Saturday, February 03, 2007

Jesus Told me to Defy the NFL

An Indianapolis church is defying the NFL, and showing the Super Bowl on a big-screen TV to parishioners:

An Indianapolis church on Friday said it will defy the NFL's demand that churches not use projectors to show the Super Bowl, saying it is taking "a stand for what's right."

Second Baptist Church, located 3705 Kessler Blvd. North Drive, will proceed with its plans to show the game Sunday -- using a rear-projection TV screen -- following an afternoon service, an assistant to the church's senior pastor told 6News.

"The NFL implied that it has a problem with the venue and medium that local churches conduct ministry," the senior pastor, the Rev. David Greene, said in a press release. "We want to save souls by any means necessary. Football, traditional service, street ministry -- it doesn't matter.

"All we want to do is increase fellowship with believers and demonstrate true love to people that don't know Christ."

In a letter to his congregation, Greene said that the NFL doesn't want churches to host Super Bowl gatherings, though "people can gather at sports bars and other secular locations with no problem."

"I believe that God's people have to take a stand," Greene said in the letter. "If the church continues to compromise with the world, it will soon have no influence on the world that God has instructed us to reach in His Great Commission as directed in St. Matthew 29:18-20."

That passage by the way, is:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. You are specifically directed to break NFL rules whenever necessary."

And people doubt that the Bible is divinely inspired...

Friday, February 02, 2007

NFL = No Fun League

The NFL squelches the plans of an Indianapolis church to host a free SuperBowl party for congregants, saying it is illegal to show the game on a screen larger than 55 inches:

The NFL has nixed a church's plans to use a wall projector to show the Colts-Bears Super Bowl game, saying it would violate copyright laws.

NFL officials spotted a promotion of Fall Creek Baptist Church's "Super Bowl Bash" on the church Web site last week and overnighted a letter to the pastor demanding the party be canceled, the church said.

Initially, the league objected to the church's plan to charge a fee to attend and that the church used the license-protected words "Super Bowl" in its promotions.

Pastor John D. Newland said he told the NFL his church would not charge anyone and that it would drop the use of the forbidden words.

But the NFL objected to the church's plans to use a projector to show the game, saying the law limits it to one TV no bigger than 55 inches.

The church will likely abandon its plans to host a Super Bowl party.

Nano Scientists Create Twilight Zone Episode

Princeton scientists have created a microscopic habitat for thousands of E Coli bacteria, to test how they evolve and attempt to create 'super-bacteria.'

If this were a Michael Crichton novel, we would soon all need Jeff Goldblum to save us:

Ever since Charles Darwin proposed that animals adapt to their environment, scientists have dreamed of experimenting with this theory in a real-world landscape. Holding them back was the difficulty of creating a complex ecosystem that could be manipulated and controlled without placing wildlife at risk.

Now, Princeton scientists have found a way around this problem by fashioning a living, changeable ecosystem out of a tiny chip of silicon. Their creation is one of the strangest and smallest environments ever seen, but it could provide a valuable model to help researchers better understand how organisms survive in the natural world...

While the tiny habitat created by Robert Austin's group already has revealed insights into the fundamentals of adaptive ecology, it could someday offer practical applications as well.

The team is exploring how it can be used to breed useful strains of bacteria, much as one might breed dogs for hunting or shepherding.

For example, some bacteria give off pure hydrogen gas as a waste product, and thus could prove valuable as a safe, sustainable source of fuel. A strain of bacteria that produces high volumes of the gas could bring scientists a step closer to the much-touted hydrogen economy. The team's adaptive landscape may enable researchers to develop a strain with such characteristics.

"The basic idea is directed evolution," Austin said. "By observing the growth of different groups of bacteria in different chambers, we can also monitor each chamber for a desirable product, in this case hydrogen gas. We can reward those populations that produce lots of gas by giving them more food and space. Conversely, we would 'punish' underachieving bacterial colonies, but would not destroy them."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

More Warning Signs for Congressional GOP

Bob Novak reports that the Congressional GOP ignored for years warning signs that they were seen as out of touch and having lost their way, and that they're still ignoring it today:

Luntz's truth is summarized in a 10-page "addendum," inspired by the 2006 election fiasco, to his new book, "Words that Work" (about political use of language). He delayed publication and lost Christmas sales in order to deliver a wakeup call to his party.

"The Republican Party that lost those historic elections was a tired, cranky shell of the articulate reformist, forward-thinking movement that was swept into office in 1994 on a wave of positive change," Luntz wrote. He went on to say that the Republicans of 2006 "were an ethical morass, more interested in protecting their jobs than protecting the people they served. The 1994 Republicans came to 'revolutionize' Washington. Washington won..."

In fact, there was no Republican theme for 2006, as individual members of Congress make clear in private sessions with Luntz. Yet, the Republican minority overwhelmingly re-elected Boehner as leader against the reform candidate, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana. Immediately after the 2006 election returns were accompanied by exit polls indicating voter concern with scandals, Pence said: "The greatest scandal in Washington, D.C., is runaway federal spending." Luntz agrees, and so do McCain and a few other members of Congress.

Indeed, Luntz is not alone in his gloomy prognosis. Republican pollster Bill McInturff believes his party "underestimates" the 2006 outcome and thinks the Republican outlook is as dangerous as it has been "at any time since Watergate." Sen. Jim DeMint, a reform Republican from South Carolina, says the newly minority Republicans are like the Israelites yearning for the fleshpots of Egypt. The question is whether the party will heed warnings or follow the route of its leaders, who want to mainly trash Nancy Pelosi.

