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Willisms

« January 2005 | WILLisms.com | March 2005 »

John Chaney: A Goon-gate Update.

Over the weekend, WILLisms.com commented on "Goon-gate," where Temple's head basketball coach sent in a player to purposely hurt players on St. Joe's squad.

Today, an update:

John Chaney "suspended himself" for the Atlantic Ten tournament. No word if he plans to coach in the NIT (or NCAA, should the Owls win the A-10 tourney); also no word on next year.

This is a move in the right direction, but it is unfortunate that Temple offered Chaney the dignity to determine his own fate.

Chaney's dismissal should not be his own decision. He made his decision when he sent a "goon" (his own word) to break a player's arm. With that action, in the larger context of his career of thuggery, he forfeited any right to coach another basketball game for the rest of his life. This should not be a difficult choice.

And it should not be Chaney's choice.

Also, still no word on the matter from Temple alumnus Bill Cosby, Chaney's personal friend.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 February 2005 09:52 PM · Comments (0)

Random, Relevant Paul Wolfowitz Comment.

Paul Wolfowitz is often the poster child for the "neocon cabal" running America, demonized by liberals as an agent of Israel. Wolfowitz is also often caricatured by left-wingers as a single-minded war-mongerer who wrecklessly took us to war in Iraq; Michael Moore's movie Fahrenheit 9/11 showed Wolfowitz unflatteringly, licking his fingers to fix his hair for a television interview in high winds.

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With freedom on the march in nations around the world, often in peaceful revolutions rather than through direct military intervention, an anecdote Wolfowitz made in Congressional testimony (at the Senate Armed Services Committee) on February 3, 2005 needs to be mentioned:

"We've seen an incredible expanse of freedom in Central and Eastern Europe and, most recently, in Georgia and Ukraine.

It's stunning, and every one of those cases happened without American combat forces.

And I would hope that that is the kind of change we can see in the Middle East going forward.

And I hope the governments that feel, correctly, that they're being called upon to reform will understand that it's not to destabilize, it's not to bring about revolutions, but that in fact, I think, reform is the best way for them to preserve stability.

I go back, in fact, when I was ambassador to Indonesia and I had my farewell call on President Suharto, who was the dictator of that country at the time -- a mild dictator compared to Saddam Hussein, I would note, but a dictator nonetheless -- and he -- I talked in sort of oblique ways about the need to have political change in Indonesia and he talked less obliquely about the need to preserve stability.

And I said, 'Well, Mr. President, you talk about dynamic stability. You don't actually preserve stability by standing still. You have to move forward.'

And I would submit that what happened to him 10 years later is because he didn't move forward, because he tried to stop progress, because he tried to suppress civil society in Indonesia, because he drew more and more power around him.

And then there are examples elsewhere.

Taiwan's a stunning one. Actually, South Korea's a stunning one, where authoritarian leaders -- Spain is another one, actually, if you go back 30 years -- where authoritarian leaders have seen the need to prepare the way for something that's less authoritarian after them.

And it's possible, it happens -- the whole world is better off for it."

Dictators around the world are realizing, some too late for their own good, that the world is changing. They can either change with it, or become left behind by the advance of history. Under dictatorships, there is no stability, and with freedom on the march, we're beginning to see some tyrants understand this and acquiesce to democratization.

Some, however, grasp in vain to their power, clutching it for a few remaining moments of glory. History will not judge them kindly.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 February 2005 04:20 PM · Comments (6)

Unprecedented Events In Lebanon.

WILLisms.com previously noted the strange and wonderful recent events in Lebanon.

Today, the process took another step forward, as Lebanon's Syrian-backed Prime Minister Omar Karami resigned.

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"Out of concern that the government does not become an obstacle to the good of the country, I announce the resignation of the government I had the honor to lead." Karami told parliament in Beirut on Monday.

The move came following protests in Lebanon and at the U.N. for Lebanese freedom and independence from Syrian Ba'ath Party (yes, that Ba'ath Party) domination.

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This will pave the way for new elections, which now have the opportunity to be both free and fair. Freedom is on the march. This is now undeniable.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are several pictures:

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UPDATE:
Captain's Quarters Blog, as always, has great commentary on the implications of today's events:

"This is Assad's worst nightmare come true. With the Syrians, especially the Kurds in the northeast, watching the Iraqis vote in the first free multi-party elections ever on their east and the Lebanese on their west showing how fragile the Syrian grip on power truly is, the Assad government may wind up facing similar demonstrations in the streets of Damascus, demanding free multi-party elections -- which would end Assad's grip on power, unless he got in front of the effort immediately.

Will Assad get ahead of history and lead Syria out of Lebanon and into a freely-elected, multiparty democracy? Or will he dither and stand pat and attempt to survive the avalanche headed his way? These are the choices that the Anglo-American strategy of democratization have left with Assad. His father would choose the latter; Bashar might just be smart enough, like Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, to opt for the former. Either way, he only has weeks, possibly even days, to make his choices before the choices are made for him."

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 February 2005 03:23 PM · Comments (0)

Euro-Bush: Redux.

WILLisms.com brought you extensive coverage of President Bush's trip to Europe ("A Preview" ; "Part Two" ; "Grading Thus Far" ; "Brings Up China, European Integration" ; "Well, It Was Real, It Was Fun, But Was It Real Fun?"), but WILLisms.com's favorite Canadian writer Mark Steyn has a must-read recap of the adventure.

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Steyn:

"A week ago, the conventional wisdom was that George W. Bush had seen the error of his unilateral cowboy ways and was setting off to Europe to mend fences with America's 'allies.'

I think not. Lester Pearson, the late Canadian prime minister, used to say that diplomacy is the art of letting the other fellow have your way. All week long President Bush offered a hilariously parodic reductio of Pearson's bon mot, wandering from one European Union gabfest to another insisting how much he loves his good buddy Jacques and his good buddy Gerhard and how Europe and America share -- what's the standard formulation? -- 'common values.' Care to pin down an actual specific value or two that we share? Well, you know, 'freedom,' that sort of thing, abstract nouns mostly. Love to list a few more common values, but gotta run.

And at the end what's changed?

Will the United States sign on to Kyoto?

No.

Will the United States join the International Criminal Court?

No.

Will the United States agree to accept whatever deal the Anglo-Franco-German negotiators cook up with Iran?

No.

Even more remarkably, aside from sticking to his guns in the wider world, the president also found time to cast his eye upon Europe's internal affairs. As he told his audience in Brussels, in the first speech of his tour, 'We must reject anti-Semitism in all forms and we must condemn violence such as that seen in the Netherlands.'

The Euro-bigwigs shuffled their feet and stared coldly into their mistresses' decolletage. They knew Bush wasn't talking about anti-Semitism in Nebraska, but about France, where for three years there's been a sustained campaign of synagogue burning and cemetery desecration, and Germany, where the Berlin police advise Jewish residents not to go out in public wearing any identifying marks of their faith.

The 'violence in the Netherlands' is a reference to Theo van Gogh, murdered by a Dutch Islamist for making a film critical of the Muslim treatment of women. Van Gogh's professional colleagues reacted to this assault on freedom of speech by canceling his movie from the Rotterdam Film Festival and scheduling some Islamist propaganda instead."

Steyn then turns his attention to the European Union's proposed Constitution, arguing that it:

"...would be unrecognizable as such to any American. I had the opportunity to talk with former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing on a couple of occasions during his long labors as the self-declared and strictly single Founding Father. He called himself 'Europe's Jefferson,' and I didn't like to quibble that, constitution-wise, Jefferson was Europe's Jefferson -- that's to say, at the time the U.S. Constitution was drawn up, Thomas Jefferson was living in France. Thus, for Giscard to be Europe's Jefferson, he'd have to be in Des Moines, where he'd be doing far less damage.

But, quibbles aside, President Giscard professed to be looking in the right direction. When I met him, he had an amiable riff on how he'd been in Washington and bought one of those compact copies of the U.S. Constitution on sale for a buck or two. Many Americans wander round with the constitution in their pocket so they can whip it out and chastise over-reaching congressmen and senators at a moment's notice. Try going round with the European Constitution in your pocket and you'll be walking with a limp after two hours: It's 511 pages, which is 500 longer than the U.S. version. It's full of stuff about European space policy, Slovakian nuclear plants, water resources, free expression for children, the right to housing assistance, preventive action on the environment, etc.

Most of the so-called constitution isn't in the least bit constitutional. That's to say, it's not content, as the U.S. Constitution is, to define the distribution and limitation of powers. Instead, it reads like a U.S. defense spending bill that's got porked up with a ton of miscellaneous expenditures for the 'mohair subsidy' and other notorious Congressional boondoggles. President Ronald Reagan liked to say, 'We are a nation that has a government -- not the other way around.' If you want to know what it looks like the other way round, read Monsieur Giscard's constitution.

But the fact is it's going to be ratified, and Washington is hardly in a position to prevent it. Plus there's something to be said for the theory that, as the EU constitution is a disaster waiting to happen, you might as well cut down the waiting and let it happen. CIA analysts predict the collapse of the EU within 15 years. I'd say, as predictions of doom go, that's a little on the cautious side.

But either way the notion that it's a superpower in the making is preposterous. Most administration officials subscribe to one of two views: a) Europe is a smugly irritating but irrelevant backwater; or b) Europe is a smugly irritating but irrelevant backwater where the whole powder keg's about to go up."

Steyn then goes one step further, describing Europe's impending demise:

"For what it's worth, I incline to the latter position. Europe's problems -- its unaffordable social programs, its deathbed demographics, its dependence on immigration numbers that no stable nation (not even America in the Ellis Island era) has ever successfully absorbed -- are all of Europe's making. By some projections, the EU's population will be 40 percent Muslim by 2025. Already, more people each week attend Friday prayers at British mosques than Sunday service at Christian churches -- and in a country where Anglican bishops have permanent seats in the national legislature.

Some of us think an Islamic Europe will be easier for America to deal with than the present Europe of cynical, wily, duplicitous pseudo-allies. But getting there is certain to be messy, and violent.

Until the shape of the new Europe begins to emerge, there's no point picking fights with the terminally ill. The old Europe is dying, and Mr. Bush did the diplomatic equivalent of the Oscar night lifetime-achievement tribute at which the current stars salute a once glamorous old-timer whose fading aura is no threat to them. The 21st century is being built elsewhere."

His last line is particularly necessary to understand. India and China, and to a lesser extent, Brazil, are the emerging powers in the world. The United States, meanwhile, unlike Europe, does not have to witness our own decline from the sideline. There is very little reason America can't go on being the world's greatest power for the next century or more if we do the right things, but it will require major education reform, major immigration reform, major tax reform, major legal reform, major medical reform, major pension reform, and a litany of other reforms to keep the U.S. as the most powerful engine of commerce in the world.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 February 2005 11:29 AM · Comments (0)

"Goon-gate" Strikes College Basketball: The Downfall of John Chaney.

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John Chaney: Certified Unclassy.

John Chaney, Temple University's head basketball coach, has a career record of 722-294, good enough for fourth place among active coaches. Chaney's zone defenses are, year-in, year-out, among the best in the country; high school coaches across the country show film of Chaney's teams to teach the nuances of playing his brand of basketball.

He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 for his career accomplishments.

Chaney threw all that away this week, tarnishing his legacy and disgracing his school.

Chaney, upset by what he considered poor officiating in a 63-56 loss to St. Joseph's University, sent in a "goon" to "send a message" (his own words) to the St. Joe's Hawks. The result: St. Joe's, a 15-9 team (12-1 in conference play) that still likely needs to win its conference tournament to make the NCAA tournament, now has a 6th-man with a broken arm. Chaney, at this point, has gotten off with a slap on the wrist.

The goon: Nehemiah Ingram, a 6-foot-8, 250-pound bench-warmer. Before the cheap shot that led to the broken arm, Ingram also threw elbows, landing blows on the jaws on at least two other Hawks players. Sports Illustrated reports that a "Temple spokesman said no disciplinary action was taken against Ingram."

The victim: St. Joseph's University's John Bryant, co-captain of his team, a model student athlete who has already graduated and is now attending graduate school. His basketball career is most likely over. Bryant said, of Chaney:

"I grew up watching Chaney, I still admire him, but I don't really understand the situation fully. It was just weird."

It was more than just weird, yet the incident was completely typical of John Chaney, a characteristic about which even the most devoted college basketball fanatics knew very little, because of always-glowing media coverage of Chaney.

As CBS points out, Chaney has a distinguished history of thuggery:

"Chaney once grabbed the neck of a rival coach, George Washington's Gerry Gimelstob, in 1984. Everyone looked the other way. That's just John Chaney.

Chaney once threatened to kill a rival coach, Massachusetts' John Calipari, in 1994. The threat was captured on video. It was embarrassing, a career-ending move for most coaches. Not for Chaney. Everyone looked the other way."

That's not the half of it. MSNBC notes a bizarre story from twelve years ago, very reminiscent of the latest incident:

"Remember the physical, 1993 NCAA West Region final? The day before the Michigan-Temple game in a news conference, Chaney asked his freshman brute of a center, William Cunningham, 'William, are you going to attack Chris Webber?'

'Answer,' the coach said to his embarrassed player.

'Yes,' Cunningham said.

Chaney raised his hands. 'We win,' he said. Temple went out and obliterated the line between aggressive and dirty before losing."

Not only was the "hit" Chaney put out on St. Joe's horrific, it was pre-meditated rather than in the heat of coaching passion (not that doing it in the heat of the moment would have made his actions any more acceptable)[also from MSNBC]:

"The day before he sent Ingram out as an enforcer, Chaney was on a conference call with reporters. He bemoaned what he called illegal screens set by Saint Joseph's players and said he would dispatch 'one of my goons and have him run through one of those guys and chop him in the neck or something.'"

After the game, when it became clear that Bryant was seriously injured, Chaney did not seem concerned:

"That's what happens. I'm a mean, ornery SOB."

Rick Majerus, former coach of Utah (and for about a week this season, of U.S.C.) and current analyst for ABC and ESPN, was ready to excuse Chaney for his actions on Saturday, saying that any young man would be lucky to have the opportunity play for John Chaney. Majerus went even further over the top, saying he personally would have been honored to have been able to play for Chaney. While still a coach, it must be noted that Majerus was removed as a voter in the ESPN/USA Today's basketball coaches' poll for slotting in Temple at number 9, despite the Owls' 6-12 record. Majerus subsequently wrote a letter of apology for the incident, blaming the flub on his assistant.

Majerus said Chaney's suspension for the remainder of the regular season is appropriate, because of Chaney's history, and because Chaney was contrite. Indeed, Chaney labels himself "contrite," according to Sports Illustrated:

"Chaney said he called Bryant on Friday morning to apologize and also said he planned to talk to his parents. Chaney also offered to pay for Bryant's medical bills."

That's too little, too late. Chaney could have expressed contrition before he realized his legacy was on the line. But he didn't. He chose to tell reporters, "that's what happens."

In a just world, Chaney would face both criminal and civil charges, spend at least a few nights in jail, and be removed from the Basketball Hall of Fame. At the least. His entire career also ought to have an asterik by it. Any biography of Chaney must have the word "goon" in the title.

johnchaney.gif

Chaney has been exposed as a fraud. His punishment, a mere 3-game suspension, is not enough. Chaney should not even be given the dignity of resigning. He should be fired, and fired very publicly. He should be humiliated and disgraced, an example made of his recent actions within the context of his entire nefarious career of bullying.

What's even worse is that Chaney's unclassy leadership has created an atmosphere of hooliganism at his school (as described by USA TODAY):

"Some Temple students spit in the direction of Bryant and Saint Joe's cheerleaders and booed when Bryant got up and walked off the court....

'These actions are not indicative of what I represent and I regret them immensely,' Chaney said."

Actually, John, they are precisely indicative of everything you have represented over your career, and while you may have regret, the students were merely following your example.

One wonders what Bill Cosby, proud Temple alumnus, would have to say about all this this, given his recent history of controversies.

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Bottom line, John Chaney ended a player's career through cheap violence. For that, he should forfeit his own career. If John Chaney coaches another basketball game this or any other year, it will be a travesty.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 February 2005 04:57 PM · Comments (0)

Egypt: Freedom On The Way?

Previously, WILLisms.com noted some strange and wondering happenings in Lebanon, including these comments from Lebanese intifada leader Walid Jumblatt:

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Now Egypt is showing signs of change.

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Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak today announced that he intends to move Egypt toward democratic reforms. Mubarak told Egyptians:

"...that the election of the president of the republic should be made through a secret public direct voting, allowing political parties to take part in the presidential elections and providing guarantees that allow more than one candidate to participate in the elections for the president of the republic so that people can make a free choice between them."

Egypt, currently rated "Not Free" by Freedom House (civil liberties rating- 6, political rights- 6; with 1 being best, 7 being worst), has received more than fifty billion dollars in American aid over the thirty years. The aid's main purposes:

1. Increase stability of the Egyptian regime, preventing an Islamic fundamentalist ideology from seizing power.

2. Provide incentive for Egypt, widely accepted as the leading Arab nation, to stop incessantly going to war with Israel, which would lead to peace in the region.

3. Ensure U.S. access to the Suez Canal (particularly during the Cold War).

4. Make Egypt supportive of U.S. policies and ideals in the region.

5. Help Egypt modernize its economy and its infrastructure, because it was thought that a strong economy would lead to Egypt's eventual democratization.

The aid has only served some of its intended purposes, failing miserably in others.

Egypt's inclusion in the Iraq coalition could have potentially helped frame the conflict less as "the U.S. versus Muslims," but Egypt strongly denounced the Iraq war. And why wouldn't they? If America is in the business of ridding the world of tyrannies, the Egyptian tyranny must surely be on the list somewhere.

U.S. aid to Egypt has created a sort of "Dutch Disease" effect, which simply means that the Egyptian economy has become dependent on a free lunch, so it failed to modernize and diversify the rest of its economy.

While the U.S. might have, in the short-term, staved off fundamentalist extremists from gaining power, Egypt has paradoxically become one the worst hotbeds for anti-Americanism, fueled in part by virulently anti-American state-run Egyptian media. Egyptians express deep and broad levels of hostility toward the U.S, despite the fact that U.S. dollars have provided major roads, sewage systems, power grids, and other necessities of modern life. More Egyptians know that Japan helped build the Cairo Opera House than know the U.S. has been providing tens of billions of dollars over the years; America gets ever-diminishing returns on its foreign aid to Egypt.

Of those Egyptians who do realize America has provided vast sums of money to Egypt over the years feel that the U.S. is propping up a corrupt and tyrannical regime, the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

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Mubarak said that the proposed reform,

"...allows for the first time in Egypt's political history the opportunity to all who have the ability to give, the desire to serve the country, to cope with the responsibility of protecting people's achievements and providing care for the people and their future, to submit their nominations, within a framework of the parliamentarian and popular support, for the direct election of the president of the republic."

Perhaps the most telling part of Mubarak's speech, however, was this line:

"...this historical decisive moment is the fruit of economic stability which we enjoy."

You think Mubarak's actions are due to his wonderful benevolence, out of the goodness of his heart? Mubarak knows that in order for Egypt to continue receiving U.S. money, the status quo is not going to cut it. U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice cancelled her trip to Egypt after Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour was jailed.

But those are not the only reasons.

It is also happening because Egyptians have witnessed the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, Egyptians have witnessed the power of freedom, and they are now demanding a taste.

Mubarak is seeking reforms, because he has no choice. Egypt is much like the ungrateful teenager who refuses to do the chores but still expects an allowance. But no more. The parent, the U.S., after years of neglecting to require anything in return for the aid, has finally decided to put its foot down.

The conversation probably went something like this:
If you, Egypt, are to keep receiving gobs of American money every year, you are going to earn it, starting with, but not limited to, election reforms. Period. End of story. Now get to it. Now.

The old foreign policy calculus involved looking the other way when a regime like Egypt's abused the rights of its citizens. Afterall, what happens in Egypt, stays in Egypt. A nation has a sovereign right to govern its own people in whatever way it wishes, the old thinking went. Indeed, a member of Mubarak's administration recently echoed these sentiments when Dr. Rice expressed displeasure to Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit about Mr. Nour's incarceration. The New York Times:

"After the meeting, Mr. Gheit protested that Mr. Nour's arrest was an internal Egyptian matter, and Suleiman Awad, the spokesman for President Hosni Mubarak, said he rejected 'any foreign interference in Egypt's internal affairs.'"

In the past, Egypt could get away with such an argument. No longer, however. Beginning with President George W. Bush, the U.S. now links the way it treats other regimes with the way those regimes treat their citizens. Additionally, America can no longer afford to assume that what happens within the borders of a sovereign nation, stay within the borders of that sovereign nation (Does the name of Egyptian Mohammed Atta ring a bell?).

It is a good policy change. And it clearly is working.

UPDATE:

The Pajama Hadin blog notes:

"Quite an amazing development indeed. Open elections! Secret Ballot! Freedom of the Press! Historic indeed. Let us hope (for Egypt, the Middle East, and the world) that Mubarak's commitment to this is as profound as the import of his proclamation."

Meanwhile, Captain's Quarters Blog has some worthwhile comments:

"Once again, we see the transformative power of democracy and the fulfillment of the so-called 'neocon' philosophy of security through democratization. Egypt has produced some of the most radical -- and dangerously Westernized -- terrorists of the past generation, including Ayman al-Zwahiri, al-Qaeda's number two under Osama bin Laden. With the ability to express political dissent through the ballot box instead of the bomb, Egypt's moves hold the promise of defusing one of the main intellectual producers of terror in the region....

The question will be how the American media can cover this without having to credit American policy in the region. Can CNN and the New York Times ignore free Egyptian elections? We'll see."

UPDATE 2:

Patrick Ruffini explains that "Egypt's Velvet Revolution" validates President Bush's comments leading up to the Iraq war:

"First Palestine. Then Iraq. Then Lebanon. And now Egypt. Not bad for a month's work....

Today, President Bush's predictions in this major policy address before the war in Iraq look dead on:

'A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region.'

This is exactly how diplomacy (and a little firepower) in the service of freedom should work. You push, you push, you push, until liberty prevails."

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 February 2005 05:11 PM · Comments (0)

Classiness To The Max From Around The Blogosphere.

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Click to explore more WILLisms.com.


Wizbang blog-

In a post called "THE TRIUMPH OF THE EMPTY SUITS,"

Explains that Democrats need to think about nominating a candidate with some qualifications, for a change:

"I don't hate Hillary Clinton. But I do find her emblematic of a rather odd phenomenon going on in politics these days, especially among the Democrats....

...every single one of her achievements can be directly tied to Bill Clinton's political successes. This is hardly the resume' of a supposed 'strong, intelligent, accomplished woman,' as her backers like to describe her.

Similarly, look at the Democrats' nominee this last time around. Repeatedly during the campaign I challenged Kerry supporters to cite three major accomplishments of his during his 20 years in the Senate, and they repeatedly failed miserably."

Although, with regards to Hillary Clinton, how do we know it's not the opposite, that she is the reason for her husband's success? Republican underestimation of Hillary Clinton is not something WILLisms.com wants to be responsible for.


Patrick Ruffini (Bush/Cheney 2004 official blogger)-

In a post called "Congressional Blogging: A Guide,"

Notes the emergence of blogging amongst elected officials, and offers answers to blog-skeptics, as well as a guide for blogging, answering the following questions:

"What if the Blog is Off-Message?

So How Can I Be a Good Blogger and Still Get My Message Across?

My Blogging is Ripe for Attack and Will Be Taken Out of Context.

Blogging Is Not as Important as Other Forms of Media, Like TV.

What If My Principal Doesn't Have Time to Blog?"

In a decade or so, the public will expect that every candidate and public official maintain a blog.


Pejmanesque-

In a post titled, "THE CONSEQUENCES OF EMINENT DOMAIN ABUSE,"

Makes the case that eminent domain expansion has broader consequences:

"There are not that many people who in their lifetimes will be in the position occupied by the homeowners in Kelo, though to be sure, it is vital to prevent eminent domain abuse when it comes to real property. But millions of Americans will have their lives directly and negatively impacted by the placement of additional barriers obstructing pharmaceutical research, development and distribution. Those millions of Americans cannot read stories discussing and advocating the taking of a patent for pharmaceutical products and be sanguine about it. And the policy chickens that come home to roost if such takings occur will leave no one in a happy frame of mind."

Property rights are a fundamental building block of a free society, and while eminent domain makes sense sometimes (especially, say, national security reasons, or for ambitious public works projects), but unlimited eminent domain should trouble Americans deeply.


Classy, all.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 February 2005 05:01 PM · Comments (0)

Euro-Bush: Well, It Was Real, It Was Fun. But Was It Real Fun?

The President's European adventure has come to an end. The President is Euro-Bush no longer. Now he can get back to the work of Social Security reform, which, unfortunately, looks to be a tough task ahead.


Click on the picture for a full transcript of the event.

The President met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in, appropriately enough, Bratislava, Slovakia. Bush pressed Putin on the issue of Russia's backpeddling human, civil, and political rights, but not too heavy-handedly.

Can you imagine John Kerry, or Al Gore, leaning on Vladimir Putin for his poor record on freedom and democracy? Either way, a veritable World's Fair of patronizing, pedantic haughtiness.

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A few somewhat humorous moments from the Bush-Putin meeting:

First, a weird, rambling question from a reporter-

"Q First of all, I wanted to ask another question, but we have an interesting conversation now, therefore I'm going to ask about the following: It seems to me that you have nothing to disagree about. The regimes that are in place in Russia and the U.S. cannot be considered fuller democratic, especially when compared to some other countries of Europe, for example -- for example, The Netherlands. It seems to me, that as far as Russia is concerned, everything is clear, more or less. But as far as the U.S. is concerned, we could probably talk at length. I am referring to the great powers that have been assumed by the security services due to which the private lives of citizens are now being monitored by the state. This could be explained away by the consequences of September 11th, but this has nothing to do with democratic values. How could you comment on this? I suggest that you can probably agree -- you can probably shake hands and continue to be friends in future."

We'll just place one big [sic] after that whole question, and call it even, how about that?

The President gave a nice answer, succinctly explaining the U.S. Constitution and the system of checks and balances. If he had WILLisms.com handy on his PDA, he could have also explained that the U.S. has a much broader, much deeper, much longer tradition of democracy than the Dutch; the U.S., even post-Patriot Act, earns perfect scores from Freedom House.

Putin, however, delivered the punch-line, proving just how sharp and quick-witted the former Soviet KGB agent really is. Putin explained:

"You have cited a curious example -- The Netherlands. The Netherlands is a monarchy, after all."

The reporter's question sort of proves the effect of media bias. The reporter had probably read all kinds of articles in American and international media about how the U.S. is becoming some kind of police state under President Bush. If that was the reporter's only frame of reference, the question becomes less awkward, one could suppose.

But awkward nevertheless. And, the nerve of it, comparing Russia and the U.S. like that! The U.S. is the world's most long-enduring democracy. Russia is still recovering (with a significant relapse in the past year) from decades of occupation under the thumb of the Communist Party.


Next, was another odd question from a reporter-

"Q To follow up on the issue of democratic institutions, President Bush recently stated that the press in Russia is not free. What is this lack of freedom all about? Your aides probably mentioned to you that our media, both electronic and our printed media -- full coverage of the manifestations and protests in our country. Our regional and national media often criticize the government institution. What about you? Why don't you talk a lot about violations of the rights of journalists in the United States, about the fact that some journalists have been fired? Or do you prefer to discuss this in private with your American colleague?"

This one made President Bush laugh, as it was another example of distorted media leading to distorted perception. The journalist must have read somewhere about Eason Jordan or, perhaps, Rathergate, and determined that freedom of the press in the U.S. is not as solid as previously thought, as if Bush personally fired those recalcitrant reporters for refusing to paint him in a positive light. The reporter's question also revealed a thorough lack of understanding of the First Amendment in the U.S., which has been the poster child for the manifesto of the greatest force for freedom in the past two centuries, the American Bill of Rights.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The United States, with its First Amendment, is the supreme example in the history of the world with regards to freedom of the press, and that is no hyperbole; few other countries guarantee such broad freedom in law, fewer still guarantee it in practice. The President took his turn at smacking down an idiot reporter:

"PRESIDENT BUSH: I don't know what journalists you're referring to. Any of you all still have your jobs? No, I -- look, I think it's important any viable democracy has got a free and active press. Obviously, if you're a member of the Russian press, you feel like the press is free. And that's -- feel that way? Well, that's good. (Laughter.) But I -- I talked to Vladimir about that. And he -- he wanted to know about our press. I said, nice bunch of folks. And he wanted to know about, as you mentioned, the subject of somebody getting fired. People do get fired in American press. They don't get fired by government, however. They get fired by their editors or they get fired by their producers, or they get fired by the owners of a particular outlet or network.

But a free press is important. And it is -- it is an important part of any democracy. And if you're a member of the press corps and you feel comfortable with the press in Russia, I think that is a pretty interesting observation for those of us who don't live in Russia to listen to.

But no question, whether it be in America or anywhere else, the sign of a healthy and vibrant society is one in where there's an active press corps. Obviously, there has got to be constraints. There's got to be truth. People have got to tell the truth, and if somebody violates the truth, then those who own a particular newspaper or those who are in charge of particular electronic station need to hold people to account. The press -- the capacity of the press to hold people to account also depends on their willingness to self-examine at times when they're wrong. And that happens on occasion in America. And that's -- that's an important part of maintaining a proper relationship between government and press.

I can assure you that the folks here are constantly trying to hold me to account for decisions I make and how I make decisions. I'm comfortable with that. It's part of the checks and balances of a democracy.

And so I'm glad to hear you're editorial comment, so to speak, on your comfort with the situation of the press corps in the Federation of Russia."

Ouch. One almost wonders if that journalist was planted there for comic relief, and/or to lob a softball at the President.


The meeting with Putin, however, was just one part of the trip, a trip with many missions.

The Wall Street Journal explains that Europe has decided, in some ways at least, that "Bush may be right after all" (which they borrowed from Der Spiegel, noted at Chrenkoff's blog):

"For much of Europe, the idea that President Bush is the real and legitimate face of America came a few years late. But it has come, as has the realization that a hopeful era is dawning in the Middle East thanks to U.S. 'unilateralism' and force of arms. In this sense, the purpose of Mr. Bush's trip isn't to present himself anew to Europe. It is to allow European leaders--France's Jacques Chirac, Germany's Gerhard Schroeder and Russia's Vladimir Putin--to present themselves anew to Mr. Bush.

This is precisely on-target. Many Europeans felt that Bush had stumbled into his first term in office by some kind of fluke, and obviously America would come to its senses after one failed term. President Bush's record-breaking reelection victory, stunned many Europeans, but stunned them into the realization that, hey, this guy is for real, and he is going to be there for four more years. America, even, might be there, where Bush is, for longer than that.

