Saturday, May 07, 2005

Calling Democrats' Bluff

David Brooks editorialized in the NYT Don't take people at their word. Don't listen to them when they tell you how to be virtuous. They're faking it. They don't care about virtue, or you or the common good. They're just taking opportunistic potshots under the guise of sermonizing. They're just a bunch of hypocrites. This little bit of moral philosophy is drawn from the political events of the past few years. Over this time, Democrats have been hectoring President Bush in the manner of an overripe Fourth of July orator. The president should be summoning us to make shared sacrifices for the common good. The president should care for the poor, and stop favoring the rich. He should make the hard choices and impose a little fiscal discipline on government. Sometimes you had to walk through Democratic precincts in a gas mask, the lofty rhetoric was so thick. But now we have definitive proof that they didn't mean it. It was all hokum.

Most of what they say is hokum
Over the past few weeks, the president has called their bluff. By embracing the progressive indexing of Social Security benefits, the president has asked us to make a shared sacrifice for the common good. He's asking middle- and upper-class folks to accept benefit cuts so there will be money for the people who are really facing poverty. He has asked us to redistribute money down the income scale. Why should programs for children and families be strangled so Donald Trump can get bigger benefit checks? He has made the hard choices. By facing up to the fact that there are going to be benefit cuts, he's offended Newt Gingrich, Jack Kemp, the supply siders and other important Republican constituencies.

So how has the St. Francis of Assisi wing of the Democratic Party responded to Bush's challenge? Does it applaud him for doing what it has spent the past years telling him he should do? Of course not. The Democratic leadership has dropped all that shared sacrifice talk and started making demagogic appeals to people's narrow self-interest. Nancy Pelosi cries out that Bush's progressive indexing idea means "cutting the benefits of middle-class seniors." Representative Sander Levin protests it "would result in the biggest benefit cut in the history of Social Security." What about the sober chin-pullers - the fiscally prudent worriers and deficit-fearing editorialists? Have they come out and applauded Bush for his courage? Are they mobilizing to take advantage of this moment? No, their silence is deafening.
There are two reasons for that
  1. They would prefer to raise taxes rather than cutting benefits
  2. They love the fact that Bush proposed reducing benefits, because they think they can use it as an issue in 2006 and 2008
And what about those moderate Democrats?
Most of them are now Republicans
For two decades they've been courageously saying we need to means-test Social Security, so we can focus our resources on those who need it. Now Bush has embraced their view. Are they saying that since Bush has moved so far in a redistributionist direction that perhaps the Democrats should budge slightly, too? Of course not. They're inventing lame reasons to explain why they shouldn't be for the policy they have been for over the past 20 years. Bush could tell them he loved their mothers and they'd invent reasons to be against him. Politics trumps policy. George Bush has been willing to address a long-term, politically thorny problem. He's pursued it doggedly while most members of his party wish he would just drop it. But his Democratic counterparts are behaving like alienated junior professors. No productive ideas. No sense of leadership. Just half-truths from the peanut gallery.
Half truths are better than what we usually get from them.
This is the difference between the party with a governing mentality and the party with the opposition mentality. The governing party leads. It takes the arrows. It casts about for productive ideas and slowly absorbs the other party's good ones. Bush has now absorbed progressive indexing of retirement benefits.

The opposition party opposes. It doesn't feel any responsibility to come up with positive alternatives. Its main psychological need is to be against its nemesis at all costs. If the governing party steals one of its ideas, it will oppose that idea. In this way the opposition party is pushed further and further to the edge. It loses control of its identity - it's simply a negative reactive force to whatever the governing party happens to be doing at the moment. It finds itself in a cycle of opposition, negativity and irrelevance. This is what's infected the Tories in Britain, and it's infected the Democrats here. When a Republican president embraces progressive indexing, something big is happening. When the Democrats oppose it, you know their party has betrayed an animating ideal.

Orrin Judd blogged The irony being that the middle class comes out ahead even after the tough choice.


Place Your Bets

John Tierney wrote in the NYT After a recent column comparing Social Security with the Chilean system of private accounts, I was deluged with letters from readers eager to explain why I am a superficial nitwit. In this case, they're at least half right. The column was superficial because I simply looked at how much more money I'd have if I had invested my Social Security contributions in the private account of a Chilean friend and economist, Pablo Serra. The numbers were impressive - my projected pension would be triple what I'm promised by Social Security - but they're not as important as another consideration: which type of pension is riskier?

Pablo has done well because Chilean mutual funds have yielded high returns in the past two decades - probably higher than I would have gotten from an American mutual fund, although here I'd still be way ahead of Social Security. Historically, stocks have yielded returns two to three times what Social Security pays. Still, stocks could yield much lower returns in the future, as critics of private accounts have pointed out in advertisements comparing the market to a slot machine and extolling the "guarantee" of Social Security. But there's also another kind of risk to consider, one that Chilean workers kept mentioning to me. The best part of their private accounts, they said, was that they'd put "la plata donde mis ojos la vean" - the money where my eyes can see it. They knew they might lose some of it in the stock market, but they preferred that to watching it all disappear into politicians' hands.

Which is exactly what would happen.
My Social Security, far from being a guarantee, comes with a political risk that will become clear around 2017, when I'll be 64. That's when the Social Security Administration expects to start paying out more than it collects in taxes. In theory, there is a trust fund to cover this shortfall. When Congress sharply raised Social Security taxes in the 1980's, the idea was to generate surpluses during the baby boomers' working years that would finance our retirement. Instead, Congress spent our money, leaving the Social Security trust fund with a file cabinet full of i.o.u.'s in the form of Treasury bills. It's not a problem now, because for the next few years the baby boomers' taxes will provide an annual surplus for Social Security of about $100 billion, allowing Congress to dole out the extra money for its favorite causes, like farm subsidies and weapon systems and West Virginia buildings named after Robert Byrd. But in four years the surpluses start declining, and they turn into deficits around 2017, when Congress must begin repaying those i.o.u.'s.
And the only way to do that would be to borrow money (a short term solution that would leave us worse off in the future, raise taxes, or cut benefits (including eventually cutting the entire Social Security program)
By the time I'm in my 70's, the Social Security shortfall will force Congress to find new taxes or make spending cuts that are more than half the size of the Pentagon's budget. If I make it to age 88, there will no more i.o.u.'s left in the trust fund, so everyone's benefits would have to be cut by 27 percent. Faced with the grim math, President Bush offered a progressive compromise last week to Democrats: protect the poor while moderating the growth of benefits for higher-income workers. Democrats refused to bite, denouncing his "cuts" without offering a plan of their own, and members of both parties wondered why any politician would jeopardize his party's chances in 2006 by tackling an unpleasant future problem.

You can call the Democrats irresponsible obstructionists, but they're just following the first rule of politics: get re-elected. It's the same rule followed by the politicians from both parties who have spent the baby boomers' retirement money. Why set aside money for 2017 if it could be used to woo voters and campaign contributors for the next election? I can't protect my pension against political risk, but Pablo can help protect his against the risks of the stock market. As he approaches retirement, he can gradually shift his money out of stocks and into bonds, like the ones that financed the private road between Santiago and the port city of Valparaiso, which will be paid off by tolls. The Chilean pension system has billboards along the road proclaiming, "Your savings are financing this highway, and this highway is financing your retirement." Those billboards have been on my mind. My pension depends on 535 politicians who will be asked to vote for steep tax increases or budget cuts that they fear could cost them their jobs. Pablo's pension depends on people driving between Chile's two largest cities.

Orrin Judd blogged Wouldn't it be amusing if every time a politician or pundit wrote or spoke about the "risks" of privatization they were required to reveal how much money they had invested in their own 401k, IRA, mutual funds, etc.?


Recipe for a Military Spouse

Greta blogged Recipe for a Military Spouse

1 1/2 C. Patience
2 C. Elbow Grease
1 3/4 C. Tolerance
1 lb. Courage

Marinate frequently with salty tears
Pour off excess fat
Sprinkle ever so lightly with money
Knead dough until payday
Season with international spices
Bake for 20 years or until done
Serve with pride!


Schumer Urges Bush to Rein in Judge Fight

WaPo reported Sen. Charles Schumer, a leading Democrat in the fight over judicial nominees, urged President Bush to intervene and rein in the strongest conservative critics of Democratic opposition to some candidates.

What has he been smoking, to think Bush would do that?
Schumer, D-N.Y., delivered his party's weekly radio address Saturday, in which he decried "a whiff of extremism in the air the likes of which we haven't seen in decades."
And the odor is coming from the Democratic side of the aisle
Without naming any, Schumer criticized "small groups ... trying to undermine the age-old checks and balances that the Founding Fathers placed at the center of the Constitution."
Filibusters were not used by the Founding Fathers; they started in the 1800s
Democrats have blocked 10 of Bush's appellate court choices with the threat of filibusters, which means those nominees would need 60 votes to be confirmed. Republicans are considering using their majority to change rules to require a simple majority vote for confirmation.

