June 2009 Archives

Larry Kudlow asks where's Madoff's money?

Yet while everyone can now cheer that the greatest crook in financial history will die in jail, Madoff also may die keeping his secrets with him. So far, prosecutors have come up with very little about this case. And under the tutelage of the clever lawyer Ike Sorkin, Madoff has given almost nothing up. No singing in jail. (Maybe he should have been waterboarded.) We don’t know if his wife or two sons were part of the scam. Nor do we know where most of the money -- estimated up to $65 billion -- has gone. There’s a number being used that bankruptcy trustee Irving Picard has recovered $1.2 billion of the $13.2 billion in estimated net losses. But the strength of those numbers is somewhat in doubt.

Where’s the money? Who are the accomplices? And what about some of these big-time fat cats who invested with Madoff, people we thought were victims but may turn out to be the real winners in the story?

There are several reports about Jeffry Picower and Stanley Chais, two rich businessmen who may have taken $6.1 billion in returns from the Madoff fraudulent funds -- more than they put in. There’s also businessman Carl Shapiro, a close Madoff pal. And while there is yet no number as to what he took out of the funds, years ago the guy sold his garment business for $20 million and grew that sum to nearly $1 billion -- most of it from investing with Madoff.

Madoff is obviously keeping quiet because his former partners-in-crime have threatened to kill him and his family if he talks.

Lots of outrage over a firefighter who killed his two dogs to save on boarding costs:

A Columbus firefighter admits that he took his two dogs to the basement, tied them up and blasted them with a rifle so he and a girlfriend could vacation without paying to board the animals. ...

He was convicted of "needlessly killing ... a companion animal" on Dec. 3, according to the charges filed 10 minutes before the hearing in Municipal Court. One dog was shot six times in the head.

Santuomo, who did not give a statement in court, will spend 90 days in jail, pay $4,500 to cover the cost of his investigation and serve five years' probation, Judge Harland H. Hale ruled.

"This is a travesty and abhorrent behavior to those in this community who work to save the lives of animals," said Jodi Buckman, executive director of the Capital Area Humane Society.

And yet killing unborn babies for the sake of convenience is a "right". The people who evince the most outrage over animal abuse tend to be the most vociferous supporters of abortion.

Dana Perino points out the bizarre nature of Mark Sanford's affair.

Now we have a real doozy — another promising politician, he, too, with a full head of hair, white smile, and nice family, in the most bizarre scandal to date. Ditching his detail, flying to the southern hemisphere for an assignation, while his staff told reporters that he was . . . hiking . . . the Appalachian trail? Say what? I’d like to have been in the room when the spokesperson drew straws to determine who was going to go out an explain that whopper. Had they not seen the e-mails the media now has posted for all to see? Do any of these characters — and I use the term loosely — think of what their wives and children are going to go through? Do they really think they’re going to get away with all of this?

It's so bizarre that it's almost inconceivable to me that a sitting governor could expect to get away with this. The wife and I were talking last night, and we're both convinced that there's more to this story than has so far been revealed. The details thus far simply don't make sense. Something is being covered up that's worse than the supposed affair.

President Obama would make sure his family got the "best care" rather than settle for the public health care plan he's pushing.

Dr. Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist and researcher at the New York University Langone Medical Center, said that elites often propose health care solutions that limit options for the general public, secure in the knowledge that if they or their loves ones get sick, they will be able to afford the best care available, even if it's not provided by insurance.

Devinsky asked the president pointedly if he would be willing to promise that he wouldn't seek such extraordinary help for his wife or daughters if they became sick and the public plan he's proposing limited the tests or treatment they can get.

The president refused to make such a pledge, though he allowed that if "it's my family member, if it's my wife, if it's my children, if it's my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care.

So... it's good enough for us, but not for his family?

(HT: Ed Morrissey.)

This can't end well.

Greg Mankiw asks a great question about how America's "high" health care costs are labeled.

