Posts

Showing posts from August, 2010

There's No Gold In Them Thar Vaults

Or so claims Ron Paul, leading Professor Bainbridge to respond:I am reminded here of Terry Pratchett's wonderful Discworld novel Making Money, in which Lord Vetinari maneuvers reformed criminal and current Ankh-Morpork Postmaster General Moist von Lipwig into taking on the job of running the Bank of Ankh-Morpock and the Royal Mint. Lipwig eventually discovers that the 10 tons of gold supposedly in the bank's vaults is now longer there. Panic almost ensues. Naturally, however, Lipwig saves the day, gets the girl, and persuades the citizens of Ankh-Morpock to abandon the gold standard.Many of society's issues could be explained by Mr. Pratchett's books. Maybe our politicians should start reading them?

Drinking For Your Life

Image
Is there nothing that alcohol cannot do?A new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that - for reasons that aren't entirely clear - abstaining from alcohol does actually tend to increase one's risk of dying even when you exclude former drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers' mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers.
...

...The researchers (a six-member team led by psychologist Charles Holahan of the University of Texas at Austin) found that over a 20-year period, mortality rates were highest for those who had never been drinkers, second-highest for heavy drinkers and lowest for moderate drinkers.It does seem that the more we learn about booze, the more there is to like about it.

Hooverville U.S.A.

Welcome to the national bread line:Government anti-poverty programs that have grown to meet the needs of recession victims now serve a record one in six Americans and are continuing to expand.

More than 50 million Americans are on Medicaid, the federal-state program aimed principally at the poor, a survey of state data by USA TODAY shows. That's up at least 17% since the recession began in December 2007.
....

Close to 10 million receive unemployment insurance, nearly four times the number from 2007. Benefits have been extended by Congress eight times beyond the basic 26-week program, enabling the long-term unemployed to get up to 99 weeks of benefits. Caseloads peaked at nearly 12 million in January — "the highest numbers on record," says Christine Riordan of the National Employment Law Project, which advocates for low-wage workers.

More than 4.4 million people are on welfare, an 18% increase during the recession. The program has grown slower than others, causing Brookin…

How The Other Half Spends

It looks like here really are two Americas:Nearly a year after the US economy returned to growth, corporate earnings reports in recent months have provided consistent evidence of the differing fortunes. At high-end stores such as Neiman Marcus and Tiffany, shoppers are demonstrating confidence and spending with vigour. At the other end of the retail spectrum, consumers are cautious amid economic uncertainties, denting the earnings of groups such as Walmart.

In the second quarter of 2010, personal consumption expenditure – the commerce department’s main measure of consumer spending – advanced at an annualised rate of 2 per cent in the US, matching the fourth quarter 2009 figure and improving upon the 1.9 per cent gain recorded in the first quarter of this year. However, these modest increases are much weaker than the rebound in consumer consumption experienced after previous recessions.Maybe this means the Tiffany's crowd has to start paying their fair share?

"Can You Hear Me Now?"

Well, I guess when the opposition is pummeling you in the polls, you at least try to go with what you think works:



You know you're in trouble when even the microphones turn on you...

Looking For Bigots In All The Wrong Places

Via Instapundit, William Jacobson sums up the Left's sorry attempts to find racism at the big Beck rally:Think Progress tried really, really hard to cover the Restoring Honor rally with photographers and videographers. I don't think it is a stretch to think that Think Progress was hoping beyond hope that it would find a sign or something else that would permit it to portray the rally as racist.Of course, it wasn't for lack of trying:Robert Stacy McCain has been getting good laughs out of the left's efforts to smear tea partiers as "racist." Turns out Rachel Maddow apparently found evidence of "racism" in one of the event's program guides, which "advised visitors to stick to the touristy parts of town." But it turns out the program guide was written by a Democrat, Bruce Majors, who's been a major contributor to Democratic candidates, including Howard Dean and John Kerry. And checking over at Charles Johnson's Twitter page, these…

What If A Republican Came Out Of The Closet And Nobody Cared?

Because that seems to be the case with those evil, homophobic right-wingers:Conservative bloggers either ignored the topic or pointed out that conservatives aren’t necessarily surprised or outraged by the news.

“I had absolutely no idea Ken Mehlman was gay, or existed,” wrote the Daily Caller’s Jim Treacher in response to the New York Times piece that marveled at the “muted reaction” of Republicans to the announcement.

The former RNC chairman and President Bush’s 2004 campaign manager announced that he was gay to the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder, and also announced his intentions to support the case for same-sex marriage.

As Washington media columnist Howard Kurtz noted, Mehlman’s sexuality was an “open secret” in Washington and the news failed to surprise many of the people who knew him.Just about the only people who do care are most likely religious conservatives who never heard of the guy, or liberals who would use this to point out how tough it is to be gay in today's GOP. Which, …

Get The Lead Out

Score one for lead:In a swift and unexpected decision, the Environmental Protection Agency today rejected a petition from environmental groups to ban the use of lead in bullets and shotgun shells, claiming it doesn't have jurisdiction to weigh on the controversial Second Amendment issue. The decision came just hours after the Drudge Report posted stories from Washington Whispers and the Weekly Standard about how gun groups were fighting the lead bullet ban.

The EPA had planned to solicit public responses to the petition for two months, but this afternoon issued a statement rejecting a 100-page request from the Center for Biological Diversity, the American Bird Conservancy, and three other groups for a ban on lead bullets, shot, and fishing sinkers. The agency is still considering what to do about sinkers.

The decision was a huge victory for the National Rifle Association which just seven days ago asked that the EPA reject the petition, suggesting that it was a back door attempt to…

Public Employee Number One

When it comes to the world's most wanted man, Uncle Fidel has it all figured out:Castro told a visiting Lithuanian writer, who is known as a font of intriguing conspiracy theories about plots for world domination, that Bin Laden was working for the White House.

"Bush never lacked for Bin Laden's support. He was a subordinate," Castro said, according to the Communist party daily, Granma. "Any time Bush would stir up fear and make a big speech, Bin Laden would appear, threatening people with a story about what he was going to do."