In his radio appeal, Schumer sought to draw Bush more directly into the fray by urging the president to denounce some conservatives who have used harsh language to criticize the Democrats. "I am making a heartfelt plea to you, Mr. President. When you came to Washington, you said you wanted to change the climate in D.C.," Schumer said.
But he did not realize that the natiional Democrats are unlike the Democrats he knew back in Texas; who were willing to compromise to get something done.
"Those stating these abhorrent views count themselves as your political allies. One word from you will bring a halt to these un-American statements. That would be a way to strengthen democracy here at home."
No it might strengthen Democrats, but not Democracy (which says a majority rules)
The senator referred generally to some activists comparing judges to the Ku Klux Klan and terrorists.
Schumer has lost his mind
Jayson @PoliPundit: blogged Chuck Schumer wants President Bush to stop the mean old Senate Republicans from taking away his ability to block a female African-American state supreme court justice from the federal bench because she’s {gasp} a conservative, er, I mean, he wants the President to intervene so the Democrats can filibuster those evil nominees of his. Man, these tea leaves aren’t that hard to read anymore, are they? The federal courts are about to get much more conservative. The Democrats either can have it the hard way, or the radioactive way.


See a blogger

Gateway Pundit shows a number of photos from BlogNashville and there are more photos here. I wish I had been able to travel, because I would have loved to have been able to go to BlogNashville.

In case you don't recognize her, the photo is La Shawn Barber who is leading a session at BlogNashville on Faith-Based blogging.

I don't know what has happened to LaShawn's blog. Normally it is well formatted, but something must have happened to her server, because all of the formatting is gone. I am sure she will fix it as soon as she gets home from Nashville.

Here are a couple of LaShawn's posts about BlogNashville


Aim Blogs

Blogging about Incredible Blogs reports Ready, Set, Aim . . . Blog

That's exactly what AOL wants its AIM users to do -- maybe it should be called CB -- Chatter Blog.

I was not aware of it, but AoL now has its own blogging system, oriented around AoL's Instant Messenger AIM. I described a number of different blogging packages in my article Comparison of Blog Services, and I would say that AIM Blogs are similar to Yahoo 360 or Live Journal, and very different from the sort of blogs I prefer (however different people have different tastes, so there is clearly a niche for AIM and the others. For one thing, AIM Blogs dont have TrackBacks (I don't know whether HaloScan would work with them. They do have comments, archives, and permanent links, so they definitely are blogs.


Link from Drudge

Cory Bergman blogged What happens when Drudge links your site
Yesterday the Drudge Report posted the item, "Down goes Frasier!" that linked to a story on WGAL-TV's site that included video of Kelsey Grammer's nasty fall. Twenty-four hours later, says 216,215 people visited the page and 153,435 people watched the video clip. Wow.


Raffles now legal

NewsOK reported Raffles are legal now that a state lottery has been created. For decades, raffles have been considered a quick and certain way to raise money for schools, churches and other nonprofits. That changed in 1995, when Attorney General Drew Edmondson issued an opinion equating raffles to lotteries. Although violations were punishable under state gambling laws, no one contacted could recall a single prosecution.

State Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, worked about eight years to make raffles legal. In 2003, he succeeded on legislation that said such events would become legal if voters ever approved a lottery. The new law sat dormant more than a year until voters passed State Question 705, the lottery law. "What that law really does is just make legal what has been going on technically, illegally, for years and years in Oklahoma," Meacham said. The new legislation has a couple of catches: Charities can't hire a contractor to conduct a raffle, and contributions must be voluntary. In other words, a grinch so inclined can obtain a ticket without having to fork over a buck for it.

Tulsa Computer Society is no longer as big as it once was, but I wish this had been the case back when we were large enough to take advantage of it.


Saturday, May 7

This Day In History

  • 1789   The first inaugural ball was held in New York in honor of President and Mrs. George Washington.
  • 1812   Poet Robert Browning was born in London.
  • 1825   Italian composer Antonio Salieri died in Vienna, Austria
  • 1833   Composer Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg, Germany.
  • 1840   Composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in the Ural region of Russia.
  • 1847   The American Medical Association was founded in Philadelphia.
  • 1915   Nearly 1,200 people died when a German torpedo sank the British liner Lusitania off the Irish coast.
  • 1939   Germany and Italy announced a military and political alliance known as the Rome-Berlin Axis.
  • 1954   The Battle of Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam ended after 55 days with Vietnamese insurgents overrunning French forces.
  • 1960   Leonid Brezhnev replaced Marshal Kliment Voroshilov as president of the Supreme Soviet.
  • 1984   A $180 million out-of-court settlement was announced in the Agent Orange class-action suit brought by Vietnam veterans who charged they had suffered injury from exposure to the defoliant.
  • 1992   A 203-year-old proposed constitutional amendment barring Congress from giving itself a midterm pay raise was ratified when Michigan became the 38th state to approve it.
  • 1998   The parent company of Mercedes-Benz agreed to buy Chrysler Corp. for more than $37 billion.
  • 1999   NATO jets struck the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing three people and injuring 20; President Clinton called the attack a ''tragic mistake.''
  • 1999   A jury in Pontiac, Mich., ordered ''The Jenny Jones Show'' to pay $25 million to the family of a gay man who was shot to death after revealing a crush on a male guest on the talk show. (The award was overturned on appeal.)
  • 2000   President Vladimir Putin took the oath of office in Russia's first democratic transfer of power.
  • 2001   Ronnie Biggs, the ''Great Train Robber,'' who had eluded capture for decades following his prison escape in 1965, returned to Britain, where he was arrested and jailed to complete the 28 remaining years of his sentence.
  • 2002   Authorities arrested college student Luke J. Helder in a series of rural mailbox bombings that left six people wounded in Illinois and Iowa.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1812   Robert Browning (poet)
  • 1833   Johannes Brahms (composer)
  • 1901   Gary (Frank James) Cooper
  • 1919   Eva (Evita) Peron
  • 1933   Johnny Unitas (Pro Football Hall of Famer)


Friday, May 06, 2005

Reid Says He Doesn't Intend to Filibuster

Yahoo! News reported Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has privately told individual Republicans he doesn't intend to block votes on any Supreme Court nominees except in extreme cases, according to officials familiar with the conversations.

Of course the Dems claim the 10 judges they are blocking are all extreme cases, even with the highest rating from the ABA.
At the same time, Reid has declined in private — as well as in public — to offer the type of firm no-filibuster assurance that might help him prevail over Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. in a struggle over President Bush's conservative court appointments and rules covering future confirmations. The disclosures illustrate the challenge facing the Nevada Democrat, who is struggling against a GOP attempt to change Senate procedures so court candidates can no longer be subjected to the 60-vote requirement of a filibuster.

As leader of a minority, Reid needs the support of wavering GOP senators if he is to force a compromise or win a showdown on the Senate floor. Yet he also must take into account members of his own rank and file as well as activist groups that are adamant about preserving their right to block votes on Bush's current and future nominees. "I can never say there will never be a filibuster because I cannot say that," he said recently on the Senate floor. "But I don't think this Senate is in the mood for a number of filibusters."
at least not more than 10, plus any Supreme Court nominees.
Captain Ed blogged So far the GOP hasn't bitten on Reid's assurances, and for good reason. Reid wants Republicans to trust his judgment on what he thinks "extreme" means, and he refuses to rule out filibusters or even to give any parameters under which he would endorse one. Given that the Democrats still plan to filibuster the seven nominees that Bush has named to appellate courts, this effort by Reid is as weak as it sounds. It's not a compromise at all, but a "trust me" offer that's laughable on its face.

The fact that Reid feels it necessary to make this effort shows how worried the Democrats have become over the upcoming Byrd Option by Bill Frist. The Senate returns from recess next week and Frist may immediately take up the confirmations of Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown, probably in that order.
I would prefer him take up Janice Rogers Brown first. Either will be filibustered, but it will hurt the Dems more to be filibustering a Black Woman
When the Democrats attempt to filibuster, as they have promised to do, Frist will appeal to the president of the Senate, VP Dick Cheney, for an interpretation of the Senate filibuster rule as to whether it applies to the Constitutionally mandated duty to provide advice and consent to the Executive. When Cheney rules the filibuster out of order, all it will take to overcome that interpretation will be 50 Senators and Cheney as a tiebreaker -- and both Mitch McConnell and Norm Coleman have assured the GOP that they have the votes to get there.

Reid cannot afford the loss of prestige that such a change will cost him. Nor can he afford to follow through on his threat to shut down the Senate with parliamentary obstructionism without incurring the ghosts of Newt Gingrich and 1995. In fact, such a manuever will only confirm the Democrats as knee-jerk obstructionists, an image which cost them dearly in the 2004 Senate campaign already. He needs to convince enough Republicans to pull away from Frist, but without giving up the option to block judicial nominees at whim. Those two requirements have proved mutually exclusive, which puts us back to where we were when the session began in January.

