The heart of the matter

Here, from The Atlantic, is the problem in a nutshell:
American consumers are awash in debt, drowning in it. This is the fundamental issue with the stimulus proposal. We're trying to borrow our way out of debt. Unfortunately, we need a recession. That is, consumption must decline because for some time we have been consuming more than we produce or have reasonable prospects of producing. Monetary policy has been used to inflate a series of bubbles to avoid the consequences of excess debt, and the more we try to hold it off, the worse it's going to be. Bourbon works as a hangover cure, but only for a while.

Now It All Makes Sense

A Michael Ramirez cartoon.

I can't say for sure, but I think I voted for Ventura. How embarrassing.

Margin notes

Sometimes, when I actually think about what is going on in Washington, the general level of economic cluelessness practiced there, in the media, and in general, I feel like shaking the collective by the shoulders and yelling: "Don't you get it!!!"

Where are the jobs being lost in this economy? The answer isn't any of the following, even if these might be the sectors on the losing end: manufacturing, financial companies, farming, software companies, adult males (who are being hit disproportionately hard, BTW), etc.

The answer is the same no matter the economic conditions, no matter where we are in the business cycle. The answer is simple: jobs are lost on the margins. The marginal companies; those that are barely making it.

If a company has more costs in materials, energy, rent, wages, benefits and taxes than income coming in, then it has to do something. It can get a loan, but banks are reluctant to offer little floater loans right now. It can try to increase sales, but people aren't increasing their purchases at the moment. It can cut costs, but most companies will have maxed-out their costs as a necessary part of doing business in good times and bad. In the end, the easiest, and often only, way is to cut payroll.

In addition, those companies which might, in a slightly-better and more-certain economy, be adding jobs will not do so in this climate.

Also, for some companies, there isn't enough payroll to cut, not enough income to generate. Perhaps, if they could just increase net income by 3%, they might not go under; but that 3% never materializes, and month after month it becomes harder to meet payroll. Companies like that don't just hemorrhage a few jobs, but all of them as they pack up shop and end operations.

Drip by drip, job by job, this is how unemployment grows. Company after company, from mom-and-pop restaurants or repair shops to Microsoft and Ford decide this isn't the time to hire, and maybe the time to fire.

So, the question is: what is the government doing to help those companies on the knife edge? Those that might go under entirely or will lay-off people to get that little bit of extra net income which lets them survive another month?

The answer, pretty clearly, is absolutely nothing.

The Catholic Corner

My sister's post below reminds me of a beef I have with The Corner. What is their obsession with all things Catholic? I can understand the general interest in the abortion question, but why the endless posts about Father So-and-so or the latest statement from the Vatican, or "What's Up With the Pope?" Usually I couldn't care less.

Is there some NR-Catholic connection I'm unaware of? Some posters, particularly KJL, seem able to discuss little else.

As for the post my sister points to, I agree it is pretty nutty. I don't see the Defense of Marriage act as a serious issue compared to the other two points.

Trying to understand

You know, I spend a lot of time reading The Corner, which means I see a lot of talk about opposing gay marriage, and I try to read the arguments to give them a fair shake. I've never been convinced, but I've never been more un-convinced than after reading something as silly as this bit from well-know Catholicism advocate Michael Novak:
The Obama presidency is only one week old, but it has already limned its main moral outlines:
On January 20, President Obama called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. He also declared his intention to give multiple rights and privileges to homosexual couples.

On January 22, he issued an order announcing his intention to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay within one year, but admits he has not figured out how to do that. President Bush had expressed a similar wish, but could find no nations willing to take responsibility for the detainees.

On January 23, President Obama issued an order that authorizes tax dollars for abortions abroad.
From these announcements we learn that President Obama recognizes no difference between the Jewish-Christian covenant between a woman and a man (a covenant that they will have and nurture children, if they are so blessed), and a civil contract between two persons of any sex, in order to set up a household of affection and sexual favors.

This is a relapse into paganism.
Yes, I see it clearly now: Gay marriage is paganism!

Well, they have me convinced!

Dictate this

The Middle East is ruled over by dictators, pretty much from one end to the other. The exceptions are Israel and the new Iraq. So what does our illustrious president have to say about things:
"All too often the United States starts by dictating"
Dude, they're called dictators for a reason.

He Does Video Too?

Iowahawk... heading towards "National Treasure" status...

Selling fudge

Here are two scary images from Watts Up With That? an environmental blog. The first shows temperature trends ending in 2004 and lots of coldness, the second shows trends ending in 2007 and the coldness has disappeared. I'm scared!!!!!

