Monday, January 31, 2005

Senator Clinton collapses

From the AP wires:
Sen. Hillary Clinton collapsed during an appearance here Monday before delivering a speech on Social Security.

Colleen DiPirro, president of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, told WBEN-AM radio that Clinton told the crowd she was feeling weak and had had a stomach virus. Clinton started to speak then collapsed, DiPirro told the radio station.
No news available on her present condition. I will pass that along if I hear or see anything.

UpdateShe appears to be doing fine. She declined to go to the hospital, and will deliver her speech later this afternoon.


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See ya, Sammy!

It is with great joy and relief that I report the trade of Sammy Sosa . . . to the Baltimore Orioles. The Cubs traded their slugger for some toothpaste, a couple of jelly beans, and some flavored coffee. Or something like that. Actually, they received a fairly underrated player in Jerry Hairston and some minor leaguers, and considering how Sosa has fallen off, I'd say the Cubs still got the better end of the deal.

So, why the joy? Because, despite all the rumors, the Mets did not trade for Mr. Strikeout himself. The clubhouse cancer will instead wallow away the rest of his career for a mediocre ballclub that will now play in the shadows of the DC baseball team. The Mets, meanwhile, will not have to shell out big bucks for an over-the-hill player that is of little value other than stranding runners on base after whiffing. The baseball gods are smiling.


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Sunday, January 30, 2005

A Great Day For Freedom

Sitting here in the United States of America, the nation that gave crredence to the idea that people can rule themselves, a nation which has experienced over one hundred peaceful national elections - if one considers a Congressional election national in nature - and which has maintained a democratic order for some two centuries, it is difficult to appreciate fully what just took place in Iraq. Here are a people who for decades have lived under one of the most vicious tyrannies in the history of the modern world, a people who have not come close to touching the freedom that many of us take for granted, and who have almost literally dwelt in the caves as thei cruel overlords shut them out from any say in their future; and now they are participating in their first real election.

The images of parents bringing their children to the voting booths, of Muslim women participating in the electoral process, and of course the indelible image of the ink-stained index finger being held aloft: these are the images that represent perhaps the most successful part of the allied mission in Iraq. This is not to say that we have achieved all that we had set out to do, or that the insurgency is over, or even that we can confidently assert that we were right to invade in the first place. Things can certainly go off the tracks very quickly, and the next year or so will prove how fertile representative democracy will prove to be in this region of the world.

But for one day our hearts should be full of joy at the imagery of a people experiencing their first taste of freedom. People braved death threats, and worse, in order to participate in a process long denied to them. The courage of these people should never be forgotten nor diminished. Contrast them to the bloody cowards who kidnap men and women and slash their throats, all in the interests of upholding their fascistic ideology. These are the men and women, these brave souls trudging to the polling places, that represent the very best that this region of the world offers, and they are the hope of future peace in the Middle East.

Will it - freedom - succeed? Will they succeed in bringing order to their own lives? I don't know, but I fervently pray that they do. It's not about self-interest, at least not this part of it. I want these people to succeed because they are fellow human beings, as thirsty for security, freedom, and the good life as me, or you, or anyone lucky enough to be born into a free society. They want to live in a world that will allow their children to experience the joys that they perhaps missed out on. Yes, I do believe that stability in that region will in the long-run ensure our own domestic security. But that's not the only, or even primary reason to hope that these elections are the start of a long-term development that brings the men and women of Iraq the peace that they crave.

It's a long way to go. Let's hope we're on the right road.


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Friday, January 28, 2005

Gotcha . . .only not really

A few days ago while tuning my radio to what I thought was DC's other sports radio station, I discovered that it had become the home of "Progressive Radio," which I assumed meant that Air America had found a station in DC. This later turned out to be accurate. So, being the fair minded gent that I am, I promised to tune in to a little bit of it to see what it was like. Unfortunately I have not gotten a chance to really listen to too much yet because you have to be standing in the middle of the street to get reception. Yes, I know I can listen over the net, but it didn't seem all that pressing.

I did manage to catch a little over my lunch break because John Hinderaker from Power Line was going to make an appearance on the Al Franken show. I also caught the tail-end of Franken's chat with Nick Coleman.

First of all, first impressions are not always accurate, but this was fairly tedious stuff. Ideology aside, this was about the most boring twenty minutes of radio that I have ever heard, and that includes many an Atlanta Braves radio game. Franken's . . .delivery. . .is . . .a . . . little slow. And he tends to mumble. I mean, so do I, but then I'm not on the radio, and I don't intend to be.

More importantly, it never seemed that Franken ever intended to have an actual discussion with the Rocket Man. Instead, in the space of ten minutes, he harped on two seemingly trivial points. First, Franken subtly accused Hinderaker of lying about not really being familiar with Franken's work on SNL, citing this Hindrocket post from about a year and a half ago, titled "Michelle Malkin 1, Al Franken 0." Here's the entirety of the post:
Al Franken is a former comedian, kind of like Paul Krugman is a former economist. He last said something funny during the Carter administration. Now Michelle Malkin takes him to task for his deceitful attack on John Ashcroft and the sexual abstinence movement.

Michelle got the goods on Franken via The Smoking Gun, which caught Franken misusing a token position at Harvard's School of Government to send fake correspondence to Ashcroft and others under the guise of a "Harvard program."

We commented recently on a "Harvard study" that turned out to be a far-left partisan exercise in disguise. Increasingly, Harvard is selling itself as a platform to legitimize nut-case leftists. Sort of the opposite of abstinence, if you think about it.
Now I don't know what Franken's main argument against this article is, because he never actually got around to talking about it with Hinderaker. Instead he moved from non sequitor to non sequitor, questioning Malkin's own integrity in light of her appearance on Chris Mathews, questioning Hinderaker's claim to not watch SNL, and all sorts of things that prevented Franken from actually discussing the substance of the post.

Flustered at Hinderaker's answers, he moves on to a post written by one of Hinderaker's co-bloggers, Big Trunk, on Franken's USO show, located here. Again, though spending several minutes on the issue, Franken never really addresses the substance on what was said, instead - very slowly - going over the minutiae of the background of the story. When Hinderaker asserts that he applauds Franken for doing the shows, Franken snaps back and asks why Hinderaker could have written so negatively about his performance, which ignores the fact that a)Big Trunk, not Hindrocket, actually wrote the post, and b)it questions the humor involved in the act, and not Franken's visit in and of itself. In fact, over 90% of the post merely quoted Franken's brother. Big Trunk's oh-so-biting commentary:
As for me, I'm overcome by nostalgia for Bob Hope. It sounds like our soldiers in Iraq are more the victims of bad jokes than of an incompetent administration.
Well, gee, he sure did rip Franken a new one. Snarky yes, but the sort of thing that proves pettiness or spitefulness, or even willful misrepresentation on the part of Big Trunk and Powerline? Not quite.

Update: Hindrocket's thoughts on the interview.


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Top ten albums of all time

It's the weekend, so time to kick back a little and enjoy my list of the top ten albums of all time.

10. Master of Puppets, by Metallica. This is the last album before the death of their original bassist, Cliff Burton. Metallica had already emerged as one of the major forces in heavy metal, but is here where they solidify their place as one of the all time greats. It is an intense and yet thoughtful album, consisting of the super-heavy "Battery" and "Damage Inc.", and the incredible instrumental "Orion," as well as one of their signature hits, "Master of Puppets." And yet it is not even their best album. That comes later.

9. Let It Bleed, by the Rolling Stones. Can't have a top ten without the Stones. At first I hadExile on Main Street in this spot, but this is a better all-around album. They hit almost every music type in the space of forty-five minutes. And, how can I leave off an album that has both "Gimme Shelter," "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and even the ever-rocking "Monkey Man?" I can't, that's how.

8. Divine Intervention, by Slayer. The pinnacle of thrash metal music. Though hard-core Slayer fans might prefer Reign in Blood, this album has a warm spot in my heart as it introduced me to all things metal, not to mention inspired me to write a book in college based on the song "213." This disc is not for the faint of heart.

7. Wish You Were Here, by Pink Floyd. Better even than Dark Side of the Moon. What makes this album so special is the emotion that it evokes. Nothing says college-age melodrama like sitting in your room at night listening to this disc. From the somber in "Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Parts 1-5," to the wierd ("Welcome to the Machine") to the downright depressing ("Wish You Were Here"), this album runs the emotional gambit. Musically it is Floyd' finest work.

6. Achtung Baby, by U2. Admittedly I change my own mind frequently between this and The Joshua Tree, but now I'm in an Achtung mood, so I go with it. Really you can't go wrong with either album, but this one is more complete. I also happen to think this one has aged rather well, it being as fresh sounding today as when it was released.

5. Led Zeppelin IV. Technically, that's not the name of the album, but I didn't feel like downloading the symbols. There are perfect albums, and there's this one. From the opening minute to the last you are placed in a world of musical bliss. Also, there is no greater album to get drunk to, in my own damned opinion. Simply put, "Stairway." Need I say more?

