Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday's fish fry

I think the editors of National Review have it right:
"The White House was hoping the health-care summit would create momentum among Democrats to push their bill through Congress. It almost certainly did not work. Both sides repeated points that have been made countless times over the past year. That being the case, it seems likely that the public will react to what they heard from the Blair House meeting much as they have to the months-long debate in Congress: by agreeing in larger numbers with the Republican view that the bill the Democrats are pushing is hopelessly flawed....[Democrats'] talking points are simply not believable. For instance, the president tried at the beginning of the meeting to claim that, if his plan passed, individuals would see their health-insurance premiums fall, and he claimed that the Congressional Budget Office backed him up in that regard. But that is not the case. CBO says that premiums would go up in the individual insurance marketplace, not down, because the Democratic plan would require minimum benefits that are much more costly than those of the high-deductible plans that are often selected today. Within an hour or so of first saying otherwise, the president was forced to concede this point."

And don't forget--most Americans were at work, and saw almost nothing of the summit anyway.

Should the NHL continue sending its stars to the Winter Olympics every four years? This guy says no:
"Gary Bettmann has a problem. The NHL commissioner offered his stars to the Olympics, elevating the league's global profile while hoping to tap into the casual sports audience that flocks to its televisions during this fortnight. But Bettman's dilemma is that Olympic hockey can attract the masses and the NHL can't. Does anyone honestly believe a Nebraskan novice just introduced to Team USA star Zach Parise suddenly will demand New Jersey Devils games on his cable package after the Games conclude? Bettman should end the NHL's association with the Olympics. It doesn't help the league."

It's true--Olympic hockey probably doesn't help the NHL financially, at least not that much. But Bettmann shouldn't pull out of the arrangement he has. The reason? Pulling out would hurt the NHL _even more_ with American fans. And Bettmann can't afford that...

And hasn't it been fun watching this U.S. hockey team? They're playing sound, fundamental hockey; they're really hustling. What they've done in these Olympics has been an outstanding accomplishment, no matter what happens today...

And by the way, this guy is exactly right concerning a great way to watch sports on TV:
"As the rest of you fire up the plasma at 8 p.m., my DVR will be humming. You will suffer through the inevitable commercial breaks, and you'll also have to sit through the graceless performance of some also-ran from the Czech Republic. Even worse, you may have to endure part two of Mary Carillo's feature on the Canadian Mounties. After some diligent work during the day to avoid spoilers, I will start watching an hour or two into the coverage. Having no idea who won, I'll enjoy the thrills and spills of figure skating and downhill skiing without all the excruciating interruptions. It's the perfect way to watch the Olympics, or any sporting event. Decades before TiVo became a verb, I started down the path of better living through tape delay. From March Madness to midseason Mets games to my masochistic relationship with the New York Jets, I flat-out prefer to watch on delay. While the rest of you are spending three-plus hours slogging through an NFL game, I'm polishing it off in a tidy one hour and 45 minutes. Not to mention that I'm taking in the action after having spent the day frolicking with my wife and kids. Yes, time-shifting strengthens the American family."

Agreed, absolutely. I don't TiVo; I have DVR. But I'm a serious sports fan and I DVR lots of stuff, especially on weekends. For me, it saves time; allows me to watch my very young son; and allows HIM to watch Sesame Street re-runs when we can't go outside or do other things. He can watch his favorite TV; but I'm not missing my favorite sports events. And it's not so awful to watch a game later, even when you know who's won. Because then, you can watch the game in a slightly different, more clinical way, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of both teams and figuring out why the game went the way it did, rather than ignoring some of that because you're worried about the game's outcome. Wait for an hour after your favorite game starts, sports fans; DVR it and then start watching it an hour in. Skip those commercials and save some time. It's fun. And serious fans do it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday's throwdowns

More downbeat job news:
"...the Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment insurance rose by 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 496,000. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast a drop in claims to 455,000. It is the second straight week that claims jumped unexpectedly. High unemployment remains one of the biggest obstacles to a sustained economic recovery. The Labor Department's monthly report on employment will be released next week."

This on top of the bad news yesterday concerning further weakness in the housing market.

There is of course the big "health care summit" going on today. I've seen a little of it. Looks to me like both sides are simply repeating their existing positions; which, for conservatives, is okay...Republicans are getting in a lot of good conservative points on why the Democrats' plans shouldn't be passed. But in a larger sense, George Will makes an excellent point about the whole thing today:
"Today's health policy "summit" comes at a moment when, as happens with metronomic regularity, Washington is reverberating with lamentations about government being "broken." Such talk occurs only when the left's agenda is stalled. Do you remember mournful editorials and somber seminars about "dysfunctional" government when liberals defeated George W. Bush's Social Security reforms? The summit's predictable failure will be a pretext for trying to ram health legislation through the Senate by misusing "reconciliation," which prevents filibusters."

Good prediction. The Right needs to be ready to respond to this immediately--this kind of sweeping legislation should never be passed with such parliamentary maneuvering.
Furthermore, what I saw this morning fits exactly with this comment on NRO:
"...the Democrats appear to have no particular purpose in mind for this event. They’re not driving anywhere, or making a clear individual case, while Republicans clearly want to get across the point that we should scrap the current bills and start over in pursuit of a few incremental steps. The Democrats may have thought that simply putting the spotlight on Republicans when the subject is health care would make the GOP look bad. But Republicans so far seem prepared enough and focused enough to avoid that, and to make the Democrats look rather aimless by comparison."

Indeed. What did the Democrats have in mind with this summit? Did they think that, just by holding it, the public would magically come around to their way of thinking?

