Monday, August 31, 2009

Astro-turfing is OK..... long as it is Democrats doing it!

Political Earthquake in Japan

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Japan was trounced in elections yesterday, ending its 54-year run in power. That's some run. Although all politics is local, the Obama Administration must watch this development carefully, as the Democratic Party in Japan came to power stressing a more "arms length" relationship with the US. Given the distance growing between us and the Brits, we simply can't afford to push another steadfast ally away. This will require deft statesmanship by the Obama Administration--standby for the announcement of a Japan Czar.....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What Would Jefferson Say?

The University of Virginia was named to America's 25 "Douchiest" colleges list by GQ. See where yours placed here.

Hat tip: TigerHawk

We May Have a Winner.... the "what car am I going to get" derby. Gotta wait about a year for it though, which will be plenty of time for me to figure out if I can afford it....

2011 Hyundai Equus

This One's Probably Gonna Hurt

In this morning's papers across Virginia, there's an article about GOP governor candidate Bob McDonnell's Regent University thesis in which he espouses his views of feminists as detrimental to the family, and a few other views that won't sit well with some women. Yes, these views are 20 years old and he claims his views have evolved over time; in fact, he has worked to pass some working mom-friendly legislation. McDonnell's opponent has worked to paint him as a Jerry Falwell-esque character and points to the Regent University connection as proof. (Regent is not the sum total of his education experience-he got his undergraduate degree from Notre Dame and a master's from BU).

Putting aside the content of the thesis, it's interesting that this 20-year old thesis is being pulled out, dusted off and trumpeted by the Washington Post at the time that Deeds' campaign is floundering somewhat. We learned last year that past associations and expressions of candidates really didn't matter.

So should this matter? I fear it will.

Seniors and Socialized Medicine

Ezra Klein, annoying liberal-wunderkind of the Washington Post, poses a good question in his column this morning, one that Conservatives should already have been asking themselves (I have, have you?) and one for which Conservatives better have a good answer--certainly better than the answers that Klein puts forward to his own question.

Why are seniors--those most THOROUGHLY INVESTED IN GOVERNMENT RUN HEALTH CARE, so heavily against....government run health care? Let's face it--medicare is essentially socialized medicine, so this is really an inconvenient question for Conservatives to answer. Klein basically says its because Republican spin-meisters have so effectively brainwashed seniors into thinking that the "savings" to be wrung from Medicare to pay for a public option, will create diminished service to them. Klein blithely dismisses this fear, basically saying the savings are going to come from better and more efficient operations, not service cuts.

A couple of things.

1. Seniors don't view Medicare as socialized medicine. They see it--like they see their social security checks--as something they "earned" by paying into the system for so long. Though this is a clear misperception of the facts (one's social security benefit at least has SOME tenuous connection to what one pays in during a working life), that's how they see it.
2. The fear that they see is at least partly attributable to the sense that Medicare is already running on the ragged edge, and that spreading this model across the population would create changes--real, negative changes--to the level of care they get now. This is a rational fear, one that can't be dismissed as blithely as Klein tries.
3. Medicare, at a very understandable level of abstraction, appeals to many in this country from a compassionate and humanitarian perspective. These people look at our great and wealthy country and think a measure of its greatness is how it takes care of its old and sick. This is--incidentally--the perspective from which I come. I do believe the federal government has a role to play--a major role--in the provision of healthcare to its most vulnerable citizens (yes, citizens). In many cases, the most vulnerable--those with the least means and the most problems--are our elderly. But these same people don't necessarily believe that a measure of national greatness is how well a government provides healthcare to those with the means to provide it for themselves. Many who feel this way are seniors--seniors who see no problem in participating in Medicare (see above, Medicare as earned right) and nationalized health care (see Canada, Britain, etc). By the way, it is interesting to see that the REAL third rail of American politics--means testing for medicare--hasn't popped its head up here. I'd support ANY politician with the stones to bring this one up.

At the end of the day, there is some inconsistency in the opposition of older Americans to nationalized health care--when viewed from the Ezra Klein perspective. When viewed from a senior's perspective, it isn't so clear.

Politically, Conservatives need to make the distinctions between taking care of our most vulnerable--a government function--and the provision of routine life-long healthcare--not a government function. Along the way, I'd love to see the cost of medicare reduced NOT by reducing services but by denying them altogether to seniors who can afford it. But that's a fight for another day.....

Ted Kennedy's Letter to the Pope

President Obama delivered this letter to the Pope during a visit last month, at the behest of the dying senior senator from Massachusetts.

At the risk of re-igniting the (entertaining, largely civil, if "unbalanced") discussion of Senator Kennedy's life and impact, it is difficult to read this letter and not be touched by the humanity of the situation. A dying man appealing to his faith's earthly leader, to pray for him as he moves into what comes next.

Kennedy was flawed--deeply. But the things he states in this letter that he tried to do in his 50 year political career represent a very fair and thorough self-appraisal of his legislative goals. I rarely agreed with the man, but he tried hard to accomplish good things.

Suckers Rally?

From BFFFFA, Goldwater's Ghost asks:

"The DOW average is up over 9,000; a 44% increase from its 6,600 mark set six months ago. To what would you attribute this mini bull rally to:

• the mood of the market that the worst of the financial meltdown is over, and that the economy has “turned a corner”
• better-than-expected corporate earnings in some sectors
• it’s a suckers rally
• it was under-valued six months ago
• because The One said it to be so

Or is it something else?"

I think the rally is attributable to a couple of factors.
  • The market was ridiculously over-valued at 14000, propped up by a financials sector that whose value was smoke and mirrors. The market was ridiculously undervalued at 6400, with the meltdown in financials causing a lack of confidence every where else. Good, solid companies were dragged down in value without any rational reason. 10000 is "the new normal" and what we see now is a correction to the correction.
  • The actions of the late Bush and early Obama Administrations to ungum the credit/liquidity markets will be shown when all is said and done to be the only things government did that actually had a demonstrable impact on this recession ending. To suggest that the "stimulus" had anything to do with this rally is unsupportable. Strike that--I do think there is and was a psychological value to some investors in seeing that the President was all over this, albeit in a feckless, irresponsible, and ultimately unnecessary manner.
GG and I got into this last Spring when I told him something to the effect that "when economists go back and evaluate this recession, it will be shown to have ended in June or July of 2009". He was less sanguine, thinking it might be a sucker's rally. I was pretty sure the rally was derived of the conditions above, matched with a good deal of cash sitting on the sidelines waiting to get in the game.

But he and I also discussed (and we've done so here on this blog) "The New Normal", and ladies and gentlemen, a Dow at 10K is about all you're gonna get for three-five years. We hit the "reset" switch, and our economy is simply a different one than it was before. Consumer spending isn't going to act as an engine of growth until unemployment decreases--dramatically. Even then, one hopes that America's spending and saving habits will have been altered by this experience (a guy can hope, can't he?). Add to this an almost certain tax increase on virtually everyone (not just the rich), and consumers are simply not going to have the same coin to throw around. Government pump-priming is running its course, and the mood in the country is one of contraction, not expansion. Business is expanding, slowly, with trepidation--as credit markets unglue and strategists re-assess the new landscape.

What is not going to act as an engine of growth is the housing market, a reliable factor in many recoveries. Here's where "the new normal" is going to be most different to those with short memories. Easy credit to buy houses is a thing of the past--so working through the glut of inventory out there on the real estate market is going to be a slow and painful process. People buy things to put in their new houses, so since folks won't be as mobile, they'll not be spending as much (another argument for detaching health insurance from employment--people would be more willing to move and switch jobs if they didn't have to worry about losing insurance--could act as a pump primer for the real estate market).

What I'm saying is that while I predicted a Dow at 10,200 on 31 December 2009 in my Predictions post, I did not develop that further. I've done that here today--get ready for a few years of hunkering down, l0w-slow growth, and having to be a lot smarter about one's investments than they were in the first decade of this century. The internet caused a boom; complex financial instruments led to another. We won't move off the low/slow growth curve until we've worked through the housing issue, and then growth will be more moderate and predictable--until the next great thing (likely in my opinion to be a breakthrough in energy technology) occurs.

Morale Problems at Langley

News here of some "issues" cropping up at the CIA, issues of trust and confidence, very human issues that can and will impact the quality of operations that selected, planned and executed. I love the one quote--"Big operation, big risk. Small operation, small risk. No operation, no risk". Throwing the CIA to the wolves is indefensible, and the Obama Administration is messing with national security now by alienating the front-line of our intelligence community.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Big Fat Friday Free For All

Hello all--one day left here on the Outer Banks--no scale here, so no weigh-in (probably a good thing after the sloth and gluttony evidenced here).

It's your turn--what's on your mind? What burning issues are worthy of further debate here on the CW?

