Archive for September, 2008

Here we go again

September 30, 2008

The mayor of Los Angeles gets the award for the worst timing ever:

LOS ANGELES – Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unveiled a $5 billion plan to provide 20,000 affordable homes in the city over the next five years, but acknowledged he’ll have to reach far and wide to raise the funds amid the financial meltdown.

Public financing for more affordable housing! What could possibly go wrong?

Cornering the market

September 30, 2008

Sometimes you can learn the most about something when people you would expect all to be on one side of the debate start arguing with each other. The folks over at the corner, National Review Online’s forum for all its writers, are having quite the set-to about the merits of the proposed $700 billion bailout. Mark R. Levin, for example, thanks House Republicans “for taking a bold stand against what had been a stampede on a scale I have never before witnessed on matters of huge consequence.” But Victor Davis Hanson doesn’t think much of them:

Free-market Republican House members gave high-minded speeches and then panicked in the face of populist outrage just when the country needed their calm, hand-in-glove with Democratic House ideologues — the one claiming we are getting socialism, the other robber-baron capitalism.They are as  captive to public outrage over the bailout now as they soon will be to the  next phase of outrage over shattered retirement accounts.

It looks like more of them are for the bailout than against. Bill “Stand athwart history and yell STOP!” Buckley must be turning over (to the right, of course) in his grave.

The leading edge

September 30, 2008

Here we are, in the vanguard:

USA Today on Friday examined efforts by abortion-rights opponents in Indiana to pass regulations at the county level to require doctors who perform the procedure to have admitting privileges at a local hospital after efforts to enact statewide legislation stalled. Some abortion-rights groups have said the strategy “might be the leading edge of a nationwide effort to limit access to the procedure” because some abortion clinics are staffed by physicians based elsewhere who likely do not have admitting privileges to local hospitals.

This is a pretty big deal no matter which side of the abortion debate you’re on. When we interview candidates for city and county offices, we usually don’t get into the social issues unless the candidates bring them up, because what to they have to do with such things? They get the roads paved and pay the police and louse up economic development and stuff like that. They don’t control who gets abortions. Just goes to show . . .

He’s baaaack!

September 30, 2008

Hey, it may be grim out there, gas and food prices might be sky high, the housing collapse is bringing down Wall Street, but better not mess with Santa:

But despite — and many argue because of — the depressing litany of news on everything from foreclosures to wrangling over a whopping $700 billion bailout for Wall Street, there is one item retailers dare not cut from their holiday lineup even if they’re looking to trim costs: Santa Claus.

 

“If any mall or department store in this country were to say they were not going to have Santa it would be suicide,” said Susen Mesco, president of Denver-based event planning company American Events. “No matter what other sacrifices they have to make, parents will take their kids to see Santa.”

Nice to know a few thousand men throughout the country are at least guaranteed temporary employment. But considering the Santa mentality in Washington that brought us to this point, I’d have thought most Americans would be pretty sick of the old gent.

Debatable

September 30, 2008

The Louisville Courier-Journal’s Lesley Stedman Weidenbener has some useful advice for political-debate watchers: Don’t believe everything you hear:

It was near the beginning of last Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate when Gov. Mitch Daniels started defending the cigarette tax increase he pushed through the General Assembly.

“Every penny went straight to insure uninsured Hoosiers in desperate need of health care and protection,” he said.

The problem is that Daniels was exaggerating a bit.

[. . .]

That’s not to say the governor is the only one making mistakes.

In last week’s debate, Democrat Jill Long Thompson mischaracterized a key recommendation from the Commission on Local Government Reform that Daniels appointed.

She said the commission recommended consolidating schools with fewer than 2,000 students, and that.schools should be left in smaller communities, not consolidated.

Actually, the commission recommended that districts — not individual schools — have no fewer than 2,000 students. In fact, the final report said Indiana did not have too many schools and it did not propose moving them from small towns.

I dunno. I’ve watched the two gubernatorial debates and the first presidential one, and I’ll probably catch Biden-Palen later this week. But I have to say the debates aren’t doing much for me. The candidates don’t really debate each other; they just stick to their talking points. And we know so much about the candidates from so many sources that the chance we will hear something new is negligible. The debates are for people who don’t already know much, but if they don’t know much by the time of the debates, it’s probably because they’re not interested, so why would they watch the debates?

I suppose there’s some value in seeing how the candidates perform under pressure, but “didn’t make any major gaffes” is a pretty weak reason to vote for someone. As far as I can see, about the only reason to watch them is to have the firsthand knowledge to be able to survive all the spin each camp will put on its candidate’s performance.

