Saturday, March 31, 2007

It's up to Mbeki - Just as China is the only regional power able to keep the lid on crazy uncle Kim, South Africa is the only hope for the people of Zimbabwe. From the Boston Globe - "The lever to oust Mugabe": "Zimbabwe's devastated economy impedes regional growth, and the people fleeing its collapse are a strain on its neighbors. [South Africa president Thabo] Mbeki would be an African hero, not an imperialist, if he helped resolve this crisis and improved the lives of the 12 million Zimbabweans."
Our government's very own Cassandra

It's that craaaaazy David Walker again, the Comptroller General of the United States, telling people we're going broke. From CNN: "One man's campaign against federal debt"

The way programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are structured, the government will incur an additional debt of $50 trillion during the next 20 years, according to GAO figures.

The $50 trillion total amounts to about $440,000 per American household, Walker said.

The primary drivers behind the additional rise in spending are the baby boomers, who start becoming eligible for Social Security in 2008 and Medicare in 2011.

"We are talking about an unprecedented change in the demographic landscape of America," Walker said. "And we are not prepared for this oncoming wave."
(Hat tip: Heritage)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Rah-rah sis-boom OW!

From the NYT: "As cheerleaders soar higher, so does the danger"

Emergency room visits for cheerleading injuries nationwide have more than doubled since the early 1990s, far outpacing the growth in the number of cheerleaders, and the rate of life-threatening injuries has startled researchers. Of 104 catastrophic injuries sustained by female high school and college athletes from 1982 to 2005 — head and spinal trauma that occasionally led to death — more than half resulted from cheerleading, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. All sports combined did not surpass cheerleading.
Still, "Bring It On" is a great movie.
England's rush to war, then

I suppose that when your military is concentrated in naval power, it's easy to make decisions like this:

Look at the timeline 25 years ago:
On April 2nd, the Argies seized the Falklands, which were all but undefended.
On April 5th a British task force of over 100 ships and 28,000 men sailed from England for the South Atlantic.
In three days! Talk about a rush to war, eh?
Now the Brits appear to be befuddled as to what can be done with Iran and England-based Expat Yank is not encouraged by the latest news.

More - From Oxblog "Your friendly neighborhood terrorist": "The United States has integrated its Arab and Muslim immigrants more successfully than most of Europe. But it would be wise not to ignore the threat that faces our most important ally and may soon face many others as well."
Thank heaven - Captain Ed's wife has made it through kidney transplant surgery; now let's pray for a speedy recovery.
Brownback grabs the third rail - Ramesh Ponnuru reports from the Club for Growth meeting: "[Sam Brownback] unveiled his Social Security plan here at the Club for Growth meeting. The plan is heavy on personal accounts and light on benefit cuts." Well, it won't find much support in Congress but it'll thrill the Club for Growth.
That's it, blame the bloggers - Radio Equalizer writes on the upset Muslims in Minnesota and how bloggers are being blamed for increasing tensions. Except the bloggers in question didn't write what they're accused of and, even if they did, welcome to the land of free speech.

Extra - The same mainstream media that balked at Mohammed cartoons loves Chocolate Jesus. Just in time for Easter!
The focal point of the war on terrorism

Charles Krauthammer says it's in Iraq. Al-Qaeda agrees:

Al-Qaeda has provided the answer many times. Osama bin Laden, the one whose presence in Afghanistan (or some cave on the border) presumably makes it the central front in the war on terror, has been explicit that "the most...serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War that is raging in Iraq." Al-Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman Zawahiri, has declared that Iraq "is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era."

And it's not just what al-Qaeda says, it's what al-Qaeda does. Where are they funneling the worldwide recruits for jihad? Where do all the deranged suicidists who want to die for Allah gravitate? It's no longer Afghanistan but Iraq. That's because they recognize the greater prize.
The obvious counter-point to Krauthammer's argument is that Iraq wasn't the central front in the war on terrorism prior to the U.S. invasion. He tries to address this in his concluding paragraph:

But you do not decide where to fight on the basis of history; you decide on the basis of strategic realities. You can argue about our role in creating this new front and question whether it was worth taking that risk to topple Saddam Hussein. But you cannot reasonably argue that in 2007 Iraq is not the most critical strategic front in the war on terrorism. There's no escaping its centrality. Nostalgia for the "good war" in Afghanistan is perhaps useful in encouraging antiwar Democrats to increase funding that is needed there. But it is not an argument for abandoning Iraq.
So, basically, Iraq was a mistake in terms on the war on terrorism but we have to see it through now. Well, OK, but so much of this depends on whether Iraq can form a stable, democratic state and that's a huge question mark.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

He lives! - From the NYT "Zimbabwe Police Release Opposition Leader": "The police in Zimbabwe today released Morgan Tsvangirai, one of the country’s most prominent opposition leaders, after detaining him and about 20 other members of his political party, the Movement for Democratic Change, on Wednesday."
Worst episode ever

Wasn't that just the worst episode of Lost last night? The correct answer to Sawyer's oft-repeated question of "Who is Nikki?" is "A minor character with a nice rack who's going to be killed off tonight in a manner that will send Rod Serling's lawyers scrambling." I say that because Nikki (and Paolo's) death was ripped off from a Twilight Zone episode from - what? - fifty years ago?

Laziness has set in hard. It used to be that we would have flashbacks of major characters while some small part of the island puzzle was revealed. Now we have flashbacks of minor characters of their time on the island. Oh, but now we know that Ben and Juliet visited the Pearl to watch Jack in the pre-exploded hatch. Big whoop.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Another bankrupt public pension - Another state (Montana this time) denies there's a problem and kicks the can down the road.
Opposition leader in Zimbabwe arrested

After his near-fatal beating two weeks ago, I felt that if Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai survived until the country's election, he would win the presidency. But now I'll be shocked if he lives to see tomorrow. From Publius Pundit: "He [Robert Mugabe] has systematically turned Zimbabwe into hell on earth, but even most tyrants will allow their opposition to exist in name while restricting their activities. Not Mugabe." Zimbabwe Pundit has more.
Welcome Newsbusters readers! - Well, my first ever "editor's pick" from the media-busting site. Somebody out there likes me.
Keep it clean - If the Left didn't have profanity to convey their emotion, how could they get their point across? With reasoned debate? C'mon, now!
Four legs good, two legs better

Have I questioned the Democrats' patriotism today? Well, let's get to it!

House Democrats delivered a $124.1 billion spending monstrosity larded over with domestic handouts: $100 million for citrus growers; $120 million for the shrimp and menhaden fishing industries; $283 million for the Milk Income Loss Contract program; $500 million to fight wildfires; $74 million for peanut storage — the list goes on.

This domestic slop was the political price to buy off supposedly principled Democrats who oppose the war and support the troops. Even with $21 billion in bribes, Pelosi was only able to muster a bare majority, with 14 Democrats joining the Republican opposition.

The Democratic leadership has eked out some sort of anti-war message with this pork barrel bonanza. But they should be ashamed of the unscrupulous way they did so. Bush could not have saved his veto pen for a more worthy piece of legislative junk.
Remember all those principled Democrats who promised - no way, nuh-uh - would they ever vote for the war funding, under any circumstances? Yeah, their opposition to the illegal, immoral war melted away with the right incentives.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tax the rich

Oh boy, did we ever. Investors Business Daily reveals the extent of the ever-increasing redistribution of wealth in the United States:

Looking at both taxes and spending in a representative year - 2004 - the study found an estimated $1.03 trillion to $1.53 trillion was 'redistributed downward' from the two highest-earning income quintiles. That's a lot of redistribution.