The Wall Street Journal continues:

... Contrary to expectation a year ago (and with the qualified exception of Spain), the leaders who supported the war in Iraq have all been returned to office, while Messrs. Chirac, Putin and Schroeder languish in polls.

Again, dead on. This phenomenon is often underreported, but the policy of liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein has been confirmed at ballot box after ballot box, all around the world, not to mention Iraq and Afghanistan. A year ago, most counted Tony Blair out, yet he is likely to win reelection in the U.K.'s upcoming parliamentary elections.

In short, on Iraq, the international community agrees. France and Germany are on the outside of history, looking in.

More from The Wall Street Journal:

"Probably the most important component is that President Bush's vision of spreading democracy--of getting to the 'tipping point' where tyrannies start to crumble--seems not only to be working but also winning some unexpected converts. Just ask the Lebanese who are suddenly restive under Syrian occupation. As a result, European politicians are in a poorer position to lecture this President about the true ways of the world."

Indeed, many critics of the President's foreign policy like to fashion themselves as realists, deriding the President from the left as some kind of crazed right-wing neo-con crusader, or from the right as a crazed liberal hippie neo-con crusader. It doesn't get any more real than the volcano of freedom that is just beginning to gurgle in the Middle East.

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Dick Morris describes the scene in Europe, explaining that, "It's a good time to be an American in Paris." Bush, Morris notes, "is going over the heads of the leftist European media and speaking directly to eastern and western Europe."

Morris:

"The statesmen of Old Europe seem to have lost their way in the thicket of self-interest, while Bush is holding out a clarifying lantern of idealism and commitment to democracy."

The President seems to have enjoyed himself a great deal on his European tour. He seemed relaxed, free from the first-term pressures to meet or exceed expectations, confident that his vision for freedom in the world is working, assured that he is on the right side of history. All in all, a successful journey for the President.

UPDATE: Polipundit has more on Putin's confusion about American freedom of the press.

So does YoungPundit, noting this passage from a Time article:

"But when Bush talked about the Kremlin's crackdown on the media and explained that democracies require a free press, the Russian leader gave a rebuttal that left the President nonplussed. If the press was so free in the U.S., Putin asked, then why had those reporters at CBS lost their jobs? Bush was openmouthed. 'Putin thought we'd fired Dan Rather,' says a senior Administration official. 'It was like something out of 1984.'"

More on the subject, from Time:

"The Russians did not let the matter drop. Later, during the leaders' joint press conference, one of the questioners Putin called on asked Bush about the very same firings, a coincidence the White House assumed had been orchestrated. The odd episode reinforced the Administration's view that Putin's impressions of America are often based on urban myths fed to him by ill-informed aides. (At a past summit, according to Administration aides, Putin asked Bush whether it was true that chicken producers split their production into plants that serve the U.S. and lower-quality ones that process substandard chicken for Russia.) U.S. aides say that to help fight against this kind of misinformation, they are struggling to build relationships that go beyond Putin. 'We need to go deeper into the well into other levels of government,' explains an aide."

Putin may be sly, but he is also a product of his KGB days: paranoid and prone to conspiracy theories.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 February 2005 11:49 PM · Comments (0)

Rock The Vote + AARP = WAY LAME.

In a previous post, WILLisms.com noted that Rock the Vote has gone off the deep end, deviating far from its "non-partisan" status, becoming a mouthpiece for the far-left wing of the DNC, teaming up with other left-wing groups to maximize their power. They have dropped all pretense of open-mindedness, all illusion of fairness to both sides.

For example, Rock the Vote is single-mindedly and persistently trying to scare young people about a draft:

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Before the election, Rock the Vote sent an email out to all of its email subscribers, telling them if they didn't vote the right way, they would be drafted. This had a clear and powerful effect on the youth vote, which had been trending toward Republicans, whipping people up into a panic over nothing.

Rock the Vote also has links on its website to This Is Rumor Control blog and Alliance for Security, two obviously affiliated far-left groups (although it is hard to tell just how they are organized).

Rock the Vote is even selling these t-shirts on his website:

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If Rock the Vote really loved Social Security, they would not oppose reforming it. Keeping Social Security as-is is not even an option, as that would require massive benefit cuts and/or massive tax increases, guaranteed, down the line. Here is just one glorious example of Rock the Vote ridiculousness, completely misrepresenting the plan, from a post called "A solution that is worse than the problem" (are they now at least acknowledging there is a problem?):

"Proponents of the plan would be quick to retort that in exchange for reduced traditional Social Security benefits, privatized personal accounts will be available to supplement.

This sounds good in theory. The stock market gets great returns, right? Of course it does.

Unless the stock market crashes. But, how often does that happen? We haven’t had a recession in three years!

Or unless you make a bad investment. But, that would never happen to us - we have learned a lot from Giovanni Ribisi in 'Boiler Room' and Michael Douglas in 'Wall Street.'"

Ugh.

The inane movie references aside, this just distorts the facts so profoundly, probably on purpose. The personal retirement accounts would not resemble anything from the scenarios in Boiler Room or Wall Street. The accounts would resemble the Thrift Savings Plan accounts available to employees of the federal government (such as, member of Congress), which, even when losing money temporarily through recessions, over a ten-year period deliver, at worst, 5.45% rates of annual compounded interest (the "C" and "S" funds in the TSP offer nearly 12% returns).

Plus, unlike the movies cited by Rock the Vote, there would be no chance that an individual could throw his money after some zany stock idea and lose it all. None. The plans would be highly diversified, not tied to individual stocks (or even individual sectors). Temporary stock market downturns, temporary recessions, these things would have no bearing on the personal retirement accounts, which are in it for the long haul. Over the long run (let's call it 30 years), the market is always up, even through the period of the Great Depression.

The latest nonsense from Rock the Vote is the peddling of disingenuous polling data to try to create a false bandwagon effect, where otherwise disengaged people flock to the winning position. Rock the Vote, through the use of push-polling (an unethical and widely condemned practice of manipulation, or "rigging"), is trying to suggest that young people actually do not favor reform of Social Security afterall. Rock the Vote also uses anyone under 40 as its "youth" cohort, also deceptive.

Is it merely a coincidence that AARP, a group recently exposed (here and here) for peddling disingenuous polling data, has just recently joined forces with Rock the Vote? Is that merely suspicious, or are they operating from the same playbook?

Adam Doverspike, of Social Security Choice, explains:

"Rock The Vote, ostensibly a youth organization, has teamed up with AARP to oppose meaningful Social Security reform. The recently conducted a push poll that was meant to show youth opposed to PRAs. This contradicts most independent polling on the subject that shows big rifts between the old and the young on PRAs. Mr. Hederman of the Heritage Foundation disects the push poll technique used in this specific poll."

The Heritage Foundation goes into greater detail:

"Push-polling is the intellectually dishonest practice of conducting a survey in a way designed to produce a pre-determined result. Such polls follow up a neutrally worded question with more 'questions' that provide new information. The added information presents only one side of an argument and is designed to 'coach' or 'push' the respondent into giving the desired answer....

Luckily, AARP and RTV had been prescient enough to foresee that the vast majority of younger workers would support personal accounts. (It’s what legitimate surveys have been finding for years.)

Consequently, the survey itself proceeded to supply the necessary 'nuance' by posing nine follow-up questions for the 198 lost young souls who dared embrace the concept of personal retirement accounts. 'Would you still favor' reform if it meant:

— creating a new government agency?

— massive new federal debt?

— requiring 'additional help from government'?

The barrage of unattractive hypotheticals ran on and on. This isn’t polling. This is a lecture from an overeager high school guidance counselor. Why not just ask us if we would prefer privatization if we had to eat cat food in our retirement? If we’d be forced to listen to Milli Vanilli? If advocates of personal accounts would come to our houses, kick our dogs and erase our iPods?"

The Heritage article points out the notable absence of any information about what would happen to Social Security without any action. Interestingly enough, support for Social Security reform in the Rock the Vote poll was pretty durable, withstanding the barrage:

"...despite these loaded questions, a plurality of the Rock the Vote cohort still believed that investing in private equities is good for Social Security. Forty-seven percent of the 18-39 cohort responded that Social Security would be strengthened with the ability to invest part of our payroll taxes in the stock market. And half of the RTV cohort believes that investing in a private account would make up for benefits cuts. And this is after being told that private accounts are the financial equivalent of the 10 plagues....

Because of its maniacally manipulative methodology, the AARP/RTV survey can tell us nothing reliable about what Americans think about Social Security. But it speaks volumes about the sponsors. Neither AARP nor RTV wants to hear what their constituents think. Both groups are far more interested in telling their constituents what they should think — whether they like it or not."

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UPDATE:
National Review (via Social Security Choice) has more:

"Hans Reimer says he wants Rock the Vote to become the 'AARP of our Generation.' Young Americans... deserve better."

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 February 2005 06:31 PM · Comments (0)

Reform Thursday: Social Security- Chart Four.

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Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.

That's why WILLisms.com will display a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.

Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:

-Week One.

-Week Two.

-Week Three.

-Week Three, bonus.

Today's graphic, like last week's, comes to us from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) of Congress:

Click on chart for full-size chart (it's a .pdf):

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Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important supporting data supporting Social Security reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 February 2005 09:11 AM · Comments (0)

LaRouchers Against Social Security Reform.

The LaRouchers are coming!

And this time, they're, typically, against Social Security reform.

Just who are the LaRouchers, and why do they matter?

Well, they shouldn't matter, as they are remarkably few in number and nearly bankrupt of mainstream ideas, yet they do matter precisely because they are perhaps the most persistent bunch of activists in the country, appearing regularly on college campuses, passing out absurd propaganda such as this, conning some into paying $15 or more for it:

Subtle, they are not.

For these dedicated warriors of the world of ideas, Lyndon LaRouche is their spiritual leader, his endurance an inspiration for his disciples. LaRouche has been predicting an economic meltdown ("The Great Crash Of 2004-2005 Is Here!") in the United States for decades, not based on any kind of expert analysis, but, rather, based exclusively on his idea that America needs a "physical economy." That is to say, the U.S. (government) needs to build and manufacture things, and the world needs to work on projects such as a land bridge from the Americas to Asia, from Europe to Africa.

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LaRouche, prior to dropping out of the 2004 presidential race and endorsing John Kerry, developed an 8-figure campaign chest (that's more than 10 million dollars), including nearly $1.5 million in taxpayer-funded federal campaign subsidies (LaRouche has raked in, from taxpayers, at least a few times that amount over the years). For comparison, note that LaRouche's campaign war chest was larger than the combined campaign funds of minor party candidates Ralph Nader, Michael Badnarik, Michael Peroutka, and David Cobb. Throw in Democrats Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun, and LaRouche still had more campaign cash in 2004.

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But why wasn't LaRouche allowed to debate the other Democrats, if he raised so much money and had so many staunch supporters?

Well, he is embarrassing. So are his supporters. And his poll numbers, despite robust financial and grassroots support, never reached into the single-digits. Elites on the left have effectively marginalized LaRouche, bizarrely enough, painting him as an ultra-conservative demagogue, preventing him from gaining support in primaries and caucuses. The New Republic magazine, in 1997, called LaRouche a "right-wing conspiratorialist." LaRouche, for the most part, however, is decidedly left-wing; he even came out recently in favor of a worldwide boycott of Wal-Mart. Perhaps he is so left-wing that his ideology mingles with right-wing, or vice-versa, but he is a stoic left-winger nonetheless. In the weird world of grotesque conspiracy theories, where left and right become meaningless, LaRouche thrives. If LaRouche, the FDR-loving socialist, seemed to sudden become an extreme right-winger, it is in the same pattern that America's arch-conspiracy theorist, Austin-based Alex Jones, decidedly right-wing during the Clinton administration, seemed to (but didn't, really) move sharply to the left after Republicans assumed power. Sometimes it's hard to tell which side someone is on when his ideology is so extreme.

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The rantings of Jones and LaRouche are very similar: there is always some kind of Zionist banking conspiracy pulling the strings behind America's elected leaders; Arnold Schwarzenegger is an aspiring fascist dictator; and the government is always out to get both of them.

LaRouche is so ridiculous, he became a punchline on The Simpsons:

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LaRouche and his apostles shrug off such parodies as vile insults, below them. Any critics of LaRouche, they argue reflexively, have their "heads in the gutter." The response is almost Pavlovian.

More on LaRouche's followers, from The Daily Cougar, last September:

"Supporters of former presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche distributed literature on campus Tuesday calling Vice President Dick Cheney a 'beast-man' and other Bush administration officials 'children of Satan.'

The LaRouche backers are paid $50 a week and given places to stay as they visit college campuses around the country telling students they should vote Democratic this November.

They were set up in the Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall Breezeway with a poster that read, 'A vote for Bush is a vote for Hitler.'

Paid campaigner Dennis Daulton defended the sign. 'If the sign bothers people, they're in fantasy world. They don't want to face reality,' he said.

LaRouche, who claimed in a 1978 pamphlet that the musical group The Beatles 'had no genuine musical talent, but were a product shaped according to British Psychological Warfare Division specifications,' has run for president in several elections, each time warning that the next Great Depression is imminent.

He was convicted of federal financial fraud in the late 1980s and served five years in prison before his early parole in 1994.

Daulton, however, claimed the 82-year-old LaRouche was 'politically targeted for exposing daddy Bush's drug running,' alleging that the U.S. government 'tried to kill LaRouche for his ideas.'

'LaRouche invented what Reagan later called the Strategic Defense Initiative,' Daulton said, 'and some very powerful people didn't like that.'

During a speech in the United Arab Emirates in 2002, LaRouche said 'Jewish gangsters' and 'Christian Zionists' control U.S. foreign policy and were responsible for the 9/11 attacks."


The Washington Post
reported last October that the worldwide LaRouche Youth Movement, cult-like in its operations, has a profound effect on young recruits. The mysterious 2003 death in Germany of one 22-year-old LaRoucher, Jeremiah Duggan, as the Post article points out, very well may have been because he wanted to escape the brainwashing.

Think applying the label of "cult-like" on the LaRouche movement is excessive, or hyperbolic? Read the entire Post article first and then pass judgment.

LaRouche's troubling organization-building tactics aside, LaRouche's bizarre ideas have been adopted by some otherwise respectable liberals in recent years.

The Wall Street Journal noted all the way back in June of 2003, that LaRouche's rhetoric, although thoroughly repugnant, is not alone, exiled to the political wilderness. The New York Times and The New Yorker, making "common cause with Lyndon LaRouche," went "off the deep end" long ago. Indeed, since summer of 2003, the ideas of LaRouche, such as the notion that Israel is controlling U.S. policy through some kind of shadowy cabal of "neo-cons," have been somewhat mainstreamed.

The LaRouchers' latest diatribes focus on Social Security. But it wouldn't be a piece of LaRouche literature without a good old-fashioned Jewish scapegoat:

The pamphlet charges:

"George Shultz, the political Godfather of President George W. Bush and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, is, like his role model Hjalmar Schacht, the kind of fascist who, one would imagine, arrogantly believes he will get off scot-free at the next Nuremberg war crimes tribunals....

Shultz's hand-picked future Führer, with real-live Nazi blood flowing through his veins, is California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger."

It speaks for itself.

The LaRouchers are at once intensely hyper-intellectual and anti-intellectual, as one blogger explains:

"When I saw a fake human monkey with a cut-out of Dubya's face on a monkey being led around, I started to grow weary. When the fake monkey was invited to the stage to show off, I had to turn it off. How can anybody take what is being presented at the podium seriously when a fake monkey with a cut-out of Bush's face is being held hostage on a leash just off stage."

The latest charge from the LaRouchers is that Social Security reform was conceived by a Wall Street conspiracy:

"These wealthy financial institutions, and the oligarchical families that own them, have, in their own name and through cut-outs like the Mont Pelerin Society's Cato Institute, single-mindedly driven privatization: They have opened up their deep wallets to finance the multi-hundred-million-dollar-a-year campaign for privatization. They have directly crafted and specified the key financial features of the reports and the proposed legislation on privatization."

Dumb that down a bit, and you have exactly what the AFL-CIO is saying about Social Security reform. In fact, Team LaRouche and its arguments against reform are amazingly similar to the arguments of all the "mainstream" groups opposing reform. As noted before, WILLisms.com subscribes to various liberal interest group email lists, and here is just one example of a LaRouchian-type of comment over the past few weeks:

From February 15, 2005:
AFL-CIO email titled "You Beat Wall Street."

"Charles Schwab also is a member of the AWRS and of the Financial Services Roundtable. These and other front groups are raising millions for ad campaigns to sell Social Security privatization to the American public....

Social Security is America's best-run, most successful family insurance program. Millions of retirees, survivors and people with disabilities rely on Social Security. President Bush's plan to move Social Security funds into private accounts may be good for Schwab's business—but it would hurt working families terribly, forcing devastating cuts in benefits and replacing retirement security with retirement risk."

If, as the LaRouchers argue, "Wall Street" had been spending multi-hundreds of billions each year on Social Security reform, it would have happened long ago.

Unfortunately, "Wall Street" has actually been fairly neutral on Social Security reform, refusing to really take the plunge and come out strongly for personal accounts. While personal accounts would indeed lead to an infusion of cash into the stock market, it would be hundreds of millions of relatively small accounts, not exactly the kinds of customers "Wall Street" prefers. Fees for the personal accounts would likely be arbitrarily low (as mandated by the Congress), somewhere around 30 basis points, almost more hassle than they are worth, while the average fees "Wall Street" gets (1.1%) on larger accounts produce far more favorable and lucrative outcomes. The fees from Social Security personal accounts would likely comprise no more than 1-2% of "Wall Street's" total revenues. Furthermore, the Social Security personal accounts would receive greater scrutiny and regulation than other accounts, subject to the whims of future (perhaps more liberal) Congresses.

The Wall Street Journal (subsription required, so try this) notes:

"Wall Street knows a river of cash when it sees it, and personal accounts right now look more like a stream."

Nonetheless, the LaRouchers persist, simultaneously irritating and entertaining college students all across the country with banners such as, "Bush Lied, Granny Died!"

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Intellectually, LaRouche and his groupies oppose Social Security reform because: 1) it would lead to a greater actualization of the inherently free enterprise system, away from socialism; 2) America's economy is not physical enough right now, thus will soon crash; and 3) it would harm FDR's legacy.

For the LaRouchers, Social Security reform would be a repeat of the mistake Chile made with privatization more than two decades ago:

"The outcome of the same plan in Chile was devastating for the working population, but provided profit rates of 20-50% for the funds which managed the pensions..."

However, as WILLisms.com noted in a previous post, Chile's successful reforms of its pension system, while they could be tweaked and improved, are a model for the U.S. Also, the plan was only "devastating for the working population" if you redefine "devastating" as a "huge boon." Chile's personal accounts just plain work.

So, is it predictable that the LaRouchers would oppose Social Security reform? Definitely. It is also noteworthy, however, that LaRouche has been the intellectual godfather of the anti-reform movement. The LaRouchers, for all their absurdity, make that case best. When a recent LaRouche publication boasted that liberals in media and politics (and on liberal blogs) have largely adopted his vision and his rhetoric on the issue, it was not really all that off-the-mark:

"...when the New York Times of Jan. 27 ran a front-page expose´ of what a disaster Chile’s Social Security privatization has been, ABC News immediately noted that the Times was 'borrowing a page from Lyndon LaRouche.'"

While that is surely a badge of honor for the LaRouche movement, to be compared to America's former paper of record, the New York Times, somehow we don't think that was what ABC was getting at.

More from the LaRouchers, on how proud they are of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid:

"A key turning point came when Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, after announcing on Feb. 1 that 'no Democrat' would support Bush’s attempt to steal Social Security, answered the President’s Feb. 2 State of the Union with a Rooseveltian proposal for a 'Marshall Plan for America, to rebuild America’s economic infrastructure.' Reid is preparing 'Marshall Plan' legislation."

Reid's discussion of a Marshall Plan for America is exactly the kind of tribute to the "physical economy" Lyndon LaRouche wanted to hear.

More boasting from the LaRouchians:

"LaRouche Strategy Working
Lyndon LaRouche’s powerful call on Columbus, Ohio radio on Dec. 16—for national action to pull together 'the Democratic Party of President Franklin Roosevelt' to stop George W. Bush from stealing the Social Security of the American people—has been extraordinarily effective....

Refuse to 'negotiate' Social Security with that mad bull; adopt a united mission to defeat Bush on it; and sane Republicans will have to deal with the consequences, LaRouche advised."

Even LaRouche's hubris on this issue, thinking Bush has already been defeated, resembles "mainstream" liberals, who, as WILLisms.com previously pointed out, declared victory on the issue in late January.

On Social Security reform, LaRouche deserves much credit for leading the opposition, intellectually, and tactically. So, the next time you hear an argument against Social Security reform that seems a little more "off" than normal, just remember the power of the LaRouche movement within his party. When you witness Democrats going off the deep end with their conspiracy theories, know that LaRouche was probably already out in front on the issue.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 February 2005 12:47 PM · Comments (0)

Lebanon: Strange, Wonderful Goings-On

In the week following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, some strange and wonderful things are happening in Lebanon. Freedom, perhaps, is on the march in Lebanon.

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David Ignatius, writing in The Washington Post, examines "Beirut's Berlin Wall":

"The leader of this Lebanese intifada is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria's occupation. But something snapped for Jumblatt last year, when the Syrians overruled the Lebanese constitution and forced the reelection of their front man in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud. The old slogans about Arab nationalism turned to ashes in Jumblatt's mouth, and he and Hariri openly began to defy Damascus....

'It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq,' explains Jumblatt. 'I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.' Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. 'The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.'"

Daniel Pipes notes:

"For the first time in three decades, Lebanon now seems within reach of regaining its independence. 'I don't see how Syria can stay now,' observes Lebanon's former president, Amin Gemayel.

The reassertion of Lebanon's independence will fittingly reward an unsung steadfastness. The Lebanese may have once squandered their sovereignty, starting with the Syrian invasion of 1976 and culminating in the nearly complete occupation of 1990, but they showed dignity and bravery under occupation. Against the odds, they asserted a civil society, kept alive the hope of freedom, and retained a sense of patriotism.

Lebanon's independence will also serve as a large nail in the coffin of the brutal, failed, and unloved Assad dynasty. If things go right, Syria's liberation should follow on Lebanon's.

Thus can a mere traffic accident influence history."

In the New York Post, Amir Taheri explains that "People Power Hits Lebanon":

"'This is the start of Lebanon's second war of independence,' says parliamentarian Marwan Hamade. 'We are determined that Hariri's tragic death be transformed into the rebirth of our nation.'

Those who have wondered where next the flame of freedom may rise in the Middle East have their answer. After free and fair elections in Iraq, it is now the turn of Lebanon to break the shackles of tyranny and take the path of democracy....

Free elections in Lebanon, after free elections in the Palestinian Authority and Iraq, will speed up the dismantling of other despotic regimes in the Middle East, thus bringing this vital region into the mainstream of post-Cold War global politics. Whether anyone likes it or not, regime-change must remain the name of the game in the region until people-based governments are established wherever this is not already the case.

Regime-change, however, need not be pursued solely through military means (although this must not be discarded). In countries where internal mechanisms for peaceful change exist, the task facing the major democracies is to help trigger them into action.

Today, Lebanon is one such case. Any failure to seize the moment would amount to a betrayal of the democratic aspirations of the Lebanese people."

We are now seeing the beginnings of freedom in Lebanon; the Middle East is changing before our very eyes. These strange and wonderful happenings must be savored, for, while the flame of liberty is spreading, it has determined enemies. The march to a free and democratic Middle East has only just begun.

UPDATE:
The Captain's Quarters blog has more:

"...the only way to achieve victory over terrorists is to deprive them of state sponsorship from the kleptocracts and mullahcrats in Southwest Asia and North Africa. The only way to get that is to topple the tyrants and push for self-determination and freely elected governments, and it only takes one or two examples in the region before everyone there starts wondering when their turn will come.

Lebanon may soon stop wondering, and that will be a day of rejoicing."

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 February 2005 11:35 AM · Comments (2)

Euro-Bush Brings Up China, European Integration.

In a previous WILLisms.com post (here), we gave the President high marks on his Europe trip thus far, but an incomplete on the subject of China, as nothing public had been uttered about that emerging superpower.

Now, the silence on the issue has been broken.

First, a smidgeon of background info:

The European Union has apparently decided, unfortunately, to remove its embargo on arms sales to China. The embargo dates back to the aftermath of June 1989's Tiananmen Square Massacre.

tiananmensquare.gif

The President pressed the issue mostly in private, but responded candidly yesterday at NATO headquarters in Brussels. NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer expressed support for the "common values that bind us, in the past, in the present, and in the future."


Click on picture for full transcript.

Here is the entire exhange on China:

"Q Mr. President, European countries are talking about lifting their 15-year arms embargo on China. What would be the consequences of that? And could it be done in a way that would satisfy your concerns?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I talked about this issue with President Chirac last night, and Prime Minister Blair, and I intend to talk about it here in a couple of hours at the European Union meeting. We didn't discuss the issue at NATO, by the way. And here's what I explained. I said, there is deep concern in our country that a transfer of weapons would be a transfer of technology to China, which would change the balance of relations between China and Taiwan, and that's of concern. And they, to a person, said, well, they think they can develop a protocol that isn't -- that shouldn't concern the United States. And I said I'm looking forward to seeing it and that they need to make sure that if they do so, that they sell it to the United States Congress, but the Congress will be making the decisions as to whether or not -- as to how to react to what will be perceived by some, perhaps, as a technology transfer to China.

But it was an important dialogue. It was a very open dialogue. There's no -- it was very constructive. And so they will, as I understand it -- and I don't want to put words in people's mouth, but I am told that there is a -- that they've heard the concerns of the United States, they're listening to the concerns of the administration, as first articulated by Secretary of State Rice, and they know the Congress's concern. And so they will try to develop a plan that will ease concerns. Now, whether they can or not, we'll see.

Q So do you think it will fly?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Pardon me? I don't know. It's all speculation at this point. The purpose of this trip has been to articulate concerns that are being expressed throughout the government, both in the executive branch and legislative branch, about the decision -- or the potential decision. And I've been listening. And you might call this a listening tour, that people have got things on their mind and they want me to hear it, and part of what they've got on their mind is the dialogue that's taking place with China and the European Union."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, meanwhile, said, of lifting the ban:

"It will happen."

Unclassy.

What's next, a Chinapean Union?

chinapeanunion.gif

Lame.

National Review, meanwhile, gives the President low marks on the issue of European integration:

"The project of a federal EU has long been driven, at least in part, by a profound, and remarkably virulent anti-Americanism, with deep roots in Vichy-era disdain for the sinister 'Anglo-Saxons' and their supposedly greedy and degenerate culture. Throw in the poisonous legacy of soixante-huitard radicalism, then add Europe's traditional suspicion of the free market, and it's easy to see how relations between Brussels and Washington were always going to be troubled. What's more, the creation of a large and powerful fortress Europe offered its politicians something else, the chance to return to the fun and games of great power politics....

Any attempt by the Bush White House to derail the ratification process would backfire, but that does not mean that the administration should be actively signaling its support for this dreadful and damaging document. Secretary Rice argues that the integration represented by the passing of the constitution would be a 'good development.' The opposite is true. If the EU (which has a collective agenda primarily set by France and Germany) does increasingly speak with one voice, Washington is unlikely to enjoy what it hears."

UPDATE:

Blogger Chrenkoff notes, however, that inclusion of Eastern Europe into Europe may prevent some of the ill effects of a Franco-German dominated E.U. (he also notes in the same post that Russia has as many spies in the U.S.A. now than it did under the Soviet Union, so it's worth reading):

"Keeping the European Union in check: The Eurocrats must be starting to regret the admission of the new members to the EU. The uncouth newcomers are rather less well disposed towards statism and trendy leftyism than their Western betters and are already shaking the comfortable Brussels status quo. This from the Czechs:

'In their first foreign-policy victory since joining the EU, Czech officials in Brussels have blocked a proposed ban on inviting Cuban dissidents to receptions at European embassies in Havana.

'The ban would have suspended a 2003 resolution that called on EU countries to support anti-Castro dissidents by inviting them to parties celebrating national holidays.

'Spain proposed the ban as part of a package of measures -- including the resumption of EU missions to Cuba -- designed to ease tensions with Havana. It became a sticking point when the Czechs threatened to use their veto in the 25-member Council of Foreign Ministers, where unanimity is required on policy decisions.'

Another recent example comes from Poland, whose representatives were instrumental in alerting the public and then stopping the proposed EU directive on patents, which had it been passed would have devastated the development of open source and shareware software. In the best EU fashion, the directive was going to be pushed through the Agricultural and Fisheries Commission(!).

Why it matters: Because the Easterners are acting as a moderating, sensible influence on the rampant anti-American nouveau socialism of the EU elites. It is also a useful reminder for the EU critics in the US that Europe is not monolithic and not beyond salvaging."

One can only hope. It is also possible, however, that Eastern European nations may be swept away by "the mania," the anti-American mania that dominates much of France's political culture. As Europe integrates further, it is not out of the question that those nations formerly behind the Iron Curtain, nations currently filled with grateful Americaphiles, appreciative of the efforts and ideology of the United States during and after the Cold War, will move toward a feeling of rivalry (and even possibly antagonism) against the U.S.

Hopefully, Chrenkoff is correct, and the Eastern European nations, with their freer markets and more pro-American attitudes, will rub off on the rest of Europe. Unfortunately, the U.K. seems to be missing a prime opportunity to lead a sort of pro-U.S. alliance within the E.U., which could keep France and Germany in line.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 February 2005 06:32 AM · Comments (0)

Congressional Ideology Ratings.

The "In The Right Place" blog (via PoliPundit) has compiled ideology ratings for nearly all members of Congress, in a post titled, "Evaluating the Congress."

He took the most recent ratings from the ACU (American Conservative Union), the National Journal, and the ADA (Americans for Democratic Action), forming an index of just how conservative or liberal members of Congress are.

