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Willisms

« March 2005 | WILLisms.com | May 2005 »

He Wishes He Had John Bolton's Reputation.

This weekend, while watching The Interpreter, with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, ruminating upon the UN's Human Rights Commission re-electing serial abuser Zimbabwe to a three year term, it hit:

Although the smear campaign against John Bolton has become increasingly absurd, wouldn't it be nice if it were all true? Wouldn't it be great if John Bolton were the caricature the left is making him out to be, of a rabid rageaholic who nearly bites heads off of unsuspecting bureaucrats? Isn't that precisely what the United Nations needs, someone to knock some heads together, someone to call out certain fellow democracies for their moral ambivalence, someone to rip fear societies a new one?

The United Nations should be a force for good in the world. It has been reduced to, at best, an enabler of tyrants, and, at worst, run by them.

Joseph Epstein wishes he had John Bolton's reputation:

If I could begin my life again I should like to arrange things so that the word got out that I am a fairly decent fellow, not entirely charmless, but with a mean streak that, wrongly provoked, has been known to run to violence. "I know a guy," I shouldn't at all mind having it reported of me, "who once saw Joseph Epstein so angry he strangled a bulldog."

Without in the least wishing it, John R. Bolton, the undersecretary of state who is President Bush's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, has acquired, without going to the trouble of strangling that bulldog, the reputation I so desire. Whether he deserves it or not--a point still in the flux of controversy--Mr. Bolton is now, thanks to the Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, being publicized as a veritable James Cagney (in "The Public Enemy," where he smashed the half-grapefruit in Mae Clark's face), Jack Palance (in "Shane") and Joe Pesci (in "Goodfellas" and "Casino"), or as the hottest of all hotheads in the field of diplomacy.

While Bolton is probably more even-tempered than most Senators, his reputation has now been sealed as someone you don't want to cross, especially if your name is Jacque--or Hans.

In the beginning of all this nomination tribulation, it seemed that Bolton might be weakened, even humbled, by the disproportionate scrutiny. That's really all the Democrats, certainly not foreseeing the Voinovich betrayal, wanted to do all along. Folks like Biden and Kerry wanted to communicate to the world that Bolton has less-than-unanimous support back home, that November's election didn't really signify a fundamental shift in the way Americans view their place in the world. "It was all a blip, world, and we'll still play by your rules. Here is our gift to you, a neutered ambassador."

Now, this scrutiny, this delay, may end up being Bolton's greatest gift, his most effective asset. He will go to the United Nations, and people will quiver and quake before his anticipated wrath. He will speak, and people will expect thunder. And when he does speak, and his words are reasonable, lucid, succinct, and rational, the world will wonder "who is this man? He isn't the man we've been reading about these past several weeks. He's not so bad."

But one day, when something absurd happens at the United Nations (and it will), Bolton, backed by the reputation he has earned over the past few weeks, will only have to furrow an eyebrow and raise his voice a bit, and people will know that America means business.

It's easy to wish that Bolton were as ill-tempered as Senate Democrats describe him. It's easy to imagine him walking into the UN and quite literally ripping the appendages off of the representatives of brutal dictators, utilizing them as weapons to pummel the enablers and equivocators.

John Bolton just is not that guy.

Isn't it nice, however, that the world, thanks to the Democrats, now thinks he is?

UPDATE:

The American people, according to the latest Fox News poll (click for full .pdf), don't believe a confrontational management style should disqualify a presidential nominee:

confrontationalmanagementstyle.gif
Click for larger version, or check out the original .pdf.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 April 2005 11:15 PM · Comments (2)

Only 20 Political Websites.

Right Wing News:

If I were only allowed to read 20 political websites (and the links from them) for the next year they would be (in order):

20) Hundred Percenter
19) Tim Blair
18) Jewish World Review
17) FoxNews
16) Power Line
15) Cybercast News Service
14) Ravenwood's Universe
13) Little Green Footballs
12) TownHall
11) Blacksheep News
10) Betsy's Page
9) Instapundit
8) Polipundit
7) Newsmax
6) Michelle Malkin
5) WorldNetDaily
4) Real Clear Politics
3) National Review
2) The Drudge Report
1) Lucianne

A good list, overall.


Here's the WILLisms.com-approved list:

20) (tie)
Political Calculations blog.

Michelle Malkin
.

19)
PoliPundit.com.

18)
InstaPundit.com.

17)
The New York Times.

16)
Wizbangblog.com

15)
The Economist.

14)
The Weekly Standard.

13)
Freedom House.

12)
Scrappleface.

11)
Publius Pundit.

10)
Social Security Choice.

9)
Fox News.

8)
Patrick Ruffini's blog.

7)
The Atlantic Monthly

6)
Arts & Letters Daily.

5)
Captain's Quarters blog.

4)
Google News.

3)
Real Clear Politics.

2)
OpinionJournal.com (The Wall Street Journal).

1)
National Review Online.

Others, that have recently fallen out of the top 20, for one reason or another:

The West Mall.

Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Policy.

Powerline blog.

The Washington Monthly.

The Washington Post.

The Washington Times.

Probably forgetting some obvious ones, but oh well.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 April 2005 06:53 PM · Comments (4)

Castro and Chavez: The "Axis Of Subversion."

The axis of subversion is at it again:

The leaders of Cuba and Venezuela relished their roles as Washington's bad boys in Latin American on Friday and vowed to build a socialist alternative to U.S. policies in the hemisphere.

The two leaders met this week in Cuba. One Marxist publication put it this way:

Cuban president Fidel Castro and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez presided over the signing of protocols that strengthen bilateral ties, within the context the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americans, known by its Spanish acronym, ALBA.

castroychavez.gif

Peter Brookes, earlier this month, called Hugo Chavez Castro's Mini-Me (but this Castro replica has almost unlimited oil wealth at his personal disposal):

For no apparent reason, the leftist strongman is arming Venezuela to the teeth. He's also supporting local narcoterrorists and other Latin revolutionaries.

Chavez idolizes Cuba's Fidel Castro, is chummy with Libya's Moammar Khadafy and was a Saddam Hussein pal. He's made nasty remarks about President Bush and "suggestive" public comments about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

According to Gerver Torres, a former Venezuelan government minister, Chavez's "main motivation now is to do everything he possibly can to negatively affect the United States, Bush in particular . . . trying to bring together all the enemies of the United States."

....

Fortunately, the Bush administration recognizes this and is beginning to craft a new policy to deal with Chavez. The best approach will include working with other regional leaders to contain and isolate him, while not inflaming the dictator's popular support at home.

Chavez recently announced his intent to export his "Bolivarian revolution" (read: Cuban revolution). Considering his disastrous socialist economic and repressive political record at home, we'd better stop him before he gets started.


Robert Mayer, of Publius Pundit, wonders:

How is it that the MSM can give hours of its reporting each day to the skunk on Donald Trump’s head while elsewhere in our own backyard the forces of communism are working to send the entire western hemisphere into chaos?


While Chavez was putting on a show with Castro in Cuba, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was criss-crossing Latin America, something former Secretary Powell largely neglected to do, laying on a charm offensive to isolate Chavez. She visited Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and El Salvador, promoting hemisphere-wide free trade and freedom, urging young democracies "do not turn back."

While freedom is advancing around much of the world, including the Middle East, the United States must be mindful of the growth potential of the Chavezista movement in Latin America. With such meaningful petroleum resources, Chavez has the ability to manipulate, agitate, and otherwise cause mayhem in the region.

For example, Venezuela's state-run company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) just recently opened an office in Havana, Cuba, increasing Venezuela's commitment to offer preferential terms (cheap oil) to the import-dependent Castro regime, underscoring the geopolitical power Chavez wields through his oil resources.

Indeed, over the past few years, PDVSA-owned CITGO executives have resigned, left and right, in protest of the crookedness and cronyism of Chavez:

citgo.gif

Current and former Citgo executives have revealed in recent weeks that Chávez has shaken to the core the company's once-staid culture, leaving Citgo in a state bordering on disarray. Almost every high-ranking executive has resigned over the past two years, including the refining chief, chief financial officer, head auditor and marketing director. Geoff Reid, a former assistant treasurer, said in an interview that he had left in part because it had become hard to track the company's cash flow and he had become concerned about his "personal liability" in approving Citgo's financial statements....

Of the recent moves, perhaps the most debilitating have been Chávez's efforts to put his loyalists, including some former military colleagues, in charge of the company.

Like a third-rate Middle Eastern dictator, Chavez has great wealth at his disposal, and he takes advantage of this petro-power at every given chance. The delay of the Free Trade Area of the Americas is just one example of how Chavez has created problems for American policy. Chavez and Castro dream of a single, united, Marxist Latin America (and Caribbean). For now, the leaders of Venezuela and Cuba will settle for a melding of their two economies, a move that will all but ensure Castro remains in power until his death.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 April 2005 03:54 PM · Comments (3)

Advancing The Ball On Social Security.

In his prime time press conference, President Bush advanced the ball on Social Security reform. Among the new ideas talked about by the President:

Progressive indexing, so lower income workers who pay into Social Security will never retire into poverty.

A risk-free personal account option of United States Treasury bonds, for those who are concerned about risk in the stock market.

The entrenched left-wing media, typically (but still infuriatingly) reported it a different way, as we noted before.

Patrick Ruffini:

I was so incensed by Big Media's Big Lie about the Bush Social Security benefit "cuts" increases that I wanted to do something a little special with the calculator. Lo and behold, the Heritage Calculator has already incorporated the progressive elements of the President's plan into its calculator. So, I whipped up this interface that will generate results on Heritage's page.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 April 2005 02:27 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 32 -- Frivolous Blogging Topics.

WHAT BLOGS ARE DISCUSSING-

Comparing Social Security, American Idol, and Star Wars:

starwarsamericanidol.gif


Social Security, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton:

johnkerryhillaryclinton.gif


Social Security, filibuster, and Bill Frist:

filibusterbillfrist.gif


Social Security, pro-life OR pro-choice, and gay marriage:

prolifeprochoicegaymarriage.gif


Social Security, immigration, and religious right:

immigrationreligiousright.gif


Social Security, Lebanon, and Middle East:

lebanonmiddleeast.gif


Source:

Intelliseek's BlogPulse.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21, Part 22; Part 23, Part 24, Part 25; Part 26; Part 27, Part 28; Part 29; Part 30, Part 31.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 April 2005 11:35 AM · Comments (0)

Liberal Bias On Social Security.

A new study from the Media Research Center’s Free Market Project found Social Security coverage on the five major networks biased toward the left by a margin of 2 to 1 (click for full .pdf)(via Social Security Choice):

- CBS and CNN Most Biased: On “CBS Evening News,” 56 percent of stories were liberal with just 20 percent conservative. CBS reports were loaded with extreme examples that played up liberal points. CNN’s “Inside Politics” was worse statistically with 61 percent liberal and 22 percent conservative.

- Fox News Most Balanced: Fox News’ “Special Report with Brit Hume” delivered an equal 30 percent liberal and 30 percent conservative stories, with the remaining 40 percent neutral.

- Networks Embrace ‘Transition Costs’ Scare Tactic: Journalists repeatedly indicated that the cost of changing over to personal accounts was too high. This point was made 10 times more often than it was challenged, and the financial principles that refuted it were largely ignored.

GRAPHS (click on them to go to the original .pdf study):

Overall, networks skew the debate in the liberal direction, 2-to-1:

networksskewdebate.gif


Fox News truly has been fair and balanced on the Social Security debate, while CNN and CBS have been the worst:

fouroutoffiveskew.gif


Liberals have put their heads in the sand on this issue, arguing from the absurd point of view that "there is no crisis," that the market is "too risky," and that the costs of reform are too high:

mostpopularliberaltalkingpoints.gif


Conservatives have stressed that there is a crisis, that the market gets a better average return than Social Security, and that the program faces insolvency problems:

mostpopularconservativetalkingpoints.gif


CNN is the by far the most biased cable television news organization on the issue of Social Security:

cnnliberal.gif

How did the study determine media bias objectively?

The study analyzed use of liberal and conservative talking points, focusing on 125 stories mostly or completely devoted to Social Security. Talking points on both sides of the issue were coded, designated “liberal” or “conservative,” and tallied. If the ratio of talking points for the two sides was greater than 1.5, then that story was considered to reflect the position of the side with the most talking points. Stories that had a 1.5-to-1 or less ratio were categorized as “neutral.”

Michelle Malkin has a good rundown of the blatant left-wing media distortion following the President's press conference last night:

Bush's indexing plan is moderate and reasonable. Unfortunately, the combination of Democrats' demagoguery and the MSM's relentlessly negative coverage may bring the plan down before it even gets off the ground.

David Hogberg believes Clinton would have received glowing news coverage for the plan President Bush unveiled last night:

Can there be any doubt that if the plan advanced last night had been proposed by the previous administration, the headlines would have read, “Clinton Social Security Plan Boost For The Poor”? I’d put at least a $100 on that.

The media bias we've seen following President Bush's reelection is at least as slanted as it has been at any point over the past decade. It's really unbelievable how concerted the elite media's effort has been to make the President a lame duck.

A theory on this:

The media establishment types have become emboldened, not humbled, by the rise of Fox News, the blogosphere, talk radio, etc. They feel like it is their duty to balance the "right wing" media, so they have moved even further to the left. Because so many conservatives have already turned away from the so-called "mainstream media," the old guard of left-wing media (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, etc.) feel like they have very little to lose, and indeed much to gain, by catering to liberal viewers.

UPDATE:
PoliPundit notes a liberal backtrack:

Here’s a gem of a headline from today’s Associated Press wire:

Bush’s Social Security Plan Cuts Benefits.

Um, well, yeah, I guess that would be one way in which you might headline an article about the Prez’s speech from yesterday evening. If, of course, you’re a group of angry, trust-funded, partisan-Democratic liberals, who despise George Bush and everything for which he stands.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 April 2005 03:06 PM · Comments (3)

Zimbabwe Re-Elected To U.N. Human Rights Commission.

The United States needs a forceful individual like John Bolton at the United Nations, now more than ever.

This week, Zimbabwe was re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Commission:

The U.N. Economic and Social Council Wednesday elected 15 countries to the Human Rights Commission. Among the four chosen by the African group was Zimbabwe, whose leader Robert Mugabe is under U.S. and European sanctions.

The selection drew immediate objections from several countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia.

We recently profiled the egregious record of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe; Zimbabwe's re-election to the UN Human Rights Commission only adds to the already-ample body of evidence that the United Nations needs major reform, and it needs it A.S.A.P.

Zimbabwe is not the only country with a less-than-stellar human rights record retained on the Human Rights Commission. China and Venezuela both preserved their seats.

Freedom House asserted:

"Once again, the already tattered credibility of the Commission on Human Rights has been severely compromised," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor. "The government of Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe ranks among the most egregious violators of human rights in the world. It has no place at the Commission's table, which should be reserved for governments that honor and respect their citizens," she said.

The United Nations is a broken institution, with rapidly diminishing credibility. A strong and moral UN, one that can effectively promote liberty around the globe, is in the best interests of the United States. Today's United Nations is a den of tyrants, increasingly marginal, increasingly irrelevant, and increasingly on the wrong side of history. That Zimbabwe could remain on the Human Rights Commission is a testament to just how upside-down the United Nations has become.

It's time for the Senate to stop the pusillanimous dilly-dallying on John Bolton's confirmation as US ambassador to the UN. President Bush put it bluntly in his press conference:

“See, the U.N. needs reform. If you're interested in reforming the U.N., like I'm interested in reforming the U.N., it makes sense to put somebody who's skilled and who is not afraid to speak his mind at the United Nations.”

Let's get 'er done.

unflag.gif

UPDATE:

Great comments from Victor Davis Hanson:

...the disdain that European utopians, Arab dictatorships, the United Nations, and Mexico exhibit toward the United States is not — as the Kerry campaign alleged in the last election — cause for tears, but often reason to be proud, since much of the invective arises from the growing American insistence on principles abroad.

America should not gratuitously welcome such dislike; but we should not apologize for it either. Sometimes the caliber of a nation is found not in why it is liked, but rather in why it is not.

Indeed, how fortunate are we to have dodged the "global test" bullet last November?

More:

Publius Pundit notes that Secretary Rice is seeking the end of political tyranny worldwide at the Community of Democracies meeting in Chile:

"...tyranny is a crime of man, not a fact of nature. Our goal must always be the elimination of tyranny in our world."

Well-put.

UPDATE:

Mark Noonan has more:

It's like electing Al Capone police commissioner.

Yeah, pretty much.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 April 2005 01:36 PM · Comments (4)

Lebanese Elections To Be Held On Time.

The Spirit of America blog has a great recap of the last several weeks:

Chalk up another, final, victory for the Cedar Revolution.

The Lebanese government formally announced the election will be held on time - on May 29th 2005.

The million-person demonstration, the two-month sleep-in at the tent-city, the countdown campaign, the village campaign, the media pressure, the international pressure - it all came together. It's a new era in Lebanon now. The time of post-war occupation and oppression is over. The Cedar Revolution is now over, too.

It wasn't easy living in a tent-city in downtown Beirut.

700 people were there for more than 60 days, eating outside, sleeping outside, and using outhouses set up next to a pricy Virgin Megastore. They all agreed on the basics: Lebanon should be free of Syrian occupation, free elections should be held on time, and a national Lebanese identity must be forged to counter the tribal hatefest of the past.

But, there's still much work to be done. Syria may have pulled its troops out of Lebanon, but it leaves behind intelligence officers and a lasting legacy of tyranny that must be broken.

A few powerful comments from one of the tent city denizens, "Joumy" (the one on the right).

pulseoffreedom.gif

In "After the Withdrawal," an acknowledgement that the toughest work is still ahead, and that democracy is a process, not an event:

Now that a new page is turned, we must be careful: careful to keep our unity. What we must understand is that within any democracy, not everyone has the same objectives. There will always be Liberals, Conservatives, Socialists… A healthy democracy is one that has space for all these parties, for parties are a way of expressing a group’s common outlook. Lebanon is jam-packed with such parties. What we must work on is making sure that we don’t make now the same mistakes of the past of resorting to violence to resolve our differences.

WE CANNOT AFFORD TO SLIP BACK. The only way forward is if we learn to live within a democracy and most of us seem to have forgotten what that means. Many of us have only ever seen a country which condones corruption, political coercion, “wasta”, lack of security authority, an independent judiciary, even the basic components of infrastructure. It’s time to rebuild now, and rebuilding starts from educating the people of their new rights in this new stage.
We cannot be afraid of the unknown. We cannot start to be suspicious about each other all the time, expecting the worst. It’s time to open a new page that involves dialogue- actually sitting down at a table and deciding for ourselves with no foreign intervention, what we Lebanese, think is best for our country. Let us resolve our own issues and define our own policies. It is time to live in a merit-based society, one where the individual is defined through his/ her achievements, and not through his/ her family, background, or religion…

We all want what is best for Lebanon. If we understand that national cooperation is the only way forward, history will not repeat itself. Let’s not give foreign troops a reason to come into our country…

The rapid march toward a free and independent Lebanon has been nothing short of startling and miraculous. Human nature demands freedom. It longs for freedom. And the Lebanese people, soon, will finally have their freedom.

UPDATE:

Wizbang is retiring one of its favorite pictures.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 April 2005 11:30 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 31 -- Movie Ticket Sales.

Not Buying What Hollywood Is Selling-

The number of movie tickets sold is down over the past few years (and it's probably not because more people are sneaking in):

boxofficedown.gif

Last year, The Passion of the Christ singlehandedly prevented an even greater slump.

Source:
Entertainment Weekly magazine.

Hollywood really should not worry, however. Just look at the movies coming out this summer:

May 19-
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen

May 26-
The Longest Yard
Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds

June 3-
Cinderella Man
Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger

June 17-
Batman Begins
Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes

June 24-
Bewitched
Will Ferrell, Nicole Kidman

Not to mention Herbie: Fully Loaded
Lindsay Lohan

June 29-
War of the Worlds
Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins

July 8-
Fantastic Four
Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis

July 15-
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore


The Wedding Crashers

Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Christopher Walken

And that's only the half of it.

Likely outcome: several movies that would otherwise be successful will tank because of all the competition.

Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21, Part 22; Part 23, Part 24, Part 25; Part 26; Part 27, Part 28; Part 29; Part 30.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 April 2005 10:51 AM · Comments (3)

Quotational Therapy: Part 6 -- Thomas Jefferson, On An Independent Judiciary.

Thomas Jefferson on the judiciary-

thomasjefferson.gif

"A judiciary independent of a king or executive alone, is a good thing; but independence of the will of the nation is a solecism, at least in a republican government."
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Ritchie, December 25, 1820.
"The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves, in their own sphere of action, but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch."
- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Abigail Adams, September 11, 1804.
"The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a co-ordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone."
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Ritchie, December 25, 1820.
"The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal Judiciary working like gravity day and by night, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped."
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Charles Hammond, August 18, 1821.
"At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, little by little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance."
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Monsieur A. Coray, October 31, 1823.
"One single object... [will merit] the endless gratitude of the society: that of restraining the judges from usurping legislation."
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Livingston, March 25, 1825.


Previous Quotational Therapy Sessions:


Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5.

The right quotation can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 April 2005 05:35 AM · Comments (0)

Bush Press Conference Transcript.

You can read the entire transcript of the President's press conference here. We'll have more Friday, but three things stood out:

1. Lots of repetitive questions on North Korea.

2. President Bush's pitch on No Child Left Behind needs work (and should be a lot easier):

He could say something like,

We need NCLB because-
I. Competition with China, India, and others, which are producing more engineers than we are. It's about the global marketplace.
II. It works. Scores are up. Less kids are slipping through the cracks.
III. Ultimately, the goal is school choice, rewarding successful teachers with merit pay, and other education reforms; we're only on phase one.

...and then just end it.

3. Lots of predictable questions. Just before the press conference began, the Mrs. and I came up with three certain-to-be-asked questions/statements by the press corps.

First, "your poll numbers are awful and nobody likes you..."

Second, "the religious right is taking over your administration and the country..."

Third, "terrorism is way up under your administration..."

Fourth, "why aren't you doing anything about 'record' gas prices?"


...Sure enough. All of them.

[sigh]

More to come Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 April 2005 11:49 PM · Comments (1)

IKEA Riots.

Unbelievable (via Dean's World).

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 April 2005 11:38 PM · Comments (1)

Edvard Munch's "The Scream" And "Madonna" Burned?

The story:

Norwegian police fear that robbers who stole Edvard Munch's masterpieces "The Scream" and "Madonna" last year may have burned the paintings to destroy evidence, Dagbladet reported, citing a classified police report.

A mere fear is not reality, but it would be a shame.

The Scream:
thescreammunch.gif

Madonna:
madonnamunch.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 April 2005 06:34 PM · Comments (2)

Tonight's Press Conference.

Tonight at 7 PM Central Time, President Bush will hold a press conference. We'll have plenty of commentary on it afterward.

Jennifer Loven, Associated Press "journalist," reports, then editorializes:

President Bush is ready to begin talking with Congress and the public about specific steps he supports to ensure the future of Social Security and will announce his ideas during a prime-time news conference Thursday....

Bush and top administration officials have been traveling around the country to pitch his proposal for overhauling Social Security, in part by allowing the creation of private investment accounts for younger workers. A 60-day nationwide blitz aimed at building support for that idea is ending on Sunday with some signs that public support has dropped.

She must not have seen the latest Fox News poll on the subject.

Matt Margolis believes it is time for President Bush to go on the offensive on Social Security.

Captain's Quarters blog notes that Bush is also going to talk about a common sense, pragmatic energy policy. One creative idea includes converting closed military bases into refineries.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 April 2005 04:24 PM · Comments (1)

Imagine If Social Security Didn't Exist.

Americans United to Protect Social Security, a left-wing umbrella interest group spearheaded by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the AFL-CIO, MoveOn.org, ProtectYourCheck.org (headed by Clintonites Harold Ickes and Jim Jordan), the Campaign for America's Future and USAction, and another 200-odd interest groups, has an online ad on Social Security:

whossellingsocialinsecurity.gif

It includes, predictably, flawed statistics and a completely frivolous reference to Ken Lay and Enron:

enronkenlaybush.gif

Just above the ad, it says:

If The Bush Privatization Plan Was Being Sold on the Open Market, It Would Be Illegal

Oh, yeah?

We argued precisely the opposite back in January:

If Social Security were a private program, there is little doubt that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission would be investigating its accounting practices. If the Social Security Administration were a corporation, zealous Attorneys General such as Eliot Spitzer would have filed charges long ago in courtrooms around the country.

Think about it.

The goals of Social Security are just. Reducing the rampant poverty of America's elderly is something everyone can get behind. The only problem: Social Security, in its current form, is a pyramid scheme. Social Security, in its current form, is also unsustainable and insolvent. The guaranteed course of action without reform is that millions of Americans who depend on Social Security will slip below the poverty line; Social Security, without reform, faces mandatory and drastic benefit cuts. Thus, the very aim of Social Security is undermined by the way it is designed. Its slave-to-demographics pyramid scheme structure simply means that it cannot continue achieving the noble goals of Social Security.

Imagine if there were no Social Security program in 2005. Is there really any way it, in its current form, would pass the smell test?

Can you imagine someone proposing a system in which the government takes roughly 1/8 of your money, then writes an IOU to itself, spending your retirement money on whatever it feels is important at the time?

Can you imagine trying to convince people that it doesn't matter that there will be fewer and fewer workers paying for more and more retirees? Imagine trying to sell a program so financially unsound that it would see its taxes more than sextuple over half a century just to keep it from going under. Imagine trying to explain to people that your tax does not really go into an account with your name on it and that the Supreme Court would rule (in Flemming V. Nestor, 363 U.S. 603, 610–11 (1960)) that, even if you've paid into the system your entire life, you actually have no right to collect benefits. Imagine trying to sell a program that gives people no meaningful choices. Think about how absurd this program would sound.

Can you really imagine Social Security, in its current form, gaining any kind of political support, let alone the thumbs up from economists?

Thus, for AUPSS to claim that Bush's reform plan would be illegal if sold on the open market is the epitome of absurdity, but it does offer a glimpse into the true nature of the opposition to reform. Reform, to these groups, should be illegal, because it favors the free enterprise system over the welfare state.

The AUPSS site also allows you to calculate, using the exact same calculator FactCheck.org debunked, just how much they want you to believe you would lose under the President's plan.

There's a link at the bottom of the rigged calculator that says:

Click here for details on how this calculator works.

It takes you to this page:

thispagecannotbefound.gif

Clearly, Americans United to Protect Social Security doesn't want you to know that its calculator has been so thoroughly ripped apart by objective analysis.

Eschewing all pretense of non-partisanship, AUPSS urges its visitors:

Sign up for updates from House Democrats and stay informed on Social Security.

Shameful.

Entirely shameful.

But oh-so typical.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 April 2005 03:56 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 30 -- Environment and Economy.

Environmentalism-

In general we need to confront our myth of the economy undercutting the environment. We have grown to believe that we are faced with an inescapable choice between higher economic welfare and a greener environment. But surprisingly... environmental development often stems from economic development – only when we get sufficiently rich can we afford the relative luxury of caring about the environment. On its most general level, this conclusion is evident in Figure 9, where higher income in general is correlated with higher environmental sustainability.

Figure 9:
environmentalsustainabilityindex.gif
Click for original .pdf (graph on page 31).

Source: The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, written by former Greenpeace activist Bjorn Lomborg.

The Economist magazine believes the environmental movement could find its way once again if it becomes less reflexively hostile toward business. Indeed, it should embrace market forces in environmental initiatives:

“THE environmental movement's foundational concepts, its method for framing legislative proposals, and its very institutions are outmoded. Today environmentalism is just another special interest.” Those damning words come not from any industry lobby or right-wing think-tank. They are drawn from “The Death of Environmentalism”, an influential essay published recently by two greens with impeccable credentials. They claim that environmental groups are politically adrift and dreadfully out of touch.

Environmentalism is an important part of being good citizens. The Boy Scout slogan about leaving a place better than you found it is an important one. But the modern environmental movement needs to drop the anti-business hyperbole and start getting real about reasonable solutions that don't harm economic growth (growth which actually helps the environment).

Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21, Part 22; Part 23, Part 24, Part 25; Part 26; Part 27, Part 28; Part 29.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 April 2005 01:00 PM · Comments (2)

Reform Thursday: Week Thirteen.

reformthursdayishere.gif

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. The graphics are mostly self-explanatory, but we include commentary on some of them where and when necessary.

Yesterday, we noted how Americans, especially younger Americans, are pro-choice on Social Security.

But, how do we know that people, especially younger people, will make the right investment choices? Won't they just take the money and run to Vegas?

Well, no. While personal accounts would offer people options, choices, and individual control, every responsible reform plan would prevent people from footling their retirement money away at an early age.

Ryan Ellis, of Americans for Tax Reform, notes that younger Americans are the most likely age group to hold lifecycle funds (click image for original .pdf):

lifecycleaccounts.gif

Lifecycle funds essentially are investment accounts in which, as a worker gets closer to retirement, the account becomes more conservative (more bonds, less stocks). This ensures that a down time in the market just prior to retirement will not hurt an individual's portfolio.

Clearly, younger investors are more pro-choice on Social Security reform, because they understand that personal accounts are not some kind of risky scheme. Rather, the status quo is what is so risky. It is not difficult to choose a safe and secure fund, and thus the "risky scheme" critique of reform is not working.

The original data for this week's graphic comes from workforce.com, which analyzed over 1 million portfolios for their study (click here for the full results in .pdf format).

Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:

-Week One.
-Week Two.
-Week Three.
-Week Three, bonus.
-Week Four.
-Week Five.
-Week Six.
-Week Six, bonus.
-Week Seven.
-Week Seven, bonus.
-Week Eight.
-Week Nine.
-Week Ten.
-Week Eleven.
-Week Twelve.


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

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 April 2005 11:27 AM · Comments (1)

Kermit The Frog Wants Egypt's Mubarak Out.

kermitthefrog.gif

An Egyptian demonstrator from Kefaya shouts anti-Mubarak slogans in Cairo. Egypt's pro-reform movement Kefaya (Enough) gained considerable ground when it staged simultaneous rallies across the country in protest at President Hosni Mubarak's unchallenged 24-year-old rule.(AFP)

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin, who recently lamented the demise of the Soviet Union, asserted that it is not possible:

"...to export democracy from one country to another."

"Institutions and principles of democracy cannot be effectively enforced in a territory without taking due account of the national traditions and setup," Putin said at a press conference in Cairo on Wednesday.

He said, "Democracy cannot be a matter of export from one country to another since the moment it becomes an export item, it becomes an instrument of using the advantages of one country with regards to another.

These are the kinds of comments we need to remember, decades from now, when revisionists try to paint this whole "spread of democracy thing" as inevitable and even something everyone believed would happen. Putin, on the issue of democracy in the Middle East, is simply on the wrong side of history.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 April 2005 10:42 AM · Comments (0)

Ken Salazar Has Seen The Anti-Christ.

During the 2004 Colorado Senate campaign, Pete Coors really underwhelmed in his battle against Ken Salazar. Salazar, meanwhile, was able to effectively convince Colorado's voters he was a moderate. Indeed, Salazar was more conservative than Coors on some issues, such as the death penalty and drinking age laws. On just about every issue, Salazar would either agree with Coors or outflank him on the right. Salazar distanced himself from the Democrat-establishment, taking on Colorado with the populist flair of a true maverick.

He even wore a cowboy hat on the campaign trail much of the time to reinforce his "red state" image:

kensalazar.gif

And it worked.

Salazar was elected with a 51% majority, more than 100,000 more votes than Pete Coors, and only 20,000 fewer than President Bush received.

One promise Salazar made during the campaign (and it was a significant issue in the race) was that he would not support efforts to deny an up-or-down vote on President Bush's judicial nominees.

Salazar broke his explicit campaign promise within mere months of going to Washington. That kind of duplicity is a prime example of why many Americans do not feel they can trust the promises of politicians.

So, because of Salazar's shameful flip-flop, groups began to call him out. One such group, Focus on the Family, ran this advertisement in Colorado newspapers (click for full .pdf):

stopthenonsenese.gif

This drew fierce reaction from Salazar. Bolstered by the "Republicans are a bunch of crazed theocons" hysteria in Washington right now, Salazar said, of Focus on the Family (via Decision '08) (via PoliPundit):

"From my point of view, they are the Antichrist of the world."

Clarifying his comments later, Salazar said:

"I meant to say this approach was un-Christian, meaning self-serving and selfish."

Salazar, revealing his true self through these comments, has clearly become an all-out Howard Dean Democrat, not the independent-minded, moderate Coloradoans believed they were electing. Salazar's status as a media darling must now be reassessed. Ambivalent Republican voters in marginally "red" states also might want to reconsider voting for "moderates" like Salazar in the future.

UPDATE:

Captain's Quarters blog has a great take on this kerfuffle.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 April 2005 10:20 AM · Comments (1)

The Ruffini Straw Poll Results Are In. Go Check 'Em Out.

Earlier this week, we linked to Patrick Ruffini's informal 2008 presidential poll (to see what blog readers think). The results are now in. Go check out the analysis.

The results are also right here. There are some pretty interesting differences between InstaPundit readers and PoliPundit readers, as well.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 April 2005 09:33 AM · Comments (1)

The American Dream.

Earlier this week, we deconstructed The Myth Of The "Social Europe."

Now, part two:

American comparisons with Europe-

The following numbers are based on the World Values Survey and the International Social Survey Program, and are found at the American Enterprise Institute's website.

1. In (name of country) people have equal opportunities to get ahead:

United States 66%
United Kingdom 42
West Germany 55
East Germany 25
Japan 41


2. In the long run, hard work usually brings a better life:

United States 59%
United Kingdom 38
France 37
West Germany 43
Japan 33


3. The way things are in (name of country), people like me and my family have a good chance of improving our standard of living:

United States 55%
United Kingdom 29
West Germany 34
East Germany 39


4. Individuals should take more responsibility for providing for themselves (Percent supporting the statement, points 1-3 on a 10-point scale):

United States 59%
United Kingdom 30
France 45
West Germany 48
Japan 11


5. Government should provide everyone with a guaranteed basic income:

United States 35%
United Kingdom 68
West Germany 58
East Germany 88


Even more astonishing is the difference between Americans and Europeans on the question of engineering wealth inequality out of the system.


6. It is the responsibility of government to reduce the differences in income between people with high incomes and those with low incomes:

United States 38
United Kingdom 66
West Germany 66
East Germany 89

Ask any Europhile what's so much better about Europe than the United States. You'll get the same answer, almost every single time. Europe, you will hear, does not face the kind of cruel inequality that you commonly find in America. Life is more civilized for Europe's poor.

Europe is just plain obsessed with inequality. That's why their average tax burden is so much higher than in the United States. To create a more equal society, European countries tax the heck out of successful individuals, redistributing that wealth into massive welfare states.

taxburdenaspercentageofgdp.gif
Click for larger version.
[Or go to the original .pdf]

Moreover, look at all the things America's poor have:

pooramenities.gif
Click for larger version.

Nearly one third of America's poor have two cars. Close to half own their own homes. Europe's poor simply do not have these kinds of things.

One idea people like to talk about quite often is the "growing inequality in the United States," when really, the rich are getting richer, but so are the poor.

America's poverty rate has declined dramatically over the past few decades (click for .pdf):

povertydown.gif


Finally, Europhiles (and, again, it's difficult not to be a Europhile some of the time) like to say that American excess has led to a nation of lards, while Europeans are so fit and trim.

They send pictures like this one around the internet, and everyone chuckles and nods in agreement:

themaindifferencebetweeneuropeandusa.gif

Unfortunately for the Europhiles, it's entirely without basis:

In France, figures show that 18 percent of French children are overweight and one out of ten is obese before the age of 10. Out of a total population of 60 million, if 13 million French people are overweight, 5.4 million are actually obese, a number that is supposed to double 20 years from now. According to the most recent data, one French person out of two is obese by the age of 45.

Indeed, it turns out the obesity "epidemic" in America might have been vastly overstated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated today that packing on too many pounds accounts for 25,814 deaths a year in the United States. As recently as January, the CDC came up with an estimate 14 times higher: 365,000 deaths. [From 365K to 25K in just 3 months -ed]...

Based on the new calculation, excess weight would drop from the second leading cause of preventable death, after smoking, to seventh. It would fall behind car crashes and guns on the list of killers.

Europe is a wonderful place, with some very wonderful people, but sometimes the myth of Europe takes over the reality. The "Social Europe" many socialists/bureaucrats in the old world envision just does not exist. Meanwhile, the American dream is very much alive and well.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 April 2005 10:28 PM · Comments (6)

Fox News Poll Analysis: Pro-Choice On Social Security.

Some eye-opening numbers from the latest Fox News poll:

First, President Bush's job approval:

47% approve
43% disapprove
10% don't know

This actually marks a net improvement of one point over Fox's last survey.


Meanwhile, Bush's favorability rating:

52% favorable
43% unfavorable
5% can't say

This is a net improvement of 4 points over Fox's last survey.

Now, on Social Security (click on tables for original .pdf):

I.

Do you believe the Social Security system is something the president and Congress need to fix now or is it something to let others worry about later?

fixitnoworlater.gif

More and more, people understand there is a problem. People are demanding action rather than obstruction, sooner rather than later.


II.

Who do you trust more to handle your retirement investment decisions -- you and your family or the federal government? (ROTATE)

handleyouorgovernment.gif

The cornerstone of Social Security reform is personal choice. People trust themselves more than they trust the government. Reformers need to re-focus on this point. It's a big winner, clearly.


III.

Thinking about Social Security contributions, do you think people under age 55 should have the right to choose between keeping all of their contributions in the current system and investing a portion of their contributions?

righttochoosesocialsecurity.gif

When framed as a choice (which President Bush's reform plan would be), support for reform skyrockets and opposition plummets. Reformers must redouble their efforts in convincing the American people that under a reformed Social Security system, they would not be forced to do anything.


IV.

In terms of the voluntary nature of the reform, the previous Fox News poll (.pdf), 39% understood that everyone would have a choice, 12% believed everyone would be required to participate, 42% said they had not heard enough, and 6% said they didn't know.

Those numbers improved dramatically over the past month:

Based on what you know about the Social Security proposal for personal investment accounts, is it your understanding that individuals could continue under the current system if they wanted or is it your understanding that everyone would be required to put a portion of their retirement money in stocks and mutual funds?

choiceorforced.gif

As more people understand that Social Security reform would allow individuals the choice to open a personal account or remain in the system, the inertia of reform will overtake the now-hesitant Congress.


V.

Based on what you know about the Social Security personal investment proposal, would you want the choice to invest a portion of your Social Security contributions in stocks or mutual funds?

improvementfromfebruary.gif

Apparently, President Bush IS GAINING MOMENTUM on Social Security reform. People, personally, are becoming much more comfortable with the idea of personal accounts:

overallimprovement.gif

Those under 30 saw the largest jump, proving again just how irrelevant Rock the Vote is:

underthirtyimprovement.gif

Clearly, people are beginning to really catch on to Social Security reform, as an abstract idea, and as something in which they would participate personally.

According to all of these numbers, President Bush's 60-Day tour has been a clear and stunning success. No longer is the debate over whether there is a crisis or not (Americans pretty much agree there is at least a severe problem looming). As increasing numbers of Americans begin to understand the nuances of President Bush's proposal, they are catching on to it. The groundwork is being laid for a more reasonable discussion on the topic; Democrats had better start negotiating in good faith, or they will get severely burned.


Just for reference, the party ID breakdown for this poll went as such:

39% Republican
39% Democrat
17% Independent
2% Other
4% Refused/Don't Know


More analysis of this poll to come, so stay tuned to WILLisms.com.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 April 2005 05:42 PM · Comments (5)

President Bush's Approval Ratings.

President Bush's approval ratings: they have taken a meaningful hit over the past few months.

Well, sort of.

Looking at the Gallup Poll, the slump is really not all that spectacular:
gallupbush.gif

Similarly, take a look at the ABC NEWS/WASHINGTON POST poll from the past year:

abcnewswashingtonpost.gif

Just a month after the 2004 election, President Bush's approval rating was lower than his disapproval rating. That, right there, should signal a bit of fishiness regarding the effectiveness of this particular polling organization at gauging the American electorate.

The President's recent downturn is not all that momentous in the grand scheme of things and may even be wholly attributable to shoddy work on the part of pollsters.

Nonetheless, the pundits are all speculating about it.


Some believe the answer is not event-driven, but rather the survey samples are not truly representative of the American electorate:

...while the 2004 exit polls showed that the parties were at parity among voters, the sample in this poll is not; it includes 35% Democrats and 28% Republicans– a 7 point advantage for Democrats.

In the 2004 election, the party breakdown was 37% Republican, 37% Democrat, and 26% Independent. Partisanship, as political scientists understand, is just far too stable to move so dramatically in such a short time. Typically, partisanship moves slowly, based on factors such as generational replacement, only shifting significantly during major times of crisis or scandal.

Thus, it's very likely that the polls themselves, to the small extent they even indicate a drop in President Bush's approval, are bunk.

But let's assume they aren't bunk. What could be the cause(s) of the decline?

I.

Fred Barnes believes Bush's poll drop is related to Social Security, and he believes the President should cut and run on the issue.


II.

Micky Kaus calls it a "semi-mysterious slump."


III.

Still others believe that President Bush's immigration policies are causing an erosion of his base.


IV.

But the most prominent "flavor of the month" justification for President Bush's slip in the polls:

"It's the theocons, stupid."

Immediately following the 2004 election, something resembling mass hysteria broke out amongst pundits over exit poll results that indicated Bush won the election because of moral values. After a month or so, the rabid lather of hyperbole and confusion evolved into a more reasoned consensus, as people realized that national security issues were the real driving factor behind the election.

Glenn Reynolds (instapundit) has bought into the notion that Americans are uncomfortable with the rise of the religious right [You might be asking yourself: "What rise of the religious right? Where's the proof?"]:

The Republicans' weakness is that people worry that they're the party of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. They tried, successfully, to convince people otherwise in the last election, but they're now acting in ways that are giving those fears new life.

