26 February 2009

Attention, Mr West!

The omnibus spending bill now moving through the House includes language designed to kill the Opportunity Scholarship Program offering vouchers for poor students to opt out of rotten public schools. The legislation says no federal funds can be used on the program beyond 2010 unless Congress and the D.C. City Council reauthorize it. Given that Democrats control both bodies -- and that their union backers hate school choice -- this amounts to a death sentence.

Republicans passed the program in 2004, with help from Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, and it has been extremely popular. Families receive up to $7,500 a year to attend the school of their choice. That's a real bargain, given that D.C. public schools spend $14,400 per pupil on average, among the most in the country.

To qualify, a student's household income must be at or below 185% of the poverty level. Some 99% of the participants are minority, and the average annual income is $23,000 for a family of four. A 2008 Department of Education evaluation found that participants had higher reading scores than their peers who didn't receive a scholarship, and there are four applicants for each voucher...

Without the vouchers, more than 80% of the 1,700 kids would have to attend public schools that haven't made "adequate yearly progress" under No Child Left Behind. Remember all of those Members of Congress standing and applauding on Tuesday as Mr. Obama called for every American child to get some education beyond high school? These are the same Members who protect and defend a D.C. system in which about half of all students fail even to graduate from high school.

Come on Kanye, let's hear you rap it out: Congressional Democrats don't care about Black children!

Oh, I'm sorry. I thought your outrage was genuine not partisan! My bad.

Whose Money Is It Anyway?

Can't make this embed work, but this vid is worth seeing.

'Nuff said.

It works, it works!

One of the founders of Al Qaeda has written a book repudiating terrorism and railing against Usama bin Laden and deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reports Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, better known as Doctor Fadl, led an Islamist insurgency in Egypt in the 1990s. Now he writes that the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were both immoral and counterproductive: "Ramming America has become the shortest road to fame and leadership among the Arabs and Muslims. But what good is it if you destroy one of your enemy's buildings, and he destroys one of your countries? What good is it if you kill one of his people, and he kills a thousand of yours?"

Fadl says the murder of innocent people goes against Islam: "Every drop of blood that was shed or is being shed in Afghanistan and Iraq is the responsibility of bin Laden and Zawahiri and their followers."

Bill Ayers says that for us to send more troops into Afghanistan is a "colossal mistake."

While I consider both of them immoral morons, I think I will go with Dr Fadl on this one.

Really Stupid Stuff, part 687

The Kalahari Desert is 225k square miles covering parts of eastern Namibia, a bit of north nentral South Africa and much of Botswana. (The maroon portion of the small map above represents the desert itself; the orange portion is the larger Kalahari Basin.)

Wikipedia reports that the name is derived from either an African word meaning "the great thirst", or one which means "a waterless place". The Kalahari has vast areas covered by red sand without any permanent surface water, dry valleys, seasonally inundated pans, and the large salt pans. "However, the Kalahari is not a true desert. Parts of the Kalahari receive over 250 mm of erratic rainfall annually and are quite well vegetated; it is only truly arid in the southwest (under 175 mm of rain annually)."

I don't usually do metric, but that means that most of the desert only gets about as much rainfall as the diameter of the larger artillery shell, which ain't much.

I also learned in researching this post, that
in historical times elephants did occur in the Olifantshoek area of the Kalahari desert... or it would not have been called "Elephants corner". I am sad to say that today, the fibre-glass caricature nick named "Ollie", is the only elephant left within a hundred miles of "Olifantshoek".
So the really stupid part, to me, anyway, is that there is this place I drive past in Wisconsin Dells when I go to visit my dad in the Chicago area, and I just want to know, why would anyone name a water park after a desert?

24 February 2009

Still One of the Funniest Things

As the "Liberal Lion" of the Senate rests in Florida, it seems an appropriate time to reprint one of the funniest things that ever appeared in National Lampoon Magazine, this from 1973.

After all, we may soon reach the point where it won't be appropriate ...

22 February 2009

If it is all just talk, that is fine .... but

Back in 1983, ABC television ran a bad mini-series called Amerika. In the wake of social chaos in the good old USA, the UN, acting as a guise for the old Soviet Union, decided to take over our country. Armed UN troops were seen on the streets and the states were divvied up into a groups of smaller, puppet people's republics, one headed up by Robert Urich, in spite of Kris Kristofferson's best efforts.

I always agreed with IMDB, which classifies this piece under the genre of "Fantasy."

I am not so sure anymore.

The UN is planning a conference to review the efforts of its 2001 Durban World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. On the table in the conference report, WSJ reports are:

  • "The plight of Palestinian refugees and other inhabitants of the Arab occupied territories." "Arab occupied territories" is code for the otherwise undisupted territory of Israel, not Gaza or the West Bank. In otherwords. we are not acknowledging Israel's right to exist at the UN now.
  • Whether to include a line that the Holocaust "resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people" is up for debate. No surprise that Iran is a vice chair of the conference prep committee.
  • The draft also calls "on states to develop, and where appropriate to incorporate, permissible limitations on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression into national legislation." In other words, everyone must make it illegal to blaspheme the Prophet!
The Committee that is planning this thing is chaired by Libya, and the vice chairs include Cuba, in addition to Iran.

No real surprise there. But I do have a response to one of the calls of the conference:

States that "have not yet condemned, apologized and paid reparations" for the African slave trade are urged "to do so at the earliest."

