Friday, October 31, 2008

Don't Ask Me No Questions

Both sides are doing it. First, Sarah Palin:
Palin told WMAL-AM that her criticism of Obama’s associations, like those with 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, should not be considered negative attacks. Rather, for reporters or columnists to suggest that it is going negative may constitute an attack that threatens a candidate’s free speech rights under the Constitution, Palin said.

“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”
So...criticism is a threat to the First Amendment? I'm no fan of the MSM, but this makes no sense. Then there's Obama.
The Obama campaign has decided to heave out three newspapers from its plane for the final days of its blitz across battleground states—and all three endorsed Sen. John McCain for president!

The NY POST, WASHINGTON TIMES and DALLAS MORNING NEWS have all been told to move out by Sunday to make room for network bigwigs—and possibly for the inclusion of reporters from two black magazines, ESSENCE and JET, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
Harry Truman once said that if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Unfortunately, today's politicians seem to have forgotten that you need a thick skin to go for the brass ring.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Surfing With The Alien

I guess it was bound to happen:
In a shocking reversal with major implications for the U.S. presidential election, political kingmaker, the Alien has switched his endorsement from Barack Obama to John McCain amid furor. Both political camps are buzzing about the implications, as the Alien has correctly predicted the winning president in every election for the past 28 years.
Well, maybe not this time. Still, McCain needs all the help he can get.

Gun Shy

Politico wants to know why McCain is staying away from an issue that could help him:
The Washington Post on Monday reported that while Americans are cutting back on purchasing some items because of a bad economy, purchases of “firearms and ammunition have risen 8 to 10 percent this year, according to state and federal data.”

One reason, the articles says, may be fear “that if Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois wins the presidency, he will join with fellow Democrats in Congress to enact new gun controls.”

But has McCain really exploited this? McCain did make a speech to the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance on Sept. 28, in which he did whack Obama over guns, but the speech did not get a lot of coverage and I don’t recall McCain devoting much time to the issue since.

True, the NRA is running its own ads against Obama, but voters expect that. Where are the McCain ads, lending his voice to this issue?
It may be because McCain realizes that Obama will not send the police out to round up every firearm. But this has never really been an issue in the campaign anyway. If the Supreme Court is any indication, it won't be in the future. Liberals won't like it, but the 2nd Amendment will most likely survive an Obama administration.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dawkins Versus Dumbledore

Professional atheist gadfly Richard Dawkins is concerned about that old black magic.
The 67-year-old, who recently resigned from his position at Oxford University, says he intends to look at the effects of 'bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards'.

'I think it is anti-scientific - whether that has a pernicious effect, I don't know,' he told More4 News.

'Looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something for research.'

However, the outspoken atheist said he hadn't even read Harry Potter and admitted he 'didn't know what to think about magic and fairytales'.
I agree with him about the irrational and unscientific part-after all, we have a VP candidate whose preacher protects her from witchcraft-but sometimes atheists can go a bit too far in putting logic over magic. After all, imagination is a part of being a kid.

From The Big House To The State House

There may be some twisted logic to this:
If Ted Stevens, who was found guilty on Monday of filing false Senate financial disclosure forms, is defeated in next week's election, he will be replaced by his Democratic opponent, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. But if he wins and then resigns, there will be a special election that a Republican might win.

Here's another scenario: Stevens is re-elected and refuses to resign, forcing his colleagues to vote on whether to expel him. They can muster only 66 votes, one shy of the two-thirds majority required. Stevens continues to serve in the Senate while serving his prison term, which he completes in 2011 or so, and is re-elected in 2014, when he turns 90. I'm no Stevens fan, but for sheer entertainment value this could be the best thing to come out of this year's election.
At least when he's 90 Stevens would probably be too old to do any more damage. But you never know.

Final Pitch

What McCain and Obama's boil down to, respictively:
Obama would coddle Castro....Joe the Plumber is good....America needs a new energy policy...the LA Times coddles the PLO and Obama ...McCain has the support of experienced military leaders....Obama would govern leftward with Pelosi and Reid....the pundits are wrong....
....

McCain=Bush and more of the same.
Desperation versus consistency? In this instance, desperation most likely loses.

Shoot The Handler, Not The Buyer

It's always someone else's fault:
Palin has taken to blaming the entire ['clothing'] incident – as well as her introduction to the nation – on her “handlers,” presumably meaning Nicolle Wallace ... McCain allies say that Palin allies talked to Fox News commentator Fred Barnes to further throw Wallace under the bus. Barnes yesterday said, “the person who went and bought the clothes and, as I understand it put the clothes on her credit card, went to Saks and Neiman Marcus...the staffer who did that has been a coward” for not coming forward and accepting the blame for the $150,000 shopping spree. Barnes clarified that he was talking about Wallace.
That's funny, nobody seemed to mind when it was all in the name of campaigning.

Bloggin' In The Years: 1992

Has the fat lady sung? Not yet, according to Team Bush and its friends in the Keystone State.
Elsie Hillman of Pittsburgh, a longtime Republican National Committeewoman from Pennsylvania, pooh-poohed the pessimists in her party with the comment, "I think we're going to surprise everyone again and carry this state." She sees Mr. Perot, who made one of his few campaign speeches in Pittsburgh last weekend, splitting the anti-Bush vote and pulling as much as 20 percent of the total.

"In 1988, they wrote us off," she said. "President Reagan never came into the western part of the state to campaign for Bush, and we had no advertising to speak of. It was dead again this year until the last debate. Until then, people didn't think the President had any fire in his tummy, but now they sense he's caught fire."

Gov. Robert P. Casey, a Democrat, said that Mr. Clinton still "has to be favored in Pennsylvania, overwhelmingly." But he added that "something is definitely happening out there, and he's losing ground, because Bush has succeded in framing the end-game issue, not as jobs but as trust and taxes."

A major problem for Mr. Clinton, the Governor said, was the widespread suggestion earlier this month that a Clinton landslide was imminent. Talk like that, he said, "makes it hard to get your traction --

"Talking about landslides and mandates is the political equivalent of talking to the pitcher about his no-hitter in the bottom of the ninth," Mr. Casey said. "You have to run hard until the last possible minute."
Agreed, but Bush seems to have run his course before the race is done. Of course, anything could happen over the next few days, but right now this is the pot-smoking, draft-dodging Governor's to lose.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Some Friendly Advice

Ross Douthat has some words of warning for conservatives:
Whatever direction you think conservatism should be going in from here on out, the absolute worst thing the members of a losing political movement can do - if they ever want to win again, at least - is attempt to pre-emptively close off debate about the movement's future. Conservatives need to have arguments, not promise excommunications, or else pretty soon there won't be very much worth arguing over.
Good advice. But the question is, will activist conservatives listen?

Baby You Can Buy My Car

What hath bailouts wrought?
General Motors and Cerberus Capital Management have asked the U.S. government for roughly $10 billion in an unprecedented rescue package to support a merger between GM and Chrysler, two sources with direct knowledge of the talks said on Monday.

The government funding would include roughly $3 billion in exchange for preferred stock in the merged automaker, according to one of the sources, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The U.S. Treasury Department is considering a request for direct aid to facilitate the merger and a decision could come this week, sources familiar with the still-developing government response said earlier on Monday.

An injection of $3 billion in equity to support a GM acquisition of Chrysler would be roughly equivalent to the current, depressed value of the top U.S. automaker.
Apparently you can't be too big to fail. But what about companies that might be too small to save? Isn't everyone entitled to corporate welfare these days?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bloggin' In The Years: 1960

So Nixon and Kennedy are no longer on speaking terms? What are they going to do, stick their tongues out at each other until election day?

Roadkill Buffett

I'm kind of surprised this doesn't happen more often in my neck of the woods:
Health officials shut down a suburban Buffalo restaurant after an inspector found employees butchering a dead deer inside the business. Erie County Health Department officials said they got a tip Friday about a dead deer in the China King restaurant in the town of Hamburg, just south of Buffalo.

An inspector soon arrived and saw the deer being butchered in the kitchen.

State health laws prohibit butchering an animal inside a restaurant.

Officials don't know whether the deer had been killed by a hunter or a vehicle. They said there was no indication the deer meat was served to any customers.
Roadkill. It's what's for dinner...

Old Nukes

What should we do about our elderly nuclear arsenal?
Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants the next president to think about what nuclear middle-age and decline means for national security. Gates joins a growing debate about the reliability and future credibility of the American arsenal.

Gates is expected to call for increased commitment to preserving the deterrent value of atomic weapons.

The stockpile now serves mainly to make any other nation think twice about developing or using even a crude nuclear device of its own. But at the same time, international efforts to contain the spread of such weapons look ineffective.
It's definitely a valid concern, for safety and other reasons.