Check out Glenn as well.

Giuliani's Conservative Moment Arrives

As Captain Ed has pointed out, it's very early in the 2008 Presidential cycle. (It's disturbing that we even have to say that, a year before the first primary). We don't even know all the candidates in the primaries, and people are already making endorsements. The rush to select candidates distracts from the task of governing - especially at a time when we are fighting a major war. In an ideal world, we would not be thinking seriously about candidates until 2008 arrives.

That said, we have the system we have. And it is clear that the vetting has already begun. In light of this, I'll point you to a warning sign for the candidate that I like best so far: Rudy Giuliani. It's clear that he's getting a lot of love from conservatives right now. Even Dick Morris is talking about reconsidering his view that Giuliani can't get the nomination. Many of us are saying that in a field of imperfect candidates, we can live with someone who's not been very conservative on social issues.

But here's the thing: while we don't need someone who's been with us all along, we do need someone who's basically with us going forward. I don't expect the Mayor to have 'Saul on the road to Damascus' epiphany, and suddenly declare that he's been wrong all along on abortion, gay marriage, gun control, and immigration. But I need a candidate who will recognize where the party rank-and-file is on those issues, and promise to be faithful to them. That means (first and foremost) strict constructionist judges. It means believing that each abortion is a tragedy, and being committed to reducing abortions. It means a commitment to protecting the right to keep and bear arms.

The reason I post this now, is that I think Mr. Giuliani's moment may be arriving. Many bloggers are searching for a conservative candidate to back. There is dissatisfaction with McCain and Romney. Lots of people are talking about Giuliani. If a few months go by and Mr. Giuliani hasn't taken advantage of this opportunity, people may have turned their backs on him - and gone to support Mike Huckabee, or someone. And once folks have moved past Giuliani, it will be harder to get them back.

I think this is the time for Giuliani to talk about his views today on some of those issues.

Go and read the American Spectator and Ace of Spades as well, for some thoughts on this, and some discussion of whether Giuliani is passing up his chance.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Giuliani Can't Win

Everyone knows Giuliani can't woo the social conservatives. Not unless you count Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition:

Which candidate was Reed heard talking up at the National Review Institute? Not Romney. It was ex-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, according to a person who discussed the presidential race directly with Reed. That induced "a number of odd looks and rolled eyes from many of the attendees," according to our source.

Defending Joe Biden

I like to pick on Democrats as much as the next guy, and Biden is easy to pick on. But having listened to the audio of the interview in question, I don't think it was as bad as it initially seemed from the transcript.

Listen to it here, and see for yourself.

It seems to me that for lack of a better term, there should be a comma in there. He is stating two separate thoughts:

  1. Here is the first mainstream African-American candidate; and,
  2. That candidate happens also to be articulate, bright, clean and nice-looking.

Clearly, there are problems with the adjectives he used to describe Obama. In America today, you cannot describe an African-American as 'articulate.' Of course, you can't describe him as 'inarticulate' either. To call him 'clean' is just... weird. But I can accept that Biden was in some way commenting on his almost boy scout image. I'll also allow that Biden has given people reason to think that he might be a closet racist (his Indian 7-11 and Dunkin Donut comment comes to mind). Some will also be offended by the suggestion that neither Jesse Jackson nor Al Sharpton is mainstream. I tend to regard that as self-evident.

Say what you will about the guy: he's a plagiarizer, he's a bad Senator, he's wrong on Iraq, or he's a confirmed boor. But to me, what Biden is saying in this interview is defensible. It may be clumsy, but I don't see anything in the delivery that suggests that racism is behind it.

I don't know how much it matters of course; it's not as if Biden has any chance of getting elected President.

Hat Tip: Allah

Note: Somewhat more interesting are Biden's comments about his rivals for the nomination. Check out Mickey and Jim Geraghty for good commentary on that.

Novak: WH to Start Bringing Troops Home This Year

There's no link for this one; it's in Novak's political report. Novak echoes a point I have made here recently:

Although President George W. Bush officially is opposed to setting any time table for getting out of Iraq, senior administration officials and Republican leaders in Congress privately say there cannot be U.S. boots on the ground or blood being spilled in Iraq when 2008 begins if Republicans are to have a chance in next year's elections. That effectively sets a December 2007 deadline for getting out.

I think there might be a few more months, but for better or worse, I think this is largely correct.

If the surge goes well, I think the best that can be hoped for - in terms of popular perception of the war - is that it's OK for American troops to continue in Iraq in a role that generally keeps them out of harm's way. The Democrats and the media have too much invested in the failure of the US effort there to allow it to be perceived as a victory. So if things improve, the goalposts will be moved.

Either way, the role of US troops in combat in Iraq will be over early next year.

Biden's Shrewd Move

You know what I love about Joe Biden? He's not programmed; sometimes he says what he really thinks. As Steve Clemons says:

Biden is a powerful ideas guy and gets points from me for being brazen, smart, and ready to dump political correctness.

Oh sure - there's a downside. Sometimes he'll say things like this about Barack Obama:

'I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy'

This is the sort of thing that guarantees immediate attention to his campaign! Talk about shrewd. He's REALLY separated himself from Dodd and Richardson and those other third tier guys now.

