Monday, February 26, 2007

More bad news for Bush

It doesn't get better for the man in the White House. The public wants out of Iraq. Does the public know what that would mean?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Upchuck Unhinged

There's a reason he's called UpChuck Schumer. The New York Post calls out the Senior Senator from New York.

Capitol Hill Democrats have finally adopted a military strategy: They've declared a war of attrition against President Bush's policy in Iraq.

The non-binding resolutions denouncing the troop surge in Baghdad and Anbar Province were the first feint. Now Democrats are launching phase two: an attempt to "de-certify" the war by effectively nullifying the 2002 congressional authorization for the use of military force against Saddam Hussein.

Here's how New York's own Sen. Chuck Schumer outlined the Dems' line of attack: "There will be resolution after resolution, amendment after amendment . . . just like in the days of Vietnam," he said. "The pressure will mount, the president will find he has no strategy, he will have to change his strategy and the vast majority of our troops will be taken out of harm's way and come home."

So much for the Democrats' insistence that they don't favor a wholesale cut-and-run from America's commitment in Iraq.

Frankly, we'd expect such sentiments from the Democrats running for president, who are falling over each other in a desperate bid to mollify the party's increasingly dominant far-left wing.

But Chuck Schumer knows better.

Or at least he used to - before he was tapped for a top leadership position, and publicly abandoned common sense in favor of toeing the party line of appeasement and surrender.

After all, it was little more than two years ago that Schumer, campaigning for re-election, pronounced himself "rather hawkish" on the War on Terror and openly boasted that he'd "voted with the president for authorization to go into Iraq."

Indeed, he added then, "My greatest brief against the Bush administration is not what they're doing overseas."

And he issued a solemn vow that "I'm never going to leave our soldiers high and dry."

That was then. Now he's invoking the Democratic "glory days" - America's defeat in Vietnam - as the rallying cry for his party's anti-war efforts.

Yet even now, with their intentions wholly apparent, the majority Democrats won't treat the issue honestly and schedule an up-or-down vote on support for the war.

Instead, they clumsily mask their plans by offering meaningless resolutions that profess to "support the troops" even while deploring their mission.

As Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell noted:

"Republicans are fighting for the right of the American people to know where we stand. If you support this war, say so. If you don't, say so. But you cannot say you are registering a vote in favor of our troops unless you pledge to support them with the funds they will need to carry out their mission."

Which is why the Democrats refused to allow either the House or the Senate to vote on a GOP resolution that supports continued funding for the troops, even while expressing concern over the Baghdad troop surge.

That, McConnell rightly noted, is chicanery - pure and simple. "The only vote that really matters is a vote on whether to fund the troops," he said.

But that's precisely the vote the Democratic leadership is afraid of - because it would surely win an overwhelming majority, and thus bolster the president.

So instead, they've chosen a "slow bleed" - trying to tie the president's hands while simultaneously working to undercut his political support.

It's a shameful strategy - and doubly so when Chuck Schumer plays a leading role, sacrificing his principles in the process.

It's time for the Democrats to show some real courage and accept Mitch McConnell's challenge: If they really oppose this war, they need to oppose it. Defund the troops and the rebuilding effort. Bring everyone home - lock, stock and gun-barrel.

Fat chance.

Yes indeed Vietnam All Over Again.

"The best I've every played with" - Larry Bird

Dennis Johnson died last Thursday. He was one of the greatest players to ever put on a Celtics uniform. Larry Bird said DJ was "the best I've ever played with." Bob Ryan proves once again why he's the best sportswriter in the country.

I am also here to say that I have seen every great basketball player of the last 50 years, and I have seen only one person play the game in the manner of a Dennis Johnson. That building in Springfield is a Hall of Shame without a Dennis Johnson plaque hanging on the wall. But no matter. DJ left us with the indelible memory of a unique basketball player, and that is enough.
Read the whole column.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

It's a wiki world

For once I agree with Cass Sunstein.

In the past year, Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that "anyone can edit," has been cited four times as often as the Encyclopedia Britannica in judicial opinions, and the number is rapidly growing. In just two years, YouTube has become a household word and one of the world's most successful Web sites. Such astounding growth and success demonstrate society's unstoppable movement toward shared production of information, as diverse groups of people in multiple fields pool their knowledge and draw from each other's resources.