From 2004 - Cold:

From 2007 - Hot:

Wow! What a difference! I'm shutting off all my lights, the heat, and never driving my car again!

Now, look at the scales on each image. The first shows a variation of -0.2 to +0.2 degrees celsius, the second shows a variation of -0.1 to +0.1 celsius.

In other words it is very hard to directly compare the two images. It also shows, that at worst, we are dealing with about a tenth of a degree celsius change in a couple of years. Easily understandable if one year was on the warm side and one on the cold. Temperatures vary considerably from year to year, with warm winters followed by balmy ones. Pick the right time range, say ending the first right after a major cold year, and ending the second after an unusually warm one, and you can produce some really scary graphs.

This is how hype is propagated. Shocking images which do not mean what you think they mean.

The One

From the Brookline Tab, an an Obama inauguration celebration:

Barbara Simonetti of the First Church in Brookline estimated more than 200 people at a celebration held there Tuesday night.

“I personally think this is an incredible breakthrough,” Simonetti said of Obama’s election. “We certainly made an incredible statement to the world today.”

Simonetti said the First Church, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, was very community oriented, as, she said, was Obama.

“He’s telling everybody, our hand is open and our arm is out,” she said of Obama’s inaugural address.

As such, Tuesday’s celebration was all about community, with friends and families sitting together at tables and eating lasagna prepared by Simonetti’s husband and a team of cooks. The partygoers ate together and watch a rebroadcast of Obama’s swearing-in and speech together, cheering as he took the stand, booing the outgoing administration, and punctuating Obama’s sentences with choruses of “Yes!” and “Tell them!”

Simonetti was running around all evening at the church, making circuits between the kitchen and two rooms packed with partygoers. “I’m exhausted, and elated, and there’s just a joy in this room and in the country,” she said.

The celebration was held in a small chapel at the church, with a cardboard cutout of the new president standing behind the altar, “so we can take our picture with him,” Simonetti said.
I question the appropriateness of having such a political celebration in a church. Apparently the Universalist's universe doesn't include supporters of President Bush. Beyond that though, putting a life-size image of Obama behind the altar? Do you think they would ever put a cross there? I thought the Obama-Messiah bit was just a joke. Maybe it should be taken seriously. Here's a pic from the event:

The sign says "Brookline MA Stands Up For Obama. Yes We Can!

Land o' frozen lakes

This is just sweet poetry:
“All schools in the Bloomington School District (Minnesota) will be closed today after state-required biodiesel fuel clogged in school buses Thursday morning and left dozens of students stranded in frigid weather, the district said late Thursday.

Rick Kaufman, the district’s spokesman, said elements in the biodiesel fuel that turn into a gel-like substance at temperatures below 10 degrees clogged about a dozen district buses Thursday morning. Some buses weren’t able to operate at all and others experienced problems while picking up students, he said.

We had students at bus stops longer than we think is acceptable, and that’s too dangerous in these types of temperatures,” Kaufman said.”

. . .

The decision to close school today came after district officials consulted with several neighboring districts that were experiencing similar problems. Bloomington staffers tried to get a waiver to bypass the state requirement and use pure diesel fuel, but they weren’t able to do so in enough time, Kaufman said. They also decided against scheduling a two-hour delay because the temperatures weren’t expected to rise enough that the problem would be eliminated.

In 2005, a new requirement went into effect that all diesel fuel sold in Minnesota had to contain 2 percent biodiesel. Kaufman said that some school districts keep their buses in temperature-controlled garages, and that the First Student bus service, which contracts with several metro-area school districts, keeps its buses in garages or idles them through the night.
That last line is worth pointing out. When I was in junior high, we were in a newly-built building with a modern, efficient furnace. The heat was optimized to work at a comfortable 72 degrees.

But along came the twin terrors of the Middle East Oil Crisis and Jimmy Carter. Carter decreed that all public buildings should be heated to 68 degress.

So, what did my junior high do? Run the air conditioner through the winter, of course.

A perfect example of bureaucratic one-size-fits-all policy meeting the diversity of the real world.

In Bloomington, MN they are running their buses for hours overnight in order to have functioning buses in the morning--all because of a one-size-fits-all mandate. How much fuel are they burning overnight with idling buses? How much unnecessary CO2 are they pumping in to the air in order to comply with environmental political correctness?

As I said: poetic.

