Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Public service announcement 

It would be a grotesque failure on my part if I failed to tell you that the Nintendo Wii is now available from Amazon at a new low price of $199.

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Civil disobedience in Saratoga Springs 

The proprietor of this blog put up a post a couple of weeks back entitled Let your child walk to school, that generated a rather lively conversation in the comments.

In a similar theme, I present for your consideration the sad fact that riding a bike to school actually constitutes civil disobedience in Saratoga Springs, New York, where the practice has been prohibited.

Seventh-grader Adam Marino is getting a firsthand lesson in civil disobedience.

The 12-year-old and his mother, Janette Kaddo Marino, are defying Saratoga Springs school policy by biking to Maple Avenue Middle School on Route 9. The Jackson Street residents pedal more than four miles together each way to the middle school on nice days despite being told not to by school officials and police.

"I guess you can say that we continue to do what we feel is our right," Kaddo Marino said recently. "We feel strongly we have a right to get to school by a mode of transportation we deem appropriate."

The biking debate started last spring, when school district officials told Kaddo Marino that Adam was violating school rules by biking to class. Walking to the school also is not permitted.

Kaddo Marino challenged the policy and asked the school board to change it. The district charged a committee to review the rule, which was instituted in 1994.

At the start of school in September, Kaddo Marino thought that she had a nonverbal agreement with school officials to allow her son to ride his bike until a new policy was resolved. But on the night before classes started, school authorities called parents to say that walking and biking to school would not be tolerated.

When the pair stuck with their plan, they were met by school administrators and a state trooper, who emphasized that biking was prohibited, Kaddo Marino said.
There was no mention whether dogs or fire hoses were employed.

Maybe the next leg of the civil rights movement will be reclaiming normal life from the nanny state. Bring on the freedom riders!

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I need to pay more attention to the Swiss 

If there is any verisimilitude in these Swiss safe-sex PSAs, then I have not been paying enough attention during my hurried trips to Zurich.


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News you can use: How French women stay slim 

The French do a lot of things right, including particularly staying thin while eating spectacular food and not spending hours at the gym. How do they do it? There's some good advice in this.

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Health care reform tab dump 

I'm off to Toronto for a long day, so blogging will be catch as catch can. I do, however, have three health care reform links to pass along. The first two were recommended to me as particularly influential or useful by a Washington lobbyist working the issue, and the last is the Atlantic cover story last month, which I have previously linked and thought was spectacular.

The cost conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care.

Obama's team works Congress from the inside.

How American health care killed my father.

Talk amongst yourselves.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Bureaucracies Kill 

It is hard not to notice the rash of suicides at France Telecom. FT is a company the government has supported over the years and is currently engaged in a pain-sharing exercise to preserve employment. Three things are going on here-

1) the depressing effect of large bureaucracies
2) the suicide-contagion/imitation effect Malcolm Gladwell documented in "The Tipping Point"
3) the futility of such pain-sharing exercises

Very interesting. I'll return to this at some point later, I think.

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Emily Litella leaves the ice 

For those of you following the arguments around the climate "Hockey Stick", there's been another major development. It's pretty clear now why obtaining data transparency was such a chore. See also "Ding Dong the Stick is Dead".


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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gaddafi vs. Switzerland 

One of the weirder proposals coming out of Libyan President Muammar Gadaffi is to break up Switzerland into its component linguistic parts (German, French and Italian).

Either Gaddafi has dementia relating to end-stage venereal disease, or the man really holds a grudge, or both.
"Relations between Libya and Switzerland soured in July 2008 when Gaddafi's son Hannibal and his wife were arrested by police in Geneva for allegedly beating their two servants at a local hotel. Gaddafi was so enraged by his son's two-day detention, he immediately retaliated by shutting down local subsidiaries of Swiss companies Nestlé and ABB in Libya, arresting two Swiss businessmen for supposed visa irregularities, canceling most commercial flights between the two countries and withdrawing about $5 billion from his Swiss bank accounts."
What a whacko.

Oh, and the $5 billion from "his Swiss bank accounts" -- I suppose some of the country's oil revenue didn't find its way into the hands of the Libyan people.

Maybe Gaddafi can start writing material for the next Austin Powers movie, substituting hatred for the Swiss in place of the Dutch.

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William Safire 

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist William Safire died today.

I very much enjoyed reading his "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine. It is not an easy task to make etymology interesting and amusing, but Safire accomplished that every week. I learned a great deal from reading his work. Thank you, Mr. Safire, and rest in peace.

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More school 

It is hard to know how hard this proposal will be pushed, since the AP piece by Libby Quaid does not contain any new quotes that would indicate it is an item high on the agenda of the White House, but the headline reads -- "More school: Obama would curtail summer vacation:"
"Students beware: The summer vacation you just enjoyed could be sharply curtailed if President Barack Obama gets his way.

"Obama says American kids spend too little time in school, putting them at a disadvantage with other students around the globe.

"'Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas," the president said earlier this year. "Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.'

"The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go."
I confess that my first reaction was, hmmm, I don't think that unionized teachers will be too crazy about that idea -- longer school days and more days in school -- and why would President Obama alienate one of the key constituencies of his party (approximately 20% of the voting participants at the last several Democratic Party conventions have been unionized teachers)? Of course, there is always the chance that it could end up being a negotiated contract providing lot more money for teachers for a little bit more work, a trade-off many would make. Some teachers enjoy the months away during the summer and work making a few thousand dollars more at a summer camp, so there is potentially an opportunity cost involved.

Based on the reaction of some of the students interviewed in the article, the future base of the Democratic Party could be alienated! The President's daughters would likely still be on board, however. As private school students, they may not be covered by localized changes in the public school calendar.

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Weekend update 

Somehow, through gross overscheduling, I had a great weekend. I returned from a tiring but interesting trip to Europe on Friday afternoon, had drinks with an old friend, picked up the TH Daughter at prep school, and ultimately went to bed 21 hours after I had gotten up. Saturday I popped awake early, drove the TH Daughter to school at 7, blogged for a bit, and then rode 17 miles on the Delaware-Raritan Canal tow path, all before noon or so. Then I jumped in the car for the four hour drive to State College, where I saw my Hawkeyes stun more than 100,000 previously screaming Penn State fans into misery in the early autumn rain. Sweet! Especially in light of the trash-talking I endured for having the stones to wear Hawkeye black and gold into the stands.

Phone camera picture of the "Whitehouse" below:

Beaver Stadium, "the Whitehouse"

Bwahahaha! Fifth in the nation my ass.

You have to hand it to Penn State, though. They put on a helluva show. A bit heavy on Neil Diamond for my taste, but they do get that place rocking.

I left after three quarters (and, sadly, missed the Hawkeye glory in the final quarter) because I had to be in Lambertville -- more than 200 miles east of Sad Valley -- by 8 am this morning for the previously advertised "Hops to Hops" 40-mile bike ride to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society (there's still time to give to support this worthy cause via the link in this post). I left State College around 11 still listening to the game on the radio, and drove more than three hours to a hotel room in Plymouth Meeting, which put me within striking distance of Lambertville this morning. Four hours of shut-eye later, and I was back in the car and ready to ride.

It was cool and rainy, but the cause was good, the route was great, the people were fun, and the promise of River Horse craft beer at the end enticing. The start of the ride is below, followed by our "team," which so far has raised more than $3500 thanks to friends, colleagues, and you, our readers.

The "Hops to Hops" MS Bike Ride, at the start in Lambertville

I'm the dude in the Princeton colors. The others put up with me.

The Integra Rollers after the big ride

Regular blogging will resume later.

