Work and medicine have destroyed late week blogging. Nobody cares about work and for those who care about medicine it looks like I am only a good TB-test and EKG away from acceptance in the Ocrelizumab trial. I proved I was sick enough with an MRI and sufficient documented relapses. Then I proved I was well enough, scoring a 6.0 on the EDSS test. I once asked somebody if higher numbers were better or worse, and in a light-hearted moment, he confided in me that 0.0 means you're fine; ten means your dead. I'm always happy to do better than 10.0. Anyway, all that's left is to prove I don't have some non-MS problem that would make participation dangerous or cloud my results.
I don't like links without comments, but Kim Strassel, who first caught the SCHIP expansion as "Hillary Care on the Installment Plan" has an important piece today on how the government grab for nationalized health care is purposely coming faster than it can be opposed. Scary and true.
For a little fun on Friday, here's a great quote from the Car Lust Blog on the 69-73 Dodge Polara
The Polara name seems to be virtually unknown nowadays outside of Mopar enthusiast groups, but there was a time when Polaras were famous--or, perhaps, infamous--as huge, bellowing police cars. Most police cruisers fail to live up to the cachet promised by the "interceptor" name, but Polaras were normal police cars just like Dirty Harry was a normal policeman. Like Harry Callahan, the Polara stood for justice but not necessarily for fairness; it upheld the law in the most brutish, intimidating, and outrageously effective manner possible.
MoPar heads around here (you know who you are) will want to read the whole thing. I'm hearing the line from Blues Brothers: "It's got cop shocks, cop suspension, cop tires, a cop motor..."
Good news: No GOP members vote for it! A new bipartisan era has not come to Washington!
WASHINGTON - In a swift victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House approved a historically huge $819 billion stimulus bill Wednesday night with spending increases and tax cuts at the heart of the young administration's plan to revive a badly ailing economy.
The vote was 244-188, with Republicans unanimous in opposition despite Obama's pleas for bipartisan support. Eleven Democrats voted against the measure, while no Republicans supported it.
"We don't have a moment to spare," Obama declared at the White House as congressional allies hastened to do his bidding in the face of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
MSNBC doesn't push the shut-out angle, but Mister Brutally Honest does. Awesome on stilts!
Barack Obama promised to end the "politics of division," unite Washington's factions and overcome partisanship. And what do you know -- so far he has: The President's stimulus plan generated bipartisan House opposition, with every Republican and 11 Democrats voting against it on Wednesday. It passed 244-188. -- WSJ Ed Page
As blog pragmatist, I try to defend the GOP's slim commitment to liberty as being better than none on the other side. But, then you get Rep. Peter King and some children to protect:
Smile, say cheese and hold that pose till you hear the 'click'. A new bill introduced in the Congress by New York Republican Rep. Peter King requires mobile phones with digital cameras "to make a sound" when a photograph is taken.
The move is part of the 'Camera Phone Predator Alert Act' and the idea is to ensure privacy and safety of the public, especially children, claims the bill.
Instead of fighting over what should go in the economic stimulus bill, pitting infrastructure spending against tax cuts and contractors against contraceptives, they say lawmakers should be fighting against the very idea of any economic stimulus at all. Call them the Do-Nothing Crowd.
President Coolidge famously asserted that if ten problems are coming down the road at you, nine will roll into the ditch without intervention. I miss silent Cal.
From John Cochrane, economist at the University of Chicago, courtesy of Don Luskin. It's hard to argue with any of them. For a taste, here's number two:
Second, investment is "spending" every bit as much as consumption. Fiscal stimulus advocates want money spent on consumption, not saved. They evaluate past stimulus programs by whether people who got stimulus money spent it on consumption goods rather save it. But the economy overall does not care if you buy a car, or if you lend money to a company that buys a forklift.
Words failed me when I read Yale's Robert Schiller's guest editorial in the WSJ this morning. Schiller is taking the Bidenesque position that the most important thing about the stimulus is its ginormousness.
So what must we do to revive our animal spirits and economic growth? We must be certain that programs to solve the current financial and economic crisis are large enough, and targeted broadly enough, to impact public confidence. Not only do we need a fiscal stimulus significantly greater than the proposal that is currently on the table, government action is also needed to take the place of the credit markets that seemingly worked so well when animal spirits were high.
I bristle at the notion of encouraging our illustrious legislative branch to make sure they spend enough. And I was going to write a serious, witty and trenchant reply. Thankfully for all concerned, Professor N. Gregory Mankiw (from Team Hahvaad) did it for me:
I think a lot of economists would agree with that. The question is what it would take to make people more confident. Bob thinks that confidence would rise if the government borrowed more and spent more. Other economists think that confidence would rise if the government committed itself to, say, lower taxes on capital income. The sad truth is that we economists don't know very much about what drives the animal spirits of economic participants. Until we figure it out, it is best to be suspicious of any policy whose benefits are supposed to work through the amorphous channel of "confidence."
But I have to say, this lead is clear and accurate:
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama wants automakers to make greener cars at a time when General Motors and Chrysler are hanging by the thread of a massive government loan and auto sales have plummeted to their lowest levels in more than two decades.
Obama's plans could bring smaller cars, more hybrids and advanced fuel-saving technologies to showrooms, but car shoppers will probably pay more upfront because the new rules are expected to cost the hamstrung industry billions of dollars.
Tell it like it is! I thought I was reading the Washington Times...
Blog Brother AlexC finds some interesting weather news for his area:
The average or medium temperature of this month was 44 degrees This is the mildest month of January on record. Fogs prevailed very much in the morning but a hot sun soon dispersed them and the mercury often ran up to 70 in the shade at mid day. Boys were often seen swimming in the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers.
From Charles Pierce's records, the average January temperature in Philadelphia from 1790-1819 was 31.2F. According to USHCN records from 2000-2006 (the last year available from USHCN) and Weather Underground records from 2007-2009, the average January temperature in Philadelphia for the last ten years has been 29.8 degrees, or 1.4 degrees cooler than the period 1790-1819. January, 2009 has been colder than any January during the presidencies of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, or Monroe. January 2003 and 2004 were both considerably colder than any January during the terms of the first five presidents of the US.
In other local weather news, our Minnesota contingent will be pleased to hear that it was unpleasantly cold in Erie, CO for today's dog walk and it should dip below zero tonight.
I saw this on the local news last night. Anecdotal though it may be, I present it as evidence that we're not really living in 1932.
People are so stressed by the recession that they are taking a day off work to go skiing. I don't remember Tom Joad doing that. Of course, I'm not saying that there are no real economic difficulties (that would get me kicked out of the McCain campaign) but we need to be a little more realistic about comparing our difficulties to previous generations'.
Vice President Biden informed ABC News that "Everyone . . . says the scope of this package has to be bold. It has to be big." Everyone? Hardly. More than 100 prominent economists signed a petition against the stimulus package, and more than 200 signed a petition against the financial bailout.
I had a very fun IM conversation with a good friend and former employee of mine in Ireland last week. He can be counted on to take the stock, European, BBC view on things. He is well informed in that he watches documentaries instead of "Dancing with the Stars" but, like an American NPR or PBS devotee, he gets inculcated in a single view.
He knows I supported President Bush. In fact I was quite the celebrity in my day. Britons and Irish were assured that all of Bush's supporters were buckteethed, Southern evangelicals who were married to their sisters. I had many enjoyable pub yells where respectful folks were truly amazed to hear any argument for President Bush that wasn't "Jesus told me to vote for him."
Anyways, after casual hellos, my friend asked what I thought of our new President. I gave him the "cautiously optimistic but concerned" line you've heard from me around here. He concedes that President Obama is "just a politician" who won't change much, but he is on board for all the promises. "What would you like to see him change?" asks me.