Today, some 44 million Americans pay no taxes at all. Meanwhile, the upper 5% of all income earners in 2004 paid 57.13% of all taxes, up from 35.01% in 1980. In other words, the U.S. tax code is becoming more progressive, not less.
It's been argued that the reason health care costs are spiraling out of control is because most Americans don't (fully) pay for medical care and, thus, don't care that much about the cost. If market pressures were brought to bear then, perhaps, medical costs could be kept under control. By the same coin, when Americans are disassociated from the costs of government, it's a free-for-all. What's worse is that when the bill comes due for long-term obligations such as Social Security, the tax burden will not be evenly distributed for what is supposed to be a universal benefit.

Refresher - The late, great Milton Friedman on the four ways to spend money.
Victory through surrender and pork - Glenn Reynolds has a roundup of reaction to the pork-laden Iraq timetable bill that passed the Senate today, on the way to a certain Presidential veto. Don Surber itemizes the "emergency" spending and notes: "Disgusting is too nice a word for people who voted to send troops to Iraq in 2002, and less than 5 years later play political chicken with funding for those very troops."
That darn Wal-Mart - From MSNBC: "Wal-Mart Stores Inc. increased its U.S. charitable giving 10 percent last year to $272.9 million, the world’s largest retailer said Tuesday, likely defending its position as the country’s largest corporate donor of cash."

Associated Fark headline: "Wal-Mart is nation's most charitable corporate giver. Critics not swayed because admitting that Wal-Mart does anything positive would make their heads explode"
Back to Elmira - From the Hill: "Fifty percent of Americans would not vote for Clinton"
Politics first, second, and last for the Democrats

Here's Thomas Sowell with "Dangerous Demagoguery"

The demagoguery of the Democrats has already put them in the position where a successful conclusion of the Iraq war before the 2008 elections can be a political disaster for them.

If the recent increase in the number of troops in Iraq, and their freer hand in dealing with the terrorists there, reduces the level of violence enough to stabilize Iraq enough for American troops to start coming home before the 2008 elections, the Democrats will have lost their gamble.

Only an American defeat in Iraq can ensure the Democrats' political victory next year.

Their only strategy is to sabotage the chances for a military victory in Iraq without being held responsible for a defeat.

That is the corner that they have painted themselves into with their demagoguery that even their own supporters see through.
Betsy adds:

Pelosi was willing to pull out all the stops to get their version of the supplemental bill for Iraq passed. They loaded it up with sweetners to pull in more votes. And Pelosi twisted the arms of those opposed to the Democratic bill even going to the length of threatening senior Members with being taken off crucial committees. And for what? She knows that the bill will be vetoed and they'll have to go back to the drawing board to write a new bill. But at least she'll have the political record to trumpet during the 2008 campaign. And that is what it is all about.
Hence Pelosi's not-so-arbitrary timeline of August 2008 to withdraw all troops from Iraq, was significantly chosen to coincide with the 2008 elections. It's all a big game to them.

Monday, March 26, 2007

"Free the Fifteen" march sparsely attended - Junkyard Blog has all the non-details on the non-outpouring of concern for the kidnapped British sailors.

More - From UK-based Expat Yank: "The terrorists they are"
Waking up to the enemy - Hot Air: "Widow of Madrid bombing victim wears Mohammed cartoon t-shirt to trial" Hat tip to Right Wing News which also notes that a French newspaper was cleared of publishing the Mohammed cartoons.

Extra - In case you missed "60 Minutes" last night, they featured a story called "The Network" about the loose cabal of Islamic extremists in England.
"We'd talk about the suffering of the Muslims all over the world," [Hassan] Butt tells [60 Minutes correspondent Bob] Simon. "We were very well-versed in the Koran, in the verses of the Koran, in the sayings of the Prophet and show that how it was permissible for people to go around killing innocent men, women and children."

"You would explain to them why it's permissible to kill innocent men, women and children?" Simon asks.

"Well, a better way to put it is, we would take away the innocence from the person so they were no longer innocent men, women and children," Butt explains.

"So, men, women and children would become non-innocents?" Simon asks.

"Become non-innocent and hence, combatants and allowed to be targeted," Butt says.
Religion of peace.
North to Kurdistan - Christopher Hitchens notes that the solution in Iraq might be, literally, over the horizon: "At present, it seems that some Democrats are interpreting public disillusionment with Iraq as a mandate for isolationism and for treating a country that occupies a keystone position between Iran and Saudi Arabia as if it were negligible or irritating or an obstacle to plans for universal health care or the arrest of global warming. That this is a huge historical mistake is the least offensive way of putting it." (HT: RCP)
George Will is ripping off Tom Lehrer

Here's Will with "The Politics of Anger"

Today, many people preen about their anger as a badge of authenticity: I snarl therefore I am. Such people make one's blood boil.
Hmmm. I seem to have heard this quip before:

I'm sure we all agree that we ought to love one another, and I know there are people in the world who do not love their fellow human beings - and I hate people like that!
Caught ya.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Amazing Race update - African airports amplify anger and angst

Just a recap from last week: Uchenna & Joyce finished last on a non-elimination leg, so they need to finish first tonight or incur a 30-minute penalty. Teams started out in Mozambique to head to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, where they then need to find a boat to sail to Zanzibar. The earliest flight is the following morning and some teams debate whether to stay at the deserted airport or go back to a warm hotel. But the next flight is completely full and everybody scrambles for alternate routes. Charla & Mirna take a flight to Johannesburg in the hopes of catching a connecting flight, which they get, giving them a sizable lead to Tanzania. The other teams head to South African Airways and try to follow the same route that Charla & Mirna just made; Team Guido and Terry & Ian miss the connecting flight in Johannesburg. But then Eric & Danielle are also kicked off since they were erroneously given somebody else's seat. Oooh, that hurts.

Teams are seriously spread out now with Eric & Danielle, Joe & Bill, and Terry & Ian all in the rear while Charla & Mirna are already in Dar-es-Salaam. Unfortunately for them, the boat they need to take won't leave until the following morning so the middle teams all catch up with Gidget & the Midget. Eric & Danielle make their priority standby connection leaving Team Guido and Team Oldsters behind. They're now so far behind the other teams, it probably means that Uchenna & Joyce will not be eliminated, but one of them will.

After the cruise on the dhow, the other teams hit the Detour: Solve it or Schlep it. They may either put together a jigsaw puzzle or take two pieces of wood from a lumber yard to a shipyard a mile away. Danny & Oswald finish first and head to the next clue on Kukong Wi (?) where the Roadblock waits; teams must throw a "rungu" and break a target. But Charla & Mirna hit their target first and surge ahead to the Pit Stop at the Old Fort. OMG, they're going to finish first again? This is sheer insanity. Phil tells them they've each won a catamaran and they stare at him blankly: what is a "catamaran." Phil tells them it's a boat and they cheer unconvincingly.

Uchenna & Joyce arrive third and start to serve their 30-minute penalty, during which time no other teams arrive. Joe & Bill and Terry & Ian are bringing up the rear. Team Guido finishes the puzzle and heads to the Roadblock. They finish before Terry & Ian even arrive and Team Oldsters step on the mat last, despite the clever editing designed to give the impression it's a foot race.

Final standings:

#1 - Charla & Mirna - Prize: a catamaran (a what?)
#2 - Oswald & Danny
#3 - Uchenna & Joyce
#4 - Dustin & Kandace
#5 - Eric & Danielle
#6 - Joe & Bill
#7 - Terry & Ian - PHILIMINATED

Next week - A two-hour TAR special? Charla falls down.

Extra - Pat is still doing recaps so head over to Brainster for another perspective.
Skeptical Swede environmentalist - Here's Bjorn Lomborg in the NY Post: "Hysterics don't make for smart policy on global warming"
Beating or spanking? Big difference

Here's an interesting conundrum: you're a female working on an English translation of the Koran and you come to chapter 4, verse 34. It says - fairly clearly - that a woman who disobeys her husband should be beaten ("daraba") until she straightens up her act. For the Quagmires out there, some translators have interpreted "daraba" as "spank" - giggety! But in a move sure to spark more controversy, this translator has decided that maybe it means to abandon the wayward wife:

When she reached the problematic verse, Ms. Bakhtiar spent the next three months on "daraba." She does not speak Arabic, but she learned to read the holy texts in Arabic while studying and working as a translator in Iran in the 1970s and '80s.