What does "now acting in ways that are giving those fears new life" mean, anyway? For Reynolds and many others (like Matthew Dowd), it all boils down to the Terri Schiavo fiasco.

So, because many Republicans and Democrats took measures to save Terri Schiavo, Republicans get nailed, politically?

Not buying it.

More than anything, the circus around Terri Schiavo allowed the media, socially liberal Republicans (or, perhaps, libertarian-leaning GOPers), and Democrats all to revive the dormant narrative that the Republican Party would impose a theocracy upon America if it could. This narrative is absurd, of course. The "Terri Schiavo-related" political hysteria is more fad than anything.

America's foremost political expert, Michael Barone, agrees that this fear and loathing about an impending imposition of theocracy is a "silly" diversion:

America is too diverse and freedom-loving for that. But it does mean that we're probably not headed to the predominantly secular society that liberals predicted half a century ago and that Europe has now embraced.


So, what is the cause of the slump?

It's not as exciting as you might think.


Last October, professors Suzanna De Boef of Penn State and Paul M. Kellstedt of Texas A&M published "The Political (and Economic) Origins of Consumer Confidence" in the American Journal of Political Science. They noted the high correlation between the economic approval and the overall approval rating of the President:

presidentialandeconomicapproval.gif

Notice how closely the relation holds over time, only diverging during "rally-round-the-flag" times of international crisis.

But it doesn't end there. Suzanna De Boef and Paul M. Kellstedt, in looking at all the data from 1981-2000, find that there is a strong correlation between the Consumer Sentiment Index and the economic approval rating of the President:

...for every five percentage point gain in economic approval ratings, consumer sentiment goes up an average of one point.

Consumer sentiment recently slipped to its lowest point in 18 months, despite solid GDP growth and nearly two straight years of monthly job gains.

Why?

GAS PRICES, GAS PRICES, GAS PRICES.

Consumer sentiment is generally rational, but 25% is determined by irrational factors. Indeed, in the short-run, consumer sentiment can behave erratically, but it typically settles down at a rational point:

Shocks to the economy-like the Enron scandal-may temporarily depress consumer sentiment, creating disequilibrium with economic conditions, economic approval, and the federal funds rate. But consumer sentiment will adjust, moving back toward equilibrium (growing) at a rate of about one-third per month, virtually disappearing after about four months (all else held constant).

De Boef and Kellstedt also note that the media plays a rather large role in all of this:

When news coverage is positive, citizens give favorable evaluations, leading to more positive sentiment.


Bush's recent drop (as mild as it truly has been) is based on gas price worries. Maybe not even the gas prices themselves, but the reporting of them.

Ever watch the local and network news? Despite the rise of talk radio, cable news, and the internet, most Americans still get their news from local and network news. What story has dominated the news over the past couple of months?

Stories about high gas prices.

The Washington Post has a similar "consumer comfort index," and if you follow its ups and downs, you'll notice it predicts Presidential approval, spot-on:

consumercomfortindex.gif

Recent negative movement in how Americans view the economy (much of which is a result of incessant reporting about high gas prices) has caused President Bush's approval rating slump.

Although Mr. Reynolds is too quick to believe, and perpetuate, the "the GOP is going to split because of the theocons" thesis, this point is absolutely dead-on:

...if [Bush] had a 60% approval rating, or even a 53% approval rating, he'd be making more progress on Social Security reform and on his various nominations.

Absolutely. But the last time Bush's approval was above 60% was early August, 2003, just prior to the beginning of the Democrats' primary season.

Bottom line:

Don't buy the hype about Bush's approval ratings being the result of a backlash against the events surrounding Terri Schiavo. It's the economy, or, more specifically, gasoline prices, that have people hot and bothered.

Having studied the numbers extensively from every angle, it is clear that the Consumer Sentiment Index is the single-greatest contributing factor to rises and falls in the President's approval rating. Only during times of international crisis is the economy relegated to second-fiddle. Currently, Americans have once again made the economy their number one priority, after a few years of War-On-Terror preeminence. Because the economic news seems so dire, based on a cursory survey of the media's reporting, people are responding negatively.

Still, because of demographics and other factors, Republicans remain in good shape to add seats in both chambers of Congress in 2006; afterall, it is a "mindless assumption that unhappiness with one major party translates into happiness with the other."

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 April 2005 02:55 PM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 29 -- Free Trade.

Free Trade and Prosperity-

Freer trade means higher economic output:

tradeopennessandhighergdp.gif


Becoming freer in trade practices increases economic growth:

tradeopennessimproving.gif

Source:

John C. Hulsman, Ph.D., Brett D. Schaefer, and Anthony B. Kim; "The Benefits of a Global Free Trade Alliance(.pdf)," Chapter 3 of the Index of Economic Freedom (2005).


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21, Part 22; Part 23, Part 24, Part 25; Part 26; Part 27, Part 28.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 April 2005 09:26 AM · Comments (0)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 3.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

pinksuit.gif

The actual caption:

John Akbar, left, father of Hasan Akbar, and Quran Bilal, mother of Akbar, leave the Staff Judge Advocate Building during a break in Akbar's court-martial at Fort Bragg, N.C. Monday, April 18, 2005. Akbar, a soldier with the 101st Airborne Division is charged in the grenade attack that killed two U.S. officers and wounded 14 other soldiers March 23, 2003, at Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait. Akbar is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder and faces a possible death sentence.(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

There must be a better caption out there for this photograph.


Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, May 3. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

kuwaitirightssmall.gif

Last week's winners:

1.

Joseph Ratinya:

Okay, we've given you rights, now take off your shirt or have your head chopped off.

No, really.

2.

John Stark:

Ahmed now believed his x-ray sunglasses were worth every penny.


3.

Zsa zsa:

What is Sheikh Sabah Al Sabha looking at there? ... Is this something like the "Oil for Food Program?"

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 April 2005 05:39 AM · Comments (11)

Man Keeps Dead Mother In Freezer In Order To Collect Her Social Security Checks.

Disgusting:

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- A man told police he kept his mother's corpse in a basement freezer for more than four years while he collected her Social Security checks, authorities said Monday.

Philip Schuth, 52, told police his elderly mother, Edith, died of natural causes in August 2000 but that he didn't tell anyone because he was afraid police would blame him, according to documents filed in court. An autopsy is set for this week on the body, which was found in ice in a sitting position.

In a bizarre and morbid way, this event underscores the unjust fact that Social Security benefits are not inheritable. Once you die, they are gone. Mr. Schuth, acting out his clearly anti-social, perhaps psychotic behavior, was actually making a very logical, rational, and reasonable choice from a purely economic perspective. He had a vested economic interest in perpetuating the lie that his mother was alive than in letting her rest in peace.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 April 2005 12:30 AM · Comments (7)

Two Must-Reads On Social Security.

Wall Street Journal:

President Bush is now endeavoring to redress the looming embarrassment of Social Security's obligation to pay more than it will take in. The semantic argument about whether this shortfall constitutes a crisis, a problem, or a banana daiquiri is pointless. The gap must be closed, either by reducing the program's obligations or increasing its revenues. The president's approach calls for restraining the growth of Social Security benefits, while compensating for that reduction by letting younger workers divert a portion of their taxes to build up their retirement savings. The logic is that while blackening the skies with criss-crossing dollars is a zero-sum game, participating in capital formation through investments is not. Wealth can be multiplied, not just divided.

Few Democrats or leftists of any stripe have come forward to applaud Bush's pragmatic, experimental social policy. Yet, they can't confess that their "principle," that government must always grow and never shrink, is something they pulled out of the air. Nor can they draw on the credibility they built up the last time a welfare state program was scaled back. In the Clinton-era debate over welfare reform, we were told (in The Nation) that Aid to Families with Dependent Children was crucial to "the fragile state of grace that suggests we are our sisters' and brothers' keepers. That is what community is fundamentally about." And we were warned that ending AFDC "will destroy that state of grace. In its place will come massive and deadly poverty, sickness, and all manner of violence. People will die, businesses will close, infant mortality will soar, everyone who can will move. Working- and middle-class communities all over America will become scary, violent wastelands."

Show us, please, all those hellish wastelands that have sprung up in the last nine years--and then tell us why we must not make any changes to Social Security.

New York Times:

I made a pilgrimage to Santiago seeking to resolve the Social Security debate with a simple question: What would Pablo Serra do?

I wanted to compare our pensions to see the results of an accidental experiment that began in 1961, when he and I were friends in second grade at a school in Chile. He remained in Chile and became the test subject; I returned to America as the control group.

By the time we finished college, both of our countries' pension systems were going broke. Chile responded by pioneering a system of private accounts in 1981. America rescued its traditional system in the early 1980's by cutting benefits and raising taxes, with the promise that the extra money would go into a trust to finance the baby boomers' retirement....

After comparing our relative payments to our pension systems (since salaries are higher in America, I had contributed more), we extrapolated what would have happened if I'd put my money into Pablo's mutual fund instead of the Social Security trust fund. We came up with three projections for my old age, each one offering a pension that, like Social Security's, would be indexed to compensate for inflation:

(1) Retire in 10 years, at age 62, with an annual pension of $55,000. That would be more than triple the $18,000 I can expect from Social Security at that age.

(2) Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $70,000. That would be almost triple the $25,000 pension promised by Social Security starting a year later, at age 66.

(3)Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $53,000 and a one-time cash payment of $223,000.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 April 2005 11:56 PM · Comments (1)

"Today Ukraine, Tomorrow Belarus."

Things are heating up, ever so subtly, in Belarus.

Last week, we noted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's comment regarding Belarus being Europe's last dictatorship, as well as her assertion that "it is time for democracy to come to Belarus."

How did Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenka respond?

alexanderlukashenka.gif

In an address to his countrymen, he noted he would crack down on any emerging democratic political movement that might pose a threat to his power:

Referring to the 2002 Rose Revolution in Georgia, the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the recent political switchover in Kyrgyzstan, Lukashenka said no such option is doable in Belarus. "All those color revolutions were in fact no revolutions," he asserted. "It was sheer banditry under the disguise of democracy. The limit of such revolutions was fully exhausted by the Belarusian people in the past century."

Lukashenko understands that democratic opposition movements in countries like Belarus are often funded by outside organizations, mostly based in the United States. Accordingly, he issued an ominous threat, likely a bluff:

No bandits, no revolutionaries, and no money will be able to operate in Belarus. Today, they bring this money into Belarus in sacks and suitcases. We know, and if we remain silent, this does not mean we don't know.

In fact, the Belarussian government may very well have choreographed a staged event, just so Lukashenka could utter those words.

The plot thickens:

When Lukashenka spoke about bags of money, he meant it literally. On 17 April, just one day before the presidential address, the government-controlled First National TV aired shots of two people, reportedly Lithuanians who had been arrested smuggling $200,000 into Belarus from Lithuania. The supposed recipient was Siarhey Skrabets, a member of Respublika, the only opposition group in the former parliament. (There are none now.) Baltic News Service quoted an anonymous source in the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, who called the incident a setup aimed both at the Belarusian opposition and Lithuania. The source said neither of the men arrested were Lithuanians, nor were they arrested in a train from Vilnius, as Belarusian television claimed.


Lukashenka lashed out at the United States, as well, in a thoroughly bizarre manner:

To make up for the lack of appropriate U.S.-related topics, Lukashenka mocked the allegedly futile attempts by Washington to discover his secret bank accounts. (Under the Belarus Democracy Act passed by the U.S. Congress in October 2004, the U.S. president is obliged to present annual reports to the U.S. Congress on the personal assets and wealth of Lukashenka and other senior Belarusian government officials.)

"What, can't you find [my bank accounts]?" Lukashenka sneered at Washington on 19 April. "You got at Iraq, smashed the country, but are unable to find the accounts. Well? It is $11 billion, not a laughing matter!" Which is funny and mystifying at the same time. Neither the Belarusian opposition nor Washington have ever mentioned such a specific sum in the context of Lukashenka's possible covert wealth. Was it not a Freudian slip of the tongue on the part of the Belarusian president?


After making his blustery and paranoid address, Lukashenka flew off to the comfort of the former heart of the Soviet empire, Moscow, to meet with Vladimir Putin.

Now, as Publius Pundit points out, the Belarussian opposition is stirring:

It’s a little opportunist, but the Belarussian opposition has to take advantage when it can! They took the anniversary of Chernobyl and turned it into a rally against Lukashenko.

belarusprotest.gif

belarusprotester.gif

One of the banners held by protesters read:

"Today Ukraine, tomorrow Belarus!"

Meanwhile, Students for Global Democracy has announced its "Bell Campaign: Belarus Endowment for Life and Liberty."

bell.gif

While the inertia of democracy may run into a brick wall from time to time in Africa and elsewhere, Belarus is a prime candidate for a democratic revolution in 2006. The odds of Lukashenka surviving politically through President Bush's second term are shrinking rapidly.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 April 2005 10:51 PM · Comments (2)

(Some) TV Makes You Smarter.

There is a certain (well-earned) holier-than-thou attitude many Americans hold toward television. It's dumb. It makes you dumb. It caters to the lowest common denominator. It is gross. It is vile. Television destroys creativity, kills brain cells, makes you less interesting, lowers your IQ, and ruins your imagination. TV is bad, bad, bad.

This all very well may have been the case at one point, yet, in recent years, we've seen a fragmentation of programming. There are smart shows, and there are not-so-smart shows.

Steven Johnson, in The New York Times Magazine, had this interesting piece (via Marginal Revolution blog) on Sunday that argues watching television actually makes you smarter. Today's programs are far more intricate and elaborate, requiring a higher, more sophisticated level of cognition.

Johnson notes that in newer shows, more than older ones,

"you have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships. This is what I call the Sleeper Curve: the most debased forms of mass diversion -- video games and violent television dramas and juvenile sitcoms -- turn out to be nutritional after all.

I believe that the Sleeper Curve is the single most important new force altering the mental development of young people today, and I believe it is largely a force for good: enhancing our cognitive faculties, not dumbing them down.

Look at the evolution:

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The Times explains:

Put those charts together, and you have a portrait of the Sleeper Curve rising over the past 30 years of popular television. In a sense, this is as much a map of cognitive changes in the popular mind as it is a map of on-screen developments, as if the media titans decided to condition our brains to follow ever-larger numbers of simultaneous threads. Before ''Hill Street,'' the conventional wisdom among television execs was that audiences wouldn't be comfortable following more than three plots in a single episode, and indeed, the ''Hill Street'' pilot, which was shown in January 1981, brought complaints from viewers that the show was too complicated. Fast-forward two decades, and shows like ''The Sopranos'' engage their audiences with narratives that make ''Hill Street'' look like ''Three's Company.'' Audiences happily embrace that complexity because they've been trained by two decades of multi-threaded dramas.

Ted Frank believes the piece misses the point in leaving out the rise of cable television:

Forty years ago, a show with 15 million viewers would be a dreadful failure, whereas in today's fragmented market it's a hit, and there aren't many more than fifteen million viewers who will sit through the intelligent shows Johnson trumpets. There's no longer a critical need to pander to the absolute lowest common denominator, though, as Arrested Development's ratings prove, there's still some need: a brilliantly intelligent sitcom with a dozen plot arcs and no laugh track can only pull six million viewers.

The fragmentation of media is a manifestation of, and a contributing factor to, an interesting societal phenomenon: American society increasingly demands more choices, more competition, more specialization, and more boutique products and services. One-size-fits-all doesn't fly with Americans anymore.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 April 2005 08:11 PM · Comments (5)

Michael Tanner.

Adam Doverspike of the Social Security Choice blog notes:

Michael Tanner of CATO is the most well-versed person in D.C. on the issue of Social Security Reform. If you catch him on TV or speaking in your area, he is worth seeing. And if I were in charge of the pro-PRA strategy, Mr. Tanner would be out in front making the arguments.

Having watched Tanner's testimony at today's Congressional hearings on the matter, we concur whole-heartedly.

You should also read Tanner's latest study on Social Security (we will have far more on this in the coming days). Essentially, Tanner's reform plan has been scored by the Social Security actuaries, and it DOES achieve solvency.

More importantly, it would achieve all that Social Security was intended to achieve and then some, providing greater choice and personal control for Americans.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 April 2005 03:41 PM · Comments (3)

Some Call It A Carnival/Bonfire Of Classiness.

We call it "Classiness, All Around Us."

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Click to explore more WILLisms.com.

In no particular order, WILLisms.com presents classiness from the blogosphere:

1.

What does it mean to be rich?

Peaktalk has some great thoughts in response to this Asymmetrical Information post.

2.

High gas prices bothering you? What about unnaturally high sugar prices?

Louisiana Libertarian blog looks at the distorted debate over CAFTA.


3.

Public opinion polling is both an art and a science. Unfortunately, neither artists nor scientists are responsible for the ubiquitous biased polls in the public square today. A shrewdly constructed poll can create a self-fulfilling prophesy, allowing the poll oracle to declare a false consensus.

Michelle Malkin looks at the latest example of slanted question wording manufacturing polling data that fits the elite media's existing narrative of the world.


4.

How are our brave friends in Lebanon doing?

Captain's Quarters Blog looks at the significance of Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon; Publius Pundit has more. So does The Moderate Voice.


5.

It's never too early to start thinking about 2008. Actually, it is too early, but we do it anyway.

Patrick Ruffini is conducting an informal poll of blog-reading types to see what people think of Rudy Giuliani.


6.

America's military posture is in many ways still designed for the Cold War. So, how can the U.S. create a more nimble, agile, and effective fighting force to deal with the War On Terror, while still dissuading emerging powers such as China from aggression?

Outside The Beltway previews the coming debate over base realignment.


7.

We noted previously that the Togolese people held an election recently? So how did it turn out?

Not so great.

Gateway Pundit has the story.


8.

Pervasive racism in America requires strong protections against hate crimes. So say the enlightened few.

Well, La Shawn Barner looks at the weirdness of hate crimes rules, noting a clear case of reverse discrimination.


9.

Like maps and statistics and charts and tables?

Political Calculations blog has yet another neat tool for comparing the economic output (and other characteristics) of all the American states. Very cool.


10.

Has a portion of the American anti-war movement become more anti-American than anti-war?

The Jawa Report looks at a shocking, but not all that unusual, treasonous sentiment found in our nation's halls of higher education.

Also, don't forget to check out all the old Trivia Tidbits Of the Day, the Reform Thursday series, the Quotational Therapy sessions, and the Wednesday Caption Contest (entries are due Tuesday at 11:59 PM Central Standard Time), plus a look at Castrogate in San Antonio and part one of "The Myth Of The 'Social Europe'".


Previous Certifications of Classiness from WILLisms.com:

February 8, 2005

February 16, 2005

February 18, 2005

February 21, 2005

February 22, 2005

February 25, 2005

March 3, 2005

March 9, 2005

March 15, 2005

March 22, 2005

March 29, 2005

April 5, 2005

April 12, 2005


April 19, 2005

WILLisms.com offers a classiness roundup as a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 10 posts deemed classy. We love to spread the word on upcoming blogs, being that WILLisms.com also fits that description. If you would like to nominate a post on your blog or another blog for inclusion, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com. Write "Classy Nomination" in the subject.

At some point in the future, we're also going to introduce a roundup of lameness, which will provide examples of shrill, angry, extremist, anti-American, self-loathing, intentionally misleading, and other unclassy posts from blogs. Again, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com to submit nominations.

Classy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 April 2005 11:03 AM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 28 -- Political Action Committee (PAC) Money.

PAC MONEY-

Political Action Committees (PACs) have been hot topics in the news lately. Tom DeLay's political fundraising activities, for example, have been the subject of incessant inuendoes of illegality, perpetuated by the elite media and left-wing groups.

Let's take a look at the Top 10 PACs over the past decade and a half, and which side they favored (rounding causes percentages more than 100%):

1.
American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME)-

$35,744,681

Democrats: 98%
Republicans: 2%

AFSCME.gif

2.
National Association of Realtors-

$26,307,418

Democrats: 47%
Republicans: 54%

realtors.gif

3.
National Education Association-

$24,719,323

Democrats: 94%
Republicans: 6%

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4.
Association of Trial Lawyers of America-

$24,263,666

Democrats: 89%
Republicans: 11%

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5.
Communications Workers of America-

$22,977,994

Democrats: 100%
Republicans: 0%

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6.
Service Employees International Union-

$22,973,725

Democrats: 98%
Republicans: 2%

serviceemployees.gif

7.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers-

$22,559,480

Democrats: 98%
Republicans: 3%

electricalworkers.gif


8.
Laborers Union-

$22,025,207

Democrats: 93%
Republicans: 7%

laborers.gif

9.
American Medical Association-

$21,987,830

Democrats: 62%
Republicans: 39%

ama.gif

10.
Teamsters Union-

$21,883,792

Democrats: 93%
Republicans: 8%

teamsters.gif

Total-

$245,629,086

Democrats: $208,485,205 (85%)
Republicans: $37,143,881 (15%)


pacsbyparty.gif

Source:

OpenSecrets.org


It would be hard for anyone depending exclusively on the elite media to realize any of this; the impression one gets from watching, reading, and listening to the news is far different from the reality.

Of course, PACs have far less influence than 527s (with their few, mega-wealthy donors) now do, and even less than C4s will in the coming years. Still, they are important tools for like-minded individuals to express the collective political will. They are also a legitimate and necessary form of free speech.

However, let's just set the record straight, right here, right now, on which side benefits more from "big money" in politics: Democrats.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21, Part 22; Part 23, Part 24, Part 25; Part 26; Part 27.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 April 2005 08:27 AM · Comments (3)

Carnival/Bonfire Of Classiness Reminder.

Be sure to get in your entries for Tuesday's Bonfire/Carnival of Classiness. Email them to WILLisms@gmail.com. Make sure to have "classy" in the subject.

For inspiration, see last week's.

Submissions are due at 11:59 PM tonight (Monday, April 25).

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 April 2005 04:42 PM · Comments (2)

Union Rank-And-File: "Yes" To Personal Accounts.

Social Security Choice notes a recent poll of union members, with these not-so-surprising results (click here for .pdf)--

"Members of labor unions think offering personal retirement accounts to workers under age 55 is a good idea by more than a two-to-one margin, so long as nothing changes for workers age 55 and older, and six out of ten union members say they are at least somewhat likely to create an account if given the opportunity."

More results (click images for original .pdf)-

Very few these days still hold on to the "there is no crisis" fallacy:

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Union members correctly understand that the longer we wait, the larger the crisis will grow:

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We've been saying this one for quite some time now. People believe there is a problem. They want a solution. Doing nothing is not an option at this point:

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Union members tend to trust themselves to make the right choices far more than the government or their union:

uniontrustself.gif


More than two-thirds of union members are either not very confident or not confident at all that, without change, their grandchildren will receive the Social Security benefits promised to them currently:

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Union members aren't buying the bit about the "trust fund" snake oil panacea:

uniontrustfund.gif

Union members support reform if nothing changes for those over 55:
unionchanges.gif

The rank-and-file support reform, while the union bosses continue to obstruct and self-destruct. It's no wonder union membership has fallen so dramatically over the past half century.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 April 2005 02:56 PM · Comments (1)

Castrogate Rocks San Antonio.

Julián Castro wants to be mayor of San Antonio, Texas. He wants it so much, he sent his twin brother to impersonate him on a campaign float.

Or, so says Castro's opposition.

The story:

He walked like him. He waved like him. He even had the same haircut, and for the voters of the Texas town of San Antonio, the man standing in front of them looked like the mayoral candidate Julian Castro. There was only one problem. It wasn't him.

Mr Castro admitted yesterday that the man who had stood in his place on Monday night waving from the city council barge as part of the annual river parade had been his identical twin, Joaquin.


Phil Hardberger, opponent of Castro, called the action dishonest and deceptive.

Julián and Joaquin are both graduates of Stanford University and Harvard Law. Julián currently serves on the San Antonio City Council, while Joaquin is a member of the Texas House of Representatives.

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The brothers adroitly made light of the situation, turning the debacle into an avalanche of positive publicity:

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It is unlikely the mix-up will have any affect on Julián Castro's front-runner status. In every poll conducting in San Antonio this year, Castro has been far ahead of his competitors:

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With Texas' changing demographics, the Castro brothers could be a dynamic political force in the coming years, breaking the Democrats' lengthy dryspell, much like the Salazar brothers did in 2004 in otherwise Republican-leaning Colorado. Allegations of duplicity could come back to haunt the young Castro brothers, but more likely this event will simply go down as a humorous off-beat story in the annals of Texas politics.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 April 2005 11:19 AM · Comments (3)

Baby Survives Abortion, Mom Sues Hospital.

In the United Kingdom, a woman is suing the government's National Health Service (NHS) for a quarter of a million dollars, because an abortion failed to kill her baby, named Jayde (although it did kill the baby's twin).

The Scotsman has the story:

A MOTHER who gave birth to a baby girl despite having gone through an abortion is to sue the NHS for £250,000.

In the first legal action of its kind in Britain, Stacy Dow is claiming her local NHS trust should pay to help her raise the daughter she never expected to have.


The Guardian, however, notes that this case is not entirely without precedent:

In 2001, Kim Nicholls, from Staffordshire, received a five-figure sum in compensation after a twin survived an abortion she had been advised to have on medical grounds.


The mother, Stacy Dow, in her own words:

"I only had a few weeks to prepare for Jayde’s arrival. I just couldn’t get my head around it. I had never even considered having children. I was too young."

"I still don’t know if, or what, I am going to tell Jayde when the time comes. Maybe when she is nine or ten, I will sit her down and explain it to her. I just hope that she understands what happened and why I did it.

"Of course, it will be much harder to explain to her that she had a twin."


More:

"They told me in the hospital that the operation had been successful and there was nothing left in the womb.

I never had any reason to doubt that and I just put my weight gain and a lack of periods down to the contraceptive injection they gave me.

When I got to 33 weeks I went to the GP again and he told me I was pregnant. I was absolutely stunned. I didn't know what to say or do. It was obviously too far on to do anything.

My mother told my boyfriend's parents for me. They were shocked too.

Although I love her to bits, I have a child now that I wasn't planning to have and I believe the hospital should take some responsibility.

None of us would be without Jayde now but looking after her has been a financial struggle.

It has totally changed my life and my parents' lives."

The Telegraph notes:

The court papers say that as a result of the failed termination Miss Dow suffered "stress and anxiety upon the discovery of her continuing pregnancy".

The papers add: "She has the financial burden of care and upbringing of Jayde. She suffers an impediment in her ability to obtain employment in consequence of her care for the child."

Post-modernism at its worst: teetering toward a consequence-free society.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 April 2005 09:52 AM · Comments (7)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 27 -- The Gender Gap.

The Gender Gap-

Women tend to vote more for Democrats, men vote more for Republicans. It's a powerful rule of thumb in politics today. But it wasn't always that way, and even now it isn't quite what you might think:

"Before 1980, either there were no gender differences in the vote or women more than men tended to vote Republican. For example, women favored Dwight D. Eisenhower by 7 points more than men in 1956, and had the 1960 presidential election been decided by women alone, Richard Nixon would have been elected president" (Erikson, Tedin).

Look at the vote for Republican presidential candidates over the years:

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Notice how, following the low point of 1992, the Republican vote has steadily risen for both men and women. In recent elections, pundits have said that Republicans have "women problems." In 2004, though, it was John Kerry who had "men problems," while George W. Bush increased his share of the female vote by 5% from 2000.

Republicans can still win elections with less than 50% of the female vote, while, over the last 25 years, Democrats have only won elections when less than 50% of men vote for Republicans.


Now, look at the gender-based vote for Democrats:

gendergapdemocrat.gif

Notice that the ladies did love President Clinton. The gender gap goes from 8 to 7 to 8 to 4 to 11 to 12, back down to 7, over the years. While the vote for Democrats has creeped upward for both men and women since 1980, this graphic could be somewhat misleading, given the landslide victories for Reagan at the beginning of the time series, in which the Democrats really trudged through the depths of the political wilderness.


Finally, look at the minor party vote over the same time:

gendergapminorparty.gif

The lessons to take from this graphic are:

1. Ross Perot did hurt Republicans more than Democrats. This may seem self-evident, but many academicians and journalists still cling to the notion that Perot took votes from both parties, evenly.

2. Men, over the past quarter century, have been somewhat more likely than women to vote for a third party.

3. The age of "dealignment" may be over. For now. There is literature galore in academia about how America is moving away from the two major parties. This work, of course, looks increasingly foolish following the 2004 election, in which minor party vote was almost insignificant. The trend clearly indicates that the two major parties have recovered, and support for third parties is marginal.

Could that change again, moving forward? Definitely.

Much has been written in the press lately about the alleged coming Republican Party breakup, but a resurgent left-wing party such as the Greens could easily give the Democrats fits in 2008. Indeed, as the Howard Dean influence seeps further into the core of the DNC, presumably in order to stave off said challenge from the left flank, the party's remaining moderates in the House are increasingly uncomfortable with the ideological direction of the party.


The gender gap in party identification (different from actual vote) also shows interesting patterns over the years:

The notion that the gender gap was created by women becoming more Democratic in their partisan preference and vote choice is wrong. The data show just the opposite. The voting behavior and partisan behavior of women has remained essentially stable since 1980. Meanwhile, men have moved in the Republican direction. It is this movement among men that accounts for the gender gap partisanship and vote choice" (Erikson, Tedin).

In other words, the gender gap may be more of a "man problem" for Democrats than it is a "woman problem" for Republicans.


Sources:

-The 1998 paper Deconstructing the Gender Gap, by Harvard Professor Anna Greenberg.

-Page 207 of American Public Opinion: Its Origins, Content, and Impact, written by Professors Robert S. Erikson and Kent L. Tedin.

-Exit polls.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21, Part 22; Part 23, Part 24, Part 25; Part 26.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 April 2005 09:13 AM · Comments (3)

Quotational Therapy: Part 5 -- Lincoln, On Having Faith In People.

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts."
AND
"If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will."
-Abraham Lincoln.


Sources:

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the movie Pollyanna.


Related reading:

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, by James Surowiecki.

Also, Daniel Drezner has some interesting thoughts on the matter:

If there is one thing that too many modern-day Democrat and Republican party elites share, it's a mild contempt for the average American.


Given that people have good and complete information, there's no doubt they will make the right decisions. Individually, it is difficult to have good and complete information on everything (you can know everything some of the time, and some of the things all of the time, but you can't know everything, all of the time). Collectively, though, the American people know almost everything everything about everything (although some kinds of advertising, reporting, or lack thereof, engineered by elites, can distort knowledge), and they act accordingly. It's just basic market forces at play.

Previous Quotational Therapy Sessions:


Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.

The right quotation can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 April 2005 07:14 AM · Comments (2)

Carnival Of The Capitalists.

The Carnival of the Capitalists is up. Go check it out. It's carnivalicious.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 April 2005 06:37 AM · Comments (0)

The Myth Of The "Social Europe." Part I.

A pizza for $48.

Worn-out appliances and furniture.

Dilapidated vehicles.

$6 gasoline.

Having to drive to another country just to buy groceries.

$15 bar drinks

Modest sack lunches in the office (because going to a deli would be a bankrupting extravagance).

Does all of this sound like paradise? Does it even sound like the fruits of the most successful, fair, and wealthy society in the world?

More likely, it is the type of evidence that shatters the myth of Nordic socialism. The country described above, of course, is Norway, a country with a GDP per capita at least on par with, if not greater than, the United States.

Europhiles (and it can hard not to love something about Europe) tend to believe that if only America could be more like Europe, we would be a far better society. There is a rarely-challenged notion in some circles (media, academia, etc.) that socialism works in the Nordic countries, so why couldn't it work for us?

The concept of a "European Social Model" (or, a "Social Europe") calls for a strong welfare state, with high levels of government expenditures, to create an equitable society. It's a well-intentioned notion, but it requires substantially higher-than-optimal taxes and a distortion of vast portions of the economy best left to the free enterprise system.

A recent piece in The New York Times (of all places) argued against the myth of the "social Europe", and specifically against the illusion of glorious Nordic socialism:

THE received wisdom about economic life in the Nordic countries is easily summed up: people here are incomparably affluent, with all their needs met by an efficient welfare state. They believe it themselves. Yet the reality - as this Oslo-dwelling American can attest, and as some recent studies confirm - is not quite what it appears.

Let's expand on their point a bit, looking at one such study.

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Click for original study, in .pdf format.

But, aren't the Europeans, with their strong common currency, making strides to catch up with the United States? Won't they eventually catch up? Isn't Europe "the way of the future"? And shouldn't we be more like them?

No, not really:

Contrasting "the American dream" with "the European daydream," Mr. Norberg described the difference: "Economic growth in the last 25 years has been 3 percent per annum in the U.S., compared to 2.2 percent in the E.U. That means that the American economy has almost doubled, whereas the E.U. economy has grown by slightly more than half. The purchasing power in the U.S. is $36,100 per capita, and in the E.U. $26,000 - and the gap is constantly widening."

But it's not just one study alone, or even a litany of anecdotal evidence, that underscores the Nordic reality-perception gap. Another, conducted by KPMG, the international accounting and consulting firm, noted that buying power is much lower in Scandinavian countries than elsewhere in Europe:

It indicated that when disposable income was adjusted for cost of living, Scandinavians were the poorest people in Western Europe. Danes had the lowest adjusted income, Norwegians the second lowest, Swedes the third. Spain and Portugal, with two of Europe's least regulated economies, led the list.

At the same time, America's cost of living is well below that of Europe's. Specifically, take a look at what Americans have, compared with what Europeans do (original .pdf here):

stuffpeoplehave.gif
Click for larger version.


But, things don't matter, we're told. They aren't a measure of true wealth. What about the wonderful social services, such as health care and education, that Scandinavians have?

Don't buy it:

Even as the Scandinavian establishment peddles this dubious line, it serves up a picture of the United States as a nation divided, inequitably, among robber barons and wage slaves, not to mention armies of the homeless and unemployed. It does this to keep people believing that their social welfare system, financed by lofty income taxes, provides far more in the way of economic protections and amenities than the American system. Protections, yes -but some Norwegians might question the part about amenities.

In Oslo, library collections are woefully outdated, and public swimming pools are in desperate need of maintenance. News reports describe serious shortages of police officers and school supplies. When my mother-in-law went to an emergency room recently, the hospital was out of cough medicine. Drug addicts crowd downtown Oslo streets, as The Los Angeles Times recently reported, but applicants for methadone programs are put on a months-long waiting list.

But what about income inequality? Isn't it, as Christian Science Monitor writer David Francis argues, better to be poor in Norway than in the United States?

Consider two important facts, from George Mason University Economics Department Chairman Donald J. Boudreaux:

First, as Mr. Francis acknowledges, middle- and high-income Americans are much wealthier than their peers elsewhere. Second, no one is stuck in whatever income category he or she currently is in. Therefore, a low-income American today – say, a college student waiting tables – enjoys much brighter lifetime economic prospects than does a similarly situated low-income European, even if this European is wealthier today. The inequality of income that Mr. Francis laments, far from harming low-income Americans, raises their lifetime earning prospects above those of low-income peoples elsewhere.

And this difference in perspective reveals the exceptional nature of America, contrasted with Europe; in the United States, people believe they can go from nothing to everything with hard work and a little luck. In America, the rewards of success are open to anyone willing to compete for them. Upward mobility shouldn't be such a distinctly American value, but it is. In Europe, with its aristocratic history, there is an awkward class consciousness that affects the mainstream of economic and political thought.

Meanwhile, in survey after survey over the years, Americans have consistently expressed uniquely optimistic attitudes on these questions:

In 1952, Americans were asked how they felt about this statement posed by University of Michigan interviewers: "Some people say there’s not much opportunity in America today -- that the average man doesn’t have much chance to really get ahead. Others say there’s plenty of opportunity, and anyone who works hard can go as far as he wants." Eighty-seven percent said there was still plenty of opportunity in the United States, and just 8 percent said there wasn’t much opportunity in America for the average man. In 1997, 79 percent said the statement "People who work hard are likely to succeed" was true; 18 percent said it was false....

In 1947, 64 percent of fathers surveyed believe that their sons’ opportunities to succeed would be better than their own, and 13 percent said they would be worse. In 1997, when the question was repeated, 62 percent of fathers said their sons’ opportunities would be better than their own, and 21 percent thought they would be worse. When Gallup asked mothers about daughters in 1947, 61 percent expected them to have better opportunities than they had had, and 20 percent disagreed. But by 1997, when many doors had been opened for women, the percentage of mothers expecting their daughters to have greater opportunity was 85 percent.

That's one of the reasons millions of people from around the world each year struggle to make their way here. They want a part of the American dream.

Political Calculations blog has more info on the U.S. versus European economies.

There's simply too much information on this topic to confine it to one post, so stay tuned to WILLisms.com this Wednesday for Part II of "The Myth Of The 'Social Europe.'"

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 April 2005 07:49 PM · Comments (1)

Light Blogging, Enjoying The Weather...

Light blogging this weekend. Enjoying the weather... went to the zoo yesterday. Fun times.

Better blogging schedule begins again tonight.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 April 2005 02:23 PM · Comments (6)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 26 -- Female Population.

Female Population-

51.1% of the American population is female.

Compare that with:

48.4% in China.

44.8% in Bahrain.

53.5% in Ukraine.

53.1% in Belarus.

51.4% in Mexico.

50.8% in Lebanon.

51.4% in France.

50.3% in Togo.

50.0% in Zimbabwe.


Source:

The World Bank.

Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21, Part 22; Part 23, Part 24, Part 25.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 April 2005 11:46 AM · Comments (6)

Togo's Election: Trouble Ahead.

The citizens of the African nation of Togo go to the polls Sunday.

In Togo, unfortunately, might makes right:

clubsintogo.gif

For far too long, the government has monopolized the might, and, as a result, the people are getting anxious.

Publius Pundit blog has a nice look at what to expect.

Some background on Togo, from the AP:

togo.gif

Gateway Pundit has more (also here).

Freedom House rates Togo as "not free," and asserts that the "Togolese people cannot change their government democratically." Often, however, when an enduring dictator dies, as was recently the case in Togo, the door of opportunity opens for a fresh start. Still, the odds for a positive outcome aren't great.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 April 2005 10:24 PM · Comments (3)

Bubbles, Booms, and Stagflation.

National Review has a great look at how today's economic growth is rooted in far more real earnings than the dot com bubble economy of the late 1990s. Companies today are actually making money (click for story):

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Posted by Will Franklin · 23 April 2005 11:11 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 25 -- American Oil Industry History.

THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN OIL-

In 1859, the year Edwin Drake drilled the first well, American production amounted to only 2,000 barrels. Ten years later it was 4.25 million and by 1900, American production would be nearly 60 million barrels. But while production rose steadily, the price of oil was chaotic, sinking as low as 10 cents a barrel-- far below the cost of the barrel itself-- and soaring as high as $13.75 during the 1860s.

Source:

-From pages 254-255 of An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, by John Steele Gordon.


Today, for reference, at least according to CIA estimates (known to be wrong from time to time), only Saudi Arabia produces more oil than the U.S.

America produces roughly 10% of the world's oil.

In terms of natural gas, the U.S. ranks second, after Russia. America accounts for a little over a fifth of the world's natural gas production (again, according to CIA figures).


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21, Part 22; Part 23, Part 24.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 April 2005 10:01 AM · Comments (1)

Grading AARP's Nine Plans For Solvency.

AARP has unveiled 9-options for addressing Social Security's solvency. We've graded each option, and it's not pretty:

aarpsocialsecurityoptions.gif
Click for full .pdf version.


The first six fall under the category of raising revenues:

1.
Raise the payroll tax cap.

AARP explains:

"This isn’t a new tax. It simply restores a policy already set by Congress."

What is it with the insistence of left-wing organizations like AARP that raising taxes to some arbitrary point that existed at some point in the past isn't raising taxes?

Raising the cap, as AARP envisions it, would unfairly raise the tax burden on upper-middle class families, not wealthy by nearly any standard. The cap has already risen dramatically, even in inflation-adjusted terms, since the middle of the century, so this solution on its own is not acceptable.

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2.
Raise the payroll tax rate.

No. the payroll tax is already too high. Look at how it has climbed over the years, from 2% in the 1940s to more than 12% today. This solution misses the entire point of reform, and it would not permanently fix Social Security.


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3.
Raise taxes on Social Security benefits (double taxation).

This one must be a joke. How could anyone offer this up with a straight face.

The government taxes the heck out of people their entire lives, under the notion that those taxes will come back in the form of benefits at retirement. Now, AARP wants to punish people for success. This is a double taxation, and it is really a poor choice.

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4.
Reinstate death tax.

The death tax is fundamentally unfair. It punishes success, especially on the growing numbers of American small business owners and entrepreneurs. Secondly, this solution is disingenuous, because it misrepresents how Social Security, and how the government itself, are funded. The odds of the death tax being applied exclusively toward Social Security solvency are laughably miniscule.

Plus, it is the easy way out: "soaking the rich" is not a reform plan, it is an ideology.

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5.
Force federal employees into Social Security.


AARP notes that 30% of government employees are not covered by Social Security. AARP wants to force them into Social Security, thus gleaning 12.4% of their salaries and buying Social Security a smidgeon of additional funding for the short-term.

This is an awful idea. We should let more people opt out, not force more people in. The political hurdles would be enormous on this one, as well. It just is a non-starter. Not gonna happen, even if it made sense (which is doesn't; even AARP believes this solution would cover 10%).

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6.
Invest some of the trust funds in indexed funds.

In AARP's version of the world, the Trust Fund is not a filing cabinet in West Virginia, filled with IOUs. Rather, they imply that it is a real asset that will effortlessly cover Social Security's shortfalls until 2041.

The Trust Fund is more like a credit card than a check card; it is a debt, not an asset. It is a giant IOU, not a stash of easy money that can be used to bail out the government for its fiscal irresponsibility (which is primarily the result of entitlement spending, such as Social Security).

Thus, suggesting that we can just magically invest this non-existent trust fund is not a legitimate solution. It's also the worst among all available market-based options, an way of intentionally blurring the President's plan and distorting the argument.

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The next three are classified as trimming costs:

7.
Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) adjustment, using a revamped Consumer Price Index (CPI).