First was to sign Kyoto, second was some amorphous "fix foreign policy" and third was to close Gitmo. This guy is a devout Muslim and has a PhD. He saw some documentary that the residents of Trinidad and Tobago are all relocating off the islands because of global warming. He says parts of Ireland are submerged and that large numbers of people have already lost their homes to climate change. Perhaps a few episodes of "Dancing with the Stars" would be better for my friend. He firmly believes that the residents of Caribbean islands are losing their homes so that Americans can drive SUVs. And nobody cares because the unfortunate are not white and the fortunate are.
I disputed every element of his story and said if did believe it, that the Kyoto treaty would be worthless in stopping it. I said that the US had lowered CO2 emissions through technology and efficiency and complained that most signatories had not been able to meet their modest goals. He disputed that but finally conceded that it was all irrelevant because of India and China.
It's Sunday, there's no football, so I provided that long personal intro. This post is actually about Kyoto. Like VP Gore who flies in private jets and rides in limousines and lives in a mansion, the good people of Germany have coal plants to produce their electricity. And like the VP, they buy indulgences -- er "carbon credits" -- to compensate. The Germans "buy" a hydroelectric dam in China. What does the good, grün, Deutscher Mann get for his Euros? Displaced families, dubious environmental controls and no real reduction of emissions:
But in the end the new Xiaoxi dam may do nothing to lower global-warming emissions as advertised. And many of the 7,500 people displaced by the project still seethe over losing their homes and farmland.
"Nobody asked if we wanted to move," said a 38-year-old man whose family lost a small brick house. "The government just posted a notice that said, 'Your home will be demolished.'"
The dam will shortchange German consumers, Chinese villagers and the climate itself, if critics are right. And Xiaoxi is not alone.
My friend -- again a nice guy and very bright -- just can't wait for America to sign up for this global boondoggle.
I have proudly defended McDonalds Corporation and its restaurants. I defended them from Jose Bove's French anti-globalist thuggery. I defended them against the absolute nonsense of Morgan Spurlock's ill-premised "SuperSize Me." I defended them against coffee snobs. No, it's not the world's best cappuccino but I welcome a new ubiquitous drive-thru source.
I planned to take advantage today, for the first time, of the confluence of WiFi and coffee at the golden arches. I brought my new mini notebook and had 45 minutes to kill. After I had ordered my McCuccino, I asked about the WiFi, and found out that it is $2.95 for a two hour block. Rats.
Maybe Speaker Pelosi could pass a... Of course, they can do what they want but this seems a throwback. They are competing -- based on price -- with institutions that offer free WiFi. I could see the bagel shop across the lot listed as one of the networks. They have a full espresso bar, next time I'm there.
We don't have the quotidianhuckawhack® any more, maybe the Biden Mendacity Watch would be a good feature?
Professor Mankiw asks "Is Joe Biden disingenuous or misinformed?" Our VP asserts:
Every economist, as I've said, from conservative to liberal, acknowledges that direct government spending on a direct program now is the best way to infuse economic growth and create jobs.
Mankiw mentions that the statement is "clearly false" and enumerates several prominent economists who do not acknowledge.
What so disturbs me about Biden is this capacity for bald faled lies. He says things that you know he knows are untrue. When the facts are brought up the conservatives and liberals in the press say "Oh Joe's just being Joe. You know how he is." I'm sorry, that's not good enough. It should be a big deal every time the Vice President of the United States tells an untruth.
As far as "disingenuous vs. misinformed" I am thinking of a term that rhymes with "Flying Stack of Lit."
President Obama listened to Republican gripes about his stimulus package during a meeting with congressional leaders Friday morning - but he also left no doubt about who's in charge of these negotiations. "I won," Obama noted matter-of-factly, according to sources familiar with the conversation.
Harry Reid is fully on board with the "new tone":
[W]hen Democrats were asked if they were concerned about Republicans blocking the package, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had a swift one-word answer: “No.”
We've already learned that much of Obama's campaign promises were "just rhetoric." Now, we learn that the "post-partisan" matra is also. What we have here, folks, is a new Cynic-in-Chief. Get ready for a long four years.
I watched the first (Keynes vs. Hayek) disc last night and one is astonished to realize this was broadcast on PBS and funded in part by the Pew Trusts and CPB. I bet several thought police lost their jobs over that. (FedEx is listed first, I think Fred Smith may have ponied some dough.)
As enjoyable as it is, it is bittersweet to watch it and think "freedom was winning -- just a few years ago." We seem poised to give all the gains away and return to government controlled economy.
Great, great stuff. If you missed it drop everything and watch it (I think it's available free on pbs.org). If you have, it is a very good time to watch it again. Right before we give the Commanding Heights back to the planners.
Two notes: Firstly, the evil collectivists at Google include Keynes in the spellchecker but not Hayek. Need I say more? Secondly, like reading The Everyday Economist, it reminds that Lord Keynes was not a devil. He was a brilliant figure who gave us much of the science of Economics. He was on the correct side of concern with the Versailles Pact and did not live long enough to really grasp the post-war economies. I'll still take Friedrich August any day of the week, mind you, but Keynes deserves his props.
Well, hell, they knew it was going to be January. If these candyass classicists can't play in the cold, they should have hired some musicians who can. -- Ann Althouse, bummed that "Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman faked it."
I'll laugh put pass on high dudgeon. Too cold for cellos.
I signed up for a new drug trial today. Scary but exciting. This is pretty high octane juice -- if you'll pardon the medical jargon -- but I have not had much luck with less aggressive treatments.
I have not been accepted yet but I appear to meet most of the qualifications and requirements. As I was assigned a spot today, I should start treatment within 28 days unless something comes up that disqualifies me. I was warned that the treatments aren't very fun but compared to the daily/weekly shots I was on for three years, they are very few. More of my visits are for monitoring.
Think a good thought for me. I took six months off after my previous trial and got to like doing nothing very much.
I never got anywhere with the acronyms I tried to coin, but I've got a winner here. Hang with me. Steve Chapman writes on the Reason blog:
We all know how we got into this economic mess. We spent too much, borrowed with abandon, and acted like the bills would never come due. So what's the prescription for getting out? Spending more, borrowing more, and acting like the bills will never come due.
The piece is pretty good and worth a read. But he violates Kranz's Law in the lead paragraph. Kranz's Law dictates that:
Any sentence which begins with "We all know how we got into this" will always end with an incorrect description of how we got into this.
Is Chapman wrong? I think he oversimplifies at the very least. I closed my eyes and heard Senator McCain muttering about "greed and corruption on Wall Street."
Who's this "we" who spent too much, kimosabe? Could he mean rational economic actors who took advantage of negative real interest rates and easy credit to purchase goods? Young minority families who escaped public housing and got their own home thanks to a sub-prime loan? The post is in Reason and not The Nation, but the call to reduce consumption can fit either place.
No mention of Fannie and Fred, the Greenspan Fed, or the Community Reinvestment Act. A bunch of stupid people who bought wide-screen TVs and thought the bills would never come due. The Nation or Reason? Well, it's Reason and he makes a good point about the similarities between the proposed solutions to the problem and the problem itself.
Yet I hold Kranz's Law to be inviolate. We "got into this mess" with an incalculable combination of variables (borrow the global warming simulatin' machines). We all have some strong feelings but nobody knows how we got here. And I distrust those who are sure they do. Chairman Barney Frank is sure that it is lack of regulatory oversight, McCain is pretty well committed to his "greed and corruption on Wall Street." I'll suggest six or eight factors but I can't put the right weights on each.
Chapman writes a good article and I hate to pile on. But he opens it foolishly. An alert editor should have said "Hey, Steve-O, you're violating Kranz's Law in your lede. Rewrite it"
Blog brother AlexC has wondered whether dissent remains the highest form of patriotism now that a Democrat lives at 1600 Penn. Denver Post writer and half of the last hope of journalism (with John Stossel) David Harsanyi also asks "Is Dissent Still Patriotic?"