Get A Job, Ya Bums

Economic reality may kill the desire for online freelancing.
It will result in the rise of online media businesses that reward their contributors with cash; it will mean the success of Knol over Wikipedia, Mahalo over Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), TheAtlantic.com over the HuffingtonPost.com, iTunes over MySpace, Hulu over YouTube Inc. , Playboy.com over Voyeurweb.com, TechCrunch over the blogosphere, CNN’s professional journalism over CNN’s iReporter citizen-journalism... The hungry and cold unemployed masses aren’t going to continue giving away their intellectual labor on the Internet in the speculative hope that they might get some 'back end' revenue. 'Free' doesn’t fill anyone’s belly; it doesn’t warm anyone up.
Hard times hit everyone. But a free market can still provide solutions. Welcome to capitalism, Web style.

From Tubes To Bars

Ted Stevens, you're done.
A jury found U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska guilty Monday of all seven counts in his federal corruption trial.

The jury found Stevens guilty of “knowingly and willfully” scheming to conceal on Senate disclosure forms more than $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts from an Alaska-based oil industry contractor.

Stevens faces a maximum sentence of up to to 35 years in prison—five years for each of the seven counts.

Legal experts note the judge has the discretion to give Stevens as little as no jail time and probation when he is sentenced.
It couldn't have happened to a nicer scumbag.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sick At The Top

Ima Dinnerjacket is apparently feeling poorly these days.:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has fallen ill due to his heavy workload, a close associate told the Iranian state news agency late Saturday, as doubts surface about whether he will run for another term.

Parliament member Mohammad Ismail Kowsari, an ally of the president, told IRNA that Ahmadinejad is feeling under the weather because of the strain of his position.

"The president will eventually get well and continue his job," said Kowsari, who last September accompanied the president on his trip to the U.N. General Assembly. "Every human being can face exhaustion under such a workload."
I wonder if he'll join Mini Me and Castro in "Retirement". Being a dictator is hard work, after all.

A Beer A Day

Homer Simpson was right: There is literally nothing it cannot do:
A team of researchers at Rice University in Houston is working to create a beer that could fight cancer and heart disease. Taylor Stevenson, a member of the six-student research team and a junior at Rice, said the team is using genetic engineering to create a beer that includes resveratrol, the disease-fighting chemical that’s been found in red wine.
A beer gut as a sign of being cancer-free? I love the age in which we live.

Too Large To Save

Jerry Pournelle asks a question with regards to corporate socialism:
Pure capitalism leads to business cycles, in which the low point is generally better (in terms of standard of living) than Socialism (and certainly preferable to Communism, if only because the low points in a business cycle are considerably shorter than the reign of the bureaucrats in either Socialist or Communist states, even if the Communism has a human face, which it seldom does. . . . One does wonder whether the efficiency of having a few very large financial institutions outweighs the cost of the disasters that ensue when a Black Swan appears; whether it might not be better to have, instead of one institution so large that it justifies paying its top executives $100 million a year, one hundred such institutions paying executives $1 million a year? Certainly this would be less efficient. The highs would not be as high. But would the lows be as low? Why must there be institutions so large that they cannot be permitted to fail, and must be rescued by the common purse?
When you get too big for your britches, why should the rest of us pay for you to get a new pair of britches? Why, indeed.

States We Can Believe In

A point by point plan on how McCain can keep his chances alive in the time he has left.
1. Give-Ups. McCain should concede Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

2. Offensive Targets. McCain should remain engaged in New Hampshire and New Mexico.

3. Defensive Targets. Some reasonably vigorous defense is required in Viginia, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio and North Carolina.

4. Gambles. McCain should limit his activity in Florida, Missouri and Indiana, and hope a national surge of some kind brings those states back into his column.
One cannot live on Pennsylvania alone, and McCain needs to redeploy his resources if he doesn't want to go down like the Titanic.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"What's Wrong, Dave?"

In space, nobody can hear your therapy sessions.
scientists are working on giving a computer the ability to offer some of the understanding guidance - if not all the warmth - of a human therapist, before psychological problems or interpersonal conflicts compromise a mission.

Clinical tests on the four-year, $1.74 million project for NASA, called the Virtual Space Station, are expected to begin in the Boston area by next month.

The new program is nothing like science fiction's infamous HAL, the onboard artificial intelligence that goes awry in '2001: A Space Odyssey.' The Virtual Space Station's interaction between astronaut and computer is far less sophisticated and far more benevolent.

In the project, sponsored by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, a recorded video therapist guides astronauts through a widely used depression therapy called 'problem-solving treatment.'

The recording helps astronauts identify reasons for their depression. Then the program helps them make a plan to fight the depression, based on the descriptions the astronauts type in about their problems.
I agree that this is an important step forward. Ship's Counselor applications, anyone?

Son Of New Deal

Trying to stay relevant, John Kerry argues for old-school intervention:
The nation’s battered economy needs an old-fashioned “Rooseveltian lift” of regulatory reforms and government spending on the infrastructure, clean energy and other sectors, U.S. Sen. John Kerry said yesterday.

Kerry, facing a re-election challenge from Republican Jeff Beatty, rejected GOP calls for more tax rebates to stimulate the economy, as was done last spring.

“I am for a stimulus package. I am not for a stimulus package that just sends out checks,” said Kerry at a Boston Herald editorial meeting yesterday.
Hmm, isn't that just what Democrats want to do?

You Can't Handle The Verifiability

Simson Garfunkle explains one of the main problems with the encyclopedia that anyone can edit.
Unlike the laws of mathematics or science, wikitruth isn’t based on principles such as consistency or observability. It’s not even based on common sense or firsthand experience. Wikipedia has evolved a radically different set of epistemological standards–standards that aren’t especially surprising given that the site is rooted in a Web-based community, but that should concern those of us who are interested in traditional notions of truth and accuracy. On Wikipedia, objective truth isn’t all that important, actually. What makes a fact or statement fit for inclusion is that it appeared in some other publication–ideally, one that is in English and is available free online. “The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth,” states Wikipedia’s official policy on the subject.
Truth seems to be a lost cause on much of the Internet these days all around...

Say It Ain't So, O

Did Obama supporters try to dig into Joe The Plumber's background?
State and local officials are investigating if state and law-enforcement computer systems were illegally accessed when they were tapped for personal information about 'Joe the Plumber.' . . .

Public records requested by The Dispatch disclose that information on Wurzelbacher's driver's license or his sport-utility vehicle was pulled from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles database three times shortly after the debate.

Information on Wurzelbacher was accessed by accounts assigned to the office of Ohio Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers, the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency and the Toledo Police Department.
It was bad enough when Bush and co. did this stuff. It's disappointing if Team Obama is just rehearsing for their turn.

Money, Money, Money

Brother, can you spare Obama a few trillion?
Excluding the Obama health plan, the NTUF estimates that Mr. Obama would raise spending by $611.5 billion over the next five years; the 10-year total (aside from health) would surely exceed $1.4 trillion, because spending typically grows at least as quickly as nominal GDP.

A trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

Altogether, Mr. Obama is promising at least $4.3 trillion of increased spending and reduced tax revenue from 2009 to 2018 -- roughly an extra $430 billion a year by 2012-2013.
How is he going to pay for it?
Good question. Unfortunately, it's one we most likely won't get a straight answer on.

Let Them Eat Landlines

If you're starving in North Korea, keep it to yourself.
North Korea is clamping down on mobile phones and long distance telephone calls to prevent the spread of news about a worsening food crisis, according to the United Nations investigator on human rights for the isolated communist country.

In a report to the UN General Assembly, Vitit Muntarbhorn, a Thai law professor who has never been allowed to visit North Korea, said that its government is using public executions as a means of intimidating the population, and using spies to infiltrate and expose religious communities.

His report came two days after the World Food Programme said that two thirds of North Koreans do not have enough to eat, in the country’s worst crisis since as many as three million people died of famine a decade ago.
I assume Mini Me will send up smoke signals if he wants aid.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"We Can't Do This To Us!"

Obama hasn't won yet, but the Republicans already seem to be crying "No Mas!"
Top Republican officials have let it be known they are distressed about McCain’s organization. Coordination between the McCain campaign and Republican National Committee, always uneven, is now nearly dysfunctional, with little high-level contact and intelligence-sharing between the two.

“There is no communication,” lamented one top Republican. “It drives you crazy.”

At his Northern Virginia headquarters, some McCain aides are already speaking of the campaign in the past tense. Morale, even among some of the heartiest and most loyal staffers, has plummeted. And many past and current McCain advisers are warring with each other over who led the candidate astray.

One well-connected Republican in the private sector was shocked to get calls and resumes in the past few days from what he said were senior McCain aides — a breach of custom for even the worst-off campaigns.

