Saturday, April 30, 2005

Blog Visibility

Heather Green blogged Interesting interview with Mena Trott, co-founder of the blogging software Six Apart over at the Red Couch.

She came by and spoke with us about a month ago. And one of her insights that stuck with me was the notion that, over time, people will get more control over who sees their blogs. They will be able to make different parts of their blog private, so that they're open only to certain people. This is already happening to some extent at LiveJournal, the service that Six Apart bought in January.

Afterall, maybe you don't want your co-workers to read what you really think about them. It will be one of the ways that blogging morphs to deal with thorny issues, such as privacy and work guidelines on what you can blog. But it will also bring up questions about whether limiting conversations is truly blogging.

Mena Trott blogged The small group space is the next part of the blogging revolution. Most top-ranked bloggers focus on mass audiences, but most people are more private than the massively followed so-called A-Listers she observed. There's a reason not everyone is a journalist. Most people don't care. They use blogs for these small little projects.” (In fact, the idea of niche media vs. mass media is a fast-emerging concept. Radiant Marketing’s Paul Chaney commented on it in a post.)

Stowe Boyd blogged Over at Blogspotting , the new Businessweek blog on blogging, Heather Green explores an insight from Mena Trott: "over time, people will get more control over who sees their blogs. They will be able to make different parts of their blog private, so that they're open only to certain people. This is already happening to some extent at LiveJournal , the service that Six Apart bought in January." The full socializing of social media waits for the full integration of the buddy list: being able to specifically label each blog entry with the specific circle (or circles) of buddies you want to be able to see it, up to and including the whole world. [Note: technologies like Traction Software already provide these sorts of access control -- it just hasn't shown up in Moveable Type or Typepad yet.]

Drew commented MindSay actually lets you have 3 groups of networked friends and family members, letting you choose which group you'd like to post to, also giving you the feature to make individual posts private.

In my Comparison of Blog Services article, in the section on Yahoo 360, we see that you can make your blog visible to just your friends, or you can broaden it to include friends of friends, or even friends of friends of friends, if you don't want to make it visible to public (everyone).


ACLU files petition on behalf of witch

TimesDispatch reports The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has filed a petition on behalf of Cynthia Simpson, a witch of the Wiccan faith, seeking to reverse a ruling that upheld Chesterfield County's decision to bar her from giving the invocation at Board of Supervisors meetings. In its petition yesterday to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the ACLU said it has asked the full court to reverse a three-judge panel ruling that allowed government officials to discriminate on the basis of religion when choosing people to pray at their meetings. "Our position is a simple one," said Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. "We cannot find any instance in American jurisprudence allowing the government to officially prefer some religions over others. Indeed, all we can find is the opposite -- repeated admonitions against the government when it discriminates on the basis of religion."

And how many times has the ACLU gone to court to defend the right of a Christian (or a Jew) to be able to conduct a prayer?
In 2002, Simpson, who calls herself a witch, asked to be placed on the list of religious leaders invited to deliver the invocation at county board meetings. She later received a letter from Chesterfield's county attorney that said leaders on the list are restricted to those within the Judeo-Christian faith. Simpson filed suit, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. One year later, the Richmond U.S. District Court ruled that the county violated the constitutional mandate for separation of church and state
There is nothing in the Constitution mandating separation of church and state. On Independence Day, 1776, nine of the original thirteen colonies had official state churches. The only mandate is that Congress can't select one faith to be the official religion of the United States.
and discriminated against minority religions. Chesterfield appealed the court's decision. This month, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit ruled Chesterfield's policy fits within the Supreme Court's requirements for legislative prayer. Willis said the ACLU is "hoping that the full 4th Circuit will bring a fresh perspective to this case and strike down Chesterfield's discriminatory prayer policy."

Hilzoy @ObsidianWings blogged Christians spent centuries being tortured and killed because they did not hold the beliefs their governments favored,
The county board did not say that witches should be tortured or killed, just that they could not conduct a prayer before a county board meeting.
and our country was founded by Christians who were not permitted by their government to worship as they believed they should. If Christians are really worried about being 'persecuted', they should hold to the principle of the separation of church and state, since if history teaches anything, it's that no one should count on remaining in the majority forever.
I suspect that there is no single Christian church in the majority in Chesterfield County right now, but they allow people from any Christian church OR any Jewish synagogue to give the prayer.
.... If we're going to allow the state to endorse 'religion', we must either be prepared to endorse all religions, or to have the state pick certain specific religions to endorse. In the first case, we will have to accept prayers by Wiccans. In the second, we will have to give up any pretense that the state is neutral between religions, or that it's not endorsing some specific religion, but 'faith' in general.
Many different churches (and synagogues) are included in "Judeo-Christian tradition"
And we will give up our best protection against the day when our religion, whatever it may be, becomes the religion of an unpopular minority. That protection is the separation of church and state: the view that while individual politicians can and should consider their consciences, and thus necessarily their religious views, in deciding what to do, they should never seek to establish one religion as the official religion of government.
And Chesterfield County has not done that


13 year old Florida girl has abortion blocked

BBC reports A pregnant 13-year-old girl in Florida has been told she cannot have an abortion because she lacks the maturity to make such a decision....

She is also too young to be having sex, but that is a separate issue
Florida's department of children and families intervened and took the matter to court, arguing the teenager, who is under the care of the state, is too young and immature to make an informed medical decision. Judge Ronald Alvarez in Palm Beach accepted that argument and has granted a temporary injunction and psychological evaluation, which effectively blocks her from terminating the pregnancy. It is a case which, once again, plays into the heated and divisive debate about abortion in America.

The judge's ruling comes in spite of Florida state law which specifically does not require a minor to seek parental consent before an abortion.
I am not familiar with Florida law, but most such laws say that if the girl does not want to seek parental consent they can seek consent from the court. Well the court said no.
The American Civil Liberties Union 's executive director in Florida, Howard Simon, said forcing a 13-year-old to carry on an unwanted pregnancy to term, against her wishes, is not only illegal and unconstitutional, it is cruel.
Maybe it will teach her to keep her skirts down and her pants up.
Edward blogged As much as I wish the 13-year-old would chose to have her baby, what's happening here is nightmarish to me.
The nightmare started when a 13 year old got pregnant.
Florida's logic here is that a person too immature to make a decision about their own body is apparently mature enough to bring another person into the world. As a ward of the state, her child would become a ward of the state as well, no? Does that mean Florida would be free to place the child where it wants?
Hopefully they would place it with someone that would raise it properly.
Would the 13-year-old have any say? Is she just a reluctant, state-owned baby-making machine at this point? What if she doesn't take care of her own health (and by extension her fetus's health) the way a pregnant mother should? Will the state prosecute her? On whose account?
The baby's
Dr. Steven Taylor: blogged This is sad on so many levels. It also underscores why I often have a very hard time with the ACLU. Nothing like vehemently being in favor of terminating innocent life.


Bush as Robin Hood

NYT editorialized Democrats have good reason to be aghast at President Bush's new proposal for Social Security. Someone has finally called their bluff.

Ha Ha
They tried yesterday to portray him as just another cruel, rich Republican for suggesting any cuts in future benefits, but that's not what the prime-time audience saw on Thursday night. By proposing to shore up the system while protecting low-income workers, Mr. Bush raised a supremely awkward question for Democrats: which party really cares about the poor? For decades Democrats have pointed to Social Security as a triumph of communal generosity, proof that Americans (or at least non-Republican Americans) will work together to make sure that no widow is reduced to eating cat food. The program has been wonderful for liberals' self-esteem. What it has actually done for the poor is another matter.
It has kept them in poverty; depending on the government, with nothing to encourage them to try to better themselves.
It's true, as Democrats love to point out, that the poverty rate among the elderly has declined from 35 percent a half-century ago to 10 percent today. But when you consider how much money is being taken out of Americans' paychecks - most workers now pay more to Social Security than to the I.R.S. - you're entitled to wonder why there are any poor widows remaining. As a poverty-fighting program, Social Security is woefully inefficient because most of the money goes to people who aren't poor. It would take just 20 percent of what Social Security dispenses to move every elderly American out of poverty, according to June O'Neill, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office.
If the rich don't need Social Security, why give it to them?
Social Security has an image as a progressive program because low-income workers get back bigger monthly checks, relative to their salaries, than high-income workers do. They're also more likely to get disability benefits. But they lose out in other ways. They tend to start working and paying taxes at a relatively young age because they don't go to college, but then end up collecting benefits for fewer years because their life expectancy is shorter. They're more likely to be unmarried, making them ineligible for benefits earned by a spouse.
And if a portion of what they paid in taxes had gone to a personal account, that they could not draw from until they reached retirement age, they would have something they could leave to someone in their estate when they die.
"The amount of income-related redistribution in Social Security is a lot less than people think," said Jeffrey Liebman, a Harvard economist and a former official in the Clinton administration. "If you get the details right, you can design a personal-account retirement system in which groups with high risks of poverty in old age come out at least as well as with the current system."

