Tuesday, March 31, 2009


By the way, it is certainly true that liberals vastly outnumber conservatives in Hollywood.

However, when it comes to finding conservatives in the land of angels, Angie Harmon most definitely is one.

Keep on tellin' 'em, Angie!

The "war on terror"--over?

Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration seem to believe the war on terror is done:

"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration has stopped using "war on terror," breaking with the Bush administration's terminology in describing the conflict with al Qaeda and militant Islam. "The administration has stopped using the phrase, and I think that speaks for itself," Mrs. Clinton told reporters as she traveled here for a United Nations-led conference on Afghanistan. Mrs. Clinton made her remarks in response to reporters' questions. Asked whether there was a specific policy decision on the terminology, she said: "I haven't gotten any directive about using it or not using it. It's just not being used."

Hmmm. Well, it's not just, as Jim Geraghty rightly points out, that terrorist attacks keep coming.
The problem here also is that, out of the other side of its mouth, the Obama administration sings a different tune. Remember, just a few days ago? The Obama White House announces sending more troops to Afghanistan? The president sure seemed to indicate then that the Taliban, and terrorists in general, remained a threat and likely still planned to attack us.

He didn't sound like someone who believed the war on terror was over then.
When the Obama folks figure out what they truly believe, they should get back to us.

Now you tell us

Today on msnbc.com, somebody from the Council on Foreign Relations writes, concerning President Obama's upcoming trip to Europe:

"The messages from the new administration may strike a dissonant chord to some. Yet those who expected that the transatlantic sniping that occurred during the George W. Bush presidency would magically disappear with the election of Obama have not been paying attention to the underlying dynamics in U.S.-European relations over the past twenty years."

Funny. That's not what we heard from folks like you during the 2008 campaign and before.
Then, much of the blame was placed squarely on the shoulders of the Bush administration.
You mean, the question is much more nuanced than that?
Now you tell us.

A silly focus

So I see a headline today about Americans not blaming Obama for the economy:

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama benefits from a broadly held perception that others bear the bulk of responsibility for state of the U.S. economy, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll published on Tuesday. Asked who was responsible for the economic meltdown, 80 percent in the poll blamed banks, financial institutions and corporations. Some 70 percent also blamed consumers for taking on too much debt and the former Bush administration for lax regulation. Only 26 percent said the Obama administration was not doing enough to turn the situation around. Two-thirds of respondents approve of the way Obama is handling the presidency, and 60 percent approve of the way he is handling the economy."

Well, duh. Obama's only been president for two months--given that's such a short time into his presidency, of course Americans aren't going to believe that he "owns" all the problems he faces. Historically, they have never done so after such a short time. And there has been such obsessive focus by the administration, and the media, on banks, financial institutions, and of course blame for the Bush administration, that of course many will echo that back.

After a year, however--well in advance of the 2010 elections--Obama and others will not be able to simply blame his predecessors. By a year from now, he WILL "own" a lot of this. Let's see what the polls show then...

Monday, March 30, 2009

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

Some good news...Michigan State makes it to the Final Four, beating Louisville, 64-52.
Honestly, before the game had you asked me who I'd pick to win it, I would have gone with Louisville. They looked so dominant against Arizona. But MSU's defense--their trademark, something they'd been good at all year, really came through for them. As you can see from the article linked to above, those truly happy about this include those in Detroit--it's big, and a happy thing, for Detroit to have a local team coming as it hosts the Final Four.

Other news is so-so. The Detroit Red Wings have been a bit sloppy lately, and lost again yesterday to Nashville (the day before, they lost to the lowly Islanders.) I guess the playoffs can't start soon enough.

On the other hand, the Detroit Pistons are playing a bit better, and have Allen Iverson back--yesterday they beat Philadelphia 101-97.
As difficult as the second half of the season has been for the Pistons, they're probably still a lock to make it to the playoffs.

But the Dallas Mavericks had a bad game on the road against one of the league kingpins, Cleveland, losing 102-74. Too many jump shots for the Mavs--they've got to start getting to the rim.

Joe Biden: gaffe-man

Today, visiting with Spanish officials, he thanks Spanish President Zapatero for all his help with regard to our operations in Iraq.

One problem: Zapatero didn't help at all with Iraq. Upon being elected, one of his first acts was to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq, and urge other countries to do the same.

And here's the key: is the mainstream media reporting this gaffe--you know, like they'd be glorying in a Bush malapropism or a Dan Quayle goof????

(Answer: nope--just conservatives.)
Quick, who's surprised...

More examples of truly significant government intervention in the economy et al...

...come today courtesy of the Obama administration:

"President Obama announced Monday that struggling automotive giants General Motors and Chrysler will be given a "limited" period of time to "restructure in a way that would justify an investment of additional taxpayer dollars." The federal government will give GM "adequate working capital" over the next 60 days to work in conjunction with the administration in developing a better recovery plan, he said. Chrysler will be given adequate capital to continue operations for 30 days while completing a merger with automaker Fiat. The president said that if Chrysler can come up with a "sound agreement that protects American taxpayers, we will consider lending up to $6 billion to help their plan succeed."

Hmmm. Wow. Well, obviously we're talking about a significant expansion of governmental power here into the private sector. This is all in addition to the Obama administration forcing out GM's CEO, too. And of course never mind that Obama says the government doesn't want to run GM or the other auto companies--the truth is that the government is doing just that, helping to decide who runs GM and basically having a veto power over its new business plan--one which is required to satisfy Obama administration planners before it can go into action.

But what really will interest me about all this is something simple. We have always criticized our liberal and progressive friends on the question of whether they knew anything about running a business. We conservatives always claimed they didn't know squat about running a business. Progressives always claimed they knew businesses and the economy, and we didn't.

Well. Soon we'll find out. The liberals and progressives in the Obama administration want to write business plans for the auto industry. They want to help decide who should run GM. They're going to help run the auto industry. OK. Let's see how they do. Let's see if our liberal friends really know how to run a business. Note too that this is a big moment especially for President Obama. It could be argued that HE now owns GM, and what happens to it. (His rhetoric certainly indicates that he wants to own it and this entire crisis--look at how often, in his statement today, the president used "I", "my", etc.)

What if GM goes under? Won't Obama get part of the blame? Shouldn't he?

And if and when they demonstrate that they don't know how to run one, you can bet we'll let them know about it.

Scenes from the recession (contd)

There's anger when jobs are lost:

"WAYLAND, Mich. (AP) — Police say they responded to reports of two fights at a southwest Michigan auto dealership on the day employees were told the business was closing amid the slumping economy. WWMT-TV captured one of the fights on video Friday that shows a scuffle, with one man knocking another to the ground outside Wayland Chevrolet....Wayland Chevrolet blames the shutdown on the downturn in the auto industry and the scheduled closing of General Motors Corp.'s metal stamping factory this year in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming.
The dealership employed about 30 people."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

At the sports desk: today's NCAA picks

Who will win in the Elite Eight battles?

UConn/Missouri--pick: MISSOURI. I think they can wear UConn down. Of course, I've been picking against UConn for days now, and have been wrong every time. (though note I went 7-1 in my Sweet 16 picks.)

Villanova/Pittsburg--pick: VILLANOVA. The Wildcats are playing well, they know Pitt very well, and they have great guards. They're hot. I think that can carry them over the top against a very good Pitt team.

Saturday stuff...

So far the story of the NCAA Tournament remains the continuing validation of the Big East as college basketball's dominant league. 4 Big East teams remain alive as the tourney is down to its Elite Eight. But that 8 also includes Michigan State--wasn't there nail-biter of a victory last night over Kansas riveting stuff?
A key--down by 5, 3:22 to go, MSU not only scored 8 straight points but also grabbed 6 consecutive rebounds.

The Dallas Mavericks lost, though, last night, at home to Denver 103-101--much of it due it would seem to Jason Kidd being out of the lineup, not to mention Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse, etc.
Injuries are a big factor in the NBA this year.

Hmmm. There's a story in today's NY Times on how President Obama made his latest decision concerning U.S. military moves in Afghanistan:
"The debate over the past few weeks offered a glimpse into how Mr. Obama makes decisions. In this case, he chose a compromise between his political and military advisers that some critics say includes some strategic holes, such as a reliance on the same sort of vague guidelines that proved difficult to carry out in Iraq. It also offers insight into the role of Mr. Biden and other members of a foreign policy team that includes many powerful figures vying for Mr. Obama’s attention. In the end the plan is a compromise that reflected all of the strains of the discussion among his advisers..."
That sounds a little too much, to me, like an attempt to pacify his advisers by splitting 50/50 between their disparate advice. One can't make national security decisions like this by making a major goal that of splitting differences between advisers or worrying about political impacts. Ask Lyndon Johnson re: Vietnam.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Question for our liberal friends on Afghanistan

So President Obama today announces plans to send 4000 more troops to Afghanistan.
This is on top of the 17,000 additional troops the Obama team sent there earlier.