Nap attack

September 30, 2008

Well, teachers, welcome to the damn club:

MUNCIE — Like many Americans, teachers are running on a less than an optimal amount of sleep.

That lack of sleep could affect classroom teaching, according to a preliminary study by a Ball State University professor.

[. . .]

According to the analysis, a quarter of the 109 Delaware County teachers surveyed reported their teaching skills were diminished because of sleep deprivation. Half said they made errors because they lacked sleep. Sleepiness also caused teachers to be grouchy and forget words.

For what it’s worth, I can offer the teachers a bit of advice from my own school days. There was always at least one class in which it was possible to sit in the back row and catch a 5- or 10-minute nap.

Oh, wait . . .

Hoosier common sense

September 30, 2008

The Hoosier congressional delegation voted 6-3 against the number-picked-out-of-a-hat bailout:

Democrats Joe Donnelly and Brad Ellsworth and Republican Mark Souder voted to support the bill, while it opposed by Democrats Andre Carson, Baron Hill and Pete Visclosky and Republicans Dan Burton, Steve Buyer and Mike Pence:

Pence voted no because of a belief in personal responsibility and fiscal discipline. Hill said he had been “rushed to judgment by the Bush administration before.” Finally, a bipartisan accomplishment I can cheer. Mark Souder was the only Indiana Republican to vote for the plan. You’ve stayed too long at the party, Mark.

A blonde moment

September 30, 2008

With every news organization in the world writing about bailouts and meltdowns, I’m glad I still have my Newsweek to keep me up on the really important stuff:

She began doing research to answers questions about her own love life, and wound up writing a compact and witty compendium of all the latest science: “Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes?” (Delacourte, 2008). And yes, she does answer the title question: Blondes are more rare in most cultures, and do get more sexual attention, partially because they stand out. Light hair can also be a sign of youth—women’s hair tends to get darker as they get older.

But given what is preferred about blondes, it’s not really gentlemen preferring them, is it? Of course, this view pits me against the experts quoted by Newsweek, so perhaps I should tread softly.

A bailout is a bailout is a bailout

September 29, 2008

Buckle up, boys, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride:

Stocks on Wall Street took a blood bath Monday afternoon after the Treasury Department’s proposed aid package for the financial sector failed to pass the House of Representatives.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which sank as much as 705 points, was down 612 points to 10,530, and the S&P 500 lost 79 points to 1134. The Nasdaq plummeted 140 points to 2044.

See, the original reasons for the bailout don’t matter anymore. Now, we have to have the bailout because we said  there would be a bailout, and Wall Street is counting on it. The bailout is now self-justified. Brilliant!

Don’t worry, be happy

September 29, 2008

Why we can’t get along without Snopes.com:

Studies have shown that people will believe anything that’s repeated multiple times, which, in these days of mass e-mails, constitutes just about everything. It makes getting to the bottom of something a battle between our real desire for truth and the limits of our neurological makeup.

The bailout is needed. The bailout is needed. You are feeling relaxed. The bailout is good. You are feeling sleepy. The bailout is marvelous! You are feeling refreshed. The bailout is God’s plan. You are feeling euphoric. The bailout is God.

All worked up and no place to go

September 29, 2008

I don’t believe this for a single instant:

As Congress prepares to vote on a proposed economic rescue plan, opposition to the measure has declined significantly. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey conducted Sunday found that 33% of Likely Voters now favor the plan while 32% are opposed and 35% are not sure.

For proponents of the legislation, that’s a significant improvement. On Friday, just 24% of voters had supported the plan while 50% were opposed. Supporters of the legislation argue the plan to buy up bad mortgage debt from private firms is the surest way to free up credit for all Americans.

Most improvement in the “acceptance” of the bailout plan probably comes from a feeling of resignation. More and more people I talk to have come to the conclusion that the government is going to do exactly what it wants to no matter what people think or say, so what’s the point of getting all worked up about it? This is a dangerous attitude for a republic.

CCC

September 29, 2008

I know I rail against federal government programs, but one I have a soft spot for is Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, perhaps because I heard my dad tell so many stories about being a member. It did good work by getting things done that needed doing, and it put some money in the pockets of people who didn’t have any and showed them how to use it. The program was run by the Army and like an army — my dad said one of the things that happened was that the young men were sat down periodically and made to write letters home, and they had to send money home, too:

The foundation of the CCC was conservation work, and in the national park, corps workers built trails, fire towers, roads, bridges, back country shelters and the park centers at Sugarlands and Oconaluftee.

