Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bolter bolter bolter - Boy, I can't get enough of the PBS show "Carrier." Maybe I can get the DVD for Father's Day.
Home court advantage? - So far, Obama has won the delegate vote in every state that borders Illinois. But his lead over Hillary is slipping fast in Indiana and he's going to get crushed in Kentucky, if the contest goes that long.
Don't negotiate, legislate!

I think cars are too expensive. I blame the greedy car companies and I want Michigan congressman John Conyers to set the price of automobiles. While Congress is at it, let's set the price of gasoline since there's no greater success story in world history than government intervention into free trade. In today's Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby suggests that Congress has no business telling the credit card companies their business:

As card transactions have grown more popular, interchange fees have skyrocketed. They now amount to $35 billion a year, and some retailers want the government to compel Visa and MasterCard to lower them. Legislation sponsored by US Representatives John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, and Chris Cannon, Republican of Utah, would require the credit-card associations to enter into formal negotiations with retailers; if agreement weren't reached, it would authorize a three-judge panel to unilaterally impose interchange fees.

And why would retailers, who surely wouldn't want government bureaucrats telling them what to charge for coats or computers or Cracker Jack, want Visa and MasterCard to be told what to charge for credit-card services? Because, they claim, the card networks have so much power that they are immune to the market pressures that would be driving interchange fees down in a truly competitive market.

But Visa and MasterCard are hardly monopolies, and merchants are not without other options. No one is forced to accept Visa and MasterCard; retailers are free to take only American Express or Discover, which operate on a different model and don't charge interchange fees. Online vendors have even more choices, such as PayPal or Google Checkout. And, of course, there are the old standbys: cash and checks.
Cash? Do people still use that?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Maybe college isn't for you - Well, this article is pretty depressing, and all but calls higher education a scam. The conclusion seems to be that less-prepared students should think twice, otherwise they'll find themselves much poorer and not much smarter.

Extra - Maggie's Farm: "The most overrated product"
Whoops, lost my powers! - 8 (Pointless) Laws All Comic Book Movies Follow

Monday, April 28, 2008

Screech: not funny.
Rev. Wright's Sanjaya moment

I listened to Barack Obama's former pastor's entire speech on C-Span Radio today and I don't think I've ever witnessed a more ham-handed, solipsistic, self-aggrandizing attempt to extend 15 minutes of fame since American Idol's Sanjaya wrapped his hair into a ponytail Mohawk. Naturally, I'm late for the party, but super-Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan has it right:

Obama needs not just to distance himself from Wright's views; he needs to disown him at this point. Wright himself, it seems to me, has become part of what Obama is fighting against: the boomer, Vietnam era's obsession with its red-blue, white-black, pro and anti-America fixations. That is not what this election needs to be about; and Wright's massive, racially divisive and, yes, bitter provocation requires a proportionate response.
Reverend Wright reminded us that this isn't about Reverend Wright; that it's not Reverend Wright being attacked but the Black Church. To which my reply is: that Black Church is crazy.
Those jerks in the Chamber of Commerce hate Americans - This editorial from the Boston Globe supports a workplace entitlement of paid family leave, subsidized with a new payroll tax. There's nary a word as to how businesses would react overtly or covertly to this new benefit and maybe it's not a terrible idea, but the Globe only shows one side of the story and makes you feel like you're kicking Grandma to the curb if you disagree.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The downside of affluence - It seems that the days of sitting around the pub for hours on end with a pint of Guinness are coming to an end in Ireland. According this Boston Globe article, a thousand rural pubs have closed on the Emerald Isle because the economy is so strong that people would prefer to just go home and watch TV. Nut quote from an old-timer: "Where can we go after a funeral? After work? Where would we all meet?" Blimey!
Scroll down for comments - At some point, Amazon must have listed this HP printer with a price tag of $50,000,000. This then led to a conga line of customer reviews like this: "At $49,000,000, this would be a bargain. At $50,000,000, this is simply too steep. I'm sure you can find this at Costco or Sam's Club for a more reasonable price." (HT: Fark)
"Swoon" or "doom"? - Looks like it's "swoon" based on the reaction at Power Line: "Obama showed, once again, that he is a rare political talent." I missed the interview (church) but the transcript can be found here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Speaking of Sunday morning - Here's the talkshow lineup and it's all Democrats. Undoubtably, the hot ticket will be Obama's facedown with Chris Wallace.
Obama's negatives climb - From Marc Ambinder: "One of the more problematic results for Obama was that four in 10 of registered voters (including Republicans and independents) now have an unfavorable opinion of him--and the same number said there is "no chance" they will vote for Obama if he becomes the nominee."

