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Sunday, January 31, 2010

The political ad of the year, or perhaps of all time 


If campaign ads were more like this, more people would enjoy politics.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.


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Sunday cocktail hour Caption This! 

From the official White House Flickr feed, an extraordinary opportunity to supply your own caption!



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Factoids 


Alone in a crowd: Scarily impressive social networking stats.


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Pics 


Very cool and largely unknown photos of celebrities, everybody from Charlie Chaplan to Kurt Cobain.


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Pictures of Princeton University 


I finally got out with my new camera on a clear day. In some ways, Princeton is prettier with the leaves down -- you can see a lot more, and distances collapse. Herewith, the best of the lot (with apologies to those few of you still struggling with dial-up).


Tiger picture of the day


The University Chapel, from across Canon Green


A Woodstock moment


Blair in the trees


Tiger


'Spoon


McCosh Walk, from Lockhart


Little Hall, Princeton's largest dorm


Blair, with lamps


83! 83! 83!


From East Pyne


Chancellor Green


And, as a special bonus, a picture of the blue post-Victorian that your blogger will call home about three months from now.


The new TigerHawk home


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Crisp and clear Sunday morning tab dump 


I slept well tonight, slung my new camera around my neck and took off for Starbucks about 9. If I can make it all work, there will be pictures later. Tabs now.

I do not understand for the life of me why the two sides in the abortion debate are so crazed that they want to shut down the speech of the other side. The Tim Tebow Superbowl ad kerfuffle being the latest example of such an attempt. Abortion is a complex moral question the answers to which are far from obvious (Routine disclosure: I support lawful abortion but not quite to the extent of Roe v. Wade). We humans, other than the hyper cerebral educated elites, pick our way through such moral minefields with the help of stories. Tim Tebow's story -- that his mother chose not to abort him when it would have been safer for her to have done so -- strikes me as highly relevant. Human mothers choose to put the interests of their children ahead of their own safety every day, and generally we applaud them for it. Why is the story of Pam Tebow's choice so offensive to the feminists? Their reaction does not reflect well on their cause, and it weakens their political position.

There's "no such thing as 'simple' health care reform": An interesting blog post from my old economics professor, Uwe Reinhardt, who in the intervening years has become perhaps the leading "progressive" academic expert on health care economics. I agree, actually, if the objective is universal coverage. But that does not mean that there are not incremental measures that could bend the cost curve. (CWCID: Ezra.)

Clark Hoyt, the NYT's "public editor," twists his hanky [link fixed now] over an allegation in Game Change, the story about Maureen Dowd submitting a column for the approval of David Geffen before publication. You know, about how terrifically hard it is to deal with these anonymous sources and uphold the standards of the Times. Problem is, Hoyt is, as usual, far more interested in defending the Grey Lady (this time by hosting Dowd's denial) than exploring an actually interesting issue raised in the same book that does not bathe the Times in such a fine light: The decision of the paper to allege that John McCain was having an affair with Vicki Iseman, and its parallel unwillingness to pursue the similar but actually true and much more tawdry story about John Edwards and Rielle Hunter.

Another climate science mini-scandal, again involving the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Turns out that another set of glacier estimates were based on a magazine article that rested on the informal observations of mountain guides. Climate science is all about cycles, and so is climate propaganda: the cycle between pop writing, "authoritative" findings by government agencies that depend on pop writing, and pop writing that reports those "authoritative" findings.

The prisoner will have a fair trial, after which he will be executed.

If you like times, including sunsets and sunrises and all that stuff, this is the site for you.

Are U.S. stocks headed for a down year?

Has demand for oil in OECD countries peaked for all time?

Oil use in rich industrialized countries will never return to 2006 and 2007 levels because of more fuel efficiency and the use of alternatives, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency said on Thursday.

The bold prediction, while made previously by some analysts, is significant because the IEA advises 28 countries on energy policy and its oil-demand forecasts are closely watched by traders and policymakers.

"When we look at the OECD countries - the U.S., Europe and Japan - I think the level of demand that we have seen in 2006 and 2007, we will never see again," Fatih Birol saids in a telephone interview. "There may be some zigzags up and down but as a trend I think it will be a downward trend in terms of oil consumption."

That would be great news for many reasons, but I wouldn't sell your XOM just yet.

Defiant protesters = "Jews."

Tony Blair has no regrets. Good for him. All politicians say this, but then weasel their way to a qualification at crunch time (see, e.g., Hillary Clinton's self-interested husband-assisted back-pedaling during the her presidential run).

More later.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just another American saturday night... 


Enjoy...or not.



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Who gets tired of this? 

A classic picked off the Facebook scroll... naturally. Real comedy genius, y'ask me.



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McCain smirks: Barack Obama discovers bipartisanship 


This morning, while sitting in Starbucks plinking away at an enormous backlog of emails, I half-listened to the full video of Barack Obama's meeting with the House Republican caucus. It is worth your time, if for no other reason than to see that -- Massachusetts and Virginia and New Jersey notwithstanding -- the Republicans really have not yet quite figured out how to sound more thoughtful and deliberative than the president, who has a real talent for sounding like the most reasonable guy on Mother Earth.



Anyway, after a very productive day of work and chores I have repaired for an hour or two to the bar in Princeton's delightful Witherspoon Grill, where I am quaffing Stone IPA and reading the very entertaining even if Obamaphilic Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime. (A beer and a book (and a book light!) alone in a quiet bar. Can it get any better? I submit that it cannot.) Imagine my delight to stumble across this passage, which casts President Obama's plea for bipartisanship in a slightly different, er, light:

Neither [Obama nor McCain] had any inclination to turn the election into another bitterly polarized knife fight. Both boasted of being ready and able to lead a more civil and constructive conversation.

There was one minor hitch with this rosy scenario, however. McCain and Obama didn't like each other. Not even a little bit.

Their very first entanglement had ended in a fit of unusually public acrimony. It was in February 2006, when McCain asked Obama to collaborate with him on ethics reform. McCain had always kept an eye peeled for young turks who shared his propensity for bucking the system, and he didn't care if they happened to be Democrats. As a freshman congressman in the early eighties, McCain had been taken under the wing of Democrat Mo Udall, the legendary Arizona representative who was the liberal conscience of the House and a ringing voice for reform. The Udall precedent was on McCain's mind when he reached out to Russ Feingold, the novice Wisconsin Democratic senator who became his partner on campaign-finance reform. [Editor's note: Bwahahaha!] And it was what drove McCain to approach Obama, the designated Democratic captain on ethics.

Obama indicated an interest in working with McCain on a bipartisan initiative. But after attending a meeting of a McCain-led splinter group, Obama backed away, neglecting to call the Arizonan to let him know, instead sending a formal letter on February 2 announcing that he intended to push the Democratic version of ethics legislation -- a letter that was released to the press before it reached McCain.

