Bring The Pain: Tom Coburn Holds A Town Hall Meeting

Senator/Doctor Tom Coburn held a town hall in Tulsa, OK last Friday and...well, he spoke his mind (h/t Professor Bainbridge):
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn called out Democrats, Republicans, Newt Gingrich, the military-industrial complex, teachers unions and Medicare - to name a few - at a town hall meeting Friday.
Coburn rightly notes that the electorate has the aspect of a sleeper woken by a cold dash of water in the face who doesn't recognize the world in which he has awoken:
"The real problem is that America is asleep," Coburn said, speaking mostly in response to questions from an audience of about 65 people at the Wagoner Civic Center. "America is not involved. I think this election they'll be more involved than they ever have been, and the reason is they're scared."
Coburn recognizes that the electorate is now paying very close attention to the conservative candidates who are promising to bring a new approach to DC, and a failure to follow through will be fatal to the Republican Party and the conservative movement.
"If the conservatives in Congress gain control and don't live up to expectations," he said, "the Republican Party will be dead."
He doesn't like the idea of a Newt Gingrich candidacy for president:
Coburn made it clear that he won't be on Newt Gingrich's 2012 presidential bandwagon.

Gingrich "is a super-smart man, but he doesn't know anything about commitment to marriage," he said of the thrice-married former House speaker. "He's the last person I'd vote for for president of the United States. His life indicates he does not have a commitment to the character traits necessary to be a great president."
Amen. Gingrich is a man of the Nineties, whose moment was 15 years ago and who frittered away that last "Republican Revolution." His Speakership began with calls to close the Department of Education, and ended with the status quo ante. Not sure he's the guy we need now that we are going to try to repeal Obamacare.

Coburn also took a shot at the military-industrial complex, something we've been hearing with increased volume from the Right:
Coburn also expanded on his recent criticism of arms spending, echoing President Dwight Eisenhower's 1961 warning against the "military-industrial complex."

"I'm not capable of telling you, because I don't have the training, whether we have the forces we need," he said. "I can tell you that if you add our forces and compare them to the next 19 nations, ... we're stronger."

He continued: "The problem is, we have allowed the military-industrial complex to make things unaffordable. There's no choke chain. We need a choke chain. When the cost of an F-35 triples during development, something's wrong."
Harsh words, but it needs to be said. It's not anti-military or isolationist to demand that the military spending be more efficient. There were one too many Republican congressmen during the Bush years who did a lot of flag waving with one hand and wallet filling with the other. War pimps on the Right are just as bad as poverty pimps on the Left.

Coburn also brought some anti-left red meat:
As he has in the past, Coburn blasted health-care reform and traced the rise of medical costs to the introduction of Medicare in the 1960s. He said schools "are no longer about kids, they are about teachers' unions," and he claimed that academic achievement has gone down since the creation of the U.S. Department of Education, although some statistics argue otherwise.

Coburn also repeated what has become a popular line among conservatives - that "no one has ever been hired by a poor person" - to support tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations.
That's real principled Straight Talk, not media approved Straight Talk that serves to tweak and self-promote. Typically for our times, Coburn spoke these words before an audience of 65 rather than a bus full of chuckling journalists.

Coburn, along with Jim DeMint, David Vitter, John Kyl, and too few others, have been lonely voices the last 10 years. Hopefully, Coburn will have some company in the Senate after November because his perspective is one the country needs to hear.

David Harmer For Congress

The SF Chronicle has a story about Republican David Harmer's efforts to unseat Jerry McNearney, presently the Democratic Congressman representing California's 11th congressional district. Thanks to the miracle of gerrymandering, and the lazy left-liberalism that has been the state's default political setting, this is hthe only congressional seat in the entire state that can be called "hotly contested"

Republicans are trying to regain control of Congress in November but political oddsmakers have said there is only one Democrat in California at risk of losing his congressional seat - Rep. Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton.

His challenger in the Bay Area's 11th Congressional District is Republican David Harmer, an attorney who says he is running to rein in federal spending.

Republicans are using the same charges against McNerney as they are against Democrats around the country - that he supports bigger government, has voted to increase taxes and is in lockstep with his party's leadership.

"On every major vote, he's stood with the Obama-Pelosi agenda and I don't think that agenda is good for the district," said Harmer, who lost to Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove (Sacramento County), in last year's special election in the 10th Congressional District.

