Sunday, January 31, 2010

At PJM: Let's Get Small

I have a new column up at Pajamas Media today, regarding the state of nuclear power. A sample:

As time passed and 70’s anti-nuclear hysteria ebbed, power companies around the country have petitioned the NRC for permission to build new reactors. Some 16 applications have been filed since 2007, with more anticipated.

All the current NRC applications have one thing in common: they’re for large-scale power plants, technically improved but functionally not dissimilar from the reactors of the 1970s. Today, Jane Fonda is a punchline, "Real People" is long since off the air, and disco is blessedly still dead, but the big electric companies remain stuck in the ‘70s as far as their strategic planning is concerned.

While political conservatives generally look favorably upon nuclear energy, the economics remain daunting. In a now-famous paper for Reason, Jerry Taylor of Cato said nuclear power “is to the Right what solar is to the Left: Religious devotion in practice, a wonderful technology in theory, but an economic white elephant in fact.” Taylor referenced industry studies showing nuclear electricity costing four to five times as much per kilowatt hour than coal or gas plants, and noted the massive subsidies and loan guarantees handed out to power companies as undermining the cost rationale for nuclear power.

All of which makes me wonder, again: this is the 21st century — why are we looking at huge, multibillion-dollar facilities in the first place? It’s not like other options don’t exist.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Back In Business

If you've checked this blog over the past day or so, you may have been directed to one of those generic domain name dumping grounds instead of this page. That's because I nearly let expire after over a decade of being "the master of my own domain."

Best I can tell, what happened is that the renewal reminder emails from my registrar all vanished into the maw of AT&T's over-zealous spam filter (I occasionally miss emails from such suspicious characters as my wife and sister thanks to that filter). Fortunately for me, reader Jonathan Bailey noticed the goofed-up page, and sent a note via Steve Green giving me a heads-up. As you can see, all is now well, and the domain (along with and, all of which I bought many years ago) is now renewed and back to normal.

So, Jonathan, once again: many thanks. And for everybody else, don't forget to check that spam folder--regularly.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What Is The Sound Of One Man Blinking?

From the NY Daily News:

White House officials have told the Justice Department to consider other venues for the 9/11 terror trial that was to be held in lower Manhattan, the Daily News has learned.
Elections have consequences--and even Presidents with little talent for listening eventually hear their bosses' voice.

I'm A Professional, Eh

From the north of the border, here's David Warren, regarding Canada's "Nanny State" regulation of political spending, and thus speech:

Nanny audits political spending through an immense bureaucracy, which has the effect of reversing power relations between the "wise" political parties and those crazy voters.

Is this the argument for campaign spending controls? I think it is the real argument, but it is not the argument commonly offered. The "official" argument is that, sans Big Nanny, those big corporate interests on Bay Street or wherever would "buy" the elections.

This premise, in turn, is even more insulting to the electorate. It holds that we can be bought, as easily as politicians. The insult is also quite unfair. Canadians, as all other electors, have a human tendency to resent obvious attempts to buy them, and to express that resentment through the secret ballot. (It might be different if we, like the politicians, had the opportunity to benefit from the pay-offs directly.)


There are many and huge ramifications [of the Citizens United decision in the US], but the chief one is that the decision attacks the contemporary lobbying system. In effect, those advancing special interests are condemned to lobbying the entire electorate, instead of just lobbying the politicians behind closed doors. This directly undermines the political class. It goes to the heart of their ability to broker deals not in the public interest, and pass them into law without public debate.

And that in turn is why the response to the decision from the political class has been unfriendly to the edge of berserk. They correctly understand that "politics as usual" is now under review, actually and not rhetorically.

Read the whole thing, eh.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Steve Green, Call Your Office

Nice Reason TV piece here about Virginia Governor Bob McDonald's plans to ditch VA's state-run liquor store monopoly (H/T: Blogfaddah):

Dig that bottle of Tito's at stage--er, screen right. Nice job.

Having grown up in Alabama, where independent liquor stores are legal, but by law much more expensive than the crappy state stores, I can but applaud this noble effort. And don't get me started on the situation up in my wife's home state of Pennsylvania. I thought we had weird liquor laws down South--but then I married into the Keystone State, where y'all are just plain messed up. And not in a good way.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cartoons Don't Have To Be Consistent

Nancy Pelosi, regarding the Kelo decision, June 30, 2005:

"It is a decision of the Supreme Court. If Congress wants to change it, it will require legislation of a level of a constitutional amendment. So this is almost as if God has spoken. It's an elementary discussion now. They have made the decision."

Nancy Pelosi, regarding the Citizens United decision, January 21, 2010:

"We cannot allow special-interest dollars to dictate the details of public policy. We will review the decision, work with the Obama Administration, and explore legislative options available to mitigate the impact of this disappointing decision."