On the issue of doctor training: Suppose that in country A physicians get free training through a taxpayer-financed educational system, while in country B physicians finance their own education and then, once trained, are paid higher fees. If country A classifies these training expenses as education rather than healthcare spending, which country would report higher healthcare costs? Is that difference in healthcare costs real or an artifact of labeling? In which country would doctors, once trained, have more incentive to work long hours? In which country would there be more doctors? Which country's system, in your judgment, is more efficient and equitable?

America is country B, and most other countries are A. Maybe this kind of labeling phenomenon affects not just our perceived too-high costs of health care, but also our perceived too-low education spending.

I'm actually not quite sure why this is funny, but I've received it from multiple sources so I may as well post it.

Cesar Rodriguez was the closest thing the USAF had to a modern air combat ace:

Over Cesar Rodriguez’s desk hangs a macabre souvenir of his decades as a fighter pilot. It is a large framed picture, a panoramic cockpit view of open sky and desert. A small F‑15 Eagle is visible in the distance, but larger and more immediate, filling the center of the shot, staring right at the viewer, is an incoming missile.

It is a startling picture, memorializing a moment of air-to-air combat from January 19, 1991, over Iraq. Air-to-air combat has become exceedingly rare. Even when it happens, modern fighter pilots are rarely close enough to actually see the person they are shooting at. This image recalls a kill registered by Rodriguez, who goes by Rico, and his wingman, Craig Underhill, known as Mole, during the Gulf War.

The F‑15 in the distance is Rodriguez’s.

“The guy who is actually sitting in the cockpit staring out at this, he’s locked on to me with his radar, and that,” he said, pointing at the missile, “is about to hit him in the face.”

“So this is an artist’s rendering?”

“No,” said Rodriguez. “That’s actually the real picture.”

A special-operations team combed the Iraqi MiG’s crash site, and this was one of the items salvaged, the last millisecond of incoming data from the doomed Iraqi pilot’s HUD, or head-up display. It was the final splash of light on his retinas, probably arriving too late for his brain to process before being vaporized with the rest of his corporeal frame.

Mike Rosen-Molina talks about using social networking systems for online evangelism.

There are many websites that try to harness Internet connections for missionary work, explaining how churches could use online video and Twitter feeds to catch web surfers' attention. Andrea Useem's Congregational Resources explains and demystifies social networking for religious leaders, while Carlos Whittaker blogs about his faith and social media at Ragamuffinsoul. Sites like these emphasize that one big obstacle to Internet evangelism is that the Internet is, at heart, a pull medium -- meaning it's often more difficult to reach a reluctant audience using the web than it is using older media such as television or radio. So while static webpages might be good for drawing in people already curious about a religion's tenants, actually getting the attention of someone who wasn't... that was a little more tricky without coming across as spam. That is, until the advent of social media, and its accompanying ability to build relationships online.

"Creating a web site is perhaps the most basic way to use the Internet for evangelism," agreed Rev. Michael White, a United Methodist pastor and author of Digital Evangelism: You Can Do It, Too!. He noted that newer social networking sites offered more opportunities for outreach because they could better enable conversation than a static page.

"People of faith can use such social media as Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc. to reach out both to 'seekers' (those looking for more information about religious faith) and believers alike to share the tenets of their faith, encourage deepening one's religious faith, answering questions of doubt, and much more," he said.

Lots more at the link.

(HT: SO.)

I'm fairly ambivalent about Ann Coulter, but she often has the pithiest pointy elbows on my side. Here she is on the killing of abortionist George Tiller:

I wouldn't kill an abortionist myself, but I wouldn't want to impose my moral values on others. No one is for shooting abortionists. But how will criminalizing men making difficult, often tragic, decisions be an effective means of achieving the goal of reducing the shootings of abortionists?

Following the moral precepts of liberals, I believe the correct position is: If you don't believe in shooting abortionists, then don't shoot one.

Someone please enlighten me as to why she's wrong, but Tiller was right.

