Sunday, October 31, 2010

Amazing Race update – Beautiful St. Petersburg

I came in late from trick or treating, so I missed a little of the beginning but it looks like teams went from Scandinavia to St. Petersburg, Russia. Once there, it was a Detour: Music or Cinema. Teams could listen to three tunes and then locate pianists playing them; or they could find the film negatives for a film playing on a screen. The Music Detour seemed easy to me if you listen to one song, identify the piano playing it, then move on to the next song; trying to remember three songs at once is confusing. Everybody has trouble with this and a lot of them switch to the cinema. Nick & Vicki switch to Cinema then switch back to Music, which is just asking to come in last place.

After the Detour, teams go to a small farming village where it's the Roadblock: one team member must dress up like a babushka and plant 50 potatoes in a field. There's nothing much to notice here except they needed to fill a wheelbarrow with manure. Mallory is propositioned by some Russians who want her to drink some vodka with them.

After the Roadblock, teams head to the Pit Stop at St. Isaac's Cathedral. St. Petersburg looks really nice and during the commercial they note the city is built on fifty islands connected by a whole lot of bridges. Anyway, as predicted above, Team Vegas falls way, way behind and they arrive at the Pit Stop in darkness. However, this is another non-elimination leg so they'll get another chance to come in last next week.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Faceless Young Couple – Jill & Thomas
#2 – Team QVC – Brook & Claire
#3 – Team YouTube – Michael & Kevin
#4 – Team QVC – Brook & Claire
#5 – Team Surgeons – Nat & Kat
#6 – Team Bickering Young Couple – Chad & Stephanie
#7 – Team Kentucky – Gary & Mallory
#8 – Team Vegas – Nick & Vicki – Non-elimination leg

Next week: It's the circus!
Mock elections in Washington - Michael Barone reports that Dino Rossi beat Patty Murray 53%-47% among schoolchildren casting ballots. Hmmm....interesting.

Also interesting: Intrade now shows the Senate is a coin flip.
Political junkies, assemble! - FiveThirtyEight has an ultimate election night guide, breaking down races for when the polls close. Set your bookmarks.
Have you heard my Slurpee joke? - Obama addressed a rally with the last 8,000 people in Ohio who haven't heard the "car in a ditch" speech. The Hill: "Thousands of empty seats for last Dem voter rally by Obama, Biden."

Extra - Good question: "What does it say about this narcissist that he's ostensibly campaigning for others yet has a giant banner promoting himself and his dopey website?" That's because the solution to every problem is "more Obama."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Must see: "Thriller" light show

The home stretch - It looks like the Democrats' strategy of calling voters stupid is going over like a lead balloon. WSJ: "Swing voters are flocking to GOP." "Independents, a crucial swing bloc, seem to be breaking sharply for Republicans in the final days of the campaign."

Friday, October 29, 2010

When Keith met the Laffer curve - Via Mankiw, here's a little blurb from Keith Richards about how the Rolling Stones structure their career to avoid taxes.
He's so vain - Slate has compiled the "Vanity Index" of the biggest egos in the U.S. Senate. I quickly guessed who would be #1...and I was right! If you're looking for the latest example of his sniffy snobbishness against the great unwashed, look no further.

Extra - From Wizbang.
Credible terrorist threat - Fox News: "Bomb materials from Yemen found on way to Jewish synagogues." The idea that somebody from an American synagogue would open an unexpected package from Yemen means that either the terrorists are incredibly inept or they're just trying to gauge the security response. I think it's 90% from column "A".

More - Updates at Jawa Report.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Red light flashing

In a post that William should love, Hotline On Call takes notes of the warning signs leading up to this election:

This time around, an open seat in Massachusetts was a massive siren that warned Democrats of the danger they faced. A little-known Republican state senator, Scott Brown, stunned the state's popular attorney general in a special election to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's (D) seat. Though Democrats have had special election success this cycle, winning a Republican-held House seat in New York and holding on to two other vulnerable districts, the Senate loss in one of the bluest states in the country stunned Democrats and strongly suggested that panic was an appropriate option.
That election is the reason why I think John Raese will pull out the win over Joe Manchin in West Virginia even though the Republican trails in the polls. Just like Kennedy, that Senate seat was held by a Democrat so long (really long) that I wonder if voters feel that it's time for a party change.
Because, ultimately, you're taxing workers - Megan McArdle: "Why we should eliminate the corporate income tax."
Viva Scott Elliott! - Election Projection guarantees: "Sharron Angle will defeat Harry Reid."

Scott lists a bunch of good reasons why Reid should lose but sometimes you have to just go with Occam's Razor: when your state has 15% unemployment and the highest foreclosure rate in the country, voters are going to punish the incumbents.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Catch the wave - This is the first time I've seen this comparison. In 1994, the last big swing election, the spread between likely Republican voters and Democratic voters was 5%. This year: 15%.

