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Monthly Archives: January 2009

We’ll Get Out of Debt by Spending Money!

January 26th, 2009 - 8:31 am

Nancy Pelosi: “Contraception will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.”

Reminds me of Pat Robertson’s silliness from the 1988 Republican presidential primaries, when he claimed that he’s save social security by banning abortion. Politicians — is there any excuse thing they can’t use do?

UPDATE: Here’s the YouTube video. Pretty good performance, really. Well, you know what they say — sincerity, once you learn to fake that, you’ve got it made.

Product Review

January 26th, 2009 - 5:05 am

Product Review

Steve Jobs calls Apple TV a “hobby.” But I can tell you what it really is: the ultimate child entertainment appliance.

For the uninitiated — and given Apple TV’s dismal sales performance, that’s most everybody — here’s what Apple TV does. Imagine a audio/video component, not much bigger than two or three DVD cases stacked on top of each other. It has a hard drive, 40GB for the $229 model, or 160GB for the $329 one.

And it connects to your widescreen television, and plays movies and TV shows either stored locally or streamed via iTunes from your desktop or laptop computers. Oh, it can also play music, including your iTunes playlists, or display HD photos. Nice features, but nothing TiVo users haven’t been doing for years.

Well, my TiVo units are gelded ones for use with HD DirecTV service, so I couldn’t use all those nifty photo, music, and networking features. So I plunked down $150 on a used Apple TV to see what I could do with it.

Here’s what I can tell you: As a consumer, for $150, Apple TV is worth the price to me. It might even be worth retail price. But I’d never bother spending money on the unit with the big hard drive. And as a Dad, I find Apple TV to be worth its weight in gold. Now let me tell you why.

I won’t let my three-year-old watch live TV. He doesn’t even yet know what it is. If it’s not on DVD or TiVo — things that his parent can control — then he doesn’t know they exist. I’d like to maintain that control for as long as I’m able.

But Mommy and Daddy like to store shows on the TiVo, too, and those hard drives are only so big. And DVDs take quite a bit of management and shelf space — and often fall prey to sticky little fingers.

Imagine you could rip your kids’ DVD to your hard drive, and make all of them available, instantly and all the time, on most any TV in the house. Oh, and that everything can be selected by a remote control simple enough for a three-year-old to use. And it’s a remote so lacking in regular buttons that wiping off peanut butter and jelly isn’t an exercise in hold-you-breath frustration.

And in typical Apple fashion, the unit itself is a breeze to use. Nobody ever needed to look at a manual to figure out how to watch what they want to watch.

So I use a quasi-legal Mac program called Handbrake (Windows programs with similar functionality exist) to rip my son’s DVD to my hard drive, and port them into iTunes. Almost magically, Apple TV finds them and makes them available for viewing. Instantly. It has built-in 811N connectivity, so it’s ready to go on the fastest-available wireless networks. Although we’ve found that an 811G router is plenty fast enough, too.

The video quality is a little softer than DVD, especially when blown up on a 57″ 1080P uber-high-def TV. But it’s more than good enough for kids stuff, and mostly good enough for grown-up fare. And at $19 bucks and easy availability, I won’t complain too much when our boy finally manages to lose or destroy a remote control.

The on-board storage of 40GB, for us, goes entirely unused — we just stream everything from my desktop computer. And given the price of hard drives these days, that means we enjoy virtually unlimited storage.

It’s not perfect. Apple TV works only on widescreen TVs. If you rely on streaming like we do, then your unit is effectively off the air whenever iTunes is down on your desktop computer, or network server. And you will have to use iTunes to stream, which will annoy some people — if not act as an absolute deal-breaker.

Or you can use it as a standalone unit, buying and renting content through your iTunes account, no desktop computer or streaming necessary. But for us its real genius is as a gateway between all the content on my desktop, and keeping our son from viewing things we think he shouldn’t. Measured by those limited standards, Apple TV is a winner.