Paging Emily Litella

From April of 2009, here's Beltway fixture Stu Rothenberg, writing in Politico:

Over the past couple of weeks, at least three Republicans - House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and campaign consultant Tony Marsh - have raised the possibility of the GOP winning back the House of Representatives next year.

That idea is lunacy and ought to be put to rest immediately.

None of the three actually predicted that Republicans would gain the 40 seats that they need for a majority, but all three held out hope that that's possible. It isn't.

Rothenberg went on in that vein for quite a while, getting progressively (no pun intended) more dismissive and insulting along the way. Things have changed just a tad since then, and even Rothenberg had to admit it today.

Here's Stu's Monday blog post:

[W]e can no longer dismiss the possibility of a Republican wave so large that Democrats could lose their House majority. We stress, however, that we currently expect Republicans to fall short of the 40 seats they would need. Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts doesn’t mean that every Republican candidate will win in November.

Not quite a full-on "nevermind," but the year is still very young...

Where Beer Does Flow And Men Chunder

In honor (or should I say, honour) of Australia Day, Mark Steyn brings back his terrific appreciation of Men At Work's "Down Under." Here's a brief sample, but really, you should read the whole thing. Even by Steyn's standards, it's a gem:

The song was born in ten green bottles, more or less. Ron Strykert, the guitarist of Men At Work, was at home and at a loose end and decided, as one does, to fill various wine and beer bottles with different amounts of water and then give 'em a thwack and see what kind of tune emerges. That's the origin of the opening of "Down Under". Next up came the chorus. In 1978, two years before the first record of the song was released, Strykert's fellow band member Colin Hay was out in the car, when the muse descended. He was driving down Power Street in Hawthorn in the Melbourne suburbs, when "it just popped into my head". The verses popped up a day or so later, all in about half an hour.

Hay was the only band member not to come, originally, from a land down under. He was born in Scotland and his family emigrated to Australia when he was 14, so he brought to the song not just a genuine love for his new home but also an ability to see what it was about "the lucky country" that so tickled the outside world. If the chorus is almost ingenious in its simplicity (how come no-one ever cottoned on to "Down Under" as a song title before?), the linking quatrains give the piece a structure and a story. "The verses were more the Barry McKenzie aspect of the song," Hay recalled, referring to Barry Humphries' popular cartoon strip in Private Eye in the Sixties, "and that thing where it's almost a rite of passage for young Australians to travel through Asia and India, and go back to find out where their families come from in England or Ireland or Scotland."

New at PJM: Hard To Kill

I have a new column for Pajamas Media up today, and no, it's not about Steven Seagal. A preview:

Georgia State Route 400, commonly known to Atlantans as “Georgia 400,” is the state’s only toll road. The sole toll plaza on “400” was opened in 1993, on a new express extension running from the trendy Buckhead community up into the north-eastern suburbs. Like most toll roads, the pay-to-drive section of Georgia 400 was sold to taxpayers and commuters on the notion that the new stretch of highway would pay for itself, in this case at fifty cents a car.

State Route 400 quickly became one of Atlanta’s most trafficked highways, in a class with the dual interstates of I-75/I-85 and the infamous I-285 loop. All those pairs of quarters piled up, and by early 2009, the toll booths had raised funds well in excess of that required to retire the original bond issue. So in accordance with the original intent of the law that created them, the toll booths were removed around the last Fourth of July.

Whoops, sorry — that’s not what actually happened. It’s what should have happened, but true to Wilson’s famous paper, the bureaucracy that grew around the Georgia 400 toll booths did not go quietly.

In fact, it didn’t go at all. The Georgia 400 toll plaza is still running, 24-7, despite the fact that by March of 2009, the state had banked over $32 million on an outstanding debt (including interest) of $26.6 million.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Patterico Channels Mick Belker

From: Patterico
To: David Axelrod
RE: Astroturfing

You are BUSTED, dog breath!

That'll Leave A Mark

Michael Barone winds up and lays a barrage of haymakers on Barack Obama's BFF at the New York Times:

Members of "the educated class" may have heard of Edmund Burke, but they take the very un-Burkean view that those with elite educations can readily rearrange society to comport with their pet abstract theories. These often secular Americans have a quasi-religious faith in government's ability to, in Obama's words to Joe the Plumber, "spread the wealth around" and to recalibrate the energy sector to protect against climate dangers they are absolutely sure are impending.

Ordinary Americans, even in Massachusetts, may not have heard of Edmund Burke, but they share his skepticism that self-appointed experts can re-engineer institutions in accordance with abstract theories. Two generations ago they voted for the likes of Jimmy Burke to make occasional adjustments. Last week they voted against the Democratic policies that would have appalled Edmund Burke. Obama, of Morningside Heights, Cambridge and Hyde Park, still has the support of "the educated class" -- but not anybody else.

