Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ben Olsen Interview


Olsen: "I am old and slow."

I Don't Recall this in the Obama Budget Talking Points

Jake Tapper: People with incomes in excess of $250,000 will take a $636 billion hit over the ten years starting in 2011. Businesses will see $353 billion over ten years.

Here is the problem. There is an awful lot of overlap in those two groups.

Obama: Hope and Change

The policy is hope that you can change something before people notice that is not even Constitutional.

Ann Althouse on the DC Vote Plan:
I don't know how even to articulate an argument that it's constitutional to give a vote to a D.C. representative in the House.
Shredding the Constitution. It's not just for the Bush administration anymore.

Obama's Plan to "Stress Test the Banks" Not the Best Policy Move

Actually, as Fabius Maximus notes, the idea has plenty of merit, but it is the assumptions underlying the policy that are not wise. This is a great piece from a blogger that is now on my list of go to places for quality analysis.

By the way, I don't think this to be Obama's worst policy move, but it may be the one with the longest range impact.

The Tea Parties

The Instapundit (among others) is carrying a lot of coverage of the so-called Tea Parties that are being held across the country to protest the stimulus bill and the spendthrift ways of our government.

While I have not seen reports that attendence is more than say 2,000 people, you have to take into account the manner in which these protests are created and organized. They are, almost exclusively, a function not of statewide or nationwide party organizations, but grassroots efforts.

It is that grassroots effort that needs to be heeded by both Congress and the Obama Administration. As a former grassroots/political operative, here is a basic breakdown of the level of activism it takes and the rough equivalence that Congressional offices see.

Writing a letter (or email) to your Congressman. This is much easier today, so while it used to be a 1 to 10 or 12 ration (that is one letter is indicative of say 10-12 people who feel the same way), it may be more like a 1 to 9 ration or so. Writing an email is relatively easy and fairly cost free. I think more people are doing it which is why the ratio is down.

Going to a Townhall Meeting. Often these are held after hours and are generally well-organzied by the Congressional office. For this reason, I don't usually consider these opportunities for true activism. Often the audience is packed more with supporters than with skeptics or critics. But there is something of a ration here. I would say this falls in the 1 to 20 or 25 range. That is means for every 1 person that shows up to a townhall meeting, you have 20 to 25 people who feel the same way.

Poltical party or organized group rallies. These are a little harder to gauge, since there is a controlled, organized effort to increase the attendance. Usually, these are held on weekends, in big crowded areas and people are cajoled to attend. The ration I would consider here is 1 to maybe 18-20, since these events are usually programmed well in advance, look to get some star power behind them (at least as far as the movement organizing them is concerned)

The local grassroots protest. These are the most difficult to generate attendance because there is often very little planning, little coordination other than email and the now almost omnipresent social networking that is used to gin up attendance. The attendance problem is also exacerbated by the fact that these events are usually planned and attended around the notion of personal, professional, family obligations that can reduce the attendence. That is why these events have the second highest ratio, close to 1 to 20-25

Finally, there is the Washington Lobby visit, where activists usually go to Washington to meet with their Congressional delegation or more accurately their staff. The cost and logistics of such an event usually means that 1 person on a Washington Lobby Trip represents as many as 100 interested persons.

The sheeer number of Tea Parties, and their near spontaneous or certainly far less organized nature, needs to be considered. If a Tea party gets an attendence, on short notice, of 2,000, you need to do the math and think numbers in the 40-50 thousand range in that area. That is a lot of citizens who simply aren't buying the need for the bill or the methods that this Congress is undertaking.

However potent these protests are right now, they will quickly diminish in significance unless something can be done to harness the discontent into political and electoral power.


Obama's chief appointments vetter has some tax problems of his own.
White House general counsel Gregory Craig has seized control of Obama's vetting process after a series of nominees with unpaid taxes. But his wife's business may also have avoided taxes. Who vets the vetter?

Derry Noyes, Craig's wife, runs Noyes Graphics, a design business, out of the couple's home in northwest Washington. Between Craig's work and hers, they've been on Washington's A-list for a decade.

PBS's American Stamps aired a profile of her two days ago. She designs specialty postage for the U.S. Postal Service, including a number of notable stamps. One recent series celebrating the work of famous architect Charles Eames was featured in Metropolis. Noyes herself is the daughter of architect Eliot Noyes, a friend of Eames.

Operating a business out of one's home in D.C. requires a home occupation permit and registration with the city's division of corporations. Additionally, the government has instituted a new requirement for business license permits.

A spokesman at the Washington D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs told Gawker that no one has ever sought any kind of permit or registration for a business under the name of Noyes Graphics or at the Craigs' home address. By not registering Craig may have avoided local business taxes.
Look, I know that small busienss regualtions and taxes are a pain in the backside, but seriously, if you are going to be the lawyer for the Adminsitration that is imposing new regulations and taxes on people, you need to make sure that your own house (and home office) are in order.


Update: 3/2/09 5:30 PM. Well maybe not so much.

Fulham Take a Point from Arsenel

Traveling across town to the Emirates to take on Arsenel in years past might have been written off as three points lost by the Cottagers. But while Fulham aren't winning on the road, they aren't losing either. In two games against the Gunners this year, Fulham have taken four points. Today's 0-0 draw is another in a long line of draws for the Whites,

The 0-0 draw is Arsenel's fourth in a row in the Premier league. Fulham, on the other hand, are in the middle of a 8 games in four weeks run of games. Again, whilst Fulham's away form is nothing to particularly write home about, Fulham's organization and discipline on defending, coupled with a several fine saves from Mark Schwarzer (and a bit of help from the woodwork) have kept Fulham in a position to keep getting draws away from home. Sure, we are still not scoring goals, but if we aren't conceding goals either, it puts the Whites in a position to possibly nick three points on the road with a little luck.

Fulham was unlucky several times this game, with the run of play being clearly in Fulham's favor in the first half. Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora were creating openings and making life very difficult for the Arsenel back line. Zamora was taking shots from distance. The two strikers were pairing together, moving the ball around and finding seams to exploit Arsenel's apparent complacency on defense. Several good opportunities were created and Fulham were unlucky to not have come out of the first half with a goal.

Fulham were equally lucky to have kept Arsenel off the score sheet as well. Robin Van Persie had several great chances on crosses and corner kicks and Schwarzer has to make a great goal line save on a strong van Persie header early in the first half.

The second half found Arsenel with more of the attacking flow and Fulham were able to absorb the attack. Even with Arsenel's addition of Emmanuel Eboue and Nicklas Bendtner, Fulham were able to keep Arsenel from scoring.

Admittedly, Fulham played a fair amount of negative football, but it is not like Roy Hodgson put ten men behind the ball and prayed. There were some very creative counterattacks and Zamora and Johnson continued to make life difficult for the Gunners. But Arsenel couldn't crack the Fulham defense.

Fulham have conceded only 22 goals this season, only Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea have conceded fewer goals. With that record, the fact that Fulham have only scored only 24 goals seems less important. Fulham have 34 points now in the league and it is looking like Fulham will be staying up, the magic number looks to be about 34 or 35 this eyar. They currently have a nine point leader on the drop zone and Fulham still have matches to play against cellar dwellers Stoke, Blackburn and Middlesbrough to go which if they win those, will ensure that Fulham will probably finish mid-table. There is an outside chance of European play next year. Wouldnt' that be a great change from relegation dogfights.

The Tempered Radical: Creativity is Dead, Ken. . .

When you hear some teachers and union leaders, one of the most common complaints about the current "regime" of schools and school curricula is that it does not foster creativity in kids. Such is the subject of a recent post by Bill Ferriter, The Tempered Radical. Bill tried creativity and was highly energized to do so, but ran into serious obstacles when it came to putting that energy into practice. Ferriter begins:
Last February, I stumbled across a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson titled Do Schools Kill Creativity that left me completely energized. In it, Robinson lays out a case for why creativity should be reintroduced to our classrooms that echoed themes being shared by writers like Daniel Pink, who argue that the most effective workers in tomorrow's world will be those who can innovate and find connections between and across disparate fields.

Knowing that my own practice did little to encourage creativity, I was challenged----and I spent the better part of the last 8 months trying to find ways to allow my students to spend more time creating and innovating.

