Friday, December 17, 2010

The Shape Of Things To Come

From last night:

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) says he is “sorry and disappointed” to announce that he does not have the votes for the omnibus spending package. Instead, he will work with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) to draft a temporary continuing resolution to fund the government into early next year.

Reid says nine Republican senators approached him today to tell him that while they would like to see the bill passed, they could not vote for it. He did not reveal the names of the nine. A top Senate source tells National Review Online that “it looks like Harry Reid buckled under the threat of Republicans reading [the bill] aloud.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Year They Turned Off Niagra Falls

A very cool story here from (of all places) the UK Daily Mail, complete with vintage photos and even video:

It's taken 41 years, but a previously unseen set of photos of the mighty Niagara Falls reduced to nothing more than a barren cliff-top have finally surfaced.

The stark images reveal North America's iconic - and most powerful - waterfall to be almost as dry as a desert.

In June 1969, U.S. engineers diverted the flow of the Niagara River away from the American side of the falls for several months.

Their plan was to remove the large amount of loose rock from the base of the waterfall, an idea which they eventually abandoned due to expense in November of that year.

During the interim, they studied the riverbed and mechanically bolted and strengthened a number of faults to delay the gradual erosion of the American Falls.

The team, made up of U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, blew up their temporary dam in November 1969 and six million cubic feet of water once again thundered over the falls' sides every minute.

Now, after lying unseen for more than four decades, a set of images showing the eerie calm at the American Falls that year have been unearthed by a man from Connecticut.
Check it out.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

News Flash: Overpaying For "Elite" Status Is Stupid

From the NYT:

The key to success in college and beyond has more to do with what students do with their time during college than where they choose to attend. A long-term study of 6,335 college graduates published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that graduating from a college where entering students have higher SAT scores -- one marker of elite colleges -- didn't pay off in higher post-graduation income. Researchers found that students who applied to several elite schools but didn't attend them -- either because of rejection or by their own choice -- are more likely to earn high incomes later than students who actually attended elite schools.

In a summary of the findings, the bureau says that "evidently, students' motivation, ambition and desire to learn have a much stronger effect on their subsequent success than average academic ability of their classmates.”

In the spirit of the holidays, please, nobody tell Anne Applebaum. This news would do terrible things to her self-esteem.

Monday, November 29, 2010


What does it say about the Obama Administration when two WikiLeaks dumps of classified Department of Defense operational documents rated little more than a shrug, but a similar leak of State Department documents--many of them important no doubt, but many more consisting of glorified gossip--resulted in outrage and calls for prosecutions?

Answer: nothing good. There are a lot more people in the DOD who are in personal danger thanks to WikiLeaks than there ever will be at State.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Got The News

The WSJ catches up today with something I noticed a week ago:

On paper, the numbers tell you the Democrats held on to a majority in the Senate last week.

In reality, things won't be quite that neat. In fact, on some issues the Republicans actually may have a functional majority, given the sentiments likely to prevail among certain Democrats who face the voters in two years.

On paper, Democrats kept control of the Senate after the elections. But in reality, Republican leader Mitch McConnell actually may have the functional majority on some issues. WSJ's Jerry Seib explains.

Here's the situation. After last week's midterm election, the Senate next year will have 51 Democrats, two independents who caucus with the Democrats, and 47 Republicans. (The Republican from Alaska could be either Joe Miller, the tea-party candidate who was the official GOP nominee, or write-in incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski. It appears Ms. Murkowski got enough votes to stick around, but all her write-in votes haven't been counted yet.)

So, in theory, that means Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, having survived his own election-day near-death experience, should be able to muster 53 votes if he keeps his troops in line.

But life is never that simple in the Senate and certainly won't be now. Among the Senate Democrats, 23 will face re-election in just two years, and, having just witnessed the drubbing some in their party took at the polls, they likely will be even less willing now to toe the party line. Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who caucuses with Democrats, often leans rightward, anyway.
Advantate: Me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Free Keith Olbermann

MSNBC has suspended Keith Olbermann, "indefinitely and without pay," after Politico reported that Olbermann donated money to several Democratic candidates in the last election.

This is completely bogus.

Don't get me wrong, I've got no use for Olby, and I'll shed no tears when his clown act finally shuffles off the air for lack of viewers. But NBC's stance that its employees ought to be removed from participating in electoral politics out of an antiquated notion of "journalistic independence" is, as I wrote in a similar vein six years ago, nonsense on stilts.

Olbermann, like any other American, ought to be able to donate to and support anybody he damn well pleases. The only thing I'd ask of him is that he disclose his donations when talking about those candidates or their opponents (which, in this case, he apparently didn't do, but still).

I suppose if NBC wants to discipline an employee for violation of their corporate rules, that's their business. But that doesn't change the fact that the rules in question are at best nonsense and at worst obfuscatory. This rule is in effect, in my opinion, not to protect the chimera of unbiased reporting, but rather the notion that people in the news media ought to actively hide their personal opinions from the populace.

That's a reprehensible and dishonest stance. I'll take an Olbermann who's up front about where he's coming from over a fraud like Katie Couric any day of the week--although I reserve the right to watch neither of them.

So get over yourselves, NBC suits. Free Keith Olbermann.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New at PJM: Not So Fast, My Friend

I have a new column up at PJM today (yes, really), here's a preview:

Of the 21 (!) incumbent Democrats in 2012, nine are in deep-blue “safe” states and their seats are likely to remain Democrat even in the case of retirements (Feinstein-CA and Akaka-HI lead that potential list). Four more are in normally Democratic states that shifted to the GOP in the 2010 cycle — Stabenow-MI, Klobuchar-MN, Menendez-NJ and Bingaman-NM — and as such could be considered as possible takeover targets. Assuming Herb Kohl (who will be 77 in 2012) retires, you can likely add an open seat in Wisconsin to that count — but realistically, those seats would only be in danger of flipping in a really big GOP year.

I count seven incumbent Democratic senators up for re-election in 2012 who are, today, in serious trouble: Nelson-FL, McCaskill-MO, Tester-MT, Nelson-NB, Conrad-ND, Brown-OH and Webb-VA. Most if not all of the above, if they had been on the ballot Tuesday, would probably have lost to a GOP opponent — and they know it.

You can also add to the deep-trouble list the newest senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, who eked out a special election win this week only by doing a fair imitation of Ted Nugent. Manchin will be back on the ballot in 2012, and running as hard to the right as he can manage in the interim.

What’s interesting here is not so much a long-term prediction for 2012. The political ground will, of course, shift between now and then in ways that no one can anticipate. If the last four election cycles have proven anything, it’s that one who makes long-term predictions based on a single election is liable to look very foolish sooner or later.

But don’t consider 2012 yet, simply consider 2011 and what’s just happened in 2010. If you are one of those eight Democratic senators, how will you react the first time Harry Reid wants your vote on an issue your state’s majority can’t stand? Would you be willing to take the chance of following Blanche Lincoln and Russ Feingold — plus Evan Bayh and Byron Dorgan, who jumped before they could be pushed — right (or more accurately, left) off the cliff?

Click through for the rest.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's The Great Election, Charlie Brown!

"I got a cool new gavel!"
 "I got a mandate to cut spending!"

"I got a rock."

"I got a bunch of new conservative senators, and a bunch of vulnerable Democrats to pick off!"

"I got to keep my old job!"

"I got a rock."

"I got a ton of new conservative Republicans elected and major clout!"

"I got a rock."

"I got subpoena power!"

"I got a whole bunch of new friends on the way!"

