Thanks to Rusty!
Thanks to Rusty!
A friend of mine recently invited me to go see An Inconvenient Truth. I politely explained that sitting in a dark room and being lectured by Al Gore for two hours is not my idea of entertainment.
It's nothing personal, but global warming is a religion to Mr. Gore. I don't mean that as an insult, necessarily. He's clearly very passionate on the topic. But just as I don't want to hear a televangelist preach to me about how I should live my life, I don't want Gore doing it either. "Don't have an abortion" or "Don't be gay" would be replaced with "Don't drive an SUV," but at the end of the day, Al Gore is just another bible-thumper, complete with apocalyptic rhetoric about "the end of civilization."
And if there's anything that bugs me more than religious proselytizers, it's religious proselytizing masquerading as science. Science says average global temperatures currently seem to be in a warming trend. Fine. But once you've gone on to attribute Hurricane Katrina or Indonesian tsunamis to global warming, you are now squarely in the domain of religion, plain and simple.
Global warming is a serious issue, but also a political hot button. Too many people from both sides carry their ideological baggage to the debate, which is a shame. There is precious little in the way of sober, dispassionate scientific examination of the data. We need more of that, not less. We certainly won't be getting it from Al Gore, however.
Soobee tagged me, so here are 8 more or less random facts about myself, in no particular order.
Dang, why are so many of my blog buddies lib'ruls?
So I'm back from vacation, and it looks like the biggest story I missed may well be the guilty verdicts in the Enron case. Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, who ran amok destroying peoples' life savings during the Clinton years, were finally brought to justice under the Bush administration. (Just sayin'.) I can't say I'm surprised, given the political climate concerning corporate fraud these days. Still, for whatever reason, the suddenness and severity of this outcome seems to have caught a fair number of prognosticators off-guard.
I think the verdict is good news for two reasons. First, they deserve it. Second, no one will ever again be able to bemoan the fact that Martha Stewart had to "languish" in the federal pen, while "real" criminals like Ken Lay walk around scot-free. Granted, it was an idiotic comment to make in the first place, but that didn't prevent quite a few people from making it.
...to Taylor Hicks, for becoming the next American Idol! This makes five times out of five in which a Southerner has won the title, although a non-Southerner did manage to crack into the final two for the first time since Season One.
Tomorrow morning I'll fill up the ol' Suburban Assault Vehicle with gas (because after adjusting for inflation, three bucks a gallon is still a bargain for good ol' American unleaded go-juice!) and fill up the back seat with beer (the advantage of being so high off the ground is that you're out of the meddlesome gaze of highway busybodies) and head south, for a week in North Carolina's Outer Banks.
Should be a great trip, so long as we don't run into any "neo-cons" (bleh!) but it will mean no blogging from me for a week or so. I'll be back in time for Memorial Day, the day on which we all pay tribute to beer and hot dogs. I hope y'all have a great week, and don't let anyone say anything "lib'rul" on this site while I'm gone.
This is why we don't like to do it.
Who says Hollywood doesn't have any original ideas? Check out the storyline of the latest big screen mega-hit starring Jack Black and Kirsten Dunst:
The story...follows a junkyard worker (Jack Black) who attempts to sabotage a power plant that he believes is melting his brain. But his plan goes awry and the magnetic field he creates erases all of the videotapes in the local video store where his best friend works. Fearing that the mishap will cost his friend his job, the two team to keep the store's only loyal customer -- a little old lady with a tenuous grasp on reality -- from realizing what has happened by re-creating and refilming every movie that she decides to rent.
(Hat tip: Jackie Danicki)
Look, I understand that Britney Spears is an idiot, and I'm perfectly prepared to believe that she's not a model parent, but the media feeding frenzy over her parenting skills has just gotten plain silly. It reached a climax of ridiculousness on Tuesday, when the New York Post ran this story on its front page.
Britney's offense? She was driving a convertible with her baby in the back seat, strapped into a car seat, in the exact same fashion that all conscientious parents strapped in their kids... until recently. Now, of course, you have to strap the poor tike in backwards, or you're an evil mom and you want your kid to die.
You have to keep them in the back seat, facing backwards so they'll get motion sickness, and you can't see their face, and you have no clue as to whether they're sick, or choking, or uncomfortable. Oh, and car seats aren't just for infants anymore. Now you have to remain in them until you start shaving.
Sorry, but the "child safety" mania has gone too far. No activity is ever going to be 100% safe, so we have to strike a meaningful balance between acceptable risks and reasonable precautions. That sense of balance is lost today, and soon kids won't be allowed outside of the house without being encased in bubble-wrap with a GPS locator attached to them.
