Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Frightening View of Washington DC

I'm spending the week studying arms control, proliferation, and weapons of mass destruction. Yet this is the most disturbing thing I've read all week (from Der Spiegel):
...Washington is the most vital capital city in the West today...
That's "vital" as in dynamic, not a description of its importance.

Later, there is a much more reassuring observation on "unity" and partisanship:

Democracy thrives on differences of opinion, which translate into differences between parties. Promising to put an end to this ongoing dispute makes about as much sense as a supermarket manager announcing plans to combine the meat and produce departments -- and justifying his decision by saying that the management wants to overcome the decades-long polarization between steak-lovers and vegetarians.

Citizens would be well-advised to demand disagreement and harsh words. The parties must remain partisan if voters are to have a real choice. In the country ruled by consensus that the candidates are now touting, voters would end up feeling like the shoppers in the imaginary supermarket with its combined meat-and-produce department: Vegetarians and meat-eaters would be equally unhappy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Yet Another Plurality

Florida 2000:
George W. Bush won the primary with 73.8 percent; John McCain came in second with 19.9 percent.
Florida 2008:

McCain wins Florida, CNN projects

With 55 percent of Republican precincts reporting, McCain held a 36-32 percent lead over Romney. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani trailed with 15 percent of the vote, followed closely by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who held 13 percent.

Winner-take-all does not work with this many candidates.

In related news, the AP reports:
Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent who nearly won the vice presidency as a Democrat in 2000, says there's no way he'll be Republican Sen. John McCain's running mate should McCain become the party's presidential nominee.
This should never have been seriously considered. The Senate does not need to be driven further to the left.

You Can Pay Higher Taxes!

From President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address last night:
We have other work to do on taxes. Unless Congress acts, most of the tax relief we've delivered over the past seven years will be taken away. Some in Washington argue that letting tax relief expire is not a tax increase. Try explaining that to 116 million American taxpayers who would see their taxes rise by an average of $1,800. Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm. I'm pleased to report that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders.
For those who want higher taxes:

Citizens who wish to make a general donation to the U.S. government may send contributions to a specific account called "Gifts to the United States." This account was established in 1843 to accept gifts, such as bequests, from individuals wishing to express their patriotism to the United States. Money deposited into this account is for general use by the federal government and can be available for budget needs. These contributions are considered an unconditional gift to the government. Financial gifts can be made by check or money order payable to the United States Treasury and mailed to the address below.

Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 6D17
Hyattsville, MD 20782

Monday, January 28, 2008

Needed: A Problem-Solver

David Frum writes for National Review:

How can we hold the line on government while addressing America’s genuine health-care needs? How can we sustain the competitiveness of the American economy against a Democratic Congress quivering to impose new taxes and new regulations? How can we win a war on terror that the congressional majority seems already to have written off as lost?

Rudy Giuliani is the answer to these challenges.

No living elected official has solved more public problems with more outstanding success than Rudy Giuliani. If there is one person Americans associate with competence in government, it is Rudy. As the primary race has warmed up, some have tried to diminish the mayor’s accomplishments. But in fact, the closer you look, the more amazing they become.

Yes, the crime rate for the whole country declined in the 1990s. But New York, with a little less than 3 percent of the nation’s population, accounted for 15 percent of the nation’s decline in homicides. Much of the improvement in former high-crime zones like Chicago, Washington, and Miami occurred precisely because New York’s success inspired other mayors to follow where Giuliani had led.

It is not just crime. Giuliani restored civility to New York’s public spaces, reformed welfare, broke the grip of organized crime on trash collection and food wholesaling, restored academic standards in the city university system, chased the sex industry off the streets, held the line on taxes, and set in motion one of the greatest property booms in city history.

In 1963, President Kennedy challenged those who suggested that Communism could out-compete freedom: “Let them come to Berlin.” Today, Republicans can challenge those who assert that liberals can out-manage conservatives: “Let them come to New York.”