Extra - Minuteman: these polls numbers "suggest that 2010 will make 1994 look like 2002." Man, I thought I was a political junkie.
A nation of dupes - Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe: "Smug Democrats."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The gang at Walden - Although I've often disagreed with Garry Trudeau's politics, Doonesbury is one of the sharpest, wittiest, and funniest takes on America. Slate has an interview with Trudeau on the 40th anniversary of the comic strip, along with some classic strips.
Isn't that a song by Boston? - John Podhoretz: "More than a thumpin'" Hulk smash!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chicago politics - It's possible that Giannoulias could still win Obama's old Senate seat but at this point it would require a lot of dead voters.
Little Prez Can't-be-Wrong

From Reason Online:
Out of one side of his mouth he acknowledges that the fiscal situation of the country he presides over is "untenable." But out of the other, when talking about an economy that has far undershot the administration's own initial worst-case scenarios, he wants to keep throwing bad money after bad. The president and those within his bubble see zero connection between his massively interventionist economic policies and the massively disappointing economy. As long as that remains the case, there will be a growth market in political "restraining orders," no matter how crudely imagined.
That's OK. Soon enough it will be the Republicans lecturing that "elections have consequences" and jeering "We won."

Related - Howard Kurtz: "White House goes into bunker mode."
Charlie Cook speaks - How's this for a headline: "Dems' House losses likely enormous, but Senate hard to read." For the record, I made a prediction over at AoSHQ that the GOP would pick up +64 seats in the House and +9 in the Senate (West Virginia going to Raese.)
Social Security and the great "Trust Fund" myth

I was reading through this month's Atlantic magazine and came across a letter from one Nelson Dahl of Seattle, who insists that the a recent article by Megan McArdle spread "misinformation" about the Social Security program and that the SS Trust Fund has "nothing" to do with the federal budget. In response, McArdle doesn't equivocate:

The Social Security surplus has everything to do with the federal budget. Social Security’s "trust fund" consists of special Treasury bonds; when the Social Security Administration is no longer collecting as much in payroll taxes, it will start using up those bonds to cover expenses. In order to make the payments on those bonds, the federal government will have to raise taxes, cut other spending, or borrow money in the private markets - which is exactly what the government would have to do if there were no trust fund. Social Security collected less in taxes than it paid in benefits for the first time this year, and starting late in this decade, it will be permanently in deficit. That means the federal government is going to have to find ever-increasing sums of money that it can transfer into the Social Security system.
The Social Security Trust Fund has always been an enormous accounting trick where the government loans money to itself. For decades it has covered up the true size of the federal deficit but now the situation is about to be turned one-hundred-eighty degrees.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Amazing Race update – High in Scandanavia

I missed a little of the start of tonight's leg, but it looks like teams headed from Sweden to Norway, where they needed to take a gondola to the top of a mountain, retrieve a clue, and head back down. Surgeons Nat & Kat arrive first and there's a Fast Forward: the first team to take it can skip all other challenges and head to the Pit Stop. Team Surgeons decide to take the Fast Forward and the challenge is that they must participate in a traditional Norwegian Christmas ritual: eating a boiled sheep's head. This is an issue for Kat, who is a vegetarian. But they struggle through and head to the Pit Stop where they're (spoiler alert!) team #1.

The other teams head off to a bridge where it's the Roadblock, one team member needs to rappel down and then climb back up with an ascender. Most of the (younger) teams are able to do this without much problem – including Gary from Team Kentucky – but Claire from Team QVC gets tired about halfway up. Meanwhile, Katie & Rachel, Chad & Stephanie, and Nick & Vicki are still trying to find their way to the bridge.

Teams who have completed the Roadblock head to the next clue and it's the Detour: Bike or Boat. Teams may either ride bikes to a sign with codes to open a lock, or take a boat across the bay and deliver some fish. Team YouTube and Team QVC do the boat while Team Kentucky and Jill & Thomas do the bikes. The boat is easy but takes a while. Team Volleyball is way behind, bringing up the rear at the Roadblock.

Katie & Rachel try to catch up but they choose the slower Detour and there's no way even the creative editing of the Race can trick viewers into believing they can catch up. Phil's sorry to tell them that they are eliminated.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Surgeons – Nat & Kat – Took the Fast Forward
#2 – Team Kentucky – Gary & Mallory
#3 – Team Faceless Young Couple - Jill & Thomas
#4 – Team YouTube – Michael & Kevin
#5 – Team QVC – Brook & Claire
#6 – Team Vegas – Nick & Vicki
#7 – Team Bickering Young Couple – Chad & Stephanie
#8 – Team Volleyball – Katie & Rachel - PHILIMINATED

Next week: Russia.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Teleprompter malfunction

Don't blame Obama, he's just reading what's in front of him:
For Democratic supporters from 2008 who are thinking of changing sides this election, Obama paraphrased Albert Einstein: "The true sign of madness is if you do the same thing over and over and over again and expect the same result," he said during a rally at the University of Minnesota.
Um, that's not right, genius.

Update and mea culpa - It's a little late for this but a commenter found the YouTube video and Obama did not make the aforementioned gaffe. If it makes you feel any better, he included the "car in a ditch" metaphor.
Shocking new charges about the Volt - Via The Truth About Cars, here's the current (yuk, yuk) news about General Motors' pending electric car: it requires a special charger that costs extra to buy, even more to install, and may run afoul of California's electric utilities. Oh, and if you don't have your own home, try to get your landlord to sink two-grand on the Volt's charger.
Those unexpected consequences everybody expected - Remember when AOL switched from per-minute charges to unlimited access? Overnight their system was overloaded because a surprised AOL discovered that people would log on and never log off. And why not? It's all gravy.

