Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday stuff...

Some sports news of interest (to me at least) last night. The Dallas Mavericks for example got lucky and escaped with a win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, 110-108 in OT. It's good that the Mavs have the toughness and savvy to mount 4th quarter comebacks and to win close games. But what are they doing being in the position they were in, down 12 in the 4th to a team missing its biggest star, Kevin Durant? Do the Mavs have what it takes to advance at all in the NBA playoffs down the road? The crystal ball on that one remains cloudy.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons shocked everyone by winning last night at Orlando, 93-85--without Allen Iverson playing at all. (he's off getting his back examined.) They looked like their old selves. Questions remain, of course. Can Iverson be content coming off the bench?

And the Detroit Red Wings, with Chris Osgood starring in goal, played solidly and beat the LA Kings, 2-1. It was an important night for Osgood--he'd been given 12 days off from playing in order to get himself right, given how much he'd struggled. It obviously helped.

In other news, I have no problem with this, and I don't think other conservatives and libertarians should either:
"Supporters of programs to provide legal marijuana to patients with painful medical conditions are celebrating Attorney General Eric Holder’s statement this week that the Drug Enforcement Administration would end its raids on state-approved marijuana dispensaries."
It's time to at least begin to scale back the war on drugs. And persons should have the liberty to use a drug like this in a way that is clearly beneficial to them, and not harmful.

Meanwhile, gosh--is anyone surprised that, as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton is, er, changing positions from where she used to be as a senator? In this case, the issue is Israel:
"In a swift about face from her views as New York's senator, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now hammering Israel over its treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.... "I'm a very strong supporter of Israel," Clinton said back in February 2000. On Thursday, as Secretary of State she had yet another about face in the form of angry messages demanding Israel speed up aid to Gaza. Jewish leaders are furious. "I am very surprised, frankly, at this statement from the United States government and from the secretary of state," said Mortimer Zuckerman, publisher of the New York Daily News and member of the NYC Jewish Community Relations Council."
Get used to it, folks--Mrs. Clinton has proven over the years that she will say anything and throw anyone, long-time supporter or no, under the bus.

Mark Steyn makes a very good point today concerning "superhero" Obama...and the language he uses:
"Do you ever go back to the first issue of this comic book and try to figure out what the plot’s all about? Wasn’t it something to do with subprime mortgages and two strange creatures called Fannie and Freddie? And then it became something to do with saving banks, wasn’t that it? And somewhere along the way the Big Three auto makers got involved? And now it’s about everything. Obama is going to do everything. So he needs to be able to spend everything. Only we don’t call it “spending” anymore. Everything government “spends” is now deemed an “investment.” Government will “invest” in “more efficient cars,” it will “invest” in daycare, it will “invest” in a new Federal Regulatory Agency of Fancy Drapes and Window Treatments. It will “invest” in an impact study group that will study the impact of recalling every edition of Webster’s and pasting in it a little Post-It note on the page defining “spend” saying “obsolete — see ‘invest.’ ”
The Clinton administration did this too, back in the 1990s--when it came to the issue of tax cuts, the Clintons got everyone to agree that they had to be "paid for"--as if letting Americans keep more of their own money equaled government spending. We mustn't let Obama get away with this particular bit of language-twisting.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Another vindication for the Bush administration

The Obama administration admits recently that, even when it pulls out of Iraq...well, it isn't, not really--and Democrats aren't happy:

"Even before they are briefed at the White House late this afternoon, Senate Democratic leaders expressed concerns over reports that President Obama’s proposal to withdraw troops from Iraq over a 19-month timeline would leave a residual force there of as many as 50,000 troops. At a news briefing a few minutes ago, Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader from Nevada, indicated that he would be conveying his concerns to the president about the reported troop levels that would remain once the withdrawal deadline is met in August 2010. Mr. Reid said: "I’m going to go to the White House for a briefing on the Iraq situation this afternoon. I have been one for a long time who has called for significant cutbacks in Iraq. I’m happy to listen to the secretary of defense and the president but when they talk about 50,000, that’s a little higher number than I anticipated."But to conservatives, what should make us happy is, not just the Democrats engaging in more infighting, but simply this: the Bush administration and other supporters of our operations in Iraq said it would not be wise to completely pull out of that country."

And now the Obama administration agrees.

Attacking Rush

Two labor groups (strong adjuncts of the Democratic Party, too) have decided to come out with a TV ad blasting the Republican Party and Rush Limbaugh:

"The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, one of the nation’s largest and most politically active labor unions, and Americans United for Change, a labor advocacy group, have joined together to produce a TV ad that mashes clips of Republican congressional leaders’ reactions against the $787 billion stimulus package with Rush Limbaugh’s opposition to the White House initiative. The commercial, which a group spokesman said would be broadcast on some cable networks and possibly the Sunday news shows early next week, attempts to paint Mr. Limbaugh, the talk radio show host, as the titular head of the Republican party.It intersperses clips of American workers, teachers and foreclosure signs with the leaders using the word “no.” And the ad ends with Mr. Limbaugh’s declaration toward President Obama from a few weeks ago: “I want him to fail,” and then a narrator concludes: “Tell them America won’t take no for an answer.”

Three points we should make in response: 1] of course Rush and others want Obama and his "stimulus" plans to fail--why would you want something you consider to be wrong and bad for the country to succeed? We didn't want such legislation to pass. We need not apologize for that.
2] Is this what the Democrats call "bipartisanship"? Sounds to me like a continuation of the 2008 campaign. Does the Obama administration support this ad? 3] Careful--the last president who directly took on Rush Limbaugh was Bill Clinton, in 1993-1994. What followed was that, in the 1994 congressional elections, Clinton's party lost over 50 seats.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

In recent action from favorite teams, the ND men's hoops team needed a strong second half to beat Rutgers, 70-65. But they got it, with a strong defensive effort and a big half from Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson. The Irish will probably need a good Big East tournament run to make the NCAAs. But at least they still have a chance.

But the Detroit Pistons lost again, a close one on the road to New Orleans, 90-87. 7 losses in a row. Looks like Allen Iverson needs to come off the bench, but I don't know if the team will have the guts to do it.

Michigan State's men's hoops team is struggling offensively; but they still beat Iowa, 62-54. They still have time to fix things; I think their fans should be optimistic.

The Dallas Mavericks had a good bounce-back win, beating Milwaukee 116-96. They needed that after their previous night's debacle against San Antonio. Still...one worries that the Mavs struggle against good Western Conference opponents.

There was better news elsewhere, though. The Detroit Red Wings played solidly, and especially got a good game in goal from Ty Conklin in beating the top seed in the West, San Jose, 4-1. They continue to have a good shot at making a Stanley Cup run in April...

The Obama deficit

It's going to be huge:

"President Barack Obama unveiled a multi-trillion-dollar spending plan Thursday that would boost taxes on the wealthy, curtail Medicare, lay the groundwork for universal health care and leave a string of deficits dwarfing any in the nation's history. In addition to sending Congress his $3.55 trillion budget plan for 2010, Obama proposed more immediate changes that would push spending to $3.94 trillion in the current year. That would result in a record deficit Obama projects will hit $1.75 trillion, reflecting the massive spending being undertaken to battle a severe recession and the worst financial crisis in seven decades."

Wow. A $1.75 trillion dollar deficit. It's hard to comprehend.
What's even funnier is that we can all recall the 1980s--when Democrats screamed and yelled how horrible it was that the Reagan administration ran $200 billion deficits. My, times have changed.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Two key points on the immigration debate

Mark Krikorian, writing today on NRO, makes two crucial points in responding to Richard Nadler's arguments on immigration--his first has to do with mass deportation:

"Richard Nadler complains that his critics didn’t address his main premise: that conservatives are advocating “mass deportation,” and that such a position is sure to alienate Hispanic voters. That’s because there are no serious advocates of “mass deportation.” If conservatives were in fact supporting the mass roundup and deportation of 11–12 million people, losing the Hispanic vote would be the least of our problems. But, of course, mass deportation is not the only alternative to amnesty. Instead, the position that many conservatives (and others) actually favor is attrition through enforcement — a reduction over time in the illegal population through consistent, comprehensive application of the law, something we have never really attempted.
The principle behind an attrition policy is simple enough: dissuade more prospective illegals from coming and get more of those already here to leave — partly through increasing regular deportations but mostly through voluntary return. The result would not be a magical disappearance of the problem but a reversal of the trend, so that the total number of illegals starts decreasing with each year, instead of increasing."