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New Jersey's war on its taxpayers 

A bland Associated Press story on New Jersey's outrageous property taxes is, nonetheless, appalling. Our state's politicians reveal their transporting contempt for the citizenry in their total unwillingness to restrain spending. It is amazing that anybody in this state votes to re-elect any incumbent in any election. But they do, time and again. Nobody to blame but themselves.

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The dog ate their homework: The "public editor" needs better excuses 

I'm not sure I've seen a lamer pile of sillier excuses than those offered up in Clark Hoyt's morning defense of the indefensible (how it was that the Times sat out, or on, both the Van Jones and ACORN stories). How about this simple explanation: The Times has become such a political monoculture that none of the editors -- all of whom were apparently unaware of Big Hollywood's sting operation until after the Senate voted to defund ACORN -- even bother to check the right-of-left online media.

What a maroon.

CWCID: Mindles' Facebook scroll.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tax hikes by any other name.. 

A New York Times feature writer sums up an all-too common attitude while trying to justify the latest extra-dictionary tax hike idea
Use that tax break before you lose it, because many of you probably don’t deserve to have it in the first place.

This article is about limiting Flexible Spending plans, which allow you to set aside pre-tax money to pay certain medical needs (OTC drugs, eyeglasses, deductibles and co-pays). I have a minor objection to the new tax, as it increases the effective tax penalty on earned income, and it surely is another example of breaking campaign promises. But "not deserving" one's own salary, that's rich.

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Rail, and what it means for American statism 

The Russians are putting in high speed rail service between St. Petersburg and Moscow. If you think of Russia as Europe, then it is joining the crowd. If you think of it as a low density country with lots of oil, then it is more interesting.

The linked article contains this bit about rail service in the United States, which strikes me as manifestly true:

For years, businesspeople and politicians have dreamed about America entering the high-speed era, but Amtrak has been plagued by budget and service problems and the closest Americans have come to high speed is the Acela, which rarely runs at what Europeans call high speed.

Now Siemens and its competitors are hoping all that has changed. The economic stimulus passed by Congress in April includes a five-year, $13 billion high-speed rail program. Siemens is one of four makers of high-speed trains, none of them based in the United States, that hopes to take advantage of it.

Siemens executives said the tilt toward political acceptance of high-speed rail in the United States presented a remarkable business opportunity — assuming the systems get built.

The United States “is a developing country in terms of rail,” Ansgar Brockmeyer, head of public transit business for Siemens, said in an interview aboard the Russian test train, as wooden country homes and birch forests flickered by outside the window. “We are seeing it as a huge opportunity.”


All around the world excellent rail service is a function of competent government. There are few, if any, genuine examples of good private rail service left in the world, but many examples of good government rail service. Statists who want to promote the heavy hand of government have no better example than passenger train service.

Except in the United States. Even our best passenger rail service through the parts of our country that have density akin to Europe -- the northeast corridor, primarily -- sucks by comparison. The Acela, which is a far better way to move between New York and Washington than air service, is slow, dirty, and of poor and variable service compared to comparable trains in France and Spain. And do not even try to make good time from New York to Boston, where the trains routinely grind to a crawl for no obvious reason, turning a trip that might take 90 minutes in France to almost four hours here.

In other words, our federal government cannot make the trains run on time, something that virtually every other rich country government is able to do.

There are a number of reasons why this might be true, but I suspect the dominant one is this: We do not attract our best people into government for reasons of history and culture. Deep down, most Americans believe that most government jobs (with a few exceptions at the very top and in the military, the foreign service, the Justice Department and the judicial branch) are for the stupid, lazy, or power crazy. Whether or not it is fair, in the United States routine government jobs confer no prestige and most people in the private sector regard government employees with deep suspicion. This tradition is at odds with virtually every rich European and Asian country, and it explains many things, including our traditional hostility to big government and our terrible trains.

It also makes me wonder whether government programs that "work" in France, Sweden, or Japan stand an ice cube's chance in hell of working here in the United States. Our inability to attract our better people into ordinary government jobs is the best utilitarian reason for us to develop uniquely American and nongovernmental solutions to social problems. Copying the Europeans will not work for us, no matter how much the academic policy wonks who so influence the Democrats wish that it would.

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Help me fight multiple sclerosis 

[Bumped to the top until Saturday morning. Scroll down for more recent posts.]

I, TigerHawk, have organized a small but energetic team to ride in the "Hops to Hops" bike ride this Sunday morning in support of the fight against multiple sclerosis. The point, apart from fun, fresh air, and beer, is to raise money to respond to this terrible disease. Here are the talking points from the form promotional email from the National MS Society:

The National MS Society is kicking off our annual "Hops to Hops" Bike MS Ride. I am planning to be a part of that event and I am asking you to join me in the fight against MS by making a contribution to support my effort.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is dedicated to ending the devastating effects of MS. They simultaneously fund research for a cure while also helping people who currently live with MS lead more fulfilling lives. I believe in the work they do, and I invite you to see for yourself all the good they've done for the MS community. More than 400,000 Americans live with MS, and your support can and will make changes in their lives.

Please consider making a contribution to our effort, however symbolic (click here). And, of course, if you can get to Lambertville, New Jersey at 8 a.m. Sunday morning and would delight in riding your bike over hill and dale, please join our team and come along. It'll be a blast, and all for a great cause.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Gitmo no go 

It hasn't been a great week for the Obama administration plans regarding the closing of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

On Thursday, AP reported (picking up the Washington Post's reporting) that the administration would
"not seek a new law spelling out how it can hold terror suspects indefinitely without bringing charges...that the government's authority to hold someone indefinitely without charge will be based on the congressional military force authorization passed after the 2001 terror attacks."
The 2001 AUMF was the same rationale that the previous administration used to deal with what I termed "Group Five" detainees this spring, following President Obama's speech on the subject.

Today's Washington Post reports that the Obama administration isn't likely to meet the deadline for shutting down Gitmo:
"With four months left to meet its self-imposed deadline for closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Obama administration is working to recover from missteps that have put officials behind schedule and left them struggling to win the cooperation of Congress.

Even before the inauguration, President Obama's top advisers settled on a course of action they were counseled against: announcing that they would close the facility within one year. Today, officials are acknowledging that they will be hard-pressed to meet that goal."
It's not necessarily the sign of bad management and leadership to set an aggressive goal, not knowing for certain whether it can be accomplished on time. After all, a good part of leadership is inspiring and enabling others to reach beyond where they thought they could reach, and do so as a team. The problem is, the Gitmo goal was put out there in President Obama's first few days in office, so maybe he should have gone for something with a higher probability of success, just to kind of set the table for future goals. That his political and electoral base was obsessed with this issue should not have mattered to him once he took the oath of office, and was in charge of making national security decisions for all Americans.

Now it seems likely that, in the eyes of the anti-Gitmo section of his party, President Obama will turn out to be not much of an improvement over President Bush on this matter. The facility will still be open, and the AUMF will still be used to justify indefinite detention, thus demonstrating yet again how different campaigning is from governing.

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Hope for the Hawkeyes? 

The undefeated but unranked Iowa Hawkeyes face their stiffest test so far this football season, traveling to Beaver Stadium to face the fifth ranked Penn State Nittany Lions in one of the biggest college football games of the week.

Last year, Iowa stunned an undefeated and highly ranked Penn State that had national championship aspirations 24-23 in Iowa City, on a last second field goal. The game this week is being viewed as a "revenge" game for Penn State and is getting a lot of hype despite Iowa's non-ranking. The game will be nationally televised Saturday night on ABC and ESPN will be broadcasting "Gameday" from State College. Penn State has called for a "white-out" game, encouraging all fans in attendance to wear white.

