Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Refreshing honesty - Chris Dodd at the Democratic debates discussing ways to save Social Security: "Certainly, we have no ideas..." (HT: Will)
The U.N. tries a surge in Darfur - From Fox News "U.N. Security Council Approves Darfur Peacekeeping Force"
Taxes are too high, says the Boston Globe. Ted Kennedy's head explodes.

Who wrote this editorial in the Globe - William F. Buckley? Recently the citizens of Middleborough, Massachusetts voted to allow a casino to help out the struggling city. In a one-of-a-kind editorial, the Boston Globe says they did it because taxes are too steep:

Whatever its implications for the state as a whole, last week's 2-to-1 vote by Middleborough residents to approve a planned casino there reflects deep-rooted dissatisfaction with rising residential property taxes. The fear that voters in this rural town of 22,000 would be asked to pay escalating taxes or risk losing key municipal services easily outweighed concern about how a casino might change the character of the town.
Hey, it worked on the Simpsons, right? When you don't want to pay taxes or cut spending, it's time to bring in the progressive slots and crap tables.

Traditionally, municipal decision-making in Massachusetts has been slow and methodical. By requiring that even the smallest zoning changes be subject to lengthy public processes, town officials could control growth. On Saturday, Middleborough voters turned this tradition on its head. It took just three months from the time that financial backers of the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe bought 120 acres of woodlands to the inking of a deal that is expected to bring up to $11 million annually to the town treasury. Opponents believe that the billionaire casino developers dictated the outcome by dictating the pace. But proponents say that the usual methods of trying to attract business to Middleborough have failed. For proof, they note that a meager $3.5 million of the town's $64 million operating budget comes from commercial taxes. It was time, says town Selectman Adam Bond, to act with "business speed."
Too bad Middleborough couldn't make such concessions to businesses unattached to organized crime.

State aid to cities and towns has been erratic for decades. During recessions, local communities bear deep cuts. The burden to make up the difference falls heavily on residential homeowners in the state, who saw their taxes jump by more than $900 from 2000-2005 alone. In Middleborough, the average homeowner pays about $3,200 yearly in property taxes, according to the town assessor. Annual trash fees eat up more than $200. That's real money for people in Middleborough. And the increases aren't even enough to offset the need to charge high fees for school athletics, cut back library hours, send pink slips to dozens of teachers, pare down elderly services, and close a fire station.

There is no surprise, therefore, and no shame in the fact that Middleborough residents grabbed a lifeline.
So the town became overextended without building up its business base. Too bad the Globe couldn't muster up more disapprobation for Middleborough's fiscal irresponsibility than it does for legalized gambling.

Cities and towns would be foolish, however, to think that casinos will solve all of their fiscal problems. Even if the state approves casino gambling and distributes a significant share of slot revenues in the form of local aid, the pressure will keep building on local budgets. Payroll costs drive most of the financial pressure on municipalities. Middleborough, like many towns, has not done enough to control these costs, especially in the area of healthcare premiums. And the Legislature won't even summon the courage to allow communities to raise their own revenues through local option taxes on meals. The more predictable the revenue stream, the less the urge to gamble.
And what, pray tell, would force Middleborough to confront its long-term public costs now that they're expecting millions in casino contributions? The answer is not casinos or more government handouts, but a tax structure that values businesses that provides jobs instead of driving them away. According to a 2006 CNN/Money poll, Massachusetts ranks 43rd in friendliness to small business. (For extra credit, see if you can spot a trend between the top ten and bottom ten on this list.)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ethanol, man, it's a scam scam scam

Rolling Stone magazine has been an arm of the "Gore for President" movement for ten years but even they couldn't swallow this: "Ethanol Hurts the Environment And Is One of America's Biggest Political Boondoggles":

Ethanol doesn't burn cleaner than gasoline, nor is it cheaper. Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption -- yet it consumes twenty percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World. And the increasing acreage devoted to corn for ethanol means less land for other staple crops, giving farmers in South America an incentive to carve fields out of tropical forests that help to cool the planet and stave off global warming.
Viking Pundit in common cause with Jann Wenner? Cats and dogs living together!
None dare call it BDS

Here's Senator Russ Feingold explaining to Chris Wallace that while's there no actual evidence of wrongdoing after a six-month investigation in the US Attorneys flap, he just has a gut feeling:

WALLACE: But you know, I think the question is, is this really going anywhere? Is this substantive oversight or is this political theater? I mean, the point is on the U.S. attorneys which we're talking about, six-month, seven-month investigation, 8,500 pages of documents, 14 witnesses, and you say yourself as a member of Senate Judiciary you haven't found any hard evidence that the White House has broken the law.
FEINGOLD: Well, I happen to think they probably did break the law here, but I don't think the investigation is over, and...
WALLACE: But do you have any evidence of that?
FEINGOLD: ... until we -- well, that's why we're asking for people like Karl Rove and others to come down and testify so we can actually examine the evidence.
We haven't had access to the evidence. How are you supposed to examine it when you can't look at it?
This has been a fruitful use of taxpayer money. What's next for Congress?