"I got a rock."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Election Eve "Name That Party!"

From the AP:

MOUNT AIRY, N.C. -- A candidate for a state House seat in northwestern North Carolina apologized Monday to supporters after he was arrested twice over the weekend and accused of impaired driving.

Randy Wolfe, 58, was released on a $10,000 secured bond Sunday night after a Mount Airy police report said his blood alcohol content was 0.20 percent, or more than twice the 0.08 percent that state law defines as intoxicated. He was blowing the horn on his sports utility vehicle excessively in traffic and later charged with driving while impaired, resisting a police officer and driving with a revoked license, the report said.

Wolfe also had been stopped Saturday evening when an officer saw his car weaving on the road, according to police. He was charged with driving while impaired and driving left of center and released on a written promise to appear.

The story, naturally, never names Wolfe's party (he's a Democrat--please, contain your surprise), except, as below, by implication:

Wolfe, a former producer for the CBS Evening News who recently moved to Surry County, said Monday he turned off his campaign web site Monday morning but hadn't withdrawn from Tuesday's election against Republican Rep. Sarah Stevens.

Hey, it's possible you'd think the guy was a Liberterian... until you read the CBS News part, of course.

Recommended Reading

Janet Daley in the U.K. Independent:

[C]ontrary to the superficial British assumption (heavily promoted by the BBC), they were not devoting their excoriation exclusively to the Obama Administration – or even to its clique of Congressional henchmen, led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. That they were opposed to the Big State, European social democratic model of government which Obama had imported to Washington went almost without saying. But they were at least as angry with the leadership of their own party for having conceded far too much of the argument.

And this anger – again, contrary to the general understanding in Britain – is not new: it goes all the way back to the Bush presidency. It was widely known in Europe that the American Left hated George Bush (and even more, Dick Cheney) because of his military adventurism. What was less understood was that the Right disliked him almost as much for selling the pass over government spending, bailing out the banks, and failing to keep faith with the fundamental Republican principle of containing the power of central government.

So the Republicans are, if anything, as much in revolt against the establishment within their own party as they are against the Democrats. And this is what the Tea Parties (which should always be referred to in the plural, because they are not a monolithic movement) are all about: they are not just a reaction against a Left-liberal president but a repudiation of the official Opposition as well.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Recommended Reading

Disheveled former senate candidate Mickey Kaus knocks it out of the park with this one:

Obama's talk Saturday night wasn't as bad as his San Francisco lecture. It was worse, in this sense: It's one thing to say those poor people in Pennsylvania are hostile to gay rights, say, because all their "jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them"—and that they'll change when they get the jobs back. It's another thing to say those poor people will change when they get their jobs back when you've had two years to get them their jobs back and have conspicuously failed. At that point, blaming "false consciousness" becomes a semi-delusional way of dancing around your own inability to remove the root of that false consciousness. A little humility is in order. If true humility is unavailable, false humility will do.

Maybe Obama was cynically making a pitch to his immediate audience—a small crowd of Massachusetts donors who might be expected to respond to the idea that they were defending "facts" and "science" against confused know-nothings. But Obama should know, especially after the 2008 San Francisco incident, that a candidate can't keep his words confined to a fundraiser. And this apparently wasn't a closed-to-press event like the one in S.F. We didn't have to rely on a donor/blogger like Mayhill Fowler to spill the beans. Reporters reported on it. Obama couldn't have been trying to cyncially play to the donors—he's not that naive! This must be what he really thinks.

Now I'm scared! What yesterday's comments suggest isn't just that Obama will get clobbered in the midterms. It suggests that after he gets clobbered he won't be able to adjust and turn the setback into a longterm victory the way Bill Clinton did. Clinton reacted to his 1994 midterm loss by acknowledging his opponents' strongest arguments and pursuing a balanced budget and welfare reform. Obama seems more inclined to just tough it out until the economy recovers and the scared, confused voters become unscared and see the light. Meanwhile, he'll spend his time in a protective cocoon.
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Shovel Ready!"


The Pasadena City Council on Monday approved a $152 million renovation plan for the 88-year-old Rose Bowl stadium.
The number of luxury seats will be increased from about 550 to 2,500. The site of the annual Rose Bowl game also will get a new scoreboard, safety improvements, more restrooms and more concession stands.

The city plans to pay for the upgrade with federal stimulus funds, a bond issue, money from the Tournament of Roses and profits from previous games.

You'd think they'd send taxpayers free tickets to next year's game, wouldn't you?

If so, you'd be wrong. Suckers!

Sabotage Or Incompetence? Can Iran Tell The Difference?

Fascinating Asia Times column today from David Goldman (nee Spengler) regarding the recent reports of malware disrupting Iran's nuclear program:

Amid the mass of published analysis of the Stuxnet virus, Iran's most obvious vulnerability to cyber-war has drawn little comment: much of the Islamic Republic runs on pirated software. The programmers who apparently cracked Siemens' industrial control code to plant malware in Iran's nuclear facilities needed a high degree of sophistication. Most Iranian computers, though, run on stolen software obtained from public servers sponsored by the Iranian government. It would require far less effort to bring about a virtual shutdown of computation in Iran, and the collapse of the Iranian economy. The information technology apocalypse that the West feared on Y2K (the year 2000) is a real possibility.
A country that steals its software cannot build its own, even if the sort of individual who excels at software development wanted to live in Iran. Most of those who can, leave. A 2002 study reported that four out of five Iranians who received rewards in international science competitions subsequently left Iran; too few Iranians have won international awards since then to gather comparable data. In 2006, the International Monetary Fund noted that Iran had the worst brain drain of 90 countries surveyed.

Iran has so few skilled programmers that it could be that the security services do not have the capacity to distinguish sabotage from incompetence. That may explain why Tehran blames foreign intelligence services for a recent succession of economic reverses, including the near-collapse of the local markets for gold and foreign exchange.
Read the whole thing.

Applebaum Redux

Anne Applebaum has responded to Jonah Goldberg's critique of her Tuesday column by... well, by repeating her points from that column. It's a poor effort, and Applebaum doesn't actually bother to rebut or respond to Jonah's points.

Worse, Applebaum insists on reinforcing her errant implication that degrees from the Ivy League (and the Ivy League alone) represent intellect and merit in American society, and entirely ignores Jonah's point that this stance leads directly to the attitude that the rest of us should shut up and do as we're told when our Ivy-credentialed betters speak. That capable and intelligent Americans might not choose to attend six-figure-tuition snob factories apparently hasn't even entered her mind, and she certainly hasn't considered the thought that an Ivy degree is no guarantee of competence.

I'm willing to bet that the executive suites at AIG and Lehman Brothers and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at the time of their respective failures were chock-full of Ivy graduates. Fat lot of good that did them.

UPDATE: Jonah responds.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cracked Peanut

Joe Queenan had a marvelous review of Jimmy Carter's "White House Diary" over the weekend in the WSJ. A sample:

In November 1980, the American people made a disastrous decision whose reverberations are still being felt today. Rather than biting the bullet and re-electing the glum, uncharismatic, hopeless Jimmy Carter to the White House—thereby ensuring that he would return to Plains, Ga., at the conclusion of his second term and keep his blabberpuss shut—they turfed him out into the street.

That made him mad. Really mad. By giving one of America's dopiest presidents the bum's rush, the American people ensured that Mr. Carter would spend the rest of his life trying to even the score, trying to persuade them that they had made a huge mistake when they cast their lot with Ronald Reagan, trying to convince them that they were a bunch of jerks.