I certainly agree that this is a battle worth fighting, and that we must win.
Of course, our progressive Obama-supporting friends in the past derided the sending of just such a "surge" to Iraq--they said it couldn't work, that violence wasn't the answer, hadn't enough persons died, etc etc etc.

So do they now support this expansion of the war in Afghanistan? You should ask them.

Chainging life in these United States dept

Now not only are some wasting time either sending or reading cell-phone "twitters" concerning mundane features of their daily lives...

...but some famous folks are having ghostwriters write their twitters for them.
I forget who said or where I read it, but it's true:
It won't be too long before people realize what a time-suck twitter is, and the fad will die.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

At the sports desk: NCAA Sweet 16 picks

Let's see how I can do:

Louisville/Arizona--pick: LOUISVILLE. The Cardinals defense and press will be too tough; Arizona's impressive run ends.

Kansas/Michigan State--pick: MICHIGAN STATE. Kansas has done well to get this far--great job of rebuilding by Bill Self. But Michigan State is experienced, this game is Indianapolis, close to home for the Spartans and a place they've played before, and MSU is good.

Connecticut/Purdue--pick: PURDUE. The Boilers have some shooters who can hit 3s and mid-range jumpers, thus negating Thabeet. Plus I still think UConn eventually will miss the injured Jerome Dyson. Upset pick.

Missouri/Memphis--pick: MISSOURI. Mizzou like to press, is good at it, and can make shots. And I think Memphis' weak conference schedule will finally catch up with it--they're not as tested as is Mizzou.

Pittsburgh/Xavier--pick: PITT. Too much size, athletic ability, and ability to score both inside and from deep.

Villanova/Duke--pick: VILLANOVA. I love Villanova's guards and their center, Dante Cunningham. This will be a tough one--few teams are as tested and as well-coached as is Duke. But they rely too much on shooting the 3, and lack big men. I predict tonight, Duke's 3s won't fall.

North Carolina/Gonzaga--pick: NORTH CAROLINA. Gonzaga has a lot of tournament experience and savvy, thanks to the legacy the program has built and the continuation of it through Coach Mark Few. But Carolina has too many weapons, including an apparently serviceable Ty Lawson.

Syracuse/Oklahoma--pick: OKLAHOMA. This has the potential to be a barnburner. But Oklahoma has the bigs in Blake Griffin, and look for super-frosh Willie Warren to burn the Orange from deep and on drives to the hoop. Syracuse's defense can be questionable.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

Well, 3 cheers for the Notre Dame men's hoops team--they beat Kentucky 77-67 and advanced to the NIT final four.
No, it wasn't what the program or we fans wanted at the beginning of this season. Yes, this team has flaws, and the Big East regular season exposed them. But you had to feel good at the way the team executed last night, for the most cutting and screening well, making shots, and staying in front of the Kentucky guys defensively. They hung in there and fought. Now they have a chance to win something in New York, in Madison Square Garden. Not a bad thing.

In other news...the Dallas Mavericks beat the defenseless and wounded Golden State Warriors 128-106. The Warriors had only 9 healthy players. The Mavs meanwhile shot well, and still have a chance to move up their playoff positioning in the tightly-bunched Western Conference.

Make no mistake...

...the Obama administration is proposing a major expansion of governmental power:

"The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled a sweeping overhaul of the financial system designed to impose greater regulation on major players like hedge funds...The administration's proposal, which will require congressional approval, would represent a major expansion of federal authority over the financial system. Highlights of the plan include:

• Imposing tougher standards on financial institutions judged to be so big that their failure would represent a risk to the entire system....

• Creating a systemic risk regulator to monitor the biggest institutions. Geithner did not designate where such authority should reside, but the administration is expected to support awarding this power to the Federal Reserve. The plan also includes a measure that Geithner and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke discussed before the committee on Tuesday to give the administration expanded powers to take over major nonbank financial institutions, such as insurance companies and hedge funds that were teetering on the brink of collapse."

Republicans need to demonstrate, now, that there are alternatives to this kind of big government takeover, and that there are differences on these issues between Republicans and Democrats.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

An increased war on drugs?

Hillary Clinton has been in Mexico, and...:

"U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that America's "insatiable" demand for illegal drugs and inability to stop weapons smuggling into Mexico are fueling an alarming spike in violence along the U.S.-Mexican border."

Be careful here.
We're all for greater border security.
But this kind of rhetoric smacks of an attempt by the Obama administration to jack up the war on drugs. That war hasn't worked, and conservatives should be wary of encouraging more of it.

At the sports desk: George Kell, RIP

George Kell died yesterday in his hometown of Swifton, Arkansas. He was 86.
He was a Hall of Fame baseball player, who played in the 1940s and '50s for the Philadelphia As, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, and Baltimore Orioles.
But the way I remember George Kell was in his role as a Tigers TV announcer, a role he filled for over 30 years. When I grew up, and for much of the time Kell worked for the Tigers, the team had no giant cable TV contract. So for us kids growing up in Michigan as rabid Tigers fans, the only time to catch the team on TV was on one of the 40 games the Tigers TV network beamed out to its member stations. And that meant catching the Southern drawl of Kell on Saturday afternoons and on warm summer evenings, as he broadcast the games.

It meant hearing pitches out of the strike zone being always called "up high" or "down low." It meant a guy who swung at the first pitch "didn't waste any time." When the Tigers were hitting the ball hard, they "hit some shots today." Willie Horton or Alan Trammell always "hit it like a bullet." And we'd get to hear Kell chuckle and tell stories about his playing days--about the time he played a game that went over 20 innings and went 0 for 10, about how he once thought a foul pop was well back in the stands, only to have a sudden gust of wind blow the ball back onto the field, while the crowd booed him.

And it was comfortable, and it was fun, and he and the Tigers were a part of our lives back then. Those are good memories. Thanks, Mr. Kell, and rest in peace.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Furor at Notre Dame

The University invited President Obama to speak at the school's commencement, and now 65,000 people have signed an online petition expressing opposition to the invitation, citing Obama's positions on stem cells and abortion, which contradict Catholic teachings.

Bishop D'Arcy of the South Bend/Fort Wayne diocese, who hasn't missed an ND commencement in 25 years, says he won't attend this year.

I understand the opposition. And I think it's good that the protest was made. I do note though that the university has already issued a statement assuring all that the invitation to speak does not mean ND agrees with all of Obama's positions. That's a significant victory right there. Maybe then it will be a good idea for Obama to come to Notre Dame and speak. Maybe he will hear what some at ND have to say concerning the importance of the sanctity of life...and it will be good for him.

Speaking of zero-tolerance...

This case is in the courts right now--I think conservatives can agree that here the school went too far in violating individual rights:

"Savana Redding still remembers the clothes she had on — black stretch pants with butterfly patches and a pink T-shirt — the day school officials here forced her to strip six years ago. She was 13 and in eighth grade. An assistant principal, enforcing the school’s antidrug policies, suspected her of having brought prescription-strength ibuprofen pills to school. One of the pills is as strong as two Advils. The search by two female school employees was methodical and humiliating, Ms. Redding said. After she had stripped to her underwear, “they asked me to pull out my bra and move it from side to side,” she said. “They made me open my legs and pull out my underwear.”Ms. Redding, an honors student, had no pills. But she had a furious mother and a lawyer, and now her case has reached the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on April 21."

At the sports desk: NCAA tournament thoughts

A good roundup of what's gone on, along with some opinions, can be found here.

My thoughts: true, there haven't been the huge upsets this year. There's no George Mason. But that doesn't mean that the era of parity and big upsets are over. Note how Virginia Commonwealth played UCLA even, and lost only by 1. Siena beats major conference power Ohio State. North Dakota State sticks with Kansas pretty much the entire game. Morehead State gives Louisville a run for it for a half, and then a bit more. East Tennessee State stays right with Pitt for a good portion of that game. The upsets from Cinderella didn't happen this year...but clearly they still can happen. Maybe next year they will.

Other thoughts...
There was still some great "madness", though, wasn't there? VCU and UCLA go right down to the wire. So do Tennessee and Oklahoma State. Late Friday night there are two games, in tandem, in overtime.

So far in this tournament, the Big East has pretty well validated itself as the toughest conference in America, hasn't it? 5 teams in the Sweet Sixteen, and Marquette, despite the injury to Dominic James, almost made it.