McCain felt that he had extended his hand and Obama had slapped his face....(emphasis added)

So, watch Barack Obama's call for bipartisanship with that history firmly in mind.

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Mega cool tiger picture of the day 


Mega cool tiger picture of the day


I'm sure that some of you are thinking that this blog has become even shallower in recent days, as if that were possible. Depth will return, I promise.


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Great writing 


Great sports writing from days gone by:

Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.

Great business writing, from this morning:
Hell, in modern imagination, is not a place of fiery lakes and acrid fumes. It's a maze of deposition rooms you can't escape, where nothing is what it seems. That's where Toyota has landed.

I like it florid.

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What do Newt Gingrich and Osama bin Laden have in common? 


Heh.


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Annals of marketing: How to create an image for housecleaning, or maybe lingerie 


Some people will think it is tawdry for me to link to this (mildly NSFW) marketing film by a British lingerie company. I say not. I mean really, a British lingerie company? Nobody can say that is not newsworthy.



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Friday, January 29, 2010

Banned Super Bowl ad 


The first "banned" Go Daddy Super Bowl ad...



Context.


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Public service announcement 


I would not be serving you, our readers, if I failed to link to the last chance to order HDTV for delivery before the Super Bowl.


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A modest and ill-informed proposal for consumer credit regulation 


One of the things that I enjoy about NPR is the way they invariably locate the super-articulate over-educated dude who works in some low wage job and can therefore tell the public radio audience what life is like for the other half. So it was this morning when NPR interviewed a very thoughtful fellow who worked as a collections agent going after people who are in default on their consumer loans. He (sorry, forgot his name) was more interesting and less sanctimonious than is typical of such interviewees, but he did observe that many of these consumers simply do not understand what interest is, much less how to calculate it, estimate it, or comprehend the impact of compounding. What good are "annual percentage rate" truth-in-lending disclosures if the borrowers do not understand the cost of money at its most fundamental level?

Anyway, it occurred to me that I would support at least one incremental regulation of consumer credit. Rather than specifying the terms of such loans, reimposing usury laws, and other such substantive rules, perhaps we should simply require that any applicant for a consumer loan pass a simple online or paper test to prove that he or she understands what interest is and how it is calculated. A few multiple choice questions or short answers via a web site ought to do the job. It would simply be unlawful for a financial institution or consumer lending firm to extend credit to people who cannot pass the test. I suspect that simple requirement would would have prevented a fairly large percentage of the unwise consumer and mortgage loans that led to the present crisis.

Of course, some proportion of innumerate applicants would be driven to loan sharks, but that will happen (albeit less visibly) with any substantive regulation that lowers the effective rate of return on consumer lending.

Am I as wrong as I am ill-informed, or have I hit upon a subtle fusion of paternalism and market freedom? Release the hounds.


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Thursday, January 28, 2010

A brief note on Barack Obama and the Citizens United case 


I'm late to writing about Barack Obama's criticism of the Supreme Court's decision in last week's Citizens United decision (which held that certain restrictions on political advertising paid for by corporations violated the First Amendment) and Sam Alito's silent rebuttal, but you can read through the links in this round-up for a sense of it on the small chance you were in some island in the net and missed the discussion everywhere else.

At any rate, my one point, which must have been made elsewhere in the last 24 hours, is that it takes fairly gargantuan balls for the man who more or less single-handedly destroyed the public financing of presidential campaigns -- the other pillar of campaign finance "reform" -- to complain that the Supreme Court has found some other aspect of the law unconstitutional.

MORE: The law professor bloggers pile in with their reactions. Another point that I assume has been made elsewhere: Isn't the pro-Obama side making a tactical error in going after Justice Alito? First, do you really want to irritate the more centrist Justices, Anthony Kennedy in particular? Second, aren't you just ensuring that speculation about which Justices will attend will suck up a big part of the news cycle ahead of next year's SOTU?


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Errata 


For those of you keeping track, my sister's biology blog has a new home. Yes, the blogging mojo runs strong in my family.


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A dispute in which my interest is purely sporting 


As unattractive as it is for men to wear fur while figure skating, it seems to irritate all the right people.


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RIP J.D. Salinger 



AP is reporting that J.D. Salinger, the author of the famous novel "Catcher in the Rye" -- the blueprint for teenage alienation in the second half of the 20th Century -- has died.

I enjoyed reading all of his published works. The reaction to "Catcher in the Rye" is an indication of how much American culture has changed in the last six decades, for better and/or worse. Certainly, it is mild by today's standards, and even in the 1970s, when I read it as a high school student (along with just about everyone else in the U.S.), it was not considered particularly risqué ; yet, following its publication in 1951, the novel was occasionally banned by a school board.

He led the life of an artist, and the AP obituary mentions many of his personality, er, quirks. I do think there is something refreshingly old school about an author or artist of his magnitude who chooses not to capitalize on his talent and permit it to be morphed into celebrity for its own sake. "Salinger became famous for not wanting to be famous," and he lived "in self-imposed isolation in the small, remote house in Cornish, N.H." Who among us hasn't wanted a day or two of time alone? Salinger just exercised his personal liberty and extended that a bit.

The obituary makes reference to the possibility of 15 unpublished works, so it will be interesting to see if any of those exist, and if so, whether they see the light of day.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SOTU open comments thread 


This is a scheduled post going up while I am in the air (Allah and Continental willing, of course). Consider it an open thread to comment soberly on the State of the Union and the policy pronouncements therein, mock any of the people in the audience, denounce the news coverage thereof or talking heads elaborating thereon, or declare your yearning for morning in America.


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The leaving Sao Paulo pre-SOTU tab dump 

Travel writing first, then tabs.

In an hour (6 pm local time) we head for the airport to grab an 11 pm flight back to Newark. You need that much time to absorb the risk of catastrophic traffic jams. We'll grab dinner at the airport, which in my case will consist of the finest yeasty beverages available and a Nyquil capsule chaser. Herewith, a bit of travelogue followed by my accumulated tabs.

It is not risky to say that Sao Paulo is not a photogenic city. I had my camera in hand all day, and saw nary a shot worth taking through the window of the car (even allowing for the bullet-proof glass). One passes miles of flavelas -- slums -- between clusters of high rises. Neither are very attractive. This shot is as good as it got from my point of view, recognizing that I was here on business rather than to see the sights:


Sao Paulo, as attractive as it gets


[UPDATE: I found a better picture, more typical, from June 2005.]


Sao Paolo skyline


Every Brazilian I met was an immigrant or descended from one, drawn here by the extraordinary opportunity and frustrated by the corrupt and obstructionist government. Brazil is on a bit of a roll at the moment, but the generations of lost opportunity is plain to see, stolen by a system that feeds parasitically off the relatively small part of the population that struggles to make business grow against the wind. Time will tell whether Brazil can genuinely unlock its potential. In the meantime there is always churrascaria, which I managed to do twice in 18 hours. That's a lot of meat even by my carnivorous standards.