It will be interesting to see how Obama's numbers move after his much-anticipated interview on "Fox News Sunday" tomorrow. Will it be "swoon" or "doom"?
Back from Boston - The lowlight of my trip was a stroll through Boston Common, interrupted by a half-dozen (obvious) drug addicts, loudly cursing at each other as tourists looked on, mortified. C'mon, kids, let's see those swan boats!

Also, here's something I didn't know: Paul Revere's house, built in 1680, is the last original building in Boston left over from the 17th century. I figured there would be some original buildings from Harvard (est. 1638) but they must have been renovated in the intervening 370 years.
Unintended consequences, enter the "butt-leggers"

From today's Boston Globe: "Beacon Hill's gift to the black market"

Massachusetts is awash in bootleg cigarettes.

High state cigarette taxes have turned packs of cigarettes into pots of gold for criminals, spawning a massive black market supplied by both smugglers and thieves who can quickly unload stolen cigarettes for cash.

Legislators on Beacon Hill are now planning to almost double the criminal profit margin by hiking the state cigarette tax by another buck a pack. This will only place more citizens in harm's way.
You would think Massachusetts would learn from her mistakes:

The Bay State is no stranger to cigarette tax-induced crime. Soon after the state tax was enacted in 1939, legal, tax-paid sales fell, as cigarettes were smuggled in or diverted from tax-free stocks and sold in the ordinary market. Merchants in neighboring states also began advertising the tax-free prices available in their stores.

Massachusetts tax authorities responded by stationing agents in neighboring states to photograph border shoppers lured by bargain smokes. That failed, and so did more frequent audits of wholesalers and retailers.
But, much like Barack Obama's wisdom that higher taxes on capital gains are meant to be punative rather than revenue-generating, the high cigarette taxes serve some government sense of "fairness" even if tax revenues drop and organized crime flourishes.

Hey, they tried to do the right thing.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Freedom trail! - I'm heading to Boston for the weekend to teach my kids about Paul Revere and stuff. Keep the comments clean, patriots.
What's wrong with us? - Obama''s favorite Rev. Wright says we just don't get him. Oh, and Obama's just putting on a show because he's a politician.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A must for the trivia buff - Wall Street Journal: "If you have ChaCha and a cellphone, you have answers." Just for laughs, I called and asked "Who won the Lenox Industrial Tools at New Hampshire Speedway last year?" About 20 minutes later, I got a text message with the correct answer: Denny Hamlin. Cool!
Unintended consequences, again

In "Bailout of the Year" Opinion Journal explains how Congress forced banks out of the student loan business so now Washington wants to bail out the banks: "To summarize: Congress mandated a return on student loans that is too low to attract private capital in the current market. So Congress will now use your money to create artificial investor demand. Taxpayers will bear more risk so that Congress can fashion a new business model to replace the one it just destroyed. The Bush Administration, unwisely but typically, has endorsed this approach."

Oh we all hate the inequities of capitalism, until we try to fix them. Here's Sir John Cowperthwaite, first Financial Secretary of Hong Kong: "In the long run, the aggregate of decisions of individual businessmen, exercising individual judgment in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralised decisions of a government, and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster."

Yet, over and over, people are taken in by the siren call that government can make everything right. For example, here's a review of Hillary Clinton on Keith Olbermann's show when asked about high gas prices:

What can the president really do to bring down gas prices? Clinton seemed slow to respond. (Maybe she was as surprised by the question as I was?) But she followed up with a long, nuanced answer. She started by offering a few short-term fixes: investigating possible market manipulation, tapping the strategic petroleum reserve, and taxing the oil companies and using it to finance a consumer tax holiday (something I hadn't heard before). She then acknowledged the limits of this strategy and said the real answer was encouraging energy independence over the long term.
There's absolutely nothing there that has a hope of bringing down oil prices. Taxing the oil companies? Oh, I'm sure they won't pass on the cost to drivers, no more than the cigarette companies pass on the cost to smokers. And while the Saudis rake in the cash on $100+ barrels of oil, we don't dare upset the Alaskan caribou and forge a path to energy independence. The percentage of oil imported into the United States is now much, much higher than the level in 1973 when OPEC shocked the American economy into submission.