Big 10 basketball improved this year, so the conference is probably disappointed that only two of their teams made the final 16. But their two power teams, Purdue and Michigan State, did make it, and the conference can console itself with the fact that only two ACC teams made the Sweet 16, too. The SEC, meanwhile, is out.

There will be some great matchups on Thursday and Friday--on Thursday we'll pick the winners.

Zero tolerance silliness of the day

A high school basketball team loses a playoff game at least partly because of...its uniform:

"...referees assessed a technical foul on North Lawndale College Prep because stripes on the sides of its uniform violated a National Federation of State High School Associations rule. Champaign Centennial's Jeff Johnson sank one of two free throws, giving the Chargers a 1-0 lead before the opening tip. Centennial also was awarded the ball to start the game. When the final buzzer had sounded, Centennial had won by one point, 66-65. The rule states that the torso of the jersey must be a solid color and that side stripes must center vertically below the armpit and be no more than four inches wide. North Lawndale's uniform featured black stripes that curled around the armpits into the torso."

Officials in charge of enforcing this oh-so-important-to-them-apparently rule claim that North Lawndale had been warned several times about this in the past, and that the rule is all about being able to quickly identify a player's number. Hmmm. Well, at the above link you can see a picture of the uniform--the number looks clearly visible to me. And, again from the article above, here's a key data point:

"They had ample warning," Gibson told the paper. "If they had to put together white uniforms of differing styles, that's fine - so long as they adhered to the uniform rule." Gibson told the Tribune he does not know how often the rule is enforced."

Sounds like selective enforcement to me. And in a playoff game yet. Sad

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday musings...

Well, it turned out to be a tough year for the ND women's hoops team. They had things all lined up well--they won over 20 games, and were one of the host sites for the 1st and 2nd round of the NCAA women's tourney, which meant the Irish would play at home. And yesterday they were slated to play a #10 seed, Minnesota.
But Minnesota beat ND, 79-71. Coach Muffet McGraw was really displeased with how the team came out in the game, but I suspect injuries caught up with them. 2 starters were lost earlier this year to season-ending injuries, then another starter, Lindsay Schrader, left the game yesterday real early in the second half, not to return. As a result, ND suffered defensively, and had a thin margin for error. It caught up with them yesterday, as Minnesota got hot from outside. The good news for ND: every single player on this year's team returns, and they have a great recruiting class coming in. Still, this loss hurts. That's one of the lessons of team sports, and why it's so riveting: you want things to have a happy ending for hard-working teams, but...no guarantees.

Michigan State's men's team, however, made clutch shots and got clutch stops--and beat both Robert Morris on Friday and USC on Sunday to survive in the NCAAs...

In other news--so President Obama is against the punitive tax levied on those AIG bonuses, passed by the House last week. Well--maybe the president realizes that there remains a conservative movement out there, and that many Americans retain some conservative ideas--that they'd down the line re-think, and not like, such a tax. That's why it's important that we're here.

Bill Bennett today puts Obama's projected deficits in context:
"Let me put the CBO report plainly in context: President Ronald Reagan was blasted by Democrats (and still is) for running a deficit that reached over 5 percent of Gross Domestic Product at their peak. But Obama’s deficits are running 10 percent and 13 percent of GDP over the next two years."

But the stock market rallies big-time today, perhaps because of the Obama Treasury Department's plan to buy up troubled bank assets to the tune of $500 billion to $1 trillion.
Will the rally last? And how much money will we pump into the economy before we're done?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday stuff...

...again, coming in between NCAA hoops-watching:

More trouble for the Obama foreign-policy philosophy of "reach out to them without preconditions and they will come":
"Iran's supreme leader rebuffed President Barack Obama's latest outreach on Saturday, saying Tehran was still waiting to see concrete changes in U.S. policy. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was responding to a video message Obama released Friday in which he reached out to Iran on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian new year, and expressed hopes for an improvement in nearly 30 years of strained relations."
Let's hope the Obama team isn't tempted to make concessions...

Meanwhile, the NCAA tourney rolls on. I had 25 picks correct, 7 wrong in the first round.
Let me throw out some picks for today's games:

UConn vs Texas A&M--go with A&M in another upset. Look for UConn's injuries to catch up with them; and the Aggies too are playing well right now.

Purdue vs Washington--I pick PURDUE to win in a battle between two good teams. The Boilers didn't play that well two days ago; but they won anyway, and I look for them to pick up their play today.

Marquette vs Missouri--go with MISSOURI here. Too much firepower and too many bodies for a depleted, but gallant, Marquette squad.

UCLA vs Villanova--go with VILLANOVA. They didn't play well in game one two days ago, but survived. Like Purdue, I look for them to pick their game up today; and they're playing close to home.

Texas vs Duke--I pick TEXAS in an upset. Texas has big bodies and guys who can shoot the 3. Duke will have a hard time matching up with Dexter Pittman inside. And the Dukies rely too much on the 3; I suspect today they won't be falling.

North Carolina vs LSU--go with NORTH CAROLINA. Too much firepower and athleticism.

Western Kentucky vs Gonzaga--I pick GONZAGA. They're playing not too far from home, and they've gotten hot at the right time.

Michigan vs Oklahoma--much as I'd like to go with the Maize and Blue, I've gotta pick OKLAHOMA. Blake Griffin should prove to be too much for them. Michigan's only hope is to bomb away from 3 pt land, and you know what they say--live by the 3, die by it.

Maryland vs Memphis--I pick MARYLAND in an upset. The Terps have experience and are tested. Memphis struggled in game one of the tourney and I think their struggles to make shots will continue.

Friday, March 20, 2009

More news found in between watching NCAA hoops...

There's an important new report out from the Center for Immigration Studies:
"On December 12, 2006, Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel raided six meatpacking plants owned by Swift & Co. in the largest immigration enforcement action in U.S. history. The plants are located in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, and Utah. [This new report, authored by Jerry Kammen], examines the raids and their aftermath....[The report found, among other things]:
  • Like the rest of the industry, workers at these facilities have seen a steady decline in their standard of living. Government data show that the average wages of meatpackers in 2007 were 45 percent lower than in 1980, adjusted for inflation.

  • We estimate that 23 percent of Swift’s production workers were illegal immigrants.

  • All facilities resumed production on the same day as the raids. All returned to full production within five months. This is an indication that the plants could operate at full capacity without the presence of illegal workers."
Gosh, whatever happened to the notion that illegals take jobs that American workers won't do, etc? Looks like that's not as true as many claim.

Some good news in the sports department yesterday. The University of Michigan men's hoops team beat Clemson in the NCAA Tournament, 62-59 (as I predicted!). They almost gave away a big lead. But they made big plays late against a good ACC team, and held their poise. Michigan basketball has come a long way this year...

And Notre Dame's men's hoops team had to rally from 6 points down with 2 minutes to go to edge New Mexico, 70-68. But do so they did, and they won it on a last-second shot from Tory Jackson. Good for him--he came from a very poor background in Saginaw, Michigan, and has done his best to make the most of his time at ND. One more win for the Irish and they'll head to New York City for the NIT semi-finals and finals...

By the way, last night President Obama dissed the disabled.
I'm sure he didn't mean to do so, but imagine the outrage in the usual quarters if President Bush had said something similar.

Even more importantly, remember President Obama's loud rhetoric concerning lobbyists? He said none of them would have jobs in HIS administration. And yet--turns of 11% of his top appointments served as lobbyists in the past 5 years.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Meanwhile, in between watching hoops today...

...I found two outrageous items.
First, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Obama administration is contemplating releasing some Guantanamo detainees--right here in the USA.

And then there's this, concerning Obama and the AIG bonuses:
"President Obama has expressed outrage over the AIG bailouts. “I’m angry too,” he says. He wasn’t told by the Treasury secretary for days, the White House says. Why are Republicans letting him get away with it? President Obama rammed through the stimulus bill — over Republican objections — that explicitly protected the AIG bonuses."
Read the whole thing, especially the language of the bill.
Obama either didn't read the bill, or did and is, ahem, blowing smoke.

Atthe sports desk: NCAA tournament first round upset picks

Here we go, folks! It's one of my favorite times of the year--NCAA basketball tourney time, where even the biggest of underdogs can find that "one shining moment", where the pressure is on to win or go home, where seasons of promise can be ended in an instant, where last-second buzzer-beaters occur in the midst of high drama. And I've been following it all closely, while following my favorite teams, as perhaps you've noticed...

But, okay, so who's going to win? Well, let's just start with the first-round games.
Below, I'll list which upsets are going to happen. If I don't mention the game, then I'm assuming the higher-seeded team will win. But there will be upsets; the only question is figuring out where they'll occur. Here's my guesses:

#10 seed Southern Cal over #7 Boston College: the Trojans are hot, having just won the Pac 10 tourney in an upset, and have a lot of talent. Look for their active press to give BC problems.