Friends, I think that billions in foreign aid to Africa over the years is enough to repay Africa. (Not that I want it to stop.) And for those Americans of African ancestry who think that citizens of this country ought to pay something for the bloodguilt of having corporately profited from slavery, I say this debt has been paid if full by the deaths of 360,000 Union soldiers who gave their lives to end slavery.

20 February 2009

Whose Stimulus Bill?

Being timely with another news story, political cartoonist Sean Delonis of the New York Post drew the above. He also drew some harsh criticism. Some likened this to a call to assassinate President Obama. Others said that it was like calling him a monkey, a term that has been used as a racial epithet in the past.

Sorry. If we are going to follow this line of thinking, then every term that has ever been used in a derogatory fashion will be off limits when referring to President Obama. That is going to severly limit the conversation.

Besides, it was the (all white) monkeys in the House Democratic leadership who wrote the Stimulus Bill. They can be upset if they want, but this is not a racist shot at the President.

19 February 2009

Living in the Past

This is not only an unusual song by Jethro Tull with a 5/4 meter; it is Attorney General Eric Holder modus reputo.

The A.G. says, in prepared remarks, that we are "a nation of cowards." The cause of his outrage?

Given all that we as a nation went through during the civil rights struggle it is hard for me to accept that the result of those efforts was to create an America that is more prosperous, more positively race conscious and yet is voluntarily socially segregated.

Voluntarily socially segregated! Oh! The humanity!

Apparently what we need is some form of involuntary social integration. In other words, I can only gather with my friends if one of them, or, if the total number exceeds eight, if 13% of them are African American? Oh, wait. That would be a quota. Oh this is soooo confusing.

For the benefit of AG Holder, just so he is clear, I have a news flash:
  • The United States is a free county. There is this thing called "The First Amendment" which protects our right to choose with whom we will assemble.
  • The United States does indeed have situations where individuals and entities practice harmful racial discrimination, but
  • The USA just elected and swore in the first African American President.
  • The President appointed and the all-white Senate just confirmed the first African American Attorney General.

This is not the time to sit around engaging in intellectual masturbation over how we can enforce your desire for every room full of people who have freely associated to be compelled to be 13% African American and 6% Asian and 2.5% Gay, etc etc etc.

Get your head out of your .... past. Celebrate what has been accomplished, enforce the laws and protect this country from terrorists and other miscreants.

Well, good for Pakistan!

Turns out that Pakistan is indeed letting us launch drones from a base in SW Baluchistan, as confirmed to Fox News.

The Times Online even went on Google Earth and got a photo. the 2006 photo of the Shamsi airbase clearly shows three odd shaped planes that resemble the UAV's.

The Times also has the 2008 photo. Look ma, no drones!
Pay no attention to the large, hanger like building in the new picture. It is just a ... a ... sheep barn ... yeah, yeah, a sheep barn, that's the ticket!

Come on. You guys are the flippin' Central Intelligence Agency. Don't you look at the internet? Didn't you know that on January 20 2006 lefties were already using Google Earth to try and pinpoint rendition flights at Prestwick Airport?

Haven't you heard of camoflage netting? It's been around since WW2!

The Spirit of Daniel Ellsberg

The Spirit of Daniel Ellsberg lives and, apparently has possessed Dianne Feinstein!

How else does one explain a statement at an open hearing by the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee that reveals classified information?

A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flown from an airbase inside that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counterterrorism collaboration with the United States.

The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land.

At a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise at Pakistani opposition to the ongoing campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against Al Qaeda targets along Pakistan's northwest border.

"As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base," she said of the planes...

Such an arrangement would be at odds with protests lodged by officials in Islamabad and could inflame anti-American sentiment in the country.

If history is any indication, there are all kinds of secret arrangements we have with other governments that would make their own people angry. That is why the arrangements are secret, Senator.

And never mind that a newspaper may report them. Newspapers report all kinds of things that are not true or can be denied until a Senator on the Senate Intelligence Committee states it as a fact.

Either she is trying to subvert American foreign policy or she is a moron. In either case, she needs to show why she should keep her security clearance.

Islam: Religion of Peace

The Buffalo News carries an inspirational story of a man who truly practices the tenets of his faith, even as he seeks understanding between different faiths:
Muzzammil Hassan is the founder and chief executive officer of Bridges TV, which he launched in 2004, amid hopes that it would help portray Muslims in a more positive light.
While Islam is a religion where clerics have tv shows to teach men how to beat their wives without leaving marks, Hassan was apparently proud of his willingness to beat his wife, because he went to the police to brag about it.

Orchard Park police are investigating a particularly gruesome killing, the beheading of a woman, after her husband — an influential member of the local Muslim community — reported her death to police Thursday.

Police identified the victim as Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37. Detectives have charged her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, with second-degree murder.

"He came to the police station at 6:20 p.m. [Thursday] and told us that she was dead," Orchard Park Police Chief Andrew Benz said late this morning.

Q`uran 4:34 reads:

"Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme."

It is true that Christians have committed gruesome crimes as well, but at least with a Christian, you know that when he does something heinous, he is operating against the tenets of his faith. For a Muslim, it is all too often in harmony with the faith!

14 February 2009

TARARA Boom-di-ay

The American Recovery And Reinvestment Act has been passed.

My government just committed to double the national deficit, possibly start runaway inflation and throw away enormous sums of money without going through a normal budgeting process. I feel so... I don't know.