The 11th district, which includes parts of Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Joaquin counties, is considered competitive because it includes liberal East Bay suburbs and more rural, conservative areas in the state's interior.

The 11th has a funny history. It used to be represented by Richard Pombo, who was by far the most conservative member of the Bay Area's congressional delegation. It has tended to support California's Democratic Senators, while also voting for Republican executive officers. In fact, in 2004, the 11th voted for George W Bush for president and Barbara Boxer for Senate. This may be the ultimate expression of the inertial power of incumbency. The district's boundaries are a classic of gerrymandering:

Really, if you had walked up to me at a bar and bet me that Lodi was in the same congressional district as Morgan Hill, I would have lost that bet. I guess politics really is the art of the possible.

Despite running in a district that travels all over creation, Harmer doesn't actually live in it. He lives in a part of San Ramon, which lies outside the district's boundaries. No problem. California law allows anyone to run for congress in any district so long as they live in California. Plus, Harmer says he shops in the 11th, has his kids going to school in the 11th, etc. Whatever. If Alan Keyes can run for Senate in Illinois, what's the harm in letting Harmer run in the 11th?

Harmer is an OG California Republican whose dad was a state senator and lieutenant governor during the Gov. Reagan era. He's running more on economics than social issues, hammering Rep. McNearney who has voted on the Pelosi line for the past two years (McNearney says he's "not a partisan hack." Whew!).

According to the latest polling, McNearney has a slim 42-40 lead over Harmer. Frustratingly, there is a third party candidate named David Christensen who is drawing 4% of the vote. As Christensen is on the right-wing fringe American Independent Party, those votes are coming out of Harmer's hide. That's the lunatic fringe for you: if they're going to hell, they'll drag the rest of us down with them.

Car Guys: Porsche Looks To The Future

The NY Times looks at the prospects for Porsche, which is in the process of being absorbed into the workman-like corporate world of VW. Everyone swears that VW will leave Porsche alone, and allow it to maintain its mystique (VW also owns Lamboghini and Bugatti). But, if this comment reflects conventional thinking at Leipzig, Porsche is in bigger trouble than they realize:

Still, Mr. Dudenhöffer and others say that Porsche needs to adapt to huge changes in the upper reaches of the car market, and that it does not have the resources to do so alone.

These days, status-conscious buyers want to pull up to the country club in a car that looks green as well as sexy. (Even Ferrari is building a hybrid.) And automakers in all price classes worry that the Facebook generation is more interested in mobile phones than in fast cars; analysts say the phenomenon has already hurt auto sales in Japan.

Does that make sense? People are buying smart phones instead of Porsches?? You're talking about people avoiding a $75,000 purchase so they can buy a $500 phone. What's next, blaming flagging Cayenne sales on MySpace and Facebook?

And the idea that there might be Porsche buyers out there who want to drive a car that looks "green as well as sexy?" Give me a break! The sort of person who wants to look "green" is also the sort of person grimaces at the sight of a Porsche at the "club."

In other words, if you think Porsche's problems involve social media and "green" consciousness, you are not going to be able to deal with Porsche's real problems.

New Order: Future Members of the Conservative Majority

The Wall Street Journal has profiles of three up and coming conservative politicians whom many in the media and political elite are happy to dismiss as "fringe." Keep telling yourselves that.

Sam Meas was born in Cambodia, escaped the killing fields and is now running in the GOP primary for Congress in MA-5, presently represented by Nikki Tsongas, the widow of Paul (which should give you an idea of how liberals have developed a political quasi-aristocracy):

Sam Meas isn't your typical congressional candidate. For one thing, the Cambodian refugee doesn't know his birthday.

"I tell people I am 38 years old— plus or minus two years." In 1973, Mr. Meas's father was sent to be "re-educated" by the Khmer Rouge and was never heard from again. During the chaos following the regime's collapse in 1979, Mr. Meas was separated from his mother. He never saw her again. Marching night and day toward the Thai border with a cousin, Mr. Meas recalls stepping over corpses and watching bloated bodies float down jungle waterways.

Unsurprisingly for a victim of communism, Meas is a big Reagan fan and a near-fanatic libertarian besides. He is also not expected to defeat the (gag) moderate Jon Golnick, who is Meas' opponent in the primary. Here's hoping Meas comes out on top. The GOP needs about a million Sam Meas, but keeps ending up with an endless supply of Jon Golicks.

