Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Short Film Saga, Part II

After the first weekend of filming:

Somehow, we survived the first weekend of shooting...

It seems like every problem imaginable got thrown at us. The caterer backed out on Saturday about 30 minutes before everyone was supposed to arrive, swore she could handle Sunday, then backed out on Sunday morning all of *20* minutes before everyone was supposed to arrive. For a while, it looked like our lead actress had lost her rent-paying job over a scheduling mix-up with the Saturday shoot (she's fine, thank god). Planes seemed to alter their flight paths to roar overhead during our best takes -- and then a house two doors down threw a thrash-metal-punk party, complete with teenagers in '80s clothes trying to create a mosh pit in their backyard. Two of our crew had to be told not to come back because they refused to stop whispering gossip to each other during the actual takes. The director hit some weird mental concrete where if we went four weekends instead of three weekends, that would be a personal failure as a human being on this part, and so he kept pushing to shoot scenes we weren't ready for. And shooting on Sunday ended at 8 PM with the director of photography and the director telling each other to go eff themselves (long story), which had me going nonstop till the wee hours talking down first one and then the other.

Now comes the truly scary part. Even with all of that -- and on about six hours of sleep today since Friday morning -- we're on schedule, the actors think we're running a professional and good-vibe set (maybe actors really are stupid), everything is clicking and coming together beautifully, the footage is *gorgeous* and better than anything we'd ever dreamed of getting, and I've got the director of photography and the director on the verge of being friends again.

Best of all, I get to do it again next weekend... and the next weekend... and the *next* weekend...

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Generous Neighborhood Responds to Crime

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Short Film Saga, Part I

Shortly after my friends/partners and I made The New Guy, we started work on something much more ambitious. Our next project was going to be a 30-minute comedy. Not only was it a huge undertaking for us in terms of time (we were all still working "real" jobs to pay the bills), in terms of money (we were all far from independently wealthy), and especially in terms of sanity (my future wife got to see us all at our best and our worst), it was beyond anything we had ever tried to do ourselves -- or that we were certain we even could do.

The other day, I found the e-mail "journal" I'd kept during the shoot. It started with a letter to several friends, explaining why they would be hearing very little from me over the next few weeks:

[T]he real culprit is a short film that I wrote and am one of the producers on. That's really going to be sucking up my time over the next few weeks.

It's a 30-minute indie short -- a comedy about, yes, erotic hypnosis gone horribly (and hilariously) wrong...

I wrote the full-length version of it three years ago. It's basically been optioned twice, but nobody's been able to actually get the damn thing made. And I'm sick of waiting, so we're doing it on our own. We start shooting next weekend.

Want to know what a producer really does? HE KEEPS EVERYONE FRICKIN' SANE SO THAT THEY CAN DO THEIR FRICKIN' JOBS!!!

I swear, my catch-phrase over the last three weeks especially has become "This is not a problem." Want to know what my life is like right now? Go rent Living in Oblivion. (The only thing we're missing at the moment is the dwarf!)

I've got a director who doesn't realize how good he really is and now thinks he's bitten off more than he can chew. I've got a director of photography who thinks every other shot should be an artsy, back-of-the-actor's head kind of thing. I've got a make-up guy who just broke up with one of our actresses. And I've got a lead actor who wanted us to dump our lead actress because he didn't think she was hot enough for him to have an affair with (I'm serious), and who now doesn't want to be shot from certain angles, and who if he wasn't so damn good would be shown the door. ("Well, when I was on the set with De Niro, we did things differently."/"The only thing De Niro ever told you on that set was to get out of his way at the craft services table. Get a grip, man.")

I'm also having the time of my frickin' life...
I'll post more from memory lane as the week goes on.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

An Empty Yesterday

I know. I didn't post anything yesterday.

I'm so ashamed...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Press Conference They Didn't Broadcast

"Good evening. Now, before I take questions from the correspondents, I'd like to ask Chuck to move about a half-step to the right. You're blocking my view of that awesome new teleprompter at the back of the room, Chuck. The one we put up so the people at home won't realize I'm still using a teleprompter..."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Only 21 Days Until April 15th

A continuing allegory for these days of the largest budget deficits in history...

Beyond Disingenuous

President Obama held another prime-time press conference last night. After reading the transcript and watching parts of the video this morning, I'm glad my wife and I watched that episode of Genshiken on DVD instead.

The press conference has so much to take issue with, but probably the most telling -- and infuriating -- part came during President Obama's introductory remarks:

At the end of the day, the best way to bring our deficit down in the long run is not with a budget that continues the very same policies that have led us to a narrow prosperity and massive debt. It's with a budget that leads to broad economic growth by moving from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest.
I see. Well then, let's compare this rhetoric with reality using a helpful chart that includes the White House's own budget numbers and projections, along with those of the Congressional Budget Office:

I see...

This is beyond two reasonable people looking at the same facts and drawing different conclusions. This is beyond disingenuous. This is beyond spin.

This is madness, plain and simple.

Never in the last few months have I been so proud to say that I voted for the other guy, despite the several disagreements I had with him as well. Or to say that I left the Democratic Party long before this moment, despite the several issues where I still agree with them.

And people were worried that Sarah Palin was going to lead our country to ruination from the vice-president's office? Please...

UPDATE: From the great Jerry Holbert...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cheer Up, Arlen!

"Cheer up, Arlen. It's not as bad as all that."

"Are you kidding, Mister Vice-President? First, I break ranks and vote for that massive stimulus package. Then, I vote for a bloated $410 billion omnibus spending bill, the one with all the earmarks. Now Pat Toomey is going to challenge me for the Republican nomination. And even if I get the nomination, not even Pennsylvania will re-elect me next year."

"Arlen, stop worrying. We got you covered."

"Really? You mean the Obama administration has changed its mind on all this spending, and you guys won't go ahead double the national debt over the next 10 years after all?"

"You're a funny guy, Arlen. We had something else in mind."

"Like what?"

"We're going to move you to Connecticut, and you're going to run against Chris Dodd."

Monday, March 23, 2009

10 Reasons Why "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" Is Better Than "The Daily Show," Part II

6) This Hour Has 22 Minutes features spot-on fake commercials:

7) This Hour Has 22 Minutes has a better handle on media bias.

8) Can The Daily Show make Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner seem competent, even if only in comparison to the finance ministers of other nations?

9) Like these people, I've also learned how much I actually have in common with those who seem so unlike me, and all courtesy of Air Canada.

10) A joke or even an entire sketch may fall flat on its face, but I have never seen This Hour Has 22 Minutes fall back on "Eff You!" to get a laugh, as Jon Stewart on The Daily Show is doing more, and more, and more...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

10 Reasons Why "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" Is Better Than "The Daily Show," Part I

1) Would The Daily Show ever go after intellectual pretentiousness and elitism of the liberal President Obama like This Hour Has 22 Minutes goes after the intellectual pretentiousness and elitism of the Liberal future Prime Minister Michael Ignatieff?