I don't normally post this type of thing here, but I received one of those e-mail thingies recently that's relevant here. Read it, if you haven't already. It'll remind you that there was once a simpler time, and a time that many of us here lived through and remember.
First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.
Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.
As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.
We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank Kool-Aid made with sugar, but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING !
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day.
And we were O.K.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computer! s, no Internet or chat rooms....... WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays,
We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.
We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!
Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!
If YOU are one of them . . . CONGRATULATIONS!
You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good.
The nation's top legal driving speed soon could rise to a long-forbidden 80 mph as Texas moves toward increasing the limit on parts of two interstate highways.
A tuna fish caught in the Indian Ocean this week has excited Kenyan Muslims who are flocking here by the hundreds to see a Qur'anic verse apparently embedded in its scales.
Dubbed the "wonder fish" by locals in this port city, the 2,5kg tuna has attracted so much attention it has been placed in the custody of the national fisheries department for safekeeping, officials said.
The otherwise ordinary fish caught the attention of fishmonger Omar Mohammed Awadh who pulled it out of a catch when he noticed what seemed to be Arabic writing among the scales near its tail, they said.
Arabic scholars examined the fish and determined the writing was a Qur'anic verse meaning "God is the greatest of all providers," said Hassan Mohamed Hassan, an education officer with the National Museums of Kenya in Mombasa.
...getting moonbats' hopes up like that.
Well I'll be damned. Duncan Black has finally got off his ass and posted something besides an "Open Thread," or a single-expletive link to someone else's comments. He's designed the Atrios liberal test, and it's getting pretty wide circulation among the blogosphere. Today I was finally bored enough to take it. Here goes:
1. Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration.
2. Repeal the estate tax repeal.
3. Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI.
No. (Hey, these are easy!)
4. Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)
What? Oh come on. There's no way in hell you can give a simple yes/no answer on this one (as Duncan himself seems to acknowledge in the parenthetical.) I guess I'll skip this.
5. Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation.
6. Pro-reproductive rights....
7. Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code
Simplify yes, but he loses me after that. I'll go with "No."
8. Kill faith-based funding.
9. Reduce corporate giveaways
10. Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan
I agree with what many others have said: Hell no. Just kill the damn thing.
11. Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions.
I have to say "No" here. Any company that perpetrates fraud by raiding pension funds in bad faith should be punished, but I can't support a federal mandate for companies to fund pension plans.
12. Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana.
Well sure, but why stop at medical marijuana? Gotta love Duncan's selective federalism here (In fairness, however, the Republicans are guilty of the same thing.) It's also worth noting that liberalism will become a small club indeed if drug decriminalization becomes a prerequisite.
13. Paper ballots
Oh, why not?
14. Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obiously details matter.
I fear Duncan's "details." He's right, they do matter. Something tells me he's not referring to building a wheelchair ramp in front of "Tots-R-Us." My guess is he's talking about a new middle class entitlement. The answer is "No."
15. Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.
So all right, I count 6 affirmatives in my answers. So I guess that makes me about 40% liberal (or more like 43%, if I toss out the question I refuse to answer.) Sounds about right, I guess. Not bad for a mindless worshipper at the altar of Chimpy McHitler-smirk.
Seriously, can I an honest question without getting called a "Bush worshipper?" It's about USA Today's revelation that the NSA has been compiling a database of phone logs from the telcos since September 11. Just to be clear, they are not monitoring the calls themselves or eavesdropping on the content thereof. It's meta-content, designed to help spot patterns in signal intelligence, presumably.
We know, of course, that this data is meticulously stored, tracked and analyzed already. The telcos do it themselves, or else they wouldn't be able to bill us. God knows what else they do with it, or whom they share it with. You can bet it's used for all sorts of sales and marketing purposes beyond simple billing, at the very least. So my question is, how much of an expectation of privacy can we really have on this metadata? Seriously?
Secondly, the telcos seem to have voluntarily handed over the requested data to the NSA -- with the exception of Qwest, who (perhaps to their credit) declined to do so. The government responded to Qwest's refusal to cooperate by... doing nothing. Is this what constitutes "totalitarianism" these days? Or comprises a "dictatorship?" Because if so, they've dropped the bar for entrance into the "evil dictator" club considerably since the 20th century.
Now just to be clear (and before the outraged comments start pouring in) I don' t really like this bit of news. I don't, in fact, like very much at all about the erosion of our privacy in this country, or the increasingly intrusive nature of government in our daily lives. I don't like being forced to provide the government personal details about my family on a census form. I don't like having to hassle with a 1099 form every time I fix someone's computer. I don't like having to pester town hall for 3 weeks just so I can get a "permit" to lay down a few pieces of slate in my own back yard.
