22 November 2010

A&M Student Leader Gets It Right

The Student Senate earlier this month endorsed a bill that condemned
allowing illegal immigrants to pay the same tuition rates as Texans. The measure
was vetoed by student body president Jacob Robinson, who says the Student Senate
is meant for the betterment of each student.

Backers of the plan failed Wednesday night to secure two-thirds of the Student Senate vote to override Robinson's veto, with the final vote 34-25. The bill would have represented the official stance of the A&M student body, but it had no standing on the tuition policy.

It will be interesting to see if the bureaudummies at Texas A&M listen to the will of the students.

21 November 2010

Bernanke Blames China For Currency Policies

That sounds alot like a debtor who gets in trouble and blames the bank.

When Ben Bernanke talks, the world stops to listen. Early Friday morning,
the Fed chairman spoke at a European Central Banking Conference in Frankfurt,
where he defended his policy of quantitative easing and accused China and other emerging markets for undervaluing their currencies and causing global imbalances.
Bernanke also called for more fiscal stimulus but for being mindful of the

Bernanke seemed to lay blame for the so-called "currency wars" on
China and other fast-growing emerging economies. "Currency undervaluation by surplus countries is inhibiting needed international adjustment and creating spillover effects that would not exist if exchange rates better reflected market fundamentals."

Someday, the government will realize what citizens already know about budgets and spending.

20 November 2010

Geeks Trap Antimatter

Scientists may have been able to capture elusive atoms of antimatter, but don't expect that to lead to interstellar rocket engines or powerful bombs anytime soon.

Even as they announced the important advance in studying antimatter, they emphasized that science fiction uses of the stuff - like propelling the starship Enterprise in "Star Trek" or fueling a bomb in Dan Brown's book "Angels and Demons" - remain in the realm of the imagination.

This stuff is over my head but I think it's pretty neat. Middle school kids in Japan are probably playing with this stuff in the cafeteria by now.

Drayton McLane Is Selling The Houston Astros

He may as well be selling a 1972 Ford Pinto.

McLane has owned the Astros since 1992. He has been the most successful
owner in the history of the franchise and one of the most successful owners to
ever grace the professional sports scene in Houston.

From 1993 to 2010 the Astros own the fourth-best record in the National League.

Since then they suck bad. This might explain trading away all of the solid talent over the past few years. But then again, wouldn't a team with solid talent be worth more?

19 November 2010

Trump To Consider Presidency For 2012

About the issue, Trump said, "It could be fun because I'd like to see some positive things happen for the country. I'm going to make a decision probably by June."

Why the hell not? How much worse could things be? Seriously. Think about all of the things that are so screwed up right now and then put Trump or Palin or someone else behind the wheel and see what various decisions might have been over the last 2 years.

Quote of the Day

"Elected office holds more perks than Elvis' nightstand."
-- Dennis Miller

18 November 2010

Seasick Steve sings Hobo Low

The World's Oldest Champagne

168 bottles of champagne have been salvaged from a 200-year-old shipwreck in the waters off the Aland Islands near Finland.

The bottles recovered are Veuve Cliquot and Juglar. Richard Juhlin, a champagne geek, has sampled them and reports, "An accent of mushrooms merged with sweet notes of honey."

The divers originally said the bottles were believed to be from the 1780s but experts later dated the champagne to the early 19th century. The exact years have not been established.

French champagne house Perrier-Jouet, a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard, has earlier stated that their vintage from 1825 is the oldest recorded champagne still in existence.

Some of the bottles will be sold at an auction, where Juhlin said they could fetch more than $70,000 apiece.

Real News

Ted Koppel wrote a piece about Bill O'Reilley and Keith Olbermann being the death of "real news".

O'Reilly and Olbermann are both squealing like little girls so he must have struck a nerve. I think Ted Koppel is right. There is no such thing as news any more. You can watch MSNBC and then switch over to Fox and figure reality is somewhere in the middle. It's a shame that you can't watch a "news" program without thinking about what their agenda might be.

I used to watch Nightline most of the time. When Koppel left, I remember feeling bad about it. Like, "Where am I going to get the news now?" It felt good to have Ted Koppel talking to me about what was going on in the world. You can't say that about anyone on tv now. Except Jim Lehrer.

Keith Olbermann is an idiot and so is Bill O'Reilly. They deserve to be locked in a soundproof room with one another.

Clown Robs Woman On Commode

"This character in a clown mask threw open my bathroom door, I was on the
, so it was kind of a surprise," 70-year-old Jacqueline Cutright said.
Cutright said she lost $28, about $1,000 worth of costume jewelry and her
Ford Escort after the man broke into her Akron home early Saturday morning.

Police said 22-year-old Cory Buckley got into the home through the basement
window, ransacked the house and found Cutright's prescription medications.
"I said 'This is my blood pressure medicine, you want some of that?' 'No.' I
said 'This is medicine to help me sleep. You want something to help you sleep?'
He said no, he wanted OxyContin and money," she said.

Cutright said she thought Buckley was going to take a silver bracelet that a friend had given her, but he gave it back. "The bracelet said a mother holds her children's hands for a while but their hearts forever, which I think is lovely, and when he read
that he gave it back to me," she said. "That's when I thought 'This man's not
going to hurt me.'"

After two hours of tearing the house apart, Buckley took off in Cutright's car, police said. As police raced toward him, Buckley rolled the car twice, crawled out of the window and made a full confession after his knife dropped from his pants pocket onto the pavement in front of the arresting officer's feet, police said.

"I thought about doing ninja stuff to him but I thought no he's faster than I am so, I more or less just sat there on the lid," Cutright said.

Now that's odd. She was home alone, and yet she closed the bathroom door.

Not Guilty

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was acquitted Wednesday of all but one count of
conspiracy-related charges in a landmark civilian trial involving the first
Guantanamo detainee to be tried in civilian court.

Ghailani was convicted by a federal jury on a charge of conspiracy to destroy buildings and U.S. property in connection with his role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

The trial had been widely considered a testing ground for the Obama
administration, which has said that it could try some terrorism suspects outside
military tribunals and in civilian courts.

One juror was a holdout on the majority of the charges and had asked to be excused from the jury. One juror.

Lets remember that trying these terror cases in civil court was the bright idea of Eric Holder and Barack Obama. The only question I have is, "Can we still execute him?"

17 November 2010

The Medal Of Honor

This is a cool story. Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta has been awarded the Medal of Honor. In 9 years of war, this is only the 8th Medal of Honor awarded, and the first to a living recipient.

On Oct. 25, 2007, then-Specialist Giunta and his team were on a mountain ridge in Afghanistan's violent Korengal Valley when they were ambushed by the Taliban. He took a bullet stopped by a protective vest as he helped pull one soldier to safety. Then he went forward to help the sergeant, Joshua Brennan, who had been walking point. Two Taliban were carrying Sgt. Brennan away. Spec. Giunta shot the Taliban and brought Sgt. Brennan back. Sgt Brennan later died of his wounds.

Giunta's humble nature make this an even more amazing story. This is the type of character we should be looking for in our elected officials.

Surprisingly Foul Reviews for Rangel

I'm actually surprised editors and the like have some not so nice things to say about Charlie. After all, he's been re-elected every 2 years since the Ford administration. Wouldn't you just be ashamed if he was your rep? Here in Texas, at least we had the sense to force DeLay out when we figured out he was a crook. From NPR:

If the ethics committee members held their tongue in judging Rangel's
performance, some newspaper editorials were less reticent.

The New York Times was harsh:

Mr. Rangel chose to grandstand. In remarks drenched in self-pity, he cited his 50 years of public service, his military record, his love of country. In a bid to discredit the proceedings, and likely verdict, he actually suggested that the committee was trying to deny him a lawyer, as if its members had anything to do with his predicament. ...