Do all Americans truly have a yearning to fundamentally "remake" our nation? There must be a subversive minority out there that still believes the United States -- even with its imperfections and sporadic recessions -- is, in context, still a wildly prosperous and free country worth preserving.
Some of you must still believe that politicians are meant to serve rather than be worshiped. And there must be someone out there who considers partisanship a healthy, organic reflection of our differences rather than something to be surrendered in the name of so- called unity -- which is, after all, untenable, subjective and utterly counterproductive.
How about those who praised dissent for the past eight years?
That, in a nutshell, is my problem with "The Speech." The Speech says that times are so bad that we must look to the new administration to remake this country. And -- like FDR -- that little niceties like Constitutional rights will not get in the way of the effort.
Politics goes on, but I consider that the campaign ends with the Inaugural Address.
I don't want to ask anyone to put their chisels away or anything, but am I the only one who did not think the speech was that good? It is admittedly a failure of high expectations. The dark eight years of monosyllablism were to come to an end at noon on the 20th. A candidate known for gifted oratory was to assume a historic presidency in front of a record crowd.
I think it was one of those 52-10 Super Bowls. The scripted speech tried just a little too hard. Every sentence had an extra adornment. The delivery was good but it wasn't really punctuated with applause lines. I'll admit it was successful in establishing how terrible everything is today, setting a low bar for recovery expectations. He may have used Lincoln's bible but he clearly tried for an FDR address.
Of course I found much to disagree with, that was to be expected ("The debate between big and small government is over" Really?) But I was expecting a more splendid example of oratory.
Please, please, please, don't let Secretary Daschle bring the NHS here:
In Britain, a government agency evaluates new medical products for their "cost effectiveness" before citizens can get access to them. The agency has concluded that $45,000 is the most worth paying for products that extend a person's life by one "quality-adjusted" year. (By their calculus, a year combating cancer is worth less than a year in perfect health.)
Here in the U.S., President-elect Barack Obama and House Democrats embrace the creation of a similar "comparative effectiveness" entity that will do research on drugs and medical devices. They claim that they don't want this to morph into a British-style agency that restricts access to medical products based on narrow cost criteria, but provisions tucked into the fiscal stimulus bill betray their real intentions.
Yet another bad idea from the past gets dusted off as the economy contracts. A good friend of the blog sends a link to an article discussing the return of the"Buy American" movement in Michigan.
"If people continue to buy foreign cars, this won't be America for long."
'Out of a Job Yet? Keep buying foreign!' Ford production workers Tony Saputo, left, of Macomb Township and Brian Pannebecker of Shelby Township hold bumper-sticker magnets that Saputo created to discourage foreign car purchases. They sell for $3 at labor rallies.
The Free Press article makes a valiant (I once owned a Valiant...) effort to at least address the complexity of globalization, noting that Toyota and Nissan operate design centers and battery plants in Detroit. Author John Gallagher is balanced and concludes that most people are fixed in their buying habits and preferences.
But it is disturbing that these ideas are gaining currency. The big three made some money between '78 and '08 by building what people wanted (even though they were often evil SUVs) these appeals are economically stupid and are bound to have less appeal today after successful integration of global products, US manufactured Toyotas Hondas and Subarus, and the unpopularity of the automotive bailout.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Joe Biden's wife said Monday that he had his pick of being Barack Obama's running mate or the secretary of state nomination that eventually went to Hillary Rodham Clinton, a slip that the vice president-elect immediately tried to shush.
Jill Biden's comment came during an appearance with her husband on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," taped at Washington's Kennedy Center on the eve of the inauguration.
"Joe had the choice to be secretary of state or vice president," she said. Her husband turned to his wife with his finger to his lips and a "Shhhh!" that sent the audience into laughter. "OK, he did," Jill Biden said in her defense.
The vice president-elect blushed, grimaced and gave his wife a hug while the audience continued to erupt in laughter. "That's right," he finally said to his wife. "Go ahead."
I speak for administrative efficiency, for lightened tax burdens, for sound commercial practices, for adequate credit facilities, for sympathetic concern for all agricultural problems, for the omission of unnecessary interference of Government with business, for an end to Government's experiment in business, and for more efficient business in Government administration.
Not bad, eh? It's from Warren Gamaliel Harding's 1921 address, and it makes it onto this blog, courtesy of Don Luskin who thanks ThreeSources friend Perry Eidlebus. Perry found it on the LiveSciences website, which "chronicles the daily advances and innovations made in science and technology."
Harding took some licks on these very pages awhile back. I post these for careful consideration of his rehabilitation. And I would bet you a 1921 US Dollar that it is better than anything you'll hear tomorrow.
I confess I never accepted his anti-slavery reading of the Constitution, but his influence on the abolitionist movement and his guidance on jury nullification make him a hero to all who cherish freedom.
I tease when I have jury duty that I will wear a "Lysander Spooner Died For Your Sins" T-Shirt. That should ensure that I am home by 9:30. But seriously, last time I went in I was not selected but I would have had to swear to an outright lie to be accepted on a jury.
Watching the playoffs on TV like my beloved Broncos, I have to admit I was rooting for a pan-Pennsylvania Super Bowl. I wanted to watch the frenzy of our Keystone State blog brothers and commenters. And I salute the Steelers on their solid victory.
But Jerry Bowyer takes to the WSJ Ed Page today to look at a dark side of the city that surrounds the confluence of the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio Rivers. And the cities that lost.
If there ever was a time to crow about the wonders of rebuilding a city around a professional sports team, this would be it. Three of the four teams remaining in the play-offs hail from cities -- Baltimore, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh -- that in recent years spent billions rebuilding their downtowns around pro sports facilities and other community "anchors."
Except that there's a problem. The teams might be competitive, but the cities definitely are not. All three continue to shrink in population, and have stagnant job markets and crumbling public schools.
My hometown actually appeared to have pulled this off. Denver built three new downtown stadia in the 90s, and formerly skid row addresses now house half-million dollar lofts. Downtown used to empty at 5:00 PM and it is now a happening scene where you have to worry more about traffic and parking than getting mugged.
It even fooled me. Now I realize that it mostly coincidental. The city was growing thanks to good tax and regulation policies which attracted business and workers from other areas. And a lot of private investment in housing and entertainment was fueling the urban renewal. I should not suggest that the stadia did not help. Coincidence may be too strong a word, but many residents are convinced that public spending restored the area. I am guessing they are the same people who are certain that FDR's collectivism ended the depression.
We talked about meritocracy. Football teams are judged on their records, and cities and states must ultimately be judged on their migration. Boyer points out this sad fact:
I argued that the franchise was an exercise in leadership excellence in a city whose politicians were anything but. Numerous callers hammered me. They said there are a lot of "Steelers" bars across the country, and that proved the city still had some national respect. Indeed, there are hundreds of watering holes dispersed across America loaded with fanatical devotes of the Pittsburgh Steelers. "Where are the Seahawks bars?" the callers asked.
In Seattle, of course. That city has gained population while Pittsburgh lost it. Steelers bars are the visible cultural artifact of a kind of economic diaspora.
I asked some friends about opening a Michigan bar in the Boulder area. Everybody talks about the Californians, but there is a sizable Michigan diaspora. And the state boasts enough sports teams to fill a few bar TVs.
I want to end with a suggestion that I am not being smug. New political leadership is working hard to bring all the things that have damaged Philly, Pittsburgh and Detroit here. We'll join you soon!
I hope the Obama Administration will look back fondly at the ThreeSources Honeymoon, when we were kind, fair, and hopeful about our 44th President. "Yeah, jk, that was the best 24 1/2 minutes of my life..."
Seriously, I'm pretty upbeat and my optimism was further fueled by Collin Levy's piece on the Blue Dog Democrats. President-elect Obama seems determined not to let Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid drive policy; he may find important allies in the Blue Dogs.