Bingo. His second point echoes what I've been saying--how far should conservatives go in sacrificing principle, just to gain votes:

"Along those lines, let’s accept for the sake of argument that a pro-enforcement stance on immigration would cost Republicans some of the one-third of the Hispanic vote that they customarily get (including in 2008), or that it would cost the GOP the chance to increase that share. The question then is, how far should any party compromise its beliefs in order to expand the tent?... it’s likely that opposition to affirmative action is a “deal-breaker” for many, perhaps most, black voters. Gallup reports that something like three-quarters of blacks support affirmative action, a figure that holds steady among self-identified liberals, moderates, and conservatives. Should Republicans embrace racial preferences in the search for these votes?"

Answer: no. We can't simply derive our platform from polls. To do so would make conservatism not a set of principles, but...a nothing.

Silly British parents

Seems the BBC hired a slightly disabled woman to be co-host of a children's TV program, and a few parents aren't happy:

"When the BBC hired a pretty young actress to co-host a daily program for toddlers, it never expected viewers to complain that the young woman might give their children nightmares. “I didn't want to let my children watch the filler bits on the bedtime hour last night because I know it would have played on my eldest daughter's mind and possibly caused sleep problems,” wrote one viewer in an e-mail to the British television network after seeing Cerrie Burnell play games and read children’s stories. The viewer’s problem? Burnell was born with an incomplete right arm that ends in a stump below her elbow. According to a BBC report, most viewers have been supportive of Burnell, who took over a daily slot on the BBC’s children’s network, CBeebies, at the beginning of February with Alex Winters. But a handful have written to the station complaining about her disability. Some say she may frighten the children. Others accuse the network of going overboard in the interests of diversity. Some say they don’t want to have to address such issues with very young children."

Cerrie Burrell has a refreshing take on the whole issues, though, and good for her:

"Burnell, who has a 4-month-old daughter, seems unfazed by the controversy. “Children come up to me in the street every day and say 'What's that?' I wouldn't say they're frightened but certainly they're inquisitive,” she told BBC magazine. "I would always take the time to explain to a child. All they want is an explanation. They want to know 'What's that?' and 'What's happened?' and 'Why are you different?' And then they will move on."

She's exactly right. You simply explain the situation to children; and they're fine with it. I have personal experience with this. I have a condition called Moebius Syndrome. I won't go into all the details--but it makes your face look a little different--for example, my eyes are slightly crossed. But you know what? I'm a teacher, I've dealt with younger people and their little children all my life, and I have a young son of my own. And I've always had great relationships with kids, and of course especially my son. No "nightmares" there, for anyone.

These British parents need to get over their prejudices, and treat everyone as individuals. And yes, that's something with which every conservative I've ever met agrees.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

A mixed bag on Tuesday night. The Notre Dame women's hoops team played well and won, beating Syracuse 90-79. Most encouraging was how well the Irish executed their offense, and focused well coming off the Connecticut game. The Irish once again are close to 20 wins, and pretty much have an NCAA berth sewn up.

On the other hand...the Detroit Pistons continued their slide, losing to Miami 103-91. The Pistons are now under .500. The key: the Pistons can't stop teams. Analysts seem to agree that Allen Iverson is a huge defensive liability that messes up the Pistons' entire defensive scheme. They sure couldn't stop Dwayne Wade last night...

And the Dallas Mavericks gave everyone a miserable effort on the road at San Antonio, losing to the Spurs 93-76 despite the fact that San Antonio was missing both Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. The Mavs got out-worked. They need to rally, and fast.

Obama's speech

Note that President Obama's state of the union speech last night was low on specifics, but high on rhetoric-attempting-to-inspire:

"The time to take charge of our future is here," Obama said, delivering his first address to a joint session of Congress. Adding words of reassurance to an anxious nation, he declared, "Tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before."

This shouldn't surprise--it's straight out of the playbook of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, or Ronald Reagan. That is, it reflects the belief that one of the first things a president must do build and/or restore Americans' confidence, inspire them. Clearly Obama seeks to do that, to build on his so-far high poll numbers.

UPDATE: but by the way, some establishment types remain cynical about what Obama is proposing--see for example Howard Fineman, of Newsweek:

"The president is vowing to reform and vastly expand health care, to renew education, to remake the energy and auto industries, and to save the banking system. Oh, and let’s not forget: to end the recession. He’s going to do all this and, at the same time, cut the deficit in half by 2013. He says, his budget will be a new model of candid “transparency” – unlike all of those fiction-filled budgets of the past. I don’t think I’m being unduly cynical to wonder if it’s possible."

And the editors of National Review make a good point--let's applaud the president for the conservative promises he made in this speech, and hold him to them:

"We would wager that President Obama’s speech will go over well. Much of it sounded good to us. The president says that he does not believe in big government and, indeed, wants to abolish ineffective government programs. He seeks to avoid as much as possible bailing out irresponsible homeowners, bankers, and automakers. He promises to stand up against protectionism. He claims that nobody making less than $250,000 a year will pay a single dime more in taxes. He favors tax-free universal savings accounts for retirement. He is, judging from the speech, uninterested in promoting social liberalism. And even where we disagreed with what he said, he usually made a cogent, reasonable-sounding case for his position."

Biden's words

Vice-President Joe Biden today said, concerning the "stimulus" package:

"Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the Obama administration's stimulus program is designed to "drop-kick" the economy out of its deep recession, declaring he is determined to ensure the $787 billion "gets out the door quickly and wisely."

Ah. So this package will "drop kick" us out of the recession, eh?
If and when this doesn't work, however, something tells me these are words Republicans and conservatives can use against the Obama administration. Keep them in mind. They may come in handy later.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Worrying about the "stimulus" package

The NY Times' David Brooks gives sound conservative reasons for concern over Obama and his "stimulus" bill:

"Readers of this column know that I am a great admirer of Barack Obama and those around him. And yet the gap between my epistemological modesty and their liberal worldviews has been evident over the past few weeks. The people in the administration are surrounded by a galaxy of unknowns, and yet they see this economic crisis as an opportunity to expand their reach, to take bigger risks and, as Obama said on Saturday, to tackle every major problem at once. President Obama has concentrated enormous power on a few aides in the West Wing of the White House. These aides are unrolling a rapid string of plans: to create three million jobs, to redesign the health care system, to save the auto industry, to revive the housing industry, to reinvent the energy sector, to revitalize the banks, to reform the schools — and to do it all while cutting the deficit in half. If ever this kind of domestic revolution were possible, this is the time and these are the people to do it. The crisis demands a large response. The people around Obama are smart and sober. Their plans are bold but seem supple and chastened by a realistic sensibility. Yet they set off my Burkean alarm bells. I fear that in trying to do everything at once, they will do nothing well. I fear that we have a group of people who haven’t even learned to use their new phone system trying to redesign half the U.S. economy. I fear they are going to try to undertake the biggest administrative challenge in American history while refusing to hire the people who can help the most: agency veterans who are registered lobbyists. I worry that we’re operating far beyond our economic knowledge."

And this from someone who is, as he wrote, fairly positive concerning Obama.
Are moderate GOP governors like Charlie Crist listening?

The latest poll findings

They seem, on the surface, to be good news for the Obama administration:

"Large majorities of Americans support President Barack Obama's plans to revive the economy and his efforts to work across party lines, according to a pair of public opinion polls released Monday. One month into his presidency, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found 68 percent of Americans approve of Obama's job performance. Sixty-four percent of respondents supported the administration's $787 billion economic stimulus package and the same percentage backed his proposal to prevent housing foreclosures, the Washington Post reported."

Okay. But think about this a bit more deeply. 1] This shouldn't surprise us. When something is going wrong, when the economy hits a snag, many people love the idea of action--don't just stand there, do something. Obama's "stimulus" plan appears to be doing something, and so many Americans, without really understanding everything that was in that bill, naturally will nod their heads and say "let's try it." This is something Franklin D. Roosevelt understood well, and is why he, in his first inaugural address with the nation mired deep in the Depression, said that his administration promised "action--and action now." I suspect Democrats haven't forgotten that.