As the saying goes, if this was a prizefight, they'd have stopped it by now.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Required Reading

Via the Blogfaddah, John Hayward, aka Doctor Zero at Hot Air, absolutely knocks it out of the park today. A brief sample:

Here, in a nutshell, is the heads-we-win, tails-you-lose mentality that keeps the State plodding blindly forward, crushing a formerly vibrant economy beneath it. If you don’t answer Obama’s trillion-dollar health-care plan with your own trillion-dollar program, you’re an obstructionist – not an opponent to be debated, but an obstacle to be swept aside. The middle class is frustrated because they understand the basic concept of fiscal responsibility, and they know they – and their children – will be expected to pay for these titanic solutions.

They also know they’ll have very little to say about how the money is spent, because they don’t have the lobbying power of the core Democrat constituencies. They certainly won’t be “controlling” Big Government through their votes. It took a political apocalypse, triggered by an incredible Republican win in Massachusetts, to frighten the Democrats out of ramming their health care plan down America’s throat. How many times can the middle class, composed of individuals trying to live their lives and take care of their families, expect to generate such a powerful shock wave? In the collectivist future, those individuals won’t be waging epic battles to preserve their liberties. They’ll be haggling over percentage increases in their benefits.

Seriously: read the whole thing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Getting Better All The Time

As if this week hasn't been fun enough already, from The Hill, more evidence of jobs that weren't saved by the Stimulus:

Liberal radio network Air America has gone bankrupt and will cease live programming, the company told employees today.

"The very difficult economic environment has had a significant impact on Air America's business. This past year has seen a 'perfect storm' in the media industry generally," Charlie Kireker, chair of Air America Media, wrote in a letter to employees.

Air America was founded in 2004 as a liberal response to conservative dominance of the radio airwaves. In five years it has served as a platform for a number of liberal talkers that have moved on to prominence, including now-Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.

The network will air re-run programs until January 25th, at which time all programming will end.

In the immortal words of Nelson Muntz, "HA-Ha!"

Memo To John Edwards, From Everybody

Seriously, dude: if you want to do some good, just write a big check and then go away.

Nobody wants to see your mug on TV. As in, ever again.

Declaring Victory, June 19, 2009:

The Obama Administration is over, at least in terms of major legislation.

Socialized medicine disguised as a "public option" will not pass Congress. Neither will the beloved-of-Hollywood-airheads "cap and trade" energy tax bill. Ditto for the union-pushed "card check" payoff. This triad of massive government expansion, considered the crown jewels for Obama's New New Deal, are all walking dead. Forget about the Democrats having 60 Senate votes to block a filibuster; I doubt any one of the three could get to a bare majority, assuming they ever came to the floor. Which they probably won't.

The realization of all this clearly hasn't sunk in yet with all of the Administration, the Congressional leadership, or the Obamedia, and no wonder: they've thought for months that all of these things were going to be a slam dunk. They're just starting to realize that they could have had the whole megillah of Europeanizing the American economy, but instead, they blew it.

Obama and his party in Congress, wrapped up in a comfortable cocoon of media adulation, misread the results of the last two elections. Rather than examining public disgust at government overspending, overreach and general corruption, they chose instead to read 2006-08 as a mandate for Liberal governance.

Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), December 27, 2009:

“The card check issue is dead. Whether there comes to be another sort of labor bill, we’ll wait to see ... But as far as the check off, there are not the votes for that.”

Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), January 19, 2010:

"In the aftermath of a very, very heavy lift on health care, I think it is unlikely that the Senate will turn next to a very complicated and very controversial subject of cap-and-trade, climate legislation," Dorgan told reporters on a conference call.

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), January 21, 2009:

"In its present form without any changes I don't think it's possible to pass the Senate [health care] bill in the House, adding "I don't see the votes for it at this time."

Advantage... ME!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

E.J. Dionne's Hackery

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne likes to cultivate the image of a patient professor, doling out soft-spoken doses of received wisdom to the unenlightened masses. Dionne's reality, though, is that of a pure party hack.

Have a look at Dionne's Monday column (January 18, 2010) for an example. Dionne first relates an anecdote about a smirking Republican "financier" (unidentified, of course) who'd allegedly called the period of the current fiscal crisis, "an excellent time for the Democrats to take power."

Dionne leaves the clear impression here that this evil character--one can readily picture the Monopoly Man twirling his monocle and reaching for the caviar--was reveling in the thought of a downturn engineered by the "malefactors of great wealth" being left in the lap of Dionne's beloved Democratic Party. And no doubt Dionne believes precisely this.

But being a hack, Dionne can't bring himself to mention the actual factors that led to last year's financial collapse. If he'd had the intellectual honesty to do so, Dionne would have had to note the looming shadows of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the behemoth quasi-governmental agencies which bought up and effectively guaranteed vast numbers of mortgages given to bad credit risks.

Even if Democratic politicians and "community activists" hadn't been pushing commercial banks to make as many of those loans as possible--and both were--Fan and Fred still offered a vast backstop of taxpayer-funded guarantees for questionable-at-best loans. When those loans started defaulting in large numbers last year, they took a fair chunk of the U.S. economy with them, and left the taxpayers on the hook.

