Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Massachusetts redneck in Bill France's court

Well, I'll be away tomorrow (Sunday) as I'm going to the New Hampshire International Speedway to see my first NASCAR race, the Lenox Industrial Tools 300. My backpack is bursting at the seams with a race scanner, headphones, beach towels, snacks, binoculars, etc. Be back soon.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Terror plot in England - From Fox News: "British Police Probe Car Bomb Plot in London"

This foiled effort comes only two days after Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister from a retiring Tony Blair. This reminds me of the attack on the USS Cole which occurred only a month before the 2000 presidential election and, to a lesser extent, Khobar Towers occurring a couple of months before the 1996 election. Is it possible the Muslim extremists search for opportunities when governments are in transition, in the expectation that it will lead to inaction?

More - Expat Yank, located in Dorset, has the latest.

Update - The Brits have a "crystal clear" picture of a suspect.
"Sicko" is not so boffo

Kurt Loder of MTV doesn't think much of Michael Moore's latest movie:

As the Caribbean sun sank down on Moore's breathtakingly meretricious movie, I couldn't help recalling that when Fidel Castro became gravely ill last year, he didn't put himself in the hands of a Cuban surgeon. No. Instead, he had a specialist flown in - from Spain.
"Meretricious" - there's a word you don't hear everyday.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hey, teacher, leave them pot-selling kids alone

A commenter (yes, somebody read my blog!) noted the disparity between the Supreme Court's ruling in support of free speech in knocking back McCain-Feingold but against "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." As a free-speech advocate, I'd have to agree that the student speech case leaves me uneasy.

However, the Supreme Court has a long history of limiting the rights of students in the interest of, I guess, educational order. One of my favorites is "New Jersey vs. T.L.O." which involved a girl caught with marijuana in her purse after the vice principal found her smoking in the girls room. The NJ Supreme Court found that the school officials search was illegal under the Fourth Amendment but the Burger court, in a 6-3 decision, disagreed.

I wonder whatever became of T.L.O.
McCain-Feingold curtailed - George Will celebrates in "Setback for the censors"

I'm curious to read the decisions by the four justices in the minority which seems to suggest that Americans' first amendment rights are suspended a month before an election.

Extra - From Reason's Hit & Run:

Earlier this week the Supreme Court began dismantling the thoroughly odious John McCain-Russ Feingold "Don't Hurt Politicians' Feelings Censorship Law." What part of the First Amendment's "Congress shall make no law ...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the petition the Government for redress of grievances" doesn't McCain and his cowering cohorts on Capitol Hill not understand?"
Right on.
There are no atheists in a foxhole - And no Democrats in a NASCAR driver's seat.

In related news, I'm heading to my first NASCAR race this Sunday and the weather forecast is beautiful. Sweet.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Your Zimbabwe moment of Zen - NY Times "Zimbabwe seeks 'indigenous' control of companies": "Zimbabwe's government has put forward legislation that would require virtually all publicly traded companies to cede controlling interests to "indigenous" citizens, raising the possibility of a sizable redistribution of the country's remaining wealth at a time when its economy is collapsing." Sounds like a plan!
An Iraqi perspective

Omar at Iraq the Model wants "decision makers" to look beyond the numbers:

It's almost July now, and General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will present their report about the situation in Iraq, military and political, at some point in September.I don't know what parameters the two men are going to list statistics for in their report but I expect it to show the results of fighting al-Qaeda and other armed groups in numbers, the progress in building the ISF in numbers, also in numbers and of course the report would include the progress, if any, that our political leaders will have made by the time.

I think what matters more than the way of presentation would be how the data in the report is going to be read and afterwards interpreted into attitudes and actions.One thing I hope the decision-makers and the media do when they read the report is to not isolate the war in Iraq from the war on terror and al-Qaeda as a whole, and at the same time put in mind the difference between war and nation-building. The latter takes much more time than winning a military conflict but requires different tools.

The results so far have been astounding, and please allow me to say that I'm proud of the change in attitude many of my fellow Iraqis are showing.
If you read, for example, the USA Today report previously cited there are plenty of anecdotes about friendly Iraqis meeting up with American soldiers. My concern is that goodwill may dissipate and turn to disillusion unless the Maliki government takes steps towards long-term security.
Paging Al Gore - NY Times blog "In Johannesburg, first snowfall since 1981": "The Reporter, a South African citizen journalism site, reported "residents shaking their heads in disbelief" and "amazement."
Paging Dr. Pangloss

Victor Davis Hanson on "Our Enemy's Attrition - Reasons to reexamine the Middle East's negative prognosis"

The majority opinion is that the occupation in Iraq has been so bungled that the blowback has ruined American efforts at promoting positive change throughout the Middle East.

Perhaps. But for all the justifiable criticism of the Iraqi reconstruction, two truths still remain — the United States is taking an enormous toll on jihadists, and despite the terrible cost in blood and treasure, has not given up on a constitutional government in Iraq.
The problem that Americans see, driving support for the war to an all-time low, is that it looks like the Iraqis have given up on a constitutional government.

But the Iraqi government's failure to resolve long-simmering ethnic hatreds and make concessions to Sunnis suggest the improved security may remain only as long as U.S. forces are here, keeping a lid on violence.
With Republicans wavering in Congress, this may be the beginning of what the Weekly Standard calls "Slow-motion Tet"

The fact is that Al Qaeda is steadily losing its grip in Iraq, and these attacks are alienating its erstwhile Iraqi supporters. But the terrorists are counting on sapping our will as the VC did, and persuading America to choose to lose a war it could win.
Mmmm...could be. I'm now skeptical that anything can change the dynamic in Iraq and reverse a thousand years of sectarian hatred. The Iraqi "surge" is the last best hope for the Iraqi government to reach a political resolution but I fear we're going to end up getting the purple finger.