2) Has a Daily Show reporter ever been arrested during a press conference and then flirted with a head of state, all during the same bit? (I can't believe they won't let me embed this one...)

3) Does The Daily Show have a "Totem Pole of Political Correctness"? I don't think so.

4) This Hour Has 22 Minutes gets the underlying political facts straight in its sketches. (I can't believe they won't let me embed this one, either...)

5) This Hour Has 22 Minutes has a far better sense of history.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What I Miss Most While in San Francisco

Friday, March 20, 2009

10 Things I Would Blog About This Weekend If I Weren't In San Francisco...

1) Charles Krauthammer's excellent piece on the moral contradictions and intellectual laziness in President Obama's speech about embryonic stem cell research and "restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making."

2) If President Obama truly wants to restore scientific integrity to government decision making, why isn't he pushing Congress to revise the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which even the Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission calls "a net of unintended consequences" and not "science-based"? (For more on how this is affecting the ATV and motorcycle industry, see here. For more on how this is affecting public libraries and bookstores, see here. For the letter by Rep. Henry Waxman (D.-CA) dismissing reports of problems with this law as "misinformation" and explaining why he won't schedule a Congressional hearing on this issue, see here.)

3) How badly I want a one of these.

4) President Obama's whiplash-inducing shift from prophet of economic doom (unless we swiftly pass the trillion-dollar stimulus, the $410 billion dollar omnibus spending bill, and every other proposal he has) to economic cheerleader who now declares things are "not as bad as we think."

5) Venezuela offering its La Orchila island airfield as a base for Russian strategic bombers, if only so I could quote The Captain's reaction:

Wow. Bombers. I'm desperately afraid of the Russo-Venezuelan alliance...

Bombers are so "Doctor Strangelove" . And critics say the American military is preparing to fight the last war...
6) How my time management skills have gone to crap this week, probably because I'm spending too much time on deviantArt.

7) How Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan's amendment to the $410 billion omnibus spending bill violates NAFTA and has sparked a trade war with Mexico.

8) Victor Davis Hanson summing up three presidential administrations:
With Clinton we got high taxes (bad) but balanced budgets imposed by the spending caps in Congress (good). With Bush we got tax cuts (good) but deficits (bad). With Obama we get tax hikes (bad) and astronomical deficits (bad).
9) How after playing with my dog and a friend's youngest daughter, and teaching her to how to make an overeager Golden Retriever obey her commands, and watching her order around a dog that weighed more than she did, my paternal clock started going BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

10) How Democratic Senator Chris Dodd, after vilifying AIG for its bonuses and claiming he had nothing to do with the wording of the "Dodd Amendment" in the stimulus package that allowed AIG to pay out those bonuses using their government bailout money, now admits he was responsible for that wording, but says the Obama administration asked him to do it, and that this isn't actually changing his story, and that he had no idea AIG would actually use that loophole he put in the stimulus bill, or that the loophole about bonuses even had anything to do with AIG. (Finally! Someone who is even less convincing than Robert Gibbs!)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Sound" Versus "Strong"

Uh, could you run that by me again, Robert?

So the fundamentals of the economy are sound but not strong. Or strong but not sound. But not sound and strong. And not not sound and not strong.

Or something.

At first, watching margarine-tongued spin boy Robert Gibbs was hilarious. Now, it's almost painful. When you have to rely on parsing the definitions of "sound" versus "strong" to keep your administration from looking hypocritical, well, words fail me. Which is good, because Robert Gibbs would probably parse their definitions, too.

Get this man his own Internet forum debate thread. Seriously.

Now this, however, is how it's done. Pay attention, Robert...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Trend Is Not His Friend

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I Miss the Presidential Campaign

I realized tonight that I actually miss that endless presidential campaign we all suffered through. I really do. Everything just seemed so much less serious back then.

Kind of like this...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stay Classy, CNN!

After I said such nice things about them only a few days ago, CNN had to go and do something like this...

"The Most Trusted Name in News" recently aired video footage of a suicide bomber in Sri Lanka. Not footage from a bomber's martyrdom tape. Not footage of a suicide bomber walking or driving toward the target. Not even simply footage of the bloody aftermath of the explosion. No, CNN aired footage of the actual explosion within a large crowd of people.

I won't embed this video. You can see it here, if you want.

There is a way to air this kind of tape with some sense of decency and respect, but giving that task to the always classy and professional Rick Sanchez is not the way to do it. In a discussion forum we both take part in, Haepnoteased said it best:

Networks love the dramatic & sensational, but this is over the top. In a stillframe capturing a suicide bombing explosion, the anchor points out a guy's feet and notes how they are about to burn. And then he preps the audience and says "Dan, hit it."

"Dan, hit it"??

These people, whatever their religion, are about to DIE.

"Dan, hit it"??

What decorum. . . .
Even worse is the tone of Rick Sanchez ("This is amazing!"), especially when he has the control room "get rid of all that stuff in the bottom of the picture" so that everyone at home can see the flames licking about the man's foot. The only thing missing here is Rick Sanchez yelling "Is this cool or what?!"

Not that those words were needed, of course. Rick's tone said it all.

Then again, I'm not sure why this surprises me. After all, CNN is the network that aired video, filmed by Iraqi insurgents, of a sniper killing American soldiers. At the time, CNN justified this as part of their goal to present the "unvarnished truth" of the situation in Iraq. Of course, CNN is also the network that intentionally did not report the unvarnished truth about all the "awful things" that took place in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, as CNN's Eason Jordan admitted in his New York Times op-ed "The News We Kept to Ourselves."

Somehow, I think Rick Sanchez and the "hitting-it" Dan would get along well with this guy:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Even People Who Talk to Pollsters Are Catching On...

Or at least they are according to Douglas Schoen, former pollster for President Clinton, and Scott Rasmussen, the president of Rasmussen Reports. As they write in the Wall Street Journal:

It is simply wrong for commentators to continue to focus on President Barack Obama's high levels of popularity, and to conclude that these are indicative of high levels of public confidence in the work of his administration. Indeed, a detailed look at recent survey data shows that the opposite is most likely true. The American people are coming to express increasingly significant doubts about his initiatives, and most likely support a different agenda and different policies from those that the Obama administration has advanced.
Chris Matthews once said that his job as a journalist was to do everything he could to make the Obama presidency a success. And with a few notable exceptions -- even Chris Matthews himself is beginning to catch on -- too many in the media are acting as if they agree with him.
Polling data show that Mr. Obama's approval rating is dropping and is below where George W. Bush was in an analogous period in 2001.
Of course, that was when Bush was also dealing with the most-heated period of the "stolen election" anger, remember? And the approval rating of the man who got elected on hope and change is now lower than what Bush's was at about the same point in his presidency? I can't think of a more telling poll result than that.
Rasmussen Reports data shows that Mr. Obama's net presidential approval rating -- which is calculated by subtracting the number who strongly disapprove from the number who strongly approve -- is just six, his lowest rating to date.