The odds would not seem to favor the Hawkeyes, who come in without last year's primary offensive weapon, Shonn Green, who rushed for more than 1,800 yards and now plays with the Jets. His backup is out for the year, leaving the Hawkeyes to rely on two freshmen running backs in what will be an extremely high pressure environment. The offense has had its problems as a result, most notably in the Hawkeyes season opener against the University of Northern Iowa, in which the heavily favored Hawkeyes had to do something that had never been done before in college football to escape with a 17-16 victory. Penn State has breezed to a 3-0 record and has yet to trail in a game this season.

Iowa fans are left to hang their hat on the fact that under Kirk Ferentz, the Hawkeyes have compiled a 6-2 record against the Nittany Lions. There is also the momentum factor. Iowa has not lost a game since defeating Penn State November 8 and has displayed its characteristically tough defense in victories over Iowa State and Arizona. Plus, most of the pressure would appear to be on Penn State, heavy favorites in the game.

Once again, however, the game is more critical to Penn State than to the Iowa Hawkeyes, who are underdogs on the road. Iowa can still have a decent season after losing this contest in Happy Valley.

For Penn State to lose at home to an unranked team would throw Joe Paterno's team out of the top 10 and make capturing the Big 10 title very difficult.
So the stage is set. In anticipation, the Bleacher Report considers four players who will be key to Iowa's chances for an upset.

Let's go Hawks!

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Tut-tutting about "violence" at protests 

Glenn Reynolds makes an excellent point about the highly variable twisting of media hankies over "violence" at demonstrations. A few clowns shout at a "tea party" and the media starts worrying about the resurgent Klan, but the left literally attacks the police at the G20 protests and nobody says anything.

There are two possible explanations for this different approach of the media to edgy demonstrators of the left and right.

First, the mainstream media are completely in the tank for the Democrats, and want to help them push the talking point that the tea-partiers are both extremists and typical Republicans (neither of which is generally true).

Second, the left benefits from the soft bigotry of low expectations: People expect leftists to act like thugs at these gatherings as they have for 40 years, so when they do again it is the same-old same-old. The striving burghers of the right, however, have never done this before, so it is news.

Both explanations are probably true to some degree, but which one dominates?

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

The continuing war against business 

Among the states, the best and worst business tax climates. The bottom three are especially predictable.

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Longtime readers will know that I do not shy away form the notion of armed conflict to support and advance American interests, particularly when our moral and strategic interests are in harmony. I certainly was supportive of our last administration in its efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, I also view the conflicts very differently. Afghanistan was a conflict launched with limited aims - topple the Taliban and deny Al Qaeda sanctuary at minimal commitment and loss of American life - in response to an attack on the US emanating therefrom. Afghanistan is not fundamentally a strategic asset of geopolitical import. It has no wealth or geography which would make it so.

Iraq was and is fundamentally different. It has vast wealth, and Baghdad is the heart of Arabia. Regionally, there is hardly a more important strategic asset. Furthermore, it was governed by an appalling and grotesque tyrant with whom we had already fought one war.

Iraq, quite simply, had to be truly "won". Our core strategic interests were at stake there, our conflict with Arab-inspired Islamism required that we go to the heart of Arabia and insure Islamism suffered a defeat there; and these strategic interests were congruent with the moral imperative of deposing the Saddam Hussein regime and leaving in its wake a regime which represented the will of its people. To that end, the US has performed with truly exceptional distinction. The decision to "Surge" in Iraq was intended to ensure victory there, as opposed to making a similar decision in Afghanistan. American performance in Iraq may never be properly appreciated - much like American performance in Japan, South Korea or West Germany. Let's hope the current administration's commitment to withdrawal doesn't squander the (fragile) stability created largely through the efforts of America.

Afghanistan is not - in my view - a core strategic asset. It is a strategic distraction. Its geography is of limited relevance and it has no wealth. The reasons to involve American force projection there are principally tactical - to deny Al Qaeda easy sanctuary and political protection form the Taliban. And that is buttressed by moral considerations insofar as the Taliban are a disgusting tyrannical theocracy, the political kinmen of Al Qaeda.

Therefore, it seems to me, our commitment to Afghanistan should be limited. What is the point of a Surge there? what is its cost? Is it worth it? What is victory? I am not convinced that it is worthy of pursuit. That's right, I may agree with Joe Biden! Afghanistan went poorly for the British and the Soviets. It is less winnable at a sensible cost than Iraq and less important. I would much prefer that we make sure Iraq is stable and quiet with more American assets than worry about overcommitting to Afghanistan. That little bit of hell may best be managed via a contructive set of relationships with Pakistan and India.

Last, we do need to husband our resources. Iraq and, frankly, Iran, are much more important that Afghanistan. So I must say, while I disagree thus far with pretty much every single policy choice the current Adminstration has pursued both domestically and abroad, I have some sympathy with the notion that they are reconsidering the fashion in which they want to manage the Afghanistan conflict.

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Political music 

From Drudge, via Instapundit and Althouse, a three month old video of a group of young students "at the B. Bernice Young Elementary School in Burlington, NJ" (according to the YouTube description):

A number of observations:

At least patriotism is cool again -- kids can sing the praises of sitting President of the United States in school.

The middle name is evidently OK to use again, at least if it assists in the flow of the lyrics or melody. It's hard to keep track of when it is permissible and when it is not, but I would short that position 30 months out.

Using the music from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," a wonderful and powerful Civil War piece, would not have been my first choice, and for pure uplifting snappiness, it pales in comparison to perhaps the gold standard for political song making, Frank Sinatra's (later a famous Reagan Democrat) 1960 version of "High Hopes":

I admit a bias for this tune. After every home win at Citizens Bank Park, as the Phillies are leaving the field, a regular version of this tune led by the late Harry Kalas (the long time play-by-play announcer), lights up the video screen in the outfield, and the crowd sings along.

Of course, there is a difference between a recording artist making a campaign song, and having young kids in school use an old tune with new and praising lyrics for the most senior elected official in the land. While I don't think that this activity brainwashes kids that age, it is understandable that many people would have a strong reaction to the video, since Americans generally (and thankfully) have avoided cults of personality with political figures. Anyway, trying to indoctrinate at that age will likely result in rebellion somewhere down the road. I wouldn't want to be that school's Principal this week, however.

CWCID: Drudge, Instapundit, Althouse, and The Chairman of the Board.

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This is cool.

LONDON — An amateur treasure hunter prowling English farmland with a metal detector stumbled upon what has been described as the largest Anglo-Saxon treasure ever discovered, a massive collection of gold and silver crosses, sword decorations and other items, British archaeologists said Thursday.

"The quantity of gold is amazing but, more importantly, the craftsmanship is consummate," said archaeologist Kevin Leahy, who catalogued the find. "This was the very best that the Anglo-Saxon metalworkers could do, and they were very good."
There is no word on whether Excaliber or the Holy Grail may have been among the articles found.

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The measure of a man 

A resolution for discussion in the comments: The character of the people from whom one seeks approval is perhaps the best measure of one's own character. Background.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Primate jokes 

Over at Huffpo, Bruce Wilson worries that Rep. Roy Blunt's (R-MO) recent speech contained a "racism-tinged" joke. Let's go to the videotape:

Here's the transcript from the Huffpo link:
"You know, you can't control everything there is in life that you'd like to control. Supposedly, at the turn of the 19th Century, the end of the 19th Century - the beginning of the 20th Century, there was a group of British occupiers in a very lush, very quiet, very peaceful, very uneventful part of India. And this group of British soldiers who were occupying that part of India decided they'd carve a golf course put of the jungle of India. And there was really not that much else to do.