Mr. Rangel is not facing expulsion or criminal charges. About the worst that can happen to him is a reprimand. The lawyer acting as the committee’s “prosecutor” said Monday that Mr. Rangel had been sloppy in his finances and in following reporting rules, not corrupt.
We think that the 13 ethics charges against the congressman — including the acceptance of four rent-stabilized apartments and the failure to pay taxes on a chunk of his income — are more serious than simple sloppiness. But if he had apologized to the House and accepted his knuckle-rap, he would have been spared the hearing. Now he has raised even more questions about his fitness to represent his district.

The Daily News said Rangel's "attempt to play the victim of a congressional
investigation that has deprived him of constitutional rights just won't wash":
Rather than take responsibility for paying attorneys - as nonpoliticians must when called before Congress - Rangel asked for time to fatten his coffers again. In effect, he asked an ethics subcommittee to play according to his calendar and the well-being of his bank accounts.
No one gets that privilege.
In keeping with his steadfast insistence that Rangel's Rules are different from everyone else's, he charged: "The committee has deprived me of the fundamental right to counsel and has chosen to proceed as if it is fair and impartial and operating according to rules, when in reality they are depriving me of my rights."
Wrong. No one took away Rangel's rights. He surrendered them by walking out when the panel, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, proceeded without him.

The New York Post editorial was especially scathing:
Shed no tears for Charlie:
He's a sad old man, but he brought it on himself. ...
It was Rangel's own behavior — over the course of years — that triggered the trial in the first place. ...
All that's certain is that a 40-year congressional career is ending in well-earned obloquy. Given that the GOP takes over the House in
January, it's unlikely that Charlie Rangel will ever again be in a position to
abuse the public trust.

The Post's Charles Hurt wrote that "in this town of showmen, liars and big-time con artists, there has never been a more splendid vaudeville show":
It was a comedy of errors yesterday filled with surprise and farce and tragedy featuring a stunning dramatic performance by Charlie Rangel that would strain the acting abilities of the most accomplished Shakespearean player.

For his part, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank had contempt for both sides:
This was but the latest act in the ongoing farce known as congressional ethics. Rules are so flexible, and enforcement so lax, that even instances that look like outright
influence-buying don't get prosecuted. And there's no sign that the situation
will improve, as key figures make noises about abolishing the new Office of
Congressional Ethics, a semi-independent body designed to make ethics
investigations more transparent.

Now comes Rangel, who seems determined to take down with him any remaining credibility of the ethics committee...
It's difficult to feel sorry for Rangel. He could pay for lawyers by selling off his
villa in the Dominican Republic. ... Or he could have maintained better relations with his legal team, rather than publicly rejecting their advice in a speech on the House floor.

Rangel will be the Harlem Rep until they haul his Depends wearing old bones out in a bag. But I have a feeling he won't be in charge of anything.

16 November 2010

Charles Rangel: Guilty

As I'm sure you've heard, Charles Rangel has been found guilty of House ethics violations. No big surprise. Also no big surprise is the "Charlie Rangel Show". What an ass. He obviously manages his legal and business affairs as "sloppy" (his word) as his finances. This is the guy who chaired the Ways and Means Committee which is charged with creating tax legislation. The idea that this was all a matter of sloppy book keeping doesn't smell well.

My question is, why the dog and pony show? Obviously that's all this is for Charlie. Show up for the cameras like a peacock, proclaim to be the cheated, abused victim and then leave in protest. Whatever happened to dignity? If you have no respect for yourself that's one thing but have some respect for the House and for the process. Take your lumps and get on with the next thing.

It's funny, nobody forgives Brett Favre for hanging on too long. Why does Charlie Rangel get a pass? Is there no one more qualified in Harlem? Of course there are; thousands probably. They just don't have the connections to get elected.

Hippies Do Stupid Things

I'm not a fan of hippies to say the least, and Neil Young is definitely a hippie.

Neil's hippie status rose when he bastardized his 1959 Lincoln convertible into a hybrid. The Lincoln, understanding how wrong this was, did the only honorable thing it could do. It killed itself. Most of Young's marijuana collection was also destroyed in the resulting fire.

California is unanimously wrong

What is it about California? Is it all those nut trees? Good God, how could one place be so completely screwed up in every imaginable way?

In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court has ruled that illegal immigrants are eligible for the same reduced tuition at public colleges and universities as legal in-state residents.

Why do ILLEGAL immigrants even get to register for school much less get a discount? And why has this issue gone all the way to the supreme court to be decided? And why did they get it so WRONG? Assuming the correct thing is to let these ILLEGAL immigrants register for school (which it's not), doesn't California need the money? The financial issue for the state is a serious issue but its not even the biggest. Why does a white citizen from Iowa, or a black citizen from Michigan have to pay more tuition to attend Cal State than a brown ILLEGAL immigrant from Guatemala?

Honey, scratch all the California colleges off the list!

15 November 2010

UK To Compensate Guantanamo Bay detainees

Yes, you read that correctly. A dozen terrorists, who have accused British security forces of colluding in their torture overseas, are to get millions in compensation from the British Government. Of course! Because then they won't hate us any more.

Islamic terrorists want to kill us all. They don't comprehend jail, courts, laws or even money. They want to convert or kill us all.

The McRib is Back!

Yes! Just like the Super Bowl or the World Series, some things are worth waiting for. McDonald's McRib sandwich is awesome.

But unfortunately, not every McDonald's has the McRib. To help you, here is a McRib locator.

Houston Has a Serial Murderer

Three women have been found murdered downtown recently. The proximity of the victim's location and the manner of death are all very similar.

Here is an October 12 story and here is another more recent. The public should be made more aware. Authorities will never use the words "serial killer" until they absolutely have no choice.
Godspeed to the detectives working the case and may the victim's families find peace.

Drugs Are Bad

Lee Renfro did more than illegally enter the Port Angeles Coast Guard base earlier this year. Undetected, the Navy veteran made it past a second watch shack on March 28, then boarded the 210 foot Coast Guard Cutter Active.
Renfro strolled into the Active's commanding officer's stateroom, took a
shower -- and smoked marijuana he had carried onto the cutter. He was
apprehended three hours later while still on the vessel, according to a Coast
Guard report. Coast Guard personnel described Renfro as being "confused
and incoherent".

On March 31, three days after he breached security at the Coast Guard base and boarded the Active, Renfro, 32, was found dead several miles away. An autopsy revealed Renfro died of hypothermia.

Return of The Whig

I've been away from blogging for a while now. Some of the absence was painful and some wasn't. I guess we all need a break from things every now and then.

A lot have asked what happened. The long answer is both painful and boring. The short answer is: life. No, it wasn't rehab. The issues on my plate aren't any different than the issues millions of others are dealing with and so I think we'll spare those who may visit here as an escape. This blog deals with current events, news and politics, and whatever else Septimus and I feel like sharing. For me, the current events, news and politics became a daily reminder of the struggles I've gone through. The Whig has had many followers and I hope most will be back.

I don't know what makes today the day, but today's the day.

19 October 2010


The Whig has been silent for some time now. Many curve balls have been fielded in recent months. Soon, Septimus and Romulus will resume regular blogging activity.

06 July 2010

Beware of your decadence

That's right. You better keep it high and tight and don't use too much mousse.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the personal is political. No more so than in the issue of personal appearance.
The imposition of headscarves is deeply resented by more liberal-minded women. Now the government is tightening up on men's hair as well.
The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has published a guide to men's hairstyles. Short, neat hair is approved; ponytails are definitely not.
The styles are to be showcased in a "modesty and veil" conference later this month.
On the streets of Tehran, you often see young men with the most extravagant, outrageous, hairstyles.

Huge bouffant quiffs that must take hours of loving care.