One final moment in which I delighted -- I just called down to the front desk to get a new password for the wifi, and the fellow reported back "'4n4y': number four, 'n' as in November, number four again, 'y' as in Yankee." 'Y' as in Yankee? I don't think he was referring to the Bronx Bombers.

Now for the tabs, if you've gotten this far.

The hits just keep coming.

The AIG counterparties thingy explained, or at least reflected upon.

Federal personal income tax revenue plunges, its steepest drop since 1939. Glenn notes that "John Galt was unavailable for comment." You know, that Galt fellow sure is elusive. Anyway, I'd put it differently: You cannot simultaneously rely on the top 5% of the population for most of your income tax revenue and threaten them with onerous new taxes. Only one or the other will actually raise revenue, not both at the same time. Which is pretty freaking obvious unless you're a politician. Unless you are Pete DuPont, who certainly was a politician.

Why Obama shouldn't panic: A look at presidential approval ratings after one year and comparing them to approval ratings after two years.

Here's a link to a long paper on surface temperature records and their role in the climate change debate from (apparently) a "skeptic" perspective. I have not read it and probably won't -- I'm a busy dude -- but if you do feel free to write your reactions in the comments of this or any other appropriate post.

Must-read lefty blog post of the day: "Waiting for Barack." You can feel the frustration:

Every Hill office I've spoken to in the past week has had the same complaint. "Where," they ask, "is the White House?"

There's been no clear message on the way forward for health-care reform. No clear articulation of preferences. No public leadership to speak of. The administration is taking temperatures rather than twisting arms. The White House press team is blasting out speeches where the president says he'll never stop fighting on health care but pointedly refuses to throw a punch. The president is giving interviews where he seems to endorse paring the bill back and also seems to argue against doing anything of the kind. The daily message has run from banks to freezes, and early leaks suggest that tonight's speech will focus on education.

According to multiple sources, there's an easy answer for the confusion: The White House is confused.

Read the whole thing.

The "six most statistically full-of-shit professions." Heh.

I'll be flying all night, so talk to you tomorrow.

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In re Jaguars 


In case you missed it a few days back, read this very interesting Op-Ed on the matter of jaguars, and whether they should be reestablished in the United States after having been extinct here for at least 100 years. The author, who is devoted to protecting jaguars where they can thrive, thinks that it is a waste of money to try to make them thrive here. Litigious American environmentalists and their allies in the Obama administration think otherwise.

The environmental and conservation movements often seem to be driven as much by a romantic vision of a different world as by a hard-headed assessment of the possible.


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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A question for our readers 


We have smart readers, and many of the most longstanding were drawn to this blog when we wrote mostly about foreign policy. Most of you pay a lot of attention to politics and the public pronouncements of the Obama administration, so you are the perfect audience for this question: Without resorting to Google (in other words, just off the top of your educated head), please list in the comments the top 3-5 interests or objectives of American foreign policy according to the current administration. And please do not blow off this assignment! Part of the point is to see whether the Obama administration has articulated its objectives clearly enough that a large group of smart and aware blog readers can repeat them back, more or less.

I'll have more on this in a couple of days, after I have read your comments.


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My whereabouts 


Lest you wonder whether I have dropped off the face of the Gaia, your blogger is in the middle of a 36 hour turnaround trip to Sao Paulo, coach all the way (on the small chance you think I am in some way living large). The schedule is necessarily crowded, and the internet access in my hotel has been very sketchy, so my one attempt to blog earlier was for naught. You are getting this post now only because I popped awake on account of the inadequate air conditioning and some sort of gastrointestinal issue.

In other words, you are doing better than I am. Probably a lot better.


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Papal self-mortification 



My mother was raised as a Roman Catholic (first in Budapest, and later as an immigrant here in the U.S.), but I was not, so I don't really have the standing to question the personal habits of a deceased pope, but the new book about John Paul II gives one pause for thought. The AP reports:
Pope John Paul II whipped himself with a belt, even on vacation, and slept on the floor as acts of penitence and to bring him closer to Christian perfection, according to a new book by the Polish prelate spearheading his sainthood case.
I suppose that I have enough of my late mother's Catholicism in me to at least partly believe that it is via sacrifice and suffering that we can be closer to a state of grace; put in more secular terms, it's important to help others, and if in doing so, there are particularly trying episodes in life's trials and tribulations, we learn valuable things in that process.

There is, however, a difference between self-inflicted wounds and dealing with normal adversity, in my view. If you enjoy a good exercise program, you understand the difference between "good pain" and "bad pain" -- lactic acid build-up in muscles as contrasted with an injury to a joint or tendon. While self-flagellation exists in other faiths (including, for example, Islam), I find it remarkable that the head of a modern-day major Western church actually engaged in this practice. I don't believe that it has or will have any significant impact on John Paul II's legacy as a prominent figure in the history of the 20th Century, and the role he played in the ending of the Iron Curtain. It is interesting that Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the author of the new book, sees it as being helpful with process of beatification for the late pope.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Congratulations New Orleans 

Your night.



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Tiger picture of the day 


Fatmo Catmo


OK, not actually a tiger, but his name really is "Tiger," so my title is technically true.

There's nothing quite like a fat barn cat in winter. Imagine the shedding come April.


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Singin' 'n' dancin' 


Showbiz with class: Finale to "Stormy Weather" 1943 with Cab Calloway, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers. Amazing stuff, so good that it reminds us what James Cameron can't do.



CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.


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Sunday afternoon pre-game timewaster 


Awesome "hand ninja".



Asian Chick's Awesome Hand Ninja - Watch more Funny Videos


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Sunday morning hoping-next-week-is-as-great-as-last tab dump 


Apart from our president making us all poorer by spinning the arrow of pain away from health care (booyah!) toward the capital markets (yeah, yeah, we know the Chinese and the opposition to Bernanke had more than a little to do with it -- allow us our fun), last week was a barrel of laughs. What better way to start another fun week than with a tab dump?

Does corporate money in politics actually lead to more corruption or lower regard for government? The professors have studied it up and down, and cannot prove either to be true. There are ready-made "experiments," too. There are American states with bans on corporate money and those without, with no differences in outcome. Australia and Britain are at opposite ends of the regulatory spectrum, and again there are no obvious differences.

A hilarious and pretty darn true discussion of life in a marriage of equals.

A few years back conservatives spun in to a tizzy over the decision by the Council on Foreign Relations to meet with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during one of his visits to the United States. I dissented, arguing that the liberal foreign policy establishment might move toward a more hawkish position if they saw him up front and personal. Well, whether or not that meeting had any direct effect, one of its participants, Council president Richard Haass, has become an advocate for regime change in Iran. Read the whole thing, for it is chock full of interesting ideas for undermining the Islamic Republic.