Her eureka moment came on roughly her 10th reading of the Arabic-English Lexicon by Edward William Lane, a 3,064-page volume from the 19th century, she said. Among the six pages of definitions for "daraba" was "to go away."
Hmm. I predict that there's a beating in Laleh Bakhtiar's future. After all, a female translating the Koran? Bah!
Sunday morning recap - I was away all weekend, but Mark Kilmer has a review of the Sunday chatfests. Apparently the only issue of concern facing the country is whether eight U.S. attorneys should have been fired. This debate is so muddled that it leads to moronic statements like this from Arlen Specter:

Specter averred that the President may "discharge a U.S. attorney for no reason, but they cannot be discharged for a bad reason."
Whatever that means. Here's a lesson for the White House: next time don't try to be solicitous and please everybody with documents dumps and contradictory statements. Fire them and be done with it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Kansas is toast - I've been quietly rooting for Miss Kansas on the Miss USA pageant tonight, but she gave two politically incorrect answers to questions in the end. First, she revealed that she worked with a Catholic charity to work on issues such as abortion (presumably "against.") Then, as former Miss USA Tara Connor stood nearby, she said not everybody deserves a "second chance" such as people convicted for murder.

Oh boy. They were, by far, the most lucid answers given to these silly questions (Miss Rhode Island said that if she could ban anything, she would stop people from talking on their cell phones while driving.) But you could see everybody's eyebrows head skyward.

Update - Miss Tennessee won, she was good. Kansas came in 3rd.
The Zimbabwe endgame - From the Sydney Morning Herald: "The point of desperation has arrived": "If inflation is a rough indicator of human misery, life for the remaining Zimbabweans is growing 1750 per cent less pleasant every year - hyperinflation not witnessed anywhere since Germany between the wars. Since 2000, gross domestic product has halved to $US4 billion ($5 billion), the biggest modern collapse of a peacetime economy."
Congress descends into farce, surrender, peanuts

Part of the problem with, you know, working all day is that I can't post until I get home at night. And, let's face it, this post will be read by tens (maybe dozens) of readers. But here goes:

The Democrats in Congress, always so sensitive about their patriotism, passed a nauseating piece of legislation today and embraced their lack of seriousness full-bore. There's no issue more important than supporting troops in the field and the nation deserved a debate on that question and that question alone. The vote in Congress should have been on the war; instead it turned into a laughing-stock of extra-Constitutional overreach, pork, peanuts and spinach subsidies. Here's the WashPost main editorial today on "Retreat and Butter":

The Democrats claim to have a mandate from voters to reverse the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. Yet the leadership is ready to piece together the votes necessary to force a fateful turn in the war by using tactics usually dedicated to highway bills or the Army Corps of Engineers budget. The legislation pays more heed to a handful of peanut farmers than to the 24 million Iraqis who are living through a maelstrom initiated by the United States, the outcome of which could shape the future of the Middle East for decades.
Austin Bay nails it:

The Democratic House leaders are a laughingstock of a shameful sort. They have dug two holes, a "pork" hole and a "defeat" hole. The "pork" hole reveals them to be another clatch of K Street bandits, haut couture of corruption replacing their electioneering "culture of corruption." Their "pro-defeat" statement will attract fleeting accolades, but over time it will earn them deserved shame.
Those principled anti-war Democrats flipped for Nancy Pelosi and voted for the doomed bill. The bribes probably didn't hurt but don't underestimate plain-ole BDS:

The fact is, the left in Congress are cowards - unprincipled, abject cowards. They talk a good game but when push comes to shove - when history calls and asks them to stand up for their principles - they run and hide under their beds like five year olds scared of the thunder.

And the hell of it is, they are going to point to passage of this bill as a "victory." It's a triumph of hate over principle - hardly a victory unless you consider it more important to stick a shiv into the President's gut to satisfy your own personal animus.
McQ sums it up:

So to the Democrats out there who support this nonsense, please keep the future guff about "principled opposition" to yourself. This bill has nothing to do with principle and everything to do with attempting to hurt Bush and his chances to succeed in Iraq. It's an irresponsible, unconscionable and, frankly nauseating attempt to avoid responsibility which will most likely end up getting troops in Iraq killed.

Congrats. You must be so proud.
This legislation will never get through the Senate so it will never see a well-deserved Presidential veto. But America should take a hard look at the political party that put shrimpers ahead of Iraqis and Bush-hatred above the troops.


Extra - More from Don Surber and Powerline.

More - San Diego Union-Tribune: "Buying war-policy votes with pork is pathetic"

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Double entendres and ancient sexual roles - From Yes but No but Yes: "Top 15 unintentionally funny comic book panels" Just what did that robot do to Lois Lane? Oh, dear. (HT: Pajamas Media)
Zimbabwe implodes - Publius Pundit: "Send in the Ninjas"

I've been following the situation in Zimbabwe for a long time and I've never seen Robert Mugabe so isolated, to the point where he needs to ship in mercenaries to do the job his own military cannot, or will not, perform. The end game is at hand.
The luck of the Irish and the rage of the Pakis

Just breaking over CNN: "Woolmer was strangled, police say"

A pathology report indicated that Pakistani cricket coach Bob Woolmer died of "manual strangulation," according to a statement from Jamaican police commissioner Lucius Thomas.

Woolmer's death came less than 24 hours after former world champion Pakistan was beaten and eliminated by the relatively unknown Irish team on St. Patrick's Day, one of the biggest shocks in World Cup cricket history. The loss on Saturday prompted outrage among the team's hardcore fans, with protesters burning effigies of Woolmer and the team captain in Karachi.

Asked about suspects, Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Shields would only say, "We have a few definite lines of inquiry," acknowledging later that betting on cricket matches was among them.
Here in America, we like to burn dumpsters and maybe turn over a car when our team wins a championship but we rarely kill the coach of the losing team.
Long overdue - From Fox News "All Charges Against Duke Lacrosse Players to Be Dropped Soon": "The remaining charges against three Duke University lacrosse players originally indicted for rape may be dropped sometime within the next few days, according to a report."

Extra - From Durham in Wonderland, an ABC News analyst has a devastating review of Mike Nifong's "Law 101" mistakes in this case.
Children, behave

Opinion Journal: "Subpoena assault - Congress's real goal is crippling the Bush Presidency"
CNN: "GOP and Dems accused of politicizing attorney firings"
WashPost editorial: "Political spectacle - President Bush and Congress should step back from a confrontation that makes them both look bad"

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Can't hold back China and India

Robert Samuelson uses facts and statistics instead of overheated rhetoric to explain the reality of global warming, assuming it exists:

Most of the many reports on global warming have a different plot. Despite variations, these studies reach similar conclusions. Regardless of how serious the threat, the available technologies promise at best a holding action against greenhouse gas emissions. Even massive gains in renewables (solar, wind, biomass) and more efficient vehicles and appliances would merely stabilize annual emissions near present levels by 2050. The reason: Economic growth, especially in poor countries, will sharply increase energy use and emissions.
The Massachusetts Democrats won't allow a wind farm off Nantucket Sound, the Detroit Democrats won't allow stricter CAFE standards, and Harry Reid is blocking the federal nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. But they're all in agreement than Halliburton is just awful.
Is "Lost" a repeat tonight? - Islostarepeat

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Let the man speak! - NASA scientist "muzzled" by the government for his global warming view yet - somehow - gets his message out in 1,400 worktime interviews.
The crunch is coming - From the NY Sun: "Stopping the Social Security raid"

More - From Heritage: "Entitlement spending crowds out kids"
Censorship again - The University of Leeds cites "security reasons" and cancels a speech on Israel's persecution of Muslims. Nah, just kidding.
They agree to disagree

It's an instant impasse on the US attorney's flap:

Earlier Tuesday, White House counsel Fred Fielding met with members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees to discuss conditions under which Rove and Miers would be interviewed.

