Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cap-and-Trade: DOA

From the Washington Post:
Three key senators are engaged in a radical behind-the-scenes overhaul of climate legislation, preparing to jettison the broad "cap-and-trade" approach that has defined the legislative debate for close to a decade.

The sharp change of direction demonstrates the extent to which the cap-and-trade strategy -- allowing facilities to buy and sell pollution credits in order to meet a national limit on greenhouse gas emissions -- has become political poison. In a private meeting with several environmental leaders on Wednesday, according to participants, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), declared, "Cap-and-trade is dead."

Who said being in the minority Party wouldn't be fun?


From the Telegraph:
Teacher Barack Obama could be a one-term President
Barack Obama's health care summit was a sham and a failure, argues Toby Harnden in Washington, and the President could be heading for defeat in 2012

For almost three decades, he [Obama] lived in liberal campus communities where he was insulated from the real world by comfortable consensus and shared assumptions.

Now that Obama inhabits the self-reinforcing cocoon of the White House, this background has become a dangerous liability – and could spell disaster for Democrats in the November midterm elections.

Although Obama graced the health-care summit with his characteristic silky eloquence, the event was both a sham and a failure.

A sham because it wasn't a genuine stab at brokering a compromise between Democrats and Republicans but an attempt to portray Republicans as the block to "progress". A failure because Republicans defied expectations by presenting measured philosophical objections to the bill and outlining sensible alternative approaches.

Obama is becoming something of a victim of his own oratorical success.

The more he talks, the less people listen. We have heard so much from him that his words carry less and less weight. It is the law of diminishing returns.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Ryan Factor

With a large degree of home-state pride, I post this clip from today's health care summit featuring Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan (a rock-solid, pro-life Catholic, by the way). There's no other way to put it. He destroys, eviscerates, all of the phony budgetary projections in the Congressional Democrats' health bill. Watch Obama look on, dismayed as Ryan shoots down argument after argument. (For whatever reason there is some music playing in the background at first, but it goes away after a minute or two.)

"Hiding spending does not reduce spending."



The head of the US Marines said on Thursday he opposed ending the ban on gays serving openly in the military, the first top officer to break openly with President Barack Obama over the issue.

General James Conway told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he disagreed with Obama's plan to repeal the ban.

"My best military advice to this committee, to the (defense) secretary, and to the president would be to keep the law such as it is."

Read more here

Summit Notes

Karl Rove offers some advice to Republicans set to face off with the President at today's health-care summit. The central point: Obama is vulnerable, so show some spine by forcefully confronting him when he misrepresents the finer points of his plan.
If the president says his health-care plan "would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses," as he did in his State of the Union, Republicans must point out that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says premiums under ObamaCare would be higher than if nothing were done.

If Mr. Obama repeats his frequent claim that his proposal "won't add a penny to the deficit," Republicans can point out that to do so means 10 years of Medicare cuts and tax increases to pay for just four full years of the expensive insurance subsidies at the heart of his plan. This gimmick foreshadows a huge flood of red ink in the coming decades.

Mr. Obama will probably say that his proposal would give 30 million additional Americans health coverage. Republicans can counter that claim by noting his plan dumps about half of those people into Medicaid, a program even Mr. Obama admits is driving state budgets into the red.

Mr. Obama might say that only wealthy individuals, or insurance, drug and medical-device companies will pay higher taxes under his plan. Republicans can point out that tens of billions in new taxes will be passed on to families paying insurance premiums and patients in need of those drugs and medical devices.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rank Hypocrisy

Truly remarkable. Here is a video of Democratic Senators, from Harry Reid to Hillary Clinton, to Barack Obama, in a state of sheer apoplexy and terror over the prospect of reconciliation (the nuclear option) in the Senate back in '05. The only difference between now and then, of course, is the Party in control. Now that Democrats run the show, reconciliation is once again in the cards and these very people are fine with that.

The Rise of the Fake Apology

Using slavery as an example, Thomas Sowell comments on the politics of the apology in today's culture:
Slavery has existed all over the planet for thousands of years, with black, white, yellow, and other races being both slaves and enslavers. Does that mean that everybody ought to apologize to everybody else for what their ancestors did? Or are the only people who are supposed to feel guilty the ones who have money that others want to talk them out of?

This craze for aimless apologies is part of a general loss of a sense of personal responsibility in our time. We are supposed to feel guilty for what other people did, but there are a thousand cop-outs for what we ourselves did...