But 2] how Americans see Obama and his "stimulus" package now, in any case, is not on point. The question is, how will they see it in a year or two? And I think all this spending, so much of it dedicated to boondoggle projects that either won't affect the economy or at the least won't affect it for years, could easily lead to inflation, to a continued lack of confidence on Wall Street, and to a continued stalled economy. And by then, the polls will look differently.

Rupert Murdoch apologizes, but...

...he shouldn't have. He apologized because one of his newspapers, the NY Post, ran a cartoon which likened those who wrote the recent stimulus bill to the crazy chimp shot recently by police.
Opponents claimed the cartoon in a racist manner was likening President Obama to the chimp. So after days of the liberal outrage machine running full tilt, Murdoch today apologized.

He shouldn't have. The cartoon in question took a shot, not at President Obama, but at those who wrote the "stimulus" bill, none of whom were African-American. (most agree the bill was written first and mainly by Nancy Pelosi and her comrades in the House.) And it was suggesting that the legislation, jammed with all kinds of porkish spending plans all over the lot, was thus full of craziness...like the chimp.

There's no "racism" there. But, as I feared, a resurgent liberalism, with an African-American president in the White House, would not hesitate to brand its and Obama's opponents as racists whenever possible, in order to silence them. This was just round one. There will be many more, I'm afraid. But let's not be cowed by any of it...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Obama's slippery spokesman

Many in the media and elsewhere used to criticize George W. Bush's press secretaries ad nauseam. But how about this guy Robert Gibbs, President Obama's press secretary? He was at it again today:

"For years in this country, we've had a borrow and spend attitude," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said moments ago, suggesting that he may be under the impression that the money for the $787 billion stimulus will not be coming from borrowing."

Arnold Schwarzenegger--still not getting it after all these years

He shows off his moderate "principles" or, rather, lack of same, in discussing the "stimulus" package:

"For some — mostly Democrats but also a few prominent moderate Republicans — the bill represents an admittedly imperfect but desperately needed infusion of cash that will help them avert thousands of layoffs. For others — predominantly conservative Southern Republicans — the flaws partly outweigh the benefits. And for those with presidential aspirations, the strong stance in opposition to the Obama administration may be seen as a way to stand out and stake a claim to leadership. With state budgets teetering, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, one of the moderates and a supporter of the stimulus bill, emphasized the need for Republicans in state houses and in Congress to be “team players” in facing the economic crisis and not to be bound unduly by party orthodoxies. “You’ve got to go beyond just the principles,” he told George Stephanapolous on ABC’s “This Week.”

"Beyond" the principles, Mr. Governator?
But if we do, are they really principles? What do they mean? Anything?
What do we as Republicans stand for? Anything?

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

There's mixed news today. On the one hand, the ND women's hoops team battled #1 ranked and seemingly-invincible UConn, on the road, very hard--losing only by 10, 76-66, and leading at one point in the second half (the first time UConn had trailed in the second half all year). A very good effort.

And the ND men's hoops squad got a much-needed boost this past Saturday, blasting Providence on the road, 103-84. When the Irish make shots, as both Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney did, they can play with anyone.

But...the Detroit Pistons, playing poorly and with inconsistent effort, got blasted by Cleveland, 99-78. How low can they go?

And the University of Michigan men's hoops team blew a late lead, and lost in OT at Iowa--who's having a down year. Another blow to Michigan's NCAA hopes.

At least Michigan State's men's hoops team rallied to beat Wisconsin, 61-50. But the Spartans once trailed by 12 in the game and looked flustered. Nice rally, but...they need more consistency.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday stuff

Hey, Michiganders, go out there and do some serious drinking--your governor and her state budget need you:
"Gov. Jennifer Granholm is betting that liquor sales and longer bar hours will bring in more money for Michigan's cash-starved budget. The plan involves liquor stores and restaurants selling spirits on Sunday mornings and bar owners buying permits for their establishments to stay open until 4 a.m. The expanded hours for liquor sales would generate an estimated $13.7 million for the state's general fund, the pot over which the governor and lawmakers have spending discretion. Additional revenue would come from the sale of the special permits priced at $1,500 each."

The good news for Michigan sports fans continues to be the Detroit Red Wings, who were impressive again last night in defeating Anaheim, 5-2. They have a red-hot power play right now, and Ty Conklin played well in goal.

Hmmm. The left's Joe Conason asserts that it's the Republicans who lost big with regard to the passage of the "stimulus" bill:
"Regardless of that bill's manifest imperfections and the messy
legislative process, the new administration achieved a difficult
objective on the tightest possible schedule. His Republican opponents
congratulate themselves for remaining unified in defeat and whine
about the president's refusal to capitulate to them—but in fact it is
they who have failed in the initial episode of a confrontation that
will certainly continue for the coming four years."
Really? I think we'd better wait and see what effect this package has on the economy in the next couple of years, there, Mr. Conason. If the economy doesn't bounce back, we'll see who the winner is then...

And by the way, not only did Pakistan recently cave in to Taliban extremists in their country, but did you see what happened in Great Britain, too? Mark Steyn explains:
"Among that growing population of Yorkshire Pakistanis is a fellow called Lord Ahmed, a Muslim member of Parliament. He was in the news the other day for threatening (as the columnist Melanie Phillips put it) “to bring a force of 10,000 Muslims to lay siege to the House of Lords” if it went ahead with an event at which the Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders would have introduced a screening of his controversial film Fitna. Britain’s Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, reacted to this by declaring Minheer Wilders persona non grata and having him arrested at Heathrow and returned to the Netherlands."
Frightening.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thank goodness

The Obama administration is apparently turning thumbs-down on an idea that would have increased the size of our nanny state big time:

"President Barack Obama will not adopt a policy to tax motorists based on how many miles they drive instead of how much gasoline they buy, his chief spokesman said Friday. Press secretary Robert Gibbs commented after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told The Associated Press that he wants to consider the idea, which has been proposed in some states but has angered many drivers."

Apparently, to implement this, we would have seen the installation of some kind of meter on our cars, sending info to the government on how much we were driving. George Orwell and 1984, anyone? There was good discussion on this at NRO's The Corner today, too (most there too were horrified at the idea).

Eric Holder and cowardice

Our new attorney general recently claimed in a speech that we are a nation of "cowards", because, according to him, we don't discuss race enough; here's the best comment I've seen so far on this:

"Many have weighed in on Eric Holder's "cowards" slur. He obviously hasn't paid much attention to college campuses, where the obsession with race permeates departments, curricula, hiring, faculty profile, student events, funding, etc. Bumper-sticker identification and hair-trigger readiness to accuse someone of racism to further a particular ideological or even personal agenda are now 30 years old and institutionalized in higher education. He is right on one count, however — in the university, public schools, journalism at large, the foundations, and politics, there is a reluctance in one aspect to broach the subject. It is absolutely taboo to suggest that personal behavior, particular ingrained attitudes, and pernicious cultural assumptions — far more than contemporary racial oppression — could have contributed to ordinately high rates of drug use, crime, illegitimacy, unemployment, high-school drop-out rates, sexist attitudes toward women, and incarceration among a subset of young African-American males."

Bingo. I know at a number of campuses, there are endless attempts to have conversations on race, panel discussions on race, student clubs just for African-Americans, academic departments for the study of race...and just what has all this gotten us? According to Holder, we're still a bunch of cowards.

The pressure grows...

...on Senator Roland Burris, as fellow Illinois Senator Durbin sounds critical of him.

And now new Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has demanded Burris resign, too.
Burris so far claims he will not resign. I predict though that he will soon. The pressure is really growing. And I think conservatives should point out, loudly, that this is a mess the Democrats made worse--they should never have backed down from their initial position that they would not accept any Blagojevich appointee; that they did so was stupid cowardice on their part. Let's remind folks of it.

Has "moderate Republican" Governor Schwarzenegger failed?