Extra - Rick Moran also wonders where the progress is at: "That's a start as far as barometers for "victory." And we're nowhere near achieving any of them!" Yeah, which is why Congress is going shrug shoulders, tell Maliki "we tried" and walk away.
Sitting on a sea of oil - But not enough gas to go around. Gateway Pundit has pictures and videos of gas station riots in Tehran. Will President Dinner Jacket blame gas rationing on 1.) Israel or 2.) the United States? It's a toss-up.
Discovery is a wonderful thing - Jeff Jacoby reports that the Islamic Society of Boston has abandoned their two-year defamation lawsuit against everybody in Beantown who dared to suggest that the Islamic Society had ties to Wahhabi extremists. It turns out that those allegations were backed by inconvenient facts. Never mind!
Big Dig lawsuit set to break record for damages

From the Boston Globe: "Lawyers eye huge Big Dig settlement - Wrongful death case could be landmark"

Lawyers for Milena Del Valle's family are building a case for a landmark settlement of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars for what they describe as the outrageously egregious acts that led to her death in last summer's Big Dig ceiling collapse, according to a 15-page memo obtained by the Globe.

The lawyers did not specify a price for settling the family's lawsuit against an array of contracting firms and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, but said the case should be compared to those that have produced some of the largest jury awards in US history, including the $450 million in punitive damages awarded to the widow of a sheriff-elect in Georgia assassinated by his rival in 2000. If anything, the lawyers predicted, a Massachusetts jury would award the Del Valle family even more money.
The largest punitive award in a Massachusetts court was $27.5 million for a man killed on the MBTA, later reduced to $1 million. But the comprehensive neglect by state officials and private contractors in this tragedy all but guarantees that there will be a huge settlement to avoid more bad publicity.

Monday, June 25, 2007

It's the Simon-Ehrlich wager, 2007 edition - Via Sister Toldjah: "Professor challenges Al Gore to 10-year $10,000 bet on global warming"
More socialism, less charity

From USA Today: "Americans give record $295 billion to charity"

[NYU professor Claire] Gaudiani said Americans give twice as much as the next most charitable country, according to a November 2006 comparison done by the Charities Aid Foundation. In philanthropic giving as a percentage of gross domestic product, the U.S. ranked first at 1.7%. No. 2 Britain gave 0.73%, while France, with a 0.14% rate, trailed such countries as South Africa, Singapore, Turkey and Germany.
Or, as Fark puts it: "Meanwhile, the French wouldn't toss you a sou if you were bleeding on their porch."
The happy cult of renewable energy and radioactive realities

Continuing a theme of dumb editorializing and gasoline taxes, the Washington Post gives its review of the Senate's energy bill which mostly just new CAFE standards. But this is a risible defense of Senate Majority leader Harry Reid:

Senate Republicans used a procedural vote to kill $32 billion in tax credits and incentives for renewable energy producers. They were doing the bidding of the oil and gas industry, which objected to trimming some of its existing tax credits and raising other taxes to pay the cost of incentives to companies working to create new sources of clean energy and to promote energy efficiency. Such revenue adjustment is imperative if America is to reduce its contribution to global warming greenhouse gases. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is right to pledge to revive the package.
So intent on castigating the GOP, not once does the editorial mention the only reliable source of energy that just happens to be free of greenhouse gas emissions. That would be nuclear power which has been single-handedly hampered by Nevada's Harry Reid who has stood against the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository:

In the 2006 mid-term elections, the Senate majority was won by the Democratic Party. As a result, Senator Harry Reid D-(NV), a long time opponent, became the Senate Majority Leader, putting Congress in a position to greatly affect the future of the project. Reid has said that he would continue to work to block completion of the project, and is quoted to have said "Yucca Mountain is dead. It'll never happen."
What this means is that current nuclear power plants with spent fuel cannot move the radioactive material to a central location. Further, the nuclear industry isn't going to invest in new reactors or technology because the federal government will not support the waste fuel.

Excluding hydroelectric dams, the renewable energy sources that the Washington Post has such great hope for account for less than one-percent of all energy used in the United States; and this is after thirty years of heavy government subsidies and intense research. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas-free nuclear power generates 20% of all the power used in the U.S. but a lot of these reactors will be shutting down over the next couple decades.

Where, Washington Post, does the more important energy concern lie?
Nothing is as gratifying as letting somebody else pay

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is broke and needs lots of cash for Boston's Central Artery program (read: that money hole known as the "Big Dig.") Today the Boston Globe had an editorial suggesting the best way to support the MTA's budget and, as usual, the citizens of Western Massachusetts are expected to suffer for Boston's chronic malfeasance:

The commission is sure to propose a range of choices, but the one that should be the centerpiece is that bulwark of highway finance -- the gasoline tax. The state tax now stands at 23.5 cents per gallon (with 2.5 cents reserved for disposal of old service-station tanks.) The 21 cents reserved for transportation expenses hasn't been raised since 1991. Inflation alone has cut the value of the tax to 14 cents.

With gasoline prices so high, few motorists are going to like an increase, but the governor and Legislature have an obligation to keep the Turnpike Authority solvent, equalize the burden of paying for the artery, and finance other transportation initiatives around the state.

Once state government accepts the need for a tax hike, it can engage in a conversation about whether, and where, turnpike tolls should be phased out. With or without tolls, the gasoline tax needs to go up.
Of course it does because raising tolls on Boston commuters alone would be, well, unfair to those Bay Staters who already swallow up almost the entire MTA budget. Spread the pain to everybody in the state - that's the Massachusetts way.

Also: I love love love! the debate over whether turnpike tolls "should" be phased out. That'll happen when Ted Kennedy joins AA.
Somebody needs a hug

Brian Maloney asks: "Is Janeane Garofalo capable of even one unangry moment in her life?"