#9 Texas A&M over #8 BYU: not a huge upset, obviously, but I do think A&M has been coming on late in the year, and that the Big 12 was a tougher league than many thought.

#11 Utah St. over #6 Marquette: you have the feeling that Marquette, without Dominic James, is in some trouble--a bit worn down, certainly not the same team. Meanwhile Utah State is a program that's been to the NCAAs before, it has a winning tradition, and this year won 30 games.

#10 Maryland over #7 California: Maryland is a solid program with experienced players like Ramon Vazquez, and made a nice run in the ACC tourney. Cal has good talent but turns the ball over too much.

#9 Tennessee over #8 Oklahoma State: Tennessee has a pressing style of play to which it can be difficult to adjust, and they played a very tough schedule.

#12 Wisconsin over #5 Florida State: yes, I know, FSU got all the way to the ACC tourney championship game, and upset North Carolina along the way. They're a good basketball team. But Wisconsin has size, some shooters, and they play a very deliberate, frustrating style of basketball, which has won them many NCAA tourney games in the past. Look for them to frustrate FSU today.

#9 Butler over #8 LSU: Butler doesn't have the experienced players they've had the past couple of years. BUT--they found new, albeit younger, cogs to fit into their system once again. They use the shot clock, make shots, and play incredibly fundamentally sound basketball. They know how to win.

#12 Western Kentucky over #5 Illinois: Western Kentucky has a very good club--they beat Louisville earlier this year. And I'm worried about the health of Illinois guard Chester Frazier; without him, the Illini aren't the same.

#10 Michigan over #7 Clemson: now that the Wolverines have made the tournament, ending a 10 year drought, I think the pressure is off. I think they'll play easier and looser, and can make shots; and that, combined with their difficult 1-3-1 zone defense, can add up to an upset win. If Michigan makes shots, they'll win.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's not all bad news for the GOP

A Rasmussen poll has Republicans leading in the generic congressional ballot by 2 points.
This is the poll where they ask you to tell which party's candidate you plan to vote for next year when we have the next congressional election. Yes, of course, that's so far off in the future, etc etc etc.

But indeed, Republicans almost NEVER lead this vote, be it far away from the election or no.
And the fact is, if Mr. Obama and the Democrats AND their much-ballyhooed policies were indeed as popular as people claim, Republicans wouldn't show up as well as they are in a poll such as this. So be of good cheer, conservatives!

Another dangerous idea from the Obama camp

Apparently they're thinking of implementing some major policy initiatives by bypassing Republicans:

"Senior members of the Obama administration are pressing lawmakers to use a shortcut to drive the president's signature initiatives on health care and energy through Congress without Republican votes, a move that many lawmakers say would fly in the face of President Obama's pledge to restore bipartisanship to Washington....The shortcut, known as "budget reconciliation," would allow Obama's health and energy proposals to be rolled into a bill that cannot be filibustered, meaning Democrats could push it through the Senate with 51 votes, instead of the usual 60. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both used the tactic to win deficit-reduction packages, while George W. Bush used it to push through his signature tax cuts."

No, what is contemplated is not illegal, and it's not unprecedented, and yes, Republican presidents used it in the past. That's not the point here.

The point that Republicans and conservatives should make here, rather, is this: this president said he would be different. No partisan games, no more of the old politics, he's going to listen to the other side (he claimed), he wants bipartisanship, he wants to hear ideas from the other side.

But going this route suggests he's abandoning the bipartisanship approach, and thus abandoning a campaign promise. We'll need to remind folks of that.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

The Notre Dame men's hoops team survived in the NIT, edging a tough UAB squad 70-64. It was a bit of a choppy game, but I was glad to see that ND played hard, came back in the second half from a deficit, and got some big defensive stops. It was too bad that the home crowd was so small--only about 2000 showed up in the JACC for the game. But that's to be expected--this team had a disappointing year, and the NIT just doesn't excite (at least at first). Still, this team has a chance to earn some respect by getting to New York. At least they still have a chance to do that.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons lost to Dallas, 103-101, on the road. Certainly no disgrace--the Pistons were without Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, and Allen Iverson. Mavericks-watchers should be concerned about such a close win against a shorthanded opponent, and they are--the Mavs especially are giving up too many offensive rebounds these days.

The Detroit Red Wings played well, though, and beat the Philadelphia Flyers at home, 3-2. The Wings outshot the Flyers 48-26. Wow...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Obama administration's dangerous idea

They are thinking of making private insurance companies to pay the VA for service-related injuries to vets:

"The leader of the nation's largest veterans organization says he is "deeply disappointed and concerned" after a meeting with President Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries. The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in such cases. "It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan," said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion. "He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it."

First of all, this does sound like a breaking of a promise to our vets.
Second of all, it sounds like such a huge loser of an idea, politically, that I'm shocked the Obama people are floating it.
And third, can you imagine the screaming from our liberal friends if the Bush administration had advanced this? Look for the Obama administration to dump this idea, fast...unless they're a lot dumber than I think they are.

At the sports desk: the Denver Broncos' Jay Cutler

It looks like he won't be a Bronco for much longer.
He can't get along with the new coach; he's angry because the Broncos looked, possibly, to trade for another quarterback, and they admitted as much.

Well, it's never nice to know that a team thought of replacing you.
But here's the thing: Cutler seems to think he's one of the best QBs in football.
But is he? Did he lead his team to the playoffs last season? No.
Has he taken his team to a Super Bowl? No.
He admits the NFL is a business. So maybe he needs to realize that he still has some proving to do, and that this will be the case whether he's in Denver, or somewhere else. The fact is that the team has not traded him yet, but he seems unaware of that. The Broncos are quite unhappy with how he's handled this, and when you think about it...it's hard to blame them. Mr. Cutler seems to have some maturing to do; and this seems to be the case far too often with our professional sports stars--just look at how far too many of them wind up in trouble with the law.

At the sports desk: good news for Notre Dame fans...

The ND women's hoops team is one of 14 NCAA tourney teams to boast a 100% percent graduation rate.

Here's to head coach Muffet McGraw, her staff, and the players.

More on those AIG bonuses...

From Rich Lowry today:

"The bonuses AIG wants to pay its employees are a pittance compared with the $170 billion it has received in government bailouts, a trifling .097 percent. But nothing so angers the gods of populism as the word “bonus” (surely some genius is formulating a suitable euphemism even as we speak). Pres. Barack Obama wants to try to block the bonuses, and other administration officials talk of making AIG pay back the government for the amount of the bonuses. Fine, but where do we go to get the other $169.835 billion back?"

But the truly sad thing is that the government has, either through bailout money, cash infusions, and other guarantees, sent $11.7 TRILLION into the nation's banks...but it doesn't seem to be helping, and now they're talking about sending more money after bad. When will it all end?

Monday, March 16, 2009

On those AIG bonuses...

Bill Kristol urges Republicans/conservatives to show outrage:

"Can capitalism survive the behavior of some capitalists? It's always been an open question. But if capitalism is to survive, shouldn't the Republican party, the party that defends democratic capitalism, be particularly vehement in denouncing its excesses? Isn't this a pretty spectacular one? And isn’t this a moment for the GOP to separate itself from the Bush administration as well as the Obama administration, who together have been responsible for an incompetent and improvident bailout? Figuring out the right policy going forward with respect to toxic assets and the rest is, of course, a major intellectual task. But being on the side of a healthy populist reaction to the AIG situation is at least a good political start."

I see what he's saying. And I certainly don't think Republicans should defend these bonuses.
At the same time, remember--when it comes to denouncing capitalists and "greed", we will never be able to outdo Democrats and the left.

Government is still the problem

Just take a look at what is happening with the TARP legislation, passed in the fall:

"But with $300 billion of TARP out the door already, Jordan asked, “Am I correct in saying that not one mortgage-backed security has been purchased?” “Yes, sir,” said Kashkari. The program for purchasing MBSs, he explained, is still being developed. Treasury has so far spent $300 billion to treat the symptoms of the problem and prevent a complete collapse."

Who is Kashkari? Well:

"The first witness — Neel Kashkari, the interim assistant treasury secretary for financial stability — was on the hot seat for hours. Kashkari is a holdover from the Bush administration in a department where President Obama hasn’t even bothered to fill any of the open senior positions except for secretary of the Treasury."

Democrats can't just blame this on Bush--the Obama administration has been in power for 2 months, and they knew going in that Treasury would need to be parsing out this TARP money.

