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February 28, 2006

Now this is a real gun related crime

Next to illicit drugs, nothing can get your civil liberties violated faster than being caught in possession of a firearm -- even a perfectly legal one. Here is a case in point.

The Utah man, Gregg Revell, a real estate broker and family man with no criminal record and a Utah firearms permit, was flying alone from Salt Lake City, UT to Allentown, PA to retrieve a car he bought and drive it home. He was travelling with a firearm for personal protection. As required by Federal law, the firearm was unloaded, cased, locked and inside his luggage when he declared it at check-in in Salt Lake City on March 31, 2005.

Due to an airline-caused baggage error, Mr. Revell missed his connection from Newark to Allentown and had to stay overnight in New Jersey. When he checked in at Newark Airport the next morning to complete his travels, he again declared his firearm, as required by FAA regulations. He was then arrested for possession of a firearm without a New Jersey state license, and imprisoned in Essex County jail for five days until his family arranged bail, which had been initially set unusually high at $15,000 cash (no bond).

But Mr. Revell’s travels were protected by the Firearms Owner Protection Act, a Federal law passed in 1986 to protect law-abiding citizens who travel with firearms. (See 18 U.S.C. § 926A.) That law trumps state and local gun laws and protects interstate travel with firearms under certain circumstances, all of which were present in Mr. Revell’s case. Several months after the arrest, all charges were withdrawn and the prosecutor’s case administratively dismissed.

Nice, right?

I'm glad the man was acquitted, but that hardly seems sufficient. I think some kind of compensation should be in order here. After all, it's not even as though he were ultimately found innocent of the crime for which he was arrested. It's worse than that. He was arrested for something that isn't even a crime.

Positive news from South Dakota

Speaking of the Supreme Court, abortion, and stuff like that....

South Dakota's been getting a lot of publicity lately, mostly unfavorable, for its recent restrictive abortion bill. Fair enough, but we also have to give them credit for standing up to the high court on a completely different issue: Kelo.

The latest blowback comes from South Dakota, whose Governor this month signed a law prohibiting the state from using its power of "eminent domain" to take private property for private economic development. No exceptions. No loopholes. The bill passed by unanimous vote in the state senate and 67-1 in the house.

Nice. And it's not just South Dakota. They were just first out of the gate but other states are getting in on the act as well.

In Michigan, the legislature decided not to leave so important an issue to the vagaries of future legislatures and approved an amendment to the state constitution outlawing the taking of private property for private use. The vote was 106-0 in the house and 31-6 in the senate; it goes to the voters in November. Constitutional amendments are also moving forward in Georgia, New Hampshire, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Alabama.

Initiatives are under way in Colorado, Missouri, California, Arizona, Nevada and Montana. In Washington, D.C., the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in November that would withhold economic development aid for two years from state or local governments that use private economic development as a rationale for eminent domain. The Senate will soon take up somewhat less sweeping legislation.

That's a lot of states, but hopefully we'll see the list grow to include all fifty. Given the margins we're seeing in some of these state legislatures, I'm pretty optimistic that that's a real possibility, and that the Kelo injustice will be effectively reversed.

When Red and Blue America are united like this, we usually get our way. That's what makes me think the UAE port deal is going to go belly-up as well.

I hate headlines like this!

Check out the headline on this AP article:

Supreme Court Backs Abortion Protesters

Is it just me, or is this incredibly misleading? It means the court is pro-life, right? If they handed down a decision that pro-lifers approve of, it means they're on "their side," right?

Well, not in this case. The court didn't pass any value judgment on the protestors either way. All they said was that the protestors were not engaged in racketeering or extortion. (Duh.)

The Supreme Court dealt a setback Tuesday to abortion clinics in a two-decade-old legal fight over abortion protests, ruling that federal extortion and racketeering laws cannot be used to ban demonstrations.

Anti-abortion groups brought the appeal after the 7th Circuit had asked a trial judge to determine whether a nationwide injunction could be supported by charges that protesters had made threats of violence absent a connection with robbery or extortion.

Pretty much a no-brainer, I'd say, which probably explains why the decision was unanimous (the majority opinion was written by Stephen Bryer.) In other words, the tea leaves say absolutely nothing about the high court's bias on Roe v. Wade.

Anyway, that kind of shoddy journalism hacks me off. God knows there are enough misconceptions about SCOTUS's proper role in the whole abortion debate without the mainstream media making it worse.

February 27, 2006

"Turning back the clock"?

In a blatant bid to get the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade, the legislature of one of those Dakota states has passed a bill essentially outlawing the majority of all abortions.

I don't think their chances of long-term success are very good at all, but in the meantime they're going to make life miserable for all of us. See, it's not just the dozen or so people who reside in South Dakota who will be forced to live (temporarily, at least) under an unjust law. It's also the entire country that will get dragged, face down, through one of the most tiresome, non-productive, and hyper-emotional political debates of our time.

And oh yes, there will be many, many more references to "turning back the clock." I swear, can our side please get some new metaphors? Please?? That one was already shopworn by the time Robert Bork was defeated, and should long since have been retired.

I'm sure those who employ this phrase have no idea how grating and annoying it is, so perhaps there's a way we can drive the point home. The next time someone in Congress tries to raise taxes on income, capital gains or inheritance, no less than a dozen legislators should take to the floor to deliver fiery, impassioned speeches, warning us not to "turn back the clock" on decades of tax code progress, and not to take us back to the dark days of back-alley accountants and unlicensed financial planners.

A rough weekend


It was hard enough to cope with the loss of Barney Fife, Mr. Limpet and Mr. Chicken yesterday morning, but then I had to process the departure of (the real) Carl Kolchak and "The Old Man" from "A Christmas Story."

Honestly, this is more than we should be asked to bear all at once. It sort of makes Stuart Townsend's ill-fated Kolchak resurrection all the more difficult to stomach, doesn't it? (See my previous Kolchak posts here, here, here, here, and here.)

Goodby, Carl. So long, Deputy Fife. (*sniff*)

Fixing Movable Type's non-permanent permalinks

Almost no one will care about this post, so please feel free to ignore it before you read any further. It describes a solution I found for an annoying bug in Moveable Type's web publishing software. I'm posting it here because I'm sure there are others out there who will struggle with the same problem, so hopefully they can find the solution here through some quick Googling.

So anyway, I was porting my blog to a different server, using MoveableType's import/export routines to transfer all my posts. The import/export feature worked great... except for the fact that it did not preserve entry IDs. When the old posts were brought into the new site, they were assigned an entry ID rather arbitrarily, via an auto-increment function. Generally speaking, all my posts were now assigned a different entry ID than they had on the old site. A consequence of this is that it broke essentially every link to my site that exists on the Internet. That is not good.

Fortunately, a fix proved to be pretty easy. So easy, in fact, that it's astonishing that Movable Type hasn't incorporated it into its more recent versions. Anyway, here's how you go about doing it. The good thing about Movable Type is that you get all the source code for it, so that you can hack it in cool ways like this.

First you have to fix the export routine on your old MT installation. Find the CMS.pm library file (usually located in the App directory under lib) and get ready to add a couple of lines of code. Don't pay much attention to the lines numbers here, because those will vary from version to version. Find a place in the code that looks something like this:

2959 AUTHOR: <$MTEntryAuthor$>
2960 TITLE: <$MTEntryTitle$>
2961 STATUS: <$MTEntryStatus$>
2962 ALLOW COMMENTS: <$MTEntryFlag flag="allow_comments"$>
2963 CONVERT BREAKS: <$MTEntryFlag flag="convert_breaks"$>
2964 ALLOW PINGS: <$MTEntryFlag flag="allow_pings"$>
2965 PRIMARY CATEGORY: <$MTEntryCategory$>

and add a line for the entry ID to make it look like this:

2959 AUTHOR: <$MTEntryAuthor$>
2960 ID: <$MTEntryID$>
2961 TITLE: <$MTEntryTitle$>
2962 STATUS: <$MTEntryStatus$>
2963 ALLOW COMMENTS: <$MTEntryFlag flag="allow_comments"$>
2964 CONVERT BREAKS: <$MTEntryFlag flag="convert_breaks"$>
2965 ALLOW PINGS: <$MTEntryFlag flag="allow_pings"$>
2966 PRIMARY CATEGORY: <$MTEntryCategory$>

Save your changes and close the file, and you're done fixing the export routine. Easy, right?

Now go to the MT installation on the new server and edit the same file, CMS.pm. Find the following chunk of code:

7446 } elsif ($key eq 'TITLE') {
7447 $entry->title($val);
7448 } elsif ($key eq 'DATE') {
7449 my $date = $app->_convert_date($val) or return;
7450 $entry->created_on($date);

and make it look like this:

7446 } elsif ($key eq 'TITLE') {
7447 $entry->title($val);
7448 } elsif ($key eq 'ID') {
7449 $entry->id($val);

7450 } elsif ($key eq 'DATE') {
7451 my $date = $app->_convert_date($val) or return;
7452 $entry->created_on($date);

Now just run the import and export routines as specified in the manual. All should be well.

