timers will run the House, but their agenda is not clear

Less clear is whether Ms Pelosi and her generals can push a coherent agenda of their own. The Democrats’ equivalent of the “Contract with America” is a 31-page pamphlet called “A new direction for America”, boiled down for campaign purposes to “Six for ’06”, a six-pronged action plan that Ms Pelosi promises to enact within 100 hours of becoming speaker.

Unfortunately, this “agenda” is little more than a series of soundbites designed to show that Democrats care about the plight of ordinary workers. There are pledges to raise the minimum wage, expand tax-break subsidies for college, “free America from dependence on foreign oil” by boosting alternative fuels and ending tax giveaways to big oil, allow the government to negotiate lower prices with drug firms, promote stem-cell research, and stop any plans to privatise Social Security.

The plan says nothing about some of the tougher issues facing America’s legislature. Not a word about how Democrats might fix Social Security’s finances. No mention of how they will deal with the Alternative Minimum Tax which will, without new legislation, hit 22m Americans in 2007, up from 3.4m in 2006. Worse, the proposals are internally inconsistent. There is a promise to end the Republicans’ fiscal profligacy by reinstating budget rules that require tax cuts and spending increases to be matched by savings elsewhere. But there is no explanation of how the Democrats’ own pet tax cuts or spending increases would be paid for.
And let me beat this drum again: all those things that people call the “government” – including college loans, energy research, defense, park rangers, food safety, etc. – will disappear unless the entitlement crisis is managed. We’re getting perilously close to the last chance to reform Medicare and Social Security before millions of baby boomers roll the U.S. Treasury.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Update your bookmarksExpat Yank has moved. Check out Robert’s blog for perspectives of a New Yorker living in London.
More post-mortems – All is well, declares Charles Krauthammer in “Only a minor earthquake”: all those Democrats were really conservative anyway and Joe Lieberman won too. And George Will flogs his “genius of the political market” theme again.
Election's over - And my traffic is way down. Come back for the exciting discourse on entitlement policy!
The grifters – New Yorker Ned Crabb reveals some of the new scams making the rounds. Dr. Mellville Killington wants his coins back.
Did I mention that Rutgers won last night?

Did I exaggerate when I said it was the greatest game ever?

In a game so electrifying that the Big East lead and other BCS considerations faded into the background, Rutgers upended third-ranked and unbeaten Louisville, 28-25, in one of the most astonishing games ever played since the first crude collegiate contest, played in New Jersey just four years after the Civil War ended.
Rah, rah, Rutgers rah!

Extra - John Cole is in disbelief.
Rutgers beats Louisville!

The #15 Scarlet Knights came back from an 18-point deficit to shock #3 Louisville beating them 28-25 in Piscataway, New Jersey. It was the greatest college football game ever. EVER!

The ESPN guys seem to be in a state of disbelief. They might as well cancel classes tomorrow.

New Jersey Star-Ledger: “Rutgers stuns Louisville, 28-25
GOP and the City: “This is not my father's Rutgers Football team!”
Suck it, Sporting News: “Rutgers doesn't have the offense to beat Louisville” Wrong!
New York Times: “Rutgers upsets Louisville and remains unbeaten.” 9-0, baby!

EAL - Class of '91

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Everybody’s a joker – By the way, I forgot to mention: my co-workers presented me with a sympathy card today. One of the signatures was from “Dick C.” who said not to worry and that he’d take me on a hunting trip. Ha ha.
Election 2006 - Trying to sort through all the post-mortems is like drinking from a fire hose. Michael Barone has some groggy pre-dawn “Thoughts from the wee hours of Election night.”
A quarter of Americans plan to eat cat food in retirement – From Dayton Business Journal: “While most people know that Social Security and company-provided pensions might not be available when they hit retirement, many still plan to rely on them. In the survey, a phone poll of 1,000 nonretired people throughout the United States, 23 percent say they intend to use Social Security as their primary income source in retirement.” The primary source of income! Good luck with that.
Get to the point – You seldom see reviews this direct. Writing about Microsoft’s IPod knockoff: “Zune stinks.”
Another election – Another problem with Chad.
The verdict on Rumsfeld

Here’s Victor Davis Hanson writing on Pajamas Media:

Here is the record of Donald Rumsfeld. (1) Tried to take a top-heavy Pentagon and prepare it for the wars of the postmodern world, in which on a minute’s notice thousands of American soldiers, with air and sea support, would have to be sent to some god-awful place to fight some savagery—and then be trashed live on CNN for doing it; (2) less than a month after 9/11 he organized the retaliation against al Qaeda in the heart of primordial Afghanistan that removed the Taliban in 7 weeks, when we were all warned that the U.S., like the British and Russians of old, would fail; (3) oversaw the removal of Saddam in 3 weeks—after the 1991 Gulf War and the 12-years of 350,000 sorties in the no-fly-zones, and various bombing strikes, had failed. (4) Ah, you say, then there is the disastrous 3-year insurgency—too few troops, Iraqi army let go, underestimated “dead-enders” etc.?

But Rumsfeld knew that in a counterinsurgency (cf. Vietnam 1965-71) massive deployments only ensure complacency, breed dependency, and create resentment, and that, in contrast, training indigenous forces, ensuring political autonomy, and providing air and commando support (e.g., Vietnam circa 1972-4) is the only answer—although that is a long process that can work only if political support at home allows the military to finish the job (cf. the turn-of-the-century Philippines, and the British in Malaysia). He was a good man, and we were lucky to have him in our hour of need.
This may be the most laudatory thing written about Rumsfeld today, as the prevailing opinion is decidedly negative:

Boston Globe editorial: “President Bush should have asked for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation a long time ago. Rumsfeld bears much of the responsibility for a costly and dangerous sequence of blunders in Iraq.
And Slate with “A Catalog of Failure”: “It remains unclear whether Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld finally stepped down because he mismanaged the war on terrorism, failed in his efforts to transform the Pentagon, or became the scapegoat for the Republicans' loss of the House.”

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The drift then the shift

Dean Barrett is spot-on with “An Overdue Reckoning

Most importantly, we didn’t lose because our countrymen suddenly misplaced the virtues that make America great. It is a distinctly liberal trait to blame “the people” when they don’t vote as one would dictate. I’ll brook none of that from our side. The fact is, we thought our country would be better off with a Republican congress. We made a case to the American people. They didn’t buy it because they thought it was a weak case.

And you know what? They were right. In the closing weeks of the campaign season, I felt like I was a lawyer who had a bad client while writing this blog. That client was the Republican Party which had broken its Contract with America from 1994 and had become unmoored from its conservative principles. As its advocate, I couldn’t make a more compelling case for Republicans staying in power than the fact that the Democrats would be worse. I believed in that case, but when that’s all the party gave its advocates to work with, you can honestly conclude that Republicans got this drubbing the old fashioned way – we earned it.
I expressed a similar sentiment last night and Ace adds his own thoughts. Here’s the abridged version from the Corner:

The Democrats said: “Had enough?”

The Republicans said: “It could be worse!”

The voters said: “Let’s find out.”
Thrown on his swordRummy’s out and it’s a shame that somebody who served so loyally is going to be the goat of these elections. But then Rumsfeld hatred was the bulwark of the Democrats’ position on Iraq; now they have to come up with a real policy.

Extra - James Joyner has a roundup on Bush's press conference and the Rumsfeld resignation.
Comments - I don't know what happened to commenting. Sorry about that. Should be working again.
Perspective on the election

From my man, Aaaaaaaaaabe:

He said that he felt “like the boy that stumped his toe,—‘it hurt too bad to laugh, and he was too big to cry.’”
Well, this was just salt in the wound – Boston Globe: “Massachusetts voters reject wine in grocery stores” – “Massachusetts wine drinkers will not be able to pick up their favorite bottle of red or white while shopping for food after voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have allowed sales in grocery stores.” Hooray, we saved the package store monopoly. Lottery tickets for everyone.
Too late – How inept was Kerry Healey’s campaign? I got a “Healey for Governor” mailing…today. Deval Patrick romped all over.
Reality check - Hey, Bill Kristol, STOP calling for more troops! It's NOT going to happen!

For heaven's sake, haven't you seen that Americans don't give a crap?!? Pull back and let them kill each other, OK? Great.l
Democratic sweep - Well, it was everything we were warned about. The House was lost a long time ago but now it looks like the Senate is also lost, from Virginia to Missouri to Montana.