Wow--Notre Dame 68, Pittsburgh 53: ND still without All-American Luke Harangody; Pitt ranked 12th in the nation. But the Irish--finally!--dig in defensively and get a great win at home. They still have a long way to go, though, and the NIT still looks like their most likely destination. Key stats: Notre Dame out-rebounds the powerful Panthers 34-25, and limits Pitt to only 8 second-chance points.

Los Angeles Clippers 97, Pistons 91: like I've said, the Pistons are only playing a little bit better. They let this one get away, blowing an 8 point halftime lead, Richard Hamilton shooting only 2 for 8 from the free throw line, and getting out-rebounded 56-44.
But also...Dallas 101, Los Angeles Lakers 96: the Mavs get a huge win over Kobe and the Lakers at home. That's 5 straight wins now for Dallas. Key stats: it was the old Mavs, not the new guys recently acquired in trades, who carried Dallas. Dirk Nowitzki had 31 points, while Jason Terry had 30. But Brendan Haywood did have several key rebounds and blocks. This team is better defensively now.
Though one still has to say that the Lakers remain the cream of the crop in the NBA until it's proven otherwise...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday's wash

So the headline on CNN's home page said "bad news for Republicans in poll." Uh-oh, I said, so I clicked on it...and the article went on to say:
"Two-thirds of Americans think that the Republicans in Congress are not doing enough to cooperate with President Barack Obama, according to a new national poll."

I see. Well, could be bad news---but read on:
"But a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, released Wednesday morning, also indicates the public says that the Democrats should be the ones to take the first step toward bipartisan cooperation and they want the Democrats to give up more than the GOP to reach consensus. Sixty-seven percent of people questioned in the poll say that the GOP is not doing enough to cooperate with the White House, up 6 points from last April. Americans appear split on whether the president is doing enough to reach out to the Republicans, with 52 percent saying Obama's not doing enough to cooperate with the GOP and 47 percent saying he is doing enough to reach across the political aisle. The 52 percent who say the president's not doing enough to encourage bipartisanship is up 16 points from last April."

Ah. So what the public is _really_ saying is that BOTH sides need to do more to increase bi-partisanship. That both are to blame, really. It's kind of a wash. The actual evidence sure tells a much different story than "bad news for Republicans in poll" suggests. Gosh--you don't suppose it was a liberal staffer at CNN who wrote that headline??? Nah...

Meanwhile, there's nothing any liberal staffer at CNN or anywhere else could do to dress this up---the latest poll on the Pennsylvania senate race involving Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter shows him continuing to lose to conservative Pat Toomey by a solid 10 points. And the sun shines brightly today, too...

Women's basketball--Notre Dame 82, Marquette 67: the Irish are back. After losing two straight games on the road, and those were at least partly due to the injury to Lindsay Schrader, the Irish return home, get Schrader back, and play well and win. Key stats: senior Melissa Lechlitner, on senior night, scored a season high 23 points. And Schrader, playing just 20 minutes, had 17 points and 6 rebounds.
Men's hoops--Illinois 51, Michigan 44: Ugh. Not much else to say. It may be good for this team that it has slipped below .500 for the season and thus may have no postseason life (even the NIT) facing it. Because it's not working out for this team and it doesn't look like it will. This game? Again, Michigan couldn't shoot. Key stat: Michigan shoots only 24.6% from the field and 19.3% from 3-point range.

Detroit 101, Sacramento 89: again, the Pistons are playing a bit better...but one can't get too excited; the Kings aren't a great team. But the Pistons won this one on the road and road wins can be a sign of better things to come. Key stat: the Pistons shot 58% from the field and their defense fed off of that...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday's trackings

This isn't good news:
"A monthly poll showed consumers' confidence took a surprisingly sharp fall in February amid rising job worries. The decline ends three straight months of improvement and raises concerns about the economic recovery."

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has submitted a new health reform plan and I think a lot of folks still see the Obama people as oh, so smart. But if they are, why do they do things like this?
"Democrats and labor unions didn’t rush to embrace the plan, either, though by Monday night, Democrats were sounding more receptive to it, despite the lack of a public health insurance option. Congressional Democratic aides also complained of being left in the dark by the White House, asking for a preview of the bill Friday, only to be denied by White House aides, according to multiple sources."

Stiffing members of your own party doesn't seem like the start of a great plan to pass a bill.

And in any case, a new Rasmussen poll suggests public opinion hasn't changed much on the Obama/Democrat plan--in the latest findings, 41% favor the plan, but 56% oppose.

Dallas 91, Indiana 82: the Mavericks of course recently pulled off a huge trade, getting impact players Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood from the Washington Wizards. And now they've won 4 games in a row. So far the trade looks good. In this particular game, the Mavs were a bit sloppy. Still, key stats: Haywood had 20 rebounds. And Dallas held Indy to 36% shooting from the field.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday's musings

So according to a CNN survey, fully 86% of the public believes the federal government is "broken."

Yeah, right, and I know this is kind of a common assumption today, and don't forget that seemingly thousands of media talking heads chant this daily. But is it really true? Consider: big economic crisis in the fall of 2008. What happens? A $700 billion bailout package is passed, with bipartisan support. Last year Democrats passed their "stimulus" package and other legislation.

Yes, true, health care reform legislation is stalled in congress right now. That doesn't mean the system is "broken." Rather, it means this is extremely controversial legislation that doesn't command overwhelming public support; far from it--instead, polls suggest the public opposes it. That's what's going on here. Just because a lot of elites, Democrats, and media talking heads desperately want their version of health care reform to pass...but it hasn't passed and may not pass...doesn't mean a system is "broken." Instead, the people are giving thumbs down to what Democrats and liberals want. Sheesh.

