Thursday, April 29, 2010

An (Additional) Inconvenient House

The dirty little secret of the Left: the top apparatchicks always get their dachas:

Former Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, have added a Montecito-area property to their real estate holdings, reports the Montecito Journal.

The couple spent $8,875,000 on an ocean-view villa on 1.5 acres with a swimming pool, spa and fountains, a real estate source familiar with the deal confirms. The Italian-style house has six fireplaces, five bedrooms and nine bathrooms.

Six fireplaces. Impressive.

As the Blogfaddah says, I don’t want to hear any lecturing about my carbon footprint from these people.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Free Fallin' at the AJC

Ouch. Daily circulation of the embattled Atlanta Journal-Constitution is now under 200,000, meaning the AJC has considerably fewer readers than, for instance, the Detroit Free Press.

Think about that for a second. Metro Atlanta's population is approximately 5,000,000 and growing. Metro Detroit's is around 800,000 and shrinking.

There was a time--and it was not very long ago--when the AJC really did "cover Dixie like the dew," to borrow the paper's since-discarded motto. The paper was available daily at racks as far away as Enterprise, Alabama, roughly 250 miles to the southeast. Today, it's hard to find an AJC anywhere outside the Atlanta metro.

There are a lot of reasons for the AJC's precipitous decline. Obviously, lots people quit buying the physical paper when they could get the same thing on the web for free--but the AJC's website is abysmally bad, and doesn't even rank in listings of the most successful newspaper sites. All those former readers didn't just go online, they've left the paper entirely.

The reality is that the AJC thought its status as a big-city monopoly daily would last forever. The paper's editorial page and slanted "news" apparatus spent decades spitting in the faces of the vast majority of their potential customers, and now that they have unlimited news options, few if any of those customers see any reason to go back today. The paper has shrunk to a boring and poorly-written digest of old news, and the AJC's left-wing slant continues unabated (the lead editorial writer actually moved to D.C. last year to better fulfill her role as a full-on Obama Administration apologist). After several waves of buyouts, even the sports section, once easily the best in the region, is lousy.

According to a 16-month-old report, the AJC was at one point losing $1 million a week for its parent, Cox Communications. Cox is a private, family-owned corporation, whose matriarch, Anne Cox Chambers, has long considered the paper to be the 'crown jewel' of her daddy's old company.

Chambers is currently 90 years old. One suspects that the faltering AJC will not long survive its benefactor after she moves on to her reward.

I Got The News

As much as the New York Times gets justifiably beaten up for its bias, misinformation and general nonsense, when they're right, they're right, and this is one of those rare moments.

Check out this story regarding the military's (and by extension, the entire government and its contractors') over-reliance on the satanic force known as PowerPoint. If you haven't lived in that world, trust me, you have no idea just how much of a problem this really is:

Last year when a military Web site, Company Command, asked an Army platoon leader in Iraq, Lt. Sam Nuxoll, how he spent most of his time, he responded, “Making PowerPoint slides.” When pressed, he said he was serious.

“I have to make a storyboard complete with digital pictures, diagrams and text summaries on just about anything that happens,” Lieutenant Nuxoll told the Web site. “Conduct a key leader engagement? Make a storyboard. Award a microgrant? Make a storyboard.”

Despite such tales, “death by PowerPoint,” the phrase used to described the numbing sensation that accompanies a 30-slide briefing, seems here to stay. The program, which first went on sale in 1987 and was acquired by Microsoft soon afterward, is deeply embedded in a military culture that has come to rely on PowerPoint’s hierarchical ordering of a confused world.

“There’s a lot of PowerPoint backlash, but I don’t see it going away anytime soon,” said Capt. Crispin Burke, an Army operations officer at Fort Drum, N.Y., who under the name Starbuck wrote an essay about PowerPoint on the Web site Small Wars Journal that cited Lieutenant Nuxoll’s comment.

In a daytime telephone conversation, he estimated that he spent an hour each day making PowerPoint slides. In an initial e-mail message responding to the request for an interview, he wrote, “I would be free tonight, but unfortunately, I work kind of late (sadly enough, making PPT slides).”

