Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's the Culture, Stupid

There is some truth to what Geert Wilders says:
“We believe that — ‘we’ means the political elite — that all cultures are equal,” he says. “I believe this is the biggest disease today facing Europe. . . . We should wake up and tell ourselves: You’re not a xenophobe, you’re not a racist, you’re not a crazy guy if you say, ‘My culture is better than yours.’ A culture based on Christianity, Judaism, humanism is better. Look at how we treat women, look at how we treat apostates, look at how we go with the separation of church and state. I can give you 500 examples why our culture is better.”
I think it's precisely because some of the rest of the "Cradles of civilization" never had an Age of Enlightenment that they remain in the societal Dark Ages. It can't all be blamed on the after-effects of colonialism.

The Great Homecoming

It's ironic: we spend much of our youth wanting to move away from our parents, but wind up living with them again instead.
Between 2000 and 2007, the number of people 65 and older living with their adult children increased by more than 50 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2000, the year of the last census, there were nearly 35 million Americans age 65 or older; about 1.4 million of them lived with their children. In 2007, according to the American Community Survey, which the bureau conducts annually, there were 37.8 million people 65 and older, and more than 2.1 million shared a household with their children. The 50.3 percent increase in the number of those 65 and older living with their adult children, from about 1.4 million to over 2.1 million, is vastly disproportionate to the growth of the 65 and over group, which increased by 8.3 percent in the same period, from almost 35 million to 37.8 million.
I guess in the long run we all wind up taking care of each other when we can't take care of ourselves. That's family.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Back In Red?

They're hoping it's their turn again:
Russia's Communists expect the global financial crisis will cause social unrest and help them challenge for power, the party's leader said on Saturday.

Gennady Zyuganov told the party's annual congress the Communists should make maximum use of the growing public discontent caused by the economic downturn to try to restore their political strength.

'The wind of history is blowing in our sails again ... At this time of crisis the world of imperialism is starting to die. We are standing on the threshold of political and social shifts,' Zyuganov said in a 2-hour speech opening the congress.
From one group of authoritarian thugs to another? Russia seems to have a history of doing that.

Remember Me

Bush makes it clear how he wants to be remembered.
'I'd like to be a president (known) as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace,' Bush said in excerpts of a recent interview released by the White House Friday.

'I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process. I came to Washington with a set of values, and I'm leaving with the same set of values.'

He also said he wanted to be seen as a president who helped individuals, 'that rallied people to serve their neighbor; that led an effort to help relieve HIV/AIDS and malaria on places like the continent of Africa; that helped elderly people get prescription drugs and Medicare as a part of the basic package.'

Bush added that every day during his eight-year presidency he had consulted the Bible and drawn comfort from his faith.

'I would advise politicians, however, to be careful about faith in the public arena,' the US leader said in the interview with his sister Doro Bush Koch recorded as part of an oral history program known as Storycorps.
Now he tells us. I will give him credit for toppling Saddam and the Taliban. It's what happened afterward that people will, unfortunately, also remember.

Friday, November 28, 2008

They Like You, They Really, Really Like You

The old adage that any publicity is good publicity lives on.
Unlike films, many many records get released, and just noticing one and running a review of it already marks it as significant. The substance of the review itself is almost beside the point. Acknowledging its existence is already an admission that it’s “pretty good,” so it would be strange for the review to suggest otherwise.
I also think it has to do with the fact that albums are much more of a mass product than movies are and are a much more personal and intimate experience. Movies, even in this DVD/Blu Ray age, are meant to be a shared experience. Record reviewers seem to speak from their own listening vantage point. They can say for themselves why they think it's good. In the end, it all comes down to what you like.

The Ash Heap Of History

Krauthammer sums up the Democrats' problem:
The ruling Democrats have a choice: Rescue this economy to return it to market control. Or use this crisis to seize the commanding heights of the economy for the greater social good. Note: The latter has already been tried. The results are filed under 'History, ash heap of.'
But that won't stop them from trying to sift through those ashes one more time in the vain hope of trying to find something that will work in their favor.

The Flex-Fuel Revolution That Wasn't

Supporters of Government-enforced flex-fuel mandates need to learn their history:
Back in 1992, Congress passed a law requiring all federal agencies to buy alternative-fuel vehicles for 75 percent of their light-duty fleet. The catch was that, while the agencies had to buy the cars, they didn't actually have to use the alternative fuel. So a lot of agencies ended up purchasing cars that could run on propane, compressed natural gas, or E85 (an 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline blend), and them shipped them to areas that didn't actually have any alternative fueling stations—the infrastructure just wasn't in place. Fewer than 0.1 percent of fueling stations in the United States even offer E85. That meant most flex-fuel cars were running on plain old gasoline, and, since these vehicles generally have larger-than-average engines, they actually end up using more oil and emitting more carbon dioxide.
Of course, there wasn't the sense of "Urgency" that there is now over climate change. But even today, forcing everyone onto a flex-fuel "Diet" is a tough call. The numbers-and the desire-just aren't there.

Hard Times

What kind of a world are we living in when a millionaire can't afford a mistress anymore?
According to a new survey by Prince & Assoc., more than 80% of multimillionaires who had extra-marital lovers planned to cut back on their gifts and allowances. Still, only 12% of the multimillionaire cheaters said they plan to give up on their lovers altogether for financial reasons.
And that's not counting the impact this will have on the "Escort services..."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Rosie The Unriveter

Let's face it-when she bombs, she bombs big:
A mere 5 million viewers tuned in for the 8 p.m. premiere of 'Rosie Live,' with the program earning a 1.2 preliminary adults 18-49 rating. The telecast matched ABC's recently canceled 'Pushing Daisies' as the night's lowest-rated program on a major broadcast network.

NBC had high hopes for the special and planned to expand the program into a series should viewers re-embrace the decades-old variety format. Other networks, too, were watching closely since several are developing variety shows of their own.

'There's a notion that the climate is right for the genre to make a comeback,' emailed one executive at a rival network. 'I guess we now know what not to do, thanks to Rosie.'
I'm no fan of hers, but-thanks to Rosie? Hey, network suits-you were the ones who agreed to have her on.

The Science Of Stuffing

The Pilgrims wouldn't recognize today's trimmings:
The traditional Thanksgiving dinner reflects the enormous amount of change that foods and the food systems that produce them have undergone, particularly over the last 50 years. Nearly all varieties of crops have experienced large genetic changes as big agriculture companies hacked their DNA to provide greater hardiness and greater yields. The average pig, turkey, cow and chicken have gotten larger at an astounding rate, and they grow with unprecedented speed. A modern turkey can mature to a given weight at twice the pace of its predecessors.

In comparison with old-school agriculture or single-gene genetic modification, these changes border on breathtaking. Imagine your children reaching full maturity at 10 years old.
I wonder if they'd be considered edible then? I'm sure some parents often wish they were.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spanish Lesson

Unlike some other European countries, Spain has long known the benefits of decentralization:
Over the past 30 years more and more powers and money have been devolved. The regional governments are now responsible for schools, universities, health, social services, culture, urban and rural development and, in some places, policing....

The estado de las autonomías has several clear benefits. First, as Mr Zapatero says, 'it spreads power and impedes its concentration,' and in that way reflects 'the best liberal thinking'. Second, by bringing decisions about services closer to the people it has improved them. Third, it encourages competition between regions. The rivalry between Barcelona and Madrid may have acquired an edge of mistrust, but it is in essence a creative tension. And fourth, the system has reduced regional inequalities, or at least stopped them widening.
States' rights, European style. The rest of the Continent could learn from this. For that matter, so could we.

