Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Decade (It's About Time)

With the new year and new decade upon us (unless you're one of those persnickity types who wants to insist it won't end until next year), here's a few ways to look back and reminisce:

The Daily Show

Yahoo News

MSNBC's pictures and more

USA Today

Reason TV's look back

The Big I

That spectre of the Seventies economy-inflation-may be making a comeback:
Economists and consumers are increasingly uneasy about the prospect of a continuous loss of purchasing power — the very definition of inflation.
"We have the most potentially inflationary policy I have ever observed in a developed country," said Alan Meltzer, a Fed historian and professor of political economy at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business in Pittsburgh.

According to widely used economic models, the way consumers perceive the prospect of future inflation has clear implications for prices themselves. Once higher costs are taken for granted, they are more easily tolerated.
It seems the Disco Decade is back again in more ways than one...

The Democratic Delinquents

They seem to be dropping out all over:
Democrats have lost yet another touted recruit, this time in Kansas.

State Sen. Laura Kelly (D) just announced her withdrawal from the race to face Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.). She becomes the fifth formidable recruit to bow out in recent weeks.

“I have been forced to make a decision between honoring the pledge I made to the people in my Senate district and my firm conviction that the people of the 2nd congressional district deserve a truly independent voice in Congress," Kelly said in a statement.

“This has been a very hard decision, but it is the right one.”

Kelly joins several recent dropouts, including businessman Jack McDonald, a well-funded challenger to Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) who announced last week that he wouldn't run. The others are Ohio state Rep. Todd Book, who was running against Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio); former Tennessee Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Paula Flowers, who was running for Rep. Zach Wamp's (R-Tenn.) seat; and Solana Beach City Councilman Dave Roberts, who was running against Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.).
It seems that more and more of them are seeing the writing on the wall as far as 2010 is concerned. I might feel kind of sorry for them, if I wasn't enjoying the meltdown so much.

Alive And Kicking

To quote Mark Twain, the rumors of Rush's demise have been exagerrated:
Shortly after the news broke that the conservative political radio talk show host was hospitalized, Wikipedia updated his page – and pronounced him dead.

Folks (like us) who happened to take a look at Limbaugh’s biography, saw this:

Rush Hudson Limbaugh III (pronounced /ˈlɪmbɔː/;born January 12, 1951, died December 30, 2009) is an American radio host and conservative political commentator. He is the host of The Rush Limbaugh Show, the highest-rated talk-radio program in the United States. It airs throughout the U.S. on Premiere Radio Networks.

That was posted shortly after midnight, EST.

Rush, of course, was very much alive and about 15 minutes later Wikipedia pronounced him so, altering their bio by removing the information that he had died.
Hmmm...premature wishful thinking on their part?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

To Donate Or Not To Donate

Well, good:
Armed with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding Idaho’s Voluntary Contribution Act, California proponents of paycheck protection have begun circulating a ballot measure that if passed would get the state out of the business of collecting political cash for its government employee union officials. Political participation would once again become voluntary for the state’s workers.

Officials in those unions that would rather not give their members the freedom to choose for themselves whether to fund the union’s political agenda will no doubt complain loudly. Yet, proponents of reform have an advantage in that a majority of union members themselves have historically supported efforts to give them the power to decide for themselves whether to support political candidates or causes.

The California effort will need to overcome every conceivable obstacle that will be thrown in their path, including those which were used to defeat similar efforts in 1998 and 2005 with Propositions 226 and 75, respectively.

The latest measure enjoys strong support from the well organized tea party movement in California, which is backing the petitioning effort. Substantial funding will be necessary to get the measure passed once it qualifies for the ballot: history shows the officials running many of the state’s public employee unions will say just about anything to persuade a voter to oppose this common sense reform.
This is one area where the Tea Partiers could have real success, and, if they do, they could prove themselves a viable national movement. It makes more sense than going the third party route, which would only benefit those officials.

And The Bailout Beat Goes On

Yeah, this'll work:
The federal government said Wednesday it will take a majority ownership stake in the troubled auto lender GMAC, providing another $3.8 billion in aid to the company, which has been unable to raise from private investors the money it needs to stanch its losses.

The new aid package for GMAC, coming as most large banks are repaying the government, underscores both the problems afflicting the company and its importance to the Obama administration's efforts to revive the auto industry.

GMAC, which already has taken $12.5 billion in direct federal aid along with other forms of government support, is the largest lender to General Motors and Chrysler dealerships and to their auto-buying customers.

The Treasury Department said it will increase its stake in GMAC to 56 percent from 35 percent. It also will hold about $14 billion in what amount to loans that GMAC may eventually be required to repay. The government plans to appoint four of the company's nine directors.

GMAC becomes the sixth company taken over by the federal government in the last two years, joining mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, automakers General Motors and Chrysler, and the insurance company American International Group. The government also owns a large stake in Citigroup.
They do say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sea Stories

A new report seems to contradict the Prophet Gore's claims of impending apocalypse:
So how much sea level rise is the planet likely to experience over the next century? The Melting Snow and Ice report notes, “The near-future contribution of ice sheets to sea level is highly uncertain but potentially large.” The report does cite a recent study from Geophysical Research Letters that finds that “if the climate continues to warm along current trends, a minimum of 373 ± 21 millimeters (about 15 inches) of sea-level rise over the next 100 years is expected from glaciers and ice caps.”

Taking into account future thermal expansion—sea water expanding as the globe warms—University of Copenhagen glaciologist Dorthe Dahl Jensen, speaking at the session in which the report was released, projected that global sea levels could rise by 1 meter (39 inches) by 2100, plus or minus half a meter (20 inches). The lower bound of this new projection overlaps with the upper bound of the IPCC 4AR projection. In contrast, a recent article in Energy & Environment (a journal, it is fair to say, that is editorially skeptical of catastrophic global warming projections) suggests that the “best guess” for sea level rise over the next century is 23 centimeters (about 9 inches).

So sea levels are very likely going to rise over the coming century, but not by 20 feet. Admittedly, Gore does not say that sea levels will rise by 20 feet this century, just that that much increase would occur if Greenland’s ice cap melted away. Fortunately, researchers generally project that the complete melting away of the Greenland ice sheet caused by man-made global warming would take between 500 and 1000 years. This is not great, but it certainly still gives humanity time to figure out how to adapt to such an increase—or figure out how to stop it. And it would be a good idea for builders and insurance companies to keep the projected rise in sea levels in mind.

What about Gore’s Copenhagen prediction of an ice-free Arctic Ocean by 2014? The researcher whose work Gore said he was citing, Wieslav Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, repudiated Gore’s assertion the next day. The Melting Snow and Ice report cites modeling studies that find that the Arctic Ocean in September could be ice-free by 2100, or perhaps as early as 2037.
So, once again, doomsday seems to be dealayed. But at least that will give Gore and his followers more time to hype it.

The Cost Of Scandal

Now this is what I call a massive financial collapse:
Tiger Woods is not the only one who blew big bucks with his image-busting cheating spree.

His losses are chump change compared with the up to $12 billion that the scandal has cost shareholders of his big-money sponsors like Nike, AT&T and Gatorade, a study revealed Monday.

"Total shareholder losses may exceed several decades' worth of Tiger Woods' personal endorsement income," said study author Victor Stango, a professor at the University of California Davis.
Tiger had better hope they don't try and collect...

For The Nerd Who Has Everything

What life is like with a Cylon:
Inventor Le Trung spent Christmas Day with the most important woman in his life - his robot Aiko.

The science genius enjoyed a festive dinner with his mum, dad and his £30,000 fembot which he designed and built by hand.

Le, 34, from Brampton, Ontario, Canada, even bought gifts for his dream girl, who is so lifelike she speaks fluent English and Japanese, helped cook the turkey and hang up decorations.

'Aiko is like any woman, she enjoys getting new clothes,' he said.

'I loved buying them for her too.'

Le, who built his first robot when he was four, has dedicated his life to creating the perfect humanoid and his success so far with Aiko has won him worldwide attention.

Aiko, whose name is Japanese for 'love-child' has an amazing artificial intelligence and can speak 13,000 different sentences in two languages

'Aiko can recognise faces and says hello to anyone she has met,' he said.

'She helps me pick what to have for dinner and knows what drinks I like.'
As Bender would say, "You got robot fever, boy, robot fever!"

Monday, December 28, 2009

Some Internets Are More Open Than Others

Who is Google trying to fool here?
Last week, in a post on the official Google blog, the company’s senior vice president for product management, Jonathan Rosenberg, wrote that while Google’s “goal is to keep the Internet open,” it opposes the concept of “openness” where it would apply to its own search and ad products.

