Seriously, unironically, I hope Rush gets better.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Short memory department - Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" also managed to get on a plane, was noticed by passengers (they complained of a smoke smell in the cabin) and subdued by them. And yet conservatives say that there were no incidents of terrorism during Bush's watch. These same people are complaining that the incident involving Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab over the weekend constituted a MASSIVE FAILURE of the Obama administration to keep us safe.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Having given some thought to the statistic I quoted yesterday, about the likelihood of you being on a plane during a terrorist incident, I think I have found a way to improve the system. Some feel that security measures at airports are unnecessarily time-consuming and largely ineffective; others feel that they aren't draconian enough. Nobody is satisfied with them the way they are, even the people responsible for them.
I think the checkpoint is in the wrong place.
In most airports everybody passes through a massive bottleneck to get to the inner terminal, then they go on to their individual gates. The main checkpoint is run by the TSA.
Where the checkpoint should be is as close to the departure lounge as possible. And instead of one, there should be a lot of them. If possible one for each carrier. Virgin should have their own checkpoint, United should have theirs, and so on. And yes, the airlines should fund the whole thing and the government should get out of that business. The airlines can cooperate with the FBI or DHS but it should be their show.
What's to like about this? It allows the consumer to pick an airline that has the security level they're comfortable with. Maybe you're willing to pay more for a company that screens for shampoo, maybe you're not; in either event it's your choice and you're not a victim of some arcane policy decision. People like me who think there is little chance of hijackings and explosions would pay less and get on a plane where they just check your IDs and wave you through.
I'm not even sure it would add to the price of the ticket, but there would surely be a reduction in the federal debt. Maybe the lines would be shorter as well. And a free-market security solution would be more nimble and timely than one that relied on regulation.
What's not to like? Inconsistency I suppose; and worry about whether a terrorist would choose a difficult target because it represents a greater payoff in fear or an easier target because it's you know, easier. If you worry that the majority of airlines would opt for lighter measures because it's cheaper, then that's a problem but it means you also have less faith in free-market economics than you probably claim.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Courtesy Nate Silver: the odds against you being on a flight with an attempted terrorism incident during the last decade: less than 1 in 10 million. It's 1 in 500 thousand against you being struck by lightning, and yet we aren't all issued lightening rods. Just sayin'.
Yeah, I'm still cranky about the trip.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
McCarren Airport, California Pizza Kitchen - Greetings and I hope you had a Merry, Merry Xmas. Me, I've been in a self-imposed Christmas exile here in Las Vegas since Thursday night. I'll be posting some pictures when I get home but in the meantime here's few observations.
1. This is the trip that I have cemented the flying vs. driving rule - driving is always better. I don't know if my flight will be delayed today (so far it's on schedule) but it takes about five hours to drive from my front door to the Golden Nugget parking lot. On the other hand, a shuttle picked me up at 2:00 Thursday and I left Burbank Airport at 5:30, arriving at the hotel around 7:30pm. Had the flight left on time I wound have arrived in Vegas an hour earlier than driving, but it still woulda cost me $200 more, not counting cab fares, shuttles, and replacing the leatherman all-in-one repair tool that I carry around in my murse. Airport security, dontcha know.
Incidentally there was a terrorist incident on Friday but as of tonight security is no more irritating than usual. Uh... thanks?
2. To hell with the Golden Nugget. I have said that I like the place because it's cheaper than the strip hotels (located as it is on Fremont Street, downtown) and it's closer to the real, mob-controlled Rat Pack Vegas that I treasure. And that's all great but - it's surrounded by nothin'. The Nugget is the best you can do within walkind distance, and it's not so good. Very slow at Christmas. Hell, I wasn't even approached by hookers until Saturday. See below.
3. Hookers are just like Priceline.com. I'm telling you at the start of this anecdote I did not, and will not ever, pay for sex. It's not a morality issue with me; I'm just cheap.