Personal responsibility is a real problem for those who want to collectivize society and take away our power to make our own decisions, transferring that power to third parties like themselves, who imagine themselves to be so much wiser and nobler than the rest of us.

Aimless apologies are just one of the incidental symptoms of an increasing loss of a sense of personal responsibility — without which a whole society is in jeopardy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Taking a Stand

Prime Minister Gordon Brown elaborated on his opposition to assisted-suicide laws in Great Britain.
For let us be clear: death as an option and an entitlement, via whatever bureaucratic processes a change in the law might devise, would fundamentally change the way we think about mortality.

The risk of pressures – however subtle – on the frail and the vulnerable, who may feel their existences burdensome to others, cannot ever be entirely excluded. And the inevitable erosion of trust in the caring professions – if they were in a position to end life – would be to lose something very precious.

I know in my heart that there is such a thing as a good death. And I believe it is our duty as a society to provide the skilled and loving care that makes it possible; and to use the laws we have well, rather than rush to change them.

When it comes to Mr. Brown's views, there is very little about which I find myself in agreement, especially when it comes to his hyper-Keynesian economic policies. This however is one such instance where I'm pleasantly surprised.

War and Peace

Gates on the Perils of Demilitarization

From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON – Europeans' aversion to military force is limiting NATO's ability to fight wars effectively, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.

In remarks to a forum on rewriting the basic mission plan for the NATO alliance, Gates called for far-reaching reforms in an organization that was created 61 years ago as a political and military bulwark against the former Soviet Union and its Red Army.

The early successes of NATO in averting post-World War II eruptions of European conflict have led to a new set of concerns, Gates said.

"The demilitarization of Europe — where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it — has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st," he told an audience filled with uniformed military officers from many of NATO's 28 member countries.

The danger, he added, is that potential future adversaries may view NATO as a paper tiger.

Europe is secure today for one reason: it falls under the protective shield of the United States. Apart from that, Europe is in a pretty sad state, from a security point of view.

Robert Kagan has made the salient point that the freedom Europeans today enjoy to routinely lambaste the supposed bellicosity of the United States is a direct result of the protection they receive, and have received, from none other than the United States military. In Kagan's own words: "...the fact that US military power has solved the European problem, especially the 'German problem', allows Europeans today, and Germans in particular, to believe that American military power, and the 'strategic culture' that created and sustained it, is outmoded and dangerous."

Climategate Investigations?

A good idea, but don't hold your breath.
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) today asked the Obama administration to investigate what he called “the greatest scientific scandal of our generation” — the actions of climate scientists revealed by the Climategate Files, and the subsequent admissions by the editors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

Senator Inhofe also called for former Vice President Al Gore to be called back to the Senate to testify.

“In [Gore's] science fiction movie, every assertion has been rebutted,” Inhofe said. He believes Vice President Gore should defend himself and his movie before Congress.

Read more here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

George Will gave an excellent speech at CPAC on the entitlement mentality and soft despotism.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Iran and the West

Mark Steyn, writing for National Review Online:
On the one hand, governments of developed nations micro-regulate every aspect of your life in the interests of “keeping you safe.” If you’re minded to flip a pancake at speeds of more than four miles per hour, the state will step in and act decisively: It’s for your own good. If you’re a tourist from Moose Jaw, Washington will take preemptive action to shield you from the potential dangers of your patio in Arizona.

On the other hand, when it comes to “keeping you safe” from real threats, such as a millenarian theocracy that claims universal jurisdiction, America and its allies do nothing. There aren’t going to be any sanctions, because China and Russia don’t want them. That means military action, which would have to be done without U.N. backing — which, as Greg Sheridan of the Australian puts it, “would be foreign to every instinct of the Obama administration.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

From Life Site News
HANOVER, Penn., Feb. 18, 2010 ( -- Reacting to the current push to force the U.S. military to accept openly gay servicemen, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) Wednesday published a study providing hard-hitting reasons to reject the proposal.

The group's statement, entitled "To Keep Our Honor Clean: Why We Must Oppose the Homosexual Agenda for the Military," is available online here.

"Our military must be defended from ideologues who would sacrifice its effectiveness and honor on the altar of unrestrained license, even at a time when national and global security rests on its successful campaign against terrorism," states the document.