In a fascinating confluence of political threads, it looks like Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor once served on a government agency that pressed for more home loans for un-creditworthy borrowers.

Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama's nominee for a seat on the Supreme Court, served on the board of a New York State agency charged with providing discounted mortgages to middle and low income homebuyers from 1987 to 1992. During the time, she was a consistent advocate of pushing the agency to provide more mortgages to low-income home buyers. In short, she advocated the kind of aggressive lending practices that helped create the mortgage meltdown.

Of course 1992 was a long time ago, but what does this history say about the quality of her judgment?

(HT: DD.)

I can think of two modest health care reforms that I could support despite being a libertarian-leaning conservative. The first is health care vouchers, as described by Larry Kudlow.

According the U.S. Census Bureau, we don’t have 47 million folks who are truly uninsured. When you take college kids plus those earning $75,000 or more who chose not to sign up, that removes roughly 20 million people. Then take out about 10 million more who are not U.S. citizens, and 11 million who are eligible for SCHIP and Medicaid but have not signed up for some reason.

So that really leaves only 10 million to 15 million people who are truly long-term uninsured.

Yes, they need help. And yes, I would like to give it to them. But not with mandatory coverage, or new government-backed insurance plans, or massive tax increases. And certainly not with the Canadian-European-style nationalization that has always been the true goal of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats.

Instead, we can give the truly uninsured vouchers or debit cards that will allow for choice and coverage, and even health savings accounts for retirement wealth. According to expert Betsy McCaughey, instead of several trillion dollars and socialized medicine, this voucher approach would cost only about $25 billion a year.

$25 billion is still a lot of money. I love how cheap it sounds though, now that we've grown used to talking in trillions over the past few months.

The second idea is universal catastrophic coverage: basically a taxpayer-funded plan with a very high annual deductible, say $25,000. It is very unfortunate for a family to be bankrupted by the need for a major organ transplant or cancer, but these expenses are relatively rare. My intuition tells me that universal catastrophic coverage would cost tens of billions rather than trillions... I'm sure someone has run the numbers for this sort of plan, can anyone find them?

What do politicians and serial killers have in common?

Using his law enforcement experience and data drawn from the FBI's behavioral analysis unit, Jim Kouri has collected a series of personality traits common to a couple of professions.

Kouri, who's a vice president of the National Assn. of Chiefs of Police, has assembled traits such as superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others.

These traits, Kouri points out in his analysis, are common to psychopathic serial killers.

But -- and here's the part that may spark some controversy and defensive discussion -- these traits are also common to American politicians. (Maybe you already suspected.)

One big difference: politicians cause far more deaths than serial killers do.

Before The Six Million Dollar Man and RoboCop was 8th Man: a superhero who derived his powers from smoking cigarettes.

Is it shocking that Senator Durbin used secret information to rip off ordinary investors right before the market collapsed in October, 2008? Well, it's a cruel abuse of power, but to tell the truth it isn't that shocking. Studies have shown that Senators' investments regularly beat the market by 12%!

The study found that during the boom years of 1993-98, a majority of US Senators were trading stocks - and beating the market by 12 percentage points a year on average. By comparison, corporate insiders beat the market by 5 percent, and typical households underperformed by 1.4 percent.

Financial experts interviewed for this story say the senators' collective achievement is a statistical stunner, too big to be a mere coincidence.

In order to achieve these results, crooked dealings like Senator Durbin's must be common among our political class. So by all means lets tar and feather Durbin, but we're fooling ourselves if we stop with him.

The always-insightful Christopher Hitchens says that we shouldn't call what happened in Iran an "election" because it was a sham from the beginning.