Fire away good citizens, fire away.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Outer Banks Update

Well, two full days left here in Corolla, and I'm wondering where the time went. Two sets of family visitors have come and gone, brother Tom rolls in tonight to join Tim, Erika, The Kitten and the Kittens and me. The older kitten got to bring along a friend on the trip, kind of a sad story. She and her family have to move away from us on the Eastern Shore because her Dad got a new job. The girls are heartbroken, and are using this little trip as a "farewell", making little scrapbooks and the like. I'll never cease to be amazed at how different little girls are than little boys, and I'm not sure I'll ever be too good at figuring it out.

Played golf with Dad yesterday--quite an experience. It was HOT, and we were stuck behind a slow group who eventually got moving with the help of the marshals. He and I tied--both shot 105--but get this. My round broke down as a 62 on the first nine and a 43 on the second. I was so off my game--huge head case on the front nine. I really let the pace of play get to me--but once things opened up, I settled down and got myself together. My Dad's been playing for nearly 60 years, and he said he never saw one guy play two nines as differently as I did.

Had a big crab feast last night--I knew it had been years since my Dad had done so, and I have great memories of hours spent at Max's Cafe in Gloucester NJ--just Dad and me--eating so many crabs I couldn't see straight. Teaching a whole new generation the proper way of relieving the little buggers of their tasty--yet hard to access--meat.

Cigars purchased Sunday remain unsmoked--haven't had the courage to run the Kitten gauntlet on this one yet. Perhaps I'll be more courageous with Tom around, or at least I can blame the bad behavior on him. He'll show up with a big bottle of vodka--so the bad behavior will be easy to generate.

Trying to sell The Kitten on this whole Outer Banks thing--she's a very practical sort, and wonders why I spend all this money to come live for a week in a house that is further from the water than the one I live in full time. The kids love it though, able as they are to cruise the streets of our quaint little neighborhood on their bikes, stoked by the big screen downstairs solely devoted to their TV watching. The truth is, I've been coming down here for 25 years, and it represents a week completely removed from the life I lead the rest of the year. Each week here is more like the previous weeks I've spent and less like the life I leave behind. Its attraction remains the same--the sounds of the beach, the food, the laughs, the family and friends, and the weather. Maybe I'm just stopping time for a week--here, I'm 20 again.

I’ll Take Quotable Quotes For $400…

Quick – who said the following:

"This is the pattern and the record of the administration [on] jobs, Medicare, schools, issue after issue -- mislead, deceive, make up the needed facts, smear the character of any critics."

Mitch McConnell?

John Boehner?

Eric Cantor?

Rush Limbaugh?

No, no, no and no. The correct Jeopardy answer is “Who is Senator Ted Kennedy?” Kennedy made these remarks in 2004 about then-President George W. Bush in a speech delivered at the Brookings Institution.

Except at that time, Kennedy was speaking as a dissenting patriot instead of a swastika carrying, gun-toting racist wingnut.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

And The Left Said People Who Voted For Bush Were Stupid…

Check out the bumper sticker on the right hand corner of the window.

Courtesy of

Bill Bennett On Ted Kennedy

From NRO's The Corner...

"There is a lot one could say of Senator Kennedy—positive from supporters, negative from critics. They say one should not speak ill of the dead. True. But I am of the view that one should not lie about the dead either. So I will not go on.

Whatever one thought of him, there is no one in the Senate of his force, sheer power, and impact. If you think there is his equal in this, tell me who it is.

He and I attended the same church, and whenever he saw me he would be pleasant. But in the political battles, he was a fierce and tough—and sometimes a ruthless—operator. When he spoke in the Senate, people paid attention, regardless of party. As CNN reports: "Kennedy was one of only six senators in U.S. history to serve more than 40 years. He was elected to eight full terms to become the second most-senior senator after West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd. He launched his political career in 1962, when he was elected to finish the unexpired Senate term of his brother, who became president in 1960. He won his first full term in 1964."

His biography is not complete without noting the tragedies of and in his family. Nor is it complete without saying he was an early and strong supporter of comprehensive health-care reform and also the campaign of Senator Barack Obama.

There are the personal failings and tragedies that will mark any obituary of his as well, including the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Were it not for his self-imposed recklessness, he may very well have been president.

He assaulted our causes and nominees with vigor and rancor. Still, in his day he was a powerful orator—and historians will mark his speech to the 1980 Democratic convention as a high water mark and example. To his supporters, I simply give them his words, and leave the rest to historians: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” To the American Left, he was their lion. To the American conservative movement, he was our bane. But today, we put the politics aside and wish him and his family God’s peace."

A fairly evenhanded treatment for a man whom many might feel doesn't deserve it.

Light Posting....

Sorry everyone--at the beach, family stuff fills the day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

If Life Gives You Lemons, DO NOT Make Lemonade!!!

Who would have thought all those ice cream sundaes, sodas and candy bars would be "bad" for your health? Well, it really caught me off guard too when the American Heart Association announced that, get this, all that sugar leads to obesity (WHAT?!!) which leads to heart disease (GET OUT OF TOWN!). I can't keep track of all this. Right here in none other than the ever truthful, ever reliable CW did I recently learn that it's really okay to be obese. So naturally I started increasing my intake of the aforementioned food groups. I mean, hey, don't we all want to live forever? Or at least as long as we can under whatever new health reform Pelosi-Reid-Obama bestow upon us?

Look, in all very brief and intermittent seriousness, there is little question that the American diet is somewhat inconsistent with what that Guy who designed the human digestive system had in mind for sustenance. I have done a fair amount of reading about how much better the body processses game meats, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables as humans used to do before Al Gore invented the internet (okay, it might have been a few years before that, my memory is clouded with this sugar high). One of the consistent themes I've seen proposed is this notion that we could take a dramatic stab at reducing this trend toward Americans', uhm, "huskiness", by simply eliminating the government subsidies on corn (How do you spell "OMG!" in Iowan?). Anyway, the mindset appears to be that corn is used to fatten cattle unnaturally on feedlots (oh, but how I DO love a nicely marbled delmonico), how it supplies the corn syrup industry which all by itself accounts for 80% of unnecessary calories (I made up that statistic--feel free to insert the correct number any of you corn lobbyists who might be reading--I suspect it may be higher), and how it makes driving rather than walking a little cheaper (except when you leave that damned ethanol in your tank too long and you have to ungunk your fuel lines)--all of which contribute to facilitating our proclivity to make personal choices that lead to us become more rotund.

I think subsidizing most anything is poor governing. There are ample market forces to encourage farmers to grow corn...and if there weren't why would we need to grow it anyway? But I also read a lot about the FDA and Dept of Agriculture and how many of their policies actually encourage the kinds of practices that have tainted the very food supply they mean to keep clean. Things like NAIS (National Animal Identification System) represent an unaffordable government burden on many small organic or, "beyond organic" farmers who are committed to providing food sources that are free of the kinds of diseases found in feed lots and industrial chicken houses that require all manner of innoculations and antibiotics and to give us options in our food supply that more closely represent pre-internet diet (okay, that apparently wasn't funny the first time either) pre-industrial farming/processed food diet. It will also impact the poor sot who has this crazy notion that the nation in which he lives actually affords him the freedom to own his own milk cow or goat, maybe a pig and some chickens so he can feed his family and barter with his neighbors for items they might grow. Not so fast...they are impacted too. There's a farmer near Staunton, VA who wrote a book, "Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front" to document the battles he's had with USDA etc as he strives to raise food in humane, natural environments and in ways that exceed USDA requirements for "organic". I'll read it sometime and give you a book report.

So to summarize:

Lots of American's are fat and excess sugar is a nice, packet-sized culprit.
But, most Americans are fat because of their personal choices.
Of those choices, the government subsidizes or policy-izes many of the less healthy options from which Americans choose.
Many Americans are trying to provide healthier options but, in addition to the challenges of making themselves more vulnerable to weather fluctuations, insect infestations and natural predation, they are almost unanimously in agreement that their biggest challenge is the government.
Ultimately, we are still fat because of our personal choices.
But could we try to, maybe, level the playing field by exempting the small farmers who don't use feedlots or packed chicken houses, etc and who don't ship their goods farther than the nearest farmers market and ESPECIALLY those who just use their farms to feed their friends and family?
And couldn't we save a ton of money if we stopped subsidizing things that contribute to our less healthy choices and for which there is already a booming market?

And does anyone know of a book for brevity in writing?

Monday, August 24, 2009

So Transparent, You Can See Right Through It

The NRO’s Jonathan Adler remarked on The Corner last Saturday morning:

"Let's see now. Deficit projections are once again on the rise as Obama's approval rating falls. Health-care reform is faltering, climate-change legislation is stalled, and David Axlerod is under fire for his conflicts of interest. Seems like a good time to change the subject. Contents of the CIA inspector general's report on harsh interrogation methods have already leaked, so it won't do the trick. If I were a betting man, I'd expect something else to drop Monday or Tuesday."

We didn’t have to wait long at all – Attorney General Holder has announced that he is appointing a prosecutor to Investigate CIA terror interrogations.

Just the thing to whip up the gloomy party faithful into a Bushitler frenzy.