So why are his fellow Democrats so dead set against it? Their usual answer has been that any move to privatization would doom the poor along with the whole Social Security program. If you let the middle and upper classes opt out and finance their own retirement, the argument has gone, there will be no political support for even the modest subsidies that Social Security now provides to low-income workers - just look at what Republicans did to welfare and public housing programs.
They turned them into programs that encouraged work, and thus helped people realize they could both gain self-respect and earn as much as they were willing to work for.
But the elderly poor are different from the younger poor. For one thing, they're more likely to vote, a fact not lost on even the most hardhearted Republican. They also arouse much more public sympathy. Kicking 25-year-olds off welfare was popular because it was thought to be good for them. Nobody claims that forcing that widow to eat cat food will build character. That's why even the most ardent free-marketeers are not trying to eliminate the safety net for the elderly. The libertarians at the Cato Institute are trying to strengthen it with a proposal that has been introduced by Republicans in Congress. If your individual account left you with a paltry pension, their plan would guarantee you a subsidy to lift you above the poverty line - and well above what many retirees are now getting from Social Security.
And Bush said from the very start that everyone that was currently retired, or who were close to retirement, would seen NO CHANGE in what they had been expecting
Democrats like to portray Mr. Bush as King George or Marie Antoinette. But on Thursday night, when he promised to improve benefits for the poor while limiting them for everyone else, he sounded more like Robin Hood, especially when he rhapsodized about poor people getting a chance to build up assets that they could pass along to their children.

It was the kind of talk you might expect to hear from a Democrat, except that Democrats don't talk about much these days except the glories of the New Deal. They know that Social Security doesn't even have the money to sustain a program that leaves millions of elderly people in poverty. But it's their system, and they're sticking to it.

Betsy Newmark blogged John Tierney thinks that Democrats are at risk of abandoning their self-image as the protectors of the poor.

John blogged President Bush can be his own best spokesman. For whatever reasons, he doesn't like doing press conferences. But if I were advising him, I would tell him to do a press conference every thirty days. He stands head and shoulders above his Democratic rivals, intellectually, politically, and morally. What I don't know is, was anyone watching?

Some will be upset about his suggestion that Social Security could be means tested, and understandably so, since if that proposal were enacted, the people who pay the most into the Social Security program will get the least out of it. Frankly, however, I think some kind of means test is inevitable. More than twenty years ago, I began retirement planning on the assumption that all of my Social Security payments have been a complete waste, and I will never get a nickel out of the program. I'm willing to accept that outcome, in exchange for a system in which everyone, not just upper-income workers, can save money and accumulate wealth instead of relying on checks from the government.

Kevin Drum blogged Bush didn't promise to improve benefits for the poor, he promised to keep them exactly the same as they are under current law while reducing them for everyone else. Cut the crap, John.

He did say "Seniors and people with disabilities will get their checks; all Americans born before 1950 will receive the full benefits.... benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off... If you work hard and pay into Social Security your entire life, you will not retire into poverty."

pblsh commented Bush didn't promise to improve benefits for the poor, he promised to keep them exactly the same as they are under current law while reducing them for everyone else.

No, his proposal makes the poor worse off than they would. He wants to price index their benefits instead of wage indexing them.

Both statements are false. Current law has benefits increasing over time for all recipients. He said Current Law would prevail for poor retirees, which means they will continue to improve based on wage indexing (current law), and that for others they would increase, but just not as much (i.e. indexed on prices (inflation) not wages).

af commented Don't let the Republicans confuse you with their misguided interpretation of Democratic ideas. This idea that Bush's proposal on Social Security is progressive is about as accurate as the "rewriting" Congress is doing of Democratic amendments. It is true that we like the progressive income tax. There, everyone who can afford to give, gives something--according to their means. And while the rich give more, they also get more.
"From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." That is what Karl Marx said
But we don't like so-called "progressive Social Security plan," where the poor and the middle class give everything and the rich can opt out and give nothing at all.
That is not what Bush proposed. He proposed that a percentage of everyone's SSI tax (poor, middle class, and wealthy) would go into a personal account that the government could not touch, and that what a person received when they retired would be means tested, i.e. those better off would not receive as many increases as the poor would receive.
Duh. Democrats think some programs should be universal as well as progressive. I haven't heard anyone suggest lately that the poor should pay to have their garbage collected while the rich could "opt out." (In towns where garbage collection is a public responsibility, what would they do? Skip every other house in a neighborhood?)
If such a town existed, I would presume the rich would have to pay for a private hauler, but if they did, and were not having their trash picked up by the city, why should they pay to have other trash picked up. In point of fact, I believe many cities charge for trash pickup along with the water bill, so it is either a fixed amount for everyone, or if it is tied to water consumption, those that use more water (like to fill their swimming pools) would pay more
On second thought, maybe if Republicans really understood Democratic plans, they'd like them better.
I doubt it.
W. Kiernan commented Listen. There is a "Democrat plan" for Social Security. It's real simple and compact too, so simple even a halfwit like yourself can probably wrap his mind around it, and it goes like this: for the next three years do absolutely nothing to Social Security. Because, given both the breathtaking fiscal incompetence of this Administration and their nakedly obvious motivation-to-wreck, anything, anything, that these thieving gutter trash inflict upon the Social Security system will make it worse.
That is a foolish plan, because if you scream for 3 years it does not need fixing, with the hope you will get a Dem in the White House, even if that happened he/she would not be able to do a thing, because anything he/she tried would find the tapes of "it does not need fixing" bounced right back.


Bush Plan Aids Poor, Squeezes the Rest

LAT reports As the full dimensions of President Bush's Social Security plan come into view, so too does a broader vision: improving benefits for the poorest Americans while reducing the reliance of everyone else on government programs that long have seen them through economic difficulties.

That sounds very reasonable. Take care of the poor, but the government should not take care of everyone.
Although Bush devoted most of his prime-time news conference Thursday to describing how he would expand Social Security protections, virtually all of his improvements would be aimed at the bottom one-third of American wage earners. The remaining two-thirds would see their future Social Security benefits curtailed, a reduction that they'd be encouraged to make up by saving and investing of their own.
UNTRUE!!! He did not propose ANY cutback in what they would get. He only proposed limiting the increases in benefits to increases in inflation.
The president often portrays his effort as simply trying to accommodate reality; funds to pay full Social Security benefits are expected to run short toward the middle of the century. But his approach also corresponds to a long-held conservative goal of reducing Washington's influence in the lives of ordinary Americans and to the aim of his chief political strategist Karl Rove to realign the nation along Republican principles. "What you're going to see is an effort to scale back middle-class entitlements that many people do not need and to become more focused on the antipoverty aspects of these programs," said Michael Tanner, an expert on Social Security at the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank that advocates small government. "We're going to tell non-poor Americans that they are going to have to save more on their own and not depend on a transfer from government," he said.
That makes a lot of sense.
Bush has sought to use this targeted approach at least once before in proposing to create a Medicare drug benefit that would go almost exclusively to poor Americans rather than to the elderly. Although Congress ultimately approved a benefit that did go to seniors generally, the law includes substantial assistance for those with incomes less than 150% of the poverty level, or $14,355 for an individual. Tanner and others predicted that Bush would pursue similar targeted tactics if he tackled Medicare's overall costs, which many policy analysts described as a looming crisis that, in contrast with Social Security, needed immediate attention. "Bush and the Republican leadership are committed to seeing universal programs like Social Security and Medicare turned into means-tested welfare programs," said Robert J. Blendon, a health policy professor at Harvard.
Helping the poor makes sense, and it is what Jesus encouraged. But taking a lot of money from current workers to give it to retired people that do not need it, does not make sense.
On its face, the idea of focusing public dollars on those most in need seems to have an irrefutable logic. But some analysts warn that the approach could erode public support for programs like Social Security and substantially shrink the protections the government provides Americans.