At PJM: Is A Horrific, Politically Motivated Beating Newsworthy?

Here's a link to my latest column for Pajamas Media. As the disclaimer at PJM notes, it's a satirical piece about a very un-funny event:

(AP) BOSTON – Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s chief campaign fundraiser is recovering from injuries she suffered in a Friday night altercation with a group of people in Boston’s Back Bay, the governor’s office said Monday.

Bautsch Allee suffered a broken leg and her boyfriend suffered a concussion and a fractured nose and jaw in the incident, which happened after a fundraising event at Bouchee restaurant on behalf of the Massachusetts Democratic Party on Friday evening.

Patrick was at the fundraising event at the restaurant, but was not present when the incident occurred.

Pyle Klotkin, a Patrick spokesman, said Allee had surgery during the weekend and is facing a recovery time of two to three months.

The Democratic fundraiser coincided with a rally for the so-called “tea party” movement in the Boston Commons. The rally was led by former Alaska Governor and unsuccessful vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

According to police and governor’s office sources, Allee and her boyfriend were accosted by individuals who may have been among a group of conservative activists protesting outside Bouchee during the fundraiser. Sources described the assailants as “middle-class white people” wearing “chinos and polo shirts.”

Friday, April 23, 2010

New at PJM: Is A Bailout Backlash Building?

I have a new column for Pajamas Media up today. Here's the opening:

The great underappreciated issue of this year’s election is the ongoing expectation of irresponsible people that they ought to be bailed out of their own mistakes by the responsible. It’s a bedrock concern that cuts clear across party and ideological lines.

Recommended Reading

Jonah Goldberg has a substantial think-piece (I always picture Foghorn Leghorn talking about "them long-haired books" when I read that phrase) at Commentary regarding the Obama Administration and socialism. I expect it'll get a lot of attention; I have somewhat lower expectations as to whether Jonah's critics will actually read any of it. Here's a sample:

Now, when conservatives dare to suggest, tentatively or otherwise, that Obama or his party might be in the thrall of some variant of socialism, they are derided for it. In the wake of health care’s passage, for example, a Salon article mocked conservatives for thinking that Americans now live under “the Bolshevik heel.” When the RNC was debating its resolution in 2008, Robert Schlesinger, the opinion editor of U.S. News & World Report, responded: “What’s really both funny and scary about all of this is how seriously the fringe-nuts in the GOP take it.”

Similarly, in a May 2009 interview, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham mocked the president’s critics for considering Obama to be a “crypto-socialist.” By these lights, socialism is a very sophisticated, highly technical, and historically precise phenomenon that has nothing to do with the politics or ideas of the present moment, and conservatives who invoke the term to describe Obama’s policies and ideas are at best wildly imprecise and at worst purposefully rabble-rousing. And yet when liberals themselves discuss socialism and its relation to Obama, the definition of the term “socialist” seems to loosen up considerably. Only four months before Meacham’s mockery of conservatives, he co-authored a cover story for his magazine titled “We’re All Socialists Now,” in which he and Newsweek’s Evan Thomas (grandson of the six-time Socialist-party presidential candidate Norman Thomas) argued that the growth of government was making us like a “European,” i.e. socialist, country. At the same time, a host of Left-liberal writers, most prominently E.J. Dionne and Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post, were floating the idea that the new president was ushering in a new age of “social democracy.” The left-wing activist-blogger Matthew Yglesias, echoing the Obama White House view that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, said the Wall Street meltdown offered a “real opportunity” for “massive socialism.”

In an April 2009 essay published in Foreign Policy, John Judis modestly called “prescient” a prediction he himself had made in the mid-1990s: “Once the sordid memory of Soviet communism is laid to rest and the fervor of anti-government hysteria abates,” he had written in a symposium in the American Enterprise, “politicians and intellectuals of the next century will once again draw openly upon the legacy of socialism.” In his Foreign Policy piece, Judis claimed vindication in the age of Obama: “Socialism, once banished from polite conversation, has made a startling comeback.” For Judis, today’s resurgent socialism isn’t the totalitarian variant we associate with the Soviet Union or Cuba but rather that of the “Scandinavian countries, as well as Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, whose economies were shaped by socialist agitation.” This is “another kind of socialism—call it ‘liberal socialism,’” Judis explains, and it “has a lot to offer.”