Iraqis feel upbeat

So says a new poll:

"Iraqis are more upbeat about their future and less concerned about violence and insecurity, according to a poll released Monday. The survey conducted by broadcasters ABC, BBC and NHK shows that 21 percent of Iraqis feel their life is very good compared with 13 percent in March 2008. They also feel safer — 46 percent of respondents said they believe the security in their neighborhoods is very good compared with only 20 percent last year, according to the survey."

Read the whole thing. Yes, true, they still resent the invasion and the occupation by coalition forces. But the fact remains that life in Iraq would not be getting better, and Iraqi views would not be improving, had the Bush administration not stuck it out in Iraq. Because the administration did that, the battle there is close to being won. Let's not give victory away now.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

Neither Michigan or Michigan State, though, went too far in their conference tourneys.
Notre Dame's men's hoops team is in the NIT. Notre Dame's women's hoops team will be in the NCAAs, and will get to play at home--ND is hosting the first and second rounds of a regional.

The Detroit Red Wings meanwhile played real well yesterday in beating Columbus on the road, 4-0. That avenged a bad beating Columbus gave the Wings a couple of weeks ago, when the Wings gave up 8 goals.

And the Dallas Mavericks once again played the LA Lakers tough--they've played them tough every time they've played them this season--but lost, 107-100, in LA. Still, the Mavs have a chance to move up in the standings in their final 15 games--9 of those are at home. They'll need to take that opportunity. They don't want to finish 8th in the conference and play LA in the first round.

At the sports desk: here come the NCAAs...

And while Notre Dame is out, both Michigan State and Michigan are in.
Michigan hasn't been in the NCAAs since 1998; it's been 4000 days since the Maize and Blue's name has been called on Selection Sunday. So good for them. This is the fourth school Coach John Beilein has taken to the NCAAs--quite an accomplishment.

Obviously now comes the big debate over who got left out of the field of 64 who shouldn't have.
To me, Penn State has the biggest beef--they won 22 games and finished above .500 in the tough Big 10.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Free stimulus money?

Can individuals get free money from the Obama "stimulus" package? No, the media hastens today to tell us:

"Have you heard? The government is giving away free money! It’s all part of the Obama stimulus package. These government grants can be used for anything: buy a car, purchase a home, start a business or pay your credit card bills. Even take a vacation. And here’s the best part – because this is a grant, you never have to repay the money....“Don’t fall for it,” warns Eileen Harrington, acting director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “There is no money in the stimulus package to send out individual checks to people.”

And guess what--the money going to states and government agencies and projects from this "stimulus" package? That money ain't free, either...we'll be paying for it for a long time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Things I learned today while scoping out conference tournaments and getting ready for the NCAA hoops tournament...

One is that my Notre Dame men's hoops team will not be going to the NCAAs. They lost last night to West Virginia in the Big East tourney, 74-62. WVU attacked harder, and were tougher...and that was the story of the season for the Irish. I mean, they got out-rebounded by the Mountaineers 52-32. No excuse for that.
So the Irish finish the regular season at 18-14. It's the NIT for them. An NIT title is a worthy goal...but, given the hopes and expectations with which the Irish began this season, it will ring a bit hollow.

Other bad news--the Detroit Pistons lost to the NY Knicks, 116-111 in OT. Yes, the Pistons were without both Rasheed Wallace and Allen Iverson. But...but...they had a 10 point lead entering the fourth quarter, and blew it to the sub-.500 Knicks. Not good.

On the good news front, as far as my favorite teams are concerned, the Dallas Mavericks won a big game on the road, 93-89 at Portland. The Mavs held Portland to only 41% shooting from the field. If this team can play consistently at this level of play against playoff teams on the road...maybe they CAN be dangerous.

In other news...Victor Davis Hanson today points out brilliantly the trouble Barack Obama would be in if he'd told the truth, during the 2008 election campaign, about what he'd REALLY do:
“Although my new spending proposals may raise the federal deficit in my first year to $1.75 trillion, I promise the American people that by the end of my first term, I will halve the federal deficit — albeit adding another $3 to $5 trillion to the national debt. “Those savings can be accomplished by upping the federal income tax to about 40 percent on those rich 5 percent of Americans who currently pay only 60 percent of our aggregate income taxes — as well as lifting Social Security caps on their payroll taxes and cutting out many of their tax deductions. “With state income taxes, federal income tax, and Social Security and payroll taxes, along with new cutbacks in deductions, some of these rich will pay over 60 percent of their incomes in taxes. That is not an unreasonable rate in comparison with past levels — or the fact that well over 40 percent of Americans do not make enough to pay any federal income taxes. “I expect that Wall Street may react negatively to these proposals. We may see the Dow fall an additional 2,000 to 3,000 points after I’m elected. It may descend to under 7,000 during my first weeks of office. And this may be the moment when the economy continues to cool and unemployment rises. “On matters of protecting civil liberties, I assure the American people that I have examined the Patriot Act, the FISA accords, and renditions — and I have discovered that they, in fact, do not shred our Constitution. I will, however, shut down Guantanamo Bay — but must keep it open another year and appoint a task force to study the issue....“Abroad, I promise to give America a new image. My first television interview will be with al Arabiya. Due to both new initiatives and my unique background, I can reassure them that no longer will the United States alienate the Muslim world. Our aim is to return to stable and friendly relations with the Middle East characteristic of 20-30 years ago. “Indeed, on matters in the Middle East, I will bring back my suspended adviser Samantha Power. I look forward to her input, along with that of Charles Freeman, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and critic of Israel, as head of the National Intelligence Council, to craft new directions in the region. “We expect to open new dialogues with Basher al-Assad of Syria and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran without preconditions. And to further the cause of peace in the Middle East, the United States will pledge almost $1 billion to help rebuild the Gaza strip that is governed by Hamas.”
Of course, he told us the truth...about none of that.

Hey, speaking of conference tournaments, there's already been a big upset--in the Big 12, #11 seed Baylor beat #1 seed Kansas, 71-64. March Madness!

An MSNBC headline today notes that the German citizens living in Winnenden are "bewildered" by the horrible school shooting that happened there yesterday.
Well...yes, be horrified. Be tremendously saddened. We all are. But remember--human beings are extremely fallible, and a few of them do horrible things. That's something conservatism teaches you...

More Democratic Party corruption, as reported by that noted right-wing paper, the NY Times:
"Top banking regulators were taken aback late last year when a California congresswoman helped set up a meeting in which the chief executive of a bank with financial ties to her family asked them for up to $50 million in special bailout funds, Treasury officials said."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Coming out of Wednesday's wash...

Sports teams update: the Notre Dame men's hoops team stayed alive, edging Rutgers 61-50 in the first round of the Big East tournament. It was a bit of a grinder--ND's offensive flow was hardly as fluid as they'd like. But they won. Yet they still have a big hill to climb (they likely need to win 5 games in 5 days to make the NCAAs...)

Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings had played some real clunker games lately--3 days ago they gave up 8 goals to Columbus, at home. But last night they played well and beat Phoenix, 3-2. Maybe they've returned to form.

In other news...yet another former terrorist detainee at Guantanamo Bay, who'd been released, is in the news again...once again fighting against us with the Taliban. When will we ever learn. Maybe there were good reasons to hold those folks at Gitmo after all...

Media bias? What media bias? From CBS News "reporter" Anthony Mason:
"It's the government that's going to have to pull us out of this recession."

When will Americans get tired of the Obama shtick? Take today's bill signing, for example:
"Calling it an "imperfect" bill, President Barack Obama signed a $410 billion spending package Wednesday that includes billions in earmarks like those he promised to curb in last year's campaign. He insisted the bill must signal an "end to the old way of doing business."
Hmmm. He says he's against earmarks, but then signs a bill containing billions in earmarks.
He says he's against lobbyists in government, but guess what--his administrations contains lobbyists. He says he's against the old "partisan politics", but several in his administration busily orchestrate political games against Rush Limbaugh and the Republican Party.
I am glad that the news media--see the article above--points out Obama's contradictions. I'm a little surprised they're being this tough on him.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

By the way, Obama on education...

You can read about his proposals here.
Conservatives should be wary of all the new spending he proposes, not to mention--as I've written here before--of his stated goal to get all young Americans to pursue some form of college after high school. But I'm glad to see him pushing merit pay for teachers, and the Right can certainly support that.

If not now, when?

David Brooks today in his column, on Republicans, the economy, and spending:

"The Democratic response to the economic crisis has its problems, but let’s face it, the current Republican response is totally misguided. The House minority leader, John Boehner, has called for a federal spending freeze for the rest of the year. In other words, after a decade of profligacy, the Republicans have decided to demand a rigid fiscal straitjacket at the one moment in the past 70 years when it is completely inappropriate. The G.O.P. leaders have adopted a posture that allows the Democrats to make all the proposals while all the Republicans can say is “no.” They’ve apparently decided that it’s easier to repeat the familiar talking points than actually think through a response to the extraordinary crisis at hand."