February 26, 2006

Changes here at CN

As you've probably noticed, this site has a bit of a new look. The more significant changes occurred under the hood, however. We are now running on a new server, and that makes me very happy.

Although the old server is never coming back, I'm not wedded to the new look/feel, so I'd appreciate any feedback on the interface. That's something we can always tinker with until we get it right.

February 24, 2006

Turning on Hackett

Moonbats are a fickle lot. One minute they're masturbating over Paul Hackett as if he's the Second Coming, and the next they're sending him straight to hell. The precipitating event seems to be Hackett's decision not to support Sherrod Brown in his Ohio Senate campaign.

It's hilarious to read some of the reasons the DUmmies have for turning against Hackett. He's "temperamental," "egotistical," a "loose cannon" with "attitude."

Hello?! Have any of you been paying attention at all during this campaign?! That Paul Brown exhibited all of these character traits in spades was painfully obvious to even the most casual observer from the get-go. Now the moonbats want to complain because Hackett isn't a "team player?" ROTFLMAO!! The whole reason they were enamored of him in the first place was precisely because he bucked the DNC establishment.

It's part of a pattern with these people. Remember during the 2004 campaign how voraciously liberals defended Kerry against "wingnut smears?" Then as soon as he lost, they turned on him like yesterday's garbage, levying the exact same charges (flip-flopping, a haughty, wooden demeanor) against him as the Republicans had.

Bizarre psychology these people have. They run hotter and colder than my first college girlfriend. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if she were one of those DU posters.

Occam's Razor and the port controversy

Both sides in the UAE port controversy have been equally mystified as to why Bush has dug in his heels so adamantly on this one, even going so far as to threaten what would be the first veto of his administration.

People like Jill seem to think it's because Bush wants us to get blown up again, while many of the commenters here at CN attribute it to plain old cronyism.

The Bush administration is certainly not above cronyism, but I suspect the actual reason is even simpler. Let's leave aside the whole issue of where the UAE's deepest loyalties lie in the War on Terror (I'm deeply skeptical on that score myself.) But the UAE is, without question, a critically important logistical ally in the war. It's home to crucial American military bases, and it's a major refueling point for the American naval and air forces. I'm sure their support for American military operations doesn't play very well with certain domestic elements, to say the least.

So what's in it for the UAE? I don't know. Whether this port deal was part of an explicit bargain for the UAE's support in the GWoT or not, Bush must certainly be reluctant to undertake any action that would jeopardize the partnership we currently have with the Dubai.

And look, he has a point. It's an extremely delicate situation, and we do need the UAE's help. Nonetheless, I just don't think it's worth it on balance. The deal should be scrubbed and the administration should find another way, if necessary, to secure Dubai's cooperation.

Bloomberg and guns

Remember when the federal government restricted access to a database containing information on firearm use? Well, now we know why.

Taking aim against illegal guns, Mayor Bloomberg met yesterday with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales behind closed doors at City Hall.

Talking privately for about 45 minutes, the mayor asked Gonzales for his help in trying to sue gun manufacturers if their guns are used to commit a crime.

"Gonzales' role in civil litigation has to do with access to a federal database, which has been curtailed by Congress, and the mayor wanted to raise that issue with him," Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler told reporters after the meeting.

"There have been amendments tucked into Department of Justice appropriations that limit the city's ability to have access to information about firearms being used, which are directly intended to undercut the city's litigation against gun manufacturers, and the mayor wanted to bring it to the attorney general's attention."

Gun control is one thing, but suing a manufacturer because someone misuses its product is stupid and contrary to our basic, national sense of fairness.

Such lawsuits, though rarely successful, typically involve enormous punitive settlements. Even successfully defending against such suits can be a huge burden for the firearm industry.

Such litigation can potentially run gun manufacturers out of business, many of whom are vital to our national defense. And at the very least, they inflate the cost of home defense for citizens who (unlike Bloomberg) do not live in a posh apartment complex nor enjoy a private security detail.

New York City already has some of the toughest anti-gun laws in the country, even without opening a civil litigation front in the gun wars.

The bottom line is that if Michael Bloomberg wants to continue his jihads against cigarettes and firearms (what's next, booze?) he can do it without federal help.

February 23, 2006

Unhappy liberals

Republicans are happier than Democrats, according to a recent and perhaps unsurprising survey. This may help explain the perpetually indignant tone of many of the lefty blogs I frequent. It's tempting to attribute this disparity to the current political landscape, but this pattern has obtained since 1972, so there's clearly more to it than that.

George Will takes a stab at explaining the "unhappy liberal" phenomenon.

Nevertheless, normal conservatives -- never mind the gladiators of talk radio; they are professionally angry -- are less angry than liberals. Liberals have made this the era of surly automobile bumpers, millions of them, still defiantly adorned with Kerry-Edwards and even Gore-Lieberman bumper stickers, faded and frayed like flags preserved as relics of failed crusades. To preserve these mementos of dashed dreams, many liberals may be forgoing the pleasures of buying new cars -- another delight sacrificed on the altar of liberalism.

But, then, conscientious liberals cannot enjoy automobiles because there is global warming to worry about, and the perils of corporate-driven consumerism which is the handmaiden of bourgeoisie materialism. And high-powered cars (how many liberals drive Corvettes?) are metaphors (for America's reckless foreign policy, for machismo rampant, etc.). And then there is -- was -- all that rustic beauty paved over for highways. (And for those giant parking lots at exurban mega-churches. The less said about them, the better.) And automobiles discourage the egalitarian enjoyment of mass transit. And automobiles, by facilitating suburban sprawl, deny sprawl's victims -- that word must make an appearance in liberal laments; and lament is what liberals do -- the uplifting communitarian experience of high-density living. And automobiles ...

You see? Liberalism is a complicated and exacting, not to say grim and scolding, creed. And not one conducive to happiness.

Yeah, I see how that could wear you down.

February 22, 2006

Hillary on choice

School choice, that is. With all the subtlety of Pat Robertson discussing feminism, Hillary Clinton has weighed in on vouchers. Giving poor families greater choice in education, she argues, can lead to white supremacism and jihad.

Nothing like a nuanced argument, huh? Now I don't know how many Aryan Nation schools or jihad clinics in this country have state accreditation, but if the number is anything other than zero, we have more to worry about than a simple voucher program.

Hillary's first term has been characterized by carefully moderated viewpoints and shrewd triangulation. She was thus well on her way to becoming one of my favorite Democratic senators (faint praise though that may be.) Stunts like this, however, remind me why she was my bête noire a decade ago.

Port hypocrisy

I'm disappointed that some conservatives are resorting to playing the race card to defend the administration on the whole UAW port deal. They argue, essentially, that bigotry is the only reason to oppose this deal, that we shouldn't oppose letting brown-skinned foreigners do the exact same job that we've happily allowed white-skinned foreigners to do for years.

I'm sorry, but that's exactly the same kind of PC (il)logic that says we can't do racial profiling of airline passengers. Crap like this is precisely the reason the public still doesn't trust liberals to deal adequately with security issues. When conservatives resort to the same tactics, it makes no more sense than when liberals do it, but also undercuts a core Republican strength.

As far as I'm concerned, the only valid reason for supporting the deal is that its rejection would be interpreted as anti-Arab bigotry by large parts of the Arab world. That's indeed unfortunate, but

  1. By escalating the conflict with a veto threat, President Bush has given the issue a much higher profile than necessary, thus exacerbating the negative reaction when and if the deal is actually scrubbed.
  2. I voted for this president precisely because I thought he would prioritize America's national security over the delicate sensibilities of the Arab/Muslim world. He disappoints me here, frankly.

Image and perception are very important here. Even if the administration is absolutely convinced that the security of our ports is not at risk here, why would he want to hand the Democrats the political advantage on a national security issue? If nothing else, it's politically very, very stupid.

And by the way, on a semi-related topic, my new Senator is a jerk. Although I agree with Bob Menendez on this port issue, the way he addressed it was a bit tacky if you ask me.

"The administration has refused to disclose why it believes this transaction would not jeopardize national security," Menendez said. He alluded to Hurricane Katrina in rejecting the notion that people trust Bush's judgment on the deal: "People of New Orleans were asked to trust, too."

Classy, huh?

An annoying abortion argument

Speaking of the Supreme Court, everyone seems to be buzzing about an upcoming abortion showdown. I'll wait until the case is actually decided before commenting on it directly, but I would like to say something about the discussion surrounding it.

I'm talking about the predictable pro-choice chorus about how a woman has an absolute right to control her own body. This annoys me. Not because I disagree with it, but because I agree with it. In fact, I think no further argument for abortion rights is even necessary.

