Governor Pawlenty is Way Off Track

…and so too should be the plan to spend billions, that we don’t have by the way, on a high-speed link to Chicago.

According to the plan, freight and passenger rail 20-year capital costs could range from $6.2 billion, with nearly two-thirds of that provided by federal, state and local government. The Twin Cities-Chicago line is expected to top $1 billion alone.

The plan was ordered last year by the state Legislature, well before a scramble erupted in many states to push their own high-speed rail plans. That was triggered by the infusion of $8 billion in federal stimulus money specifically earmarked for such rail lines nationwide.

Ah yes, the ubiquitous stimulus “dollars.” A misnomer if ever there was one, as they should be called the stimuless “debt.” There are no dollars, and wasting money on what will amount to be a string of empty tin cans traveling the tundra at high speed will stimulate nothing but the sugar-plum dreams of liberals spending other people’s money to build their little fairy tale world.

We can count on the Gov to lay down across the tracks and stop this nonsense, right?

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, previously not a big advocate of high- speed rail, endorsed the Twin Cities-Chicago route last spring.

[sound of scratching record]

Not so much.

Funny thing is, we already have a high-speed link to Chicago.

Its called an airport.

…where by the way, we just spent a mountain of cash on to add another runway

I’ve seen flights as cheap as $25 to Chicago this year.

The Minnesotan that can’t afford a flight has no business in Chicago.

The Chicagoan that can’t…I’d just as soon he stay down there.

Unhappy To Pay For A Better Minnesota

We’ve always known that those “Happy To Pay For A Better Minnesota” signs and slogans were buncombe – but it was more of a gut feeling.

But now we have empirical, clinical proof it’s all bull-effluvia.  The unhappiest states are the ones with the highest taxes; the happiest ones, pretty much, have the lowest taxes (with occasional emphasis added by me):

Does living in a blue state make people blue? It seems so, according to a new study in Science magazine that ranks states according to their happiness. The study finds that New Yorkers are the unhappiest people in America and their neighbors in Connecticut come in a close second, followed by Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, California, and Illinois. And the happiest states? Drum roll, please…Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee, and Arizona.

Eight of the ten happiest states lean right while eight of the ten unhappiest tilt left. While the study by no means proves that being liberal makes people unhappy, it does reflect some of the unfortunate implications of living in a blue state.

As I noted above, this is “Science” magazine, not “Librels Are Teh Suck” blog. 

But first a note on the study. Using data from the 2005-2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and a 2003 economics paper examining quality-of-life indicators, economists regressed the subjective measure of well-being (how people rate their satisfaction) against the objective measure (states’ quality-of-life rankings based on compensating differentials). A compensating differential in labor economics refers to the additional amount of income an employer must pay a worker to compensate for the undesirability of a job or the location’s lack of amenities (e.g. local and state tax levels, climate, environmental conditions, quality of schools, and crime rates).

For example, employers in New York would have to pay higher wages to compensate for New York’s high taxes, traffic congestion, cold weather, and poor schools. Due to these “disamenities,” New York ranked lowest on the quality-of-life index.

And yes, the numbers show a pretty strong correlation:

What’s noteworthy about the study is that states’ quality-of-life rankings (measured by their compensating differentials) correlated exceedingly well with residents’ satisfaction ratings. The correlation between quality of life and satisfaction is statistically significant (P=0.0001; r=0.6; r2=0.36). The coefficient of determination r2 shows how well the regression line fits the data points. While an r2 of 0.36 may not seem large—and in some studies may not be statistically significant—it is unusually high by the standards of behavioral science. To give an idea of the magnitude of this correlation, the r2 of people’s satisfaction ratings taken two weeks apart is also 0.36.


The study suggests that quality of life heavily influences happiness. This may seem obvious, but until this study, social scientists have struggled to develop a model that supports this hypothesis. Now we know that people who say they’re satisfied with their lives aren’t just delusional or overly optimistic, and people who say they’re unsatisfied aren’t just pessimists. People have legitimate reasons to be happy or unhappy.

And well, high taxes seem to be a big reason—ostensibly an even bigger reason than weather given that California is one of the unhappiest states and inclement Louisiana is the happiest. Further, considering how much New York’s crime rate has dropped and schools have improved in the last decade, taxes seem to overwhelm even these two critical factors in the happiness equation. According to the Tax Foundation 2008 analysis, three of the top five unhappiest states—New York, Connecticut and New Jersey—have the highest state-local tax burdens. On the other hand, four of the top five happiest states—Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee and Arizona—are among the states with the lowest state-local tax burdens. True, correlation doesn’t prove causation, and high taxes alone don’t always make people miserable, but there’s something going on here.

Read the whole thing. 

While we’ve long known that conservatives are more charitable, are better in bed, and are just plain happier across the board than liberals, this is the first time we’ve shown a statistical correlation between taxation and misery.

I, for one, am happy to vote for a wealthier, happier, less-burdened Minnesota.

Congratulations Are In Order

When I went over to Night Writer and read “The Son@Night” writing…:

Q. What do you get when you cross a pastoral intern and a hairstylist?

…my first response was “an ABC sitcom with lots of “edgy” culture-war jokes”.

But then I remembered – S@N’s wife, Mall Diva is the hair stylist in question.  Which can only mean…:

Yes, Faith and I are expecting a little one to arrive in August.  That is to say Faith is pretty pregnant.  And she’s just plain pretty too, but that’s not new news.

Well, congratulations!  And it’s time to step up that search for a preachin’ gig!

Speaking of the the whole “family way” thing – my stepson and his lovely wife told me last night that they, too, are expecting.  Which means I’m going to be a…stepgrandfather?