Some parameters:

Below -70 = lunatic fringe left
-40 to -70 = pretty far left-wing
0 to -40 = fairly reasonable liberal

0 to 50 = somewhat moderate
50 to 110 = moderate

110 to 140 = adequate conservative
140 to 170 = true conservative
Above 170 = solid conservative


Some of his findings:

Most Conservative (tie)-
186 (98/93/5) Sam Johnson (R) TX-03
186 (97/94/5) Todd Tiahrt (R) KS-04

Others 180 and above:
185 (98/87/0) Jeff Sessions (R) AL
184 (96/93/5) Chris Cannon (R) UT-03
185 (96/94/5) Tom DeLay (R) TX-22
183 (97/91/5) Pete Sessions (R) TX-32
183 (94/94/5) John Linder (R) GA-07
181 (94/92/5) Ric Keller (R) FL-08
180 (95/90/5) Eric Cantor (R) VA-07
180 (97/88/5) Christopher Cox (R) CA-48
180 (95/90/5) Gary Miller (R) CA-42

Most Liberal-
-93 (3/4/100) John Olver (D) MA-01

Others -90 and below:
-92 (4/4/100) Jerrold Nadler (D) NY-08
-92 (4/4/100) Jan Schakowsky (D) IL-09
-92 (4/4/100) Bob Filner (D) CA-51
-92 (4/4/100) Maxine Waters (D) CA-35
-91 (5/4/100) George Miller (D) CA-07
-91 (5/4/100) Hilda Solis (D) CA-32
-90 (5/5/100) Paul Sarbanes (D) MD
-90 (5/5/100) Barney Frank (D) MA-04


Top 5 Conservative State Delegations-
1. Wyoming
2. Oklahoma
3. Kentucky
4. Idaho
5. Utah

Top 5 Liberal State Delegations-
1. Massachusetts
2. Vermont
3. Hawaii
4. Rhode Island
5. South Dakota


Others of note:

Texas has the 20th most conservative delegation.


True conservative-

176 (90/91/5) Mark Kennedy (R) MN-06
173 (91/87/5) George Allen (R) VA

167 (84/88/5) John Kline (R) MN-02
165 (88/87/10) Bill Frist (R) TN
164 (87/87/10) Rick Santorum (R) PA
162 (85/87/10) John Cornyn (R) TX
162 (95/72/5) Sam Brownback (R) KS

146 (91/65/10) Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R) TX
146 (85/76/15) Norm Coleman (R) MN
142 (85/72/15) Chuck Hagel (R) NE (see WILLisms.com's profile of Chuck Hagel as a potential 2008 presidential candidate)

Adequate Conservative-

137 (80/72/15) Elizabeth Dole (R) NC

111 (84/62/35) John McCain (R) AZ


Crazy liberal fringe-

-84 (2/14/100) Nancy Pelosi (D) CA-08

-76 (5/4/85) John Kerry (D) MA
-73 (11/11/95) Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) NY


Very cool stuff. Check it out sometime.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 February 2005 10:30 PM · Comments (0)

Site News: Listed On Blogshares.

Listed on BlogShares

Just FYI.

Also, WILLisms.com will soon have a ultra-classy redesigned look. Stay tuned, because it will be way awesome.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 February 2005 04:31 PM · Comments (1)

Mas Classiness From Other Blogs.

certifiedclassy.gif
Click to explore more WILLisms.com.


Professor Bainbridge-

[who, incidentally, never even acknowledged my responses to his questions about Social Security, which borders on totally unclassy and way lame on his part]

Examines the case before the Supreme Court Kelo v. New London, regarding eminent domain in a post titled "Will Leviathan Prevail?"

"The Supreme Court has held that private property can be seized via eminent domain as part of an urban renewal project when the property is blighted, a loophole that local authorities have greatly abused to seize private property. Yet, in this case, the government doesn't even bother trying to hide behind that fig leaf. They assert baldly the power to seize private homes because they think some other user can put them to a higher tax generating use. Except, in this case, they don't even know what the land will be used to do!

This is no minor technical dispute. Kirk's dicta is confirmed by the brilliant work Richard Epstein did in his classic book Takings, which makes a compelling case that the power to take private property is the critical and central power of government that must be constrained if liberty is to have any substance."


The SCOTUS blog-

(via Pejmanesque)

Reports that the arguments on behalf of property rights did not go swimmingly, in a post titled "Marty Lederman Reports from Today's Oral Arguments."

"...based on the impression left by the oral arguments, the government-side is going to win today's property rights cases overwhelmingly."


Speaking of Pejmaneque-

He notes that post-election fundraising has gone much better for Republicans than Democrats, in a post titled, "IF MONEY IS THE MOTHER'S MILK OF POLITICS . . . (Then Republicans are calcium-fortified)"

"...when your party has the Presidency, the President can serve as the Fundraiser-in-Chief and augment his/her party's ability to fill its coffers. But I didn't expect the Republican advantage to be this big. After all, I thought that all of the rage and anger on the Democratic side was supposed to help the port side raise more cash than it had in the past.

I mean, isn't that what everyone keeps saying? And wasn't that Terry McAuliffe fellow supposed to be good at getting cash for the Democrats? Oh, how I miss him."


Red State Rant-

Pokes fun at Canada for sending between two and three dozen soldiers to Iraq, in a post titled "Our Friends Up North."

"Wow. 30 soldiers.

30.

Three-oh.

Gotta be careful. Don't wanna spread the Canadian military too thin.

UPDATE: Failed to notice earlier: the story says 'UP TO' 30 soldiers. Might not be 30. Maximum 30. Could be 20. Could be 10. Maybe it depends on the availability of group rates."

Classy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 February 2005 03:05 PM · Comments (0)

Whither The Female Bloggers?

In the course of reading blogs, it becomes readily apparent that blogging is perhaps the most male-dominated "industry" in America right now.

Is there a gender gap in blogging?

The Pew Research Center recently studied the demographics of blogging, finding that 57% of blog creators are male (the study findings, found here, are in .pdf format).

In the early days of the internet, far more men than women were online, but women rapidly narrowed the gap in the late 1990s. Some studies around the turn of the century even declared that more women than men are on the internet. However, the latest research shows that 61% of men and 58% of women use the internet.

Are women just less interested in politics?

According to the survey research, on the internet, at least, apparently so.

Examining the Pew data yields these findings:

In summer of 2000:
20% of men sought information about the political party conventions, while 12% of women sought that information.

In summer of 2004:
17% of men said they had looked on the internet for news about the campaign the day before, while only 8% of women did. This is consistent with 2002 and 2000, where more men said they had looked up information about politics on the internet in the past day.

Also in summer of 2004:
In terms of just getting general news online, 34% of men said they had used the internet in the past day for that purpose, while 21% of women did.

In summer of 2004:
57% of men and 42% of women said they had ever used the internet to find political news. 77% of men and 66% of women had ever used the internet for general news.

In February 2004:
19% of men and 14% of women said they had ever read someone else's blog.

Meanwhile, however, more women than men use the internet for shoppping and other activities.

So there are signigicant gender differences.

Kevin Drum, of the Political Animal blog, sparked much of this discussion, noting that only 10% of the most popular blogs are written by women:

"...I'll refrain from speculating on deep causes — it might be social, cultural, genetic, or Martian mind rays for all I know — but I imagine that the fundamental viciousness and self aggrandizement inherent in opinion writing turns off a lot of women."

Female blogger LaShawn Barber finds it "ironic" that Mr. Drum would complain about a lack of women bloggers, then fail to link to her blog on the subject.

Female blogger Lorie Byrd, of the group blog Polipundit.com, has this to say about the subject:

"I see no bias against female bloggers. I would even say that in the future, it could even be an advantage to be a female blogger because they are currently not quite as common as male bloggers are. We could enjoy something of a novelty factor, at least until we overtake the men. (Did I just write that? I may have just spoiled the secret conspiracy of blogging chicks to take over the blogosphere. Sorry, sister bloggers.)

I will say that just from personal experience, though, just in general, I don’t run into as many women who are interested in politics as I do men interested in politics. There are plenty of women on the cable news and talk radio shows talking about politics, and an ever growing number of female politicians, but in my life I just don’t run across as many women that are interested in politics."

Female blogger Betsy Newmark says it shouldn't matter:

"I just don't think that way of who's a woman and who's not. Who gives a flip. It's the content that matters, not the chromosomes. That's one of the many reasons that I think Susan Estrich is silly to be so obsessed with counting up the numbers of women on the LA Times opinion pages. Like Kevin Drum, I have no speculation on why there are fewer top women bloggers. I just don't care."

John Hawkins puts it succinctly:

"Women on the whole are less interested in politics than men, therefore less women create blogs, thus the female talent pool in the blogosphere is smaller than the male pool, which leads to the dearth of 'A-List' female bloggers.

In other words, there aren't as many really successful female bloggers because percentage wise, there aren't as many women who are interested in doing political blogging. It's just that simple."

Outside the Beltway blog notes an interesting (probably unscientific) phenomenon:

"...more interesting than the overall male/female gap, though, is the ideological one. As Kevin notes, the two most popular female bloggers are conservatives. So are are four of the top six (Catalano and McArdle are libertarian moreso than conservative, but they both supported the Iraq War and President Bush's re-election, so we'll count them for our purposes). Since American women are far more apt to vote Democrat than their male counterparts, this is rather surprising."

The Sundries Shack opines:

"...women are less inclined than men to grab a megaphone and shout their opinions to the rest of the world. That may be because of nature, it may be necause of nurture, or it may be, as I suspect, a combination of both.

I just don’t expect that any time soon we’ll see an equal number of female opinion-givers as we’ll see male. That, it seems, is just the way things are."

Another female blogger that gets a lot of attention, especially in the mainstream media, is "wonkette" Anna Marie Cox. Her blog is full of raunchy political gossip, and her style is profoundly modern-feminine.

Then there was the bizarre story of the Libertarian Girl, who turned out to be a man all along, pretending to be the girl in a picture of a Russian mail-order bride (as noted by Wizbang).

libertariangirl.gif


Libertarian Girl (now Libertarian Man of Mystery) on this subject:

"It’s funny how there have been some posts in the blogosphere saying that the political blogosphere was a boys club that discriminated against women, as evidenced by how few politics bloggers were women. Boy were they completely off the mark. It’s ten times easier for a woman’s blog to become popular."

WILLisms.com tends to believe there is a lot of room for women in the world of blogging. However, the world of blogs is competitive, sometimes cutthroat, and it sometimes takes stamina to keep up.

But we can also apply something from the way men and women respond to political surveys and focus groups. Men tend to give answers more quickly to opinion questions; men also tend to always have an answer for every opinion. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to take their time in answering opinion questions, often deciding they "don't know." In many ways, the blogosphere is a big focus group.

In blogging, being first is sometimes more important than being best. This very post, for example, is probably about 2 days too late to get much play in the blogosphere, as people have already moved on to other, bigger, better topics.

Blogging is about frantic deadlines. Women, generally, are not.

By the time women have formed a well-developed answer they are comfortable with, it is too late to post about it. Meanwhile, men have answers for everything.

It starts early, too. Little boys are more willing (and faster) to raise their hands and answer questions than little girls.

Later in life, men are inherently more willing to blurt out an answer than women in a group setting. The same goes for blogging, the ultimate group setting.

This is all from political science and social science research.

Clearly there is a gender gap, but it probably has less to do with sexism or chauvinism (such as male bloggers refusing to read or acknowledge female bloggers) than with genetics and self-selection. There is plenty of room for women in the game of blogging, but it's likely that women just aren't as interested as men in playing.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 February 2005 02:05 PM · Comments (1)

Hilarity.

"Don't hate the player, hate the game."

[That's an urban phrase, for those of you wondering why on earth it's supposed to be funny.]

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 February 2005 11:44 AM · Comments (2)

Grading Euro-Bush Thus Far.

Over the weekend, WILLisms.com commented (here and here) on President Bush's European trip, examining a variety of advice from different sources.

So how is the President doing thus far?

First, Brussels, Belgium:

Click on the picture for a full transcript of the speech.


First, a joke at his own expense:

"You know, on this journey to Europe I follow in some large footsteps. More than two centuries ago, Benjamin Franklin arrived on this continent to great acclaim. An observer wrote, "His reputation was more universal than Leibnitz or Newton, Frederick or Voltaire, and his character more beloved and esteemed than any or all of them." The observer went on to say, "There was scarcely a peasant or a citizen who did not consider him as a friend to human kind." I have been hoping for a similar reception -- (laughter) -- but Secretary Rice told me I should be a realist. (Laughter.)"

On Iran, one liberal organization wanted Bush to bring the "carrot of aid to the table." This, as we noted before, would have been a mistake. Instead, Bush declared that, while war is not out of the question, it is not America's goal:

"In Iran, the free world shares a common goal: For the sake of peace, the Iranian regime must end its support for terrorism, and must not develop nuclear weapons. (Applause.) In safeguarding the security of free nations, no option can be taken permanently off the table. Iran, however, is different from Iraq. We're in the early stages of diplomacy. The United States is a member of the IAEA Board of Governors, which has taken the lead on this issue. We're working closely with Britain, France and Germany as they oppose Iran's nuclear ambitions, and as they insist that Tehran comply with international law. The results of this approach now depend largely on Iran. We also look for Iran to finally deliver on promised reform. The time has arrived for the Iranian regime to listen to the Iranian people, and respect their rights, and join in the movement toward liberty that is taking place all around them."

Iran is a unique situation, and unlike Iraq or North Korea, its internal demographics favor the U.S. over the long run. With its gigantic generation of babies born in the late 1970s and early 1980s (at the urging of the Islamic revolution) now coming of age and rejecting theocracy, Iran's younger generation may demand greater liberty (and less hostility to the West) in the coming years.

The President, on Russia, spoke more boldly and publicly than some expected, rather than glossing over the increasingly troubling steps of Putin's government. :

"I also believe that Russia's future lies within the family of Europe and the transatlantic community. America supports WTO membership for Russia, because meeting WTO standards will strengthen the gains of freedom and prosperity in that country. Yet, for Russia to make progress as a European nation, the Russian government must renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law. We recognize that reform will not happen overnight. We must always remind Russia, however, that our alliance stands for a free press, a vital opposition, the sharing of power, and the rule of law -- and the United States and all European countries should place democratic reform at the heart of their dialogue with Russia. (Applause.)"

The President even commented on climate change, offering America's alternative to Kyoto:

"Our alliance is determined to show good stewardship of the earth -- and that requires addressing the serious, long-term challenge of global climate change. All of us expressed our views on the Kyoto protocol -- and now we must work together on the way forward. Emerging technologies such as hydrogen-powered vehicles, electricity from renewable energy sources, clean coal technology, will encourage economic growth that is environmentally responsible. By researching, by developing, by promoting new technologies across the world, all nations, including the developing countries can advance economically, while slowing the growth in global greenhouse gases and avoid pollutants that undermines public health. All of us can use the power of human ingenuity to improve the environment for generations to come."

The President essentially threw this out there to get the eco-crazy Europeans off his back. Kyoto, President Bush understands, is flawed, because it would slow down growth in developed nations with negative sanctions, while heavily-polluting developing nations such as China would face no restrictions.

The best way to improve the environment is not by slowing down the smartest kids in class so the slower kids can catch up. Rather, the President believes rapid economic growth (the kind Kyoto would clamp down upon) in post-industrial nations like the U.S. can and will lead to newer, cleaner technologies that all nations can use.

This is the American way. Incentives and research dollars, rather than bureaucratic punishments and burdensome regulations, are the way to achive a healthier environment and increasingly better quality of life for all.

On all these issues, the President receives high marks. In his Brussels speech, however, President Bush said nothing of China, so he gets an incomplete on that one.

He gets bonus points, however, and lots of them, for this:

"Our shared commitment to democratic progress is being tested in Lebanon -- a once-thriving country that now suffers under the influence of an oppressive neighbor. Just as the Syrian regime must take stronger action to stop those who support violence and subversion in Iraq, and must end its support for terrorist groups seeking to destroy the hope of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Syria must also end its occupation of Lebanon. (Applause.)

The Lebanese people have the right to be free, and the United States and Europe share an interest in a democratic, independent Lebanon. My nation and France worked to pass Security Council Resolution 1559, which demands that Lebanon's sovereignty be respected, that foreign troops and agents be withdrawn, and that free elections be conducted without foreign interference. In the last several months, the world has seen men and women voting in historic elections, from Kabul to Ramallah to Baghdad -- and without Syrian interference, Lebanon's parliamentary elections in the spring can be another milestone of liberty."

Then, we see this:
"Syria says it will withdraw troops from the Lebanon."

Fantastic beginning. Now let's see the rest.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 February 2005 06:14 AM · Comments (0)

Another Classiness Roundup From Blogs.

certifiedclassy.gif
Click to explore more WILLisms.com.

Pejmanesque-
(also noted by Social Security Choice)

In "Cue the Jerky Boys,"

Notes the way unclassiness of the goings-on with Social Security anti-reform advocacy phone calls:

"So who is behind all of this? No one knows, but it should be kind of hard to take scare tactics seriously when those responsible for them don't even have the courage to own up to using the tactics."


Little Green Footballs-
(via Wizbang)

In "2/20/2005: Congressman Says Rove Planted CBS Memos,"

Notes that Democrat Maurice Hinchey of New York is advancing one of the crazier conspiracy theories around:

"...the fake CBS memos were planted by Karl Rove to discredit Dan Rather, and divert attention from President Bush’s 'draft dodging.'"


The Skeptical Optimist-
(via the Carnival of the Capitalists)

In "Rethinking the surplus,"

Notes (including a great chart) that the federal budget surplus in the late 1990s was not used appropriately:

"'The Peace Dividend' was not invested in the enhancement of future peace prospects; instead, it was invested in creating a political gold mine: 'The Surplus'—which, in my opinion, would be more aptly named 'The National Security Disinvestment.'"


Captain's Quarters-

In "How Bush Stands With Those Who Stand For Freedom,"

Explains that the President's rhetorical tributes to liberty were not a fleeting inaugural fad:

"Bush intends on expanding the reach of democracy during his term and setting the stage for an eventual democratic revolution in Southwest Asia in order to eliminate the root cause of terrorism. For those who doubt his will to pursue this strategy, be prepared for continual surprise during his second term."

Classy, all.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 February 2005 02:23 PM · Comments (0)

Nobel Laureate Favors Social Security Reform.

Gary Becker, Nobel laureate in economics, University of Chicago professor, senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, makes "A Political Case for Social Security Reform," explaining that personal accounts "would protect retirees from the government interference."

"Republicans and Democrats are arguing passionately about the future of Social Security, and the argument, at its core, is about privatization. It is true, as some critics observe, that there is no magical gain in privatizing Social Security, since all systems have to provide incomes for retired persons. By that token, however, there's no gain in privatizing a government steel plant either, since steel still has to be produced, too. Yet there are very good reasons--with roots in political economy--to privatize steel. And as with steel (and the like), there are excellent reasons for a privatized individual-account Social Security system."

Becker, arguing that "privatization helps to separate saving for retirement from interest-group politics, from taxation, and from government spending," believes the philosophical/political case for reform is far more persuasive than the pragmatic/economic case:

"So the really strong arguments for privatization are that they reduce the role of government in determining retirement ages and incomes, and improve government accounting of revenues and spending obligations. All the other issues are really diversions, because neither advocates nor opponents of privatizing Social Security generally answer the most meaningful question: Is there as strong a political economy case for eliminating government management of the retirement industry as there is for eliminating its management of most other industries?

My answer is 'yes.'"

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 February 2005 01:17 PM · Comments (0)

Happy Presidents Day.

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Posted by Will Franklin · 21 February 2005 12:47 PM · Comments (0)

Liberalism: Is There Anything Left?

In the past, WILLisms.com has explored the idea of liberalism, noting that even prominent liberals today have no idea how to articulate what they stand for. The American Prospect magazine even resorted to taking suggestions from readers on what "liberalism" means.

If even elite liberals need help defining liberalism, liberalism is in serious trouble.

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Martin Peretz, in The New Republic, explores the downfall of liberalism in America.

On how far conservatives have come:

"...it was John Kenneth Galbraith, speaking in the early 1960s, the high point of post-New Deal liberalism, who pronounced conservatism dead. Conservatism, he said, was "bookless," a characteristic Galbraithian, which is to say Olympian, verdict. Without books, there are no ideas. And it is true: American conservatism was, at the time, a congeries of cranky prejudices, a closed church with an archaic doctrine proclaimed by spoiled swells."

For Republicans, it took nominating a true conservative, Barry Goldwater, to ignite what is now the prevailing political philosophy in America. Although Goldwater was demolished at the polls in 1964 by liberal Texan Lyndon Baines Johnson, Goldwater's candidacy paved the way for Ronald Reagan 16 years later, and George W. Bush today. Once liberalism was given its fair shake, once the New Deal and the Great Society programs proved themselves, it became clear that liberalism was, frankly, not so great. In 2005, there is still a long way to go before conservative ideas dominate the policy landscape, as liberalism remains so entrenched in the bureaucracy.

On how far liberals have fallen:

"At this point in history, it is liberalism upon which such judgments are rendered. And understandably so. It is liberalism that is now bookless and dying....

What's left is the laundry list: the catalogue of programs (some dubious, some not) that Republicans aren't funding, and the blogs, with their daily panic dose about how the Bush administration is ruining the country."

Indeed, just look at the comments liberals made following the release of President Bush's new budget, which cuts discretionary spending by 1%. For liberals, Bush was "gutting" programs, hurting the poor, destroying the environment, and otherwise ruining the country. This, from the same folks who complain about deficits, as if they are some kind of right-wing conspiracy, exclusively the fault of the current President. For liberals, cutting spending is never an acceptable way to deal with deficits. Only raising taxes is halal (kosher).

On the obsession of liberals with the 1960s:

"One of the tropes that trips off the tongues of American liberals is the civil rights theme of the '60s. Another is that U.S. power is dangerous to others and dangerous to us. This is also a reprise from the '60s, the late '60s. Virtue returns, it seems, merely by mouthing the words."

President Clinton, for all his political successes, never reinvigorated liberalism during his tenure. His first major political setback in office was his attempt to socialize medicine; he learned quickly that the American people are sick of the failures of liberalism.

On race:

"...in the Democratic Party, among liberals, the usual hustlers are still cheered. Jesse Jackson is still paid off, mostly not to make trouble. The biggest insult to our black fellow citizens was the deference paid to Al Sharpton during the campaign. Early in the race, it was clear that he--like Carol Moseley Braun and Dennis Kucinich--was not a serious candidate. Yet he was treated as if he just might take the oath of office at the Capitol on January 20. In the end, he won only a handful of delegates. But he was there, speaking in near-prime time to the Democratic convention. Sharpton is an inciter of racial conflict. To him can be debited the fraudulent and dehumanizing scandal around Tawana Brawley (conflating scatology and sex), the Crown Heights violence between Jews and blacks, a fire in Harlem, the protests around a Korean grocery store in Brooklyn, and on and on. Yet the liberal press treats Sharpton as a genuine leader, even a moral one, the trickster as party statesman."

In the 1960s, Democrats fought on behalf of African-Americans, because African-Americans largely could not fight on their own. Their cause was noble. Their cause was just. Although more Republicans than Democrats voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act [Republicans voted 27-6 in the Senate (82%); 138-34 in the House (80%). Democrats voted 46-21 in the Senate (69%); 152-96 in the House (61%).], Democrats earned a monopoly on black voters for a generation.

But what has that 90+% support, in election after election, earned African-Americans?

As time passes, less and less.

African-Americans might want to start asking the question, "Democrats, what have you done for us lately."

On the true, Marxist nature of liberalism:

"Pose this question at an Upper West Side dinner party: What was worse, Nazism or Communism? Surely, the answer will be Nazism ... because Communism had an ideal of the good. This, despite the fact that communist revolutions and communist regimes murdered ever so many more millions of innocents and transformed the yearning of many idealists for equality into the brutal assertion of evil, a boot stamping on the human face forever."

Nazism was one of the worst intellectual inventions in the history of the world. But Communism killed far more people. While liberals frequently try to associate conservatives and Republicans with Hitler, or fascism, or Nazism, in 2005, no conservatives espouse anything resembling Nazism. Meanwhile, communism still has its prominent apologists within the liberal movement.

On American power and liberal aversion/hostility to its use on behalf of good against evil:

"Peter Beinart has argued, also in these pages ('A Fighting Faith,' December 13, 2004), the case for a vast national and international mobilization against Islamic fanaticism and Arab terrorism. It is typologically the same people who wanted the United States to let communism triumph--in postwar Italy and Greece, in mid-cold war France and late-cold war Portugal--who object to U.S. efforts right now in the Middle East. You hear the schadenfreude in their voices--you read it in their words--at our troubles in Iraq. For months, liberals have been peddling one disaster scenario after another, one contradictory fact somehow reinforcing another, hoping now against hope that their gloomy visions will come true."

Liberalism, at this point, without shaking itself loose from its current path, can only hope for bad news. For liberals, bad news is good news, while American successes are inimical to political success.

So, is liberalism dead and decaying? Probably not. Liberals will likely return, reinvigorated, repackaged. And liberalism will have to operate under different constraints, with more respect for the free market, less cynicism about American power. Liberals will have to be less Marxist, less pessimistic, and less devoted to decades-old (and even centuries-old), underperforming government programs. Liberals must rethink their orthodoxies, allowing liberalism to be injected with new ideas.

And this is the greatest irony. Look up "liberal" in the dictionary:

"-Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.

-Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded."

In 2005, liberals seem far more limited to established, traditional, orthodox attitudes, views, and dogmas than Republicans in power today. Liberals today are against proposals for reform, closed to most new ideas for progress, and tolerant only of themselves.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 February 2005 12:25 PM · Comments (0)

Euro-Bush, Part Two.

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Note: France is actually not on the itinerary, but the Eiffel Tower represents "Europe" pretty well.

The President has landed in Europe, and the inevitable protests were smaller than expected.

He'll be in Europe for nearly the entire week.

The International Herald Tribune comments:

"The choreography of the visit is, indeed, impressive. Bush will spend quality time with three active opponents of the war in Iraq: France's Jacques Chirac, Germany's Gerhard Schröder and Russia's Vladimir Putin, and he will visit both the European Council and the European Commission."

The Heritage Foundation has more advice for the President:

"The goals of President Bush’s visit to Europe should be to:

*Demonstrate a renewed U.S. commitment to strengthening the transatlantic alliance,

*Strengthen U.S.–European cooperation in the war against terrorism,

*Develop greater coordination of U.S.–Euro­pean efforts to prevent the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran,

*Seek guarantees of additional European sup­port for U.S.-led efforts to advance freedom and democracy in Iraq,

*Reiterate that the White House will play a lead role alongside Great Britain and other EU coun­tries in advancing the Middle East peace process,

*Reaffirm Washington’s opposition to the EU’s plans to lift its arms embargo on China, and

*Underscore U.S. concerns over German and French efforts to marginalize NATO."

One wonders if Dr. Rice's recent successful Europe visit was enough to butter up the Europeans, or if Bush will complete the good-cop/bad-cop routine. Perhaps it's more of a good-cop/good-cop routine. Butter them up, make them expect the hammer, but then kill them with even more kindness.

The left-wing Center for American Progress, meanwhile, offers this advice for the President (it's actually relatively decent advice, notwithstanding a couple of expected-but-weak cheap shots):

On Iran-

"In meetings with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and French President Jacques Chirac, the president should express a willingness to engage the United States more directly in negotiations with Iran, bringing the stick of force and carrot of aid to the table."

Speaking of the good-cop/bad-cop routine, the U.S. should NOT be offering Iran any carrots. Meanwhile, Europe ought to be less belligerently anti-war, at least allowing force on the table as an option.

On Russia-

"President Bush should challenge Putin – both publicly and privately – to improve his democratic record, beginning with halting the harassment of civil society organizations, including those receiving support from the U.S.-government funded National Endowment for Democracy."

Absolutely. The President, likely, will do just this, particularly privately. Putin's Russia has actually taken a step back in the past year on Freedom House's Freedom in the World, 2005, being downgraded to "not free" amidst increased political restrictions.

On Climate Change-

"Given the president's demonstrated intransigence on signing the Kyoto Protocol, in meeting with Blair, President Bush should at a minimum announce that he will support the bipartisan McCain-Lieberman bill, and explore potential linkages between U.S. and EU emissions trading markets."

America's opposition to the Kyoto protocols on global warming is cited quite often by Europe as proof that America is backward and horrible. Tony Blair, in particular, takes a lot of flak in Europe for not being able to budge Bush on the issue. The President ought to offer some kind of rhetorical tribute to the environmental movement, if only to throw a bone to Tony "T-Bone" Blair, but ultimately, the U.S. should not adopt Kyoto just to win friends in Europe.

While European leaders sometimes view the U.S. as their rotten child that somehow deviated from the enlightenment, the better analogy is of Europe as the elderly parent, living off generous support from the successful and responsible child, America. How has Europe sometimes repaid that support? Ingratitude. Senility. Hostility. Jealousy.

Signing Kyoto (it's too late for that now, really) for the sake of pleasing Europe would not serve much of a purpose. Europe would likely soon forget about it, anyway, in its state of mind, so what's the point?

On China-

"When meeting with EU leaders, the president should express his continuing opposition to lifting the embargo, and urge Europe to refrain from doing so at least until China ratifies the U.N. Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. If lifted, the president should press the Europeans to implement a stringent, legally-binding Code of Conduct to replace the embargo."

Absolutely. The internal conduct of regimes is no longer irrelevant to geopolitics. The U.S. must get Europe on the side of linking how China treats its own citizens with how the world treats China. That's not meddling. That's in the world's best interests. Stability for the sake of stability, at the expense of liberty, is fleeting; short-term stability is bought at the price of long-term peace. The transformational power of freedom is awesome, and it leads to peace over the long run. The President believes this. He will push Europe on this point.

The National Journal has more, in a great article WILLisms.com highly recommends:

"The Bush administration, in gambling that it can successfully change its approach to alliance relations, seems once again to be borrowing a page from the playbook of Ronald Reagan. The Great Communicator greatly riled European allies with his early confrontational approach to the Soviet Union, only to win them over in his second term by encouraging 'glasnost' and securing historic arms control agreements with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

....

'This trip is not about 'making nice' with Europe. Rather, it's an outgrowth of the 'freedom agenda' President Bush has announced for his second term, and a realization that the odds of achieving those goals rise enormously if the two great centers of democracy and freedom -- the United States and Europe -- are working together,' said a senior administration official. 'We want to pull Euro-Atlantic relations off the couch of self-introspection and start having a deeper strategic dialogue that will lead to common assumptions about the nature of the post-9/11 world. Then we can start pulling together on the big issues that confront us all.'"

Good luck, Mr. President. It's a lot on your plate.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 February 2005 06:21 PM · Comments (0)

Euro-Bush: A Preview.

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Gerard Baker, in The Weekly Standard, previews President Bush's European trip next week. It ought to be a fun time for everyone:

"In the endless theorizing about the transatlantic relationship, it is tempting to dismiss Europe as irrelevant, a nineteenth-century superpower in a 21st-century world.

Its sclerotic economy, stagnant demography, military obsolescence, and strategic pusillanimity create the impression of a gently disintegrating, mildly irritating, but mostly inconsequential relic. The dogs of Europe may bark, but America's caravan is moving on to the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

Such a dismissal would be foolish and shortsighted. Europe retains its potential to undermine U.S. goals. As its current strategies over Iran and China demonstrate, even a weak and divided E.U. can, as the Lilliputians did to Gulliver, complicate America's freedom of maneuver. A single, unified European approach would only make things worse.