This one is not such a bad idea, but it still lowers already-low future benefits. Alone, it would be a below average way to solve a moderate level of Social Security's shortfall, but personal accounts could easily offset the slower benefit gains under this proposed adjustment.

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8.
Make people work until they are 70.

The idea behind this aolution makes sense: when the program started, the average benefit recipient only collected Social Security for a matter of months. As life expectancy has risen, many people receive benefits for several years, even multiple decades. This demographic crunch places stress on the system.

But, higher life expectancy or not, what this proposal really does is force poorer and working class people to work more years in order to collect their full (already modest) benefit.

It is ironic that a 24-year-old should have to lecture an organization with the phrase "Retired Persons" in its title, but retirement should be the golden years for hard working Americans, a reward for a lifetime of contributions to society.

Again, it is hard to believe that AARP actually wants a higher retirement age, especially above the 70-year mark.

gradedminus.gif


9.
Benefit increases tied to prices, not wages.

This option is the best of the lot, but only when combined with personal accounts. Tie Social Security benefit increases to inflation rather than wages, and make up the gap with the compound-interest gains from personal accounts.

gradebplus.gif


So, of AARP's solutions:

4 result in higher taxes.
2 result in lower benefits.
1 results in a later retirement age.
1 forces even more people into the failing system.
1 results in government investment of funds.
0 include personal accounts.


Ultimately, one or more of the AARP options will be necessary (probably number 9). However, in the reform game there are vegetables, and there are desserts.

AARP is engaging in a classic case of misdirection. They are throwing out a series of "vegetable" proposals they know people won't eat; meanwhile, they don't even mention dessert. Any good faith effort to reform Social Security will include an honest discussion on solvency issues, but it will also include ways to offset benefit government-paid reductions through personal accounts. Meanwhile, there is no good reason to raise taxes.

Under the better reform plans on the table, the government's future liabilities are reduced through benefit reductions (actually, just slowed growth in benefit increases). However, because Social Security's benefits are already relatively modest (some would say meager), those same reform plans provide the opportunity to invest some payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts. These safe, diversified accounts, through the miracle of compound interest, provide returns that more than make up for what Uncle Sam is no longer providing. It just makes a lot of common sense to do it this way.

As The Wall Street Journal noted earlier this week, AARP is not negotiating in good faith. It endorses only the market solutions it knows have no chance of passing, all while benefiting from the market itself:

It's also worth mentioning the hypocrisy of AARP's deriding diversified bond and stock investment as too "risky" in other ads, while at the same time profiting by putting its brandname on various investment funds of its own. AARP sells 38 mutual funds, and makes north of $300 million annually by such co-branding of financial products.

Apparently AARP and its "ally and partner," Rock the Vote, believe younger people are not worth making a sincere reform effort.

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Posted by Will Franklin · 22 April 2005 08:26 PM · Comments (5)

More Absurdity On Bolton's Confirmation.

Now, is this supposed to be funny, or clever, or what?

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Rich Lowry has more on the left's smear and jeer tactics:

As the Bolton-nomination fight drags on, even more criticisms of him will surface from the State Department. Bolton vigorously supported Bush’s foreign policy at the incorrigibly weak-kneed department, earning him the enmity of its bureaucrats and their former servant Colin Powell, who appears to be feeding some of the anti-Bolton attacks. And the Democrats are willing to float any trash they are given — anything, anything to avoid discussing the substance of Bolton’s views.

This entire episode is a perfect example of how Powell viewed himself as an ambassador to the Bush adminstration on behalf of the State Department, rather than the other way around.

The allegations against Bolton are becoming increasingly absurd. If not for the Voinovich meltdown earlier this week, the Democrats would now be paying for such ridiculousness politically.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 April 2005 04:01 PM · Comments (4)

The Democrats' Negligence.

Earlier this week, Harvard University's Institute of Politics released its Survey of Student Attitudes: The Global Generation (.pdf).

In it, college students expressed deep concerns about Social Security:

harvardiopsocialsecuritystudy.gif
Click for .pdf version of the study.

Meanwhile, in Harvard's study, students were asked which of two approaches to dealing with Social Security they would prefer. Respondents had a choice between the following items:

1. Private Investment, with the risk that people might lose money.

2. Current System, with the risk that there might be a payout shortfall.

52% of the 1,206 undergraduates surveyed by Harvard from March 21 to April 4, 2005 chose the first option, private investment. Only 38% chose the second option, the status quo. If the second option had been "Current System, with its guaranteed benefit shortfall," perhaps even more would have supported the reform option. Also, the risk that people might lose money under a reformed plan is roughly negligible; no serious reform plan on the table today includes the possibility of betting on the wrong stock. On the contrary, personal account plans on the table would involve highly diversified portfolios resembling the Thrift Savings Plan available to employees of the Federal Government.

Thus, if the options were presented more accurately, there is little doubt students would support personal investment accounts in even greater numbers.

Meanwhile, what are the Democrats doing to solve Social Security's problems?


Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader:

minorityleaderreid.gif

Social Security Is Not In Crisis.



Representative Loretta Sanchez (California Democrat)
:

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I’ve more important things to ask about than this silly Social Security thing.


Hillary Clinton:

hillaryclinton.gif

Social Security is a problem, but it's not in my top five.


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:

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Pelosi has ordered House Democrats to “oppose, not propose,” changes to Social Security, according to a well-placed Democrat.


Willful negligence is not a winning political strategy, nor is it good policy. Obstructionism is very lame indeed.

The DO-NOTHING DEMOCRATS strike again.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 April 2005 03:05 PM · Comments (3)

Oh, Those French.

This week, France backed China's belligerent anti-secession law, all while pushing for an end to the EU arms embargo on arms sales to the world's largest dictatorship (via Wizbang).

Meanwhile, as we noted before, the French aren't buying what Chirac is selling on the European Union referendum. One poll has the "non" vote at 52%, with another indicating 58% would vote against approving the European Union constitution, while still another puts the number over 62%.

Maybe, instead of the formation of the Chinapean Union, the French can hook up with the Chinese on their own (unilaterally):

newfrenchflag.gif

Maybe they could call it "Vichy China."

On a more serious note, France's foreign policy of late is perhaps the most reckless, irresponsible, reactionary, stubborn, and antagonistic in the modern history of democratic states. Their geopolitical strategy seems to center around getting under the skin of America, no matter how nonsensical and counterproductive to their own professed values.

In short, France's foreign policy can be summed up in one word:

SPITE.

Cutting off the nose to spite the face comes to mind.

Specifically, spite against the United States.

But, hey, at least they're consistent. Consistenly on the wrong side of history. No wonder the French people are no longer buying what Chirac is selling.

UPDATE:
More on China's recent unrest.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 April 2005 12:04 PM · Comments (15)

"It Is Time For Change To Come To Belarus."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is earning her pay and proving just how different she is from former Secretary Colin Powell. She is already setting a pace to out-travel Powell quite significantly (more on this to come).

secretarycondirice.gif

On her trip to Europe this week, in Vilnius, Lithuania, she did not mince words in expressing America's desire for free and fair elections in Belarus.

Noting that it is "really the last true dictatorship in the center of Europe," Secretary Rice asserted that "it is time for change to come to Belarus."

That she made the comments in Lithuania is not insignificant. Lithuania, once part of the Soviet Empire, still understands and values the concept of freedom. In fact, Lithuanian President Adamkus went out of his way to support the Orange Revolution late last year in Ukraine. Her comment, ever un-Powell-like, drew sharp criticism, predictably, from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Russia, which was recently downgraded from "Partially Free" to "Not Free" by Freedom House, supports the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko. Russia still treats Belarus like a satellite in its Cold War sphere of influence.

Secretary Rice later explained at a NATO Ministerial how the international community can cooperate to affect democratic change:

What the United States can do, what the European Union can do, what we can do together... is shine a spotlight on places where people are still denied freedom....

We can put that on the international agenda. We can insist on certain standards of behavior by any government, any place in the world, including standards of behavior when it comes to the holding of elections. We can provide support, as both we and the European Union are doing, to the development of civil society groups and the training of independent media and independent political and civil society forces. That's the role of outside forces....

...people know about the struggle in Belarus and are prepared to support independent voices in that struggle. And the Belarusian government should know that their behavior is being watched by the international community, that this is not a dark corner in which things can go on unobserved, uncommented on, and as if Belarus was somehow not a part of the European continent.

Rice then went one step further, actually meeting with Belarussian dissidents:

"While it may seem difficult and long, and at times far way, there will be a road to democracy in Belarus," Rice told the seven opposition figures, among them an academic, a politician and human rights activists.

Opposition politician Aleksander Dobrovolskiy said Rice pledged to support their efforts to open the country's political system to greater participation, a move that would challenge the government of President Alexander Lukashenko.

"She said the United States and Europe remained committed to helping Belarus become free," Dobrovolskiy told reporters after the meeting. "We intend to offer an alternative and initiate a mass pressure for that change."

What's so bad about Belarus, anyway?

The latest Freedom House rating of Belarus, a country already classified as "Not Free," downgraded the country further (.pdf) for the government's crackdown on political rights. Its Soviet-style governance now makes it less free even than nations like Angola, Rwanda, Cambodia, Egypt, Oman, Pakistan, and Congo.

belarusnotfree.gif

Specifically:

Several opponents of that government have disappeared, and earlier this month, the Bush administration expressed "grave concern" about what it charged was the jailing of Belarusian citizens for political dissent.

With elections in 2006 in Belarus, now is the time for the democratic reformers of Belarus to develop those networks, institutions, and ideas for the fight ahead.

UPDATE:
Captain's Quarters has more, as usual.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 April 2005 10:51 AM · Comments (2)

Quotational Therapy: Part 4 -- Eisenhower, On Germany.

"The success of this occupation can only be judged fifty years from now. If the Germans at that time have a stable, prosperous democracy, then we will have succeeded."

- Dwight Eisenhower, October 1945. Frankfurt, Germany.


Source:

The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941-1945, noted by Winds of Change blog.


Previous Quotational Therapy Sessions:


Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.

The right quotation can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 April 2005 09:25 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 24 -- Crack Cocaine Dealing.

CRIME DOESN'T PAY-

Over the next four year years, where do you imagine yourself? Dealing crack, perhaps?

Before you decide, some statistics regarding what to expect:

# Number of times arrested 5.9

# Number of nonfatal wounds or injuries 2.4 (not including injuries meted out by the gang itself for rules violations)

# Chance of being killed 1 in 4

By comparison:

Compare these odds to being a timber cutter, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls the most dangerous job in the United States. Over four years' time, a timber cutter would stand only a 1-in-200 chance of being killed. Or compare the crack dealer's odds to those of a death row inmate in Texas, which executes more prisoners than any other state. In 2003, Texas put to death twenty-four inmates-or just 5 percent of the nearly 500 inmates on its death row during that time. Which means that you stand a greater chance of dying while dealing crack in a Chicago housing project than you do while sitting on death row in Texas.

Not only that, but dealing crack only pays $3.30 an hour.


Source:

An online excerpt from chapter 3 of Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.


It sort of conjures up memories of Norm MacDonald on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update:

normmacdonald.gif

Finally, according to the U.S. News & World Report 1997 Career Guide, the bet job in the United States, for the second year in a row, is Interactive Business System Analyst. However, last year's worst job, Assistant Crack Whore, has been replaced by a new worst job: Crack Whore Trainee.

Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21, Part 22; Part 23.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 April 2005 09:17 AM · Comments (1)

The Red Herring That Wasn't: Social Security.

Donald Luskin has this humorous, predictable example of elite media malfunction, on his blog (also posted at Social Security Choice):

New York Times front page headline this morning:

Down Market Casts a Pall on Social Security Plan

And from the Times' web site in the afternoon:

Stocks Rally on Fed Survey, Earnings

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks surged on Thursday, with the Dow gaining more than 200 points...

DOH!


The Cato Institute, back in September 2002, offered a more serious rebuttal to the "stocks are a risky scheme and therefore we should not reform Social Security" line:

The evidence shows that long-term market investment for Social Security, while hardly risk free, bears little resemblance to the "meltdown" scenarios painted by many account opponents. Opponents of personal accounts implicitly assume that workers with accounts would be short-term investors without any nonstock diversification. In the real world, the combination of asset diversification between stocks and bonds and time diversification over long time horizons reduces the risks that a short-term market drop could substantially affect workers' retirement incomes. Even in today's bear market, workers with personal accounts would retire with higher total retirement incomes than the current pay-as-you-go program is able to pay.

The short-term ups and downs of "Enron" and other stocks are a red herring, totally irrelevant to good-faith discussion of reform. Looking at the big picture, there is little doubt that personal investment accounts are safe, secure, and a much better deal for everyone.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 April 2005 06:00 PM · Comments (2)

"Vote Blair, Get Brown."

All of Britain is talking about it. It's the central issue of the campaign.

Tony Blair, or, more specifically, his tan. Is it real? Is it canned? Does it matter?

The story:

British papers say it's peculiar that Blair suddenly has what they called a "golden glow," a "freshly bronzed face," and a "tangerine appearance," even though they note he hasn't had a foreign vacation since Christmas. In fact, London's Daily Record says Blair was startled yesterday when a reporter asked him, "Where did you get that tan?" Blair, however, insists it's all-natural, telling reporters he got it "sitting out yesterday, working. You might have noticed it was a sunny day."

The latest spoof election slogan in the UK:

"Vote Blair - get brown."

Even in a serious BBC interview, on profound geopolitical issues, the interviewer could not help but ask about it:

Paxman: When you look at your time in Downing Street, when you came in 1997, you were a young man. You were talking about the ...

Blair: You're not going to show the old pictures, are you?

Paxman: No. None of us can really survive that.

Paxman: But you came in, a young prime minister talking about a young country. Now they talk about how you've got a fake tan. You haven't got a fake tan, I take it.

Blair: I haven't got a fake tan. As a matter of fact, you look as if you've been sitting out in the sun as well.

It's somewhat reminiscent of the "Kerry-fake-'n'-bakes" rumor during the 2004 American campaign. The main difference here is that John Kerry's fake orange tan was eminently obvious, while Blair's seems natural and normal.

johnkerryfaketan.gif


The other, more important difference between Blair's alleged tan-in-a-can and John Kerry's is that with Kerry, it played right into the absurdity of his attempted makeover as a regular guy. John Kerry's fake, George Hamiltonian tan was emblematic of how uncomfortable he was with himself, of how vain he was, and of how out-of-touch with all those regular, average Americans out in the "red states." Kerry's fake tan also reminded people of his alleged Botox injections. With Prime Minister Blair, it just reminds voters of the good feelings they once had toward the youthful, vibrant, and energetic Blair.

Plus, come on, we know Britains are not known for having a profusion of pigmentation, but Blair's hue still looks entirely appropriate, and nothing out of the ordinary.

But you can be the judge:

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Meanwhile, if the polls from the past week are any indication, Tony Blair and the Labour Party are set to cruise to an easy victory:

britishelectionpolls.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 April 2005 05:28 PM · Comments (0)

On Bolton.

You should really read today's Wall Street Journal piece on the rife absurdities surrounding Bolton's confirmation, or lack thereof:

...if Mr. Bolton loses so does the President. The U.N. will take it as a sign that it can move ahead with Potemkin reform, while Democrats will be emboldened to take down other nominees. Mr. Bush's appointees will also understand that defending his priorities against the bureaucracy is a bad career choice. If this is how Republicans and the White House are going to fight on judges, they might as well roll over now.

Our thoughts:

Sometimes when watching the Texas Longhorn basketball team this past season, there was just something missing (other than two star players to grades and injuries, respectively). What was really missing was the typical scrappiness, the fight, they had consistently shown over the past few years. As a result, when another team would play ultra-aggressive hit-you-in-the-mouth basketball, the otherwise physical Texas team would wilt like a girls middle school JV squad. If Texas failed to respond to the intensity by its opponent, the Longhorns would almost literally get walked all over en route to a loss. If and when UT's squad finally woke up and played aggressively, it would typically regain control of the game.

Right now, Richard Lugar and some other solid conservative Senate Republicans seem more concerned with playing nice than playing to win. That must change.

It is time to play a little smashmouth, knock-'em-down, drag-'em-out hardball.

Right now, it's still the first half, with plenty of time to re-take control of the game. But if Senate Republicans continue their uninspired, lackadaisical play, it's all over.

We plan much more detailed comment on the Bolton follies after we can shake off some of the hectic "busy-ness" of this week, so stay tuned.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 April 2005 12:18 PM · Comments (6)

Reform Thursday: Week Twelve.

reformthursdayishere.gif

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. The graphics are mostly self-explanatory, but we include commentary on some of them where and when necessary.

This week's Reform Thursday is based on figures from the Heritage Foundation's Personal Retirement Account Calculator.

The calculator, unlike the discredited one Democrats are still using to pull the wool over the eyes of Americans, uses incredibly conservative estimates of growth, well below the 6.8% average annual rate of return of the stock market, for example. It would be hard to accuse this calculator of being "rigged." While there is no concrete plan on the table, Heritage has done a fantastic job developing a tool derived from the principles outlined.

In all of our calculations, we used married males, broken down by lower, middle, and higher incomes.


First, a 24-year-old:
24yearold.gif


Next, a 34-year-old:
34yearold.gif


Next, a 44-year-old:
44yearold.gif


Next, a 54-year-old:
54yearold.gif


Notice that those making more modest incomes have far more to gain, proportionally, from reform than power couples making bigger bucks. Critics are simply wrong when they declare Social Security reform to be some kind of enrich the rich scheme. Working and middle class people must realize that Social Security reform is precisely about empowering individuals. Reform will introduce millions to America's engine of wealth, the ownership society.


We used these numbers for the income scales-
LOWER: [25,000-29,999, plus wife making 10,000-14,999]

MIDDLE: [50,000-54,999, plus wife making 25,000-29,999]

HIGHER: [both making 85,000+]


More on the calculator's methodology, lest the cynics inevitably declare that it is just as rigged as the Democrats' version, but in the opposite direction:

The Calculator uses a fixed annual return of 4.9 percent minus administrative costs, for a total return of 4.6 percent. A 4.9 percent return is the forecasted return used in the President's assumptions. This is actually less than the rate of return projected by the Congressional Budget Office (See "Long-Term Analysis of Plan 2 of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security," September 30, 2004) and the same rate of return as that projected by Social Security's actuaries (See, e.g., "Estimated Financial Effects of 'The Saving Social Security Act of 2005,'" March 10, 2005).

For more information, and to try the calculator out, go here:

Personal Retirement Account Calculator


Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:

-Week One.

-Week Two.

-Week Three.

-Week Three, bonus.

-Week Four.

-Week Five.

-Week Six.

-Week Six, bonus.

-Week Seven.

-Week Seven, bonus.

-Week Eight.

-Week Nine.

-Week Ten.

-Week Eleven.


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

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 April 2005 09:33 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 23 -- Baby Names.

BABY NAMES:

Girls, by income-

Most Popular High-End White Girl Names in the 1990s

1. Alexandra
2. Lauren
3. Katherine
4. Madison
5. Rachel

Most Popular Low-End White Girl Names in the 1990s

1. Amber
2. Heather
3. Kayla
4. Stephanie
5. Alyssa


Boys, by income-

Most Popular High-End White Boy Names

1. Benjamin
2. Samuel
3. Jonathan
4. Alexander
5. Andrew

Most Popular Low-End White Boy Names

1. Cody
2. Brandon
3. Anthony
4. Justin
5. Robert


WHITEST AND BLACKEST GIRL NAMES-

The 20 Whitest Girl Names

1. Molly
2. Amy
3. Claire
4. Emily
5. Katie
6. Madeline
7. Katelyn
8. Emma
9. Abigail
10. Carly
11. Jenna
12. Heather
13. Katherine
14. Caitlin
15. Kaitlin
16. Holly
17. Allison
18. Kaitlyn
19. Hannah
20. Kathryn

The 20 Blackest Girl Names

1. Imani
2. Ebony
3. Shanice
4. Aaliyah
5. Precious
6. Nia
7. Deja
8. Diamond
9. Asia
10. Aliyah
11. Jada
12. Tierra
13. Tiara
14. Kiara
15. Jazmine
16. Jasmin
17. Jazmin
18. Jasmine
19. Alexus
20. Raven


WHITEST AND BLACKEST BOY NAMES-

The 20 Whitest Boy Names

1. Jake
2. Connor
3. Tanner
4. Wyatt
5. Cody
6. Dustin
7. Luke
8. Jack
9. Scott
10. Logan
11. Cole
12. Lucas
13. Bradley
14. Jacob
15. Garrett
16. Dylan
17. Maxwell
18. Hunter
19. Brett
20. Colin

The 20 Blackest Boy Names

1. DeShawn
2. DeAndre
3. Marquis
4. Darnell
5. Terrell
6. Malik
7. Trevon
8. Tyrone
9. Willie
10. Dominique
11. Demetrius
12. Reginald
13. Jamal
14. Maurice
15. Jalen
16. Darius
17. Xavier
18. Terrance
19. Andre
20. Darryl



MOST POPULAR RACE-NEUTRAL NAMES
-

Most Popular Girl Crossover Names

1. Andrea
2. Whitney
3. Alicia
4. Kendra
5. Alexandria
6. Natasha
7. Tiffany
8. Brittany
9. Amber
10. Talia
11. Erika
12. Brianna
13. Ariel
14. Gabrielle
15. Veronica
16. Alana
17. Kyra
18. Ashley
19. Breanna
20. Erica

Most Popular Boy Crossover Names

1. Vincent
2. George
3. Troy
4. Christian
5. Martin
6. Corey
7. Brandon
8. Eric
9. Craig
10. Frank
11. Cameron
12. Shawn
13. Micah
14. Gregory
15. Nathaniel
16. Marc
17. Aaron
18. Dominic
19. Theodore
20. Isaac

Source:

Slate articles: Part 1, Part 2, adapted from the new book Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (spotted via Dean's World blog).


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21, Part 22.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 April 2005 05:07 AM · Comments (5)

Speaking To The Lebanese People.

Publius Pundit notes that President Bush is speaking directly to the Lebanese people.

The President's Message
:

"I believe that a true, free society, one that self-governs, one that listens to the people, will be a peaceful society -- not an angry society, but a peaceful society," Mr. Bush said during an interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Company, which aired in that country in prime time last night. "If that's the ultimate feeling of the people, the government -- if it's a true democracy -- will reflect that."

Meanwhile, the Pulse of Freedom folks are counting down their ultimatum:

ninedays.gif

And a poll out of Lebanon shows that the country is united on having elections on time.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 April 2005 10:47 PM · Comments (2)

Washington State: Felonious Funk.

Democrat Christine Gregoire officially beat Republican Dino Rossi by 129 votes in Washington State's Gubernatorial election last November, after a manual recount overturned the results of two earlier counts.

But, let's suppose that you...

1. Take out the felons.

2. Remove the dead voters.

3. Purge the non-citizens.

What do you have?

Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire would have lost the 2004 election to Republican Dino Rossi by about 100 votes.

This according to an exhaustive study conducted by two political science professors, Jonathan Katz of the California Institute of Technology and Anthony Gill of the University of Washington.

Yet, in Washington State, Democrats in the legislature continue to deny that illegal voting even happened, let alone that something ought to be done to end it (via Michelle Malkin).

Meanwhile, all over the country, including in Calfornia, in Texas, in Indiana, in Georgia, and elsewhere, passing simple laws requiring voters show identification at the polls faces staunch opposition from Democrats and left-wing special interest groups.

Those far-left groups prefer, instead, the Count Every Vote Act of 2005 (which George Will aptly renamed the "Little Fraud Among Friends? Act"), introduced by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones.

Count every vote, indeed. Even the illegal ones.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 April 2005 01:51 PM · Comments (5)

Party-Switcher Jim Jeffords: Done.

Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords, former Republican who bolted in early 2001 to become a Democrat in all but name ("Independent"), changing the balance of power, will not seek re-election in 2006.

jimjeffords.gif

While Vermont is known for its deep and abiding "blue state" politics, former Governor Howard Dean and current socialist Representative Bernie Sanders emblematic of those values, current Republican Governor Jim Douglas proves the state is not entirely a lost cause.

Jeffords' announcement shakes up the field in Vermont, changing the dynamics significantly. It also indicates that Jeffords likely does not believe Republicans will lose their majority status in the Senate anytime soon.

Ultimately, though, the odds of Jeffords' Senate seat going to a Democrat in 2006: HIGH.

UPDATE:
Daly Thoughts notes that Bernie Sanders, Vermont's lone Representative in the House, plans to run for the Senate.

Meanwhile, Alexander K. McClure posits:

Critical will be the decision of the Democratic Party. Will it support Sanders and be perceived as supporting a socialist, or will it field a liberal candidate that would take votes from Sanders?

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 April 2005 10:51 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 22 -- Reagan's Media Coverage.

Reagan: Media Punching Bag-

In a previous trivia tidbit, we noted robust evidence of liberal media bias during presidential campaigns over the years.

The elite media were especially hard on Ronald Reagan, before, during, and even after his presidency:

Reagan’s Rocky Road: Sources on the network evening news were heavily critical of Ronald Reagan throughout his presidency. 85% of assessments of Reagan during Campaign 1980 were negative; 64% of evaluations during his administration’s first year were negative; in Campaign 1984, 91% of his coverage was negative. Even after Election Day 1988—as a “lame duck” president—65% of all evaluations were critical of Reagan.

Worst Among Equals: No incoming administration since Reagan’s has been criticized so heavily as much on the network newscasts. 64% of the evaluations in 1981 were negative, compared to 45% for George H. W. Bush, 62% for Bill Clinton and 61% for George W. Bush.

Taking Issue: During Reagan’s first year, his policies were panned by both the network news and prestige press (New York Times, Washington Post):

* ECONOMY: 65% of network news evaluations of the economy were negative, as were 66% in the Times and Post.
* ARMS CONTROL: Reagan’s policies were criticized 69% of the time on-air and 73% of the time in print.
* SOVIET RELATIONS: 67% of network news evaluations were negative, as were 89% in the two newspapers studied.

Rooting For Rivals: In 1984, 56% of evaluations of Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale were positive, while 91% of Reagan’s coverage was negative. During their summits in 1987 and 1988, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev received far more positive coverage than Reagan. (1987: Reagan 47% positive evaluations, Gorbachev 79% positive; 1988: Reagan 46% positive, Gorbachev 76% positive)

positivemediaevaluations.gif


Source: The non-partisan Center for Media and Public Affairs.

Just astounding figures. But ever-so intuitive.

Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 April 2005 09:44 AM · Comments (0)

Every Day, You Work An Hour To Pay Social Security.

Dan Lips, writing in The Washington Examiner, explains:

9:59 a.m. That's the time each morning when the average 9-to-5 worker has completed exactly 12.4 percent of the workday, enough to pay Social Security payroll taxes. The crux of the debate is whether American workers should have control over the earnings from that hour or if they should work longer each day to support the pay-as-you-go system.

And, what would become of Social Security with no reform?

After 46 years of earnings, what should today's 21-year-old expect? Whether he will receive back his half-century of Social Security payments will depend on whether he lives to see retirement in 2051. Under the "do nothing" option, if he lives to 67, he should expect monthly benefits that are 25 percent below what Social Security has promised. He'll have to live past 2075 to receive back all of his Social Security contributions.

It's that simple, people.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 April 2005 09:26 AM · Comments (6)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 2.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

kuwaitirights.gif


The actual caption:

Kuwaiti Women Right's activist Rola Dashti, left, shares a light moment with Kuwait's Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Sabah, right, at the entrance hall of the National Assembly building, Kuwait City after the Parliament session of Tuesday, April 19, 2005. Kuwait's law makers approved in this session a Municipal Council law allowing women to vote and run in the Council's elections. (AP Photo/Gustavo Ferrari)


There must be a better caption out there for this photograph.


Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, April 26. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.


Last week's photo:

lebanesemom.gif

Last week's winners:

1. Rodney Dill:

The soldiers had searched her a number of times, but it wasn't until years later that they figured out she was stealing baby strollers.

2. Hoodlumman (of fileitunder.com fame):

Hafiri was at attention, even if unnoticable to the naked eye.

3. Jay Tea (of Wizbang fame, or "infame," as it were):

(soldier) "Hey, kid, you looking at the same thing I am?"

(child) "Uh-huh! Lunch!"

UPDATE:
Go check out Outside The Beltway's contest. They are using the same photo as Wizbang's contest. How very collusive of them.

UPDATE 2:
Overlooked again. Oh well.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 April 2005 05:00 AM · Comments (10)

Lance Armstrong: One More Tour.

Lance Armstrong has announced that he will race one more time in this summer's Tour de France, then retire.

lancearmstrong.gif

SI has a great profile on his career, and his Texas roots:

Lance Armstrong is the Texan who conquered France.

From his humble beginnings in a single-parent home in Plano to his rise to the summit of professional cycling with six straight Tour de France titles, Armstrong's fame has always had a touch of Texas, a story so brash that he really couldn't have come from anywhere else....

On Monday, the Texan who has pedaled the Stars and Stripes down the famed Champs Elysees in Paris announced he'll retire in July after one last race around the French countryside. After 14 years in professional competition, "It will be the last one," he said. "Win or lose."

We'll be rooting for him.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 April 2005 04:04 PM · Comments (5)

527s: Already Relics Of The Past?

Byron York has some interesting thoughts on the unintended negative consequences of campaign finance reform:

The rise of the 527s, and the diversion of money and power away from the political parties to outside groups like America Coming Together, was the direct result of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law. After supporting campaign-finance reform, ostensibly for the purpose of "reducing the influence of big money in politics," in 2004 Democratic groups got the jump on Republicans in the 527 race. Anti-Bush 527s spent about $230 million in the effort to defeat the president — nearly two and a half times the amount spent by Republicans to reelect Bush.

What to do when the reform makes the perceived problem worse?

Next week the Senate Rules Committee is expected to consider the "527 Reform Act of 2005," sponsored by Republican Sen. John McCain, which would impose on 527s the same contribution limits that now apply to other political-action committees. No longer would the groups be able to accept seven- and eight-figure, Soros-style contributions. And that will be the end of the 527s, at least as they existed during the 2004 campaign. "There is less and less enthusiasm for organizing 527s, since Congress is signaling that it is inclined to legislate them out of existence," says election-law expert Jan Baran.

Trying to dam up the flow of money in politics nearly always results in typical, predictable consequences. Money will always flow where it can; trying to stop it is more than futile, it is counterproductive.

Under the immutable laws of political spending, however, the money is already going elsewhere. And this time, it is likely to go to 501(c)(4) organizations, known in short as C4s, named for the subsection of the Internal Revenue Service code which allows their formation. "The C4 is a tax-exempt vehicle that could be used as an alternative in most, if not all, cases," says Baran.

Who could have guessed that would happen?

More on the C4s:

C4s are allowed to engage in unlimited lobbying, and can also engage in partisan campaigning, as long as that campaigning is not the group's "primary" purpose, according to the law. In the next few months and years, experts believe it is likely that new C4s will arise that engage in partisan political activity but which claim that such activity is not their "primary" purpose. "I would anticipate many more organizations to be formed as C4s, and that they will contend that their political activity is secondary to their lobbying," says attorney Mackenzie Canter, an expert on nonprofit groups. Lawsuits and regulatory actions will no doubt hinge on the meaning of the words "partisan" and "primary."

And one more thing. For megadonors, C4s have an enormous advantage over the old-style 527s: They are not required to disclose their contributors. One could give $10 million, or $20 million, or any sum, and remain anonymous.

The lesson from all of this:

...after years of campaign-finance reform, we are entering an era in which a donor can give an unlimited amount of money to an unaccountable group without any public disclosure. Before McCain-Feingold, big donors gave fully-disclosed money to the political parties, which, because they represented the entire coalition that made up the Democratic or Republican parties, were far more accountable to the public than the new, outside, groups became. Now, new C4s like protectyourcheck.org do not even have to reveal where they get their money — a central tenet of clean campaigning. And it was all done in the name of reform.

Oh well, nothing yet another round of McCain-Feingold can't take of, right?

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 April 2005 03:01 PM · Comments (0)

Yet Another Realignment Manifestation: Grassroots Fundraising.

We've previously noted the growing body of evidence of a Republican realignment in the United States (here, here, and here).

Now, we learn that the Republican National Committee set a new fundraising record during the first quarter of 2005, and it did it with many, many small donations:

...the RNC received $32.3 million in contributions during the first three months of 2005, a fundraising record for the first quarter of a non-presidential election year....

The RNC has received 715,000 contributions this year, with an average gift of $45.14. More than 68,200 new donors have contributed to the RNC this year.

Meanwhile, Howard Dean's DNC raised $13.8 million in the first three months of the year.

On the Republican side, a true grassroots revival. On the Democrat side, following a successful year of grassroots fundraising in 2004, a newfound dependence on gobs of cash from a few wealthy benefactors, diverted to shadowy 527 groups, one of which (MoveOn.org) sent a letter recently, declaring of the Democratic Party, "Now it's our party: We bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back."

Indeed you did.

Indeed... you... did.

Does anyone else remember the days of fawning media coverage about Howard Dean's revolutionary grassroots fundraising? Every day, it seemed, there was another story about how Dean's army of under-$200 contributors was bloating beyond the very limits of anyone's imagination.

Whatever happened to that?

With such ample and robust evidence of a Republican realignment, is it any wonder the Democrats are becoming more desperate in their character assassination campaigns against individuals like John Bolton and Tom DeLay?

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 April 2005 01:50 PM · Comments (3)

Some Call It A Bonfire (Or Carnival) Of Classiness....

We call it "Classiness, All Around Us."

certifiedclassy.gif
Click to explore more WILLisms.com.

In no particular order, WILLisms.com presents classiness from the blogosphere:


1.

Jay Reding has more on the myth of the Social Security Trust Fund (via RWN):

The Social Security Trust Fund isn’t like a T-Bill or another federal bond. In the latter case, Uncle Sam is making a promise to pay you a set amount. The Social Security Trust Fund doesn’t work that way....

Flemming v. Nestor already extablished that there is absolutely no legal guarantee to Social Security benefits. Social Security could be legislated out of existence, and the money in the “trust fund” would simply be “paid back” by the SSA to the federal government (ie the obligations inherent in them would basically be wiped off the books). It’s a convenient legal fiction, and it’s essentially meaningless in real financial terms....

The only way to put Social Security in a real “lockbox” is to ensure that the government cannot touch the assets designated for beneficiaries. The only way to do that is to get it out of the hands of government. Hoping that the mythical Social Security Trust Fund will save us from the impending fiscal crisis is about like hoping Superman will swoop to the rescue - it simply isn’t going to happen.

2.

File It Under offers this analysis of whether members of a jury reading the Bible should preclude the possibility of a death sentence:

If they rule that the Bible verses somehow brainwashed people into making moral judgments that they otherwise wouldn't have made (which is hypothetical again), then you have to ask should Christians, or people of faiths, be allowed to sit on a jury at all.


3.

Mythusmage Opines blog links with these time-wasters:

Your Brand of American Dialect.

Here was ours (although we could have gone either way on some of the questions):

Your Linguistic Profile:

75% General American English
15% Dixie
10% Yankee
0% Midwestern
0% Upper Midwestern

Also try out:

Your Inner European.


4.

The Political Calculations blog has so much great stuff, just go to the main page and scroll down.

There's a comparison between the EU and USA you might find surprising.

There's a neat interactive tool you can use to model reaction time surrounding the incident involving Italian (and Communist) journalist Giuliana Sgrena.

There's another look at the Social Security calculator wars.

And of course, there's an oldie-but-goodie, the Classic Cow Model of economics.

In short, Political Calculations is a fantastic blog. There's always something thoughtful and unique.

5.

PoliPundit compares and contrasts freedom of speech for liberal and conservative professors:

Ultra-left lunatic professor Ward Churchill, who called the victims of 9-11 “little Eichmanns,” goes around the country making speeches for thousands of dollars a pop. He is still a professor, of course.

By contrast, professors who make non-PC remarks that are patently true can get into deep trouble.

6.

Scrappleface satire site has these stories on the Bolton confirmation:

Biden Claims Bolton Staring at Him During Hearing

Bolton Denies Boxer's Claim: 'I Am Not the Walrus'

7.

La Shawn Barber looks at the failure of left-wing talk radio:

When I first heard about Air America, it struck me as strange that a group of people — investors and Hollywood personalities — thought all they needed to do was put the product out there, generate heavy promotion in mainstream media, promising to be the answer to conservative radio. I’m no economist, but I thought there had to be a market for a product. Anybody could’ve seen what was coming.


8.

In light of the recent protests in China, Winds of Change has a great look at China:

As we've seen over the past 2 weeks, the Chinese government is more than happy to channel some of that simmering angst into nationalism with a hostile edge, even as it seeks to keep control of what it is unleashing.


9.

Publius Pundit looks at the situation in Belarus.

For reference, Belarus is the only "not free" country (as classified by Freedom House) in Eastern Europe:

belarusnotfree.gif

10.


Blogs for Bush looks at what will happen if Harry Reid continues in the same obstructionist tradition as Tom Daschle:

...if the Democrats follow through with their threats to shut down the Senate it would be political suicide.


And don't forget to check out the classy WILLisms.com Featured Posts on the left-hand sidebar, plus all the great Trivia Tidbits of the Day, "Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Not Afraid Of Intellectual Combat," and "Should We Stay Or Should We Go, Now?"


Previous Certifications of Classiness from WILLisms.com:

February 8, 2005

February 16, 2005

February 18, 2005

February 21, 2005

February 22, 2005

February 25, 2005

March 3, 2005

March 9, 2005

March 15, 2005

March 22, 2005

March 29, 2005

April 5, 2005

April 12, 2005

WILLisms.com offers a classiness roundup as a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 10 posts deemed classy. We love to spread the word on upcoming blogs, being that WILLisms.com also fits that description. If you would like to nominate a post on your blog or another blog for inclusion, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com. Write "Classy Nomination" in the subject.

At some point in the future, we're also going to introduce a roundup of lameness, which will provide examples of shrill, angry, extremist, anti-American, self-loathing, intentionally misleading, and other unclassy posts from blogs. Again, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com to submit nominations.

Classy.

Jamming.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 April 2005 12:51 PM · Comments (2)

White Smoke: "Habemus Papam"

"Habemus Papam" (via Michelle Malkin)

White Smoke:

whitesmoke.gif

A Pope has been elected, with at least a 2/3 majority of the College of Cardinals, in stunningly rapid fashion.

How do they make all that smoke, anyway?

This contraption:

smokestove.gif

Even through the sterilizing medium of television, the excitement of the crowd is truly palpable. The tolling bells added a nice touch of tradition:

belltolling.gif

More:

JOY-

joyfulnuns.gif


UPDATE:
11:42 AM Central Time-

The New Pope:

"I announce to you a great joy... we have a Pope."

Joseph Ratzinger is the new Pope.

His new name: Benedict XVI.

benedictxvi.gif


More joy-

priestjoy.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 April 2005 11:13 AM · Comments (7)

African-Americans Would Benefit Substantially From Social Security Reform.

Back in January, we argued that Social Security reform would benefit minorities disproportionately more than other groups.

Now, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Alphonso Jackson explains the importance of Social Security reform for African-Americans in the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com.

alphonsojackson.gif


Jackson:

Today, the typical black household has a net worth of only $6,100, while a typical white household has $67,000. In recent years, the wealth gap between blacks and whites has been intensifying. Blacks are more likely to be unemployed, living in poverty, and in need of government assistance.

We see left-wing group cite these same kinds of numbers as evidence against reform. Liberals tend to view reform as taking away the only remaining safety net for the poor, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The point of reform is to make people less dependent on government, allowing someone living paycheck-to-paycheck to build a nestegg and have the dignity of a personal retirement account.

We can begin reversing these trends and erasing today's racial inequities by encouraging black participation in what President Bush calls America's "ownership society." Through ownership, more Americans will accumulate wealth, become financially independent, and take a more active role in their futures, their children's futures, and the future of our country.

An ownership society, as opposed to a welfare state, is the way to lift people out of poverty and rejuvenate run-down communities, all while creating a real safety net.

An individual who owns his retirement security--a concept central to the president's plan for reforming Social Security--would enjoy many of the same benefits homeownership provides. And under the plan, even the lowest-income workers would have the opportunity to build equity.

The administration has had great success in boosting home ownership among minorities over the past few years. Putting Social Security reform in those same terms is important for gaining the trust and support of African-Americans on the issue.

Black Americans have the most to gain from the proposals. As it stands today, black seniors are disproportionately more dependent on Social Security, but they receive less benefit from the system. While approximately 20% of white Americans depend entirely on Social Security for their retirement income, the figure doubles for blacks.

Not only that, but without reform, benefits will fall by more than a quarter beginning in 2041; it only gets worse over time. Those who exclusively count on Social Security to take care of them in retirement (and there are more people like that than you might think) need reform most of all.


But blacks receive far less in return for their Social Security contributions. One in three will get no benefit at all because he will die before he is eligible to collect benefits. After a lifetime of paying into Social Security, nearly 30% of black seniors are left in poverty, compared to 7% of white seniors. And while the average black male lives to age 67.8--after collecting less than one year of Social Security--the average white male will collect seven years of benefits. In effect, black workers are subsidizing the retirement of whites. The inevitable results of not reforming Social Security--raising payroll taxes or reducing benefits--would only worsen the situation for blacks.

This point is not insignificant, although the NAACP typically claimed that noting the lower life expectancy of African-Americans is "playing the race card."

Today, about half of the nation has money invested in stocks. The other half doesn't earn enough to afford the freedom to invest. Despite their inability to save for their future, these low- and middle-income workers are forced to pay 12.4% of their income into Social Security--a system that generates no wealth. An individual can work for 20, 30 or 40 years, but if he dies without children under 18 or a spouse over 65, none of that Social Security money is passed on.

Social Security, as it is funded today, rests on a complicated inter-generational wealth transfer. The money younger workers pay in today (an eighth of every dollar) goes toward funding the general operations of government. If we reform the system appropriately, individuals would see a real connection between personal contributions and the building of wealth.