What annoys me is that I'm convinced that most of the people who make this argument don't buy it themselves. How many of them, for example, would support a woman's (or a man's?) right to abuse her own body with recreational drugs, for instance?

Many people will object that society as a whole pays a terrible cost due to drug abuse, and that society's interest must be balanced against a woman's right to take controlled substances into her body. That's a valid argument, but as soon as you've made it you've conceded that women don't have absolute control over their bodies and that society (including aged, white, Republican males, BTW) has a legitimate interest as well.

So if you make the "my body, my choice" argument and also believe in the decriminalization of drugs, then God bless you; there should be more like you in the world. But for the rest? For the people who constantly lecture and nag us about what and whether we should smoke and where, what kind of cars we should drive, whether we should own a handgun or shop at Wal-Mart and what kind of jokes we can tell our secretaries, to suddenly start talking like Ayn Rand as soon as the topic of abortion comes up? Give me a break.

Getting high for religious purposes

I know this decision will only affect a small number of people directly, but it's always good to see the expansion of liberties, regardless.

The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the US government cannot stop a small religious sect using hallucinogenic tea from Brazil that devotees says brings them closer to God.

In a case which brought US anti-drugs laws into conflict with freedom of religion legislation, the government had argued that hoasca was a dangerous mind altering substance, which could be diverted to recreational users.

Replacing Paul Krugman

This is a few days old already, but it sums up exactly how I feel about Paul Krugman myself.

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm not over-fond of Paul Krugman's New York Times column. I don't hate it on ideological grounds; I hate it for reasons of economic efficiency. Surely we have better uses for our nation's tiny stock of really smart economists, than using one to write 1400 words a week proving that the Bush administration is at the root of every single bad thing that ever happens in the world?

I don't blame Mr Krugman entirely. For one thing, it is Mr Bush's fault for getting elected; if you read through Mr Krugman's 2000 columns, it is clear that this event unhinged him. The slow decline starts in the summer of 2000, and by Jan 1, Mr Krugman has been transformed from Dr Jekyll, the economist who wrote so elegantly and eloquently on issues like trade and productivity, into Mr Hyde, the economist who thinks that his PhD somehow elevates his poorly researched forays into politics and international affairs into something worth reading, and who hates the Bush administration so much that no crime is too ludicrous to accuse them of--including forcing the outgoing president of Indonesia into making anti-semitic remarks.

For another, the medium is a poor one for anything weightier than Maureen Dowd's fluff. (I don't particularly enjoy said fluff, myself, but it is sufficiently vacuous that the time and space constraints do it no damage.) Writing twice a week is too heavy a burden for a columnist, particularly one with a day job. 700 words is far too short to say anything interesting or meaningful about economics. And Mr Krugman has had his column for going on six years, which is too long. One gets the sense that he keeps repeating "I hate George Bush" because he has long ago exhausted his supply of insight.

Unpopular hymns

On any list of unpopular church songs, this one surely deserves a place of honor (not entirely work-safe.)

February 21, 2006

Bush is officially wrong

If I had any doubts that Bush was wrong on the Dubai port security issue, those have now been laid to rest.

The Bush administration got support Monday from former President Carter, a Democrat and frequent critic of the administration.

"My presumption is, and my belief is, that the president and his secretary of state and the Defense Department and others have adequately cleared the Dubai government organization to manage these ports," Carter told CNN. "I don't think there's any particular threat to our security."

Just a question

Now that Sheryl Crow has broken up with Lance Armstrong, can we expect more political idiocy from her in days to come? I guess this will put the theory to the test.

February 20, 2006

The politics of the Dubai port deal

I haven't yet written about the pending takeover of our port security by a UAE-owned corporation. It should almost go without saying, but I think it's fairly obviously a bad idea. Yeah, maybe I'm being unfair and prejudicial about the nationality of these people, but I'm sorry. I can't forget that the UAE was one of only three countries to formally recognize the Taliban. Unfair or not, I don't want a Dubai-based company managing the security of our ports. Seems like kind of a no-brainer to me.

I do find it encouraging, however, that opposition to the deal seems to be bipartisan. Peter King and Lindsey Graham are both on record as opposing the deal.

That makes me glad the politics of the situation are aligned as they are. If a Democrat were in the White House during this takeover bid, I think criticism from Democratic congressmen would be significantly muted. And not just because of raw partisanship, but out of a desire to avoid charges of anti-Arab bias and racism. Enough Republicans would likely be cowed by these same considerations that the chorus of opposition would likely be much smaller.

But given that Democratic critics of the deal like Bob Menendez can cast their opposition in terms of opposing the president, they have plenty of political cover to help block the deal. Their liberal bases will never exact a penalty for opposing Bush, even if it's a "No Arabs Need Apply" policy that would be unthinkable under a Democratic administration.

With any luck, the deal can be stopped.

Cool license plate

I'd never seen this D.C. license plate motto before, but I thought it was pretty neat.

You gotta admit, they have a point. But then again, taxation with representation ain't so great either.

Happy president's day!

Today is the day we must all honor George W. Bush.

This is the kind of flip-flop I like

I didn't have time to properly celebrate it last week, but the Senate voted down an attempt by Ted Kennedy to reverse Bush's cuts on dividends and capital gains taxes. Yay.

But the Wall Street Journal notes an interesting reversal of opinion on the issue.

...the most intriguing vote on behalf of the tax cut this week was cast by Arizona's John McCain. He and two other Republicans opposed these same tax-rate cuts in 2003 on grounds that they added to the budget deficit. His opposition meant that Vice President Dick Cheney had to break a 50-50 tie to pass the lower rates. Those cuts have since helped lift business investment and thus the entire economy, including a gusher of new federal revenues in the last 15 months or so.

Asked to explain his reversal, Mr. McCain said, "American businesses and investors need a stable and predictable tax policy to continue contributing to the growth of the economy." And with "the leveling of some key economic indicators such as real GDP growth," he said he doesn't think we should "reverse course by letting the higher tax rates take effect." Our guess is that Mr. McCain may also be looking ahead to the 2008 GOP Presidential primaries, which won't be kind to candidates who've voted for tax increases. Whatever his calculation, we'll take it -- and so will the economy.

So is McCain shoring up his conservative bona fides in anticipation of a 2008 White House bid? Of course. But I think it's also likely that he's seen the wisdom of the cuts, and recognizes the folly in reversing them now. Either way, I find it encouraging.

February 17, 2006


This was extremely silly, but it made me laugh anyway.

Olympics fever sweeps Cynical Nation

Are the Olympics this year? Have they started yet?

Is it just me, or is no one watching anymore? I feel a bit guilty about ignoring them, because I remember how excited I used to get as a kid when they were on. But maybe the Olympics are going the way of Miss America. Maybe the games have lost their capacity to capture our imagination in today's world. When I was a kid, of course, there were only three TV channels, and when the alternatives were "Bridget Loves Bernie" and "Mannix," the Olympics seemed like blockbuster entertainment indeed.

It's been slow

Blogging has been light of late for two reasons.

First, I've been busy migrating this site to a new server. It's a pain in the ass, but it's almost done, and you'll be able to tell when it's complete.

Second, it's just been kind of a slow news cycle ever since the vice president shot that guy. Driving into work this morning, the hour's lead story on ABC news was that airlines lose luggage. Seriously.

February 15, 2006

Cheney: One beer or two?

First of all, Harry Callahan is correct in his comment over at Ace's. Drunk drivers always admit to having had two beers when they're pulled over, not just one. Anyway, Ace seems freaked out over the revelation that Cheney may have had "one beer" before the shooting.

Look, maybe this is because I'm from the South, but I've been fascinated by the coverage of this issue. I'm simply astonished at the unfamiliarity with shotguns in particular and hunting in general. And specifically...

Of COURSE alcohol was involved!! This is some kinda freakin' revelation?!?

Look, think about it for two seconds. Traipsing through the woods with loaded guns and funny hats and a bunch of dogs is not something that grown men would do sober!


That'll show 'em

I'll bet those Danes really regret drawing those freakin' cartoons now!

Hold the chocolate, please

Last night's Valentine's dinner was at the top of New York's Ritz Carlton, with fantastic views of the Hudson. The menu was champagne and... chocolate. Just chocolate.

I'd never seen so much chocolate in my life. It was everywhere, huge chocolate sculptures, chocolate fountains, even the tabletops were made out of chocolate. There was chocolate fondue at our table when we arrived, served over a bed of M&Ms. There were tortes, mousses, puddings, cakes, cookies, truffles, and pretty much everything else you could imagine.

My first thought was that this was what the afterlife must be like if you've led a good life and never voted for a Republican. I was already looking forward to doing it again next year. Then, an hour later, I never wanted to look at another piece of chocolate in my life. After I got home, I had to order a large pizza just to get my body chemistry halfway back into wack.

Ugh. It was a great night, and I don't regret it, but... ugh.

Moonbats and Cheney

For the record, I agree with John Podhoretz's criticism of the way this whole hunting accident was handled. Still, there's something about the response of some liberals that strikes me as a bit out of proportion.