Meanwhile, the Tea Party moves on--in Florida there's going to be hotly-contested primary to decide the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, and there moderate Governor Charlie Crist is just getting clobbered right now in the polls by conservative darling Marco Rubio. The message continues to be sent...

And of course you've heard about President Obama's new health care proposal. Is it something Republicans should back? Nah, of course not, notes NRO:
"President Obama would no doubt be delighted if Republicans were to accept the basic outlines of the Democratic health-care proposal: new regulations on insurers, a mandate that everyone buy insurance, and subsidies to help them do so. All the evidence of the last year suggests that this type of bipartisanship — a Republican surrender — is the only kind in which he is interested."

Meanwhile, at this week's health care summit, hosted by the president, NR urges Republicans to keep the focus on just what's wrong with the Democrats' approach, that this must be defeated first before Republican ideas can have their day in the sun:
"They should note that the legislation increases entitlement spending at a time when such spending already threatens to bankrupt our government; that it makes it more expensive to employ workers at a time when the long-term health of the labor market is already widely questioned; and that it will cause many Americans to lose their current health-care arrangements whether or not they want to."

All true. But what Republicans CAN do, at this summit, in order to remind folks that we do stand for things that are positive and forward-looking, is to emphasize just why we talk about such defects in Obama proposals--because holding down spending and letting people keep the health insurance they've chosen is what freedom and liberty are all about.

The daughter of the man who flew a small plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas defends his extreme views but adds his final actions were "inappropriate."

Hmmm. Somehow I find using such mild language for a man who thinks the way to act on his views was to burn his house down, attempt to destroy buildings, and kill people is what's very "inappropriate."

Ohio State 74, Michigan State 67: hmmm. Puzzling. Michigan State has a decent record (21-7), and they'll still get a decent NCAA seed for its tournament. But it hasn't won its usual share of big games, especially at home...such as this game. MSU's defense, rebounding, focus...none of it was quite there, and it couldn't shut down Ohio State's Evan Turner (who's an excellent player, by the way) down the stretch, and he took over. Unusual for a Tom Izzo club. Right now you'd have to say: don't look for much from this club in the NCAAs. Key stat from yesterday's game: MSU comes out flat and lethargic and trails 39-26 at half.

Detroit 109, San Antonio 101: the Pistons continue to, well, play a tiny bit better and at least give good effort, as they edge the Spurs in OT. The Pistons remain though only 20-35 on the season. Key stat: Richard Hamilton had 27 pts for Detroit, while Ben Gordon had 21 and Rodney Stuckey 20. Those 3 guys have to score for this team to compete...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday's fish fry

Let's talk about some educational issues today...

A new poll finds the general public has some dissatisfaction with institutions of higher education:
Well, and folks shouldn't be surprised. The word has gotten out that many big universities have huge sections of freshman in basic courses being taught by graduate students. That slightly smaller universities have those same sections taught by adjuncts. That both adjuncts and grad students get paid peanuts. Institutions made a ton of money on those courses. So where does all their money go? Perhaps too much of it goes to the salaries paid to the endless bureaucracy of deans, assistant deans, associate deans, etc etc etc...

People see other things, too. They see some prospective students getting favoritism from affirmative actions programs, favoritism denied others. They see free speech being stifled by various "speech codes" and so-called "diversity" programs. There's a lot not to like these days...

Take a look at some of these cases. Here's a case at Temple University that, fortunately, has been won...

And did you know that San Jose State University in California had at one time a housing policy that said:
"Any form of activity, whether covert or overt, that creates a significantly uncomfortable, threatening, or harassing environment for any UHS resident or guest will be handled judicially and may be grounds for immediate disciplinary action, revocation of the Housing License Agreement, and criminal prosecution. The conduct does not have to be intended to harass. The conduct is evaluated from the complainant's perspective."

So if a hard-line Democrat living there didn't like a Republican dorm-mate...
Wow. Thank goodness that's been changed, too.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday's throwdowns

So Nancy Pelosi is attacking House Republicans for their supposed "hypocrisy" on the "stimulus" bill.

But what's the main basis for her attacks, as the article above notes? Tax cuts! She claims the bill has given Republican constituents tax cuts. But wait a minute--I thought we were beyond tax cuts? That those were old, tired Republican ideas, and that now were moving forward to big spending which would prime the pump and jump-start the economy????

In other words, the hypocrisy here exists on the part of Speaker Pelosi. All she can do is claim that actually Democratic policies do too contain Republican, conservative ideas. If that's the new Democratic position, those on the Right should suggest that, still, voters should elect the real conservatives, who will really show them tax cuts etc.

Meanwhile, this is a good tack for Republicans to continue to take:
"The Republican National Committee posted a Web video aimed at Mr. Obama titled “Broken Promises,” and the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, issued a report titled “Where are the Jobs? A Look Back at One Year of So-called ‘Stimulus.’ ” The report argues that the measure is “chockful of wasteful government spending” and presents a list of what Republicans regard as questionable projects, singling out, for example, “$10,000 to purchase a liquid nitrogen cryo freezer to store pallid sturgeon sperm” and $1.25 million for a Northwestern University professor “to use electric fish from the Amazon to study how animals take in sensory information to move quickly in any direction.”

Meanwhile, no doubt about it--the leading Republican candidates in Indiana for Evan Bayh's old Senate seat have the advantage as we begin...