The particular form of retribution Carter chose was as sinister and cruel as any known to man. He took his pen in hand and began to write books. Long books. Boring books. Dour books. Yes, long, boring, dour, numerous books. Books with sanctimonious names like "Keeping Faith" and "Living Faith" and "Leading a Worthy Life." Books with pompous names like "Turning Point," "Our Endangered Values" and "Always a Reckoning." Books with hokey names like "Christmas in Plains" and "Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life." And yes, even books with names like "The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer" that defy classification.

He has not set his pen down since.

Read the whole thing. H/T: Powerline.

A Foolish Column From Anne Applebaum

I'm generally a fan of Anne Applebaum's work--she's one of the few national media writers who's willing to honestly state just how bad Soviet Communism really was--but she really laid an egg with her WaPo column today. It's a convoluted defense of David Brooks' infamous "educated class" (although Applebaum mentions neither Brooks nor his unfortunate phrasing), i.e. graduates of Ivy League colleges:

[T]hese modern meritocrats are clearly not admired, or at least not for their upward mobility, by many Americans. On the contrary -- and as [sociologist Daniel] Bell might have predicted -- they are resented as "elitist." Which is at some level strange: To study hard, to do well, to improve yourself -- isn't that the American dream? The backlash against graduates of "elite" universities seems particularly odd given that the most elite American universities have in the past two decades made the greatest effort to broaden their student bodies.
The rest of the column is an encomium to the wonders of Ivy alumni (I bet you can't guess where Applebaum went to college) and the perfidy of the little people who resent them.

It's a deeply foolish and self-serving piece. Applebaum's pricey Yale education apparently didn't include any introductory courses in logic; her entire thesis proceeds from the false assumption that to be an intelligent person on the continent, one must by definition have gone to an Ivy school. Applebaum's lazy and (yes) elitist conceit that the 'best and brightest' are the sole property of a dozen or so expensive Northeastern colleges goes beyond elitism or snobbery and very nearly into the realm of flat bigotry.

The idea that anyone with a functioning brain might have willingly chosen not to attend an 'elite' private college with six-figure tuition just doesn't occur to her. One is moved to suppose that such a notion would be entirely too shattering to her own sense of self-worth.

At times like this it's worth recalling Megan McArdle's observation from the early fall of 2008. Megan was speaking at the time of decidedly non-Ivy Sarah Palin, but her point carries through to Applebaum's snide dismissal of today's Tea Partiers:

[She] speaks to the sense of people who didn't go to Ivy League schools that Harvard grads think they're not quite bright, and definitely not competent to run their own lives without a Yale man supervising things. And they're entirely right that a lot of Ivy League grads do think this way, consciously or unconsciously.

… I may not like what she stands for, but I have to acknowledge its power--and yes, that frequently, the coastal elites earn the revulsion of Middle America. They don't, to coin a phrase, hate us for our freedoms--our homosexual coddling, abortion loving ways. They hate us because we act like we think we deserve to rule them.

Apparently Applebaum suffers from precisely this delusion. That's a shame--and the shame is hers.

UPDATE: Jonah concurs.

UPDATE UPDATE: Applebaum responds... poorly.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Happy Tymes Are Over in Alabama


FBI agents swept across Alabama this morning arresting state lawmakers and lobbyists as part of a federal probe into efforts to pass gambling legislation last spring.

The biggest name arrested so far has been VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, who was arrested at his Montgomery home this morning.

Also arrested today have been state senators Jim Preuitt, R-Talladega, Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, Larry Means, D-Attalla, Harri Anne Smith, I-Slocomb and Montgomery lobbyist Jerrod Massey.
I've known Milton McGregor since I was a kid, although it's been a good 20 years since I've so much as laid eyes on him. Back in the late 70's and early 80's, he ran a vending machine business in my hometown of Enterprise.

Around 1982, Milton cashed in on the early 80's video game fad by opening the town's only video arcade, a little strip mall joint called "Happy Tymes." For about three years, it was hands-down the number-one hangout for anybody in 'Weeviltown' between the ages of 10 and 20.

That taste for "gaming" might have been what led Milton to become the public face of Victoryland, a dog track in east-central Alabama, when the track was first developed about 25 years ago. McGregor was brought in as a junior partner to Alabama's real gambling godfather, one Paul Bryant, Jr.

"Cub" Bryant did not then and does not now like to be identified with gambling--the foundation of his personal wealth--in the media. The garrulous McGregor was a perfect foil. Milton loved the limelight, and quickly became the face of the state dog tracks, and later the moves towards turning them into full-on casinos--which, as of this writing, are still illegal under Alabama law.

His work paid off, and handsomely. After Victoryland opened, McGregor became fabulously rich in his own right, and has been playing the game of Alabama politics with the big boys for a couple of decades now. Unfortunately, that game has been as corrupt as any in the nation for quite a bit longer than I've been alive, and it looks like the law may finally have caught up with Milton, as well as a whole bunch of dirty politicians.

Alabama's beyond-dirty legislature has needed a thorough defumigation for most of its sordid history. Here's to hoping that today's arrests mark the first influx of disinfectant.

Headline Of The Day

From the Orlando Sentinel:

"Florida man trying to shoo skunk accidentally shoots himself in face."
Insert your own Alan Grayson joke here.

Friday, October 1, 2010


CNN: "To say Allred, 69, is well-known is an understatement."

Ann Althouse: "To say CNN is a news organization is an overstatement."

H/T: Blogfaddah.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Playing Partisan at Politico

While chuckling over a Politico story about James Sensenbrenner's intention to take over the House "global warming" committee and turn its investigative cannons around by 180 degrees, I ran across this tidbit:

Sensenbrenner’s remarks foretell a power struggle among top Republicans primed to lead other investigatory committees, namely, Rep. Darrell Issa, the media-hungry Californian who would like to comb through Obama’s policies as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Well, now. I thought to myself, "Self, I wonder if Politico has ever referred to Democratic politicians as 'media-hungry.'" So I went to Google, and searched for "Henry Waxman" and "media-hungry". The result was a single link, to an opinion column in which "media-hungry" refers to (wait for it) Levi Johnson.

Could be a coincidence, though. Let's try another infamous Democratic camera-hound, Chuckie Schumer:

Your search - "Charles Schumer media-hungry" - did not match any documents.

Please feel free to try your own selections. I doubt you'll turn much up, though. A search on "Democrat" and "media-hungry" at turns up zero references to actual media-hungry Democrats; most of the references are to one John McCain.

NOTE: Blogger doesn't seem to want to correctly link the Google searches referenced above, so here are the links written out, if you care to cut-and-paste:"Henry+Waxman"+and+"media-hungry""Charles+Schumer"+and+"media-hungry""Democrat"+and+"media-hungry"

Friday, September 24, 2010

Na na na na, na na na na...

Jonahthan Klein, CNN's president of U.S. operations and in 2004, the originator of the infamous line, "It's an important moment, because you couldn't have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances, and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing what he thinks," has finally been canned.

(Klein's famous "pajamas" sneer was, of course, in defense of Dan Rather's fake-documents hit piece; Klein is also a former CBS executive.)

Given the gross mismanagement that led to now-barely-watched CNN's precipitous plunge into irrelevance, the only wonder is that it took this long for Klein to get the boot.

But hey, Jon--if you're hard up, drop me a line. I do have some contacts at Pajamas Media.

UPDATE: In full gloat mode (not that there's anything wrong with that!) from his new perch at Newsweek, Mickey Kaus observes, "The pajamists won that battle, and now they've won the war."