Now that Frist appears to have toughened up, Reid finds himself with few options except for noncommittal PR manuevers such as this. He may get even more flexible next week, but unless he's willing to come up with something that eliminates the filibuster, he's not saying anything at all worth repeating.

Kevin P commented Reid is telling the truth. He wouldn't use the fillibuster on supreme court nominees except for extreme circumstances. You just have to realize that every Bush nominee will be considered "out of the mainsteam" and thus be fillibustered because of the extreme circumstances. I don't know whether Frist has the votes or not but he has to pull the trigger. It is not a matter of trusting Reid. It's a matter of knowing that Reid will do everything to keep Bush's choices off the bench.

ERNurse commented Okay. Now is the time to increase the pressure on the Republicans to stand up for the people who elected them, and to flush the toilet on the era of minority- enjoyed hegemony that has been enjoyed by the liberal traitors at the nation's peril. We have to hammer home to the Republicans that we are watching every move they make, and the decisions they make with regard to the issues at hand will decide whether they stay on in Dee Cee or end up on their lazy butts come 2006. Our strategy at this time should follow the words of Fleet Admiral "Bill" Halsey: "Attack. Repeat: ATTACK!"

jwbrown1969 commented Reid is having an internal fit over the prospect of ending Judicial filibuster. He is so afraid that that he won't be able to stop W from appointing a Supreme in the near future that he will do almost anything.

Jayson @PoliPundit blogged After reading between the lines of this liberal-media polemic, I think it’s pretty safe to say the following: a) Harry Reid is real close to not having enough votes even to maintain filibusters in the first instance. b) Bill ("Limp") Frist either definitely has the votes necessary to “go nuclear,” or Reid and the media are very, very nervous about finding that out the hard way.

Marc commented I see that part of Reid’s strategy to woo on the fence Republicans is to call the President a “loser” as he travels overseas (at least according to Drudge). After all, what Senator wouldn’t love to have the leader of their party called a loser by the person they are trying to cut a deal with? Reid’s has a less than enviable political mind. And this is the best the Democrats can come up with, they are in more trouble than I thought.

Kenneth commented The GOP needs to change the Senate rule now, before any Supreme Court seats open. The Dems will surely filibuster whoever Bush nominates to the Supreme Court, and the rule will have to change then anyway. Might at well do it now and get the political backlash over with (might not be much anyway).

Armando @DailyKos: blogged Hmmm. I don't know how Reid has gotten AP to run this story, but I tip my hat to him. Update [2005-5-6 16:52:40 by Armando]: Or, the AP did its job for once. That could explain it too.


How Real ID will affect you

CNet reported Starting three years from now, if you live or work in the United States, you'll need a federally approved ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service.

It is probably too much to ask, but will this include voting?
Practically speaking, your driver's license likely will have to be reissued to meet federal standards. You'll still get one through your state motor vehicle agency, and it will likely take the place of your drivers' license. But the identification process will be more rigorous. For instance, you'll need to bring a "photo identity document," document your birth date and address, and show that your Social Security number is what you had claimed it to be. U.S. citizens will have to prove that status, and foreigners will have to show a valid visa.
I hope the ID will diferentiate between citizen and foreigners, and that for foreigners it will allow tracking if they exceed their visa period.
State DMVs will have to verify that these identity documents are legitimate, digitize them and store them permanently. In addition, Social Security numbers must be verified with the Social Security Administration.

What's going to be stored on this ID card?
At a minimum: name, birth date, sex, ID number, a digital photograph,address, and a "common machine-readable technology" that Homeland Security will decide on. The card must also sport "physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes."
That is really good news.
Homeland Security is permitted to add additional requirements--such as a fingerprint or retinal scan--on top of those. We won't know for a while what these additional requirements will be.

The Real ID Act says federally accepted ID cards must be "machine readable," and lets Homeland Security determine the details. That could end up being a magnetic strip, enhanced bar code, or radio frequency identification (RFID) chips.

In the past, Homeland Security has indicated it likes the concept of RFID chips. The State Department is already going to be embedding RFID devices in passports, and Homeland Security wants to issue,/a> RFID-outfitted IDs to foreign visitors who enter the country at the Mexican and Canadian borders. The agency plans to start a yearlong test of the technology in July at checkpoints in Arizona, New York and Washington state.


Mother's Call

LedgerEnquirer reported Kevin Francois gave up his lunch break to talk to his mother, but it ended up costing him the rest of the school year. Francois, a junior at Spencer High School in Columbus, was suspended for disorderly conduct Wednesday after he was told to give up his cell phone at lunch while talking to his mother who is deployed in Iraq, he said. His mother, Sgt. 1st Class Monique Bates, left in January for a one-year tour and serves with the 203rd Forward Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. "This is our first time separated like this," said Francois, 17, on Thursday.

Bates came to Fort Benning with her son from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. She enrolled him at Spencer in August. Since her deployment overseas, Francois, whose father was killed when he was 5 years old, lives with a guardian who has five children in Columbus. The incident happened when Francois received a call from his mother at 12:30 p.m., which he said was his lunch break. Francois said he went outside the school building to get a better reception when his mother called. A teacher who saw Francois on his phone told him to get off the phone. But he didn't. According to the Muscogee County School District Board of Education's policy, students are allowed to have cell phones in school, but cannot use them during school hours.

"They are really allowed to have those cell phones so that after band or after chorus or after the debate and practices are over they have to coordinate with the parents," said Alfred Parham, assistant principal at Spencer. "They're not supposed to use them for conversating back and forth during school because if they were allowed to do that, they could be text messaging each other for test questions."

If he was at lunch, I doubt that he was taking a test.
Francois said he told the teacher, "This is my mom in Iraq. I'm not about to hang up on my mom." Francois said the teacher tried to take the phone, causing it to hang up.
Kevin should immediately be reinstated, and the teacher who tried to take the phone, knowing he was talking to his mother, should be fired.
The student said he then went with the teacher to the school's office where he surrendered his phone. His mother called again at 12:37 p.m. and left a message scolding her son about hanging up and telling him to answer the phone when she calls.

Steve Verdon commented Granted Francois probably wasn't behaving at his best (he reportedly used profanity when brought into the office), but sheesh is this stupid or what? Why couldn't the teacher have waited until Francois was done talking to his mother, she is in Iraq afterall, then tell him the policy and take him to the office to work out some sort of arrangement where Francois could take calls from his mother. No profanity, polite, and problem solved in an adult manner. Instead some idiot teacher had to over-react. The teacher is the adult and based on the facts so far sounds like he behaved in a childish manner. I'd say, at the very least suspend the teacher for 10 days too. Of course, that won't happen.

Joe Gandelman commented Here's a story that pits common sense against unfeeling educational bureaucratic thinking: a high school student has been suspended for 10 days for refusing to end a mobile phone call with his mother who is serving in Iraq. Even when you read the bare-bones facts of this story from the AP it makes your blood boil. But what about that teacher? Perhaps officials should have a quiet talk with the teacher who would not give him a few minutes to talk with his Mom — his Mom who could wind up one day in the headlines as another war casualty. That teacher, it seems, could have cared less about the distance separating mother and son or the danger facing the mother. commented Contact info for Spencer High School is here.

JCB commented It's time to flood this school with outrage if you have any support for our troops.

Spencer High School   4340 Victory Drive   Columbus, GA 31903
Phone: 706-685-7652   Fax: 706-685-7708
Principal: Olivia Rutledge -
Assitant Principals: Alfred Parham -
Wendell Turner -

I just sent a message to;; saying "Kevin Francois should be immediately returned to class, and the teacher that grabbed his phone and caused him to lose contact with his mother in Iraq should be immediately fired

I realise you are concerned about students text messaging other students during a test, but I doubt very seriously Kevin was taking a test outdoors while on his lunch hour" and I urge everyone to do the same


Same old saw

Charles Krauthammer editorialized in WaPo Having lured the president out onto a far limb on Social Security, the Democrats have begun sawing. Democratic leaders immediately rejected the president's plan and stood up for all that is good and true and saintedly Rooseveltian -- without, of course, offering any alternative. To be sure, the president started all this on his own, first proposing personal accounts. Democrats objected that this did nothing about the really important issue, namely solvency. So Bush offered five solvency alternatives in his State of the Union address (four first proposed by Democrats) and welcomed any other ideas. The Democrats answered: "You go first." On April 28 the president did go first, proposing a remarkably progressive reduction in the rate of growth of benefits.

A very reasonable solution.
The Democratic leadership, supported by misleading headlines around the country, denounced these "cuts" as the work of a party that never did believe in Social Security and now wants to kill it.
Democrats always complain something is a cut, even if it is an increase that is not as great as they would have preferred.
Yes, these are cuts, but only in the growth of promised benefits in the future -- based on formulas written in the pre-baby boomer retirement era that so inflate benefits that they are entirely unsustainable. They cannot possibly be paid by the taxes of the fewer workers in the future who will be supporting the many retirees.
They don't plan for the future. They just look to the next election.