Surely if fans of President Obama’s program feel free to call it socialist, critics may be permitted to do likewise.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"A Librarian With A Master's Degree"

From the AP:

Christie, a first-year Republican governor who inherited a state in dire financial straits, wants voters to reject the proposals in districts where educators won't agreed to salary freezes for next school year.

The acrimony intensified last month, when Christie proposed cutting aid to districts by 11 percent.

That's when the Facebook attacks really took off.

One educator, a librarian with a master's degree, described the cuts as "rediculous."

What He Said

Richard Fernandez:

[P]oliticians can’t see it. For perfectly natural reasons they fall into the habit of thinking everyone is a supplicant. It’s an understandable outcome of living in a world where someone is constantly asking them for something: photo opportunities, access to news releases, seats on Air Force One or Internet access. Nothing throws them for a loop more than something that doesn’t want anything they can bestow. The Tea Partiers already know the establishment is bankrupt. They don’t want to be the next Botox Queen, the next guest on Oprah or the man with Internet access on Air Force One; they only want their freedom and a chance to meet the crisis with common sense, if that’s not asking too much. It’s a novel idea which will take a little time for politicians to understand. But give them time and eventually someone will take credit for it.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Capitulation at LSU

From USA Today:

Dominique G. Homberger won't apologize for setting high expectations for her students. The biology professor at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge gives brief quizzes at the beginning of every class, to assure attendance and to make sure students are doing the reading. On her tests, she doesn't use a curve, as she believes that students must achieve mastery of the subject matter, not just achieve more mastery than the worst students in the course. For multiple choice questions, she gives 10 possible answers, not the expected 4, as she doesn't want students to get very far with guessing.

Students in introductory biology don't need to worry about meeting her standards anymore. LSU removed her from teaching, mid-semester, and raised the grades of students in the class.
Kevin Carman, dean of the College of Basic Sciences, did not respond to requests for a phone interview Wednesday. But he issued a statement through the university's public relations office that said: "LSU takes academic freedom very seriously, but it takes the needs of its students seriously as well. There was an issue with this particular class that we felt needed to be addressed.

"The class in question is an entry-level biology class for non-science majors, and, at mid-term, more than 90% of the students in Dr. Homberger's class were failing or had dropped the class. The extreme nature of the grading raised a concern, and we felt it was important to take some action to ensure that our students receive a rigorous, but fair, education. Professor Homberger is not being penalized in any way; her salary has not been decreased nor has any aspect of her appointment been changed."

In an interview, Homberger said that there were numerous flaws with Carman's statement. She said that it was true that most students failed the first of four exams in the course. But she also said that she told the students that — despite her tough grading policies — she believes in giving credit to those who improve over the course of the semester.

At the point that she was removed, she said, some students in the course might not have been able to do much better than a D, but every student could have earned a passing grade. Further, she said that her tough policy was already having an impact, and that the grades on her second test were much higher (she was removed from teaching right after she gave that exam), and that quiz scores were up sharply. Students got the message from her first test, and were working harder, she said.

"I believe in these students. They are capable," she said. And given that LSU boasts of being the state flagship, she said, she should hold students to high standards. Many of these students are in their first year, and are taking their first college-level science course, so there is an adjustment for them to make, Homberger said. But that doesn't mean professors should lower standards.

Homberger said she was told that some students had complained about her grades on the first test. "We are listening to the students who make excuses, and this is unfair to the other students," she said. "I think it's unfair to the students" to send a message that the way to deal with a difficult learning situation is "to complain" rather than to study harder.

When I first read this story, my initial thought was that there must have been a lot of LSU football players in Homberger's class, but now that I've had more of a chance to think about it, I suspect the reality is much more prosaic--and much more depressing.