Maybe there is a clue in the words of President Obama. He has recently said, repeatedly,
When the town is burning, you expect everybody to grab a hose.
Mr President, I don't think the proper analogy is "town"; I think it is "forest." And sometimes, for the good of the forest, the forest needs to burn. But you, Pres. Obama wants everyone to grab a hose.

Yeah. That's it. That is how I feel.

(I have no idea about Jim Slattery, and I disagree with the anti-corporate sentiments of the ad, but the visuals are about right.)

Real Stimulation

To celebrate Presidents' Day, Jay Leno ran and addition of Presidential Jeopardythe other night. Aside from the usual Bush bashing, there were some funny lines, but the best was this (skit begins at 10 minutes in the above clip; best line comes at 15.)

Answer: Stimulus Bill

Pres. Obama: What did Congress just pass?

Buzzer sound for wrong answer.

Pres. Bush: What was President Clinton's nickname?

Draining the Swamp

On October 6, 2006, the Washington Post reported on the plans the soon to be Speaker of the House had:

Franklin Roosevelt had his first hundred days. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is thinking 100 hours, time enough, she says, to begin to "drain the swamp" after more than a decade of Republican rule.

She later defined the quoted term to Brian Williams of NBC News:
"Drain the swamp" means to turn this Congress into the most honest and open Congress in history. That's my pledge — that is what I intend to do.

Washington Post reported on the steps she planned in her first 100 hours:

As in the first 100 hours the House meets after Democrats _ in her fondest wish _ win control in the Nov. 7 midterm elections and Pelosi takes the gavel as the first Madam Speaker in history.

Day One: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation."

So how come the US News reported Thursday:
We're receiving E-mails from Capitol Hill staffers expressing frustration that they can't get a copy of the stimulus bill agreed to last night at a price of $789 billion. What's more, staffers are complaining about who does have a copy: K Street lobbyists. E-mails one key Democratic staffer: "K Street has the bill, or chunks of it, already, and the congressional offices don't. So, the Hill is getting calls from the press (because it's leaking out) asking us to confirm or talk about what we know—but we can't do that because we haven't seen the bill. Anyway, peeps up here are sort of a combo of confused and like, 'Is this really happening?'"
Maybe the Speaker believes that throwing copies of an 1100 page bill into the swamp is tantamount to draining it.

If so, she is wrong.

But such counter-intuitive thinking would explain how she was on board with an unfunded 80% increase in discretionary domestic spending (called a "Stimulus Bill") after she told the WaPo in 2006 that after day 2, her priority was

All the days after that: "Pay as you go," meaning no increasing the deficit, whether the issue is middle class tax relief, health care or some other priority.

10 February 2009

Best News of the Day

From today's Wall Street Journal:
Muzak Holdings LLC, the company famous for bringing pop music into elevators, filed Tuesday for bankruptcy protection in a bid to restructure its crushing debt load.

The Most Powerful Woman in the World!

Sen Susan Collins has voted for the "Stimulus" Package. It now goes to conference committee.
A talking head on TV said yesterday that she has threatened that if the final bill varies much from the version she agreed to, she may not back it. (No link.)
That means that Collins may be holding the entire House and Senate in the palm of her hand on this one.
Of course, since Wall Street finds nothing to like in this bill or in Treasury Secretary Geithner's speech where he apparently had little of substance to say,

"The good news is they are going to spend a trillion dollars, the bad news is they don't know how," said James Cox, managing partner at Harris Financial Group.

she may take the blame instead of the credit ....

The Coming (Single Parenthood) Disaster!

I liked this piece so much that I decided to blog about it before the feminazis track him down, kill him and erase this article. Of course, what he has to say about single mothers applies equally well to single fathers, but it is hard to be a single dad intentionally, as some seeing to be doing with single motherhood, even in the pathologically extreme. Excepts from Burt Prelutsky:
[It is true that a] a great many women [are] forced by the circumstance of being divorced or widowed to be single mothers. But, more and more women, thanks to Hollywood role models, are choosing to be single mothers, and that’s a terrible trend, leading as it inevitably will to more and more criminals, druggies and psychopaths...

Understand I am not referring to widows and divorced women who have no choice but to soldier on and do their best for the kids. I am talking about those other ones, the ones who elect to go it alone, the selfish ones who put their own wants and psychological needs ahead of the child’s welfare.

Inasmuch as more and more women are eager to hand off their offspring to a nanny, a granny or a nursery school, you have to wonder why most of them even bother giving birth. It seems all they have to show for the experience are stretch marks.

In a society that is determined to accept the nutty notion that two gay men or a pair of lesbians are just as likely — they really mean likelier– to raise a normal, healthy child as a married man and woman, how could anybody dare suggest that a single woman isn’t equally capable? Well, sorry, but she isn’t. This is especially true when the child is a boy. No matter how hard she tries, no matter how much she cares, no matter how many broken nails she’s willing to sacrifice in order to play catch with the kid, the bottom line is she’s a woman...

It simply makes sense that a boy needs a man in his life to act as a role model, to show him ... how to curb his temper and to temper his testosterone...

[S]ome years ago... it seems that in Africa, on a game preserve, the rangers were discovering the mutilated carcasses of several rhinos. They couldn’t determine who was responsible for the carnage, and they couldn’t imagine a motive.