4. OK Computer, by the Radiohead. Ah, the idols of college geeks throughout the land. The first time I heard this album I immediately knew that it was an act of genius. "Paranoid Android" has been described as their "Bohemian Rhapsody," a sentiment with which I agree, but would only suggest is superior. What makes this band all the greater is the essential simplicity of Thom Yorke's lyrics (granted, it helps to have the liner notes to understand his mumbling). It's also amazing to note that Radiohead continues to hover right below superstardom, and I think I'm glad that they have not completely hit the mainstream.

3. . . .And Justice For All, by Metallica. From the opening guitar intro of "Blackened," until the final seconds of "Dyers Eve," this is an unrelenting assault on the senses. This is the last album before Bob Rock invaded and turned them into musical wussies, and it is their masterpiece. Hetfield had completely mastered the art of yelling in key at this point, and every member of the group was absolutely clicking. Even Newsted. The final minutes of "One" still stands as the most awesome moment in rock.

2. Appetite for Destruction, by Guns N' Roses. Has their ever been a greater debut in rock history? I think not. Not only is every song on this album absolutely kick ass, each song is as memorable now as it was when this album was released 18 years ago. 18 years ago? Man, I am getting old.

1. The Wall, by Pink Floyd. You probably either think this is musical bless or pretentious bile. Obviously, I am in the former camp. Admittedly, much of the appeal of this album is quite personal, having purchased it before Christmas of my senior year of high school, shortly after my father's death. Moreover, it seems the movie version has played an important role in various parts of my life. Whenever I am feeling a bit blue I put it on and, perversely perhaps, it makes me feel a little bit better. Plus, I gotta admit I am a sucker for the orchestral final number.

Honorable mentions: The Downward Spiral (Nine Inch Nails), Van Halen I, Who's Next (The Who), The Joshua Tree (U2), Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen), Exile on Main Street (The Rolling Stones), Paranoid (Black Sabbath), Rust In Peace (Megadeth), Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd), The White Album (The Beatles), Nevermind (Nirvana), Sticky Fingers (The Rolling Stones)



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Canadian Justice?

How do you think Scalia & Co would have come out on this one????

Living room window not public, Supreme Court rules
By KIRK MAKIN
From Friday's Globe and Mail

A man's home is his castle — even if he accidentally turns it into a neighbourhood peep show.
A Supreme Court of Canada ruling Thursday found that a Nanaimo, B.C., man was wrongly convicted of committing an indecent act in 2000, after he was spotted masturbating near his living room window.

The accused, Daryl Milland Clark, was reported to police after a neighbouring couple furtively observed him through binoculars for 10 to 15 minutes, then called police.
“This is an important case from the perspective of defining a public place,” Mr. Clark's lawyer, Gil McKinnon, said in an interview.

“People can be comforted to know that a law-abiding citizen who does some kind of act in privacy — without knowledge he is being observed by someone outside — is not at risk of being prosecuted,” Mr. McKinnon said.

Unfortunately, exoneration came too late for the married, retired defendant. Mr. Clark has already served a four-month jail sentence and seen his name etched into law books forever.
Speaking through his lawyer, Mr. Clark said: “Over all, I am very pleased with the outcome and would like to now just put this whole incident behind me. It has been a long struggle for over four years to overturn a conviction I always believed was wrong.”

“I very much appreciate that the Supreme Court decided to hear my appeal and that justice has been served.”

The complainants, a couple who lived next door to Mr. Clark, told police they were worried for the welfare of their two daughters when they spotted Mr. Clark masturbating about 40 metres away, across their contiguous back yards.

Retreating to their darkened bedroom to get a better look, they peered through a chink in the blinds. One of them — identified only as Mr. S. — even fetched binoculars and a telescope.
“He also tried, unsuccessfully, to videotape the appellant in action,” Mr. Justice Morris Fish noted, writing for a 9-0 majority.

After police arrived and shone a flashlight into Mr. Clark's living room, he quickly switched off the lights and left the room.

The court noted that Mr. Clark's trial judge did not believe the defendant was aware he was being watched. In fact, his behaviour was to the contrary.

However, the judge nonetheless convicted him of committing an indecent act, “in a public place, in the presence of one or more persons.”

In doing so, Judge Fish said, the trial judge mistakenly expanded the definition of a public place to include the place where the witnesses of the act were physically situated.
Judge Fish said the indecency law was created to protect the public from offensive acts performed in a public place, or from acts performed in a private place with the intention of offending others.

The 1892 law should not have been extended by Mr. Clark's trial judge to include acts committed in a private place without any intention of being observed, he said.
“The trial judge was satisfied that the appellant had ‘converted' his living room into a public place and had, in that ‘public place,' willfully committed an indecent act in the presence of one or more persons,” Judge Fish said.

He said that the B.C. Court of Appeal compounded the error by jumping to an unwarranted conclusion that Mr. Clark situated himself near the window to draw attention to himself.
“I do not believe it [the law] contemplates the ability of those who are neither entitled, nor invited, to enter a place to see or hear from the outside — through uncovered windows or open doors — what is transpiring inside.

“In my respectful view, the trial judge thus erred in concluding that the appellant's living room had been ‘converted' by him into a public place simply because he could be seen through his living room window and, though he did not know this, was being watched by Mr. and Mrs. S. from the privacy of their bedroom 90 to 150 feet away.”


© 2005 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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52 True Things About the Future of American Culture

I've emailed all those I know that regularly visit this blog a short piece entitled "52 True Things About the Future of American Culture," by Tom Junod, that appears in the February 2005 issue of Esquire. It's non-partisan, non-issue specific, insightful, entertaining and, perhaps, a starting point for a discussion.

ps. If anyone reading this post did not receive and would like a copy of Mr. Junod's article for the purpose of this discussion, please post your request.


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Don't just sit there . . .

Seriously, don't just sit there. Evidently doctors have discovered a new way to lose weight.
THE quest for a slim figure need not involve a strict diet or hours in the gym: scientists have discovered that fidgeting can help to fight the flab.
People who carry a few extra pounds sit still for longer periods than those who are slim, according to research that suggests ordinary movements have a more powerful effect on body shape than exercise.

Activities as trivial as tidying the house, playing a musical instrument or even tapping the feet can burn enough calories to make the difference between fat and thin.

The findings come from a bizarre ten-day study in which volunteers wore high-tech underwear that monitored movement. They explain why some people stay slim despite a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
I'm about the fidgetiest person I know, and yet . . .well, I shudder to think would would happen if I stopped fidgeting.


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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Random Question

There's a great new blog out called The Conservative Philosopher that contains a number of, well, philosophically conservative bloggers discussing things from a more academic standpoint. Anyway, there's a post on there called the Essence of Conservatism that's well worth the read, though you have to scroll down a bit to find it because as of yet I have not discovered a permalink.

One thing about the post is that there are quite a few parenthetical statements (you know, like this), which caused a question to pop into my head to ask you guys: do you read parenthetical statements? Meaning, do you gloss over things contained in parenthesis, or perhaps take what resides within less seriously? I had a high school English teacher that absolutely hated the use of parenthesis and exlamation points, so that always creeps into my head, though I certainly use them and use them often.

Also, and this is another question I ask out of curiosity: Do you read footnotes or endnotes. This pertains more to academic reading, though most of you are familiar with law review endnotes of course. Do you read them, and if you do, do you read all of them?

Finally, do you like pie? Okay, that last one was gratuitous.


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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Let them die

Yet again, the Catholic Church sees fit to jeopardize the lives of millions in furtherance of its own agenda:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/africa/01/26/safrica.condoms.reut/index.html

Clearly, the correct, logical and most effective approach is to teach sex education in general (including abstinence, condoms, disease awareness, etc.) An excerpt from the 12-2-04 issue of Today by Christopher Low:

In the last several years, certain anti-choice radicals have even distorted scientific fact in order to discourage condom use. Three myths propagated in this anti-condom misinformation campaign are particularly dangerous. The first myth purports that talking about condoms or giving people condoms will make them sexually promiscuous (Hartigan, 1997). The second claims that condoms cause AIDS because HIV allegedly passes through microscopic pores in the latex (A.L.L.). The third blames condoms for cervical cancer (Lerner, 1999; Cantu & Farish, 1999). These myths are now so widespread that they are recited in Congress and have been incorporated into the sexuality education programs of more than a third of U.S. schools (Darroch, et al, 2000; Lerner, 1999; Landry et al., 1999). But none of these myths are true.Condoms are effective because they block contact with body fluids that cause pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. Most reports of condom failure are the result of inconsistent or incorrect use, not breakage (Macaluso et al., 1999). A recent study of college students found that condom use errors were very common - 40 percent of the young men surveyed reported that, within the previous three months, they had not left space for ejaculate at the tip of a condom, and 15 percent had taken a condom off before completing intercourse (Crosby et al., 2002). In the U.S., the actual breakage rate is a low two per 100 condoms (CDC, 1998). High failure rates in some studies occur because many people lie about contraceptive use to shift the responsibility for an unintended pregnancy to a "faulty" contraceptive. Such over-reporting artificially inflates failure rates (Trussell, 1998).