They are clearly intended as an unspoken act of rebellion against a government that bans many of the pleasures young people enjoy, including public displays of affection
or Western pop music.

And it isn't just the men. If a woman is dressed inappropriately, she can be addressed by any passing male and if she argues, she can be taken to the police station. The article continues here.

These are the same nutbags attempting to amass nuclear weapons.

I guess to his credit, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has actually argued that it is not the government's place to mandate dress codes. However, I think that is only to bolster his popularity.

Homeowner Finds Naked Man Asleep On Sofa

It happens to me all the time.
A San Diego resident awoke to a shocking discovery: a naked stranger passed out
on his downstairs sofa.
San Diego police Lt. Jim Filley says the Pacific Beach homeowner called police after wandering downstairs Sunday morning and finding the snoring man.
Filley says the naked man was drunk and thought he was in his own home in Mission Valley, some 20 miles away.
The man, whose name wasn't released, had taken off his clothes outside the house and walked in through the unlocked front door.

Story reported here. You can tell this wasn't in Texas. In Texas there definitely would have been gunplay.

01 July 2010

USA Already Spends More Public Money On Health Care Than Britian Does

Telegraph (UK): US Government spends more on health than the NHS

Remember the fuss Barack Obama generated when he first raised the prospect of creating a national healthcare system in the US? Remember how, as the healthcare bill was debated, American eyes looked towards Europe and recoiled in horror and disgust at the massive and overwhelming burden Britain faces with its National Health Service? At the prospect of having their standards of service reduced to such a level?

It may surprise you, then, to learn that the US Government now spends more on provision of healthcare than does Britain’s. That’s right, the idea that by contrast with the UK, America’s healthcare system is largely reliant on private provision and payment is simply incorrect.

The costs of running various US health programmes – Medicare and Medicaid most significantly – is, at 7.4pc of gross domestic product, greater than the 7.2pc of GDP the UK Government spends on the NHS. By my reckoning, the US must just have overtaken Britain this year on this basis (the latest figures date from 2008), having risen worryingly fast in recent years.

So the obvious question is: is this disproportionate amount of healthcare spending justified? Is it backed up by results? Here, the evidence is even more disturbing, for based on two key measures of healthcare effectiveness – infant mortality and life expectancy, the US actually has worse outcomes than Britain.

Quite how the US manages to spend more public money than Britain, to spend more than the same amount on top of that in private cash, and still to have worse healthcare outcomes than the UK is a question best left to others. But the evidence on this is quite stark.

Unlimited Commerce Clause Interpretation The Antithesis Of Limited Government

Via theblogprof: Video of Sen. Coburn to Elena Kagan: "Can the government tell you what to eat?"

If you want some kind of limit on the Commerce Clause, then Kagan probably isn't your best choice. But I'm betting you already suspected that.

Democrats, Republicans Squabble Over Oil Spill While Doing Nothing

Because, you know, partisan advantage is more important than anything else ...

Politico: Oil spill visits get partisan

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) wanted to fly 10 lawmakers down to the Gulf of Mexico to see the damage caused by BP’s gigantic oil spill first hand.
House Democrats said no.

Scalise’s trip was rejected for a variety of bureaucratic and logistical reasons, but it has also opened a new vein of partisan squabbling over who should be allowed to arrange a trip to view the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The squabbling over who gets to travel to the Gulf on whose dime is the latest sign that congressional oversight of the oil spill oversight from Capitol Hill has been bogged down by partisanship. Congress has held upwards of 20 hearings on the disaster, often duplicative ones each week, as lawmakers struggle to grasp and fully realize the scope of BP’s giant oil spill.

National Debt To Hit 62% of GDP By Year End

The Hill: CBO says debt will reach 62 percent of GDP by year's end

The national debt will reach 62 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of this year, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Wednesday.

The budget office said the debt will reach its highest percentage of GDP since the end of World War II. The jump is driven by lower tax revenues and higher federal spending in the recent recession.

And while the national debt would stabilize at 67 percent of GDP over the next decade if current law were maintained, extending tax cuts enacted during the administration of President George W. Bush and keeping growth in appropriations in line with inflation would mean that the debt would reach almost 90 percent of GDP by 2020.

30 June 2010

If Wishing Could Only Make It So

ABC News: Robert Byrd's Death: The End of Pork Barrel Politics?
Sen. Byrd's Legacy of Government Projects Helped Create Anti-Washington Backlash

If something was built with federal dollars in the state of West Virginia in the last half century, there is a good chance that Byrd helped get the funding -- more than $3.3 billion over his career. And that is only what such watchdogs as the Citizens Against Government Waste can attribute to him. Recent years have seen disclosure requirements for pet projects that were unheard of when Byrd became a senator in 1959.
For the current fiscal year, Byrd had more earmarks worth more money than any other lawmaker: 89 earmarks for more than $250 million.

Sen. Byrd Is Gone, but Pork Barrel Politics Likely to Persist in Some Form

When Byrd, then in poor health, relinquished his post as chairman of the Appropriations Committee in 2008, he handed the gavel over to Sen. Daniel Inouye, now the second-longest serving member of the Senate, who had $200 million worth of earmarks for the current fiscal year. The ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Thad Cochran, had more than $100 million.

Republicans will use anti-Washington spending as their main weapon in the upcoming midterm elections. But for all the new disclosure online and voters' anger about the debt, and the death and retirement and political defeat of so many appropriators, many still remain on Capitol Hill and will continue to funnel money to their states and districts.

It Looks Like I'm Not The Only One Who Read 1984 In School

I wondered how the Democrats would reconcile their past lambasting of General Petraeus with their current desire that he save their bacon.

PJM: Oceania Has Never Been at War with General Petraeus

Ah, sweet, sweet doublethink:

To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink.

Hence the Party’s perpetuity: "for the secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one’s own infallibility with the power to learn from past mistakes . . . The prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity".

The Republicans Only Care About The Deficit When They Are Not In Charge

Mother Jones: Still No Deficit Hawks in the GOP

Democrats And Republicans Would Try To Seek Advantage In The Face Of Armageddon

So I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.

NY Times: Spill Is an Election Issue Far Beyond the Gulf
Candidates from both parties and from around the country are trying to turn the oil spill to their advantage.

I'll Bet She Did

NY Times: Kagan Shifts on Disclosure of Legal Views at Hearings

Democratic And Republican Parties Are Part Of The Problem

Excerpt from Independent Political Report: Independents: the Major Parties are Part of the Problem not the Solution

Independent candidates for Congress across the country are making the case that the Democratic and Republican parties are part of the problem, not the solution.

Republicans are talking tough on federal spending and the national debt right now, but where we they just a few years ago when they had control of Congress and the White House?

“Both parties, Republicans and Democrats, have left these issues unaddressed,” said Jeff Vanke, an independent on the ballot for Congress in the Sixth District who will challenge incumbent Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte in November.

In the current proclamations of both the G.O.P. and the Democrats, I find no coherent philosophy; other than whatever one is for, the other is most surely against. This relationship is as irrational and destructive as the famous feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families. For many, it seems the feud has become more important than doing the people’s business, sometimes more important than the objective truth.

29 June 2010

Obama Administration And The Economy: Out Of Ideas Already

RCP: Joe Biden's Summer of Love

Biden last week acknowledged that, though he thought the administration's efforts would do some good, an awful lot of damage has been done. "There's no possibility to restore 8 million jobs lost in the Great Recession," he told an audience of Wisconsin Democrats. (On the same visit to Milwaukee, he called a custard shop manager a "smartass" for suggesting the administration lower taxes.)

The Obama administration constantly calls for more federal stimulus to fund more jobs, but the real problem is the lack of private investment. Biden has a reputation for being long winded (to put it kindly), so the "Summer of Recovery" may be more snooze than pep talk.