Louisville 91, Notre Dame 89, 2 OTs: Arrgghh again. Again the Irish play without all-league center Luke Harangody, who's still nursing a bone bruise near his knee. They give it all they had and get a lot of contributions from different players. But Louisville center Samardo Samuels again exploits ND's defensive weaknesses for 36 points...and the Irish have two different chances to win the game with a final shot, but fail on both. Consistently, the close games don't go Notre Dame's way, and that can't be seen as an accident at this point...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday's wash

So now the president and his minions are out there loudly defending his "stimulus" bill--it turns one year old today:
"To the public, Obama explained, as he has many times before, that the stimulus plan was composed of tax cuts for most Americans along with help for state governments, extended social service benefits and huge investments in energy, education and infrastructure. "One year later, it is largely thanks to the recovery act that a second depression is no longer a possibility," Obama said. To his Republican critics, who say the bill was a costly, debt-financed blunder that has not delivered on the promise of job creation, Obama challenged them to take up the case with people who have stayed employed or have found help solely because he and the Democratic-run Congress acted."

But of course the problem remains. The administration loudly asserts and claims that people have stayed in their jobs, that their jobs were "saved", by his stimulus bill. But there's precious little evidence for that. Meanwhile, there's a bunch of evidence of waste and mismanagement coming out of this stimulus bill--from jobs being created in nonexistent congressional districts to stories of millions of dollars being spent to spawn precious few jobs. Republicans and conservatives need to make they hit back at the Obama White House hard on this.
I see that House Minority Whip Eric Cantor is already on the case:
"Republican Whip Rep. Eric Cantor, of Virginia, said states have lost a total of 2.9 million jobs between the bill's enactment last February through December, though the administration projected stimulus would save or create 3.5 million positions."

I suspect some of the deserved skepticism concerning the "stimulus" comes from the fact that people see the strange things that local, state, and federal agencies do around this nation. Take the Connecticut state government, for example--whose Department of Children and Family Services, it has recently been revealed, has been spending money on hiring clowns.

The real question should be why they had to hire clowns. This agency is part of government. Clowns are probably just down the hall on a daily basis...

Women's hoops--St. John's 76, Notre Dame 71: the Irish had won 8 straight since losing to UConn. But they lose here on the road, against an obviously tough, ranked St. John's team that's on the rise. Key stats: 1] ND played without perhaps its best player, Lindsay Schrader, who has a bad ankle. 2] St. John's made 70% of their early shots, gained confidence, and burst out to an 18-6 lead. The Irish just need to stay steady. One loss doesn't kill you. What's crucial is what happens in March.
Men's hoops--Michigan 80, Iowa 78 (OT): Michigan has somehow managed to win two straight road games. They're playing a bit better. Key stats: Michigan's stars, Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, combine for 47 points. And Michigan shoots 51% from 3-point land, in 27 attempts. When this team shoots better, it's dangerous. They just haven't shot well.
Michigan State 72, Indiana 58: the Spartans now have rallied, with the formerly injured guard Kalin Lucas returning, to win two straight on the road. They're 21-6 on the season and, healthy, still in my judgment a big threat in the NCAAs. Key stats from this game: Lucas had 13 points and 4 assists. He's healthy. MSU shot 59% from the field. This team is deep--9 different Spartans played at least 11 minutes in this game.

Detroit 108, Minnesota 85: the Pistons still are only 19-33 on the season, but they are playing a bit better lately, as this latest blowout win shows. Key stats: the Pistons come out strong in the 2nd half and outscore Minnesota 33-13 in the 3rd quarter. They also had 46 assists. But remember they played bottom-feeding Minnesota...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday's trackings

He warns the U.S., I guess, not to impose tougher sanctions in response to Iran moving ahead on its nuclear program:
"It's high time for some people to open their eyes and adapt themselves to real changes that are under way," Ahmadinejad said at a news conference in Tehran. Asked specifically about the threat of tougher sanctions, the Iranian president said, "We prefer that they move in the spirit of cooperation. It won't put us in trouble. They themselves will get into trouble." Ahmadinejad also seemed to threaten unspecified retaliation, saying Iran won't act like it has in the past.
"Definitely, we will show a reaction that will put them to shame, like always," he said."

Such vague nonsense. He reminds one of the playground bully who talks a lot...but has little with which to back it up. What a maroon.

The news continues to be good for Republicans, as the nonpartisan site Politico shows today:

"President Barack Obama’s trip to Las Vegas later this week to campaign for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shows how congressional Democrats will live and die on the president’s popularity as the midterm elections approach. The president is still a huge draw in Democratic campaign circles, and Reid wants him in Nevada on Thursday, but Obama’s approval rating keeps dropping, and no matter what Democratic lawmakers accomplish, history shows they can’t divorce themselves from the president’s polls. That’s bad news for Reid, who already trails virtually every GOP candidate in Nevada, whether or not Obama stumps on his behalf."

Politico also suggests that several leading Dem senators continue to be in trouble in the polls, and are vulnerable to Republican challengers.

Concerning Evan Bayh's decision yesterday not to run again for re-election, Chuck Todd et al at First Read make an interesting point:
"He didn't see his poll numbers plummet (a la Byron Dorgan's), or didn't face a nearly impossible re-election fight (like Chris Dodd did). Instead, he cited the partisanship in Washington for his decision to exit a race where he was leading his top GOP challenger by 20 points. “There is too much partisanship and not enough progress -- too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving,” he said yesterday. “Even at a time of enormous challenge, the peoples’ business is not being done.” Question: Why do politicians say this when they’re leaving, but never when they’re actually running? Why not try to fix the system? It’s also worth noting that Bayh had never run in a contested race before. Remember that, despite laying the groundwork for a presidential bid in the ’08 cycle, he surprised many of us by not running. Bayh very well may not have had the stomach to run in a challenging race."