He said that thousands of pages of American classified documents made public by WikiLeaks pointed to who the al-Qaida leader is really working for.

"Who showed that he [Bin Laden] is indeed a CIA agent was WikiLeaks. It proved it with documents," he said, but did not explain exactly how.I guess this means the secret's out, in which case we really do have to kill him now.

The Candidates

Better late than never:After 30 years of barring black students from running for class president, a Mississippi public middle school, reversed a Jim Crow era policy today and announced students of all races would be allowed to run for student government.

Students at Nettleton Middle School looking to run for class president, previously needed to maintain a B average, obtain 10 signatures from their classmates – and be white.

Rules issued last week outlined the school's rules for seeking office. Students could run for president, vice president, secretary-treasurer and reporter, but some positions were off-limits depending on race.

In all three grades, only white students could run for president. In eighth grade black students could run for vice president and reporter. In seventh grade blacks could only run for secretary-treasurer, and in sixth grade only for reporter.

There were no assigned positions for students of other races and no mention of students who are mixed race.

The…

Doing The Kerry Flip

That was then. This is now:



Of course, he's now flip-flopped again. Which should make him a perfect Democratic presidential nominee in 2016.

Death To Tea?

Ah, more liberal "Tolerance" in action:One of Washington's principal supporters of the Tea Party movement, former GOP Majority Leader Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, has been receiving death threats and profanity-laced phone calls as it gets involved in the fall elections. The number and intensity have reached such heights that the organization is leaving its downtown location near the FBI and moving to a high-security building near the U.S. Capitol.

"FreedomWorks and Dick Armey receive dozens of threatening and harassing calls and E-mails each day. Many imply violence and use of weapons," spokesman Adam Brandon tells Whispers. "As we get closer to the election we expect the harassment to increase."

He says that FreedomWorks will hire additional security, meaning less money for its election-eve, get-out-the-vote, or GOTV, campaign. "Unfortunately, we may have to use resources for security guards that we would rather use for GOTV," he said.I&#…

Brother, Can You Spare A Home?

While Joe Biden (and Time Magazine) brag about how much of the stimulus was spent, the rest of the country is feeling the effects of the Great Non-Recovery:More than 2.3 million homes have been repossessed by lenders since the recession began in December 2007, according to foreclosure listing service RealtyTrac Inc. And 6 million more will be lost to foreclosure over the next three years, by some estimates.

If that happens, home prices will probably sink further, and the economy will suffer. Builders will keep construction to a minimum, and Americans will be less willing to spend because of their lost home values.

"Housing is certainly not going to help the recovery," said Michelle Meyer, a Bank of America economist. "It threatens to hinder it."

A major problem is that many people have homes that are now worth less than they owe on their mortgages. Approximately 11 million homeowners, or 23 percent of those with a mortgage, were "underwater" as of the end…

Non-Sacred Cow

Alan Simpson, under fire for being too honest?An advocacy group is calling for the ouster of former Sen. Alan Simpson, the co-chairman of President Obama's bipartisan debt commission, who described Social Security as a "milk cow with 310 million tits!" in an email.

Ashley Carson, executive director of the Older Women's League, wrote in a blog post in April that Simpson is targeting Social Security to fix the deficit even though it "doesn't contribute" to the country's debt problem. She also accused Simpson of "disgusting ageism and sexism" in characterizing those who oppose cuts to benefits as "Gray Panthers" and "Pink Panthers."

In his email to Carson, which was sent Monday night, Simpson said he is defending Social Security, not trying to undermine it, and referred her to information showing the program's long-range shortfalls.

He went on: "I've made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Securi…

Republicanism Is Teh Gay

Bush's former campaign manager comes out:Ken Mehlman, President Bush's campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has told family and associates that he is gay.

Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. He agreed to answer a reporter's questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California's ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.

"It's taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life," said Mehlman, now an executive vice-president with the New York City-based private equity firm, KKR. "Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few month…

The Broken Generation

Is DIY becoming a lost skill?Around 50 per cent of people aged under 35 admitted they did not know how to rewire a plug, while 54 per cent did not know how to bleed a radiator and 63 per cent said they would not attempt to put up wallpaper, according to Halifax Home Insurance.

Other basic jobs, such as putting up shelves, were beyond 45 per cent of those questioned, while 36 per cent said they would not even attempt to do gardening themselves.

Instead 42 per cent would pay a professional to do the work.

Nearly two-thirds of young people admitted that their father was far better at DIY than they were.

The study also found that when the under-35s do attempt to do a job themselves and it goes wrong, it costs nearly three times as much to fix as problems caused by other age groups.On the plus side, this might mean more work for those who still actually know how to do these things. On the down side, they seem to be a dying breed.

The End Of Recovery Slumber

Joe Biden might claim otherwise, but it looks like the Great Non-Recovery still has people worried:Disappointing US economic data is driving a surge in demand for low-yielding assets, with the Japanese yen setting another 15-year high and government bonds at further record low yields.

The Richmond branch of the Federal Reserve’s gauge of manufacturing activity for the US’s mid-Atlantic region fell by nearly a third, and sales of existing homes fell 27.2 per cent in July – to the lowest level for 15 years – well past consensus expectations of a 12 per cent decline.

“There has been a double dip in home sales and housing construction, triggered by the weakening economic backdrop,” said Ethan Harris, head of developed markets economics research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, in a note.Maybe Obama really is Hoover. In which case, it would be the ultimate irony if he were to be unseated by a Republican FDR.

The Potmobile

Well, not quite, but close:Nathan Armstrong envisions a day when drivers will be rolling up to the curb in a car powered by an electric motor and covered with a body made from hemp.

The green vehicle’s design will be unveiled next month at the Electric Mobility trade show in Vancouver, but the Kestrel is part of a bigger plan by a Canadian consortium — including Armstrong’s Calgary-based Motive Industries — to build an environmentally friendly car in this country.