My efforts have been a complete failure, though. (links in original omitted)
Bill covers a number of reasons why he believes that creativity is dead in the classroom. But one jumped out at me more than any other:
States define MASSIVE curricula for our kids: Regular Radical readers know how much I hate the required curricula that I'm expected to teach.

Like the $12 burrito you order at the local Taquerita when you're feeling randy, state curricula in almost every subject leave teachers and students feeling bloated and gassy. While we might enjoy the first few bites of our studies, by the end of the year, school becomes nothing more than a pleasure-less mechanical chew.
As Bill notes, he is not a big fan of the massive curricula that is processed and produced by our state and local boards of education.

As I have noted before myself, curricula are not educational documents. They are political documents. The curricula created for our schools is partly based in what adults think kids of a certain age should be learning and they probably do start as a real educational device, developed by a series of technocrats with relevant expertise (and yes, biases). But curricula have to be approved in what is an unabashedly political environment, even if the school board is nominally non-partisan or even appointed. The fact is that very few curriculum changes make it from the drawing board to the classroom in an intact fashion.

The result of all the poltical pressure that is brought to bear on the approval process is not a winnowing down to what is most important or even most relevant. Just like a legislative appropriations bill, the curriculum doesn't get smaller as it moves through the process, it gets bigger. And each time a school board or a state reviews a curriculum it doesn't do so from the viewpoint of making it smaller, but making it more "current" which ultimately means adding more to it.

The result is the very thing that Bill Ferriter and his colleagues denounce, a bloated, gassy, impossible to complete cirrculum. As a result, those things that teachers and unions want to see, i.e. professionals who craft and practice the art and science of teachers, creativity, discussion, in-depth discovery, get reduced in the process of having to check items off the curriculum checklist.

So what is the solution to curriculum bloat? Well that is a more delicate problem. Of course, the content has to be reconsidered, but that puts us into the same problem we have now, as the curriculum goes through the review process things will get added rather than deleted. As a starting point, we have to take a look at time. For the most part, in theory, a school as 180 days of instruction time. In reality though, when you take out all the time for testing, prep, school holidays and their attendant lost time before and after a holiday, a teacher might have 120-130 days of real instruction time. Take away another ten percent of time for the inevitable misunderstandings of concepts that will arise in students and you are left with perhaps 100-110 days of quality, new concept instruction time. From there you have to buil a curriculum that can be covered in just 100 days.

My sense is that if schools start with the notion that they really don't have a full 180 days of instruction time, you can start to build a real, realistic curriculum.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bad News/Good News for Aston Villa

Brad Guzan and Aston Villa got bounced from the UEFA Cup after losing to CSKA Moscow today 2-0. While it is a tough break for the Villans on the European front, it could turn out to the way Aston Villa end up in the Champions League next year.

Aston Villa have been bounced from all their cup competitions. They lost a couple of weeks ago to Everton in the FA Cup and now are out of the UEFA Cup. That means that Villa, in 4th place in the Premier League, have a Premier League only schedule for the remainder of the season. Their small squad won't be hampered by fixture congestion, tired players or lengthy travel for UEFA Cup games (flying to Moscow from England is a long plane ride).

So, while it sucks for Aston Villa, it may not suck for Aston Villa.

In Case You Still Doubt Soccer is a Game for Everyone

Check out these pictures from Stand Proud!! Stand Proud is a charity that looks after kids with leg and limb problems due to polio in the Congo.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fulham Advance to Quarterfinals In FA Cup

Clint Dempsey nets one and Bobby Zamora the clincher as the Cottagers advance to the quarterfinal round of the FA Cup on the back to two goals scored in the final 20 minutes at Craven Cottage.

the Whites face a tough one against Premier League leaders Manchester United. Last week, Fulham shipped three goals against the Red Devils. So the prospect of facing Manchester United again has to be a concern. The big advantage Fulham will hold is that they will be playing Man. U. at home.

The Most Ethical Congress Ever and a Transparent Government

A fund of hedge funds run by two members of Vice President Joe Biden's family was marketed exclusively by companies controlled by Texas financier R. Allen Stanford, who is facing Securities and Exchange Commission accusations of engaging in an $8 billion fraud.

The $50 million fund was jointly branded between the Bidens' Paradigm Global Advisors LLC and a Stanford Financial Group entity and was known as the Paradigm Stanford Capital Management Core Alternative Fund. Stanford-related companies marketed the fund to investors and also invested about $2.7 million of their own money in the fund, according to a lawyer for Paradigm. Paradigm Global Advisors is owned through a holding company by the vice president's son, Hunter, and Joe Biden's brother, James.
How will this be explained.

Talk About Mixed Signals

President Obama and the rest of the fear mongerers on Capitol Hill are saying that the recession will deepen and it is the most significant crisis in decades about our economy. Then you get this report from Ben Bernake.
In his semiannual report to the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke predicts the economy is likely to keep contracting in the first six months of 2009. But he also says "there is a reasonable prospect" the recession will end this year. He warns that a recovery will require getting credit and financial markets to operate normally.
So really which is it.

Is it bad, is it good? Huh?

Should Governors Be Allowed to Reject Some, but Not All Stimulus Funds

That is a dilemma that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants to prevent. Sen. Schumer sent a letter to the OMB Director urging an interpretation of the stimulus bill that provides that it is a take or leave type of situation.
“I urge the administration to issue implementation guidance clarifying that while any governor may exercise his or her discretion to accept or reject the federal funds provided in the stimulus, no Governor should have the authority to arbitrarily adopt a select subset of the overall package,” Schumer wrote.
Now three southern, Republican governors have indicated that they will not take all of the stimulus funds.

Here is the problem, the last time I checked we lived in a federal republic. That means that the states should not have something shoved down their throats.

Here is another thing, if Schumer doesn't like the fact that some governors might want to take some of the funds and not other funds, then it is within Congress's ability to make that change in the law. Why does Schumer need to ask OMB to make an interpretive ruling.

This is just symptomatic of Congress. They pass a trillion dollar package, pat themselves on the back for doing so and then leave it to flounder around for direction. There is no accountability. If OMB decides that the law does allow governors to pick and choose the funds to accept, then Schumer gets to whine a little more about executive authority or disregard.

Hey Senator Schumer, if you don't like what might happen, change the bloody law.

Here is more from Human Events.
In the first five weeks of his presidency, Barack Obama has acted so rashly that at least 11 states have decided that his brand of “hope” equates to an intolerable expansion of the federal government’s authority over the states. These states -- "Washington, New Hampshire, Arizona, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, [Minnesota]...Georgia," South Carolina, and Texas -- "have all introduced bills and resolutions" reminding Obama that the 10th Amendment protects the rights of the states, which are the rights of the people, by limting the power of the federal government. These resolutions call on Obama to “cease and desist” from his reckless government expansion and also indicate that federal laws and regulations implemented in violation of the 10th Amendment can be nullified by the states.
Are we looking at an assertion of states' right again? I would hope so.

Fairness Doctrine Rant

Only crybabies need a fairness doctrine.

Check out the latest rant by Alfonzo Rachel. Great message well couched.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Seriously, President Obama, are you the Chief Executive of Fantasyland

Or are you planning to tax America to death? President Obama has pledged, on the heels of a nearly $1 trillion stimulus bill, to half the federal deficit in the next four years.

I don't know what the exact amount of the deficit is, but I know it is in teh multi-trillion dollar range.
President Obama launched a "fiscal responsibility summit" at the White House today by vowing to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term in office, and he pledged to reinstate pay-as-you-go budgeting rules to prevent the government from spending money it does not have.
(Except for money allocated on my watch). Apparently pay-go budgeting doesn't apply to massive porkulus bills.
In a stern speech at the opening of the meeting of lawmakers, independent experts and advocates, Obama strongly denounced what he described as dishonest budgeting practices during the Bush administration, which he said had budgeted "zero dollars" for the Iraq war or for natural disasters, preferring to use emergency supplemental funds that entailed heavy deficit spending.
Look, the Bush Administration has much to answer for when it came to budgeting and spending and I am not letting them off the hook. I think the Bush White House needed to allocate more budget to the Iraq war, but really, how do you "budget for natural disasters." In essence, Obama is taking the Bush administration to task for spending too much on the Katrina? Or rather, for not budgeting the money for Katrina recovery. Seems a little squishy to me.

Unless the government drastically alters the manner in which it spends money, those tax cuts that were included in the stimulus bill will become a thing of the past and we will see more tax increases.