What was it Walter Mondale once said about politics? To run and to win, you've got to have the "fire in the belly." One suspects Senator Bayh lacked that...

Some on the left continue to believe that Democrats can turn things around if they pass bills:
"President Obama's approval rating in the Gallup tracking poll released yesterday was 53%. Congress can soon pass a jobs bill, and health care reform can finally get done soon after. In the coming months, the national employment picture is expected to get stronger. A proposal to reform Wall Street is both popular and feasible, and can be passed this Spring. An energy bill can come to the floor before the summer.
These are the kind of steps that will inspire confidence, motivate the base, and demonstrate the majority's ability to govern. A "comeback" narrative can kick in, just as voters begin to evaluate candidates for the midterm elections."

Really, though, this is just another riff on the "pass Democratic bills and inevitably the public will like it" idea. Nowhere does this address the fact that the Democrats' health reform bills just ain't popular. Why would the Dems gain popularity by passing unpopular bills???

Nor should our friend from the Washington Monthly get too attached to that 53% approval number for President Obama. CNN has a poll out, too; it has Obama's approval at only 49%.

And 52% of the respondents from that same poll believe President Obama does NOT deserve re-election.
And by the way, add Democratic U.S. Senator Patty Murray of Washington as another incumbent Dem in trouble.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday's musings

"Sen. Evan Bayh is expected to announce Monday that he will not seek a third term in the Senate, a source close to the Indiana Democrat told CNN."

Quick reactions: 1] Wow! I didn't see that one coming. 2] One wonders why. Bayh faced a tougher race this year, but he still would have been the favorite to win.
3] Obviously this is good news for Republicans; assuming they can field any kind of a credible candidate, they'll be favored to take this seat.
MSNBC's First Read agrees with this, and adds that perhaps some Republicans, who have shied away from running for this seat with Bayh still in the running, will take a second look at it.

And by the way, here's confirmation that this story is true.
Bayh claims he got tired of all the partisanship in Congress. And who knows, maybe that was truly his reasoning.

Has Dick Cheney hit some paydirt with his recent blasts against the Obama administration's terrorism policies? Some think so:
"Former Vice President Dick Cheney stormed the beachheads of the liberal US media again today with a fiery performance on ABC’s This Week. He offered a stinging rebuke to current VP Joe Biden’s ludicrous claim that Iraq may end up as one of Barack Obama’s “great achievements”, as well as blistering criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of terrorist suspects. He also launched a strike on Biden’s recent comment that another 9/11 scale attack was “unlikely.”
“I just think that’s just dead wrong. I think the biggest threat the United States faces today is the possibility of another 9/11 with a nuclear weapon or a biological agent of some kind. And I think al Qaeda is out there — even as we meet — trying to do that. You have to consider it as a war. You have to consider it as something we may have to deal with tomorrow. You don’t want the vice president of the United States running around saying, ‘Oh, it’s not likely going to happen.’”

Meanwhile, Republicans and conservatives should absolutely hammer the Obama administration over a statement made recently by one of its counter-terrorism chiefs:

"Obama counter-terror chief John Brennan is drawing criticism for comments he made Saturday about the recidivism rate of detainees released from Guantanamo Bay.
During a Q&A following remarks Brennan delivered at the Islamic Center of New York University, Brennan defended the administration's estimate that one in five foreign nationals released from the prison at Guantanamo Bay since its opening return to terrorist activities.

"People sometimes use that figure, 20 percent, say 'Oh my goodness, one out of five detainees returned to some type of extremist activity,'" Brennan said. "You know, the American penal system, the recidivism rate is up to something about 50 percent or so, as far as return to crime. Twenty percent isn't that bad."

Not that bad??? Someone needs to explain to Mr. Brennan that counter-intelligence is a little different than criminology. A recidivist crook maybe wants to rob a bank. A recidivist terrorist might very well like to kill 5000 Americans in an explosion. There's a big difference. Duh...

St. John's 69, Notre Dame 68: arrggghhh. Yes, no Luke Harangody due to injury, but this was a home game for the Irish and one they led late. But again they found a way to lose, largely due to their continuing defensive deficiencies. Key stat: twice ND regained the lead in this game in the final minute. But twice, the Irish failed to get a defensive stop when they needed it.
Let's face it--Notre Dame is again likely headed to the NIT.
But there was better news for the Notre Dame women's hoops team--Notre Dame 90, DePaul 66: the Irish move to 23-1 on the season. Key stats: ND had a 12-2 run to end the first half. Becca Bruszewski scored 25 points; she's becoming the post presence the Irish have needed. Notre Dame is showing what CBS analyst Clark Kellogg describes as "spurtability"--the ability to go on a big run during a game, score points, get defensive stops and force turnovers, and thus open up big leads that can't be overcome. It's needed in March, especially...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday's throwdowns

Just a few items today...

Another new poll (Quinnipiac) brings more bad news for President Obama:
"Obama's slightly underwater in job approval, with 45 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving; severely underwater on the economy: 41 percent approving,, 54 percent disapproving; severely underwater on health care: 35 percent approving, 58 percent disapproving; severely underwater on creating jobs: 37 percent approving, 56 percent disapproving; severely underwater on the budget deficit: 33 percent approve, 60 percent disapprove. As usual, the numbers amongst independents are worse."