So I'm wandering around the casino floor and there at the end of a row of slot machines a lovely young woman is standing, She says, "hi, can I talk to you?" I try to defer, telling her, "thanks, but I already know where this is going." However, I did sit down for a chat because I had no plans and time to kill. And at least she wasn't tying to sell me a timeshare.
I explained that I have no problem with hookers, only they're kind of like fish in a barrel to me and I prefer real fishing. She persisted though, and described a few services that she offered normally for around $200, and asked me what I'd be willing to pay for them. I said I wouldn't insult her with a figure. She said she just wanted me to name a figure.
$40, I said, which was what I had on me.
She said, that's too low. Maybe if you were willing to go a little over $50 we could make a deal. So I'm thinking she would have settled at $45 had I not walked away from the deal. Remember this, negotiators. If you're negotiating in Vegas, remember its legal there. Though probably not in the Golden Nugget Casino, so use that as leverage.
4. Most strangers think I have a British accent. I don't, honest. Listen to this if you don't believe me. It must be my esoteric word choice.
5. You've got to bet small to lose small. I think I lost $45 dollars over the whole 3.5 days. On gambling, wiseguy. It's just as entertaing to watch other people lose their money as it is to lose your own. Just remember to keep moving, so they don't blame their bad luck on ya.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
I'm pleased to see Factcheck.org still churning away at false claims in the media, and even more pleased that there isn't a detectable bias in who they target.
The list of howlers includes the false claim that the stimulus bill would dictate to doctors what procedures they can and can’t perform, and assertions that health care legislation would require seniors to get advice on how to commit suicide. Democrats exaggerated the problems their legislation aims to fix — at one point Obama falsely accused an insurance company of being responsible for the death of an Illinois cancer patient. We debunked claims that the "swine flu" vaccine had killed some U.S. sailors, and another claim that a bill passed by the House would require homeowners to make expensive energy-saving modifications to their homes before they would be allowed to sell them. We dealt with false claims about levitating trains, "green jobs," gun control and — still — Obama’s place of birth.Yeah, the left lies too. Go figure. What I am proud of is, unless I'm mistaken, I didn't quote any of this stuff as fact. Feel free to check me on this, but if you have the patience to wade through my blog you're a better man than I.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Great title, huh? Pretentious much?
This is interesting. Drew Westin talks about what we all know already - the only people Obama isn't losing support from are the ones who he never had a chance of getting it from in the first place.
As the president's job performance numbers and ratings on his handling of virtually every domestic issue have fallen below 50 percent, the Democratic base has become demoralized, and Independents have gone from his source of strength to his Achilles Heel, it's time to reflect on why. The conventional wisdom from the White House is those "pesky leftists" -- those bloggers and Vermont Governors and Senators who keep wanting real health reform, real financial reform, immigration reform not preceded by a year or two of raids that leave children without parents, and all the other changes we were supposed to believe in.My suspicion is that Obama's heart is in the right place, that he's governing from the center because that's what the American people have always wanted; that's what's necessary to heal the country after the Bush years. But he's early. He underestimated the desire for balance; that is, revenge.
Somehow the president has managed to turn a base of new and progressive voters he himself energized like no one else could in 2008 into the likely stay-at-home voters of 2010, souring an entire generation of young people to the political process. It isn't hard for them to see that the winners seem to be the same no matter who the voters select (Wall Street, big oil, big Pharma, the insurance industry). In fact, the president's leadership style, combined with the Democratic Congress's penchant for making its sausage in public and producing new and usually more tasteless recipes every day, has had a very high toll far from the left: smack in the center of the political spectrum.
By the way, for those readers who insist that Barack Obama is the leftiest leftist who ever governed from the far-left lefty left... ask the left about that one. Nixon was farther left than Obama.
The man is a savvy politician though. You don't come out ahead of that Clinton woman without knowing a thing or two about getting votes. So around this time next year you can see Obama abandoning any attempts to reach out the right (hopefully he'll still have fingers by then) and pushing for some REAL Socialism. He's gonna need the base back.