A group of House Democrats will introduce a resolution calling on the Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) will sponsor the measure. It will be dropped in the hopper tomorrow.

It's too early to say whether it will actually get anywhere.
Great. Is this Congress going to do anything besides minimum wage? Well, there's earmark reform:

Under this bill, the American people would be forced to trust Senator Reid and Senator Byrd - two of the biggest earmarkers in the Senate - to certify earmark disclosure. This bill allows the fox to guard the henhouse and makes a joke of ethics reform.
Anything more to add?

"Chief Justice John Roberts has died in his summer home in Maine. No, not really, but we know you have your fingers crossed."
Good night!

Extra - Gateway Pundit: "House Dem leadership fear success in Iraq"
"Benign idiopathic seizure?" - Fox News: "Chief Justice John Roberts Suffers Seizure, Remains in Hospital" What's that all about?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hope springs eternal - Do the Democrats have a lock on the White House in 2008? A historian from Rutgers says "Not so fast... " in the Boston Globe.
Quote of the Day - Hands down, this is the strangest thing ever said over a driver's radio during a NASCAR race. Here's Tony Stewart (chasing down Kevin Harvick) at today's Brickyard 400:

"Here kitty, kitty, kitty. Come get you some of this."
Oh, Tony. After the race, Harvick smacked into Stewart and earned himself a trip to the punishment trailer.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The last 20 songs I downloaded from ITunes

The morning side of the mountain - Donny & Marie
Overkill (acoustic) - Colin Hay
Hot Rod Lincoln - Twangbangers
A Lover's Question - Clyde McPhatter
Hats off to Larry - Gene Pitney Del Shannon (sorry!)
Before he cheats - Carrie Underwood
Sexx Laws - Beck
I saw the light - Todd Rundgren
Good timin' - Jimmy Jones
Virtual Insanity - Jamaraquoi
C'mon N' Ride It (The Train) - Quad City DJs
Naked Eye - Luscious Jackson
Just a song before I go - Crosby, Stills & Nash
Bubbly - Colbie Caillat
Midnight Blue - Lou Gramm
What you won't do for love - Go West
Needles and Pins - The Searchers
Lawyers in Love - Jackson Browne
Take this job and shove it - Johnny Paycheck
Volcano Girls - Veruca Salt


Friday, July 27, 2007

Yawn, another subpoena - Captain Ed on executive privilege and the U.S. attorneys' flap: "Their [the White House] analysis is that the Democrats have gotten so frustrated with their inability to find anything criminal in the firings that they want to offer a futile, asinine denouement that will allow them to retreat, eventually." Don't underestimate the power of BDS, Captain.
Eight is enough

Is Chuck Schumer really this stupid? From the Politico: "Schumer to fight new Bush high court picks"

New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a powerful member of the Democratic leadership, said Friday the Senate should not confirm another U.S. Supreme Court nominee under President Bush "except in extraordinary circumstances."

"We should reverse the presumption of confirmation," Schumer told the American Constitution Society convention in Washington. "The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts, or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito."
Whew, where to start? First of all, let's start with that inconvenient Constitution, the one that invests the executive branch with the right to choose justices for the Supreme Court. Second, like freedom of speech, it's not up to the discretion of a Senator to decide if the Court is tilted "too far" one way or another. Finally, I wonder if the Democrats really want to change the rules when by all accounts they have an excellent chance to capture the White House in 2008. As far as I know, the Constitution doesn't require that the Supreme Court hold nine justices (FDR tried to pack the Court in 1937) and maybe Republican senators will decide that a Democratic president isn't entitled to name new justices and filibuster accordingly.

John Paul Stevens is 87.

Extra - Powerline: "The Democrats' unconstitutional usurpation of power continues."
A long day's journey into junk bond status - Will Franklin looks at the projected government bond rating once entitlement spending outstrips revenues. Down, down, down, rock lobster.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

On the eve of "The Simpsons" movie

The NY Times is asking readers for their favorite Simpsons moments. It's hard to narrow down, but I'll pick this as the best Simpsons quote:

"Me fail English? That's unpossible!" - Ralph Wiggum
My favorite minor character quote is the beekeeper in "Lisa's Rival" who speaks in a Bruce Wayne/Batman inflection: "No noise suggest no bees."
Quote of the day - Defense attorney, drug counselor and trigonometry class dropout Barry Sands on Lindsay Lohan: "Whatever you have done in the past, do a 360-degree turn and go the other way."
Not ready for prime time - I listened to this audio on this interview three times and I'll swear this young ABC News reporter says "NBC" and you can hear a desperate scream in the background. Funny stuff.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Your government is depending on you - The two pillars of government funding: liquor and smokes. Won't you please do your part?
Robert Mugabe's hobby - When he's not destroying Zimbabwe, he's lurking over at Gateway Pundit.
Finished Harry Potter last night - I can't believe his father is really Darth Vader.