Ms. Garofalo recently gave an interview to the deeply left-wing Valley Advocate and practically screamed at the poor reporter throughout the short list of questions. Yeesh.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hail Columbia - Juan Pablo Montoya, native of Columbia, won his first Nextel Cup NASCAR race today by gambling on fuel while pushing everybody aside at the Sonoma road course. Good for him.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The ethanol scam and its unintended consequences - From Reason: "Feed SUVs and Starve People? - Why turning food into fuel may not be such a good idea"
Play the game - From the American Academy of Actuaries: Fix Social Security
South Africa reaps the whirlwind of Zimbabwe

From the NY Times: "Influx From Zimbabwe to South Africa Tests Both"

As Zimbabwe's disintegration gathers potentially unstoppable momentum, a swelling tide of migrants is moving into neighboring South Africa, driven into exile by oppression, unemployment and inflation so relentless that many goods now double in price weekly.
A report by 34 international aid agencies predicts the Zimbabwe economy will "cease to function" by the end of the year. What that means, I'm not sure, but it ain't good.

Friday, June 22, 2007

So close - I just have to send in my take-home exam tomorrow and I'll be done with my class. Next class starts July 9th; no rest for the weary.
I love that song! - This Pajamas Media post makes a cultural reference in its title that is so disarming and unexpected, well, I don't know what to add: "Pilot of the Airwaves."

"Pilot of the Airwaves" was another of my "white whale" songs (see also: "Clair") that seemed to impossible to find on ITunes or on general compilations. It was an early 1980s top-20 hit by London singer Charlie Dore with an infectious, lyrical chorus; eventually I found it on a schlocky 80's compilation CD with a lot of "Flashdance" ilk on it.

Bravo, PJM Sydney.
What media bias? - It's become redundant to point out the liberal slant of the New York Times, but check out the pictures they chose for a story on immigration and amnesty.

Amnesty supporters: the soft light of a people yearning to breathe free
Amnesty opponents: slack-jawed yokels with bad teeth and unkempt lawns

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Check your couch cushions, you may be a millionaire

In Zimbabwean dollars, that is. From CNN: "Zimbabwe currency crashes"

The value of the Zimbabwean dollar suffered its worst crash in memory, dealers said Thursday, sparking a run on dollars and forcing stores to close early to put new prices on their meager stock.

Black market exchange rates -- fueled by the central bank buying at the illegal rates to pay the mounting debts of crumbling state fuel and power utilities -- rose to upward of 300,000 Zimbabwe dollars to one U.S. dollar in large offshore deals, said one trader.
No Zimbabwe story is complete without the insane inflation anecdote:

A journalist for Zimbabwe's official Herald newspaper reported that she had returned home from a week in South Africa to discover that during her absence the price of beef had increased 2.5 times, a bottle of cooking oil had doubled and bus fares had gone up between three and fivefold. gets more bizarre:

Zimbabwe's official media also alleged Thursday it received "a secret document" on a plot by Western countries to undermine the economy masterminded by Zimbabweans and foreigners known as the Fishmongers Group.
The Fishmongers Group! They make the Bilderberg Group look like pikers. The tragedy here is that most of Africa refuses to face down Robert Mugabe, especially South African president Thabo Mbeki who has the best chance of turning around this downward spiral. (HT: Q&O)
Democracy at work - From Fox News "Senate votes to increase fuel economy standards": "The compromise, approved without floor debate, was crafted over several days behind closed doors with the aim of heading off attempts by senators sympathetic to the auto industry to press a less stringent proposal." Like those two Democrats from Michigan.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Thank heaven for global warming

It may save us from global cooling: "Read the sunspots"

Solar scientists predict that, by 2020, the sun will be starting into its weakest Schwabe solar cycle of the past two centuries, likely leading to unusually cool conditions on Earth. Beginning to plan for adaptation to such a cool period, one which may continue well beyond one 11-year cycle, as did the Little Ice Age, should be a priority for governments. It is global cooling, not warming, that is the major climate threat to the world, especially Canada. As a country at the northern limit to agriculture in the world, it would take very little cooling to destroy much of our food crops, while a warming would only require that we adopt farming techniques practiced to the south of us.
Please don't confuse the hippies with your so-called "science." Save Mother Gaia!
America to Congress: you stink

Generally speaking, Americans have been skeptical about Congress for decades now. But the current 14% confidence rating for Congress is down from 19% last year and is the lowest in Gallup’s history, surpassing the 18% confidence in Congress measured in 1991, 1993 and 1994.
Wait, 1994? That was a good year for the minority party in Congress.
Extra-constitutional labor unions

In 1992, the voters of Washington state declared that unions could not use member dues for political purposes without explicit authorization from the person. Somehow the Washington Education Association (WEA) convinced the state Supreme Court that this was an undue burden on their freedom of speech. Now, in a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court has smacked down that decision:

Amazingly, the WEA convinced the state Supreme Court that requiring it to ask permission before using other people's money -- for political speech that those people do not want to finance -- was an unconstitutional burden on the WEA's right of free speech. This novel (to be polite) theory did not persuade even one of the nine often fractious justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Speaking for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia noted that when government allows agency-shop arrangements, it creates a remarkable entitlement: It gives a private entity, a public employees union, "the power, in essence, to tax government employees." The WEA's complaint -- a notably brazen example of the entitlement mentality -- was against the supposedly burdensome "opt in" condition placed on its exercise of that power. With understandable asperity, Scalia said: "The notion that this modest limitation upon an extraordinary benefit violates the First Amendment is, to say the least, counterintuitive."
George Will goes on to detail how unions, working from desperation, are trying to roll back both free speech and open democracy with a "card-check" system. This is a long way from "Norma Rae."