Overall, Rasmussen Reports shows a 56%-43% approval, with a third strongly disapproving of the president's performance. This is a substantial degree of polarization so early in the administration. Mr. Obama has lost virtually all of his Republican support and a good part of his Independent support, and the trend is decidedly negative.
The loss of the Independents will be what really cripples his administration. No one, Democrat or Republican, can govern America successfully without their support. And it becomes that much harder to make a case that opposition to Obama's policies is nothing more than reflexive Republican obstructionism, as seems to be the administration's newest tactic, now that even margarine-tongued spin-boy Robert Gibbs has admitted the relentless focus on Rush Limbaugh and other individuals has been "counterproductive."

President Obama needs to get the Independents back, and fast. And he won't achieve that by focusing on Rush Limbaugh or Rick Santelli or Jim Cramer and trying to make them out to be blowhards. We Independents already know these guys are blowhards. But we also know these blowhards happen to be making a lot of sense as well. Even worse, they happen to be making more sense than most of what we've been hearing from the Obama administration.

It's easy to mock the style of these guys, and I can understand how that would be the go-to position for the administration of a president who relies on style far more than, say, actual governing experience or even accurate math to get his policies and spending plans enacted. But style only goes so far. If Rush Limbaugh or even Jim Cramer were simply style and no substance, they would have faded into obscurity a long time ago. So go after them on the substance of their arguments, Obama administration, or just ignore them. Anything else, as even Robert Gibbs now seems to realize, will be "counterproductive."

Then again, so will trying to convince all us Independents who have serious reservations about President Obama's policies and programs that we're actually reflexively obstructionist Republicans. Either we'll have to accept the idea that President Obama knows what's in our hearts and souls better than we do ourselves, or we'll just have to shake our heads and think, "There he goes again..." Either way, it's another loser for this administration.

Gallup, by the way, has found similar results:
[A]lthough a narrow majority remains confident in Mr. Obama's goals and overall direction, 45% say they do not have confidence, a number that has been growing since the inauguration less than two months ago.
I remember James Carville once saying about polling data, "The trend is not our friend." For all our sakes, I hope he's telling that to President Obama right now.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday Afternoon Cadillac

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Different Kind of Fan Film

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Community Service

Take the community service, they said... Six-thousand hours as Secretary of the Treasury, how hard could that be, they said...

Freakin' TurboTax...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Even Stuart Taylor Is Catching On...

As lawyer, columnist, and all-around smart guy Stuart Taylor writes in National Journal:

Having praised President Obama's job performance in two recent columns, it is with regret that I now worry that he may be deepening what looks more and more like a depression and may engineer so much spending, debt, and government control of the economy as to leave most Americans permanently less prosperous and less free.

Other Obama-admiring centrists have expressed similar concerns. Like them, I would like to be proved wrong. After all, if this president fails, who will revive our economy? And when? And what kind of America will our children inherit?

But with the nation already plunging deep into probably necessary debt to rescue the crippled financial system and stimulate the economy, Obama's proposals for many hundreds of billions in additional spending on universal health care, universal postsecondary education, a massive overhaul of the energy economy, and other liberal programs seem grandiose and unaffordable.

With little in the way of offsetting savings likely to materialize, the Obama agenda would probably generate trillion-dollar deficits with no end in sight, or send middle-class taxes soaring to record levels, or both.
The "centrists are catching on" theme just continues gaining steam, along with the still mostly ignored by the major media "Tea Parties." I can't even hope to keep up with all of them at this point, and I won't even try.

I've seen harsh criticism thrown at new presidents before, of course, but usually from their own base, not from the swing-voting centrists who actually put them in office. And I have never seen anything like I see happening between President Obama and so many of us who want to find reasons to give him the benefit of the doubt. It's almost as if President Obama, when he was studying history, missed the part about the 1994 mid-term elections. Or the entire presidency of Jimmy Carter.

The political junkie in me loves what I'm seeing, and I say that with a small amount of shame. These are interesting times, especially politically, and like none I've ever seen before. But the American -- not to mention the adult -- in me is scared as hell. Partly because the mask has come off the Obama administration so early, and partly because the Obama administration isn't even showing itself to at least be filled with competent ideologues, and partly because we still have a long, long way to go until even the 2010 mid-term elections.
This is not to deny that the liberal wish list in Obama's staggering $3.6 trillion budget would be wonderful if we had limitless resources. But in the real world, it could put vast areas of the economy under permanent government mismanagement, kill millions of jobs, drive investors and employers overseas, and bankrupt the nation.

Meanwhile, liberal Democrats in Congress are racing to gratify their interest groups in a slew of ways likely to do much more harm than good: pushing a union-backed "card-check" bill that would bypass secret-ballot elections on unionization and facilitate intimidation of reluctant workers; slipping into the stimulus package a formula to reimburse states that increase welfare dependency among single mothers and reduce their incentives to work; defunding a program that now pays for the parents of some 1,700 poor kids to choose private schools over crumbling D.C. public schools; fencing out would-be immigrants with much-needed skills.
The devil is always in the details, and what better place to hide those details than in massive stimulus packages and omnibus spending bills? Should our policy toward Cuba be changed after a full and open debate on the issue, or should it be changed by a few lines that someone attaches to "must pass" spending legislation? Should the welfare reform of the 1990s -- an achievement President Clinton never misses a chance to take credit for -- be changed after an honest discussion of its successes and its failures, or should it be repealed almost silently, by a technicality inserted somewhere in the more than 1,000 pages of an unread economic stimulus bill?

I know what my answers are.
Obama can take credit for keeping campaign promises (which he might have been wiser to defer) on health care, energy, and more, and for ending some of George W. Bush's budget gimmickry. But he has been deceptive in basing his deficit projections on phantom expenditure cuts and wildly optimistic revenue estimates, and in proclaiming "a new era of responsibility" to be paid for by raising taxes only on "the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans."