There's no such thing as bad publicity, right?

Democratic Bait and Switch on Earmarks?

Today the House will vote on legislation to fund the federal government through the rest of fiscal year 2007. HJres 20 will spend about $464 billion of taxpayer money. Porkbusters and others are watching closely to see if Democrats follow through on their promise to include no earmarks in the bill.

They have not. A few posts below I mentioned a few earmarks that are still in the bill, and linked to blog posts identifying others. Still, even if Democrats can't deliver a complete victory on ending earmarks, they may deserve significant credit for dramatically reducing them - but the jury is still out on that.

My question is regarding Chairman Obey's press release explaining how Democrats have delivered on their promise. He states:

The recent explosion in earmarks has left Congress unable to ensure the integrity of the system and public confidence is at an all time low. Obey and Byrd decided to place a moratorium on the practice until the new, reformed process is fully in place.

The joint resolution is free of earmarks. Title I, Section 112 states:

Any language specifying an earmark in a committee report or statement of managers accompanying an appropriations Act for fiscal year 2006 shall have no legal effect with respect to funds appropriated by this division.

This decision does not come without pain. Many worthwhile earmarks were cut including the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Points of Light Foundation, and America’s Promise. Hopefully, whatever short term pain this causes will be more than made up for in the long run.

That's welcome, but it addresses last year's bills. This bill is for fiscal year 2007. Fiscal year 2006 ended months ago. Surely, the 2006 earmarks (which were enacted in 2005) have already been funded?

Further, as others have pointed out, report language never had the force of law. So at best, this is symbolic. As far as I can see, it tells the White House 'you know all those projects we told you to fund 18 months ago, you didn't have to.'

But it does nothing about earmarks this year or going forward.

Or can someone explain to me what I'm missing?

Tet, 39 Years on

Memo from wars lost in the opinion columns of the New York Times: When the ruling classes lose their nerve, the actual situation on the ground is completely beside the point.

While the Siege of Khe Sanh (pictured) actually began ten days earlier, today marks the 39th anniversary of the commencement of the main actions of the Viet Cong/NVA Tet Offensive.

Companies That Support a Higher Minimum Wage

Great point made over at Free Exchange:

And the Washington Post makes a surprisingly common error in discussions of minimum wage laws:

The chief executive of Costco Wholesale, the nation's largest wholesale club, yesterday became the most prominent member of a new organization of business owners and executives pressing Congress to approve an increase in the federal minimum wage.

Jim Sinegal, a maverick entrepreneur who founded Costco in 1983 and has resisted Wall Street pressure to cut wages and benefits for his 130,000 employees, said he signed onto the effort because he thinks a higher minimum wage would be good for the nation's economy as well as its workers.

"The more people make, the better lives they're going to have and the better consumers they're going to be," Sinegal said in an interview. "It's going to provide better jobs and better wages."

That view opposes the position held by many business groups, which have lobbied against legislation moving through Congress to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour from $5.15. Democrats have placed a high priority on increasing the minimum wage, which has fallen to its lowest level in more than 50 years when adjusted for inflation. The measure has passed the House but is stalled in the Senate, where Republicans have said they will support it only if tax breaks are included for small businesses.

CEO's who support higher minimum wages are not, as the media often casts them, renegade heros speaking truth to power because their inner moral voice bids them be silent no more. They are by and large, like Mr Sinegal, the heads of companies that pay well above the minimum wage. Forcing up the labour costs of their competitors, while simultaneously collecting good PR for "daring" to support a higher minimum, is a terrific business move. But it is not altruistic, nor does it make him a "maverick". Costco's biggest competitor, Wal-Mart, also supports a higher minimum wage, and for the same reason. Wal-Mart's average wage is already above the new minimum; it will cost the company little, while possibly forcing mom-and-pop stores that compete with Wal-Mart out of business. This seems blindingly obvious to me. Though I don't expect we'll see "the minimum wage—it's great for Wal-Mart!" in many Democratic campaign commercials.

Analysts and politicians who work from the premise that 'business' is a monolithic supporter of the free market and open competition always make me chuckle. 'Business' is for whatever makes it more money - which is often a competitive market. But if they can get government to kneecap a competitor without doing damage to their own bottom line, they'll usually go for that even quicker.

Dingell, Pelosi, Frank Feuding

Constant turf battles in the House.

Congressional Democrats Break Promise on Earmarks

Check out Mark Tapscott, Andrew Moylan, and Ed Frank.

Moylan notes that it appears that Congress will 'revive' earmarks by appropriating funds whose later expenditure must be subject to agreement between the White House and Congress. The language that he references is the sort of earmarking I raised a flag about some time ago.

Ed Frank raises a valid point: if this language becomes law, the President should consider directing the agencies not to co-operate in earmarking taxpayer dollars. Before that happens however, the Republican minority should raise a stink about it - particularly since the Democrats have again shut them out of the debate.

The text of the bill is here.

Note by the way, that the same mechanism Moylan references is used in other places in the bill - on page 129 for GSA, and pages 132 and 134 for Washington DC assistance, for example. I also note that on page 89 of the bill, the previously-agreed-to list of Army land acquisition expenditures is stricken, and replaced by a a list of just two such acquisitions - apparently Fort Lee in Virginia and Fort Lewis in Washington (those are the last two in the list on pages 366-367 in this referenced report). I'm not sure what that's about. (Note: not all earmarks are created equal. As far as I know, this particular account is not high on the list for pork. These projects could have been requested by the White House. But this meets the definition of an earmark - in that it is Congressionaly-mandated spending on a specific project).

