Saturday, May 14, 2005

Newsweek sparks global riots

Times Online reported At least nine people were killed yesterday as a wave of anti-American demonstrations swept the Islamic world from the Gaza Strip to the Java Sea, sparked by a single paragraph in a magazine alleging that US military interrogators had desecrated the Koran.

As Washington scrambled to calm the outrage, Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, promised an inquiry and punishment for any proven offenders. But at Friday prayers in the Muslim world many preachers demanded vengeance and afterwards thousands took to the streets, burning American flags.

Look at the trouble Newsweek caused by one paragraph making an unconfirmed claim. If you have a subscription to Newsweek I urge you to cancel it, and tell them why.


How an abortion puts the next baby at risk

Telegraph reported Having an abortion almost doubles a woman's risk of giving birth dangerously early in a later pregnancy, according to research that will provoke fresh debate over the most controversial of all medical procedures. A French study of 2,837 births - the first to investigate the link between terminations and extremely premature births - found that mothers who had previously had an abortion were 1.7 times more likely to give birth to a baby at less than 28 weeks' gestation. Many babies born this early die soon after birth, and a large number who survive suffer serious disability.

Dr Moreau said: "Clearly there is a link. The results suggest that induced abortion can damage the cervix in some way that makes a premature birth more likely in subsequent pregnancies." Her study compared the medical histories of 2,219 women with babies born at less than 34 weeks with another 618 who had given birth at full term. Overall, women who had had an abortion were 40 per cent more likely to have a very pre-term delivery (less than 33 weeks) than those without such a history. The risk of an extremely premature baby - one born at less than 28 weeks - was raised even more sharply, by 70 per cent. Abortion appeared to increase the risk of most major causes of premature birth, including premature rupture of membranes, incorrect position of the foetus on the placenta and spontaneous early labour. The only common cause of premature birth not linked to abortion was high blood pressure.

In addition to being immoral, it is also not healthy.


Jurists Picked

LA Times reported California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown and a Texas judge were named Friday as the federal judicial nominees who will be considered by the Senate next week, a move expected to trigger a long-awaited showdown with Democrats.

The Texas Judge was Priscilla R Owen, from the Texas Supreme Court. The writer obviously knows that, because the next sentence provides that data. So why does the lead show California Supreme Court and not Texas Supreme Court?
The announcement Friday by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) propels Brown and Priscilla R. Owen, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, to center stage of a political brawl that has gripped the Senate for weeks — over use of the filibuster against a president's picks for federal judgeships. The tactic, a procedural move allowing unlimited debate, is the weapon of the weak in the Senate.
But the Dems are not debating the nominees; they are just threatening to do so, and demanding a cloture vote to end a debate which has never taken place.
Ending a filibuster requires 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber; winning confirmation requires a simple majority of 51. Democrats relied on the filibuster threat to block President Bush's nomination of Brown, Owen and eight others to federal appellate courts during his first term, saying the nominees were too conservative. Earlier this year, Bush resubmitted seven of the nominees, including Brown and Owen.

Stevenson said Frist would then initiate a floor debate on Owen and Brown. The majority leader picked those two judges, he said, because they were "accomplished women with compelling life stories who have had distinguished careers and received very high recommendations from their peers and from the [very liberal] American Bar Assn." He also noted they had been elected to their positions by voters in their states. Stevenson said that at some point, Frist would call up the nomination of one of the two, a move he said would then "initiate the discussion of the rules." He declined to say which nominee Frist would seek a vote on first. In ads that have run in targeted states and nationally on cable television, both opponents and proponents of the filibuster rule have focused on Brown and Owen and on their records. Brown is nominated to serve on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; Owen is nominated to serve on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans.

Brown has been compared by some to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Like Thomas, she is an African American who grew up poor in the segregated South of the 1950s. Also like Thomas, she emerged as a conservative critic of affirmative action and government benefit programs in the 1980s. She has been praised by conservatives and slammed by liberals for some of her speeches. Speaking at Pepperdine University in 1999, Brown disputed the doctrine of separation of church and state. She also questioned whether the Bill of Rights, including the 1st Amendment, applied to the states. Owen, who received the highest score among her group when she took the Texas bar exam, has been characterized by her critics as an ultraconservative who bends her decisions to fit her political views, such as her opposition to abortion rights. Critics have attacked her decisions for routinely favoring law firms, corporations and insurance companies in disputes with consumers. Owen's supporters say she is a distinguished jurist who interprets the law narrowly and has impeccable intellectual credentials.

Dr. Steven Taylor: blogged Interesting, and perhaps odd, choices by Frist, as these are perhaps the two most controversial nominees. My guess is that Frist has lost Collins and Snowe for sure. In regards to Murkowski, I am betting Stevens can influence her to go with Frist and Spectre owes the White House for helping him in the primary. On a gut reaction I say Sununu goes with Frist, as does Warner. Dewine I don’t know enough about. Hagel is an interesting case, insofar as he seems to be looking to run for the GOP nomination in 2008–as such I am not sure he can afford to break this deal, although my bet is that he would prefer to vote against. Not included here is McCain, whom I thought was oppossed.

McQ blogged Of course the Democrats want to keep the filibuster as a viable method of blocking future Supreme Court nominees, consequently they have to do a bit of tip-toeing here. Do they allow these nominees, who's nominations they've obstructed for years, to slip on by (and hope they don't have the votes in the full Senate) in order to preserve the filibuster or do they take a stand on Owens and Brown? The Republicans, of course, would love to see their nominees confirmed. On the other hand, they'd also love to see the filibuster for judicial nominees done away with. The risk they take is accomplishing neither if they don't have the votes to change the Senate rules concerning judicial filibusters.

Steve M. blogged OK, kids: Do you know how many female judicial appointees have been confirmed in the Bush years? 41. African-Americans? 15.
And how many of those were for the Appeals Court?
(That's out of a total of 208 confirmed; 10 nominees have been filibustered and 4 have had their nominations withdrawn -- 2 white men, 1 white woman, and 1 black man. No Bush judicial nominee has been defeated in the full Senate.) I'm just pointing this out because when Bill Frist brings the nominations of Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown to the Senate floor, every right-winger in America will say in unison that the Democrats' opposition to these extremists is a sign that Democats hate women and (in the case of Judge Brown) blacks.
Only if they are conservatives.
Want to see the details? go here, scroll down, insert the selection criteria, and do your own count.


Wahhabi Lobby

Tech Central Station reported
American Muslim Youth vs. the Wahhabi Lobby
The Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, of which I am the Executive Director has been interested for some time in the situation of American Muslim students in the Rutgers University system -- the state university of New Jersey.

Young Muslims at Rutgers are unhappy that Islamic activities on campus -- funded by the university, i.e. the state authorities -- are dominated by adherents of the Wahhabi lobby, the American Muslim establishment.... In April, the Islamic Society of Rutgers University (ISRU) held an election. ISRU has more than four hundred members and receives significant financing from the university system. A courageous Muslim woman student named Fatima Agha has informed CIP and others of events she witnessed during the ISRU election campaign, and which she believes violate university policy. On April 21, a university employee named Mostafa Khalifa delivered a lecture to ISRU members on the nature of leadership. The apparent intent of the lecture was to assure that the ISRU election would have an "Islamic," rather than a democratic and American character.... When voting itself took place, it was announced at the meeting that four male positions and three female positions were contested. According to Ms. Agha, there was no precedent for this decision in ISRU, yet it indicated that ISRU considers women students a lesser group -- and thus supporting one of the most serious charges leveled against Islam, that of sex discrimination.... ISRU is supposed to be a student service organization for the betterment of life on the Rutgers campus. It must therefore adhere to state and federal laws against sex discrimination. The board of ISRU does not have religious responsibilities, and Ms. Agha therefore challenges its establishment of a sex or gender standard for membership. The seven elected representatives would then choose the ISRU president, who would bear the title "amir" or "commander." This last detail, showing that ISRU had adopted the vocabulary of a paramilitary group rather than a student organization, is the most disturbing element in this story. Ms. Agha notes that, as announced during the elections, the "amir" of the Rutgers Muslim students would be required to be male and would enjoy "dictatorial power."

According to Ms. Agha, aside from the interloper, Mostafa Khalifa, the participants in the election, i.e. the candidates, were forbidden to make speeches; election tellers did not identify qualified voters or provide a structure to ensure fairness - they did not even ask to see Rutgers I.D.... Further, and again embodying the Wahhabi manner, ISRU frequently sponsors lecturers who attack the beliefs of Shia and other pluralistic traditions in Islam, and engage in hate speech against non-Wahhabi believers. Ms. Agha describes ISRU as a university-subsidized vehicle for discrimination. For example, on the day of the election a Shia student, identified only as Ali, was told during Muslim prayer that, as a Shia, he was praying incorrectly by not observing the Sunni ritual. Such acts of harassment are also commonly alleged by Shia prisoners in the New York State correctional system, who have entered a legal complaint against the Wahhabi monopoly over the hiring of prison imams. Muslim clerics throughout the federal and state prisons are Wahhabis, routinely victimizing Shia Muslims who have the bad fortune to cross their paths - including by prison violence.