For the 2010 Congressional runs, I still think we have a Democratic majority. The economy is already stabilizing, the health care bill will prove to be a painless slight improvement and moderates will tend towards the party that believes in evolution and the other sciences. The supermajority of course, will be lost; that's fine with me. I'm not thrilled with supermajorities on either side.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Parker Griffith switches sides, goes Republican.
Whatever. That's his perogative. Me, I'd have waited a little closer to election time but it sounds from his record (and rhetoric) that he's always been closer to a Republican than a Democrat anyway. Good wishes and best of luck sir.
Monday, December 21, 2009
If someone threatens to filibuster, screw the supermajority - let them talk long into the night. I believe the filibusterer has more to fear. People who talk and talk and talk, especially under tense conditions without enough sleep, say stupid things. We got two pretty juicy ones out of the health care vote this weekend.
Sure all of those people are against Obama, but none of them are in the Senate. You can't pick who your ardent supporters are.
Across the aisle, we got this cranky guy.
At 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon -- nine hours before the 1 a.m. vote that would effectively clinch the legislation's passage -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) went to the Senate floor to propose a prayer. "What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight," he said. "That's what they ought to pray."Point is, whether these guys mean those attackable statements or not, would they have said them if they were on a normal schedule? I think not. I'd like to see less rancor in politics. But if there is rancor, let's have it out in the open. And if the party of NO!!!!! is threatening to put themselves in the position to sound even more rancorous... I dunno, it just seems unfair to deny me the entertainment.
It was difficult to escape the conclusion that Coburn was referring to the 92-year-old, wheelchair-bound Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) who has been in and out of hospitals and lay at home ailing. It would not be easy for Byrd to get out of bed in the wee hours with deep snow on the ground and ice on the roads -- but without his vote, Democrats wouldn't have the 60 they needed.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Couple of hours ago, as it turns out.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I’ve been around here 20-some years. First time I’ve ever seen a member denied an extra minute or two to finish his remarks. … I just haven’t seen it before myself. And I don’t like it. And I think it harms the comity of the Senate not to allow one of our members at least a minute. I’m sure that time is urgent here, but I doubt that it would be that urgent.
- John McCain, leaping to Sen Joe Liberman's defense when Al Franken denied his request for more time.
Alert researchers at Think Progress may have found an example of it happening before.
On October 10, 2002 — just ahead of the looming mid-term elections — the Senate rushed a debate on a war authorization giving President Bush the power to use force against Iraq. The resolution ultimately passed the Senate after midnight on an early Friday morning by a vote of 77-23.
During the course of the frenzied floor debate, then-Sen. Mark Dayton (D-MN) spoke in favor of an amendment offered by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) that would have restricted Bush’s constitutional powers to wage war against Iraq. After a minute and a half, Dayton ran out of time, prompting this exchange:Speaking of war funding debates:
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator’s time has expired.
Mr. DAYTON. I ask for unanimous consent that I have 30 seconds more to finish my remarks.
Mr. McCAIN. I object.
Byrd stepped in to grant Dayton time to finish his remarks. But just moments later, Byrd asked for more time to speak for himself. Again, McCain objected, prompting Byrd to chide him for doing so. “This shows the patience of a Senator,” Byrd said. “This clearly demonstrates that the train is coming down on us like a Mack truck, and we are not even going to consider a few extra minutes for this Senator.”
After being publicly shamed, McCain acquiesced to Byrd’s request. But moments later, McCain added this disclaimer: “I wish to say very briefly that I understand people have a desire to speak. We have a number of Senators who have not spoken on this issue. It is already looking as if we may be here well into this evening. From now on, I will be adhering strictly to the rules.”
"Playing politics with the critical funding that our troops need now is political theater of the worst kind." – Sen. John Cornyn, [Press Release, 4/26/07]This talk makes it interesting, the the fact that they Republicans attempted to filibuster a war funding bill this morning. Since only three republicans voted in favor of the bill, you have to hope that it was these three above or someone must feel very, very bad about themselves right now. Or they feel fine and they hate the troops. Mustn't dismiss the idea that some of them may be sleeper terrorists.
