Thursday, April 28, 2011

Obama, frustrated by ‘this silliness...’

The President of the United States yesterday decided to both produce proof of his birth citizenship and whine about the fact that he felt it necessary to do so. The Washington Post, of course, agrees with the President, but skips critical details of the the story.
Some of the president’s conservative critics have pushed the theory that Obama, whose father was Kenyan, was born in Africa, as a way to question his constitutional legitimacy and even his basic American-ness. It is a falsehood that has gained remarkable currency. The most recent CBS/New York Times poll suggests that about a quarter of Americans believe it to be true. Among Republicans, 45 percent said they think Obama was not born in the United States.
There are two key points that need to be made about this "silliness."
  1. The story was started by Hillary Clinton supporters, not "conservatives" or Republicans, during the Democratic primary in 2008.
  2. The story was fed by a telephone call to Obama's step-grandmother, who attested that she was in the room when he was born in Kenya.
You've never seen anything about the story here, because I haven't written about it, because I think it's nonsense. The phone call was done through an interpreter, and the snippets of it that I've heard are abruptly cut off after the confirmation, apparently because when the caller tried to confirm, the interpreter realized he'd misunderstood the question and said, "no, he was born in Hawaii." There was no particular reason to doubt that he was born in Hawaii to begin with and his mother was an American citizen. So I thought that the story was both pointless and silly.

But if Barack Obama is upset that he's dealing with the "silliness" in April of 2011, well, he's got no one to blame but himself.
“The President believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote in a blog post on the White House Web site. “It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country.”
The fact that he released yesterday because the distraction "wasn't good for the country" implies that before yesterday, the distraction was good for the country. If he can put this controversy away (which he can't, completely, at this point1) by simply releasing the long-form birth certificate, as he did yesterday, then he could have put it away three years ago when it first surfaced. He chose not to. There's been some speculation that he believed it served his purposes to have a fringe group to point at as he played the race card, but, for whatever reason, he chose not to release the form until yesterday. So it's his own fault that he was dealing with it yesterday.

1 - There are always going to be those who latch onto conspiracy theories and won't let go. Releasing the long-form birth certificate won't stop those people from believing that he was born in Kenya, because it wasn't rational evidence that spawned or promoted that belief, and it won't be rational evidence that dispels it. The three year delay allowed the size of that fringe to grow substantially.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Obama, lost in thought

Pretty funny piece from Dana Milbank of The Washington Post. (Oh, what's that? It isn't a joke? But that would mean that he's serious, and that can't be, can it?)
When I covered George W. Bush’s White House, my job was made easier by the simplicity of the subject. The president had a few defining mantras — Cut taxes! Rally the base! Terrorists hate freedom! With us or against us! — and most of his decisions could be understood, even predicted, by applying one of the overarching philosophies.
Principled, simple, whatever...
With President Obama, there is no such luxury. The political right is befuddled as it tries to explain him: First, Obama was a tyrant and a socialist; now he’s a weakling who refuses to lead. The political left is almost as confused, demanding to know why Obama gave away so much on health care and in budget negotiations. Nearly everybody puzzles over Obama’s ad hoc responses to Egypt, Libya and now Syria, grasping for a still-elusive Obama Doctrine.
Yeah, I don't think the right is as befuddled as Dana is. Socialist? Check. Tyrant? Well, like all utopianist progressives, he's certainly inclined to be, but in an office that doesn't really allow it. Weakling? Pretty much. Refuses to lead? No, just pretty much not capable of it.
Seeking a template to understand the enigmatic president, I consulted three leading academics in the fields of psychology and behavior. With their help, I put Obama on the couch and came away with a reasonably coherent diagnosis: There’s too much going on in the poor guy’s head.
Too much in his head. Right. "Hmm...So if UConn beats Butler, then at least I beat Axelrod in the pool...What's my tee time today? I wonder what the closest PGA course is to that fund-raiser I'm attending tomorrow...Boy, I'd like to be able to go for a walk in the park without anyone knowing me... Why do those racists still want to see my birth certificate? ... Why don't those people complaining about gas prices just buy new electric cars? And yeah, I said that energy prices had to go up, and I blamed Bush for rising gas prices, but why are people blaming me? I didn't raise them... I wonder where I can vacation this month... Man, Bush left me a rotten situation...I hate this job..."

Yeah, I can imagine that there's a lot going on in his head.
“What distinguishes Obama particularly is the depth and carefulness of his thinking, which renders him somewhat unfit for politics,” said Jonathan Haidt, a professor of social psychology at the University of Virginia. “He is a brilliant social and political analyst, which makes it harder for him to play hardball or to bluff.”

I'm sorry, the "brilliance" just so adamantly refuses to make itself know that it's hard to take this kind of hogwash seriously. There is, as near as I can tell, not a spec or shred of hard evidence that this President has anything other than a mediocre intellect, and is the ultimate product of the Affirmative Action program.

William of Ockham, a 14th century English monk, is credited with "Occam's razor," the theory that in any search for truth, you should tend to favor the simplest theory which adequately explains all of the available data. In the case of Obama, the simplest theory that adequately explains all of the available data is that he's a man of above average intelligence but no particular distinction of intellect, a leftist who bears racial grievances and was inculcated in radical politics but, with the active collaboration of a sympathetic media, didn't let them define him publicly, who benefited at school from affirmative action policies, and, on his climb through the political ranks, benefited from his race and the media bias while avoiding as many hard decisions as he could, a man who is utterly unsuited by temperament and intellect and experience for the office in which he now finds himself, and whose lack of experience shows itself constantly in his inability to manage the office successfully. Think of him as the ultimate expression of the Peter Principle.

The alternate theory, of course, is Milbank's - he's too smart for the job, and so every time he does something that seems stupid (porkulus, "just buy a new car," Eric Holder, obamacare, Janet Napolitano, cash-for-clunkers, Libya, Joe Biden, "bitter clingers," etc.), it's because he's so thoughtful that he's making a brilliant decision and the world gets it wrong.

You don't really need Occam's razor to make a choice there...

(H/T - Jennifer Rubin)

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Monday, April 25, 2011

"Promise kept"

So, Obama hasn't broken all of his promises...disrputthenarrative suggests taping this to the pump every time you fill up.

Not a bad idea...

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Monday Pythagorean, 4/25/2011

Well, that's a little more like it. 6-1 is a good week in any circumstances - when you've been struggling below .500 in each of the first three weeks, it's a godsend.