ACORN Takes Up New Fight

Remember ACORN, that group that was mobilizing and registering voters, often through means of registration fraud? Remember them. Well, it looks like breaking the law is pretty common place for the group, all under the rhubric of "Civil disobedience."Balitmore's has the story of how ACORN training people facing eviction on how to peacefully stay in their homes. They are doing it by breaking into foreclosed homes.

You should read "breaking into foreclosed homes" as "breaking into a house that you don't own or is owned by the bank." If you have been foreclosed on, you don't own the property anymore, that is what foreclosure means.
Near Patterson Park, the padlock on the door and the sign in the window tell part of Donna Hanks foreclosure story.

"The mortgage went up $300 in one month," said Hanks, former homeowner.

She says the bank refused to modify her loan and foreclosed, kicking her out of the house in September.

The community group ACORN calls Hanks a victim of predatory lending.

"This is our house now," said Louis Beverly, ACORN.

And on Thursday afternoon, they literally broke the foreclosure padlock right off the front door and then broke into the house, letting Hanks back in for the first time in months.
o here is a question for Ms. Hanks and Mr. Beverly, why did the payment go up $300 in one month? That's right, its called an adjustable rate mortgage and under those ARM's the lender had to give you at least 90 days notice that the payment was going up. What, you didn't see that term in the mortgage contract? You didn't see that notice of higher payment come to you? Why didn't you bring that to anyone's attention?

What you don't remember all those legal papers you got regarding the foreclosure on your house and informing you of your rights in the foreclosure?

Oh, you did? Then tough luck. You lost when you had chances to head the problem off long ago. I have little sympathy for you.

Yes, foreclosure sucks and it is happening to lots of people, but this action by ACORN is wrong. Where will ACORN be when Ms. Hanks is arrested for trespassing? Where will ACORN be when she is facing fines and jail time?

If ACORN wants to train people to take steps before their home is foreclosed on, more power to them. If they want to help people renegotiate their mortgages, good luck. But instructing people to trespass and helping them do that is a crime and that is unacceptable and ACORN needs to be held liable also. If I were the bank who owns the property, I would seek the arrest and criminal prosecution of ACORN as well as Ms. Hanks.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We Live in a Color Blind Society

Right? Well not so much, and to be honest, it is guys like Rep. James Clyburn who make it hard to ignore race:
The highest-ranking black congressman said Thursday that opposition to the federal stimulus package by southern GOP governors is "a slap in the face of African-Americans."

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said he was insulted when the governors of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and his home state, which have large black populations, said they might not accept some of the money from the $787 billion stimulus package.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday he would accept the money, and none of the others has rejected it outright. The Republican governors of Idaho and Alaska also said they had reservations about whether the money would come with too many strings attached, but Clyburn said he was particularly taken aback by southern governors who said they might decline it.

"These four governors represent states that are in the proverbial black belt," Clyburn said.

A spokesman for South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford accused Clyburn of playing the race card.
Clyburn is playing the race card and he is completely unembarrassed about it and that is the problem.

We cannot get past racial problems is people like Clyburn insist on raising the issue.

He doesn't care that Alaska and Idaho won't take the money, they don't have large minority populations.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Not Sportsmanship--Act of Humanity

Tahoo calles this story a story of great sportsmanship. It is not, it is an act of humanity and honor.

Go read it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Who Needs Congress?

Jerry Taylor makes the point:
Perhaps the most striking thing about Obama's proposed housing plan is this nugget from The New York Times: "Except for the provision that empowers bankruptcy judges, almost all of the other elements can be enacted by Mr. Obama without further action by Congress."

How have we gotten to the point where hundreds of billions of dollars can be spent and major initiatives undertaken merely on presidential whim? Answer: Congress has delegated so much power to the executive branch that the old rules we learned in high-school civics are now null and void. Those old rules, remember, held that the legislature made laws and the president executed laws. Now, Congress routinely delegates massive amounts of broad law-making authority to the president in order to avoid responsibility for anything. For a book-length treatment of this, see David Schoenbrod's Power Without Responsibility: How Congress Abuses the People Through Delegation. (links and emphasis in original)
It is not so much the fact that Congress delegates, since to a certain extent it is necessary since Congress itseld can barely agree as to what the law should be in a general sense, let alone what the fine details would have to be with regard to implementing the law. So I don't have a problem with delegation per se.

In this case, I have a problem with the scope of the delegation and that actual subject matter. If Congress wants to delegate to the Department of Agriculture the task of defining "organic" that is one thing. But here Congress has essentially delegated the power to determine how some $275 billion dollars will be spent. The last I checked, the power to appropriate money was clearly given to the Legislative Branch (and I haven't heard of a Constitutional Amendment otherwise). So Congress has essentially said to their Savior, "spend this massive chunk of the taxpayers in anyway you see fit. Pay no mind to the rules that say we, the Congress have to say how to spend the money. That is just a constituional inconvenience that we are going to care about."

Does the Congress routinely delegate some spending authority to executive branch agencies? Yes, but there are always guidelines. For example, if Congress says to the Pentagon, you have X number of dollarst to buy a new tank, the Pentagon usually has the authority to decide which tank to buy from which contractor.

With this housing money, the White House will essentially determine not only how to spend the money, but whether to spend the money and in what ways. That is too much power, I don't care how desperate the crisis is.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why? Why? Why?

Government Doubles Available Aid to Fannie and Freddie reads the headline on the Washington Post. Why?

What about these agencies that we have learned about over the years creates the benefit of the doubt that they know what they are doing.

Wal-Mart--Helping America Out

This time with free tax preparation services for people making less than $56,000.

After dropping over $250 at a nationally known tax prep service, I can tell you that preparing your taxes is unnecessarily expensive becasue the rules are unnecessarily arcane.

Transparency in the Obama White House

Well, not so much, more like opacity.
In his first weeks in office, President Barack Obama shut down his predecessor’s system for reviewing regulations, realigned and expanded two key White House policymaking bodies and extended economic sanctions against parties to the conflict in the African nation of Cote D’Ivoire.

Despite the intense scrutiny a president gets just after the inauguration, Obama managed to take all these actions with nary a mention from the White House press corps.

The moves escaped notice because they were never announced by the White House Press Office and were never placed on the White House web site.

They came to light only because the official paperwork was transmitted to the Federal Register, a dense daily compendium of regulatory actions and other formal notices prepared by the National Archives. They were published there several days after the fact.

A Politico review of Federal Register issuances since Obama took office found three executive orders, one presidential memorandum, one presidential notice, and one proclamation that went unannounced by the White House.

Two of Obama's actions on regulatory reform were spotted by bloggers, lobbying groups and trade publications after they emerged in the Federal Register.

There was no apparent rhyme or reason to the omissions. A proclamation Obama issued on February 2 for African-American History Month was e-mailed to the press and posted on the White House web site. But another presidential proclamation the same day for American Heart Month slipped by.

Such notices were routinely released by the White House press office during prior administrations — making their omission all the more unusual given Obama’s oft-repeated pledges of openness.
The White House said it was an oversight.

One or two proclamations are an oversight. Completely failing to mention a signficant change in the manner in which regularions are reviewed is not an oversight. You don't miss something that big.

You may think bloggers reading the federal register sounds like drudgery, but it is an important publication by the United States.

First Female In History Managing Men’s Game Today

The Offside has the story of Donna Powell, who may or may not be the first woman to manage a men's semi-pro team in a match. She got the job (a temporary job) by raising money.

Kinda cool, but the Offside also shares my skepticism that this is the first time at the semi-pro level. Still, I hope she does well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mexico: Not A Failed State--Unless You Are Sven Goran Erickson

The Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs had to deny that Mexico is a failed state:
The Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, rejects the idea that Mexico is a “failed State” due to the violence generated by organized crime, since the violence concentrates in mainly three states: Baja California, Chihuahua and Sinaloa. In a press conference with the Minister of Foreign Relations of Ireland, Michael Martin, she maintains that the perception of major violence in the country is the result of a strategy of organized crime groups. ”The level of violence that we are witnessing for the first time in Mexico, and that we deeply regret, has to do precisely with the strategy of those organized crime groups to intimidate the public, to give the impression that there is a major problem,” she affirmed. She added that the violence should be viewed as the result of the “decided action of the Mexican State to combat them.”
By the way, this is the same violence that Mexican national soccer team coach Sven Goran Erickson cited as the reason he doesn't like to leave his apartment.