UPDATE UPDATE: Man, talk about a short honeymoon. Mickey's first commenter says, "I don't understand your problem with opinion-driven journalism, Newsweek had been at the forefront of that movement for over 20 years. Newsweek is a paper blog, with few visitors."

I mean, ouch.

Recommended Reading

Reid Wilson at Hotline writes:

Because of a fertile landscape and poor fundraising performances by key national party committees, outside Republican groups have taken over operations typically run by the Republican National Committee. American Crossroads and other organizations are stepping in to help fund turnout operations across the nation. Though many of those outside groups are run by top operatives, even some who held senior positions at the RNC, the fact is that turnout operations are being run outside the traditional structures. Even the Tea Party Express has spent more money on direct advocacy television ads than the national party committees.

In times of upheaval, voter sentiment shifts from one party to another rapidly. But for the better part of a decade, one thing has been clear: Voter and activist sentiment has been shifting away from Washington and back to the states. Even as the economy recovers, the advent of social media and the excitement of two national bases that can quickly organize will mean the balance of political power is shifting away from the hub, and toward the spokes. This will be remembered as the year control of politics finally left Washington.

There's quite a bit more, including a rundown of how the 2008 Obama campaign performed a similar end-around the Democratic apparatus in D.C. Regardless of your partisan and/or ideological leanings, you should read the whole thing.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Do I Amuse You?

GQ has a long, outstanding interview with the cast and crew of Goodfellas, celebrating the twenty year anniversary of the movie's release. Among many, many great bits, there's this revelation that many of the extras and bit parts were, um, typecast:

[Writer Nicholas] Pileggi: We'd put the word out [to the Mob guys]: "Anybody who wants to be in the movie, come." [Director Martin Scorsese] must have hired like half a dozen guys, maybe more, out of the joint.

[Ray] Liotta: During dessert, it was like they started auditioning. "I knew a guy who beat somebody up." "I knew a guy who stole this, who stole that." They seemed to be talking about themselves, and they kept topping each other.

Ellen Lewis (casting director): We were told I could consider some of them for the film, but others were a little too hot to be considered: "That guy can't be in front of a camera." It was actually the least likely-looking guys.

Pileggi: Warner Bros. now had to put them on the payroll, and they wanted their Social Security numbers. The wiseguys said, "1,2,6, uh, 6,7,8, uh, 4,3,2,1,7,8—" "No, that's more numbers than you need!" They just kept reciting numbers until they were over. Nobody ever figured out where that money went or who cashed the checks.
It's ten pages long, but if you've ever seen the movie, I dare you not to read the whole thing.

Crushing Of Dissent at UGA

This dustup at the University of Georgia has to be the lamest thing I've come across in months:

When student Jacob Lovell submitted an email to the UGA Parking Services, he was then threatened with charges of “disorderly conduct” and “disruption” by the associate dean of students, Kimberly Ellis.

“Specifically, it is alleged that Mr. Lovell engaged in disorderly conduct and disrupted parking services when he sent an email to them that was threatening.”

The email was sent to “,” which solicits comments from patrons “both positive and negative.”

Here’s the email he sent:

Subject: Scooter parking
Message: To:

Why isn’t there any scooter parking near Aderhold, according to your parking map? There’s like a billion places to park on north campus and over by the Georgia center, but nothing anywhere close to Aderhold. What the hell? Did you guys just throw darts at a map to decide where to put scooter corrals? Can I expect you guys to get off your asses and put in a corral near there some point before I [bleeping] graduate and/or the sun runs out of hydrogen?

Thanks for nothing, ever,


To which the easily irked replied:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: UGA Parking Services
Date: Wed, Aug 18, 2010 at 3:40 PM
Subject: Re: Your Parking Services Request – Case 000000000016711

Your e-mail was sent to student judiciary.

To which Lovell awesomely replied:

——— Forwarded message ———-
From: Jacob Lovell [REDACTED]
Date: Wed, Aug 18, 2010 at 8:34 PM
Subject: Re: Your Parking Services Request – Case 000000000016711
To: UGA Parking Services

So that’s a no?

J.P. Friere of the Washington Examiner called up Ellis to ask what the heck was going on here, and was told that Lovell must submit to a 'disciplinary appointment,' or he won't be allowed to register for future classes.

Lame. Lovell's email was obviously sophomoric--but then again, he's probably a sophomore.

Most large universities make tons of money off of overzealously-enforced parking tickets, and the administrators and campus cops really hate it when the deficiencies in their 'master parking plans' are pointed out. But they put out the feedback email address themselves, and don't have any business griping when they get genuine--and genuinely non-threatening--responses.

The only thing Lovell threatened with that email was some officious campus bureaucrat's ego. Georgia deserves to get a big black eye for this one.

UPDATE: Commenter "The Monk" notes that UGA backed down on disciplining Lovell last week, as laid out in this press release from FIRE that was released yesterday. I doubt very much that would have happened if Lovell hadn't gone to FIRE for help, and subesquently had this whole ridiculous affair publicized.

Bureaucrats, like cockroaches, hate daylight.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I clicked on this Slashdot story, titled "Why Are Terrorists Often Engineers?" entirely because I knew the humor content in the comments would be off the scale--at least if you're an engineer. Which, full disclosure, I am.

One of my faves is in answer to the (huffy) comment, "There are millions of engineers in this country that aren't going around blowing stuff up and killing people."

The reply: "right. that's management's job."

Also, "Just look at Faisal Shazad, the guy from Connecticut who tried to blow up Times Square. He tried to build his bomb with a toy clock and M80 firecrackers. He had a business degree."

Reply: "In all fairness, it was a very economical bomb."

There's plenty more really funny (as well as some insightful) stuff in there.

Broken Clock Chronicles: Chris Matthews

I stopped watching Chris Matthews once he went all-in for Al Gore back in 2000. By all accounts since, Matthews reverted to his previous job as Tip O'Neill's chief of staff, and devolved into a full-on Democratic shill during MSNBC's descent into all-moonbattery-all-the-time.

But apparently even a shill can read the writing on the wall if the letters are large enough:

I have waited all my adult life for an election in which voters have the fire to reach up and burn those who have been running the show for decades. But I didn`t know it would come from the right and center.

2010 could be the first year in modern times when being in office in Washington and part of Washington is the worst possible credential when facing voters. I don't know how far the fire will burn. Based upon last night's returns, I expect it has a long way to go. It could topple the House and, yes, the U.S. Senate. It could bring the defeat of people who feel even now they are not endangered. It could produce an election night spectacle of name brand politicians standing before stance supporters saying their careers are kaput.

Why is this happening? Because this economic system is failing to produce the security and opportunity people have come to expect in this country. In this middle-class country, the middle class are scared and when people are scared, they get angry. They sense a rot at the top and are ready to chop it off.

If the plan of those in power to raise a ton of cash and run nasty TV ads saying you can`t vote for this new person, that he or she is flawed -- I expect the voter will say, "Are you telling me I have no choice but to vote for you? Are you saying that I, this little voter out there, dare not take a chance on someone who has not yet let me down as you have? If that is what you're telling me, that I have no choice, well, Mr. Big Stuff, you just have to wait -- stay up late election night and see what I have done."

Monday, September 13, 2010


I freely admit that I haven't been paying much attention to the in-state campaigns here in Georgia. The GOP field in the governor's race struck me as all-around weak (I voted in the Democratic primary, just so I'll get to mark two ballots against "Representative" David Scott), and based on an apparently-endless supply of glowing reports from the local media, I'd figured ex-governor "King Roy" Barnes was going to ooze his way back into the mansion on West Paces Ferry in January.