After conducting an investigation, they found to their amazement that a band of teenage elephants were killing the rhinos for no other reason than that they felt like it. It was their version of drive-by shootings. Like our own urban gangs, the young rogues even had a leader.

The rangers thought long and hard about the problem. The first thing they realized was that the teenagers were free to make up their own evil rules of behavior because, like the blood-thirsty kids in “Lord of the Flies,” there were no adults in their world. All the bull elephants had been slaughtered by poachers for their ivory.

Then, because they didn’t have to answer to politicians or social workers, the rangers did two essential things. First, having determined he was incorrigible, they killed the leader of the pack. Next, they flew in several bull elephants. In no time at all, order `was restored. The big guys let it be known that if there was any more rhino-stomping, there would be hell to pay. Their message was short and sweet; namely that elephants don’t behave that way.

So, for all their professional advances, there are still a few things that women simply can’t do as well as men. Some of those things, such as throwing a football forty yards in a perfect spiral or crushing a beer can on their forehead, aren’t all that essential. Important, I’ll grant you, but not absolutely essential to society at large.

However, when it comes to rearing male children, we’d all probably be better off if the ladies simply dropped the kids off in the woods for wolves to raise.

The First Press Conference

Last night, Pres. Obama gave his first press conference. While I give him credit for passion, I have three serious bones to pick with him... and a quibble.

1. The president said,
[The proposed "stimulus" plan] also contains an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability so that every American will be able to go online and see where and how we're spending every dime. What it does not contain, however, is a single pet project, not a single earmark, and it has been stripped of the projects members of both parties found most objectionable.
This is absurd. To claim that because a piece of legislation does not contain "earmarks" ("earmarking" being a particular procedure by which certain types of appropriations are attached to bills) that "it does not contain... a single pet project" is either a radical redefinition of legislative and watchdog terminology, or a demonstrably false statement.

2. (A quibble.) I do not care if he uses the word "policies" or "theories", the president and those who use his talking points have already used the phrase
"return to the failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this"
so often that it has become hackneyed and cliché. Please quit. Don't you pay speechwriters?

3. Speaking of failed theories and policies, the president invoked a little modern Japanese history:
[I]n Japan in the 1990s, where they did not act boldly and swiftly enough and, as a consequence, they suffered what was called the lost decade, where essentially, for the entire '90s, they did not see any significant economic growth.
Funny he should mention that, because the Wall Street Journal brought up the same bit of history on December 16, 2008. As a means of warning then President-elect Obama, they pointed out that between August 1992 and November 1999, the Japanese government pushed through no less than eight "stimulus" packages costing 118 trillion yen! That is about $1.3 trillion. the result?
Japan's economy grow anemically over that decade, but as the nearby chart shows, its national debt exploded. Only in this decade, with a monetary reflation and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's decision to privatize state assets and force banks to acknowledge their bad debts, did the economy recover... But Japan does have better roads.
Oh boy.
4. The president also said, responding to a question about the current economic dilemma,

Well, first of all, I don't think it's accurate to say that consumer spending got us into this mess. What got us into this mess initially were banks taking exorbitant, wild risks with other people's monies based on shaky assets and because of the enormous leverage, where they had $1 worth of assets and they were betting $30 on that $1, what we had was a crisis in the financial system.
Mr. President, let's get real. The "exorbitant, wild risks" that the banks were taking were largely subprime mortgages, issued to consumers who were buying houses, who probably should not have been, but were given the mortgages under pressure from your political allies, marketed by Freddie and Fannie. Remember this hearing?

There were other bad assets, to be sure, but these started the ball rolling!

To say that this crisis "started on Wall Street, goes to Main Street" as you did last night, sir, leaves out the first step in the process: it started on Capitol Hill, went to Wall Street and then to Main Street.

There are other issues in this press conference, and I'm sure that others will fact check them more adequately than I.

07 February 2009

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, part two

I wrote about this issue a couple weeks back. After CIA Director nominee Leon Panetta's confirmation hearings, the Wall Street Journal quotes him and comments:

"If we had a ticking-bomb situation and, obviously, whatever was being used I felt was not sufficient," Mr. Panetta told the Senate Intelligence Committee at his hearing to become CIA Director, "I would not hesitate to go to the President of the United States and request whatever additional authority I would need." While Mr. Panetta was careful to say that the Administration would "operate within the law," it was clear that those laws are somewhat more elastic than Democratic denunciations of "torture" would have it.

Two weeks ago, we called this the Jack Bauer exception. Mr. Obama ordered all CIA field officers to adhere to the limits of the Army Field Manual, which would put all questioning on par with that of most police precincts. But he also qualified his inflexibility, creating the out clause of a review team to determine the techniques the CIA might be able to use in extreme cases when it is "absolutely necessary to find out what information that individual has," as Mr. Panetta put it.

In other words, the CIA team in Qetta, Pakistan captures a high-ranking Al Qaeda individual that they believe has sure and certain knowledge of a pending attack. They must contact up the chain of command to reach DCI Panetta, who may have to contact the DNI, and then get a hold of the president, will authorize the use of enhanced interrogation techniques by executive order, thereby making it not illegal.

In the wake of the Church Committee hearings in the 70s, I recall hearing the accusation that there were individuals within the intelligence community who have taken it upon themselves to carry out assassinations without the knowledge of the president. My response was very simply, I hope so. I hope there are people who are prepared to do what is necessary to defend this country against evil in the world, and frankly I don't want the president to know.