That can’t be right, can it?

Dope Smoking Moron

When Bruce Springsteen turned 60 earlier this year, it was a bit of a milestone on the one hand – but still just a tad removed from me.  As much as Bruce’s music has always affected me, he was still a singer from an earlier generation; a little closer to me than the Who or the Kinks, but still someone from that great cloud of Those Who Came Before.

But hearing that today is Paul Westerberg’s 50th birthday?

That’s different.  Westerberg was one of the first great post-baby-boom songwriters; his music with and since the Replacements had only the most incidental reference to baby-boom era music. 

Was he an original?  No – and nobody in rock and roll ever really is, at least musically speaking – everybody borrows and synthesizes and rips off Those Who Came Before – so shaddap already.

But Westerberg combined punk’s snotty snarl with a nuance and depth that evaded most of his thrashy contemporaries.

The Replacements, at an early protest against the Midtown Greenway
The Replacements – Chris Mars, Bob Stinson, Westerberg, Tommy Stinson – at an early protest against the Midtown Greenway

And so Westerberg – in his Replacements-era career and ever since – has occupied a much larger space in my memory of the era than most other writers of his or any other generation.  Westerberg’s music grew up, just like we did – but still kept a foot back in the garage.

Just like many of us like to think we do, in a little corner in the back of our minds that never quite turned 22.

Happy birthday, Paul Westerberg!

Around The MOB: BikeBubba’s Bits

Our next stop is BikeBubba’s Bits, produced by Robert Perry.  Bubba is also a regular commenter on Shot In The Dark, so I’ll have to restrain my effusion.

Bubba offers one of the things the Twin Cities’ blogosphere is rich with; a perspective on the issues that you don’t see everywhere.

On the practical history of the real-world application of the Geneva Convention:

The author’s poignant example is of his father’s unit finding that 100 American POWs had been massacred by the SS, and the response was to not take prisoners for the next two weeks–in other words, to kill those who tried to surrender. It sounds brutal, and it was–until you realize that had they not done this, what would the fate of further American POWs have been?

In the same way, what message was sent to genocidal maniacs when an Army unit opened fire on SS guards at Dachau? Violation of the Geneva Convention? Absolutely. Reminder that barbaric cruelty to the defenseless will be returned to the offender? Priceless.

Oh, yeah.  And he’s a biker.  Which does, in fact, make him a better conservative than most.

And, oddly, he must have some pretty righteous traffic; he’s about 13th on my referrers list, behind the likes of Hot Air, Powerline, Instapundit and Hugh Hewitt.  The next “smallest” blog higher on the list is Fraters Libertas.  Bubba’s doing something right!

Support your local MOB blog!

New Years Eve Plans

Not sure what I’m doing this evening.

I know what I’m not doing, of course;  I certainly don’t have the clout to kype an invite to Katie Kieffer’s party.  She looks like she’s got some high-speed guests coming (drawn by free champagne?  I dunno); it may be the only party in town with both Ben Bernancke and Michael Moore on the guest list.

If you scored a golden ticket, let me know  how it went.

Punch Bowl

Ah, the sweet taste of scandal

Ah, the sweet taste of scandal

Between the unseemingly confluence of money and collegiate athletics and the ungangly Bowl Championship Series, the potential for abuse and scandal often seemed to lurk just below the surface.

Enter the Arizona Republic and allegations that employees of the Fiesta Bowl were reimbursed for campaign contributions to local politicians whose votes could influence contracts related to the bowl game.  Some $38,000 were contributed to Arizona pols over the past decade from current and former Fiesta Bowl employees – hardly a massive sum either in sports or politics.  But the scandal has managed to renew talk of a college football playoff series from some high-profile politicos with too much time on their hands:

From The Mergers And Acquisitions Department

This blog hasn’t really changed a whole lot in eight years. 

While this blog started out as my personal venting space back in February of 2002, it’s always had a focus – or rather, like the guy who created it, perhaps a maddening lack of focus.   While this blog, like many, many center-right blogs, started at least in part as  a reaction to 9/11, I have never “focused” this blog; it’s always wandered the waterfront, content-wise, dabbling in subjects big (the War on Terror, liberty and its erosion, faith, conservatism, the Media) and small (Beer, Education, ridiculing overwrought and not-too-bright leftybloggers, music, what I was doing twenty years ago at certain selected moments) and everything in between.

And and even after we started adding writers – Johnny Roosh and Bogus Doug – this blog remained focused on not having a focus, really.

And we hope to continue that record with the newest addition to the Shot In The Dark team.  And with that, I’m happy to announce that  “The First Ringer”, longtime Twin Cities blogger and writer, is joining Shot In The Dark.  Ringer’s debut post is below

Ringer comes to us from his eponymous “First Ringer” blog, and from “Truth Vs. The Machine”.  He has a long track record as one of the best writers in town about…

…well, all sorts of stuff.  Which means he’ll fit in nicely.

John has the same contract terms Roosh and Bogus have; whenever the urge overtakes him, whether it’s once a day or once a year, write something.  Stop by and say “hi”!

Brown Spot

Have you seen this mans support?

The Republican attempt to soil Massachusetts’ tidy Senate election gets bleached.

In a state where only 24 of the 200 legislators who occupy the legislature are Republicans and which last reliably voted GOP at a national level during Dwight Eisenhower’s era, most pundits and pols could be forgiven for tuning out their interest in the race to succeed the late Ted Kennedy after the lopsided, low-turnout Democratic primary of earlier this month.  Between Massachusetts’ historically liberal leanings, State Attorney General Martha Coakley’s convincing primary victory and her sizable cash advantage, national Republican leaders and even conservative activists have largely written off St. Sen. Scott Brown’s erstwhile attempt to score even a moral victory in the Bay State.