It would be a mistake for the Unites States to actively encourage a European Union that sees itself as a growing counterweight to, not a partner of, the United States. That doesn't mean the United States needs to inaugurate another phase of mutual transatlantic mistrust. Nobody wants to replay the last four years.

But instead, and without rancor, President Bush should continue to make the case for his ideal of freedom and for policies designed to bring it about. Persuading the E.U. as an institution to join this cause is probably hopeless; but persuading ordinary Europeans is not. When Bush spoke in Britain in November 2003 and spelled out his foreign policy vision, Britain was at the peak of anti-American sentiment. But the message, undistorted by the usual hostile media prism, went over well. The Iraqi elections last month were a further important step in winning over the persuadable parts of European public opinion.

Not all Europeans are immune to the case for U.S. leadership. They remember that we had a multipolar world between 1917 and 1989. It might have been wonderful for certain political elites, but the broader mass of humanity was the loser."


Denis Boyles, in National Review, offers some advice for the President. More confrontational, Boyles wishes Bush would tell Europeans these seven things:

"1. Get a job."

"2. Clean up your mess."

"3. Stop taking bribes."

"4. Since you can’t defend yourselves, get out of our way."

"5. Knock off the eco-hypocrisy."

"6. Start a 'No European Left Behind' program."

"7. Jacques, Gerhard, get a better campaign issue."

The point of Bush's trip is not to rub his successes in their faces; rather, he seeks to mend fences.

We'll see how it goes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 February 2005 03:32 PM · Comments (0)

Yet More Classiness From Other Blogs.

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Click to explore more WILLisms.com.

Pejmanesque-

Examines whether or not:

"Liberalism is dying"

"But if I were a left-of-center Pej, I would be worried about all of the lost time when it came to implementing my ideas and ideology. If you don't want to think of liberalism as being 'dead,' that's fine. Think of it instead as being your star basketball player and in the kind of foul trouble that limits his play for a couple of quarters. Think of all the points you could have scored if said star basketball player were in the game, or all the points you could have prevented the other side from scoring."


INDC Journal-

Looks at the non-controversy over Brit Hume's reporting:

"The Real (New) Deal on FDR's Social Security Quote"

"Though the lefty blogger interpretation by lefty bloggers that Hume's implication is misleading is reasonable, and the final piece of legislation was more similar to today's Social Security than Bush's proposed changes, Hume's specific mention was, in fact, a 100% accurate recitation of FDR's stated intent for Social Security."


Wizbang!-

On the new liberal debate strategy:

"Lefty Loon Throws Shoe At Richard Perle"

"For those of you still clinging to hope the Democratic party can ever again represent the mainstream, do you give up yet?"


A Certain Slant of Light-

Notes that some Democrats are really taking this "count every vote" thing a little too far:

"Hillary Moves Back To The Left"

"In what must be the gravitational pull of leftist politics, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the erstwhile junior Senator of New York and all-but-certain Demoratic Party nominee for a presidential run in 2008, forgot herself (and her recent moves to the center) and has come out early in support of ex-felons! Yes! Ex-felons."

Classy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 February 2005 03:01 PM · Comments (0)

President Bush Signs Class Action Reform Into Law.

WILLisms.com noted yesterday that class action reform passed the U.S. House of Representatives.

Today, President Bush wasted no time in signing it into law.

First, President Bush commented on how class-action lawsuits are useful:

"Class-actions can serve a valuable purpose in our legal system. They allow numerous victims of the same wrong-doing to merge their claims into a single lawsuit. When used properly, class-actions make the legal system more efficient and help guarantee that injured people receive proper compensation. That is an important principle of justice. So the bill I sign today maintains every victim's right to seek justice, and ensures that wrong-doers are held to account."

But their misuse has also contributed to the overly litigious nature of American society:

"Class-actions can also be manipulated for personal gain. Lawyers who represent plaintiffs from multiple states can shop around for the state court where they expect to win the most money. A few weeks ago, I visited Madison County, Illinois, where juries have earned a reputation for awarding large verdicts. The number of class-actions filed in Madison County has gone from two in 1998 to 82 in 2004 -- even though the vast majority of the defendants named in those suits are not from Madison County. Trial lawyers have already filed 24 class-actions in Madison County this year. We're in February. (Laughter.) Including 20 in the past week -- after Congress made it clear their chance to exploit the class-action system would soon be gone.

Before today, trial lawyers were able to drag defendants from all over the country into sympathetic local courts, even if those businesses have done nothing wrong. Many businesses decided it was cheaper to settle the lawsuits, rather than risk a massive jury award. In many cases, lawyers went home with huge pay-outs, while the plaintiffs ended up with coupons worth only a few dollars. By the time the settlement in at least one case was finished, plaintiffs actually owed their lawyers money.

A newspaper editorial called the class-action system 'an extortion racket that only Congress can fix.' This bill helps fix the system. Congress has done its duty, and I'm proud to sign it into law."

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The most important reason for tort reform is this:

"Overall, junk lawsuits have driven the total cost of America's tort system to more than $240 billion a year, greater than any other major industrialized nation. It creates a needless disadvantage for America's workers and businesses in a global economy, imposes unfair costs on job creators, and raises prices to consumers."

Indeed, the steps the United States takes now will determine how effective America can remain in the increasingly-integrated global economy over the long-term. If America is not a good place to do business, could you blame companies for wanting to move overseas?

This law will help the U.S. bring down the burdensome cost of litigation in this country. Next up, medical liability reform and asbestos reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 February 2005 01:35 PM · Comments (0)

Texas Poll: Senator Hutchison > Governor Perry

With the 2006 primaries just around the corner, and Republican Governor Rick Perry seeking reelection, the race for Governor is getting interesting. No, there is no insurgent Democrat threatening Perry. In fact, it would take a miracle, or a major scandal, for any Democrat to win any state-wide race in Texas in 2006, let alone the race for President Bush's old gig.

Also adding to the equation is Rick Perry's relative popularity. 51% of Texans, including 73% of Republicans, approve of the way the Governor is handling his job (the Burnt Orange Report notes this is the highest mark for Perry in three years). Perry also has significant built-in, devoted Aggie support, because he was a Yell Leader at Texas A&M University more than 30 years ago.


Texas A&M Yell Leaders.

Perry, who served as Lt. Governor under then-Governor Bush, also has a powerful and effective fundraising network and has been a strong supporter of lower taxes.

So why on earth would Perry be vulnerable, even a little bit, in 2006?

Well, before 2002, Perry's approval rating was atmospheric. However, after Democrat Tony Sanchez poured $100 million of his own money into the uber-bitter 2002 gubernatorial race, the shine came off Rick Perry. The two, waging total war, lobbed nuclear bombs back and forth, both ending up more negative in the process.

But Perry survived, defeating Sanchez by 18%.

So what else could make Perry vulnerable?

This past year, Rick Perry declared, regarding the state's school finance system:

"We will fix Robin Hood, and it will be gone forever."

Unfortunately, a judge ruled the fix unconstitutional, and now the Governor must find a solution that keeps Robin Hood intact. In the meantime, the system is in crisis, and Perry is taking much of the blame in the court of public opinion (although his dispproval rating is only 33%).

The primary reason Rick Perry, an otherwise popular and (arguably) effective leader, is vulnerable: Kay Bailey Hutchison.

She's a juggernaut. Texans love her. And, similar to Perry's Aggie experience, she was a Texas Longhorn cheerleader. Orange and white cheerleaders simply beat maroon yell leaders, any day of the week.

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Texas A&M Yell Leaders (click for larger version).

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Texas Pom (click for larger version).

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Texas Cheer (click for larger version).

It's not even fair to compare.

Kay Bailey Hutchison has had her eye on the Governor's mansion for some time, but she has yet to announce her intentions for 2006. If Hutchison decides she wants the job, it's hers.

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The Houston Chronicle reports:

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Throwing even more of a wrench into the equation is "one tough grandma," Carole Keeton Strayhorn (formerly Rylander, formerly McClellan). Strayhorn is far more open about her intentions, seizing every opportunity she can to criticize Rick Perry. If Hutchison opts out of the 2006 gubernatorial race, the potential primary matchup between Perry and Strayhorn could be messy, but Perry would likely emerge victorious.

It should be an interesting race to watch. Right now the top contender for the Democrats is former U.S. Representative Chris Bell, who lost his primary race to Al Green by more than 35 points. Bell, it should be noted, was cited for numerous ethics violations by the House ethics panel for his fanatical pursuit against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The panel determined that Bell's language in his complaint against DeLay was "excessive" and "inflammatory," and that he had made "exaggerated charges... in an attempt to attract publicity and, hence, a political advantage."

Thus, Bell (and any other Democrat for that matter) has essentially no chance at winning the Governor's race in 2006.

WILLisms.com will follow this story as events warrant coverage, so stay tuned.

UPDATE:
Polipundit has more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 February 2005 01:14 PM · Comments (0)

More International Experience With Social Security Reform.

Opponents of Social Security reform frequently attempt to bring up examples of market reforms in other countries as evidence that the U.S. should NOT reform its Social Security plan. Unfortunately for them, the facts do not square with their claims. In reality, the concept of personal accounts is a winner, but it is indeed true that peripheral elements of a policy can harm the overall efficiency of the reform. The United States can learn a lot from reform experiences in other countries, avoiding pitfalls while focusing on what works. And personal accounts work.

A good example of reform that worked (but could be tweaked and refined for American consumption) is Chile, a country WILLisms.com profiled in a previous post. Chile is one such country those against Social Security reform point to as proof that personal accounts are bad, despite the stunning and unequivocal successes of the Chilean reforms.

How do they get away with making such blatantly erroneous claims? Well, because they can get away with making such blatantly erroneous claims. Very few Americans are able to call them on it. Pension systems in the United States are hard enough to understand as it is, so adding the international layer almost guarantees Americans will not have the tools to spot misleading or patently untrue facts.

The Heritage Foundation blog examines the findings in this Economist article (unfortunately, the article is "premium content," available only to subscribers):

One blogger posts this tidbit from the Economist article:

"However, in both Sweden and Australia, as in Chile, the new accounts are mandatory, while in America they will be voluntary. To find out how voluntary accounts have worked, Americans need to look at Britain, where Margaret Thatcher introduced them in 1988.

That should be enough to put them off the idea for good, according to Mr Bush's critics. In their version of history, Britain's experience was a disaster, in which people who opted for individual accounts were made worse-off by pension mis-selling. Fortunately, the critics are wrong."

Indeed, the experiences in the U.K. with Thatcher's highly successful market reforms are almost compulsively cited by reform critics as grounds for inaction. While Britain's pension system underwent some turmoil, nothing was wrong with the system itself; the problems Britain experienced were totally unrelated to the reform, as the Economist explains:

"To be sure, pensions were mis-sold in the late 1980s and early 1990s: the bill for putting things right was £12 billion ($22 billion). But the mis-selling was out of employers' defined-benefit plans, not out of the state system. Many people were lured away from generous employers' plans into funded individual pensions when they would have been better off staying with their employers' schemes. 'Mis-selling was not about people being sold private pensions when state pensions would have been better for them,' says Philip Booth, the editorial director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think-tank.

Britain's mis-selling scandal occurred within a distinctive pension system that had long allowed employers to provide part of the overall state benefit in return for rebates on part of their payroll taxes. In the late 1980s, this right to 'contract out' was extended to individuals, who were also given the right to leave their employers' plans. In America, as Olivia Mitchell, a member of Mr Bush's pensions commission in 2001, points out, there is no 'contracting out' for private workers in Social Security and the new individual accounts will form part of Social Security."

In other words, what happened in Britain 1) was not because of the personal accounts, and 2) could not happen in the United States.

"So what's the bottom line? According to the Economist, 'The international experience isn't as scary as the Democrats imply.' And there are good reasons to believe that reform here could be even better."

Finally, just a reminder of something WILLisms.com noted previously: how widespread personal accounts are becoming around the globe:

"Currently, some 80 million workers in 20 countries have access to personal retirement accounts. These countries include Chile, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Latvia, Sweden, Hong Kong, El Salvador and Croatia (roughly in the order in which they adopted the plans).

Macedonia, the Dominican Republic, Kosovo and even China have passed reform laws, which they are now in the process of implementing. Other countries are moving in that direction."

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Click for larger version.

That's one heck of a coalition of the willing. One wonders if Democrats might be a little more willing to go along with Social Security reform if they knew of its broad international support.

The international experience underscores a serious point:

For America to remain at the top of the economic ladder in an increasingly integrated global economy, we must reform Social Security now. Do we really want China, potentially our future arch-rival, getting personal accounts before we do?

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 February 2005 06:44 AM · Comments (0)

Total Bull Donkey: Democrats Develop Social Security Calculator.

Last week, WILLisms.com noted the existence of some interesting Social Security reform calculators, which show how much better retirees would end up under various reform models than under the current system.

Now, Democrats have developed their own bogus Social Security reform calculator:

Try it out. It's a real hoot.

One liberal blog also notes that Chuck Schumer has his own version (the same thing), and the assumptions are explained in this file (in .pdf format).

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Schumer, incidentally (as WILLisms.com previously noted), was recently named co-porker of the month by Citizens Against Government Waste; he also has voted numerous times over the years to raise Social Security taxes. Schumer said of the calculator:

"The president's been making it seem to people that privatization makes you money. It loses you money."

Oh, boy, where to begin with this nonsense?

Intentionally cryptic and vague about the assumptions going into the calculations, the Schumer/Democrat calculator assumes an abysmal 2.7% growth rate in the personal account, which is absurdly low. The Schumer model also assumes that contributions to the personal account would be capped at 1000 dollars annually and for some reason puts the retirement age at 65 (perhaps so the accounts have less years to grow?).

The calculator, funded by taxpayer dollars, also appears on the website of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who said that President Bush’s reform proposal would lead to “a guaranteed benefit cut of 40 percent or more.”

The Heritage Foundation explains how he came to such a bizarre conclusion:

"How, then, do opponents of reform arrive at their misleading predictions? By simply ignoring the money saved and invested in personal accounts. Their numbers imply that investing money in personal accounts would reduce the amount of money available to pay benefits by 13 percent, leading to an overall benefit cut of 40 percent. This analysis assumes that the money that goes into the PRAs would just disappear and that none of it would be available to pay Social Security benefits in the future. Nothing could be further from the truth."

The explanation from the Schumer release also offers "Thanks to Jason Furman of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities for the underlying calculations."

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a liberal think-tank that favors, among other things, higher taxes.

Furman, it must be noted, was one of the sources in the recent Washington Post article that had to be retracted and corrected for its erroneous claims. Furman also worked for General Wesley Clark's and Senator John Kerry's failed campaigns; his peculiar brand of Marxist economics has been thoroughly rejected first by Democrats, then by Americans as a whole.

Another problem with the calculator is that it assumes wages will not grow. In other words, it tells a 24-year-old making, say, $45,000 this year, that her income will never rise, even as inflation rises (and wages likely outpace inflation). $45,000 in, say, 1965, was the equivalent of nearly a quarter of a million dollars by the turn of the century (source: NASA calculator). Similarly, assuming that someone's salary is never going to rise between now and the late 2040s, even as inflation rises, is dubious and nonsensical.

The most egregious problem of all with the calculator, however, is that it assumes, falsely, that under the current system, benefits will be there for retirees. This is simply not true, as the system, with no action taken, will not be solvent for the WILLisms.com generation; Democrats still have yet to offer any alternative.

In short, this calculator takes exclusively worst case scenarios from various potential reform plans, puts them together, adds in non-existant "privatization taxes" then labels it all "Bush's plan" (when the President himself has yet to endorse a specific plan, only guiding principles, principles which certainly do not include any "privatization tax"). The calculator is intentionally misleading at best, but more likely is flat-out deceitful.

bulldonkey.gif

Shame on Democrats for this sham, this bull donkey.

WILLisms.com recommends this Social Security calculator instead:
Political Calculations

On it, you can input reasonable levels for variables yourself, and everything is transparent. Very little about it is fixed, unlike the Democralculator.

Also, if you desire maximum ease of use (although you can also fine-tune your results), give this calculator a spin, from the Heritage Foundation.

UPDATE:
As usual, blogger Patrick Ruffini is right on top of the donkey bull, here.

UPDATE 2:
Another blogger has some analysis of the Schumer sham, noting:

"Chuck's calculator isn't really a calculator at all. It's a slick assault on Social Security reform as a whole, and offers no solutions to those of us who aren't likely to see its 'promises' kept."

UPDATE 3:
In the comments section, "Ironman" of the Political Calculations blog points out this CBO document (a fairly large .pdf), which says:

"CBO projects that under current law Social Security outlays will first exceed revenues from payroll taxes and taxation of benefits in 2020 and that the program will exhaust the trust funds in 2052. After the trust funds are exhausted, Social Security spending cannot exceed annual revenues. As a consequence, because dedicated revenues are projected to equal 78 percent of scheduled outlays in 2053, CBO finds that the benefits paid will be 22 percent lower than the scheduled benefits."

The Democrat calculator claims to use CBO data, but it conveniently omits that little bit of cold, hard truth.

UPDATE 4:
The Social Security Choice blog links to WILLisms.com on this issue, as well as this debunking from The Heritage Foundation and this decisive smackdown from the Cato Institute.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 February 2005 09:47 PM · Comments (4)

Tort Reform Passes House.

Last week, the Senate passed class action reform (part of tort reform).

This week, the House of Representatives followed suit, 279-149 (6 not voting).

The measure was supported by 50 Democrats, while only one Republican opposed it. Uncharacteristically living up to his name, California Representative John T. Doolittle voted against it.

johndoolittle.gif

Doolittle, a Republican Party loyalist (the 6th ranking Republican House member) and typically conservative on the issues, deviated from reformers on this measure.

The measure now heads to the President's desk, where it will likely be signed sometime in the next week.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 February 2005 04:48 PM · Comments (0)

Reform Thursday: Bonus

Behold, the Templeton Curve:

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Click for larger version.

"The Templeton Curve teaches us that the short-term costs of Social Security reform are trivial relative to the long-term gains. The sooner we adopt the personal investment option, the better off our children’s, and their children’s, and their children’s children’s financial futures will be. Perhaps the personal account option should be called the 'children’s defense fund.'"

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 February 2005 11:34 AM · Comments (2)

Reform Thursday: Social Security- Chart Three.

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.

That's why WILLisms.com will display a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.

Today's graphic, like last week's, comes to us from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) of Congress:

Click on chart for full-size chart (it's a .pdf):

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Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important supporting data supporting Social Security reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 February 2005 11:25 AM · Comments (0)

Answering Professor Bainbridge.

UCLA Corporate Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge, who says he is "open to persuasion (and remain ideologically inclined to favor private accounts)" asks some good questions about Social Security reform on his blog:

"1. Would we achieve significant actuarial improvements in the health of the Social Security system by (a) changing the method by which the benefits is calculated from being based on wages to one based on prices (see Tyler Cowen's post for details) and (b) increasing the retirement age? Social security was designed for an era in which most folks would live to receive benefits for months rather than years. Why not deal with that problem directly? (Glenn Reynolds has a solution that goes somewhat in the other direction.)"

1(a): Switching from wage indexing to price indexing would take care of a significant portion of the shortfalls. Understand, though, Social Security has not always been based on wage indexing, though. At one point benefits were based on price indexing. So there is not anything about wage or price indexing that is written in stone.

1(b): Increasing the retirement age would also solve a significant portion of the problem, but not all.

These fixes, both, are not permanent, however, nor are they necessarily the optimal choices.

First, prices may rise faster than wages some of the time, and vice-versa. In recent years, wages have risen faster than prices. That may not always be the case. Still, it is very LIKELY that wages will continue to outpace inflation, given recent history. Nonetheless, changing the way benefits are calculated is most susceptible to demagoguery by opponents of reform. They can claim that benefits will be cut, and at some level they would be correct. Changing the way benefits are calculated, however, with the addition of personal accounts, would be politically feasible as it would not reduce benefits. Price indexing plus personal accounts would simply shift some of the burden of paying out benefits away from the U.S. government and toward the market.

Second, life expectancy will continue to climb (is a 5,000-Year-Old Woman impossible?) and make an increase in the retirement age irrelevant several years from now. Eventually, to match the way Social Security started (with average life expectancy and the retirement age pegged at roughly the same number), we could see the retirement age at 75, 80, 90, or even 100. That just does not seem reasonable at all.

And can you imagine the politics of that? It would be a massacre at the polls for those who supported such ideas on their own as a way to fix the problem.

"2. If we can achieve significant savings and ensure the health of the system with the changes mentioned in # 1, is there a non-ideological reason for introducing private accounts? Even proponents of private accounts concede that the transition costs will require trillions of dollars of government borrowing. Do we conservatives really want revenge on FDR and the New Deal at that price? Personally, speaking as a small government fiscal conservative kind of guy, I'd give up personal accounts if any money thereby saved was spent on deficit reduction or, better yet, an income tax rate cut."

We can ensure significant savings, but the solutions proposed in #1 do not solve the entire problem over the long-term. Only personal accounts do that, by making the system self-sustaining. Changing the way benefits are calculated and raising the retirement age would be a mere temporary patch, as the 1983 reforms were. If we want to keep revisiting the issue of Social Security every 10 or 20 years, we can reform the system without personal accounts. If we want a solution that will endure, personal accounts are the only way to go.

On transition costs: As Alan Greenspan noted today in his testimony ( full-text here), and as has been stated time and time again by the President and other supporters of reform, the transition costs are already there. The government owes them no matter what. It's either less now or more later. Greenspan said as much today. The government will have to borrow quite a lot to fix the mess, either way. Doing it sooner rather than later is the best way to minimize those costs.

Here is just one exchange by Senator Bennett and Chairman Greenspan:

"SEN. BENNETT: ...if we do nothing, as some are suggesting, we've still got to find several trillion dollars of additional cash. And so when we say, gee, if we do the private accounts we're going to have to find some cash, that's a transition cost, the point is, if we don't do anything, we have to find some cash.

MR. GREENSPAN: It's the same cash."

As far as being willing to give up personal accounts for deficit reduction or an income tax rate cut goes, personal accounts would be, essentially, a tax cut. Rather than payroll taxes going directly into government coffers, the money would go toward creating personal wealth. Also, tax reform and Social Security reform are not mutually exclusive. Real tax reform comes next year, and will likely have greater success if Social Security reform passes this year.

And, over the long-term, introducing market forces into Social Security is the only way to address the fairly hefty portion of the federal budget deficit caused by Social Security. Afterall, most spending in the federal budget is entitlements, not discretionary spending. Cutting out pork, having a negative growth rate in discretionary spending, those measures are drops in the bucket when it comes to reducing the deficit. Social Security is one of the larger entitlements, and it will only continue to grow over the years, strangling the budget. Reforming the system with personal retirement accounts is the best way to reduce (or at least slow the growth of) deficits over the long-term.

Furthermore, the injection of otherwise socialized capital into the market will help the economy grow, increasing revenues to the government, with which it can take care of deficits.

"3. Why aren't conservatives talking about other entitlement programs, such as Medicare, which reportedly is scheduled to go broke long before Social Security does?"

Some people are talking about Medicare, but the point is well-taken that more people ought to be talking about it. Politics is just about making priorities. You don't decide not to fix Social Security because Medicare is broken, just like you don't ignore your broken arm just because you also have the flu. You don't not do something because something else needs attention. Sometimes you need to rack up some relatively easy wins first, before moving onto the most difficult problems. Mostly, in addressing why Social Security reform before Medicare reform, it's a matter of understanding the problems in and solutions for Social Security, while Medicare is not so simple.

Medicare reform is far more difficult, because the primary reason for its costs rising is the rapidly rising cost of health care. There is very little the government can do about that. In fact, much of the rise in medical costs are due to the miracles of science and medicine, which did not exist years ago. It is very difficult to project what kinds of medical procedures will exist in the future, because medicine is advancing to rapidly.

The solutions for Medicare are not as clear-cut as the solutions for Social Security. Because Medicare reform is more rife with jargon and technicalities, and there is no grassroots support behind changing the system, Republicans would first need to gain the public's trust on Social Security reform before tackling Medicare. The prescription drug benefit, over the next few years of implementation, ought to give seniors some reassurance that another round of reforms in Medicare would not hurt them.

If you think the opposition to Social Security reform is intense, just wait until Medicare reform comes up.

One last point, made by Bainbridge:

"...Greenspan supports creating private accounts, but believes that they will not contribute to ensuring the long-term solvency of the system."

This is not quite correct. Personal accounts alone will not ensure the long-term solvency of the system, if everything else is left the same, but once up-and-running, after the transition, they will be the only thing that can give the system permanent solvency. Greenspan made this point very clear, that "by themselves" the accounts do not create solvency. Any reform passed will not consist of personal accounts, alone.

Critics of reform would say, "well, you have to cut benefits, then." Yeah, of course. You slow the growth of benefit increases (or maybe even cut benefits) paid by the government, but the personal accounts more than make up for that cut. Critics like to harp on the "cut benefits" part of that, but for a retiree who cares exclusively about getting his checks, there will not only be no reduction in benefits, it is almost assured that the retiree under the reformed system will get far more than he would have under the current system.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 February 2005 03:07 PM · Comments (2)

Classiness, Pure Classiness, From Other Blogs.

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Click to explore more WILLisms.com.

A summary of interesting topics from other blogs-

Two, from Powerline:

Imperial Hubris, or Jew-Hating?

"That Scheuer mimics the Saudi line should not be surprising. The main theme of Imperial Hubris -- that Muslim hatred of America is the product of American policies that are perceived as anti-Islamic, not the result of Muslim hatred of western ideology or culture -- also seems lifted from Saudi propaganda."


The Gates-gate

"Mayor Bloomberg may experience 'The Gates' artwork that debuted in Central Park over the weekend as a political liability."


Polipundit:

"The rise of the bike-path left"

"...about the war on terror Dean was dismissively blase. About bike paths he was a pit bull."


Pejmanesque:

Theocracy in Iraq? Not likely.

"...the Sunnis have admitted that their boycott of the recent elections was wrong, and from the other end, the Shi'ites are reaching out to the Sunnis and encouraging Sunni political participation."


Vodkapundit:

"MSM, Heal Thyself"

"Is the point to have a dialogue with the MSM or cause its destruction?

...what I'd like to see in the MSM is not an end to rancor, or controversy, or tough reporting. What's called for instead is an end to the myth of Olympian objectivity in the press. Reporters and editors are not higher beings--they are as subject to human foibles as anybody else--including those of bias, spite, ideology, and even hatred. It's long-past time to drop the charade and admit that fact of life."


Chrenkoff:

Polls from Iraq

"'Do you believe that democracy will help solve Iraq’s Political, Security and Financial problems?

Yes - 82.1%
No - 15.3%
Don’t know - 2.6%'

'Would you consent to a Kurdish President?

Yes - 69.8%
No - 27.3%
Don’t know - 2.9%'

'Do you believe that the Kurds will secede from Iraq over the next 10 years?

Yes - 35.4%
No - 53.9%
Maybe 9.1%
Don’t know - 1.6%'"

Classy, all.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 February 2005 12:48 PM · Comments (0)

Socialism and Social Security.

There are myriad reasons for reforming Social Security. The most obvious is that the system, as of now, is not self-sustaining, and reforming it could prevent constant revisiting of the issue. Secondly, reform could simply offer Americans a Better Deal at retirement than the rather dated New Deal.

But what about making America more free market-oriented, less socialistic?

Pete du Pont makes a compelling case:

"American socialist Noam Chomsky made the same argument concerning Social Security: that allowing people to invest in markets is a bad thing, for 'putting people in charge of their own assets breaks down the solidarity that comes from doing something together, and diminishes the sense that people have responsibility for each other.'

So the 2005 Social Security argument is an old and familiar one: government decisions versus individual ones, government control of assets versus individual ownership. In short, socialism versus individualism."

As the global economy becomes further globalized, the United States must position itself at an advantage relative to other nations, particularly China and India.

Right now, roughly 1/8 of American wages are encumbered by Social Security taxes. Those dollars are not growing; they are not even in a real "trust fund" somewhere. Currently, Social Security revenues get slurped up by the black hole that is the U.S. government bureaucracy. That is not efficient, any way you look at it.

The U.S. can and must do better. America can move those Social Security revenues from the black hole into the free (or at least freer than now) market.

"When you increase an individual's wealth, he becomes less dependent on government, and his attitude towards government changes. Socialists can't allow that, for it erodes their fundamental principle that social justice can only be achieved when important segments of the economy are under government control.

And that is why today's very liberal Democratic Party is so vehemently arguing against personal ownership of Social Security market accounts. The government's Social Security system is socialism's last redoubt, and must be preserved at all costs."

An ownership society, with Social Security reform at its base, would make America more American. Low and middle income people would be able to accumulate and bequeath wealth in personal accounts they, not the government, own. America's startlingly low rate of savings would increase. Americans would have more resources at retirement.

Most of all, Social Security reform would deliver body blow to the very concept of subtle, creeping socialism in America, injecting trillions of dollars into American entrepreneurialship and individual control.

The Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Social Security reform would maximize economic liberty in America, leading to greater actualization of the pursuit of happiness.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 February 2005 11:39 AM · Comments (2)

Greenspan Testifies Today, Social Security On Agenda.

Yesterday, Democrats in Congress, cognizant that Greenspan's past support of Social Security reform will likely continue in today's testimony, tried somewhat pathetically to preempt the Maestro:

"Mr. Corzine and fellow banking committee Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer of New York and Jack Reed of Rhode Island held a press conference yesterday to pre-empt Mr. Greenspan's remarks.

They said that Mr. Greenspan is a critic of excessive government debt and that the Social Security Commission he led in the 1980s said Congress "should not alter the fundamental structure of the Social Security program or undermine its fundamental principles.'

Democrats said Mr. Bush's private-accounts plan would both undermine Social Security's fundamental structure and put the government trillions of dollar in debt, both of which Mr. Greenspan traditionally has not supported.

'We hope he will stay true to many of the things he talked about' in the past, Mr. Corzine said.

Mr. Reed said Republicans 'will be looking to interpret whatever he says as an endorsement, so Democrats must counter that.

Mr. Greenspan's comments provided crucial momentum a few years back to Mr. Bush's tax cuts. Those comments, Mr. Schumer said, were 'misinterpreted' as an endorsement.

'We don't want the same thing to happen again,' he said."

Hilarious. Greenspan supported the President's tax relief because it make economic sense, period.

The petrified, nervous look on the face of the Chuck Schumer, who incidentally was just named co-porker of the month (with Hillary Clinton) by Citzens Against Government Waste, was an absolutely priceless thing to witness.

Both sides, though, ought to be at least somewhat nervous; Greenspan, the high priest of the American economy, respected by almost everyone for his impartiality, is brutally honest and will likely give Democrats some ammunition (or at least SOMETHING to cling to) on the subject of deficits (which, as WILLisms.com noted, are actually getting smaller due to the wonders of the Laffer Curve). Democrats also want to get Greenspan to "admit" that personal accounts are not the total solution to the problem, and the government will have to borrow in the short-term to cover the transition costs.