Iran and its citizens are considered by the Shiite theocracy to be the private property of the anointed mullahs. This totalitarian idea was originally based on a piece of religious quackery promulgated by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and known as velayat-e faqui. Under the terms of this edict—which originally placed the clerics in charge of the lives and property of orphans, the indigent, and the insane—the entire population is now declared to be a childlike ward of the black-robed state. Thus any voting exercise is, by definition, over before it has begun, because the all-powerful Islamic Guardian Council determines well in advance who may or may not "run." Any newspaper referring to the subsequent proceedings as an election, sometimes complete with rallies, polls, counts, and all the rest of it is the cause of helpless laughter among the ayatollahs. ("They fell for it? But it's too easy!") Shame on all those media outlets that have been complicit in this dirty lie all last week. And shame also on our pathetic secretary of state, who said that she hoped that "the genuine will and desire" of the people of Iran would be reflected in the outcome. Surely she knows that any such contingency was deliberately forestalled to begin with.

In theory, the first choice of the ayatollahs might not actually "win," and there could even be divisions among the Islamic Guardian Council as to who constitutes the best nominee. Secondary as that is, it can still lead to rancor. After all, corrupt systems are still subject to fraud. This, like hypocrisy, is the compliment that vice pays to virtue. With near-incredible brutishness and cruelty, then, the guardians moved to cut off cell-phone and text-message networks that might give even an impression of fairness and announced though their storm-troop "revolutionary guards" that only one form of voting had divine sanction. ("The miraculous hand of God," announced Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, had been present in the polling places and had announced a result before many people had even finished voting. He says that sort of thing all the time.)

I wish the Iranian people all the best. America would love to be friends with you. Please ditch the mullahs and give us a call.

A woman buys her mother a new mattress but doesn't think to check the old one for hidden cash before tossing it out.

An Israeli woman who bought her elderly mother a new mattress threw out the old one unaware that it had $1 million hidden inside it.

Israeli newspapers reported today that the woman was left scrabbling through landfill sites in an, as yet, fruitless search for the mattress which contained her mother's life savings.

The woman, identified only as Anat, a resident of Tel Aviv, told Army Radio that she bought the mattress on Monday as a surprise for her mother and got rid of the other one without telling her.

They're still looking for the mattress... good luck! I bet some college kid picked it up off the curb.

New York is turning an abandoned elevated railway into a long, skinny elevated park: The High Line.

That's from before the renovations began, I think. What a cool idea.

Future Pundit Randall Parker -- who often has some very interesting links and perspectives -- misses the boat with his analysis of a study about church attendance and virginity. First the study results:

His team's survey found that 13.9 per cent of men and 8.9 per cent of women said they have never had sex.

Men and women who attended church at least once a week were respectively 5 and 3.9 times more likely to be virgins than those who attended church less often. Virgins of both sexes were slightly less likely to have swigged a beer in the last year, compared to non-virgins. And women with college degrees were 5.4 times more likely to be virgins than women who never got their Bachelor's.

From this, Parker concludes:

I see this as a sign that church attendance and intelligence are both being selected against.

But of course sexual promiscuity is very different from actually having children. According to this Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey from 2008, people of pretty much every religion have a lot more children (and have them younger) than atheists and agnostics (see page 68 for a table).

Furthermore, Parker's impression of churchgoers seems to be somewhat warped:

Note the higher incidence of virginity among church-attending men than among church-attending women. I had a girlfriend who attended church (unlike myself) who complained to me that too many of the guys at church were basically pussies. Not masculine enough for her.

Presumably his girlfriend was not attending a Baptist church.

My Money Blog points to 20 attributes that financially secure people have in common, from a book by Jean Chatzky which I did not get a review copy of!

Here are what Chatzky says are the twenty key elements of those people who improved their situations. You don’t need to have them all, but she says that you need, on average, ten factors to make your way to financial comfort.