Joe Miller is, of course, the Alaskan attorney who "came out of nowhere" (hey, maybe you would have heard of him if you listened to Mark Levin's show once in a while) to defeat Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary for Alaska's Senate seat.

The final vote tally is expected within two weeks, after the state finishes counting 11,266 absentee ballots. With 100% of precincts counted, Mr. Miller currently leads by 1,668 votes. Most political watchers expect a Miller victory, and observers in Alaska and across the U.S. are taking a closer look at a man who, even in Fairbanks, maintained a low profile before he jumped into the race against Ms. Murkowski last April.

"He just came out of nowhere," said Richard Fineberg, an economics consultant in Fairbanks. "Not a lot of people know him."

Mr. Miller attributes his voter appeal to what he calls discontent over expansion of the federal government. "This country is in crisis and doesn't have much time to turn itself around," he said in an interview Friday at his law office and campaign headquarters in Fairbanks.

Mr. Miller—a graduate of West Point and Yale Law School, a combat veteran and former state and federal magistrate—advocates dismantling some federal agencies, saying many of their functions, such as the federal welfare system, should be handled by states. "The age of the entitlement state is over," he said.

OK, we get it. He's "low profile." He is also absolutely emblematic of the sort of politicians voters are screaming for this year: modest, unpretentious, with real-world accomplishments on his resume. Maybe the public would take journalists more seriously if they took candidates more seriously, too, instead of deriding them for being insufficiently prominent in a "been on CNN" kind of way.

There was this odd detail, however:

Meanwhile, he is maintaining some connection to his old life. He was due to appear in a Fairbanks state court Friday for a civil case he is handling, but had to postpone after totaling his Chevy pickup in an accident he said wasn't his fault.

"Just a blip," he said.

Uh, OK.

Jim DeMint has emerged as one of the central figures in the Tea Party uprising, a sitting US Senator who has used his money and position to support conservative candidates, many of whom have gone on to knock off some of DeMint's colleagues, or his colleagues' preferred candidates.

Mr. DeMint's mission is to bring more Jim DeMints to the Senate—that is, people with an unfailing antagonism to big government. But his string of victories, often against establishment candidates, has many of his Republican colleagues grumbling. They say Mr. DeMint is pushing candidates through the primaries who are too far to the right to take back vulnerable seats from Democrats in November. Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott recently spoke for many in the party when he said it didn't need anymore "Jim DeMint disciples."

Over the past five years, Mr. DeMint has established himself as the pre-eminent conservative in Congress—he has a near perfect National Taxpayer Union rating—with Tom Coburn of Oklahoma a close second. As we eat lunch at Mr. DeMint's favorite restaurant in his hometown of Greenville, our conversation is often interrupted by well-wishers thrilled to see their senator in person and all with pretty much the same message: "Keep fighting those big spenders."

DeMint is, of course, virtually unknown to the public because the MSM has practically embargoed any coverage of his efforts. Part of that might be personality: DeMint is a soft-spoken modest man, rather than a ranting a**hole. But mostly it's because of ideology. DeMint is unapologetically conservative and quite forceful - but polite - in arguing that Democrats are little more than socialists. Still, DeMint, like Sarah Palin, is beloved where it counts: in the grassroots and the Tea Parties, where he is a powerful force.

And, it must mean something that, in a year when supposedly "no incumbent is safe," DeMint (along with his cohort Tom Coburn) is cruising to victory against an opponent who is literally a deranged liberal. Sounds like some incumbents are preferable to others.

These are the "fringe" people whom Democrats from the President on down claim are trying to bring back the era of pre-Civil Rights Act race relations, who want to turn the country over to the "corporations," who want Grandma to starve for lack of Social Security. You almost have to laugh, but they are serious. Lucky for us, it's no longer 1972.

Supertrain: California's High Speed Rail Stops the Holocaust

Groan. Via Tigerhawk, this may be the dumbest bill passed by the California Legislature in years. If the Governator signs AB 619 into law, then henceforth no company that wants to build California's High Speed Rail may do so without disclosing whether or not their trains were used to deport Jews during the Holocaust:
A bill under consideration in the California state legislature would require companies trying to obtain high-speed rail contracts in the state to publicly disclose their role in transporting people to concentration camps during World War II.

