Monday, December 31, 2007


A '68 (mis)flashback

With an upcoming New Year, we get the inevitable: Sure, There Are Some Echoes, but '08 Won't Be '68

Joel Achenbach offers us this nugget from that long-ago year:

“The Tet Offensive in late January 1968 shocked those who had assumed we were winning the Vietnam War.”

While many were surprised that the North Vietnamese could launch such an effort, make no mistake about it; the Tet Offensive was a significant military defeat for the northern aggressors. That people took – and still take – it to mean that our side wasn’t winning the war is a reflection of the shoddy journalism that accompanied much of that war….and in that regard ‘08 will probably look a lot like ‘68.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Celebrating Diversity

Another proud moment for Maryland-based bloggers: Conservatives Outsourcing Punditry to India

This is Owings Mills-based (but NOT a member of the Maryland Blogger Alliance) blogger Matthew Saroff’s slant on the possibility that Ramesh Ponnuru (of National Review and even the Washington Post) may do some punditry for Time magazine.

“As to my little funny about, "outsourcing punditry to India", if the Wingnutosphere decides to get up in arms about it in an orgy of phony offensensitivity, that's fine with me. They are a bunch of inbred, knuckle dragging, drooling idiots.”

...well, admittedly, I did have to go through a considerable effort just to get my knuckles far enough off the ground to type this out...


Saturday, December 22, 2007


And this is a bad thing because...??

As Primaries Begin, the FEC Will Shut Down

“The federal agency in charge of policing the torrent of political spending during the upcoming presidential primaries will, for all practical purposes, shut its doors on New Year's Eve.”

Unfortunately, that’s a bit of hyperbole because:

“…the 375 auditors, lawyers and investigators at the FEC will continue to process work already before them…”

375?? That’s over one staffer for every two elected federal positions. That’s a lot of people just to make sure that I’m not trying to give Congressman Van Hollen’s next opponent's campaign $2,301.

Friday, December 21, 2007


The Reality of Real ID

Real ID means real headaches, critics contend

“Maryland legislators want to stop the state Motor Vehicle Administration from trying to comply with federal requirements that they believe would burden the state’s treasury and invade the privacy of innocent citizens.”

Now normally I am sensitive to claims of governmental overreaching but my natural sympathies were squashed when I learned that (*sigh* my) State Senator Jennie Forehand (do I really need to indicate her party?) is one of the legislators leading the charge.

You know, the same Jennie Forehand who, when considering whether to allow the state to take over 11 miserably failing schools in Baltimore City, decided to vote for legislation that prevented such a takeover and explaining her vote “…as a courtesy to her Baltimore colleagues.” Fearing her opposition to Real ID was nothing more than “a courtesy” to her illegal immigrant constituents, I knew I had to do some additional readings.

First thing I learn is that Maryland is not required to comply with Real ID. I know this because it says so right in the proposed rule:

“The Act does not require any State to issue REAL ID driver's licenses and identification cards. States may choose to issue driver's licenses and identification cards that cannot be accepted by Federal agencies for official purposes (referred to in this document as ``non- REAL ID driver's licenses and identification cards'').”

Unfortunately, though, there will come a time when some Marylanders will want to jump on a plane and will be distraught to learn that their Maryland-issued driver’s license is worthless for that purpose. That’s because Federal agencies want to ensure that the ID used to gain access to air travel is reliable (insert tried-but-true factoid about the 9/11 hijackers having obtained 13 driver’s licenses.)

But Ms. Forehand is committed, first and foremost, to keeping it real:

“But critics say the security goal of Real ID does not match up with reality.

‘‘People say, ‘How can you oppose this? This will protect the country,’” Forehand said. ‘‘I ask if they’ve ever heard of ID theft. People who say things like that don’t know how things go on in the real world.”

ID theft?? But the only way Real ID could lead to ID theft here in Maryland is if Maryland didn’t have adequate safeguards for protecting the information presented. The Real ID rules do identify which supporting documents are deemed most reliable but they are consistent with source documents already trusted. For example: A valid unexpired U.S. passport, a certified copy of a birth certificate or an unexpired employment authorization document (EAD).

Instead Ms. Forehand is more or less signaling that she feels an agency of our state government is not to be trusted with information we present them. That may be a reasonable prejudice but as a member of the legislature I would think she would better serve us by fixing the problems at the MVA rather than bad-mouthing the DHS’s proposed response to terrorist concerns.

The article presents another inaccuracy:

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Real ID effort would mean driver’s licenses would show citizenship or immigration status...”

