Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday stuff

It appears that the Obama administration is deliberately avoiding using the words "war on terror."
They don't like the phrase. One expert probably familiar with administration thinking says:
"The thinking has evolved, he said, to focus on avoiding the kind of rhetoric "which could imply that this was a struggle against a religion or a culture."
But, question: who on earth could believe that the phrase "war on terror" was directed at a particular religion? Why would those in the Middle East believe that? No religion is mentioned.
Could some Arabs be protesting a bit too much? Could they have a bit of a guilty conscience?

Unfortunately the ND men's hoops team lost yet again today, at #3 Pitt, 93-80. It's no shame to lose at Pitt. But unfortunately the Irish have lost 5 in a row, they're going to fall out of the top 25, again they give up a ton of points and just can't nail teams down defensively, and they're in real danger of not making the NCAAs this season (they were seen as a lock before the year began). That's why, as I've said before, the season is in crisis right now, and it's got to be tough on the Irish players. Can they rebound? Or will they just melt down?

No good news for Detroit Piston fans either--they lost again to Boston at home, 86-78. They fought hard, and battled, and were in the game for much of it...but couldn't come away with a win. Can this team really be a factor in this year's NBA playoffs? Right now it doesn't look like it. Only good news is--the playoffs remain a ways away...

Meanwhile, in Iraq, their most recent election is hailed as a great success:
?Iraqis held their most peaceful election since the fall of Saddam Hussein on Saturday, and voting for provincial councils ended without a single major attack reported anywhere in the country. "No security breaches took place during the election. Things went as we planned and as we hoped," Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askary said."
Kudos for the Bush administration, anyone?

On the Obama "stimulus" package, Ben Stein today makes good points, and introduces important perspective we're not hearing from many:
"Only 10 percent of the "stimulus" to be spent on 2009. Close to half goes to entities that sponsor or employ (or both) members of the Service Employees International Union, federal, state, and municipal employee unions or other Democrat-controlled unions. This bill is sent to Congress after President Obama has been in office for seven days. It is 680 pages long. According to my calculations, not one member of Congress read the entire bill before this vote. Obviously, it would have been impossible, given his schedule, for the president to have read the whole thing. For the amount spent, we could have given every unemployed person in the United States roughly $75,000."

The Republican National Committee has a new chairman--an African-American, Michael Steele.
National Review's man on the scene is, well, hopeful--but he knows it's a tough job:
"What will Republicans be getting in Steele? Maybe the ideal television presence, a dynamic and energetic speaker who cheerfully brings a Republican message to communities that aren't always initially receptive. The contrast with Duncan's seemingly invisible media presence will be clear. But Steele's bid was hindered by questions about whether he would excel as much at the parts of the job that aren't in front of the cameras—the day-to-day management and fundraising. In the coming year, Republicans will learn one way or the other."
As for me, I'm hopeful--we need energy and dynamism, and Steele can bring that.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Rush explains

As I suggested the other day--everyone is taking Rush Limbaugh's "I hope he fails" comment, directed towards Barack Obama's administration, out of context--and Rush explained more today:

"Limbaugh said the "I hope he fails" statement came after an explanation of his opposition to liberal politics. "I want the country to succeed and the stated policies of the administration will not achieve that objective," he said. "I support the president but I opposed his policies, just as the left claimed to support the troops but opposed their mission of victory. I thus am confident that all conservatives want the country to succeed."

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

Michigan State's men's hoops team looked very solid and focused on the road last night at Iowa, winning 71-56. This team could still challenge for the final four in March.

But the Detroit Red Wings are still unable to beat off their post-all-star game funk, losing at home to Dallas, 4-2.

A lot of favorite teams struggling right now...

At the sports desk: Thanksgiving traditions

NFL commish Roger Goodell says the Detroit Lions will host their annual Turkey Day game next year, but...:

"As for the Lions' annual Thanksgiving game, which dates back to 1934, Goodell said, "I understand it's a great tradition, both in Detroit and Dallas." But, he admitted, there has been a push from some NFL owners in the past to rotate the game around the league. And with the NFL considering expanding the regular season to 17 or 18 games for 2010 and beyond, that could happen again soon. Especially in light of the Lions' recent struggles, as they've lost five in a row on Thanksgiving by an average of 23.4 points. "It's something our owners have raised from time to time," Goodell said. "It will not change for this season. If the ownership feels that they want to discuss it as we get later into the year, we certainly will raise it."

But the Lions and their fans should push hard for the team to keep this tradition. The Lions started this tradition, way back in 1934. There may not be a tradition of having football on Thanksgiving, had it not been for the Lions. The Lions don't get on national TV much--what's wrong with allowing them one, just one, nationally-televised game? And the team is bound to improve in coming years (to be sure, after an 0-16 season, there's no place to go but up.) Remember that the team hasn't always been bad--remember some of the games Barry Sanders had on Thanksgiving? Respect tradition, Mr. Goodell.

Do we need to apologize to the Muslim people?

Charles Krauthammer, correctly, says no, despite what President Obama said recently on Arab TV:

"Is it "new" to acknowledge Muslim interests and show respect to the Muslim world? Obama doesn't just think so, he said so again to millions in his al-Arabiya interview, insisting on the need to "restore" the "same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago. Astonishing. In these most recent 20 years -- the alleged winter of our disrespect of the Islamic world -- America did not just respect Muslims, it bled for them. It engaged in five military campaigns, every one of which involved -- and resulted in -- the liberation of a Muslim people: Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq."

And don't forget that President Bush appeared on Al-Arabiyah TV back in 2005.

A note on the late Israel-Hamas battle

It's receded from the news, due to the fragile cease-fire. But didn't you get the impression from various media sources that a whole lot of Gazans wound up dead due to the fighting, and that a lot of it was Israel's fault? That's the play many media sources gave it. Problem--it's probably not true:

"Now we are told that Gaza suffered 1,300 killed and up to 4,000 wounded. These numbers come exclusively from Hamas sources and have not been independently verified. In fact, the numbers have been challenged by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, which put the number of dead between 500 and 600, the majority of whom were young men. Others suggest that as many as 1,000 may have been killed, the majority Hamas fighters."

And many of the civilian dead occurred because Hamas deliberately chose to shoot at Israelis from heavily civilian areas. They wanted Gazans to die, figuring that the media would blame the deaths on Israel. Those of us in the West need not fall into this trap.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Whither Iran? (contd)

Is Iran moderating? Well, President Ahmadinejad merely wishes us to withdraw from...everywhere:

"The new U.S. government must stop its military presence in the world...When we say policies will be changed it means the U.S. should end its military presence in the world, which means the U.S. getting all their troops together and bring them back to the U.S. to serve America within the territorial boundaries of the country."

And Michael Ledeen points out other inconvenient truths--namely, that we HAVE talked with Iran in the past, we've even apologized to them. And gotten nowhere:

"There are two "stories" about Iran/U.S. relations bubbling around. One has to do with direct talks, the other with Ahmadinejad's demand that we apologize for our many past sins. I know this is spitting into the wind, but neither is news. There have been talks between Washington and Tehran ever since 1979 (the Revolution). EVERY president has authorized them. On the public record, there were nearly thirty such talks during the Bush years, and there are "private" channels as well. So there is nothing new in this, it is business-as-usual. Iranian leaders have constantly demanded that we apologize, and we have. Clinton did it. Albright did it. And then, having obtained his ounce of humiliated flesh, Khamenei told them both to go to hell. Any story about talks with Iran or apologizing to Iran should contain those historical facts. Otherwise, you can just do what most of the journalists do: Pretend the world was created fresh just before you woke up, so all that matters is how you feel about it all."


The Bush administration and Iraq

And now, in Iraq's developing democracy, women seek election:

"Amal Kibash, a candidate for the Baghdad provincial council, is running a bold and even feverish campaign by most standards. With elections coming on Saturday, she is trolling for every vote she can muster. “You are going to vote for me, right?” she quizzed passers-by on a stroll recently through her neighborhood of Sadr City, which was until May a battleground for Shiite militias. Giant posters of her veil-framed face were draped on several buildings, some of which still bore the marks of recent fighting. In Basra, where until a year ago banners warned women that they would be shot if they wore too much makeup or ventured out of their homes without a veil, another female candidate, Ibtihal Abdul-Rahman, put up posters of herself last month. Encouraged by security improvements throughout the country, thousands of women are running for council seats in the provincial elections. Of the estimated 14,400 candidates, close to 4,000 are women. Some female candidates have had their posters splattered with mud, defaced with beards or torn up, but most have been spared the violence that has claimed the lives of two male candidates and a coalition leader since the start of the year. But on Wednesday, a woman working for the Iraqi Islamic Party was killed when gunmen burst into her house in Baghdad and shot her 10 times in the chest, according to an Interior Ministry official."