While personal accounts may not be a short-term panacea, over the long haul it's the only solution. The argument has been rehashed a million times over, but the "costs" of reforming Social Security are not new costs. They are merely a recognition of, and an early paying off, of already-existing obligations.

Greenspan's testimony is not make-or-break for either side, but it could give crucial inertia to the President's case for reform. Greenspan will also likely drive a stake through the Democrats' absurd notion that "there is no crisis."

Schumer said:

"We think the other side is getting kind of desperate, so they are going to try to take whatever Chairman Greenspan says and make it like an endorsement of the president's plan."

Senator Schumer, with his frantic, impromptu, preemptive press conference seems like the desperate one.

-Look for Democrats to question Greenspan just below the threshold of badgering, in order to extract anything they can use.

-Look for Democrats to incorporate innocuous and tangential comments by Greenspan, even if they do not support their case, into their talking points.

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The spotlight, even more than usual, is on Chairman Greenspan.

Greenspan's semi-annual testimony will go for two days, Wednesday and Thursday. WILLisms.com will bring you full coverage of it, so stay tuned.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 February 2005 07:46 AM · Comments (1)

Yet Another Awkward Howard Dean Moment.

Yesterday, WILLisms.com commented on the poor choice of Howard Dean as DNC chair, due in part to his penchant for making errant and inflammatory comments. He just can't help himself.

Dr. Dean is making this way too easy, yet again:
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"You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room? Only if they had the hotel staff in here."
Quote found here, via the Wizbang blog.

Sure, Republicans need to work on "the sales pitch" to African-Americans, a voting bloc monopolized by Democrats, but President Bush's inspiringly diverse cabinet is a start. The same cannot be said of Howard Dean's cabinet while he was Vermont's governor.

While Howard Dean can almost certainly do no worse than Terry McAuliffe, he promises, thus far, to provide Republicans with a steady stream of unfortunate gaffes and ammunition. "Red State" Democrats, beware: close association with the Dean circus (how could you even avoid it?) could prove hazardous to your political health.

Howard Dean: "a font of indiluted foolishness" (credit for that phrase goes to U.T. President Larry Faulkner).

UPDATE: Blogger La Shawn Barber says of the situation: "Typical. And disgusting…"

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 February 2005 06:47 AM · Comments (1)

Shout Out To My Foreign Readers.

Just looking at some site stats earlier, and some interesting things popped up:

Visitors from Japan, China, Poland, Spain, Ireland, Argentina, The Netherlands, the U.K., Seychelles, Canada, South Korea, Vietnam, Russia, Germany, Colombia, and Iraq, among others.

Few from overseas are particularly regular visitors, but it is still neat to have people all over the world reading WILLisms.com.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 February 2005 06:20 AM · Comments (0)

Howard Dean: "We Democrats need to be a lot more like Tom DeLay."

Are Republicans (and even some Democrats) underestimating Howard Dean?

Eric Pfieffer, in his National Review blog "Beltway Buzz," argues just that:

"When I was covering the Democratic National Convention in Boston this summer, I had the chance to see Dean speak. The event was a lavish party thrown for members of the California delegation. Nancy Pelosi was first to speak. After Pelosi encouraged her constituents to party and enjoy the moment, Dean took the stage on a more forceful note. He began reading a laundry list of grievances against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Upon reaching the end of the list, Dean said something surprising. Instead of delivering a sermon on liberal virtues, Dean uttered the following statement, 'We Democrats need to be a lot more like Tom DeLay.' Needless to say, the crowd did not respond enthusiastically to Dean's battle cry. But it's a strategy that if sincerely practiced should put dismissive Dean critics on notice."

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If Dean's comment about emulating Tom DeLay is any indication, perhaps he knows what he is doing.

Still, count WILLisms.com among the skeptics of Dean.

He may have been reelected governor several times, but it was only from Vermont, not exactly a representative slice of America.

Although the Pfieffer piece makes a solid point about low expectations for Dean, and about a sympathetic press potentially reviving his reputation, Howard Dean was still not the right man at the right time for the DNC. Afterall, raising money is not everything. Dean, no matter how much money he can raise, will remain a burden on Democrats running in Republican-dominated regions of the country.

UPDATE: James Taranto, in Best of the Web, notes:

"What's missing? Any sort of positive agenda, any indication that the Democrats stand for anything other than nostalgia for Vietnam and the Depression. Seventy years ago, when the New Deal actually was new, it was the Democrats who were 'radicals' and the Republicans who 'defended their principles aggressively' against them. That didn't work out so well for the GOP. Nowadays the Democrats have nothing to offer but the Same Old Deal."

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 February 2005 04:03 PM · Comments (0)

The Laffer Curve Lives!

Lowering taxes increases tax revenues.

You read that right. When the government LOWERS taxes, it generates MORE money.

So sayeth Arthur Laffer.

Counterintuitive?

Maybe.

Dead on?

Absolutely.

The SocialSecurityChoice.com blog explains the Laffer curve and how Bush's tax relief has actually increased revenues coming into the government.

"The answer is simple: above some optimum tax rate, every tax becomes counterproductive. When sketched as a graph on a cocktail napkin, this economic truth is known as 'the Laffer Curve'.

If you think about it, the Laffer Curve is just common sense. Taxes discourage (which is one reason we tax things like cigarettes so heavily). Whenever you tax something, you get less of it. An economist would state this as, 'The higher the tax rate, the lower the tax base.' As you increase the tax rate, there comes a point where the tax base falls so much that the higher tax rate actually generates less revenue for the government."

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Click for larger version.

Larry Kudlow noted this phenomenon more than a month ago:

"Here’s one story you won’t find on tomorrow’s front pages: 'The U.S. Budget Deficit Is Shrinking Rapidly.' The headline would be accurate, but the mainstream media is much more interested in talking down this booming economy than telling it like it is. This week’s Treasury report on the nation’s finances for December shows a year-to-date fiscal 2005 deficit that is already $11 billion less than last year’s. In the first three months of the fiscal year that began last October, cash outlays by the federal government increased by 6.1 percent while tax collections grew by 10.5 percent. When more money comes in than goes out, the deficit shrinks.

At this pace, the 2005 deficit is on track to drop to $355 billion from $413 billion in fiscal year 2004. As a fraction of projected gross domestic product, the new-year deficit will descend to 2.9 percent compared with last year’s deficit share of 3.6 percent."

William P. Kucewicz, in National Review, writes:

"By now, the effects of the Bush tax reforms should be obvious to all but the most obtuse observers. From the beginning of 2002 to mid-2003, private investment’s GDP share was flat at 15.3 percent to 15.5 percent. After the June 2003 tax cuts, though, the percentage rose steadily, reaching 17 percent in 2004. As a result, the growth rate of private domestic GDP (i.e., GDP less trade and government) has almost doubled, accelerating from 2.8 percent in the second quarter of 2003 to a year-on-year average of more than 5 percent since then.

Democrats, however, aided by a pliant (and largely economically illiterate) Washington press corps, continue to foist the fiction that the Clinton tax hikes produced the 1990s boom by closing the federal budget deficit. This is patent nonsense."

The Laffer Curve Lives!

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 February 2005 03:46 PM · Comments (3)

An Early Look At Potential 2008 Presidential Candidates: Part One- Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.

Over the next few months, WILLisms.com plans to examine several potential candidates from both parties for 2008's presidential race.

The first: Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.

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Rightwingnews.com recently conducted an unscientific-but-enlightening survey of right-of-center bloggers.

Chuck Hagel was the 4th LEAST desired nominee for 2008, behind only John McCain, Newt Gingrich, and George Pataki (note: simultaneously, Gingrich was the 5th MOST desired, McCain was the 8th MOST desired, and Pataki was the 13th MOST desired, while Hagel did not appear on the MOST desired list).

Another blogger with a keen talent for electoral politics calls Hagel a tier 3 candidate.

In more scientific polling, Hagel received 1% in a December 2004 survey of Republicans. Hagel clearly has work to do if he wants to be president in 2008.

The American Spectator magazine's February cover story on Chuck Hagel scolds the Nebraska Senator for his actions during the 2004 campaign, in which he became "an indispensable voicebox for the dominant media, frequently echoing reporters' thoughts on Bush's incompetence and insufficient regard for the feelings of 'the world.'"

Dismissing Hagel derisively as a McCain wannabe and not a serious contender for the 2008 GOP nomination, the article notes:

"The growing chatter about a Chuck Hagel presidential bid isn't bubbling up from grassroots Republican activists. It is coming from elite journalists in Washington who repeat ad naseaum Hagel's assertion that the Republican Party is adrift. They regard Hagel as a tertiary John McCain- an 'independent' and 'maverick' Republican they can book for their talk shows if the Arizona senator isn't available."

Indeed, this Washington Post article from two months before the 2004 election, titled "Some Republicans Predict Upheaval Within the Party," looks rather silly in retrospect.

Recalling our reaction to this article at the time, there is no doubt that if WILLisms.com had been blogging in September 2004, we would have called it silly then, as well.

The piece, which has aged like a fine wine over the past few months, getting more and more hilarious as time passes, has these gems:

"Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a man known for frank talk, offered a blunt description of the state of his party, which broke camp here Friday after nominating President Bush for a second term. 'The Republican Party,' he said, 'has come loose of its moorings.'

....

While Republicans have rallied around Bush's leadership, a defeat in November will probably trigger a major reassessment of where the party went wrong....

'The interventionists in the party will be in trouble,' Pitney said. 'If Bush goes down, so will Wilsonian rhetoric. A lot of Republican thinkers are going to be dusting off their Henry Kissinger books.'

Hagel, who has differed with Bush on Iraq and foreign policy, sounded ready to start the debate."

Notice how certain the authors seem of Bush's impending loss? A Bush defeat "will", rather than "would", trigger a reassessment.

The article even included this picture, which also seems entirely silly in retrospect:
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Thus, Hagel placed a bet and lost. He, like Christine Todd Whitman, bought into the anti-Bush hype and got burned for it. It is highly unlikely Hagel will emerge, even with significant establishment-media support, as a real contender in 2008.

The Spectator piece, probably too harsh on Hagel for the most part (more on that in a moment), does point out one instance that could singlehandedly destroy Hagel's chances in 2008:

"...in a moment that foreshadowed later 'growth,' Hagel broke with Bob Dole on a proposed 15 percent income tax cut. 'I can't sign on to those tax cuts,' he said, 'I can't be irresponsible about it.' Hagel now regards pledges not to raise taxes as 'irresponsible.'"

Republicans, who felt betrayed when President George H. W. Bush raised taxes, take tax pledges seriously. Expect groups like Americans for Tax Reform and Club for Growth to hammer Hagel relentlessly on his weak credentials on taxes, if he happens to make the short list of 2008 contenders.

The Spectator, however, a decidedly conservative publication, does overstate the case against Hagel quite a bit.

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Click for larger version.

Looking at Hagel's ratings by interest groups over the years, it is clear he is a genuine conservative; there is no reason to question that point. Hagel favors school prayer, is for vouchers, and even voted to remove President Clinton during the impeachment; calling Hagel a RINO (Republican In Name Only) is not accurate, nor fair. However, whether he favors liberty and democracy more than being liked by the U.N. and Old Europe is a significant and relevant issue.

Hagel adheres to what he considers foreign policy realism; he does not believe in President Bush's Wilsonian vision of liberty in the Middle East. Hagel has been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq; he does not believe in unilateral action, or preemption, and he seems at times like a proud member of the Joe Biden fan club.

As far as conservative credentials go, Hagel did lead the fight in the Senate against the Kyoto Protocols on global warming in 1997, but just last week he introduced legislation as an alternative to Kyoto:

"Key elements of Hagel's legislative agenda:

* Assistance to developing countries for projects and technologies that reduce greenhouse gas intensity.

* Establishment of domestic public-private partnerships for development of such technologies with federal financial assistance.

* Tax incentives for investment in climate change technology.

'Bringing in the private sector, and creating incentives for technological innovation, will be critical to real progress on global climate policy,' Hagel said....

Hagel said he also views climate change as a foreign policy issue for the United States that can help determine "our standing in the world and how we are perceived."

Afterall, Kyoto is frequently cited by foreign governments as an example of U.S. unilateralism. Hagel, ever the internationalist, is eager for the international community to approve of the U.S. His foreign policy vision at times seems closer to that of John Kerry, who, incidentally, during the second presidential debate of 2004, even cited Hagel's criticism of the reconstruction effort in Iraq.

"KERRY: Senator Hagel of Nebraska said that the handling of Iraq is beyond pitiful, beyond embarrassing; it's in the zone of dangerous."

Hagel may be more keen on Kerry than he is on Bush. Hagel, who voted against No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Prescription Drug bill, is no Bush fan. He refused to say anything remotely critical of John Kerry during the 2004 campaign, thus he became a frequently quoted figure in the liberal establishment media; Hagel, because of his subtle support for Kerry, became a media darling.
Hagel on Kerry:

"I like him. He's smart, he's tough, he's capable. I don't agree with him on a lot of things [though] I am closer to him on foreign policy questions. . . . He's certainly qualified to be president."

But would Hagel want to be president?

Apparently so:

"...responding to 13-year-old Alex Rivas, who had asked if Hagel wanted to be president. "'The president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world. I think most of us in this business . . . do think occasionally about running for president.'

....

'I happen to believe that by 2008, this country is going to be ready for some people to talk very clearly, plainly -- not frighten them, not demagogue them, but say it straight, say it honest.'"

Unfortunately for Hagel, his 2008 hopes rest on the failure of the mission in Iraq. Like so many Democrats over the past few years, for Hagel, bad news for the country is good news for his career.

President Bush has been a transformative leader for the GOP, and the coalition of more than 62 million voters he put together was based heavily on Bush's vision for the war on terror and promoting liberty in the world. Hagel, with his self-described Kerry-like foreign policy, would have to cobble together enough primary and caucus support from the mostly Bush-loving base of Republicans, an improbably task. Hagel, if he received the nomination, would likely beat almost any Democrat, but his chances at getting the nomination in the first place are slim.

Clearly, Hagel has an uphill battle in winning the hearts and minds of Republican primary voters, despite his mostly-conservative policy positions over the years. He may focus on cultivating his media-driven McCainesque reputation as a moderate maverick, while simultaneously proving to conservatives that he is one of them with a few token gestures.

Hagel's task: for anyone, a difficult tightrope to walk; while Hagel would be acceptable as president compared to, say, Hillary Clinton, WILLisms.com would not bet on Hagel becoming the Republican nominee in 2008.

Stay tuned for more 2008 previews from WILLisms.com. By next week, expect a profile on South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 February 2005 02:03 PM · Comments (1)

2006 Could Confirm New Political Trends, Benefiting Republicans.

Last week, WILLisms.com examined the prospects for Congressional elections in 2006.

Today, Brandon Miniter, in the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com, notes that,

"There's no reason 2006 has to be an off year for Republicans.... winning on Social Security, tax and tort reform will leave Republicans on favorable political ground, much the way FDR set the stage for Democrats to control Congress for decades."

In the 20th century, off-year elections (elections with no presidential race) tended to hurt the party in control of the White House, sometimes quite intensely.

Click for larger version:
midterms.gif
Graphic, from "Marketing Parties in a Candidate Centered Polity: The Republican Party, George W. Bush and the 2004 Presidential Election," by Peter N. Ubertaccio, found here in .pdf format.

Miniter notes:

"Yet conventional wisdom--even when backed up by historical trends--isn't always the best predictor of future events. There's actually a reasonable chance that the Republican will pick up seats in next year's elections. After all, the last time the off-year election rule held was in 1994--when Bill Clinton was pushing an unpopular plan to nationalize much of the health-care industry.

....

Democrats clearly hope that Social Security turns out to be Mr. Bush's HillaryCare--the big policy fumble that will hand them control of Congress."

If Democrats block Social Security reform (and as of today, the only likely way that could happen is through filibuster in the Senate), it would be their Jonestown, not their 1994. If Senators from the party of Howard Dean, up for reelection in 2006 in Republican-leaning or Republican-trending states, drink the Kool-Aid Harry Reid is serving up right now, they will have at least been warned.

In fact, let this comment, right here, right now, for all the world to see, be the warning to Democrats in Republican-leaning areas:

IF YOU BLOCK SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM, YOU'LL SOON FACE YOUR OWN COMPULSORY RETIREMENT.

Was that ominous?

It was meant to be ominous.

How about this:
compulsoryretirement.gif

Better?

Good.

Miniter explains that, while the Senate outlook is very promising for Republicans, the House shows a lot of potential, as well:

"...there aren't very many unsafe Republicans seats left in the House. Meanwhile there are Democrats who could be picked off. One is Chet Edwards, whose district includes Mr. Bush's Crawford ranch. Mr. Edwards won with just 51% of the vote last year.

district17map.gif

Indeed, Chet Edwards is only one of many potentially vulnerable Democrats in the House. And with the albatrosses of Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean around their necks, House Democrats from relatively conservative districts may be in for the toughest fights of their political lives in 2006.

chet.gif

With no pesky presidential election to worry about, it seems perfectly reasonable that President Bush might want to take down as many of the anti-reform Representatives opposing his initiatives, such as Chet Edwards, as he can. If 2002 is any indication, George W. Bush will devote himself to campaigning on behalf of Republicans in close Congressional races--- and he'll have success.

If, in 2006, Republicans gain seats in Congress, it will mark the third straight off-year election the party in control of the White House will have won (1998 was good for Democrats, 2002 for Republicans). A new trend, perhaps?

Not likely.

More likely, it is merely a new equilibrium in American politics, a completion of the still-ongoing Republican realignment. Afterall, the last time a president had the kind of coattails George W. Bush has, his party went on to control Congress for more than a generation.

WILLisms.com will continue to follow this and other emerging political stories, so stay tuned.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 February 2005 06:10 AM · Comments (0)

Arnold Plays Hardball With California Liberals.

Speaking of union woes, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is getting tough, yet again, with Calfornia liberals.

Arnold is a political juggernaut, and he seems intent on taking down the unions a peg in Calfornia. The new wisdom in California politics is that when Arnold sets his mind to something, he can win over even skeptical Californians to his side. His communications team is unparalleled. His popularity is consistently high. His style is that of an outsider, a reformer, and a populist. The Arnold Factor is undeniable. Standing between Governor Schwarzenegger and his mission is the easiest ticket to destruction.

lamentationoftheirwomen.gif

Nonetheless, Arnold has a tough fight ahead of him in getting his plans for reform enacted. Because the Democrat-controlled California legislature, beholden to labor unions, has not cooperated, he is taking his case directly to the people, via ballot initiative.

John Fund:

"Arnold Schwarzenegger is a political moderate, but he has decided to lead a revolution against the unions and other interest groups blocking his package of four reform initiatives that will likely go before voters this fall.

....

'We're going right there where all the evil is, and we're going to fix this problem once and for all,' he thundered."

His four-part plan:

"First, the governor wants automatic spending cuts to be imposed when expenditures exceed revenue. Second, he wants to change government employee pensions from defined-benefit plans to 401(k)-type plans. He also calls for scrapping the 2001 bipartisan gerrymandering of the state's political districts. And he wants to link pay for teachers to their performance, while making it easier to fire bad ones."

The unions, predictably, are against merit pay and firing non-performing teachers. They are fighting hard, but likely fighting in vain, against the changes Arnold wants.

"The public-employee unions that exercise inordinate influence over the Democratic Legislature are spoiling for a fight this fall just as much as the governor is. On Saturday, some 120 shouting union activists disrupted speeches at the GOP convention by conservative leaders Grover Norquist and Ken Blackwell with piercing whistles and chants such as 'Arnie, Arnie, you can't hide. We can see your evil side.' Union spokeswoman Cathy Hackett told me the 'evil' lies with the governor's budget cuts that she says slash services to the poor, seniors and children."

The unions don't seem to understand they are living in Arnold's world. In a way, California is a large Schwarzenegger film; the unions are merely featured extras for Arnold to destroy on his way to box office cha-ching.

"'Those poor little guys,' he said of the attempts by teacher unions and others to run ads accusing him of budget cruelties 'They're trying very hard. . . . They may have a wonderful dream about that. But the reality is very sad for them."

californiagovernor.gif

WILLisms.com is betting on Arnold to win.
More to come on the Calfornia ballot initiatives, so stay tuned.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 February 2005 03:23 PM · Comments (1)

Looking Hard For The Union Label.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released its statistics on union membership in 2004. It was not pretty for the labor unions.

John Carlisle, writing in The American Spectator takes on why union membership has fallen so precipitously in the U.S.

"...12.5 percent of workers, including both the private sector and government, were enrolled in unions in 2004, down from 12.9 percent in 2003. For the private sector alone the number declined from 8.2 percent to 7.9 percent. This represents a dramatic drop from labor's peak in 1956, when 35 percent of private-sector workers belonged to unions."

Carlisle argues that there are two major reasons why union membership has fallen so dramatically:

1. "Misuse of members' dues for political activism"
2. "Lack of financial accountability"

Carlisle explains,

"Unions take in at least $17 billion annually, which mainly comes from the compulsory dues culled from the paychecks of more than 12 million workers. But only about 20 percent of dues are used for collective bargaining -- which is the top priority of rank-and-file workers. As a result, unions are able to lavish hundreds of millions of dollars on politicians.

In the 2004 election cycle, union political action committees gave more than $58 million to political parties and candidates. Of this amount, 87 percent went to Democrats. Unions also donated about $100 million to pro-Democratic 527 committees, which ran ads and conducted get-out-the vote efforts."

So what? Shouldn't unions be able to lobby, just like corporations?

Sure, but as Carlisle points out:

"There would be nothing wrong with such political spending if it expressed the wishes of labor's rank-and-file. But all too often, it does not. Usually, 35 to 40 percent of union members vote Republican. And even many Democratic union members do not approve of their dues going to political activities. When the AFL-CIO launched a $35 million campaign in 1996 to buy ads for Democratic congressional candidates, a Luntz Research poll showed that 62 percent of union members opposed the plan."

Is it any wonder that union membership is falling off?

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 February 2005 02:35 PM · Comments (0)

Happy Valentine's Day.

Happy Valentine's Day.

valentine.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 February 2005 12:23 PM · Comments (1)

Chile's Model Social Security System.

The United States is certainly not the first nation to try personal accounts in Social Security, and it probably will not be the last.

The National Center for Policy Analysis notes:

"Currently, some 80 million workers in 20 countries have access to personal retirement accounts. These countries include Chile, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Latvia, Sweden, Hong Kong, El Salvador and Croatia (roughly in the order in which they adopted the plans).

Macedonia, the Dominican Republic, Kosovo and even China have passed reform laws, which they are now in the process of implementing. Other countries are moving in that direction."

Social Security systems designed like Ponzi schemes are destined to fail (more on this from a previous WILLisms.com post); a high priority in reforming Social Security in any country must be the creation of a self-sustaining system, based on market forces, not beholden to demographics.

For American workers and American companies to continue to compete (and typically win) against emerging economic powers in China and India, Social Security must offer Americans advantages, or, at least, must NOT place the U.S. at a disadvantage, as it does now.


chileflag.gif

The first country to "privatize" its Social Security system was Chile. José Piñera, who was a member of the Chilean government that transformed its Social Security system almost 25 years ago, answers whether it has been successful:

"Since the system started on May 1, 1981, the average real return on the personal accounts has been 10 percent a year. The pension funds have now accumulated resources equivalent to 70 percent of gross domestic product, a pool of savings that has helped finance economic growth and spurred the development of liquid long-term domestic capital market. By increasing savings and improving the functioning of both the capital and labor markets, the reform contributed to the doubling of the growth rate of the economy from 1985 to 1997 (from the historic 3 percent to 7.2 percent a year) until the slowdown caused by the government's erroneous response to the Asian crisis."

Estelle James, offering a fair examination of the pros and cons of Chile's system in the Washington Post, describes "How It's Done in Chile:
Personal Accounts -- With Strings Attached."

"The virtues of Chile's system have been trumpeted by those seeking to replicate it here. Unlike traditional social security payments, benefits in Chile are based on personal investment accounts owned by workers. Chileans don't worry about whether the government will run out of money as baby boomers retire, because benefits are financed by their own assets, which have been accumulating in their own accounts, not by taxes paid by current workers. The funds are privately managed and therefore insulated from political interference."

James argues that the principles of Chile's system are great, but the United States can do better in a few key areas:

1.

"Workers in Chile had practically no investment choice for 20 years. Each asset manager could offer only one portfolio and portfolios were all similar.

....

If we create personal accounts in the United States, we should also make portfolio choices simple, limited and diversified -- including international securities -- to protect inexperienced investors from themselves."

Meaningful choices, but not unlimited choices.

2.

"Chile's system initially had very high administrative costs, in part because fund managers had to invest in new information technologies and marketing tools. As assets grew, costs fell dramatically and are now about 1 percent of assets, lower than in the average U.S. mutual fund.

....

In the United States, we can do better. We can enjoy economies of scale and the bargaining power obtained from aggregating many small accounts into enormous sums. For example, we could auction off the rights to run the funds to a limited number of asset managers, which would push down their fees. We could require the use of index funds and collect contributions through the existing tax collection system. The experience of the retirement plan for federal civil servants suggests that these techniques would cut our costs to about one-third of those in Chile."

When critics talk about "costs" of "privatization" adding up to trillions of dollars, they are consciously distorting the fact that reforming the system would mean moving future liabilities to the nearer term to make them more manageable (are those really "costs" at all?). Rather, those with anti-reform agendas are purposely trying to elicit notions of Wall Street guys in pinstriped suits collecting fees galore. This is simply not the case. 30 basis points is nothing.

3.

"Chile's minimum pension is good, but could be even better. On the plus side: It keeps low-income pensioners from falling way below the average standard of living. On the negative side: It offers no extra safety net for more than 20 years of work. Some low earners avoid contributing beyond 20 years because their additional contributions would simply replace subsidies they would get otherwise. In the United States, we could avoid creating such perverse incentives."

Other nations, including the U.K., Australia, Sweden, and even Russia have moved to one form or another of privatization, mostly with positive results, although anti-reform forces like to point out the problems in those systems, problems the U.S. will certainly avoid.

Reforming Social Security will require a careful examination of the potential consequences, in order to create a system without unnecessary drawbacks. The United States can learn much from the successes and failures of other countries on the issue, repeating the successes and avoiding the failures.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 February 2005 11:01 AM · Comments (0)

When Raising Money Is Not Everything.

At DNC ex-chairman Terry McAuliffe's awkward going-away party last week, the party celebrated its record-breaking fundraising under his tenure, which allowed the Democrats to get out from under large debt as they built their fancy new D.C. headquarters.

But they couldn't celebrate much else.

Money is important in politics, but it isn't everything.

Although Democrats, in recent years, have raised record sums of money, they've also experienced a shockingly rapid decline in power.

The AP (by way of PoliPundit.com blog) notes that Democrats outspent Republicans on television ads in Ohio, $61,000,000 to $39,000,000. Meanwhile, despite the best efforts of the conspiracy theorists, Bush won Ohio by 118,599 votes.

And it wasn't just Ohio that Democrats outspent Republicans.

As WILLisms.com has noted before, Democrats in 2004, who "went overkill on spending at nearly every level," were "swimming in money provided by individuals like George Soros and Peter Lewis."

money2004.gif

What can happen when a political party (or any entity) devotes enormous levels of resources to a cause is, past a certain threshold, a declining utility kicks in for each dollar spent. Eventually, spending beyond a certain level can only become counterproductive, producing negative returns per dollar spent.

The run-down on the pros and cons Howard Dean usually goes like this, simplified enormously:

GOOD-
He can raise a lot of money.
He can fire up the base.
He is good at the internet.

BAD-
He is perceived as an extremist.
His scream will never, ever go away.
He can't not fire up the base, thus turning off moderates.
He isn't very good on policy-oriented shows like Meet the Press.

But money trumped everything else; Dean ascended.

As MSNBC reports,

"Democrats count Dean's proven ability to raise big money through small donations and his commitment to spreading power outside Washington as important assets in his new role."

Internet cash addiction is harming the electability of Democrats, yet they still crave more.

It seems that Democrats have learned no lessons from recent elections.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 February 2005 05:54 PM · Comments (0)

Blogging: How It Affects Partisan Politics.

Michael Barone, author of the indispensable Almanac of America Politics, perhaps the 3rd most astute observer of politics today (Karl Rove and Bill Clinton might be better), examines blogging and its effects on politics today, in the February 21 issue of U.S. News & World Report:

"The left blogosphere has moved the Democrats off to the left, and the right blogosphere has undermined the credibility of the Republicans' adversaries in Old Media. Both changes help Bush and the Republicans."

The article is worth reading in its entirety.

One point on which Barone could elaborate a bit more is the link between needing to raise political money and needing to play to the left hemisphere of the "blogosphere." [For those who are still new to blogging, "blogosphere" is just a term that describes all the blogs out there, and how they interact with one another; the world of blogging, if you will.] Barone notes:

"For 12 years, Democratic chairmen were chosen by Bill Clinton. He built a new generation of fundraisers who relished contact with the Clintons. Now the big money comes from the left blogosphere and Bush-hating billionaires like George Soros."

Democrats are addicted to internet cash. It's easy, it's fast, it's efficient. But the only way they can extract the requisite level of cash is by whipping an otherwise unlikely campaign/party contributor into an angry lather.

Political science research indicates that the general public takes cues from elites, with regard to ideology and ideas. Very few issues, even issues near-and-dear to the hearts of vast numbers of Americans, become prominent issues unless elites champion them.

What/who are elites?

Journalists, members of Congress, professors, presidential candidates, authors of books, celebrities, party leaders, lobbyists, judges, and even prominent bloggers- these are all examples of elites.

The party rank-and-file of both parties follow the party elites on policy, on tone, on everything. Over the past two years, leading Democrats have steered their party faithful down the road of extremism in order to extract enough resources (money, volunteer hours, votes, anger, etc.) to defeat George W. Bush.

They extracted more resources than ever before.

They still lost.

Bigtime.

But now Democrats are stuck with an angry base, entirely of their own creation. Liberal regions of the blogosphere are caught in a sort of self-perpetuating, self-sustaining cycle. The choice of Howard Dean as party chairman underscores the power of the liberal blogs within the DNC.

angrydean.gif

This shift to not just the far left, but the angry far left, ultimately helps the GOP capture the all-important middle.

Meanwhile, the emergence of the right blogosphere has not had an equal and opposite result on the Republican Party. Perhaps it will one day negatively affect the GOP, but not thus far.

Powerline has more thoughts here and here on the Barone piece.

Patrick Ruffini notes that right-leaning bloggers are unlikely to descend into madness the way left-leaning bloggers have:

"The blogroots candidates who raise money hand over fist online and inspire hundreds of fanblogs may also be the most electable.