Not so much, per this report:

Based on the poll, Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal is set to block Democrat Roy Barnes' bid for a second run as governor with a margin of 49 percent to 38 percent.

I won't be shocked if Deal beats Barnes; the ex-gov burned plenty of bridges during his previous term--but an eleven-point margin is pretty stunning. Deal isn't a particularly strong candidate, and Barnes has him beat cold in money, name recognition and "pull" with a lot of big interests in Georgia (Barnes has the unions and trial lawyers in his pocket).

If King Roy can't even get within 10 points, Georgia is looking at a complete wipeout for the Democrats. The poll linked above has GOP candidates comfortably leading every statewide race. The only survivors will be pols with major double-digit-margin safe seats--and even some of them will be in big trouble come 2012, thanks to GOP-controlled redistricting.

H/T: Geraghty

Friday, September 10, 2010

It's Just The Age

I think it's safe to say at this point--particularly after checking the headline on his Thursday column--that James Taranto is a Rush fan.

Circumstances, indeed...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Brave Old World

While catching up on Ed Driscoll's ridiculously-prolific posting from over the weekend, I ran across this gem from CBS's Harry Smith, who asked in a guest-host stint on Sunday, "What about, say, something like a new WPA?"

I'm still waiting for somebody to notice that this suggestion, a favorite of the FDR Cargo Cultists, essentially calls for the government to break out of the recession by funding a lot of... manual labor.

Yeah, that's a great solution for a 21st Century economy. Let's get everybody out there digging some new ditches! That'll show the Chinese!

Hell, even in the Thirties it was a dumb idea. Mediot conventional-wisdom drones like Harry Smith haven't read enough history to know that outside of D.C., "WPA" was universally known at the time to stand for "We Piddle Around." Even in the midst of the Depression, Americans were smart enough to understand that make-work government jobs were good for a get-by paycheck, but not much else.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Where Were You...?"

After reading a brief blurb about NRO writer Yuval Levin's recent dissertation defense, I emailed the following story to Jonah Goldberg. Jonah liked it enough to post it to The Corner, here.

My dad is a dentist, and took the honors option in dental school, which entailed a final dissertation. The school (UAB medical) invited a group of distinguished professors from Tufts down to Birmingham to judge his dissertation. Well into the verbal defense, questioning from the Tufts profs had Dad and his research partner sweating things pretty hard, and according to Dad, they weren’t exactly sure whether they were going to get out of there with a passing grade.

Right at that moment, the door to the auditorium burst open. A student ran in, exclaiming, “Oh my God, oh my God, the President’s been killed!”

The date: November 22, 1963.

Complete chaos broke out; being from Boston, the visiting Tufts professors were even more stunned than everybody else. Dad and his partner stood there on the stage, wondering what the hell they were supposed to do next. Finally, one of the judges noticed them, yelled, “You passed!”, and led the rest of the Tufts contingent out of the room

100% true story. Dad is still practicing today.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Recommended Reading

Michael Barone has a great column today, even by his standards. A sample:

In the 1930s Americans supposedly lost faith in markets and rallied to government. But if you go back and look at public opinion polling then, you find something rather different. You find majorities grumbling about Big Government, scorning Big Business and opposing Big Labor.

The 1940s were different. Facing the threat of total war, Franklin Roosevelt transformed himself from "Dr. New Deal" to "Dr. Win the War." He fostered cooperation between Big Government, Big Business and Big Labor. Roosevelt was brilliant at selecting, from all these sources, the best men (and women) for jobs he considered important.

The result was a war effort that was brilliantly successful. America was the arsenal of democracy, vanquishing its enemies and inventing the atomic bomb. Big Unit governance gained enormous prestige and held onto it for a generation after the war.

The result was prosperity but also stasis. The Big Government of 1970 looked a lot like the Big Government of the 1940s. The same Big Businesses that dominated the Fortune 500 list in 1940 did so in 1970. The list of Big Labor unions remained pretty much the same.

About 1970, these Big Units lost their edge. Big Government got mired in wars on poverty and in Vietnam. Big Business got hidebound and bureaucratic. Big Labor started to shrink.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Catch

Glenn links to an Ambrose Evans-Pritchard column in the U.K. Telegraph urging Obama to back large-scale research into thorium reactors:

There is no certain bet in nuclear physics but work by Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) on the use of thorium as a cheap, clean and safe alternative to uranium in reactors may be the magic bullet we have all been hoping for, though we have barely begun to crack the potential of solar power.

Dr Rubbia says a tonne of the silvery metal – named after the Norse god of thunder, who also gave us Thor’s day or Thursday - produces as much energy as 200 tonnes of uranium, or 3,500,000 tonnes of coal. A mere fistful would light London for a week.

Thorium eats its own hazardous waste. It can even scavenge the plutonium left by uranium reactors, acting as an eco-cleaner. "It’s the Big One," said Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA rocket engineer and now chief nuclear technologist at Teledyne Brown Engineering.

"Once you start looking more closely, it blows your mind away. You can run civilisation on thorium for hundreds of thousands of years, and it’s essentially free. You don’t have to deal with uranium cartels," he said.

Thorium is so common that miners treat it as a nuisance, a radioactive by-product if they try to dig up rare earth metals. The US and Australia are full of the stuff. So are the granite rocks of Cornwall. You do not need much: all is potentially usable as fuel, compared to just 0.7pc for uranium.

Sounds good, and I'm all in favor of lots of small-scale nuclear reactors as electrical power sources. There's just one problem with Evans-Pritchard's stance, though:

You might have thought that thorium reactors were the answer to every dream but when CERN went to the European Commission for development funds in 1999-2000, they were rebuffed.

Brussels turned to its technical experts, who happened to be French because the French dominate the EU’s nuclear industry. "They didn’t want competition because they had made a huge investment in the old technology," he said.

Ah, incumbents with vast investments in old technology and deep hooks into the politicians. Evans-Pritchard rightly bemoans the thorium-blocking tactics of such incumbents in Europe.

But who's got the heart to break it to him that General Electric and GE employees are among Obama's lead campaign donors, with well over $3 million in donations to Democrats over the last two election cycles?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Petard? Check. Hoist? Check.

The Blogfaddah is (correctly) fond of noting that he'll take jet-setting "Green" lefties seriously about global warming just as soon as he sees them taking it seriously in with their own behavior. In the same vein, I don't think anybody should be placing too much stock in economic or business advice coming from the Washington Post or Newsweek. Check out this tidbit, buried at the end of a Politico blurb regarding the WaPo Company's remaining profitable subsidiary:

In the last two fiscal years, The Washington Post Company’s newspaper division lost $356 million, while Kaplan’s higher education unit, not even counting its test prep business, posted a profit of $450 million.

I thought it was a big deal with Creative Loafing reported that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was losing $1 million a week. If the Politico story above is correct, the WaPo is losing about half a million dollars a day. That makes the AJC look like middling country cousins.

Rather delightfully, the Politico piece includes a quote from WaPo honcho Don Graham whining about the effects of Obama Administration regulations on the Kaplan division.

As ye sow, so shall ye reap...

Friday, August 27, 2010


Rich Lowry:

In the last 20 months, Democrats have had the power to do almost everything they want, except command the allegiance of the public. That has made them and their allies feel embattled, isolated and perpetually aggrieved. They act like a forlorn minority at the same time they control every lever of elective power in Washington.