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Conservative environmentalism

Andrew Sullivan links to a Slate piece on the conservative - or in this case, neoconservative - embrace of environmentalist policies. The Slate article takes the approach that this is more of a strategic tact, but Sullivan discusses the broader philosophical issue of conservative environmentalism.
I've never understood why conservatives in principle oppose tougher fuel standards or conservation measures. Conserving energy is conservative, no? And increasing energy independence is a useful foreign policy tool, no? Where's the catch?
He's basically right. I'm hardly one to be classed as an environmentalist, but it seems to me that there is an unfortunate tendency in the conservative camp to reflexively oppose all environmentalist legislation. Sometimes they are right - Kyoto being an example - but sometimes it seems that conservatives oppose environmentalist legislation for the sake of opposing it. We should be able to balance between the extremes.

When it comes to fuel standards, I support having some basic standards, though I don't fall quite in line with some of the more fervent hard-liners. Personally speaking I wish people would think twice before purchasing SUV's. It is perfectly understandable for a married couple with children to own them because it is much easier to transport large groups in such a vehicle, but what exactly does a single person living in the city need with an Explorer? Before you get on my case, I absolutely think that it your right to own a SUV if you so desire, but merely suggest that you reconsider. Aside from the environmental concerns, they are simply over-bearing monstrosities that take up too much space, slow down traffic because fewer cars can get through the lights, and more than a few people are driving them who do not seem to know how to handle them.

What's even funnier are people who own Hummers. What, pray tell, do you need with an army vehicle in the middle of the city? Perhaps if we are invaded these individuals will be able to lead the counter-assault, but until then it is a bit of overkill to be driving around a tank. Just my opinion.


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No blood for . . . ideals?

David Ignatius offers some cautionary words regarding Bush's foreign policy idealism. It's about the seven millionth variant on the theme that has been published in the past six days. However there was something startling that showed up in the middle of the editorial. Here he quotes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Bush's idealism astonishes even Saakashvili. The Georgian leader recalls a meeting at the White House last year in which he tried to engage Bush by telling him of Georgia's strategic importance because of its proximity to Caspian Sea oil. The president didn't seem interested. It was only when Saakashvili began talking about freedom and liberty, he says, that Bush got excited.
Hmmmmm. Suddenly I flashed back to DuPont Circle circa March 2003, and all those lovely protesters banging on their drums, screetching the mantra of "No Blood for Oil?" It was the never ending battle cry of the far left. Bush really didn't invade Iraq for the WMD or to liberate its people. No, it was all about the oil, and Bush wanting to help his oil buddies, and Haliburton blah blah blah, rinse, repeat.

And so we have a world leader testifying that President Bush could hardly be concerned at all about the strategic interest of oil as it related to the former Soviet state. No, it was only when the topic of freedom and democracy arose that Bush's antenna perked up.

And of course now that Bush has issued his call for American commitment to spreading democracy abroad, Bush critics have harped on the idealism of the Bush administration, lamenting his supposed utopianism. But two years ago it was all about the oil. So which is it?

Oh I get it. It's all an evil scheme. You see, he is a crazy idealist, a man with a vision to spread democracy so his rich oil buddies can get even richer trading with the oil democracies. That sinister evil dummy genius. It's amazing really. Even though he is supposedly too stupid to tie his own shoes he's also so clever that he is closer to accomplishing his goal of world domination. Well, as long as he hurries up so he can go back to being the "most right-wing president in history" in order to issue amnesty to illegal aliens, increase medicare spending, and expand the Education Department.


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Social Security article

The Washington Post runs this article about President Bush's efforts to ease Republican concerns over Social Security. It's a fairly run-of-the-mill analysis of some of the doubts that certain GOP lawmakes have over reform. But there were a few items in their that jumped out at me.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) is pushing for a much broader restructuring of Social Security than Bush envisions. Thomas said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that lawmakers should examine the effect on benefits of longevity by race, occupation and sex.

The Democratic National Committee sent a fundraising e-mail based on the comments. It sought contributions and 100,000 signatures "calling on President Bush to disavow the notion of tying Social Security benefits to race or gender."

DNC Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe said in a conference call with reporters that Thomas's ideas would "create havoc within the system." When a reporter said the debate could aid blacks if it stopped the eligibility age from rising, McAuliffe maintained that Thomas "is attacking race and gender."
First of all, Terry McAwful is still DNC chair? Haven't the Dems found a replacement for this dud yet?

Second, pardon my language, but what the fuck is he talking about? Say what you will about Thomas' proposal, but they were meant to aid those who get hurt because of the current system due to differences in life expectancy. Now I happen to think that this idea is well-intentioned but probably will create more headaches, but to suggest that it "attacks" race and gender is just dumb.

Continuing on, there was this little gem.
Democrats are reveling in the Republicans' woes. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters that Social Security "is obviously something that is causing them a great deal of trouble."

"Republicans are in disarray," he added.
Attention, attention: Pot, the kettle is looking for you. Granted that there is some division on this issue in Republican ranks, a Democrat claiming that the GOP is in disarray is a little, well, laughable. See above item on Democrats' attempts to find a new chair.

Finally, there's this:
Another dissonant note was sounded by religious conservatives, who warned the White House that their followers are split over the wisdom of revising Social Security. Gary L. Bauer, president of the socially conservative group American Values, said about 60 like-minded groups wrote to White House senior adviser Karl Rove last week to "observe the fact that there are decidedly mixed opinions among pro-family conservatives at the grass roots about Social Security privatization."
Congratulations Mr. Bauer, want a cookie? If I were Karl Rove I would simply respond: "Observed. Now go back to studying issues you know something about and call us when you have something useful to share."

All right, that may be a tad unfair, but that is not exactly the most useful bit of information ever shared. "Some of our members are not exactly sure they support you on this." Okay, good to know. So what? Can you maybe offer a bit more on that, like what are their concers, how deeply those concerns run, and what exactly are the consequences of the White House's choice to pursue this particular policy. Perhaps it's morning crankiness, but it just struck me as the most boring warning I have ever seen.


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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Johnny Carson

I had not planned on mentioning the passing of Johnny Carson, but something on Adult Swim before the beginning of Family Guy recalled my distant memories of the Tonight Show. Anyone familiar with Adult Swim (as the Cartoon Network's late night programming is called) knows about their messages, so they had something tonight about being too young to watch Carson, yet staying up to watch him for a little and going to sleep happy, even if they didn't know why.

That's how I felt. I was but a young lad when Carson was on the air - being 15 when he retired. Still I would watch him for a few minutes on by little black and white television, often trying to hide the fact from my parents that I was indeed watching tv at 11:30 at night. On non-school nights I could watch him a bit more, though I usually just stayed up for the opening monologue and skit - kind of like I still do with Conan.

Anyway, this is not exactly the most inspiring story of all time, but it was nice to recall a little bit of my youth. Carson was great. He just cracked me up. He had an impeccable comic timing, and was funny even when he wasn't funny.

God bless you Johnny.



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Blog roundup

Most people are familiar with the bigger named blogs and read them on a regular basis, but I just wanted to point the way over the links on the side and highlight some of the less-populated - but well worth reading - blogs.

Geek Soap Box is the platform of a high-school friend from New York. A fellow Met fan, conservative, and (unlike me) cartoon reading geek, Mr. TSL (not sure if he wishes to remain anonymous)offers his insights on a wide range of issues.

Garfield Ridge is a pretty cool site which I encountered after the spectacular NRO-fest this past weekend. Dave also writes on a variety of topics, though he has special expertise on defense issues.

I'll just use the masthead to describe Mover Mike: Mike is a retired stock broker, and now supports his wife's furniture business. He is her warehouseman, deluxer, and marketing guru. In addition, he writes poetry and finds abundance, health and joy in the world around him while pondering life's little mysteries.

The American Scene has gained a wider audience recently, but they provide very thoughtful analysis of current-events issues. All of them are really good, but Ross Douthat in particular covers a lot of the same issues I do regarding conservatism and his is a more traditional viewpoint.

That's just a small roundup. Check them out if you get a chance.



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What's at stake

A half-century ago William Buckley observed that conservatives’ role in the political world is to stand athwart history yelling, “STOP!” Though conservatives have failed more than we would like to admit in stemming the rise of the state, the present situation offers us an opportunity to at least stop the activism of the Courts, an activism that allows the left to institute policies by judicial fiat that it otherwise could not legislatively, and which further erodes the value of the Constitution.