Financial Attitudes
- feel stocks are worth the risk
- devote money to savings
- save regularly for emergencies
- invest for retirement
- reduced debt

- want to retire comfortably
- want to be financially comfortable during working years too
- always knew what they wanted to do for a career
- made it a goal to accumulate $1 million
- want to own a home

- are confident
- happy
- optimistic
- competitive
- leaders

Nonfinancial Behaviors
- have a college degree
- socialize with friends at least once a week
- exercise at least 2-3 times a week
- read newspapers regularly
- are married

Except for reading newspapers, I've got them all! I don't see why reading Drudge and newsy blogs wouldn't be as significant, however.

Although it's easy to forget it in America, here's another stark reminder that Christians are the world's most persecuted group: Hindu extremists bomb churches in Nepal.

The extremist Hindu Nepal Defense Army (NDA), has issued a statement acknowledging responsibility for a bomb attack last week on Kathmandu Cathedral. Their statement adds: “We want all the one million Christians out of the country.

The statement was distributed during a public demonstration organized by the Church in Nepal on 31 May, to create awareness among the people on the issue of religious freedom and the rights of every citizen to profess their own faith.

A large part of Nepal's civil society, groups of every race and ethnic background, human rights activists, various religious communities, have all publicly expressed their solidarity with the Christians and disapproval of the fundamentalist groups, revealing a Nepalese society united in the values of respect, pluralism, and religious freedom.

In Nepal, Christians make up 2.4% of the population. Church leaders have voiced concern about the NDA's threat. According to analysts, the group is made up of former soldiers and members of the police force who created the paramilitary organisation after the resignation of King Gyandera, which heralded the arrival of a democratic secular system and the rise to power ex-Maoist groups after centuries of rule by a Hindu monarch.

Pray for believers in Nepal, India, China, and throughout the Middle East and South Asia.

Despite widespread belief, billions of dollars spent over the course of a decade have demonstrated that alternative medicines don't have any beneficial effects.

Ten years ago the government set out to test herbal and other alternative health remedies to find the ones that work. After spending $2.5 billion, the disappointing answer seems to be that almost none of them do.

Echinacea for colds. Ginkgo biloba for memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis. Black cohosh for menopausal hot flashes. Saw palmetto for prostate problems. Shark cartilage for cancer. All proved no better than dummy pills in big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The lone exception: ginger capsules may help chemotherapy nausea.

As for therapies, acupuncture has been shown to help certain conditions, and yoga, massage, meditation and other relaxation methods may relieve symptoms like pain, anxiety and fatigue.

So variations on physical therapy can be effective in certain circumstances, but herbs and alternative "medicines" are nothing more than superstition.

Sonia Sotomayor was already wiser than any white male thanks to her genitalia and skin color, but just recently her judicial-y wisdom has skyrocketed thanks to yet another obstacle she is overcoming: a broken ankle!

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor hobbled through a packed day of meetings on Capitol Hill Monday after breaking her ankle in an early morning airport stumble, then boarding a flight from New York to Washington to visit senators who will vote on her confirmation. ...

Sotomayor made the meetings with senators despite her injury. She entered the Capitol for a meeting with Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, on crutches, wearing a white cast covered at the foot with a black soft bootie. Asked how she was feeling, Sotomayor said, "I feel fine, thank you."

How brave! Sotomayor is an inspiration to everyone with a light brown vagina. Fortunately she's getting the gentle, affirmative treatment she deserves due to her tragically victimized condition.

The injury changed the tone slightly on an otherwise high-intensity round of meetings that are part job interview for Sotomayor, part preview of a pressure-filled set of confirmation hearings.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., signed Sotomayor's cast during their session. Her fellow Louisianan, Republican Sen. David Vitter, had a bag of ice and a pillow on hand when the judge arrived at his office, telling her to "please be seated and relax."

Although I was personally skeptical before, Sotomayor's broken ankle has converted me: I'm now tingling in anticipation to see her wisely limp into the Supreme Court and wisely seat her Latina genitals behind the bench.

When you're overwhelmed by sorrow and depression it is tempting to think that no one understands how you're feeling, least of all God -- who claims to love you.

Here are two passages about Jesus that set me straight. The first is from Isaiah and is speaking about Jesus prophetically.