Extra - Tom Maguire had some keen predictions here, esp. the part about Snape which was spot on motive-wise. My predictions, hmm...not so good.
MA passes universal health coverage law. One problem: no doctors

The Wall Street Journal has an eye-opening article today about the shortage of primary-care doctors in the country and how it will essentially derail the Bay State's initiative for universal coverage. From "Doctor shortage hurts a cover-for-all plan":

On the day Ms. Lewis signed up [for health insurance], she said she called more than two dozen primary-care doctors approved by her insurer looking for a checkup. All of them turned her away.

Her experience stands to be common among the 550,000 people whom Massachusetts hopes to rescue from the ranks of the uninsured. They will be seeking care in a state with a "critical shortage" of primary-care physicians, according to a study by the Massachusetts Medical Society released yesterday, which found that 49% of internists aren't accepting new patients. Boston's top three teaching hospitals say that 95% of their 270 doctors in general practice have halted enrollment.

For those residents who can get an appointment with their primary-care doctor, the average wait is more than seven weeks, according to the medical society, a 57% leap from last year's survey.
McQ on Q&O beat me to the story and adds that new doctors don't want to deal with the headaches of a primary-care physician:

So because primary care doctors are overworked (they are seeing many more patients now than in the past) and underpaid (median income for primary-care doctors was $162,000 in 2004, the lowest of any physician type) they're just not going into that area of medicine in sufficient numbers.
Thank you, socialist busy-bodies and your unintended consequences. Soon we'll be a nation of emergency rooms and urologists.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The best question and the worst answer

My heart swelled with happiness when I saw that somebody in the Democrats' You Tube debate touched upon my favorite issue:

QUESTION: What's the dirtiest little secret in Washington? The U.S. is going broke. With the retirement of the baby boomers, things are only going to get worse. Fed Chairman Bernanke has said Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security need to be radically changed to avoid this crisis, yet everything is business as usual in D.C.
There are two solutions, both of which are politically unpopular: Raise taxes or cut benefits. Which would you choose, and how would you convince the public to support you?
Unfortunately, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson answered:

RICHARDSON: Medicare -- 33 percent of it is diabetes. Let's have major prevention programs, and also ways that we can ensure that we find a cure.

Social Security -- stop raiding the Social Security trust fund. Stop talking about privatization.

And then thirdly, let's look at a universal pension, 401(k) universal pension, that would assure portability for those that want to keep their pensions as they move into other professions.

But what we need is a bipartisan effort. Put this issue aside. If I'm president, I would take this issue and I would say, Republicans, Democrats, within a year, let's find a solution. No politics. This is the safety net of this country.
In case you missed it, Richardson didn't reveal what he would choose. In the modus operandi of most politicians, he ducked the issue by defining what he wouldn't do before slopping on some empty platitudes about "working together." Well, when President Bush tried to address the "dirtiest little secret in Washington" a couple years back, he was slammed at every proposal by the Democrats and the AARP.

But now he wants us to hold hands and make the leap together. How about this: you first.

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's Hill - I'm just way too busy to blog tonight, between work, school, home and Harry Potter*. Everybody else is chattering about the Democratic debate but when even Kathryn Jean Lopez throws in behind Hillary, you can sense the inevitability of her nomination.

* I'm on chapter 23.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Random advertising - Unfortunately placed ads (HT: Poliblog)
How declasse - Sarkozy to France: Less thinking, more working: "Somehow Mr. Sarkozy and his team hope to persuade the French that it is in their interest to abandon what some commentators call a nationwide "laziness" and to work longer and harder, and maybe even get rich."
He won't last long - Interesting story in today's Boston Globe about Pakistan cleric Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. The top quote says it all: "Religious scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamidi has become a popular figure in Pakistan for his strict reading of the Koran -- which, he says, dictates against gender discrimination, terrorist jihad, and other favorites of modern Islamists." Imagine that.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The WashPost questions Harry Reid's patriotism

In today's editorial, the WashPost accuses Harry Reid of undermining national security for political gain:

There's no guarantee that Mr. Bush can agree with Congress on those points or that he will make the effort to do so. But a Democratic strategy of trying to use Iraq as a polarizing campaign issue and as a club against moderate Republicans who are up for reelection will certainly have the effect of making consensus impossible -- and deepening the trouble for Iraq and for American security.
Read the whole thing and check more from Blue Crab and Sister Toldjah.
My credit card company hates me

I'm what's known in the world of credit card companies as a "deadbeat" - I pay my balance off every month so the creditor doesn't earn any interest or finance charges from me. This has caused my underhanded credit card company to try every machination in the book to squeeze some kind of revenue out of me.

First of all, I signed up for a "529 Savings Account" card that dumps 2% of my charges into a college fund for my kids. Months after getting this card, they offered me an "updated" card that only moves 1.5% into the fund. What a deal. Since 1.5% < 2%, I declined.

Next, they sent me a letter saying that people who don't carry over an outstanding balance would be subjected to a $2/month "service" charge...unless I sent them a letter saying that I did not agree to the charge. Duh. I sent the letter.

Today I opened my statement and noticed they had moved up the due date. I get paid monthly so I pay a whole mess of bills on the last day of the month. My credit card due date had been the 7th or 8th, which allowed ample time to send in payment without incurring a late fee. Now - with no warning - they shifted the due date to August 1st in a bald attempt to make me miss my payment and stick me with a $40 late fee.