Saturday, April 30

This Day In History

  • 1789   George Washington took office in New York as the first president of the United States.
  • 1803   The United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France.
  • 1812   Louisiana became the 18th state.
  • 1900   Hawaii was organized as a U.S. territory.
  • 1900   A legend was born as engineer John Luther ''Casey'' Jones of the Illinois Central Railroad died in a train wreck near Vaughan, Miss., after staying at the controls in an effort to save the passengers. The famous song about Jones is loosely relatable to the train accident which cost the railroad engineer his life.
  • 1939   The New York World's Fair, billed as a look at ''the world of tomorrow,'' opened.
  • 1939   The first railroad car equipped with fluorescent lights was put into service. The train car was known as the "General Pershing Zephyr".
  • 1939   Public Television began. President Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first chief executive to appear on TV. Roosevelt spoke at the opening ceremonies of the New York World?s Fair in Flushing, NY on WNBT in New York.
  • 1945   Arthur Godfrey began his CBS radio morning show. His theme was "Seems Like Old Times". "Arthur Godfrey Time" ran until this very same day in 1972.
  • 1945   Adolf Hitler committed suicide along with his wife of one day, Eva Braun, as Russian troops approached his Berlin bunker.
  • 1947   President Harry S. Truman signed a measure changing the name of Boulder Dam to Hoover Dam.
  • 1948   The Organization of American States held its first meeting, in Bogota, Colombia.
  • 1964   TV sets would be drastically different after a ruling by the FCC stating that all TV receivers should be equipped to receive both VHF (channels 2-13) and the new UHF (channels 14-83). As a result, TV dealers scrambled to unload their VHF-only models as fast as possible. Antenna manufacturers were kept busy, as the new UHF receivers required new antennas too.
  • 1975 The South Vietnamese capital of Saigon fell to Communist forces.
  • 1970   President Richard Nixon announced the United States was sending troops into Cambodia, an action that sparked widespread protest.
  • 1975   Saigon -- and all of Vietnam -- fell into communist hands this day, the unofficial end of the Vietnam War. As the U.S. withdrew completely from Saigon, the old noncommunist capital fell to North Vietnamese tanks. Americans commemorate the fall of Saigon with memorial services for the 58,153 Americans who died in Southeast Asia during the war.
  • 1991   An estimated 125,000 people died as a cyclone struck Bangladesh.
  • 1993   Top-ranked women's tennis player Monica Seles was stabbed in the back by a man who ran onto the court during a match in Hamburg, Germany.
  • 1997   ABC aired the ''coming out'' episode of the sitcom ''Ellen,'' in which the title character, played by Ellen DeGeneres, admitted she is a lesbian.
  • 1999   The Rev. Jesse Jackson met with three U.S. soldiers being held prisoner by Yugoslavia.
  • 2001   California businessman Dennis Tito arrived at the international space station aboard a Russian spacecraft.
  • 2001   Chandra Levy, a federal government intern, was last seen at a health club near her apartment in Washington, D.C. Her remains were found more than a year later in a city park.
  • 2003   Mahmoud Abbas took office as the first Palestinian prime minister. International mediators presented Israeli and Palestinian leaders with a U.S.-backed "road map" to peace.
  • 2003   The U.S. Navy withdrew from its disputed Vieques bombing range in Puerto Rico.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1898   Cornelius Vanderbilt (reporter, columnist, author, lecturer; great, great grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad tycoon; died in 1974)
  • 1907   Eve Arden (Eunice Quedens) (Emmy Award-winning actress: Our Miss Brooks [1953], Anatomy of a Murder, Grease, Stage Door, Tea for Two; died Nov 12, 1990)
  • 1926   Cloris Leachman (Academy Award-winning actress: The Last Picture Show [1971]; Emmy Award-winner: A Brand New Life [1972-73], The Mary Tyler Moore Show [1973-74], Cher [1974-75], Screen Actor?s Guild 50th Anniversary Celebration [1983-84]; Phyllis, Backstairs at the White House, The Facts of Life)
  • 1933   Willie Nelson (Grammy Award-winning singer: Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys, Good Hearted Woman, To All the Girls I've Loved Before, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys; songwriter: Crazy [Patsy Cline], Night Life [Ray Price], Hello Walls [Faron Young]; leads annual Farm Aid benefit to raise money for poor farmers)


Friday, April 29, 2005

Defending the Rich

Michelle Malkin blogged The left side of the blogosphere has gone into full-blown spin mode regarding the effects of President Bush's Social Security indexing proposal. As I noted below, Bush's indexing plan guarantees middle- and upper-income retirees the same level of benefits they get now (after adjusting for inflation). Their benefits would not, however, grow above the rate of inflation, as is the case under the status quo.

It is that status quo that put Social Security in the bind it is in now. Congress (primarilly, but not exclusively, Democrats) continually increased benefits in an effort to buy the votes of seniors
The savings would be used to allow working people of all income levels to set aside some of their Social Security taxes into private retirement funds. Under reasonable assumptions about investment returns, those accounts could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars 40 years from now.
And it would mean that the retirees at the time would not fear Congress cutting back what they were getting, so they would not feel they had to vote for Democrats
There was a time when liberals could be counted on to defend the interests of working class Joes. Marshall and the others are now taking the exact opposite position. They are saying, in effect, that ensuring ever-increasing benefits for well-to-do retirees is more important than promoting the financial well-being of young working people.
It is not so much that they want to protect the well-to-do, they just don't want to give an inch, and take the chance that personal accounts will be approved
Mark blogged I noted earlier how, all of a sudden, just because it's proposed by Bush, means testing has become an ugly concept to the Left after a lifelong love affair.
The left hates ANYTHING Bush does or proposes
Michelle Malkin has two posts, one focusing mostly on the MSM, the other on leftwing bloggers, showing the hypocrisy in action. One essential part of the Big Lie is relying on people's short attention span; Josh Marshall and company are not getting away with it this time, though.
That will not stop them from trying, and it will not stop the MSM from helping them
Dana blogged Last night, after the President's press conference, I made this prediction:
I predict that we will see a liberal spin against the President's proposal that will result in an increase of social security benefits to lower income and the lowering of benefits to those that are less dependent on the system. The MSM will all of a sudden "discover" what the government calls "wealthy" and cry foul.
Only because they have to oppose anything Bush says
ResurrectionSong blogged The acknowledgement that the system needs to be means tested was surprising and gratifying, but didn’t go far enough. Social Security, outside of any private accounts that the government may or may not give us, is a welfare program, and it should be treated accordingly. Means testing for a welfare program should exclude anyone who is truly wealthy; there is a principle of fairness involved that makes me uncomfortable with this since even the wealthy have been asked to pay into a “retirement program.” The truth is, though, that the system needs to be modified to reflect the reality: there is no reserve of money to pay retirement benefits and any pay-go system is in reality a welfare program meant to save the least of us from impoverishment in old age. The Donald Trumps of the world don’t need the monthly government handout that takes the form of a Social Security.
To move to that kind of a system, though, the government must provide private accounts--the portion of your taxes that you or you heirs are actually entitled to, that requires no means testing, and that funnels wealth from one generation to the next.
dostrick blogged I was cruising the entirely-too-gorgeous Michelle Malkin's blog on a regularly scheduled data run and was not particularly surprised to read that Bush's ridiculously generous compromise on Social Security is already being attacked, because it's not fair to workers that earn more. It's amazing, but not surprising. We Convervatives and/or Republicans tend to be very reasonable people and sometimes it is hard to wrap our minds around the thought processes of the unreasonable. You know who they are, the people that complain that you're clouding the issue with facts.
Don't confuse them with facts; their minds are already made up
You'll experience less stress if you just accept that at some point it stopped being all about winning with them. Mindless opposition for the sake of mindless opposition is the sum of their existance now. It doesn't matter how many facts and figures you show them, or how many numbers you crunch. They'll reject it out of hand because it just doesn't "feel" right.
They don't have any ideas of their own, so facts are meaningless. All they know is hate and opposition
It all reminds me of a cruel and abusive step-father is used to have. I was asked to describe our relationship in one sentence. I had to think for a while, them I came up with this: "If I invented the cure for every cancer, he would complain that it's a tacky color." It just doesn't matter how good or how workable or how necessary any proposal is to these sad folks, because it will always be a tacky color.

napablogger blogged Michelle Malkin nails some major liberal bloggers on their bias about Bush's Social Security plan, slamming it because it does not favor the rich--how hypocritical can you get. Plus when you look at it, they do the typical Democrat thing of calling an increase at the rate of inflation a "benefit cut". Clinton did it with Medicare when Gingrich suggested slowing the rate of increase in benefits, not even to the rate of inflation then, the Teacher's Union in California is doing it now with Schwarzneggar who gave them a whopping $3 billion increase in funding, which they are calling a cut, now Josh Marshall and co are calling Bush's plan from last night a massive cut--when in fact the lowest increases would be tied to inflation.
That is because some people are dumb enough to think it is an actual cut
Captain Scarlet blogged Three of the biggest "thinkers" on the left have to link to partisan articles about the President's speech on Social Security to prove their ignorance.
because it is easier to agree with a partisan article in the MSM
Why is it that they can't link to actual text of the speech and fisk it like normal people? Because they might have to explain comments like this:

Bush: Personal accounts are important. "Why should ownership be confined only to rich people." The Congress liked the idea so much, it set up personal accounts for themselves. Long tear on personal accounts. It appeals to me, especially the pitch that they are voluntary, and that people will have the flexibility to avoid risk


I/O Port

The May issue of the Tulsa Computer Society's I/O Port Newsletter is available here.

It contains two items which should be of interest to bloggers.