Giuliani achieved his success by combining a fierce commitment to core values with an impressive flexibility in his methods. He listened to advice, tried experiments, built on what worked, discarded what did not work. He showed that a leader can be strong without being rigid.


Most Republicans agree with most of these positive assessments of Giuliani. Yet many continue to hold back, for reasons like those forcefully articulated by Hadley Arkes in an influential recent article: “The nomination and election of Rudy Giuliani would mark the end of the Republican party as the pro-life party in our politics.”

This is exactly wrong. Yes, there are Republicans who want to chase pro-lifers and other social conservatives out of the party. But Giuliani has emphatically taken a very different view. He has extended welcome to pro-life conservatives in almost every way a candidate for president can. He has promised to appoint federal judges who take the Scalia-Thomas-Roberts-Alito view of the Constitution. He has pledged that as president he would do his utmost to persuade Americans to turn away from abortion and toward adoption. He has declared his personal revulsion at abortion. He has stated over and over that pro-life conservatives will have his respect and attention.

Giuliani may not speak about life issues with the fervor and eloquence of a George W. Bush. But for all practical purposes, what he would actually do would look very similar to what George W. Bush actually has done. Maybe even better: Remember, Giuliani will be taking advice on judges from Theodore Olson — whereas Bush’s first choice for the Alito seat was Harriet Miers.


This is a wartime election. It is an election that will decide between a free, competitive health system and a government monopoly. It will decide whether taxes rise, whether the swing seat on the Supreme Court goes to a liberal or a conservative, whether illegal aliens get enforcement or amnesty. This is not an election that conservatives can afford to lose. But it is an election we will lose if we refuse to face realities.

We must avoid the mistake we made in 1996, when we picked a candidate because he made us feel comfortable — with little regard to how the majority of Americans would feel about him. When Americans look at our array of candidates on the stage, they see only one president up there. That’s the president we should offer them.

Read it all here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Romney, McCain Argue for Giuliani Nomination

From the AP:

Mitt Romney and John McCain are in an increasingly bitter and personal struggle to control the campaign conversation before Florida's primary on Tuesday - and the Republican presidential nomination itself may go to the one who succeeds.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist, casts himself as a business-savvy economic turnaround artist amid recession anxiety, while McCain, the Arizona senator and former Vietnam veteran, portrays himself as a courageous wartime commander in chief in a dangerous world.

"He has an enormous disadvantage when it comes to the topics of changing Washington or fixing our economy," Romney said Sunday, arguing that he is far stronger than McCain on both issues.

Countered McCain: "Even if the economy is the, quote, No. 1 issue, the real issue will remain America's security" - and, unlike him, Romney is deficient in that area.


Rudy Giuliani... is hoping to benefit in Florida from the Romney and McCain squabbling by staying above the fray. "What we should be talking about is not negative criticisms of each other," he scolded Sunday. He has been arguing that he offers a perfect combination - strength on the economy and on security - and says: "If you choose me, you have both."

Both Romney and McCain have been spending much of the campaign making arguments that ultimately support Giuliani. It's kind of fun to watch.

Dennis Prager on Rudy Giuliani

Dennis Prager writes:

To the extent that I understand how most Republicans think, it would seem that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani comes closer to the Republican ideal than any of the other viable Republican candidates. They are all good and decent men who would be better for America than either of the Democratic front-runners. But it is difficult to see, from a conservative- and Republican-values perspective, what major shortcoming Giuliani brings as compared to the other candidates. And given the obsession of liberal news media with publishing negative reports about Giuliani and frequent praise of John McCain, it would appear that it is Giuliani whom Democrats most fear as the Republican presidential nominee.

...when it comes to being strong on both domestic and international issues, it seems that no presently viable Republican candidate matches Rudy Giuliani.


