Friday, March 31, 2006


Weekend Reading

Cherry Blossom Edition:

DC will be filling up this weekend with tourists bused in to gawk at the annual cherry blossom spectacular. I'll be avoiding downtown. But in th spirit of things 'blooming' and's the return of the Friday feature..."Weekend Reading". Enjoy!

Blossoms and booze
The arrival of spring raises an important question. Is it better to admire the cherry blossoms drunk or sober? In Japan, the consensus is “drunk”. When the sakura bloom, Japanese people sit in parks getting raucously sloshed and contemplating the transience of life, as symbolised by those briefly spectacular flowers. Everyone agrees that alcohol heightens the experience.
Not so in Washington, DC. America's

(Is it just me or does the Japanese way sound about right?- Elephant)

Show of Independence
Why can't Republicans stand up to Bush when it really matters? The good news is Republican members of Congress finally stood up to President Bush. The bad news is they picked an issue where he was right and they were wrong.

GM's Twilight:
Things just keep getting worse...Delphi has said that if a settlement weren't negotiated by Thursday, it would file a motion Friday in bankruptcy court to void its labor contracts.


Poor, Poor Justice Scalia

What Happens When You're Yesterday's News

Seems like Antonin Scalia needs some attention. (Oh the irony of this coming from a man who advocates judicial restraint and decry's activist judges!)

I can't really blame him. Once the guiding compass of the conservative side of the Supreme Court, he's yesterday's news. He's been bumped off by the more atriculate, younger, and more charismatic John Roberts.

But at least it is not as bad as this....


Weekend Plans

Nice Weather...Finally!

Our cooler than normal spring seems to be fading away and the weather is getting nicer. It is supposed to be in the 60's here this weekend and I plan on spending most of my time outside doing yard work - one of my most favorite things. Here's the to do list:

1) Install garden boxes. (four 4ft. x 4ft. garden plots) - rather than buying fresh veggies this summer, I figured I'd grow my own....because nothing is as good as a fresh tomato, even if it actually costs me about $50/lb. to grow it.

2)Weatherproof privacy fence - It's two years old and it need a good coat of weather proofing stain...very Tom Sawyer.

3)Buy an edger- Hand trimming along 150 feet of fence is not fun...So I'll pick up one of these. (Although certainly not one that's this expensive.)

4)Fire up the grill! - charred animal flesh slathered in sweet, sweet, bar-b-que sauce...yummm!

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Wither Detroit: Update

My Crystal Ball

Could things get worse for General Motors? Probably not. First President Bush vows to let them go bankrupt, then Delphi goes under, they have to restate earnings from GMAC, and now new CAFE standards for SUVs threaten to undermine GM's profits even more.

Seems that a GM bankruptcy is unavoidable...most likely to come after the 2006 elections. So, my prediction is GM files for chapter 11 between November 2006 and July 2007. I hope I am wrong, but either way it's going to be a tough few years up in Michigan.


This Immigration Thing

My Kind of People

So much to say about the hand wringing here in DC over immigration reform...but I'll try to keep it short. Bush is right, or at least the right-est person in the whole debate here and I strongly support his efforts to allow more immigrants into the country legally. If our economy is to continue to grow and we are to support the retired baby-boomer generation, we need more, not less, hard working people willing to come to the U.S. and work. In fact, more than 1/2 of the growth in available workers in the U.S. comes from immigrants. Also, despite the rantings of Lou Dobbs, immigrants as a group, are less likely to be on welfare or other public assistance programs than your average Joe.

So, as this whole debate rages on, lets just remember that we need folks willing to work hard, and we need a better system that allows folks into the U.S. legally that doesn't take thousands of dollars and years to achieve...and these folks should be allowed to earn citizenship rather than be permanently relegated to worker-bee status.

And can we all be just a little bit less smug about this whole thing?


Hawaii Update:

Things are starting to get really crappy....

Dude! I was just looking over the news about Hawaii and was surprised to find that it is still raining out there and then there is this...It seems as if it has been pretty much pouring rain since February and the surge of water caused a sewer line to burst send a stream of raw sewage into the Ala Wai canal that runs behind the hotels of Waikiki. Perhaps they could throw someone into a volcano of something to make this all stop?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Is John McCain

A Sell Out?