“It’s a design program that will put all the good eggs we’ve been thinking about into one basket,” said Armstrong, Motive’s president.All well and good, but what if you get the munchies while driving one?

Hitler's Worst Nightmare

They do say you can't pick your relatives:Saliva samples taken from 39 relatives of the Nazi leader show he may have had biological links to the “subhuman” races that he tried to exterminate during the Holocaust.

Jean-Paul Mulders, a Belgian journalist, and Marc Vermeeren, a historian, tracked down the Fuhrer’s relatives, including an Austrian farmer who was his cousin, earlier this year.

A chromosome called Haplogroup E1b1b1 which showed up in their samples is rare in Western Europe and is most commonly found in the Berbers of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, as well as among Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.

"One can from this postulate that Hitler was related to people whom he despised," Mr Mulders wrote in the Belgian magazine, Knack.Maybe Adolf just had a really bad case of self-loathing? Or, as the late Dennis Hopper might have put it:

Bloggin' In The Years: 1989

Pete Rose is out:Pete Rose, the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, today will be declared permanently ineligible to work in baseball for betting on Reds games, people close to the Rose investigation said last night.

The action, which Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti will announce at a 9 A.M. news conference in Manhattan, comes as part of an agreement reached with Mr. Rose's lawyers. The agreement ends Mr. Rose's lawsuit against Mr. Giamatti and precludes the need for a hearing by the commissioner into the betting charges against Mr. Rose. Mr. Giamatti had been trying to hold a hearing for the past three months.

Although the sources described the action as an agreement between the commissioner and Mr. Rose, they did not say what, if anything, Mr. Rose would get out of the deal. It was not clear if Mr. Rose's permanently-ineligible status could be altered in the future. Has Denied Betting on Baseball

Mr. Rose has been accused of betting on baseball games, including games playe…

Your Debate Has Been Terminated

It looks like the Great Director can't walk the walk, after all:Mr. Cameron was attending the AREDAY environmental conference in Aspen Colorado 19-22 August. He wanted the conference to end with a debate on climate change. Cameron would be flanked with two scientists. It would be 90 minutes long. It would be streamed live on the internet.

They hoped the debate would attract a lot of media coverage.

"We are delighted to have Fox News, Newsmax, The Washington Times and anyone else you'd like. The more the better," one of James Cameron's organizers said in an email.

It looked like James Cameron really was a man of his word who would get to take on the skeptics he felt were so endangering humanity.

Everyone on our side agreed with their conditions. The debate was even listed on the AREDAY agenda.

But then as the debate approached James Cameron's side started changing the rules.

They wanted to change their team. We agreed.

They wanted to change the format to less …

The Open Books

Well, Obama promised transparency:A U.S. appeals court refused to reconsider a ruling that requires the Federal Reserve Board to disclose documents identifying financial firms that might have collapsed without the largest U.S. government bailout.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York, in a docket entry dated Aug. 20, denied a May 4 request by the Fed to review its unanimous March 19 decision requiring the agency to release records of the unprecedented $2 trillion U.S. loan program launched primarily after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

The Fed may still ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court.

"The decision is of exceptional importance," the Fed's lawyers wrote in a legal brief on May 4 in which they asked the court to reconsider its decision. "The real-world consequence of the panel's decision will be serious, perhaps irreparable harm to the institutional borrowers whose information will be revealed."Yes, Lord knows the …

The New Iraq

It's a lot sexier than the old one:Hundreds of porn DVDs are stacked elbow-deep on a wooden table in Jassim Hanoun's ramshackle stall on a downtown sidewalk. His other tables have Hollywood blockbusters, like "King Kong." But not surprisingly, it's the sex that sells best.

"I've got everything," Hanoun says of his sex selection, flashing the kind of impish grin only a 22-year-old in tight jeans and slicked-back hair can pull off with any real conviction. "What do you want? I've got foreign films, Arab, Iraqi, Indian, celebrities — whatever you like."

The porn, in an odd way, has told the story of Iraq's security and political situation since Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003. It emerged in the anything-goes atmosphere that erupted in the vacuum immediately following the U.S. invasion — then went back into hiding amid the anarchy when armed militias roamed the capital through 2008, targeting those they saw as immoral.

Its reemerge…

Blogger Shakedown

That certainly sounds like what's going on in the City of Brotherly Love:Even though small-time bloggers aren't exactly raking in the dough, the city requires privilege licenses for any business engaged in any "activity for profit," says tax attorney Michael Mandale of Center City law firm Mandale Kaufmann. This applies "whether or not they earned a profit during the preceding year," he adds.

So even if your blog collects a handful of hits a day, as long as there's the potential for it to be lucrative — and, as Mandale points out, most hosting sites set aside space for bloggers to sell advertising — the city thinks you should cut it a check. According to Andrea Mannino of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, in fact, simply choosing the option to make money from ads — regardless of how much or little money is actually generated — qualifies a blog as a business. The same rules apply to freelance writers. As former City Paper news editor Doron Taussig …

Nineteen Forever

The NY Times has an extensive essay on the rise of twentysomethings who are postponing their move into formal adulthood:It’s happening all over, in all sorts of families, not just young people moving back home but also young people taking longer to reach adulthood overall. It’s a development that predates the current economic doldrums, and no one knows yet what the impact will be — on the prospects of the young men and women; on the parents on whom so many of them depend; on society, built on the expectation of an orderly progression in which kids finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and eventually retire to live on pensions supported by the next crop of kids who finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and on and on. The traditional cycle seems to have gone off course, as young people remain un­tethered to romantic partners or to permanent homes, going back to school for lack of better options, traveling, avoiding commitments, competing ferociously for unp…

Playing For $$

Another individual unable to take responsibility for his actions, er, another victim of insidious corporate behavior gets his day in court:A federal judge is allowing a negligence lawsuit to proceed against the publisher of the online virtual-world game Lineage II, amid allegations that a Hawaii man became so addicted he is “unable to function independently in usual daily activities such as getting up, getting dressed, bathing or communicating with family and friends.”