Update:In the comments was a link to this blog post at gas2.0. In that post is a bit from a statement by the National Biodiesel Board which includes this:
“Nothing is more important than getting kids to school safely, which is exactly why we worked proactively to get to the bottom of the district’s concerns,” said Ed Hegland, National Biodiesel Board Chairman. “A B2 blend, when properly handled, should perform just like diesel. These extremely cold temperatures provide operational challenges to diesel vehicles regardless of whether they use biodiesel blends or diesel fuel.”

The report issued Friday by Meg Corp. said, “We found that whatever was plugging the filters was not biodiesel, but a substance found in petroleum.”

Disappointingly many reporters did not do due diligence to investigate the errant claim that biodiesel caused the buses that serve the Bloomington School District to malfunction. Initial stories inaccurately assumed and reported that biodiesel was a causing factor, when the facts strongly dispute this claim
I'm still far from convinced:

1) You still have buses in more than the one district idling their engines overnight.

2) And, since the biodiesel is the only thing running through the filters, it is still the source of the problem, whether it is the "bio" part or some other element in the mix.

3) You still have the fact that this didn't seem to happen before the "bio" mandate.

4) You also have to wonder whether the gas2.0 group would have been so ready to quote from an industrial press release if it were from, say, the paper-making industry? The National Biodiesel Board is a trade organization and industrial lobbying group.

5) Then there is the "bio" component which must be mandated or subsidized, because it is not cost-effective on its own.

6) You also have the standing question of whether the "bio" component takes more energy to produce than it gives you in return. And thus at best is only a marginal source of energy, or actually a minor energy sink.

Era of big government

From the Corner:
"The Era of Big Government Is Over..." [Peter Kirsanow]

From Obama's inaugural address:
The question we ask today is not whether our government is too large or too small, but whether it works...
Hold onto your wallets, folks. We're about to get the biggest government in history.
So, I suppose that means that the era of "the era of big government is over" is over?

Pay the dues

In November of 1998 Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota. He ran as an outsider from the nascent Independence party. He won in large part because a three-way split among voters was enough to get him in the state house, when he never would have won in a head-to-head match-up (he ran against Norm Coleman and Scion de Humphrey).

One thing was clear from the very beginning: as an independent and a newcomer in St. Paul, Ventura had no natural constituency to rely upon—no one who he could ask to take his side in a fight.

In short, he had not paid his dues. Dues paying is both an important fact of life in politics and a regrettable one. It consists of several parts:
  1. Making friends, going to cocktail parties, getting noticed, and becoming fashionable in political circles—creating a profitable image. Becoming the sort of person other people want to be seen standing next to.

  2. Doing the grunt work so that those above you on the political ladder can have their day in the sun. The understanding is that, in the pyramid scheme that is politics, you will one day stand on the shoulders of the next generation of grunts. This creates both beholden superiors and wishful inferiors, both capable of providing assistance at a later date.

  3. Engaging in back-scratching for pet projects: support someone else's pet proposal and you get an unwritten IOU, redeemable when it is your pet proposal needing support.

  4. Becoming a source for media outlets. "Sources in the Capitol today let it be known that..." Again, this produces a flurry of good-will and IOU's. Provide just the right not-for-attribution quote today; get better coverage tomorrow.

  5. Pay off the plebes with pet projects. Worthy project or worthless projects, it doesn't matter, each has a constituency which believes it is the end of the world if the government doesn't pony up the funding, and who believe the one who delivers that money is a saint forever.
These actions are what make government run. Not the quality or efficacy of legislation, but the back scratching and networking of working politicians.

When Ventura got into trouble, the Republicans weren't about to bail him out, the Democrats weren't going to bail him out, and the media had no reason to take his side either. He hadn't paid his dues, and they owed him nothing. In short, he stood alone to fail, to be ignored, or to be manipulated by those in the right power circles.

I see a similar problem facing Obama. I think it is very clear that today the most powerful person in Washington is not the president. He has good-will, but those powerful politicians and Washingtonians who supported his candidacy aren't blinded by his shining glory. They know he spent less than four months at the national political level before hitting the road on his campaign. They know he is less knowledgeable than any other newly-minted president this country has ever had. In his ignorance lies their power, and they aren't about to let that slip. They know how Washington works, because they've seen it and spent their careers climbing the ladder. They have paid their dues, with hundreds of others beholden to them for their positions and opportunities.

Of all of those five items above, Obama probably only has one locked down: #1—He's the kind of guy you want to stand next to and have at your party. He has had that prestige since coming to Washington.

But of all the people in Washington, probably one has all five locked down: Nancy Pelosi. She's a leader who fought her way to the top, often using strong-arm tactics. Many owe her, many others fear her. She has people she can call on to lobby, to vote, to print, to speak with her.

