Talk About A Bad Day

This has to suck:

Thieves did more than just break into B.J. Miller’s tiny 10-by-20-foot rural home and make off with a few precious items. They took the whole house.

Authorities say it probably took thieves at least a day to take apart Miller’s small prefabricated home outside San Francisco. Its well pump and generator also vanished.

Miller lives in Berkeley, and the retired engineer was setting up the home over the past few months as a small vacation getaway place for his family.

He has put up a few posters with photos of the home, hoping someone will tip him off if the thieves try to sell the goods.

(via Drudge)








Solaris

I just saw Solaris, starring George Clooney, and I think it was one of the best sci-fi flicks I have seen in years. Why did I not hear anything about it? I highly recommend it.








Credibility Gap

I love the newfound partisan infatuation that the left-wing of the blogosphere has with Saudi Arabia. Some of us have been railing against the vile and corrupt House of Saud since day one, so it seems that what the left wing really cares about the House of Saud is getting rid of George Bush. Must they be so transparent?

At any rate, if you stack all of the Democrat criticisms up, they are riddled with inconsistencies and silliness. It is as if the Democrats want to practice a foriegn policy formed by a Tourette’s patient with a stack of NY Times back issues and a globe.

For those of you keeping track, the policy arguments from the left have gone something like this:

We shouldn’t lash out at Afghanistan in some sort of blind revenge, because you can not bomb people living in the stone ages back into the stone ages and because there is no evidence that they were behind 9/11 but all the Democrats are in favor of attacking Afghanistan because we have international support and they are not reflexively anti-war and Afghanistan is a quagmire with a brutal winter except that the only thing worse is the brutal summer and we have made the people hate us by killing only civilians and tribal warlords are not good allies and this is all about a pipeline and things are improving in Afghanistan but now we are dropping the ball because we are not giving them enough support and there is no money in the Bush budget for Afghanistan and things are getting better but now we are not paying enough attention and women still wear burka’s and it is good the Taliban is gone but our focus should have been Al Qaeda but once we catch them it is wrong to put them in Guantanamo and we are less secure than we were before we wiped out the Taliban and we did not kill enough Al Qaeda in the operations because the military is incompetent and George Bush sucks and the hawks misunderestimated the problem but we were not really attacking Al Qaeda because the Bush administration shifted the debate from Al Qaeda to the Taliban and we need more allies in the region but Musharraf is evil and what about Kashmir and oh, by the way, where is Osama?

Even though we said things were not better in Afghanistan things are getting worse now that we have shifted our focus to the unilateral war in Iraq and we all agree that he has WMD and is violating Security Council Policies and we are infavor of the war in a vote in Congress authorizing force but we don’t think that we should do it because the UN is unanimous but then they aren’t and they don’t want to invade and this is all about oil and Bush is stupid and fighting a jewish war because Saddam is no threat and we know he has violated Human Rights but what about Jenin and the UN is against this and we have no plan even though Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld have been planning this for two years and it will be a quagmire and we can not fight in the brutal summer and we need more allies even though this is unilateral and I told you so the war is a quagmire since we have not won in three days and soldiers are dying and what about civilians and the supply lines are too long and we don’t have enough troops and Baghdad has fallen but they still hate us and where is Saddam and it is still quagmirish and the civilians don’t have water and there is no electricity and the loyalists are still shooting at us because you see we had no plan even though we deposed the regime and there is no plan for reconstruction even though reconstruction is going according to the neocon plans and even though we all thought Saddam had WMD we can not find them so clearly Bush lied and we are not safer and who cares about the tortures and mass graves because we told you we knew about that and everyone knows Republicans don’t care about human rights and we need to win and have some finality but we should not kill Hussein or his sons because they should be tried as criminals even though we claim this is a war zone despite claiming Bush lied about the war being over but this is all about oil. Halliburton.