Unlike most government programs, the CCC actually did what the government said it was going to do and actually went away when it said it would. But you can still see evidence today in bridges and parks and roads and dams of the good work done. Today, of course, the need is for urban rather than rural infrastructure. In my non-libertarian moments, I wonder if a modern, urban version of the CCC would work.

Hoosier toss-up

September 29, 2008

NBC’s political blog, in noting the shift to Obama in recent polls, says Indiana is probably “the surprise of the cycle”:

The most surprising move in our map is Indiana, a state that no one believed was a new battleground — even when Obama’s team was first laying out its 25-30 state strategy. Indiana, in fact, is probably the surprise of the cycle. It’s a state that probably is somewhere BETWEEN Lean McCain and Toss-up, but because the state’s poll numbers look more like a Toss-up state than a Lean McCain state, we’re tipping it into the Toss-up category for now, especially since the RNC has decided to ad the state to its TV buy list.

What a year. Just weeks from the election, and both candidates are buying TV ads in the state. The blog also notes that McCain seems to do his best when he’s in trouble, so expect it to get even wilder from now on.

Break the law like a man!

September 29, 2008

Awww, them mean old policemans is spoling the widdle kids’ fun:

The multi-agency “raid” on an off-campus house Sept. 21, in which 37 Notre Dame students were arrested for underage drinking, must be one of the most colossal wastes of resources in St. Joseph’s County history. According to reports, members of SUDS, St. Joseph’s County Police, Indiana Excise Police and the Indiana State Police joined forces – not to break up a crack ring, but to arrest University of Notre Dame students who were drinking (gasp!) beer out of a keg. Yes, underage drinking is illegal, and yes, authorities are there to enforce the law. Nevertheless, instead of writing a few citations and breaking up the party, a patrolling officer felt it necessary to call in pretty much everyone but Patton’s First Infantry Division.

[. . .]

I hope the residents of South Bend will have enough sense to demand that their valuable police resources be spent on combating violent crime instead of repressing common college student behavior.

College students, meet Mahatma Gandhi: “When we do not like certain laws, we do not break the heads of the law-givers but we suffer and do not submit to the laws. That we should obey laws whether good or bad is a new-fangled notion. There was no such thing in former days. The people disregarded those laws they did not like and suffered the penalties for their breach.” If the no-drinking-by-minors laws are oppressing you, disobey them. If you get caught disobeying them, pay the penalties prescribed. No whining allowed.

Lesson over. You may now go back to your next how-to-save-the-planet class.

Cheap shot

September 29, 2008

I confess to not having followed the attorney general’s race closely, so I can’t say much yet about how the candidates compare. The Republican is currently the chieft deputy of the office, so that would seem to make him more qualified than the Democrat. But I don’t think much of this campaign tactic:

MUNCIE — The Indiana Republican Party is questioning whether Linda Pence, the Democratic nominee for Indiana attorney general, can be trusted to head that office, given some of the clients that she has defended.

Linda Pence has a long client list full of bad actors and corrupt figures,” said Jay Kenworthy, GOP communications director. “While Linda Pence has been out trying to get reduced penalties for companies like CR3 and Rieth-Riley, Greg Zoeller has been working for the taxpayers of Indiana, protecting their tax dollars and keeping the criminals in jail.”

The 53-year-old Zoeller, the Republican nominee, is chief deputy attorney general under Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter.

Besides being a defense attorney, Pence is a former federal prosecutor who also successfully represented the state in the White River fish kill litigation.

Even “bad actors and corrupt figures” deserve a vigorous defense — if I understand our system, they are even especially deserving. When Pence was a federal prosecutor and represented the state, which was Indiana, a bad actor or a corrupt figure? Attorneys should be judged by their loyalty to the integrity of the legal system, not the character of their clients, and Zoeller certainly knows this even if the state Republican Party doesn’t. What a stupid cheap shot.

Credit where credit is due

September 29, 2008

Heaven forbid we should tighten credit:

I will continue supporting efforts to pass legislation to restore credit flow to homeowners, businesses, farmers and all the people who, by the very nature of their businesses, need to borrow money to maintain their activity and keep employees,” Lugar said Friday.

That’s Lugar speaking in favor of the $700 billion buyout; he ignores the fact that an addiction to credit is what got us here in the first place. This is Mike Pence speaking against the bailout:

“Republicans improved this bill, but it remains the largest corporate bailout in American history, forever changes the relationship between government and the financial sector, and passes the cost along to the American people,” Pence wrote. “I cannot support it.”

Good for him. Of all that was said by all the pundits and politicians about the bailout in the last few days, Jay Leno had the best observation: A failed president and a failed Congress invest $700 billion of your money in failed businesses. Believe me, this can’t fail.