She has all of the constituencies lined up.

Obama has none.

I have little doubt that as hard-nosed as Pelosi is, she understands all of this and is working to take advantage of the situation.

She'll let Obama shine, let him say pretty words and advocate for her policies, but she'll be the one setting the agenda and the pace.

Presidents and their words

I haven't been able to stomach listening to a president give a speech (or any politician, really) since about 2 years into the Reagan administration--yes, when I was a freshman in high school. All I can ever hear is the speech writer, the clever turn of phrase, the psy-ops patter and cadence.

What little I have heard of Obama isn't likely to change my mind. I have never heard him say one thing that meant anything beyond atmospherics, nor have I ever heard of him saying anything specific or to the point. He has been a cypher his entire career, and remains one.

So, I decided to look through his speech for two things: 1) Any definite proposal or 2) Anything that a Republican would have trouble bringing themselves to say. As for the first, I recognize that it is more of a State Of the Union kind of a thing than an inagural, but a gal can hope. As for the second, I am not using a John McCain standard--as in "if John McCain were being sworn in, would he be saying the same thing?" because John McCain does not represent mainstream Republicans and he is a far cry from a conservative. I'm asking more along the lines of: if Romney or Guiliani were elected, could they say these things.

Just about every line in the speech is meaningless drivel. Carefully crafted to invoke and prod at the emotions, but meaning next to nothing. So, I crossed off all of the misdirection and hand-waving, the blather and the bloviation, and was left with just 88 words--and I think even that is stretching it in most cases. The bulk of the text is x-ed out, the remainder is in bold, red text:
Thank you. Thank you.

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.

I thank President Bush for his service to our nation...

... as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.

It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died in places Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.

The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth.

We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.

We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality...

... and lower its costs.

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.

And those of us who manage the public's knowledge will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.

But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.

And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We'll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan.

With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense.

And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.

And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those...

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.

We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service: a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.

And yet, at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.

It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break; the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours.

It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old.

These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence: the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day in remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.

In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by nine campfires on the shores of an icy river.

The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.

At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you.

And God bless the United States of America.
So, to presidents and speech writers, I have only one thing to say:

No blah, blah, blah!

Out With The Old, In With The New

Welcome President Obama! May America when you leave office be more peaceful and prosperous than it is now. Though I may oppose you on certain policies, I trust that you will do what you think is best for the country.

Thank you President Bush! Yes, I opposed you on certain polices, but I believe you did what you thought was best for the country. Overall, I think you can be proud of the job you and your administration did.

Best wishes to both of you and to the USA!

Your Red Scarf

Matches your eyes...

A must read

Everyone should see one example of a main-line liberal spouting flat-out anti-semetic bile:
[ From the PBS transcript ] BILL MOYERS: What we are seeing in Gaza is the latest battle in the oldest family quarrel on record. Open your Bible: the sons of the patriarch Abraham become Arab and Jew. Go to the Book of Deuteronomy. When the ancient Israelites entered Canaan their leaders urged violence against its inhabitants. The very Moses who had brought down the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" now proclaimed, "You must destroy completely all the places where the nations have served their gods. You must tear down their altars, smash their pillars, cut down their sacred poles, set fire to the carved images of their gods, and wipe out their name from that place."

So God-soaked violence became genetically coded. A radical stream of Islam now seeks to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. Israel misses no opportunity to humiliate the Palestinians with checkpoints, concrete walls, routine insults, and the onslaught in Gaza. As if boasting of their might, Israel defense forces even put up video of the explosions on YouTube for all the world to see. A Norwegian doctor there tells CBS, "It's like Dante's Inferno. They are bombing one and a half million people in a cage."
Yes, he really does seem to be saying that Jews are genetically predisposed to be bloodthirsty.

Things to note:

Moyers has long been a well-respected member of the media establishment, and the darling of the left.

His show, because it is on PBS, is subsidized by your tax money and mine. To paraphrase Reagan paraphrasing Spencer Tracy: We are paying for his microphone!


Instapundit may laugh at images online of money with Obama's likeness. But when he made that post, I already had this in my pocket:

A guy was giving them out at the drug store last Monday. He had purchased them in West Hollywood. It is actually quite well done.

I can't quite decide what is the scariest part about the fake bill. Is it the "Joseph Biden, Vice President" line? Or is the crescent and star on one side, the Star of David on the other and the crosses under the seal on the back side?

(Just a reminder: according to the CIA Factbook, Buddhists outnumber Muslims in this country.)