We have fought two wars and our policy is not humble and we had no evidence for either war but we were in favor of Afghanistan unless we were against Afghanistan because we should be attacking Saudi Arabia because we have more evidence and where are the WMD and where is Osama and why are we over extended and the military should get bigger while we should have a smaller military budget (butter, not guns, you know) and we are not safer despite no attacks at home and Bush is to blame for any future problems but deserves no credit for anything avoided and Dean should be President and Iraq is a quagmire and soldiers are dying because Bush lied and ok maybe things are a little better in Iraq but it is not because of us the UN could have done it better and we should listen to Shia clerics and yellowcake is a scandal and why are we not invading Saudi Arabia?

Dizzy? Me too.

BTW- I think everyone now attacking the House of Saud needs to run by Little Green Footballs and give them a big, fat apology.

*** Update ***

Originally I had a snarky comment and link to Oliver that I have removed once he clarified his position.








Face of the Left

Forget Howard Dean. If the GOp wants io be sure of victory in 2004, they should make Arnie Arnesen the face of the left. I had never seen her before, and I just got about five minutes of her on Hardball. Shrill voice, face scrunched up, lips pursed, screaming and ranting with that self-satisfied smug look of a toddler on a pot when she thought she had said something clever- she reminded me of everything I hate about the fringe. She reminded me of the strident leftist college profs who run around miserable, outraged at everything, incapable of smiling. Blech.








Bad Times for Davis

Looks like his support is eroding:

The Democratic split over Gov. Gray Davis’ strategy to survive a recall deepened Thursday, with top party leaders pledging to unite behind him even as prominent California Democrats — including Sen. Barbara Boxer — said the party may need a backup on the ballot if Davis loses.

State and national Democratic leaders told reporters in a conference call Thursday that the party is standing firmly behind Davis, despite calls from some congressional Democrats to draft Sen. Dianne Feinstein as an alternative candidate on the Oct. 7 ballot. Davis cannot put his own name on the list of candidates to replace him, and some Democrats want to make sure Californians have another party leader to vote for if the recall succeeds.

“At end of the day, there will be no Democrat on the ballot, other than Governor Davis,” said Art Torres, chairman of the California Democratic Party. “That is, no Democrat of any substance that can win a statewide election.”

If Gray Davis survives, it is only because of the unparalleled incompetence of the California Republican party. Remember, these are the guys who ran Simon instead of Riordan the last time.








Aww, Poor Babies

This is the sort of nauseating newsitorial from the NY Times that makes people want to puke. This liberal bias, Alterman, you twit:

When preparing for life on the legislative lam, it’s always a good idea to pack extra underwear.

As 11 Democratic state senators from Texas fled here to New Mexico on Monday to deny their Republican counterparts a quorum, their priorities had more to do with staving off a Republican redistricting effort than with basic personal needs.

One senator forgot his belt. Another had to leave a newborn daughter. A third left his two dogs unfed until a girlfriend came to the rescue.

Such is the life of political fugitives.

“No one’s ever prepared for something like this,” said Harold Cook, the lone Senate staff member to accompany the senators as they were spirited away on two private planes provided by supporters.

“We had to make a Wal-Mart run,” Mr. Cook said, “because one of the senators’ pants were falling down, and some people had forgotten cellphone batteries and underwear and stuff like that. It was the biggest mess.”

Yes, those Democrat heroes, sacrificing so they can maintain more seats than the voters really want.








If We Say it Often Enough, Maybe They Will Listen

From the NY Times:

The nation’s prison and jail population rose again last year, to 2,166,260, a record. The increase comes at a time when crime is falling and state and local governments are struggling to close budget deficits. The price of imprisoning so many Americans is too high, in scarce tax dollars and in wasted lives. Congress and state legislatures should find ways to reduce the number of people behind bars.