Same difference with Obamacare. USA Today: "Obamacare will clog America's medical system." (Hat tip: Maggie's Farm.) It will all work out because there won't be any primary care doctors anyway.
Ten days to go - And here comes the wave. FiveThirtyEight: "For first time, model has GOP favored to win 50+ House seats."

Also, for the first time, the Real Clear Politics projection has likely GOP seats over 218 (for control of the House of Representatives), and that's without toss-ups. Bye-bye, Nancy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Metaphor for the 2010 election - George W. Bush's Texas Rangers defeat the New York Times Yankees for the American League Championship. The Texans will advance to the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

One other thing: Karma's a bitch. At some point in the game, a Yankee (Swisher?) was clearly hit by a pitch and should have advanced to first without advancing the runner on third base. But the Yankee put on a show that he wasn't hit and the "wild pitch" allowed a runner to score. Well, the Texans won convincingly anyway, so there.

Extra - Yeah, it was Swisher.

More - ALCS MVP went to Josh Hamilton who gave the glory to Jesus. SDG.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Welfare state endgame - AoSHQ: "This is our future". England and France are now painfully aware that things that cannot go on forever don't.

You will submit

Reason has two posts today about the ongoing controversy on whether the Commerce Clause can compel Americans to purchase something and what that might mean about the limits of government. First up is Jacob Sullum with "The Amazing Elastic Commerce Clause":

In 2005 the Supreme Court said the federal government's power to "regulate commerce…among the several states" extends to the tiniest speck of marijuana wherever it may be found, even in the home of a patient who grows it for her own medical use in compliance with state law. "If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause," Justice Clarence Thomas warned in his dissent, "then it can regulate virtually anything - and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers."

The Obama administration, which was in court this week defending the new federal requirement that every American obtain government-designed health insurance, seems determined to prove Thomas right. But despite seven decades of stretching by a Supreme Court eager to accommodate every congressional whim, the Amazing Elastic Commerce Clause is still not expansive enough to cover the unprecedented command that people purchase a product from a private company in exchange for the privilege of existing.
Peter Suderman follows up with "Can the government require you to eat asparagus? " I keep reading the tea leaves from legal experts and the majority opinion (so far) is that Congress can do whatever the hell it wants in the name of "regulating commerce." Supporters of Obamacare should think long and hard before walking through that door because it opens up the opportunity for all kinds of mischief and Orwellian "penalties that are not a tax" unless they are.
So many Slurpee jokes, so little difference - The Hill: "Ohio voters say Obama's frequent campaigning having no impact." Maybe Ohio voters are picking up on the White House state-of-mind: "Calling voters stupid is not a winning strategy."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So long, Mr. C - NY Times: "Tom Bosley, 'Happy Days' Dad, dies at 83." (By the way, I made the "Get Smart" reference before I read the news. Wasn't trying to go for a 70's TV theme.)
Save her, Agent 86! - Politico: "99 in danger."
Back in time - Has anybody seen the movie "Primer"? What a bizarre film.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The gray wave

I'm starting to believe the hype that this year will be bigger than 1994 and even the longshot GOP takeover of the Senate may be in reach. It's because, in my opinion, elections are always decided by three important (and overlapping) groups: women, independents, and elderly voters.

When it comes to the gender gap, a NY Times report indicates that men favor the generic Republican candidate by +13 while the gap for women is -7 (that is, they favor the Democrat by +7). But as the Times' title suggests: "Men are fuming, women are despairing," men are much more motivated to go out and vote so, as a minimum, the gender gap is a wash.

Among independent voters the GOP holds a single-point edge that extends into a +13% gap when these voters are moved into the "likely voter" column. And now, via Real Clear Politics, we can see the tide of older voters forming: "The Senior Wave: Older voters set for historic turnout"

The trend is strongest among voters age 65 and older. Eighty-four percent of seniors who are registered to vote say they will "definitely" vote. That's 9 percentage points above the previous record, 1994, when the question was first asked. Six in 10 seniors have given the election "a lot" of thought, also a peak. High enthusiasm and engagement generally signal high turnout.
So they're really going to vote. And who are they really going to vote for?

This year, by Rasmussen's measure, seniors favor electing a Republican in their district by a 18-point margin (53 to 35 percent); Republicans' advantage with all other age groups is in the single digits. Gallup tracks the same trend. Seniors who are following the election closely, an indicator of likely turnout, favor Republicans by an 11-point margin in the ABC/Post poll.
The cake is baked. Bribes aren't going to help. Slurpee jokes are done. "Speaker" Pelosi and "Senate Majority Leader" Reid will be no more.

The whirlwind is coming. Thanks, Grandma!

Extra - Politico: "In the eyes of the experts, the House Democratic majority most likely won’t survive Nov. 2, with political handicappers expanding their predictions to envision the possibility of a Democratic wipeout." Oh yeah.

More - This just in from Gallup: "GOP holds solid leads in voter preferences."

And this:

Put on a brave face, Gibbsy.
Look at all the manure Congress has produced, yet all Americans do is complain about the smell - Hot Air: "AP wonders: Why isn't our very productive Congress more respected by voters?" It's a mystery.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Amazing Race update – From the furnace to the freezer

Teams started out in Accra, Ghana and need to make their way to Kiruna, Swedish and find the Ice Hotel. The nine remaining teams are all given tickets on the same flight but they are not compelled to take that flight. Team YouTube figures out there is an earlier flight and tells Team Kentucky; both teams secure the earlier connection through Frankfurt. It looks like those teams along with surgeons Nat & Kat along with Brook & Claire make it on the earlier flight to Sweden. The remaining five teams are on a flight leaving two hours later. The early lead is important to Kevin & Michael who must perform a "speed bump" due to their last-place finish last week.