Regardless, none of Biden's happy talk about the economy will be able to gloss over the fact the Obama administration has really no idea what to do about it.

Blogging Will Be A Little Light Tonight Because I'll Be At The Eclipse Midnight Showing

No not really.

A "Double Dip" Or Just More Recession

The housing market collapses, the stock market is down about 10% over the last two months, unemployment remains high and shows no sign of improving, consumer spending is weak, and here's the latest: Consumer confidence plunges in June.

Really, instead of a "double dip", the recession which began in December 2007 is just continuing, with no relief.

'Double Dip'? Or Did the 'Great Recession' Really Never End?

Confirmation Charade

Commentary from the LA Times: Why the Kagan hearings will be a charade
Since the Robert Bork hearings punished him for his candor, the point is not to give the most honest answer, but the answer that makes it the most difficult for senators to vote against you.

Consider Monday's thunderclap from the judicial Mt. Olympus: The 2nd Amendment right to own a gun extends to state and local government. Personally, I think Justice Clarence Thomas' separate opinion in favor of the 14th Amendment's "privileges and immunities" clause over the due process clause was the better argument. But that's a debate for another day.

The more newsworthy opinion came from rookie Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She concurred with Justice Stephen G. Breyer's dissent, which held that there is no fundamental right to bear arms in the U.S. Constitution. "I can find nothing in the 2nd Amendment's text, history or underlying rationale that could warrant characterizing it as 'fundamental' insofar as it seeks to protect the keeping and bearing of arms for private self-defense purposes," Breyer wrote for the minority.

But when Sotomayor was before the Senate Judiciary Committee one year ago for her own confirmation hearings, she gave a very different impression of how she saw the issue. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy asked her, "Is it safe to say that you accept the Supreme Court's decision as establishing that the 2nd Amendment right is an individual right? Is that correct?"

"Yes, sir," she replied.

Now, both Sotomayor and Leahy festooned their colloquies with plenty of lawyerly escape hatches. That's why Leahy asked the questions the way he did and that's why she answered them the way that she did. It's also why he spun her answers into more than they were: "I do not see how any fair observer could regard [Sotomayor's] testimony as hostile to the 2nd Amendment personal right to bear arms, a right she has embraced and recognizes." He deliberately made it sound as though she was open to an expansive reading of the 2nd Amendment when everyone knew she wasn't (as a judge, she was hardly a hero of the NRA).

Now, let me be clear. Sotomayor was nothing like an exception to the rule; she was following it.

Although the Bork inquisition was a largely partisan affair, the consequences have yielded a bipartisan sham. Republican and Democratic nominees alike are trained to say as little as possible and to stay a razor's width on the side of truthfulness. The point is not to give the best, most thoughtful or most honest answer, but the answer that makes it the most difficult for senators to vote against you. It's as if we expect nominees to demonstrate, one last time, everything we hate and distrust about lawyers before they don their priestly robes.

In fairness to everyone concerned, nobody is shocked to discover that Sotomayor is in fact precisely the dyed-in-the-wool liberal justice everyone expected her to be. But the fact that everyone is in on the lie is just further evidence of the sham Supreme Court hearings have become. They are a nonviolent and fairly bloodless cousin to totalitarian show trials, where everyone follows a script and politicians pretend to be "gravely concerned" and "shocked" upon "discovering" things they already knew.
More here from Reason.com: Confirmation Theater
Elena Kagan is set to participate in a confirmation process she once dismissed as a charade
Kagan now plans to decline comment on any issue that might bear in any way on any case that might come before the Court. She'll do her absolute best to prevent any serious substantive inquiry into her beliefs, and she'll make it clear that it's neither legitimate or desirable for the Senate to insist on exploring her set of constitutional views and commitments. If we aren't permitted to look at her record in public office as an indication of how Kagan might balance government power with individual rights, we're left to judge her on this: Kagan recognizes that the confirmation process is a charade designed to keep information away from the public, and to prevent the public from forming an informed opinion about who will sit on the Supreme Court.

28 June 2010

Only time for brief comments today...

The biggest news was the Supreme Court's decisions on gun rights. Of course, we should all be pleased at the outcome, but I find the 5-4 vote disturbing and dissapointing.

Four justices would deprive citizens of a clearly stated right -- well, does the Constitution mean what it says, or doesn't it?

Interesting to see the decision discussed by those commentators who recently would have called you an extremist for asserting that an individual has the right to keep and bear arms.

The city of Chicago makes in interesting case study, doesn't it? I mean if you can't look at the crime in that city and admit that strict gun control is a failure all around, you demonstrate that you are willing to ignore that facts in front of you when they don't fit your notion of how the world should work.

Next up today was Senator Byrd's death. Oh, spare me the homilies. It is no wonder that he is so lauded by fellow politicians. The man was a entrenched political operative that bought his popularity with other people's money, setting an example for other politicians that no one should emulate, but which they all seek to copy.

I was surprised that NPR at least discussed his KKK past, which most of the media ignores.

Why Is The Merger Of The American Centrist Party And The Modern Whig Party Important?

From a comment by Lance Duncan over at Poli-Tea:

J.R. Bale, NJ Chairman of the ACP, had this to say about the merger:

Why is this merger important?

With a National Debt that has escalated under both major parties, Americans must find another party to bring common sense and fiscal restraint to government. With special interests legally bribing politicians with campaign contributions, Americans must find a party that demonstrates a higher integrity.

Uniting centrists and moderates is essential to bringing the United States back from the partisan tribal warfare that has afflicted our country.The Modern Whig Party is now closer to helping bring sanity to government.

Now let's add to Whig membership. Join today.

I'm Not Too Excited About Obama's Promises At The G-20

The Obama Administration has been pushing the other G-20 nations to keep spending. They say it's because they are worried about growth, but I suspect Obama just wants some political cover so he can keep on with his plans to bankrupt our children's future. Besides, its been two years now, and it doesn't look like wanton spending is getting us anywhere except deeper in debt.

Here's an idea: sound financial policies ...

So now it is up to the Europeans to urge constraint on America! Who'd a thunk it. Truly, the world is upside down.

WSJ: G-20 Agrees to Cut Debt

The meeting's concluding statement, a compromise between two competing visions of the international economy, masked divisions between the U.S. and Europe evident in the run-up to the summit. The U.S. has warned that moving too fast to cut deficits and reduce stimulus spending could risk another global recession. European nations, especially Germany, have cautioned that moving too slowly could produce unsustainable debt loads, higher interest rates and even defaults.

Germany, which has held itself out as the champion of austerity, took some potshots. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble used an interview in the French newspaper Le Monde to throw a jab at the U.S., saying Mr. Obama's giant stimulus spending has had little impact on the country's jobless rate, which remains well above 9%.

They might have to make deeper cuts in deficits to comply with its pledge. A White House statement said that government debt in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2015, would be at an "acceptable level." President Obama said that next year he would present "very difficult choices" to the country in an effort to meet deficit goals.

The president cited his disappointment with the U.S. tax code. "Next year, when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country, I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits and debt step up, 'cause I'm calling their bluff," Mr. Obama said.

Yeah, any excuse to raise taxes, eh, Mr. Obama? Hell, you don't even try to make even a half-assed effort to cut spending first.

Oh, all this blather from Obama a the G-20 is useless anyway. A useless as his campaign promises:

No family making less than $250,000 will see "any form of tax increase."

Reduce earmarks to 1994 levels

Pay for the national service plan without increasing the deficit

Enforce pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) budget rules

So please excuse me while I disbelieve his administration's promises to reduce the deficit. Except the reckless squandering of our national resources to continue.

My Only Consolation About U.S.A.'s Team Loss In The World Cup ...

... is that Mexico got knocked out, too.