Wow...just wow. I would cancel the card except I've locked in that 2% refund and they no longer offer cards with that payback level. I guess I'll just keep driving them nuts until they send me a bill with a 2006 due date.
Pikachu, I condemn you! - From Foreign Policy: "The World's Stupidest Fatwas" (HT: Hit and Run)
Re-mapping the road course - With one-third the membership of thirty years ago, the United Auto Workers is trying to figure out how to survive and, according to this story, the UAW may assume retiree health benefits. If you've ever read anything I've written about skyrocketing federal entitlement spending, you'll recognize this as a huge concession on the part of the union.
Another reason Congress is at 14% - Good post from Andy McCarthy on the U.S. attorneys "scandal": "The U.S. Attorney Firings: It's Politics, Not Law"
"Harry Potter" predictions

I forgot to make my guesses last night but, rest assured, I didn't stand in line at midnight for the new book. Here are some conjectures with my A-1 sure-fire top prediction on top:

- Severus Snape returns and betrays Voldemort at a critical moment, killing He-who-must-not-be-named and saving Harry Potter. Snape will be mortally wounded but will live long enough to explain why Dumbledore put his faith in Snape all the way to the end. The "Boy who lived" will.

- Ron and Hermione will finally admit their love for each other. Harry will double-date with Ginny Weasley.

- Ron will make First Boy of Gryffindor and will score a winning goal in Quidditch.

- Malfoy and his father: dead.

- As noted, Harry will not die but will simply leave Hogwarts for parts unknown. Well, unknown except to Hedwig.

These are predictions, not spoilers, so rest easy wayward Google searchers.

More - Tom has a more expansive analysis than I with a possible motive for Snape to kill Voldemort. I'll go a little further on my prediction: recall how Dumbledore instructed Snape to teach Harry to avoid mind-reading (Book 5). I think in Book 6, at that critical moment, Dumbledore mentally asked Snape to kill him (Dumbledore) to save Harry and carry on the fight to another day. Just guessing.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sleeping under the stars - I can't blog tonight because I'm setting up the tent so my kid can camp out with a friend. I know this will disappoint both my readers. Nevertheless, this gave me a chuckle today: "The night Mitch McConnell became the leader of the Republican party." And also from Hugh Hewitt: "Harry Reid living and dying by the Senate rules."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Un-Mormonlike - Las Vegas Review Journal: "Specter calls Reid 'rude,' 'dictatorial'"
You shall be punished!

From Cato at Liberty:
Just when you thought partisan idiocy in Washington couldn't get any worse, the House voted last night to cut off the salary of Andrew Biggs, the new Deputy Commissioner of Social Security. No one doubts Biggs' qualifications for this position. But his sin is having supported proposals to allow younger workers to privately invest a portion of their Social Security taxes through individual accounts. Apparently holding a position that Democrats disagree with is now so abhorrent that it disqualifies you from public office.
Thanks for the tip, Brian.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


From the New Republic:

If Hillary Clinton gives a speech calling for withdrawal from Iraq at 4:15 in the morning, does anybody hear it? Sitting in the nearly empty Senate chamber at the exceedingly painful halfway mark of the Democrats' forced all-night debate on an amendment to start redeploying troops from Iraq, the answer is pretty clearly no. As to whether it made a sound--a metaphorical sound, that is; an impact on any wavering Republicans or a consolation to the base--that's a big no, too. The purpose of forcing a filibustering opposition to actually stay on the floor has always been to milk that tactic's Mr.-Smith-Goes-To-Washington-style high camp and theater. But thanks to the war's peculiarly nasty politics, Democrats couldn't play it up, and the thing was a flop.
And here's more from Rick Moran and Captain Ed. In hindsight, it looks like the Democrats were looking for a quorum call so that they could accuse the GOP of ducking debate, but instead Mitch McConnell rallied the Republicans and even Harry Reid didn't stick around for his own show. As predicted, Americans loved the empty grandstanding: "Americans Give Democratic Congress All-Time Low Rating."
The eloquence of reason, laced with profanity - Russ Feingold writes on Daily Kos that it maybe probably isn't a good idea to impeach President Bush. Hilarity ensues.
Where was Cheney? - Conspiracy theories on NYC steam pipe explosion coming in 3...2...1...
Flash Mountain it's not - People playing chess on rollercoasters (HT: Fark)
Time for the "good cop-bad cop" routine - Does this man know where Osama is? CNN: "He said al-Mashadani is a close associate of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri and served as an "intermediary" between al-Masri, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second-in-command of al Qaeda."
Iraq: Vietnam or Cambodia?

Here's Jeff Jacoby with "The consequences of quitting Iraq":

Three decades ago, similar arguments were made in support of abandoning Southeast Asia to the communists. To President Ford's warning in March 1975 that "the horror and the tragedy that we see on television" would only grow worse if the United States cut off aid to the beleaguered government in Cambodia, then-Representative Christopher Dodd of Connecticut retorted: "The greatest gift our country can give to the Cambodian people is peace, not guns. And the best way to accomplish that goal is by ending military aid now." So Washington ended military aid, and Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge, which proceeded to exterminate nearly 2 million Cambodians in one of the ghastliest genocides of modern times.