This one apparently wants all the details. That means there will be no handwashing after.

This is dumb, but that won't matter

The St Petersburg Times ran a PolitiFact page during the campaign in which they tried to keep track of statements that were made in the press and campaign commercials and evaluate them for truth or falsehood... or the "pants on fire" award.

Now they are out with the Obameter, in which they will attempt to keep track of Candidate Obama's promises and compare that to how well President Obama delivers on them.

I should say that I have no idea whether the St. Petersburg Times leans to the left or to the right politically. Googling the question gets complaints from both conservatives and liberals, so my gut tells me that they are like most of the mainstream media: slightly left of center, but trying.

This is dumb. First off there are, by the Times's account, 510 campaign promises that Obama now needs to keep. They are all going to be scored, on ongoing basis, apparently, kept, compromise, broken, stalled, in the works, or no action.

Nevermind that circumstances have changed drastically since some of these promises were made. And never mind that, as the Rev. Wright commented during the campaign, politicians say what they need to say to get elected. And never mind that some of these promises are merely symbolic. And never mind that some of these were written into policy papers which the candidate may have only skimmed and which will have so little impact that they're hardly worth worrying about.

Consider Promise 21.

He would mandate automatic 401(k) plans for employers offering retirement plans. Automatic 401(k)s require individuals to opt out of their employer’s retirement plan rather than to opt in, but do not change the individual’s set of available options.

This promise was made to the Tax Policy Center as part of a discussion and written statements by campaign staff. It is probably not a bad idea to make the default position regarding 401(k) plans to be "participate" instead of not, but this is not going to make a big difference in the long run for most workers. And it will have almost no impact on the overall economy.

In despite of the fact that it is dumb, it is going to make a difference in how the public views Obama presidency. Blogger Harold Shaw comments:

Don’t get me wrong, I voted for and definitely support my new President, but at the same time, it is our responsibility to ensure that he does keep his promises to the American people. Just like anyone else he needs to be held accountable for his action or inaction.

This is especially going to be true in the next two years. Under other circumstances, a president could claim that he made the promise in good faith, but it was not his fault because the other party control one house of Congress or the other. That is not the case now. This one is all on the Dems. Back in the campaign, Gov. Ed Rendell was being interviewed on one show or another, and was asked why people should not vote for John McCain in order to insure divided government. Rendell's response was, give us a chance to control the legislative and the executive, and if we don't get it right, you kick us out in two and four years, respectively. (Close paraphrase; no link.)

He got what he asked for. Now it is time to deliver.

This is an age of near total transparency, brought to us by technology. (Ask Michael Phelps.) That is now going to be brought to bear on the Obama presidency. Given how far left and partisan he is tacking, I think that such scrutiny can only be a good thing.

Who cares about What! What About HOW?

Kim Strassel at the Wall Street Journal puts some perspective on the first two weeks of Obama-nation, and maybe the next 206:

The knock on Candidate Obama was that he put style ahead of substance. Who knew what he was going to do (and who cared)? It was all about how he was going to do it -- with bipartisanship and ethics and a new era of "responsibility." Now comes the reckoning. President Obama is being judged not on the what, but the how...

As the media dug into Daschle taxland, it discovered that (wow) he was a rich person, routinely paid by special interests to help them navigate the giant federal government. Wait, wait, cried Mr. Obama, let's focus on the what -- namely, my health-care agenda, to which I believe Mr. Daschle is integral. No, no, roared the mob, we want to talk about the things you used to talk about, namely, how you could ever justify this...

[T]his administration, riffing off its pledge to cross the aisle, set out an early standard of achieving 80 Senate votes. The White House outlined this aspiration, even as it handed over authorship to House Democrats -- partisans all.

What predictably emerged was a colossal spending embarrassment -- long on condoms, short on stimulus -- that justified every House Republican (and 11 House Democrats) in voting no. Mr. Obama didn't like the result, but since he's supposed to be changing the tone, couldn't gripe at his own party. Majority Leader Harry Reid knows this, and has ignored pleas to fix the mess in the Senate. Public support is ebbing away, giving the GOP more cover to run. Mr. Obama will get his stimulus, but what is in it will at most rank equally with headlines about how it was so many voted against it.

The president is reassuring the public that it takes time to change Washington... That requires cutting back the influence of government -- on which lobbying thrives. Will Mr. Obama go there?

Unless he does, it isn't clear how he navigates these problems -- which aren't going away. His promises to change the way Washington worked weren't throwaway lines tacked to an otherwise meaty agenda. They were his agenda.

One can fairly posit that Strassel, a conservative, is speaking only for herself when she says that Obama's stimulus package will be judged more by the how than the what, but Obama won because of what we used to call the Reagan Democrats, and what we would now call independents (in spite of their having some formal party affiliation.) I believe that the Independent vote is not ideological; they are not small government types. They really buy Obama's statement from the inaugural address:

"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works."

These independents are pragmatists, and they (we?) looked with hope at many of his early appointments. But now, we are looking at this pork laden "stimulus" bill which will ratchet up the deficit and 50% of people believe it will do more harm than good. That is most of the Republicans in the country and about half the independents. I have to say, I agree with them.

Obama is also right to try and lower expectations by repeatedly telling us the timeline for recovery is long, because if the 50% are right, his honeymoon is going to come to an end long before the recovery kicks in.