Yet there are lots of people who are just fine and dandy with all these things, but they respond with sputtering outrage and cries of "fascism!" because a few phone companies voluntarily supplied the government with some data that wasn't very secret in the first place.
Why the selective outrage? Simple. It's about Bush. And it's related to his war.
The headline on this New York Times piece blares: "Poll Gives Bush His Worst Marks Yet," and it's all about the president's precipitous slide to 31% approval and perhaps beyond.
If you have patience enough to persevere down to the 29th and 30th paragraphs, however, you'll find something interesting:
The political situation has not helped some of the more prominent members of the Democratic Party. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who was Mr. Bush's opponent in 2004, had a lower approval rating than Mr. Bush: 26 percent, down from 40 percent in a poll conducted right after the election.
And just 28 percent said they had a favorable view of Al Gore, one of Mr. Bush's more vocal critics.
Looks like that was all wishful thinking on their part.
(Did you catch that? I used what's known as "alliteration" in the title of this post, to make it even more cool.)
I generally consider myself fairly liberal on immigration, at least by the standards of today's debate, but I do draw the line at bilingual ballots, and I'm sorry that the House Judiciary Panel didn't.
I think it's pretty simple:
Speaking of Stephen Colbert and related items, I am outraged that the press is ignoring this web-circulated animation of Bush falling through bubbles. The creator of this brilliant and important political parody is speaking truth to power, and the fact that the New York Times didn't lead with this story today proves that the mainstream media is in this administration's pocket.
Make sure you share this animation with all your friends. Make sure you blog about it and download it furiously, and obsess about it giddily for weeks on end. And then send its creator flowers and "thank you!" messages. He is like Jesus.
And for those of you who don't find the animation particularly amusing, or think that it's an unoriginal knock-off of another, widely circulated animation that's been around for some time? Well, you're just tools of the administration too, and you suck Bush's ass.
Thank you, that is all.
Bummer about Chris Daughtry, huh?
The relentlessly partisan House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, as Speaker? Sen. Robert Byrd, the ancient king of pork from West Virginia, as head of Senate appropriations? Gasbags like Patrick Leahy and Teddy Kennedy back in charge of judicial nominations?
Or how about John Conyers, the Detroit-congressman-for-life who would automatically become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee? Nancy Pelosi has promised that one of her first acts as House Speaker would be to unleash a series of investigations into the Bush administration. As it happens, Conyers has given us a taste of what life would be like under the Pelosi reign of terror.
Last June Conyers commandeered a basement conference room in the Capitol to stage a mock hearing into impeachment charges over the Iraq war. "[Conyers] banged a large wooden gavel and got the other lawmakers to call him 'Mr. Chairman,'" recounted Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank. "He liked that so much that he started calling himself 'the chairman' and spouted other chairmanly phrases, such as 'unanimous consent' and 'without objection so ordered.'"
(Hat tip: Glenn)
Finally, there's someone who shares my views on our two most recent presidents. I'm sure this is a minority view, but I largely agree with it (emphasis mine.)
The Bush presidency isn't of the base, by the base, and for the base for nothing. There has been an outright refusal of the Democratic base to take even the tiniest twig of an offering the Bushies have given them. Indeed, if you look at them on the issues, the truth of the matter is that absent two or three things, George W. and Bill Clinton are very similar in their political views and positions.
Congress has been deadlocked between anti-Bush and pro-Bush forces. This in part is Bush's failing, one of style and maybe other things. But when the Deaniacs took over the Democratic Party with their screams of "lies, lies!" they also alienated a lot of people. The message was loud and clear: compromise no, attack yes. It's been like that ever since.
This probably didn't get much attention outside the immediate area, but Newark just elected its first new mayor in two decades. Cory Booker, a former Rhodes scholar, was elected in a landslide victory after incumbent mayor Sharp James declined to run for a sixth term.
James can't be too happy about his successor, however. He narrowly defeated Booker in the previous election, after a nasty campaign in which Sharp James's supporters urged his constituents to "vote black."
Yes, it should be noted that Sharp James is African-American.... but so is Booker. But the latter is, evidently, insufficiently "black" to adequately represent the citizens of Newark, according to the outgoing mayor. I don't know whether this assessment stems from Booker's fairly light skin tone, or from the fact that he graduated from Yale. Either way, I'd rather not speculate. I just thought I'd share some of the local color that is New Jersey's political scene for all of you readers not privileged enough to have a ringside seat.