All together now:

Sensible Drug Laws (decriminalization and rehabilitation instead of prison time)
End Mandatory Minimums (Let judges do their damned jobs)
Quit gimmicks like the “Three Strikes” nonsense

And most of all, how bout trying a little rehabilitation with our punitive measures. A semi-literate, high-school drop-out felon who has been anal-raped for five years in Sing Sing is not a better job candidate AFTER his jail term than he was before. I wonder why?








Finally

Someone is finally standing up to the Ernst Hollings (D-Disney) and his gang of RIAA thugs:

The recording industry’s wave of subpoenas that target individual computer users has drawn the critical attention of at least one influential lawmaker on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who chairs the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, sent a letter to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on Thursday that criticized its recent spate of subpoenas and asked for detailed information on how the process is working. Coleman said the RIAA may be going too far.

“The industry has legitimate concerns about copyright infringement,” Coleman said in a statement. “Yet, the industry seems to have adopted a ‘shotgun’ approach that could potentially cause injury and harm to innocent people who may have simply been victims of circumstance, or possessing a lack of knowledge of the rules related to digital sharing of files.”

Atta boy Norm. Another good reason to have sent Mondale packing last year.








Political Quiz

Took the Politopia Quiz:

You would feel most at home in the Northwest region. You advocate a large degree of economic and personal freedom. Your neighbors include folks like Ayn Rand, Jesse Ventura, Milton Friedman, and Drew Carey, and may refer to themselves as “classical liberals,” “libertarians,” “market liberals,” “old whigs,” “objectivists,” “propertarians,” “agorists,” or “anarcho-capitalist.”

(via the Burnt Orange Report)








Lemme Get This Right

John Poindexter suggests some Orwellian Behemoth named Total Information Awareness, a plan that was clearly going to do for Civil Liberites what Manson did for tattoos, and all that happens is that there is a dull murmur throughout D.C. and the plan is changed (we think) and the name is changed.

Poindexter then suggests an innovative idea for a terror futures market, something that while sounding macrabe and unpleasant, could have some definite intelligence gathering utility, and a bunch of ill-informed neanderthals (Senators to you an me) manage to not only kill the idea but create enough of a stir so the man steps down?

I think I am living in Bizarro World. In the immortal words of convicted Democrat Jim Traficant, ‘Beam me up, Scotty!’

*** Update ***

Apparently, anyone an write op-eds about things they know nothing about:

Of course, no one expected DARPA’s John M. Poindexter notorious for his eventually overturned conviction for lying to Congress about Irangate to approach the problem from the perspective of economic theory. But what was he thinking? Did he believe there is widespread information about terrorist activity not currently being either captured or appropriately analyzed by the “experts” in the FBI and the CIA? Did he believe that the 1,000 people “selected” for the new futures program would have this information? If so, shouldn’t these people be investigated rather than rewarded?

Why then, if it was not going to be approached from the perspective of economic theory, was this the brainchild of ROBIN HANSEN, assistant professor of ECONOMICS at George Mason University, in conjunction with NET EXCHANGE (note to LA Times- Net Exchange is a CALIFORNIA firm).

*** Update #2 ****

Via A Fearful Symmetry, this William Gibson quote:

The last time DARPA got too imaginative, we wound up with the Internet.

Heh.








You Know Who You Are

Ricky J. West has an excellent post/rant up about the lunatic fringe that the left embraces- in fact, seems to be trumpeting in order to return to the halycon days of Democrat dominance on the national level. The left is very fond of tarring the right with their extremists- on some days, that seems to be the entire point of Dave Neiwert’s Orcinus (or, as I am fond of calling his site- “Republicans are Secretly Fascists and Most People Are Too Stupid To Recognize It”). If you think I am exxagerating about Neiwert, btw, check out the very first posting on his page- it is always the same- some variation of this meme:

I hate to keep sounding like a broken record, but the fascist motifs trickling their way into mainstream Republican politics (which is the focus of the “Rush” essay, of course) are starting to come fast and furious — at a much faster rate, I’m afraid, than I think most of us anticipated.