Top military leaders have recently signaled support for President Obama's goal to overthrow the law that excludes open homosexuals from military service, known as "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT). At the same time, over 1,100 military flag and general officers, as well as two major veterans organizations and a former Army legal chief, have come out strongly against the repeal.

On the "Degree Fetish"

An excellent article on elitism among our ruling political class, by Michael Knox Beran, writing for National Review Online:
The culture wars that have lifted Sarah Palin to prominence are best understood as an expression of popular frustration with a dwindling supply of cultural goods. The social state has banished a variety of these goods from places (such as schools) where they once traded briskly. Education in the West has traditionally been the process by which grown-ups civilize the young by introducing them to their moral and cultural heritage. America’s public schools have abdicated this role; traditional methods of cultural initiation have been replaced by vapid forms of “social” study. Social education, Paul Goodman said, is founded on the belief that children are “human social animals” who must be “socialized” and “adjusted to the social group.” The Faustian disavowal of the moral imagination, together with an embrace of a barren philosophy of acultural socialization, has resulted in ever more culturally vacuous public schools.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stealing Away

From Catholic News Service:
VATICAN CITY — Twenty-five years ago, it wasn’t unusual for Pope John Paul II to sneak out of the Vatican in the winter to go skiing.

Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican unannounced last evening to visit an art exhibit, according to reports today from Vatican Radio and L’Osservatore Romano.

Yesterday marked the end of the four-month run of the exhibit, “The Power and the Grace: The Patron Saints of Europe,” at Rome’s Palazzo Venezia Museum, and Pope Benedict was among the last of the more than 100,000 people to visit the show.


Lenten Retreat, Milwaukee Style

Mount Mary College, an all-women's Catholic college in Milwaukee, advertises its Lenten retreat in the following manner:
Lenten Retreat Registration Now Open

Join other Mount Mary College alumnae and friends for the Lenten Retreat Saturday, February 27, 2010, 9 a.m. - 12 noon. The retreat will be led by outstanding facilitator S. Joan Penzenstadler SSND. S. Joan has planned the theme: "The Transformative Power of Eucharist" for all attendees with unique symbolism using different types of bread. Retreat costs $5; all students of any type are FREE with student ID. Register by calling 414-256-0170 or e-mailing the Alumnae Office. Alumnae are encouraged to bring guests such as daughters, sisters, mothers and friends. This is a beautiful way to spend a morning of Lent together.
Emphasis added

What on earth??!! "with unique symbolism using different types of bread." If, during Liturgy, "different types of bread" are used other than what is called for by the Church, the Sacrament is not valid. I have literally no idea what that phrase is supposed to mean. Is it supposed to be a bizarre metaphor for the "celebrating diversity" line seen so regularly on VW bumper stickers? "We are bread, bread of many colors and textures..." It's anybody's guess.

As a general rule, and from the Catholic perspective, it's probably not a good idea to use the words "symbolism" and "Eucharist" in the same sentence. That is, if you're concerned about what the Church actually teaches regarding the Real Presence.

The blind leading the blind once again in, you guessed it, Milwaukee. Someone, please, stop the bleeding.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fixing Haiti

Some hard-hitting points from economist Walter Williams, Haiti's Avoidable Death Toll:
The biggest reason for Haiti being one of the world's poorest countries is its restrictions on economic liberty. Let's look at some of it. According to the 2009 Index of Economic Freedom, authorization is required for some foreign investments, such as in electricity, water, public health and telecommunications. Authorization requires bribing public officials and, as a result, Haiti's monopolistic telephone services can at best be labeled primitive. That might explain the difficulty Haitian-Americans have in finding out about their loved ones.

Corruption is rampant. Haiti ranks 177th out of 179 countries in the 2007 Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. Its reputation as one of the world's most corrupt countries is a major impediment to doing business. Customs officers often demand bribes to clear shipments. The Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom says that because of burdensome regulations and bribery, starting a business in Haiti takes an average of 195 days, compared with the world average of 38 days. Getting a business license takes about five times longer than the world average of 234 days -- that's over three years.

Crime and lawlessness are rampant in Haiti. The U.S. Department of State website (, long before the earthquake, warned, "There are no "safe" areas in Haiti. ... Kidnapping, death threats, murders, drug-related shootouts, armed robberies, home break-ins and car-jacking are common in Haiti." ... Crime anywhere is a prohibitive tax on economic development and the poorest people are its primary victims.