Extra - Remember this union commercial from the Seventies? Classic. (Warning: salty language)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bad nations hate God

Well, they hate your God. Foreign Policy has a study of "failed states" (Sudan is #1 and Iraq is #2) and finds that instability and religious intolerance go hand-in-hand:

Freedom of worship may be a cornerstone of democracy, but it may also be a key indicator of stability. Vulnerable states display a greater degree of religious intolerance, according to scores calculated by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. Persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh, Burma, Iran, and Uzbekistan has deprived millions of faithful of the freedom to follow their beliefs. But religious repression is often nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to muzzle the country’s civil society. In Zimbabwe, religious leaders were targeted recently as some of the last remaining outspoken voices of opposition in the country. And in Belarus, President Aleksandr Lukashenko has severely curtailed religious freedom in order to quash movements he deems bearers of foreign political influence. It seems the leaders of many failing states distrust any higher power that may be greater than their own.
Hat tip: Poliblog.
Quiz - Do you have a crazy boss? (HT: Business Pundit)
Just makin' stuff up - Remember my skepticism at that NY Times story about slowing online sales? Slate calls it the "Bogus trend story of the day." Paper of record, indeed.
Michael Moore: hypocrite and his movie stinks.

Real life intrudes on
Viking Pundit blog updates
Few seem to notice

Sorry for the sparse content lately. Tonight's my last class for Statistical Quality Control and then I have a week to complete my take-home exam. But then it's back to ranting about Social Security!


Monday, June 18, 2007

Another Congressional bill stalls - From CNN "Powerful interest groups stymie Democrats' energy bill": "Three powerful lobbying forces -- automakers, electric utilities and the coal industry -- are confounding Democrats' efforts to forge a less-polluting energy policy."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

"Is it really over?" - That's Carl Edwards as he broke a 52-race drought to win the NASCAR race at Michigan today. After his trademark backflip, Edwards took shears to his teammate's beard:

He [Edwards] then gleefully took a pair of scissors to team member Tom Giacchi's shaggy beard, clipping off a chunk of hair that had been growing since the two vowed in late 2005 that Giacchi wouldn't shave until Edwards' next win.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Happy Fathers' Day - Take the day off and relax, dads. I expect to take a nap tomorrow, probably around lap 100 of the NASCAR race.
Oh, really? - This morning I placed a large-ish order with Amazon, mostly textbooks for my next class. Ironically, this was on the NY Times today: "Online Sales Lose Steam as Buyers Grow Web-Weary"

Well, I love avoiding checkout lines, salespeople, and sales taxes. Today I ordered a copy of "The Confusion" by Neil Stephenson for $0.79 (plus $4 shipping) even though I never finished "Quicksilver." But, c'mon, 79 cents!
The glare of the TV cameras

Mike Nifong of the Duke lacrosse case has been disbarred and Durham in Wonderland gets it about right:

Had a prosecutor who was faced with a very unusual situation: confluence of his self-interest collided with a very volatile mix of race, sex, and class. If it were a plot of a John Grisham novel, would be considered too contrived. Facing a primary--yes, he was politically naive.

But can draw no other conclusions but that the initial statements he made were to further his political ambitions.
The chair of the disciplinary committee called the ordeal: "fiasco."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Your government at work - I'm not going to pile on Harry Reid since I'm already well aware he's a tool. Instead let's look at the legislative progress of the new Democratic Senate: impressive!

More - Bill from InDC Journal has some thoughts.
One of those crazy "open mic" gaffes - Via Publius Pundit, a Syrian politician is killed by a car bomb and the TV anchor asks: "What took them so long to kill him?" Oops.
Thomas Edison, bastard capitalist - Hit and Run reviews Howard Zinn's take on American history (for kids!) and finds it, um, bizarre and tendentious. (HT: Chequerboard)

More - From Walter Kirn's book review:

Though the light bulb has worked out fairly well for all of us - male and female, black and white, Republican and Democrat - Zinn's depressive progressivism doesn't include this fact, but instead leaves us with the impression that every dime that landed in Edison's pocket would have been better off staying in someone else's. Teenagers who are lazy or bad at science may find this message comforting. Don't bother to invent things, kids, and certainly don't market them. America will be a better place.
Darker, but better in that "feel good" kind of way. That Jonas Salk was a show-off, also.
The hidden war in Africa

Via the (UK) Economist: "Policing the ungoverned spaces - The Americans are intensifying their hunt for al-Qaeda in the Sahara and beyond"

Mr Ag Metky's mission is a tiny part of what the Americans call the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership. Under this initiative small teams of American special forces train the local soldiers of Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, and work with the armies of Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia, to control what they call the “undergoverned” spaces of the Sahara: vast swathes of desert where people have been in various states of rebellion for years and which more recently have been visited by radical Islamist clerics and new terrorist groups.
The battle may have more to do with oil security (Angola, Nigeria) than preventing the next Darfur.
Missed the cut again - CNN "Conservative bloggers in full revolt over immigration": "But no issue in recent memory has united conservative bloggers like the debate over immigration. Their frustration has culminated in a full-scale revolt against the Bush administration and a Senate bill that activists say does little to solve the country's border security problems."

I must have missed CNN's call. Those extremely popular blogs get all the attention.

Extra - Ace has figured out how to get attention from the mainstream media.

More - Conservative Outpost shows how RNC mailing are being returned.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ethanol: the cure-all that leads to higher gas and food prices

What's not to love about the Senate's unbelievably stupid energy bill? Besides a childlike hope in new technologies (magical biofuels, chimerical fuel-efficient SUVs) there's the vague language ("unconscionably excessive") that reminds us why "laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made."