History will judge the Bush administration far more kindly regarding Iraq than is the present...

The nanny state strikes again

In New York City, naturally:

"Singer Jimmy Buffett will never find his "lost shaker of salt" in New York City or any other place in the country if Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his way. The mayor is waging a war on salt and he wants food manufacturers and restaurants to join his army … or else.
It's ironic that the war on salt began on the very day the city was spreading tons of it on the streets to fight a snow storm, but in Bloomberg's view there is good salt … and bad salt.
City officials said that people don't realize the salt content of the things they buy in the supermarket. For example, potato chips you would think are the saltiest thing in the store but they have only 180 milligrams per serving. Turkey meatballs, on the other hand, have 660 milligrams per serving. Marble cake has 300 per serving and chicken noodle soup has nearly 1,400 milligrams of salt per serving. The city's plan is to get food manufacturers in the United States to agree to gradually start reducing salt content until it reaches a 50 percent cut in 10 years."

Next will come the war on sugar, and twinkies.
Does anyone see a trend developing???

Mitch McConnell speaks out...

...on the Republican Party's future--and makes sense:

"Our principles are universal. They apply to everyone...."It's clear our message isn't getting out to nearly as many people as it should ... Too often we've let others define us. And the image they've painted isn't very pretty." He acknowledged GOP fears that "the very wealthy and the very poor, the most and least educated, and a majority of minority voters, seem to have more or less stopped paying attention to us." And, he warned: "In politics, there's a name for a regional party: it's called a minority party." "As Republicans, we know that common sense conservative principles aren't regional. But I think we have to admit that our sales job has been," McConnell added."

Sure. We also need to keep addressing the big issues of this time: energy (conservation is fine, but we also need to up production and seek new energy sources), the environment (of course we should protect the environment--but some of the claims being made concerning "global warming" are based on questionable science, and there are legitimate questions as to whether warming is due to human action), and, of course, how to create jobs and grow the economy. But it's good Senator McConnell is adding his voice to the continuing conversation.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

The University of Michigan's men's hoops team faces a bit of a crisis now too, as it lost again last night at Ohio State, 72-54. Bad shooting and too many turnovers doomed the Wolverines, who have lost 4 out of 5. Give some credit too, though, to Ohio State, which has a very tall, athletic bunch which plays tough defense. I expect them to be an NCAA tournament team.

But the Detroit Pistons managed to beat a hot (they'd won 10 of their last 12) Minnesota Timberwolves team on the road, 98-89. It's hard to get a read on this Pistons team--they're very inconsistent. Now their next two games are against Boston and Cleveland. They'll have to man up...

Understatement of the day

Governor Rod Blagojevich, defending himself in a speech at his impeachment trial:

"The Democratic governor acknowledged the truth about his conduct is "maybe not flattering in some cases," referring to several secretly recorded conversations played earlier in the trial."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Some Wednesday wishes...

Today President Obama expressed amazement that Washington D.C. schools (including his daughters' school) were closed because of icy conditions.
Yes, it's true, schools in Chicago, where Obama lived for a good while, would never close due to small amounts of ice. But you know what? I am well aware of the fact that school districts in warm-weather areas close if there's just the tiniest amount of snow and ice. That's no great revelation. I bet you that many other people are aware of it, too. Drivers in those areas can't handle ice; and warmer-weather states don't have the salt trucks and snow-removal equipment that, say, Illinois does. So what's my point?
This: you mean Barack Obama didn't know this? He didn't know that localities in warm-weather states close schools at the drop of a hat? Really? If former President Bush or other Republican leaders had said something like what Obama said today, they'd be slammed by many in the media for being "out of touch." But don't worry, liberals--Obama won't be.
But I wish the media and others would be just as tough on Obama as they were and are on Republicans or President Bush.

Democrats have launched a petition drive in order to express outrage against...who? Why, against Rush Limbaugh. Because Limbaugh said:
"The remarks came after Limbaugh said last week on his radio show: "If I wanted Obama to succeed, I'd be happy the Republicans have laid down. I don't want this to work. So I'm thinking of replying to this guy, say 'okay, I'll send you a response, but I don't need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails'."
Of course, the broader context of this is and was: Limbaugh doesn't believe Obama's policies, including the "stimulus" package and other things, will be good for this nation. So of course, when you think the president is doing something that will not benefit the nation, you want him to fail in trying to accomplish that. Democrats know this. So I wish that Democrats would fairly characterize what their opponents are saying, and that they would spend time on more important things, rather than launching partisan attacks against their opponents. And I think the news media should call them on these non-bipartisan, time-wasting activities.

What else is in the so-called "stimulus" package? Lots of stuff that won't stimulate the economy much at all in the near or long-term, as The American Spectator points out today:
"Another $2.1 billion is for Head Start, another program not previously known for stimulating the economy. A further $2 billion is to be spent on Child Care Development Block Grants, which provide day care. We are going to revive economic growth through the federal government spending billions on babysitting, rather than tax cuts for capital investment. A similar initiative involves $120 million to finance part-time work for seniors in community service agencies."
I wish more members of the news media would talk about these boondoggles...

Ahmadinejad of Iran rides again:
"A day after President Obama struck a conciliatory tone toward Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged Washington on Wednesday to apologize for its actions toward his country over the past 60 years and said it was unclear whether the new American administration was merely shifting tactics or wanted real change."
I wish the Obama administration would tell him to go take a hike. Or to apologize to Israel for the horrible things he's said and done to it. Preferably both.

By the way, the "stimulus" package really does contain $335 million for STD prevention.
Does anyone really think such spending will stimulate the economy??? I wish more people would speak up...

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

Still nothing good happening for ND hoops teams--last night the ND women's team couldn't make shots, and didn't rebound...and thus lost to Rutgers, 78-68.
Both teams at ND are kind of facing a crisis point in their season. It will be interesting to see how they respond.

The Detroit Red Wings lost as well, in overtime at Columbus, 3-2. But the loss was mainly due to the fact that a number of players missed the game due to injury or suspension. Hopefully they'll soon be back to full strength.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama's "stimulus" plan (to be contd)

Will it's "infrastructure" spending really help the economy? Not really:

"According to the Congressional Budget Office, only $4 billion out of $30 billion in highway spending, $3 billion of $18.5 billion in renewable-energy spending, and less than $7 billion of $14 billion of school-construction spending would be spent in the first two years. If spending will take place in 2011 or later, there’s no reason for it to be jammed into a hastily passed stimulus bill.
Unless, of course, Democrats want to use the crisis atmosphere to bypass the normal budgetary process for long-term spending. Almost $16 billion for Pell Grants for college students and $1.9 billion for basic scientific research won’t stimulate the economy in the near term. Neither will funding for the National Endowment for the Arts ($50 million) or for the National Mall ($200 million)."

We'll continue to poke holes in this bill in the days to come.

UPDATE: and by the way, when simple facts such as these are pointed out, how does the netroots left respond? Like this:

"The anti-stimulus crowd is getting desperate. The possibility that a
young charismatic new president will push through an ambitious package
that begins to set the economy right is truly terrifying to this crew.
After all, if the economy begins to turn around and has largely
recovered in three or four years, the Republican leadership can look
forward to spending most of their careers in the political


Nanny state update

In Belmont, California, the city council there has now banned smoking in private apartments.
Why? Oh, because of the bogeyman of "secondhand smoke", of course.
Never mind that the science on this is questionable, that the extreme danger of secondhand smoke claimed by some has not been proven, not by a long shot.
Duck--the nannies continue to come after you.

Whither Iran?

Well, today new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tries to talk nice to them:

"President Barack Obama's intent to change the direction of U.S. foreign policy gives Iran a "clear opportunity" to engage more productively on its nuclear program and other issues, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday."

But meanwhile, are we sure that the Iranians are ready to moderate their policies and make nice?
See what a top Iranian spokesman said today:

"The Holocaust is a concept coming from a big lie in order to settle a rootless regime in the heart of the Islamic world," Gholam Hossein Elham told a conference on Gaza in central Iran's religious city of Qom. Iran's government spokesman on Tuesday branded the Holocaust a "big lie" created to place the Islamic republic's arch-foe Israel in the Middle East, the state IRNA news agency reported."

Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign suggested that it was "naive" to be too anxious to talk, without preconditions, to Iran. Maybe she ought to revisit that thinking...

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

Things didn't get any better for the Notre Dame men's hoops team--they lost again, at home, to Marquette, 71-64. Again--couldn't hit key shots when it counts, couldn't step up defensively and get key stops. The season stands in real danger of spiraling out of control now--and this for a team everyone thought would be a lock to get in the NCAAs. That's not so now. And next, they have to go to Pittsburgh, ranked #3 in the country, and very tough and physical. Maybe the Irish can make it us-against-the-world, and that will help. Maybe. But it doesn't seem likely.

They used to be held at Gitrmo

But now there may be 4 ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees who have rejoined extremist Al Qaeda terrorist ranks:

"Two Saudis formerly jailed at the US prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have joined Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch, and authorities here worry that two other ex-Guantánamo inmates may have strayed back to militancy because they have recently disappeared from their homes. The revelations illustrate the difficulties faced both by President Obama, who has pledged to shutter the facility for terror suspects, and the Saudi government, which is trying to reform its own radical jihadis, many of whom were imprisoned at Guantánamo before being released back to the kingdom."

Now liberal acquaintances of mine, when faced with this kind of news, have tried to retort that simply being held and--supposedly--tortured at Gitmo drove people like this back to terrorist ranks. (hey, it's gotta be Bush's fault to these folks). But check out the article to which I linked. There's no evidence being held at Guantanamo drove them to anything. Rather, they were influenced by recent terrorist attacks and by the resurgence of Al Qaeda in Yemen. When these guys were held at Gitmo, they couldn't do us any harm.

Now they can. Conservatives need to keep making that point.

House Republicans on the Obama stimulus

They urge opposition to it, on solid grounds:

"Hours before a meeting with President Barack Obama, House Republican leaders sought to rally opposition Tuesday to a White House-backed economic stimulus measure with an $825 billion price tag. Several officials said that Reps. John Boehner of Ohio, the GOP leader, and Eric Cantor of Virginia, his second-in-command, delivered the appeal at a closed-door meeting of the Republican rank and file. Both men said the legislation contains too much wasteful spending that will not help the economy recover from its worst nosedive since the Great Depression, the officials added."

That's fine. But let's not kid ourselves--Republicans during the Bush years cooperated too easily and eagerly in runaway government spending. Conservative Republicans are going to have to show that they mean it this time. And that will only come over time, and in rejecting pork-barrel goodies even when they might benefit somebody in YOUR district.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Some Monday musings...

Bringing home economic hard times---Home Depot to cut jobs:
"Home Depot Inc. plans to eliminate 7,000 jobs while closing four dozen stores under its smaller home improvement brands as the recession continues to batter the nation's housing market. Its shares climbed more than 5 percent in morning trading."
You always have the impression that a company like that is in a strong economic position. But this recession is affecting everyone.

President Obama today says he wants the government to get busy working on new fuel-efficiency guidelines for the auto industry:
"Jumping into the seemingly never-ending national energy debate, Obama also directed his administration to get moving on new fuel-efficiency guidelines for the auto industry in time to cover 2011 model-year cars. "For the sake of our security, our economy and our planet, we must have the courage and commitment to change," Obama said in his first formal event in the ornate East Room of the White House. "It will be the policy of my administration," he said, "to reverse our dependence on foreign oil while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs."
Well, Mr. Obama says that--and I saw him just a bit ago, on TV, say that he doesn't, in these hard economic times, want to burden the auto industry with new costs. But the fact is, he will. New regulations will cost the auto industry money. They always do. Compliance costs money and time; and the president saying he doesn't wish to do it doesn't negate the fact that he's will do so. Conservatives should be sure and emphasize that point.

Things haven't been going that well for my favorite teams lately. That happens sometimes in a season; you have low points, and a team can either get up, dust itself off, and get going again, or...crash. But on Saturday, the ND men's hoops team lost again to UConn, 69-61. Their problems have been many--prior to Saturday, the Irish weren't defending well. On Saturday, their defense was fine, but they couldn't make shots. Luckily they have another shot tonight to get things right and, perhaps, psychologically get out of this hole, against league-leader Marquette.

Meanwhile the Irish women's hoops team let Villanova's slow, deliberate style frustrate them, and lost on the road 55-48.
They too, however, have a chance to start a new winning streak with a win over Rutgers tomorrow; a win that could help them psychologically as well.

The Detroit Pistons lost, too, 108-105 to Houston; their defense was horrible, allowing the Rockets to shoot at a 71% clip in the first quarter.

Only Michigan State's men's hoops team saved the day for Michigan sports fans, as they won a big game on the road at Ohio State, 78-67. What made the win especially impressive was that the Spartans trailed by 10 in the first half, and had 3 starters miss significant time in the game either due to sickness or being benched for violations of team rules. A big win--this could still be a final four team.

By the way, do you think President Obama's $800 billion plus proposed stimulus bill means big government? If you do, you'd be right:
"In its present form, the bill, which contemplates spending about $825 billion, runs to 940 pages. That comes to about $877 million per page.

More evidence for a point we've made here before--we're not yet, not by a long shot, in a depression. Our economic situation right now, while not good, might not even be the serious "crisis" that some are trumpeting. John Stossel recently explained further:
"But people are losing their jobs! President Obama frets that "the unemployment rate could reach double digits." Yes, that would be bad, but in the recession of '82, it reached 10.8 percent. Yet no one even remembers the "crisis" of '82. Today's 7.2 percent unemployment rate is higher than we've grown used to, but we've experienced that rate 16 times over the past 35 years. And it pales in comparison to the 25 percent rate of the Depression era."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Some Saturday stuff

The Dallas Mavericks looked very impressive last night in blasting the Detroit Pistons, 112-91.
The Pistons? Not so much, in any phase.

President Obama yesterday, meanwhile, confirmed the impact Rush Limbaugh has on our politics:
"President Obama warned Republicans on Capitol Hill today that they need to quit listening to radio king Rush Limbaugh if they want to get along with Democrats and the new administration. "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," he told top GOP leaders, whom he had invited to the White House to discuss his nearly $1 trillion stimulus package. One White House official confirmed the comment but said he was simply trying to make a larger point about bipartisan efforts."
Heh. Sure. I'm sure Rush is delighted with this free publicity.
And make no mistake, Mr. Obama is wrong. Republicans listened to Rush Limbaugh in 1994, which influenced their decision to pursue the now-famous "Contract with America"--much of which subsequently passed. So listening to him DOES get things done.

First Lady Michelle Obama says she doesn't like the dolls produced in her daughters' likenesses:
"First Lady Michelle Obama, who has described herself "first and foremost...Malia and Sasha's mom," has defended her daughters' likeness, saying that it is not proper for a company that makes the plush "Beanie Babies" to produce dolls called "Sweet Sasha" and "Marvelous Malia." "We feel it is inappropriate to use young, private citizens for marketing purposes," Michelle Obama's press secretary, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, said in a statement today."
Hmmm. Well, I didn't see her object when her husband's fans labeled him a "Messiah", as "The One", or as one whose speeches sent shivers up and down their legs, etc. You didn't do much to halt the creation of this near-cult-of-personality, Mrs. Obama, so your objections now don't move me much.

Friday, January 23, 2009

An irritated Obama

He makes a surprise visit to the White House press room--but doesn't like it when a tough question is posed:

"President Obama made a surprise visit to the White House press corps Thursday night, but got agitated when he was faced with a substantive question. Asked how he could reconcile a strict ban on lobbyists in his administration with a Deputy Defense Secretary nominee who lobbied for Raytheon, Obama interrupted with a knowing smile on his face. "Ahh, see," he said, "I came down here to visit. See this is what happens. I can't end up visiting with you guys and shaking hands if I'm going to get grilled every time I come down here." Pressed further by the Politico reporter about his Pentagon nominee, William J. Lynn III, Obama turned more serious, putting his hand on the reporter's shoulder and staring him in the eye. "Alright, come on" he said, with obvious irritation in his voice. "We will be having a press conference at which time you can feel free to [ask] questions. Right now, I just wanted to say hello and introduce myself to you guys - that's all I was trying to do."

Imagine the roaring from the left if President Bush had done this.
It's troubling--it smacks of arrogance, and an attempt to intimidate.
You're going to face tough questions wherever you go, Mr. Obama. Get used to it.

No Caroline--instead, it's Kirsten, and...