Private property rights are vital to economic growth. The Index of Economic Freedom reports that "Haitian protection of investors and property is severely compromised by weak enforcement, a paucity of updated laws to handle modern commercial practices, and a dysfunctional and resource-poor legal system." That means commercial disputes are settled out of court often through the bribery of public officials; settlements are purchased...

Haitian President Rene Preval is not enthusiastic about free markets; his heroes are none other than the hemisphere's two brutal communist tyrants: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Political Schadenfreude

Nowadays, in the Scott Brown, tea party/town hall, "we're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore", era of politics, there is such a superabundance of stories like this one, from the Telegraph, that I was loath to post it. That said, after reflecting on the shameless rodomontade, lectures and ego trips that flowed from the '08 election cycle, why not overindulge, as a conservative?
Barack Obama faces mid-term humiliation after Senate exodus

There was speculation on Tuesday that the next to join an exodus ahead of the November elections could be Blanche Lincoln, who represents the conservative southern state of Arkansas and is behind every putative Republican challenger in opinon polls.

The Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, is meanwhile trailing all his potential Republican opponents in his state of Nevada, and even Mr Obama's old Senate seat in Illinois is expected to be close run.

The White House was rocked on Monday by the announcement by Evan Bayh, a popular, centrist senator from Indiana, who became the fifth senator to confirm he will not run for re-election. The latest speculation of more senators coming forward will only add to President Obama's woes and raise the prospect his party could lose its majority in Congress.
The emerging consensus in Washington is now that the Democrats have only a 50-50 chance of keeping control of the Senate, where they currently hold 59 out of the 100 seats, in what would be a stunning reversal of fortune after the party's clean sweep in 2008.

Life and Language

From the AFP
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Babies who hear two languages regularly when they are in their mother's womb are more open to being bilingual, a study published this week in Psychological Science shows.

Psychological scientists from the University of British Columbia and a researcher from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in France tested two groups of newborns, one of which only heard English in the womb and the others who heard English and Tagalog, which is spoken in the Philippines.

This is a fascinating story it its own right, but it is amazing how, whenever there's a story in the news about unborn children that's unrelated to abortion, it's not at all controversial to refer to the unborn as a "baby". But change the subject to abortion and the more clinical term "fetus" is inserted.

I mean, if a baby in the womb has potential to retain some recognition or memory of languages, shouldn't that qualify him for a shot at life? Language is a unique quality and ability of the person. After all, much of the force of the abortion movement is premised on the allegedly inanimate or impersonal condition of the fetus. It looks like science once again puts the lie to that specious claim and backs the pro-life position.

A Helping Hand

A great story about close calls on the front lines of battle, from The Wall Street Journal Online:
Cpl. Christopher Ahrens mentioned that two bullets had grazed his helmet the day the Marines attacked Marjah. The same thing, he said, happened to him three times in firefights in Iraq.

Cpl. Ahrens, 26, from Havre de Grace, Md., lifted the camouflaged cloth cover on his helmet, exposing the holes where the bullets had entered and exited.

He turned it over to display the picture card tucked inside, depicting Michael the Archangel stamping on Lucifer's head. "I don't need luck," he said.

Abortion and Race

Rules of Engagement

From the Washington Examiner:
MARJAH, AFGHANISTAN — Some American and Afghan troops say they're fighting the latest offensive in Afghanistan with a handicap — strict rules that routinely force them to hold their fire.

Although details of the new guidelines are classified to keep insurgents from reading them, U.S. troops say the Taliban are keenly aware of the restrictions.

"I understand the reason behind it, but it's so hard to fight a war like this," said Lance Cpl. Travis Anderson, 20, of Altoona, Iowa. "They're using our rules of engagement against us," he said, adding that his platoon had repeatedly seen men drop their guns into ditches and walk away to blend in with civilians.

If a man emerges from a Taliban hideout after shooting erupts, U.S. troops say they cannot fire at him if he is not seen carrying a weapon — or if they did not personally watch him drop one.

What this means, some contend, is that a militant can fire at them, then set aside his weapon and walk freely out of a compound, possibly toward a weapons cache in another location. It was unclear how often this has happened. In another example, Marines pinned down by a barrage of insurgent bullets say they can't count on quick air support because it takes time to positively identify shooters.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Majority in Peril

From the AP:
Sen. Evan Bayh, a centrist Democrat who was on Barack Obama's short list of vice presidential candidate prospects in 2008, announced Monday that he won't seek a third term in Congress, giving Republicans a chance to pick up a Senate seat in the November elections.