Ironically, the rationale behind Google’s opposition to “open internet” policy of this sort sounds remarkably similar to the rationale expressed by ISPs—which Google and other “open internet” advocates have targeted as the enemy in the current fight regarding FCC rules—for opposing net neutrality. According to Rosenberg, opening up Google’s code “would actually hurt users” and result in “reduced quality” for those who rely on the service in question.

That is an end result that net neutrality opponents say could equally well be assured by instituting that specific policy, though they allege that a key difference is that net-only neutrality would help, not hurt, Google, from a financial perspective. Broader openness, by contrast, would strike a major blow to Google—and open internet advocates and major voices in the tech sphere are now calling the company out for dressing up a public policy stance that appears to driven by a pure profit motive as philosophically principled and heartfelt.

In a recent post at Boing Boing, blogger Rob Beschizza comments on how odd it is “that of all the products Google would be forced to keep proprietary by its commitment to an open internet, it just happens to be the ones that make it all of its money.”
I have nothing against Google wanting to protect its own property. But please, don't try and say it's in the name of "Openness" when it isn't.

What Would Ashcroft Do?

Comparing John Ashcroft with Janet Napolitano:
Ashcroft was demonized for suggesting that Americans be on the lookout for terrorists. One of Napolitano’s main talking points these days is the need for vigilance from the public. Heck she claimed the “system worked” because a flying Dutchman took out the “alleged” terrorist.

Ashcroft was demonized because he allegedly was turning America into a police state where political enemies were targeted (remember that’s why Naomi Wolfe had a years-long mental breakdown). Janet Napolitano oversaw a report that singles out American citizens and returning vets as potential terrorists because of their political views.

Ashcroft was mocked as a provincial hick who didn’t know much. Napolitano — who runs our immigration service and was governor of a border state — thinks it’s not a crime to illegally cross the border and insists that the 9/11 hijackers came from Canada.

John Ashcroft was a dangerous ideologue because he believed the war on terror is real. But Janet Napolitano isn’t a dangerous ideologue for believing the war on terror isn’t real?

What sounds more ideologically blinkered after 9/11?
Ashcroft had his faults, but not being a realist wasn't one of them. Meanwhile, the left aren't the only ones guilty of departing from reality.

Now She Tells Us

Janet Napolitano has made a U-Turn:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano conceded Monday that airline security failed in allowing a Nigerian on a terror watch list and allegedly armed with explosives onto a Detroit-bound flight, a turnaround from her declaration a day day earlier that "the system worked."

The secretary's comment Sunday was widely criticized, given that suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was foiled because his explosive mixture did not properly detonate and he was stopped in his tracks by vigilant passengers.

The suspect, who carried the explosive in his underwear, passed through security at two airports -- in Nigeria and Amsterdam, Netherlands. Plus he was not on any "no-fly" list, even though he was on a massive federal database of people with suspected ties to terrorists and his father apparently had warned U.S. embassy officials in Nigeria about his son.

"Here, clearly, something went awry. We want to fix that problem," Napolitano told Fox News on Monday.
But hey, other than that, the system worked!

What To Do Next

Stephen Walt says we should let nature take its course when it comes to Iran:
Neoconservatives used to argue that the rapid and mostly peaceful collapse of communism proved that rapid democratic transformations were possible in unlikely settings, and they used that argument to justify trying the same thing in Iraq. (We all know how well that turned out.) In fact, the velvet revolutions were a triumph of slow and patient engagement from a position of strength. The upheavals in Eastern Europe were an indigenous phenomenon and the product of containment, diplomatic engagement, and the slow-but-steady spread of democratic ideals through the Helsinki process and other mechanisms. And the first Bush administration was smart enough to keep its hands off until the demise of communism was irreversible, which is precisely the approach we ought to take toward Iran today.
Things are very fluid there right now. Getting involved in what could be a revolution or a civil war in the making would be in the regime's best interests, not ours.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tomorrow's War Today

Joe Lieberman is worried:
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) Sunday said that Yemen could be the ground of America's next overseas war if Washington does not take preemptive action to root out al-Qaeda interests there.

Lieberman, who helms the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday" that the U.S. will have to take an active approach in Yemen after multiple recent terrorist attacks on the U.S. were linked back to the Middle Eastern nation.

The Connecticut senator said that an administration official told him that "Iraq was yesterday's war, Afghanistan is today's war. If we don't act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war."

Lieberman, who is known to be hawkish on security issues, said that Yemen needs to be a focal point because two recent attacks were linked back to a growing al-Qaeda presence there.
I would add that I also see Pakistan and Africa becoming "Tomorrow's wars"- or, rather, the new front lines-in this ongoing conflict. I still don't like the idea of staying involved in an endless battle with an open-ended committment-but if we totally return to a Clinton-era view of terrorism, that might be where we're headed.

Feel Safer Yet? The Obama Edition

From various quarters, the criticism has been growing over Team Obama's competence (or lack thereof) in responding to the Christmas plane bombing attempt. First, from the Huffington Post:
If you're like me, you're not looking for Attorney General Eric Holder, or Representative Pete King, to be telling you how it could have been worse or how it will be managed.

When the nation is attacked, I expect to be informed and hopefully calmed by the President of the United States.

So I ask, one more time - of this president who understands that how a message is delivered is just as important as what the message is - What is wrong with this picture?

Yes, the president deserves a vacation. Especially this president, who I believe has worked so hard on issues he cares about to the best of his ability; who is attacked and stalled by enemies for every attempt to fix every ill he inherited over the last eight years.

This is a man who needs a break.

But that vacation should have been over moments after the plane landed at noon on Christmas day, and everybody was starting to do the math that once again, al Qaeda tried to strike at this country.

This is no "My Pet Goat," or sharing birthday cake with John McCain while New Orleans flooded. But it's close enough that it's making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up... and I like this president.

Some things are too important to delegate to a subordinate, or manage through a BlackBerry.
And he's not the only one expressing voter remorse:
I know they are mopping up after a failure, and there is reason to want to portray the attack as coming out of the blue and unconnected to anything that should have been the subject of close monitoring, but — damn — I hope they are doing a better job than they look like they are doing. And if they don’t look like they’ve been doing a good job, then they aren’t even doing a good job of mopping up after their failure.
....

Yeah, I voted for Obama. Am I sorry? I should be exactly the same amount of sorry I would be if Abdulmutallab's device had not malfunctioned. So, I must say: Yes, I'm sorry.
Meanwhile, Jonah Goldberg wants Janet Napolitano canned:
I watched her on three shows and each time she was more annoying, maddening and absurd than the pevious appearance. It is her basic position that the "system worked" because the bureaucrats responded properly after the attack. That the attack was "foiled" by a bad detonator and some civilian passengers is proof, she claims, that her agency is doing everything right. That is just about the dumbest thing she could say, on the merits and politically. I would wager that not one percent of Americans think the system is "working" when terrorists successfully get bombs onto planes (and succeed in activating them).
It is kind of weird to state that the system worked because of what the passengers-and a pair of malfunctioning explosive underpants-did. After all, the system was what let him on board in the first place, wasn't it?

TSA: Hassle While You Wait

Mark Steyn notes:
On September 11th 2001, the government’s (1970s) security procedures all failed, and the only good news of the day came from self-reliant citizens (on Flight 93) using their own wits and a willingness to act.

On December 25th 2009, the government’s (post-9/11) security procedures all failed, and the only good news came once again from alert individuals.
And yet, when it comes to the people who are supposed to prevent this stuff from happening in the first place:
In response to the attempted terror attack over Christmas, TSA will apparently adopt a new policy prohibiting passengers from moving during the last hour of a flight. Also, no pillows or blankets during that last hour.

In addition to keeping with its usually tradition of making policy on a reactionary basis, this one wouldn’t even have done anything to prevent the attempt over the weekend. The guy was in his seat when he tried to light the explosive device. And the passenger who confronted him got out of his seat to do it.

Also, if the goal was to bring the plane down from the air, why add restrictions for the last hour of the flight?

Seems to me that what this, Flight 93, and the Richard Reid incident have shown us is that the best line of defense against airplane-based terrorism is us. Alert, aware, informed passengers.

TSA, on the other hand, equates hassle with safety. For all the crap they put us through, this guy still got some sort of explosive material on the plane from Amsterdam. He was stopped by law-abiding passengers. So TSA responds to all of this by . . . announcing plans to hassle law-abiding U.S. passengers even more.
Because when it comes to "Safety", there's nothing bureaucrats like more.

The Best And The Laziest

Who knew? Some stereotypes are apparently true:
My “C,’’ “D,’’ and “F’’ students this semester are almost exclusively American, while my students from India, China, and Latin America have - despite language barriers - generally written solid papers, excelled on exams, and become valuable class participants.