Please, no more help from the government.

Extra - The government tries to "help" with ethanol, too.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Toot-toot! - Gotta blow my own horn for getting one right: as I head to bed it's a 55%-45% split for Clinton over Obama. In the end, Hillary will only pick up a couple delegates but watch for a renewal of the popular vote argument (with Michigan and Florida, of course).
That's some good updating - Real Clear Politics Pennsylvania primary thread and raw numbers from PA election central.
"Bitter"-ness hurts - According to Contentions, Obama is edging Clinton in Philly but is getting absolutely clobbered in the rural areas. Apparently those "Alabama" voters found the time between Bible study sessions to go out and vote.
Obama can't close the deal - At the risk of sounding like a Clinton pitchman, there's something to Jake Tapper's analysis "Why can't Obama win Pennsylvania?" This guy has gobs of money, a fawning media, and all the momentum. Yet, instead of hitching to his rising star, the voters in Pennsylvania decided to drive down to the fire station and vote for Hillary, who has virtually no chance of winning the Democratic nomination.
Keystone State predictions - Scott Elliott has 'em and he's predicting a comfortable 11% win for Clinton today. I tend to agree: it looks like all the "late deciders" in Pennsylvania are within the "T" between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Those older, rural, blue-collar bowlers have been consistent Hillary supporters, even before Obama told them they cling to their guns. That dog won't hunt.

My guess: Clinton - 55% Obama - 45%

This morning's RCP average: Hillary by 6.

Extra - Hillary voter (but not supporter) Bulldog Pundit says 8%; Mark tries 9%. Dr. Taylor says "What? The Pennsylvania primary is finally here?" A similarly exasperated Hedgehog Report notes that Pennsylvanians have been polled thirteen times in the past two weeks.
That chick is fast

Forgot to mention this the other day: congratulations to Danica Patrick for becoming the first woman to win an IndyCar race.

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, it's more of the same: "Saudi driving ban on women extends to golf carts"

Saudi Arabia's longstanding ban on female drivers went an extra mile this week when women were barred from using golf carts to move around a cultural festival, according to Saudi newspapers.
Men were permitted to use carts during the first 12 days of the Janadriya Heritage and Cultural Festival when only male visitors are allowed to attend, but the carts were withdrawn during the last three days which are reserved for women.
Awesomest clash of cultures ever.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm proud to be an American

The HBO series "John Adams" ended last night, wrapping up a portrait of a man who held true to his principles even as he was despised by fellow politicians. And then there's President Bush:

Somewhere in between the parade of busty women in low-cut gold lame minidresses and contestants spinning the wheel, George Bush made a star turn.
"I'm thrilled to be on 'Deal or No Deal' with you tonight," Mr. Bush said from a giant screen in a cameo taped for the Monday episode of one of NBC's most popular prime-time shows. The president paused a beat. "Come to think of it, I'm thrilled to be anywhere with high ratings these days."
Ha-ha-ha. Meanwhile, the three candidates who would be President #44 taped segments for "Monday Night Raw" to appeal to America's wrestling fans. Yee-haw, that's finger-lickin' good politics! Let's jump right into the beer pong contest and end this thing already.
The Obama voters - Some Democrats will not vote for him, while some Republicans might. Or they would have before the "bitter" comments.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Nineteenth-century idiom alert - I just wanted to point out that on both "Face the Nation" and "Meet the Press" this morning the phrase "hammer and tongs" was used to describe the battle between the Democratic candidates. It's always funny (to me) to hear these idioms or sayings from a bygone era, like "I don't know you from Adam's off-ox."

Already the pace of technology has rendered new idioms like "brick and mortar" to describe businesses that don't operate online. In the future, will phrases like "clear as a bell" be replaced by "clear as an HDTV TV?" Will "loud and clear" turn into "surround-sound and digital?" And so on.
All eyes on Mbeki - Jeff Jacoby "The dire situation in Zimbabwe": "In retrospect, it was an exercise in naivete to have imagined that Zimbabwe's brutal strongman, Robert Mugabe, would relinquish power just because he had lost an election." Only South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki can exert any genuine pressure on dictator Robert Mugabe but he's nowhere to be found.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The all-important Sunday roundup - Two days from the Pennsylvania primary, it's surrogate fever on the morning talkshows with a bunch of Senators and governors duking it out for Hillary or Obama. The real bloodfest will be on "Meet the Press" where the campaigns' chief strategists will be scratching each other's eyes out. Watch for Clinton's new guy Geoff Garin to prove he's worthy by throwing haymakers at David Axelrod.
Obama slides - Gallup: "Gallup Poll Daily tracking shows that Hillary Clinton now receives 46% of the support of Democrats nationally, compared to 45% for Barack Obama, marking the first time Obama has not led in Gallup's daily tracking since March 18-20." So he won't be debating again.

