Friday, October 31, 2003

Bold Words: For some strange reason, CNBC has hired Dennis Miller to host his own show.

I like Dennis Miller. He's a funny guy. I even agree with much of his politics. But he's not a newsman.

His little rants on Fox News were nothing more than childish insults flung at whomever he disagreed with. I'll pay money to see that at one of his comedy shows. But when I turn on a news channel, I want to see, well, news.

Consider his little spiel on the Tonight Show some time ago:

I say we invade Iraq and then invade Chirac. You run a pipe -- you run a pipe from the oilfield right over this Eiffel Tower, shoot it up and have the world's biggest oil derrick. We got a picture of it right here. Yeah. Listen, I would call the French scum bags, but that, of course, would be a disservice to bags filled with scum.
Funny stuff. But I expect more from CNBC.

Ah, Sanity! Gregg Easterbrook sets the record straight that Bush's forestry policies would help prevent massive forest fires, such as the ones in California now. After Democrats and environmentalists derailed Bush's proposal before, it took a national catastrophe to get them to see the light (after feeling some heat). I've interviewed forest firefighters, and they are essentially unanimous in declaring that controlled thinning of the forests prevents fires from getting out of control.

Environmentalists should have known this from the beginning. I can't tell what they're most passionate about, loving the environment or hating Bush. Well, they've lost a lot of credibility in my book.

Racial Strife: Can whites talk about problems in the black community, or is it just none of our business?

Some people are being pushed out of the debate. Lino Graglia, a conservative law professor at the University of Texas School of Law, has been an outspoken opponent of affirmative action, landing him in a heap of controversy from time to time.

The latest episode came in the form of a guest opinion column he wrote for The Daily Texan.

The reality of "affirmative action" and "diversity" is that they are simply euphemisms for racial discrimination on a very large scale in order to increase black (and, in Texas, Mexican-American) enrollment. The magnitude of the race discrimination must be large, because the racial group gap is large. The astounding, disconcerting fact at the basis of the problem is that the average black 12th grader performs at the level of the average white or Asian eighth-grader in reading and math, making the obtaining of a high school education a more pressing problem than admission to a selective university.
Graglia never says from what source he got those statistics. But this isn't the first time we've heard someone say that there is a disparity between whites and blacks when it comes to educational performance.

What bothers me is that people sent in letters to the newspaper calling Graglia a racist.

Graglia is the worst kind of racist. He is a white, male professor who, regardless of the individual or their scholastic aptitude, will only see a black face in the front row of class.
I didn't get that from the column he wrote. Now, I am a huge proponent of affirmative action. I believe that a concerted effort has to be made to raise the quality of education that minorities receive. I think that a diverse classroom and workplace improves the quality of learning and work for everyone. I think using race as a factor in admissions and hiring goes a long way to help alleviate past and present problems of racial discrimination.

But I don't assume that people who are against affirmative action are racist.

As I said, Graglia has gotten in trouble in the past. With what I consider more controversial language, in 1997 he criticized black and Hispanic cultures for not promoting educational excellence.

They have a culture that seems not to encourage achievement. Failure is not looked upon with disgrace.
Those words bothered me, offended lots of people, and even prompted Jesse Jackson to hold a rally on the UT campus denouncing Lino Graglia. The discussion quickly centered on whether the UT administration should fire Graglia for his comments.

But I have heard black activists essentially say the same thing Graglia said. The late John Ogbu, who was an anthropology professor at the University of California at Berkeley, would say that many blacks look at academic achievement as "acting white".

Clarence Page, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, has consistently preached that black parents should do more to encourage their sons and daughters to succeed in school.

I don't know if either of these people would have agreed with Lino Graglia. I'm sure each of them would find something with which to disagree. So that's why we should be open to discuss these issues.

I know I don't have the answers. For that reason, I'm not going to insult somebody who wants to have an honest discussion in hopes of finding those answers.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Good News: The economy seems to be growing strong. But from a political perspective, as I've discussed before, this won't be a boon for Bush. Democrats will still talk about deficits, and state governments won't get the influx of tax revenue for years, causing them to continue to cut services, which will further upset the voting population.

What continues to amaze me is that people still look to the president as the master of the economy. Silly electorate.

Bad News: People are coming to the realization that there really isn't anything anyone can do about e-mail spam. Although Congress has created a "Do Not Call" registry for telemarketers, nothing similar could be created for spam. Many spammers are international, out of reach of U.S. laws. And they usually hijack other people's e-mail addresses, making it nearly impossible to track them down.

Some people have suggested making e-mail fee-based, so you have to pay money to the person you want to receive your e-mail. The theory goes that people could waive the fees for their friends and make a profit off the spammers -- also taking the economic incentive away from bulk e-mail. But people will want to keep their e-mail open. Otherwise we could simply create a list of e-mail addresses from which we would accept messages. That would be too exclusionary for our taste. And if we can't track down spammers, there's no way we could force them to pay any fees.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Entrance Exam: I read in The Wall Street Journal that some companies are asking its potential hires for their SAT scores. Volokh cites a friend who thinks this is a great idea.

I completely disagree. People are still debating whether SAT results should have any bearing on admitting students to college. Now, suddenly, people's math and verbal scores may follow them around for the rest of their careers.

I'm not a huge fan of the SAT, and I encourage people to debate whether the test is appropriate for college admissions standards and how the exam can be improved. Let's not expand its importance just yet.

As you might have guessed, I did not do particularly well on the SAT. My first crack at the test during my sophomore year of high school, I scored a miserable 950. My junior year, I took it again and scored an 1160. No test-prep classes. No tutoring. I jumped 210 points from just from what I learned that year in high school. For what it's worth, I went on to graduate with a B average from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's degree in history after spending all four of my college years working for the school newspaper, The Daily Texan.

The exam tests students on information that doesn't hold any real value. Few people ever use those words found in the verbal section. And when they do, nobody really understands what they're saying. That's not effective communication. And I haven't found a need to take the cosine of anything since I began my career as a journalist.

That's not to say the SAT is completely worthless. With apologies to Winston Churchill, the SAT is the worst possible college admissions standard except all those others that have been tried from time to time. Other "creative" college admissions standards have fallen well short of replacing the College Board test. You may remember a few years ago when Colorado College in Colorado Springs got rid of the SAT and based its admissions criteria in part on how high-school students played with Legos -- yes, the little plastic interlocking blocks from daycare.

The SAT has its faults, but it is an exam that tests students' knowledge on various subjects. From what I recollect of college, we had many exams that operated the same way. If the SAT determines how well someone performs on a test, well, that will give some indication of how they'll do in college.

But succeeding at a job involves more than cramming and regurgitating facts for an exam. Time management, organization, and maturity also play a role. If the SAT could measure that, then there would be no real reason to go to college. People would skip those four years of accumulating debt and would jump straight into the workplace, gaining real-world knowledge along with a paycheck. Companies would fight for hot commodities early out of high school, similar to the NBA draft -- and we've all seen that the level of play has dropped significantly since the NBA started drafting 18 year olds.

College not only provides students knowledge on various subjects, it also teaches them about responsibility, about social interaction, how to learn, and how to take a test while severely hung over. While the real world is strikingly different from college dorms, higher education does provide a halfway house between the nurturing environment of high school and the dog-eat-dog world of reality.

Granted, college is not for everybody. I know many highly successful people who never went to college. But companies still hold a college degree in high regard because it signifies that somebody accomplished something beyond passing a test. It shows that the person completed a rigorous growing-up process.

So, to take a look at someone's SAT scores for hiring purposes displaces importance on what that person has accomplished in college. There are many things I'm glad I don't have to drag around with me from high school. Let's keep it that way.

Iraqi Assault: While Iraqi terrorists are dressing up as civilians and ambushing our soldiers, we're still not allowed to scare them. That seems to be the rule now that a U.S. lieutenant colonel has been charged with assault of an Iraqi terrorist working as a police officer there. During an interrogation, the U.S. officer was able to get information of a planned strike on U.S. soldiers in time to foil the attack.

According to The Washington Times, the accused U.S. officer says he fired his pistol away from the detained Iraqi to scare him enough to spill the information.

Remember that "assault", in legal terms, does not mean actual harm came to the victim. "Assault" means to threaten harm, whereas "assault and battery" means to cause physical harm. So because the U.S. officer scared his enemy with his gun to get life-saving information, he may be court-martialed and sent to jail.