  • I was going to say, "now they're starting to look like the team we expected." And it's true, but they actually look like the team we expected last year, not this year. Last year, we expected dominant pitching ("run prevention") and OK offense. And that's just what we've seen for the past week-plus. This year, we've expected dominant offense and OK pitching. I think that the offense is going to be really good, but it hasn't been yet.
  • There are positive signs, though, on the offensive front. Neither Carl Crawford nor Jacoby Ellsbury were good, this week, but they didn't have to be good to be much, much better than they'd been thus far. They put up identical .259/.310/.444/.755 lines, each going 7 for 27 with four singles, two doubles, a HR, two walks and two stolen bases. Crawford's week was a little more productive because he was only caught stealing once and Ellsbury was caught three times (OK, he was charged with being caught three times - on one of them he was clearly safe) and Crawford only struck out four times to Ellsbury's 11. And they each finished the week strong, as they hit well in the four games in LAnaheim, .333/.400/.444/.844 (Ellsbury) and .267/.353/.533/.886 (Crawford).
  • Other positive signs from the offense included J.D. Drew (.316/.435/.632/1.066) and Kevin Youkilis (.286/.348/.762/1.110) having productive weeks.
  • And, of course, if they continue to allow fewer than two runs per game, as they've done for the last nine, then the offense doesn't really need to get any better. If you're going to outscore your opponents by nearly three runs per game, as they did this week, you're generally going to be successful.
  • The pitching, particularly the starters, has been on a tremendous run that's now into double digits. Since Matsuzaka's disaster start against the Rays on the 11th, they've played eleven games, and the starters have averaged 6 2/3 innings pitched and 1.09 runs allowed, for an ERA of 1.47. In the last nine games, starting pitchers have allowed six runs in 61 1/3 innings, for an ERA of .88. Coincidentally (or not [probably not ;-) ]), they're 8-1 over those nine games.
  • In any event, the early panic has, rightly, subsided, and comparisons to the 1995 Red Sox have ceased to be relevant. They're 3 1/2 games back with 141 to play. They're probably not out of the division race yet...
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - As his hot stretch continues for a second week, Jed Lowrie(.400/.407/.720/1.127) takes the prize, and the bulk of the playing time at SS.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - Most weeks, John Lackey's performance (two starts, 14 innings, 1 run) is enough to win this handily. Josh Beckett pitched well again. Jon Lester pitched well again. Daniel Bard was really good in three outings. But there's really no contest here, as Daisuke Matsuzaka finally showed the form that caused the Sox to post a $51 million bid for his rights. In two starts, he pitched 15 innings and struck out 12 while allowing only two hits and six total baserunners. Total dominance, twice, and with enough strikes that he was able to last through seven innings in one game and eight in another.
AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/18/2011
New York6.06(1)4.56(10)0.627(2)1171261
Kansas City5.09(3)4.77(11)0.529(5)121012100
Los Angeles3.86(9)3.64(2)0.528(6)121012100
Tampa Bay3.59(12)3.82(4)0.472(10)101211111

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York10854
Kansas City8874
Los Angeles8874

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York10260
Kansas City8676

Standings for the week
New York8(1)3.5(4)0.819(2)31310
Tampa Bay3.57(11)3(3)0.579(5)43521
Los Angeles3.57(11)4.57(8)0.389(11)3425-1
Kansas City4.29(8)6(14)0.351(12)25250

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter music at Park Street Church, with the Park Street Church Sanctuary Choir and the Park Street Orchestra. The service opened with the Easter hymn, but the choir and orchestra performed a prelude and postlude on it.

The first anthem of the morning was Beethoven's "Hallelujah" from the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives.

Finally, the final chorus from Mendelssohn's masterwork oratorio Elijah.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday

 mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos ut et vos diligatis invicem in hoc cognoscent omnes quia mei discipuli estis si dilectionem habueritis ad invicem (Vulgate)

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (KJV) 

John 13:34-35

On the night of the last supper, Jesus told his disciples that he gave to them a new commandment.  From the Latin "mandatum," to command, comes the name attached to the Thursday of Holy Week.  Maundy Thursday is the night upon which we commemorate the Last Supper and the betrayal of Jesus' by Judas Iscariot.


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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sunrise PT - Fort Huachuca

One of those soldiers could be ours - can't tell from this picture. But that was apparently taken yesterday...

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Glittery pieces that don't fit right..."

One of my pet peeves about baseball writing is the tendency for some writers to attribute to "heart" or "courage" or "guts" things which are better attributed to "small sample size" and "luck." And the tendency to try to make baseball fit the "working together/chemistry" model that does work with football and hockey (and even basketball, to a lesser extent). Here's a splendid example from Peter Abraham, writing at the Boston Globe's Red Sox blog. This was written on Saturday, so it pre-dates the Red Sox three game winning streak. And I'm willing to cut a little slack, because it's hard coming up with something new and interesting to say, and the need to post even when there's nothing interesting to say can lead to cliche and bad analysis. But one part of this really irritates me.
The catching situation has become glaring. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is hitting .138/.297/.250. The pitching staff has a 3.46 ERA when Jason Varitek catches, a 7.93 when Saltalamacchia is behind the plate.

To be fair, that is based only only 76 innings for Saltalamacchia and 26 for Varitek. But a small sample size is all we have to go on. Opposing base-stealers are 10 for 12 against Saltalamacchia, too.

Saltalamacchia has a strong arm but his throwing mechanics are hit or miss. He double clutched a throw in the seventh inning tonight and fired the ball into center field. The Jays were baiting him to throw to first at one point because they had a runner on third.

Carl Crawford looks like a player in desperate need of a day off. But Jacoby Ellsbury (.195/.250/.366) hasn't been the answer atop the order, either. This team so far looks like a lot of glittery pieces that don't fit right.
Uh, no. This team looks nothing like "a lot of glittery pieces that don't fit right." If that were the case, the hitters would have high averages, and the pitchers low ERAs, and they'd be losing anyway. They'd have created more runs than they actually scored, with individual stats that looked better than the team stats. They'd have outscored the opposition while losing more than they won.

None of that is true. What they've actually looked like is a team with a lot of terrible pieces. You can't write that Carl Crawford is hitting .137/.185/.157/.342 and Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .195/.250/.366/.616 and then claim that the team looks like "a lot of glittery pieces that don't fit right" without somehow making the case that the speedy left-fielder and speedy center-fielder can't play well together in the same lineup, a case for which there is exactly zero evidence, and which he doesn't try to make anyway.

Is the fact that the pieces "don't fit right" responsible for Clay Buchholz' 6.60 ERA? Bobby Jenks' 8.31? Daniel Bard's 9.64? Daisuke Matsuzaka's 12.86? Dan Wheeler's 14.54? John Lackey's 15.58? If so, how? If not, then the claim's nonsense, isn't it? If those pitchers continue to perform that way, they aren't "glittery pieces." If they don't, then the alleged lack of "fit" won't continue to manifest itself.

The only way to claim that the team looks like a lot of "glittery pieces" is to acknowledge that, "hey, these players have always played better than they're playing now," at which point the team looks - again - like a good team off to a bad start. I know, it was a throwaway line. But it irritates me, because it's indicative of a mindset that I find foolish. Baseball's a team game in that there are multiple players playing at the same time. But the vast, vast majority of what takes place on the field is determined by an individual match-up - one pitcher vs. one hitter. Period. The idea that you could somehow construct a lineup of great hitters and then not score runs over the long haul because they don't "fit right" is ... well, it's silly. There's some interaction required on defense, but very little for which it matters who the other guy is. There's some offensive interaction, virtually entirely dictated by the manager1. For the most part, the team with the better players is going to win more than the team with the lesser players, regardless of "chemistry" or "fit."