In Which I Disagree with Robert Samuelson on High Speed Rail

I am announcing in advance foreknowledge of skating out onto the thin ice, in that I am going to publicly disagree with a man 1) with whom I almost always agree and 2) who is about a kabillion times smarter than I.

That said, Robert Samuelson just plain gets it wrong in this piece in this morning's WaPost in which he criticizes the Obama Administration for its high speed rail plans on economic/fiscal grounds. Now don't go thinking I've gotten all Hope and Change on you--I'm not. I'm a huge fan of rail, of getting people off the roads and into mass transportation, and most importantly, of the federal government's role in interstate commerce.

Of course Samuelson has a point when he looks at the costs of rail infrastructure build-out. Of course it works best in areas of the country in which we have sufficient population density. But the arguments of cost, and the arguments against the subsidizing of the operations of high speed rail--ignore the likely benefits of such a system. We all look at the interstate highway system in the US as a marvel, as the "internet" before the internet--that which unleashed the economic vitality of the country as nothing prior to the inland waterways had. Do we think that the highways built themselves? Do we think that market forces prevailed, and private companies got together and laid down the macadam? Of course not. Hundreds of millions if not billions of American tax dollars went into the construction of the system from which we all now benefit.

Transportation infrastructure is one of the VERY FEW THINGS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OUGHT TO BE DOING. As I look at the tattered remains of federalism, of limited government, and of fiscal responsibility that remain after seven months of the Obama Administration, I can identify trillions of dollars of programs and initiatives that come up FAR SHORT of the federal role in the systematic upgrade of the country's transportation infrastructure. Getting passenger trains onto more track upon which only passenger traffic will move can and will move people faster--and also cargo that will not now have to share track with passenger trains.

I realize that some will want me to turn in my Ronald Reagan fan club button when I advocate FOR subsidizing rail construction and operation, but at the end of the day, THIS IS WHAT THE FEDS ARE FOR. Why not subsidize? Where do we think the "subsidies" come from in the first place? Our tax dollars, of course. When I think of the waste made of federal revenue, I realize the first and best use of tax dollars is to leave them in their natural state--income accrued by citizens. But close behind "provid(ing) for the common defense" comes promotion of the general welfare--something I believe an integrated transportation system in this country would go a long way toward enabling. High speed rail is a big part of that system.

Economic Theory and the Maryland Waterman

Fascinating story here in this morning's WaPost on a PhD inspired auction in the State of Maryland designed to buy back crabbing licenses from small-scale crabbers who--architects of the auction surmised--had over the years moved on to other professions or simply stopped crabbing. The licenses--originally had for $50--are no longer issued, and in an effort to winnow down the number of crabbers (related to the effort to better manage the blue-crab population), the State believed that a secret auction--in which no one would know what his neighbor offered his license for--would ultimately net the state the licenses it was looking for at the lowest prices.

Well, the whole shebang has turned out to be a failure. With over 2000 bids expected by the auction creators, less than 500 actually were submitted, many with bid prices that were considered exorbitant by the State.

What was at work here? Lots of things, mostly very human stories of people whose fathers and grandfathers had plied the waters contiguous to the Eastern Shore, for whom modern-day residents have great respect. Additionally, there is a bit of reminiscing for the glory days of long-gone-past here, when there were crabs for everyone and everyone could make a living pulling them out of the water.

And.....after living with a 7th generation Eastern Shore resident for a year now....I've come to identify a rather pronounced streak of stubbornness among residents of this part of Maryland (and indeed, in the house in which I reside)--along with a bit of disdain for the authority of local government.

No, the idea was a good one in at a University of Maryland faculty club where PhD's likely constructed it. In practice--it just didn't account for the Eastern Shore very well.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Render Unto Obama What Is Obama’s…

An interesting if bizarre story found on Tigerhawk’s blog about the first supposed rendition of an alleged evildoer under the Obama Administration.

What was the heinous crime Raymond Azar allegedly committed to require such tactics? Invoice inflating.

Makes you wonder what the penalties will be for those opting not to get coverage under Obamacare.

Rhee Offers "Teaching Framework" in DC; Prepare for Ridiculous Teacher Complaints

I write this post with some trepidation, as I know that any time I mention Michelle Rhee here I run the risk of thoroughly alienating The Kitten's predecessor, a former DC Public Schools teacher who does not take kindly to the city's Superintendent.

Michelle Rhee and her staff have produced a 200 page "teaching" framework for DCPS, and it will debut on Tuesday in a ceremony presided over by Mayor Fenty. I know little about education, educating, and educators, but I do know a little about the political world and the way stuff like this plays out. Rhee has made a sincere effort to lay down specifics---standards and practices that set out what the district expects of its teachers. To use business analogies, the District is trying to produce a product here, and that product is educated youth. Having to "manufacture" that product at literally hundreds of different "plants", drawing upon widely varying "materials" and relying upon a disparate "labor force", it seems to me that creating a process map and standards makes sense. What Rhee is seeking to do is eliminate variation in the system--a noble goal and one worth pursuing.

But she will be eviscerated for this. The teachers unions will scream. There will be charges of impacting the freedom and innovation of individual teachers. "The Children" will suffer, they claim. Rhee is creating "factories" not schools, they will charge. They will do everything they can to stand in the way of REAL innovation and progress, moving toward the treatment of education more as science than art.

Got get 'em, Michelle.

"Undocumented Residents"?

This story from the WaPost details the problems faced by folks who entered this country illegally when they try to obtain help from US Law Enforcement to intercede in efforts to free other relatives--taken hostage while attempting to enter the US illegally.

Lots to bite into here, but the one that really got to me was the term "undocumented residents". Where did this come from? I know illegal alien is considered non-PC, so that's how we got "undocumented aliens". Well, I guess that's too un-PC, and so we'll just extend "residence" to them and call them undocumented residents.

Language matters.

From BFFFFA: Conservatives and Apologies

Anonymous asked in last Friday's edition of BFFFFA:

"American apologies. Why are many conservatives so against it?"

This seemed like an interesting question, so I figured I'd run with it. Let's take it a little bit at a time.

Question 1--For what would we apologize? I'll start by saying that I am not prepared to make a statement suggesting that America should never apologize. If American forces shoot down a civilian airliner, an apology is required. If the American government sponsors an aid program in some impoverished part of the world, and the program goes awry--either fattening the coffers of some potentate or causing death and illness to the population, we should apologize. These two examples indicate the general guidelines for "national" apologies; the event being apologized for should be a discrete circumstance and the apology should come as near to the event as possible. Additionally though, no apology should be made unless there is broad-based consensus within the American public to do so.

Question 2--Who does the apologizing? Like it or not, if the US is going to issue an apology for something, it ought to be the President who does it. But the President should not apologize for events that did not happen while he was President (see the temporal guideline above), under most circumstances. Many of the things that Presidents are pressured to apologize for are policies and programs instituted by their predecessors in what we must continue to believe (for the success of our form of government) was that person's best efforts to deal with contemporaneous issues. Judging those actions (which after all, an apology is a form of) out of the context of time simply doesn't make sense.

Which brings us to a discussion of recent moves for national apologies. Let's start with slavery. Slavery is and was evil. It destroyed lives, stole futures, ruined families and simply defied every moral and ethical norm that exists or has ever existed. Yet it endured from almost the dawn of civilization, and continues in pockets today. Slavery is illegal in this country and nearly 650,000 Americans died in order that it might be expunged. Nothing we do today--a day in which there are neither living former American slaves or slaveholders--can adequately or appropriately account for either the evil done or the deaths piled up in its destruction. An apology today is empty and meaningless, mass psycho-analytic babble designed to further the real-time political interests of narrowly focused victimization merchants.

What next? Mr. Obama's apologizing to the world for the Bush Administration's foreign policy? Again--this falls into the category of failing to comprehend the times in which one's predecessor governed. Mr. Bush did so with the sanction of the American people, and with the complicity of their representatives in Congress.

So, to answer the direct question--why are Conservatives against national apologies? Well, I think at some level of abstraction, Conservatives "get" what I wrote above--apologizing for things that no one alive had a role in is empty. Apologizing for the general misdeeds of previous governments is ungenerous.

But there's more to it than that. Conservatives tend to be American exceptionalists. They truly do believe that this country was founded on bedrock principles that made it different and nobler than any other. They respect those principles. They believe those principles are immutable, not subject to the periodic reinterpretation of fashionable times--except through the process of amending the Constitution. They presume that their governments act in the best pursuit of those principles, and they are wary of apologies that tend to weaken the perception that our country and government does not govern with wisdom. Yes--past governments have made mistakes. Some of them were DOOZIES. But the cycle of apologizing for past sins sets up the precedent of apology, insidiously weakening the perception that others may have of the noble ends of current action. Put another way, who's going to trust us if they think that whatever we're doing today is only going to be something we regret--publicly--later.