Tough Foreign Policy: International diplomats who don't pay their parking tickets here in the U.S. could cost their home country foreign aid. The Senate approved a measure yesterday that would reduce a foreign aid package by how much that country owes in parking tickets, plus 10 percent. Some countries, such as Egypt, owe up to $2-million in parking tickets to New York and Washington, DC, according to the Associated Press. But because the diplomats have immunity from local laws, they can't be punished. So Congress is taking this up with the home countries.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Biased Audiences: I generally don't worry about the supposed biases of news outlets. Liberals believe Fox News is a mouthpiece for the Republican Party. Conservatives believe all other major news outlets are liberal. I've argued that it depends on each person's point of view.

But I've found something interesting with the online instapolls news outlets have been putting on their websites. Everyone knows that these "polls" are nowhere near scientific and, therefore, don't portray an accurate representation of the public's opinion. But I find that they do offer fascinating revelations about a news outlet's audience.

For example, Fox News today had this online poll, "Do you agree with President Bush that recent violence in Iraq is a response to U.S. progress in the country?"
79 percent of respondents answered "Yes, I think he's right"
16 percent said "No, I disagree"
5 percent said "I'm not sure"

On CNN, the online poll inquired, "Who is most responsible for terror attacks in Iraq?"
47 percent answered "Saddam Hussein supporters"
53 percent responded with "Foreign Fighters"

On Al Jazeera's English website, the online poll asked, "Will anti-Iraq occupation sentiment in the US increase as occupation gets more costly?"
84 percent of respondents said "Yes"
12 percent said "No"
4 percent said "Unsure"

From the results, a vast majority of respondents to the Fox News poll bought Bush's line that the attacks are acts of desperation because the U.S. is doing so well. That seems to show that Fox's audience is mostly conservative.

CNN's poll is a little tougher to read, partly because the results are so close. But I'd say conservatives are more likely to believe that Saddam is still running the guerilla war while liberals would argue that the entire world is moving into Iraq to kill our troops. Even though the audience looks to be evenly divided, the numbers indicate that a few more liberals get their news from CNN than conservatives do.

Al Jazeera is a Middle Eastern news agency, but its English website probably attracts mostly internationals who live outside the region while locals go to the Arabic-language site. Still, it looks like its audience is not happy about the U.S. invasion of Iraq and expects the American public to turn against the idea. That sounds like the liberal view.

So there you have it. What does it mean? Absolutely nothing. But while every news outlet claims to be unbiased, fair and balanced, etc., it looks like their audiences have already made up their own minds about which news outlet they prefer.

State of Confusion: It's disappointing to seek reasoned political debate only to find empty rhetoric. Sometimes the verbiage is so thick that people can't separate fact from fiction, or relevant from irrelevant.

Case in point is the upcoming ban on partial-birth abortions. Congress has passed the bill, Bush has promised to sign it into law, opponents have vowed a court challenge -- yet it seems like most people aren't sure what we're talking about.

The bill mentions "partial-birth abortion", which isn't a medical term. The legislation seems to target at least one method, known as "intact dilation and extraction" or "D&X" or "D&E". But nobody knows if the bill's wording will outlaw other procedures as well.

Because experts don't agree on how often D&X abortions take place or for what reasons, both sides have decided to appeal to emotion instead of logic.

Pro-choicers complain that the bill whittles away at abortion rights founded under Roe v. Wade. But that's not the case. The Supreme Court ruled under Roe that government can't interfere with abortion rights during the first trimester, but it can make reasonable limitations in the second trimester and even proscribe termination of a viable fetus in the third trimester except to preserve the health and life of the mother.

As a pro-choicer myself, I'm sensitive to the argument that the ban on partial-birth abortions could be a slippery slope to further bans. But I'm also rational enough to listen to each argument on its merits.

Unfortunately, I don't hear many arguments coming from the pro-life side. All I hear is that partial-birth abortions are gross. Pro-lifers vividly describe how doctors reach inside the woman's womb, pull the fetus through the birth canal, cut the back of its skull, and suck out its brain contents. Yes, it's gruesome, but so is a hernia operation.

The medical field is not for the faint of heart. I could tell you that some doctor ripped open my father's chest, cracked his breast plate in two, sliced the blood vessels near his heart, sucked out its contents, then sliced open his thigh, ripped out blood vessels and put them in his chest, then sewed him back up. Fortunately, the open-heart surgery saved my dad's life.

So from what I can tell, the only reason pro-lifers find this procedure such an easy target is because of the horrific description attached to it. But it appears that D&X is just one type of late-term abortion. Doctors have others at their disposal. So is it that big of a deal that they can't use one? Perhaps not. But then why should Congress outlaw one method just because it's gross?

The problem with sweeping bans like this is that they don't take individual circumstances into consideration. The Boston Globe ran a story about a woman who found out that if she carried her pregnancy to term, her newborn child would have died immediately. So, broken-hearted, she had a late-term abortion using the specific procedure that is to be banned.

If we were protecting this woman or other women from something, I could understand instituting the ban. But this is a case of politicians meddling with a woman's private life for no sound reason. Those decisions should be between her and her doctor.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Terrorism: As we saw on the front pages of every newspaper this morning, Saddam Hussein is continuing to orchestrate attacks to kill his own people. These deaths are truly tragic. But before critics use this as ammunition to show that Bush is a failure, stop and think how many of his own people Saddam was killing before the U.S. intervened. The only difference is, those deaths didn't make any headlines. In fact, we now know that those stories were suppressed.

Coming soon, Miss Iraq: Here's a picture of Miss Afghanistan wearing a swimsuit, not a burqa. Although some hard-liners were none too pleased, Vida Samadzai participated in the Miss Universe contest in a bikini. Thanks to ALMTTR for pointing to this.

Somone's gonna get egged: I'm sure we all still remember which houses in our childhood neighborhood gave the best and worst treats for Halloween. Well, one house is about to go down in history as the worst ever.

A family in suburban Dallas plans to hand out Christian pamphlets, or tracts, and sugar-free candy called testamints to children this Halloween.

Alas, some Christians are concerned that this might turn kids off to the teachings of Jesus. As one religious writer told the Associated Press, "If they want to put a tract in a kid's Halloween bag, it better be attached to a Reese's peanut butter cup."

Friday, October 24, 2003

This is weird: Harvard University's Institute Of Politics reports that, "61 percent of college students approve of Bush's job performance, about 10 points higher than the general public," according to The Boston Globe.

Most of us think of rabid liberals dominating college campuses. Perhaps that's not the case. Maybe the leftists are just the loudest.

Drug War: At DC subway stations and bus stops, a pro-marijuana advocacy group called Change the Climate has unleashed an ad campaign with posters that say "Enjoy Great Sex" then beckon lawmakers to "Legalize and Tax Marijuana". This has ticked off some members of Congress who believe it's wrong to promote drug use and sex in places where children could be present.

Fair enough. But this underscores how difficult it is to get people's attention to have a reasonable discussion about legalizing some drugs. It seems that when advocates try to present their side to Congress, lawmakers essentially close their eyes and plug their ears. U.S. Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. was quoted in the Washington Post during a debate about legalizing medicinal uses of marijuana in Washington, DC, saying this:

Where do you draw the line? If you say it's okay for D.C. to legalize marijuana, then what's next? Legalizing cocaine? Or heroin? Or perhaps rape and murder?
Such ill-informed arguments have dominated the debate on marijuana. Unfortunately, we have spent decades telling children that marijuana is as bad as cocaine, heroin, rape, and even murder. Once they see that their pot-experimenting friends don't turn out like the characters on those public-service videos, children learn not to trust their parents or authorities who spread lies about marijuana.

There are dangers to smoking pot, but less so than drinking alcohol. Spending money to fight drug trafficking and sending marijuana smokers to jail and giving them a criminal record is not sound policy.

Should we tax and regulate marijuana instead? Perhaps. Should we do what Canada is considering and decriminalize it to the extent that getting caught with a small amount is no more of an infraction than a speeding ticket? That would be a reasonable approach. Should we educate people on the real dangers of smoking pot, explaining that it's safe in moderation? Most definitely.