So at least I don't have to listen to any crap from their fans.

Congo Human Rights Advocate Killed

NY Times: Lifetime of Tracking Killings in Congo Ends in Activist’s Own

Early on the morning of June 2, Mr. Chebeya, Congo’s best-known human rights activist, was found dead in his car in the Mont Ngafula area of this capital city, his hands tied behind his back. The Congo police inspector general had summoned him for questioning the afternoon before.

“I’m in front of the office,” Mr. Chebeya said in a text message to his wife at 5:20. “Keep track of me,” said his message sent two minutes later. That was the last she heard from him.

Human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents are routinely harassed or even killed in this strategic, mineral-rich country in the heart of Africa, but Mr. Chebeya was not an ordinary victim. He was the short, bespectacled, intense man who kept going, kept investigating, and kept speaking out, on the radio, in news conferences and at the head of demonstrations, year after year, in the face of constant threats and occasional beatings.

This time, did the police kill Mr. Chebeya? Was someone high up behind his killing? Why has the body of his driver not been found? Was it just a coincidence that the killing was shortly before a major celebration planned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of independence on June 30, which Congo is using to try to prove that it has put civil war and instability behind it? (Indeed, the top hotel here is buzzing with Western businessmen pursuing mining deals with government officials.)

Against the government’s narrative of normality Mr. Chebeya offered the opposite view.

“He was showing that the elections of 2006 did not lead to the rule of law,” said Jean-Claude Katende, president of the African Association for the Defense of Human Rights.

Mr. Chebeya’s death was a clear message from the authorities, Mr. Katende said: “Everybody should shut up.”

27 June 2010

Houston City Council Just Keeps On Spending

Houston Chronicle: Missed opportunity
Houston City Council blew its chance to show it feels Houstonians' pain

In last week's 2011 budget deliberations, Council members missed an important opportunity to lead by example — not to mention show they live in the real world. They did so by refusing to cut their own office expenses as part of the overall budget-trimming exercise.

But when it came to their individual bailiwicks, council members just could not bring themselves to do the right thing. By an 11-3 vote, members refused to make the same cuts that they had imposed on other departments - 2 percent for most, or about $8,000 per council office.

True, 2 percent cuts would total only a little more than $110,000; a pittance in the city's multi-billion dollar budget, you might say. But that simplistic assessment misses the larger point. This was tone-deaf public relations on council's part.

The choice ignores an obvious economic reality. Given high unemployment, a significant drop in property tax revenues for the city, cuts at NASA and even the lingering effects of Hurricane Ike, these are already hard times for the people who pay the bills at City Hall - taxpayers. And more bad news for the city may be just over the horizon. A moratorium on drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf could bring job losses here numbering in the tens of thousands, resulting in hardships not seen here since the mid- to late 1980s. For FY 2011, the council mantra should be: Every dollar saved will count.

You want more tone-deaf? Along the way in last week's budget debate, council members asserted that they should be able to decide how to spend amounts left over in their council accounts as they chose. Earlier this year, Mayor Parker had stepped in, telling council members that any unused funds would revert back to the general fund.

But on Wednesday, by the same lopsided 11-3 count, they voted to force the mayor to choose at least five "core services" to which they can donate their excess.
So … they don't have the money to cut their budgets, but they're still preoccupied with what to do with what's left over?

25 June 2010

Obama's Afghan Policy Needs To Change

The Daily Beast: Petraeus Vs. The Mafia
In swiftly replacing McChrystal with the well-regarded David Petraeus, President Obama emphasized that he was changing the general, not the policy. This is unfortunate because the policy is precisely what needs to change.

While President Obama describes his Afghan counterpart as the democratically elected leader of a reliable ally, saying it doesn’t make it so. President Hamid Karzai heads a government ranked the second-most corrupt in the world, where power rests with thousands of warlords, power brokers, and militiamen.

While some may hold elected or appointed positions, this is incidental to their exercise of power, which depends on the number of armed men at their disposal or because of the wealth they have been able to accumulate. Karzai holds his office not as the choice of the Afghan people but as the result of a massively fraudulent election, as he himself now concedes.

Where local power brokers are in league with the Taliban, it is fatal to cooperate with the government. In too many instances, the nominal government authorities are powerless, corrupt, working with both sides in the conflict, or all of the above. Karzai’s national government cannot remedy any of this. It is corrupt, ineffective, and widely seen as illegitimate. Some senior government officials, including President Karzai, through his half-brother in Kandahar, have their own links to the Taliban.

At General Petraeus’ confirmation hearing, senators should bear down on two questions: Can the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy work without a credible Afghan partner? And is Karzai’s government a credible partner?

The honest answer to both questions is no.

Obama Administration Cynically Willing To Spend Until We Are Broke

Telegraph (UK): Barack Obama is refusing to listen to reason on economic policy
President Barack Obama, backed to some extent by Nicolas Sarkozy of France, wants economic stimulus to continue until the global recovery is unambiguously secure. In the opposite corner is Germany's Angela Merkel, now oddly aligned with Britain's new political leadership in thinking the time is right for fiscal austerity.

Like much of what Mr Obama says and does these days, the US position is cynically political. With mid-term elections looming and the Democrats down in the polls, the administration hasn't yet even begun to think about deficit reduction. Obama is much more worried by the possibility of a double-dip recession and the damage this would do to his chances of a second term, than the state of the public finances.

As it happens, the public debt trajectory is rather worse in the US than it is in Europe, yet Obama has adopted an overtly "spend until we are broke" approach in a calculated bid for growth and votes.

In berating others to carry on spending, Mr Obama is being neither politically wise nor economically sound. He should instead be attending to his own back yard by mapping out some sort of credible, long-term plan for returning the US to balanced budgets. The US is still dangerously reliant on Chinese funding for its deficit spending. It's not going to last indefinitely, and with rising domestic demand in China, may already be on the wane.

Poll: 46% of respondents stated that they would be enthusiastic or comfortable with an independent or third party candidate

From Poli-Tea: Absolute Majorities Oppose Generic Democratic and Republican Candidates for Congress, 46% Open to Independent and Third Party Challengers

In reality, there are more registered voters who opt not to vote rather than throw their votes away in support of a Republican or a Democrat, as voter turnout statistics from the last forty years clearly demonstrate. Even in presidential election years, the candidates of the major parties barely garner the support of a majority of registered voters when their votes are tallied together!

A new poll commissioned by NBC/WSJ (pdf) queried respondents specifically about their attitudes toward third party and independent candidates, rather than maintain the fiction that there are no alternatives to the corporatist stooges of the Democratic-Republican two-party state. Among the findings, via Ballot Access News:
Would you be more likely to vote for a Republican candidate for Congress, a Democratic candidate for Congress or for an independent or third party candidate for Congress?

Republican candidate – 31%
Democrat candidate – 34%
Independent or third party candidate – 25%
Not sure – 10%
Additionally, 46% of respondents stated that they would be enthusiastic or comfortable with an independent or third party candidate, while only 23% stated that they would have reservations or be uncomfortable about the prospect.

Perhaps what is most instructive about these results is not the fact that such a large portion of the public is willing to consider a third party or independent candidate for Congress, but rather that the generic Democratic and Republican candidates are each opposed by an absolute majority of registered voters.

Interest On National Debt Same As Defense Budget By 2012

The Hill: Joint Chiefs chairman reiterates security threat of high debt

Pentagon leaders, the military services and defense contractors must work together to cut bureaucratic bloat and unnecessary programs, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday.

Adm. Mike Mullen also renewed his warning that the nation’s debt is the biggest threat to U.S. national security.

“I was shown the figures the other day by the comptroller of the Pentagon that said that the interest on our debt is $571 billion in 2012,” Mullen said at a breakfast hosted by The Hill. “That is, noticeably, about the size of the defense budget. It is not sustainable.”