So I guess New York has some stupid law that won't grant a permit for bars within 500 feet of one another. You can be forgiven for not knowing this law even existed, since waivers are handed out routinely. Waivers are, in fact, more the rule than the exception.
And Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is pissed off about it! He says the state has granted far, far too many exceptions, and that it's high time to crack down and get tough and start enforcing the law.
A law that's almost never enforced should indeed raise a red flag, but I still question Silver's response. Maybe the law was sidestepped so frequently because it's dumb and arbitrary? Perhaps the most sensible course of action would be to repeal it altogether?
Silver tries to justify the ban on "quality of life" concerns:
"People have a right to a good night's sleep free of excessive and overt disturbances," he said. "They have a right to neighborhoods that are not being continuously scarred by vandalism, mischief and obscenity, and they have a right to walk down their neighborhood streets without being accosted every few feet by someone who is out of control."
So what's your point, Shel? Because I really don't get it. It seems that more and more, our nation's laws are becoming bizarrely disconnected from the actual problem they're purportedly trying to solve. Am I the only one who's noticed this trend?
... the MoveOn/Kos axis continues to obsess about some shitty, third-rate comic who lobbed some unfunny insults at the president during a press dinner ten days ago. How damn sad is that?
Check out this bit of shameless pandering, from a Rudy Giuliani fundraising trip to Iowa.
Mr. Giuliani also endorsed "appropriate levels" of federal subsidies for farmers and particularly aligned himself with government support for ethanol, an alternative fuel made from corn that is a prized issue in Iowa.
Since it's never too early to start handicapping the 2008 presidential campaign, I'm giving John McCain the advantage on this one. He has, to his credit, remained fairly skeptical on the subject of ethanol subsidies.
Well I'm not sure, but I think that "cake" might be a metaphor.
I normally enjoy reading TNR's Peter Beinart, but his recent piece on the inheritance tax was a huge disappointment. Beinart grossly oversimplifies conservative opposition to the inheritance tax, and then goes on to pronounce that opposing the tax is not only bad policy, but immoral -- then he jumps the shark and invokes Paris Hilton.
I shouldn't be surprised. The ditzy heiress has been a ubiquitous staple of liberal estate tax boilerplate these days, but I assumed the Beinart was capable of making a better argument than that. I guess I was wrong. The subtext of the Paris Hilton "argument" is simple -- "That stupid, blonde slut has done nothing to deserve that money. It should therefore be confiscated and redistributed to the rest of us." (Why the federal government is a more deserving recipient of the Hilton fortune than Paris or Nikki is not explained.)
The problems with this line of argument are obvious. To suggest that Paris Hilton is in any way representative of the typical victim of the estate tax is pure crap. Tarring everyone who inherits an estate worth a million bucks with the Paris Hilton brush is every bit as disingenuous (and offensive) as equating every recipient of social services with Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen." They are mirror images of the same, base rhetorical gimmick: eschew logic and rational arguments in favor of a stereotype designed to inflame anger and resentment in the voting populace.
So why would someone as bright as Beinart resort to such cheap demagoguery? Perhaps it's because a compelling, empirical case in favor of the estate tax is difficult to make. Maybe that's why Beinart result to vulgar symbolism and moral absolutism: "Ultimately, the argument against the estate tax, like the argument against social insurance, is moral. It is about right and wrong." When you make such pronouncements with all the authority of religious dogma, you obviate the need to buttress your viewpoint with facts.
Beinart bemoans the unpopularity of the death tax, and seems genuinely mystified that...
...many of the most fervent anti-estate tax crusaders have no monetary interest in its repeal. And, amazingly, most Americans oppose the tax even when told that it applies only to the hyper-rich.
The most pernicious aspect of the inheritance tax is that despite its confiscatory rates (estates are taxed at much, much higher rates than income and capital gains), it accounts for a miniscule fraction of total federal revenue. Government policies whose primary goal is the confiscation and redistribution of private wealth are anathema to many Americans. It smacks of Marxism to most, and rightly so.
The only argument in favor of an estate tax that I can begin to appreciate is that inheritance should be treated as income. Even so, the punitive rates of the current system are impossible to justify, as inheritances are taxed at a much higher rate than ordinary income. Furthermore, even if we were to treat inheritance as income, generous exemptions should be allowed so that inheriting the family home (or farm or small business) would not incur a huge tax liability.
Better yet, consign the damn thing to the dustbin of American history, along with the poll tax and debtors' prison. Taxes should be levied to raise funds for the government, not for the sake of social engineering.