So back to Strassel's point: to reduce the will Obama do anything to shrink the infulence of government?

Not on your life. Rather, we may be looking at the most effective example of setting the wrong tone and thereby disappointing the constuituents since Jimmy Carter.

06 February 2009

This is pretty funny, actually

Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar was one of those invited to give a monologue at this week's Washington Press Club dinner.

"I set an all-time United States Senate record -- this is true: I raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends."

"Speaker Pelosi, I may have the record in the Senate. But I know in the House, that record is held by Barney Frank."

I wonder which...

Compare these words from January 20, 2009:

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

...with these words of 5 February at a Democrats only Congressional conference at a posh resort in Williamsburg, VA:

If we do not move swiftly to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, an economy that is in crisis will be faced with catastrophe. Millions more Americans will lose their jobs. Home will be lost. Families will go without health care. Our crippling dependence on foreign oil will continue. That is the price of inaction.

And then he attacks the previous administration and the other side.

Stabbing hard at Republicans who once aligned themselves with his predecessor, Obama made it clear that the problems he seeks to address with his recovery plan weren’t ones of his making.

“When you start hearing arguments, on the cable chatter, just understand a couple of things,” he said. “No. 1, when they say, ‘Well, why are we spending $800 billion [when] we’ve got this huge deficit?’ – first of all, I found this deficit when I showed up, No. 1.

“I found this national debt, doubled, wrapped in a big bow waiting for me as I stepped into the Oval Office.”

Hmmm. Hope over fear. Unity of purpose of conflict and discord.

One of four things is at work here. Either

  • he was naive ... I mean, hopeful... enough to believe it was going to work that way
  • he is really quite cynical
  • he suddenly finds the weight of governing much more of a burden than campaigning
  • no one told him he wasn't elected King.
I wonder which...

05 February 2009

Allāhu Akbar!

What a religion!

The arrest of a woman suspected of grooming rape victims to become female suicide bombers in Iraq has dealt a blow to the network of extremists that orchestrates such attacks, a senior Iraqi official said yesterday.

Samira Ahmed Jassim, 51, is accused of recruiting more than 80 women to become human bombs, including 28 who actually carried out attacks.

She has apparently confessed to helping to organise the rape of young Iraqi women.

She would then play on the shame associated with victims of rape in Iraqi society to convince the women to become suicide bombers as their only means of escape.

This is the "culture" we were accused of offending at Abu Ghraib! I think the culture needed offending, stamping out and changing!

I am proud that we have led the way to the point where the Iraqis are changing their culture and arresting these sick bastards themselves.

04 February 2009

Congress Betrays Unions

AP reports:

Wells Fargo & Co. is canceling a pricey Las Vegas casino junket for employees after a torrent of criticism that it was misusing $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money.

The company initially defended the trip after The Associated Press reported it had booked 12 nights at two of the city's most expensive hotels. But within hours, investigators and lawmakers on Capitol Hill had scorned the bank, and the company canceled.

The Culinary Union Local 226 lists the Winn Hotel as one that employs Union workers.
The Encore is not listed seperately, but the AP reports that it is a "sister hotel" to the Winn.

Also on the chopping block is a Feb 25th meeting of Wells Fargo's insurance division at the Mandalay Bay, another Union hotel.

So, Union workers: as you are getting laid off, remember that your clients are cancelling their business trips because the Democratic-controlled Congress is telling them not to patronize you anymore.

Do you feel you got your money's worth for your $200 million?

Now interestingly, the AP only quotes one congresswoman by name, and she is a Republican from West Virginia. I will keep my eyes peeled to see who else made waves ...

03 February 2009

The Day the Music Died

A half century ago today, I was almost three months old, and the Winter Dance Party Tour, featuring Buddy Holly, Richie Vallens and the Big Bopper came to a tragic end in a corn field in Clear Lake, Iowa.

In the preceding week, the tour had been trapped in a snowstorm in Hurley, Wisconsin. Hurley was immortalized in a 19th century comment on the towns overtaken by single lumberjacks on the weekend: "The last three stops on the train to perdition? Hayward, Hurley and Hell!"

Later in the week, the Winter Dance Party Tour played the Duluth Armory. There was a 16 year old local Minnesota kid in the audience named Bob Zimmerman, who, legend says, was foreverafter wanting to be a Rock Star.

My only question on this anniversary, which I deem significant in American Pop Culture is: When does the Big Bopper get a movie?

Best News of the Day

First, let me say that my concern was not that Tom Daschle had screwed up his taxes. It was that he figured it out in June and didn't pay them until it was clear he was going to get caught! It was only after he was nominated (or informed he was going to be nominated) that he paid up!

I understand the difficulties of the tax code. As a pastor, I am both self employed and an employee; I have a housing allowance and lots of unreimbursed business expenses. My paper return runs about 18-20 pages a year. Thank heavens for TurboTax.

Speaking of which, having used the same product that Timothy Geithner used for his taxes for almost 20 years, I can tell you that he had to intentionally tell the computer that he did not owe any self-employment tax, because the program always asks me.

And it probably says something about my Blog addiction that I actually learned about these withdrawals of Daschle and Nancy Killefer from victorsleeps!

On the Killefer matter, I am inclined to agree with James Taranto at WSJ Online:

Unlike Geithner and Daschle, she paid her delinquent taxes in full long before Obama even became a serious candidate for president. If an error corrected in a timely fashion leads to this sort of public humiliation, why would anyone accept an appointment to a government post?