Rich Lowry today marshals a lot of evidence that suggests the answer is yes:

"His new role is as a supporting actor in the Golden State’s fiscal destruction. If the future happens in California, we all should tremble at its ever-expanding debt, falling credit ratings, crushing pension obligations, suffocating regulation, and rising taxes — with environmentally preening, ill-considered restrictions on carbon emissions thrown on top. California Democrats are only slightly ahead of national Democrats, so the country’s fiscal future may be in preview in Sacramento. Schwarzenegger presided over the creation of a budget deficit worse than the one that led to his ousting of Democratic governor Gray Davis in 2003. The state has a $42-billion deficit that state legislators have been holding all-night sessions to try to patch over and that sent Schwarzenegger begging to Washington for a bailout. The state has been buffeted by the housing crisis, but the ultimate cause of the mess is relentless, heedless overspending. California has roughly doubled its budget during the past ten years — like the recently passed stimulus bill, except spread out over a decade. Over five years, Gray Davis boosted spending from $75 billion to more than $100 billion, and his “fiscally conservative” vanquisher got it north of $140 billion. Davis managed to keep spending even during the devastating dot-com bust, and Schwarzenegger’s election brought only the briefest respite on the inexorable upward climb."

And therein always lies the problem with "moderate" Republicanism--promising to spend a bit less than the Democrats, or somehow to manage the spending more effectively, never seems to work.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How is the new foreign policy of the Obama administration playing so far?

Answer: out there in the world, not so well (I'm going to post a lengthy quote here--it's worth it):

"President Barack Obama’s first TV interview was with the Dubai-based, partly Saudi-funded Al Arabiya satellite channel. In passing, he faulted past American policy for too readily “dictating” in the Middle East. He had better things to say about Saudi King Abdullah’s “courage” in trying to solve the Middle East crisis.

Vice President Joe Biden likewise has promised the world a sharp break from the prior Bush administration that, from his references, was apparently to blame for bouts of anti-Americanism abroad. He assured the Europeans at the Munich Security Conference that it was time to press the reset button in foreign policy, and pledged a new chapter in America’s overseas relations.

On her initial tour abroad, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton re-emphasized the Obama and Biden message, announcing that she would follow an approach that “values what others have to say.” And then Clinton elaborated on this now well-worn “blame Bush” theme: “Too often in the recent past, our government has acted reflexively before considering available facts and evidence or hearing the perspectives of others.” America, Clinton promised, from now on would be “neither impulsive nor ideological.”

Contrast such admirable talk with recent events:

North Korea has just announced that it plans to launch a new Taepodong-2 missile capable of reaching the United States.

China, which holds hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds and will be asked to loan us billions more, advised the Obama administration to drop the “buy American” talk in the new Democratic stimulus program.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently bragged that his country would soon go nuclear, and that President Obama’s offer to talk without preconditions revealed a new passivity in the West.

Russia just announced that it had developed a new strategic relationship with Iran, and warned that American-sponsored missile defense for Eastern Europe was unpalatable.

About the same time, the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, on Russian advice, disclosed that it may no longer allow Americans to use a base in their country to supply the war effort in Afghanistan.

Pakistan just released from house arrest A. Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, who had sold nuclear technologies to the likes of Libya and North Korea."

I said some weeks ago that, very early on, it was apparent that our enemies in the world would not be impressed with Obama's soft rhetoric. It continues to play out that way.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

Another bad loss ("bad" in this case means really hurting their NCAA tourney chances) for the ND men's hoops team, on the road to West Virginia 79-68. Again, the Irish failed to rebound, failed to get enough loose balls, and didn't defend well enough. This season looks right now like it's heading towards being a big disappointment.

But that's the thing about following team sports--you don't know how it's going to turn out, even when it appears at season's start that you have a good team. You don't know it will have a happy ending. You hope it will. But it might not. That's why the wins, the good seasons, are so sweet...and really need to be enjoyed when they come.

The Detroit Red Wings were on their game last night, though, blasting the Nashville Predators 5-2.
The Wings scored 5 power play goals. Interesting, Wings' star Marian Hossa got into a fight. He acquitted himself well, but the best stat to me was this--it was the first time a Wings player got into a fight in 36 games. Kudos to the NHL for largely removing fighting as a big part of the game.

Republicans prepare to pounce...

...on wasteful spending in the "stimulus" package:

"House Republicans are setting up "a stimulus-watch program" that will allow watchdog groups and private citizens to report findings as contractors and agencies start spending billions of dollars on roads, schools, renewable energy projects and other initiatives, said House GOP Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia. "We'll be taking a look in detail" and "really providing accountability and transparency," Cantor said in an interview Wednesday. House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said in a statement: "House Republicans are concerned about the potential for abuse of taxpayer funds in the massive trillion-dollar spending bill that the president signed into law this week. ... We will remain vigilant in our oversight efforts."

Good for them. But they've got work to do to convince Americans that they really mean it, after the past 8 years. They're going to have to prove their bona fides here, in their votes...and in being willing to criticize their own who accept pork for their own states and districts. They can start with the 4 Republican governors who welcomed the "stimulus" money...such as Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

UPDATE: by the way, there are some Republican governors willing to say no:
"My concern is there's going to be commitments attached to it that are a mile long," said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who considered rejecting some of the money but decided Wednesday to accept it. "We need the freedom to pick and choose. And we need the freedom to say 'No thanks.'"

Good for him.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Change you can believe in! Er, well...

Seems as if the Obama administration has found that, well, it doesn't oppose everything George W. Bush and his administration did in the war on terror. Far from it, as even the NY Times admits:

"Even as it pulls back from harsh interrogations and other sharply debated aspects of George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism,” the Obama administration is quietly signaling continued support for other major elements of its predecessor’s approach to fighting Al Qaeda.
In little-noticed confirmation testimony recently, Obama nominees endorsed continuing the C.I.A.’s program of transferring prisoners to other countries without legal rights, and indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without trials even if they were arrested far from a war zone.
The administration has also embraced the Bush legal team’s arguments that a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees should be shut down based on the “state secrets” doctrine. It has also left the door open to resuming military commission trials. And earlier this month, after a British court cited pressure by the United States in declining to release information about the alleged torture of a detainee in American custody, the Obama administration issued a statement thanking the British government “for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information.”

Indeed, veterans and defenders of the Bush administration should feel vindicated. What they did and what they advocated wasn't so totalitarian and misguided after all, eh?

Afghanistan and Obama's friends

Some on the left aren't exactly embracing President Obama's surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan:

"Caught in the shock and awe of 9/11, we allowed our military to be transformed into a neocon imperial police force. Now, approaching our eighth year in Afghanistan and sixth year in Iraq, what exactly is that force defending? Before President Obama acts to double the number of American boots-on-the-ground in Afghanistan -- before even more of our troops are sucked deeper into yet another quagmire -- shouldn't we ask this question with renewed urgency? Shouldn't we wonder just why, despite all the reverent words about 'our troops,' we really seem to care so little about sending them back into the wilderness again and again?"

President Obama might want to try to explain exactly why success in Afghanistan is so important. He really hasn't done that yet. Shucks, there's an issue where many conservatives might just be willing to support him, should he make an effort...

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

The ND women's hoops team got a big win last night, beating South Florida on the road, 86-79. USF had built up a 14 point lead in the first half. So it was an impressive Irish rally, keyed by better rebounding and a big game from Lindsay Schrader. South Florida had 18 wins, so this is a quality win. The next game will be much tougher, though--at #1 UConn.

The news wasn't so good for some other teams. Michigan State's men's hoops team got whipped 72-54 by Purdue. The Spartans were sloppy (over 20 turnovers) and Purdue had a great defensive effort at home. MSU continues to seek consistency.

And the Detroit Pistons continued to fade, losing again (at home!) to Milwaukee, 92-86. The shooting, the focus, the intensity--just not there.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bristol Palin: both right and wrong

Sarah Palin's daughter was right to have her baby, and not to choose abortion. We applaud her for that. And I applaud her for speaking out against, and apparently wanting to be an advocate against, teen pregnancy. But here she's wrong:

"Everyone should be abstinent, but it’s just not realistic at all,” she said, adding that among people her age, “it’s more and more accepted now.”

Not true, Miss Palin. Millions of American teens, and others around the world, are abstinent every day, every year--successfully.