The public needs to get informed about the realities of marijuana. Just take the time and read these websites, and see what you learn:

Change the Climate facts page

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Swing, and a miss: The Boston Globe editorial page and Mark Kleiman seem to think Bush isn't doing anything to wrap up the Valerie Plame incident. The Globe even offers this reprimand:

If he wished to do so, Bush could summon the likely suspects from the vice president's office, the Pentagon, and the National Security Council to the Oval Office and tell them that, as their president, he is ordering the officials who gave away Valerie Plame's cover to confess their role and resign.
Sure. At which time the guilty perpetrator will suppress a silent smirk, walk back to his desk, and leak the meeting to the media. We've all seen it with the leaked story about no more leaking.

Bush knows that although the leak was bad, there's nothing he can do to make it go away. News reporters have complained from the beginning that Bush keeps his White House leak free. Well, it looks like nothing is watertight. And even if Bush tries to fix some leaks with a few more turns of the wrench, more information will find its way to the public.

So let the investigation go forward. Hopefully we'll find out the truth, although that will be difficult. If the investigation finds something that implicates Bush, it should brought out. Chances are, he had nothing to do with this. Sorry, Bush-haters.

Taxation Without Representation: I may work in Washington, DC, but I live in Arlington, Virginia. There are plenty of wonderful things about the District of Columbia, but I refuse to live in a city controlled by Congress -- especially when the citizens who live there don't have any representation in the Senate or House of Representatives.

About 500,000 people live in Washington, DC. They are American citizens who work, pay taxes, etc. But they aren't allowed to elect voting members of Congress. They have a delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, who can speak in the House of Representatives and sponsor legislation, but she can't cast a single vote. And DC residents don't have anybody representing them in the Senate.

What makes the situation worse is that Congress runs the city. DC does have a mayor and city council who can make some decisions. But Congress sets the budget and can overrule the council. And Congress is known to interfere. When the District wanted to hold a referendum on medicinal marijuana, Congress tried to squash that initiative. Now Congress is working to implement a controversial voucher program, something residents of the District strongly oppose.

Congress isn't allowed to meddle with any other city inside the 50 states the way it does with Washington, DC. Congress derives its power from the Constitution, which lets the legislative branch control federal districts and territories. So that's why the Constitution needs to be amended.

Unfortunately, the Constitution can only be amended if two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states approve of the change. Since the injustice is not widespread, it's nearly impossible to get the attention of people from around the country. And because the vast majority of the District's residents vote for the Democratic Party, Republicans refuse to grant them the right to vote.

The Senate Government Affairs Committee held a hearing yesterday to give the District more control over its budget. But the legislation doesn't go far enough. DC residents have been protesting. Many of them have the phrase "Taxation Without Representation" on their license plates. Now they just need to drive their cars around the country some more. And people outside the Chesapeake Watershed Region need to see what that the civil rights of Americans living inside the nation's capital are being abused.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Patience: I guess it doesn't help that I'm reading Tom Brokaw's book, The Greatest Generation, while the war on terrorism unfolds. His book talks about how people sacrificed everything for their country, whether by risking their lives or going without gasoline, so we could fight Germany and Japan. Nobody complained that it was only Japan who attacked us, not Germany. They knew we had to fight a long, ill-defined war.

Now in an age when most problems seem to be solved within 30 minutes on a TV sitcom, the war in Iraq is making people impatient. The same people who wanted to give U.N. inspectors another 12 years to look for WMD are wondering why we're still in Iraq six months after we declared victory. Do you know how long we stayed in Germany after World War II? I'll give you a hint -- we're still there. Despite our military presence, Germany is still free to mock us and vote against us in the United Nations. Some day Iraq will be able to do the same.

We can't just topple a couple statues and congratulate ourselves on a job well done. We've unseated Saddam Hussein from power. For that, we declared victory. Now Saddam is organizing a terrorist resistance movement while hiding underground. He's trying to prevent a new Iraqi government from taking power. People say this means we failed or didn't plan ahead. I think this just means that we completed part one of our mission, now we're solving part two. While I'm hoping we can do this without many troops being killed, I'm not going to be unrealistic and expect no casualties in this war.

Liberals point to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld internal memo as a sign of disorganization within the administration and the military. All the memo shows is that inquisitive minds are reassessing our strategy at every turn. That's what it's going to take to win the war against terrorism.

Gag Reflex: I remember when Republicans campaigned to get government off our backs. Now they're forcing government down our throats.

Florida Gov. J.E.B. Bush pushed a bill through the legislature to force a brain-damaged woman to accept a feeding tube against her husband's wishes and against a court ruling. (For those who are unaware, J.E.B. is an acronym for "John Ellis Bush". Hence, I believe it's more accurate to portray it as such.)

Before she had a heart attack that left her in a vegetative state, the woman had expressed that she does not want to be artificially kept alive. A Florida court decided to let her die. But her parents disagreed, and J.E.B. argued that starving the woman by removing her feeding tube is a terrible way to end her life.

He's right. That doesn't sound pleasant. And that makes an excellent case for physician-assisted suicide. Instead of letting her waste away for two weeks, end her life quickly and painlessly through a lethal injection.

But, alas, Republicans don't allow humane deaths for the sick and terminally ill. And not only is she is confined to hospital equipment, but her family is suffering with her.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Voodoo Economics: The Dow is approaching 10,000! Again!

The Calico Cat, a business blog, rightly ridicules those who look for some hidden meaning in the DJIA surpassing the 10,000 benchmark. It's nothing but a big, round number, and it doesn't hold any more significance than 9,999.

But politically, it's going to be huge. For some reason, the public looks to the Dow as an indicator for how the entire economy is doing, and not for what it is -- an index measuring the stock value of a few large companies.

So if the Dow surpasses 10,000 and maintains a high level, you can expect news coverage of the stinky economy to decline. Although Democrats will still be talking about deficits and unemployment numbers, Republicans will be boasting that their tax cuts fixed everything. So goes the business cycle ...

See What Pops Up: It seems a study has verified common sense in showing that sexuality is genetic. But some conservatives have staked their political careers arguing that sexuality is a choice. They seem to think homosexuals either choose to be gay or have suffered some emotional trauma that led them in that direction.

I don't understand how that can be. As a male, I never had to learn to be attracted to females. It just happens. And I have never met a man that I've found sexually attractive -- even if I wanted to.

The only way someone could argue that people can choose who they are attracted to is if that person admits that he or she has repressed sexual feelings towards a particular group. So anyone who says sexuality is a choice is essentially a closeted homosexual.

Laziness: We're three years into the new century, and we haven't settled on a term for the present decade.

It all worked so well in the past, during the 80s and 90s. At first we were so enamored that we were entering the 21st Century that we didn't need to call its first decade anything. After awhile, though, I suspect that we're going to have to come up with something.

The first decade of the 20th Century is often referred to as "the aughts". But don't expect that name to work in this day and age.

People have been talking about his since last millennium. But they assumed that the public would have settled on something by now. As far as I know, nobody has even tried to propose something yet.

What should it be? The zeroes, the ohs, the oh ohs, the uh ohs, the double ohs (or dublows).

Should we just get silly? "The dubya-ohs", if Bush gets reelected. "The Osamohs", if we don't catch Bin Laden for awhile. If Dean were president, "the Dean-ohs" would be catchy.

Or will we stick with the cumbersome, "the first decade of the 21st Century"?

And what are we going to call 2010 through 2012? It won't really be "the teens" yet. And when we are in the teens, are we really going to talk about it like it's some ultra-modern era. After bragging that "this is the 80s" and "this is the 90s", saying "this is the teens" doesn't sound very futuristic.

Good News: I'm glad the news is reporting at least one heartwarming story: Read here.

Monday, October 20, 2003

False Idol: Although the news media isn't pushing a liberal agenda, newspapers and news networks are definitely guilty of over-sensationalizing their stories. Read Howard Kurtz's article about how the Los Angeles Times and NBC were in cahoots to play up the story about Lt. General William Boykin, the Pentagon spokesman who touted America's Judeo-Christian values, and compared the Muslim terrorists to Satan.

The story itself about Boykin is newsworthy, especially considering the cultural sensitivity the Bush administration is trying to stress in keeping religious references out of the war rhetoric. But it's amazing how the two news organizations worked together to boost up the play of the story. Read here.

Roasted Waffles: General Wesley Clark is getting hammered by the media and rival Democrats for quotes like: "I tremendously admire, and I think we all should, the great work done by our commander-in-chief, our president, George Bush." That one was from Jan. 22, 2002, when Clark was commenting on Bush's handling of the war in Afghanistan.