The political site Five Thirty Eight has an interesting analysis of the current chances of the Republicans to take control of the Senate in November. Right now the highest probability is that the Democrats will emerge with 53 or 54 seats, assuming that Lieberman continues to caucus with them.

In the must-read mainstream media editorial of the day (granted, a low standard), the Washington Post (via Glenn) pounds on the Obama administration for having blown the Flight 253 investigation.

UMAR FAROUK Abdulmutallab was nabbed in Detroit on board Northwest Flight 253 after trying unsuccessfully to ignite explosives sewn into his underwear. The Obama administration had three options: It could charge him in federal court. It could detain him as an enemy belligerent. Or it could hold him for prolonged questioning and later indict him, ensuring that nothing Mr. Abdulmutallab said during questioning was used against him in court.

It is now clear that the administration did not give serious thought to anything but Door No. 1. This was myopic, irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

A conservative anti-terrorism expert I know made the same point to me in a private conversation the other night, with a slightly different perspective. He argued that it was bureaucratically inevitable that Abdulmutallab would be dealt with under "Door No. 1" (given Miranda warnings, lawyered up, and such) once the administration and the Holder Justice Department made it policy to deal with terrorists as criminals rather than potential combatants. Why? Because the bureaucracy -- and especially the junior field agents who pull the Christmas Day shift -- will respond according to protocols and standard operating procedures. There is no time, as a practical matter, for the young guy on the ground in Detroit, or even his boss, to find Attorney General Holder at home and see if he should do anything differently. So once you make the policy decision that these guys should get treated as ordinary criminals, that is how they will be treated. This is a tragedy, because as this expert pointed out the effective extraction of intelligence from such a person should take weeks, which now is only possible in exchange for a politically and probably ideologically impossible plea bargain.

Of course, we may no longer have interrogators who know what they are doing.

Christopher Hitchens on, like, the word "like" as used by your, and my, teenaged daughter. Which is, you know, hilarious.

Still worried about health care "reform"? Everything you always wanted to know about the dark art of "reconciliation," the procedural device by which it might be possible to slip a health care bill through with a simple Senate majority.

The Nobel Prize curse continues: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not yet Arafat, but do not count it out yet.

In TigerHawk football news, I am entirely unmoved by the AFC champion game. Jets, Colts, who cares? I slightly dislike the Jets, but their victory would delight many of my friends and family. Filled with the milk of human kindness, I'll throw them some back-handed hopes and dreams. In the NFC? Normally I'm all for the black-and-blue division, but this year I want the Saints to win it all. New Orleans deserves a bit of happiness.

More later.

It's later! From my Facebook scroll, the "top ten passions of ancient Rome." If you have to degrade an empire, this is the way to do it.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday afternoon exploitation post 


Who knew there were bikini death squads?


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Help TigerHawk: Who have been the enemies of business in history, and what have been their arguments or tactics? 


I am trying to enumerate the types of attacks on business down the ages, and would love your help in assembling a taxonomy of sorts. What types of people have attacked business or enterprise down the ages (e.g., nobility, intellectuals, labor, and communists), and what arguments (e.g., that business extracts surplus labor) or tactics (e.g., violent strikes, the incitement of mobs, regulation, and confiscation) have they used?

Let 'er fly in the comments.


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The 100 "cheesiest movie quotes of all time" 

Not sure how you put this list together without including something from Casablanca or that many Arnold scenes without a single "I'll be back," but an amusing compilation nonetheless.




CWCID: Ace.


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The stimulus worked! 


Heh:


New jobs!


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Friday, January 22, 2010

Magical paranoia watch: Muslim politician edition 


If you're moved to open up a can of nutjob this evening, look no further than former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad:

Malaysia’s former premier Mahathir Mohamad said on Wednesday there was “strong evidence” the US faked the September 11 terror attacks as an excuse to go to war against Muslims.

“There is strong evidence that the attacks were staged. If they can make Avatar, they can make anything,’ Mahathir told the Conference for the Support of Al-Quds (Jerusalem), as quoted by local media.

He would have said "if they can put a man on the moon...," but he probably doesn't think we did that, either.

Don't miss the anti-Semitic craziness, either. For example:
The former premier also blamed Jews for hindering progress in US foreign policy. Voicing his disappointment that Barack Obama had not yet ended the war in Afghanistan or closed the US terror detention center at Guantanamo, he explained that “there are forces in the United States which prevent the president from doing some things. One of the forces is the Jewish lobby.”

Jews “had always been a problem in European countries. They had to be confined to ghettoes and periodically massacred. But still they remained, they thrived and they held whole governments to ransom," Mahathir said.

"Even after their massacre by the Nazis of Germany, they survived to continue to be a source of even greater problems for the world."

Dude probably also thinks Mohammed teleported to Jerusalem.

CWCID: Good Sh!t (main page decidedly NSFW).

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Jon Stewart responds to Keith Olbermann 


I've been forcing myself recently to watch Keith Olbermann -- you have to watch the other side if for no other reason than to test your own thinking and, besides, I have friends who recommend him, both sincerely and as a source of humor -- and thought that both his smear of Scott Brown and his subsequent defense thereof were, well, asinine. No less an authority on the asinine than Jon Stewart agrees:


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Special Comment - Keith Olbermann's Name-Calling
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis


Olbermann ought to stick to sports, where he really is quite good.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.


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Good news for multiple sclerosis patients 


Regular readers know that I have a longstanding personal interest in the fight against multiple sclerosis and sometimes publicize positive developments in the war against that very challenging disease. So it is today, for the FDA has approved a new oral drug to help victims of MS walk better.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Ampyra (dalfampridine) extended release tablets to improve walking in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). In clinical trials, patients treated with Ampyra had faster walking speeds than those treated with an inactive pill (placebo). This is the first drug approved for this use.

MS is a chronic, often disabling, disease that affects the central nervous system—the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. There are about 400,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million people world-wide with MS.

The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another. Symptoms can be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. About half of all people with MS experience cognitive impairments like difficulties in concentration, attention, memory, and judgment, although these symptoms are usually mild and are frequently overlooked. Depression also is common among MS patients.

"Trouble with walking is one of the most debilitating problems people with MS face," said Russell Katz, M.D., director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

The heroes in this victory are the employees of and investors in Acorda Therapeutics (NASDAQ: ACOR) and the physicians and other health care providers that no doubt pitched in to make this possible. An otherwise retched stock market pitched in with a nice post-announcement gain, the first of what we hope are substantial financial and psychic rewards for the people of Acorda Therapeutics. Thank you.

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Friday afternoon exploitation post: Wives of billionaires 


I won't say I am proud to link to this, but I have never let dignity get in the way of my obligation to you: The 15 "hottest" trophy wives of billionaires.