Republicans seek to return to roots of fiscal discipline

So went an AP report today. Of course, the reporter also hastened to add that some will denounce the GOP as hypocrites, asking where they were during the past 8 years of the Bush administration.
But John Boehner, as quoted in the article, had the right answer:

"Standing on principle and doing the right things for the right reasons, on behalf of your constituents, will never get you in trouble," he said."

He's right. Let's hold to that.
But of course, not all Republicans are--as the NY Times reports today, too many Republican governors seem to be buying in to Democrat rhetoric on this bill:
“Whether it’s teachers or people on road crews helping our infrastructure, those in the health care arena as it might relate to Medicaid, all of these areas are important, all of them can produce jobs,” [Republican Governor of Florida] Mr. Crist said, adding, “Regardless of what your party is, Republican or Democrat, it really doesn’t matter. We have a duty and an obligation to the people who elected us, no matter what our position happens to be, to work together to get through this thing.”

Amity Shlaes needs to explain to him the problems with expecting this bill to provide all the jobs he expects...

Some stimulus "victory" for Obama

Rich Lowry today explains how tainted this "win" truly was:

"At the outset of the stimulus debate, Obama said his package would set a “new higher standard of accountability, transparency and oversight.” He wanted a bill free of earmarked spending for parochial projects, and talked of incorporating good Republican ideas. His team floated the goal of winning some 20 Republican votes in the Senate for legislation that — if Obama’s campaign pledges were met — would have been posted for comment on the White House Web site for five days prior to passage. As if deliberately setting out to make Obama look na├»ve, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid secured, at the last minute, $8 billion for high-speed rail, with an eye to building a magnetic-levitation line that he supports between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Representatives from Wisconsin and Indiana got a tax break benefiting motorcycle and RV manufacturers in their states. On it went. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer’s defense was to say, sure the bill had “porky amendments,” but no one really cares about such picayune matters.
The House wrote the bill with no Republican input, and when the House and Senate met in a conference committee to hammer out differences in the bills that had passed the different chambers, Republicans were shut out except for those lone three Republican senators who (out of 219 total Republicans in Congress) supported the legislation. Obama himself attacked Republicans for wanting to pass nothing, a blatant straw man."

And the bill was rushed towards passage, with little time to review it, for anyone--some "openness." And one of the most significant things I noticed was this: Democrats with whom I'm acquainted were forced into the ridiculous argument that any government spending on pretty much anything equaled "stimulus." That was just silly. Now we need to keep reminding the public of all these goals which the Obama administration did not meet.

One reason Republicans opposed the "stimulus" bill

It comes from a news release from moderate Republican congressman Fred Upton (of Michigan), explaining his opposition:

"This was not the open, bipartisan process in the House that we had been promised,'' Upton said in a statement released shortly after the bill passed the House on Friday. "In what has been touted as a new era of governing, Pelosi incredibly provided the text of the bill to Washington's lobbyists before she provided it to the folks who were elected to represent all of the people. The bill was not made available to us until after midnight, literally giving us only 12 hours to search through an 1,100-page bill that could ultimately cost $3 trillion when all is said and done. I struggled while examining the final package but the more I learned, the more it became clear the only guarantee with this bill is that it will send our debt spiraling out of control.''

So President Obama talks a lot about openness and bipartisanship, but Speaker Pelosi is definitely not on board. Look for Republicans to continue to focus on Pelosi's faults and foibles...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday musings...

Pakistan's government announced today that it will try to appease Islamic extremist terrorists:
"The government agreed to impose Islamic law and suspend a military offensive across much of northwest Pakistan on Monday in concessions aimed at pacifying the Taliban insurgency spreading from the border region to the country's interior."
Appeasement didn't work for Neville Chamberlain against Hitler and his gang of terrorists in the 1930s; and it won't work now.

Yay! The Notre Dame men's hoops team now has two wins in a row--the big blowout last Thursday over Louisville, and now yesterday's 10 point win at home over South Florida. Finally, shots are going in, big stops on defense are being ground out. Of course, it might be too late...

The bad news for my favorite teams was the Red Wings--they lost in a shootout to Colorado, 6-5. One gets the feeling that Coach Babcock was not happy with Chris Osgood's goaltending. Look for Wing backup goalie Ty Conklin to continue to get plenty of opportunities.

But the University of Michigan men's hoops team gutted out a tough 70-67 OT win over Northwestern, perhaps keeping the team's NCAA tourney hopes alive. They need to beat both Minnesota and Purdue at home, one suspects, to have a chance. Great game for Michigan's Manny Harris, who has a chance to have a great collegiate career and be All Big 10 before he's through.

In hockey, goaltending is key; in basketball, you need good guard play, don't you...

Good news for conservatives: in Glamour magazine, of all places, one finds presented, squarely, some honest truths concerning abortion:
"An article near the very back of the March issue treats abortion with a level of honesty rarely found in such venues. “I am still filled with regret . . . that I will never meet [my] child,” one Virginia woman announces. Hers is one of many similar stories of regret and pain featured in the article. Abortion is not a clean choice; it’s a life-changing (and -ending) decision with traumatic repercussions, a wrenching and frequently lonely ordeal that one can never be adequately prepared for — and our culture and our clinics often don’t try to help much at all. The writers and editors at Glamour will never be mistaken for pro-life propagandists, but they didn’t shy away from these truths. This is refreshing."
And indeed it is. R. Emmett Tyrell over at The American Spectator has been arguing for years that one thing conservatives must do is to penetrate the liberal "kultursmog", as he put it--that is, to penetrate and challenge the liberal views one often finds in various media and other sources of cultural trends. Maybe some conservative ideas are starting to do that.

By the way, I commented late last week on Richard Nadler's article in NR championing immigration and urging conservatives to support it, and pointed out one big problem with it. But I knew NR's incomparable Mark Krikorian would come out with his own response, and he has--and here's what I see as his best points:
"It’s not a bad thing that Republicans and Democrats represent different interests; any successful society needs a north pole and a south pole, a yin and yang. The problem with excessive immigration is that we’re getting too much yin and not enough yang, as it were. And because today’s immigrants side with Democrats on not just immigration policy but a host of other issues, Nadler’s prescription of me-too Republicanism on immigration can’t change that. The fact that John McCain—the exemplar of the me-too approach—couldn’t carry the Hispanic vote even in his home state of Arizona, where voters knew full well his expansionist, pro-amnesty views, suggests that the way out of the hole some Republicans find themselves in is not to keep digging.Implicit in Nadler’s argument is a kind of fatalism, an acceptance that mass immigration is inevitable: He encourages Republicans to win Hispanic votes through supporting mass immigration, without weighing the benefits of that approach against the benefits of a successful attempt to significantly decrease immigration. He calls the growing Hispanic share of the population “a demographic time bomb, triggered by the ordinary migrations of Hispanic citizens.”But mass immigration—legal or illegal—is not inevitable; it’s an artifact of government policy that can be ended by changing that policy. How can we change policy in a way that will prevent the conservative agenda from suffering? Here the two parts of the issue are often conflated; immigration policy relates to how many foreigners we admit and how we enforce immigration laws, while immigrant policy is about how we treat people we’ve already admitted.The solution for Republicans is to champion a pro-immigrant policy of low immigration—one that can stanch the immigration-driven shift toward the Democrats in the West through lower numbers and better enforcement, but that also reaches out to our fellow Americans of Hispanic ancestry both rhetorically and substantively. Republicans could support overhauling the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to provide professional and efficient service, and loosening some of the deportation requirements for legal immigrants with families here convicted of minor crimes."

Bingo--control our borders, but reach out as well.

Will baseball fans punish the game for the continuing steroid scandals, et al? I suggested the other day that they sure hadn't done so yet--and today, here's some data that supports that conclusion:
"Last year, fans were so enraged by the betrayals, so infuriated by what the commissioner and union and media and superstars themselves had allowed to happen, that only 78.6 million of them attended games, and they handed Bud Selig and Co. only $6.5billion to divvy up.That's all of 370 fewer fans per game than in 2007, roughly, but $425 million more in overall revenue. During the worst recession since FDR was in office. Yeah, you sure showed them."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday samplings...