One girl from Shanghai became a fixture at office hours, embraced our college writing center, and incessantly e-mailed me questions about her evolving papers. Her English is still mediocre: she frequently puts “the’’ everywhere (as in “the leader supported the feminism and the environmentalism’’) and confuses “his’’ and “her.’’ But that didn’t stop her from doing rewrite after rewrite, tirelessly trying to improve both structure and grammar.

Chinese undergraduates have consistently impressed me with their work ethic, though I have seen similar habits in students from India, Thailand, Brazil, and Venezuela. Often, they’ve done little English-language writing in their home countries, and they frequently struggle to understand my lectures. But their respect for professors - and for knowledge itself - is palpable. The students listen intently to everything I say, whether in class or during office hours, and try to engage in the conversation.

Too many 18-year-old Americans, meanwhile, text one another under their desks (certain they are sly enough to go unnoticed), check e-mail, decline to take notes, and appear tired and disengaged.
And yet it's these American kids that the anti-immigration crowd claims are being driven out of the workplace by them durn furreners.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I've Had It With These &*$#! Shoe Bombers On These %$#@! Planes!

Some more info on that attempted Delta Airlines bombing plot:
Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) identified the man as a 23-year-old Nigerian named Abdul Mudallad. Officials said they believed the man boarded a KLM flight in Lagos, Nigeria, and changed planes in Amsterdam, although that couldn't immediately be confirmed. The suspect's name didn't appear on any terrorist watch lists maintained by U.S. authorities, Mr. King said, but it turned up "hot" in other terrorism-related databases maintained by intelligence officials.

On Saturday morning, Britain's Metropolitan Police Service was searching a "number" of properties in central London that may be related to the attempted bombing, according to a spokeswoman. "We are liasing with U.S. authorities and are conducting enquiries in conjunction with them," she said, declining to give further details.

Media reports overnight identified the suspect by several different names, sometimes saying he was a student at University College London. On Saturday morning, a spokesman for the university said that one iteration of the name cited in news reports – Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – matches the name of a former engineering student there. That student enrolled in September 2005 and departed in June 2008; it wasn't immediately clear whether he graduated, but the spokesman said he was pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering.
Another "Idealist?" Or just another loser picked to be the bad guys' fall guy? Jules Crittenden responds:
This could have been a very different Boxing Day. So it turns out the GWOT isn’t over after all. Good thing the passengers figured that out. Stay alert. With Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s big grandstanding opportunity coming up, it could just be entering an exciting new phase.
If more of these idiots keep failing and getting captured, perhaps so.

Whose Tent Is This, Anyway?

In 2008 it was the Republicans who had a problem with their tent not being big enough. Now:
...they face a grim political fate. On the one hand, centrist Democrats are being vilified by left-wing bloggers, pundits and partisan news outlets for not being sufficiently liberal, "true" Democrats. On the other, Republicans are pounding them for their association with a party that seems to be advancing an agenda far to the left of most voters.

The political dangers of this situation could not be clearer.

Witness the losses in New Jersey and Virginia in this year's off-year elections. In those gubernatorial contests, the margin of victory was provided to Republicans by independents -- many of whom had voted for Obama. Just one year later, they had crossed back to the Republicans by 2-to-1 margins.

Witness the drumbeat of ominous poll results. Obama's approval rating has fallen below 49 percent overall and is even lower -- 41 percent -- among independents. On the question of which party is best suited to manage the economy, there has been a 30-point swing toward Republicans since November 2008, according to Ipsos. Gallup's generic congressional ballot shows Republicans leading Democrats. There is not a hint of silver lining in these numbers. They are the quantitative expression of the swing bloc of American politics slipping away.

And, of course, witness the loss of Rep. Griffith and his fellow moderate Democrats who will retire. They are perhaps the truest canaries in the coal mine.

Despite this raft of bad news, Democrats are not doomed to return to the wilderness. The question is whether the party is prepared to listen carefully to what the American public is saying. Voters are not re-embracing conservative ideology, nor are they falling back in love with the Republican brand. If anything, the Democrats' salvation may lie in the fact that Republicans seem even more hell-bent on allowing their radical wing to drag the party away from the center.

All that is required for the Democratic Party to recover its political footing is to acknowledge that the agenda of the party's most liberal supporters has not won the support of a majority of Americans -- and, based on that recognition, to steer a more moderate course on the key issues of the day, from health care to the economy to the environment to Afghanistan.
The difference here is that the Republicans, for all their warts and faults, do tend to represent where most Americans are on the issues. The lefties who currently control the Democratic base thought they could get a free ride with the Obama Change train, and have found out that it isn't so.

Like the Republicans, the Democrats win when they field centrist candidates-and support them without being dismissive of the flyover country they come from. The GOP still has problems with being a big tent party themselves. But the liberals' assumption that the voters wanted them along with their party is hurting them more.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Season's Greetings

Happy Festivus!



And the real thing:





Seriously....Merry Christmas, Happy Saturnalia, Winter Solstice, and everything else!

Silent Night, Crazy Night

What would Christmas be without a seasonal nut?
The woman who pulled Pope Benedict XVI to the floor during Christmas Eve mass at St Peter's Basilica has been taken to hospital, the Vatican spokesman said on Friday.
Susanna Maiolo, 25, is of dual Swiss and Italian nationality, Federico Lombardi told AFP.

The woman, whom Lombardi described Thursday as "apparently unbalanced," leapt over a security barricade and threw herself at Pope Benedict, 82, in a dramatic start to Christmas Eve mass at St Peter's Basilica.

The pontiff was back on his feet within moments and went on to celebrate the mass undaunted by the assault, speaking out in his homily against selfishness as Christians across the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Lombardi said Maiolo tried to approach Pope Benedict on the same occasion a year ago without getting past the security barrier.

The spokesman sought to play down the incident, praising Benedict's "great self-control and control of the situation."

He added: "It was an assault, but it wasn't dangerous because she wasn't armed."
Well, in a battle of wits, at least...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Delaying The Change

I'm not sure how the Dems who are burning the Christmas Eve oil are going to take this:
The White House privately anticipates health care talks to slip into February — past President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address — and then plans to make a “very hard pivot” to a new jobs bill, according to senior administration officials.

Obama has been told that disputes over abortion and the tight schedule are highly likely to delay a final deal, a blow to the president, who had hoped to trumpet a health care victory in his big speech to the nation. But he has also been told that House Democratic leaders seem inclined, at least for now, to largely accept the compromise worked out in the Senate, virtually ensuring he will eventually get a deal.

Internally, White House aides are plunging into a 2010 plan calling for an early focus on creating jobs, especially in the energy sector, along with starting a conversation about deficit reduction measures, the administration officials said.
Has he finally woken up and smelled the polling? Or is he just hoping for the furor from Obamacare's opponents to die down? Either way, I think he knows this is fast becoming a Party killer for him.

An All Time Low

Via Instapundit, Gateway Pundit takes note of Obama's ongoing freefall:
Barack Obama’s approval index number dropped to a new low today.
Rasmussen reported:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-six percent (46%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21 That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President (see trends).

At the end of his second term President George W. Bush had a 43% disapproval rating.

In less than one year Barack Obama managed to pi$$ off more people than George W. Bush.
Well, he's still got a little more than two and a half to go...

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

So much for Copenhagen:
More than 100 people have been killed in the cold snap across Europe, with temperatures plummeting and snowfall causing chaos from Moscow to Milan.

In Poland, where temperatures have dropped to as low as -20C in some areas, police appealed for tip-offs about people spotted lying around outside. At least 42 people, most of them homeless, died over the weekend.

In Ukraine 27 people have frozen to death since the thermometer dropped last week. Authorities in Romania said 11 people had succumbed to the chill, and in the Czech Republic the toll was 12. In Germany, where temperatures have fallen to -33C in certain parts, at least seven people are known to have lost their lives in the freezing weather.

For millions of others across the continent, the cold snap has brought severe disruption, with flight cancellations and traffic jams thwarting pre-Christmas travel plans.
I guess global warming has been put on hold-again...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The War On Pets

It has come to this: the greenies are going after Spot.
The revelation in the book "Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living" by New Zealanders Robert and Brenda Vale has angered pet owners who feel they are being singled out as troublemakers.

The Vales, specialists in sustainable living at Victoria University of Wellington, analysed popular brands of pet food and calculated that a medium-sized dog eats around 164 kilos (360 pounds) of meat and 95 kilos of cereal a year.

Combine the land required to generate its food and a "medium" sized dog has an annual footprint of 0.84 hectares (2.07 acres) -- around twice the 0.41 hectares required by a 4x4 driving 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) a year, including energy to build the car.

To confirm the results, the New Scientist magazine asked John Barrett at the Stockholm Environment Institute in York, Britain, to calculate eco-pawprints based on his own data. The results were essentially the same.