Craig Smallwood, the plaintiff, claims NCsoft of South Korea should pay unspecified monetary damages because of the addictive nature of the game. Smallwood claims to have played Lineage II for 20,000 hours between 2004 and 2009. Among other things, he alleges he would not have begun playing if he was aware “that he would become addicted to the game.”

Smallwood, who did not immediately respond for comment, alleged that the company “acted negligently in failing to warn or instruct or adequately warn or instruct plaintiff …

Atomic Age

It's official-Iran has gone nuclear:Thirty-six years after construction began under the shah, Iran finally opened its first nuclear power plant at a ceremony on Saturday.

Attended by senior officials from Iran and Russia, the ceremony marked the beginning of the transfer of low-enriched uranium fuel rods from a storage site into the plant.

Officials of both countries said that Saturday’s events signified the opening, not the startup, of the plant near Bushehr, in southern Iran, as a working nuclear plant.

“This is a special day for both Russian and Iranian specialists,” the chief of Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear power company, Sergei Kiriyenko, said, shaking hands and smiling with his Iranian counterparts, in television reports broadcast in Russia.

Russia helped build the station through years of concern by the West that Iran was using its civilian program to mask a plan to build a bomb.

And it was a day sure to upset United States diplomats who had encouraged Russia to delay the…

All The Old Dudes

Sorry, guys, they're just not that into you after all:Men and women are still rather traditional when it comes to searching for their ideal partner.

Women generally seek an older and, therefore hopefully, wealthier man, according to the UWIC study.

Men, on the other hand, desire a young and attractive female, and often prefer a much younger partner as they themselves age.

The findings, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, disputes the "cougar" phenomenon popularized in TV shows and movies like "Cougar Town" starring Courteney Cox and "Sex and the City" of women aged over 40 seeking "cubs."It may be because these shows were created by guys who want hot older chicks interested in them. Or maybe Freud was right and some guys are really just looking for their mothers...

Running Forward, Into The Past

Maybe they really do miss him:



Somebody tell me, what year is this again?

Bush Country

As the President prepares for his umpteenth vacation, the end of Hope'n'Change is so prevalent that it's even being felt in Kennedyland:It was only a year ago that the president, a superstar after his historic election, rode a wave of popularity to The Rock. Islanders typically brag about a laissez-faire attitude when it comes to celebrities, but it seemed everyone wanted a glimpse of Obama playing golf or biking with his daughters.

But in the final days before his second visit, some residents say the excitement has waned along with Obama’s popularity after two years in office. Others say his poll numbers are not the issue; they just want to give the president the quiet he seeks.

“It’s not as hectic or as crazy’’ this year, said Maya Sharp, a clerk at Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury, one of the locations the president visited last summer. She remembers the excitement when Secret Service agents came into the store announcing that the president would visit. No one else…

Service With A Smile

Darrell Issa is just waiting to unleash his wrath on the unsuspecting White House:For months, Issa, a California Republican, has been delving into allegations of bureaucratic abuse and political foul play, prepping for the committee chairmanship should the chance come. A relentless critic of the Obama administration, he frequently takes to cable news to highlight his growing pile of files. Everything from the alleged job offers made to Democratic candidates by White House emissaries, to the private-sector ties of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, has caught his eye.

Prodding Democrats for answers, of course, has brought him both notoriety and enemies. The New York Times, for example, calls him President Obama’s “Annoyer-in-Chief.” Issa shrugs off Democrats’ displeasure. In fact, he says that he enjoys tangling with the administration and its flacks. But subpoena power, he notes, will make a “big difference” between annoying the administration and “holding its feet to the fire.”

“You will ge…

Union Boss Blues

No one can say that the UAW doesn't know where its priorities are:
On Tuesday GM announced that it would close its Indianapolis stamping plant next year, after workers there voted against a UAW-sponsored contract that would have sold the plant to Chicago-based Norman Industries and cut worker pay by as much as 50 percent. Local union members were so incensed by the UAW’s efforts to make them accept pay reductions, they shouted representatives down at angry meeting last Sunday (starting at 2:45 in the video above).

And if you think they were angry on Sunday, imagine how pissed the members of Local 23 were on Tuesday when the partially UAW-owned GM announced that the plant would cease production next June, and close by the end of 2011. Especially because they have no recourse, as the UAW agreed to a no-strike clause (ending in 2015) in exchange for its equity in GM and Chrysler.

To get the bitter taste of squelched brethren out of his mouth, UAW President Bob King took the union’s $3…

The Message

Having failed to sell Obamacare to the American electorate outright, Democrats are now switching tactics to a different sales pitch:The presentation concedes that groups typically supportive of Democratic causes — people under 40, non-college-educated women and Hispanic voters — have not been won over by the plan. Indeed, it stresses repeatedly that many are unaware that the legislation has passed, an astonishing shortcoming in the White House's all-out communications effort.

"Straightforward ‘policy’ defenses fail to [move] voters’ opinions about the law," says one slide. "Women in particular are concerned that health care law will mean less provider availbality — scarcity [is] an issue."

The presentation also concedes that the fiscal and economic arguments that were the White House's first and most aggressive sales pitch have essentially failed.

"Many don’t believe health care reform will help the economy," says one slide.

The presentation's…

Where Stupidity Survives

Of all the things to criticize Obama over, this nonsense is way at the bottom of my list:Nearly one in five people, or 18 percent, said they think Obama is Muslim, up from the 11 percent who said so in March 2009, according to a poll released Thursday. The proportion who correctly say he is a Christian is just 34 percent, down from 48 percent in March of last year.

The White House even felt compelled to respond with a terse knockdown from spokesman Bill Burton: "The president is obviously a Christian. He prays every day."

Obama is the Christian son of a Kenyan Muslim father and a Kansas mother. Born in Hawaii, he lived from ages 6 to 10 in predominantly Muslim Indonesia with his mother and Indonesian stepfather. His full name, Barack Hussein Obama, sounds Muslim to many.