DUIcycle

September 29, 2008

The chain-reaction accident in which two dump trucks hit a school bus, killing four special-needs children, apparently started all because of this slug:

According to The Cass County Sheriff office, the dump truck that hit the school bus swerved to miss a motor scooter ridden by Raymond Gust. Gust had slowed to turn into his driveway off U.S. 24, forcing the dump truck to try to avoid him.

Gust declined to talk to Eyewitness News on camera, but told us he didn’t see the two dump trucks coming up behind him.

Records from the Cass County Sheriff Office show that Gust has been convicted five times for driving related offenses and had his license suspended 11 times. His scooter is his only transportation.

Since this guy has a history of losing his license, I presume the story should have been talking about a moped. If it goes more than 25 miles an hour, it’s classified as a scooter and has to follow the same laws as a motorcycle. Does anyone else think it is insane for the state to allow people not deemed fit to drive to be able to weave in and out of traffic at 25 mph on vehicles that aren’t even licensed, insured or regulated?

Power play

September 29, 2008

The things they teach in school these days:

SOUTH BEND — Carmen Chandler, 19, didn’t have a favorite in the presidential race before Friday night’s televised debate between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama.

“Now I’m leaning toward Obama,” she said afterward.

Chandler, an Indiana University South Bend student from Mishawaka, was disturbed by McCain’s support for additional nuclear power plants. “I’m an environmentalist,” she said.

Yes, nuclear power would be so much worse for the environment than that wonderful burn-more-coal plan. I hate to break it to her, but nuclear power is one of the many things Obama isn’t quite as against as he originally seemed to be.

It’s on

September 26, 2008

Looks like McCain blinked:

Republican John McCain agreed to attend the first presidential debate tonight even though Congress doesn’t have a bailout deal, reversing an earlier decision to delay the event until Washington had taken action to address the crisis.

With less than 10 hours until the debate was scheduled to start, the McCain campaign announced that the Arizona senator would travel to the University of Mississippi. The campaign said that afterward McCain would fly back to Washington to continue working on the financial crisis.

Still wish they’d change the topic from foreign policy to economics. Maybe there can be some creativity in the questions. “Assume you are the president of Russia, and a subprime meltdown is imminent in Georgia. Would you buy up the bad paper or send in the tanks, and what would you expect Washington’s reaction to be?”

In service to history

September 26, 2008

I’ve always thought it would be a nightmare to live in a historic preservation district where you have to get permission from the governing board of busybodies before you even paint your house. And heaven forbid there should be an emergency:

MADISON, Ind. – A preservationist in this historic Ohio River town is worried that homeowners repairing damage from a recent windstorm might alter their home’s historic character.

Madison Historic Board member Rich Murray asked the board Monday to consider weekly meetings for the next six weeks to handle what he predicted would be a wave of applications from people seeking to repair homes damaged in the Sept. 14 windstorm.

Wind damage was reported throughout Madison’s National Historic Landmark district, which encompasses the downtown area of the city about 40 miles northeast of Louisville, Ky.

Historic Board chairman Tony Hertz told Murray that a property owner does not have to get the board’s approval if repairs are made using the same materials and the appearance is not changed.

History must be served! The rules must be followed! You must obey! And the official language will be Swedish! Silence!

Out there

September 26, 2008

Well, duh:

Mankind’s very survival depends on the future exploration of space, said NASA chief Michael Griffin in an interview with AFP marking the 50th anniversary of the US space agency.

This journey, said the veteran physicist and aerospace engineer, is full of unknowns and has only just begun.

“Does the survival of human kind depend upon it? I think so,” he said.

Griffin compared the first walk on the Moon with Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas.

 

Even as a conservative/libertarian penny pincher, I would have been OK with the government backing Columbus on his explorations, and I wish we were spending more on space. That’s not to say NASA has always spent money wisely, but does anybody honestly think private enterprise is going to get us off this planet? No matter how much the green movement extends the life of Mother Earth, our future is out there, not here. Humankind is meant to explore. Move it on, move it on.

Failing the basics

September 26, 2008

The city is busy making patches to keep its Harrison Square deal from falling apart and trying to recover from the hash it has made of the public safety academy. In the meantime, it is flunking the fundamentals by losing a neighborhood:

The emotion poured out of Sara Tracey on Wednesday as she stared at the bullet hole about 2 feet above her front door at 4035 Reed St.: The fear she felt Tuesday night after plaster from the bullet striking the home sprayed her and her six young children as they did homework in the living room.

[. . .]