Paying more at the supermarket? The Christian Science Monitor explains: "From milk to meat, US food prices spike upward"

The chief culprit is corn, namely No. 2 feed corn, the staple of the breadbasket. In answer to President Bush's call for greater oil independence, the amount of feed corn distilled into ethanol is expected to double in the next five to six years. Distillation is already sucking up 18 percent of the total crop. The ethanol gambit, in turn, is sending corn prices to historic levels – topping $4 per bushel earlier this year, and remaining high. All of this trickles down to the boards at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, affecting the price of everything from sirloin to eggs (which are up, by the way, 18.6 percent across the nation).
Whatever we do, let's not boost domestic oil production. Our dependence on foreign oil is higher than before the 1973 OPEC crisis and is projected to head higher:

More mad money for the mullahs and their madrassas!
Six of one, half-dozen of the other

CNN "Hamas claims full control of Gaza": "Fighters from the Islamic party Hamas claimed full control of Palestinian Authority security agencies in Gaza late Thursday as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved his unity government and declared a state of emergency."

Over a year ago, the Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby noted that there's nary a difference between "good" Fatah and "bad" Hamas:

Like Hamas, Fatah -- the PLO faction Abbas and Arafat co-founded 45 years ago -- advocates Israel's destruction in its basic charter. Like Hamas, Fatah has an ''armed wing" -- the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- that is guilty of horrific terror attacks. Fatah's emblem shows crossed rifles against a map of ''Palestine" that depicts all of Israel; on the Hamas emblem, the map is the same, but the crossed weapons are swords. The only important difference between the ousted Fatah party and the incoming Hamas leadership is that for PR purposes the former sometimes pretended to accept Israel's right to exist, while the latter is openly and unabashedly committed to Israel's elimination.
World keeps on spinnin'

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Congress's corny con - Don Surber has the story on "ethanol's license to pollute." It turns out that the majority of refineries for ethanol violate clean-air regulations, so corn-fed Congressmen will take action by relaxing those pesky regulations. As I've said before: if America was truly serious about alternative fuels it would lift tariffs on sugar-cane ethanol from Brazil. But Iowa has the first caucus in the nation, so you'll not find a politician willing to state the obvious.
Massachusetts = Belgium - This is interesting stuff. Via Strange Maps: U.S. states renamed for countries with similar GDPs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Jr. joins Hendrick

I heard this non-political news at Hedgehog Report of all places: "Sources: Earnhardt Jr. to drive for Hendrick in '08"

Wow, that's a powerhouse team: Hendrick Motorsports has won ten out of fourteen NASCAR races this year.
Free speech is not for chumps and hypnotized chickens - I think we've hit a theme tonight. Via Reason, here's Michael Moynihan's take on Al Gore: "Free speech for people who think like me."
Who will speak up?

Scripps "As threat looms, they snooze"

In the presidential debates so far, which have been about as edifying as a frog-jumping contest, the candidates have delivered their poll-tested and scripted responses to questions about climate change, terrorism, the Iraq war, health care and immigration -- all important issues. But the issue they avoid -- perhaps because it appears to be a non-issue with the press and the voters -- is the approaching crisis in entitlement spending. The reason is simple -- none of the candidates has the political courage to tell Americans that the retirement of the baby-boom generation will soon force the nation to start making some painful choices between taxing and spending. Business as usual will mean a steady decline in our quality of life.
Whenever this issue does come up, the candidates love to tell you what they wouldn't do (e.g. no privatization, no new taxes) but never the hard choices they would prescribe for the problem.
Democracy is for chumps and bigots

Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh weighs in on the pending referendum in Massachusetts on gay marriage and declares that Bay Staters don't have the right to decide on this issue:

For all the demands to "let the people vote," there is no constitutional obligation to send this to the ballot.

I say that as someone who has written both that Tom Reilly, then attorney general, was correct in certifying the proposed amendment, thereby letting it move forward, and that the Legislature would be wrong to resort to parliamentary tactics to kill it rather than giving it an up-or-down vote.

The process should be protected. But that said, the process is the process -- and that's why it's nonsense to argue that legislators somehow have an obligation to let the people decide.
Just to recap: a couple years back the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled by judicial fiat that the right to same-sex marriage suddenly materialized in the state Constitution. This was followed by a petition for a state referendum, signed by a record number of Massachusetts citizens. The state legislature refused to vote on the referendum last year but now it appears likely, with heavy prodding from the Massachusetts Supreme Court, that the quaint notion that citizens should be allowed to decide their own laws will move forward.

This is par for the course in the Commonwealth where democracy is a sacred right unless it's not. Make no mistake: if there was popular support for same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, Scot Lehigh would be calling for a vote to validate and codify this new right. But since popular support is decidedly against gay marriage, well, we couldn't possibly let the people decide. That would be wrong.

Monday, June 11, 2007

We're all equal! - Shades of Harrison Bergeron, Burlington (Vermont) High School dispenses with that valedictorian tradition designed to make everybody else feel bad. Hooray! (HT: Fark)
Sir Charles James Napier: "You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

Fox News: "British Court Finds Muslim Father Guilty of Murdering Daughter in 'Honor Killing'"

Sunday, June 10, 2007

That's it? - Well, the end of the Sopranos was something of a mystery. Tony is in a public restaurant with his family while vaguely threatening characters circle all around. A door opens, a bell rings, and Tony looks up to see...who? Looooong fade to black.
Let's not talk about the economy

In "Democrats' Prosperity Problem" George Will notes that the leading candidates on the Left have lots to say about Iraq but not much about the economy which has seen steady growth and low unemployment.

Democrats need not confine themselves to their ritual tropes about how "the middle class is under assault" (Clinton again). They control Congress; they can act. The unemployed John Edwards, who has the luxury of irresponsibility, challenges Democrats to repeal the Bush tax cuts they disapprove of rather than wait for them to expire.