Plus, I see no mention on Thomas of the committee report accompanying the legislation. It would be very unusual (thought not unprecedented) for there not to be a committee report, and that's usually where the earmarks are spelled out.

I'm sure others will find more.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

When Gimmicks Go Wrong

Did you know that the House Democrats are still in their 'first 100 hours?' That's right - Congress convened on January 4, and today - just 17 working days later - they are already 42 hours and 25 minutes into their legislative calendar!

That's a rate of just about 2:30 minutes per day of actual work!

I'm note sure they can keep that pace up of course; things slow down as you get into the February doldrums.

At their current rate however, they will complete the 'first 100 hours' around March 7. Aren't you glad they're not lazy and unproductive, like the Republican Congress?

White House Moving Forward on Earmark Reform

I'd missed this, but it looks like the Office of Management and Budget has directed the federal departments and agencies to begin aggressively compiling data on earmarks - both in enacted legislation and bills under consideration. It's a good move by Ambassador Portman. Once collected, the data will be published on the web:

The White House is heading to the Web in March to publicly post Congress’ earmarks in legislation, according to a new memorandum.

The Jan. 25 memo directs departments to catalog earmarks in appropriations and authorization bills and in report language to measure a clear baseline total. President Bush wants to cut that total in half by 2008.

For emphasis, the administration will post the earmark information in detail on the Internet by March 12, according to the memo written by Rob Portman, Office of Management and Budget director.
Knowing is half the battle.

(The original OMB memo is here).

Update: If earmarks interest you, check out these two posts on how Democrats are falling down on their promise to eliminate earmarks in appropriations bills this year.

"How About a Nice Game of Chess"

If you yearn for the days of the bi-polar world, where all you had to worry about was nuclear annihilation, then 'Defcon: Everybody Dies' is probably the game for you.

It looks very 'WarGames.'

A sample gameplay video is here:

I'm sure Professor Falken is turning over in his grave.

Today's Must-See

NBC's Richard Engel reports on the view of the soldiers in Iraq on Americans who support the troops, but oppose the mission:

Most of our men and women in Iraq believe in what they're doing. If you don't agree with that mission, you're not really supporting the troops; you're supporting those who don't believe in what they're doing.

The Wreck of the HMS Multiculturalism on the Shoals of Sharia

Things are getting worse, not better, a new study published in the Telegraph shows:

"Forty per cent of Muslims between the ages of 16 and 24 said they would prefer to live under sharia law in Britain, a legal system based on the teachings of the Koran. The figure among over-55s, in contrast, was only 17 per cent."

The Impartial MSM

Helen Thomas knows where she stands.

Romney: Good News and Bad

Governor Romney has won the first round of the Pajamas Media straw poll, and is leading the second round (over Rudy Giuliani) by a wider margin.

At the same time, is he falling prey to 'Hillary Clinton Syndrome'? HCS is the condition that prompts in your audience a sneaking suspicion that everything you say is programmed, and nothing is genuine. Ace is making that charge. It's one I've heard before, but now I can't find where.

By the way, be sure to hit up Pajamas Media and vote for the candidates of your choice.

France Accelerates Down the Tubes

In an effort to deal with the aggressiveness and violence of some members of its Islamic minority, France famously banned head scarves and other religious displays in schools. That was only the first step. Now a government panel has recommended that the nation adopt a charter that bans religious displays in public institutions such as hospitals.

This can only end badly. I'll try not to abuse a frequently-used trope, but France is retreating in front of violent Islamic fundamentalism. Eventually France will have to demand that the nation's Muslims accept pluralistic values and respect for other religions - or France as we know it will cease to exist - if it has not ceased to exist already. This is likely to end in violence.

Of course, I'm not going out on a limb there; it's already come to violence. The AP notes that a French Muslim has been convicted of assaulting a male doctor for addressing his wife's hemorrhaging during childbirth:

A report issued Monday by a government-appointed panel recommended that France adopt a charter to keep religious traditions and beliefs out of its hospitals and other institutions.

Far softer than a 2004 law that banned Muslim head scarves and other "ostentatious" religious signs from public classrooms, the proposed charter is, like the head scarf law, an effort to ensure the secular nature of France.

Tensions over religious beliefs in French hospitals, prisons and elsewhere have mounted in recent years, particularly as Muslim fundamentalists find a voice. With an estimated 5 million Muslims, Islam is the second religion in France...

Male doctors, particularly in maternity wards, say they are increasingly subject to insults, even blows, most often by men opposed to nudity or physical contact with their wives and daughters.

The conviction last week of Fouhad Ben Moussa highlighted the issue. He pulled Jean-François Oury, head of the maternity ward of Robert Debré Hospital in Paris, from a hospital room in September and slapped him after the doctor examined his wife, who had hemorrhaged after giving birth, according to court testimony.

"In my religion, a man doesn't touch a woman," Ben Moussa screamed, according to the testimony. In court, Ben Moussa, expressing regret, said his real motivation had been modesty, not religion. He was sentenced to a six-month jail term that can be partly served at home...

The experts recommending a charter for public institutions measured their words, affirming the rights of patients, but stressing the need for a "balanced approach."