"Where's Our Change?"

European minorities still have a ways to go when compared to their American counterparts.

As excited as Europeans were to see Democratic senator Barak Obama elected president in the U.S., there turned out to be an unexpected cloud around that silver lining. Namely, it's that blacks, and minorities in general, have made far less social progress in Europe than in the United States. Obamas election is just another, and rather striking, example of this.

...

Obama's election is not an exception, but part of a long trend. An Indian-American was recently elected governor of Louisiana, and in 1996, a Chinese-American was elected governor of Washington state. As much as other nations preach equality and opportunity, it's the United States where it actually happens. Not just with politicians, but academics, business executives and military leaders.

Among the many reasons for this is the fact that Europe never had a civil rights movement the way America did, and they still see the immigrants and their descendents from their former colonies as the ones whose job it is to clean up after them. What Obama says to them is that they can no longer complain about how racist America is. Obama's background made him uniquely American. European minorities are still waiting to be seen as citizens of the countries they live and work in. They're still waiting for their Change they can believe in.

The Evil Weed

A former nonsmoker describes the thrill of his first toke.
I liked it. I liked smoking. Dopamine? I don't know. Didn't care. Just wanted a smoke. I practically jumped out of bed. My girlfriend and I wrapped ourselves in blankets and stood on her porch. The smoke filled my chest so that my body heated itself in a new way. We jabbered. Winter approached. 'I always wonder,' I said, taking a drag of my cigarette, 'how many more winters do you get?' I sounded morbid and wistful. Pathetic. I coughed a little. But that's how it went with smoking. A cigarette amplified truth. If you were sad, you sounded sadder.

But the cigarette notched everything upward, too. Everything seemed more potent and brilliantly illuminated.
And that's with what's still technically a legal product. No wonder the killjoys of the world want to outlaw it everywhere.

The Borrower Effect

Get your mattress ready for stuffing:
One big worry stifling activity in the markets is that if the government is doing so much lending and backstopping now, it's going to need to do a lot of borrowing, too, to finance those efforts. And if the government is seeking lenders to buy its debt, what is going to happen to other borrowers looking for lenders?
As the Federal Reserve and Treasury act to rescue borrowers, Simons said, "they're starving other private sector borrowers."
And yet, like the addicts they are, they can't seem to quit. Where's an intervention when you need one?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

After The Neocons

The incoming Obama era looks to be, on the surface at least, one of competence over confrontation:
Looking over the list of top players on President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, one gets the sense that serious people are coming back to power. On the national-security team in particular, they're professional, thoughtful, cognizant of the world's complexities, engaged with cutting-edge ideas but not dogmatic about them. This may not sound exciting, but those who think it doesn't constitute 'change' haven't paid enough attention to these last eight years of Jacobin zeal and blundering.
Perhaps we've become so used to incompetence and mediocrity that the notion of an administration that actually knows what it's doing has become alien to us. The hacks at places like The National Review celebrated mediocrity under Bush. Competence has become strange to them. That might be what they're really afraid of.

Sex Crimes

If you're looking for sex, the nannystate wants to keep tabs on you.
Lawmakers in Indonesia's remote province of Papua have thrown their support behind a controversial bill requiring some HIV/AIDS patients to be implanted with microchips -- part of extreme efforts to monitor the disease.

Health workers and rights activists sharply criticized the plan Monday. But legislator John Manangsang said by implanting small computer chips beneath the skin of ''sexually aggressive'' patients, authorities would be in a better position to identify, track and ultimately punish those who deliberately infect others with up to six months in jail or a $5,000 fine.
I understand the goal here, but given that it's Indonesia, how far will this actually go? And there are also those here at home who think this would be a swell idea.

God Is Love

More on the pastor who wants his flock to make whoopee for the Lord:
A week after the Rev. Ed Young challenged husbands and wives among his flock of 20,000 to strengthen their unions through Seven Days of Sex, his advice was — keep it going.

Mr. Young, an author, a television host and the pastor of the evangelical Fellowship Church, issued his call for a week of “congregational copulation” among married couples on Nov. 16, while pacing in front of a large bed. Sometimes he reclined on the paisley coverlet while flipping through a Bible, emphasizing his point that it is time for the church to put God back in the bed.

“Today we’re beginning this sexperiment, seven days of sex,” he said, with his characteristic mix of humor, showmanship and Scripture. “How to move from whining about the economy to whoopee!”
Is belonging to a church really worth it when it starts giving you advice on your love life? Isn't heeding such advice well, kind of cultish?

Monday, November 24, 2008

It Was Forty Years Ago Today

Reason explores four decades of government growth:
The federal government has put its imprimatur on the mattress on your bed (through the Consumer Product Safety Commission). The Federal Communications Commission regulates the transmission and content of your favorite morning show. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, regulate the coffee you drink and the sugar you add to it. The USDA regulates the milk you pour in the coffee, as well as cheese, butter, and other dairy products you might eat for breakfast. And the FDA has its say about the shampoo, soap, and toothpaste you use with water that’s regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Then there is the explosion in security measures. Airline travel regulations, increased surveillance, and growing databases are a few examples of government’s expansion in our lives. Add in state and local regulations—on smoking, eating transfats, or labeling menus—and you can get the feeling that we’ve lost our freedom.
We can blame both parties for this. But, as the article points out, some things are better now than they were forty years ago. But have the benefits been worth the cost?

Save Us, Super Government

Who says Obama is the new FDR? Bush is already there.
The U.S. government is prepared to provide more than $7.76 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers after guaranteeing $306 billion of Citigroup Inc. debt yesterday. The pledges, amounting to half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, are intended to rescue the financial system after the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.

The unprecedented pledge of funds includes $3.18 trillion already tapped by financial institutions in the biggest response to an economic emergency since the New Deal of the 1930s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The commitment dwarfs the plan approved by lawmakers, the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Federal Reserve lending last week was 1,900 times the weekly average for the three years before the crisis.
All we need now are bread lines for the wealthy. Or at least caviar lines...

Finding Her Inner Dove

Andrew Sullivan's take on why picking Hillary for Secretary of State was a smart move on Obama's part:
How does a president avoid the domestic blow-back of essentially cutting his losses on a doomed adventure? He uses Clinton as a protective shield from domestic critics. It’s also a rather brilliant manoeuvre against those elements on the right – from Fox News to Washington neocons – who came out in praise of Clinton in the spring when she sounded more hawkish than Obama on the Middle East. Having hailed Clinton as the Iron Lady of the Jews, the stab-in-the-back right will find it hard to pivot immediately and accuse her of treason if and when she ends the Iraq occupation.
But they probably will, as they tend to have short memories when it's convenient for them.

Are You Smarter than A Fifth Term Congresscritter?

Given who they are, this doesn't surprise me too much:
US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

“It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI’s civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned,” said Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI.

“How can political leaders make informed decisions if they don’t understand the American experience?” he added.
What makes him think they make better decisions when they do?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Geithner Effect

Why picking Geithner could be good for our jittery markets:
The Geithner appointment doesn't solve the interregnum problem, obviously. But it does reassure Wall Street that a smart, capable person -- who isn't Hank Paulson -- will be running Treasury, and that Obama is serious about bringing real stability to the markets. Obama is supposedly going to introduce his entire economic team next week, and that will also be good for the markets, since it'll give him a chance to lay out, even if only in broad strokes, what he plans to do as soon as he takes office.
Say what you will about his politics, Obama at least for now seems genuinely concerned with bringing competence into his administration. After eight years of "Yer doin' a heckuva job", this seems to be at least one Change we can believe in.