Indeed, the way the Blue Dogs flex their muscle may become one of the defining issues of the Obama administration's opening months. If they are inclined to wrangle with Nancy Pelosi and the more liberal contingent in the Democratic Party, they will drive policy, especially as a check on spending. "Ideally the White House will see things our way, so they will present legislation on the Hill that we find acceptable," Mr. Cooper says. "If they stray too much from that or if a certain part of Congress strays too much from that, then we may have to object."
The whole piece is superb. Republicans might find their best path is to find common ground with the Blue Dogs. They would have the numbers to govern from the center, and the next four years might be pretty good.
I remain cautiously optimistic about the President-elect, but I'm not so sure about our 47th VP. Luckily, he is confident enough in his own abilities for the both of us:
He said he would bring more to the job than any of his predecessors, except possibly Lyndon B. Johnson. “I know as much or more than Cheney,” Mr. Biden said. “I’m the most experienced vice president since anybody.”
Mr. Biden, who plans to resign his Senate seat Thursday, has focused on building a relationship with Mr. Obama, nearly two decades his junior. When he accepted the second slot on the Democratic ticket, Mr. Biden requested several things, including a weekly luncheon with the president, full access for him and his staff and freedom to range across all areas rather than being “siloed” in a handful of policy areas. Mr. Obama agreed.
Anybody? John Adams? Aaron Burr? Schuyler Colfax? TR? I'm in the middle of a book on Martin Van Buren and he outshines "the Senator from Baja Pennsylvania*" by a significant margin.
The VP-elect admits that maybe Lyndon Johnson (like his policies or not, he was a lion of the U.S. Senate) was maybe kinda sorta almost in Biden's league. How much of this is outrageous arrogance and how much is a complete lack of historical knowledge? The Vice Presidency is a funny job and VP Adams, Marshall, and Garner all famously lampooned their own office. But the office has been held by some political giants. And the newest occupant would do well to adopt some of his boss's humility.
Yeah, that Thomas Jefferson was an okay fellow but he was no Joe Biden!
* Hat-tips: Instapundit for the link and our pals at PA Water Cooler for the sobriquet "Senator from Baja Pennsylvania" great stuff.
President-elect Obama was not just sucking up to conservatives. It seems to be a strategy:
So having won the election without wooing the press, what is Obama's new press strategy?
Courtship! On Tuesday night, Obama dined at George F. Will's house with name-brand conservatives Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, William Kristol, Paul Gigot, Peggy Noonan, Michael Barone, and Larry Kudlow. The liberal commentariat got their audience the next day, when Obama met with Eugene Robinson, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, E.J. Dionne, and others at his transition headquarters. As I write, he's touring the Washington Post, where he was interviewed by the paper's editorial board and its White House team.
An unexpectedly keen view from Nicholas Kristof in the NYTimes. He suggests if you are raising a child in a Cambodian garbage dump, a job in a "sweatshop" does not look so bad.
I’m glad that many Americans are repulsed by the idea of importing products made by barely paid, barely legal workers in dangerous factories. Yet sweatshops are only a symptom of poverty, not a cause, and banning them closes off one route out of poverty. At a time of tremendous economic distress and protectionist pressures, there’s a special danger that tighter labor standards will be used as an excuse to curb trade.
When I defend sweatshops, people always ask me: But would you want to work in a sweatshop? No, of course not. But I would want even less to pull a rickshaw. In the hierarchy of jobs in poor countries, sweltering at a sewing machine isn’t the bottom.
If we started releasing 10, 20, 50, and 100 Trillion Dollar bills, we could honor four new Presidents (Coolidge on the $50T!) I am guessing that Zimbabwe notes probably feature the visage of President Mugabe, which would be fitting. BBC:
Zimbabwe is introducing a Z$100 trillion note, currently worth about US$30 (£20), state media reports.
Other notes in trillion-dollar denominations of 10, 20 and 50 are also being released to help Zimbabweans cope with hyperinflation.
However, the dollarisation of the economy means that few products are available in the local currency
WASHINGTON -- House Democrats Thursday rolled out the details of an $825 billion economic stimulus package to combat what they called "a crisis not seen since the Great Depression," but its immediate economic impact is unclear and the plan faces hurdles before becoming law.
I've whined a little about a dear relative who is devoted to creating a Kucinich-style "Department of Peace." A few days after the election, I realized that the electoral stars had probably aligned and that it's likely this nightmare dream might come true.
Today a good friend emails:
When I heard that Quincy Jones had a petition to call for a Secretary of
the Arts in our new administration, my answer was a resounding YES! I
am sending this because I know you understand the importance of art in
Art is the core of what makes us human beings. Art is the language of
our soul. Art is our true unique gift and legacy.
Art brings out the best in us, makes us stronger and lifts our
spirits. Art has been known to help heal those who have severe
physical ailments as well as those who have spiritual wounds.
Art programs make a difference in our lives; bringing hope, self esteem,
emotional well being and a renewed connection to our spirit and to each
other. "Art can't hurt you."
I recently was proud to learn that I am related to Q. Maybe I should call "cuz" up and speak to him. Why why why do these folks think that because something is "important" government should be involved? The folks at Samizdata have a great riff that "The Ministry of X is established to ruin X." If you think of US Departments, the law seems universal. Education? Energy? I've muttered, sotto voce, that when the US D. of Peace is fully staffed that the Amish and Quakers will be engineering drive-bys.
A federal intelligence court, in a rare public opinion, issued a major ruling validating the power of the president and Congress to wiretap international phone calls and intercept e-mail messages without a specific court order, even when Americans’ private communications may be involved.
The court decision, made in August 2008 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, came in an unclassified, redacted form.
The decision marks the first time since the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program three years ago that an appellate court has addressed the constitutionality of the federal government’s wiretapping powers.
As a professional filmmaker, I have to say I was as stunned as you when I read that the film industry suffered through another lackluster box office year in 2008. The chief reasons for this appear to be the economy and Internet pirates, or possibly that Raisinette ebola scare. Whatever the cause it’s safe to say that it had nothing to do with the screen product, because 2008 was also a landmark year for the kind of ponderous, preachy, high-quality cinema that Americans from Santa Monica to Silverlake are clamoring for. Don’t take my word for it — just look at the record 5,362 awards Hollywood earned from itself last year, up nearly 35% from 2003. Suck on that, stupid box office!
I wanted to excerpt some of his 2009 film synopses, but I wouldn't know where to stop. Great stuff. Hat-tip: Instapundit
Blog friend Josh Hendrickson at the Everyday Economist links to "The Terrible Lessons of TARP" by Barry Ritholtz. Ritholtz is a bright guy and frequent Kudlow & Co. guest. I always considered him the anti-Kudlow. It's surprising they can be on the same show and not disturb the space-time continuum.
Though I tend to fall on the Kudlow side of things, Ritholtz is a serious and smart guy. To provide both sides on CNBC, they always pull up cartoonish bears and leftist political hacks to balance Larry's optimism and general support of the GOP. Ritholtz is neither, but he trends a little bear-ish and has a healthy distrust of politicians of any stripe.
Props complete, but I must disagree with his reasonable and eloquent arguments against TARP. I'll agree with each of his points but he betrays himself in the intro:
What I can say without reservation is that the TARP spending prevented large brokers and banks from going to zero. Since the legislation was passed in the Fall, there has not been a major disruptive bankruptcy.
Sure, the FDIC had to take over a few institutions that were overdue for the long dirt nap anyway, but the sort of market roiling Bear Steans collapse, and the subsequent Q3 Lehman/AIG/CitiGroup disasters have at least stopped.
This is not, to be clear, any declaration that the TARP has been a success. We have avoided financial armageddon, but other than that, it has been an abject failure.
Other than that? Other than doing exactly what it was supposed to do, it was an abject failure.
I certainly suggest you read the whole thing. Again, all his points are correct -- it was ad hoc, capricious and wasteful. Fair cop, guv! Other than avoiding financial Armageddon...