  • Blog This How I post articles on my blog, including how I find things to blog about
  • Comparison of Blog Services A comparison of a number of Blog Services, including MSN Spaces, Live Journal, Blogsome, Yahoo 360, and other alternatives, including showing an RSS Feed and even the blog itself in a web page.
Other items from previous issues that may also be of interest to bloggers
  • My Blog I listed the articles I blogged during the month of March, and color coded them so one could select Political (conservative), Blogging, Computers, Democracy and the Middle East (including Iraq), Social Security, Terri Schivo, and Miscellaneous topics.
  • Tulsa World threatenes local Tulsa Blogger
  • Firefox A discussion of tabbed browsing, and the RSS feeds I use (and how I captured them)
  • RSS Feeds in Firefox An introduction to RSS Feeds and Live Bookmarks
Each month's issue is posted around the first of the month (sometimes 1 or 2 days before the first, sometimes 1 or 2 days after the first). You can see any of the articles as far back as September 1996 here.


'Miracle' needed

Washington Times reported Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid raised a few eyebrows yesterday on the Senate floor when he said it would take a "miracle" for Democrats to win enough races next year to take back the Senate. Republicans were delighted by what they called an "admission" from the highest-ranking elected Democrat in the country. "After listening to Senator Reid's political spin about judicial nominees for the last several weeks, it is good to hear him come back to reality -- if even for a brief moment," said Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Senator Reid can do the math: A Democratic Party, plus no ideas, plus obstruction, plus over-the-top partisan rhetoric equals continued minority." But Democrats pointed out that Mr. Reid was making a larger point about the so-called "nuclear option" that Republicans have threatened to use to unclog the filibusters -- that Republicans might one day regret abolishing the filibuster for judicial nominees.

It just shows how stupid Reid is for not taking Frist's offer to guarantee Judicial nominees would not be bottled up in the Judiciary Committee (like happened to Clinton) and would receive an up or down vote in the Senate. He knows the Dems are not going to be able to take back the Senate, but I suspect he still hopes the Dems may win the Presidency sometime in the future.

James Joyner blogged An amusing moment of candor. Reid is certainly correct, though, that a five seat gain is highly unlikely. Look at the 2006 Senate match-ups: More Democrats (15 plus the Jeffords seat) are up for re-election than Republicans (13) and more Democrats are retiring (3 counting Jeffords vice 0 Republicans). And Jon Corzine is almost certainly going to leave to run for governor, adding one open Democratic seat. I'm not familiar enough with the local dynamics in several of the races to make predictions, but there are no Republicans up for re-election who are obviously fighting for their lives other than Rick Santorum. The others are either in very Red states or, like Lincoln Chaffee and Olympia Snowe, quite popular as RINOs in Blue states. By contrast, several of the Democratic seats are vulnerable. Mark Dayton, who declined to run for a second term, will almost certainly be replaced by a Republican, probably Rep. Mark Kennedy. Jim Jeffords was re-elected in 2000 as a Republican, although admittedly a RINO. It's not inconceivable that another Republican could take the seat back now that it's open. In any case, Reid is right.

David Cohen: blogged Here we have the Washington gaffe in its purest form. Senator Reid said what everyone knows to be true but no one would admit.


Bush Recasts Message on Social Security

LA Times reports President Bush, seeking support from Democrats and moderate Republicans for an overhaul of Social Security, said Thursday that he favored changing the pension system so that benefits for low-income workers would grow faster than those for wealthy retirees. Bush, speaking at a nationally televised news conference, said such a change "would solve most of the funding challenges facing Social Security." He cited a proposal by a Democratic policy expert to reduce the rate of growth in benefits for wealthy workers but did not explicitly endorse the plan, saying it was up to Congress to work out the details.

If Democrats in Congress will not come up with any ideas, Bush will find other Democrats with ideas. Surely there are some, somewhere.
But he also threw out several signals of what kind of changes he was willing to negotiate with Congress — in phrases that may have sounded obscure to much of the public. For example, he proposed that in restructuring the program, future retirees should receive benefits "equal to or greater than the benefits today's seniors get" — a promise that sounded generous but left room for a cutback from what workers now expect their future benefits to be. That's because Social Security benefits are constructed to rise over time, and historically have done so faster than the rate of inflation.

He proposed a pledge to increase benefits for low-income workers enough to keep them above the poverty line, a guarantee not in current law. "If you work hard and pay into Social Security your entire life, you will not retire into poverty," he said. Aides said those proposals were intended to rebut complaints from Democrats and some Republicans that the president had called for major changes in Social Security but had not laid out specific steps that would improve the pension system's solvency. Instead, Bush has focused on adding individually directed investment accounts to Social Security, even though his aides acknowledged that such accounts would not help with solvency.
The accounts will not help with the current solvency problem, but they do mean that the 20 to 30 year olds today (like Bush's daughters) will have something to look forward to, and the way Social Security is set up now, they will not be ANY social security when they reach retirement age.
In addition, the idea of an antipoverty guarantee for low-income workers has been popular among moderate Republicans in the Senate, whose votes Bush will need to pass any overhaul plan.

Orrin Judd blogged The President needed to seem flexible, but he can't give in on private accounts until Democrats come to the table, at which point he accepts add-ons in exchange for means-testing and achieves his ends.

I don't expect him to ever drop the requirement for a part of social security taxes to go into personal accounts. Changing to add-ons does not do anything, because we already have IRAs/401Ks. But he is signaling that he is willing to consider some normally Democratic ideas in exhange for some of the taxes going into Personal Accounts.


The 'We're Smart, You're Dumb' Principle

David Gelernter editorialized in the LA Times The ugly truth is that Democrats habitually treat voters like children. It's the basis of their philosophy.

Who could possibly be against cutting voter fraud on election day? You'd have to be some sort of fruitcake. But when Georgia's Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue recently signed a bill to reduce voter fraud, under which voters must show a photo ID before casting their ballots, many of Georgia's black legislators stormed out in protest. They even threatened to sue. The new process is simple, easy and fairly effective, but Democrats alleged that it would reduce voting by minorities, the elderly and the poor. So black legislators had to oppose it. For legislators to announce that getting a photo ID is too tricky for their constituents is downright amazing. Wouldn't you expect those constituents to say, "Drop dead! Stop treating us like morons!"? After all, any 15-year-old half-wit can get a photo ID — and the governor is promising to hand them out gratis to voters who don't already have one. All you need to do is show up in the right place at the right time — which is just what you have to do in order to vote. (Unless you vote absentee, which will still be allowed under the new law.) In short: If you can vote, you can get a photo ID. So there's no reason why a single legitimate voter should be excluded. Lots of Georgia Democrats are outraged anyway. As Michelle Malkin points out on her blog, those outraged Democrats are treating their constituents like children. But actually the episode points to a bigger, deeper, uglier truth: Democrats habitually treat Americans like children.
I agree they treat Americans like children, but it is not that they think they are too stupid to get a photo id. It is that a photo ID would make it harder for dead people to vote, or for people to vote multiple times, and other forms of voter fraud, and they depend on voter fraud in many places.
That's the whole basis of Democratic philosophy (I use the term loosely). We'll take care of you. Leave the thinking to us. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, minority leaders of the House and Senate, respectively, — kindly Mom and Pop to a nation of intellectually limited youngsters. (But thank goodness, they love us anyway.)

How could anyone be opposed in principle to private investment accounts within Social Security? I could understand Democrats arguing that "private accounts are a wonderful idea but the country can't afford the transition costs right now." But mostly I hear Democrats saying they're a lousy idea, and that President Bush wants to wreck Social Security — because, after all, he wants to let you keep a great big whopping 4% of your payroll taxes in a private account instead of handing over every cent to the government. How on Earth could anyone be opposed in principle to letting taxpayers manage a minuscule fraction of their own money (their own money, dammit!) if they want to? Because private accounts violate the Infantile American Principle, so dear to Democratic hearts. Little kids should turn over their cash to the Big Smart Government for safekeeping.
That may be part of it, but another very important part is that if the money is in your private account, the Dems can't spend it.
But of course they can't say that, so instead they say, "Bush wants to privatize Social Security" — as if government were going to wash its hands of the whole mess. The technical term that logicians use for this rhetorical gambit — applying a correct word for one part of a proposal to the proposal as a whole — is "lying."

Here's another one: How could anyone be opposed to school vouchers? Vouchers let you decide where to spend tax money to educate your children. You give the voucher to any public or private school; it's your call. But Democrats worry that (among other things) too many parents will spend their vouchers at a local Obedience School for Little Nazis or the neighborhood Witchcraft Academy. That's what they think of their fellow citizens. That's what they think of you!

Now some readers will say, hold on, be fair! Democrats only oppose vouchers because the teachers unions ordered them to. Agreed, teachers unions are a big factor in every major decision a good Democrat makes, starting with what cereal to have for breakfast. But Democrats also oppose vouchers out of honest conviction. They are honestly convinced that ordinary Americans don't have the brains to choose a school for their own kids.
The fear that parents might choose a school that would teach them to think for themselves, and then they would be too hard for the Dems to fool them when they reach voting age
Advanced Democrats are now revving up to make sure you eat your vegetables and steer clear of those nasty French fries. Why is it their business? Because Democrats are professors in disguise. Scratch a Democrat, find a professor.