Because They're Special

I knew there was a relationship between politics and show business:
If people believe there is a genuine chance they might be catapulted to the top, they're more likely to endorse a system in which success is so highly rewarded. To paraphrase the advertising slogan for the National Lottery, it could be them. As with the lottery, people may know that the actual chances of winning are low but the selection mechanism itself is fair—a level playing field. After that, their 'specialness' will take care of the rest.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a winner. It's when it goes to your head that it becomes a problem.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The One More Ordinary

I guess he's not the savior they were waiting for after all:
President-elect Barack Obama’s supporters have dropped much of the “messiah” talk.

No more talk of him being The One (Oprah), or a Jedi Knight (George Lucas), or a “Lightworker” (the San Francisco Chronicle), or a “quantum leap in American consciousness” (Deepak Chopra). Instead we have more humble and circumspect conversation about the man. Now he’s merely Abraham Lincoln and FDR and Martin Luther King, combined.
In other words, he's an ordinary human being like the rest of us. The reality of watching him move towards the center is a hard thing for them to bear, I know. Poor things.

He'll Blame It On The Intertubes

Whoops. It appears Ted Stevens wasn't the only liar in court:
One of the government's witnesses against convicted Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska now says he wasn't truthful on the stand.

David Anderson, who worked on Stevens' house for VECO founder Bill Allen, testified during the trial that there was no agreement with the Justice Department for immunity for him, his family or friends in exchange for his testimony.

Anderson now says he did have an understanding with the Justice Department. This came out Friday in a letter Anderson wrote to U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan.
It doesn't change the fact that Senator Bridge To Nowhere is a creep of the first order, but somebody seems to have messed up here.

Slow Change

It seems Obama plans to move more cautiously than his fans were hoping. First, there's Don't Ask, Don't Tell:
Obama will not move for months, and perhaps not until 2010, to ask Congress to end the military's decades-old ban on open homosexuals in the ranks, two people who have advised the Obama transition team on this issue say.

Repealing the ban was an Obama campaign promise. However, Mr. Obama first wants to confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his new political appointees at the Pentagon to reach a consensus and then present legislation to Congress, the advisers said.

'I think 2009 is about foundation building and reaching consensus,' said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The group supports military personnel targeted under the ban.
I never expected Obama to do everything overnight, and given the current climate, perhaps some caution is warranted. Meanwhile, Ron Paul is also upset at the slower pace:
He may be more likely to wind things down in Iraq, but he’s still planning on keeping troops there for a least 16 more months. He wants money for Georgia and more troops in Afghanistan. He isn’t going to bring home our 30,000 troops from Korea or our 50,000 soldiers in Germany, and he won’t close any of our 700 foreign bases. At the same time, he is planning even bigger spending here at home. I hope I’m wrong, but if this spending and debt continue, the dollar is going to crash and we will see the middle class in this country take a grave hit.
Did he really expect anything different when it came to spending from a liberal Democrat? And Obama never said anything about ending our other overseas committments, which we've had in place for decades. But he does seem to be taking a more adult approach overall, which is what the country sorely needs right now.

Ambition Helpful But Not Necessary

How people get jobs when a new team takes over the White House:
You have this entire universe of super-talented, ambitious and supremely focused players who’ve gone into the exile of think tanks for the long winter, cranking all manner of—admittedly—pretty dull books (you want to say careful things) and attending conference after conference to network like crazy, and never turning down any commissions or what not. So when the floodgates open, it’s not pretty. I mean, you’re talking about true addicts to power—as in, people who’ve organized their entire lives around these moments of possibility.
In other words, it could be argued that Washington is for lawyers who couldn't find honest work.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Son Of Big Government

Obama promises change, but how much is it going to cost?
For libertarians, three poor picks [for HHS secretary] would be chairman of the Democratic Party and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, rumored to be the frontrunner for Secretary of State, and former Democratic Senator from South Dakota Tom Daschle.

Dean, a doctor himself, tried to control soaring health care costs by expanding government control over insurance prices and hospital budgets. He also created a statewide insurance pool and formed a new bureaucracy to manage it. None of this worked and premiums—and the number of uninsured—increased under him.

Clinton, of course, tried to nationalize the health care industry in one fell swoop when her husband was in office. Even though she seems to have abandoned that plan, during her presidential campaign, she advocated forcing the uninsured to buy coverage—through penalties and fines if necessary—to achieve universal coverage.
I'm disappointed as well, but not surprised. After all, we've already had a big-government spender in Bush. Obama is just carrying on the tradition.

Cartoon Conservatism

On how intellectual conservatism descended into self-parody:
The movement has little to say about today’s pressing problems, such as global warming and the debacle in Iraq, and expends too much of its energy on xenophobia, homophobia and opposing stem-cell research.

Conservative intellectuals are also engaged in their own version of what Julian Benda dubbed la trahison des clercs, the treason of the learned. They have fallen into constructing cartoon images of “real Americans”, with their “volkish” wisdom and charming habit of dropping their “g”s. Mrs Palin was invented as a national political force by Beltway journalists from the Weekly Standard and the National Review who met her when they were on luxury cruises around Alaska, and then noisily championed her cause.
As the article points out, this sort of behavior used to be soley the province of the Left. Such is the price of embracing fringe politics.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sting Me

So this is how politicians get elected:
The key to a con is not that you trust the conman, but that he shows he trusts you. Conmen ply their trade by appearing fragile or needing help, by seeming vulnerable. Because of THOMAS [The Human Oxytocin Mediated Attachment System], the human brain makes us feel good when we help others--this is the basis for attachment to family and friends and cooperation with strangers. 'I need your help' is a potent stimulus for action.
Another part of it is the mark's own avarice-the idea that you'll get something for nothing, or that there's an easy way to get what you want. It's a tactic liberals have been using for years.

Shrinkage

The GOP's reliance on social conservatives and those who identify with the religious right may continue to backfire on them.
Since the potential for additional Republican gains among married white Christians appears to be limited, Republican leaders will need to find ways to reduce the Democratic advantage among voters who are not married white Christians in order to maintain the party's competitive position.

However, given the generally liberal views of this group, this will not be easy. In 2006, according to data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, 57 percent of these voters supported a woman's right to choose an abortion under any circumstances, 66 percent opposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage, and 71 percent favored a single-payer health care system. Any attempt by Republican leaders to significantly increase their party's support among voters who are not married white Christians would therefore require changes in some of the party's longstanding policy commitments -- changes that would clearly upset a large segment of the current Republican base.
They've gone from a party that once had widespread appeal to a de facto third party fringe movement. If the Democrats suddenly look more mainstream, it may be because in some ways they are.

The Mac Goes Back

Maverick wants to keep his day job:
McCain is setting up a PAC, which some are seeing as a first step for McCain in running for re-election in 2010. And/but sources tell Roll Call that McCain has made clear his intention to run for re-election when his Senate term is up in 2010.

McCain, 72, announced the decision during a meeting Tuesday evening with top ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), advisers Rick Davis, Charlie Black, Carla Eudy and other aides.
Well, I guess he needs something to do. And if he's still serious about controlling spending he could still be a leader on the Republican side-if they still want him.