At the Ice Hotel storage, Michael & Kevin must sit on ice furniture for ten minutes to fulfill the Speed Bump – that's it. Not much of a punishment, if you ask me. And it isn't as they jump into first place by finding the next clue and the Roadblock. At this challenge, teams take a dog sled around a loop and collect a series of flags. Team Surgeons and Team QVC are close behind. Michael finishes for Team YouTube and head off to the next clue at a train station. As we go to commercial, Jill & Thomas get lost on the way to the Roadblock; they possess the "Express Pass" to skip a challenge so this might be a good time to use it. Will they?

Team YouTube arrives at the train station and it's the Detour: Sleds or Beds. Teams may either sled down a mountain in less than 1:58 or build a tent based on Swedish nomad traditions. Michael & Kevin choose the tent while Team Surgeons head to the top of the mountain; Kat goes flying off the course. Team Kentucky finishes at a time of exactly 1:58 but they need to beat that time (that is, faster). Nat & Kat finish the sled Detour on their second try and head to the Pit Stop. Brook & Claire and Team Kentucky are close behind.

Chad & Stephanie have problems on the sled as Stephanie can't negotiate the sled, much to Chad's aggravation. Jill & Thomas sense they're in last place and decide (wisely, I think) to use their Express Pass to skip the Detour and head to the Pit Stop. Team A Capella and Team Volleyball both gave up on the sleds and headed to the tents. Team Las Vegas, Nick & Vicki, finished their sleds on the first run and headed to the Pit Stop. Running to the mat, Team Volleyball edged out Team A Capella and Connor & Jonathan are eliminated. Still, they're in high spirits, and accept the end of their Race singing all the way.

Final standings:
#1 – Team Surgeons – Nat & Kat – Prize: trip to Belize
#2 – Team Kentucky – Gary & Mallory
#3 – Team QVC – Brook & Claire
#4 – Team YouTube – Michael & Kevin
#5 – Jill & Thomas – used Express Pass
#6 – Nick & Vicki
#7 – Chad & Stephanie
#8 – Katie & Rachel
#9 – Connor & Jonathan – Team A Capella – PHILIMINATED

Next week – Christmas in Norway.
America on the couch - Herr Doctor Obama has decided we're paralyzed with fear. Tom Maguire "Be afraid, be very...never mind, you already are": "Still, I wonder whether telling us we're a nation of cowards for worrying about our jobs will be a winning message."
Special request - My son has a friend who made this graphic about California politics, so enjoy. Hey, they're kids.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Who's shipping jobs overseas?

WashPost, May 2009 "Under restructuring, GM to build more cars overseas": "The U.S. government is pouring billions into General Motors in hopes of reviving the domestic economy, but when the automaker completes its restructuring plan, many of the new jobs will be filled by workers overseas."

Your tax dollars, well spent, America. You're welcome, Mexico.

Related - Powerline: "Desperately seeking a message."
The entitlement quandary - Gallup reports that Americans know that spending on Social Security and Medicare will bankrupt the country, but they can't agree on how to fix the problem.

Meanwhile in France, the people are taking to the streets to protest the outrageous proposal to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.
Triage time - WSJ: "Democrats retrench as GOP pulls away."
Digging a big hole - WSJ: "Christie is right about the Hudson River Big Dig."
Man of the people person - Washington Examiner: "Jim Oberstar (D-MN) has just one donor from his district."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Money for votes

Me, a week ago: "The Social Security Administration has strict guidelines on setting cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) but, with a month before election day, get ready for some pandering and demagoguery."

Update - And other desperate moves for the election.
Nevada – I didn't see last night's Harry Reid-Sharron Angle debate but the general assessment is that Angle came out on top for one reason: Harry Reid kept portraying his opponent as an "extremist" (using the word several dozen times) such that all Angle needed to was look reasonable and she won.

Also, whining about a "low blow," Harry? That's loser talk.

Extra - Much more from Memeorandum. And here's another opinion and, what the heck, another.
Looking ahead, looking behind – Charlie Cook's latest outlook sees +47 seats for the GOP in the House and +8-9 in the Senate. Meanwhile, Charles Krauthammer has a tongue-in-cheek "Pre-election post-mortem" with some early winners and losers.
My faith in the youth of America is restored

No "boxers or briefs" questions at the MTV town hall meeting; instead we had this thoughtful query:

Mr. President, my name is Joe San Georgio (ph). I'm a senior at George Washington University. And my question is about Social Security. The Congressional Budget Office projects that Social Security could go into the red as early as 2018. And it seems to me there are only three options if we want to fix it: raise the retirement age, raise payroll taxes or reduce benefits.