The departure of Bayh continues a recent exodus from Congress among both Democrats and Republicans, including veteran Democrats Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island....

His retirement from a Senate seat from Republican-leaning Indiana also adds to the struggle Democrats will face this fall to prevent an erosion of the 59 votes they have in the 100-seat chamber. It follows Republican Scott Brown's stunning January upset to take Edward Kennedy's former seat in Massachusetts, which ended the Democrats' 60-vote supermajority and imperiled the party's drive for sweeping health care reform, Obama's top domestic priority.

as the vultures gather, eyeing the November midterms...

Growing Doubts

And from the Times Online:
The doubts of Christy [professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville] and a number of other researchers focus on the thousands of weather stations around the world, which have been used to collect temperature data over the past 150 years.

These stations, they believe, have been seriously compromised by factors such as urbanisation, changes in land use and, in many cases, being moved from site to site.

Christy has published research papers looking at these effects in three different regions: east Africa, and the American states of California and Alabama.

“The story is the same for each one,” he said. “The popular data sets show a lot of warming but the apparent temperature rise was actually caused by local factors affecting the weather stations, such as land development.”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Climate Confessions

From the Daily Express:
THERE has been no global warming for 15 years, a key scientist admitted yesterday in a major U-turn.

Professor Phil Jones, who is at the centre of the “Climategate” affair, conceded that there has been no “statistically significant” rise in temperatures since 1995.

The admission comes as new research casts serious doubt on temperature records collected around the world and used to support the global warming theory.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Worth a Look

and then some:
Corpus Christi Watershed is an apostolate dedicated to the arts, culture and religion. Our mission is Eucharistic. Eucharistic adoration and the Blood and Water flowing from Our Lord's side are our Fonts for creative inspiration. From literary endeavors and work with music to the cinema and visual arts, our mission is to provide encouragement and support to artists working in a range of creative genres to serve the Lord. It is our hope that by being open to the Lord's Beauty, Truth and Goodness that we might create artistic works that bring something of the joy of Heaven to our troubled world. These artistic ventures are simultaneously acts of prayer and praise as well as the fruits of a mission of mercy where the Glory of the Lord is told out in the language of artistic expression.
-From the Mission Statement of Corpus Christi Watershed

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Laughing Matter

Tears of joy have have turned into frowns and icy stares in the White House press room. From Politico:
The White House press room was a jovial place to be in the early days of President Barack Obama's presidency. But times have changed.

Back in May, POLITICO analyzed the press briefings and found that the instances of laughter — as indicated by "(Laughter)" being noted in the official transcript — occurred more than 10 times per day during press secretary Robert Gibbs's briefings.

But the laughter has been reduced by half in recent months: In the first six months of the Obama administration, briefings produced an average of 179 laughs per month. Over the past six months, the average has dropped down to 89.

I don't know, I still think this administration makes for a good joke.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Is Cheney in Obama's head?

From The Wall Street Journal:
Dick Cheney is not the most popular of politicians, but when he offered a harsh assessment of the Obama Administration's approach to terrorism last May, his criticism stung—so much that the President gave a speech the same day that was widely seen as a direct response. Though neither man would admit it, eight months later political and security realities are forcing Mr. Obama's antiterror policies ever-closer to the former Vice President's.

In fact, the President's changes in antiterror policy have never been as dramatic as he or his critics have advertised. His supporters on the left have repeatedly howled when the Justice Department quietly went to court and offered the same legal arguments the Bush Administration made, among them that the President has the power to detain enemy combatants indefinitely without charge. He has also ramped up drone strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban operatives in Pakistan...

As long as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were responsible for keeping Americans safe, Democrats could pander to the U.S. and European left's anti-antiterror views at little political cost. But now that they are responsible, American voters are able to see what the left really has in mind, and they are saying loud and clear that they prefer the Cheney method.

Forcing French

Better Republicans for France?

A good idea? From The Guardian:
French children are to be given a "citizen's handbook" to teach them to be better republicans, as part of national identity measures announced by the government today.

Schools will be ordered to fly the French flag and to have a copy of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in every classroom.

The measures, announced by the French prime minister, François Fillon, are the first to emerge from the country's controversial debate on national identity.