The numbers don't add up -- and still won't if and when, as seems almost certain, Obama ratchets up his so-far-fairly-modest new taxes on the top 2 percent. "A tax policy that confiscated 100 percent of the taxable income of everyone in America earning over $500,000 in 2006 would only have given Congress an extra $1.3 trillion in revenue," according to a February 27 editorial in The Wall Street Journal. "That's less than half the 2006 federal budget of $2.7 trillion and looks tiny compared to the more than $4 trillion Congress will spend in fiscal 2010. Even taking every taxable 'dime' of everyone earning more than $75,000 in 2006 would have barely yielded enough to cover that $4 trillion."
Math is hard.
As for the budget's $2 trillion in projected net "savings," Obama's budget director, Peter Orszag, admitted in testimony on Tuesday under questioning by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that $1.6 trillion comes from phantom cuts of the money that would be needed to sustain the troop surge in Iraq for another decade -- money that nobody ever intended to spend.
Math is really hard.
Other supposed savings -- especially from Medicare -- seem unlikely to materialize absent benefit cuts, which Obama has not proposed. And the cost of any health care legislation -- to be drafted largely by a Congress that is allergic to the kind of cost-cutting necessary to make universal care sustainable -- is likely to be two or three times the $634 billion over 10 years that Obama has budgeted.
Need I say it again?
And I hope that the president ponders well Margaret Thatcher's wise warning against some collectivist conceits, in a 1980 speech quoted by Wehner: "The illusion that government can be a universal provider, and yet society still stay free and prosperous.... The illusion that every loss can be covered by a subsidy. The illusion that we can break the link between reward and effort, and still get the effort."
I also hope President Obama ponders that. I hope he ponders that one hard.

Wine of the Times

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

And Obama Lifts the "Ban"

So, President Obama has lifted the limitations on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Not that this should be a surprise to anyone. Elections have consequences, after all, and this is at least one campaign promise he's making good on.

I've taken a lot of shots at President Obama lately, so I do want to give him credit where it's deserved. He took great pains to make clear that the promise of embryonic stem cells "should not be overstated." That the full promise "remains unknown." And that we won't be seeing miracle cures tomorrow, or next month, or next year, or maybe even in the next decade, or two, or more.

This is a welcome change in rhetoric from his side of the aisle. Having made the bulk of my living for the last 20 years as a medical and science editor, few hypocrisies have steamed me more than Democrats who claim to be on the side of unbiased science, savage the Bush administration as supposedly distorting climate science for their own political ends, and then make absurd and scientifically unsupported suggestions (or outright claims) that if only the federal government would fund embryonic stem cell research, Christopher Reeve would walk again and Alzheimer's would be a thing of the past by the end of the next presidential term. The demagoguery on this issue for political gain has been appalling, and I give the President credit for trying to walk this back. It was a flash of the adult, "post-partisan" Obama from the transition, who has been all too rarely seen since the inauguration.

I also want to give credit to CNN. They took great pains to make the same point about not overselling the near-term benefits of this research. True, they did have one correspondent who tried to suggest that the reason we won't see these miracle cures by the end of President Obama's term is because we "lost" eight years under President Bush, but by and large, CNN put this issue in the proper context. That was also a welcome change, because I don't recall CNN (or any other major media organization, except Fox News) making a point of providing such context on this issue when President Bush was in the White House. But then, I'm never surprised that the rules of news coverage are different when the man in the Oval Office has a "D" after his name.

Now, with that said, this announcement also bothered the crap out of me.

President Obama was right to say that this issue is a "difficult and delicate balance," and that many "thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about or strongly oppose" it. Lord knows I'm conflicted about it myself, and have been for a long time. The idea of intentionally destroying human embryos for their stem cells is an ethical line I worried about us crossing long before I ever found my way back to Christianity. And if it were simply a question of saving myself from Alzheimer's or paralysis, I'm not sure I could live with the moral trade-off, or would want to. But if it were a question of saving my wife, I also know that my first, second, and third answers would be, "Start harvesting."

The President made an effort to depict this as a difficult moral and ethical issue, but then he declared that the "proper course has become clear" because "the majority of Americans from across the political spectrum and from all backgrounds and beliefs have come to a consensus that we should pursue this research." That's an almost unbelievably broad and overreaching statement. What's more, difficult moral and ethical issues are not solved by polls. Any supporter of gay marriage, for instance, or of abortion rights with no restrictions whatsoever, should find deeply troubling a line of reasoning that judges the morally right choice as being the more popular one -- even if only in terms of their own political fortunes.

And if this really is a difficult moral and ethical issue with good people on both sides, then it's not "a false choice between sound science and moral values," as President Obama also characterized it. Either those who oppose federal funding for stem cell research have a good-faith, honest disagreement on where the ethical line should be drawn, or they're against "sound science." You just can't have it both ways. Especially not in the same speech. And especially when, in the same speech, the President also says that we will never open the door to cloning for human reproduction, because it is "profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society or any society." But how is the one "a false choice between sound science and moral values" and the other is not? And if we are now going to make scientific decisions "based on facts, not ideology," then what non-ideological "facts" are telling President Obama that opening the door to federally funding embryonic stem cell research is "sound science" but opening the door to cloning for human reproduction is "profoundly wrong"?

If the President wanted to make the case that he draws the moral and ethical line at a different place than I do, I could respect that argument. But he's not really making that argument here, is he?

There's a disturbing line of reasoning, which I mostly find among Democrats and, especially, supporters of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, that seems to argue morality has no place in science. And yet every animal study I edit has been approved by or followed the guidelines of an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, because ethics and morality do have place in science. We don't go straight to risky human clinical trials for a potentially life-saving treatment, because ethics and morality have a place in science, and ethics and morality steer us away from that practice. But we also fast-track certain drugs for certain patients after less thorough testing than we require for other drugs for other patients, because we consider fast-tracking the moral thing to do.

The people who oppose federal funding for embryonic stem cell research are not "anti-science." They don't spend their days thinking what a great idea it would be to keep Grandpa in his wheelchair and his Alzheimer's uncured, because Gramps is just so entertaining. They don't do that any more than those who support federal funding spend their days smiling gleefully at the idea of snuffing out potential human beings. President Obama seemed to understand that in this speech, except when he didn't.

He also seemed to understand that ethics and morality have a much-needed place in science. Except when he didn't.

Of course, I don't think the President has a real understanding of what it means to "restore scientific integrity to government decision making," either. Not when Energy Secretary Steven Chu is talking about how we're "looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California," John Holdren is President Obama's cabinet-level science adviser, and James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is talking about "death trains" and calling for mass political protests to influence government policy.

Then again, I never bought into the idea that science and politics can ever really be separated, or that the problem is simply "anti-science" Republicans. Both parties use science to advance their political agendas. The only difference is which areas of science they distort, or in what direction they skew the same area of science.

UDPATE: As Andy Levy twitters:
Obi-wan: Only the Sith believe in absolutes. The Sith are EVIL.