But here’s what the actual proposed rule states:

“The following information would be required to appear on State-issued driver's licenses and identification cards: full legal name, date of birth, gender, a unique driver's license or identification card number (not the SSN), a full facial digital photograph, address of principal residence (with certain exceptions), issue and expiration dates, signature, physical security features and a common machine-readable technology (MRT).”

…which pretty much describes what is on my current driver’s license. If ID theft is Sen. Forehand's concern, why not just eliminate licenses period?

No doubt about it, security measures today are often an unreasonable pain-in-the-ass and the Real ID provisions can undoubtedly add some temporary inconveniences...but here’s my question: if we were talking instead about required proof for receipt of reparations or access to Tribal gambling proceeds, would Ms. Forehand really feel comfortable in letting the likes of me merely have to out-maneuver Maryland’s current ID standards to get access to such goodies?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


We are not worthy!!

I don’t usually read Stumped but the headline was too good to ignore:

Can Bush Hatred End a Friendship?

Apparently, this Post feature has clueless people write in with questions and dilemmas about the candidates, the campaigns and politics in general. Our first question today came from one Staggo Lee. Mr. Lee has a fellow progressive friend whose anti-Bush tirades have alienated many of their mutual moderate and conservative friends. Mr. Lee is certainly no apologist for the President but…well; I’ll let him tell you his dilemma:

“…I feel differently: I am gay, and figure my association with these friends has changed them for the better. I maintain I should keep and nurture these friendships and skip the politics.”

Wow – what altruism! He’s kind of like a Gay Gandhi, mingling with us lower-caste non-progressives. I’ve sort of had a sense that I’ve been changing for the better lately so I’m going to be scouring my Rolodex to see if I know this Staggo Lee - if so, an overdue “Thank You” card goes in the mail.

Side Notes: In answering the next question, Post writer Andres Martinez slips this tidbit in:

“Legal immigrants understand that illegal immigrants work as hard as they do and also realize the United States has a system that capriciously decides who gets rewarded for working hard.”

We do? You mean as opposed to the rational and above-board way of the countries these immigrants – both legal and illegal – came or fled from? Mr. Martinez is a graduate of Yale, Stanford and Columbia so perhaps he’s always been rewarded more based on where he went to school vice the effort involved… ‘cause I’m guessing he never made the effort to learn the definition of “capricious”.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Scientists report: Because of Global Warming, we will have Climate

An article in today’s Washington Post on Global Warming has really got me thinking:

“Depending on where you are, this is going to be a hotter, wetter, drier, windier, calmer, dirtier, buggier or hungrier century than mankind has seen in a while. In some places, it may be deadlier, too.

“The effects of climate change are diverse [Ed. Note: I thought “diversity” was a ‘good’] and sometimes contradictory. In general, they favor instability and extreme events. On balance, they will tend to harm health rather than promote it.” As Temperatures Rise, Health Could Decline

But don’t go trying to make such predictions about climate change on your own; according to Post writer David Brown, this is the Majority view of scientists working on the problem (and since that prediction pretty much covers almost any possible happening over the next 93 years, you have to wonder what the minority view is.)

Anyway, I learned a lot from this well-documented piece. For instance, did you know that in case of hotter weather, “[p]eople who were old, very young, ill, immobile or poor were at highest risk”? Yep – that ought to cause civic planners to re-think all prior assumptions. I also learned that more places will be at risk for flooding but that we are also 18 years away from having a populace of 5 billion (about the size of today’s world population) at risk for water shortages. Now that simply could be because people move away from the potential floods or that, in the words of noted Muslim bigot and Norwegian imam, Mullah Krekar, people in the drier lands are “expanding like mosquitoes.”

The scientists, ably assisted by the unquestioning David Brown, outline just why it sucks to be poor. And, for the most part, the poor in question are from the poorer nations - in this case, notable for their lower per-capita emissions. In fact, reading all the dire news this subject engenders, I’m caught on one correlation: the more emissions per capita a nation produces, the more wealth and health that nation seems to have. Correspondingly, those nations also seem much better equipped to handle all the gloom and doom we are apparently all but sure to be facing in the foreseeable future.

I’ve read nothing that convinces me that willy-nilly cuts in energy usage will do anything but make us all collectively poorer. And, as the Reverend Ike used to say: “The best thing you can do for the poor is not be one of them.”


Appreciating Mark Steyn

This is why I love reading Mark Steyn:

“This is the time of year, as Hillary Clinton once put it, when Christians celebrate “the birth of a homeless child” — or, in Al Gore’s words, “a homeless woman gave birth to a homeless child.”