Critics are accusing Clark of flip-flopping and are saying that he can't be considered a credible Democrat if he supported the Bush administration in Afghanistan and opposed it in Iraq.

That's not true. Giving Bush compliments in the past makes Clark more credible. It shows that he's neither a party sheep nor a knee-jerk anti-war nut.

There are so many liberals who have opposed Bush every step of the way. When Bush originally wanted to invade Afghanistan, critics decried the rush to war. When the fighting lasted more than a couple weeks, people were murmuring "quagmire". When the operation in Afghanistan became a remarkable success, the opponents didn't concede, they just became strangely quiet.

When war was getting underway in Iraq, the exact same criticisms popped up by the same naysayers. Now those critics are clinging to every bit of bad news in hopes that they'll be proven right. Even though the war is largely successful, opponents point to the small guerilla skirmishes and assert that this is another Vietnam. And because Bush is (gasp) adjusting his plans given the new circumstances, critics are ripping him to pieces.

Clark considered Afghanistan to be a worthy fight and Iraq to be a mistake. I disagree with him on the latter, but I'm not going to criticize him for forming a complex opinion instead of just reflexively disagreeing with whatever the sitting president does.

The news media should thoroughly analyze all candidates past positions. But they shouldn't overreact to something like this. Politicians ought to be able to adjust their policy positions as circumstances see fit. They might even have to be human and (double-gasp) change their minds from time to time.

Nobody wants a flip-flopping, test-the-winds type candidate. Resolve, perseverance, and consistency are important characteristics in a leader. But politics, especially foreign policy, is much too nuanced to fit in a cookie cutter. That's why, for example, Bush found it feasible to attack Iraq and negotiate with North Korea. Now Clark is delineating the differences between Afghanistan and Iraq. And that's what he'd do if he were president. If you agree with him, give him your vote. If you don't, don't.

mmm: Burger King has opened one of its restaurants in the Baghdad airport. It's a huge hit, especially among the American soldiers. To celebrate, I think I'll have a Whopper for lunch.

Deadly Weapons: There has been this obsession with box cutters since 9/11. We can't even carry toenail clippers onto commercial airplanes anymore.

But a sharpened piece of plastic would easily go undetected, and would be just as deadly. The airlines still provide cups made of glass to first-class passengers. Shatter one end, and that becomes a weapon.

Now some kid claims that there are gaps in security because he could sneak boxcutters onboard.

Truth is, nobody could actually hijack a plane with such devices anymore. The only reason they worked on 9/11 is because the public was conditioned to believe that if we cooperated with the hijackers, everything would be all right. And before 9/11, that was usually the case. The hijackers would fly the plane somewhere, conduct negotiations, and then get captured.

The 9/11 hijackers knew this and took advantage of the system to create weapons from our complaisance. But as the terror strikes took place, and Americans realized that a war was going on, passengers on Flight 93 got the news through their cell phones and were the first to fight back. They succeeded in making the plane crash in a Pennsylvania field instead of a populated landmark in Washington, DC.

If hijackers tried to take a plane over with boxcutters again, the passengers on board would mob them. We need to think past boxcutters and figure out what the terrorists will do next -- they're always one step ahead of us.

NPR Update: Looks like ungrateful, freeloading thieves like me are causing morale problems at WAMU 88.5-FM. Despite a $1-million fundraiser, the station is running a deficit. And old-timers decry the station's new "corporate environment".

Friday, October 17, 2003

Line in the Sand: Everybody's abuzz that the Supreme Court will decide whether the Pledge of Allegiance can contain the words "under God". The same government body that begins each workday with the routine declaration, "God save the United States and this honorable court," will make a major decision concerning the separation of church and state.

I've argued before that preventing government from ever uttering the word "God" is unconstitutional because it establishes atheism as the official religion of he United States. But posting an innocuous sign that says "God Bless America" is nothing compared to swearing allegiance to a nation under God.

However, this issue is being overblown. The children who are forced to recite the pledge aren't grasping the ramifications of their words, especially if you listen closely to what they really say: "... and to the public, for witches dance, wunashun, underdog, invisible, withiberty and just this forahh."

The truth is, "God" doesn't belong in the Pledge. But I wish that Congress never added Mr. Almighty to it during the Red Scare in 1954. I don't, however, think it's necessary to forcefully remove those two words.

But the Supreme Court will make a decision, nonetheless. And we don't really know which way the Court will decide now that Antonin Scalia recused himself. People are talking about a possible 4-4 tie affirming the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to remove God from the Pledge.

I'm not a big fan of Scalia. Although I think he can be very entertaining, I question many of his decisions. However, I'm surprised that he recused himself from this case. People said he shouldn't participate because he made his feelings on the matter clear during previous speaking engagements (surprise! he wants God to stay in the Pledge). But that seems silly. You can pretty much force two-thirds of the justices to recuse themselves from almost anything based on the fact that you know how they'll vote.

If the Supreme Court chooses to keep "God" around, that will chip away at the separation of church and state. If the High Court gets rid of "God", then we'll have to face the fact that many people in this country will cling to the "traditional" version, making group recitals of the Pledge all the more awkward.

I'm interested to see what the final ruling is. But considering that I haven't recited the Pledge since elementary school, I'm not particularly worried about it, one way or the other. Just wake me up if they decide whether "In God We Trust" should stay on our money.

Yanked: I'm not a coach, but the Red Sox should have pulled pitcher Pedro Martinez off the mound much earlier in the eighth inning. He was obviously struggling. And when two tying runs reached scoring positions, The Sox shouldn't have taken any chances. In a game where it will be difficult, if not impossible, to score again, you can't wait until it's too late to replace your pitcher.

But that's what the Sox did. I know it's easy to second-guess everything the next day. But if they could have only heard me screaming at the TV last night, the Red Sox might be playing in the World Series tomorrow.

Something to chew on: Here are the results of an interesting poll conducted by The Democracy Group. Democratic voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina say they don't want a nominee who opposed the invasion of Iraq:

Majorities of likely Democratic voters in three states with early primaries or caucuses say they prefer a presidential nominee who supported military action against Iraq but criticized President Bush for failing to assemble international support over a candidate who opposed military action from the beginning, according to new polls conducted by the liberal Democracy Corps. [Emphasis added]
That doesn't mean Dean or Clark won't eventually win the nomination. But it could mean that swing voters are less likely to be swayed by isolationist rhetoric that we shouldn't aggressively fight terrorists.

The poll also shows that voters aren't pleased with Bush's diplomatic skills and are skeptical about the $87-billion. We can debate the method in which we fight this war, but hopefully we won't have to keep arguing about the fight itself.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

It's Midnight, Cinderella: Looks like the fantasy World Series isn't going to happen. The Florida Marlins rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to win game seven of the NLCS last night over the Cubs and will head to the big match-up.

I was hoping for the Cubs to meet the Red Sox, just like almost everybody else in the country. More than anything, I just don't want the Yankees to win another championship. No offense, New Yorkers, but it gets old after awhile.

Now that the Marlins have a shot at winning the Series, I'm going to throw all my support behind them. You see, I grew up in Dallas, so I'm a big Texas Rangers fan. And as anybody who has glanced at a sports page knows, the Rangers suck. But that's still my team.

So considering the chance of the Rangers ever winning a championship is a bit of a long shot (Cubs, Red Sox fans need to quit whining. The Rangers have never been to the World Series.), I'm going to root for my man, ex-Ranger Pudge Rodriguez.

I also have another reason. While another Yankees championship would be ho-hum, something concerns me about the Red Sox winning it all this year.

I just returned from a short trip to Boston. As you can imagine, the city is electrified by the Red Sox being in the playoffs. But Bostonians have gotten caught up with this bizarre phrase, "Cowboy Up". Apparently Sox first baseman Kevin Millar started saying it, and now everyone in Boston uses it.

If the Red Sox lose, I'm hoping that every Boston resident will come out of his or her euphoric haze and say, "'Cowboy Up'? What the hell does that even mean?"

Unfortunately, though, if the Red Sox do win it all, that phrase will become a permanent part of the New England lexicon. Go Marlins!