The report said there was no need to legislate on the issue, but stressed that respect for the functioning of the hospital was vital. It suggested a charter laying out the constitutionally guaranteed principle of secularism be adopted and that pertinent sections be posted at the relevant institutions.

When will Europe realize that it cannot continue to appease a growing violent minority?

Update: Variations on a theme?

Update II: Good news. France's birthrate is up; it's primarily among anglos; and it's due to generous social policies. Does anyone know if it's accurate?

More Calls for Fred Thompson

ALa is practically begging. But I see no signs that Fred intends to answer.

On Humanity

An interesting post on life, death and regret over at the Anchoress. And it's punctuated by a clip from Scrubs. Interesting how often that show pops up.

House Dems Formalize Ties to Netroots

New DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen plans a tighter relationship with the Netroots than the Democratic party had last cycle:

With an eye to 2008, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is off to an early start in fostering its relationship with Netroots, political activists who drum up support for or opposition to candidates and causes online.

The DCCC chairman, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), has committed to participating in a monthly conference call with bloggers and has talked to several on an individual basis since taking the post earlier this month, a senior DCCC aide said. The DCCC’s executive director, Brian Wolff, also has close ties to Netroots activists...

Democrats must maintain support from the fickle Netroots community to retain their new House majority. Last week, a leading Democratic Party organizer and strategist, Steve Rosenthal, founded the Working for Us PAC. It will raise money for Democrats — including those who challenge incumbent lawmakers — who support a livable wage, workers’ right to organize, improved access to healthcare and Social Security, and sound corporate governance.

The new outfit criticized Democratic Reps. Albert Wynn (Md.), Ellen Tauscher (Calif.) and Henry Cuellar (Texas) on its website.

I like how the Hill phrases it: "Democrats must maintain support from the fickle Netroots community to retain their new House majority." Of course, Charlie Schumer argued quite differently . He just told the Hill that last year's election success will have been an aberration "unless we stop listening to the special-interest groups - and those are on the left as well as the right."

I suppose their majority may last as long as they can keep both the center and the base relatively happy.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Trying to Compete with the MSM

Bloggers can never hope to duplicate the depth and breadth of reporting by the MSM. We can't hope to approach their accuracy rate either, since we don't have those layers and layers of proofreading.

Knowing that, I just need a better dictionary. Does anyone know what 'fbxrd' means?

Illiterate Lousiana Democrats Desperate Already

Representative Bobby Jindal has barely made official his interest in the Louisiana Governor's race, and the state Democratic party has already launched a racist attack. While national Democrats and the media are livid that someone has mentioned Barack Obama's middle name, Louisiana Democrats think it's OK to play games with Jindal:

Jindal Claims Divine Intervention Has Directed Him to Raise Money
But Not Commit to Governor’s Race

BATON ROUGE – Piyush (Bobby) Jindal has finally admitted to a partial divine revelation that he wants to be governor. This revelation has told him to seek out his most valued supporters, ask of them large amounts of money while he continues to pray for an answer to his most burning question – Should I be Governor?[sic]

Someone would have to been [sic] living under a rock not to notice that Jindal has been criss-crossing the state over the last several months during his “supposed” re-election campaign. Funny, I didn’t think the voters in DeRidder or Monroe could vote in the 1st District?[sic] Never the less [sic], Jindal kept at it as he so smugly rested on the assurances his re-election was in the bag.

And now, to his loyal voters who put him back in Washington, he’s telling them – Wait a Minute – I changed my mind – I want to be governor[sic]. For someone who is supposedly intelligent and claims not to play politics, Jindal’s actions are insulting and should be called to [sic] question.

“How dare he ridicule Gov. Blanco for raising funds for her re-election campaign,” said Louisiana Democratic Party Chairman Chris Whittington. “Gov. Blanco has never hid her intentions to run again and had enough respect for the people of this state to tell them so.”

Gov. Blanco took the reigns [sic] of this great state with a mission – improve the economy, health care and education standards for Louisiana. Hurricane’s [sic] Katrina and Rita threw a wrench into her timeline, but our governor is not one to give up and she has stated she will work hard to see those goals achieved.

Instead of Piyush praying for a decision to run for governor which everyone knows he’s made; [sic] he ought to pray for humility and maybe even a conscience.

This is rich. They attack Jindal for being South Asian, for being someone who prays, and for raising money for a campaign before officially declaring. They must know that Blanco is dead meat. And how serious are they about ethics? The only mention of 'cold hard cash' Bill Jefferson on the website is a congratulatory message on his re-election.

And a special message to Louisiana Democrats: rather than waste money on the Blanco campaign, why not help the Louisiana Democratic party hire a proofreader.

WRT Robert Drinan

Philo - If we're counting Drinan as number two, who was number one in our trifecta? Castro - as far as we know - still breathes, and I doubt you were referring to this good soul.

So Who Will Be Third in the Trifecta?

On the subject of leprous consciences:

Rev. Robert Drinan; Congressman, GU Law School Teacher [Dies].

Jesuit and former congressman architect of the "personally opposed but politically unable to do anything about it at all" abortion dodge of the Catholic-Democrat Catechism faces Heaven, Hell and Final Judgment:

Dies iræ!

O Day of wrath!

Dies illa Solvet sæclum in favilla teste David cum Sibylla! Quantus tremor est futurus, quando judex est venturus, cuncta stricte discussurus! Tuba mirum spargens sonumper sepulcra regionum, coget omnes ante thronum. Mors stupebit et natura, cum resurget creatura, judicanti responsura.