New York State of Insanity

January 25th, 2009 - 9:43 am

The way the New York Times tells it, following New York’s Senate Seat Shuffle, Andrew Cuomo is stronger and Governor Paterson is weaker:

Polls showed Mr. Cuomo had been the overwhelming favorite of New York voters, and a broad range of party leaders had declared him the most qualified contender for the Senate seat. Unlike other aspirants, Mr. Cuomo did not publicly campaign for the post, and he largely restrained aides from lobbying for him or against his rivals.

Mr. Paterson, by contrast, was enduring some of the harshest news coverage of his 10-month tenure, with newspaper editorials calling him “inept” and “not ready for prime time” for an appointment process that was never terribly orderly and plainly unraveled with the messy public exit of Caroline Kennedy from the field of contenders.

The contrast was not lost on Mr. Cuomo’s boosters. “The irony is, his position politically in New York is stronger today than it ever has been, and Paterson’s is weaker,” said an associate of Mr. Cuomo’s. The associate and several others interviewed requested anonymity because they did not want to create problems for Mr. Cuomo or themselves.

And — oh, right — that virtual Sarah Palin Clone, Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, will become a respected Senator. And Camelot veteran Caroline Kennedy is now a punchline. So the way I read it, Palin’s crime was to be from the wrong state, and Kennedy’s problem is that she’s apparently too rich and ignorant to serve in the Senate.

New York politics are weird.

Must-See Radio

January 24th, 2009 - 6:06 pm

Getting that weekend jones for PJM Political? Wait no more! On this week’s show:

• PJ Media CEO Roger L. Simon.
• Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.com.
• John Hinderaker of the Power Line blog.
• Hugh Hewitt of Hugh Hewitt.com.
• James Lileks of Lileks.com.
• PJTV.com co-hosts Alan Barton and Bill Whittle.
• PJTV co-host Joe Hicks interviews Reason magazine editors Matt Welch and Katherine Mangu-Ward on the future of libertarianism in the age of Obama, and the growing split between free-market libertarians and social conservatives.
• Produced by Ed Driscoll.

Plus, a handsome radio host whose name I’ve forgotten.

How much would you pay for that much radio? Thanks to the miracle of internet streaming, you can get all this, every week, absolutely free. (Also available by free subscription on iTunes.)

Guess That Party

January 24th, 2009 - 4:15 pm

The South Carolina state senator who wants to make swearing a felony — punishable by up to five years in jail and $5000 in fines — is a Democrat or a Republican?

You’d never know from reading this story, but I’ll give you a hint: If he’d been a Republican I bet you’d see a lot more coverage.

Happy Birthday

January 24th, 2009 - 9:39 am

The Macintosh turns 25 today.

How’s the old machine doing after all this time? Mac sales increased year-over-year in 2008, when the industry as a whole suffered some worrisome shrinkage. That’s especially impressive when you stop and consider that Apple refuses to compete in the “value” (ie, plastic craptastic) segment of the market.

Yes! He! Did!

January 24th, 2009 - 6:44 am

He won. Jules Crittenden explains what that means.

Must-See PJTV

January 23rd, 2009 - 3:12 pm

Tonight, I’ll be on the PJTV Blogger Roundtable with our DC Editor Jennifer Rubin and Powerline’s John Hinderaker. We discussed President Obama’s true colors (as yet undifferentiated), soon-to-be New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Al Franken — who I think I managed to call a putz only twice.

Later in the show, Bill Whittle and I look at the week in blogs.

Check it out.

UPDATE: Here’s the direct link to the Roundtable, and here’s one the the Week in Review.

Now this would be a welcome change from the last eight years of economic silliness:

Less than 48 hours after Barack Obama became president, his choice for U.S. Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, said a strong dollar is in the United States’ interest.

That phrasing — first used by former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin more than 14 years ago — lost its weight and credibility when it was over-used by the Bush administration.

The greenback lost about 40 percent of its value versus the euro and more than 15 percent versus the yen between 2000 and 2008. A weaker currency was an important step for the Bush White House in rebalancing a global economy plagued by a U.S. trade deficit and huge Chinese surplus.

“This time around the administration probably means it when it says it backs a strong dollar. They have to be dead serious about it,” said Samarjit Shankar, a director for global strategy at the Bank of New York Mellon, in Boston.

The problem, of course, is how well dollars will hold their value when Congress is ordering them up out of thin air by the trillion. And then there are events outside our control, like what would happen if China starts dumping US securities in order to stimulate its sagging economy.