But I Don't Want Japan Disease

Commentary at HuffPo by Henry Blodget, CEO of Business Insider: Actually, It's Starting to Look More and More Like We Have "Japan Disease"

The big fear that occasionally wakes even die-hard bulls up screaming is that the US is en route to becoming Japan.

If we're Japan, any recovery in the economy and market will likely be temporary. In the case of the market, any recovery will also be followed by a plunge to lower lows. For another decade, at best.

Japan's economy has basically gone nowhere for the past decade, and its stock market is trading at about one-quarter of its level of 20 years ago. If the US were to suffer the same fate, the DOW will be trading at 4,000 in 2020.

So be afraid, very afraid.

At least for now, we're both in the midst of a deflationary deleveraging, in which money supply growth is miniscule and bank credit continues to contract.

Paul Kasriel of Northern Trust has put together a series of charts that show this comparison, and it's not encouraging. Despite the Fed offering unlimited free credit to the banking system, banks continue to shrink the amount they're lending (except to the Federal government). Thus, this free money is not making its way into the economy, the money supply is barely growing, and credit continues to shrink (for the first time in 60 years).

If you prefer your bad news straight up, click here (or at the link in the story) for some dispiriting charts and graphs.

But if you can't take it, can't face it, and would rather stay in your happy place, then click here.

48% View Federal Government As A Threat To Our Rights

Rasmussen Reports: 48% See Government Today As A Threat to Individual Rights

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 48% of Adults see the government today as a threat to rights. Thirty-seven percent (37%) hold the opposite view. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided.

Most Republicans (74%) and unaffiliateds (51%) consider the government to be a threat to individual rights. Most Democrats (64%) regard the government as a protector of rights.

Additionally, most Americans (52%) say it is more important for the government to protect individual rights than to promote economic growth.


What to do, you ask? Fortunately for us, we live in a country that has already worked that out:

That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Quote of the Day

"We're at the tail end of the largest economic intervention since World War II, and even on its own narrow, nebulous terms, it has been a colossal failure. The failure is obvious to working people. It's obvious to unemployed people. It's obvious to kindergarteners, to dogs and cats." -- Tim Cavanaugh

Reporters Agog At Actual Reporting

Jon Stewart is right to skewer what passes for news reporting ....

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
McChrystal's Balls - Honorable Discharge
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Now, See Here's Your Problem ...

NY Times: Obama Says Afghan Policy Won’t Change After Dismissal

Our policy in Afghanistan needs to change.

We need to drop support for the corrupt Karzai government.
More here from the Council on Foreign Relations: Time for Sweeping Afghan Policy Review

The United States has embarked on a policy of state-building in a country with little tradition of a strong state. Making matters worse is that the Afghan government is riddled with corruption and the Taliban has the benefit of a sanctuary in Pakistan, which remains as much of a problem as it is a partner.

Such a policy offers little likelihood of enduring results that would come close to justifying the enormous costs--all at a time the United States faces a looming fiscal crisis and mounting strategic challenges in Iran and North Korea.

It's A Ponzi Scheme, And We Are The Last Generation Of Suckers

Excerpt from: Is the Welfare State a Ponzi Scheme?

First they are playing with money that does not belong to them – which means they cannot lose. Also, when the scams finally unravel, the perpetrators have invariably moved on to their next group of unsuspecting victims –where the fleecing begins anew.

Sound familiar? It should. This is the modus operandi of governments all over the world in our current era of Keynesian excess – an era in which new taxes, fees and fines must be continually created and levied in order to pay for promises made in previous years. Of course these government promises are never actually “paid for,” the IOUs just keep mounting as the burden of repayment is extended further down the line to future generations of taxpayers.

Crisis compels the scammers to grow even bolder in their efforts to fleece the taxpayers. In fact, these “too good to be true” scams have only grown more expensive in response to the recent economic downturn.

Not surprisingly, the root cause of the crisis that is threatening to bring down the global economy lies in the unsustainable expansion of the welfare state – which should be a lesson for American politicians of both parties.

24 June 2010

Craptacular Movie Planned, Anticipated

MTV: Debbie Gibson, Tiffany To Star In 'Mega Python Vs. Gatoroid'

If you thought watching a supersized shark take on an equally supersized octopus was entertaining, [and who didn't? -- S.] wait'll you get a load of what the Asylum is cooking up for Syfy. Prepare yourself for ... "Mega Python vs. Gatoroid"!

The Hollywood Reporter reveals that 1980s pop stars Deborah "Debbie" Gibson and Tiffany will star together in the Syfy original Saturday night movie, to be produced by "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus" studio the Asylum. Both Gibson and Tiffany have previously appeared in Asylum films — Gibson in "Mega Shark ..." and Tiffany in "Mega Piranha" — but this is the first time the duo will appear in a film together.

King Canute And The Collapse In Home Sales

Try as they might, the Obama Administration cannot alter economic reality. The housing market has yet to reach bottom. We need to stop wringing our hands about it, embrace the horror, and take steps to allow the bottom to be reached. It is the only sound way to get out of the mess we are in, and to provide for future economic growth.

But the political class is either in a state of denial, or believes that can alter reality by publishing a new rule in the Federal Register. But what else to you expect from a class of people that have spent their entire lives in politics?

Perhaps they need to read the story of King Canute.

So what was accomplished by the tax credit for buying a home? Well, money was spent. Which I guess is an end in itself in Washington. But all that got us was some time for which we paid dear. Home purchases were not increased -- they were simply moved forward. That's all. People who were going to buy anyway moved their purchases forward a few months.

New-home sales plunge 33 pct with tax credits gone

Sales of new homes collapsed in May, sinking 33 percent to the lowest level on record as potential buyers stopped shopping for homes once they could no longer receive government tax credits.

The credits expired April 30. That's when a new-home buyer would have had to sign a contract to qualify.

"We fear that the appetite to buy a home has disappeared alongside the tax credit," Paul Dales, U.S. economist with Capital Economics," wrote in a note. "After all, unemployment remains high, job security is low and credit conditions are tight."

New-home sales in May fell from April to a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 300,000, the government said Wednesday. That was the slowest sales pace on records dating back to 1963. And it's the largest monthly drop on record.

Sales have now sunk 78 percent from their peak in July 2005.

Analysts were startled by the depth of the sales drop.

Who are these "analysts" that are always startled? Boy, do they need to find a new line of work, because they suck at their jobs if they didn't see this one coming.

Uncertainty And Corruption Slows Growth, Innovation and Investment in Russia (and America)

LA Times: In Russia, a climate of fear is stifling innovation. A good article, but here's the money quotes, that our political class should also mind:

He speaks of the importance of the rule of law. But after two years in power, he is losing credibility, and his words are wearing thin.

Disgusted and scared by the lawlessness and rampant corruption, they tend to shy away from ambitious plans and avoid taking risks.

Interesting Burglary and Gun Statistic

John Stossel: More Guns Means Less Crime
In Canada and Britain, both with tough gun-control laws, almost half of all burglaries occur when residents are home. But in the United States, where many households contain guns, only 13 percent of burglaries happen when someone is at home.

Texas GOP Drowning In Debt

Houston Chronicle: State GOP chief tackles party's big debt
New Houston chairman trying to keep the party out of bankruptcy

Even as Texas Republicans anticipate soul-stirring victories across the state this fall, their party faces the baleful prospect of immediate bankruptcy.

Steve Munisteri, the retired Houston lawyer who was elected chairman at the party's state convention in Dallas last weekend, knew it was bad. Party finances were a major issue in his campaign to unseat Cathie Adams, the longtime conservative activist who had taken over as party chairwoman just eight months ago. What he didn't realize, he said, is that he would be working 18-hour days his first week in office — and for the immediate future - just to keep the lights on.