Day that will dissolve the world into ember-ash, as David bore witness with the Sibyl. How great a tremor is to be, when the judge is to come strictly judging all things. A trumpet sounding astonishingly through the region of tombs drives all before the throne. Death will be stunned, and Nature, when the creature arises in response to the one judging.

Liber scriptus proferetur, in quo totum continetur, unde mundus judicetur. Judex ergo cum sedebit, quicquid latet apparebit: nil inultum remanebit. Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus, cum vix justus sit securus?

The written book will be brought forth, in which the whole is contained whence the world is to be judged. Therefore when the Judge shall sit, whatever lay hidden will appear; nothing will remain unavenged. What am I the wretch then to say? What patron to beseech; when scarcely the just be secure?

Rex tremendæ majestatis, qui salvandos salvas gratis, salva me, fons pietatis. Recordare, Jesu pie, quod sum causa tuæ viæ: ne me perdas illa die. Quærens me, sedisti lassus: redemisti Crucem passus: tantus labor non sit cassus. Juste judex ultionis, donum fac remissionisante diem rationis.

King of tremendous Majesty, who saves those to be saved free, save me, Fount of piety. Remember, faithful Jesus, because I am the cause of your journey: do not lose me on that day. Seeking me, Thou hast sat down as one wearied, Thou hast redeemed having suffered the Cross: let not so much labour be lost. Just judge of the avenging-punishment, work the gift of the remission before the Day of the Reckoning.

Ingemisco, tamquam reus: culpa rubet vultus meus: supplicanti parce, Deus. Qui Mariam absolvisti,et latronem exaudisti,mihi quoque spem dedisti. Preces meæ non sunt dignæ: sed tu bonus fac benigne, ne perenni cremer igne. Inter oves locum præsta, et ab hædis me sequestra, statuens in parte dextra.

I groan, as the accused: my face grows red from fault: spare the supplicant, O God. Thou who forgavest Mary, and favorably heardest the thief, hast also given me hope. My pleas are not worthy, but do Thou, O Goodness, deal kindly lest I burn in perennial fire. Among the sheep offer a place and from the goats sequester me, placing me to the right.

Confutatis maledictis, flammis acribus addictis: voca me cum benedictis. Oro supplex et acclinis, cor contritum quasi cinis: gere curam mei finis. Lacrimosa dies illa, qua resurget ex favilla judicandus homo reus. Huic ergo parce, Deus:

After the accursed have been silenced, given up to the bitter flames, call me with the blest. Kneeling and bowed down I pray, my heart contrite as ashes: Do Thou care for my end. That tearful day, on which will arise Man from the ember-ash, accused to be judged: therefore, O God, do Thou spare him.

Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem. Amen.

Faithful Lord Jesus, grant them rest. Amen.

Rothenberg: No Dem Surge in Mountain West

There has been a fair amount of debate about whether the Mountain West, as a region, is becoming more fertile ground for Democratic candidates. Stu Rothenberg looks at the history of the region and thinks that so far at least, it's a lot of talk.

Schumer Itching for a Fight

This has not gotten much attention, but could wind up being very interesting in the long run:

The engineer of the Democrats' Senate takeover in November, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), said Monday that his party must break free from the demands of special-interest groups to succeed in 2008.

Schumer, in an interview with Fox News, said the Democrats won last year because of President Bush and the voters' rejection of his policies.

"There is no George Bush in '08," the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate and chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said.

He warned that last year's election success will have been an aberration "unless we stop listening to the special-interest groups - and those are on the left as well as the right."

Schumer isn't right about much, but he is spectacularly right about this. The Democratic takeover of Congress was not an endorsement of the Democratic agenda - largely because they didn't have much of an agenda. But if Congressional Democrats don't stick more or less to the center, and don't accomplish something in the next two years, they won't be in the majority very long.

Schumer is not particularly popular with the netroots, and I doubt they're going to love him for this either.

Schilling Endorses McCain

If Curt Schilling has any thought of running for Senate in Massachusetts, he has a funny way of showing it. He just endorsed John McCain.

Tough for Romney to come up with a countermove on this one. Jeremy Roenick plays in Phoenix and is from Massachusetts, but I don't think an endorsement from him would carry the same weight, since no one goes to Coyotes games.

Steve Nash on the other hand, is well known in Arizona, and happens to be from Massachusetts...

Ok, he's from Canada, but it's basically the same thing.

Draining the Swamp

I've commented before that Harry Reid seemed a shrewd and nimble leader for Senate Democrats right up until election day. The sudden attention to his ethically-challenged behavior in office is more fuel for that fire.

Get Your Tickets Fast!

This is sure to sell out as fast as the Super Bowl:

With Fidel Castro seriously ill, the city of Miami is making plans to throw a party at the Orange Bowl when the Cuban president dies.

The city commission earlier this month appointed a committee — whose official job is to "Discuss an event at the Orange Bowl in case expected events occur in Cuba" — to plan the party. Such a gathering has long been part of the city's Castro death plan, but firming up the specifics has become more urgent since Castro became ill last summer and turned over power to his brother, Raul.

City Commissioner Tomas Regalado, a Cuban American, came up with the idea of using the venue for an event timed to Castro's demise. The Orange Bowl was the site of a speech by President Kennedy in 1961 promising a free Cuba and in the 1980s it served as a camp for refugees from the Mariel boatlift.