But I wish the Administration luck on this one, I really do.

So Buddha Walks Up to a Hot Dog Stand

January 23rd, 2009 - 1:22 pm

Jennifer Rubin on Charles Krauthammer on President Obama on everything:


Every development in the world, every misstep by President Bush and every odd occurrence was somehow connected by the evil brain of Rove, a sinister and devious mind with superhuman powers. Now conservatives are falling into a similar pattern. It is all a magnificent plot engineered by the greatest politician of our day. A flat speech? Well, it’s part of the Obama Plan. Letting the House concoct a partisan mess of a “stimulus bill”? Part of the Obama Plan. Sending up a fellow with tax-evasion problems on the day he talks about ethics and transparency? Part of the Obama Plan.

Maybe there is an easier explanation: he doesn’t know what he wants to do or how exactly to do it. When you yourself don’t know where you are heading, it’s hard to communicate your direction to others.

Is it true? Could President Obama really be Bill McKay?

Fightin’ Joe Fights On (And On and On and On)

January 23rd, 2009 - 12:02 pm

Your tax dollars hard at work, keeping Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign awash in… tax dollars:

Joe Biden ended his own presidential bid after coming in fifth in the Iowa caucuses more than a year ago. But his presidential campaign lived on – and continued receiving taxpayer money – well after he was elected vice president.

The vice president is not gearing up to challenge President Barack Obama in the 2012 Democratic primaries, though. Rather, he’s keeping his committee, Biden for President Inc., open to tidy up loose ends in preparation for a mandatory federal audit, which could become expensive to defend.

So, Biden continued requesting federal funds for his campaign – through the so-called primary matching funds program – for months after he was tapped to be Obama’s running mate.

I’m no expert in FEC regulations, but if that’s legal it certainly shouldn’t be. When you suspend your campaign, shouldn’t the government, you know, suspend your matching funds?

Getting It Wrong

January 23rd, 2009 - 10:47 am

The honeymoon might already be over with the White House press corps:

“I do,” the spokesman said, his cornflower-colored tie suddenly looking a bit too tight. “Are we allowed to repeat that name?” Mr. Gibbs answered by citing as precedent of Brazilian soccer stars being known only by a single name – sure to one day be a classic White House non-answer.

Then it got uglier.

“How is it transparent,” another reporter asked, “when you control the only image of the re-swearing – there’s nobody in there but four print reporters, there’s no stills, there’s no television? And the only recording that comes out, as I understand it, is one that a reporter made, not one that the White House supplied.”

Again, had the media done its job during the campaign, and really tested Obama and his people before they took over, they might not be making these rookie mistakes. If there were laws against journalistic malpractice, there’d be people on trial right now. Lots of them.

Classy: The NFL Edition

January 23rd, 2009 - 10:00 am

Are you ready to get angry?

And Now For Something Completely Different

January 23rd, 2009 - 9:17 am

Here’s one campaign promise President Obama has already kept — taking the war to Pakistan’s ungoverned (and mostly ungovernable) North-West Frontier:

A suspected US drone missile attack has killed nine people in north-western Pakistan, local witnesses say.

At least one missile hit a house in a village near the town of Mirali in North Waziristan, a stronghold of al-Qaeda and Taleban militants.

It is the first such attack since Barack Obama was inaugurated as US president on Tuesday.

Of course, former President Bush authorized the same kind of quasi-legal strikes, but without all the embarrassing and destabilizing public pronouncements.

Stimulate THIS!

January 22nd, 2009 - 3:08 pm

A trillion dollars, and no jobs? Give me a billion — just one single little tiny billion — and I can get twenty guys adding a new wing to my house in under a month. Twenty guys will get work directly. An architect will have to draw up the plans. The county will get money for approving them. I’ll be forever paying extra property taxes, helping to educate children in my community, so that they can have more-productive futures. And they’ll pay more in taxes, too.

Timber suppliers will get extra business, and maybe take on an extra employee or two. Same with people who make copper and nails and travertine tiles and sauna rooms big enough for, say, half a dozen strippers and myself all at once.