Fielding said the two would speak to lawmakers in private and not under oath. He indicated he was not prepared to negotiate in the matter.

Shortly before Bush addressed reporters, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy emerged from the meeting with Fielding to say he would not accept the White House's offer.
Dr. Taylor, who has been following the case closely, grudgingly admits the firings were "legal" but that the "whole situation continues to stink." I'm inclined to think that White House officials should testify under oath but without the glare of C-Span cameras which always turn politicians on both sides of the aisle into grandstanding jerks.

Extra - The lawyer types at Powerline write there's "no reason to give an inch."
The tragedy of Zimbabwe - A NY Times editorial today, titled "The Disastrous Mr. Mugabe," reveals this fact: "With hyperinflation making its currency almost worthless, Zimbabwe is running short of basic commodities like milk, cooking oil and gasoline. Fewer than one in four Zimbabweans have jobs, and life expectancy, nearly 60 in 1990, has plunged into the 30s." Damn.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Another Norman Rockwell drama

The Hartford Courant carried a story today about a case winding through probate court and the battle between three brothers over the ownership of their father's Norman Rockwell paintings.

Museum officials are keeping a close eye on an application filed last month in a probate court in Connecticut requesting the sale of "Walking to Church" and five other Rockwell paintings and sketches, including one of his portraits of President Eisenhower and the well-known "Gossips" and "Saying Grace."

For more than a decade, the works have been on loan to the Norman Rockwell Museum, which opens its doors annually to about 160,000 visitors who come to view the wholesome, slice-of-life images Rockwell is known for creating. The museum, about 75 miles from Hartford, includes more than 570 paintings and drawings and an archive of more than 100,000 photographs, letters and other Rockwell items.

The request to sell the paintings is the latest legal move in a 14-year family wrangle winding though state, federal and probate courts over the estate of Rockwell friend and longtime Post art director Kenneth Stuart Sr. of Wilton, who died in 1993. Stuart worked closely with Rockwell during his illustration of 323 covers for the Post, work Rockwell did for the magazine for nearly five decades.
But now one of the sons, the executor of the will, wants the paintings back to sell to private owners. The other sons claim that the first is trying to maintain "a lifestyle he was unable to afford before he became executor."

Flashback - The Rockwell friend who painted a forgery of "Breaking Home Ties."
"Nature does not fall for accounting schemes" - Via Pajamas Media: "Behind the feelgood hype of carbon offsets"
Thanks for helping - From the NY Times "Russia makes threat to keep nuclear fuel from Iran": "Russia has informed Iran that it will withhold nuclear fuel for Iran’s nearly completed Bushehr power plant unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment as demanded by the United Nations Security Council, European, American and Iranian officials said." A U.N. resolution with teeth!?! I must be dreaming. Let's see if it lasts.
Instapundit queries: "Bad inflation in Venezuela. Worse inflation in Zimbabwe. Airbus debacles. Unhappiness in the EU. What could these stories have in common? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?"

Daily Pundit guesses "metastasizing socialism" but I'm going with the more specific "capital flight." When the crazy socialists are running the show, the capitalists look elsewhere to lay down with the good socialists in China!
Alberto, we hardly knew ye - From Politico "White House seeking Gonzales replacements": "Republican officials operating at the behest of the White House have begun seeking a possible successor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose support among GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill has collapsed, according to party sources familiar with the discussions." The Poliblogger has been all over this issue so head over to his blog and keep scrolling.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Amazing Race update - Bright and dirty fingernails

With Rob & Amber gone, we're down to seven teams poised on the tip of Argentina; they need to travel to a glacier outside town and find the next clue using an avalanche beacon. This just a physical diversion and Team Guido finishes first while the Blondies forget to read the clue correctly and walk onto the glacier without the homing device. Anyway, the clue directs everybody to Maputo, Mozambique and there's a fair amount of confusion at the travel agencies. No matter: everybody's bunched onto the same flight.

Once in Africa, teams take SUVs to the Apopo nature place and the next clue. This is the Roadblock: one team member must lead a trained rat (yes, a rodent) to find a de-activated land mine. Team Guido finishes first again and heads out to Plaza Something and a big building; once again Charla & Mirna are in last place.

Back at Maputo, it's the Detour: Pamper or Porter. Teams may either convince people to let them paint their fingernails or fill and haul ten bags full of coal. Team Gidget & the Midget, who seem to do every task poorly, manages to convince ten people to get a manicure (probably helped by the attention of TAR cameras) and arrive at the Pit Stop as Team #1. We're treated to Charla explaining how just because somebody is small (that is, Mirna) they can still compete on the Race. Well, I haven't heard this self-serving back patting since last week. And the week before that. We get it, already.

All the finger-painters arrive at the mat first, followed by the coal haulers. Caked with coal dust, Oswald & Danny arrive at the mat and chase Phil around the Pit Stop when they threaten him with a hug. Uchenna & Joyce get lost while completing the Detour and arrive in last place. But it's a non-elimination leg and they'll need to arrive in first place on the next leg or incur a 30-minute penalty which would probably knock them out unless another team has some very bad luck.

Final standings:

#1 - Charla & Mirna
#2 - Dustin & Kandace
#3 - Terry & Ian
#4 - Oswald & Danny
#5 - Joe & Bill
#6 - Eric & Danielle
#7 - Uchenna & Joyce - NON-ELIMINATION LEG

Next week: Eric & Danielle get pulled off a plane. That might be the bad luck.

Extra - For additional fun, check out recaps from Pat & Kris.
An open letter to Kasey Kahne

Hey, Kasey, how you doing? Just so's you know, I have you in my Fantasy NASCAR league, along with the Busch brothers and Denny Hamlin. And every week I say to myself: "He can't crash again. He's gotta finish this week."

Do you think you could do that for me? Actually finish a race? I'm now 0-4 in my league. Last week, all I needed you to do was stay in the same zip code as Mark Martin but you managed to lose grip and crash all by yourself. Enough already with the Allstate commercials - try to focus on your driving career.


Headline of the Day

From the Daily Hampshire Gazette: "Marchers brave nor'easter to highlight need for climate change"

Walkers descended the steps of the Unitarian Society building on Main Street in Northampton around 2 p.m., with supporters singing "Keep on Walking Forward" by Pat Humphries, while elementary school students with signs reading "Stop Global Warming Now" lined the walkway to send them off into the storm.
As Tim Blair quipped: "Let's hope none of them were sunburned."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Timeline of a leak - Sweetness & Light: "When and why Joseph C. Wilson IV outed Valerie Plame"
Sunday morning lineup - It looks like Iraq and the fired U.S. attorneys will be in the forefront. The Bush-haters at Fox News Sunday will feature two of the ex-US attorneys.
The limousine Left purchases eco-indulgences

Does anybody else recall that at the Academy Awards, Leo DiCaprio announced that it was the first Oscar ceremony that was "carbon neutral" (or some such wording)? Well Charles Krauthammer explains what exactly that means in Time magazine:

Remember the Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore global-warming pitch at theAcademy Awards? Before they spoke, the screen at the back of the stage flashed not-so-subliminal messages about how to save the planet. My personal favorite was "Ride mass transit." This to a conclave of Hollywood plutocrats who have not seen the inside of a subway since the moon landing and for whom mass transit means a stretch limo seating no fewer than 10.