Obama-wan: Science shouldn’t be guided by ideology. Cloning is WRONG.
UPDATE II: John Tierney, over at his New York Times science blog, writes:

You can read the White House’s summary of the new science policy here. If you’ve read my previous column and posts on the president’s new scientific advisers, you can guess that I’m skeptical of how open this administration — or any administration — really is to science that doesn’t conform to its agenda. Conservatives’ spinning of science has been widely criticized, but see, for instance, Ronald Bailey’s account in Reason of how liberal politics trumped scientific findings about silicone breast implants and second-hand smoke.

Perhaps, though, I’m being too cynical. I was interested to see that this new memorandum instructs agency administrators to “have appropriate rules and procedures to ensure the integrity of the scientific process within the agency, including whistleblower protection.” Do you suppose this protection will inspire any government scientists to question Mr. Obama’s claim that global warming is causing “storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season”? How many government economists will speak about the theoretical and practical advantages of a carbon tax over the cap-and-trade system being promoted by the administration? How many federal scientists discuss the environmental problems blamed on the ethanol subsidies favored by Mr. Obama?

If there are whistleblowers feeling newly empowered, please feel free to post comments here.

Tierney's comments section is already quite lively. I especially like this comment from James:
You ask “How many government economists will speak about the theoretical and practical advantages of a carbon tax…” What I’d like to know is when economics - particularly government economics - became a science.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Message from God Regarding the State of California

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Washington Matrix

"I know what you're thinking, Tim, 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here: Why, oh why, didn't I take the BLUE pill?"

Oh, My! Even Paul Krugman Is Catching On...

And another domino begins to fall among the columnists at the New York Times. And this time, the domino is liberal economist Paul Krugman:

[A]mong people I talk to there’s a growing sense of frustration, even panic, over Mr. Obama’s failure to match his words with deeds. The reality is that when it comes to dealing with the banks, the Obama administration is dithering. Policy is stuck in a holding pattern.

Here’s how the pattern works: first, administration officials, usually speaking off the record, float a plan for rescuing the banks in the press. This trial balloon is quickly shot down by informed commentators.

Then, a few weeks later, the administration floats a new plan. This plan is, however, just a thinly disguised version of the previous plan, a fact quickly realized by all concerned. And the cycle starts again.

Why do officials keep offering plans that nobody else finds credible? Because somehow, top officials in the Obama administration and at the Federal Reserve have convinced themselves that troubled assets, often referred to these days as “toxic waste,” are really worth much more than anyone is actually willing to pay for them — and that if these assets were properly priced, all our troubles would go away.
You can't re-inflate a bubble. I get that. Paul Krugman gets that. And you would think that all the smart people in the Obama administration -- including President Obama himself -- should be able to get that, too.
What’s more, officials seem to believe that getting toxic waste properly priced would cure the ills of all our major financial institutions. Earlier this week, Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, was asked about the problem of “zombies” — financial institutions that are effectively bankrupt but are being kept alive by government aid. “I don’t know of any large zombie institutions in the U.S. financial system,” he declared, and went on to specifically deny that A.I.G. — A.I.G.! — is a zombie.

This is the same A.I.G. that, unable to honor its promises to pay off other financial institutions when bonds default, has already received $150 billion in aid and just got a commitment for $30 billion more.
At this point, I no longer know whether the right question is "How Dumb Does He Think We Are?" or "Wicked, Childish Or Dim?" Or which answer would be scarier.

Only 38 Days Until April 15th

A brief allegory for these days of record deficits, pork-barrel stimulus, tax increases, and frozen credit markets...

Stiffing Brown

The grumbling fallout from the Gordon Brown visit continues. From what the Sunday Telegraph reports, we really are dealing with Amateur Hour in Washington:

British officials . . . admit that the White House and US State Department staff were utterly bemused by complaints that the Prime Minister should have been granted [a] full-blown press conference and a formal dinner, as has been customary. They concede that Obama aides seemed unfamiliar with the expectations that surround a major visit by a British prime minister.
Weren't these supposed to be the "smart" people? The ones who could rebuild all those tattered alliances that George W. Bush supposedly tore into shreds with his cowboy lack of understanding about the rest of the world?
A British official conceded that the furor surrounding the apparent snub to Mr Brown had come as a shock to the White House. "I think it's right to say that their focus is elsewhere, on domestic affairs. A number of our US interlocutors said they couldn't quite understand the British concerns and didn't get what that was all about."
Well, I for one feel much safer knowing the same White House that will be divining the intentions and motivations of the Iranians, the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, and assorted other dangerous actors in this world can't even understand the British...
Mr Obama rang Mr Brown as he flew home, in what many suspected was an attempt to make amends.
I predict a lot of these phone calls over the next four years. Hopefully, the White House still has a good long-distance plan.
The real views of many in [the] Obama administration were laid bare by a State Department official involved in planning the Brown visit, who reacted with fury when questioned by The Sunday Telegraph about why the event was so low-key.

The official dismissed any notion of the special relationship, saying: "There's nothing special about Britain. You're just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn't expect special treatment."
God help us all...

No, Mr. State Department official. Britain is not the same as the other 190 countries in the world. And neither is Canada. Or Australia. Or Poland, for that matter. They're what we call allies.

And you don't treat allies this way. Not if you want them to stay allies. President Obama even campaigned on this very issue. But then, what's one more campaign promise out the window?

Welcome to our brave new world of "smart" diplomacy...

UPDATE: Mark Steyn asks another important question: "I’ll be interested to know if Mr. Brown has anything to play the films on back home, since U.S.-format DVDs don’t work in United Kingdom DVD players."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Even Jay Cost Is Catching On...

Once upon a time, Jay Cost wrote:

[Obama] does not seem to suffer from the narrow-minded presumption that those who disagree must be either stupid or acting in bad faith. These are not the only qualities that recommend Obama. His personality is captivating. And, furthermore, the man is obviously intelligent. All in all, he seems to be a smart, politically astute, charismatic, and thoroughly decent fellow.
What really intrigued him about the Obama campaign?
What Obama seems to offer is a respite from pettiness as a necessary prelude for policy breakthroughs. Seen in the context of his legislative record, his offer to the public is not a substantive transcendence of partisan politics. It is, rather, a spiritual transcendence from small-minded partisan sentimentality. He does not necessarily view the world differently from the most senior, or most liberal, members of his caucus. Rather, he has a personal orientation to the other side that is more congenial - that recognizes that their point of view, even if it might be wrong, is nevertheless valid and honest. He intends to change the tone.
And today?
[W]hen the first major political battle of his administration came, the President tossed "change the tone" out the window. Sure, he was willing to ply his Republican opponents with some cocktails at the White House - but when that didn't do the trick, he resorted to attacking a straw man, falsely implying that his opponents preferred to do nothing at all.