Call the ACLU. Separation of Mosque and State. <grin>:


Class Dissects Live Dog

The Prickly Pear blogged A biology teacher in Gunnison, Utah dehumanized his students by having them dissect a live dog.

The school's principal, Kirk Anderson, said notifications went to parents explaining the dog was going to be euthanized and that the experiment would be done with the dog's organs still functioning.The teacher is standing by his decision and calls it the ultimate educational experience.Principal Anderson said he supports the lesson and it will be allowed to continue because the students are learning.The dog used in the experiment was going to be euthanized despite the class project.
By his actions, this teacher taught his class that it's okay to cut up pets, to experiment on them. In the process, he also harmed his students. In order to view the mutilation of a live dog, the children would have to desensitize part of themselves, cut off the empathetic caring part of their nature. blogged

Terry blogged Perhaps it would be a rich learning experience for the kids in the class. But I doubt they learned the lesson that was intended. They learned in more detail, with greater variety, with more subtlety, what animal cruelty is. Someone should get the students to think clearly about what it is they witnessed. Have them write essays and submit them to the teacher and the principal. My guess is that a lot of them were disgusted, revolted, mortified, etc. But if those emotions aren't captured and examined and talked about and written about then this whole episode is nothing but a sordid, knee-jerk "not the puppy!" response. My guess is not all the students felt those feelings I listed. They may not even have good names for the feelings they had. They may not know how to apply thought to the emotion that followed what they witnessed.

kswygert blogged I disagree with the students who claim there is nothing to be learned from this - but that doesn't necessarily make it humane, or worth doing, or even acceptable.

Kobayashi Maru commented The culture of death is an insidious thing. If a dog scheduled to be euthanized can be dissected for high school students today, why not a heavily sedated terminally ill grandma scheduled to be euthanized (at her own request) for a medical school class tomorrow? They'd certainly learn more. The 'benefits' would be more direct. Aren't those the absolute standards?

Greg blogged I’m sorry, but this is inappropriate – not while the creature was alive. I’m reasonably confident there is some animal cruelty law being violated by this.

bryanm blogged Now, I don't know about you but I would not want to take part in watching someone tear the digestive system out of a living animal. I really don't think it's appropriate. I wonder scientifically speaking how much more the students really would have learned by having the animal still alive? I'm guessing not much. There's a pretty big difference in euthanization and sedation. Maybe someone should point that out to the teacher. The kids were probably so disturbed, they didn't learn a thing anyway. File this as reason forty-leven why my son won't attend a public school.

This is absolutely pathetic. Has the Culture of Death taken over public education?


Statement from Bill Frist

Bill Frist, M.D., Majority Leader of the Senate said May 13th, 2005 - Upon completion of action on the pending highway bill, the Senate will begin debate on fair up or down votes on judicial nominations. As is the regular order, the Leader will move to act on judge nominations sent to the full Senate by the Judiciary Committee in the past several weeks. Priscilla Owen, to serve as a judge for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Janice Rogers Brown, to serve as a judge for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, will be the nominees of focus.

This is VERY good news, and I am very happy that Frist has decided to start with Owen and Brown, both women, and one is a black woman. The Dems depend on the votes of women and blacks, and it will be very hard for them to oppose these judges.
The Majority Leader will continue to discuss an appropriate resolution of the need for fair up or down votes with the Minority Leader. If they can not find a way for the Senate to decide on fair up or down votes on judicial nominations, the Majority Leader will seek a ruling from the Presiding Officer regarding the appropriate length of time for debate on such nominees. After the ruling, he will ensure that every Senator has the opportunity to decide whether to restore the 214-year practice of fair up or down votes on judicial nominees; or, to enshrine a new veto by filibuster that both denies all Senators the opportunity to advise and consent and fundamentally disturbs the separation of powers between the branches.
That is a very good way to put it. If the Dems are successful in pulling enough Republicans over to prevent the Constitutional option passing, just think what is going to happen if they should ever again get a Dem in the White House. No judges will be approved.
There will be a full and vigorous Senate floor debate that is too important for parliamentary tactics to speed it up or slow it down until all members who wish have had their say. All members are encouraged to ensure that rhetoric in this debate follows the rules, and best traditions, of the Senate. It is time for 100 Senators to decide the issue of fair up or down votes for judicial nominees after over two years of unprecedented obstructionism. The Minority has made public threats that much of the Senate’s work will be shut down. Such threats are unfortunate. The Majority Leader has proposed his Fairness Rule: up to 100 hours of debate, and then an up or down vote on circuit and Supreme Court nominations. Further, the Fairness Rule would eliminate the opportunity for blockade of such nominees at the Judiciary Committee. And finally, it will make no changes to the legislative filibuster.
Frist believes he has the votes to push it through, and still is willing to restate his compromise proposal. That is very honorable of him.
If Senators believe a nominee is qualified, they should have the opportunity to vote for her. If they believe she is unqualified, they should have the opportunity to vote against her. Members must decide if their legacy to the Senate is to eliminate the filibuster’s barrier to the Constitutional responsibility of all Senators to advise and consent with fair, up or down votes.

Hat tip to Matt

On BlogsForBush the following comments were made:

phnxbmed commented It is interesting to note that two of the Republican Senators who are widely speculated to vote with the Donks on the fillibuster issue are both from Maine. The DOD has just recommended the closing of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard whose shutdown would affect 201 military jobs and 4,032 civilian jobs. This would be a devestating blow to an already economically depressed area. My bet is that if they both vote with the Donks, the base will be closed. However if they reverse their publicly stated positions, and vote with the party, the base has a good chance of being saved. It will be interesting to see how the base closure list will be leveraged for other important issues like Social Security, and votes on Judges. We may never know for sure, but I'll wager that there will be a lot of backroom arm twisting and negotiating now that the hit list is out.


Dem.Soc. Sec. Fix

Yahoo! News reports Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., said Friday: "I have the largest amount of Social Security recipients of any Democrat anywhere in the country. My allegiance to seniors is greater than my allegiance to the Democratic Party."

At least he is trying to do something for the seniors. Now if he is willing to negotiate, maybe we can work some things out.
While Wexler is proposing tax increases that would clash with President Bush's pledge not to expand the existing payroll tax, his legislation was heralded by the White House in part because Democrats had steadfastly refused to offer an alternative to Bush's plan. The president's proposal calls for creating private investment accounts and a new method for calculating future benefit growth.Democrats have refused to put an alternative on the table until Bush drops his insistence on private accounts, which they say would destroy the Depression-era system by depriving it of critical funding.
What they are complaining about is that it would move 30% of the FICA tax into personal accounts so they could not spend them immediately.
"I would be surprised if the president were anything but pleased there is another voice with the courage to stand up and put a proposal on the table," said White House spokesman Trent Duffy. "Obviously we haven't seen the specifics on this plan, but I think the president welcomes anyone who wants to work in a good-faith effort to solve the serious challenges facing Social Security." Wexler's bill calls for a 6 percent tax on all income above the current $90,000 cap. Three percent would be paid by workers and 3 percent paid by their employer.
And the entire 6% would be paid by indepentent contractors.
At the same time, the bill would reinstitute "pay-go" rules for federal budgeting, requiring that any tax cuts or increase in entitlement spending be paid for either by raising taxes or cutting spending elsewhere. The requirement expired at the end of 2002.
That seems like a good idea to me. He wants to use it to block more tax cuts, but it is double edged sword, and would block increases in entitlement spending unless they could get taxes approved to pay for them.
Wexler's proposal, which he will unveil in Florida on Monday, would not require any cut in scheduled benefits or increase in the retirement age, and it does not provide for private accounts.
So seniors will like it, but it does nothing to provide for today's 20 year olds when they retire.
"The president's approach cuts benefits and it creates a privatization scheme, and on top of that does not ensure the solvency of Social Security," said Wexler, whose district includes the largest number of Social Security beneficiaries of any Democrat in the country. The congressman said his bill, which has been reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office, would achieve solvency by eliminating the $2.1 billion program shortfall estimated by the nonpartisan agency. Social Security's trustees have pegged the figured at $3.9 billion.
So it may not fix things after all.
"The president traveled the country for the past two months and effectively challenged the Democrats to make their own plan," Wexler said. "Today, that challenge is responded to."
Dems are slow to understand.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., recently quashed a meeting in which some of her fellow Democrats were set to discuss Social Security with the head of the AARP and a group of Republicans. Wexler said he had twice spoken with Pelosi about his plan. While he would not reveal her reaction, he said, "It would be wrong to assume it was a receptive conversation."
I bet it was not a pleasant discussion.
Jennifer Crider, a Pelosi spokeswoman, said: "There are Democrats with a lot of different ideas. This is one member's take, but it is not the Democratic plan."
The Democrats don't have a plan. All they know is no.
Donald Luskin blogged They call this a plan. Great... With plans like this, who needs stonewalling?