The Climate Change Rules

It seems the Europeans are thinking twice about Kyoto.
Italy and Germany agree that measures to cut greenhouse gases shouldn't weigh on the economy, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a press conference Tuesday, indicating government support for tough new measures in Europe is waning.

Any new European Union decisions on climate change and energy 'must be taken in such a way as to not weigh on industry' in Europe, she said at a press conference televised live by Sky Italia.

Italy, Poland and a few other nations in mid-October threatened to veto ambitious new E.U. goals to fight climate change slated to be approved at the end of this year, saying that the measures were expensive. Italy asked for a new assessment of costs, and for more flexibility in their implementation.
Hopefully this is one form of Euro-style nannystating that will die a quick death.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

PiVo

Tivo keeps giving you more reasons not to leave your home:
This is the first time in history that the ‘on-demand’ generation will be able to fully experience couch commerce by ordering pizza directly through their television set. You’ll see a television ad for Domino’s and you’ll click ‘I want it’ through your remote. In about 30 minutes, your pizza will show up at your door.
Now, if it could do that with girls and beer...

The Drone Wars

The drone genie is out of the bottle:
Pakistan tolerates the drones not just because it fears the terrorists but because the drones are earning its confidence. They're not inflicting the sort of massacres that trigger domestic unrest and destabilize allies. In fact, the drones are doing such a good job that Pakistan now wants drones of its own. 'Give them to us,' Pakistan's president tells the Post. 'We are your allies.' Some day, Pakistan will have its drones. So will India, China, and Iran. The proliferation of drones is well underway. Maybe it will solve the problem of terrorist insurgency. Maybe it will create something worse.
This does highlight the problem of what happens when everyone has "The bomb", as in a gadget that could be used as a lethal delivery system against populations. Are they really airborne Terminators in waiting?

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Gambler Continues

How prohibition fails:
After receiving a flood of objections from financial institutions, the Treasury Department will not require them to figure out the difference between legal and illegal online gambling, a distinction Congress deliberately left vague and regulators refuse to clarify. The Bush administration's final regulations under the UIGEA, issued last week, require American credit card companies to invent new codes for certain transactions and require financial institutions to ask their clients to avoid illegal gambling. Otherwise, Rose says, 'everyone else can basically continue to do what they are now doing,' including American gamblers who use overseas intermediaries to place bets and collect their winnings.
There could perhaps be a lesson here for the Great War On Drugs...

The Short Road Home

Kevin Drum on the positives of the SOFA agreement:
This is good for the Iraqis, who really do need the U.S. presence for a little while longer; good for George Bush, who's getting a slightly longer timetable than Barack Obama would have negotiated; and good for Obama, since this essentially makes his decision to withdraw into a bipartisan agreement. After all, conservatives can hardly complain about Obama following a timetable that was negotiated and approved by Bush.
But those who still harbor dreams of a neocon foreign policy will still try to find excuses for us to stay, or to blame Obama if it doesn't work. But IMO they will be running on fumes. This war, for all intents and purposes, is over.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Size Still Matters

The free market is a harsh teacher:
The dream of internet publishers was that media buyers would flock to a more niche medium, where they could target people much more accurately. But the problem is that media buyers, and ad sales people, get paid a lot of money: it's just not worth their while to collaborate on a campaign which only reaches a relative handful of readers. To be successful in publishing, you need economies of scale, and that means big websites with a mass audience rather than niche blogs which need to be sold separately by expensive sales teams.
Idealism versus economic realities. It can happen to anybody.

Been There, Done That

Was this really a game-changing election, or just politics as usual?
The Democrats won't be ousted from power when the Republicans develop great conservative policies with cross-over appeal; the Democrats will be ousted when the electorate concludes that they have screwed things up. For this reason, the real case for formulating new conservative policies is that such policies will help Republicans/conservatives govern better when they return to power, not that they are likely to hasten that day.

Consider this year's election. The liberal Democrats did not return to power because of this or that domestic policy idea or because, more generally, they had conducted a sober reassessment of liberal dogma following prior setbacks. They returned to power, without having revised much of anything, because the electorate was sick of the Republican administration. This scenario is the rule in presidential politics, not the exception.
Unfortunately, some on the Right haven't gotten this, which is why they are being marginalized. But as the Cylons say, this has all happened before, and it will happen again.

Friday, November 14, 2008

How To Win Again

Jesse Walker on getting past Palin:
Expel your base or retreat into an echo chamber: If those choices seem dispiriting, Republicans can take heart. They're the same false alternatives that the Democrats allegedly faced four years ago. Then a politician who hadn't fallen behind the bipartisan Iraq war -- but, unlike Howard Dean, actually wanted to be president -- came out of nowhere to beat his party's establishment and take the White House.

There's a lesson there. If I were a Republican, I'd ignore the inane Palin debate and start looking around for a politician who had the good sense to break with the bipartisan consensus and oppose the bailout bill before it passed. Then I'd start planning an insurgency.
That will only happen once they start looking for a real leader instead of the next rock star.

Saw Syndrome

I'm not sure about this:

TO most people, the thought of amputating a perfectly healthy limb is unimaginable.

But for at least three Australians, possibly dozens more, cutting off their leg has felt perfectly normal.

These so-called 'amputee wannabes' have a very rare condition in which they feel one of their limbs is not truly their own, and they become obsessed with cutting it off.

And people suffering from the bizarre body image disorder should be able to opt for amputation, a Sydney psychiatrist says.

Christopher Ryan, a psychiatrist at the University of Sydney, says there is a good argument for allowing patients with body integrity identity disorder (BIID) to have their unwanted limb removed.

'I am not saying we should unthinkingly cut off people's legs,' Dr Ryan said.

'I realise that the idea strikes almost everyone as lunatic when they first hear it. However, there are a small number of people who see themselves, and have always seen themselves, as amputees,' he said.

And some people want to drive their cars off of a cliff, but that doesn't mean we should let them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The One Who Defines You

Andrew Sullivan on why Obama could be the Change that the Republican Party needs:
With any luck, Obama will force the right to go back to the critique of managed economies, of industrial policy, of debt and 'progressive' taxation that helped restore conservatism in the 1970s. And the decline of the culture wars facilitated by Obama's generational shift may prompt Republicans to appreciate the role of federalism and secularism in public as well as responsibility and faith in private.

Or the GOP could respond viscerally to a multi-cultural, internationally-minded, pragmatic liberalism by ratcheting up the anti-gay, prohibitionist, neo-racist paranoia represented by Palin, Perkins, and the gang. I'd bet on both happening. But Obama has much more influence over this than anyone in the GOP right now. If he hews to the center economically, and stays sober culturally, he could prompt a conservative renaissance ... by the end of his second term.
The way things are right now, he could probably get one. The Republicans should be happy to have him around for eight years-if only to remind them of what they used to be.

Too Rusty To Fail

A couple of arguments on why GM shouldn't be saved:
A bailout of GM would be a pure exercise of political power to deliver taxpayer funds to one organized group of citizens at the expense of the country as a whole. It should be avoided.
Unfortunately that's precisely what the current administration has been doing. And here's Blodget:
We are not suggesting that the government abandon GM's workers: We'd rather the government spend billions on retraining and job placement than on propping up perpetually weak companies that can't fix themselves.
The problem is, once you extend entitlement culture to all, it can be notoriously difficult to stop the handouts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Longest War

Libertarians may be disappointed: Obama may continue the Drug War after all.
President-elect Barack Obama has retreated from his support for marijuana decriminalization, and his position on medical marijuana remains ambiguous. His reticence on these issues suggests he may disappoint those who hope the Obama administration will move drug policy in a less punitive, more tolerant direction.