Los Angeles mob scenes

Here is a scary blog post about the mob of anti-Israel and often flat-out anti-Jewish demonstrators from a week ago in my town of Los Angeles.

Some are obviously ignorant idiots, like this lady:

Some scary illiterates:

And some were neo-Nazis:

Lots of Palestinian flags and ANSWER posters too.

Waiting for Tuesday

Here's what I expect to happen on Tuesday:

Cheney's fascist coup will be finalized as the military and covert-ops team the Vice President has been personally training in the super-secret "K" ring of the Pentegon (Cheney's so-called "undisclosed location") bursts out, arrests Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and Keith Olberman in a winter-morning bloodbath.

And you thought that the evil Bush administration was almost over! Bwahahahaha!

I'm sure Cheney's been laughing for years at all those idiots with the 01.20.09 bumperstickers!

I Disagree with Glenn Reynolds

Update: Jonah Goldberg has written column on the topic! More from Jonah here. Bill Buckley quoting Justice Cardozo

... who one one famous occasion reminded us that the purpose of a trial is to determine whether or not the accused is guilty, rather than whether the constable has blundered.

I didn't realize the issue had inspired such recent debate.

Original Post:
The Corner links to this piece by Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit.

...the Supreme Court, in its just-released decision in Herring v. United States, has ruled that simple negligence by police - in arresting a man based on a warrant that had been withdrawn, but left in the computer by mistake - isn't enough to justify excluding the evidence found during that arrest.

...Except that the rest of us enjoy no such immunity. If you're a citizen who, say, accidentally carries a gun into a designated "gun-free" zone, the Supreme Court will not say that you can escape punishment because your action was "the result of isolated negligence." For citizens, there's no "I forgot" defense.
Ok, but the cops aren't on trial here. Mr Herring is. If the cops were charged with a crime for the mistake, then Glenn's analogy would be better. To be honest, I never really bought completely the idea that evidence should be excluded when it is obtained without a proper warrant. When that happens, the officers should be reprimanded or charged with a crime if appropriate. But why should the evidence collected be inadmissible? The argument might be that such measures insure proper police conduct, but wouldn't appropriate punishments for offending officers serve the same purpose, without making it easier on criminals?

That Chilling Effect Arrives

Back in October I wrote:
Now however, people who donate to political parties are "outed" by law on-line for everyone to see. You can see how much they gave to whom, and where they live. What if I want to belong to some fringe party? What if you are a Republican in West Hollywood? What if you are a Libertarian in Brookline MA? Is it any of your neighbor's business? What if you are an employer who would rather not hire a Democrat? Should you be able to check on line to see if your potential employee made some donations you don't approve of?
Now someone has used a California political donation database and Google maps to create a map of where supporters of Prop 8 live, on a site called

The point here, of course, is to intimidate Prop 8's supporters.
Rod Dreher says
These people are so caught up in their own drama that they cannot imagine how this technique can be used to hurt gays. Why doesn't the closeted gay man in Gun Barrel City, Texas, fly a rainbow flag from his front porch. Shouldn't he be proud of who he is? I don't get the fear. What would he have to fear if some anti-gay group put a map to his home on the Internet, taken from a donation form to the Human Rights Campaign or some gay-rights cause?
He's right. I find this sort of shortsightedness typical of progressive causes. If you read the comments on Dreher's and other sites, you will find many people who favor eightmaps' action, because they support gay rights. The fact that such things could easily be used against progressive causes doesn't seem to occur to them.

Last night O'Rielly had a bit on this. His take? Google should be more responsible. He promised to call Google to get to the bottom of this. Good luck with that. What a pinhead.

For the record, my co-blogger opposed Prop 8 and I support gay marriage.

Ricardo Montalbán

Ricardo Montalbán, has died. He was a fine actor. Rest in Peace.

Campus Event

Got this email today...
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

On Tuesday, January 20, HMS [Harvard Medical School] will be telecasting the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. Faculty, students and staff are welcome to watch all or part of this historic event with other members of the HMS community.

Events begin at 10 am. The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for 11:30 am and is followed by the inaugural address. Viewing stations will be set up at multiple locations across the campus.
I'm sure the same was done for the inauguration of W. I just don't remember it.

24 is Back

I started watching 24 two seasons ago. I don't know how I got hooked, but I thought it was quite good at first. I quickly became disappointed; by the end of last season I had pretty much had enough. Then there were reports of 24 getting a make-over for the current season, including a kinder gentler Jack Bauer.
As the hero of the television action series, Bauer became a modern icon of rugged American values and a fictional flag waver for the Bush administration's determination to defeat terrorists.