Jayson @PoliPundit blogged The “Party of Unity” strikes again


Saturday, May 14

This Day In History

  • 1643   Louis XIV became King of France at age 4 upon the death of his father, Louis XIII.
  • 1787   Delegates began gathering in Philadelphia for a convention to draw up the U.S. Constitution.
  • 1796   English physician Edward Jenner administered the first vaccination against smallpox to an 8-year-old boy.
  • 1804   The Lewis and Clark expedition to explore the Louisiana Territory left St. Louis.
  • 1904   The first Olympic games to be held in the United States opened in St. Louis.
  • 1942   Aaron Copland's ''Lincoln Portrait'' was first performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
  • 1942   The Women's Auxiliary Army Corps was established.
  • 1955   Representatives from the Soviet Union and seven other Communist bloc countries signed the Warsaw Pact in Poland.
  • 1973   The United States launched Skylab 1, its first manned space station.
  • 1985   The first McDonald’s restaurant -- in Des Plaines, IL -- became the first museum of the fast-food business. McMannequins, McPosters and loads of McPhotos display years of hamburger McProgress!
  • 1996   A tornado flattened 80 villages in nothern Bangladesh, killing more than 440 people.
  • 1998   Singer Frank Sinatra died at age 82 after a heart attack.
  • 1998   The hit TV series ''Seinfeld'' aired its final episode after nine years on NBC.
  • 1998   The Associated Press commemorated its 150th anniversary.
  • 2001   The Supreme Court ruled that there is no exception in federal law for people to use marijuana to ease their pain from cancer, AIDS or other illnesses.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1936   Bobby Darin (Cassotto)
  • 1944   George Lucas (George Walton Lucas Jr.) (film producer, director: Star Wars series, Indiana Jones series, American Graffiti)


Friday, May 13, 2005

Protests over Newsweek Report

Reuters reported Angry protests raged across the Muslim world from Gaza to Indonesia on Friday over a report U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had desecrated the Koran, with calls for retaliation and a rising death toll. Governments demanded investigations and thousands took to the streets in outrage over a Newsweek magazine report that interrogators at a U.S. military prison in Cuba had put the Muslim holy book on toilets, in at least one case flushing it down. In Afghanistan, at least nine people were killed in protests over the report on Friday, bringing the country's death toll to 16 this week in its worst anti-American demonstrations since the fall of the Taliban.

The unrest spread to Pakistan, which called for a U.S. probe. Hundreds of people held a peaceful protest in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation. In Gaza, several thousand Palestinians marched through a refugee camp in a protest organized by the Islamic militant group Hamas. Several hundred Palestinians also marched in the West Bank city of Hebron. "The Holy Koran was defiled by the dirtiest of hands, by American hands," a protester shouted at the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza, where U.S. and Israeli flags were also burned.

This was all the result of the irresponsible Newsweek article based on one uncorroborated claim.

Charles Johnson blogged Newsweek’s unsourced allegation that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay “desecrated the Quran” has provoked a storm of Islamic fury across the world, according to al-Reuters

manoramaonline reported The top US military officer, General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that no evidence has been found yet to back allegations that a Quran was put down a toilet at the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba to intimidate Muslim prisoners.

Myers told reporters yesterday that in an unconfirmed incident, a Guantanamo prisoner flushed pages from a Quran down a toilet in an effort to clog it. He said Army General Bantz J Craddock, head of US Southern Command, "has been in Guantanamo for the last couple of days digging into this issue to see if there was a time when the Koran was not respected.

"They have looked through the logs, the interrogation logs, and they cannot confirm yet that there was ever the case of the toilet incident," the General said. "He did note a log entry, which they still have to confirm, where a detainee was reported by a guard to be ripping pages out of a Quran and putting them in a toilet to stop it up as a protest. But not where the US did it."

If you have a subscription to Newsweek I urge you to cancel it, and tell them that you are doing so because of irresponsible reporting like this.


Fourth Grader suspended

Zero Intelligence reported:
Fourth Grader suspended for failing to answer test question
Nine year-old Tyler Stoken, a student in the Aberdeen Public School District, didn't know how to answer an essay question on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning test. As punishment for leaving the question blank his principal suspended him for five days.

Tyler paraphrases the question saying, "You look out one day at school and see your principal flying by a window. In several paragraphs write what happens next." He's asked, "So why didn't you answer that question?" He says, "I couldn't think of what to write the essay without making fun of the principal."
Zero Intelligence is not a proper term for this. It was Negative Intelligence. That question is absoutely stupid, and if he had answered it, he would have been more exposed to suspension because practically any anwer I can think of could be viewed as a treat to the principal. The superintendent wants Tyler immediately re-instated at school. But Tyler doesn't want to go to that school any more and you can't blame him. He was manipulated and then punished because he couldn't answer a test question.


Can blogs cover local news?

Stephen Baker wrote Business Week A thoughtful post from Tim Porter on the future of local newspapers in the age of blogs. The point as I see it isn't that blogs overthrow newspapers, but that papers increasingly lack the economic (and staffing) resources to do their job--and they lack the flexibility to follow a mobile population. Porter says: "Modern communities are water, spilling across space and time. Newspapers are rock, hardened and stuck in one spot. In the war of water and rock, liquid wins every time."

The most pressing question isn't whether blogs pose a threat to traditional journalism. It's whether citizen journalism can provide the information societies need.

The trouble is that there's lots of very boring news that few people want to pay for--but is in society's interest to know (or at least have available). I used to nod off during planning board meetings in places like Weston, Vermont, and El Paso, Texas. But I'd rouse myself to write stories that put the proceedings in the public eye. If newspapers can no longer afford to cover that type of news, will blogs?

Gaijin commented Repeat after me: Blogs are not a cheap(er) labor replacement for aging news organizations/models. Bloggers tend to operate on some sort of social network of information, commentary, and points/counter-points. The information has to be gathered/stored in some place initially for the Blogosphere to take over its usual spot to proliferate that information. In local news, who really has the time, desire, or resources to be some beat writer? There is a reason that local news is being left behind in radio, print, and television media. If I remember correctly, the LA news channels that did best during Sweeps were the stations broadcasting cop chases & shootings, not broadcasting actual news.

Steve Baker responded Gaijin, I will repeat after you all you want that blogs won't bail out local news organizations. My point is not "what will save newspapers," but rather, "how are we going to get important but boring news?"

Josh Hallett commented Last year I was at an event at a local theme park and there was no press coverage. I took some pictures and wrote up a 'story' for my blog. One of the local papers in my market linked to the story.

I don't know about other cities, but BatesLine, Tulsa Topics, and HFFZ blogs, along with Tulsa Beacon, Tulsa Now, Tulsa Today, Tulsa Now Forums do a pretty good job, especially since the Tulsa World does not like criticism.


Blogs are Advertising in Canada

Darren Barefoot blogged Yesterday, a decision came down from Elections BC that blogs are a form of campaign advertising, and therefore must be registered as such:

“Under the Election Act, it will fall within the definition of election advertising, and we would ask them to register,” says Jennifer Miller, of Elections B.C.

Miller says the volume of sites is overwhelming, and doesn’t rule out asking for a change to the Election Act. “If we feel certain parts of the act can be amended to make it more effective and efficient, we will definitely make that recommendation,” she says.
Newspapers, including editorials and letters to the editor, get an exemption. Actually, the exact words used were “bona fide news organizations”

To register, you have to complete an application for registration (PDF), which gets you added to this list. Then, within 90 days after the election, you have to file an advertising disclosure report (PDF).... Does requiring this registration stifle political debate? Yes. After all, if word gets out that you need to register to blog about the election, bloggers are less likely to become engaged with the debate.