CWCID: Linkiest.


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Alert the media: Investors see Barack Obama as anti-business 


In the category of things that ought to go without saying:

U.S. investors overwhelmingly see President Barack Obama as anti-business and question his ability to manage a financial crisis, according to a Bloomberg survey.

The global quarterly poll of investors and analysts who are Bloomberg subscribers finds that 77 percent of U.S. respondents believe Obama is too anti-business and four-out-of-five are only somewhat confident or not confident of his ability to handle a financial emergency.

Me, I'm wondering what the other 23% of investors are smoking.

Barack Obama has done what he needs to do to keep the economic system from collapsing, but that has not prevented 77% of us from noticing that he has also loudly called for regulations calculated to lower the rate of return on investment in health care companies (17% of GDP), energy (10% of GDP), and financial services (8% of GDP). Then, he openly and notoriously favored unionized employees over investors in his takeover of Chrysler and General Motors. (He may have legitimate reasons for all of these choices and I might even agree with a few of them, but the consequences are beyond contest.)

President Obama has been clear at every point that corporate profits are "too high" for his taste in sector after sector, so one would have to be deafer, dumber, and blinder than the Pinball Wizard not to believe that he is anti-business within any usual understanding of the term.

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Lunchtime fun: More Maine 


My cousin has more great pictures of Maine in the winter, plus an unattributed quote from me about the joys of blogging.


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Snarky question of the day 


Word:

Have any of the people who are still complaining about John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running-mate expressed any regret at having supported John Kerry*, whose selection was, by any imaginable standard, much, much worse?
___________________
* The haughty, French-looking former junior senator from Massachusetts, who by the way served in Vietnam.

The other obvious point was that John Edwards was much less than a mere moral cretin. He was, when Kerry nominated him, no more "experienced" than Sarah Palin was in 2008. The refusal of the non-Fox mainstream media to acknowledge that point last year was the most compelling evidence that its main purpose during the 2008 general election campaign was to amplify the Obama campaign's talking points.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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I never thought I'd see... 


...the Huffington Post spreading pro-Republican propaganda. Of course, they don't realize they are doing that, but still.


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Thursday, January 21, 2010

"We Are The World" redux? 

Quincy Jones is apparently organizing a sequel, or perhaps a remake, of "We Are The World," which, being a sentimentalist and a romantic, actually moved me twenty-five years ago. I remember seeing it for the first time as though it were yesterday.



I love the cuts with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, and Ray Charles in particular, especially the mini duet between Bruce and Stevie. Great stuff.

Who do you want to see in the sequel? Who do you predict will be? Post your nominees in the comments.


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Unoriginal snarky thought of the day 


Overheard this evening at a gathering of conservatives (and attributed to another conservative not present): "Who would have guessed that Air America would close before Gitmo?"

Now that's funny.

Just another exciting moment of the best week ever!

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.


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Democrat navel-gazing watch: "Can Democrats govern?" 

Obviously these Democrats can't, but Ezra Klein, who does write well, frames the question nicely:

Democrats spent most of 2009 with 60 votes in the Senate and about 256 in the House. They had a popular new president who was following a disastrous Republican administration and a financial crisis. The opposition party was polling somewhere between foot fungus and spoiled meat. You don't get opportunities like this very often. The Senate majority, in fact, was larger than either party had enjoyed since the 1970s. And what have Democrats accomplished?

Well, not much. You can see a list here. A stimulus that was too small. Ted Kennedy's Serve America Act. Credit card regulations that were largely an acceleration of rules the Federal Reserve was going to impose anyway. I guess they almost passed a compromised health-care bill, but you don't go down in history for almosts.

True. But the reason is not just perseverance or lack thereof (as Ezra suggests later in the post). Health care "reform," especially left to the Congress, was a giant bet, but not just in the obvious political sense that it might turn out to be very unpopular. It was also a huge commitment of resources. Legislative resources. You cannot do everything, so if you choose to invite 535 people to debate the restructuring of 17% of GDP in the middle of an economic crisis, you ought to expect that the effort will suck up just about all the leadership's bandwidth. Successful or not, the choice was always going to be between health care "reform" and a long list of other worthy projects. Like a corporate executive team that distracts itself with a massive acquisition, the Democratic leadership just was not able to do much else once it committed itself to Barack Obama's highest priority.

Of course, there being so few experienced executives in the Democratic Party, they were unlikely to worry that managerial resources might be their most pressing limitation.

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Debatable moments 



It's interesting that references to members of the Kennedy family figured prominently in two of the more memorable moments in televised political debates over the last quarter- century.

The first moment was the Quayle-Bentsen debate in 1988, which was the undercard of the Bush-Dukakis election that year.



That resonated in popular culture for years, including a reference by Seinfeld's George Costanza:
George: So then, as we were leaving, we were just kind of standing there, and she was sort of smiling at me, and I wasn't sure if she wanted me to ask her out, because when women smile at me I don't know what it means. Sometimes I interpret it like they're Psychotic or something and I don't know if I'm supposed to smile back, I don't know what to do. So I just stood there like - remember how Quayle looked when Benson (sic) gave him that Kennedy line? - that's what I looked like.

Jerry: So you didn't ask?

George: No, I froze.
The second moment took place earlier this month, in the debate between U.S. Senate candidates in the special election in Massachusetts.



The assist for the slam dunk goes not to one of the candidates, but to the moderator, David Gergen.

One debate moment goes to a Democrat, one to a Republican. Both elections went to the Republicans.

Are there other memorable Kennedy reference debate moments we should look at from the past 25 years or so? At some point in time, I would think such references will cease.

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A victory for free speech 


The Supreme Court decides, correctly, that the phrase "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech" actually means what it says.

The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations may spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on their participation in federal campaigns.

By a 5-4 vote, the court on Thursday overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

Good. No constituency, not even businesses or labor unions -- hey, fair is fair -- should be forbidden to respond when defamed by ambitious politicians. Allowing such organizations to express opinions again should, at least, make politicians on both left and right (as the case may be) more reluctant to demonize them.

If you want to get money out of politics, make far less money flow through, or only by permission of, the government.

MORE: SCOTUSblog "live blog" here, text of the opinion here.

STILL MORE: A couple of commenters have raised an old question one predictably hears from people who want to go after corporations and are frustrated by Constitutional restraints: That the rights in the Constitution should not apply to corporate persons, only natural born individuals. As I wrote in a responsive comment below, presumably such people do not believe that the protections of the First Amendment should apply to the New York Times Company, or that the government should be free to take the property of corporations without due process of law or just compensation, or that the police should be able to search and seize the property of corporations without a warrant issued upon probable cause. Strange ideas from purported liberals, who would no doubt explode with rage when the target is the Sierra Club of the National Organization of Women or the United Auto Workers rather than a Fortune 500 business corporation. More on that subject at Volokh, particularly on the confusing notion that freedom of the "press" protects such corporations even when freedom of speech does not.

