Sunday, November 30, 2008

We are still here

and hopefully will be a bit more active going forward. Monk's been busy as have I, throw in a 'technical' issue to boot and a general funk from the election and, well, there you have it.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.

A few general observations:

1. Have you ever seen a President-elect have THISMUCH limelight? He might as well already be Co-President or President.

2. The Messiah's cabinet picks have been better than expected. Geithner at Treasury puts the policy wonk in the top spot and is the safe pick. Would have personally preferred a top man like Bob Rubin, John Thain or perhaps Jon Corzine. Like the fact that Larry Summers is on the team given the ignominy of his fall at the hands of the overwrought feminist-victims.

Hillary at State is much, much more preferable than John Kerry.

3. What would really impress me though is if the Messiah and/or the Democratic Congress allows GM (and Ford and Chrysler) to fail. It's absolutely the right thing to do. This isn't comparable to bailing out the banks which were going concerns that were profitable and had a business plan that worked. The Big 3, on the other hand, do not have a viable business model and cannot unless they unburden themselves through a packaged bankruptcy of legacy commitments that should never have been made but in any case are now dead weight. My bet here is that they will get bailed out. The Democratic Party will NOT allow a chance that their union backing will fracture. The brighter ones probably realize that without the unions pushing most of these folks probably will vote like NASCAR.

Keeping Gates short-term is tokenish but isn't much different I think than Bush keeping Tenet and Obama's move is safer for him and probably the Republic.

4. The pirates off the Somalian coast are a disgrace. It does, however, show folks who are paying attention what happens when the United States is unwilling or unable to exercise its power. No one will act. Stopping piracy off the Somalian coast shouldn't be difficult for anyone who can and is willing to project air power in the area and has access to real time satellite imagery. E.g., any waterborne craft in excess of 50 feet in length that doesn't respond appropriately to hails gets blown up. A few examples would dampen pirate ardor one would think.

5. Gutted that Ted Stevens ALMOST pulled one out and that Smith in Oregon lost by a hair. Weren't both GOP'ers leading on election night...? Chambliss should pull it out in Georgia and Minnesota is too silly to call. We are still THISCLOSE to a filibuster proof majority.

6. George Soros is a jerk and comes off as someone who now that he has made his fortune is trying to keep other folks from making one.

7. Been a great, great month to be an Alabama fan. Monk, sorry for Iowa. Would have liked to see the Old Man win another.

8. Been a great month to be a Jet fan. If Brett somehow wins a Super Bowl here he would never be able to pay for a meal in Queens or Long Island ever again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Train stopping

The Monk and Monkette went to Japan last May and traveled more than 900 miles by train all over the country. We rode "national" Japan Rail trains every day except one. We had one delay of about 10-12 minutes. And no, it wasn't on the super-fast Shinkansen bullet train. Those average a schedule deviation of 36 seconds per year!

So The Monk thought it'd be interesting on his trip to DC last weekend to ride the rails a bit. Because a flight to BWI was less expensive than a trip to Reagan National, I chose the BWI flight and would hop a train to DC from there.

Not doing that again.

Amtrak is a mess, pure and simple. The first train I wanted to catch was listed at 25 minutes late when I arrived at the station, it came 40 minutes past its schedule. On the way back to BWI from DC, the early train I hoped to catch was 20 minutes late. Unlike the clean and bright Japanese stations, BWI's lounge was ill-lit and the bridge to the southbound tracks smelled of urine. And the Amtrak coach seat I had from DC to BWI on Sunday was in a poorly lit, dank and musty coach car -- also opposite the intercity trains I rode in Japan.

This is a bad situation. Trains COULD be convenient and inexpensive if they were even mildly reliable. Long haul distances in the US are not for train travelers, but high speed rail could be beneficial for certain areas: Chicago-Milwaukee-Detroit-St. Louis, the Texas Triangle, and the Pacific Coast. If the Greens and the liberals really want to cut carbon emissions, they should strive for public-private partnerships for rail travel in these areas.

And don't let Amtrak run the trains.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Rot in New England

Christopher Shays' narrow defeat in Tuesday's election means that there will be no Republican representatives from the six states in New England in the 111th Congress.

Massachusetts - 10
Connecticut - 5
New Hampshire - 2
Maine - 2
Rhode Island - 2
Vermont - 1

22-0, nominally not a large number of representatives, but the fact that there are no Republicans is a result long term effective control of state houses and the gerrymandering that goes along with it as well as the reflexive and well funded liberalism of the northeast matched no where else in the country. Even red Texas is 19-13 Republican. And unlike Texas there aren't many conservative Democrats from New England. You can smell the stench from here in NY.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS to President Obama

November 4, 2008 is now an historic date - the day that the United States became the first democracy in what is misleadingly called the Western World (essentially Europe, the US, Canada) to elect a black man ("African descent" is a misleading description here) to its highest office.

Congratulations to President-elect Obama.

The fact is that even though The Monk is part of the opposition, I am the loyal opposition. Loyal to the country and the office of the presidency. I do wish the new President all the best, and hope he proves to be a good one. My misgivings and doubts are set out in this blog on other posts.

And let's be direct: the likelihood is that Obama will be president until 2017. Since World War II ended, only three sitting presidents have lost re-election bids: Ford ('76), Carter ('80), and George HW Bush ('92). In two of the three cases, extraordinary circumstances existed -- Ford had pardoned the embodiment of political corruption, Richard M. Nixon, and had no mandate because he'd never been elected even as VP; Carter presided over a horrible economy whilst suffering daily humiliation in the Iran Hostage Crisis and somehow that race was close until Carter agreed to debate Reagan and the Gipper wiped the floor with the peanut man.

Obama won't be an LBJ or Truman who decides not to run for a second full term -- first, no man who runs the gauntlet of the modern presidential race has the humility to stand down after getting elected four years earlier; second, unless presidents do something actively wrong or foolish, they generally maintain approval ratings over 50% at re-election time; and third, and worst for Republicans, is that unless Obama completely fouls up the economy (or capitulates to terrorists), it is more likely that the country will be in recovery or even a boom cycle by 2012 than a downturn of the type that felled the first Pres. Bush's reelection campaign in 1992, therefore it would be almost foolish for the man not to run.

That's the political landscape. And for Republicans and conservatives, it means finding a new and better message than whatever muddled mush that passed for a message the party has peddled in 2006 and 2008.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Why today is the day to vote

There are many fine reasons to wait until Election Day to vote including: (1) early voting lends itself to fraud due to less poll scrutiny; (2) late revelations can change wavering voters' minds. But National Review summarizes the best reason to vote today (which The Monk did, and which he always does), not on an early voting day:

While it is important that voters go to the polls decently informed, it is also important that they go to the polls together. This is partly for reasons of prudence — among other concerns, absentee ballots offer many greater opportunities for organized fraud — but also for reasons of ritual. Voting is by its nature a communal exercise, and the franchise should be exercised in a way that reminds us that in our republic the people are the masters of the state, not the other way around — that we are citizens, not subjects . . . There is nothing like a presidential campaign to remind us that democracy is not especially majestic, but there is a kind of austere beauty in free people coming together to cast their votes, whether they are purple-fingered Iraqis or citizens of the world’s oldest democracy gathering at schoolhouses and town halls. The togetherness of that exercise should not be diminished. There will always be some necessary exceptions, but those should be — exceptional. Today is the day to vote.