"Owning a dog really is quite an extravagance, mainly because of the carbon footprint of meat," Barrett said.

Other animals aren't much better for the environment, the Vales say.

Cats have an eco-footprint of about 0.15 hectares, slightly less than driving a Volkswagen Golf for a year, while two hamsters equates to a plasma television and even the humble goldfish burns energy equivalent to two mobile telephones.

But Reha Huttin, president of France's 30 Million Friends animal rights foundation says the human impact of eliminating pets would be equally devastating.

"Pets are anti-depressants, they help us cope with stress, they are good for the elderly," Huttin told AFP.

"Everyone should work out their own environmental impact. I should be allowed to say that I walk instead of using my car and that I don't eat meat, so why shouldn't I be allowed to have a little cat to alleviate my loneliness?"
Because people like the Vales would rather have a planet full of miserable humans and happy animals rather than the other way around...

Shopping, Socialist Style

Baby Hugo is getting into the retail business:
President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday announced a new chain of government-run, cut-rate retail stores that will sell everything from food to cars to clothing from places such as China, Argentina and Bolivia.

"We're creating Comerso, meaning Socialist Corporation of Markets," Chavez said at the opening of a "socialist" fast-food location for traditional Venezuelan arepas (cornbread).

"They'll see what's good. We'll show them what a real market is all about, not those speculative, money-grubbing markets, but a market for the people," said Chavez in his drive to change Venezuela from a market-based economy to a socialist one.
Yes, he'll show them what a real market looks like-and the people will demand theirs back.

Chocolate Like Me

Chinese "Enlightenment"-or its lack thereof-rears its ugly head thanks to a reality show:
The reality show hosts fondly called her "chocolate girl" and "black pearl." The Chinese media fixated on her skin color. Netizens flooded Web sites with comments saying she "never should have been born" and telling her to "get out of China."...

"We lived in a small circle before," said her mother....

"She used to wonder why she had black skin," said one classmate. "We thought about this question together and decided to tell her it's because she likes dark chocolate. So her skin turned darker gradually."

Another classmate weighed in, "We said it's because she used to drink too much soy sauce."
Along with their environmental practices, the Chinese racial mentality seems to be behind the times, as well.

The Great Goofballs

It seems that F. Scott Fitzgerald is now verboten at the Y:
A couple of Yale administrators decided that the word "sissies" was too offensive because some people interpreted it as a slur against gay men. This was news to the Yale freshmen who, like me, see "sissies" as being funny primarily because it is such a ridiculous, silly, old-fashioned put down, somewhere between "cad" and "toots" as far as insults go. Besides, in context, Fitzgerald actually wrote, "I think of all Harvard men as sissies, like I used to be." Does anyone really think Fitzgerald was coming out as a success story of the ex-gay movement, or was he simply calling Harvard men, well, a bunch of sissies (modern translation: wusses, wimps, etc.)? The administrators were gearing up to ban the T-shirt, but the students backed down and changed the design.
Well, too bad, and the administrators are girlymen, to use another modern put down. But is it still OK to call them effete snobs?

On The Border

John P. Hannah notes how the recent Iraq/Iran border kerfluffle could be enhancing Iraq's stability and the legitimacy of its government in the post-occupation era:
Critics of the Bush administration often assert that, in liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, America handed the country to Iran on a silver platter, making it a virtual satrapy of the Islamic Republic. Wrong. The fact is that the historical animosities, conflicts, and suspicions that have long colored relations between Arab Iraq and Persian Iran are deep and enduring. No doubt, the removal of Saddam’s Republic of Fear and the ascent of an Iraqi government dominated by Iran’s Shiite co-religionists helped ease some of these longstanding tensions. But they have not been eliminated. The oilfield dispute is only the latest of many controversies currently plaguing the Iraq-Iran relationship. In recent months, Iraq has challenged — sometimes privately, but increasingly publicly — the Islamic Republic’s claims to Iraqi territory, its excessive diversion of joint water resources, and its declared intention to build new nuclear facilities near the Iraqi border. As the security situation in Iraq has stabilized and the Iraqi government has gained greater confidence, it has shown itself increasingly willing to stand up for Iraq’s sovereignty and push back against Iranian encroachments.
This is good news for us, and hopefully is a sign of greater self-reliance to come.

Gimmickcare

It seems the cost-cutting that Team Obama likes to point out as a benefit of Obamacare really isn't all that much to crow about:
while the President’s most ardent supporters are trying to explain to each other why the benefits of the bill do not start until 2014, they are openly admitting that Obama’s deficit busting claims are complete fiction:

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein: “The delay is a budget trick, an attempt to lower the 10-year cost of the bill at the expense of the very people we’re trying to help.”

Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum: “I’m pretty sure the 2014 date is mostly due to budget finagling. This stuff can’t be done overnight, but I’ll bet most of it could be implemented within 12 months, and it could certainly be implemented within 24.”

Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall: “My impression is that some of the delays are there because it makes the budgetary accounting work better in terms of deficit neutrality. And I know the Dems would likely lose critical support without being able to show that the overall bill actually lowers the deficit. But if that’s the main reason, I suspect the legislative authors may be too clever by half since they may be slitting the bill’s and perhaps their own throats in the process.”
Maybe because they realize this thing is unsustainable, to use a favorite word of Obama's, or because they don't want to have to deal with the impact of the bill until toward the end of Obama's administration, or after he's already out of office? Like those senators who voted for it after they were against it to get goodies for their states, the Congresscritters who crafted this bill don't seem to have any real faith in it themselves, but they want it to work for them instead of those pesky voters.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Change We Don't Believe In

The WSJ sums up the recklessness with which Obamacare is being delivered unto us:
Mr. Obama inherited a consensus that the health-care status quo needs serious reform, and a popular President might have crafted a durable compromise that blended the best ideas from both parties. A more honest and more thoughtful approach might have even done some good. But as Mr. Obama suggested, the Democratic old guard sees this plan as the culmination of 20th-century liberalism.

So instead we have this vast expansion of federal control. Never in our memory has so unpopular a bill been on the verge of passing Congress, never has social and economic legislation of this magnitude been forced through on a purely partisan vote, and never has a party exhibited more sheer political willfulness that is reckless even for Washington or had more warning about the consequences of its actions.

These 60 Democrats are creating a future of epic increases in spending, taxes and command-and-control regulation, in which bureaucracy trumps innovation and transfer payments are more important than private investment and individual decisions. In short, the Obama Democrats have chosen change nobody believes in—outside of themselves—and when it passes America will be paying for it for decades to come.
And we can thank those "Holdouts" who got what they wanted for this, too.

Electric Zombies

With all the fear over cell phones these days, there's one "Green" product that's apparently being overlooked in the War on Cancer:
The latest anti-electric vehicle (EV) topic to make a comeback is that EVs might give you cancer (previous post). Writing in Slate, Matthew DeBord calls back the potential threat posed by electromagnetic fields (EMF) in electric cars. The title of his post? "Do Electric Cars Cause Cancer?"

There is a lot of hedging in DeBord's article, and he never flat-out states that the EMFs in EVs do cause cancer, just that they might. This is a fair subject for scientific research, but no one has had enough time to determine if EVs are any worse than hair dryers or cell phones in this regard. DeBord admits that "automakers have tested their vehicles for EMFs (conventional cars as well as hybrids and EVs), and found them to be within accepted limits." Of course, there are some things we know for sure: that gasoline fumes are tremendous health hazards and the geopolitical reality of gasoline dependency isn't that great either, but that headline isn't as hot.

Also, way back in 1999, the National Institutes of Health issued a statement saying that one researcher who claimed that EMFs and cancer were related had falsified data (thanks to Paul Allen's comment from 18 months ago for that link).
There are some folks who will claim that anything deemed technologically incorrect will give you cancer, so I don't know how much stock to put into this. It would be ironic if greenies started trading in their green machines, though.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Decade Of Fail

The Washington Post has a roundup of the worst ideas of the decade. I agree with most of them but could add a few of my own-the stimulus being one of them. I suppose the good news is that we were somehow able to muddle through it all.

Climate Of Discontent

He may not know it (or want to admit it) but Obama's environmental sales pitch is suffering from Climategate:
Polls suggest that Americans have soured on Obama's climate strategy, and the "climategate" e-mail scandal has highlighted the public's increasing skepticism of the basic science driving some of the White House’s most aggressive policy prescriptions.

Flagging support
A new ABC News-Washington Post poll shows that two-thirds of Americans still believe the federal government should regulate greenhouse gas emissions from sources like factories and cars.

But the polling also shows that the public is increasingly dissatisfied with the president’s overall handling of the global warming issue. Support has slipped from 61 percent near the president’s 100-day mark to 45 percent this week.
....