While there’s no question that despite being an articulate communicator whose good looks allowed him to put his posterior in Cosompolitan magazine for posterity in 1982, Brown faces taller odds than Hervé Villechaize at a slam dunk competition.  Still, some are questioning the national GOP’s disinterest in the campaignNRO‘s Jim Geraghty gamely expresses the NRSC and GOP’s likely logic of throwing away good money after bad considering the simple political math that Massachusetts presents any right-of-center candidacy:

But to illustrate how tough the odds are for Brown, let’s pretend that every registered Republican in the state, as of 2008, shows up and votes for him. And let us pretend that the independents split evenly, and that only one third of the state’s Democrats show up and vote for Coakley.

Under that scenario, Coakley still wins by about 1,045 votes.

With Brown trailing Coakley in cash-on-hand alone by nearly $1.6 million, in addition to having been already outraised $4 million to $400,000, there’s little logic at hand for any national Republican organization to spend the kind of money necessary to deliver, in the words of one snubbed Bay State Republican, “a level playing field.”  Had the state’s beleagued GOP recruited any one of the higher-profile candidates mentioned months ago, including Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling or former White House chief of staff Andy Card, funds would likely be more forthcoming.   Such realities explain the lack of organizational support for Brown – but it doesn’t explain why conservative activists have wiped Brown from their radar.

Massachusetts may be solidly blue but the Democratic establishment has rarely been less popular.  Gov. Deval Patrick, who successfully broke a 20-year streak of moderate Republican governors with his victory in 2006, has a 47% disapproval rating, which is actually a slight improvement.  The state’s health care system, once seen as the template for Congress’ national health care reform, has been seen as successful by only 26% while merely 10% believe the system has actually improved the quality of care.  Throw in your run-of-the-mill scandals that happen in states that lack much competition at the polls and at least a pyrrhic Democratic victory seems possible.

The same scenario played out three years ago as Republican Jim Ogonowski nearly upset Niki Tsongas in Massachusetts’ 5th Congressional district.  Despite being outspent 4-to-1 and residing in a district where only 18% of voters were registered Republicans, Ogonowski captured 46% of the vote.  And while the numbers once again sizably favor the Democrat, the intangibles love the underdog:

[T]he number of votes there are in the Democratic Primary is usually the high-water mark of what the Democrat will get. In 2001 special congressional election, Steven Lynch got more votes in the Democratic Primary than he received in the General Election.  Fewer people voted for Nikki Tsongas in 2007 in the general than voted in the Democratic Primary.
…Coakley has basically shut-down and set the cruise control. She thinks she’s already won. Her base is no longer motivated. Scott is Senator 41. Obama’s Agenda screeches to a halt if Scott is elected . . .

Despite Brown’s potential importance, few conservative activists and fewer conservative dollars have rushed to his aid.  But recriminations are likely to abound should Brown pull closer than expected come Election Day, leaving the RNC and NRSC in an impossible position – spend money only to see Brown lose in a modest landslide or save for 2010 while likely losing dollars from yet another blog-inspired embargo on committee contributions.

Much like the Doug Hoffman candidacy in nearby New York, if conservative activists want to see Scott Brown supported, they’re best advised to start by doing so themselves.

Get Off My Lawn

It’s a good thing we only end decades every ten years.   The endless round of “looking back at the decade” stories inflicted on us takes a good chunk of the joy out of the new year.

Of course, this past ten  years has been a time of massive changes, socially and politically and, of course, technologically.

Huffpo ran a list earlier this week of the “12 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade“.  And it’s a mixed bag of good and bad news. 

I won’t quote the Huffpo piece – you can click the link for all of the giggly, not-one-degree-behind-the-vacuous-trend-curve snarkiness you could want.  But the list itself is interesting, more or less:

Calling (onthe phone):  The text message, they say, is replacing the phone call.  Huge net loss.  Unless you’re stuck in a meeting, text messaging sucks chunks through a straw.  It’s slow (yeah, yeah, I know, kids today can text 200 wpm, but I guarantee you we can all talk even faster), it degrades language, and in the end it dehumanizes us all; it’s such a natural progression on the way to Duckspeak, I’m amazed nobody else has brought it up.  Verdict: Unambiguously Bad.

Classifieds:   I’ll cop to it; I jumped on the Craigs List bandwagon with both feet.  Sorry, newspapers; technology wins.  The buyer needs to beware, but no moreso than with classifieds – and you can at least read Craigslist (and Twin Cities Free Market) without a magnifying glass.   Verdict: Acceptable.

Dial-up Internet:   Creaky?  Unreliable?  Begone.  Verdict: Unambiguously good.

Encyclopedias:   Yeah, I know, Google is fast and ubiquitous and everywhere.  And the various online encyclopedias, including Wikipedia, have pretty much slurped up the market.  But we’re raising a generation of kids who have absolutely no idea how to find information that doesn’t respond to a three word search string.  In a generation, the art and skill of finding information that isn’t parsed, indexed and Google-ready will be even more concentrated in the hands of the very, very few (I’m talking lawyers, here) than it already is.  Verdict: Neutral-to-bad.

CDs:   I hated CDs when they came out.  Compared to well-cared-for-vinyl, CDs – especially DDD CDs (material that was recorded, mastered and delivered digitally) sounded cold, harsh and teutonic.  I’m not alone in thinking this; one of the big stories this past year or two in music technology has been the comeback of vinyl, with its warm, human-sounding frequency response.  And I still want to find all those bobbleheads from the eighties who were saying “CDs are indestructible, and they will never skip!”; on the balance, I have found CDs to be much, much less reliable than well-cared-for vinyl.  And I’m no audiophile (although as I buy more classical music, I could easily become one); for casual music listening, the MP3 is just fine. Verdict: Good riddance.