1 - This is a big part of the reason that the baseball All Star game can be a great game, while the NBA, NHL and NFL all star games are pure exhibitions.

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Scenes from Patriots Day, 2011

Lexington, MA, where the Lexington Minutemen and the King's 4th Infantry of foot re-enact the "shot heard 'round the world."

The golden tickets that allow you a vantage point to actually see the field.

Sitting with friends, in the cold dark morning, is fun...

The Minutemen face  The Regulars on the battle green in Lexington

Fifers prepare for the morning parade, the first of two for the day through the town of Lexington.

During the afternoon parade

During the afternoon parade

Tired fifer - it gets late early on Patriots Day...

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Delusions of virtue

My piece on the differing views of reality last week was primarily background, so I could address pieces like this Washington Post opinion piece in context. Because Sally Kohn is as disconnected from the reality in which I live as anyone out there.
The real problem isn’t a liberal weakness. It’s something liberals have proudly seen as a strength — our deep-seated dedication to tolerance. In any given fight, tolerance is benevolent, while intolerance gets in the good punches. Tolerance plays by the rules, while intolerance fights dirty. The result is round after round of knockouts against liberals who think they’re high and mighty for being open-minded but who, politically and ideologically, are simply suckers.
Ok, does anyone actually watching the process think that the "liberals" in this country have been "benevolent" in the recent political past? Has the "conservative" position dominated on issue after issue? Was that a "tolerant" and "open-minded" effort on the part of President "I won" and the Pelosi/Reid Congress that jammed Obamacare through on a strictly partisan vote? Were the liberals who occupied the state house in Madison, and tried to turn a non-partisan judicial election into a civil rights battle demonstrating "tolerance" and "open-mindedness"? And as for playing by the rules vs. playing dirty, are ACORN and Planned Parenthood and NPR and the SEIU "conservative" organizations?

Obviously not.

It's long been my position that, for the most part, the difference in the Liberal/Conservative partisan split is biggest when looking at the other side. Conservatives tend to see Liberals, not all but most, as well-meaning but wrong. Liberals tend to see Conservatives as bad. Conservatives look at liberals and see "bleeding hearts" and "tree-huggers" and "big government free spenders" and Liberals look at Conservatives and see "racists" and "homophobes" and "fascists." And their positions let the liberals "think they’re high and mighty for being open-minded." Delusions of virtue. Basically, liberals demonstrate tolerance on some issues, primarily sexual, but have no tolerance whatsoever for anyone who thinks about things differently than they do.

But this was the comment that I really wanted to address.
In the weeks leading up to the budget showdown, the Pew Research Center found that 50 percent of Republicans wanted their elected representatives to “stand by their principles,” even if it meant causing the federal government to shut down. Among those who identified as tea party supporters, that figure was 68 percent. Conversely, 69 percent of Democrats wanted their representatives to avoid a shutdown, even if it meant compromising on principles.
Gosh, why would one party's supporters be more concerned about the government remaining open than the other party's? What could possibly account for that? (Other than, obviously, superior "tolerance?") Hmm... That's a puzzler, for sure...

Here's a thought. Is it possible that one side is more concerned about the size and cost of government than the other? Could it possibly be that one party disproportionately represents those that fund the government and the other disproportionately represents those that receive funds from the government? That the party doing the funding thinks it spends too much and wants to cut back while the party doing the receiving just wants the funds to keep coming, or even increase? That one party is the party of free markets and liberty and the other is, fundamentally, the part of big government?

I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader to decide. I know what my position is...

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Pythagorean, 4/18/2011

Three games under (0-3). Two games under (2-4). One game under (2-3). At least the trajectory is positive. Sooner or later, they'll have a week at .500, or even better...

(Abbreviated commentary this week, typing in my car in Lexington between parades, trying to get posted before battery and/or modem dies...)

  • They take the field on Patriots Day with their longest winning streak of the season - two. Half of their wins over the first fourteen games have come in the last two days.
  • The ballpark looks wonderful, clean and green and neat, while still looking like Fenway. The HD monitor boards in CF and left CF are amazing to look at.
  • As a group, the outfielders were awful - again - hitting .207/.270/.379/.649. Of course, this was much more productive than the catchers, who hit .118/.167/.118/.284.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Is this the first time this award goes to a backup? It might be, but that's not going to be the case for long, anyway. Jed Lowrie probably won't have many weeks like this past one (.533/.563/.867/1.429), but he's a very good hitter, and while the injury problems have caused some people to think of him as a bust, or a backup, I bet the Sox still know what he is...
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - The same contest as last week, with the same result. Jon Lester threw two good games to Josh Beckett's one, but Beckett's was better than either of Lester's, and Lester gave up enough runs for the team to lose against Tampa, allowing most of the Rays offense (and all of their runs) in one bad inning. That's enough for Beckett to be the Pitcher of the Week for the second week in a row.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/18/2011
Kansas City5.47(2)4.2(6)0.618(3)961051
Los Angeles4(9)3.2(1)0.601(4)961051
New York5.5(1)4.86(11)0.557(5)86951
Tampa Bay3.6(12)4.2(6)0.43(9)69690

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Kansas City10854
Los Angeles10854
New York10458

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Kansas City10161
Los Angeles9864
New York9171

Standings for the week
Kansas City5.5(2)3(3)0.752(2)5142-1
Tampa Bay5.67(1)3.17(4)0.744(3)42511
Los Angeles3.5(8)2.33(2)0.677(4)42511
New York5.4(3)4.2(8)0.613(5)32411

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Upon This Rock

Park Street Church Sanctuary Choir, Park Street Brass, 4/17/2011

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

From Christian to post-Christian to anti-Christian...

More idiocy from the UK.
An electrician faces the sack for displaying a small palm cross on the dashboard of his company van.

Former soldier Colin Atkinson has been summoned to a disciplinary hearing by the giant housing association where he has been employed for 15 years because he refuses to remove the symbol.

Mr Atkinson, a regular worshipper at church, said: ‘The treatment of Christians in this country is becoming diabolical...but I will stand up for my faith.’

Throughout his time at work, he has had an 8in-long cross made from woven palm leaves attached to the dashboard shelf below his windscreen without receiving a single complaint.

But his bosses at publicly funded Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) in West Yorkshire – the fifth-biggest housing organisation in England – have demanded he remove the cross on the grounds it may offend people or suggest the organisation is Christian.


But the company’s equality and diversity manager, Jayne O’Connell, who was recruited from HBoS bank in 2009, replied: ‘WDH has a stance of neutrality. We now have different faiths, new emerging cultures. We have to be respectful of all views and beliefs.’

HBoS became part of Lloyds Banking Group after it almost collapsed in late 2008.

At another meeting, Ms O’Connell said Mr Atkinson could express his faith but ‘it is quite clear it cannot be associated with WDH and displaying the cross gives the impression that WDH is a Christian organisation’.

She said staff could demonstrate their personal beliefs ‘discreetly’, even adding that the company could provide extra material in its official corporate colours ‘for employees who wish to wear a different style of uniform’.

Pressed by Mr Cunliffe on whether a Muslim woman who wore a burka at work would be considered discreet, she said: ‘If they could do their job effectively, then yes.’