So for over a year, this was the biggest event, getting this golf course created. And they got the golf course done and almost from the day the first ball was hit on this golf course something happened they didn't anticipate. Monkeys would come running out of the jungle [faint audience laughter] and they'd grab the golf balls. And if it was in the fairway they might throw it in the rough. And [if] it was in the rough they might throw it... they might throw it back at you! And I could go into great and long detail about how many things they did to try and eliminate the 'monkey problem.' But they never got it done, so finally this golf course and this golf course only, they passed a rule and the rule was - you have to play the ball where the monkey throws it. [audience laughter swells] And that is the rule in Washington all the time. You know... [clapping from audience]

You know the world is turned upside down when Al Franken is in the United States Senate and Tom Delay is going on "Dancing With the Stars" - that's when you know that things have changed in ways that you would have never anticipated."
Please take the poll below and/or flesh out your thoughts in the comments section.

How racist was Blunt's joke?
His next step is to set up a burning cross on the Hill
He told it because the POTUS is African-American
He should know better, that it could be misinterpreted
No worse than a David Letterman monologue joke
pollcode.com free polls

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Sleep inducing foods 

A list of sleep-inducing foods, and a warning against warm milk. There is only one you would really want to put down at bedtime.

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ACORN updates 

Ace has been all over this, but here are some relevant links.

The IRS announced that it is severing ties with ACORN.

Barney Frank changes his position, asking that ACORN be de-funded, as compared to how the Wall Street Journal characterized his stance this morning.

ACORN is suing the undercover movie makers. Predictions: a big bunch o' money raised for a defense fund, and the suit is dropped before discovery proceeds very far. Somehow, I don't think the leftover funds will be used to throw a kegger. If you strike me down...


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Federal Art Instruction Institute 

Fellow Hawk IowaHawk is, as always, spot on, satirizing the NEA pay-for-propaganda story.

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Wednesday afternoon tab dump 

Jules takes a look at the latest trend, "social distancing" to avoid exposure to H1N1. Damn, just when I was hoping for intimate physical contact with lots of strangers.

Peak this: The oil industry is on a roll.

The oil industry has been on a hot streak this year, thanks to a series of major discoveries that have rekindled a sense of excitement across the petroleum sector, despite falling prices and a tough economy.

These discoveries, spanning five continents, are the result of hefty investments that began earlier in the decade when oil prices rose, and of new technologies that allow explorers to drill at greater depths and break tougher rocks.

More than 200 discoveries have been reported so far this year in dozens of countries, including northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, Australia, Israel, Iran, Brazil, Norway, Ghana and Russia.

I love the oil industry, which has brought us more prosperity by overcoming more adversity than any other industry in human history.

Think that we can grow our way out of the debt we are piling on? Check out these alarming charts, and know fear.

You and your soul mate enjoy hiking? Go to Germany and do it in the all together. (Via The Jungle Trader)

The real mission of the SR-71 "Blackbird," and a mystery concerning Russian satellite launches.

The New York Times acknowledges that the planet has stopped warming, at least for the time being, and that this presents a problem for politicians who would regulate greenhouse gases. In an almost amazingly balanced article, the Grey Lady even proposes a test:
Underscoring just how little clarity there is on short-term temperature fluctuations, researchers from Britain’s climate change office, in a paper published in August, projected “an end to this period of relative stability,” with half the years between now and 2015 exceeding the record-setting global temperatures of 1998....

A clearer view of whether the recent temperature plateau undermines arguments for dangerous climate change in the long run should come in a few years, as the predictions made by the British climate researchers are tested. Their paper appeared in a supplement to an August issue of The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

While the data do seem to show that the planet has warmed in the last century, the case for immediately and drastic action rests on the predictive power of the climate models. Well, let us start tracking the sensitivity and specificity of those models as they make their predictions, and see whether their track record justifies harsh and expensive regulation now.

Bret Stephens proposes a new rallying cry: "Beggar thy neighbor, bankrupt thy country, appease thy foe." Not quite "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion," but getting there.

A really stupid letter to the editor. A demographic catastrophe delayed is a demographic catastrophe denied, at least for the hundreds of millions or billions of people whose lives were spared by the delay.

Turns out that speaking truth to power is a directional thing:
You have to love the fulminating hypocrisy of the Left. When Bush was in office anonymous leakers were brave patriots, proudly Leaking Truth to Power. I didn't approve of leaks or the leaky leakers who leak them to the media then.

I certainly don't approve of leakers now, even though I detest the [lack of] leadership and direction the Obama administration has brought to this war. But the fact is, McChrystal's report is out there now and those who once wanted the unvarnished truth about war even if it was obtained illegally now want to shield the President of the United States from the pressures of a job he asked for.

I'm confused. Did anybody out there actually believe that the lefty rage over Bush actually involved principles? You did? No, stop pulling my leg like that.

A most excellent righty protest sign.


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"Balance of power" 

There is a fair amount to digest in President Obama's speech to the United Nations General Assembly today, but one passage struck me as particularly puzzling:
"In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional divisions between nations of the South and the North make no sense in an interconnected world; nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War."
(Emphasis added)

I think I understand what he is trying to convey in this part of his speech -- essentially the Rodney King plea or query, "Why can't we all just get along?" -- but isn't the statement about balance of power to the U.N. the equivalent of giving a talk to a group of astrophysicists and saying, "So, this whole concept of the force of gravitation and gravitational pull, we really have to reconsider whether it exists and whether it is necessary for our models going forward."

I suppose an alternative interpretation of what that line was trying to communicate is a more literal one -- that balances of power inevitably change and shift, which is true enough. However, it seems clear from the context of that paragraph and the paragraphs around it that President Obama is making a long-shot attempt and asking to overturn the patterns of thousands of years of human history as it pertains to how nation-states interact with each other. By all means, let's not use force unless it is necessary and chances for reasonable dialogue seem fruitless, or the world is dealing with an unrelenting expansionist totalitarian force, but maintaining a balance of power is usually a way to avoid violence.

UPDATE: The 'Stache concludes that the Rodney King-ism interpretation seems correct.

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Your government at work 

Not only will your Congressman vote on health care reform without having read the actual legislation, but he will insure that you have not read it either. You know, to avoid all those nettlesome questions.

The attack ads almost write themselves. Let us hope there is somebody in the actual Grand Old Party that understands that.

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The competent big state 

Is there any big state in the country with its act together? One.

It's like a whole other country.

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News you can use 

A favorite tax geek turned me on to this site, MissingMoney.com, which allows you to do a nationwide search for unclaimed property in your name. Indeed, I was listed as having had some, so I am submitting an application and will see what comes of it. Probably some old check I forgot cash -- paperwork is not my strong suit, choice of profession notwithstanding.

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A graphical look at the recovering credit markets 

A year after the world's credit markets went to hell in a handbasket, by certain measures they have recovered (even if there is no longer such savage competition among lenders that any fool with a dream can borrow money). See, for instance, the following two graphs, which show that yields (interest rates) on "high yield" (meaning below investment-grade or "junk") bonds have returned to year-ago levels or below, and that prices for leveraged loans in the secondary market have returned almost all the way to par. This is good news, because it means that lenders can no longer earn above-average returns by buying existing credits instead of making new loans. And, sure enough, bankers -- both commercial and investment -- are again making the rounds of reasonably creditworthy companies proposing new financings.

The credit market recovers

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Last night 

On the way to dinner, we walked past the old Lyon stock exchange.

The old Lyon stock exchange

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TigerHawk gets Kanye West-ified 

Click here to see the special effects.

At least we can all agree with President Obama with respect to his characterization of Mr. West. One would think that President Obama, as the leader of the Democratic party, might be an expert on donkeys, mules and the like.