Confusion about Obama's religion was common, and sometimes encouraged, during the 2008 campaign. An Associated Press photograph that circulated on the Internet, and was posted on The Drudge Report, showe…

Not The Smartest Guy In The Room

Jennifer Rubin says that Obama has fallen victim to his own hype:Obama suffers from a lifetime of others excessively praising his intellect. It insulates him from ideas and facts that conflict with his pre-existing liberal rubric (so “every economist” believed his stimulus would work). It leaves him unprepared to engage in real debate with informed opponents (e.g. the health-care summit). It skews his understanding of how geopolitics works, as he imagines that his own wonderfulness can sway adversaries and override nations’ fundamental interests (the Middle East).
....

And when his shortcomings lead to embarrassment or failure, he strikes out in frustration — at Israel, at the media, and at the American people. The image of himself clashes with the results he achieves and the reaction he inspires. No wonder he’s so prickly. You’d be, too, if everyone your entire life had told you that you were swell but now, when the chips are down and the spotlight is on, you are failing so badly in …

Nancy's War

When confronted with opposition, Nancy Pelosi seems content to use an old Democratic fallback position:Pelosi told local reporters on Tuesday that the decision over whether to proceed with building an Islamic center, which includes a mosque, near the site of the 9/11 attacks should be left up to the local community.

"I think everyone respects the right of people in our country to express their religious beliefs on their property," she told KCBS radio in San Francisco. "The decision, though, as to how to go forward in New York is up to New York."

The Speaker also questioned what was motivating the political opposition to the mosque, suspecting that the issue might be being "ginned up" to help Republican candidates.

"There's no question that there's a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some," she said. "And I join those who have called for looking into how ... this opposition to the mosque [is] being funded.

"How …

Paging Dr. Laura

She says she's quitting radio because...why?The announcement by the host of the "Dr. Laura" program was a stunning denouement after a week in which Schlessinger was widely criticized for describing an African American caller to her program as "hypersensitive" for taking offense at a neighbor's racial taunting. To illustrate her claim of a racial double standard, she said that black comedians often use the N-word on TV without criticism, but the word is forbidden for white people. She used the racial epithet, unexpurgated, 11 times in five minutes, despite her caller's protests.

Schlessinger later apologized for the remarks, saying she said "the wrong thing" on the air. On Tuesday she went further: During an interview on "Larry King Live" on CNN, Schlessinger said, "My contract is up for my radio show at the end of the year, and I've made the decision not to do radio anymore."

She added: "The reason is, I want to re…

Welcome To L.A., Now Please Leave

L.A. has a message for President Obama-the next time you think about coming to town, don't.President Obama's fundraising mission in Los Angeles on Monday evening may have been a whirlwind trip for him, but it was a tedious slog for the thousands who found themselves in gridlock from the Westside to downtown.

A Brentwood resident's two-mile jaunt took 45 minutes. An Echo Park couple who left home at 5:30 p.m. found their usual 20-minute drive west to Olympic and Rimpau boulevards took a whopping hour and 15 minutes. An attorney left his Miracle Mile-area office at 5:45 p.m. and sat unmoving in traffic for 45 minutes.

No matter their politics, Los Angeles residents found themselves united. "It was a beautiful thing," said Brentwood resident Myles Berkowitz, commiserating with his neighbors on Montana Avenue. "Young, old, black, white — everyone was pissed off."He's a uniter, not a divider!

Babbler In Chief

Is Obama too professorial for his own good?President Obama's comments on a plan to build an Islamic center in the shadow of ground zero are not only giving opponents an opportunity to attack him but also reveal a messaging problem from the White House, a communications expert said.

"The danger here is an incoherent presidency," said David Morey, vice chairman of the Core Strategy Group, who provided communications advice to Obama's 2008 campaign. "Simpler is better, and rising above these issues and leading by controlling the dialogue is what the presidency is all about. So I think that's the job they have to do more effectively as they have in the past [in the campaign]."
....

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in a recent column that Obama's clarity and successful messaging during the campaign are gone. In place is a "incoherent president," who's "with the banks, he's against the banks. He's leaving Afghanistan,…

Blago's Revenge

Blago wins, sort of:Rod R. Blagojevich, the ousted former governor of Illinois, was convicted on Tuesday of making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but the jury in the corruption case against him also reported that it was hopelessly deadlocked on the 23 other counts against him.

The jury’s findings, which came on the 14th day of deliberations, were seen as a victory for Mr. Blagojevich and his defense team and a significant setback for federal authorities, who arrested Mr. Blagojevich almost two years ago to stop what they described unambiguously as “a political corruption crime spree,” including attempts to sell the appointment to fill the Senate seat once held by Barack Obama.

“The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave,” Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said of Mr. Blagojevich at the time.

Judge James B. Zagel of Federal District Court accepted the jury’s verdict on the false-statements count…

The Cranky Old Man Chronicles

When did Ray Bradbury turn into Andy Rooney?“I think our country is in need of a revolution,” Bradbury said. “There is too much government today. We've got to remember the government should be by the people, of the people and for the people.”

The native of Waukegan, Ill., has never been shy about expressing himself -- he described President Clinton with a word that rhymes with "knithead" back in 2001-- nor is he timid about correcting people when it comes to his own perceived legacy. Bradbury chafes, for instance, at the description of his work as science fiction -- in the past he has pointed out that, to his mind, "Fahrenheit 451"is the only sci-fi book in his vast body of work -- and despite his passion for more national space projects, he is not technology obsessive by any means.

“We have too many cellphones. We've got too many Internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now.”

Bradbury wrote darkly about bookburning in …

The Hammer's Coda

The long-running investigation into Tom DeLay appears to be over:The investigation lasted through two presidents and four attorneys general. Federal prosecutors’ decision not to pursue the Texas Republican in court provides a stark footnote to the lobbying scandals that helped Democrats in 2006 regain the House majority they lost in the “Republican revolution” of 1994. That GOP sweep, during former President Bill Clinton’s first term, eventually made the pugnacious DeLay — nicknamed “The Hammer” — one of Washington’s top power brokers.