Bailing out Carmakers asks why Congress and Detroit want the bailouts that reward uncompetitive car makers and bailout the Big Three.

To be fair though, Ford hasn't taken the bailout money--yet.

The Double Standard--Bush V. Obama on the Economy

Instapundit:"Now, imagine if President Bush had presided over a 2,000-point stock market tumble in the same time period — during the first few months of his presidency.” Make that first month, singular. Yeah, now that would absolutely have been Bush’s fault.

You Smell That, That is the Smell of Hypocrisy

The passage of the stimlus train wreck is loaded with opportunities to take Congress to task for being hypocritical. This Chicago Tribune piece doesn't disclose a hypocrisy per se, but you can bet one will be forthcoming when it comes time for the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill.
Washington, which has run up a $10.7 trillion national debt, wants to punish Wall Street execs for running their companies into the ground. How ironic.

President Barack Obama proposed that the salaries of top executives whose companies seek federal assistance be capped at $500,000 a year. Congress went further, moving to restrict performance bonuses for more employees at those companies.

The bonus language was inserted in the federal stimulus package by Sen. Christopher Dodd. You might think Dodd was offering this as penance for the preferential treatment on mortgages he received from Countrywide Financial Corp., which has been caught up in the subprime lending mess. But with this legislation Dodd is asking everyone else to do penance.

A lot of people are furious about the nation's economic meltdown and the gaudy sums that taxpayers have been asked to provide to shore up banks and other businesses. Hence the move to haul execs into brightly lit committee rooms for public shame sessions. Hence the move to cap their pay.
I don't agree with the idea of capping pay just to cap pay since these companies will not be able to retain quality CEOs who can go to other firms that haven't taken TARP money or any other bailout and get paid according to whatever measures they can negotiate. If bailed out companies can't compensate their CEOs and other top managers who turn the company around, then what these companies will get is lower quality CEOs. The companies will continue to struggle and likely will continue to need further bailing out.

A much better approach will be for significant deferment of bonuses based on real performance benchmarks. If Congress is going to limit pay until the bailout money is repaid, fine, but the CEOs will need some sort of incentive to stay with the foundering ship until it is salvaged, rescued and put back on a profitable and even keel. That means bonuses later on, deferred compensation, etc. Keep quality CEOs in place.

But this piece and the sentiment behind the reduced pay for CEOs leads to another question. How much will Congress give up to help the country along? The median net worth of a Member of Congress is nearly $750,000 and nearly 2 of every 3 Senators are millionaires.

Members of Congress get paid a pretty heft sum for their work. I am not saying they don't earn it, but it does make you wonder in this age of "sacrifice" that is being requested of Americans and more importantly their children and grandchildren, how much sacrifice will be borne by Congress?

Members of Congress also get a heft "Member's Rpresenttional Allowance" which they use to pay their staff, buy equipment, supplies and rent office space in their home districts. The MRA for 2009 is between $1.3 million and $1.6 million (Members in leadership posts get a bit more to cover additional staff). The MRA for Senators varies widely depending on the size of their state. So here is the question, will the Legislative Brach Appropriations bill have a reduction in the MRA for the coming years? Not a smaller increase, an actual reduction?

Will Members of Congress, most of whom are personally wealthy give us some of their pay just like they are asking of banking CEOs? After all, if it is good for private sector executives to reduce their pay, isn't it good enough for our lawmakers to reduce their pay? How about means testing their salary, i.e. if they have a net worth in excess of say $1 million, they give up 10% of their salary, with a sliding scale that says if the members net worth is greater than say $20 million, they get no salary at all?

I might see a pay raise this year, I am almost certain my wife will not, not even COLA incease (she works for the University of Maryland). If I have to bear the brunt, why aren't lawmakers (most of whom are millionaires) bearing some burden also?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sen. Leahy Calls for a "Truth Commission" on Bush Years

Yeah, this is a partisan move.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Feds to Target Lawyers in Fraud Cases

Hmmm. Interesting.

Rush Limbaugh, Free Speech and Lies

A few weeks ago, I posted about the Democratic petition regarding Rush Limbaugh. I thought the petition ludicrous and I still do.

But interestingly, I have gotten these remarkably similar comments from an Anonymous commenter.
rush limbaugh works for the ultra conservatives that made him. i have listened to his show and found out what he says is maybe 10%
truth the rest republican brainwashing that is lies. why even have him on the air. you get more truth by reading the national enquirer. with more talk shows coming up i assumed they were getting rid of the fat nazi.
and this one:
personally i think they should have the freedom of speech act placed upon conservative talk radio shows. if you reallly listen to what they are saying only 10% is truth the rest is propaganda lies. by having callers call in i think the facts will come out more.
I like the 10% truth meme, I find it amusing.

What is also obvious to me is that these two (I am assuming they are two different people) don't actually listen to Rush Limbaugh. If you listen long enough, he will almost always (probably 90% of the time) tell you where his source material comes from and you can look it up for yourself. But interestingly to me, is that they assume that only the TRUTH should be aired. Truth, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. (which as Obi Wan Kenobi once said, "A great many of the truths we cling to depend greatly upon our point of view.") Facts however are verifiable and Limbaugh relies on facts (of the verifiable kind) and the written words of others as material for his show.

But lets leave truth aside, it doesn't matter whethe Limbaugh is "true" or not. He will tell you (and often does) that his show first and foremost is designed to entertain as much as it is to inform. He can entertain and he is so good at it that he has probably the single most syndicated show in America. He makes good money for him, his syndicator and his advertisers.

The left seizes upon Rush Limbaugh because he can and does entertain, inform and yes, get a little outlandish at times. But rush Limbaugh is better at it than anyone else and the one thing lefties don't like is that someone is smarter than them, better at something than them and has the audacity to dare them to challenge him.

By the way, I wonder if I had posted comments like those on say the Huffington Post or some other lefty blog, would those comments have made it past a moderator? I have comment moderation to prevent comment spam, not to deny legitimate and even anonymous commenters (unless you language is vulgar or contains profanities on the George Carlin 7 Dirty Words list.)

My, My, My, Bloody Valentine

One would normally associate Valentine's day with love, and pink and that touchy, feely fuzzy stuff. For nearly 800 lawyers and legal staff around the country, Valentine's Day has another pink connotation--pink slips. the ABA has a couple of stories, here and here.

Six well-known law firms have announced attorney layoffs: Bryan Cave; Dechert; DLA Piper; Faegre & Benson; Goodwin Procter; and Holland & Knight. And significant staff layoffs may have been made at a seventh, although no official announcement has been made, according to Above the Law.

Additional cost-cutting measures, including a pay freeze, a pay cut and postponing the start date for incoming associates were also announced today by several law firms.

Citing the "deteriorating economic environment," megafirm DLA Piper tells the ABA Journal that it is reducing its U.S. roster by approximately 80 associates and 100 staff. "While we had hoped for a rebound in economic activity, we believe that a major improvement in 2009 is increasingly unlikely," according to the firm, which also implied that these layoffs will be the last for the foreseeable future.

After the DLA Piper news came word that Bryan Cave is eliminating 58 attorneys and 76 staff, that Holland & Knight is "restructuring" and laying off approximately 70 lawyers and 173 staff, and, via ATL, that Faegre & Benson is cutting 29 attorneys and has offered a "voluntary separation package" to an unknown number of staff.
and when that was not enough:
Epstein Becker & Green and Cozen O’Connor have confirmed layoffs, bringing to eight the number of well-known law firms that cut people yesterday. In all, 480 staffers and 317 lawyers were laid off—or a total of 797 jobs lost in one day.
Oh, it gets worse, more layoffs are expected.

I am now pretty happy that I am at a small firm and business is good for us.

Got Some Time On Your Hands for Public Service

You could read the Stimulus bill. It is posted here. I loved this little note at the Volokh Conspiracy:
UPDATE: One little addendum. On Wednesday, the House voted unanimously in support of an instruction that there be no vote on the final stimulus bill "unless the text of such agreement has been available to the managers in an electronic, searchable, and downloadable form for at least 48 hours." But this morning's news reports say the House will vote this afternoon.
Oh, and in case you didn't think it would happen, yep there be pork in that there spending whale, like this little gem:
The deal provides $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, for example, including money that could benefit a controversial proposal for a magnetic-levitation rail line between Disneyland, in California, and Las Vegas, a project favored by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). The 311-mph train could make the trip from Sin City to Tomorrowland in less than two hours, according to backers.
And if the Washington Post is reporting on it, you have to wonder how bad it really is.