...some Democrats aren't happy:

"New York Gov. David Paterson has named Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate, narrowing to one the crowded field of candidates that had been vying for the appointment....But some New York City Democrats are skeptical of Gillibrand, who voted against the financial rescue package last fall. And the National Rifle Association has endorsed Gillibrand -- another cause for concern among some Democrats. Democratic New York Rep. Carolyn McCarthy has already reportedly said she would challenge Gillibrand, 42, in the next primary."

Hmmm--so Democrats are now embracing Roland Burris, appointed to the Senate by a crook whom no one trusts. But some have problems with Ms. Gillibrand. Wow--solid thinking there.

More on those Gitmo detainees

Rep. Jane Harman of California (D) says, who cares if they turn out to be terrorists:

"A congresswoman says reports that a man released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is now an al-Qaida leader in Yemen should not slow the Obama administration's determination to quickly close the facility. Rep. Jane Harman, a Democrat from California, said Friday that President Barack Obama has to "proceed extremely carefully" in closing the prison. But she says there is no justification for "disappearing people" in a place outside the reach of U.S. law."

Right--who cares about our national security? Who cares about protecting us from terrorist attacks? I'll tell you for what there's no justification--releasing people who plan to go on and lead terrorist attacks against us.

This is a huge, and important, difference in philosophy between progressives and conservatives, and we need to highlight it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama as saviour?

As Victor Davis Hanson points out today, President Obama and his people have constantly, in their speeches, warned us to lower our expectations of his administration--you can't fix everything right away, it will all take time, etc. Yet in many ways Obama has sought to heighten our expectations:

"For nearly three months since the election, we have been warned by President Obama, his staff, and the media not to burden him with unreal expectations that no mere mortal could meet.
But why then consciously borrow from Abraham Lincoln’s speeches? And why re-create Lincoln’s historic train ride to his inauguration—especially by flying back from Washington to Illinois to then return to D.C. by slow-moving railcar? Lincoln took the train because it was the only feasible way to get to Washington in 1861, not to copy the grand arrival of some earlier American savior. Candidate Obama once adopted a presidential-like seal. He held a mass rally at Berlin’s Victory Column (after his request for the more dramatic Brandenburg Gate was refused). He adopted Greek temple sets at the Democratic convention. And like Zeus on Mt. Olympus, he talked about making the planet cool and the oceans recede. And now he’s capped all that by warning us to lower our expectations! But if Obama deliberately takes on the trappings of a messiah, why shouldn’t we expect messianic solutions?"

Partly, I suspect this arises out of the Obama team's inexperience. They need someone like Michael Deaver, a key aide to Ronald Reagan, who was a master at setting the scene and tone for candidate and then President Reagan's speeches and rallies. Of course, Deaver focused not on dressing Reagan with messianic trappings, but rather at focusing on and rallying Americans' patriotism.

As Hanson points out later in his piece, surely part of what the Obama team is up to is an attempt to move to the center, policy-wise; while using symbols and rhetoric to pacify Obama's liberal/progressive base. But rhetoric and symbols won't help Obama deal with our plethora of foreign enemies, and terrorist opponents. Let's hope he gets that.

Obama and the Democrats already take some hits

For example, the reliably progressive and pro-Obama/anti-Bush Gail Collins of the NY Times today writes in her column that she's not so happy with the Democrats' moves so far:

"In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has decided to leave Charles Rangel in charge of the tax-setting Ways and Means Committee during an ethics investigation of his incredibly sloppy personal finances. In defense, she points out that the House leadership does have standards, and that she kicked former Representative William Jefferson off Ways and Means after investigators found $90,000 in marked bills hidden inside his freezer. In the Senate, Schumer argues that Geithner’s errors “pale before the myriad mistakes made by the operators of financial institutions.” Maybe we should have higher standards for our Treasury secretary than being better organized than Lehman Brothers. Really, we’re ready for a new era that looks a little ... newer."

I hope she remembers Obama appointed Geithner. And this is only day 1 of the Obama administration. Progressives are already restless.

Was Obama's inaugural address truly non-partisan?

Some have argued it was. But Robert Ehrlich, writing in today's Washington Post, argues persuasively that it wasn't:

"[There was] this dangerous observation: "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works." (As though Americans should not focus on whether their government is too big or not big enough.) Then a nod to class-warfare rhetoric: "The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous." And, finally, a full retreat to limited economic horizons and a collective national guilt trip: To "those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it."

And as I pointed out on inauguration day, Obama also took a partisan swipe at the Bush administration when he suggested we'd postponed hard decisions. The bailout measure passed last fall, whether one agrees with it or not, is hardly an example of waving one's hand at a tough decision.

David Broder today, unsurprisingly, begs to differ--he thinks Obama can and will bridge ideological and partisan divides:

"Ever since, he has been seeking and finding communities of larger and larger dimensions. That habit of reaching out can serve Obama and the country well."

Yes, he's won elections. But how many bills did he pass, either in the Illinois legislature or in the U.S. Senate? What about all those times he voted "present" in Illinois? What about the time when Rick Warren last summer asked when he believed life began, and Obama waved it aside, claiming such a decision was "above his pay grade"? The buck stops with him in the presidency; no decision can be waved aside. His record of legislation is mighty thin. The jury is still out on just what Obama is prepared to accomplish. And he's hardly the non-partisan politician some wish him to be. Yet, anyway.

What happened to Caroline?

As you probably know by now, Caroline Kennedy has withdrawn her name from consideration for appointment to the Senate from New York, and won't say why.
She refers to a personal matter, but that's it.
Here's what I think: the fact is, she hadn't been appointed yet. She'd had a rough go in interviews with the media; there were elements of the New York Democratic Party who didn't seem to want her. This was becoming a lot tougher process than perhaps she expected.
Perhaps she just decided--why go through it.
Or decided she didn't have the stomach for it.
As someone in the linked article above suggests, though, the whole thing seems rather bizarre and will ultimately be seen as embarrassing for her.

At the same time, I don't know that she had the knowledge, experience, or fire in the belly for the job, so maybe this is best.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

Michigan State's men's hoops team lost, shockingly, at home to Northwestern, 70-63.
Too many turnovers, not enough intensity. In today's Division I college basketball, that's an easy recipe for a loss, even at home. There's so much parity. Ask Wake Forest.

The Detroit Pistons though won their second straight, defeating the Toronto Raptors.
Former starter Richard Hamilton is now coming off the bench. Seems like it might work--this might give the Pistons more firepower off the bench, and keep them going in the second and third quarters. We'll see.

Obama orders Gitmo closed, but...

...but also, notice this:

"In the other actions, Obama: Created a task force that would have 30 days to recommend policies on handling terror suspects who are detained in the future. Specifically, the group would look at where those detainees should be housed since Guantanamo is closing."

The Gitmo detainees aren't all being released. Obama isn't trying to argue that they aren't a threat. Indeed, he said just last week that his administration of course won't be releasing those who seek "to blow us up."

This move is largely symbolic. Follow what happens to the 200-plus detainees from Gitmo. I wonder if ANY of them will be released. Don't be surprised if none of them are.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Other inaugural views

Roger Simon of The Politico notes many of the key passages in Obama's inaugural address, and adds this important caveat:
"Will any of these words someday be carved in marble? That depends not on the words, but on the presidency. Nobody remembers the words of failed administrations. Great words are made immortal by great presidents. Barack Obama now has this burden and this opportunity. His journey and ours begins."

Pete Hegseth points out, correctly, that it was good to see Obama lauding the power of individual action, and especially military service, as a way to better our country.

Victor Davis Hanson correctly diagnoses an important legacy of the departing president--that Mr. Bush made this a safer country:
"We were not attacked after 9/11, despite serial warnings that such a comparable terrorist assault was inevitable. Bush created a new methodology of anti-terrorism. In magnitude and comprehensiveness (though unfortunately not in explication), it was analogous to Truman’s similarly controversial promotion of anti-Soviet containment that proved successful for the subsequent near half-century. For all the rhetoric about Bush’s manufactured war on terror, today it is much more difficult—as the dozens of failed plots during the last seven years attest—to pull off a terrorist act inside the United States. War abroad and new anti-terrorism vigilance at home have decimated those who would wage such attacks."