DeLay vigorously defended his conduct and insisted that the flurry of inquiries that drove him from office were entirely the product of his political enemies.

“The new politics is, it’s no longer good enough to beat you on policy, they have to completely drown you and put you in prison and destroy your family and your reputation [and] your finances and, then, dance on your grave,” DeLay said. “I hope that people will look at my case and decide that the …

Recovery Summer R.I.P.

James Pethokoukis declares the non-recovery D.O.A.:Private sector job growth has fallen by two-thirds, and the unemployment rate is still at a sky-high 9.5 percent. And if the size of the U.S. workforce, as measured by the Labor Department, had stayed constant since April—instead of shrinking by a million—the unemployment rate would be 10.4 percent. Jobless claims are at their highest level since February. Worse yet, the expansion is decelerating. After growing by 5.7 percent in the final quarter of 2009 and 3.7 percent in the first quarter of 2010, GDP advanced by just 2.4 percent from April through June, according to the Commerce Department. And new data show the final second-quarter number may actually be closer to flat, with growth for the rest of the year just 1 to 2 percent at best.

The White House didn’t count on a summer swoon. Then again, it has suffered bouts of premature and unfounded economic optimism before, a malady that has led it to make a number of losing bets and fau…

Grownup Talk

Chris Christie weighs in on the great Mosque Debate:"Given my last position, that I was the first U.S attorney post 9/11 in New Jersey, I understand acutely the pain and sorrow and upset of the family members who lost loved ones that day at the hands of radical Muslim extremists. And their sensitivities and concerns have to be taken into account. Just because it’s nearly nine years later, those sensitivities cannot and should not be ignored. On the other hand, we cannot paint all of Islam with that brush. ...We have to bring people together. And what offends me the most about all this, is that it’s being used as a political football by both parties. And what disturbs me about the president's remarks is that he is now using it as a political football as well. I think the president of the United State should rise above that. And should not be using this as a political football, and I don’t believe that it would be responsible of me to get involved and comment on this any furthe…

The Plague Of Ignorance

It just keeps spreading:California is in the midst of its worst outbreak of whooping cough in a half-century. More than 2,700 cases have been reported so far this year — eight times last year's number at this point. Seven of the victims, all infants, have died.

And here's what really worries pediatricians like USC's Harvey Karp: Doctors thought they wiped out whooping cough when they developed vaccines decades ago.

The disease hits young children hardest, especially ones who are not vaccinated or who have not yet built up full immunity. The prescribed vaccination regimen begins with a shot at two months and continues until children are 5 years old. For many children, it can take that long for complete immunity to develop — and until then, they're vulnerable.

The California epidemic has raised plenty of questions about the role of vaccination and the increasing numbers of parents who decide not to vaccinate their children. California's Department of Public Health ci…

Don't Talk About Teaching Club

They might not like it:The Los Angeles teachers union president said Sunday he was organizing a “massive boycott” of The Times after the newspaper began publishing a series of articles that uses student test scores to estimate the effectiveness of district teachers.

“You’re leading people in a dangerous direction, making it seem like you can judge the quality of a teacher by … a test,” said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, which has more than 40,000 members.

Duffy said he would urge other labor groups to ask their members to cancel their subscriptions.

Based on test score data covering seven years, The Times analyzed the effects of more than 6,000 elementary school teachers on their students’ learning. Among other things, it found huge disparities among teachers, some of whom work just down the hall from one another.Reporting on poor teacher performance? Oh, the horror! But, as the LA Weekly reports, there's reason for concern:In the past decade, LAUSD officia…

"Let Them Eat Exercise"

Maybe Michelle Obama really is turning into Marie Antoinette:Democrats who reluctantly slashed a food stamp program to fund a state aid bill may have to do so again to pay for a top priority of first lady Michelle Obama.

The House will soon consider an $8 billion child nutrition bill that’s at the center of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative. Before leaving for the summer recess, the Senate passed a smaller version of the legislation that is paid for by trimming the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.

The proposed cuts would come on top of a 13.6 percent food stamp reduction in the $26 billion Medicaid and education state funding bill that President Obama signed this week.It looks like the kids will get thin regardless. After all, they won't have to worry about paying for their lunches now...

Brother, Can You Spare A Condo?

The FHA isn't just for poor people anymore:The FHA, created in 1934 to make homeownership attainable for low- to moderate-income Americans, is now providing a lifeline to new Manhattan luxury condominiums after sales stalled. Buildings featuring pet spas, concierges and rooftop lounges are applying for agency backing to unlock bank financing for purchasers. The FHA guarantees that if a homebuyer defaults on his mortgage, the agency will pay it.

At least nine Manhattan condo developments south of 96th Street have sought approval for FHA backing since the agency loosened its financing rules in December, according to a database of applications maintained by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The change allows the FHA to insure loans in new projects where only 30 percent of units are in contract, down from at least 50 percent. About 1,900 apartments in New York’s most expensive neighborhoods would be covered by the applications.Who says there's no place for the …

Secret Wars

Um, isn't this the sort of thing liberals voted for Obama to end?In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya. The administration has worked with European allies to dismantle terrorist groups in North Africa, efforts that include a recent French strike in Algeria. And the Pentagon tapped a network of private contractors to gather intelligence about things like militant hide-outs in Pakistan and the location of an American soldier currently in Taliban …

Rolling For Rand

Now this is what I call getting your message out:One man drove 12,238 miles across 30 states to scrawl a message that can only be viewed using Google Earth. His big shoutout: “Read Ayn Rand.”

Nick Newcomen did a road trip over 30 days that covered stretches from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. First, he identified on a map the route he would need to drive to spell out the message. He put a GPS device in his car to trace the route he would follow. Then, he hit the road.

“The main reason I did it is because I am an Ayn Rand fan,” he says. “In my opinion if more people would read her books and take her ideas seriously, the country and world would be a better place — freer, more prosperous and we would have a more optimistic view of the future.”