"Although nothing really surprised me, it's much worse than was portrayed," he said by phone on Friday.

According to the latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, the party had $264,863 cash on hand and $501,174 in debt. Munisteri said the party actually owed $605,835. The Republican National Committee recently paid a bill worth $134,000, he said; otherwise, the RPT would owe $739,000.

"I have both a big debt, and we're losing money every month," he said.

Time For A Change In Afghanistan -- Defeat al-Qaeda And Stop Supporting The Afghan Government

Some very interesting analysis of the situation in Afghanistan from the well-informed and thoughtful Information Dissemination. Below are excerpts from their posts from the last few days.

Obama's Ernest King Moment

On December 20th, 1941, when President Roosevelt called upon Fleet Admiral Ernest King after King's appointment to COMINCH, Admiral King was reported to have said "When they get in trouble they send for the sons-of-bitches”.

We now know who one of that group is - General Petraeus.

The next will be the person named to replace General Petraeus at CENTCOM - who I hope is General Mattis ... But suspect could be Admiral Stavridis.

It is Time to Call in General Mattis

Is the strategic objective to defeat al-Qaeda and other extremist groups and deny them sanctuary or is it to protect the Afghan population, establish good governance, and rebuild the economy?

Those are two entirely different strategic objectives, but both become the strategic objective when you add the words "that in turn requires a sweeping counterinsurgency campaign."Counterinsurgency has become the slipper that fits every foot, when in fact military history suggests there are other military strategies for military engagement in failed states when unity governance cannot be achieved or established by an external state.

The McCrystal strategy depends, almost entirely, on the Afghanistan Army and Police forces being stood up and taking control of security of the country. How is that working out? I hope the President asks the question.

The McCrystal strategy also depends on a strong central government in Afghanistan, because without it the population of the country could legitimately be labeled the insurgent. How many tribes support the central government? How many support the Taliban? How many are partners with the ISAF? I hope these are questions the President asks.

I also think it is time to draft a strategy to meet the Presidents objectives of defeating al-Qaeda and other extremist groups and denying them sanctuary and give up the central government building exercise that has been completely ineffective - and indeed perhaps counterproductive.

The Marines left Iraq to go to Afghanistan. They wanted it - I hope the President gives it to them. I strongly believe that President Obama needs to pick one of two men - Lieutenant General John R. Allen or General James Mattis. No more West Point COINdinistas guys - it is time to pick a Marine.

It is time to call in General James Mattis.

More on McCrystal

The problem is that we appear to be losing the war, and now you have an internal distraction the enemy had nothing to do with.

The President made Afghanistan his war when he decided to go with General McCrystal's counterinsurgency strategy and began surging additional troops. I don't want to hear how the President of the United States had no choice regarding Afghanistan and was backed into the corner - because to suggest that is true is to basically say Barack Obama is not qualified to be the leader of the free world.

The President has lost his General. Has he lost the General McCrystal counterinsurgency strategy too? Is losing the war not so far behind?

I just wish there was one thing so far during the Obama administration to date I could point to and suggest there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the lack of direction and focus that is displayed in every emerging challenge this administration has faced to date suggests that a pattern of panic, confusion, chaos, and indecision regarding what to do will become the next phase of the Afghanistan war.

23 June 2010

We Need Protection When Big Government And Big Business Are In League With Each Other

Interesting article from the editor of the National Review: Opposing Big Business & Big Government

Rep. Joe Barton's quickly retracted apology to BP for the administration's strong-arm tactics was horribly misconceived. Fundamentally, we don't want a free market and a system of laws to protect corporations, but to protect us from both government and corporations, especially when the two are in league with each other. Corporations like BP tend to be craven, unprincipled, and willing to use government for their own ends - all qualities evident in BP's spectacular green-marketing campaign.

The bigger and more complex government is, the more incentive corporations have to politicize themselves and get in bed with Washington. If they have resources to do it (not everyone can afford Stan Greenberg), they'll protect themselves from the worst while disadvantaging their competitors. This accounts for the corporatist paradox of the Obama administration. The president is so arbitrarily anti-business that The Economist dubs him "Vladimir Obama," yet the same industries he demonizes support key elements of his "reform" agenda.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel argues that Barton's apology to BP is the sum total of Republican thought on the economy, and that the fall election is a choice between Obama-style hyperactive government or the depredations of the execrable BP.

To which the only rational answer can be, "None of the above."

Centrists Unite Under Modern Whig Banner

From NJ Centrist: Centrists Unite Under Modern Whig Banner

In a time of such frustration with the American political system, there is a glimmer of hope, a sprout that needs nourishment to be sure, but a movement that is indeed germinating. Two of the largest moderate political movements, the American Centrist Party and the Modern Whig Party have decided to merge.

Mergers are not easy, but in the name of centrist progress, these two champions have put the American people first. Over 46,000 centrists and moderates are uniting under the Modern Whig Party banner. Additional members expected to join this energized movement.

As the Democrats and Republicans continue their polarized rhetoric designed to damage one another, some patriotic Americans are dedicated to finding another way. Many moderate parties have smaller infrastructures, yet are expanding, as the dissatisfaction with the Washington “blame game” grows.

Why is this merger important? With a National Debt that has escalated under both major parties, Americans must find another party to bring common sense and fiscal restraint to government. With special interests legally bribing politicians with campaign contributions, Americans must find a party that demonstrates a higher integrity. Uniting centrists and moderates is essential to bringing the United States back from the partisan tribal warfare that has afflicted our country.

Established in 1833, the Whigs are one of America’s oldest mainstream political parties. They were the original party of Abraham Lincoln and four other U.S. Presidents. Revived by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the grassroots movement has quickly attracted tens of thousands of members. They represent moderate voters from all walks of life that cherry-pick between traditional Democratic and Republican ideals, or can choose another path, in what has been called the Modern Whig Philosophy.

While many of the news outlets may pay little attention to this merger, it is an extremely important grass roots event. The Modern Whig party is expected to seek further mergers to unite centrists and moderates.

To learn more about the merged party, go to www.modernwhig.org/

Obama's Budget Director Flees Sinking Ship

Orszag goes overboard ...

WSJ: Orszag Adieu
According to press reports, Peter Orszag has told friends that he plans to leave as White House budget director because he wants to go out on "a high note." Would that refer to the deficit, or federal spending as a share of GDP?

Mr. Orszag's 18 months on the job is typical for the head of the Office of Management and Budget, though few predecessors have had a gaudier tenure. Budget wonks always say they favor "fiscal responsibility," some more credibly than others. Yet Mr. Orszag did so while serving as an intellectual architect of the $862 billion stimulus, two budgets that boosted spending to levels unseen since World War II and ObamaCare (true costs to come, though conservatively in the range of $2.5 trillion).

Mr. Orszag's first budget proposed to bring federal spending to 27.7% of GDP, and it is projected by the Administration to remain above at least 22% for the next decade—up from the modern average of under 21%.

The Congressional Budget Office's view of Mr. Orszag's budget puts the deficit at 4.3% of GDP in 2015—versus 2.6% in the baseline status quo—and then rising back to 5.6% in 2020.

Democrats on Capitol Hill and President Obama are doing most of this damage, but Mr. Orszag made one signature contribution—to wit, his claim that the only way to reduce entitlement spending was to create a new entitlement.

Quote of the Day

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. -- Groucho Marx

If You Ever Wanted A Reason To Oppose The VAT In America ...

BBC: Budget: Osborne's 'tough' package puts VAT up to 20%

To be fair, the U.K. is facing an awful financial crisis, and their proposed budget has been getting good reviews. But still ...

The Value-Added-Tax (VAT) in Britain was already an eye-popping 17.5%!