On April 13, 1975, four days before the communist reign of terror began, Sydney Schanberg's front-page story in The New York Times was headlined: "Indochina Without Americans: For Most, A Better Life." In retrospect, perhaps such drastic misjudgments can be partly excused on the grounds that Americans didn't really know what horrors Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were capable of.

But there will be no such excuse for those who insist on pulling out of Iraq.
Although, truthfully, it won't be so much abandoning Iraq to Al Qaeda but to Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia and the sectarian violence brought on in a proxy fight.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Any way the wind blows - My favorite part of this video is John Edwards bragging about the intel he'd seen on Iraq while on the Senate Intelligence Committee. BTW, Michelle Malkin is live-blogging the Senate's all-night genuflect to the Lefty blogs; Joe Lieberman is sure to have the speech to watch and seethe.
Sure to go with a vote - From Pajamas Media: Iran turns against President Dinner Jacket. Just a wild guess, but when oil-soaked Iran turned to gasoline rationing, I think Iranians responded the way most Americans would.
Temporary hero of the day - Jon Lovitz beats the snot out of Andy Dick.
I'll take "Late 70's TV" for $1000, Alex

For whatever reason, this floated into my cranial transom today and now I'm searching all over for a video from the Gong Show:

"I'm Gonna Play My _____", an alleged musician (also portrayed by Spencer)whose various appearances featured a series of different instruments. His call-and-response act featured him proclaiming, "I'm gonna play my (trumpet, fiddle, xylophone, kettle drum, etc.)" and the audience shouting back, "Whatcha gonna do?" This exchange would be repeated twice, after which he would announce, "I'm gonna play my (instrument) nowwww!" After a few repeats of this, the skit generally ended with Spencer failing to play his instrument; either time ran out, the instrument malfunctioned or was booby trapped, or he would struggle to produce a few inept notes before being permanently interrupted by Barris.
Anybody ever catch this skit? Great stuff. Wow, I'm really dating myself now.
Capitalism finds a foothold in Massachusetts - From the Boston Globe: "State to let drivers shop for best rates". Letting ordinary Bay Staters shop for their own automobile insurance? Imagine that!

Monday, July 16, 2007

I'll have the condor eggs over-easy - Al Gore dines on endangered fish: it's Chilean sea bass for me, but not for thee.
The Norway variant - The Laffer curve, rehashed redux
Harry Reid loves filibusters

Back in 2005:

Meeting with reporters after the Democratic policy luncheon Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the leader of filibusters against 10 of President Bush’s judicial nominees, read Isakson’s statement aloud and added that Isakson "went on to praise Iraq for basing their government on American democracy and using the filibuster as the way they would ensure that the majority never overran the minority. So that's what they're saying in Iraq."
Now...not so much:

"Is this a publicity stunt? Yes," a senior Democratic aide told FOX News. "This is the only way we know to highlight their complete ignorance of the will of the people!"
Yep, TVs all across the country will be glued to CSpan-2 tonight.

Extra - Don Surber: "Reid to hold himself hostage"

More - The rule of the quorum call may end this charade. For all I know, it already has because (at 11:30pm EST), neither CSpan nor any of the cable news networks are showing the well of the Senate.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tony climbs the fence at Chicagoland

Tony Stewart finally broke through for his first victory of the season, holding off Matt Kenseth on several late-race restarts Sunday to win the Nextel Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.
I think Stewart was prepared to wreck anybody who dared to snatch away his first win of the season.
No point "wining" about the results

Heh-heh, did you get that pun? Sure, I worked on it for a couple of hours, but I think it came out OK. In any case, this is my second favorite wine story ever:

The connoisseurs may cringe, the snobs may even sob, but the judges have spoken: California's best chardonnay costs less than $3.
And this is my favorite wine-related story:

"The wine that one judge said bespoke 'the magnificence of France' turned out to be a Napa Cabernet." Similarly, "'That is definitely a California. It has no nose,' said another judge - after downing a Batard-Montrachet '73." The comments and results of the tasting indicated that the judges could not distinguish California from French wines.
Know what's my new favorite wine? Barefoot Zinfandel (red) at $6/bottle. Suck it, sommeliers.
Proposed: 41% of Americans don't understand the First Amendment

I haven't written much about the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" because not only will it never become law, but because I can imagine the quickest smack-down in the history of the Supreme Court. I'm genuinely baffled by the arguments on the Left that the First Amendment should be modified for political purposes. But then there's this from Rasmussen Reports:

Americans are evenly divided as to whether or not the government should "require all radio and television stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary." The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 41% favor that proposal and 41% are opposed.
Who shall adjudicate the "equality" of commentary on the airwaves? I can only imagine there are elaborate equations to be set up where Rush Limbaugh = Keith Olbermann + Eleanor Clift. The Left has meddled in the marketplace of goods and services to disastrous results and now they're trying to control the marketplace of ideas. Pathetic. Instead, they should try to offer a better product.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Not a good day for doctors

CNN: "Third doctor charged over UK bomb plot"

MSNBC: An Ecuadorian doctor and his wife have been accused of stealing a twin and raising it as their own. Which would have worked except the twins ran into each other in a restaurant. Hmmm...you look familiar.
Cough it up - From the Boston Globe "Big Dig deal could hit $1b": "State and federal officials are demanding that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff pay as much as $1 billion to settle claims for shoddy work on the Big Dig, in exchange for a guarantee that the consortium will not face criminal charges in last year's tunnel collapse that killed Milena Del Valle, according to four sources with knowledge of the negotiations."