And on another happy note for conservatives, no worries--Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania continues to trail Pat Toomey by about 10 points.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday's wash

Denver 127, Dallas 91: bad loss for the Mavs, in that they already have had trouble for the past year beating the Nuggets, and this simply reinforces that. But, key stat: this was the Mavericks' second road game in two nights. This team needs to get healthy coming out of the all-star break.
Meanwhile...Detroit 93, Milwaukee 81: the sad-sack Pistons show a sign of life, holding Milwaukee to 36% shooting in Milwaukee. The Pistons still are only 18-32 on the season, though.

Women's hoops--Notre Dame 66, Cincinnati 50: the Irish are now 22-1 on the season. It was a tough game to play; Cincinnati has a losing record this season, the city is still digging out from a major snowstorm, and only 400 fans attended the game. But the Irish at one point went on a 21-4 run and forced 23 Cincy turnovers.
But in men's play, it was Purdue 76, Michigan State 64: MSU has, shockingly, lost 3 straight. Partly it's due to injuries--such as the ankle injury to guard Kalin Lucas. But partly it's due to the sudden disappearance of State's defense--they allowed Purdue to shoot 65% from the field in the first half of this game. Luckily, the Spartans still have time to fix things. They'll need it.

Wow--4 months ago, in the generic congressional ballot question on the ABC News poll, Democrats led by 12 points. Now? Republicans lead by 3.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday's trackings

President Obama appeals for an end to "petty politics":
"Appealing for bipartisanship in a town where it's hard to find, President Barack Obama sat down with Democrats and Republicans Tuesday to spur cooperation on job creation, deficit reduction and health care overhaul. He promised to do his part — but warned he would take Republicans to task if they don't do the same. "The people who sent us here expect a seriousness of purpose that transcends petty politics," Obama said after the meeting, as he made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room."

Uh-huh. Hmmm, "petty politics"--you mean like going to Democratic Party fundraisers and slamming the people who oppose you as hicks to "cling" to "God and guns" out of ignorance? You mean giving the okay to a backroom deal on a health care bill in which one Democratic senator got a sweetheart boondoggle of a deal for his home state, which nobody else got???

In other political news, looks to me like John McCain is a bit worried about the challenge from the right he's facing (in the form of conservative activist J.D. Hayworth) in the GOP primary election this spring for his Arizona Senate seat, as the NY Times notes:
"...Mr. McCain now finds himself jammed, moving starkly — and often awkwardly — to the right, apparently in an effort to gain favor among the same voters whom Mr. Hayworth, a consistent voice for the far right, could pull toward him like taffy come summer. Mr. McCain now sharply criticizes the bailout bill he voted for, pivoted from his earlier position that the Guantánamo Bay detention facility should be closed, offered only a muted response to the Supreme Court’s decision undoing campaign finance laws and backed down from statements that gays in the military would be O.K. by him if the military brass were on board."

That kind of reactive defensiveness ain't good politics. Is McCain really in trouble? We'll have to keep an eye out.

Dallas 127, Golden State 117: You wouldn't think a game like this would be important. But it was, as the Mavs had lost 4 of 5, were having their effort and desire questioned, and trailed by 14 points in this game which was, after all, against an NBA bottom-feeder. But Dallas rallied to win, perhaps their biggest win of the season. Coach Rick Carlisle says the team needs to build off this. He's right. Key stats: Jason Terry scores 36 points, and really stepped up. And the Mavs outscored Golden State 37-19 in the 4th quarter.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday's musings

Notre Dame 65, South Florida 62: a tight one. But South Florida had won 4 consecutive league games, and upset Georgetown on the road in their previous game. So this was a big win for ND to get at home; they've won 2 straight league contests now; and went 8 for 10 at the free throw line at the end of this game, able to hit shots under pressure. Defensively, they held USF's star Dominique Jones, who'd averaged 35 points a game in his last 4 games, to 3 of 17 shooting.

So NOW he wants health care reform discussions televised:
"In the first major step to revive his health care agenda after his party's loss of a filibuster-proof Senate majority, President Barack Obama on Sunday invited Republican and Democratic leaders to discuss possible compromises in a televised gathering later this month."

But note--the Obama folks remain on the defensive. President Obama talked during the 2008 campaign about televising health care reform negotiations on C-Span. Well, came the actual negotiations...and no television cameras were to be found. The administration received criticism. So now they react to it.

But being reactive isn't something that usually leads to winning politics, or even policy.

It's certainly not helping Obama among independents--a recent poll shows that 57% of independents oppose him now.
If that doesn't change, Republicans will have a big 2010.

How's that "hope" and "change" and reaching out to our adversaries working out again???:
"Officials from the United States, France and Russia called Monday for stronger measures against Tehran after Iran told the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency that it would begin enriching its stockpile of uranium for a medical reactor in Tehran as early as Tuesday. In Paris, the visiting United States defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, said the Obama administration and the other nations had reached out sincerely to reassure Iran and entice it to negotiate an end to its nuclear program.
“All of these initiatives have been rejected,” Mr. Gates said. While “we must still try and find a peaceful way to resolve this issue,” he said, “the only path that is left to us at this point, it seems to me, is that pressure track. But it will require all of the international community to work together.”

Well, yes, Secretary Gates--all of the administration's attempts to use "soft" power, a softer tone of voice, an emphasis on diplomacy, repudiating the past administration, apologizing for supposed past American misdeeds--it's failed, and we warned you it would likely fail. The fact is that our adversaries don't respect that type of approach. Has that become clear? Is it not yet clear that stalemates with such nations as Iran are not and were not due primarily to the Bush administration???