Tighten the tinfoil hat, Davey boy. If we really were fascists, we would have come for you long ago.

At any rate, in a nice how do you do, Ricky points out who the real meme spreaders are in the Democrat party:

Each and every link from this post was taken from moveon.org.

Yes, folks, the ‘darling’ of the left side of the blogosphere is the genesis of this entry (mostly pertaining to the WOT). The same moveon.org (in the form of peace.moveon.org) that used as one of its arguments against a war in Iraq that Hussein would use his WMDs against our soldiers (no note that he didn’t have them….back then). Or, if we acted, that Hussein would unleash his arsenal on Israel, who would (of course) use chemical or nuclear weapons. Which would then cause Pakistan to launch nukes against India (I kid you not). Or, if Israel didn’t do that, they might attack Iran. Or it could launch nukes against Jordan.

No, the examples given here are not ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ thought, IMO. They are reactionary at best and arguments put forth by folks who could be considered rather loony at worst. So, if you’re one of the people who signed up to vote in the ‘online’ primary or if you think moveon is such a great and forward-thinking entity, try to remember that most reactionaries consider themselves to be rather mainstream, as well.

And the best part is, Ricky has links to all of the nonsense. Go read it and enjoy, and then watch the memes trickle down from the lunatics like Chomsky, MoveOn.Org, Common Dreams, to the politicians and the respectable ‘moderate’ bloggers.

This is not to say the right does not have our share of headcases- the difference is we distance ourselves from ours- we don’t embrace them and say we need to get back to our ‘roots.’








Gay Marriage Debate

The Catholic church has come out with another strong condemnation of gay marriage, and once again, I am confused as to what the debate is really about. It is clear what the Vatican does not approve of (buggery of small children- we’ll get back to you on that one- consensual sex between consenting adults- jeebus, are you out of your mind?):

The Vatican today condemned gay marriages as “deviant” in a document that instructs clergy and Catholic politicians on how to stop the legislative momentum in favor of gay marriages in North America and Europe.

In a 12-page set of guidelines, issued with the approval of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith urged Catholic lawmakers to lobby and vote against bills that would recognize gay marriage, saying they have a “moral duty” to do so.

The congregation, which was formed in the sixteenth century to defend the church against heresy, defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman and said that “homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.”

So, the Vatican is against ANY recognition of marriage, same-sex unions, whatever you may call it. MY own personal stance is that I am in favor of extending the legal benefits of marriage to homosexual couples, I would just prefer that they use a name other than ‘marriage.’ I think many people would have no problem with a legal contract known as same-sex unions, but what seems inflammatory and troublesome is calling it marriage. Is this a middle ground that many others share?, or am I the only one who is nuts on this? My approach seems to be rather simple (I am opening myself up for accusations of simple-mindedness, I know), but it seems to me what upsets most people is the use of the term marriage, not the legal benefits or recognition of homosexual unions.

Am I way off base here?








It’s the Economy, Stupid

The Times has two encouraging stories for Bush, one of which is good news for all of us:

The U.S. economy, lifted by consumer and business spending, broke out of the doldrums and grew at an annual rate of 2.4 percent in the second quarter of 2003, the strongest showing in nearly a year.

The improvement in the gross domestic product in the April to June quarter, reported by the Commerce Department Thursday, came after two straight quarters of lousy economic growth. GDP increased at just a 1.4 percent pace in both the final quarter of 2002 and the first three months of this year.

Light at the end of the tunnel? For Bush, it seems that the tax cuts are coming when they are really needed:

The refund checks have started arriving, and for many residents here, the $400-a-child tax credit, part of President Bush’s latest effort to stimulate the economy, could not come at a better time.

Matt Ross, a father of two, said he intended to pay a few bills and, with school starting in a few weeks, buy new clothes for his children. Robert and Sharee McCutcheon, who also have two children, said their money would go for school supplies and Christmas presents. Roger Kintz, father of two girls, including an aspiring Olympic gymnast who is competing this week in Detroit, said his money would help pay for the trip.