The NY Times' Bob Herbert is despondent: "The Democrats are doing everything they can to blow this presidential election. This is a skill that comes naturally to the party. There is no such thing as a can't-miss year for the Democrats. They are truly gifted at finding ways to lose." He probably shouldn't watch this video showing a room of focus-group Democrats saying, sure, they could vote for John McCain.

I recall that somebody was ridiculing me when I said "a lot could change in eight months." Clearly, I meant eight weeks.

Extra - From Strata-Sphere.
The sting - Here's one I haven't heard before: somebody in Natick tried to steal bees.
I was told there would be no math - Betsy's Page "Has liberal cocooning hurt Democrats? ": "Democrats just aren't as used to getting that sort of tough questioning about matters that they know will make them less appealing to the average voter. Republicans are used to those sorts of questions because they get them all the time from the media."
No arms for Mugabe

NY Times: "Zimbabwe arms shipped by China spark an uproar"

A Chinese ship loaded with armaments for Zimbabwe steamed into the port of Durban this week and set off a political firefight, putting newfound pressure on South Africa - and now China - to reduce support for Zimbabwe's government as it cracks down on its rivals after a disputed election.
Dock workers at the port, backed by South Africa's powerful unions, refused to unload the ammunition and weapons on Friday, vowing protests and threatening violence if the government tried to do it without them.
That's all that wrecked country needs.

Friday, April 18, 2008

We report, you decide to vote for Obama - Politico: "Obama's secret weapon: the media" Yeah...big secret.

More - From Peter Wehner at Contentions: "There is an enormous double standard at play here, one rooted in the fawning regard many journalists have for Barack Obama. They have a deep, even emotional, investment in his candidacy. And, as we are seeing, they will turn on anyone, even their colleagues, who dare raise appropriate and searching questions - the kind journalists are supposed to ask. The reaction to Stephanopoulos and Gibson is a revealing and depressing glimpse into the state of modern journalism."
Poll dump - Via Real Clear Politics blog, here are the rundowns of head-to-head matchups in 14 states for the Presidential race. My eyes jumped to the bellwether state of Missouri where John McCain would beat presumptive nominee Barack Obama by a healthy eight points. Plus, Obama up by only +2 in Massachusetts? Ohio is uncomfortably tight. YMMV.

More - Those polls were by Survey USA who, as David Wissing points out, might just be pulling numbers out of their you-know-what.
The last 20 songs I downloaded off ITunes

Some of these were to fill gaps in my collection. About a day after the Donovan downloads, I picked up his greatest hits.

"Let's Work Together" - Canned Heat
"Poison" - Bel Biv Devoe
"All the Young Dudes" - Mott the Hoople
"There is a Mountain" - Donovan
"Coconut" - Nilsson
"No Myth" - Michael Penn
"Sweet Home Alabama" - Lynyrd Skynyrd
"City of New Orleans" - Arlo Guthrie
"Midnight at the Oasis" - Maria Muldaur
"Iron Man" - Ozzy Osbourne
"Celebrity Skin" - Hole
"Season of the Witch" - Donovan
"An American Dream" - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
"Tiny Dancer" - Elton John
"A Hundred Pounds of Clay" - Gene McDaniels
"Love Will Find a Way" - Pablo Cruise
"Girlfriend" - Avril Lavigne
"Baby, I Love You" - Aretha Franklin
"Rubberband Man" - Spinners
"Love is Free" - Sheryl Crow


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Relentless killing machine

Kyle Reese: "Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."

Boston Globe: "Why Clinton won't quit"
I wonder why - CNN: "Sen. Barack Obama on Thursday suggested he doesn't see any point in having another debate with Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton." Yeah, last night was the last debate we'll see between Hill and Obama.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Trigger the class warfare filibuster - Many others are blogging on the Clinton-Obama debate right now, but was there anything more telling than Charlie Gibson confronting the Democrats with the fact that cutting capital gains taxes raised more revenue than increasing that tax? Hedge fund managers make a lot of money! says Obama. Let's get back to the Nineties! says Clinton.