The Holocaust Survivor Responsibility Act would also require companies to disclose whether any restitution had been made to survivors or victims’ families. The bill mandates that WWII-disclosure be part of the contract award process.
Will you be surprised if I tell you that the real reason for the "No Ratzis Will Be Building Our Trains" bill is to keep France's Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais (SNCF) from being able to put forward a winning bid to design our High Speed Rail? In other words, this is nothing more than economic protectionism hiding behind the victims of the Holocaust.

The Big Murkowski: Another Moderate Loses Their Seat

Jim Geraghty has rightly described the apparent Joe Miller victory over Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary for the Alaska Senate race as the biggest upset of the 2010 primary cycle. It's not just that Miller was an unknown going up against a scion of one of Alaska's first families. Miller was almost no one's radar screen, and wasn't even polling within 10 percentage points in the last couple weeks before the election.

Of course, polling in Alaska may not be as exact as it is in a wired state like California. One expects that Alaskan "push polling" involves sled dogs at the Iditarod. And, who's to say that Miller was "obscure," which seems to be the take by Murkowski's friends in the media and Senate? Maybe they hadn't heard of Miller, but someone did. Sarah Palin endorsed him, and it's my understanding that she has a certain level of fame in Alaska. More important, the Tea Party Express spent $500,000 on GOTV efforts in Alaska, and Miller's ground game was apparently enthusiastic and hard working. Can't we assume that going door-to-door in Alaska requires a bit more determination and enthusiasm than doing the same in, say, Philadelphia? That's the sort of determination and enthusiasm that wins elections, and which a pol like Lisa Murkowski is congenitally unable to whip up.

What Miller did not have was MSM publicity of his campaign. Even Rand Paul was profiled in a number of articles in the NY Times in the months leading up to the Kentucky primary. But, Miller was treated with the same level of coverage as a fringe candidate like Alvin Greene or Orly Taitz; that is with none at all. Miller is a military veteran, a Yale Law graduate, and a former magistrate judge. In other words, he's a solid citizen with an accomplished record of public service and intellectual achievement. But, he's a Tea Party candidate, and thus "fringe" in the eyes of people who should really know better at this point.

Then again, I knew who Miller was because Mark Levin interviewed him a few weeks ago and continually included Miller in his roll call of insurgent candidates to support in the place of moderate squishes. Now, I realize Levin is a hateful, fear-mongering radio blowhard. But he is also a guy with a nightly audience of 6 million. Levin might not be a member of the MSM, but he certainly is a media figure and political analyst. You would know a lot more about Alaskan politics listening to him than all of the other "smart" talking heads who fill cable and network shows and express befuddlement about how Miller "came out of nowhere."

Murkowski, for her part, seems to be in denial. That's the only possible reason for the talk of her pursuing a third party run. Funny how GOP moderates, whom we are told we *must* elect, are always bolting for the other side or chasing independent bids as soon as they are in danger of losing their jobs. So much for the party loyalty they always demanded from the rest of us.

The fact is that Murkowski is emblematic of the sort of politicians who are in big trouble this year. She voted for TARP. She refused to support the repeal of Obamacare and even said she thought the country needs sort of government health care plan that "works"(?!). She's the sort of Republican Senator - like Bennet and Spector - who could be counted on to make a deal. And that's the thing. After the Obamacare cram-down, we are not interested in any more "deals" with Democrats, at least not the ones presently in office. For Murkowski, the Constitution was an impediment to "comprehensive" liberal legislation from which she could extract booty for her constituents. That's just not going to cut it this year.

Waste, Fraud & Abuse: SF Attorney Accused of Bilking City Using Autistic Son

A too clever by half San Francisco attorney and his wife have been arrested for defrauding the San Francisco Unified School District. The scam? Setting up a fake foundation to for autism research, and then using overly generous ADA rules to seek hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursements for the education of their autistic son. Pretty low:

A former partner at a well-known law firm and his marketing consultant wife were arrested Wednesday on felony charges of bilking the San Francisco school district and private insurers out of about $400,000 via fraudulent bills for treatment of their autistic son, officials say.

The San Francisco couple, Jonathan S. Dickstein and Barclay J. Lynn, both 43, surrendered Wednesday and are expected to appear in court this morning for arraignment on 30 counts of fraud, theft and conspiracy, authorities say.