To simplify somewhat, the amount of your first check upon retirement is based on your average wages during your lifetime. Then a formula adjusts that number to wage inflation -- which generally amounts to price inflation plus about 1 percent annually. The Bush proposal is to preserve this ever-increasing, ever-compounding benefit formula for poorer Americans, while gradually phasing out the extra 1 percent as you move to wealthy wage earners. No one gets cut -- either in nominal or real dollars. Everyone gets at least as much or more than any retiree today, with the poor getting progressively more every year. This is about as fair and progressive a plan as you can find. Even the inveterately, reflexively, often apoplectically anti-Bush Michael Kinsley expressed admiration -- and indeed puzzlement that the president would offer it without any prospect of short-term political advantage.

Leave the quest for short-term political advantage to the Democrats. They have finally gotten a Republican president to openly propose "cuts" in Social Security and they intend to win seats in 2006 running all-out against them. The White House seems to think that this obstructionism will not work. The Democrats will be blamed for doing nothing. But if A accuses B of doing nothing, and B accuses A of destroying the one social program that everyone supports, who do you think wins?
Good point. But the younger voters are beginning to understand, and they are the ones that Dems count on.

And Democrats have a wonderful smoke screen. These "cuts" are not only destructive but unnecessary, they claim, because the insolvency does not kick in until sometime in mid-century -- the Democrats' latest comically precise number is 2052 -- when the "trust fund" runs out. (So much for their month-ago concern about solvency.)

As I have been writing for years with stupefying redundancy -- and obvious lack of success -- this idea is a hoax. There is no trust fund. The past Social Security surpluses were spent the year they were created. The idea that in 2017, when the surpluses disappear, we will be able to go to a box in West Virginia to retrieve the money we need to make up the shortfall (between what Social Security takes in and what it pays out that year) is a deception. There is no money there. It will have to be borrowed or garnered from new taxes.
Precisely. The lock box had a hole in the back.
But things are worse than that. The fiscal problem starts to kick in not in 2017 but in 2009. The Social Security surplus, which Congress happily spends every year, peaks in 2008. Which means that starting in four years (and for every year thereafter) a budgetary squeeze begins, requiring new taxation or new borrowing. If in 2010 tax revenue and spending remain exactly the same as in 2009, the Treasury will not end up with the same size deficit. It will end up with a larger deficit, because the amount of money it was receiving free and "borrowed" from the Social Security surplus will have shrunk. That surplus shrinks from its peak in 2008 to zero in 2017 and goes negative after that. That is a very serious fiscal problem that starts not in 50 years, not even in 12 years, but in four.

Time for action, you might think. Ah. But before all those years comes 2006. And a chance for power. A chance for Democratic politicians to once again hear that most mellifluous phrase: "Mr. Chairman." Hence, that sawing noise.

Matthew Yglesias commented Why it is that conservatives keep writing that there will be "fewer workers in the future" I couldn't quite say. Are they lying? Just totally innumerate? Neither the overall workforce nor the population is shrinking, nor is either projected to do so at any point in the future. This is just some kind of made-up "fact" that rightwingers have convinced themselves of.
Actually what they said is there will be fewer workers to support each retired person.

And why is it that the benefits "cannot possibly be paid by the taxes" of future workers? For the sake of argumet, one can concede Krauthammer's dislike of trust fund accounting
He knows there is no money in the trust fund
and discuss this on a cash flow basis. Benefits, viewed this way, are projected to rise by two percentage points of GDP over the next 75 years. If that were to happen, overall public sector expenditure in the United States (and therefore the long-run tax burden) would need to go up from 35.6 percent of GDP to around 37.6 percent of GDP.
The Dems are just saying there is all of that Gross Domestic Product, let us have more of it to spend
Betsy Newmark commented Charles Krauthammer is his usual precise and devastatingly intelligent self in looking at the dishonest campaign that Democrats are running against any change in the Social Security system. As Krauthammer explains, the Democrats refused at first to even acknowledge that there is any problem with Social Security. Then, when polls showed that people realized that there is a problem with Social Security, they started demanding that the President do something about solvency. When he took the bait and proposed a progressive change in how benefits are calculated, Democratic politicians started crowing that he was destroying the program and harming the middle class. This is not true. I don't like the idea that my benefits might not be as large as they could be. But, hey, I'd rather that than huge taxes and no Social Security benefits for my children.


Democratic Suicide

Victor Davis Hanson wrote in National Review We are in unsure times amid a controversial war. Yet the American people are not swayed by the universities, the major networks, the New York Times, Hollywood, the major foundations, and NPR. All these bastions of doctrinaire liberal thinking have done their best to convince America that George W. Bush, captive to right-wing nuts and Christian fanatics, is leading the country into an abyss. In fact, a close look at a map of red/blue counties nationwide suggests that the Democrats are in deepening trouble. Why? In a word, Democratic ideology and rhetoric have not evolved from the 1960s, although the vast majority of Americans has — and an astute Republican leadership knows it.

Actually it has evolved, in that now the Democratic ideology is based on two words HATE and NO. In other words Hate Bush, and Block anything the Republicans want to do. But you are right, if you remove those two things, they fall back to 60s ideology and rhetoric.
The old class warfare was effective for two reasons: Americans did not have unemployment insurance, disability protection, minimum wages, social security, or health coverage. Much less were they awash in cheap material goods from China that offer the less well off the semblance of consumer parity with those far wealthier. Second, the advocates of such rights looked authentic, like they came off the docks, the union hall, the farm, or the shop, primed to battle those in pin-stripes and coiffed hair. Today entitlement is far more complicated. Poverty is not so much absolute as relative: "I have a nice Kia, but he has a Mercedes," or "I have a student loan to go to Stanislaus State, but her parents sent her to Yale." Unfortunately for the Democrats, Kias and going to Stanislaus State aren't too bad, especially compared to the alternatives in the 1950s....

When will Democrats return to power? Three of the most influential legislators in the Democrat party — Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and Nancy Pelosi — reside in and came out of the San Francisco Bay area, which for all its undeniable beauty has created a culture still at odds with most of America. John and Teresa Kerry would have been the nation's first billionaire presidential couple. The head of the Democratic party is a New England condescending liberal, with a vicious tongue, who ran and lost on a platform far to the left of an unsuccessful liberal.

In contrast the only two men elected president from the Democratic party in 30 years were southerners, hammed up their rural and common-man roots — the son of a single mother in Arkansas and a peanut farmer in Plains, Georgia — and were narrowly elected largely due to national scandals like Watergate or third-party conservative populists like Ross Perot. The aristocratic media — CSB News, the New York Times, NPR — is often liberal and yet talks of its degrees and pedigree; the firebrand populist bloggers, cable news pros, and talk-radio pundits are mostly conservative and survive on proven merit rather than image.

When we see Democrats speaking and living like normal folks — expressing worry that the United States must return to basic education and values to ensure its shaky preeminence in a cutthroat world, talking of one multiracial society united by a rare exceptional culture of the West rather than a salad bowl of competing races and tribes, and apprising the world that we are principled abroad in our support of democratic nations and quite dangerous when attacked — they will be competitive again.

Since they will not do that, they will keep losing — no matter how much the economy worries, the war frightens, and the elite media scares the American people.

Hugh Hewitt commented Victor Davis Hanson writes this morning that the Democrats seem intent on continuing their electoral suicide, which would be a comforting thought but for the presence of Bill and Hillary who know a few things about winning elections through shrewd repositioning of rhetoric.

TheAnchoress commented Victor Davis Hanson talks here about the inability of the Democrats to evolve and grow up. Only he says it much, much better than I. I plead sickness for today, but in truth, he always says everything better than I!


Clinton veers left

NYP reported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is putting the brakes on her move to the political middle by opposing legislation that would bar helping underage girls cross state lines for an abortion without their parents' consent.

Clinton — despite preaching moderation in recent speeches — will toe the Democratic line in the Senate in an effort to block a GOP-backed bill that just passed the House and makes it illegal for anyone to help a girl get a secret out-of-state abortion. "I don't believe that any young woman should have to make this decision alone. But, tragically, there are sometimes instances in which a young woman simply cannot involve her parents, including rape, violence or incest," Clinton told The Post.

Rape (violence) is one time when a child definitely should involve her parents, because she needs their support, and in the case of incest, she should involve the police, and then involve family that are not under arrest.
"I oppose the House-passed bill, which glosses over these complicated situations, making criminals out of grandparents, clergy and other adults who try to act in good faith."
Violation of the law is not "good faith"
The bill punishes adults with up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine for helping minors bypass restrictive laws in their home states for abortions elsewhere without their parents consent. It also imposes a 24-hour waiting period for out-of-state abortions, even with a parent's consent.

The House approved the measure last week with a 270 to 157 vote. Fifty-four Democrats crossed over in support.
Good for them.
None of New York state's Democratic members of Congress voted for it. As Clinton pursues a potential 2008 White House bid, her opposition could have long-term ramifications because the overwhelming majority of Americans support parental notification for underage abortions.