Reader Responds: Josh offers some new information about the Dixie Chicks' free speech rights:

I read your page all the time but you might be half-way wrong about the Dixie Chicks thing. If it is indeed as cut and dry as you make it sound than I agree whole heartedly. But there is compelling evidence to suggest this was something other than fan outrage. For instance, ask yourself where you heard about the initial comments made by Natalie Manes? Most likely you read about them the same way I and everyone else in America did. Through reports that there was a nation wide boycott of the Dixie Chicks music. The comment was quoted in full but out of context by every major newspaper as the reasoning behind the boycott. In fact every American report of her comments sites her March 12th comments and are dated 2 or more days later.

The comment first appeared in the European newspaper known as the Guardian the day before the boycott started, way in the back inside of a concert review. Hard core Country Fans/Republicans don't read the Newyork Times because its "too Liberal" but we are supposed to believe they read The Guardian?

Guardian article

A day and a half later the Dixie Chicks ban had already been underway and Natalie Manes had apologized. That is not alot of time, definitely not enough for fan outrage to grow to such an alarming rate to force radio stations all over the country to ban their music one by one. Luckily people have checked into it. Former Reprise Records president Howie Klein claims on March 13th "Phone calls originating from Republican Party headquarters in Washington went out to country stations, urging them to remove the Dixie Chicks from their play lists."

In addition "The 'alternative concert' [to the Dixie Chicks' tour opener] the radio stations were hyping was actually the work of the South Carolina Republican Party. And party officials were helping promote the concert. We received a call from 'Gallagher's Army,' urging us to support the alternative concert. Caller ID backtraced the call to South Carolina GOP headquarters." Klein says.

Chain radio stations were quick to dump the Chicks because their parent companies (Clear Channel, Viacom, et al) have pressing business in the nation's capitol and they want help from the Republican Party. For instance Secretary of State Colin Powell's son is currently chairman of the FCC which if you recall was at the time in the midst of deciding whether or not to relax federal regulations which stood in the way of expanded ownership by said companies.

The Cumulus Media corporation banned Dixie Chicks music from its chain of radio stations for a month after lead singer Natalie Maines' remark about being embarrassed that President Bush was from Texas. Cumulus — the nation's second-largest radio broadcaster — took Chicks records off 42 country music stations' airwaves in March. Arizona Sen. John McCain said it wouldn't have been censorship if each of the 42 stations had separately imposed bans. But he asserted that a single corporation's decision, affecting all those country stations, is a restraint of trade.

Don't worry I will provide links. But if you were to put it all in chronological order it would look something like this.

1) March 12th: Natalie Maines makes Anti-Bush comments.

2) March 13th: European Newspaper runs quote in review of the chicks concert. Nobody really notices.

3) March 13th, 2003: Republican National Committee Headquarters in Washington DC orders radio giants such as Clear Channel and Cumulus, both big donors to George W. Bush's Presidential campaign, to stop playing the Dixie Chicks music.

4) March 14th, 2003: Radio Stations all over the country ban the Dixie Chicks music. Using Maines' comments about Bush as an excuse to justify their actions. Articles appear all over the web and in American Newspapers, most of which aren't focused on the quote as much as they are the radio station boycott already underway. Fan outrage now begins when none existed before.

5) Natalie Maines apologizes for comments.

6) Station Sponsored Dixie Chicks CD burning rituals start popping up all over the country. Fans are happy the chicks have been banned despite the fact nobody asked for it to happen.

7) July 9th: Arizona Senator John McCain condemns media giant Cumulus for a restriction in trade. Clearly the big Corporate offices were giving orders to local stations, even stations where there was zero fan outrage. They wanted a Dixie Chick blackout, no exceptions.

Now I don't like the Dixie Chicks. Their music sucks ass (like most country music in my opinion) in fact I wouldn't even be writing this if I wasn't seriously suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the controversy. It just smells fishy. I cant be 100% sure but it sounds alot like this was a political move designed to send the chicks a message. I cant vouch for Mr. Klien or confirm what he said about the RNC HQ is even true. But even if there was no Republican party involvement its was still, as John McCain said a Corporation restricting the Dixie Chicks freedom of trade. Corporation who have political ties to the White House and vested interest in Washington DC. Whether they asked for it or not, it appears the Radio Giants were looking out for the White House.

Now If fans stopped buying the Chicks CDs thats one thing, she said what she said and she has stood by what she said. They have a right to stop listening. Thats how it works, but I think the Chicks are more upset about the apparent abuse of power by the radio stations who propelled the story hoping, perhaps planning that exact result. If its all true, pre-emptively banning their music, is sad and disgusting especially when they sighted a fan outrage that didn't even exist! Many celebrities had spoken out against Bush before her. Martin Sheen had already called Bush a drunk, Sean Penn had already spent thousands of dollars to take out a full page ad in an AMERICAN newspaper criticizing Bush directly. It was viewed by millions and nobody really said a word about it. Why pick on the chicks? It was a non-story.

If there was no political motive for the stations why push the story so hard when nobody knew about it and the only place it had been printed at all was an obscure review in the back of a European newspaper? Unless the point was to *create* fan outrage and expose the Chicks as payback.

But thinking about all of this I'm not sure which is more pathetic. The fact that Clear Channel CEOs acted like babies/mob bosses and imposed a Dixie Chick embargo, or the fact that millions of Country Music Fans/Republicans once again fell in line and responded exactly as they were expected too. Either way the fact of the matter is the Chicks had the right to say what they wanted, the fans have the right to stop listening and the Chicks have the right to complain about that consequence. But the radio stations had no right to do impose a blacklist and that is where the real scandal is.


[these next links were broken. any ideas?]
Yahoo News on Powell

Yahoo News article

Yahoo News on Dixie Chicks
I actually did hear about Natalie Maines' comments before I heard about the boycott, via Drudge (he links to The Guardian all the time). And I know that many outraged listeners (at least in Dallas, where my family lives) called to complain to the few stations that continued to play the Chicks' music (I'm assuming the quality of the music wasn't the issue). It seemed to me that Clear Channel, et al was reacting to consumer demand. I have doubts that the companies would stop playing popular music for political reasons and risk upsetting their customers. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with the public and press investigating any conspiracy theories to see if they have any merit.

You do bring up a good point that although businesses have a legal right to suppress speech, it can be just as dangerous as government censorship. And with mammoth corporations like Clear Channel, there's little recourse for us peons, because it's almost impossible to boycott such a pervasive company.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Next Day Update: Josh responds again with some more information:

My beef is that the radio stations overstepped their bounds into the realm of censorship. Also Drudge Report didn't get ahold of the story until after the boycott had already started and Maines apologized. There was no report on her original comments linking to the guardian article. I checked.

Drudge Archive

That was at 10:48pm (looks like pacific time) which means it wasn't until the next day March 14th (the day I said web sites and American media got ahold of the story) that most people would see the story on Drudge. The boycott was started the same day. Unless of course it was an organized campaign that was no way enough time for any kind of movement to boil over and force the stations to act, especially not on a national level. I live in California one of the most anti-Bush places in the country right now, and our top-40 station (89.3FM) refused to play their songs. I doubt there was any backlash here in Berkeley. Its a big Punk Rock town (which wouldn't exist outside of Berkeley if radio stations acted like this all the time.) Texas Radio stations I can understand, but this was clearly an all or nothing situation. Culumus Broadcasting even admitted to cutting the dixie chicks from 42 stations nationwide when they went before the FCC. It may not have been for political reasons, thats unknown, but their actions were unquestionably wrong.

While private businesses, even News Papers are above freedom of speech laws, it is very different with a radio station. Because of the fact that Clear Channel operates on Public Airwaves they are not allowed to suppress freedom of speech the same way the print media is. The airwaves are not private property, they belong to everyone and thus denying someone the right to speak or punishing them for doing so on the radio is the same as denying them that same right on a street corner. Individual boycotts are fine and should actually be encouraged since more people need to become more aware about everything going on, not just what celebrities are saying. But corporations operating on public airwaves are not allowed to blacklist. Not to mention the violation of the stations contract with the Chicks label. But thats another matter.

While we cannot expect radio stations to cater to every view (there would be no time for music) punishing anyone for their views whether we agree with them or not is wrong. It is especially troubling when big corporations like Clear Channel do it because in many ways they have more power than the Government. In many ways they own the Government. Politicians can say what they want, but it is the media who controls the flow of information, they can create and destroy anyones character and public image. They are holding all the keys and unlike the Government they do not answer to the people. Because of this their actions should be viewed with the same scrutiny as the actions of our Government are.
Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

The News is Next: WAMU 88.5-FM, an NPR radio station in Washington, DC, just finished its fall fundraiser. Anybody who listens to NPR on a regular basis knows what I'm talking about. This is where the station DJs stop providing any good content for what seems to be 30 minutes at a time and beg you to send them money.