Landline Phones:   As little as I like text messaging, I like cell phones even less. Why?  Because you’re always “on” when you have a cell phone; you have to make a considered action to drop off the grid.  And worst of all, cell phones are small, usually dark-colored, and easily lost.  You can not lose a landline phone.  After my little fracas with the garage last summer – where I had to race downstairs to try to find my cell phone, which it took me a second or two to remember I’d left in the handlebar-bag on my bike – I reaffirmed my belief; people need landlines.  Verdict: A cursed wolf in blessing-y sheep’s clothing.

Film:   The film camera, in theory, is similar to the CD.  Digital cameras – at least, the ones I will ever be able to afford – are basically scanners.  They sweep their field of view for the data in their response range, and plunk it, according to an automagic algorithm, into memory.  It has none of the warmth or idiosyncrasy of film, the use of which is itself an art form.  My daughter – who inherited the family photography gene, and is quite talented at the art of composing and lighting a shot – vastly prefers good old film for doing real photography, in the same way that I love analog music.  But who am I kidding?  If I remembered to take film to the store to be developed, it was a minor miracle.  The digital camera fills the niche of the old 110 cameras, without the whole ‘pick up the film” hasslte.  Verdict: Ambiguously good with a big asterisk.

Yellow Pages:   I always hated trying to parse the phone company’s logic in parsing and sorting the content in the Yellow Pages.  Verdict: Unalloyed Blessing.

Catalogs:   I never read catalogs.  Verdict: Who cares.

Fax Machines:   I hated, hated, hated fax machines.  Always.  Fussy, temperamental, slow, with an action-to-feedback loop an order of magnitude beyond the attention span  I devote t o “sending documents”, I learned to detest the buzzing, beeping, paper-shredding, hidden-code-dependent monstrosities.  Especially when I was working as a contractor; I’d fax my invoices to whomever was collecting them, and run about my business, and find out a day later that something, somewhere in the chain, had squibbed, leaving me scrambling to make sure I got paid on time…Grrr.  Hate ’em.  Verdict: Yaaaay!

Wires:   Wires, they say, are obsolete.  Wireless will replace it all, they say.  But after six years of wrestling with anomalous propagation, signal quirks and hardware and user-interface bumfuzzlery, I’m very, very unconvinced.  And you just know  the Center for Science in the Public Interest is going to find that wireless causes cancer, don’t you?  Verdict: Get back to me in ten years, trekkie.

Hand-written letters:   Ugh.  There’s something so nice about a hand-written letter.  Unless it’s from me.  Between my ADD and decades of bad habits ranges from an unintelligible scrawl to, if I’m paying attention, a painfully slow all-cap script that looks like it was written by an addled first-grader.  On the other hand, I type 70 WPM, and still do it with style.  Verdict: I’m so sorry, but I’m totally there.

Thoughts are solicited.

Price Of Pork

Senator Ben Nelson – one of the crucial votes the Administration bought last week to win the Health Care vote in the Senate – isn’t up for re-election this term.  But he’s bleeding from the ears, and he’s currently down by around 30 points in a hypothetical race against Nebraska’s Republican governor for his normally-secure “blue-dog” seat.

But Nebraskans aren’t amused:

As a fresh poll measured the political cost of Sen. Ben Nelson’s health reform vote, he prepared Tuesday to take his case directly to Nebraskans during Wednesday night’s Holiday Bowl game.

Nelson will air a new TV ad in which he attempts to debunk opposition claims that the Senate legislation represents a government takeover, and he makes the case for health care reform.

“With all the distortions about health care reform, I want you to hear directly from me,” the Democratic senator says in the ad.

That’s a great idea, Senator Nelson.  Why don’t you hear directly from your constituents.

At a statewide series of town hall meetings?  Where you can hear from them, too?

Or are all those peasants just too…pesky?

The Orcs Are Gathering

As the clock ticks toward March and the Supreme Court arguments in re McDonald v. City of Chicago, the anti-civil-rights orcs are mustering their forces:

In a few months time, the Supreme Court will revisit the Second Amendment in McDonald v. City of Chicago, which challenges a gun-control ordinance in the city.

Not surprisingly, the case is attracting heavy interest around the country.

The Sacramento Bee today reports that Sacramento’s City Council has voted to join other cities arguing in support of Chicago’s right to regulate the posssesion and use of firearms.

Other cities invited to file briefs supporting Chicago include Baltimore, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

At last check, gun control has treated those cities so well, hasn’t it?  Four of the five cities have not only among the toughest gun controls in the United States, but share an average violent crime rate of over 1,400 per 100,000 residents – well over triple the national average.

Sacramento City councilman Kevin McCarty, who supports the city’s involvement in the case, told the Bee that guns “are most likely to be used by assailants or people who shouldn’t have guns in the first place.”

Sacremento?  997/100,000, well over double the national average.

But there is plenty of firepower on the other side of the case.

Many states, including Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, have filed an amicus brief arguing that Chicago’s handgun ban is unconstitutional. Here’s a link to that brief.

Note to Lori Swanson; while I’m unlikely to vote for you on any number of grounds for any office, you could certainly earn credit in heaven by filing a brief for the plaintiff here.  Whatever your other faults, you’ve been right on this issue more consistently than most politicians in Minnesota.

At issue in the McDonald case is whether the Second Amendment right to bear arms applies to states.