It is apparent that this tax is easy to raise. Despite the usual assurances from the political class that any American proposed VAT would be reasonable, in a generation, we would no doubt be right there with the Brits ...

Additionally, the VAT is an a very complex tax system, and I'm all for tax simplification.

And the simplest answer is to say no to any VAT in the U.S.

Yachting While The Oil Spills The New Fiddling While Rome Burns?

I have always wondered about how turns of phrase are coined.

I mean, Bernie Madoff ripped off more people than Charles Ponzi could have ever dreamed up, yet a hundred years later, it's still a Ponzi, not a Madoff scheme.

But why did the name stick on Ponzi? It's not even because he was the first that came up with the idea. Charles Dickens described such a scheme in Little Dorrit, long before Ponzi was even born, and the idea was certainly even older than that.

I recently found out that "The Wave," which people do during lulls in the action at sporting events, is known as the "Mexican Wave" throughout the rest of the world, even though it was invented here in the U.S.A. It's because much of the rest of the world first noticed it at soccer matches in Mexico, about a decade ago.

As I mentioned above, there is scant chance that "Fiddling While Rome Burns" will be replaced with "Yachting While The Oil Spills." Although some new phrase needs to attach to the Gulf catastrophe. Maybe "Golfing During A Disaster" would work ...

22 June 2010

American Centrist Party Merges With Modern Whig Party

Here is the latest from the Modern Whig Party:

We are pleased to announce that one of the largest moderate political movements in the nation has unanimously voted to merge with the Modern Whig Party. This means that we are being joined by a list of about 16,000 Americans who had initially signed on in support of the American Centrist Party. This merger is a natural fit as we both have been working toward a viable, mainstream and non-fringe political movement that values common sense, rational solutions ahead of partisan bickering and ideology.

On a practical level, we are receiving an infusion of a new core of moderate leaders throughout the nation. While the Modern Whig Party was revived by post-9/11 veterans, the effects of this merger further demonstrate the diverse makeup of this political movement. Work is now underway in other areas to expand our reach and maximize our potential while maintaining a foot in reality in terms of the continuing difficult task ahead.

Again, thank you for your continuing support of this political movement and our mutual goal in creating a viable, mainstream and non-fringe political movement.

Best regards,
Executive Committee
Modern Whig Party

This is good news. This is something that has been in the works for several months, and it is good to see it happen. The Modern Whig Party is becoming the undisputed home of moderate, common-sense politial efforts.

Welcome, members from the American Centrist Party!

18 June 2010

Big Institutions Fail

We live in a time in which our large institutions, corporate, governmental, political, and educational, are failing us.

It is time to get flexible, and embrace the little, the new, the young, the nimble.

Where to turn to embrace that politically? Good question.

All choices stink. Democrats are for Big Government (and Big Business) and the Republicans are for Big Business (and Big Government).

NY Times: Add Government to the List of ‘Fat Cats’

You do not have to be working for the minimum wage, after all, to seethe about the effects of the Wall Street meltdown on your retirement savings or the spilled oil creeping toward your shores. You simply have to fear that large institutions generally exercise too much power and too little responsibility in society.

This new American populism is why the federal deficit has emerged as a chief concern for voters, as it did in Mr. Perot’s era — not because it presents an imminent crisis of its own, necessarily, but because it signifies a kind of institutional recklessness, a disconnectedness from the reality of daily life.

The same dynamic explains the current spate of questions over the composition of the Supreme Court, which may soon consist entirely of lawyers trained at Harvard and Yale. It does not seem to matter that virtually all of those justices advanced from the middle class, rather than through inheritance. The pervasive reach of exclusive educational institutions is unnerving to some Americans now, and it helps inspire the caustic brand of populism that Sarah Palin and others have made central to their political identities.

What this means for Mr. Obama is that an anxious populace is now less likely to see his clash with BP as an instance of government’s standing up to a venal corporation, but rather as an instance of both sprawling institutions having once again failed to protect them. In a poll conducted last month by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, 63 percent of respondents rated BP’s handling of the oil leak as fair or poor. But the government fared only modestly better, with 54 percent giving it the same dismal marks.

In other words, voters perceive both business and government as part of an interdependent system, and it is hard for them to separate out the culpability of either. Mr. Obama acknowledged as much in his speech Tuesday, when he asserted — in his lone criticism of government’s role in the crisis — that the bureau in charge of monitoring the oil companies had effectively been colluding with them instead.

All of which leaves the old kind of anticorporate populism — “the people versus the powerful,” as Al Gore put it — a beat behind the times, sort of like “flower power” or the Laffer Curve. Mr. Obama and his party are probably right to presume that voters don’t trust BP or any of the powerful companies the president has taken to castigating on a regular basis.

The problem is that they don’t trust Washington to stand up for them, either.

And People Wonder Why We Are In The Mess We Are In

So let me get this straight -- a lot of people recklessly ran up their debts on their credit cards. Pandering to the irresponsible, the Democrats enact a bunch of restrictions on the banks so they won't be able to make as much money fleecing their free-spending credit card customers.

The Democrats pat themselves on their backs, to the applause of the media.

Meanwhile, the banks, looking to replace the revenue lost because of the regulations, turn to their responsible customers, and move to end free checking. See story here: End Is Seen to Free Checking

So we promote a system that protects irresponsibility and punishes the responsible.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Republicans Defend BP

Is it a stunning product of the two party system, or a demonstration of the Republican's continuing love affair of big business? Incredibly, the GOP and their mouthpieces on talk radio have placed themselves in the position of defending BP.

Another exhibit of why the Republicans are hopeless.

They are defending BP. BP! The company who has done more to destroy the Gulf of Mexico, the offshore drilling industry, the most productive fishery in the nation, Gulf tourism, and any hope of establishing energy independence. And the Republicans are in their corner!

I would say it was unbelievable, except it is to be expected.

Look, I don't think much of Obama either, but damn! The spill is not his fault, and if he could stop it, I am sure he would. And as for BP -- well, to hell with them.
I am so upset about the continuing debacle in the Gulf, it has distracted me from just about any other political concerns. And no, I am not going to get more upset because Obama is putting the screws to BP to get them to cough up the dough.

But on talk radio, and the blogs, people are actually following along, and trying to --- well, defend the indefensible, it seems to me.

Just because Obama is for something, or wants to do something, it doesn't mean you have to automatically oppose it.

Big corporations can take care of themselves. But the Republican establishment is more concerned about a big oil company, than all of the livelihoods of all the workers and small businesses that have been ruined because of BP's negligence, not to mention the absolute environmental catastrophe.

If you want yet another demonstration of what is wrong with the Republican Party, here it is.

17 June 2010

Humvee Replacement Slideshow Link

WSJ: Humvee Proves Tough to Follow
Military Needs to Decide What Kinds of Wars It Will Fight Before It Replaces Icon

Here's a slide show so you can see the three proposed replacements. They look pretty cool.

Fujitsu Laptop Dies

I just heard back from my tech guy.

Not even two years old, and my Fujistu laptop is dead. First time that has happened to me.

My advice: don't buy Fujitsu computers.

I've owned an Apple, an HP, and two Dells (including ol' Wheezy here). All worked fine until I got rid of them because they were obsolete.

My Daughter, The Philistine

While in Washington, I took the kids to the National Gallery of Art to take in a little culture.

Among the paintings we saw was the one imaged here, Renoir's "The Girl With The Watering Can." Among the Picassos, the Monets, the Manets, the Cassatts, I thought my daughter would appreciate this one.

I explained Impressionism, and pointed out the details of the painting, explaining that the painting was very famous.

She asked "It's famous?"

"Oh, sure," I replied, "Many are familiar with the painting, and it is studied and appreciated all over the world."

Her response before walking away while rolling her eyes: "Why?"