For Israel, that is. Time to throw some kosher hot dogs on the grill, I guess, and knock back a few of these.
It's a whiny, snot-nosed liberal kid with his hand stuck out. How novel.
Ted Gambordella dislikes the idea that his only son, a Highland Park High junior, is a Democrat. He loathes it so much that he has flat-out refused to pay for his son's college education unless he becomes a Republican.
"Yeah, I'm serious," said Mr. Gambordella, a 57-year-old martial arts expert. "He's got to earn his own way."
That suits Teddy just fine.
The 17-year-old said there's no way he'll switch to the GOP just to get his father's financial backing.
Astonishing. It's like this kid can't even comprehend the notion of going to school unless it's own someone else's dime, be it his parents or MoveOn members. His concept of "independence" is to trade one dole for another. No wonder he's a Democrat.
If, through some miracle, this entitled brat actually earns a meaningful degree, gets a real job, and makes decent money, demographics strongly suggest he'll end up being a Republican anyway. Maybe I'm just cynical, but I'm not betting much money on that outcome based on what I've seen so far. I think it's far more likely he'll eke out his four years with some effed-up degree in "How Bush destroyed the environment" or "Why Islam is superior to Western democracy," get a crap job at Starbuck's, and move back into his parents' basement.
(Hat tip: Jill)
Ronaldus Magnus was "the Gipper" to those of us who loved him (and who didn't, really?) but now we need a cool nickname for John McCain and the handful of other legislators who actually want to do something about Congress's obscene spending practices -- other than increase it, that is.
The Dipper? The Stripper? The Gripper? The Zipper? The Flipper? None of those seem quite right for McCain (although I may have come up with some reasonable monikers for Bill Clinton and John Kerry with those last two, respectively) so I guess I'll have to settle for "The Clipper" for now. (Cuz get it? He likes to "clip" pork-barrel spending from the budget. See?) All right, that's hella lame. Just forget it.
Anyway, Robert Novak has some good news in his latest column about fiscal conservatives standing up to out-of-control congressional spending -- and occasionally even winning. Here's my favorite bit (emphasis mine.)
In the Senate, McCain's crusade against earmarks has a new fighter in Coburn (who McCain says has supplanted him as the Senate's Miss Congeniality). On Wednesday, Coburn offered an amendment to eliminate 19 earmarks from the emergency appropriations bill and came just shy of defeating a $700 million railroad relocation in Mississippi.
On Thursday, Coburn proposed to eliminate $15 million for "seafood promotion strategy." McCain told the Senate: "Let me save the American taxpayers $125 million right now by telling all Americans now to eat seafood. Eat seafood. It is good for you." When Coburn rejected Cochran's call for a voice vote, the normally calm Appropriations chairman in a fury made a non-debatable tabling motion to kill Coburn's proposal. The astounding outcome was a 51-44 bipartisan victory for Coburn and McCain, following years of failure in such initiatives.
John Kenneth Galbraith led a very long and active life, racking up enough accomplishments and achievements for a dozen lifetimes. Still, I couldn't help but be a bit sad when I read this morning of his passing at the ripe of age of 97.
I always loved a good political debate, and some of my all-time favorites were those recurring "Clash of the Titans" match-ups between Galbraith and William F. Buckley on PBS's "Firing Line." (Yes, I was a geek.) Those days are now forever gone, alas, and what makes it even sadder is that today's "equivalent" entertainment is "Hannity and Colmes." Now that's a damn shame.
This site was among those taken down last week by a DDOS attack based in Saudi Arabia. I'm sure the Saudis don't have anything against me personally, and would love me given half a chance, but I do share a hosting service with some pretty big targets, including Instapundit and Little Green Footballs.
I hadn't mentioned the attack until now, because
A) I couldn't say anything about it while it was happening, and
B) After it was over, it seemed a bit moot, especially since the attack was covered thoroughly by other bloggers.
I bring it up now because Steve over at "Hog on Ice" has an interesting idea:
I've figured out what we need to do, in response to the bizarre Muslim hackathon that was launched today in the vain hope of stifling American freedom of speech. We need to pick a day in the future--I've picked a day, but I can't name it here, or we'll draw a DDOS attack--and we need to get as many blogs as possible to post Mohammed cartoons all at once. It won't be enough to get the Hosting Matters blogs. It has to be bigger than that. It has to be a huge show of solidarity that the RoP can't put the kibosh on.
And we need to call it "Swine/11," in honor of the Prophet's least-favorite animal.
Give me your opinions.