This happy state of affairs is a product of two factors. The first is that conservative bloggers tend to be more pragmatic. But the second has little to do with how one approaches the ideological map more broadly. For conservative bloggers, the war on terror is the central organizing principle; spending and social issues tend to be secondary. That's in tune with where the country is, since the war on terror is the cement of our new majority; it's what enabled the President to win over pro-life Democrats in West Virginia while at the same time gaining the votes of pro-choice women in New Jersey who saw the billowing smoke on 9/11.

If conservative bloggers were to insist on nominating a candidate purely on the basis of fiscal conservatism or values issues -- at the expense of one with impeccable credentials on the war on terror -- then we would start venturing into the realm of strategic folly, which the Democrats have been wandering through ever since the 2000 election."

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 February 2005 02:10 PM · Comments (0)

It's Official: Say Hello to Chairman Dean

Howard Dean is now, officially, the DNC's new chairman.

Congratulations to the Democrats on a fine choice. He was exactly what the Democrats needed.

chairmandean.gif

Not.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 February 2005 11:22 AM · Comments (0)

Win For Bush, Win For Reform: Tort Reform Passes Senate.

WILLisms.com has commented in recent weeks on the momentum of tort reform, which likely would have been dead-on-arrival had John and John, Kerry and Edwards, been elected.

President Bush campaigned hard for tort reform, noting that America has become too litigious, and this sue-happy climate is not a good environment for economic growth. Frivolous lawsuits are a proven drag on the economy; cleaning up the system is necessary, among other reasons, to prevent jobs from going overseas unnecessarily to countries where indiscriminate, "keep-pulling-the-lever-until-you-hit-the-jackpot" lawsuits are not as common. Beholden to the trial-lawyer lobby for campaign cash, Democrats generally oppose tort reform.

Today the Senate passed tort reform, 72-26.

Notable votes against tort reform, based on WILLisms.com's list of promising 2006 Senate races for the GOP:

1. Democrat Debbie Stabenow, of Michigan.
2. Democrat Mark Dayton, of Minnesota (although Dayton is not going to seek reelection in 2006).
3. Democrat, and former KKK member, Robert Byrd, of West Virginia.
4. Democrat Bill Nelson, of Florida.

Overall, though, 18 Democrats plus Jim Jeffords joined with 53 Republicans (the two other Republicans were absent) in supporting the measure.

The bill now goes to the House, where it is expected to coast to victory. President Bush will likely sign it into law sometime in late February.

While trial lawyers are likely to find ways around the reform, and this reform is relatively modest and narrow in scope, it is an important step for preventing outrageous lawsuits from drowning the American economy.

Stay tuned, as WILLisms.com will keep you updated on this story as it progresses.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 February 2005 01:14 PM · Comments (0)

Take Your Pick: Social Security Calculators

Blogger Patrick Ruffini has this calculator on his site, by way of the Political Calculations blog.

There's also the Heritage Foundation's calculator, and the Cato Institute's calculator (although it is currently being updated).

Take your pick. But definitely try one out, so you'll understand why, even with extremely conservative estimates of market growth, your benefits will not be "cut," as skeptics claim, rather, they will increase dramatically.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 February 2005 12:31 PM · Comments (3)

National Review Notes AARP's Agenda.

In the past month or so, WILLisms.com has commented regularly on AARP's scandalous duplicity (here, here, and here).

Today, National Review magazine took on the AARP's manipulative polling and its liberal agenda:

"AARP released a poll last month purportedly showing that the public agrees with it on a personal-account option for Social Security — opposing the idea by 48 percent to 43 percent. That poll seemed odd, since it was way out of line with polls going back over ten years now consistently showing large majorities supporting personal accounts.

So USA Next, the rapidly growing organization for future-looking, 21st-century seniors, asked nationally renowned pollster John McLaughlin to look into the AARP poll. What he found might remind you a little of what bloggers found when they looked into the supposed documents behind Dan Rather's phony CBS story about President Bush's National Guard service....

...the public should recognize from the analysis of these polls that AARP is a liberal lobbying group, not an honest representative of seniors. Most important, USA Next now offers members all the benefits that AARP does. So unless you support high taxes and big government, as AARP does on every issue, there is no longer reason to belong to AARP."

shamefullydishonest.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 February 2005 09:41 PM · Comments (0)

Social Security Reform Opponents Beating Up Straw Men.

Timothy J. Penny, a Democrat from Minnesota who spent 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, warns members of his party about setting up straw men in the Social Security debate.

First, an explanation of what a "straw man" is:

"A common tactic in political debate is to set up "straw men" and then knock them down. It is easy to win a debate this way — assuming people believe your assertions.
'Straw men' are phony assertions about what your opponent stands for or about the policies he/she advocates. In other words — falsely assert your opponent proposes something awful — and then remind folks you stand for motherhood and apple pie."

Now to the meat of the argument:

"Interestingly, many who today criticize Mr. Bush for using the word 'crisis' today were among a chorus of supporters when President Clinton warned us about Social Security's impending crisis seven years ago.
Frankly, I do not know how these Bush opponents define a crisis. They don't dispute that the current system will experience a cash flow crunch by 2018 (caused by the retirement of the huge Baby Boom generation). It is also universally acknowledged that within a few short decades the system will collect enough payroll taxes to pay only 75 percent of benefits. If these statistics don't describe a crisis in the making, I don't know what would constitute a crisis. Obviously, acting sooner than later is the wiser course of action. That is all the president and reform advocates are trying to say."

Straw man, example one:

"First, opponents insist reformers are out to 'privatize' Social Security. They know 'privatize' is a scary word, so they use it a lot. The 'privatization' allegation is designed to conjure images of a program in which the federal government backs out of its role in providing a safety net for retirees. But no such thing is proposed by reformers."

Straw man, example two:

"Second, opponents claim reformers want to place workers at risk of the stock market. Again that is not borne out by the facts. Because most reform plans are fashioned after the Federal Thrift Savings Plan, it should be clear that reformers are aware of the need to manage the risk associated with personal accounts. Under the TSP, there are a limited number of investment options (currently only five). The TSP offers mutual fund investments — broad based investment funds, either all bonds, all stocks or a little of each. None of these funds is heavily invested in any one company or any industry sector."

Straw man, example three:

"Third, opponents argue that reform is a Wall Street driven idea. Not so. Having worked on this issue for nearly a decade, I can report most Wall Street firms have been reluctant to engage in the debate."

Straw man, example four:

"Finally, opponents assert reformers want to 'destroy' Social Security. Again, not true. Reform advocates simply do not want to wait until the crisis is upon us to fix Social Security.

Because we waited until the crisis hit before we took action, higher taxes and benefit cuts were all that could be done in 1983 (the last time we bailed out the system). "

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 February 2005 02:54 PM · Comments (1)

Reform Thursday: Social Security, Chart Two.

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.

That's why WILLisms.com will display a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.

Today's graphic, like last week's, comes to us from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) of Congress:

Click on chart for full-size chart (it's a .pdf):

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Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important supporting data supporting Social Security reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 February 2005 01:19 PM · Comments (0)

Ronald Reagan On Social Security

In the spirit of the release of the official Ronald Reagan U.S. postage stamp, here is what he said about Social Security in 1964, in his famous "A Time For Choosing Speech" in support of Barry Goldwater:

"Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we are denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we are always "against" things, never "for" anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn't so. We are for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we have accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem.

But we are against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments to those who depend on them for livelihood. They have called it insurance to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But then they appeared before the Supreme Court and they testified that it was a welfare program. They only use the term "insurance" to sell it to the people. And they said Social Security dues are a tax for the general use of the government, and the government has used that tax. There is no fund, because Robert Byers, the actuarial head, appeared before a congressional committee and admitted that Social Security as of this moment is $298 billion in the hole. But he said there should be no cause for worry because as long as they have the power to tax, they could always take away from the people whatever they needed to bail them out of trouble! And they are doing just that.

A young man, 21 years of age, working at an average salary...his Social Security contribution would, in the open market, buy him an insurance policy that would guarantee $220* a month at age 65. The government promises $127*. He could live it up until he is 31 and then take out a policy that would pay more than Social Security. Now, are we so lacking in business sense that we can't put this program on a sound basis so that people who do require those payments will find that they can get them when they are due...that the cupboard isn't bare? Barry Goldwater thinks we can.

At the same time, can't we introduce voluntary features that would permit a citizen who can do better on his own to be excused upon presentation of evidence that he had made provisions for the non-earning years? Should we allow a widow with children to work, and not lose the benefits supposedly paid for by her deceased husband? Shouldn't you and I be allowed to declare who our beneficiaries will be under these programs, which we cannot do? I think we are for telling our senior citizens that no one in this country should be denied medical care because of a lack of funds. But I think we are against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program, especially when we have such examples, as announced last week, when France admitted that their Medicare program was now bankrupt. They've come to the end of the road.

In addition, was Barry Goldwater so irresponsible when he suggested that our government give up its program of deliberate planned inflation so that when you do get your Social Security pension, a dollar will buy a dollar's worth, and not 45 cents' worth?"

Of course, Reagan backed off somewhat on his disdain for Social Security by the time he became the leader of the free world, because his 1964 position on it was not yet politicallly acceptable. Social Security was still the third rail of politics at that time, an untouchable entitlement program that could zap a political career if handled incorrectly.

In some ways, it is amazing how dramatically the nation's ideology shifted from 1964 to the 1980s. Barry Goldwater lost in 1964 with only 38% of the popular vote and under 10% of the Electoral College votes, but his ideas ignited a movement that paved the way for Ronald Reagan's Electoral College landslides in 1980 and 1984. The conservative movement thrives still today.

Just a quick note on some of the numbers Reagan used.

*$220, inflation-adjusted, is $1263.85 in 2003 dollars.

*$127, inflation-adjusted, is $729.59 in 2003 dollars. The monthly Social Security benefit has been increased somewhat over the years. In December 2004, the average monthly benefit payout under Social Security was $871.80.

How was government able to increase today's benefits from what it promised in 1964, by approximately 19%?

When Reagan delivered that speech, the Social Security tax paid by an individual was 3.625%. Today it is 6.2% (12.4%, if you count the employer contribution).

A perfect example of government inefficiency in action. The taxes increased by double, while the benefits increased by less than 1/5.

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Posted by Will Franklin · 10 February 2005 11:01 AM · Comments (0)

New Ronald Reagan Postage Stamp.

The United States Postal Service has released its first-ever Ronald Reagan stamp:

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Very nice.

This might have been even nicer:

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Grover Norquist's organization, Americans for Tax Reform, hopes to one day see Ronald Reagan on the ten dollar bill. The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project makes some interesting comparisons:

"President John Fitzgerald Kennedy • 600 items have been dedicated to the memory of JFK as of 2003. Estimates indicate another 50-100 additional Memorials have been added since....

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
• 800 items have been dedicated to the memory of MLK, Jr. as of 1998. Estimates indicate another 150-250 additional Memorials have been added since....

As a key figure and hero of the 20th Century, President Reagan must receive parity in Memoriam to President Kennedy and Dr. King. Now that President Reagan has died, it is even more fitting to begin the process of commemorating his achievements in economics, human rights and American power. Dedications to this great American must be expedited, bringing his memorials to a level consistent with his fellow heroes of the 20th century."

It seems totally reasonable that Ronald Reagan should be on the 10 dollar bill. Why not?

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UPDATE: Representative John "from Texas" Kline of Minnesota has introduced a bill to put Reagan on the $50 bill. In Minnesota in 2002, the negative ads against John Kline featured a big map of Texas, with a sinister-sounding voice: "John Kline, from Texas..." (because he was born in Texas).

Kline, incidentally, carried the "football," the briefcase within which the president can fire nuclear weapons, for President Reagan.

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Bravo to John Kline for bringing this up. Grant, the current occupant of the fifty-slot, was a good general and below average president, at best. Reagan was one of the greatest presidents America has ever had.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 February 2005 06:44 AM · Comments (1)

Optimistic Conservatives

There has been quite a bit of talk lately describing the Democratic Party as the party of obstruction, the party of no solutions or answers. In short, they are the party that comes up with a thousand reasons why any Republican plan won’t work, while not offering any new ideas of their own. Now, I’m sure our liberal friends would contest this, but it is hard to challenge a central tenant of one’s perspective. Conservatives are naturally optimistic, seeing the promise in each new day, and recognizing America’s place as the shining city on the hill. The conservative outlook recognizes America’s high ideals and our noble ventures, and thinking of our faults and mistakes second. Liberals, well, they dwell on any and every mistake the United States has made. A few days ago, at Ford’s Theater, I overheard a Park Ranger discussing almost everything except Lincoln, and it was soon clear that he was extremely liberal. He kept getting back to the idea that this country was “stolen” from the Native Americans. Normally I would have confronted him, and inquired if that meant the entire world was stolen. Did the Normans steal England from the Saxons? Did the Roman’s steal all of Europe from the savages? I was in a rush, otherwise I would have confronted his logic, or lack thereof.

It extends to daily life, and the way conservative’s approach everyday life. PJ O’Rourke once said the only person responsible for you is the person in your driver’s license picture. I think conservatives generally accept that as truth, where liberals believe the opposite; after all, isn’t society responsible for criminal behavior? Conservatives see that people are responsible for their triumphs and their failures. It makes failing very hard, since that means you are responsible for your failure, but it makes success all the sweeter. No one can take your success from you, because you know you have earned it. I moved to DC about a month ago, and it has presented me with numerous trials and tribulations. It has been hard, and I often wonder how someone could make it in life without looking towards a bright horizon, but therein may lie the democrat’s problem today. How can they or their electorate get excited about saying no to everything? How can you rally people around things that won’t be done? Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and yes, even Bill Clinton rallied people to a cause and towards a better tomorrow. John Kerry tried to rally people to his not being George W. Bush. That’s not a great cause to motivate people. Unfortunately for the democrats, it does not appear that a cause will appear for them. Today, they find themselves on the opposite side of Iraqi Freedom, optional individual Social Security accounts, banning gay marriage and partial birth abortion. Those are causes overwhelmingly supported by the American people, and causes the democrats are nothing but negative. It not enough to claim to be optimistic, you must live it. If you believe Roe v. Wade will be overturned, then live it and be positive. The same can be said of any issue and on almost any side of it. Life is too great a gift to spend it downplaying the possibilities.

Posted by · 9 February 2005 09:18 PM · Comments (0)

Bush's New Budget Reaganesque.

The debate is heating up over President Bush's proposed budget.

Lawrence Kudlow points out the following facts:

"In aggregate terms, federal spending as a share of GDP is projected to trend around 19.5 percent. This is a historically low spending share of the economy. If it is maintained, then more resources will remain in private hands to foster entrepreneurship, new business creation, jobs, and wealth.

As for the deficit, it is projected to fall to about 1.3 percent of GDP over the next five years from 3.5 percent currently. This is well below European and Japanese deficits. Should the U.S. economy grow faster than the 3.3 percent yearly estimate in the OMB baseline, then the budget will move into balance over the next five years.

More importantly, at lower tax-rates Treasury coffers are rapidly filling up with rising tax collections. The Laffer Curve is alive and well. Over the past twelve months individual income tax collections have increased by 15 percent. Non-withheld individual collections, which include stock market-generated capital gains and dividends, have increased 14 percent. In June 2003 the President signed tax reform legislation that lowered the top personal tax-rate to 35 percent immediately. Investment tax cuts also were part of the reform. The economy’s recovery rate doubled almost immediately from the new dose of supply-side incentives."

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From: KiplingerForecasts.com

Critics say these numbers fail to include the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This argument has some degree of merit, as there will likely be a large military supplemental package for 2006. However, these costs are not "baseline" costs. That is, they do not become part of the military's recurring budget.

One of President Bush's directives for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is to make the military leaner and more efficient. Funding the military through supplementals keeps the military from permanently expanding to war-ready status, even after there is no war, and keeps on track the mission of transforming the military into an agile, 21st-century force.

Critics also say that cutting or limiting non-security discretionary spending is merely a drop in the bucket compared to entitlements and defense spending. They argue that Social Security reform will create a far greater deficit.

On entitlements, they are somewhat correct. Entitlement spending is by far the largest chunk of the U.S. budget, and it is the hardest part to tinker with. But Bush has made it a priority to tinker with it.

Taking on Social Security reform is not going to increase the deficit, it will reduce it from what it would have been without any reform. Real Social Security reform will prevent Social Security from growing out-of-control and swamping the Federal budget. It will move liabilities forward, so they are more manageable in the near future. It will put Social Security on the kind of self-sustaining path that FDR talked about in 1935:

"In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, noncontributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps 30 years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

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Instead of crediting Bush for taking on the Social Security mess, critics try to paint his plan as increasing the deficit. In reality, one of the core reasons for Social Security reform is making the program less of a government obligation, less of a burden on the budget.

One editorial calling the President, "Mr. Fiscal Conservative - at last" notes:

"Bush has also proposed, as he has done before, eliminating or vastly reducing 150 federal programs, many of them with strong constituencies and powerful congressional backers. Already farmers (big cuts in farm subsidies), veterans groups (cuts in vets' drug benefits), mayors (cuts in community development aid), governors (cuts in Medicaid) and Amtrak supporters (cuts in operating subsidies) have geared up to thwart the president's plan."

Take it to the bank:
Those who have been feigning deep concern about "record" deficits will be the same ones feigning deep concern about "gutting" programs for "the poor" and "the environment" and other pet causes.

In fact, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, noting that the budget is a reflection of America's values, said:

"This document is immoral for what it does to those who can't defend themselves."

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Reid, with his values schtick, is clearly responding to the exit polls from 2004 that showed "moral values" as a contributing factor in Bush's win. Reid's concern is obviously forced, and it's not working.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 February 2005 10:51 AM · Comments (0)

AARP's Hypocrisy.

Take a wild guess at which organization has this article, titled "Count on Compound Interest," on its website:

"Many years ago, someone asked Albert Einstein what he thought was the human race's greatest invention. His reply?

'Compound interest.'

Compound interest is a powerful tool for building wealth and financial security. Over time, it can make your money grow dramatically."

Yep, how did you guess? The AARP:
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They go on to describe the "Rule of 72:"

"How long will it take for your investment to double with compound interest? To find out, use the Rule of 72. Divide 72 by the interest rate you expect to receive on an investment. For example, if your investment earns 6 percent interest, your money will double in 12 years (72 divided by 6 equals 12)."

As Larry Kudlow points out:

"The AARP advertises no fewer than 38 different stock and bond mutual-fund investments to their members. You can buy anything on their website from big-cap Dow stocks to emerging-market funds. If you want to 'gamble,' you can even buy Argentina — through the good offices of the AARP."

Not only that, but AARP, as an organization, is broadly and deeply invested in stocks and bonds.

Meanwhile, AARP vehemently opposes Social Security reform. Their ads say:

"If we wanted to gamble, we’d play the slots.”

They even have a little picture of dice on their website to indicate "gambling."

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Why does AARP oppose reform?

-Because scaring seniors is good for AARP's business. Framing its fight as one on behalf of seniors against forces who want to take away entitlements is good for business.

-Because, with the current system, AARP is able to perpetually lobby for benefit increases. Reform the system, and AARP's lobbying efforts on Social Security are no longer required.

-Because it supported the Medicare Prescription Drug efforts of President Bush, which irritated Democrats in Washington. AARP is trying to get back in good favor with Democrats. Afterall, AARP has received over a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the years.

-Because AARP has always had a big-government agenda. It is a liberal-leaning organization.

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WILLisms.com will continue to follow the AARP's duplicity, so stay tuned.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 February 2005 02:46 PM · Comments (1)

A Roundup Of Classiness From Other Blogs

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Click to explore more WILLisms.com.

Thoughts on Social Security reform:

SocialSecurityChoice.com on "Ideological Differences" on the issue:

"The debate can be viewed as one between supporters of individualism and free market solutions and supporters of the welfare state."

Indeed, one reason to reform Social Security now is to stave off the kind of pension crisis most European countries, with their socialist-leaning welfare states, have faced. When most of your population depends on the government just to get by, your economy is not as efficient as it should be. In an increasingly integrated global economy, the United States needs to be as efficient. Prosperity will flow where the market is most free and fair. America needs to be that place.

Patrick Ruffini on Harry Reid's thin skin:

"It took Daschle sixteen months as Majority Leader to finally crack under pressure. One month later, he became the only man in history to see his Senate majority lost to an incumbent President in a midterm election.

Reid has been on the job for less than two months, and in a much less weighty position. What disasters await The Man from Searchlight? And what does it say about Reid that the GOP has already defined him more thoroughly than he ever could himself?"

Harry Reid had a chance to work across the aisle, to rescue the Democrats from their recent anti-reform spasms, but he has chosen instead to set up a "war room" staffed by Kerry campaign types and continue the Daschle ways.

Liberal whining about poor little Harry Reid, from the Political Animal blog:

"Remember Tom Daschle? Mild mannered senator from South Dakota. Had the misfortune of being Senate Minority Leader when George Bush took office. By all accounts, about as good a guy as you could hope to meet.

I still remember the day several years ago when I turned on the radio and heard Rush Limbaugh lay into him for an entire hour. 'El Diablo' he called him. The most liberal, conniving, liberal, obstructionist, liberal, backstabbing, revoltingly nasty thug ever to hold a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Wow, I thought. (This was pre-blogging, so I only thought it.) This is what they're saying about Tom Daschle? Who's next? Mother Teresa?

Of course not. Mild mannered, gentlemanly Harry Reid is next up for the treatment. At least this time it doesn't come as a surprise."

Lame. Tom Daschle just oozed fakeness. He was not a nice guy. Plus: he WAS the chief obstructionist in the country. Comparing Tom Daschle or Harry Reid to Mother Teresa? Good grief.

Dalythoughts.com takes on Social Security from a political strategy point of view:

"The last time I checked, Democrats can still introduce legislation. They may not have the votes, but they can introduce their own plans. If they are unified and can peel off some Republicans such as Lincoln Chaffee, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins, they might even be able to pass something. And if it does not pass, they will be able to point to their plans during the next election cycle. Why are they not doing so?

Let me answer my own question with a guess. The reason is because Democrat politicians believe that their preferred alternatives would be political poison. Keep the death tax and roll back the Bush tax cuts? Sounds like a plan for cementing the view of the Democrats want to raise taxes. How about private Social Security accounts as an add-on? Most people have something already (401-k plans, IRAs)– and it would send a disasterous (for Democrats) message: private accounts are good, and those who can afford it can have them, but those who are barely getting by, you are out of luck."

Democrats are earning their label as the "just say no" party.

Polipundit comments on the upcoming British elections, sarcastically:

"On May 5, 2005, a general election will likely be held in Great Britain. The Labor Party has a nine point lead over the Conservative Party, 41%-32%. In 2001, the Labor Party won 43%-31%. So as you can see, the Iraq War is defintely an albatross around Blair’s neck."

Journalists and pundits have counted Tony Blair out many times over the past couple of years. They, of course, were wrong. Why were they so wrong? Maybe because they hoped he would be punished for Iraq. They hoped so much to be right about Blair's downfall that they let it cloud their judgment.

WILLisms.com is planning a retrospective piece on just how wrong the media elites were regarding Tony Blair's political future, coming up around the time of the British elections, so stay tuned.

The Captain's Quarters Blog destroys the media-driven notion that Iraq will now become a theocracy under Shari'a law:

"Contrary to the desperate analyses from Western journalists that have appeared almost daily since the Iraqi elections, the most influential Shi'ite cleric does not want an imposition of Shari'a law. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani instead wants the government to follow parliamentary processes to codify a new direction for the world's newest democracy."

Again, the elite media REALLY want Iraq to become a democratically-elected theocracy. They hope/predict that Iran's government will gain great influence in Iraq. They hope that Bush's advance of freedom will mean the freedom to reject the U.S. and choose Islamic fundamentalism. They, of course, as usual, are wrong.

Powerline has the story on Ward Churchill's potential academic fraud:

"Churchill apparently has fabricated a story about the U.S. Army intentionally creating a smallpox epidemic among the Mandan tribe in 1837. Citing a paper by Thomas Brown of Lamar University, Campos reports that Churchill simply invented almost all of the story's most crucial facts, and then attributed these 'facts' to sources that say nothing of the kind.

In addition, according to Campos, John Lavelle, a Native American scholar, has documented what appear to be equally fraudulent claims on Churchill's part regarding the General Allotment Act, one of the most important federal laws dealing with Indian lands. Lavelle also accuses Churchill of plagiarism."

This Churchill guy is really symbolic of what is wrong with higher education these days. What does he even contribute to academia? What does he contribute to society?

These are just some of the classy stories out there. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more unlame commentary.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 February 2005 01:04 PM · Comments (0)

No Iowa, No "Yeeaaaarrrrgggggghhhh."

Say hello to the new DNC chairman, Howard Dean. It's a done deal. Tim Roemer has dropped out of the race. Unlike in Iowa, there is no surging rival left to challenge Dean. He has the votes wrapped up.

This is the man who, because he was too liberal, lost to John Kerry. Howard Dean is exactly the opposite of what Democrats need right now.

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Dean recently said:

"I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for."

Does the new DNC chairman really hate free markets? Patriotism? Liberty? Reform? Progress? The United States Constitution?

What this proves is that Democrats are addicted to internet cash. It is their crack cocaine. As the base of the party shrinks, it becomes more concentratedly radical. Howard Dean will raise record amounts of money. He will keep the left-wing crazies stoked and prevent them from bolting to a third party. He will provide some Pyrrhic victories for Democrats.

He will also drive moderates away from the party and become a liability in Republican-leaning states. Howard Dean is bad for the DNC's fundamental image problem. He is bad for whatever Democrat (Hillary Clinton?) gets the 2008 nomination.

Dean is good, but only in some ways, for the GOP. In 2006, expect GOP candidates running for Senate in Republican-leaning states to play up their opponents' inevitable and unavoidable connections to Dean.

If Saddam Hussein had been captured a few weeks later, Howard Dean may have held off John Kerry and the others. Good news in Iraq was bad news for Howard Dean. Ultimately, because Dean hinges his success on the failure of America, he is bad for America.

Although the DNC vote is not official yet (the vote is this Saturday) it is certain.

What an unfortunate choice.

WILLisms.com will continue to keep tabs on Howard Dean, so stay tuned.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 February 2005 07:06 AM · Comments (1)

2006 Senate Races Promising For Republicans.

After the 2004 election, Republicans were elated to control 55 seats in the Senate. Afterall, 55 is better than 51, and it is much better than below 50.

But is 55 actually that much better than 51? The Senate's rules are such that unless there is a supermajority of 60 votes behind legislation, a minority can filibuster indefinitely. The minority essentially has veto power over anything, unless the majority is a supermajority.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has promised that he has 45 Senators lined up and ready to filibuster Social Security reform. Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle learned the hard way that obstruction of a reform agenda is a sure ticket to retirement, particularly in a Republican-leaning state. Daschle lost to Republican John Thune for a variety of reasons, but the Wall Street Journal's persistent rebukes of Daschle's "Dead Zone" were an important factor:

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Thus, although Republicans ostensibly control the executive and legislative branches of government, Republicans face a determined group of Democrats still reeling and discombobulated from the loss of their long-held majority party status. For whatever reason, the response of Senate Democrats has not been to adapt to the changing political climate. Their response has not been to offer their own reform agenda. No, their response has been to obstruct, obstruct, and obstruct some more, offering little or nothing in terms of a proactive agenda. Michael Barone calls this strategy, "just say no."

One lesson from 2004: Democrats living in Republican-leaning and Republican-trending states must be cognizant of, and try to avoid, a new verb in politics: being "Daschled."

Democrats seem to have learned almost nothing from recent elections. In fact, they seem to have learned the wrong lessons from history, as some Democrats feel that blocking Social Security reform is their ticket to regaining the Congress, a la Gingrich and other Republicans in 1994.

Democrats actually believe this. Seriously. How lame. How delusional.

In 2006, if they continue their current obstructionist streak, Democrats will not only not control Congress, it is possible that Republicans could control 60 seats in the Senate. Afterall, President Bush won 31 states, which computes to 62 Senators-worth. A Republican supermajority may seem like a dream (or nightmare, if you are a Democrat), but it is definitely attainable with the right strategy, if not in 2006, then in 2008 or 2010.

Let's look at 2006 first:

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Source: National Republican Senatorial Committee.

WILLisms.com believes the following seats are especially vulnerable for Democrats:

Minnesota: Mark Dayton.
There is already a blog up-and-running, devoted to the potential matchup of Republican Mark Kennedy and Mark Dayton. Dayton is very vulnerable in this realigning, Republican-trending state.

North Dakota: Kent Conrad.
The American Spectator notes:

"Democrat Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota is up for re-election in 2006, and Bush apparently intends to do to him what was done to Sen. Tom Daschle in 2004 if Conrad doesn't fall into line. Conrad was rumored to be mulling retirement, but indications are now that he will run for re-election. The White House has targeted North Dakota's Republican Gov. John Hoeven to run against Conrad. Hoeven attended the State of the Union, then spent time with the President on Air Force One back to his home state. According to White House political sources and a staffer on the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Hoeven's political future was discussed.

Now Conrad finds himself in a tough spot. In a state that tends to run heavily red in national campaigns, with a strong rural and Catholic vote, he will be hard pressed to be a highly visible obstructionist with the GOP putting a spotlight on just about every move he makes in Washington. Hoeven is considered a strong campaigner, and popular in the state."

Nebraska: Ben Nelson.
Nebraska is one of the more consistently solid Republican states, and Ben Nelson could be vulnerable if he chooses to block reform. If he crosses the aisle to support Social Security reform, he may have an easier reelection campaign.

Florida: Bill Nelson.
Florida is trending strongly Republican, and first-term Senator Bill Nelson could face a tough race from any number of Republican candidates in 2006.

West Virginia: Robert Byrd.
Former KKK member Robert Byrd, vocal liberal in a conservative-trending state, is not getting any younger. The Hill reports:

"Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) is making preparations to run for reelection for what would be his ninth term.

Byrd, 87, has been negotiating with Paul DeNino, one of the Democratic Party’s top fundraisers, to assist his reelection efforts, according to Democratic sources."

If Byrd decides to retire, the West Virginia seat would be an easy pickup for Republicans; if he runs in 2006, he will have a slight-but decided edge due to his history of delivering pork for West Virginia. There is also no particularly strong Republican in West Virginia at this point.

Washington: Maria Cantwell.
Republicans may be energized following the fiasco in 2004 that led to Democrat Christine Gregoire defeating Republican Dino Rossi in the Washington Governor's race. As the blog soundpolitics.com noted, rampant voter fraud likely helped Gregoire win. Republicans should be fired up to rally behind Dino Rossi; Maria Cantwell is thoroughly unimpressive, even in a Democrat-leaning state.