Worse still for Dionne (and here's a fact you'll never see him own up to), the awful, hated, laissez-faire monster known as George W. Bush tried in 2003 to initiate reasonable oversight on Fannie and Freddie, only to see those regulations shouted down in a cloud of demagoguery by the likes of Barney Frank and Maxine Waters. How different would our economy be today if Fannie and Freddie hadn't been hijacked by Democratic appointees and activists? We'll never know, thanks to Dionne's partisan pals.

Continuing, Dionne attempts to spin the then-looming special election in Massachusetts into a clash of competing narratives—what he calls “the conservatives’ focus on ideology” versus the noble but embattled Obama Administration—as opposed to voters actually looking at the current government’s actions and not liking what they see.

Dionne gives a brief rundown of what he will allow are his opponents’ critiques: “Conservatives blame ‘liberalism’ -- big government, big deficits, an overly ambitious health-care plan, a stimulus that spent too much and other supposedly left-leaning sins of the Obama regime,” but then proceeds right back to excuse-making for the Obami and the familiar “blame Bush for everything” mantras that make up most of The One’s rhetoric these days.

What Dionne can’t bring himself to do is run through those real-world criticisms and evaluate their impacts on the electorate. Take the deficit, for example.

Dionne (and Obama) are fond of pointing at the receding shadow of Bush and shouting, “He made me do it!” when confronted with complaints about the deficit, but they never get around to acknowledging the massive increase in Federal spending under Obama unrelated to either the fiscal crisis or “overseas contingency operations” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama’s term in office began with the unfinished business of the 2009 Federal Budget. The Democratic congress never bothered to complete work on that budget in 2008, preferring to pass continuing resolutions during ’08 and wait until after Obama’s inauguration to send a final spending plan to the White House. The result was a pork-bloated $410 billion monstrosity that even left-leaning media criticized as “earmark-laden.”

Things only got worse when the 2010 budget process geared up. With Obama’s implicit approval, congressional Democrats forced through the largest peacetime increase in Federal spending since the New Deal, jacking up the budget baseline by nearly 25%--and that’s not counting a dime of the deeply unpopular TARP bailouts.

Mind you, all that additional spending—all of it borrowed, enough to increase the deficit by a cool trillion over this decade—doesn’t even take into account the proposed costs of Obamacare. That’s yet another couple of trillion a decade if fully implemented. And that doesn’t touch on the ugly and entirely partisan nature of Obamacare: with 60 senate votes, the Democrats decided early on that they were free to completely exclude Republican ideas from the process and shove through anything they wanted.

The sheer cost numbers also don’t capture the corrupt deal making carried out by Obama and his congressional minions: the $300 million Louisiana Purchase of Mary Landrieu’s vote, the Cornhusker Kickback to Ben Nelson, or perhaps most egregiously, last week’s revolting giveaway to the Democrats’ top campaign contributors in Big Labor at the expense of the rest of the citizenry. Dionne never notes this outbreak of “Chicago Way” politics as being a factor in his party’s Tuesday defeat.

As Jonah Goldberg astutely noted, in Dionne’s world, “It couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that liberals did the damage themselves, because liberalism is never wrong.”

Yes, But...

Lein Shory weighs in today, in part regarding the Massachusetts race, but mostly dedicated to this point:

The Big Secret of politics is that there's no secret. The better candidate usually wins--especially in an open seat.

I'm not saying the better guy (or woman) wins. I'm not saying the better Congressman, or senator, or president wins. I'm saying the better candidate wins.

I don't mean to sell Lein's point short here, because candidates do matter (and even if they didn't, his graphic for last year's presidential election cracked me up).

You have to go back quite a ways to find a presidential race when the most appealing personality between the two nominees didn't wind up winning--although I'm not sure where you'd draw that line for 1976. Now there was a Battle of the Schlubs.

But. Events and facts on the ground matter too, and they can matter a great deal. I don't care how good a candidate Scott "No, not that Scott Brown" Brown was or how bad Marcia Martha Coakley was--that wouldn't have happened in Massachusetts unless a whole lot more was going on, particularly including the actions of the party in control of the government over the last year.

The only thought experiment you have to perform if you doubt me is to ask yourself whether Coakley would have won in exactly the same electoral circumstances--meaning, a special election to replace Ted Kennedy--in 2007 or 2009. There's no doubt in my mind that she would have won in those years, and by a lot closer to the 30 points she led by a month ago than the five she lost by yesterday.

I think Lein is right in that massive ideological shifts are very rare in American politics. By my estimation we saw exactly two over the last century: 1932 and 1980. I suspect very strongly that Scott Brown is a senator today mostly because his opponent's party believed heart and soul that they'd added 2008 to that list. In that particular, yesterday and the events leading up to it indicate that they were sorely mistaken.