TheAnchoress commented “She is seeking “common ground” with the pro-lifers!” the msm sighed in starry-eyed-sycophantasia. “Hillary is going to bring something real to the debate.”

Um. No. She isn’t going to bring something real to the debate, and she never was going to. Hillary’s “common ground” gesture was simply that - a gesture. A Hillarian escape of warm air from her lungs, meaning absolutely nothing beyond the sound bite, the quote for the record and the wink-wink “you-guys-all-know-this-doesn’t-change-anything” to her base. Hillary never actually says anything that means anything. She just gasses away, droning from the script and the press does the actual thumping for her.... Clinton never preached moderation. Her “common ground” comments amounted to: “I’m not moving one step closer to the middle, but I think we should talk nicer to each other about this until we finally get these pro-lifers to give it up.”... While Hillary and her cohorts plead “compassion” here what they are doing is making it easy for your 14 year-old daughter’s 24 year-old exploiter to take her across the state lines and have the evidence of his statutory rape vacuumed out of her body before he leaves her, crushed and alone, to deal forever with what has happened to her. While her family knows nothing about any of it and wonders why she is suddenly depressed, morose, dressing in black and cutting herself. That’s compassion for you.

K. J. Lopez commented She can talk all she wants, but here is where she is at: opposing a bill that would prohibit children from being taken out of state for abortions without a parent's knowledge.


Court yanks down FCC's broadcast flag

CNet reports In a stunning victory for hardware makers and television buffs, a federal appeals court has tossed out government rules that would have outlawed many digital TV receivers and tuner cards starting July 1.

This is a fantastic decision, and preserves the fair use of material broadcast on TV
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Friday that the Federal Communications Commission did not have the authority to prohibit the manufacture of computer and video hardware that doesn't have copy protection technology known as the "broadcast flag." The regulations, which the FCC created in November 2003, had been intended to limit unauthorized Internet redistribution of over-the-air TV broadcasts.

"The broadcast flag regulations exceed the agency's delegated authority under the statute," a three-judge panel unanimously concluded. "The FCC has no authority to regulate consumer electronic devices that can be used for receipt of wire or radio communication when those devices are not engaged in the process of radio or wire transmission." (Click here for a PDF of the decision.)

One result of Friday's ruling is that, unless it's eventually overturned by a higher court, the fight over digital TV piracy will return to Capitol Hill. The D.C. appeals court noted that the FCC "has no power to act" until "Congress confers power on it" by enacting a law explicitly authorizing the broadcast flag.
So Hollywood will have to try to bribe enough congressmen to pass a law authorizing it. Hopefully this will be difficult to do in a Republican controled congress that does not like Hollywood.
Under the FCC rules, starting in July digital TV tuner manufacturers would have had to include the broadcast flag. The flag limits a person's ability to redistribute video clips made from the recorded over-the-air broadcasts.

But in January, a coalition of librarians and public interest groups filed suit against the regulations, arguing that they would sharply curtail the ability of librarians and consumers to make "fair use" of copyrighted works and would curb interoperability between devices.
Good for them
Under the proposed rule, it would have become illegal to "sell or distribute" any product capable of receiving broadcast-flagged shows unless the product complies with the FCC's regulations. Such products could handle flagged broadcasts only in specific ways set by the government. Those essentially include delivering analog output without copy protection, digital output to a few low-end displays, or high-quality digital output to devices that also adhere to the broadcast flag specification.

In general, consumers would have been able to record broadcast-flagged shows and movies, but would only be able to play them back on the same device. The FCC rules specify that all devices must uniquely link "such recording with a single covered demodulator product, using a cryptographic protocol or other effective means, so that such recording cannot be accessed in usable form by another product."

Dan Gillmor blogged Now the entertainment cartel will have to get its wishes the old-fashioned way. It will have to attempt to verbally bludgeon or buy enough members of Congress to get an actual law passed, as opposed to the end run it pulled with its friends at the Federal Communications Commission, which enacted a rule giving the cartel what it wanted.

The broadcast flag rule was an amazingly brazen piece of work. It would force manufacturers of anything that could be used to receive or display a digital broadcast video signal to refuse to redistribute the video. In other words, you could watch the show but, if the copyright holder wished, you could not record it on your VCR or send it to another TV set.

The idea was to prevent unauthorized distribution, obviously, and it's easy to understand why the cartel worries about this. But the broadcast flag sent a message both to customers and innovative technologists: We are in a pay-per-view world of hyper-controlled media, if the copyright decrees it, and you may not do anything to save your fair use or other traditional rights unless we approve.

Now it's back to Congress, where the battles will continue -- and where this belonged in the first place.

geeknewscentral blogged geeknewscentral

OTB blogged While Dan Gilmour pronounces this, "A Win for Fair Use, Consumer Rights," it appears to be merely a very narrow, technical decision about the FCC's authority rather than about the rights of people who own software to make copies of it.

Jeff Jarvis argues that the entertainment industry ought to take this opportunity and figure out how to make a profit with it, rather than going back to Congress seeking protection.

Jeff Jarvis blogged No, no, no: The far smarter thing to do would be to turn around and ask how the entertainment industry can take advantage of this opportunity: You support free broadcast TV with advertising. You should find the way to support free distributed TV with advertising. That will be a lot easier -- and more lucrative -- than playing legal wack-a-mole. Wikipedia background here.

Ernie Miller blogged Read the 34-page decision by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals: American Library Association v. Federal Communications Commission [PDF]. He also has A LOT of links related to this subject.


The Left Catches On

Tech Central Station reports Something remarkable is happening as a Republican Congress and president move to crackdown on 527 groups like the Voter Fund and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: Liberals are realizing that something's fishy.

Three years after the passage of McCain-Feingold (a.k.a. the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, a.k.a. the End of Free Speech As We Know It), a smattering of Democrats and liberal activists are slowly coming to the conclusion that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to let the government decide who can and cannot engage in political speech.

After all, what would prevent incumbents in Congress from passing laws to secure their jobs by making it harder for their opponents to criticize them? And what would prevent a political party -- holding, say, power in both houses of Congress and the White House -- from using election laws to try to smother the opposition? Right: Nothing. Such keen, if belated insight, seems to be what motivated former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle to pen a guest column for the inside-the-beltway political paper Roll Call last Tuesday, warning Democrats that the current round of regulation is a trap.

If there was some way they could twist the legislation to screw Republicans and boost their chances, they would be for it, but they figure it will stop the 527s that they used much more than the Republicans in the last election (and yet it was a 527, the Swift Boat Veterans, that did Kerry the most damage)
"This past autumn, special interest groups rushed to South Dakota to attack my record and question my values. Many of their advertisements were harshly negative in substance and tone, and they reflected little respect for fact or substance,"
In other words they were like what Democrats do.
Daschle writes of last year's election season, which turned him out of office. "At times like this, in anger and frustration, candidates may wish that Congress could and would outlaw such advertisements. After a season of swift boats, in South Dakota and elsewhere, that wish is powerful, and it is understandable." Now, why Daschle thinks it's "understandable" that Congress should want to shut up people who criticize congressmen is puzzling, but that's a topic for another day. For now, let's just cue the scary music.

That wish is understandable, he writes, but it is also misplaced. "Those who, like me, have long supported campaign finance reform should keep a wary eye on how those who do not really share our commitment
To exploit it for partisian Democratic purposes
would exploit it for their own partisan purposes," Daschle writes. "Campaign finance regulation should not become the new weapon in the ongoing effort to change the rules -- many and different rules -- to favor and entrench one party's political interest."

Daschle's attempt to cut a fine line between the current assault of 527s and the broader assault on free speech in 2002 leaves his credibility in tatters. Both parties signed onto McCain-Feingold because, at the time, each secretly believed it was getting one over on the other. Democrats held to an outdated notion that their party couldn't compete with the GOP at raising soft money (large, unregulated checks that the bill theoretically eliminated), and they miscalculated. Republicans knew they could raise circles around the Dems when it came to hard money (smaller, regulated checks that the bill left in tact), and they won the lottery. So, everyone was trying to "exploit it for their own partisan purposes," in Daschle's words. The Democrats were just incompetent exploiters.

But that certainly doesn't mean Daschle's wrong about the Republicans' motives. Republicans have poured fewer resources into 527s than have Democrats, assuming that the Federal Election Commission would regulate them into oblivion or that GOP majority in Congress would eventually intervene -- as it's doing now. And Daschle's not the only one who's noticed.

"Between the Tom DeLay ethics scandals in the House to Bill Frist's 'nuclear' assault on the Senate filibuster, it's really good to be in the Majority," read the blog of Americans Coming Together, a liberal 527 that seems to have caught a whiff of the same scent Daschle caught, earlier this month. "If you don't like the rules, change them."