"We have plenty of time and plenty of opportunity to have political debates... but it’s just unconscionable to me to tie the hands of the very troops that we all say we support." – Sen. John Cornyn, [Transcript, Senate Republican News Briefing, 4/10/07]
"Every day we don’t fund our troops is a day their ability to fight this war is weakened." – Sen. Mitch McConnell, [Press Release, 3/31/07]
"No way to treat the troops, and it is entirely inconsistent with [Senators’] expressions of support for the troops." – Sen. Mitch McConnell, [Congressional Record, 10/4/07]
"I don't understand this attitude of, ‘We can play with; we can risk the lives of these troops by waiting until the last possible minute to get the funding to them." – Sen. Jon Kyl, [FOX News Transcript, 4/10/07]
"Our obligation to those troops must transcend politics." – Sen. Jon Kyl, [Press Release, 11/8/07]
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Mecklenburg County commissioners Chair Jennifer Roberts said Wednesday that colleague Bill James should apologize for using a slur during an exchange with another board member, and said she may ask commissioners whether to take any further action.
The incident occurred Tuesday during a meeting in which a majority of commissioners agreed to offer domestic-partner benefits to county workers in same-sex relationships starting in 2011.
Toward the end of an emotional, two-hour debate on the topic, James leaned over to commissioner Vilma Leake and asked: "Your son was a homo, really?"
Leake responded: "You're going to make me hurt you. Don't do that to me. Don't talk about my son."
Leake had just finished speaking about her personal connection to the debate, including mentioning her son's 1993 death from AIDS. "To be insensitive to that is completely inappropriate," Roberts said Wednesday. "I think he does owe her an apology."
Man, it's getting so you can't say ANYTHING in this country without someone getting upset. Am I right, racist homophobes?
But James said he won't apologize, and said he was only asking Leake to clarify an earlier comment she made about her son's death and his lifestyle. He said he wasn't making a derogatory comment, and used a slang word used when he was growing up.Incidentally I have no idea whether James is a Democrat or a Teabagger, and it hardly matters. Point is, this Leake woman needs to take a chill pill. She THREATENED a guy for requesting information! That bitch has to go.
"People can believe whatever they want, they can believe in the tooth fairy and legend of Atlantis," James said. "I don't determine what I do based on what people think. I determine it based on what I did and what I did was I asked a question and that question doesn't deserve or require an apology."
Here's an RNC talking point that caught on like wildfire: I first saw it a couple of days ago on the Facebook page of Maurice LeMarche, voice actor extrordinaire and staunch conservative.
Source: Dems Threaten Nelson In Pursuit of 60Maurice was furious with those ruthless Democrats for willing to shut down a vital defense of our nation just to push though their agenda. Admittedly he added this: "if true, the mind boggles." This turns out to have a been a prudent qualifier.
While the Democrats appease Senator Lieberman, they still have to worry about other recalcitrant Democrats including Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson. Though Lieberman has been out front in the fight against the public option and the Medicare buy-in, Nelson was critical of both. Now that those provisions appear to have been stripped from the bill, Lieberman may get on board, but Nelson's demand that taxpayer money not be used to fund abortion has still not been met. According to a Senate aide, the White House is now threatening to put Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base on the BRAC list if Nelson doesn't fall into line.
Offutt Air Force Base employs some 10,000 military and federal employees in Southeastern Nebraska. As our source put it, this is a "naked effort by Rahm Emanuel and the White House to extort Nelson's vote." They are "threatening to close a base vital to national security for what?" asked the Senate staffer.
Last night, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog that the “absurd rumor” of the threat was “completely baseless and false.” Nelson spokesman Jake Thompson also put out a statement, saying “The rumor is not true” and that “this misinformation is coming from inside-the-Beltway partisans who only want to derail health care reform.” Nelson himself told reporters today that no threat was made.So the White House says it isn't true (of course they would) but also Ben Nelson says it isn't true. Still there is the source.