“It’s not an extraordinarily happy place to be right now,” said one senior McCain aide. “I’m not gonna lie. It’s just unfortunate.”

“If you really want to see what ‘going negative’ is in politics, just watch the back-stabbing and blame game that we’re starting to see,” said Mark McKinnon, the ad man who left the campaign after McCain wrapped up the GOP primary. “And there’s one common theme: Everyone who wasn’t part of the campaign could have done better.”

“The cake is baked,” agreed a former McCain strategist. “We’re entering the finger-pointing and positioning-for-history part of the campaign. It’s every man for himself now.”
Personally, I won't be writing any formal obituaries for the Straight Talk Express until the last vote has been counted, but at this point the Fat Lady seems to be warming up backstage.

Long Division

The good news: Most people still prefer divided government.
There is one question in the poll where Republicans did better than Democrats, who probably will still control Congress after the election. Voters were asked whether it would be better to have a Democratic president working with the Democratic-controlled Congress to get things done, or to have a Republican president keeping Congress in check. Forty percent of those surveyed said a Republican president would be better; 32 percent chose a Democratic president.
The bad news (for Republicans, anyway): More people prefer one nation under Obama.
But the results were different when the question about divided government was posed another way. When voters were asked whether they preferred for Obama to be president and work with a Democratic Congress or for McCain to be a check on the Democratic Congress, Obama narrowly won, 49 percent to 44 percent.
I don't know why they think a Democratic-controlled government would be any better than the Republican one we had for six years, but I guess it shows how far the GOP's fortunes have fallen that people have lost this much respect for them. Will four years be enough to turn things around?

It's Hard To Be A Big Government Pimp

Where's Milton Friedman when you need him?
Is there better irony than an imprudent Washington 'investing' about a trillion dollars of debt funded tax money into the banking system and telling them how to run a business?

The same federal government confiscated the Mustang Ranch bordello in Nevada in the 90s and then promptly ran it into bankruptcy. If the feds cannot make a profit in a monopoly business of selling sex and booze, my guess is the complexities of banking will totally perplex them—especially when they have to follow the convoluted regulations they themselves impose.
Well, if it made sense, Government wouldn't do it. This stuff was around long before Obama came along and I doubt either he or McCain would be able to undo it in four short years.

Liar, Liar

Well looky here:
Pittsburgh police said a 20-year-old woman who originally said she was robbed and assaulted at knifepoint in Bloomfield because of her political views made the story up.

Ashley Todd -- who has a backward letter 'B' scratched into her right cheek -- confessed to faking the story and will be charged with filing a false report, Assistant Police Chief Maurita Bryant said at a news conference Friday.

Todd, of College Station, Texas, admitted there was no robbery or attacker and said she had prior mental health problems, according to Bryant.
There are already enough crazies on the left who would do something like this. McCain doesn't need help from the nuts who claim to be on his side.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Green Patrol

To paraphrase Sting, they'll be sniffing you:
"Essential surveillance kit for the new green police: the Energy Saving Partnership has taken out a patent on Heatseekers, thermo-imaging vehicles which, at full potential, have the capacity to identify 1,000 properties an hour, or 5,000 properties a night, that are leaking carbon. 'Once the property has been scanned, a dedicated team of energy advisers will visit householders to show them the thermal image scan of their homes,' says Inspector Knock-on-the-Door."
First they came for the non-recyclers, and I said I wasn't a non-recycler. Then they came for the non-hybrid users, and I said I was not a non-hybrid user. Then they came for the carbon leakers, and I realized there wasn't anyone else left.

McBush Basher

Better late than never:
"Spending, the conduct of the war in Iraq for years, growth in the size of government, larger than any time since the Great Society, laying a $10 trillion debt on future generations of America, owing $500 billion to China, obviously, failure to both enforce and modernize the [financial] regulatory agencies that were designed for the 1930s and certainly not for the 21st century, failure to address the issue of climate change seriously," Mr. McCain said in an interview with The Washington Times aboard his campaign plane en route from New Hampshire to Ohio.
It's nice for him to remember that he's not running for a third term for Bush. But he should have remembered it earlier.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Don't Know Much About The Economy

Economists, educate thyselves:
Economists ought to admit that we do not know much about what is going on today. Neither do the Fed Chairman and the Treasury Secretary. Of course, the market demand is for 'strong' leaders and for 'strong' economists, who can fool the public into believing that they have great knowledge. The ones who do this best are those who have fooled themselves.
Self-delusion has become an art form when it comes to the economy. It's tough enough for the average person to wade through the waters without the supposed experts muddying them up.

Saved By Sam

The evil Wal Mart may save us from bad Chinese exports.
Mike Duke, vice chairman of Wal-Mart's international division, said the company is expecting 'greater transparency...from our supplier partners' [in China] beginning next month.

They will be required to 'tell us the name and location of every factory they use to make the products we sell,' according to Duke's prepared remarks delivered at a company conference in Beijing. 'Essentially, we expect you to ask the tough questions, to give us the answers and, if there's a problem, to own the solution.'

Wal-Mart will apply the new standards to apparel first and eventually use them on all its products, Duke said. No other details were given.
Who says responsible capitalism is dead?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Movin' On Up

Kerry Howley, writing in response to a study of work-related migration patterns in developing countries, sums up why a "Brain drain" can be a good thing:
As it turns out, human beings do not seek education purely for the betterment of their eternal souls. People locked in poor countries do not fail to invest years studying theoretical physics because they lack the appropriate imaginative capacity. If no one can afford to hire a cardiologist, no sane person is going to waste a decade studying to be one. Mobility transforms a questionable investment into one worth making.
Why stay poor if you can avoid it? Nowadays many are, much to the chagrin of Western liberals.

Here Come De Judges

A look at when Supreme Court Justices should act as opposed to when they shouldn't.
When the legislative or executive branch exceeds its legitimate enumerated powers, the courts have the authority, indeed the duty, to declare that exercise of power unconstitutional. Deference in the face of excesses by the political branches, coupled with an allegiance to precedent, through a cramped interpretation of the Constitution, means that conservatives are rarely willing to overrule prior cases, leaving entrenched the very foundations of the regulatory and redistributive states they rail against. In practice, judicial restraint has mutated into judicial passivism, with a predictable result: more government power and fewer constitutionally protected individual rights.
The fact of the matter is, there are people on both sides who want activist judges for their own pet causes. But the Constitution is what it is and wasn't written to play favorites when it came to the Supreme Court. Some people seem to have forgotten that.

Club Saudi

Are they the worst of the worst? Not according to the Saudis, whose justice system isn't exactly what we'd consider enlightened.
Almost a quarter of the Guantánamo detainees who have been released have been sent back to Saudi Arabia. Facing a substantial threat from terrorism in their own country, the Saudi authorities have been rigorous—some might say harsh—in imprisoning and punishing any terrorist deemed a danger. Yet in new statistics provided to us by the Ministry of Interior in Riyadh, zero of the 121 Guantánamo detainees received by the Saudis were deemed dangerous and ineligible for release.
Well, clearly they just support the terrorists. I mean, it couldn't be for mundane reasons like lack of real evidence against these people, could it?

Son Of Bush?

Larison makes a valid point, IMO:
...what is worrisome is that Obama, already perfectly hawkish and interventionist on his own, will feel compelled to take even harder lines and be even more confrontational than he would otherwise be in order to demonstrate that he is not the weak, accommodating President that Peters et al. are making him out to be. Having learned nothing from the Bush years, these critics may box Obama in and lead him to take positions that are more aggressive even than those of Mr. Bush to secure his “credibility” on national security.
In these times, it wouldn't be too hard to imagine an otherwise well-intentioned Obama trying to overcompensate. Hopefully he'd be smart enough to avoid the trap, but you never know.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Grading Time

The Cato Institute has issued a report card on the spending habits of American governors. Their findings?
Three governors were awarded an 'A' in this report card – Charlie Crist of Florida, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Eight governors were awarded an 'F' – Martin O'Malley of Maryland, Ted Kulongoski of Oregon, Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, Chet Culver of Iowa, Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Bob Riley of Alabama, Jodi Rell of Connecticut, and C. L. 'Butch' Otter of Idaho.

Republican governors, on average, received slightly higher grades than Democratic governors. More importantly, there has been a disappointing lack of major spending reforms among governors of both parties in recent years.
I suppose the good news is that there are still some Republicans who understand fiscal common sense. They're just not in Washington these days.

Hung Out To Dry

Keeping your kid green isn's as easy as it seems, after all:
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has instructed civil servants not to publicise the conclusions of the £50,000 nappy research project and to adopt a “defensive” stance towards its conclusions....

To reduce the impact of cloth nappies on climate change parents would have to hang wet nappies out to dry all year round, keep them for years for use on younger children, and make sure the water in their washing machines does not exceed 60C.
Chin up, Mum. Your yard may stink but at least it would be environmentally friendly, eh what?