Apparently Tom Brokaw, during NBC's inauguration coverage, compared this peaceful transfer of power to the "Velvet Revolution" in Czechoslovakia some 20 years ago.
Yes, right, Mr. Brokaw--George W. Bush's presidency was akin to that of a communist dictatorship. I'm sure we'll see plenty more examples of media idiocy in the days ahead.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

The Detroit Red Wings unfortunately lost again last night, 6-3 to Phoenix.
They had too many defensive breakdowns. But the Wings still, on a tough 5-game swing out west, went 2-2-1 on the trip, and thus got 5 out of a possible 10 points.
I'm guessing the team is looking forward to the all-star break.

The day of Obama's inaugural: an appropriate warning

It came today from Anne Applebaum, in her column in the Washington Post, concerning Obama's plans for the economy:

" aspect in particular of the new administration's various "bailout" plans worries me: the assumption, which seems to lie behind such plans, that people make better decisions when they are handling public money than they do when they are handling their own money. Ample evidence, from many societies over many years, proves the opposite: Indeed, people entrusted with public money are overwhelmingly inclined to waste, steal or misuse it. After the initial failure of the federal government during Hurricane Katrina, for example, government money poured into New Orleans in the weeks and months that followed. The result: large-scale fraud, massive dissatisfaction and mobile homes so badly built that they could not be used. Yet many good things also happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Volunteers of all kinds flocked to the city; local self-help organizations sprang up. This isn't to say there was no role for government there but that government worked best by supporting citizens' initiatives, not by replacing them. My greatest fear, on this Inauguration Day, is not that the plane's engines will fail and that the economy will tank: That has happened already. My greatest fear is that in trying to repair the economy, the new administration will waste time and money in the mistaken belief that government-funded, centrally planned infrastructure projects will somehow use money more effectively than private or locally inspired equivalents. My second-greatest fear is that multiple company "bailouts" will ultimately result in fewer jobs, and more wasted resources, than the regeneration that could follow a string of intelligently managed bankruptcies."

Yes, indeed--and the kind of waste and misuse of which Applebaum speaks occurred often during, for example, FDR's New Deal. The Works Progress Administration, which spent tons of money during those years, was often sarcastically called by its critics the "We Piss it Away" agency. Let's not forget that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More on Obama's speech

So far the media is focusing on his urgings to choose "hope over fear" line.
Seems a bit trite to me. You, too?
I mean, obviously no politician truly seeks merely to offer "fear", no politician claims to offer no "hope", and only idiots truly think fear is better than hope.
Only time, and Obama's actual actions, will tell if he really does over hope, in the end.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

The Detroit Pistons finally, finally got a win, defeating Memphis on the road 87-79.
They played better defense, and have 10 of their next 13 at home. Let's see if they can get back on track.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions of course now have a new head coach--Jim Schwartz, formerly the defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans. I'm a bit encouraged that Bill Parcells has told Detroit media that he thinks the Lions got a good man. Let's hope he's right.

Obama's speech

Nothing too surprising thus far, though I do note this passage from it:

"Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed," Obama said in an undisguised shot at Bush administration policies."

Hmmm. The recent financial bailout package, pushed by the Bush administration, was an example of "standing pat" and "putting off unpleasant decisions"? I hardly think so.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Some random thoughts on MLK Day

I'm back from my trip, and so while I'm catching up, here's some random thoughts on the news of the day and maybe what it means...

Why do many on the left keep claiming that Iraq is this horrible failure? Consider this, from today's headlines:
"Candidates in this month's provincial elections are answering questions from voters and debating issues ranging from Baghdad's housing shortage to the need to attract foreign investment. This is the new style of campaigning in Iraq, where candidates feel safe enough to stump for votes and focus on grass-roots issues instead of the religious divisions and violence that overshadowed earlier elections held after Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in 2003."

There sure is a lot of hype building for Barack Obama's inauguration.
I can't remember a time when there was this much buildup for such an event.
I really wonder whether Obama can live up to all the expectations.
Americans need to remember--your government can't save you, or make your life for you.

Don't you have to feel good for the Arizona Cardinals? They're going to the Super Bowl.
When this NFL season began, who woulda thunk it? Certainly not me. But you have to feel good for their players, their fans, everyone...who obviously suffered through a lot of losing seasons, but never gave up. Yes, we can, indeed...

Meanwhile, why on earth are there still people out there facilitating dogfighting?
It's cruel and disgusting. I'm glad the cops keep cracking down on it.

Today of course is a holiday in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King. I can certainly see why President-elect Obama would choose to honor Dr. King today by doing some volunteer work--surely King would have approved. But it's important too to remember today that Dr. King was not a god; he was a man. And he was a man who made mistakes. In criticizing America's military efforts in Vietnam, King once likened our operations there to the actions of Adolf Hitler. At the end of his life, King was proposing to use civil disobedience to literally shut down the nation's capital and the government, all because he argued that government wasn't doing enough for the poor. Such incendiary language and undemocratic means of seeking change did not do the man justice, especially when many of King's earlier actions, such as opposing legalized segregation and racism, were so justified and he showed such tremendous leadership. So it's important to remember all the nuances, both of our founding fathers (such as Washington or Lincoln), as Dr. King's supporters would have us do, and of Dr. King himself.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

At the sports desk: NFL conference championship game picks

Again, I went 1-3 last week. Let's see if I can do better:

Philadelphia 2 over ARIZONA. PICK: CARDINALS. Well, I've picked against Arizona twice now in the playoffs, and they've burned me twice. Yes, most are picking Philly in this game. And their experience will help them. But the Cardinals are tough at home; they've discovered a running game; Kurt Warner has been here before, don't forget--he's won a Super Bowl; and the Cardinals' defense is forcing turnovers. They're hot. They've caught lightning in a bottle. I know, seems hard to imagine--but start practicing saying it--the Arizona Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl.

PITTSBURGH 4 over Baltimore. PICK: RAVENS. These two teams have played twice. Both were tough, hard-hitting, conservatively-played games that could have gone either way. I expect more of the same this Sunday. But this time, I expect the Ravens to come out on top--the odds simply favor that defense this time making a play to win the game, the play that's barely eluded them twice so far this season. Not this time.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Favorite TV shows: the rest of the bunch

You should also try these out:

E's "The Soup."
An hysterical recap and satire of the past week in Hollywood and popular culture.
It airs Friday night's on E.

MTV's "The Real World: Brooklyn."
Find out what the current MTV generation is thinking, feeling, and doing through this reality show putting 8 young people in a house together.

TruTV's "Forensic Files."
True stories about crimes, and the tough cops and investigators who use the science of forensics to catch them.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Favorite TV shows: Wednesdays/Thursdays

Continuing, from yesterday...

5. Bravo's "Top Chef New York."
The dishes they cook are fascinating, and then there's the clash of personalities...

6. NBC's "The Office."
A hilarious sit-com--and the impossibly uncomfortable situations Steve Carell (as Michael Scott, local branch manager of Dunder-Mifflin) gets into are just amazing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Favorite TV shows: Mondays/Tuesdays

I'm on vacation for a couple of days, so while I'm gone, let's ruminate on favorite TV shows.
Here's what I'm watching these days (when I'm not watching sports) on Mondays and Tuesdays:

1. ABC's "The Bachelor".
Jason seems like such a nice guy. You can't help but root for him.

2. ABC's "True Beauty".
Another one of those fun reality/competition shows--it catches persons with plenty of physical beauty showing off their oft-times lack of inner beauty.

3. CBS' "CSI Miami".
I know, David Caruso as Horatio Gates can seem a bit much.
But the plots are intricate, and often interest me--and sometimes Jerry Bruckheimer has an interesting way of bringing music into the episodes.

4. Fox' "American Idol."
The king of all reality/competition shows--and it's back for another run.

Then why?

Tuesday's Washington Post reported:

"President-elect Barack Obama intends to sign off on Pentagon plans to send up to 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, but the incoming administration does not anticipate that the Iraq-like "surge" of forces will significantly change the direction of a conflict that has steadily deteriorated over the past seven years."

Then why do it?
Is it simply to quiet conservative critics? To look more "centrist"?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Signs of hard times (contd)

I don't think we're in a depression yet, but these are definitely not the best of economic times.
How do we know? Ordinary towns and cities seeing, well, unusual things--such as this:

"When Elkhart [Indiana] Public Library's Pierre Moran Branch opened at 1 p.m. Sunday, there were already 51 people outside waiting in line.They were there to use the library's public computers to file required weekly online claims with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development for unemployment benefits.The crowds have grown so large, the library has taken to handing out numbers to those waiting to use the computers to file claims. One employee is assigned to handle crowd control."

Cease fire?

Hmmm--Hamas is sure talking tough:

"Hamas has said it will only observe a cease-fire if Israel withdraws from Gaza."