So here are two questions, if President Obama said there would be no pork in the bill:

1. How will Obama classify these kinds of provisions?
2. If they are pork, does Obama have the gumption to veto the bill and tell Congress to send him a pork free bill?

My answers.
1. Spin like an F5 tornado in Kansas.
2. He doesn't have the huevos.

That Hurts!

The ABA Journal reports on a fourth year associate that was laid off twice in four month.

That has got to hurt.

A defense of mortgage modification in bankruptcy.

Eric Posner makes a defense for allowing bankruptcy courts to modify mortgages.
If people can strip down their mortgages in Chapter 13, they will be less likely to abandon their houses, and this will have positive effects on their neighborhood. It is possible that such a rule could increase the cost of credit, as Todd argues, but the opposite effect is just as likely. On the one hand, banks might be reluctant to extend credit if they know that, in effect, repayment amounts will be reduced if housing prices decline, or banks will raise interest rates to cover this risk. On the other hand, if the result is a reduced incidence of foreclosure, then banks will do better rather than worse, and so interest rates should fall. If the right to modify the mortgage is limited to cases of financial crisis (which is not in the current bills), then the positive or negative effect on the cost of credit will be correspondingly smaller, minimizing a risk of disruption in the mortgage market.

We have learned from this crisis that every mortgage imposes potentially serious negative externalities on third parties. When someone defaults and abandons his house, he causes harm to others. The law currently does not punish that person or try to deter him from what is essentially a kind of pollution (like abandoning a car in the street); any attempt to do that would be impractical. So in a second-best world in which wrongdoers cannot be punished for the harm they cause others, restrictions on the contracts that bring about this state of affairs may well be justified. That is what bankruptcy law has always done; mortgage modification is a further development in bankruptcy law that would be justified in crisis (and possibly even normal) conditions.
Posner makes a fair argument and not unconvincingly, but there is one drawback that I see, if the Bankruptcy Courts have the power to modify mortgages, how many people will go the bankruptcy route versus how many will simply abandon their mortgage? There is little incentive for big banks to renegotiate mortgages for anyone having trouble if the result will be abandonment or forced modification by the Courts.

D.C. United Owner: We're Moving to Prince George's - D.C. Wire -

The Washington Post is reporting that DC United is probably going to build its stadium in Prince George's County.
D.C. United owner Victor B. MacFarlane met with a group of Maryland state senators today and told them he is committed to moving his team to a new stadium in Prince George's County. And the team and county leaders have scheduled a news conference Monday to announce that they will introduce a legislative bill in the state house authorizing United to move to the county and work with the Maryland Stadium Authority.

"We think there will be a huge benefit to bringing DC United to Prince George's County," he told them.

MacFarlane has threatened to move out of D.C. before. But his renewed courtship of the Prince George's contingent comes less than two weeks after the District government's development partner dropped out of a deal at Poplar Point, MacFarlane's favored location for a new 27,000-seat stadium. United has played at 48-year-old Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium since the franchise was founded in the mid-1990s.

United is committed to building a 24,000 seat urban stadium in Prince George's, MacFarlane told the Marylane legislators. He said the team is looking at three sites -- two at the Morgan Blvd. Metro Station and one at the Largo Town Center Metro Station.
It has taken too long for the most successful franchise in MLS to get a stadium deal and I hope that the stadium will be built in the next couple of years.

For those without the geography knowledge, Prince George's County is on the eastern side of DC and the Morgan Blvd and Largo Town Center areas are just about in the middle of the county. Large Town Center is also not far from Fed Ex field, where the Washington Redskins throwball team plays. Once again DC's loss is Maryland's gain.

My only hope for the stadium right now is that it is set up for expansion later if necessary. Getting Barra Brava and the Screaming Eagles in a 24,000 seat stadium will create a fabulous atomosphere and with the size of the stadium and DC's ability to regularly draw 20,000+ for games (even Thursday games) will make a huge impact.

I would also imagine that the Washington Freedom of the WPS will also likely use the facility.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

USA 2:0 Mexico World Cup Qualifying

Last night in Columbus, the U.S. Men's National Team kept alive their unbeaten streak against Mexico and World Cup qualifying at home with a 2-0 win over El Tri. On the strength of two goals by Michael Bradley, the U.S., for the third straight game won 2-0 and the Mexicans look even further a shambolic mess. Mexican coach Sven-Goran Erikson might be for the sack this week.

The game included its usual beating up on each other, particularly in the second half with Marquez's karate kick against Tim Howard's left knee which earned him a straight red card in the 65th minute. There were some hard tackles and a little gamesmanship, but I have to give the Referee credit for calling a consistent game but keeping control and not letting the cheap shots get out of hand. I didn't see the Referee as being in the game and that is the best compliment I can give.

The U.S. line up was ultimately quite predictable. I would like to have seen Marvell Wynne at right back, but as the game wore on, I could see why Frankie Hejduk got the call. Bocanegra and Onyewu showed why they will be the starting center backs for the U.S. until the World Cup. I was surprised at the quality of DaMarcus Beasley, who hasn't gotten any real time with Rangers in the past months, and the strength of Brian Ching up top. Howard was just his normal consisten self and it is clear why he is one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League and if not the world.

Tactically, I think the U.S. was very solid. Both Hejduk and Heath Pearce were bombing up and down the wings with aplomb, making good crosses and really attacking well. Defensively, Hejduk was a machine, he didn't make mistakes, made great tackles and even after looking like he took a hard knock, stayed in the match and continued to contribute. Pearce is still about half a step too slow on the international level, but his positioning was solid and Boca and Gooch protect well for the marauding backs. The U.S. kept their shape in the back very well, were disciplined in keeping their line and aside from a couple of poor clearances, didn't really make any mistakes.

Offensively, the U.S. were very active off the ball, making runs, playing out of trouble and getting some good attacks going. They also spiced up the game pretty well, combining fast break counter attacks, crisp build ups, traditional down the wing and cross attacks and long range shooting to keep the Mexican defense honest. As usual, the Americans' skill on set pieces proved effective. The U.S., for the first time in while, looked very good with the ball, there were a lot of precise, one-touch, two-touch passes that were accurate and effectively worked the U.S. out of jams that previously would have resulted in turn-overs. It seems apparent to me that Bob Bradley has been emphasizing this aspect of the U.S. possession game a lot more and it proved effective.

I have only two small complaints and one larger complaint about the game. First, the U.S. tended to get bogged down on one side of the attack too much. They would start down one side and then instead of pulling back and quickly switching field, they would try to pursue the attack. Sometimes, the best way to go forward is to go backward and sideways. The Mexicans looked like they were ripe for getting burned on the weak side and the U.S. didn't really exploit it.

Second, toward the end of the game, Clint Dempsey was getting sucked into the middle a little too much, leaving a massive, gaping hole on the right side. If Mexico had a left sided attack that was worth anything, the U.S. could have gotten burned. But Hejduk was solid over there, but I don't know if Cherundolo or Wynne could have been as good.

Third and this is the big one, a number of U.S. breakouts and counterattacks are not being supported by the midfield coming forward and getting into position to take a quick cross or provide options for Donovan, Beasely or Ching/Altidore to exploit with the defense collapses on them during a counter attack. On no less that seven occaisions, a U.S. counter attack would materialize with a U.S. man getting on the ball deep in the Mexican defense but the defense would do a good job pushing the attack wide (just like they teach in junior soccer) but when Donovan or Ching or Beasley or later Altidore would look up and around, there was no one to play to. The central midfielders and weak side midfielders have to get down the pitch, have to get in position to receive a pass, a cross or poach a goal and it just wasn't happening.

I blame this on Bob Bradley, who tends to take a defensive set in big games like this. Taking a defensive set is not a bad thing, but if you are going to rely on the counter attack, you have to give your counters a chance of working, which means center midfielders like Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan have to get down the pitch and provide some options, make the defense think and either react or get burned.