The difference in judicial philosophy was highlighted over a week ago in the debate between Justice Scalia and Justice Breyer over the role that foreign judicial decisions should have, if any, over US Supreme Court jurisprudence. Sclia argued that they had absolutely no relevance; Breyer argued that they could at least inform the Court’s actions. Here, in a nutshell, is the heart of the debate between those who believe that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the original intent of its Framers, and those who believe that the Constitution is a “living, breathing document” that should easily adjust to the times, and that court decisions ought to include extra-constitutional factors. In other words, it is a battle between those who believe in eternal standards and the rule of law and proponents of a standardless, ever-evolving and inconsistent judicial tyranny.

Chief Justice John Marshal wrote that our Constitution and respect for its customs made us a nation of law and not of men. George Bush and the Republican-controlled Senate must do all within their power to guarantee the appointments of men and women to the Courts who will uphold our Consitution and not invert Marshall’s words. There is nothing less at stake in this battle over judicial nominations than the continuance of our nation as a respecter of the rule of law.


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Confirm Them

I wanted to take this time to announce a new blog project that I am fortunate enough to be a part of. It is called Confirm Them, and it is the latest project of the good folks at Red State. As Mike Krempasky's intro states, "It will serve as a central clearinghouse for all the upcoming fights in the US Senate." Though when he mentions that it will feature " some of the best and brightest legal bloggers who've cut their teeth on the past round of judicial nominations" he might as well say " some of the best and brightest legal bloggers who've cut their teeth on the past round of judicial nominations . . .and Paul Zummo." But I guess I could just pretend to be among the best and brightest legal bloggers until they catch on.

Anyway, check it out. I'll be posting there from time to time.


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Monday, January 24, 2005

MNR

Otter: So, buy me dinner tonight?
Kate: Can't. Busy.
Otter (disbelieving): Busy?

LAME.
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The snow has fallen to the ground this fine winter's night, but amazingly the city of Washington remains standing. Despite the gloomiest predictions of its citizens, the Washington Monument did not tumble to the ground, nor did massive fires break out across the city, nor did God's final fury visit the Earth. Yes, it snowed in Washington, DC, and yet here we are, still alive. Those massive quantities of bottled water and toilet paper can be saved for another day.

Perhaps U2 heard about the snowfall and that is why they decided not to visit this fair city. That's right, the first leg of their world tour has been announced, and somehow DC didn't make it to the list. And yet Continental Airlines Arena in Meadowlands gets two shows. That's right, the fucking shithole in the middle of Jersey (sorry, that's a bit of a redunancy, ain't it) gets TWO shows, and the capital of the most powerful Nation on this planet gets none? Does Bono have some desire to acquire cancer that has not been made public yet? Well, to hell with those buggers, see if I care. See if I drive 100 miles to Philadelphia to see them anyway, spending roughly 75 bucks for the ticket. And then when they do tour in DC in the Fall let them try to make me go see them. Twice. Or three times. Then come up to New York. Maybe fly to LA. Boston? No, I shall not waste hundreds of dollars of my income to go see them. Unless they promise to play "Bad," then you couldn't pry me away with a stick.

But I digress. Digress from what? I guess you sort of have to have (have to have, hey, ain't that some sort of palendrome thingy or sumepin?) a point in the first place from which to digress. But that's okay. I'll get to it in a second.

Okay, look, I got nothing. I just wrote like ten million words for my ten billionth post on conservative ideology. Cut me some slack people. You push and you push, and LOOK AT WHAT YOU MADE ME DO.

Okay, the channeling of Kathy Bates has ceased. For the moment.

Actually I did want to take this moment to talk about something serious. Listen, I love the people who march for life. Well, in more of that platonic sense of love of people who have never even met, but you love them from a distance, sort of the way you love your favorite baseball team, though maybe in a more consistent manner because you would probably never throw your beer bottle at the television screen because of the actions of these loved ones.

But I love them. Many traveled a great distance just to be here today to stand there in the freezing cold. Meanwhile I live in DC and I couldn't get my fat ass over there. So for that these wonderful people have earned my eternal praise.

But dudes, some of you have to seriously reconsider some of your signs. Saw this one guy who had an inflatable Jesus. I am not even sure what the sign Jesus was holding said, but it was just enough for me to cringe as I realized that, hey, this individual was on my side. A few moments later I saw a sign that read "If Mary had a choice, then we'd have no Christmas." Sometimes you just want to stop, politely take the person aside, and then beat the living snot out of them. Yo, Mary DID have a choice. Remember that whole angel Gabriel thing? Bad example. And what a dumb sign anway. Then we'd have no Christmas? Oy vey, how many ways is that just so ever-lovingly stupid.

But sometimes I am just afraid of Americans. I'm afraid I can't help it. I don't even just pretend. I'm not afraid of these Americans. I am afraid of "peace" protesters who riot, punch counter-protesters, and throw rotten eggs and vegatebles at others. But such stupidity can be forgiven. After all, they do more for our side than they do for their own. And for that I want to thank them.
Sort of like how lefties must thank the people with the inflatable Jesus.

That's all I've got for this week. So with that, I leave you with these words of wisdom.

My loneliness is killing me
I must confess, I still believe
When I'm not with you I lose my mind
Show me a sign
Hit me baby one more time


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Hypocrisy, or common sense?

Marshall Whittman snarks about President Bush's failure to appear in person at the pro-life rally today (courtesy of Matthew Yglesias
Today is the annual anti-abortion march in Washington. Like past Republican Presidents, W. will likely deliver a phone message that will be broadcast to the marchers. It is interesting that "ardently" pro-life Presidents never appear in person at these marches even when they are sometimes just a few blocks away in the White House. After all, W. is not reluctant to appear in person at business groups to tout his tax cut or social security plans.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but business groups tend not to meet in public crowds of 200,000 people on the Mall.

The failure of Republican presidents to appear in person to address the March for Life gatherings used to bother me, until I considered the unmitigated security nightmare of a president speaking in front of such a large gathering. If people complained about the cost of staging the inaugural, how much higher would the cost of the March be if the President were to personally appear? Besides, I am not aware of any long tradition of presidents personally addressing protest marches. This is just a feeble attempt to spark a contoversy where there is none.


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Thoughts on . . . that speech

Funny how a little ole speech can cause such a stir, but it looks like President Bush's second inaugural has inspired hundreds of thousands of words of commentary in just a few short days. So what's another couple of thousand?

Let's get this out of the way. I liked the speech. As I watched President Bush deliver it I thought to myself that this was his finest speech. And upon reading it the prose strikes me as inspired and thoughtful, an expression of the highest ideals of the American president. And like most my ears perked up at these words :
We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.
So rarely have so few words had such impact. Immediately a hue and cry rang out as critics bemoaned the silly idealism, this expansionist empire-driving sentiment that shall push this country to the brink of doom. "This pure Wilsonianism," was the basic refrain, and that was not meant to be a compliment.

There was certainly much complaint from the left. That's not exactly a surprise. At this point George Bush could praise the merits of kittens, and he would be mocked for ignoring the benefits of puppies, and the left would claim that Bush was being cajoled by his evil neocon advisers to establish a catocracy. So be it.

And of course there was the usual from the splendid isolationists on the far right, those merry paleoconservatives who creep further into their caves like Gollum. "They stole it from us yes, the precious, those nasty, filthy neocons, they stole the conservative movement. Hissssssssssss."

The irrelevancy of this particular brand of conservatism is highlighted more and more as they wallow in their own hypocrisy. Though they call Bush and his "neocon" fellow travelers apostates for their desire to expand American influence through the force of arms, they ignore their own Cold War pars. Jonah Goldberg helpfully points up one aspect of their hypocrisy.
This formulation will no doubt stick in the craws of self-described “paleoconservatives” who claim to be the heirs of the “real” conservative movement and who pull their hair and rend their clothes in protest of Bush’s allegedly “neoconservative” radicalism. They might remind themselves that “hawkishness” in the name of liberty was the principle that birthed the conservative movement. The supposed “isolationists” these “paleos” celebrate were calling for “rollback, not containment” of the Red Menace long before the “neocons” were called hawks for wanting to increase funding for the National Endowment for Democracy. Some even endorsed the notion that nuclear annihilation was worth the price of liberty.
Moreover, while these paleos claim to be the high priests of conservatism, faithfully guarding the true tenets of all that is conservative, they have no problem ignoring the traditional conservative aversion to plebiscitary democracy. Thus, while they label as unconservative the attempt to spread democracy abroad, they have willingly adopted a populist ideology that would let the people rule almost absolutely. They have in the past twenty-five years energetically praised the use of referenda in order to achieve their policy goals. Their embrace of direct democracy and its subsequent diminishment of representative republicanism hardly speaks well of their supposed zealous guardianship of all that is truly conservative.