Then there may not be a cease-fire anytime soon, despite the conventional wisdom.
That's if Hamas really means what it says.

Clintonian rhetoric

Hillary Clinton testified today in her confirmation hearings to become secretary of state:

"America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America," she said, her daughter Chelsea seated behind her in the audience. "The best way to advance America's interest in reducing global threats and seizing global opportunities is to design and implement global solutions. This isn't a philosophical point. This is our reality."

Uh-huh. Nice verbiage, but it means little.
What will she and the administration do when certain nations refuse to go along with something that clearly is in America's national interest? Will she grant them that veto power?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Something on which Obama and conservatives can agree

From Bill Kristol's column today in the NY Times, on Guantanamo, releasing terrorist prisoners, etc:

"Obama did note that he differs with Cheney on “some things that we know happened,” including waterboarding. And he did reiterate his pledge to close Guantánamo. But he warned that it was “more difficult than I think a lot of people realize,” explaining that while he was committed to the rule of law, he wasn’t interested “in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.”

On that final point, Mr. President-elect, we agree.
Read the whole thing--in general, Kristol is saying, there's plenty of evidence that Barack Obama in foreign policy will not be making a huge break with the Bush administration. Wonder how Obama's hard-left supporters will like that.

More appearance obsession

Singer Katy Perry, at last Thursday night's Critics Choice Awards:

""I'm really critical of my posture, it makes a big difference," Perry told Tarts at Thursday night's Critics Choice Awards in Santa Monica, Calif. "And I try to suck my belly in. Everyone should do that whether you’re on a red carpet or not. Even if you’re just going out to dinner with your boyfriend you should try and suck it in."

Hmmm. Is being a good person important, too?

Mad about "Mad Men"

People still are--and there appears to be good news on that front for the show everybody was talking about towards the end of last year:

"The good news: according to a well-placed sourced, “Mad Men” creator Matt Weiner is currently working on a contract to stay with the show. “That’s the goal right now,” says the source. Weiner, according to the source is negotiating with the studio. AMC triggered season three and the actors are definitely locked in."

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

The ND women's hoops team won again on Saturday, 84-63 over Georgetown.
Again, what impresses is the Irish defense, and the suddenly-superb play of center Erica Williamson, who's averaging over 20 points a game in her last two contests. The Irish need to have an inside threat, and maybe now they have it.

The Irish men's team won again, too, defeating Seton Hall 88-79 at home.
Luke Harangody is the team's big star--the center again scored 30 points.
But Irish defense continues to be a concern--they shouldn't be giving up so many points.

Meanwhile, the word from the Indianapolis Colts, apparently official, is that Tony Dungy is finally retiring as the team's coach. This will be announced officially later today.
On the one hand, I'm sad, and I think most of the team's fans are sad today. He's a fine man and he's done a lot for the team. On the other hand, if his heart was no longer in it, maybe it was time. Maybe the team, given its failure to improve more this year and go farther, needs some new ideas (but not too many--Coach Dungy was awfully successful). Let's hope the team's new coach, Jim Caldwell, can continue to get as much, and more, out of this group as Dungy did. Mostly fans will remember what a solid, stable, good individual Dungy was.

And Michigan's men's hoops team won again, 64-49 over Iowa.
The team is 13-3, on track to make the NCAAs, and most importantly is hustling and playing good defense.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saturday news flashes

Progressives in the news media continue to attack Israel for defending itself. For example, see this recent Jackson Diehl op-ed in the Washington Post.
Note that Diehl writes the following: " Though Israel must defend its citizens against rockets and suicide bombings, the only means of defeating Hamas are political."
Right. And when Israel does indeed "defend its citizens", count on persons like Jackson Diehl to condemn her for it.

The Detroit Pistons won at Denver last night, defeating their old teammate Chauncey Billups, 93-90. It was significant because it was a road win, the Pistons won despite injuries, despite Billups scoring 30 on them, and shows the team continues to play better.
Right now, though, it sure looks like the Cleveland Cavaliers have moved into becoming the team to beat in the East--they beat Boston last night and played impressive defense.

Mark Steyn today shows that anti-Semitism in on the rise worldwide:
"In Toronto, anti-Israel demonstrators yell “You are the brothers of pigs!”, and a protester complains to his interviewer that “Hitler didn’t do a good job.” In Fort Lauderdale, Palestinian supporters sneer at Jews, “You need a big oven, that’s what you need!”
Read the whole thing--there's a lot more.

Note that President-elect Obama doesn't merely claim that his "stimulus" package will "create" jobs--he claims that it will "create or save" 3-4 million jobs.
Others have asked this already, but it's important to keep asking it--just how, exactly, will we rigorously, scientifically prove that an Obama stimulus plan "saved" a job? How will we know that a job wouldn't have survived anyway, no matter what the government did? Answer: such can't be proven, and it won't. But that won't stop Obama and his people from making all kinds of claims about jobs he "saved" in the years to come, evidence be damned. Let's hope people aren't too gullible.

Friday, January 9, 2009

At the sports desk: NFL weekend playoff picks

I was only 1-3 last weekend, unfortunately. I'm 133-118-7 for the year.

Baltimore 2 over TENNESSEE. PICK: RAVENS. On the surface, the lead-up to this game is kind of remarkable. Here you have Tennessee, 13-3, dominating the AFC all year, with home field advantage throughout the playoffs (and thus for this game, too). Baltimore, meanwhile, is the lowest playoff seed remaining in the AFC. Yet the Ravens are favored here. Thing is--it's hard to argue with them being the favorite. Tennessee lost 3 games at the end of the year. The Ravens are coming on strong and, frankly, given the way that defense of theirs is playing, it's hard to see the Titans denting it much. These two teams played earlier this season; the Titans won narrowly, a game Baltimore should have won. My guess is, the Ravens WILL win this one, by a field goal or more.

CAROLINA 5.5 over Arizona. PICK: PANTHERS. Good for the Cardinals last week, for coming up big at home, playing very solid, showing everyone that they were no joke. And a team with playoff-savvy vets like Edgerrin James and Kurt Warner indeed is not a joke. But I see the mountain this week for the Big Red being too much to climb--they're on the road against a tough Carolina squad, with key receiver Anquan Boldin's health questionable, with the Cards not being a good road team. Gotta go with the Panthers.

NY GIANTS 2 over Philadelphia. PICK: GIANTS. The easy thing here might be to go with Philly--they're a hot team, winning 3 in a row; the Giants might be rusty. But--remember this is basically the third Philly playoff game in a row, with the final regular season win over Dallas being a win-and-in game. The Giants meanwhile are rested and, by all accounts, healthy for the first time in weeks, especially at running back. And they're at home. I say, go with the G-men.

PITTSBURGH 4 over San Diego. PICK: STEELERS. I see some of the same things here as in the Philly/Giants game. Yes, San Diego has been hot. But LaDainian Tomlinson is banged up; this is basically the Chargers' third playoff game in a row; the Steelers are rested; and the Californian Chargers will be playing in the cold and snow of Pittsburgh. Remember, the weather ws tough for their game late in the season, and the elements contributed to holding the Chargers to just 10 points (along with the tough Steeler D). I see the Steelers prevailing again here.

Change you can believe in! Well, maybe not...

Obama claimed no lobbyists would be working for his administration.
But as Jim Geraghty at NRO shows today, in fact there's a lobbyist chosen to be deputy defense secretary, and the Obama transition office acknowledges this.

Geraghty has been doing yeoman work, detailing how many of Obama's past statements, positions, and policies have already been contradicted, kicked to the curb, by Obama himself and by his actions. Check him out.

At the sports desk: college football--who's # 1?

Apparently the pollsters will say Florida is, given their victory over Oklahoma last night in the BCS "National Championship" game. But the coaches of Texas, USC, and Utah say otherwise.

Look, this system is about as imperfect as you can get. I think Texas should have been in the championship game--they beat Oklahoma during the regular season, and IMO there wasn't sufficient reason to discount that result, when clearly it came down to either Texas or Oklahoma as Florida's opponent. Plus, you have the fact that Utah went unbeaten AND beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl; that these computer rankings obviously are imperfect; that you have teams in the championship game having to wait over 30 days before the game is played--you can't tell me that choppy, mistake-filled game last night wasn't affected by the long layoff; and that aren't there tons of people out there who'd LOVE to see how Utah or USC or Texas would do against Florida?