The Pure Principle

Jacob Weisberg has some unkind words for liberetarians in writing about the economic crisis.
Utopians of the right, libertarians are just as convinced [as Marxists were after the fall of communism] that their ideas have yet to be tried, and that they would work beautifully if we could only just have a do-over of human history. Like all true ideologues, they find a way to interpret mounting evidence of error as proof that they were right all along.

...

The best thing you can say about libertarians is that because their views derive from abstract theory, they tend to be highly principled and rigorous in their logic. Those outside of government at places like the Cato Institute and Reason magazine are just as consistent in their opposition to government bailouts as to the kind of regulation that might have prevented one from being necessary. "Let failed banks fail" is the purist line. This approach would deliver a wonderful lesson in personal responsibility, creating thousands of new jobs in the soup-kitchen and food-pantry industries.

The worst thing you can say about libertarians is that they are intellectually immature, frozen in the worldview many of them absorbed from reading Ayn Rand novels in high school.
While it is true that many libertarians (including those like me who consider themselves right-of-center libertarians) believe that bad businesses should fail, it does not make all libertarians as rigid as their left-wing counterparts (although some are). Libertarianism at its core is basic conservatism of the kind that the Republican Party used to follow. Most honest libertarians are more than willing to concede when they are wrong. I'm afraid the same can't be said for journalists.

"It's Only Welfare When They Do It"

John McCain goes after Obama's tax plans:
Senator Obama claims that wants to give a tax break to the middle class, but not only did he vote for higher taxes on the middle class in the Senate, his plan gives away your tax dollars to those who don't pay taxes. That's not a tax cut, that's welfare.
More liberal tax-and-spend, right? But how does McCain propose to pay for this?
I will provide every single American family with a $5000 refundable tax credit to help them purchase insurance. Workers who already have health care insurance from their employers will keep it and have more money to cover costs.
Granted, McCain's health care plan is actually preferable from a conservative standpoint. But part of his message has been a populist one that has also criticized "The wealthy," just in different ways. One man's welfare is another man's tax break, I suppose.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Short Arm Of The Law

It must be a sign of the times.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is struggling to find enough agents and resources to investigate criminal wrongdoing tied to the country’s economic crisis, according to current and former bureau officials.

The bureau slashed its criminal investigative work force to expand its national security role after the Sept. 11 attacks, shifting more than 1,800 agents, or nearly one-third of all agents in criminal programs, to terrorism and intelligence duties. Current and former officials say the cutbacks have left the bureau seriously exposed in investigating areas like white-collar crime, which has taken on urgent importance in recent weeks because of the nation’s economic woes.

The pressure on the F.B.I. has recently increased with the disclosure of criminal investigations into some of the largest players in the financial collapse, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The F.B.I. is planning to double the number of agents working financial crimes by reassigning several hundred agents amid a mood of national alarm. But some people inside and out of the Justice Department wonder where the agents will come from and whether they will be enough.

So depleted are the ranks of the F.B.I.’s white-collar investigators that executives in the private sector say they have had difficulty attracting the bureau’s attention in cases involving possible frauds of millions of dollars.
Between the crooks on Wall Street and the crooks in office, I'd say the Feds have their hands full either way.

The Anti-Wright

Why does Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama matter for Obama? Because of who Powell isn't as much as who he is.
Politically Powell disinfects Obama from the Wright and Ayers and other assorted stains he picked up this year. You might get an e-mail claiming Obama is a terrorist, but if Colin Powell says he isn't, well, that e-mail is probably a hoax. If all Powell does is knock back McCain for a day or two, then, as Mark Halperin points out, that's 20 to 25 percent of the remaining news cycles before election day that he's lost. Expect them to spin something like how they'd rather have Joe the Plumber's endorsement than that of Colin Powell. Spin like that will turn Joe from a political asset to the latest McCain gimmick.

The Powell endorsement shouldn't be all good for Obama. Powell's tenure at State was, in retrospect, a disaster. Obama's rise began when he gave an anti-Iraq War speech. Powell's career started spiralling when he made the case for war at the United Nations. But Powell is still a folk hero because of the narrative that's been spun since them. You get a good example of it in Oliver Stone's W., which I saw last night, and which portrays Powell as a fallen saint who literally pounds a table ('LET ME FINISH!') making an argument against invading Iraq. The country sees Powell not as a patsy, but as a guy who would, after all, have made a better president than Bush.
Perhaps most importantly, Powell still has the kind of gravitas that many Republicans have lost. He also represents the sane part of the Republican Party that has been overshadowed by the activist neocons and religious fringe. He has become a reminder of the best of what they used to be, and that, more than whatever mistakes he made, is why he is now, like so many other decent folks, on the outside looking in.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Best Outcome?

A repeat of the Clinton Years?
Overall I'd say the best case for conservatives is an Obama Presidency whose overambitious agenda provokes a GOP backlash in the 2010 midterms, causing a chastened Obama Administration to focus on bipartisan entitlement reforms that only a Democratic president could pass. As I think about it, what I'm saying is the best we can hope for is another Clinton Administration sans the affairs while the right regroups, casts aside the corrupt yes men who enabled the Bush Administration to do so many un-conservative things, and develops a coherent, appealing domestic agenda.
The only way for the Republican Party to recover from its self-inflicted wounds is to rebuild it from the ground up. Goldwater, Reagan and Newt Gingrich all had simple, effective messages that eventually caught on and brought the party back. I believe this can happen again, but it will take time.

Paper Trail

For those who complain about the durn librul media, consider this.
The Denver Post, which had backed George W. Bush in 2004 and is owned by Republican-leaning William Dean Singleton, this evening endorsed Barack Obama for president. So did the Chicago Sun-Times, Kansas City Star. Southwest News-Herald (Ill.) and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. And to top it off: another Bush-backing in 2004, The Salt Lake Tribune.
John McCain is getting his butt kicked because it's all the media's fault? I think not.

Red State Blues

More bad news for the GOP from Georgia:
Upstart Democratic Senate challenger Jim Martin raised more money than Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss in the most recent three-month period, according to finance reports filed this week.

In by far his best fundraising haul of the campaign, Martin took in more than $1.3 million from July through the end of September. Chambliss took in $1.1 million.

The silver lining for Chambliss is that Martin spent almost all of his money and had just $92,340 in the bank heading into the final month of the campaign. Chambliss had about $1.2 million in his treasury.
Most of Georgia is NOT Democratic territory, in spite of the fact that they gave us Jimmy Carter. If Georgia is to be used as a bellweather, the days of the Republican "Solid South" may be coming to an end.

"That Wasn't Part Of The Plan"

Hawaii has discovered that entitlement for all doesn't work.
HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii is dropping the only state universal child health care program in the country just seven months after it launched.

Gov. Linda Lingle's administration cited budget shortfalls and other available health care options for eliminating funding for the program. A state official said families were dropping private coverage so their children would be eligible for the subsidized plan.

'People who were already able to afford health care began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free,' said Dr. Kenny Fink, the administrator for Med-QUEST at the Department of Human Services. 'I don't believe that was the intent of the program.'
It's never the intent, but that's what it always seems to lead to.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Senator Stuart Smalley?

Don't laugh (not that I ever found Franken to be all that funny). The way things are going, it could happen.
Democrats didn't used to think Al Franken could win a Senate seat from Minnesota, but in the last month polling and fundraising have started to move his way. Incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, who beat Walter Mondale to win the seat six years ago, tried to pummel Franken into submission with a negative ad campaign and a steady drip of stories about his scandals and hypocrisy. It didn't work, so Coleman's dramatically announced an end to negative ads from his shop.
Reason has more, including a video history of the campaign in question.

History's Next Worst Monster

J.D. Tucille says that we shouldn't get our hopes up either way:
What kind of president will the winner of November's national popularity contest be? If history is any judge, the nation's next chief executive, whether Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain, will be something of a monster.

It's not because either of these men are overtly evil. I very much doubt that Obama or McCain is secretly plotting to create the American Reich after Inauguration Day, no matter what dire warnings are floating around the Internet about the supposed dictatorship to come. But both men are likely to leave the government more powerful and intrusive than they found it, and to do some measure of damage to our liberty.
One could argue that, after the last eight years, that would be kind of hard to do.

We Are All Plumbers Now

The Obama campaign seems to have touched a nerve.
As Democratic nominee Barack Obama pulled into the Roanoke Civic Center on Friday, he was greeted by the usual McCain campaign supporters that show at Obama rallies. But this time, those waving McCain-Palin signs were joined by dozens of people waving standard-issue plungers. Some wore white t-shirts emblazoned with 'I AM JOE THE PLUMBER' on the front. The protesters all said they were volunteers and not paid by the McCain campaign.
Obama seems to have a habit of letting his elitist side show right after he talks about how he wants to help working families. Meanwhile, McCain is speaking out.
"Last weekend, Senator Obama showed up in Joe's driveway to ask for his vote, and Joe asked Senator Obama a tough question. I'm glad he did; I think Senator Obama could use a few more tough questions," McCain told supporters in Miami this afternoon.