But it not merely the paleocon right that has criticized the speech. Writers as varied as David Frum, Peggy Noonan, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Peter Robinson have questioned Bush's high-fallutin idealism, though Robinson changed his mind a bit after chatting with Hugh Hewitt. The basic argument is that Bush is being too idealistic and, yes, Wilsonian in his rhetoric. He is naively hoping to bring democracy to a region that may not be ready for it, and, moreover, even if democracy can be implanted, it no guarantee of stability.

Another line of critiqe runs more along these lines: Who are we to decide to go on this little rampage promising liberty to the world? Such argumentation is utilized all over the political spectrum (out there, not this political spectrum, or at least not all of it). Fareed Zakaria penned such sentiment, noting America's failure to deal, both in the past and present, harshly with dictatorial regimes. Certain others have made the inevitable Abu Ghraib argument: hey, how can the perpetrators of that atrocity make a moral argument for advancing the cause of human liberty. Because, as we all know, certain idiotic soldiers have forever disqualified the United States from claiming the moral high ground for all time. Let's forget about the 300,000 dead carcasses piled up in Saddam's mass tombs; soldiers forcing Muslim men to strip naked is of couse an equally morally abhorent act. And because we did precious little to stop Central American armies from abusing communist rebels a quarter-century ago, we are forever banned from even hinting at exporting our values.

Forgive me while I go off on a side rant about such moral equivalence. Hey, while we're at it, let's post pictures of burned out German houses after we bombed the entire county for an entire year in 1945. After all, if we kill even one innocent person it makes us no better than the people who intentionally slaughter their own citizens. And Lord knows thinking about partially privatizing social security is a vicious act of tyranny that should by itself prevent George Bush from even talking about spreading democracy.

That aside, most of the concern over Bush's rhetoric is not unwarrented. There is something that sounds a tad naive in believing that we can simply solve all of our own problems if people in the Middle East cast a ballot. But such a sentiment is silly in and of itself because it incorrectly assesses what it is Bush is exactly trying to do. It's not a mere matter of hoping free elections are going to keep us safe for the rest of eternity. It is a recognition of the fact that at least some of the turmoil in that region of the world stems from the dictatorial tyranny that prevents most of the individuals from experiencing anything resembling human freedom. It is a sad commentary on Middle East governments that the country in which Arabs arguably experience the greatest amount of liberty is Israel, a nation that we must confess does not have an unblemished record. But would you rather be a Muslim gentleman in Israel or Saudi Arabia? It's a pretty close call. I might go with the former.

Hugh Hewitt, among others, has commented that one must look beyond the rhetoric of the one paragraph of the speech highlighted above. Bush is not proposing a policy whereby we march in and out of every country to install democratic regimes. What he is proposing is the dismantling of so-called "realist" foreign policy ideology, an approach that permitted us to cozy up to armed dictators all too willingly just so we can keep up the appearance of stability.

And to be sure we will unfortunately have to continue dealing for some time with hard-line regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, at least in the immediate future. Realist foreign policy has thus not completely been cast aside - nor should it. Hopeless idealism, the bane of the neoconservative ideology, is not necessarily a fit alternative to it. In some ways the wave of the future, ideoligically speaking, may require some balance to the two ways of thinking. We must cast our sights on higher values, but but we must remain grounded in real-world developments. We can put pressure on "friendly" authoritarian regimes in the hopes that they will slowly liberalize over time. Bush's foreign policy vision is not one that will be implemented overnight. It will take time, and will require patience. But it also requires persistence.

As to whether or not liberalization will breed security, the answer is, yes. It is perhaps saying too much to claim that all our problems are rooted in authoritarianism, but if the next generation of Middle Easterners can be brought into a world where they have fuller control of their own destinies, than I do believe it can ease the tensions that breed terrorism. Of course, that will not be enough. So much more will be involved, including an aggressive campaign against terrorist cells, a revampment of our intelligence gathering capabilities, and other military reforms. We will have to combine militarism with advocacy, guns with words.

It is also true that, as Mouldfan wrote a few days back, democracy is no panacea. We cannot simply hope that democracy will lead to liberty. After all, there is a fine line between liberty and licence, and pure democracy often breeds the latter. Thus we must work with developing democracies so that they create a democratic regime that primarily respects the liberties of all its citizens. Easier said than done, you say. True, but the difficulty of such a task ought not be an excuse to not even attempt it.

Much of this is agonizingly abstract, and I believe that is what bugs conservatives so. If we can bring this discussion back to the more narrow issue of the conservatism (or lack thereof) of Bush's foreign policy vision, I would suggest that a few too many conservatives are themselves too narrowly wedded to an abstract ideal that is no longer fit for this rule. Breathless exhortations and warnings about "entangling alliances" no longer run true when a terrorist might easily plop a dirty bomb in New York City, Washington, or Atlanta. Conservatives are called upon to adapt, and the need for change is noted by no less a conservative than the father of them all, Edmund Burke.

It should also be noted that though this Nation is grounded much more in the ideology of Burke than that of Rousseau, conservatives run the risk of sounding uninformed if they do not acknowledge the radical nature of what took place between 1776-1787. Alexander Hamilton, a model of conservative sentiment, discussed the new science of politics being born in the American republic. Conservative radicalism may be an oxymoron, but it is the guiding principle of this nation. Few was the Founder who did not envision the United States as a beacon for other nations to follow as the shining example of political freedom. Almost to a man all believed that the United States would spur a world-wide revolution of liberty, and we have repeated that theme for two centuries. Part idealistic and part arrogant, the vision of a shining city on the hill being a beacon of hope to the rest of the world is an eternal part of the American imagination. While it has times blinded us to some of our own shameful actions, it has also ignited us to do greater things. Conservatives would do well to bear in mind our own history and not write into it a splendid isolationism that never did really exist.

Pragmatism and idealism often do not go hand in hand, and admittedly an individual of conservative temprament should be cautious about the semi-messianic idealism of our President. But we should also embrace the ideal and seek to achieve through practical means the ideals recently announced.


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It's already over

Tory political operatives are alrfeady suggesting that they have no hope of winning the general election in May, accoring to the Times
MICHAEL HOWARD’S election guru has told him that the Conservatives have no hope of winning the next general election.
The crushing blow from Lynton Crosby, the Australian campaign expert hired by Mr Howard at great expense to bring about a surprise Tory victory, came as Mr Howard attempted yesterday to put immigration and asylum at the heart of the party’s election campaign.

The opposition leader was accused of desperation for his personal pledge to restrict immigration to Britain, to be presented in a speech today as a Tory vote-winner.
While this comes as news to next to no one, it not very heartening when one of your closest political advisers tells you it's over three months before the election. Of course the Tories have no one to blame but themselves for their situation, though I must commend Michael Howard for actually having a spine on illegal immigration, unlike a certain President George Bush who shall remain nameless.


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Sunday, January 23, 2005

It's funny because it's probably true

From
  • Scrappleface
  • As the clock wound down to the Eagles first NFC championship in four consecutive attempts, confused Philadelphia fans began booing an incompetent food vendor who dropped a hotdog.

    "I felt sorry for the poor guy," said one Conshohocken resident who witnessed the verbal assault. "Philadelphia fans are just so accustomed to booing at the end of the NFC title game, that when the Eagles won they had to vent on someone."

    The vendor escaped without injury, however, he said he's still in shock.

    "I thought they liked me," said the man, still trembling. "It was always 'Hey, Hot Dog man!' They always seemed happy to see me. Then I drop one dog, and suddenly they're on me like sauerkraut."

    Well, congrats to the Eagles at any rate. Now they've earned the right to get their asses kicked by the Patriots in two weeks. Good luck!


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    Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

    I always seem to be stuck out in Crystal City when a snowstorm hits the area, and so it is this weekend. Though it doesn't seem we were hit quite as hard as the rest of you folks up a little more north and east, there was the usual apocalytic paranoia that hits the DC area every time it snows. You know, it would be nice if the residents of this metropolis would take a second, pause, reflect, and finally come to the realization that we LIVE IN THE FREAKING NORTHEAST, thus, it will snow from time to time in the winter. NEWSFLASH: we do not live in Miami. Also, a few words of advice to the geniuses that run the snow emergency or whatever agencies: how about plowing during the snowstorm instead of waiting until every last drop of snow has fallen to the ground? What a concept. Maybe this way people will actually be able to drive around town. Sigh.

    All kevetching aside, it is nice to see snow, and the Nation's Capital does look a tad lovelier when there's a few inches on the ground. And I must remark that for once Metro seemed to continue running effectively, though I think it's a bit sad to commend the system for not being crippled by a minor snowstorm, especially when cities like Boston and New York, which have much older transit systems, rarely become as bogged down as DC.

    ANyway, lets get ready for some football.