The intelligence agent, played by Keifer Sutherland, has never been afraid to torture or shoot to kill while tackling villainous foreigners intent on waging war on the American homeland.

But now US conservatives are up in arms that the election of President-Elect Barack Obama has led the show's producers to pander to the liberal consensus in Hollywood, which they claim has led to the blacklisting of those who disagree with their anti-war views.

When the series returns for its seventh season on Sunday night, Bauer will mouth the views of Mr Obama, who has vowed to end "enhanced interrogation", also known as torture, and close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Well, I'm happy to report that these concerns were unwarranted. I watched two hours of 24 on Sunday, and another 2 yesterday. The show is good again! Who'd of thunk it.

The ratings for the first episodes were disappointing. I wonder if the fan base tuned out because of those makeover reports. There is also strong competition from "Two and a Half Men," one of the few current shows I enjoy. It's tough out there in TV land.

Test Subjects Aren't Stupid

Jim Manzi makes a good point at the Corner about the well-known Milgram experiment:
... in which subjects were led into a mock experimental laboratory and told to press a button that supposedly delivered increasingly severe electrical shocks to other “subjects” (who were actually other researchers) at the instruction of the scientists running the experiment. It was all a set-up: no real shocks were delivered, but the subjects believed that they were delivering up to lethal voltages to other humans. Milgram was shocked (ha ha) to discover that a majority of subjects were willing to deliver all the shocks.

Manzi points out, rightly, that subjects of this experiment likely took into account the fact that the experiment was conducted within an environment that wouldn't allow any real harm to people supposedly being shocked. He pictures them thinking to themselves
I don’t understand exactly what’s going on, but all my assumptions about how the world works would be violated if Yale University could really run a torture chamber operated by random people picked off the street

Indeed, I think it's natural for subjects to be curious about what the researchers are testing. I don't think it's always difficult for subjects to figure out what's going on an act accordingly, to conform to what they believe researchers expect.

I remember having a good laugh with a friend who participated in a psychological study in college. He was given a series of questions which gauged aspects of his attitude toward women. Then he was told that there would be a second phase to the test, but that it would take some time to set up. He was handed some magazines by a researcher, "to pass the time while he waited." Those magazines turned out to be pornographic.

Of course, it was instantly obvious to my friend that the whole point of the test was to see if looking at those magazines changed his attitude towards women. It would be obvious to anyone, no? How often does someone nonchalantly hand you some porn? That sort of realization would, I think, affect the outcome.

The Milgram experiment may not seem poorly designed, but the fact is the participants realize they are participating in something. How hard would it have been to guess? How did affect it the outcome?

The Trouble with Harry

Prince Harry of England has gotten himself into a bit of trouble. It seems a tape has surfaced (from 3 years ago) showing Harry joking around with his army mates while in training. This was before he was sent over to Afghanistan to fight for his country. Egad! Do young men still use the 'F' word?! Even young army guys?! Shocking!

He also uses the term 'Paki,' which is of course racist, quite like 'Scot' and 'Yank.'

You can read the comments here to see the current state of England's collective mind. There is a strong division between those who are appalled by Harry's behaviour among his comrades, and those who live on planet Earth.

Somehow, despite growing up under a microscope, Harry has seemingly turned out to be a normal young man. Good for him.

Althouse v. Chopra et al.

Must read from Ann Althouse
[...] either treatments are supported by scientific testing or they are not. I'm not impressed that "many" alternative therapies have been "scientifically documented to be ... medically effective." The proper distinction is between what has passed scientific testing and what has not. I don't care about the categories "conventional and alternative." If it's proven scientifically it becomes conventional, doesn't it?
Behold the power of a lawyer who knows what she's talking about. Impressive.
Read the original Chopra article too
Heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer and obesity account for 75% of health-care costs, and yet these are largely preventable and even reversible by changing diet and lifestyle.

Prostate and breast cancer are reversible by diet? These men are dangerous.


I haven't posted an employment chart in a while. I've been graphing this for years, and noticed a slowdown long before anyone in the press seems to have noticed. Employment was essentially flatlined from December 2006.

This looks awfully bad, though:

A new day dawns

We hit a landmark at home today. Our 8-year-old girl has discovered the telephone!

She forgot to write down her math assignment for tonight, so we told her she should phone a friend in the class to get the page number in her math workbook. After throwing a fuss about doing that, she finally picked up the phone. Within a few minutes she and two other kids had managed to get together a conference call (which also included one kid's pet parrot.) They all spent about half an hour giggling together on the speaker.