"The response from Senator Obama and his campaign yesterday was to attack Joe. People are digging through his personal life and he has TV crews camped out in front of his house. He didn't ask for Senator Obama to come to his house. He wasn't recruited or prompted by our campaign. He just asked a question. And Americans ought to be able to ask Senator Obama tough questions without being smeared and targeted with political attacks.

"The question Joe asked about our economy is important, because Senator Obama's plan would raise taxes on small businesses that employ 16 million Americans. Senator Obama's plan will kill those jobs at just the time when we need to be creating more jobs. My plan will create jobs, and that's what America needs."
Who would have thought that the election would have come down to Joe Versus "O"?

Down With The Sickness

Sanity comes to New Jersey, and as is to be expected in this hysterical age, the ignoramouses are out in force.
As flu season approaches, many New Jersey parents are furious over a first-in-the-nation requirement that children get a flu shot in order to attend preschools and day-care centers. The decision should be the parents', not the state's, they contend.

Hundreds of parents and other activists rallied outside the New Jersey Statehouse on Thursday, decrying the policy and voicing support for a bill that would allow parents to opt out of mandatory vaccinations for their children.

'This is not an anti-vaccine rally - it's a freedom of choice rally,' said one of the organizers, Louise Habakus. 'This one-size-fits-all approach is really very anti-American.'
No, what's anti-American is saying that somebody else's kids don't matter. Strange, I thought liberals were for the children.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Have A Shrink On Me

I guess it's official: Drinking makez yu dum no matter watz.
Increasing alcohol intake was associated with loss in total brain volume greater than expected from age alone (P<0.001), reported Carol Ann Paul, of Wellesley College, and colleagues in the October issue of the Archives of Neurology.

In the cross-sectional study, women were affected more strongly than men by moderate alcohol intake averaging one to two drinks a day (eight to 14 per week).

The cardiovascular benefits of low to moderate alcohol intake are thought to result from increasing blood flow rates, which would have been expected to benefit the brain also, Paul said.

But rather than preventing normal age-related volume reductions, the effects of moderate drinking were closer to those of heavy drinking, which has been linked to brain atrophy and cognitive decline, the researchers noted.
There are probably some famous drinkers, like Ted Kennedy, Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin, to whom this research wouldn't apply. After all, haven't they always been pea brains to begin with?

A Fraud Grows In Liberal Land

Democrats trying to steal an election? No way!
The FBI is investigating whether the community activist group ACORN helped foster voter registration fraud around the nation before the presidential election.

A senior law enforcement official confirmed the investigation to The Associated Press. A second senior law enforcement official says the FBI was looking at results of inquiries in several states, including a raid on ACORN's office in Las Vegas, for any evidence of a coordinated national effort.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Justice Department regulations forbid discussing ongoing investigations particularly so close to an election.
Why couldn't the Acornheads have just stuck to using dead voters like other Democrats?

Caffeine Unplugged

Coffee growers in Hawaii claim victory against those evil GM foods.
Coffee growers testified that the planting of genetically engineered coffee would contaminate and damage markets for their premium Kona coffee, costing them their livelihoods. Many cited past episodes where biotech rice and corn have contaminated conventional varieties, resulting in marketplace rejection, dramatically lower prices, and large losses to farmers.

Coffee farmers argued that they would lose their 'specialty coffee' status and/or organic certification if biotech coffee were ever planted on Hawaii Island. The Kona coffee industry brings more than $25 million into the state each year.
Some coffee is more equal than others...and they'd better hope that nature's little critters don't do to their livelihood what they thought that GM brew would.

Comrade W

How screwed up is the plan to at least partially nationalize the banking industry? It's given Hugo Chavez some new ammunition:
Socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez mocked George W. Bush as a 'comrade' on Wednesday, saying the U.S. president was a hard-line leftist for his government's intervention of major private banks in the U.S. financial crisis.

...

'Bush is to the left of me now,' Chavez told an audience of international intellectuals debating the benefits of socialism. 'Comrade Bush announced he will buy shares in private banks.'
If Obama is indeed a socialist, then he's had plenty of precedent to draw from.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bloggin' In The Years: 1984

From the second Reagan-Mondale debate, I think this was the line of the night.

Last Chance

Round Three is tonight, and Culture 11 has some last-minute advice for McCain:
Attack Obama’s economic recovery plan, in detail. Attack his abortion stance, in detail (maybe, unavoidably, in gruesome detail). He’ll squirm, if you can pin some responsibility on him. Have you seen the primary debates? God, he loathes it when people do that to him. Make the young guy seem prickly and unattractive for once. You’ll still lose this thing, probably, but you won’t be the guy who spent the twilight of your career squealing about the Weather Underground.
Considering what his surrogates have become reduced to, it's questionable whether McCain can still do this. But he has one more shot at going out in style, so we'll see.

Method Mafioso

Now this is what I call preparing for your role.
An actor who played a Godfather in a new smash Mafia movie is among seven people arrested in a police crackdown.

Bernardino Terracciano, 53, plays a boss in 'Gomorrah', a hard-hitting blockbuster on the Naples Mafia known as the Camorra, released this week in Britain.

He was seized over the weekend on suspicion of extorting protection money and having ties to the Casalesi clan, part of the Camorra mafia.The latest arrests came a month after six Africans were gunned down outside a clothes shop in Castel Volturno near Naples by the ruthless Casalesi clan.
It's nothing personal...it's strictly acting...

Lessons From The Great White North

Canadian Conservatives win big. Ilya Somin explains why:
Their policies are probably more pro-market than those of Bush's 'big government conservative' GOP. . . . In addition, the Canadian Conservatives don't have nearly as much of a social conservative/religious right streak as the Republicans do. And libertarians have to give at least a little love to a prime minister who took a lot of flak for cutting government subsidies to the arts - a goal the Republicans weren't able to achieve with their campaign against the NEA.
Add this to the Tories' recent gains in the UK (although the financial crisis seems to be helping Gordon Brown right now) and you have to wonder how long it will take our conservatives to learn the same lessons. I wish I could be certain that it wouldn't take several losses for them to get it right again.

None For Me, Thanks

Not everyone is on board the Bailout Express.
Community banking executives around the country responded with anger yesterday to the Bush administration's strategy of investing $250 billion in financial firms, saying they don't need the money, resent the intrusion and feel it's unfair to rescue companies from their own mistakes....

Peter Fitzgerald, chairman of Chain Bridge Bank in McLean, [Virginia,] said he was 'much chagrined that we will be punished for behaving prudently by now having to face reckless competitors who all of a sudden are subsidized by the federal government.'

At Evergreen Federal Bank in Grants Pass, Ore., chief executive Brady Adams said he has more than 2,000 loans outstanding and only three borrowers behind on payments. 'We don't need a bailout, and if other banks had run their banks like we ran our bank, they wouldn't have needed a bailout, either,' Adams said.
I guess the bigger you are, the less constrained by common sense you are.

Let 'Em In

Ross Douthat tries one last time to talk some sense into the folks over at The Corner.
If I were Hanson or Levin or Steyn I'd be devoting a little less time to ritual denunciations of heretics and RINOs, and at least a little more time to figuring out how to build the sort of ship that will make the rats of the DC/NY corridor want to scramble back on board, however much it makes you sick to have them back.
It's the purists who have given conservatism and the Republican Party a bad name; the so-called "RINOS" (and I'm not talking about liberals who only became Republicans in order to win votes) used to be part of the Republican mainstream. Not anymore, sadly.

Feed Your Head

Now this is cool:
The U.S. Army is developing a technology known as synthetic telepathy that would allow someone to create email or voice mail and send it by thought alone. The concept is based on reading electrical activity in the brain using an electroencephalograph, or EEG.
We are all Professor X now...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pressing The Panic Buttons

How to keep a conspiracy theory going:
It looks like Jeremiah Wright was just the tip of the iceberg. Not only did Barack Obama savor Wright’s sermons, Obama gave legitimacy — and a whole lot of money — to education programs built around the same extremist anti-American ideology preached by Reverend Wright. And guess what? Bill Ayers is still palling around with the same bitterly anti-American Afrocentric ideologues that he and Obama were promoting a decade ago.
Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson asks for more Wright.
The McCain campaign’s attempt to tie Barack Obama to terrorist-turned-professor Bill Ayers appears to have failed. Most people still don’t seem to know who Ayers is. And there still isn’t evidence that the two were more than acquaintances. By the end of the week, McCain will likely have moved on to another line of attack. The obvious question is: Why not Jeremiah Wright?
Maybe because that horse has been beaten to death, too? And maybe it's why Chris Buckley was forced to step down from his old job.
So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.