In D.C. v. Heller, the Supremes a few terms back ruled that Washington, D.C.’s gun-control ordinance violated the Constitution, but that ruling dealt with a federal statute, not state law. Several courts, including the Seventh Circuit in the McDonald case, have since ruled that the Second Amendment does not apply to the states.

And while I dream of the Seventh Circuit being chased down the street in their underwear by a mob wielding pitchforks and torches, I’m sure they had their (faulty) reasons.

To get at whether the Second Amendment binds states and localities may require a parsing of the 14th Amendment’s Privileges and Immunities Clause, namely whether the right to bear arms is a privilege that can not be abridged by states.

The word we’re looking for is “human right”, “endowed” to “the people” by “our creator”.  See to that.

Around The MOB: Befuddled

Befuddled, a blog written by a woman named “Louie”, is skimpy (or so it seems at first impression) on autobiographical details.  But she’s an excellent writer, covering a very, very wide range of topics.

This post from earlier this month – a memoriam to teenager that used to attend Louie’s daycare – caught my attention:

Pat and I went away for the weekend AND attended the Chicago/Vikings game on Sunday. (Thanks R & R) All that sounds like a great time … hmmm, I beg to differ on that because of…well, if you’ve read my previous posts you know. The weekend away was to be a moment to forget, a moment to feel normal…

Well…it started that way and it was really nice to be with my hubby…then on Saturday, I read the paper and there was a small blip about a car accident and a teen dying. The name didn’t register at that time, I was skimming and briefly sad for yet another loss on Highway 8 of a young life….a couple hours later, our daughter called knowing that she should only call if there was something urgent….

The girl who died….she was one of the kids I did daycare for only a few years ago. It was after that phone call that I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown…I shut down. Too much for my human emotions to handle. At a certain point, the wall that I created to try to help my friends, crumbled, and I found myself lost.

Read the whole thing; it’s some excellent writing on a very difficult subject.

So support your local MOB blog – whoever they are…

That 2008 Nostalgia

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Obama actually deified.

No, I mean actually deified, this time in the left-leaning Danish site

He is provocative in insisting on an outstretched hand, where others only see animosity.

His tangible results in the short time that he has been active – are few and far between. His greatest results have been created with words and speeches – words that remain in the consciousness of their audience and have long-term effects.

He comes from humble beginnings and defends the weak and vulnerable, because he can identify himself with their conditions.

And no we are not thinking of Jesus Christ, whose birthday has just been celebrated – – but rather the President of the United States Barack Hussein Obama.

I had to double check to see if the angry Moslems had killed noodle-, brained lefty commentator in Denmark after the “Mohammed Cartoons” controversy, and they’d hired Grace Kelly as a ringer:

For some time now, comparisons between the two have been a tool of cynical opinion that quickly became fatigued of the rapture that Obama instilled prior to and after the presidential election last year.

From the start, Obama’s critics have claimed that his supporters have idolised him as a saviour, thus attempting to dismantle the concrete hope that Obama has represented for most Americans.

Actually, my Danish friend, it’s the lefties and their bobbleheaded deification that created the cynical opinion; it’s Obama’s incompetence that have dismantled the “concrete hope”.

The idea was naturally that the comparison between Jesus and Obama – which is something that the critics developed themselves – would be comical, blasphemous, or both.

If such a comparison were to be made, it would, of course, inevitably be to Obama’s advantage.

That’s right.  Obama’s better than Christ.

Read the whole thing. 

I’m tempted not to go riot in the streets and demand the author’s death.

Killing The Patient To Excise His Wart

There are some government regulations that just seem, to people of all political stripes, to just plain make common sense.  Keeping rat hair out of our food supply?  Making sure our medication is actually medication, rather than dog urine in a drop pouch?  Making sure our airline pilots are qualified to fly the planes and, if the situation warrants, ditch them in the Hudson successfully?  No matter how orthodox a free-marketeer one is, it’s hard to argue with these.

And when big, bad, arrogant airlines make victims passengers sit on the tarmac for hours and hours, waiting for takeoff permissions that due to our overcrowded airports and snarled air traffic control system might never come, or at least may be very very tardy, as infants start to squall and toilets back up and flight crews have to change due to (yet more) government regulations?   These incidents – which garner all sorts of news coverage when they happen – are utterly infuriating to hear about; the most hardeded free-marketeer can imagine the smell, the sounds, the claustrophobia, and the sense that one is nothing but a particle in a badly-managed industrial stream.

Well, who could possibly argue with banning the practice?

We’ll come back to that.  But remember: all government actions have unintended consequences.  Often, especially with regulations that seem moderately innocuous on the surface, the unintended consequences are problems that are far worse than the one the regulation was originally intended to deal with.

“Penigma”, blogging at “Penigma”, notes that the Obama Administration is proposing new rules requiring airlines to deplane passengers after a three-hour wait.

This post could be several hundred pages,

[Those of you who know Penigma’s history as a commenter know – he’s not exaggerating. Ed]

but I’ll try to keep it down to about four paragraphs.

[It came to nine – Ed.]

Two days ago, the FAA under the Obama Administration mandated that should anyone be stuck on a plane more than two hours, they must be given food and water, and the lavatories on the plane must be operable and available. If they are stuck more than three hours, that the plane must return to the gate and off-load the passengers. Between Jan 2009 and June 2009, there were 631 incidents of planes sitting on the tarmack [sic] for more than three hours, so any of us who travel often deeply appreciate the change and probably even say, “FINALLY!” to the idea that this was a long-needed redress of an abusive and aggregeious [sic] practice by the airlines.