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday's fish fry

Charles Krauthammer today points out very well a remarkable characteristic of many Democrats and liberals right now in the midst of their troubles: that while they claim to act on the peoples' behalf, in truth they seem to think people are stupid:
"Liberal expressions of disdain for the intelligence and emotional maturity of the electorate have been, post-Massachusetts, remarkably unguarded. New York Times columnist Charles Blow chided Obama for not understanding the necessity of speaking “in the plain words of plain folks,” because the people are “suspicious of complexity.” Counseled Blow: “The next time he gives a speech, someone should tap him on the ankle and say, ‘Mr. President, we’re down here.’” A Time magazine blogger was even more blunt about the ankle-dwelling mob, explaining that we are “a nation of dodos” that is “too dumb to thrive.” Obama joined the parade in the State of the Union address when, with supercilious modesty, he chided himself “for not explaining it [health care] more clearly to the American people.” The subject, he noted, was “complex.” The subject, it might also be noted, was one to which the master of complexity had devoted 29 speeches. Perhaps he did not speak slowly enough."

Well. All that speaking certainly hasn't helped. In the latest 2010 election news, Harry Reid continues to be in the dumps when it comes to polls--stuck at about 39%.

Nor are we seeing any movement in the president's approval ratings. Rasmussen right now has him at 46%. Gallup only has him at 49%.

Notre Dame 83, Cincinnati 65: a big win for the Irish, but still not the true, big-time quality win they'll need to get closer to an NCAA berth. But they played tougher and better; now they've got to keep it up. Key stats: Luke Harangody, held in check last time by the Bearcats, this time came up with 37 points. And ND out-rebounded Cincy 41-32.



Indianapolis 5 over New Orleans. PICK: (no surprise) Colts. The Saints are a good team. I respect them. But I think they'll be seeking to blitz Peyton Manning, hit him, and cause turnovers...and I believe that in the end, Manning can beat almost any blitz, get rid of the ball, and make plays. He'll see to it that the Colts outscore the Saints, and while Drew Brees will definitely get his points and his yards, the Colts' defense will contain him enough to get the Colts a win, by, say, a score of about 34-27.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thursday's throwdowns

Since leaving the Republican Party to run for re-election to the Senate in Pennsylvania as a Democrat, my, how Arlen has changed:
"Between 2003 and 2009, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter obtained nearly $10 million in earmarks for abstinence education. Then he became a Democrat. Since switching parties last spring, Specter hasn’t sought a dime in earmarks for abstinence education — a dramatic reversal that critics describe as a case study in the cynical politics of pork-barrel spending. As an abortion-rights Republican facing primary challenges from the right, Specter could use the abstinence education earmarks to show social conservatives in his party that he was sensitive to their concerns. But as a relatively conservative Democrat, he doesn’t have to worry about a challenge from the right — and has to be careful not to offend liberals, who generally prefer a broader approach to sex education. “It really is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of the raw politics behind earmarks,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of the government watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. “Once he becomes a pro-choice Democrat, [the social conservative bloc] becomes a constituency that’s not as important to get earmarks” for."

But here's another thought. Is this all merely politics? Or, perhaps, was Senator Specter never really much of a moderate-Republican-with-sympathy-for-some-conservative-positions at all? Maybe he was always pretty liberal, and is finally showing his true colors. In any case, even more reason for all conservatives to help the fine conservative Pat Toomey finally sweep Specter out of office this year for good.

Make no mistake, when it comes to health care reform et al, the Obama folks, and especially the president, haven't changed their tune one iota. They remain convinced that Congress passes the Democrats' health care bill, public approval will automatically follow, as the president suggested again in his pep talk to Hill Democrats yesterday:
"The president acknowledged the difficulties, but implored Democrats to remember why they first ran for office. He urged lawmakers to ignore the political chatter on cable television and in the blogosphere and “get out of the echo chamber” in Washington. If Congress delivers results, he added, “I’m confident that politics in 2010 will take care of themselves.”

Hmmm. Well, he's certainly convinced of that. But right now the terrain for Democrats continues to look bumpy. Take Illinois, for example, which in recent years has been a state in which Republicans can't seem to win, in statewide races at least. But now, the Illinois senate is set--Republican Mark Kirk will square off against Democrat Alex Giannoulias. A poll is out--and it has the Republican Kirk starting out with a 6 point lead. This is a race for Barack Obama's old senate seat, remember.

The Dallas Mavericks broke their 3-game losing streak, beating Golden State,
110-101. And that's all good. But what worries Mavs' fans is that Dallas built an 18-point lead in the first half, then struggled the rest of the game to hold on to it. They also let the Warriors shoot 12 for 17 in the 3rd quarter. The Mavs have to find ways to improve if they want to be a force in this year's playoffs...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wednesday's wash

It sure appears that, concerning health care, Speaker Pelosi is determined not to give an inch:
"Amid the wreckage of the health care debate, some rescue workers have been searching for small pieces that could be salvaged. On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested that the search was in vain. What good is a door, after all, without a building? The health care system is so complex, Pelosi argued, that it can't be changed piece by piece. She used the example of the popular ban on discriminating against people with preexisting conditions: Simply passing a law saying that all insurers must take such people would lead either to prohibitively expensive insurance for them, an increase in premiums overall, or both. Passing such a bill might be politically popular, but it wouldn't help real people, she said."

So Pelosi still wants to pass major reform. Well, that's nice, but there's no sign that a majority of Americans want it, or that there's any way for her to accomplish her goal given the climate in Congress. But hey, if she wants to drag this out for weeks longer, still wind up failing, and make Democrats look even more ineffective, have at it, Madam Speaker!