Now, we have come to the second major political battle of his administration, and - whaddaya know! - his team is attacking a straw man once again. This time, they are doing so by pushing the patently absurd claim that Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the Republican Party. Democrats have been batting this one back and forth for a few weeks, but now we know that the White House has been intimately involved in the strategy.
What really bothers him about all this?
I understand why Democrats in Congress, the media, and the DNC are doing this. Frankly, that doesn't bother me at all. That's the way political games are played, and GOP politicos have certainly done their fair share of this over the years to deserve all that they get. But I am deeply disappointed that the President himself is playing this game - not just because he is the President and this kind of nonsense should be beneath him. It's also because he is the President in part because he promised he wouldn't do this stuff! And yet, we've seen this kind of immature nonsense quite a bit from an administration that has only been in place for a month.

The White House can play these idle political games if it wants. It can stay in permanent campaign mode and work to impeach the credibility of those who question its policies - congressional Republicans, Rick Santelli, Jim Cramer, and anybody else who voices opposition. However, none of that will alter two simple facts: (a) there is an election coming in 20 months; (b) the public will vote based upon its evaluation of President Obama's performance, not Rush Limbaugh. To that end, I'd suggest that the Chief of Staff spend more time ensuring that...oh, I don't know...the British aren't offended for no good reason than whether Limbaugh finds his way to the top of another news cycle.

It's been twenty six months since Barack Obama delivered that web announcement proclaiming his concern for the tone - but it feels like it has been much, much longer. Lately, I've been thinking about that historic primary battle - when Democrats chose "change the tone" over "ready on day one." If Democrats had chosen Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama - we would probably still be seeing this kind of political hardball, but would it come with this sort of useless, thoughtless, clueless snubbing of our closest ally? I doubt it.
I doubt it, too.

"Striving for Journalistic Excellence"

Even the Brits Are Catching On...

Remember how President Obama was going to restore our tattered alliances throughout the world? How his childhood abroad, his deep intellect, and his balanced judgment would bring about a new level of American diplomacy? How we shouldn't worried about his lack of experience, his saying one thing about NAFTA during campaign speeches and another to the Canadian government in private, or his touting Kennedy's Vienna summit with Khrushchev as an argument for the power of diplomacy without preconditions, even though Kennedy himself judged the summit a disaster and Khrushchev almost immediately erected the Berlin Wall and went on to place nuclear missiles in Cuba?

And now that Barack Obama is president? The diplomat of hope has already started treating our strongest ally, Great Britain, with what I'm at a loss to describe as anything other than appalling amateurishness, appalling rudeness, or maybe even both:

The murmurs began when President Obama returned to the British Embassy the Winston Churchill bust that had been displayed in the Oval Office since Tony Blair lent it to George W. Bush.

The fears intensified when press secretary Robert Gibbs, announcing British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's visit to the White House, demoted the Churchillian phrase "special relationship" to a mere "special partnership" across the Atlantic.

And the alarm bells really went off when Brown's entourage landed at Andrews Air Force Base on Monday night. Obama, breaking with precedent, wouldn't grant the prime minister the customary honor of standing beside him in front of the two nations' flags for the TV cameras. The Camp David sleepover that Blair got on his first meeting with Bush? Sorry, chaps.

Still, Brown kept a stiff upper lip as he sat in the Oval Office yesterday as Obama, skipping the usual words of welcome for his guest, went straight to questions from the news services. Brown didn't get to speak for six minutes, after Obama had already answered two questions.
As Iain Martin writes:
[O]n this side of the Atlantic the whole business looked pretty demeaning. The morning papers and TV last night featured plenty of comment focused on the White House's very odd and, frankly, exceptionally rude treatment of a British PM. Squeezing in a meeting, denying him a full press conference with flags etc. The British press corps, left outside for an hour in the cold, can take it and their privations are of limited concern to the public.

But Obama's merely warmish words (one of our closest allies, said with little sincerity or passion) left a bitter taste with this Atlanticist. Especially after his team had made Number 10 beg for a mini press conference and then not even offered the PM lunch.

We get the point, sunshine: we're just one of many allies and you want fancy new friends. Well, the next time you need something doing, something which impinges on your national security, then try calling the French, or the Japanese, or best of all the Germans. The French will be able to offer you first rate support from their catering corps but beyond that you'll be on your own.

When it comes to men, munitions and commitment you'll soon find out why it pays to at least treat the Brits with some manners.
Even worse, Prime Minister Brown came bearing gifts:
The Prime Minister gave Mr Obama an ornamental pen holder made from the timbers of the Victorian anti-slave ship HMS Gannet. . . . Mr Brown also handed over a framed commission for HMS Resolute and a first edition of the seven-volume biography of Churchill by Sir Martin Gilbert.
And what did the President of the United States, the leader of the Free World, give to the Prime Minister of the nation that has stood by us not only in Afghanistan but also in Iraq? The nation that has been an ally like no other through Democratic and Republican administrations alike?

A 25-DVD box set of awesome American movies.

No, I'm sorry. A 25-DVD box set of "classic American films."

Gordon Brown gives Barack Obama a pen made from the wood of a ship that helped end the slave trade, and Barack Obama gives Gordon Brown a copy of The Godfather.

There's a parable in there, somewhere.

And a silver lining. After all, considering the difference in price between a regular DVD and a Blu-Ray DVD, President Obama just "cut" the federal deficit by almost $200! (Math is easy!)

Friday, March 6, 2009

"Blood and Fire"

Lately, instead of filling my insomnia hours with non-American television, I've been working my way through a marathon of Star Trek fan films.

Some of them are truly awful. Bad acting, bad writing, bad sets, bad lighting, bad make-up, bad photography, and worst of all, bad sound. I can forgive a lot, so long as they just give me good sound.

Others are near-misses. The actors deliver their lines just a shade off how they should. Some of the punches and kicks in the fight scenes are telegraphed. The writers have some idea what they're doing but needed another draft (or two). The camera is almost where it needs to be, but still a few feet away from the right framing. These fan films are so close to what they should be, the film they could have been is so clear to any viewer, that the near-misses are sometimes even harder to watch than the bad ones. But I can forgive a lot with the near-misses. They're labors or pure love, and the sound is usually good.

Then you have the rare ones. The ones that make you wish those fans could turn them out more quickly. The ones that make all those hours wading through the awful ones worthwhile.

Happily -- at least for me -- Rob Caves and the people at Hidden Frontier are some very prolific fans. And they don't lack for ambition. Nearly every set is virtual, with the actors shot in front of a green screen. Which was exactly my problem with them for years. Up until somewhere around the sixth or seventh season -- yes, even fan series on the Web have seasons -- a flickering green halo surrounded every actor. It felt like watching a Trek film shot using Kirlian photography, and within five minutes, I always had a raging migraine even worse than ones I suffered during my long-ago, stressful days of living with an anorexic who also had full-blown OCD.