As someone who gets a little claustrophobic on planes (I’m 6’5, and planes these days are not built to be even remotely comfortable for anyone over a relatively lilliputian 6’0), I’ll testify; waiting on the runway sucks.  And the longest I’ve had to sit was probably 90 minutes, coming back from New York last year. 

But remember that number and the process behind it; last year, the proposed rule would have required 631 planes to return to the terminal and deplane.

Penigma doesn’t mention that this rule is accompanied by big fines.

The reaction from the airlines was typical. One commented that this ran counter to the idea of getting the most flights completed, which was the ‘goal’ the commenter said they were required to meet.

Now, I’m not sure why Penigma opted to put scare quotes around “goal”; flight completion is a pretty vital metric for airlines.  And once an airliner pushes away from the boarding gate, it’s considered to be on its way; returning to the terminal is a complex process that involves a lot more than just marching people off the plane back to the terminal; at busy airports, boarding gates are tightly scheduled; the luggage will need to be taken off the plane and held somewhere, and probably sorted according to whatever plan emerges to get the passengers to their destinations.  It’s a lot of work.  But it’s a huge problem.


We’ll come back to that shortly.

So here’s the point – Obama acted in my opinion where Bush and the Republicans would not have.

Penigma being a clairvoyant, perhaps he should start predicting stock markets on his blog.

Bush would have made platitudes about letting the market correct the problem and that any ‘regulation’ here was overkill and unnecessary – as he so frequently did on a myriad of issues.

Well, yes. And for good reason.

Because as it happens economist John Lott also commented on the issue.  And yes, Lott is a bit of a free-marketeer:

It seems like such an obvious regulation right? It is important to note first that airlines have a strong incentive to get things right to begin with. If they keep people a long time on the tarmac, people won’t fly their airlines again.

It’s no secret; airlines that develop bad reputations start to shed passengers; I know that on the rare occasions when I fly at all (anything less than a ten-hour drive is actually better spent in the car, unless someone else is paying me to make the flight), I actively eschew airlines with awful reputations (you hear me knocking, NWA?) for leaving planes on the runway.

But since Lott’s an economist, let’s talk numbers:

This year through Oct. 31, there were 864 flights with taxi out times of three hours or more, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Transportation officials, using 2007 and 2008 data, said there are an average of 1,500 domestic flights a year carrying about 114,000 passengers that are delayed more than three hours. . . .”

That is an annual rate of 1,037 flights this year. For 2007 and 2008, it is an average of 822.5 million passengers and 10.94 million flights. So that is 0.01 percent of passengers were on flights delayed by more than three hours and 0.01 percent of flights.

In other words, one out of 10,000 passengers and flights are ever delayed by three hours or longer.

So what happens (I’ll add emphasis)?

 Given the huge fines per passenger, airlines won’t even put people on planes if there is a chance that the plane won’t take off soon. Zero tolerance rules also make about as much sense here as they do for schools or anything else.

Given the fines involved, it’s entirely likely the airlines will play it “better safe than sorry”, and not only scrub flights that are getting close to the three-hour limit, but flights that have any risk at all of going over the limit.  Weather closing in on O’Hare? Scrub all connecting flights!  Blizzard approaching Denver?  Scrub every flight that will connect through DIA!

Instead of one in 10,000 passengers waiting on tarmacs for three hours or more (as galling as that is), you’ll have many, many times that number stuck in terminals trying to find connections, while the airlines quite sensibly protect themselves from huge fines.

Passengers value getting to their destinations and they also value not being stuck on planes, but who is best to make those decisions? The customers or the government? It is also costly to return passengers to the terminal and remove baggage from the planes before the three hours are up. If airlines make the wrong decisions, what do you think will happen to whether passengers are willing to take their planes. If this is a significant problem, should airlines be competing against each other for passengers based on this issue? The rules will make the airlines more risk averse than passengers want them to be. One clear implication is that this will raise the price of air travel.

But then, in the era of Hope and Change, we must ALL be happy to pay more.

Information, as usual, would make the market work better…:

There are probably a range of responses that different airlines will take on their own. If you are in first class, you probably get served a lot even when you are on the tarmac. Some airlines will serve passengers in coach more than others. Those services cost something and passengers can pick the airlines that they want based upon price and whether they are willing to save a few dollars and take that additional risk. People can bring water bottles on the plane with them if they would rather save a few dollars and do it that way.

Lott also notes that the Feds are framing this to the airlines in the form of “an offer they can’t refuse”..:

What bothered me was a report that the transportation department warned airlines not to appeal the decision.

Fortunately for the travelling public (those that will be able to afford to fly at all), America’s air terminals are places of scenic wonder, where one can meditate.  Think “my flight got scrubbed for the greater good.  My flight got scrubbed for the greater good”.

What If Someone Sewed A Bomb Into Your Underwear…

…that was supposed to send you to meet your 72 virgins, but instead only burned your nether regions like a forgotten barbecue…

…and it was never intended to work, because it was all for practice?

Man videotaped the entire NWA flight, including the detonation of the squib undies (emphasis added):

[Patricia Keepman and her family, including two newly-adopted Ethiopian kids] were sitting about 20 rows behind Abdulmutallab, in a center aisle with her husband and daughter a row ahead of her and their two new adopted children, a six-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy.

Her daughter said that ahead of them was a man who videotaped the entire flight, including the attempted detonation.

“He sat up and videotaped the entire thing, very calmly,” said Patricia. “We do know that the FBI is looking for him intensely. Since then, we’ve heard nothing about it.”

“We heard what sounded like an electrical pop to me. Everybody looked above their seats, kind of like startled, panicked. Shortly thereafter, we heard the screams. We could not see what was going on. We were too far back. We heard shouting, and you could hear the mayhem happening.