Isaiah 53:2-5

2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Jesus was a man of great sorrows who experienced constant rejection by the people who were closest to him (and he still experiences this now). One of those times was in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Matthew 26:36-46

36Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."

39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

40Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. 41"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

42He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

43When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"

Yes, Jesus was betrayed by Judas, but don't overlook the behavior of his other disciples that night. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," Jesus told them. "Stay here and keep watch with me," he asked. But instead they fell asleep. Not once, but twice.

Jesus knows sorrow and depression. He knows abandonment. He knows what it's like for no one to understand.

When you're alone and lonely, overwhelmed with grief, to the point of death, meditate on these passages and absorb them into your soul. You can find solace, and even gain a measure of understanding for the suffering Jesus went through for you.

Missouri-based Organovo is "printing" tissues and organ-like structures:

The "ink" in the bioprinting process employed by Organovo is composed of spheres packed with tens of thousands of human cells. These spheres are assembled or "printed" on sheets of organic biopaper. By precisely placing the cells with the bioprinter, and providing them with the proper natural developmental cues, they do exactly what they do in nature: they self assemble into fully formed, functional tissue.

The unique science blends biophysics and cell biology with computer aided design and high precision deposition to recreate the micro-architecture of the most complex human tissue. Organovo is currently developing blood vessels and intends to use the same technology to create organs or bio-constructs that reproduce organ function.

Dr. Forgacs envisions fully implantable organs printed from a patient's own cells. "You give us your cells: we grow them, we print them, the structure forms and we are ready to go," he says. "I am pretty sure that full organs will be on the market [one day]." These organs may not look like our organs but they will function just like the real thing.

It's strange to me that so many people see the adolescent culture of "hooking up" as an advanced or liberated approach to relationships. I went to the zoo last weekend and saw the chimps behaving identically.

Young people during one of the most sexually active periods of their lives aren't necessarily looking for a mate. What used to be a mate-seeking ritual has shifted to hookups: sexual encounters with no strings attached.

"The idea used to be you are going to date someone that is going to lead to something sexual happening," Bogle says. "In the hookup era, something sexual happens, even though it may be less than sexual intercourse, that may or may not ever lead to dating."

Young people from high school on are so preoccupied with friends, getting an education and establishing themselves, they don't make time for relationships.

Marriage and family are the cornerstones of civilization, and destroying them is a luxury that consumes our cultural capital and will eventually leave us bankrupt. Our civilization is so rich and powerful that it appears to us that nothing can destroy it, but we can waste away our cultural wealth in just a few generations if we aren't careful.

At 25, May Wilkerson would like a relationship, but not a family — not quite yet. She's lived a lot of places: Argentina, Canada and Paris. Wilkerson says she hasn't found much intimacy with the men she's encountered.

In New York City, where she moved two years ago, people seem even more emotionally detached, and she thinks it is because so many of the people who come to the big city are focused on success.

"For many of us, the requisite vulnerability and exposure that comes from being really intimate with someone in a committed sense is kind of threatening."

And the thought of being in love with someone, Wilkerson says, "is the most terrifying thing."

What??? Relationships are hard? No wonder divorce is so common when young people (good grief, I'm not one anymore?) are so used to commitment-free hookups. They've never committed to anything and are totally unprepared for marriage.

"[S]o many of the people who come to the big city are focused on success." It used to be that finding a good spouse and starting a family together was a type of success, but not anymore. Now "success" is a degree, a career, plenty of money, and an endless series of meaningless relationships.

Education, work, and prosperity are all great things, but they're great because they enable what's really important: the relationships in your life. They're tools. They're means to an end, not an end unto themselves.

I'm so sick of hearing about how the "stimulus" spending is going to "create or save jobs". The phrase is rhetorical hand-waving the Obama Administration made up to give themselves cover when the stimulus plan didn't have any visible beneficial effects.