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Tuesday afternoon tab dump 

It is late here in Lyon, but I have accumulated a lot of interesting open tabs that I feel the need to share. Because, you know, I'm a sharing person.

The New York Times -- the newspaper -- objects, with a few qualifications, to extending constitutional rights to corporations. But do the directors and stockholders of the New York Times Company share that transportingly asinine view? Setting aside the presumed exception for freedom of speech and the press, do the editors really think that corporations have no right to practice religion (that will come as news to non-profit religious organizations), to petition government for redress of grievances, and to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures (why bother with a warrant if the target is a corporation?). May corporations be subjected to double, triple, or quadruple jeopardy? May courts impose unreasonable fines? May the government seize corporate property without due process or just compensation? Do the editors really think that corporations have no right to a speedy trial, or a jury, when accused of a crime? Or representation by counsel? Are they to be deprived of equal protection under the law? Of course corporations enjoy protection under the Constitution, even if not quite to the extent of individuals.

The only intelligent point in the linked editorial is that the Times noted that corporations have no right to bear arms, perhaps the first time that the paper acknowledged that there is a right to bear arms.

President Obama has, apparently, always been a black man. A witty and engaging point from the president on a very difficult subject, so a tip o' the hat from me, at least.

No amount of Preparation H would help this guy. Bwahahaha!

Bill Clinton dishes on Al Gore and others. Interesting stuff from a book I might just read.

I have no sympathy or even understanding for affluent Americans who, statistically speaking, occupy the top 0.1% or higher of all humans alive today and who still are unhappy because for them the "grass is always greener" elsewhere. Neither does John Scalzi. No wonder I like his books.

Who knew ADD was a defense to a crime? A law professor, that's who!

Visualizing the effects of weather on the shipping lanes: Sounds dull, but actually cool.

Be well.

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Public service announcement 

Knowing how important it is to you to get value for your money in the watching of movies and such, I'd be remiss if I failed to link to Amazon's massive DVD sale.

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Wasting green to make stuff "green" 

Your government in action (emphasis added):

The four drafty buildings had been fixtures of the Energy Department complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for more than half a century. They burned energy like 1950s sedans.

The buildings seemed like perfect candidates for a federal conservation retrofit program that relies on private contractors that receive a percentage of the money they save. A deal was struck in 2001. The contractors reworked lighting and heating systems, among other things, and began collecting payments.

The project was counted among the department's "green" successes -- until auditors discovered that the buildings had been torn down several years ago, and the government had paid $850,000 for energy savings at facilities that no longer existed.

Not at all surprising to those of us who are automatically skeptical of government projects, but still frustrating. The federal government has burdened American free enterprise with a fetish for process control, the idea being that stockholders, who are free to sell their shares, need protection from waste, fraud, and incompetence in public companies. Why do we not demand the same controls from the federal government, whose "stockholders" have no freedom to opt out?

And, yeah, there actually are people, hard as it may be to believe, who think we can cut health care expenses by increasing the government's role.

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Reminded for the first time in months to take the week's O'Quiz, I came from behind and scored a monster 8 out of 10 vs. an average score to date of 5.65. Take the toughest news junkie quiz on the web and report your scores in the comments. If you date dare.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

It's tough out there 

If supplanting hideous old-style video dating is the measure of eHarmony's revolution in matchmaking, then we have all grossly underestimated that company's great contribution to civil society.

Goddamn. If I ever do that please put me out of my misery.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Reference books 

From kindergarten through my senior year of high school, and all four years of college, and both years of graduate school, every teacher, professor, instructor, graduate TA, etc., always gave good counsel regarding the value of reference materials, especially dictionaries. I always had a reasonably current version of a good dictionary on hand, throughout my schooling. Now I learn that by using a dictionary, I was "stretching." And I thought I had to go to the gym and warm up before I did that!

Today's editorial in the Wall Street Journal recounts President Obama's Sunday interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos:
Mr. Obama: "No, but—but, George, you—you can't just make up that language and decide that that's called a tax increase."

"I don't think I'm making it up," Mr. Stephanopoulos said. He then had the temerity to challenge the Philologist in Chief, with an assist from Merriam-Webster. He cited that dictionary's definition of "tax" -- "a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes."

Mr. Obama: "George, the fact that you looked up Merriam's Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you're stretching a little bit right now. . . ."
I realize that politicians feel that they have to win the battle of language, but can we at least agree on the rules of the battle? Let's pick one of the well-recognized dictionaries (OED, M-W) and go with it so that words don't completely lose their meaning. Otherwise, Orwell will have been proven correct (see, especially, his essay "Politics and the English Language" -- sadly, I violate the Six Rules too often).

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The 39th President 

I suppose there is always the chance that something was lost in translation, but this looks pretty bad:
"I think there is no doubt that in 2002, the United States had at the very least full knowledge about the coup, and could even have been directly involved"
The quote is attributed to Jimmy Carter, speaking to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo yesterday (link in Spanish) regarding the failed coup attempt against Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Such a statement coming from a former POTUS is not very helpful to the current administration, or U.S. interests generally, regardless of its veracity. Frankly, the CIA can only wish that it still had that kind of juice in the Americas, hearkening back to the days of Arbenz in 1954 in Guatemala, or Chile in the early 1970s. Or maybe Darth Cheney didn't even need to use the CIA for this operation, and just had Scooter Libby run it out of a basement in the White House. Sometimes, all that's needed is a larger tinfoil hat.

"At the very least full knowledge..."

Possibly "directly involved."

I thought that it was a customary courtesy for sitting Presidents to give former Presidents a briefing -- an advance heads-up -- about impending major international events, especially military operations and the like. For example, George W. Bush would have notified Bill Clinton, et al., a short time before the operation to remove Saddam in 2003 took place. Did President Carter not receive his call about Chavez in 2002, and he is upset, or did he in fact receive the call, and he's just now saying something? Or is he simply not getting enough oxygen to his brain these days? He'll be 85 years old next week, and such things happen.

CWCID: Hot Air

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Missile question 

In last Friday's AP "Analysis" piece on the abandonment of the missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, Mike Eckel wrote in the fifth paragraph:
"Missile defense in Eastern Europe was arguably the most serious thorn in the U.S.-Russian relationship, with Moscow repeatedly and angrily insisting that the system was pointless against an imagined Iranian threat — and was a grave threat to Russian national security."
Now, obviously there are layers of politics involved in this decision, and it is not one that national security hawks are inclined to like. Setting that aside for the moment, my question is purely from the standpoint of the missile hardware that the U.S. had planned to deploy, and now will not.

My understanding had been that an anti-missile missile -- a missile used to shoot down an incoming offensive missile -- has itself very little offensive capability, nor can it easily be reconfigured to have offensive capability. How would such a system pose a "grave threat to Russian national security," as Eckel characterized Moscow's protestations? Did Moscow mean it in the sense of the argument put forward during the Cold War that any weapons system that threatened the concept of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction, that each side would annihilate the other in a nuclear exchange) was inherently destabilizing and indeed provocative? Or is it a grave threat in some other sense? Or is my initial technical assumption incorrect, and the missiles could in fact become offensive? If anyone has knowledge about such weapons systems (Dawnfire?), I am curious.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Parsing "a whole lot of" federal money 

In a "meaning of 'is' is" moment, President Obama asks us to believe that he "didn't even know that ACORN was getting a whole lot of federal money." No doubt he also did not know that ACORN was getting a wad of moola, a tin of lucre, a dollop of dough, bread to come and go on, a whole lot of benjamins, or a goodly pile of legal tender. But he apparently did know -- we only know this because of his absurd parsing -- that the federal government was funding ACORN to some degree.

The president really needs to speak less legalistically in ordinary conversation, because people do not like people who sound like lawyers. Learn not thy lessons from Bill Clinton, Mr. President!