I would check in with their site every so often, though, always hoping they had killed that dreaded halo. And then they did. And they also learned to use virtual sets without also making everything feel claustrophobic.

The Hidden Frontier series is over, but they have several others going now. And I'm thoroughly enjoying The Helena Chronicles, which follows a Federation starship that went too far during an off-the-books mission to find a way to save another Federation starship trapped in the Andromeda galaxy. Now, the Helena and her crew are being hunted by the Klingons, the Orions, the Federation, and just about every sentient race in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.

This fan series is great fun -- and I can forgive a lot if they give me great fun at 2 AM after I just spent 14 hours editing environmental studies and other textbooks. In fact, I can even forgive this series featuring probably the most annoying character in all of Star Trek fan filmdom, Corey Aster. I understand that Corey's husband -- yes, his husband, so to all fan film-makers, please, if you're going to be ground-breaking by using gay characters, please, don't give us one who even young Wesley Crusher would want to smack upside the head and shout, "Man up!"

Where was I? Right. I understand Corey's husband is on the Odyssey, the Federation starship trapped in the Andromeda galaxy, but I can only take so much soulful pining and whining before I also want to smack him upside the head and shout, "Man up!" (In my defense, even J.P. Tepnapa, the actor who plays Corey, has said, "He tends to create his own pity party of one before he gets out of it. If I knew him, I might slap him a few times." Now that's an actor who understands his character.)

Luckily, the rest of the show more than makes up for this. It's flat-out fun. And it also has good sound.

Their other series, which I'm enjoying even more, is Odyssey. During an overly long first episode that featured far too many "character" scenes with Corey Aster and his husband, Ro Nevin, the Odyssey finds itself trapped in the Andromeda galaxy. Sure, it sounds like Voyager, but from the second episode on, Odyssey usually ends up doing a lot more with a lot less. Ro Nevin finds himself in command with half a crew, little fuel, and thankfully, absolutely no time for the soulful pining and whining in which Corey Aster indulges.

I have a serious crush on the Romulan First Officer, Subcommander T'Lorra. She's a welcome dose of hard-headed realism to offset all that Federation idealism. At times, she even reminds me of a green-blooded Jack Bauer. And you just know she would never put up with a Corey Aster whinge-fest. She'd give him a extended time-out on a just barely M-class planetoid.

And then we have Star Trek: New Voyages, now Star Trek: Phase II.

This one is in a class by itself.

Sets and costumes so detailed they may as well have come from the Paramount warehouse. Effects that match anything Hollywood puts out. Writers from the original Star Trek contributing stories and scripts. The camera exactly where it should be. Actors from the original Star Trek, like Walter Koenig, George Takei, and even the great William Windom. As well as younger actors who almost channel the original characters. Sure, James Cawley's Captain Kirk can sometimes "out-Shatner" Shatner, but that's part of the fun. And sure, J.P. Tepnapa will be playing Sulu in future episodes, but I'm looking forward to seeing him in a role that doesn't make me want to smack him upside the head and shout "Man up!"

Their latest episode, "Blood and Fire," is even written and directed by David Gerrold. Yes, that David Gerrold. The man who wrote "The Trouble with Tribbles" and one of my favorite still-unfinished series of novels, The War Against the Chtorr.

"Blood and Fire," like all the New Voyages episodes, is well beyond a "fan" film. This is as close to a new episode of the Original Series as we'll ever get -- right down to the late-sixties NBC peacock. Just watch the opening scene below, and then tell me I'm wrong.

Now go ahead. Tell me I'm wrong.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Oh, My! Even Chris (Thrill Up His Leg) Matthews Is Catching On...

John Heilemann and Chris Cillizza are both very smart guys. They're also both very, very wrong.

The stock market, not to mention the economy as a whole, runs on psychology as much as on anything else. It runs on confidence about the future, which is in very short supply these days. And the one thing right now that would start to give everyone, whether a Wall Street investor or a just a taxpayer currently hoarding his or her money, some confidence about our future is a sign that President Obama really does intend to make good on his promises to end earmarks and unnecessary spending. That the Obama administration really is attempting to reduce the largest deficits in history by doing more than simply raising taxes and claiming "savings" by comparing their spending plan against hypothetical, projected spending 10 years out that not even a character from Tolkien would find realistic. That the person running the spending show in Washington right now is President Barack Obama and not "President" Nancy Pelosi.

I never thought I would see the day when Chris Matthews was the voice of reason on MSNBC. At least President Obama still has Keith Olbermann.

Jedi Cabinet Tricks

"You don't need to see the details of my bail-out plan, Senator."

"We don't need to see the details of your bail-out plan, Secretary Geithner..."

"These are not the budgets cuts you're looking for."

"These are not the budget cuts we're looking for..."

"I'm excused from further testimony."

"You're excused from further testimony..."

"Move along."

"Move along..."

Even Democratic Senators Are Catching On...

Politico gives evidence that some adults with a grasp of basic math skills remain in my former political party:

Moderate and conservative Democrats in the Senate are starting to choke over the massive spending and tax increases in President Barack Obama’s budget plans and have begun plotting to increase their influence over the agenda of a president who is turning out to be much more liberal than they are.

A group of 14 Senate Democrats and one independent huddled behind closed doors on Tuesday, discussing how centrists in that chamber can assert more leverage on the major policy debates that will dominate this Congress.

Afterward, some in attendance made plain that they are getting jitters over the cost and expansive reach of Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget proposal.

Asked when he’d reach his breaking point, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, said: “Right now. I’m concerned about the amount that’s being offered in [Obama’s] budget.”
Democratic Senator Evan Bayh isn't even waiting for the 2010 budget:
This week, the United States Senate will vote on a spending package to fund the federal government for the remainder of this fiscal year. The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 is a sprawling, $410 billion compilation of nine spending measures that lacks the slightest hint of austerity from the federal government or the recipients of its largess.

The Senate should reject this bill. If we do not, President Barack Obama should veto it.
And it's not just the 8,000 or so earmarks that bother him:
The omnibus increases discretionary spending by 8% over last fiscal year's levels, dwarfing the rate of inflation across a broad swath of issues including agriculture, financial services, foreign relations, energy and water programs, and legislative branch operations. Such increases might be appropriate for a nation flush with cash or unconcerned with fiscal prudence, but America is neither.
For the first time in weeks, I can actually feel my political depression beginning to lift.

Pop Quiz: Banning Barbie Edition

Meet Jeff Eldridge, a West Virginia state legislator...

Jeff has introduced a bill to ban sales of the Barbie doll in his state, because Barbie might "promote or influence girls to place an undue importance on physical beauty to the detriment of their intellectual and emotional development." Jeff Eldridge is:

A) A Democrat.

B) A Republican.

C) A big-hearted lunkhead who cares.

D) More politically astute than California State Senator Abel Maldonado.