Leo and Al then portentously announced that for the first time ever, the Academy Awards ceremony had gone green. What did that mean? Solar panels in the designer gowns? It turns out that the Academy neutralized the evening's "carbon footprint" by buying carbon credits. That means it sent money to a "carbon broker," who promised, after taking his cut, to reduce carbon emissions somewhere on the planet equivalent to what the stars spewed into the atmosphere while flying in on their private planes.
In other words, Al Gore and his Tinseltown friends will not suffer unheated swimming pools because they have the cash to cleanse their consciences. Krauthammer goes on to explain the carbon trading scam, which fills a need for the guilty rich often at the expense of the Third World poor.

Our modern world - the televisions, cars, medical equipment - runs on energy and the production of that energy requires some level of sacrifice. Coal needs to be mined, oil must be pumped, natural gas extracted; these all cause environmental damage through extraction and lead to carbon dioxide buildup when burned.

The touchstone for the environmental movement, the example to demonstrate whether or not they are truly serious about Mother Earth, can be found on the Cape Wind project off Nantucket Sound. If the Greenies were earnest about the environment, they would allow a turbine farm off Cape Cod to move forward to provide clean, green energy. But the project has faced opposition from the likes of Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and the well-heeled of Martha's Vineyard because it would upset their view of the ocean ("aesthetic damage" it was termed). But then they can afford to purchase some carbon offsets and everything's OK again.

Extra - And there's this: "Tennessee mine enriched Gore, scarred land"

Friday, March 16, 2007

Western Massachusetts tree-huggers overwhelmed by storm of irony

From the Boston Globe: "Interfaith group braves storm in climate change trek"

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. --As the world's warmest winter on record drew to an end with a weekend snow storm, a group of religious leaders started walking across the state Friday to bring attention to global warming.

The nine-day haul from downtown Northampton to Copley Square in Boston was planned far before forecasts called for a weekend of snow and sleet just a few days before the start of spring.
You can't make this stuff up. A huge hat tip to the Llama Butchers for this one. By the way, there's already about six inches of snow on the ground as of this writing, and it's just recently turned into a sleety freezing rain. This is going to be a joy to clear out tomorrow.

Update (3/17) - I saw the parade! They came through my town about 3:30pm today, about thirty protesters trailed by a green van. I could only make out one sign: "Global warming is a moral issue" and the person in the lead was using hiking poles to move down the street slushy with wet snow. For a second, I thought they were ski poles.
Abridged Plame testimony: 1.) not covert 2.) she sent her husband to Niger. For linkage, background and commentary enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool, head over to Tom Maguire's blog and keep scrolling.
Fair and balanced - In the ultimate conflict of interest, "The Simpsons" takes on Fox News.

Here in the real world, Americans believe that the national media is overwhelmingly liberal. Which it is.
But he seems so mild-mannered - David Brooks wrote this? "Say what you will about President Bush, when he thinks a policy is right, like the surge, he supports it, even if it's going to be unpopular. The Democratic leaders, accustomed to the irresponsibility of opposition, show no such guts." And the New York Times allowed it? Wow.
The Economist on why Gonzales is here to stay

The UK magazine looks at the "Three clashing branches" in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys and (in its typical fashion) finds validity on both sides of the issue. However, this closing paragraph reveals why Attorney General Alberto Gonzales isn't looking for packing boxes:

For Mr Bush's critics, both Republicans and Democrats, this tale reinforces two conclusions they drew some time ago. First, Mr Bush is asserting greater executive power, at the expense of other branches of government, than any previous chief executive. And second, the president is too fond of mediocre loyalists such as Mr Gonzales. That said, if he sacks him, he will have a heck of a job getting a replacement confirmed by the Senate.
The relationship between the White House and the Senate Judiciary committee was poisonous when it was still headed by Republicans. In the hands of Patrick Leahy and Chuck "Where's my camera?" Schumer, oh boy, not good.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Musical interlude

A couple weeks back I heard this beautiful song by Tommy Edwards called "The Morning Side of the Mountain." Here are the opening lyrics:

There was a girl, there was a boy
If they had met they might have found a world of joy
But she lived on the morning side of the mountain
And he lived on the twilight side of the hill

They never met, they never kissed
And they will never know what happiness they missed
For she lived on the morning side of the mountain
And he lived on the twilight side of the hill

This was a minor, B-side hit for Edwards in 1959. It's never heard on the radio because it's always going to be crowded out by Edwards' #1 hit "It's All in the Game." I only found it because it was on the Fifties station on XM Radio a fortnight ago. But then, today, I heard the Donny & Marie Osmond cover version which peaked at #8 on the Billboard chart (way above Edwards' #27 top spot). Any-hoo, it's a great song which I'll be plucking from ITunes this weekend.
Give surge a chance - David Adesnik of Oxblog looks at the debate on the Iraqi surge but inadvisably gives legendary sock-puppet Glenn Greenwald too much attention. Oh well.
Fix the problem - Dick Armey on Social Security reform: "The time has come for politicians to let Americans have a choice: Do they want real retirement security or do they want to save a government program?"

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Halliburton "tax dodge" - As Slate explains, the oil services company won't save anything on U.S. taxes by re-locating to Dubai; all of the savings would be from a reduction in foreign taxes. Nevertheless, Patrick Leahy called Halliburton's move "corporate greed at its worst." Damn capitalists, providing thousands of jobs and paying millions in corporate taxes!
About those U.S. attorneys

I can't believe this story has lasted longer than 24 hours and now all the partisans who finally digested Donald Rumsfeld's bones have moved on to call for the ouster of the attorney general. What does the blogosphere's top legal blog have to say?

On a more serious note, I haven't written about the U.S. Attorney's story because I'm having a hard time figuring out just how big a deal it is. Parts of it are obviously very troubling: I was very disturbed to learn of the Domenici calls, for example. More broadly, I have longrunning objections to the extent to which DOJ is under White House control, objections that this story helps bring to the fore (although my objections are based on my views of sound policy, not on law).

At the same time, several parts of the story seem overblown. U.S. Attorneys are political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the President, and the press seems to overlook that in a lot of its reporting. Also, I know one or two of the Administration figures named in some of the stories, and based on my knowledge of them and their character (although no secret details of the story — I have not spoken with anyone about it) I have a feeling that they're getting a bad rap.
Now far be it for me to suggest that the press would overlook the law in favor of partisan criticism of the Bush administration. Heavens, no! And certainly when Janet Reno dismissed 93 U.S. attorneys in 1993, CNN didn't nod approvingly at the "clean sweep" in the Justice Department. That would suggest a double standard, one that superhuman journalists would never allow.

Extra - Much much more on this from Patterico. (HT: RCP)

More - MacRanger and David Frum suggest ulterior motives in the push to oust Gonzales.

Today, 3/14, is Pi Day. My 11-year-old son claims he recited pi up to 35 digits today in math class. Should I be:

a.) proud?
b.) mortified?
Terror confession - From Fox News: "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, confessed to that attack and a string of others during a military hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a transcript released Wednesday by the Pentagon." Frankly, I don't think Khalid's involvement with 9/11 was ever under question except for the "Loose Change" nuts.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It depends on the meaning of the word "audience" - Air America offers to host debate; dozens of listeners prepare to tune in, possibly by accident.
After four semesters of calculus, I got 6 out of 8 - When eighty people are turned away from a math lecture, you know it has to be something special. (HT: Instapundit)
Enough already, Al! - Newsbusters: "Al Gore's really inconvenient truth: even the NY Times is growing skeptical"
For all the latest dictator news from Zimbabwe - It's the Zimbabwean Pundit and here's some more from Gateway Pundit: "Mugabe's thugs beat opposition leader."
The WashPost questions the patriotism of the Democrats

Coming on the heels of the LA Times' crusher, the Washington Post all but accuses Nancy Pelosi of playing the war for political gain. From "The Pelosi plan for Iraq - It makes perfect sense, if the goal is winning votes in the United States."