Extra - Here's super-Obama-fan Andrew Sullivan: "Obama's convoluted capital gains tax answer was a brutal reminder to folks like me that he is indeed a redistributionist, and someone who seems to see the tax system as a way to decide what people "deserve" to have and keep. Ugh. Of course, Clinton isn't much better, but that Obama answer was dreadful."

More - John Podhoretz: "ABC’s anchorman points out that Bill Clinton signed legislation lowering the capital-gains rate to 20 percent and revenues went up. As he spoke those words, the River Nile briefly changed direction, hell froze over, and the law of gravity was suspended." So we were already back in the 90s! Who knew?

And this - GMTA, apparently. Here's Jonah Goldberg: "I don't cry "class warfare!" very often. But the beginning of Obama's capital gains tax question was amazing stuff. He conceded the premise that revenues go up when you cut capital gains taxes. But he said it would be worthwhile to raise them nonetheless as an issue of "fairness" because some people are making too much money. In other words, even if the government loses money to pay for all of the wonderful things Obama wants to do, it'd be worth it because sticking it to rich people is a good in and of itself."
Enter Social Security!

Obama brings up his "donut hole" solution which isn't great but has the virtue of being a strategy. He hits Hillary for avoiding a position and calling for a commission.

Clinton avoids a position and responds that a commission would be super but she won't cut benefits or raise taxes on the middle class; no further details are forthcoming. I guess her strategy is that somebody's going to pay, but it won't be you.
The national arugula crisis - Right Wing News: "Barack Obama in quotes"

George Will: "Out of touch: this is a man who went to Iowa and commiserated with Iowans over the cost of arugula at Whole Foods stores, of which there are none in Iowa."
They're snobs - The New Yorker: "What's the matter with Democrats?" (HT: RCP)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Us vs. them" for pros - So when Barack was belittling religious voters in front of a San Francisco crowd, he was "getting past the politics of division." Because when you're trying to raise cash from the Pelosi set, it's OK to rag on those gun nuts in flyover country. Uh-huh.

More - John Dickerson at Slate:
Obama supporters should know just how offensive it is to hear this line of argument. They've been on the receiving end of it for months, as Hillary Clinton and her allies have described them as deluded cult members who are marching behind the inexperienced senator because he gives a pretty speech. Obama supporters don't like it when their well-thought-out reasons for following Obama are dismissed as emotional, irrational, and thoughtless. They should understand, then, why people who don't support Obama - or in the past haven't voted for Democrats - don't like being told that they've drunk some kind of crazy Kool-Aid.
That's "politics of distraction" talk. (HT: Betsy)
America, you stink - From Hugh Hewitt: "Senate Democrats can't count and they think you smell funny"
All bitter all the time - Obama's "Bittergate" continues on although it appears to have no effect whatsoever on his lead over Hillary in the upcoming primary contests. But John Judis enumerates the many reasons why Obama may face a real challenge in the general election when independent voters will not be so forgiving of a one-term Senator with no record to speak of. Chickens coming home to roost, Rev. Wright? Oh yeah.

Extra - More analysis from Reason's Hit & Run.
Math is hard - Boston Globe "Zimbabwe's high court rejects appeal for vote results": "Zimbabwe's High Court rejected an appeal yesterday for the immediate release of presidential election results, dashing hopes for an end to a paralyzing political crisis and prompting the opposition to call a nationwide strike."

These votes were already tabulated at the local precincts so it's just a matter of adding up the regional votes to find the national vote. Sixteen days later, the Mugabe loyalists can't perform simple arithmetic and the neighboring African nations are bringing no pressure on Mugabe to step down.

Monday, April 14, 2008

There goes "everything else" - This review by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities titled "Where do our tax dollars go?" is revealing not so much by what the United States currently spends but by the trajectory of spending we should expect as the Baby Boomers retire in large numbers.

There is no political will to cut Social Security (21% of the budget) or Medicare/Medicaid (another 21%) and the United States must pay interest on the national debt (9%). Defense and security (22%) spending along with "safety net" spending will not be significantly diminished, leaving the squeeze on the 18% of the budget defined as "everything else": medical research, benefits for civil servants, transportation, education, national parks, and a lot of other things most Americans call "government."