CWCID: SCOTUSblog links via Glenn.

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Fixing the overflow problem 


As my observant brother pointed out in an email, I've been calling for this for a long time.

From next month seriously overweight flyers will be asked to pay for two seats, or not be allowed on board for “safety reasons”, the airline announced yesterday.

“People who arrive at the check-in desk and are deemed too large to fit into a single seat will be asked to pay for and use a second seat,” said Monique Matze, an Air France spokesman.

Leave it to the French, who are both quite trim as a people and fairly disdainful of people who are not, presumably because looking good is important to them. For me, I'm just tired of fat people unapologetically "overflowing" in to the airspace above my seat as if they are entitled to it. I don't know how many times I've flown across the country or some ocean in coach (my company has an aggressively parsimonious travel policy) only to arrive with my spine feeling like a bent coat hanger because I had to lean away from the "large" dude with the seat-belt extender in the adjacent seat. His flab afflicts me and I'm frankly sick of it. He should fly up front, buy two coach seats, or take a freaking boat, but one way or another he should stay out of my little 17.2" column of air. Not "for his own safety and comfort" as British Airways pusillanimously advises, but because airlines have a duty to prevent the robbery of space purchased in good faith by non-huge passengers.

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A Democratic Senate staffer spills his guts 


The must-read post of the morning is this anonymous letter from a veteran Democratic Senate staffer (trustworthy, insofar as the writer is known to the credible lefty blogger Josh Marshall). Here's the nut graph, but read the whole thing for its apparently sincere version of the last 20 years in Congress from the perspective of a Democratic insider.

The worst is that I can't help but feel like the main emotion people in the caucus are feeling is relief at this turn of events. Now they have a ready excuse for not getting anything done. While I always thought we had the better ideas but the weaker messaging, it feels like somewhere along the line Members internalized a belief that we actually have weaker ideas. They're afraid to actually implement them and face the judgement of the voters. That's the scariest dynamic and what makes me think this will all come crashing down around us in November.

Or read it for the schadenfreude. That works, too.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fun with snow cover 


Click the link for an animated map of snow cover over North America since October.


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A question about the financial condition of Rush's audience 


I'm not really in touch with conservative talk radio. I think I have listened to Rush Limbaugh two or three times in my life, including this afternoon driving to the office from Newark Airport. I couldn't resist hearing what he had to say about yesterday's election of Scott Brown to the United States Senate. He sure was enthusiastic.

My interest, though, has to do with the advertising. It seemed that just about every ad had something to do with personal finance. For the solvent, there were at least a couple of ads flogging investments in gold. One that claimed that gold could hit "$3000 to $4000 an ounce," presumably during the lifetime of the investor. For the less solvent, a raft of spots offering to help you out with your crushing debt or to negotiate relief from the Internal Revenue Service. That was it -- schemes for investing in hard assets and for paying less to one's creditors. Nobody offered traditional financial services for people who save their money and invest it in businesses (via either stocks or bonds). You know, free enterprises that hire people and increase the national wealth.

Deadbeats and gold bugs have at least two things in common: They are pessimists about the future and are not using the money they have to make the country stronger. Why do advertisers seem to believe that Rush's audience includes a lot of such people?


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In the mail: Muhammad: The "Banned" Images 


Author Gary Hull sent me a copy of his book, Muhammad: The "Banned" Images, a compendium of pictures, drawings, and painting of the Prophet over many centuries, each in defiance of fundamentalist constructions of Islamic Law. Yes, own your own copy of the "Danish cartoons," among other depictions. Nice little book, and an opportunity to strike a blow for freedom.



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Da Joisey shore 


Snapped this shot of Long Beach Island with my cell phone camera around noon today, flying in from Puerto Rico. You don't often see this approach, or at least I don't.


The Jersey Shore!


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Maine, in snow 


My cousin, who you will recall is up and at 'em at dawn every day, took some nice pictures of Maine in the snow this morning.


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If you've lost Warren Buffett... 


Warren Buffett, erstwhile supporter of Barack Obama, had a few choice words on "Squawk Box" this morning about the president's proposed tax on banks (emphasis added):

JOE: We've got so many things to go over, I've got - I don't even know where - I think of Wells and I think about the bank tax. Is that a good idea to pay for the GM bailout with a bank tax, Warren?

BUFFETT: No, I don't understand that. If it's some kind of a guilt tax or something of that sort because banks were among the whole United States that were saved back in 2008, everybody was taken care of then. And the banks, basically, somebody like Wells, it's cost them a lot of money to be in the TARP and it was basically forced upon them. (They) didn't want to take the money, but really had no choice. So that's cost Wells a lot of money. The government's made a lot of money off Wells. They've made a lot of money off Goldman. They've made a lot of money off J.P. Morgan. And where they're going to lose money, at least where its possible they'll lose money, is in the auto companies. So if you're going after the people you saved, you might say GM shareholders didn't get saved, the GM bondholders didn't get saved. What happened there is they kept employment. I'm the last guy to suggest that you should go and put a special tax on autoworkers. (Laughs.) If you're really looking for the people who benefited from government losses, you'd have to look there. Or if you look at Fannie or Freddie. Are you going to go and tax the members of Congress who ran Freddie and Fannie --

JOE: That's what I said! I can't believe you just said that. That's exactly what I - You could almost tax any company that was in business that wasn't going to be able to float any commercial paper, you could tax them too. Because they were saved - -

BUFFETT: Absolutely. In September of 2008 --

JOE: Don't give them any ideas! Warren, don't give them any ideas! They will, that'll be next.

BUFFETT: (Laughs.) No, what was done in the fall of 2008 was designed to save the American economy. It wasn't designed to save the banks, it wasn't designed to save me. It was designed to 309 million Americans and a good job was done. But the banks are the ones, you know, particularly I just named a few, they paid it back with huge interest. The government's made a lot of money on that. And to say that they should be paying for the fact that the government lost a lot, or may lose a lot of money in Freddie and Fannie and perhaps with the auto companies, it just doesn't make any sense to me.

But the point, of course, is to transfer wealth to (or protect the interests of) the supporters of the Democrats, and that means, in this case, the United Auto Workers. Same reason for the union exemption to the tax on "cadillac plans." Crony capitalism, always a risk regardless of the party in power, is as out of control as the rest of the federal government.

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Digesting yesterday 


In what I believe is the longest original post on Instapundit in quite some time, Glenn Reynolds tells us what it all means for both parties. I agree with all of it, although would add this question: Today, as opposed to any other day in the last 450 or so, are aspiring Democrats -- and the Clintons in particular -- at least fantasizing about a primary challenge to Barack Obama in 2012?