Michigan: Debbie Stabenow.
A first-termer who won a squeaker in 2000, Stabenow could face a challenge from a stable of Republicans thirsty for a win.

Wisconsin: Herb Kohl.
Kohl could face a tough challenge from someone like Representative Paul Ryan in this Republican-trending state.

New Mexico: Jeff Bingaman.
There has been speculation that Bingaman may not run in 2006; this would clear a path for a contested race. If he runs, however, he is safe.

New Jersey: Jon Corzine.
Similarly, Corzine is likely to run for Governor, which could clear the way for an open race in this Democrat-leaning state. Because of Jim McGreevey's disgrace and a long history of corruption among elected Democrats, along with the lingering effects of 9/11, New Jersey could surprise observers and elect a moderate-but-tough-on-national-security Republican. President Bush's profound improvement in New Jersey from 2000 to 2004 is proof that New Jersey might not be married to the idea of sending another Democrat to the Senate.

Vermont is an odd case, as Jim Jeffords was elected in 2000 as a Republican, but he boneheadedly switched parties in early 2001. He is now an "independent" but caucuses with Democrats, the shrinking minority party. If he had remained a Republican, he would currently hold the chairmanship of a powerful committee, but he, like so many liberals in recent years, gravely misjudged the political winds in America. In 2006, Jeffords could conceivably lose to a Republican in a three-way race due to a split on the left, depending on how that race shapes up over the next year. There is no specific reason to be optimistic about a Republican pickup in Vermont, but it is not outside the realm of possibility.

The only true vulnerability in 2006 for Republicans is Rick Santorum's seat in Democrat-leaning Pennsylvania. Santorum will assuredly face tough competition for his seat from Bob Casey, Jr. For Democrats, defeating Rick Santorum, one of the more conservative members of the Senate, would be a priority. A 2006 Santorum loss would be heralded as somehow equivalent to the 2004 Tom Daschle loss; it would energize liberals, even if they finish 2006 with a net loss in the Senate.

A reasonable expectation for 2006, depending on retirements and other circumstances, would be a two or three seat pickup for Republicans. However, if the necessary chips fall into place, the GOP could pick up as many as 5 or 6 seats in 2006, which would give Republicans a filibuster-proof supermajority.

However, if Republicans control exactly 60 seats, it would lead to the distinct and likely possibility of a liberal Republican like Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island switching parties to give Democrats a chance to filibuster Republican initiatives. Republicans, therefore, should not be content with 55 or 58 or even 60 Senate seats. Over the next few elections, Republicans should aim for a Senate supermajority buffer zone of 61 or 62 seats. Before the end of 2010, this goal is very achievable.

Republicans, as coaches typically say, must take it one game at a time. One race at a time, one election cycle at a time. First thing's first, and for 2006, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Elizabeth Dole has a great opportunity to make real progress on the ultimate goal of a supermajority.

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Posted by Will Franklin · 7 February 2005 02:44 PM · Comments (2)

After Fidel.

Last October, when Fidel Castro took a nasty fall, breaking multiple bones, there was renewed speculation among Cuba-watchers about the dictator's health. As former cigar-lover Fidel Castro pushes 80 years of age, one wonders how much longer he can physically maintain his grip on Cuba. One thing is certain: Castro is a survivor, outlasting many expert forecasts of his demise. However, as far as we know, he remains just a man. With each passing year, Castro's end becomes more certain.

William Ratliff, writing in The Hoover Digest, speculates about a post-Castro Cuba:

"Fidel Castro will leave Cuba in a terrible political and economic mess, just as Mao Zedong left China when he died in 1976, and Castro’s successors will be sorely taxed just to retain power."

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Ratliff continues:

"One might ask why reforms have not been launched already. The answer is that, although Fidel has visited China, he is far closer in his ideas and policies to Mao Zedong than to any Soviet leader, never mind any post-Mao Chinese leader. Castro’s alliance with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and his often very strong criticism of China, was based almost entirely on his need for Soviet-bloc money, arms, and a nuclear shield during his conflict with the United States.

Like Mao, Fidel cannot abandon his old ideas at the end of his life without admitting that his career was a terrible mistake. So just as Mao held on to his egalitarian socialism until the very end, Fidel remains steadfast and allows private initiative only periodically, when the economy is in a particularly disastrous condition."

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WILLisms.com looks forward to the day when Cuba and the United States, two free market societies, can mutually benefit. As freedom spreads around the globe, hope for a new Cuba after Castro is palpable. The Cuban people, deserve a free and open society; Cuba deserves to be the jewel of the Caribbean, the leader of the islands of Latin America.

As evidenced by the passing of Palestinian terrorist Yasser Arafat late last year, the death of a dictator presents real and important opportunities for progress, even in otherwise stagnant political waters.

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President Bush noted in his State of the Union address,

"The beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories are now showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure. Tomorrow morning, Secretary of State Rice departs on a trip that will take her to Israel and the West Bank for meetings with Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas. She will discuss with them how we and our friends can help the Palestinian people end terror and build the institutions of a peaceful, independent, democratic state. To promote this democracy, I will ask Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian political, economic, and security reforms. The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, is within reach -- and America will help them achieve that goal."

Indeed, Arafat's death has given the United States a distinct opportunity to start working on Middle East peace anew. Just today, Israeli and Palestinian leaders announced a "mutual cease-fire."

While Mr. Ratliff is skeptical about the likelihood of instant democracy in Cuba, he does note that,

"...under George W. Bush, the executive branch is promoting a more integrated and proactive involvement in the hope of speeding up and molding changes in the country. If current U.S. efforts to strengthen Cuban civil society succeed, perhaps at least in the post-Fidel period the current “silent majority” of Cubans, who up to now have been united only in their determination not to rock the political boat, will be able to advance the cause of democracy and free markets."

The speed with which the President is moving to support Palestinian civil society, post-Arafat, and transform the Middle East, is encouraging for a post-Castro Cuba.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 February 2005 12:39 PM · Comments (0)

Fox's American Dad Way Lame

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American Dad has been perhaps the most anticipated new television show of 2005. There are even blogs and other fan websites preemptively devoted to it.

Fox gave viewers a sneak-peek of the show following the Super Bowl on Sunday.

The reviews are in.

The pilot of Fox's American Dad was just plain bad. Awful. Not deserving of another episode. Unfunny. Way lame. A total miss.

Most nefarious of all, the disaster that was American Dad has the potential to sink, or at least soil, the much-anticipated return of Family Guy.

That American Dad was even allowed on the air is almost certainly a case of Family Guy overcompensation. National Review's Catherine Seipp explains that Family Guy,

"...was cancelled a couple of years later, and now — after a cult following that grew astonishingly after the show's DVD release [Seasons 1 & 2, Season 3] found an unexpectedly large audience — returns to Fox with new episodes in May. This is really rather a remarkable situation; as far as I know the first time that a cancelled show has been revived years after its demise."

Apparently, creator Seth McFarlane milked Fox's poor judgment in cancelling Family Guy all the way to a shot at a new series. The Fox people, feeling stupid for failing to see the genius in Family Guy, okayed the pilot for American Dad despite its obvious shortcomings. The intensity of Family Guy's grassroots following is remarkable, so Fox, fearing another misread of the viewing public, gave McFarlane's new idea the greenlight.

Call it contrition, call it penitance. Call it whatever you want.

That such an awful show could occupy a prime slot, just 30 minutes following the most-watched event of the year, is clearly a manifestation of Fox's remorse, an overcompensation for their past grievances.


Some blunt reviews, from American Dad's target audience, young males who like Family Guy, on a U.T. message board (warning, some mildly offensive language):

"this show is awful"
"This show sucks so far. Not a single laugh."
"over/under on episodes before cancellation.... 4."
"'stuck up bin laden's pooper'

only part of the show i laughed at."

"this is a much weaker family guy. they should at least get new voices, not slight modifications of family guy characters."
"Alright, the Cartman Special Olympics is on Comedy Central. I'm done with American Dad."
"As I feared, I hate the fact that Family guy will get diluted by this crap."
"Hopefully American Dad will go the route of That 80's Show."
"American Dad was terrible. It was family guy lite but not funny."
"Another thumb down for American Dad."
"D-"
"It was terrible. It was so bad that I got up to do the laundry halfway through. Everything in that show seemed really half-assed and not well-thought out. Poor."
"American Dad is terrible."
"I laughed at the dog being dragged down the street. Otherwise, I think it was more "did you see that" laughter with my friends than 'that was funny' laughter. In other words, had I been alone, I dont think it would have been funny."
"... is Family Guy Light."
"I thought the first 15 minutes was good. The 2nd 15 minutes however was some of the worst tv ever."
"it was horrible. The gold fish creeps me out. So no talking dog in this one, but an alien instead?!?"
"Watched it...It was a Family Guy knockoff, only one or two funny lines...the rest was lame, very lame. :("
"terrible."
"as a huge seth macfarlane fan, i had my reservations when they first started advertising this. those reservations were confirmed last night. baaaaad idea."

As Seipp notes, American Dad, "a kind of anti-Incredibles about a bungling midlevel CIA-operative... sinks under the weight of MacFarlane's political agenda."

While The Incredibles received some of the best reviews of any movie in 2004, raked in an array of awards, and earned more than a quarter of a billion dollars at the box office while subtly promoting conservative ideas, American Dad's tired left-wing drivel is a complete misread of the nation's mood. Expect it to fail in the ratings and get the axe from Fox.

Just one lame and blatantly partisan moment, likely hatched in late 2003 or early 2004, was a scene where President Bush and God talk on the telephone.
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Television critic Mike Duffy, who describes American Dad as "mostly just a dud," describes the scene (the only moment he enjoyed):

"There is one cheerfully daft satiric moment when God puts in a call to President Bush in the Oval Office and asks him to cool references to the Almighty in his public pronouncements. 'Give you an example,' God tells Dubya. 'When you make comments like 'God wanted me to be president,' that would be something you ought to just keep to yourself.'"

Weak.

Lame comedy is one thing, but stale lame comedy with a left-wing agenda is just too much.

Well, you may ask, could American Dad become a favorite among the anti-Bush left in America? Could it develop a cult following based exclusively on the legions of liberals in America?

Not likely.

Even the well-known lefties on www.hornfans.com hated American Dad.

Another lame moment, an attempt at homeland security satire:
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Television critic Tim Appelo, calling American Dad "unsettling political" and a "flat-out disaster," describes the scene:

"The political satire throughout has that not-fresh feeling. 'We're at Terror Alert Orange, which means something might go down somewhere in some way at some point in time!' warns Stan. 'You know, Dad, it's great that you and your CIA buddies have created a fun little system to keep the masses paralyzed in fear,' retorts Hayley."

Those lines were so not funny. Two years ago.

Not only is the show unfunny and too partisan, but the characters are all thoroughly unlikeable. The father, himself awkwardly paranoid, pats down his liberal daughter, whom he clearly dislikes, for weapons whenever she enters the house. The mother is blank, cold--- sort of a horrible, unfeeling, Republican caricature of a Stepford Wife. The son has almost no redeeming qualities. The family's overweight, effeminate "pet" alien and German-accented fish fall far short of providing any significant or show-saving gags. The characters are one-dimensional, and the single dimension in each case does not elicit any kind of sympathy.

The next episode does not air until May 1. Don't expect it to last to summer.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 February 2005 06:10 AM · Comments (2)

Introducing Guest Blogger Duncan Wilson.

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WILLisms.com adds a new guest blogger this weekend, Duncan Wilson.

In 2002, Duncan and I worked together in North Carolina politics, specifically on Patrick McHenry's campaign, on Elizabeth Dole's campaign, as well as campus politics.

Duncan has a sharp political mind and a quick wit; has has a lot of great things to say about the world. Duncan's classiness is unquestioned, so WILLisms.com is a perfect fit for him. In fact, he may even class up the joint a little.

Duncan is a big fan of Ronald Reagan. He currently resides in the town Reagan loved to ridicule, Washington, D.C.

WILLisms.com looks forward to his comments.

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 February 2005 07:26 AM · Comments (0)

The Enduring Revolution: How the Contract with America Continues to Shape the Nation.

Was 2004 a realigning election? Did it mark a fundamental shift in American politics?

A new book, The Enduring Revolution: How the Contract with America Continues to Shape the Nation, details the lasting significance of the 1994 Congressional elections in policy and politics.

Major Garrett, Fox News reporter, argues that 2004 was not an electoral realignment. 1994 was. 2004 was just the continuation of the Republican Revolution of 1994, a major political shift that has been largely downplayed and marginalized because of Clinton's reelection victory just two years later over Bob Dole, and because of the perception that America was an evenly divided nation.

Garrett writes (you can read the first chapter online):

"The America we live in now is a reflection in more ways of the 104th Congress than it is of the presidencies of Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. Indeed, that Congress radically altered the political course of Clinton’s presidency and laid the intellectual and political foundation for Bush’s. The presidents might have signed the laws, but the 104th Congress either proposed those laws directly or set in motion the process by which they became law. Many policies now part of the fabric of American life drew their intellectual inspiration and political impetus from the leaders and members of that first GOP majority elected in 1994."

George W. Bush might not be president today if it were not for the 1994 Republican Revolution. Running against a popular incumbent for Governor of Texas, Bush faced an uphill climb. In some ways, Bush's victory in 1994 was part and parcel of the GOP's Congressional takeover. As Newt Gingrich was sworn in as the first Republican Speaker of the House in decades, George W. Bush was sworn in as only the second Republican Governor of Texas since the 1870s.

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Newt Gingrich, recent author of Winning The Future: A 21st Century Contract with America, remains an influential strategist. More importantly, many of the Republicans who won elections to the House of Representatives for the first time in 1994 are now in positions of seniority or have moved on to become governors or members of the Senate.

One item in particular from the GOP revolution that WILLisms.com would like to see revived is the line item veto. This measure would allow a president to effectively trim wasteful spending out of an otherwise acceptable piece of legislation. The Supreme Court, in 1998, declared the line item veto unconstitutional, but a line item veto structured in another way could still pass Constitutional muster. Additionally, ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist was among those against the line item veto; replacing him with a Justice who favors the idea could lead to the line item veto being upheld by the court.

The 1994 election initiated a political realignment in America; the 2004 just may have sealed the deal. A successful second term for President Bush, and the realignment could last for a generation. The 1994 Republican Revolution endures.

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 February 2005 06:37 AM · Comments (0)

Reform Thursday: Social Security, Chart One.

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.

That's why WILLisms.com will display a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.

Today's graphic comes to us from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) of Congress:

Click on chart for full-size chart (it's a .pdf):

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Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important supporting data on Social Security reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 February 2005 06:27 AM · Comments (0)

The SOTUOTPOTUSOA (State of the Union of the President of the United States of America)

The speech, in its entirety:

Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, fellow citizens:

As a new Congress gathers, all of us in the elected branches of government share a great privilege: We've been placed in office by the votes of the people we serve. And tonight that is a privilege we share with newly-elected leaders of Afghanistan, the Palestinian Territories, Ukraine, and a free and sovereign Iraq. (Applause.)

Two weeks ago, I stood on the steps of this Capitol and renewed the commitment of our nation to the guiding ideal of liberty for all. This evening I will set forth policies to advance that ideal at home and around the world.

Tonight, with a healthy, growing economy, with more Americans going back to work, with our nation an active force for good in the world -- the state of our union is confident and strong. (Applause.)

Our generation has been blessed -- by the expansion of opportunity, by advances in medicine, by the security purchased by our parents' sacrifice. Now, as we see a little gray in the mirror -- or a lot of gray -- (laughter) -- and we watch our children moving into adulthood, we ask the question: What will be the state of their union? Members of Congress, the choices we make together will answer that question. Over the next several months, on issue after issue, let us do what Americans have always done, and build a better world for our children and our grandchildren. (Applause.)

First, we must be good stewards of this economy, and renew the great institutions on which millions of our fellow citizens rely. America's economy is the fastest growing of any major industrialized nation. In the past four years, we provided tax relief to every person who pays income taxes, overcome a recession, opened up new markets abroad, prosecuted corporate criminals, raised homeownership to its highest level in history, and in the last year alone, the United States has added 2.3 million new jobs. (Applause.) When action was needed, the Congress delivered -- and the nation is grateful.

Now we must add to these achievements. By making our economy more flexible, more innovative, and more competitive, we will keep America the economic leader of the world. (Applause.)

America's prosperity requires restraining the spending appetite of the federal government. I welcome the bipartisan enthusiasm for spending discipline. I will send you a budget that holds the growth of discretionary spending below inflation, makes tax relief permanent, and stays on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. (Applause.) My budget substantially reduces or eliminates more than 150 government programs that are not getting results, or duplicate current efforts, or do not fulfill essential priorities. The principle here is clear: Taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely, or not at all. (Applause.)

To make our economy stronger and more dynamic, we must prepare a rising generation to fill the jobs of the 21st century. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, standards are higher, test scores are on the rise, and we're closing the achievement gap for minority students. Now we must demand better results from our high schools, so every high school diploma is a ticket to success. We will help an additional 200,000 workers to get training for a better career, by reforming our job training system and strengthening America's community colleges. And we'll make it easier for Americans to afford a college education, by increasing the size of Pell Grants. (Applause.)

To make our economy stronger and more competitive, America must reward, not punish, the efforts and dreams of entrepreneurs. Small business is the path of advancement, especially for women and minorities, so we must free small businesses from needless regulation and protect honest job-creators from junk lawsuits. (Applause.) Justice is distorted, and our economy is held back by irresponsible class-actions and frivolous asbestos claims -- and I urge Congress to pass legal reforms this year. (Applause.)

To make our economy stronger and more productive, we must make health care more affordable, and give families greater access to good coverage -- (applause) -- and more control over their health decisions. (Applause.) I ask Congress to move forward on a comprehensive health care agenda with tax credits to help low-income workers buy insurance, a community health center in every poor country, improved information technology to prevent medical error and needless costs, association health plans for small businesses and their employees -- (applause) -- expanded health savings accounts -- (applause) -- and medical liability reform that will reduce health care costs and make sure patients have the doctors and care they need. (Applause.)

To keep our economy growing, we also need reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy. (Applause.) Nearly four years ago, I submitted a comprehensive energy strategy that encourages conservation, alternative sources, a modernized electricity grid, and more production here at home -- including safe, clean nuclear energy. (Applause.) My Clear Skies legislation will cut power plant pollution and improve the health of our citizens. (Applause.) And my budget provides strong funding for leading-edge technology -- from hydrogen-fueled cars, to clean coal, to renewable sources such as ethanol. (Applause.) Four years of debate is enough: I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy. (Applause.)

All these proposals are essential to expand this economy and add new jobs -- but they are just the beginning of our duty. To build the prosperity of future generations, we must update institutions that were created to meet the needs of an earlier time. Year after year, Americans are burdened by an archaic, incoherent federal tax code. I've appointed a bipartisan panel to examine the tax code from top to bottom. And when their recommendations are delivered, you and I will work together to give this nation a tax code that is pro-growth, easy to understand, and fair to all. (Applause.)

America's immigration system is also outdated -- unsuited to the needs of our economy and to the values of our country. We should not be content with laws that punish hardworking people who want only to provide for their families, and deny businesses willing workers, and invite chaos at our border. It is time for an immigration policy that permits temporary guest workers to fill jobs Americans will not take, that rejects amnesty, that tells us who is entering and leaving our country, and that closes the border to drug dealers and terrorists. (Applause.)

One of America's most important institutions -- a symbol of the trust between generations -- is also in need of wise and effective reform. Social Security was a great moral success of the 20th century, and we must honor its great purposes in this new century. (Applause.) The system, however, on its current path, is headed toward bankruptcy. And so we must join together to strengthen and save Social Security. (Applause.)

Today, more than 45 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, and millions more are nearing retirement -- and for them the system is sound and fiscally strong. I have a message for every American who is 55 or older: Do not let anyone mislead you; for you, the Social Security system will not change in any way. (Applause.) For younger workers, the Social Security system has serious problems that will grow worse with time. Social Security was created decades ago, for a very different era. In those days, people did not live as long. Benefits were much lower than they are today. And a half-century ago, about sixteen workers paid into the system for each person drawing benefits.

Our society has changed in ways the founders of Social Security could not have foreseen. In today's world, people are living longer and, therefore, drawing benefits longer. And those benefits are scheduled to rise dramatically over the next few decades. And instead of sixteen workers paying in for every beneficiary, right now it's only about three workers. And over the next few decades that number will fall to just two workers per beneficiary. With each passing year, fewer workers are paying ever-higher benefits to an ever-larger number of retirees.

So here is the result: Thirteen years from now, in 2018, Social Security will be paying out more than it takes in. And every year afterward will bring a new shortfall, bigger than the year before. For example, in the year 2027, the government will somehow have to come up with an extra $200 billion to keep the system afloat -- and by 2033, the annual shortfall would be more than $300 billion. By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt. If steps are not taken to avert that outcome, the only solutions would be dramatically higher taxes, massive new borrowing, or sudden and severe cuts in Social Security benefits or other government programs.

I recognize that 2018 and 2042 may seem a long way off. But those dates are not so distant, as any parent will tell you. If you have a five-year-old, you're already concerned about how you'll pay for college tuition 13 years down the road. If you've got children in their 20s, as some of us do, the idea of Social Security collapsing before they retire does not seem like a small matter. And it should not be a small matter to the United States Congress. (Applause.) You and I share a responsibility. We must pass reforms that solve the financial problems of Social Security once and for all.

Fixing Social Security permanently will require an open, candid review of the options. Some have suggested limiting benefits for wealthy retirees. Former Congressman Tim Penny has raised the possibility of indexing benefits to prices rather than wages. During the 1990s, my predecessor, President Clinton, spoke of increasing the retirement age. Former Senator John Breaux suggested discouraging early collection of Social Security benefits. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan recommended changing the way benefits are calculated. All these ideas are on the table.

I know that none of these reforms would be easy. But we have to move ahead with courage and honesty, because our children's retirement security is more important than partisan politics. (Applause.) I will work with members of Congress to find the most effective combination of reforms. I will listen to anyone who has a good idea to offer. (Applause.) We must, however, be guided by some basic principles. We must make Social Security permanently sound, not leave that task for another day. We must not jeopardize our economic strength by increasing payroll taxes. We must ensure that lower-income Americans get the help they need to have dignity and peace of mind in their retirement. We must guarantee there is no change for those now retired or nearing retirement. And we must take care that any changes in the system are gradual, so younger workers have years to prepare and plan for their future.

As we fix Social Security, we also have the responsibility to make the system a better deal for younger workers. And the best way to reach that goal is through voluntary personal retirement accounts. (Applause.) Here is how the idea works. Right now, a set portion of the money you earn is taken out of your paycheck to pay for the Social Security benefits of today's retirees. If you're a younger worker, I believe you should be able to set aside part of that money in your own retirement account, so you can build a nest egg for your own future.

Here's why the personal accounts are a better deal. Your money will grow, over time, at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver -- and your account will provide money for retirement over and above the check you will receive from Social Security. In addition, you'll be able to pass along the money that accumulates in your personal account, if you wish, to your children and -- or grandchildren. And best of all, the money in the account is yours, and the government can never take it away. (Applause.)

The goal here is greater security in retirement, so we will set careful guidelines for personal accounts. We'll make sure the money can only go into a conservative mix of bonds and stock funds. We'll make sure that your earnings are not eaten up by hidden Wall Street fees. We'll make sure there are good options to protect your investments from sudden market swings on the eve of your retirement. We'll make sure a personal account cannot be emptied out all at once, but rather paid out over time, as an addition to traditional Social Security benefits. And we'll make sure this plan is fiscally responsible, by starting personal retirement accounts gradually, and raising the yearly limits on contributions over time, eventually permitting all workers to set aside four percentage points of their payroll taxes in their accounts.

Personal retirement accounts should be familiar to federal employees, because you already have something similar, called the Thrift Savings Plan, which lets workers deposit a portion of their paychecks into any of five different broadly-based investment funds. It's time to extend the same security, and choice, and ownership to young Americans. (Applause.)

Our second great responsibility to our children and grandchildren is to honor and to pass along the values that sustain a free society. So many of my generation, after a long journey, have come home to family and faith, and are determined to bring up responsible, moral children. Government is not the source of these values, but government should never undermine them.

Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage. (Applause.)

Because a society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable, we must strive to build a culture of life. Medical research can help us reach that goal, by developing treatments and cures that save lives and help people overcome disabilities -- and I thank the Congress for doubling the funding of the National Institutes of Health. (Applause.) To build a culture of life, we must also ensure that scientific advances always serve human dignity, not take advantage of some lives for the benefit of others. We should all be able to agree -- (applause) -- we should all be able to agree on some clear standards. I will work with Congress to ensure that human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts, and that human life is never bought and sold as a commodity. (Applause.) America will continue to lead the world in medical research that is ambitious, aggressive, and always ethical.

Because courts must always deliver impartial justice, judges have a duty to faithfully interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. (Applause.) As President, I have a constitutional responsibility to nominate men and women who understand the role of courts in our democracy, and are well-qualified to serve on the bench -- and I have done so. (Applause.) The Constitution also gives the Senate a responsibility: Every judicial nominee deserves an up or down vote. (Applause.)

Because one of the deepest values of our country is compassion, we must never turn away from any citizen who feels isolated from the opportunities of America. Our government will continue to support faith-based and community groups that bring hope to harsh places. Now we need to focus on giving young people, especially young men in our cities, better options than apathy, or gangs, or jail. Tonight I propose a three-year initiative to help organizations keep young people out of gangs, and show young men an ideal of manhood that respects women and rejects violence. (Applause.) Taking on gang life will be one part of a broader outreach to at-risk youth, which involves parents and pastors, coaches and community leaders, in programs ranging from literacy to sports. And I am proud that the leader of this nationwide effort will be our First Lady, Laura Bush. (Applause.)

Because HIV/AIDS brings suffering and fear into so many lives, I ask you to reauthorize the Ryan White Act to encourage prevention, and provide care and treatment to the victims of that disease. (Applause.) And as we update this important law, we must focus our efforts on fellow citizens with the highest rates of new cases, African American men and women. (Applause.)

Because one of the main sources of our national unity is our belief in equal justice, we need to make sure Americans of all races and backgrounds have confidence in the system that provides justice. In America we must make doubly sure no person is held to account for a crime he or she did not commit -- so we are dramatically expanding the use of DNA evidence to prevent wrongful conviction. (Applause.) Soon I will send to Congress a proposal to fund special training for defense counsel in capital cases, because people on trial for their lives must have competent lawyers by their side. (Applause.)

Our third responsibility to future generations is to leave them an America that is safe from danger, and protected by peace. We will pass along to our children all the freedoms we enjoy -- and chief among them is freedom from fear.

In the three and a half years since September the 11th, 2001, we have taken unprecedented actions to protect Americans. We've created a new department of government to defend our homeland, focused the FBI on preventing terrorism, begun to reform our intelligence agencies, broken up terror cells across the country, expanded research on defenses against biological and chemical attack, improved border security, and trained more than a half-million first responders. Police and firefighters, air marshals, researchers, and so many others are working every day to make our homeland safer, and we thank them all. (Applause.)

Our nation, working with allies and friends, has also confronted the enemy abroad, with measures that are determined, successful, and continuing. The al Qaeda terror network that attacked our country still has leaders -- but many of its top commanders have been removed. There are still governments that sponsor and harbor terrorists -- but their number has declined. There are still regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction -- but no longer without attention and without consequence. Our country is still the target of terrorists who want to kill many, and intimidate us all -- and we will stay on the offensive against them, until the fight is won. (Applause.)

Pursuing our enemies is a vital commitment of the war on terror -- and I thank the Congress for providing our servicemen and women with the resources they have needed. During this time of war, we must continue to support our military and give them the tools for victory. (Applause.)

Other nations around the globe have stood with us. In Afghanistan, an international force is helping provide security. In Iraq, 28 countries have troops on the ground, the United Nations and the European Union provided technical assistance for the elections, and NATO is leading a mission to help train Iraqi officers. We're cooperating with 60 governments in the Proliferation Security Initiative, to detect and stop the transit of dangerous materials. We're working closely with the governments in Asia to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and nine other countries have captured or detained al Qaeda terrorists. In the next four years, my administration will continue to build the coalitions that will defeat the dangers of our time. (Applause.)

In the long-term, the peace we seek will only be achieved by eliminating the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder. If whole regions of the world remain in despair and grow in hatred, they will be the recruiting grounds for terror, and that terror will stalk America and other free nations for decades. The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror, and replace hatred with hope, is the force of human freedom. (Applause.) Our enemies know this, and that is why the terrorist Zarqawi recently declared war on what he called the "evil principle" of democracy. And we've declared our own intention: America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. (Applause.)

The United States has no right, no desire, and no intention to impose our form of government on anyone else. That is one of the main differences between us and our enemies. They seek to impose and expand an empire of oppression, in which a tiny group of brutal, self-appointed rulers control every aspect of every life. Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace. (Applause.)

That advance has great momentum in our time -- shown by women voting in Afghanistan, and Palestinians choosing a new direction, and the people of Ukraine asserting their democratic rights and electing a president. We are witnessing landmark events in the history of liberty. And in the coming years, we will add to that story. (Applause.)

The beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories are now showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure. Tomorrow morning, Secretary of State Rice departs on a trip that will take her to Israel and the West Bank for meetings with Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas. She will discuss with them how we and our friends can help the Palestinian people end terror and build the institutions of a peaceful, independent, democratic state. To promote this democracy, I will ask Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian political, economic, and security reforms. The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, is within reach -- and America will help them achieve that goal. (Applause.)

To promote peace and stability in the broader Middle East, the United States will work with our friends in the region to fight the common threat of terror, while we encourage a higher standard of freedom. Hopeful reform is already taking hold in an arc from Morocco to Jordan to Bahrain. The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future. And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East. (Applause.)

To promote peace in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder. Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region. You have passed, and we are applying, the Syrian Accountability Act -- and we expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom. (Applause.) Today, Iran remains the world's primary state sponsor of terror -- pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing, and end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you. (Applause.)

Our generational commitment to the advance of freedom, especially in the Middle East, is now being tested and honored in Iraq. That country is a vital front in the war on terror, which is why the terrorists have chosen to make a stand there. Our men and women in uniform are fighting terrorists in Iraq, so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.) And the victory of freedom in Iraq will strengthen a new ally in the war on terror, inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran, bring more hope and progress to a troubled region, and thereby lift a terrible threat from the lives of our children and grandchildren.

We will succeed because the Iraqi people value their own liberty -- as they showed the world last Sunday. (Applause.) Across Iraq, often at great risk, millions of citizens went to the polls and elected 275 men and women to represent them in a new Transitional National Assembly. A young woman in Baghdad told of waking to the sound of mortar fire on election day, and wondering if it might be too dangerous to vote. She said, "Hearing those explosions, it occurred to me -- the insurgents are weak, they are afraid of democracy, they are losing. So I got my husband, and I got my parents, and we all came out and voted together."