What He Said, Part II

Mickey Kaus:

Missing in Massachusetts: A good day to remember the late Dean Barnett. ... [via MKH] P.S.: This past year I would gladly have traded the entire national staffs of the New York Times, Washington Post and all four TV networks for any two of Barnett, Deborah Orin, Marjorie Williams and Cathy Seipp.

Hear, hear.

What He Said

I'm not interested in becoming a one-trick pundit, but yesterday's David Brooks column was such a fat, hanging curveball that I had to actively restrain myself from unloading on it.

It wasn't easy. When Brooks, in an apparent effort to defend his long-running Obama man-crush, says things like, "[Obama] is no ideologue" or uses variations on the word "pragmatic" six times in one column to describe The One's administration, it's difficult not to, as P.J. O'Rourke once joked, lower the guns to deck level and load with grapeshot.

Fortunately for me, Rich Lowry was more than willing to man the cannons:

David Brooks tells us, once again, that Obama is no ideologue. Apparently, it's just his cool, thoughtful pragmatism that leads him to agree with Nancy Pelosi on practically every major domestic issue (his "voracious pragmatism"). I don't doubt that Obama's strategy meetings are civil, thoughtful, smart, and altogether impressive. The problem appears to be that there isn't anyone to interrupt during one of the meetings and say, very politely and thoughtfully, "Uh, sir, giving the unions a carveout until 2018 is disgusting. And, um, running a car company is a bad idea. And, er, most of things we're saying about the health care bill are kinda sorta untrue. If you'd forgive me, I'd just also like to mention that we've governed domestically like Pelsoi Democrats for the last year. I know that's just a bizarre conincidence owing to unusual circimstance beyond the control of our highly rational deliberations, but, you know, I just thought I'd put it out there — in the interests of civil and open dialogue, of course."

As We Say In These Parts, "Dang."

Martini Boy:

Obama can’t get concessions from the Russians, the Chinese, or the Europeans. He can’t get welfare or energy tax bills through a Democratic Congress. And now he can’t even get a Democrat elected in Massachusetts.

Jimmy Carter never had that epic a fail.

Let Me Tell You About Scott Brown

I know Scott Brown. I grew up with Scott Brown.

Scott Brown was so hammered at my wedding, he didn't remember a half-hour after the reception that we'd had a band. When I asked him if "Scott Brown for Senate" was for real, he replied, "Why not, Ted's liquor cabinet is probably still in his office."

A few weeks ago, after Scott Brown was endorsed by the Boston Herald, Scott Brown responded to me in in an email with,

I deeply appreciate the Herald’s endorsement and am committed to turning Massachusetts around. As a sign of my commitment I am calling for the immediate abolition of the state tax code and the Red Sox.

Furthermore, the state song will be Boston’s ‘Foreplay’, I-95 will be known as the Dead Kennedys Expressway and Larry Bird can expect to be governor for life. Except he moved away… because this place sucks.

Please join me in this journey to a better Massachusetts.

I've got so much dirt on Scott Brown, I could have landed a multi-million dollar deal out of the MSNBC yahoos if I'd called them before the election.

(Of course, I wouldn't have told them until after I cashed the check that I'm talking about an entirely different person named Scott Brown, but...)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Per the Boston Globe, Martha Coakley has conceded today's Senate race to Scott Brown.

I'll have more to say about Scott Brown tomorrow. Much, much, MUCH more.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Via Jake Tapper, here's Barack Obama yesterday, while stumping for Marcia Martha Coakley in Massachusett(e)s:

There are always folks who think that the best way to solve these problems are to demonize others. And, unfortunately, we're seeing some of that politics in Massachusetts today.

Indeed we are. In the very same speech:

I understood this the minute I was sworn into office -- was that there were going to be some who stood on the sidelines, who were protectors of the big banks, and protectors of the big insurance companies, protectors of the big drug companies...

It's two, two, TWO presidents in one!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Small Blog World

If you follow either college football or Instapundit, chances are you've seen this fascinating clip of the "negotiations" between associate athletic director Bud Ford (as far as I can tell, Ford is what we used to call a Sports Information Director) and the press regarding how ex-Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin's "Screw you guys, I'm goin' home!" statement would be covered by the media:

For reasons I don't pretend to understand--as somebody in the clip notes, Kiffin was no longer an employee of Tennessee, so why exactly the UT athletic department was helping to enforce his wishes at that point is a very open question--Ford was trying to mandate an off-camera statement followed by an on-camera statement.

The reporter on the right of the screen, often mis-identified in blogs and message boards as ESPN's Chris Low, was actually WBIR-Knoxville news director Bill Shory. Bill is also the brother of my old friend and Auburn classmate Lein Shory (yes, that's right, UT fans, Bill is originally from... Alabama. Sorry, Bill, hope that revelation doesn't make your life more difficult).

As you'll see if you watch the whole thing, Bill won the argument, as he should have. Knox (and Kiffin, for that matter) had no business putting restrictions on the media in that situation.