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    Saturday, January 22, 2005

    This is amazing

    OK, so it may only be tangentially related to the theme of this blog, but this amazing little bit of programming will correctly pick -- based on your answers to a series of questions -- what sitcom character or dictator you are pretending to be. (Dictators, being the tangential connection.) It correctly id'd me on each of 4 or 5 occasions, including Arvid from Head of the Class and Generalissimo Franco.


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    Friday, January 21, 2005

    Pleasant surprise

    Without sarcasm or agenda, but rather applause...

    http://www.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/conditions/01/21/hiv.guidelines.ap/index.html


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    Gotta Love Congress

    This was too funny not to post: According to a report in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., apparantly had a $500,000 earmark added to the FY05 appopriations bill. The $500k is to build a parking lot for a private resort owned by a campaign contributor. Rep. Rogers' language appears to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to assist J.D. Hamilton, who owns the Lee's Ford Marina Resort in Somerset, Ky. The report quotes Tom Hale, the corps' operations manager at the lake as saying that, "the corps did not ask for [the money]. This is something that Hal Rogers put in there." This gets better, it appears that Mr. Hamilton has donated thousands of dollars in recent years to Republican political campaigns (including the federaly madated maximum $2,000 last year to Rogers), state and national Republican parties, and $5,000 to Tom Delay's legal defense fund (it seems only fair to ask why Tom Delay has a legal defense fund if he's not afraid of some legal effects of his actions?). According to the report, when asked about his Congressman's benevolence, Mr. Hamilton replied, "That's the American system." Oh wait, here's the best part, it also appears that Rep. Rogers, who was on the short list to become Appropriations Committee Chairman, had pledged to fight earmarks if he won the post, which ultimetly went to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA).


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    Some Post-Inaugural Thoughts

    With all the talk yesterday, both by President Bush himself, and by the too numerous to count commentators and pundits, my mind started down a line of thinking that I’m really not sure what to make of. So in the spirit of intellectual curiosity, I will try to formulate some of my thoughts onto the blog and see what, if anything, my cohorts have to say.


    It appears, at least to me, that while the President spoke eloquently about the need for the "success of liberty in other lands" and the "expansion of freedom in all the world" the equation for providing these laudable goals seemed flawed, or maybe oversimplified. The nagging question that I have been asking myself since listing to the President is what does Democracy have to do with freedom or liberty? The answer, unfortunately, is very little. Now I’m well aware of the Churchill adage that "democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others," but that obscures the more fundamental questions. For example, why is it that the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections are of such importance to the Administration and pundits, that neither can seem to talk about the country (good or bad) without mentioning them? Why was the recent election in Afghanistan lauded by almost everyone as the ultimate triumph of freedom over tyranny, while the recent "elections" in Palestine and the Ukraine were not met with the same jubilant reaction? What is the relationship between freedom, liberty, self-determination and democracy? Here’s where I keep ending up; it seems to me that the President and this Administration have bought into a simple equation that it now seeks to export around the world. Simply put, the equation being exported is: Elections = Democracy = Freedom and Liberty.


    Sounds nice, doesn’t it. Simple, eloquent, achievable, and well, honestly, highly dubious once you start to scrutinize it. Let’s start with the first part of the equation; the holding of elections means that a country is a democracy. While it is certainly true that elections are a crucial element of a democratic form of government, one does not necessarily flow from the other. In other words, it is possible to hold "elections" without being a democracy. As my fellow commentator Paul pointed out sometime last month (I think it was then, but I couldn't find the post), the United States is an example of where this corollary breaks down. America routinely holds federal elections, every 2 years to be precise, but we are not a democracy. Gasp... wait, before everyone jumps down my throat, remember that we are a republic, which is something very different, and in fact, many of the so-called democratic reforms that have occurred in our history are relatively recent. Specifically the direct election of Senators, which if one recalls the original constitution as ratified in 1789 called for the appointment of Senators by the legislatures of the several states. It wasn’t until the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, nearly 125 years later, that the system we have today, where individual citizens actually cast ballots for Senators came into existence. Furthermore, let us not forget that despite the colloquialism used by almost everyone, including myself, of "I voted for George Bush/John Kerry to be President" is technically false. You and I didn’t vote for Bush or Kerry, but rather for a slate of little known people called "electors" who cast ballots in the electoral college on behalf of the candidate who, in all states but Nebraska and Maine, receives the majority of the popular vote.


    While America is certainly an easy example of situations where democracy does not follow from elections it is hardly the most compelling. History is replete with examples of "elected" officials who implement the furthest things from democracy that any of us could even imagine. Adolf Hitler, for example, was democratically "elected" Chancellor (or some such high ranking post) of Germany prior to the start of WWII. In fact, so what Mussolini in Italy, and Stalin in Russia, though I don’t really think that either of the latter examples would qualify as an "election." In fact, most of the former Eastern Bloc countries held "elections" when transferring power from one party member to another. Does anyone really think that the phrase "People’s Republic of X" was chosen by accident. One need look no further than the problems in the current Russian Republic to see what a democratically elected person (Putin) can do if given the power. My point is not to compare anything or anyone in the present with such terrible figures as Hitler or Stalin, but rather to show that the holding of an "election"does not a democracy make.


    The second part of the equation, democracy = freedom and liberty, is a bit more difficult to critique because it is really a matter of degree. I would certainly agree that democracy or governments with strong democratic elements, provide the best opportunity for both freedom and liberty, but again I do not think that it is a guaranteed result. Democracy, if by that we mean the ability of the people to elect or otherwise choose their leaders, can and has led to totalitarianism, communism, theocracy and other regimes that most people would argue produce less freedom and liberty than do others. Besides, where is it decreed that democracy is a prerequisite for freedom and liberty? In many ways one could argue that it is the other way around, namely, freedom and liberty are prerequisites for democracy. Take the American and French Revolutions for example. Before either country could institute more democratic forms of government they had to win, through war, their freedom and liberty. Emphasis on the word they, meaning the American and French citizens had to win their freedom and liberty. This is the way to distinguish those situations from the modern ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the Iraqis and Afghani didn’t win their own freedom, but rather had it won for them, largely, though not exclusively, by American and other foreign troops. This is not to say that the modern examples won’t work, or that they shouldn’t have been attempted, but rather to argue that the comparisons with the historical revolutions that produced freedom and liberty don’t entirely hold up.

    I guess my point is this, the holding of elections are not a panacea. They do not necessarily produce the effects that the Administration, and particularly the President seem to suggest they do. If, and that’s a big if, Iraq holds elections on Jan. 30 it does not mean that the operation has been a success. Of course, to be fair, failure to hold them Jan. 30 does not mean that the operation is a disaster either. Elections in Afghanistan, while a wonderful event that deserves much support and respect does not mean that we achieved success there either. Those determinations are still very, very far off into the future. Successive elections, while likely not to generate the same press coverage in the US media, in my opinion will be far more indicative of a successful American intervention. Economic liberty and prosperity in the form of stable infrastructure, growing domestic production, supply chains free from state involvement, and participation in the global economy with free and fair trade will be indicative of a successful operation. The same is true for Iraq. Safety and security are still the primary and secondary concerns. Free markets and stable infrastructures are still far from certainties in Iraq and the holding or not holding of an election will do little to change those things. Don’t read me wrong, there is no doubt that an election in Iraq will be a huge milestone and a momentous occasion, but it is not the be all and end all of the situation, nor as my previous discussion show, mean that the Middle East is somehow on its way to a peaceful resolution of a centuries old conflict. Furthermore, a "successful" election of pro-western, pro-modernization government by no means guarantees the continued election of such officials the next time around. Besides, at this point we’re not even sure that the Iraqi’s are going to elect pro-western leaders this time. If democracy means anything it means that anything is possible. Iraq could become a democratically elected Islamic state just as easily as it could become something else, at this point we know as much as anyone else and are only hopeful as to what the results will be.


    Here’s where I get stuck between optimism and realism especially after listening to the President's speech. The equation that I have just spent the last few paragraphs refuting seems to be very popular, at least with the majority of Americans who re-elected the President who is expounding it and preaching it as though it were the new gospel. Of course, I know and understand that it hasn’t failed yet, nor have I offered any compelling reasons not to attempt to export the model to other nations. That being said, one has to admit that the equation is far from a certainty; thus, one must begin to wonder and question what the long term effects will be. They could be wonderful; freedom could really be "on the march" as the President proclaims, liberty could dominate parts of the world that arguably have never really known what it is like to choose their own destiny. On the other hand, the result could be an unmitigated disaster, in which democratic ideals are trampled by extreme religious fervor and irrational ideological hatred. It could be that in the name of providing freedom and liberty regimes put in place by American led forces actually repress or hinder the growth and development of millions of people all to show that our (western) choices are not their choices, and no one can dictate to them how to govern themselves or live their lives. Only time will tell, but given the stakes involved we had best be sure that the people we support are true to the cause, and dedicated to the outcome that the President spoke of yesterday and that Abraham Lincoln spoke of many years ago: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and , under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it." At this point, while I applaud and recognize the potential in the President’s goals, I think we might be better served to wait and judge the effects of our current attempts to export freedom, liberty, and democracy before we embark on new targets and new peoples who may or may not want or be ready for the ideals of our nation.



