Sunday, February 28, 2010

Life Imitates Dilbert

Via the Blogfaddah, further proof that "Dilbert" is actually a documentary:

“On February 23, ABC TV Channel 7, WTRF News (Wheeling, West Virginia/ Steubenville, Ohio), posted on its website what was originally credited as a story ‘written by’ reporter Bob Westfall. Unfortunately, though, this posting was nothing but a word-for-word re-posting of Democrat Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown’s latest press release. There was little to no difference between Brown’s press release and the ’story’ as posted on the ABC 7 news site.”

From February of 2007 (click through to see the punchline):

Although to be fair, I seriously doubt that Sherrod Brown had to buy Bob Westfall any drinks. Much more likely the hack was happy to run with the xeroxed press release gratis.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Comandante Is Not Amused

Courtesy of Martini Boy, this is the visage of The Savior while Congressman Paul Ryan was kicking his Annointed rear end:

Incidentally, whatever PJM is paying Steve for liveblogging this carnival of windbaggery, he should have demanded triple. The thirty seconds I watched during my lunch break made me want to emigrate to somewhere with more sane leadership... like maybe Zimbabwe.

What She Said

Mary McNamara of the LA Times, on one of the major reasons why NBC has rendered the Olympics unwatchable:

If the Olympics are a celebration of athletic excellence, of the human spirit triumphing over the limitations of the human body, why do we insist, like a bunch of preschoolers, on talking all the way through them?

It seems unfair to criticize sports commentators for doing what they've been hired to do, and certainly the irritation caused by a voice buzzing in your ear while you're trying to watch people do extraordinary things is not limited to the Olympics. However, in watching the events in Vancouver on television, I find it hard not to befriend the mute button. For all its touting of the glory of the Games, NBC doesn't seem to think people will watch unless an array of former athletes and TV personalities talks us through it.

Though the Olympics commentary was an alarmingly clinical recitation of past injuries that seemed at times to have replaced the Tragic Personal Back Story as the hushed-voice intro, the women's figure skating short program on Wednesday put an end to that. With the tragic death of Canadian Joannie Rochette's mother on Sunday, there was no denying the pathos of her extraordinary performance. But did we really have to learn, mere moments before each woman began to skate, about the death of Australia's Cheltzie Lee's friend three years ago or that Mirai Nagasu's mother is battling thyroid cancer.


As anyone who's ever watched a televised football game knows, most sports commentary is 95% blather and 5% insight, and the same is certainly true of the Olympics. Most of us don't understand the nuances of curling or what the judges are looking for in a skater or snowboarder, and it's nice to feel instantly informed.

But too often, the commentators are so busy talking, offering their own Olympic memories or the mini-Wikipedia entries of information provided them, that it seems like they are bored with what is actually happening. Which cannot be what the producers had in mind.

Even with the more restrained commentary, an air of participation inevitably creeps in -- the commentator's admiration and enthusiasm or, occasionally, anger and bewilderment become part of the experience, which then becomes more about entertainment than athleticism.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

King Roy at Bay

I ran across this interesting tidbit at Politics Daily this morning:

Three of the four Republicans seeking the GOP's nod for Governor have moved ahead of the Democrat likely to get his party's nomination, former Gov. Roy Barnes, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll conducted Feb. 17.

Barnes was in statistical ties with the three in Rasmussen's January poll.

State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine leads Barnes, who served one term as governor between 1999 and 2003 before being defeated for re-election, 45 percent to 37 percent with 7 percent preferring another candidate and 10 percent undecided. The margin of error is 4.5 points.

A little more background is in order here. Roy Barnes, universally nicknamed "King Roy" for his imperious manner, won the Georgia governorship handily in 1998. In those days, Georgia was still a one-party state below the federal level, and Barnes also enjoyed comfortable majorities in the Legislature.

All that ended in the 2002 election, when Republicans won legislative majorities for the first time since Reconstruction, and Barnes was upset by party-switcher Sonny Perdue. Barnes spent the next four years chasing ambulances, sniping at Perdue and blaming his defeat on (wait for it) RACISTS who'd objected to his changing the state flag. This argument was delightfully rebuked when Perdue--who also changed the flag, in his case away from Barnes' butt-ugly version, but not back to the old "Smokey and the Bandit" Confederate emblem--went on to be re-elected by a landslide in the big Democratic year of 2006.