We simply don't have a good system to determine a college football national champion.
Maybe folks should see it this way: don't worry about who's a college football national champion. Instead, can't we agree--Utah; Texas; Southern Cal; and Florida, just to start with, all had very, very outstanding seasons this year. And leave it at that.

Blagojevich impeached

So the Illinois House voted to impeach Governor Rod Blagojevich today.
Next up: a trial in the state senate.

One thing to remember concerning this is: it doesn't happen very often.
If you go here, you see that only 11 state governors in the whole history of the United States have ever been impeached. The last one, Evan Meacham of Arizona, occurred in 1988. So this is quite an historical event we have going here; it doesn't happen very often. Not to mention the spectacle of it--don't you think Blagojevich will put on quite a show in attempting to defend himself? I do.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Not so competent so far?

Even the expected-to-be-sympathetic-to-Obama Howard Fineman is knocking Obama around a bit in his latest column:

"No, it is the Democrats who are giving Obama pre-inaugural fits. And that is not surprising, of course, for they are Democrats. And it must be said that Obama himself hasn't played his January hand all that well."

And there's plenty of evidence for that: 1] Not long ago, Obama too seemed to make a very absolute commitment that he wanted no Blagojevich appointee seated in the U.S. Senate. Now he's backed off that. 2] Obama appoints Leon Pannetta as head of the CIA, but he and his staff didn't even bother to make courtesy calls to Hill committee chairs who deal with intelligence issues.
3] And he and his staff didn't vet Bill Richardson nearly well enough. Mr. Obama's going through a bit of a rough patch, and he hasn't even begun his administration yet. Where's all the "competence"?

The genius of "protesters"

They're demonstrating against the shooting, by police, of an unarmed African-American man in Oakland. The shooter must indeed be brought to justice. But in which direction do the protesters eventually go?

"Many protesters expressed anger and frustration at the police and what they called society's racial injustice. But as the demonstrations continued, the mob frequently targeted the business, cars and homes of people without regard to race, the San Francisco Chronicle reported early Thursday. One such shop was Creative African Braids in Oakland. "This is our business," Leemu Topka, the black owner of the salon, shouted at the demonstrators, the Chronicle reported on its Web site. "This is our shop. This is what you call a protest?"

Mobs have a hard time thinking and reasoning, as conservatives have tried to teach for centuries.
(It's the kind of thing that made Edmund Burke a conservative. Smart man.)

At the sports desk: favorite teams

Michigan's men's hoops team rallied from 20 points down to edge Indiana on the road in OT, 72-66.
Really Michigan should never have trailed like that--they didn't come out with the intensity they needed from the start. Still, they showed poise down the stretch, and capitalized on key IU mistakes.

But the Detroit Pistons, on the road, return to some of their bad habits--they make too many turnovers and give up big leads. They lose to Portland, 84-83.

Signs of hard times (contd)

Statistics don't tell the story of economic slumps very well.
Better to point to concrete examples--such as today's news that Macy's is closing 11 stores nationally.

Macy's--so long a retail giant. But they too are hurting.
They join Circuit City--remember?

UPDATE: here's more evidence--holiday retail sales this year were very disappointing; and Walgreens too is cutting back, lopping off 1000 jobs in the coming days.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Maureen Dowd is sweet on Caroline...

...but has few good reasons for her advocacy of Caroline Kennedy for the senate.
You can read her piece here.
Read the whole thing, carefully. Her arguments boil down to:

--no, she doesn't speak well, but who needs smooth-talking pols these days anyway, and being a smooth talker doesn't prove anything about whether you'd be a good senator. (Oh, but, don't forget, when friend Mo wrote about George W. Bush, suddenly then the fact that he didn't talk like some smooth 6 p.m. news anchor was oh, so important!)

--and hey, Caroline wouldn't be as bad as Al D'Amato or Bob Torricelli. Yeah, right--choose her! Cuz she's not horrible or corrupt...

I think Ms. Kennedy's problem has been that she hasn't convinced New Yorkers that she knows about policy, and the issues, etc etc---you know, the kinds of things senators will have to deal with--to deserve the job. And saying that, well, at least she's better than someone who got jailed for no argument.

At the sports desk: my favorite teams

The ND women's hoops team won yet again on the road, defeating DePaul 86-62.
This team really continues to impress. They've lost two starters for the season due to injury. They've been on the road a lot. They have a history of not playing well at DePaul. Yet they keep right on rolling. I'm very happy for Irish center Erica Williamson and her 20 points. I was fortunate enough to meet her once, a couple of years ago, and she's a very nice, funny gal who works hard and deserves her success.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings won their 4th straight, 3-0 over Columbus.
Goalie Ty Conklin, filling in for the injured Chris Osgood, earned his second straight home shutout.
Professionalism and excellence...that's what you get from the Wings.

And Michigan State's men's hoops team is finding its groove, beating Ohio State last night, 67-56.
The Spartans are now 3-0 in the tough Big 10. Getting injured players back such as Goran Suton has helped. The Big 10 is a tougher league this year than people thought, by the way.

Obama puts on his conservative disguise

And tries today to talk tough on spending:

"President-elect Barack Obama said Wednesday that reforming massive government entitlement programs — such as Social Security and Medicare — would be "a central part" of his effort to control federal spending. Obama made the pledge but provided few details as he named Nancy Killefer as his administration's chief performance officer, creating a new White House position aimed at eliminating government waste and improving efficiency. Noting that the Congressional Budget Office had just estimated he would inherit a $1.2 trillion federal deficit for fiscal 2009, Obama promised to cut unnecessary spending."

To a degree, conservatives should be pleased with this, not irritated. It goes to show that Obama knows that there are conservative issues out there that do in fact resonate with the people, and cutting back spending is one of them. Of course Obama will seek to claim the issue for himself. What conservative must do, now, is to, as we said yesterday, watch him like a hawk on this issue and point out, with gusto, when he doesn't keep his promise.

Again, this reminds me a lot of the Carter Administration of the late 1970s. Carter too tried to talk tough on spending, tried to co-opt conservative issues. And he even tried to act to cut spending. But the Democratic Party is one of a lot of constituencies and a lot of interest groups, and back then they were glad to be back in power (as they are now), and they wanted some nice big chunks of federal spending to go their way. When they didn't get it, the Democrats fought amongst each other like cats and dogs. Could happen again...

Does this make the Democrats look good?

I can't believe it does, as today Harry Reid radically changes course:

"Changing course, Senate Democrats emerged from a meeting with Senate appointee Roland Burris on Wednesday and set forth the legal steps under which they're willing to welcome him into the Senate in President-elect Barack Obama's vacated spot. Praising the former state attorney general, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate is awaiting a court ruling in a case that tests whether the signature of the Illinois secretary of state is needed for Burris to take the seat. He suggested that would be a step toward seating Burris."

Read the whole thing. Sounds to me like Reid and co. are caving in to the Congressional Black Caucus.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Caroline Kennedy to the senate?

Why? Well, check out the latest news today:

She's fallen in the polls--New Yorkers now appear to want Andrew Cuomo appointed to that seat, by a wide margin. Governor Paterson is now asking several candidates to submit answers to a long, very detailed questionnaire, demanding very personal information. Why do that if your mind is made up?

And consider this: why is Paterson waiting so long to make an appointment? The longer the wait, the more apparent Kennedy is not a shoo-in. There must be serious doubts--and her public performance over the past month hasn't quieted them.

More trouble for Obama

The president-elect has said that he will escalate U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, in order to fight terrorism there. Yet another prominent progressive voice today, though, has come out against this--see the NY Times' Bob Herbert:

"What Mr. Obama doesn’t need, and what the U.S. cannot under any circumstances afford, is any more unnecessary warfare. And yet, while we haven’t even figured out how to extricate ourselves from the disaster in Iraq, Mr. Obama is planning to commit thousands of additional American troops to the war in Afghanistan, which is already more than seven years old and which long ago turned into a quagmire."

Is there anywhere that liberals are willing to fight the enemy?
Will Mr. Obama be able to take this criticism? And overcome it? Or will he cave? Only time will tell.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

The ND men's hoops team had a good bounce-back win, defeating #9 Georgetown 73-67.
It was ND's 44th straight win at home. Even more importantly, the team did a much better job defending and rebounding. And Luke Harangody was a monster inside. Maybe there's hope for them yet.

The Obama stimulus plan--opportunities for the right

The Obama camp claims the coming stimulus package won't contain pork:

"President-elect Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan won't include money for politicians' pet projects and will include provisions aimed at ensuring his administration is open and accountable to taxpayers and Congress, a transition official said Tuesday. As part of the package likely to cost as much as $775 billion, Obama plans to establish an oversight body to meet publicly and issue reports to Congress on how the money is being spent. The president-elect also plans to create a user-friendly Internet site to allow people to track the flow of dollars."