Montana! Virginia! Ohio!

Oh, congratulations, GOP, on capturing Tennessee [sarcastic clapping]

I'm beyond upset. I can't express myself adequately because I'm tired and filled with wine. But, be forewarned, the GOP gave this election away. HANDED IT AWAY. So stop sending me fundraising letters. It's bad enough we lost control, but we lost it because the GOP failed to hold true to conservative values.

Just. Like. That.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Florida 2000 part 2 – The Allen-Webb race in Virginia is separated by 5,000 votes out of 2,200,000 cast with 97% reporting. This is going to recount.

Unbelievable – With 99% reporting, Allen is up by 1,800 votes with 2,270,000 votes cast in Virginia. This means that control of the Senate is heading to the courts. (Midnight EST update)

Update - Now it's Webb up by 1,800 votes with 99.3% reporting. This is nuts.

More - Judge Napolitano correctly notes that recounts rarely overturn results. Boo. I say boo.
Thoroughly depressing - Fox News announces that the Democrats have now taken control of the House of Representatives.

Interesting political trivia: according to various sources, when the House has changed control the Senate has always followed along. So far it's looking like this year will be the exception to the rule.
Just a second - Fox News is reporting that the Washington Post is rescinding its call for Ben Cardin in Maryland. Michael Steele has not conceded and CNN shows him up by 4% with 45% of precincts reporting. Crazy.
Eleven p.m. EST Senate update – Allen continues to lead by a whisker in Virginia. Meanwhile, Talent is up by 8% over McCaskill in Missouri with 35% reporting and Corker is up by 5% with 71% reporting in Tennessee.

So…not only does the Senate look safe for the GOP but as things stand, all of my Senate predictions were exactly correct. Bow down to the all-knowing Viking Pundit!

Wait, wait…Fox News just reported that neither St. Louis or Kansas City precincts have reported in Missouri. What’s up with that? Hang tight.
Tradesports political market – The regular site is overloaded but check out the updates on the left margin of Poor & Stupid. House GOP retention is down to 5%, but Senate GOP retention is holding at 71%. (10:10pm EST)

Update - Ten minutes later, the GOP Senate future is up to 81% because it looks like Allen is going to pull it out in Virginia. With 92% of the vote in, he's up by 20,000 votes or 1%.
Maryland – Fox calls it for Ben Cardin over Michael Steele. No response from Maryland blogger Dave Wissing yet.
Nutmeg State – With only 4% of precincts reporting, CNN is calling Connecticut for Joe Lieberman. Sadly, this might be the high point of the night. (9:22 EST)
Frankenberry is kicking his ass – If Indiana-2 is a harbinger of tonight’s results, it’s going to be a bloodbath. With a third of the precincts reporting, Chris Chocola is down 59%-41% against Joe Donnelly. (Link via Sister Toldjah who is following events).
Nailbiter in Virginia – With 5% reporting, Allen and Webb are separated by 0.1%.

Update at 9pm: Allen up by 2% with 72% of the precincts reporting. According to the Corner, Chuck Schumer says that Northern VA hasn't been counted yet.

OMG - 81% in, the separation is 0.5% (9:30pm)
Didn't see that coming - Britney files for divorce from K-Fed. Men across America silently mutter: "Now there's an opening for me."
I voted

There was a moderate backup at the polls today so I had to spend gasoline and my precious time to vote tonight. Isn't this exactly like a poll tax? Nevermind.

Mom, who lives in New York, had little reason to go to the polls today but said she went "just so she could vote against Hillary." Good ole Mom.
The final update – Scott Elliott has tallied up the numbers over at Election Projection. His strict accounting predicts +25 in the House and +5 in the Senate but his disclaimer reads: “So here is The Blogging Caesar's official position on these mid-term elections. I predict the GOP will lose a net 11 seats in the House and a net 3 seats in the Senate. At most, I say the GOP loses 18 seats in the House and 4 in the Senate. That's where I stand."

Monday, November 06, 2006

It's going to be a long night - I'm charging up the cell phone, opening a bottle of wine, and staying up late tomorrow night. Coverage begins about five minutes after I get home from work.

To recap: I'm predicting +24 for the Democrats in the House and +3 in the Senate.