It all goes back to central planning, socialism, Marxism — let the experts run the economy; free markets are too democratic and messy. Many professors believed in Marxism right up to the point where Communist China itself bailed out in disgust.

Professors see the world in terms of experts and students: "We are smart; you are dumb." That's the Infantile American Principle in a nutshell. Now go play with your toys and don't bother me.

Betsy Newmark blogged David Gelernter has put his finger on the underlying assumption of so much of Demoratic demagoguery. People are just too darn stupid to run their own lives.


Friday, April 29

This Day In History

  • 1429   Joan of Arc entered the besieged city of Orleans to lead a victory over the English.
  • 1861   Maryland's House of Delegates voted against seceding from the Union.
  • 1862   New Orleans fell to Union forces during the Civil War.
  • 1879   Electric arc lights were used for the first time -- in Cleveland, OH.
  • 1899   Jazz legend Duke Ellington was born in Washington D.C.
  • 1916   The Easter uprising in Dublin collapsed as Irish nationalists surrendered to British authorities.
  • 1945   American soldiers liberated the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
  • 1945   In a Berlin bunker, Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun. The couple killed themselves the next day.
  • 1946   Twenty-eight former Japanese leaders were indicted as war criminals.
  • 1959   UNIVAC, the electronic computer that was the size of a house, actually picked four out of six winners at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY. The electronic brain set a record for right choices in horse races. Of course, the winners all paid 2-1 or even odds, so it didn?t win much. But, most of us don?t...
  • 1974   President Richard Nixon announced he was releasing edited transcripts of secretly made White House tape recordings related to the Watergate scandal.
  • 1981   Truck driver Peter Sutcliffe admitted in a London court to being the ''Yorkshire Ripper,'' the killer of 13 women in northern England during a five-year period.
  • 1983   Harold Washington was sworn in as the first black mayor of Chicago.
  • 1996   Former CIA Director William Colby was missing and presumed drowned after an apparent boating accident in Maryland.
  • 1997   A worldwide treaty to ban chemical weapons went into effect.
  • 1997   Staff Sgt. Delmar Simpson, a drill instructor at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, was convicted of raping six female trainees.
  • 1997   Newspaper columnist Mike Royko died in Chicago at age 64.
  • 1997   Astronaut Jerry Linenger and cosmonaut Vasily Tsibliyev went on the first U.S.-Russian space walk.
  • 2002   A year after the loss of a seat it had held for over 50 years, the United States won election to the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
  • 2003   The Palestinian parliament approved Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister, clearing the final obstacle to the launch of a U.S.-backed ''road map'' to peace.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1863   William Randolph Hearst (publisher of U.S. newspapers and magazines; influenced the establishment of comic strips; built San Simeon estate; subject of biography, Citizen Kane; grandfather of Patricia Hearst; died Aug 14, 1951)
  • 1912   Richard Carlson (actor: I Led Three Lives, MacKenzie's Raiders, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Doomsday Flight, Tormented; died Nov 24, 1977)
  • 1951   Dale Earnhardt (NASCAR auto racer: champ: Winston Cup [7 times], Daytona [34 times], 76 career victories; killed in crash in Daytona 500 Feb 18, 2001)
  • 1954   Jerry Seinfeld (Emmy Award-winning producer: Seinfeld [1992-1993]; comedian, actor)
  • 1958   Michelle Pfeiffer (actress: Dangerous Liaisons, Batman Returns, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Grease 2, Ladyhawke, Scarface, The Witches of Eastwicke, The Age of Innocence)
  • 1970   Andre Agassi (tennis champion: Wimbledon [1992], U.S. Open [1994])
  • 1970   Uma (Karuna) Thurman (actress: The Truth about Cats and Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Mad Dog and Glory, Final Analysis, Robin Hood, Henry and June, Dangerous Liaisons, Kiss Daddy Goodnight)


Thursday, April 28, 2005

Compromise on judges

Reuters reported U.S. Senate Republican leader Bill Frist offered a compromise in a battle over President Bush's judicial nominees, but a top Democrat called it a "wet kiss" to the right wing. Frist's proposal seeks to avert a showdown over Republican threats to change Senate rules in order to ban procedural roadblocks known as filibusters against judicial nominees.
Democrats have filibustered 10 of Bush's candidates whom they have deemed "right-wing ideologues," and have vowed retaliation in response to any ban on the filibuster, which permits unlimited debate.

Frist, the Senate majority leader, said he would "guarantee" up to 100 hours to debate any nominee to the appeals courts or U.S. Supreme Court. But Frist also said he would require that they all get a confirmation vote, meaning filibusters against these candidates would be banned. "It may not be a perfect proposal for either side, but it's the right proposal for America," said Frist as he stood in the Senate.

The Democrats complained that the Republicans blocked many of Clinton's judge. They did not do it by the filibuster, which the Democrats are doing to Bush's nominees, but rather by never releasing them from the Judiciary committee. They could do this because they were in the majority. Frist's proposal is extremely generous. It says that any President would be entitled to having their judicial nominees recieve an Up or Down vote by the entire Senate, after the Judicary committee had a reasonable amount of time to hold hearings, and it says that all judicial appointees would be entitled to up to 100 hours of debate on the floor of the senate, before receiving their up or down vote.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, called the proposal a "big wet kiss to the far right," which has pushed to ban judicial filibusters and get more conservatives on the bench.
This proves that Reid is not really upset at what happened to Clinton's judicial nominees, and that he is not interested in seeing that something like that never happens again, even if there is a Democratic President facing a Republican Senate. He just wants to do anything and everything he can to block Bush's conservative nominees. I hope the generouslty of Frist's proposal will convince any Republican senators that were having cold feet about the Constitutional / Nuclear Option, and that they will go ahead and approve the change to the rules that will allow Bush to get his nominees on the Appeals Court and the Supreme Court, when there are openings there, and that they will not have to agree to the rules change that would make it more difficult to block Liberal Judges should there ever be a Democratic President.
Yet Reid promised to study the multifaceted offer as Democrats and Republicans seek to find common ground and avoid what could be a nasty fight.

Joe Gandelman blogged Who wins? It's hard to say. But in the case of the sound bytes, Reid's "wet kiss" will have a far longer shelf life than Frist's pro-forma statement about his compromise being what's "right for America" — although many Democrats, centrists, independents and moderate Republicans might agree that Frist's agenda is "right."

The Washington Post, in an editorial, frames this battle this way:
The principles these more extreme combatants are upholding are not, upon close examination, impressive. Liberals are really arguing for the right to frustrate majority rule. Mr. Frist is really arguing that Democrats should not be able to do to Republican nominees what Republican senators only recently did to Democratic nominees, using a different set of procedural tricks. The partisanship on both sides has the unhealthy effect of further politicizing American attitudes toward the judiciary.
No what Frist is saying is that the President, regardless of which party, should have his/her judicial nominees receive an up or down vote regardless of what party controls the Senate. He is saying that the procedural tricks the Republicans used against Clinton AND the procedural tricks the Democrats are using against Bush, should not interfere with an up or down vote on all judicial nominees

CQ blogged All along during this battle, we have heard from Democrats that the GOP's rule change was an attack on free speech. Senator Byrd exclaimed on the Senate floor that free speech and debate would be "dead, dead, dead!" if Frist and the GOP put the Constitutional option in play. The Democrats have claimed this as an attack on the First Amendment as well as those "checks and balances" that they claim hinge on the use of the filibuster.

However, this offer by Frist cleverly flushes out the Democrats, although the Exempt Media will certainly miss this nuance. 100 hours of debate equals at least three weeks of Senate floor time, perhaps more, during a normal work schedule. It allows for every member to spend an hour discussing a nominee's shortcomings as well as their strengths. If the Democrats have evidence of unfitness for the nominees, they will have plenty of time to present it.

Why, then, don't they take the offer? Because they would have nothing specific to say, and 50 hours in which to say it. Reid and his caucus would look pretty foolish, repeating the same old tired clich├ęs over and over again for hours on end. They aren't fighting for debate or free speech -- they want to avoid having to defend their opposition at all costs. The Democrats want to limit the debate to sound-bite sniping in the sympathetic press, not be granted scads of time that will ultimately expose the lack of evidence they have of any unfitness or impropriety on any of these nominees.

One cheer for Bill Frist, who finally has engaged in some public relations on behalf of the filibuster limitation. However, 100 hours of debate means that it will take seven months to get the seven nominees currently stalled by the Democrats into a position to get confirmed. That would push one or two off until 2006, and even that might change when a Supreme Court position opens up. Now that we've wasted almost four months of the new session, Frist's offer has a pretty severe limitation as to the number of appellate nominations that Bush can get through this Congress. Perhaps Frist's office needs a calculator before making these offers.