Asked whether she would think a burka in WDH corporate colours was discreet, Ms O’Connell replied: ‘Yes, it would be.’
And, of course, we look back to the words of C.S. Lewis, who foresaw this 70 years ago...
The practical result of education in the spirit of The Green Book must be the destruction of the society which accepts it.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

What I was doing instead of writing today...

No commentary necessary...

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Friday, April 15, 2011

"You think we're stupid?"

Obama off-the-record: asks Republicans, ‘You think we’re stupid?’

I've seen no evidence to the contrary...

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Has the GOP Leadership Betrayed The Base?

Some people think so...
I don't think the corrupt GOP leadership understands that they were given one chance to get it right...and they've blown it. We The People will remember in 2012 what you've done to our country, our party and those principles you claimed to hold dear. We will elect a new slate and you'll be kicked to the curb.
I don't want to pick on Rich Vail, and Lord knows that he's not the only one thinking this way, but I think that's an incredibly short-sighted and over-the-top reaction.

I've made it quite clear that I wasn't impressed by the deal, and that hasn't changed. But again, it's vitally important to remember where we are, and what the context is. The following points are all important.
  • The Republicans control the House of Representatives and need no Democratic votes in the House.
  • The Republicans do not control the Senate - the Democrats do. In order for a bill to pass the legislature, it needs to be agreed to by at least five Democratic Senators, and it needs to be brought to the floor by Harry Reid.
  • The Republicans do not control the White House. If President Obama won't sign something, it doesn't become law.
  • The debt problem wasn't built overnight, and it can't be solved overnight.
  • The deficit in this year's spending is so large that the difference between $3.8 billion in cuts, $38.5 billion in cuts and $385 billion in cuts is essentially irrelevant to the country's long-term fiscal condition.
  • The real debt problem, the "ticking time bomb," is entitlements.
  • It is quite clear, at this point that entitlements are never going to be "fixed" by Congressional Democrats (who don't even believe that they are a problem.)
  • It is quite clear that, absent a super-majority in both houses to override a Presidential veto, entitlements are never going to be seriously addressed with this President in the White House.
  • A significant majority of voters still get their information from, or are influence in their opinions by, the mainstream media.
  • The mainstream media is going to portray any shutdown as a dire situation for the country, and focus on any hard-luck, bad news stories that result.
  • The mainstream media is going to blame the Republicans for any shutdown.
I don't believe that there's anything controversial on that list. So the Republicans who were "swept into office" by the Tea Party last November, have now been in control of one house of Congress for three months. They're fighting for budget discipline and entitlement reform against a hostile Senate, a hostile President and a hostile media. The President and the media would each love to see a replay of 1995, when the Government shutdown and the Republicans were blamed, significantly strengthening Bill Clinton's re-election bid.

Rich says that "we were promised $100B in cuts on THIS YEARS budget, what we got? Less than 3.5% of that figure." I don't know exactly what "promise" he's talking about, but I know that the $100 billion figure was bandied about. And I'm not positive that $352 million is the best assessment for the actual cuts that the deal included. But lets assume, for the sake of argument, that he's right on all of that. So we were promised $100 billion and got $352 million. My reaction?

So what?

If they'd cut $100 billion instead of $352 million, would that change, in any meaningful way, the United States' current fiscal situation? No, it would not. They're tinkering around the margins, because they cannot actually address the problems with Obama in the White House.

So everything that the GOP leadership does at the moment has to be done in such a fashion as to optimize progress towards two different goals.
  1. Improve the fiscal situation
  2. Improve the likelihood of taking the Senate and the White House in 2012.
Anything that doesn't move in both directions is counter-productive. Holding out for a better deal, shutting down the government in a futile attempt to cut $100 billion (or, to "keep that promise," if you prefer) is ultimately not helpful on either front. It makes no real improvement in the fiscal situation, and helps Barack Obama get re-elected.

To use a football analogy, they're playing a field-position game right now. It's early in the first quarter, they had the ball 4th and 7 from their own 42, and they chose to punt rather than go for it. I understand wanting Coach Boehner to go for it, but, in the long run, that isn't a smart play.

I don't like the deal that they made, but I recognize the political necessity for it. And the answer is to elect more Republicans and more conservatives, not to beat up on the ones that are already there working for the right things, even if they aren't working as fast as we'd like to see.

(H/T: Instapundit)

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U.S. History as Taught at Bowdoin

I suspect that this is not what it looked like when Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was the President...
Do Bowdoin alumni know their alma mater offers not one history course in American political, military, diplomatic, constitutional, or intellectual history, and nothing at all on the American Founding or the Constitution; that the one Civil War course is essentially African-American history (it is offered also in Africana Studies); and that there are more courses on gay and lesbian subjects than on American history?
The real question, the answer to which is, I suspect, horrifying, is "at how many of our 'elite' educational institutions is the situation similar or identical?"

And how long are Universities going to be able to sell Women's Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies and African Studies degrees for over $100,000?

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

AZ pix

A few pictures (some of them from the bus ride in, some more recent) from Arizona. For those who might be interested in such things...

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Throw Grandma From the Train

As I've noted before, the cries for "civility" in politics tend to be nothing but a cudgel for the left (and the media [but I repeat myself]) to use against any intemperate remark from a Republican, however mild. But Jake Tapper's identified a classic example from this President.
President Obama at the GOP House retreat, January 2010:

“We're not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as, ‘Well, you know, that's -- the other party's being irresponsible. The other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens. That the other party is doing X, Y, Z.”

President Obama [yesterday]:

“One vision has been championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party’s presidential candidates…This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone’s grandparents who wouldn’t be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.”
Utterly loathsome. Despicable.

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The Pied Piper

Michael Ramirez Cartoon is virtually synonymous with "brilliant..."

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Is Sugar Toxic?

For some of us, the answer is clearly, "yes." The real question is, is that true for just some, or is it true for all?

Gary Taubes, whose work I wish I had discovered before last December, continues to publish important information.
It’s one thing to suggest, as most nutritionists will, that a healthful diet includes more fruits and vegetables, and maybe less fat, red meat and salt, or less of everything. It’s entirely different to claim that one particularly cherished aspect of our diet might not just be an unhealthful indulgence but actually be toxic, that when you bake your children a birthday cake or give them lemonade on a hot summer day, you may be doing them more harm than good, despite all the love that goes with it. Suggesting that sugar might kill us is what zealots do. But Lustig, who has genuine expertise, has accumulated and synthesized a mass of evidence, which he finds compelling enough to convict sugar. His critics consider that evidence insufficient, but there’s no way to know who might be right, or what must be done to find out, without discussing it.

If I didn’t buy this argument myself, I wouldn’t be writing about it here. And I also have a disclaimer to acknowledge. I’ve spent much of the last decade doing journalistic research on diet and chronic disease — some of the more contrarian findings, on dietary fat, appeared in this magazine —– and I have come to conclusions similar to Lustig’s.
It's a long piece, but it's important. Read it...

And here's the Lustig lecture that he references. It's definitely worth watching...

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Which side, exactly, is "reality-based"?