Congress should rigorously monitor the Iraqi government's progress on those benchmarks. By Mr. Bush's own account the purpose of the troop surge in Iraq is to enable political progress. If progress does not occur, the military strategy should be reconsidered. But aggressive oversight is quite different from mandating military steps according to an inflexible timetable conforming to the need to capture votes in Congress or at the 2008 polls. Ms. Pelosi's strategy leads not toward a responsible withdrawal from Iraq but to a constitutional power struggle with Mr. Bush, who has already said he will veto the legislation. Such a struggle would serve the interests of neither the Democrats nor the country.
Captain Ed adds: "The Democrats have no answer for this, no strategy, no plan, other than to pander for votes in 2008. The Post correctly points out their utter lack of foresight and comprehension." Which leads to this question: in what way are the Congressional Democrats relevant to U.S. policy in Iraq? They're not going infringe on executive power in any meaningful way and they don't have the votes within their own caucus to cut off funding. So, instead, we're going to have a year-and-a-half of heated rhetoric on Iraq...unless things improve. Then, as John Edwards and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and others have demonstrated, they'll stick a finger in the wind and declare: "These are my core principles and if you don't like them I have others."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Robert Mugabe strikes again - Literally: "Zimbabwean opposition leader beaten"

To understand how Robert Mugabe has utterly destroyed Zimbabwe, formerly the "bread basket of Africa", read "How to kill a country" from the Atlantic magazine. It's sickening.
Hillary was a "Goldwater Girl" - Here's Robert Novak in the WashPost: "What Clinton said at Selma is significant because it betrays her campaign's panicky reaction to the unexpected rise of Obama as a serious competitor for the Democratic nomination."
To say he's off to a rocky start would be charitable

I'm no fan of the new governor of Massachusetts but remained willing to give him a fair chance. However, since Deval Patrick became governor just two short months ago, he's squandered public funds on a new Cadillac and furnishings and capped this off by making a call to a bank on behalf of a political contributor:

The new administration is trying to recover from weeks of negative news about Patrick, including his recent phone call on behalf of a controversial mortgage company to a bank with extensive business before the state.
Patrick's risible explanation was that he was making the call as a "private citizen" and not the governor of the Bay State. But now Patrick is stepping away from his duties as governor entirely because his wife, a prominent lawyer, is suffering from depression:

Governor Deval Patrick will continue leading the government but will delegate some of his work to Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray and to his Cabinet, Murray said yesterday. The announcement came one day after Patrick said he would work a more flexible schedule to spend more time with his wife, Diane, who is suffering from exhaustion and depression.
I don't want to psychoanalyze Diane Patrick but I find it hard to believe that a woman as accomplished as she (an employment lawyer) didn't comprehend the demands of being First Lady of Massachusetts. And now the modest Deval Patrick, who would not deny himself the trappings of a governor, will put the interest of one person over the interest of the entire state.

Extra - More from Mass Backwards (with unfortunate profanity), New England Republican, and Deval Patrick Watch.
Unconstitutional and unconscionable

I assume the Michael Kinsley is no longer an editor there since this is quite an editorial from the LA Times today: "Do we really need a Gen. Pelosi?"

After weeks of internal strife, House Democrats have brought forth their proposal for forcing President Bush to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by 2008. The plan is an unruly mess: bad public policy, bad precedent and bad politics. If the legislation passes, Bush says he'll veto it, as well he should.
Here's the crux of the editorial:

This is not to say that Congress has no constitutional leverage — only that it should exercise it responsibly. In a sense, both Bush and the more ardent opponents of the war are right. If a majority in Congress truly believes that the war is not in the national interest, then lawmakers should have the courage of their convictions and vote to stop funding U.S. involvement.
But the Democrats won't do that since it would endanger Hillary's rise to the White House. So instead we have months of hot rhetoric on this illegal, immoral, futile war that President Bush will not stop and the Dems will do nothing to hinder.

Extra - More from Blue Crab and Q&O.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Amazing Race update - All you need to know: Rob & Amber eliminated

Teams started out from southern Chile to head to northern Chile to find the next clue at a shipwreck somewhere. It's hard to say who has an uglier personality: Rob (of Team Media Whores) or Mirna (of Team Gidget and the Midget), the latter of which explained how nobody has had to work harder on the Amazing Race than her. Once at the shipwreck, it's the Detour: Navigate it or Sign it. Teams may either navigate around Chile with a compass to find a major port, or build a signpost (like the MASH signpost) showing all the places, in order, that Magellan visited.

After completing the Detour, teams sign up for a charter flight to Argentina: Oswald & Danny arrive first, followed closely by Eric & Danielle. Rob, who is so much smarter than anybody else on the Race (or so he tells us) mis-spells "Phillipines" and can't complete the Sign detour. Team Media Whores then joins forces with Team Blondies to try the other Detour. As we go to commercial, Mirna is screaming at Charla in a manner that causes my family to burst into laughter. "Charla! Charla!!!" Ahhhh!!!!

Once in Playa Larga, Argentina, Terry & Ian walk right past the clue box. Oswald & Danny and Eric & Danielle find the next clue, directing them to Isla Redonda, the southernmost point in all of South America. The other five teams are on the later flight to Argentina. At the Isla Redonda post office, it's the Roadblock: one team member must sort through hundreds of pieces of mail for a letter addressed to them. After finding the letter, teams must follow a footpath around the island for the Pit Stop.

The letters the teams received were from previous competing teams on the Race. Rob has a lot of trouble finding his letter and Mirna zips ahead leaving Rob behind. Quite fittingly, the letter that Rob (eventually) finds wishes that he's in last place. No hard feelings there! As it turns out, Team Media Whores is the last team to arrive at the Pit Stop and at this point I'm praying that it's not a non-elimination leg. And it's not! Rob, the smartest, shrewest, most strategic, reality show contestant ever is gone.

Final standings:

#1 - Oswald & Danny - Prize: Travelocity trip to Maui
#2 - Eric & Danielle
(four other teams)
#7 - Charla & Mirna
#8 - Rob & Amber - awesomely PHILIMINATED

Next week: A Rob-free show! Fantastic.

Extra - There might be recaps from Pat & Kris.
Both sides now - Matt Hoy gives "thumbs up" to the BBC's "The Great Global Warming Swindle": "The documentary is a damning indictment of global warming alarmism - but don't expect it to win an Oscar, it's made by heretics."
What liberal media?

Here's Robert Kagan in the WashPost with "The surge is succeeding":

A front-page story in The Post last week suggested that the Bush administration has no backup plan in case the surge in Iraq doesn't work. I wonder if The Post and other newspapers have a backup plan in case it does.
Better get out fast before things improve.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The last 20 songs I downloaded off ITunes

Real Gone - Sheryl Crow
How to Save a Life - The Fray
Any Day Now - Ronnie Milsap
Freedom - George Michael
A Million Ways - OK Go
Summertime - The Sundays
I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do - ABBA
Abracadabra - Steve Miller Band
The Girl from Ipanema - Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto
Kiss and Say Goodbye - The Manhattans
Absolutely (Story of a Girl) - Nine Days
Miss Independent - Kelly Clarkson
My Blue Heaven - Don Voorhees & his Orchestra
Orange Blossom Special - Roy Hall & his Blue Ridge Entertainers
Big Bad John - Jimmy Dean
The Monkey Time - Major Lance
Sixteen Tons - Tennessee Ernie Ford
Nobody does it Better - Carly Simon
Cry Me a River - Julie London
And her Tears Flowed like Wine - Ella Fitzgerald

Wiki wiki wiki - From the Economist: "Wikipedia's wide variety of contributors is both a strength and a weakness of the online encyclopedia"

Friday, March 09, 2007

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest

Jeff Goldstein on the cognitive dissonance of the Libby trial coverage:

Two commentators, two different sets of "facts."