They were briefly jailed Wednesday on $100,000 bail each but were released on bond.

"This was an elaborate scheme to defraud the school district and insurance companies out of a lot of money," said Chief Assistant District Attorney David Pfeifer. "They used this scheme to make money off their child's special needs - that's terrible."

The scam was enabled by a ridiculously lax oversight over a state program that required school districts to compensate parents for the education of autistic children who couldn't be served by the public schools. The Dickersteins were caught only after a new case worker was assigned to their case, and presumably rejected their bribes.

He and his wife had arranged for the home care of their young son through another school district before transferring to the San Francisco school district. Under state guidelines, school districts are obligated to provide or compensate parents for home education of autistic or other severely disabled children.

By law, parents are required to use licensed private educational providers to develop individual treatment plans that meet state guidelines for their disabled children.

Dickstein and Lynn had employed such a private provider, but in 2006, they created their own: Puzzle Pieces. Prosecutors said it was actually a dummy company that was not licensed to develop autism education.

In fact, they say, the couple used Puzzle Pieces to overbill and "double dip" - charging both the school district and insurers for the exact same services - from 2006 to 2008. They billed for counselors and doctors at allegedly inflated rates and charged both the district and insurers for the same hours of treatment. They allegedly told insurers the district would not pay.

Autistic parents have a tough go of it. But, the idea of this sort of open ended public funding of autistic education - while certainly compassionate - is ripe for this sort of abuse. The mandate demands equal treatment, in the form of educational dollars, for autistic kids and their parents, but there don't appear to be any sort of controls on what sort of education the kids receive.

The cry of the Big Government fiscal conservative is always "we must crack down on waste, fraud & abuse!" (That's the exact incantation. It's never "fraud, abuse & waste"). But, the ready availability of "free" money, backed by an unbreakable mandate of legalized compassion, means that the fraudsters will gather no matter how much you claim to crack down on them.

The Can't Do Society: San Francisco's War On Tech

For all of the "we are the future" rhetoric that we hear from SF politicos, the truth is that the City That Doesn't Know How is much better at throwing up roadblocks, rather than getting out of the way of the spread of innovative technology:

San Francisco boasts an enviable roster of high-tech companies such as Zynga, Twitter and It's home to legions of tech workers serving companies throughout the Bay Area. And it's got a cutting-edge culture that has helped the city become a tech capital.

But beneath those credentials is a city that has a track record of opposition to companies wanting to expand or upgrade the technology infrastructure, brought on by concerned neighborhood groups.

Over the past few years, San Francisco has been in the middle of protracted fights over cellular antennas, a stalled deployment of AT&T's broadband and TV service, and a failed city Wi-Fi network.

Even Apple CEO Steve Jobs brought the issue to the fore last month when he said during a press conference that it takes a cellular antenna site three years to get approved in San Francisco compared with three weeks in Texas.

Some city and business leaders worry the trend could undercut San Francisco's reputation, which may eventually harm the city's ability to attract and retain companies and residents.

Embarrassingly, a lot of the opposition is driven by the possibility of health problems arising from cell phones and cell phone towers. This from the progressive party of Science and Reason.

Of course, the real reason behind delays is more likely to be NIMBY opponents to cell phone towers in their neighborhood. San Francisco has a large number of cranks and gadflies, all of whom seem to have gone to law school, or are at least conversant with the City's byzantine planning procedures. It's a good example of how a determined minority of dedicated activists can obtain more from the political process than the thousands of, shall we say, "regular" people who don't have time to go to Planning Commission meetings, and just want their iPhones to work.

Spin Out: How Can You Survive A Media Assault?

The NY Times somberly intones that bad PR can be the kiss of death for big businesses, and looks at three case studies of companies that "bungled" their responses to recent troubles. The Times wonders, "are some crises so dire that a public relations victory is not possible?" You'll never guess which three the Times chose to profile:

Toyota, celebrated for engineering cars so utterly reliable that they seemed boring, endured revelations that its most popular models sometimes accelerated for mysterious reasons. The energy giant BP, which once packaged itself as an environmental visionary, now confronts the future with a new identity: progenitor of the worst oil spill in American history. And the Wall Street iconGoldman Sachs, an elite player in the white-collar-and-suspenders set, found itself derided in Rolling Stone as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” Last month, Goldman agreed to pay $550 million to settle federal securities fraud charges.