The U.S.'s next match is March 28, 2009 against El Salvador in probably San Salvador. El Salvador came back last night from two goals down to earn a draw against Trinidad & Tobago in San Salvador. In the other CONCACAF match, Costa Rica grabbed a 2-0 win over Honduras in Estadio Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica. The standings after one game are

USA 1-0-0 3pts +2GD
Costa Rica 1-0-0 3pts +2GD
Trin & Tob. 0-0-1 1pt E
El Salvador 0-0-1 1pt E
Honduras 0-1-0 0pts -2GD
Mexico 0-1-0 0pts -2GD

Quick notes. Tim Howard is suspended from the next match due to yellow card accumulations (which is a bloody stupid rule that yellow cards carry over from the previous round). Brad Guzan will likely get the start with probably Troy Perkins being called in as the back up while Howard gets to stay home with his club at Everton.

Player Ratings



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Absolutely Shocking!!

Students in Chicago's public schools report physical assaults by teachers, coaches and staff.
An exclusive CBS 2 investigation discovered Treveon Martin is one of at least 818 Chicago Public School students, since 2003, to allege being battered by a teacher or an aide, coach, security guard, or even a principal. In most of those cases - 568 of them - Chicago Public School investigators determined the children were telling the truth.

"I'm thinking that I don't really feel safe," Martin said.

The 2 Investigators found reports of students beaten with broomsticks, whipped with belts, yard sticks, struck with staplers, choked, stomped on and pushed down stairs. One substitute teacher even fractured a student's neck.

But even more alarming, in the vast majority of cases, teachers found guilty were only given a slap on the wrist.
It seems as though Chicago Public Schools is not taking this seriously enough.

The Chicago News station asked Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about these charges, to which Duncan replied:
"If someone hits a student, they are going to be fired. It's very, very simple," Duncan said.

Before heading to Washington, he vowed to take action.

"Any founded allegation where an adult is hitting a child, hitting a student - they're going to be gone," Duncan said.
But like a lot of Obama administration official, rhetoric did not exactly match up with action:
But that's not what happened under Duncan's watch. Of the 568 verified cases, only 24 led to termination. Records show one teacher who quote "battered students for several years" was simply given a "warning" by the Board of Education.

And another student was given "100 licks with a belt." The abuse was substantiated, but the records show the teacher was not terminated.
To be honest, I don't know what to say. I believe that we have gotten too lenient with punishments in schools, but there is no cause for this kind of behavior and there is no excuse for not taking more drastic action.

If an allegation like this comes in and the investigator believes it to be true, then the teacher should be immeidately suspended and appropriate disciplinary actions taken. If it is proven that the teacher or staff member did in fact physically assualt a student (and I am not talking about simply escorting a student by their arm to their seat), then they should not only be fired, they should be charged with the crime and prosectuted to the fullest extent of the law, their license should be revoked and the fact that it has been revoked shared with all the other states so they can't simply go to another state to work.

So Much for "Bipartisanship"

Republicans Shut Out of Stimulus Conference Negotiations

Monday, February 09, 2009

U.S. Roster for Mexico Qualifyer

The U.S. Men's National Team will face Mexico in the opening match for both teams in the final CONCACAF World Cup qualifying campaing. The game is vitally important to both teams who are looking to secure three points at the start of the 10 game campaign this year. The twenty man roster was named over the weekend. Here is the list:

GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton FC)
DEFENDERS: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Danny Califf (FC Midtjylland), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS: DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), José Francisco Torres (Pachuca)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Xerez C.D.), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF) Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC), Landon Donovan (Bayern Munich)

To a certain extent the line-up picks itself. Here is who I think that Bradley will select:





Bench--Guzan, Wynne, Califf, Clark, Torres, Altidore, Davies
Scratched: Bornstein and Rodgers.

However, were I selecting the side, I would make the following changes to the starting line-up:

Torres in for Beasley: Torres is getting lots of playing time at Pachuca and Beasley is not getting minutes for Rangers. Simply selecting a form player for a non-form player.

Wynne for Hejduk: Wynne has more speed, more stamina and more of a chance to make it to the World Cup. He nees the experience and unlike the Sweden friendly, Wynne will be backstopped by Gooch and Boca.

Depending on the status of the game in the second half, look for Altidore to come on as a super sub and Ching to step aside. Torres will come in when Beasley runs out of gas at around the 60th minute.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Carnival of Maryland

Welcome to the 52nd Edition of the Carnival of Maryland. Take a gander around what the Maryland blogosphere has to offer.

The economy has business people worried about generating business (unless you are a foreclosure or bankruptcy lawyer), so Kenton Newby timely brings us 7 Low-Cost Online Marketing Strategies for Any Economy.

The only thing missing from ShoreIndie's post about the annual Polar Bear Plunge is picutres. Among other pols taking the plunge, U.S. Congressman Frank presents Kratovil got cold and wet. See what other famous Marylanders took the plunge (I was not among them).

Are you enemployed? Do you need a job? Do you live on the DelMarVa peninsula? If so, you need to see ShoreThings post on Jobs on Delmarva.

Are you a member of any social networking sites? Joyce Dowling questioned whether social networking sites are more than just a social tool, but could Facebook be used as a community organizing tool for Prince Georgians? Her conclusion?:
My final analysis after only a few months is that Facebook has limited usage as a community organizing tool. If people in your organization use it a lot, you can ask them to post events & links & even create a group there, but I'm not sure it will be any better for actual "organizing" than MySpace or LiveJournal. It is a good social networking tool, though, and has a better interface for keeping in touch with people than those.
I tend to agree. It is useful for communication, but unless you already have an organization, tools like Facebook, MySpace and the like really are good for starting an organization.

Do you hate aggressive drivers? I do, which is why I am happy that my commute is much shorter than it used to be. Doug Smith talks about presents Maryland Route 2 - Aggressive Driving Highway on Steroids:
Maryland Route 2 through Anne Arundel County and Calvert County is “THE” Aggressive Driver Highway on Steroids! Travel this highway at the speed limit and see what climbs up your tail pipe! The behavior of the majority of drivers on this highway is ABYSMAL.
I don't know if it is THE Aggressive Driving Highway but is probably is one of them at least.

I never really thought of Baltimore as actually insane. A little different, a little crazy, but OM insists that Baltimore must remain insane.

Mike Netherland takes issue with those people who use a double standard when talking about Israeli Children? and Palestinian children.
I must take issue with Saul Friedman's taking issue with his rabbi's letter in defense of Israel's right to self-defense, a right Mr. Friedman would deny Israel and her brave people. Why? Because "there's no excuse for killing children." Except, of course, if you are a Palestinian. Now Mr. Friedman's position is hardly new nor is the use of children and other innocents to attack Israel and defend Hamas.

Michael Swartz, the new capo di capo of the Maryland blogosphere, discusses demographic, voting trends and the need for education. My concern is not that young voters are liberal (it is easy to be liberal when you are used to your parents giving you almost everything and then wanting government to give you everything. My concern is not liberal viewpoints, but over reliance on the government to solve problems.

The Ridger finds beauty in the treachery of ice over snow that has plagued our area of late. See River of Light.

Zinzindor presents The Vegetable Menace. What's that you ask, a farmer at a farmer's market slicing the produce they sell--that is a No, No in MoCo.

Soccer Dad talks about Michael Phelps, marijuana and then and now.

Soccer Dad also talks about the General Assembly's ban of Facebook. Seriously, Delegates can't use it. What!?!?!?!

MBB presents a look at the federal stimulus package.

Bake My Fish presents Good Morning, Taiwan! posted at Boomer Twilight.

Joyce Dowling presents the story of Cheye Calvo and the growth of his Facebook group after the story in the Washington Post magazine about the raid on the Berwyn Heights mayor.

Finally, I offer the following post discussing tuition freezes at Maryland colleges and the inevitable massive hike that will come when the freeze is lifted.

I hope you take the time to visit these posts and support the writers.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Maryland--The Nanny State

Giving away a whole tomato at a Farmer's Market is OK. But you can't slice it up--that is not agricultural sales, but food service.


Wigan 0:0 Fulham

Fulham travelled to the JJB Stadium to face Wigan Athletic. The two sides came away with a point each in the midtable clash.

After twenty three games, the Whites have 30 points, putting them just six points away from the total from last year after 38 games. Fulham have two games in hand and 15 games left to play. Garnering forty points will almost assuredly see Fulham safe.

Fulham did have the better of play, but for the second week in a row, Wigan were able to keep a 0-0 draw.

Sayonara to Free Speech

That is if Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has her way:
Another Democratic U.S. senator has gone on record as supporting the reinstatement of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine," adding, "I feel like that's gonna happen."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told radio host and WND columnist Bill Press yesterday when asked about whether it was time to bring back the so-called "Fairness Doctrine": "I think it's absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it's called the Fairness Standard, whether it's called something else – I absolutely think it's time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves. I mean, our new president has talked rightly about accountability and transparency. You know, that we all have to step up and be responsible. And, I think in this case, there needs to be some accountability and standards put in place."
Accountability on the airwaves?

read that as no more conservative domination of talk radio or other media. If you can't win in the marketplace, change the rules.

Obama "Hope" Poster Artist Arrested

According to the Boston Globe
Shepard Fairey, the controversial street artist riding a roller coaster of publicity with his red, white, and blue posters of President Barack Obama, was arrested last night on his way to DJ an event kicking off his exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art.

Fairey, a 38-year-old known for his countercultural style, was arrested on two outstanding warrants and was being held at a police station, according to a police official with knowledge of the arrest who requested anonymity.
so here is a question, will USA Network stop touting him as Character Approved profile.

The Struggle to Remain Relevant: Cher Weighs In
Grammy award-winning singer and Academy award-winning actress Cher told that living under Republican rule almost “killed" her, and she does not understand why anyone would want to be a Republican.

She also said that President Barack Obama’s “intelligence” and “spirit” are “so great” he will be able to do “more than anyone could possibly do.”
I know this doesn't matter as much, but her former husband, the now deceased Rep. Sonny Bono was a Republican.

Apparently being married to one didn't kill her.

Friday, February 06, 2009

And This Woman is Two Heartbeats from the Oval Office

And Every Week, Nine Billion Americans Face Foreclosure. Yes, apparently she is that frakking stupid.

Md. State Senator Wants Obama Picture in Every State Building

The story, on its face is not something to which I would object.

But I wonder, will the rule continue to apply when Obama is no longer President? Why now?

Oh that's right, Sen. Lisa Gladden is an Obamaniac and therefore logic no longer applies.

Tuition Freezes at Maryland Colleges

We have all heard the horror stories of families and students facing massive increases in tuition at colleges, about how tuition and fees at univeristies have outstripped the rate of inflation, etc. However, it looks like in a couple of years University System of Maryland Students (including those a the flagship University of Maryland-College Park and the systems other institutions) could be facing a major tuition hike at one time, rather smaller increases over the course of a few years. Inside Charm City liks to the story. Shockingly, I find myself in agreement with State Senate President Mike Miller (which just makes me shudder):
The freeze on state university tuition - which Gov. Martin O’Malley wants to extend into a fourth year - is sure to score points with recession-weary voters. But critics wonder if it’s in the best interests of the universities.

Keeping tuition artificially low limits growth at a time when colleges are seeing record numbers of applications, and it stalls university improvements. And while state university students benefit from the freeze, those attending community colleges are not as fortunate. O’Malley has not provided money to hold the line on tuition for the 128,000 credit-earning students at community colleges.

The governor is up for re-election next year, and keeping tuition steady for the length of his tenure would be a tidy political victory to run on - especially when he will likely face criticism for raising taxes and failing to lower electricity bills. But the freeze is not final yet. It must be approved by the state legislature, where some are raising questions.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a famously loyal University of Maryland alumnus, said he thinks that O’Malley has “gone overboard” with the freeze and is setting the stage for a huge tuition increase.
O'Malley seemed to think it was a good thing that he was able to show two Maryland students who didn't see a tuition hike in their four years of college, but whenever costs are artificially held in check, there will come a reckoning.

Case in point, see the massive increases in utility bills when the electricity rate cap was lifted. After literally years of no increases in electricity rates, the state was forced a few years ago to lift the ban on rate increases because Baltimore Gas & Electric, Potomac Electric Power, and Allegheny Power (the three biggest utilities in the state) were on the verge of going out of business because the costs of generating and delivering electricity were far and away more costly that the companies were earning. The result when the cap was lifted was, no kidding, 100% to 200% increases in bills. The increases were so big and so bad, that the power companies had to arrange for plans to ease the increases in on some people.

The same thing will happen when the tuition freeze is lifted. Instead of a 3-5 or even 7 percent annual increases in tuition costs, you are going to see increases of 10-15 percent or even more in a single year. This will effectively price some students out of Maryland universities.

The tuition freeze also affects school budgets and capital improvement plans.

In short, this is just a dumb move. A tuition freeze distorts the market and when that freeze is lifted, the market will correct itself and it won't be pretty.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Wal-Mart's same-store sales rise in January: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

On strong volume. The Wal-Mart haters will start crying soon.

Atrological Discriminaion?

Austrian insurance company wants workers born under specific star signs. If you are a Capricorn, Taurus, Aquiarius, Aries or Leo, you are in, otherwise you need not apply?

Well, I would be in (Taurus), but I am not sure I would want a company that found a causation between my astrological sign and my productivity.

The Famous "Some" are Calling for Stupidity

The Boston Globe carried this "story" which said that some people are asking for trial of the Bush Administration for allegedly illegal practices.

Aside from not actually naming any of the "some people" you have to wonder what is actually "news" in this story.

The "journalist" Joseph Williams writes:
Though the full Senate confirmed Holder last night on a 75-to-21 vote, the debate had a partisan edge. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, scolded a small group of Republicans - Texas Republican John Cornyn, in particular - who threatened to block the nomination unless Holder promised he would not prosecute intelligence agents who participated in harsh interrogations.

Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Cornyn wanted Holder to "turn a blind eye to possible lawbreaking" before knowing whether it had actually occurred. "No one should be seeking to trade a vote for such a pledge," Leahy said.

Last month, Holder told the committee that waterboarding - a harsh interrogation technique the Bush administration apparently endorsed for use against top terror suspects - was torture. In theory, the attorney general has the discretion to take action or appoint an independent prosecutor if there were evidence of criminal wrongdoing. But politics - the appearance of partisanship, public opinion, and the president's agenda - would almost certainly play a role.

Last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top congressional Democrat, told Fox News Channel that she favors investigations of the Bush administration and is open to prosecutions, depending on the evidence. And House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers of Michigan plans to set up an independent criminal probe to find out whether Bush himself broke any laws by invading Iraq and authorizing aggressive interrogations.
See what is often missing from these kinds of news stories are the fact that there are infinitesimally small chances of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney being arrested and tried for anything. The taint of political retribution and the precedent it will set will be too great. So the "victims" of any prosecution will be lower level operatives who don't have the resources or the political capital to overcome the kangaroo court.

But this next little bit of "journalism" just absolutely chafed me:
Meanwhile, a recent poll indicates that about half of all Americans surveyed believe Bush should be investigated for potentially illegal activities - more fuel for grass-roots activists who are keeping up the pressure with protests, petitions, and websites.
That is it, there is no mention of who ran the "recent poll" what the actual results were or even when it was run. Yes, there are Americans who want investigations, but how many is another question.

The problem of course with doing these investigations now is what will they solve or resolve? If Bush (or way down the chain of command underlings) are found guilty, that hamstrings people going forward. Then there is the basic issue of whether what they did was actually illegal under American law at the time.

You also have the basic question of timing? Let's assume that the Bush Adminstration did indeed act illegally. Unless those illegal acts occurred in the final year of the Administration, why weren't investigations done then? Congress has the power, indeed the responsibility, to conduct investigations of executive branch activity. Why wait until after Bush is out of office to bring investigations? The Democratic Congress has been in power since 2006, right? What were they doing then?

Hey Congress, Don't Like Torture? Then Outlaw it

Daniel Henninger:
For the past few years, no word has been more casually thrown about than "torture." At the same time, no word has been less precisely defined. That suits Congress just fine, because it allows members to take a pass on defining the law while reserving the right to second-guess the poor souls on the front lines who actually have to make decisions about what the law means.

Last February, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thumped loudly when they sent George W. Bush a bill that would have limited the CIA to the interrogation techniques found in the Army Field Manual -- knowing full well that he would veto it. Now they have a Democratic president who says he shares their views. So why not send him a bill declaring once and for all that waterboarding and other interrogation techniques constitute torture?

Manifestly our system of government gives them the right to do so. As CIA Director Michael Hayden noted in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in September 2007, the "CIA operates only within the space given to us by the American people. . . . That space is defined by the policy makers we elect and the laws our representatives pass."