So now Senator Roland Burris is under fire.
Seems he didn't tell the whole truth concerning his contacts with Blagojevich's people, not to mention concerning the favors sought from him.
See, this is why it was so stupid for the Senate to have seated this guy--there was just no WAY for him to have avoided the Blagojevich taint. And, further, this is why it was so stupid for Democrats to have caved in to having this guy seated. Now they'll pay for it.

Meanwhile, I agree with this sobering assessment:
"WITH three Afghan government ministries in Kabul hit by simultaneous suicide attacks this week, by a total of just eight terrorists, it seems that a new “Mumbai model” of swarming, smaller-scale terrorist violence is emerging. The basic concept is that hitting several targets at once, even with just a few fighters at each site, can cause fits for elite counterterrorist forces that are often manpower-heavy, far away and organized to deal with only one crisis at a time. This approach certainly worked in Mumbai, India, last November, where five two-man teams of Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives held the city hostage for two days, killing 179 people. The Indian security forces, many of which had to be flown in from New Delhi, simply had little ability to strike back at more than one site at a time."

And I agree with his assessment that this kind of attack is likely to come to America--and soon. Will the Obama administration be ready?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday stuff

Some news you might have missed: did you know that earlier this week, President Obama basically lied?:
"There seems to be a set of folks who—I don't doubt their sincerity—who just believe that we should do nothing," [President Obama] said. But in truth, few of those involved in the stimulus debate are suggesting that the government should not take action to aid the cratering economy.
Many of the president's fiercest congressional critics support a stimulus package of similar size but think it should be built around a much higher proportion of tax cuts than new spending. Others have called for a plan that is half the size of the one headed for a House-Senate conference—still massive by historical standards."

Good news for Republicans--polls indicate that Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd (D) may be in trouble--his favorability ratings are tanking.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Just say no to the centrists

Jonah Goldberg makes a good point recently, denouncing the "centrists" who have been nibbling away at the "stimulus" bill:

"Led by Republican Arlen Specter, the centrists have boldly cut (perhaps temporarily) $100 billion or so from the stimulus package, in the name of fiscal discipline. But, as liberal critics such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman rightly point out, they’re cutting it to prove their “centrist mojo,” not because they have real concern for public policy. If the bill had started out at $1 trillion, then $900 billion in porcine outlays would be deemed the “responsible” amount to spend.For certain Beltway centrists, the highest principle is to prove that you are attached to no principle. Rather, your duty is to split the difference between the “ideologues.” If one side says we need a 1,000-foot bridge to span a canyon, and the other side says we don’t need a bridge at all, the centrists will fight for a bridge that goes 500 feet and no farther, then pat themselves on the back."

Exactly. Endlessly splitting differences for the sake of "doing something" is not principled, nor is it good policy. Remember Vietnam? Lyndon Johnson tried forever to argue that he was the centrist--that some wanted to go to Vietnam and "blow up everything", and others wanted to just leave and forget the whole thing. But he was the centrist, splitting the difference, dribbling American men into Vietnam but limiting our tactics and firepower. It was a policy that failed. So very well may this "stimulus" bill, which seems more and more not to be a product of policy and clearly-defined goals, but instead of desperate accommodation.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why ordinary people don't trust those in government, reason # 123,456

This comes from Detroit and the president of the city council:

"Council President Monica Conyers has been using a police officer and department-issued car to chauffeur one of her sons to a private suburban school about 15 miles from the city.
It's unclear how long Conyers has used the officer to escort her son, but Detroit News staffers witnessed an unmarked Crown Victoria police car drive the youth to school on Monday and Tuesday."

Overtime work for police officers assigned to the council has doubled since Conyers has been president. No wonder government costs always seem to go up. And this is just at the local level...

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

It's not getting any better. The Detroit Pistons managed to lose again, at home, to Atlanta last night, 99-95. Again, they can't seem to play a complete game.

And the ND women's hoops team lost a tough one at home, to highly-ranked Louisville, 71-66.
The Irish fell 14 points behind in the second half; they made some good runs at them, but were down too far. The Irish must shoot better--they shot only 38% for the game.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Conservatives continue to debate immigration

The latest entry is this interesting piece appearing on NRO from Richard Nadler, of the Americas Majority Foundation. Warning: he's pro-immigration, and opposes the many conservatives who focus on restrictions on illegals.

But his piece is interesting, and worthy of more discussion. I have one significant principled objection to his argument, though--and that is his repeated reference to his claim that opposing illegal immigration loses elections for Republicans, and loses the GOP the support of Hispanic-Americans. First of all, I don't know that what he says is true. But let's say it was. That's still not a principled reason for doing something. One can't support an issue, or not support, simply because polls say you'll benefit from it one way or another. Conservatives don't oppose abortion because of what polls say. We don't oppose big government because of what polls say. We didn't oppose the Soviet Union and communism back in the day because of what polls say.

If we are going to be governed merely by what we think will help us win elections, then we're no better than Bill Clinton's poll-driven, always-see-the-pollster-first-thing-in-the-morning, principle-less existence and administration; and surely that isn't what we want.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

The Detroit Pistons blew another one, unconscionably letting a 15 point lead with 8 minutes to go get away from them, and they lose to the Chicago Bulls on the road. The Pistons remain just an average team right now.

Meanwhile, Michigan State's men's hoops team dealt the University of Michigan's NCAA tourney hopes a big blow, beating the Wolverines last night 54-42. It was a great show of defense by MSU; Michigan almost never got a good look at the hoop all night.

The Dallas Mavericks continued their surge, beating Sacramento last night 118-100.
It was good to see Josh Howard have such a good game; they'll need him, given Jason Terry's injury.

The convenient Obama measuring stick

He was at it again the other day (he's used this formulation before), discussing how we'd know if the "stimulus" bill "worked":

" At his first prime-time press conference, President Obama was asked a central question about the $800 billion-plus economic stimulus package: How will Americans know if it's working? "My initial measure of success is creating or saving 4 million jobs," Obama answered."

And just how do we know if a job, which was never lost, was "saved" by Obama's bill?
Maybe it would never have been lost, no matter what. Or maybe a smart move by the business owner "saved" it. Or maybe there were other factors at play which we'll never know.

But this is a very cunning, and insidious move, by Obama here. He sets up a situation where he can CLAIM that his legislation saved all kinds of jobs--and it will be very difficult to prove otherwise. And don't think he doesn't know that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Correcting Joe Biden's misinformation

The vice-president suggested recently that the Obama administration is reversing Bush policy on Iran. That's false, as Mona Charen shows today:

"Our administration is reviewing policy toward Iran,” Biden declared, “but this much I can say: We are willing to talk.” Unlike whom? Obama’s predecessor? The Bush administration held at least 28 separate meetings between Americans of ambassadorial rank and Iranian officials. According to the Middle East Forum, more than 16 meetings were held in Geneva and Paris from November 2001 through December 2002 between Ryan Crocker, then the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, and senior Iranian foreign-ministry officials. A number of high-level direct negotiations were conducted in 2003, and a number of indirect contacts were maintained through the Europeans between 2003 and 2007. In March 2007, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, held a meeting with an Iranian team at a conference of Iraq’s neighbors in Baghdad. Khalilzad’s successor, Crocker, also met with the Iranian ambassador. Thus the U.S. gave full backing to a (fruitless) European Union initiative to negotiate with Iran about its nuclear program."

Conservatives and Republicans must not let the Obama Democrats get away with falsifying the historical record. And that goes for Obama's claims in recent days that free-market and laissez-faire economics are at fault for our current economic troubles--the Bush administration (unfortunately) grew government in the last 8 years; they didn't reduce it (does ANYONE remember October's financial bailout legislation????)

Bipartisanship?

It's funny--President Obama talks an awful lot about "bipartisanship" and working with Republicans--and yet many of those who are on Obama's side want nothing to do with it. Take for example the Washington Post's liberal columnist Eugene Robinson:

"Bipartisanship is safe and effective, when used as directed. In the present circumstance, however -- dire economic crisis, hardheaded Republicans, time running out -- bipartisanship is doing more harm than good. President Obama and the Democratic majorities in Congress can no longer afford to let comity defeat common sense. Another 600,000 Americans lost their jobs last month. If the loyal opposition chooses to obstruct economic recovery, those who hold power are obliged to use it."

