Archive for December, 2011

Joy for that Christmas gift we can’t give ourselves

For weeks, my wife and my mother kept asking what I wanted for Christmas. They kept asking because I wasn’t giving them much in the way of answers.

Even my son, who is not quite three years old, knows what he wants for Christmas: a “spinning bulldozer with tracks.” Now, there’s a toy that sounds like it deserves a line in “Up On the House Top.” (Here is a hammer/and lots of tacks…)

Me? I finally came up with a couple of small items, and a request that my dad help me fix a screen door at my house — or, more accurately since he’s the handier of us, that he let me “help” him do it.

Kind of pitiful.

But then, the comparison between my list and my son’s carol-worthy wish is kind of the point. I think I enjoy Christmas even more now than as a kid: the rest, the family time, the rituals and traditions — everything except the part about the presents.

Rather than the nervous hope I felt for certain gifts as a child — that “I have to have this toy or that one” …

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Poll Position: What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

One of the joys of parenthood, I’ve already learned in 35 months, is getting to see the things that capture your child’s imagination. Some of them are things that never particularly interested you as a child: I played with some trucks in my day, but my son has an astonishing obsession with bulldozers, backhoes, dump trucks, excavators, graders, rollers (yes, he can and does identify them all by name, including skid steers). And then there are the things that you enjoyed, and which your child does, too.

What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

  • A Christmas Story (115 Votes)
  • Christmas Vacation (107 Votes)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (89 Votes)
  • Something else (specify in comments) (45 Votes)
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (25 Votes)
  • Miracle on 34th Street (21 Votes)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (18 Votes)
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (cartoon or live action) (17 Votes)
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol (12 Votes)
  • The Nutcracker ballet (4 Votes)
  • Frosty the Snowman (3 Votes)
    Continue reading Poll Position: What’s your favorite Christmas movie? »

Reports: House GOP gives in, agrees to two-month tax holiday

National Journal is reporting that the House has backed down and agreed to pass, for now, only a two-month extension of the payroll-tax holiday. The AP and The Hill are reporting the same.

The bill reportedly will be the same as the one the Senate passed with a large bipartisan majority, except for “a technical correction to the language designed to minimize difficulties businesses might experience implementing the short-term, two-month tax cut extension.” As part of the deal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will appoint conference-committee members to negotiate away the differences between his chamber’s bill and the House version, which called for a full-year textension.

House Republicans made this more embarrassing than they had to, by not backing Speaker John Boehner’s reported pledge to pass the two-month extension in the first place. They had a victory in hand with the agreement by the Senate and President Obama — who’d originally threatened a veto — to include a …

Continue reading Reports: House GOP gives in, agrees to two-month tax holiday »

Third-quarter GDP report is a big lump of coal

Another economic report, another downward revision to growth numbers once trumpeted as the sign that happy days were here again:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the third quarter of 2011 … according to the “third” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 1.3 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the “second” estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the increase in real GDP was 2.0 percent ….

And in the first estimate, the increase in real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) GDP was 2.5 percent. Which means growth in the third quarter was much closer to the paltry rate we saw from April to June — well under the long-term trend rate of about 2.75 percent — than the encouraging, near-trend rate initially thought.

Consumer …

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Latest charter-school fight shows Legislature must act in 2012

One of the nation’s best schools may have to pack up its chalkboards and lock its doors come June because of a fight that would appear to concern money. But the bottom-line problem with the Fulton County school board’s refusal Tuesday to grant an extension of the contract for the Fulton Science Academy isn’t really the acclaimed charter school’s bottom line.

It’s this: While adults argue about the length of the contract for one particular school, the worst schools throughout Georgia have perpetual contracts with scant chance of ever losing them due to poor performance, fiscal mismanagement, cheating scandals — you name it.

Like a lot of big school systems, Fulton has some schools that are stars, and others that are so pitiful, you’d be forgiven for thinking you can’t spell education without “dud.”

Four of Fulton’s 23 middle schools, including Fulton Science Academy, ranked in the top 10 statewide for standardized test scores, according to the Georgia Public …

Continue reading Latest charter-school fight shows Legislature must act in 2012 »

About the Gingrich and gay-marriage kerfuffle (video)

Here are some headlines on blogs and websites today concerning something Newt Gingrich said in Iowa:

and the most to-the-slanted-point:

Now here is the exchange that prompted those headlines:

Transcript, for those who can’t or don’t want to watch the video:

Questioner: My question is, is how do you plan to engage with such a large community of people who, on this one specific issue, do not support you? [They] may agree with you on the other parts of what you stand for — but how do you plan to engage and get the vote of gay Americans and those who support them?