And so that you won’t even need to thank me for my efforts, I’ll just pocket any leftover money, mmmkay?

THIS is why government can’t tax and spend its way out of our problem. They don’t have the answers. We do. And if our own, private answers happen to involve giant saunas and clothing removal engineers, well, that’s our own little pursuit of happiness.

Throwing the Bathwater Out With the Baby

January 22nd, 2009 - 12:46 pm

Beijing would have you believe that this is the final word in the tainted milk scandal:

Chinese courts sentenced two men to death and three other defendants, including a top dairy company executive, to life in prison on Thursday for endangering public safety in a tainted milk scandal that killed at least six children, according to state-run news media.

Another defendant received a suspended death sentence and 15 others, mostly dairy producers and middlemen, were given terms ranging from two years to life in prison. In all, 21 people were sentenced for their roles in one of the worst food-safety scandals in China in decades.

Yeah, that sounds pretty final-like, all right. Only not really.

The rot in China goes deep, from their banking system — which is in worse shape on a good day than ours is right now — to their military — which not-so-secretly (and quite corruptly) controls major chunks of the economy. All that’s just a given when you have capitalism without real property rights, and free markets without free political parties.

So the only way to beat back corruption is to enforce major penalties for most infractions — and look the other way when the bad guys wear uniforms or are high-ranking Party officials. Sometimes it works, as in this case, but in most cases it doesn’t.

Hollywood Villains

January 22nd, 2009 - 11:59 am

Once again, an perfect popcorn movie gets shafted by the Academy. Chris Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” earned only one major-category Oscar nomination — Heath Ledger for Best Supporting Actor.

No best picture nom? No best director? No surprise.

Personally, I gave up on the Oscars when “Ghandi” beat out “ET” for best picture. Does anyone still watch “Ghandi” 27 years later? But who doesn’t sit down with their kids (or even without them) at least once a year to watch “ET?” Again and again.

The Blame Game

January 22nd, 2009 - 10:44 am

Was the global credit crunch caused by… David Bowie?

Well Isn’t That Special?

January 22nd, 2009 - 10:09 am

Actually, it is special. “It” being this story:

President Barack Obama’s inauguration generated an unprecedented 35,000 stories in the world’s major newspapers, television and radio broadcasts over the past day — about 35 times more than the last presidential swearing-in — a monitoring group said on Wednesday.

The Texas-based Global Language Monitor said there had also been 6 million new Obama-related mentions on the Internet since December 31.

By comparison, the last U.S. presidential inauguration, of George W. Bush in January 2005, resulted in about 1,000 stories in major media worldwide, Paul JJ Payack, president of Global Language Monitor said.

In all fairness, President Bush was yet another Southern governor to win the oval office. In fact, in 2000 he was the third Southern governor elected since just 1976. So, stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before and all that. Plus, even in 2000, there were millions of Bush voters who didn’t exactly like or trust the guy — I was one of them.

Obama is the first black President, the first man (that we know of!) of mixed race, the first from Illinois in ages, the first big-city guy in almost as long, the only one I can think of whose father was a foreign national — and a foreign national with a Muslim background, to boot. No matter what your opinion of him, he’s big news.

Mail Bag

January 22nd, 2009 - 8:36 am

In response to Who’s Next? (Part II — Nuclear Boogaloo) below, Tim Maguire asks:

How can that last line be interpreted as anything other than a threat to develop nuclear weapons? And, given that, how can our participation be seen as anything other than a violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?

Exactly. I wasn’t exactly sold on military action against Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, I was pretty much resigned to the idea of Iran getting nukes, and that regime change was a better plan. But the mullahs have proven just too adept at clinging to power, despite their unpopularity and the occasional round of violent student revolts.

Now that the Iranian program is turning into a regional nuclear arms race, the military option might just be the least bad option. Did I say “regional?” As Tim so rightly notes, if we abandon nuclear non-proliferation, even only de facto, the results could be global — and not in a good way.

Who’s Next? (Part II — Nuclear Boogaloo)

January 22nd, 2009 - 6:36 am

The US and the United Arab Emirates have gotten all nuclear buddy-buddy:

The deal sets the legal groundwork for U.S. commercial nuclear trade with the UAE, which sits just across the Persian Gulf from Iran.