With Perdue now term-limited, the Georgia political punditocracy (almost all of it based in Atlanta) decided a year or two ago that 2010 presented an ideal opportunity for the re-coronation of King Roy. Given Barnes' prior experience and ready access to deep pockets, and taking into account a lackluster Republican bench, the solons of state politics were handing Barnes back his crown and scepter as early as last November.

Per the poll numbers above, those predictions aren't looking so good today. Besides the matter of his own famously-nasty personality, Barnes is once again faced with having to run on the same ticket as a national Democratic Party that's about as popular as Urban Meyer in most of Georgia.

If he's polling in the thirties against a weak field right now, I think I'm pretty safe in guessing that King Roy is going to get marched right back to his mansion in Marietta, instead of moving back into the somewhat shabbier one on West Paces Ferry.

Monday, February 22, 2010

At PJM: The Glory of Gridlock

As promised, here's my latest column for Pajamas Media. A preview:

The most significant recent spell of divided government fell during the latter half of the 1990s, when Democrat Bill Clinton faced off against a brand-new majority Republican Congress, the first such pairing since the late 1940s. We look back today on the Clinton/Gingrich period as a rare moment of fiscal sanity thanks to the budget surpluses that ran from 1997-2001, but the reality of those years lay much less in clever economics than in plain, old-fashioned personal enmity.

Each side has a preferred version of history here. The Democratic narrative asserts that a “pragmatic” Clinton administration manned by uber-technocrats like Robert Rubin and Larry Summers “ran the economy” to such an efficient level that booming tax receipts and wise budgeting led to a surplus. The Republican narrative just as strongly declares that a noble GOP congress reigned in Clinton’s tax increases and would-be Great Society Junior expansion of government spending, leading to a period of general prosperity.

Both narratives contain germs of truth. After the electoral upheaval of 1994, Clinton (who, unlike Barack Obama, had experienced losing an election himself) had the good political sense to trim his sails, giving more authority to the relatively business-friendly Rubin camp and much less to the Hillary/Robert Reich left faction. But not even Clinton’s Goldman Sachs Masters of the Universe could have predicted, managed, or controlled the tech boom and ensuing productivity explosion that accompanied it.

It’s notable that the economy remained relatively anemic from 1992-1995 (the “worst economy since the Great Depression” of Clinton’s campaign rhetoric actually recovered in early 1992), only hitting its stride about 1996. Some of the credit for that has to go to the new “obstructionist” Congress — although the record here is also not entirely cut-and-dried. While it’s certainly true that the Gingrich Congress brought much-needed stability by standing firmly in the way of further liberal legislation like the massive 1993 tax increase or HillaryCare, spending in the following Bush/Hastert years tends to indicate that once in power, Republicans were considerably less fond of limited government than they were in maintaining that power through spending.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Busy Busy Busy

Sorry for the near-total radio silence lately. I was on business travel all last week, and I've been swamped all this week. I do have a new PJM column in the hopper which should appear in the next few days; I'll link here once they post it.

In the meantime, for your f-bomb-laden reading pleasure, here's some high-test rant from Lein Shory. It involves chickens.

Monday, February 15, 2010


With apologies to James Taranto:

'10 looking grim, so
To Harry and Kos, "Screw you
"guys--I'm going home."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Global Warmening Update

Just outside the Atlanta airport, February 12, 2010:

My front yard, February 13, 2010:

... and a close-up. (Ed, if you're reading this, yes, that is the Ruler of the World):

Friday, February 5, 2010

Condescension Dissected

A terrific WaPo column today by Gerard Alexander, titled "Why Are Liberals So Condescending?" Here's a brief sample, but you should definitely read the whole thing:

It's an odd time for liberals to feel smug. But even with Democratic fortunes on the wane, leading liberals insist that they have almost nothing to learn from conservatives. Many Democrats describe their troubles simply as a PR challenge, a combination of conservative misinformation -- as when Obama charges that critics of health-care reform are peddling fake fears of a "Bolshevik plot" -- and the country's failure to grasp great liberal accomplishments. "We were so busy just getting stuff done . . . that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are," the president told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in a recent interview. The benighted public is either uncomprehending or deliberately misinformed (by conservatives).