Frist knew that the Dems would never take him up on his offer. But the offer should look to wavering Republicans like he went the last mile trying to work things out, and that there was no alternative to the Constitutional/Nuclear option, and therefore we need to go ahead with that approach, which does not include the 100 hours of debate, and which does not prevent a Republican Senate from not even releasing Liberal Judges to the floor, should there ever be another Democratic President

Rick Edwards blogged Captain Ed thinks that Sen. Frist has cleverly "flushed out" the Democrats with his offer for 100 hours of debate on each of the president's judicial nominees before cutoff, but that perhaps the senator's office should get a calculator before tendering such offers.


Senator Franken?

Salon reports Al Franken, the Air America radio host, is moving his radio show back home to Minnesota to get ready to run against Sen. Norm Coleman.

Jeralyn Merritt blogged Does he have a chance? Former Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi thinks so.

"He has national reach; his name and who he is will attract small contributors and large contributors from all over the country, so a lot of little folks too," says Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, who managed Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign. "In that way he's like the Dean campaign because he's really somebody that can energize not just Minnesota but around the country, to get involved and contribute."
I suspect he realizes that Air America is such a bust that it will not be around much longer, and he is trying to find a new job in the Senate.


Cover Up???

The Tony Snow Show discussed Senators Byron Dorgan [D-ND], John Kerry [D-MA] and Richard Durbin [D-IL] pulled a fast one last week on their congressional colleagues. They tried to bury forever documents alleging that senior government officials tried to transform portions of the IRS and the Justice Department into a goon squad for attacking political enemies and aiding political friends.

Naturally, they didn’t declare their intentions openly. Instead, Sen. Dorgan attached an innocent looking amendment to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill that will fund government operations after September 30. The last-minute amendment read: “At the end of the bill, add the following: “SEC. __ . (a) None of the funds appropriated or made available in this Act or any other ACT may be used to fund the independent counsel investigation of Henry Cisneros after June 1, 2005. “(b) Not later than July 1, 2005, the Government Accountability Office (sic) shall provide the Committee on Appropriations of each House with a detailed accounting of the costs associated with the independent counsel investigation of Henry Cisneros.”

Before detailing the sleight of hand, let’s consider the background. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh insisted on the appointment of an Independent Counsel in 1995 after learning that then-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros shuttled payments to his mistress without reporting them to the IRS. Once the news went public, Cisneros resigned from office, his previously promising political career in tatters. He later admitted to a misdemeanor and paid a fine of $10,000. President Clinton pardoned him in 2001.

Dorgan’s bill would shut down the 10-year probe conducted by Independent Counsel David Barrett’s investigation, but it would add something unprecedented in the case of special or independent counsels: it would prevent the publication of the counsel’s report on the case. A decade’s worth of investigations — sworn testimony, documentation of alleged abuses, grand-jury proceedings, etc. — would vanish without a trace.

In this instance, that would mean burying charges that key officials in the Justice Department and the IRS abused their power by going easy on Cisneros and targeting political opponents of Bill Clinton. Those charges — not the Cisneros case — have served as the focal point of Barrett’s investigation for the last several years. While Senator Dorgan and his colleagues may not know this, lawyers for Henry Cisneros and other Clinton-era public servants do. They also know that Barrett is the first man ever to receive grand-jury subpoena power to look at the inner workings of the IRS.

Lorie Byrd blogged Somehow I missed this story yesterday from Tony Snow. If the list of Clinton critics that got audited by the IRS did not make big news when Clinton was President, I don’t expect the MSM to make much of this now. If this story was about Republicans instead of Democrats this might even knock Michael Jackson’s trial off of the cable news shows.

Scott @PowerLine blogged Today Tony is pressing the important story of the independent counsel report that some would prefer to see deep-sixed.

Is anyone surprised that the Dems would do this?


The Unholy Alliance Against the Filibuster

LA Times reports By many measures, liberal Catholics outnumber conservative Catholics in the United States,

But the conservative Catholics go to Mass, and many of the liberal ones don't, because the Church does not agree with them
but in the U.S. political system of state-by-state, winner-take-all presidential elections, small electoral shifts can have huge consequences.

During the last election, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote a letter to U.S. bishops while the campaign was in progress, instructing them to deny Communion to any Catholic candidate unwilling to criminalize abortion. Ratzinger's letter did not win anything close to unanimous agreement, even among the American bishops, yet he succeeded in creating a public question about John Kerry's status as a Roman Catholic.
If you think he wrote that letter to encourage Catholics to vote for Bush, you would be very wrong. He did it because he is opposed to abortion. The fact that many Republicans are Pro Life just means that both are opposed to the Culture of Death.
The shift among Catholic voters in 2004 was small in absolute numbers — President Bush increased his support among Catholics by 6 points from 2000 to 2004 — yet, according to one analyst, it was large enough to turn the election in Ohio, Iowa and New Mexico. Arguably, then, Ratzinger won the election for Bush.
post hoc ergo propter hoc
Today, the United States faces an unprecedented Bush administration effort to use religion to bring about one-party rule in the United States, and once again U.S. Catholics may provide the margin of victory. The Republicans seek to eliminate effective Democratic opposition, beginning with what they call — all too unmistakably — the "nuclear option," a move to prevent Senate filibusters against judicial nominations. Once filibusters against judicial nominees can be eliminated, they can be easily eliminated for any other matter before the Senate.
Not true. If you have listened to arguments against the filibustering of judges, you will have heard that judges were never blocked by filibusters for any judge that had majority approval in the senate, prior to last Congress, but the filibuster has been used in legislative matters many times in the past
A key part of the Republican strategy is to claim that it is hatred of religion that has moved the Democrats to oppose these judicial nominees. "Justice Sunday: Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith," a TV program produced by evangelical leaders, was simulcast Sunday via the Internet, just as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was preparing to call for a vote on the anti-filibuster measure. Evangelical Protestants have led the way in portraying Democrats as enemies of God, but the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has chimed in on the issue of judicial nominees in a mass mailing to parishioners timed to yield constituent letters just as the matter comes to a vote.
The judges are being opposed because of their philosophy, which the secular Dems claim is not in the main stream. They are being opposed because of their ethics, which have a Judeo-Christian basis.
If the Republicans succeed, they will not just have crushed Democratic opposition in the Senate but will be en route to a dramatic weakening of the independent judiciary. Tom DeLay, the ultraconservative Republican leader of the House of Representatives, recently said, defiantly, to a group of reporters: "We set up the courts. We can unset the courts. We have the power of the purse." In an audio recording obtained by the Los Angeles Times of Protestant leaders at a private meeting, the most influential among them, James C. Dobson, provided chilling detail: "Very few people know this, that the Congress can simply disenfranchise a court. They don't have to fire anybody or impeach them or go through that battle. All they have to do is say the 9th Circuit doesn't exist anymore, and it's gone."
Since the 9th Circuit is reversed more than any other circuit, perhaps it should be gone.
No successful putsch ever announces itself as such. The putsch likely to be attempted soon will be presented as a simple change in the Senate rules, and it will succeed unless at least six GOP senators dare to break with the radicalism of the Bush administration and join with all the Democratic senators (and one independent) to defeat it: Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe, John McCain? The roster of the brave is ominously short.

Last January, Fritz Stern — a German emigre historian who witnessed the rise of Nazism — was asked whether the United States could ever become an authoritarian state. Stern, who has steadfastly resisted facile comparisons, replied: "My hope is that the real conservatives of this country may catch fire, the ones who regard civil rights and the Constitution as fundamental, and that on those grounds they may rise up against the foreign and domestic excesses of this administration and say, finally, 'No! You are not going to get away with this!' Three or four senators could be enough to turn the tide." But will there be even that many?
Describing a desire for the Senate to allow a democratic up and down vote on approval of judges as being the impositioin of an authoritarian state is ridiculous
And the German pope? In what mood does he witness the rising threat to democracy within the U.S.? During the presidential election, each candidate had an issue that he could exploit to claim Pope John Paul II as an ally. Kerry had Iraq, which the pope opposed; Bush had abortion. But Ratzinger would have nothing of such evenhandedness. "Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia," the future pope wrote to the U.S. bishops. "There may be legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not, however, with regard to abortion and euthanasia."

What his letter seemed to suggest was that if Bush gave Rome what it wanted on the abortion issue and the (now strategically inflamed) euthanasia issue, Rome would do its best to give Bush what he wanted regarding the death penalty and, above all, war.
Actually what it suggests is that there is the concept of a "just war", and there are references to the death penalty in the Bible, but there is no biblical basis for justifying Abortion on Demand or euthanasia.
The question that now arises is whether Rome is offering a similar deal with the U.S. Constitution at stake: If Bush backs Rome on abortion and euthanasia, Rome will do what it can to turn U.S. Catholics against the filibuster. The fact that the mass mailing will swing only a minority of the country's Catholics against the filibuster is irrelevant. The minority, as it did in the last election, may make the difference.