Americans basically get it. We should learn from history--not apologize for it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Greg "The Hammer" Dail is Answered

Just the other day, I wrote a little entry about the release of the Lockerbie bomber. In the course of the return commentary, Greg "The Hammer" Dail--frequent contributor to the commentary section of the site, made the following statement about the actions of President Obama:

"This is an outrage and Obama clearly signed off on this one."

I took issue with this statement with the following line of inquiry:

Greg--I'd like to know the source(s) of your charge that "Obama clearly signed off on this one". By "this one", I presume you meant the Scottish authority's decision to let the terrorist go home.

If true, this would be scandalous and sensational. But I've heard the charge nowhere else, and if you're simply making it up or allowing your political feelings to get the best of you in accusing the President of near-treasonous behavior, please retract this scurrilous charge.

Mr. Dail has in fact, done neither. If anything, he has defended his charge with vigor, writing today:

My source are the facts as reported. The Scottish Minister of Justice let this killer go and Obama knew it about it well beforehand, as did PM Brown. Neither lifted a finger to stop it. Therefore they both gave their tacit approval.

Let's take a close look at Mr. Dail's latest statement. I do not know that Mr. Obama knew about the Scottish decision to let the terrorist go--but I think it was highly likely. Mr. Dail seems ready to bet the farm on it, so I'll go along with it. Let's look at the next statement:

"Neither lifted a finger to stop it. Therefore they both gave their tacit approval."

So we've gone from the original charge of "Obama clearly signed off on this one" to a new assertion that Obama "...gave (his) tacit approval." Apparently, the backsliding is beginning. While I don't have the same certainty as Mr. Dail with respect to what went on behind the scenes, here's my crack at a plausible scenario. The Scottish government informed both the Brits and us about this some time ago. Behind the scenes, our diplomats mounted an effort to get them to reconsider. Perhaps there was even personal diplomacy at the Secstate/VP or even Presidential level--but we can't be sure. In the end though, the Scots decided to go through with this, and the Obama Administration decided not to make a big deal over it.

I think the Obama Administration is making a mistake in not making a bigger deal over this, and I think Mr. Dail would agree. But there are also reasons that Obama might not want to make this a bigger deal than it already is. One is our pitiful relationship with Great Britain, a relationship Obama has done nothing but harm since he's been in office.

Mr. Dail then decided to write back, yet again, with the following:

"One more thing, of course this wasn't Obama's decision but without a doubt neither him nor PM Brown tried to stopped it (and the Scots probably wish they had)."

So we've gone from Obama clearly signing off on it, to Obama giving tacit approval to it not being "Obama's decision" but that he did not try to stop it. The slope is getting slipperier, Mr. Dail. But here we get back into what seems to be some special insight Mr. Dail has into the inner workings of the Obama foreign policy machine. His insider knowledge seems particularly odd coming from a guy who doesn't exactly seem to be on the "Obama Team", but who knows, maybe Greg's got a hotline to the Oval I don't know about.

Dail winds up his day's labor in neither sourcing his outlandish charge or retracting it by asking me:

"Is it your view this decision was taken unilaterally by the Scots and Obama and Brown were completely out of the loop?"

No--though I don't have any sources on the inside of the Obama Administration giving me the inside scoop, I can only speculate that there were intense behind the scenes negotiations on this one, and that at the end of the day, Obama decided it wasn't worth going to the mat to embarrass or ridicule the Scottish government over a terror bombing suspect being released into the arms of a government (Libya) that bankrolled the entire operation--but with whom the Bush Administration worked HARD to re-establish relations in its two terms in office.

I hope Mr. Dail was just as incensed with Mr. Bush when his government buried the hatchet with Qaddafi, but somehow I doubt it.

Now--as to Mr. Dail. Tomorrow I will excise his original post and his follow-on responses. I have no desire for this blog to turn into a Conservative MSNBC, and I'm not going to allow baseless, scurrilous charges like he's leveled to sit there and be associated with me.

Mr. Obama is doing more than enough FOR REAL AND ON PURPOSE to create conditions for people like Mr. Dail and myself to call him on his leadership. We simply don't have to make stuff up.

Obama Calls for “Honest Debate” On Health Care

I’d pay to see that. I nominate Keith Hennessey to step into the octagon for the opposing side…

What’s Two Trillion Among Friends?

The Obama Administration is preparing new budget projections to be released next week indicating a cumulative 2010-2019 deficit of $9 trillion instead of the $7 trillion originally forecast. That’s quite a swing.

Forecasters point to decreased revenues resulting from continued economic stagnation as the culprit. Then perhaps the administration will reconsider some of its more ambitious and expensive components of its grand experiment with social welfare, or tone down some of its "soak the rich" rhetoric (which usually means just about everyone else as well).

Speaking of which, if the administration forecasts a $1.6 trillion price tag for its not-a-government-takeover-of-healthcare takeover of healthcare, what do you suppose the “adjusted” figure will be?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cercle Sans Soleil

"This tree sure looks familiar..."
- Mudge to Mudge's Self 9:30pm, in woods, 10 yards from starting point of hike back to truck 90 minutes earlier

A German researcher has studied the physiology of why so many hikers, hunters, English knights seeking shrubberies, etc tend to walk in circles when deprived of navigational references (either geographical or astronomical).

I used to do a lot of back country hiking when I was young and fit. But I always made certain to have my campsite established, food prepared and eaten and food bags properly hanging before sunset so, short of an occasional quick midnight trek to a makeshift latrine far enough but never too far from my tent, I never hiked at night. Nevertheless, this little article hit home after the one occasion where I was caught in the woods, on a very dark night, with no light and no compass and absolutely no references but trees and what must be the most fertile crop of greenbriar this side of the Mississippi (they call greenbriar "one way bushes" here because they let you in but not least not before rendering you a pint low on blood).

I had parked my truck along the edge of the woods at about 4 pm, to go deer hunting and walked into the woods to a nice leaf-covered beech grove just about 100 yards into the woods. There was a little ridge against which I could lay down and put my gun up on the edge, masking my body from view. The air was fresh and crisp, the ground soft and inviting. I picked out the probable approach for a deer, rechecked my safety and....

..."What the...where am I? Who turned out the lights?" My 4 hour commute late the night before had apparently caught up with me 3.8 seconds after laying down and it was now a good 3 1/2 hours later and well into darkness. "Well, THAT was one heck of a hunt. No problem," I chuckled to myself, "the truck is just 100 yards right behind me and I'll come to the road even if I'm a little off course."

It occurred to me that my wife was probably thinking that I had a hunting accident and were she not so preoccupied looking for my life insurance policy, might have actually been worried. Nevertheless, I would be home soon and have a good laugh about how I'm not quite as young as I once was (stupid statement, nothing is as young as it once was). "I'll be out of here in about 3 minutes and home in about 10 minutes and have some of that venison chili I made last night. Mmmm. I can almost smell it." As I dodged this tree and that, untangled myself from several one way bushes and even reset my heart rhythm after jumping three deer at close quarters (why doesn't that ever happen when I'm able to see?), I was certain that road was just steps away.

Now this stand of woods I was in was bounded on all four sides by dirt roads so I knew that I would eventually walk out to a road and easily find my way back to my truck. However, as I started to appreciate Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness much more than the Cliff's Notes version allowed, I realized that I must be walking in circles. It was almost impossible to walk as long as I had been walking and NOT happen upon a dirt road. Realizing this, I forced myself to walk as straight as I could. I locked on to the farthest tree I could see and would walk a straight line to it. I would then go around the tree and repeat this method. At the very least, I would likely open the diameter of the circle and perhaps the arc would intercept a tangential dirt road.

Alas, it worked. I emerged from the woods about 50 yards down the road (walking nearly parallel to it I might add) from my truck and survived to eventually write overly long and not terribly pertinent prose on an up-and-coming mainstay of the conservative blogging world. The lesson here is this, when you find yourself lost (oxymoron?) in the woods at night, having just awakened, roll over and go back to sleep until the sun comes up. Who knows, you may even get a great shot at that deer who just finished doing circles all night.

Big Fat Friday Free For All

All Time High (April 1 2009): 192.2
Diet start (June 1): 189
Last Friday: 173.8
Today: 173.2
Goal: Sub 160

Was looking at a photo last night in which I was last at my goal weight. It was a few years ago, at the height of the Adkins fad, and I discovered that eating nothing but protein (well, little more than protein) was right up my alley. I was ultimately unable to sustain that weight, as I did not make the behavioral changes necessary to do so.

Thing was, that was another 15 pounds down from right now. I looked pretty damn thin at 158---but 158 was twenty pounds heavier than I was when I graduated high school! I don't remember thinking I was particularly willowy at 18, but man, the body does change over time.

Well--enough of that. What's on your mind? What's happening in your neck of the woods worth sharing with the world? Do anything fun this summer? Busy getting the kids ready for school?

Pipe up!