This condescension is part of a liberal tradition that for generations has impoverished American debates over the economy, society and the functions of government -- and threatens to do so again today, when dialogue would be more valuable than ever.

Liberals have dismissed conservative thinking for decades, a tendency encapsulated by Lionel Trilling's 1950 remark that conservatives do not "express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas." During the 1950s and '60s, liberals trivialized the nascent conservative movement. Prominent studies and journalistic accounts of right-wing politics at the time stressed paranoia, intolerance and insecurity, rendering conservative thought more a psychiatric disorder than a rival. In 1962, Richard Hofstadter referred to "the Manichaean style of thought, the apocalyptic tendencies, the love of mystification, the intolerance of compromise that are observable in the right-wing mind."

Regular WaPo columnist Charles Krauthammer also weighs in on the subject:

This being a democracy, don’t the Democrats see that clinging to this agenda will march them over a cliff? Don’t they understand Massachusetts?

Well, they understand it through a prism of two cherished axioms: (1) The people are stupid, and (2) Republicans are bad. Result? The dim, led by the malicious, vote incorrectly.

Both columns reminded me strongly of this 2007-vintage classic post from Ace of Spades (proving once again that the Blogosphere is, as usual, years ahead of the print commentariat). Again, if you haven't already, read the whole thing:

I don't believe conservatives or liberals are more intelligent, generally, than the other.

But I do believe liberals believe zealously, rabidly that they're more intelligent.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Vision Thing

Check this out:

Individuals can now do things that only large groups of people with lots of money could do before. What that means is, we have much more opportunity for people to get to the marketplace — not just the marketplace of commerce but the marketplace of ideas. The marketplace of publications, the marketplace of public policy. You name it. We've given individuals and small groups equally powerful tools to what the largest, most heavily funded organizations in the world have. And that trend is going to continue. You can buy for under $10,000 today a computer that is just as powerful, basically, as one anyone in the world can get their hands on.

The second thing that we've done is the communications side of it. By creating this electronic web, we have flattened out again the difference between the lone voice and the very large organized voice. We have allowed people who are not part of an organization to communicate and pool their interests and thoughts and energies together and start to act as if they were a virtual organization.

So I think this technology has been extremely rewarding. And I don't think it's anywhere near over.

Nothing Earth-shattering there, right? Same familiar "Army Of Davids" stuff that we've all been seeing (if not saying ourselves) for nearly a decade now.

Except that quote, from a Rolling Stone interview, was uttered not five or even ten years ago, but rather all the way back in 1994.

The speaker? Steve Jobs.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Regarding E-books

Steve Green has a widely-discussed post up today regarding the burgeoning Amazon/Apple e-book fight.

As the author of an out-of-print book (along with a certain mistaken-for-a-new-US Senator co-author), my $0.02 is, I'd be overjoyed to revive the thing for Kindle/iPad/whatever. My old book still sells on Amazon via the used book store, but I don't see a dime out of those sales (nor should I, per First Sale doctrine). It's not worth a publisher's money to put it back in print--even if the publisher still existed, which it does not--but the rights have long since reverted back, and I'm definitely interested in republishing it as an e-book.

The 70% royalty rate from Amazon, even for a few bucks a copy, beats the living hell out of "nothing." Come to think of it, it'd almost certainly add up to more per copy than we earned out of our original book contract.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Recommended Reading

Dependably liberal WaPo columnist Richard Cohen just unloads on The Messiah today. A sample:

It is amazing that no one thought this through. Published reports say that the Justice Department informed Mayor Michael Bloomberg of its plan just about the time it was announced. This alacrity was clearly the product of some excitement down at Justice -- yet another chance to show the world that George W. Bush was gone and with him the odious attempts to treat terrorists as if they were, well, terrorists. A civilian trial! Right in the heart of Manhattan! Obama ought to ask his friend Attorney General Eric Holder what in the world he was thinking -- just as we might ask Obama why he has such faith in Holder's judgment.

In a similar example of poor judgment, an undoubtedly delighted Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was told he had something called Miranda rights and could, if he so chose, cease talking about allegedly attempting to blow up a jetliner as it approached Detroit on Christmas Day. Abdulmutallab was Mirandized after just 50 minutes of interrogation and he, having probably seen more than his share of "Law & Order" episodes, promptly shut up.