Call me an old fart, but times have really changed. I had my share of jackass profs who thought they were too good to be teaching undergrads, but when I did get bad grades, my folks sure as hell didn't direct their ire towards the professor or the deans. I think I'm very safe in saying that the guy in the engineering dean's office who dealt with undergraduates would have laughed us out of his office if we'd ever gone to complain about a class being too hard. That guy (I've forgotten his name; the dean proper was the late William Walker) was never shy about telling you you should consider changing to another major if you couldn't cut it.

I was certainly unprepared for college-level math and science when I got to Auburn. I rarely had to study in high school, and it took the shock of my sophomore year before I figured out that I couldn't just slide by on instinct any more. That more than anything else was the most valuable thing I learned in college.

From reading the full story, it looks to me like the kids at LSU had a similar attitude going in, but more importantly they were on their way to learning they had to change to the "John Houseman way" for their own good. Unfortunately, griping to the dean apparently carries a lot more weight today than it did 20 years ago. That's a shame. Those kids would be a lot better off if they'd persevered. Now all they've learned is the value of whining.

For further reading, have a look at Stuart Rojstaczer's fascinating site.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Waxman Subpoenas Emily Litella

From the Washington Examiner:

A House Energy and Commerce Committee spokeswoman tells me that Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has indeed cancelled the April 21 subcommittee hearing in which CEOs were to testify about Obamacare. So far, the only indication of this change appears on the committee's website is on the Republican minority ranking member's site. In fact, the hearing still appears on Waxman's committee calendar for that day.

Waxman had called the hearing in reaction to public statements by several companies -- including Verizon, AT&T, and John Deere, among others -- that Obamacare would cost them hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars because it laid a new tax on their retiree health benefit payments.

Ever since the passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit, the payments had been subsidized, tax-free, as a way of preventing these companies from dropping enrolees onto the Medicare rolls. When Obamacare changed the tax rules, it was quite clear that this would result in huge losses, but President Obama and Democrats had failed to heed warnings to this effect in the run up to Obamacare's passage last month.

The CEOs, required by law to be honest about earnings projections, re-stated their bottom lines in reaction to Obamacare's passage, earning the ire of Waxman and other Democrats. Hearings on this matter would likely have proved an embarrassment to them, and helped drag out discussion of Obamacare's unexpected ill effects.


The CEOs should show up anyway, and hold a press conference illustrating all the additional costs and related impacts to their bottom lines and prospects for hiring new employees.


Here's something cool.

Dash Rip Rock, aka the Greatest Bar Band In The World, recently fired up a page at to solicit investors for their next studio album. They sweetened the deal by including swag for prospective investors, from a concert ticket ($10) to a copy of the new album, when finished ($12), to a full-on private concert ($1,000, and unless things have changed a whole lot since their hayday, that's still a lot less than Dash's booking fee). The band sent out notices to their email list and waited to see what would happen; they were looking to raise $4,000, and gave themselves until the end of June to do it.

That was a couple of weeks ago. As of today, with 74 days left in the "Dash-O-Thon," they've already exceeded the target, and the album is a "go."

I really, really like this, and not just because I've been a Dash fan since I heard their first album on spring break in (ugh) 1988. For one thing, it's proof that artists (yes, Bill, that means you) can finance their work by going direct to their fans. For another, it's a win-win-win for everybody involved. Dash gets their studio time paid for, their fans get a new album, and the band starts making a profit from the first retail CD, instead of having to pay back a bank or record company or their in-laws for fronting them the studio money.

So, way to go, guys. Looking forward to the record.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

At PJM: Do We Want A Neutral Net?--The Director's Cut

I have a new Pajamas Media column up regarding the recent Comcast vs. FCC ruling. Instead of posting an exerpt, here are a couple of bits I cut out of that piece when its length got out of hand:

The ISPs have also started to implement policies to slow, if not end, customers’ exodus from their traditional markets. Citing somewhat dubious evidence of “bandwidth hogs,” cable companies have attempted to implement caps on user downloads. The cablers defend these usually-unpopular actions as protecting “normal” users from congestion due to "heavy" users, but the strong suspicion remains that Comcast, Charter, Time Warner and other cable outfits really want to keep customers who pay $80 a month for cable TV from dropping that service entirely in favor of $40 a month broadband.