Obama admitted his own dissatisfaction with the progress but said his administration would ramp up stimulus spending in the coming months. The White House acknowledged it has spent only $44 billion, or 5 percent, of the $787 billion stimulus, but that total has always been expected to rise sharply this summer.

"Now we're in a position to really accelerate," Obama said.

He also repeated an earlier promise to create or save 600,000 jobs by the end of the summer.

"You're fired. Just kidding!" Times 600,000,000! I just "created or saved" 600,000,000 jobs! Considering how many jobs have been lost in the past few months, how are we supposed to measure "saved" jobs? It's absurd, and yet the media keeps reporting the "create or save" claim as if it has any meaning at all.

The economy has shed 1.6 million jobs since the stimulus measure was signed in February, far overshadowing White House announcements estimating the effort has saved 150,000 jobs. Public opinion of Obama's handling of the economy has declined along with the jobs data.

Estimating! The White House "estimates" the level of success of its programs, but because the whole thing is so ephemeral there's no way for anyone else to verify anything! And yet this is reported as "news". Why don't we just cut out the middle man, kill off the media, and broadcast Obama's press releases directly?

Here's a terrible reminder of why we need the Second Amendment.

Governments tend to kill far more of their own people than wars ever do.

Just to give perspective on this incredible murder by government, if all these bodies were laid head to toe, with the average height being 5', then they would circle the earth ten times. Also, this democide murdered 6 times more people than died in combat in all the foreign and internal wars of the century. Finally, given popular estimates of the dead in a major nuclear war, this total democide is as though such a war did occur, but with its dead spread over a century.

Victor Davis Hanson writes about Obama the body-snatcher:

In any case, we are happier waking up as alien duplicates. At least no one is dying in Iraq that we know of. Our Predator drones no longer kill anyone besides terrorists. Military tribunals, renditions, and wiretaps are a-okay. GM and Chrysler are finally "readjusting." The Muslim world likes us now. If $2 trillion deficits are okay, why not $3 trillion? Terrorists are unmentioned and so no longer exist. Europeans ask why can't they have their own Obama. Even the likes of Pravda and Hugo Chávez swear that we are more leftist and PC than they they ever were. No more silly movies like Rendition or Redacted, since both protocols are now approved. Everyone is proud of the U.S. again. We've got a president who finally cares enough to remind us to inflate our tires and wash our hands. Only a few problems remain — mostly those red-eyed hold-outs who won't go to sleep and so swear that Justice Sotomayor said more than twice that Latinas are wiser than white men, when we know she really didn't, or at least didn't mean it.

I'm not sure that Krypton as a climate change allegory will be compelling to many people.

Government leaders convene in a hearing room, a tableau of probity and power. A lone, impassioned scientist addresses them. He says their planet is in grave danger from catastrophic but predictable changes, some already underway. He cites natural disasters, floods, and the planet's steady warming. Despite this grim prognosis, he argues, there is a solution, one the cost of which is manageable -- but only if they commit to action.

At first, the leaders are shocked. But after a moment's consideration, some begin to titter. Some smirk, others laugh derisively, accusing him of fabricating a hoax. Yet even as dismiss the scientist as having lost his senses, the first unmistakable signs that he is right are taking place all around them.

Al Gore testifying to the Senate?

Far from it. The scientist was Jor-El. The leaders were the Council of the Planet Krypton. And the scene was the opening of the first episode in the television series, Superman.

Plus, of course, Algore has no scientific training whatsoever and is not a scientist. He's a lawyer.

Anyway, if you can read the whole post without laughing and the consistently strained metaphor you should get an award -- a Superaward!

I mocked President Obama's "clarification" of Sotomayor's racist comments a few days ago, but unsurprisingly Thomas Sowell skewers the judge even more effectively.

In Washington, the clearer a statement, the more certain it is to be followed by a "clarification" when people realize what was said.