Unfortunately for those interested in the truth, only one set of facts is based in reality. The other, sadly, is steeped in disappointment and the boundless ability of humans to self-justify, particularly when they have so heavily invested themselves in a particular point of view.
You'd expect this kind of behavior from the hard Left, but the partisan re-writing of history reaches all the way up to the dishonorable Senate majority leader:

In fact, the statement illustrates that [Harry] Reid either doesn't have an honest bone in his body or is so utterly incompetent that he failed to grasp two things: what went on in court and a 2004 bipartisan report by the Senate intelligence committee. It showed conclusively that it wasn't the Bush administration doing the manipulating in this case. It was Wilson.
One thing that's the Left has been accurate about is that the Bush White House was trying to discredit Joe Wilson; it's because he's a proven liar, a prevaricator who actively sought to undermine U.S. policy. But Scooter Libby is the only person - in all of Washington - who has been convicted. What a farce.

More - From Charles Krauthammer: "This is a case that never should have been brought, originating in the scandal that never was, in search of a crime -- violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act -- that even the prosecutor never alleged. That's the basis for a presidential pardon."
Dems cut and run from another evil empire - From Politico: "Nevada Dems nix Fox debate"

Update (3/10) - The Las Vegas Review Journal condemns the Nevada Democrats' cave-in to the "lunatic fringe."
The Democrats' plan on Iraq: political not principled

From Real Clear Politics: "The political end game on Iraq"

But military odds and political odds are not one and the same, the latter being dependent on an independent, highly unpredictable variable known as the American public. Should we lose in Iraq, the odds are Republicans will take the blame. Unless, of course, the public believes that Democratic actions helped lead to that defeat. Hence, Pelosi's and Reid's differing plans that place complete withdrawal well into 2008 - in other words, well past the time they think the public could blame them for encouraging defeat.

But if the surge should succeed, then Democrats have a problem. Success in Iraq switches the dynamics of the gamble from avoiding blame to getting credit. And although Democrats have probably gone out on the ledge as far as they think is wise, they are still out there and vulnerable if Iraq takes a turn for the better.
Which is why Pelosi and Reid silently cringe when they see stories like this: "Iraqi Spokesman Says Leader of Major Al-Qaeda-Linked Group Captured Near Baghdad."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

These lists are always so stupid - From Wizbang Pop: "The 200 albums everyone must have." Yeah, sure. As a music lover with awesome taste, I think I'll make my own list.
Faster, please, in Zimbabwe

From the Australian Herald Sun: "Unrest has Mugabe losing grip on reign"

Robert Mugabe's party is splintering under the impact of Zimbabwe's catastrophic economic crisis and he may be removed from office to avert a bloody political meltdown.

Citing widespread unrest within the Government, International Crisis Group said the situation in Harare was "reminiscent of the last stage of Mobutu's reign in the Congo".

The dictator Mobutu Sese Seko fled his country in 1997 after almost three decades of corrupt and violent rule.
It's hidden behind a subscription page, but the New Republic also has a story on "The Other African Genocide": "Masxigora began hunting mice to support (and feed) his wife and three children soon after Mugabe began confiscating thousands of productive, white-owned farms in 2000, a policy that has since led to mass starvation. Not long ago, Zimbabwe, the "breadbasket of Africa," exported meat and produced what was widely considered to be Africa's finest livestock. Today, Masxigora tells me that each mouse nets $30 Zim dollars, about 12 cents, which makes him a wealthy man in Zimbabwe."
Quote of the Day - Here's homebuilder D.R. Horton CEO Donald J. Tomnitz getting right to the point: "I don't want to be too sophisticated here, but '07 is going to suck, all 12 months of the calendar year." That's direct.
ITunes rules - A couple of years ago, I heard the song "And her tears flowed like wine" by Ella Fitzgerald, a tune that seemed impossible to find in any conventional music store. But then there it was on ITunes. Cool.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Persian cat - Via Hot Air: Iranian general defects to the West. I'm sure that President Dinner Jacket reflexively declared that it wouldn't stop Iran's nuclear development, but he probably says that whenever he runs out of toilet paper. Pajamas Media says it's time for "Panic in Tehran."
It's called treason - From Fox News: "Former Navy Sailor Arrested for Allegedly Passing Classified Secrets to Terror Financier" - "A former Navy sailor was arrested on terrorism charges Wednesday for alleging mishandling classified information that ended up in the hands of a suspected terrorism financier. Hassan Abujihaad, 31, of Phoenix, was arrested in a case that began in Connecticut and has stretched across the country and into Europe and the Middle East." Hmmm, that's an ethnic name.
Has anybody written about Scooter Libby yet? No?

Sorry for missing the big news yesterday; I was overwhelmed with workwork, homework, housework, and taxes. Of course, the Boston Globe editorial is the typical leftist agitprop, and there's no point in even reading the NY Times. But the Washington Post is spot on: Libby broke the law but nobody in the case covered themselves with glory, especially Joe Wilson:

Mr. Wilson was embraced by many because he was early in publicly charging that the Bush administration had "twisted," if not invented, facts in making the case for war against Iraq. In conversations with journalists or in a July 6, 2003, op-ed, he claimed to have debunked evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger; suggested that he had been dispatched by Mr. Cheney to look into the matter; and alleged that his report had circulated at the highest levels of the administration.

A bipartisan investigation by the Senate intelligence committee subsequently established that all of these claims were false -- and that Mr. Wilson was recommended for the Niger trip by Ms. Plame, his wife. When this fact, along with Ms. Plame's name, was disclosed in a column by Robert D. Novak, Mr. Wilson advanced yet another sensational charge: that his wife was a covert CIA operative and that senior White House officials had orchestrated the leak of her name to destroy her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson.

The partisan furor over this allegation led to the appointment of special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald. Yet after two years of investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald charged no one with a crime for leaking Ms. Plame's name. In fact, he learned early on that Mr. Novak's primary source was former deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage, an unlikely tool of the White House. The trial has provided convincing evidence that there was no conspiracy to punish Mr. Wilson by leaking Ms. Plame's identity -- and no evidence that she was, in fact, covert.
Who is the criminal here? Scooter Libby who tried (overzealously, perhaps) to defend the White House, or the couple who actively sought to undermine U.S. policy with a false analysis on Iraq and baseless allegations? I don't particularly like the idea of a Presidential pardon derailing the mechanism of justice, but this case with no underlying crime is the poster child of the criminalization of politics.

Extra - Mark Steyn: "The real scandal has always been that the world’s most lavishly endowed intelligence agency’s idea of an investigation is flying in a politically-motivated tourist for a long weekend."

More - From Wizbang, juror #10 wants a pardon for Libby.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Who is John Galt? - From the Christian Science Monitor: "'Atlas Shrugged' - Fifty years later" - "When Ayn Rand finished writing "Atlas Shrugged" 50 years ago this month, she set off an intellectual shock wave that is still felt today. It's credited for helping to halt the communist tide and ushering in the currents of capitalism. Many readers say it transformed their lives. A 1991 poll rated it the second-most influential book (after the Bible) for Americans." (HT: Maggie's Farm)
Happy New Year - Golden pigs gather in the U.S. Senate.

Oops - Permalink not working. Try this one and you'll find the story.
Yet another follow-up - Here's the CBS's official 60 Minutes web site along with almost the entire discussion with Comptroller General David Walker. Video link is over on the right column.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Amazing Race update - Down the Chilean coast

Teams started out from Chile and needed to drive to San Pedro de Atacama in the middle of the night. Rob won't shut up. Once at the church, the clue tells teams to fly to Puerto Montt and then drive to Metri, still in Chile. Everybody gets only $37 for this leg of the Race. Some teams get the flight arriving at 12:55pm while the rest get on the flight coming in at 1:55pm. At Santiago airport, Teri & Ian are talking to an agent trying to get onto the earlier connecting flight to Puerto Montt when Mirna tries to talk to the very same agent. Ian flips out, telling Mirna not to talk to the agent while she's helping them, and calls for security. Seriously, Gidget and the Midget are a dysfunctional team with a capital "D."