But it also allows Gulf nations worried about Iran’s nuclear program to send a signal to Tehran.

“The clear message to Iran is: If Tehran insists on pursuing its nuclear program, we (Arab countries in the region) are going to have one, although without enrichment,” said Mustafa Alani of the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.

It doesn’t take a security specialist to realize that the Persian Gulf is maybe not the bestest place ever to hold an arms race. Throwing nukes into the mix — even “peaceful” nukes — can’t help but make a bad situation worse.

The proper step would be to disarm the party creating all the instability. Tick, tock.

Classy

January 22nd, 2009 - 5:04 am

President Obama becomes the first president to skip the “Salute to Heroes Ball” since its inception in 1953.

There He Goes Already

January 21st, 2009 - 2:50 pm

Vice President Gaffe Biden is at it already:

When asked by Mr. Obama to administer the oath of office to White House senior staff, Mr. Biden, who is known for saying things he shouldn’t, asked, “Am I doing this again?”

Appearing in need of a cheat sheet off which he could read the oath, Mr. Biden then said, “My memory isn’t as good as Justice Roberts’.” [snip]

But the new president was not amused by Mr. Biden’s crack. As some in the audience drew in breath and gave low “oohs,” Mr. Obama stood silently next to Mr. Biden and appeared to just barely shake his head.

You get the feeling the President is going to be doing that a lot over the next four-to-eight years. So how exactly did one of the smoothest men in Washington end up paring himself up with one of the… uh… unsmootherist?

UPDATE: Here’s the video.

Biden really is the Blogger Who Drinks and Makes Fun of People Full Employment Act.

Picture of the Day

January 21st, 2009 - 2:29 pm

The Death Star will reach the rebel base in three minutes and closing…

Not the Death Star, of course, but Mimas, a moon of Saturn. Sure looks like the Death Star there though.

Of course, who in his right mind would name anything “the Death Star?” Did Emperor Palpatine learn nothing about PR in his hard-scrapple days as a senator from a small planet? For example, when we built an ICBM capable of depositing ten, multimegaton warheads most anywhere on the planet in 30 minutes or less, we named it the Peacekeeper. Our smaller missiles are still called Minutemen — think friendly, patriotic guys with muskets, not nuclear bombs.

So, thirty years after the first one got blown up, what do you think the Empire should have named the Death Star?

Down the Memory Hole

January 21st, 2009 - 1:22 pm

I know when it comes to Ye Olde Bush Administration, lots of people would like to pretend it never happened. Including, apparently, whitehouse.gov‘s new webmasters. Slate’s Farhad Manjoo explains:

To test out the new site’s search engine, I typed in “Bush.” I got back just four pages dedicated to the clan—one bio each for Barbara Bush, George H.W. Bush, Laura Bush, and George W. Bush. That last page recounts the 43rd president’s achievements in just a few short paragraphs—it says nothing about Iraq, Katrina, Gitmo, Scooter Libby, Alberto Gonzales, or anything else you might’ve lost sleep over these past eight years.

Let’s assume for now that the oversight is just due to transition difficulties. Or maybe Tim Geithner’s involved and a few “common mistakes” were made.

Mail Bag

January 21st, 2009 - 11:09 am

In the comments to Required Reading below, RPD says, “I question that President Obama will really make that much of a difference as far as race relations. He strikes me as more of a marker showing where we are, rather than a vehicle for going further.”

Maybe that’s exactly what President Obama is. And maybe that’s less than he could be, or maybe not. But I’d argue that “where we are” still speaks well of us as a nation. We’ve come a long, long way and in a relatively short time.

Required Reading

January 21st, 2009 - 10:09 am

At National Review, Jonah Goldberg finds a couple of silver linings in President Obama’s swearing in:

He wasn’t my first choice, but he is nonetheless my president. And if ever there were a wonderful consolation prize in politics, shattering the race barrier in the White House is surely it.

Indeed. More interesting however is this observation:

By hastening the end of the Cold War, Reagan took away the defining cause of the conservative movement. The right had other issues, to be sure. But anti-communism was the coalitional glue. And while principled conservatives were happy to trade a live campaign issue for a dead Soviet Union, the damage to conservative cohesion was real.