(Cross-posted to From The Bleachers.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

At PJM: Substituting Government Annuities for Your 401(k)?

Here's my latest column for Pajamas Media. A sample:

The left has always hated private retirement accounts. First of all, they’re, you know, private, meaning the government doesn’t control them, and we can’t have that. Worse still, people with individual accounts aren’t beholden to a union for their retirement — although what good that does anybody who worked for a company that’s gone broke, for instance Pan Am, is a question never really answered by old-fashioned pension advocates.

From the perspective of politicians, a private account also means you can’t scare people by saying, “If you don’t vote for me, those evil Republicans will take away your monthly check.” The power to hold that (empty) threat over the heads of seniors is among the most beloved in the Democratic Party’s bag of electoral tricks, and the prospect of a populace with its own retirement money clearly drove many Democratic politicians nuts.

But above and beyond those issues, the governmental class really hates IRAs and 401(k) accounts because in their eyes such accounts take all that glorious tax money away from the U.S. Treasury. Billions upon billions, deferred for decades — or given up completely in the case of Roth accounts — money that they could be spending to buy votes. It’s unconscionable! Who do all those little people think they are?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Back To The Future

Today is the tenth eighth anniversary of Stephen Green's VodkaPundit. Like I suspect most readers, I discovered Steve's blog simply by scanning down Glenn Reynolds' blogroll way back when and thinking of the name 'VodkaPundit,' "Cool, that has to be worth a look." And of course, it was.

As most of you are probably aware, back in 2004 Steve invited me to play Joan Rivers to his Johnny Carson and guest-blog on the site while he went on vacation. Like a houseguest in a bad sitcom, I had such a good time that I stayed around well past my welcome--nearly five years worth--before finally striking out on my own when Steve joined Pajamas Media full-time.

I had a blast during those five years, but since VodkaPundit moved over to the Pajamas empire, I've had trouble at times finding some of the material I'd written as a guest blogger. Making things worse, the PJM blog format doesn't identify the authors of posts. Because Steve and I have such similar styles, it was getting hard for even us to remember who wrote what going back several years.

So today (and the date was a sheer coincidence; I didn't realize it was Steve's blogaversary) with a little help from Steve and design goddess Stacy Tabb, I've migrated out all my posts from my guest-VodkaPundit days to this archive blog. I don't expect much of anybody to go reading there on a regular basis; it really exists for my personal convenience more than anything else, but I figured I might as well pass on the link.

And to Martini Boy: Salud!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Everything That Goes Around...

Byron York, in the Washington Examiner:

Shepard says neither she nor the NPR staffers who approved the cartoon knew that there was anything derogatory about the phrase "tea bagger." Shepard adds that NPR has done much serious and balanced reporting on the tea party movement. Nevertheless, she concludes that there are real problems with the "How to Speak Tea Bag" video. "Chief among them is it doesn't fit with NPR values, one of which is a belief in civility and civil discourse," Shepard writes. "Fiore is talented, but this cartoon is just a mean-spirited attack on people who think differently than he does and doesn't broaden the debate. It engages in the same kind of name-calling the cartoon supposedly mocks."

Shepard sought comment from top NPR executives, who said they would not apologize for Fiore's cartoon, nor would they remove it from the NPR site. "Opinion and satire are going to sting some members of the audience and soothe others," NPR senior vice president for news Ellen Weiss told Shepard. "This one satire is not the only coverage on the topic and while it offends some members of the audience, I see no reason to remove it."

Good. Hopefully the cartoon will still be on NPR's website when the next Congress takes up their budget in 2011.

Incidentally, NPR's Ellen Weiss, who recently ordered Juan Williams to stop mentioning his NPR association when introduced on Fox News, is married to Obama Administration advisor David Saperstein. But I'm sure that's no reflection of Weiss's politics or ideology in any way.

Trying On Pajamas

I'm happy to announce that I've joined Pajamas Media as a columnist. My first column for PJM was posted today. Here's a sample:

[F]or all the frustration and incompetence and outright buffoonery you have to put up with when dealing with a cable or telephone monopoly, or (just for instance) an insurance company, you’re still talking about a private entity, a corporation. And as everybody in the blogging age knows, a corporation can be embarrassed. A corporation can be pressured. A corporation can be held up to public ridicule and shamed into living up to its promises, into making right the things its bureaucracy screws up. At the worst instance, a corporation can be sued.

But what if you’re not dealing with a corporation? What if the person on the other end of that line can’t be fired and couldn’t care less what you might say about their employer on Twitter?

In other words, what if you’re dealing with the government? Ever try to get the Postal Service to pay up on your destroyed but “insured” package? That was a little different from getting Comcast to fix your bill, wasn’t it?