But he has spent virtually no time engaging the public about the truth of the science. The climategate scandal, in which leaked e-mails alleged that support for the manmade global warming scenarios were politicized, played directly into a growing ambivalence. The result could be flagging public support of drastic climate change measures, says Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee.

“[Climate policy advocates including Obama] built up a narrative that, instead of bringing the public on board with dialogue and understanding, relied on emotion and authority,” writes Mr. Reynolds, who covered the summit for his blog on Instapundit, in an e-mail. “Now, the authority figures are losing authority, and the emotion is swinging the other way, as emotion generally does.”

In that light, what may be most problematic for the president is how the public perceives the scientists who have promulgated manmade global warming. Four in 10 Americans now say they place little or no trust in what scientists proclaim about the environment, a marked increase from recent years, notes The Washington Post. Distrust among Democrats has changed only marginally, but distrust among independents rose from 24 to 40 percent in the past year.
To paraphrase the old adage: you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't force them to follow your agenda all of the time, no matter how much phony science you trot out to try to convince them.

Hit The Road, Grandma

Government insurance is better than those evil private insurers, right? Oh, wait:
According to the American Medical Association’s National Health Insurer Report Card for 2008, the government’s health plan, Medicare, denied medical claims at nearly double the average for private insurers: Medicare denied 6.85% of claims. The highest private insurance denier was Aetna @ 6.8%, followed by Anthem Blue Cross @ 3.44, with an average denial rate of medical claims by private insurers of 3.88%

In its 2009 National Health Insurer Report Card, the AMA reports that Medicare denied only 4% of claims—a big improvement, but outpaced better still by the private insurers. The prior year’s high private denier, Aetna, reduced denials to 1.81%—an astounding 75% improvement—with similar declines by all other private insurers, to average only 2.79%.
We can only expect more with the cutbacks that are to come with Obamacare. It seems there's something to be said for allowing the free market to bring down costs-and improve service-after all.

A Man Alone

Kathleen Parker notes how Obama is having a lonely Christmas:
All he wanted for Christmas was a health-care reform bill -- and all he got was a lousy insurance industry bailout that few can love.

Lefties hate it because there's no public option and no Medicare buy-in for those 55 and over. Righties hate it because requiring that Americans buy private insurance or face penalties means taxpayers will have to hand over more of their hard-earned dollars (assuming they have a job) to the government.

Obama, in other words, is having a Harriet Miers moment. Or, rather, he's having a George W. Bush moment.

When Bush nominated the in-over-her-head Miers to the Supreme Court, his fan base turned on him. As one ardent Bush supporter told me at the time: "It was in that moment that I realized he really might not know what he's doing."

And so things seem to have turned for Obama. Left-leaning Democrats suddenly are wondering: Who is this guy? What happened to the liberal dream-maker who was going to provide health care to every person in the country while hand-feeding grateful polar bears basking on vast expanses of restored sea ice?

Obama didn't so much move center as he just stood there and let others craft his seminal legislation. Now, it would appear, he can't quite close the deal.
This might be part of the reason why we rarely elect Senators to the White House-their job is to craft legislation, but that's not what the President gets to do. At any rate, Obama seems to have become a lame duck at the end of his first year in office, and you can't inspire your party that way.

Jack Bauer Meets Santa

It's Christmas, "24" style:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Magic Number

Harry has 60:
Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the final Democratic holdout on health care, announced to his colleagues Saturday morning that he would support the Senate reform bill, clearing the way for final passage by Christmas of President Obama's top domestic policy priority.

Asked if he had secured the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) told reporters, "It seems that way."

The Senate is expected to work its way through a series of procedural motions over the next few days, with a vote on the legislation scheduled the evening of Dec. 24th. A conference with the House to produce a final bill would likely extend into January, Senate aides said.

Congressional budget analysts said the revised package, unveiled Saturday morning by Reid, would spend $871 billion over the next decade to extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans by dramatically expanding Medicaid and offering federal subsidies to those who lack affordable coverage through employers.

Those costs would be more than covered by nearly $400 billion over the next decade in new taxes and nearly $500 billion spending reductions, primarily cuts to Medicare, the federal health program for people over 65. The remainder, about $132 billion over 10 years, would go to lowering the federal deficit.

But the Congressional Budget Office found that the package could reduce budget deficits by as much as $1.3 trillion in the second decade, starting in 2019, a significant improvement in long-run savings compared with both the House bill and the measure Reid had previously crafted. In his blog, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf attributes the change to lower targets for Medicare spending after 2019.

Democratic leaders worked for days to hammer out a deal with Nelson, and finally reached a tentative agreement late Friday night with him on abortion coverage provisions that had proven the major stumbling block to winning his support. Nelson also secured favors for his home state and to benefit different factions of the health-insurance industry.

Republicans strongly rejected the revised bill as laden with risky new policies and giveaways to win votes. GOP leaders invoked a Senate rule to require the package of changes in the legislation to be read aloud on the floor, a process expected to last about five hours.

"This bill is a monstrosity, a 2,100 page monstrosity full of special deals," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "This is not renaming the post office. Make no mistake, this bill will reshape our nation and our lives."

But Republicans also were running out of options in their quest to derail the bill. Locking down Nelson's support meant Reid had cleared a path through the Senate's complex parliamentary minefield. A 60-vote super majority means the minority's primary source of power in the Senate, the filibuster, cannot be sustained.
There are actually a couple of good things in this bill-people will be allowed to get insurance across state lines, and they can appeal if coverage is denied. But the rest seems to be aimed at "Punishing" the wealthy and making insurance mandatory.

Bottom line is, Nelson seemed to get what he wanted. Whether that works out for him politically remains to be seen, as do the long-term consequences of Obamacare.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hip To Be Square

Call it rebellion come full circle:
Today the well-off 55-year-old is likely to be the worst-dressed man in the room, wearing a saggy T-shirt and jeans. The cash-poor 25-year-old is in a natty sport coat and skinny tie bought at Topman for a song. Young men are embracing the “Mad Men” elements of style in a way that the older men never did, still don’t and just won’t. The result is a kind of rift emerging between the generation of men in their 20s and 30s and those in their late 40s and 50s for whom a suit was not merely square but cubed, and caring about how one looked was effeminate.

The evidence of this style gap is everywhere. Just check out the numerous men’s wear blogs — acontinuouslean.com, dandyism.net, thetrad.blogspot.com, fineanddandyshop.blogspot.com — dedicated not to cutting-edge European fashion but to old-school minutiae of dressing well. Or take a look at the Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones, who favors double-breasted suits and bow ties and talks about “the resurgence of the gentleman.”

The trend reaches from Madison Avenue to the shopping mall. At Paul Stuart, most of the store’s growth is in its trim-tailored, dandified (and expensive) Phineas Cole line, courtesy of customers in their 20’s and 30’s, said Michael Ostrove, the store’s executive vice president.

Brooks Brothers, which has struggled since the 1980s to recapture the all-American style mantle that Ralph Lauren made off with, has received quite a bump from “Mad Men.” The company made the suits the main characters wear, to the specs of the costume designer, Janie Bryant.

And at Topman, the men’s branch of the popular Topshop, the category it calls “smart” clothing — dressier togs that straddle work and play — has been one of the best performers in its new New York store.

“I think it’s a reaction against the homogeneity of casual wear,” said Gordon Henderson, the design director of Topman. “There’s nowhere to go with that in terms of personality, whereas a suit sets you apart. And now there are suits that are cut for young people. There’s never been that before, so it’s new to them.”

In a twist, neckties are being sold at the very place that did more than any other to usher in casual Friday: Gap. Not to be outdone, American Apparel now sells bow ties.

“The older generation, say 45-plus, look upon success as being able to dress down,” said Marshal Cohen, the chief analyst at NPD Group, which tracks retail sales. “They think being able to wear jeans is the epitome of achievement.

“But the younger generation is looking at getting dressed up and making their mark,” Mr. Cohen continued. “It’s a real generation gap here. I teach at three different colleges, and I am amazed how dressed up some of the students are. Girls still come in their hoodies and pajamas, but boys come in their suits.”

NPD figures for the year ending Nov. 1 indicate that sales of tailored clothing among men ages 35 to 54 were down 17 percent. Among men ages 25 to 34, sales were up almost 4 percent.

“It’s these young guys rebelling against their boomer dads,” said Russell Smith, 45, the author of “Men’s Style: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Dress” and an advice columnist for The Globe and Mail in Toronto. “But it’s very amusing and paradoxical that the new anti-parental paradigm involves a pinstripe suit and a pocket square.”
So, is looking good, feeling good, making a comeback? Could it be that the kids are yearning for a way of life that their parents rebelled against? Or are they just looking at Dad and thinking, "Dress your age?"