The Massachusetts races are almost too depressing to review. Deval Patrick will be the next governor, Drunk Ted will be re-elected, as will my useless Representative John Olver. The only bright spot is Question #1 which will (likely) allow for the sale of wine in supermarkets. This is the best I can hope for in the Bay State. Sigh.
Dick Cheney will be busy – Bulldog Pundit sees the Senate in a 50-50 split.

More - Mark says +19/+4 for the Dems and AJ says only +12 in the House.
More picks - National Review’s John J. Miller has Senate picks nearly identical to my own with the exception of Montana. It’s a close race in Big Sky country.
Evans and Novak on the Show Me state Senate race

The ancient Washington insiders are predicting a pickup of 19 seats in the House and just two (2) seats in the Senate for the Democrats. Read this extensive analysis for all the details. This breakdown of the Talent-McCaskill race in Missouri is worth a glance:

The x-factor, which we believe will cut decisively in Talent's favor, is Amendment 2, the cloning and stem-cell amendment on the ballot. Whether it succeeds or fails, the balloting on Amendment 2 will be very close, and its opponents are much more motivated to vote than its supporters. More people may vote for it, but few will go out specifically to vote for it. Its presence on the ballot can only help Talent in a race that promises to come down to a few thousand votes. Leaning Republican Retention.
They also note that Talent’s get-out-the-vote campaign started ahead of McCaskill’s and it’s better organized.
The requisite Viking Pundit midterm election predictions post

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

After all, the economy has been going like gangbusters with strong growth, a record stock market, and near-full employment. On Iraq even the New York Times admits: “Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.” Meanwhile, the Butcher of Baghdad has been sentenced to death by an Iraqi court for his hand in the Dujail massacre. And – miraculously – the United States hasn’t suffered another terrorist attack in the five years since 9/11.

When the post-mortems of the 2006 elections are written, I believe there’s going to be one undercurrent to all the analyses: oversight. The Republican-led Congress simply didn’t provide oversight on Iraq, spending, and the indiscretions of its own members (e.g. Jefferson and Foley). I think this opened the door for the Democrats to make the “checks and balance” argument and the case for divided government. Thus, it didn’t matter that the Democrats are unable to articulate a position on any issue; the conditions were ripe for a referendum election and that’s what we’re going to get tomorrow.

So, while I appreciate the naive optimism by some on the Right side of the blogosphere, there is simply no hope for the House of Representatives. The Democrats will easily pick up twenty seats and I’ll make my official prediction of +24 to bring the House to 227 Democrats and 208 Republicans.

I’m much more concerned about the Senate, from which all judicial nominations flow. My straightforward analysis is that – except for Ohio – Republicans will win in Red states and Democrats will win in Blue states. Here’s the breakdown of the tight races:

Virginia – Allen squeaks by Webb – GOP retains
Ohio – Brown wins handily over DeWine – Dem pickup
Connecticut – Lieberman beats forklift driver Lamont – Dem retains
Maryland – Steele can’t overcome the overwhelming Democratic base here. Cardin wins - Dem retains
New Jersey – Ditto for Tom Kean Jr. and the base. Future felon Bob Menendez wins in the Soprano state. Sharpe James takes a flight to Brazil to celebrate. – Dem retains
Michigan – Stabenow crushes Bouchard – Dem retains
Missouri – Incumbent Jim Talent wins in the Bellwether state over McCaskill – GOP retains
Pennsylvania – Sorry, National Review. Casey beats Santorum. – Dem pickup
Tennessee – Corker defeats the party crasher Ford. – GOP retains
Arizona – Despite a surge by Pederson, Jon Kyl wins easily – GOP retains
Minnesota – No contest: Klobuchar over the Republican (!) Kennedy – Dem retains
Rhode Island – Whitehouse edges out a hobbled Chafee – Dem pickup
Montana – Burns surges to beat back Tester. Call it the Kurse of the Kos Kidz. – GOP retains

So that’s a +3 pickup for the Democrats bringing the Senate to 52 Republican seats to 48 Democratic seats.