While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.
Real conservatives still understand that the GOP has been taken over by wing nut rumor-mongerers. But they're the ones forced into exile. Go figure.

It's A Small Election After All

Talk about a Mickey Mouse operation:
Mickey Mouse is as American as apple pie, and he has starred in films, TV shows and video games. But apparently he can't vote.

Florida elections officials rejected Mickey's application this summer. It is unclear whether Mickey tried to register as a Democrat or a Republican. But the application included a stamped logo of ACORN, the community organizing group that is facing accusations of voter registration fraud.

ACORN -- which has a history of voter fraud allegations -- acknowledged its logo was on the application but said its workers routinely scan all suspicious applications.
'We don't think this card came through our system,' Brian Kettenring, ACORN's head organizer in Florida, told the St. Petersburg Times.
No word yet on who Donald Duck or Goofy support.

Shut 'Er Down

Chicago is closing up shop.
Facing a huge hole in Chicago's current and upcoming budgets, Mayor Richard Daley announced on Tuesday a plan to partially shut down city government for six days.

Along with several other measures, the mayor's plan was aimed at saving $62 million for the city's corporate or operating fund, which currently faces a $469 million shortfall.

Under the plan, city employees, with the exception of mostly public safety workers, would not work and would not be paid for the day after Thanksgiving or for Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve this year and in 2009.

Daley also said the fiscal 2009 budget he will unveil on Wednesday will eliminate 1,346 currently vacant positions and will include various cost-cutting or revenue-raising measures.

'I know that no one will be completely satisfied with our recommendations,' the mayor said in a statement. 'But, if we work together and responsibly cut spending this year, we'll be taking an important step toward addressing the financial challenges we'll still face in the years ahead.'
Maybe Washington should consider something like this. There might be less damage that the taxpayers would have to pay for afterwards.

It's About The Dignity, Stupid

John McCain has rediscovered the importance of being respectful.
John McCain is to be congratulated for that--apparently the fact that his rallies were turning into hate-a-thons while his poll numbers dropped caused the good Senator to step back from provocative lines like, 'We don't know who Barack Obama really is...' (Crowd response: 'He's a terrorist.').

If he sticks with it, and the campaign turns around, it will be a victory for civility. If the campaign doesn't turn around--a more likely scenario--McCain will be able to return to the Senate with a few stray threads of dignity intact.
The problem for McCain is, it may have come too late. And then there's the little matter of his running mate:
[McCain] knows, in his gut, that he put somebody unqualified on the ballot. He knows that in his gut, and when this race is over that is something he will have to live with... He put somebody unqualified on that ballot and he put the country at risk, he knows that.
But he won't admit it. That's what's causing his campaign to go into freefall.

The Train To Nowhere

Alaska's not the only state where a Republican can support a boondoggle.
With credit markets in New York in crisis last week, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent an extraordinary letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson asking for $7 billion. Although the governor has since withdrawn that request, it testifies to the dire state of his budget.

Yet days before penning his note, the governor told an audience at the Commonwealth Club of California not to worry about the state's budget crunch and to approve $9.95 billion in new debt on the November ballot to build a bullet train to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco: "Just because we have a problem with the budget does not mean people should vote 'no' on high-speed rail." (A spokeswoman confirmed Monday that, despite the request for federal money, the governor still supports the initiative.)

(snip)

The Golden State's finances are a mess. California's general obligation debt has tripled in the past six years and is now almost equal to the state's $145 billion annual budget. Even without any new loans, in three years the state will spend a record 6.1% of its budget just to service the debt it already has. What's more, with the economic slowdown, the state is now expecting a deficit larger than $1.1 billion for the first three months of this fiscal year. The state's rainy-day fund is running dry, which has hurt its credit rating.

Under such circumstances, the prudent course would be to avoid taking on new debt, even for worthwhile projects, much less sure-shot losers such as the high-speed rail. But in California, prudence is in short supply.
But support for grandiose and questionable schemes apparently isn't.

The Short Road Home

It looks like the U.S. is running out of options for keeping troops in Iraq.
With time running out for the conclusion of an agreement governing American forces in Iraq, nervous negotiators have begun examining alternatives that would allow U.S. troops to stay beyond the Dec. 31 deadline, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

(snip)

Negotiators have been stuck for months on the question of legal jurisdiction over U.S. troops and immunity for possible crimes. But even if the sides reach a deal in the next few days or weeks, it is not clear that a formal status-of-forces agreement could be approved by the end of the year. Maliki has pledged to submit an accord to Iraq's divided parliament before he signs it -- a promise he reaffirmed last week during a visit to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric. Sistani has said he will not endorse any document without the support of Iraq's population and political factions.

If the parliament refuses, Maliki would have "no choice" but to request a U.N. extension "because the American forces will lose their legal cover on Dec. 31," he told the Times of London in a weekend interview. "If that happens, according to international law, Iraqi law and American law, the U.S. forces will be confined to their bases and have to withdraw from Iraq," Maliki said.

U.S. officials do not dispute that the absence of an agreement would probably require an immediate end to combat operations and, at a minimum, confinement to bases on Jan. 1. Officials refused to discuss the sensitive issue on the record while negotiations are ongoing.

"I am actually reasonably optimistic we will come to closure on this in a very near future," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters Friday as he returned from a five-day trip to Europe. A month earlier, on Sept. 8, Gates told Congress that he expected an agreement "within the next few weeks."

"But I had hoped that some weeks ago," Gates added.
If handled correctly, ending the occupation sooner rather than later could help the next President immensely, no matter who it is. Let's hope that's the case.

Breaking Away

And now, Ohio.
Barack Obama has pulled ahead of John McCain in Ohio, the weekly FOX News/Rasmussen Reports Battleground Poll shows.

This week's poll shows a very stable race whose underlying dynamic strongly favors the Democratic presidential candidate. Obama holds a narrow advantage ranging from two to five percentage points in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Missouri, and he is tied with McCain in North Carolina. Keep in mind that George W. Bush won all five of these states in 2004.

The only notable change this week was in Ohio, where Obama is now on top, 49 percent to 47 percent, overcoming a one-point deficit in each of the previous two weeks and an even larger lead for McCain in the Buckeye State in the weeks prior to that. The race for Ohio's 20 Electoral College votes is now well within the margin of sampling error, but trending toward the Democrat.
When all you've got left are wingut conspiracy theories and kooks on your side, it tends to turn people off. Funny, that used to be the Democrats' problem.

Prove My Innocence, Please

Is he sure he really wants to do this?
In his first statement since the sex scandal broke, Florida Rep. Tim Mahoney is calling for the House ethics committee to probe allegations of impropriety in the hiring and firing of a female staffer with whom he allegedly had an affair.

While criticizing ABC's report as based on 'hearsay,' he didn't deny anything.
His statement:

I was notified this afternoon about a story that ran on ABC News' website reporting allegations about a former employee. While these allegations are based on hearsay, I believe that my constituents need a full accounting. As such, I have requested the House Ethics Committee to review these allegations. I am confident that when the facts are presented that I will be vindicated.
What, does he have another mistress who can alibi him?

All They Need Is Cash

Bailouts really are for everyone these days, it seems.
The Republican National Committee, growing nervous over the prospect of Democrats’ winning a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, is considering tapping into a $5 million line of credit this week to aid an increasing number of vulnerable incumbents, top Republicans say.

With party strategists fearing a bloodbath at the polls, GOP officials are shifting to triage mode, determining who can be saved and where to best spend their money.

And with the House and Senate Republican campaign committees being drastically outspent by their Democratic counterparts, and outside groups such as Freedom’s Watch offering far less help than was once anticipated, Republicans are turning to the national party committee as a lender of last resort.

A decision is imminent because television time must be reserved and paid for upfront, and available slots are dwindling.
Republicans, heal thyselves, indeed.

Calling All Amazons

Barack Obama wants everyone to have equal opportunity in wartime.
Even as the U.S. confronts two long wars, neither Sen. John McCain nor Sen. Barack Obama believes the country should take the politically perilous step of reviving the military draft.

But the two presidential candidates disagree on a key foundation of any future draft: Mr. Obama supports a requirement for both men and women to register with the Selective Service, while Mr. McCain doesn't think women should have to register.

Also, Mr. Obama would consider officially opening combat positions to women. Mr. McCain would not.

'Women are already serving in combat [in Iraq and Afghanistan] and the current policy should be updated to reflect realities on the ground,' said Wendy Morigi, Mr. Obama's national security spokeswoman. 'Barack Obama would consult with military commanders to review the constraints that remain.'