I mean, let's say you truly believe that a guy instigated an unnecessary war based on lies, resulting the deaths of more than two thousand American soldiers and thousands of innocent Iraqis just so his buddies at Halliburton could line their pockets. So what's the big deal if he accidentally shoots a hunting companion? Wouldn't that be a bit like freaking out because Hitler's motorcade accidentally grazed a bystander? How about a little perspective here?

I guess it's further indication that even most moonbats don't believe half of the crap they spew about this administration.

February 14, 2006

The Dick Cheney question

Amidst reports that Harry Whittington's injuries are perhaps more serious than previously believed, questions are beginning to swirl about whether Cheney will complete his term in office.

I wouldn't be sorry to see him go. I never thought he was a particularly good choice for VP, and I regret that the Republicans didn't take the opportunity to replace him on the ticket in 2004.

But that being said, there's an important point that I think a lot of people in this debate are forgetting. The vice president cannot simply be fired like a normal cabinet member. As far as I know, the only way to force Cheney out of office would be through an impeachment process. In other words, all the questions about whether Bush "should" replace him or not are moot. He can't do it.

Cheney could resign, of course, and the president could ask him to do so, but I somehow don't see it happening.

Return of the San Francisco Democrats

Remember 1984? Democrats were resigned to Ronald Reagan's reelection, so they decided just to go to San Francisco and have a great big party. They got the most liberal guy they could find and nominated him for president. They also seized a cost-free opportunity to nominate the first female ever for national office. They hooted and hollered and got really really drunk and a great, self-indulgent time was had by all. Then they woke up with hangovers and four more years of Ronaldus Magnus, but hell, they went out in style, and no one begrudged them their fun under the circumstances.

Oddly, I'm beginning to think the entire core of today's Democratic Party is morphing into San Francisco Democrats. It doesn't really make sense on the face of it, because there is every reason to believe that the next election cycle will be competitive, and the Democrats are ostensibly desperate to regain some measure of power.

It may not make sense, but from my surveys of the lefty blogosphere, it sure seems to be what's happening. The most recent case in point involves Paul Hackett. Liberals at DU and Kos are livid that the Democratic Party is pressuring Hackett out of the race for Ohio's Senate seat. Hackett himself is playing to this crowd, donning the full-boat martyr regalia:

"For me, this is a second betrayal," Mr. Hackett said. "First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me."

Crikey, if that's the kind of cheesy dialog we can expect from the guy it's no wonder he's being squeezed out.

Yeah, Paul, the DNC is afraid of you. They're afraid you're going to lose and they're right. You had your chance, but you've raised one tenth the money your opponent has. Hell, even Kos himself seems to grasp this, but the grassroots of the MoveOn/Kos axis are actually incensed that the Democrats don't want to squander millions on a brutal, internecine primary battle that can only benefit the Republicans.

Hello? When Markos Zuniga is the voice of reason within your party, that should definitely be considered a warning sign, people.

Astonishing, isn't it? These are the same Democrats who are expending money and energy to unseat one of their own who holds a safe seat in Connecticut. And it's not just Joe Lieberman, either. Regular followers of moonbat websites have seen these folks anathematize Joe Biden, the Clintons, Robert Byrd, Dianne Feinstein, both Senators Nelson and the entire DLC within recent months.

To say that electoral victory has taken a backseat to ideological purity would be an understatement. I understand the left is frustrated by its political impotence, but is taking the "San Francisco" turn really helpful? Somebody needs to explain to the Democrats that you cannot become a majority party and anathematize anyone to the right of Russ Feingold simultaneously.

At a certain point, Democrats will have to face some tough choices between ideological purity and electability. And unless something changes over the next few months, the party's heart and soul seems to have already made its choice. I get the distinct feeling that November is going to find both parties partying like it's 1984.

Why tax reform is elusive

I just finished my taxes (mostly) and frankly it's beyond me why meaningful tax reform and simplification is not the big burning political issue these days. You'd think the public would be clamoring for it.

I think there are two factors at work here. First, many people have no idea what a nightmare the tax code has become. It has long ago become so complicated that almost no one does it themselves anymore. They simply hand it off to some accountant or H&R Crock and a few weeks later they find out what their refund is going to be. If people were forced to wade through the morass of filing tax returns, there would be a national outcry.

Secondly, most people are out of touch with the size of the tax burden they shoulder. Quick, what is your federal income tax liability on an average year? Most people don't even think in those terms. Taxes are withheld from their paycheck (overwithheld, actually) so they never even see that money, and then they get a small check back from the government at then end and feel grateful for it.

I know that drastic tax code simplification is going to be a big uphill battle. There are too many powerful people with a vested interest in the status quo. But unless the public demands it, there is zero chance of its ever happening. And unfortunately, people just don't seem that upset about it. As long as they don't have to fill out the forms themselves and they get a decent check from the Treasury at the end, they're pretty much content. Too bad.

Emergency Valentine's help

So you did it again, huh? You let Valentine's Day sneak up on you without getting a damn thing for the woman in your life. Some people never learn.

But don't worry, I'm here to help. With a little creativity, you will be able to put together an excellent Valentine's gift just from crap you have lying around the house. Here's how.

First of all, get a card. This is not as difficult as you might think. Chicks are sentimental, so if you've been going out for more than a year, she's almost certainly got your cards from previous years stashed away in a drawer somewhere. Wait until she's otherwise occupied and go through her stuff to get it out. Then, you can simply present it to her as new. Trust me, you will not get busted! Worried that she'll recognize it from last year? Don't be ridiculous. I mean, do you remember the card you got last year? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Now you need a gift and you don't have one. This is not as big a problem as you think. Many women love gifts that are either intangible or even non-existent. Really.

Don't believe me? A friend of mine got a local animal shelter to rescue a dog in his girlfriend's name for Valentine's one year. He presented her with a letter from the shelter and a picture of the dog that was given a new lease on life. She practically melted.

That's just one idea, and I'm sure you could come up with many similar ones. With all the fancy computer publishing and printing tools available these days, how hard would it be to print up some nice letterhead from a local animal shelter or the National Star Registry?

Don't have the tools for that? Don't worry. A hand-printed card or gift can be very well received if executed properly. You just have to be a bit creative with the gift itself. You could, for example, hand-print a "gift certificate" good for (say) one night of controlling the remote, or one free night of sex (women like sex on Valentine's Day.) Use your imagination. She'll love it.

And of course you don't have any wrapping paper either, right? That's not a big deal either. The majority of these gifts nowadays aren't even wrapped -- they're presented in a bag with tissues. There are bags under the sink and there's tissue in the bathroom.

Voila, you're all set. Don't thank me now. You can thank me tomorrow after she's expressed her gratitude.

February 12, 2006

"Quick Draw" Dick

Holy crap! Don't ever f*ck with the veep, ever!

Just when you thought Dick Cheney couldn't get any scarier, he goes and busts a cap on his hunting buddy. Just unloads on the guy! Holy crap.

Maybe he thought it was one of those "duel" kinda situations. You know, like Aaron Burr did right here in Weehawken? (Question for the history buffs: when is the last time a sitting vice president actually plugged someone?) Anyway, damn. Maybe this will give Deadeye Dick a little more cachet in the future when he goes to Capitol Hill to drum up support for the president's agenda among recalcitrant Republicans. Maybe it's time to try private accounts for Social Security again?

"6 to 12 inches" my ass!

More like 24. Here's a photo from my dog walk this morning.

February 11, 2006

Bush and Abramoff

Stop the presses!! This is even better than that photograph of John Kerry and Jane Fonda!! Time magazine has just released damning evidence of Bush's association with Jack Abramoff! (Abramoff is the microscopic figure in the distance that's highlighted in red so as to be visible to the naked eye.)

Impeach him!!! Impeach him NOW!!!!!


I'm going through the annual drudgery of doing my income taxes now, so you'll probably see less of me than normal for a couple of days. And when I do return, I'll probably be in a decidedly bad mood, if previous years are any indication.

February 10, 2006

Reid and Abramoff

It would be a mistake for Republicans to make too much of the latest revelations of Harry Reid's connections with Jack Abramoff's lobbying team, which, according to the AP, are much more extensive than once believed. At the end of the day, Abramoff's story speaks primarily to the corruption of the party in power -- the Republicans. There's no denying or getting around that, I'm afraid.

Still, this new story is immensely satisfying for two reasons.

First, we can finally stop hearing Howard Dean's ridiculous talking point that "zero Democrats" have received money from Jack Abramoff. This assertion was always absurd, but that didn't stop the entire port side of the blogosphere from parroting it mindlessly. Dean's assertion is true only if one focuses exclusively on Jack Abramoff's personal contributions to political candidates as a private citizen and totally ignore the financial activities of his lobbying firm and its clients. It's bullshit, in other words, and in light of recent developments, all but the battiest of moonbats will be embarrassed to repeat it with a straight face.