So, now she has a new rule to live by: she can call her friends when she wants, but she can only do so after all of her homework is completed.

I figure she's lost to us now, but there is a good side: We have always had a tough time regulating her behavior because there is little she wants so much that she would regret our taking it away. She doesn't care if she watches TV or not, she doesn't care much about her toys either. She doesn't really care much if she gets sent to her room. But, if she gets to loving the telephone, we will finally have some leverage. Bwahahaha!

Heinemann's Closing

Heinemann's, a Milwaukee "institution" for 86 years, is closing.
Heinemann's Restaurants, a longtime Milwaukee-area business, has closed - the victim of a recession and too much competition from other restaurants.
Actually, this seems to me to have been happening over the last 25 years or so. One by one their locations were closing down. The restaurants suffered from an aura of "old-fashionedness" if there is such a thing.

I do have a fond memory of riding the bus downtown with my Grandma and having lunch at Heinemann's I was a little kid.

Anyone Can Be President

Here is Barack Obama, eight years ago, on a local Chicago restaurant review program, chatting about peach cobbler and johnny cakes.

Isn't it amazing that a guy can go from this level of celebrity to President of the United States in eight years? I don't know if it's a wonderful thing about the USA or something scary.

Obama seems like a nice, pleasant guy though. I have a hankering now for peach cobbler.

Slow News Day

The tone of this piece strikes me as odd. Should we expect people swoon or faint at the sight of the Bidens?
Jill Biden walked up to speak with Muhamut while Joe stood nearby.

"She was asking me about other shows, but they really wanted to see 'Benjamin Button,' " Muhamut said. "He was maybe five feet away, looking at her. He was standing with his other Secret Service men."

..."It didn't seem many people recognized him," said employee Becky Gingrich, 21. "Honestly, I think people were just too wrapped up in themselves to notice."

... Gingrich and Muhamut said the Bidens didn't ask for special treatment. They simply mulled over their movie options and left.
Kudos to the Bidens for not expecting special treatment.


I find the last four words of this paragraph cringe-inducing. Not because they are wrong, but because the reporter/editor found them necessary:
Scientists mapped the Milky Way in a more detailed, three-dimensional way and found that it's 15 percent larger in breadth. More important, it's denser, with 50 percent more mass, which is like weight.
Really, when our nanny--a 26 year old high school graduate--can ask "if you stand on the south pole, do you fall off?" I really shouldn't be so surprised, but having to actually spell out that mass is like weight is simply pathetic.

Thanks Dad!

The radiator cover you made for us arrived today. It looks fantastic and is just what we wanted!

It's a very thoughtful Christmas gift. Thanks a lot!

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to my daughter Shivani. She is one year old today.

May the joy she has given me be returned a thousand fold!

Who Let Him in?

I'll take this opportunity to link to the Huffington Post, since another may never come.

Mr. Gore has stated, regarding climate change, that "the science is in." Well, he is absolutely right about that, except for one tiny thing. It is the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind.
However, I'm not sure I agree with him when he says:
Carbon dioxide cannot absorb an unlimited amount of infrared radiation. Why not? Because it only absorbs heat along limited bandwidths, and is already absorbing just about everything it can. That is why plotted on a graph, C02's ability to capture heat follows a logarithmic curve.

Typical comment from the Huff-Po community:
Why is this right wing denier being given voice here? The science is in. The great majority of those who have the scientific credentials needed to understand the predicament we have created have spoken. Now we must listen and act. To delay is dangerous folly. I have a four year old grandson and another grandchild on the way. We must repair what we have broken so that they and all the world's children will be able to have a future.
Diversity of opinion is not to be tolerated!

Senator Franken

I posted this comment at Dirty Harry's blog...

PowerLine seems resigned to the election of Franken.

It seems to me they would be more worked up if they felt Franken’s win was illegitimate. They are Minnesotans and I trust their opinion.

I was born in Minnesota. Maybe I should start one of those “we’re sorry” websites where natives can post pictures of themselves apologizing to the nation.

I stole this from Harry's blog too...

Senator Franken. Change we can believe in.

Read Them and Weep

A New York Times blog lists "11 Questions for Obama’s Science Team." Many are about CO2/global warming, others about the perception of science rather than science itself, the remainder on science education and getting more Americans into scientific careers. These questions were chosen based on reader ratings. I find the questions uniformly lame.

Check this one out:

I am a graduate student of U.C. Berkeley doing thesis research on magnetic fusion energy.