Some Districts Are More Equal Than Others

It apparently paid well to be in a Democratic area:
A new analysis of the $157 billion distributed by the American Reinvestment and Recovery act, popularly known as the stimulus bill, shows that the funds were distributed without regard for what states were most in need of jobs.

“You would think that if the stimulus money was actually spent to create jobs, there would be more stimulus money spent in high unemployment states,” said Veronique de Rugy, a scholar at the Mercatus Center who produced the analysis. "But we don't find any correlation."

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia is one of the nation's most respected economic and regulatory think tanks and has a Nobel prize-winning economist on staff. The econometric analysis was done using data provided by Recovery.gov -- the government website devoted to tracking the stimulus data -- as well as a host of other government databases.

Additionally, Mercatus found that stimulus funds were not disbursed geographically with any special regard for low-income Americans. “We find no correlation between economic indicators and stimulus funding. Preliminary results find no statistically significant effect of unemployment, median income or mean income on stimulus funds allocation,” said the report.

The Mercatus Center analysis also found that Democratic congressional districts received on average almost double the funding of Republican congressional districts. Republican congressional districts received on average $232 million in stimulus funds while Democratic districts received $439 million on average.

“We found that there is a correlation [relating to the partisanship of congressional districts],” de Rugy said. Her regression analysis found that stimulus funds are expected to decrease by 24.19 percent if a district is represented by a Republican.
Wow, you'd think that the stimulus was all about payback for political support instead of, you know, actually creating jobs or something...

The Hope Is Gone

As the Climate Change Meltdown comes to a close, Barack Obama didn't impress:
Barack Obama stepped into the chaotic final hours of the Copenhagen summit today saying he was convinced the world could act "boldly and decisively" on climate change.

But his speech offered no indication America was ready to embrace bold measures, after world leaders had been working desperately against the clock to try to paper over an agreement to prevent two years of wasted effort — and a 10-day meeting — from ending in total collapse.

Obama, who had been skittish about coming to Copenhagen at all unless it could be cast as a foreign policy success, looked visibly frustrated as he appeared before world leaders.

He offered no further commitments on reducing emissions or on finance to poor countries beyond Hillary Clinton's announcement yesterday that America would support a $100bn global fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change.

He did not even press the Senate to move ahead on climate change legislation, which environmental organisations have been urging for months.
....

In his address, Obama did say America would follow through on his administration's clean energy agenda, and that it would live up to its pledges to the international community.

"We have charted our course, we have made our commitments, and we will do what we say," Obama said.

But in the absence of any evidence of that commitment the words rang hollow and there was a palpable sense of disappointment in the audience.

Instead, he warned African states and low island nations who have been resisting what they see as a weak agreement that the later alternative — no agreement — was far worse.

"We know the fault lines because we've been imprisoned by them for years. But here is the bottom line: we can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, and continue to refine it and build upon its foundation," he said.

"Or we can again choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year – all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible."

He also took a dig at China, drawing attention to its status as the world's biggest emitter and reinforcing America's hardline on the issue of accountability for greenhouse gas emissions.

The lacklustre speech proved a huge frustration to a summit that had been looking to Obama to use his stature on the world stage – and his special following among African leaders – to try to come to an ambitious deal.
Obama is probably smart not to follow the greenies' lead, which is aimed at punishing the evil, wealthy West in exchange for more green for going green. And, when compared to China, we're actually doing more to go green. So, we can take the Summit for what it is-a huge waste of time, money, and carbons.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fear Of A Bankrupt Country

Barack Obama is scared, and he wants you to be scared, too:
The president laid out a dire scenario of what will happen if his health care reform effort fails.

“If we don't pass it, here's the guarantee….your premiums will go up, your employers are going to load up more costs on you,” he said. “Potentially they're going to drop your coverage, because they just can't afford an increase of 25 percent, 30 percent in terms of the costs of providing health care to employees each and every year. “

The president said that the costs of Medicare and Medicaid are on an “unsustainable” trajectory and if there is no action taken to bring them down, “the federal government will go bankrupt.”
Er, isn't that supposed to be the other way around, Mr. President?

Hippie Tech

Popular Science weighs in on Avatar's anti-technology message:
Avatar is every militant global warming supporter’s dream come true as the invading, technology-worshiping, environment-ravaging humans are set upon by an angry planet and its noble inhabitants. But the film’s message suffers mightily under the weight of mind-boggling hypocrisy. Cameron’s story clearly curses the proliferation of human technology. In Avatar, the science and machinery of humankind leads to soulless violence and destruction. It only serves to pollute the primitive but pristine paradise of Pandora.

Of course, without centuries of development in science and technology, the film putting forth this simple-minded, self-loathing worldview wouldn’t exist. You’d imagine Cameron himself would be bored to tears on the planet he created.
There are no movies on Pandora, so he’d be out of a job. The Na’vi rarely visit a multiplex. They sit around their glowing trees, chanting; they don’t build and sink titanic ocean liners, and they don’t construct deep-sea mini-subs enabling certain filmmakers to spend countless days exploring said cruise ships.
But they will provide greenies with a rain-forest fantasy about what life "Should" be like. Never mind that neither they nor Cameron would probably last five minutes in the real thing.

Danger, Libertarians, Danger!


Nat Hentoff grades Obama:
I am beginning to think that this guy is a phony. Obama seems to have no firm principles that I can discern that he will adhere to. His only principle is his own aggrandizement. This is a very dangerous mindset for a president to have.

JW: Do you consider Obama to be worse than George W. Bush?

NH: Oh, much worse. Bush essentially came in with very little qualifications for presidency, not only in terms of his background but he lacked a certain amount of curiosity, and he depended entirely too much on people like Rumsfeld, Cheney and others. Bush was led astray and we were led astray. However, I never thought that Bush himself was, in any sense, "evil." I am hesitant to say this about Obama. Obama is a bad man in terms of the Constitution. The irony is that Obama was a law professor at the University of Chicago. He would, most of all, know that what he is doing weakens the Constitution.

In fact, we have never had more invasions of privacy than we have now. The Fourth Amendment is on life support and the chief agent of that is the National Security Agency. The NSA has the capacity to keep track of everything we do on the phone and on the internet. Obama has done nothing about that. In fact, he has perpetuated it. He has absolutely no judicial supervision of all of this. So all in all, Obama is a disaster.
I wouldn't go so far as to call Obama evil. I think he was well-intentioned at the beginning. But we all know what the road to hell is paved with, and Obama is still on it-and taking us with him.

This Is A Dead Health Care Plan

Single payer is dead, long live health care reform.
The liberals' longtime dream of a government-run health care system for all died Wednesday in the Senate, but Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont vowed it will return when the realization dawns that private insurance companies "are no longer needed."

The proposal's demise came as Senate Democratic leaders and the White House sought agreement with Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., to become the 60th supporter of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul — the number needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.

Nelson has met three times in the past nine days with Obama. While he is seeking stricter curbs on abortions in the insurance system the bill would establish, he also has raised issues in his home state that are unrelated to the health care legislation, according to an official with close ties to the senator. The official spoke on grounds of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Sanders, an independent and socialist, said his approach is the only one "which eliminates the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste, administrative costs, bureaucracy and profiteering that is engendered by the private insurance companies." His remarks drew handshakes and even a hug or two from Democrats who had filed into the Senate to hear him.
They may keep tilting at windmills, but at this point it's hard to see how the left will get anything close to what they want. Meanwhile, the Democratic civil war continues:
Democratic Sen. Al Franken took the unusual step Thursday of shutting down Sen. Joe Lieberman on the Senate floor.

Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, currently is the target of liberal wrath over his opposition to a government-run insurance plan in the health care bill.

Franken was presiding over the Senate Thursday afternoon as Lieberman spoke about amendments he planned to offer to the bill. Lieberman asked for an additional moment to finish — a routine request — but Franken refused to grant the time.

"In my capacity as the senator from Minnesota, I object," Franken said.

"Really?" said Lieberman. "OK."

Lieberman then said he'd submit the rest of his statement in writing.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona came to his friend Lieberman's defense, saying he'd never seen such a thing occur.

"I must say that I don't know what's happening here in this body but I think it's wrong," McCain said on the floor.
Lieberman has become the Left's favorite whipping boy as of late. They're fuming because they can't kick him out of their ranks anymore, and they need somebody besides themsleves to blame for not getting their version of "Reform" rammed through. Anyway, here's the video of that moment:

Dude, Where's My Recovery?

So, how's that stimulus working out at year's end? Not as well as expected, apparently:
The number of newly laid off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week as the recovery of the nation's battered labor market proceeds in fits and starts.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of new jobless claims rose to 480,000 last week, up 7,000 from the previous week. That was a worse performance than the decline to 465,000 that economists had expected.