It's certainly starting to look that way. The self styled maverick republican can't seem to get enough of the President and now seems to be in a full embrace of Jerry Falwell. Perhaps he's forgotten that Mr. Bush and elements of the so-called religious right helped defeat his presidential bid in 2000 with push polls that -among other things- accused McCain of being 1) A traitor while captive in Vietnam, 2) a homosexual, and 3) crazy.

It now seems that Mr. McCain will be the graduation speaker at Liberty University. On of Mr. Falwell's money making ventures. If McCain is a true maverick he'd pull a Clinton and "Sister Soldier" Falwell. That'd be in character. Anything less will be a sell out and confirmation that true conservative ideals have been sold for the Bush branded big government socialism.

On can hope, but it looks like McCain is set to sell his soul.



Is Scran-Tastic!

I'm back. I had a nice little business trip to Scranton. Airfare was a ridiculous $1300 to fly from DC (more than I paid to fly to China!) so I rented a car and drove up. Nice drive, especially Interstate 83 between Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre. Not a lot of anything except mountains, trees, and coal mines.

The car I rented was a hoot. A Jeep Commander. I was unaware that Jeep was trying to burst into the super-sized sport utlility market. This truck was a monster like a Hummer H3, maybe bigger. It was fun to drive, got terrible gas milage and the entire time I was driving it I was thinking how great it would be to have a Jeep Commander so I could use it to buy and transport more stuff. Which is somewhat amusing as 1)If I had a car I'd only drive it on weekends, and 2) I have no need for more stuff. Odd, but I guess I'm an American and that's what we do.

Anyway, Scranton was pleasant and everyone there seems nice-ish...

Friday, March 24, 2006



More Glamorous Work Travel!

Eeep! I just remembered I have work travel next Monday and Tuesday. Another glamorous trip for my wonderful employer. What could top my last business trip - which was to Hawaii? Why, a trip to Scranton, PA! What's also interesting is that while it only cost me about $700 to fly to Hawaii, it would cost me $1,000 to fly to Scranton (which is about 300 miles from DC) I've rented a car to drive up.

So, no postings Monday or Tuesday.


Oh Metro!

Mass Transit: How I love to hate it and hate to love it

Ok, I love living in a city where I can get around to 90% of my destinations by subway. I do! At the same time, DC's Metro is so mismanaged (not as bad as NY's MTA, but close) that it is also a passion of those of us who use metro to complain at length about the poor management of WMATA.

First, there's the always broken escalators. Yes, it seems wimpy to complain about that, but some stations are up to 500 feet underground, so imagine hiking up that on your way how. What's worse about the escalator situation is that Metro just finished spending $200 million to fix the problems and now even fewer escalators are working. (Unlike other city metro systems, most station here have only escalators (not stairs) to get into and out of the stations.

Anway, the coup de grace this week is this report:

The operator of the runaway Metro train that rolled backward for 78 seconds and slammed into another train at the Woodley Park Station in November 2004 failed to brake because he was very likely asleep, federal safety officials said yesterday.

Nice! Of course since this is a public employee they won't be fired, and will still be able to retire on full pension at 50.


Putin: A Man We Can Trust

I've Looked into His Heart

Hmmm...this is somewhat interesting. It's being reported that the Russian Ambassador to Iraq communicated our war plans to Sadaam. Am I wrong or don't I remember our Dear Leader saying, when he met Russian President Putin, that he'd looked into his hear, and found a man he could trust? Of course since then Putin has tried to support a fraudulent election in the Ukraine and Belarus...and apparently helped Iraq prepare for War with the U.S.

But then, I'm kind of suspicious of these 'newly' translated documents that suddenly show Russia in a bad light (when they're gumming up the drive to take Iran to the Security Council) and all of the sudden another document that shows Sadaam and Bin Laden were BFFs.



Approaching a Crossroads?

When I visited China last November, I was blown away by many things; the scale of everything (Big!), all the construction, the apparent affluence of the cities, and of course the pollution. China's economy has been growing at around 9% for the last 10 years or so. It's plowing into the ranks of the largest economies in the world (but thanks to its huge population its per capital GDP is still lowish) and if you believe the media, nothing can stop this march. I'm not so sure.