Friday, July 13, 2007

The end of the line for Zimbabwe - From the Economist: "Zimbabwe is an increasingly wretched place and, sadly, will grow more miserable for some time yet. This week an outspoken Roman Catholic Archbishop, Pius Ncube, who has become the strongest voice of opposition in the country, described the economic situation as "life-threatening". That was an understatement. Years of economic collapse, provoked by dreadful misrule, have already taken a huge toll on Zimbabwean lives: the population has been battered by hunger, poverty and AIDS; some 3m people are estimated to have fled abroad; life expectancy has dropped to medieval levels."
Microwave nation - Jane Galt: "The new favourite activity of progressive bloggers seems to be pointing out that in America, you sometimes have to wait to see a doctor!"
Speaking of media bias, it's (surprise!) the New York Times

Or rather Victor Davis Hanson's takedown:

On July 8, the New York Times ran an historic editorial entitled "The Road Home," demanding an immediate American withdrawal from Iraq. It is rare that an editorial gets almost everything wrong, but "The Road Home" pulls it off.
Hat tip: Hoy
What liberal media?

Here's Howard Kurtz on the President's press conference yesterday:

If there was a question about what will happen in Iraq if we pull out, I missed it. The entire political system now seems geared toward pressuring the administration into some kind of redeployment or pullback, and that remains the media's focus.
Meanwhile, Diane Sawyer said it was "hurtful" when others questioned a journalist's capability for fairness. Imagine that.
Oxymoronic headline of the day

From today's Boston Globe: "Free care may come at a cost to poor"

For the first time, many low-income patients seeking free care at hospitals will face deductibles and copayments similar to those charged to insured patients, under proposed rules released yesterday that are designed to push more Massachusetts residents to get health insurance.

In addition, the state will no longer reimburse hospitals and community health centers for care they provide if the patients are eligible for insurance through the state Medicaid program, state-subsidized Commonwealth Care, or affordable coverage through their work. Hospital officials said that they would not turn away patients needing urgent care, but that they probably would be more aggressive in billing those patients.
What a great plan. Good intentions, though!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Can't buy me love (or happiness) - In light of today's record stock market closing, it's worth taking a look at Robert Samuelson's take on the schism between prosperity and national contentment. Ho-hum.

Extra - More economic fun here and here. Don't tell Paul Krugman.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Please smoke. It's for the children.

Congress is on the way to funding a health insurance program for children and, with great imagination, they've trotted out this old horse again:

Senate aides familiar with the negotiations stressed that members of the committee have not reached an agreement on a final package. Overall, it would take a tax increase of 61 cents on a pack of cigarettes, as well as a commensurate tax hike on cigars and smokeless tobacco, to generate about $35 billion in additional revenue.
For heaven's sake, at what point do smokers decide that it would be cheaper to grow tobacco and roll their own? But, of course, behind the "it's for the children" justification stands the hypocritical truth that the state and federal governments would collapse without tobacco revenues. So there will never be a smoking ban, only periodic gouges designed to keep just enough people smoking to keep the revenue flowing, as George Will noted:

The states' ability to continue treating the tobacco industry as a "budgetary Alaska" -- the last frontier for exploitation -- depends on brisk sales of cigarettes far into the future. So all 50 states, which in 2004 reaped $12.3 billion in cigarette taxes, have an incentive to carefully calibrate these taxes so as to maximize revenue. They want high taxes, but not high enough to cause large numbers of smokers to quit the habit that is so lucrative to states.

The state governments seem to be calibrating cleverly: The adult smoking rate has not fallen much recently. So we have here a rarity -- a government success story. Of sorts.
Hooray! As an added bonus, all those smokers die early so there's less of a strain on entitlement spending through Medicare and Social Security. It's a win-win tale of addiction.
It's not all amnesty and subpoenas - The new Democratic Congress is focusing on legislation and issues that Americans care deeply about: cat de-clawing and IPhones. And, lo, the people have spoken.
Dial "M" for "guys who pray to the East five times a day" - Jeff Jacoby discusses how politically-correct British officials were loathe to characterize the would-be terrorists in London and Glasgow.
Bringing in the cash sheep - UK Times Online on the "Ratzinger effect": "With donations to the Church from around the world almost doubling and pilgrims pouring into Rome in ever-greater numbers, Vatican watchers are beginning to reassess the two-year-old pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and noting a positive "Ratzinger effect". (HT: Arts & Letters)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

This is, by a wide margin, the most bizarre crime story ever

Remember that pizza delivery guy about four years ago who was "forced" to rob a bank and, when cornered by the police, an explosive collar around his neck detonated? According to this ABC News story, the police are about to make an arrest and the suspect is about the last person you'd imagine: a female, former valedictorian, with psychiatric problems:

Nearly four years after one of the strangest murder cases in federal law enforcement history, authorities appear poised to announce indictments in the case of the pizza bomber as early as Wednesday, sources tell ABC News.