“These were real reputational implosions,” says Howard Rubenstein, the public relations luminary who represents the New York Yankees and the News Corporation. “In all three cases, the companies found themselves under attack over the very traits that were central to their strong global brands and corporate identities.”

Toyota, Goldman and BP may not be paragons, but their "PR problems" were as much the result of ignorance, Ludditism, and politically calculated anger, as they were the result of company policy. Thus, the question should not be "can they survive?" It should be "can any of us survive when ignorance and hysteria are the framework for public debate?"

In the case of BP, there was a true PR disaster. BP came in with a reputation for safety issues and cost cutting, which finally came together catastrophically at the Deepwater Horizon rig. And, any oil company that has a spill on its watch can expect to pay a heavy price, both in fines and bad publicity. (Humorously, the Times intones that BP's hard won reputation as a "Green" company has been irretrievably lost. Come on! The BP = Green was all marketing intended to curry favor with global warmists in the corridors of power. Fat lot of good that did.) But the apocalyptic ranting in both the political arena and in the media reporting was completely divorced from reality with breathless reports of the Gulf of Mexico "dying" and beaches in the Atlantic threatened with tar balls. The much-hyped job losses came more from the government's overreaction by banning off shore drilling - never let a crisis go to waste, right? - than from anything BP did. And while the spill's optics were bad, the actual effects have yet to approach the Beyond Thunderdome predictions of doom we heard from media experts. The Times specifically points to CEO Tony Hayward's comment that

“The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean,” Mr. Hayward told The Guardian amid debate over the extent of the spill. “The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.”

Four days later, he told a TV reporter that “the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest.”

Everyone screamed bloody murder over that, yet as things have shaken out, Hayward looks like someone who knew what he was talking about (hey, he only has a Phd in geology) while the "Plug the Damn Hole/Boot On The neck" strutting by the government looks like ignorant, politically expedient posturing.

Goldman is likewise an unsympathetic entity, inasmuch as it was crass enough to make obscene profits in the post-bailout era after other reckless banks and investment houses became functionally insolvent or simply disappeared forever. But, the specific "fraud" that Goldman committed - arranging a deal that allowed John Paulson to bet against the housing market - was hardly emblematic of the practices that resulted in the Crash of '08. Moreover, the SEC fraud action was announced on the day debate began on the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill (with accompanying screaming front page headlines, of course), and the case settled for $500 million on the same day as the final Senate vote on the matter. Funny how that worked.

After months of presidential and senatorial demonization of Goldman Sachs, it might be hard to remember that the Crash of '08 and the Little Depression arose from mismanagement and fraud at banks that went out of business precisely because of ... mismanagement and fraud! The world didn't turn upside down because Goldman shorted the housing bubble. Wall Street "died" because Bear, Lehman, Merrill, Fannie, Freddie, WaMu, Wachovia, Countrywide, AIG, and dozens of others went long at precisely the moment they should have been getting out! These companies, and their executives, are the ones who helped cause the Crash, but they seem immune from any sort of attention, let alone government sanction. Why this is a "PR problem" for Goldman is beyond me.

Toyota is the most egregious example of the government imposed "PR problem." Anyone who read PJ O'Rourke's Parliament of Whores knows that sudden-acceleration incidents in cars are a figment of the imaginations of lawyers, consumer advocates, and boat-footed drivers. But, journalists and Democrats have not read Parliament of Whores, so when sketchy reports surface of cars suddenly accelerating out of control, hustling liberals jump on them with both feet. Never mind that reputable engineers have never been able to replicate SAI's in the lab. Never mind that the most spectacular SAI - the runaway Prius in San Diego - was a hoax. (incredibly, the debunking did not receive the same level of media attention as the "runaway"). And also, never mind that Toyota earnestly tried to diagnose the problem and even established as official corporate policy that it would not blame the drivers, even though Toyota had to have suspected the drivers were at fault. No, it was much more important for Democratic congressmen to drag Toyota executives to DC for a show trial to showcase their corporate sins. Added bonus: Toyota is a competitor to Government Motors, and its executives were Japanese, i.e. Dread Furriners. This from the Party of Tolerance and Science.