Allowing every American to accumulate inheritable wealth will go a long way in solving the intergenerational wealth gap. Younger workers allowed to set aside part of their money into personal retirement accounts will be able to build nest eggs for their own futures that they can pass along to their children and grandchildren. Best of all, that money will grow at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver.

Since the creation of Social Security 70 years ago, our nation has made great strides in closing the gaps of racial equality--the Urban League report makes this clear. But to remove the final obstacles to equality, black Americans need to start building the equity--through ownership that their white counterparts have been accumulating for generations. The homeownership gap is closing. If we allow black Americans to build wealth through personal retirement accounts, another gap will close.

Blacks, out of every group in the country, have the most to lose without reform, and the most to gain with reform. When African-Americans become less dependent on the government, you can bet that they may start reevaluating their pact with the Democratic Party. Once blacks see that the benefits of reform far outweight the current system, that Republicans are not out to get them, and that Democrats don't always have their best interests at heart, African-Americans may break from their near-unanimous support for Democrats.

Don't expect it to happen overnight, and certainly don't expect a complete mirror-image flip. But moving from 90-10 ratio to even 65-35 would profoundly affect party politics in America for quite some time.


UPDATE-
Matt Margolis comments:

While the Democrats are the minority party, they also claim to the the party of minorities. Of course the big problem with that claim is I really can't think of anything they've done to help minorities. It seems as if their position on Social Security is no different.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 April 2005 10:59 AM · Comments (1)

The Bonfire Of The Vanities Is Up.

Go check out this week's Bonfire.

It's a self-submitted collection of the worst posts by otherwise excellent bloggers, started by Wizbang and hosted this week by Am I A Pundit Now? blog.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 April 2005 10:13 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 21 -- Oklahoma City Bombing.

10 YEARS AFTER THE OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING-

Not all trivia tidbits are so trivial. Today marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic, dastardly terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

oklahomacitynationalmemorial.gif


Some numbers:

-387,000 Estimated number of people in Oklahoma City who knew someone killed or injured in the bombing (more than a third of the population).

-190,000 Estimated people in Oklahoma City who attended
funerals for bombing victims (19% of the population).

-Over 300 Buildings Were Damaged or Destroyed.

More:

168 People Killed

19 Children Killed

1 Rescuer Killed (Rebecca Anderson)

850 People Injured

30 Children Orphaned

219 Children Lost at Least One Parent


Source:

Oklahoma City National Memorial (.pdf).


Speaking from experience, visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial is a moving experience. Having not made it to Ground Zero in NYC until after the rubble was mostly cleared from the site, but having visited the Murrah building site while mangled rubble was still piled high, the up-close images from Oklahoma City became a proxy for interpreting and personalizing the media images following September 11, 2001. Television and magazines and newspapers have a way of sanitizing and sterilizing the true impact of events like these, but visiting a well-designed memorial can be a good way to understand the magnitude of a tragedy.

That Timothy McVeigh believed his cowardly actions would ignite some sort of new American Revolution speaks volumes about just how deluded he must have been.

Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 April 2005 05:03 AM · Comments (2)

Should We Stay Or Should We Go, Now?

Art Chrenkoff has some more encouraging polling data from Iraq:

"Do you support the pull out of foreign troops?

"At once - 12.56%

"According to a future timetable - 81.80%

"Do not know - 5.64%

"Has the security situation improved since the start of the new government?

"Yes - 55%

"No - 35%

"No change - 10%"


More, on the April 9th demonstrations in Iraq:

Most of the U.S. media portrayed it as a massive anti American demonstration in the streets of Iraq. I noticed, however, from Iraqi Arabic newspapers that most the demonstrations were against terrorism & calling for Saddam’s trial & hanging (all these signs were in Arabic).


Meanwhile, you have headlines like these in the media:

From Canada-

Yankee go home: Iraqis increasingly calling for American troops to leave


From China-

Iraqis increase calls for US troops to leave


From Massachusetts-

Call rises in Iraq for U.S. to leave

In Iraq, increasing calls for American troops to leave


From Montana-

Iraqis make increasing calls for troops to leave


From Washington State-

Protests highlight Iraqis' impatience for U.S. military to leave country

The journalist responsible for the body of the story: Traci Carl.

Her version goes like this:

Tens of thousands of mostly Shiite protesters, largely followers of militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, filled central Baghdad's streets Saturday, holding the largest anti-American protest since the invasion. Demonstrations have continued, all echoing the same demand: It's time for U.S. troops to leave.


Meanwhile, from the Los Angeles Times' Edmund Sanders, in a New Hampshire paper-

In Baghdad, protesters demand that U.S. leave

But the body is a little more even-handed:

"This is the first manifestation of freedom in Iraq," said Lt. Ali Muhsin of the Iraqi National Guard, raising his voice to be heard over the din of protesters. "We have never witnessed such a thing before. In the old days, people would only have been able to do this if they were hailing Saddam. Now they are protesting for their rights."

Despite the anti-American slogans, some people in the crowd expressed support for the United States and ambivalence about the occupation.

"I came here today to mark the fall of the tyrant Saddam and to call for his execution," said Mohammed Abdul Hussein, 42, an anesthesiologist now working as a salesman. "We deeply thank all the people, including the Americans, who helped us get rid of him."

Nadhum Jaffer, 31, an unemployed surveyor, worried that a U.S. withdrawal would leave Iraq vulnerable to sectarian violence and foreign interference.

"If the Americans left immediately, everything would be a mess," Jaffer said.

I. So, did some Iraqis demonstrate against what they perceive to be a lingering occupation?

Probably. In fact, it's likely.


II. Did others demonstrate against simultaneously against the terrorists and regime remnants?

Yeah. And why wouldn't they?


III. Do the protests represent the sentiments of the Iraqi people?

Not really. Muqtada al-Sadr is a truly marginal figure in Iraq, and his followers are not even the mainstream of Iraqi thought.

One thing they probably have in common with the whole of Iraq is their understandable frustration that their country is still in a transition phase, still replete with random acts of terrorism.

A second thing the al-Sadr followers have in common with much of the rest of Iraq is their disdain for Saddam Hussein and their desire to move forward with progress and prosperity.


IV. Which version of events inevitably ended up in the headlines, indeed in the bulk of the story on the demonstrations?

You guessed it, the pessimistic, negative one.


V. Which version of events was largely omitted?

Yep, the one where the Americans are the good guys.


A few points to consider-

First, demonstrations in Iraq are a manifestation of the feelings of a small proportion of the population.

Second, they are not insignificant. They, while not indicative of what "Iraq is feeling," still represent a valid point of view.

Third, that point of view is best expressed in demonstrations, at at the ballot box, not through improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other acts of violence.

Fourth, it is interesting to note that at nearly all of these demonstrations composed of Shi'a, there is an almost paranoid longing for Saddam Hussein's trial and execution. They want him gone.

One can't help but wonder if some of the Iraqi population believes Saddam Hussein may still have a chance at returning to power. For certain Saddam loyalists, the fact that he remains alive gives them hope; for certain Shiites with memories of the disastrous aftermath of the Gulf War, the fact that Saddam remains alive makes them uneasy. There is a kind of unnatural tension there; although, from an American perspective, it seems unreasonable to imagine Saddam Hussein back in power, it may loom as a very real possibility to many in Iraq.

Fifth, although we despise this phrase, it seems like "the truth is somewhere in the middle" on this one. Some Iraqis hate the U.S. with a burning passion. Others are grateful to America for giving them an opportunity to flourish as a free and prosperous society. Others may just be fed up with everything, period. The bottom line is that the recent spate of headlines proclaiming that "Iraqis want the U.S. to leave immediately" are more than a little misleading.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 April 2005 10:47 PM · Comments (3)

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: Not Afraid Of Intellectual Combat.

The Supreme Court. It's a nice gig. Great benefits. Great job security. Great supreme authority over what is Constitutional. All the things one looks for in a career.

Few Justices are what we might call "public figures."

The oral arguments before the Justices remain camera-free, so few Americans would even recognize them walking down the street.

The exception there might be Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the ultimate in black-robed babealiciousness (that's a joke) (or is it?):

ruthbaderginsburg.gif

The job of Supreme Court Justice is the ultimate tenure program. Other than impeachment, there is really no accountability to the democratic process once in the robe, thus no reason to pander to the whims of democracy and, more sinister, the lynch-mob tyranny of the majority. This has the potential for abuse, however, as these Philosopher-Kings carry biases and motives into the job.

Professor Bainbridge argues that until judges get out of politics, judicial independence from politics is absurd:

The idea that Supreme Court justices or any other judges should be immune from political criticism - or even political retribution - is absurd given the extent to which those same judges have intruded themselves into the political domain by Constitutionalizing the culture wars.

A certain rule-by-edict judicial activism often rears its head in the judiciary, but ultimately the Supreme Court is a crucial cog in the system of checks and balances we enjoy in America.

Accordingly, few Justices feel compelled to justify themselves. Few engage in public discourse. Few do battle intellectually. Many hide behind "judicial independence."

But not Antonin Scalia. Supreme Court Justices typically shy away from public forums with open question sessions, and a recent question asked of Scalia underscores why.

antoninscalia.gif

The New York Post notes this bit of tackiness that has likely made the perpetrator a legend in his own mind:

Antonin Scalia spoke Tuesday night at NYU's Vanderbilt Hall, "The room was packed with some 300 students and there were many protesters outside because of Scalia's vitriolic dissent last year in the case that overturned the Texas law against gay sex," our source reports. "One gay student asked whether government had any business enacting and enforcing laws against consensual sodomy. Following Scalia's answer, the student asked a follow-up: 'Do you sodomize your wife?' The audience was shocked, especially since Mrs. Scalia [Maureen] was in attendance. The justice replied that the question was unworthy of an answer."

The student clearly crossed the line from civil discourse into tackiness; had he not asked the follow-up question, however, it is unlikely anyone would have taken note of his point. Still, the question is a perfect example of why many judges refuse to go on record in the public square, other than through their decisions.

Scalia, both Constitutionally and by tradition, does not have to engage in these kinds of forums, but he does, because he appreciates the intellectual back-and-forth. He also believes the judiciary should answer to the people, at some level, and justices should not make law from the bench (which was the underlying point of Scalia's dissent in Lawrence v. Texas). Bravo to Scalia for taking the heat and enduring the tacky questions, all for the principle of democratic accountability.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 April 2005 05:29 PM · Comments (4)

The Case Against John Bolton: Becoming Absurd.

In the WILLisms.com email box from the left-wing group American Progress comes this breathtakingly unclever cartoon:

uninunbolton.gif

The un in U.N., eh?

It is so weak that it actually becomes marginally humorous. It is so devoid of any punch that it actually becomes entertaining.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are really dredging the depths to find colorful characters to discredit John Bolton.

It's not working.

On this issue, Democrats would be advised to distance themselves from... themselves. The American people simply do not like UN apologists.

And if Republican Chuck Hagel believes he has a chance at the GOP nomination in 2008, he would be advised to drop his ambivalence.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 April 2005 04:25 PM · Comments (3)

Reminder...

Just a reminder to submit your nominations for Tuesday's Bonfire/Carnival of Classiness.

For inspiration, see last week's edition.

Email WILLisms@gmail.com to submit your choices for best posts from this past week. The subject line should say "Classiness Nomination" or something similar.

In the meantime, go check out the Carnival of Capitalists.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 April 2005 02:23 PM · Comments (1)

Democrats Retreat, Somewhat, On Social Security Reform.

There is no "There Is No Crisis" anymore, in the United States House of Representatives, at least (via Social Security Choice):

House Democrats have decided to quit emphasizing that they will not negotiate changes to Social Security until President Bush drops his idea for private accounts. The switch in strategy comes after Democrats learned from focus groups that people frown on the lawmakers for being obstinate.

The headline:

"Democrats adjust Social Security stance"

Other headlines around the country for the same story:

"Democrats switch Social Security strategy"

"Dems Change Tactics on Social Security, Still Press For Detailed Bush Plan"

"Public opinion stirs Democrats to shift tactics on Social Security"

"House Democrats shift Social Security strategy"

"Democrats change strategy"


Adjust? Switch? Change? Shift?


Seeing as the Democrats' strategy thus far has been to draw a firm line in the sand and say "no, no, no," the "shift" in the House is more profound than a mere strategy "adjustment."

This "switch" is really a retreat. And it is a meaningful development in the matter of reform.

Some House Democrats are realizing that there is nothing valiant about obstructionism of reform and progress, especially on an issue like Social Security. Over the course of the past few months, a national consensus has formed:

Yes, Social Security faces major problems. Yes, we need to fix it preferably sooner rather than later.

Standing athwart history, yelling "Stop!" is not a strategy (let alone a winning one); it is regressive, reactionary nihilism. While some people may be skeptical about the caricature drawn by negatively biased reporting of President Bush's reform principles, Americans still want reform.

Apparently our friends in the minority party are just now realizing that if President Bush and Republicans are the only ones talking about reform, while Democrats are bogged down in "there is no crisis" mode, the voters will respond accordingly.

Duh.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 April 2005 01:11 PM · Comments (1)

In Defense Of Trackbacks, Part II.

We recently urged bloggers everywhere to keep trackbacks on their sites, even with rising levels of spam. Some of the biggest bloggers are now wondering if trackbacks are worth it.

First, for those who have no idea what trackbacks are, M.A.W.B. Squad has a succinct definition:

A trackback sends a link to another person's post to show that you've commented on what they've written about.


Powerline, unfortunately, nixed trackbacks "one and for all," but offered a glimmer of hope for the trackbackophiles:

Maybe we'll revive them if the spam situation improves someday.

Captain's Quarters blog explains, "the clean-up has gotten very tiresome," but sees worth in them nonetheless:

I think TBs are an essential tool of the blogosphere in directing readers to other opinions in the debate. A great example of this is the ongoing discussion over judicial nominations and the filibuster -- I use my own TBs to see how others have reacted to my arguments.


Michelle Malkin asks for advice on what to do:

We're beginning to have the same problem here (in many older entries). Let me know what you think I should do.

Blogs for Bush, meanwhile, offers a relatively easy solution to the problem.

Patrick Ruffini also believes trackbacks are useful, and notes popular blogging software designer "Movable Type needs to get on a fix for this pronto."

Ed Driscoll, meanwhile, is less optimistic about the future of trackbacks, noting, "enjoy trackbacks while they last."

Half Sigma blog (found through a trackback at Ed Driscoll) breaks it down in a very unique way:

Trackback spam is an example of negative sum activity. Sending a spam trackback ping may have a benefit of +1 to the spammer, but a cost of -10 to the blog owner and readers. But because so many members of the human race are scum, they will engage in activity that has a benefit for themselves but a net loss for society.

Blogicus argues:

...the power of the blogosphere is, in part, tied to the subject dependent interconnectivity. Without trackbacks, the network is likely to stagnate and resist desirable change that brings new thoughts and analysis forward.


From the perspective of WILLisms.com's growth over the past 90 days or so of blogging, trackbacks have been invaluable for breaking through the clutter, even just a little. For emerging blogs, trackbacks are crucial for cultivating a base of readers, then occasionally reminding those readers visiting the larger blogs to "come home."

But trackbacks have a more important purpose. They allow blogs to engage in "conversation" about ideas, letting people discover new perspectives outside the entrenched mainstream of blogs. And make no mistake, as blogs become increasingly mainstream, without interactive tools such as trackbacks, there will be a handful of mainstream blogs, much like the mainstream media, that set the agenda on their own.

In short: Save the trackbacks!

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 April 2005 11:59 AM · Comments (8)

The Schiavo Memo Revisited.

Michelle Malkin looks at just how distorted the "Schiavo memo" reporting has gotten:

...nearly a month after the Allen/Roig-Franzia article was published in the Post and other newspapers, the Post still has neither substantiated nor retracted its assertion that the memo was "distributed to Republican senators by party leaders." At this point, we know of only one Republican senator who received the memo--Mel Martinez--and he got it from an aide, not a party leader.

Yet, the new left-wing canon on the memo has become: "the memo was real afterall, in your face, Republicans!"

This has allowed the Post and other media sources to continue citing it as proof that their original, flawed reporting was indeed accurate and that a retraction/correction/clarification is unnecessary; it also somehow allows them to get away with the "blogs can't hang with us" line of argument. The point of the memo's reporting: Republicans really were just using Terri Schiavo for political gain.

Democrats have also followed suit on this theme.

On NBC's MEET THE PRESS (April 17, 2005), Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank (D) took every opportunity, even ones that made little sense, to bring up Terri Schiavo:

...Mr. DeLay is symptomatic of a corruption, frankly, of the public policy process. That's more important to me than a question of this or that trip or this or that payment to this or that relative, etc. It's the public policy process.

You saw it the Schiavo case, you see it in this assault on the judges. What we have got are people who campaigned in 1994 as reformers, and they were going change things.

AND

But, yeah, we have been trying to get across to people that while there are some moderate-sounding Republicans, the heart of the Republican Party is this extremely conservative group that dominates. And Mr. DeLay, I guess in part because of the Schiavo situation and his prominence there when they tried to order the federal courts to do something, and they are now, by the way--and I think this is relevant--the Republicans are threatening all kinds of action against these liberal judges, who include of course Justices Scalia and Thomas and Rehnquist.

Clearly, Democrats think it is a political winner to go after DeLay based on his attempts to prevent Terri Schiavo's dehydration/starvation. The matter of Terri Schiavo had little or nothing to do with what Barney Frank was even talking about, yet he compulsively added her plight to the discussion.

But, awkwardly and superfluously injecting the Schiavo matter into any political discussion is not merely something for far-left members of Congress such as Frank (by the way, is the very idea of Barney Frank representing the Democrats on national television on the matter of ethics not supremely ironic?), invoking Schiavo against Republicans is precisely the kind of coordinated party-line strategy that could only come straight from the top, from DNC Chairman Howard Dean.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

...at a gay rights breakfast in Los Angeles, Dean raised eyebrows when he vowed to "use Terri Schiavo" to attack Republicans.

USA TODAY has more:

"This is going to be an issue in 2006, and its going to be an issue in 2008 because we're going to have an ad with a picture of (House Majority Leader) Tom DeLay saying, 'Do you want this guy to decide whether you die or not? Or is that going to be up to your loved ones?'" Dean said in West Hollywood, Calif.

So, let's get this straight:

1. Because of poor initial reporting, various news outlets and commentators took what we now know was a draft of a memo written by low-level staffer and inadvertantly passed from one Republican (Florida Senator Mel Martinez) to one Democrat (Iowa Senator Tom Harkin), and misrepresented it as an official "GOP talking points memo" created by "Republican officials" or "party leaders" and distributed to "Republican senators."

The effect of the erroneous reporting on the memo cannot be overstated. It opened the floodgates for the partisan circus that ensued.

2. Meanwhile, high-level Democrats, including the actual head of the entire party, openly talk about "using" Terri Schiavo to go after Republicans.

How does this happen?

John Hawkins believes,

"There are always two different standards in the mainstream media: one for conservatives and one for liberals. As usual, the liberal Democrat is just taking advantage of the double standard..."

It is a sad time for our country when the politics of who is on top trumps the politics of what is right.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 April 2005 11:10 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 20 -- Senator Robert Byrd.

West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd (D) released his campaign fundraising total for the first quarter of 2005. Byrd's committee reported a 3 month sum of almost $1.2 million. That's more than Senator Byrd raised during the entire 2000 election cycle. But according to the committee's release, a mere $91,000 was actually raised from the state he represents.

So how did he do it?

MoveOn.org.

Source:

NRSC research.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 April 2005 09:48 AM · Comments (0)

Quotational Therapy: Part 3 -- Thomas Paine, On Tyranny.

"Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

-Thomas Paine, American Crisis No. 1, December 19, 1776.


Previous Quotational Therapy Sessions:


Part 1
.
Part 2.

The right quotation can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 April 2005 09:27 AM · Comments (1)

Tony Blair's Labour Party.

A quick British election poll roundup:

The ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph gave Labour its largest lead so far with a 40% share of the vote, a full 10 points ahead of the Conservatives and enough to give Tony Blair a majority of more than 150 seats....

The less-established CommunicateResearch for the Independent on Sunday also gives Labour a 40% share of the vote but makes it only a six point lead ahead of Michael Howard's party....

The dissenting voice in this picture of Labour optimism is the result of the internet-based YouGov poll for the Sunday Times which places the two main parties neck and neck, with Labour down two on the week to 36%, the Conservatives up two to 35% and the Liberal Democrats also gaining a point to 23% - their highest rating on any poll of the campaign so far....

Polling in the Labour-Conservative marginals suggests that Labour is on 42% in its battleground seats, compared with 36% for the Conservatives and 18% for the Liberal Democrats. This represents a swing of just 1.65% from Labour to the Tories since the 2001 election and suggests only eight seats would change hands on an, albeit unlikely, uniform swing in those marginals.

But the marginal battle between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats appears to be neck and neck with the Tories on 40%, the Lib Dems on 37% and Labour on 19%. This is an improvement for Michael Howard over 2001 but with a swing of only 1.45% to his party he would gain only nine seats from Charles Kennedy's party on these figures.

The ICM poll also recorded voters' views on the performance of the party leaders - Tony Blair was judged to be having a good election by 40%, while 54% said he was performing badly, a rating of -14. By contrast Gordon Brown was given a rating of +40, Michael Howard +18 and Charles Kennedy scored best, with +48.

The Mail on Sunday's survey by the British Polling Index put another spin on the battle, claiming Labour faces more of an uphill task in getting its core vote out. It put Labour three points ahead of the Tories out of all voters, but out of those "certain to vote" put the Tories ahead, 36% against 35%.

All-in-all, a mixed bag. Overall, though, Tony Blair and the Labour Party are right where they want to be against the feckless Conservative Party.

Think "feckless" is a little harsh?

Then you haven't seen the Tories' lame campaign posters.

Think "lame" is a little much?

Well, see for yourself:

imaginefivemoreyearsofit.gif


killerbugs.gif

Campaigning on hospital germs?

Just dreadful.

John O'Sullivan has more in National Review on the Conservative Party's failure to effectively articulate conservative principles:

...the Tories have to challenge and demystify all the soothing myths of Official Britain in defense of the common sense and economic realities of Market Britain.

....if the Tories don't become the champions of Market Britain, whether they win or lose won't really matter.

This is precisely why we can, with a clear conservative conscience, support and root for a Tony Blair victory. The undeniable truth is that Tony Blair has been on the right side of history, time and time again, standing with the United States when it would have been politically expedient to sell President Bush down the river on Iraq.

Democrats could learn a thing or two from Tony Blair about being on the right side of history. Left-wing American pundits have been salivating over the potential of an Iraq-based Blair loss since before the commencement of the invasion. For American liberals, taking Blair down could be a moment of transference, a cathartic healing ritual.

If Tony Blair survives the upcoming election, in the context of John Howard's and George W. Bush's victories in Australia and the United States, respectively, it will signal to the remaining terrorist insurgency in Iraq that the free world is united behind the spread of liberty in the Middle East. Blair's victory would reassure otherwise ambivalent poll-watching heads of state that it is okay to support the United States in the drive for democracy around the world.

Patrick Ruffini has more on the poor Conservative Party campaign:

I want to bring to your attention this shameful advert from the Tories, to be shown in movie theatres across Britain. It uses the WMD issue and Bush footage to attack Blair. Sure -- I'd expect this kind of crap from the Liberal Democrats, but not from the Conservatives. Sadly, I was mistaken. It's pure desperation, and another reason for American conservatives to back Labour on 5 May.

So, still wondering for whom you would/should vote?

You could always take this quiz on the subject.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 April 2005 10:31 PM · Comments (2)

Rock The Vote's Ostentatious Partisanship.

Why does Rock the Vote, a group that professedly represents the political interests of young people, oppose crucial reform of Social Security?

Politics.

But not just any kind of politics.

The bad kind of politics. The partisan politics of who is up and who is down, which completely ignores the good kind of politics, what is right and what is wrong. Riemer knows his organization is wrong, but because of the electoral boost the GOP might receive from successful reform, he doesn't want to be right.

Hans Riemer, of Rock the Vote, believes Social Security reform, when enacted, will be so successful that it will create an enduring legacy of Republican power:

"I do think that's why they're doing this," Riemer said, "because they're trying to create a political coalition that will last them several generations."

Several generations?

Perhaps.

More likely, Democrats will become less hostile to the free market over the next generation, diluting the actual political ramifications of reform over the long-term.

One can hope, at least.

But for young people today, there is no doubt that the GOP's championing of Social Security reform, plus the left's inexplicable opposition to it, will leave a lasting impression on the political values and loyalties of younger people.

Indeed, back in 2000, when then-Governor Bush unveiled his idea to allow younger workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes, Hans Riemer admitted personal accounts were something "young people are more inclined to support" (which also proves President Bush's point that he has run on, not from, Social Security reform, and it was a political winner).

Riemer understands that young people are developing their partisanship brand loyalties today, and he wants to make everything about "us versus them."

"Them," being "the man," a.k.a. Republicans. It's a rehashing of that old "never trust anyone over 30" notion that was so popular during the 1960s.

Despite Riemer's hyperbole about "blatant suppression tactics" against younger voters nationwide, and his declaration on election day that, "it looks like the electoral system isn't made to handle so many voters," young voters found the process remarkably efficient in 2004, according to research conducted by The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) (.pdf):

Despite concerns that college students would face barriers when casting their votes, nearly nine in ten reported that they thought voting was easy. Less than four percent said they tried to register but were unable to do so. Less than 1 percent claimed that they went to the polls but were not allowed to vote.

Riemer's latest blog entry again attempts to make Social Security an us-versus-them battle royale, with a heavy dose of patronizing thrown in for good measure:

A lot of young people have bought into this idea that Social Security "won't be there for them." (Okay, just about everyone has.)

But this is complete fiction. We are being misled by people who just don't want to prioritize our needs....

But whatever you do, don't get played by believing you'll get nothing out of the system....because people who think they have nothing to lose will fall for anything.

1. Who is this "we" Riemer keeps talking about? Riemer, in "Rock the Vote years," is ancient; while those in their mid-30s and older also have much to lose without reform, his "we youth are in this together" rhetoric falls laughably short.

2. Again, Riemer, in a clear manifestation of how out-of-touch he is with actual young people, unintentionally patronizes his audience, telling them they've been duped by some kind of right wing lie. If you've bought into that lie, he tells young people, you must be amazingly gullible.

Let's look at Riemer's analysis of the problem with Social Security:

Today, the priorities for Congress are 1. Tax cuts and 2. Military spending. That's where the money is going.

For Riemer, it's not actually Social Security itself that is the problem, it's those tax cuts and the war. As we recently noted, military spending is significant (and up in recent years), but entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare still comprise the bulk of federal spending. America, although we have by far the largest military force in the world, spends only 3.3% of GDP on the military.

Take a look at these graphs, which illustrate just how reasonable military spending is in the United States, relative to trends over the past century (click on images for originals):

U.S. military spending as a percentage of GDP, 1940 and beyond-


militaryexpendituresaspercentageofgdp.gif

U.S. military spending as a percentage of discretionary spending, 1960 and beyond-

militaryexpendituresaspercentageofdiscretionaryspending.gif

Clearly, Riemer wants to paint a picture of Social Security money going into the ever-burgeoning Republican war machine, but that's just not the case. Military spending, while temporarily and ever-slightly up, is not even remotely related to the underlying problems in Social Security.

Riemer further discredits himself and his entire organization when he distorts the very links he cites.

For example, check out this breathtaking act of misrepresentation:

On the second point, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, sustaining current U.S. defense policies would require much more taxpayer money than fulling paying Social Security benefits.

That's not what it says, Hans. The link Riemer provides focuses on the theoretical task of the United States maintaining its military pre-eminence over China over the next several decades, not "sustaining current U.S. defense policies." The point of the paper is to project Chinese economic growth, then extrapolate potential Chinese military spending from that. America's focus today is not on maintaining a larger military than China; rather, Donald Rumsfeld is on a difficult mission at the Pentagon to streamline the military, making it leaner and more efficient.

Secondly, Riemer's post displays a fundamental misunderstanding (or gleeful distortion) of how Social Security is funded.

He argues:

The point is, if anyone says "there's not enough money to pay Social Security," or "Social Security is running out of money," what is really going on is that they want to spend the money on something else.

See, there is enough money in Washington to pay your Social Security benefits. Its a matter of priorities.

While a valid point could be made regarding the "trust fund" and how it doesn't really exist (and how it goes into the general fund to pay for the rest of government), that's not the point Riemer is attempting to make. He is trying to argue that there is no demographic trainwreck headed down the track, and that Social Security's problems are the result of recent fiscal mismanagement.

He's just wrong. Social Security's problems go much deeper than that. Social Security, in its very funding structure, is inexorably flawed; it is a pyramid scheme, a slave to the impending demographic shift.

Eliminating wasteful government programs, even at the Pentagon, would indeed be good policy, but doing so would have no effect on the looming crisis in Social Security.

Next, left-wingers like Hans Riemer love to trot out the notion that the President's tax relief has somehow "cost" America something, that lowering taxes somehow violates some kind of mythical ideal taxation level. This is bunk. Just because people agreed to a particular level of taxation at some point in the past does not mean that we must live with it today.

If anything, taxes were arbitrarily high prior to the recent rounds of tax cuts, and they now, although still too high, are approaching a more organic and appropriate level.

Ultimately, though, the President's lowering of income taxes has nothing to do with the fact that payroll taxes (a completely different tax) will not be able to cover the substantial funding gap Social Security faces. What Riemer is advocating: using higher income taxes to simply throw more money at the gaping abyss known as Social Security. Rather than actually fixing the problem permanently, he would prefer just charging the American people more for it.

Just throw more money at the bureaucratic money pit and hope the problem goes away.

How to pay for it? Just raise taxes.

This is just such a bankrupt idea, all around, but one so typical of the American left in recent years.

Finally, let's address this point Riemer makes:

...Social Security is about 75%-80% funded for our entire lifetimes and 100% funded for the next 40-50 years.

Close, but no cigar, Hans.

Social Security begins paying out less than it takes in, beginning in 2017; it is therefore disingenuous to claim that it is "100% funded for the next 40-50 years."

In 2041 (Riemer will already be collecting Social Security at that point, just 36 years from now), the IOUs (also called the "trust fund") used to keep the system afloat from 2017 to 2041 will run out, forcing massive benefit cuts (we consider a 26% benefit cut to be pretty significant).

But it gets worse. Over the course of a retirement that begins in 2041, the benefits continue to fall even further.

As Rock the Vote shamefully tries to pull the wool over the eyes of young people, young people are responding. Some anecdotal evidence:

1. The Rock the Vote townhall meetings are failing to generate any interest, whatsoever.

2. If you have read the comments under Riemer's posts at the Rock the Vote blog, most are thoroughly fed-up with Riemer speaking on their behalf on this issue. The comments are an admittedly unscientific cross-section of America's youth, but they are still hilarious to read.

Hans, your partisanship is becoming ostentatious, on top of your already-obnoxious ideology.

Does anyone else think it might be time to reevaluate Rock the Vote's "non-profit, non-partisan" status?

1930sorthodoxies.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 April 2005 04:34 PM · Comments (7)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 19 -- Oil Wealth and Third World Development.

THE CURSE OF OIL-

Oil is a boom and bust industry. But it has largely been a curse in the Middle East, simultaneously stimulating and prohibiting modernization, while stifling democracy.

From 1950-1990:

...80% of all countries with a per capita income over $8,000 and exporting no oil were democracies. The proportion is roughly reversed among high per capita income countries whose export revenues from oil amounted to 50 percent or more of total trade revenues.


Source:

Pages 42-43, Democracy and Redistribution, by Carles Boix of The University of Chicago.


There's nothing mystical about oil itself. The explanation for the "oil curse" goes like this, from Boix:

...wealthy dictatorships are the direct consequence of a strong concentration of fixed natural resources.

...a high per capita income is related to democracy only to the extent that the former originates in relatively mobile, or, more generally, hard-to-tax, kind of capital, such as money or most types of human capital.

...high-income countries that base their prosperity on fixed natural resources, such as oil, should remain authoritarian in spite of their wealth. To avoid expropriation of their fixed assets, the owners will systematically crush any democratic movement.

The theory of a relation between wealth and democracy holds that the source of such wealth must be mobile, fluid, easily redeployed abroad, and not extremely concentrated. Oil is just one example of an asset that is none of those things. Because the owners of the immobile asset cannot readily "take the money and run" (you can't exactly move an oil well to another country) if and when high taxes are imposed on them, or when confiscation/nationalization begins, the lack of options creates an incentive to protect their immobile assets at all cost. Where wealth is less fixed in a concentrated resource, such as oil, democracy is a bargain compared to repression.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 April 2005 10:40 AM · Comments (1)

What A Glorious, Clever Protest!

A handful of wonderfully creative post-modern nihilists proved just how brilliant and purposive they are, today in Washington, D.C., at a rally against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank:

IMFprotests.gif


Meanwhile, real protests continue for freedom and democracy around the globe. In Lebanon, the democratic opposition is counting down the days before it unleashes the full fury of babealiciousness on the remaining pro-Syrian forces:

fifteendays.gif

Previous comment on the awkwardness of post-modern protesting:
"The Left's Lacking Solidarity."

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 April 2005 10:36 PM · Comments (3)

Political Trouble Ahead For Jacques Chirac?

Meet Nicholas Sarkozy.

He just may be the heir apparent to the position Jacques Chirac has held for roughly a decade now, President of France. Sarkozy, who was once Chirac's finance minister, now has his eye on the prize.

sarkozy.gif

Financial Times reports:

Nicolas Sarkozy, France's most popular rightwing politician, has indicated that he will fight for the presidency in 2007 even if it means running against Jacques Chirac, the incumbent who belongs to the same party.

A recent poll puts Sarkozy ahead of Chirac:

...27 percent of the voters support Chirac, whereas 42 percent support Sarkozy and 15 would prefer another candidate.

Much of Chirac's fate depends on the upcoming (May 29, 2005) French referendum on the European Union Constitution, which may indeed be more of a referendum on a decade of government-by-Chirac.

Chirac has had a tough sell on the EU Constitution. In a recent televised debate, the French public rejected Chirac's arguments for approving the Constitution:

...39 percent of respondents found him convincing....

Opponents to the EU Constitution are growing in number, with 56 percent of those surveyed saying they would vote against the referendum, showed a CSA poll conducted before the TV debate and published in today's Le Parisien. That represented a gain of 1 percentage point. Support for the Constitution dropped 1 point to 44 percent, the survey showed.

Indeed, The Guardian explains:

Even with a handpicked audience of 80 young people and celebrity hosts rather than political heavyweights he struggled to make a convincing case.

The French referendum could have far-reaching consequences in global financial markets, as Bloomberg notes:

More than a dozen other surveys in the past month have shown that most French oppose adopting the Constitution, something analysts expect would weaken the euro against the dollar and other currencies.

Those who believe the dollar is in a state of crisis ought to be rooting hard for the French to reject the EU Constitution.

What is most peculiar about French disapproval of the EU Constitution is France's historical drive for European integration. The European Union has all along been France's baby, but the French people seem to be suffering from a sort of post-partum depression, neglecting its own flesh and blood.

The Economist explains more on France's intimate relationship with the EU:

FRANCE was one of the founder members of the European Union. It is half of the “Franco-German” motor that has historically driven European integration. The administrative culture of Brussels is heavily French-influenced, and the EU’s biggest single chunk of spending, the common agricultural policy, is a huge gift to France. Jacques Delors, the most successful of all presidents of the European Commission, was a Frenchman. So was the president of the convention that wrote the EU’s draft constitutional treaty, finalised last year.

So, is French skepticism really about the EU Constitution, or about Chirac? Some of the lack of support for European integration in France is driven by far-left and far-right groups who oppose the draft because its failure would embarrass Chirac and offer an opportunity for political gain. But opposition to the European Union draft constitution is far from a fringe pastime for political hacks.

The Economist:

...there are signs that Mr Chirac is a busted flush: only one in three French trust him, according to polls. Referendums are often used across Europe to give unpopular governments a kicking.

The Christian Science Monitor explains that France is not the only country where the EU is facing an uphill battle:

Serious skepticism over the document's implications is brewing in as many as nine of the 25 European Union countries. The most significant is France, which holds a referendum to accept or reject the constitution on May 29. A stunning 11 opinion polls in the past month all indicate a majority will say "non." The Dutch, who will vote June 1, also look as if they'll spurn it; same for the biggest Euro-skeptics of them all, the British.

All EU countries must ratify the constitution for it to take effect, and what a blow to the growing unity drive a French snub would be.

A rejection by the French, Dutch, and British would be more than a mere setback for the EU, it might derail the integration train for quite some time.

France's International Herald Tribune explains that, if the French reject the EU Constitution, which is highly probable at this point, it "would effectively be dead, and there would be no attempt to resurrect it in the foreseeable future."

Sarkozy, AMERICAPHILE, ANTI-SOCIALIST, ANTI-SNOOTINESS?

And this is where Nicholas Sarkozy comes in. Time profiled him late last year, noting that his agenda would include:

...lower taxes, flexible labor markets, more freedom for innovation and enterprise, more equality for minorities....

"France not only can reform, it's waiting for it."

Not only that, but Sarkozy, unlike Chirac, is not reflexively hostile to America, and, as the Telegraph notes, Sarkozy would offer a truly clean slate for relations between France and the United States:

M Sarkozy adores America and disapproved of M Chirac's handling of the Iraq conflict.

Indeed, Sarkozy was critical of Chirac for his obstructionism and duplicity in the lead-up to the Iraq war; while the American press focused on President Bush's "reckless unilateralism," Sarkozy dared to offer an alternative version of events, one in which Chirac was on a misguided mission to derail the American "hyperpower" and convince the entire world to hate America.

Sarkozy has hammered France's unique brand of socialism, arguing recently that the "French social model" is actually a model for what not to do:

In a speech in southern France, Mr Sarkozy said that with a 10 per cent unemployment rate France should stop saying its system worked better than that of others. "In 20 years both the left and the right have doubled the credits to combat unemployment but we have not produced one fewer unemployed person," he said.

Is Sarkozy France's ticket to regained relevance? Will a failed referendum on the European Union Constitution in France precipitate Chirac's early resignation?

Time will tell.

One thing is for certain: a "non" vote on May 29 would most certainly shake up French, European, and global politics; it would also send major ripples through the global economy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 April 2005 04:24 PM · Comments (9)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 18 - America's Unsurpassed Wealth.

The American Century-

Today, America's relative share of the world's wealth is roughly 21.3%, using CIA estimates of GDP. Meanwhile, the GDP of the United Kingdom accounts for approximately 3.2% of the global economy.

It wasn't always that way, however.

ukanduspower.gif
Click for larger version.

Source:

Page 248, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, by John J. Mearsheimer.


The balance of power in the world will likely shift again in the coming century, as India and China emerge as economic giants, as Europe's demographic crisis renders it less relevant, and as the global economy becomes more integrated. As the world becomes more, then less, dependent on fossil fuels, the balance of power could shift dramatically.

The table above is just a reminder that we, as a nation, and as a civilization, must always strive to improve our situation. Those who fail to anticipate and respond to the tides of history will be swept away in its current.

We must be cognizant of threats on the horizon without overhyping them, and we must adapt and reform our society and economy to meet the challenges of a changing world.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17.


Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 April 2005 10:32 AM · Comments (1)

Stamperifically Awesome!

The folks over at Blogs for Bush were fed up with seeing stuff like this:

gunpointedatbush.gif

...and this:

bushguntohead.gif

They just had to respond. Somehow.

What better than a contest?

A stamp design contest! A stamperifiliciously bodacious stamp contest!

It's reminded us of this post we made on February 10, with our "enhanced" version of the new Ronald Reagan postage stamp:

ronaldreaganstamp.gif

First, the line of stamps commemorating President Bush's trip to Europe earlier this year, based on posts we made at the time (click pictures for corresponding journeys of nostalgia, or to see what you've been missing out on by not reading WILLisms.com):


bushineuropedriving.gif

bushineuropeparis.gif


bushineuropeslovakia.gif


And then there's the "Bush-as-Revolutionary" line (click for larger versions):

bushchestampone.gif

bushchestamptwo.gif


Then there's more love for Ronald Reagan, adapted from some of our Gift Shop gear (click for larger versions):

reagansquares.gif

reaganmulticolor.gif


Two of America's greatest presidents, Washington and Lincoln, adapted from our Presidents Day tribute post (click for larger version):

washingtonandlincolnstamp.gif


And last, but certainly not least, an "artistic" American flag, also found at the WILLisms.com Gift Shop:

americanflagstamp.gif

Those are the official WILLisms.com entries. The prize is a Blogs for Bush t-shirt, but the real prize is in the simple creation of the art, something angry Bush-hating liberals seem to know all-too-well.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 April 2005 12:41 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 17 -- Political Campaign Soundbites.

Shorter Soundbites: Style Over Substance?

The average soundbite of President Bush and Senator Kerry in the 2004 presidential election: 7.8 seconds, the same as in 2000, down from 9.8 seconds (the "ten second soundbite") in 1988.

A look at the downward trend over the years:

averagesoundbite.gif


Sources:

1. Center for Media and Public Affairs (.pdf).

2. Page 130 of Larry Sabato's Overtime! The Election 2000 Thriller.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16.


Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 April 2005 04:10 PM · Comments (3)

Federal Tax Revenues Up.

Tax revenues are not as exciting a topic as Britney Spears' pregnancy, Will Smith's new "edgy" album, what all those zany Desperate Housewives characters are doing, Michael Jackson's child molestation trial, and some of the other headlines dominating the news today, but let's look at numbers anyway, ever briefly:

The Treasury Department recently released (in .pdf format) data on government revenues and expenditures for the month of March. There was good news and bad news.

First, the good news (if you want lower deficits, at least):

Thus far in Fiscal Year 2005 (federal fiscal years actually start in October of the previous year), tax receipts are up 10% compared to this point in Fiscal Year 2004. Clearly, the economy has rebounded, and, even with the President's tax relief packages, revenues flowing into the Treasury are up.

revenuesup.gif


But there's also not-so-good news.