I know in the past you've said that all options are on the table, but do you have a limit for what would be acceptable changes for each of those three things?
Although he doesn't address those "three things" and instead talks about the bipartisan deficit commission, Obama's pretty honest with the kids about the challenges ahead. He closes his answer with: "...we've got to deal with to make sure that we're not just leaving you guys with a mountain of debt." Good answer.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sully beclowns himself

Here's Andy in full-on worship mode:

"I want a president who can acknowledge error, is not cocooned, can speak publicly about this, and is unafraid of self-criticism. Isn't that why so many of us supported him in the first place?"
This assessment comes from the very same NY Times article that presented the following illustrations of the President. "Can acknowledge error?"

That's a refrain heard inside the White House as well: it’s a communication problem. The first refuge of any politician in trouble is that it’s a communication problem, not a policy problem. If only I explained what I was doing better, the people would be more supportive. Which roughly translates to If only you people paid attention, you wouldn’t be kicking me upside the head.
"Not cocooned?"

Insulation is a curse of every president, but more than any president since Jimmy Carter, Obama comes across as an introvert, someone who finds extended contact with groups of people outside his immediate circle to be draining.

While Clinton made late-night phone calls around Washington to vent or seek advice, Obama rarely reaches outside the tight group of advisers like Emanuel, Axelrod, Rouse, Messina, Plouffe, Gibbs and Jarrett, as well as a handful of personal friends. “He’s opaque even to us,” an aide told me. "Except maybe for a few people in the inner circle, he’s a closed book."
"Unafraid of self-criticism?"

But save the planet? If you promise to save the planet, might people think you would, you know, actually save the planet? He laughed, before shifting back to hope and inspiration. "I make no apologies for having set high expectations for myself and for the country, because I think we can meet those expectations," he said. "Now, the one thing that I will say - which I anticipated and can be tough - is the fact that in a big, messy democracy like this, everything takes time. And we’re not a culture that’s built on patience."
Lead on, Captain Awesome!

Extra - More from Commentary, Pajamas Media, and Ace who also notes Obama's penetrating "self-criticism."

More - From Krauthammer.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Obama puts on his old varsity jacket

Ah, nostalgia for the good ole days. Yesterday, President Obama headed into friendly territory at George Washington University for a "town hall" meeting, where there was little chance of those awkward "I'm tired of defending you" questions:

For Tuesday's event, which was billed as a town-hall meeting, officials solicited questions through Facebook, Twitter and Skype. An official with the Democratic National Committee said the questions that were used were selected in advance, to be integrated into the technology of the event, but were chosen to be representative of all of those submitted.
There were some zingers within that average sample, all right:

This is from Maureen in New Jersey. You'll also see it up on the screen here. And Maureen asks: "Can we inform people that the campaign slogan was ‘Yes, we can,' not ‘Yes, we can in 21 months'?" (Laughter.) "It took eight years to get us into this mess."
Pow! How about if we tee another one up for the Prez?

The question is from James in California, and he asks: "Mr. President, how best can citizens work to mitigate the effect of corporate money on elections?"
That'll...give Obama a chance to lie some more about the Chamber of Commerce. Now how about a toughie?

And my question is, what are some of the surprises that you've encountered in Washington and what lessons have you learned in your 21 months here?
Then he just sat around talkin' about the old times.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Miner UP! - The first miner trapped underground in Chile has been pulled to the surface. Florencio Avalos was first of 33 to come up. CNN has live updates here.
Call it the "Big Dig" effect

In "The Paralysis of the State," David Brooks details the "demosclerosis" that has driven a wedge between those who think government is overextended (e.g. Chris Christie canceling a tunnel project) and those who still want expensive government spending. Here's a clue that we're reaching an endgame:

New Jersey can’t afford to build its tunnel, but benefits packages for the state’s employees are 41 percent more expensive than those offered by the average Fortune 500 company. These benefits costs are rising by 16 percent a year.
According to Brooks and political scientist Daniel DiSalvo, state and municipal workers earn $14 more in pay and benefits than private-sector counterparts. Oh, and there's a fat bill coming due:

States across the nation will be paralyzed for the rest of our lives because they face unfunded pension obligations that, if counted accurately, amount to $2 trillion - or $87,000 per plan participant.
With every level of government on the hook for billions of pensions and long-term benefits, Americans are justifiably frightened not only by the current level of borrowing-and-spending but the unfunded liabilities just over the horizon. This is a problem I've been shooting up flares for as long as I've kept this blog: at some point the burden of entitlements and deficit spending will crowd out the thing we call "government."

Boston's notorious Big Dig, which was originally budgeted at $3 billion, has now cost American and Massachusetts taxpayers $22 billion. Governors like Chris Christie are facing up to the fact that a government squeezed by debt and expensive projects has to make a choice and sometimes the answer is "no."

Extra – Commentary echoes: "Unless our states free themselves from the massive debt that government unions have created, it will become increasingly difficult for government to afford the basic services they are supposed to provide, let alone money pits like the Hudson River Tunnel."
Nutty in the Nutmeg State - There's a guy I work with who absolutely insists that Linda McMahon is going to beat Richard Blumenthal to win Connecticut's open Senate seat. I'm skeptical but then, well....
Nixonian - So much for hope and change. Big Government: "President Obama's updated enemies list." You're on it, Ed Gillespie! And it looks like you're next, Anthony Romero.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Flailing - Stuart Gottlieb on Politico: "Let's put it this way: when the New York Times, Washington Post, and CBS News all declare the attacks to be without merit, something, somewhere has gone very, very wrong in Democratic Party Land." Slurpees!