One thing that struck me was of course the incredible air pollution. From Beijing to Xi'an to Shanghai the skys are a hazy grey. Even flying between these cities (which would approximate flying from Philly (Beijing) to St. Louis (Xi'an) to Atlanta (Shanghai) views of the countryside we obscured by a hazy smog. If China is to continue to grow, it's going to have to do what Europe and the United States have had to do, invest in environmental technology (e.g.-scrubbers for coal power plants, etc.). That's going to raise costs....and the shortage of highly skilled workers is likely to dampen their incredible labor cost advantage.

Anyway, these issues and more are discussed in this interesting article.


Blogger Bother

Couldn't Post

Blogger didn't seem to like my posts yesterday....seems to be working now.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Take 5 Mr. Bush

President's Reprise of War-Talking Will Help....a Little

Hmmm...Didn't we try this before? You know...heading out to friendly forums to talk up the Iraq War?

Mr. Bush is out and about this week, taking his message of hope for Iraq to the great unwashed masses. In the short term, it will probably help him a little - let's say maybe 4 or 5 points in his dismal approval rating. After all, as much as Mr. Bush's awkward way of speaking makes me itchy, it's still better than listing to the so-called White House reporters ask their moronic questions. So, Elephant's call is that Mr. Bush's little speaking tour will give him a slight, albeit temporary boost.

But Bush's longer term prospects depend more on talk. They require a close examination of how we are fighting the war, what our goals are, and if any of that needs to change. The message we keep getting is "Everything is A-OK"...Change is needed, and a true test of leadership is being brave enough to make that change. I keep hoping, for the good of our country, that this will happen...but I've been waiting for five years for that kind of leadership...and I'm still waiting.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Cell Phones on Planes?

Not a Done Deal

Good news this morning in the USAToday. The Travel section is reporting that domestic carriers aren't necessarily going to allow cell phone use on planes. Check out the link for what companies had to say about this issue...

My favorite:

“We’ve been aware of the social implications of cellphone usage in an airplane cabin all along. That gives us the opportunity to exam ways to mitigate the social effects of cell usage concurrently with our examination of the technological development of onboard wireless systems.” American Airlines Spokesman, Tim Wagner.

Any ideas on what the hell Mr. Wagner is saying?


Happy Spring!

This is Spring?

A week ago yesterday is was 85 here in DC. Today's forcast...



Sunday, March 19, 2006


Weekend Guilty Pleasures

Can I just tell you how brilliant season two of Arrested Development is?

I started watching it this weekend and almost busted a gut. Gene Parmesan? AHHHHHHH!

And just when you thought Eminem was gone, he's got me tapping my toe with Shake That!


Don't Forget Larry

Larry "Casandra" Lindsey

On this third anniversary of the begining of the Iraq War, let's not forget this little factoid:

White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey was effectively fired for suggesting that the war might cost up to $200 billion, rather than the $60 billion claimed by the president's budget office.

Current War Appropriations: $400 Billion (but hey, that includes Afganistan)...

Scarier yet, some (including the conservative American Enterprise Institute) say the final cost could be in the TRILLIONS!


President Bush

Loyal to a Fault?

Andrew Sullivan gets corrected by Reaganite Bruce Bartlett... .and it ain't good.


Iraq: Three Years On...

Critiquing Rumseld

This is an interesting quote on Rumsfeld and the War to date:

"First, his failure to build coalitions with our allies from what he dismissively called 'old Europe' has imposed far greater demands and risks on our soldiers in Iraq than necessary. Second, he alienated his allies in our own military, ignoring the advice of seasoned officers and denying subordinates any chance for input," Eaton said.

"In sum, he has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq," Eaton said.

Eaton, who was in charge of training Iraqi military forces from 2003 to 2004, said President George W. Bush should replace Rumsfeld with someone like Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, who could "repair fissures that have arisen both between parties and between uniformed men and the Pentagon big shots."

I agree with those defending the war that we can't cut and run at this point. But we also can't continue to wage war as we have been, we need to win and Rumsfeld is not the person to lead us to that victory.