Meanwhile President Obama sticks his foot in his mouth again.
Indeed, what is it with his continual jabs at Vegas? Well, maybe this--it's a little bit of his elitism coming through. Barack and Michelle Obama have fancied themselves as well-to-do progressive folks, who munch on arugula etc, for some time. They wouldn't dream therefore of spending a vacation in Vegas, maybe blowing lots of money and rubbing elbows with the unwashed. But Mr. Obama forgets that many Americans like that kind of vacation and enjoy doing some gambling. He doesn't understand that. He doesn't understand many ordinary folks, I fear.

And you thought it was George W. Bush who always made dumb statements...

Tough night last for Michigan college basketball teams. First, there was Wisconsin 67, Michigan State 49: which didn't surprise me. Wisconsin is big, physical, can make 3 point shots, and is tough at home. And sure enough, key stats: Wisconsin canned 9 shots for the game from beyond the arc, and shot 56% from the floor in the first half.
And it was Northwestern 67, Michigan 52: another tough night for the Wolverines, who are now only 11-11 on the season. Key stats: Michigan's DeShawn Sims scored only 4 points on 2 of 9 shooting. They need much more from him. And Northwestern went 10 for 20 from 3-point range. Northwestern is a better team than people think. They may have a shot at an NCAA berth. Michigan, unfortunately, is not the team we thought they were, based on last year's NCAA bid. Lesson: teams don't always improve from year to year; we expect it, but it takes some luck, hard work, dedication...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday's trackings

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will be under review...:
"WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Robert Gates is promising to try to spare more gay troops from being dismissed from the military while the Pentagon takes a year to study revising its "don't ask, don't tell" policy. An announcement of the study, expected Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, marks a measured step toward President Barack Obama's goal of eliminating the military's policy against gays, which is based on a 1993 law. Obama has called on Congress to repeal the law, but Democrats say they want more guidance on how to allow openly gay service members to serve without causing a major upheaval." the president tries to appease his liberal base, somehow, some way...but only a little, so as not to tick off independents. A tough line to walk...

Meanwhile, the increasingly-liberal Newsweek magazine has one of its columnists defend President Obama on the question of broken campaign promises:
"The bottom line is that only Beltway hatchet men and partisan activists should treat every detail of every policy proposal as a promise and then freak out when that "promise" doesn't become a reality. Should we keep tabs on a president's campaign pledges? Absolutely. Should we pressure him when he seems to abandon priorities we hold dear? Of course. But smart voters should also recognize that campaign promises aren't abstractions. They're practical political tools. Which is why it makes sense for presidents to break their promises and naive to expect them not to. They don't govern by fiat. They propose the strongest policies they can possibly hope for because they know they will end up negotiating with Congress and other stakeholders. In fact, the only way for a president to start from a good bargaining position is by proposing something bolder (such as the public option) than what he ultimately thinks he can get. "Breaking" those "promises" may be disappointing, but it isn't a betrayal. It's governing."

And much of the above makes some sense. But let's hear that kind of talk from progressive columnists when a conservative inhabits the White House as well, hmmm?

On the other hand, the very liberal NY Times columnist Frank Rich is being pretty tough on Mr. Obama these days:

"Many Americans were more eagerly anticipating Steve Jobs's address in San Francisco on Wednesday morning than the president's that night because they have far more confidence in Apple than Washington to produce concrete change. One year into Obama's term we still don't know whether he has what it takes to get American governance functioning again. But we do know that no speech can do the job. The president must act."

Meanwhile, keep in mind that another Democratic U.S. Senator in deep trouble is Arkansas' Blanche Lincoln. She trails one likely Republican opponent by over 20 points in a recent poll, and her approval rating has bottomed out in the 30s.

Women's basketball--Notre Dame 75, Rutgers 63: another impressive win for Muffet McGraw's team; on the road, their 2nd road game in 4 days, against an always-tough, physical Rutgers team. Key stats: ND had no fewer than 5 players in double figures in points. And twice the Irish answered big Rutgers runs. Hopefully this team is developing toughness. They'll need it in March. The Notre Dame women are now 20-1 on the year...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday's musings

In unveiling his news budget, once again Obama takes a shot at the Bush administration:
President Barack Obama unveiled a multitrillion-dollar spending plan Monday, pledging an intensified effort to combat high unemployment and asking Congress to quickly approve new job-creation efforts that would boost the deficit to a record-breaking $1.56 trillion. Speaking from the White House hours after the budget's release, the president decried "what can only be described as a decade of profligacy." He pledged to "do what it takes" to create jobs, while asking lawmakers to follow his lead on reducing "waste in programs I care about."

All presidents tend to blame problems on their predecessors, of course; this is nothing new. But this president seems not to realize that the blame-Bush game isn't playing well. He'll also need to work on the contradictions plaguing his budget--on the one hand he talks of spending freezes, but on the other hand he seeks spending to create jobs, etc. Gonna be hard to do both, Mr. President...

And it still doesn't look like the public buys into what Mr. Obama is selling. For example, in the often-overlooked poll on the direction of the country, still...after over 1 year of Obama...a recent poll finds only 38% of the country believing we're on the right track; 60% see us on the wrong track.

As for the health care bills and the liberal claim that, if only the Democrats would ram these bills through, the public would like them...Megan McArdle today contemplates exactly what I've been thinking: that if the Dems do it, the great turnaround in public opinion ain't gonna happen.
After all, the details of the bills have been out there for months; Obama has spoken publicly again and again about them. So, what--the American people will suddenly consume and buy into all that, just like that? Nope.