Democrats cannot end the war (actually, they can but won't), but they can send their tax agenda to the president and dare him to veto it. They can, but they won't. Do you wonder why?
I think it's because they're busy with their important no confidence vote for Alberto Gonzales.

Update (6/11) - From Byron York on the Corner:

The Republican leadership in the Senate is confident it can win a planned preliminary vote on a resolution expressing no confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. A vote is scheduled later today on a Democratic attempt to end debate and move on to a vote on the resolution. That would require 60 votes, of course, and a GOP source says, "I don't think [Democrats] are going to get 10 Republican senators to join them." (That leaves open the question of how many Republicans will, in the end, go along with Democrats.) In addition, the source questions whether Democrats really want to go ahead with the matter at all. The source points out that after the immigration standoff, "Harry Reid said…we need to get on to important issues - and then turned around and basically gave us a four-day weekend followed by a vote on Gonzales. Democrats don't want to win this one; it would mean another week spent doing nothing."
In other words: situation normal on Capitol Hill.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hot and bothered - The Anchoress finds a snapshot of America in a bookstore. (HT: Maggie's Farm)
Thank Jimmy Carter - Weekly Standard "How tyranny came to Zimbabwe": "As the Mugabe regime--responsible for the torture and murder of thousands, starvation, genocide, the world's highest inflation and lowest life expectancy--teeters on the brink of disaster after 27 years of authoritarian rule, it is instructive to go back and examine what happened in those crucial intervening months."
"Witless tone of intolerance" - Writing on Wizbang, Kim Priestap finds "Joe Klein is shocked at the vitriol that spews from the left side of the blogosphere." I guess it's only news when the criticism is pointed at you, right Joe?
Iceberg ahead - don't turn the wheel

Here's Thomas Healey in the Boston Globe with "The coming crisis for Medicare." He notes that the Medicare trustees have triggered the first-ever "funding warning" signifying that the program cannot be sustained in its current form. The warning requires Washington to find a remedy for the funding problem:

The warning requires President Bush to propose legislation that responds to the alert within 15 days of the release of the fiscal year 2009 budget -- in other words, in early February 2008. The law then requires Congress to consider the president's proposals on an expedited basis.

No one can predict the outcome of this exercise. But it will at least focus lawmakers' attention -- and the public's -- on an incontrovertible fact: Medicare is not just undercapitalized; it's a severely flawed system.
What's going to happen? Nothing:

Finally, politicians have virtually no short-term incentives to tackle the Medicare problem. The reason is clear: any change that leaves the elderly worse off than before will lead to swift condemnation and ballot box reprisals by a large and vocal segment of the population. Meanwhile, pressure from much younger workers who fund Medicare is nearly non-existent.
At some point during the 2008 presidential campaign, the candidates will meet with younger voters, probably in a debate coordinated by MTV. If none of these Gen Y slackers manages to ask about the entitlement bill coming due, they deserve a future of crushing taxes.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Somebody out there still likes us - Via Gateway Pundit: "Massive pro USA rally in Seoul"
Eyewitness account from the Paris Hilton trial

From Superficial: "Some witnesses say they saw a rainbow above the courtroom. And others say they saw a giant man in the clouds with a white beard nodding his head approvingly. And me? Well I saw Judge Michael Sauer grow to be twelve feet tall, with muscles the size of tree trunks. And when he smiled, little cartoon hearts appeared above my head and there was a strange tingling sensation in my pants."

As for me, I can't stop thinking about this Simpsons quote:

Hutz: Homer, I don't use the word "hero" very often, but you are the greatest hero in American history.
Homer: Woo hoo!
Woo hoo, Judge Sauer!
Atlantis takes flight - From Fox News: "Space Shuttle Atlantis blasted off with seven astronauts Friday evening on a mission to continue construction of the international space station in the first space shuttle flight of 2007."
Senate block - John Hawkins has the inside story how the immigration bill was killed in the Senate from a Washington source:

I asked my source if his boss has been hearing from his constituents on this bill and what the for and against ratio was. He said that they have received thousands and thousands of calls and the ratio was something like 95%-98% against the bill.
Vox populi, eventually.

Update (6/9) - Rassmussen Polls reports that the Senate bill had virtually no support.
Immigration in the U.S.A.

I don't normally do this, but a friend of mine posted a impassioned comment on immigration reform and I thought I'd reproduce it here:

The thumbnail version is: Nothing effective will be done on this issue.

Powerful forces that are not traditionally aligned with each other share a common desire for a free flow of Latin American immigrants (illegal or otherwise), albeit for different reasons.

Businesses like it because they get very cheap, replaceable labor. If a Mexican drops dead while picking lettuce s/he is easily replaced with another one. Some industries have actually been able to lower their hourly labor rate (even before adjusting for inflation) over the past decade. This tends to appeal to Republicans. These business interests make massive political contributions.

Lax immigration enforcement has created a flood of Latin American immigrants which has in turn created a vast Latino demographic in this country that politicians will do anything to court. If you want the Latino vote you have to be soft on illegal immigration. This is especially true in the Democratic party (but in the GOP as well). Latino political action groups are not concerned with the social or fiscal impact of illegal immigration, they simply want to increase their power base.

The net result is that no matter what comes out of Washington it will do little to stem the tide of illegal immigration to this country.

Lines such as "we can't possibly deport all of them" and "they do the jobs Americans won't" are used to justify inaction. But these are coming from groups that don't want illegal immigration to stop. In reality random raids/deportation have been shown to reduce illegal immigration rates. Try telling a cop that he should stop doing his job because he doesn't catch every criminal. For many industries the second statement is more accurately rendered "they do the jobs Americans used to before businesses were able to artificially reduce wages by exploiting illegal labor".