In The Republic, Plato related Socrates' description of a cave in which prisoners are chained to the wall, facing the wall, and know nothing but the shadows of things behind them and the echoes of distant activity. Knowing nothing else, these men perceive the shadows and echoes as reality and know not reality itself.

In the parable of the blind men and the elephant, (which probably originated in China or India), men who were born blind are asked to touch and describe an elephant. One man touches the ear and describes the elephant as something like a fan, another touches the legs and describes an elephant as a pair of tree trunks, another touches the tusks and says that an elephant is something like a spear, while yet another touches the trunk and says that an elephant is like a snake.

Differing incomplete perceptions of reality result in different analyses.

This is something that concerns me greatly at the moment, as I contemplate our political system and government budget.

Let us consider a couple more scenarios.

  • Two men, walking down a road together, meet an obstacle, and cannot continue. They perceive the obstacle as a downed tree, and disagree on whether to try to move the tree, to climb over it or to light a fire and burn the tree until a gap is opened through which they can pass. Or they perceive a huge hole and disagree on whether to cut down a tree to bridge the gap, or to climb a tree on the left side and move from branch to branch to pass, or whether to climb a cliff on the right side and scale it sideways to the other side of the hole. Whatever they choose will require cooperation, and they disagree on the solution, but they each perceive the same obstacle.
  • Two men, walking down a road together, meet an obstacle, and cannot continue. One of the men sees a giant tree across the road, and wants to burn it. The other sees a giant hole, and want to cut down a tree to make a bridge.

Differing incomplete perceptions of reality result in attempts to solve different problems.

In the first scenario, there is a good chance that, agreeing on both the goal and the obstacle, the two men will eventually come to mutual decision and work together to surmount the obstacle. In the second case, no discussion is likely to be fruitful, no productive decision will result, because they have fundamentally different perceptions of the reality of their situation.

When I read things like this, therefore, it scares the hell out of me.
While the plan put forward by the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform did not gather enough votes to make a formal recommendation, we remain concerned that the Bowles-Simpson proposal may serve as a starting point for budget negotiations. We consider this plan to be flawed inseveral key areas, especially with respect to its proposed cuts to Social Security Benefits. We believe that any proposal that includes cuts to a popular, fiscally sound program lacks credibility and does not reflect the political center.
That's from a letter to the President signed by Democrat Representatives John Conyers and Raul Grijalva. And it is horrifying. When I look at Social Security, I see a Ponzi scheme, a plain and simple wealth transfer from the young to the old, the economics of which get worse with each passing day as life expectancy increases and birth rate drops and/or stabilizes. Any surpluses are illusory.

It has to be fixed. And the fact that their perception is that it's a "fiscally sound program" means that they'll resist any attempt to fix it.

The people who claimed for themselves the mantle of the "reality-based community" in the last decade are those that predominantly believe, right now, that the big problems facing the United States government are not the deficit and the debt, but the fact that the government is not taxing enough or spending enough. That the stimulus was too small. That the health care plan didn't go far enough. That Social Security is a "fiscally sound" program.

Which side is really perceiving reality?

It is one more illustration of the fact that the biggest problem facing this country right now is that the right and the left don't look at the government and see different solutions to the same reality. They look at the government and see fundamentally different realities.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Lumberjacks

I don't know how he does it, but Michael Ramirez continues to find new and brilliant ways to illustrate the financial situation of the United States, and the political response to it...

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"Nothing dear, you're not qualified"

One of the early scenes in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life depicts a hospital birth. The focus of the doctors and nurses and administrators all clustered around is on all of the fancy equipment and even the financing of said equipment ("we lease this back from the company we sold it to, and that way it comes under the monthly current budget, and not the capital account!"). What they're not particularly interested in is the young woman. Anyway, at one point, as the doctors are making sure that everyone knows his or her own part in the process, the woman on the gurney asks, "What should I do?" And the response is, "Nothing, dear - you're not qualified."

For some reason, I was reminded of that by this story1 out of Chicago...
Fernando Dominguez cut the figure of a young revolutionary leader during a recent lunch period at his elementary school.

"Who thinks the lunch is not good enough?" the seventh-grader shouted to his lunch mates in Spanish and English.

Dozens of hands flew in the air and fellow students shouted along: "We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch!"

Fernando waved his hand over the crowd and asked a visiting reporter: "Do you see the situation?"

At his public school, Little Village Academy on Chicago's West Side, students are not allowed to pack lunches from home. Unless they have a medical excuse, they must eat the food served in the cafeteria.

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

"Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school," Carmona said. "It's about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It's milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception."
I suppose we should be grateful that they even make exceptions for medical issues and allergies, but I don't see why we'd assume that will remain the case. After all, if the school is omniscient enough to provide for the children without problems better than the parents can, how much longer will it be before they decide that they can care for the parents with problems better than parents can?

One more itsy-bitsy step on the road to totalitarianism. We've gone from schooling for those who can afford it -> schools for everyone who wants to go -> mandatory schooling for all. We've gone from schools not feeding kids -> schools making lunch available to kids -> schools making "free" lunch available to kids -> schools making lunch mandatory for kids. (Thinking about following the history of school health -> sex ed -> condoms -> ??? to a similar and logical conclusion is ... unsettling...)

"If we can just put the right programs in place," cry the Utopians, "we can perfect the human condition, and make a heaven of the earth!" But they don't know what they don't know, and are likely - very likely - to do far more harm than good2. Even in the exceptionally unlikely event that the school were to actually serve a lunch that was both a) nutritionally sound and b) tasty enough that the kids would eat it, that does not come close to justifying the infringement on parental rights and responsibilities that this mandate represents. It is appalling.

Every overstep of government power begins this way. "Her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices." Of course it is. It's trite and cliche to say that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," but it's certainly true that the road to totalitarian government is. Every encroachment on freedom and liberty starts with someone wielding political power in pursuit of some greater good. And it may do some good for some population, but it almost invariably does some unintended harm to some other population at the same time. And, in the process, it enables the next bit of power transfer from individuals to government. It doesn't go all at once, just a little bit at a time, and the causes are always "good ones." It's "for the children" or "for women" or "for minorities" or "for the elderly." And they never even consider the possibility that they might be, you know, WRONG. "Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school," says the principal. Well, that's almost certainly true for some of the students, but it's equally almost certainly false for others. But it's obviously too expensive to treat everyone as an individual, so everyone gets the same. Better, worse, more appropriate, less appropriate, none of that matters - everyone gets the same.

FDR didn't set out to sell a program for transferring massive wealth from grandchildren to their grandparents, but that's what Social Security is. LBJ didn't (at least nominally) set out to destroy the black family, but that's been one of the significant end results of the "Great Society" programs which incentivize out-of-wedlock births and essentially punish marriage. Those programs were started with noble intentions ("taking care of the elderly" and "support for women with infant children") but the damage from the unintended consequences have dwarfed any good that they might have done.

And that's going to be the case in Chicago's school lunch mandate, too...

1Hat tip to Tom Naughton for the link to the story...