In the interview, Goldfarb said that Emanuel “delivered” the “message to the Senate leadership” about Nelson and Offutt. When Beck interviewed Goldfarb later on his Fox show, Goldfarb “changed” his “story from this morning,” saying that rather than Emanuel it was “just someone in the White House.”Still just because no one involved will vouch for the story, still doesn't mean it didn't happen, right? Glenn Beck is being a sensible journalist by keeping this one alive. After all, Democrats are thugs. You saw the way one of them carved a B in that poor girls cheek! Or those AFL-CIO guys who savagely beat that man at the Teabagger rally! Or Harry Reid and ... uh... well, just look at him! Never forget!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Since I'm pretty depressed about the way the Senate version of the health care bill is shaping up, I'm going to write about something else. I will say that normally, I consider congress the idiots and senate the smart ones, so this is doubly depressing. Because now, it's clear Obama IS the one - the only man in Washington with brains.
Guy robs a bank, then mails the money back. Now that's a little passive-aggressive, dontcha think?
Roy Disney dies. I am almost prepared to forgive him for The Black Hole. Get back to me in a few years.
I have been cast as "Smith" in the West Valley Playhouse's production of Agatha Christie's Murder On The Nile. Any day spent above ground is a good day; but if I'm using my British accent it's even better. We go on at the end of January.
Dog without hind legs walks erect! Can human/animal hybrids be far behind?
Costco removes tomatoes from the shelves for Sara Palin visit. Considering recent spikes in the sales of rock salt and teabags, I think Costco missed a splendid marketing opportunity.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Ever wonder why zombies want to eat brains? So they can prevent strategizing like this.
Working with a professor and two other graduate students, Munz built a mathematical model of a city of one million residents, in which an outbreak occurs when a single zombie arrives in town. He based the speed of zombie infection on the general rules you see in George Romero movies: after getting bitten, people turn into zombies in 24 hours and sometimes don't realize what's happening to them until they change.Turns out the only thing that worked was smacking the zombies down quickly and early. Word to the wise, people!
When he ran the model on a computer, the results were bleak. "After 7 to 10 days, everyone was dead or undead," he says. He tried several counterattacks. Quarantining the zombies didn't work; it only bought a few extra days of survival for humanity. Even creating a "cure" for zombification led to a grim result. It was possible to save 10 to 15 percent of the population, but everyone else was a zombie. (The cure in his model wasn't permanent; the cured could be rebitten and rezombified.)
(h/t Boing Boing)
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
The news cycles have of late been tossing around Tiger Woods' personal life and Harry Reid's unfortunate allusion to slavery in a speech. I have little interest in Tiger Woods, though my friend A. is a writer for the Enquirer and he's spending an awful lot of time in Vegas this month. You want to know about it, check out his blog. Right, he doesn't have one.
Reid though, that's interesting. He's usually such a milquetoasty little man that the notion that he would say something offensive seems surreal. And make no mistake, he did go too far. At least he didn't invoke the Nazis, people! Still, if you'd asked me about this last night, I'd have said that you can feign outrage about it all you want, but Harry Reid will never back down! And then I'd have laughed that sad, bitter laugh I reserve for all occasions when Democrats wimp out about stuff, because getting Harry Reid to apologize is easy like Sunday morning. It's easy as pie. It's easier than Paris Hilton.
And yet he still hasn't apologized. What's up here? Is he busy? Are the microphones at his press conference area being worked on?
Probably he's aware that the Republican Level Of Outrage will not be lowered by an apology. I offer this reminder:
(Thanks to the IT guys at work, who decided to enable YouTube viewing in my office. So this is what the 22nd century looks like!)
Increasingly it looks like Democrats, knowing they have little to lose by baiting the right, are goin' for it. Fine with me. I bet it raises their poll numbers.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
At least according to these guys. I'd have written about this a long time ago but I just became aware of it this morning. I'd have probably expressed opinions like this and this and this.