I heartily recommend the Facebook group "Not Evil Just Wrong." A new documentary from the makers of "Mine Your Own Business."
Ann McElhinney posts a link to Chicago Weather and sez: "Nation Freezes as Global Warming President Prepares For Office"
A new record was set Wednesday when Chicago had its ninth consecutive day of measurable snowfall, according to the National Weather Service.
The previous record was eight consecutive days set from Dec. 13 to 20, 1973.
Snowfall records in Chicago date back to 1884.
A wind chill warning has been issued as temperatures as tsmperartures will not reach single digits until Friday.
The forecast for Thursday is: Sunny and cold, with a high near -3. Wind chill values as low as -33. West northwest wind between 10 and 15 mph.
Thursday Night: Clear, with a low around -16. Wind chill values as low as -34. West wind around 10 mph.
Friday: Mostly sunny and cold, with a high near 6. Wind chill values as low as -32. Southwest wind between 5 and 10 mph.
Friday Night: Snow likely. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 5. South southwest wind between 10 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Of course, this is not proof of DAWG-fraud. But, were it unseasonably warm, I'm sure we'd be hearing about it.
UPDATE: David Harsanyi confers:
The carbon footprint of Barack Obama's inauguration could exceed 575 million pounds of CO2. According to the Institute for Liberty, it would take the average U.S. household nearly 60,000 years of naughty ecological behavior to produce a carbon footprint equal to the largest self-congratulatory event in the history of humankind.
The same congressfolk who are now handing out thousands of tickets to this ecological disaster only last year mandated the phased elimination of the incandescent light bulb — a mere carbon tiptoe, if you will.
This anti-Corporate Jet craze has a longer range than a Gulfstream IV.
Chairman Frank wants to make certain that any firm in which the US owns an equity stake is wasting the time of its most valuable leaders in TSA lines:
Meanwhile, Frank introduced legislation with a wide range of restrictions on how the rest of the funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) may be spent.
One provision in Frank’s legislation specifically prohibits companies that own, lease, or hold an ownership stake in private planes from receiving money, unless they can show the Treasury secretary that they are in the process of getting rid of their access to the planes.
Man I can dig the populist angle here. Who wants to subsidize luxury for some loser?
But perhaps Frank should ask why private shareholders "tolerate" such nonsense. I think he'd find that the hourly value of a top CEO and the importance of their communication make the jet a good buy. I hope Frank will next move on to making them wear hairshirts and use ten year old laptops. Make 'em pay Barney -- make those bastards pay!
Hat-tip: Insty, who wonders about Speaker Pelosi's Gulfstream.
[Forty year old Nancy Judd, former Carlos Coyote, Santa Fe's recycling mascot] once spent 400 hours, she says, unspooling cassettes and crocheting the crinkled tape into a fake-fur coat.
As attire, the outfits have their limitations. An evening gown sparkling with 12,000 bits of glass tends to shed; a fitted jacket cut from the vinyl top of a convertible is so well insulated, it doubles as a sweat lodge.
Also, says Ms. Judd, "you can't sit down in any of them."
A good friend of the blog thinks this may be the end of the world as we know it. I'd like to argue, really.
That headline is so lame and obvious, I apologize. But I surprisingly have not seen it.
As I am the last guy left defending President Bush (I'll shut off the lights when I leave...) I am also the last guy with a nice word for TARP, or as it is known around here, "the unconscionable bailout of greedy wall street bastards." You can talk about moral hazard and find me sympathetic, you can go all Senator Durban on me and complain about lack of oversight -- it's a fair cop.
I have but one defense:
Hat-tip: Professor Mankiw who adds "Bloomberg reports that the Ted spread is now below 100 basis points. The Ted spread, the difference between the interest rates on interbank loans and T-bills, is one gauge of how much fear is gripping the financial system. Its decline suggests that the TARP is working and is certainly good news."
The WaPo reports that SecTreas Trainee Geithner had some, as they say in economic circles "'splainin'" to do:
As Treasury Secretary, Geithner would be tasked with directing a mammoth rescue of the nation's economy. President-elect Barack Obama selected him for the post late last year, citing his "unparalleled understanding of our current economic crisis, in all of its depth, complexity and urgency."
But on Tuesday, Geithner appeared before members of the Senate Finance Committee to argue that mistakes on his tax returns early this decade were unintentional and that he has since paid back the $42,702 he owed, including interest.
Hey, it could happen to anybody. I understand Rep. Charlie Rangel's accountant has trouble sometimes. But gosh, fellers, do you ever think that if you made it easier that the newfound productivity might outstimulate the stimulus?
UPDATE: Looks like Insty agrees. And Jim Treacher reminds: "A plumber owed $1,000 in taxes that he didn’t even know about… …and it was headline news!"
For 23 days a year in July, I become a Frenchman. I enjoy the picturesque countryside and struggle to pronounce "le coeur de croix de furre" (Which is not, as I suspected, the mountain of the fur cross, rather the mountain of the cross of iron).
But when the tour ends, I want to go back to freedom. Grand, philosophical John Locke and Thomas Jefferson freedom to be sure. But also, to live in a land where you might get a good idea for a child's toy and sell it on eBay, or at a local independent store. No more.
It seems there were children to protect, and Speaker Pelosi leaped into action:
After last year's scare over contaminated toys made in China, Congress leapt in to require all products aimed at children under 12 years old to be certified as safe and virtually lead-free by independent testing. The burden may be manageable for big manufacturers and retailers that can absorb the costs of discarded inventory and afford to hire more lawyers. Less likely to survive are hundreds of small businesses and craftspeople getting hit with new costs in a down economy.
Starting in February, you'll have to have a gub'mint certificate proving that those little wooden cars you make in you garage are safe for kids. And, you gotta read the whole thing, even bikes and books are subject. Reps. Pelosi and Waxman boasted that they will pulling toys off the shelves.
Maybe I'm not fair to France. I seem to be overly fair to the USA of late. But the mixed-economies of Western Europe embrace guilds and regulation (would the lollipop guild make the toys?) and the idea of being licensed to make toys does not fit with Locke, Jefferson, or the United States.
With apologies to T S Eliot (who would likely have agreed with me) This is the way freedom ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
I was surprised to read that outmigration in California has now eclipsed inmigration.
The Chicago Boyz blog has some thoughts. The whole, short post is great, but here is a sad, true paragraph:
It seems that in post-New Deal America, economic and civil success sow their own seeds of destruction. When things are going good, socialist experimentation seems harmless. A booming economy can pay for increased government spending and an ever-increasing scope of government power. Eventually, however, socialism strangles the economic engine and destroys civil society.
I linked favorably to Matt Labash's dark view of Detroit and traded some emails with blog friend Everyday Economist (short version, the article is a little over the top, but the "little" got shaved down as the thread progressed). Could California really go the same sad way of the Great-Lakes-Industrial cities? I've suggested that Duluth and Buffalo, for all their charms, have a tough sell to new industries based on their weather. California still has the sun and the pretty vistas. But they still have the same political class that will fund "Soft America" on the remnants of a long-past Golden State "Hard America" until harder reality is forced upon them.
Many escaping jobs will find their way to Texas, Nevada, and Colorado. But when the Rust Belt moved, it was not as easy to offshore. A lot of those will find their way out of the United States -- not out of Comparative Advantage, but to escape bad government.
The Wall Street Journal's annual "Index of Economic Freedom," compiled with the Heritage Foundation is out this week. It provides a stark reminder -- contra Arianna Huffington -- that free market capitalism is not dead.
The positive correlation between economic freedom and national income is confirmed yet again by this year's data. The freest countries enjoy per capita incomes over 10 times higher than those in countries ranked as "repressed." This year, for the first time, the Index also correlates economic freedom with important societal values like poverty reduction, human development, political freedom and environmental protection. The linkages are robust, with economically freer countries performing significantly better on every indicator of well-being.