Expenditures, already starting higher than revenues, are also up year-over-year. Thus far, expenditures in FY-2005 have grown by 7%, which is, however, slower than revenue growth.

expendituresup.gif


From where have the bulk of the expenditure increases come?

Entitlements, mostly, plus national security (all numbers expressed in millions):

breakdownofspendingincreases.gif

Brian Reidl has more specifics on how your tax dollars will be spent in 2005:

Washington will spend $22,039 per household in 2005....

Social Security/Medicare: $7,245.

Defense: $4,451.

Low-income programs: $3,559.

Interest on the federal debt: $1,582.

Federal employee retirement benefits: $838.

Education: $627.

Health research/regulation: $614.

Veterans’ benefits: $606.

Highways/mass transit: $388.

Justice administration: $361.

Unemployment benefits: $338.

International affairs: $284.

Natural resources/environment: $275.

Agriculture: $271.

The remaining $598 is allocated to all other federal programs, including social services, space exploration, air transportation, and community development.


Here is a look at spending increases from last year, sorted by actual dollar increase, plus percentage of the overall increase:

spendingincreasesbyprogram.gif


Sorted by percentage increase for each program:

programspendingincreases.gif

This is a good way to think about just how little Congress or the President can even do to control spending. Most of the budget is automatic entitlement spending, plus national security spending. Increasing or decreasing funding for other government programs makes almost no dent in the overall budget picture, simply because of the mammoth size of programs like Social Security and Medicare.

President Bush and Congress over the past few years have overseen exploding expenditures in the federal budget, despite efforts to keep non-security discretionary spending under relative control:

nonsecuritydiscretionaryspending.gif

Think about it for a minute.

A. Revenues coming into the government are back up.

B. Discretionary spending is under control (somewhat, at least).

C. Military spending is up significantly, but only for the time being.

D. Entitlement spending is out of control, with no relief on the horizon.


What would a forward-thinking politician derive from all this? What should each and every elected official be obsessed with right now?

GETTING ENTITLEMENT SPENDING UNDER CONTROL.

How to do this?

SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM + MEDICARE REFORM.

Some believe President Bush has his priorities out-of-order for tackling Social Security reform before Medicare reform.

Michael F. Cannon, writing in National Review, disagrees:

Yes, Medicare is worse off, and both programs demand fundamental reform. But why start with Social Security? First, Social Security reform is less complicated. Benefits are paid in cash and are thus relatively predictable. Shoring up its deficits will require one or more of the following: payroll tax increases, benefit cuts, raising the retirement age, or creating personal-retirement accounts for today's workers. Medicare "pays" seniors with health care, making spending reductions more complicated. The government must grapple with defining what benefits and procedures are covered, who can access them and when, and how to set reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals. Deciding these issues involves analyzing voluminous data from the past and projecting health-care costs and needs for the future.

Second, Social Security reform is farther along. The idea of pre-funding future Social Security obligations through personal-retirement accounts was first advanced over 20 years ago. To date, much less research has been done on pre-funding Medicare's liabilities.

Third, tackling Social Security now will make Medicare reform easier down the line. If we can create personal-retirement accounts in Social Security, we can dispense with the myth of a "third rail" and convince workers and seniors that ownership-based reforms can save Medicare as well as Social Security. The Bush administration is hesitant to suggest Medicare reform because of the bitter wrangling that occurred over the 2003 prescription-drug benefit. Better to wait a few years than to tinker with Medicare while that law is being implemented, in their view.

Republicans in power today have a mixed record on tackling entilements. The opposition to Social Security reform is a clear example of how entrenched special interests always seem to demand more funding for more programs, while there are very few organizations devoted to eliminating programs and cutting back spending. The President's FY-2006 budget was met with typical opposition from left-wing groups that claimed it would "gut" this program and that; Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid asserted:

"This document is immoral for what it does to those who can't defend themselves."

It's the ratcheting-up effect in action. Spending goes up, but, contrary to the very laws of nature, it never seems to come down. While Republicans have had a mixed report card on controlling spending in recent years, the Democrats have almost unanimously failed. For the left, opposition to discretionary spending reductions is only the tip of the iceberg; their insistence that the deficits we face today are primarily the result of the President's tax cuts (which have revived growth in the economy and boosted federal revenues once again) is the base of the iceberg.

Their ideological opposition to crucial entitlement reforms, however, compared to that iceberg, is the entire continent of Antarctica.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 April 2005 03:25 PM · Comments (3)

Cost Of Government Day.

April 15 is called "tax day" for obvious reasons; it is the deadline for filing income taxes with the IRS.

But the true "tax day" would take into account how many days one works to pay off the total tax obligation, a day much further into the year than mid-April.

How many days will you work this year to pay off your tax burden?

In 2004, according to Americans for Tax Reform, the day on which average Americans could finally start working for themselves rather than the government was July 7, a day earlier than in 2003.

In other words, working people must work 189 days out of the year (on average) just to meet all the costs imposed by government; the cost of government consumes 51.6 percent of national income (click here for the full .pdf report).

Take a look at how the President's tax relief staved off further increases in the number of days worked (click for larger version):

daysworkedforthegovernment.gif


Similarly, notice how, under a Kerry administration, the Cost of Government Day would have accelerated significantly (click for larger version):

daysworkedforkerry.gif

The liberal argument against President Bush's tax relief goes as follows:

Due to a series of tax cuts since 2001, middle-class Americans will save an average of $742 on their federal taxes this year. They will need it. Falling wages, exploding gas prices, soaring health care and education costs, rising food and energy prices, and increased state taxes to make up for gaping budget shortfalls are just some of the things Americans will need to pay for with their new money.

Let's address some of these points:

First, while it is easy to rattle off hyperbole like "exploding gas prices," creating an impression that inflation is out of control today, that simply couldnt be further from the truth.

Although keeping inflation under control should be a high priority for economic policy makers, even with the items cited above, inflation is not unreasonable:

Strong U.S. growth has put inflation pressures under the spotlight, but at the moment, they appear to be under control, Richard Fisher, the new president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said on Wednesday.

Indeed, looking at Consumer Price Index data over the past century, we're seeing the same kinds of inflation rates that existed under booming economies. After all, a moderate level of inflation is necessary for a growing economy.


But, didn't Bush's tax cuts simply shift the burden onto the states, as John Kerry claimed during the 2004 campaign?

Not exactly.

ATR explains:

Opponents of tax cuts are losing the battle with voters and as such have started a new campaign to mislead American voters which claims cutting federal taxes has raised state and local taxes. The argument is based on the incorrect assumption that cutting federal taxes has resulted in less money for state and local governments. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, federal aid to state and local governments increased more than 37 percent in the first three years of the Bush Administration. Furthermore, aid to state and local governments has increased by an average of nearly 11 percent annually; nearly double the annual amount in the Clinton Administration.

federalaidaspercentageofstatelocalspending.gif

Much of the increased federal aid has been in Homeland Security dollars, but it is still incorrect to say that states are suffering because aid from the federal government has fallen precipitously.

The components of government spending break down like this:
costofgovernmentcomponents.gif

For whatever reason, the argument that cutting taxes at the federal level adds an unfair burden on the states seems to have a certain political resonance to it. People believe they will pay the same amount no matter what, so they might as well pay more to Washington and less to Austin or Sacramento or Albany.

Let's think about that one for a minute.

1. It is less efficient to redistribute wealth through Washington than through state governments. At the federal level, the large bureaucracies involved trim several more pennies off any given program dollar in the name of administrative costs than would happen at the local and state level.

2. When money goes to the federal government, it forms a new baseline of expected budget levels; as the government collects more money, there is a ratcheting-up effect. It is far easier for the government to increase spending than to pare it down.

3. Finally, shouldn't market forces drive tax policy? In other words, high-tax states like New York and Connecticut should have to compete fairly with low-tax states like Alaska and Alabama for corporate headquarters and other business activity.

Moving taxes and spending away from the federal government and toward the local and state governments, in our mobile society, would allow coporations, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and other workers to go where the optimal balance of government programs and low taxes exists, rewarding with growth states with low taxes, while punishing states with high taxes.

It's a basic free-market principle.

The capital will flow where it the market is most efficient.

Thus, it would be a good thing if states had to pay their own way more, not less. As of today, the federal government subsidizes fiscal irresponsibility at the state level, distorting market forces from making government more efficient.

Speaking of the different tax burdens in different states, see if you can spot the prevailing trend:

prejuly.gif

See the trend yet?

morethan190days.gif

And, just for reference, here are the rest, in the middle:

middlestates.gif

Is it any wonder that low tax areas are seeing the most growth?

According to the latest Census numbers, released on April 8, 2005,

Of the 100 fastest-growing counties, 60 were located in the South, 20 in the West, 18 in the Midwest and two in the Northeast.

The market in action.

UPDATE:

The Tax Foundation has more on what it calls "Tax Freedom Day," and comes up with slightly lower, but similar, numbers.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 April 2005 12:41 PM · Comments (0)

Quotational Therapy: Part 2 -- Founding Fathers, On Taxes.

The "No Taxation without Representation!" Edition-

"No taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant."
-George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796.


"...in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
-Benjamin Franklin, letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, November 13, 1789.


"Excessive taxation ... will carry reason & reflection to every man's door, and particularly in the hour of election."
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Taylor, November 26, 1798.


"To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee of everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it."
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816.

Source: The Founders' Almanac : A Practical Guide to the Notable Events, Greatest Leaders & Most Eloquent Words of the American Founding, by Matthew Spalding.


Previous Quotational Therapy Sessions:


Part 1
.

Stay tuned to WILLisms.com every Monday and Friday for more Quotational Therapy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 April 2005 09:15 AM · Comments (1)

The Death Tax: A Socialist Notion.

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives voted 272-162 to repeal the estate tax. Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, brandishing a wooden music box that he bought at a forced IRS sale of his great Aunt Lilly's farm property, said the death tax "is a socialist notion and it needs to go away."

We just happened to watch this moment live on C-SPAN.

In the background, members of the other party immediately snickered, presumably at Gohmert's assertion that the death tax is a socialist notion. Could they have been snickering at something else? Possibly. Perhaps someone just happened to crack a joke at that very moment.

But it was pretty clear they were paying close attention to Gohmert's speech, and when he delivered his soundbite line, they launched into derisive laughter.

So, is Gohmert some kind of nutjob who goes around calling everything socialist, and therefore worthy of petty snickering, or does he have a valid point?

communistmanifesto.gif

Well, in The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx explains ten action-items (much like the Ten Commandments of communism, or similarly, a "Bill of Wrongs") "generally applicable" for the beginning of a successful transition to communism.

Number three:

"Abolition of all right of inheritance."

Marx contradicted himself on the matter just a couple of months later, putting less emphasis on abolishing all inheritance, in Demands of the Communist Party in Germany:

14. The right of inheritance to be curtailed.

More than twenty years later, Marx argued,

The disappearance of the right of inheritance will be the natural result of a social change superseding private property in the means of production; but the abolition of the right of inheritance can never be the starting point of such a social transformation.

In other words, death taxes are NOT "generally applicable" for the beginning of a transition to communism, although that's what his most famous work declares. However, the ultimate goal of abolishing inheritance remained.

Marx himself, later in life, seemed to admit that securing private property rights under a free enterprise system and abolishing inheritance rights are incompatible. Together, they do not compute.

Well, what about today? Does modern socialism demand the abolition of inheritance?

Yes.

Socialist Party USA:

We need a steeply graduated estate tax...

So, Gohmert was pretty much dead-on. The death tax is a socialist notion. That individuals would dismissively snicker at that idea speaks volumes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 April 2005 05:41 PM · Comments (5)

The Wide World Of News.

Wanting to comment on a variety of topics, but there's just not enough time.

So, how about a roundup post:

1.

By Dawn's Early Light blog has a great comprehensive post on China.


2.

Publius Pundit (which also has this good coverage of China) notes de ja vu all over again in Lebanon.

3.

Chrenkoff notes that more mass graves have been found in Iraq.

4.

The Spirit of America blog has more on "Lebanese Unity - and the Problem of Hezbollah."

5.

Captain's Quarters looks at Rumsfeld's meeting with Kyrgyzstan's new leaders.


6.

Gateway Pundit looks at Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood protests.


7.

Winds of Change is following what weapons Spain's Zapatero sold to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.


8.

Babalu blog notes the U.S.-led effort at the United Nations to condemn Fidel Castro's human rights abuses.


9.

The Counterterrorism blog looks at today's Oil-For-Food indictments.


10.

Wizbang (via The Jawa Report) notes: "Investigation Clears Soldiers In Giuliana Sgrena Checkpoint Shooting."

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 April 2005 11:13 AM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 16 -- Media Bias.

MEDIA BIAS-

negativemediacoverage.gif
Click for larger version.

Source: Adapted from The Nightly News Nightmare: Network Television's Coverage of U. S. Presidential Elections, 1988-2000, by Stephen J. Farnsworth, S. Robert Lichter, based on research from the nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs.

Interesting that Ronald Reagan got such stunningly bad coverage in 1984. Of all the presidential candidates in the past quarter century, John Kerry received the most positive media coverage from the networks (.pdf). On average, Democrats have received 19% more positive coverage from the networks over the years, which matches somewhat that whole "media bias will be worth 15 points for Kerry" thing.

But how do we know this isn't just subjective opinion?

A little methodological concept known as "reliability." Basically, if multiple people come to the same conclusions, independently, based on rigorous objective criteria, it's more than a he-said, she-said game, the results are said to be "reliable."

For more on the methodology that went into the analyses, click here.

The measure is not fool-proof, though, as it fails to capture which stories were left out entirely from the news cycle, for example.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15.


Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 April 2005 10:12 AM · Comments (2)

Reform Thursday: Week Eleven.

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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. The graphics are mostly self-explanatory, but we include commentary on some of them where and when necessary.

This week's graphic comes to us from the Monthly Treasury Statement
of Receipts and Outlays of the United States Government (click here for .pdf version):

outlays.gif
Click image for larger version.

Pretty stark.

Social Security and Medicare together eat up such a large portion of the budget, it is nearly impossible to achieve true fiscal responsibility, even by lowering spending on other programs. Entitlement spending is the bulk of the budget, and if Democrats and Republicans alike are truly concerned about deficits, they will reform Social Security, one of the largest entitlements, sooner rather than later.

In the future, without reform, Social Security spending as a share of the overall budget will grow, making balanced budgets exceedingly difficult and forcing painful choices, choices that we can avoid with reform.

Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:

-Week One.

-Week Two.

-Week Three.

-Week Three, bonus.

-Week Four.

-Week Five.

-Week Six.

-Week Six, bonus.

-Week Seven.

-Week Seven, bonus.

-Week Eight.

-Week Nine.

-Week Ten.


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

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 April 2005 08:51 AM · Comments (3)

Hate Mail.

We at WILLisms.com, the growing blog we are, get a moderate number of emails each day, some pretty negative (from clearly off-their-rocker lefties), but mostly positive and supportive.

Check out how Ed over at Captain's Quarters handles one of his hatemails.

Funny stuff.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 April 2005 12:00 AM · Comments (3)

Young Protester.

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A child looks out of a bus window as they arrive outside London's Downing Street after travelling down from Birmingham to protest about the troubled MG Rover car factory and its threat of closure Wednesday April 13, 2005. (AP Photo/Adam Butler)

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 April 2005 10:20 PM · Comments (2)

More On That Rigged Social Security Calculator.

Nearly two months ago, we examined the Democrats' online Social Security calculator, noting:

Shame on Democrats for this sham, this bull donkey.

Now, FactCheck.org (via Social Security Choice) eviscerates the calculator's last remaining shred of dignity, even calling the calculator "rigged" (which is about as emotive as FactCheck.org gets).

Jamming.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 April 2005 03:59 PM · Comments (4)

Donald Rumsfeld, The Next Pope?

Saudi Arabia's government-controlled media has mockingly endorsed Donald Rumsfeld for Pope.

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The Middle East Media Research Institute notes a column by Dr. Ali Al-Tawati of the Saudi Daily Okaz, for another Saudi Daily, Arab News, on April 12, 2005:

"Rumsfeld for Pope?"

A sample:

"Considering the present state of the world, Donald Rumsfeld is surely the best choice for this extremely important international position. Like Bolton and Wolfowitz, he is a firm believer in democracy, America's new religion.

"Rumsfeld, Bolton, Wolfowitz and the other neocons would make sure that America tightened its grip on the world. Bolton dedicated his life to undermining the UN at a time when America needed to work through the world body more than ever to make the world a safer place — for Americans. Wolfowitz believes that the targeting of smaller impoverished countries falls far short of the global war that the neocons are hoping for.

More:

"There are many reasons to expect someone like Rumsfeld to succeed in the new post, the most important being the fact that the present American administration is in dire need of a pope of a special kind — like the pope who urged King Ferdinand and his wife, Queen Isabella, to expel both Muslims and Jews from Spain.

"The persecution of Muslims and Jews in Spain continued until the 19th century but what happened later was that a new movement, known as the neocons, emerged in the early 21st century.

While, in some ways, the sentiment is so absurd that it can be taken as satire, in much of the Arab world the ideas expressed by the column are mainstream, even government-encouraged orthodoxy.

The State Department must pressure Saudi Arabia's ruling class to knock off its incitement of anti-Americanism. The Saudi Royals have fomented extremism against the United States and Israel to deflect popular discontent away from themselves, and we must begin demanding the end of such filth.

As Natan Sharansky asserts in The Case For Democracy: The Power Of Freedom To Overcome Tyranny & Terror, tyrannical societies such as Saudi Arabia are inherently unstable. For regimes to maintain stability, governments of fear socities "regard inculcating hatred towards outsiders as critical to their rule."

More:

"...the Saudi family, by giving more and more power to the Wahabi religious authorities within its kingdom and more and more money to spreading their virulent form of Islam around the world, has used external enemies to whitewash its own decadent lifestyle and justify its repressive rule. While it was posturing in the West as a close ally of the United States and a force for stability in the Middle East, the policies of the Saudi regime were actually destabilizing the entire region by mobilizing millions for war against the West, Christians, Jews, and even fellow Muslims. Thus, the global spread of fanaticism that now threatens our entire civilization is partly rooted in a nondemocratic Saudi regime's need for internal stability."


But, don't we set a poor example by complaining about objectionable material in Arab media? Isn't that hypocritical, as the right to print objectionable material is guaranteed by our very own First Amendment?

No, and no.

In Saudi Arabia, there is no freedom of the press; the government controls the flow of information in its newspapers. While the above column might not seem much worse than what's found on The Daily Show, or in The New York Times, or on many liberal blogs, the differences between satire and/or conspiracy theories as part of a variety of viewpoints in a free press environment, versus the point of view in a repressive media environment, cannot be understated.

With Saudi Arabia's press freedom higher than only about a dozen other countries (such as Rwanda, Sudan, and North Korea), Freedom House classifies Saudi Arabia's media as "not free" (click for .pdf).

If and when Saudi Arabia is a free society, a column like the one above will become innocuous, irrelevant, and harmless, but while it remains a fear society, we have to treat government-approved columns as official Saudi policy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 April 2005 03:06 PM · Comments (4)

44% Of Online-Americans Have Read Political Blogs.

The Wall Street Journal released the results of a survey about blog readership:

Two-fifths of Americans who are online have read a political blog, and more than a quarter read them once a month or more, according to a recent Harris Interactive poll.

Still, 56% of the public has never read a political blog and only 7% of online adults have posted a comment, according to the poll.

Of online adults who have posted comments on a political blog, 21% have posted 10 times or more in the past year. Half have posted between two and five times and 20% have posted only once.

People who identify themselves as Liberals are mostly likely to post comments to political blogs (28%); Moderates (17%) and Republicans (17%) were least likely.

Some other interesting tidbits:

1. Men have read political blogs more than women, to the tune of 48% - 40%.

2. Twice as many men read blogs on a daily basis (but, at 6% - 3%, it is difficult to really make that statement authoritatively).

3. Somewhat predictably, among those with a high school education or less, two-thirds have never read political blogs. College graduates, meanwhile, read blogs far more often.

The most significant aspect of the survey is that it reveals the yet-to-be-achieved growth potential of blogs. Blogging is still in its infancy; there is incredible room to grow. There is also a mad scramble for all those new readers out there, a competition between and among blogs to establish their blogging brand. Eventually, in addition to the so-called "mainstream media" (or MSM), we may be talking about the MSB (mainstream bloggers).

In the meantime, the mad dash for loyal readers is on.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 April 2005 12:59 PM · Comments (3)

Site News: Large Mammalness.

WILLisms.com is no longer a mere Marauding Marsupial in The Truth Laid Bear ecosystem.

We've been promoted to "large mammal."

Woo hoo, marsupials are gross.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 April 2005 11:58 AM · Comments (7)

Gays In Sports: A Poll.

Have Americans become more accepting of the idea of gays in sports?

Take a look at this new survey conducted for NBC/USA Network, reported in Sports Illustrated:
homosexualityandsportssurvey.gif
Click for far more results.

John Ryan, in "Needing a poll to figure out a poll," argues:

Contrary to what many activists predict and progressive thinkers hope, when it comes to gay athletes, it isn't all over but the outing.

To be sure, the poll results are dramatic and even shocking, considering the nature of sports. It would be interesting to see the demographic breakdowns, including age, region, and whether the respondents even watch sports.

It would also be interesting to survey professional athletes themselves and/or the most diehard sports fans on the matter.

SI's L. Jon Wertheim explains:

...while homosexuals are thought to compose anywhere from 4% to 10% of the general population, among the 3,500 or so men active in the four major professional sports not a single homosexual is "out."

....


Compounding the dilemma of a gay athlete is the virtual certainty that the first active player to come out will do so at his financial peril. Those Red Sox fans clad in shirts reading JETER'S A HOMO and those NASCAR gearheads who frequent the website -- note the acronym -- Fans Against Gordon are also consumers. According to Schoen's poll 18% of Americans would be less likely to purchase footwear or apparel endorsed by a gay athlete. (Roughly 4% would be more likely.) "If I were a marketer looking at this data," says Schoen, "I would say, 'Boy, if I have an openly gay athlete, I may well have problems I don't need.'"

Adds Dean Bonham, a Denver-based sports-marketing expert, "The question isn't whether coming out would have a negative impact on an athlete as an endorser. The question is, how much of a negative impact."

Count us as skeptics on any kind of "coming out" wave in sports over the next few years. There is simply too much baggage that goes along with being gay in such a testosterone-driven industry.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 April 2005 11:46 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 15 -- Kim Il-Sung.

Kim Il-Sung: revolutionary, father of Kim Jong-Il, backslider-

"Who... would have imagined that the man whose rule wiped out nearly every trace of religion in North Korea--except worship of himself--had been until his late teens not only a churchgoer but, moreover, a church organist? The young Kim was both."

Source:

Page 12, Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader : North Korea and the Kim Dynasty, by Bradley K. Martin.

Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14.


Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 April 2005 08:35 AM · Comments (1)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 1.

lebanesemom.gif

A Lebanese army soldier stands guard near the grave of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri as a woman with her child passes by in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, April 11, 2005. Differences over an election bill and the choice of interior minister are delaying the formation of a Cabinet for Lebanon, which has had no government for six weeks. The delay threatens the already-tight timetable for installing a government, getting an electoral bill passed by parliament, and holding elections before the current legislature's mandate expires on May 31. (AP Photo/Murad Sezer)

There's got to be a better caption than that. In the spirit of ripping off Wizbang blog's ideas, we introduce a contest!

Yes, a caption contest! Put your cleverness to use and on display for all the world to see.

Email WILLisms@gmail.com to submit your alternative. Or, just post in the comments section, if you prefer.

UPDATE:

Entries are still open until Tuesday at 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time. Linking with the Beltway Caption Jam.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 April 2005 12:04 AM · Comments (6)

The Idaho Legislature's Sense Of Humor.

The Idaho State Legislature has passed a resolution honoring the movie Napoleon Dynamite and its creators, Jared and Jerusha Hess.

napoleondynamite.gif

Republicans Larry C. Bradford and Max C. Black were responsible for the measure.



Click here for the full-text of the Napoleon Dynamite bill
.

Some snippets:

WHEREAS, tater tots figure prominently in this film thus promoting Idaho's most famous export; and

WHEREAS, the friendship between Napoleon and Pedro has furthered multiethnic relationships; and....

WHEREAS, Rico and Kip's Tupperware sales and Deb's keychains and glamour shots promote entrepreneurism and self-sufficiency in Idaho's small towns; and

WHEREAS, Napoleon's artistic rendition of Trisha is an example of the importance of the visual arts in K-12 education; and....

WHEREAS, Pedro's efforts to bake a cake for Summer illustrate the positive connection between culinary skills to lifelong relationships; and

WHEREAS, Kip's relationship with LaFawnduh is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho's technology-driven industry; and....

WHEREAS, Tina the llama, the chickens with large talons, the 4-H milk cows, and the Honeymoon Stallion showcase Idaho's animal husbandry; and

WHEREAS, any members of the House of Representatives or the Senate of the Legislature of the State of Idaho who choose to vote "Nay" on this concurrent resolution are "FREAKIN' IDIOTS!" and run the risk of having the "Worst Day of Their Lives!"


And, just for the record, it won't cost anything:

FISCAL NOTE


There is no fiscal impact to the general fund.


Hat tip goes to:
Cranky Neocon blog (via Say Anything).

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 April 2005 03:13 PM · Comments (6)

The Al Sharpton Trainwreck.

Uh-oh, (more) trouble in Kingdom Sharpton.

thereverendalsharpton.gif

FOXNews.com:

The FBI, as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the Rev. Al Sharpton, secretly videotaped him pocketing campaign donations from two shady fund-raisers in a New York City hotel room and then asking for more, it was reported yesterday....

In the hotel room, the FBI had videotape secretly rolling as White forked over a wad of campaign checks to Sharpton. Sharpton demanded $25,000 more, and White promised he'd try to raise it.

Sharpton's response:

Sharpton told the paper that mistakes could have been made by his campaign, but said they were not deliberate.

"In any campaign, you have irregularities," he said. "I don't say that it's not possible there are people in my campaign who have done something."

Sharpton ripped the federal probe and the secret videotaping of the hotel meeting, saying, "Can you imagine what would happen if it was a white presidential candidate?"

Ah, "the race card." Always a refreshing choice.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 April 2005 10:51 AM · Comments (3)

British Labour Party Campaign "Adverts."

The latest polls out of the U.K. show a boost for Tony Blair's Labour Party.

Indeed, as The Independent notes:

Labour's poll wobble appears to have steadied. Whereas four polls published on Tuesday, just as the Prime Minister was about to set off for the Palace, put Labour's lead, on average, at just 1 point, the latest polls, including three published yesterday, on average, put the Government four points ahead.

Part of that tiny-but-significant surge might be the introduction of a new campaign ad.

You can view Tony Blair's campaign "broadcast" here:

labour.gif

It's well-done, quite well-done. The production quality is high. The message is positive and forward-looking. It reassures people that Labour is very much pro-market (although that's certainly debatable). It is also remarkably lengthy.

The ads feature Tony Blair sitting at a table with Gordon Brown, discussing their successes over the past several years, in a very conversational style. Unless the two are talented actors we don't know about, the ad is mostly unscripted and natural. There are about seven thousand references to "values," which is not an accident.

While the "advert" makes comparisons between the British economy under the Tories and Labour, it would be difficult to classify it as a "negative ad." It is reminiscent of "it's the economy, stupid," minus the stupid.

Labour has limited its attack advertisements to posters thus far:

labourposter.gif

In related news, the eagerly awaited endorsement from Noel Gallagher (of Oasis) went to...

Tony Blair and the Labour Party.

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We were all on pins and needles, quivering in timorous, seething anticipation, for that one.

The Conservative Party mocked Labour's new ad. Conservative co-chairman Liam Fox:

Unlike Labour we don't have politicians talking to politicians.

Our prediction:

Labour victory.

Our endorsement:

While the race is somewhat of a win-win for American conservatives (if the Tories win, hooray for conservatism, if Labour wins, Tony "T-Bone" Blair, one of President Bush's finest and most important allies, remains in office), we, like many other conservative blogs (here, here, here, and here), prefer that Tony Blair stay right where he is.

UPDATE:
Patrick Ruffini has more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 April 2005 10:17 AM · Comments (3)

Some Call It A Bonfire (Or Carnival) Of Classiness...

We call it "Classiness, All Around Us."

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Click to explore more WILLisms.com.

In no particular order, WILLisms.com presents classiness from the blogosphere:


1.

Patrick Ruffini's blog, always unique, offers George W. Bush's iPod playlist, plus this wisdom:

Advice to candidates: Forget blogging. Forget podcasting. If you want folks to know what you're made of, post your playlist.

2.


The Becker-Posner Blog (Gary Becker and Richard Posner) has a decent debate on the Sexual Revolution.

Posner:

To the extent that as a result of economic and technological change, sex ceases to be considered either dangerous or important, we can expect it to become a morally indifferent activity, as eating has mainly become (though not for orthodox Jews and Muslims). At this writing, that seems to be the trend in many societies, including our own. This is not historically unprecedented; many cultures have been far more casual about sex than our own—ancient Greece, for example.

Becker:

I disagree with Posner that sex will become, either morally or in other ways, just another consumer activity, like eating. Sexual intercourse is a very intimate relation between two people that grew as humans evolved during the past 50,000 years when they apparently began to separate into families. This relation carries a lot of emotional attachment and baggage that will not vanish simply because contraceptives are effective and birth rates are low.

3.


Kirk H. Sowell, of the Window on the Arab World, and More! blog (and cross-posted at Publius Pundit), revisits the idea of democracy in Egypt:

The Journal article also noted that the U.S. State Department has vociferously resisted not only the funding of democracy groups, but it has also opposed even reducing Egypt's $2 billion/year subsidy or conditioning it on any reform. This shows that State has learned absolutely nothing from the events of the past four years. I used to take the same position, but it has become very clear that U.S. support for Egypt and Saudi Arabia is pouring kerosine on the flames of anti-Americanism in the region (which I consider inevitable to an extent). It was in part because of this kind of cluelessness that I decided not to take the Foreign Service Exam, which is required to work for the State Department. I can make better use of my language skills blogging.


4.

Outside The Beltway blog notes this Washington Post story and asks "Is the Cover-Up Worse than the Crime?"

...contrary to the post-Watergate wisdom, politicians may now be better off covering up their misdeeds rather than coming clean.

5.

Fishkite blog looks at the "timeline of the true smear" in the Schiavo memo controversy.


6.


The Daly Thoughts blog looks at "OHIO'S NOT-SO-ODD NUMBERS" in the 2004 campaign.


7.


Michelle Malkin looks at the "UNHINGED LIBERAL PRODUCTS FOR SALE," noting:

Welcome to the sick world of the pro-assassination Left.


8.

Powerline wonders, regarding "Code Pink" protesters: "WHOSE SIDE ARE THEY ON?"

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...as annoyed as I am by these protesters, the Democrats should be apoplectic. This is exactly the kind of publicity they don't need, especially in a context where they are taking a position that many construe as hostile or indifferent toward American interests. If I were running the Democratic Party, I'd do everything in my power to keep Code Pink off the evening news.

9.

Chrenkoff points out this bizarre theory, propagated by Germany's highest-ranking female member of parliament:

...the US government set the Catholic pedophilia scandal in motion because it wanted to weaken an already frail pope. That's also why it made Poland its chief partner in the Iraq war: to make the Vatican look bad.


10.

Gateway Pundit notes the torture of Mugabe's opposition in Zimbabwe.

And don't forget to check out the classy WILLisms.com Featured Posts on the left-hand sidebar, plus all the great Trivia Tidbits of the Day, "Charlie Rangel, Theologian," and "Robert Byrd's Vanity."


Previous Certifications of Classiness from WILLisms.com:

February 8, 2005

February 16, 2005

February 18, 2005

February 21, 2005

February 22, 2005

February 25, 2005

March 3, 2005

March 9, 2005

March 15, 2005

March 22, 2005

March 29, 2005

April 5, 2005

WILLisms.com offers a classiness roundup as a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 10 posts deemed classy. If you would like to nominate a post on your blog or another blog for inclusion, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com. Write "Classy Nomination" in the subject.

At some point in the future, we're also going to introduce a roundup of lameness, which will provide examples of shrill, angry, extremist, anti-American, self-loathing, intentionally misleading, and other unclassy posts from blogs. Again, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com to submit nominations.

Classy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 April 2005 09:03 AM · Comments (4)

Carnival Of Revolutions.

Check out the Carnival of Revolutions, for a summary of the week's march of freedom (or, sadly, the stifling of it) around the world.

And, if you are a blogger with good stuff on international politics, democratization, and such, send it over to Sophistpundit for inclusion in future installments.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 April 2005 07:58 AM · Comments (0)

Canada: Nation In Crisis.

Canada's Liberal Party is sinking faster than Wesley Clark's Presidential campaign. Well, maybe that's overstating it, but the Canadian Liberals are in real trouble, according to a new poll:

Here are the figures for all five major parties (February 15-17 results in brackets):

* Liberals: 27 per cent, -10 (37)
* Conservatives: 30 per cent, +4 (26)
* NDP: 19 per cent, +2 (17)
* Bloc Quebecois: 12 per cent, +2 (10)
* Greens: 7 per cent, 0 (7)


canadaincrisis.gif


But wait, there's more:

The poll contains more ominous news for Liberals:

* Because of revelations at the Gomery inquiry, 45 per cent feel the Liberals have lost their moral right to govern, while 52 per cent say they haven't; and
* Sixty-five per cent say the Liberals don't deserve re-election and that it's time for another party to govern Canada.

Almost 90 per cent agree with the view that the Gomery inquiry should be allowed to complete its investigation of the sponsorship scandal before an election is called. And the poll found 71 per cent of Canadians saying the Gomery commission's findings will only be one of many factors in determining how they vote when the next federal election comes.

Unlike in the United States, with regularly scheduled elections, Canada's parliamentary system allows for elections to be called at nearly any time:

But Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has much to consider before making the election call — including the fact that more Canadians trust Paul Martin to be prime minister than trust him....

"The problem he's got in waiting is you may give your opponent time to recover," said Darrell Bricker, the president of Ipsos-Reid, who conducted the poll for The Globe and Mail and CTV. On the other hand "the Gomery inquiry is just really getting heated up now and there could be some more damning testimony that comes down the pipe."

....On the other hand, 50 per cent of respondents said they would not consider voting Conservative and a slim majority said they believe the wrongdoings were committed by "a small rogue band of corrupt individuals" within the Liberal Party and not the party in general....

"It is risky," Mr. Bricker said. "They have to make some things happen before they pull the trigger. But the longer the wait the harder it will be. And all of the rumours and speculation about an election in early May or mid-May, I think they are all relatively accurate."

The latest from Captain's Quarters:

The Conservatives have steadfastly held off on calling for a no-confidence vote, preferring to allow events to run their course before triggering a new election. With more explosive testimony expected at the Gomery Inquiry and the resurfacing of the Earnscliffe allegations, the Tories may believe that a perfect political storm has yet to completely coalesce. Like any other gamble, don't expect the players to change strategy until their run ends.

Out of the turmoil, a new and better Canada could rise. However, don't expect the left-wing ideology, the socialism, the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) anti-Americanism, to suddenly go away, along with Liberal dominance at the polls.

UPDATE (April 16): Canada's Conservative Party continues to rise in the polls. More from Captain's Quarters blog, noting that the Conservatives need to strike while the iron is hot:

They've gained only at the expense of the Liberals' loss, and that kind of electoral gain usually proves fairly transient.

Meanwhile, PoliPundit links to the Cliff's Notes versions of the scandal.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 April 2005 07:19 AM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 14 -- Global Cell Phone Penetration.

The United States has approximately 158,722,000 cellular telephones in use today, good for either second or third place, depending on how one counts the European Union:

1. European Union 314,644,700

2. China 269,000,000

3. United States 158,722,000

4. Japan 86,658,600

5. Germany 64,800,000

6. Italy 55,918,000

7. United Kingdom 49,677,000

8. Brazil 46,373,300

9. France 41,683,100

10. Spain 37,506,700

And others of note:

33. Saudi Arabia 7,238,200

40. Israel 6,334,000 (with a population of 6,199,008)

92. Lebanon 775,100

Source:

The World Factbook, published by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States, based on latest information available.

In light of recent reports detailing America's massive intelligence failures, there might be, shall we say, discrepancies, in the data. But in general they do paint a picture of power and wealth in the world.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13.


Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 April 2005 06:29 AM · Comments (0)

Remember "Plamegate"?

Or whatever else the left tried to call the "outing" of CIA officer Valerie Plame during last year's Presidential Election? Let me refresh your memory:

Consider Kerry's foreign policy advisers. Ask the candidate's supporters, and the advisor they mention first is Joe Wilson, the Clinton-era National Security Council member who investigated claims that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy weapons-grade uranium from Niger. Wilson won battle stars from progressives for going public with his findings, which contradicted the Bush administration's claims. Wilson's wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame, was outed by a White House source or sources as a consequence.

That's a pretty big overstatement, as it turns out the outing of Plame probably broke no laws.

Well, it has come full circle. Yesterday, in confirmation hearings for John Bolton, Senators Lugar and Kerry might have named a CIA analyst. Per the Washington Post:

Senators may have blown the cover of a covert CIA officer yesterday.

During a hearing on John R. Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton and members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee referred to the analyst as "Mr. Smith." They were discussing one of the officials involved in a dispute over what Democrats said was Bolton's inappropriate treatment of an intelligence analyst who disagreed with him...

But the committee chairman, Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) mentioned a name that had not previously come up in public accounts of the intelligence flap.

In questioning Bolton, Kerry read from a transcript of closed-door interviews that committee staffers conducted with State Department officials before yesterday's hearing.

"Did Otto Reich share his belief that [the person in question] should be removed from his position? The answer is yes," Kerry said, characterizing one interview. "Did John Bolton share that view?" Kerry asked. Again, he said the answer was yes.

"As I said, I had lost confidence in Mr. Smith, and I conveyed that," Bolton replied. "I thought that was the honest thing to do."

While this is mischaracterized, because at the CIA an analyst is worlds apart from an operative, it is noteworthy nonetheless. Especially when compared to the accusations those associated with the Kerry campaign leveled against the Bush administration for "outing" Valerie Plame. To see John Kerry possibly do the same thing strikes me as ironic at the least, and hypocritical at the worst.

Posted by · 12 April 2005 12:33 AM · Comments (0)

Classiness Roundup Reminder.

Just a reminder to submit your nominations for the classiest posts from around the blogosphere, at WILLisms@gmail.com.

There are no specific criteria. Just whatever is good, unique, interesting, and so forth.

Here is last week's for inspiration:

Classy.

Get your entries in by Tuesday morning, around 10 AM Central Time.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 April 2005 09:29 PM · Comments (0)

Comparing Social Security Reform Proposals.

The Cato Institute (spotted via Social Security Choice) has this great tool for comparing the basic facts of the various proposals out there regarding Social Security reform.

Meanwhile, here is some reading on the philosophical side of the matter:

Personal accounts for Social Security should be the No. 1 economic policy priority for conservatives because, if done right, they would result in the greatest reduction in government in history.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 April 2005 05:51 PM · Comments (1)

More On Bhutan's Democratic Reforms.

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In March, Bhutan's King Jigme Singye Wangchuk announced democratic reforms for his tiny country, which is nestled between China and India.

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While some commentators in the region are skeptical about democracy flourishing in such an isolated country, others believe Bhutan displays very real promise.

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King Wangchuk, age 49, seems intent on striking a balance between Bhutan's traditional way of life and the fast pace of modern progress, noting:

"The sovereignty, stability and well-being of the country must be placed above everything else. The country is more important than the king."

We're skeptical, given the government's tight grip on cultural matters. But we're not cynical, given Bhutan's subtle advances toward freedom over the past decade.

For now, we'll trust Wangchuk, somewhat.

But, as Ronald Reagan would say, we'll verify.

Freedom House reports that, in recent years, Bhutan has taken strides to improve its political rights and civil liberties, but repression remains high, earning the country a stamp of "NOT FREE":


bhutanrepression.gif

The move is in the right direct, however, which gives Wangchuk some semblance of credibility.

The BBC notes that exiled Bhutanese groups are even more skeptical of the still-ethereal reform proposals:

The National Front For Democracy coalition said the royal government was trying to impress foreign donors, but was planning only "limited democracy"....

The NFD, a coalition of three exiled Bhutanese political groups, told the BBC there could be no democracy in Bhutan until the refugees returned home.

Meanwhile, recent news out of the Mountain Kingdom involves the implementation of a total ban on tobacco sales in Bhutan:

Along with outlawing plastic bags and secondhand cars, Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom nestled in the clouds between China and India, has become the first country in the world to completely ban tobacco sales. Bhutan’s National Assembly imposed the crackdown last July, and the law went into effect last December....

The problem Bhutan faces is how to enforce the no-smoking policy. There will be a hefty $225 fine for smoking in public or buying or selling tobacco. Bhutanese can bring their own tobacco into the country for use at home, but must pay a 100 percent tax on it.

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One wonders whether the ban on tobacco will withstand the test of democracy. Moreover, questions linger as to whether or not democracy itself will be approved by the people.

You can read the entire 54-page document here:

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan (draft, in .pdf format).

Take a look at Article 7, in particular (click for larger versions):

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Bhutan's proposed constitution is ambitious, bordering on too ambitious. The beauty of the American Constitution is its relative simplicity, which has helped it stand the test of time.

Bhutan's is certainly more manageable than the voluminous phone book known as the European Union constitution, but it still might face some minor problems due to its broad nature.

For example, preventing "unlawful attacks on honour and reputation" might conflict with the protection of freedom of speech. There are several areas where clear contradictions emerge, but ultimately it seems on the right track.

Secondly, the draft includes far more than the enumeration of rights; it mentions environmental issues like biodiversity and pollution; it promises public financing of political campaigns; and it even declares, "The State shall provide free access to basic public health services in both modern and traditional medicines."

In short, Bhutan's draft constitution is perhaps slightly too expansive, and it could be trimmed here and there, but reading through it often seems like an American civics lesson. It seems, at least, that the document is a genuine and good-faith effort on the part of Wangchuk to smoothly introduce democracy to his country.