But look, Mr. Robinson, the whole point of Republicans and conservatives is this: we don't think this "stimulus" bill is gonna LEAD to "economic recovery." Certainly the pork in it won't aid in economic recovery, and there are a whole bunch of economists, led now by Martin Feldstein, who agree. Assuming that all those who oppose this bill are therefore against "economic recovery" is not just blind partisanship, it's also not very honest.

UPDATE: and, by the way, even sympathetic journalists were not impressed by last night's Obama press conference in which he tried to defend his "stimulus" bill:

"Through most of his inaugural primetime press conference, Barack Obama seemed like he was channeling a particularly loquacious combination of Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, and the ghost of Hubert Humphrey. The president's response to the first question from the Associated Press about the risks of sounding too apocalyptic about the economy ran (or, to be more accurate, crawled) for nearly 1,200 words--and ended with Obama saying "Okay" with an implicit question mark as if he were requesting permission to keep on talking. A national poll from the Pew Research Center released Monday afternoon found that 92 percent of Americans described Obama as a "good communicator." There is a suspicion that those astronomic numbers had dipped by the time that Obama exited from the East Room of the White House at 9 p.m. on the dot."

Does American Idol face "disaster" due to its Hollywood round?

So says this MSNBC TV essayist:

"After slogging through a dull first day that focused on remarkably few singers, the second day only offered interpersonal drama and a ridiculous number of montages. There was also a lot of talking: Ryan Seacrest's narration was far more present than actual singing, as he told viewers more than they actually saw, which is never a good sign, even for a talent competition television series."

Well, it may not be a bad thing to have more actual singing shown to us.
But on the whole I disagree. First, remember: this is what the show promised to do, before season 8 even started. Remember, the producers talked about showing us more backstory concerning the singers and what they go through. And I kind of enjoy the behind-the-scenes stories, seeing failures as well as successes, seeing how difficult it truly is to make the AI final 36. Lastly, won't it be nice to truly know some of these contestants as they reach the final 24, the final 12, etc.? We'll know a lot about them by the time the show reaches the portion where every week they must sing, and face elimination. There will be plenty of time to see all the singing. A little backstory, right now, isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm still into American Idol; I think their ratings have held up well, too, so others must be as well.

At the sports desk: more bad news...

...for major league baseball:

"All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada has been charged with lying to Congress about steroids. Tejada is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday where he is expected to plead guilty. The charges against Tejada, who currently plays for the Houston Astros, were outlined in documents filed in Washington federal court on Tuesday."

Now the interesting thing, going forward, is what this will do to baseball this year, specifically to its attendance. Attendance has held steady for MLB in recent years, or even increased. Everyone always says what trouble this kind of thing is for the game, and yet it hasn't in the recent past seemed to affect its most basic underpinnings--attendance, TV. But will all this steroid news, combined with the poor economy, truly affect the game? Stay tuned.

Monday, February 9, 2009

At the sports desk: now he admits it

So now Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, having been exposed as a steroid-user, comes out and admits he used.
What's really got him in trouble, of course, is that he in 2007 said directly in a CBS interview that he had never used.

But really none of this is the big issue here. There unfortunately are plenty of big-name baseball players who've done this--claimed they never used, but then have it come out they did--Rafael Palmeiro, Andy Pettite, Mark McGwire, etc. Baseball has already taken a hit from this. This just adds to it.

The interesting question to me, then, is this: with this ARod revelation coming out now, shortly before the beginning of spring training--will baseball suffer from it? You know, right now you have to say: no. People have known about steroid and other banned-substances use in baseball for some time now. Yet TV ratings continue to hang in there, attendance at major league games continues to hold steady or rise, and there remains plenty of interest in MLB. People are definitely cynical about big-league ballplayers and who and what they're about. But they continue to love the game.

I don't know if that's such a horrible thing. Why forsake such a great game just because some of those who play it can't be honest? But, I'll also continue to say what I've said before--if baseball wants steroids and other substances out of the game, then they've simply got to have very tough testing, and everyone involved in the game has to agree to it and stick with it. I wonder if all the millionaires involved in this game can all pull together and achieve that goal. Because it would be a shame to ruin such a great game and great business.

The only thing we have to fear, is...

We all know how to finish that sentence.
So why is President Obama peddling fear in trying to sell his "stimulus" package?:

"Campaigning for action in the most dire terms, President Barack Obama said Monday that if Congress does not quickly pass an economic stimulus package, the nation will slip into a crisis so deep that "we may be unable to reverse" it."

Frightening the American people with scare rhetoric is not the way to get things done.

UPDATE: speaking of getting things done, here's a way to lessen the charges and counter-charges concerning this bill; that is, Democrats endlessly roaring that how can Republicans talk about spending when they supported so much spending under President Bush, Republicans counter-punching that...here's Victor Davis Hanson's way out:

"Few tell the truth: The conservatives should say 'Mea culpa—our deficit spending and borrowing helped to get us into this mess, so we've seen the error of our ways, and want you liberals not to repeat our mistakes.' And the liberals should say, 'Bush on the budget was one of us in borrowing and spending and priming, so we can't really trash the last eight years since we're now advocating more of the same.'"

Bingo.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

A little better news today. First, the ND women's hoops team beat DePaul, 62-59. A good win for the Irish--DePaul had won 5 in a row, was ranked in the top 25, and ND had to rally in the last two minutes to pull the game out. But they did, making clutch shots and locking down on defense at the end.

And the Detroit Red Wings played very well in a hostile environment against a good team, beating Pittsburgh 3-0 on the road. The Wings got good goaltending from Ty Conklin.

But the Detroit Pistons frankly played very poorly, at home (again!...they've lost 5 of their last 6 at home) and lost to Phoenix 107-97. Way too many turnovers and poor shot selection. The Pistons right now are an average team, at best.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Some Sunday information...

My favorite sports teams continue to struggle. Just when it looked like it couldn't get any worse for the ND men's hoops team, it did; they lost badly to UCLA, 89-63, and didn't fight very hard to avoid such a fate. The season is now officially a mess. The Irish may not even make the NIT.

The Dallas Mavericks, though, managed to eke out a win over the Chicago Bulls, 115-114 in OT. Dirk Nowitzki was huge, with 44 points. I don't think people around the country realize just how good this guy is. He plays tons of minutes, as such a tall player gets a lot of rebounds, and scores--mainly as an outstanding jump shooter.

The University of Michigan men's hoops team played a solid game on the road at #1 UConn before falling by 8, 69-61. But they showed they can compete. Now they need to find a way to win their next game, at home vs national power Michigan State. If they can, their NCAA tourney resume will look a lot better.
All these seasons of all these teams are so filled with ups, downs, and crucial moments, aren't they?

For example--the Detroit Pistons, who had looked terrible lately, won again last night in OT at Milwaukee, in a thrilling game. Maybe they have life again.

The Detroit Red Wings, who were winless over a 5 game stretch not long ago, won again yesterday over Edmonton, 8-3, and looked dominant. Now they've won 3 in a row.

And Michigan State's men's hoops team, which has had two stunning, bewildering losses at home in the last couple of weeks to Northwestern and Penn State, made sure that didn't happen yesterday, whipping Indiana by 28.

Things can look better for teams after wins, in a big hurry, too--sports teaches you that.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturday stuff

Joe Biden, Bushie: in a speech, Biden suggests that pre-emptive war is not off the table in an Obama administration, despite its criticisms of former President Bush's policies towards Iraq:
"Vice President Joe Biden delivered a clear message to Iran, saying Saturday that the U.S. was willing to talk but will act to isolate and pressure Tehran if it does not abandon its nuclear ambitions and support for terrorism. In a sweeping speech to international leaders and security experts, Biden said the U.S. will strive to act preventively and avoid having to choose between the risks of war and the dangers of inaction...."We will draw upon all the elements of our power — military and diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement, economic and cultural — to stop crises from occurring before they are in front of us," he told the gathering in his 25-minute address."
George W. Bush couldn't have said it better.

So now there's an apparently-credible report that the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, who denied emphatically in a 2007 interview that he'd used steroids, did in fact test positive for them in 2003. I'm sure he's not the only big-leaguer who used. But why don't these guys just come clean and admit it? All of their loud denials, seemingly inevitably followed later by the evidence that they did use, just makes it worse.