Canada needs a First Amendment


Friday, May 13

This Day In History

  • 1607   The English colony at Jamestown, Va., was settled.
  • 1842   Composer Arthur Sullivan, who collaborated with William Gilbert in writing 14 comic operas, was born in London.
  • 1846   The United States declared that a state of war existed against Mexico.
  • 1914   Boxing champion Joe Louis was born in Lafayette, Ala.
  • 1917   Three peasant children near Fatima, Portugal, reported seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary.
  • 1940   Winston Churchill told the British House of Commons "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat" in his first speech as prime minister.
  • 1958   Vice President Richard Nixon's limousine was battered by rocks thrown by anti-U.S. demonstrators in Caracas, Venezuela.
  • 1985   Philadelphia police dropped an explosive onto the headquarters of the radical group MOVE; 11 people died in the resulting fire.
  • 2003   The government unveiled a new version of the $20 bill   the first to be colorized in an effort to thwart counterfeiters.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1950   Stevie Wonder (Stevland Morris)


Thursday, May 12, 2005


Deb blogged on Elephant In My Coffee Where should teacher's draw the line?

During this whole school year my daughter (12) has come home telling me stories about comments her humanities teacher has made. They range from "too bad you don't want to hear the truth" when she is Bush Bashing to "Bush says if you are against the war you are a traitor". Is it really a teacher's place to politicize the classroom, especially in Middle School?

Absolutely not!
I'd even be ok with "This is what I think." "What do you think?" (And be able to explain why, which she hasn't been able to do anytime my daughter questions her). Kind of chaps my hide.

Deb then blogged Letter to the Editor

This is what I sent to the El Paso Times:
After two years at a public middle school I am struggling with the decision to send my daughter back next school year. While she's had some good teachers and experiences I cringe at the underlying attitude of some of the staff, administration and district. She's been told in class, by a teacher, that President Bush is a liar and also that she should take every handout she can get because it's the only way she'll get anywhere as a Hispanic female in America. Next throw in the "zero (responsibility) policy" and campus rules that treat honor students like juvenile delinquents. Is this a recipe for success? Sounds more like a microwave dinner to me!
If you are in a position to do it, I would suggest Home Schooling.

Right after I read those two posts I ran across this

Our education system must change

Today's schools function essentially the same as they did when the system was first designed fifty years ago. That is bad. Very, very bad. That school system was designed after the Austrian system and its goal was to produce an industrial workforce. Industry and technology are only tangentially related and the workforce our schools produce today is not equipped to handle a technologically based society.

There is also a huge issue with bureaucratic bloat. While the basic system is the same, every year has seen additional restrictions and requirements applied to our schools. Administrators are hamstrung compared to their power and authority a mere two decades ago. They work in an outdated system that they are increasingly unable to support, modify and even effectively administrate.

As administrations lose control they react with increasing stringency. Alternative schools, once a true alternative for youths pursuing vocational studies, have become defacto prisons for troublesome students. Overcrowded prisons, to boot. Zero tolerance policies are put in place to protect administrations from charges of racism and favoritism and to spare them the culpability of increasingly impossible decisions. In too many cases they are damned if they do and damned if they don't. The response is increasingly "Damn you too".

America spends over $10,000 per year per student to support public education. We are the world leader on spending money for school but we consistently fall at the bottom of the list for performance compared to other first world countries.
That is because we don't allow our teachers to maintain discipline in their classrooms.
The system MUST change.

Fortunately it is starting to. There are alternatives that are increasing in popularity and effect. Homeschooling was once thought to be the purview of religious extremists. In the past decade home education has increased from a few hundred thousand students to well over two percent of all K-12 students. As it has grown the stigma and prejudice against it has begun to crumble.

Alternative home education, or remote learning, has also grown. With advances in technology allowing any child with a computer to receive quality instruction this can only continue to advance. The cost savings alone for remote learning over institutional learning are phenomenal. A student can be supplied with a computer, cable, television, high speed internet access, programs and supplies for a small fraction of that $10,000 per year.

The next step needed is for the government to back off enough to allow private education to flourish. No Child Left Behind is an excellent start. Not only has this program exposed schools, districts and even entire states that have been cloaking their poor performance, it is also starting to wean some of them off of the federal teat. Several independent school districts have opted out of NCLB and federal funding. Utah has just passed legislation that will put them in direct violation of NCLB, effectively removing the entire state from federal scholastic monies. As systems fall out of the federal basket they become free from the huge amount of restrictions and regulations attached to those federal funds.
I hope the citizens of Utah will hold their school boards to the same level of performance that NCLB would have done.
States are beginning to support non-institutional learning methods. Georgia recently passed a law allowing homeschoolers as well as enrolled students to participate in online classes. Several states now give homeschoolers the same or similar resources as their enrolled counterparts.

Backlash against zero tolerance policy abuses is starting to force changes there. The Texas House of Representatives just signed a bill that will give administrators the ability to administrate in most cases of rules violations. The notable exception is the case of firearms. Those will still carry a mandatory expulsion due to federal laws. That bill is expected to be approved by the state Senate and then signed into law. Other states are looking on and learning from Texas' example.

Will the system change? Yes. It is inevitable. Industry leaders are now backing education reform. Bill Gates and his contemporaries have picked up the banner and are expending huge amounts of capital to educate legislators about education. The failure of our schools is clear and the fact that wholesale changes are needed is starting to become clear as well.

Change is coming but it won't be quick and it won't be painless. The current education system is supported by incredibly powerful lobbies and special interest groups. Teachers' unions have proven to be very successful at stymieing reform legislation and protecting the status quo. Niche industries that are effectively parasites to our present scholastic bureaucracy are working to protect themselves. Change itself in any form causes fear of uncertainty. Finally, the education system is simply so huge that effectively changing it will be a massive investment in time, money and resources.
Enough money and other resources are being provided; what they need is for every parent to demand what NCLB demands, that the school demonstrate improvement.
But change is coming. I just hope it comes soon enough to help my kids.



HughHewitt blogged My column, "A Selective Adherence to Tradition," points out that those who were outraged about mentions of impeachment in April are silent on the politicization of the confirmation process in May. Rush Limbaugh made a similar and powerful point yesterday when he asked where where are the defenders of the judiciary who denounced attacks on judges last month, but who are silent this month about attacks on Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and Bill Pryor? If it was wrong to ask for accountability of the 11th Circuit --which ignored the clear intent of the Congress in the Schiavo case-- why is it acceptable to denounce in the harshest terms the opinions of Bush nominees? If the former endangers judges, Rush asked, doesn't the latter?

Actually regardless of what you thought about the Schiavo case, what the Dems are doing to the judges is WRONG
Of course it does, but the MSM is indifferent to attacks on center-right judges, just as MSM ignores the wild hypocrisy of attacking mentions of impeachment even as politically-motivated filibusters dominate the Senate's business.

Visit to send e-mails to the GOP senators thought in need of bucking up, and visit for the latest news on the battle to restore the constitutional option to the Senate's deliberations. The key votes are those of Senators Collins of Maine, Hagel of Nebraska, and Warner of Virginia. You can reach their offices via the Congressional switchboard at 202-225-3121.


Houston Chronicle Blogs Open Up

Micro Persuasion reports The Houston Chronicle has opened up their blogs to comments and trackbacks. And the people in Yao-land rejoiced.

On the Houston Chronicle's TechBlog Dwight Silverman blogged The conversation begins

Welcome to the rebirth of's weblogs, or blogs. When we first began posting features we called blogs on the site, we heard from online users who insisted that, no, they weren't blogs. Online columns, maybe, but not blogs. Those critics were right. When done right, blogging is a lot more than short, well-written items with attitude. Blogging is also about collaborating with readers and connecting with others on the Web who are addressing the same topic.

Congratulations to the Chronicle for recognizing that fact, and switching. It has been 35 years since I have been in Houston, but I think I will being following the Chronicle's blogs.
We have switched to software that lets you comment on what you see here in TechBlog, in Kyrie O'Connor's MeMo (Cultural blog) and -- soon -- in Richard Justice's (sports) blog. Because of comment spam and those who like to scream obscenities in public places, we'll be moderating comments before they go up.
Eliminating obscenities is fine, but I hope their moderation control does not extend to blocking statements critical of something the Chronicle said.
We're also interested in what others across the Web have to say about what's written here, so we're allowing a feature called trackback. When a site that supports trackback links to one of our blog items, you'll see evidence of it below that item.
I applaud the Chronical for this as well. Trackbacks are useful for both blogs. I will be doing a trackback when I post this, and it will allow both Dwight and his readers to see what I thought, and if his readers want to challenge what I said, they have the freedom of doing it on Dwight's blog, where he will certainly see it, but where I might not, or they can do it on my blog, where I will certainly see it (but Dwight might not). They have a third option and that is commenting on their own blogs, and doing a trackback to both Dwight and me.
What you're seeing here is more than just the Chronicle using a different piece of software for blogging. This is the beginning of our taking a very different stance toward our core mission -- finding out what's going on in the community and letting others know.