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    Thursday, January 20, 2005

    Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

    In honor of the day's events, I would like to reprint the greatest Speech ever delivered by an American President: the second inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln. March 4, 1865:

    AT this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

    On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

    One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

    With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.


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    Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    The GOP's Future

    William Watkins of Southern Appeal links to this piece by Lou Rockwell, titled "The Future of the Republicans." There's much to say about it, but a few of the pertinent parts. First, there's his thesis, which he lays out in his second paragraph
    The Republican love of liberty, which seemed to be a sincere impulse of the party's core during the 1990s, has been reduced to mere sloganeering. After many decades of balancing its ideological contradictions, the culture of the party – its leadership, activists, interest groups, and intellectual backers – has fully embraced power in all forms.
    The Republicans have become the home of big-government conservatism - or perhaps worse - and he predicts this trend will continue in Bush's second term.
    The second term will bring more of the same, or worse. Bush is going to try to install the country’s first-ever peacetime program of forced savings. Though it is being sold as privatization, it is a huge step-up in statism, and also prepares the way for controls on consumption spending, as seen in World War I and II. There could be more wars in the Gulf region, with Syria, Iran, and others tossed on the chopping block. As regards the invasions of individual liberty, there are no limits. Already proposed is a national ID, fingerprints on passports, more intrusions into bank accounts, more travel restrictions, more surveillance, and even the draft and national service.
    I'm a little confused as to how private accounts will foster the growth of greater governmment, but I'll let that slide for now.

    He continues on, and here's the money quote that William highlights:
    Virtually all traditional Republican themes that were once seen as making a case against government have been transformed into policy agendas for more government power. Pro-family means a national law on marriage. Pro-religion means funneling tax dollars to religious charities. Education standards means centralization and regimentation. The free market means forced savings at home, vicious anti-trust prosecutions, protectionism for favored industries, and the imposition of new economic structures abroad. The parts of the GOP agenda that appear to be compatible with the idea of liberty – tax cuts and contracting-out of government services – are better understood as sops to the donor base that are unmatched with a principled commitment to spending cuts or meaningful deregulation. And even the contracting notion is being put to dangerous use in the privatization of tax collection.
    As is often the case with the paleos, Rockwell makes as many astute observations as awful ones. For instance, while he's completely right about the protectionist policies - many of which have been altered, and which some of Mr. Rockwell's companions on the far right championed - and the growth of certain government programs, some of his other beefs seem more an attempt to bemoan anything which has come out of the Bush White House. Say what you will about the federal marriage amendment, but it is hardly evidence of some big-government power grab. I think the amendment foolish, but it represents an effort to prevent the judiciary from, as its backers see it, re-definining the institution of marriage. I also hardly think the idea of using religious groups as a means by which to administer social aid constitutes a gross enlargement of federal power.

    There are also several minor quibbles with some of Mr. Rockwell's facts. In his litany of awful things about the President, he includes
    not to mention two major wars that have cost hundreds of billions, and left only destruction and chaos in their wake
    Hmmm, only destruction and chaos, eh? I'm sure the millions of people who just participated in the first free election in Afghanistan and have seen the Taliban removed from power might disagree with this assertion, but we'd hate to point out any positives of foreign intervention to the isolationists in our midst.

    Mr. Rockwell also makes an historical comment.
    The relationship between the Republican Party and the central state is very different. It was the party of big government from its founding in 1856 though the Hoover administration.
    Ah yes, the fabled neo-confederate revisionist history argument. The American state was a pure federalist paradise until the big, bad Republicans came along and bullied the south, augmented the power of the central government, and ruled the land with an iron fist.

    While it is true that many Republicans, especially Lincoln, were former Whigs who favored a more nationistic role for the federal government than the Democrats - for instance spending more money for things like internal improvements - to characterize the GOP as the late 19th and early 20th century party of big government is an overbroad argument that does a disservice to American history. The parties were more divergent and more regionally diverse than they are now to adequately define either party, generally, as the party of big government. I would hardly label McKinley as more "big government" oriented than Bryan or Cleveland. It is also true that Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, far outpaced any peer in his yearn to grow the federal government. (Jonah Goldberg discusses Wilson and Bush in the Corner today as a matter of fact). But that's more of a historical debate, and one perhaps for another time.

    All those arguments aside, conservatives ought not to casually dismiss Mr. Rockwell's article, for as often as he over exaggerates, he makes critical and accurate points about the current Republican party, especially as led by George W. Bush. Big-government conservatism is still big-government. The idea that one can grow the government, but only in the interest of doing good, is folly. And it's not just the President that comes in for blame. Though I do not agree with all that folks such as our own Mouldfan, or Publius, and various others have to say about Republicans' growing thirst for power, they are not entirely wrong. More than once in the past few months I have cringed at actions undertaken by party leadership. At times it seems that we truly believe that we are the permanent majority - a trap the Democrats fell into a decade ago.

    But this discontent felt by elements of the right is not something easily quelled. There is a great ideological schism that portends greater trouble for the Republican party down the road.

    The Iraq war in many ways represents one of the great divides in the conservative camp. Rockwell observes
    Third, there is its theological-political position that the American experience represents a unique godly intervention into world affairs, and that the American mission is a holy one guided and blessed at every step by the Creator. The roots of this error lie very deep in America's past, dating to 17th-century New England. But it is especially worrisome on the level of a world empire, with power-mad politicians claiming to act through Divine Mandate.
    This messianism does creep into Bush's talk, and it his worst (IMOHO) trait. I am not shy about claiming America as the greatest force for good in the history of the world, but only the blindest patriot could not acknowledge our historical warts. Many Americans have of course dreamed of a benevolent empire since the time of its founding, and have sprinkled their dreams with the romantic vision of the glorious American republic enlightening the rest of the world. Such talk is part noble and part arrogant.

    But at the same time, while we can never cast a blind eye on our historic failures, nor should we disregard the fact that at this moment, there is no greater beacon for freedom than the United States of America. It would be nice, perhaps, to turn inward upon ourselves and pretend that the rest of the world does not exist. Or, if we must acknowledge its existence, play no substantial role in world affairs beyond a shallow regard of our self-interest. But we can't do that.

    Like it or not, we have the toys, we have the money, and we have the responsibility to act as guardians. What we must remain on guard against is the over-optimistic and fairly naive belief that we can simply transform the world. Simply installing "Democracy" accross the globe will not achieve what some of the neoconservatives seem to think it will. But at the same time we must recognize that creating a more stable environment in the Middle East will ease the tensions that have given rise to Islamic terrorism. Can war bring stablity? In the long run, yes.

    There is a certain idealism of the Lew Rockwell set that I admire, but it does us no good to shoot for an abstract standard of perfection. Of course there are more substantive areas of disagreement between conservatives of my stripe and the paleo- and neoconservative variety that can never be adequately be bridged. I am not even sure that we can really co-exist as we ultimately have different philosophical beliefs. The Republican party will be unable to please all of these camps, but it should at least start doing a bit more to stop pissing us all off. Just a start.

    Boy, to think we're the party that's currently in power. I can only imagine what you Democrats are going through right now.


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    Inaugural fun facts

    A few interesting notes 24 hours before the re-inauguration of President Bush.

    -This will be the first successive re-inauguration we have had since Grant followed Lincoln.*

    -There are still 1462 days to go, but if Bush completes this second term it will be the first time we have had successive two-full-term Presidents since Madison and Monroe. Add Jefferson to the mix, and we had three-in-a-row.

    -Bush is the first president to complete a full-term of office without issuing a veto since Martin Van Buren, our 8th President (as anyone who watches Seinfeld should know), who served from 1837-1841. It should also be noted that Bill Clinton failed to cast a veto during the 103rd Congress, the last in which his party had contol of Congress. No president whose party controled Congress has cast a veto since Jimmy Carter.

    *: By this I mean having two presidents, elected in their own right, delivering back-to-back inaugural addresses.


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    Red State Economic Irony

    According to a recent report by the Tax Foundation, which was featured prominently in today’s Washington Post Business section, the biggest winners in the federal money spent per tax dollar collected race was New Mexico at $1.99 in federal dollars spent for every dollar of taxes collected. Now, New Mexico is a "swing state" politically, with a popular Democratic governor and two Republican Senators. In 2000, it voted for then VP-Al Gore, while in 2004 it shifted its allegiance and awarded its 5 electoral votes to President Bush. Thus, it is fair, to a point, to say that the largest beneficiary of government largess, was a "red state." Well, admittedly its not fair to only pick on the winner, so lets look at the next 6 on the list: Alaska, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alabama, and Montana, "red states" all. Now, I think, its fair to make an observation, to quote and paraphrase a famous author, "something is rotten in the state of ..." America. Is it just me or are we not to take something from this recent turn of events. Is there not a blatant irony that the professed red-state economic policies: reducing the size of the federal government; encouraging an "ownership society" free from the shackles of government dependence (a point and phrase I think we will hear a lot from the President in both his upcoming inaugural address and the State of the Union); minimizing the burdens of income and corporate taxes; is actually the direct opposite of what is happening within the heart of the red-state populations.