2Everything that the Federal government knows about nutrition and promotes about nutrition is wrong. Everything that we've been told about how to eat is wrong. The food pyramid is upside down.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Bedford Pole-Capping

On Saturday, the first event of what we might call the "revolutionary re-enactment season" took place in Bedford, MA. The Bedford Pole-Capping recreates an act of revolutionary defiance, where the anti-loyalists would go out and place red caps, as used to signify the manumission of slaves in Rome, upon tall trees or poles. The regulars would then, typically, cut them down. In Bedford, there's a parade with several of the local groups of minute men, and some fife and drums corps, the pole goes up, the cap goes up, and then the "lobsterbacks" arrive and take away the "pole capper."

Arriving for the event

Lining up

Fifers tuning

The William Diamond Jr. Fife and Drum Corps

On the parade route

Capping the pole

First event complete!

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Monday Pythagorean, 4/11/2011

Switching genres, from last week's spaghetti western, to the big budget disaster film, Titanic, as the "Unsinkable Boston Red Sox" continue to take on water. I don't expect to see Terry Francona standing at the top of the dugout steps shouting, "I'm King of the World!" any time soon.

  • 0-3 in Texas? Disappointing, but the Rangers are a pretty good team. 0-3 in Cleveland? That's when we start to wonder whether they're as good as we thought they were going to be.
  • How do you get to 0-6 or 1-7? By playing badly. Doing everything wrong. It's not enough to just pitch badly and hit poorly, you've also got to do that when it counts the most. Doing things like going 1-17 with the runners in scoring position, or walking the weak-hitting number 9 hitter leading off the 8th inning of a tie game, or having the potential tying run get thrown out rounding the second base bag too far to end a game, or allowing eight or nine runs in a game where you score four while scoring one in a game where you allow three and scoring none in a game where you allow one. Those are the things that 1-7 teams do, and the Red Sox did all of them on their way to 1-7.
  • One of the things that most people (well, many people) expect is that, with Crawford and Ellsbury, the Red Sox will lead the league in stolen bases this year. This week, they had two. Of course, the fact that Crawford and Ellsbury put up a .286 OBP for the week - if you add their separate .143s together - is going to keep them from running much, other than back to the dugout after that right turn at first base. On the whole, the Red Sox outfielders hit .181/.234/.194/.428 for the week, and only .115/.148/.115/.264 if you leave out Drew. There's room for much debate over where, exactly, to set the "it's good enough to win with" line, but any reasonable drawing of said line is way above that.
  • For the week, the team hit .246/.342/.322/.664. If you're going to hit like that, you have to get paranoid about leaving runners on base, because you don't have enough of them, and you can't score enough to win without getting most of them in. This team's going to score runs, not because they're going to perform better with runners in scoring position, though they will, but because they're going to perform better in all situations.
  • I said all winter that it was unrealistic to expect Buchholz to be as good this year as he was last year. Well, it's not unrealistic to expect him to be better than he's been thus far. Two starts, one so-so, one stinker. It's been a very Lester-April-ish performance thus far.
  • I have less confidence in John Lackey. Yeah, he got the win on Friday (which is just one more small addition to the mountain of evidence that pitcher wins are meaningless), but stunk in the process. I've got more confidence in Matsuzaka than Lackey right now. (Which is not the same as saying I'd rather watch Matsuzaka pitch. They both make for horrible viewing experiences...)
  • All that said, last night's performance changes the feeling of the week in a couple of important ways. Many people felt, coming in to the season, that the performance of Josh Beckett was going to be a key to their performance this year. Last night, he threw as well as he's thrown in two years, putting up a dominant performance against a team that, frankly, has owned him recently. The legend of "Josh Beckett, Yankee Killer" dates back to game 6 of the 2003 World Series, but his ERA against them in a Red Sox uniform is over 6, and, before last night, his last six starts against NY, dating back to mid-August 2009, had seen him allow 39 runs (37 earned) in only 34 innings. To watch that performance last night, to see Beckett completely shut down the Yankees, was so encouraging that it almost - almost - overshadows all of the negatives for the week.
  • Here's the other thing - by taking two of three against the Yankees, they've not only broken the ice, as it were, and kind of gotten the season rolling, they've stopped the deficit from growing. As bad as the first two weeks have been, they're four games behind Baltimore with 153 games to play. They're three behind Toronto and New York, and they're ahead of Tampa. It's easy to imagine them getting to the end of April within a game or two of .500 and within a game or two of first place. It was not the start that any of us were looking for, but it is likely to be only an interesting historical footnote by the time the All Star break rolls around.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week: - Dustin Pedroia led the assault on Yankee pitching with a .692/.733/1.154/1.887 weekend. For the week, he hit .458/.519/.708/1.227, with one HR and three doubles, while playing stellar defense and reminding everyone that he won an MVP just two years ago.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week: - Yeah, you all think it looks obvious now, but I was pretty convinced that this was going to be Jon Lester, who was stellar in Cleveland with nothing to show for it. And Beckett, don't forget, gave up three runs while struggling to get through five against the Indians on Monday, and that counts for this week, too. But he was so dominant last night, against the Yankees, that Josh Beckett gets the nod (in a tight decision over Lester) and wins the coveted Lyford Red Sox Pitcher of the Week award, the first one of 2011.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/11/2011
Los Angeles4.33(8)3.78(5)0.562(5)54540
Kansas City5.44(5)5(9)0.539(7)54631
New York5.56(4)5.22(10)0.528(8)54540
Tampa Bay2.22(14)4.89(8)0.191(14)2718-1
Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Kansas City10854
Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Los Angeles9171
Standings for the week
Los Angeles4.2(6)2.6(3)0.706(3)41410
Kansas City5.6(2)5.4(13)0.517(5)32320
New York4.5(5)4.67(9)0.483(8)33330
Tampa Bay2.83(12)5.33(12)0.239(13)15150

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At The Name Of Jesus

A lovely anthem by Rene Clausen, performed at Park Street Church, 4/10/11.


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Saturday, April 09, 2011

The budget deal

I said that I was going to write about the budget deal, so here it is.

There is obviously a wide range of opinions on this deal. Over a National Review's The Corner blog, the lockstepped Republican followers love it. And hate it. I haven't spent enough time in the lefty blogosphere to know for sure, but I've seen reports of similar phenomena.

My take - it's the Monty Python's Flying Circus budget deal. And not just because of the surrealistic "cutting 1% from the budget that we can only half fund to start with is too hard to do" nature of the debate.

When I was in college, we had a "Monty Python" weekend, back in 1981 or 1982. There were screenings of several films, and the special event was a talk by Python member Graham Chapman. It was ... quite amusing. But the interesting, and relevant, part of the talk was his description about how the name was chosen. In short, there were six of them, plus a couple of hangers-on and/or agents and/or producers looking for a name for this new show, and a bunch of names were thrown out for discussion. As the discussion went on, people moved to their favorites, arguing for them. The name "Monty Python's Flying Circus" was chosen, according to Chapman, because it was "the one that nobody liked." No one got their first choice at the expense of everyone else's first choice.

This budget is like that. Nobody really likes it. Which is good, because there's very little to like about it...