Friday, March 17, 2006


The Spending O'The Green

Debt Ceiling Raised to $9 Trillion...

Which will hold us for about another year or two. The Senate approved the President's budget yesterday and then did the usual piling on of additional spending...In the end calculus, we really can't put the entire spending blame on Bush...Congress has been in an Abien induced sleep spending mode for the past five years. Of course the President could always follow through with one of his many empty veto promises.


Happy St. Patrick's Day

I'm drunk already!

Sometimes I just wish I were Irish....I mean, an Irish themed holiday that seems to solely revolve around drinking...what could be better than that?!

Here's the scoop on why we celebrate St. Patrick's Day....

Thursday, March 16, 2006


JPII Center in Trouble?

And that's too bad...

One of DC's lesser known museums is the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. This museum (kind of a Pope's presidential library) is in the leafy North Eastern part of DC known as Brookland (where I live) on the Campus of Catholic University (where I went to Law School).

Anyway, having been raised a Lutheran, I have many complaints about the "Church". But I have no complaints about the JPII Center. It's great! A real good discuss of faith, other religions, saints and all sorts of stuff. It's a great museum and one that makes for an interesting visit even for non-Catholics (aka - us protestant heretics)....

Anyway...for whatever reason...the JPII Center is proving to be a White Elephant...


More Woes for Fliers

"Ah for the days when flying was a gentleman's sport...before every Joe Lunchpail could wedge himself behind a tray table and jet off to Raleigh-Durham."
- Sideshow Bob

despite all my complaining, it still amazes me that one can jump onto a jet, and for a relatively affordable price, jet off to just about anywhere in the world. But in their efforts to stay in business, things aren't as fun as they used to be. First, they take away pillows and blankets, now they charge for even a half an inch of extra leg room and they may start charging for both checked and carry-on bags. (Don't ask me why they don't just- you know- raise prices). But anyway, the days of nickel and diming us have arrived..and just when you thought it couldn't get any get this.

A year or so ago, the FAA sought comments from the public on the impact of allow cell phone use on airplanes. The result was 8,000 comments against and about 50 comments in favor. Of course the 50 comments in favor where likely cell phone companies. Can you guess which view will likely win out?

Yep, looks like the FAA is about to allow cell phone use on jets during flight. So now, in addition to being wedged into the tiniest of spaces, hoping that the snack box for sale won't be the 'gray box' yet again, you can now listen to Bob talk to his coworker about the wonderful synergies of Investitron's new database program, hear Carol complain about her gout, and listen to Hyram discuss the fact that he thinks the plane is somewhere over Kansas.

I'm starting to think that South Park has the right idea.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Hawaii Update

Dam bursts on Kaua'i

Jeesh...I guess it is still raining out there. Sad and scary news from the Garden Isle. This resivoir is about a mile from the guest house I rented on Kauai's North Shore. Hope everyone is ok.


The Bar Exam

More Students Flunking It....

Instapundit links to an interesting article on the growing failure rate on state bar exams. As he would say...heh...

For the record, I worked full time as a Congressional Chief of Staff while studying for the bar exam and took no time off from work, save for the exam dates themselves. I actually think it helped me prepare as I did not have any time to be overwhelmed with the scope of information I could be tested on. I put in 20 hour days (five days a week..extra sleep on weekends) for about three months. I studied so hard I would hallucinate (which was quite cool)...and of course I passed on the first try....and then vowed never, ever to study that hard ever again. I've been doing my best to kill off my brain cells ever since!


DC Stadium Plan Revealed


Looks like $600 million dollars doesn't buy much in stadium design these days. Love having the Nationals here, but can't stand the fact that us city taxpayers are footing the bill for the stadium..and besides, the design kind of makes you sit up hand say...Mheh...


Growing & Growing

Like Johnson

Perhaps the White House staff, which is reportedly burned out, is tired because they've been growing the government so quickly over the past five years. Perhaps.

Interesting article on the growth of the government. I'm not sure how much is attributable to actual expansion of federal programs (Medicare perscription program) and how much is attributable to an aging population...but one thing is clear...the feds grow ever larger.


Northworst Airlines

They just keep on giving!