Not to be left out, the phone companies would also love to kill the internet buffet in favor of more expensive (and profitable) a la care service. Executives at both AT&T and Verizon have noisily insisted that a return to metered service is both inevitable--which may be true, given the duopoly’s mutual disinterest in competing on price--and desirable for customers, which is a much tougher sell.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Katyn, Again

It's difficult to overstate just how stunning last weekend's terrible plane crash must be for Poland. Like most of its neighbors in central Europe, Poland's history is a long and tragic litany of invasion and destruction, and a great deal of both came from its massive neighbor to the east.

Everyone even minimally conversant on World War II knows that Hitler invaded Poland, but it's far less widely known that thanks Stalin did as well; the Red and Nazi armies met on friendly terms in Warsaw in September of 1939, having mutually wiped Poland off the map--and that was the second time Russia participated in destroying the Polish state, Catherine The Great having colluded with other powers to annex Poland out of existence in the late 1700's. Even fewer Westerners are aware of Poland's roll-back of a Bolshevik invasion in the 1920 Polish-Soviet War, a miraculous feat that likely saved all of war-exhausted Europe from the boots of Lenin and his successors.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski and almost all of Poland's senior military leadership were traveling to a commemoration of the Katyn Massacre, one of the blacker events in a very dark history. It's difficult to state just how large Katyn looms in the Polish psyche. Virtually every national site and every church of any size in Poland contains a Katyn memorial (such memorials were, of course, entirely banned during the 45 years of Soviet occupation). The closest American equivalents would be Pearl Harbor or September 11, 2001, but I suspect even those dreadful days fall short in terms of their fundamental impact on the national psyche.

Vaclav Havel called the crash "A tragedy that has no analogy," and said, "I think that this catastrophe will again influence Polish history... Those speculations will influence the elections and the course of events in Poland, those speculations (will have an influence) rather than the real facts."

Havel, who had been a close ally of Kaczynski, is right. The accumulations of coincidence in the Saturday crash are simply staggering. An anti-Communist Polish president, leading a memorial contingent to Katyn itself, is killed along with the core of his nation's military commanders, in Russia, while flying on a Soviet-built aircraft. And as if to complete the circle, ex-KGB strongman Vladimir Putin puts himself in charge of the Russian investigation.

Even if the crash was, as initially suspected, simply an accident, few Poles will be able to accept such a verdict. And it will be hard to blame them for that refusal.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Good Dog

So last night, my wife is at orchestra rehearsal, and it's just me and the bullmastiff at home. I settle in on the couch and prop my feet, wrapped in a knit blanket, on the coffee table.

The dog suddenly starts staring at my feet as if they're something she's never seen before, and then actually barking at them. "How cute," I think. "The dog thinks my feet look funny in a blanket." I twitch my toes around trying to make her bark more. She's fixated on them, jumping around like she does when she's facing off on another dog at the park. This goes on for quite a while.

Then a giant freaking wasp, which the dog could see but I couldn't, crawls up from where it had been on the soles of my feet, to the top of my toes. When I got over being bug-eyed (pun intended), I tossed the blanket over the wasp, dropped it on the floor, sprayed a ton of Raid on it... and gave Maggie a couple of treats.

GOOD dog.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Arlen Specter, Comedian

This article in The Hill is one of the funniest things I've read in ages. Here's the lede:

Sen. Arlen Specter says he has an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to become the next chairman of the Judiciary Committee, but three senior Democrats are blocking the deal.

Specter (D-Pa.) has worked diligently behind the scenes to boost his seniority on the Senate Judiciary and Appropriations committees and hopes to settle the issue before the election.

“The arrangement I had with Reid [D-Nev.] is that I would have the same seniority as if I had been elected as a Democrat in 1980,” Specter said in an interview with The Hill. “I would be behind [Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick] Leahy [D-Vt.], and when he moved up to chairman of Appropriations, I would move to chairman of Judiciary.”

For a guy who's known for bragging about what a great laywer he is, Arlen sure is fond of proceeding from false assumptions. His entire statement, delivered in typically pompous fashion, assumes (a) he's going to be reelected--which is looking quite unlikely, (b) Harry Reed is going to be around in 2011 --which is less likely than a snowball fight on the Fourth of July, and (c) that his new party will still be in the majority next year—and that ain't exactly a done deal, either.