Friday, February 6, 2009

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

The University of Michigan men's hoops team showed some big-time life last night, defeating Penn State at home, 71-51. The win was key in keeping their NCAA tournament hopes alive. The team shot better last night--let's hope that continues.

The Dallas Mavericks, however, tired due to having to go to Utah and play there for their second game in two nights, lost badly to the Jazz by nearly 30 points. They just don't play well there, especially on the night right after a tough home game. Oh, well...

Yes, irresponsible indeed

President Obama says bad economic numbers mean the "stimulus" package must be passed, and passed now:

"President Barack Obama decried as "inexcusable and irresponsible" the delay of his economic recovery legislation in Congress with an estimated 3.6 million Americans losing their jobs since the recession began....The president named an outside economic team of advisers as the nation dealt with more bad news in the unemployment report for January. Employers slashed payrolls by 598,000, the most since the end of 1974, propelling the unemployment rate to 7.6 percent. The rate is the highest since September 1992. "These numbers demand action. It is inexcusable and irresponsible for any of us to get bogged down in distraction, delay or politics as usual while millions of Americans are being put out of work," Obama said bluntly. "Now is the time for Congress to act."

Well, of course, many folks agree that there needs to be action. But the problem is that those same folks think the bill, as constituted, is a bad bill. Obama agrees it has problems; yet his position seems to be that the problems are so stark that we have to pass even questionable legislation immediately, so that we can say we "did something."

"Don't just stand there, do something" however is not a great way to go about thinking and doing, is not a recipe for success, and most people know it. Conservatives should keep making that point.

UPDATE: furthermore, Rich Lowry today at NRO makes a very good point as to why Obama's arguments right now are failing concerning this legislation:

"As far as political arguments go, “I won” has its power—provided it’s made on behalf of an agenda ratified by the American electorate. But Obama didn’t campaign on a sprawling, nearly $1 trillion new spending plan. If he had pledged in October to double federal domestic discretionary spending in a matter of weeks—including increasing the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts by a third, spending hundreds of millions more on federal buildings and throwing tens of billions on every traditional liberal priority from job training to Pell Grants—he’d have been hard-pressed to win at all. The president should read the transcript of the third presidential debate. He claimed his program represented “a net spending cut.” He called himself “a strong proponent of pay-as-you-go. Every dollar that I’ve proposed, I’ve proposed an additional cut so that it matches.” He added, “We need to eliminate a whole host of programs that don’t work.”

Republicans should pound away on this point, as well.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Interesting inside-the-beltway back and forth today...

President Obama began it by writing a Washington Post op-ed urging passage of the "stimulus" package:
"President Barack Obama warned on Thursday that failure to act on an economic recovery package could plunge the nation into a long-lasting recession that might prove irreversible, a fresh call to a recalcitrant Congress to move quickly. In an op-ed piece in The Washington Post, the president argued that each day without his stimulus package, Americans lose more jobs, savings and homes."

But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham had an interesting retort:
"This process stinks," Graham told FOX News, before repeating a lot of his criticisms on the Senate floor. "We're making this up as we go and it is a waste of money. It is a broken process, and the president, as far as I'm concerned, has been AWOL on providing leadership on something as important as this." Republican senators and congressmen have been reluctant to direct any criticism at the president since his inauguration. They mostly have fired shots at Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, saying they have obstructed the bipartisan process Obama sought. But Graham broke that practice after Obama granted a round of interviews defending his plan Tuesday and wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post Thursday in which he warned of disastrous consequences if Congress does not pass the stimulus bill. "Scaring people is not leadership. Writing an editorial that if you don't pass this bad bill we're going to have disaster -- we've had enough presidents trying to scare people to make bad decisions," Graham said. "I like President Obama, but he is not leading. Having lunch is not leading ... and doing TV interviews is not leading."

Interesting. And Obama did say, over and over again both during the election campaign and after it, that he wanted all kinds of face-to-face negotiations and deal-making going on between he and Republicans, that "bipartisanship" would be the word. Now he seems to be trying to go over the heads of congress. Graham is calling him on it. We'll see what happens...

UPDATE: note too that even liberal and pro-Obama columnist E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post admits:

"Obama's network appearances were planned as a response to a wholly unanticipated development: Republicans -- short on new ideas, low on votes, and deeply unpopular in the polls -- have been winning the media wars over the president's central initiative."

Keep up the fight!

AND...UPDATE #2: National Review now is out with probably the most comprehensive, up-to-date dissection of all the pork in the "stimulus" bill, as it finds no less than 50 outrages in it. My favorite: $87 million for a polar icebreaking ship.

The "stimulus" package (contd)

The evidence that it is full of pork continues to build--today MSNBC.com headlines a piece suggesting that it contains a "taste" of pork, and asking how we define "earmarks"; and the answer is:

"In part, the answer hinges on the definition of an “earmark.” Democrats insist they are nowhere in the plan; Republicans see “pork” everywhere. So we cribbed from criteria Congress laid out in a 2007 reform bill: language that aims spending at specific programs, states or localities, often at a member’s request. Specific location? The Senate stimulus contains $50 million for habitat restoration and other water needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. There is another $62 million for military projects in Guam. Specific industry? The House bill includes an amendment authored by Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley setting aside $500 million for biofuel makers, which he says, would bring jobs home to Iowa. Specific program? There’s $198 million to compensate Filipino World War II veterans for their service. Most don’t live in the United States."

Read the whole thing.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

On the whole last night, my favorite teams did OK. But there were disappointments...
Such as the ND men's hoops team--which lost again, at Cincinnati, by 10; 6 straight losses.
Again, lack of defense, an inability to get Kyle McAlarney going, and really a sign of the team losing its composure were the key problems for the Irish (that's two straight games in which they've given up 90 points or more).
ND fans might further note that, in the Cincinnati Enquirer today, the U of Cincinnati beat writer noted that the Bearcats committed a season-low 5 turnovers against a rather "passive" ND defense. That about sums it up.

But...the Detroit Pistons managed to scrap their way to a 3 point win over Miami last night, with Rodney Stuckey leading the way. That's how this team will have to win--with scrap, and with some tough defense.

And...the Detroit Red Wings won their second straight game, despite some shaky goaltending.
Fortunately, they have stars like Niklas Lidstrom to pull games out in the end.

And the Michigan State Spartans men's hoops team looked like their old selves, blasting Minnesota 76-47. I think they lose focus when they play games at home that they're "supposed" to win. When they focus, attack, and play defense, they can be really good. Can they be that team when the NCAAs come next month?

And I've been following the Dallas Mavericks some--watch out for them. They've won 4 in a row lately, 3 of those against teams with winning records. Jason Kidd is playing very well, as is Big Dirk; and their defense has improved. Last night they beat Portland.

And cheer up, University of Michigan football fans--Scouts Inc. has their recruiting class this year ranked 10th in the nation. Watch out for QB Tate Forcier--he very likely will be the Wolverines' starter in '09.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Beware of the continuing war on drugs

The NY Times runs a story today just bound to encourage those taking a cursory look at it to push for continuing the war on drugs. Headlined "Social Cost of Meth is Gauged in New Study", the story begins:

"In the first effort to calculate the national price of methamphetamine abuse, a new study said the addictive stimulant imposed costs of $23.4 billion in 2005. While the authors, from the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., caution that many impacts were difficult to quantify, their study suggests that methamphetamine takes an economic toll nearly as great as heroin and possibly more."

Yes, well, it shouldn't surprise anybody that the authors tried to add a note of caution above. Because further along in the article, we find this:

"Dr. Wilson Compton, a division director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said the study’s major innovation was its effort to quantify the effects of addiction on the quality of life — how factors like poor health, anxiety and paranoia shrink the addict’s horizons and pleasure over time. Such estimates have been made for heart diseases and other major ones but not for illegal drugs, Dr. Compton said."

Yes, indeedy, and just how DO we quantify the social cost of "anxiety"?
I doubt we do it with much precision.
I'm not in favor of anyone becoming hooked on meth. But this recent growth in meth addiction has occurred in the midst of the current war on drugs. Lord only knows what would happen if we continued to expand this losing war. More conservatives should be speaking out against the war on drugs--it's a perfect example of big, costly government that hasn't worked.