BP, Goldman, and Toyota may have had their problems. They may have been blameworthy. But their PR problems were dwarfed by the sustained assault they received from the media and political elites. That's not a PR problem. That's war.

History & Style: The Secrets of the Cadillac

In the midst of a cheeky deprecation of the Cadillac Catera, Car Lust explains the origins of the Cadillac logo. It's obviously some bit of imported heraldry, but the meaning behind the logo has its own fascination, and gives you an idea of the vast mental gulf that separate the founders of GM and the MP's who are running the company now:
The shield in Cadillac's traditional shield-in-a-wreath emblem uses the actual coat of arms of the man the car was named after, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, the French nobleman who founded the city of Detroit. In the upper left and lower right quadrants of the shield, there's a trio of black, duck-like birds. The official term for them in heraldry is "merlettes." Merlettes are a symbol of the Holy Trinity, and their presence in the coat of arms indicates that someone in old Antoine's family tree did something brave in one of the Crusades.
Ducks on the Cadillac logo?? I didn't believe it until I took a walk around the neighborhood to find a 15 year old Caddy. Whaddaya know! There really were ducks on the logo! (the "modern" logo, of course, has substituted some Mondrian-style black bars for the little guys).

Albert Sloan and co. may have been rapacious industrialists who helped pave America and destroy the planet. But, they also had a sense of history and style that allowed them to grab and hold the public's imagination. They were "car guys" in the best sense of the word, and it is clear that they would have had no place in the modern GM. Too bad because they could do the one thing that is in short supply right now: sell a lot of cars.

Hunter & The Hunted: Julian Assange Accused of Rape

Is this how black-ops* are run in the Age of Obama?

1. Receive thousands of pages of stolen classified documents and publish them on the Internet? Nothing can be done!

2. Anonymous accusations of rape and molestation? We Will Not Rest Until You Are Brought To Justice!
Swedish authorities say they have revoked an arrest warrant that had alleged rape against the founder and editor of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.

Assange is "no longer wanted" and "is not suspected of rape," Chief Prosecutor Eva Finne said in a statement posted on the agency's official website Saturday. He is also no longer arrested in absentia, the statement said.

The arrest warrant filed Friday had also mentioned a molestation charge, but molestation is not a crime punishable behind bars in Sweden

Earlier, Karin Rosander, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, said Assange was arrested in absentia Friday night, and faced charges in relation to two separate instances, but she didn't have more detail about when the alleged crimes occurred or who the alleged victims are.
I don't know what the hell's going on here. Can it really be the case that the US government can't arrest Assange for receiving stolen property and publishing classified documents, so it is forced to rely on lame rape accusations? Why not just plant a dead boy in his bed, if that's the way you're going to play it? And spare me the "he leads a nomadic existence, so we can't find him" excuse. He was in London a couple weeks ago talking to the international media! The CIA doesn't have any agents in London - maybe a "covert operative" in the Valerie Plame mode? - who couldn't hot foot it over to the press conference and then follow him around after that?

Assange isn't impregnable and he isn't a 21st century journalist/super-genius. He's a punk from a long line of punks who have worked against US interests in wartime. Back in the old days we called these people "spies" or "enemy agents" and treated them as such. There's no reason, beyond a lack of will, that Assange cannot be treated as an enemy.

*sorry, multi-cultural ops.

From Russia With Love: Yacht A Arrives In San Francisco

Speaking of billionaire yachting types, I drove over to Sausalito last night for dinner and saw, moored just off Bridgeway, the enigmatically luxe Yacht A.

It's an impressive craft, but a tad...Blofeld-esque. I half expected to see a British Special Agent leading a team of ninjas over the side, as Andrey Melnichenko's minions - wearing color coordinated jumpsuits, of course - fend them off with machine guns.