Extra - More from the Plank
Devil in the details - Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Andrew Biggs explains why inflation adjustments make a hash of projected Social Security benefits: "Right or wrong, Social Security already has credibility problems. For Americans to accept the sacrifices involved with reform, they need confidence that official numbers coming from the agency are accurate."
Obama rules the Internets - Is there a single commenter on this thread who has a kind word for Hillary? Understandable, for sure, since Obama supporters are more web-savvy.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Food, not fuel

The Boston Globe comes out against the ethanol boondoggle: "Can't eat ethanol"

Corn should be used for food, not motor fuel, and yet the United States is committed to a policy that encourages farmers to turn an increasing amount of their crop into ethanol. This may save the nation a bit of the cost of imported oil, but it increases global-warming gases and contributes to higher food prices.
Ethanol is not a green alternative:

When emissions inherent in the production process are included, ethanol consumption generates more carbon dioxide per gallon than gasoline, according to a recent report in Science magazine.
My primary opposition to ethanol production is that the corn producers have somehow finagled a sweetheart deal in Washington where Congress keeps 1) calling for more ethanol production, 2) heavily subsidizing corn ethanol production while 3) hindering importation of sugar cane ethanol from Brazil. If corn ethanol had to fend for itself without government subsidies and importation tariffs, it would never survive as a dirty and expensive alternative fuel.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sleep late - If you want to know who's on the Sunday morning talk shows tomorrow, click here. Or you can take my word for it that it's a real B-list lineup.
Paradise by the GoPhone light - I love this commercial with Meat Loaf and Tiffany. Yes, Tiffany.
Situation normal at the Big Dig - Boston Globe "Dead zones frustrate drivers": "Five months after Massachusetts Turnpike officials announced that the Big Dig would finally join the digital age and provide cellular service to thousands of commuters this spring, there is no sign the $15 billion tunnels will be wired anytime soon - and no timeline for completing the job."

You would think that after going almost $10 billion over budget somebody would have raised their hand and asked: "Should we include antennas for these new-fangled cell phones?"

Friday, April 11, 2008

It's Paul Krugman vs. the NY Times - Tom Maguire notes that when your intentions are good, it's only necessary to be "thematically accurate" to make your point.
Man of the people - Those hicks love their guns and Bibles, sniffs Obama. Remember when he told Hillary "you're likable enough?" The more Obama gains in the polls, these glimpses of arrogance become evident.

Extra - Power Line goes a little overboard: "Is Obama's campaign over?" Macranger sticks with the rhetorical: "Obama's condescension - why are we surprised?"
Old news from Boston

Boston Globe: "Healthcare affordability figures update" It's expensive!

Therefore: "Massachusetts House OK's big tax hikes" Of course. Sucks for you smokers.

To its credit, the Globe spotted one reason why taxes needed to be hiked yet again:

The Central Artery project was just about completed last year, the state had no further need for a project director, and Michael Lewis, 46, was out of a job. Lewis then became director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation at a respectable salary of $130,000 a year. But because of a quirk in Massachusetts law, Lewis also enjoys an enhanced $72,578 annual pension - for life. Lavish pensions like these diminish trust in state government, and ought to be curtailed by the Legislature.
Retired at 46 - now that's the kind of public service I can get into! The Big Dig ("Central Artery project") is the gift that keeps on taking.
Life intrudes - Sorry about the spotty blogging; personal issues to take care of. More tonight!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Pennsylvania split - Can the Democrats win the White House without the Keystone State? I was surprised to see that, based on the current polls, Hillary would win there against McCain but Obama would not. Hmmm...maybe Howard Wolfson has a point on electability in "big" states or maybe he's just lowing expectations for Hill's less-than-double-digit win.

Extra - Same deal in New York? New York?
Because Berkeley was all booked up - Without getting into Sino-Tibet politics, if you're going to have the torch relay for the Beijing Olympics, why would you make your only U.S. stop San Francisco? That's just asking for trouble.
You don't have to be a kleptocracy to join OPEC, but it helps

Can you name the country? From the Boston Globe:

Palacios, the nation's largest public maternity hospital and once the nation's beacon of neonatal care, has fallen on hard times. Half of the anesthesiologists and pediatricians on staff two years ago have quit. Basic equipment such as respirators, ultrasound monitors, and incubators are either broken or scarce. Six of 12 birth rooms have been shut.
If only this poor, poor country had some steady source of income.