That’s the future we’re all looking at if Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama manage to unload their misbegotten offspring of a “health care” bill onto the public.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Recommended Reading

I'm generally not a fan of Slate's Jack Shafer, but credit where it's due, his piece today on a great big blind spot in the New York Times' "ethics guidelines" is a keeper. A sample:

Every news organization clings to a consensus view about the world, whether that organization considers itself liberal, conservative, centrist, objective, or impartial. Although editors and reporters are usually encouraged to nibble on the skin of the consensus—mostly to appear fair and balanced—it's the rare news organization that allows journalists to sink their fangs into what their colleagues consider a settled issue. Which institutions and which sources to treat as credible, what constitutes a story, and how hard to pursue that story are all governed by a news outlet's consensus thinking. (Most of the hostility directed at the Fox News Channel isn't about content but the network's vehement rejection of the conventional wisdom.)

Journalists generally rise within the profession by doing good work. But flattering the wisdom of the boss, dressing like him, laughing at his jokes, aping his views, and imitating his manners and news judgment will always accelerate the process. Building out from that affinity relationship to embrace the boss's most loyal underlings will probably advance a journalist's career. Those who rumble against the consensus sometimes prevail, but it's not a reliable career strategy. Show me an ambitious, successful person in journalism who doesn't go with the executive flow, and I'll show you an outlier.

Read the whole thing. It's good.

Global Warmening Update

Fess up, Atlantans: did somebody invite Al Gore to town without warning the populace?

Here's what things look like during the current state of Global Warmening, at least from my window:

The roads in our neighborhood are still to icy to navigate as of noon, so we're staying indoors until further notice.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hold The Mayo

Jeff Jacoby today, on Barack Obama's promise to "help the whole country learn from what [the] Mayo [Clinic] is doing":

Last year, the Mayo Clinic lost $840 million on its Medicare patients. At the Glendale clinic, a Mayo spokesman told Bloomberg News, Medicare reimbursements covered only 50 percent of the cost of treating elderly primary-care patients. Not even the leanest, most efficient medical organization can keep doing business with a program that compels it to eat half its costs.

I can add a bit to Jacoby's conclusions. "What Mayo is doing" recently has included slashing the hospital's budget for Alzheimer's research. I had lunch last week with an old friend who teaches at the University of Florida's medical school. Turns out that thanks to Mayo's fiscal cutbacks, UF was able to swoop in and hire virtually every top researcher from the de-funded Mayo program.

That's obviously great for UF (and not too shabby for the Mayo folks who are tired of shoveling snow), but it begs the question: what happens if every research hospital in the country is funded the same way Mayo is? Who's going to be left with the budget to hire researchers when they're all losing untold millions of dollars a year thanks to government-mandated price controls?

Addition By Subtraction

As the already weeks-long wave of Democratic retirements, non-candidacies and even the occasional party-switch continued to roll on, the Dems actually caught a break yesterday when Chris Dodd "decided" not to run for re-election.

In the case of Dodd's Connecticut, the Democrats dramatically improved their odds of holding the seat by convincing old "waitress sandwich Chris" to step aside. Thoroughly tarred by scandal and personal buffoonery, Dodd has been electoral toast for over a year now; with Dodd out of the way, his party now has a much better shot at winning in a deep-blue state, even in a big Republican year.

Now, if the DNC can just convince Blanche Lincoln, Arlen Specter, Michael Bennet and Harry Reid to step down, they might even be looking at a solid season...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I don't normally have major disagreements with the Blogfaddah (and far be it from me to look an Instalanche in the mouth), but I have to take issue with Glenn's update to this post.

When I posted a link this morning, I didn’t see it as being as objectionable as these responses suggest, and on rereading I still don’t. Yes, there’s the air of Brooksian condescension toward the great unwashed, but that’s practically required for the NYT columnist gig, and remember, he’s trying to explain this stuff to the Upper West Side crowd. And I’m not so sure he’s using “educated class” in a positive way... And reader David Marcus writes: “When Brooks refers to the educated class, which your other commentators equated with Ivy League, I think he really is referring to the New Class as set out by Herman Kahn in the late 1970’s.”

I don't think so, Glenn. Brooks is a lot of things, but careless with words is not one of them. Brooks certainly knows both the etymology and meaning of "the New Class," and if that's what he'd meant, he'd have used it. I think the phrase "educated class" was chosen quite deliberately.

Have a look back at Brooks' last column, in which Brooks scolds at some length the "uneducated class" (my words, not his in this case) for "contemptuous and hysterical" criticism of the Administration's ham-handed response to the Pantybomber. Brooks goes on to label the nation at large as, "a country that must be spoken to in childish ways."

It'd also be different if Brooks didn't have a very long history for this kind of thing... but he does. Compare this inaugural paean to the wonders of the Obama Ivy League Mafia to his long-running trope of "Patio Man,", complete with sneers at the "guy who wears khakis to work each day, with the security badge on the belt clip."