Second, we finally get recognition of the fact that receiving money from Abramoff is not a crime in and of itself. Look at the contortions Josh Marshall is going through to defend Reid. That's funny, because when we were talking about Republicans, any Abramoff connection at all was seen as dispositive proof of guilt. But with the advent of the Reid story, they've rediscovered the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof. That's a good thing.

There is one aspect to the whole Reid story that gives me pause, though. Democrats may very well have to find a new campaign issue for the fall. That's a bit of a bummer, because I was looking forward to a mid-term election in which the Democrats did nothing but shriek "Abramoff!" at the top of their lungs. Oh well.

Rudy and conservatives

I've long disagreed with the conventional wisdom that Rudy Guiliani is anathema to social conservatives, and therefore has no shot at the nomination in 2008. In poll after poll, Republicans have consistently put Rudy at the top of the list for at least two years now. But how does he fare with movement conservatives?

Today, Ryan Sager observes what may be a "thaw" in relations between Rudy and conservative activists. Among the grassroots, however, it would seem no thaw is needed.

Last May, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released what it calls a "political typology" survey, breaking down American voters into nine categories. The GOP groups included "Enterprisers" (free-market types), "Social Conservatives" (Bible Belt types) and "Pro-Government Conservatives" (poorer conservatives). Enterprisers gave Rudy a 91 percent favorable rating, and his support only fell to 75 percent among Social Conservatives. And pro-Rudy Social Conservatives were the most intense in their support for him, with 38 percent rating him very favorably.

Gallup polls have shown similar results, with Giuliani's support fairly even among liberal-to-moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans.

Not too shabby. 2008 is a long way off, of course, so nothing's in the bag, but it would be a mistake to write Rudy off at this point.


I was looking forward to a Cindy Sheehan senate campaign.

But now that Dianne Fienstein has decided to vote for the Patriot Act, perhaps it's not too late for Cindy to change her mind.

February 09, 2006

I have no balls!

And that's why I like John McCain... at least according to Nora Ephron, who is depressed because Chris Matthews likes McCain too (emphasis mine.)

My point is that Matthews is a perfect example -- although obviously exaggerated -- of what happens to men in the presence of Senator McCain. They lose their minds. They suck up. They turn absolutely giddy. They ask questions they don't care about the answers to. It's Valentine's Day.

Is it the torture that causes them to go all weak-kneed? That's obviously part of it. Is it that he resonates with the balls most men know they don't have? Maybe. Is it that he seems to have so much testosterone that it's catching? I don't know. But when I see John McCain on television being interviewed by Chris Matthew, I know in my heart that there is not a man in America who would not vote for the guy.

Which is profoundly depressing.

That's an interesting thing about the female of the species Moonbatus Americanus. They believe that everything, and I mean everything that Republican men do, say, or think is directly determined by their dicks and/or balls. Everything.

I do wonder how Ms. Ephron would explain McCain's popularity among women. Women's opinions, of course, are not governed by genitalia or the lack thereof. They've transcended such oppressive, patriarchal nonsense long ago. Ephron doesn't really address that issue, but she presumably believes that pro-McCain women are intelligent, thoughtful, and... misguided. With us guys, however, it's all about our balls.

Anyway, Ms. Ephron finds all of this fondness for McCain just terribly, terribly depressing, because... well, because he is a Republican, I suppose, and Republicans are not to be liked or admired in polite society. At least not by women, or by men who have balls and hence don't feel a need to compensate for their emasculated state by joining Straight Talk America. She elaborates:

I mean, I don't expect all men to believe (as I do) that you can't under any circumstances support a presidential candidate who is against choice. I don't expect all men to believe (as I do) that for McCain to have given that revolting speech for George Bush at the last convention was unforgivable. I don't expect all men to understand (as I do) that in the end, Republicans are Republicans.

Right! Lincoln Chafee is Rick Santorum.

Of course she doesn't expect us to believe those things. We have no balls! But does she expect all women to believe these? Once again, she doesn't say.

But what is to be done?

Uh, well, for starters? Your party could nominate a presidential candidate who didn't come across as a complete pussy on national defense, and then you could at least hope to split the "ballless American male" vote.

That's unlikely to happen, though. I think what scares this woman most is that she knows that if McCain is nominated he will win, and win big. He will win with such a crushing supermajority that all this red-state/blue-state garbage will get thrown out like yesterday's garbage. No longer will the "loyal opposition" comprise 50% of the population, including nearly all of the nation's cultural and intellectual elite. Rather, it will be a decidedly puny minority, consisting almost entirely of embittered, misandrous moonbats like herself.

Wouldn't that be sweet? To this day, John McCain remains the only politician I've ever donated money to. I think I'll go send him some more.

Advice and a prediction

Dean Esmay updates his advice to the Democratic Party

In 2006 the only advice I'd change is that on the international call monitoring, Democrats should make it very clear, quite loudly and firmly, that they are 100% behind monitoring these international calls, maybe even want to expand the program--they just want more congressional oversight to prevent potential abuse.

and ends with a prediction:

My prediction: they won't do it. They'll try to make their theme "scandal" and "corruption" and "civil rights abuses" instead.

It won't work. They'll have a weak showing--minor gains when they could have had big ones--and that'll be it. And somehow, Howard Dean will keep his job anyway.

Anyone want to take his bet? Not me.

Wellstone redux?

There's a reason I haven't posted anything yet about the politics of Coretta Scott King's funeral. The reason is that I don't think there's anything to say about it. For all the controversy, I see little reason for anyone to be offended.

Sure, Jimmy Carter is an imbecile, but I found his remarks at the ceremony to be fairly benign. Of course if you're parsing them looking for slander, you'll probably find it, but what the hell. Look, this wasn't an NRA rally, after all. It was a memorial service for an icon of America's civil rights struggle.

And yes, Joseph Lowery's stoopid poem was tasteless and inapt, but it was hardly representative of the overall tone of the ceremony, which for the most part was dignified and respectful.

In other words, this was not "Wellstone's Funeral: The Sequel" as many have made it out to be. To draw such comparisons is not only unfair to Mrs. King's rather dignified farewell, but it also trivializes one of the ugliest and most disgusting milestones in the history of the American left. Let's not do either.

Angry Dems?

When I think of "angry Democrats," Hillary Clinton doesn't normally spring to the top of my list. She has her moments, but as a general rule I find the senator to be calm, measured and even-tempered. Hence I'm a bit mystified by Ken Mehlman's characterization of an "angry" Mrs. Clinton.

To be sure, there is plenty of Democratic anger out there. I just don't think Mrs. Clinton typifies it for the most part.

But why do angry Democrats so angrily deny being angry? I've never really understood that. It's understandable, in the case of Hillary, as I've said, but it was patently absurd when the topic was Howard Dean. He was, in fact, the focal point and mouthpiece of pent-up liberal anger and frustration, and everybody knows it.

Yet Democrats will bristle at the first suggestion that any among them might be angry with the direction the country is heading, as if the word "angry" is some kind of grievous slander.

What's wrong with being angry? Hell, if I believed half the crap the moonbats claim to, I'd be angrier than a bucket of snakes.

February 08, 2006

Moonbat economics

Here's how the "progressives" over at DU welcome the creation of many thousands of new jobs.

Not im MY hometown... if we have anything to do with it.

and one of the behemoth monsters is going to be in my neighborhood... ick

Ugh! One day the landscape is going to blighted with these massive abandoned Wal-Mart stores.

Why Dont they Try Something differnt... Like take care of their employees????

I pledge allegiance to the smiley of the United Corporation of Wal-Mart and to the shareholders for which it stands, one store under Mammon, indivisible, with false savings and crappy merchandise for all.

Yeah, this Wal-Mart expansion is a bad idea. Because you just know that if Wal-Mart doesn't create those stores, the vacuum will immediately be filled as 1,500 "Mother Jones Organic Co-op and Soy Vanilla Latté Stand and Biodegradable Indie DVD Rental and Moss Tampon Emporium" will no doubt open in their place, hiring hundreds of employees each at high-paying, union scale wages and a benefits package that acknowledges "domestic partners."

That's what will happen if Wal-Mart doesn't expand, right? Right??

Chilling effect

Now it's personal. According to this fine news source, the Danish cartoon controversy has led to the cancellation of an upcoming "Simpsons" episode.

In the cancelled episode, entitled 'Don't Have A Pig, Man', Mohammed was to have appeared to Homer in a dream, converting him to Islam with a promise of 770 donuts in the afterlife.

Groening said that the decision to produce the episode starring Mohammed was not taken lightly. "We suspected there would be an adverse reaction if we drew the Prophet," he said. "But we had no choice. He's the only celebrity guest we haven't used before."


(Hat tip: Scott)

Now that's what I call pre-emptive

Remember when Democrats used to wait until after an electoral debacle to begin the orgy of blame and finger-pointing? Looks like they're getting a head start on things this year.