The conversion of these blogs are baby steps, but our goal is to turn Houston's news into a conversation.

Let's start talking.

At the time I posted this, they had 7 trackbacks and 30 comments (including responses from Dwight)

rorschach commented Dwight, excellent move. The MSM has in the past been very anti-blogospere. I'm sure the reasons run the gamut from fear of competition, to embarrassment when mistakes are pointed up. I however don't think the MSM and the blogosphere are competitors, they are in fact symbiots. We need the MSM because we do not have the infrastructure and resources to gather news the way you guys do. But on the other hand, we are your consumers. We do not like being preached and propgandized to. We want our news raw and cold. Spin is for tops, not news. A merchant who does not listen to his consumer is not in business long. Someone else will come along and serve the consumer better. Capitalism is a wonderful thing. The news business is no different than any other service. I'm very VERY glad that The Chronicle is moving in this direction. I know you have a long row to hoe, and there will be resistance. I ask that you do not give up.

John Wagner blogged Dwight says the Chron is adding "quite a few" new blogs in coming months.

Charles Kuffner blogged As promised yesterday, check out the new TechBlog and MeMo (who's apparently a little resistant to the change - Kyrie, speaking as a ten-year veteran of customer service work, I have bad news for you: It really is always the user. Accept the truth of that and move on. It's the only way.)

Brent blogged A few months ago, started accepting comments and trackbacks, and that did indeed make me read more as a source of mainstream tech news (meaning, glorified press releases). I used to read Ziff-Davis Network News for that type of thing, but I switched to with their adoptation of trackbacks.


Base Closure Plan

Lexington Institute announces Base Closure Plan Shows Pentagon's New Direction Here are four patterns in the recommendations that reveal much about the military's future direction.

Go West. Threats to America traditionally have originated in Europe, so much of the nation's military force is concentrated on or near the East Coast. But when the CIA briefed members of the base closure commission on future threats last week, it focused on challenges in the Persian Gulf and East Asia. The implication is that more of the military's submarines and bombers need to be based in places like Guam, Hawaii, California and Washington -- an outcome reflected in Pentagon proposals.

Go South. The military is following private industry out of the Frostbelt and into the Sunbelt. The Northeast and upper Midwest are losing defense jobs while virtually every state in the Deep South is gaining. This is partly about the cost of living and the availability of land, but it is also about who supports the military: if the local congressional delegation has been working hard for decades to get money and missions into nearby bases, they're going to look pretty good on paper.

Go Joint. Secretary Rumsfeld has made sharing among the services a touchstone of military transformation. More than in any previous base closure round, this year's recommendations will seek to save money by consolidating overlapping functions at multiservice ("joint") facilities. That's especially true of support activities such as equipment maintenance, weapons testing, research and supply.

Go Private. Military planners don't like to rely too heavily on the marketplace for services because they fear suppliers will abandon them when demand turns down in peacetime. The result is a sprawling infrastructure of government-owned ammo plants, depots and supply centers that most of the time is under-utilized. Deputy defense secretary-designate Gordon England has told Rumsfeld that reengineering and privatizing these sites should be a focus of military transformation, and the base closure recommendations will reflect that goal.

OTB blogged Presuming that these changes are accepted by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission and approved by Congress, this is quite positive, indeed. Politics will preclude going as far as necessary. In an ideal world, virtually all small Army bases would go away with functions consolidated at large maneuver bases like Forts Bragg, Hood, Benning, and Knox. Bases in expensive areas like California would be moved to inexpensive places like Arkansas, unless there was a vital reason (e.g., access to ports) to keep them there. Most facilities near Washington, D.C. would be shut down with functions consolidated onto cheaper, more secure bases elsewhere. Those things won't happen, of course.

I like all four of the recommendation's points


Experts Are at a Loss on Investing

Los Angeles Times reports Harry M. Markowitz won the Nobel Prize in economics as the father of "modern portfolio theory," the idea that people shouldn't put all of their eggs in one basket, but should diversify their investments. However, when it came to his own retirement investments, Markowitz practiced only a rudimentary version of what he preached. He split most of his money down the middle, put half in a stock fund and the other half in a conservative, low-interest investment. "In retrospect, it would have been better to have been more in stocks when I was younger," the 77-year-old economist acknowledged.

That is true, but I feel sure he made a lot more on his investments than Social Security made.
At least Markowitz invested more wisely than some of his fellow Nobelists. Several of them concede that they have significant portions of their nest eggs in money market accounts, some of the lowest-returning investment vehicles available.
Not as low as T-Bills
"I know it's utterly stupid," confessed George A. Akerlof, a UC Berkeley professor and 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize in economics. As President Bush crisscrosses the country promoting his plan to overhaul Social Security, he argues that Americans are ready to trade in a portion of their traditional benefits for ownership and control over their own investment accounts. People have grown so comfortable with stocks and bonds, he asserts, that they can invest their way to more prosperous retirements by watching their quarterly statements, adjusting their portfolios and looking out for themselves. But a growing body of research shows that millions of Americans fail to get even the most elementary investment decisions right.
And with Bush's proposal they still might get it wrong, because it is a voluntary program, and they might foolishly decide not to go with it.
More than one-quarter of those eligible for employer-provided 401(k)s fail to sign up for them, according to the Federal Reserve. More than half of those who do sign up funnel their money either into overly conservative or overly aggressive investments, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a Washington think tank sponsored by hundreds of companies. Even more disconcerting, new research suggests that most people don't behave anything like the economically savvy men and women that free-market advocates and economic theorists claim they are. They often shut down in the face of many choices. They sometimes even fail to go after free money.

In committing investment errors such as these, ordinary Americans turn out to be in good company. Even some winners of the Nobel Prize in economics admit to making similar mistakes, either by failing to pay attention to their own retirement arrangements or by making faulty decisions when they do. "I think very little about my retirement savings, because I know that thinking could make me poorer or more miserable or both," quipped 2002 Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University. "I would rather spend my time enjoying my income than bothering about investments," said Clive W.J. Granger, an emeritus professor at UC San Diego and a 2003 Nobel Prize winner. White House officials dismiss such remarks as largely irrelevant to the Social Security debate. They describe the president's proposed investment accounts as voluntary and low-risk.
They are right
They suggest that those who oppose the accounts are taking a special swipe at low-income Americans, who otherwise would not have the money to invest on their own. "It's almost an insult to the ability of some Americans to take charge of their retirements," Bush spokesman Trent Duffy said. That Nobelists and other highly educated professionals get tripped up by retirement is hardly proof that people can't handle their own retirement investments. But it does suggest that few are terribly good at the job, and fewer have the time or inclination to get better quickly. And the president's accounts plan would require people to do a very good job at investing.
No it wouldn't. The choices would be very limited, but any of them would make as much if not more than T-Bills (I say as much, since T-Bills would be one choice). But even if they selected T-Bills, the money would be in their personal accounts, and the government would not be squandering it.
Under the proposal, Americans born in 1950 and after would be able to divert a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into individual investment accounts. But in return for doing so, their traditional Social Security benefit would be reduced — by the amount diverted plus a 3% annual after-inflation charge on that amount.
I don't think that is correct. Certainly it would be reduced by the amount they invested, but I think the 3% after-inflation charge is not true.
With inflation now running about 3%, that means account holders might have to earn 6% a year just to break even. Anyone who followed Markowitz's approach — putting half of their balance in a low-interest investment — would almost certainly lose money by signing up for accounts. So would someone who followed Akerlof's approach — placing a substantial amount of it in money market accounts, which now pay about 2%. Markowitz, Akerlof, Kahneman and Granger are not the exceptions among the nation's most-educated elite or the general population in taking a cautious or hands-off approach to retirement investment.
Even if he is right about the 3% after-inflation charge, the money would be in their personal account, not being wasted by the government, with just a promise that taxes would be raised in the future to repay it.
In interviews and e-mails, five of the 11 Nobel winners in economics during this decade and a handful of others since 1990 said they failed to regularly manage their retirement savings. One even says he missed the mark in how he invested his prize winnings. Several had or have retirement funds parked in money market accounts or other low-interest investments that they say are probably too conservative. The same is true of an estimated 50% of Harvard's 15,000-member faculty and staff, who permit all of their retirement savings to be funneled into money market accounts, according to the university, by failing to specify how they want their funds invested.

Steve Bainbridge blogged the article misses the point that investing is really rather simple. You park your money in no-load passively-managed index funds, weighted as heavily to equities as your risk tolerance can take, and then you get on with the rest of life. So if personal accounts come down the pike, put your money in passively-managed no-load funds and forget about it. If the Democrats and their MSM allies like Gosselin manage to block personal accounts, put what little discretionary money Uncle Sam leaves you after taxes in passively-managed no-load funds and forget about it. In the long run, you'll come out ahead of the game with a lot less stress.