Before the Civil War one of the concerns raised was that getting rid of slavery would cause economic havoc in the South. It did. But things got a lot better over time and the Southern economy is healthier now than it ever was before, or ever could have been.

The USA was built on immigration and always will be. We are all the descendants of immigrants. Immigrants have an important role in a healthy economy. But uncontrolled immigration brings economic weakness and social decay. Those in power are not motivated by those issues.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Not so boring - Sometimes I feel that Bull Dog Pundit, Will Franklin and I are the only bloggers dedicated to exposing the mess of public pension and retirement programs. It's a thankless job, for sure. Today BDP writes about the Ohio teachers' pension program with its perverse incentives and (surprise!) massive public expense due to gross inefficiency. Rock on, Bull Dog.
Second greatest judicial ruling ever

Defending a client on the charge of stealing beer, a lawyer urged the judge: "Like the Beetles [sic] say: 'Let it be.'" The Montana judge responded with a Fab Four flurry:

"If I were to overlook your actions and Let It Be, I would ignore that Day in the Life on April 21, 2006.

"Evidently, earlier that night you said to yourself I Feel Fine while drinking beer.
"Later, whether you wanted Money or were just trying to Act Naturally you became the Fool on the Hill on North 27th Street.

"As Mr Moonlight at 1.30am, you did not Think for Yourself but just focused on I, Me, Mine.

"Because you didn't ask for Help, Wait for Something else or listen to your conscience saying Honey Don't, the victim later that day was Fixing a Hole in the glass door you broke."
Mega hat tip to Betsy. However, this can't compare to my all-time favorite: "No Judge Ito"

Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact - complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words - to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions.

With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devil-may-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor's edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins.
Sheer poetry. And that's just the warm-up!
Withdrawn - Via CNN, the immigration bill is dead. This is a topic of intense interest for some blogs but I just can't wrap my head around it.
Do not pass GO, do not collect $200 - From Fox News "Judge orders Paris Hilton back to court": "Hours after Paris Hilton was sent home under house arrest, the judge who originally put her in jail ordered her back to court to determine whether she should be put back behind bars."

The funniest part of this whole Paris Hilton saga is when she complained that the books she had brought to jail were confiscated. What, exactly, was she going to do with these books? Comments are open!

More - Superficial: "So the big medical reason that got Paris Hilton released was that she wasn't happy in prison. Which, I always thought, was sort of the whole point. Was she expecting to ride on unicorns and dance under waterfalls?"

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

News from "the former regional breadbasket" - ABC News: "Food warning issued for Zimbabwe"
Close to home - Driving home today, there were no fewer than eight television cameras propped up in front of the Bloomfield, CT police station. It turns out some crazy people had been holding a teenage girl in their West Hartford home for nearly a year. Yikes.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Kids addressing entitlement spending: A. Boston Globe factcheckers: F

On the whole I should be happy to see this opinion piece in the Boston Globe ("Youths don't want our IOUs") about the Concerned Youth of America, who are taking the initiative in educating rising fiscal obligations:

"In about 30 years, when these kids would be in their peak earning years, you will have a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 200 percent," says Bob Bixby, executive director of the deficit-battling Concord Coalition. "They would be looking at stupefying tax rates and a stagnant economy or slashed programs for everything they might want to spend their money on. It really is a generationally immoral fiscal policy."

To sound the alarm, members of Concerned Youth of America plan to start chapters of their group at their colleges next year.
But, this being the mainstream media in general and the Boston Globe in particular, they just can't hide the bias:

We've got a Republican president who has presided over large budgetary increases, but who won't give an inch on the tax cuts that have eroded the revenue base.
Some erosion: "Sharp rise in tax revenue to pare U.S. deficit" and this (via Tax Prof Blog)

I know that the deficit is still too high due to spending and that the long-term obligations of entitlement spending will overwhelm us, but to say that revenues are down because of the Bush tax cuts is empirically wrong.

Extra - From Greg Mankiw: "The growth effects of tax policy"
The Bill of Rights is bunk - John Edwards sez: "The second amendment is a privilege, not a right"
Not gonna happen - Bill Kristol has been a staunch supporter of a pardon for Scooter Libby, who has just been sentenced to 30 months in prison for perjury charges, but I don't think there's a chance that President Bush will grant him a pardon.

More - Tom Maguire's insanely comprehensive review on Libby's sentence.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The cure that's worse than the disease

Nat Hentoff asks "Why are we still in the United Nations?"

The United Nations is increasingly becoming a parody of itself while American taxpayers last year provided $439 million to the regular U.N. budget - plus a headquarters in New York that the U.N. management wants to expand. Not only has this dysfunctional and occasionally corrupt organization failed to stop the genocide in Darfur, but on May 11, the insatiably brutal Robert Mugabe's government of Zimbabwe was elevated by the United Nations to chair its Commission on Sustainable Development - dealing with land, rural and economic development, and the environment.
Hentoff is way low with the official figure of $439 million, as Jesse Helms pointed out in his speech to the U.N. in 2000:

Last year, the American people contributed a total of more than $1.4 billion dollars to the U.N. system in assessments and voluntary contributions. That's pretty generous, but it's only the tip of the iceberg. The American taxpayers also spent an additional $8,779,000,000 from the United States' military budget to support various U.N. resolutions and peacekeeping operations around the world. Let me repeat that figure: $8,779,000,000.
Still, the U.S. is branded as a "deadbeat" nation at the United Nations, rebuffed by every country except Israel, yet almost single-handedly supports every administrative and peacekeeping function this East River cabal can dream up. (HT: Betsy)
Misleading headline of the day: "Clinton: Faith helped her through marriage infidelity"

Faith Hill? Blind Faith? Faith Ford? Percy Faith?

Wait, she doesn't mean religiosity as in a belief in God, does she? No, no, can't be.
America hates Washington

From ABC News: "Democrats Lose Their Edge - Poll Shows Congressional Approval Ratings Have Returned to Pre-Election Levels"

The Democrats in Congress have lost much of the leadership edge they carried out of the 2006 midterm election, with the lack of progress in Iraq being the leading cause. Their only solace: President Bush and the Republicans aren't doing any better.
Against my better judgment, I listened to some of the Democratic debate on XM radio this morning and (except for Mike Gravel and maybe Dennis Kucinich) every politician offered up the most vapid, featherweight explanations on nearly every topic. Here's Jeff Jacoby with "Short on substance":

But in truth, last night's debate wasn't funny. It was worrisome. Worrisome that in 120 minutes of talk, not one of the Democratic candidates had anything substantive to say about the global jihad. Worrisome that all but one of the Democrats oppose legislation to declare English the official language of the United States. Worrisome that on the issue they spent the most time discussing -- the war in Iraq -- not one spoke seriously or responsibly about the consequences of an American withdrawal.
I thought Wolf Blitzer might pin down the Democrats on their formless support for "action" in Darfur compared to the potential for genocide in Iraq:

MR. BLITZER: But what about genocide? What about the possibility of genocide [in Iraq]?

GOV. RICHARDSON: I think there has to be pointed out a difference in our approach. Obviously genocide is something -- in Darfur -- you know I have been involved in that issue. I believe what we need to do there is stop this genocide. What don't we care about -

MR. BLITZER: But what about Iraq, if it were, God forbid, to happen?

GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, obviously I would keep troops in Kuwait, where they are wanted. I would move them to Afghanistan to fight al Qaeda. But I believe that our troops have become a target. Our troops right now have done a magnificent job. And so what -- the difference between all of us here is this: all of these resolutions, the funding supplemental, appropriation on funding on issues relating to timetables is not working because the president is vetoing.
Bill Richardson: against genocide, but get the troops out, and it's the President's fault anyway.

Extra - Mark Steyn on hand-wringing over Darfur: "There is a grotesque narcissism in the determination of the Save Darfur campaign to embrace every strategy except the one that would actually save Darfur while there's anyone still left to save." Like global warming and foot-stamping on Iraq, it's all designed to soothe the ego without actually taking action to solve the problem. No wonder Americans are disgusted with all of Washington.

More - Let's take away the Olympics! That'll stop genocide in Darfur. And more U.N. peacekeepers, the "fries with that" for every Democratic proposal.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Kill your television - In an interview with LA Weekly, famed sci-fi author Ray Bradbury clarified that his book Fahrenheit 451 is not about government censorship. Rather, it's an anti-television screed. Now we know. (HT: Fark)
Yawn - Well, here's the Sunday morning talkshow lineup and we're definitely getting into the dog days of summer here. Bob Shrum hawks his new book on Meet the Press while Matalin and Carville bicker.
The "Sideways" effect - Slate examines how wine has supplanted beer as the alcohol of choice for drinking Americans. I made the switch a couple of years ago for the following reasons: 1.) as alcohol goes, wine is a healthier alternative, 2.) beer drinking is open-ended since you can always have "just one more" but wine (for me) is one and done, 3a.) I hate paying a deposit on empties and 3b.) taking them back for my nickel.
Terror plot at JFK - Just coming in: "4 Charged In Plot To Blow Up Jet Fuel At JFK"

Update - This is some diabolical stuff here: "Federal authorities announced Saturday they had broken up a suspected Muslim terrorist cell planning a "chilling" attack to destroy John F. Kennedy International Airport, kill thousands of people and trigger an economic catastrophe by blowing up a jet fuel artery that runs through populous residential neighborhoods."
The carbon credit two-step - Seriously, did anybody really believe that carbon credits really offset energy consumption? It was a lie the lefty greens wanted to believe. Via Blue Crab Bvld: "Global warming Ponzi scheme."

Friday, June 01, 2007

Will not be seen on "The 700 Club" - For Internet consumption only: Budweiser's "Swear Jar" commercial. Did I laugh? Oh yes I did.
Law and Order - Things you did not know about Fred Thompson

Here's something I just recently discovered: if Thompson is elected President, the U.S.A. is going to have the hottest first lady ever. FLOTUSILF.
Highly-skilled Germans opt for a 40% tax cut

By moving to Switzerland:

Fed up with comparatively poor job prospects at home - where unemployment is as high as 17 per cent in some regions - as well as high taxes and bureaucracy, thousands of Germans have upped sticks for Austria and Switzerland, or emigrated to the United States.
The brain drain out of Deutchland follows a trend I've predicted for a while now: the tax burdens of socialist states will be exacerbated by an aging population, driving more skilled workers to the United States. In turn, this will help to delay (but not avoid) our own entitlement crunch.
And LO! the Seventh Seal was broken - Michael Waltrip, the clown prince of NASCAR commercials, qualified for Sunday's Dover race. Praise the Lord!
Free, free, free! Everything free in Massachusetts!

Our new governor has decided that only legislation can improve the quality of life in the Bay State. From the Boston Globe: "Patrick seeks free two-year state colleges"

Governor Deval Patrick plans to unveil a proposal today to make Massachusetts' community colleges, among the priciest in the nation, free to all high school graduates in the state by the year 2015, according to documents obtained by the Globe.
What a deal! Any details?

But Patrick's ambitious plan includes neither price tags nor funding proposals as the state struggles financially. Instead, it calls for a commission that would be charged with transforming the plan into reality.
Uh-huh. Well, if I form a commission to figure out how to get a new car, I'm certain the biggest hurdle won't be finding a dealer.

Extra - From New England Republican: "It's time to face some cold hard facts. The state is struggling to pay for the education system it has today, so muddying the waters with billions in additional spending and new programs is irresponsible."