Evidence that the Democrats won:
  • The Republicans didn't get everything that they wanted.
  • Planned Parenthood didn't get defunded, so they'll still be turning tax dollars into Democrat campaign contributions.
  • Obamacare didn't get defunded.
  • The Republicans didn't get their $100 billion in cuts. They didn't get to their $62 billion in cuts.

Evidence that the Republicans won:
  • The Democrats didn't get everything that they wanted.
  • As preposterous as it sounds, given the current economic situation, the Democrats wanted to spend more. They didn't get to.
  • In January, Harry Reid denounced as "draconian" and "extreme" cuts of about $32 billion dollars. Yesterday, he proclaimed cuts of $38.5 billion to be "historic."
  • The DC scholarship program got funded.

Evidence that the American people won:
  • None.

To say that it doesn't go far enough in addressing the problems that we face would imply that it actually starts to address the problems that we face. We've got a fiscal sucking chest wound, and they've found a piece of a little band-aid for it.

But I'm not ready to rant and rave and jump all over Boehner and the house Republicans. The situation is what it is, and the fact remains that the Republicans, as Boehner has said, control "one-half of one-third of the federal government." (Of course, the SCOTUS has nothing to do with the budget debate, so it's really "one-half of one-half" but that's nitpicking.) And it's also a fact that they cannot fix it all today. The problem is too big. The most important things that they can do right now are a) control the problem as much as they can and b) position themselves to be able to fix it in the future. Given the media environment, a shutdown, holding out for a better deal now (albeit one that wouldn't appreciably improve the situation) would probably have decreased the chances of being able to attempt to fix it next year or the year after.

Let's face it - there's going to be no serious attempt to address any of these problems signed into law by this President. It may well be that the best we can hope for over the next two years is to slow the growth of the debt, and make that clear to everyone so that we'll have a new President signing budgets in 2013. Given that fact, I'm not going to get too worked up over this deal.

But it's not a good one. For anyone1.

1 I am glad that the military will continue to get paid...

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Shutdown averted

Headed off to the Bedford pole-capping (pictures and video later) and don't have time, at the moment, to comment on the deal. I will later - stay tuned...

(Preview: Not thrilled. Recognize the constraints of politics. Have not yet decided if I'm really upset or not...)

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Financial Planning

An excellent piece from Tom Naughton, Financial Planning, that might be even funnier if the situation weren't so dire...
“Let me get out a worksheet here … I like to start by looking at your income first, okay?”

“No problem.”

“Great. How much would you say you take in during an average month?”

“About 20,000 dollars.”

“Excellent! I’m sure we find you some very attractive investment opportunities at that income level. And what would you say your average monthly expenses add up to?”

“About 36,000 dollars.”

“Great, so … I’m sorry, could you say that again?”

“About 36,000 dollars.”

“You’re running 16,000 short every month?”

“That’s right. I wouldn’t be here if I knew what I was doing.”

“So you’re eating up all your savings, right?”

“Savings? No, I don’t have any savings.”


"Okay, then, here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to keep piling up debts, and the interest on those debts is going to keep piling up too. Mr. Kwang will keep lending you money as long as you pay the interest, but eventually you’ll owe in more in interest every month than you can possibly take in. Then you won’t be able to pay the interest, and Mr. Kwang will call in your debts. Then you’ll owe him everything you have. Understand? Everything. And then, Mr. Sam, you won’t be able to help anybody. Your nieces and nephews will be completely cut off, and everything they earn will go to Mr. Kwang. And all they’ll get out of the deal is the fond memory of how generous you used to be. Am I being clear here?”

“Wow. So the whole thing will come crashing down, huh?”

“You bet it will. You keep spending like this, it’s a foregone conclusion. It’s only a matter of when.”

“And when do think the when will be? How long, exactly?”

“Fifteen years if you’re lucky.”

“Really? Fifteen years?”

“That’s right.”

“Okay, great! Let me come back in another ten years or so and we’ll figure out what to do about this.”
Read it all...

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Obama's energy policy

Michael Ramirez:

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

I beg to differ...

According to Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III in a Message to DOD Workforce on Potential Government Shutdown, "the President has made it clear that he does not want a government shutdown, and the administration is working to find a solution with which all sides can agree." I don't think the President has "made it clear" at all. He's used those words, of course, because he knows that he cannot, politically, crow about it if it happens, but the behavior of the Democrats in the Senate and the President haven't "made it clear" at all that they don't want a government shutdown. I'd argue that they've behaved much more like a group that thinks a shutdown is going to benefit them politically, and are resisting any attempts at a legitimate solution...

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What was Varitek thinking?

OK, one more thing before I close the browser for a while.

In the sixth inning of the game in Cleveland last night, the Indians loaded the bases with no out. The next batter hit a line drive to third which Youkilis didn't catch. (Whether or not he intended to, I don't know. I haven't read the game story.) The ball didn't go far, he picked it up, stepped on third, and threw home. The runner on third had started back to the bag, then headed home when the ball dropped. The throw beat him by a good thirty feet. Varitek, who had to have been following the ball in order to catch it, must have watched Youkilis make the play. Yet he stepped on the plate and looked to first. The runner trotted across the plate.

Instead of a double-play and no run scoring, there was one out and a run in.

Frankly, my jaw dropped as I realized that Varitek wasn't going to make the tag. It was like a slow-motion horror film. Here's the runner, trotting to the plate, out by a mile. Here's the catcher, with the ball, waiting for him to make the tag ... and ... wait ... no ... he's turning away!

It might have been the dumbest thing I've ever seen on a baseball field...

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Origin of the 21-Gun Salute

Because someone asked, and my guess that "I think it's probably because three and seven are both mystical/significant/lucky numbers" didn't satisfy my curiosity1...

From the U.S. Army Center of Military History
The tradition of rendering a salute by cannon originated in the 14th century as firearms and cannons came into use. Since these early devices contained only one projectile, discharging them once rendered them ineffective. Originally warships fired seven-gun salutes--the number seven probably selected because of its astrological and Biblical significance. Seven planets had been identified and the phases of the moon changed every seven days. The Bible states that God rested on the seventh day after Creation, that every seventh year was sabbatical and that the seven times seventh year ushered in the Jubilee year.

Land batteries, having a greater supply of gunpowder, were able to fire three guns for every shot fired afloat, hence the salute by shore batteries was 21 guns. The multiple of three probably was chosen because of the mystical significance of the number three in many ancient civilizations. Early gunpowder, composed mainly of sodium nitrate, spoiled easily at sea, but could be kept cooler and drier in land magazines. When potassium nitrate improved the quality of gunpowder, ships at sea adopted the salute of 21 guns.

The 21-gun salute became the highest honor a nation rendered. Varying customs among the maritime powers led to confusion in saluting and return of salutes. Great Britain, the world's preeminent seapower in the 18th and 19th centuries, compelled weaker nations to salute first, and for a time monarchies received more guns than did republics. Eventually, by agreement, the international salute was established at 21 guns, although the United States did not agree on this procedure until August 1875.

1 - And because I didn't have anything else ready to write about, nor the time to find something and do it, this morning...