Mr. Obama said the Democratic Party had not seized the moment, adding: "We have been in a reactive posture for too long. I think we have been very good at saying no, but not good enough at saying yes."

Some Democrats said they favored remaining largely on the sidelines while Republicans struggled under the glare of a corruption inquiry. And some said there was still time for the party to get its act together. But many others said the party needed to move quickly to offer a comprehensive governing agenda, even as they expressed concern about who could make the case.

Their concern was aggravated by the image of high-profile Democrats, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, challenging the legality of Mr. Bush's secret surveillance program this week at a time when the White House has sought to portray Democrats as weak on security.

"We're selling our party short; you've got to stand for a lot more than just blasting the other side," said Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee. "The country is wide open to hear some alternatives, but I don't think it's wide open to all these criticisms. I am sitting here and getting all my e-mail about the things we are supposed to say about the president's speech, but it's extremely light on ideas. It's like, 'We're for jobs and we're for America.' "
Since Mr. Bush's re-election, Democrats have been divided over whether to take on the Republicans in a more confrontational manner, ideologically and politically, or to move more forcefully to stake out the center on social and national security issues. They are being pushed, from the left wing of the party, to stand for what they say are the party's historical liberal values.

But among more establishment Democrats, there is concern that many of the party's most visible leaders -- among them, Howard Dean, the Democratic chairman; Senator John Kerry, the party's 2004 presidential candidate; Mr. Kennedy; Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader; and Al Gore, who has assumed a higher profile as the party heads toward the 2008 presidential primaries -- may be flawed messengers.

Doesn't really sound like the next "Contract with America" will be ready in time for November.

February 07, 2006

Bush the grouch

Here' another fine moment in the history of soaring political oratory.

"Oscar the Grouch has been friendlier to the Sesame Street characters than President Bush, who has chosen to make huge cuts to children's television programming," said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Yep, it's time once again to re-fight the political battle over PBS funding. Some fights never get old, huh?

The article I linked above says that Bush's proposed budget could strip more than $150 million in federal funding from the CPB over the next two years. It's hard to gain an overall sense of perspective, though, because the article never tells us what the current level of federal funding is.

Well however much it is, it's that many dollars too many. Yeah, I guess that means I live in a garbage can too, along with our big ol' meany grouch president.

I'll admit that in a $2.7 trillion budget, public broadcasting funds amount to a piss in the ocean, but in a way, that's sort of the point. If we're going to balk at trimming some nickel-and-dime yuppie subsidy like public broadcasting, what hope do we possibly have of taming the really unruly political beasts in the budget?

Look, it's not 1970 anymore. When I was born, there were basically three television channels... if you were lucky. If you lived in a rural area, you probably couldn't even get them. Nowadays, with the advent of cable TV and satellite radio, there are more channels than one can realistically keeps track of, including many which offer the same type of high-brow fare which supporters have always used to justify PBS in the past.

With 10 jillion TV channels already out there, do we really want to spend hard-earned federal tax monies in the face of rising deficits just to make it a jillion and one?

And although this is not going to be very politically correct, I'm going to say it anyway. Who watches PBS? Who sits through those interminable and excruciating commercials on "non-commercial" TV in order to watch Peter Paul & Mary's 97th reunion concert, or "The Three Tenors?" Seriously? Is it

  1. Single-parent, underprivileged minority households in the Bronx, or
  2. Dirt-poor West Virginia coal miners for whom Velveeta is the base of the food pyramid, or
  3. Upper West Side urban professionals who happily pay six dollars for a soy vanilla latté?

Here's a hint: it's number 3. The CPB is an upper middle class entitlement, a regressive wealth transfer to the most affluent members of society. Sorry, but it's true.

And that whole "Oscar" business is a red herring anyway, since the enormous commercial success of the "Sesame Street" franchise makes it inconceivable that Oscar and Big Bird and Elmo would disappear absent taxpayer subsidies.

So what? So Bush's mistake was in not slashing the budget to zero.

Yeah, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who disagree with me. But you know what? Just save it until after the budget process is complete, okay?

Why? I'll tell you why. Dollars to donuts, whatever cuts Bush is recommending in his budget will be put back long before the budget becomes reality. Every single dime of it. Mark my words.

If I'm wrong? Then come yell at me.

Stealth tax hikes

Sorry for all the economics-related stuff today, but that's just sort of how it worked out. From the "picture is worth a thousand words" department, here's a chart from today's Wall Street Journal that nicely illustrates the wisdom of making Bush's tax cuts permanent. Far from keeping us in an economic hole, as Bush's critics would have us believe, preserving these tax cuts are necessary simply to keep the overall tax burden within it historical limits.

Bush's spending, by the numbers

Some of my friends often accuse me of being too hard on the president. (I'll now pause to allow my liberal readers to stop laughing.) More often than not when this happens, the subject being discussed is federal spending.

Almost everyone will concede I'm right on this issue (i.e., that Bush spends money like a drunken frat boy in a Tijuana whorehouse), even stalwart Bush apologists like Sean Hannity. Often, however, they'll shrug it off with a glib "nobody's perfect" kind of dismissal. It's as if his fiscal policy is a drawback, but no more significant in the overall scheme of things than his syntactically-challenged oratory style.

Would that it were so. This is not some trivial flaw in an otherwise idealized conservative leader. Fiscal policy is THE BIG DEFINING ISSUE of traditional conservatism. Bush and the congressional Republicans are not only failing to live up to conservative ideals, but are gleefully running roughshod over them, running the country with fiscal recklessness that makes Lyndon Johnson look like Jack Benny.

The numbers are here in this PDF from the Heritage Foundation, and they're not pretty. I'd recommend that everyone download it, read it in its entirety and keep it for future reference, but I'll go ahead and include a few highlights just for the hell of it.

First, let's go ahead and toss out everything that the administration and congress might be able to make excuses for: entitlements, defense spending, homeland security and Katrina relief. Here's what's left.

That's a 21% increase in everything else during the Bush administration... after adjusting for inflation. Cute, huh?

Total federal spending has grown twice as fast under Bush than it did under Clinton, now amounting to nearly $22,000 per household. And again, this is not all about military spending. The Bush years have seen a 137% increase in education spending (think "No Child Left Behind"), a 342% increase in "Community and Regional Development" (good thing those "liberals" aren't in charge of our money, huh?) And a 29,022% increase in "Energy" spending, whatever the hell that is. And no, that is not a typo.

In a budget this size, much of which is mandated, pork barrel projects still account for a tiny fraction of the overall pie, but they're nonetheless a glaring and indicative symptom of what's gone wrong during the Republican's slide into fiscal hell. Here's how pork projects have fared during the Bush years.

This is indefensible, and Republicans have to stop defending it. It's insufficient to pay lip service to fiscal prudence, bemoan the current state of affairs, and then brush it off with "But Democrats would be worse."

Here is what (to me) is the most disturbing chart of all. It shows what's going to happen if entitlement programs are not reformed and continue on their current growth paths.

Granted, these costs are mandated, so it's not entirely fair to lay the blame for them at Bush's feet. Nevertheless, Bush and the GOP-controlled congress have done precious little to ameliorate these trends.

To be fair, there's stuff in this report that's going to displease Democrats as well. For starters, the report shows a strong correlation between tax revenues and economic growth. Bush's tax cuts helped to increase federal revenues by 14% in 2005. The current budget deficits are not a function of tax cuts, but rather of a spending policy that is completely out of control.

Also, it's going to be tough for Bush's critics to pimp their same shopworn arguments about how the costs of "tax cuts for the rich" are borne on the backs of the little people. Anti-poverty spending has soared 39% under Bush, representing an all-time high of 16% of the federal budget.

Still, this is a sad portrait of what has become of America's "conservative" party. For my part, I'm going to wait and see what effect the Abramoff scandal and Boehner's election to majority leader have on congressional governance. They've got one last chance, and I hope they take it, although I'm not optimistic. If things don't change and change significantly, I'm going to seriously consider voting for Democrats in the mid-terms (I nearly always vote a straight Libertarian ticket when it comes to congressional candidates.)

No, the Democrats may well not be any better. But the people who have done this do not deserve reelection, period.

February 06, 2006

Sitepal rules

I wonder if I should get one of these for my website? I could get her to say cool stuff like this.

A positive first step

A journey of a thousand miles begins with... a modest token gesture.

I'm not ready to start counting chickens yet, but last week's election of John Boehner to House majority leader and Bush's new budget for FY07 are positive enough developments to offer fiscally conservative Republicans a faint glimmer of cautious optimism.

The proposed spending cuts and deficit reduction are modest by any measure, but that won't stop the president's opponents from screaming bloody murder about the 0.5% cut in non-defense spending.

Well, let them bitch. They'll find something to bitch about no matter what he does, so he should at least keep his base happy by making some progress on spending restraint. Anyone who balks at a half-a-percent spending cut (more like a "nick") in the face of mounting, historic deficits, is simply not serious about controlling government spending.