One cause for that hope: Obama has been more candid about his own youthful drug use than any president in U.S. history. Although he portrays his pot smoking and cocaine snorting as behavior he regrets, it would be hard for him to justify harsh treatment of drug users when he himself escaped punishment for the same actions and clearly is better off than he would have been had he been arrested.

Given his experiences, it's not surprising that during his 2004 Senate campaign Obama told students at Northwestern University, 'I think we need to...decriminalize our marijuana laws.' But this year he backed away from that position. His campaign claimed he really meant 'we are sending far too many first-time, nonviolent drug users to prison for very long periods of time,' and 'we should rethink those laws.'
Once again, Obama seems to want to have it both ways. That could actually be a good thing if you're expecting a "Meh" Presidency instead of an activist one.

The War On Skynet

A warning on the next phase of the WOT:
The current state of the economy and the looming government transition creates a highly attractive atmosphere for terrorists. Our Achilles heel is exposed and waiting to be exploited. As such, corporations must continue to improve security programs, harden their assets and ensure appropriate funding to remain vigilant. This effort must include a comprehensive and ever-evolving strategy to detect, prevent and mitigate all hazards including improvised explosive devices, chemical and biological agents and cyber attacks. A cyber attack aimed at U.S. financial institutions would cause exponentially greater damage in our weakened economic state.
The more complex something becomes, the harder it can be to fix if something goes wrong. The bad guys know this.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The New Money

Obama may be well-intentioned, but he, like most other Democrats, doesn't understand how wealth works:
Barack Obama promised he would lower taxes for 95 percent of Americans and presumably raise them for the 5 percent who benefited most under President Bush’s tax policies. But, remarkably, the most affluent 5 percent supported Obama and that was perhaps the key to his victory last week. This group — and the rise of a new elite class of voters — is at the heart of the fast-paced changes in demographics affecting the political, sociological and economic landscape of the country. While there has been some inflation over the past 12 years, the exit poll demographics show that the fastest growing group of voters in America has been those making over $100,000 a year in income.
In other words-Blue Staters would get taxed more (along with a growing majority of Americans). Of course the irony seems to be lost on them right now.

Change We Can't Believe In?

Will Obama actually be more of the same than McCain would have been?
President-elect Barack Obama is unlikely to radically overhaul controversial Bush administration intelligence policies, advisers say, an approach that is almost certain to create tension within the Democratic Party. Civil-liberties groups were among those outraged that the White House sanctioned the use of harsh intelligence techniques -- which some consider torture -- by the Central Intelligence Agency, and expanded domestic spy powers. These groups are demanding quick action to reverse these policies. Mr. Obama is being advised largely by a group of intelligence professionals, including some who have supported Republicans, and centrist former officials in the Clinton administration.
It seems like Obama wants to have it both ways. Disappointing, if true, but it might still be more competent than what we've had for the last eight years. And Obama's overall policy-including his apparent willingness to close Gitmo and a more realistic foreign policy-may help balance this out-maybe.

The New New World Order

On the subject of advice for Obama, an argument that we're part of the global economy whether we like it or not.
The world we are living in now is very different from even a decade ago. Next year, for the first time in history, the world's emerging economies will provide 100 percent of global economic growth. And for several more years, the world's richest countries will be mired in recession and burdened by debt. Many large emerging-market countries, on the other hand, will grow at 4, 5, and 6 percent a year.
....

In such a world, Americans seem to understand that bloviating about "USA as Number One" is cheap rhetoric, divorced from the real world. They sense that the real challenge for Washington is not to boast about America's might but to use its capacities -- military, political, intellectual -- to work with others to create a more stable, peaceful and prosperous world in which American interests and ideals will be secure.

Barack Obama keeps being advised (warned) by conservatives to govern from the center. But he should look at this new world, not failed Republican ideology, to find that center.
I think Obama is smart enough to do this, his protectionist stance during the campaign aside. While I still believe American jobs and industries should be protected, the economic isolationism of old is dead and gone.

Speak And Spell

Via Powerline, we get the following as advice for Obama:
Bush never gets sloppy when he is speaking publicly. He chooses his words with care and precision, which is why his style sometimes seems halting. In the eight years he has been President, it is remarkable how few gaffes or verbal blunders he has committed. If Obama doesn’t raise his standards, he will exceed Bush’s total before he is inaugurated.
I wish I could say this was The Onion...

Movievision

Cool:
YouTube is by far the world’s biggest stage for online video. But in some ways Hulu is stealing the show.

Many Hollywood executives prefer to use Hulu owned by NBC and Fox. With critical plaudits and advertising dollars flowing to Hulu, the popular online hub for television shows and feature films, YouTube finds itself in the unanticipated position of playing catch-up.

On Monday, YouTube will move forward a little, announcing an agreement to show some full-length television shows and films from MGM, the financially troubled 84-year-old film studio.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios will kick off the partnership by posting episodes of its decade-old “American Gladiators” program to YouTube, along with full-length action films like “Bulletproof Monk” and “The Magnificent Seven” and clips from popular movies like “Legally Blonde.” These will be free to watch, with ads running alongside the video.
Well, it's a start. If only the music industry could have learned the same lesson.

A Blue Reagan?

Maybe Republicans have been looking for Reagan in all the wrong places.
Barack Obama won the White House by campaigning against an unpopular incumbent in a time of economic anxiety and lingering foreign policy concerns. He offered voters an upbeat message, praised the nation as a land of opportunity, promised tax cuts to just about everyone, and overcame doubts about his experience with a strong performance in the presidential debates. Does this sound familiar? It should. Mr. Obama followed the approach that worked for Ronald Reagan. His victory confirmed that voters still embrace the guiding beliefs of the Reagan era. . . . Down the campaign homestretch, Mr. Obama's tax-cutting promise became his clearest policy position. Eventually he stole the tax issue from the Republicans. Heading into the election, 31% of voters thought that a President Obama would cut their taxes. Only 11% expected a tax cut from a McCain administration.
When you've had a Republican administration that spends like a Democratic one, is it any wonder voters were more willing to listen to the guy who sounded more like a Republican than the Republicans?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rediscovering Their Inner Socialist

China discovers bailouts:
China announced a huge economic stimulus package on Sunday, pledging to spend some 4 trillion renminbi — or around $586 billion — on a wide range of moves designed to boost an economy starting to feel the effects of the world financial crisis....

Xinhua, China's official news agency, reported that the package's spending over the next two years would be aimed at ten major areas, including "low-income housing, rural infrastructure, water, electricity, transportation, the environment, technological innovation and rebuilding from several disasters, most notably the May 12 earthquake."
It must do the Bush Administration proud to know that they've set such an example for other socialist governments to follow.

All Your Cash Are Belong To Us

If you're having a hard time following the money these days, this could be why.
The Federal Reserve is refusing to identify the recipients of almost $2 trillion of emergency loans from American taxpayers or the troubled assets the central bank is accepting as collateral. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in September they would comply with congressional demands for transparency in a $700 billion bailout of the banking system. Two months later, as the Fed lends far more than that in separate rescue programs that didn't require approval by Congress, Americans have no idea where their money is going or what securities the banks are pledging in return.
Yes, I'm sure we can trust the government to take over our banks.