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Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Tom Lehrer once said that, "it is a sobering thought to know that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for 10 years." Which is obviously an amusing comment. But he's right, it can be sobering, too. Anyway, given my affection for Shackleton, it's interesting that I'd learn about this website today...
You are 47 years and 323 days old today.

At your exact age, Ernest Shackleton died. He was a Heroic British polar explorer.
He certainly was...

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"I don't care. Obama is Awesome..."

One of the fantastic things about the internet is the way that individuals can make little bits of brilliance available to everyone else. Brilliance like this Libya vs. Iraq debate...

I laughed out loud a couple of times. To quote Homer Simpson, "it's funny 'cause it's true..."

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The first piece of Obamacare to fall...

Senate repeals health law's 1099 provision
After a months-long battle, the Senate voted Tuesday, 87 to 12, to repeal the 1099 tax-reporting requirement in Democrats’ healthcare reform bill.

The measure now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it, making it the first part of his party’s signature reform bill to be scrapped.
This provision, and the fantasy tax revenues it would have produced, were part of the Democrats argument that Obamacare wasn't a budget-buster. Now that it's gone, they'll obviously adjust their argument and rhetoric.

Of course, everything they've said about the budget impact has been a lie from the beginning, so my guess is that this won't stop the lies, either...


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Recount possible as Supreme Court race remains too close to call

I haven't mentioned this, but there was a major election yesterday, with national implications, obscured by the budget mess in Washington. In the state of Wisconsin, there were elections for some local offices, and for one of the seven spots on the state's Supreme Court. This is a (nominally) non-partisan race, which would not normally carry much interest outside the state. But this year is different.

Currently, the state Supreme Court has a 4-3 "conservative" majority. I use that term to mean that the court tends to do things that court's should do, like interpreting the constitution, and less of things that courts should not do, like legislating from the bench according to their personal policy preferences. One of the four conservatives, David Prosser, has been running for re-election against an assistant attorney general named JoAnne Kloppenburg. This didn't look like much of a contest two months ago.

And then the legislature passed, and Governor Walker signed, the "budget-fix" bill to deal with Wisconsin's deficit. I've written about that, and the struggle that's taking place between the Governor and Republican legislators on one side, and the Democrats and public sector unions on the other. The unions are furious and scared by what's happened, and will attempt to do anything they can to get the new law invalidated. With the current court configuration, that's unlikely, as there's nothing unconstitutional about the law or the way it was passed.

But if Kloppenburg beats Prosser, it switches to a 4-3 liberal majority, and the chances of it being invalidated for some reason go up significantly. This is a non-partisan election, but everyone understands the situation, and money has poured into the state from union interests nationwide, with late response and support for Prosser from Tea Party supporters who recognize the importance of this battle.

I expected to know this morning, but apparently it is still too close to call. Prosser leads, but by only 500-600 votes, and there's certain to be a recount. Unfortunately, we all know what tends to happen to small Republican leads when recounts take place - it gives the Democrats time and opportunity to "find" or manufacture the votes they need. (Ask Senator Franken...)

So we'll have to wait for a while longer for an answer.

But there's an interesting lede in this AP story about the race...
The race between Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg remained too close to call late Tuesday, with a couple thousand votes out of more than 1.4 million cast separating the two sides — a result that could lead to a recount.

The nonpartisan matchup between Prosser, a self-described judicial conservative, and Kloppenburg, an assistant attorney general who has vowed to be impartial on the bench, drew more special-interest money and attention than any Supreme Court race in state history.
What do you now know about those non-partisan candidates? That one is a "self-described conservative" and the other is "impartial." Yes, that's not exactly what it says, but that's how it reads. Here's the interesting thing - Kloppenburg can claim that she'll be impartial on the bench, but that doesn't make it so. Any fool running for a non-partisan judicial position would make that claim, so it's meaningless rhetoric. The fact is, she, and her supporters, have run a campaign making it clear that she'll be a vote on the court against the bill.

You might remember that I wrote about a "Simpsons moment" during the Brown/Coakley race two years ago, as both candidates were putting up signs making exactly the same point. With Brown and Coakley, both argued that Brown was a vote against Obamacare. While Prosser didn't campaign in favor of the new "budget fix" law in Wisconsin, Kloppenburg, or at least her supporters, sure campaigned against it. Again, she can claim "impartiality" all that she likes - no one believes it. And so, while the lede to that story is all factual, it's a lie, truth warped to support the media storyline...

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Looming Democrat-caused Federal Government Shutdown

So, we're going to shut down the Federal Government, small pieces of it anyway, for a little while. The House GOP thinks so...
Republican leaders are preparing the House for a government shutdown, as they plan to distribute a pamphlet about the mechanics of a partial congressional work-stoppage to all lawmakers’ offices Tuesday morning, according to several senior House aides.

It’s the strongest signal yet that House Speaker John Boehner believes the White House and Congress could fail to strike a deal on a long-term funding bill before the government’s authority to spend money runs out on Friday. Talks came to a standstill Monday, amid amplified partisan recriminations.

And the administration thinks so...
The process of shutting down the federal government is underway.

With the clock ticking towards Friday’s federal budget deadline and President Obama hosting congressional leaders for budget talks at the White House on Tuesday, top administration officials have instructed agency officials to begin sharing details of shutdown contingency plans with top managers. This marks the next step toward both curtailing government operations if a budget impasse occurs and informing federal workers whether they are considered “essential” personnel who would stay on the job despite a shutdown.
Count me as giving two thumbs way up. There won't be enough of it down long enough to make a real dent in the financial crisis, but it's better than caving and continuing to spend in a manner that makes drunken sailors look like conservative, prudent financial managers.
(Q: What's the difference between the spending habits of drunken sailors and the spending habits of politicians?
A: Drunken sailors spend their own money, and stop spending when it's gone!)
But there's one point that cannot be made often enough. There may be is partisan wrangling going on right now, but this is not a bipartisan shutdown. The Democrats, and the Democrats alone, are responsible for this situation. And if we had an objective media in this country, rather than just the media wing of the Democratic Party, everyone would know it. If there were a truly objective press, every single story on this coming shutdown would include, in its opening paragraph, the information that this shutdown results from the failure of the last Congress, in which the House was run by Democrats and the Senate was run by Democrats, to even attempt to pass a 2011 budget for the Democrat President to sign. Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and President Obama had plenty of opportunity to fund the Federal Government for the 2011 Fiscal year, and chose not to.

So, here's a primer on the shutdown for the media to use (which they won't, because it doesn't fit with their perma-storyline of Democrats-good, Republicans-badgreedyracist)...
Q: Why is the Federal Government going to shut down?
A: Because there's no budget.

Q: Why is there no budget?
A: Because the Democrats thought that passing one would be more politically damaging to them than not passing one.

Q: Are you sure it isn't because the Republicans blocked it?
A: Quite sure. The Republicans had no power to block a budget. The Democrats never even attempted to pass one.

Q: So which party is responsible for the government shutdown?
A1: (US Media) The eeeeeevil, greedy, heartless, desirous-of-old-people-dying-in-the-streets Republicans!
A2: (Reality) The Democrats.

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