The Can't Do Society: Life Under Progressive Governance

San Francisco is a beautiful city with a comfortable climate, great restaurants, and unrivaled cultural opportunities. It can truly be said to be at the vanguard of many social and economic trends. Hey, if it was good enough for Milton Friedman, it's good enough for Free Will! SF is also, you may have heard, a nest of progressive politics with the most left-wing polity of just about any major city in the US. As the following stories make clear, this makes it devilishly hard to get anything done, even something as simple as registering kids for school or holding an international regatta

First, if you were not aware, local billionaire Larry Ellison won the most recent America's Cup Race, which means he has the right to determine the date and location of the next race. Cool! I thought. The America's Cup in the San Francisco! Apparently, there are those who don't share my enthusiasm, specifically the inevitable environmentalists who have drafted onerous laws that the City and Ellison need to work around, or lose the Cup Race. Oh, and they have six weeks to dispense walking around money, er, "work with environmental lobby and the state legislature"

San Francisco officials are moving quickly to acquire an exemption to state environmental law in time for a deadline to submit a proposal on hosting the next America's Cup, The Chronicle has learned.

"Without this legislative action, it is likely that San Francisco will not be selected and the regatta will be held overseas," said a recent memo from Mayor Gavin Newsom's office that was used to brief environmentalists on the proposal, which would cover shoreside facilities for yachts, gear and support services.

Some environmental groups, while appreciative that city officials sought their input, warn that an exemption would open the floodgates for wealthy interests to circumvent state-required environmental review.

"We're not going to sit by idly and let that happen," said Tina Andolina, legislative director for the Planning and Conservation League, an environmental lobbying group.

The City estimates that the Race will add 9,000 jobs and bring in a billion dollars to the local economy. But, wait! "Tina Andolina" objects and won't sit idly by and let such a thing happen! Good thing we have people like that on the case. But don't call environmentalism a job killer! That's H8!

Ellison and the City are bending over backwards to make this happen, so I'm sure there will be an appropriate compromi$e. Saving the planet really is a racket.

Second we have the annual spectacle of parents trying to get their elementary school age kids into a decent public school. You'd think that it would be a simple matter of taking the little tykes to the school down the street, but we don't do "simple" very well in SF: Parents Struggle For Choice In SF Schools

Walt Szalva and his wife, Blaire Hansen, were on a nearly hopeless mission Wednesday morning. They stopped in at Chinese Immersion School at De Avila on Haight Street on the tiny chance that their 5-year-old daughter, Devon, might be able to get into kindergarten there.

After touring 20 schools, following up with principals, putting in more than 100 hours of research, and camping out at the Educational Placement Center for hours at a time, they were 0-7 on the schools they chose for Devon.

They had hoped that with the first week of school under way, a spot would open up at one of the schools on their list.

So they showed up at De Avila, without an appointment, on the hope that they could chat with Principal Rosina Tong, who might give them a hint of encouragement. She couldn't.

"I know parents come in here hoping," Tong said. "But I'm not sure I can give you hope. I can only say that a system is in place and it will work out."

Frankly, if Szalva hears "a system is in place," one more time, he may start speaking in tongues.

This is progressive governance at its absolute worst. All these people want is to put their kid in a safe, competent public school. But, instead they get the run-around such that their 5(!) year old doesn't have a place to go on the first day of school. Oh, sure, the district offered to let the girl go to a school with "some of the lowest test scores, worst academics and poorest parent participation in the district." Wow, how could they resist such a command from their betters! That wasn't a choice. That was an insult.

The reason for all of this is the inevitable "diversity." A kid like Devon can't get into the place she wants because somehow SF was insufficiently diverse in the past (when?!) so that today's kids are punished for the sins that may have happened 40 or 50 years ago. Boy, it sure would be nice if there was a system in place where parents could put their child in private school and receive some sort of compensation - maybe in the form of a voucher? - from a school district that seems absolutely incapable of doing the one thing it's supposed to do: educate their kids. But, we all know what good liberals - is there any other kind? - think of that.

There's a reason why SF famously has more dogs than children. The City simply could care less about kids. If the parents don't like what the school system offers, they are essentially told to get out of town. For the parents who can't afford such an option, their kids end up in mediocre, unsafe schools where the priority seems to be punishing the present for what was done in the past. How compassionate. Also, how hide-bound. City leaders are forever playing at "we are the vanguard" of the future and posing for Social Realist-style photos where they gaze purposefully into the distance. But brute reality is that they want to run everything from the top down, and to hell with anyone who wants to follow their own path. "Progressive" = Repressive.

No doubt, many disappointed parents are hip liberal types who actually believe all that talk about teachers being the noblest of professionals, that children are the future, and that diversity is the highest possible value. But, one by one they learn the truth and open their eyes. Unfortunately, there are always a dozen more coming behind them, happily wearing their blindfolds.

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