The four-week average for claims, which smooths out fluctuations, did fall, dipping to 467,500, the 15th straight decline, viewed as an encouraging sign that the labor market is gradually improving. The four-week average is now at its lowest point since late September 2008, the period when the financial crisis was hitting with full force.

Unemployment claims have been on a downward trend since this summer. That improvement is seen as a sign that jobs cuts are slowing and hiring could pick up as soon as early next year. But the rise in weekly claims of 7,000 last week, which had followed an increase of 19,000 the previous week, shows that the improvement has been halting.
The era of Hope and Change continues...

When Hugo Speaks, Socialists Listen

Guess who the star of the Climate Change Circus was?
President Chavez brought the house down.

When he said the process in Copenhagen was “not democratic, it is not inclusive, but isn’t that the reality of our world, the world is really and imperial dictatorship…down with imperial dictatorships” he got a rousing round of applause.

When he said there was a “silent and terrible ghost in the room” and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening.

But then he wound up to his grand conclusion – 20 minutes after his 5 minute speaking time was supposed to have ended and after quoting everyone from Karl Marx to Jesus Christ - “our revolution seeks to help all people…socialism, the other ghost that is probably wandering around this room, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell....let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us.” He won a standing ovation.
For once I actually agree with him-the Europeans are trying to dominate the debate, which is partly why the Chinese are less than impressed. But the solution isn't socialism Baby Hugo style-even the Chinese know that. It's just too bad that the greenies rioting outside don't realize it.

Fat Man Versus Uncle Joe

Oh, this is good: Michael Moore has decided to rail against Joe Lieberman:
Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore on Thursday called for a boycott of the state of Connecticut in reaction to Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) opposition to key provisions of healthcare reform legislation.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) recently removed the public option and Medicare-buy in proposal, which the centrist Lieberman opposes, from the bill in order to attract centrist votes. Reid needs 60 votes in order to break a Republican filibuster of the bill.

Moore focused his anger on the Connecticut voters who reelected Lieberman in favor of liberal candidate Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) in the 2006 elections. He tweeted:

People of Connecticut: What have u done 2 this country? We hold u responsible. Start recall of Lieberman 2day or we'll boycott your state.
Ooh, I'm sure the good people of Connecticut are quaking in their boots over the threat of Michael Moore and his imaginary friends staying away. There's just one problem:
There is no provision in the state of Connecticut to recall public officials.
But Michael Moore never let reality stand in his way before.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

There's A Riot Goin' On

What happens when you get lefties on the inside getting protested by lefties on the outside? Stuff like this.
The Copenhagen climate change conference appeared to be imploding from within and exploding from without on Wednesday.

Police fired tear gas, brandished batons and detained more than 200 protesters who tried to push through the security cordon around the Bella Center, as negotiations inside bogged down, for the second time this week, over differences between China and the West over emissions, funding issues and transparency.

"People around the world [are] actually expecting something to be done from us,” red-faced Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen lectured delegates from nearly 200 nations.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the highest-ranking American yet to appear at the talks, urged attendees to put aside their differences and “make Friday our day of success.”

Minutes earlier — in a surprise move that captured growing uncertainty over conference — Denmark’s climate minister, Connie Hedegaard, stepped aside as president of the conference, handing the gavel to Rasmussen, as head of the host country.

Outside, Danish police — who have been accused of heavy-handedness by human rights groups — clashed with thousands of environmental activists who descended on the complex from a nearby train station and demanded entry to the Bella Center.

BBC video showed truncheon-bearing Danish police shoving the crowd backward as protesters gasped and covered their faces to avoid breathing tear gas.
Between the New Imperialism being exhibited within and the anarchy being shown from without, the face of the European Union is proving to be quite entertaining. They may actually be doing the world a favor by shooting themselves in the foot and not getting much done.

The Sinking Pelosicare Ship

It's getting worse as time runs out for the Dems to get something passed this year:
As the Senate sprints to pass a health-care bill by Christmas, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that those believing President Obama's health-reform plan is a good idea has sunk to its lowest level.

Just 32 percent say it's a good idea, versus 47 percent who say it's a bad idea.

In addition, for the first time in the survey, a plurality prefers the status quo to reform. By a 44-41 percent margin, respondents say it would be better to keep the current system than to pass Obama's health plan.

By comparison, in September's and October's NBC/Journal polls, the American public preferred changing the system to the status quo, 45 to 39 percent.
As people learn more, they aren't liking what they know. As they say, knowledge is power. Meanwhile, those who still support the bill are not pleased:
Congressional Democrats are starting to voice their anger at President Obama over the way health care legislation has been compromised, blaming him for not fighting harder.

"The president keeps listening to Rahm Emanuel," said Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). "No public option, no extending Medicare to 55, no nothing, an excise tax, God!" he exclaimed about the Senate health care bill to Roll Call. "The insurance lobby is taking over."

Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.), told Politico of Senate delays, "It's ridiculous, and the Obama administration is sitting on the sidelines. That's nonsense."*

While many House Democrats have expressed anger with the Senate for the watered-down bill, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) argued that it was really Obama who let centrists take control. "Snowe? Stupak? Lieberman? Who left these people in charge?" he said. "It's time for the president to get his hands dirty. Some of us have compromised our compromised compromise. We need the president to stand up for the values our party shares. We must stop letting the tail wag the dog of this debate."

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) similarly suggested that blaming Lieberman was ignoring the real culprit -- Obama.

"This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place, so I don't think focusing it on Lieberman really hits the truth," said Feingold. "I think they could have been higher. I certainly think a stronger bill would have been better in every respect."
Oh, my. But even Nancy Pelosi has indicated that what might get passed won't be what the liberals want. If what survives makes them so unhappy, then that's a good thing. Maybe not so good for Obama if he loses the support of his liberal base, but Democrats who want to survive what is likely to be a bad election year are seeing the writing on the wall, and responding accordingly. That's how democracy works, libs.

The Price Of Pork

You will be shocked to learn that a government pork project is going to cost more than those who wanted it said it would:
Those hoping to ride the state's high-speed train next decade will have to dig much deeper into their wallets than officials originally thought, a harsh reality that will chase away millions of passengers, according to an updated business plan released Monday.

The average ticket on the bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles is now estimated to cost about $105, or 83 percent of comparable airfare. Last year, the state said prices would be set at 50 percent of comparable airfare and predicted a ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles would cost $55.

As a result of the higher fares, state officials now think the service will attract 41 million annual riders by 2035, down from last year's prediction of 55 million passengers by 2030.

Finally, the cost of the project — recently pegged at $33.6 billion in 2008 dollars — is now estimated at $42.6 billion in time-of-construction dollars.

The gloomy forecasts are included in the California High-Speed Rail Authority's updated business plan, which the state Legislature required the authority to submit by today.
Like most ideas intended to draw people away from their cars, this was an idea born of idealistic but flawed intentions. People like to drive, especially in California, where trains have never really taken off to begin with. Besides, air travel is cheaper and readily available. As it is, the voters will now have to be paying for this unecessary service.

And people wonder why California is hip-deep in debt.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You Can Go Home Again

Is America still the land of opportunity? Maybe not so much, these days:
HSBC Bank International's 2009 Expat Explorer survey found that 23% of U.S.-based expats are considering returning home, compared with 15% elsewhere in the world. The most frequently cited reason was increasingly limited career prospects, according to the survey of more than 3,100 expats, defined as anyone over 18 living outside their country of origin.

Many of these workers have become dissatisfied with their compensation or advancement opportunities in the U.S. and perceive better opportunities back home or in other parts of the world.
....

Many home countries have made significant economic strides in the past decade, making them more appealing to expats living in the U.S.

"When people came here a decade ago from India and China, they left behind a land where the opportunities aren't nearly what they are today," says Mr. Wadhwa. He expects more than 100,000 expats to return to India in the next five years and says human-resource directors in India and China he has surveyed have noticed a tenfold increase in the number of résumés from the U.S.

And recruiters say in most cases, salaries will be equivalent to or better than what the employees were making in the U.S., although adjusted to the living costs in the new country.
On the one hand, this should make the anti-immigration crowd happy-more opportunities for professional Americans, right? But on the other hand, what does it say about or economic image when the kinds of people we should be encouraging to come here no longer want to?