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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One for the old Tigers... 

Some tiny fraction of our audience might be interested in the Princeton University Marching Band's pre-game show. Sad to say, the Citadel exacted its revenge on the battlefield gridiron. Let us hope that is our only loss this season to a team called the "Bulldogs."

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Criminalizing John Edwards 

The New York Times has a big story on the sordid denouement of John Edwards' career in "public service," which was never anything other than "Edwards service." There is a lot to chew on there and I have to run 5K this morning in the service of fighting melanoma, but this paragraph provoked a thought most of you will not agree with:

According to people familiar with the grand jury investigation, prosecutors are considering a complicated and novel legal issue: whether payments to a candidate’s mistress to ensure her silence (and thus maintain the candidate’s viability) should be considered campaign donations and thus whether they should be reported. When Mr. Edwards was running for president, and later when he still held out hope of a cabinet position in the Obama administration, two of his wealthy patrons, through a once-trusted Edwards aide, quietly provided Ms. Hunter with large financial benefits, including a new BMW and lodging, that were used to keep her out of public view.


Schadenfreude aside, every scandal, even a scandal at the behest of a creepy and repugnant politician, does not warrant a criminal case. Now, in our increasingly legalistic society it is almost always possible to prove a criminal case for something, and furthermore there is a certain underlying logic to the prosecutorial thinking here. That does not mean that it is a sensible use of scarce resources -- John Edwards is highly unlikely to commit this offense again, and even if he did, who really cares? One gets the sense that the main value of this case is to attract media attention for the lawyers involved, and prosecutors who enjoy the cameras always make me nervous.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tiger smile 

How many cars have such a wicked grin?


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Profiteering in carbon offsets 

If the price of gasoline goes too high, politicians and liberals inveigh against "profiteering" and such, notwithstanding the favorable impact that higher gasoline prices have (by discouraging consumption) on the output of anthropogenic carbon dioxide. But if you sell carbon offsets at an abusive profit (and therefore discourage carbon sequestration) right there in San Francisco airport, nobody gives a rat's ass, least of all the people that would have you believe that carbon dioxide will lead to TEOTWAWKI. Apparently it is bad to "profiteer" in a good that hurts the environment, no matter how much it would reduce consumption of that good, but just fine to overcharge for a good that helps the environment.

Glad we got that straight.

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Yet another reason why Thomas Edison was a great American 

An oldy that I missed along the way...

1903: Thomas Edison stages his highly publicized electrocution of an elephant in order to demonstrate the dangers of alternating current, which, if it posed any immediate danger at all, was to Edison's own direct current.

Edison had established direct current at the standard for electricity distribution and was living large off the patent royalties, royalties he was in no mood to lose when George Westinghouse and Nicola Tesla showed up with alternating current.

Edison's aggressive campaign to discredit the new current took the macabre form of a series of animal electrocutions using AC (a killing process he referred to snidely as getting "Westinghoused"). Stray dogs and cats were the most easily obtained, but he also zapped a few cattle and horses.

Edison got his big chance, though, when the Luna Park Zoo at Coney Island decided that Topsy, a cranky female elephant who had squashed three handlers in three years (including one idiot who tried feeding her a lighted cigarette), had to go.

It was definitely a harsher world.

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Picture dump 

A couple of stray pictures from my just-synched camera.

An Adirondack morning, two weeks ago...

Morning in the Adirondacks

The boardwalk in Atlantic City on a rainy Saturday in early August...

The boardwalk in Atlantic City on a rainy day in August

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The value of the filibuster 

Those among you, left or right, who think that the filibuster is an anti-democratic anachronism that should be abolished ought to consider the enormous economic damage done by unchecked Congressional majorities.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Jay Leno on the future of the newspaper business 

Jay Leno, less than a minute ago: "And today is the 158th anniversary of the New York Times. Sad thing is, I read about that online."

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The last refuge of the unimaginative 

Oscar Wilde wrote that "consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative." Perhaps that aphorism would explain the unfortunate consistency in Democratic geopolitics.

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The victims justify the means 

I was not much in favor of the health care "reform" legislation proposed by the left, but now that I know that the treatment of women under our current system is "unacceptable" and that they are "being crushed," well, that's another thing entirely. What was I thinking?

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The Massachusetts Legislature 

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed a bill last night that would empower Governor Patrick to appoint an interim U.S. Senator to fill the late Ted Kennedy's seat. Current Massachusetts law provides for a special election to be held more than 4 months after the seat is vacated, and that law (taking away the power of the Governor to make an interim appointment) was passed in 2004 when it seemed likely that Senator Kerry's seat might come open if he won the White House, and Republican Governor Mitt Romney could then possibly nominate a fellow Republican as interim Senator.

The bill will now go to the MA Senate, where at the very least it will be postponed for a week. From the standpoint of Democrats supporting the bill, Ted Kennedy's seat needs to be filled quickly so that votes can be cast in the U.S. Senate this year.

While I think that it should be completely up to the several States as to how each deals with the matter of interim representation in Washington, this five year flip-flop is so brazenly rife with political expediency that it tells everyone in the Commonwealth and in the country that a political organization in control will change the rules in mid-stream to suit its needs of the moment. That does nothing but add to the overall level of cynicism that most people have towards politics, and has an overall coarsening effect. Even Massachusetts Democrats are somewhat at odds about it:
"Rep. Michael Moran, House chairman of the Committee on Election Laws, said lawmakers shouldn't be handcuffed by past votes if they are not in the best interest of the state.

"'I ask you to focus on the needs of Massachusetts not in 2004, but in 2009,' the Boston Democrat said.

Other Democratic lawmakers conceded a political motive in the vote, saying they wanted to protect Kennedy's legacy, including his signature issue of expanded health care.

"'Some people say it's political. Of course it's political', said Rep. Cory Atkins, a Concord Democrat and Kennedy supporter."
(emphasis added)

It prompts me to nominate the Massachusetts Legislature for the First Annual Bob "Torch" Torricelli Political Fast One Award, named for the former U.S. Senator (D-NJ) who, in 2000, following a campaign finance scandal, understood that he was far down in the polls against his opponent, and dropped out of the race quite late to let Frank Lautenberg run in his place, even though the statutory filing deadline for ballot changes had long since passed. The change was upheld by the NJ Supreme Court.

Without in any way wanting to disrespect the memory of the late Senator Kennedy, he could have avoided this entire scenario simply by stepping down sometime after President Obama's inauguration, and by now, there would be a sitting Senator. I say this as someone who lost his mother 19 years ago next month to the identical type of brain tumor (glioma) in a nearly identical spot (left frontal lobe vs. left parietal lobe, I believe, in the Senator's case), so I know very well from first-hand observation how profound the effects are of such an illness. There would have been no shame in resigning.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Run Against the Record 

I haven't had time or energy to post much, but I think the Democratic Party has created a record in the White House and in Congress that will be pretty powerful for Republican challengers to run against. Here's what's happened, in summary:

1) Taxes are increasing
2) Unemployment is increasing
3) Liberal scandals - Rangel, ACORN, firings of Inspectors General
4) Stalled, failing or failed policy initiatives - healthcare, cap and trade leading the way
5) Massive fiscal deficits
6) Increasing trade protectionism and impending trade wars
7) Increased instability in Iraq
8) A growing commitment to Afghanistan, an exceedingly difficult tactical and strategic challenge
9) Iran grows closer to possessing a nuclear weapon while we draw down our troops in neighboring Iraq and end defensive missile programs in Europe.

Um, it harkens back to the late 1970's and Jimmy Carter. This did not end well for the Democratic Party. Just sayin'.