Castro "represents everything bad that has happened to the people of Cuba for 48 years," Regalado said. "There is something to celebrate, regardless of what happens next. ... We get rid of the guy."

Something Light

I am ashamed to embed it (and I'm hard to shame), you'll have to go there on your own.

A wedding party re-enacts Michael Jackson's Thriller video. They're pretty good, actually.

Hillary Plays to the Base

Looks like Hillary isn't going to let anyone get to her left again on chickening out in Iraq.

While others might say that she's being inconsistent with her earlier vote to authorize the war, that misses the point: she was just doing the politically expedient thing - then and now:

DAVENPORT, Iowa - Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that President Bush should withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq before he leaves office, asserting it would be "the height of irresponsibility" to pass the war along to the next commander in chief.

"This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy," the Democratic senator from New York said her in initial presidential campaign swing through Iowa.

"We expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office" in January 2009, the former first lady said...

Clinton held a town hall-style forum attended by about 300 activists, giving a brief speech before taking questions for nearly an hour. Pressed to defend her vote to authorize force in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, Clinton responded by stepping up her criticism of Bush.

"I am going to level with you, the president has said this is going to be left to his successor," Clinton said. "I think it is the height of irresponsibility and I really resent it."

This is going to fuel more criticisms like this one, and justifiably so. The War on Terror cannot be conducted on some timetable. The troops should return from Iraq when the realities on the ground make clear that they should no longer be there. A good Commander in Chief knows that.

And Hillary by the way, was politically foolish not to incorporate that fact into this statement. It would have been easy for her to say something like 'the time is fast approaching when American troops will no longer be able to save the Iraqis from themselves,' and that they ought to come home no later than the end of 2008. It would have at least couched her opinion in terms that had some vague relation to national security goals. Instead, she comes across as petulant, and unprepared to lead the country in a dangerous world.

Is this something Margaret Thatcher would have said?

Democrats Press Bush on Fiscal Policies

The White House is not blameless in this area; the US can't afford the President's Medicare prescription drug program, and war costs ought to be counted as part of the unified budget. But the alleged manipulation of deficit projections is overstated:

Democratic leaders Friday urged President Bush to work with them to adopt "fiscally responsible policies" that would include "difficult choices and shared sacrifices."

In a letter to the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), plus Budget Committee chairmen Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) left no doubt that they view Bush's policies as the reason for a looming fiscal crisis.

But the Democrats strike a conciliatory note and say they are "prepared to work with you to make the tough choices needed to address our fiscal challenges."

They argue that Bush, as president, has "a unique capacity to communicate with the public, and persuade Americans of the need for these difficult choices."

To embark on a bipartisan course to fiscal responsibility, the Democrats urge Bush to submit a budget that accounts federal costs realistically, including spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition, they ask that the White House "realistically project short-term and long-term deficits." Democrats noted that a "clear perception exists that for years, administration budgets have both overstated current year budget projections - to allow claims of 'progress' later in the year - and understated long-term deficits, to avoid the need for hard choices."

Lastly, the Democratic leaders ask for specificity in the budget and a full accounting of "short and long-term consequences" of Bush's fiscal policies.

"Clearly, Democrats and Republicans will disagree about particular priorities, and we will need to negotiate our differences in deciding how to allocate scarce resources," they conclude. "But, as a first step, we all should be able to agree on these basic principles of fiscal responsibility."

More importantly, it was the Congressional Democrats who made it a point to sabotage the long-term financial outlook for the federal government - and entitlement programs in particular - by demagoguing first on prescription drugs, and then on Social Security reform. If the long-term budgetary outlook is a house on fire, then Congressional Democrats are the chief arsonists. When the President offered his plan for private investment accounts in Social Security, they rejected it - and further turned their back on President Clinton's prior proposal to initiate government-directed investments in the private sector. They offered no plan of their own, but instead used entitlement reform as a political issue to damage the President.

Now they come back and chide the President for not putting out the fire?


As I have said before, Democrats claim to be defenders of Social Security and Medicare. But now that they are in power and there is a sitting President with nothing (politically) to lose from backing entitlement reform, where is their plan?

Conventional political wisdom holds than entitlement reform must take place in a President's lame duck term - and the next one of those is at least 8 years away. When that time comes around, the challenge will be much larger than it is today, and the solutions will be significantly more politically painful than today.

Why aren't the Democratic 'defenders' of entitlement programs trying to fix the programs now?

Unions Killing Detroit Auto Industry

So reports CNN Money.

According to the latest calculations, the gap between Japanese and American carmakers' profits average out to about $2900 per vehicle, and the home team does not have the advantage.

A big reason is the cost of labor. As analyzed by Harbour-Felax, labor costs the Detroit Three substantially more per vehicle than it does the Japanese.

Health care is the biggest chunk. GM, for instance spends $1,635 per vehicle on health care for active and retired workers in the U.S. Toyota pays nothing for retired workers - it has very few - and only $215 for active ones.

Other labor costs add to the bill. Contract issues like work rules, line relief and holiday pay amount to $630 per vehicle - costs that the Japanese don't have. And paying UAW members for not working when plants are shut costs another $350 per vehicle.