I have to say though, the whole thing would have been more insulting if Brooks' standards for intellect and leadership weren't so amusingly superficial: perfectly creased pants and agreeing with David Brooks about Niebuhr--or at least responding "correctly" when asked about him. That's Brooks' definition of the "educated class," and the rubes in khakis need not apply.

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg has a typically-sharp take on the Brooks column at The Corner.

UPDATE UPDATE: Eric S. Raymond has an excellent follow-up of his own.

More Arugula From David Brooks

Today's column by the NY Times' David Brooks is getting a good deal of blogospheric attention. Brooks puts on his familiar "Americans In The Mist" safari hat to once again analyze those strange beings from beyond Manhattan (and the Beltway), and reaches the following conclusion:

The public is not only shifting from left to right. Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.

Brooks goes on to enumerate several liberal positions, all of which Brooks (an alleged conservative) strongly implies his own "educated" agreement with, including man-made global warming, gun control and "multilateral" (presumably meaning UN-approved) international action. After several graphs disparaging the burgeoning Tea Party movement as "amateurish" and "crude," Brooks notes,

The Obama administration is premised on the conviction that pragmatic federal leaders with professional expertise should have the power to implement programs to solve the country’s problems. Many Americans do not have faith in that sort of centralized expertise or in the political class generally.

There's a subtle shift here; having pushed the concept of an intellectually superior "educated class" for most of the column, Brooks switches to "political class," perhaps in an effort to distance himself (and we can have no doubt that Brooks considers himself and his beloved Obama the epitomes of the "educated class") from the foibles of those grubby politicians. This hedge aside, there are a few points worth making about Brooks' armchair sociology.

First, David, until you can explain--without consulting Google--say, Bernoulli's theorem and how it relates to flight, don't bother passing yourself and your like-minded NYDC pals off as the country's sole "educated class." Out here in the hinterlands, we're well aware that you and your Ivy League buddies believe that you are the only actual educated people on the planet, but you ought to have learned somewhere along the way that belief in an idea does not turn that idea into reality. Asserting as much, to borrow a line from the late John Hughes, just makes you look like an ass.

What Brooks, with his touching faith in "pragmatic federal leaders with professional expertise" doesn't want to talk about, of course, is just how badly the Ivy League class has failed over the past couple of decades. All those rows of degrees from Harvard didn't keep a pack of Brooksian elites--mostly members of the Democratic Party--from running Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac straight into the toilet, and taking the private economy with them. Hiring out of the Ivies also didn't save Lehman Brothers or AIG from doing remarkably stupid things with other people's money. And as for "professional expertise…" just what profession does the Obama cabinet posses expertise in, other than hardball politics?

This president and his government are not only largely inexperienced when it comes to the private sector or even practical knowledge of middle America, they tend to view both in outright contempt. Recall Obama's famous "bitter clingers" speech and autobiographical aversion to "the suburbs," or his wife's admonitions against "joining corporate America." One with an overweening faith in "pragmatic federal leaders" probably hasn't been paying much attention to Ivy-accredited politicians like alleged geniuses (and TARP/Fannie Mae culprits) Barney Frank or Chris Dodd.

Brooks does actually stumble into a correct point by associating the current Washington crew with the word "pragmatic," but he fails utterly to note the intended end of that pragmatism: extending their own power. Like their spiritual forefathers in the New Deal, the Obami quickly abandoned most of their ideological goals (although not the demagogic language of that ideology) when reality failed to comply with theory. In their place came the much more politically pragmatic mantra of "tax and tax, spend and spend, and elect and elect." That's what Obama's trillions in "Monopoly money"--other people's Monopoly money, of course--are all about.

That's what the "stimulus," serving mostly to funnel federal pork to favored politicians and government employee unions, was all about. That's what nationalization of GM and Chrysler to the benefit of the UAW was all about. That's what nationalizing the banks to extend Federal power over their operations was all about. The current "health care" bills are only peripherally about patients and doctors; their real purpose is to put as many voters as possible under Federal medical Welfare. After all, almost everybody on Welfare votes Democratic, and that's what Brooks' "educated class" wants to see more than anything else.

Brooks continues his extended sneer for the rest of the column, finishing by noting, "I'm not a fan of this movement." Worry not, David, out here in flyover country, we're not too wild about you, either. As Megan McArdle very aptly put it a little over a year ago, regarding Tea Party matriarch (and Brooks' ultimate bĂȘte noire), Sarah Palin,

[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.

To which I would only add, "And because you've proven so many times that you're no damn good at it."

Monday, January 4, 2010

Recommended Reading

Way back in 2002, an Israeli security expert was quoted as saying that while Israel has a system for finding terrorists, the Americans had a system for bothering people. Things haven't changed much since then. From the Toronto Star, this outstanding piece about the differences between airport security techniques in the U.S./Canada and Israel:

"Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don't take s--- from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for – not for hours – but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, `We're not going to do this. You're going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport.'"

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel's largest hub, Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

Read the whole thing--especially if your name is Janet Napolitano.