If Obama lives up to the dreams of his supporters in writing a new, post-racial chapter for America, he will have at once done more for America than any Democratic president in generations. But he also will have cut the knot holding much of the left together.

While I certainly hope Jonah is right about — at last! — a post-racial America, I’m less sure about that last bit. Because until health care is nationalized, unions are mandatory everywhere, and the Pentagon has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber, then there will be plenty to hold the Left together.

Outbreak

January 21st, 2009 - 8:43 am

I can tell you from hard-earned experience that if there’s a stomach flu going around, and you’re the only person in your house who hasn’t had it, then whatever you do, do not eat anything featuring Super Chunk peanut butter.

From the moment it hits, you’ll feel like you have to burp. Only you can’t, because that’s not an air pocket in your stomach, it’s a wet burlap sack filled with acorns. You can hear them rattle around every time you move, and even more loudly when you don’t. Every hour or two, the bag will twist just right and some of the acorns will come flying out. That’s when you realize: Those aren’t acorns. And also maybe: When did I last eat cottage cheese?

The dry heaves are fun, too. They’ll give you the experience of being a two pack-a-day smoker forced to run a marathon, without ever having to leave the privacy of your own bathroom. E-V-E-R.

Did manage to get some sleep last night, which was nice. I’m just well-rested enough today to fully appreciate just how much I look like a guy who spent 18 hours hurling and heaving. Much more of this and my abs are going to look phenomenal. The bathroom, not so much.

I’ll be back for more blogging as soon as the flu gives me permission again. The going rate is every 45-90 minutes.

Who’s Next?

January 20th, 2009 - 1:25 pm

Are the Saudis working on getting the bomb? StrategyPage takes a look:

According to India Daily, Pakistan’s President Musharraf has entered into secret agreement with the Saudis to deliver the nukes. The publication speculated that the battered Musharraf wished to gain unconditional support of the Saudis in exchange of handing over the nuke blueprints. The U.S. was unable to help Musharraf maintain power in the Pakistani elections. The new president, Asif Ali Zardari, knows the river of American dollars will eventually dry up. Pakistan needs the money; the Saudis have oil money and they want the nukes. The Saudis are not interested in acquiring nuclear weapons manufacturing capability or weapons-grade material. The Saudis love to go shopping. They can shell out unlimited petrodollars to purchase anything they want. They want to acquire the actual weapons for missile warhead delivery.

What are indications that the Saudis have a nuclear weapons program in progress? Saudi Arabia has constructed a site for the deployment of long-range missiles in the Al Sulial desert 500 kilometers south of Riyadh. The “missile city” complex contains missile silos, factories and residential housing areas for hundreds of site workers. Satellite photos reveal two missile bases and a complex of 33 buildings, eight of them capable of storing Chinese CSS-2 medium (MRBM) and intermediate range (IRBM) ballistic missiles, which have a range of between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometers. The missile, 24 meters long, is capable of carrying a two ton non-conventional warhead. It seems unlikely that the Saudis would acquire nuclear- capable intermediate and medium range missiles with the intent to merely arm them with conventional warheads.

If true, this is part of the price we’re paying for not disabling the Iranian nuclear program. Absent an Iranian nuclear weapons program, the Saudis have no need for their own. The Desert Kingdom could have started working on nukes most any time in the last 30 or 40 years — yet they seem to have chosen to just as the Iranian Bomb comes closer to fruition, which the US has done little or nothing to stop.

And if the price of oil drops low enough that Saudi Arabia becomes unstable? Well, let’s not think about that. And why should we? It’s clear our previous president and our brand new one, haven’t troubled themselves.

Cognitive Dissonance — The Swearing-In Edition

January 20th, 2009 - 10:05 am

Now that President Bush is the ex-President, having peacefully and willingly turned over power to the opposition party, what becomes of sufferers of Bush Derangement Syndrome?

Will they realize they were deranged, or will they admit they were liars? If there’s a third option (besides “Nyah nyah nyah I can’t hear you!”), I’d love to know what it is.