Obama Day

I think this is a tad premature:
Plans are being made to promote a national holiday for Barack Obama, who will become the nation's 44th president when he takes the oath of office Jan. 20.

'Yes We Can' planning rallies will be at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every Tuesday at the downtown McDonald's restaurant, 1100 Kansas Ave., until Jan. 13. The goals are to secure a national holiday in Obama's honor, to organize celebrations around his inauguration and to celebrate the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, who was born on Feb. 12 1809.

At 7:30 a.m. on Inauguration Day, Obama Cake will be served at the downtown McDonald's, and a celebration is scheduled for 8 p.m. to midnight Jan. 20 at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center, 420 S.E. 6th.
If Obama really ants to avoid the socialist label, he'd better shoot this idea down soon, lest he wants it to be remembered as his Dear Leader moment.

A Small Circle Of Wagons

The Republican circle jerk may be getting smaller:
You might think that a defeat like the one the GOP endured last week would prompt Grover Norquist to argue that the Republican Party needs to ditch its warmongers and its theocrats, or prompt Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council to argue that the GOP needs to ditch its flat-tax obsessives, or prompt the Federalist Society's Leonard Leo to complain about all those anti-intellectual hicks who loved Sarah Palin. But in practice the incentives probably cut the other way: Nobody wants to fire the first shot against their fellow movementarians, because then everybody else might just close ranks and train their fire in your direction.
Nobody ever said marginalization wouldn't be painful.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Getting to Work

Obama plans to keep busy once he takes office.
President-elect Obama plans to use his executive powers to make an immediate impact when he takes office, perhaps reversing Bush administration policies on stem cell research and domestic drilling for oil and natural gas.

John Podesta, Obama's transition chief, said Sunday Obama is reviewing President Bush's executive orders on those issues and others as he works to undo policies enacted during eight years of Republican rule. He said the president can use such orders to move quickly on his own.

"There's a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we'll see the president do that," Podesta said. "I think that he feels like he has a real mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set."
Many new Presidents have wanted to change the course of their predecessors once they take the wheel. How far Obama goes after that is where the concern lies, as it should with all Chief Executives.

The Post Angry Era

Fred Barnes, of all people, points out what's wrong with the GOP:
Republicans have a big problem. Nope, it’s not figuring out how to rebuild their party after consecutive defeats in national elections (that’s easy). Nor is it finding new leaders in Congress (also easy) or latching onto fresh ideas that might improve the Republican brand (easiest of all). The problem is simpler—but also more difficult—than those. It’s the tricky business of dealing with President Barack Obama.

For starters, Republicans should recognize their position in relation to Obama. For the time being anyway, he’s a colossus astride the continent, the most commanding political presence since Ronald Reagan arrived in Washington. He’s the star. Republicans are extras. If they attract attention, it’s likely to be because they’ve done something the media consider outrageous or dumb.
The problem with being an angry extra is, pretty soon people stop paying attention to you. Serious opposition requires a serious, if optimistic, attitude. Unfortunately the Republicans seem to be in short supply of both.

I Vant To Be Alone, Really

Is too much privacy bad for you?
By middle age, the lonely are less likely to exercise and more likely to eat a high-fat diet, and they report experiencing a greater number of stressful events. Loneliness correlates with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. During a four-year study, lonely senior citizens were more likely to end up in nursing homes; during a nine-year study, people with fewer social ties were two to three times more likely to die.
There's much to be said for maintaining human contact, but there's also something to be said for personal time in an era where we seem to have less privacy every day. Besides, without the Internet, where would lonely old men get their porn?

Viva La Downloading

How the online revolution will kill socialist marketing:
The lesson from Napster and iTunes is that there’s even MORE music than there was before. What got hurt was Tower and the guys in the suits and the unlimited budgets for groupies and drugs. The music will keep coming. Same thing is true with books. So you can decide to hassle your readers (oh, I mean your customers) and you can decide that a book on a Kindle SHOULD cost $15 because it replaces a $15 book, and if you do, we (the readers) will just walk away. Or, you could say, “if books on the Kindle were $1, perhaps we could create a vast audience of people who buy books like candy, all the time, and read more and don’t pirate stuff cause it’s convenient and cheap…”
Power to the people, and all that.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Threat That Wasn't

If you've been feeling safe, it's probably because you actually were.
The FBI tracked about 108,000 potential terrorism threats or suspicious incidents from mid-2004 to November 2007, but most were found groundless, a Justice Department review found on Friday.

The department's office of inspector general gave the figure in an audit of the FBI's terrorism case-tracking system, called Guardian, launched in 2002 after the September 11 attacks.

'The FBI determined that the overwhelming majority of the threat information documented in Guardian had no nexus to terrorism. However, as a result of information reported in Guardian the FBI initiated over 600 criminal and terrorism-related investigations from October 2006 to December 2007,' the inspector general's report said.
Well, somebody has to chase shadows for a living.

The Obama Brigade

Well, at least they're being honest:
The op-ed page ran far more laudatory opinion pieces on Obama, 32, than on Sen. John McCain, 13. There were far more negative pieces (58) about McCain than there were about Obama (32), and Obama got the editorial board's endorsement. The Post has several conservative columnists, but not all were gung-ho about McCain.

Stories and photos about Obama in the news pages outnumbered those devoted to McCain. Post reporters, photographers and editors -- like most of the national news media -- found the candidacy of Obama, the first African American major-party nominee, more newsworthy and historic.
If you felt the love, it was because Obama got more of it. And the Post wern't the only ones spreading it.

Children Of No Men

Are men headed toward extinction?
More and more boys are being born with genital defects and are suffering from learning disabilities, autism and Tourette's syndrome, among other disorders.

Male infertility rates are on the rise and the quality of an average man's sperm is declining, according to some studies.

But perhaps the most disconcerting of all trends is the growing gender imbalance in many parts of heavily industrialized nations, where the births of baby boys have been declining for many years.
Planet of the Women or the Last Man on Earth? And with advances in medical technology they might not even need us for reproduction anymore. Maybe we should start hiring ourselves out to natural history museums...

Law And Disorder

The Russian government is worried:
ST PETERSBURG, Russia, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered police on Friday to stamp out any social unrest or crime arising from the global financial crisis.

'We have a stable state ... We do not need a return to the 1990s when everything was boiling and seething,' Medvedev told a meeting of senior officials.

'The law enforcement agencies should keep track of what is happening,' he said.

'And if someone tries to exploit the consequences of the financial crisis ... they should intervene, bring criminal charges. Otherwise, there won't be order.'

The longest economic boom in a generation has helped the Kremlin maintain political stability but some analysts say the financial crisis could give rise to a wave of social unrest.
Well, most neo-totalitarian societies are stable when they have a big enough fist.

The Kids Won't Be Alright

Cliff Mason says thanks but no thanks to Obama's mandatory national service plan:
Putting aside the question of the educational value of community service, there's simply nothing voluntary about forcing middle and high school students to do 50 hours of community service a year. Obama may have carried the youth vote, voters between the ages of 18 and 29, by a 66 to 32 margin, but I bet if kids in middle and high school could vote and they knew about Obama's plan to conscript them into this national community service program, his margin among that age group would have been a lot slimmer although he still would've won handily because the Republicans, thanks to their intransigence on social issues, have lost an entire generation of voters.
This is why we don't have a draft, and I fail to see how forced community service would be much different.