Ronald Reagan was pro-life, and it mattered little to the pro-life cause. Concerning abortion, what matters most in a president is the type of judges he appoints to the Supreme Court. As George Will wrote on behalf of Giuliani, "The way to change abortion law is to change courts by means of judicial nominations of the sort Giuliani promises to make." It is extremely unlikely that John McCain would appoint similarly conservative judges. After all, why would he appoint judges like Scalia and Alito who apparently differ with him on the constitutionality of McCain's own "campaign finance reform" laws?

Pro-life Republicans need to ask themselves: Will a Democrat or Giuliani as president render abortion less common in America? The best is the enemy of the better. And Giuliani is far better on abortion than any Democratic nominee.

Giuliani is for school vouchers, against bilingual education, for reducing taxes further, for reducing government spending. And he has well-thought-out positions on how to achieve these things. He also has the experience of cleaning up the most liberal major city in America.

Click here for the full article, including a significant critique of John McCain's record and judgment.

The unstated question seems to be whether voters are interested in thinking, or if they instead prefer the latest media bandwagon. The question they should be asking is: which man would be the best president?


Steve Chapman writes:
Washington, D.C. is a place where delusions go to thrive. That explains why Congress and the president are now agreed on remedies that will not work, expending money they do not have, to fix a problem that may not exist.

Read the details here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Who Would Want a New York Times Endorsement?

From last night's MSNBC Presidential Debate in Florida:

MR. WILLIAMS: ...Mayor Giuliani, we're going to begin with you. In tomorrow's -- tomorrow morning's editions of The New York Times, they are out with their endorsements in the New York primary: Senator Clinton on the Democratic side, Senator McCain on the Republican side. In tonight's lead editorial, they say, quote, "The real Mr. Giuliani, who many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man."

MR. GIULIANI: (Laughs.)

MR. WILLIAMS: "His arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking."

How can you defend against that in your hometown paper? How have you changed as a man since this portrait?

MR. GIULIANI: Because I probably never did anything The New York Times suggested I do in eight years as mayor of New York City. (Laughter.) And if I did, I wouldn't be considered a conservative Republican. (Applause.) I changed welfare, I changed quality of life, I took on homelessness, I did all the things that they thought make you mean, and I believe show rue compassion and true love for people. I moved people from welfare to work. When I did that, when I set up workfare, the New York Times wrote nasty editorials about how mean I was, how cruel I was.

I think there's a serious ideological difference. And I worked for Ronald Reagan. And I remember once, when I was in the Justice Department, The New York Times wrote a very laudatory editorial about my boss, Bill Smith, the attorney general. And Bill was very nervous that Ronald Reagan would get upset that we were off agenda, because of the good New York Times editorial. (Chuckles.)

So the reality is that I think there is serious ideological differences. That probably was some of the nicest language they've written about me in the last six months.

A New York Times endorsement should be taken as a liability, at least on the Republican side. Giuliani's anecdote about Bill Smith shows why.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fraudulently Promoted Gun Control Bill Fails

The Macaca Post reports:

A bill that would have restricted certain gun sales [at gun shows] in Virginia and that had received passionate support from survivors of the Virginia Tech massacre was defeated by a Senate committee Wednesday, ending the major gun control effort of this year's General Assembly session.


Gun rights groups had opposed the bill, saying that Seung Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech student who shot and killed 32 people and then himself, did not buy the two semiautomatic weapons he used in the shootings at a gun show...

That's all you need to know.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Straight Talk on Drug Reimportation

George Will writes:

...was it unreasonable for Kerry to think McCain might be comfortable on a Democratic ticket? Not really.

In ABC's New Hampshire debate, McCain said: "Why shouldn't we be able to reimport drugs from Canada?" A conservative's answer is:

That amounts to importing Canada's price controls, a large step toward a system in which some medicines would be inexpensive but many others -- new pain-relieving, life-extending pharmaceuticals -- would be unavailable. Setting drug prices by government fiat rather than market forces results in huge reductions of funding for research and development of new drugs. McCain's evident aim is to reduce pharmaceutical companies' profits. But if all those profits were subtracted from the nation's health care bill, the pharmaceutical component of that bill would be reduced only from 10 percent to 8 percent -- and innovation would stop, taking a terrible toll in unnecessary suffering and premature death. When McCain explains that trade-off to voters, he will actually have engaged in straight talk.