I leave early tomorrow morning for my trip to the Outer Banks...I didn't make it out there last summer, and there's been a hole in my soul as a result. Charlottesville, VA and Duck/Corolla, NC are the two places where I feel almost completely at ease with the world. I'll have the computer along with me, so there should be no precipitous drop in production here on the CW. I'll probably do an "on-location" video too.

One final note: In the comment section of the post on the Lockerbie Terrorist release, I asked Greg Dail to retract a statement he made about the President or source it. I hope he does one or the other, as Greg is a welcome, regular reader and commenter here, one with strong and strongly voiced views. But please, everyone, let's continue to try and make sure that this site doesn't degenerate into something other than what it is--a place for civil discussion of politics, world events and social trends with a conservative flair.

And please, if you have an objection to what I've said, voice it here in the BFFFFA.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fingers Crossed?

Looks like Bill is going to give me a break--arrive on the Outer Banks on Saturday morning....

Book Recommendation: The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall and the Battle for the Supreme Court

I picked this book up recently and thought it would be worth recommending to CW readers. The Great Decision: Jefforson, Adams, Marshall and the Battle for the Supreme Court is an eminently readable and well-written work that lays out the story surrounding the famous "Marbury v. Madison" case that established the concept of judicial review in 1803.

I'm a big fan of "history is the story of the people who made it" view of history, and this work doesn't disappoint. The authors are successful in bringing all the major players to life--Thomas Jefferson is especially well covered here. As a UVA grad, I'm supposed to get all weepy and genuflect whenever Thomas Jefferson is named--but the more I learn of him, the more smarmy and sneaky he becomes.

Chief Justice John Marshall comes out of this treatment remarkably well, the kind of guy you'd want to have a beer with (something with which he was ENTIRELY familiar).

I first learned about Marbury v. Madison in high school, but all I retained was the Cliff's Notes version--Marbury was appointed by Adams (signed and sealed commission) to a Justice of the Peace position in the District of Columbia, Jefferson caused the commission not to be delivered, Marbury sued the responsible officer (Secretary of State James Madison). I'd always known that Marbury sort of won his suit, and I'd always known that the case created judicial review of Congressional acts. What I didn't know was the pure tactical genius in Marshall's reasoning of the verdict. I won't spoil it here for any of you who choose to read it, but if you come away unimpressed with Marshall as a jurist, then there's just no satisfying you.

Glad That The World Loves Us So Much Now

Elect The One, and the world will love us again! Yep. They love us so much that they'll let a terrorist responsible for the deaths of 270 people in the Lockerbie bombing go home to die "on compassionate grounds". Oh yeah--most of the people who died were Americans.
H/T: Brother Tom

Buffet Speaks: Now He Tells Us.....

Warren Buffet--the Oracle of Omaha, the Maharajah of the Midwest, the Knight of Nebraska, the Prince of the Plains--piped up yesterday to tell us that all the debt the country is piling up is a bad thing, and it will act as a drain on the economy. Thanks Warren.

But let's not forget where all that debt is coming from. It is coming from the thoroughgoing reshaping of the American economy being perpetrated by the President and his supporters in Congress--a group of people who at last report--were supported publicly and financially by.....Warren Buffet.

Warren's one of those great creatures who considers himself a "social liberal and a fiscal conservative". Problem is, ultimately the fiscal conservative has to finance the social liberal, and we're running out of cash.

Cato Gets It Wrong On Terrorism

I am a huge fan of the libertarian thinktank Cato, and and even bigger fan of its in-house foreign policy guru Chris Preble (who happens to be a friend). But Chris is just plain wrong on this one. In his post today, Chris cites a New York Times article by Eric Schmidt that basically made the case that the FBI has gone overboard in its approach to counter-terrorism, and that the 5000 people it has working on the issue have done very little over the years except contribute to a "federalization" of what appears to Preble (at least in my estimation) to be a law-enforcement problem. This of course raises the traditional libertarian bogeyman of overbearing government, in this case, national government. Read it all if you have a chance.

Preble does a pretty good job of trying to anticipate the criticisms of his criticism, but I think he misses an important point in his accountant's view of the war on terror. Drilling down into the numbers reveals that 5000 people have raised 5500 leads, only a handful of which resulted in prosecutions, with no terror plots broken up. Or as Preble puts it, "none – zero, zip, nada – foiled a specific terrorist plot."

This would be a persuasive--no, damning--fact, were this the only thrust in the nation's anti-terror effort. Were that the case, one could wonder aloud whether 1) there was even a threat at all or 2) whether lots of money were being wasted. I don't think I hear Preble dismissing the threat, though I do hear him raising the resource issue.

Government--federal, state, and local--responded in the wake of 9-11. In some cases, excessively (exhibit A--airport security). But it responded over the years in a way in which burdens were shared across a panoply of agencies and organizations, each presumably with a different mission and a different focus. Perhaps I give government too much credit on this front, but the strategy of creating doubt in the minds of terrorists as to whether their actions will succeed by erecting a multi-layered, intramural effort seems to be working. Yes--out of context, the FBI's 5000 people appear to be wasting their time. In context? Surely not. The web of efforts continues to frustrate, deter, and dissuade would-be terrorists who Preble and I both know have not decided that the US is a better country now, and that they should just leave us alone.

I wonder just how many terror plots would have to be broken up in order to provide Preble with sufficient justification for the FBI's level of effort? Dick Cheney got this one right, right from the beginning. Chris Preble would like to measure the success of an individual part of a systemic approach by one metric--number of plots foiled. I'll see his one metric and raise him one--no attacks on US soil.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Intellectual Vapidity of the Left On Healthcare

The Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein quite rightly advocates that the President walk away from a "public option" requirement in his healthcare proposal. Pearlstein writes:

"Liberals have a point when they argue that the price competition in our private markets is something less than robust.

Because consumers don't pay out of pocket for much of their health care, they don't shop around for bargains the way they do for cars or toilet paper. Nor it is clear that people would flock to the heart surgeon in town who advertises bargain-basement rates."

Which got me thinking "hey, here's a liberal who gets it. Here's a liberal who is now going to come forward and advocate for true market reforms that would ENCOURAGE competition." I was very excited. And then very disappointed:

"That's not to say there aren't other things we could do -- many fixes are already included in bills before Congress. These include the government-sponsored health-care exchanges that would bring national insurance companies to nearly every market in the country and proposals to begin paying doctors and hospitals for the quality of the health care they provide rather than the quantity. There is also a provision requiring that companies participating in the new insurance exchanges use no more than 15 cents of each premium dollar for administrative costs and profits."

So there it is--a liberal view of steps toward market reforms as a way of creating price competition. Except, WHERE IS THE MARKET REFORM? Where is any suggestion that small businesses should be able to pool? Where is the suggestion that health plans should be able to cross state lines? Where is the suggestion that the favored tax status of employer provided plans be ended as a way of empowering individuals in the market? All we get is a menu of government-driven regulation and requirements for an industry already SWIMMING in regulation.

Why I Am Not Married To The Kitten....

....I simply do not wish to be a distraction to her single friends. H/T Instapundit

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

AARP Loses 60,000 Members Over Obamacare

CBS News is reporting that AARP--what I consider to be the most dangerous lobbying organization in the country--has lost 60,000 members since July 1, largely over members' dissatisfaction with Obamacare and the AARP's lapdog-like cozy-ing up to the administration. Good. There is not another organization in the country as blatantly dedicated to getting "something for nothing" as is the AARP.

Specter On The Run In PA

Arlen Specter was a Democrat. Then he was a Republican. Then he was a Democrat. Now he's trying to keep his seat in a primary battle against Representative Joe Sestak, a relative political newcomer from just outside Philly. Joe's got a little history worth see, he's a retired Vice Admiral, an absolute legend in the Navy (and mostly not for good things).

This is an interesting race. I would likely give money to the Devil himself to run against Arlen Specter. No politician on the scene today has earned my scorn more completely. He is FAMOUS on Capitol Hill for his poor treatment of staffers and his sense of entitlement knows no bounds. I used to date a diplomat posted in Turkey--I'll never forget going to see her just a few days after a visit from Arlen Specter.....she was wiped out, as was much of the embassy, from the rigors of supporting this Philly Pasha.

Sestak is a story unto himself. He was essentially fired from the Navy--that is, when now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen was named to be Chief of Naval Operations, one of the earliest things he did was to tell Sestak his services were no longer required. You see, by the time Sestak had earned his third star, he had left a bloody wake. No officer in my time in the Navy had a more well-earned reputation for working people to death, for requiring hours and hours at nights and weekends to rework this or repackage that. There are people on active duty today who actually grow silent, or shake a little bit, when you start to talk with them about their time with Sestak.

But I always liked the guy. He is brilliant, there is no question of that. No one on his staff ever worked harder than he himself did--there was never a "you guys take care of this while I hit the golf course" about him. He was always very kind and gracious toward me--granted, in most of our interactions I was working closely with or for his boss--but he always had time to knock a few ideas around. When he first announced his candidacy for the House, one of his constituents--my brother, a.k.a Goldwater's Ghost--asked me what I thought of him. I told him the truth about his work habits and how tough he is on people, then said that I thought Sestak would make a very good Representative. I haven't tracked him closely in that job, so maybe GG can pipe up now and let us know how he's doing.

