Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Perfect Pizza

Glenn opines on what makes it best. No indication of whether deep-frying is acceptable or not:

Mmmm... healthy.

Top that Chicago!

Jeferson Memorial Sinking

So reports the Washington Post:

Underground, though, the problems may be huge: Slowly, almost imperceptibly, parts of the complex seem to be sinking into the mud.

It's probably not endangering the majestic 32,000-ton domed structure itself, although it's being monitored for movement.

The big problem seems to be a section of the sea wall that is breaking from the memorial's plaza and settling into the Tidal Basin. The "ring road" along the memorial's circumference also seems to be shifting, officials say.

Such movement is an alarming -- and chronic -- problem at the Jefferson Memorial, which was built in the late 1930s and early 1940s atop pilings and caissons sunk into an artificial mud flat that is about 100 feet deep. Engineers have been struggling for decades to keep everything firmed up.

It reminds me of the Cathedral on the Zocalo in Mexico City, which has been sinking for many years. It's my understanding that after extensive work over more than a decade, it's now sinking at a uniform rate throughout.

I guess that's progress.

Air Force Wants New Stealth Bomber for 2018

From Government Executive:

A senior Air Force official on Wednesday said the Air Force plans to leverage existing technologies developed for the F-22 Raptor fighter jet to create and field a next-generation, long-range bomber over the next decade.

The service, which hopes to fly the bomber by 2018, likely will use the F-22's stealth and maneuverability capabilities when developing the new aircraft, Lt. Gen. Robert Elder, commander of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., said during a breakfast with reporters. The F-22 features fifth-generation stealth technologies.

The photo is of the X51a hypersonic demonstrator which, according to The Space Review, may be a precursor to the next generation of high-speed bombers.

Evil Dead/Flagpole Sitta

For all you Bruce Campbell fans out there - you know who you are. This is very well done. But since it's Evil Dead, there's blood and gore. So don't blame me if you click.

It's like peanut butter and jelly, folks:

Novak: Time to Get the Popcorn

Sit back and enjoy the show. That's the way I read it anyway. He says that liberal Democrats in the House are growing restive with the moderate course Speaker Pelosi is charting.

It's all in the eye of the beholder of course. But the problem in assessing the agenda is that there's not much 'agenda' to go on. In any case, Republicans can only be optimistic when they read of dissension within the caucus:


The powerful left wing of the House Democratic Caucus is unhappy with Speaker Nancy Pelosi for being too attentive to a handful of moderate members, especially those elected last year from normally Republican districts.

Protesting liberals grumble Pelosi has been too cautious setting policy during six months in the majority, especially regarding the Iraq war. The response is that Democrats will revert to minority status in the House if they stray too far to the left.

A footnote: Some liberal Democratic House members returned after the Memorial Day recess to tell colleagues how they were assailed by normally staunch supporters during town meetings, complaining not nearly enough had been done to end the Iraq intervention.

Also read Novak for news on the possible alliance between liberal Democrat Mike Bloomberg and moderate Democrat David Boren, in a possible independent bid for the Presidency.

BAE Gets OK from Congress, Investigation Notwithstanding

In recent years there has been a strong trend toward consolidation in the defense/aerospace sector. But both the Pentagon and Congress have become increasingly concerned that the diminishing universe of defense contractors reduces competition and forces up prices. One notable exception to this trend however, is BAE Systems, which was formed by the merger of British Aerospace North America with Marconi North America, .

BAE North America has effectively shed much of the baggage that limited its ability to compete with Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, and other large home-grown companies. Most notable, perhaps, was BAE's stake in Airbus, and the controversy over government subsidies to that firm. BAE seemed to steer clear of any related repercussions when it sold its stake. Now comes word that the Congressional committees of jurisdiction have consulted with BAE and decided to allow the company to complete the sale of some materials and technologies to foreign governments:

Congressional aides said the House and Senate foreign relations committees had lifted the technology transfer blocks after BAE North America said none of the assets involved was the subject of the abortive investigation by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, which was probing allegations the company bribed Saudi officials to win work worth billions of pounds over 20 years.