The Sphere Is Gone

Is the age of the blogopshere over?
While there continue to be many blogs, including a lot of very good ones, it seems to me that one would be hard pressed to make the case that there's still a 'blogosphere.' That vast, free-wheeling, and surprisingly intimate forum where individual writers shared their observations, thoughts, and arguments outside the bounds of the traditional media is gone. Almost all of the popular blogs today are commercial ventures with teams of writers, aggressive ad-sales operations, bloated sites, and strategies of self-linking. Some are good, some are boring, but to argue that they're part of a 'blogosphere' that is distinguishable from the 'mainstream media' seems more and more like an act of nostalgia, if not self-delusion.
We have met the establishment and it is us? I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The New Socialism

You knew this was coming.
The federal government is preparing to take tens of billions of dollars in ownership stakes in an array of companies outside the banking sector, dramatically widening the scope of the Treasury Department's rescue effort beyond the $250 billion set aside for traditional financial firms, government and industry officials said. [...]

Since the announcement of the program to inject capital into banks, a number of industries, including automakers, insurers and specialty lenders for small businesses have approached the Treasury with hat in hand. Some have been turned away because they are not banks and thus not eligible for capital.

The new initiative would make it easier for the Treasury to aid a wider variety of firms if their troubles put the wider financial system at risk, government and industry officials said.
Remind me again of what the difference is going to be between the Bush administration and Obama's?

Gangsta Grandpa

It seems old people have dicovered the thug life in Japan:
The number of people aged 65 or older arrested for crimes other than traffic violations totaled 48,605 last year, up from 24,247 in 2002, the Justice Ministry said in an annual crime report. Elderly crimes rose 4.2 percent in 2007 from a year earlier, though the total number of people arrested fell 4.8 percent to 366,002. Thefts, such as shoplifting and pick-pocketing, were the most common crimes committed by older people, the report said, citing low income, declining health and a sense of isolation as the main causes of the trend.
With a rising poplation of the elderly, will Japan start seeing senior citizen gangbangers? Nothing would make the gangsta lifestyle less appealing to the kids. That might be a good thing.

The Post-Palin Party

Where the Republicans should go from here, according to David Frum:
College-educated Americans have come to believe that their money is safe with Democrats - but that their values are under threat from Republicans. There are more and more college-educated voters.

So the question for the GOP is: Will it pursue them? This will involve painful change, on issues ranging from the environment to abortion. It will involve even more painful changes of style and tone: toward a future that is less overtly religious, less negligent with policy, and less polarising on social issues.

That's a future that leaves little room for Sarah Palin - but the only hope for a Republican recovery.
I really hope the stigma against being educated can end in the Republican Party's base. Conservative nerds unite!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wish List

What the incoming Obama administration should focus on, according to the Government Accountability Office:
oversight of financial institutions and markets,
U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan,
protecting the homeland,
undisciplined defense spending,
improving the U.S. image abroad,
finalizing plans for the 2010 Census,
caring for service members,
preparing for public health emergencies,
revamping oversight of food safety,
restructuring the approach to surface transportation,
retirement of the Space Shuttle,
ensuring an effective transition to digital TV, and
rebuilding military readiness.
If what the Democrats want to do is any indication, I'm not sure that oversight of the markets is such a good idea. But it looks like Team Obama will have its hands full one way or the other.

Don't Upset Grandma

Why did John McCain ignore Social Security? Because he (and other Republicans) don't want to tick off the old folks.
Being the candidate who tells the American people he's going to cut their benefits is political suicide. If you think the McCain-Palin ticket performed poorly with elderly voters in key states like Ohio, Virginia, and Florida, well-- I invite you to imagine how they would have done if they had been perceived as threatening social security, a cherished (yes, cherished) American institution.
I gave Bush credit for at least trying to reform Social Security. The system as it is can't survvive without some kind of adjustment with millions of Baby Boomers about to enter its rolls. It would be ironic if it took President Obama to do something about it besides promising more entitlements. Now that would be change we can believe in.

Looking For Mr. Goldwater

Back to the wilderness:
Although John McCain’s loss was not as numerically stunning as the 1964 defeat of Barry Goldwater, who won 16 fewer states and 122 fewer electoral votes than McCain seems to have won as of this writing, Tuesday’s trouncing was more dispiriting for conservatives. Goldwater’s loss was constructive; it invigorated his party by reorienting it ideologically. McCain’s loss was sterile, containing no seeds of intellectual rebirth.
Unfortunately, most of the smart conservatives have been driven away from the Party. Maybe that will change, but it will need another William F. Buckley along with a Goldwater to do it.

The 'Burbs

The Republicans are losing the suburbs in a big way:
"It is a problem for Republicans. As they continue to cater to their culturally conservative rural base, they continue to alienate educated voters,' said Rep. Tom Davis, who is retiring and whose Fairfax County district was taken over by the Democrats on Tuesday. "The suburban vote is steadily slipping away, and the party's trying to ignore it and pretend it's not happening."
The Republicans are still trying to run campaigns based on the models they used from the '50's through the '80's. But the suburbs have become more diverse ethnically and politically and the tactics that once drew mostly white suburbanites aren't working anymore. It's yet another reason they are becoming increasingly limited to the South and marginalized to the far right on social issues.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What It Means

It really is historic:
Yes, we have a new president. We have a Democrat president. But we have a black president, and that’s an important distinction to make, because it means something.

It means this nation has progressed. It means the line Jackie Robinson broke in 1947 has been extended to the farthest possible reaches. Imagine going back in time to 1955 and telling Rosa Parks, “One day a black man will be president.” It would be like going back to the 1940s and telling people we would one day walk on the Moon or fly to Mars. What seemed impossible in one time, becomes reality in another. That is progress. Progress is something to be proud of.

Of course, we elected Obama the man, not just the black man. We elected his ideals, his vision, and his hope. We elected him because we wanted change. And now that the time for change is here, we need to embrace it, all of us.
Of course, whether America should accept Obama's politics is another question. But he won fair and square. And there's this:
Along a rural highway in central Texas sits a small white house with some cows grazing out back and a wheelchair ramp leading to the front screen door. Inside that house lives Amanda Jones, 109, the daughter of a slave. No one in her family, least of all Jones, thought she would live long enough to vote for the man who is to become the first black president.

Jones is the living link between the time when black men were owned as property and the time when a black man has been elected president of the United States.

She wears a pink gown and sits in a worn recliner. Thick glasses magnify her rheumy eyes — eyes that have witnessed two world wars, a great depression, and the arrival of jazz, television and antibiotics. Born in 1899, Jones has lived through a half-century of institutional segregation and a second half-century of attempts to erase that legacy.

"The white is over everything," she says. "I never thought the colored would rise up" and accomplish this.

She says Barack Obama's election is "a blessing."
....

She remembers very little of what her father told her about slavery days.

"When he was a little boy, he herded [the master's] sheep," she says, and he protected them from mountain lions that then prowled the forests of central Texas.

She went on to marry C.L. Jones, who farmed and ran a small grocery in Bastrop County. She worked as a maid before raising 10 children of her own.

The first president Jones voted for was Franklin D. Roosevelt. Like all black citizens, she had to pay a poll tax to vote.

"We would pick cotton and save our money to pay taxes," she recalls.
When they talk about moments that you can tell your grandchildren about, this is one of them. Regardless of what you might think about Obama's politics, America has reason to be proud. So congratulations to Obama; he earned it.

Free At Last?

Jeff Flake says losing will be good for the Republican Party:
The Republican Party is not bound by election-year promises made by its presidential nominee. More important, the party is finally untethered from the ill-fitting and unworkable big-government conservatism that defined the Bush administration. This is not to say that it will be an easy transition. Congressional Republicans picked up some unattractive habits over the years in an effort to hold on to power....