"Just for the record, Jesus wasn’t “homeless.” He had a perfectly nice home back in Nazareth. But he happened to be born in Bethlehem. It was census time and Joseph was obliged to schlep halfway across the country to register in the town of his birth. Which is such an absurdly bureaucratic over-regulatory cockamamie Big Government nightmare it’s surely only a matter of time before Massachusetts or California reintroduce it.” O Little Town of...Public Housing?

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Weather in the news...

In news around the country this week:

New England digs out after record snowfall

“New England dug out on Friday from a record-setting storm that dumped 10 inches of snow on Boston, more than the city typically sees in the entire month of December.”

Power Slowly Returns As Crews Repair Lines Snapped in Midwest Ice Storm

Ice up to 1 1/2 inches thick has glazed much of the central Plains and Midwest this week. At least 27 deaths — mostly traffic accidents — have been blamed on the storm system since it developed last weekend….

“About 468,000 homes and business still had no power Wednesday in Oklahoma, suffering its worst power outage on record.”

And most recently:

“A significant winter storm, heading from the lower Mississippi Valley into the Northeast, is or will be bringing heavy snow and sleet, freezing rain, heavy rain and possible flooding, thunderstorms and strong wind to much of the eastern half of the nation” - Storm watch

Now the good news: Nations Forge Pact on Global Warming, Climate Change

Actually, all they did was agree to talk some more but hey, that’s progress. Hopefully they’ll be able to work out a deal in time to help those affected by all this nasty cold weather.

Friday, December 14, 2007


My Tax Dollars at Work

I am always thankful that I live in a country where I can freely mock such drivel as this:

Diversity Training and Development

This leads to additional links such as the Diversity Training and Development Team Book Club and a Diversity Resources Page

Unfortunately, the last laugh is on me because as a now-Montgomery County taxpayer, I am helping to pay for this drivel...all part of the mindset and prioritizing that leads to so-called $400 million deficits.


Fiscal discipline comes to NJ

Financial concerns are apparently moving New Jersey to the verge of repealing the death penalty: N.J. Approves Abolition of Death Penalty; Corzine to Sign

Post writer Keith Richburg unquestioningly repeats this supposedly persuasive argument for repeal. I’m ambivalent on the death penalty and pro cuts-in-government-spending but still find this an irksome bit of reasoning:

“In the end, the most compelling case for New Jersey lawmakers was the economic one. Keeping inmates on death row costs the state $72,602 per year for each prisoner, according to the commission. Inmates kept in the general population cost $40,121 per year each to house. The corrections department estimates that repeal could save the state as much as $1.3 million per inmate over his lifetime -- and that figure does not include the millions spent by public defenders on inmates' appeals.”

Of course, if they just axed the guy like they’re supposed to, they could save even the $40,121 a year…

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


A Maryland bloggers debate

First off, a warm welcome back to Bruce and his Crablaw Maryland Weekly. I guess he just missed being publicly wrong on so many issues.

Anyway, apparently he and Brian Griffiths (over at Red Maryland) as well as Robb Black (from Free State Politics…which, for the uninitiated, is Maryland's online progressive community) will be doing a debate sometime in early 2008.

Brian had originally sought to debate Andrew Kujan (also a member of Maryland’s online progressive community) but I guess Mr. Kujan declined when he heard rumors about the debate being hosted by Fox News. No word yet on a follow-up for Univision.


An insight into Progressives' concept of their "Fair Share"

Montgomery Survey Shows Views on Taxes, Safety

…and here’s what it shows:

“As Montgomery County's elected leaders contend with a historic $401 million projected budget shortfall, a survey released yesterday shows that only 7 percent of residents would be willing to pay more in taxes to ensure additional services.”

However, I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of this bastion of progressivism would be willing to have people like me pay more in taxes to ensure additional services for them…because, you know, fair share and all that stuff…


The Waterboard Epidemic

To the casual observer, it could easily seem that waterboarding is all the rage among our interrogators. Accordingly, the immediate needs of troop funding and AMT relief will apparently just have to wait as Congress grapples with this pressing problem:

“The top legal adviser for the military trials of Guantanamo Bay detainees told Congress yesterday that he cannot rule out the use of evidence derived from the CIA's aggressive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, a tactic that simulates drowning.” Evidence From Waterboarding Could Be Used in Military Trials

Post writer Josh White senses a controversy:

“Hartmann's testimony conflicted with the views of the former military commissions [sic]chief prosecutor, who resigned in October after concluding that the process had become too politicized. In recent interviews, Air Force Col. Morris Davis said he categorically rejected the idea of using any evidence derived from waterboarding because he believes that the technique produces unreliable information.”