Of course, defining that space would require something in short supply in Washington: an adult conversation. In such a conversation, good men and women could present the case for enhanced interrogation without having their words twisted and finding themselves held up in public as latter-day Torquemadas. Such a conversation might also begin by examining the reigning assumption of today's debate: that context and circumstances have nothing to say about what we call torture.

This is not the reasoning we apply in other areas. Consider a police officer who kills a criminal in a justifiable shooting. We do not call that murder, because the circumstances surrounding the act determine our judgment of that act. If that's true for something as serious as killing, is it really impossible that similar reasoning might apply to interrogation practices that leave no permanent physical or mental damage?

At times, even critics inadvertently make the point. When it is argued, for example, that Navy Seals have undergone waterboarding as part of their training, the response is, well, waterboarding someone as part of his military training is different from waterboarding someone in custody. Yes: Of course it is. In the real world, circumstances and context are crucial to our moral judgments.
The unspoken argument in Henniger's piece is that in the current context and circumstances, passing such a law would require President Obama to take a stance on an issue that was easy to criticize as a candidate and much harder to implement as the President.

The fact that our govnerment has not passed a law (as Hayden suggested be done if you don't like the practice) is that in a certain context and a certain circumstance, not only would waterboarding yeild useful information, it may serve to save hundreds, thousands, even millions of lives. If the practice were outlawed explicitly, then if something bad happened and it came to light that some in custody had the information, what does the GOVERNMENT (now controlled by Democrats) say to that information?

The fact is that in the current context and circumstance, Congressional leaders (read Democrats) don't want to put themselves and their President in that position. The result of course is that Democrats look like political hacks and hypocrits. If it was wrong for George Bush to do it, isn't it just as wrong for Barack Obama to do it?

Five Cases to Watch at the Supreme Court

Most Americans hear and read commentary about the Supreme Court's constitutionald docket, cases involving the interpretation of individual rights. This not all that surprising, but many people don't realize that a very large chunk of the Supreme Court's docket consistents of business cases.'s Daniel Fisher has a review of five business cases that are somewhat interesting. The Hawaiian land case is interesting and could have implications for those people who are interested in changning the Court's interpretation from the 2005 Kelo decsion. Fisher description of that case:
Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs
That may be the situation with another history-laden case that pits Hawaii against groups representing native Hawaiians over the status of 1.2 million acres of land, 20% of the island state. In a 2008 ruling, the Hawaii Supreme Court blocked the sale of some of that land to a private developer, saying the state couldn't transfer any property until the Hawaii legislature resolved the question of whether native Hawaiians actually owned it.

The fight stems from the 1898 annexation of Hawaii, which Congress authorized and President McKinley signed after an earlier coup dethroned Queen Lili'Uokalani. Hawaii became a state in 1959, but the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a 1993 "Apology Resolution," in which Congress called the overthrow of the monarchy "illegal," reopened the question of who owns the land.

This is a tough one to call. The Supreme Court in 1984 upheld Hawaii's aggressive land-reform law, which forced large landowners to sell to homeowners at court-mandated prices to end, in the words of then-Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the state's "feudal land tenure system." That contributed to the Roberts court's contentious Kelo decision in 2005, upholding a Connecticut city's condemnation of private property for a commercial project.
Could a ruling regarding the ownership of 20% of Hawaii's land space end up in a reversal of Kelo? It may be possible.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Economic Mess and Journalism defines Solipsism as "extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one's feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption." That really is the only term that I can think of to describe this Frederick News-Post editorial.
A U.S. Senate hearing of Jan. 21 on the financial crisis asks, "Where were the watchdogs?" Well, don't look anytime soon for the traditional watchdogs to be on the lookout, as the newspaper industry falters more each day, scraping by with fewer resources at the same time it faces loomingly larger responsibilities.

As the traditional model of the newspaper industry continues to be degraded, our very democracy is threatened. How can newspapers be expected to serve as vigilant watchdogs when economic factors and insane banking practices slaughter major newspapers seemingly daily?

The very financial institutions that need watching the most are the ones responsible for pressuring newspapers out of existence. Does anyone out there see the irony?

Joe Leiberman asked, "Is the existing U.S. financial regulatory system adequately equipped to protect consumers, investors, and our economy?" A new report from the Government Accountability Office "lays out a very persuasive case that the answer to that big question is 'no.'"

Our very democracy is threatened by the fact that journalism, and specifically time-honored print journalism, is facing economic hardships that the industry may not survive. Layer on top of these dramatic industry changes this current economic crisis, and join the predictors of the newspapers' demise.
The FNP editors believe that the failing banks are punishing the newspapers they have lent to by forcing newspapers out of business and thus there are no watchdogs left.

This newspaper actually believes that because newspapers report news that might be harmful or critical of the banking system, that the banking system is out to get them. I am sorry, but that is the height of egotism. This newspaper is of the mindset that the financial and business crisis in the newspaper industry led to the demise of our financial system. Could there be connections? Maybe, I don't know enough to say for certain, but based on what I see, there are no causal connections.

Print media has been hammered by the rise of internet reporting, fast access, less than 24 hour newscycle cable news and interet reporting for long before our financial system began melting down. Would the financial mess have been headed off or made less worse if we knew about it from newspapers earlier? Perhaps, but unlikely.

Is journalism a watchdog in our society? Yes, I would say that journalism, whether in the august print medium the FNP lauds or the new, internet based media is a watchdog of government and society as a whole. There were lots of people raising red flags about the shaky financial structures in America and most of them were not journalists, but experts and insiders. The early information about the cracks in the structures were not from beat reporters but from people who reported directly to the world. The ease of putting ideas and information directly into the public sphere has rendered the printed newspaper a little less necessary than it used to be. The people that once were the "Deep Throats" and other sources for newspaper writers can now go straight to the public forum and be heard.

This editorial though highlights the problem of American print journalism--they have an over inflated sense of their place in the world.

cross posted at Red Maryland

A Headline That Gets Attention

Car Lands in Apartment. No one was hurt, thankfully.

Daschle Bows Out : 'I ... will not be a distraction' - Politico Staff -

"I ... will not be a distraction"

You Have Got to Be Kidding Me?

Another nominee, another tax problem. Seriously, it is not a trend, it is getting to be a prerequisite to getting a nomination.

Victor Davis Hanson on California

How did the biggest state get into such a big mess? There is no more evil "they" left to pay for all the "good" things "we" want.

Who is "we?"
So now those who want unchecked entitlements, open immigration, restrictions on resource development, unionized work forces and ever expanded government won—and won big. The problem is, again, the evil “they” who were to pay for all this in ever increased income and sales taxes, to take the blame of being racist, or sexist, or homophobic or greedy, are pretty much gone (cf. the last stand of the 1% of the state that pays the majority of state income taxes). There are no more “greedy” left to pay money or emotional penance, and the therapeutic mindset is now screaming to high heaven as it looks for its awful, but missing mean parent to make it all right.
My prediction?

California will not only shrink in economy, they may actually shrink in population and lose a Congressional seat in 2011.

Resurrection by Cloning?

Wasn't this the fundamental premise behind Jurassic Park?

Hilda Solis for Labor Secretary

Another problem on the horizon?
American Rights at Work is an important part of Big Labor's push for the Employee Free Choice Act, known more accurately as card check. A recent account in the lefty journal In These Times says that, "Early this year, unions plan to present 1 million signatures in support of EFCA to Congress, and they are calling on allies from civil rights, environment, religious and other movements to broaden the campaign beyond labor. American Rights at Work, a labor-founded coalition, is playing a leading role in this effort."

No one is accusing Solis of concealing her connection with the group; it was common knowledge in the labor world, and she listed it in the paperwork she submitted for her confirmation hearing. But she did not list it on the disclosure forms she was required to submit to the House of Representatives. It was an unpaid position, so there is no problem with income. But there are questions about whether Solis, as Treasurer, played a de facto role in the group's lobbying activity; if you're a member of Congress, you're not supposed to simultaneously lobby Congress. (Solis has told the Senate that she did not take part in the group's lobbying activities.) In any event, you're required to list your affiliation on disclosure documents, which Solis did not do. (On January 29, she filed amended disclosure forms with the House, listing her association with the labor group.) Some Senate Republicans don't view this as a major issue with the Solis nomination, but they do want to know more about her specific activities for American Rights at Work.