At that point, two flight attendants ran at full speed to get fire extinguishers.

So a guy calmly videotapes the whole thing?

Being calm if you think you’re going to meet your 72 virgins?  Perhaps.  Videotaping the whole thing?

I suspect Mr Abdulmutallab donated his fried nether regions in service of a practice run and an Al Quaeda training film.

Happy effing new year.

Around The MOB: Because I Said So (12/29)

Chris Meirose is the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Waseca. He writes Because I Said So – a blog that’s been appearing consistently for almost five years.

And he’s all over the place; family life, computers, daily life at his church, politics – the same dog’s breakfast of topics that makes the most interesting blogs for me.

I liked this piece last month, about the value of spiritual upbringing for children:

With all of the time, money and effort that parents and churches invest in the spiritual growth of children, we find ourselves often wondering if there is really any statistical connection between childhood faith and adult religious commitment. A recent study by the Barna Group provides new insights into the age-old question.

The survey asked adults to think back on their upbringing and to describe the frequency of their involvement in Sunday school or religious training. The researchers then compared these responses to the current level of faith activity of these adults.

Read the whole thing – and of course, check back with Mr. Meirose often.

The Affliction That Dare Not Write Its Name

The big Minnesota story du jour is about Mark Dayton’s “coming out” last week about his long battle with depression.

Bob Collins at MPR addresses the issue:

Former Sen. Mark Dayton revealed in a Sunday column that he’s suffered from alcoholism and depression. It’s now an issue in his quest to become governor. In politics, there’s often a price to be paid for honesty.

On Sunday afternoon, a Star Tribune reporter asked Dayton for more details of his admission, but Dayton reportedly said such details are “private.

Few affliction can kill a candidacy faster than mental illness.

And it’s perhaps a shame that that’s true.  Depression manifests itself in a lot of ways; it’s not infrequently linked with people who are highly intelligent, creative and capable.

In 2002, an advocacy group called the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance released a poll that showed that 24 percent of all Americans would not vote for a political candidate with a mood disorder, according to the Washington Post. An equal percentage said they “might not vote” for such a candidate.

And I’m not one of them.  It’s not the illness; it’s how one deals with it.  George W. Bush is a recovering alcoholic; while his presidency had its faults, they had nothing to do with his illness; the depraved reaches of the lefty fever swamp said more about themselves than about Bush when they claimed he was “obviously” drinking again.  

I’m less concerned about Dayton’s depression than I am about his history of alcohol abuse; he’s been treated at least once.  But again, it’s the results that count.

There are many reasons not to vote for Mark Dayton for governor;  he espouses the same tax-and-spend statist liberal philosophy that has gotten so many other states into deep trouble in this recession; he will tax Minnesota business even closer to the stone age than the current Legislature has; his record in elective office – as Senator and State Auditor – has been uniformly awful; even the liberal lapdogs at Time magazine called him one of “America’s Five Worst Senators“.   He’s an ineffective poltiicians with a dismal record at leadership.

That being said, I hope he stays in the race; his money and connections will drag the DFL’s decision process all the way to next September, if he wants them to.  This is good.

The Star Tribune’s following up on Dayton’s acknowledgment, however, now raises another question in the governor’s race. Should all current candidates now be asked if they’re being treated for any illness or have ever been diagnosed for it?

If people believe that it’s none of our business, then Dayton’s mistake — politically speaking — was in being honest.

Well, I’m suspecting his “mistake” was being a DFLer; the timing of the story tells me (and I say this with no information to back it up – just a hunch) that one of his DFL rivals for the nomination was about to move a big story on the subject; what better time to jump ahead of a hit piece than Christmas weekend? 

Again, that’s just conjecture.

What’s less speculative is the Twin Cities’ media’s disingenuity in covering the “story”.  This is a media market where every aspect of Michele Bachmann’s personal and legislative lives, from her speeches to her choice draperies to the supposed inner workings of her marriage and family are virtually a cottage industry among the local mainstream (to say nothing of lefty “alternative”) media.  It’s a place where the antics of Morgan Grams became front-page news at precisely the moment they had to be to affect his father Rod’s defense of his Senate seat against Dayton (even though Grams hadn’t had custody of the boy in many years).  Where misinformation about Norm Coleman’s apartment was unquestioningly accepted and reprinted during the past Senate race.   Business connections between GOP stalwart Tim Commers and Governor Pawlenty and then-State Auditor and current GOP gubernatorial candidate Pat Anderson got pored over by everthing the Twin Cities media had, looking for a scandal they just couldn’t quite find.

But Mark Dayton’s behavior, and the broad outlines of his medical condition, have been fairly well-known for years among the Twin Cities media.  Scott Johnson wrote about this almost six years ago – and we spent an hour on the Northern Alliance Radio Network back in 2004 talking about the subject, which Scott wrote about again this past weekend:

At a charity auction in 1994 or so I won the opportunity to have Dayton take me and a friend to lunch at the Minneapolis Club. The lunch occurred toward the end of Dayton’s tenure as the Minnesota state auditor. At lunch we argued politics and found nothing on which to agree. The lunch was extremely unpleasant because Dayton seemed to be unable to disagree agreeably. Dayton nevertheless put me on his Christmas card list for roughly the next five years.

Over those five years Dayton used his Christmas cards to discuss the dissolution of his two marriages, his entry into rehabilitation for alcoholism and related therapy issues. His psychiatric challenges were no secret to the many people on Dayton’s Christmas card list, including virtual strangers like me.