The best news of the day:

"I will not be the architect of America's health system reform, but I remain one of its more fervent supporters," Daschle said.

This is good news because Daschle was one who thought Hillarycare was not socialist enough! Maybe his hobnobbing with the health care industry over the last couple of years might have moved him back to the center, but I do not think so.

On that hobnobbing, the New Orc Times went on to say:

Mr. Daschle’s financial ties to major players in the health care industry may prove to be even more troublesome as health reform efforts proceed. Like many former power players in Washington, Mr. Daschle cashed in on his political savvy and influence to earn $5 million in recent years, including more than $2 million from Alston & Bird, a law and lobbying firm; more than $2 million from the private equity firm, InterMedia Advisors, which provided the car and driver; and hundreds of thousands of dollars for speeches to interest groups, including those representing health insurance plans, medical equipment distributors and pharmacy boards.

These facts would have created an even greater embarrassment, especially since he was acting as a lobbyist at a lobbying law firm (he is not a lawyer) and did not register as a lobbyist as required by law. CNN reports that all of this would have led to a "bruising confirmation hearing." And he would have come out of it damaged, no matter what the outcome.

BTW, the Sissy Award for the day goes to the Senior Senator from Iowa:

"I'm too emotionally upset to answer," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, when asked for his reaction.

Welcome to the NFL, Senator!

02 February 2009

Looking Forward; Looking Backward.

President Obama says that he is not interested in looking backward into the trumped up claims of Bush administration "war crimes" and "unconstitutional acts"

He has good reason to not want to do this. He may well need these same tools at his disposal to keep this country safe.

Speaker Pelosi, on the other hand, is more interested in hind-sight than the president.

How long can he hold them off? More importantly, how long, will he hold them off?

The answer: until the public begins to blame Obama for faltering economy.

After all, if you can't give them bread, give them circuses!

It would, after all be more politically prosperous for the Donkeys to look backwards into the GWOT than to look back into the cause of the Freddie/Fannie Collapse that brought this crisis on.

The caveat for this: if we are hit again, there will be no looking backward at all.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Change

The Boston Globe reports:

The Obama administration is telling the Pentagon and gay-rights advocates that it will have to study the implications for national security and enlist more support in Congress before trying to overturn the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" law and allow gays to serve openly in the military, according to people involved in the discussions.

What possible implications could this have for national security? I believe the answer is very simple, and right before our eyes in today's military.

The question is not whether or not gays serving in the military could restrain their passions for their fellow soldiers. The question has to do with the morale of the unit where individuals serving closely together would believe that they are exposed (and I do mean exposed) to individuals who are sexually attracted to them.

If you truly believe that it would make no difference to a soldier that he or she might have to, say, shower or room with someone who is sexually attracted to them (when they are not attracted in return), then try this thought experiment: How do you think the women serving in the Armed Forces would feel about being required to share a shower and room with male soldiers?

Yes, you're exactly right. They would reject the idea, and well they should. Whether or not the men would leer at them or accost them, the women's morale would be subject to the assumption that it was / could happen.

And, by the way, is not just the women. Men, faced with the fantasy of coed showers, would be thrilled; faced with the reality, most of them would be just as uncomfortable as I believe the women would be.

What a Bunch of Snakes, Part 3

From Best of the Web Today

Over the weekend, meanwhile, we noticed this story in the Washington Post:

D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) has again failed to file his tax returns.
The former District mayor has not submitted federal or city tax forms for 2007--the second instance in which he has not filed required returns while on probation for tax offenses, said two sources familiar with the situation.
Two years ago, federal prosecutors failed to convince a federal judge that Barry should be jailed for violating the terms of his probation, which was ordered in 2006, because he did not file 2005 tax returns.

Like everyone else, we immediately thought that Barry must be angling for a position in the administration. McClatchy Newspapers report that the president "has yet to nominate a new head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy." Coincidence?

If this is Voter Suppression...

Over the last couple of years, we have heard the whines and moans of the "progressives" telling us that for the government to expect people who are voting to meet the same standards of identification as Blockbuster Video would suppress the vote of the poor, the elderly, blacks and others that "progressives" regard as too stupid to rent a DVD.

But, the WSJ reports:

Since the election of Barack Obama, we haven't heard a word about such claims...

In the first place, numerous academic studies show that voter ID had no effect on the turnout of voters in prior elections. The plaintiffs in every unsuccessful lawsuit filed against such state requirements could not produce a single individual who didn't either already have an ID or couldn't easily get one.

Second are the figures emerging from the November election. If what liberals claimed was true, Democratic voters in states with strict photo ID requirements would presumably have had a much more difficult time voting, and their turnout dampened in comparison to other states. Well, that myth can finally be laid to rest.

The two states with the strictest voter ID requirements are Indiana and Georgia. Both require a government-issued photo ID....

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES) found that black turnout in the 2008 election was at a historic high, having increased substantially from 2004. The total share of black voters in the national vote increased from 11% to 13% according to exit polls, with 95% of blacks voting for Mr. Obama.

So what happened in Georgia where the ACLU, the NAACP and other such groups claimed the state's photo ID law was intended to depress black turnout? ... Georgia had the largest turnout in its history, with nearly four million voters... According to the JCPES, the black share of the statewide vote increased in Georgia from 25% in the 2004 election, when the photo ID law was not in effect, to 30% in the 2008 election, when the photo ID law was in effect...