Newcomen, unlike previous GPS artists, actually traveled the lines he traced on the map. He used a GPS logger (Qstarz BT-Q1000X) to “ink” the message. Starting his trip in Marshall, Texas, he turned on the device when he wanted to write a lette…

Flying With The Crazy

It turns out America's newest folk hero may not be all that:A passenger on the JetBlue fight from which attendant Steven Slater disembarked Monday by activating the emergency chute and sliding down with beers in hand said Mr. Slater, apparently after being hit in the head by a passenger, was the one who instigated the confrontation that led to his now-famous exit.

Marjorie Briskin, a 53-year-old schoolteacher from Pittsburgh, said she was deplaning in John F. Kennedy International Airport around noon Monday when Mr. Slater and a woman walking in front of her got into a heated conversation over the woman's luggage. She said the passenger, who appeared to be in her 20s, asked Mr. Slater where her bag was stowed.

Ms. Briskin said the seemingly normal conversation turned unexpectedly nasty when Mr. Slater blurted out an expletive to the passenger.

"I didn't think she was rude in the least," said Ms. Briskin, who was visiting the city for the first time. "It real…

Dumpster Docs

So that's where they went:Four Massachusetts community hospitals are investigating how thousands of patient health records, some containing Social Security numbers and sensitive medical diagnoses, ended up in a pile at a public dump.

The unshredded records included pathology reports with patients’ names, addresses, and results of breast, bone, and skin cancer tests, as well as the results of lab work following miscarriages.

By law, medical records and documents containing personal identifying information must be disposed of in a way that protects privacy, and leaving them at a dump is probably illegal, privacy lawyers and hospital officials said. Violators face steep fines.Of course, this will never happen under Obamacare, will it?

The Dirty South

America's Candidate, now indicted on porn charges:Longshot Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alvin Greene was indicted Friday on two charges, including a felony charge of showing pornography to a teenage student in a South Carolina college computer lab.

Greene surprised the party establishment with his primary victory in June. His arrest in November was first reported by The Associated Press the day after he won the nomination.

Authorities said he approached a student in a University of South Carolina computer lab, showed her obscene photos online, then talked about going to her dorm room.

A Richland County grand jury indicted Greene, 32, for disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity — a felony — as well as a misdemeanor charge of communicating obscene materials to a person without consent.I guess he couldn't wait until after he was in office to have his first scandal...

The Wichita Way

As goes Wichita, so goes America?Thanks to a cluster of aircraft manufacturers such as Learjet, Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft, the economic focus of Wichita – population 366,000 – is very different from the emphasis on services and consumer demand typical of 21st century America. According to a study published late last month by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank, nearly 28 per cent of the city’s gross metropolitan product is sold abroad. That makes it the most export-oriented in the country, just ahead of Portland, Oregon – noted for its computer and electronics companies – and San Jose in California’s Silicon Valley.

According to Bruce Katz, the study’s author, these areas could be at the vanguard of a fundamental transformation in the US economy – away from consumers and housing towards investment and exports. “I personally think [Wichita] will be the norm in the next 10 to 15 years,” Mr Katz says.

Many economists believe this is desirable. Don Kohn, outgoing vice-ch…

Beck-Ola

Oh, my. First there was Mike Huckabee on immigration (see below). Now there's Glenn Beck on the marriage that dares not speak its name:



Hopefully, this is the start of a trend on the Right.

The Radical Mosque That Isn't

Shikha Dalmia puts the New York City mosque controversy into perspective:It will house a place of worship, but it won't blare muezzin calls summoning Muslims to pray five times a day, suggesting that it has a fairly relaxed attitude toward Quranic strictures. Nor will it be a Muslim-only place where members of other faiths are unwelcome; rather it will be open to anyone willing to pay its dues. Best (or worst) of all, it won't be "on" Ground Zero, but two blocks and a bend away at a spot not visible to World Trade Center visitors.

None of this is preventing some opponents from bizarrely suggesting that the center represents a surreptitious attempt to glorify Islamic victory on American soil. But a victory statement communicated through esoteric means negates itself because such means signal weakness, not strength. What's more, it is one odd victory statement when its alleged authors are not claiming any moral high ground for their putative side. To the contrary, …

Huck Says Hands Off

When it comes to immigration, Mike Huckabee actually makes more sense than some of his colleagues:In an interview that aired on NPR Wednesday, the former Arkansas governor and 2008 White House hopeful said the section of the 14th Amendment currently in question has long been held valid.

"The Supreme Court has decided that, I think, in three different centuries, said Huckabeee. "In every single instance, they have affirmed that if you are born in this country, you are considered to be a citizen. The only option there is to change the constitution."

Asked specifically if he would favor such an effort to change the constitution, Huckabee said flatly, "No."

"Let me tell you what I would favor. I would favor having controlled borders," he said. "But that's where the federal government has miserably and hopelessly failed us."But changing the Constitution seems to be all the rage with some people who call themselves conservatives-when it's…

Two-Year-Old Nation

The risks of creating an entitlement society can often include the masses turning violent when they want what they want when they want it:Thirty thousand people showed up to receive Section 8 housing applications in East Point Wednesday, suffering through hours in the hot sun, angry flare-ups in the crowd and lots of frustration and confusion for a chance to receive a government-subsidized apartment.

The massive event sometimes descended into a chaotic mob scene filled with anger and impatience. Some 62 people needed medical attention and 20 of them were transported to a hospital, authorities said. A baby went into a seizure in the heat and was stabilized at a hospital. People were removed on stretchers and when a throng of people who had been waiting hours in a line were told to move to another line, people started pushing, shoving and cursing, witnesses said.

Still, officials of East Point declared the day a success. Nobody was arrested and nobody was seriously injured, they said. I…

The Immodest Presidency

Michael Barone on how the "Experts" got the recovery that wasn't so wrong:The fact that the private-sector economy has not responded as administration economists expected and confidently predicted should be a wake-up call.

It shows the limits of expert knowledge and of the ability of political actors to make optimal economic choices.