There are decent, intelligent people who believe that equity or efficiency or both are often served by government setting prices. In America, such people are called Democrats.

I would replace "intelligent" with "misguided" or "short-sighted", but the point stands.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Winning By Losing

South Carolina, 2008:
McCain - 143,224 - 33%
Huckabee - 128,908 - 30%
Others - 158,787 - 37%
The story? McCain Wins.

South Carolina, 2000:
George W. Bush - 301,050 - 53%
John McCain - 237,888 - 42%
Others - 26,766 - 5%
The story? McCain Loses.

The difference? A decrease of 9 points and about 100,000 votes to go from losing to winning.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Nevadans Vote Forgainst Clinton, Obama

CBS claims:

Clinton Wins Nevada Democratic Caucuses

Sen. Hillary Clinton has won the Nevada Democratic caucuses.

"I guess this is how the West was won," Clinton told cheering supporters in Las Vegas. The victory was her second straight, coming after an upset win in the New Hampshire primary.

With 98 percent of the state's precincts reporting, Clinton had 51 percent support. Barack Obama had 45 percent and John Edwards had 4 percent.

CBS News estimates that Obama won 13 delegates and Clinton 12. Obama was able to take more delegates despite getting fewer overall votes because of the proportional manner in which Nevada awards delegates.

No wonder the drive by media can't understand basic concepts like the Electoral College.

The Candidates on Taxes

Robert Novak writes:

Rudy Giuliani gets the highest rating from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) of all Republican candidates, with a perfect score on his tax-cut intentions.

Sen. John McCain gets the worst marks of GOP candidates by refusing to take a no-tax-increase pledge, advocating a 15 percent estate tax rather than total repeal and failing to advocate an alternative system of taxation, new capital gains tax cuts and a cut in the corporate rate. Mitt Romney also fails on the alternative system and capital gains cuts, as well as not advocating total repeal of the alternative minimum tax (AMT). Mike Huckabee falls short on the AMT and capital gains and corporate rates.

A footnote: The three leading Democratic candidates -- Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama and John Edwards -- all get a goose egg from the ATR by failing on all its issues.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Virginia May Make Car-Buying More Difficult

The Macaca Post reports:

Northern Virginia residents could face long lines at the DMV after action by lawmakers Thursday that would force car buyers to pay auto sales taxes directly to the state instead of through dealers.

The House Transportation Committee passed a bill Thursday that would tweak last year's landmark transportation package by repealing the costly, unpopular abusive-driver fees and adding another step to the car-buying process for residents of Northern Virginia.

Instead of paying sales taxes through dealers, buyers would have to pay them at the DMV in person or possibly endure a lengthier process by mail or online. The proposal would make it impossible to finance the new 1 percent tax that is assessed on car sales in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

So they want to bail out the state's worst drivers and make it harder than it already is to buy a car.

Barbara Reese, deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation, said she has "serious concerns" about the proposal, which she said would be a burden to the DMV and car buyers.


Despite the objections of the Department of Transportation, the House Transportation Committee voted in favor of the bill repealing the driver fees and changing the tax collection method with little discussion.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Executives

David Broder writes:

It was fascinating to watch the three top contenders for the Democratic nomination discuss their concept of the presidency during Tuesday night's MSNBC debate in Las Vegas. But it was also stunning to realize that the three current and former senators who have survived the shakeout process -- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards -- have not a day of chief executive experience behind them.

By contrast, the Republican field is loaded with people who are accustomed to being in charge of large organizations. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee were governors of their home states of Massachusetts and Arkansas, Rudy Giuliani served as the mayor of New York City, and John McCain, as he likes to remind audiences, commanded the largest squadron in the Navy air wing.