Thursday, April 28

This Day In History

  • 1758   James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States, was born in Virginia.
  • 1788   Maryland became the seventh state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
  • 1789   The crew of the British ship Bounty mutineed, setting Captain William Bligh and 18 sailors adrift in a launch in the South Pacific.
  • 1932   A vaccine against yellow fever was announced this day.
  • 1937   Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was born near the desert town of Tikrit.
  • 1945   Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, were executed.
  • 1952   War with Japan officially ended as a treaty that had been signed by the United States and 47 other countries took effect.
  • 1959   Arthur Godfrey was seen for the last time in the final telecast of "Arthur Godfrey and His Friends" on CBS-TV. The show had been a part of the CBS lineup for 10 years. We remember the Little Godfreys: Tony Marvin (announcer), singers Carmel Quinn, Lou Ann Sims, Frank Parker, Janette Davis, Marion Marlowe and Julius LaRosa. ?Howaya, Howaya, Howaya.?
  • 1967   Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused to be inducted into the Army.
  • 1969   French President Charles de Gaulle resigned.
  • 1980   President Jimmy Carter accepted the resignation of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who had opposed the failed rescue mission aimed at freeing American hostages in Iran.
  • 1990   The musical ''A Chorus Line'' closed after 6,137 performances on Broadway.
  • 1992   The Agriculture Department unveiled a pyramid-shaped recommended-diet chart.
  • 1994   Former CIA official Aldrich Ames, who had betrayed U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union and then Russia, pleaded guilty to espionage and tax evasion, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
  • 1996   President Clinton gave 4 1/2 hours of videotaped testimony as a defense witness in the criminal trial of his former Whitewater business partners.
  • 1999   The House rejected on a tie vote of 213-213 a measure expressing support for NATO's five-week-old air campaign against Yugoslavia. The House also voted to limit the president's authority to use ground forces in Yugoslavia.
  • 2001   A Russian rocket lifted off from Central Asia bearing the first space tourist, California businessman Dennis Tito, and two cosmonauts on a journey to the international space station.
  • 1789   There truly was mutiny on the "Bounty". A rebel crew took over the British ship and set sail to Pitcairn Island. A popular book about the event has been passed down generation to generation as one of the classic works of literature.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1758   James Monroe (5th U.S. President [1817-1825]; married to Elizabeth Kortright [one son, two daughters]; nickname: The Last Cocked Hat; died July 4, 1831)
  • 1878   Lionel Barrymore (Blythe) (Academy Award-winning actor: A Free Soul [1930-31]; Camille, Captains Courageous, Duel in the Sun, It?s a Wonderful Life, Key Largo, The Little Colonel; died Nov 15, 1954)
  • 1941   Ann-Margret (Olsson) (actress: Carnal Knowledge, Tommy, Viva Las Vegas, Grumpy Old Men, Grumpier Old Men, Bye, Bye, Birdie, Scarlett; singer: I Just Don?t Understand)
  • 1950   Jay Leno (comedian, TV talk show host: The Tonight Show)


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

As Strongly As He Ever Has

ABC News reports The Republican White House is standing firm in support of DeLay, Bolton, private accounts, nuclear power, a lean budget, and the constitutional option on judges.

The Senate Republican leadership is standing firm in support of Bolton, private accounts, nuclear power, a lean budget, and the constitutional option on judges. (DeLay is not their business.)

The House Republican leadership is standing firm in support of DeLay, private accounts, nuclear power, and a lean budget (Bolton and judges are not their business).

The House Republican leadership is, apparently, going wobbly on the recently enacted ethics rules changes, which, when adopted, were cast as really important, a big improvement, and the right thing for America and the House.

Democrats — with visions of Lucy's football in their dreamy eyes — think this is all a big house of cards, about to tumble.

Hopefully the House Republican leadership will not go wobbly on the ethics rules changes.


A Media Tipping Point?

Glenn Harlan Reynolds wrote on Tech Central Station Over three years ago, I wrote:

Big journalism is in trouble, and big journalists don't like it....Annoyance to journalists is the least of this, because what is really going on is something much more profound: it's the end of the power of Big Media. Thanks to a technological revolution (movable type then
Actually it is Moveable Type now, along with WordPress and other Blog software
, the Internet and talk radio now), power once concentrated in the hands of a few has been redistributed into the hands of the many.
Since then, an army of Davids has delivered blow after blow to the media goliaths: From the debunking of "the brutal Afghan winter" to Jayson Blair, RatherGate, and more, bloggers and stand-alone Internet journalists have repeatedly shown up Big Media bias, laziness, and ineptitude.

That's not news, though it's a lot more obvious than it was in early 2002, and the trend has been pointed out in books like Brian Anderson's South Park Conservatives, Hugh Hewitt's Blog, and studies like this one from the Pew Internet Trust.

What is news is that now the old media outlets are declining in market share, to the point where Jeff Jarvis says that we're at a tipping point.... The march of media evolution won't stop for the benefit of blogs, and I predict that within a few years blogs as we know them today will have changed dramatically. But there's much more to new and alternative media than simply blogs -- and, regardless, it seems clear that the media world of the next decade won't look much like that of the 20th Century. Given the disappointing performance of the media Goliaths, that's probably just as well.

Bill @INDCJournal: blogged Reynolds gets testy, and rightfully so.

Personally, the Times has literally zero credibility with me; a large portion of the the news and all of the unsigned editorials are totally unreadable. And that's actually saying something, since I still highly recommend the Washington Post, in spite of its own passel of offputting flaws.

You know, just mentioning it. Again. It's kind of amusing how a blog that's been in existence for slightly more than a year can go from OUTRAGE! to utter dismissal of a news outlet. Even through the prism of my personal evolution, I'd still say that this is a pretty good sign that the NYT's power and influence are severely diminished.

I have rarely seen unbiased articles in either NYT or WaPo


Axioms of Blogging

Mark Hasty blogged The Five Axioms of Blogging are:

  1. A blogger will regret any post he or she ever makes about any figure caught up in a sex scandal.
    The Joyner Corollary to Hasty’s First Axiom is "There are also certain names which a blogger is better off not invoking at all, scandal or not."
  2. There is no topic so controversial and interesting that the blogosphere can’t make people thoroughly sick of it within five days.
  3. The quality of your most recent post and the likelihood of a catastrophic server failure are directly related.
  4. When you have no new ideas, try changing your color scheme.
  5. As the number of blogs increases, the number of comments on any particular blog decreases. Furthermore, as the number of comments declines, so does the number of trackbacks, as traffic-hungry bloggers eventually decide to link only to articles at the biggest blogs. The future of blogging, then, will entail millions of bloggers linking solely to whichever happens to be the largest and most prominent blog with trackbacks turned on. Whichever blogger this is will displace Howard Stern as the King (or Queen) of All Media.
OTB blogged Despite the explosion in the number of blogs out there (Sue McDonald says BlogPulse now tracks 10 million of them), overall readership continues to swell at a sufficient rate to more than make up for the dispersion of sites competing for eyeballs. My current traffic levels, which barely put me in the top 50 overall, would have been the envy of all but the top five or six blogs when I started two years ago.

Commenting some sites remains massive, although it's true that commenting hasn't kept up with traffic levels. My comments have probably doubled in the last year while my traffic has more than quintupled. Whether that's a function of changing reader trends, more search engine referrals, or what I can't can't.

I get very few comments or TrackBacks, yet I have had over 7,000 visitors since March 1, 2005


Oil Refineries at Ex-Military Bases

My Way News reports Under pressure over high energy prices, President Bush on Wednesday will propose tackling the root causes of the problem by encouraging new oil refineries be built at closed military bases and jumpstarting construction of new nuclear power plants.

In a speech, Bush will also propose giving federal regulators the lead authority to decide where to locate terminals for processing imported natural gas. States have increasingly been taking the lead on this issue.

And the president will propose adding vehicles that use clean-burning diesel fuel to the list of automobiles eligible for $2.5 billion in tax credits over 10 years to encourage further use of this technology. Other eligible vehicles are hybrids powered by gasoline and electricity and fuel-cell vehicles.

James Wolcott blogged Here was an opportunity for President Bush to "think green" for a change. Or at least think unplutocratically, just for the kicky novelty of it. He could have proposed that a few of the military bases facing closure be converted into nature preserves or bird sanctuaries. But that would have been enlightened, ungreedy, and civic-minded.

And it would have done NOTHING to solve our energy problems
Instead, true to form, dedicated to the destruction of a livable environment for future generations, Bush is trying to boost his sagging poll numbers and beautify the landscape by jamming oil refineries and nuclear plants where the barracks and PXs used to be.
Actually he is proposing the new oil refineries be built at closed military bases, which would solve the NIMBY (not in my back yard) complaints about building oil refineries in their back yard. We have not built a new refinery since the 1970s. He is proposing jumpstarting the constructiion of new nuclear power plants, which will help us reduce the amount of oil we import, and they dont put out greenhouse gasses.
He seems determined to ensure that his presidential legacy consists of little more than lies, lost opportunities, and ravagement.