It's time that the FCC allow community radio stations to start selling advertising. I know that some purists believe that noncommercial stations should stay that way. But running commercials won't degrade a station's content. WAMU already receives corporate sponsorship from the likes of Honda and Nextel. I wouldn't mind listening to one of their commercials, considering the alternative.

This morning, some woman called the station and was whining in a shrill voice about how people who listen to NPR but don't donate any money are "free loaders" and are "stealing".

As someone who has WAMU set on my clock radio and listens to "Morning Edition" every day, she was talking to me.

But I expect my radio broadcasts to be free. I honestly don't have much money to donate. And if I did, I'd find a better cause than NPR -- even though I very much enjoy its coverage of the news.

Commercials are, by their nature, designed to be entertaining enough to capture the audience's attention for 30 seconds at a time. People would enjoy that better than listening to the endless moaning about how a station needs money.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Express Yourself: Rush Limbaugh and the Dixie Chicks are upset. They claim their freedom of speech has been violated. That makes me question whether they know what freedom of speech is. Let's put it this way: If they didn't have freedom of speech, you never would have heard them complaining.

Rush originally got in trouble for his Donovan McNabb spiel, which got him kicked off of ESPN. And the Dixie Chicks insulted President Bush and American foreign policy, which resulted in their record sales plummeting.

Now I am a strong, strong, strong supporter of freedom of speech. But I also wholeheartedly disagree with Rush and the Dixies on these matters. They need to remember: In this country you have freedom of speech, but anything you say can and will be used against you.

The First Amendment clearly explains that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech or of the press." The 14th Amendment's privileges and immunities clause and subsequent Supreme Court substantive due process rulings have extended that to mean state government can't forbid speech either.

Freedom of speech and press mean that you can say just about anything you want verbally and using written words (slander and libel aside). It also allows for some symbolic expression as long as it doesn't interfere with somebody else's rights. Burning the American Flag in protest is legal. Burning the White House in protest is not.

But the Constitution only limits how the government can react. Private businesses and the public at large can tune in or tune out as they see fit. Call it freedom from speech.

Businesses and companies have legal rights to suppress speech. Americans generally don't like it, but it is not against the law. For example, I am a journalist, and my newspaper says I'm not allowed to publicly spout my opinions. Hence, this blog is anonymous. If I wanted to sign my name to these rants, I could simply quit my job. Although my newspaper forbids me from saying what I think, my government cannot.

Wal-Mart can refuse to carry music with profane lyrics. We can choose to not shop at Wal-Mart because of its censorship -- also because most of us have better taste.

But just because you say something and people disagree with you does not mean that your freedom of speech is being violated.

Rush Limbaugh said what he thought about McNabb. He didn't get thrown in prison as a dissident. He got booed off the stage. ESPN had a right, as an independent company, to fire him. Rush resigned before it came to that. So was he silenced as an outcast? No, he went back to his radio show and blurted out his beliefs some more (until he started his 30-day Oxycontin break).

The Dixie Chicks said what they believed about the war in Iraq. They have a big microphone that carries their message far and wide. Many people were upset by the Chicks' remarks. But regular folks don't have a big microphone. So they collectively decided to boycott the Dixie Chicks' music. They refused to buy the records, and they asked radio stations to stop playing their music over the air.

This was not suppression of speech. This was a rebuttal. The First Amendment promotes public discourse, an exchange of ideas. As rudimentary as this debate was, that's all it was, a debate.

Now even though some censorship is legal, that doesn't mean it's right. Some of the most egregious suppressors of speech are, oddly enough, protesters. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to listen to a speaker talk on a college campus only to have that person's voice drowned out by chants from opposing views.

That's not public discourse, that's mob rule. And mobs generally aren't too kind to civil liberties.

Even Tim Robbins, an actor who has campaigned against war in Iraq, claims to support free speech while physically threatening Washington Post reporters if they exercise theirs.

Luckily it's our government's job to defend our rights. That's why, like it or not, Rush Limbaugh and the Dixie Chicks will be crooning again soon.

Another Attack: Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip have attacked an American convoy carrying U.S. diplomats. After years of targeting innocent Israelis while the U.S. restricted Israel's retaliations, Palestinians are now targeting Americans, too.

This shouldn't be a huge surprise, considering that it was the Palestinians who were cheering and dancing in the streets in celebration of the 9/11 attacks.

So will the U.S. grant Israel its right to attack terrorists? I suspect that Bush will still call for Israeli "restraint". It seems Bush is trying to take other Middle Eastern governments' concerns into consideration. This makes sense, considering we'll need their help in smoking out terrorist organizations in the region. But to ask Israel to show restraint against its terrorist threat seems hypocritical, and simply wrong.

And incidents like these add to my frustration over liberals who call Bush a Nazi and throw their support behind Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein, claiming that they're being innocently attacked by Israel and the United States. Arafat is a terrorist and Hussein is a murderous dictator. Is this really who you want to support?

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Enhancement: Okay, I've finally added a "comments" section to my blog. I'm not very familiar with HTML or the tools that are out there, so that's why I went with the "e-mail me" route before.
I still encourage you to send me an e-mail. But hopefully you'll find it more convenient to disagree with me through the comments portion.
Well, feel free to comment about the comment box.

Hate Week: President Bush has proclaimed October 12 through 18 to be Marriage Protection Week and declared marriage as "a union between a man and a woman."

Of course, we all know the only "protection" conservatives think marriage needs is from homosexuals, who are seeking the same legal protection for their lifelong relationships that heterosexuals receive.

What's interesting about the timing of this is that October 12 is also the anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was beaten to death by two homophobes.

As blogger August J. Pollack pointed out, Bush has a history of tying policy statements to anniversaries:

Just as President Bush gave a speech condemning Affirmative Action on Martin Luther King Day and declared the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision "National Sanctity of Life Day," this is, of course, a complete coincidence.
This is a shameful act on the part of President Bush. Some fire-breathing conservatives have been applauding Shepard's murder, saying that he is burning in hell for being gay. Of course they are making that conclusion from the same Bible that says you'll go to hell for eating shellfish, but you don't see them burning down Red Lobster in protest.

It could just be that the people who wrote the Old Testament accidentally slipped in their own personal prejudices as they were jotting down what God was telling them. Divine inspiration or no, we are not God, and we have no right to judge others whose lives we may disagree with, but nonetheless are causing no harm to others. Bush's marking the anniversary of Shepard's death by promoting an anti-gay agenda is reprehensible.

Respond to and I'll post your comment.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Hush! Who's whinier, Liberals or Conservatives? Well, I consider them both equally annoying:

Liberals whine about life being unfair to everyone.

Conservatives whine about everybody wanting free handouts.

Liberals whine about advertisers, commercialization, and society in general.

Conservatives whine about nobody taking responsibility for their actions.

Liberals whine about the rich getting everything.

Conservatives whine about the poor taking our tax dollars.

Liberals whine about capitalism and greedy corporations running this country.

Conservatives whine about big government running this country.

Liberals whine about religious nuts who say "God Bless America".

Conservatives whine about anti-religious nuts who believe there's a separation of church and state.

Liberals whine about SUVs being too big, gas guzzling, dangerous, and generally intimidating.

Conservatives whine about gasoline prices being too high.

Liberals whine about filthy people smoking cigarettes.

Conservatives whine about hippies smoking marijuana.

Liberals whine about having to pay doctors for medical care.

Conservatives whine and say health care is a "luxury".

Liberals whine about the U.S. military fighting wars in the name of freedom.

Conservatives whine about "un-American ingrates" exercising their freedom to protest.

Liberals whine about convicted murderers getting the death penalty.

Conservatives whine about microscopic zygotes being aborted.

Liberals whine about guns causing crime.

Conservatives whine about pop music causing crime.

Liberals whine about how people should be culturally sensitive to everybody, including terrorists.

Conservatives whine that the world's too politically correct if you can't slap a woman's butt.

Liberals whine about insurance companies not covering sex-change operations.

Conservatives whine about homosexuals being, well, homosexual.

Liberals whine about how white people are racist.

Conservatives whine and assert that racism doesn't exist at all anymore.

Liberals whine about Fox News.