More - The non-partisan FactCheck answers the call: "Accusing anybody of violating the law is a serious matter requiring serious evidence to back it up. So far Democrats have produced none."
Comics page fuss - Here in Western Massachusetts, every Sunday I pick up the Republican (Springfield) and the Boston Globe. Last Sunday (10/3) those two papers ran different versions of the comic strip "Non Sequitur" which was a little odd. Now I know why: "Cartoonist seeing red after 'Muhammad' cartoon yanked."
We're coming after you - NY Times: "GOP widens targets for picking up House seats." The House is old news: Real Clear Politics estimates that the Republicans need to win only seven out of 39 toss-ups to make John Boehner the new speaker. The Senate race is the new hotness.
Out of his depth - Time political reporter Mark Halperin has discovered, about two years too late, that Obama is "isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless" in "Why Obama is losing the political war." Don't hold your breath waiting for Obama to take responsibility for, well, anything that goes wrong in his White House or in the country. It's always somebody else's fault.

Just a couple days ago, James Carville and Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps released a study indicating that Americans were turned off by the President's incessant blame game against Bush and the Republicans. So what did Obama do yesterday? He gave the "car in the ditch" speech yet again.

You see, the problem isn't that it's a bad speech. It's that you're not listening, America.

Extra - Hot Air: "Obama's attack on Chamber of Commerce backfiring." Um...Slurpees!

More - From Q&O and P&P.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Amazing Race update – Boxing day

Here on the East Coast, TAR started an hour late thanks to the NFL. Nine teams start out in Accra, Ghana and head to the outlying town of Jamestown where they need to find a boxing academy. This is the Roadblock: one team member must punch a bag (well) for 60 seconds and jump rope (well) for another 60 seconds. Brook & Claire finish quickly and head to the next Route Marker outside town; Team Volleyball followed close behind with Chad & Stephanie on their tails. Team Surgeons are in last place since their taxi driver refuses to take them to their destination.

At the next Route Marker, teams load a wheelbarrow and deliver equipment to a school. Team A Capella finishes first and at school they need to take an African geography quiz. The two kids from Princeton can't locate the country they're in. After a couple tries, they finally find Ghana and get a clue for the Detour: Bicycle Parts or Language Arts. Teams may either roll a bicycle rim over a field or decode a series of symbols and find them on a large sign. Connor & Jonathan find their symbols and finish first at the Pit Stop nearby. Meanwhile, Nat & Kat are way behind because of taxi troubles.

The dumb teams (that is, the younger couples) can't locate Ghana on a map and, when they do, they're flustered by the Language Arts detour. Team Las Vegas do nothing but yell at each other which may be the secret to getting on the TAR but is not they key to staying on; Vicki is troubled by asthma and the running is a problem for her. At the Detour, Michael of Team YouTube succumbs to the African sun and requires medical attention to continue. He needs an extended break and Kevin & Michael finish in last place. However, this is a non-elimination leg so they get to continue although there will be a Speed Bump on the next leg.

Final standings:

#1 – Team A Capella – Connor & Jonathan – First place: Five large
#2 – Team Kentucky – Gary & Mallory
#3 – Chad & Stephanie
#4 – Katie & Rachel
#5 – Nick & Vicki
#6 – Brook & Claire
#7 – Jill & Thomas
#8 – Nat & Kat
#9 – Team YouTube - Michael & Kevin – Non-elimination leg

Next week: Sled dogs and sleds.
Alexi Giannoulias: "Sure we were loaning to criminals, but I didn't know the extent"

In somewhat of a stunning admission on "Meet the Press", Illinois senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias doesn't deny knowing that his Chicago bank loaned money to crime figures; instead he says he didn't know the "extent" of their activity. That's the Chicago way!

This reminds me a scene on "The Office" where Jim is describing his visit to Dwight's beet farm: "I just realized that this is Pam's and my first night away together. I used to play it over in my head and it was just a little bit different. Uh...I always imaged less manure. I mean some manure, just less."

Extra - More from Ace. Also, Gateway notes the warm and personal endorsement President Obama gave Alexi at a fundraiser.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Strange cars - The Truth about Cars has some pictures from the Paris Auto Show. Some of these "new" cars look like they would be at home in the Village from "The Prisoner."

Friday, October 08, 2010

Message for the under-40 crowd - Christian Science Monitor: "Social Security? Don't count on it."

Nobel Peace Prize committee, circa 2009: "This Obama fellow has captured the world's attention and we think he'll do a swell job at some future date."

David Plouffe: "If the Republicans don't win the House, Senate and every "major" governor's race, it will be a "colossal failure."
At what point does Ezra Klein's column qualify as a campaign contribution?

During the health care debate, the WashPost blogger never missed an opportunity to parrot the Obama Administration's line, regardless of the evidence. So imagine my surprise when I saw the headline "Welcome to the anti-stimulus" in response the morning news that we're still mired at 9.6% unemployment.

Zing! Damn straight, Ezra. Could it be the uncertainty in the job market brought about by Obamacare or Congress's inability to pass any appropriation bills or bring a resolution to the debate over the Bush tax cuts? How about the mismanagement of the stimulus and the paltry number of jobs it's "saved or created?" The continued mess in the housing market despite the billions in TARP money thrown at banks?