I also wonder whether Scott Brown's victory will (1) attract better candidates to run on the Republican ticket in 2010, and (2) encourage the GOP activists to be more accepting of candidates who are not ideologically pure.


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What will the markets do? 


I'm about to take off from Puerto Rico to Newark, so will be out of touch until mid-afternoon. I am, however, interested in the early market reactions to yesterday's Brown-in up in the Bay State and the other news.

Will health care stocks, or some subset of them, be up today, or was the Brown victory already baked in to their prices? The Street says that they will be, but I'm not so sure. Device stocks have lagged the market for more than a year, so they certainly have some room to run if the risk of excise tax goes away, but they've had a nice run recently, probably because health care "reform" looks in trouble. Buy rumor, sell fact? My prediction: Device and drug stocks will be up this morning, down this afternoon, but up over the next few months if the current legislation is well and truly dead.

The dollar is surging against the Euro. Any traders out there want to tell us why? If Brown is responsible for today's 1% rise, he has added literally hundreds of billions of wealth to the American economy overnight! But I'll go with the more plausible non-partisan explanation: Markets (and businesses) much prefer legislative gridlock to regulatory uncertainty, and we just got more of the former and less of the latter here in the USA. Cramer:

Cramer says regardless of whether a Republican or a Democrat sits in the White House, the markets like nothing better than gridlock, which stalls legislative reforms that might be bad for stocks. The Republican victory for the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by the late Senator Edward Kennedy has wrecked the Democrats' majority in the Senate and made Healthcare reforms, the passage of Cap and Trade emissions reform and the Employee Free Choice Act more fraught with difficulties and the threat of filibusters. Cramer welcomes the new era of political stagnation; “Gridlock is what gave us those fantastic rallies during the Clinton years,” Cramer said, and “maybe it’s coming back.”

Indeed. With rare exceptions (such as in the financial markets interventions last October), government destroys wealth when it acts aggressively.

Of course, your results may vary.

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A short note on Barney Frank 


More than twenty years ago I had a chance to sit and talk with Barney Frank for a while. Then as now, there is very little common ground between us on matters of political preference or our vision for the country. Vexatious as he is to conservatives, I always thought that as politicians went Frank was fairly principled, in that he generally makes intellectually honest arguments for the other side, at least (again) by the standards of politicians. This, I think, is evidence that I am right.


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Two election night graphics 


Woke up, and foolishly turned on the television to get another dose of shocked liberals. At the moment, anyway, I really cannot get enough of that even at the cost of a good night's sleep.

Anyway, two graphics.

This is an elegant and simple bit of cybervandalism, and also the latest evidence that the GOP needs to raise its game on the intertubes. In a big way.

And then, Massachusetts in red and blue. I do not know much about that state's politics, and am surprised that the western part of the state is so much more blue. Your knowledgeable elaboration in the comments is most welcome.


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No shenanigans 



I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that there will be no shenanigans -- an attempted quick passage of a health care bill -- in Washington, D.C., in the aftermath of Scott Brown's victory.

Whether or not Brown is "certified" and seated this week or next month, there is at least one senator who will not move forward with his majority party to reconstruct a bill. Jim Webb (D-VA) does not sound as though he would vote for cloture at this point:
“In many ways the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process,” Mr. Webb said. “It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.”
There is the scenario in which the Senate bill as it stands is swallowed whole by the House. Is there any possible way on God's green earth that there are 218 votes for that in the House? Rep. Weiner (D-NY) does not think so. Whatever Speaker Pelosi might offer or threaten, Democratic House Members are now more concerned with their constituents back home than they are frightened of the Speaker (and that is saying something).

There is probably a bipartisan bill to be had later in the year, and Members of Congress from both parties would do well to consider a bill that addresses portability and pre-existing conditions, tort reform, and broad coverage (of the currently uninsured, who still get treated at ERs, regardless). The Single Payer dream of the Progressive Caucus may have to wait another generation or so for another opportunity.

I'm reminded of a scene in a "West Wing" episode, when the president is considering calling a lame duck session of Congress to possibly ratify a test ban treaty. There is a PA senator (Marino) who has just lost his seat, principally because he favored the treaty, and has enough of a sense of honor (yes, it is fiction, it is TV) not to vote to ratify.

MARINO
They voted me out, Toby. Largely based on my support of a comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

TOBY
Only because Mitchell painted another picture.

MARINO
Well, that's not for me to say. And I'm going to choose not to assume that my constituents feel a certain way because they were duped.

TOBY
Senator, nobody expects... you know... you're not expected to...

MARINO
Nobody expects, nobody expects. Toby it seems to me that more and more we've come to expect less and less from each other. And I think that should change. I'm a senator for another 10 weeks and I'm going to chose to respect these people and what they want. You call a lame duck session now, and I've got to abstain.
Maybe someone should send Paul Kirk a DVD.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Several-drinks-in-the-bag Scott Brown victory tab dump 


I'm in a Courtyard Marriott on the western end of Puerto Rico having spent a couple of hours drinking in the casino, winning at slots ($40 on the first pull, $5 on the second, and then out), watching a colleague win at blackjack, and constantly refreshing Drudge until he flashed Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts. Sweet.

Anyway, a few drinks into it I'm wondering whether Scott Brown needs to try very hard to be (in his words) "a worthy successor to the late Senator Edward Kennedy." But it was cool that he said that Ayla is "available." She's going to be one of the cuter Senatorial daughters. Nice line about offering to "drive the truck down to Washington so" Obama could see it, and double nice challenging Obama to a game of two on two. Scott and (Boston College basketball player) Ayla vs. Barack and Reggie Love would be quite the game, I suspect.

Anyway, a few Scott-related links for those of you who did not see them elsewhere.

A churlish prediction from a bitter man.

A prediction from an unlikely source that Barack Obama will be a one-term president.

A victory for Mitt Romney, too.

Ooh, Brown re terrorists: "Our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them and not lawyers to defend them!" Sweet. My heart goes a-flutter.

Power Line salutes Scott Brown.

If you've lost Wolf Blitzer, you've lost America. OK, not really, but it sounds good.

If you absolutely must, wear something brown tomorrow. As long as it is not a shirt.

The Democrats form a circular firing squad.

And, finally, the giant Insty-roundup.

I'm freaking giddy. I'm sure something will go wrong tomorrow to wake me from this, but it sure is fun right now.


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Tahoma delivers 



There is a segment of the Left, hopefully small, that is so uncomfortable with anything having to do with the U.S. military that it believes members of the Armed Forces can be referred to as "baby killers."

Yesterday, several members of the crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (based in Portsmouth, NH), helped a Haitian woman deliver her baby on the deck of the ship.



So, at least in this case, the military acted as baby deliverers, which I suppose would be the opposite of baby killers.