Well, but what are Republicans to do? Are they to say that, because they made mistakes in the past and approved too much spending and deficits then, that therefore they are to give up a principle that even Brooks finds to be still valuable (sometimes, at least)? No. We'll get nowhere going in that direction, too.

Read the whole column--Brooks seems to be saying that Republicans should be spending activists and promoters of government intervention only in the short term, and can oppose longer-term spending profligacy. But what is that? If we don't think long-term spending is the way to go, how can we back massive short-term spending? Is that really so much better? I doubt it.

Whatever happened to global warming?

Speaking of good questions, Jeff Jacoby asked some recently about another important topic:

"it isn't such hints of a planetary warming trend that have been piling
up in profusion lately. Quite the opposite.

Snow falls on New Orleans's St. Charles Avenue streetcar in December

The United States has shivered through an unusually severe winter, with snow
falling in such unlikely destinations as New Orleans, Las Vegas, Alabama,
and Georgia. On December 25th, every Canadian province woke up to a white
Christmas, something that hadn't happened in 37 years. Earlier this year,
Europe was gripped by such a killing cold wave that trains were shut down in
the French Riviera and chimpanzees in the Rome Zoo had to be plied with hot
tea to keep them warm. Last week, satellite data showed three of the Great
Lakes -- Erie, Superior, and Huron -- almost completely frozen over. In
Washington, DC, what was supposed to be a massive rally against global
warming was upstaged by the heaviest snowfall of the season, which all but
shut down the capital. Meanwhile, the National Snow and Ice Data Center has acknowledged that due to a satellite sensor malfunction, it had been underestimating the extent of
Arctic sea ice to the tune of 193,000 square miles -- an area the size of
Spain. In a new study, University of Wisconsin researchers Kyle Swanson and
Anastasios Tsonis conclude that global warming could be going into a
decades-long remission. The current global cooling "is nothing like anything
we've seen since 1950," Swanson told Discovery News. Yes, global cooling:
2008 was the coolest year of the past decade -- average global temperatures
have not exceeded the record high measured in 1998, notwithstanding the
carbon-dioxide human beings continue to pump into the atmosphere. None of this proves conclusively that a period of planetary cooling is irrevocably underway, or that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are not the main driver of global temperatures, or that concerns about a hotter world are overblown. Individual weather episodes, it always bears repeating, are not
the same as broad climate trends. But considering how much attention would have been lavished on a comparable run of hot weather or on a warming trend that was plainly accelerating,
shouldn't the recent cold phenomena and the absence of any global warming
during the past 10 years be getting a little more notice? Isn't it possible
that the most apocalyptic voices of global-warming alarmism might not be the
only ones worth listening to?"

Answer: they might not be, no.

A uestion worth asking

From Thomas Sowell today, concerning those who seek to be bailed out from bad mortgage debt:

"The federal government has decided to bail out homeowners in trouble with mortgage loans up to $729,000. That raises some questions that ought to be asked, but are seldom being asked. Since the average American never took out a mortgage loan as big as 700 grand — for the very good reason that he could not afford it — why should he be forced as a taxpayer to subsidize someone else who apparently couldn’t afford it either, but who got in over his head anyway? Why should taxpayers who live in apartments, perhaps because they did not feel that they could afford to buy a house, be forced to subsidize people who could not afford to buy a house, but who went ahead and bought one anyway?"

Blind "compassion" is not necessarily good economics, nor is it good economic policy.

Obama being tested?

Sure sounds to me like the Chinese are doing some pushing against us, in an attempt to see what President Obama will do in response over this incident at sea between American and Chinese ships:

"A U.S. surveillance ship violated Chinese and international laws during patrols more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) off the Chinese coast over the weekend, China's state-run media reported Tuesday. "China has lodged serious representations with the United States, as the USNS Impeccable conducted activities in China's special economic zone in the South China Sea," said Ma Zhaoxu, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. "We demand that the United States put an immediate stop to related activities and take effective measures to prevent similar acts from happening." The response follows the Pentagon's contention Monday that Chinese ships harassed the U.S. vessel on Sunday in the latest of several instances of "increasingly aggressive conduct" in the past week."

I suspect Mr. Obama had better make a public statement, indicating he won't let the Chinese mess with him on this; and then once lines have been drawn, a solution can be found. But the president needs to show that he's not weak--and soon.

The left: we don't need no stinkin' opposition party

From a very liberal blogger, huffing and puffing recently at the Huffington Post:

"For the party that created our crisis's of misbegotten war, mismanaged economy, the lack of regulation of our banking industry, handing our country to rich crooks... to obstruct the one person who is trying to repair the damage is obscene."

Hmmm. Well, true...but only if one assumes that Obama and the Democrats have correctly assessed the "damage" and what caused it, and only if one assumes that Obama's policies will not be damaging in and of themselves.

But I really don't think this person, or any other Democrat even mildly in touch with reality, truly expects the opposition party to merely stand aside and let Democrats do whatever, without uttering a word. Which is why stuff like this is just so much demagogic nonsense.

Best analysis of the current state of the national news media so far today

Ann Coulter last night, suggesting that the national media, well, kinda likes Obama:

“Overnight, the media went from being watchdogs for the people to guard dogs for the government. That’s with the exception of Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, who are lapdogs of the government,” she said. “Time magazine got the ball rolling by comparing Obama to Jesus Christ,” Coulter said moments later. “So I lost a bet: They do know who Jesus Christ is.”

Monday, March 9, 2009

Literary corner: Sarah Dessen

Well, I've had teaching responsibilities today, plus my 1 year old son has been a bit ill, so there's not much time for blogging today.

BUT...I wanted to point to this author, Sarah Dessen, and her work. She's really good. She writes books about teens, aimed I suppose at teens...but really they're accessible to anyone. For example, I just finished reading this one--called "Dreamland."

Dessen's writing is smooth; her stories quickly absorb you and take you in. Her books are mainly about young, high school-age women who are trying to find their voice, find who they are...and of course in the meantime you learn a lot about what young women and men are thinking, and about the issues they face. I like especially how Dessen portrays caring parents...but parents who are mistaken if they don't let their children make the BIG choices--about who and what they're going to be when they grow up--on their own. It's an important lesson, but a hard one for parents to grasp. Of course, at the same time, teens in Dessen's books learn too that parents aren't always wrong in what they preach--far from it. But usually young people have to find that out for themselves, through trial and error.

Anyway, if you're a teen, and especially even if you're not a teen, even if your teen years came and went long ago, check out the books written by this remarkable woman. You won't be sorry.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Some Saturday stuff...

Good news for some of my favorite sports teams. The Notre Dame women hoopsters beat St. John's in the Big East tournament, 62-45. That's 5 wins in the past 6 games for ND--maybe they're peaking heading into the NCAAs?

Meanwhile the University of Michigan men's hoops team won today too, beating Minnesota 67-64 on the road in a must-win game. It will really boost Michigan's tournament resume. Great job this year by John Beilein resurrecting Michigan basketball...

And last night the Notre Dame men's hoops team won their final home game, beating St. John's 74-55. Seems that the Irish played more relaxed, and did the little things--hustled, rebounded, etc. There's still a chance for this team to regain the national respect they've lost if they can go to New York and play well in the Big East tournament. They still have that opportunity. Let's see if they can take it.

In other news: hmmm, so President Obama will visit Turkey soon. Why? On administration official said that part of the reason was that "it will also provide an opportunity to continue the president's dialogue with the Muslim world, a dialogue he started immediately and intends to maintain throughout his presidency."
Uh-huh. Well, maybe it will play well with moderate Muslims. But with the radicals? I have a suspicion they'll see it only as a sign of weakness.

More uncertainty developing over the Obama economic plan--just check out this AP report:
"President Barack Obama offered his domestic-policy proposals as a "break from a troubled past." But the economic outlook now is more troubled than it was even in January, despite Obama's bold rhetoric and commitment of more trillions of dollars. And while his personal popularity remains high, some economists and lawmakers are beginning to question whether Obama's agenda of increased government activism is helping, or hurting, by sowing uncertainty among businesses, investors and consumers that could prolong the recession. Although the administration likes to say it "inherited" the recession and trillion-dollar deficits, the economic wreckage has worsened on Obama's still-young watch....Even White House claims that its policies will "create" or "save" 3.5 million jobs have been questioned by Democratic supporters. "You created a situation where you cannot be wrong," the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Montana Democrat Max Baucus, told Geithner last week. "If the economy loses 2 million jobs over the next few years, you can say yes, but it would've lost 5.5 million jobs. If we create a million jobs, you can say, well, it would have lost 2.5 million jobs," Baucus said. "You've given yourself complete leverage where you cannot be wrong, because you can take any scenario and make yourself look correct."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Some Friday fun...