Under new rules, immigrants who come to live in France, who since 2007 have had to sign a contract of welcome and integration, will have to take part in a more solemn ceremony to become French citizens. They will also be expected to demonstrate a better command of the French language and a greater knowledge of the "values of the republic". All candidates will be required to sign a "charter" outlining their rights and responsibilities...

"The Tricolor must be affixed to every school and the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which constitutes our republican reference, must be present in each class," said Fillon.

Not sure what I think about this. On the one hand, I do think there's something to the idea of assimilation and requiring the citizenry to be somewhat versed in the basics of civics and national history. But what is there really to boast of when it comes to the Reign of Terror, the guillotine and Robespierre? What did the French Revolution do, or seek to do, to authentic French culture? The Ancien Régime certainly could have used an aggiornamento, but a macabre Revolution...I'm not so sure.

Modern day France has a host of problems, mostly of its own making, i.e., its politicians have forced multiculturalism for decades now (while the birthrate of the non-Muslim French population has plummeted, thanks to contraception, etc.), and all of a sudden, they are coming to the realization that they have no idea who they are or what they stand for, and are facing the largest Muslim presence within their borders in all of Europe.

As Jerry Seinfeld would say to his troubled friends: "Good luck with all that."

Monday, February 08, 2010

Commerce Clause Everything

On the notion that Congress, relying on the Commerce Clause, could penalize a citizen for opting not to purchase health insurance:

"If the Commerce Clause can be used to regulate inactivity, then the government is truly without limit." -Matthew Spalding

The Ghost of Wilson

President Woodrow Wilson

"Some citizens of this country have never got beyond the Declaration of Independence. All that progressives ask or desire is permission--in an era when 'development,' 'evolution,' is the scientific word--to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine."

Hobbes would certainly agree. I'm not sure about Madison though.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


Samuel R. Staley offers a sharp analysis of the latest unemployment numbers. From National Review Online's The Corner:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has just reported that January's national unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent from 10 percent in January, providing further evidence that the economy has troughed. But I doubt we're out of the woods yet. Hitting bottom is not the same thing as recovery or an improving economy. Most of the new jobs were in temporary help and retail trade, not the sectors that are critical to growing a permanent job base. In fact, the number of "long-term job losers" — those unemployed for more than 27 weeks — was still trending up in January. A total of 5 million jobs have been lost since the beginning of the recession, according to the BLS.

Moreover, much of the job growth in the past has been in the public sector and through gimmicks such as the so-called "cash for clunkers," and this is unsustainable as a foundation for long-term economic growth. While private industry appears to be replenishing depleted inventories, many manufacturers are skittish about significantly increasing production to meet rising consumer demand that may not be there. This is still a very risk-averse economic environment.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

HOV Lane

‘Car pool’ commuter nabbed with mannequin

ISLANDIA, N.Y. - The tip-off was the sunglasses.

A New Yorker faces a $135 traffic fine for using a mannequin as her "plus one" in the high-occupancy vehicle lane of the Long Island Expressway.

An alert sheriff's deputy on Long Island became suspicious this week when he saw the "passenger" wearing sunglasses and using the visor. The problem: The sky was overcast.

I mean, how embarrassing...

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

From the Telegraph:
Patients in 'vegetative' state can think and communicate
Patients left in a “vegetative” state after suffering devastating brain damage are able to understand and communicate, groundbreaking research suggests.

Experts using brain scans have discovered for the first time that the victims, who show no outward signs of awareness, can not only comprehend what people are saying to them but also answer simple questions.
They were able to give yes or no responses to simple biographical questions.

The unlocking of this “inner voice” has astounded doctors and has dramatic implications for thousands of life and death decisions over patients trapped in what is known as a persistent vegetative state (PVS).

Oh Canada...

A must read, from National Review Oline:
The decision by Canadian provincial premier Danny Williams to travel to the United States for heart surgery has provided conservative critics of Obamacare with a concrete illustration of a long-held talking point: as socialized medicine stagnates, America's dynamic free-market health-care system is the envy of the world.

And some critics north of the border agree.

"Think about the absurdity about Canadians spending their income on medical treatment outside the country because it's not provided here at home," Brett Skinner, president of the free-market Fraser Institute, told the Vancouver Sun.