Sources say the indictments will center on a former high school valedictorian with bipolar disorder who is believed to be the ringleader of a bizarre Pennsylvania bank robbery gone bad. What remains vexingly unclear is whether pizza-delivery man Brian Wells was involved in the plot in any way.
Stay tuned. (HT: Ace)

Update (7/11) - From CNN: "Woman at center of bizarre plot with collar bomb" It seems she needed the pizzaman to rob the bank so she could hire a hitman to kill her father. You heard me.
The carbon tax gambit - John Dingell calls for real environmental sacrifice and everybody runs for the hills.
Bad glue

From the Boston Globe: "Fast-drying epoxy used in Big Dig let bolts slip over time"

Investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board said today that part of a Big Dig tunnel collapsed a year ago because the wrong epoxy was used to secure the ceiling, allowing bolts to slip or "creep" over time.
Honestly, I can't see the justification to using epoxy at all. If you're going to hold up heavy tiles, a bolt is better (risk of shear) but a cross-connection is best (risk of fracture). But epoxy? You're just crossing your fingers it doesn't deteriorate over time.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Check your flux capacitor - Via Cars.com: top 10 movie cars.
Like herding cats who all want to kill each other

With apologies to Bill Kristol and Jules Crittenden, I just don't see how they expect Americans to put up with the war in Iraq with reports like this:

A progress report on Iraq will conclude that the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has not met any of its targets for political, economic and other reform, speeding up the Bush administration's reckoning on what to do next, a U.S. official said.
Six months ago, I said it was time to "sink or swim" in Iraq and that much is still true. With all our economic, military and political power, we can't force Iraq into the 21st century.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Goin' to that big harem in the sky - Psychology Today has a list of "politically incorrect" truths about human nature and at #4 we find "Most suicide bombers are Muslim." The reason? Not enough sex. (HT: Fark)
If you missed "60 Minutes" tonight - Here's the Comptroller General of the United States, David Walker, discussing "the dirty little secret everyone in Washington knows" that current obligations for entitlement spending will simply bankrupt the country.
The seeds of the 1967 Newark riots

New Jersey's premier newspaper, the Star Ledger, has a special retrospective on the 40th anniversary of the Newark riots that left 26 people dead and caused $10 million in damage. The first part in today's paper looks at the dreadful missteps taken by the city's government to manufacture a pressure cooker of despair, then rage. For example, when Newark failed to annex the suburbs, wealthier residents simply packed up and moved out:

In cities that expanded, the movement of well-to-do residents from the core to the periphery had no impact on the bottom line. Those residents still paid taxes to the city.

In tiny Newark, well-off residents looking to leave center city ended up in places like Montclair and Millburn, taking their checkbooks with them. This left Newark with less money for police and schools. It also created a greater tax burden on those left behind. That caused even more people to leave.

By 1967, Newark believed its property tax rate, $7.75 per $100 of assessed value, was the highest in the nation. If taxed at that rate today, an average home in New Jersey - valued at $350,000 - would owe more than $27,000 a year in property taxes.

Even though Springfield and Bergen was largely populated by rental housing, soaring taxes had an impact. Landlords, fearful that making improvements would increase their tax bills, began neglecting their properties.
Astonishingly, the Federal Housing Authority which was designed to help Americans into home ownership approved only 28 loans in all of Newark in 1936. So there was little hope for a private residence, public housing was a disaster, and apartment buildings were falling apart because landlords didn't want to pay oppressive taxes.
Hey Cousin Brucie!

I'm getting caught up with the news, but I had to put this up first. Two years ago, I bemoaned the fact that legendary oldies radio station WCBS had switched format to something called "Jack." Now it looks like everything old is new again. From NY Times: "WCBS-FM reconsiders, deciding oldies are goodies again"

WCBS had a reliable audience as an oldies station, hovering near the bottom of the Top 10 ranked stations in the New York metropolitan region before the 2005 switch. The Jack format was introduced to attract the younger listeners more prized by advertisers, but WCBS's ratings dropped precipitously after the format change. It lost more than half its audience share, and its ranking fell as low as 22, according to Arbitron. Recently its ratings have improved slightly, but have remained far behind its pre-Jack level.

The station's advertising revenues also dropped. Revenue fell almost 30 percent, to $16.1 million for 2006, from 2005, according to estimates by BIA Financial Network.