CNN calls this a big win for the Obama administration, but really it's also vindication for the Bush administration too:
"The Supreme Court has granted the Obama administration's request to dismiss the pending appeal of an accused enemy combatant held on U.S. soil. The decision "to dismiss the appeal as moot" came in a brief order from the nine justices issued Friday. Ali al-Marri has been held in military custody since 2003, and was challenging the president's unilateral authority to detain him indefinitely and without charges. The court's order is a defeat for him on the larger constitutional issue."
A constitutional issue the Bush administration had vigorously pressed...

Speaking of CNN, one of their reporters/bloggers asks if the singer Rhianna is a "role model."
Simple answer: no. Don't make her your role model, girls. We now know more facts about what went down between her and Chris Brown. He's beaten her up before. He beat her up, badly, in this latest incident. He claims he'll "change", and she believes he will...but history and studies have shown that men like him won't change. Yet she's taking him back. The blogger agrees with me that she's making a "terrible" decision...but she worries too much about what a burden it is for this young woman to be a role model. Well, simple, people: don't make her one. She won't be a good one.

And by the way, speaking of Chris Brown, I hadn't heard this--today it comes out that it took 9 days for him to even apologize to the woman he battered. Shameful.

Jonah Goldberg today gets at the fundamental problem with President Obama's economic plans--he's claiming higher taxes on the rich will cover the spending, but...they won't:
"Obama brags — albeit dishonestly — that he’s only raising taxes on rich people. Ninety-five percent of the American people will get a tax cut, the president insists. Well, which is it? Do the times demand shared sacrifice from us all, or from just 5 percent of Americans? If I say to ten co-workers, “We all need to chip in together to get this done,” and then say, “So, Todd, open your wallet and give five bucks to everyone else in the room,” it would sound ridiculous. But when Obama says the same thing to 300 million Americans it’s called “leadership.” “The problem with socialism,” Margaret Thatcher once said, “is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” What Obama is proposing isn’t socialism — yet — but it runs into the same problem. You could take all of the money made by the richest one percent in this country and it wouldn’t come close to covering government’s expenses — even if those rich people for some reason kept working."
Read the whole thing. Don't forget--Obama's energy plans will raise costs for ALL Americans. Obama admits this. And his tax cuts for the working poor will amount to maybe $13 bucks a week. Wow.

By the way, speaking of Rush Limbaugh, as the Obama administration and many other Democrats have been...
Very good sources estimate that his listenership has spiked, since the controversy began, to over 25 million listeners per week. Thanks, Democrats!

Wow. The well-respected centrist Stuart Taylor writes for the nonpartisan National Journal. He's written favorably of Obama in the past. But now he's worried:
"Having praised President Obama's job performance in two recent columns, it is with regret that I now worry that he may be deepening what looks more and more like a depression and may engineer so much spending, debt, and government control of the economy as to leave most Americans permanently less prosperous and less free. Other Obama-admiring centrists have expressed similar concerns. Like them, I would like to be proved wrong. After all, if this president fails, who will revive our economy? And when? And what kind of America will our children inherit? But with the nation already plunging deep into probably necessary debt to rescue the crippled financial system and stimulate the economy, Obama's proposals for many hundreds of billions in additional spending on universal health care, universal postsecondary education, a massive overhaul of the energy economy, and other liberal programs seem grandiose and unaffordable."
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stat of the day

Putting Obama's popularity in perspective:

"Here’s an interesting data point comparison: Barack Obama’s approval rating in the Gallup Poll today is 61 percent, with 28 percent disapproving (the Real Clear Politics aggregate of polls has his overall job approval rating at 59.8 percent). A March 5-7, 2001 Gallup poll found President Bush's job approval at 63 percent as well, with only 22 percent disapproving. So George W. Bush, at a comparable time in his presidency, was in marginally better shape than Barack Obama is right now, at least based on the Gallup Poll survey. This runs counter to conventional wisdom that Obama is tremendously popular, and that Bush (based on the divisive nature of the 2000 election) was not. In fact, according to the Gallup Poll data, what President Bush did was rise in the esteem of the public during the first five weeks of his presidency, while Obama has lost a bit of altitude."

Not to mention the fact that Jimmy Carter was popular in 1977; while Lyndon Johnson was popular in 1965. Hmmm, what happened to them...

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

The Detroit Red Wings played solidly, beating Colorado 3-2 on the road. They now have the most points in the Western Conference.

The other night, Michigan State's men's hoops team survived a scare, beating the hustling Indiana Hoosiers 64-59. That earned the Spartans the outright Big 10 championship, which they deserved. Remember this--Raymar Morgan appears to be healthy again. MSU is 18-1 this season when he plays at least 20 minutes in a game. They may be ready for the NCAAs...

And the Dallas Mavericks came back after a horrible performance the other night and beat San Antonio, 107-102. It was a big win for them--clearly the team responded to all the criticism they'd taken. But can they be a dangerous playoff team? The jury is still out...

Overall, not a bad night.

After "The Bachelor"...

When I wrote about the reality show "The Bachelor" the other day, especially Jason's conduct (unconscionable in my view), I also said that I hoped the nice lady he dumped, Melissa Rycroft, was doing okay.

Well, good news--looks like she is.
She certainly isn't happy about what Jason did.
But she's moving on and moving ahead. Good for her.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Stat of the day

Though not a particularly happy or (even sadder) surprising one--this trend has been around for a while:

"Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released a collection of data from its 2008 Current Population Survey. Here is one particularly arresting statistic: In 2008, only 38 percent of black children lived with two parents, compared to 85 percent of Asian children, 78 percent of non-Hispanic white children, and 70 percent of Hispanic children."

One hopes President Obama will use his bully pulpit to appeal to African-Americans in this country to do something about such a trend.

Obama's latest appointee...

...is a man named Charles Freeman. In a 2006 e-mail concerning the Chinese crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989, Freeman "faults Chinese authorities for not moving swiftly enough in 1989 to crush democracy demonstrators. “The truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities,” wrote Freeman, “was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than — as would have been both wise and efficacious — to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China.”

He's no better concerning 9/11:

"Freeman has an irrepressible instinct for the appalling. In a public forum in 2002, Freeman decried “America’s lack of introspection about September 11.” What commanded Freeman’s attention was not the jihadist ideology that brought about the murder of nearly 3,000 of our fellow citizens, but what he described as “an ugly mood of chauvinism” in the United States. Americans, he maintained, “should examine ourselves” as we consider “what might have caused the attack.”

Go get this guy, Republicans/conservatives.

The Democrats Limbaugh strategy

Have you noticed all these Democrats barking about Rush Limbaugh lately, including Obama himself? Hey, it's no accident--we now know that this is part of a carefully-crafted strategy pulled together by Democratic Party strategists--to demonize Rush Limbaugh, to portray that demonized figure as the spokesman of the Republican Party, and thus attempt to further marginalize conservatism and the GOP.

Read the entire linked article above. And notice some things: 1] I thought the Obama administration was all about "hope", and "change", and ending the old partisan games. And yet this sounds like one of the oldest political games in the book. How is engaging in this nonsense helping to make a poor person's life better? Of course, it's not. 2] Note who's behind this strategy--all the old Clinton administration hands--Emanuel, Begala, Carville, etc etc etc. I thought this administration was going to be different. So far it isn't--it's Clinton redux with a bunch more spending thrown in. 3] Meanwhile, be not afraid, conservatives--shucks, I'd welcome this. Democrats grant Limbaugh a big stage at their peril. He is knowledgeable, articulate, and a great spokesman for conservatism. And isn't it a bit strange for a presidential administration to be worrying so much, and so busily attacking and demonizing, a private citizen, a radio host? I think the administration better be careful; it might look like it's trying to stifle dissent.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why does the stock market continue to plunge?

I mean, everyone wants "action" taken, right? The Obama administration is producing plenty of it, and it all polls well, right? And yet, this blogger, well-connected on Wall Street, who reports that there were plenty of Wall Streeters who voted for Obama, reports that even Obama's supporters there don't like his budget:

"Obama was anything but mediocre, they told me time and again, as the financial crisis devastated the markets and ushered in one nasty recession. And these days they are a sorry lot because they now admit they really didn’t listen to Obama. Yes, their man was elected, and they still defend their choice for president based on his obvious intelligence, grace under pressure, and for the simple fact that they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the erratic John McCain, and the novice Sarah Palin. But for all of that they can’t believe what they are witnessing: an economic agenda that is contradictory at best, and possibly reckless in its extreme. Policies that will certainly make a very bad situation even worse, and when things do get better, they will certainly not be better enough to compensate for the pain we are experiencing."