Click through to see the whole list, but the top 10: Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, Denmark, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom are rewarded pretty handsomely with per-capita GDP in exchange for the freedom they offer.
The bottom of the list is at least as illustrative: North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Burma. Eritrea, Venezuela, Congo, Comoros, Libya. In the write up, Terry Miller wonders if we want to trade our principles for Cuba's after a couple of bad quarters, or if we should "dance with the one that brung ya:"
[former Texas Longhorn coach Darrell] Royal meant that even when faced with daunting new challenges, one would be well advised not to abandon a winning formula that had already brought success. That is good advice as the United States and other economies face the daunting task of restoring economic growth.
The "party" in this case is the six decades of increasing prosperity that the world has enjoyed since the end of World War II. U.S. Gross Domestic Product was about $1.6 trillion in 1947 (valued in 2000 dollars), a little over $11,000 for every man, woman and child. In 2007, it was $11.5 trillion, or about $38,000 per capita. That's almost a doubling of average incomes each generation, made possible by the free market's efficiency in allocating capital and labor.
This is how you lose liberty. If an FBI agent looks at a terrorist's library records or Larry Flint has to pay additional postage for child pornography over 12 ounces, there will be PBS specials and cover stories in the weeklies. And I'm fine with that, of course. If we want to establish an absolutist, zero-tolerance appreciation for our liberties, you can sign me up.
What chaps my hide is that these brave defenders are nowhere to be found when our First Amendment rights to political speech are threatened by McCain-Feingold, Second Amendment rights completely stripped by gun legislation, or our sacred Fifth Amendment right to contract is decimated by a do-gooder Congress. The WSJ Ed Page has an important piece today discussing "cramdowns" or allowing bankruptcy judges to change the terms of mortgage contracts. On one hand, this is a very bad idea:
[Sixteen House Democrats who opposed a similar bill] realized that the consequences would fall hardest on those hoping to buy a home, if markets logically respond by setting mortgage interest rates closer to those on, for example, auto loans or credit cards. A bankruptcy judge is now free to reduce amounts owed on many types of consumer debt. For mortgages, the iron-clad requirement to pay off the loan or lose the house is precisely to encourage lower rates on a less risky investment.
Defending the right to contract has a bad history because it was an effective legal defense of slavery and its use in Lochner v. New York preventing labor ordinances. But we didn't stop using airplanes because of 9/11. It is not only a fundamental right, it is also the foundation of our innovation and prosperity.
The incoming class will happily shred (I'm auditioning for a Kos slot) this right for cheap political gain. Not many people will pay attention. But, pretty soon, when you have to be a "Friend of Angelo" to get a loan, we will find that a key instrument that allowed us to live a free life (cf. Martini in "It's a Wonderful Life") is gone.
A good friend of ThreeSources sends a link to a Newsweek article. Referring to my post yesterday, alert reader sez "This is how he gets away with it. Guys that have been calling Bush and Cheney evil for seven years are now doing some sort of Orwellian two step providing fig leaves for the Changer in Chief." [Yes, I've tried to sign up his- or her-pithiness as a blogger for some time...]
It's not like when Bush and Cheney were doing it, kids, the new administration understands:
Obama, who has been receiving intelligence briefings for weeks, already knows what a scary world it is out there. It is unlikely he will wildly overcorrect for the Bush administration's abuses. A very senior incoming official, who refused to be quoted discussing internal policy debates, indicated that the new administration will try to find a middle road that will protect civil liberties without leaving the nation defenseless. But Obama's team has some strong critics of the old order, including his choice for director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, who has spoken out strongly against coercive interrogation methods.
I love that a senior administration official did not want to be quoted saying that they would balance civil liberties without leaving the nation "defenseless." Wow, who'd've thought there was a middle ground? These guys really are smart.
Read the whole thing if you dare. It's loaded with Newsweek-smug-smirk. And yet, they are praising the new Administration for continuing the same policies that they have called evil for five years.
The flaw of the Bush-Cheney administration may have been less in what it did than in the way it did it—flaunting executive power, ignoring Congress, showing scorn for anyone who waved the banner of civil liberties. Arguably, there has been an overreaction to the alleged arrogance and heedlessness of Bush and Cheney—especially Cheney, who almost seemed to take a grim satisfaction in his Darth Vader-esque image.
In other words, the Vice President did what he thought was correct without kowtowing to the editorial board of Newsweek. The new administration is to be applauded for doing the same thing but adding the requisite hand-wringing.
I guess I am glad the President-elect Obama is backtracking on his vow to close Gitmo. But this seems a bit brazen:
"It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize," the President-elect explained. "Part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom who may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication. And some of the evidence against them may be tainted even though it's true.
It's not more difficult that I realized, Mister President-elect. And I don't think I am particularly alone. Yet when people questioned you on this in the campaign, I don't remember your sharing their concern.
A good lefty friend celebrates that he is showing himself more pragmatic than dogmatic and I suppose I should share that. It is disheartening, however, that he was allowed to fulminate against the evil BushMcCainMonster about the evils of Gitmo without ever being questioned about what he would do with the current occupants (or how he could tie McCain to Bush when McCain was on his side, but I digress).
Therefore, I proudly expose my partisan hackery by admitting that I am glad he is changing his mind -- just disappointed at how easily he is getting away with it. HACMA (Hope And Change My Ass) -- may it gain better traction than Deleterious Anthropogenic Warming of the Globe.
I think we can look forward to the next administration for some clarification regarding proper green product labeling:
The January 8th issue InsideEPA.com's Daily News briefing highlight the many hurdles involved in establishing a national eco-labeling regime.
EPA and some key lawmakers are attempting to address the rising demand from consumers and retailers for eco-labeling as the popularity and awareness of “green” building materials and organic certified foods grows. EPA is poised to respond to recommendations to set up a voluntary program for pesticide labeling, as well as for its in-house Design for the Environment program to expand its labeling initiative to new chemical-intensive products. Additionally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is crafting legislation to establish an eco-labeling oversight panel.
Some of the potential hurdles for the EPA and the lawmakers highlighted by InsideEPA.com include:
Limited development of methodologies for measuring lifecycle impacts of products
Potential conflicts with current legal requirements
Whether there would be incentives to develop even “safer” products
If EPA and Congress will be able to stay ahead of the developments made by the private sector.
With so many interests in the mix, these challenges may seem insurmountable, but at least the dialogue has begun and action will (hopefully) follow soon.
Bad enough we have to live through terrorism, recession, and athletes using steroids -- how much longer can the government let us wonder if the green products we buy are really green?
I won't have to give up the family-friendly animated genre after all. The pungent distaste remaining from my watching Pixar's WALL-E was wiped clean by 20th Century Fox's "Horton Hears a Who."
We've discussed the number of times you have to check your philosophy at the door to enjoy a major studio blockbuster movie these days. That is not required with "Horton." Perhaps it's the spirit of Ted Geisel shining through, or the Hollywood Censors were off the week this script was vetted, but I found the movie underscored my beliefs rather than contradicted them.
There is an awesome "tyranny of the majority" scene in which the pusillanimous city council asks the people whether they want the celebration to continue or follow the mayor's suggestion to prepare for potential calamity. "Bread and Circuses" win.
Meanwhile, in the other world, Horton sticks by his beliefs against a busybody, un-elected nanny-stater. Stand up and cheer!
Jonah Goldberg makes fun of Andrew Sullivan for "watching South Park for the politics" and I am not implying that the rest of the movie is not entertaining. The animation sparkles, and the voice talents of Jim Carrey and Steve Carell convey their large personalities into their characters. I don't know how many kids got the Dr. Kissinger reference, but I laughed out loud at many such grace notes.
Four and a half stars. Where I turned WALL-E off, we watched this one twice.