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"I am a liberationist animal rights person who has a total commitment to veganism." 

The blog Men Are Not Potatoes has posted a hilarious personal ad entitled Vegan Roomate Wanted, purportedly from Craigslist.
Vegan household only. No animal products in the house; no new leather shoes (I am not going to shun you for an old pair of hiking shoes)I am an avid dumpster diver and may have old stuff in my life too that is on its last round), no honey, no bee pollen, no wool, no down comforters. I am a liberationist animal rights person who has a total commitment to veganism. It is a defining feature in my life.
The rest is equally hilarious.

I know some vegans and respect their dietary choices. I don't think any of them would extend their prohibitions to the wearing of wool, a sustainable resource if there ever was one.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ann on Shouting Joe 

Ann Coulter's column on "Shouting" Joe Wilson (as opposed to Whining Joe Wilson) is more than a little funny. Not surprisingly, she sticks to her general point of view that truth is a defense for pretty much any breach in protocol.

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Those computer climate models had better be correct 

Not that he did not warn us, but the hits just keep coming:

The Obama administration has privately concluded that a cap and trade law would cost American taxpayers up to $200 billion a year, the equivalent of hiking personal income taxes by about 15 percent.

A previously unreleased analysis prepared by the U.S. Department of Treasury says the total in new taxes would be between $100 billion to $200 billion a year. At the upper end of the administration's estimate, the cost per American household would be an extra $1,761 a year. (emphasis added)

Of course, this is in addition to the other tax increases steam-rolling our way, so it is not surprising that the Obama administration did not release this useful bit of information voluntarily.

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Stewart to MSM on Acorn: "Let's get to work, people" 

A friend sent me the link to the video clip of Jon Stewart's Daily Show that I've embedded below. OK, it's maybe a little bit hypocritical for us to post a Daily Show clip when we have targeted many of Stewart's past remarks, including calling Harry Truman an war criminal for approving the use of the A-bomb in 1945 (which Stewart later walked back). But you know what? He's actually pretty funny when he's going after an organization that deserves some heat, such as Acorn. At the very least, Acorn has some bad offices and highly questionable and apparently criminal practices going on. It may well be that the entire organization needs to be taken down. The federal spigot needs to be turned off and prosecutors should investigate.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Audacity of Hos
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

Favorite line: "Your pimp costume appears to be a fur coat over your Andover uniform." Heh.

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A short note on segmenting the market for legal services 

In recent years, lawyers have, like everybody else, sliced the market for legal services into ever more articulated segments. For example.

Judy used to work for me back in the day. What a fun practice she must have!

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When aimed at liberals, hidden camera reporting is suddenly "distasteful" 

The LA Times, playing catch-up on the ACORN scandal, declares hidden camera reporting "distasteful":

O'Keefe's hidden-camera methods are distasteful, and the extent to which his videos were edited is unknown.

The hypocrisy is transporting, and Glenn Reynolds nails it:
I’ll bet they wouldn’t be saying that if a hidden-camera reporter had turned up Boy Scout leaders speaking well of child prostitution . . . .

Which was, of course, just one of the many crimes that the ambushed ACORN volunteers at least seemed to support.

It is astonishing how many tactics that were once revered as "speaking truth to power" are suddenly "distasteful" and "disrespectful" once the left is in power. Hidden-camera reporting, loud demonstrations that shout down speakers, Nazi analogies, and disrespecting the president have been basic weapons of the left for more than a generation, and only now are liberals waking up to the collateral damage that these tactics inflict on civil society. Well, they're a little late, for the grassroots libertarian right has actually gone on offense for the first time in my memory, and perhaps ever. Nothing can stop this now.

Schadenfreude is an ugly emotion, but I've been feeling a lot of it lately.

MORE: The parts that the New York Times deemed not fit to print. It really is appalling.

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Early morning tab dump 

Booting up Firefox this morning, I remembered that I had left open a bunch of interesting tabs.

Don't call Warren Buffett on his cell phone, at least if you are trying to get him to rescue Lehman Brothers. Goddamn.

The United States, even in the age of Obama, is apparently insufficiently panicked over rising atmospheric carbon dioxide. The Europeans are convinced that the planet is screwed beyond redemption if CO2 does not start declining by 2015, a mere six years away. Apparently our insistence on a less centralized approach to greenhouse gas regulation is getting in the way of that.

Why did evolution come up with depression? "Natural selection wants us to be crazy -- at least a little bit."

Be a virtual tattoo artist. Just not in the office, or at least not my office, since your canvass is, well, rather generous female cleavage.

Props to NPR for covering the stinging of ACORN (and embedding the video), but why label the journalists who broke this story "right-of-center"? Because "non-right-of-center" journalists would not even have tried?

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A movie recommendation: Leaving Barstow 

If you like quiet, thoughtful films, I very much recommend renting or buying the award-winning indy coming-of-age film Leaving Barstow, and not just because its producer is our old friend Madelon Smith. I've been carrying it around in my bag for a couple of weeks planning to see it on a plane, but ended up watching it in the serenity of my den while quaffing a couple of cold pale ales. The writer and lead actor, Kevin Sheridan, is going to have a great career. Here's a nice review on Amazon.

The link above takes you to the film's web site, where you can get a sense for the movie and see the awards it has won, and the link below (obviously) takes you to the page on Amazon.

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News you can use 

The "real" reasons women have sex (with you).

CWCID: Linkiest.

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We blushes 

Once again, our honors far exceed our talents. Thank you, Mr. Hawkins.

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"Law Date" 

Are you actually looking to meet, date, and perhaps mate a lawyer? 'Nuf said.

Guys, check out the gender ratio.

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Credit were credit is due 

Because fair is fair, I agree with Escort81 and other bloggers of the America first persuasion that President Obama ought to get our support for having explicitly ordered Special Forces into Somalia to whack Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of the really bad guys. More of that, and faster, please.

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Lunch hour public service announcement 

We'd be letting you, our esteemed readers, down if we failed to link to Amazon's "Top Ten" deals in electronics. Spend freely, because your dollars won't be worth nearly this much in the future!

I got one of these at a great price, actually. Love the orange.

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Its melting! Less! 

In a bit of good news that the media will not celebrate, we have reached the boreal summer Arctic sea ice "minimum" and it is above each of the last two years. Yes, it is still low and weather is not climate, but why doesn't the media make as much note of improvements as deterioration?

I think we all know the answer.

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Creepy, or cool? 

Andrew Sullivan thinks this ad promoting American football in Germany is "cool." Maybe, but I suspect that most Americans would regard it as more creepy than cool. That it was developed by Germans to appeal to Germans says a lot about, well, Germans.

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Rounding out the tea party coverage 

In the category of "parody czars," the Boob Czar is, er, racking up her 15 minutes of well-deserved fame.

Boob Czar!

More here.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Nabhan bites the dust 

Fox News reports on a successful Special Operations raid in Somalia:
"Navy Seals from US Special Operations Forces conducted a raid in southern Somalia on Monday that killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of 4 co-conspirators wanted in the 2002 bombing of an Israel owned hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, two senior U.S. military officials told Fox News.

"Ten days ago President Obama signed the Execute Order for Nabhan, who since 2006 was on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists. He was also wanted for the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Kenya in 1998."
While there was not much enthusiasm from commenters here for giving credit to President Obama after the pirate standoff ended, since there was some question about whether the White House specifically authorized force in April or simply permitted the ROEs to stay in place (after some delay), the signing of an EO in this case leaves little doubt. So, props to President Obama for approving the whacking of this terrorist.