In the past, voters have preferred to entrust the White House to those with executive credentials. John Kennedy was the last sitting senator to be elevated into the presidency. Since then, the former governors of Georgia, California, Arkansas and Texas have dominated the list of successful candidates.


[Romney] began to regain his footing after Iowa, when he subordinated his ideological claim to being the conservative champion in favor of portraying himself as a tough-minded executive who could reform both laggard private businesses and swollen, ineffective government bureaucracies.

He drew a useful contrast to "broken" Washington, the home base of Senator McCain and two of his three Democratic colleagues -- Obama and Clinton. Edwards is a former senator.

Huckabee had made a similar case for himself, citing his decade of leadership in Arkansas. And Giuliani had asserted a record of accomplishment in rescuing New York from fiscal crisis and reducing the city's crime and welfare rates.

All of this places an unusually heavy burden on the three Senate Democrats to show they can do more than talk a good game of leadership -- and actually lead.

This is especially notable since the Democrats have driven their one executive candidate from the race. We are electing a President, not a Prime Minister.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Virginia Democrats Afraid of Voting

The Macaca Post reports:

In every session of the Virginia General Assembly, legislators introduce thousands of bills, many of which are so controversial that they die in a committee.

But this year, in a change that has angered Democrats, the Republican leaders who control the House have decided to allow bills to bypass the usual committees, potentially sending them straight to the House floor for a vote.

In this way, the GOP leaders are attempting to force Democrats to vote on controversial issues that could make them vulnerable in future elections. Already, dozens of bills about abortion, taxes, capital punishment, collective bargaining and illegal immigration have been referred to the Republican-controlled Rules Committee, which can send bills to the full House.

Democrats say they are worried that they will have to vote on the bills, even those that have no chance of passing in the full House or later in the Senate, producing a record of votes that will show up in campaign ads in the next election.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Spendthrift Congress Goes Gourmet

From the Politico:

The processed cheese has been replaced with brie. The Jell-O has made way for raspberry kiwi tarts and mini-lemon blueberry trifles. Meatloaf has moved over for mahi mahi and buns have been shunted aside in favor of baguettes.

A revolution is afoot at the deli counters, grills and salad bars of the U.S. House of Representatives.


One House Republican aide lobbed attacks at the Democrats over e-mail.

"I really don't like Nanny Nancy telling me what I can and cannot eat for lunch. If I want to eat unhealthy, I should have that choice!" the aide fumed.

Republican aides have raised questions about why the cafeterias now stock Stonyfield Farm yogurt, speculating that the move would line the pockets of the company's CEO, Gary Hirshberg, a significant player in Democratic politics.


Grumbling aside, the menu choices now available present a whole new world of congressional culinary adventures.

There is pan-roasted Chesapeake rockfish with sweet potato fennel hash and yellow pepper relish. Pears with Stilton cheese and watercress. Cumin-scented leg of lamb with almond couscous. There are vegetables with funny names, like bok choy, arugula and jicama. There are baked goods with Italian names, like biscotti, focaccia and frittati.

There are foods in funny colors, like yellow tomatoes and purple Peruvian potatoes. There are things that are free of other things, like "cage-free shell eggs," "rBGH-free milk" and "free-range chicken." And things that we don't know what they mean, like turkey escabeche (salad), red pepper coulis (sauce) and seared barramundi (fish).

A vending machine sells coffee from famed chef Wolfgang Puck, offering brews such as "Vive la Crème Caramel" and "Tropic of Chocolate."

This is the food of those who claim to represent ordinary Americans.

Arlington Considers Streetcars

The Macaca Post reports:

Plans to build a Northern Virginia streetcar network, once considered fanciful, received a major boost last week, when officials unanimously voted to give the project its first big infusion of funding.

The project was among the top dollar winners in the funding package passed Thursday by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, the body instituting new regional transportation taxes put in place last year.

It also was the focus of sparring in the long-running philosophical contest between advocates of mass transit and those who emphasize the need for major road construction to address the Washington region's snarled traffic.