Developing one of the most important ideas of the 20th century, Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek attacked socialist planning on the grounds that no planner could possibly obtain the "dispersed bits" of information held by individual members of society. Hayek insisted that the knowledge of individuals, taken as a whole, is far greater than that of any commission or board, however diligent and expert. he magic of the system of prices and of economic markets is that they incorporate a great deal of diffuse knowledge.

Wikipedia's entries are not exactly prices, but they do aggregate the widely dispersed information of countless volunteer writers and editors. In this respect, Wikipedia is merely one of many experiments in aggregating knowledge and creativity, that have been made possible by new technologies.

The Central Intelligence Agency disclosed the existence of its top-secret Intellipedia project, based on Wikipedia software (and now containing more than 28,000 pages), in late October. The agency hopes to use dispersed information to reduce the risk of intelligence failures. NASA officials have adopted a wiki site to program NASA software, allowing many participants to make improvements.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Yet another third way

What is a libertarian to do?

To the extent that libertarians really want to affect political change, then, there are but two realistic options. Choose A, side with Republicans and work on softening the social conservatism or choose B, side with Democrats and work on softening the neopopulism. The question, then, is whether A or B represents the most promising strategy. Now there was obviously a time when A made the most sense. During the Goldwater era, for example, Republicans really did espouse libertarian economic policies. But Ronald Reagan’s strategic decision to court religious conservatives, while successful in securing his election, ultimately proved the beginning of the end for libertarian Republicans. George W. Bush has pretty well finished them off, consistently making the Republican Party less like the Libertarian Party and more like a European-style Christian Democracy Party. The three main contenders for the Republican nomination in ’08 – McCain, Romney and Giuliani – aren’t doing much better so far. McCain and Romney are currently spending almost all of their time trying to convince evangelical Christians of their piety. Hence we have Romney espousing religious requirements for the Presidency and McCain denouncing Roe v. Wade. Only Giuliani seems to be holding true to some sort of libertarianism, and if the Republican base actually nominates him, I’ll (gasp) seriously consider supporting him. I rather suspect that I won’t have to, though. In fact, I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see Sam Brownback getting the nod from the GOP.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I always knew my people were non-white

In our race-obsessed milieu, I often wondered aloud why Italians aren't considered Latino. Latin the language and the culture originated in Italy; the history of Spain and Italy are intertwined (ever hear about Columbus and his Spanish patrons?). But I never thought someone would question whether we were "white" or white enough or a work in progress. Terry Moran asks a compelling question, perhaps even a silly one: Is Giuliani "white" enough?

So, instead of asking, "Is Obama black enough?" how about asking, "Is Rudolph Giuliani white enough?"


Well, just as "blackness" is an identity we invent and impose on each other (a "socially constructed concept," as they say), so is "whiteness." And "whiteness"--or the "lack" of it--might also have important political ramifications.

Rudolph William Louis Giuliani III is a proud Italian-American; both his mom and his dad were immigrants. He was mayor of New York City--perhaps the world's greatest experiment in diversity. And he's running for president in the Republican Party, a party that even former chairman Ken Mehlman has acknowledged faces genuine problems reaching out to non-whites. In 2000, George W. Bush won 62 percent of white males--and lost the popular vote. Bush won 60 percent of the white male vote in 2004--and just 50.7 percent of the overall vote. As any GOP strategist will tell you privately, the Republican Party has become too dependent on white male voters.

So what does this have to do with Giuliani? He's a white guy, right? Well, yes and no. Who counts as white in America has been a fluid concept in our history, and Italians have only recently--and perhaps incompletely in some quarters--been admitted to the racial club.

It was just 85 years ago, in 1922, in the fascinating case of Rollins v. Alabama, that a black man named Jim Rollins was tried and convicted for "miscegenation"--the crime of having sex with a white woman. On appeal, Rollins' conviction was overturned because the woman in question, Ms. Edith LaBue, was a Sicilian immigrant, a fact that the court held could "in no sense be taken as conclusive that she was therefore a white woman." (Anyone who's read William Faulkner's novels will recognize the Alabama court's unease about calling a Sicilian woman white.) Italians--like Irish, Jews, Poles, Greeks and now Hispanics and others--have struggled in our history to achieve "whiteness." It's not a given--not a fixed characteristic. It's always been a designation granted to a group by the dominant culture.

But that's a done deal for Italian-Americans, long ago. They're white--now. But the question for Giuliani is whether there is some shadow, some echo of the old attitudes in how some voters might approach his candidacy.