Problems in Venezuela's healthcare system did not materialize when Chávez took office. The system has been riven with corruption, mismanagement, and disorganization for decades. Tropical conditions have made the country ripe for a host of epidemics difficult for any government to control. An encephalitis outbreak in 1996 sickened 20,000 people.

But the system's current crisis comes as the country is awash in oil wealth, a windfall that critics say could be used to ease the problem. Instead, Chávez is building a parallel health program called "Barrio Adentro," which features 11,000 neighborhood clinics staffed mainly by Cuban doctors.
This, assuredly, is the fault of Estados Unidos for propping up Chavez with record oil prices. Damn you, Satan Bush!
Mugabe falls back on old habits

From the Boston Globe: "Reports of violence spread in Zimbabwe"

Ten days after Zimbabwe voted and by most accounts rejected its long-serving, autocratic president, Robert Mugabe, the mood of the country grew more ominous yesterday. The opposition reported widespread attacks on its supporters, black youths drove white farmers off their, and elections officials were arrested on charges of vote tampering.

As Mugabe sought to cling to power beyond his 28th year in office, Zimbabwe's High Court began to weigh the opposition Movement for Democratic Change's demand for the immediate release of the presidential election results. They have still not been announced, but the opposition believes they will give it victory.
This is the African version of "L'etat c'est moi." Mugabe is 84 years old and must now view Zimbabwe as his and his alone, no matter how the people vote.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Here come the Baby Boomers - PBS has a special tonight, hosted by Paula Zhan, titled "Retirement Revolution." It looks like a portrait of American retirement through the lens of a handful of Boomers.
Beer drinkers ordered to pour Sam Adams down the drain

This is a disturbing turn of events: "Glass particles force Sam Adams beer recall"

Boston Beer Co., the Boston brewer of Samuel Adams craft beers, said it is recallingan undetermined amount of beer because of defective bottles that may contain glass particles.
The problem bottles are embossed with the code N35 followed by OI on the base of the bottle. I just checked all of my Sam Adams. Yep: N35 OI. The Boston Beer Company has set up a consumer recall site and they're urging customers to pour out the beer and dispose of the bottles. Norm and Cliff are happy with their draft beer.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Take your stinking paws off of me you damned Grim Reaper! - Fox News: "Charlton Heston dies at Beverly Hills home" More on the Hollywood legend at IMDB.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Uncanny - When celebrities become Muppets. (Click on pics to the right).
Car of Tomorrow + SAFER barrier + HANS device = Michael McDowell walks away from this incredible wreck during NASCAR qualifying.
In Massachusetts, everybody has health coverage

Now if they could just find a doctor. From the NY Times "In Massachusetts, Universal Coverage Strains Care":

Now in Massachusetts, in an unintended consequence of universal coverage, the imbalance is being exacerbated by the state’s new law requiring residents to have health insurance.

Since last year, when the landmark law took effect, about 340,000 of Massachusetts’ estimated 600,000 uninsured have gained coverage. Many are now searching for doctors and scheduling appointments for long-deferred care.
The article is notable for two reasons: one is the juxtaposition of the phrases "unintended consequence" and "recipe for disaster" while the other is the spotlight on Dr. Katherine J. Atkinson who used to be my sons' primary doctor before she moved to Amherst. She already has 3,000 patients and she won't take any new ones until May 2009.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Smoke smoke smoke that cigarette

Jacob Sullum notes that, with new legislation, New York will now have the highest cigarette tax in the country:

So a pack of cigarettes that would cost, say, $4 without taxes will cost New Yorkers more than $9, most of which will go into city, state, and federal coffers. In other words, the government will be taxing a product disproportionately consumed by poor people at an effective rate of more than 100 percent, reaping bigger profits than anyone else from a business it simultaneously condemns as the foremost threat to public health. It can get away with this punitive levy because the people it's bleeding are an unpopular minority with little political influence. And what do we call this policy? Progressive.
Don't smoke kids, until you're an adult and then smoke...for the kids.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Congress to moral hazard: drop dead!