The Problem With the 28% Solution

The Claremont Institute said Mickey Kaus has said something about Social Security that no one else has: If liberals were serious about their domestic agenda, they would scale back future Social Security benefits more that Pres. Bush has proposed – a lot more. Such reductions would transfer resources from Social Security, “a universal check-writing scheme,” freeing up those percentage points of the Gross Domestic Product for a government program of universal health care, the last big piece of the New Deal – Great Society puzzle. “Would you take a deal that gave us universal Medicare-style health insurance if the price was cutting down Social Security into a mere program of earned insurance against poverty? It seems like a no-brainer to me.”

That is why GWB focused on Social Security before looking at Medicare.
Asking liberals to think in terms of trade-offs, however, or to acknowledge the self-evident truth that there can never be more than 100 GDP percentage points available to any welfare state, is asking a lot. Matt Miller explained why in a recent column in Fortune. Despite the vehemence of the debate between liberals and conservatives over the size of government, the outer limits of what’s politically feasible are not very far apart. Miller points out that all taxes to the federal government now amount to “16.3 % of GDP, historical lows not seen since the 1950s.” They reached their peak during Bill Clinton’s second term at nearly 21% of GDP.

As everyone understands, Social Security has made promises it can’t keep. Either its benefits will be reduced, its taxes will be increased, or it will derive revenue from sources outside its own payroll taxes. Generally speaking, conservative approaches emphasize benefit cuts and liberal ones emphasize tax increases.

There’s now a good deal of liberal rhetoric about how Social Security is basically in good shape, and needs just a few minor adjustments.
I suspect they will regret that rhetoric, when it comes back at them.
However, the most prominent liberal reform plan, developed by Peter Diamond and Peter Orszag of the Brookings Institute, envisions, according to Kaus, “the current 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax rising to 15.4 percent in 2078 and continuing to rise ‘slowly over time thereafter.’” And the payroll tax goes “only” that high because, according to the back of the envelope where Kaus made his calculations, Diamond and Orszag impose benefit cuts equivalent to roughly another 1 percent of payroll taxes. Even then, “if the Medicare tax is kept at its current 2.9 percent (a seeming impossibility) that means total FICA payroll taxes in excess of 18%.” The two programs liberals defend most fiercely could easily require payroll taxes over 20%, more than half-again as high as their current level.

Of course, liberals will hardly be satisfied to spend the 21st century maintaining two huge social insurance programs for the aged, one created in 1935 and the other in 1965. There’s one other big thing they want to do – universal health insurance – and lots and lots of not-so-little things beyond that. Some Democrats have pointed out that we could make Social Security solvent by repealing all the tax cuts signed by Pres. Bush in 2001. Miller’s no fan of those tax cuts, but says, “You can repeal them only once.” If their repeal fixes Social Security then it can’t be used to fix Medicare and Medicaid (“scheduled to double from 4.5% of GDP today to 9% by 2030”). And it certainly won’t be available for “the plethora of other Democratic priorities, from covering the uninsured, to wage and child-care subsidies for the working poor, to R&D and infrastructure backlogs.”

So, Miller asks, what is the Democrats’ “secret number”? “How do we propose to make the health and pension programs for seniors sustainable while also paying for needed nonelderly initiatives? And how do we do all that while keeping overall taxes as a share of GDP at levels that don’t hurt economic growth ([and] without pushing taxes beyond levels Americans are likely to support)?” Miller asked around and got this marvelous non-answer from one of Pres. Clinton’s economic advisors: “I don’t think that conversation has yet taken place in the heads of most Democratic economists.” A secret is something that somebody knows. The Democrats’ secret number, however, is a secret even to themselves, because it’s an answer to a question they are determined never to ask – how big a share of the national income should be devoted to the liberal agenda?

Miller did some calculations on the back of his own envelope: the cost of the “full progressive monty” comes in “somewhere around 28% of GDP” – requiring federal tax levels three-quarters again as high as they are now, and one-third again as high as they were during their historic peak under Bill Clinton. His first reaction? “Yikes.” And his second? “If Democrats are forced to consider their secret number explicitly, they may discover we shouldn’t, or can’t, go that high. . . . Seen through this prism, Democrats might then be open to spending-side changes in Social Security that they rule out today because they’re thinking too narrowly.” This narrow thinking, however, is an essential attribute of liberalism, not some accidental feature that wider horizons will cure. Precisely because making their secret number explicit might lead to the discovery we can’t or shouldn’t go that high, Democrats will resist every effort to force them to consider it.

Kaus makes a sensible argument about Social Security: “Universality is extremely expensive.” Devoting such a large portion of our GDP to mailing “Social Security checks to rich and poor alike” can’t possibly be “the highest and best use” of it. But it is certain to be unavailing. Considering their secret number explicitly is both the lastest of resorts for liberals and, as Miller says, a requirement before they might even think about reducing Social Security benefits.

Better, in other words, to send generous Social Security checks to every millionaire in America than to yield any of the GDP percentage points liberals have spent decades wresting away from the private sector for the expansion of the public sector. Kaus is willing to gamble that letting Social Security lurch to the edge of a crisis might, finally, get liberals serious about means-testing the program so that those GDP points could be used for other, more urgent needs. But the liberals who will ignore him are certain to gamble that a crisis in Social Security will be a lever to move more of those GDP points into the public sector – and to do it without having to think about or say their secret number.

TheAnchoress blogged I’m still thinking and learning about Social Security and I think this is a pretty good article on the whole issue of reform.

Ramesh Ponnuru blogged William Voegeli analyzes recent columns by Mickey Kaus and Matthew Miller.

If the Dems ever get over their Hate Fest and learn to compromise instead of always saying No, this column will be a good one to look back on.


Audio Blogs

NYT reported Now, Audio Blogs for Those Who Aspire to Be D.J.'s
What do the pope and Paris Hilton have in common? They're both podcasters - and you can be one too.

Ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, podcasts are essentially do-it-yourself recorded radio programs posted online. Anyone can download them free, and, using special software, listeners can subscribe to favorite shows and even have them automatically downloaded to a portable digital music player. Despite what the name suggests, podcasts can be played not just on iPods but on any device that has an MP3 player program, including PC's and laptops. Podcasts are the natural technological offspring of Web logs or blogs, those endlessly meandering personal Web musings that now seem to be everywhere online. Similarly, many podcasters have a diaristic bent, ranging from Mr. X, in upstate New York (, who has recorded his ruminations while driving to work, to Dan Klass, an underemployed actor in California whose podcast, "The Bitterest Pill" (, has been known to feature invectives against Elmo. There are celebrity podcasts like Paris Hilton's (houseofwaxmovie, intended to promote movies. Another, more high-minded site, Catholic Insider (, links to podcasts of Pope Benedict XVI from Vatican Radio.

Many radio stations are embracing the technology. WGBH in Boston, Q107 in Toronto and BBC Radio are already offering regular podcasts. Tomorrow, Sirius Satellite Radio will begin broadcasting a best-of-podcasting program with the podfather of podcasting, Adam Curry, formerly of MTV, as host. Taking the experiment a step further, Infinity Broadcasting plans to restart its San Francisco talk station KYCY-AM (1550) with an all-podcasting format beginning Monday. KYCY's broadcasts will feature amateur programs from around the Web, but because of Federal Communications Commission regulations, each will be screened in advance. For those wanting to find a podcast, there are online directories that list thousands of them, including, Podcasting News, Podcast Alley and

Several free software programs - like Doppler and iPodder - help users subscribe to and download podcasts. IPodder comes in Windows and Mac versions. The program includes a directory of podcasts available for subscribing on a scheduled basis or for downloading at will. The Web address of a podcast that is not listed can be cut and pasted into iPodder to add it to a user's roster of subscriptions.

Rex Hammock blogged Despite not quite understanding that syndication via RSS enclosure is the special sauce that makes podcasting podcasting, a NYT reporter attempts to overview the basics of podcasting in Thursday's paper.

Rickheller @Centerfield blogged Podcasts are mp3 audio files that are automatically downloaded to your machine when you subscribe to an RSS feed through a podcasting client. I first tried to install Ipodder, but it didn't work on my WinME machine. So then I installed RSSRadio, and it worked. Once you install your podcast client, you can add subscriptions. One podcast I recommend is Rip & Read Blogger Podcast, in which Charlie Quidnunc simply reads and comments on what's been posted to some political blogs--usually right-of-center ones. For balance, I've found a liberal podcast, Andymatic. though I haven't listened to it yet. If you're wondering, why a podcast, why not just read the blog yourself--it's a nice replacement for radio in situations where you can't be stationary in front of a computer. You can listen to it on your computer, or with an appliance like an iPod. It doesn't look like there are any centrist podcasts yet. Someone should step up and do one.