Overall, the flaws in the constitution are minimal; if Wangchuk can convince his people to accept it (an irony in and of itself), Bhutan is on its way to becoming truly free and democratic. Another truly ambitious and respectable aspect of the reform is that the draft is "now being sent to all 530,000 adult citizens for their views."

The Indian Express comments:

...King Wangchuk has passed the preliminary test as an aspiring constitutional monarch. The big one, though, lies in ensuring that Bhutan’s democracy is not window dressing for palace rule but a genuine exercise designed to give people a stake in the political processes of their country — from free and fair elections to lively legislative debate and an animated opposition. The king should know that he starts with a credibility gap. This, after all, is democracy introduced from above, in a top-down fashion. But if he brings it off, he will certainly grow in stature in the eyes of the world.


As an aside:

We had planned a better post title but Bloggledygook already claimed use of "Everybody Wangchuk Tonight." Oh well. How could anyone not use that title? It's also far more acceptable than the other obvious pun-based alternative:

"How Much Wang Could A Wangchuk Chuk If A Wangchuk Could Chuk Wang."

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 April 2005 05:08 PM · Comments (1)

Charlie Rangel, Theologian.

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The wisdom of Congressman Charlie Rangel (via Michelle Malkin):

Here’s the exchange:

MATTHEWS: I mean, Charlie, Jesus didn‘t hang around with the swells, the rich people.

RANGEL: Well, he said the rich are going straight to hell.

MATTHEWS: Well, he did not.

MATTHEWS: He said it is harder to get through a needle‘s…

RANGEL: No. But the deal with St. Matthews and all these people are trying to get into heaven. And he said, hey, when I was hungry, you didn‘t feed me. I was thirsty. I was naked. I was sick. You didn‘t do all these—he‘s talking about food stamps, Social Security.

Ah, moral values. The Democrats' favorite new pandering device.

And you thought Rock the Vote and AARP were an odd couple. Now the King of Kings, our Lord and Savior, the Messiah, has joined the anti-Social Security reform coalition?

We must have missed that memo.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 April 2005 03:13 PM · Comments (1)

Quotational Therapy: Part 1 -- George Washington On Foreign Influences.

A new feature on WILLisms.com:

Quotes.

Every Monday and Friday.

Sometimes relevant to contemporary news, sometimes not. Always relevant somehow, though.

Today's is clearly relevant to today's John Bolton confirmation hearings:

"If we are to be told by a foreign Power ... what we shall do, and what we shall not do, we have Independence yet to seek, and have contended hitherto for very little."

-George Washington, letter to Alexander Hamilton, May 8, 1796.

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Stay tuned to WILLisms.com every Monday and Friday for more quotational therapy.

Jamming.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 April 2005 12:45 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 13 -- Midterm Elections.

The Sixth Year Itch-


1. On average, the President's party has lost three Senate seats in each of the 14 midterm elections, from 1950 to 2002.

2. In second term midterm elections (1950, 1958, 1966, 1974, 1986, and 1998), the average loss for the President's party is six Senate seats.

3. No President in the post-WWII era has ever gained Senate seats in the second term midterm elections.

Source:

-From Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball (Sabato is Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia), April 5, 2005.

Yet, in spite of all the dire predictions of a messy breakup between conservatives and moderates, between libertarians and the religious right; despite all the talk about the irreconcilable differences between and among the paleocons and realists and neocons; and, contrary to the tides of history, we will predict, today, that the Republican Party will pick up seats in the Senate in 2006.

Is that going out on a limb?

Not particularly, given the ongoing Republican realignment and the specific races up for grabs in 2006. More on that to come (also, previous comments can be found here, here, and here).

More from Michael Barone (via Powerline):

In the long run, Republicans are well positioned to increase their numbers in both the Senate and the House...In the short run, very few Republicans run great political risks by supporting Bush. Significantly more Democrats run great political risks by opposing him.

UPDATE:

PoliPundit has more on 2006.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12.


Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 April 2005 10:09 AM · Comments (2)

Robert Byrd's Vanity.

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Mark Noonan of Blogs for Bush points out this story, which explains that West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd has at least one challenger for his seat in 2006:

State Republican Party Treasurer Hiram Lewis IV announced Saturday he planned to seek his party's nomination.

The event would have been entirely ho-hum but for the ominous statue of Robert Byrd hovering above Lewis:


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Citizens Against Government Waste explains that the statue is not only incredibly vain, it "violates state law prohibiting statues of government officials until they have been dead for half a century."

While Kerfuffles blog notes that this is merely par for the course for Byrd, The Right Wing Nuthouse explains just one of many reasons the statue is just plain wrong:

It’s unseemly for us to immortalize sitting politicians. Makes us look like a banana republic or worse, a decrepit relic from the cold war Soviet Union where we got used to seeing pictures of a young, vigorous Brezhnev all over Moscow while the real thing was wasting away to mummyhood.

The statue underscores just how entrenched Byrd is in his position; the Byrd machine runs West Virginia; the Byrd mythology is boundless.

To say that Hiram Lewis (or anyone else) faces an uphill battle against the hand that feeds West Virginia would be the political understatement of the year.

Nonetheless, pride goes before the fall, and Robert Byrd's enormous vanity could prove to be the (minuscule) window of opportunity for his undoing.

UPDATE:

Patrick Ruffini (via PoliPundit) has more on Robert Byrd-related polling.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 April 2005 06:00 AM · Comments (4)

Confirmation Inquisition: Democrats Going Nuts Over Bolton.

John Bolton faces confirmation hearings this week, delayed out of respect for the passing of Pope John Paul II, to become America's next ambassador to the United Nations. Frankly, it's amazing that President Bush was able to find anyone of Bolton's caliber to accept appointment to an organization of such ignominious repute.

As we noted before regarding Bolton, his most egregious offense is that he has stood up for American sovereignty, believing in America first. Bolton's criticisms of ineffectual and deleterious international institutions are, as John Kerry put it, "inexplicable." President Bush's selection of Bolton is simply unfathomable for many Democrats today. That America's ambassador to the United Nations could have deigned to assert that multilateralism for its own sake is no virtue, just does not compute with the worldview of many on the far left.


The Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com breaks down the Democrats' case against Bolton:

There are two principal charges. First is that Mr. Bolton distorted intelligence information in a public speech in which he warned of a possible biological weapons effort in Cuba. Second, he is said to have intimidated intelligence officials, two or three of whom Democrats may call tomorrow to testify in opposition to Mr. Bolton's confirmation. Among his accusers is Carl Ford, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, who clashed with Mr. Bolton.

Eric Pfieffer, of National Review's Beltway Buzz, notes Ford's prior testimony, from March of 2002:

Carl Ford on Bolton's Cuba comments-

"When it came time for Mr. Bolton to give his speech a month or two later, he then took the same language that had been approved earlier by the community and stuck it into his Heritage speech. Both those were our words, the intelligence community’s words, not his."

Carl Ford's own thoughts on Cuba-

"There is substantial information about Cuba’s BW (biological weapons) effort … We feel very confident about saying that they’re working and have been working on an effort that would give them a BW – limited BW offensive capability. And that’s serious enough to tell you about it."

Carl Ford on whether Bolton had unduly pressured the intelligence community-

"Secretary Bolton invited the intelligence community to provide him with some words he could use in a speech on BW. He was very careful I think not to suggest words to the community for clearance. He asked them, what do you think? What do you say? So that they came up with the lines in the speech and presented those to INR to take back to Secretary Bolton for his use."

Pfieffer explains:

Democrat Senator Chris Dodd then asked Ford if he disagreed with portions of Bolton’s Heritage Speech. Dodd said, “Did you have any disagreements with the draft [Heritage] speech?” Ford answered, “On the intelligence side, we did not. We approved it. It was the language we had provided.”

Since this is Senate testimony, we can certainly hope Ford’s past comments will be brought to light when he testifies against Bolton next Tuesday before the Senate. He, not Bolton, seems to be the one with some explaining to do.

Despite this, on April 10th's Meet The Press, Senator Rockefeller, Democrat from West Virginia, made this irresponsible and unsubstantiated charge against Bolton:

John Bolton and others clearly tried to exercise pressure, put pressure on George Tenet.

Rockefeller, Senator from the very red state of West Virginia, also demonstrated just how out of touch he is from his constituents:

MR. RUSSERT: Will you vote to confirm John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations?


SEN. ROCKEFELLER: I will certainly not do that, no.


MR. RUSSERT: You will vote against him?


SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Absolutely.


William Kristol writes in The Weekly Standard that Bolton ought, in a normative sense of the word, to sail through the Senate smoothly en route to swift confirmation:

He has, after all, been confirmed for high government positions four times before. He has served in those posts with distinction during three administrations, untainted by a hint of scandal or a murmur of corner-cutting. He has been an exemplary public servant.

He also, as it happens, supports President Bush's policies, and as undersecretary of state worked hard to advance them in the first term. So the Democratic party, led by George Soros and the New York Times, thinks he shouldn't be permitted to continue to serve President Bush.

Colin Powell's primary weakness while Secretary of State was that he viewed himself as a kind of ambassador to President Bush, representing the entrenched and often dysfunctional interests of Foggy Bottom (and, sometimes, of the international community).

Alternatively, John Bolton will serve, articulate, and promote the interests of the American people, not of Jacques Chirac.

The posturing on the part of Democrats is clearly a political play to the far-left "Deaniac" wing of the party, as this Pew Research Center report suggests:

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William Kristol believes the Democrats' opposition to Bolton is a losing proposition, politically:

The case against Bolton is silly and weak. Democrats want to embrace it. Let them do so, and let Republicans make them pay a price. When Bolton is reported out of committee, Senator Frist should schedule floor debate without a time limit. Republican senators should challenge their Democratic counterparts to debate John Bolton's record, and the U.N.'s record, every day, for as long as the Democrats want. The Bush administration should put senior spokesmen on TV every night to engage in an argument over whose foreign policy is preferable for the country--George Bush's or George Soros's. Republicans should welcome a discussion of whether the U.N. is just fine as it is, or requires tough-minded reform. In stimulating such a debate, Bolton would be doing yet another service to this country.

As Thomas Jefferson put it, "our attachment to no nation upon earth should supplant our attachment to liberty." Indeed, John Adams agreed, arguing that "liberty must at all hazards be supported." The mainstream of American political thought includes the notion of American exceptionalism, that the United States is special, and unique, and good. Somewhere along the line, Thomas Jefferson's party lost that ideal.

From a practical standpoint, the world needs effective international institutions to advocate and assist in the march of freedom and spread of democracy; the United States cannot do it alone. The United Nations, for all of its historical and current shortcomings, still has the capability to promote a clear moral vision for the world, based on universal (or, God-given, if you prefer) values articulated by America's Founders.

During this time of unprecedented scandal, inexplicable moral equivalence, and laughable worthlessness at the United Nations, it's time for a little tough love, it's time to inject a little moral clarity, it's time to get serious about the advance of liberty. If anyone can overhaul this fustian charade that is the UN, it's John Bolton.

More from Scrappleface.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 April 2005 05:04 AM · Comments (2)

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere.

The Kallini Brothers blog lathers on the flattery of WILLisms.com... thick.

There are people who say that "flattery will get you nowhere."

Well, flattery will actually get you everywhere.

Actually, we're humbled that people are beginning to notice WILLisms.com.

Anyway, because flattery gets you everywhere, go visit The Kallini Brothers blog.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 April 2005 11:29 PM · Comments (4)

Carnival Of The Capitalists

Go check out this week's Carnival of the Capitalists. It's classy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 April 2005 11:09 PM · Comments (0)

French Socialists Get Something Right?

Drudge linked to a news item during the pope's funeral coverage stating that French Socialists were protesting the French flag being lowered to half staff. Here's the twist, under French law, they are right.

Last year, French schools banned all religious articles. This includes yammikas, cross necklaces, and Muslims head scarves. The French government has pursued policies of extreme separation of any church and the state. In terms of the French government, there is freedom from religion.

Having those legal precedents, the socialists are right to protest the government's acknowledgement of the pope's passing. Fair is fair. If the government mandates little Muslim girls can't wear their headscarves and little Jewish boys can't cover their heads in public schools, then it is wrong to lower the flag in honor of the pope.

I should qualify this with my belief that every country should honor the passing of such a great man. He had a tremendous impact on the world and did great things for all mankind. In terms of legality and fairness, the French and Jacques Chirac are once again wrong. Governments must be made of laws, not men, for men are subject to whims, laws are not. Such is the problem the French face, all the government knows are whims, and thus get into trouble.

Posted by · 10 April 2005 06:44 PM · Comments (2)

ADSCAM: The Canadian Liberals' Electoral Fall.

The Winnipeg Sun:

The federal Conservatives have closed to within striking distance of the governing Liberals, suggests an opinion poll conducted this week amid rumours and early reports of explosive new sponsorship inquiry testimony.

Captain's Quarters has more.


UPDATE:

A new poll in Canada-

...support for the Conservatives at 36.2 percent, compared with 25 percent for the Liberals -- their lowest showing since taking office in 1993....

If those polling numbers were translated into election votes, Conservative leader Stephen Harper would become prime minister.


Even more from Captain's Quarters blog.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 April 2005 06:17 PM · Comments (0)

"United We Run."

Lebanon's democratic opposition held a marathon, along with other festivities, to mark the 30th anniversary of beginning of its devasting 15-year-long civil war. The aim: U-N-I-T-Y.

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Click image for larger version.

Curiously, Yahoo! News classified the picture under "Lifestyle Photos."

Even al-Jazeera news agency reported on the events favorably.

The Spirit of America blog has more, plus some great pictures, direct from Beirut:

The country seems ready to heal its divisions. And with Syrian agents trying to restart the war, the country must heal its divisions.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 April 2005 05:40 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 12 -- 527 Committee Mega-Wealthy Contributors.

Top "527" Contributors During the 2004 Campaign Cycle:

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Source:

-OpenSecrets.org.

Some interesting figures. The Democrats did an amazing job at raising gargantuan sums of money from ultra-wealthy individuals like George Soros. Republicans came through near the end of the campaign, but their contributions still paled in comparison to the money raised by left-wing 527 groups. Looking at the top 25 individual donors exclusively, Democrats raised nearly three times as many of these nebulous dollars than Republicans. Going beyond the top 25 individual donors, the story doesn't change a whole lot. Democrats simply out-527'ed Republicans in 2004.

Let's hope the playing field is a little more even, from the beginning, next time around. When Marxist ideas go head-to-head with free-market principles on a fair playing field, the left's ideas go down in flames every time.

But let's not try to engineer a fair playing field with a bunch of new government regulatons, with so-called "campaign finance reform." The Democrats owed their advantage in 2004, in part, to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), championed in the Senate by Republican John McCain of Arizona, along with Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold.

Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.
Part 5.
Part 6.
Part 7.
Part 8.
Part 9.
Part 10.
Part 11.


Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 April 2005 04:30 PM · Comments (2)

Regular Blogging To Resume Shortly.

Back from the wedding. Many apologies for the technology issues. Regular blogging will resume soon.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 April 2005 04:12 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 11 -- Youth and Political Cynicism.

YOUNG PEOPLE AND CYNICISM:

A survey, from February of 1999 (during the Clinton impeachment):
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[Click for larger version.]

Also, from the same research:
While 36% of the adult sample would have convicted President Clinton, 47% of the youth sample would have.

Similarly, 55% of the adult sample had a favorable view of President Clinton. Only 43% of the youth sample did.


Source:

-Pages 121-122 of American Public Opinion: Its Origins, Content, and Impact, written by Professors Robert S. Erikson and Kent L. Tedin.


It is interesting that younger people are less cynical than people typically believe. Concurrently, it is interesting that younger people were less likely to support President Clinton than their elders.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.
Part 5.
Part 6.
Part 7.
Part 8.
Part 9.
Part 10.


Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 April 2005 10:16 AM · Comments (2)

Light Blogging Today.

Attending a wedding today, out of town. Also having technological issues (lost a post last night that took 90 minutes to write).

Hence, light blogging.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 April 2005 10:07 AM · Comments (2)

Holy Lameness: MoveOn.org's Latest Contest.

During the 2004 campaign, far left group MoveOn.org sponsored a contest called "Bush in 30," in which regular Americans (and advertising professionals) could create anti-Bush political advertisements.

One advertisement on MoveOn.org's website compared Bush with Hitler.

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After public uproar, MoveOn.org removed it from its website.

Their latest project is a flash animation contest called "Bush in 30 Years."

These very well might be the most lame collection of supposed-to-be-funny-but-totally-unfunny animations in the history of the internet.

Seriously.

The point of the contest is anti-reform statism on Social Security.

Here are some screenshots:

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Most try to paint reform as some kind of underhanded corporate get-rich-quick scheme.

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And of course, grandma and grandpa will be eating cat food because of Bush's misdeeds. Yeah, that makes sense.

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The mocking of President Bush is generally just amateurish and predictable. He is either a puppet, or a dumb/redneck fratboy, or a crazed maniacal lunatic. Sometimes he is all three.

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Or course, no anti-reform collection would be complete with the gratuitous "Enron" associations.

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Of course, the inevitable comparisons to "gambling" appear.


You really have to see these to believe just how unbelievably unpersuasive and weak they are. A few of them are moderately well-done, visually, but their numbers don't add up. In fact, much like in the previous contest, in this one, the entries all use different numbers to describe the "costs" of transition.

Some of the animations are just anti-market, anti-Bush, and anti-corporation, and those tend to be the most creative. The ones that try to actually make fact-based points just bomb. Hard. Many of the animations seem more about opposition to the liberation of Iraq, or opposition to Bush in general, than actual opposition to Social Security reform.

The Bush impersonations tend to sound more like something out of MTV's Beavis and Butthead than anything. The worst is when someone from Massachusetts or Washington state tries to do a "Southern" accent. It just doesn't work.

If this contest is as successful as their last contest was, we'll be seeing personal accounts passed by summer.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 April 2005 12:56 PM · Comments (4)

Jimmy Carter's Tackiness.

The Washington Post notes the bizarre story of Jimmy Carter's alleged snub by President Bush, "Carter's Absence From Group Reignites Tensions With Bush" (via Outside The Beltway):

Both sides agree that the White House invited Carter and that he ultimately chose not to go....

Yet Jimmy Carter's supporters are trying to make something out of nothing:

"I think it's an outrage," said Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's national security adviser, who said he has not spoken with his former boss about the funeral. "It's scandalous. He should have been included in the official party. I suppose in the White House there was some resentment that the president was so critical of Bush at the convention."

Whatever, dude.

If Carter had been snubbed, it would have been wholly warranted, but he wasn't. It appears that it was likely a misunderstanding fueled by media hype.


More:

Left-wing nonsense (with an inadvertantly decent summary of Carter's tackiness) from The Progressive.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 April 2005 10:45 AM · Comments (6)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 10 -- Historical Presidential Approval Ratings.

HISTORICAL PRESIDENTIAL APPROVAL:

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Source:

-Page 109 of American Public Opinion: Its Origins, Content, and Impact, written by Professors Robert S. Erikson and Kent L. Tedin.

A couple of points to make.

1. The graph's numbers are based on Gallup polls and averaged quarterly. In individual polls, the numbers would fluctuate even more wildly than they already do. For example, Jimmy Carter polled just above 20% in a single poll during the 1970s, but during that 3-month period, he was still above a 30% average.

2. Harry Truman was an incredibly unpopular leader at the time, although history judges his far better. The primary factor that kept his approval relatively high was the Korean War. Just something to keep in mind.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.
Part 5.
Part 6.
Part 7.
Part 8.
Part 9.

Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 April 2005 10:22 AM · Comments (2)

About That 1981 Assassination Attempt On Pope John Paul II.

Thomas Joscelyn of The Weekly Standard explains "how the elite media and the CIA failed to Investigate the 1981 papal assassination attempt":

A STUNNING REVELATION buzzed throughout Italy last week. According to two Italian newspapers, German government officials had found proof that the Soviet Union ordered the May 13, 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. The recently discovered documents--which are mainly correspondences between East German Stasi spies and their Bulgarian counterparts--reportedly discuss the Soviet assassination order as well as efforts to cover-up any traces of involvement by Bulgaria's spooks.

If the documents are as advertised, then they put an end to one of the great whodunits of the 20th century. The U.S. media has all but ignored this incredible story; which isn't, actually, much of a surprise.

Indeed, the elite media in this country never wanted to investigate the threads of evidence pointing to Bulgarian, and thus Soviet, involvement. What is surprising, however, is that in one of the greatest U.S. intelligence failures of all-time, neither did the CIA.

It's worth a read.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 April 2005 10:17 AM · Comments (1)

Deaniac Attack!

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The Pew Research Center (via Prof Bainbridge) has some interesting findings about Howard Dean supporters, including this demographic breakdown of Deaniacs:

...Dean activists are far wealthier, better educated, more secular and much less ethnically diverse than other Democrats. A disproportionate number of Dean activists are white, well-educated Baby Boomers.

deanactivistsnationalsecurity.gif

Only a fifth of Dean activists believe America's foreign policy ought to be based mostly on U.S. interests. That is a very telling number.

More on the Deaniacs:

...the Dean activists are highly internet-savvy; more than three-quarters (77%) said they go online several times per day and 83% have been using the internet for more than five years.

In other words, the Deaniacs and the left hemisphere of the blogosphere are one in the same. Ever wonder why some of those left-wing bloggers are so angry? Look no further than their "spiritual" leader, Howard Dean. Indeed, king of left-wing blogs Daily Kos deserves some credit for Howard Dean's ascension as DNC Chair.

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Practically required viewing for Deaniacs under 30, notice that nearly a third of Deaniacs watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, about ten times the level of the general public.

One telling piece of information is this:

Nine-in-ten Dean activists blame Dean's loss in the primaries on "negative news coverage." Many also pointed to perceptions that Dean was not electable (73%). While a third blamed Dean's campaign performance, just 19% pointed to Dean's policy stances as a reason he lost.

In other words, the Deaniacs do not realize how out of touch, how far removed from the mainstream, they are. Less than a fifth are willing to admit that Howard Dean lost because he was too hostile toward, and cynical about, the exercise of American power, too out-of-touch on social and cultural issues, and otherwise too far left-wing. Much like the liberal blogosphere, which tends to believe it represents the true mainstream of the country, the Deaniacs cannot comprehend that they are the ones with the fringe ideology.

More interesting data:
deanactivistsgenerationgap.gif

This graphic indicates clearly that Dean's coalition was comprised of aging hippies and socially liberal young people.

While the Dean campaign drew an amalgam of 1960s liberals and 21st century progressives, there are intriguing generational differences on the war and social issues. Those under age 30 tend to be much more supportive of gay rights, with 71% strongly favoring legalizing gay marriage (compared with 46% among those 50 and older). They also are much more apt to mention gay and lesbian issues as a key reason they joined the campaign (21% vs. 4%).


Looking ahead to 2008, it seems clear that Democrats are far more likely to splinter than Republicans:
deaniacsthirdparty.gif

In September, still feeling frustrated with Dean's fall from grace, 65% of Dean activists supported the idea of a third party. That number fell somewhat, to 57% in November, still a large figure.

Deaniacs reluctantly put up with Kerry in 2004, but moving forward they want their nominee and their party to reflect their far-left values. In 2008, there will be no "anybody but Bush" effect, which was the glue that held together the Democrats in 2004. Democrats seeking the nomination may have a tough time meeting the requirements of the increasingly organized and influential Deaniacs (Dean is now the leader of his party, after all) without appearing too liberal and losing the support of moderates in the general election.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 April 2005 05:50 AM · Comments (3)

In Defense Of Trackbacks.

A terse defense of the trackback feature:

Dean's World is considering taking away the trackback feature from his blog, due to an overload of trackback spam ("over a hundred trackback spams a day").

We would urge him not to do it. Trackbacks are a crucial part of the blogging experience. They allow blogs to communicate in a community-type setting. They make it easy to follow a "conversation" on a topic. It is a very real shame that Powerline, for example, once had trackbacks but now doesn't. It seems like there could be a software solution to the problem.

We would urge all bloggers to keep their trackbacks enabled. If there is an abundance of spam, change the software, but keep the trackbacks.

UPDATE:

Outside the Beltway agrees: trackbacks are important.

Also, the main thing that can really be irritating about trackbacks is people who send a trackback ping with no actual link. That's tacky and unclassy and lame. But that's a whole different matter from trackback spam.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 April 2005 12:29 AM · Comments (3)

Detroit's Kwame Kilpatrick: Rough Sailing Ahead.

Incumbent Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, might face trouble at the ballot box this November, according to a recent poll.

kwame.gif

Laura Berman of The Detroit News, explains Kilpatrick's problems:

If the city is staggering under the weight and cost of too many municipal employees and taxes and too little to show for either, its national profile as a mess of startling proportions is only rising.

Toss in a 47 percent illiteracy rate, a fleeing middle-class, crime and a schools crisis and you don't need a mayor's red Navigator to raise red flags.

These latest polling numbers show that citizens are worried and angry and, at least right here and right now, prepared to oust an incumbent mayor.

The Detroit Free Press explains that people are voting with their feet, and they just may vote at the ballot box as well:

At a time when Detroit is losing people at about the same rate as water gushed Wednesday from a broken main on Jefferson Avenue, the survey results can be interpreted to mean that those who can get out of town will continue to do so....

In short, Detroiters are an unhappy, restless lot and the region's shifting demographics show that those with the means are likely to keep "voting with their feet," seeking better living elsewhere. For many in a city that is 90 percent African American, that will mean leaving a racial comfort zone for the mostly white suburbs -- and the prospect of a safer, cleaner life with better public schools and government services for less taxes, even if that means encountering some racial hostility.

One solid reason to oppose Kwame Kilpatrick, and, for that matter, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (who has also faded dramatically in polls since her sky-high early days in office):

Kilpatrick and Granholm both put liberal ideology ahead of common sense pragmatism; they both put their allegiance to interest groups ahead of doing the right thing.

Specifically, when they did this:

...a Republican businessman, Robert Thompson, offered a staggering $400 million to fund more charter schools in Detroit, only to be rejected by a Democratic city council in thrall to powerful teacher unions. Democratic mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, whose own children attend charter schools, cast his lot with the unions instead of with Detroit's children.

Think about that for a moment.

Think about that kind of hypocrisy. The man sends his own kids to charter schools, but instead of doing something to help his dilapidated city (and $400,000,000.00 is a lot of money), Kilpatrick defaulted to the "correct" partisan issue position: Just Say No.

Pretty unbelievable.

Kilpatrick does have some advantages, such as a small army working for him, the power of the incumbency, and a huge war chest. And regardless of what happens, there is but a micron's chance that a Republican would take office there. But Kilpatrick's potential rejection does say something important about American politics today.

African-American voters may be starting to feel like their leaders are not being true to their end of the bargain. Supporting a party 90-10 usually comes with some benefits. On issues like vouchers, charter schools, gay marriage, and other social issues, the leadership of the Democratic Party is out of step with blacks. Indeed, the entire array of liberal social engineering experiments of the 1960s and beyond have destroyed cities and created a harmful culture of dependency. African-Americans may determine that they want to re-think their political allegiance, or at least renegotiate their current contract.

While nobody should expect African-Americans to switch their allegiances from Democrats to Republicans, a mere shift of support from 90-10 to 65-35 could really solidify long-term Republican majorities. At the very least, a shift like that would tell the Democrats to stop taking the black vote for granted.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 April 2005 05:59 PM · Comments (1)

Giving George W. Bush Some Credit.

Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of the left-leaning magazine The New Republic argues that liberals need to give President Bush at least a little bit of credit for the success thus far on that whole "vision thing."

newrepublicbushcredit.gif

You should really read the whole thing.

Peretz:

If George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others. He pursued his goal obstinately, they would say, without filtering his thoughts through the medical research establishment. And he didn't share his research with competing labs and thus caused resentment among other scientists who didn't have the resources or the bold--perhaps even somewhat reckless--instincts to pursue the task as he did. And he completely ignored the World Health Organization, showing his contempt for international institutions. Anyway, a cure for cancer is all fine and nice, but what about aids?

greatsurprise.gif

No, the president has not discovered a cure for cancer. But there is a pathology, a historical pathology, that he has attacked with unprecedented vigor and with unprecedented success. I refer, of course, to the political culture of the Middle East, which the president may actually have changed. And he has accomplished this genuinely momentous transformation in ways that virtually the entire foreign affairs clerisy--the cold-blooded Brent Scowcroft realist Republicans and almost all the Democrats--never thought possible. Or, perhaps, in ways some of them thought positively undesirable. Bush, it now seems safe to say, is one of the great surprises in modern U.S. history. Nothing about his past suggested that he harbored these ideals nor the qualities of character required for their realization. Right up to the moment Bush became president, I was convinced that his mind, at least on matters Levantine, belonged to his father and to James Baker III, whose worldview seemed to be defined by the pecuniary prejudice of oil and Texas: Keep the ruling Arabs happy. But I was wrong, and, in light of what has already been achieved in the Middle East, I am glad to say so. Most American liberals, alas, enjoy no similar gladness. They are not exactly pleased by the positive results of Bush's campaign in the Middle East. They deny and resent and begrudge and snipe. They are trapped in the politics of churlishness.


churlishness.gif


The achievements of Bush's foreign policy abroad represent a revolution in the foreign policy culture at home. The traditional Republican mentality that was so perfectly and meanly represented by Bush père and Baker precluded the United States from pressing the Arabs about reform--about anything--for decades.

Peretz explains the electoral consequences of the left's churlishness:

The significant fact is that Bush's obsession with the democratization of the region is working. Have Democrats begun to wonder how it came to pass that this noble cause became the work of Republicans? They should wonder if they care to regain power.

So what are the liberals bloggers saying about it?

[crickets chirping]

They have said just about nothing. Searching technorati and blogpulse, none of the left-wing blogs have picked up on this piece, an article liberals above all need to be discussing.

We've been holding off on commenting on the article for nearly a week, hoping a liberal blog, ANY liberal blog, would make a peep about it, either positively or negatively.

Nothing.

To give George W. Bush credit for compelling democracy in the Middle East would mean, essentially, admitting defeat. All those thousands of posts over the past few years about those dangerous neocons would now seem absurd. All of those predictions about the Iraq war creating new terrorists would look silly. All of those dire warnings about George Bush's Vietnam would become but bizarre anachronisms of history.

Liberals (and some conservatives) have gotten themselves into quite a predicament. Rooting for success in the Middle East means, perhaps, admitting President Bush was right all along. It means that removing Saddam Hussein and promoting a free society in Iraq was not some oil grab, or some act of irresponsible hubris, or just a big scam on the American people; rather, promoting democracy might have actually been the aim all along.

Rooting against success, against democracy, against President Bush, well, that's just churlish and tacky.

Judging by the lack of a splash the Peretz article has made in the left hemisphere of the blogosphere, it seems there may be either a quiet acceptance of George W. Bush's Middle East triumph, or, more likely a "wait-and-see," "wouldn't-want-to-jump-the-gun," "there's-still-a-chance-for-disaster" attitude.

If and when liberals determine that this whole democracy thing is actually pretty cool, you can bet they will default to this argument:

But, Bush still lied about the war. If he had just been truthful all along about the democracy stuff, we would have supported it.

We've dissected this argument in a post called "Jon Stewart's Cognitive Dissonance."

Indeed, while weapons of mass destruction were a large part of the case for war against Iraq, they weren't by a long shot the only case. And freedom and democracy in the greater Middle East were not merely post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this) justifications (or, if you prefer, excuses).

There's still a lot of bad that could happen in the Middle East over the next several years, some of which is pretty horrible to think about. But the hope exhibited on the part of democratic reformers in places like Iraq and Lebanon, and even Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the greater Middle East (and for that matter, the world), are nothing short of miraculous.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 April 2005 05:18 PM · Comments (3)

Galveston, Texas: Social Security Reform's Living Laboratory.

Investor's Business Daily (via the Club For Growth blog) explains the case of Galveston, Texas, and its successful experimentation with Social Security reform:

For 24 years, three Texas counties have been a living lab for President Bush's proposal, and so far the experiment is working.

In the early 1980s, while the federal government was working on ways to "save" the Ponzi scheme known as Social Security from an earlier insolvency crisis, officials in Galveston County looked in the private sector for a retirement option that would improve on FDR's New Deal.

They were taking advantage of the fact that municipalities were not included in the original 1935 legislation creating Social Security.


So, how does it work?

IBD:

...contributions are essentially loaned to a top-rated financial institution for a guaranteed interest rate. Employees bear virtually no risk. They get their money, plus interest, whether the stock market goes up or down.

Upon their retirement, workers can take their money in a lump sum or purchase an annuity that will pay them a guaranteed income for life. It's their money, real money, in a real account with their name on it, and it's their choice. And when they die, all they have in their account becomes part of their estate.

In 24 years, no one has lost a single dime.


More, from Merrill Matthews Jr., Ph.D., of the Institute for Policy Innovation (.pdf):

Workers in Galveston contribute 9.7 percentage points of their payroll tax to retirement savings. The company that manages the Alternate Plan, First Financial Benefits of Houston, pools the money from all of the employees and loans it to a top-rated financial institution for a guaranteed interest rate. Those rates have varied from about 5 percent up to 15.5 percent, but average in the 7.5 percent to 8 percent range.

How the funds are broken down:

Galveston employees contribute 6.13 percent of their income while the county pays 7.785 percent (though it only has to pay 6.2 percent). The combined 13.915 percent is dispersed as follows:

• Retirement Annuity 9.737%

• Survivorship Benefit 2.85%

• Long-term Disability 1.18%

• Waiver of Premium .148%


But why did only three counties choose to opt out if privatization was so successful?

IBD explains:

In 1983, Congress removed the provision letting municipalities opt out.


If Congress had not removed that provision, one wonders just how many municipalities today would still be footling around, throwing their money away into Social Security. Probably not many.

Bill Cotterell, of the Tallahassee Democrat (via Andrew Roth of Social Security Choice), explains why Congress removed the provision:

The only time I've wanted to argue with somebody I was interviewing was when President Ford sent some high-level Social Security administrators to a public forum in Atlanta.

I asked the top guy why, instead of "fixing" the system every few years, the government didn't just make it voluntary.

"Well, if we did that," the lord high commissioner patiently replied, "nobody would join."

Not wanting to be impolite, I said something like, "Uh, doesn't that tell you something?" But I felt like shouting, "Great system you've got there, guys - gotta make it compulsory!"

IPI offers this comparison between Galveston's Alternate Plan and Social Security (click for larger version):
alternateplangalveston.gif
Original version: here.


However, let's not make the mistake of equating Galveston's plan for President Bush's plan. There are some very real technical differences between the two plans we won't go into because they are a bit arcane and wonkish; President Bush's principles for reform address the potential problems with Galveston's otherwise successful plan often cited by the media.

Galveston's example, though, is proof that Social Security reform, under free market principles, can work.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 April 2005 01:22 PM · Comments (2)

Reform Thursday: Week Ten.

reformthursday.gif

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. The graphics are mostly self-explanatory, but we include commentary on some of them where and when necessary.

This week's graphic, like last week's, comes to us from the left-wing Economic Policy Institute:

percentageofincomesocialsecurity.gif

Click image for original.

The Economic Policy Institute opposes Social Security reform, yet it doesn't seem to realize that the above graphic actually makes the "social safety net" case (a favorite professed concern of the left) for why Social Security needs reform.

EPI points out how crucial Social Security is for seniors:

Social Security benefits are the most important source of income for the majority of elderly households. Although these benefits are modest, they account for a large portion of income for many elderly households.

Philosophical issues related to America's unfortunate dependence on government aside, without reform, those benefits will be slashed dramatically by the time the WILLisms.com generation retires-- unless we reform the system, and soon.

Guaranteed.

Meanwhile, a recent survey indicated that many of those same younger workers who will face dramatically slashed benefits are not saving for their own retirement:

saveforretirementlastyear.gif

Click for original (.pdf).

So, let's get this straight.

1. Many Americans depend on Social Security for their retirement income.

2. Nearly 3-out-of-10 Americans under 55 say they not saving anything for their own retirement outside of Social Security.

3. Social Security will not be able to pay out those benefits (which EPI calls "modest," to begin with) for younger workers. Benefits will be slashed by a quarter (or more, according to EPI's own figures, which we noted last week) for those born in the 1970s and beyond.

4. Yet, EPI opposes reform to fix Social Security. Instead, they assert:

Social Security is not going broke. The trustees instead project a financing shortfall that may happen almost 40 years from now.

Hilarious.

So, it's "not going broke." There's just a "financing shortfall" sometime long in the future. And, we don't need to worry about that pesky future.

This is the kind of warped logic we see coming from these "radical status quo," anti-reform groups. When left-wing groups like EPI put out these "fact sheets," they can't help but display a persistent and dogmatic adherence to a decades-old ideology.

Bottom line:

We need to reform Social Security now.

Without reform, millions of today's younger workers will face drastic and guaranteed cuts to their already modest retirement incomes.

There are many reasons to reform Social Security, but the fact that so many Americans have become so dependent on it for their retirement income is one of the more compelling reasons for reform.

Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:

-Week One.

-Week Two.

-Week Three.

-Week Three, bonus.

-Week Four.

-Week Five.

-Week Six.

-Week Six, bonus.

-Week Seven.

-Week Seven, bonus.

-Week Eight.

-Week Nine.


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

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 April 2005 11:43 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 9 -- Support For A Woman For President.

qualifiedwomanforpresident.gif

Source:

Page 101 of American Public Opinion: Its Origins, Content, and Impact, written by Professors Robert S. Erikson and Kent L. Tedin, adapted from data from Gallup and the General Social Survey (GSS).


Support among the American people for a female president has seen dramatic gains over several decades. However, as The White House Project notes, "when given a choice between a woman and a man they still choose a man at least 42% of the time."

Similarly, in a recent survey, largely reported as a positive development for women, only 81% said they would vote for a woman, its lowest point since the 1970s.

One rule of thumb in polling is that people tend to support abstractions, generalities, and such, more than specifics. Perhaps, because respondents today can associate specific women with an eye on the White House (the much-loathed Senator Clinton, for example), they are slightly less supportive of the idea. What once was a nice generality is now an unambiguous and impending tangibility, and maybe it just makes people shiver to imagine Hillary Clinton as Commander-in-Chief.

There is also the possibility that 9/11 made Americans reevaluate the kinds of characteristics they want from their leaders. One of those might be "toughness on national security." Those 1-in-5 Americans who wouldn't vote for a woman for president might believe a man should be the leader of the free world in times like these; both unfair stereotypes and legitimate realities of gender differences might make some people uncomfortable with the idea of a woman leading our country at a time of war.

Or, perhaps, question wording, question order, differing poll methodologies, or some other effect is at play here.

Alternatively, there is the possibility that the numbers, all of them, are inflated. People might carry with them latent, patronizing sentiments about the fairer sex, and if it came right down to it, they might disqualify a female candidate arbitrarily. They just don't want to admit that.

The bottom line, however, is that far more Americans are supportive of the idea of a woman president than in the past, but we may still need another decade or so before Americans are truly ready to elect a female president.

Will we see a race between Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice in 2008? We wouldn't bet on that just yet.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.
Part 5.
Part 6.
Part 7.
Part 8.

Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 April 2005 10:07 AM · Comments (2)

Lebanese Dedication.

Dedication-

Lebanese opposition displays his national pride on his head:

cedarhaircut.gif

Lebanon's The Daily Star, meanwhile, seems impressed by George W. Bush's straight talk (Tuesday):

U.S. President George W. Bush warned Syrian-backed officials in Lebanon against postponing May's parliamentary elections, and reiterated his demand that Syrian troops and intelligence services fully withdraw from the country. In his sternest warning to Damascus for some time, Bush said: "It's important for this election to take place on time."

He added: "When they say, 'We're going to leave the country,' we expect troops and security forces to leave. It's simple."

Today, also from The Daily Star, with a bit of humor thrown in:

Syria picks up pace of troop withdrawal

More than 100 Syrian military trucks left Lebanon on Wednesday, carrying troops, weapons, equipment, furniture and ... Lebanese cows, according to witnesses.

According to locals in the Masnaa area at least one Syrian military truck was seen leaving for the border overnight carrying a number of cows who earlier in the day had been happily grazing in Lebanese pastures.

The ultimate destination of the unfortunate cattle was unclear at the time The Daily Star went to press, but locals insist they were loaded up and bound for Damascus along with more usual Syrian military hardware such as missiles and radars.

It is understood no one from Lebanon has reported any missing cattle so it is likely the bovines are the property of the Syrian Army.


More Dedication-

Beirut's tent city, gearing up for elections in May:

tentcitybeirut.gif

UPDATE:

More on the tent city, and the memorial to slain leader Rafik Hariri.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 April 2005 05:00 AM · Comments (1)

Lessons From The Schiavo Memo Fiasco.

The mystery of that "GOP talking points memo" on Terri Schiavo became far less mysterious today.

The author of the memo has stepped forward to claim responsibility, Mike Allen of The Washington Post reports:

The legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) admitted yesterday that he was the author of a memo citing the political advantage to Republicans of intervening in the case of Terri Schiavo, the senator said in an interview last night.

Brian Darling, a former lobbyist for the Alexander Strategy Group on gun rights and other issues, offered his resignation and it was immediately accepted, Martinez said.

Allen also takes a subtle jab at bloggers for their criticism of the Post's coverage of the memo:

Conservative Web logs have challenged the authenticity of the memo, in some cases likening it to the discredited documents about Bush's National Guard service that CBS News reported last fall.

Just some background on the memo, as originally reported by the Post:

Republican officials declared, in a memo that was supposed to be seen only by senators, that they believe the Schiavo case "is a great political issue" that could pay dividends with Christian conservatives, whose support is essential in midterm elections such as those coming up in 2006.

A one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators by party leaders, said the debate over Schiavo would appeal to the party's base, or core, supporters. The memo singled out Sen. Bill Nelson(D-Fla.), who is up for reelection next year and is potentially vulnerable in a state President Bush won last year.

Again, in the initial reporting, it was "Republican officials," and the memo was "distributed to Republican senators by party leaders." None of these was correct, yet the latest article fails to address any of the inconsistencies. Indeed, Mike Allen's latest piece strikes a tone of vindication for the Post, sort of a "see, we told you so" feel.