None of this is consistent with capitalism. As the economic system that fully recognizes and protects individual rights, including the right to private property, capitalism means, in Ayn Rand’s words, “the abolition of any and all forms of government intervention in production and trade, the separation of State and Economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of Church and State.” Laissez-faire means laissez-faire: no welfare state entitlements, no Federal Reserve monetary manipulation, no regulatory bullying, no controls, no government interference in the economy. The government’s job under capitalism is single but crucial: to protect individual rights from violation by force or fraud.
America came closest to this system in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The result was an unprecedented explosion of wealth creation and consequent rise in the standard of living.
JK, like the respected Denver radio host Mike Rosen, constantly reminds us to practice the "politics of the possible." But why should it be impossible for a majority of voters to recognize that the big government policies Obama and company may enact just made the problem worse - and they will - and abandon him in droves for the 2012 GOP candidate? This is the "new Reagan" scenario that many have written about. But for this to happen there needs to be a GOP candidate who understands the capitalist ideal before he jumps into the hog wallow to compromise with collectivists. John McCain and George Bush (both of them) despite all their admirable traits, were not that candidate.
Attila @ PillageIdiot has decided to hang up his blogging shoes. He goes out with the self-deprecating humor I enjoyed:
I've enjoyed writing at Pillage Idiot, but four years is a long time, and I feel I've run out of things to say. Some might suggest I ran out of things to say over four years ago. Maybe they're right.
In addition, writing under a pseudonym turns out to be more stressful than I'd anticipated. It's sort of like being a spy, but without the glamor, without the money, and without the treason. On the other hand, if I'd used my real name, people would have known I was a total idiot instead of merely suspecting it.
Izzit a rant or a Review Corner? I type, you decide.
I love animation and have a soft spot for children's films. I have a Disney shelf of DVDs that looks much like the parents' of a couple toddlers -- except mine are not covered with peanut butter "Honey! You got brie and bojolais on 'Mulan' again!" The Pixar flicks have dazzled me. I have to put 'Toy Story' on top because of Joss Whedon, but I have liked them all well enough. 'Cars' was a triumph of computer animation and they have walked a nice line of making the plotlines and dialog kid-friendly yet entertaining for (soi disant) grownups.
Yes, Disney films all have a bias against business and commerce (except 'Meet the Robinsons.') I have considered that the price of admission and can usually dismiss it with a few eye rolls. But I finally got 'WALL-E' from Netflix and excitedly clicked it on last night. Maybe somebody can tell me how it ends because I turned it off in disgust 52 minutes in.
I hate to pan a movie I did not watch all the way through but my wife changed it over to Martin Scorsese's blues-concert documentary "Lightning in a Bottle" (3.5 stars and did I marry the right person or what?)
WALL-E, the trash compacting robot has been left on earth because we ruined the Earth with too much trash -- if only we had followed King County's lead for mandatory recycling! What is left of earth's population is travelling on a spaceship waiting for plant life to be rediscovered. They live in hovercraft-barcaloungers surrounded with servant robots, ubiquitous TV screens and (better cover the children's ears) all kinds of shopping and malls, all brought to you by B-L, the Big-and-Large Corporation whose CEO has a Presidential Seal. With no gravity and no work required, they have all become morbidly obese. The sum total is a dystopia of radical Malthusianism that would be discarded as too ludicrous if offered in a serious vehicle. But for indoctrinating the kiddies against the evils of innovation and commerce it's fine.
If you did not guess, zero freakin' stars. Sorry this review is too late to perhaps save some readers. It has been out long enough, I am likely the last one disappointed with it. There is a really nice acoustic sequence with Buddy Guy -- oh wait, that's in the other movie.
Joe the Plumber, whose pronouncements during the campaign established him as the most influential political pundit since Bart Simpson, plans to save journalism - from itself. London's Guardian says Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher is "dropping his unlicensed plunger and picking up a reporter's notebook" to cover the latest eruption of violence in the Gaza strip for conservative Web site pjtv.com. Joe the War Correspondent, who will immerse himself in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for 10 whole days, promises to report "without a politically correct filter." Joe, who became a mascot for John McCain's campaign when he challenged Barack Obama's economic plan, tells NBC News he will try to explain Israel's reason for the offensive against Hamas. "I get to go over there and let their 'average Joes' share their story, what they think, how they feel, especially with world opinion," he said. "It's very tragic," he said of the rising death toll. "But at the same time what are the Israeli people supposed to do?"
If this doesn't sicken you, you're not paying attention.
While The Economist is not above a bit of schadenfruede/sneering at America, it remains a trustworthy source of facts and serious commentary. Instapundit links to "America's Berlin Wall" about Americans who are trying to renounce their citizenship to escape taxation:
QUEUES of frustrated foreigners crowd many an American consulate around the world hoping to get into the United States. Less noticed are the heavily taxed American expatriates wanting to get out--by renouncing their citizenship.
In Hong Kong just now, they cannot. "Please note that this office cannot accept renunciation applications at this time," the consulate's website states. Apart from sounding like East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the closure is unfortunately timed. Because of pending legislation on President Bush's desk that is expected to become law by June 16th, any American who wants to surrender his passport has only a few days to do so before facing an enormous penalty.
The article claims "It places Americans in the awkward position of weighing their patriotism against their vocation." I consider myself a patriot of the first order but I'd consider "queing up" myself were I living outside the country and forced to pay for current policy -- hell, I'm thinking about it if I stay!
I just had a first reverse-Michelle-Obama moment reading this. I think it was the first time I was ashamed of my country.
Things have really loosened up since Raul Castro came into power. He famously made cell phones legal -- imagine that! Of course, they're not really affordable:
Tatiana González stood transfixed before the glass display case watching a single cellphone spin around and around on a carousel at the government-run store. It was a Nokia 1112, a simple, boxy gray workhorse of mobile telecommunications technology--and González was in love.
She coveted that phone. She confessed she had dreamed of that phone. But she would have to wait just a little longer before she could cradle it to her ear. How much longer? "I hope a year, no more," said González, who toils as a manager of medical records in a hospital, earning $21.44 a month.
Tatiana (is that not the prettiest name?) has the satisfaction of providing that great health care that Michael Moore raves about -- I'm sure that's consoling. And the famed Cuban literacy rates come in to play too as lucky cell phone owners text to avoid 65 cents a minute charges on voice. Tatiana will be able to buy 33 minutes of local service with her month's salary or three-and-a-half minutes to Europe!
Yet the incoming administration still claims that free-market capitalism has been discredited.
Rules & citations & recursive hat-tips: the excerpt is from the Washington Post, it is included in a Reason Hit&Run post (linked) and was linked by Instapundit. Got it? Good.
AlexC's wife is currently in line at the Apple Store to get her husband one for their anniversary:
One very cool thing on the TiVo is that you can subscribe to internet videos. When a new Onion TV video comes out, I get it on my list of recorded programs. I'm trying to talk them into doing it with reason.tv...
The guy with an 8.9" laptop finds Arnold Kling's suggestion pretty captivating. Instapundit linked as "Meanwhile, Arnold Kling is against the stimulus bill" which got me thinking of Taranto's "bottom stories of the day" feature. But when you click through -- as a big Kling fan like me must -- it is more nuanced than advertised. Kling explains his preferences for a non-ginormous stimulus:
The case for a large stimulus appears to be based on the notion that small stimulus might fail completely, while large stimulus might succeed. This might be true if there are increasing returns to fiscal stimulus or there are threshold effects of fiscal stimulus. I think it is fair to say that the case for increasing returns or threshold effects is not well established either theoretically or empirically.
Short post with several great points. Insty puts it in the context of Republicans' being dragged in with tax cuts. Most know they can't kill it. Keeping it small would be a good opposition plan.
Don Luskin offers a dark look at the incoming 111th Congress on its first day from his D.C. Friend "Mick Danger:"
The legal authority for the Nevadan to say no? Burris suffers from a contagious disease well-known to every grade school child.