There's also a classic "Snarlin' Arlen" anecdote towards the end, so check it all out if you need a good laugh.

I Wanna Be Sedated

And I thought yesterday was bad.

Today's Atlanta pollen count: 5733.

Just for reference, anything over 120 is considered "extremely high." If you'll excuse me, I'm off to find some intravenous antihistamine.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What They Said

John Hinderaker

Today President Obama announced a new strategic policy with regard to the use of nuclear weapons. The New York Times reports:

President Obama said Monday that he was revamping American nuclear strategy to substantially narrow the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons. … To set an example, the new strategy renounces the development of any new nuclear weapons, overruling the initial position of his own defense secretary.

For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with biological or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyberattack.

On its face, that is unbelievably stupid. A country attacks us with biological weapons, and we stay our hand because they are “in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty”? That is too dumb even for Barack Obama. The administration hedged its commitment with qualifications suggesting that if there actually were a successful biological or chemical attack, it would rethink its position. The Times puts its finger on what is wrong with the administration’s announcement:

It eliminates much of the ambiguity that has deliberately existed in American nuclear policy since the opening days of the cold war.

That’s exactly right. The cardinal rule, when it comes to nuclear weapons, is keep ‘em guessing. We want our enemies to believe that we may well be crazy enough to vaporize them, given sufficient provocation; one just can’t tell. There is a reason why that ambiguity has been the American government’s policy for more than 50 years. Obama cheerfully tosses overboard the strategic consensus of two generations.

Stephen Green:

For decades, and especially after the US destroyed its chemical and biological weapons stores in the early 1970s, our policy has been simple: A nuke bomb is a chemical bomb is a biological bomb. We did not discern between WMDs — and we would retaliate with our own WMDs if struck by enemy WMDs.

And since we had no chemical or biological weapons, that meant one thing: We’re coming after you with nukes. Result? No weapon of mass destruction has ever been used against the United States. Pretty cool, that.

We went even further than that to keep the peace, believe it or not. During the Cold War, the Soviets loudly proclaimed they would never be the first to use nuclear weapons. (Although their defense posture, weapons procurement, and doctrine all showed that proclamation to be disingenuous at best.) Moscow then dared us to make the same commitment. And we stayed silent instead.

Result? The Soviets tread more gently than they otherwise might have. Because one treads lightly in a minefield — especially a nuclear one. Never define exactly what enemy action would make you push the button, and you keep the strategic initiative. Important, that.

Well, yesterday Obama — facing no pressure or need to change anything at all — quite recklessly turned over the strategic initiative (operational, too, for that matter) to the other guys.

Little countries can now act, with chemical or biological agents, sure in the knowledge that however we respond, we will respond with less. The other guy now gets to determine how much punishment he is willing to take. Before yesterday, we determined how much punishment we were willing to dish out (plenty).

Rudy Giuliani:

President Obama thinks we can all hold hands, sing songs, and have peace symbols. North Korea and Iran are not singing along with the president. Knowing that, it just doesn’t make sense why we would reduce our nuclear arms when we face these threats.

The president doesn’t understand the concept of leverage. He’s taken away our military option and it looks like he would prevent Israel from using a military option. He also hasn’t gotten Russia or China to agree. With Russia, he should have made them put their cards on the table. Instead, like with the missile shield, he gave up and got nothing for it. He negotiated against himself. That is like reducing the price of your house before you get an offer.

Leverage means the other guy has to be afraid of you. I worked for a president, Ronald Reagan, who understood that brilliantly, and that’s how he won the Cold War. You need to appear to be unpredictable. [Reagan’s] State Department understood that you need to create pressure, to create something they’re afraid of. Tell me where Obama has done that.

What I said, when I read the first reports last night: "He's a damn fool."

Atlanta Pollen Count: 2967

In a word, "Ugh."