But here’s Gen Hartmann’s testimony – as reported by Post writer Josh White three paragraphs earlier:

“"If the evidence is reliable and probative, and the judge concludes that it is in the best interest of justice to introduce that evidence, ma'am, those are the rules we will follow,..."

Not sure just how much of a conflict there is as for both of them, it’s all about the reliability of evidence. Gen. Hartmann is merely saying such evidence is not categorically out-of-play...and judging by an AP article, also in the Post, his would seem the more practical stance:

“According to the former agent, waterboarding of terror suspect Abu Zubaydah got him to talk in less than 35 seconds. The technique, which critics say is torture, probably disrupted "dozens" of planned al-Qaida attacks, said John Kiriakou, a leader of the team that captured Abu Zubaydah, a major al-Qaida figure.” Questions Linger After Hayden Testimony

I’m just a layman when it comes to these matters but it would seem that a technique that produced information that disrupted dozens of planned attacks has proven it can at least have some modicum of reliability.

But getting back to the original point of just how pressing a problem this really is:

“The CIA has not used the technique since 2003, according to a government official familiar with the program. Hayden prohibited waterboarding in 2006. The U.S. military outlawed it the same year.” Questions Linger After Hayden Testimony


Sounds like the Midwest could use an Al Gore halftime speech

U.S. officials at U.N. climate negotiations here said Tuesday that they would not embrace any overall binding goals for cutting global greenhouse gas emissions before President Bush leaves office, essentially putting off specific U.S. commitments until a new administration assumes power in 2009, according to several participants. Hard Choices on Climate Can Wait for Next President, Aides Indicate

But why wait? The next leader of the free world probably has the time to begin addressing this key issue since he/she apparently won’t be doing any campaigning in Iowa soon:

“Most of the Iowa campaign events scheduled for Tuesday were canceled, including appearances by Michelle Obama, Ann Romney and Bill Clinton. Events for presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee, John Edwards and Fred D. Thompson also were called off.” Midwesterners in the Clutches of a Deep and Deadly Freeze

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I'm from the government and I'm here to help you

Soccer Dad, in a posting on Martin Peretz’s ongoing infatuation with Al Gore, concludes thusly:

“We can't know if things would have been different if Al Gore had been elected. But isn't it past time to stop claiming that the election was stolen from him?” Soccer Dad: Still giggling over gore

Yes! This is one of three leftist clichés that I hereby declare are proof positive that those who repeat them are either being disingenuous or simply ignorant of history. The other two are:

(1) President Bush lied about WMDs to get us into Iraq, and

(2) American lives would have been saved in Vietnam had George McGovern been elected President.

I’m open for suggestions on others.

Monday, December 10, 2007


The Courts know best.

Evidence that perhaps Justice Ginsburg has no idea how Congress works, she introduces this strange piece of reasoning for circumventing the statutory basis for a dramatic 100:1 difference in sentencing for crack vice powder cocaine cases:

“Adopting the Government’s analysis, the amended Guidelines would conflict with Congress’ 1995 action, and with the 1986 Act, because the current Guidelines ratios deviate from the 100-to-1 statutory ratio. Congress, however, did not disapprove or modify the Commission-initiated 2007 amendment. Ordinarily, we resist reading congressional intent into congressional inaction. …But in this case, Congress failed to act on a proposed amendment to the Guidelines in a high-profile area in which it had previously exercised its disapproval authority under 28 U. S. C. §994(p). If nothing else, this tacit acceptance of the 2007 amendment undermines the Government’s position, which is itself based on implications drawn from congressional silence.”

The revised Guidelines were introduced in April of this year and became effective November 1…and Justice Ginsburg thinks it significant that Congress hasn't acted within months of the changes.

This is all part of today’s Court decision in Kimbrough, where the question before the Court was:

“… whether the crack/powder disparity adopted in the United States Sentencing Guidelines has been rendered “advisory” by our decision in Booker.” Kimbrough v. U.S.

Remarkably, the Court concludes that judges can be rational people and thus allowed to circumvent statutory guidelines:

“The sentence the District Court imposed on Kimbrough was 4.5 years below the bottom of the Guidelinesrange. But in determining that 15 years was the appropriate prison term, the District Court properly homed in on the particular circumstances of Kimbrough’s case and accorded weight to the Sentencing Commission’s consistent and emphatic position that the crack/powder disparity is at odds with §3553(a). … Giving due respect to the District Court’s reasoned appraisal, a reviewing court could not rationally conclude that the 4.5-year sentence reduction Kimbrough received qualified as an abuse of discretion.”