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Patrick Swayze has died, and a poll 

Patrick Swayze has died at age 57 of pancreatic cancer, a terrible disease that few people survive. His work was defined by four very different movies, each of which has a passionate and even cult following, a remarkable professional achievement for a dancer. Take the TigerHawk Patrick Swayze poll in his honor.

Which iconic Patrick Swayze movie was indisputably the "best"?
"Dirty Dancing"
"Red Dawn"
"Road House"
Free polls from Pollhost.com

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Obama more popular in Western Europe than Eastern Europe 

President Barack Obama is not unpopular in Eastern European countries, but instead of a 90% approval rating, he's at 67% in four countries, as AP reports:
"Czechs feel betrayed, Poles irked, Romanians slighted. Ask them who's to blame, and the answer may come as a surprise: President Barack Obama.

"George W. Bush fawned over Eastern Europe, and its leaders rushed to join his post-9/11 'coalition of the willing.' Now many — officials and ordinary citizens alike — are grumbling over what they perceive as the Obama administration's neglect...

"...Two in three Bulgarians, Czechs, Poles and Romanians approve of Obama's foreign policy, according to a survey published earlier this month by the German Marshall Fund, a nonpartisan policy group. That may seem robust, but it pales in comparison to backing for Obama in Western Europe, where nine in 10 respondents support him."
This hardly qualifies as a crisis for the Obama administration or the State Department. From the standpoint of Eastern Europeans, they probably want to know that their leaders can lobby someone in Washington the next time some Putin-approved Russian oligarch tries to jack up contractually fixed natural gas prices during a cold winter (good luck with that, by the way).

But a 90% foreign policy approval rating in Western Europe? That borders on worship, and has to be among the highest figures ever attained by a sitting U.S. President. I just wish I could be sure that it is entirely a good thing, in the sense that if 90% of Western Europeans liked any one particular person or thing from America, that would make me question it (Jerry Lewis comes to mind, since we are just past Labor Day). I would imagine that President Obama could serve in some senior capacity in the EU once his years of service here are completed. I do not know his language skills beyond English, but I don't think that he would run across any, er, citizenship controversies.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

The health care "reformers" go after medical technology 

[Bumped all day Sunday. Scroll down for more recent posts.]

As we have long predicted on this blog, the health care "reformers" propose to finance at least part of the "savings" or new benefits -- it is impossible to know which -- by decreasing the rate of return on medical technology. There are many ways in which this might be done, but the Senate Democrats are proposing to do so directly, by levying a "value added tax" on medical device companies according to their proportion of U.S. sales. This tax would be without regard to profitability, so it would amount to a capital tax on start-ups and a massive income tax surcharge on profitable companies, varying as net margins do. In the case of my own mid-sized company, the tax would be the equivalent of a roughly 20% surcharge on our net income (in all likelihood raising our economic tax rate well above 50%) or 50% of our research and development budget, depending on how you want to look at it.

Any way you look at it, the proposed tax is a calculated effort to divert capital from the medical technology industry to other uses in the economy, because new medical technology drives costs that are now going to be assumed by the government (or at least will be if the Senate leadership gets its way). Of course, innovative medtech also extends and saves lives, and makes them more comfortable and more productive. Which is, after all, the point of medicine.

Our industry association, ADVAMED (which not surprisingly is not fighting the Obama administration on the concept of reform), has distributed some talking points, and created on an online form that you can use to express your displeasure to your elected representatives. I've reproduced the talking points below, and hope that you click through the link and make your opinion known. Even if you support health care "reform" and the attendant massive new expenditures, should not the financial burden be spread across the economy rather than specifically trashing the incentive to innovate new medical technology?

Medical Device and Diagnostics Value Added Tax

The Senate Finance Committee is contemplating a $40 billion excise tax on medical device and diagnostics products.  AdvaMed strongly supports the Committee's health care reform efforts and has worked cooperatively with Congressional leaders to advance the goals of health care reform; however this medical device tax is bad policy that AdvaMed opposes. 

It is our understanding that the proposed tax would be levied upon all manufacturers of medical device and diagnostics products as defined by the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.  Under that definition, as many as 80,000 products currently sold in the US would be taxed ranging from toothbrushes to eyeglasses to condoms to stethoscopes to syringes to blood pressure monitors to hospital beds to artificial heart valves to pacemakers to advanced diagnostic equipment.   The tax would apply regardless of the size of the company or their profitability.  Recent independent estimates indicate annual domestic sales of these products at approximately $131 Billion.  A domestic market of that size would require a tax rate of roughly 3.1%, which, depending on the company, would be roughly the equivalent of a 10-30% income tax surcharge.  Such a rate would dramatically increase the overall effective rate of manufacturers, and, in turn, constrain resources used for research and development, investment in physical manufacturing capacity, and jobs.

The excise tax on medical products is bad policy.

  • The tax will raise health care costs. It would be assessed against thousands of products ranging from eyeglasses to stethoscopes to a hospital beds to artificial heart valves to advanced diagnostic equipment. Such a tax would in turn increase costs for consumers, physician practices, hospitals, and patients.. While on paper it may help balance a Congressional Budget Office scorecard, the real effect will be to raise health care costs-exactly the opposite of a key goal of health reform.

  • This tax is counterproductive and burdensome for patients. Much of this $40 billion tax will end up being passed on to patients, especially patients who are the sickest and need complex, high cost technology. It does not make sense to finance health reform by taxing the countless products necessary to treat every patient who walks through the doors of a physician's office, hospital, or nursing home. Bearing the burden of illness is tough enough on patients and their families; but to financially penalize patients for their efforts to get better seems particularly wrong.

  • Medical device and diagnostics companies will be contributing as a result of other parts of the health care reform bill, and this tax amounts to a double hit for one industry. The device and diagnostic industries are not generally paid directly by the government, insurers or patients. Instead, we are suppliers to providers who are paid for services. The hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts in the bill for device and diagnostic industry customers like hospitals, nursing homes, clinical laboratories and home health agencies will be passed on to our industry roughly in proportion to our share of their costs. Loading a special device and diagnostic tax on top of the cuts that will already hit our industry is unfair.

  • There is no device and diagnostics industry windfall from healthcare reform. Proponents of the tax argue that the device industry will benefit from expanded coverage by gaining additional customers, and the excise tax is a fair way for the industry to repay some of this windfall. This argument doesn't hold water. The device industry benefits less from expanded coverage than most other segments of the health care industry, since the newly insured are, on average, younger, healthier, and relatively low users of devices relative to other types of medical care. Companies making products used for the Medicare population will see reduced revenue growth as hospitals react to the substantial Medicare cuts in the bill. On the flip side, these same companies will see only limited volume increases because their patients are mostly over 65 and already insured through Medicare.

  • The medical products tax places an unfair burden on small businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of the device industry and the source of many of the most novel, cutting edge new treatments and cures. There are more than 6,000 medical device companies in the U.S. Less than 5 percent have sales of over $100 million annually. The tax will hit these small companies especially hard, since some have no profits and almost all rely entirely on domestic sales for their revenues.

  • The medical products tax ignores the impact of health system reform on the device industry. The device industry is highly competitive and has kept prices quite low. Overall, prices for devices and diagnostics have increased at one-quarter the rate of other medical prices and one-half the rate of the consumer price index. The device industry supports reforms that will have a substantial impact on utilization of its products and on its contribution to health costs, including value-based purchasing, pay for performance, comparative effectiveness research, preventive health and other measures to change the incentives in the system toward quality and efficiency. In addition, devices have high costs of production. A gain in volume adds up to a much smaller gain in profits. A $4 billion a year excise tax may account for as much as one-sixth of total industry profits, which will have a significant dampening affect on funding available for future research and development.

If you agree, please tell your Senators and Representative to stop trying to take the profit out of new medical technology.

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