According to his campaign, Mr. McCain supports the current Department of Defense restrictions on women in combat units, including armor, field artillery and special forces.
I don't like the idea of a draft, but why shouldn't women have the same chance to fight the bad guys? What could be more humiliating to a Jihadist than to get his butt kicked by a woman?

Monday, October 13, 2008

You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet

They've apparetnly only just begun to fight:
McCain advisers say they're saving their best material for the last ten days of the race, when, the campaign hopes, three quarters of the remaining undecided voters will make up their minds, and their minds will be concentrating on Barack Obama. When the urgency of the presidential election impresses itself, the hope is that these voters will swing back to the familiar, rather than the unknown. The last ten days, according to a McCain aide, are when the 'imponderables' come into play.
The Imponderable Strategy? I must have missed that one.

President Who?

They may be about to win, but Obama might want his Number Two to check his mouth at the door when they do:
Joe Biden is enjoying himself so much on the campaign trail that occasionally he gets to thinking he's about to become president. 'In a Biden...an Obama-Biden administration,' he said during an event at an American Legion hall here in Rochester, New Hampshire this morning, catching himself just in time.

'We know, we know,' he responded jovially as the crowd realised what he'd said. 'It's hard to get used to. We got his thing the right way.' He pointed at a group of men who were barracking him good-naturedly. 'These are my old buddies over here from the shipyard.'

Last month at an event in Fort Myers, Florida, he referred to the 'Biden administration' before correcting the phrase and adding as he laughed and crossed himself: 'Believe me, that wasn't a Freudian slip. Oh Lordy day, I tell ya.'
Well, old people do tend to ramble...

Greed Is Still Good

Ah, just in time.
As Wall Street continues to capture headlines due to market volatility, 20th Century Fox is moving forward with a 'Wall Street' sequel.

Allan Loeb ('21') has been tapped to pen the screenplay, which is being fast-tracked by the studio as a Michael Douglas starrer, though the actor is not formally attached.

The modern-day story will again center on Gordon Gekko, who has recently been sprung from prison and re-emerges into a much more tumultuous financial world than the one he once lorded over. The Bud Fox character, played by Charlie Sheen in the original, will not appear in the latest incarnation.
Who needs Charlie Sheen when you'll have a whole country that wants to see Gordon back in jail?

Dear Dad

Ann Althouse, in discussing the candidates' memoirs, asks:
Strange -- isn't it? -- that both candidates wrote a memoir with the word 'father/s' in the title. Is there something about a struggle to come to terms with his father that drives a man to the top position?
Well, Bill Clinton had father issues, as did Ronald Reagan...hmmm.

Burgers 'N' Beer

Homer Simpson would love this:
Whopper Bars are going to be smaller than regular Burger Kings and only sell Whoppers, 'grab-and-go' products, and possibly beer. Am I missing something here? Other than Vegas and a few places in Florida, can you get beer to go?
That might be kind of awkward if you got pulled over...

Yes, He's Still With Us

Nadermania lives!
Ralph Nader, independent candidate in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, held a campaign rally at Dartmouth Monday, reminding his audience that Democratic nominee Barack Obama and Republican nominee John McCain are not the only options for voters presidential election.

Nader noted that fewer than 10 of the approximately 40 audience members appeared to be Dartmouth students. He criticized the “sterile political debate at Dartmouth,” adding that the College is known as the most conservative school in the Ivy League.

Nader commented on the government’s role in the current financial crisis. He repeatedly criticized “corporations” for having an overwhelming influence over the economy and the upcoming election, and described Obama and McCain as “two puppy dogs subservient to the corporations.”

“Wall Street is an orgy of excess and speculative behavior,” he said at the rally.
Hmm, that sounds suspiciously like...what one of the aforementioned puppy dogs has already said. Say good night, Ralph.

About Schmidt

James Fallows examines how the agony of likely defeat is starting to affect the man who would be the next kingmaker:
Rationalization and excuses ("We were ahead until the financial crisis began"). More excuses ("We have the handicap of wearing the 'R' label this year" -- I mean, think about that for a moment, and imagine Karl Rove saying it). More and more excuses ("When someone says something inappropriate at our rallies, the media is all over it. When someone does it at an Obama rally...") A "we'll do our best" tone as opposed to confidence about being able to win. A rote quality to the pep talk about victory ("Senator Obama is known as a weak closer, and Senator McCain is a strong finisher!").
Can you imagine any Republican talking about their "Brand" being a handicap in 2004? How times have changed.

Goodnight, Miami

As Florida goes, so goes the election.
For the first time in more than a decade, Florida Republicans are considering the almost unthinkable: Their presidential nominee could lose the state.

The economy, an unpopular president, a strong opponent, and the inability of John McCain to reverse poll numbers despite repeatedly revising his strategy has top state Republicans looking for someone to blame.

''There are a lot of folks who have never been in a foxhole before and are clearly nervous,'' said Brian Ballard, a major McCain fundraiser. ``There is some finger-pointing going on a little bit too soon.''

Even Gov. Charlie Crist, who helped deliver Florida for McCain during the primary, said he will be spending more time minding the state's weak economy than campaigning for the Arizona senator in the final weeks before Election Day.

''When I have time to help, I'll try to do that,'' Crist said last week, after he flew around the state with McCain running mate Sarah Palin. Saturday, he skipped a McCain football rally and instead went to Disney World.

Once considered a potential running mate, Crist had pledged to do all he could for McCain and spent several days this summer campaigning for the Republican nominee in and outside Florida. He faults the tough economic times for McCain's difficult time in Florida, where he trails rival Barack Obama by about 5 percentage points in the polls.

No Republican has won the White House in modern times without carrying Florida. The last to lose the state was McCain's former colleague, Sen. Bob Dole, in 1996.
The ghost of Presidential races lost seems to be haunting McCain more and more in these closing days.

We CAN Handle The Truth

A friendly tip for Maverick:
You want a truly 'game changing' stunt, senator? Forget unveiling some new brash nationalization plan at the next debate or replacing Sarah Palin with the Rally Monkey. How about just telling the harsh economic truth, something that Americans seem much more willing to discuss and accept than the two pander bears running for president.
The individual voter is often smarter than the average pander bear. I suspect McCain knows that, but he's too wedded to the Palinmaniacs to freely admit it.

Son Of Foley

It's Mark Foley, the sequel:
West Palm Beach Congressman Tim Mahoney (D-FL), whose predecessor resigned in the wake of a sex scandal, agreed to a $121,000 payment to a former mistress who worked on his staff and was threatening to sue him, according to current and former members of his staff who have been briefed on the settlement, which involved Mahoney and his campaign committee....

Mahoney was elected two years ago following the abrupt resignation of his disgraced predecessor, Republican Mark Foley, whose lewd internet messages to teenage boys and Congressional pages created a national outrage.
Well, at least this guy stayed away from the hired help...

Bloggin' In The Years: 1908

The two Presidential candidates have recorded their views for posterity. Some of the differences are startling.

For example, this is Secretary Taft's view on the banking crisis. And here is Senator Bryan's.

Will economic populism win out over Roosevelt's legacy? Only the next few weeks will tell.

R.I.P. Kyoto

One good thing about the economic turmoil may be that it will allow European industry to get back on its feet:
Representatives of German business have called for a moratorium on any European Union legislation that would impose higher costs on companies at a time when they are grappling with the fallout from the financial crisis. . . . Meanwhile, heavy industry has stepped up its condemnation of proposals endorsed last week by the European parliament's environment committee that would force businesses to pay for the carbon dioxide they emit.
Everybody says they hate Big Industry-until they need it to save their economy.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Why Are You Blaming Me, Dave?"

The NY Times says it was Skynet's fault.
Somehow the genius quants — the best and brightest geeks Wall Street firms could buy — fed $1 trillion in subprime mortgage debt into their supercomputers, added some derivatives, massaged the arrangements with computer algorithms and — poof! — created $62 trillion in imaginary wealth. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that all of that imaginary wealth is locked up somewhere inside the computers, and that we humans, led by the silverback males of the financial world, Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson, are frantically beseeching the monolith for answers. Or maybe we are lost in space, with Dave the astronaut pleading, “Open the bank vault doors, Hal.”

As the current financial crisis spreads (like a computer virus) on the earth’s nervous system (the Internet), it’s worth asking if we have somehow managed to colossally outsmart ourselves using computers. After all, the Wall Street titans loved swaps and derivatives because they were totally unregulated by humans. That left nobody but the machines in charge.
Maybe, but people built those machines and put the information in them. To paraphrase the Bard, the fault lies not in our laptops, but in ourselves.

Move Over, Penguins

Antarctica, the next Down Under?
Refugees are moving to Antarctica by 2030, the Olympics are held only in cyberspace and central Australia has been abandoned as too dry, according to exotic scenarios for climate change on Monday.