Skinner said that Williams, who opted for surgery in the U.S. on the recommendation of his Canadian doctors, was among an estimated 41,000 Canadians who sought health care in the states in 2009 due to long waiting lists and poor access at home.
Here are some excerpts from a nice piece by Holman Jenkins, writing for the Wall Street Journal
The case for tax cuts as deficit-fighting has never been more valid, since getting the tax base growing is the only way to escape an even bigger fiscal and monetary crisis. Workers who are out of jobs over time become unemployable; plant and equipment depreciate and never contribute to the tax rolls again. Mr. Obama can easily and consistently argue that we need to go for growth above all.

But his steepest learning curve has been getting rid of the copybook approach to defining his agenda—sadly still evident in last week's State of the Union. The country has big problems—it always has big problems. It never doesn't have big problems. But the idea that he has to throw solutions on the table to everything at once is just what we've seen: a formula for irrelevance, a strategy to turn himself into a punch line.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Higher Taxes for Everyone!

From Investor's Business Daily:
After cutting taxes for 95% of working families in his first year, President Obama has proposed a budget that would raise taxes on 100% of them.

Even as the White House calls for another quick shot of stimulus to speed up job creation, its new 10-year budget promises to impose a fiscal regimen of major tax hikes and modest spending curbs.

That regimen would begin in fiscal 2011 with $86 billion raised via new fees on banks, tax increases on upper-income Americans, tax increases to pay for health care reform; and a range of other mainly corporate revenue raisers.

"While we extend middle-class tax cuts in this budget, we will not continue costly tax cuts for oil companies, investment fund managers, and those making over $250,000 a year," Obama said Monday. "We just can't afford it."

The White House budget would extend Obama's signature $400 Making Work Pay tax credit for one more year at a cost of $61 billion, and it would permanently extend the middle-class tax cuts passed under President Bush.

Left unsaid was that Obama's Making Work Pay tax credit would lapse at the end of 2011 as proposed tax hikes ramp up to $156 billion.

The tax hikes on the agenda exceed a cumulative $1 trillion over five years, reaching 1.5% of GDP in 2015. By comparison, the White House is calling for a three-year freeze of nondefense discretionary spending to save $250 billion through 2020.

Under its proposals and forecasts, the White House envisions a record deficit this year of $1.6 trillion, or 10.6% of GDP, easing to $1.3 trillion, or 8.3% of GDP, in fiscal 2011. By 2015, the deficit would equal $752 billion, or 3.9% of GDP.

Obama's supposed "tax cut for 95% of Americans" was technically not a tax cut at all, but merely a government refund check to people who don't owe any taxes! It was just a wealth-transfer scheme masquerading as a tax-cut.

Leftists Tinkering with the Military

Here's a repeat post that warrants another hearing in light of today's headlines:
Anyone searching for an intelligent, concise rebuttal to those arguing in favor of allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military will find a superb resource in MacKubin Thomas Owens' article, Ask, tell, whatever? Gays-in-the-military comes up again:
But let's address the broadest question: Why prohibit open homosexual service at all? Congress provided the answer in 1993, when it passed the current law: "Homosexuality is incompatible with military service and presents a risk to the morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that underpin military effectiveness."

An important element of war is "friction," which Clausewitz described as "the only concept that more or less corresponds to the factors that distinguish real war from war on paper." Clausewitz's friction describes the cumulative effect of the small, often unnoticeable events that are amplified in war, producing unanticipated macro-effects. Military effectiveness aims at reducing the impact of friction and other obstacles to success on the battlefield.

Most research has shown unit cohesion is critical to military effectiveness and battlefield success. The key to cohesion is what the Greeks called philia--friendship, comradeship, or brotherly love. Philia is the bond among disparate individuals who have nothing in common but facing death and misery together. Its importance has been described by J. Glenn Gray in The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle:

Numberless soldiers have died, more or
less willingly, not for country or honor or
religious faith or for any other abstract
good, but because they realized that by
fleeing their posts and rescuing themselves,
they would expose their companions
to greater danger. Such loyalty to the
group is the essence of fighting morale.
The commander who can preserve and
strengthen it knows that all other physical
and psychological factors are little in comparison.
The feeling of loyalty, it is clear, is
the result, not the cause, of comradeship.
Comrades are loyal to each other spontaneously
and without any need for reasons.