Backers hope the initial 4.7-mile Columbia Pike line, which will connect Pentagon City in Arlington County to the Skyline area of Fairfax County, will seed a much broader streetcar network, which eventually could stretch from Alexandria to Tysons Corner.

I was intrigued when I first saw the story. Although I live just barely inside the Beltway, I do all of my shopping in much more accessible Fairfax County. I would rather drive 10 miles south to a store than 3 miles north. Few destinations are Metro accessible - and those that are become crowded with refugees from DC. However, this proposal has one giant looming problem:
In the Columbia Pike plan, the line will generally run along the outside lane of traffic, beside the curb. Streetcars share the lanes with other cars and can get caught in traffic snarls just like other vehicles...
Ultimately, road capacity will be reduced. Streetcars will get stuck behind cars. Cars will get stuck behind streetcars. Unlike buses, streetcars won't be able to get around vehicles that are "blocking the box."
Skeptics, such as Arlington Republican activist Wayne Kubicki, worry that the streetcar project will cost more than current projections and might not have the advertised development and congestion-alleviation benefits. "It sounds half-cooked," Kubicki said.
Big problems need big solutions. The remote possibility that it "could stretch from Alexandria to Tysons Corner" isn't very reassuring.

Instead of big solutions, we get small, overpriced, and unnecessary projects like this:
Installation of escalator canopy at Huntington south entrance to provide sheltered customer access to the station.
Total Funding Required = $2,000,000

Monday, January 14, 2008

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Policy

From Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: But, Mayor, let me just say that even if you passed -- even if you were president now and you put all of those in with the state of the union later this month, those wouldn't help in the short run. Those wouldn't help for a couple of years.

Senator Hillary Clinton, for -- let me just say Senator Hillary Clinton has just proposed a $70 billion package which would send money to the states to help stop foreclosures, help with heating oil, extend unemployment benefits.

She and some people at the White House are talking about tax rebates right now. I mean, that's the kind of short-term stimulus you need, isn't it?

GIULIANI: No. The kind of short-term stimulus you need is to present the picture, realistic picture, of an economy that's going to grow.

And then the private sector and the investment from the private sector -- the multiples of money that that would involve dwarfs anything that you're talking about.

Here, look at it this way. You're a business. You're making a decision about where to place your business, a business that you're going to have there for the next 20 years to 30 years.

You're looking at a picture of the United States of, you know, Democrats possibly getting elected, talking about raising taxes 20 percent or 30 percent, talking about building the central government, regulating more.

You look at another country where the corporate tax rate is considerably less than the United States. The other tax rates are going down. And they're talking about putting more back into the private sector. Where do you put your business? Where do you make your long-term investment? Where do you put your money? How do you evaluate the currencies? If the government in Washington presents the picture of immediately moving toward pro-growth policies, you have growth right away.

A lot of the movement of money, as you know, not just in markets but in general is a prediction of not just where the economy is today, but where the economy is going to be next year, the year after, the year after that.

So by announcing strong pro-growth policies, you can affect that decision, and that brings more liquidity. It brings more money. It brings more investment into your economy.

That's why the Club for Growth pointed out that my tax program would be one of the best things that you could do to strengthen the economy right now and create growth.

It's always good to see that there's someone out there more concerned with long-term growth than short-term micromanagement of policy.

Mitt Romney's Bizarre Hospital

Mitt Romney said something odd at one of the recent Republican presidential debates (at St. Anselm College, NH). I wondered if I had imagined it, but there's a transcript.

Challenged by Fred Thompson on his health insurance mandates in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney had this to say:

Yes, we said, look, if people can afford to buy it, either buy the insurance or pay your own way; don't be free-riders and pass on the cost to your health care to everybody else...

If somebody is making, let's say $100,000 a year, and doesn't have health insurance, and they show up at the hospital, and they need a $1,000 repair of some kind for something that's gone wrong. And they say, "Look, I'm not insured, I'm not going to pay." Do you think they should pay or not?