ACT quotes former Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign manager (now RNC chairman) Ken Mehlman as crediting ACT's turnout prowess with helping keep Kerry within 119,000 Ohio votes of winning and with the ability to keep future Democrats within striking range. "Clearly," the blog says, "they do, indeed, take us seriously."

It continues, appealing to the group's supporters: "It's easy to point to an example like the Swift Boat Veterans' attack ads as something we can all agree is unseemly. But this legislation is not really about 'cleaning up politics' as they say. There's more to it … This bill is about silencing your progressive voice. Please don't let that happen."

Of course, campaign-finance reform was never about cleaning up politics -- it was always just politics by other means. But it's nice to hear someone other than the usual right-wingers say it.

Now, if only the usual right-wingers and the newly street-smart left-wingers could make common cause and get together and take Tom Daschle's advice. It could just be the first major setback for the campaign-finance lobby in a long, long time.

Liberals are also wary of 527 reform. They even have a petition to stop S. 271 and H.R. 513 – the “527 Reform Act of 2005”

Michelle Malkin blogged Ryan Sager continues his excellent coverage of the folly of campaign finance reform. His latest Tech Central Station column reports on some on the Left finally catching on to "the conclusion that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to let the government decide who can and cannot engage in political speech." Ya think?

Glenn Reynolds blogged Ryan Sager notes that Democrats are catching on to the problems with campaign finance "reform:" Better late than never, I guess.


Support this teacher

AccessNorthGa reports A Gwinnett County teacher was fired early Friday after refusing to raise a student athlete's grade he lowered because the student appeared to be sleeping in class. The Gwinnett County School Board voted 4-1 early Friday _ after a marathon Thursday night meeting _ to fire Dacula High School science teacher Larry Neace, said school system spokeswoman Sloan Roach.

I know that High School Football is important in many small towns, but this is stupid.
"These students lost a teacher who cared not only about their academic growth, but their growth as individuals," said Deidre M. Stephens-Johnson, who represented Neace. More than 200 students, parents and teachers packed Thursday night's hearing. Many of them carried signs or wore T-shirts and buttons supporting Neace.
Georgia can't afford to have good teachers, if it interferes with winning the football game each week.
Gwinnett school officials said Neace was barred from campus for insubordination after he repeatedly refused to comply with a district policy that prohibits using grades as discipline. Neace, who has taught at Dacula High for 23 years, was removed from class after he refused to raise the grade he had given a football player on an overnight assignment. Neace said he cut the student's perfect grade in half because he thought the student had fallen asleep at his desk the day the assignment was made. School officials said they gave Neace a chance to restore the football player's grade. When he refused, they sent him home. He has not been allowed back at school since April 14, when he was told he could resign or face being fired. Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks recommended to the board that Neace be fired."He cannot have a policy that supersedes board policy," Wilbanks said.
A stupid policy should be removed, along with the board members that instituted it.
"He had no right to do that." Neace said he had a practice of reducing the grades of students who waste time or sleep in class. His course syllabus warns that wasting class time can "earn a zero for a student on assignments or labs." No administrators had previously complained about the practice, which he adopted more than a decade ago, Neace said.
Maybe he never used it against the star football player.
"What we have in this case is a case of a pampered football athlete sleeping in class and being given favored treatment on an academic grade," said Michael Kramer, another of Neace's lawyers. "What we have here is the principal essentially attempting to coerce and intimidate a teacher."

Michelle Malkin blogged Students are trying to rally around Neace. 114 of them have signed a petition asking for his reinstatement. Contact info for the Gwinnett County School Board is here.

Winfield Myers blogged Larry Neace has spent 23 of the past 26 years teaching physics -- not an easy subject -- to high school students in the formerly small town of Dacula, Georgia. In the wee hours of this morning, the Gwinnett County School Board voted to fire him in spite of his stellar record and the support of scores of students, whose impassioned pleas that he be retained were ignored by the Board, and a principal aptly named Donnie Nutt.
The whole school board is NUTTs
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Neace, who's nickname among students is Doc, was fired precisely because of his stellar performance and emotional following among his students. For it seems that he crossed what amounts to a death line for too many public teachers in America: he marked down the grade of a star athlete and, in doing so, spat in the face of the enforced mediocrity too many in his profession rely on to keep their jobs.
Georgia can't afford to have really good teachers.
The story, as recorded over the past week in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, goes like this: Neace, 61, has a decade-old policy of academically penalizing students who "waste time" in class. Among the actions, or inactions, that qualify for this move is sleeping in class, which is what the football playing son of Barry Cheek did in April. Cheek slept through the class in which an assignment, to be turned in the next morning, was made. As he has done for the past ten years, and as he stated clearly to the class on the first day of the term that he would do, Neace halved the student's grade.

If you wonder what's wrong with public education in America, here's one thing: the School Board has a policy of not allowing teachers to use grades to penalize students for such behavior. That is, what I could do as a college professor (via a demand for class participation or attendance), or what will most certainly occur in any job, cannot happen in Gwinnett County classrooms.
We can't have teachers enforcing discipline in their classrooms. The students might learn something.
Remember: this is high school. High school students are kids, not adults, and (think back) no small number of them will gladly disrupt class in myriad ways. Assignments in high school come fast and furious, too -- don't let your college days throw you on this. Remember all the tests, assignments, and projects you did during those halcyon days? Without the means to gain and maintain control over a class, and to instill some discipline into young minds, teaching in public schools can become even more difficult and thankless than it already is.

When ordered to raise the student athlete's grade, Neace refused. Good for him. The students he touches -- and 114 of them have signed a petition calling for his reinstatement -- will remain grateful to him for the rest of their lives. Students have also made t-shirts lauding him (a most American response to any crisis) and plastered the walls of the school with posters calling for his firing to be rescinded.

Neace is a physics teacher, mind you, not some push-over who shares my humanities background. When was the last time you were eager to take any physics class, even one taught in high school? That he could find so much support speaks volumes of his character, integrity, and talent.

mikesofc blogged The Devil Went Down To Georgia… What’s with Georgians these days? First, we have Jennifer Wilbanks. A certifiable…something. Now, we have this story…

Lockjaw blogged Physics Teacher Fired for Insisting on Academics


Europeans to Counter Google Print Project

Yahoo! News reported Europeans have long bemoaned the influence of Hollywood movies on their culture. Now plans by Google Inc. to create a massive digital library have triggered such strong fears in Europe about Anglo-American cultural dominance that one critic is warning of a "unilateral command of the thought of the world." For Europeans, the fear is that the continent's contribution to the pillars of recorded knowledge will be crushed by a profit-oriented California company — and may end up presenting a U.S.-centric version of the world's literary legacy.

Google's ambitions are grand — if a bit more modest than the hostile corporate takeover of the tiller of world literature that many critics seem to be imagining. The project, announced in December, involves scanning millions of books at the libraries of four universities — Oxford, Harvard, Stanford and the University of Michigan — as well as the New York Public Library and putting them online. It will take years to complete.

So great is the concern that six European leaders have jointly proposed creating a "European digital library" to counter the project by Google Print, as the new venture is known. Other countries are expected to come on board. Failing to digitalize — declared the heads of state in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Hungary in an appeal to the
European Union — is to risk that "this heritage could, tomorrow, not fill its just place in the future geography of knowledge."

The French are paranoid, but in this case their paranoia is good for all of us, because now there will be additional effort spent digitizing European literature, to go along with Google's effort, and soon we may have online access to all of the world's literature.

This may cause concern among librarians, but even they need not fear, because the volume of that information will be so great that we will need their help in organizing it, and helping us find what we want.


Perfect soup

CSM reports Primordial matter has been a key target. Incredibly hot and dense, it existed for only microseconds after the "Big Bang" birth of our universe. Out of it came the first particles that formed the first atoms some 400,000 years after the bang. Today, many particles, including protons and neutrons that make up atomic nuclei, are themselves composed of entities physicists call quarks. These, in turn, are bound together in those particles by so-called gluons, which represent a very strong force. You never see quarks wandering about on their own. Things were different during those first few microseconds. Quarks and gluons were free agents. Cosmologists thought they would have formed a gas of charged particles called a plasma. Now the Brookhaven team has shown that this theory is mistaken. The team's experiments show that the quarks and gluons probably created what Brookhaven scientist Samuel Aronson calls "the most nearly perfect liquid ever observed." That means a liquid with very low viscosity and fast interaction among its particles. It's the kind of liquid that classical hydrodynamic theory was designed to handle.