The decision frees up a proposal by Mojave, a BAE business unit, to transfer two A-4N Skyhawk aircraft to the German air force. Other deals involve a technical assistance agreement to upgrade systems on Australian F/A-18 fighter jets, and a plan by BAE and Japanese partner companies to make transponders.

It's interesting that notwithstanding the constant debate over the outsourcing of jobs, and the security threat of importing defense components from foreign firms, Congress is encouraging the increased participation of BAE in the U.S. market. One reason might be that as a company with British origin, BAE is not really seen as foreign, in the same way that a Russian or other firm might. (It must be noted of course, that BAE North America has its HQ in Maryland, so it is technically an American company, anyway.)

Changing Political Times

Have you grown used to political activism by groups purporting to represent the views of African Americans, latinos, Italian Americans, Irish Americans, gays and lesbians, and many others? Well, get ready for a new kind of activism -- representing a 'prized minority'- Indian Americans:

The chairman of the bipartisan US India Political Action Committee, Sanjay Puri, has written to Barack Obama, expressing his concern about the reports that "your staff may be engaging in the worst kind of anti-Indian American stereotyping.'

Puri's letter (.pdf) responds to an Obama campaign opposition research document (.pdf) that was obtained by the Clinton campaign, and given to the New York Times. The document is headlined "HILLARY CLINTON (D-PUNJAB)’S PERSONAL FINANCIAL AND POLITICAL TIES TO INDIA" and links Clinton's financial support from Indian-American donors, and the Clintons' personal investments, to the fact that she "has drawn criticism from anti-offshoring groups for her vocal support of Indian business and unwillingness to protect American jobs."

"It's all about the money," the document asserts of Clinton, who co-chairs the Senate India Caucus.

Puri, in his letter, asks that Obama "respond directly" to the reports of the memo, and "let us know if indeed your staff is promoting these hurtful stereotypes."

Puri said in an interview that the stereotype he was referring to was "that Indian-Americans are all thinking about outsourcing, that whenever you talk to an Indian-American it’s about outsourcing."

"Indian-Americans are physicians here, they’re professionals here, they’re creating jobs in this country," he said.

Based on personal experience, I can attest that Indian Americans are indeed doctors and professionals. According to the Embassy of India, there are just over 2 million Indian Americans in the US, with a median income over $60,000. While not as numerous as some other ethnic groups in the US, they are growing in importance and represent a key constituency in some areas.

The GOP hopes for the continued success of Bobby Jindal to help in this area, and if he wins the Louisiana gubernatorial race this year it would not be a surprise if he has a significant role in the 2008 convention. It'll also help if Democrats continue to mock his ancestry by pointedly referring to him as 'Piyush.'

Friday, June 15, 2007

Flagpole Sitta

This is cool. Hat Tip: Galley Slaves, where Jonathan Last describes it like this:

I can't quite figure out what's going on here. Is this a start-up? A graduate seminar? A very experimental theater group? Whatever the case, it makes me want to be young again.

Defense Authorization gets 'the Coburn Treatment'

Read it at the Standard.

Economist: Europe's Demographics Not as Bad as You Think

But still pretty bad. Check out the Standard.

Fighting IEDs

A look at the challenge from Government Executive:

Believing that it takes a nimble network to fight one, the U.S. military services have created a number of ad hoc groups like Meigs' to operate outside the lumbering Pentagon bureaucracy. His outfit exists to rush promising technologies to the battlefield without having to go through the Byzantine weapons acquisition process. "Microsoft pumps out software enhancements about every nine months. You get a new generation of cell phone [every] year to 18 months. That's the rhythm we're on, and it's a completely different way of doing business in Defense," Meigs says. Despite the $70 billion the Pentagon spends annually on research and development, he says, a technological silver bullet for IEDs is unlikely...

rmy Capt. Aaron Duncan, who spent 2005 and early 2006 in southern Baghdad as an intelligence officer, says the fragmented nature of the insurgency makes it nearly impossible to penetrate. A bomber cell might operate for a few weeks and then disband. Its members then join other cells or start their own or find jobs and leave the insurgency. On a piece of paper, Duncan draws a triangular diagram of the cell structure. At the top is the money man, the planner, typically a former Iraqi military or intelligence officer under the Saddam Hussein regime. "You are not going to persuade this guy to stop; you either have to kill him or capture him," Duncan says.

If U.S. forces take out the base of the triangle, the workers, then the cell leader must recruit new ones, which takes time. That can deactivate a cell for a week or two. If soldiers capture a mid-level leader, that link of the chain is broken and the cell might become inactive. The leaderless members might start their own cell or get rolled into another, says Duncan. But "If you cut the head off the beast, you've still got these guys down here, and you have another splinter cell develop. By just cutting off the head, you don't fix the problem because other heads will emerge. If you cut off the tails, other tails will grow. So how do you fix it? You have to target the whole group together, and put something in its place to deny them the ability to conduct operations."

U.S. military officers say the answer is better intelligence and money. Funding for reconstructing the country will provide potential insurgents with a source of income other than fighting, they say. Whether America can produce either remains questionable.

It's an interesting and depressing piece. Taken together, it seems merely to emphasize the importance of a political solution to the challenge in Iraq.

Is the End Near for McCain

Bob Novak seems to think so, and it's hard to find reason for optimism. In particular, I suspect that the prevalence of the immigration debate right now is reminding primary voters that was one of the lead Republican backers of what they see as an amnesty. The President's prominent insults to conservative opponents of the deal earns him resentment, which probably transfers to McCain as well.

I'm not sure where he goes from here:

GOP Field: While Sen. John McCain claims that everything is "fine" in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, events strongly suggest otherwise. The former frontrunner is now in deep trouble. With respect to the positive signs a presidential campaign can point to at this early stage -- fundraising, national polls, state polls, endorsements -- McCain finds himself almost empty-handed.

For this and other reasons, the nascent campaign of former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson poses a challenge for McCain in particular. Thompson has reportedly raised millions in just days after filing an exploratory committee, and a new national Bloomberg poll puts him at 21 percent, in a strong second place against former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. McCain has plunged to 12 percent, just ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, but at least Romney has some bright points in his favor: his lead in fundraising and his lead in Iowa and New Hampshire polls.

McCain has no such good news. If Thompson is the charging bear, McCain is the slowest of the three campers fleeing him -- the most likely to be devoured.

Read the whole article for Novak's dissection of McCain's multiple problems.

Will Green Aviation Kneecap Boeing

The green movement and the related effort to reduce carbon emissions continues to transform our world. It's prompting Airbus to consider a zero-emissions passenger aircraft in our lifetimes. And with that as a backdrop, Airbus wants to work with Boeing on transforming the aviation sector:

Boeing and Airbus should overcome their deep-rooted rivalry to develop together clean technology for the aviation industry, according to Louis Gallois, the European aircraft maker’s chief executive.

Mr Gallois, echoing the industry’s concern as governments seek to crack down on aviation’s environmental impact, invited his US rival and other engine and aircraft makers to pool research on technology to cut carbon emissions...

On Thursday EasyJet, the UK low-cost carrier and one of Airbus’s most important customers, set out its environmental requirements for the next generation of short-haul “super-clean” aircraft. It said the technology existed for the aircraft to be operational by 2015.

It unveiled a design for what it dubbed the “EcoJet”, which would need to be 25 per cent quieter and emit 50 per cent less carbon dioxide and 75 per cent less oxides of nitrogen than the A320 and 737 families.

The EasyJet design includes two rear-mounted “open rotor” engines placed between twin tailfins, lightweight carbon fibre fuselage, and wings designed for lower speed and shorter range than the A320 and 737 families.

On the one hand, Boeing and Airbus serve the same customer base, so it's not as if Boeing can ignore the demand of customers for 'greener' planes. At the same time, Airbus probably faces higher operating costs because of its extensive operations in heavily-regulated Europe, as opposed to more business-friendly climates in the US and elsewhere. Further, investments in new technology for 'green' aviation will likely cost Airbus quite a lot; it makes sense to encourage Boeing to make similar expenditures.

One potential wildcard: what if Boeing and Airbus do cooperate, and Boeing stands to gain from Airbus's investments? Will that make Boeing more forgiving of the subsidies Airbus has received from its government parents?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Can 'Vote Pummeling' Get Movement on Earmark Reform?

Erick and the team at Red State are doing a great job of chronicling the ongoing fight in the House over earmark reform. Confirming that optimistic Republicans were premature when they thought they had convinced Democrats to stick with their promise to reform earmarking, Democrats are preventing Members from offering amendments to a regular appropriations bill.

House rules expert Don Wolfensberger recently explained in Roll Call ($) that while there may be no filibuster in the House, the minority can still engage in some 'vote pummeling:'

The minority party in the House of Representatives cannot use the Senate’s filibuster or “hold” to block or protest majority power plays. Instead, the minority has what I call the “procedural vote pummeling ploy,” in which it forces a series of recorded votes on various procedural motions.

The votes can tie up House floor business for hours on end since each recorded vote takes at least 15 minutes. The ploy focuses media and public attention on perceived abuses of power. More importantly, the minority’s threat to “shut down the House” can force the majority to reconsider its heavy-handed tactics.

That’s exactly what happened on May 16 when Republicans caught wind of a rumor that the majority was about to spring a House rules change either to curtail the minority’s right to recommit legislation with instructions (offer a final amendment to a bill) or to change the germaneness standard for such amendments. The rumor was enough to trigger a rolling pummel of 12 votes on adjournment, quorum calls and demands that the Committee of the Whole rise on the Defense authorization bill.

That's what the Republicans are trying to do right now.

It's making for a slow day on the House floor:

Congress Doesn't Understand Trade, Business

Bottom headline of the day. Dog bites man.

CongressNow reports on a hearing before the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, regarding the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement:

Sherman also directed his attention to Bhatia, asking whether there were any studies that showed the U.S.-Korea deal would reduce the trade deficit between the two countries.

When Bhatia said that it was impossible to assess the impact before a trade agreement goes into effect, Sherman responded, "I can't imagine coming into a business boardroom and saying, 'This is the deal. We don't know whether it's going to cost us money or make us money, but sign on the dotted line because it's a good process.'"

Congressman Sherman doesn't seem understand either trade or business, apparently. When a business signs a deal to exchange goods and services -- the appropriate parallel here -- the goal is to make sure that the terms are right, and that they fit into the firm's overall strategy for earning money.

To draw an analogy, when Avis purchases a fleet of cars, they want to make sure they're not paying more than they need to. When Sony supplies CDs to Target, they want to make sure that the markup is not so high that it reduces overall sales. That's how they determine if it's a good deal. Avis does not ask 'how much are we selling to Chrysler?' before making a deal. Target doesn't hold up a deal because Sony is getting its paper products at WalMart.

Companies don't consider the balance of trade when they sign deals. They decide whether the deal gives them the best prices on what they need to buy, and the best chance to earn profit on what they sell. That's the test for agreements such as the US-Korea deal.

Murtha Tries to Take Pork-Barrelling to a New Level

Read it at the Standard.

On Energy

I've noted recently that Congressional energy policy is aimless. It reflects a laundry list of short term policy responses, rather than a coherent strategy to address serious long-term problems. I pointed out that the Chamber of Commerce has launched a new effort to promote a long-term response.

Now the Hill reports that the Chamber of Commerce is not the only group pushing for forward-thinking energy policy:

The other group is the Business Roundtable, a collection of CEOs from large American companies. It released a policy report last week detailing a series of energy-efficiency efforts it supports and highlighting the need to increase domestic energy supplies.

Both the Chamber and the Roundtable have lobbied energy policy debates before. But representatives describe the new efforts as a stepped-up campaign driven by new factors. Those include the growing support for national greenhouse gas limits, which would affect a variety of businesses; rising costs for fuels like natural gas and other energy sources; and nervousness among businesses about the future availability of foreign oil.

It's clear that long-term energy supply is becoming a more and more serious problem. Consider the nations from which we import the vast majority of our oil (Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Iraq) and only Canada seems a secure long-term supplier. It's clear that we must tackle these challenges in a bipartisan fashion.

Norm Dicks=Walter Sobchak?

This post is completely trivial and unimportant, but any time a Member of Congress is compared to a character from the Big Lebowski, it has to be noted:

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) certainly fared better on the football field at the University of Washington when he played pigskin for the college team than he did when he gave the school’s graduation speech last weekend — to rousing boos from clearly unimpressed students.

And the Washington Democrat no doubt got tackled a few times in his gridiron days.

Now, to add insult to, well, insult, some disgruntled very recent UW grads have started a group on Facebook (that’s the online community for college kids, you oldsters) to further dis their commencement speaker. The group, “Norm Dicks is a douche bag,” was started by a former student identified on the group’s page as “Jon Brooks” and includes 15 members. The group’s mini-manifesto blasts Dicks’ “piss poor commencement ‘speech’ (AKA autobiography/political speech)” and compares it to the rants of Walter Sobchak, the character that John Goodman played in the cult flick “The Big Lebowski.”

“Basically, Norm Dicks and his speech is to UW graduation as Walter and his speeches about Vietnam is to the Big Lebowski,” the Facebook page opines. Walter, fans of the movie might recall, was the boorish vet who relates everything that happens to his time in the trenches in Nam...

The Seattle Times covers the address as well, and Dicks definitely comes across pretty well. But this whole post is really just a pretext for posting this. Strong language warning:

Added to the Christmas Playlist

How did this never make it onto the list of traditional Christmas anthems?

Remember it when the holiday season rolls around.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Cooks: Dems' Iraq Plays Cost Now; Pay Off Later

Political analyst extraordinaire Charlie Cook says that while Democratic poll numbers are plummeting right now -- because they backed down to President Bush on the question of Iraq funding -- their stance will pay dividends in 2008.

Did congressional Democrats make a mistake by switching to a more cautious approach, passing a war funding bill with no strings rather than one with a timetable that would be vetoed -- a veto they could not override? Clearly, this move has antagonized many voters with strong anti-war feelings. But with no hope of overriding presidential vetoes anytime soon, Democrats would have run the risk of being portrayed as leaving U.S. troops in the field without adequate resources once the current spending bill expired.

Meanwhile, House and Senate Republicans appear to be nearing the end of their rope on Iraq. Democrats will continue applying pressure to Bush and his fellow Republicans until someone breaks. When that happens, the balance may tip in Democrats' favor on this issue.

In short, Democratic leaders have opted for short-term pain in exchange for long-term gain. Anti-war forces are upset that the Democratic Party is not storming the ramparts every week. However, in November 2008, anti-war voters are very unlikely to defect to the GOP, stay home, or participate in another narcissistic exercise like backing Ralph Nader. That didn't work so well for them in 2000.

I've argued before that Democrats are likely to do well in 2008 if the major issue that voters are considering is Iraq. If however, the US has significantly stepped down its presence in Iraq, voters are unlikely to attach much significance to the issue. (Consider how quickly Winston Churchill and George Bush 41 were dumped by the voters after WWII and the first Gulf War.)

Rather, the lasting effect of this debate is likely to be the same as was the effect of the fight over Vietnam: Democrats will have lost credibility on national security and military issues, and their presidential nominee will suffer significantly as a result. It's interesting that the persistent frontrunner on the Democratic side has prominently separated herself from the other contenders, with her continued efforts to seem like her party's 'hawk.' It is because she realizes that as the frontrunner, there is no reason to handicap herself in a general election.

Fred Thompson on the Tonight Show



Patrick Ruffini looks at Jon Bruning's primary challenge to Chuck Hagel, and suggests that the NRSC tell Hagel that he's on his own in any re-election bid. (As you may recall, he hasn't yet stated whether he intends to seek re-election, run for President, or retire.) While it's rare for the party committee not to support the re-election bid of an incumbent, such a statement at this time might have the salutary effect of discouraging Senator Hagel from forcing a primary against the popular AG.

Jane Galt speculates on the question of whether the albedo effect is an effective way to combat global warming. Not sure where she saw this cited, but I know that a letter writer to her magazine suggested it a few months ago. (I can't find it online, however.)

Check out the farm subsidy database.

The other day I commented that the economy appears to be doing better than some are saying right now. Kudlow offers further proof.

The Iranian economy is going to pot.

Congratulations to Justin Verlander.

Scottie Pippen (yes, that Scottie Pippen) got $300K in farm subsidies; David Letterman got $8K.

Rome Reborn

The University of Virginia has created a digital reconstruction of ancient Rome at the height of its power -- circa 320 AD. Check it out at Rome Reborn:

Guided by laser scans of modern-day Rome and advice from archaeologists, experts have rebuilt almost the entire city within its original 13-mile-long wall using the same computer programs architects use to plan new constructions, he said.

It even includes the interiors of about 30 buildings _ among them the Senate, the Colosseum and the basilica built by the emperor Maxentius _ complete with frescoes and decorations.

That's a picture of the Flavian Amphitheater (or 'colosseum') to the right. If you're like me, you've noticed that it appears to have been inspired by a visit to Yankee Stadium.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Me vs. jebus

I don't think he'll mind; this is pulled out of the comment thread for the post below on demagoguery. The quick and dirty: I am defending myself and the GOP on our motives in criticizing Democrats for failing to make good on process promises:

i would have to agree with the previous sentiment. the repubs had 12 years if they wished to deal with this issue.
# posted by jebus4me : 7:24 AM

Scroll back on this site and you will find more than a few posts claiming various unethical dem actions, dems thwarting process, and various other low-politic claims that are, and always will be, a minority complaint. I call it low-politic because both sides do it to push an agenda or stay in power. Any hypocrisy argument is silly because the complaint is as hypocritical as the action. No it is not right, and if you can show me a political party who upon becoming the majority limit their own power in this way, I will vote for them in a minute, because it clearly would be best for America. Until then, I have to support a candidate and a party who make me feel slightly less ill compared to the alternative.
# posted by jebus4me : 4:01 PM

Jebus - Don't think your posts make a lot of sense. You say that the GOP had 12 years to fix a problem and did not -- so they can't complain.

Democrats had years to fix entitlements and didn't. They had a chance to nab Osama bin Laden and didn't. George Bush has been President for 7 years and education still isn't fixed. Does any of those facts invalidate criticism from anybody? Of course not.

With regard to earmarks and open debate, the Democrats have failed to carry through on their promises to enact reforms, and in some cases have been worse than the Republicans.

So your conclusion is that Republicans need to quit crying about it? That's simply silly.

The job of the party out of power is to criticize the defects of the majority and propose alternatives. Whether Republicans are better or worse than the Democrats who replaced them, it does the public a disservice to say that they ought not criticize. When the Democrats criticize Bush over his handling of Al Qaeda, do you say 'now, now, you had your shot.' Of course not.

And did you last year regard all the promises of Democrats to change how Washington does business as irrelevant and vacuous? If you did not, then you can't now say that criticisms of their failure to fulfill said promises are invalid. That is, either the promises and the criticisms were both worth taking seriously, or they were not.

If instead, you feel that all that matters is the substance of the policies pursued - rather than the process considerations - so be it. I submit that you can't be all that happy on that score either, since by any measure the Democratic majority has failed to produce.
# posted by The Editor at IP : 4:45 PM

I'd also note that if you disregard process considerations -- the promise to change how things are done in Washington -- then you are...


According to the LATimes, a majority of Americans are disappointed with Democrats' doing business the same old way:,0,7184922.story
# posted by The Editor at IP : 4:50 PM

You are right, the job of the weak party is to complain about the job of the more powerful one. This is because it, and blocking legislation, is really all you can do when you are not in power. What both sides know, and what I think repubs have been better at for the last decade, is that it is more important to have power than do what is right all the time. If you are not in control, you get nothing you want done, if you are, then maybe 30-40%.

My conclusion is not to stop complaining, I would have a better shot to ask that the world stop rotating. But rather, you only really need to listen to those who criticize consistently, for example, those who call a spade a spade regardless of who controls government. If you only complain about something when you are not in a position to exploit it, well, as the first posted said, "sour grapes".
# posted by jebus4me : 8:57 PM

And if the motivation of the critic is just 'sour grapes,' then the criticism is less legitimate?

It's worth remembering that the last time the GOP was out of power in Congress and took control, they adhered to the promises they made while they were in the wilderness. They shut the House bank, cut back significantly on Member and staff perks, as well as passed the policy initiatives they promised.

So in that instance at least, the party coming into power DID curb their own power and perks, as they had promised to do. And the system that you disdain -- with partisans promising change for 'disingenuous' or 'self-serving' reasons, DID produce the change that the public supported.

How are the Democrats doing in similar circumstance? So far they've already gone back on a number of such promises.

Why have they done so? Probably because as a party, they are more loving of the state, and the authority of the state. It is why (for example) significantly more Democrats chose to serve 12 years in the Minority, waiting for a return to power, than Republicans chose to stay in the majority, exercising power.

It is those 85 House Democrats -- who waited 12 years to have their chairmanships returned to them -- that are still running the show, and preventing the Democrats from delivering on their promises.
# posted by The Editor at IP : 9:52 PM


The guys at RedState commemorate the 20th anniversary of President Reagan's 'Tear Down This Wall' speech.

Galley Slaves has a number of thoughts on the end of the Sopranos. Scroll down.

My take? Stories have endings. I don't gain anything by not having David Chase select one. People will still debate for themselves whether it was the 'right' one. It would have improved the series to see Tony killed, or tried, or reformed -- to find out how Chase views the results of the choices these characters have made. As things stand now, we're left the rumors that Chase filmed three endings, and that they might include a Soprano family member dieing in a car bomb, or Tony being killed, or another family member taking a bullet intended for Tony. Presumably any such alternate endings will be included on a DVD, and people will debate for themselves which is the 'real' one. This will all be seen as an attempt to sell more DVDs. And what if Chase ultimately makes a movie, or adds additional episodes? This will all be seen as contrived.

If you're interested in more on the Sopranos, Chase does an interview here with

Monday, June 11, 2007

Need Your Sopranos Fix?

Perhaps you'd be interested in this Paulie spinoff? Looks better than 'Joey.'

Let's Root for Demagoguery

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey says that although Members of Congress will have little opportunity to review earmarks, and no opportunity to fight them, they ought not 'demagogue' the issue. And if they do? Well, he might just decide that no one gets any candy:

House Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey, D-Wis., today outlined how earmarks will be disclosed before conference, and warned that if Republicans “demagogue” the issue there might be no earmarks in the fiscal 2008 bills.

And why are Democrats unable to carry through on their promise to open up the process? They've been too busy 'trying to end' the Iraq war:

“There have been 30,000 requests for projects,” a spokeswoman for Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said, adding that with the debate over the Iraq war and new ethics requirements, staff simply has been backed up.

In the first 6 months of this year, Congressional Democrats engaged in an extended effort to browbeat the President into withdrawing from Iraq; they claimed it was an effort to end the war. Never mind that an actual effort to end the war would have involved de-funding it; the Democrats were unwilling to take the political risk of doing that. No, they engaged in a seemingly endless amount of political theater, which apparently consumed a tremendous amount of staff time and resources, all of which ended with Democrats giving the President the clean bill he asked for -- after more than three months of demagoguery.

Republican critics of this retreat from campaign promises note (implicitly) that under their watch, these bills were porked up from the start of the process. Since the Democrats are waiting until the last minute to add thousands of pork-barrel projects, these bills now contain 'slush funds,' whose content will be spelled out later:

Republicans have accused Democrats of making the earmark process secret, calling the money reserved for earmarks in appropriations bills a “slush fund” and plan to use aggressive floor tactics this week to highlight what they perceive as a fundamental rule change...

“This bill provides $4.3 billion for unspecified projects,” Lewis said. “What that really means is that the bill before us recommends a $4.3 billion pot of money with zero direction from Congress on how the Corps [of Engineers] should allocate this money.”

If the GOP had been this vigilant about earmarks last year, they might not be on the outside looking in. It's nice at least, to see them starting to demonstrate the zeal of the convert.

Russian Roulette

I cast a backward glance at the G-8 summit to review Putin's dramatic volte-face on the issue of missile defence. In view of Aeroflot's order of 22 Boeing 787's today, it seems unlikely that the Russian heavy-breathing about missile defence was anything but a face-saving means of entering into participation in the U.S. programme.

The more interesting question is the degree to which the U.S., other G-8 powers and the international media had some sense that this was merely kabuki theatre. Bush's nonchalance prior to the summit makes much more sense under this interpretation.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Redshirted Kindergartners

Interesting piece from last week's NYT magazine, on the push by parents and educators to make sure that their children are older than their classmates at any given grade level. Why? Because the older kids do dramatically better than the younger ones in early levels -- particularly kindergarten -- and continue to do measurably better even in much higher levels:

...And in contemporary America, children are deemed eligible to enter kindergarten according to an arbitrary date on the calendar known as the birthday cutoff — that is, when the state, or in some instances the school district, determines they are old enough. The birthday cutoffs span six months, from Indiana, where a child must turn 5 by July 1 of the year he enters kindergarten, to Connecticut, where he must turn 5 by Jan. 1 of his kindergarten year. Children can start school a year late, but in general they cannot start a year early...

Redshirting is not a new phenomenon — in fact, the percentage of redshirted children has held relatively steady since education scholars started tracking the practice in the 1980s. Studies by the National Center for Education Statistics in the 1990s show that delayed-entry children made up somewhere between 6 and 9 percent of all kindergartners; a new study is due out in six months. As states roll back birthday cutoffs, there are more older kindergartners in general — and more redshirted kindergartners who are even older than the oldest kindergartners in previous years. Recently, redshirting has become a particular concern, because in certain affluent communities the numbers of kindergartners coming to school a year later are three or four times the national average. “Do you know what the number is in my district?” Representative Folwell, from a middle-class part of Winston-Salem, N.C., asked me. “Twenty-six percent.” In one kindergarten I visited in Los Altos, Calif. — average home price, $1 million — about one-quarter of the kids had been electively held back as well. Fred Morrison, a developmental psychologist at the University of Michigan who has studied the impact of falling on one side or the other of the birthday cutoff, sees the endless “graying of kindergarten,” as it’s sometimes called, as coming from a parental obsession not with their children’s academic accomplishment but with their social maturity. “You couldn’t find a kid who skips a grade these days,” Morrison told me. “We used to revere individual accomplishment. Now we revere self-esteem, and the reverence has snowballed in unconscious ways — into parents always wanting their children to feel good, wanting everything to be pleasant...”

Long excerpt, but it's a very interesting piece. Take a read, particularly if you have kids.

Update: 'Jebus' offers the following comment below:

One of the more interesting parts of the article, besides the term 'redshirting', is the economic component. As it turns out, in urban areas, it costs more for a year of preschool than a year of public college (you just try and find a preschool in the NYC area for under 15G, seriously, if you do let me know.) Therefore, pushing the public school cutoff dates back places a huge financial burden on families. All in the name of higher test scores.