Is this a problem in Massachusetts? Do people making $100,000 a year go into hospitals, receive treatment, refuse to pay, and get bailed out by the state? No wonder Massachusetts is in such bad shape. They're going to have problems funding health care if they don't bother to send a bill or pursue non-payers with the wide range of available remedies.

His hypothetical $100k free-rider doesn't pass the laugh test, suggesting, oddly enough, that multi-millionaire Mitt Romney tried to "out-poor" Fred Thompson.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Metro's Service Decline Continues

The Macaca Post reports:

Metrorail Reports 17-Month Slide in On-Time Service

Metro's latest performance data confirm what subway riders have been saying for months: Train service is getting worse.

On-time performance has been declining for the past 17 months; not once did the agency meet its performance benchmark of having 95 percent of all trains run on schedule. On-time performance was worst during the evening rush, when it hovered in the 80 percent range. The steepest drop occurred between July and November, when service disruptions increased 30 percent from the same period the previous year.

Declining service now affects more people:

Despite the drop in performance, ridership is growing. Average weekday ridership in October was 739,000 trips, up 6 percent from the year before, according to the most recent budget figures.


From July to November 2007, almost 60 percent of the 1,825 service disruptions were caused by mechanical and door problems, according to Metro data.

That also suggests that riders are causing a significant number of the problems themselves by jamming doors out of fear of having to wait an entire minute for the next train.

Plans vs. Leadership

From the Indianapolis Star:

When it comes to shaping domestic policy, the president is just one voice of many. In the process of a bill becoming a law, the end product can often look quite different from what was originally proposed.

During the three-hour debate marathon on ABC Saturday night, the Democratic presidential candidates spent a lot of time arguing over which of their health-care proposals will cover the most Americans, and the Republicans debated the minutiae of their respective immigration policies. But voters, and the media, should not put too much stock in the details of such policy debates.

Once the next president submits his or her proposals to Congress, the bills will be revised by various House and Senate committees and will be affected by lobbyists from all sides. In the end, the president's leadership skills and ability to persuade others (including members of the opposition party) will prove to be of far more importance than the specific policy details articulated on the campaign trail.

This is why each candidate's executive experience is so important. Giuliani, and to a lesser extent Huckabee and Romney, has a record of success facing a hostile opposition. The other candidates (on both sides) do not.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Divided America?

Bret Stephens writes in the Wall Street Journal:
A nation in which the poor are defined by an income level that in most countries would make them prosperous is a nation that has all but forgotten the true meaning of poverty. A nation in which obesity is largely a problem of the poor (and anorexia of the upper-middle class) does not understand the word "hunger." A nation in which the most celebrated recent cases of racism, at Duke University or in Jena, La., are wholly or mostly contrived is not a racist nation. A nation in which our "division" is defined by the vitriol of Ann Coulter or James Carville is not a truly divided one--at least while Mr. Carville is married to Republican operative Mary Matalin and Ms. Coulter is romantically linked with New York City Democrat Andrew Stein.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Just Don't Buy an iPod

From Yahoo News:

A class-action suit filed against Apple alleges the company unfairly uses technological restrictions with its iPod line and iTunes Music Store to beat out competitors.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is the latest one to accuse Apple of unfair business practices. Apple is facing similar legal actions and scrutiny in the U.S. and Europe.

The suit was filed Dec. 31 by Stacie Somers, a resident of San Diego County, California, who bought a 30GB iPod from Target, a retail store. Others who bought an iPod or content from Apple's iTunes store after Dec. 31, 2003, may join the suit.


The suit contends iPod-owning consumers can only buy music from iTunes, an unlawful tie-in that violates U.S. antitrust laws. Apple could license the WMA format for as little as $0.03 per iPod, or for a total of $800,000 based on Apple's 2005 iPod sales, the suit reads.

There is no indication of how Apple forced anyone to buy iPods, with their well-known relationship with iTunes and multitude of competitors (including my choice, the SanDisk Sansa).