Americans recognize that spirit of liberty, because we share it. In any nation, casting your vote is an act of civic responsibility; for millions of Iraqis, it was also an act of personal courage, and they have earned the respect of us all. (Applause.)

One of Iraq's leading democracy and human rights advocates is Safia Taleb al-Suhail. She says of her country, "We were occupied for 35 years by Saddam Hussein. That was the real occupation. Thank you to the American people who paid the cost, but most of all, to the soldiers." Eleven years ago, Safia's father was assassinated by Saddam's intelligence service. Three days ago in Baghdad, Safia was finally able to vote for the leaders of her country -- and we are honored that she is with us tonight. (Applause.)

The terrorists and insurgents are violently opposed to democracy, and will continue to attack it. Yet, the terrorists' most powerful myth is being destroyed. The whole world is seeing that the car bombers and assassins are not only fighting coalition forces, they are trying to destroy the hopes of Iraqis, expressed in free elections. And the whole world now knows that a small group of extremists will not overturn the will of the Iraqi people. (Applause.)

We will succeed in Iraq because Iraqis are determined to fight for their own freedom, and to write their own history. As Prime Minister Allawi said in his speech to Congress last September, "Ordinary Iraqis are anxious to shoulder all the security burdens of our country as quickly as possible." That is the natural desire of an independent nation, and it is also the stated mission of our coalition in Iraq. The new political situation in Iraq opens a new phase of our work in that country.

At the recommendation of our commanders on the ground, and in consultation with the Iraqi government, we will increasingly focus our efforts on helping prepare more capable Iraqi security forces -- forces with skilled officers and an effective command structure. As those forces become more self-reliant and take on greater security responsibilities, America and its coalition partners will increasingly be in a supporting role. In the end, Iraqis must be able to defend their own country -- and we will help that proud, new nation secure its liberty.

Recently an Iraqi interpreter said to a reporter, "Tell America not to abandon us." He and all Iraqis can be certain: While our military strategy is adapting to circumstances, our commitment remains firm and unchanging. We are standing for the freedom of our Iraqi friends, and freedom in Iraq will make America safer for generations to come. (Applause.) We will not set an artificial timetable for leaving Iraq, because that would embolden the terrorists and make them believe they can wait us out. We are in Iraq to achieve a result: A country that is democratic, representative of all its people, at peace with its neighbors, and able to defend itself. And when that result is achieved, our men and women serving in Iraq will return home with the honor they have earned. (Applause.)

Right now, Americans in uniform are serving at posts across the world, often taking great risks on my orders. We have given them training and equipment; and they have given us an example of idealism and character that makes every American proud. (Applause.) The volunteers of our military are unrelenting in battle, unwavering in loyalty, unmatched in honor and decency, and every day they're making our nation more secure. Some of our servicemen and women have survived terrible injuries, and this grateful country will do everything we can to help them recover. (Applause.) And we have said farewell to some very good men and women, who died for our freedom, and whose memory this nation will honor forever.

One name we honor is Marine Corps Sergeant Byron Norwood of Pflugerville, Texas, who was killed during the assault on Fallujah. His mom, Janet, sent me a letter and told me how much Byron loved being a Marine, and how proud he was to be on the front line against terror. She wrote, "When Byron was home the last time, I said that I wanted to protect him like I had since he was born. He just hugged me and said, 'You've done your job, Mom. Now it is my turn to protect you.'" Ladies and gentlemen, with grateful hearts, we honor freedom's defenders, and our military families, represented here this evening by Sergeant Norwood's mom and dad, Janet and Bill Norwood. (Applause.)

In these four years, Americans have seen the unfolding of large events. We have known times of sorrow, and hours of uncertainty, and days of victory. In all this history, even when we have disagreed, we have seen threads of purpose that unite us. The attack on freedom in our world has reaffirmed our confidence in freedom's power to change the world. We are all part of a great venture: To extend the promise of freedom in our country, to renew the values that sustain our liberty, and to spread the peace that freedom brings.

As Franklin Roosevelt once reminded Americans, "Each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth." And we live in the country where the biggest dreams are born. The abolition of slavery was only a dream -- until it was fulfilled. The liberation of Europe from fascism was only a dream -- until it was achieved. The fall of imperial communism was only a dream -- until, one day, it was accomplished. Our generation has dreams of its own, and we also go forward with confidence. The road of Providence is uneven and unpredictable -- yet we know where it leads: It leads to freedom.

Thank you, and may God bless America. (Applause.)

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Posted by Will Franklin · 2 February 2005 09:27 PM · Comments (0)

Is Iraq George W. Bush's Vietnam?

Ted Kennedy, "spiritual" leader of Democrats, over the past year, has repeatedly called Iraq a "quagmire," arguing that it is "George Bush's Vietnam."

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Christopher Hitchens, WILLisms.com's favorite left-wing intellectual, eviscerates the comparison between Iraq and Vietnam:

"There it was again, across half a page of the New York Times last Saturday, just as Iraqis and Kurds were nerving themselves to vote. 'Flashback to the 60's: A Sinking Sensation of Parallels Between Iraq and Vietnam.' The basis for the story, which featured a number of experts as lugubrious as they were imprecise, was the suggestion that South Vietnam had held an election in September 1967, and that this propaganda event had not staved off ultimate disaster."

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Hitchens, who was prominently against the Vietnam War, explains,

"...the principles of the antiwar movement of that epoch still mean a good deal to me. That's why I retch every time I hear these principles recycled, by narrow minds or in a shallow manner, in order to pass off third-rate excuses for Baathism or jihadism. But one must also be capable of being offended objectively. The Vietnam/Iraq babble is, from any point of view, a busted flush. It's no good. It's a stiff. It's passed on. It has ceased to be. It's joined the choir invisible. It's turned up its toes. It's gone. It's an ex-analogy."

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One tactic of the left on Iraq is to invoke the same arguments that worked in the early 1970s, a strategy that works to a degree today because of the lasting scar of Vietnam.

Much of the Baby Boomer generation has Vietnam-paralysis on national security issues, a kind of post traumatic stress syndrome; Democrats, using the same playbook they used against Nixon, have, over the past year, been rather effective at exploiting latent feelings of unease about war.

Fortunately for the people of Iraq, for the security of the United States, and for the future of freedom in the world, there is a political ceiling of support for that kind of defeatism.

Ultimately, a great deal of the activism against Vietnam was a direct response to the military draft. There is no draft in America in 2005, nor will there be at any point in the future, unless, say, China decides to invade California. Not gonna happen.

In Iraq, there is tangible progress, and once enough Iraqis are trained to maintain stability, the United States will gladly leave. America did not conquer Iraq for glory or to plunder its resources, afterall.

The Iraqi people do not support the insurgency on any kind of widespread basis. As Hitchens points out, "Iraq and Vietnam have nothing whatsoever in common." Back home in America, however, there are some startling similarities between Vietnam and Iraq that could ultimately undermine Iraq's transformation into a free and democratic society.

Sunday's election was an important step toward, not the culmination of, freedom in Iraq. There is still much work to do. But nobody should underestimate the power that election will have in Iraq, in America, and around the world.

Liberal columnist Mark Brown even wonders now, "What if Bush has been right about Iraq all along?"

"Maybe the United States really can establish a peaceable democratic government in Iraq, and if so, that would be worth something.

....

If it turns out Bush was right all along, this is going to require some serious penance.

Maybe I'd have to vote Republican in 2008."

President Bush, over the long run, has a real opportunity to prove the critics wrong. Because of the success of the recent election in Iraq, tonight's State of the Union address will provide the President a chance to bring some of his skeptics home.

Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more on the State of the Union.

UPDATE:
Jonah Goldberg comments on the left's Vietnam obsession in todays' National Review Online:

"All I can say for certain is that I am no longer capable of being shocked by the Left's and the mainstream media's capacity to shove pegs of any shape into the round hole of Vietnam. A recent New York Times headline blared, 'Flashback to the '60s: A Sinking Sensation of Parallels Between Iraq and Vietnam.' A cursory search of the Nexis-Lexis database shows that the words Iraq and Vietnam have appeared together nearly 800 articles in the last year — and that's just in the New York Times. The Washington Post: 764. The LA Times: 683. The Chicago Tribune: 526. Time magazine, a weekly publication, ran more articles mentioning Vietnam and Iraq (70) than it put out issues in the last year, and that doesn't even include letters to the editor.

....

...this fixation has little to do with Iraq because the war in Afghanistan prompted hundreds of comparisons to Vietnam as well. Between October 1, 2001, and October 1, 2002, the Times ran nearly 300 articles with the words Vietnam and Afghanistan in them. On day 24 of the Afghan campaign, Times's muckety-muck R. W. Apple revived the Q-word — which to liberals can only mean Vietnam — in a thumb-sucker titled 'A Military Quagmire Remembered: Afghanistan as Vietnam.'

....

That the media and liberals are so desperate for it to be the same tells us vastly more about them than it does about Vietnam or Iraq."

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 February 2005 03:20 PM · Comments (0)

The Silence of the Donkeys.

Sunday's election in Iraq could mark the beginning of a new era in the Middle East. The stunning success of the Iraqi election has left some prominent liberals speechless, thus far.

The Washington Times, (via Powerline), notes:

"Skeptics of President Bush's attempt to bring democracy to Iraq have been largely silent since Iraqis enthusiastically turned out for Sunday's elections."

On George Soros:

'To claim that we are invading Iraq for the sake of establishing democracy is a sham, and the rest of the world sees it as such," Mr. Soros said in a Washington speech in March 2003, adding that "the trouble goes much deeper.'

'It is not merely that the Bush administration's policies may be wrong, it is that they are wrong,' Mr. Soros said in the speech. 'Because we are unquestionably the most powerful, [the Bush administration claims] we have earned the right to impose our will on the rest of the world.'

Mr. Soros' Web site (www.georgesoros.com) has no reference to the Iraqi elections. Its latest comments are in a Jan. 26 op-ed article on what Mr. Soros calls Mr. Bush's 'ambitious' second inaugural address.

'Mr. Soros has not released any statements about the elections in Iraq,' said Soros spokesman Michael Vachon. 'He has been traveling since Sunday on various foundation projects and hasn't had occasion to comment.'"

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Someone needs to shake some sense in George Soros, because his heart is likely in the right place, desiring democracy for the entire world; his mind, however, is clouded by conspiracy theories and hatred for President Bush. Soros must bring himself to admit that Bush is not wantonly waging war for empire or revenge, and he must realize that Bush is nothing like Adolph Hitler.

On Jimmy Carter:

"Asked whether the Carter Center had a comment on the election, spokeswoman Kay Torrance said: 'We wouldn't have any 'yea' or 'nay' statement on Iraq.'

Mr. Carter told NBC's 'Today' show in September that he was confident the elections would not take place. 'I personally do not believe they're going to be ready for the election in January ... because there's no security there,' he said."

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Iraq is fortunate the Carter Institute opted not to monitor its elections, given Carter's aptitude for overlooking major electoral fraud and eagerly blessing questionable election results. The worst president of the 20th century has unfortunately become the worst ex-president, as well.


On Michael Moore:

"There has been no comment since the Iraq elections from Mr. Moore, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker who characterized the Iraqi insurgents as 'Minutemen,' and predicted 'they will win.'

The last posting from Mr. Moore on his Web site (www.michaelmoore.com) is dated Jan. 10 and concerns 'Fahrenheit 9/11' being named best dramatic movie in the People's Choice Awards. An e-mail to Mr. Moore requesting comment was not returned.

On the day before the elections, Mr. Moore featured a link to a column in the New York Times with the headline, 'A Sinking Sensation of Parallels between Iraq and Vietnam.' On the day after the elections, Mr. Moore linked to a story in the left-wing Nation magazine titled 'Occupation Thwarts Democracy.'"

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Michael Moore wants America to fail, because it would at least partially validate his bizarre anti-American, terrorist-cheering propaganda.

Coming soon, WILLisms.com will have more on the comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 February 2005 01:30 PM · Comments (1)

Dean Next DNC Chair?

The liberal blogs (here and here) seem to think the contest is all but over, a done deal, now that Wellington Webb, Martin Frost, and Tim Roemer have all pulled out of the race.

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Stay tuned, as WILLisms.com will continue to follow this story.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 February 2005 10:26 AM · Comments (0)

True Orange

The story of Victor Yushchenko and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine is pretty well known by now, especially on WILLisms.com, but the story behind the story is even more amazing. Today, via Instapundit, I learned of the secret weapon that kept hundreds of disgruntled coal miners from breaking up the demonstrators and delaying the elections further. The weapon? Vodka, and lots of it.

"Eastern Ukraine is heavily ethnic Russian. The main industry is coal. The miners are rough, tough, and hate Yushchenko for wanting to take Ukraine away from Russia and toward the West," writes Wheeler. "It was arranged for more than a thousand of them to be taken from Donetsk, the capital of the coal-mining region, by bus and train to Kiev, where, armed with clubs and blunt tools, they would physically beat up the Orange Revolutionaries. Such mass violence was not only to disperse the demonstrators but serve as an excuse for the government to declare martial law, suspending the Ukrainian Parliament (the Rada) and elections indefinitely."

Now comes the secret weapon: vodka.

"When the miners got on their buses and trains, they found to their joy case after case of vodka – just for them. When they arrived in Kiev, trucks awaited them filled with more cases of vodka – all free provided by 'friends' of the Donetsk coal miners. Completely soused, they never made it to Independence Square. Too hammered blind to cause any violence at all, they had a merry time, passed out and were shipped back to Donetsk."

Wheeler's column goes on to explain who provided the liquor: teams of Porter Goss' CIA working with their counterparts in British MI6 intelligence.

If this story is true, mark it up as one more amazing behind-the-scenes scenarios that was pulled off in order to ensure "the culmination of Ukraine's non-violent, democratic revolution."

But the vodka-thwarting isn’t the only amazing story to come out in the months since the Orange Revolution. The New York Times ran this story in January about how a power struggle in Ukraine’s Intelligence service played out during the Orange Revolution and altered the nation’s path.

Ukraine, Jan. 16 - As protests here against a rigged presidential election overwhelmed the capital last fall, an alarm sounded at Interior Ministry bases outside the city. It was just after 10 p.m. on Nov. 28.

More than 10,000 troops scrambled toward trucks. Most had helmets, shields and clubs. Three thousand carried guns. Many wore black masks. Within 45 minutes, according to their commander, Lt. Gen. Sergei Popkov, they had distributed ammunition and tear gas and were rushing out the gates.

Kiev was tilting toward a terrible clash, a Soviet-style crackdown that could have brought civil war. And then, inside Ukraine's clandestine security apparatus, strange events began to unfold.

While wet snow fell on the rally in Independence Square, an undercover colonel from the Security Service of Ukraine, or S.B.U., moved among the protesters' tents. He represented the successor agency to the K.G.B., but his mission, he said, was not against the protesters. It was to thwart the mobilizing troops. He warned opposition leaders that a crackdown was afoot.

Simultaneously, senior intelligence officials were madly working their secure telephones, in one instance cooperating with an army general to persuade the Interior Ministry to turn back.

The officials issued warnings, saying that using force against peaceful rallies was illegal and could lead to prosecution and that if ministry troops came to Kiev, the army and security services would defend civilians, said an opposition leader who witnessed some of the exchanges and Oleksander Galaka, head of the military's intelligence service, the G.U.R., who made some of the calls.

Far behind the scenes, Col. Gen. Ihor P. Smeshko, the S.B.U. chief, was coordinating several of the contacts, according to Maj. Gen. Vitaly Romanchenko, leader of the military counterintelligence department, who said that on the spy chief's orders he warned General Popkov to stop. The Interior Ministry called off its alarm.

Details of these exchanges, never before reported, provide insight into a hidden factor in the so-called Orange Revolution, the peaceful protests that overturned an election and changed the political course of a post-Soviet state.

Throughout the crisis an inside battle was waged by a clique of Ukraine's top intelligence officers, who chose not to follow the plan by President Leonid D. Kuchma's administration to pass power to Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich, the president's chosen successor. Instead, these senior officers, known as the siloviki, worked against it.

The stories that are now coming out about Yushchenko's election and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine are, to quote a favorite saying around here, "way unlame."

Posted by · 1 February 2005 04:23 PM · Comments (1)

The First Casualty of Mayor Bill White's "Safe Clear" Towing Program.

When Bill White, a prominent Democrat, former chairman of the state party, first became Mayor of Houston, Texas, in 2003, he was the city's Golden Boy. A media darling, he spearheaded efforts to fix the bloated city employee pension system that endeared him even to Republicans. Speculation that he would run for statewide office spread like wildfire in political circles, and frankly, given his political acumen, the speculation was warranted. He seemed like a pro-growth fiscal conservative, if only because the comparison point was his inept and liberal predecessor Lee Brown.

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Mayor White frittered away whatever political capital he had the day he announced his "Safe Clear" program, essentially a city-run towing racket. People hate tow trucks, for they resemble those vile creatures of the sky, the vultures, lurking, ready to swoop down on unsuspecting, vulnerable prey. Put tow trucks together with a government program, and you have a guaranteed loser.

Basically, the "Safe Clear" program pronounced that any vehicle stranded on Houston's freeways would receive a mandatory tow, within minutes, from a city-approved tow truck. The aim: to eliminate rubbernecking, ease traffic congestion, and keep traffic flowing. It made some sense, considering the lost productivity Houstonians endure sitting in traffic.

The Houston Chronicle goes over the rules:

"• How does it work? Police get a report of a stranded motorist, authorize a tow in person or by phone from Houston TranStar, and call a tow truck from a company assigned to that segment of freeway. A tow truck driver who spots the problem first will call police for permission to tow.

Where does it apply?
Freeways — not tollways or frontage roads — in the city of Houston only. The motorist may designate where the vehicle is to be towed.

What does it cost?
$75 for the first five miles, $1.50 for each additional mile. Storage if applicable is $48 for the first day, $15 for each additional day.

Is my consent required?
No, but an independent tow will probably cost more. [WILLisms.com: No, it really won't, particularly if you have a roadside assistance plan through AAA or another service.]

Do I get six minutes to fix the problem before they hook up my car?
No. The company assigned to that location does have six minutes to get a tow truck there after being called. If they're late, or if the disabled vehicle poses a safety hazard, police may assign the tow to others and Safe Clear fees still apply.

What if I have towing coverage from AAA?
AAA will reimburse towing costs in amounts that vary with the member's policy [WILLisms.com: In other words, the "Safe Clear" tow is likely not fully covered by AAA.], but will not pay vehicle impoundment or storage fees under Safe Clear. See details at www.aaa-texas.com.

How do I pay?
Cash, credit card or personal check at the scene.

What if I'm broke?
After the car is towed to a city-approved storage lot, charges mount daily and the vehicle may be sold at auction after 61 days.

How do I get myself off the freeway? What if I have small children or a disabled person in my vehicle?
If you can't ride in the tow truck, police will take you to a safe place. Police have child safety seats that fit into patrol cars. 'We don't want anybody standing on the side of the freeway,' says HPD Lt. Lori Bender."

Clearly, there are just an amazing array of problems inherent in the program's design. One can just imagine the sticky situations the program poses, such as an angry and suspicious motorist, who may have never heard of the program, assaulting an overzealous wrecker-driver. Imagine knowing nothing about the program, when, within minutes and out of nowhere, a tow truck hooks your car up and starts to drive away. One could easily assume the tow truck driver is actually a sophisticated thief. Popping a cap in the tow truck driver would not be all that far-fetched for some people in that situation.

The plan, for many reasons, was immediately and intensely unpopular with influential Houstonians, so Bill White went back to the drawing board, intent on saving his program, focused on saving face. Citing the potential unfairness to the poor, White announced tweaks to the program's design.

Houston City Council member Sekula-Gibbs commented on White's reforms in a Houston Chronicle op-ed:

“Mayor Bill White has proposed a way to fix the Safe Clear Program. If approved by Houston City Council, the mayor says wreckers would provide free tows for short distances if the stalled car is not in a lane of traffic. But these tows are not really free. The mayor says the city would reimburse the wreckers. He wants to use city revenue–your tax dollars-to put a compassionate spin on a flawed policy he created. That is absolutely unacceptable. This is just a Band-Aid. It's nothing more than socialized towing.”

One can only imagine the price tag for the subsidized towing each year. White has said the reimbursed towing would cost the city about $300,000 a year, but Anne O'Ryan of the Texas AAA believes the cost would be more than $600,000 a year. WILLisms.com understands these figures mean the program, being a government boondoggle, would likely cost at least 2 or 3 million dollars each year.

The City of Houston licenses roughly 250 drivers under the program, with 11 towing companies receiving exclusive rights to tow vehicles, at will, from freeways. Tow-truck drivers who are not part of the Safe Clear program can be fined $750 if they tow vehicles from one of Houston's freeways.

The program elicited vocal opposition from LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), as well as the Houston Professional Towing Association, which together "claim to have collected 20,000 signatures from people who say the ordinance unfairly hurts low-income drivers and small wrecker companies," the Houston Chronicle reported last week.

The program hit even more trouble when Houston CBS affiliate KHOU reported that 32 of the wrecker drivers licensed by the city had criminal records. Those drivers were subsequently suspended, but their involvement in the program raised significant questions about the program's safety.

Additionally, WILLisms.com has unscientifically tracked the congestion levels on Houston's freeways over the past few weeks and concluded that the program does not even relieve traffic, thus in its primary mission, it has failed.

Monday night, the Safe Clear took its first casualty, the Houston Chronicle reports [Because the Houston Chronicle is awful at archiving articles, WILLisms.com will reproduce the entire article here for posterity]:

"Moments after a Safe Clear tow truck pulled up to her disabled van Monday night, a stranded motorist was hit by several cars as she attempted to run across the East Freeway.

The victim, whose identity had not been determined, was running across the westbound lanes of Interstate 10 between Holland and Mercury when she was killed about 7 p.m.

Houston resident Sam Hewitt said the woman 'just appeared' in front of him on the freeway.

He said she flew into his lane after being struck by another vehicle.

'I hit my brake and fishtailed. I think I clipped her,' said Hewitt, still shaken by the incident. 'I don't know how many people ran over her.'

Houston police said the woman first pulled her van to the left shoulder of eastbound I-10, then successfully crossed over the westbound lanes. A wrecker participating in the city's Safe Clear towing program then pulled up to the van.

The woman then ran back across the freeway toward her van but was hit by several vehicles, said Sgt. David Crain.

Police said it wasn't clear why she chose to risk running back through the speeding traffic.

'Whether it was to let the wrecker know that she was taking care of (the breakdown) or to further seek that wrecker's assistance, we just don't know,' Crain said.

Crain said Mayor Bill White — the architect of the controversial towing program — was informed of the death.

'We grieve for the family of this victim,' Crain said. 'We just ask that people stay with their vehicles when they break down or become stranded.'

He said the central reason behind the Safe Clear program is to reduce the number of motorists injured and killed on Houston's freeways.

'This is a perfect example of why we want that program to succeed,' he said.

Crain didn't know whether the woman was attempting to beat the six-minute time limit for wreckers to arrive at a disabled vehicle when she was fatally struck. He said that section of the program was not meant to apply to the public, saying they should remain with their vehicle regardless.

'The six minutes is a performance standard for these wreckers to get to the people and safely get them off the freeway,' Crain said."

WILLisms.com certainly does not recommend darting across traffic to anyone, and the woman must assume some level of personal responsibility for her misguided and tragic action, but it seems pretty clear the Safe Clear program, less than a month after its inception, at least indirectly, led to the death of a motorist.

The Houston Chronicle article above omits out some eye-witness statements WILLisms.com observed on KHOU's late evening newscast. From the comments of the witnesses, it seems clear that she acted without lucid thought, responding reflexively to a wrecker towing her van without her consent. Witnesses said she had retrieved a can of gas, likely because her car was merely out of fuel, an easy fix. When she saw the truck swoop in on her vehicle, she likely wanted to prove to the driver that she did not need the tow. Her heart must have raced, her body filled with adrenaline, perhaps overwhelmed with anger and desperation. Failing to properly estimate the speed of traffic, her mind clouded by emotion, she made a run for it.

Maybe she knew about the rules of the Safe Clear program and wanted to beat the clock. Maybe she had never heard of the program and was simply trying to protect her property from what she believed was some kind of underhanded tow-truck scam. Maybe she simply that knew she could not afford the tow, especially when all her car needed was a little bit of unleaded gasoline to get it running again.

Whatever the reason for her calamitous and ill-fated action, it is clear that Bill White's Safe Clear program is at least partially responsible; this is not to say that Mayor White is personally responsible, nor should he feel guilty for Monday's tragic death. However, if he fails to rescind the program, he will have to answer some tough questions when these incidents occur in the future. This kind of heartbreaking event is precisely what one would imagine happening on a regular basis: people acting irrationally, lashing out at the predatory tow trucks, making poor choices based on frustration. For this and many other reasons, for the safety of Houston freeway drivers and fiscal sanity of the City of Houston, the program must be scrapped immediately.

From a purely political standpoint, Mayor White should not stick with such an unpopular program. He likely wants to see it succeed, because if the program is scrapped, it will appear to be a political defeat. The mayor should not think that way; this program, if he stubbornly clings to it much longer, will be the ruin of his political career. WILLisms.com has this bit of advice for Mayor White:

Rip it off like a band-aid. Just be done with it. We'll all pretend the Safe Clear program never happened.

The City Council takes up the issue again soon, and WILLisms.com will follow the story, so stay tuned.

UPDATE: bloghouston.net has more on this story:

"After a month of $AFEclear, we now know that its funding mechanism was built on unfair assumptions that nonetheless amounted to yet another 'revenue stream' for Mayor White, that wrecker drivers with criminal records have been a part of it (despite assurances to the contrary from the mayor's office), and that misunderstanding over the six-minute rule and fear of losing her vehicle have now contributed to some extent to a woman's death. And those are just the major problems.

There is no shame in admitting a mistake, shelving the program, and coming back in six months with a better program (say, an expanded and improved MAP). There is shame in perpetuating this mistake, even if it did create a $1 million 'new revenue stream' for the city."

Also, bloghouston notes:

"Initial news reports misreported the gender of the victim. Updates indicate that the motorist who was killed was a 72-year-old man, Lawrence Kahng. Our condolences go out to the family."

UPDATE TWO, from bloghouston.net:

"Another report indicates that Kahng was 77."

The initial reporting on this story has clearly been spotty, so this will be the last update for now, until the facts of the story stabilize; WILLisms.com will continue to follow the Safe Clear program, so stay tuned.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 February 2005 07:55 AM · Comments (1)

Kerrey Tries Talking Sense To Kerry (And Other Democrats) On Social Security.

In this morning's Wall Street Journal, former Nebraska Senator and lifelong Democrat Bob Kerrey urges Democrats to stop being so lame on Social Security.

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He writes:

"The late Pat Moynihan used to joke when I asked him why liberals were so reluctant to consider changing Social Security so that it guaranteed wealth as well as income: 'It's because they worry that wealth will turn Democrats into Republicans.'"

The diminution of FDR's legacy, the enhancement of GWB's--- this is unacceptable for liberals. Democrats know that individuals vested in the stock market, even just a little bit, tend to vote for pro-growth, free market policies. Republicans just happen to advocate these kinds of policies more often than Democrats.

When someone owns stock, he cheers, rather than feeling indifferent or bitter, when he sees green on CNBC.

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Part of the rise of the Republican party in recent years is that more households own stock than ever before. Grover Norquist noted in September 2004 that,

"In 1980, only 20 percent of adults owned stocks in mutual funds, 40lks, IRAs and direct contribution pensions. Today, that number is over 60 percent and growing."

These individuals have a direct financial interest in how the market performs. Norquist also pointed to emperical polling research on the issue:

"...if you own $5000 in stock you are 18 percent less likely to be a Democrat and more likely to be a Republican. Every demographic group, including race, gender, age, and income, becomes more Republican with stock ownership."

Kerrey (remember, he's a prominent Democrat) contends,

"...liberals are wrong to fear that President Bush's proposal represents a threat to Social Security.

....

I hope they see that President Bush is giving them an opportunity to finally do something about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer."

Exactly! Social Security reform, as President Bush sees it, is not some big-money giveaway for the rich. On the contrary, the President's call for personal accounts in Social Security is an invitation to the world of capitalism for those currently left behind. Social Security reform, as WILLisms.com noted before, has an opportunity to help the poorest Americans earn and own a piece of the pie, then pass it on to future generations.

Bob Kerrey even deigns to use the "C" word, noting this specific point of crisis:

"...in eight years [emphasis added by WILLisms.com] the income from a 12.4% payroll tax will be insufficient to pay the old age, survivor and disability benefits owed at that time."

Eight years. That's soon. Doing nothing is not a viable option.

Kerry offers a few constructive alternatives for liberals to add to the discussion, but warns Democrats what will happen if "liberals merely shout 'hell no, we won't go.'"

"The best they can hope for with that strategy is to prevent reform from happening. They should feel no pride of accomplishment if that is the result."

Not only would Democrats feel no pride of accomplishment, blocking Social Security reform would unravel their party even further. Americans like reformers. They like pragmatists. They like Congress to fix problems before they become crises. Americans abhor obstructionists. They abandon parties with no positive agenda.

Will Democrats continue down the suicidal path of blocking Social Security reform? Honestly, they don't have many other options. The Democrats' pervasive ideology, socialism, increasingly discredited, is decaying. One could argue: if they don't fight for socialism, what is the point of having a party?

Dissent for the sake of dissent? One could make that argument. The liberal hemisphere of the blogosphere gets itself worked up into a tizzy when anyone suggests that there ought to be de facto curbs on filibusters and understood limits to dissent.

A minority party acting as "loyal opposition" to the majority party is good and entirely necessary, but not when the dissent becomes so wild and angry that it harms the good of the nation. Dissent is patriotic, but not for its own sake; Democrats persistently blocking the will of the majority can only lead to an eventual permanent supermajority for the GOP.

WILLisms.com offers this bit of constructive advice to Democrats:
Lose the Marxism. It's a loser. Stop thinking that socialism is the best thing for the poor. It's not. Get more Joe Liebermans and John Breauxs and Bob Kerreys. The more Democrats pander to the leftwing of the blogosphere, the further off the deep end they will go, the more foolish they will look to history.

And to the liberal bloggers:
Branding obstructionism and nihilistic anti-reform ideology as your patriotic duty is not going to cut it politically. The computer makes you anonymous, it makes you brave, but it does not make you good at politics. You may whip up the grassroots. You may raise a lot of money. But ultimately, your far left extremism only hurts Democrats who must pander to, and posture for, you.

In short, Democrats, listen to Bob Kerrey, or you will be sorry.

WILLisms.com will continue to follow the Social Security debate, so stay tuned.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 February 2005 07:13 AM · Comments (4)