Conservatives whine about the rest of the media.

Liberals whine about conservatives.

Conservatives whine about liberals.

Moderates whine about both!

Respond to and I'll post your comment.

Carry On: If you wonder why I think war is the best way to take on the terrorists, it's because I know that we'll never be able to completely secure our homeland. Read and shudder.

Respond to and I'll post your comment.

Drug Rush: Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk radio host, has admitted that he is addicted to painkillers, and he is checking himself into a rehab center for 30 days. This announcement comes on the heels of a National Enquirer article purporting that Rush was buying subscription painkillers illegally and that a criminal investigation is underway (the tabloids scooped us). Rush didn't admit the criminal part, but he didn't deny it. From what I've read, it sounds suspiciously like he's taking the Fifth.

A lot of people hate Rush -- I mean really hate this guy. I prefer not to demonize him. I don't listen to his broadcasts, but I read his website often. He seems to have a lot of intelligent things to say. I often disagree with him, like on his accusation that the media is engaged in some liberal conspiracy. But I do agree with him that Bush is right to aggressively fight this war.

People have called him racist, especially after McNabb incident. From what I've read from his radio transcripts, I don't believe that he's actually racist. He argues that affirmative action hurts minorities by holding them to lower standards, and that getting rid of affirmative action will help minorities succeed because they will know that they didn't get any special favors. I disagree. I think affirmative action helps open the door for minorities to succeed in a world that still largely discriminates against them. But I still don't see Rush's view as racist.

So now Rush has admitted to a drug problem. Because Limbaugh has consistently called for tough criminal punishments for drug offenders, I know many people are going to laugh at Rush's situation. Now, I don't think nonviolent drug users should be thrown in jail. I support legalizing marijuana and offering treatment to drug offenders instead of jail time -- in complete contradiction to Rush's position.

But I'm not going to laugh at Limbaugh. I'm going to pray. Not only will I pray for his speedy recovery, but I will also pray that this experience will open his eyes and open his mind to the reality of drugs in society.

I don't expect Rush's ego to let him change his mind or admit that he was wrong. But maybe all the conservatives who listen to Rush will think twice before calling for all drug addicts to be thrown in prison after seeing their spokesman in such a predicament. Just a thought.

Respond to and I'll post your comment.

Blame Game: I keep hearing reports that President Clinton turned town offers from the Sudanese government to capture Osama Bin Laden several years ago. Apparently in 1996, Bin Laden was in the Sudan and could have easily been caught.

If this is true, then it's a shame that we missed such an opportunity. But let's not lose our heads over this.

Even if Osama bin Laden was captured years ago, that wouldn't have prevented 9/11 from happening. Al Qaeda is an expansive, versatile organization that's well funded and highly motivated. Bin Laden is its leader, but we shouldn't focus squarely on him. When he is eventually removed, someone else will take charge. If we had captured him years ago, we simply would now have another public enemy number one.

I'm tired of hearing conservatives blame Clinton for terrorism. They say he overlooked the first World Trade Center bombing, the attacks on American embassies in 1998, and the bombing of the USS Cole. While those were terrible attacks, something was missing when those occurred -- national outrage.

At the time, the attacks seemed like isolated incidents that would never manifest into a serious threat. The world, we knew, was violent, but we didn't fear for our homeland security. We were wrong.

Even when Bush campaigned for president, he said he would focus more on domestic issues and spend less time on international affairs. But after 9/11 he realized that America has to aggressively defend itself.

It's going to be a long process. I wish people wouldn't become so quick to give up when the road gets tough or things don't go exactly as planned. We have a war that we need to win.

Respond to and I'll post your comment.

Reader Responds: Jim from Seattle offers this rebuttal:

Now that we have invaded Iraq, we see many people admitting that the WMD's were more hype than reality, while still defending the invasion, mentioning the evil nature of Saddam, etc. Could we take a little more objective look at this?

Saddam is scum, no doubt, but there was no pressing need to invade a country that was not an imminent threat. As was pointed out recently, we invaded even before many of the soldiers were provided with body armor. I think a few more months, even a year, of patience would have made good sense, and we might have also found/made some friends in the UN who today would be more inclined to commit to the costs and needs of rebuilding. This was a redneck's way to wage battle, and we all know the last three words of a redneck: "Hey, watch this!"

In this case, it seems we had a cowboy redneck who had some pathological need to embarrass his father.

And, logically, there were other countries, such as Korea, that are one hell of a lot more threat, so why did we take on Iraq? Because the cowboy thought he could win an easy one and look like a frigging hero, maybe even show Daddy that Jeb isn't the brighter son, after all. Right.

And one last word: I sure wish there was some way to make all the big-mouthed conservatives and so-called moderates quit stereotyping liberals, especially stereotyping us as a bunch of monsters or dummies totally lacking in common sense.

First of all, many of us have served in the military, and worked hard to make improvements in our communities, and tears roll from our eyes when we think about the wonderful things we find in this country. But, as someone recently said, conservatives love America like a four year old loves its mother, whereas liberals have a more grown up relationship. We love this country, and we love our neighbors, even the rednecks when they're sober, and we're a little sick of being bashed. It seems that the worst of the big mouths think we deserve to be hated for being brighter and generally better educated, and that just reeks of jealousy. So, with a little urging to be less strident, let's all be more thoughtful in our critiques.
Thanks for the thoughts.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

What the hell? If these people are that homophobic, then the church was defiled by their presence long, long ago: Read here.

Respond to and I'll post your comment.

Kids these days: Surprise, surprise, most teenagers think it's okay to share music online. Much to the chagrin of the music industry, kids are exchanging music online despite being threatened with lawsuits.

I'll admit that I have some MP3s that I downloaded off Napster and KaZaA (good thing this is an anonymous blog). I don't have thousands like some people, but I've got enough for hours of enjoyment.

And guess what, I still buy CDs. The songs that I download are usually on CDs I would never buy in the first place. And sometimes I download a few songs from an artist to see which CD I do want to buy.

However, that's beside the point because the Recording Industry of America says that downloading unauthorized copies of music is breaking the law. And the RIAA is absolutely right. It is against copyright law.

But so is making a copy of a friend's tape onto a blank tape. And before the invention of CDs, I did that many times. Nobody complained then. Granted, there's no way anyone could distribute music as much or as often by recording onto blank tapes. But the principle still stands.

I also taped songs off the radio if I didn't want to shell out money for an album that only had one good song. This is no different.

The RIAA is within its legal right to sue the pants off people like me. But don't expect record sales to go up as a result. The music industry has been ripping off artists for years and overcharging for CDs. Online music sharing evolved as a result of that.

Officials from the music industry argue that they can't lower the prices on CDs because "you can't compete with free." I disagree. I can read The New York Times and The Washington Post for free online. Yet, they still sell papers at the newsstand.

Napster was right to compare file sharing to the Betamax case of 1984. The movie industry was terrified of the videocassette recorder, claiming it would put movies out of business. Instead, the movie industry makes 40 percent of its revenues from video sales and rentals.

This is just another change in technology. The recording industry needs to embrace it and make it sell.

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Money Talk: Republicans are cheering about the economy growing. Democrats are accusing this administration of economic incompetence. Polls indicate that people aren't confident in Bush's handling of the economy. I guess it all depends on your point of view.

The economy, for all intents and purposes, is improving -- slowly. Productivity, which is how the economy is measured, has gone up. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up for the year. The number of jobs being created, however, is very low. But as the economy improves, economists expect the number of jobs being created to go up as well.

So that looks good for Bush, right? Not during an election year.

For the 2004 presidential elections, Democrats won't need to concede that the economy is improving. They will simply compare the "Bush economy" to the "Clinton economy". While things will probably be going well in 2004, times won't be as good as during the tech boom of the 1990s.

Of course calling it the "Bush" or "Clinton" economy is a misnomer. The president has no real control of the economy. If he did, we would never face a recession again. He can only indirectly influence the economy through policy. This is a global recession. The truth is Clinton just happened to be in office when the tech boom gave us unprecedented economic growth. Then the bubble burst, Clinton left office, and Bush was stuck with the after effects. Neither president should get credit nor blame.

But politicians know that's not what voters want to hear. That's why Arnold Schwarzenegger has promised to bring jobs back to California. If the state's economy picks up and jobs are created before the end of Arnold's first term in 2006, the only person you could conceivably credit would be Gray Davis. Truth is, California's economy likely will turn around, but mostly because the national economy is improving overall.