In the midst of a catastrophic loss of the middle, Obama's supporters exhort him to get more angry, insistent and ambitiously liberal. Having already pushed for a bridge too far, they want to go farther still. When they can't, they conclude it's a damning indictment of Obama's failure of nerve and the nation's ungovernablility.

There's little acknowledgment that the country is in a different place than they are. To the extent there is, so much worse for the country, which is condemned for its backwardness and intolerance. The majority is not just wrong on immigration enforcement and the Ground Zero mosque, it's contemptible. Who knew that the American public would get accused of bigotry more often after electing an African-American president than before?

As former Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner writes, liberals "are expressing deepening alienation from our nation and turning on the American people with a vengeance." They thought they had a mandate from heaven in 2008 and can't bear the thought that they deluded themselves. They've gone from triumphalism to a petulant and uncomprehending tantrum in less than two years.

Charles Krauthammer:

Liberalism under siege is an ugly sight indeed. Just yesterday it was all hope and change and returning power to the people. But the people have proved so disappointing. Their recalcitrance has, in only 19 months, turned the predicted 40-year liberal ascendancy (James Carville) into a full retreat. Ah, the people, the little people, the small-town people, the "bitter" people, as Barack Obama in an unguarded moment once memorably called them, clinging "to guns or religion or" -- this part is less remembered -- "antipathy toward people who aren't like them."

That's a polite way of saying: clinging to bigotry. And promiscuous charges of bigotry are precisely how our current rulers and their vast media auxiliary react to an obstreperous citizenry that insists on incorrect thinking.

It is a measure of the corruption of liberal thought and the collapse of its self-confidence that, finding itself so widely repudiated, it resorts reflexively to the cheapest race-baiting (in a colorful variety of forms). Indeed, how can one reason with a nation of pitchfork-wielding mobs brimming with "antipathy toward people who aren't like them" -- blacks, Hispanics, gays and Muslims -- a nation that is, as Michelle Obama once put it succinctly, "just downright mean"?

The Democrats are going to get beaten badly in November. Not just because the economy is ailing. And not just because Obama over-read his mandate in governing too far left. But because a comeuppance is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them.

Oh, I don't know. Insulting the electorate is always a dynamite tactic.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Branding The Maverick

Oh my, I wish I'd written this. Yuval Levin at NRO:

McCain (who has raised and spent more money than any Senate candidate in this cycle, other than self-financed candidates) must be glad that none of the smug busybodies who have tried through the years to restrict political expression by preventing candidates for public office from raising enormous amounts of money and spending them on attack ads has succeeded.

As we say down South, "Dang."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bottom Story Of The Day

Per the NY Times, Chuck Hagel has endorsed Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania.

Please, try to contain your excitement.

Even the Times was obliged to note, "The currency of Mr. Hagel’s endorsement is an open question, given that he has no ties to Pennsylvania."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Who Are You, And What Did You Do With Barney Frank?

From the "credit where it's due," or perhaps more appropriately, "better late than never" department, check out this account of a recent Fox Business interview with Frank:

"[Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] should be abolished," Frank said in an interview on Fox Business, when asked whether the mortgage giants should be elements in housing market reform. "They only question is what do you put in their place," Frank said.
Frank also was critical of public policy that promoted homeownership at any cost. He also said the federal government should not be a "backstop" in guaranteeing mortgages.

"There were people in this society who for economic and, frankly, social reasons can't and shouldn't be homeowners," Frank said. "I think we should, particularly, stop this assumption that you put everybody into homeownership."
That's a very far cry from the Barney Frank of 2003, seen here scoffing any suggestion that Fan and Fred were encouraging lending to people unlikely to pay the money back, or that the taxpayers would be left holding the bag:

It's important to wonder just what Frank has in mind as a replacement--he calls explicitly for government subsidies, and given Frank's tendencies, one would expect those to be very large and expensive subsidies--but if nothing else, his change of heart regarding Fannie and Freddie is a welcome change. Too bad Frank's bad judgement cost all of us untold billions first, though.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back With A Vengeance

Based on today's mountain of new posts, it looks like Mickey Kaus has shrugged off his post-election blues and returned full-bore to blogging. Go have a look; particularly including now ex-Senate candidate Kaus's rundown of the average senator's personality traits:

No management skill? Talks a good game? Egomaniacal glory-hound? Sounds like a made-to-order U.S. Senator!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Required Reading

Christopher Hitchens has an extraordinary essay--even by his standards--in Vanity Fair today regarding his cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Read it.

Life Imitates The Simpsons

When I heard about the Andy Griffith Obamacare ad, the first thing I thought was, a bunch of Obama P.R. juiceboxers probably huddled around a closet office in the EOB, brainstorming how to sell this mess to their worst demographic.

One of them pipes up, "Hey, I saw a Simpsons rerun last week, and Grampa said, 'I'm an old man! I hate everything but Matlock!' Maybe that's our angle."

"Not bad, Parker. We should hire him to talk to old people! But who the heck is Matlock?"

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Game To Bridge The Generational Divide

Millennial juiceboxers and Eighties slackers--unite!

Behold: HALO 2600!

Here's the backstory.

Recommended Reading

Check out this Christopher Hitchens column on the ambulatory blob of insanity known as Hugo Chavez. A sample:

In the early hours of July 16—just at the midnight hour, to be precise—Venezuela's capo officiated at a grisly ceremony. This involved the exhumation of the mortal remains of Simón Bolívar, leader of Latin America's rebellion against Spain, who died in 1830. According to a vividly written article by Thor Halvorssen in the July 25 Washington Post, the skeleton was picked apart—even as Chávez tweeted the proceedings for his audience—and some teeth and bone fragments were taken away for testing. The residual pieces were placed in a coffin stamped with the Chávez government's seal. In one of the rather free-associating speeches for which he has become celebrated, Chávez appealed to Jesus Christ to restage the raising of Lazarus and reanimate Bolívar's constituent parts.

And then there's this bit of classic Hitch:

Chávez, in other words, is very close to the climactic moment when he will announce that he is a poached egg and that he requires a very large piece of buttered toast so that he can lie down and take a soothing nap.

Read the whole thing--and the next time you're having an off-day, and not really feeling like doing whatever it is you do, remember: Hitchens wrote that while in the middle of chemotherapy.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Charlie Coverup Happens (?)

From WCBS in New York:

New York Congressman Charles Rangel has reportedly cut a deal to admit to ethical wrongdoing and avoid a potentially humiliating public trial.

Harlem friends of Rangel tell CBS 2 they have been told that the details could be unveiled when the House Ethics Committee meets Thursday afternoon.

Don't mean to say I told you so, but...

UPDATE: Or not. This is all as clear as mud to me, but the Ethics Committee has released its public report. Negotiations are allegedly "ongoing."

How Corrupt Charlie Pays His Lawyers

From Timothy Carney in the Washington Examiner:

Two of the three firms providing legal counsel to Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., in his pending ethics cases are lobbying firms. In fact, one firm, Oldaker, Belair & Wittie, conducts much of Rangel's political fundraising, while operating four different lobby shops.

But who's ultimately paying Rangel's legal bills? Mostly corporate and union political action committees along with individual lobbyists. Over the past six months, PACs and lobbyists have accounted for a majority of the money Rangel's campaign has raised this year, not counting transfers from Rangel's other fundraising operations (more on them below).

In turn, Rangel funnels his campaign cash into his legal defense. In 2009, three-fourths of Rangel's $2.16 million in campaign spending went to legal fees. The House Ethics Committee allows campaign funds for legal fees that are not "primarily personal in nature, such as a matrimonial action, or could result in a direct personal benefit for the Member." Otherwise, legal fees are a legitimate use of campaign cash because "the protection of a Member's presumption of innocence in such actions is a valid political purpose," the guidelines state.