I have never been interested in Podcasting, but I provide this for my readers that might be interested in them


Thursday, May 12

This Day In History

  • 1831   The first indicted bank robber in the U.S., Edward Smith, was sentenced to five years hard labor on the rock pile at Sing Sing Prison.
  • 1870   Manitoba entered the confederation as a Canadian province.
  • 1932   The body of the kidnapped son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh was found in a wooded area of Hopewell, N.J.
  • 1937   Britain's King George VI was crowned at Westminster Abbey.
  • 1949   The Soviet Union announced an end to the Berlin blockade.
  • 1965   West Germany and Israel established diplomatic relations.
  • 1970   The Senate voted unanimously to confirm Harry A. Blackmun as a Supreme Court justice.
  • 1972   The album ''Exile on Main St.'' by the Rolling Stones was released.
  • 1982   In Fatima, Portugal, security guards overpowered a Spanish priest armed with a bayonet who was trying to reach Pope John Paul II.
  • 1992   Four suspects were arrested in the beating of trucker Reginald Denny at the start of the Los Angeles riots.
  • 2002   Jimmy Carter became the first present or former U.S. president to visit Cuba since Fidel Castro seized power in 1959.
  • 2003   Suicide bombers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killed 26 people, including nine U.S. citizens.
  • 2003   Fifty-nine Democratic lawmakers brought the Texas House to a standstill by going into hiding in a dispute over a Republican congressional redistricting plan.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1820   Florence Nightingale (health activist, nurse: promoted the nursing profession, contributed to modern nursing procedures, founded Nightingale Training School for Nurses; author: Notes on Nursing; died Aug 13, 1910)
  • 1907   Katharine Hepburn
  • 1928   Burt Bacharach (Oscar-winning composer)
  • 1937   George Carlin (comedian)


Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Edward Whelan wrote on National Review Online The Left invokes the Orwellian euphemism of the "living Constitution" as it promotes and applauds lawless judicial decisions, like Roe v. Wade, that have no conceivable basis in the text or structure of the real Constitution. The "metastasizing Constitution" would be a far more honest moniker.

I like that. It shows how cancerous the judiciary has become.
For the real living Constitution — the Constitution that came to life in 1789 and that grew to full fruition with the ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments in the aftermath of the Civil War — is suffering from foreign cells metastasizing in its vital organs. The only means of restoring its health is a vigorous dose of originalist medicine.
Sounds like a good idea to me.
The Left's "killer" argument against an originalist reading of the Constitution is that adherence to the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment purportedly would not have yielded the just result — the end to the evil of segregated public schools — mandated by the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. Margaret Talbot's interesting but flawed profile of Justice Scalia and originalism in a recent issue of the New Yorker (which I wrote about here) is typical: The only "way to get to Brown," she asserts, is "to embrace the 'living Constitution.' " Why's that? "[I]t's hard to see an originalist justification" for Brown, since, she claims, the "same Congress that passed the Fourteenth Amendment segregated Washington schools." Justice Scalia "sometimes acknowledges as much, saying that a faulty — that is, a non-originalist — method can occasionally produce good results, a Scalian variation on 'Even a broken watch is right twice a day.' " And further, she tells us, liberal legal scholar Cass Sunstein has declared that a "doctrinaire originalist" would reject Brown. Case closed. No need for further discussion.

But wait: Every one of Talbot's assertions is off the mark. First, the 37th Congress created segregated public schools for black children in D.C. in 1862
Were blacks and whites attending integrated schools prior to that, or did the 37th Congress help black children by creating a school for them, whether segregated or not?
, but it was a later, different Congress — the 39th — that in 1866 proposed the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868. As the brilliant scholar (and now tenth-circuit judge) Michael McConnell explains in his 1995 Virginia Law Review article "Originalism and the Desegregation Decisions": "At no time after the Fourteenth Amendment did Congress vote in favor of segregated schools in the District [of Columbia] (although Congress appropriated money for the segregated schools that already existed)." In addition, the restrictions of the Fourteenth Amendment apply only to states, not to Congress, so congressional action with respect to D.C. schools provides a shaky foundation for any inference as to the contemporaneous understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Second, what Talbot characterizes as an acknowledgment by Justice Scalia is no such thing. To make the obvious point that non-originalist decisions — that is, judges doing whatever they want — can produce good results in no way implies that originalism would not yield those same results. To use Talbot's analogy: That a broken clock is right twice a day doesn't mean a working clock is wrong twice a day.
Good point.
Third, just as one may rightly be suspicious when liberals instruct conservatives on what "genuine" conservatives would do, one need not accept Cass Sunstein as the final word on how an originalist would decide Brown.

Paul @PowerLine blogged Those who advocate a "living constitution" can reach the Brown result too (or not). Judges doing whatever they want can reach either correct or incorrect results. Indeed, Whelan reminds us, "even a broken watch is right twice a day."

In general, the Supreme Court has been getting more mileage than it deserves out of its decision in Brown. To its credit, the Supreme Court got on the right side of the civil rights issue about ten years before Congress did. Congress was hampered in this regard by the racist wing of the Democratic party and its use of the filibuster, which in those days could be sustained by one-third of the Senate.

Orrin Judd blogged From a stanpoint of what was best for the plain tiffs, Brown was probably argued and decided wrong anyway. It would have been far more empowering to simply insist on the Equal side of the Separate but Equal equation. Requiring segregated districts to spend as much per pupil in black schools as white could have been a real boon.


Responsible Demagoguery

Matt Miller editorialized in NYT You'd never guess from the Democratic hysteria that President Bush's plan to "progressively index" Social Security is an idea we liberals may one day want to embrace.

But you will never get a chance, because too many recorders are recording the Democratic response to those ideas now.
So farsighted Democrats who want to (1) win back power and (2) use that power to fix big problems should quit carping about Bush's evil "cuts" and punish him instead with what I call Responsible Demagoguery: harsh politics that leaves sound policy intact. Why do I say this? Start with this poorly understood fact: Under today's system of "wage indexed" benefits, every new cohort of retirees is guaranteed a higher level of real benefits than the previous generation. Workers retiring in 2025, for example, are scheduled to receive payments 20 percent higher in real terms than today's retirees. Today's teenagers are slated to get a 60 percent increase. When Democrats cry about "cuts," they mean trims from these higher levels.
Dems always scream cut when it is just not as much as they wanted to spend.
A Democrat might ask: Why would we ever change this way of calculating benefits, other than from some Scroogelike desire to slow the rise in future benefits? Well, we probably wouldn't think about it if we weren't on the cusp of the biggest financial crunch in American history. But we are.
Precisely what GWB has been saying.
And with the baby boomers' retirement looming, Democrats need to think beyond Social Security alone to think intelligently about achieving progressive goals. Indeed, if you care about social justice and economic growth, the big policy question for the next generation is this: How do we square the needs of seniors with the needs of the rest of America, at levels of taxation that don't strangle the economy? Those who say today's Social Security structure is sacred are arguing that our top priority - before we even consider anything else - must be to guarantee that every senior will enjoy real benefit increases in perpetuity. But why is this fair or wise when there is no "trust fund" for the 45 million uninsured, or for the working poor or for poor children?
If by "trust fund" you mean what supposedly exists for Social Security, there is no money in it either.
Those who say "hands off Social Security," but who (like me) want government to spend big money on these other needs, are implicitly saying that taxes as a share of G.D.P. will have to rise sharply.

Today, thanks to Bush's misguided tax cuts, federal taxes are around 16.5 percent of G.D.P., lower than at any time in 50 years. Even Newt Gingrich admits that taxes must rise as the boomers age. But to pay for a fuller progressive agenda while leaving Social Security and Medicare untouched (and without running crazy Bush-style deficits), federal taxes would need to rise past late-Clinton-era levels, 21 percent of G.D.P., toward something like 28 percent by 2030. Maybe that makes sense.
Only if you want to destroy the economy.
Or maybe it will mean a descent into tax-induced sloth. Or maybe talking about such levels of taxation in the U.S. is a political fantasy. The point is that Social Security is not something to fix in a vacuum. Once Democrats adopt this broader vision, they may find they're open to fair trims in future benefits as part of a blueprint that sustainably pursues progressive goals for all Americans, not just the elderly.