Though WCBS is to return to oldies, it will probably be a new variation on the format, with more music from the 1970s and '80s and less from the '50s and '60s, radio analysts said. It is also likely that some personalities from the old station could return.
Well, every "oldies" radio station has pretty much ditched the songs from the Fifties. Even if you're not an oldies fan, why would you ditch a tried-and-true format to crowd the radio waves with yet another Top 40 incarnation? Dumb.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

So that's how Lindsey Lohan keeps getting into bars - Via Slate, a British study found that bartenders accurately guessed that 13-year old boys were underage but weren't so sure about the tweener girls.
Today's least surprising lawsuit - Former employee of the company that makes the "Girls Gone Wild" videos sues for sexual harassment. Who'da thunk it?
Then a million Jr. fans dropped their Budweisers

For a sport loosely associated with the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, this is going to surprise a lot of NASCAR fans: Dale Earnhardt Jr. digs Barry Manilow

10. You got anything that people might consider atypical on your portable music player?

Earnhardt: Surprises? Well, I've always tried to come across as down to earth with everything I've done -- but sometimes things surprise you, like you got a Barry Manilow song on your iPod, or something.

Well, I do. Weekend in New England is one of my favorites. He's awesome. I think a lot of people listen to him that wouldn't admit it.
Oh, brother. In related news, here's Rolling Stone's list of the 20 most annoying songs.
Have a latte - WebMD: "Coffee: the new health food?" (HT: Maggie's Farm)
Robert Mugabe's "deshelfication" plan - Hey, I invented a new word. Officials in Zimbabwe decided that prices were too high at the supermarket so they slashed 'em in half. From the UK Telegraph: "Mugabe's 'inflation police' raid shopkeepers." Now there's no food left in the supermarket and the shopkeepers have no incentive to sell food below cost. This will end well. (HT: Q&O)
Mitigating factors that seem to escape the NY Times editorial board

Here's the WashPost's take on Scooter Libby's commuted prison sentence:

Yet there were mitigating factors in this case. After two years of investigation, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald charged no one with a crime for leaking Ms. Plame's name; he never demonstrated that a crime occurred. Early on, the prosecutor had learned that the primary source of the disclosure to columnist Robert D. Novak was then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, who was not charged. Mr. Libby's trial provided convincing evidence that the revelation of Ms. Plame's identity was not the result of a conspiracy to punish her husband, administration critic Joseph C. Wilson IV -- the allegation that caused all the partisan furor surrounding the case and that led to Mr. Fitzgerald's appointment.
The WSJ's Opinion Journal wanted a full pardon:

These columns have had cause to defend the Bush Presidency from what we've seen as often meritless or exaggerated partisan attacks, notably over national security and the Iraq war. This, however, will stand as a dark moment in this Administration's history. Joe Wilson's original, false accusation about pre-war intelligence metastasized into the issue of who "outed" his wife, Valerie Plame, as an intelligence officer. As the event unfolded, it fell to Mr. Libby to defend the Administration against Mr. Wilson's original charge, with little public assistance or support from the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell or Stephen Hadley.
I'm uneasy about derailing the judicial process with a Presidential commutation, but certainly this case had facets that were opaque to the knee-jerk Left and the New York Times editorial board. Scooter Libby was convicted for a failure of memory that afflicted witnesses on the case, for a crime that did not exist, to (allegedly) discredit a report that was utterly false.

Extra - Some proper perspective on Presidential pardons from Petsy, uh, Betsy.

More - Excellent rant from Protein Wisdom.

Monday, July 02, 2007

It was Dr. Muhammad - What a surprise. Expat Yank has much more on what he's calling "The Doctors' Plot" and the terrorist attacks in Great Britain. Also, be sure to check out this Q&O post on what motivates the British jihadi.

More - From the mouths of babes: "Not a good doctor at all"
Sooo...what's everybody talking about tonight? - Fox News: "Bush Commutes 'Scooter' Libby's Prison Sentence"
Fifteen billion dollars and one death later

Boston Globe: "Leakage in Big Dig tunnel rises - 3 years after promise, more water getting in"

Almost three years after state managers vowed to close thousands of leaks in the Big Dig tunnels, nearly 2 million gallons of water flow each month through the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel, an 18 percent increase over last year, a Globe analysis shows.

The water is worrisome because it shows that the concerted efforts by the state to plug leaks in the $15 billion project are only marginally effective, at best, and may mean heavy maintenance costs for years to come.
On top of that, lawyers for Milena Del Valle's family are seeking record damages for her unlawful death caused by a falling tunnel ceiling slab. I'm doubtful that an underground tunnel can avoid collapse over time with two million gallons of water flowing through every month. When the tunnel was originally planned (with a $2.6 billion budget) it was estimated that only 36,000 gallons of water would leak through each month. Not so good.
My first NASCAR race

So I made it to New Hampshire for the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 and had a great time. Before the race, we saw Kurt Busch signing autographs at a merchandising trailer and Michael Waltrip zipped by on a golf cart (he wasn't racing.) Seats were excellent, row 39 on turn 4, and all the action in the race happened right below us. Lots of green-flag racing and a dramatic finish with Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr. fighting it out to see who would challenge Denny Hamlin working on two old tires. Hamlin held on to win despite some serious loose-ness on the final sprint.