The announced closing of Guantanamo has also suffered from a peculiar Obama-style naivete. It is now apparent that there are some bad people there who should be detained way past the time they are eligible for AARP membership. It's true that the world does not like Guantanamo, but then it's also true that the world is not an al-Qaeda target.

Read the whole thing.

There's Treasure Everywhere

Fifteen years after the end of Calvin And Hobbes (and if that doesn't make you feel old, it should), creater Bill Waterston breaks his seclusion for an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

If you were a fan, you've already clicked through. If not, do yourself a favor and pick up one of the C&H collections--today.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sayonara, Madame

Remember the House Bank?

The House Bank was literally that, a bank set up for the sole use of members of the House Of Representatives. It was a cozy little place, where all the tellers knew your name--if that name began with "Congressman," that is. In fact it was so cozy, the bank wouldn't even bother you if you happened to bounce a check every once in a while... or even if you bounced several hundred of them, as was the case for a number of mostly-Democratic then-members.

Revelations of abusive check-writing at the House Bank were a major factor in the 1994 wipeout of the four-decade congressional Democrat majority. As many observers noted at the time, congressional abuses tended to be convoluted and obscure from the perspective of average voters--but everybody could understand writing bad checks, and not much of anybody could defend the practice of a government-owned bank letting Congresscritters abuse their privileges.

And speaking (pun intended) of abuse of privileges, here's another scandal that absolutely everybody can easily understand:

Since Nancy Pelosi took over as Speaker in 2006, she's rung up millions in military travel expenses to commute between San Francisco and Washington.

Worse still, she also appears to have requisitioned entire flights for the personal use of her children and grandchildren. That is, unaccompanied by any member of Congress, her kids, in-laws and grandchildren are utilizing entire military passenger jets for their routine travel needs.

Check out Doug Ross's full post here, complete with damning documentation. He's got the goods on Madame, and then some. If Pelosi were a Republican and Doug worked for a print newspaper, he could go ahead and make space on his wall for a Pulitzer.

This is a blockbuster story--or at least it deserves to be. It's also a big test for the national media. If they ignore it or try to cover for Madame, that'll be the very end of any residual credibility for the American major media, and an admission that they've devolved into nothing more than mouthpieces for the Democratic Party.

Personally, I expect them to cover for her. But we'll see.

UPDATE: Leftie* blog BLRag quotes DOD directive 4515.12R, notably this section:

C10.5.2.2. Dependents of members of the Congress and employees of the Congress, to permit them to accompany their principal in the 50 United States when essential to the proper accomplishment of the mission, desirable because of diplomatic or public relations, or necessary for the health of the individuals concerned. When reimbursement is appropriate, it shall be at the same rate as applicable to the principal.

... and contends,

That seems pretty clear to me; if it's good PR/diplomacy to have the Congresscritter's family with them, they can fly military air.

Well, if we were talking about Pelosi's husband, I suppose I'd agree.

But we aren't. Besides husband Paul, Pelosi, age 69, has no other legal dependents. Her five children are all well over 21, and grandchildren are not considered dependents of their grandparents except in rare cases (e.g., if they've been orphaned). Claiming adult children or grandchildren as "dependents" on your tax return will get you a nice visit from an auditor, at the very least, and doing so to sneak a relative on a military flight would get a senior (or junior) officer court-martialed. Makes it kind of funny that BLRag closes its post by sneering, "Do some fact-checking, guys."

While Doug Ross has issued a correction to his original post, noting that Pelosi herself was probably present on flights including these family members, Madame is still very clearly abusing her office by having the U.S. Air Force act as the Pelosi family airline. There are legitimate security reasons for the Speaker of the House, her immediate family, and some staff to fly military, but there's no good reason to speak of for the Air Force to be ferrying around every Californian with the name "Pelosi" somewhere in their pedigrees.

A footnote: This is hardly the first time Madame has treated military airlift as her own personal taxi service. When Pelosi visited Iraq a few years ago, she commandeered two Blackhawk helicopters for her "tour." One UH-60 was for Madame and her entourage; the other was to carry all the crap Pelosi bought for herself in the souk.

*On further review, I'm not sure what the heck BLRag's politics are. This is the first time I've ever read there, so the "Leftie" descriptor is stricken until further notice.