Nope. Predictable as the sun rising in the East, Ezra got his marching order from David Plouffe:

The government can't make the private sector invest. They can't demand that Wal-Mart start hiring. They can offer incentives, and tax breaks, and encouragement, but that's it. The same cannot be said when it comes to public sector jobs. The government can, if it's willing to run deficits, keep those workers employed. But Senate Republicans, alongside some conservative Democrats, have decided to make the government pro-cyclical: Rather than fighting the downturn in the business cycle, the government is now accelerating it.
As I've said before: if Obama didn't have the Republicans to blame, he'd have to invent them. He must be giddy that there are going to be more of them to whine about after November 2nd.

Conveniently missing from Ezra's reverie are concepts like: 1.) when the economy is poor, the public sector should suffer just as the private sector, 2.) it's not the federal government's job to save state and local jobs (they must balance their budgets, unlike the feds) and 3.) the deficit-expanding stimulus already channeled a big chunk of change to the states. Thankfully, a lot of the commenters took to Pound Ezra:

And this is somehow the FEDERAL senate republicans that are completely to blame?
What you are saying is that I, living in Chicago, have a duty as an American to support the local government in New York, California, Florida, Idaho, etc.
What kind of crazy land do you live in? Where in the Constitution, or federal code, or ANYWHERE does it say that there is a responsibility of the federal government to backstop local government?
And there's more in the comments section (scroll down). The WashPost should be embarrassed by Klein's blog which would find a better home over at the reality-based community of Daily Kos.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Late night prediction - I'm going to summon all my punditry power and guess that Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo will win the Nobel Peace Prize tomorrow, despite China's warning. Either that, or they give a second award to Obama.

Update (10/8) - He shoots, he scores!
"You're the dullest audience I've ever spoken to!" - Noted rabblerouser reminds a Wisconsin audience of the high unemployment rates under the Obama Administration: "Do you realize how many jobs Wisconsin lost? It's staggering!"

He may have called them "ugly cheeseheads" too, I didn't read the whole article. Heh.
That's kinda the point, chief - The Hill: "Obama warns agenda will go backwards with House GOP win." It's a feature, not a bug.
Entitlements ahoy - George Will "Sumo wresting with federal deficits": "Fixing Social Security's approaching insolvency is, Hensarling says, 'child's play' compared with dealing with Medicare and Medicaid, the primary drivers of the government's fiscal imbalance."

Related - CNN: "Social Security: No 2011 increase expected." The Social Security Administration has strict guidelines on setting cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) but, with a month before election day, get ready for some pandering and demagoguery.
Second verse, same as the first

Obama's speech today...and yesterday...and tomorrow:

That's the choice in this election. That's what's at stake right now. So, [state in which Obama's speaking], it comes down to this: A lot of folks running in the other party, these are the exact same people who spent the last decade driving this economy into a ditch. And so, for the last 20 months, me and [politicians from said state] and all these folks, we have gotten down into the ditch, put on our boots. We're down there. It's hot. We were sweating. Bugs everywhere. (Applause.) We're down there pushing, pushing, pushing on the car. Every once in a while we'd look up and see the Republicans standing there. They're just standing there fanning themselves -- (laughter) -- sipping on a Slurpee. (Laughter.) And we'd say, "Come on down and help." They'd say, "No, that's all right." (Laughter.) They say, "You're not pushing the right way. You got to push faster."
Hey, I have a joke:

"Knock knock"
"Who's there"
"It's the Republicans, can we have the keys back?"
"Yeah, well, um, pretty sure we're gonna get those keys back."

Extra - Video of enthusiastic person at Maryland rally.
I will not prejudge MTV's casting call for Obama's town hall meeting - If a single kid asks a question about the debt burden being placed on the next generation. Make me proud!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Profiles in fiscal courage

Reason reviews the Administration's efforts to cut debt: "Obama: Fiscal situation 'untenable'"
There you have it. The 47 smartest economists around the president of the United States agree that the best way to solve the "untenable fiscal situation" is to boost education spending, weatherize homes, throw more bad money after bad in the housing market, more bad money after bad in the Small Business Administration, and maybe (though only over the president's dead body) freeze all taxes for two years. That oughtta tenabilize it.
Robert Samuelson used to (and still does) advocate for the eliminiation of federal subsidies for Amtrak. It's not that these subsidies are expensive, it's that Amtrak is a symbol of a questionable government program (subsidizing train riders) perpetuated by inertia and a powerful union. If we can't make Joe Biden pay full price for his Northeast Corridor ticket, there's simply no hope we'll ever be able to cut anything meaningful to battle the deficit.

Extra - Shorter Ben Bernanke: "We're boned."
Lots of "I'm dead in Chicago" jokes - Twitter feed: "Why I'm voting Democrat." (H/T Ace.)
Dealing with the deficit – Veronique de Rugy has a graph showing the cost of spending and extending the Bush tax cuts over the next ten years. Some people (like me) think we should focus on that column on the left; Obama thinks the sliver on the right is the problem.
Predicted White House spin: "Medicare more popular than ever!" – Hot Air: "3M to dump retirees from medical coverage."
We have a winner! – Reason: "The worst column of the year." Protein Wisdom has some additional thoughts on the WashPost's Richard Cohen's aggressively dumb thumbsucker.