We'll also hear a lot of breast-beating and teeth-gnashing about how taxes should be raised. This should be ignored as well. I'd love to see the administration oppose tax hikes on philosophical grounds, but the empirical case will be much easier to make. As others and I have pointed out repeatedly, the Bush tax cuts targeting the investment sector of the economy have not only spurred economic growth, but actually yielded more revenue in the federal treasury rather than less. (More here, from today's Wall Street Journal.) Moreover, increasing taxes is not a helpful signal to send in an environment in which we are trying to persuade our representatives to spend less of our money.

Lastly, Bush's opponents will wail that the budget doesn't spare certain sacred cow entitlement programs, such as Medicare. Well I'm sorry, they can bitch all they want to, but the simple reality is that the current growth rates of middle class entitlement programs are not sustainable. Left unchecked, the exponential growth in these programs will eventually bankrupt the treasury.

Admittedly, in a budget this size ($2.8 trillion dollars, contrary to the Post's typo) one can always find nits to pick. I'm not a hundred percent happy with it either. I'd prefer to see a much more aggressive approach to trimming budgetary fat. Still, it's the first budget proposal I can recall from this administration that actually makes the long-term numbers look better instead of worse. That's better than nothing.

Democracy and Islam

Dean Esmay is one of my favorite bloggers. Whether he knows it or not, he single-handedly converted me to Natan Sharansky's central thesis on democracy, which I had previously and unfairly dismissed as well-meaning but naive.

Today Dean has a terrific post, rife with figures and data, which illustrates that

  1. Islam and democracy are not incompatible
  2. Democratization of Muslim countries is a good thing
  3. Progress is being made

It's a lengthy post, but well worth your time. I promise.

Memo to Democrats

If you guys wish to be taken seriously on matters of national security (a precondition for electoral success on a national level, IMO) then you should know that stuff like this is not helpful.

Look, I just don't get this stuff. I don't want Iran to have nukes. I don't think that's a good thing for the world. I certainly didn't want Pakistan or India to have nukes. But is a nuclear Iran really a threat to us? Certainly an Iran-with-nukes could blow the hell out of a city or two, but an Iran that did such a thing would pretty much cease to exist.

February 04, 2006

Defending Hillary

You're kidding, right? Abortion-rights absolutist Kate Michelman is pissed off at her erstwhile ally Hillary Clinton for contributing to Bob Casey's senate campaign.

The nation's most prominent pro-choice spokeswoman blasted Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for giving $10,000 to right-to-life Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey and accused the former first lady of "putting politics over principle."

"When push comes to shove, at certain times, [Clinton] will support the party even if that choice does not reflect all their standards and principles," Kate Michelman, former longtime head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told The Post.

Clinton, a darling of the pro-choice community, is taking heat from the activist for giving the maximum donation allowable under law to pro-life Senate hopeful Casey through her political committee, HillPAC.

Unbelievable. What does this idiot woman expect? Casey isn't running against Arlen Specter, after all. He's campaigning against Rick Santorum. Rick. Effing. Santorum. A Republican caricature so cartoonish and so socially conservative I would vote for Casey myself if I lived in Pennsylvania.

It's fine if Ms. Michelman doesn't feel led to contribute to Mr. Casey's campaign herself, but when she takes the step of condemning her natural allies for doing what most people would consider a no-brainer, she is so far lost in the wilds of ideological purity that she is no longer helpful to her side.

Christ, single-issue activists can be so annoying....

February 03, 2006

Best Amazon reviewer ever

This guy is my hero.

(Of course, with a product as great as the toilet monster, all the reviews are pretty good.)

Doing my part

As regular readers probably know, I don't do boycotts. I don't, however, have any qualms about patronizing a certain entity for political reasons (I'm odd that way.)

We're having some people over to the house this weekend, so I think I'm going to pick up a case or two of Danish beer. It's a departure from my usual choice of American pale ales and IPAs, but what the hell.

If anyone else is interested in drinking Danish this weekend, Carlsberg and Tuborg are probably the most popular and widely available brands. Carlsberg's Elephant Beer, however, is also fairly readily available and has a much higher alcohol content, which is probably why we drank so much of it in grad school. It also has a cool-ass elephant on the label. What party would be complete without it?

The Minnesota Vikings of Politics?

I think there's a growing perception that a big Democratic win in the November mid-terms no longer looks as inevitable as it did a few months ago. Nobody, however, has phrased it as eloquently as this.

As Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid stumbled to the scrimmage line deep in their own terrritory, pinning their electoral hopes on a Hail Mary play involving disgraced lobbyists and banished GOP pols rather than anything resembling a policy agenda, the Democrats' troubles grew ever more grave on the frozen tundra that is mid-term politics: Even their own supporters are openly saying that the Donkey Party's hopes for evening the score in Congress this fall are going down faster than a Clinton-era White House intern.

Mr. Six revealed

For all who care, the identity of "Mr. Six" is finally revealed.

Maybe it's just me, but I always thought the guy was kinda creepy. Is that just me?

He's not as creepy as that goddamed Burger King, though.

(Hat tip: Treach)

Anti-war conservatives

This question is going to be subjective and inflammatory... but I'm going to ask it anyway.

We all know there is a small but vocal group of anti-war voices on the right, just as there have been a handful of liberal hawks. But how many of these anti-war voices from the right are -- well, I'll go ahead and say it -- anti-Semitic? How many are holdovers and relics from a faction that Buckley purged from mainstream conservatism a half-century ago?

All right, perhaps "anti-Semitic" is too strong a word, but when I think of prominent, anti-war right-wingers, I tend to think of people like Pat Buchanan, Grover Norquist and others like them who have been bitching and grousing about Israel for years.

Conservatives, by and large, are very supportive of Israel. (Liberals tend to be more supportive of Israel in areas with large Jewish populations, such as New York, but less so in other parts of the country.) Still, there is a small but vocal subset of "conservatives" who are roundly anti-Zionist in their thinking, and I can't hep but notice that this group largely overlaps with the anti-war right. Anyway, just my $0.02.

February 02, 2006

This is a disgrace

All right, I was just in the bar celebrating John Boehner's victory when I saw something on TV that really pissed me off. CNN was doing a piece on those freakin' cartoons that pissed off so much of the Muslim world.

The report featured several scenes of people looking at the cartoons, but in each case, the image of the cartoon itself was blurred and pixelated.

Yes, that's right, CNN was too gutless to show the cartoons!! Un-fucking-believable!

Man, if I believed in boycotts....

Anyway, all 12 cartoons (excluding the ones that Danish Islamists faked themselves) can be found here.

UPDATE: Sisyphos points me to a banner we should probably all be using. I like reading Sisyphos (the fact that I read French helps.) One cool thing about Europe is that you can say something like "le blog d'un juriste conservateur libéral" and have it actually make sense.

Memo to Roy Blunt

"You suck!!"

Heh, sorry, but I'm still a bit giddy. It should be noted that Blunt will stay on as party whip (he did a Joe Lieberman and ran for both positions simultaneously.) Well, he's pretty good at that -- bribing and threatening. I just don't want him setting the legislative agenda.

Thank you, God!!

Thank you JESUS!!!

John Boehner has just been elected House majority leader!!

Man, I am headed to the bar exactly one nanosecond after I've finished typing this!

I had almost resigned myself to a Blunt victory after the first ballot, but not only did Boehner pick up every single Shadegg vote, he picked up two mystery votes as well (it appears three more votes were cast in the second ballot than the first.) Not only did Boehner run the table, but Blunt actually lost a vote on the second round!

First round: Blunt 110, Boehner 79, Shadegg 40
Second round: Blunt 109, Boehner 122

Thank you GOD!!!

In case anyone thinks I'm overreacting here, let me show you a picture of the guy we narrowly avoided. Meet Congressman Roy Blunt, of Missouri's 7th district.

As if the smarmy, Amway-salesman smile and Trent Lott hair were not enough, Roy Blunt represents everything that has gone horribly wrong with Republican congressional leadership over the past decade.

To say that he was the status quo candidate understates it. He's worse (although the status quo is bad enough.) To say that he's a Tom DeLay ally/protégé understates it as well. This is a case in which the student has surpassed the master. If there were anyone in the entire House body who could represent a step down from Tom DeLay, Blunt surely must have been it.

Blunt got many more votes than I would have liked, but there are two reasons for this.

  1. He was the "smart money" candidate, and he made it abundantly clear that those who supported/opposed him would be rewarded/punished appropriately.

  2. There is simply not as much passion for reform in the Republican caucus as there should be. If there were, there would have been a leadership coup years ago.

I had a slight preference for Shadegg, but Boehner represents such a drastic improvement over Blunt that I'm ecstatic. He has leadership experience, but has never lobbied for pork in his home district (amazingly!) and has balked at some of Congress's more egregious excesses of late (e.g., last year's highway bill.) This vote is bigger than Alito for me!