As Powerline explains,

...this story serves as an object lesson in how the mainstream media can take a dopey, one-page memo by an unknown staffer and use it to discredit the entire Republican party.

... it appears that ABC, the Post, and subsequently many other news outlets, took an anonymous memo by an unknown staffer, and misrepresented it as an official "GOP talking points memo" created by "Republican officials" or "party leaders" and distributed to "Republican senators."

We now know the name of the unknown staffer: Brian Darling. His boss, Senator Mel Martinez, practically called Darling "stupid" as he resigned from his staffer position. Just look at this memo:

briandarlingmemo.gif

Incorrect spelling or Terri's name, incorrect legislation identification (S. 529 instead of S. 539), and four other typographical errors. Just wrong, all around. And worthy of being called stupid.

Like clockwork, the liberal blogs are pouncing, seizing their chance to shout, "Aha! You were wrong, for once!"

John Aravosis' AMERICAblog, which calls the memo the "now-proven-real Schiavo memo," has a foot-in-mouth fest of conservative bloggers.

While some of the assertions by prominent conservative pundits were clearly overdramatic, and some were too eager to jump on the "it was dirty tricks" bandwagon, Powerline's original comments on the memo's "three possible origins" still ring true:

The first possibility is that it was created by a low-level Republican staffer. This seems possible, but highly unlikely. Only a very dim-witted staffer would 1) copy word for word from the Traditional Values site, 2) get the Senate bill number wrong, 3) make a number of silly errors, including misspelling Mrs. Schiavo's name as "Teri," and 4) mix comments about political advantage into a "talking points" memo. Moreover, the Post and ABC have tried to create the impression that the memo is an official, high-level Republican strategy document. It clearly is not that.

Daily Kos is also on top of the story, arguing that Post reporter Howard Kurtz now has egg on his face for these comments:

The flap about a Washington Post report on an unsigned strategy memo in the Terri Schiavo case, which the paper said was "distributed to Republican senators," isn't going away.

It turns out that The Post's news service put out an early version of the March 20 story -- published by numerous other papers -- that said the talking points, which touted the Schiavo case as a political opportunity, were "distributed to Republican senators by party leaders." GOP congressional leaders say they never saw the document, whose author remains unknown. Post reporter Mike Allen, who was unaware the news service had distributed the earlier version, said last week that the paper was careful not to say it was "a Republican memo."

. . . Despite criticism from bloggers, and Allen's request for a correction, Carlisle said no correction was warranted. Late Friday, the news service sent out an "advisory" saying: "The version of the article published by the paper did not specify the authorship and noted that the memo was unsigned. The authorship remains unknown." The advisory did not retract the assertion that "party leaders" had given out the memo.

But a correction was and remains warranted. The facts surrounding the memo were severely misrepresented in a fashion that negatively impacted Republicans and opened the floodgates for a partisan circus. Just because a few conservative bloggers were a little overzealous in proclaiming the next Rathergate out of this story does not absolve the Post of its responsibility to report the facts fairly.

Kevin Drum's blog puts it this way:

I hope that Power Line and Hugh Hewitt and Michelle Malkin and the rest of the crew trying relive the glory days of Rathergate will take his lead and just STFU. Enough.

Indeed, this is not Rathergate. Not even close.

But the fact remains that this unpolished draft of a memo, never meant to see daylight, authored (or, more likely, copied and pasted, in part, from the Traditional Values Coalition website) by a staffer of one of the lowest ranking Republicans in the Senate, was represented by The Washington Post (and subsequently, the entire media establishment) as some kind of widely disseminated, highly coordinated, official GOP memo that came straight from the top.

It just wasn't.


UPDATE:

Fishkite puts it nicely:

Somehow along the way, Martinez became “party leaders,” his now-fired staffer became “the GOP,” what he wrote became “GOP Talking Points,” and Senator Harkin became the “Senate Republicans” it was supposedly distributed to (in lieu of the 55, make that 54, who never even saw a copy of it).

Michelle Malkin believes there may be more going on here:

Did Darling give a fake tip to Claybourn to try to divert attention from himself?

Malkin also notes an excessive amount of hate mail on the issue, noting:

The search for answers can be messy. Bloggers were at both their best and worst in this episode. But it was the MSM that failed to play it straight in the first place.

More from In the Agora, including a mea culpa for overreacting.

Meanwhile, Powerline wonders where Tom Harkin has been all this time.

We also thoroughly agree with Captain's Quarters on this:

Quite frankly, based on the poor presentation of this memo -- with its typographical errors, mislabeled Senate bill number, and the inept political approach it took -- it's difficult to understand why Brian Darling ever got a job in anyone's political office, let alone that of a US Senator. Darling didn't do Martinez or the GOP any favors by staying silent about his role, either. Had he owned up to writing the memo the first day it became controversial, it would have disappeared from the headlines as quickly as it rose. His resignation should really have been rejected; Martinez should have insisted on firing him instead.

LaShawn Barber (via Right Wing Nut House), meanwhile, is getting plenty of gloating comments from liberals.

UPDATE 2:

Winds of Change blog comments:

Puts the "us" back in hubris, doesn't it?

Actually a healthy dose of humility on both sides - blogs and the media - would be good about now. We're in full train-wreck "gotcha" mode, at a time when there's actually a lot of real work to do on both sides of the political aisle.

Nicely put.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 April 2005 12:32 AM · Comments (10)

The Mainstream On Gay Marriage.

A recent poll that went largely unreported:

gaymarriagepoll.gif


Meanwhile, support for a Constitutional amendment reached new contemporary highs, while opposition to such an idea reached new lows:

gaymarriageamendmentpoll.gif


The Public Brewery blog has some problems with the poll, however, or, rather, with The Washington Times' reporting of it.

Daly Thoughts concurs that the numbers in The Washington Times' story were "cherry picked... to make the movement appear more stark."

We really have no problem with the way The Washington Times framed the story, because, cherry picked or not, the numbers are stark. There are very real majorities of Americans, a very large mainstream made up of more than the "far-right," who oppose gay marriage.

However, we have a very real problem with the poll itself. Only 443 and 466 individuals were surveyed in the recent respective poll questions. As we noted before, any poll with under 600 respondents is one you can pretty much throw out.


Nonetheless, the mainstream on gay marriage does seem more traditional and conservative than many make it out to be.

Here are how some of the states' referenda on the issue have broken down:

57-43 = Oregon.

59-41 = Michigan.

62-38 = California.

62-38 = Ohio.

66-34 = Utah.

67-33 = Montana.

71-29 = Kansas.

71-29 = Missouri.

73-27 = North Dakota.

75-25 = Arkansas.

75-25 = Kentucky.

76-24 = Georgia.

76-24 = Oklahoma.

78-22 = Louisiana.

86-14 = Mississippi.

Kansas, incidentally, just re-affirmed its ban on gay marriages this week.

UPDATE:

More, from Mark Noonan:

What I've seen, greatly to my astonishment, has been a growing and hardening of opposition to gay marriage over the past few years. I was one of those conservatives who were resigned to gay marriage; I just didn't see how we could fight effectively against it when any efforts so mounted would invariably be condemned as "homophobic" bigotry. It seems to me, however, that the people have taken a hand; for whatever reason, the people just don't want to accord the union of same-sex couples the status of marriage; and they are unafraid to speak and vote their minds on the subject.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 April 2005 01:48 PM · Comments (9)

The Social Security Debt Filing Cabinet (a.k.a. "The Trust Fund").

filingcabinet.gif

THE PRESIDENT: See, what's interesting is a lot of people believe that the Social Security trust is -- the government takes a person's money, invests it, and then pays it back to them upon retirement. It doesn't work that way.

MS. CHAPMAN: That's right, that's exactly right.

THE PRESIDENT: This is what exists. And it's very important, then, to make sure that in the future that there's real assets for retirees.

...And my message here in town is that we have an obligation to take the system that Franklin Roosevelt created and make it work for a younger generation of Americans. I'm looking forward to working with Congress to do that. That's what the American people expect. They expect us to modernize the system.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 April 2005 12:14 PM · Comments (5)

Lebanese Can Handle The Truth.

Claudia Rosett (who, incidentally, was robbed by The Pulitzer Prize committee) has a great piece on the power of truth:

A friend was wondering the other day what frontiers are left to explore, now that scientists have pretty much mapped the planet. The answer, I'd suggest, lies less in the stars than along the frontiers of human freedom--which over the past few decades have been edging out dictatorships from Asia to Latin America to Eastern Europe. Today, sped along by President's Bush's bold move two years ago to break the despotic gridlock of the Middle East by overthrowing Saddam Hussein, that same push for freedom has arrived at the region's palace gates....

It bears noting under despotic regimes anywhere, the most common reason for which democratic dissidents are jailed is simply that they have dared to tell the truth. Tyrants depend on fictions, on the lies that all their subjects support them, that they have a legitimate monopoly on power and that what they do is for the best. When that facade cracks, there is an opportunity for genuine liberation.

In Lebanon's case--as widely reported over the past few weeks-- the Lebanese want most immediately the truth about who was behind the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, killed by a huge bomb in Beirut on Feb. 14. But that murder-mystery is linked to a much broader picture. Most Lebanese believe the culprit was the totalitarian regime of neighboring Syria, which for more than a generation, under the false banner of "stability," has gotten away with occupying and brutalizing Lebanon. With Hariri's murder, the Lebanese decided they had had enough of threats and cover-ups and lies. Their demand for the truth about Hariri's killers swelled last month into the biggest democratic uprising in the history of the modern Middle East, in which some one million Lebanese staged a protest last month in downtown Beirut to demand that Syrian forces leave their country, and make room for freedom--and truth.

If you are a regular WILLisms.com reader, you may have noticed a new button on the left-hand sidebar:

democracyinlebanon.jpg

Blogger Michael J. Totten and Spirit of America founder Jim Hake are on the ground in Lebanon, supporting the pro-freedom demonstrators in the "tent city" in Beirut.

Read more at Spirit of America's blog:

Jim Hake and I met for the first time one of the key student leaders, Nabil Abou-Charaf, for coffee in Mejnah Square across the street from Lebanon's parliament. He showed up at our pre-arranged meeting place, a table at an outdoor cafe under the shade of a ficus tree, wearing a suit, a blue independence ribbon, and a prominently displayed red and white scarf - an open and public declaration that he belongs to Lebanon's democratic opposition.

"We have a few key demands," he said. "First, all Syrian soldiers and intelligence agents must leave Lebanon now and forever. We need an international inquiry into the assasination of Rafik Hariri. And we demand free and fair elections - on time, without delay - in May."

....

"The movement is totally led by young people," Nabil said. "Both Christians and Muslims. We are living together in the same tents. We stay up all night strategizing and getting to know each other. It's amazing, but it's also sad. We Christians and Muslims never really knew each other until now. Hariri's assasination broke down that wall. We are talking together - really talking and getting to know each other - for the first time....

"We are not free, but we are no longer afraid to express ourselves," he said. "The climate of fear still exists, but it is breaking. Next time you visit Lebanon will be a free country."

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 April 2005 12:06 PM · Comments (0)

ADSCAM: Oh, Canada!

Canada's Attorney General is now determining how to go about cracking down on bloggers:

So instead of chasing down felons or prosecuting violent criminals, or perhaps investigating government corruption, the AG intends to start delivering contempt citations ... or even sillier, warning letters. For what? Writing about testimony to which their politicians have complete access and the media can watch but not report.

The source for much of the information posted recently on the Captain's Quarters blog has been spooked by the Canadian Attorney General's statements:

The source from which my material has come wants to ensure his/her own safety at the moment from exposure and legal action, which I find reasonable. Hopefully, more material will come soon.

The Free Will blog, meanwhile, does its best to patch together the testimony.

Wondering what the heck this Adscam stuff is all about, anyway?

Corruption.

Real. Actual. Corruption.

Brault reveals all. Jean Brault, former head of Groupaction Marketing, makes devastating revelations implicating the Liberal Party of Canada, Quebec division. Brault gives astounding details about what looks like a systemized scheme to funnel funds to the Liberal Party. Groupaction was repeatedly asked to give cash donations to the party or put election workers on its payroll in exchange for government contracts. All this at the request of three high-ranking Liberals: Jacques Corriveau (head of Pluridesign and personal friend of J Chretien who worked on his campaign), Alain Renaud (big-time Liberal who worked at the party’s headquarters in Montreal and Benoit Corbeil, a party official in Montreal).... There were also fictitious invoices to make sure these transactions were untraceable.

More here, here, and here.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 April 2005 11:19 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 8 -- Profile of Members of Congress.

CONGRESSIONAL PROFILE-

Everyone knows that Washington is full of lawyers.

But did you know that the 109th Congress (that's this one) also has:

- 12 medical doctors (including a psychiatrist), three dentists, three nurses, two veterinarians, two psychologists, an optometrist, and one pharmacist;

- six ministers;

- 35 mayors, 10 state governors, nine lieutenant governors (including two Delegates), two state first ladies (one of whom was also the first lady of the United States), and one territorial first lady;

- three former cabinet secretaries, a former Secretary of the Navy, a former deputy administrator in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, a former deputy assistant Secretary of State, a former ambassador, two state supreme court justices, and a federal judge;

- 274 (235 in the House and 39 in the Senate) former state legislators;

- 107 congressional staffers (including 10 congressional pages), 16 White House staffers or fellows, several former executive branch employees, and a former parliamentary aide in the British House of Commons;

- four sheriffs, three police officers (including a Capitol policeman), two state troopers, two volunteer firemen, two probation officers, and a border patrol chief;

- two FBI agents, one CIA agent, and one CIA attache;

- two physicists, two chemists, a biomedical researcher, a biomedical engineer, a geologist, and a microbiologist;

- six Peace Corps volunteers;

- three radio broadcasters, two radio talk show hosts, a television
sportscaster, a television reporter, a television talk show host, and a motivational speaker;

- five accountants;

- a commercial airline pilot, a corporate pilot, a flight school instructor, and an astronaut;

- a professional magician, a semi-professional musician, a major league baseball player, a major league football player (who was also a college football coach), a florist, a librarian; and

- two vintners, two auctioneers, two bank tellers, a furniture salesman, a steelworker, a carpenter, an ironworker, a paper mill worker, a cement plant worker, a meat cutter, a river boat captain, a taxicab driver, a toll booth collector, a hotel clerk, a hotel bellhop, a fruit orchard worker, a race track blacksmith, and a “jackeroo” (cowboy) on a sheep-cattle ranch.

Source:

Membership of the 109th Congress: A Profile (.pdf); Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress, February 17, 2005.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.
Part 5.
Part 6.
Part 7.

Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 April 2005 05:11 AM · Comments (1)

More On Zimbabwe's Rigged Election.

Our source inside Zimbabwe emails to tell us that Zimbabwe's opposition was "shell-shocked" and is now "trying to re-group," following its stunning defeat last week at the hands of Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF political party, a defeat which now gives Mugabe the power to change Zimbabwe's already fragile constitution.

It is easy to understand how Zimbabwe's opposition could have found itself so paralyzed immediately after such a terrible outcome.

A fraudulent election.

Rubber stamped by regional leaders.

Extremely limited options for redress.

After a few days of relative inaction on the part of the opposition, whatever comes next may just be too little, too late-- this year, at least.

The Movement for Democratic Change and Civic Action groups like Sokwanele have a very real chance to lay the long-term groundwork for a free and democratic Zimbabwe. Building those requisite institutions must be a priority for Zimbabwe's opposition over the next few years.

Yet, we feel we have a duty to freedom-loving people around the world, and the Zimbabweans in particular, to keep the faith. Why should Zimbabweans have to wait years (or, perhaps, generations) for democracy when many today are willing to stand up for their own liberty?

As President Bush noted in his Second Inaugural address,

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.

The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."

The options of freedom-loving people are limited in this case; however, where and when we see people asserting their liberty against unimaginable tyranny, we will speak out on their behalf.


Thus, here is the latest on Zimbabwe:


Sokwanele
has released its report on Zimbabwe's recent rigged election.

You can also read more about it at the Sokwanele blog.


America's response.

The United States, through State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, called the elections "seriously tainted":

"I think we have seen the problems with this election mount after the voting,” said Mr. Boucher. “While we noted the voting itself was orderly, the buildup to the election was tainted by restrictions on the media and the highly charged atmosphere against the opposition. And unfortunately as they got to the vote counting, they seem to have distorted the process further....

In a statement last Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said flatly the election process was not free and fair, and urged the Mugabe government to "hear and respect" the voices of the many Zimbabweans who she said reject its failed policies and are calling for change.

She further urged Harare authorities to "recognize the legitimacy of the opposition" and abandon policies designed, she said, to "repress, crush and otherwise stifle expression of differences in Zimbabwe.


The United Kingdom's response.


British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw echoed those sentiments, expressing frustration that neighboring African countries had stamped the elections with their approval:

"There is strong evidence they do not reflect the free democratic will of the Zimbabwe people... the election process was seriously flawed," he told MPs.

The Zimbabwean opposition has demanded a rerun of the elections. Police were deployed in Harare yesterday to prevent further protests against the poll.


A Major Hurdle.


Unfortunately, South African President Thabo Mbeki has made the work of Zimbabwe's pro-democracy opposition nearly impossible with his government's swift endorsement of Mugabe's victory:

In the runup to last Thursday's elections, Mbeki dismissed widely expressed fears that Mugabe would rig the vote as he was accused of doing in 2000 and 2002.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC), whose observer mission was led by Mbeki's minerals minister, gave the poll high marks, although it voiced concerns over issues such as media access for the opposition. Pretoria's own monitoring team was unequivocal in its endorsement.


Crackdown on the press.


Meanwhile, The New Zealand Herald reports:

Two British journalists detained in Zimbabwe have pleaded not guilty to charges of reporting without permission....

State prosecutor Albert Masamha said the men were gathering information on the elections, which pitted President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)....

Under Zimbabwe's media laws foreign journalists are banned from working in the country permanently and must seek temporary licences with a state commission for brief assignments.

Zimbabwe has arrested or deported dozens of journalists and denied others entry under its media rules, which Mugabe's government introduced three years ago.

Jailed journalists Toby Harnden and Julian Simmonds:

journalists.jpg


John Reed of Financial Times describes a thoroughly surreal scene in the Mugabe camp:

Robert Mugabe was in a playful mood by the time he commented on his party's crushing victory in last week's parliamentary election. Southern Africa's longest-serving leader summoned journalists to the veranda of Harare's State House on Saturday, where he spoke, flanked by two snarling stuffed lions.

"Are you afraid?" he asked the startled group, quickly adding with a smile: "These two don't bite." Even before he spoke, Mr Mugabe's advisers, who have on occasion berated or even jailed foreign journalists, offered reporters an all-expenses junket to Victoria Falls.

A little "thank you" trip, perhaps? For being good journalists, unlike those no-good, meddling British ones.


Opposition not giving up yet.


The Washington Post reports that, despite threats to life and limb, glimmers of defiance remain in Zimbabwe:

Even in the countryside -- where support for Mugabe is supposedly strongest and where official vote totals showed his party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, with huge margins of victory -- voters on election day flashed the opposition's signature open-palm gesture. A group of peasant women walking down a dirt road with sugar cane in their hands did not want to talk to a stranger, but when pressed gently about the election, they silently showed their open palms.


palm.gif


Evidence that Zimbabweans are beginning to follow "the blueprint," perhaps?

"The blueprint" for success requires many things, some of which do not seem readily apparent in Zimbabwe.

For one, the opposition draws much of its support from young, frustrated males in urban areas; thus far there are no protest babes to be found.

However, the Zimbabwean opposition does have an opportunity for branding its movement effectively, through symbols. The open-palm gesture, such as the one pictured above, could embody the movement. Unfortunately, though, marketing the movement to an international audience might be more difficult while news from Rome dominates international headlines.

Our Zimbabwean opposition source, who wishes to remain unattributed, emails:

The foreign media has drifted away and the world's interest has shifted. Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, this is usually the period when we need attention more than any other time - when reprisals start to take place, intimidation escalates again, and, evidence of rigging emerges.


The opposition also faces a split decision from the international community. Countries from the Northern hemisphere support new elections under free and fair terms, while South Africa, the most influential country in the region, has already endorsed another term for Mugabe. The Guardian explains the quandary, criticizing:

...the complicity of other African governments who failed to see the issue other than in terms of land redistribution and the black versus white struggle trumpeted by the president and his cronies. They preferred to fixate on Tony Blair - blaming him for the row with the Commonwealth and the sanctions imposed by the EU - rather than address why a country that was so promising on independence in 1980 has seen such a sharp decline into poverty, hunger, mass unemployment and an HIV/aids crisis of tragic proportions.


The Scotsman reports that, while the Movement for Democratic Change has not officially organized any demonstrations, hundreds of opposition supporters expressed their displeasure with the Mugabe regime:

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) draws much of its support from young Zimbabweans, who bear the brunt of 70 per cent unemployment rates and have lost faith in Mr Mugabe. But the same youths are also believed to be growing increasingly impatient with dallying from the MDC leadership, which has not yet announced what it plans to do in response to Mr Mugabe’s victory.

Paul Themba Nyathi, an MDC spokesman, told The Scotsman that Monday’s demonstration had not been organised by the opposition, "but we do understand why the youths would demonstrate".

"It was a spontaneous demonstration by the youths who are disgruntled by the outcome of the elections," said Mr Nyathi, who lost his parliamentary seat in the south-western town of Gwanda to a little-known ruling party cadre.

Mr Nyathi said that up to 600 youths took part, adding: "It would not surprise me if we saw more of these demonstrations."

That's about as close as the MDC has been willing to come to actually advocating demonstrations. Reporter Nicole Itano explains:

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has hesitated to call for mass action, fearing a violent government crackdown and an unwillingness by his supporters to risk injury or death. People here, however, say they are willing to go to the streets and are simply waiting for a call they expect soon.

"They are prepared to go," said Yvonne Bhosha. "They are still angry. They want to demonstrate. Some of the people said they are ready for the war."


The primary obstacle to replicating a scene from Ukraine's Orange Revolution is that Zimbabweans fear for their very safety if and when they speak out. The Mugabe regime is so authoritarian that Freedom House has said Zimbabweans likely "cannot change their government democratically." If Morgan Tsvangirai urged his supporters to take to the streets, lives would almost certainly be lost; meanwhile, the MDC and other just-emerging opposition groups in Zimbabwe would likely face the harsh wrath of the Mugabe regime, possibly setting them back years.

It must weigh heavily on Tsvangirai and other opposition leadership to bear that kind of responsibility. Any action, or lack of action, would cause mostly negative consequences.

Very few options even exist that could create positive consequences at this point. The odds of a Ukraine-style mass movement in 2005 are exceedingly slim.


Indeed, Mugabe's police force,

...made a series of arrests in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, after people took to the streets to protest last week's election result.

Police remain on high alert in Harare after the protests, staged mainly by young people.

Ten were arrested, and police say all officers are armed and on full alert to maintain post election peace.


Mugabe himself promised violence if anyone protested the rigged election:

Mugabe dismissed charges of cheating as "excuses" that were not "sporting." He warned that any attempt by the opposition to protest the results would be met with "conflict, serious conflict." He said the government had "two or three weapons" it might deploy to calm unrest in a nation where demonstrations are illegal unless the police have granted prior, written permission.

The New York Times explains that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is preparing its own report on the rampant election fraud:

A South African spokesman for the M.D.C., James Littleton, said Tuesday that the party would release a report Wednesday detailing what it says is evidence of election fraud. A part of that report, he said, compares the outcome in selected races with the final vote totals the government's election commission announced in the early hours of April 1, long after the polls had closed.

According to the M.D.C., there are wide variances between some totals and the election results, particularly in rural districts where the vote was especially hard to monitor. For example, he said, the government reported at 2 a.m. April 1 that a total of 8,579 people had cast ballots in Murehwa South, a district in Mashonaland East Province.

But the announced results in that race showed that Mr. Mugabe's party had won 19,200 votes, compared with 4, 585 for the M.D.C. - more than 15,000 more ballots that the total vote reported earlier.

Mr. Littleton said the report would list similar discrepancies in other election races, as well as many instances in which the number of voters turned away from the polls on technical grounds exceeded the government's margin of victory.

The M.D.C. asserted earlier that its election monitors would be able to detect and avert cases of fraud. But Mr. Littleton said Tuesday that the party's monitors had either been denied access to polls or barred from observing crucial parts of the vote-counting or reporting procedures.

We're rooting for the good guys, but we're also very skeptical that anything short of Mugabe's death (he is 81, and says he plans to live to 100), coupled with the painstaking process of developing a disciplined democratic movement, could offer the necessary moment of opportunity for the pro-freedom forces.

In the meantime, we stand with the democratic reformers.

UPDATE:

More on Mugabe's Bloody Past.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 April 2005 01:22 AM · Comments (0)

Carnival Of Revolutions.

The Sophistpundit blog (noticed via Publius Pundit) has a new feature called the Carnival of Revolutions. Looks promising, although unfortunately in this test run there are not enough different sources.

With the world in such profound flux today, mostly for the better, this new Carnival seems absolutely necessary. Hopefully, if the high-traffic blogs such as instapundit.com link to it on a regular basis, it might encourage bloggers to focus a little more on the dramatic world events happening today.

And that's something for another post: the amazing agenda-setting power of some of the larger blogs.

Posted by Will Franklin · 5 April 2005 08:48 PM · Comments (0)

Rock The Vote: Tackiness, Lameness, Projection.

In a recent post on Rock the Vote's "blog" (which hardly even qualifies as a blog), Hans Riemer, the 30-something leader of RTV's anti-reform charge, posted this comment:

We catch a lot of flak here at this blog from advocates for privatization. The little hellions seem to have a lot of time on their hands. Actually, suggesting that they are young is probably generous since in all likelihood most of them are balding.

hansriemerrockthevote.gif

In psychology, there is a common term known as "projection."

Without going too deep into the term's nuances, dictionary.com defines projection, in the psychological sense, as:

1. The attribution of one's own attitudes, feelings, or suppositions to others: “Even trained anthropologists have been guilty of unconscious projection of clothing the subjects of their research in theories brought with them into the field” (Alex Shoumatoff).

2. The attribution of one's own attitudes, feelings, or desires to someone or something as a naive or unconscious defense against anxiety or guilt.

Hans Riemer graduated from college a decade ago. Well into his thirties, Riemer wouldn't even be included in most political science definitions of a "young person" or "youth voter," which typically run from 18-30.

Yet, Hans Riemer, speaking on behalf of Rock the Vote, a group that has teamed up with the senior citizen group AARP to oppose necessary reforms, has the "bald" audacity to call out Social Security reformers for their age.

Riemer said he wants to make Rock the Vote the "AARP of our generation."

Which generation are we talking about here, Hans?

lamesincethe1980s.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 5 April 2005 01:46 PM · Comments (4)

Some Call It The Carnival/Bonfire Of Classiness.

We call it "Classiness, All Around Us."

certifiedclassy.gif
Click to explore more WILLisms.com.

In no particular order, WILLisms.com presents classiness from the blogosphere:


1.

The Political Calculations Blog explains:

About 98 percent of baby boomers would have been better off had they been able to take advantage of personal retirement accounts.


2.

Dean's World tears down the idea that poverty is the root cause of terrorism, citing posts by Arthur Chrenkoff and Terrorism Unveiled:

I've known lots of poor people in my time, and I've never seen any evidence that being poor makes them violent killers.

In fact, if you look at terrorists, they usually have one thing in common. Whether it's an anarchist like Ted "Unabomber" Kaczynski, a communist like Che Guevara, or a religio-fascist like Osama bin Laden, all seem to share a common background:

They grew up as spoiled brats in very comfortable, pampered, well-off households.

Other than that, only hate is their unifying trait.


3.

Bloggedygook (via Publius Pundit) explains why and how Zimbabwe is not Ukraine:

It may be that western nations are loathe to push for reform in places like Zimbabwe because of the fear that they would be branded as racists. Africa has suffered from western racism and neglect but Mugabe is not a product of racism but a practitioner of it. He has been able to ply western guilt to the clay from which he constructs his odious regime. He knows that leaders of developed nations would rather not engage him in a battle of wills so as not to look as if they are singling him out for punishment. Initiatives like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS have become tools that donor nations try to use as leverage against Mugabe’s land grab only to find that the dictator has turned the tables on them.

[Note: Zimbabweans could not actualize "the blueprint" this year, but opposition groups ought to think for the long-term, laying the groundwork today for tomorrow's implementation of "the blueprint."]


4.

The Jawa Report (via Michelle Malkin) explains that this year's Pulitzer Prizes for photography may include a terrorist-collaborator, something that was an issue months ago.

Here is the picture in question (click for original):

pulitzer.gif

5.

The Captain's Quarters blog, which has been covering the ADSCAM hubbub in Canada, somehow found some time to make these comments on Bush, Ukraine, and Russia:

Bush had remained noncommittal about Ukraine's position with NATO until now, and even this endorsement comes as a surprise. It shows once again that Bush does not fear bold moves, and that despite Yushchenko's retreat from Iraq, Bush holds the expansion of popular democracy as a higher goal than momentary geopolitics. As long as Putin appears to descend into strongman rule, Bush is prepared to apply counterpressure to inspire Russians to return to democratic rule.


6.

The Mudville Gazette notes SFC Paul Ray Smith's posthumous Medal of Honor.

7.

Betsy's Page notes a David Brooks column that describes some key differences between liberals and conservatives:

...conservatives have developed stronger ideas because they often disagree with each other... liberals are less likely to ground their beliefs in a coherent philosophy.

8.


Speaking of differences between liberals and conservatives, Patterico's Pontifications points us to a Ron Brownstein piece with this tidbit (plus some brief analysis of his own):

In the latest poll from Democracy Corps, a project of leading Democratic consultants, Republicans held a crushing 30-percentage-point advantage when voters were asked which party knows what it stands for.


9.

Don Luskin, of Social Security Choice, notes that President Bush visited the Social Security Trust Fund today:

No, he didn't visit a vault full of gold bars, silos full of wheat, or even a safe-deposit box full of securities. He visited the file cabinet in Parkersburg, West Virginia where the Trust Fund keeps the IOUs of the US government, to itself from itself. Bush said, "a lot of people believe that the Social Security trust is -- the government takes a person's money, invests it, and then pays it back to them upon retirement. It doesn't work that way. ...This is what exists." And what doesn't.

10.

Winds of Change blog notes that scientists at MIT have unlocked a discovery about how the brain works, explaining that even the primitive part of the brain is important for higher-level thought processes:

...primitive brain structures might be the engine driving even our most advanced high-level, intelligent learning abilities...

And don't forget to check out the classy WILLisms.com Featured Posts on the left-hand sidebar, plus "The Left's Lacking Solidarity," and a "Tribute to Pope John Paul II, Through Time Magazine Covers."


Previous Certifications of Classiness from WILLisms.com:

February 8, 2005

February 16, 2005

February 18, 2005

February 21, 2005

February 22, 2005

February 25, 2005

March 3, 2005

March 9, 2005

March 15, 2005

March 22, 2005

March 29, 2005

WILLisms.com offers a classiness roundup as a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 10 posts deemed classy. If you would like to nominate a post on your blog or another blog for inclusion, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com. Write "Classy Nomination" in the subject.

At some point in the future, we're also going to introduce a roundup of lameness, which will provide examples of shrill, angry, extremist, anti-American, self-loathing, intentionally misleading, and other unclassy posts from blogs. Again, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com to submit nominations.

Classy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 5 April 2005 11:36 AM · Comments (1)

The Bonfire Of The Vanities.

WELCOME TO THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES.

bonfire.gif

New to the Bonfire?

The Bonfire is "a self-submitted collection of the worst posts by otherwise excellent bloggers." Each week, there's someone new hosting it.

First, some April Fools Related Items:

The Zero Boss submits this April Fools Joke that didn't really fool anyone.

The Jawa Report's Rusty Shackleford has this parody of Glenn Reynolds, a.k.a. instapundit.

Multiple Mentality puts way too much thought into a google April Fools Joke.

My Right Wing Conspiracy says, "April Fool's madness messed me all up... ;-) Actually, I have quite a few bonfire-worthy posts from this week, but this one was at least fun. Or referenced fun. Or something," making this worthless submission.


Blogger sortapundit was totally fooled by the Wizbang April Fools Joke.

Catscape was just sure that Mitch Hedberg's death was an elaborate April Fools Joke. Oops.

COWARDICE:

Speaking of cats, The Conservative Cat represents a "rather unfortunate display of moral cowardice" in this post, and jumping of the gun in this one.

HUBRIS:


Rick, of the Right Wing Nut House, notes that this is what happens when you declare war and nobody shows up.


LOVE THY SELF:

The Useful Fools blog gives us a glimpse into the office of "Senator Narcissus," the blogosphere's favorite all-around guy.


SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION:

Andrew Ian Dodge makes a post filled with this shameless promotion of his band.


A BUNCH OF NOTHING:

"DOG BITES MAN!" declares Carpe Bonum.

The technogypsy, meanwhile, submits this thoroughly worthless post.

Brian J. Noggle offers this pathetically brief review of the new Bruce Willis movie, Hostage.


MORE BLOGGING ON BLOGGING:

Blogger "mad anthony" asks, then answers, "What does a blogger write about when they are out of things to write about on their blog? About blogging, of course!"

TIME WASTED ON A BUNCH OF NOTHING:

GOP and the City responds to a letter to the editor in a minor New York City newspaper. His fiance' is not going to be pleased about this.

DAYDREAMING, DISSECTED:

Boxing Alcibades tells all about his random logic.

Last, but definitely not least:

In this potentially non-work-friendly post, Classical Values takes a look at San Francisco's Anarchist Book Fair, a group which Ward Churchill addressed recently, noting "I will defend to the death your right to make me vomit!"

Here is a hint at what you might find:

I'll say this. Shocking though he may be, Ward Churchill has been upstaged. (Well, I guess someone had to show some balls.....)

And while Churchill and the "scrotal inflation" warriors may not realize it, the fact is that by working together, they're all helping to show the rest of the world that freedom is a many-splendored thing.

Upcoming Bonfire Stops:

Week 93 (Apr. 12) - My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
Week 94 (Apr. 19) - Am I A Pundit Now?
Week 95 (Apr. 26) - Boxing Alcibiades


More information on the Bonfire of the Vanities at Wizbang blog.

Posted by Will Franklin · 5 April 2005 10:39 AM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 7 -- Political Knowledge.

POLITICAL KNOWLEDGE.

Here are some interesting factoids, regarding what the American people know:

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Source:

Pages 70-71, from the 1997 political science "classic" What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters, by Michael Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter.

We recently offered a pop quiz on Social Security. It would be interesting to compare the percentages of correct answers with the classic research on the subject.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.
Part 5.
Part 6.

Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 5 April 2005 09:32 AM · Comments (1)

Carnivals and Bonfires of Vanities.

The Carnival of the Vanities is up. One of our posts is included, with a funny comment:

Willisms reports that it would appear that Rock The Vote is no longer as painfully unhip as it has been in recent years; rather, they've gotten even worse. Perhaps "Rock The Vote" is a reference to the rocking chairs to be found dotting retirement communities.

Good one.

Meanwhile, we're hosting the Bonfire of the Vanities (a self-submitted collection of the worst posts by otherwise excellent bloggers) around midday on Tuesday, April 5, 2005, so stay tuned to WILLisms.com. Submissions are officially closed, which is a good thing, because there have been some excrutiatingly bad posts. It's like a train wreck, it's so horrible, yet you can't look away.

You won't want to miss it.

Posted by Will Franklin · 5 April 2005 12:07 AM · Comments (1)

Social Security: About That "Trust Fund."

National Review takes on the Social Security trust fund:

Social Security faces an unfunded liability of $4 trillion over the next 75 years. The liability is $11.1 trillion in perpetuity. Some dismiss infinite timelines as absurd. The concept is an easy target: It’s difficult enough to get people to care about the fiscal situation over the next 75 years; why should they care about Social Security benefits in the year to 2500? But that’s not the point. The infinite horizon is necessary to ensure that any Social Security fix is a permanent one as opposed to the many temporary patches that are floated — patches that would leave the system out of balance beyond the truncated window.

As the Social Security Trustees point out, “Overemphasis on summary measures for a 75-year period can lead to incorrect perceptions and to policy prescriptions that do not move toward a sustainable system.” The 75-year unfunded liability increased by $300 billion over the past year and the infinite gap increased by $600 billion. So right now the American people have an implicit liability of about $11 trillion. The liability is implicit since there is not an explicit IOU for the whole shortfall sitting in any filing cabinet.

The unfunded liability is the amount of money that we would need to put away today in order to generate a large enough revenue stream to fill in the growing gap between program benefits and revenues. It is important to understand that this implicit liability is completely different from other types of debts, such as the government debt owed the public. Unlike a government debt resulting from borrowing, this implicit debt is not binding because participants have no legal right or claim to their Social Security benefits. While the benefits have been promised (or implied), they are not owed, need not be paid, and can be changed at any time.

If you are a Social Security policy wonk, it's a must-read.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 April 2005 11:13 PM · Comments (2)

Congratulations to UNC Tarheels.

Congrats to North Carolina for their NCAA basketball championship.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 April 2005 11:06 PM · Comments (1)

Watcher's Council.

As you may or may not already be aware, members of the Watcher's Council hold a vote every week on what they consider to be the most link-worthy pieces of writing around... per the Watcher's instructions, I am submitting one of my own posts for consideration in the upcoming nominations process.

Here is the most recent winning council post, here is the most recent winning non-council post, here is the list of results for the latest vote, and here is the initial posting of all the nominees that were voted on.

Our Babe Theory post came in second place a couple weeks ago, finishing behind this great post.

This week, we're nominating our post on Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe for consideration.

If you are a newer blogger trying to get some exposure for your stuff, you might give this a shot.

For the suggestion, thanks go to: Right Wing Nut House.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 April 2005 09:40 PM · Comments (0)

Baseball: Happy Opening Day.

Baseball season is here, and, with steroids on the minds of baseball fans everywhere, America's pastime has a real test ahead of it this season.

But opening day is a great day for America.

An editorial from Cincinatti puts it nicely:

Forget about the steroids and the asterisks. Forget about overpaid prima donna players or extravagant owners. Don't think about the tax-supported bonds used to build ballparks. Certainly don't think about last season. Today is the start of something new, and today all of the good things about baseball are possible.

Amen.

Here is the schedule for this week's games.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 April 2005 04:27 PM · Comments (2)

More Fake Schiavo Memo Business.

Michelle Malkin is still diligently covering the story of the alleged "GOP memo" on Terri Schiavo:

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH SLAPS THE WASHINGTON POST UPSIDE THE HEAD


WASHINGTON POST DIGS IN
:

Incredibly, Post News Service editors still refuse to issue a correction, even though the reporter who co-authored the article has now requested one.

Wizbang adds:

It's like media musical chairs, and the music is about to stop playing...

Nobody wants to take the blame for erroneously reporting about the "GOP memo." Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post really just needs to own up and offer the correction already.

Powerline asserts:

...the original story was wrong, and a correction is necessary--not only by the Post, but by every newspaper that ran the incorrect story, and by the many columnists that picked up on the fake story and used it to beat up on the Senate Republicans.

One sad legacy of this particular bit of reporting is its contribution to the partisan circus around Terri Schiavo's final days. Her death should have never been a partisan issue, but the inaccurate reporting on the "GOP memo" opened the floodgates for far-left groups to pounce.

Poor reporting and bad polls helped frame a false consensus for Terri Schiavo's death. What an unfortunate imprint The Washington Post leaves on this issue.

UPDATE:

More, from The Weekly Standard.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 April 2005 02:35 PM · Comments (2)

2004 Election Data: Big GOP Opportunities.

John Fund has a great piece in today's OpinionJournal.com, explaining how, after months of data collection and number crunching on the part of a database firm called Polidata, the 2004 election numbers reveal that the Republican Party is in great political shape moving ahead:

In 2000, Mr. Bush carried 228 congressional districts to Al Gore's 207 on his way to one of the closest victories in American history. This year Mr. Bush carried 255 congressional districts, nearly six in 10. The number of "turnover" districts--those voting for a House member of one party and a presidential candidate of the other--continues to shrink, mostly due to the growth of straight-ticket voting and gerrymandering. There were only 59 such districts in 2004, compared with 86 in 2000 and 110 when Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole in 1996.

The best chances for Democrats to gain the 15 seats they need to take control of the House in 2006 are in these districts held by "Kerry Republicans." The problem is that there are so few of them. John Kerry carried just 18 GOP House members' districts, while Mr. Bush carried 41 Democratic ones.

Only five Republican House members currently sit in districts where Mr. Bush won less than 47% of the presidential vote last year: two in Connecticut, two in Iowa and one in Delaware. But 31 House Democrats represent districts where John Kerry won less than 47%. That means Republicans have many more opportunities to pick up seats in favorable political terrain as Democratic members leave the House. No one expects Democrats to hold the seat of Ike Skelton of Missouri when he leaves office; President Bush won 64% of his district's votes. Ditto for the district of Gene Taylor of Mississippi, where Mr. Bush won 68%.

Another reason Republicans ought to be optimistic going forward into the next decade:

REAPPORTIONMENT.

Republican-leaning areas of the country, generally, are growing, sometimes explosively. Democrat-leaning areas of the country, generally, are losing population (or, at least, stagnating).

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We divided the states into red and blue based on the recent "red for Republican, blue for Democrat" method. A red state must have voted for George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, while a blue state must have voted against him both years. Iowa, the only purple state affected by projected reapportionment, went for Gore in 2000 and Bush in 2004.


2010reapportionmentmap.gif

Click on map for .pdf, adapted from Polidata.

Our map differs significantly, though, from Polidata's, as we included whether the state was Republican-leaning or Democrat-leaning.

Examining the data, there are several demographic trends that benefit Republicans heading into the future, including Latinos becoming Republicans, Republicans having more children, and Democrats becoming increasingly disconnected, culturally, from the people residing in the vast majority of the country.

Hilariously, Ruy Teixeira is still sticking with that whole "Donkey Rising" dream he has prophesied for years now.