But there is reason for Republicans to feel optimism. Politically, America remains a center-right country, and America loves a chastened and repentant sinner. As surely as the sun rises in the east, the Democrats will overreach.
He's right, but unless the Republicans find a way to separate themselves from God-fearing nannystaters overall, they'll be forced to wander in the wilderness a while longer.

Sweet Leaf Sanity

Will there be a chance for real reform under Obama?
National polls have long indicated that a large majority of Americans think 1) patients who can benefit from marijuana should be able to obtain it legally and 2) people should not go to jail for smoking pot. (So far they do not take the next logical step, which is to recognize that people who simply help others smoke pot should not go to jail either.) Obama already has promised to call off the DEA's medical marijuana raids. In light of the popular support for drug policy reform, is it too much to hope that he will step back generally in this area and (as the Constitution requires) allow states to experiment with different approaches?
One would certainly hope so.

The American President

And we now have a new President of the United States.
Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States, opening a new chapter in the country's history as the first African-American to hold the world's most important job.

``If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,'' Obama told more than 100,000 people who gathered for a victory celebration in Chicago's Grant Park.

The Illinois senator capped his 21-month quest with a sweeping electoral victory that also enhanced the Democrats' majority in Congress and marked the end of an era of Republican dominance in Washington.
History has been made. In the days to come the debates over his merits as Commander In Chief will begin again, but no one can deny that this is a huge moment in American history.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Great Depression

The Swiss seem to be the unhappiest people on Earth.
Increasing numbers of people seeking assisted suicides in Switzerland do not suffer from a terminal illness, according to a study released on Tuesday whose findings were rejected by a right-to-die group.

Researchers from the University of Zurich and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences said many elderly people who have sought assistance to end their lives in Switzerland suffered from chronic and other non-life-threatening conditions.

'Being tired of life and in very poor health are becoming more frequent reasons to seek help to commit suicide than in the past,' said Susanne Fischer, co-author of the review of assisted suicides in Zurich undertaken by two groups, Exit and Dignitas.

Those groups have sparked international controversy in past years alongside a rise in 'death tourism' to Switzerland, which has some of the world's most liberal assisted suicide rules.
I can see their slogan now: "Come for the Alps and the chocolate; stay for the suicide booths!"

Fairness For Thee

You know this is coming:
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday defended the so-called Fairness Doctrine in an interview on Fox News, saying, “I think we should all be fair and balanced, don’t you?”

Schumer’s comments echo other Democrats’ views on reviving the Fairness Doctrine, which would require radio stations to balance conservative hosts with liberal ones.

Asked if he is a supporter of telling radio stations what content they should have, Schumer used the fair and balanced line, claiming that critics of the Fairness Doctrine are being inconsistent.

“The very same people who don’t want the Fairness Doctrine want the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] to limit pornography on the air. I am for that… But you can’t say government hands off in one area to a commercial enterprise but you are allowed to intervene in another. That’s not consistent.”
....

Conservatives fear that forcing stations to make equal time for liberal talk radio would cut into profits so significantly that radio executives would opt to scale back on conservative radio programming to avoid escalating costs and interference from the FCC.

They also note that conservative radio shows has been far more successful than liberal ones.
I really hope that if they do try this it will be declared unconstitutional as soon as possible. Nobody is forcing people to listen to Limbaugh. And Limbaugh, whatever you might think about him, shouldn't be forced to allow "Equal time" on his show by the government. Free speech means you have the right to make your case-not the right to make others accept your case.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Change We Can't Believe In?

Over at Reason, Randy Balko notices something about a list of potential Obama cabinet members:
What's interesting is that despite Obama's campaign talk of revolutionary change, with few exceptions, the Politico list looks like a markedly un-radical list of establishment Democrats and moderate Republicans.
This is why I think Obama will be even more of a centrist than Clinton was. He can't afford to be a radical at this point in history.

Nadermania!

Newsweek tries to make the case that Nader still matters.
According to recent CNN/Opinion Research polls, Barack Obama leads John McCain by four points in a two-way choice among likely Florida voters. That gap grows to eight points with Nader in the mix, along with other minor-party candidates such as Libertarian Bob Barr.

Another sign the Nader effect may have reversed course is how the Democrats are dealing with him this time. In 2004, John Kerry met with Nader to try to dissuade him from running, and party lawyers contested his place on the ballot. This time, the Obama campaign has made no similar effort to obstruct Nader.

Who are the voters whom Nader siphons from McCain? Kevin Hill, an associate professor of political science at Florida International University, says Nader's populist rhetoric appeals to white working-class voters who lean conservative. 'It's probably more of a protest than anything else,' he says. McCain aides argue that Nader's poll ratings are too low to be significant. But at Nader's HQ, the lack of attention is welcome: instead of fighting ballot challenges, Nader is now contesting 45 states, and his campaign suggests he'll far exceed his dismal total of about 400,000 votes in 2004.
I'm sorry, but third-party candidates have probably mattered less this year than at any point in recent memory (sorry, Bob). Despite the attention that Ron Paul got, once the primaries were over he was pretty much nonexistent. Ralph has beome the Harold Stassen of our time-mildy interesting, perhaps, but really a non-entity.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Faster Than A Speeding Arrest Warrent

I always figured Supes had a dark side:
Police say that three robbers -- all dressed in Halloween costumes, one as Superman -- pretended to be trick-or-treating in Merrick. When a resident opened his door, the robbers pushed their way in, tied him up with duct tape, and ransacked the place. No one was hurt, but the family is shaken and so are neighbors.
It must have been the red kryptonite...

Son Of Clinton

We may be about to enter the post-WOT era:
We are now about to take a second vacation from history (assuming, of course, that Barack Obama prevails on Tuesday). Barney Frank has vowed to cut the defense budget by 25%. Apart from the budget, it is apparent that Obama and his fellow Democrats have little interest in the conflict with Islamic extremism and no intention of pursuing it aggressively. Like the interlude of the 1990s, the de-emphasis on national security promised by the Democrats is the fruit of success.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Clinton benefited from a good economy following a recession and had a reasonable view of America's place in the post-Cold War world. Obviously Islamic extremism will still exist, but it's losing followers. This could help the next Presient formulate a more realistic post-Bush foreign policy, which would be a good thing no matter who wins.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I Want My Streaming TV

Technology marches on.
TiVo and Netflix finally announced that they would be partnering to deliver instant streaming video. If you have a Netflix subscription (and a TiVo, of course), you can stream all the video you want at no additional charge. The deal makes a lot of sense: both companies are struggling, competing with Bittorrent and the cable companies to keep their business models alive. But together they can offer something that the cable companies will have to step up their game considerably to compete with. Indeed, the deal makes so much sense that people have been waiting for it since 2004, when it was announced with much fanfare and then went nowhere. Yesterday was the fruition of a long-held dream.
Now you'll really have an excuse never to leave your house...

McOne Is The Loneliest Number

This should come as a surprise to no one:
"The Obama campaign leads by better than 2-1 in newspaper endorsements from dailies and weeklies, based on our tally so far. But the Democratic ticket has an even more impressive lead when it comes to college newspapers — 63 to 1, according to UWIRE’s Presidential Endorsement Scorecard."
The ivory tower has always been saturated with groupthink, but couldn't there be some, you know, actual diversity from the diversity crowd?