Meanwhile, Al Franken was "certified" in a process where the only certainty is that those counting the ballots are accused of fixing the outcome before it's finished reviewing ballots from all of Minnesota's counties.
So, you can't get into the Senate if you have cooties but you should get in the Senate if an obviously suspect, incomplete process which is still under litigation "certifies" you.
It doesn't get much nicer when he looks at the House side. But I don't want to spoil it.
I'm a little more hope-infused than Luskin or his correspondent. But the seating of Senator-elect Franken is deeply disturbing. Minnesota is known for clean elections and fair play. I was a lot less surprised when Christine Gregoire stole the Washington Gubernatorial race (the first time -- incumbency took care of her the second) but expected better things from the guys with the lakes who talk funny.
I hate to miss a chance for a bad joke and have been wanting to mention my christmas present: an Acer Aspire One, in Sapphire Blue. Somebody mentioned feline sleepware -- I really like this thing. I have not seen the Asus machines that started the genre but this one has a very substantive, quality feel. I had to get the XP one for work purposes but I would have opted for Linux otherwise, which gives you a really cool laptop for $350.
I cannot carry a conventional laptop but this one is easy for trips to the coffee shop (mmm coffee...) or just catching up on work or blogs from another room.
The French Interior Ministry has increased its provisional count of the number of cars torched over New Year's Eve from 445 to 1,147.
Hat-tip: Pillage Idiot, who mentions "land of brie, wine, and car torchings. I omitted "body odor," because that's understood." I guess the Sarkozy spirit of Hope and Change hasn't made it to Baltimore.
The idea that we learned any lessons from the 1930s shows zero empirical proof. I guess tight money is not too likely, but the new administration is ready to bring back the WPA and Smoot-Hawley. Reuters:
WASHINGTON, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Both President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will huddle with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders on Monday to try to advance a huge economic stimulus bill that Obama hopes can be enacted quickly, despite Republican reservations.
Obama's transition team said it is mulling "buy American" provisions for the stimulus package that could favor U.S. companies over foreign competitors.
Bottled water and ammunition, kids. Bottled water and ammunition.
You can't believe everything you read from the partisan hacks at Huffington Post. In their mad dash to discredit President Bush and accelerate the acceptance of collectivism, they'll say just about... Oh. Wait a minute.
Harold Ambler claims that a certain ex-VPOTUS owes us an apology;
Mr. Gore has stated, regarding climate change, that "the science is in." Well, he is absolutely right about that, except for one tiny thing. It is the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind [emphasis in original].
Ambler, who has a book coming out "Apology Accepted," presents -- to the Huffington faithful -- a serious and comprehensive refutation of the conventional wisdom on climate change.
Brother AC is right: this might be a very good year after all.
The browser wars seem so 1990's, I just haven't been interested in playing. In any case, my work has me effectively chained to Internet Explorer. I'm used to it and roll my eyes when associates whine for Mozilla 188.8.131.52 support. I came up in the UNIX world and am used to people's having particular tastes in tech.
Not sure what prompted me to try the Google® only-slightly-evil Chrome browser this morning. But holy-crimin'-Eddy, this thing is fast. I've been trying to objectively compare my new 7Mb dedicated pipe to my old shared 8Mb. Faster, slower, can I tell? Then I switch to Chrome and it is like being plugged directly into the server. It imported all my IE bookmarks, preferences and even passwords. As I type this, I even get spell-check right in the text box.
Sweet. Here's a link in case I am not the last guy who has tried it.
Once considered almost a novelty for his relentless one-man attack on House GOP spending practices and push for Cuba policy reform, many conservatives now are looking to the five-term congressman for guidance in rehabilitating the tarnished Republican brand.
They are looking in the right place. Anybody have a Republican they like better than Rep. Jeff Flake (R - AZ)?
Peter Berkowitz has a guest editorial in the WSJ today, actually a synopsis of a longer article forthcoming in Policy Review. He echoes a lot of points I hold about a pragmatic call to return principles without discarding Meyers's Fusionism:
But the purists in both camps ignore simple electoral math. Slice and dice citizens' opinions and voting patterns in the 50 states as you like, neither social conservatives nor libertarian conservatives can get to 50% plus one without the aid of the other.
Yet they, and the national security hawks who are also crucial to conservative electoral hopes, do not merely form a coalition of convenience. Theirs can and should be a coalition of principle, and a constitutional conservatism provides the surest ones.
The principles are familiar: individual freedom and individual responsibility, limited but energetic government, economic opportunity and strong national defense. They are embedded in the Constitution and flow out of the political ideas from which it was fashioned. They were central to Frank Meyer's celebrated fusion of traditionalist and libertarian conservatism in the 1960s. And they inspired Ronald Reagan's consolidation of conservatism in the 1980s.
Berkowitz suggests that both social conservatives and libertarians can coalesce around the Constitution. Amen to that. Where GOP legislators and the Bush administration have "wandered off the reservation" were instances where they moved away from Constitutional principles.
P.J. O'Rourke once expressed skepticism about protesters. He said "You don't see Republicans marching down Wall Street every time they raise the capital gains tax." You can count me among the unbelievers.
I admire Gandhi and Martin Luther King's marches because those people were disenfranchised. They did not have recourse at the ballot box and I don't expect that writing a letter to the editor was too convenient. Even the 60s dirty hippies anti-war protesters had a valid point that they were old enough for conscription, but not old enough to vote. But the marchers of today represent a feel-good party. Fight the power! And meet chicks!
Personal opinion of course. I have friends and relatives who think it is important and efficacious enough to participate. I have suggested to each that they'd be better off earning some money for a candidate that shares their views or writing a letter to the editor.
A student uprising at the New School in New York City called for the resignation of university president Bob Kerry, the former Democratic Senator from Nebraska and Vietnam War hero. The NYTimes reports that when he emerged from his office, the peace-lovers chased the prosthetic-leg wearing Kerry down the street. Pretty classy.
Marcus Michelson, also a graduate student in philosophy, said the sit-in was meant to show that the students were serious about having a seat at the negotiating able. “This is about starting a dialogue, and to do that you have to be seen as an equal,” he said. “People just don’t give equality, you have to take it.”
Yesterday was 50 years. The NYTimes commemorates with a sobering account. It begins with a woman who fled 14 years ago awaiting DNA testing to see if a decomposed, shark-eaten body pulled out of the ocean near the Keys is the son she left behind.
Fifty years ago today, many Cubans cheered when Fidel Castro seized power in Havana, and even now, the revolution attracts many fans — as evidenced by the Canadian tour agencies advertising trips “to celebrate five decades of resilience.”
But the bodies speak to a different legacy.
The son who stayed behind spoke multiple languages and tried to influence Cuba from within as a journalist -- until he was fired and targeted.
Mr. Garcia’s relatives said that on the night of Aug. 15, he climbed aboard a boat with no motor and seven or eight other people, pushing off from an area near Havana with hopes of reaching Florida within a few days.
The pace mattered; the sea was churning. By early Monday morning, Tropical Storm Fay had moved through Cuba into the Florida Straits, bringing nearly a foot of rain, swells of several feet and winds that would strengthen to 60 miles per hour.
Ms. Garcia, 64, a home health aide, said she was not sure if her son had known the storm was coming. Even if he had, she said, “he was desperate and needed to go.”
She said her son had done all he could to change Cuba from the inside. “How can Cubans confront the government, with rocks and sticks?” Ms. Garcia said. “Everyone has nothing, and the people are afraid.”
As my interest in weather has piqued of late, I have spent too much time (any non-zero amount) looking at local TV news. You can put me down as extremely tired of the defeatism and hopelessness surrounding "this economy" and "these tough times." I'm sorry your 401K has lost value and feel for those who have lost work. But if you woke up this New Year's Day as a free citizen in America, I really don't want to hear a lot of bellyaching.