Jeff Quinton blogged The lack of adequate refining capacity is frequently cited by experts as one reason why gasoline prices have surged dramatically in recent years. No new refineries have been built in recent years even though the demand for gasoline has risen.



GOP to Reverse Ethics Rule

WaPo reports House Republican leaders, acknowledging that ethics disputes are taking a heavy toll on the party's image, decided yesterday to rescind a controversial rule change that led to the three-month shutdown of the ethics committee, according to officials who participated in the talks.

Republicans touched off a political uproar in January by changing a rule that had required the ethics committee to continue considering a complaint against a House member if there was a deadlock between the committee's five Republicans and five Democrats. The January change reversed this, calling for automatic dismissal of an ethics complaint when a deadlock occurs.

Democrats rebelled against that and other changes -- saying Republicans were trying to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) from further ethics investigations -- and blocked the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics panel is officially known, from organizing for the new Congress.

Republicans on the committee say they will launch an investigation of DeLay's handling of overseas trips and gifts as soon as the impasse over the rules is broken.

They are idiots. Backing down like this will just show the Dems that if they refuse to do something, Republicans will back down eventually, and the Dems on the committee will refuse to clear DeLay, and without a rule saying that a deadlock will mean the charge will be dismissed after 45 days they will just leave the charges standing, which will mean that the MSM will be able to claim that DeLay is still being investigated by the Ethics Committee.


Planned Parenthood Opposes Choice

The Dawn Patrol blogged Planned Parenthood's blogger lets loose today with a broadside against Focus on the Family's plan to spend $4 million in private money on ultrasound equipment for crisis-pregnancy centers.

That's private money, mind you. Not like the $265.2 million that Planned Parenthood received from American taxpayers in fiscal 2004 (as per its annual report).

Ms. Curettage notes, "Focus on the Family is placing 150 ultrasound machines in 'crisis-pregnancy centers' around the country this year, with plans to place another 650 machines in the next five years." Ooh, scare quotes around "crisis-pregnancy centers." The idea of women giving birth to live babies is truly frightening to these people.

She continues:

These centers already counsel against having an abortion—by describing abortion as dangerous, wrong, and worse.
Well, it's certainly "dangerous" for the baby. And if that's not "wrong," then it must be something...worse.
Now the facilities will have an air of legitimacy with high-tech equipment that could belie their lack of medical expertise.
Let me get this straight:

If you counsel women to kill their babies, you are enshrouded in legitimacy.

If you counsel women to keep their babies—and are licensed to operate equipment that shows them their unborn child—you have a "lack of medical expertise."

Just checking.

JRob blogged Focus on the Family's spending money to do the unconscienable ...provide $4 million for ultrasound equipment for crisis pregnancy centers. Oh the horror! Private citizens putting up their own money voluntarily to counter the $265.2 million tax dollars that Margaret Sanger's organization has recieved from citizens, many of whom, coerced into paying to benefit an organization they find abominable. PP, when you stop receiving my money to provide abortions on demand, when you stop protecting statutory rapists, then you can complain about how I choose to donate mine.

Jeff Miller blogged Planned Parenthood all upset about Focus on the Family's Operation Ultrasound which is working to equip 650 crisis pregnancy centers with ultrasound machines by the 2010 using privately raised money. For all the talk about pro-choice I guess this does not include a visual choice. Reality must be hidden at all cost.

NARAL's director of government relations had previously said concerning ultrasound machines
"They don't want them to go to Planned Parenthood, where they'll get their full range of options. They just want them to go to crisis pregnancy centers, where women will be exposed to this weapon at taxpayer's expense."
Well this time the machines are provided from private sources yet they are complaining that the amount raised will be more than they get from the federal government. Not surprising when showing the truth as something can be described as a weapon.

Those on the side of the "Culture of Death" want to kill as many babies as they can, and they fear having a pregnant woman shown that there is a human life in there.


Faster Data Transfer

Broadband Slower than Pigeons;
Pigeons Slower than Snails

Ami Ben-Bassat reported On Friday, March 12, 2004, a group of several dozen Internet addicts from Israel and abroad, gathered in the large grass field of the OHALO Center near the Sea of Galilee. The purpose of the gathering was to try and improve Wi-Fly - pigeon-empowered wireless internet and to confront this technology against ADSL. The participants sent 3 homing pigeons to 100 km distance, each carrying 20-22 tiny memory cards containing 1.3 GB, amounting in total of 4 GB of data.

Calculating the bandwidth by dividing the amount of data by the flying time of the last pigeon, show that the bandwidth achieved by the pigeons was significantly larger that that available through commercially available ADSL broadband Internet connections: about 2.27 Mbps (Mega bit per second) as compared to 0.75 – 1.5 Mbps.

Ami Ben-Bassat reported The system called SNAP (SNAil-based data transfer Protocol), uses biological carriers, and, for the first time, taking advantages of the unique merits of the wheel for data transfer.

System architecture: the system is constructed of a back end - a carriage, Ben-Hur movie style, which is made of a yoke made of light Balsa, and outfitted with two huge wheels - 2 DVD wheels, 4.7 Giga each. The front end, to which the carriage is harnessed consist of a Giant snail (Achatina fulica), known also as Giant African Snail.

Results: Calculations that were conducted after the experiment, explicitly proved that in spite of the relatively, very slow, speed of the biological carriers, the Snap system succeeded in transferring data faster than any other conventional technologies, existing today.
  • V.34 modem   28.8 kbps
  • ISDN   128 kbps
  • ADSL   1500 kbps
  • Pigeons   2270 kbps
  • SNAP   37,000 kbps
Isralis discover faster ways to transfer data

Hat Tip to Dan Gillmor


Up, Down or Out

Bob Dole editorialized in the NYT In the coming weeks, we may witness a vote in the United States Senate that will define the 109th Congress for the ages. This vote will not be about war and peace, the economy or the threat from terrorism. It will focus instead on procedure: whether the Senate should amend its own rules to ensure that nominees to the federal bench can be confirmed by a simple majority vote....

By creating a new threshold for the confirmation of judicial nominees, the Democratic minority has abandoned the tradition of mutual self-restraint that has long allowed the Senate to function as an institution....

When I was a leader in the Senate, a judicial filibuster was not part of my procedural playbook. Asking a senator to filibuster a judicial nomination was considered an abrogation of some 200 years of Senate tradition. To be fair, the Democrats have previously refrained from resorting to the filibuster even when confronted with controversial judicial nominees like Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. Although these men were treated poorly, they were at least given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. At the time, filibustering their nominations was not considered a legitimate option by my Democratic colleagues - if it had been, Justice Thomas might not be on the Supreme Court today, since his nomination was approved with only 52 votes, eight short of the 60 votes needed to close debate.

That's why the current obstruction effort of the Democratic leadership is so extraordinary. President Bush has the lowest appellate-court confirmation rate of any modern president. Each of the 10 filibuster victims has been rated "qualified" or "well qualified" by the American Bar Association. Each has the support of a majority in the Senate. And each would now be serving on the federal bench if his or her nomination were subject to the traditional majority-vote standard.

This 60-vote standard for judicial nominees has the effect of arrogating power from the president to the Senate. Future presidents must now ask themselves whether their judicial nominees can secure the supermajority needed to break a potential filibuster. Political considerations will now become even more central to the judicial selection process. Is this what the framers intended?

If the majority leader, Bill Frist, is unable to persuade the Democratic leadership to end its obstruction, he may move to change the Senate rules through majority vote. By doing so, he will be acting in accordance with Article I of the Constitution (which gives Congress the power to set its own rules) and consistently with the tradition of altering these rules by establishing new precedents. Senator Frist was right this past weekend when he observed there is nothing "radical" about a procedural technique that gives senators the opportunity to vote on a nominee.

Although the Democrats don't like to admit it, in the past they have voted to end delaying tactics previously allowed under Senate rules or precedents. In fact, one of today's leading opponents of changing the Senate's rules, Senator Robert Byrd, was once a proponent of doing so, and on several occasions altered Senate rules through majoritarian means. I have great respect for Senator Byrd, but Senate Republicans are simply exploring the procedural road map that he himself helped create.

McQ blogged Note his point about the 10 nominees. All have been found to be qualified by the ABA. Now if that was good enough in the past (a qualification, if I recall correctly, which Democrats of the past demanded be included in the process) then, as some have alluded too in comments here, it appears that they've gotten past the "radical" label and are "centerist" enough for the ABA to be deemed, at a minimum, "qualified". Isn't that what the role of 'advice and consent' has traditionally meant? Determine qualifications and vote on them in an up or down vote?

Betsy Newmark blogged Bob Dole explains why Frist has the power to ask for a rule change to end the filibuster of Bush's judicial nominees and how the Democrats have brought this situation on themselves.

K. J. Lopez blogged Bob Dole has a sensible op-ed in the NY Times today on judges and Senate rules

I hope that they will go ahead and do it, get these judges on the bench, and be ready for any USSC vacancies, and then get on with other important matters.