The intellectual firepower of this administration may be high. But so was the intellectual firepower of the postwar British Labour governments that nationalized steel and auto companies and the railroads.

That didn’t turn out so well, and for decades the British economy lagged behind those of America and its European neighbors. State capitalism has been tried before. It didn’t work.But the "Experts" thought it would. Once again, they failed to learn from history.

The Last Flight

Recalling Ted Stevens' controversial legacy:In 2000, the State Legislature named Mr. Stevens the Alaskan of the Century, saying he “represents Alaska’s finest contribution to our national leadership.” In his farewell speech on Nov. 20, 2008, he told the Senate, “Working to help Alaska achieve its potential has been and will continue to be my life’s work.”

But he was roundly and repeatedly criticized for the billions he funneled to his state. The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste said Mr. Stevens regularly got Alaska more dollars per capita than any other state, often through earmarks, the pet projects that lawmakers attach to legislation.

“Ted Stevens was a prolific procurer of pork-barrel projects,” said Tom Schatz, the group’s president, when Mr. Stevens left the Senate. “While his friend Senator Robert Byrd was called ‘the king of pork,’ Ted Stevens was the emperor of earmarks. Since we started counting in 1991, Senator Stevens has accumulated 1,452 projects wort…

Russia Is Burning

The legacy of the Cold War causes concern as Russia burns:Russia fought a deadly battle Tuesday to prevent wildfires from engulfing key nuclear sites as alarm mounted over the impact on health of a toxic smoke cloud shrouded over Moscow.

Two soldiers were killed by blazing trees as they worked to put out a fire dangerously close to Russia's main nuclear research centre, while workers were also mobilised to fight blazes near a nuclear reprocessing plant.

After almost two weeks of fires that have claimed over 50 lives and even part destroyed a military storage site, the authorities said they were making progress in fighting fires that still covered 174,035 hectares of land

"A positive dynamic in liquidating the wildfires continues to be observed," said the head of the emergencies ministry's crisis unit, Vladimir Stepanov.

"The numbers (of emergency workers) have been increased in those regions where there is a difficult situation with the fires," he added.

Th…

Failonomics

Obama's legacy explained:As Romer fades back to her teaching post at Berkeley, Obama is adding to the economic misery by creating an environment of regulatory uncertainty. The Wall Street reform law Obama recently signed potentially requires 533 new regulations, 60 studies and 93 reports, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Obama's Environmental Protection Agency has 29 active rulemakings, and there are 100 new rules on the Labor Department's agenda and 26 at the Transportation Department.

Add Obama's determination to raise everybody's taxes by allowing the Bush cuts from 2001 and 2003 to expire Jan. 1, 2011, and it's easy to why banks, businesses and consumers are hoarding trillions of dollars that could otherwise spur economic growth. And we haven't even addressed the destructive effect on economic growth of Obama's nationalization of major portions of the economy, including the banks, health care and the auto industry.

The economy is stalling,…

The Children's Lost Hour

Robert Samuelson warns against heading down the paths of other countries when it comes to the cost of having kids:Present budget policies punish parents, who are taxed heavily to support the elderly. Meanwhile, tax breaks for children are modest. If deficit reduction aggravates these biases, more Americans may choose not to have children or to have fewer children. Down that path lies economic decline.

Societies that cannot replace their populations discourage investment and innovation. They have stagnant or shrinking markets for goods and services. With older populations, they resist change. For a country to stabilize its population -- discounting immigration -- women must have an average of about two children. That's a "fertility rate" of two. Many countries with struggling economies are well below that. Japan's fertility rate is 1.2. Italy's is 1.3, as is Spain's. These countries are having about one child for every two adults.
....

We need to avoid Weste…

Stuck On Repeat

When in doubt, well, you know:President Barack Obama attacked the economic policies of his Republican predecessor George W. Bush in Bush's home state on Monday as evidence of the way Republicans would operate if given power in Nov. 2 U.S. congressional elections.

At a fund-raising event for Democrats in Dallas, where Bush now lives, Obama said the former president's "disastrous" policies had driven the U.S. economy into the ground and turned budget surpluses into deficits.

Obama defended his repeated references to Bush's policies, saying they were necessary to remind Americans of the weak economy he inherited from Bush in January 2009.

"The policies that crashed the economy, that undercut the middle class, that mortgaged our future, do we really want to go back to that, or do we keep moving our country forward?" Obama said at another fund-raising event in Austin, referring to Bush's eight years as president.

In reminding voters about the policies of…

The Redford Problem

Michael Barone notes it's one the Republicans could face if they win:Many Republicans fear they will look as clueless as Redford. They entered this campaign cycle with little hope of winning congressional majorities. Now they have a good chance to do so in the House and an outside chance in the Senate.

Some cynical Republicans say candidates should just harp on their opposition to the policies of the Obama Democrats and figure out what to do if they're in the majority when they get there. Others say they should present public policy alternatives.

Some young House Republicans have put out a call for voters to e-mail their ideas. And House Republican leaders say they'll put together something in the nature of a 1994-style Contract with America over the August recess.

That's a good idea. Politicians like to win elections. But if they re not in the business in order to shape public policy, why are they there at all?Part of the reason they lost in 2006 was because of sai…

Working For The Weekend

Nancy Pelosi wants Congresscritters to get back to work. Needless to say, some of them aren't pleased:While few voters will have sympathy for disrupting lawmakers’ vacations, the act of calling the entire House back into session is a massive logistical lift, launching hundreds of expensive, last minute flights at taxpayer expense and forcing the Capitol complex to staff up at a higher level and increase the Capitol Police presence. Inside the Capitol, the switchboards will light up, the C-SPAN cameras will click on, and thousands of staffers donning flip flops and jeans will have to grab their suits and ties again.

Lawmakers from both parties are not only rescheduling vacations, they’re canceling town halls, putting off job fairs and nixing campaign events.

“We love the [state aid] bill, but we just weren’t expecting the senate to do anything,” said one Democratic aide grateful his boss lives on the east coast. “That seems to be the normal way of functioning on many of our bills w…