Smooth Criminals

Well, this is comforting:
Over the last 40 years, an unholy alliance of big-business-hating liberals and tough-on-crime conservatives has made criminalization the first line of attack — a way to demonstrate seriousness about the social problem of the month, whether it’s corporate scandals or e-mail spam. . . . There are now more than 4,000 federal crimes, spread out through some 27,000 pages of the U.S. Code. Some years ago, analysts at the Congressional Research Service tried to count the number of separate offenses on the books, and gave up, lacking the resources to get the job done. If teams of legal researchers can’t make sense of the federal criminal code, obviously, ordinary citizens don’t stand a chance.
On the other hand, it does explain the political mentality with regards to crime we've seen from both parties. No politician worth his or her salt has wanted to look soft on crime at least since the Nixon era. But what is a crime, and how can we get the politicians to adjust their thinking in light of changing attitudes, such as decriminalization of drugs? More realism and less rhetoric would definitely be welcome here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hey Joe, Who Ya Gonna Run After Now?

The guy known as "America's Toughest Sheriff," AKA Joe Arpaio, may have finally bitten off more than he can chew:
This week, the top cop for Maricopa County, Arizona, who has used media-friendly stunts to gain a national reputation as a law-and-order zealot and bete noir of illegal immigrants, announced the filing of a criminal complaint against his latest target: a judge who's involved in several of the controversial cases Sheriff Joe has helped bring.

Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe's "crime"? It looks like it might not amount to much more than having made some rulings that America's Toughest Sheriff didn't take kindly to.
....

The main charge seems to be that he conspired with lawyers for a group of county officials to obstruct an investigation that Arpaio and Thomas are conducting into the county's $347 million plan to build a new court tower. Arpaio has long opposed the tower plan, some say because it could take county resources away from his own office. Donahoe ruled earlier this year that Thomas could not legally investigate the court tower matter, because his office had given legal advice on the issue. Donahoe found that Thomas's actions in seeking to probe the court tower despite the conflict had "the appearance of evil."

But Thomas admitted at the press conference that no evidence exists that Donahoe, a highly-respected veteran of the bench, had accepted a bribe of any kind, according to the Phoenix New Times -- a newspaper that itself has been a target of Arpaio's vindictive brand of law enforcement. Pressed by reporters, Thomas said that Arizona has a "very broad" definition of bribery. Later he added: "If I'm not explaining this well, I hope you'll help me."
This idiot (the sheriff) made a name for himself in certain circles as an immigration enforcer. But he also has another reputation-one for vindictive, petty behavior that has a lot of people complaining. His supporters love him, however, as evidenced by the fact that he keeps getting re-elected-and now he wants to run for Governor-God help us all.

A Coalition Of The Less Than Willing

Via Hit&Run, a Foreign Policy Magazine piece about Afghanistan despairs over the similarities with another war:
The president offered three reasons why [Afghanistan now and Vietnam then] are different. And all are dead wrong. First, Obama noted that Afghanistan is being conducted by a "coalition" of 43 countries -- as if war by committee would magically change the outcome (a throwback to former President George W. Bush's "Iraq coalition" mathematics). The truth is, outside of a handful of countries, it's basically a coalition of pacifists. In fact, more foreign troops fought alongside the United States in Vietnam than are now actually fighting with Americans today. Only nine countries in today's 43-country coalition have more than 1,000 personnel there; nine others have 10 (yes, not even a dozen people) -- or fewer. And although Australia and New Zealand have sent a handful of excellent special operations troops to Afghanistan, only Britain, Canada, and France are providing significant forces willing to conduct conventional offensive military operations. That brings the coalition's combat-troop contribution to approximately 17,000. Most of the other 38 "partners" have strict rules prohibiting them from ever doing anything actually dangerous....

The president went on to assert that the Taliban are not popular in Afghanistan, whereas the Viet Cong represented a broadly popular nationalist movement with the support of a majority of the Vietnamese. But this is also wrong. Neither the Viet Cong then, nor the Taliban now, have ever enjoyed the popular support of more than 15 percent of the population....

The reality on the ground is that Afghanistan is Vietnam redux. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's regime is an utterly illegitimate, incompetent kleptocracy. The Afghan National Army (ANA) -- slotted to take over the conflict when the coalition pulls out -- will not even be able to feed itself in five years, much less turn back the mounting Taliban tide.
Is Obama making the same mistakes that another Democratic president-Lyndon Johnson-made with his war? There are differences between then and now. But the main problem remains of how to get a win-or at least a draw-and call it quits with some degree of dignity.

The Taliban do need to be defeated, or at least rendered powerless for good. The question is whether Obama has the will to do so. If not, then it is time for us to pack up and go home.

Let The Good Bad Times Roll

If there's one place that's Recession-proof, it's Washington.
This recession has been such a boom time for the tax-supported bureaucracy that "federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession's first 18 months -- and that's before overtime pay and bonuses are counted." USA Today was especially struck by the fact that there was only one career federal worker making an annual salary of $170,000 or more at the U.S. Department of Transportation when the current recession began. Today, 18 months later, there are more than 1,600 career employees making that much at Transportation. We can only hope that none of those additional 1,600-plus high-paid workers was responsible for the $2 billion Cash for Clunkers debacle run by the Transportation Department.
....

Hard times for folks outside of the federal establishment are also good times for Washington politicians with their never-ending thirst for finding new ways of grabbing tax dollars to benefit themselves, members of their families, present or former staff members, friends, or campaign donors. The $448 billion appropriations bill approved last week by the House contained more than 5,000 earmarks, many of which will ultimately benefit the favored few rather than the suffering many. It's helpful to keep these realities about Washington bureaucrats and politicians in mind the next time one of them steps forward and proposes solving another crisis with billions more tax dollars.
Oh, to be a D.C. bureaucrat-where a thief can make out like, well, a bandit.

Let Them Eat Bonuses

Not everybody is hurting these days. For example, take a look at our nation's capitol:
City officials have doled out nearly $15 million in bonuses and awards since Mayor Adrian Fenty took office in January 2007, records obtained by The Examiner under the Freedom of Information Act show.

Among the big winners were Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who was handed $41,250 in August 2007 after barely two months on the job; Department of Health Director Pierre Vigilance, who was given $15,000 in 2008; and city property manager Robin-Eve Jasper, handed $18,000over two years.

The bonuses were ladled out even as the city was facing nine-figure budget shortfalls and officials -- including Rhee -- were firing employees by the busload, claiming they could no longer afford them.

It paid to be on Rhee's good side. School employees, including Rhee's top staff, accounted for nearly half of the Fenty-era bonuses, records show. Then-special education "czar" Phyllis Harris was paid $17,000 in 2008; special-ed bureaucrat Karen Griffin was given $25,000 the same year; and Rhee's chief of staff, Lisa Ruda, was given $17,000 in 2008, records show.
....

Worried by possible bad publicity for doling out cash during a recession, the city council voted to ban the practice as of Oct. 1, 2009. That hasn't stopped the gravy train from rolling: Records show hundreds of employees have been paid more than $565,000 in bonuses since October.

Attorney General Peter Nickles said most of the bonuses to employees were tied to contracts that were entered into when "times were better" and that the city couldn't back out of them now.

"We're no longer entering into those contracts," he said.

Nickles said the bonuses were worth the cost.

"We've made tremendous progress in these three years," he said.

Condemnation from other quarters was swift.

"Fenty, Rhee and [police Chief Cathy] Lanier have tried to tell everybody in the city we don't have enough police officers, firefighters and teachers because they don't have any money. But at the same time they're lining the pockets of their favorites," police union Chairman Kris Baumann said. "If you put this in a movie, people wouldn't believe it. It would be too far-fetched."
Well, Hollywood and D.C. are both known for producing fantasy, so maybe not...

How Green Was My Summit

Not much, apparently:
Delegates, journalists, activists and observers from almost 200 countries have gathered at the Dec 7-18 summit and their travel and work will create 46,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide, most of it from their flights.

This would fill nearly 10,000 Olympic swimming pools, and is the same amount produced each year by 2,300 Americans or 660,000 Ethiopians -- the vast difference is due to the huge gap in consumption patterns in the two countries -- according to U.S. government statistics about per person emissions in 2006.

Despite efforts by the Danish government to reduce the conference's carbon footprint, around 5,700 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be created by the summit and a further 40,500 tonnes created by attendees' flights to Copenhagen.

The figure for the flights was calculated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), while the domestic carbon footprint from the summit was calculated by accountants Deloitte, said Deloitte consultant Stine Balslev.

"This is much bigger than the last talks because there are many more people here," she said, adding that 18,000 people were expected to pass through the conference center every day.

"These are preliminary figures but we expect that when we do the final calculations after the conference is over, the carbon footprint will be about the same."

Deloitte included in their calculations emissions caused by accommodation, local transport, electricity and heating of the conference center, paper, security, transport of goods and services as well as energy used by computers, kitchens, photocopiers and printers inside the conference center.

Accommodation accounted for 23 percent of the summit's greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen, while transport caused 7 percent. Seventy percent came from activities inside the conference center, she said.
I'm guessing that includes the large amounts of hot air that were generated...