I saw a piece on CNN today, and will try to post the clip if it becomes available, of a newborn (which could be this baby, or another; I am not sure) delivered en route to the U.S.S. Carl Vinson. CNN reported that the mother chose an interesting name for the baby -- Vinson. I don't think the late Congressman from Georgia would mind one bit.

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A test for Organizing for America 



By any measure, the 2008 Obama campaign had an excellent ground game -- tens of thousands of volunteers who were passionate about their candidate, and worked constantly to distribute campaign material and increase turnout. I saw this phenomenon first hand, as the campaign canvassed my suburban Philadelphia neighborhood door-to-door. I did not witness any McCain volunteers knocking on doors in what had been a dependable Republican district twenty years ago.

Right after the election, I remember seeing a video clip making fun of die-hard Obama campaigners, done in a nice way, depicting them as zombies or robots with no mission, wandering around aimlessly with nothing to do, now that their candidate had won. In reality, many continued to work for Organizing for America.

OFA has been fully mobilized for the Massachusetts special election, which a visit to the website makes clear. Today's Philadelphia Inquirer reported:
As part of that effort, OFA officials said volunteers across the country, including in Pennsylvania, have made more than 500,000 calls to Massachusetts voters on behalf of the Democratic nominee in today's special U.S. Senate election, State Attorney General Martha Coakley. She is battling with Republican Scott Brown in a race that could determine the fate of the health-care legislation.
A Brown victory later today has to give pause to OFA volunteers, wondering how a Democrat could cough up such a huge lead in such a deep blue state. It is not just President Obama who rolled the dice by going to Massachusetts this past weekend to campaign, but also OFA and its volunteers that will have its power tested today.

As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I can relate. After watching the Eagles lose badly two weeks in a row at Dallas (the second game was a first round playoff game), and then watching Dallas lose badly at Minnesota this past weekend in a playoff game, I have to think that the 11-5 Eagles are not as good as I thought they were, and that we have some ground to make up on the elite teams in the NFC. It's an annoying realization as a fan, and it must really be a sinking feeling if you are a campaign volunteer who has lived and breathed Barack Obama's political aura for much of the past three years. In politics, as in sports, the seeds of failure are contained in the fruits of success, and vice versa.

Of course, a Coakley victory would reaffirm the supremacy and effectiveness of the OFA legions, but the close call won't feel very good.

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Too cute by half 

One of our spies in Massachusetts reports that his polling place, usually quiet with no lines even on normal election days, seemed crowded with Brown supporters this morning. An encouraging data point for those hoping for a Republican victory.

He also adds:

If Brown wins, the thing I will like to the point of sexual arousal is that, in 2004 when John Kerry was running for President, the state Democrats changed the rules to prevent an interim appointment by the governor, who of course was Mitt Romney.
This is where the 'petard' comes into play, I guess.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Two or three random notes 

OK, maybe five random notes.

Going through security at Newark Liberty, the TSA team spotted a small corkscrew that I had accidentally left in my travel toiletries kit. They calmly extracted it, tossed it in the garbage, and waived me through with no worries. Didn't even shut down the airport. All good judgment, I thought, and I apologize for having forgotten about it.

On the flight from Newark to Puerto Rico, just completed, I saw the new remake of the movie "Fame." What a mess. The original version from my college years (late Seventies) was orders of magnitude better, and free from at least one amateurish error: One of the kids purportedly comes from "Sioux Falls, Iowa." Of course, there is no such place. It is Sioux City, Iowa. Sioux Falls is in South Dakota. Like, who doesn't know that?

Then, on arrival at my room in a comfortable Courtyard Marriott I switched on Fox and saw a segment on (retired) Senator Bill Frist's humanitarian surgery in Haiti. He flew all day, got off the plane with the rest of his surgical team, and went straight to work. Dr. Frist has been doing this stuff for years, going to Africa and other hellish places and performing weeks of pro bono surgery, generally beyond the vision of the press or the flacks. He used to write a slightly trafficked blog on the work, but it has since been taken down. I captured an example of his work in this post, though, almost three years ago. I always thought Frist was the right stuff, and wish that he would return to politics. We need more like him very badly.

Finally, I read a good bit of Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime on the flight down, and I must say it is intensely entertaining for anybody who followed last year's presidential race closely -- say, by reading political blogs. There is a lot of great stuff in there that did not make the headlines but is revealing and fascinating nonetheless, so read it in time to talk about it at all the best cocktail parties.

Oh. And I spoke to two Democratic friends of mine today, both of whom said they would vote for Scott Brown if they lived in Massachusetts. Or even Massachusettes. So there you go.


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News you can use: Improve your wireless signal at home 


A few helpful tips on improving your wireless signal at home, from Microsoft. Obvious to techies, not so much to the Luddites out there who still enjoy wireless surfing.


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Monday afternoon hoping-for-41-votes tab dump 

Sadly, I am off in a little bit for a 48 hour business trip to Puerto Rico, so I will miss the exciting election returns tomorrow night and no doubt much more. I do, however, have time to dump my tabs before I leave for Newark.

Intrade has been gyrating all day, but remains strong for Scott Brown. Of course, there is always the chance that sympathetic traders are pushing him up for political purposes, but these "prediction markets" have a pretty good track record. Or at least they did the last time I checked.

You can make calls for Scott Brown from home, even if you do not live in Massachussettes, by registering at this link. Yes, it is a bit like carpet-bagging, but it is nothing the unions aren't doing for the other side.

Jules has a big Bay State round-up, including lots on the weather.

I'm thinking of going to CPAC 2010, at least on Friday and Friday night. If you have gone before, let us know in the comments whether you think it is worthwhile, or at least fun. Registration details here.

Candidly, I'm amazed that there are even this many travellers checks still outstanding. But then, I can't figure out the reason for physical bank branches, either, not having darkened the door of one more than twice in the last 16 years.

Via Glenn, why all that cardio doesn't keep the weight off. A very interesting essay that sounds right to me -- I do much better at keeping the fat to a minimum when I mix up strength training with endurance exercises.

Is President Obama going to throw in the towel on trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court in New York? With the incremental security costs now estimated to be as high as $1 billion, one would certainly think there are better uses for that money than proving to the world -- which generally does not accord us much credibility in such things, anyway -- that we can give a confessed jihadi and declared enemy due process of law. If so, then at least some of the credit goes to Andy McCarthy, who has been tireless in his opposition to this particular farce.

I am absolutely persuaded that this conviction is an outrageous miscarriage of justice. Sorry. It happens.

Call me a softy, but now is not the time for conservatives to be complaining because Barack Obama refuses to deport Haitian immigrants, legal or otherwise, back to Haiti.

He had a dream, and it was a good one. Whether or not all the people who claim his legacy have lived up to that dream is a different question, but not for today.




More later, or not.


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