E) Someone who has never seen a Bratz doll in his life.

(Hint: Only one answer is incorrect.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Even Jim Cramer Is Catching On...

A month before the November election, Jim Cramer wrote:

[T]here is a growing belief on Wall Street that Barack Obama has the capacity to lead us out of this wilderness while John McCain does not. I’ll go a step further: Obama is a recession. McCain is a depression. . . . [Obama] seems to understand the complexity of the problem.
Well, here's another change I doubt that President Obama was hoping for:

Math Is Easy

"Actually, Senator, you'll find that if you convert all those numbers to Roman numerals, then our budget, tax plan, stimulus, and assorted bail-outs begin to look a lot less frightening..."

Even the New York Times Is Catching On...

Or at least New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is...

In one of his disturbing spells of passivity, President Obama decided not to fight Congress and live up to his own no-earmark pledge from the campaign.

He’s been lecturing us on the need to prune away frills while the economy fizzles. He was slated to make a speech on “wasteful spending” on Wednesday.

“You know, there are times where you can afford to redecorate your house and there are times where you need to focus on rebuilding its foundation,” he said recently about the “hard choices” we must make. Yet he did not ask Congress to sacrifice and make hard choices; he let it do a lot of frivolous redecorating in its budget.
The true kick-to-the-head, however, comes a paragraph or so later...
Team Obama sounds hollow, chanting that “the status quo is not acceptable,” even while conceding that the president is accepting the status quo by signing a budget festooned with pork.

Obama spinners insist it was “a leftover budget.” But Iraq was leftover, too, and the president’s trying to end that.

Somehow, I don't think beginning to lose even a reliably liberal New York Times columnist is the kind of change Obama was hoping for. And that actually gives me hope.

Your Next Car!

Brought to you courtesy of the many strings attached to the federal bail-out money...

Admit it. You can't wait to get this baby out on the freeway and let her rip!

Even the Associated Press Is Catching On...

Of all the headlines of all the news articles I've read concerning the $410 billion spending bill for fiscal 2009, I never thought I would see this one from the Associated Press: "Obama Beats Early Retreat on Promise to Fight Pork."

WASHINGTON – Despite campaign promises to take a machete to lawmakers' pet projects, President Barack Obama is quietly caving to funding nearly 8,000 of them this year...
Hope and change, indeed!

Democrats contend that earmarks in the bill total only $3.8 billion, less than 1 percent of the amount Congress is approving to finance government programs through September.
Excuse me. Hope and small change, indeed!

Of course, some people -- like me -- might think that if we can't find the stones to draw the line on "only $3.8 billion" in pork-barrel spending, how will we ever find the tempered steel and iron will to make those really big cuts and decisions that will be needed to a $1.75 trillion deficit in half, like President Obama has promised. But hey, that's just me.

White House Budget Director Peter Orsazg said Sunday that the new administration wants to "move on ... get this bill done, get it into law and move forward."
I'll bet they do. ("Move along, people! There's nothing to see here!")

Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, called the bill and its 8 percent spending increase over 2008 "last year's business."
Last year's business paid for by the next generation's money. Sweet. ("I'll start exercising/quit smoking/begin that diet tomorrow. Really. I will.")

Obama is hardly the first president to promise to make Congress change its pork-barreling ways, and he certainly won't be the last. But he is the first to retreat so quickly, after only six weeks in the White House.
Six weeks? Well then, I take it all back. This is more change than even Nancy Pelosi could have hoped for!

Then again, it's a very, very bad sign for the Obama administration when even the Associated Press is starting to catch on.

Hope and change, indeed...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

NBA Live: The Lost Episode

"Oh, no! All his hope is changing the game! And I had retirement money bet on this one!"

A Morning Conversation with My Wife

Our little town has an election for city council today, and I've been putting off reading the candidate interviews in our local newspaper/coupon-fest. (None of the candidates, unfortunately, has taken a stand on our ever-growing peacock infestation.)

So this morning my wife asked if I planned to read the interviews at the last minute, and we had this exchange:

ME: Yeah, he sounds like a great guy. I'd love to go out to dinner with him, but he's not getting my vote.

HER: Do you still want to go out to dinner with Obama?

ME: Sure. Only now I'd make sure we had separate checks.

HER: Maybe he'd pay for your dinner, too.

ME: Ha! He'd make me pay for my dinner, pay for his dinner, and then pay for that table over in the corner that ordered more lobster than they could afford.

HER: There's a blog post in this...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Another Cure for Political Depression

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Math Is Hard, Part III

I can do this. Just think it through...

People are starting to doubt that I can spend all these additional trillions of dollars while still cutting the deficit. And not just the people holding those strange "tea parties" where they don't even drink any tea. It's like when I complained about Bush's irresponsible spending back during the campaign, they actually thought I meant we should be spending less. Weird.

I'm a smart guy, and if I can't do this, who will? Geithner? That guy can't even keep his own taxes straight.

I swear, it's like there's no way to win, at least not without spending less money. And we all know
that's not going to happen. So I guess the only thing left for me to do is change the conditions of the test, like Captain Kirk did in that movie, The Wrath of Montalban.

Change the conditions of the test...

I can do this. Just think it through...

I know, I'll hold a big press conference and radio address. CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, YouTube, all the networks will carry it. Even Fox. I'll announce my awesome new budget plan for 2010 and beyond, and I'll start by talking about all the dishonest government accounting during the Bush years. That way, people will know I'd never do anything like that, and they'll be really stoked with hope. I'll even call my super new budget plan "A New Era of Responsibility." I'll be the President of Awesome!

Then, I'll compare my amazing new budget plan with the 10-year costs of a bunch of absolute worst-case scenarios for things like Iraq. And the difference between the cost of my budget plan and the cost of those worst-case projections? I'll call that difference "savings," and presto, $2 trillion in deficit cuts without having to drop a single dollar in actual spending! All by changing the conditions of the test!

Hmmmm, even that's not enough to close all these new deficits I'm running up? Weird.

I know. The increased tax revenues we'll get from rolling back those awful Bush tax cuts? I'll call that "savings," too. It'll be like getting twice the bang for the buck. After all, if we don't have to borrow that money before we spend it, then we don't have to pay interest on it, and we can even count that interest as money being saved and cut from the deficit. It'll be like buying one of those $1,000 liquid crystal HDTVs instead of one of those $3,000 plasma screen HDTVs. You may think you're still out $1,000, but with all the credit-card interest you'll save on that other $2,000 you didn't pay, you actually just made a profit.

Hmmmm, I wonder what it would cost to buy Michelle one of those little Original Series Trek mini-dress uniforms? And to do it without Fox or the bloggers finding out. Or having to float any more Treasury notes to the Chinese...


Math is hard...

Sunday Morning Cadillac