That means any politically savvy donor who cut a check in 2010 to Rangel's reelection knew the donation was, in part, a contribution to Rangel's legal defense -- indeed, in the first two quarters of 2010, Rangel's campaign spent $655,232, with $230,749 (35 percent) going to legal fees. Zuckerman Spaeder LLP got biggest haul of Rangel cash -- $182,000. The firm had lobbying clients including one top drugmaker until last year, when the K Street legal shop de-registered as lobbyist.

Pathetic, but not surprising.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Get Ready For The Charlie Coverup

From the AP:

New York Democrat Charles Rangel made a last-minute effort Tuesday to settle his ethics case and prevent a House trial that could embarrass him and damage the Democratic Party.

The talks between Rangel's lawyer and the House ethics committee's nonpartisan attorneys were confirmed by ethics Chairman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. Lofgren said she is not involved in the talks, and added that the committee's lawmakers have always accepted the professional staff's recommendations in previous plea bargains.

Rangel, a 40-year House veteran who is 80 years old, would have to admit to multiple, substantial ethics violations for any plea bargain to be accepted. Earlier negotiations broke down when Rangel would only admit to some allegations — not enough to satisfy the committee lawyers, according to people familiar with those talks who were not authorized to be quoted by name.

If the talks are not successful, trial proceedings for the Harlem congressman would begin Thursday with a reading of alleged ethics violations that are still confidential.

Now, tell me if you can: why exactly should Charlie Rangel get to choose whether or not evidence of his dirty deeds get to remain confidential? Would you get that choice if you'd been indicted for (oh, I don't know) tax fraud and then copped a plea? Hell, no--all the evidence against you would be a matter of public record. Why should Rangel get to hide his own sins just to prevent embarrassment--or to limit the damage to the Democratic Party in the midterms?

Personally, I hope old Corrupt Charlie fights to his last nickel here--and after four decades of handing out favors, he has a whole hell of a lot of nickels. I remember how much damage Rangel's predecessor, old Dirty Dan Rostenkowski did in 1994, and it'd be a shame if yet another corrupt Ways And Means Chairman got off with a wrist-slap--and a coverup.

They're Called 'Government Motors' For A Reason

From CNN:

General Motors announced the final price of its Chevrolet Volt electric car Tuesday afternoon, but it's the lease rate that will probably be most interesting to consumers.

The purchase price for a Volt will start at $41,000. The vehicle qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit, for an effective price of about $33,500.

So that's bad enough. Taxpayers already have to foot the bill for $7,500 per sale on these turkeys. That's $75 million of your money if somehow GM were to manage to sell all of them the first year. Fat chance, but it gets worse:

Pricing for the Volt isn't a terribly critical business decision for GM, [auto analyst] Toprak said, since the car is expected to lose money, anyway, during its initial run. It's really an image-making "halo car" for GM.

Yeah, that makes perfect sense for a company that's billions in the red and effectively bankrupt--bet heavy on a money-losing car!

You do know who picks up the tab these days when GM loses money, don't you? Go look in the mirror if you're not sure. But it'll make the small number of decidedly-on-the-wealthy-side greenies who buy these glorified golf carts feel oh so much better, and that's priceless.


If you're stupid enough to buy GM stock in the fall IPO, I heartily suggest that you dump it before November 2.

UPDATE: "Yes," you say, "but Will, they obviously want to lease these cars, not sell them."

M'kay, let's do the math. They're advertising $350 a month for 36 months, plus $2,500 due at signing. That adds up to $15,100 per car. At that rate, GM loses $18,400 per vehicle off the subsidized sale price. Assume they manage to lease 90% of the 10,000 initial run...

... and GM--meaning you--loses $165.6 MILLION on the first year of the Volt.

They ain't called Government Motors for nothing.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Recommended Reading

Neal Gaibler in the Boston Globe:

The difference between 1.0 and 2.0 is that 2.0 are not all Protestant, white males sprung full-blown from the Establishment as 1.0’s fathers and their fathers’ fathers were. Like Obama himself, they are by and large onetime middle-class overachievers who made their way into the Ivy League and then catapulted to the top levels of class and power by being . . . well, the best and the brightest. But in elitism as in religion, no one is more devout than a convert, and these people, again like Obama, all having been blessed by the Ivy League, also embrace Ivy League arrogance and condescension. On this, the Republican critics are right: The administration exudes a sense of superiority.

So what difference does it make if our policy-makers think they are above criticism? As Halberstam shows in “The Best and the Brightest,’’ people who are concerned not with the fundamental rightness of something but with its execution, because the rightness is assumed; people who see what they want to see rather than what is; people who see things in terms of preconceptions rather than of human conduct; people who are incapable of admitting error; people who lack skepticism and the capacity to grow beyond their certainties are the sorts of people who are likely to get us in trouble — whether it is an ever-lengthening war in Afghanistan or ever-deepening economic distress here at home. After all, we’ve been there once before.

David Brooks will not be amused.

Read the whole thing. H/T: Blogfaddah.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Find Your Lack Of Cash Disturbing

From the New York Post, clear evidence that the recession has spread to the Empire:

There was no telling whether he needed to use the force to make bank employees comply, cops said, but at one point, the Vader invader kneeled as if speaking to the Emperor and aimed his gun.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Abandon In Place

The following is something of a tradition for me; it's a column I wrote many years ago, on the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. I'm rather sorry to say that I see no particular need to revise its conclusions today--although I should admit that I'm starting to doubt whether I'll ever write the book referenced at the beginning.

Every writer--at least every one I've ever met or heard of--has a "trunk." It's where they store work that didn't make the cut, or isn't ready yet, or just had to be left alone for one reason or another. For some it is a literal trunk, a footlocker full of scribbled pages and typed sheets. In my case, it's a computer folder named (wait for it) "THE TRUNK." Here's a peek inside, at the first page of a book I'll write one of these years:

On the Atlantic coast of Florida stands an artifact that looks like a giant's table. It towers over the sand and scrub grass, a massive construct of stained concrete and rusted steel. It sits mutely, in a field of debris, left behind by its makers, all but forgotten by history.

Three men died here, by fire. Three more were hurled from this stone table and very nearly perished on a dangerous mission turned frantic by human mistakes. Eighteen were carried from here on a pillar of flame to land on another world and claim it for all humanity.

It is Pad 34, at the John F. Kennedy Space Flight Center. There is no plaque to mark the significance of the spot, no memorial to the fallen, no record of the great feats that were accomplished from this place. All that remains is the giant's table, its epitaph marked in stencil with a cold bureaucratic notation.

The legs of the table bear a single phrase: ABANDON IN PLACE.

The book that will have that title is years in my future, but its melodramatic foreword will serve for today, the thirtieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. As we look back across three decades at that epochal achievement, it's worthwhile to remember not just what was accomplished, but also at what's been lost since then.

Neal Armstrong had hardly taken his one small step thirty Julys ago when the Apollo program was abruptly truncated. Ten landings were planned, but by the time two billion 1970 dollars had been ripped away from NASA's annual budget, only six would be accomplished (unlucky Apollo 13 would have made it seven). In a panic, NASA scrambled for a new mission, a further reason to exist as a major-league agency.