How embarrassing for ole Ruy to have written a book called The Emerging Democratic Majority, then feel he has to stick with that hypothesis, spinning any slanted poll that remotely proves that point, even as his theory becomes increasingly absurd with each election.

UPDATE:

National Review (via Club For Growth's blog) adds:

Bush defeated Kerry in 214 congressional districts represented by Republican lawmakers and defeated Kerry in 41 congressional districts held by Democrats. In contrast, Republicans only have 18 seats where Kerry defeated Bush, less than half as many....

Even if Republicans and Democrats were to essentially "swap" these seats (and in the coming decades, this is a reasonable expectation), Republicans would come out much farther ahead of the Democrats....

House Republicans may be tempted to play it safe, do the tit-for-tat game with the Democrats, and relax behind their electoral fortress. With a caucus composed overwhelmingly of members in districts Bush won handily, plus an improving economy, they could afford to play it safe, mute partisan differences, and hold on to power. Call it the "Democrat-lite" strategy.

But this data suggests that House Republicans should go for the knockout blow. By drawing bright distinctions between the parties in a wide assortment of the 41 Democrat districts Bush won, Republicans would be able to force the Democrats into a defensive posture that compels them to disperse their financial resources widely, increasing the odds of overall success, and giving Republicans a shot at a breakthrough cycle.

More to come on these numbers, so stay tuned.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 April 2005 01:28 PM · Comments (4)

Top Ten Categories: Media Bias.

A great list of media bias (via Ed Driscoll):

1. The Lie.

2. The memory hole.

3. Ventriloquist journalism.

4. Polls.

5. Buzzwords.

6. Coordination with the Democratic candidates.

7. The smear/personal attack/outrage.

8. Euphemisms.

9. False appearance of evenhandedness.

10. Opinion as fact.

And two bonus categories:

11. The race card.

12. Issue exclusion/false alternatives.

Read more about each one here.

Meanwhile, in Canada, that enlightened left-wing government is censoring the media outright.

UPDATE:
More on Canada's war on bloggers from Winds Of Change. And even more from Captain's Quarters blog. And this spike in traffic is pretty amazing. Plus, even more comments on the emerging scandal.

UPDATE 2:

Even more.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 April 2005 10:48 AM · Comments (5)

Zimbabwe's Opposition Gives Up.

We recently wrote extensively on the horrors of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.


As we pointed out before, Freedom House asserted in its recent country report on Zimbabwe (it's a .pdf):

Zimbabweans cannot change their government democratically.

Why not?

Well, as Robert Mayer, of Publius Pundit, points out, Zimbabwe is just THAT FAR GONE.

The latest out of Zimbabwe is that the opposition has decided not to demonstrate.

Mayer has these thoughtful comments:

In totalitarianism, there is always a critical low point where it is literally impossible for a people to fend for themselves against a government. This point is where people do not have the strength, the means, or the ability to do so. When we look at Ukraine, Lebanon, and Kyrgyzstan, we see oppressive rulers of people who were not completely deprived of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We also see men who could not forsake their nationality to commit mass murder on their countrymen simply to stay in power.

But when we look at Mugabe we see not a man, but a cold, hollow figure who deliberately denied his countrymen everything we in America hold as truth. Can we here even fully imagine what it would be like to have a government that starves us? Prevents us from working? Destroys our shelter? Holds no sanctity for our very lives?

That’s the kind of man Mugabe is. He has put Zimbabwe past the critical point where if even the entire opposition engaged in mass protest, he would have every one of them shot. Why? Because he doesn’t care as long as he is in charge. That’s why we can’t write Africa off; it isn’t the people’s fault. Their dire situation was caused by the force of ruthless dictators like Mugabe, who they have no chance of fighting back against under pain of death.

I know from our coverage how much they want out. But after the critical point has been reached, they cannot do it alone. That’s why I am so disappointed that South Africa and other neighboring countries were so keen on ratifying this obvious mockery of electoral democracy. The status quo is simply unacceptable, and because of South Africa’s failure to do anything about it, we have to again look west for the moral fortitude that tramples the carnage of island despots.

What a sad deal.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 April 2005 10:24 AM · Comments (1)

Social Security Reform: Wake Up, Media.

Patrick Ruffini has a great flash animation that explains some key details about public sentiment on Social Security reform:

If you can't view the flash animation, here is the text:

VOLUNTARY PERSONAL ACCOUNTS: THE CHOICE OF 60% OF AMERICANS

VOLUNTARY PERSONAL ACCOUNTS:
FAVORED BY 76% OF THOSE UNDER 30
FAVORED BY 56% OF THOSE OVER 50
AMERICA IS UNITED.

THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW.
46% SAY ACT IMMEDIATELY OR WITHIN 1-2 YEARS
JUST 9% SAY NO ACTION NEEDED

AND BY 5 TO 1, AMERICANS SAY MEDIA COVERAGE OF PROPOSALS TO FIX SOCIAL SECURITY IS TOO NEGATIVE.

IT'S TIME FOR MAINSTREAM MEDIA TO WAKE UP AND SMELL REALITY. AMERICANS WANT REFORM.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 April 2005 09:54 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 6 -- What Ended The Great Depression.

The End Of The Great Depression:

IN 1940 THE GROSS NATIONAL PRODUCT was $99.7 billion. In 1945 it was $211.9 billion. Even taking into account the 25 percent wartime inflation (kept in check by stringent wartime wage and price controls), GNP increased by 56.3%.

Source:
From page 357 of An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, by John Steele Gordon.

The Great Depression ended because of the American mobilization for World War II, not because of any alphabet soup of government bureaucracies.

Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.
Part 5.

Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 April 2005 09:39 AM · Comments (1)

Rock The Vote's Town Hall Meetings Continue To Underwhelm.

In the past, we've commented on ("non-profit, non-partisan") Rock the Vote's blatantly liberal agenda (here, here, and here).

We've also noted how lame Rock the Vote's Town Hall meetings, also known as "Cynical Misinformationals," have been.

Basically, to recap, Jehmu Green, Hans Riemer, and the rest of the Rock the Vote gang, has been going around the country trying to undermine the sky-high support among young people for Social Security reform.

They're failing. Miserably.

It's embarrassing just to watch such humiliation.


The Kansas City Star reports on another bit of recent schadenfreude at one of Rock the Vote's attempted 1930s-dogma revivals:

...the under-30 crowd did not represent a majority.

At the large-scale meeting in Kansas City a week earlier, young people represented an even smaller share of the crowd. Payne stood out in a crowd of several hundred, most whose faces long had given way to wrinkles and whose heads already became home to white and gray.

Payne, a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, admitted it was disappointing that more young people didn't show.

Is it possible that young people didn't show because, oh, maybe, those actually under 30 (unlike Hans Riemer, of Rock the Vote) "favor giving individuals the choice to invest a portion of their Social Security contributions in stocks or mutual funds" to the tune of 76-16 (link is a .pdf).


The Kansas City Star article continues:

Colleen Taylor, a Columbia University junior who went on the campaign trail as a political correspondent for CosmoGirl! magazine, said she's heard tremendous discussion from young people on both sides of the Social Security debate.

"The majority of people I know and I talk to aren't that scared of privatizing Social Security just because they trust their own ability to save, but a lot of people think we have an obligation to help the people who may not be responsible enough to save their own money," she said. "I'm surprised by the number of people I know who are very liberal but are not afraid of the idea of Social Security reform."


This is a pretty common attribute among young people. Young people are generally more libertarian on all issues, especially on social issues, for example, but they also favor free markets as part of that desire for freedom.

And that's what reform is really about: FREEDOM, INDIVIDUAL CONTROL, AN OWNERSHIP SOCIETY.

It's personal control and the free enterprise system versus inefficient bureaucratic control of trans-generational wealth redistribution (otherwise known as socialism). It's about choice and harnessing the power of the markets, versus compulsory wage garnishing and neglible (or negative) returns down the road.

Rock the Vote, ostensibly a group for young people, has had a tough time finding actual young people to get involved (it's no wonder, when Social Security reform is so popular with young people), so they've resorted to recruiting AARP-eligible people to oppose Social Security reform:

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Click image for more on the protest.


Lisa De Pasquale, of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, explains that Rock the Vote's problems stem from its placement of style over substance:

Financial freedom is hot; trucker hats with stupid slogans are not. A majority under-30 folks believe personal retirement accounts are a good idea and trust themselves more than the government to manage their retirement funds.

Rock the Vote is out of touch with the real views of young people. Rather than support what's best for its self-proclaimed constituency, it misinforms about Social Security reform....

If Rock the Vote truly wants to be cutting-edge, it needs to lose the liberal talking points and stand up for what most young Americans want -- financial independence in choosing retirement plans.

Indeed, on the Rock the Vote blog, Hans Riemer (who is closer to age 40 than age 21) asserts that "All the cool kids oppose privatization," as if that is supposed to make younger Americans turn against the idea of having more economic liberty. Riemer cites a Pew Center survey in which people who claim to have heard a lot about Social Security reform oppose it more than those who had not heard much about it.

We've commented on this in the very recent past, suggesting a list of questions about Social Security reform. Paris Hilton or Britney Spears could claim to be experts on politics, but unless they could answer a few simple political questions correctly, why would we take their word for it? How does that make any sense?

Despite the cherry-picked numbers Rock the Vote uses to prove that young people do not want Social Security reform, among those 18-29, support for reform in objective polls is consistently above 65%, sometimes even reaching above 75%.

The leadership of Rock the Vote shares much in common with labor union leadership on Social Security. Although young people and union members would benefit from President Bush's reform principles, and although young people and union members support Social Security choice, the leadership of each of these organizations is:

1) woefully out of touch with those whom they claim to represent;

2) part and parcel of the "radical status-quo" left;

3) believe personal accounts might undermine their long-term prospects for keeping their members dependent on them.

These organizations' leaders have one common partisan agenda of note behind their opposition to Social Security reform:

They want to make President Bush a lame duck and believe his "defeat" on the Social Security issue will make him one.

AFSCME President Gerald McEntee said as much:

“Social Security is a signature issue for George Bush and a signature issue for American workers and the labor movement. The day after it is voted down or withdrawn is the day Bush becomes a lame duck.”

On the Rock the Vote blog, Hans Riemer explained what defeating Social Security reform means to him:

It is a recipe for a political backlash. Long assumed as the only demographic that would support private accounts, when young people turn on them, its ovah....

The political backlash is forthcoming.

It's all a big political game with these people. It's sick to play politics with this kind of issue, considering the enormous negative consequences of no reform, but they do it anyway.

Why?

Because they have no solutions, only dogmatic adherence to 1930s ideology. They have no vision for the future, only a strategy for tearing down the reformers.

This strategy just might produce a political backlash, but not the kind that Hans Riemer hopes for. As we explained before, Bush has a huge polling advantage on "who is willing to work with both political parties to find a solution." Furthermore, a recent Democracy Corps (the organization founded by Democrats James Carville, Stan Greenberg, and Bob Shrum) poll found (in .pdf format):

50% of Americans believe that Democrats are opposing President Bush's plans to strengthen Social Security just to block his agenda, while only 42% believe that they are opposing President Bush's plan because they have a better way to strengthen Social Security.

Ultimately, it's a losing proposition in the long term (as well as the short term) to obstruct necessary reform on Social Security, a crucial program that so many people, especially young people, understand is broken and in need of reform. Just saying no to reform is not even a strategy, it's nihilism.

Meanwhile, the Rock the Vote roadshow of town hall forums ambles ever on... minus the actual young people.

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Posted by Will Franklin · 3 April 2005 08:09 PM · Comments (2)

Social Security Pop Quiz.

Social Security is a stunningly complex government program. The issues involved in its reform are even that much more complex. Almost all of the polling on Social Security, highly simplistic and vague, does not reflect just how detailed these issues are.

As any student of public opinion polling will tell you, it is worthless to take a respondent's word for it on whether or not he or she is informed on an issue. People often tell pollsters they follow the news very closely, when in fact they never do.

The only way to accurately determine whether someone is truly informed is to give them an actual pop quiz on the issues. There is also very little way to know whether someone is offering an entirely random answer, an answer based on a partisan cue (they heard their party leader come out for or against it), an honestly mistaken answer (someone really tried to inform themselves, but came up short), or an answer truly based on complete (or close to it) information.

One talking point on the left is that the more people know about Social Security reform, the more they oppose it. This is code for "the more survey respondents are scared by pollsters about reform, the more they oppose it."

We'd like to test this phenomenon. We'd like to understand how tainted information, or complete lack thereof, can change someone's position on reform. We'd also like to understand the gap between those who believe they are informed on Social Security and those who really are informed on Social Security.

Our hunch is that most people know very little about this behemoth of a program.

Thus, we've created a pop quiz to include in Social Security polling to determine whether someone is actually informed on the subject:

1. When will Social Security begin paying out more than it takes in?
(Answer: 2017)

2. When will the Social Security "trust fund" run out of money?
(Answer: 2041)

3. In President Bush's proposal for reforming Social Security, would an individual's contribution to a personal account be... A) mandatory; B) a choice; C) don't know.
(Answer: B) a choice)

[note: this question was asked in a recent poll we noted, and only 39% knew that individuals would have a choice, while 12% believed it would be mandatory, and 49% weren't sure or had not heard enough]

4. What have Congressional Democrats such as Harry Reid proposed to do about solving Social Security's looming insolvency?
(Answer: nothing)

5. What is the current total Social Security payroll tax percentage?
(Answer: 12.4%)

6. Under President Bush's principles for reforming Social Security via personal accounts, would someone be able to take out the money early, spending it all irresponsibly, potentially leaving him or her without any retirement safety net?
(Answer: no)

7. If no changes are made to Social Security, by how much would benefits have to be cut?
(Answer: 26%)

8. There's been discussion about transition costs in Social Security. If no changes are made to Social Security, will the transition costs be new (or added) costs, or would they be the recognition of existing obligations?
(Answer: recognition of existing obligations)

9. For every year we put off reforming Social Security, by how much does the burden grow each year?
(Answer: 600 billion dollars)

10. Under President Bush's reform proposals, would those born before 1950 see any changes?
(Answer: no)

11. How many workers supported an individual Social Security beneficiary in 1950?
(Answer: 16)

12. How many workers support an individual Social Security beneficiary today?
(Answer: 3.3)

13. Under President Bush's reform proposal, would personal accounts include a choice of a series of diversified, conservative bond and stock funds, much like the retirement plan available to government employees (called the Federal Thrift Savings Plan); or, would an individual be required to research and select his or her own portfolio, potentially investing the entire personal account in a stock like Enron?
(Answer: more like the Thrift Savings Plan)

14. Is the Social Security "trust fund" a series of government IOUs, or is there an actual account with the money sitting in it?
(Answer: government IOUs)

15. In 1960, the Supreme Court ruled on Social Security in a case called Flemming v. Nestor. Did the Court rule: A) Social Security benefits are a contractual obligation, and if an individual has paid into the system, he or she is guaranteed to receive benefits; B) paying into the system does not make receiving benefits a contractual right; the government could take away benefits at any time; C) don't know.
(Answer: B)


...and so on.

There would be an acceptable range of correct answers on some of the more technical questions (for example: give or take a few years on the what year the trust fund will run out).

Typically, a good way to determine whether someone actually knows what they are talking about is to ask about five to twenty questions, depending on the survey's budget (these things can cost millions of dollars).

If a respondent gets enough correct (which can depend on the survey and issue), it is safe to assume he or she understands the issue. If too many questions are missed, it might indicate a lack of knowledge on the subject.

There is nothing inherently bad about not knowing a lot about Social Security, but it would just be interesting to learn how people with high and low levels of knowledge on the subject respond to the labrynthine Social Security reform proposals.

In polling, it is also possible to frame questions in such a way as to measure the level of "mal-information" a respondent has received. In other words, it would be possible to take common mistruths on the issue of Social Security coming from left-wing groups and individuals such as the DNC, AARP, Rock the Vote, Paul Krugman, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, et al, and test to see if someone has been taken in by that "mal-information."

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 April 2005 06:29 PM · Comments (5)

Terri Schiavo: How Poor Question Wording Created A False Consensus For Death.

Zogby has some interesting numbers that contradict the other polling from the media on Terri Schiavo's situation:

The Zogby poll found that, if a person becomes incapacitated and has not expressed their preference for medical treatment, as in Terri's case, 43 percent say "the law presume that the person wants to live, even if the person is receiving food and water through a tube" while just 30 percent disagree.

Another Zogby question his directly on Terri's circumstances.

"If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water," the poll asked.

A whopping 79 percent said the patient should not have food and water taken away while just 9 percent said yes.


"When there is conflicting evidence on whether or not a patient would want to be on a feeding tube, should elected officials order that a feeding tube be removed or should they order that it remain in place," respondents were asked.

Some 18 percent said the feeding tube should be removed and 42 percent said it should remain in place.


The poll found that 49 percent of Americans believe there should be exceptions to the right of a spouse to act as a guardian for an incapacitated spouse. Only 39 percent disagreed.

When asked directly about Terri's case and told the her estranged husband Michael "has had a girlfriend for 10 years and has two children with her" 56 percent of Americans believed guardianship should have been turned over to Terri's parents while 37 percent disagreed.

On someone's gut level, it is easy to err on the side of keeping the government out of someone's "family matter." It is easy for anyone to default to that position, because nobody wants the government making decisions for individuals on matters like these.

However, most people, if they follow the news at all, are headline readers. Polling on detailed and complex issues requires more sophisticated surveys.

With regard to Terri Schiavo, not only were the headlines flawed, the media coverage itself was thoroughly harmful to public opinion, with the fake "GOP strategy memo" and the misreporting of the basic facts of the situation. When people learn the actual facts of the case, the consensus for death turns on its head.

Another bit of information one might include in a survey on this subject to get a better read of public sentiment:

-Explain that the actual "facts" of the case were exclusively determined at the trial level, in a lower court. The so-called "dozens of judges" that reviewed the case only looked at the legal arguments, not the facts, which had already been decided.

People want to believe in the courts, that they are objective and fair, that they follow the rule of law. People did not realize the facts were not scrutinized in any of the last-minute cases, only the legalistic jargon.

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 April 2005 10:33 AM · Comments (19)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 5 -- Wealth From Scratch.

...263 of the 400 richest Americans in 2000, almost two-thirds, created their own fortunes from scratch; only 19% of the people on the Forbes list in 2000 inherited enough money to qualify for it.

Source:

From page 418 of An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, by John Steele Gordon.


Past trivia tidbits:

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.

Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 April 2005 10:10 AM · Comments (1)

The Left's Lacking Solidarity.

The back-and-forth demonstrating continued this week in Lebanon, with the pro-freedom crowd definitely more photogenic than the pro-Syria crowd.

sunglassesbabe.jpg

Meanwhile, the perpetually-protesting segment of the left continues to miss the stirrings of democracy happening around the world. The far left could lend its voice to these struggles, joining in solidarity with freedom-lovers living in repression in fear societies. Instead, Israel and America remain their primary protest targets:

peaceflag.jpg

If American and European left-wing activists devoted a fraction of their energies to promoting and supporting democratic movements in unfree societies, it could dramatically hasten the march of freedom.

But instead, they mock the very term "march of freedom" and continue their self-important Bush-loathing.

Washington Monthly has more about how lame "Postmodern Protests" have become, indeed, why marches in mature democracies only matter to those participating in them.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 April 2005 03:48 PM · Comments (1)

Labor Union Shake-Down.

The Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal has a great piece on how American labor unions are trying desperately to scam large financial services firms into not supporting President Bush's Social Security reform push:

A notable sidelight to the Social Security debate has been Big Labor's battle to keep business from supporting reform....

With their membership falling, union leaders are finding it harder to influence companies or politics from the factory floor. Their new approach is to use their control over large employee pension plans to insert themselves directly into the boardroom. The result is what one observer has termed "the new politics of capital," in which liberal activists attempt to turn entire corporations into lobbyists for their social and political goals, their campaigns all neatly disguised as "shareholder activism."

....Now comes the AFL-CIO's campaign against private Social Security accounts. In addition to its usual grassroots and Congressional lobbying, it is threatening to pull its $400 billion pension fund business from any financial services firms backing personal accounts....

The problems with all this are many, starting with a rich irony: Unions are using the clout they've acquired from investing in the stock market to oppose a plan to let individuals invest their own tax money in the same market. According to a Tax Foundation paper, of nearly $2 trillion in public employee pension plan assets, 55% are invested in corporate equities. Labor leaders don't mind stock-market investing when it enhances their own political leverage, but for individual workers to build their own wealth is too "risky."

Meanwhile, in poll just last week, reported by the Los Angeles Times,

...union members, by a ratio of more than 2 to 1, think offering private accounts to workers younger than 55 is a good idea and... six of 10 union members are at least somewhat likely to create an account if given the opportunity.

Is it any wonder union membership has declined so consistently over the years? Union leadership has become woefully out of touch with the rank-and-file.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 April 2005 03:24 PM · Comments (0)

Daylight Savings: Spring Forward.

Just a reminder to move your clocks forward by an hour tonight.

National Review's John J. Miller argues, from a small-government point of view, that Daylight Savings Time is a bad thing:

The reason we have Daylight Saving Time (DST), of course, is because the politicians have mandated it. Washington is much better at wasting things than saving them, but federal lawmakers nevertheless spent much of the 20th century insisting, with typical modesty, that they could "save daylight."

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 April 2005 01:27 PM · Comments (0)

Tribute To Pope John Paul II, Through Time Magazine Covers.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes an old magazine cover is worth 10,000.

Click images for larger versions, from Time's website:


October 30, 1978:
johnpaulii.gif

June 18, 1979:
triumphalreturnpope.gif

May 25, 1981:
popeterroristtarget.gif

January 9, 1984:
whyforgive.gif

February 24, 1992:
reaganpopealliance.gif

December 26, 1994:
manoftheyearpope.gif


Bainbridge thinks, for John Paul II, such an advocate of freedom, Man of the Century would have been more fitting:

Stalin famously asked how many divisions the pope had. This Pope needed no divisions. Yet, with help from people like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, he helped liberate Eastern Europe from the Soviets and bring about a detente that ease the threat of nuclear obliteration under which people of my age spent most of their life.


Captain's Quarters also has a nice tribute:

The Communist oppression under which the new Pope had lived created a love of liberty and justice in the amazingly vital John Paul. He survived an assassin's bullet in what seemed to be a season of miracles; Ronald Reagan had barely survived a similar attack just weeks earlier. Both men would emerge as strong as ever, and together they would apply the pressures needed to destroy the communist nightmare of Eastern Europe and free millions who lived behind the Iron Curtain.

John Paul II commanded no armies and had no weapons on hand except for his love of God and compassion for humanity.

Indeed, as a non-Catholic, it is still quite easy to admire the amazing life of Pope John Paul II. We're truly witnessing the end of an era characterized by the greatest spread of freedom the world has ever seen, championed by giants like Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, passing home to God.

In their wake, they leave a new era of hope in the world. John Paul II's legacy cannot be overstated.

God Bless the Pope.

UPDATE:

The Pope has officially passed away.


UPDATE 2:

Powerline (via Michelle Malkin) has this interesting scoop on the New York Times' goof.

Also, more on the papal conclave, the process for choosing a new Pope, is here.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 April 2005 07:54 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 4 -- Partisan Car Preferences.

Today's trivia tidbit (actually, a few tidbits):

...buyers of American cars tend to be Republican - except, for some reason, those who buy Pontiacs, who tend to be Democrats. Foreign-brand compact cars are usually bought by Democrats - but not Mini Coopers, which are bought by almost equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans.
...Porsche owners identified themselves as Republican more often than owners of any other cars, with 59 percent calling themselves Republicans, 27 percent Democrats and the rest either calling themselves independents or declining to answer. Jaguars and Land Rovers also registered as very "Republican" vehicles.
...Volvos were the most "Democratic" cars, by 44 to 32 percent, followed by Subarus and Hyundais.
...a Jeep Grand Cherokee S.U.V. was more than half again as likely to be bought by a Republican than by a Democrat, at 46 percent to 28. Among Hummer buyers, the Republican-to-Democrat ratio was a whopping 52 to 23.
...minivans skewed blue, just as Chely Wright surmised in her song. At first glance, this might seem odd, because Republican car buyers tended to have more children - 3.5 on average, versus 1.7 for the Democratic buyers.
"A person in a red state will start with an average of 2.5 vehicles on the shopping list. In the blue states the average is 6."
...buyers of the Toyota Prius hybrid were Democrats by a 35 to 22 percent. Democrats in general are more fond of smaller cars (the Ford Escort and Dodge Neon both skewed blue by about 34 to 20)
The No. 1 vehicle bought by millionaires is the Ford F-Series pickup truck...
...Saab owners were about twice as likely to be Democrats.
...Saturn... aficionados... skew heavily Democratic, by 39 to 11 among last year's car buyers...

Source: The New York Times (via PoliPundit), adapted from the consumer research findings of Scarborough Research, a New York market research firm.

Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.

Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more daily trivia tidbits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 April 2005 07:17 AM · Comments (2)

Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

zimbabwemapflag.gif


We commented on Zimbabwe's election earlier this week, warning our readers to brace themselves.

Despite the early lead of the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF has declared victory with a shocking 2/3 of the vote.

Last week, Freedom House explained the impending election as not meeting several basic protocols of free and fair elections:

Upcoming parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe face the likelihood of being severely compromised as repression against the country's political opposition increases steadily....

The Zimbabwean government has also barred several international observer missions from entering the country to monitor the elections, ensuring a virtual news blackout on March 31.

Indeed, the election could not be truly free and fair, because President Robert Mugabe’s government withheld food aid from supporters of opposition parties and prevented opposition candidates from accessing the media.

robertmugabevoting.gif

Freedom House rankings of Zimbabwe:

freedomhousezimbabwe.gif
Click for larger image.

zimbabwe.gif
Click for larger image.


Gateway Pundit notes that the rampant fraud in Mugabe's playbook includes zombie voters:

...between one and two million of those voters, according to different estimates, are zombie voters, people known to be dead or who have been registered twice.


But wait, there's more.

In terms of stifling free and objective journalism in Zimbabwe, only Libya, Burma, Turkmenistan, and North Korea have less freedom of the press.

Over the past decade, in particular, there has been a significant deterioration in press freedom in Zimbabwe:

zimbabwepresscrackdown.gif
Click graph for larger version.


Indeed, Zimbabwe is among the "Worst of the Worst" (.pdf) in terms of government repression. And yet, Zimbabwe, along with several other repressive countries, sits on the Human Rights Commission at the United Nations, and Mugabe was even invited to address the 59th session of the UN General Assembly.

As we've noted before, the most significant UN reform would involve revoking the equal standing of unfree regimes, as well as linking how the UN views a regime with how that regime treats its citizens.

But it's not just a lack of political or press freedom in Zimbabwe; the 2005 Index of Economic Freedom classifies Zimbabwe among the worst countries in terms of economic freedom. Mugabe's Zimbabwe is classified as "repressed," with a score of 4.36 (1 being best, 5 being worst).


Roger Bate, writing in National Review, wonders if Zimbabweans and the international community can come together to demand that Mugabe step aside:

Zimbabwe's opposition leader has accused the ruling party of trying to steal Thursday's parliamentary elections. Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic Change, said "disgusting, massive fraud" had been committed and that Zimbabweans should "defend their vote."

....

Can the people of Zimbabwe emulate those of Ukraine? If they do, and are beaten back by Mugabe's army, will anyone act? Will the good words of Tony Blair and Condoleezza Rice be backed up by action, such as the removal of all aid to the region if its leaders condone the election, and immediate pressure on U.N. Security Council for a resolution to intervene militarily to prevent possible political slaughter by the army?


Mugabe is no mere novice at rigging elections. Flash back to 2002. Brett D. Schaefer, of The Heritage Foundation, wrote, on March 14, 2002:

Over the past year, Mugabe instituted measures that further destroyed the country's economy and trampled the rule of law, even sanctioning attacks on opposition supporters, in his single-minded determination to remain in office. Moreover, his supporters used various measures to steal the election and prevent people from voting, including vote fraud, intimidation, and delays. Following a court-ordered third day of voting on March 11, the official results show that Mugabe's tactics were successful in an election that was neither free nor fair....

The United States and its allies should warn Mugabe that a stolen election will not absolve him of responsibility for his despicable actions that include murder and that increase poverty and the destruction of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.


The Cato Institute's Dr. Marian L. Tupy believes it is "Time for Africa to Stand up to Mugabe," noting:

Today, Zimbabwe has the dubious honor of being the fastest shrinking economy in the world. A few well-known statistics provide an insight into life in Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

* Between 1999 and 2003, the economy contracted by over 30 percent.

* Unemployment stood at 80 percent of the economically active population in 2004.

* Per capita income was lower in 2004 than in 1980 -- the year Mugabe came to power.

* Life expectancy fell from 56 years in 1985 to 33 years in 2003.

* After rising to 500 percent in 2004, triple digit inflation continued in 2005.

* Foreign direct investment and tourism plummeted.

* In January 2005, over half of Zimbabwe's population needed emergency food aid.

* Out of a population of 12 million, between 3 and 4 million Zimbabweans emigrated abroad.


Zimbabwe is not as ripe for democracy as Ukraine was in late 2004, but it is not unreasonable to believe that the people of Zimbabwe, if supported by the international community (including bloggers), could assert their wishes for prosperity, a free society, and respect for the rule of law-- and succeed.

Sokwanele blog reports:

Only a few days ago the courageous Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, advocated a non-violent and peaceful uprising to remove an entrenched dictatorship that has caused untold suffering to the people of Zimbabwe. It seems the people are heeding that call.

The people of Zimbabwe who are rising up to throw off the chains of oppression deserve the support of the international community. Pray God we may not fail them at this hour.

Publius Pundit responds:

Yes, pray for them. And pray that this is true as well. If it does happen, will Mugabe crack down? Most likely. If he doesn’t, then he could lose his government. If he does? He certainly doesn’t face consequences unless it doesn’t work.

But is resistance worth it? Yes. Mugabe can’t be allowed to falsify the elections and become absolute ruler over Zimbabwe’s constitution. If there was ever a moment to save themselves, this is it.

It's an uphill battle, to be sure, for those who desire democracy in Zimbabwe, but count WILLisms.com among those supporting the freedom loving people of Zimbabwe. As "The Dude" (from The Big Lebowski) would put it:

This aggression will not stand, man.

Unfortunately, it looks like Robert Mugabe's aggression just might stand. The arsenal of words and deeds that could change the Mugabe regime along the lines of what happened in Ukraine last year is small, but the important thing is that hope exists. If the people can truly rise up and begin to take back their country, the international community must be there to support them, if only rhetorically and diplomatically. While Zimbabwe's opposition likely will not follow "the blueprint" as closely as we've seen recently in other countries, it must at least try.

VOA reports that the leadership of the Movement for Democratic Change, not accepting the fraudulent results, is meeting on Saturday to chart its course forward.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai thus far has called on the people of Zimbabwe to defend their vote:

"This government has fraudulently once again betrayed the people," said Mr Tsvangirai in what was seen as an indirect call for a mass uprising in response to what the opposition called "rigged results."

....Mr Tsvangirai said the MDC would not settle for merely appealing the result in Zimbabwe's biased courts, a strong hint that mass action is being contemplated.

morgantsvangirai.gif

More background on Morgan Tsvangirai.

Count us as hopeful but very pessimistic on Zimbabwe; however, we're rooting for the underdog MDC, the forces of freedom, against the evil Mugabe machine.

UPDATE:

Mark Steyn has a great flashback piece from 2002 on Mugabe (via Another Rovian Conspiracy).

Also-

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a official statement, noting the election was "not free and fair."

[More on Zimbabwe, here]

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 April 2005 06:50 PM · Comments (1)

You're Fired: The Making of a Blog Scandal.

Kevin Aylward, owner of Wizbang blog, the 31st-ranked blog in the Truth Laid Bear ecosystem, has "kicked off" one of his guest bloggers, "Paul," for dwelling too much on the creationism/evolution debate.

Kevin:

I said earlier that the Creationism/Evolution Debate at Wizbang was over but apparently some people did not get get the message. Even though I told him in email and in public to drop the subject, Paul continued...

As owner of the site, I have decided to make his hiatus permanent. Effective immediately he will no longer be writing for Wizbang. Sometime next week I'll be holding a guest blogging day to look for his replacement.

Ouch.

Almost like Donald Trump and NBC's The Apprentice.

trump.gif

"You're fired."


Paul responds, in the comments section:

Geeze! That's the thanks I get for making Wizbang one of the biggest blogs out there.

You're welcome.


Ouch.


April Fool's joke, perhaps?

UPDATE:

Jay Tea, another Wizbang guest blogger, comments.


UPDATE 2:

Fantastic April Fool's joke. Funny how some of the commenters on Wizbang sold out Paul, though.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 April 2005 02:16 PM · Comments (1)

Pope John Paul II.

The Pope has apparently passed away, but there is no official word just yet.

Wizbang blog notes:

As Vatican watchers will tell you there is a protocol for announcing (or rather signaling) the death of a pope. It doesn't involve The Drudge Report or the Kentucky Lake Times...

Indeed, Pope John Paul would be the first Pope to die in the internet age, or, for that matter, in the 24/7 cable news age. What was once a lengthy ceremonial process now leaks out to the entire world within nanoseconds.

PoliPundit notes:

With heroic assistance from Ronald Reagan and Lech Walesa, John Paul II arguably did more for the causes of freedom and democracy, especially in Eastern Europe, than any public figure in our respective lifetimes.

Michelle Malkin is following the story closely.

Let's hope the reports of the Pope's death are not some kind of April Fool's joke.

UPDATE:

The Jawa Report explains that there was a mistranslation of the word "dying." Someone incorrectly interpreted it as "died."
Hyscience has more.

UPDATE 2:

Dean's World has this incisive commentary:

There are about 6 billion people in the world.

About 1 billion are Catholic and view this man as their spiritual leader on Earth. Think of it: about 1 in 6 people in the world.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 April 2005 01:46 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 3 -- Oil Prices.

Today's trivia tidbit:

In the 1850s, a gallon of whale oil reached $2.50, when $5.00 was a good wage for an entire week of skilled labor.

-From page 169 of An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, by John Steele Gordon.

Kind of puts today's "high gas prices" in perspective.

Whale oil was the fuel of choice, pre-electricity, and before rock oil (petroleum), for lighting homes artificially at night.

Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1.
Part 2.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 April 2005 01:37 PM · Comments (0)

Fox News Poll Analysis.

Some interesting things from a Fox News Poll, released March 31, 2005 (click here for original .pdf):


I.

Democrats are more pessimistic than Republicans:

democracyinthemiddleeast.gif

Similarly, only 29% of Democrats, compared with 81% of Republicans and 49% of Independents, are confident that American policies in Iraq will be successful. 68% of Democrats, 17% of Republicans, and 43% of Independents are "not confident" on Iraq.

91% of Republicans agree that "the world and the United States are safer today without Saddam Hussein in power." Among Democrats, only 53% agree. Among Independents, the number is 70%.

II.

People perceive the reporting on Social Security to be more biased (negatively) than the reporting on Iraq or George W. Bush:

mediaperceptions.gif


III.

People want Social Security choice:

socialsecuritychoice.gif

Overall, 3 out of 5 Americans favor Social Security choice, while more than 3 out of 4 young people support Social Security choice.


IV.

People want Social Security reform soon:

howsoon.gif

Nearly 2/3 want reform within the next 5 years. Less than 1/5 want it after 5 years. And about 1/11 never want reform. Roughly 1/12 aren't sure.

UPDATE:

Patrick Ruffini (via PoliPundit) argues, "Democrats might want to re-cork that champagne. Because they ain't seen nothing yet":

So we've got three data points. The low is 53%, the midpoint is 60% and the high is 65%. It looks like support for personal accounts has stayed quite stable, and -- contrary to media reports -- quite popular too.

If this holds up, I don't think "fraud" is too strong a word for the fast one the Democrats and the media have been trying to pull on the American people -- trying to manufacture opinion through bad poll questions.

Somehow, I don't think we'll see the headline, "Public Favors Personal Accounts" on the front page of the Post any time soon.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 April 2005 01:12 PM · Comments (9)

The Age of Leadership: Generational Transitions.

In recent days, we commented on youth power in Lebanon and elsewhere.

Now, how about a look at America's leadership?


LifeCourse Associates
has researched the ages of America's leaders over the years, dating back to the very beginning of the nation. Some interesting factoids from their research:

In what years did the "Lost Generation" of World War I vets (the peers of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Truman, and Eisenhower) comprise more than half of America's governors and members of Congress? (Answer: 1939 through 1951.) When did the G.I. Generation, also known as America’s World War II-winning “Greatest Generation,” reach its high-watermark of political representation? (Answer: 1965.) In what year did Boomers first achieve a generational plurality of national leaders? (Answer: 1997.)

generationalcycles.gif
Click graph for larger version.

It's amazing just how consistent the rises and falls of each generation are.

circleoflife.gif

The circle of life, political-style, is on full display in American political history. As generations age, they pass the political torch to the next generation, which eventually passes the torch to the next generation, like clockwork.

One aspect of age cohort leadership LifeCourse did not address is the issue of partisan differences between and among the generations. In 2004, exit polls indicated the only age group to vote for John Kerry over George W. Bush was the 18-29 group. Generally, younger people are considered to be more liberal, perhaps less Republican, than older people.

Among America's elected public leadership, at least, this is not the case; younger politicians are somewhat more likely to be Republicans, while older politicians are more likely to be Democrats.

The youngest and oldest:


Representatives-

Youngest:

The youngest member of the House of Representatives is Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican. Born in 1975, he won his first Congressional election with nearly 2/3 of the vote this past November.

patrickmchenry.gif

Florida Republican Adam Putnam is only slightly older, born in 1974. When he was first elected in 2000, he was only 26 years old; Putnam is now a relative veteran, having just won his second reelection this past November.

Putnam, on election night in 2000:
adamputnam.gif

Oldest:

Texas Democrat Ralph Hall, born in 1923.

ralphhall.gif

Ralph Hall is a good example of a fairly conservative oldschool Democrat who just never switched parties. He even proudly displays a picture of himself with President Bush on his website.

The Ralph Halls of the country are rapidly passing away, and in their absence, we'll probably see an even more polarized country, based on partisan lines.


Age Cohort Broken Down By Party-

housecohorts.gif

Generation X (1961-1981)
29 Republicans (58%)
21 Democrats (42%)


Boom (1943-1960)
151 Republicans (55%)
124 Democrats (45%)


Silent (1925-1942)
48 Republicans (45%)
58 Democrats (54%)
1 Independent (1%)


GI (1901-1924)
2 Republicans (67%)
1 Democrat (33%)

Senators-

Youngest:

New Hampshire Republican John Sununu, born in 1964.

johnsununu.gif

John Sununu is not exactly "young," but for the Senate, which is now older than it has ever been, he represents the most youthful member of the "greatest deliberative body in the world."


Oldest:

West Virginia Democrat Robert C. Byrd, born in 1917.

robertbyrd.gif

Byrd's story is interesting. A former KKK member, Byrd has remained in power, even as his state has become solidly Republican, by delivering amazing amounts of federal contracts and other pork barrel back to West Virginia.


Age Cohort Broken Down By Party-

senatecohorts.gif

Generation X (1961-1981)
3 Republicans (60%)
2 Democrats (40%)


Boom (1943-1960)
29 Republicans (58%)
21 Democrats (42%)


Silent (1925-1942)
22 Republicans (55%)
17 Democrats (43%)
1 Independent (2%)


GI (1901-1924)
1 Republican (20%)
4 Democrats (80%)

Governors-

Youngest-

Missouri Republican Matt Blunt, born in 1970.

mattblunt.gif

First elected Missouri's Secretary of State in 2000, Matt Blunt has a unique story:

On October 9, 2001, he became the first statewide elected official in the history of Missouri to be called into active military duty. Blunt served for six months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom-the nation's military response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Oldest-

Alaska Republican Frank Murkowski, born in 1933.

frankmurkowski.gif

Somewhat ironically, Murkowski, in 1966, at age 33, became Alaska's youngest public official, as Commissioner of Economic Development. It is also interesting that the oldest Governor in America is only 72-years-old, given the increasing life expectancy in the United States.


Age Cohort Broken Down By Party-

governorcohorts.gif

Generation X (1961-1981)
1 Republican (50%)
1 Democrat (50%)


Boom (1943-1960)
23 Republicans (56%)
18 Democrats (44%)


Silent (1925-1942)
4 Republicans (57%)
3 Democrats (43%)


GI (1901-1924)
0 Republicans
0 Democrats


AVERAGE AGE:

It is also important to note that the overal average age of America's political leadership has risen significantly over the years, accordingly with longevity.


averageage.gif

Click graph for larger version.

Analysis:

It is definitely noteworthy that in both the House and Senate the younger generations have more Republicans in positions of leadership, while the older generations tend to have more Democrats. This holds true among Boomer-generation Governors, too, a group with 12% more Republicans than Democrats. A generalization we can make with some confidence is that the younger generations of American political leaders tend to be more Republican in nature.

America's generational political gap underscores the causes of the recent Republican realignment. As we noted in a recent Trivia Tidbit, nearly half of the American electorate is replaced every 20 years. As FDR's New Deal generation passes away, the Democrats will have to piece together a new electoral coalition if they want to remain competitive. Although Democrats were heartened by the youth vote going their way in 2004, as if this means they are "still in the game" for the long-term, we have a hunch that this age cohort is more conservative than people give it credit for and could have gone either way, but because of misguided concerns about a draft, stoked by groups like Rock the Vote, the elite media, and the Kerry campaign, the youth vote broke slightly for the Massacusetts Senator.

The Baby Boomers are just now hitting their stride in political leadership, and they will likely remain a force for the next couple of decades. The Boomers have an opportunity to leave the most profound and enduring generational imprint on American political history, much like the massive Transcendental (1792-1821) and Missionary (1860-1882) generations, all post-war generations. In the meantime, the torch will pass, ever gradually, to the just-emerging Generation X.

Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more on the partisan and ideological differences between and among generations.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 April 2005 10:05 AM · Comments (8)