...Climate change is causing drought, inclement whether, and sea level rise. The results of these effects are famine, the rise of 19th century pestilent diseases in underdeveloped countries, and rates of species extinction comparable with astronomic events of millions of years past.


Twilight Zone Meets the Terminator

Actually, the Twilight Zone is The Terminator! Who knew?

The LA Times in Review

Don't miss Patterco's devastating 2008 review of the LA Times, my sisters' local paper. He stops just short of sowing salt in their fields.

Smiling for Portraits

When did people start smiling for portraits and photographs? When you see images from the 1800s and early 1900s, how often are the subjects smiling? It seems pretty rare to me. Somewhere in the middle of the 1900s that changed. Now people expect a smile in a portrait.

Here is an interesting "morphing" of the US Presidents from George Washington to the present. Before Harry Truman, they all look pretty dour and statesman-like. But from Truman on, that begins to change. Truman through LBJ seem to have a wee bit of a smile going on. Nixon a bit more. Carter's wide grin looks downright goofy. Obama's head shot looks like that of a weatherman on the 10 O'Clock news.

I think I prefer the dour statesmen.

Update: Others noticed the same thing.

Bill Clinton Senate Seat Warmer

This seems to me to be a much better idea than Caroline Kennedy.

The former president is among several boldface names being touted as possible "caretakers" for New York's Senate seat -- people who would serve until the 2010 elections but wouldn't be interested in running to keep the job.

As the process of picking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's replacement gets messier, the option may become increasingly attractive to Gov. David Paterson, who has sole authority to name a successor.

Some Democrats are opposed to this because they want a candidate who would then run in the 2010 election, rather than just a caretaker.

Am I the only one who thinks it likely that Mr Clinton would, in fact, choose to run in 2010, even though he denies it now?

Sarah Palin is Right - Science 2008

John McCain, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin made it into this year's "Celebrities and Science Review 2008 (pdf)." This is a yearly review by scientists of comments made about science by celebrities during the year. It's amusing, but frankly I think the scientists come off as pompous and elitist. Check out the pdf to see if you agree.

The politicians' statements, and the scientists response is given here as well:

Mr Obama and John McCain blundered into the MMR vaccine row during their presidential campaigns.

"We've seen just a skyrocketing autism rate," said President-elect Obama.

"Some people are suspicious that it's connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it," he said.

His words were echoed by Mr McCain.

"It's indisputable that [autism] is on the rise among children, the question is what's causing it," he said.

"There's strong evidence that indicates it's got to do with a preservative in the vaccines."

Exhaustive research has failed to substantiate any link to vaccines or any preservatives. The rise in autism is thought to be due to an increased awareness of the condition.

The scientists are quite right to point out McCain's and Obama's ignorance here. In fact, they are not hard enough on them. Promoting this anti-vaccine nonsense is irresponsible and dangerous. I give McCain a slightly lower grade here than Obama. McCain seems to have bought into a autism-vaccine connection, Obama merely states he thinks we should look further into it.

Sarah Palin gets dinged thusly:
Sarah Palin, Mr McCain's running mate, waded into the mire with her dismissal of some government research projects.

"Sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not," Ms Palin said.

But the geneticist Ellen Solomon takes Ms Palin to task for not understanding the importance of studies into fruit flies, which share roughly half their genes with humans.

"They have been used for more than a century to understand how genes work, which has implications in, for example, understanding the ageing process," she said.

How dare Ms Palin dismiss some government research projects!

First of all, let's take geneticist Ellen Solomon to task for spouting off about something she knows nothing about. The fruit fly study to which Ms Palin was referring was not a study intended to gain knowledge of human genetics. It was a study in France supported by the US Department of Agriculture on a fruit fly that threatens olive groves, including some in California. Is Ms Solomon's position that all fruit fly research is worthy because some has been fruitful in the past?

Second, and more important, Ms Palin is right generally about wasteful spending in science. The idea that all scientific research supported by the government is necessary or a good investment is laughable, yet I hear such claims all the time (example). The "Science Industry" likes to promote the idea of course, because it wants more money from the government. It uses its self-review process as 'proof' that each study is worthy, but in fact this creates an 'I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine' environment where scientists give positive reviews of each others' bogus research.

As a scientist wholly dependent on government support, I can assure you that much of what is supported by the NIH and NSF will never amount to anything and is a complete waste of time, dollars and human resources. On the scale of wasteful government spending, it may be small potatoes, but it is still wasteful.

Don't get me wrong. My research, of course, is absolutely vital.