In Indiana, which the Supreme Court said had the strictest voter ID law in the country, the turnout of Democratic voters in the November election increased by 8.32 percentage points... The nearby state of Illinois (no photo ID requirement) had an increase in Democratic turnout of only 4.4 percentage points -- nearly half Indiana's increase...

The JCPES predicts that when the final turnout numbers are in for the 2008 election, black turnout will probably reach a historic high of almost 67% and likely surpass white turnout for the first time. All at a time when about half of the states have passed various forms of voter ID requirements, including two states with strict photo ID laws.

The claim that Republican legislatures in Georgia and Indiana passed voter ID to depress Democratic turnout is demonstrably false. But even if it were true, they obviously failed miserably to achieve that objective given the huge increases in Democratic and minority turnout in both states...

With every election that has occurred since states have begun to implement voter ID, the evidence is overwhelming that it does not depress the turnout of voters. Indeed, it may actually increase the public's confidence that their votes will count.

I will give "progressives" the benefit of the doubt and not accuse them of trying to steal elections or being racist and agist. They are just wrong. Again.

Now they can admit it and get on board with Voter ID laws that have demonstrably increased the votes of Americans of African Ancestry!

Quotable Sir Winston Churchill

I was researching something else when I came across a new favorite quote from the late PM:

If you are going through hell, keep going!

A Dearth of Creativity

A sad weekend for creativity.

Steve Martin was so under / mis-used on Saturday Night Live this week. The funniest things on the entire show were:
  • a throw-away hallway scene where the women of the show all declared that they had crushes on Steve Martin. (Them girls can sing!)
  • Rod Blagojevich on Weekend Update saying, "I know in most states it's shocking when your governor gets indicted, but in Illinois, its like a coin coming up tails." (Seth had a few other funny Update lines)
  • The Chewable Pampers ad (don't watch during dinner)
  • Laser Cats.

The rest of the show was pretty forgettable.

But surely the Madison Avenue folks could do better in writing Super Bowl ads, couldn't they? No. Not really. I found most of them pretty forgettable. The most interesting ads were mostly for movies and tv shows. The best of the rest were

Pedigree's Crazy Pets
Monster's Need a New Job
Pepsi's "I'm Good"

The best actual superbowl ad was Danica Patrick in Godaddy.com's Shower ad, but to see the whole thing, you need to go to GoDaddy.com. (It is cleaner and funnier than you would expect based on the tv ad.) (This ad is particularly effective because it actually makes you go to the site!)

The Best ad of the day, IMNTBHO, ran in the pre-game special:

01 February 2009

A Correct Ruling From California

A federal judge denied a request Thursday from sponsors of Proposition 8 to issue a preliminary injunction prohibiting the state from requiring further disclosure of donors to the initiative that bans same-sex marriages.

In a decision at a Sacramento district court, U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. ruled against the ProtectMarriage.com - Yes on 8 committee, which sought to protect the identities of about 1,600 donors who have contributed between $100 and $999 since Oct. 18.

A report including the names of those donors is scheduled to be released Monday on the Secretary of State's Web site.

Yes on 8 Campaign Manager Frank Schubert said that the injunction was an attempt to prevent the "ongoing systemic harassment of donors," and that proponents of the initiative were "also concerned about the impact of the harassment on future campaigns."

The ruling is correct. The question now is, how tolerant will the Gay KK be of those who disagree with them. Recent history is not promising.

This about sums it up...

What a Bunch of Snakes, Part 2

Remember when President Bush, in 2000, nominated a guy to his cabinet who had gotten rich on Wall Street during a recession, had a chauffeur driven limousine that belonged to some fat cat at his disposal all the time, worked for a firm that did lobbying but never registered himself as a lobbiest, and had unpaid taxes that amounted to more than what most people make in a year?

Neither do I, but if he had, you know the Dems would have run the guy out of town on a rail that wouldn't have stopped short of, I dunno, South Dakota!

Yet that is a perfect description of Tom Daschle.

So why is it that Republicans are so much better at vetting their nominees, and so poor at calling out the Dems on the corrupt scoundrels and tax cheats that they appoint?

Is it the End of Civilization ... Part 2

... or just the end of my ability to tolerate FoxNews?

Actually, kind of funny ...

Let's only hire marginally competent people ...

Everybody, from President Obama to the junior senator from Missouri are up in arms about Wall Street bonuses. A few facts are in order:

The pretext for the political outrage was the New York comptroller's report this week on the aggregate data for bonuses in 2008. That "irresponsible" bonus pool of $18 billion was for every worker in the New York financial industry, from top dogs to secretaries. This bonus pool fell 44% in 2008, the largest percentage decline in 30 years. The average bonus was $112,000; bonuses typically make up most of an employee's salary on Wall Street. The comptroller estimates that this decline will cost New York State $1 billion in lost tax revenue and New York City $275 million. Both city and state may have to announce layoffs.

With that in mind, let us remember that

...compensation levels are a business judgment made under the pressure of competition. The "idiots" notwithstanding, Wall Street has lots of highly talented financial minds and mobility among firms based on compensation is routine. If Congress is going to start setting legal limits on salaries and bonuses in the U.S., it is going to drive talent out of Bank of America and these other banks and into institutions without such limits, perhaps abroad.