Those are my predictions on this day, November 6th. Discuss amongst yourselves. More to come.
Meanwhile in New Jersey – I don’t know nothin’ about no federal investigation: “U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D- N.J.) has repeatedly denied he is being investigated by federal prosecutors, but yesterday his campaign staff confirmed that a prominent criminal defense lawyer is representing him in an inquiry into a rental property he once owned.”
Down to the wire

From Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

Yet something is happening. Both the Washington Post/ABC News poll and the new Pew survey show a dramatic tightening of the generic ballot vote, with Democrats leading by 4 to 6 percent. If these polls are accurate, this is bad news for Democrats, and they suggest that Democratic gains might be more limited than have been widely expected. Perhaps the Republican vote is finally coming home--much later than usual. President Bush's campaigning in red territory and the GOP's smart get-out-the-vote operation may be working at last. We will know tomorrow night. [Emphasis in original]
Still, despite all that putative momentum, Sabato predicts the Senate will barely go to the Democrats 51-49, thanks to George Allen’s inept campaign.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Amazing Race 10 update – Off the African coast

Teams start out from Mauritius and head to Madagascar. It’s revealed that the teams are starting out with only $10 for this leg of the race. Team Ergo continues to wait around for the “Six Pack” to keep their alliance with Teams Alabama and 16 Tons. It’s 3 a.m. at night so this is a bunching situation since the first flight leaves at 11 a.m. the following morning. In Madagascar, all the teams need to find the “Black Angel” for the next clue.

At the clue box, a new twist on the Race is revealed: the Intersection. Teams must pair up and perform all remaining tasks until further notice – so essentially, the competition goes from six teams to three. There’s also a Fast Forward which, if chosen, must be performed by the merged teams. Team Bicker and Team Rehab arrive first, immediately pair up, and head to the Fast Forward. They must find a restaurant and everybody must eat a plate full of cow lips. You heard me: cow lips.

The Blondies arrive next but they must wait for another team to arrive before they can go on. The remaining three teams arrive in quick succession and Team Blonde immediately latches onto the strongest team of Erwin & Godwin. This leaves the Southern teams together to figure out the Detour: Long Sleep or Short Letter. Teams may either deliver a bunch of foam mattresses or made decorative paper from hand-made pulp. The two merged teams go for the Long Sleep while the Team Rehab-Bicker alliance struggles with the disgusting hair-and-teeth filled cow lips.

Team Alabama/16 Tons actually comes up with a seemingly good idea: they lash their mattresses together with the straps from their fanny packs. This is better in theory than practice since eight foam mattresses make for an unwieldy burden. Mary makes her typical contribution of screaming constantly. Team Ergo-Blondie finish first and then are split back up into separate teams.

Team Blondie gets to the Roadblock first: one team member must collect some rubber stamps matching patterns. Team Ergo’s taxi runs out of gas. The Fast Forward teams are still eating while the Southern Alliance finally finishes their Detour. Kimberly is stating to look like she won’t be able to finish the cow lips; maybe the Fast Forward wasn’t so fast. It seems like they’re spending a lot of time rationalizing why the Fast Forward was the better choice. (Foreshadowing, anyone?) Nah, it looks like they’re going to make it after all and they head to the Pit Stop at Andohalo Cathedral.

After completing the Roadblock, both Dustin’s and Godwin’s taxis run out of gas. Dustin re-fuels first and Team Blonde arrives at the Cathedral as Team #1 for the second week in a row (and beating the Fast Forward teams). Team 16 Tons finishes the Roadblock but they need to get there at least 30 minutes ahead of the last place team to make up for last week’s penalty.

Team Alabama finishes their Roadblock but their taxi runs out of gas! Nevertheless, they arrive at the Pit Stop with plenty of time to spare and David & Mary are eliminated. It’s a tearful farewell as the Southern teams had formed a bond. David hands off his University of Kentucky baseball cap to continue on with Team Alabama.

Final standings:

#1 - Team Blonde – Dustin & Kandace – Prize: Travelocity trip
#2 - Team Rehab – Tyler & James – Fast Forward
#3 - Team Bicker – Rob & Kimberly – Fast Forward
#4 - Team Ergo – Erwin & Godwin
#5 - Team Alabama – Lyn & Karlyn
#6 - Team 16 Tons – David & Mary - PHILIMINATED

Next week: Into the big muddy.

Extra – This space reserved for recaps from Pat and Kris.