Gingrich: I think for those to whom the only issue that really matters is the definition of marriage, I won’t get their support. I accept that that’s a reality. On the other hand, for those to whom it’s not the central issue in their life, if they care …

Continue reading About the Gingrich and gay-marriage kerfuffle (video) »

The stupid payroll-tax fight isn’t going to benefit anyone

No one is completely in the right in the Washington-wide temper tantrum over extending the payroll-tax holiday. I don’t understand how Senate Republicans — who voted in large numbers for a two-month extension of the holiday — could have been so far out of step with House Republicans who insist on the year-long extension they’ve already passed.

That said, I have a hard time understanding the sudden conventional wisdom that public opinion about the situation will favor:

a) Senate Democrats, who want to enact a two-month extension offset by a tax on middle-class mortgagees and then spend even more time early next year arguing about the very same issue rather than moving on to other issues — rather than enacting a one-year extension offset by the exact same tax on middle-class mortgagees as well as a reduction in welfare and entitlement benefits for wealthy Americans and illegal immigrants, a pay freeze for federal workers, the auctioning of some wireless spectrum, and a few …

Continue reading The stupid payroll-tax fight isn’t going to benefit anyone »

2012 Tuesday: As Newt declines, is Romney sealing the deal?

Is the Newt Gingrich boomlet over? And, if so, has Mitt Romney finally outlasted the anti-Romneys?

The news from Iowa of late has been stunning. One week ago today, in the Real Clear Politics average of polls in Iowa, Gingrich still held a double-digit lead on Romney and every other Republican. Today, he is third on average behind Romney and Ron Paul, including one fourth-place showing in which he also trails Rick Perry.

From Nov. 15 until Dec. 12, Gingrich led every major poll in the state. He’s now trailed in three straight — losing 14 percentage points in six days in Insider Advantage’s poll; eight points in five days in Public Policy Poll’s survey; and 12 points in 28 days according to Rasmussen Reports.

The caucuses take place in two weeks, and Iowans will of course be distracted by other things (Christmas, bowl games involving both Iowa and Iowa State, New Year’s) along the way. Gingrich has less money to spend than his rivals. The attack ads they’re running against him …

Continue reading 2012 Tuesday: As Newt declines, is Romney sealing the deal? »

Stats say a total ban on cellphone use by drivers isn’t justified

Last week, when pooh-poohing the proposed ban on all use of cellphones by motorists, I noted that the head of the National Transportation Safety Board seemed to be playing fast and loose with the statistics about distracted driving. Apparently, columnist Mona Charen had the same thought, and she followed up on it in a piece for the Washington Examiner.

The relevant portion:

NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman … stated flatly that 3,000 people lost their lives last year due to texting in the driver’s seat.

Is that true? No. In a detailed report on distracted driving issued earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that only 995 deaths resulted from distraction by cell phones in 2010. The 3,000-person figure refers to all distracted driving.

The Chicken Littles in D.C. notwithstanding, the roads are getting safer, not more dangerous. The number of car accident fatalities has been dropping steadily for decades. In 1990, 44,599 people lost their …

Continue reading Stats say a total ban on cellphone use by drivers isn’t justified »

Finally, a Republican who’s willing to defend capitalism (but unwilling to run for president)

Those who have been waiting for one of the Republican presidential candidates to offer a full-throated defense of free-market capitalism — only to see Newt Gingrich sniping at Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, and Romney returning fire about Gingrich being a “very wealthy man” given his line of credit at Tiffany and Co. — may have to settle for an excellent op-ed from a non-candidate: Jeb Bush. (Or is he?)

Writing in the Wall Street Journal today, Bush riffs on the phrase coined by another Republican who flirted with a run at the White House next year, Rep. Paul Ryan: “the right to rise.”

Bush writes:

We have to make it easier for people to do the things that allow them to rise. We have to let them compete. We need to let people fight for business. We need to let people take risks. We need to let people fail. We need to let people suffer the consequences of bad decisions. And we need to let people enjoy the fruits of good decisions, even good luck.

That is what economic …

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