British-based Forum for the Future, a charitable think-tank, and researchers from Hewlett-Packard Labs, said they wanted to stir debate about how to avert the worst effects of global warming by presenting a radical set of possible futures.

'Climate change will affect the economy at least as much as the 'credit crunch',' their 76-page report study said.

The scenarios range from a shift to greater energy efficiency, where desalination plants run on solar power help turn the Sahara green, to one where refugees are moving to Antarctica because of rising temperatures.

'We still have the chance to alter the future,' Peter Madden, head of the Forum, told Reuters. 'This is what the world could be like and some of these options are not very pleasant.'
Millions of years ago Antarctica was wet, swampy and humid. In other words, a lot like Florida is today. If it becomes that way again, the Democrats could have a new place to rig, er, find, votes.

The Other Side Of Crazy

We've heard about the kooks who have been showing up at McCain rallies. Now for the lefty version of dangerous behavior:
Vandals spray-painted the words “Republican means slavery” on the door of the York County GOP campaign headquarters overnight Friday.

Party volunteers called police after discovering the message when they arrived at the office on Rock Hill’s Oakland Avenue. The vandals also stole about 45 candidate signs from the front yard and spray-painted over a banner that carried a picture of Republican presidential nominee John McCain. Their messages included lettering and symbols sometimes used by gangs.

The culprits could face charges on petty larceny and damage to property, said Rock Hill police Sgt. Roderick Stinson. No one appears to have entered the office.
I'm sure that if they're caught, the perps will use justifiable anger as an excuse. Hey, it works in England...

Bloggin' In The Years: 1933

From this past January, a former "Big Executive" (as he puts it) speaks of the "Good Old Days" and how they contrast with the current situation.
In these latter days, since the downfall, I know that there will be much talk of corruption and dishonesty. But I can testify that our trouble was not that. Rather, we were undone by our own extravagant folly, and our delusions of grandeur. The gods were waiting to destroy us, and first they infected us with a peculiar and virulent sort of madness.

Already, as I try to recall those times, I cannot quite shake off the feel that they were pages torn from the Arabian Nights. But they were not. The tinseled scenes through which I moved were real. The madcap events actually happened—not once, but every day. And at the moment nobody thought them in the least extraordinary. For that was the New Era. In it we felt ourselves the gods and the demigods. The old laws of economics were for mortals, but not for us. With us, anything was possible. The sky was the limit.

Looking back now, I see how naive were our godlike airs. Most of us were really simple folk, of humble origin. Going the circuit of our walnut desks, one would hardly have found a single executive who had not worked his way up from the ranks. They had begun in small towns as owners or operators of little companies. The companies had been bought up by Amalgamated International, and the owners annexed as super-executives. To maintain the power and glory of their new estate, they felt that it was their duty to carry on like Oriental princes.
The Crash had all the elements of both a Shakespearean tragedy, and a farce. The Bard would have seen the irony of the fate that befell so many who fell so far, often by their own design, as would have Mark Twain. Too late, it seems, did the honest businessmen of the day heed the warning signs of what was to come.

The Right To Abstain

The right not to believe is the right to be neutral:
Secularism is neutral. It is neither a dogma nor a doctrine. If anything, it's an abstention. Secularism abstains from favouring one religion over another, or favouring atheism over religious belief. It is a political principle that aims at guaranteeing the largest possible coexistence of various freedoms.
I would disagree in the sense that there are secularists who can be just as fanatical as fundamentalists. But secularism does give one an advantage in that it allows one to acknowledge other beliefs. Hardcore Fundamentalism doesn't.

Born In The U.S.A.

Desperate times call for desperate conspiracies:
A lawsuit, Berg v. Obama, brought by Philip J. Berg, a Philadelphia attorney, alleges Obama is not eligible to be president.

Instead of producing records proving Obama is a natural born citizen, Obama and the Democratic National Committee have filed a motion seeking a protective order to block production of documents until a motion to dismiss is the law suit is ruled on by the court. Obama and the Democratic National Committee also claim attorney Berg has no standing – has no right – to bring the lawsuit.
At this rate, it won't be long before these loons claim he was born on Mars. That would really make him an alien, wouldn't it?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It Begins With An O

Whoops:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's last name is spelled 'Osama' on hundreds of absentee ballots mailed out this week to voters in Rensselaer County. he misspelling, which elections officials on both sides of the aisle insist was simply a typo, is causing embarrassment for the county.
These days, one has to wonder how unintentional it was...

Where Politeness Ends

When it comes to their politics, Canadians are discovering that the opposition can be just as nasty as it is down here.
Last weekend, Toronto residents woke to find the brake lines on their cars severed, their telephone and cable television lines cut, and political graffiti scratched into automobile paint and scrawled on their homes. The sole link between the victims: a lawn sign promoting a Liberal candidate in the current federal election.

The attacks came in two leafy, upper-middle-class residential neighborhoods, including Waltman Daschko's, where raccoons raiding garbage pails are normally a bigger concern than crime. While the sabotage led to only near-misses rather than any deaths or injuries, episodes have provoked a mixture of bafflement, anger and defiance. They have also brought an unwelcome tinge of nastiness to an election campaign that has been short on drama.

Waltman Daschko briefly removed her lawn sign last Saturday evening at the suggestion of the police after the first attacks, which occurred over Friday night and early that morning. But she stuck it back into a planter near the sidewalk before going to bed, partly after considering the history of her Jewish ancestors.

'Perhaps because it's the High Holidays, but I thought of my parents and my grandparents and what they went through to assert their faith,' she said. 'It's shocking that in Canada, in Toronto and in the 21st century that this could happen when all we're doing is supporting a very mainstream political party.'
What's the difference between a political campaign and a Mob operation? The Mob are at least honest thugs.

Green And Red

Frank Rich gets it:
Now even the dimmest bloviators have figured out that Americans are riveted by the color green, not black — as in money, not energy. Voters are looking for a leader who might help rescue them, not a reckless gambler whose lurching responses to the economic meltdown (a campaign “suspension,” a mortgage-buyout stunt that changes daily) are as unhinged as his wanderings around the debate stage.
I thought that McCain might be that leader. Part of me hopes he still can be. And, to his credit, McCain has finally started to denounce the koolaid drinkers again. But it may be too little, too late.

Hooray For Subsidies

Do taxpayers really need to pay Brad Pitt?
Already on the hook for billions to bail out Wall Street, taxpayers are also finding themselves stuck with a growing tab for state programs intended to increase local film production.

One of the most shocking bills has come due in Louisiana, where residents are financing a hefty share of Brad Pitt’s next movie — $27,117,737, to be exact, which the producers will receive by cashing or selling off valuable tax credits.

As the number of movies made under these plans multiplied in recent years, the state money turned into a welcome rescue plan for Hollywood at a time when private investors were fleeing the movies. But the glamour business has not always been kind to those who pick up the costs, and states are moving to rein in their largess that has allowed producers to be reimbursed for all manner of expenditures, whether the salaries of stars, the rental of studio space or meals for the crew.

Louisiana, one of the most assertive players in the subsidy game, wound up covering that outsize piece of the nearly $167 million budget of Mr. Pitt’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” — the state’s biggest movie payout to date — when producers for Paramount Pictures and Warner Brothers qualified the coming movie, a special-effects drama, under an incentive that has since been tightened. Separately, Louisiana’s former film commissioner is set to be sentenced in January to as much as 15 years in federal prison for taking bribes to inflate film budgets (though not that of “Button”) and, hence, pay higher subsidies.
Well, I guess it could be argued that one man's bribe is another's percentage of the gross...

Super Troopesrgate

This is what comes of personal attacks: Sarah Palin committed a darn boo-boo.
A 263-page report released Friday by lawmakers in Alaska found that Ms. Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, had herself exerted pressure to get Trooper Michael Wooten dismissed, as well as allowed her husband and subordinates to press for his firing, largely as a result of his temperament and past disciplinary problems.
But didn't the McCain campaign say she didn't do anything wrong? That must be a nice gig, being able to clear your own like that.

Putting Prosperity On Hold

It seems that the Left's favorite President may have had a hand in keeping the Depression going.
Two UCLA economists say they have figured out why the Great Depression dragged on for almost 15 years, and they blame a suspect previously thought to be beyond reproach: President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

After scrutinizing Roosevelt's record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a new study that New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.

'Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump,' said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA's Department of Economics. 'We found that a relapse isn't likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies.'

In an article in the August issue of the Journal of Political Economy, Ohanian and Cole blame specific anti-competition and pro-labor measures that Roosevelt promoted and signed into law June 16, 1933.

'President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services,' said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. 'So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies.'
Given what our current administration is doing, such a recovery plan might not be so unimaginable today. Those who don't learn from history, and all that.