In its story today, the Star Tribune reports: “People who have worked closely with Dayton or within the [Minnesota Democratic Party] said they have long known the former senator struggled with mental health issues.” Later the story adds: “Opponents — and even some supporters — have long whispered of his possible struggle with mental illness.”

This was, indeed, the basic outline of the hour we – Scott, John Hinderaker, Brian Ward and I, if memory serves – spent talking about the subject – in 2004

Now, if Scott Johnson – a person who was at that time a person of no great media consequence, seven or eight years before Powerline made him a meta-celebrity – knew the whole story, and it’s been fairly general knowledge that everyone, but everyone close to him knew even more, then – given the Twin Cities’ media’s rigorous punctuality in investigating every wart, burp and exhalation from some other politicians, why is the “story” only now getting out?

So I have two questions:

  1. What did the Twin Cities media, especially those who cover politics full-time, know?  And when did they know it?  And why was it never deemed newsworthy?
  2. There was a time when the media informally swore off covering politicians’ private lives; it was a sort of unwritten agreement, which meant that President Kennedy could squire Marilyn Monroe around the White House with impunity, among many other things.  Fair enough; so why has that unwritten agreement survived so long with favored DFL politicians, when it was tossed under the bus over two decades ago for the GOP?

You know what’d be cool?  If we had a media that’d ask these questions…of the media!

Obama: Out On That Chain Gang

Our old friend Susan Lenfestey’s holiday cheer has apparently been harshed by President Obama’s first year in office…

…oh, who are we kidding?  Susan Lenfestey has never met a mellow she couldn’t harsh.

Still, even by her dysthemic standards, this blog post was a doozy:

Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise, has been going through my head lately. Some verses:

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Catch that?  If Susan Lenfestey’s special little world, Barack Obama – a child of the middle class, who’s benefited not only from the best (or at least highest-rated) education American money can buy but from the American people’s open-mindedness, is no different than a Jim Crow-era sojourner who had to deal with real, genuine, constant oppression!

I’d say “every single one of us who disagrees with the President must be no better in their eyes than some Grand Kleagle”, but I guess we’ve already established that).

Feel like that’s what our president is dealing with, and still, he rises.

Well, no.  He doesn’t.

Below is a reject from the Star Tribune on Obama’s Afghan speech. Yeah, it’s a tad dated, and we’re on to Copenhagen, but Barb is sick of holding up her end of the line without me, so I thought maybe something’s better than nothing. Or maybe not. Sorry for the absence, I lost my mind.

This absence of smart-ass riposte is brought to you by the kinder, gentler Mitch.  Or at least the Mitch that’ll let the occasional hanging curve-ball by out of pity.

Is Your Confidence Boosted?

Janet Napolitano says there’s nothing to see here, people.  Move along.  Don’t ask questions.  Just move along:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says there is no indication that the man who attempted to destroy an airliner in Detroit on Christmas Day is part of a larger terrorist plot.

Napolitano refused to say whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has a connection to al-Qaida, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

Of course he’s not part of any plot that’s on DHS’s radar; he’s not part of any of the groups that DHS is paying attention to.

Seriously – is Napolitano’s response just about the worst confidence-builder you could imagine?

Under tough questioning by CNN’s Candy Crowley, Napolitano insisted that the failure of the bomb to explode showed that “the system worked”.

Dear Secretary Napolitano:  Unless “the System” has involved getting them to train incompetent agents and give them dud loads of Semtex, this episode shows that the system is crap, and that Dutch filmmakers are doing your work for you.  

Great; I’ve probably gotten myself onto a n0-fly list by criticizing Secretary Napolitano.

Indeed, Secretary Napolitano, if the Obama Administration continues its current course – which is fundamentally reactive and defensive (even the few offensive actions, like the surge-let in Afghanistan, have expiration dates on them) – the enemy will be able to take back the initiative.  Being on defense means the enemy gets to pick the time, place and conditions for the attack.

Say what you will about Bush; his first instinct was to seize the initiative.  Wbatever he and his administration bobbled along the way, at least he had the terrorists reacting to us.

And to the extent that the failure of the Flight 253 attack was due to the alleged terrorist’s incompetence, that’s also at least in part due to the fact that our aggressive approach to terror over the past eight years meant it was hard for Al Quaeda to train people (whether they had more volunteers or not).

But hey, look at the bright side: it wasn’t a pro-life protester or returning veteran that did it!  Kudos, Secretary Napolitano, for protecting us from those dangerous groups!

I Hope I Don’t Void My Belief In Christian Charity For Saying It…

…but I sincerely hope this piece of semi-human filth spends the next few weeks crapping out his own teeth:

A man suspected of planning to blow up a Delta Air Lines flight in Detroit could face charges as soon as Saturday according to an official familiar with the case.

The suspect is a Nigerian national who claims to have ties to al-Qaida.

It was unclear today why the man wanted to attack the flight arriving from Amsterdam.

Big lessons?  I see two:

One:  After all the “security theater” that the government subjects passengers to, the alleged terrorist still got some sort of suspicious device or powder onto the plane.  Think about that next time the TSA is making you take your shoes off.

Two:  It was regular Americans who dealt with the situation:

Syed Jafry of Holland, Ohio, who had flown from the United Arab Emirates, said after emerging from the airport that people ran out of their seats to tackle the man.

Jafry was sitting in the 16th row — three rows behind the passenger — when he heard “a pop and saw some smoke and fire.” Then, he said, “a young man behind me jumped on him.”

Jafry said there was a little bit of commotion for about 10 to 15 minutes. The incident occurred during the plane’s descent, he said.

He said the way passengers responded made him proud to be an American.

Me too, Mr. Jafry.

Now, to watch the “Investigation Theater” run its course.