Sestak's way behind right now--but that won't last. He'll out-hustle Specter. He'll wear him down--not a hard thing to do with a man 20 years your senior, but it doesn't matter. Sestak would wear down someone 20 years his junior. The more PA Democrats get to see of Sestak, the more they'll like him--because he truly IS a Democrat, not solely an opportunist like Specter.

I'm going to give money to Sestak, even if it puts me on every single Democrat list there is, and I will do so for one reason. To knock Arlen Specter out. I will also give money to Sestak's general election opponent, Pat Twoomey--the first man I ever political money to--when he ran against Specter in the last Republican Primary. I want Twoomey in the seat--but I want Specter out of it more.

Monday, August 17, 2009

On Britain's National Health Service

There's been a lot of bashing of the National Health Service going on lately. The NHS as you may know, is the bureaucratic behemoth that runs Great Britain's socialized medical program. I don't say "socialized medicine" in a sneering, town-hall disrupting way (well, maybe a little bit); here "socialized" is simply an adjective describing the funding mechanism and not a value judgment.

Many conservatives on this side of the water have taken to talking smack about the NHS and how poorly it serves its patients. Many Brits have taken to rising to the defense of the NHS lately, pointing to the ten-month life-expectancy advantage one enjoys as a Brit over an American.

Here's an interesting, even-handed treatment of this little dust-up from a Brit who thinks that maybe, just maybe, the truth hurts (for the Brits).

One of the most insidious things about this whole healthcare debate is the degree to which the "eventual outcome" is ignored--but we can see it in this article on the NHS. What's happened in Great Britain is that the country has built a huge healthcare delivery system known s the NHS that guarantees every British subject a baseline level of care, and it is a level clearly below that most Americans now pay for. What's happened there is that those with the means then ALSO buy private health you get taxed out the ying yang to pay for "healthcare for everyone" then wind up paying for your own anyway (if you have the means). Americans wonder why this is better, and they see that this is where we are headed.

The Season Premier of MadMen

Long-time readers know I'm a fan of the AMC original series "MadMen" on Sunday nights. It is an intelligent, stylish look into the world of early 1960's Madison Avenue, with a compelling ensemble of characters and a meticulous eye for period detail.

That said, I'm beginning to see the seeds sown for my future alienation from the series. First and foremost, there is entirely too much psycho-babbble flahsbackery going on that tries to create in us a sense of why the main character--Don Draper--has turned out the way he has. Fact is, I couldn't care less how he got the way he is. He is interesting BECAUSE he is the way he is.

Secondly, we've got a growing story-line in which one of Draper's co-workers deals with his quite obvious homosexuality. Sorry gang, I just don't like seeing dudes making out.

Finally, there is whole "time" element. Period shows always have to struggle with the fact that time flies...Happy Days did it more poorly than most, with Ron Howard and the gang looking a lot like late 1970's TV stars by the show's ends. MASH did it well, mostly by not using time as a variable. The problem with MadMen is that things just plain stopped being as cool after JFK was killed, Viet Nam ramped up, cities began to burn, hippies began to multiply and the Civil Rights movement kicked into high gear (not saying there's anything wrong with Civil Rights). But the retro-cool of the 1950's ended in late November 1963, and I surely hope the show holds off on getting to that point as long as it can.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Held Hostage on an Airplane

Every time I read stories about folks being held hostage on airplanes--not by terrorists, mind you, but by airlines--I wonder to myself how I'd do in such a situation. I honestly think that I would not do well, and that I would get into serious legal trouble.

Here's why. If I were a POW or a hostage held by the Taliban--I'd sorta know why I was there. I wouldn't like it, but I would recognize (mostly by the guns held to my head) the authority of those who had taken me and the likely consequences of my resistance.

But put into a situation like the one in the link? Hell no. I'd see no authority, and I'd rather take my chances in court after being arrested and taken off the plane than sit there and have basic rights abridged.

What do you think?

Squeaking By on $300K

I first saw the headline in the WaPost (above the fold) for this story earlier today when I took my sister and her two boys to breakfast. My sister is a nurse and works her ass off. She's married to a wonderful guy who works hard too, selling real estate and also selling wine. Had I walked past the vending machine without her this morning, I would have looked at the story and shook my head. I would have thought "can't wait to read that one, could wind up in the blog". But today when I saw the headline--I got mad. Really mad.

Obviously, I hadn't read the story yet--but the insanity associated with bitching about making it on $300K is simply astounding.

So now I've read the story, and what do I see? I see the same kind of spectacular stupidity that helped get us into the financial mess we're in now. Ms. Steins bought out her husband's share of their multi-million dollar that costs $9000 a month to "keep up". She pays a gardener and a full-time nanny. Presumably, the "this was supposed to be a two-income family" line is supposed to get us to be more sympathetic to her plight, but I was unmoved. Divorce has consequences, sometimes serious ones. Ms. Steins did not plan well for a dramatic decrease in her family's monthly inflows.

Bad decisions are not sufficient grounds for sympathy. In 2006, Ms. Steins and her husband should have sold their luxe manse and its coiffured grounds, split the proceeds and then SIMPLIFIED. Instead, she figured she could swing it--and now we read where she's beginning to think she might not now. There's still time, Ms. Steins. Simplify. Your problem is monthly cash flow. Solve that problem and buy a grocery store dye job instead of paying $200 an hour.

WH Willing To Drop The Trojan Rab, Er, The Public Option

The Obama Administration has signaled that it is ready to concede the public option as part of any health care reform package passed by Congress.

The AP news story linked here cites Republican pressure for the administration’s about face. No small feat, considering the President’s party controls the White House, and has clear majorities in both houses of Congress. I don't suppose eroding approval ratings and public outcry at Town Hall meetings had any effect on the decision.

Looks like Obama is going to have to switch to The Trojan Badger to get his single payer dream realized:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Whole Foods CEO Steps In It Being Honest and Right on Healthcare

It seems the self-righteous fobs who purchase their radicchio and free trade coffee at Whole Foods are looking to start a boycott, after WF CEO John Mackey wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. Apparently Mackey's views are don't quite square with the commissariat, and thousands of Prius driving Whole Foods customers are up in arms.

I love the irony of this entire situation.

Light Weekend

Sorry about the light weekend folks, but little sis and her kids are here and I'm doing my best to entertain them.

Friday, August 14, 2009

CWTV---Latest Video--On Good Behavior at Townhall Meetings, etc.

The latest video. Shot in my new home office in the garage, where most future vids will be shot.

Big Fat Friday Free For All

All Time High (April 1 2009): 192.2
Diet start (June 1): 189
Last Friday: 175.0
Today: 173.8

Things going well on the diet front; summer runs certainly help, as does the decision to try and eat like a normal human, rather than--well--two of them.

I note with some concern that I was almost this exact weight one year ago today, which means I've swung 36.8 lbs in the course of a year. This is what I've got to put a stop to.

Enough self-indulgent musing (whoops--can't say that--what would be left to blog about?). Now let's move on to the "Big Fat Friday Free For All". What's bothering you? What's buoying you? How's your summer going? What's a summer memory you'd like to share? How many of you can tap into the anxiety and excitement that used to build around this time as you realized summer was ending and school was starting?

Flashback: August 1985. I've spent the summer running and lifting weights like a starts in two weeks but more importantly, Cheerleading starts in a week (that's right--I was a college Cheerleader). My anxiety isn't about Cheerleading--it is about seeing HER again. Who was she? A great love, also on the Cheerleading squad. She was that upon which most of my second year of college was focused. A stunning beauty, smart as a whip, funny as all-get-out, and with a brand of conservative politics that might have been the sexiest thing about her. She was Southern and refined, while I was...well....not. I lured her away from her boyfriend back home, or so I had come to think over the course of a year of wonderful memories. Shortly after retiring to our respective corners for the summer, I got a Dear Bryan letter telling me she'd taken back up with the boy back home. I suspected that her break from him hadn't been as complete as maybe I'd come to believe.

So I spent the summer deciding to make her regret her decision. I worked for my town during the day and headed straight to the gym after work. I lifted my butt off to show back up for Cheerleading practice looking better than I'd ever looked. She'll regret it. Yep. She'd beg for forgiveness and I'd have her back. A-ha!

Didn't quite work out that way. We had a very emotional reunion (at least for me), and as I left her apartment just before school started one day--I ran into someone in the parking lot moving into the building where The Love lived. I had met her the school year before and thought she was something special--turns out, she was moving into the apartment right next door to The Love. Wound up marrying her five years later (and subsequently splitting up). Funny how things turn out.