Once in Metri, the clue is a Roadblock: one team member must catch and transfer 80 fish from a breeding tank to another holding tank. Danielle is hilarious picking up the fish, screaming like a little girl; Eric urges her to use her boobs to hold the fish down. On the bottom of the fish tank is the next clue, telling teams to head to La Maqina. Charla & Mirna are last to leave the fish farm.

At the next clue, it's the Detour: Vertical Limit or River Wild. Teams may either climb a 40 ft cliff or go a couple miles down white-water rapids in a raft. While other teams arrive, David & Mary are seen driving right past the road sign for the Detour. Meanwhile, the Beauty Queens go to the rafting detour without hitting the clue box first, which is likely to be a problem at the Pit Stop. Rob & Amber finish first, dammit, and head to the Pit Stop at Playa Petrahue.

At the Pit Stop, Dustin & Kandace arrive but Phil tells them they can't be checked in without all their clues. I thought they would get a 30-minute penalty but now they need to drive back up the river and find the clue they missed. However, this might be better than a time penalty as they just have to drive up the river and find the clue; they arrive back at the mat as Team #4. David & Mary are last to arrive at the River Wild (nobody chose the climb) and they're the last to arrive. I would have preferred to see Charla & Mirna go, but Team Kentucky is eliminated.

Final standings:

#1 - Rob & Amber for the third time in a row
(Six other teams)
#8 - David & Mary - PHILIMINATED

Next week: Cab confusion.

Extra - Check out recaps from Kris & Pat for more Amazing Race fun.
Liveblogging Comptroller General David Walker on 60 Minutes

The nation's accountant talks to Steve Kroft on the consequences of entitlement spending. The story is titled: "Wake Up Call." Kroft calls him an "Old Testament prophet" trying to convince people about the problem.

"The dirty little secret in Washington that everybody knows."

Walker: "The most serious threat to American security is not somebody in a cave but our own fiscal irresponsibility."

Kroft: "Walker has given up trying to convince government officials and has taken his show on the road to convince the [American public.]"

Walker: "When those Boomers start retiring en masse, that will be a tsumani of spending."

"The real problem is health care costs. Our health care problem is much worse than Social Security. The Medicare problem is much worse. The prescription drug benefit adds $8 trillion on top of the $15-$20 trillion obligation of entitlement spending."

Kroft: "Walker says that we've promised seniors unlimited healthcare. The system is unsustainable."

Kroft: "You'd expect that we'd present dissenting opinions to counter Walker, but almost nobody does."

Walker: "Any politicians who tells you you can solve our problem without reforming [entitlement spending], they're not telling you the truth. The longer we wait, the more we tempt fiscal crisis."

Walker: "We are mortgaging our childrens' futures."

NOTE: All quotes are pretty close with only some syntax errors.
Watch 60 Minutes tonight

America's top accountant calls the prescription drug benefit "probably the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation since the 1960s." Via Bull Dog Pundit on ABP:

"We can't afford to keep the promises we've already made, much less to be piling on top of them," he [Comptroller General David Walker] tells [Steve] Kroft. The problem is the baby boomers. The 78 million people born between 1946 and 1964 start becoming eligible for Social Security benefits next year. "They'll be eligible for Medicare just three years later and when those boomers start retiring en masse, then that will be a tsunami of spending that could swamp our ship of state if we don't get serious," says Walker.
And, boy oh boy, this sounds familiar:

By the year 2040, Walker says, "If nothing changes, the federal government is not going to be able to do much more than pay interest on the mounting debt and some entitlement benefits. It won't have money left for anything else."
Which leads back to my standard rejoinder whenever advocates of Social Security reform are accused of trying to dismantle FDR's legacy: when the Boomer entitlement wave hits it will crowd out all government spending on things we call "the government." You know, like education and the military and food safety and national parks and highways. The "government" will be transformed into a massive money transfer way station, moving revenues from workers and into the hands of seniors and multinational banks.
Raiders of the lost art

From CNN "Stolen Rockwell found in Spielberg collection":

"Russian Schoolroom," a Rockwell painting stolen from a gallery in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, Missouri, more than three decades ago, was found in Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg's art collection, the FBI announced Friday.

Spielberg purchased the painting in 1989 from a legitimate dealer and didn't know it was stolen until his staff spotted its image last week on an FBI Web site listing stolen works of art, the bureau said in a statement."
Wow, it's been a good week for Norman Rockwell.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Reasonable doubt vexes the Libby jury

Here's an interesting coincidence: I have a Norman Rockwell wall calendar over my desk and the new picture for March is called "The Jury Holdout."

And now there's this from the NY Times:

The jurors sent a note with a question to Judge Reggie B. Walton, who is expected to respond on Monday when deliberations resume. In the note, the jurors asked for further explanation of the concept of reasonable doubt, suggesting possible uncertainty or even disagreement over the core standard by which they are to measure the evidence and testimony about Mr. Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

“We would like clarification of the term ‘reasonable doubt,’ ” the note said. “Specifically, is it necessary for the government to present evidence that it is not humanly possible for someone not to recall an event in order to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?”

The question suggested that at least some of the jurors are wrestling with the imprecise and often vexing definition of reasonable doubt, as well as how to decide whether a false statement should be attributed to faulty memory or willful deception, the issue at the center of the case.
The InTrade contract for a Libby conviction has dropped to a coin flip on the news. There's been talk of a hung jury but, from what I've read about the panel, they seem to be working earnestly towards a decision one way or the other. I'm guessing there will be a decision next week.
Sunday morning talkshow lineup - According to Mark Kilmer, Joe Lieberman gave the Democrats' radio address this weekend. That's just weird.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Like the muffler said: "I'm exhausted" - What a day. I need a weekend nap.
Quote of the Day - From Gerard Baker in the UK Times: "Having those guys [Bush and Cheney] around for so long provided a comfortable substitute for thinking hard about global challenges, a kind of intellectual escapism." (HT: Q&O)
Wither the Conservatives? - Driving home today, I flipped on C-Span radio and heard a voice bitterly criticizing the Republican party as out of touch and well-deserving of its 2006 drubbing. It took a second to figure out that it was a speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Jonathan Martin has much more on "A mood of gloom at CPAC" over at Politico.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Limousine environmentalist - The Economist analyzes the silliness of Al Gore's explanation over his high-power mansion, along with the carbon offset scam. And from whom is Gore purchasing his carbon offsets? Al Gore. What a deal.
Polarized America - From the WashPost "The Myth of the Middle": "The visual representation of the nation's voters isn't a nicely shaped bell, with most voters in the moderate middle. It's a sharp V."
Potty mouths - Patrick Ishmael notes that the Left side of the blogosphere needs to embellish its arguments with copious amounts of profanity. Be sure to scroll down to the very bottom for Amanda Marcotte's risible rejoinder.

Extra fun from Instapunk and Wuzzadem. Good DAY, sir!
More money for the Big Dig, sure why not?

From the Boston Globe: "$6m more OK'd for Big Dig repairs"

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority yesterday approved an additional $6 million to pay for Big Dig repairs, increasing the price tag from last summer's fatal tunnel ceiling collapse to $31 million -- with more potentially to come.
That's rich: "potentially." As in "certainly" or "indubitably." Here are all the quotes within the Globe story:

"I sitting here today can't guarantee to the board that there wouldn't be another increase requested."
"It's just growing and growing and growing. Is it coming to an end?"
"We didn't know what the problems were. I would be hard pressed to come up with an estimate back then."

When my axle fractures on a pothole outside Springfield, I'll think fondly of the Bostonites who have had their commutes cut by ten minutes.