What could possibly have formed the "most perfect liquid ever observed." Is this proof of the theory of Intelligent Design", and was the "most perfect liquid ever observed" created by the Creator? It is a good thing that as we reported earlier, Kansas and other states are resisting the Secular Humanists and considering teaching of Intelligent Design along with Evolution.
Brookhaven's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider created this liquid by smashing gold atoms together. Collisions produced microscopic fireballs 150,000 times hotter than the center of the Sun and 100 times denser than an atomic nucleus. Deciphering the bursts of particles and radiation streaming from these fireballs is just beginning. However, the four teams studying them with four different types of detectors agree that they probably have produced bits of the early universe. They also agree that this substance appears to conform to the classical theoretical ideal of a perfect liquid - a startling finding.
It is certainly not what you would expect from Random Chance, but certainly something that an Intelligent Designer might have Created.
Meanwhile, another nagging unknown has yielded to sophisticated astronomical research. Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts that material mass, say a galaxy, will act like a lens to distort and magnify the image of a more distant object. The distorting effect has been seen many times. The magnification effect has been elusive. Several research teams have claimed to detect it. Their data aren't persuasive. Now the Sloan Digital Sky Survey - an international effort to understand the structure of our universe - claims success. Instead of peering into the heavens, the survey team looked into data on 13 million galaxies and 200,000 of the extremely bright objects called quasars. "We took cutting-edge ideas from the world of computer science and statistics and applied them to our data," explains Gordon Richards at Princeton University. Einstein's predicted magnification effect is confirmed. So too is the consistency of modern cosmological theory based on Einstein's work. We have only begun to unravel the mysteries of the universe. But research typified by Brookhaven's atom smashing sets a new gold standard for efforts to penetrate what once seemed beyond our ken.
Beyond our ken, but not beyond the ken of an Intelligent Designer



CSM reports For two years users have been hearing about "phishing," the sending of bogus e-mails - allegedly from a bank or other online business - by criminals who hope to hook the unwary. Those who bite by clicking on a hyperlink in the e-mail are shipped off to a phony but authentic-looking website and asked to enter sensitive information. If they type in their passwords or account numbers, thieves have that data.

Now phishers have been joined by "pharmers," who have made the ruse more sophisticated by planting a seed of malicious software in the user's own computer - or poisoning servers that direct traffic on the Internet. The result: Even if you type in the correct address of a website, the software can send you to a bogus one....

Phishing attacks "rely on some gullibility of and participation by the victims," Mr. Cottrell says, since they must be persuaded to click on a link within the e-mail. But not clicking on such links "is no protection against a pharming attack."

Here's how the scam works. The thieves rely on the fact that the word address you use, such as, is connected to a distinct numerical address, like a browser to the right website. Pharming replaces the number with a fraudulent one, sending you to a criminal site instead of the real one.

Besides keeping antivirus and antispyware programming up to date on their PC, users have few other ways to defend themselves from pharming.

But any website that is conducting financial transactions should be able to maintain a secure website, Internet security experts say. The corner of the browser should display a padlock symbol, and the address in the address bar should begin with "https," not simply "http."...

But another kind of pharming, sometimes called "domain spoofing," "domain poisoning," or "cache poisoning," attacks the servers that route traffic around the Internet. These so-called domain name system (DNS) servers also link the word address to its underlying numerical address.

To corrupt a DNS "takes significantly more expertise, more access" than attacking PCs, says Peter Cassidy, secretary-general of the Anti-Phishing Working Group, which has offices in Cambridge, Mass., and Menlo Park, Calif. That's why thieves first will try to get into individual computers.

Be careful


Black Caucus shows constituent changes

WT reports Black Caucus shows constituent changes

About 35 years after its founding, Congressional Black Caucus members no longer vote lock step with each other and the Democratic Party, reflecting a significant change in the economic status and demographics of their constituents and their own political aspirations.

They have finally wised up. The Dems always took the black vote for granted, and it looks like the blacks are finally figuring that out.
....In the early days, members said, the caucus' mantra went hand in hand with President Johnson's vision to use federal policies to close disparities in employment, wealth, health care and civil rights between blacks and whites.
In other words buying their votes with handouts designed to keep them poor by giving them no incentive to better themselves
"When we first started out, we were dealing with a dozen members, and man, it was easy," said Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, a founding member of the caucus. But as the American social climate has changed and more blacks have moved out of poverty -- only a quarter of blacks are at the poverty level today, compared to more than half in 1965 -- the politics have changed, as well. More blacks are interested in lower taxes and pro-business policies that will lead to job growth.
I.E. Republican Policies
The changes have played out on a series of votes this year, such as passage of the Republican-led bankruptcy bill, which 10 members of the caucus voted for, and elimination of the estate tax, which drew eight votes from the 41-member caucus. Five members, all Democrats, voted for both measures: Reps. David Scott and Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia, Albert R. Wynn of Maryland, Harold E. Ford Jr. of Tennessee and William J. Jefferson of Louisiana.

Todd Zywicki blogged The article suggests that the key political dynamic at work is the growth in the black middle class and the growing recognition that many small businesses are minority-owned businesses. As a result, more members of the Congressional Black Caucus are taking the expressed views of small businesses into account in their voting pattern. As I noted earlier, when I attended the signing ceremony for the bankruptcy reform legislation, I sat next to the owners of a family-owned lumber store in rural New Jersey, who described for me the dramatic negative effects that bankruptcy losses can have on small businesses. And, of course, excessive bankruptcy losses are most likely to negatively impact higher-risk borrowers, such as young and minority borrowers, in terms of higher credit costs and reduced access to credit.

There may also be a generational change at work here, as those supporting these small-business initiatives also seem to be drawn from the younger and southern members of the Black Caucus (who joined most centrist Democrats in voting for bankruptcy reform), whereas the old rust-belt guys like Congressman Charles Rangel dismiss the votes as "just stupid" and John Conyers just chalks it up political ambition for higher office. In other words, it seems pretty clear where the new ideas in the Congressional Black Caucus lie on issues like bankruptcy reform.

The Senate roll call vote on the bankruptcy reform legislation is here; the House vote is here.

Betsy Newmark blogged Charles Rangel doesn't buy the idea that changing economics for blacks might lead to black Representatives voting differently than he himself votes. Catch this diplomatic and tolerant language.
"We have to be very, very tolerant of a person that votes stupid, because they may think they have a good reason and they are the ones who come down here, so you may think the vote is stupid but they know what they are doing," Mr. Rangel said.
Now, if you were one of the Black Caucus who just voted for the bankruptcy bill or the estate-tax bill, are you going to appreciate Rangel calling you stupid in public? Are you going to more or less inclined to follow his lead in the future? Who is the stupid one?

As more blacks enter the middle class and even the upper middle class, the more they see that Republican policies of tax cuts and encouraging opportunity for advancement are the way to go.


Friday, May 6

This Day In History

  • 1861   Arkansas seceded from the Union.
  • 1882   Over President Chester A. Arthur's veto, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese immigrants from the United States for 10 years.
  • 1889   The Paris Exposition formally opened, featuring the just-completed Eiffel Tower.
  • 1895   Silent-screen star Rudolph Valentino was born in Castellaneta, Italy.
  • 1910   Britain's King Edward VII died.
  • 1935   The Works Progress Administration began operations.
  • 1941   Josef Stalin assumed the Soviet premiership, replacing Vyacheslav M. Molotov.
  • 1942   Some 15,000 Americans and Filipinos on Corregidor surrendered to the Japanese during World War II.
  • 1954   Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile during a track meet in Oxford, England, finishing in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.
  • 1960   Britain's Princess Margaret married Anthony Armstrong Jones, a commoner, at Westminster Abbey.
  • 1987   CIA Director William J. Casey died at age 74.
  • 1992   Actress Marlene Dietrich died at age 90.
  • 1994   Former Arkansas state worker Paula Jones filed suit against President Clinton, alleging he'd sexually harassed her in 1991.
  • 1994   Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and French President Francois Mitterrand formally opened the Channel Tunnel between their countries.
  • 1996   The body of former CIA director William E. Colby was found washed up on a riverbank in southern Maryland, eight days after he'd disappeared.
  • 1997   Hemophiliacs who contracted AIDS between 1978 and 1985 from tainted blood products accepted a $600 million settlement from four health-care companies.
  • 2001   John Paul II, during a trip to Syria, became the first pope to enter a mosque.
  • 2002   Right-wing Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was shot and killed in Hilversum, Netherlands.
  • 2002   Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was freed after 19 months of house arrest.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1758   Maximilian Robespierre (French revolutionary; executed [guillotine] July 28, 1794)
  • 1856   Sigmund Freud (psychiatrist, originated psychoanalysis; died Sep 23, 1939)
  • 1856   Robert E. Peary (explorer: discoverer of the North Pole, Greenland, and the Melville meteorite; died Jan 20, 1920)
  • 1895   Rudolph Valentino (Rodolfo Pietro Filiberto Raffaello Guglielmi di Valentina) (actor: The Big Little Person, The Delicious Little Devil, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Blood and Sand, Sheik; died Aug 23, 1926)
  • 1903   (Bernard) Toots Shor (restaurateur, barkeep; died Jan 23, 1977)
  • 1961   George (Timothy) Clooney (actor: E/R)


Thursday, May 05, 2005

David Hackworth

Newsday reported David Hackworth, Vietnam vet and military analyst, dies at 74

Retired Army Col. David Hackworth, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran who spoke out against the war and later became a journalist and advocate for military reform, has died, his wife said Thursday. He was 74. Hackworth died Wednesday in Tijuana, Mexico, where he was receiving treatment for bladder cancer. He lived with his wife in Greenwich.