We know Democrats aren't making sense here because their chief argument is that "progressive indexing" (to prices, not wages) would cut retirement incomes too deeply by 2075. This may be true. But it's a little like worrying that Captain Kirk's phaser may malfunction in that year as well. By 2075, for all we know, genetically engineered seniors may be living in retirement utopias on Jupiter. Or people may be fit and routinely working at age 90. A million things will have changed, just as Social Security's benefit design has changed in the past. If, instead, you look out 20 to 30 years, the benefit trims consistent with Bush's idea are modest (and for low earners, unchanged). If there's a problem, 76 million stampeding boomers will make sure politicians fix it. This isn't a case for joining hands with Mr. Bush; it's a case for keeping political opportunism and policy conviction separate in the Democratic mind. Responsibly Demagogic Democrats will blast Bush for wanting to borrow fresh trillions to create dubious new private accounts.
Borrowing is not required. Bush's proposal just moves 30% of the FICA tax to someplace where congress can't steal it.
But they won't dis "progressive indexing" on the merits, even though it's a juicy gazillion-dollar pseudo-"cut." I know this is asking a lot. Republicans didn't demagogue responsibly when they caricatured Hillarycare as "socialist" back in the 1990's. But being a Democrat may mean being a little better even when you're bad.

Michelle Malkin blogged Kudos to Matt Miller for telling the truth about President Bush's Social Security indexing proposal

Matthew Yglesias blogged The other thing is this putative tradeoff between preserving Social Security and taking care of the poor kids for whom there is no trust fund. There is, in fact, a trust fund for today's kids. It's called "the Social Security trust fund."
It just does not have any money.
The interesting thing about people is that they get older; today's children are tomorrow's old people. Bush isn't proposing cutting benefits on today's old people to give money to today's children. He's proposing cutting benefits on tomorrow's old people (i.e., today's kids) in order to give more money to today's rich people.
That is total stupidity. The 30% is going to personal accounts for either tomorrow's old people to have when they retire, whether or not Social Security is still around.
You can find a full diagnosis of the Kotlikoff Syndrome, which appears to have infected Miller, back on Talking Points Memo during my guest-blogging days. The thing Miller is supporting doesn't do what he seems to think it does.


Bogus Police Badges

CNN reported Federal agents arrested a man on Monday, charging him with possessing and selling more than 1,300 counterfeit badges representing 35 law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency said. The counterfeits are "very, very good," said Special Agent in Charge Martin Ficke, who added that nine out of 10 would "pass scrutiny."

The phony badges mimic real badges from agencies such as the FBI, U.S. Marshals, Customs, Drug Enforcement Agency, Treasury and New York Police Department, Ficke said. Some even had a signature from the company that makes the real badges. "For someone to have that in their possession and utilize it to identify themselves as law enforcement could be devastating to security, particularly homeland security," Ficke said. Officials said the badges were shipped from Taiwan to San Francisco, California, and were discovered by a customs agent who then contacted Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency officials in New York.

Michelle Malkin blogged Sergio Khorosh, the Russian man who was charged yesterday with possessing and attempting to sell more than 1,000 fake FBI, Secret Service, DEA, and NYPD badges, was apparently finding (or trying to find) sellers via the Internet Related:
-Imposters in the air [column, photo, memo]

I hope they lock him up and throw away the key



ION RSS reports:

  1. RSS becoming a key driver of traffic for NY Times
    The NY Times issued a press release that claims a massive 342% annual increase in RSS click-throughs. RSS-generated click-throughs totalled 5.9m pageviews in March, representing a 39% increase from February's 4.3 million, the press release said, noting that the Washington and Business feeds were most popular. The Times offers a variety of RSS feeds - one of the first major newspapers to do so. They publish excerpted RSS feeds, so users have to click through to view the whole story.
  2. RSS may generate 25% or more of NY Times total website traffic within 3 years
    Alex Barnett did the math on the NY Times RSS growth trends highlighted in Silicon Valley Watcher yesterday. Alex estimates that if current growth rates continue, in 3 years RSS click-throughs will represent 27% of total page views for the NY Times website!

    I wouldn't be surprised if the NY Times' RSS growth rate increases in comparison to total site growth over the next few years, given that only an estimated 12% of the population use an RSS Reader at this time. If RSS reader take-up increases (which I expect it to) we may well see RSS feeds driving 33% or more of the NY Times's total website traffic by 2008. I suspect that's a conservative estimate.

    Makes you realise how strategically important RSS feeds are for news media companies, most of which are scrambling to figure out how best to deliver news online.
Hat tip to Scobleizer for pointing out how useful ION RSS can be.


Harry Reid Gives Away the Game blogs
The Democrat talking point was that filibustering is not about requiring a supermajority to approve judges, but rather it is about stopping some radical rightwing nutjobs from being given lifetime appointments to the federal bench.

Scratch that talking point. Let's face the truth. The Democrats want to establish -- in advance of a Supreme Court nomination -- that the President must get someone who can be approved with a 60% majority, not a 51% majority. Keep in mind that the Constitution specifies very specific tasks requiringg more than a 51% majority. Those matters that are not specified as requiring a supermajority, including judges, have always been recognized to require just a simple majority. Not any more.

Need proof? Let Harry Reid explain it to you.

This fight is not about seven radical nominees; it's about clearing the way for a Supreme Court nominee who only needs 51 votes, instead of 60 votes.
At least he is admitting it's about holding the Senate hostage to the whims of a supermajority and they can drop the shtick about the filibusters blocking "radical nominees." Now that Reid admits the Democrats are not filibustering for cause on a case by case basis, but are filibustering to require the Senate to vote in a way the Constitution does not contemplate, will the Republicans get on with it and nuke the judicial filibuster

In that Daily Kos post Reid also says
This fight is not about seven radical nominees; it's about clearing the way for a Supreme Court nominee who only needs 51 votes, instead of 60 votes. They want a Clarence Thomas, not a Sandra Day O'Connor or Anthony Kennedy or David Souter. George Bush wants to turn the Senate into a second House of Representatives, a rubberstamp for his right wing agenda and radical judges. That's not how America works.
If it does come to a vote, I asked Senator Frist to allow his Republican colleagues to follow their consciences. Senator Specter recently said that Senators should be bound by Senate loyalty rather than party loyalty on a question of this magnitude.
I've got news for a RINO like Senator Specter, the Senate does not elect Senators. They are elected by the people, and that is who they owe their loyalty to, and after that, they owe their loyalty to their party.
But right wing activists are threatening primary challenges against Republicans who vote against the nuclear option.
And they should. If they are not going to support their party, we need to get Senators in that will.
Senators should not face this or any other form of retribution based on their support for the Constitution. In return, I pledge that I will place no such pressure on Democratic Senators and I urge Senator Frist to refrain from placing such pressure on Republican Senators.


AOL jumps into free e-mail business

USATODAY reports Its subscription business in decline, America Online is launching yet another product on the open Web: a free, ad-supported e-mail service tied to its instant-messaging platform. Users of AOL Instant Messenger will be able to send and receive mail with "" addresses using their existing AIM screen names. Initially, users will need the latest version of AIM software, available as a "beta" test download for Windows computers beginning Wednesday. Ultimately, they'll be able to send and receive mail from any Web browser. Each account comes with 2 gigabytes of storage — comparable with Google's Gmail and more generous than the free offerings from Yahoo and Microsoft 's Hotmail and even AOL's flagship subscription service.

Personally I think I would go with GMail (if and whenever it comes out of beta), because I do not like the security problems associated with Instant Messengers.
And unlike AOL's main accounts, which keep new messages for 27 days and messages already read for up to a week unless users actively save them, AIM mail never expires. AIM mail will also incorporate a few features unique to AOL until now: The ability to check whether AOL and AIM recipients have opened a message and to delete an unopened message from the recipients' inbox (This won't work with e-mail sent to users of other services).

The Web-based interface will also have drag-and-drop capabilities, allowing users to sort mail without having to check multiple boxes and hit a "move" button.
That does sound useful
"It's not clear what the demand is for yet another free e-mail product, but this is certainly a very competitive offering," Jupiter Research analyst David Card said. One key difference between the AOL and AIM mail offerings will be in ad placement: When checking mail, an ad appears on the bottom if you have the paid AOL account but more prominently on top if you use the free AIM service.
If I was stupid enough to pay for an AoL account, I would expect NO ADs.
As AOL breaks from its historical "walled-garden" strategy of exclusivity and makes more of its offerings free to non-subscribers, it risks furthering declines in paid subscriptions. In the United States, AOL lost more than 500,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2005 and about 5 million since its peak of 26.7 million in September 2002.
I am not surprised they are losing customers. I can't imagine why people would pay $24 a month for dial up service, where there are so many suppliers that will provided it for $10 a month, including Netscape, which is owned by AoL.
Card said he doubts AOL will market the AIM mail service heavily to its existing paid subscribers. Rather, he said, AIM mail is a way to keep AIM users from leaving the AIM environment — and its ads — to use Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail.