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Willisms

« April 2005 | WILLisms.com | June 2005 »

The Seldom Not Awkward Man Hug.

The Denver Post (via The Obscure Store blog) has a lengthy examination of the male hug:

The hug, long reserved for women, celebrating sports victories, and men from other countries, is muscling its way into everyday American Guydom.

Stoic machismo still thrives, but at its heels yaps a touchier, Dr. Phil version of virility. Boundaries are eroding. Defenses are being scaled.

The male hug is complicating everything.

Men accustomed to the automatic and dependable hand clasp accompanied with a brisk up-and-down pump at dinner parties and college reunions, now must preface their greetings or goodbyes with intricate and split-second calculations based on body language, length of friendship and other factors.

There's even different types of hugs:

The Hip Hop

Guys greet with handshakes of various styles, pull themselves in toward each other, then bump their inside shoulders.

The Half-and-Half

Guys greet each other with standard handshakes, then reach around each other's shoulders with their left arms and pat each other's backs.

The Bear

Guys dispense with handshakes altogether. When they greet, the left arm drapes over the partner's right shoulder; the right arm goes around the waist. The left hand usually pats the partner's back.

A somewhat humorous and very interesting read.

Posted by Will Franklin · 31 May 2005 10:45 PM · Comments (2)

For Political Junkies: 2008 Presidential Candidates.

Patrick Ruffini has a cool new feature on his blog called the 2008 Presidential Wire. Just go check it out. It's thoroughly promising, despite the kinks that will have to be worked out.

Posted by Will Franklin · 31 May 2005 09:27 PM · Comments (1)

The Economy & Presidential Approval Rating, Redux.

In recent weeks, there has been much hand-wringing about the President's approval ratings. Every blog and columnist and talking head has had a different explanation. It was either illegal immigration, or Terri Schiavo, or Social Security, or the theocons, or Iraq, or Bush himself, or any number of other factors that were allegedly bringing Bush's numbers down.

Each explanation was really said more about the individual making the claim than the actual political situation in America. Think of the explanations as a series of ink blot tests. The pet issues on which people wanted the President to lose ground, they simply asserted a connection. It's hard to disprove any of the explanations. It is not difficult to be intrigued by some of the more creative flavor-of-the-month explanations, as well, but unfortunately, the reality is pretty bland.

In late April, WILLisms.com explained that it was the economy, stupid. It almost always is. In a detailed post, we elaborated on the idea that Consumer Confidence and Presidential Approval are highly correlated.

Well, today, the President's Gallup poll numbers are up, right along with consumer confidence. Daly Thoughts is also all over it.

Check out the Consumer Confidence numbers over the past year:

consumerconfidencegraph.gif

Notice how the graph traces a path very similar to the President's slump about this time last year, which lasted until a rebound just prior to the election.

Rasmussen also indicates higher levels of consumer confidence.

So, what happened? The economy was performing roughly the same then, as it is today.

For one, the incessant drum beat on the local and national network news of "high gas prices will mean the end of civilization as we know it" has ceased.

Secondly, it's hard to argue with the ever-growing number of jobs that have been created in America over the past two years:

threepointfivemillionjobs.gif

Gallup also indicates that Americans are finally becoming more confident about the economy:

gallupeconomicconfidence.gif

Meanwhile, the President's approval rating rose accordingly, from a net minus 4 (approval - disapproval) to a net plus 1 (via PoliPundit).

If and when Americans perceive the economy at a commensurate level to reality, you can expect the President's numbers to improve further. If, somehow, Americans continue to view the economy in an irrationally pessimistic way, expect the President's numbers to remain low enough that emboldened Democrats will feel they can continue to get away with the kinds of antics we've seen over the past few weeks.

Unfortunately, despite almost daily indications of a strong economy (and getting stronger, especially relative to that of our European cousins), perception is reality in politics, and until the media coverage becomes more favorable on the economy, to reflect the reality out there, President Bush will likely hover near a ceiling of 50%.

Posted by Will Franklin · 31 May 2005 05:23 PM · Comments (1)

Some Call It A Bonfire/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 (now with 50% more classy!):


1.

Ilario Pantano-

pantano.gif

Pardon My English blogs notes that murder charges were finally dropped against U.S. Marine Lt. Ilario Pantano, the Gulf War veteran and Wall Street trader who rejoined the force after 9/11.

Red State Rant adds:

It not only reaffirms my faith, but hopefully that of our Warriors out there right now doing the fighting.

Ace of Spades HQ has more on the media's role in Pantano situation.

2.

The liberal bias of CBS-

cbsliberal.gif

Captain's Quarters blog examines how CBS blatantly rigged its own poll to fit its narrative that Bush is out of touch with the American people.

PoliPundit has more on this should-be scandal:

Given Bush’s continued strong support among Republicans, which is his base, and given the recent evidence of strong political activism for Republicans (remember the high turnout in 2004?), any claim to mediocre or failing support must be regarded as suspect, especially where the demographics have been concealed or are known to be manipulated. This point should be kept in mind, when press releases from partisan sources show up.

The elite media still get away with this kind of treachery because so few people understand the science and art of polling. Polling methods are kept intentionally nebulous to keep the data vague and cryptic enough for use with just about whatever story the media want to tell.

3.

The economy's marked improvement-

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Daly Thoughts points out how state governments are once again flush with tax revenues, yet another indicator of a strengthening economy:

Ladies and gentlemen, the economy is starting to boom. Those expecting 2006 to be a repeat of 1994 are going to have to factor that into their calculus.

And, yet, many Americans today still tell pollsters they believe we're in a recession. That perception really has to turn around, or it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

4.

Gorgeous George Galloway-

gorgeousgeorgegalloway.gif

The Jawa Report examines the connection between George Galloway and Saddam Hussein, explaining that the Oil-For-Food money was likely a reward for anti-American ideology, rather than a bribe:

The ideology of the left divides the world into two groups: the powerful and the weak. It is the forgotten legacy of Marx that he rejected notions of good and evil in favor of a morality of power.

The left is unable to make any other moral distinction. Therefore Iraq is good because it is weak and the US/UK are bad because they are strong. Further, any position taken by any powerful country is seen as bad when such position pits weak countries against the strong.

The left around the world hates America because of her strength. America is bad, mmmmkay, because it is strong.

Which is worse, taking a bribe to support the Ba'athists, or supporting the Ba'athists because your worldview is already that warped to begin with?

5.

Anonymous sources in journalism-

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The neo-neocon blog traces the prolific use of anonymous sources by the media back to Watergate; it was perfected by Seymour Hersch.

Dean's World takes a look at "Journalistic Sickness," noting:

The press grabbed a collective halo for itself in the Watergate years. They didn't deserve one--Woodward and Bernstein deserved one maybe, but even they had the good sense to be embarrassed and uncomfortable with some of their own methods. The rest of the press shamelessly spent the next three decades trying to ride those coattails, and made themselves look worse and worse and worse all the time. The chickens have come home to roost: these people are despised for a reason, and it's not because some "right wing attack machine" is being mean to them.

6.

China-

chinesemap.gif

By Dawn's Early Light blog examines how "Rising Nationalism Will be China's Undoing," explaining:

China's recent moves, including the threatening of "non-peaceful means" to reunify Taiwan, can only be seen with a sense of wariness in Tokyo, New Delhi, Canberra and Seoul. All of these democratic nations can afford and are expanding their military capabilities. China would be well advised to walk with a softer footprint.

The question then is "Why is China making poor long-term diplomatic choices?" The answer I believe is to keep domestic pressure away from the current government and focused elsewhere.

7.

France's red states-


frenchredstates.gif

Powerline blog looks at France's red states and blue states:

The destiny of any country that names elementary schools after Karl Marx was sealed long ago.

Patrick Ruffini, meanwhile, elaborates with a better map.


8.

Schapelle Corby-

schapellecorby.gif

Coming Anarchy blog looks at the coming ramifications of Australian Schapelle Corby's likely bogus conviction and 20-year sentence in Indonesia:

...boycotts of Indonesia as a tourism destination could be devastating coming on top of an already existing decline in visitor numbers brought on by terrorism and the recent tsunami disaster.

9.

Sharpies, Purell, and Altoids-

sharpiepurellaltoids.gif

Ever wonder what the President's personal assistant carries around with him at all times? Ann Althouse has the answer.

10.

European clout in the world-

eufor.gif

ChicagoBoyz blog looks at the interconnectedness of peacekeeping, force projection, and geopolitical strength:

Military historians and economists alike adhere to the theory that any great power must be able to protect their interests if they are to retain their status in the world. With today’s environment of globalization and the exploitation of foreign markets, this means that they will have to project force. Any other policy is a course towards decline and inevitable insignificance.

Old Europe, are you paying attention?

11.

John Bolton-

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The Belgravia Dispatch examines the fight over John Bolton, offering:

...the problem that occurs when a blog becomes a monomaniacal crusade is that you can get a little (or a lot) carried away....

Again, please, perspective. Bolton is not the devil incarnate. He won't bring the wrecking ball to the international system. Or to the United Nations. And there is no plot to dismantle said world body cooked up between neo-Straussians and neo-primitives. Trust me, it will be O.K.

It is fascinating to watch how much political capital the left has been spending to demonize John Bolton, particularly when put into the context of the 2004 American election and Kerry's infamous "global test" comment. Do Democrats not believe in democracy? Do they really not believe that elections matter?

And, finally, what's the deal with Senate Democrats playing the separation of powers (Congress and the President are co-equal branches) card on this issue, with regard to classified documents? As a true believer in strong separation of powers, it's frustrating to see the minority party frame each and every issue in separation of powers terms, as if they speak for the entire Congress-- and get away with it in the elite media.

12.

Danica Patrick-

danicapatrick.gif

Outside The Beltway notes the bizarre lapse in logic of a certain NASCAR driver who claims Danica Patrick has an unfair advantage because of her small size. Wizbang agrees that Robby Gordon is an idiot:

Maturity is where Gordon is carrying less of a load than his competition.

Danica is part talent, part hype, but it's hard not to buy into the hype, whole-heartedly. Who knew FHM models could drive so well?

13.

Mitt Romney-

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No Left Turns examines the 2008 electoral chances for Mitt Romney, who happens to be a Mormon:

Romney’s political opponents have in the past reminded voters of the social conservatism of the LDS church. Would they do so again? Not likely in a Republican primary. In a general election, who knows?

If (and it's a huge "if") Mitt Romney wins the GOP nomination, you can bet there will be a not-so-subtle anti-Mormon campaign from the left in the general election. Guaranteed. And the elite media will willingly help them out.

14.

Congress-

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Patrick Ruffini comments on "Congress for Dummies," explaining:

The last four months, and especially the last four days, have been an object lesson in why those with no executive experience seldom make it to the White House.

A must-read piece for the hand-wringers.

15.

Scandal in Tennessee-

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Michelle Malkin notes the conspicuous and typical media double-standard in the listing of party affiliation next to the names of scandal-plagued politicians:

AP neglects to mention the party affiliation of Tennessee state senator John Ford, who resigned after being placed under house arrest in an FBI corruption sting. Hint: he ain't a Republican.

Exactly what the blogosphere is for, to keep tabs on the terminally biased left-wing media.

------------------------------------------------------------

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 each Tuesday at 11:59 PM Central Standard Time).


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
;

April 26, 2005;

May 3, 2005;

May 10, 2005;

May 17, 2005;

and

May 24, 2005.


WILLisms.com offers a weekly classiness roundup as a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 15 blog posts deemed classy. The criteria for submissions: incisive original analysis, quirky topics nobody else is covering, fantastic graphics, or other posts that took a lot of work. 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. The deadline is each Monday at 11:59 PM Central Time.

Classy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 31 May 2005 09:26 AM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 63 -- Bad Drivers.

BEST AND WORST DRIVERS-

Notice a trend at all?

firstquartile.gif

secondquartile.gif

thirdquartile.gif

fourthquartile.gif

Hawaii and Alaska were not included, but if political affiliations are any indication (which, really, they aren't), it's safe to say that Alaska would likely be in the top half, while Hawaii would be in the botton half.

Texas, incidentally, ranks precisely at the national average.

Source:

GMAC Insurance National Driver's Test, from CNN (via Outside The Beltway).

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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49; Part 50; Part 51; Part 52; Part 53; Part 54; Part 55; Part 56; Part 57; Part 58; Part 59; Part 60; Part 61; Part 62.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics, and they're usually not trivial at all; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 31 May 2005 09:13 AM · Comments (3)

Still More Positive Polling On Social Security Reform.

This is getting tedious. A poll showing broad support for Social Security is released. The elite media subsequently ignore it. It's happened countless times in the past few months. Prepare for it to happen again.

It's become common wisdom in the elite media, along with much of even the conservative/libertarian blogosphere, that Social Security reform "isn't gaining political traction" or, more crudely, "is dead in the water."

Personal accounts, we're told incessantly, are wildly unpopular, or, at best, not something regular people would ever go out of their way to support. The special interest groups, we were told, with myriad unique vested interests in the dysfunctional status quo, would rally their pseudo-Marxist warrior-luddite activists against reform, killing a pro-growth, pro-choice Social Security reform plan, all while politically wounding President Bush and anyone else who grabbed on to the traditional third rail of politics.

Failure to convince Americans on the issue would mean instant lame duck status. Bush's 60-day tour, the nattering nabobs of negativity maintain, was a flop, a disaster, and it actually set back the cause of reform.

As Lee Corso, the intentionally dumb-and-annoying-but-lovable ESPN football analyst would say, "NOT SO FAST, MY FRIEND."

leecorso.gif

Yet another new poll has great news for the President in his push to rescue Social Security from the radical status quo-ers, this time from Zogby. The Washington Times has the Social Security reform poll numbers:

First, before you can have a consensus for reform, you must have a consensus that there is something wrong and in need of fixing.

Voters by 62 percent to 30 percent remained deeply skeptical about Social Security's promise to pay future benefits. Skepticism was highest among younger voters, with more than 70 percent saying they doubted that the system would be able to pay their benefits when they reached retirement age.

So, the 60-day tour and other speeches DID WORK in convincing Americans about the necessity of reform? Shocking. Scandalous, even.

And, in terms of President Bush's reform principles, Americans also expressed solid support.

socialsecurityreformzogbypo.gif

Bush's Social Security reform plan (all Americans)-
52% support reform
40% oppose reform

Then, there's the case of Rock the Vote, and its woefully out-of-touch, reactionary position on the issue:

ssssversusrtvpoll.gif

Under 30-
66% support reform
23% oppose reform

Contrast Rock the Vote's anti-reform agenda with the refreshing voice of Students for Saving Social Security. It's night and day, and, once again, Rock the Vote demonstrates how it has become an arm of the far-left-wing of the increasingly out-of-the-mainstream Democratic Party, while eschewing its ostensible purpose, giving voice to the political concerns of young people.

Between 30 and 50-
58% support reform
37% oppose reform


Over 65 (who, remember, wouldn't be affected at all by the President's reforms)-
40% support reform
52% oppose reform


Over 70-
38% support reform
55% oppose reform


Again, the only potential negative political fallout from reforming Social Security (the right way) would come from the New Deal age cohort and older. But, because reform would leave the program intact for older voters, they would "still get their checks," as "Stump Speech Bush" famously and repeatedly articulates. Because they would still get their checks, there is zero reason for seniors to revolt in 2006 or 2008 on the issue. Zero.

Campaigns tend to clarify issues, and if a reform package is passed this year, it will be easy to make the case in 2006 that, "hey, you're still getting your checks, aren't you? Well, we saved Social Security so your grandkids can get theirs 40 years from now."

End of story.

Any Congressional Republican (ahem, Ginny Brown-Waite) worried about losing votes (ahem, Katherine Harris) because of support for Social Security reform is either cowardly-- or, more likely, lazy (and doesn't want to expend the energy explaining her own winning ideas). If a Republican legislator in a district concentrated with elderly voters cannot defend her support for Social Security reform in a campaign, and, furthermore, cannot explain the simple and undeniable fact that seniors will see no changes in the entirely optional reform, maybe that legislator isn't really Congressional material to begin with.

Rest assured, President Bush is an effective campaigner on behalf of fellow Republicans in close races. Look no further than his coattails in 2002 and 2004, elections in which the President's incumbent party, remarkably, and against the long-standing historical pattern, actually improved its governing majorities in both chambers of Congress. Meanwhile, Democrats from states Bush won in 2000 and 2004 should pay heed to polls such as these. Bush is a relentless campaigner for Republicans, but he is also a ruthless campaigner against obstructionist Democrats. Lame duck or not, President Bush has the power to make or break the political fortunes of many members of Congress; added majorities in 2006 would allow Bush to shake the lame duck status and accomplish a few more big agenda items, so you know he's not going to "front porch" it. He's even said as much, warning, "those who block meaningful reform are going to be held to account in the polls."

But, can't Democrats just stand back and let the Republicans flail and drown in the negative and biased media current? Isn't "no" a winning strategy?

No.

The Zogby poll found:

"By an overwhelming 70-22 percent margin, voters believe that opponents of President Bush's proposals for Social Security reform have an obligation to put out their own plan for reforming the program," including 55 percent of Democratic voters, Mr. Zogby said in a report of his findings.

Where's the plan, Harry Reid? Where's the plan Nancy Pelosi?

Merely saying "no dice" to necessary reform is not a plan, it's 1930s left-wing dogma.

bluestatersfavorreform.gif

In Red States (Bush won in 2004)-
57% support reform
36% oppose reform


In Blue States (Kerry won in 2004)-
48% support reform
44% oppose reform


You think this poll, in the elite media, will garner breathless headlines and generate ample discussion about how the President has succeeded in making the case for reform to the American people? If the past few months of excrutiatingly biased (.pdf) reporting on the Social Security issue are any indication, not a chance. How many of these supportive polls (ones actually responsive to the real issues) do we have to have before the establishment media, so wrong, so often, finally declare that the political momentum on the issue is solidly behind the President?

UPDATE:

Cato adds:

*53% of union members also support personal accounts.
*Independents support personal accounts to the tune of 55%-33%.
*Self-described moderates support personal accounts 48%-45%.

Posted by Will Franklin · 31 May 2005 05:15 AM · Comments (9)

Two Worthy Carnivals.

Carnival of Revolutions.

Carnival of the Capitalists.

Check 'em out!

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 May 2005 10:36 AM · Comments (0)

Memorial Day.

memorialday.gif

Today, Memorial Day, we honor those who fought and died for the United States of America, the land, the people, and the idea. We should strive each day to keep America, with our freedom of speech and religion, our fair system of justice and our robust free enterprise system, our rights and our privileges, all worth fighting for.

After the Declaration of Independence was signed, on July 4, 1776, John Adams explained the meaning of sacrifice:

"I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means."

Honoring the sacrifice of the heroes of the American Revolution, past, present, and future is the very least we can do this day.

Take a moment today, in between the barbecue and the trip to the lake, between running errands and lounging around the house, between the yard work and the movie theater, between paying the bills and surfing the blogs, to remember why there's a day called Memorial Day.

memorialday2005.gif

Other Memorial Day posts:

Winds of Change.
Outside The Beltway.
LaShawn Barber.
Mudville Gazette.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 May 2005 09:50 AM · Comments (9)

Quotational Therapy: Part 15 -- Thomas Paine, On Revolution.

The American Revolution, then, now, and always-

thomaspaine.gif

"We have it in our power to begin the world over again."
-Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776.
"We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in."
-Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 4, September 11, 1777.

Source:
The Founders' Almanac.


Previous Quotational Therapy Sessions:

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.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 May 2005 09:44 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 62 -- Memorial Day.

MEMORIAL DAY-

- The number of U.S. armed forces personnel who served in World War II between Dec. 1, 1941, and Dec. 31, 1946 was 16.1 million.

- The average length of active-duty by U.S. military personnel during WWII was 33 months.

- The proportion of U.S. military personnel who served abroad during WWII was 73 percent.

- The average time U.S. personnel served overseas during WWII was 16 months.

- A total of 292,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines were killed in battle in WWII.

- The number of other deaths sustained by U.S. forces during WWII was 114,000.

- 671,000 U.S. troops were wounded during WWII.

- 5.7 million World War II veterans were counted in the 2000 Census. The census identified the period of service for World War II veterans as September 1940 to July 1947.

- The estimated number of WWII veterans living in California in 2002 was 475,000, the most in any state. Other states with high numbers of WWII vets included Florida (439,000), New York (284,000), Pennsylvania (280,000), Texas (267,000) and Ohio (208,000).

- The estimated number of women in 2002 who were WWII veterans was 210,000. These women comprised 4.4 percent of WWII vets.

- The proportion of all veterans in April 2000 who were WWII veterans, was 22 percent.

- The median age of WWII veterans when the last census was conducted was 76.7 years old.

- The proportion of WWII veterans who were still employed in 2000 was 11.6 percent.

- The number of WWII veterans in 2002 who received compensation for service-connected disabilities was 440,000, about half the number in 1990 (876,000) and nearly two-thirds less than the nearly 1.2 million disabled WWII vets in 1980.

- The projected national expenditure for veteran’s benefits in 2004 was $62 billion.

Source:

The History Channel.

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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49; Part 50; Part 51; Part 52; Part 53; Part 54; Part 55; Part 56; Part 57; Part 58; Part 59; Part 60; Part 61.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics, and they're usually not trivial at all; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 May 2005 09:23 AM · Comments (1)

Belarus As An Old-School Sphere Of Influence.

The die has been cast. Belarus, next year, is scheduled for an epic showdown in the ongoing march of liberty around the world.

Russian News & Information Agency (NOVOSTI) believes the writing is on the wall in Belarus; the repressive (.pdf) Lukashenko regime's days are numbered, and, at this point it is only a matter of time allowing history to unfold:

Russia fears relying even on pro-Russian centrist forces in Belarus, thinking that this could lead to Russia's geopolitical defeat.

Rahr said Lukashenko's behavior resembled that of a Central Asian autocratic leader. But Central Asian republics have oil and gas, which they can sell to the West and spare their leaders. Lukashenko has nothing with which to buy Western sympathy or condescension.

The Belarussian opposition has established political contacts with the outside world and Lukashenko's authoritarian policy has helped it to rally. Several years ago, the opposition was mostly a dissident group, but now it is increasingly becoming a political opposition challenging the authorities.

Lukashenko is losing Russia's support, Rahr said, by hindering integration and making mistakes in economic cooperation. The events in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, where desperation provoked by social and economic hardships forced the people to protest openly, are also possible in Belarus.

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Meanwhile, Interfax explains that the Belarussian opposition will sample from the strategies of Ukraine's Orange Revolution in its 2006 presidential election:

One of the Belarussian opposition leaders, Anatoly Lebedko, told a Friday press conference in Kyiv that the electoral campaign in Belarus will be very intense, but the opposition may succeed in taking Alexander Lukashenko down form the post of president.

"We have a strong political will to make 2006 an important year and we intend to fight for victory," Lebedko said.

The opposition must field a credible candidate, which may or may not be Anatoly Lebedko:

Belarussian political forces are holding consultations on a common opposition candidate in the 2006 presidential elections, opposition co-leader Anatoly Lebedko told a Friday press conference in Kiev.

“There are Belarussian politicians who can become worthy opponents to the incumbent chief of state,” he said. “If there is such a candidate, Alexander Lukashenko will have slim chances to win.”

Lebedko referred to recent opinion polls, which showed that only 42% of the respondents were ready to support Lukashenko.

Some background on Lebedko:

Lebedko is not yet known outside of opposition circles. Unlike the new Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, Lebedko is not wealthy and has never been prime minister. But he does share one experience with the Ukrainian: Both men have come close to death at the hands of foes.

Last Oct. 18, Lebedko joined 5,000 protesters on Minsk's October Square demonstrating against elections that were marred by ballot-box stuffing, intimidation of candidates and falsification of election returns.

Lebedko was an obvious target: At 43, he heads the pro-free-market United Civic Party and is the front-runner for the democratic Five-Plus Coalition's presidential nomination.

Lebedko says security agents forced him into a pizza parlor across the street from October Square. They beat him for several minutes, then he fell unconscious. He remembers waking up in the restaurant and the police chief slapping him in the face. Then he blacked out again and awoke in a moving car. After arriving at the police station, he said, he felt ill and was taken to a hospital.

Nurses urged Lebedko's wife Svetlana not to leave the patient's side. "They said someone should always watch what medicines they were putting in me,'' Lebedko said, alluding to the secret police lurking in the hospital corridors. After five days in the hospital, Lebedko spent three weeks at home recuperating. The attack - and his ongoing perseverance - elevated him from a cerebral, almost gentle former student of French history to a serious political contender.

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Vladimir Putin must ask himself whether Lukashenko, and keeping Belarus under the wing of the Russian Bear, is worth the international scorn. If Putin sticks his neck out again, like he did in supporting Viktor Yanukovich in Ukraine late last year, it will almost certainly lead to yet another embarrassing geopolitical loss. The risk of another miscalculation, this time in Belarus, could even potentially impact domestic politics in Russia. Bringing Belarus back under the Russian aegis, meanwhile, would be a big win for Putin, strengthening his hand both at home and in the other nations formerly behind the Iron Curtain. Thus, the stakes are high in Belarus. Putin will either go all in, or fold; we will likely know how Russia will play its cards long before the election.

Lukashenko will probably not go down without a messy, perhaps even bloody, fight; while the Belarussian opposition will model itself on the effective opposition in Ukraine, Belarus is far less democratic, its dictator far more brutal, therefore its democratic reformers will have to work that much harder-- and smarter, to achieve their goals.

President Bush, meanwhile, having signed the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004, asserted that the "fate of Belarus will rest not with a dictator, but with the students, trade unionists, civic and religious leaders, journalists, and all citizens of Belarus claiming freedom for their nation."

UPDATE:

The American Spectator has more on Lukashenko and Belarus.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 May 2005 01:02 PM · Comments (10)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 61 -- Most Prestigious Jobs.

THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS JOBS-

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If people really thought about it, and how they would react upon hearing their sister or daughter or granddaughter is going to marry a _________, this list might look very different.

Source:

USA TODAY (via Marginal Revolution 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; Part 23, Part 24, Part 25; Part 26; Part 27, Part 28; Part 29; Part 30, Part 31; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49; Part 50; Part 51; Part 52; Part 53; Part 54; Part 55; Part 56; Part 57; Part 58; Part 59; Part 60.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics, and they're usually not trivial at all; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 May 2005 08:58 AM · Comments (5)

More On The E.U. Referenda.

A great read on the upcoming EU referenda, from The Scotsman:

Between 1985 and 1994, annual US economic growth was 0.7% higher than in the Eurozone; between 1995 and 2004 the gap widened to 1.2%. In that latter period, growth of output per worker in America rose to 2.1% per annum; in the Eurozone, it slumped from 1.9% to 1%. In 1960, when the European Economic Community (EEC) was just three years old, US employment stood at 36% of the population; today it has risen to slightly under 48%. In Europe, the figure has stagnated at 43%, but even that is a false prospectus since much of it is due to expansion in public sector employment.

Beyond that, the tax burden in the United States is the same as 30 years ago, at 25% of national income. In Europe over the same three decades the burden has risen from 33% to above 40%, the heaviest rates being in the core economies of France, Germany and Italy.

Patrick Ruffini adds:

Of course, the Non victory on Sunday may be more Episode IV than Episode VI in the rebellion against the European Empire. The Times of London reports on Chiraq's plans to defy his people's Non, principally at the expense of our British ally. That shouldn't surprise us. Whenever a nation gives "the wrong answer" in a referendum on Europe, out-of-touch europhile elites call a mulligan and resubmit a "renegotiated" treaty before a weary public, who usually succumb.

Here's hoping this is not one of those times.

Whichever way the voting goes in France and The Netherlands, it is bound to put Tony Blair in a sticky situation, as he assumes the EU presidency on July 1.

UPDATE:

Mark Steyn has more great comments on the matter.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 May 2005 09:15 PM · Comments (0)

Girl Power!

Girls will one day rule this world. There's very little doubt of that.

At my little sister's high school graduation today, girls ruled the top honors. Well, mostly.

Both the valedictorian and the salutatorian were guys; so was the fifth ranked graduate. But girls earned 7 of the top 10 spots. Of the remaining 43 "High Honor Graduates," 28 were female, while only 15 were male. Of the next 112 "Honor Graduates," 71 were female, while only 41 were male.

So, girls just plain ruled the school:

TOP TEN-
70%

ALL "HIGH HONOR" GRADS-
66%

NON-TOP-TEN "HIGH HONOR" GRADS-
65%

"HONOR" GRADS-
63%

...and this same scenario is playing out in high schools across the country.

And, just for reference, of the top 10 (it's a suburban Houston school):
*4 The University of Texas at Austin
*2 Texas A&M University
*2 UT-Dallas
*1 Rice
*1 Texas Christian University

Girl Power!

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 May 2005 08:40 PM · Comments (7)

Congratulations To All The Graduates Of The Class Of 2005.

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Happy graduation, Carly. Never thought you'd make it.

Just kidding.

Or am I?

No, really: Congrats!

And congrats from WILLisms.com to the rest of the class of 2005. Each of you is special in your own weird, awkward, little way.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 May 2005 08:36 AM · Comments (6)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 60 -- Global Energy Demand.

GLOBAL OIL DEMAND-

globaloildemand.gif

Source:

The Lamp, ExxonMobil's quarterly shareholders publication.

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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49; Part 50; Part 51; Part 52; Part 53; Part 54; Part 55; Part 56; Part 57; Part 58; Part 59.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics, and they're usually not trivial at all; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 May 2005 08:02 AM · Comments (2)

Japanese Soldiers, Still Fighting For Hirohito?

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Sixty years after World War II ended, two elderly Japanese men have come forward claiming to be "stragglers," soldiers left behind in the Phillipines, never, for so many years, cognizant of Emperor Hirohito's unconditional surrender:

IT is either a cruel hoax, or a near miracle. Yesterday, Japanese diplomats in the Philippines were struggling to confirm the identities of two men, said to be former soldiers of the Imperial Army left behind in 1945 who have been living in the jungle for sixty years.

Despite initial optimism, and intense excitement in the Japanese media, officials from the Japanese Embassy in Manila were not ruling out the possibility of a hoax. But if true, the discovery of the soldiers would be one of the most remarkable survivals of the war.

Nakauchi Tsuzuki:

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So, where have they allegedly been all this time?

Here:

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This story is so unbelievable, that it must raise a healthy level of skepticism with just about anyone.

One likely scenario: The two probably were war "stragglers" at one point, maybe even for an extended period of time, but they decided to stay in the Phillipines for whatever reason.

Some background on other Japanese soldiers who held out for decades, not knowing the war was over.

Even if these particular cases turn out to be hoaxes, there have been other, similar cases over the years. That these men would hold out for so long underscores precisely the Japanese wartime ethos that compelled President Truman to make the fateful decision (a no-brainer at the time) to dispatch the "Enola Gay" with Little Boy and "Bock's Car" with Fat Man. As terrible as the nuclear fallout was, it likely hastened the end of the war, saving millions of lives.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 May 2005 06:20 PM · Comments (11)

EU: French & Dutch, Non & Nee.

It's crunch time. The final push is on.

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On Sunday, May 29 France will hold its referendum on the European Union constitution. The Netherlands will follow suit shortly after, on Wednesday, June 1.

The "yes" crowd is making its final push in France to save Chirac from an embarrassing political loss:

oui.gif

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The Economist magazine offers these two graphs, indicating both the French and the Dutch seem likely to reject their respective European Union referenda (premium content):

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The Economist believes the "collapse of the E.U." dread or hope is overblown:

If angry French and Dutch voters do kill the constitution, expect a period of turbulence in Europe, especially on its financial markets-- and some stormy summits, as the EU’s leaders argue over what to do next. Debate would rage over which bits of the constitution could be implemented under existing treaties—some say much of it, some barely any. The leaders’ current rows—over such things as liberalising trade in services, the EU’s budget and the rebate Britain enjoys on its contributions—would get nastier. The process of admitting new member countries could slow a bit. But a collapse of the Union, as the doomsters warn? Highly unlikely. The EU would stumble on, under its present arrangements, until its leaders came up with a more convincing constitution, one whose vision of Europe’s future could win over its frustrated and suspicious voters.

Nevertheless, a rejection in France, quickly followed by another in The Netherlands, would deal the idea of a United States of Europe a serious blow. Expect a major, prolonged political upheaval in European politics, not to mention a moderate disruption in the European and global markets, beginning this Sunday in France.

Could Chirac, with his 39% approval rating, pull it off?

That is entirely possible. He went on national television for one final, desperate plea to the French to vote "oui" on the referendum:

chiracaddress.gif

The latest French poll has the "non" vote at 52%, down from 55% just a few days ago.

Let the games begin.

UPDATE:

"Non" now stands at 56%.

UPDATE 2:

William Kristol adds:

This is a moment of hope--for the prospects for a strong, pro-American, pro-liberty, more or less free-market and free-trade, socially and morally reinvigorated Europe.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 May 2005 02:17 PM · Comments (10)

Quotational Therapy: Part 14 -- Barry Goldwater, On Creeping Socialism.

BARRY GOLDWATER, ON CREEPING SOCIALISM-

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For many years it appeared that the principal domestic threat to our freedom was contained in the doctrines of Karl Marx. The collectivists-- non-Communists as well as Communists-- had adopted the Marxist objective of "socializing the means of production." And so it seemed that collectivization were imposed, it would take the form of a State owned and operated economy. I doubt whether this is the main threat any longer.

The collectivists have found, both in this country and in other industrialized nations of the West, that free enterprise has removed the economic and social conditions that might have made a class struggle possible. Mammoth productivity, wide distribution of wealth, high standards of living, the trade union movement-- these and other factors have eliminated whatever incentive there might have been for the "proletariat" to rise up, peaceably or otherwise, and assume direct ownership of productive property. Significantly, the bankruptcy of doctrinaire Marxism has been expressly acknowledged by the Socialist Part of West Germany, and by the dominant faction of the Socialist Part of Great Britain. In this country the abandonment of the Marxist approach (outside the Communist Party, of course) is attested to by the negligible strength of the Socialist Part, and more tellingly perhaps, by the content of left wing literature and by the programs of left wing political organizations such as the Americans For Democratic Action.

The currently favored instrument of collectivization is the Welfare State. The collectivists have not abandoned their ultimate goal-- to subordinate the individual to the State-- but their strategy has changed. They have learned that Socialism can be achieved through Welfarism quite as well as through Nationalization. They understand that private property can be confiscated as effectively by taxation as by expropriating it. They understand that the individual can be put at the mercy of the State-- not only by making the State his employer-- but by divesting him of the means to provide for his personal needs and by giving the State the responsibility of caring for those needs from cradle to grave. Moreover, they have discovered-- and here is the critical point-- that Welfarism is much more compatible with the political processes of a democratic society. Nationalization ran into popular opposition, but the collectivists feel sure the Welfare State can be erected by the simple expedient of buying votes with promises of "free" hospitalization, "free" retirement pay and so on....

I do not welcome this shift of strategy. Socialism-through-Welfarism poses a far greater danger to freedom than Socialism-through-Nationalization precisely because it is more difficult to combat. The evils of Nationalization are self-evident and immediate. Those of Welfarism are veiled and tend to be postponed.

Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative, 1960.

Previous Quotational Therapy Sessions:

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.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 May 2005 09:03 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 59 -- Abortion.

ABORTION STATISTICS-

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Research tends to indicate that those who have been aborted would have been likely to have abortions themselves down the line. Notice, thus, how the abortion rate for young women begins to fall precisely 15 years following Roe v. Wade.

The downward trend for all women, meanwhile, happened a little, but not much, later:

allwomenabortiondecline.gif

Minorities account for an ever-increasing share of abortions, while white women are having fewer and fewer abortions as a share of all abortions:

abortionbyrace.gif

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Sources:

The Alan Guttmacher Institute (.pdf).

Also, for more debunking of the claim that abortions have risen under the Bush administration, prominently made by Senators Clinton and Kerry, as well as DNC Chairman Dean, see FactCheck.org.

Wizbang has more on Howard Dean's true motives.


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49; Part 50; Part 51; Part 52; Part 53; Part 54; Part 55; Part 56; Part 57; Part 58.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics, and they're usually not trivial at all; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 May 2005 08:25 AM · Comments (5)

Angela Merkel, New Hope For Germany, U.S.?

Meet Angela Merkel. This 50-year-old very well may be the next Chancellor of Germany, as well as the best hope for a thawing in American-German relations. She would also be Germany's first female Chancellor. The Washington Times calls her, "a bland East German who is unloved by voters."

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The Globe and Mail, meanwhile, compares her to another powerful female political figure of the 20th century:

Angela Merkel is poised to unseat a generation of German leadership this summer, as the country finds itself plunged into a national election that could very well turn this radical, market-oriented reformer, who has been likened to Margaret Thatcher in both her ideology and her personal comportment, into the next German chancellor.

Spiegel explains:

...when it comes to Bush, she has done everything she can to distance herself from Schroeder's antagonistic stance and present herself as a great friend of the United States. A new, and more amicable trans-Atlantic era between Germany and the US may be on the horizon.

"Trans-Atlantic relations would be very much more relaxed" under Merkel, says Peter Fischer-Bollin, a trans-Atlantic expert with the pro-CDU Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Berlin. "On the one hand because of specific positions ... and on the other hand, the tone of discussions that are currently taking place would be much milder. The relationship of trust would improve.... I think perhaps that the people in the CDU are much more pro-trans-Atlantic than those in the current government."

Merkel has spent much of the last four years underlining that impression. While Schroeder spent much of 2002 and 2003 reiterating his categoric refusal to be drawn into Iraq, Merkel was busy making friends in Washington. In February 2003, she was even received by US Vice President Dick Cheney. While she was critical of America's unilateral approach -- criticism that became even more vocal within her party following the Abu Ghraib torture scandal -- she expressed cautious support for Bush's aggressive Iraq policies before and during the war by saying, "It is wrong to separate the issues of terrorism and Saddam Hussein. We need to see things from the perspective of the United States."

Regarding some specific foreign policy issues, here's how a Merkel-led Germany might approach them-

Iraq:

Chancellor Merkel would likely not throw Germany's skeptical attitude to Iraq overboard. The country is still very much against any German involvement in Iraq and it is highly unlikely that President Bush would embarrass her by asking for added German support.

China:

Merkel's vocal skepticism of Schroeder's support for the lifting of the European Union arms embargo against China -- a spring 2005 proposal that Bush came out strongly against -- is also likely to endear her to the Bush administration. And, while Bush was clearly worried primarily about confronting European-made weapons in a potential conflict with China over Taiwan -- and secondarily about human rights abuses in China -- Merkel based her argument solidly on the foundation of US-Germany relations. Lifting the embargo, she said in April of this year, "would endanger trans-Atlantic defense cooperation."

Germany permanently on the United Nations Security Council:

Merkel... has expressed cautious support for the idea of a German UN Security Council seat -- although she has couched her endorsement in language that would allow her to quickly back away from the position should it engender too much international opposition. A likely backup position would be support for a combined European Union seat.

Turkey in the E.U.:

Merkel and the CDU have been vocal in their rejection of the idea of Turkish membership. In October of 2004, she even went so far as to call for a petition to be created opposing Turkey's EU ambitions and promoting a so-called "privileged partnership," which would increase economic cooperation between the EU and Turkey, but essentially leave Turkey on the outside looking in. Bush, on the other hand, has been a major cheerleader in Turkey's attempts to gain membership in the European club. He sees Turkey as a potential role model for other countries in the Middle East due to Turkey's embrace of secular democracy.

Bulgaria and Romania in the European Union:

Germany's Christian Democrats:

...would urge the European Union to suspend plans to admit Romania and Bulgaria if French voters reject the EU constitution in a referendum May 29.

Russia and Putin:

Having grown up in East Germany, Merkel is:

...more in line with Washington over Russia, being more willing to press Moscow on human rights and democracy than is Schroeder, who has cultivated a cozy personal relationship with President Vladimir Putin.

Mostly, though, the tone will change, and for the better. The counterproductive deep freeze, initiated by Schroeder, will thaw. Merkel, and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), will breathe new life into the crucial geopolitical relationship between the United States and Germany.

The Economist explains that Merkel's agenda might get Germany's economy back on track:

...witness her long list of planned reforms, which are quite radical in the German context: simplifying tax, overhauling pensions, reducing job protection and curbing the trade unions.

Schroeder, in 2002, was also down in the polls, but he squeaked out a marginal victory by speaking strongly against the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Could he pull off the same kind of come-from-behind victory again?

Not likely. In this election, with the unemployment rate perpetually near 12%, and the lowest business confidence level in two years, it's truly the economy, stupid:

Germany's economy, Europe's largest, is projected by the European Commission to be the slowest-growing in the 25-nation European Union this year. Unemployment, which Schroeder vowed to reduce, has risen by 1 million people to 5 million since he took office in 1998. Gross domestic product has risen more than 1 percent in only one of the past four years.

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Schroeder recently tried playing the anti-American card once again, to no avail:

Even recently, Schroeder's Social Democratic (SPD) party launched a strident discussion on capitalism in a last ditch attempt to gain votes for the now lost North-Rhine Westphalia elections. The phantom menace painted by Schroeder and his party was neo-liberal market policy and international capitalists. Many understood the attacks coming from SPD headquarters as sloppily disguised anti-Americanism -- a strategy that has served Schroeder well in the past.

So what are the odds of Schroeder engineering a miraculous comeback?

Not so hot:

The Christian Democrats now control 10 of Germany's 16 states and the latest poll data show them taking 46 percent of the electorate compared to 29 percent for Mr. Schroeder's party if elections were held today.

The German election is in September, so much could happen between now and then, but, barring an economic miracle, Schroeder has no chance. When Gerhard Schroeder's day of political reckoning comes, it will be good riddance to a superlative polluter of international relations.

UPDATE:

Nice read from the WSJ.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 May 2005 08:59 PM · Comments (6)

George Voinovich, Losing It.

George Voinovich is officially cracking under the pressure of his responsibilities as a United States Senator:

Ohio Sen. George Voinovich choked back tears on the Senate floor Wednesday as he pleaded with colleagues to vote against John Bolton's nomination for United Nations ambassador.

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Brutally Honest blog asserts:

Voinovich exemplifies the kind of weakness the terrorists take advantage of. It's this mentality that encourages fanatics to fly airplanes into skyscrapers, to bomb hotel lobby rooms and sidewalk cafes, to kill, maim and otherwise injure innocent men, women and children.

Voinovich has disgraced himself and disgraced this country.

Who do we want representing us as we engage the terrorists worldwide?

Voinovich and other metrosexuals in touch with their feminine sides or a tough guy like Bolton who has a take no prisoners outlook?

The answer is clear. And it becomes clearer the more one watches Voinovich's weakness displayed for all on the Senate floor.

Freakin' incredible.

Meanwhile, far left Think Progress blog argues that "Voinovich’s Behavior Should Be Encouraged," ripping the DNC blog for its assertion that Voinovich is a profile in cowardice.

Crooks and Liars blog has the video (via The Moderate Voice).


Three Points:

1.

Voinovich really whiffed on this issue, politically. He has earned no true friends on either side, while alienating just about everyone in some way.


2.

Voinovich seems to have accepted the left-wing caricature of John Bolton, although he wasn't even present at the confirmation hearings. Weak.


3.

While Voinovich's defection is irritating (and puzzling, in some respects), it's really just a normal function of any majority party's healthy coalition. However, with a half century of minority status still fresh in their minds, the Republican Congressional leadership still needs to learn how to behave as a majority party. Meanwhile, the media need to learn that an occasional defection here or there is a normal feature of any majority party's coalition.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 May 2005 01:24 PM · Comments (8)

Reform Thursday: Week Seventeen.

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

That's why WILLisms.com offers 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 topic:

Debunking Common Misconceptions About Social Security Reform.

MYTH #1-

From AARP's infamous, ignoble, and ubiquitous "Kitchen Sink" advertisement:

This commercial contains a rapid-fire series of erroneous claims, but let's focus on just one, that "private accounts... lead to huge benefit cuts."

In a previous Reform Thursday installment, we explained how the "benefit cut" claim does not hold up.

Last time, we looked at married males of various ages and income levels. This time, how about young, single females (John Kerry's most ardent supporters in 2004):

youngwoman.gif
Click to try out the calculator yourself.

We used the following income levels-
Lower: $15,000 - $19,999
Middle: $35,000 - $39,999
Higher: $60,000 - $64,999
Higher Still: $85,000 and higher

Notice how each income group receives higher benefits under Bush's plan, compared to no reform, with those earning less actually seeing a far greater proportional improvement.

But, isn't this calculator rigged to make the President's plan look better than it really is?

No.

As we explained before, The Heritage Foundation's calculator, if anything, uses rate of return estimates for personal accounts that are lower than in the real world. In other words, unlike the thoroughly discredited calculator Congressional Democrats and their left-wing allies are peddling, the Heritage calculator is part of the reality-based community.


But, let's get back to the "benefit cuts" debunking, shall we?

Future growth in benefit levels paid out by Uncle Sam will indeed have to slow down unless taxes are dramatically increased (not gonna happen under this President). But, and this is the important part-- under the status quo, benefit cuts are inevitable, whether or not personal accounts are created. Thus, for AARP to claim that it is private accounts which will lead to benefit cuts is disingenuous.

Meanwhile, those who choose to participate in individual accounts would have the chance to earn a far greater rate of return, more than making up for the benefit gap. The personal accounts would only need to earn 3% annual interest above inflation to guarantee higher benefit levels.

In other words, gramps will still get his check, almost certainly with higher benefits, but the benefit payout will become less of a burden on the government.

The AARP commercial in question:

aarpcommercial.gif

Click image to view commercial (Real Player required).


-----------------------------------------------


MYTH #2-

Social Security reform is "bombing with the public."

Not.

While some polls show a lack of support for reform, take a closer look at them and you'll find that they are often not even polling the issues at hand.

Meanwhile, Scott Rasmussen, one of America's few accurate pollsters in 2004, just this week found support for reform:

rasmussenreformpoll.gif

But, isn't it the personal accounts people dislike?

Nope.

Personal accounts are very popular, especially among those whom Social Security would actually affect.

When people are informed that they would have a choice, support dramatically increases for the President's reform plan:

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Why do the elite media continue ignoring polls which accurately reflect the President's reform principles (and show support for reform), while harping on the negative polls, which often do not offer accurate or complete information?

You can answer that yourself, or you can examine two separate studies on left-wing bias in the media on Social Security (conservative perspective and non-partisan, non-ideological perspective).

Even union members support personal accounts, as long as those over 55 are protected, which, don't forget, is a major principle of President Bush's reform push (no changes for those over 55). A poll that doesn't include that crucial bit of information is not even measuring public opinion on the relevant issue at hand. Just this week, even, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa extended an olive branch to the White House, praising President Bush for his work on this issue while scolding Democrats for their obstruction.

Meanwhile, Harry Reid's Nevada constituents are not happy with the way he is handling Social Security reform:

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...and there is an ample body of further polling evidence to support the idea that people eagerly support Social Security reform, especially once they realize older Americans would not see any changes and younger Americans would have a choice. The elite media, meanwhile, just focus on the polls that fit their anti-reform narrative.


Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:

-Week One (Costs Exceed Revenues).
-Week Two (Social Security Can't Pay Promised Benefits).
-Week Three (Americans Getting Older).
-Week Three, bonus (The Templeton Curve).
-Week Four (Fewer Workers, More Retirees).
-Week Five (History of Payroll Tax Base Increases).
-Week Six (Seniors Living Longer).
-Week Six, bonus (Less Workers, More Beneficiaries).
-Week Seven (History of Payroll Tax Increases).
-Week Seven, bonus (Personal Accounts Do Achieve Solvency).
-Week Eight (Forty Year Trend Of Increasing Mandatory Spending).
-Week Nine (Diminishing Benefits Sans Reform).
-Week Ten (Elderly Dependence On Social Security).
-Week Eleven (Entitlement Spending Eating The Budget).
-Week Twelve (Benefit Comparison, Bush's Plan versus No Plan).
-Week Thirteen (Younger Americans and Lifecycle Funds).
-Week Fourteen (The Thrift Savings Plan).
-Week Fifteen (Understanding Progressive Indexing).
-Week Sixteen (The Graying of America).

Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important graphical data supporting Social Security reform. We'll address more myths in future installments.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 May 2005 11:34 AM · Comments (7)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 58 -- Chinese Tourism.

THE BURGEONING CHINESE TOURISM INDUSTRY-

Beijing's Forbidden City and the Great Wall now attract more visitors than Florence's Uffizi Gallery or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, as China overtakes Italy as the world's fourth most popular tourism destination.

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Source (with more travel facts):

Financial Times (via Marginal Revolution 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; Part 23, Part 24, Part 25; Part 26; Part 27, Part 28; Part 29; Part 30, Part 31; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49; Part 50; Part 51; Part 52; Part 53; Part 54; Part 55; Part 56; Part 57.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics, and they're usually not trivial at all; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 May 2005 08:04 AM · Comments (0)

Ken Jennings, Second Best Jeopardy Player Ever.

Ken Jennings, the world famous 30-year-old from Salt Lake City, whose record-shattering 74-win, $2.52 million run on Jeopardy last year set the nerd world ablaze with excitement, has been dethroned as the greatest Jeopardy player ever.

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Brad Rutter, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in winning the $2 million Ultimate Tournament of Champions, can now claim the title of highest money earner in Jeopardy history. Rutter had previously won $1.1 million on the show.

Jennings, meanwhile, just plain blew it. He looked terrible out there:

...fans also hoped their hero - who will star in his own game show on Comedy Central later this year - would dazzle once again. But dazzle he did not. Jennings, a Utah software engineer, often looked tentative over the last three nights, while Rutter was aggressive and - frankly - far more impressive.

Wednesday night was more or less representative: Rutter started off strong, zipping through the first round, while Jennings and third-place Jerome Vered, a L.A.-based writer, were forced to play catch-up.

It was a thoroughly disappointing effort from Ken Jennings, but his recent ineptitude should not tarnish his past accomplishments on the show. One possibility was that Jennings was rusty. Earning a bye all the way to the final round, Jennings was not on top of his game, while Brad Rutter was in mid-season form, quick to the buzzer and clear-minded.

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If Rutter were really cruel, he would send this along to Ken Jennings' house for Christmas:

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Yes. Why, yes, yes I can.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 May 2005 10:35 PM · Comments (6)

Chris Bell, Ethics Violator, Wants To Be Governor Of Texas.

Meet Chris Bell. He wants to be the next Governor of Texas.

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You might have heard of him before. Bell was the lame duck Congressman [in a March 2004 primary race against fellow Democrat Al Green, he was slaughtered, receiving less than 1/3 of the votes (.pdf)] who, embittered by the redistricting which finally allowed the Texas Congressional delegation to represent Texas, filed the now-infamous ethics charges against Representative Tom DeLay. These charges are often cited as proof of a pattern of ethical or legal misconduct on the part of DeLay. As Howard Dean put it recently on Meet The Press, DeLay has "already been adjudicated" and is guilty.

You can read the entire letter admonishing Tom DeLay here, from the House Ethics Committee, on October 6, 2004, and the entire Memorandum here.

The gist of the letter: while certainly not pretty for DeLay, the committee found that Congressman DeLay had done nothing illegal or against House rules; rather, his actions merely created an appearance of impropriety.

But what about Chris Bell? His ethics rebuke flew almost entirely under the radar (meanwhile, for left-wing activists, it was a badge of honor), but Bell, unlike Tom DeLay, was actually found to have violated House ethics rules. Chris Bell was scolded by the House Ethics Committee, even more harshly than Tom DeLay:

...the Committee finds that your complaint violated Committee Rule 15(a)(4) in a number of respects. Because you personally signed and this complaint and transmitted it directly to the Committee under Committee Rule 14(a)(1), you are responsible for the contents of the complaint in their entirety, and thus you are responsible for these violations.

This is a serious matter.

The committee picked apart Bell's claims against DeLay, ripping them to shreds, piece by piece. For example, in response to Chris Bell's charge that Tom DeLay was guilty of bribery:

There can hardly be a more serious charge against a public official than that he or she solicited a bribe, i.e., something of value that is given or received specifically in exchange for an official act. Yet as the Committee noted in its analysis of Count I, the facts relating to Westar that were alleged in the complaint did not come even close to supporting this extremely serious claim.

The bi-partisan committee also condemned Bell for his obvious partisan hatchet job, noting:

...it appears there is no purpose for including excessive or inflammatory language or exaggerated charges in a complaint except in an attempt to attract publicity and, hence, a political advantage. This improper political purpose was highlighted in this instance by the various efforts you undertook to promote your complaint publicly, by including such excessive or inflammatory language or exaggerated charges in press releases and other public statements.

In other words, Chris Bell, the sore loser in Texas' completely necessary redistricting effort, sought revenge by tarnishing the highly effective Majority Leader's reputation.

Bell also colluded with far-left groups such as Public Citizen, Common Cause, and CREW, which had all been after conservative leaders for years. Because outside groups cannot file ethics complaints, they just needed a taker in the House, someone with nothing to lose. Chris Bell, a broken politician, saw a chance to recast himself as a liberal hero, all while exacting revenge on his nemesis, Tom DeLay, so he leaped at the opportunity.

Chris Bell is thus a smear artist of the highest order, the kind of divisive partisan regular Americans (and moreover, Texans) disdain.

But, you may be asking, weren't Tom DeLay's efforts to redistrict Texas just part of a partisan power grab?

Not in the least bit.

Texas is a deeply Republican state and has been for at least the past decade. Yet, in 2000, when President Bush won 3/5 of the vote (Al Gore won 38%), Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison won 2/3 of the vote, and Republicans won every other state-wide elected office in Texas, Democrats dominated the Congressional delegation 17-13. If Bush v. Gore had been thrown into the House of Representatives, Texas would have cast its vote for Gore. Think about that for a second.

Chalk that bizarre anomaly up to one factor, and one factor only: decades of Democrat gerrymandering.

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Tom DeLay looked at the situation and determined Republicans were getting shafted by Democrat gerrymandering. As national majority leader from a conservative state, DeLay justifiably wanted more Republicans elected to the House in Texas. Chris Bell just happened to be one of the Democrats, one who really should have never been in Congress in the first place, squeezed out in the process.

But if Chris Bell was going down, he wasn't going to go down alone, so he attempted to take down Tom DeLay in the process. Very unclassy, very lame.

Looking ahead to 2006, Chris Bell is counting on a divisive battle between incumbent Governor Rick Perry and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to split Texas Republicans and give him a shot at the Governor's mansion. He's dreaming.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 May 2005 03:55 PM · Comments (8)

Zell Miller Blog Interview, Part Two.

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Part two of the Zell Miller (A Deficit Of Decency author) multi-blog interview is up at Red State Rant.

Go check it out.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 May 2005 10:35 AM · Comments (2)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 7.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

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The actual caption:

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean pauses for a moment during an interview with the Associated Press in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2005. After three months leading the party-out-of-power, Dean says he wants to stengthen ties with key constituencies like women, Hispanics, and especially African-Americans. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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


Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, May 31. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

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Last week's winners:

1.

Hoodlumman:

Sven still wasn't one-hundred percent mindful on the concept of incognito.

2.

Rob B:

"Sony's old Picture-in-Picture Technology has found new applications the city's effort to beautify the downtown area."

3.

Rodney Dill:

Expose yourself to art.

Caption away!

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 May 2005 08:53 AM · Comments (20)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 57 -- Sumatra Tsunami.

FACTS ABOUT THE SUMATRA EARTHQUAKE THAT CAUSED THE GREAT TSUNAMI OF 2004-

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"Normally, a small earthquake might last less than a second; a moderate sized earthquake might last a few seconds. This earthquake lasted between 500 and 600 seconds (at least 10 minutes)," said Charles Ammon, associate professor of geosciences at Penn State University.

The quake released an amount of energy equal to a 100 gigaton bomb, according to Roger Bilham, professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado.

And that power lasted longer than any quake ever recorded.

The quake, centered in the Indian Ocean, also created the biggest gash in the Earth's seabed ever observed, nearly 800 miles. That's as long as a drive from northern California into southern Canada.

Scientists estimated the average slippage (ground movement up and down) along the entire length of the fault was at least 5 meters (16.5 feet) -- with some places being moved nearly 20 meters (50 feet).

Scientists have also upgraded the magnitude of the quake from 9.0 to between 9.1 and 9.3, a dramatically more powerful event. As a comparison: the ground shook 100 times harder during December's earthquake than what was felt in the 1989 Loma Prieta quake in California. That 6.9 magnitude quake caused extensive damage from Santa Cruz to San Francisco....

Global broadband seismometers recorded the ground in Sri Lanka, a thousand miles from the epicenter, moved up and down by more than 9 centimeters (3.6 inches), according to the report.

But no place on Earth escaped movement.

"Globally, this earthquake was large enough to basically vibrate the whole planet as much as half an inch, or a centimeter. Everywhere we had instruments, we could see motions," Ammon said.

Source:

CNN.


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49; Part 50; Part 51; Part 52; Part 53; Part 54; Part 55; Part 56.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics, and they're usually not trivial at all; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 May 2005 08:51 AM · Comments (2)

Houston Art: Inversion.

Very cool art installation near my house:

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Basically, they took two old, condemned, soon-to-be-demolished houses and turned them into an enormous funnel.

More, from The Houston Chronicle:

The sculpture project on Montrose Boulevard is literally stopping traffic. Every passer-by gawks at the unusual structure on the Art League's lawn, and many snap photos. Pedestrians approach, looking for answers.

"What is it?" is usually their first question, followed by "Did you do this on purpose?"

According to Art Houston's news release, it took 300 man hours to create this project (2 guys over a 4 week period).

The Houston Press:

"Inversion" It looks like someone shot a giant cannon at the old Art League studio building on Montrose -- you can see straight through it. Called Inversion, it's an amazing, traffic-stopping project; the elderly wooden bungalow has been transformed into a piece of art instead of an art studio. The culprits, Dan Havel and Dean Ruck, took the siding off the exterior of the building and used it to build a giant funnel-like tunnel that organically curves its way through the building. It looks like a wooden mold for a tornado.

The pictures hardly do it justice. You're driving down the road, and out of the corner of your eye, it looks like a missile has cleanly passed through the houses, leaving a smooth vortex in its wake. It is at once disturbing and comical to look at. And it'll only be up for a few weeks, before they tear it down.

More at Art League Houston.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 May 2005 10:18 PM · Comments (2)

Some Call It A Bonfire/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 (now with 50% more classy!):


1.

Newsweak-

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From: Riding Sun blog (via Wizbang).

Arthur Chrenkoff (via Ed Driscoll) offers this highly rewarding paragraph:

If the rest of the world are indeed Blue States, then our media and creative elites feel far more at home overseas than they do back in America which is much more split between the Blue and Red States, and where, regardless on specific political affiliations, the majority of people have generally positive feelings about their own country. Not only is it a matter of the staff at "Newsweek" and other major outlets having pretty much the same attitude towards America as do people in Berlin or Bangladesh, but trashing your own country actually serves a useful purpose of ingratiating and legitimizing yourself to your overseas audience - put the American flag in a rubbish bin, sneer at the swaggering Texan cowboy, and bemoan the Iraqi quagmire or the failure to ratify the Kyoto agreement and you can instantly show yourself to be a different, "good" American, more sophisticated and in-tune than the yokels back home. The foreigner are bound to think you're wonderful and reward you with recognition and applause - what comedian Martin Short once called getting the "French ego juice."

2.

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Dean's World points out how Barbie has helped the poor get richer in the developing world.


3.

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Adam Doverspike, at the Social Security Choice blog, explains how President Bush is actively courting the youth vote through his Social Security reform initiative.


4.

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Reasoned Audacity thoroughly debunks Howard Dean's repeated claims that the number of abortions under the Bush administration has gone up 25%.

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Michelle Malkin has more on Dean's recycled abortion lie.

And, yet, Howard Dean makes this same erroneous assertion just about any time the abortion issue comes up.


5.

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Political Calculations looks at the link between income potential and education.

How much is your education worth?


6.

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Joust The Facts blog, along with Patterico's Pontifications, examine the disturbing double-standard in the elite media regarding Rick Santorum's idiotic recent "Hitler" reference. Was it really a "new low," as The New York Times described it?


7.

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Asymmetrical Information blog (via Right Wing News) looks at the perpetual crisis known as Zimbabwe:

It is depressing to look back at history and see how regularly the same nice-sounding idea--"let's take the land from the rich people who unjustly own it and give it to those who need it"--turns into tragedy for everyone. It's even more depressing to realise that despite the seeming predictibility of the result, lots of people want to do it anyway.


8.

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Fishkite blog examines on a few statements made by the ever-hilarious John Kerry. It's almost too easy.


9.

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Babalu Blog is blogging on Cuba Nostalgia (via Publius Pundit).


10.

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Protein Wisdom blog examines the concept of blogger outrage against the "mainstream media," warning bloggers to keep the outrage proportional:

Railing against (and rectifying by way of our own postings) the unbalanced coverage of the mainstream press as a corrective to its often disingenuous presentation of larger narratives is a worthy pursuit. But doing so in such a way that our own rhetoric begins to show trappings of the same shabby ploys so frequently relied upon by liberal advocates in the media to further their own pre-conceived narratives, is the real recipe for disaster—in that it is certain to undercut the progress made by the alternative media in its fight to level the informational playing field.


11.

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Betsy's Page looks at the importance of passing CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreegment, something that has been largely drowned out by other news.


12.

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Daly Thoughts explains that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and his party, don't look so hot heading into an election later this year.

Blogs for Bush adds:


There is justice in this world and Schroeder is reaping the whirlwind of maintaining a "red/green" political coalition which prevents German economic advancement (unemployment in North Rhine-Westphalia is 12.1%, for Germany as a whole, 12%); meanwhile, keeping this coaltion going also required over anti-Americanism which made Germany a lapdog of Chirac's France. Let us hope that Schroeder gets wiped out in the upcoming national elections.


13.

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Daniel Drezner looks at the upcoming (soon) French referendum on the European Union Constitution:

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It's down to the wire. It is hard to imagine the French will actually reject it, but, at this point, that course of action is not only possible, it is highly probable.


14.

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Captain's Quarters blog has a fantastic series of posts on "the deal" reached in the Senate over judicial nominees:

"Deconstructing The Deal"

"Two Editorials, Two Directions, And A Significant Abstention"

"Welcome To Versailles, Circa 1921"

It is rather ironic that Senate Republicans, for all of their healthy aversion to appeasement in international relations, essentially made a deal with Democrats based precisely on that disgraceful principle.


15.

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PoliBlog looks at George Galloway:

For the people cheering on Galloway and his performance: is this really someone that you want to align yourselves with? What am I missing?

Exactly. Yet, the American left rooted for Galloway on his recent trip to Washington, because he said the kinds of things they wish their party leaders would say.

------------------------------------------------------------

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 each Tuesday at 11:59 PM Central Standard Time).


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
;

April 26, 2005;

May 3, 2005;

May 10, 2005;

and

May 17, 2005.


WILLisms.com offers a weekly classiness roundup as a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 15 blog posts deemed classy. The criteria for submissions: incisive original analysis, quirky topics nobody else is covering, fantastic graphics, or other posts that took a lot of work. 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. The deadline is each Monday at 11:59 PM Central Time.

Classy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 May 2005 12:52 PM · Comments (2)

Zell Miller Blog Interview, Part One.

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The good people over at Red State Rant blog had the opportunity to interview Zell Miller. But not just any kind of interview; a multi-blog interview. The Red State Ranters asked some of the top blogs around the blogosphere to submit their questions (and, for some reason, included WILLisms.com).

Part One is up: go check it out!

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 May 2005 09:07 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 56 -- Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

THE RESURGENCE OF THE STD-

In New York City, the rate of syphilis has increased by more than four hundred per cent in the past five years. Gay men account for virtually the entire rise. Between 1998 and 2000, fifteen per cent of the syphilis cases in Chicago could be attributed to gay men. Since 2001, that number has grown to sixty per cent.

....

Over the past several years, nearly every indicator of risky sexual activity has risen in the gay community. Perhaps for the first time since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the number of men who say they use condoms regularly is below fifty per cent; after many years of decline, the number of new H.I.V. diagnoses among gay men increased every year between 2000 and 2003, while remaining stable in the rest of the population.

For trend watchers, a trend to watch.

Source:

The New Yorker magazine.


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49; Part 50; Part 51; Part 52; Part 53; Part 54; Part 55.

Daily Trivia Tidbits cover a wide range of topics, and they're usually not trivial at all; you never know what you might find. Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 May 2005 08:35 AM · Comments (0)

Microscopic Beer Art.

AUSTRALIA-

Foster's:

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CANADA-

Labatt's Blue Canadian Pilsener:

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ENGLAND-

Bass Pale Ale:

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IRELAND-

Harp:

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JAMAICA-

Red Stripe:

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JAPAN-

Asahi Draft:

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MEXICO-

Sol:

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SWITZERLAND-

Lowenbrau Zurich:

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USA-

Lone Star Beer:

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White Ridge Wheat Beer:

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GERMANY-

St. Pauli Girl:

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And last, but not least,
CHINA-

Tsingtao
:

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WEIRD!

Go check out the rest here, courtesy of Florida State University.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 May 2005 07:05 PM · Comments (1)

Quotational Therapy: Part 13 -- Ben Franklin, On Commerce.

ON COMMERCE-

"No nation was ever ruined by trade, even seemingly the most disadvantageous."
-Benjamin Franklin, Principles of Trade, 1774.

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"I think all the world would gain by setting commerce at perfect liberty."
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, July 7, 1785.

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"A people ... who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything."
-George Washington, letter to Benjamin Harrison, October 10, 1784.

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"I own myself the friend to a very free system of commerce, and hold it as a truth, that commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive and impolitic -- it is also a truth, that if industry and labour are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out."
-James Madison, speech to the Congress, April 9, 1789.

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Commerce is founder-tastic!


Previous Quotational Therapy Sessions:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 May 2005 02:02 PM · Comments (1)

The Carnival Of Revolutions.

CARNIVAL OF REVOLUTIONS HOME BASE:

Scroll Down For Upcoming Hosting Schedule, Submission Criteria, Etc.


Welcome to the Carnival of Revolutions!

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In this time, in our time, we're witnessing history unfolding every day, a spontaneous explosion of political activity breaking out around the world. We've seen it in Ukraine. We've seen it in Lebanon. But it's happening in countless other (often neglected) places. There is so much happening, it's often hard to keep up. The Carnival of Revolutions tries to provide a useful summary of the past week's progress on the march of freedom in the world.

Not all of the news is great. Some is even depressing. But we're here to tell the stories of the democratic reformers around the world, struggling for free and fair elections and/or other basic rights inherent to any democracy. We are conservatives, we are liberals, we are Democrats, we are Republicans, and we are everything in between.

We share one powerful goal, however: the advance of liberty in the world.

Democratic reformers living in "fear societies" don't necessarily need guns or large wads of cash to succeed. They do need:

- people to "tell their story"
- people to "hear their story"
- people to "know their story"
- people to "feel their story"

...which is where we come in.

Let's get to it, then:


LATIN AMERICA-

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Cuba-

Am I A Pundit Now? blog offers a photograph of Fidel Castro's worst nightmare.

Fidel Castro's days are (eventually) numbered: Cuban Opposition Rallies in Havana.

New York Congressman Charlie Rangel (D), meanwhile, thinks the U.S. needs to pay Fidel the respect he deserves.

Venezuela-

Carnal Reason explains how Venezuelan oil is helping to prop up the Castro regime.

Regime Change Iran blog looks at the nuclear ambitions of Hugo Chavez.

Brazil-

Gateway Pundit notes some agrarian unrest in Brazil.


THE GREATER MIDDLE EAST-

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Austin Bay comments on Fouad Ajami's assertion that the Middle East is becoming Bush Country.

Syria-

The Liberals Against Terrorism blog explains that at least one pro-democracy blogger in Syria is getting audacious about the "Damascus Spring."

Gateway Pundit, meanwhile, is one of the few voices commenting on Syria's pro-democracy protests.

Afghanistan-

The Jawa Report notes the murder of a female Afghan veejay.

Lebanon-

Spirit of America blog answers the question, "Why Lebanon?" Also, some feedback from some U.S. Marines on the matter.

Iran-

Winds of Change blog examines Iran's meaningless upcoming elections.

Pakistan-

Ever seen the words "Pakistani Mixed-Sex Race Protest," in that precise order before? Neither had we, but Gateway Pundit is on the case.

Saudi Arabia-

Gateway Pundit looks at a significant step backward in Saudi Arabia's alleged democratic reform process.

Israel-

Protests all over Israel regarding the country's fledgling disengagement plan.

The literacy rate in the Middle East for women is below 50%. Laura Bush wants to change that, while pushing for greater overall women's rights in the region.

Was Laura Bush's visit to the Middle East, as the media so widely reported, really just an anti-American ambush? You can see for yourself here.

Egypt-

The Sandmonkey blog notes that opposition candidate Ayman Nour is not, as many speculated, planning to boycott Egypt's upcoming election, despite the suspected "same-ole, same-ole" nature of recent electoral reforms.

President Bush, meanwhile, praised Egypt for taking the first steps toward democratic reform, while telling Egyptian leaders their election ought to set an example for other countries in the region.

Iraq-

The Politburo Diktat blog notes how 1,000 influential Sunni Arab clerics, tribal heads, and political leaders, are ending their lengthy boycott of the political process.


EAST ASIA-

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China-

The Acorn looks at how blogging in India and China is night and day.

Korea-

The Marmot's Hole is retro-blogging Korea's Gwangju Uprising of 1980, piece by piece (Part: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Question: What is a kakistocracy?
Answer: North Korea.


EASTERN EUROPE-

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Russia-

Neeka's Backlog has pictures from Russia's opposition groups (here and here). Also, pro-Putin demonstrations.

Siberian Light blog reports on President Bush's meeting with Russian civil society folks while in the neighborhood.

Siberian Light blog looks at the trial of the lone surviving member of those responsible for the Beslan school massacre, noting that the accused's legal representation may be less than adequate.

Ukraine-

Ultima Thule blog examines the swirling rumors around whether Viktor Yushchenko asked his gorgeous prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to resign her post. At this point, it looks like they are still a team.


CENTRAL ASIA-

centralasia.gif

Tajikistan-

Volodymyr Campaign points out: "Tajikistan's only independent TV station closed."

Mongolia-

Publius Pundit takes a look at Mongolians voting.

Uzbekistan-

In an original analysis piece, Publius Pundit asks whether Andijon was 2005's Tiananmen, and looks at the implications of that brutal crackdown.

Registan addresses some questions needing answers regarding Uzbekistan. More posts from Registan on the Uzbek crisis here.

Gateway Pundit has been thoroughly covering the Uzbekistan crisis, but here are some of the more recent developments:

"Putting the Pieces Together in Uzbekistan"

"Uzbek Death Toll May Top 1,000"

"Tensions High in Uzbekistan"

Azerbaijan-

Publius Pundit notes how the Azeri government is cracking down on opposition groups.

More on the protesters clashing with police.

Registan comments on the mysterious death of a key Azeri opposition leader.


AFRICA-

africa.gif

Togo-

Publius Pundit examines the betrayal of democracy in Togo.

Ethiopia-

Ethiopundit picks apart the recent election in Ethiopia; the assessment is not great.


THE THEORY OF DEMOCRACY-

SophistPundit argues for educated juries in democracies.

Boxing Alcibades looks at three models of Revolution Theory, examining the ideas of Huntington, Palmer, and Pinochet.


MEANWHILE-

Publius Pundit comments on how President Bush has proposed an American corps specifically charged with promoting new democracies.


------------------------------------


HOSTING SCHEDULE:

May 30: Registan.net
June 6: Publius Pundit
June 13: Gateway Pundit
June 20: Siberian Light
June 27: WILLisms.com
July 4: Registan.net
July 11: Publius Pundit
July 18: Boxing Alcibiades
July 25: soapgun blog
August 1: SophistPundit
August 8: Blogrel
August 15: Am I A Pundit Now?
August 22: Coming Anarchy
August 29: One Free Korea
September 5: Thinking-East
September 12: Quid Nimis
September 19: OPEN
September 26: OPEN
October 3: OPEN
October 10: OPEN
October 17: OPEN
October 24: OPEN
October 31: OPEN
November 7: OPEN

Email WILLisms@gmail.com if you would like to host the Carnival of Revolutions at some point in the future. We prefer that you have some experience blogging on these issues, as it requires a moderate level of expertise to prepare the carnival each week.

The submission deadline is each Sunday evening, but the exact deadline really up to the host each week. Any blogger can submit a post on the rapid flurry of events we see each week, or on a broader theoretical idea. The criteria are fairly broad, but inclusion of your submission is ultmately up to the host.

To submit a post for a future Carnival of Revolutions, use this page, or email the host for the week directly.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 May 2005 01:33 PM · Comments (6)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 55 -- Software Piracy.

INTERNATIONAL SOFTWARE PIRACY-

First, the countries with the highest rates of computer software piracy:
20highestpiracyrates.gif

Note that Venezuela, under Hugo Chavez, saw the greatest increase in piracy. Also notice what kind of regimes dominate the list of the top twenty worst countries for piracy.


The countries, meanwhile, with the lowest rates of computer software piracy:
20lowestpiracyrates.gif


United States, Australia, Western Europe, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan, compared to the rest of the world:

legitimateversuspirated.gif


Latin America clearly has the highest piracy rate of any region, even higher than Asia:
piracyratebyregion.gif
Click for larger version.


In terms of pure dollar losses, Europe faces the worst levels of piracy, followed by Asia and North America not far behind:
dollarlossesbyregion.gif


While the U.S. has a much lower software piracy rate than other countries, it still has by far the largest dollar amount of software piracy (which really just underscores the magnitude of the American economy):

softwarepiracylosses.gif

Source:

2005 Piracy Study, Business Software Alliance (BSA) and International Data Corporation (IDC).


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49; Part 50; Part 51; Part 52; Part 53; Part 54.

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

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 May 2005 08:02 AM · Comments (3)

Joshua Fleming, Commenting Coward.

It's Hate Mail Time!

hatemail.gif

This one, a comment made this weekend by Joshua Fleming, Canadian.


To this post from all the way back on February 16, he commented (rather ironically):

Dear Narcisist,

This site is the biggest load of rubbish i've ever seen. If I were I would disontunue it imediately before someone kicks you in the balls. Everyone has the right of an opinion, but not necessarily the right to post it on the internet; especially if it's a load of crap.

Posted by:

Name: Your Mom

Email Address: yourmom@hotmail.com

Oh, but with the not-so-mysterious awesomeness of technology, it was quite simple to trace the IP address to the same IP address that posted a comment just 24 minutes earlier on this post, which dates back to January 20.

On that post, he was a bit more civil and at least tried to make a reasoned case (for how wonderful socialism is, of all things). On that post, he gave his email address and full name:

Name: joshua fleming

Email Address: joshuafleming@msn.com


Fun times.

Just for the record, WILLisms.com doesn't mind hate mail or hate comments. We get them all the time. It's part of having a healthy number of readers. There's also no problem with commenting under an assumed name. But if you are going to post -- what was Josh's word for it? -- oh, yes, "rubbish" (judges also would have accepted "load of crap") under a pseudonym, shortly after posting under your real name, expect to be called out for it. That's just embarrassingly weak.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 May 2005 08:47 PM · Comments (8)

The Case For Janice Rogers Brown.

janicerogersbrown.gif

Along with the superlatively qualified Priscilla Owen, Democrats are also filibustering Janice Rogers Brown. This is truly an outrage.

UporDownVote.com:

- Brown is the first African American woman to serve as an associate justice on the California Supreme Court and was reelected with 76 percent of the vote, the highest vote percentage of all justices on the ballot.

- Brown grew up the daughter of sharecroppers in segregated, rural Alabama. Brown spent her childhood listening to her grandmother’s stories about NAACP lawyer Fred Gray, who defended Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.

- As a single mother, Brown worked her way through California State University-Sacramento and UCLA law school.

- The California Supreme Court’s Chief Justice has called on Brown to write the majority opinion more times in 2001 and 2002 than any other Justice on the court.

The real reasons Democrats are opposing Janice Rogers Brown:

She is an African-American woman, and a conservative. Democrats hate when those they feel they own, politically, wander off the DNC plantation. Clearly, the filibuster of Brown is purely political, and motivated by race and gender.

If Brown were to sit on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for a few years, she would be an attractive candidate for the Supreme Court. Democrats can't let a black Republican woman on the Supreme Court, so they are taking aim at her early and often.

Democrats are sending a message to African-American women with this filibuster:

You better not get all uppity on us, or we'll make your life hell.

And it is disgusting.

Shame on them.

Democrats keep reiterating their claim that they have approved vast majorities of President Bush's nominees, that Republicans, power-thirsty, want all of the judges confirmed (as if that were unreasonable, considering the Republicans' control of the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives).

Meanwhile, The Economist magazine (via Professor Bainbridge) explains just how bad it has gotten:
circuitcourtnominees.gif

Also, for an empirical look at the unprecedented nature of these filibusters, Sheldon Goldman of UMASS (via PoliBlog) offers this analysis:

indexofobstructionanddelay.gif

In layman's terms, this just means that Democrats today are incredibly obstructionist, even relative to periods of divided government. Republicans need to learn how to act like the majority party, but more importantly, Democrats need to learn how to act like the minority party they are.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 May 2005 11:09 AM · Comments (7)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 54 -- Liberal Academia.

THE LEFT-WING MONOCULTURE IN ACADEMIA-

Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Penn, and Duke employees overwhelmingly gave to John Kerry's 2004 campaign:

topfiveschoolstokerry.gif

But they weren't alone:

universitieslovedkerry.gif

Source:

Daniel J. Flynn, Leadership Institute (via Powerline 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; Part 23, Part 24, Part 25; Part 26; Part 27, Part 28; Part 29; Part 30, Part 31; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49; Part 50; Part 51; Part 52; Part 53.

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

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 May 2005 11:07 AM · Comments (2)

REMINDER: Submit Carnival Of Revolutions Nominations.

WILLisms.com is hosting the Carnival of Revolutions on Monday morning. Submit your faves dealing with democratic theory, revolutions, elections, repression by tyrants, and other pro-freedom movements from around the world.

Send 'em over by Sunday evening.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 May 2005 11:05 AM · Comments (0)

Is Wi-Fi Public Infrastructure?

An interesting read from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business:

At issue are the following questions: Are broadband services better handled by the public or private sector? Can a wireless broadband network, commonly known as Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity), be used to help more low-income people gain online access, bridging what is commonly known as the digital divide? Will projects become caught up in politics? Should Internet access be viewed as city infrastructure, like telephone poles or city streets?

Meanwhile, as Foreign Policy notes, the proportion of Americans using the internet has exploded in recent years:

internetusers.gif

If Wi-Fi is considered infrastructure, like sewage systems or roads or power lines, what is the most effective way to get the U.S. to as close to 100% as possible? The United States has seen explosive productivity growth in recent years, mostly due to our general technological advantage over the rest of the world. Wi-Fi is definitely the (very near) future of productivity growth. Citizens being able to connect to the internet, anywhere, at any time, is going to be crucial for continued American economic dominance.

Thus, it should be a priority to spread this technology. Should cities be in the business of Wi-Fi? Will the market leave certain smaller, or poorer, towns behind? Does the government overregulate this area already?

The Wharton piece takes a nice look at these ideas. Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves:

Is bridging the digital divide worth letting the same folks who are in charge of fixing potholes and issuing driver's licenses, also provide us with Wi-Fi?

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 May 2005 11:03 AM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 53 -- Kyoto.

THE MEANINGLESSNESS OF KYOTO-

kyototreaty.gif

Consider the following projections for 2010 by member countries, as reported to Brussels, in relation to their now-operative Kyoto "Article 4" commitment of 8 percent below 1990: Portugal, over its promise by 77 percent, Spain by 61 percent, Greece by 51 percent, Ireland by 41 percent, Luxembourg by 31 percent, Finland by 27 percent, Denmark 26 percent, Italy by anywhere from 13 to 23 percent (following Italy's submission, the numbers discussed suddenly got worse), France by 19 percent, Austria by 18 percent, Belgium by 16 percent and the Netherlands by 10 percent....

The EU claims the mantle of "leadership" on Kyoto while finding no apparent shame in the fact that the "rogue" United States, using the same baseline, would be tied with Ireland only for fourth-worst in Europe, at 41 percent over. Canada projects violation by 54 percent.

These facts should roil a debate dominated by scolding the United States for being so grossly out of step with the rest of the world, acting alone — with 155 others — by refusing to make an unrealistic promise.


Source:

The Washington Times (via Marginal Revolution 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; Part 23, Part 24, Part 25; Part 26; Part 27, Part 28; Part 29; Part 30, Part 31; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49; Part 50; Part 51; Part 52.

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

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 May 2005 10:54 AM · Comments (0)

Polling The Judge Issue.

A new Associated Press poll on judges (.pdf):

judgesconservative.gif

judgestooliberal.gif

therightjudges.gif

Meanwhile, America's most accurate pollster in 2004, Scott Rasmussen, has these numbers:

rasmussenjudges.gif

Meanwhile, the press reports it as such:

Poll: Senate Should Examine Federal Judges

By WILL LESTER
The Associated Press
Friday, May 20, 2005; 4:01 PM

WASHINGTON -- More than three-quarters of Americans say the Senate should aggressively examine federal judicial nominees and not just approve them because they are the president's choices....

Typical. They report on a meaningless part of the poll. Of course the Senate should examine the nominees. But 40 Senators should not be able to disingenuously obstruct that process.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 May 2005 03:16 PM · Comments (1)

Canada's Conservatives Fail To Capitalize On Liberal Scandal.

canadaflag.gif

Checking in on the Canadian government scandal:

The Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Paul Martin narrowly survived on Thursday after the speaker of the House of Commons broke a tie vote, averting an early election sought by the opposition Conservatives....

The vote followed a month-long political drama that has taken on soap-opera dimensions with tales of scandal, a broken heart, secret tape recordings and allegations of political betrayal.

A week ago Martin appeared on the verge of losing his minority-party grip on power, with Liberals shaken by testimony of kickbacks and payoffs in a government-run public relations program. On Tuesday, his position improved when Stronach abruptly abandoned the Conservatives after a late-night dinner with the prime minister.

belindastronach.gif

Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader, criticized as brazen payoffs the cabinet post given to Stronach and the parade of new spending promises made by Martin in recent days.

"The Liberals bought a Pyrrhic victory, one that will sow the seeds of its own destruction," Harper told his party after the vote. "In setting out to win at all costs," he said, the Liberal Party had engineered "an unfortunate result for the country for the moment."

stephenharper.gif

Captain's Quarters blog has more on the ineffectuality of Canada's Conservative Party.

canadianparliament.gif

Canada's Liberals have reason to smile. They certainly got the best of the Conservatives, for now, at least.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 May 2005 11:38 AM · Comments (0)

Saddam Hussein In His Underwear.

saddamhussein.jpg

The Sun.

THE noose beckons for the world’s most notorious prisoner as he whiles away his last days in an Iraqi jail.

Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad, is today a broken man.

But hanging will be seen by victims and their relatives as too good for him after his sadistic 30-year reign of terror.

As The Sun newspaper's graphic pictures show, his years of corrupt and absolute power are over.

Let the feigned controversy begin!

UPDATE:
Wizbang notes:

Somewhere Michael Isikoff is breathing a sigh of relief...

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 May 2005 10:04 AM · Comments (27)

Quotational Therapy: Part 12 -- Barry Goldwater, On The Conservative Conscience.

THE CONSCIENCE OF A CONSERVATIVE-

Barry Goldwater:

barrygoldwater.gif
Click image for larger version.

...for the American Conservative, there is no difficulty in identifying the day's overriding political challenge: it is to preserve and extend freedom. As he surveys the various attitudes and institutions and laws that currently prevail in America, many questions will occur to him, but the Conservative's first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom?

Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative, 1960.

Previous Quotational Therapy Sessions:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 May 2005 09:36 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 52 -- Terminator.

THE TERMINATOR-

The only film character to appear on the American Film Institute's (AFI) Top 50 Heroes list, AND Top 50 Villains list:

The Terminator (48th greatest hero; 22nd greatest villain).

Villain:
terminator.gif

Hero:
t2.gif


Related Reading:

Schwarzenegger:

While still holding strong support among state Republicans, Schwarzenegger -- who has held office some 18 months -- is no longer viewed at home, or even abroad, as a mere Hollywood curiosity but as a politician with real performance problems.


...which is unfortunate, considering the significance of the reforms he wants to pass.

There is a theory of executive approval, which says that a politician will essentially start out with a particular level of approval, but over the course of his or her tenure, certain interest groups will inevitably become irreconcilably set against the executive, peeling off support that rarely ever comes back. Because Schwarzenegger chose to take on so many special interests at once, they all turned their guns on him simultaneously, making his job as the coalition-building reform governor exceedingly difficult.


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49; Part 50; Part 51.

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

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 May 2005 09:32 AM · Comments (1)

NBC's Agenda On Judicial Nominees.

Rule of thumb: Public opinion polls in off election years, especially ones dealing with complicated issues, are generally not very purposive.

Polls can, however, be used by unscrupulous (or, less likely, lazy) news organizations to drive the debate on specific issues in the direction they prefer. The recent spate of atrociously bad question wording, for example, harms the public debate by creating a false consensus based on question wording effects. It is likely difficult to imagine if you are reading this blog, but most Americans don't really care about, or even follow, politics, especially when there's no election happening. Thus, more often in odd years than in even ones, people offer completely uninformed responses in public opinion surveys.

There is a good example of how the disengaged public reacts to detailed issues in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey (.pdf) (via Daly Thoughts).

Asked about "Democrats in the Senate preventing President Bush's judicial nominations from coming up for a vote," respondents:

Generally Support Action: 30%

Generally Oppose Action: 38%

Feel Neutral About This Action: 21%

Do Not Care About This Action: 7%

Not Sure: 4%

Meanwhile, when asked about, "Congress considering putting an
end to the Senate's filibuster procedure, which requires sixty senators rather than fifty-one to end debate and hold a confirmation vote for judicial nominees
," respondents:

Generally Support Action: 31%

Generally Oppose Action: 32%

Feel Neutral About This Action: 19%

Do Not Care About This Action: 13%

Not Sure: 5%

Clearly, regular people don't really care about this issue. That the responses are somewhat mixed indicates that people have not put a lot of thought into the issue. But the media have to create a narrative on the issue, and the "people mostly don't care" meme is not engaging television.

The Media Research Center, meanwhile, took note of NBC's agenda-driven selective use of a different, largely irrelevant, poll question, from the same survey:

Williams led the May 18 NBC Nightly News: "Good evening. For days here we've been talking about the threat of the U.S. Senate going nuclear, as they call it, ending the use of the filibuster to block votes on judges used by both sides for years. To try and head that off, last night and all day today, a few senators have been doing what they do best: They've locked themselves in a meeting where they've been trying to hammer out a deal, something they think the American people would prefer. Well, tonight, some new numbers are out and a brand new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, they show that by a margin of 56 to 34, Americans want the Senate to weigh in on the President's judicial nominees rather than giving them blanket approval. But can the Senate keep from going nuclear? We'll begin there tonight with NBC's Chip Reid on Capitol Hill for us..."

As Williams spoke, viewers saw a graphic with a vague description of the poll question: "Confirming Judges? President's Nominee: 34% Senate Decides: 56%"

confirmjudges.gif

This poll question truly proves nothing. The way the question is worded (.pdf) renders it irrelevant to the discussion:

When there are vacancies in the federal court system, should the Senate generally confirm the President's judicial nominees as long as they are honest and competent, or should the Senate make its own decision about the fitness of each nominee to serve?

Should generally confirm president’s nominees: 34
Should make its own decision: 56
Depends(VOL): 5
Not Sure: 5

Of course the Senate should make its own decision, but not the minority party of the Senate, which was recently dealt an electoral setback (at least in part) on this very issue. A simple majority of the Senate should make the decision for the Senate. And the proposed rule change (a.k.a., the "nuclear option," which is such a terrible misnomer) is a matter for the Senate, using its own internal procedures, to determine on its own. There is nothing nuclear about having an up-or-down majority-rules vote to confirm the President's nominees.

Meanwhile, all those millions of Americans watching NBC Nightly News are bombarded with partial information which creates the distinct impression that there is a consensus against the President, which, in turn, has the potential to create a bandwagon effect for those truly on the fence or disengaged.

This is just another example of how members of the media use ostensibly "scientific" and "objective" polls to drive their ideological and partisan agendas.

UPDATE:

More ridiculous bias.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 May 2005 05:14 PM · Comments (7)

On Ronnie Earle Raising Money For Democrats.

Ronnie Earle is at it again. The partisan Democrat District Attorney from Travis County (Austin), Texas, has, because of a quirk in the Texas law, the peculiar jurisdiction over statewide political issues, and he has persistently abused that authority over the past decade.

Earle became ignominious in Texas when he launched the politically motivated investigation of three of Tom DeLay's associates working for Texans For a Republican Majority (TRMPAC). This investigation has not produced any credible or compelling evidence of corruption, but it is widely cited by the left as evidence that DeLay is dirty.

In the ongoing controversy over whether he is an objective voice for justice or merely an arm of the DeLay-hating mob, Earle has "hammered" the final nail in that coffin.

ronnieearle.gif

According to The Houston Chronicle, Earle has now crossed the line into raising money for far-left interest groups:

A newly formed Democratic political action committee, Texas Values in Action Coalition, hosted the May 12 event in Dallas to raise campaign money to take control of the state Legislature from the GOP, organizers said.

Earle, an elected Democrat, helped generate $102,000 for the organization.

In his remarks, Earle likened DeLay to a bully and spoke about political corruption and the investigation involving DeLay, the House majority leader from Sugar Land, according to a transcript supplied by Earle....

"It may help Tom DeLay establish his case that Ronnie Earle's investigation is a partisan witch hunt," said Richard Murray, a political scientist with the University of Houston.

"It clearly fuels the perception that his investigation is politically motivated. It was probably not a wise move," said Larry Noble, a former Federal Election Commission lawyer who heads the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics.

Earle has a history of vicious partisan hackery:

EARLE'S LAST FORAY INTO politicized prosecution in 1993 turned into a huge embarrassment when he went after Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who was then Texas Treasurer. Earle made a series of trumped-up charges, including that the demure Hutchison had physically assaulted an employee. Earle dropped the case during the trial.

kaybaileyhutchison.gif

Defenders of Earle like to point to the red herring that Earle has prosecuted Democrats, as well as Republicans, over the years. What they don't mention is that those Democrats were clearly guilty of serious violations (the cases were open and shut), and those prosecutions happened decades ago, when Texas was essentially a one-party state (controlled almost entirely by Democrats).

The real issue here is a failure on the part of Democrats to cope with the loss of political power they held in Texas (and elsewhere) for so many generations. Because Democrats have been so ineffective at the ballot box, and because DeLay is, in part, responsible for that failure, he must be destroyed.

Ronnie Earle, by invoking DeLay's name in the raising of money for far-left Democrat interest groups, has shown his true colors; he is indeed a partisan prosecutor out to get DeLay, and those who claim otherwise are deluding themselves.

UPDATE:

The American people are largely ignoring the Democrats' incessant attacks on DeLay, according to a recent survey (via blogHouston).


UPDATE 2:

Activate The "Auto-Discredit" Function.


UPDATE 3:

"Dollars for Dismissals"?

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 May 2005 02:55 PM · Comments (6)

Reform Thursday: Week Sixteen.

reformthursdayblue.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.


Today's graph deals with The Graying of America. The United States population is getting older. Everyone knows that. Miracles in science and medicine are enabling people to live longer, fuller lives. In the meantime, birth rates, once producing a population resembling a pyramid, with ever-increasing numbers of people at the base, have shifted, meaning there are simply less younger people to support the retirees.

Here is a graphical example of the projected ratio of older Americans to younger Americans:

oldagedependencyratio.gif
Click for larger version.

This proves many reform points, primarily that action is necessary now. Policy-wise, each passing year Social Security is not reformed, it adds a significant burden to the system (the Social Security Administration Actuaries estimate that figure to be 600 billion per year). But politically, as the population becomes older, gaining traction for reasonable reform will become nearly impossible:

A favorite question of critics of reforming Social Security is: Why act now, when there is no problem let alone crisis? The first baby boomers will begin to retire in three years. The fraction of voters receiving benefits will increase 50 percent in 20 years, and double in 50, relative to the fraction of voters paying taxes, making reform ever more difficult. And, once delayed, reform is ever more likely to lead to vastly higher taxes without slower benefit growth.

With reform now, by the time the demographics really bite in two or three decades, the solvency problem will be solved and families and the economy will have time to adjust gradually without severe disruption. If we wait and make changes abruptly, with gigantic tax increases or benefit cuts or some combination all at once, wrenching adjustments would be required for beneficiaries, taxpayers, and the economy. Thus, reform really is urgent. Enacting these sensible reforms now would strengthen the economy, spare future retirees and taxpayers disruption in their personal finances, and ensure Social Security plays an important and appropriate role in future retirement income security.


And, just a bonus reminder, Social Security starts paying out more than it takes in in 2017. That's just 3 Olympics, just 3 Presidential elections, just 2 Senate terms, from now (click for larger version):

socialsecurity2017.gif


Source:

Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (.pdf).


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.
-Week Thirteen.
-Week Fourteen.
-Week Fifteen.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 May 2005 10:56 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 51 -- Islamic Politics.

THE INTERSECTION BETWEEN ISLAM AND POLITICS-

Click on images for original .pdf:

muslimcountriesmap.gif

muslimcountries.gif

ANNUAL REPORT OF THE UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, 2005 (.pdf).


Some related reading:

"The Autumn Of The Autocrats," by Fouad Ajami, in Foreign Affairs:

The entrenched systems of control in the Arab world are beginning to give way. It is a terrible storm, but the perfect antidote to a foul sky. The old Arab edifice of power, it is true, has had a way of surviving many storms. It has outwitted and outlived many predictions of its imminent demise.

But suddenly it seems like the autumn of the dictators. Something different has been injected into this fight. The United States -- a great foreign power that once upheld the Arab autocrats, fearing what mass politics would bring -- now braves the storm. It has signaled its willingness to gamble on the young, the new, and the unknown. Autocracy was once deemed tolerable, but terrorists, nurtured in the shadow of such rule, attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. Now the Arabs, grasping for a new world, and the Americans, who have helped usher in this unprecedented moment, together ride this storm wave of freedom.

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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49; Part 50.

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

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 May 2005 08:47 AM · Comments (1)

REMINDER: Carnival Of Revolutions.

Just wanted to remind everyone that WILLisms.com is hosting the Carnival of Revolutions this Monday, so send in your best posts dealing with the advance of freedom around the world to WILLisms@gmail.com.

Blogtacular!

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 May 2005 11:00 PM · Comments (2)

One B+ In All Of College (The Case For Priscilla Owen).

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Watching Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison speak on Priscilla Owen earlier, she noted that Owen had a less than perfect academic record.

Owen earned a single B+ in all of college and law school, graduating at the top of her class at Baylor University.

Owen also received the highest (superlative) score on the Texas Bar exam after law school. In her latest election (we have elected judges in Texas), earning the endorsements of every major newspaper in the state, Owen received 84% of the vote.

Justice Owen was rated unanimously by the American Bar Association (ABA) as "Well Qualified" (.pdf), its highest rating possible.

Harry Reid and other Democrats, meanwhile, continue to make the discredited claim that Alberto Gonzalez called Priscilla Owen a judicial activist, even though Gonzalez, as President's Bush's White House Counsel, played a key role in recommending Owen's nomination.

Other Democrats, knowing next to nothing about Owen, but fed propaganda by left-wing interest groups, try to paint Owen as extremist. This is just so incredibly mind-boggling, given Owen's support from prominent Texas Democrats who know her and her work. The only extreme thing about Priscilla Owen is her extreme awesomeness.

In the past two elections, one of the key issues has been obstructionism and judges. Each time, Republicans made gains in the Senate. Do Democrats not even pay attention to election results?

Owen has the support of a majority of Senators. She's brilliant. She is profoundly qualified. It's time to give her an up or down vote.

UPDATE:

National Review sums it up rather succinctly:

The liberal minority in the Senate is trying to keep the courts in the business of imposing the left-wing agenda that the public won’t vote for on its own.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 May 2005 01:04 PM · Comments (4)

Darth W. Bush, Neocon?

As a lifelong Star Wars fan (who isn't, right?), the past two episodes have each been thoroughly disappointing, mostly because of Jar Jar Binks and the weird, distant, emotionless CGI. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (ROTS) had the potential to really be awesomely amazing, if not for the not-so-subtle attempts on the part of George Lucas to draw parallels between arch-villain Darth Vader and President George W. Bush.

But, instead of gnashing teeth over it, it might be best to just embrace it. Aesthetically, it doesn't get any more awesome than Darth Vader. The earliest image I can recall from a movie theater:

Darth Vader.

George Lucas is bound and determined to ruin his trilogical masterpiece with the tripe of the past several years (including the oh-so wrong CGI additions to the originals). Let him. That's his prerogative. In the meantime, we can still have fun with the memory of the original awesomeness.

Patrick Ruffini is therefore having a photoshop contest.

Here's a cursory, quickly-dashed-out contribution to the event---

Darth W. Bush:

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I'll try to produce a couple more if the creative spirit moves me.

Patrick Ruffini's hilarious contribution to his own contest:

darthwbush.gif

UPDATE:

In light of the comparison between President George W. Bush and Darth Vader, we celebrate the absurdity of it all by looking at some of the heroes on the other side with more entries to the Photoshop contest.


WI-JEF, the young Jedi:

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DEAN SKYWALKER:

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UPDATE 2:

In light of this post at The Corner, QUEEN ANDREWDALA:

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UPDATE 3 (forgive me, please):

TEDDY THE HUT:

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Posted by Will Franklin · 18 May 2005 10:20 AM · Comments (10)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 6.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

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The actual caption:

Sitting on a pakr bench : An employee of the Christies austion house carries portion of a painting by local artist Wesley Walters titled 'Nude on Park Bench' in Melbourne. (AFP/William West)

There must be a better caption out there for this photograph (especially given the misspelling of the word "park").


Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, May 24. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

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Last week's winners (an all-fiber week):

1.

Zsa Zsa:

Poltics is killing me!


2.

Buckley F. Williams:

Christopher Driver, a candidate for the 'Rock n' Roll Loony Party' lost in a landslide to incumbent Prime Minister Tony Blair in the recent British election.

However, his rasberry-hashish preserves did win him a yellow & blue ribbon at the Downing Street "Post Election Jamboree".


3.

Hoodlumman:

Upon announcing his nomination for Senator, Rep. Skeletor (Undead - NJ) recieved a swift endorsement from Howard Dean.


Caption away!

UPDATE:

Go check out the Wizbang Caption Contest. It's Dartholicious.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 May 2005 07:19 AM · Comments (7)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 50 -- Top Internet Search Terms.

TOP 30 (NON-OFFENSIVE) INTERNET SEARCH KEYWORDS-

1 games

2 google

3 paris hilton

4 Jennifer Garner

5 poetry

6 Kenny Chesney

7 ebay

8 Mommytags.com

9 yahoo

10 girls

11 Prom Hair Pics

12 American Idol

13 maps

14 50 cent

15 Funny Jokes

16 mapquest

17 CSI Classes

18 Mars Lander Pics

19 playstation 2 cheats

20 yahoo.com

21 cars

22 hotmail

23 50 Cent Tickets

24 kenny chesney

25 Pac Man

26 dogs

27 Paris Hilton

28 Sony Plasma TV

29 dictionary

30 akon

Never even heard of a couple of these.


Source:

Wordtracker.

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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48; Part 49.

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

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 May 2005 07:07 AM · Comments (1)

Closing In On France's May 29 E.U. Referendum.

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After a few weeks of see-sawing in the polls on the subject of whether or not to approve the European Union Constitution, the "non" vote in France stands at 61% with less than two weeks remaining before the election.

Other polls also indicated a swing back toward the "no" position:

Less than two weeks before France's May 29 referendum on the treaty, the polls by the TNS-Sofres, Ipsos and CSA agencies for Le Monde, Le Figaro and Le Parisien newspapers showed support for the no camp, trailing since the end of April, had bounced back to between 51% and 53%.

Expect an aggressive campaign over the next two weeks to keep this issue close:

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin urged voters to approve the EU constitution, saying it would help protect France's economy against competition from the United States and China.

The prime minister, back on the campaign trail 10 days after emergency gallbladder surgery, said Europe was watching to see how France would vote in a May 29 referendum and warned there was no 'plan B' should voters reject the treaty.

Meanwhile, widespread public support for the "no" position in the Netherlands confirms the rampant continental Euroskepticism, the political trend of the moment:

FEARS over immigration and Turkey’s prospective membership of the European Union have combined with a growing Euroscepticism to propel the “no” camp into a convincing lead in the campaign for the Dutch referendum on the European constitution.

Successive polls have shown that the “no” vote is in the lead, but a survey of 16,000 people for Dutch television released yesterday suggested that the gap has widened sharply, with opponents of the constitution outnumbering supporters by almost three to one. It showed that the “no” vote rose from 53 per cent in April to 60 per cent, while the “yes” vote fell from 24 per cent to 21 per cent. The Netherlands was a founding member of the EU.

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Rejection of the European Union Constitution by both the French and Dutch, within three days of one another, could deliver a severe setback for European political integration. European economic integration, on the other hand, is another story entirely.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 May 2005 10:05 PM · Comments (1)

Majority of Nevadans Disapprove Of Reid's Filibustering Of Judges.

Americans take pride in their homegrown heroes, particularly those who rise to the highest positions of political power. There are benefits to having a party leader from your state. Your state's political and policy concerns gain immediate clout (and often, pork), and, if you are a smaller state, having a nationally-recognized politician representing you can be a badge of honor. Typically this type of support cuts strongly across party lines.

Nevadans are no different. Harry Reid, thus, is more popular in Nevada than he otherwise might be, due to his status as Senate Minority Leader. Part of Reid's popularity in Republican-leaning (but independent-minded) Nevada has been his ability to position himself as one who speaks his mind and votes his conscience.

But that might be changing.

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The Las Vegas Review-Journal released results of a Mason-Dixon poll today indicated Harry Reid's popularity in his home state has eroded noticeably since his election (in which he received 61% of the vote) last November.

Now, only 55% of Nevadans give Reid a rating of "excellent" or "good."

Specifically, Nevadans are troubled by Reid's obstructionism:

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Only 42% of Nevadans approve of the way Harry Reid is handling the judicial filibuster issue. It seems Senator Reid's "independent" facade is disintegrating, as he becomes the face of, and brains behind, the ugly, grinding, and intensely-partisan political bickering in Washington today.

Will Reid listen to his constituents, or will he eschew more than 200 years of Senate tradition to appease the MoveOn.org wing of the Democratic Party?

UPDATE:

Reid is also out of touch with Nevadans on Social Security reform:

50% of Nevadans support Bush's Social Security plan.
42% oppose it.
8% are undecided.

Among Nevada's independents, that support is even higher:

Fifty-two percent of independents supported the Bush plan and 40 percent opposed it, with 8 percent undecided.

This part of the survey, incidentally, went entirely unreported in the Review-Journal's coverage.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 May 2005 01:05 PM · Comments (2)

The Galloway/Coleman Oil-For-Food Showdown.

Today, George Galloway gave his testimony before Norm Coleman's Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations.

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Galloway's primary purpose was showing off for his far left-wing constituents back home. He clearly wanted people to view this as a neoconservative witch hunt in the same vein as the Army-McCarthy hearings, but it did not come off that way at all.

These hearings, meanwhile, could be and should be Norm Coleman's national coming out party, if the media would just cover the hearings.

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Each of the television networks incessantly interrupted and injected their own commentary, highly irritating, or breaking away entirely. This was compelling television, and none of the C-SPAN networks even covered it.

Some background on Galloway:

"Sir, I salute your courage, your strength." So said fawning then-British Member of Parliament George Galloway to Saddam Hussein on one of his pre-war visits to Iraq to praise Saddam and pick up a check. All together, through a college friend of his Palestinian wife, Galloway, a former MP for a constituency in his native Glasgow, is thought to have persuaded Iraq's erstwhile president to siphon around £375,000 ($700,000) per year out of the oil for food program -- to keep him in custom designer suits, nice cars and a driver. He denies these charges.

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The only true disappointment of the recent British parliamentary election was the George Galloway's narrow victory over Oona King in East London. Of course, this makes Galloway an instant hero on the far left.

UPDATE:

Powerline blog points us to Mary Katherine Ham's live-blogging of the entire hearing.

Also, the democracy guy blog agrees that it was frustrating trying to watch the hearings on television.


UPDATE 2:

It is interesting that the American left is finally discovering the Oil-For-Food scandal, but only when it might somehow make Bush or the United States look bad. Afterall, a TEXAS oilman must be buddies with President Bush, right?

Wrong.

BayOil's David Chalmers, who has been indicted by the United States government (see the full indictment here, in .pdf format, from more than a month ago, before Senate Democrats conducted their own "investigation"), gave 1,000 dollars to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in June of 2000.

The alleged illegalities in the Chalmers indictment also date back to before President Bush took office, and went on until directly prior to the beginning of the war. The Senate's report details the connections further (.pdf). The David Chalmers corruption indictments ought to serve as proof that the U.S. is holding its own accountable to justice, which is far more than some countries can say (ahem, Russia, ahem, France).

It is unfortunate that some American liberals, who have almost unanimously ignored the entire Oil-For-Food scandal until today, now cheer for George Galloway just to score political points against Republicans. Read the comments on Kevin Drum's site, and you'll see exactly the kind of stereotypical "blame America first" comments that are keeping Democrats in the electoral minority.


UPDATE 3:

This post just mentioned on CNN's Inside Politics. A moderate thrill.

You can go watch the video over at Dem Bloggers, if you're interested. Nothing all that spectacular, honestly.


UPDATE 4:

The Scotsman (via Instapundit) wasn't buying what Galloway was selling:

GEORGE Galloway yesterday failed in his attempt to convince a sceptical US Senate investigative committee that he had not profited from oil dealings with Iraq under the UN’s controversial oil-for-food programme.

Despite a typically barnstorming performance full of bluster and rhetorical flourishes, the former Glasgow Kelvin MP was pinned down by persistent questioning over his business relationship with Fawaz Zureikat, the chairman of the Mariam Appeal - set up to assist a four-year-old Iraqi girl suffering from leukaemia.

And it was a Democrat senator, Carl Levin, rather than the Republican committee chairman, Norm Coleman, who gave him the hardest time as Mr Galloway sought to turn the tables on his inquisitors, leaving him no closer to clearing his name than when he took his seat in front of the sub-committee of the Senate’s homeland security and government affairs committee in Washington.

Time and again, Mr Levin questioned him, requesting wearily that he deliver a straight answer to a straight question. But Mr Galloway could, or would not.

Levin, as someone against the war and highly critical of the President, was able to "play McCarthy" for a little bit without coming off as hypocritical or overbearing. Coleman, it seemed, did everything he could to avoid a shouting match with Galloway; rather, the Minnesota Senator dissected Galloway with the serene surgical dexterity of a former prosecutor (a job he held at one point).

UPDATE 5:

Galloway says that the worst day of his entire life was the day the Soviet Union fell. His existence since that dreadful event has involved the pathetic search for an alternative fatherland. He has recently written that, "just as Stalin industrialised the Soviet Union, so on a different scale Saddam plotted Iraq's own Great Leap Forward."

-The Weekly Standard.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 May 2005 11:32 AM · Comments (17)

Some Call It A Bonfire/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 (now with 50% more classy!):


1.

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The SCOTUSblog picks apart the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision striking down two state laws prohibiting the shipment of out-of-state wine:

In soaring rhetoric, Kennedy said that preserving cross-country access to consumers was "essential to the foundations of the Union," citing the Federalist Papers, and the work of James Madison. The opinion said that it was a "central concern" of those who wrote the Constitution in the beginning to preserve economic access without individual state trade barriers. Indeed, this was "an immediate reason for calling the Constitutional Convention...In order to succeed, the new Union would have to avoid the tendencies toward economic Balkanization that had plagued relations among the Colonies and later among the States under the Articles of Confederation."

Meanwhile, Kip Esquire has two posts (here and here) with these thought-provoking comments:

...from a libertarian perspective it's "neat-o" that New Yorkers such as myself can now buy out-of-state wine directly over the Internet. But far more "neat-o" is the idea that the Constitution "means what it says and says what it means."

and

The Court has now granted itself the right to elevate implicit doctrine over explicit text under this new Jurisprudence of "Sorta Kinda."

I hope all these backflipping, high-fiving, cork-popping libertarians keep that in mind when the Supreme Court hands down its decision in the pending eminent domain case, Kelo v. New London. It might read something like this:

Individuals have a broad right to own property under the Fifth Amendment. This right, however, does not prevent States from seizing, or severely limiting the direct use of, property while simultaneously authorizing private-to-private takings as a "public use."

Because, under this supposedly "pro-libertarian" Internet wine ruling, "public use" could now easily mean, not "public use" at all, but "sorta kinda public use."

Who'll be popping corks then?

Professor Bainbridge explains the conflicting legal ideas at work in forming such coalitions:

You've got federal judicial power lined up against state legislative authority. You've got the original text of the constitution (albeit a principle extracted therefrom mainly by negative implication) versus an amendment tacked on validly but motivated by the worst sort of rent seeking. And so on.

2.

starwars.gif

Speaking of Professor Bainbridge, he deftly dissects the dialogue in the new Star Wars movie, in which Darth Vader tells Obi-Wan "If you're not with me, you're my enemy," to which Obi-Wan responds, "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes." For Bainbridge, this blatant shot at President Bush breaks with the original Star Wars trilogy:

The whole point was that both the Jedi and the Sith had fallen into a trap of believing absolutes, with Luke's task being to restore balance to the Force. The clear implication was that the Force had a yin-yang aspect, which both the Sith and Jedi had lost sight of. The core story arc thus was to be Luke's restoration of that balance despite opposition from both the remnants of the Jedi and the Emperor.

In choosing to put those words in Obi-Wan's mouth - "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes" - Lucas did more than just play to Hollywood left-liberalism. He betrayed his own creation. As Mr. T used to say, I pity the fool.

Chrenkoff (via PoliPundit), meanwhile, writes an open letter to George Lucas, noting:

You might be aware that all of us who saw the "Star Wars" trilogy throughout the communist world saw it as an entertaining, yet still nonetheless powerful commentary on the current world events. We simply couldn't escape the conclusion that the militaristic and freedom-crushing Empire with its legions of stormtroopers is a futuristic version of the Soviet Empire, which had conquered and enslaved hundreds of millions of people like myself....

But if in your mind, it's the United States that has slowly transformed itself into an evil Empire, and therefore, logically all those who stand up to it are our story's true heroes, than I have to say that the Dark Side is very strong indeed, and I have crossed over a long time ago. If America is the Empire, then please prepare a black helmet and uniform for me too.

3.

The indefatigable Patrick Ruffini has two in-depth posts on the Pew Research Center's recent political typology report.

Part 1.

Part 2.

For political junkies, these are both must-read blog-o-vision.

4.


Am I A Pundit Now? blog
has two posts with some great thoughts--

Hitler The Left Winger:

hitler.gif

The Left always points to Hitler as a 'warning' of what out of control conservatives will become....

American conservatism is pro-liberty, pro-rule of law, and laissez-faire. It is not, and can never possibly be, anything but the very antithesis of everything totalitarians such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao stood for.

Revisionists Kill The Past:

Revisionism is a type of cultural genocide that seeks to denigrate the colossal sacrifices of our elders, and seeks to villainize their very motives. It needs to be uprooted wherever it is found.


5.

socialsecuritycard.gif

Andrew Roth of Social Security Choice blog notes how the coalition of "450 economists, including 5 Nobel laureates, from across the country who have publicly endorsed personal accounts for Social Security" has gone unreported by the elite media, and asks:

Would it be newsworthy if 450 climatologists signed a joint petition saying that the ozone layer was being depleted? Or, to stay on point, would it be newsworthy if 450 economists jointly agreed that President Bush was WRONG to endorse personal accounts? Would the liberal media report it then? Of course they would. They would report the story even if 450 Hollywood actors agreed that personal accounts were wrong, and they aren’t even experts.

6.

Marginal Revolution blog takes a look at the strategies and goals of the Iraqi insurgents from a game theory point of view, noting 7 different possibilities.

A very interesting and succinct set of ideas.

7.

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Steven D. Levitt, author of the book Freakonomics, responds on his blog to the critics of his "abortion reduces crime rate" hypothesis.

8.

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By Dawn's Early Light blog examines Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent surprise visit to Iraq:

She takes Cold War American and Western foreign policy to task for promoting stability over a moral expansion of liberty for all, not just the former Communist regimes. She rightly claims we received neither stability nor greater security. America is at its best "when it is securing, and providing for" freedom throughout the world.

9.

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Synthstuff tracks down the original source for the above piece of art, which has been floating around the internet for some time now.

10.

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Both Outside The Beltway and Wizbang are happy to report that comedian Dave Chappelle is not crazy, is not on crack, but is, as the rumors placed him, in South Africa.

Yeee-ay-ah!

11.

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Darius, of File It Under blog, posts his letter to Ohio Republican Senator George Voinovich:

The United States NEEDS a representative like John Bolton representing it in the UN. We need to do what we can to shake up that organization to try to reform it. We need to send a message that we will NOT tolerate Kofi Annan's corrupt mismanagement, that we will NOT tolerate more scandals in the UN- like the UN Oil for Food Scandal and the UN Congo and East Timor Sex Scandals, and we need to send a message that the US does NOT approve of despotic nations like Syria, Iran and Sudan having membership on the UN Human Rights Commission.

If only more of Voinovich's constituents would have held his feet to the fire on this issue.

12.

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Gateway Pundit has been busily covering the wild events in Uzbekistan:

Hundreds Dead in Uzbekistan.
New Violence in Uzbekistan.
More Violence Rips Uzbekistan.
Let the French be French.

And, most recently,
Ghastly Slaughter Reported in Andijan
.

13.

The soapgun blog offers some brief but good thoughts on the reversal of the traditional correlations between political affiliation and idealism, with some nice quotes.

14.

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Joe Katzman believes Newsweek's latest erroneous reporting disaster is a symptom of a lack of intellectual diversity at the magazine:

...the monoculture of social backgrounds and political beliefs in many newsrooms impairs the media's ability to ask these kinds of questions. Because they rarely bump into colleagues who might question their views, it never even occurs to them to ask certain questions, at least in a serious way. It also hurts their coverage of issues like religion, and the military where they have little representation and so misreport the issues - or fail to ask the right questions that would lead to good investigative journalism.

15.

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John Hawkins reports that it didn't take long for the "Karl Rove is behind the Newsweek Koran-flushing article" conspiracy theories to pop up:

Of course, using that same logic, we could conclude that Ted Kennedy and Co. were responsible for Enron, that Harry Reid & Co. made Alan Keyes say all those dumb things in his Senate race against Barrack Obama last year, & that Hillary Clinton was behind the prostate cancer that kept Rudy Guiliani from running against her in 2000.

------------------------------------------------------------

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).


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
;

April 26, 2005;

May 3, 2005.

and

May 10, 2005.


WILLisms.com offers a classiness roundup as a weekly feature, every Tuesday, (now) with 15 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.

Classy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 May 2005 10:27 AM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 49 -- Spam.

SPAM-

spammers.gif

Jerks.

Source:

SPAMHAUS.


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47; Part 48.

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

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 May 2005 09:44 AM · Comments (2)

Bill Moyers Compares Self To Christ, Critics To Pharisees.

Journalist and fellow University of Texas alumnus Bill Moyers has been the subject of controversy in recent weeks, after The New York Times reported (via Cao's Blog) that the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting criticized PBS for being too liberal:

Without the knowledge of his board, the chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, contracted last year with an outside consultant to keep track of the guests’ political leanings on one program, “Now With Bill Moyers.”

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On Sunday, Moyers delivered a fiery keynote speech before the left-wing National Conference For Media Reform, in which, among other things, he compared himself to Jesus Christ, and Tomlinson to former President Nixon.

Moyers' major thesis is that the "mainstream media" are "right-wing," a claim he bases on the alleged conservative corporate influence. In response to those calling him out for being liberal, Moyers derides them as "radical right-wingers."

Each additional word out of Moyers' mouth only provided that much more evidence to the case that Moyers is on the far left fringe of the political spectrum. He called the Iraq a "calamitous occupation" and a "debacle," arguing that the media coverage has been systematically biased in the conservative direction.

billmoyers.gif

On the matter of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Moyers asserted:

"What some on its board are now doing today, led by its Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson, is too important, too disturbing, and, yes, even dangerous..."

For far left journalists like Bill Moyers, Tomlinson's assertion that PBS be accountable to the American electorate/taxpayer is "disturbing," his suggestion that PBS balance its liberal slant is "dangerous."

Moyers told the left-wing audience:

"First let me assure you that I take in stride attacks by the radical right-wingers who've not given up demonizing me, although I retired over six months ago. They've been after me for years now, and I suspect they will be stomping on my grave to make sure I don't come back from the dead."

Continuing, here's where Moyers' speech got interesting:

I should point out to them that one of our boys pulled it off some two-thousand years ago. [laughter, cheers, clapping]

After the Pharisees, the Sagisees, and Caesar's surrogates thought they'd shut him up for good. I won't be expecting that kind of miracle, but I should put my detractors on notice. They might just compel me out of the rocking chair and into the anchor chair.

[loud, prolonged cheer]

Who are they? I mean the people obsessed with control, using the government to threaten and intimidate. I mean the people who are hollowing out middle class security even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the working class to make sure Ahmed Chalabi winds up controlling Iraq's oil. I mean the people who turned faith-based initiatives into Karl Rove's slush fund, who encouraged the pious to look heavenward and pray so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets.

[loud cheer]

I mean people who squelch free speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy. That's who I mean. And if that's editorializing, so be it.

Moyers went on to argue that the current political climate resembles "George Orwell's 1984," quoting from the book at length.

Noting that he was an official official close to the President in the Johnson administration when the the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Moyers asserted that he knew the real purpose of public broadcasting.

What's so odd about Moyer's speech on Sunday truly delved into demagoguery, going after easy applause lines about the evils of corporations and speaking truth to power. His speech affirmed everything Ken Tomlinson ever could have possibly suspected.

What is so interesting is how Moyers has revived his position as left-wing hero in recent years, and over the past few weeks he has been elevated to martyr in the far left's unsuccessful (and thus increasingly bitter) ongoing fight against the Bush administration.

One irony of Moyers' speech is that it was delivered just as the ubiquitous Newsweek fiasco was breaking, a fiasco which essentially renders his arguments, nearly all of them, at best, moot. Lorie Byrd compares it to "Al Gore speaking on global warming on a record breaking cold day, or Al Gore endorsing Howard Dean and his stance on the war just prior to the capture of Saddam Hussein."

Here's a pretty decent rule of thumb:

If someone is complaining about the "right-wing media bias," he or she is likely someone so far removed from reality that you would be wise to politely direct the conversation away from politics.

What is so weird about the left's agitation over Ken Tomlinson is that he specifically does not want to censor any program on PBS in any way. He just wants to provide conservative voices, such as The Wall Street Journal's new The Journal Editorial Report a fair share of taxpayer-funded air time.

You can listen to the entire speech here, or watch the video here.

Gateway Pundit has more great coverage of the entire farce of an event.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 May 2005 06:35 AM · Comments (3)

Kuwait Grants Women Right To Vote.

Last week, the rights of Kuwaiti women were dealt a significant blow when the all-male parliament stalled a vote to allow women to vote and run for office in that country's upcoming elections.

Now, however, Kuwaiti women's suffrage is a reality, after the parliament voted 35-23 in favor of the extension of rights.

kuwaitirally.gif

This move was likely to happen sometime before 2007, and because it did not happen last week, women will not be able to vote in this year's election. Now, only one country in the region continues to deny women such basic political rights (via Captain's Quarters):

Women can now vote in all Middle Eastern nations where elections are held except Saudi Arabia. The Persian Gulf nations of Bahrain, Qatar and Oman all have held their first elections in recent years and have allowed women to cast ballots.

Kuwait's Islamists were none too happy about the move:

kuwaitiislamists.gif

Nonetheless, this is great news for the future of Kuwaiti democracy, as well as the march of freedom around the world. Last week, it was one step forward, two steps backward. Today, Kuwait has made up that lost ground and then some, but it still has much to go in its transition to full and fair democracy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 May 2005 11:41 PM · Comments (1)

Flashback: On Theocons.

OpinionJournal.com revives this piece from September 13, 1984 that very well could have been written today:

...many active liberals carried along their newly found moral certitude and quasi-religious fervor into nearly every major public-policy issue that has come along in the past 15 years. The result has been liberal fundamentalism....

Not surprisingly, this evangelical liberalism produced a response. Conservative groups--both secular and religious--were created, and they quite obviously make the political success of their adversaries more difficult. Liberals don't like that. So now, suddenly, we find all these politicians and columnists who are afraid someone might want to impose a particular point of view on them. "There is a long and unhappy history of intolerance which still flourishes at the extremist fringe of American politics," says Ted Kennedy, a fundamentalist liberal preacher from eastern Massachusetts. Indeed there is....

If some liberals are now afraid that certain Christian fundamentalists will reintroduce new forms of intolerance and excessive religious zeal into American political life, perhaps we should concede the possibility that they know what they're talking about. But they might also meditate on the current election and why there has been an apparent rightward shift in political sentiment in the U.S. It could be that a great many voters have taken a good look at the fundamentalists on the religious right and the fundamentalists on the political left and made up their own minds about which pose the greater threat to their own private and public values.

Different year, same refrain.

UPDATE:

The left-wing Center for American Progress sent this cartoon to the WILLisms.com inbox, right on cue:

billofrights.gif

How clever.

Not.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 May 2005 04:48 PM · Comments (2)

Left-Wing Media Bias On Social Security.

Today, the nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs released its analysis (.pdf) of the major network (ABC, CBS, NBC) media coverage during President Bush's recent 60 Day Push promoting Social Security reform:

83% of Social Security comments by nonpartisan sources (reporters, experts, ordinary citizens) were critical of President Bush's overhaul plan.

Broken down by network, ABC had the most biased coverage, at 92%, with CBS right behind at 89%, and NBC at 69%:

networkmedianegativity.gif
Click image for original .pdf press release.

In terms of the content of the coverage, it focused less on the fact that Social Security faces a crisis and more on "private accounts" and the "political implications" of Social Security:

typeofsocialsecuritycoverage.gif
Click image for original .pdf press release.

In terms of that 24% segment of coverage discussing the politics of Social Security, 98% of the comments asserted that the President was not succeeding in persuading Americans on the issue.

Yes, you read that correctly.

98%.

But, no, there's no liberal slant to the news.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 May 2005 02:18 PM · Comments (8)

What Left-Wing Media Bias?

The University of Connecticut Department of Public Policy released the results of a survey of both journalists and the general public.

Some of the more interesting findings:

Asked who they voted for in the past election, the journalists reported picking Kerry over Bush by 68% to 25%. In this sample of 300 journalists, from both newspapers and TV, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 3 to 1 -- but about half claim to be Independent. As in previous polls, a majority (53%) called their political orientation "moderate," versus 28% liberal and 10% conservative.

Of course most journalists believe (or don't necessarily believe, but claim) they are "moderate."

A completely rhetorical question:
If respondents had been pushed to choose between "lean liberal" or "lean conservative," which way would the 53% have broken?

To answer the rhetorical question a little more specifically:
Probably about 3-1 in the liberal direction (the ratio between liberal and conservative journalists).


One example of the media believing in themselves a little too much is in the divide between the public and journalists on this issue:

More than 7 in 10 journalists believe the media does a good or excellent job on accuracy -- but only 4 in 10 among the public feel that way.

In light of the ongoing Newsweek fiasco, the backlash against unnamed sources is probably much higher today:

... a solid 53% of the public thinks stories with unnamed sources should not be published at all.


Another interesting chasm between the general public and members of the media is found in blog readership:

... 8 in 10 journalists said they read blogs, while less than 1 in 10 others do so.


What left-wing media bias?

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 May 2005 12:38 PM · Comments (1)

Quotational Therapy: Part 11 -- Founding Fathers, On Private Property.

AMERICA'S FOUNDING FATHERS, ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PRIVATE PROPERTY, IN THEIR OWN WORDS-


"One of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one's house. A man's house is his castle."

-James Otis, On the Writs of Assistance, 1761.

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---------------------------------------

"He who is permitted by law to have no property of his own, can with difficulty conceive that property is founded in anything but force."

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Bancroft, January 26, 1788.

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---------------------------------------

"Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own."

-James Madison, Essay on Property, March 29, 1792.

jamesmadison.gif

---------------------------------------

"The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If 'Thou shalt not covet" and 'Thou shalt not steal' were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free."

-John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787.

johnadams.gif


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; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 May 2005 12:05 PM · Comments (1)

Howard Dean Strikes (Yet) Again.

Captain Yeeeeargh has done it again.

captainyeeargh.gif

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Party, said yesterday that the US House majority leader, Tom DeLay, "ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence," referring to allegations of unethical conduct against the Republican leader.

Howard Dean: The Gift That Keeps On Giving.

Meanwhile, Barney Frank, one of the very most left-wing members of the House of Representatives, had to deliver the dose of sanity:

"That's just wrong. I think Howard Dean was out of line talking about DeLay. The man has not been indicted. I don't like him, I disagree with some of what he does, but I don't think you, in a political speech, talk about a man as a criminal or his jail sentence."

It's a weird political situation when a party chairman is the one making the inflammatory comments, while the party's controversial rank-and-file left-winger has to busily perform cleanup duty [Michelle Malkin suggests an appropriate term for a Democrat who breaks ranks from Chairman Howard Dean: "maverick"]. Meanwhile, you have Harry Reid, who was chosen to be the counterbalance to Dean, allegedly so nice and mild-mannered and moderate, whose foot-in-mouth disease is at least as bad as Chairman Dean's.

Here's a little prediction:

If DeLay were to "serve his jail sentence," you'll have at least a dozen, if not more, House Democrats doing the same.

In other words, it's not going to happen. But if, in the remote chance that DeLay does go down, he's not going down alone. He would (hypothetically) take many high ranking Democrats down with him.

These ethics allegations are not a matter of "everyone does it, therefore it's okay." They aren't a matter of "business as usual." The innuendoes, thus far, at least, are just plain bogus, part of a calculated and well-monied effort to take down an effective conservative leader.

UPDATE:

Ankle Biting Pundits (via Beltway Buzz) notes that Howard Dean favored not "prejudging" Osama Bin Laden, but he won't give that same courtesy to Tom DeLay.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 May 2005 11:08 AM · Comments (1)

REMINDER: Carnival of Classiness.

Send over your nominations for Tuesday's Carnival of Classiness. For inspiration, see last week's episode.

Small blogs are especially welcome to send their most classy posts over.

WILLisms@gmail.com.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 May 2005 10:22 AM · Comments (1)

Fontifier.

Thinking about trying this out:

Fontifier.

You can get your handwriting turned into a font.

Neat.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 May 2005 10:08 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 48 -- Music Downloads.

MUSIC DOWNLOADS-

1.

People in the UK buy more music per head of population than in any other country, and it also has the highest ownership rates of iPods and MP3 players in the world.

2.

Bizarrely, only 4% of legal downloads are done by women.
96% of music downloading is done by men.


Source:

The Guardian.


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46; Part 47.

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

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 May 2005 10:00 AM · Comments (0)

The Carnival Of Revolutions Is Up.

Next week, WILLisms.com will be hosting the Carnival of Revolutions.

In the meantime, go check out Siberian Light's fantastic contribution to this worthy Carnival's revival.

The future revival schedule goes as such:

May 23: WILLisms.com
May 30: Registan.net
June 6: Publius Pundit

June 13: Gateway Pundit
June 20: Siberian Light
June 27: WILLisms.com
July 4: Registan.net
July 11: Publius Pundit

If you are a blogger interested in hosting the Carnival after July 11, send an email to WILLisms@gmail.com. Also, please submit your best posts dealing with the march of freedom around the world for next week's Carnival.

This Blog Carnival is really about more than simply "revolutions," in the most strict sense of the term. It is dedicated to telling the stories of those struggling for democracy around the world.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 May 2005 06:26 PM · Comments (2)

Gay Marriage.

Today, The Boston Globe released the results of a nationwide survey on gay marriage.

When asked the broad question, framed in human terms, the American people generally express higher levels of support for living and let live. Nonetheless, a majority of Americans still disapprove of allowing gays and lesbians to marry:

approvalofgaymarriage.gif

Broken down by age cohort, the results were somewhat intuitive:

Thirty-nine percent of respondents between 18 and 34 said they disapprove of gay marriage, compared with 46 percent of those between 35 and 49, 51 percent of those ages 50-64, and 64 percent of those older than 65.

Question wording played a significant role in the results. When people are asked whether gays should be allowed to marry, as in the Globe survey, support is noticeably higher than when people are asked (in the CNN/USA TODAY/GALLUP poll):

"Do you think marriages between homosexuals should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?"

In March, 28% responded that gay marriages should be valid, while a whopping 68% said they should not be valid, underscoring how subtle changes in survey questions can produce profoundly different results.

We're talking a 18 point swing away from the traditional position, and a 9 point swing toward the pro-gay marriage position, just on the basis of question wording.

More interesting than the poll numbers, however, was the Globe's coverage of the nation's reactions to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling on May 17, 2004, mandating same-sex marriage from the bench.

Before:

gaymarriagebefore.gif

After:

gaymarriageafter.gif

America may or may not one day begrudgingly accept (or perhaps, even, enthusiastically support) gay marriages, but what this backlash indicates more than anything is that the American people do not like legislative decisions being made in the courts. Indeed, following the recent federal court decision to rule Nebraska's gay marriage ban (which garnered over 70% of the vote) unconstitutional, Gerry Daly believes Nebraska's voters will take out their frustration on Senator Ben Nelson, a Democrat, in 2006.

Ultimately, most Americans are uneasy about amending the United States Constitution, especially on something perceived by many to be a denial, rather than extension, of rights. One year ago, it seemed that President Bush's support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as an institution between one man and one woman was only political strategery, that there was a snowball's chance in Houston of one actually making it all the way through, that it would signal to judges to back off on the issue or risk an over-correction in the other direction.

And for a while, the gay marriage issue went away, out of the political consciousness, which was the best thing that could happen to the gay rights movement.

Now, however, as judges continue to go out of their way to mandate gay marriage against the will of overwhelming majorities of regular Americans across the country, the chances of the nation approving an amendment banning gay marriage increase dramatically.

A few things could catalyze Americans to ban gay marriage nationally through an amendment to the Constitution. One, judges continue striking down popularly approved state-wide gay marriage prohibitions. There's a tipping point somewhere there, when enough states have had their popular will denied by out-of-state judges (likely, but not necessarily, appointed by William Jefferson Clinton), that people will revolt. Another potential cause for a truly "nuclear option" on the gay marriage issue is if the Supreme Court itself finds in favor of same-sex marriage. There will inevitably be a case involving a gay couple who will have gotten married in Massachusetts (or elsewhere), but is denied recognition of the marriage in Missouri or Montana. If the Supreme Court determines that a gay marriage in one state must be recognized in another, even if the citizens of that state explicitly do not want to recognize it, watch out for flying sparks.

In the Globe survey, the country is somewhat evenly divided:

gaymarriagerecognizedinotherstates.gif

However, if and when a traditional-marriage state is forced to recognize a gay marriage from another state, those numbers will move, and in a hurry. In measuring how American public opinion would affect an amendment banning gay marriage, you can essentially toss out the 12 most liberal states.

It takes 38 states to ratify an amendment, and if the issue is framed in terms of activist judges forcing a left-wing agenda on the American people, and, meanwhile, the gay marriage ban is framed in terms of protecting traditional marriage from the unelected liberal onslaught (rather than denying rights to a particular group), you better believe that the U.S. could be capable of passing a Constitutional amendment.

If the gay marriage amendment battle comes to a head, the action immediately moves to the individual states. You'll see aggressive and customized campaigns across the country on both sides of the issue, targeted to the local sentimentalities on the issue.

Ultimately, a Constitutional amendment defining marriage is unnecessary, but it depends on how gay marriage advocates play their cards. Judges should understand that support for traditional marriage comes from a far broader cross-section of society than merely the "right-wing" or "Christian conservatives" or "religious-right." Support for defining marriage as "one man plus one woman" cuts across partisan and ideological lines, and the American people are not bluffing on the issue.

The generational gap (and the passing of time) on the gay marriage issue is the best weapon of gay marriage advocates, but even generational turnover is not enough to guarantee same-sex marriage in America's future; the most ardent of gay rights activists should know that hasty advances in the courts today may lead to a permanent (and completely avoidable) Constitutional setback tommorow.

UPDATE:
Polipundit examines the issue further, looking into the margins of support for gay marriage bans in individual states:

57-43 = Oregon.

59-41 = Michigan.

61-38 = California.

62-38 = Ohio.

66-34 = Utah.

67-33 = Montana.

70-30 = Nebraska.

70-30 = Nevada.

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.

Staggering.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 May 2005 12:12 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 47 -- Europe's Economy.

The European Economy-

uncreativedestruction.gif

In 1965, government spending as a percentage of GDP averaged 28% in Western Europe, just slightly above the U.S. level of 25%. In 2002, U.S. taxes ate 26% of the economy, but in Europe spending had climbed to 42%, a 50% increase. Over the same period, unemployment in Western Europe has risen from less than 3% to 8% today, and to nearly 9% for the 12 countries in the euro zone.

Source:

Brian M. Carney, The Wall Street Journal.

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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45; Part 46.

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

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 May 2005 09:42 AM · Comments (0)

Ethiopian Elections: Maturation Of An Emerging Democracy.

Ethiopia has become one of America's closest allies in Africa in the War on Terror. Consequently, according to the rules of the Bush Doctrine, it has faced increasing pressures to democratize. Today, Ethiopians go to the polls, and the expectation of turnout is high (25 million people are registered to vote).

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The Washington Post reports that unlike in recent elections in Zimbabwe, there's reason to be optimistic about today's election in Ethiopia:

For the first time, international observers will monitor the balloting. Many Ethiopians consider the election to be a test of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's pledge to introduce greater democracy in the country of nearly 70 million. His sometimes authoritarian government has ruled the country since 1991. So far, the campaign has won qualified international approval. Opposition parties have had unprecedented access to the news media and have staged massive rallies in the capital, Addis Ababa.

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Meles views the election as "the maturation of the emerging democracy" in Ethiopia.

Indeed, one of the primary opposition parties, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, has had far greater rights to organize and demonstrate than other groups in the past, but it still believes the election situation could be better:

"It is far away from the free and fair elections the government promised," said Berhanu Nega, vice chairman of the main opposition group, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy. Nega said he believed the opposition had a real chance of winning control of Parliament, and the government was responding by reneging on its promise of a fair election.

Nega's comments might be an example of typical politics, or he might have a legitimate beef. International observers, however, including those from the United States, seem satisfied with the political environment. It might not be up to Washington State or Milwaukee, Wisconsin standards (that is sarcasm, for the ascerbically-challenged), but it looks like Ethiopia may pull off truly free and fair elections.

Scenes such as these might have been unthinkable in previous elections:

ethiopiankids.gif

Unfortunately, given his record of endorsing seemingly unfair and unfree elections, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is involved in the election monitoring:

Mr. Carter arrived in Ethiopia Thursday to lead a 50-member delegation from the Atlanta-based Carter Center to observe Sunday's national and regional elections.


jimmycarterethiopia.gif

One Ethiopian human rights group is fuming mad over the international community's endorsement of today's election:

Ethiopian Human Rights Council chairman, Andargatchew Tesfaye, angrily challenged the former president's views.

"He has been here how many hours? It is not just Mr. Carter, but others also. [They] arrive in the morning. They see officials in the afternoon and they claim that everything is okay. But it has not been okay. I wish they would leave it to us or go around and investigate the situation thoroughly," he said.

Mr. Andargatchew's group charges that the National Election Board, which is supposed to be independent and non-partisan, is blatantly pro-government and has acted only in the interest of securing a government victory at the polls.

New York-based Human Rights Watch also believes the election may be marred by the quashing of political dissent.

No election is perfect, but Ethiopia's election at least has a chance of producing a representative result. It is also a leap forward in Ethiopian political history, and, unlike in recent elections in some countries, it marks what seems like a good-faith effort to inject life into the arduous process of democratization in a country still discovering what democracy means.

ethiopianwomanvoting.gif

The BBC has a nice backgrounder on the Ethiopian vote, including this regional map:

ethiopianmap.gif

We'll be watching to see how Ethiopia's ruling party responds to this challenge/opportunity.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 May 2005 05:13 AM · Comments (4)

Taiwan Chooses Independence.

Taiwan's voters rejected heavy overtures from Beijing and demands from opposition parties for reunification:

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won an election on Saturday, securing a fresh mandate to pursue an independence-leaning policy toward rival China.

taiwanelection.gif

Less than a quarter of Taiwan's electorate went to the polls, despite a highly visible campaign in recent weeks. Meanwhile, the Nationalist Party, through spokesman Cheng Li-wen, delivered one of the more lame excuses in the history of politics (is that overstating it?):

"The voting results were not conclusive because of the low turnout. If you have 50, 60, 70 or 80 percent that's different. If it hadn't been raining so hard in the north, our result would have been better."

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Vice President Annette Lu of the DPP sarcastically derided China for its failure to effectively influence Taiwanese elections:

"I would like to thank the Chinese Communist Party, because each time there is pressure from China, the people show that democracy is what people embrace here in Taiwan."

China, in past weeks, has been in full campaign mode on behalf of the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) and the People's First Party, which both favor more rapid integration with mainland China than does the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP):

With his political adversaries seeking to build relationships with rival China, Chen had been under rising pressure to find ways to break the ice with Beijing, which refuses to deal with him or his government because of their independence stance.

China claims the democratic island of 23 million as its own and enacted an anti-secession law in March sanctioning war if Taiwan pushes for formal statehood.

As part of a strategy to divide and conquer Taiwan, China had sought to marginalise Chen by engaging the opposition KMT and People First Party (PFP), which both oppose Taiwan independence.

In meetings with KMT leader Lien Chan and PFP leader James Soong, Beijing offered Taiwan a slew of economic incentives, aiming to win the hearts of the island's 23 million people.

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The results are a clear rejection of the "one China under Beijing" policy the mainland wants, but the election also signals to President Chen that he must be cognizant that his governing coalition is not without vulnerabilities. For example, in the lead up to Saturday's election, many of Chen's core pro-independence supporters felt that he was going soft on them, maybe even selling them out.

Meanwhile, China will continue its two-pronged carrot-stick strategy, including the courting Taiwan with promises of economic incentives if they vote for pro-unification parties (the carrots), while frightening everyone else with live military exercises and bellicose anti-secession laws (the sticks).

The United States must also walk the fine line between protecting Taiwan from Chinese aggression and being viewed as meddling in Taiwanese politics, which could produce an electoral backlash.

Ultimately, though, American leaders should stand for the survival of a free and democratic Taiwan. China is no longer a "will be" economic power. China, 20 years after its market-oriented economic reforms, already boasts the second largest economy in the world. It is not a matter of if, but when, China's economy will overtake that of the United States. Concurrent with China's economic expansion is the growth of China's military might. This might could finally "right" what China believes are hundreds of years of "wrongs" at the hands of foreign powers; mainland China views Taiwan as a central cog in regaining its wounded pride.

The Chinese view history in terms of centuries and millenia, not, as most Americans do, in years and decades, and Beijing seems more than willing to make some short-term sacrifices to fix what it views as a temporary blight to its long-term territorial integrity.

As long as China remains a dictatorship, America mustn't let that happen. Incidentally, this is one of those issues where John Bolton, one of the Bush administration's most ardently pro-Taiwan voices, would be highly effective.

If he could get confirmed already.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 May 2005 05:55 PM · Comments (25)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 46 -- Tax Freedom Day.

TAX FREEDOM DAY, AROUND THE WORLD-

taxfreedomdayaroundtheworld.gif
Click image for full .pdf article.

Source:

Adapted from The Tax Foundation's Tax Watch, Spring 2005 (.pdf).

Click here for more on Tax Freedom Day.

In an increasingly global economy, our tax burden is one of many components in America's competition with other countries. Something to think about.

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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44; Part 45.

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

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 May 2005 10:17 AM · Comments (1)

The Character Assault On Henry Saad.

Harry Reid is quickly making a nasty habit of making unclassy (and sometimes malicious) remarks, unbecoming of a party leader. Rank-and-file Democrats ought to be ashamed of how low their party leadership has sunk.

reid.gif

Harry Reid's (weren't we told he would be moderate and mild-mannered) latest smear:

"Henry Saad would have been filibustered anyway. He's one of those nominees. All you need to do is have a member go upstairs and look at his confidential report from the FBI, and I think we would all agree there is a problem there."

He's referring, of course, to President Bush's November 8, 2001 nominee to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Henry Saad, of Michigan.

henrysaad.gif

The Washington Times explains:

Those highly confidential reports are filed on all judicial nominees, and severe sanctions apply to anyone who discloses their contents.

A little background on Saad:

Judge Saad, an Arab-American, was born in Detroit; his confirmation would make him the first Arab-American appointee to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Michigan. The American Bar Association rates him positively (.pdf), and the seat to which Judge Saad has been nominated has been deemed a judicial emergency (.pdf), meaning the vacancy is handicapping America's system of justice.

Henry Saad has gained bipartisan majorities in two state-wide elections in "blue state" Michigan, in 1996 and 2002.

Saad is good enough for the people of Michigan, but not good enough for Michigan's Senators. Their campaign against Saad has been head-shakingly poor.

National Review's Byron York examines the calculated slander campaign against Saad, explaining that the Democrats' objections to Saad originated from the petty obstructionism of Democrat Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin of Michigan:

Saad, along with three other Bush picks for the Sixth Circuit, has been blocked by Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, not because of any ideological objections but because Levin and Stabenow are angry that two Democratic nominees for the Sixth Circuit were not confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate during the Clinton years. Levin is said to be especially angry because one of those Clinton nominees, Helene White, is the wife of one of Levin's cousins.

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Essentially, Levin and Stabenow want the President to re-nominate Helen White and Kathleen McCree, the nominees denied confirmation under President Clinton. That's their excuse, at least.

The Democrats, our country's ever-diminishing minority party, feel they are merely engaging in some kind of morally acceptable tit-for-tat. This is justified revenge, they assert.

The gaping hole in that argument (which gets right to the heart of the filibuster controversy):

Previously, judicial nominees were blocked by the majority party. Today, even when nominees have the votes to pass, they are blocked by the minority party. This is such a self-evident, fundamental difference, it literally makes my head ache to have to explain it.

Stabenow, incidentally, faces reelection in 2006; in her campaign in 2000, she only received 49.47% of the vote.

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But the unethical smearing is not exclusively coming from Reid, or even Levin and Stabenow. Enter Pat Leahy.

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York explains that on June 3, 2004, Vermont Senator Pat Leahy also floated innuendo regarding Saad's FBI clearance:

Sen. Patrick Leahy, who was angry that then-chairman Orrin Hatch was pushing the Saad nomination through the committee, and who had access to FBI material on Saad in his role as ranking Democrat on the committee, made a public reference to Saad's background check, saying it contained allegations of a "very serious nature." Leahy did not elaborate.

It's enough to make a guy feel the urge to drop an F-bomb on him.

Ed Morrissey is justifiably fuming over Reid's character assassination:

Reid just conducted nothing short of a Joe McCarthy-style character assassination, a tradition that Senate Democrats had come close to recreating on judicial nominations over the past few months anyway. Talking vaguely about information in secret files showing that Saad has some unnamed unfitness for office differs in no way from waving around a sheet of paper and claiming to possess a list of Communist sympathizers in the Army. He has now publicly smeared Saad in a manner that absolutely allows no public defense. No matter what happens, people will always wonder if Saad is hiding something, especially with an Arabic-sounding surname.

Reid may or may not have broken the law by his statement; my guess is he didn't, because I believe him to have lied in his characterization. I believe Harry Reid cowardly chose a way in which to smear Henry Saad that would not allow anyone to defend him. Reid should not just be censured by the Senate as a whole, but stripped of his leadership post and his committee assignments. Let him serve the rest of his term as a member at large, gathering dust on the back benches of the Senate, where he can live with his cowardice and his despicable acts.

Just to elaborate on one point, it is clear what the Democrats' game is with Henry Saad. Imagine you know nothing about Henry Saad, but you, like most Americans, take a cursory glance at the news each day. You will hear there is a "problem" with the "FBI file" of an "Arab American."

That Harry Reid even knows what is in Henry Saad's FBI file, a report Saad himself has no access to, and is using whatever is in it (or not in it) to bolster his case against President Bush's judicial nominees, is absolutely disgusting. It is intellectually dishonest at best, racist (and illegal) demagoguery at worst.

So what is Reid's defense?

That the information in Saad's FBI clearance is well-known around town. Democrats cite articles such as this one, in which information in Saad's confidential file was discussed in the media back in June of 2004 (ironically, the article is hosted at "civilrights.org"):

Levin and Stabenow testified Thursday during the private meeting. They said before the meeting that they would discuss information from Saad's FBI background check that raised doubts about his ability to serve, but they wouldn't elaborate.

Senator Reid, that doesn't make your recent comment okay. It just bolsters the case that your party is slimy, increasingly desperate, increasingly bankrupt of ideas, and thus they must increasingly rely on ad hominem character assassination.

Kevin Aylward of Wizbang, also rightfully angry, also notes that Reid's defense ("Henry Saad's background is well-known") is bunk.

Senator Reid is clearly incapable of going more than a week without yet another major lapse in judgment, something rank-and-file Democrats might want to consider.

Does Harry Reid speak for Democrats? Or does Howard Dean? Either way, you have a vitriol-filled, left-wing obstructionist representing your party.

UPDATE:
The Justice Department isn't happy with Reid's comments (via Captain's Quarters):

The Justice Department is edging into the Senate controversy over judicial nominees, writing key lawmakers after Democratic Leader Harry Reid publicly referred to an FBI file on one of President Bush's controversial appointees.

"The letter expressed concern about recent remarks on the floor of the Senate which alluded to an FBI background investigation file provided by the Department of Justice to the Senate Judiciary Committee on a confidential basis in connection with a judicial nomination," a department official said Friday night.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 May 2005 04:38 PM · Comments (9)

Social Security Essay Contest.

Know any kids, grades 4 through 12?

Would they be willing to write 250-750 words on Social Security to win $250 dollars?

Americans For Prosperity is sponsoring an essay contest (actually two essay contests). One for kids in grades 4-8, another for grades 9-12.


The essay should address these themes:

• Why does Social Security matter to you and your family?

• What will happen if nothing is done to fix Social Security’s financial problems?

• What kind of Social Security system would you hope for in the future?

• What would you change about the current Social Security system?

• What is your view of the proper relationship between a citizen and the government? How does Social Security affect this?

Download the official entry form here (.pdf).

Cash prizes for each division:

First Prize: $250
Runner-Up: $100
Third Place: $50

Entries are due June 30, 2005.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 May 2005 02:28 PM · Comments (3)

Quotational Therapy: Part 10 -- George Washington, On Tyranny.

ON FREE MEN DEFEATING TYRANNY-

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George Washington, July 2, 1776 (just two days before the Declaration of Independence), exhorting his troops to greater levels of exertion:

The time is now at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, Freemen, or Slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their Houses, and Farms, are to be pillaged and destroyed, and they consigned to a state of Wretchedness from which no human effort will probably deliver them. The fate of unborn Millions will now depend, under God, on the Courage and Conduct of this army.... We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die: Our own Country's Honor, all call upon us for a vigorous and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions-- The eyes of all our Countrymen are now upon us, and we shall have their blessings, and praises, if happily we are instruments of saving them from the Tyranny mediated against them. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and shew the whole world, that a Freeman contending for Liberty on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.

Source:

Patriot Sage: George Washington and the American Political Tradition, by Gary L. Gregg II & Matthew Spalding.


Previous Quotational Therapy Sessions:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 May 2005 11:13 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 45 -- Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).

The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)-

Enacted by Congress in 1969 and implemented in 1970, the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) was intended to prevent the very wealthiest Americans with crafty accountants from skirting paying income taxes entirely. One problem, though. Inflation and across-the-board wage growth mean that increasing numbers of middle-class Americans are getting hit by the AMT.

According to financial services firm Fidelity, 19,000 households paid the AMT in 1970. 2.4 million did in 2003. 3.8 million will pay the AMT in 2005. Within 5 years, without changes to the AMT, more than 30 million taxpayers could face the AMT.

Who pays the alternative minimum tax?

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Click on image for original .pdf.

Source:

The Tax Foundation's Quarterly Report (Spring 2005) (.pdf).


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43; Part 44.

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

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 May 2005 09:49 AM · Comments (1)

Thoughts.

Officially finished with masters degree coursework as of today. Now, it's just a matter of writing a thesis (unless there's some awkward surprise).

Going to an Astros baseball game tonight. Expect blogging to pick up a little now that classes are finished. Unlike so many course assignments, the thesis is something interesting enough that it can likely be shared (in part and in parts, at least) on WILLisms.com.

In the meantime, consider this tip for bloggers who want an easy way to stay in shape:

For every post you make, do 15 push-ups. If you post rapid-fire snippets, cut that down to 5 per. It's amazing how effective just basic push-ups are.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 May 2005 05:14 PM · Comments (14)

Reform Thursday: Week Fifteen.

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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, we examine Progressive Indexing in Social Security-

First, why pegging Social Security benefit growth to wages is causing such a headache:

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Click image for full .pdf.

Wages far outpace inflation. If, in the future, benefits grow based on inflation, you get the green bars. If they grow based on wage growth, you get the red bars. The problem is: THE SYSTEM CANNOT HANDLE THAT KIND OF GROWTH. Beginning just a dozen years from today, as the Baby Boom generation begins retiring in full force, Social Security will begin paying out more than it takes in.

There is a structural deficit in Social Security that needs to be addressed at its root.

Price indexing, according to many estimates, would wipe out nearly the entire unfunded liability of Social Security. But some believe it might leave the poorest of Americans behind.

In comes progressive indexing, which is somewhere in the middle, between wage and price indexing. Progressive indexing slows the rate of benefit growth for the highest income earners, while preserving benefit growth pegged to wages for lower income earners:

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Click image for full .pdf.

According to Steve Goss, Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, this progressive indexing formula would wipe out around 3/4 of Social Security's long-term deficit (.pdf). The remaining solvency problem could be solved in a number of other ways.

But won't this short-change people? Isn't this still a cut in benefits?

Not at all. People will have the choice of contributing some of their payroll taxes to personal savings accounts, much like the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) profiled last week. Through these personal accounts, which individuals, not the government, own, people will have the opportunity to earn compound interest, more than making up for the shortfall.

The brilliance of personal accounts is that, on the individual level, a retiree will not notice a drop in benefits (in fact, he or she will almost certainly see larger benefits). In terms of getting a check in the mail (or a direct deposit), nothing changes.

But, meanwhile, from the government's perspective, the benefits paid out are reduced enormously.

It's a win-win. Gramps gets his check. The solvency crisis is averted. A major entitlement eats up less rather than more of the federal budget. More capital is put to use in the American free enterprise system. Everyone is happy.

Yay.

Source:

The Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress; Understanding Progressive Indexing (.pdf), April 27, 2005.


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.
-Week Thirteen.
-Week Fourteen.


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

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 May 2005 10:09 AM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 44 -- The American Dream.

THE AMERICAN DREAM AND THE EUROPEAN QUAGMIRE-

Some critics (on the right, and left) of President Bush's drive to change the Middle East argue that Arab, or Muslim, culture is incompatible with modernity. They argue that there is something inherent in the Arab worldview that makes liberty and free markets and democracy and pluralism in the Middle East an impossible fantasy.

It is easy to come to such a conclusion, given the recent track record of the Middle East:

In the last two decades, no region besides sub-Saharan Africa has seen income per person grow as slowly as in the Middle East. At the current rate, it will take the average Arab 140 years to double his or her income. Asians, Europeans, and North Americans are expected to double their incomes in the next 10 years. The total economic output—including oil—of all Arab countries is less than that of Spain, the Middle East’s unemployment rates are the highest in the developing world, and its literacy rates rank near the bottom.


Much of the most outspoken cynicism about Arabs comes from Europe, which faces an emerging democraphic crisis. Arabs in Europe, unlike in America, are failing to assimilate, and the European economy is leaving them behind. In America, by contrast, Arabs are flourishing:

Whereas 24 percent of Americans hold college degrees, 41 percent of Arab Americans are college graduates. The median income for an Arab family living in the United States is $52,300—4.6 percent higher than other American families—and more than half of all Arab Americans own their home. Forty-two percent of people of Arab descent in the United States work as managers or professionals, while the same is true for only 34 percent of the general U.S. population. For many, this success has come on quickly: Although about 50 percent of Arab Americans were born in the United States, nearly half of those born abroad did not arrive until the 1990s....

Meanwhile, in Europe (not to mention the Middle East itself), Arabs are languishing:

Muslims living in Europe—of which Arabs constitute a significant proportion—are poorer, less educated, and in worse health than the rest of the population. In the Netherlands, the unemployment rate for ethnic Moroccans is 22 percent, roughly four times the rate for the country as a whole. In Britain, the Muslim population has the highest unemployment rate of all religious groups. The failure of Arabs in Europe is particularly worrisome given that 10 of the states or entities along Europe’s eastern and southern borders are home to nearly 250 million Muslims—most of them Arabs—with a birthrate more than double that of Europeans.

What is the point of all this? It underscores three ideas.

First, American exceptionalism. The United States free enterprise system is truly the greatest engine of opportunity on the face of the earth.

Second, it shows that it is not zany or hairbrained to assume that the Middle East can flourish with the right institutions.

Third, it should serve as a warning to Americans about idly watching large groups of immigrants carry on as they did back home, without buying into the American dream.

Arabs in the United States have access to ample opportunities to prosper and can rely on powerful institutions to protect their civil, political, and economic rights to do so. Indeed, the census data show that Arab ancestry mixed with markets and meritocracy creates a potent fuel for success....