Here's one example of how knotty Detroit's labor problem can be:

If an assembly plant with 3,000 workers has no dealer orders, it has two options. One is to close the plant for a week and not build any cars. Then the company still has to give the idled workers 95 percent of their take-home pay plus all benefits for not working. So a one-week shutdown costs $7.7 million or $1,545 for each vehicle it didn't make.

If the company decides to go ahead and run the plant for a week without any dealer orders, it will have distressed merchandise on its hands. Then it has to sell the vehicles to daily rental companies like Hertz or Avis at discounts of $3,000 to $5,000 per vehicle, which creates a flood of used cars in three to six months and damages resale value. Or it can put the vehicles into storage and pay dealers up to $1,250 apiece to take them off its hands...

All in all, the report paints a bleak picture. While Nissan was making $1800 per vehicle during the first half of 2006, and Toyota and Honda racked up $1,400 apiece, nine-month results for Ford saw them losing $1,400 per vehicle - a number that will go up when the fourth quarter's loss is tallied - while DaimlerChrysler dropped $1100 and GM $333.

I was going to wait for Mickey to post on this and then link it, but he's already covered the news.

If the American auto manufacturers are smart - a matter somewhat in question - they'll make a big push for the Democratic Congress to lighten their health care cost burden. It's certainly fertile ground - with Democrats still largely devoted to an old-style view of the economy, and a desire to promote government involvement in health care.

Assuming that Iraq is winding down by the time of the election, will health care be a primary issue? And if it is, will that help the Democrats or hurt them?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Five Myths About our Car-Happy Culture

Great piece in the Washington Post today. One of my favorite myths is that mass transit is the solution to all transportation and air quality problems. Of this canard, the authors state:

Transit has been on the slide for well more than half a century. Even though spending on public transportation has ballooned to more than seven times its 1960s levels, the percentage of people who use it to get to work fell 63 percent from 1960 to 2000 and now stands at just under 5 percent nationwide. Transit is also decreasing in Europe, down to 16 percent in 2000.

Like auto use, suburbanization is driven by wealth. Workers once left the fields to find better lives in the cities. Today more and more have decided that they can do so in the suburbs. Indeed, commuters are now increasingly likely to travel from one suburb to another or embark upon "reverse" commutes (from the city to the suburbs). Also, most American commuters (52 percent) do not go directly to and from work but stop along the way to pick up kids, drop off dry cleaning, buy a latte or complete some other errand.

We have to be realistic about what transit can accomplish. Suppose we could not only reverse transit's long slide but also triple the size of the nation's transit system and fill it with riders. Transportation guru Anthony Downs of the Brookings Institution notes that this enormous feat would be "extremely costly" and, even if it could be done, would not "notably reduce" rush-hour congestion, primarily because transit would continue to account for only a small percentage of commuting trips.

But public transit still has an important role. Millions of Americans rely on it as a primary means of transportation. Transit agencies should focus on serving those who need transit the most: the poor and the handicapped. They should also seek out the niches where they can be most useful, such as express bus service for commuters and high-volume local routes.

Many officials say we should reconfigure the landscape -- pack people in more tightly -- to make it fit better with a transit-oriented lifestyle. But that would mean increasing density in existing developments by bulldozing the low-density neighborhoods that countless families call home. Single-family houses, malls and shops would have to make way for a stacked-up style of living that most don't want. And even then the best-case scenario would be replicating New York, where only one in four commuters uses mass transit.

Read the whole thing.

They "Slipped the Surly Bonds of Earth"

Fresh off yesterday's 40th anniversary of the loss of the crew of Apollo I in a flash fire on the launching pad (look here and here for some thoughts), today is the 21st anniversary of the loss of the Challenger. I'm too young to remember the assassination of JFK or RFK, but I remember clearly sitting in the college cafeteria when a worker changed the sound system to news coverage of the loss of Challenger. Then the nation spent months learning all about O-Rings and Thiokol booster rockets, before shuttle launches resumed months later.

The History Channel has a brief retrospective of the disaster here.

Here is the text of the moving tribute that President Reagan offered that night.

NH Conservatives Like Rudy

More evidence that Giuliani's positions on social issues are not a deal-breaker for conservatives:

I spent Saturday in Manchester, NH where Rudy Giuliani was the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Republican State Committee. I plan to write a longer piece on this for our main website on Monday, so I don't want to go into too much detail here. But the bottom line is that the speech was very well received, and after speaking extensively to NH Republican activists, it became clear to me that the primary is very much in play for Rudy, and social issues, while an obstacle, will not be a deal breaker for him here. The closest thing I found to a consensus view was that it's very early, voters want to get to know each of the candidates a lot better before making a decision, but the door is definitely open for Giuliani. It also became clearer that Rudy is unlikely to flip flop on social issues, emphasizing the things that Republicans agree on --fiscal discipline, cutting taxes, personal responsibility, national defense, staying on offense against terrorism. He acknowledged that conservative voters may not agree with him on every issue, but nobody agrees with any candidate 100 percent of the time. He also sounded very much like a candidate, saying, "when I promise you things, if I do, when I do, as I do, I'll promise them because I've done them before," and then boasting about his accomplishments as mayor.

I still wouldn't label him a favorite; we'll have to see how primary voters react when the campaign commercials start. I'm not sure how this plays in South Carolina:

Rudy in drag notwithstanding, the point remains that analysts cannot dismiss his chances simply because of his views on abortion, gay rights, gun control, and immigration.