Tracey’s home was one of at least three hit by gunshots, along with a pickup, when a gunfight broke out around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday among several men in front of 4030 Reed St. and those inside a passing car, according to witnesses and Fort Wayne Police.

Witnesses said they heard approximately 20 shots and saw the men picking up shell casings outside 4030 Reed St. Police seized two semiautomatic rifles from the home and detained several men. Angela Graham, who lives in the home, declined comment Wednesday.

This is basic stuff. Before you build baseball stadiums or enter into elaborate public-private relationships, you pave the streets and get the trash hauled and fix the streetlights and make people feel safe in their neighborhoods.

This shootout happened just a few blocks from Reed and Senate, where my parents were finally able to buy their own house. After my father died, my mother and sister lived there, until the night bullets hit the house. We never did find out what actually happened, but the consensus seemed to be that it was a gang initiation — drive by a few houses and toss a few bullets in, welcome to the club. The bullets went into the wall just a couple of feet above my sister’s bed. She had been sitting up, reading, and had just lain down. A minute or two earlier, and she would have been killed.

We got my mother and sister out of that house in a few days and into an apartment on the north side. I’ve never been anywhere near that neighborhhod since, and I never intend to be. As far as I’m concerned, they can start at Reed and Senate and just start razing the whole neighborhood from there.

I realize my attitude can be attacked as unhelpful, but do you think I’m the only one who feels that way? How do the people feel who are still trapped in that neighborhhood? If I were still there, I would let the city know that the situation is unacceptable. Commit whatever resources are necessary. Put a cop on every corner and keep them there till all the thugs are gone or dead.

Turn out the lights

September 26, 2008

Well, hell, let’s bail them out, too. What’s a lousy $1 billion considering the numbers we’re talking about today?  As a matter of fact, everybody get in line. Airlines, you’re right behind the automakers. One-chair barber shops, come on down!

In an effort to combat its budget deficit of over $1 billion, the United States Postal Service is, allegedly, trying to upsell its premium services while hiding its less expensive options.

According to an anonymous source, the USPS has instructed its employees to stop offering inexpensive shipping; whenever customers come in with anything larger than a letter, employees are supposed to ask if they want Express Mail guaranteed overnight delivery or Priority Mail. If the customer asks about cheaper options, the employee is then allowed to discuss First Class, Parcel Post, or Media Mail. The key element here is that the customer has to mention the cheaper options, as the counterperson can’t.

I’ve spent most of my adult life arguing against the incremental growth in the federal government’s power, reach and cost. Unless the House Republicans, God bless them, can hold the line, the  government is going to grow more in one bold, bad move than it has in my lifetime. This is being done in one of those wonderful bipartisan moves by the Democrats and Republicans who blame each other (correctly) for creating the mess in the first place. And in just a few weeks, we are going to elect a president (it really doesn’t matter which one) who will keep the growth going.

I hope all you communitarian redistributionists are happy. We’re about to get the government you always thought you wanted, and God help us all.

Glad to be (far) from Fort Wayne

September 25, 2008

Former Fort Wayne resident Amy Wellborn considers this “one of the oddest places” she’s ever lived. Her lengthy post mostly is about Fort Wayne’s parochialism and resistance to change:

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to blame it all on the Amish. Seriously.

There is a fairly substantial Amish population in Northern Indiana, and I finally concluded that the Germans who settled and shaped Fort Wayne, even if they were not actually Amish, still bore a bit of that suspicious, stubborn, closed-in, parochial sensibility. There’s a fear of giving you too much access to the outside world – it might look too pretty, it might attract you, and you might want to escape. Can’t have that. So we will decline the direct interstate links, we will not develop the rivers that run right through the middle of town and that, in any other city, are a center of life and development, and we will resent the new.

Some people will resent her for bashing the Summit City, but it would be pretty silly to deny the resistance of the new here. Hell, that defines Fort Wayne. But there is good and bad in that. It can keep a place from growing and stretching to find itself, just like it can a person. But it can also keep us from us from doing some stupid and rash things, or at least delay them a little.

(via Common Sensibilities)

New life for Brian

September 25, 2008

The planet has just gained a little in its supply of common sense:

There was a huge controversy when the silly burghers of Torbay in Devon slapped an X-rating on the Life Of Brian movie.

They accused the Python team of blasphemy and mocking the story of Christ.

But a local film festival asked for permission to show the 1979 classic on Sunday and officials in Torbay — the setting for John Cleese’s Fawlty Towers — lifted the restriction.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that “Brian” contains one of the greatest lines in all of cinema. Brian (to multitude): “You’re all different!” Multitude (as one): “We’re all different!” Lone voice in crowd: “I’m not!”