Anybody think NASA might loan me a spacesuit for the next couple of weeks?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Required Reading

I'm not going to post an excerpt from Andrew Corsello's mind-blowing GQ feature about a certain pushing-eighty force of nature who has wormed--nay, forced, barreled, STORMED his way into popular culture over the past five decades. To separate even a portion of Corsello's somewhat dazed (but not at all confused) account of a guy who long ago realized his first, best destiny from the whole (and fair warning, a mightily long and not-put-downable whole it is) would be an unforgivable disservice.

Well, okay, just one word: "SHATNER!"

Now: Read. The Whole. Thing.


From Jammie Wearing Fool:

Tea Party More Popular Than Obama, Frank Rich Hardest Hit

Ricochet Racers On Target

If you haven't already, check out the terrific Ricochet podcasts that are accumulating at Ricochet's site and on iTunes. The hosts are ex-Cheers writer Rob Long, ex-Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson and ex-every-paper-in-the-world writer Mark Steyn (yes, Steyn is still in lots of papers--work with me here, people).

The guest list to date is already extensive, and every single show is well worth a listen. This week's show features a masterful five-minute crash course in political tactics given by strategist Mike Murphy to suitably-gobsmacked candidate Mickey Kaus.

And yes, I will be awarding bonus points to anybody who can, without consulting the internet, hum the jingle referenced in this post's title.

Issue of the Year: Responsibility vs. Irresponsibility

From an interesting (no, really) piece about mortgages in Texas:

Subprime cash-out refinancings became a standard way for borrowers drowning in credit card debt to pay it off, boost their credit scores so they could qualify in a few months to refinance into a lower-rate prime mortgage, and get a big tax deduction in the bargain. Ex- New York Times Federal Reserve reporter Edmund L. Andrews recounts in his underappreciated book Busted how he conjured $50,000 this way via a mortgage from Fremont Lending & Investment.

Homeowners and mortgage brokers weren’t alone in their addiction to the cash that flowed from homes-as-ATMs. The entire U.S. economy was right there with them. One of Alan Greenspan’s lesser-known contributions to the annals of the credit crisis was a pair of studies he co-authored for the Fed, sizing up exactly how much Americans borrowed against their home equity in the bubble and what it was they were spending their newfound (phantom) wealth on. Greenspan estimated that four-fifths of the trifold increase in American households’ mortgage debt between 1990 and 2006 resulted from “discretionary extraction of home equity.” Only one-fifth resulted from the purchase of new homes. In 2005 alone, U.S. homeowners extracted a half-trillion-plus dollars from their real estate via home-equity loans and cash-out refinances. Some $263 billion of the proceeds went to consumer spending and to pay off other debts.

And everybody who didn't do stupid things like that? We're being asked--no, that's not right, we're being ordered--again and again and again to pay for the bad decisions of the people who did.

If you ask me, the great under-appreciated issue of this year's election is the ongoing expectation of irresponsible people that they ought to be bailed out of their own mistakes by the responsible. It's an issue that cuts clear across party and ideological lines.

Most politicians, fearing media sob-stories about people being evicted, have jumped automatically to George W. Bush's unfortunate mantra of, "when somebody hurts, government has got to move." The majority who pay their bills on time and didn't act irresponsibly are saying, very clearly, "The hell it does, if your problems are your own damn fault."

Several trillions of dollars later, a whole lot of politicians are going to reap the whirlwind from the ranks of the responsible. Unfortunately, though, the money is spent, and the most that we can accomplish at this point is to stop the bleeding.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Ballad of Brave Sir Ryan

As suggested by a commenter below, and with due apologies to Monty Python, may I present:

The Ballad of Brave Sir Ryan

Bravely bold Sir Ryan, rode forth from Washington
He was not afraid to meet, oh brave Sir Ryan
He was not at all afraid to be criticized in nasty ways,
Brave brave brave brave Sir Ryan

He was not in the least bit scared to be scolded to a pulp
or to have his funds dry up and his polling broken
To have his excuses scoffed and his approval burned away
and his press releases all hacked and mangled, Brave Sir Ryan

His talking points bashed in and his favorables cut out
and his staff removed and his budget unplugged
and his office lost and his career ended and his Congressional Pension--

"Thats enough music for now lads, looks like there’s dirty work afoot"