The clearly racist comments by Judge Sonia Sotomayor at the University of California at Berkeley in 2001 have forced the spinmasters to resort to their last-ditch excuse, that it was "taken out of context."

If that line is used during Judge Sotomayor's Senate confirmation hearings, someone should ask her to explain just what those words mean when taken in context.

Exactly. In what context is it ok to say:"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life."? The only context I can think of is when you're surrounded by a bunch of fellow racists.

Sowell goes on to demolish "empathy" as a basis for judging:

It is dangerous because citizens are supposed to obey the law, which means they must know what the law is in advance - and nobody can know in advance what the "life experiences" of whatever judge hears a case will happen to be.

If judges are to be making law rather than interpreting it, then anyone who appears in their courtroom should be protected from their rulings by the ex post facto clause(s) of our Constitution.

Does anyone love free food more than engineers? I'm always amazed at how everyone in my office (including myself!) flocks to free food. It's free! It's food!

Are other work places similar?

Two stories about potential new, cheap, light strike aircraft for the USAF: the Combat Air Truck and the T-6 modified to carry machine guns and precision guided munitions.

Just a point of terminology: this entire website is a "blog"; each individual entry is a "post". One doesn't "write a blog" about a topic unless one is creating a website devoted to that topic. One may "post to a blog" or "write a post" or "write an entry" or "blog a post" or "blog an entry" or somesuch about a topic on a blog, but entries should not individually be referred to as "blogs".

This morning I wrote that the Obama Date Night certainly cost taxpayers more than $75,000, and the Washington Times crunches the numbers and agrees.

Remember, joyriding Air Force One around for a few hours over Manhattan a couple months ago cost $250,000, so the cost of the weekend trip was likely not likely that low.

Read the detailed breakdown at the link. I bet the date cost us at least $3 million.

There was, of course, an ironic element of the trip. In February, Obama scolded corporate executives (while also costing Las Vegas some $130 million) when he said: "You can't get corporate jets. You can't go take a trip to Las Vegas, or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime."

There's absolutely no way that the Obama date night cost a mere $70,000.

The romantic jaunt is estimated to have cost the taxpayer more than £45,000 in transport and security costs - because the date was in New York.

The President used three planes, one to carry the couple and two to ferry aides and reporters all the way from Washington.

The cost of each flight was thought to be nearly £15,000.

The bill was pushed even higher with the use of two helicopters, one to take the Obamas to catch their plane in Washington and another to zip the party into Manhattan from JFK airport.

Police also shut down New York streets for the motorcade to pass through so they could get to their date on time.

The £45,000/$70,000 number doesn't include the standard expenses the President incurs every time he leaves the White House: additional Secret Service agents, the motorcade itself (plus getting it to NYC), additional communication needs, and lots more.

The $70,000 must just be above and beyond what it would have cost him to go see a show in Washington, DC. In actuality, it costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every time the President goes out rather than staying at the White House. There's no doubt that some excursions are necessary for the good of the country, but if Obama were really serious about shared sacrifice he would stay home with a DVD instead of going out for non-business reasons.

(HT: Gateway Pundit.)

The best part is the pair of TelePrompTers.

(HT: BT.)

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution waded through some statistical tables from Criminal Victimization in the United States and discovered another great reason to get and stay married:

The rate of victimization for violent crimes (per 1,000 persons aged 12 and over) for never married and married males is as follows:

Never Married Males: 45.0
Married Males: 12.3

Clearly, married males are older and they have settled down, usually in places away from crime hot spots. Thus the fact that the rate of victimization for married males is much lower than for never married males is no surprise. What did surprise me is that divorced males have rates of victimization about as high as for never married males:

Divorced or Separated Males: 44.2

The same pattern is even stronger for females:

Never Married Females: 38.4
Married Females: 10.3
Divorced or Separated Females: 49.4

The patterns are suggestive of how large a difference one's choices can make for criminal victimization.

So divorce brings economic ruin and gets you beaten up. Let's try to avoid that.

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