Well, gosh, that sounds so great. But pork has been a part of Washington D.C. politics forever.
It won't be easy for Mr. Obama to get rid of it. Has he bitten off more than he can chew here? This reminds me of the first days of Jimmy Carter's presidency, when he too declared that things would be different and that there would be no pork, etc etc etc. But in the end, Carter alienated congressional Democrats and was never able to get back on the right track with them. Could this happen to Mr. Obama?

What Republicans and conservatives must do now, meanwhile, is scrutinize this stimulus package down to the last detail and blow the whistle on any pork that sneaks in.

Roland Burriss to the senate--rejected

Which was no surprise, though it was a bit of a circus show--details here.
But Burriss makes it pretty clear he will challenge the senate in court.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to watch for now is the reaction of leading African-American Democrats nationally. If they take cues from Bobby Rush, this thing could get pretty ugly, and Democrats could wind up real divided. Wait and see.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Health nazi alert: the problem with smoking bans

Not only do they violate peoples' individual freedom, they harm the economy:

"The more laws governments pass, the more they are subject to the oldest law of all: the law of unintended consequences. And smoking bans are having bizarre consequences across the world…In Britain, where smoking in enclosed public places became totally illegal in 2007, beer sales are down by 10 per cent; analysts attribute half of that to the smoking law. Pubs are now closing at a record rate of 36 a week....There are similar reports from Ireland, where the broadcaster Gerry Anderson said bars now had the atmosphere of a dentist’s waiting room. In France, more than 500 of the 40,000 cafés and bars disappeared last year. Again, the ban is largely blamed. And in France, the climate is more conducive to sitting outside with a Ricard and a Gauloise. Latest figures suggest there has been no effect at all on tobacco consumption in Britain or Ireland. And anecdotal evidence is that kids are now staying out of pubs, heading for any open spaces they can find, getting bladdered on cheap supermarket lager and smoking their heads off."

Friedrich von Hayek is vindicated again--government planning and intervention in the economy will ALWAYS be problematic, because big government can never grasp all the consequences, intended and unintended, that its policies will have upon the economy.

Bill Richardson and liberal Obama love

So Bill Richardson has withdrawn his bid to be Commerce Secretary in Obama's cabinet, due to ethics investigations that will dog him and his staff for months, it appears.

Funny thing--even this, something Obama supporters you would think would not want to see (don't they want a smooth transition to an Obama cabinet? Don't they want big-name Democrats such as Bill Richardson free from possible taint?) sent a progressive acquaintance of mine chortling in glee. See, he said, people serving with Obama don't want even a HINT of corruption in an Obama administration, and if there is one, they're out, immediately! Isn't that wonderful???

Here's the response: so why did Obama appoint this guy in the first place?

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

The Detroit Pistons edge the LA Clippers, 88-87 yesterday on the road.
It's the Pistons' 7th straight win. Perhaps the most valuable Piston--Tayshaun Prince, whose great defense helped stop the Clippers' Eric Gordon cold on the final possession.

And Michigan's men's hoops team showed good bounce-back ability and toughness, beating a good Illinois team 74-64 on Michigan's home floor yesterday. This coming Wednesday, Michigan plays Indiana on the road; IU is down this year--that's a game Michigan's got to have.

Misleading headline of the day

Headline seen on Yahoo News this morning:

"Impoverished Gazans suffer as ground assault continues."

Are they suffering? Perhaps. Let's not forget, however, that many of those Gazans support and cheer on the terrorists who practically daily launch rockets into southern Israel, seeking to kill Israeli women and children. Sometimes you reap what you sow.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday news items

Favorite teams--it was a tough day yesterday. The ND men's hoops team was out-rebounded and out-toughed by a St. John's squad picked to finish near the bottom of the Big East.
Not good. I'm really worried that if ND doesn't tighten it's defense and rebounding significantly, they'll make the NCAAs again, but get bounced out quickly in the first or second round--again.

Meanwhile the Indianapolis Colts lack of a running game, lack of a solid offensive line (harmed by injuries all year), and they're running into a hot San Diego team on the road all led to the Colts dropping a heartbreaker in the first round of the NFL playoffs, 23-17 in overtime.
It's definitely an opportunity missed, as the Colts had enough talent to go far. But I don't think they ever quite got it fully together this year and played consistently dominating football. I think the injuries played a big part in it. The Colts couldn't run the football and make first downs on short-yardage downs. In the playoffs, with a lot of good teams around, that can kill you. The Colts have to upgrade the O-line.

But at least the ND women's hoops team showed toughness and poise--again--in defeating a good young Seton Hall team, 66-60. The Irish get yet another road win. They'll sure be glad to get back home.

Meanwhile, internationally, Israel continues to pound away on Hamas.
By the way, the NY Times among others yesterday trumpeted that Israel hoped through this military action to get rid of Hamas. Gosh--wouldn't that be great?

NFL picks today--I was 0-2 yesterday.
Baltimore 2 over MIAMI. PICK: DOLPHINS. I like Chad Pennington and that running game.

Philadelphia 3.5 over MINNESOTA. PICK: EAGLES. Donovan McNabb will outplay Tarvaris Jackson and/or Gus Frerotte.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Weekend tidbits

So Israeli ground troops have now entered Gaza.
Clearly Israel is trying to make a major statement here, and seek to greatly weaken Hamas.
Conservatives should be praying Israel succeeds, and must push back hard against the notion that there is some kind of moral equivalence between Israeli actions and those of Hamas.
Remember--since 2001, Hamas has shot more than 6000 rockets into Israel, all designed to terrorize and kill Israeli civilians.

NBA fans--keep an eye on the Detroit Pistons' Rodney Stuckey. He's emerging as a prime-time player for the Pistons as their point guard. Last week he went for 40 against the Chicago Bulls. Last night he lit up Sacramento for 38 as the Pistons edged the Kings, 98-92.

The Blagojevich scandal continues to hurt the Democrats, as news dribbles out concerning all its effects and permutations. Today it comes out that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Blagojevich about the appointment, several days before Blago was arrested--apparently to urge him not to appoint Jesse Jacksion, Jr.
That ought to really increase the love and camaraderie in Democratic ranks.

By the way, speaking of division in Democratic ranks, see this piece by noted progressive/liberal blogger Glenn Greenwald, which attacks Democratic Party leaders in Washington for supporting Israel's military action vs Hamas. It's not notable for its logic--that, as always with Greenwald, is poor; he seems to argue that because "world opinion" (whatever that is) and perhaps many Democratic activists oppose the war, therefore it can't be worth supporting. (If such reasoning made sense, then Abraham Lincoln would have had to end the Civil War in 1864, and concede a Confederate victory). What is notable instead is how the antiwar left is quick to criticize, sharply, the Democratic leadership. Democrats may just have a hard time getting along, despite their newfound power.

NFL playoff games today: my record for the regular season wound up 132-115-7. Now for the playoffs, starting with the two games today:
Atlanta 2 over ARIZONA. PICK: FALCONS. Simple calculation here--which team was playing better at the end of the season? It's Atlanta, no question. And they've been strong on the road, too.

Indianapolis 3 over SAN DIEGO. PICK: COLTS. This is a tough pick. The Chargers are playing well, have won 4 straight, and are at home. Plus this is the second time the two teams have played. But I think MVP Peyton Manning and the Colts' experience in winning tough road games wins out here, though the score will be close. Colts by 4.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Looking towards 2009--how about emulating the remarkable men and women who left us in 2008

For example, William F. Buckley Jr., who died in 2008 at the age of 82:

"The more you know a great man (or woman), the more you are reminded he is but a man. That’s true of getting to know those who are living and reading the letters and honest biographies of those we could never know. We are reminded that we’re all called to greatness in our roles in the world. Bill was a remarkable man. It was an honor to know him, to read him, to love him. But he might be the first to remind us that he was a man. Like so many who have come before us who we admire. Who we miss. Whose legacies we will protect and defend and cherish and shape the future with. Whether you or a man or woman of faith or not, is there little doubt WFB’s life story is that of one who did what he was born to do? Will you permit me to pray you do exactly that this coming year, whatever your field, whatever your responsibilities, wherever you are? Those of us in the political world have very many lessons to take from his life, but if we all reflect on that — a life well lived — I don’t think Bill would mind at all."