Monday, October 04, 2010

And then there are the states - Christian Science Monitor: "A day of reckoning for public pensions - The bills are due, the coffers are empty."
Youth is wasted on the young

Writing in the Weekly Standard, Yuval Levin beat me to an article that's been forming in my head for a while: why do younger voters cling to Obama when he's saddling the next generation with incalculable debt and future obligations? Readers of this blog will recognize these concerns in "The War on the Young":

To begin with, the debt we are amassing will have to be shouldered by the young throughout their working lives. President Obama has added nearly $3 trillion to that debt in his first two years in office (after his predecessor had added more than $4 trillion in his eight years). And Obama’s budget would add a total of more than $11 trillion over just the next decade. By the time today’s young workers are at the peak of their working lives, America’s national debt will equal more than 200 percent of our GDP (up from roughly 60 percent today), according to the Congressional Budget Office. Today’s young voters will be left with the bill, but without many of the benefits of that spending.

That is because our entitlement system, which transfers immense amounts of money from the young to the old, cannot be sustained. Welfare states are always built on the backs of the young, and some degree of age-based wealth transfer is reasonable, as able-bodied workers help older people who can no longer work. But to sustain themselves, and to avoid suffocating the larger society, such entitlement programs must take care to allow young workers to build wealth, and to start families of their own.
This is a theme that Mark Steyn explored in "America Alone." The birthrates in Europe and Japan continue to decline at the very pivot point in history when governments are more dependent on young workers to pay for an aging society. This goes back to a very simple premise: when you make things too expensive (raising a family) people will stop doing it.
Memo to Amazon - Thank you for the recommendations of Richard Scarry books and the "Magic Tree House" series. I did purchase those books in the past...when my kids were in grade school! Please note that when kids get older, they're not so enthralled with "Goodnight Moon" anymore.
Crowded house - Everybody who's eligible to run for mayor of Chicago, please step forward. Not so fast, Rahm!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Amazing Race update – Back to Africa

Well since my readership has dwindled into the triple-digits, I need to diversify my content. So it's back to Amazing Race updates! Yay! I missed last week's season premiere so here's the quick update: teams went from Gloucester, MA to London, England then Stonehenge then Eastnor Castle. There was only one black team and they were eliminated in the first leg when they got hopelessly lost; the remaining teams are decidedly white. The team that came in first received the "Express Pass" – a new feature that allows the team to skip any challenge (Detour, Roadblock, etc.) if they get stuck. I think this is a pretty cool addition to the Race since there have been many times where teams simply cannot finish a task and end up eliminated.

This week, the ten remaining teams headed out from jolly old England to Accra, Ghana. From the airport, teams took taxis (which all appear to have cracked windshields) to a monument honoring Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of Ghanan independence.

This clue led teams to a marketplace and the Roadblock: one team member needed to sell about $10 worth of sunglasses. One team (Brook and Claire) are hosts of a television shopping channel and put their bubbly personalities in play to sell glasses and leave in first place.

After the market, teams hit the Detour: Tune In or Check Out. Tune In involved setting up a television antenna while Check Out required teams to move a novelty coffin from one place to another. There didn't seem to be anything particular difficult about either task although the self-named Team Glee (a capella singers from Princeton) switched off the antenna Detour for the coffins. After completing the detour, teams headed off for the Pit Stop at the massive Kaneshie Market.

Team QVC, who jumped out to a lead at the sunglass Roadblock, finished first. Meanwhile, Team Kentucky, Team Surgeons, and Team New Mom all had taxi drivers who took them to the wrong part of town, so it looked like one of these teams was heading home. Sure enough, the newly reunited birth mother and adopted daughter team of Andie & Jenna couldn't overcome their multiple tasks and a bad cab driver and were eliminated.

Final results:

#1 – Team QVC – Brook & Claire
#2 – Team Volleyball – Katie & Rachel
#3 – Team YouTube – Michael & Kevin
(six other teams)
Eliminated – Team New Mom – Andie & Jenna

Next week – Tempers flare in the African sun.

In case you missed it – The watermelon recoil from the season premiere, otherwise known as the "Amazing Face - shot."
That's why I say: "Hey man, nice shot."
Take off your baseball caps - Christian Science Monitor: "US issues travel alert for Americans in Europe."

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Slow news day - I took my kids to the Catamount Rope Courses today. The weather was beautiful but my knees were crying mercy by the end of the day. On the drive home, I finished "The Management Myth" by Matthew Stewart.
Funny, she doesn't look Druish - CNN: "Britain recognizes Druidry as a religion."

Friday, October 01, 2010

Can't keep your coverage - Opinion Journal: "Healthamburglar - McDonalds meets Obamacare."
I don't remember ordering this - Megan McArdle has the latest fun: a receipt for what an average taxpayer is paying for in the federal government. The idea is that Americans want to cut spending but they don't realize what great stuff they're getting.

Top three on the receipt are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and Megan raises a salient point about support for these programs: "Isn't it possible that widespread support for programs like Social Security and Medicare rests on the fact that most people don't realize just how big a portion of your paycheck those programs consume?"

Nearly one-fifth of the taxpayer's "bill" goes to Social Security. What would Joe Sixpack think about these regular payments into a program that will go belly-up before he has a chance to collect his promised benefits? Maybe Joe would say he'd rather keep his own money.
You and me both, buddy - Obama: "I'd appreciate a little break."