Opinion Journal: "Uncle Subprime"

A new study from the Boston Federal Reserve destroys the myth of the victimized subprime borrower. Boston Fed economists examined 1.5 million homeownerships over nearly 20 years and found that the overwhelming reason for subprime foreclosures is not unsustainable debt foisted on ignorant borrowers or even financial setbacks. People walk out on subprime mortgages when the value of their home declines.

Homeowners who've suffered a 20% decline in home prices are 14 times as likely to default as those who have enjoyed a 20% gain. . . . In other words, even if the government moves these borrowers into FHA-guaranteed mortgages with fixed rates, but home prices keep falling, lots of borrowers will stiff the taxpayers like they've been stiffing private lenders.
What's with all the "do-overs"? Bear Stearns and subprime lenders & borrowers all took risks in this crazy game called capitalism and lost. Government intervention only invites more irresponsible behavior down the road.

More - Maggie's Farm on the toxic incentives of the subprime game.
No brakes for you! - What happens when Jerry Seinfeld rolls his Fiat? Hilarious comments. This one is best: "I understand this car used to be owned by Jon Voight."
Quote of the Day

Fox News: "Air America host suspended for calling Clinton & Ferraro" names:

"Air America encourages strong opinions about public affairs but does not condone such abusive, ad hominem language by our Hosts," reads the statement by [AA chairman] Kireker, issued on Thursday.
Unless they're bastard Republicans, then it's anything goes!

Extra - As you might expect, everything you want to know from Radio Equalizer.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The sliding scale between "rich" and "poor" - I guess it depends on whether you're being taxed or receiving benefits.
Mugabe's grip slips - AP: "Mugabe's party loses grip on Parliament." Much more from Gateway Pundit: "Zimbabwean opposition claims victory."
Anarchy in the U.S.A. - Via Politico it looks like the DNC pulled a fast one "DNC convention stance surprises campaign": "The Democratic National Committee said Tuesday that Florida and Michigan members will be seated on the three standing committees - including the critical Credentials Committee - at the party's 2008 national convention, a position that could affect the selection of the Democratic nominee."

It appears that the renegade states will have positions on the organizing committees but it's unclear if their full delegations will be seated. One Florida Democrat on the Rules committee said the decision "strikes me as odd."

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Dog on a pool slide

All of the United States wouldn't cover Medicare expenses

From Smart Money (HT: RCP) "Entitlement mentality is wrecking economy"

From welfare to food stamps to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, our country now marshals a massive network of trillion-dollar entitlement programs colloquially known as the "social safety net." Many Americans, including a few of those running for president, see these bureaucracies as defining achievements of a nation where "nobody is left behind."
Forget the fact that the entitlements, many of which began with the goal of providing "basic minimum benefits" have grown into a gargantuan burden costing over $1.5 trillion a year and careening toward total collapse. For example, payouts will begin to exceed the revenues into Social Security in just nine years and current estimates have the entire system going belly up in 2041.
Author Jonathan Hoenig notes that the shift to an all-entitlement government invites further taxation and regulation of the economy which flips American fiscal history on its head:

As I've written before, it is America's historical commitment to capitalism and individual rights that has differentiated our prosperous economy from the socialist basket cases of North Korea, China and communist Cuba. When economic freedom is protected, societies see vast increases in productivity that result in higher-quality, lower-cost products.
And here's a factoid I hadn't heard before:

Moral bankruptcy eventually leads to financial collapse as well, and the evidence is growing more obvious with each passing day. As noted in Barron's over the weekend, the future obligations of Medicare are now so staggering that liquidating all the residential real estate in the country - a sum of almost $12 trillion dollars - wouldn't even cover the costs.
I should have marked this one "too good to excerpt." Read the whole thing.
A new dawn in Zimbabwe - This is the most up-to-date report I could find: "Endgame in Zimbabwe as Robert Mugabe nears exit" He's probably busy ripping out the copper wire from the presidential palace, but as long as he goes, Zimbabwe has a chance.

Today's Boston Globe reveals how the usual vote-rigging was thwarted:

One simple reform made it clear that a majority rejected Mugabe after 28 years of his disastrous misrule: This weekend, each of the country's 9,000 polling stations posted its own tally. Opposition poll observers and the general public were able to see and add up the separate vote totals. So the Mugabe-controlled electoral commission could not receive all the unannounced local results, perform an unmonitored count, and proclaim that the 84-year-old despoiler of the nation had been reelected.
"Despoiler of the nation" - not exactly the thing you want to see on your gravestone.