Where are they now? Both The Love and the Ex Wife are beautiful, successful women whose friendship, health, safety and happiness remain important to me. And that's a 24 year old memory.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Add this article in The Atlantic to your reading list for the ongoing health care debate. In fact, put it at the top of your list (twice) before reading anything else.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sheila Jackson Lee, Concerned Legislator

This is a member of Congress. That's right. The House of Representatives. Just witness the concern, the interest, the genuine empathy---not.

Some Time on the Vineyard...

It seems the First Family has chosen to take a week on Martha's Vineyard starting August 23rd. Good for them. I can only imagine the difficulty in trying to maintain some kind of family normality in the White House, and getting away for a bit should be encouraged. I've only been to Martha's Vineyard once for a long October weekend, and I must say it is quite nice.

We should all keep in mind though that "getting away" means something very different when you are the President. Many of us go on vacation and hang on our crosses for a week because we bring a blackberry along. He gets to bring the White House Press Corps, the Staff, and the nuclear launch codes. Put another way, he won't be throwing Joe Biden the keys and saying "I'll see you in a week." You're always the President when you're the President

The week the Obamas have chosen is also the week that I'll be taking my annual (or nearly annual) cure on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I am positively champing at the bit to get down there--nine days and counting.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An Eloquent Doctor on the Healthcare Debate

Worthwhile video from Dr. Steve Long here.

The President's Book Club Buddy MUST Be Stopped!

For this crime against humanity. Have you no sense of decency, Lt. Col. Chavez?

A Recovery Only a Statistician Can Love?

Many regular readers will recall my March "bottom" call of the recession and my projection that by June or July (in retrospect) the economy would be seen to be in recovery. This view is beginning to gain support, albeit in a tepid manner as this article suggests. There appear to be a growing number of "yes, but" economists and others who will say "yes the stock markets are up dramatically, yes productivity is rising, yes there are glimmers of long-term hope in the housing market....but PEOPLE ARE HURTING" so the recovery is less broad-based and tangible.

Maybe the recovery isn't as broad-based as it could be because the recession was never as broad-based as it could have been. Don't get me wrong--we were and are in serious fiscal trouble. But the recession? Unless you were either a) one of the people who lost their job (a rise from 4.8% unemployment to 9.5%) or b) one of the nearly 5% of mortgage holders who missed a payment--the recession was largely about other people! For those who had jobs and homes, inflation remained low, interest rates remained low, and retailers fell all over themselves to offer bargains. Additionally, throughout much of the recession energy prices declined, providing consumers with "extra" pocket money in and of itself.

Again--our economy was poised on the edge of disaster--due to weakness in the fundamental underpinnings of our financial markets. The Bush Administration went to extraordinary lengths to shore up that financial system in its final months, and we are now beginning to see the fruits of those efforts. Additionally, the Obama Administration came in, demonstrated to the markets that it was taking the economy seriously, and markets responded favorably. As for the actual POLICIES that flowed from the President's good intentions, I believe they will ultimately be shown to have slowed/dampened the recovery, unless turned around. The President could go a long way toward that goal by convening Congressional leadership to discuss the "stimulus" legislation and looking to prune spending from it that has not been triggered (you know, 90% of the money).

This recession was deep but narrow. For the overwhelming majority of Americans, it was more psychological than real. Which may be why the "recovery" seems less of a big deal.

Yet Another Racist Poster of the President....

....or maybe just effective satire? From the link:

"Purple is only a tick or two away from black on the color spectrum, so it's clearly no coincidence that Obama's likeness was imposed over Tinky Winky and not Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Noo-Noo, or Po. Tinky Winky is an unspeakably devious subliminal reminder of the pigmentation of our President's skin."

H/T Instapundit

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mommy! There's a Government Under My Bed!!!

Rather interesting poll here from the Rasmussen Reports that takes the pulse of Americans to see just how much we fear insurance companies since the Administration has taken to alter the debate from Health Care Reform to Health Insurance Reform. As with any good measurement, it is always good to have a standard against which to compare the result. So Rasmussen picked the U.S. Government. The results? I'll let you peruse it yourself, but suffice it to say that more Americans fear the government than the insurance companies. Oh, and if you actually HAVE insurance, you fear government even more and insurance even less. Lots of other interesting demographic analysis worth reading too.

In Praise of the Bluefish

I grilled (well, steamed on the grill) a beautiful piece of Bluefish the other night, and it brought back great childhood memories. At some point in a few summers running, my Dad and his buddies would rise early and head to the Jersey Shore "when the blues were running". Famous for its fight, the Bluefish would readily sacrifice themselves by the dozen for the fishing parties who sought them.

Late in the day, Dad would return and conduct a fish cleaning symposium for my brothers and me--then watch as we macerated the fish in the backyard.

He would then cook the fish on the grill in a way I've not heard others do it, but it remains the only way I do. He'd chop up about a cup each of green pepper, red pepper, yellow pepper, tomato and onion---lay it over the top of the fish fillet (or near fillet, as there were always bones) atop a big sheet of aluminum foil, throw in a little butter and then wrap it all tightly in the foil. Throw this contraption in a hot grill for 20 minutes and a feast for the senses would emerge. The bluefish is white and flaky, the veggies seep a bit of their flavor into the already flavorful meat, and the result simply delights.

My repetition of this practice Sunday night brought back many good memories of summers long ago. Don't miss out--the Blues are running....

On the Kennedys

It appears that President Kennedy's sister Eunice has died and that brother Teddy is not long for the world. We will at that point be left without any of the issue of Joseph and Rose, only their grandchildren.

When Teddy goes, can we all agree that the Kennedy "dynasty" is dead, and that continued discussion of their relevance on the American stage is little but longing for a day long past? There is no question but that the children of Joe Kennedy had a good run. President, Senator, Senator, Senator, Congressman, Attorney General, Presidential Candidate, Presidential Candidate, Founder of the Special Olympics, war heroism. Clearly this was a group of accomplished Americans who left their mark in a special way on the 20th century.

But what of the children of this group? They have been unremarkable, save for the well-publicized forays into drug addiction, murder, rape, and other unseemly behaviors. Yes, there was a Lieutenant Governor in there, and a Congressman (in rehab), and an ex-publisher who openly sought the New York Senate seat by acclamation.

But a "dynasty"? C'mon now. It is time to end this strange fascination with a strange family.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Some Indigenous Folks Practicing New Midnight Farming Techniques In Afghanistan

Video here.

The President and his Strawmen

The President continues to accuse opponents to his health care reform plan of wanting the "status quo." To whom specifically is he referring? This tune is starting to sound strangely familiar. Maybe instead of the tea parties and "astroturfing" town hall meetings, we could get permits to erect an army of scarecrows on the Washington DC Ellipse, so at least then, our president would actually have some real straw men against which he could rail.

And yes, it was a cheap rhetorical trick when used by our last president, too.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Car Buying Bleg

Ok folks. I could use some help from my the sagacious readers of this blog about an upcoming automobile purchase. Here are the facts:

1. I will spend up to around $55,000
2. It can be new or used. If used, it must be "certified" and have at least one year remaining on its warranty.
3. I expect to purchase the car in February or March of 2010.
4. I currently drive a 2000 Acura 3.5RL with 155,000 miles on it. I have thoroughly enjoyed the car.

Here are the atmospherics:

1. I spend a good amount of time on the road between the Eastern Shore and Washington, and so I want the car to have a fair amount of luxury to it.
2. I am hard of hearing but enjoy talking on my phone while I drive--this means the car must be relatively quiet.
3. I am not ruling out a convertible; it must be a hard-top convertible though, so that I can keep the noise down when I need to.
4. Comfort, quality, attractiveness.

Here are the cars that I think about:

1. Mercedes S550 used
2. BMW 750 Li used
3. BMW 330 CI New
4. BMW Z4 New
5. BMW 650 CI Used
6. Cadillac XLR Used
7. Mercedes SL 550 used
8. Hyundai Genesis new
9. Chevrolet Corvette used
10. Jaguar XJ used
11. Jaguar XF new
12. Lexus LS 460 used
13. Range Rover used
14. Infiniti FX50 new
15. Infiniti M45 used
16. Audi S5 new
17. Audi A6 new
18. Audi A8 Used
19. Volvo S80 new

What I ask of those who answer is for you to provide the make and year of the car you'd recommend given the criteria I laid out above and the cars I'm thinking about, and then WHY you have recommended the car that you have. I realize that I'm all over the map on this, and that's why I'm asking for a little help.

Thanks in advance.

Ann Coulter Doing What She Does Best--Eviscerating Democrats

As many of you know, I'm not a huge Ann Coulter fan. Too vitriolic, too confrontational. That doesn't mean she isn't often right. I prefer to read her, rather than listen too her. To be perfectly honest, I prefer watching her with the sound off to both--but I digress.

In this little screed (H/T Tigerhawk) she reminds us in the wake of the "birther" ridiculousness of some of the ridiculousness of our friends on the left.