In Booker, the Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a trial by jury did not permit federal judges to base sentencing decisions on facts that didn’t go before the jury. Eminently reasonable. Unfortunately, the Court’s solution to this constitutional problem was to make the mandatory Sentencing Guidelines more or less mandatorily advisory. Justice Thomas’s dissent today correctly surmises the problem with the Court’s ever increasing role in deciding appropriate sentences:

“And here the Court holds that sentencing courts are free to reject the Sentencing Guidelines’ 100-to-1 crack-to-powder ratio.

These outcomes may be perfectly reasonable as a matter of policy, but they have no basis in law.”

100 years from now, no-one will be reading Justice Ginsburg but Justice Thomas will be a must-study.

Side Notes: See also Court: Judges Can Reduce Crack Sentences where AP reporter Mark Sherman sums up the decision thusly:

“By a 7-2 vote, the court said that a 15-year sentence given to Derrick Kimbrough, a black veteran of the 1991 war with Iraq, was acceptable, even though federal sentencing guidelines called for Kimbrough to receive 19 to 22 years.”

Maybe I missed it but I didn’t read the facts that Mr. Kimbrough was black, a veteran and had been in the first Gulf War anywhere in the decision nor does Mr. Sherman ever go on to explain why he finds those facts relevant. But I guess it does get Race and Iraq into the story.


My Bachelorhood explained...

From a weekend story on an effort in Sudan to change the mindset of the citizenry toward cows:

“"If you are a man without cows, people will overlook you. You are nothing," said Marko Lomana, a relative of Papa's. "And you will never get a wife." In Southern Sudan, A Drive to Update The Image of Cows

He's probably right: I’ve never had cows…and I’ve never had a wife.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


When Maryland bloggers go bad...

Over at NRO, Mark Steyn takes note of a blogger’s attempted takedown of Steyn. The blogger - one Jim Henley - took a quote from Mr. Steyn’s book, the best-selling (and highly recommended) America Alone:

“I knew Steyn was a bigot, with a 1920s obsession with demographic decline. …But I imagined Steyn was more adroit in his use of code words and deniability feints. No! “Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes” is merely the most spectacular example of - not code words. I’m not completely shocked that Steyn would write with such frank bigotry, or that Regnery would publish it.” Sympathy for the Devil § Unqualified Offerings

The problem, as Mr. Steyn obviously delights in pointing out, is that the supposed bigoted quote used by Jim Henley didn’t originate from Mark Steyn. Instead, it was Mark Steyn quoting another presumably anti-Muslim bigot: Norwegian imam Mullah Krekar.

Check out the readers' comments at Mr. Henley’s site. The first three are favorable to him although the third does touch on the inherent problem with the posting (all the while apparently not finding the mis-attribution that significant a problem):

"Not to take away from what has been written about the Mark Steyn article, one clarification is necessary.

"The comment comparing Muslim population growth to the breeding of Mosquitoes was not made by Mark Steyn, but a Muslims cleric at a Norwegian mosque."

Mark Steyn’s rebuttal was posted on NRO at 3:29 PM today. The next comment on Jim Henley’s site was posted at 3:38 PM:

“Steyn has answered your criticism and is making you sound kind of ignorant. You need to respond because it’s getting embarassing.”

As of 5:30 PM, there were an additional 86!! Posts – just about all of them mocking Jim Henley for being so spectacularly and maliciously wrong (and not yet issuing a retraction). It’s actually a fairly amusing thread to read.

I only post about this because it turns out that the erstwhile Sniffing-Out-of-Islamic-Bigots blogger Jim Henley lives here in Montgomery County (Silver Spring)...which is kind of embarrassing to this Maryland-based blogger. Please note, however, that his site, Unqualified Offerings, is NOT a proud member of the Maryland Blogger Alliance…although, since he is based here, he is certainly eligible to join.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


This just in - Hillary's out to win...

Apparently things may start getting nasty between the Democratic front runners:

Losing Ground In Iowa, Clinton Assails Obama

I loved this observation:

“Obama advisers described the strategy as foolhardy, and reminiscent of the approach perfected by former Bush White House adviser Karl Rove: going after a front-runner on his strengths and challenging his sincerity.”

Yeah, it’d be foolhardy to want to emulate the approach of the last two winning presidential campaigns.

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