Had Blunt won, I would have had no recourse than to turn my back on House leadership until such time as they got their heads on straight, or (more likely) got their asses handed to them by the Democrats.

Instead, I'm left with a faint glimmer of hope. No guarantees, of course. Meaningful reform will still be an uphill battle. But at least there is hope. With Blunt, the only hope would have been that the Democrats would remove him from power in the mid-terms.

Anyway, it's party night tonight in the cynical household. (Well okay, my wife won't join me, but the black lab will.)

House leadership vote

All right, I'm a political junkie, I'll admit. I may be the only person I know who thinks that today's vote is a big deal. To me, the outcome will signify whether today's Republican leadership bears any lingering resemblance at all to the people I helped elect to power in 1994. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: For those who care (both of you) Shadegg just dropped out, forcing a runoff between Blunt and Boehner.

UPDATE: According to The Corner, the first ballot was 110 for Blunt, 79 for Boehner, and 40 for Shadegg. This is disconcerting, because it means Boehner will have to take almost every Shadegg vote to surpass Blunt. I know Shadegg supporters are likely to oppose Blunt, but the need for near-unanimity here is worrisome.

UPDATE: "Do you believe in miracles?!" (<=imagine voice of Lake Placid guy here.) My God, I've just heard a rumor that Boehner pulled it out (heh) in a squeaker. Oh God oh God please let it be true! More when I can confirm....

Spineless crapweasels

Yes, I'm talking about the French.

With everything else going on lately (Alito) I have neglected to give proper attention to the scandal involving Danish cartoons which began last fall. The cartoons, which included caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, triggered an anti-Danish (or, more accurately, anti-Western) backlash throughout parts of the Muslim world.

In an impressive display of solidarity, many newspapers throughout Europe reprinted the cartoons this week. So far, the only break in the ranks has been in... guess where?

In Paris, the daily newspaper France Soir fired its managing editor after it republished the caricatures Wednesday, and Pakistani protesters chanting "Death to France!"

Way to surrender there, Francois. The French government also got in on the act.

The publication by French Soir drew a stern reaction from the French Foreign Ministry. While it said that freedom of expression is dear to France, the ministry "condemns all that hurts individuals in their beliefs or their religious convictions."

I wonder where the French government's headscarf ban fits in with this warm and fuzzy religious tolerance?


The grinning idiots over at DU are having a lot of fun talking about Alito's "surprise" split with the court's conservative wing on his first vote. Here's a sampling:

FReepers are shitting all over themselves.

Conservatives are wringing their hands today... which is more polite to say than "shitting their pants...."

He may turn out to be a Souter

There is a list of his decisions on Wikipedia, and I agree with more of them than I disagree with.

Look, I did my fair share of gloating over this vote myself, so I certainly can't fault them for that. But at the same time, aren't they being a bit disingenuous here?

There are the very same people who, as recently as a day ago were insisting that Alito's ascension to high court heralded the very end of our republic. His confirmation by the Senate was equivalent to a repudiation of the Constitution. Any Democrat who dared vote for him was anathematized as a traitor. Hell, any Democrat who even voted to vote on him was anathematized as a traitor.

And now they're giddily rubbing their hands together about how the "Freepers" and the conservatives might have been "wrong?" Hello? Earth to mirror! Talk about his being the "next Souter?" This they do with no perceivable hint of irony or embarrassment at their recent breathless, over-the-top rhetoric. Being a moonbat means never having to acknowledge the fallacy of your countless conspiracy theories and doomsday scenarios, I guess. It's an excellent indication that even the majority of the moonbats don't even buy their own hysterical crap.

A minority of one two?

Far out. I figured I was the only person in New Jersey (if not the country) who is a member of the ACLU and the NRA simultaneously. Now it seems that I'm likely to be joined by the blogger formerly known as Frogsdong.

Anyone else out there in this rarefied elite?

February 01, 2006

Told ya

Remember when John Kerry said "I hope I'm wrong" about Sam Alito on the Senate Floor? Well John Kerry must be a very happy man tonight, because he was wrong as rain, and I'm sure he won't mind being frequently reminded of that fact over the months and years to come.

I've said it again and again, most recently here. Sam Alito is not some crazed, reactionary ideologue, eager to run roughshod over civil liberties the second he after he gets sworn in.

Alito's opponents could never make that charge stick, and for very good reason -- Alito's record did not support it. And for Democrats to balk on Alito after having rolled out the red carpet for John Roberts made absolutely no sense. Roberts, as I've said before, was closer to the caricature the left painted of Alito than Alito himself.

Now don't get me wrong. Alito is no Thurgood Marshall. But his very first ruling doesn't exactly lend credibility to the image of Judge Alito as the gleeful fascist who wipes his ass with the Bill of Rights.

New Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito split with the court's conservative Wednesday night, refusing to let Missouri execute a death-row inmate contesting lethal injection.

Alito, handling his first case, sided with inmate Michael Taylor, who had won a stay from an appeals court earlier in the evening. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas supported lifting the stay, but Alito joined the remaining five members in turning down Missouri's last-minute request to allow a midnight execution.

In short, his opponents were wrong. I don't expect any apologies will be forthcoming, even from the very glad Mr. Kerry, but these folks should know there's a price to be paid for the unwarranted slander of this man. When they inevitably oppose the next significant judicial nominee from this president, they will do so with vastly diminished credibility. That's astonishing when you think about it, because they had precious little in the first place.


...what does it mean?

In a surprise result, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) was elected Democratic Caucus vice chairman on the second ballot, defeating Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), 116 to 87.

Larson's victory came just minutes after he unexpectedly supplanted Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) to qualify for the second ballot in the three-way race.

The new "neocon?"

Am I the only one annoyed by the term "unitary executive" being tossed around as a scare word by people who don't even understand what it means?

I'm disenfranchised

So I had this dream last night. I was waiting in line to vote when some official broke the line off right in front of me, and said that the rest of us would not be allowed to cast our ballots.

My wife, ever the therapist, asked whether that was how I felt in today's political climate. If so, I think it probably had something to do with reading David Boaz's piece about libertarian orphans in yesterday's WSJ.

The Gallup Poll's annual survey on government found that 27% of Americans are conservative; 24% are liberal, up sharply because the poll was taken after Katrina, which boosted support for the proposition that "government should do more to solve our country's problems." Gallup also found -- this year as in others -- that 20% are neither liberal nor conservative but libertarian, opposing the use of government either to "promote traditional values" or to "do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses." Another 20% are "populist" (supporting government action in both areas), with 10% undefined. Libertarian support, spread across demographic groups, is strongest among well-educated voters.

So where are the libertarians in politics and the media? Since the Clinton impeachment and the Florida recount, there's been a polarization: Congressmen and TV pundits define themselves as red/blue, pro-/anti-Bush, partisan Democrat/Republican, and take rigid liberal/conservative positions on Iraq, tax cuts, Social Security reform, gay marriage, abortion. But polls tell us that Americans aren't quite so partisan.

With big-government conservatives spending money like Imelda Marcos in a shoe store, and big-government liberals supporting the Patriot Act, even pro-government populists are represented in D.C. It's the libertarian voters who are orphans. Democrats stand like a wall against tax cuts and Social Security privatization. Republicans want to ban abortion, gay marriage and "Happy Holidays." It's not just Congress -- in Virginia's recent elections, all the Democrats were tax-hikers and all the Republicans were religious rightists. What's a libertarian to do?

The worst aspect of all this is the oracles who appear on TV. You'd think they'd be thoughtful, independent. Yet they're as partisan as the pols. The typical cable show brings viewers two guests, a liberal and a conservative. You can count on conservative writers to defend everything President Bush does, and on liberal editors to denounce the GOP -- no matter what.

Of course, it could be that most Americans are, in fact, liberals and conservatives. Maybe Gallup is wrong, every year. But the exit polls on election day 2004 offer some confirmation. According to those polls, 17 million voted for John Kerry but did not think the government should do more to solve the country's problems. And 28 million Bush voters support either gay marriage or civil unions. That's 45 million who don't fit the polarized model. They seem to have broadly libertarian attitudes. In fact, it's no secret that libertarian voters make up a chunk of America. But you'd never know it from watching TV -- or listening to our elected politicians.

Broken record

I'm still not sure how I got on his mailing list, but I got another e-mail from Howard Dean last night. The subject heading was "What we didn't hear tonight" and the first line was

Dear Barry,

Remember this? "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Jesus H, can someone get these folks some new material? Please?

I mean, don't get me wrong, meticulously parsing a sixteen word passage from a SOTU address ad nauseum can be fun. It was so fun, in fact, that we devoted months to it, here and elsewhere.

But Howard? That was three State of the Unions ago, pal. Your fellow Democrats might appreciate it if you'd actually spend some time and energy trying to figure out why your party's broke and what to do about it.