My Dog Is Smarter Than Your Honor Student

Admittedly insignificant article here about some researcher who has studied how dogs think and, after administering tests meant to assess human infant intelligence, ranked the breeds (no doubt to have all the practicioners of anthropomorphism rush to his site to see where their own beloved "Binky" ranks--kind of like I did).

Look, I love dogs. Had three of them up to about a year and a half ago. As one of nature's great injustices demands, we humans tend to outlive our dogs by more than half a century, and two of my loyal companions are no longer with me. That's okay, I had a blast while they were around. Virtually every day I spent with them guaranteed that I would, at their behest, conversely (1) tear my hair out and (2) laugh my ass off. As an avid waterfowler, I always envisioned I would have a grand champion Chessie or Lab. Somehow, I ended up with three Dachshunds. Wiener dogs. Dogs that are half a dog high and a dog and a half long.

I try very hard to avoid the natural proclivity of dog-owners to attribute human characteristics to their beloved 4-legged friends (3 legged if your dog's name happens to be "Lucky"). But, this article reminded me of one of those moments where my favorite dog, Sammie, left me wondering, just how smart are these little critters? Dachshunds LOVE to dig. Sammie was no exception, going "to ground" whenever his ubersense of smell told him there was something breathing somewhere between the earth's surface and its molten core. On this day, he was busily digging under a log on our property, no doubt for a mouse living underneath as I could tell by the nature of his yelps and barks. You see, Sammy had different barks for mice or moles, squirrels, deer (yes, he frequently chased deer), rabbits, and one of his favorites around here, turtles. I knew his "squirrel bark" because of the three years I lived in a house with a yard full of huge oak trees. While there, Sammie would sit at the dog door and wait for squirrels to stray one step too far from the nearest tree before bursting through the door with a cacophony of squirrel barks. On some occasions, I didn't need to feed him that day. Anyway, we sinced moved a few times and ended up here, where we have only pine trees and, until I put up a couple bird feeders this summer, not one squirrel for the 10 years we owned this property.

Back to Sammie digging. This predated my bird feeder experiment so we had no squirrels. So again, Sammie is digging to beat the band when Max, our older dominant male decided to amble over and take advantage of all the prep work Sammie had done to make access to the mouse a matter of minimal effort for Max (Max was all about minimal effort). Max nudged Sammie out of the way, and took over the digging. Needless to say, Sammie was not pleased. I watched him look at Max, whine a little, then look left, then right, then left again. He then walked over to the closest pine tree, put his forepaws on the trunk, looked up to the top of the tree and let out that bark I had not heard out of him for years--his squirrel bark. Maxie immediately ceased digging and ran over to the tree, I have to assume, to seek a much more filling morsel than a mouse, and Sammie immediately departed the tree to resume digging for the mouse. To me, that kind of obvious deception was something I never would have attributed to a non-human. It struck me as, well, intelligent.

I wonder how that little sh-- would have done on this researcher's test. By the way, I once had a picture of Sammy retrieving a teal that I had shot. I would have posted it but I can't find it anymore. He loved being outdoors. He was always into something. Always had something to do. And would chew through rebar if it was standing between him and me on my way to going hunting. He was a great dog. And maybe even intelligent on a human scale. I don't really care though, I just miss my buddy.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Wahoo Football 09---Scenes from the First Practice

Hope springs eternal.

A Look Inside the Angst of Corporate America....

Not for the kiddies.....

Hat tip--Tim

Dean of Harvard Medical School Speaks Wisdom on Healthcare Reform

Greg Mankiw introduces us to the new Dean of the Harvard Medical School, who fifteen years ago (just after the wreckage of the Clinton Healthcare Fiasco (CHF)) wrote this neat little overview of the healthcare system in the US, its problems, and possible (freer market) solutions. It loads very slowly, but once it has and is read, it provides the reader with sound policy guidance on ways to improve our healthcare system.

His treatment of the basic economics of healthcare is among the more straightforward I've read.

I haven't heard of Dr. Flier before, and I'll do a little research into whether or not his views have evolved over the years. But if his views have remained consistent, it is nice to know that Ghost of Halloween Past's hallowed halls of Harvard has at least one clear-thinking policy type to help shape the healthcare debate.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Big Fat Friday Free For All

All Time High (April 1 2009): 192.2
Diet start (June 1): 189
Last Friday: 178.0
Today: 175.0

Welcome back to the Big Fat Friday Free For All--lots to digest ladies and gentlemen, lots in the news, some minor dustups here on the CW (Mudge and GHP providing endless enjoyment).

What's on your mind?

Oh--and Happy Birthday to sister Kelly, whose arrival in the house as a newborn I remember as if it were yesterday.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

John Hughes, RIP

Wow, first Farrah and Michael, and now John Hughes. My adolescent and teenage years are fast becoming a faint memory.

Hughes either directed, produced (or both) some of the most popular and lucrative movies of the 1980's and early 1990's. A glimpse of his brilliance (WARNING: F-bombs aplenty):

"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." - Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

We'll miss you, Mr. Hughes.

UPDATE: A nice testimonial to the character of John Hughes. Robert Thorn, your admiration for the man and his body of work is well placed...

The Democratic Party--The Gift That Keeps Giving

Every day Barack Obama becomes more beatable. Every day, the people who thought they were voting for a fiscally tough centrist are discovering the truth of the big spender that he is. The Administration's (and their stooges in Congress) haughty, dismissive and elitist attitude toward those who wish to be heard on health care may play well to the liberal intelligentsia, but lots and lots of average folks in the middle voted for Mr. Obama AND they agree that the Democratic plans for health care are off-base. By criticizing the protesters, the Administration is quietly alienating those who agree with them.

On January 20th, 2009, I believed that I was watching the inauguration of the man who would be my President for eight years, presiding over a steady march to the left of center in the country. I'm no longer so sure, so pessimistic. The Democrats have over-reached, they've tried to do too much, they've run up against an American public who refuse to press the "I believe" button again, for whom trillions of new spending represent the stolen wages of grandchildren born and otherwise.

A Foodie Thread for Robert Thorn

Sometime blogger here on the CW Robert Thorn is a friend of mine who goes running for the hills every time he reads another book about industrial farming or goes to the movies to see things like "FOOD, INC.". He's a very healthy guy in phenomenal shape, but methinks he doth protest too much about the manner in which the planet is feeding its 6 billion residents.

Here's a great thread. First read this one--it is a blogpost by a farmer who takes issue with a foodie/elitist/RobertThorn wannabe on an airplane. Follow it with a read of Ronald Bailey's praise on the Reason blog. After than, take a look at the namby-pamby criticism of 1) the farmer who wrote the first blog post 2) Ronald Bailey 3) Reason Magazine and 4) conservatives. Finally, take a look at Bailey's response.

Taken as a whole, you get a much more balanced sense of what it takes to feed this world, and the difficulties involved in going back to some romantic, antiquated view of farming that is inappropriate to a growing world. Don't get me wrong--Michael Pollan's look into the world of stockyards, etc. wasn't a great read before dinner (it is actually a superb book, one that has had a n influence on the way I'm eating now--not from a sense of the morality of food (a big thing for Pollan), but simply because of how unhealthy a lot of processed food is). But BobbyThorn and the foodie elitist world don't have a better plan to feed this country, let alone the world.

Sometimes A Poster Is Just A Poster

A few days ago, CW posted an item on the picture that launched a thousand bloggers – the image of President Barack Obama photoshopped to look like Heath Ledger’s recent turn as the comic book villain “The Joker”. At the time, CW couldn’t seem to figure out why the picture was criticized in some circles as a racist attack.

Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post attempts to enlighten the unenlightened, and he’s produced quite a whopper. Here's a sampling, but it deserves the full read:

"So why the anonymity? Perhaps because the poster is ultimately a racially charged image. By using the "urban" makeup of the Heath Ledger Joker, instead of the urbane makeup of the Jack Nicholson character, the poster connects Obama to something many of his detractors fear but can't openly discuss. He is black and he is identified with the inner city, a source of political instability in the 1960s and '70s, and a lingering bogeyman in political consciousness despite falling crime rates.

The Joker's makeup in "Dark Knight" -- the latest film in a long franchise that dramatizes fear of the urban world -- emphasized the wounded nature of the villain, the sense that he was both a product and source of violence. Although Ledger was white, and the Joker is white, this equation of the wounded and the wounding mirrors basic racial typology in America. Urban blacks -- the thinking goes -- don't just live in dangerous neighborhoods, they carry that danger with them like a virus. Scientific studies, which demonstrate the social consequences of living in neighborhoods with high rates of crime, get processed and misinterpreted in the popular unconscious, underscoring the idea. Violence breeds violence. "

In short, Kennicott concludes that the image is racist because the picture’s creator chose to use Ledger’s Joker instead of Nicholson’s.

There you have it.

Or maybe not. Perhaps the “artist” was struck by a resemblance between the publicity still of Ledger and one of the many Time Magazine covers featuring Obama:

If anything, I've always thought Nicholson’s Joker was evocative of Leona Helmsley:

I suppose that makes me a misogynist.
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