A Newsweek correspondent during the Gulf War, Hackworth worked in recent years as a syndicated columnist for King Features, often criticizing the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war. "Most combat vets pick their fights carefully. They look at their scars, remember the madness and are always mindful of the fallout," Hackworth wrote in February. "That's not the case in Washington, where the White House and the Pentagon are run by civilians who have never sweated it out on a battlefield." Hackworth ignited a national debate last year when he reported that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used a machine to sign condolence letters sent to the families of fallen soldiers. Rumsfeld later promised to sign each letter by hand. "Hack never lost his focus," said Roger Charles, president of Soldiers for the Truth, a California-based veterans group that Hackworth chaired. "That focus was on the young kids that our country sends to bleed and die on our behalf. Everything he did in his retirement was to try to give them a better chance to win and to come home. That's one hell of a legacy."

Steve M. blogged There's more in the obituary that appears at Yahoo News and on Hackworth's Web site.

bothenook blogged Here is an archive of his latest columns for the world net daily

Jeff Quinton has a number of good links.

Michelle Malkin blogged The outspoken retired Army colonel died of cancer yesterday, WND reports. Didn't agree with much of his work, especially over the last few years, but he lived a fascinating life of service to this country.
David Hackworth - May God give you peace and rest, and thank you for what you did for your country



NYT reports Kansas Begins Hearings on Diluting Teaching of Evolution

In the first of three daylong hearings characterized here as the direct descendant of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, a parade of Ph.D.'s testified today about the flaws they find in Darwin's theory of evolution, transforming a small auditorium into a forum on one of the most controversial questions in education and politics: How to teach about the origin of life? The hearings by the Kansas State Board of Education- one part science lesson, one part political theater - were set off by proposed changes to Kansas's science standards intended to bring a more critical approach to the teaching of Darwinism. The sessions provided perhaps the highest-profile stage yet for the emerging movement known as intelligent design, which asserts that life is so intricately complex that an architect must be behind it. Critics argue that intelligent design has no basis in science and is another iteration of creationism.

The theory of intelligent design makes sense to me.
Scientists who defend Darwinism are boycotting the hearings, called by the state school board's conservative majority. Nonetheless, a lawyer representing them peppered the other side's experts with queries both profound and personal. "Can you tell us, sir, how old you believe the Earth is?" the lawyer, Pedro Irigonegaray, asked William S. Harris, a chemist, who helped write the proposed changes to the state standards. "I don't know," Dr. Harris replied. "I think it's probably really old." If the state board adopts the new standards, as expected, Kansas will join Ohio, which took a similar step in 2002, in requiring that students be taught that there is controversy about evolution. Legislators in Alabama and Georgia have introduced bills this season to allow teachers to challenge Darwin in class.
This is place for decisions like this - the state legislature.
The battle over evolution is also being fought school district to school district. Parents in Dover, Penn., filed a lawsuit last year when theirs became the first district to mandate the teaching of intelligent design. The school board in Cobb County, Ga., is appealing a January ruling by a federal judge ordering the removal of stickers placed on biology textbooks that declared evolution theory, not fact.
These decisions should be made in the legislature, not in the courts.
While the proposed new standards for Kansas do not specifically mention intelligent design, critics contend that the proposed changes will open the door not just for those teachings, but to creationism, which generally holds to the Genesis account of creation. For Kansas, the debate is déjà vu: the last time the state standards were under review, in 1999, conservatives on the school board ignored their expert panel and deleted virtually any reference to evolution. But they were ousted in the next election and their changes were undone. Antievolution forces quietly regained the seats over the next few years, attacking fellow Republicans as atheists.
Name calling does not gain anything.
Now, though the eight proponents of intelligent design were outnumbered on the 26-member committee writing the new standards, the state board's 6-to-4 conservative majority set up this week's showcase hearings to highlight their own suggestions for the way to teach science. "There is no science without criticism," said Charles Thaxton, a chemist and co-author of the 1984 book "The Mystery of Life's Origins," which questions traditional scientific explanations. "Any science that weathers the criticism and survives is a better theory for it." But the debate was as much about religion and politics as science and education, with Mr. Irigonegaray pressing witnesses to find mentions of the theories they were denouncing, like humanism and naturalism, in the state standards, and asking whether they believe all scientists are atheists.
I certainly don't.
"These people are going to obfuscate about these definitions," complained Jack Krebs, vice president of the pro-evolution Kansas Citizens for Science, whose members, wearing "I support strong science education" buttons, filled many of the 180 auditorium seats not taken by journalists from as far away as France. "They have created a straw man. They are trying to make science stand for atheism, so they can fight atheism."

Jason blogged Now, I'm digging the theory of evolution. As a theist, I regard evolution as one of the mechanisms in a greater theory of intelligent design. But I do not believe that the literalist, die-hard "new earth" creation theory stands up to the evidence available, or even close to it. Nevertheless, check out the New York Times' headline. Kansas Begins Teaching Headlines on Diluting Teaching of Evolution No, that is not what is at stake here. There is nothing in Darwinian evolution which postulates the absence of intelligent design. Evolution as Darwin describes could easily occur in a theistic or atheistic milieu - which is its strength.
Then what is the problem with treating Intelligent Design
It cannot occur in a "new earth" milieu, which is why new earth creationism is discredited (along with its moonbat adherents.)
Name calling is not a good way to back up an argument.
I think the reporter probably understands the nuances of the argument pretty well. But the knuckleheads at the NY Times copydesk either don't, or are trying to kill the baby in the crib with a distorting, misleading headline. There is nothing about ID that dilutes evolution. ID tries to EXPLAIN evolution, not change it. And students will have a better understanding of the interface between science and theism, and the limits of science, and of evolution itself, for having looked at evolution through the lens of intelligent design.
Sounds reasonable to me


The Republican Thumb on PBS

NYT published 8 letters complaining about Republican pressure on PBS. See this earlier blog article

  • The job of the press is to scrutinize government, not praise it. The administration gives its story in the best possible light using taxpayer money. That must be countered by a vigorously critical free press.
    There is, but it is not financed with taxpayer money
  • From 1980 to 1984, I was the program officer in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Program Fund in charge of news and public affairs programs. Our idea was that to engender discussion of critical issues, we would provide a balance of viewpoints across a series of programs, not within each program. But that was not enough for the conservative ideologues being appointed to the board by President Reagan. They wanted no program expressing a point of view unless it was their own. The drumbeat against PBS has continued ever since: "balance" your programs toward the right, or else. Mindless "balance" within a program pits a saint against a horse thief and says, "Only time will tell." Journalistic fairness, not "balance," should be the goal.
    But who defines what is fair? An extreme left wing liberal?
  • As a conservative who is a sometime reader of The New York Times and a sometime listener-viewer of PBS, I must say the idea that PBS is a fair and balanced network is as ludicrous as Fox TV's explicit claim in that regard. PBS has every right to its opinions, but no right to have them subsidized by taxpayers. Taxpayers should not be asked to subsidize either liberal or conservative propaganda.
    I agree
  • Yes, PBS is biased! It is biased in favor of intelligence, honesty, a healthy curiosity about the world and an even healthier skepticism of dubious assertions and posturing. The day PBS loses its biases, it will be just another propaganda machine. We already have more than enough rant and cant. Keep your biases, PBS!
    But dont ask taxpayers to pay for them.
  • I am curious to know exactly what Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, means by "balance." What, for example, would constitute balance when reporting on the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Equal numbers of speakers asserting and denying the existence of such weapons? Assessing the quality of journalism is not always a matter of tallying voices on each side of an issue.
    Equal number on both sides sounds fair to me.
  • The unfortunate result of any successful attempt to restrict the programming autonomy of PBS will be to further dumb down TV and Americans in general. So many Republican leaders are blinded by a "political fundamentalism" that obscures their ability to determine intelligence from opinion. Bill Moyers may have a viewpoint, but he carefully separates it from his reporting, which is always packed with facts and information and which has earned him status as a great journalist. It is the lack of facts and information that is threatening an already besieged democracy.
    Both his opinion and reporting are biased to the left
  • I am horrified that the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is exerting pressure on PBS to broadcast conservative programming and conservative points of view. The Republicans have been heedless to the fact of separation of church and state, and now they are trampling on one of our most cherished freedoms, freedom of the press. Can't something be done about their bullying tactics? They are ruining everything that is worthwhile about this country.
    He is not. He is saying that if taxpayers are to pay for it, it should show both sides.
  • The interference by the Bush administration into PBS's programming should sound a warning loud and clear to all media: you cannot stand by idly and watch this happen. It is time for the press, TV and radio networks and cable to band together in opposition to this action, lest they be next. Where is the outrage?
    The taxpayers are just paying for PBS and NPR, and that is what he says should be balanced