So the Democrats will make Bush sound bad by talking about deficits. While the word "deficit" means the government spent more money than it collected in a single year, the term resonates in the voter's mind as meaning "economic trouble".

Democrats charge that Bush's tax cuts, which totaled $81-billion this year, created a $401-billion deficit for 2003. But looking at the numbers, you can see that this makes no sense. The deficits were caused by the recession. The only way to get rid of deficits and create surpluses is through a growing economy, which increases tax revenue. Also, government spending needs to be cut. But with a war being fought against terrorism, that's going to be hard to do.

Truth is, occasional deficits are not bad for the economy. The government is borrowing money from the American people who invest in bonds. Government spending drives up the economy, and people end up with more money from their investments. But that's tough to explain in a sound bite.

Bush's policies are debatable. Should Bush have cut those taxes? The rich benefit the most, but the rich also pay most of the taxes. The richest 1 percent (who make over $300,000 or $500,000 a year depending on who's talking) pay 37.4 percent of the tax revenue collected by the IRS. You can't have meaningful tax cuts without some going to the rich.

I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with tax cuts. Personally, I enjoyed my $300 check. But Bush is promoting tax cuts no matter what the economy is doing. We've got budget surpluses? He says that we must give back the people their money. We've got budget deficits? Then he says that we must cut taxes to spur the economy. I don't think he could find a reason not to cut taxes.

I encourage robust debate over Bush's economic policies. But, unfortunately, I expect political rhetoric about "tax cuts for the rich" and "class warfare". Meanwhile, I'll be shopping with my $300.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Sigh: What surprised me about the whole recall is that Arnold Schwarzenegger received 48 percent of the vote -- almost an actual majority. He only needed a plurality to win, and if the votes were divvied up evenly among the 130-someodd candidates, somebody could have won with less than 10 percent of the vote.

Granted, part of the reason he did so well is because people tend to vote for who they think will win. Now we get to wait and see what Gov. Schwarzenegger does during the next three years he'll be in office -- or at least until he gets recalled.

After watching The Daily Show's live coverage on Comedy Central last night, I switched back over to the news networks to see what the talking heads were spewing. It seems people are trying to figure out what national implications this recall has.

Democrats were charging that this was an anti-incumbent backlash, and that all sitting officeholders will be recalled -- especially George W. Bush. Then the Republicans came out and said that with 60 percent of Californians voting for the GOP (including McClintock's 13 percent), the once Democratic stronghold that is California is now competitive.

Both sides need a quick reality check. This was an election for governor of a single state, not for President Bush. Local issues prevailed. I understand that California, the most populous state, is incredibly important to the presidential election. But not everything that happens there is a national referendum. Schwarzenegger is much more moderate than Bush, falling to the liberal side on social issues (abortion, gay rights). Predicting that the people who voted for Arnold will also vote for George is still far-fetched.

More: On the other hand, I wonder how Wesley Clark is reacting to Schwarzenegger's victory. They have a lot in common. They're both moderates with no political experience who are being ridiculed in the press as pretty boys with no substance. They, in turn, are marketing themselves as "outsiders". But they're in opposing parties (although either one of them could switch, given their policy stances). Reporters should, at the very least, bait Clark and see what he thinks about Schwarzenegger's win in relation to his presidential candidacy. Will he take the line that this was an anti-incumbent vote? Fat chance. But I'm sure he's excited by the recall results.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Hollywood Story: Today's the day of the California recall. I've been tired of this whole thing since it started. I only wish that this would finally be the end of it. But I think we all know better.

If Gov. Davis is recalled, he gets about a month to hang around while the votes are certified. That would give the new chief executive time to at least take a tour of the statehouse. But it also means that this circus will linger for another few weeks.

And that's not even counting the lawsuits, recounts, and what-have-you that we'll see after election day.

I can't help but feel sorry for Californians. Not only is their state budget a mess, but now it looks like they are left with a choice of either A) reaffirming the governor who caused most of the mess, or B) picking an actor with no political experience who declined previous opportunities to run for governor and only ran when the election schedule was squished so tightly that he wouldn't have to face a real campaign. Oh, and he would only participate in a debate where the questions were provided to him beforehand.

If I've ever seen a case for political apathy, this is it. Good luck, California.

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Monday, October 06, 2003

Reader Responds: Don, with the blog Revolutionary Moderation, brings up a great point about The Los Angeles Times stories:

I agree, this should not be dropped on the people of California at the 11th hour.
Particularly when I and several other well-read people have known about his harassing proclivities for over a month: ThisModernWorld.
(the link doesn't seem to go right to the article, at least for me, but check the August 20th entry).

Friday, October 03, 2003

WMD: So after six months of searching, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. But it also appears that Saddam Hussein intended to continue producing WMD. I've been a huge defender of President Bush and the war in Iraq, so I do find it a bit unsettling that the threat doesn't yet appear to be as imminent as we originally thought. But I still think we were right to depose of Saddam Hussein.

U.S. intelligence experts may have overreacted to the threats Saddam posed. Intelligence gatherers concluded that Saddam had stockpiles of WMD that could be deployed at a moment's notice. They convinced Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush that Iraq was harboring these weapons. While no canisters have been found, capabilities still existed.

According to the report submitted to Congress, investigators have confirmed that Saddam still had laboratories to create WMD and had plans to recreate his weapons program. That alone is justification for invasion.

We have to remember the timeline: Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 without provocation. Saddam was about to continue his invasion into Saudi Arabia, a country that would have been incapable of defending itself. Besides these actions being morally wrong, Iraq also threatened the global economy. If Saddam were successful in 1990, he would have controlled a huge percentage of the world's oil reserves. With much of the world reliant on Middle Eastern oil, leaving Saddam in charge of the tap would have created economic chaos throughout the world.

So the United States intervened. Yes, the First Gulf War was partly about oil. But it wasn't an effort to steal it for ourselves or American companies. It was an effort to preserve the status quo so Saddam wouldn't wreck economic havoc on the globe.

During the fight, we discovered Saddam had large caches of chemical and biological weapons -- the same stuff he used on Kurds. Our troops got sick from exposure to the illicit weapons. We also found out that Saddam was well on his way to developing nuclear weapons.

Saddam was defeated in First Gulf War. He invaded an innocent neighbor, and he lost. We let him stay in power in Iraq under certain conditions, including that he destroy his WMD, prove that he destroyed them, and let U.N. inspectors verify that he didn't have WMD anymore.

For years after the war, Saddam interfered with the inspection process. He prevented inspectors from confirming that WMD had been destroyed. President Clinton knew that Saddam still had the banned weapons. And in 1998 when U.N. inspectors left because of Saddam's stonewalling, Clinton launched an aerial bombardment.

At that time, it was believed that Saddam could be contained. Then 9/11 happened. Terrorists used the only weapons they could get their hands on (commercial airplanes) to attack and kill as many people as possible. The only reason they didn't use chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons is because they didn't have any.

Suddenly Saddam's unaccounted-for WMD was no longer a regional issue. Saddam had ties to terrorists. Al Qaeda and other international terrorists resided and trained in Iraq. We could no longer afford to assume that Saddam had destroyed his weapons without letting anyone know. Colin Powell provided strong evidence that Iraq was hiding weapons. We were justified, fighting a war on terrorism, to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on whatever Saddam had to offer. We were also justified in deposing Saddam because he violated the treaty ending the First Gulf War -- the treaty that left him in power only if he met certain conditions. And we were just plain smart to create change in the Middle East by setting up the first democracy that land has ever seen.

So now that the invasion is over. We haven't found any actual banned weapons yet. But we have found that Saddam had laboratories and plans to recreate his arsenal of WMD. It also leads credence to the theory that Saddam was still creating WMD, but he destroyed them at the last minute before the invasion so he wouldn't get caught -- biding his time with guerilla warfare, hoping American soldiers leave so he can resume power.

Saddam wasn't some innocent head of state. He was a ruthless dictator bent on regional domination. And he had ties to terrorists who were out to destroy as much of Western Civilization as possible. We couldn't afford to wait and see what Saddam planned to do with his illicit weapons program.

I know critics are going to continue to rake Bush over the coals for this new report. While I'm disappointed that our intelligence community is so weak, I'm still convinced, based off of what I've seen, that we did the right thing by getting rid of Saddam Hussein.

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