Giuliani is at odds with Republican base voters on several major issues: abortion, gay rights, gun control, immigration. His positions on these matters--combined with his background--confront Republicans with a distinctly "urban" candidate--an ethnic son of immigrants at ease with the roiling racial and social diversity of the big city that many GOP voters see as a threat to their notion of America. This is a party, after all, that has nominated precisely one ethnic immigrant candidate for national office in its history--Greek-American Spiro Agnew (the Roosevelts and Eisenhowers had been in America for centuries). Republicans have never nominated a Catholic for national office. Democrats have a different record--Irish-Americans Al Smith, John Kennedy and John Kerry; Polish-American Edmund Muskie; Norwegian-American Walter Mondale; Italian-American Geraldine Ferraro; Greek-American Michael Dukakis; Jewish-American Joseph Lieberman.

Look at a map of the 2004 election results, county by county. What you see is a nation divided by diversity. Rudy Giuliani's candidacy challenges that division, and raises the question: Is he white enough?

So the Giuliani candidacy might tell us something about today's Republican Party. And about America.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Now back to Chavez

I want to hear from the left civil libertarians all lathered up about the national security snooping in the U.S. If far reaching snooping is good enough for Hugo why is n't a tad of it good for us. After all we're fighting a war on terror. Hugo is running a Stalinist version of Of course all that crap about how much he's done for the poor in Venezuela is a myth. Maybe Joe Kennedy can provide a few references.

And when that time comes, Venezuelans of all stripes may have no choice but to accept Chávez’s continued rule. He has used his time in office, and his country’s ample resources, to consolidate a formidable political machinery whose power is based not only on its ability to hand out rewards to supporters, but also to punish its opponents by systematically denying them access to employment and public services. Every arm of the state, from the tax collection agency to the judicial system, is being used to ensure that Chávez’s opponents pay a high cost for their political opinions.

The centerpiece of this system is the elaborate Maisanta database, an electronic registry of the political allegiances of 12.4 million Venezuelans. In what Venezuelan economist Ana Julia Jatar has termed a “21st century apartheid,” the list is routinely used by government offices to screen job applicants and those seeking social assistance. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is currently processing 780 cases of political discrimination against signers of the petition to hold the 2004 recall referendum. Only time will tell whether Chávez’s elaborate system for the suppression of dissent will be sufficient to counteract the effect of an economic downturn. In the meantime, another oil boom will have been squandered and another chance for Venezuela’s development will have been thrown into the dustbin

Follow the collapse of postmodern Marxism

This is a roadmap that American leftists would rather ignore. Do they teach this stuff on campus. Or do they just moan about "market failure?"

Hat tip: Donald Luskin.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Question time for Caroline Kennedy

If you organization has any credibility, it would do the right thing and name Senator Joseph Lieberman as the next recipient of a Profile in Courage award.

It would be nice to see the esteemed Senator here in Boston to pick up the prize.

Isn't this a good idea?

Hugo Chavez, Dumb Ass

Joe Kennedy's friend Hugo Chavez thinks he can command an economy. Will he be in for a surprise.

Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuela President Hugo Chavez's plan to curb inflation by lopping three zeros from the currency may backfire because the move fails to address production bottlenecks that are pushing prices higher, economists said.

The government will cut three zeros from the bolivar's exchange rate by February 2008, Chavez said last night in a televised speech, citing rising consumer prices. He also will cut the value-added tax rate and clamp down on ``speculators'' to halt last month's 4 percent increase in the cost of food.

The steps aimed at slowing inflation and boosting local output miss the root causes exacerbating imbalances in South America's third-biggest economy, according to economists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bear Stearns & Co. Flush with oil money and government spending, which jumped about 50 percent last year, economic growth and inflation are both surging.

``He has a funny understanding of the problem,'' Alberto Bernal, a Latin America economist with Bear Stearns & Co., said in an interview. ``Cutting a number of zeros from the bolivar is irrelevant in the end.''

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The libertarians, do they matter?

Ponder the fact that the libertarians slipped out of the Big Tent last November.

John Cougar, Useful Idiot

Another celebrity who should keep his stupidity to himself.

Charlie Rose: So, After 9/11 what was inappropriate for you...

John Cougar Mellencamp: It was inappropriate from the beginning.

Charlie Rose: Afghanistan was inappropriate?

John Cougar Mellencamp: Everything was inappropriate.

Charlie Rose: If we knew where Osama Bin Laden was, to have bombed his hideout would have been inappropriate?

John Cougar Mellencamp: Yes.

Hat to Instapundit.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hey Joe Kennedy! Do you know about this?

If Joe Kennedy is referring to his "friends in Venezuela" rather than his Big Friend, Little Castro Chavez, then he ought to know that his friends, the people of Venezuela, are indeed suffering. But I don't think that's what Joe K has in mind. He's more interested in shilling for Chavez who's doing his best to ruin private markets in Venezuela.

As Phil Miller notes:

It's an excellent example of someone trying to fight the invisible hand and the invisible hand fighting back.

The Knowledge Problem has a handle on the outrage.
Think of the harm that he's doing to the very people who he manages to demagogue into voting for him. The cumulative effects of this type of policy and his destruction of capital assets in Venezuela's oil industry make me feel very, very sorry for the Venezuelan people.
Meanwhile Republican Connie Mack has another idea for Joe K.

The Economist has more here.

A petty governor disses a great figure

Someone ought to tell Governor Deval Patrick, Democrat, that the Gipper carried the liberal State of Massachusetts twice. Not once but twice! That's worth a proclamation, isn't it?

Not even one for the Gipper?

The new icon of Massachusetts Democrats has rebuffed efforts to commemorate a day for Ronald Reagan, the last Republican to win the Commonwealth in a presidential election. And Reaganites are not happy.

Governor Deval Patrick decided not to sign a proclamation recognizing Feb. 6 as "Ronald Reagan Day." A month into his term as governor, snubbing the Gipper's birthday has left Patrick open to partisan sniping.

A prominent conservative said Democratic New York Governor Eliot Spitzer declared the holiday.

"It's the difference between a little more sophisticated guy who's governor and a guy who's still playing partisan politics after a campaign," said Grover Norquist, founder and chairman of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project.

Thirty-three governors -- 20 Republicans and 13 Democrats -- inked the agreement to recognize Reagan's birthday in their states, Norquist said. The 17 remaining governors either didn't reply or refused outright; Patrick was a frank "no," Norquist said.

State Republican Party Chairman Peter Torkildsen said he felt disbelief.

"To me, Ronald Reagan is one of the great figures of the 20th century, and not only that, he carried Massachusetts twice, which no Republican for president had done since Dwight Eisenhower," Torkildsen said in an interview.
This doesn't nothing to enhance Deval's stature. Does anyone remember an administration getting off to such a clumsy start?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The U.S.A.: Too big to manage?

Gar Alperovitz, a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland, writes thoughfully about the future of federalism and decentralization. The question arises: what is the optimal size of a nation that can be centralized with a strong federal government.

Governor Schwarzenegger is quite clear that California is not simply another state. “We are the modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta,” he recently declared. “We have the economic strength, we have the population and the technological force of a nation-state.” In his inaugural address, Mr. Schwarzenegger proclaimed, “We are a good and global commonwealth.”

Political rhetoric? Maybe. But California’s governor has also put his finger on a little discussed flaw in America’s constitutional formula. The United States is almost certainly too big to be a meaningful democracy. What does “participatory democracy” mean in a continent? Sooner or later, a profound, probably regional, decentralization of the federal system may be all but inevitable.

A recent study by the economists Alberto Alesina of Harvard and Enrico Spolaore of Tufts demonstrates that the bigger the nation, the harder it becomes for the government to meet the needs of its dispersed population. Regions that don’t feel well served by the government’s distribution of goods and services then have an incentive to take independent action, the economists note.

Scale also determines who has privileged access to the country’s news media and who can shape its political discourse. In very large nations, television and other forms of political communication are extremely costly. President Bush alone spent $345 million in his 2004 election campaign. This gives added leverage to elites, who have better corporate connections and greater resources than non-elites. The priorities of those elites often differ from state and regional priorities.

James Madison, the architect of the United States Constitution, understood these problems all too well. Madison is usually viewed as favoring constructing the nation on a large scale. What he urged, in fact, was that a nation of reasonable size had advantages over a very small one. But writing to Jefferson at a time when the population of the United States was a mere four million, Madison expressed concern that if the nation grew too big, elites at the center would divide and conquer a widely dispersed population, producing “tyranny.”

Few Americans realize just how huge this nation is. Germany could fit within the borders of Montana. France is smaller than Texas. Leaving aside three nations with large, unpopulated land masses (Russia, Canada and Australia), the United States is geographically larger than all the other advanced industrial countries taken together. Critically, the American population, now roughly 300 million, is projected to reach more than 400 million by the middle of this century. A high Census Bureau estimate suggests it could reach 1.2 billion by 2100.

If the scale of a country renders it unmanageable, there are two possible responses. One is a breakup of the nation; the other is a radical decentralization of power. More than half of the world’s 200 nations formed as breakaways after 1946. These days, many nations — including Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Italy and Spain, just to name a few — are devolving power to regions in various ways.

Say it ain't so! Venezuelans suffering under Chavez

Joe Kennedy and Bill Delahunt call your office!

CARACAS, Venezuela - Meat cuts vanished from Venezuelan supermarkets this week, leaving only unsavory bits like chicken feet, while costly artificial sweeteners have increasingly replaced sugar, and many staples sell far above government-fixed prices.

President Hugo Chavez's administration blames the food supply problems on unscrupulous speculators, but industry officials say government price controls that strangle profits are responsible. Authorities on Wednesday raided a warehouse in Caracas and seized seven tons of sugar hoarded by vendors unwilling to market the inventory at the official price.

Major private supermarkets suspended sales of beef earlier this week after one chain was shut down for 48 hours for pricing meat above government-set levels, but an agreement reached with the government on Wednesday night promises to return meat to empty refrigerator shelves.

How long will it be before someone blames an American embargo that doesn't exist?

Go to the ">article.

Monopolies are bad even in the nonprofit sector

Repealing the iron rule of the marketplace, ignoring the basic laws of supply and demand are essentially exercises in ignorance. Monopolies are bad even if you grant one to the veritable American Red Cross.

Massachusetts is the only state that does not allow any private groups -- other than the Red Cross -- to collect or distribute blood. Although the Red Cross can't charge for the blood itself, the not-for-profit can charge hospitals a fee to cover the costs of collecting, testing and distributing blood.

The state's hospitals say the law gives the Red Cross a virtual monopoly and drives up prices. The hospitals are pushing a bill to allow other groups to compete for the blood business.

The decision to limit blood collection to the Red Cross came during the early days of AIDS when some private companies recruited anyone off the street to donate, paying them a small fee. That led to fears of a contaminated blood supply, although better testing has eased concerns.

Paul Wingle, spokesman for the Massachusetts Hospital Association, said the push for the bill is driven by stark fiscal realities.

Hospitals in Massachusetts are spending up to 25 percent more per unit of blood than hospitals in other states, a cost that forces up the price of health care at a time when the state is trying to rein in the cost of health insurance, he said.

This lends credence to the motto that all economic problems at root are government problems. See a shortage, expose the veil -- gubmit, folks. It's very simple.

Monday, February 05, 2007

New York Times does pop sociology very badly

The New York Times searches for meaning in some very bad Super Bowl commercials.

Then, too, there was the unfortunate homonym at the heart of a commercial from Prudential Financial, titled “What Can a Rock Do?”

The problem with the spot, created internally at Prudential, was that whenever the announcer said, “a rock” — invoking the Prudential logo, the rock of Gibraltar — it sounded as if he were saying, yes, “Iraq.”

To be sure, sometimes “a rock” is just “a rock,” and someone who has watched the Super Bowl XIX years in a row only for the commercials may be inferring things that Madison Avenue never meant to imply

Leaves us wondering, did Stuart Elliot watch the same commercials as the rest of us?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Colts do it!

Da Bears were really never in this game once Manning got his groove.

I have to ask myself: After watching the AFC Championship two weeks ago, what right did the Chicago Bears have to be in this year's Super Bowl. The Bears' lackluster performance demonstrates that the National Football Conference is really pathetic; so much for the NFL's vaunted parity.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

More than warm private jets

Interesting post on global warming from Glenn Reynolds.

McDonald's beats Starbucks coffee, but not Brookline

What I've known for years. You want a cup of coffee that tastes burned and sometimes bitter, go to Starbucks and save the world. You want a decent cup in a pinch, go to McDonald's. I've held this view even before McDonald's switched to Paul Newman's brand.

Say what you will about the Golden Arches, but at least the conglomerate isn't pretentious enough to call its employees "baristas."

Meanwhile there are more than few old timers who will miss McDonald's in Brookline which is closing its doors. Who would have thought Brookline residents would be defending McDonald's as a social hot spot.