Read the whole thing.

Why do Obama and his various proposals poll so well?

I think Jim Geraghty nails this question today:

"I don't think this is because people are following the specific ins and outs of Obama's budget, or they like the ballooning deficit, the tax increases, or the rosy scenarios that it assumes in the economy's performance. It's that 52 percent or so of the public voted for the guy, he gives good speeches, he's got an adorable family that are on a million magazine covers, they want things to get better, and so they're putting their faith in him. If he said everyone hopping on one foot would improve the economy, a large swath of America would respond by asking which foot should be lifted and which foot should be hopping. So those of us who disagree with Obama need to break through apolitical Americans' general sense of "he's a good guy, I trust him, I'm not going to look too closely at what he's doing."

It will take time, but if we keep pointing out the problems and the meanings behind what Obama is doing, breaking through can be done.

The Bachelor

Yes, I watched this, and I too was dismayed (to say the least) at how it ended last night:

"There have been many break-ups of the couples who met during the 12 previous seasons of ABC's "The Bachelor" and four seasons of "The Bachelorette." But until Monday night, none of the couples broke up while the show was actually airing. Jason Mesnick, the single dad whose heart was broken by DeAnna Pappas at the end of "The Bachelorette 4," broke two hearts, not counting viewers who are dismayed by the way he chose Melissa only to dump her during the "After the Final Rose" special and pick Molly, who he'd rejected earlier."

Read the whole thing--I agree with the writer when she argues this probably wasn't scripted, a conspiracy hatched by Jason and the producers to make boffo TV. Although--I doubt the show's producers tried to dissuade Jason when he told them he was thinking of dumping Melissa.

Mainly, though, I come down here: 1] Jason only gave his relationship with Melissa six weeks. Then he wanted out. That's not trying hard enough. 2] He didn't have to dump her on national TV. He could have insisted it be done privately. 3] Jason claimed his relationship with Melissa wasn't the same, once the show ended. Well, of course not--the relationship was no longer a TV show, with fantasy dates funded by ABC. It was now real life. He needed to know that and deal with it.

Jason Mesnick comes out of this looking terribly--and yes, as the article suggests, the only good thing about it is that it reminds us that relationships aren't fairy tales or TV shows where everything works out in the end. You have to work at them. It's very sad that Jason didn't. Meanwhile, one hopes Melissa Rycroft is OK. She seemed like a nice person.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

Good news and bad news. Some good news: the ND women's hoops team won, beating West Virginia 72-66. Coach Muffet McGraw wanted the team to have played better, but 1] the team was coming off a tough road game just two days before, and had to play an unusual day game. The key was, they won, executed well offensively, were tough defensively when they had to be. The Irish women hoopsters are 21-7 on the year--not bad.

The bad news: the Notre Dame men's hoops team, playing later that evening in the same arena, lost badly to #11 Villanova, 77-60. Bad all the way around--the game was key to Notre Dame's slim remaining NCAA tourney hopes, but most agreed they got out-hustled, out-competed, couldn't get key stops, couldn't make key buckets. It's pretty much NIT for sure now for ND, and that's very disappointing, given the high hopes going into the season. The only thing the Irish can do now is at least save some self-respect by winning a game or two in the Big East tournament. Bad news there is, they have a terrible Big East tourney record--they've rarely played well in New York.

Bad news for the Dallas Mavericks last night, too--they played horribly for most of the game, and lost to the undermanned Oklahoma City Thunder on the road, 96-87. This despite the fact the Thunder were without two of their best players. You've got to be focused and play hard every night--you wonder why players don't get that memo.

Monday, March 2, 2009

College for all?

This hasn't gotten a lot of play, but it has gotten some--and it's important. To be specific: in his recent speech to Congress, President Obama made it one of his administration's goals to get ALL young Americans to attend college:

"In his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, President Barack Obama called for every American to pursue some form of education beyond high school. It's an ambitious goal — some might say impossible. Currently, only two of every five American adults have a two- or four-year college degree. Millions of Americans struggle even to complete high school, with one in four dropping out. And even a high school degree is no guarantee a student is ready for college."

There are a lot of problems with this goal. The article linked to above lays out some of them.
But I think the biggest problem with this goal is simple: too many young people, when they get out of high school, are simply not ready yet to go to college. They're not mature enough. They don't want more school; they don't want to go to college. They don't yet understand how important it is. They're not yet motivated. They don't have the study skills, time management skills, and organizational skills needed to succeed in college. I've been teaching at the college level for over 20 years. I still teach. And I've seen this for myself. I suppose you can incentivize or even force all or most high school students to go on to college. But you can't make them succeed.

Now, notice that when I laid out the shortcomings of some students above, I often used the word "yet." Coming out of high school, students sometimes--often?--aren't ready for college. Yet. But they can be. As time goes on, as they spend time out of school in the "real world", they can gain that maturity and the motivation they need. But that takes time, and these are things students need to develop within themselves. So don't force students or overly-incentivize doubtful students to go to college before they're ready. Instead, let them take time away from school if they wish, let them learn some hard lessons about life in the real world without a college degree. And let them go to college when they're ready. They might not go to college until they're 25 or 30 years old. But you know what? Some of my very best, most outstanding students have been those who came back to school at that age, aware of how difficult life is without a college degree, having gained a great deal of maturity, and now determined to succeed. And many of them do.

But don't let this be, Mr. Obama, another example of government meddling where it shouldn't and screwing things up. Don't encourage students to go to college when they're not ready for it. It won't work. It will just waste money. And I fear there will be plenty of that to go around in the next 4 years...

Who are the real cowards?

Attorney General Eric Holder said recently that the American people are still, too often, cowards when it comes to discussing race. Really, now. And yet now it comes out that even Democratic Senator Dick Durbin admits that it was the playing of the race card that forced Democrats to cave in and accept Roland Burris as an appointed senator, even though they'd said they never would. Now they regret that decision.

But as Jim Geraghty suggests today, that makes, not the American people, but Senate Democrats the real "cowards."

Just so--and I've seen recently that the repeated race-baiters and anti-semites Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan have been active lately, making statements, accusing others of racism. When will cowardly Democrats tell those guys off?

GOP Chairman Michael Steele: off to a bad start

Why? Because instead of starting out by taking off after Democrats, Steele is attacking...fellow Republicans and conservatives:

"Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in an interview with CNN that he, rather than Limbaugh, is "the de facto leader of the Republican Party."
And Steele described Limbaugh as a performer. "Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh's whole thing is entertainment," Steele said. "Yes, it is incendiary. Yes, it is ugly."

No, it isn't; you're flatly wrong, Mr. Steele. Have you ever actually listened to Mr. Limbaugh?
Those who criticize him the most are usually those who listen the least.
And in any case, the new chairman of the GOP shouldn't allow his first actions to be something that will alienate the Republican/conservative base.

At the sports desk: favorite teams update

You really saw the ups and downs, the joy and heartbreak, this past weekend.
The Notre Dame men's hoops team played well at #2 Connecticut Saturday--but came up a little short, losing by just 7. Now they face a must-win situation tonight at home vs Villanova to keep their NCAA hopes alive. If they can make shots and defend a little bit, they can still do it. But consistency in those areas just hasn't been there...

The ND women's hoops team got a needed win on the road Saturday, though, beating Providence 65-56. That gets them to 20 wins; they have a quick turnaround, playing again this afternoon. But they should be in good shape for the NCAAs, and they seem to be peaking at the right time; they've won 3 of 4, and both offensively and defensively they seem to be coming on.

The Dallas Mavericks played well in beating Toronto 109-98; and now their sixth man, Jason Terry, has returned from injury. Offensively they seem to be clicking.

Michigan State's men's hoops team won another big game on the road, beating Illinois 74-66. They're now very near a Big 10 title; they deserve it.

And what's gotten into the Detroit Pistons? Two straight wins without Allen Iverson in very difficult places to win, the latest being Boston, where the Pistons beat the Celtics 105-95.
The Pistons have got to get Iverson to buy into, and fit into, the old Piston way. Hey, it still works.

But Michigan's men's hoops team played hard and tough at Wisconsin, but lost 60-55. Some scoring droughts and questionable shot selection late doomed the Wolverines, and so they're definitely on the NCAA bubble.

A lot of ups, and down, and hopes hanging by a thread...