Bridgett Bedwell, the mother of two boys, was thinking about her family dentist. “I’m fixing to have braces for my kids’ teeth,” she said. “That check really helps me out, especially when the braces are costing me $4,000.”

Spend. Spend. Spend. This is precisely what President Bush and Republican lawmakers were hoping for in enacting tax cuts that included an increase to $1,000 from $600 in the tax credit for children. Against concerns about the rising federal deficit (now projected at a record $455 billion) or the cost of maintaining troops in Iraq (almost $1 billion a week), supporters of the tax cuts, which passed the House largely on a party-line vote, argued that a sluggish economy was best improved by Americans’ keeping more of their money so they could spend it. On Friday, the Treasury Department began mailing out the first of more than 25 million checks, $400 for each child who was 16 or younger in 2002.

This graf really gives you some insight into how some Democrats think:

Others, less taken by Mr. Bush’s job performance, questioned the timing of the tax cut, suggesting either that the money could have been used for other things like “road improvements or construction projects,” Ms. Rinehart said or that the cut was a political tactic intended to gain support for the president’s re-election.

“In a way, $400 is not an extraordinary amount of money,” said Sara Rittenhouse, a nurse, who sat with her husband, Kevin, a firefighter, watching their 10-year-old son at a football practice. “But it seems to me it’s the kind of money that makes a difference to the people who don’t pay attention to the big political picture. I’m sure there are a lot better ways to spend the money. To me, it’s like a bribe.”

Bribed with your own money. Snicker.








Amusing Logic

Sometimes really smart people say stupid things. Last night, the NY Times had an article about the NYC school system that was a rather scathing indictment of some of the school policies:

Growing numbers of students most of them struggling academically are being pushed out of New York City’s school system and classified under bureaucratic categories that hide their failure to graduate.

Officially the city’s dropout rate hovers around 20 percent. But critics say that if the students who are pushed out were included, that number could be 25 to 30 percent.

The city data make it impossible to determine just how many students are being pushed out, where they are going and what becomes of them. But experts who have examined the statistics and administrators of high school equivalency programs say that the number of “pushouts” seems to be growing, with students shunted out at ever-younger ages.

Those students represent the unintended consequence of the effort to hold schools accountable for raising standards: As students are being spurred to new levels of academic achievement and required to pass stringent Regents exams to get their high school diplomas, many schools are trying to get rid of those who may tarnish the schools’ statistics by failing to graduate on time. Even though state law gives students the right to stay in high school until they are 21, many students are being counseled, or even forced, to leave long before then.

A couple of things- First, I almost fell out of my chair when I read that the dropout rate was 20%. To me, that reads as “20% of the population of school aged kids are going to be living off your tax dollar for the next 60 years.” You simply can not support yourself without a college education- you can, but it is very difficult. Trying to get by without a HS diploma seems absurd.

Second- Forcing people out of school is not an unintended consequence of enforcing standards. It is dereliction of duty by those entrusted to educate our youth.

Third- Not only is this a dereliction of duty, but, as the article CLEARLY STATES, it is AGAINST THE LAW.

So, back to the smart people who sometimes say dumb things. Check out Matt Yglesias’s take on the issue:

This underscores the broader problem with the recent conservative fetishization of “standards” and “accountability” as the solution to the nation’s education problems. People are, in general, quite good at meeting the standards you set out for them, provided that you provide them with adequate incentives to do so. The difficulty is that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and schools can devise all sorts of ways to meet standards that don’t involve or are antithetical to achieve the goals for which the standards are supposed to serve as proxies. This is not to say, of course, that one shouldn’t have any standards at all, but merely to point out that setting the standards and watching more and more schools meet the targets isn’t going to bring about any actual pedagogical improvements unless schools are also provided with the resources necessary to educate their students better.