Go figure, for the first time in my life, I was able to scrape by into gold elite status on Northwest last year and this year. While I travel a lot for work, unlike a true road warrior, I'm on no fixed route. When I fly it is usually to different places around the country which makes consolidating travel on one airline difficult.

But with my trip to China last year on Northwest, I was able to consolidate enough travel to edge up into gold elite. Supposedly, this elite status brings with it a bunch of perks, both theoretical and actual. The two nicest are being allowed to board first and having the ability to pre-select exit row seats or bulk head seats prior to travel. Also a proported perk is upgrades to business class when available, but with less flights an fuller planes, I find that for any trip that is beyond the east coast, such upgrades are taken by Platinum fliers. No big whoop, I guess.

But now comes this report that Northwest will be charging extra for window, aisle, bulkhead and exit row coach. So, no longer does 'elite status' bring with it any seating priority or just lets me get on the plane earlier than everyone else. And Northwest isn't adding any value to these seats like United with its extra legroom. (In fact, Northwest has less legroom in coach than its competitors)...

I was warned by Midgie and others that Northwest Airlines was probably the worst airline I could qualify for elite status on. They were right. Now Northwest has helped liberate me from any allegiance to their airline....



Nice, but a bit damp

Ok, I'm back and getting settled into work after two weeks on the road. Hawaii, I am sad to report, was kind of a bust. I think it may have made the news here, but either way, Hawaii is having some freak weather. Of the 12 days or so I was there, it rained (not a passing shower type thing, but all day down pours) for about 10 of them. Still, I was in Hawaii and 70 degree weather with rain is better than 40s and rain. But it gets better.

For some reason, perhaps the dry air on the plane, I caught a cold. The cold kicked in full blast the morning of my speech and after an hour and a half of talking, I was beat. I scooted back to my hotel to get my stuff and flew to Kauai for some R&R. Arriving in Hawaii, I pretty much turned blue walking up the jet way and had to head off to the emergency bronchitis apparently was severe enough to cause an asthma attack (which is pretty severe since I never had asthma before this trip). Anyway, spent some time in the emergency room where the pumped me full of drugs and sent me off to my cabin on the North Shore for bed rest.

All was not bleak however. After two days of bed rest, I started feeling better. The clouds lifted long enough for a helicopter tour of the island. I did the Inter-Island Helicopter tour which uses small helicopters with the doors removed. It rocked. My final two days were sunny and nice. Made the effort to drive around the island out through the muddy sugar cane fields to "Barking Sands" beach...which was as beautiful as it was remote. Certainly not the ideal vacation, but even with the rain and the illness, it was still fun.

Monday, March 13, 2006


A Last First for Frist

Frist Leads Informal GOP Poll for '08

Don't get too excited Bill. I don't know what the whole point of having a straw poll of mostly folks from Tennessee is other than to allow Drudge to run the headline "MCCAIN IN REPUBLICAN STRAW POLL EMBARRASSMENT..." Frist doesn't have a chance at the 08 nomination...mark my will be a battle between the McCain/Giuliani factions versus the George Allen/social conservative factions. This little Tennessee meeting was a nice pretext to try to jump start an otherwise brain-dead campaign.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Alive and Kicking

Sort of...

Well, I don't know if you noticed on the news over on the mainland...but the past 10 days or so have been very interesting here in Hawaii. Record rainfall for days on fact, it rained pretty much non-stop from the day after I arrived, until about two days before I was supposed to leave. Of course the rain was only in Ohau and Kauaii, the two islands I visited. Sigh! But is gets soo much better, and I promise to share late this week perhaps, too much to talk about to write while sitting in the World Perks lounge.

Here's some teasers...

Waikiki Saturday morning, February 25th, 2006. Went for a long walk before my workday began, little did I know it would be the last I would see the sun for over a week.

A shot of the Na Pali Coast in Kauaii as part of my two hour helicopter tour..oh yeah..the helicopter had not doors!

There is soo much more to tell too...But you've got to figure that even if you fly all the way to Hawaii, have it rain for like 80% of your visit, become deathly ill (seriously!), and you still leave happy, I think you can safely claim you got your monies worth. I did!

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