The presence of open homosexuals (and women) in the close confines of ships or military units opens the possibility that eros will be unleashed into an environment based on philia, creating friction and corroding the very source of military excellence itself. It does so by undermining the non-sexual bonding essential to unit cohesion as described by Gray. Unlike philia, eros is sexual, and therefore individual and exclusive. Eros manifests itself as sexual competition, protectiveness, and favoritism, all of which undermine order, discipline, and morale. These are issues of life and death, and help to explain why open homosexuality and homosexual behavior traditionally have been considered incompatible with military service.

The deeply frustrating thing is that you never hear anyone in Congress on our side employ this kind of reasoning when arguing against the repeal of the ban. It suggests that representatives ought to spend more time reading history and studying philosophy. What you will typically hear from Republicans goes something like this: "While we are fighting two wars abroad and the economy is in a shambles at home, this just isn't the time to address such a controversial issue." Yeah, thanks. That's really going to convince people sitting on the fence.

Out of Thin Air

From Thomas Sowell, writing for National Review Online:
There was a recent flap because three different members of the Obama administration, on three different Sunday television talk shows, gave three widely differing estimates of how many jobs the president has created.

That should not have been surprising, except as a sign of political sloppiness in not getting their stories together beforehand. They were simply doing what Barack Obama himself does — namely, just pulling numbers out of thin air. However, being more skilled at creating illusions, the president does it with more of an air of certainty, as if he has gone around and counted the new jobs himself.

Heating up

It just keeps getting better, folks. From The Guardian:
Leaked climate change emails scientist 'hid' data flaws

Exclusive: Key study by East Anglia professor Phil Jones was based on suspect figures

Phil Jones, the beleaguered British climate scientist at the centre of the leaked emails controversy, is facing fresh claims that he sought to hide problems in key temperature data on which some of his work was based.

A Guardian investigation of thousands of emails and documents apparently hacked from the University of East Anglia's climatic research unit has found evidence that a series of measurements from Chinese weather stations were seriously flawed and that documents relating to them could not be produced.

Jones and a collaborator have been accused by a climate change sceptic and researcher of scientific fraud for attempting to suppress data that could cast doubt on a key 1990 study on the effect of cities on warming – a hotly contested issue.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Special Forces on 60 Minutes


Watch CBS News Videos Online

The Spending "Freeze" Gimmick

This is short, and well worth a look.

Matthew Spalding, writing for National Review, links the European tradition of statism to its American counterpart.
We can trace the concept of the modern state back to the theories of Thomas Hobbes, who wanted to replace the old order with an all-powerful “Leviathan” that would impose a new order, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who, to achieve absolute equality, favored an absolute state that would rule over the people through a vaguely defined concept called the “general will.” It was Alexis de Tocqueville who first pointed out the potential for a new form of despotism in such a centralized, egalitarian state: It might not tyrannize, but it would enervate and extinguish liberty by reducing self-governing people “to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.”

The Americanized version of the modern state was born in the early 20th century. American “progressives,” under the spell of German thinkers, decided that advances in science and history had opened the possibility of a new, more efficient form of democratic government, which they called the “administrative state.” Thus began the most revolutionary change of the last hundred years: the massive shift of power from institutions of constitutional government to a labyrinthine network of unelected, unaccountable experts who would rule in the name of the people.

Wake-up Call

An excellent article by Fouad Ajami, writing for The Wall Street Journal:
The curtain has come down on what can best be described as a brief un-American moment in our history. That moment began in the fall of 2008, with the great financial panic, and gave rise to the Barack Obama phenomenon.

The nation's faith in institutions and time-honored ways had cracked. In a little-known senator from Illinois millions of Americans came to see a savior who would deliver the nation out of its troubles. Gone was the empiricism in political life that had marked the American temper in politics. A charismatic leader had risen in a manner akin to the way politics plays out in distressed and Third World societies.

There is nothing surprising about where Mr. Obama finds himself today. He had been made by charisma, and political magic, and has been felled by it. If his rise had been spectacular, so, too, has been his fall. The speed with which some of his devotees have turned on him—and their unwillingness to own up to what their infatuation had wrought—is nothing short of astounding. But this is the bargain Mr. Obama had made with political fortune.

He was a blank slate, and devotees projected onto him what they wanted or wished. In the manner of political redeemers who have marked—and wrecked—the politics of the Arab world and Latin America, Mr. Obama left the crowd to its most precious and volatile asset—its imagination. There was no internal coherence to the coalition that swept him to power. There was cultural "cool" and racial absolution for the white professional classes who were the first to embrace him.

The article is well-worth reading in its entirety.