Casting around madly for a stepping stone to future manned explorations, the agency settled on the Space Shuttle, billing it as a reusable vehicle that would take off and land as easily as an airliner--no more throwing away great chunks of a spacecraft along the way. Pie-in-the-sky proposals assured congressional planners that a Shuttle would dramatically lower the costs of space flight, down to $1000 a pound or less to Earth orbit (the reality was closer to $10,000 a pound in 1988).

As Shuttle development ramped up (only to be cut back itself as budgets were lowered again and again during the 1970's, causing design compromises that eventually led to, among other things, the 1986 Challenger explosion), the "old-fashioned" Saturn rockets, the most powerful machines ever built by man, the chariots that that had taken humanity to another world, were literally left to rot.

The last of the great Saturn V boosters ever flown was used to lift the Skylab space station into orbit in 1973. Three more of the 363-foot-tall Saturns were already built, needing only fuel, payload, and direction to fly... but the decision was made that they were more useful as relics than as rockets. The last of America's Saturn V's were carted off to NASA museums, and there they still lie in pieces today, at Houston, Huntsville, and Cape Canaveral. **

Think about that for a moment. Three... Saturn... V... rockets. Finished. Built. Paid for. Wasted.

These were not just carefully crafted towers of aluminum and steel. These were national treasures--the only machines in the world that could carry a space station to orbit in one launch (it will take dozens of Space Shuttle missions to finish the interminable construction of the current station). A second, completed Skylab was also mothballed--it too sits dismantled, in the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center, a waste of untold millions.

These were the only rockets ever built capable of taking a significant payload to the moon. It's been said accurately, many times, if we wanted to go back today, we couldn't. The Soviets tried, frantically and unsuccessfully to duplicate the Saturn V; their highly secret, rarely spoken of N-1, a monster rocket with an incredible cluster of 30 engines, never flew successfully. A final desperate attempt to beat Apollo 11 to the moon ended in a catastrophic launch pad explosion on July 3 of 1969--the marks left behind by that explosion are still visible in satellite photos today.

The Saturn V could do that job, reliably, and they were thrown away, like so much waste paper (speaking of which, legend has it that NASA actually discarded the blueprints during the 1970's). Many of the highly trained people who designed and built the Saturn V's were also thrown overboard and out of work. Some found other jobs--my grandfather, who had worked on every American rocket since the original Jupiter I, which launched the first U.S. satellite into orbit, went on to build and test the Shuttles--but thousands of others were pushed out, never again to use their talents in the pursuit of space flight.

There have been triumphs since then, to be sure. For all their faults and compromises, the Shuttles are dependable and versatile. They will serve us well for decades to come (they will have to, because no follow-on manned vehicle is even on the drawing boards). The roster of unmanned space probes is an astonishing record of achievement in exploration: Mariner, Viking, Explorer, Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, Pathfinder, more to follow.

But there could have been so much more. Thirty years ago, humanity briefly left its cradle to step out into the unknown. What a pity, what a shame on us all that we promptly jumped back into that cradle, and threw away our hard-won traveling shoes.


Postscript: I've been advised since writing this column that somebody has already published a 'coffee table' book of NASA facility photographs titled Abandon In Place. I feel kind of like Snoopy in an old Peanuts cartoon--"All of the good titles have been taken."

** 2009 Postscript: the Saturn V still on display in Huntsville was actually a test vehicle that was never intended for flight. Still, two of them left to rot was two too many.

What She Said

Jennifer Rubin:

I confess I am always baffled when pundits and voters say they like Obama but not his policies. What has been ingratiating about him? He’s thin-skinned, prickly, and robotic. He’s unduly nasty to political opponents. He doesn’t seem to like us (especially ordinary Americans who have taken to the streets and town halls), so why should we like him?

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

David Brooks has a broken-clock moment today:

This progressive era is being promulgated without much popular support. It’s being led by a large class of educated professionals, who have been trained to do technocratic analysis, who believe that more analysis and rule-writing is the solution to social breakdowns, and who have constructed ever-expanding networks of offices, schools and contracts.

Already this effort is generating a fierce, almost culture-war-style backlash. It is generating a backlash among people who do not have faith in Washington, who do not have faith that trained experts have superior abilities to organize society, who do not believe national rules can successfully contend with the intricacies of local contexts and cultures.

This progressive era amounts to a high-stakes test. If the country remains safe and the health care and financial reforms work, then we will have witnessed a life-altering event. We’ll have received powerful evidence that central regulations can successfully organize fast-moving information-age societies.

If the reforms fail — if they kick off devastating unintended consequences or saddle the country with a maze of sclerotic regulations — then the popular backlash will be ferocious. Large sectors of the population will feel as if they were subjected to a doomed experiment they did not consent to. They will feel as if their country has been hijacked by a self-serving professional class mostly interested in providing for themselves.

What Brooks can't quite bring himself to say is that a substantial majority already endorses those last two sentences.

And the people in that majority are correct.

Break Out The Popcorn

It looks like Andrew Breitbart has the JournoList archive.

Daily Caller also has at least a goodly chunk; Jonathan Strong has a piece up today regarding Leftie damage control of Jeremiah Wright from 2008. Many of the reprinted emails are very nasty reading.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rationing For Thee, But Not For Me

In case you were still wondering why Obama granted a recess appointment to rationing aficionado Donald Berwick, placing Berwick in charge of Medicare, Medicaid, and the first creeping tendrils of Obamacare, wonder no more. There's no way either Berwick would have survived a confirmation hearing given the gap between his fondness for government limitations of medical care and his own cozy healthcare arrangements.

From Byron York:

Last year, [Berwick] said, "The decision is not whether or not we will ration care -- the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open." Of the [British National Health Service], Berwick says simply, "I love it," adding that it is "one of the great human health care endeavors on earth."

As it turns out, Berwick himself does not have to deal with the anxieties created by limited access to care and the extent of coverage. In a special benefit conferred on him by the board of directors of the Institute for Health Care Improvement, a nonprofit health care charitable organization he created and which he served as chief executive officer, Berwick and his wife will have health coverage "from retirement until death."

The provision is deep inside a 2009 audit report on the nonprofit's finances.

Emphasis above is mine.

As always, when the government makes the rules, they apply to everybody... except members of the government. For the peons, rationing and scarcity, but the apparatchiks always keep their dachas--and their fully-funded medical care.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Totalitarianism By The Bay

From the San Fran Chronicle:

Sell a guinea pig, go to jail.

That's the law under consideration by San Francisco's Commission of Animal Control and Welfare. If the commission approves the ordinance at its meeting tonight, San Francisco could soon have what is believed to be the country's first ban on the sale of all pets except fish.

That includes dogs, cats, hamsters, mice, rats, chinchillas, guinea pigs, birds, snakes, lizards and nearly every other critter, or, as the commission calls them, companion animals.

I'd quote the Blogfaddah's line about tar and feathers here, but you know what? The Frisco voters keep voting in lunatics like this, so as far as I'm concerned, they can live with the results.

This Would Be Cool


REVIEWniverse has exclusively learned from an anonymous source that Mike Judge is currently outlining 30 new episodes of his iconic animated comedy Beavis and Butt-Head for its native network.

The source conceded that plans for actual broadcast are not yet cemented, or even a given, but confirmed that the King of the Hill/Office Space/Idiocracy maestro is definitely in the midst of writing new B and B material with the hopes of a full-throttle return.

Even better news for fans is that, should this come to pass, Judge plans on retaining the show's original ghetto-tech aesthetic, right down to the faded color palatte. The source also reveals that the Extract director intends on keeping B and B's format identical to its original sketch-videos-sketch incarnation, but with more contemporary music clips for the cartoon slacker-duo to skewer.