    If you’re still not convinced then take a look at the bottom of the list, i.e., those states that received the least amount of return on their taxes. The results include a plethora of the "bluest" states in the Union, New Jersey $0.57 back per $1.00 in taxes, Connecticut $0.65, Illinois $0.73, California $0.78, Massachusetts $0.78, and New York $0.80. These states aren’t even breaking even, in fact, they are subsidizing the remainder of the population. In reality what the GOP has created is an economic universe where the populated states help fund the unpopulated states, and in return the unpopulated states ban together to elect Presidents and win elections. Now I suppose that there is some perverse genius to this plan, but I prefer to see it more as the do as we say not as we do variety. In other words, while the GOP parades around professing to be the party of less government and more markets, they are really the party of less government where were not popular, and more government where we are. So am I to read this report and think that government programs are somehow less valuable in California, the most populous state, than they are in Alaska, the least populous. Is the government’s money less useful in New York City, than it is in Birmingham, Alabama. Or am I to assume that government programs really do work, which is why there are so many in GOP districts and states. (Shhhh don’t tell anyone that, because the GOP is trying to horde all the government programs for themselves and their constituents while continuing to tell the rest of us that they are evil and don’t work) There has to be a breaking point here somewhere, because I don’t think that blue state populations are going to continue to see their tax dollars subsiding other states, while at the same time watching their health care costs rise, education systems suffer, job markets stagnate, and cost of living continue to increase.

    The Post column points to the farm subsides program as the largest culprit in this equation, but that’s a fact that I do not agree with. Florida and California, for example, are both huge agriculture states as well, thus, their residents benefit from the farm programs as much if not more than those in the mid-west and south do. That being said, the fact remains that farming is a weather dependent, cyclical business that has very profitable years (as they are currently experiencing) and very, very lean years (which is what happened a few years ago). The fact remains that the good years are still not good enough to cover the inevitable bad years. In other words, when any one of the following occur i.e.,the weather goes south; the world demand shrinks; or supply increases from other parts of the world driving down prices, farmers are going to get killed, and then the subsidy programs will be what they depend on to make ends meet until their fortunes, such as they are, return. I don’t doubt that the program is part of the problem, I just don’t think that scrapping it is the solution.

    Note the states high on the list, Alaska (Senior Senator who was recent chairmen of the Senate Appropriations Committee), Mississippi (Senior Senator who was formerly Senate Majority Leader and now is the Rules Committee Chairmen), North Dakota, Alabama, Montana (heavily, if not 100%, GOP delegations with members on a lot of various committees with authority over federal spending). South Dakota is the outlier with it being the former home of the Senate Minority leader, so look for its stock to fall considerably as its new junior Senator works his way up the GOP ranks. I think the culprit is clear, its not the farm subsidy, but politics as ususal. It is the protect yourself and your colleagues, strengthen your majority at all costs, punish your enemies, and betray your principles mentality of the GOP political strategy that have created this mess. I only hope that the Congressional Democrats and the American people figure it out soon, or its going to get worse, much worse, before it gets any better.


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    The Cafeteria of Common Sense

    In an unprecedented acknowledgment of the obvious, considering the source, science has actually managed to prevail upon the Catholic Church.* The Catholic Church of Spain has, gasp, has concluded that "[c]ondoms have a place in the global prevention of AIDS." (see http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/01/19/spain.condoms.ap/index.html) What's next, a 2042 headline that reads, "Catholic Church, in Concluding that Curing Disease is a Good Thing, Changes Position on Stem Cell Research?"

    *Ok, well a part of it anyway.


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    Tuesday, January 18, 2005

    Another reason not to be a Republican...

    If I find out that this concert outside my windows (at 11:00 p.m.) is in any way related to the inauguration -- and the chances are at about 90%, since it appears to have a country twang to it -- I am going to give some GOP's a piece of my mind. Decent people don't have concerts at night in residential neighborhoods.

    A dollar to whomever gives me the proof I am looking for.


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    MNR

    There's something about the Capitol Hill scene that's a little frightening. The other night my friend and I attended a few of the Hill hotspots. It's amazing how each locale has its own unique culture. Bullfeathers is home to the older Hill staffers, Tortilla Coast has a heavier share of the intern groupies, and then there's Cap Lounge, where you'll see a greater share of younger Hill staffers. And yet there are even subcultures within each location. Cap Lounge and Hawk 'N Dove are multi-tiered, including a nightclub on the top level of the Hawk.

    Anyway, as a non-Hiller, there's something Gorillas in the Midst-like about attending these bars. You get to observe these young preppies as they unwind from a week in Washington, getting loaded, getting friendly, maybe even jumping onto the laps of complete strangers. And then you think to youself, "Self, these people shape the laws of this country." And that's when you get scared. You know when I think of Old Abe, I really don't think of him with a twenty-something co-ed rubbing herself all over him. Of course, according to a certain book . . .

    Stopping right there. But the point is that it is slightly bothersome that people who are one minute clinking their double-fisting beer bottles together are the next putting together legislative proposals that drastically could alter the shape of my life. And then I look down at the corner of my desk right now, and I realize I should shut the hell up about this thread.


    Rambling on, I was listening to a radio show here in DC earlier tonight. The topic was the usual boring drivel about the war. "Blah blah quagmire blah blah Vietnam, whatever." Then the host took a call from some dude who predicted that the war was unwinnable. The host asked the caller if he was a Republican or a Democrat. Then the caller gave the standard line. "Neither. I vote on the issues."

    Well blow me down. We got ourselves a real major league intellect, ma. Me Paul dumb illiterate ideological stooge who vote for favorite team. Me no understand voting for issues. This person surely smarter than I.

    How is that so many people who call themselves "independent" give the same standard tripe answer over and over and over and over again. One pictures these self-righteous little numbnuts on the telephone, the mute button on their C-SPAN, calling into the radio show. "Well, you see Charlie, I don't let myself be weighed down by, (and then the actually put their index and middle fingers into the position of scare quotes,) "LABELS." And then the applause in their own head explodes in a massive explosion as they spout out the same freaking answer that about 1,734,334 people have given previously.

    Well "label" me unimpressed. So you have independently arrived at the conclusion that George Bush is a tool of the House of Saud. Rrrrright. And I "independently" (hey, two can play at this game) have arrived at the conclusion that you're a major league tool.

    Listen, I don't want to take anything away from legitimate independents. There are people who have given great weight to all of the major issues and have concluded that both major parties leave a great deal to desire. Heck, as an earnest partisan I feel that way oftentimes. But by my own - admittedly unofficial - count, approximately 70% of all independents fall into two categories: 1)Idiots whose main source of information is the local newscast, and 2)frauds who get off on the idea they are some kind of noble stateman by declaring their independence from the political system. Sure, they vote for the same party in ever solitary election, but you see they only vote on the issues, and both parties are so extreme in their stances, but they are concerned about the Bush administration's religious zealotry, and then this war is such a quagmire why did we have to invade Iraq WMD Christian extremist Vietnam ZZZZzzzzzzzz.

    And yet it is they, these super-enlightened among us, who decide elections. Oh sure, those reading this blog may actually know who the governor of their state is, but ultimately it will be the guy who has watched a three hour bloc of "Wife Swap" who will decide the future of this country. And ain't that what democracy is all about?

    Actually, it's not the idiot independent who annoys me so much as the know-it-all I only vote on the issues brand. So let me get this straight. We poor ideologues don't vote on the issues? So what the heck have I been so concerned with all my life? Did I become a conservative because I liked the tee-shirts and thus wanted to root for that brand for the rest of my life? Or did it maybe, just maybe, result from a sincere belief that conservative policies appealed to me?

    What drives me batty about these smarmy folk is their belief that their superior intellgience has guided them to light and truth. The very term "independent" is supposed to signify that they are not guided by any uncouth ideological force. Oh no. They have arrived at political nirvana independent of any outside force, and they hold the keys to unique enlightenment. Ignore the fact that they sound like every other so-called "independent," they are the warriors of truth, justice, and the American way.

    Well, for once I believe I speak for both right and left when I say that can kiss my

    As a Jet fan, let me just just say, "Doug Brien, go to

    Heck, you know it's been a long week. Always nice to have a three-day weekend. But now it's time to go. And I leave you with these words of wisdom.
    And that's about the time she walked away from me
    Nobody likes you when you're 23
    And you're still amused by TV shows
    What's my age again?
    What's my age again?


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