Conservative fetishization. Resources. I guess demanding that children be able to read, write, perform basic math skills, and have a little knowledge of history is simply some conservative fetish. Apart from this being an absolutely absurd statement, Matt attempts to buiuld the argument that the reason this is happening is because of a lack of resources. Let me point out that last night, I read the article in its entirety. I did that again this morning. Nowhere in the article does it make the case that the reason for this is because of a ‘lack of resources.’ Indeed, the most cogent explanation offered in the article is the following:

Mr. Klein said he was not aware that the discharge issue had been brought to the department’s notice in prior years.

But two years ago, just before he left his post as chief of assessment and accountability, Robert Tobias recommended an audit after noticing a “heavy use of the discharge codes” under which students are no longer accounted for in a school’s graduation rate.

The discharge codes can be misused, he said, by classifying students who drop out of the system as having left the city. “It would be possible to inflate graduation rates and reduce your dropout rate,” said Mr. Tobias, who is now an education professor at New York University.

While the Department of Education classifies each student who leaves school under one of dozens of codes, it does not release or apparently even compile information on how many students leave under which circumstances and what becomes of them. Furthermore, students leaving in similar circumstances may be classified differently.

The accuracy of accounting for children who leave the system and the murkiness of the discharge codes, Mr. Tobias said, “really need some attention if you are going to tighten up on graduating and dropout rates.”

In other words, BUREAUCRATIC MALFEASANCE is the reason behind the discharges, and not a lack of resources. Matt is right, people are good at meeting standards when given an incentive. Here, the incentive was to not be labeled a failing school, and rather than re-work the curriculum, adopt new pedagogical strategies, etc., in order to meet those standards, they chose to play a numbers game.

The problem is, they can get away with it, because they can always count on people like Matt to run cover for them. You see- the real problem is a lack of resources and conservative fetishes. Not corrupt administrators, uncaring bureaucrats, and lazy teachers. We’ll give Matt a partial break, though- he did post that at 1 am, so he may have been drunk.








Support Our Troops

I saw this in the local newspaper last night (it is weird being at the parent’s house- at home I have no newspaper delivered because broadband lets me get to all the newspapers I want), and it just infuriated me:

Bellaire officials can legally eliminate the position of village street commissioner even though the employee is a U.S. soldier presently serving in the war with Iraq.

Bellaire Village Council is reviewing a plan containing ideas to reduce costs in the village, and one of those ideas is the elimination of the street commissioner’s position. The job is currently held by Vince DiFabrizio, who presently is serving with the 463rd Engineers Detachment 2 in the Persian Gulf.

Bellaire faces a projected general fund deficit of more than $100,000 this year, and this figure could be greater in 2004, Village Clerk Thomas Sable has informed council members. The salary for DiFabrizio, as street commissioner, is paid from street department funds and not from Bellaire’s general fund.

Belmont County Director of Veterans Affairs Cindy Maupin said terminating the position is legal, and DiFabrizio isn’t protected because he holds an appointed position.

“They can’t take away his job, but they can eliminate his appointed position,” she said. “If he were a union member, or if the position were a permanent job, the employer would be required to give him another position when he returns.

“He is not protected from having his position taken away because it is not considered a permanent job. As the mayor changes, the mayor can bring in his own person.”

Maupin, a former mayor’s secretary in Bellaire, is familiar with the employees there.

“I think it’s pretty bad that they’re talking about doing this, and (DiFabrizio) is not here to defend himself,” she added. “They’re doing this while he is gone.

“It’s not very nice, but there’s nothing that can really be done about it. If his were a permanent position, he would stand a chance in requesting another position within the city.”

Staff members in the office of U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, checked into the matter and discovered the same information. While federal law does protect the jobs of those called up for duty, employers may eliminate positions if it is deemed necessary for the “normal course of business.”

Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right.