Damn, I hate being late to a good party.
Thanks to WMK for pointing me at this.
The latest attempt to convince us that the rich are being unfairly burdoned by taxes comes from Mark J. Perry at the American Enterprise Institute. Did you know that the top 5% of the country now pay more taxes than the bottom 95%? You didn't? They got graphs!
This is not as big a deal as Perry is making out, but he's not lying either. Read the whole thing of course, but I'll quote a few salient paragraphs.
Tax Foundation economist Scott Hodge reports that “the percentage of tax returns with no liability was fairly low in the 1960s (only 16 percent in 1969) and again in the early 1980s (17.9 percent in 1984). A record had been set every year since 2002, as tax cuts throughout the Bush years, especially the refundable child tax credit, pushed low-to-middle income people off the tax rolls.”The truth that is hiding in plain sight here is that the graph doesn't document people who aren't paying taxes; it documents people who don't have taxes due when they file returns. In other words, people who have sufficient deductions during the year to cover their tax bill. If the rich are paying more when they file, it's simply because they're choosing to pay it then instead of deducting it in advance. Which is a pretty good strategy if you can swing it because you can keep your money longer and earn interest on it.
What are the implications of a rising number and percentage of “non-payers”?
1. American Enterprise Institute economist Alan Viard commented on Fox News that “there’s concern that when you have so many people not paying the most visible tax—the individual income tax—you might lose a certain check that otherwise would be in place on government spending.”
2. It also means that the burden of income taxes is falling on a shrinking percentage of income tax filers who actually pay taxes, especially higher income groups. As the chart below shows (data here), the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid 40.42 percent of all income taxes collected in 2007 ($451 billion), the highest share in modern history for that group, and more for the first time ever than the entire bottom 95 percent of taxpayers, who paid $439 billion, or 39.4 percent of the total.
Anyway, that's why you keep seeing "non-payers" in quotes, because they are actually paying. The blog post I'm quoting doesn't have anything to say about who among these groups pays the most taxes; just what they haven't witheld. I'm willing to stick with conventional wisdom until someone shows me otherwise.
Hat tip Think Progress
Thursday, December 03, 2009
From The Situation Room:
The argument falls apart when you realize that al Qaeda does not have its headquarters in Afghanistan anymore. It is headquartered in Pakistan. It is active in Somalia, and Yemen, North Africa, affiliates of it in Southeast Asia.
Why does it make sense to have a huge ground presence in Afghanistan to deal with a small al Qaeda contingent, when we don't do that in so many other countries where we're actually having some success without invading the country and attacking those that are part of al Qaeda? It doesn't make sense.
BLITZER: Well, here's how the president responds to that. I will play this clip from his speech last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We must deny al Qaeda a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I guess the main point he's trying to make is, if -- if the U.S. were to lose, let's say, in Afghanistan, just walk away, all those al Qaeda operatives who have crossed the border into Pakistan would simply go back to a pre-9/11 situation that the Taliban would control and give them that safe haven in Afghanistan.
FEINGOLD: That's an incredibly unlikely scenario, in my view, that al Qaeda would find that to be the ideal place to return to. The notion that the Taliban would automatically welcome them with open arms is questionable, in light of the fact that in the first place they came into Afghanistan with the Taliban's blessing because they had a lot of money to pass around.
Now they are hiding in caves in Pakistan. And I'm wondering why the president thinks he shouldn't have ground forces and troops in countries all over the world that are not only potential, but current safe havens for al Qaeda. Why aren't we doing that approach of a huge land presence in those places, as in Northern Africa, in Yemen and Somalia? It doesn't make sense. Why this one place, where it's not the place that al Qaeda actually is headquartered in?
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
I'm often criticized for worshipping everything Obama does (by people who literally cannot ever find a complimentary thing to say about him, even when he does exactly what they want him to do) so it's a weird pleasure for me to say this. I wish we weren't sending more troops to Afghanistan.