Cultural determinists may want to revise their theories of Arab backwardness. Arab leaders should be ashamed when they see their emigrants prospering in the United States while their own people are miserable. And Europe should wake up to the possibility that it may have less of an “Arab problem” than a “European problem.” Then again, maybe the cultural determinists have an explanation for why Europeans are so predisposed against Arab success.

Source:

Foreign Policy magazine.

UPDATE:

Marginal Revolution has more on Islam and prosperity.


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42; Part 43.

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

Have a trivia tidbit tip? Send it over to WILLisms@gmail.com with citation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 May 2005 09:59 AM · Comments (2)

American Tourism Losing Billions Because of Image?

One of the more common strains of media bias manifests itself in a little theory called "the narrative." The narrative holds theory that the media have a story they want to tell to the public, and the facts will not get in the way of them telling it.

One such media narrative we commonly see today is that America's image has taken a hit around the world because of our reckless unilateralism. This tarnished image (caused, of course, by President Bush) is hurting America in all sorts of ways.

Financial Times has an extraordinarily bizarre headline:

US tourism ‘losing billions because of image’

The facts just don't match up, even within the body of the story itself.

Take this, for example:

The number of international visitors last year rose 12 per cent, compared to 2003, to 46.1m, according to the US Commerce Department. They spent $93.7bn, or 17 per cent more than their counterparts the previous year.

So where is the evidence that U.S. tourism is hurting?

Try this:

US market share of foreign visitors is still down 38 per cent since 1992, according to the TIA. The number of global travellers has grown by 2 per cent to 770m since 2000, but US market share has not kept pace. “Our piece of the pie has shrunk by 5m visitors,” said Mr Dow.

So, America's market share of global tourism is down since the year President Clinton was first elected?

Look at the numbers, available at the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA)'s website.


internationaltravel.gif

So, let's review the facts:

1. The number of travelers to the U.S. was up 12% in 2004 compared to 2003.

2. The money spent by those travelers was up by even more in 2004 compared to 2003.

3. The travel industry forecasts international travel to the United States to grow next year by more than twice the global rate since 2000.

4. There was a clear decline of tourism immediately following 9/11 which happened to coincide with a brief global economic downturn. Tourism has since bounced back.

The real lesson should be that reasonable security measures regarding people entering the United States are the ounce of prevention that would save a pound of grief. Terrorism is a tourism killer. Screening international visitors is common sense.

While the claim that "[a]n October 26 deadline that requires some foreign passports to have biometric facial-recognition technology is unrealistic and must be extended" may or may not be valid, and while there may or may not be problems with "an initiative requiring photos and fingerprints of some visitors, which is scheduled to be in place at land borders and ports-of-entry by end the end of the year," this article is classic shoddy journalism.

The facts simply don't bear out the idea that America's "tarnished image" or "stringent security" procedures are hurting America's tourism industry.

Looking at the numbers, America's travel industry, to the extent that it has a foreign tourist problem, has had the problem for more than a decade. In the short-run, however, foreign tourists seem to be returning in strong numbers after the 9/11 catastrophe.

But, of course, the headline is what most people take note of, and the headline screams:

US tourism ‘losing billions because of image’

The narrative: the elite media are slaves to it.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 May 2005 09:18 PM · Comments (5)

Checking In On Egypt's Democratic Reforms.

How is the process of democratization going in Egypt?

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It's, shall we say, going:

Egypt's parliament overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment Tuesday allowing multicandidate presidential elections for the first time, but the opposition denounced the reform, saying it won't shake President Hosni Mubarak's grip on power.

But certainly not fast enough for many.

The New York Times reports:

"This is a political trick which makes a mockery of democracy," said Mostapha K. al-Sayyid, a political science professor at the American University of Cairo and a member of the fledgling opposition Kefaya movement, otherwise known as the Egyptian Movement for Change. "The amendment gives veto power to the ruling party to decide who will run in the elections."

The Economist magazine explains why the amendment fails to ensure a truly free and fair election in Egypt:

Banned political groups, such as the popular Muslim Brotherhood, cannot nominate candidates, while independents seeking to run must overcome near-impossible obstacles, including getting the backing of at least 65 members of the parliament’s lower house, where the largest opposition party has only 15 seats.

The Egyptian parliament's discussions on the matter became rather heated, as opposition groups decried the cumbersome hurdles for entry into the political process:

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Progress is progress, but Mubarak should not feel he can get away with ending reforms where they stand today. Egypt is today a hotbed of anti-American sentiment, largely stoked by the official state-run media, and it is not outside the realm of possibility that democracy in Egypt could lead to a government with significant hostilities toward the United States. Indeed, one opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, "seeks a state based on Islamic law, though not an Iranian-style theocracy." Mubarak thus can probably convince many Western diplomats that his snail's pace of reform is protecting their interests as much as his own. He is just buffering the West from the barbarism of extremist Islam, he will assert.

For decades, America's foreign policy establishment bought hook, line, and sinker, the argument from corrupt or autocratic regimes that they deserve American support. Afterall, if the people were allowed to choose their own government, these tyrants told U.S. policy makers, they would choose Islamic fundamentalists.

Meanwhile, these same regimes fanned the flames of popular resentment and even hatred against the United States, which only further perpetuated their entrenched positions of power. It was a marvelous trick, and it still works to intimidate many in the West from actively pressing for democracy in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.

When skeptics assert that democracy in Egypt is too dangerous, because Islamists might gain access to advanced weaponry for use against America, one only has to recall that Mohamed Atta, 9/11 hijacker and pilot, did just that already. In the long run, a free and democratic Middle East is the only change that can calm the vitriol gurgling there today.

Democracy, though is more than the newly elected majority dictating the rules of the game and calling it a day. Democracy is a process and a journey. It means respect for the rule of law and continued free and fair elections in the future. Thus, nobody should confuse America's support for democracy with support for groups that wish to gain elected office and impose religious autocracy.

A serious question remains:

Is the latest constitutional amendment in Egypt part of a good-faith (but gradual) path to democracy, or is it merely a way to get the American monkey off Mubarak's back? It might actually be a little of both.

UPDATE:

Publius Pundit has a must-read on the subject.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 May 2005 04:36 PM · Comments (3)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 5.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

skullotician.gif

The actual caption:

Christopher Driver, a candidate for the 'Rock n' Roll Loony Party' competed against Tony Blair during the 2001 general election. Captain Beany, a bright orange superhero hoping to be Britain's first elected baked bean.(AFP/File/Adrian Dennis)

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


Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, May 17. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:
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Last week's winners (an all-fiber week):

1.

John Kalven:

Alf's new all-cat high-fiber diet resulted in weight loss of 16 pounds in just three weeks.


2.

Rodney Dill:

Upon finishing his business, turning and seeing the cat, Edmund thought, "I've gotta get more fiber in my diet."


3.

Zsa Zsa:

Are feathers considered fiber?

UPDATE:
Wizbang, as usual, selects a better picture for its caption contest.

UPDATE 2:
OTB's Caption Jam is up, with an array of caption contests, including this one.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 May 2005 11:12 AM · Comments (15)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 43 -- Fictional Characters.

FICTIONAL BILLIONAIRES-

...the top-ten fictional characters grossed more than $25 billion in 2003.

fictionalbillionaires.gif


Source:

Forbes magazine.

One has to assume that the Star Wars characters will stage a strong comeback this year with the release of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Frodo of Lord of the Rings will probably fall off the map.

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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41; Part 42.

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 · 11 May 2005 08:23 AM · Comments (1)

Japanese Politics Is Pure Genius.

In the United States, we're familiar with sexy spokesmodels for all kinds of products. In Japan they've taken it to a whole new level.

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In Japan, campaign girls are not "boat show" models (no offense to those), they are considered legitimate modeling positions, and they are often parlayed into acting or other endeavors.

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For example, Actress Misaki Ito is just one example of a popular actress who is simultaneously a campaign girl for a Japanese company, All Nippon Airways:

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The latest Japanese political innovation involves using these same campaign girls to sell political ideas.

But these campaign girls are not promiting revolutionary movements or animal rights or the other traditional political spheres of influence.

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Lingerie maker Triumph International is employing these campaign girls to sell mundane political issues to the public (and more likely, to gain publicity), such as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's effort to privatizatize Japan's postal service.

Which side would you pick?

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Click to see the full post.

The impetus behind the idea is to make even the most boring of ideas sexy, the dullest of proposals worth paying attention to. This brilliant bit of gimmickery would probably not work in the United States, with our rich traditions of both puritanism and feminism.

If we were witnessing "privatization total surprise bras" in the West, it might be evidence of a major cultural shift, toward a post-feminist era. In Japan, not so much.

Riding Sun blog hopes this will start a trend of applying the Babe Theory for mundane political issues. President Bush is very chummy with Prime Minister Koizumi. Maybe they'll trade secrets.

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Can you imagine the Social Security Reform Babes? Or the Confirm Them Darlings? Or, what about the Progressive Indexing Prancers?

Someday.

Someday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 May 2005 10:45 PM · Comments (5)

DNC Chairman Dean Endorses Socialist For Senate.

Socialists everywhere can rejoice. The Democratic Party, at its very highest level, has dropped all pretense of respect for the American free enterprise system and is now supporting Marxist candidates.

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Howard Dean has endorsed Independent Vermont Representative (and self-proclaimed socialist) Bernie Sanders for the United States Senate:

WASHINGTON -- Breaking party lines, former Gov. Howard Dean said Monday he supports Rep. Bernard Sanders' bid for the U.S. Senate, saying the Independent makes a "strong candidate."

"A victory for Bernie Sanders is a win for Democrats," Dean said in a telephone interview Monday.

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Sanders, who has labeled America an "imperial power," now has the full backing of the national DNC establishment. How unfortunate for America that one of our two major parties is choosing to go down that road.

Dean's endorsement of Sanders is simply astounding in the context of the ongoing marginalization of the Democratic Party, but it's also fairly typical.

UPDATE: Sanders way up in the early polls. Ugh.

UPDATE 2:

Dean actually did endorse Sanders... before he unendorsed him:

Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Tuesday night he hopes Sanders can help persuade potential Progressive candidates to stay out of next year's races for the U.S. House and lieutenant governor.

"We all recognize that Bernie does not have the power to tell anybody who can and cannot run for office," said Dean. "But if we are going to work together, we should work together across the board."

Dean's comments came in a telephone interview in which the former governor made it clear he has not yet endorsed Sanders' bid for the U.S. Senate.

"Bernie is going to be an extremely strong candidate, but I think it is a little premature for me to endorse him right this minute," said Dean.

There have been conflicting reports about whether Democratic leaders have endorsed Sanders. Dean said those reports stem from the differing perspectives of Democrats in Washington and those in Vermont regarding Sanders.

"Here's the problem," said Dean. "From the national perspective, of which I am now a part of, Bernie is a very strong candidate who votes with Democrats. From a Vermont perspective, there are still some issues to work out to make sure the Vermont folks are comfortable with all this."

Howard Dean has that calculation precisely backward. Bernie Sanders will be just fine for Vermont. From the national perspective, though, the DNC's official endorsement of Sanders immediately becomes a top 5 GOP talking point in 2006 Senate races in North Dakota, Nebraska, Florida, et al.

What Dean rightly understood in his endorsement flip-flop is that the Democrats are on the ropes around the country. What he did by endorsing Sanders was to admit openly what regular folks all around the country already suspect: Democrats are closet socialists. In effect, Dean's initial endorsement was a way of intimidating actual Democrats from running for Senate in Vermont and splitting the vote. Anything to keep a Republican out of national office from Howard Dean's home state.

In doing so, he cheapened the Democrat franchise. Now, he has still mostly accomplished his goal of signalling to Democrats that they should not run for Senate in Vermont, but now he gets to be officially on record as not doing so. Very calculating.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 May 2005 12:12 PM · Comments (19)

Georgians Everywhere Love Bush.

Georgians everywhere love President Bush.

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Maybe even moreso in the country than in the state.

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And they love Bush in the state of Georgia.

In the country, Bush received an astonishingly and refreshingly warm welcome:

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It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Bush received the "rock star" treatment.

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Freedom Square buzzed with energy:

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You can read the entire speech Bush delivered by clicking here, but here are a few snippets:

When Georgians gathered here 16 years ago, this square had a different name. Under Lenin's steely gaze, thousands of Georgians prayed and sang, and demanded their independence. The Soviet army crushed that day of protest, but they could not crush the spirit of the Georgian people....

The path of freedom you have chosen is not easy, but you will not travel it alone. Americans respect your courageous choice for liberty. And as you build a free and democratic Georgia, the American people will stand with you....

We are living in historic times when freedom is advancing, from the Black Sea to the Caspian, and to the Persian Gulf and beyond. As you watch free people gathering in squares like this across the world, waving their nations' flags and demanding their God-given rights, you can take pride in this fact: They have been inspired by your example and they take hope in your success.

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Publius Pundit has some great thoughts on Bush's Georgia trip:

At first glance you may think you’re witnessing the Republican National Convention all over again. But if you saw President Bush speak just now, you would know that he was winning the hearts and ears of a crowd of jubilant Georgians. When recalling all of the October pre-election polls reflecting how much the world hates the United States and especially President Bush, it would seem odd to the outside observer that over 100,000 people would wait in the heat, for hours on end, before impatiently breaking through police barriers just to hear Bush speak. In reality, however, it isn’t so far-fetched. Due to American support for freedom and democracy in the region during and after the fall of the Soviet Union, countries from the Baltics to the South Caucasus hold the United States in the highest of regards.

Awesome.

Next overseas vacation: Eastern Europe. No doubt about that one.

UPDATE:

Gateway Pundit has more great stuff on Bush's visit to Georgia.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 May 2005 11:19 AM · Comments (5)

Some Call It A Bonfire/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.

Vodka Pundit rants about his moral exhaustion in debating the War On Terror, then, almost as an afterthought, drops the news that he and his wife are having a baby.

A truly must-read rant.


2.

Winds of Change blog notes the existence of a 200 dollar bottle of hot sauce that is 8,000 times hotter than Tabasco.

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3.

The neo-neocon blog has a nice look at exceptionalism, the meaning of life, good versus evil, Russian literature, and the 1960s. A great read.


4.

The SCOTUSblog has a great read on Supreme Court vacancies (and also responds to the rumors about two upcoming vacancies).


5.

Why Did This Happen blog (via PoliPundit) examines an awesome college graduation prank on commencement speaker Washington Governor Christine Gregoire.


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6.

The Skeptical Optimist offers a unique way of calculating GDP growth (the climbing limo method), complete with detailed charts and graphs galore, and argues the recent estimate of 3.1% is lowballing it.

Political Calculations follows up with a great interactive tool derived from The Skeptical Optimist's formula.


7.

Outside The Beltway, Wizbang blog and The Jawa Report examine which was worse, Naziism, or Communism.

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8.

Glamour magazine is misleading its readers about Social Security reform, so says Carrie Lukas.


9.

Peaktalk has a nice series of posts on Dutch demographics, Dutch liberalism, anti-Americanism, anti-Bushism, and a variety of other thoughts on Old Europe and the United States.


10.


Asymmetrical Information observes that it is thoroughly bizarre for the government to treat the Social Security trust fund like an asset (when it is so clearly a liability) and explains how weird Social Security's funding system would be in the real world.

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).


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
;

April 26, 2005;

and

May 3, 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.

Classy.

UPDATE:

Joining the traffic jam.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 May 2005 10:26 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 42 -- Gun Accidents.

PARENTING PARANOIA-

A child is roughly 100 times more likely to die in a swimming accident than in gunplay:

In a given year, there is one drowning of a child for every 11,000 residential pools in the United States. (In a country with 6 million pools, this means that roughly 550 children under the age of ten drown each year.) Meanwhile, there is 1 child killed by a gun for every 1 millionplus guns. (In a country with an estimated 200 million guns, this means that roughly 175 children under ten die each year from guns.) The likelihood of death by pool (1 in 11,000) versus death by gun (1 in 1 million-plus) isn't even close.

Source:

An online excerpt from chapter 5 of Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40; Part 41.

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 · 10 May 2005 09:10 AM · Comments (2)

Not Even Honorable Mention.

Blogs for Bush finally announced the winners of its stamp contest, all these weeks later.

The WILLisms.com entries didn't even get honorable mention. Congrats to the winners.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 May 2005 06:31 PM · Comments (5)

REMINDER: Send In Your Classy Nominations.

The Classiness Carnival/Bonfire is coming. Be sure to submit your classiest posts by tonight at 11:59 Central Standard Time.

Email WILLisms@gmail.com to nominate.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 May 2005 04:29 PM · Comments (1)

Carnival Of The Capitalists.

The Carnival of the Capitalists is up. It's bloggoliciously good.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 May 2005 04:24 PM · Comments (2)

The Kuwaiting Game: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

We've noted in the past how women in Kuwait are beginning to gain more political rights.

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Indeed, one of our caption contest subjects dealt with Kuwaiti women being granted the right to vote in upcoming municipal elections.

Those rights were dealt a blow recently:

In a major setback to Kuwaiti women in politics, Islamist and conservative tribal lawmakers created a constitutional crisis that will delay consideration of a draft election law long enough to keep women out of this year's race for municipal council seats.

Peter Berkowitz of The Weekly Standard believes Kuwaiti women have "Kuwaited Long Enough":

...why do Kuwaiti women still lack the right to vote in national elections, to run for national office, or to serve as judges? And why do so many Kuwaiti women, including the well-to-do and well-educated, seem not to mind terribly much?


Freedom House explains the situation in Kuwait:

Kuwait is one of only two countries in the Middle East and North Africa that do not permit universal suffrage, even though its constitution grants equal rights to men and women. The country's parliament is elected by popular vote, but only about 15 percent of the country's 950,000 citizens are eligible to cast ballots.


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This is a perfect example of the dramatic dance of democracy in the Middle East today. There's a long way to go, yet. Sometimes we'll witness a step forward, other times two steps back. In the end, there is a right side and a wrong side of history. It's unfortunate that some obstructionists in Kuwait, so clearly on the wrong side of history, are able to delay women such a basic right for any longer.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 May 2005 04:21 PM · Comments (4)

Quotational Therapy: Part 9 -- JFK, On Social Security.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy on Social Security (1961)-

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“The Social Security program plays an important part in providing for families, children, and older persons in times of stress. But it cannot remain static. Changes in our population, in our working habits, and in our standard of living require constant revision.”

Source:

Social Security Administration.

Related Reading:

John Fund on the politics of Social Security reform.

Previous Quotational Therapy Sessions:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 May 2005 10:38 AM · Comments (3)

The Carnival Of Revolutions Revival.

The Carnival of Revolutions is back. WILLisms.com and four other blogs (Publius Pundit, Gateway Pundit, Registan, and Siberian Light) are banding together to revive it and fully establish it.

Go check it out this week. It'll be a rotating weekly feature, each Monday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 May 2005 09:54 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 41 -- Upward Mobility.

ON CHILDREN BEING BETTER OFF THAN THEIR PARENTS-

The rate of productivity growth determines how much richer each generation will be than the one that preceded it. At 2 percent productivity growth, each generation will be almost twice as wealthy as its predecessor; with 1 percent growth, only about one third again as wealthy; and below that, not much richer at all.

Source:

Policy Brief from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (.pdf), written by Michael J. Boskin.


And just for reference, U.S. productivity grew at a rate of 2.6% in the first quarter of 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; Part 29; Part 30, Part 31; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39; Part 40.

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 · 9 May 2005 09:42 AM · Comments (1)

Some Random Thoughts.

Thanks for enduring the light blogging. It's almost over (and the usual awesomeness will return). In the meantime, endure some random thoughts:


Benjamin McKenzie.

Today, at breakfast, the hostess claimed that I looked "exactly like Ryan from The O.C." My wife is "lucky to be dating a celebrity," she said.

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That makes at least half a dozen times I've been told that. I am not going to argue with these people, but, honestly, the resemblance is negligible at best.

-------------------------------------------

Blog Nashville.

Everyone was there. Everyone's talking about it (and then some). Honestly, I am just glad it's over. But I hope all the bloggers who attended had a fun and worthwhile experience.

-------------------------------------------

Wendy's.

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Wendy's fast food restaurants are good value. Seriously. Two people can get very full on not-gross food for ~$10.00. Good stuff. And finger-free since 2005.

-------------------------------------------

NBA Playoffs.

Yao Ming, a.k.a. "Proletarian of the Year," Tracy McGrady, Jeff Van Gundy, and the rest of the Houston Rockets lost to the Dallas Mavericks by 40 points last night. FORTY points. Good grief. What is there to even say about something like that?

By the way, Yao Ming is tall (especially compared to Lisa Ling):

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-------------------------------------------

Social Security Reform.

David Brooks believes that President Bush has called the Democrats' bluff on Social Security, exposing them for what they are:

This is the difference between the party with a governing mentality and the party with the opposition mentality. The governing party leads. It takes the arrows. It casts about for productive ideas and slowly absorbs the other party's good ones. Bush has now absorbed progressive indexing of retirement benefits.

The opposition party opposes. It doesn't feel any responsibility to come up with positive alternatives. Its main psychological need is to be against its nemesis at all costs. If the governing party steals one of its ideas, it will oppose that idea.

In this way the opposition party is pushed further and further to the edge. It loses control of its identity - it's simply a negative reactive force to whatever the governing party happens to be doing at the moment. It finds itself in a cycle of opposition, negativity and irrelevance.

Yeah. That it took David Brooks to point this out as some kind of new insight or revelation is really a shame (no offense to David Brooks).

-------------------------------------------

Rock The Vote (is lame).

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Over at the Rock the Vote blog, there has not been a new post on Social Security since April 29. I wonder if that means they've given up? Maybe they've just run out of ideas?

If you've read the comments over there, they run a solid 30-1 in the pro reform direction.

-------------------------------------------

The Kentucky Derby...

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...is becoming trashier by the minute. Ugh. There's nothing inherently wrong with the nude human form, but come on, let's not turn the Kentucky Derby into Girls Gone Wild.

I used to want to go someday (and order a tall mint julep and wear a white suit and a big ole tophat), but if it's just another college party spot with skeevy, shirtless dudes ogling drunk girls, count me out. Those are a dime a dozen.

By the way, congrats to jockey Mike Smith and Giacomo.

Oh, and another by the way, it's great that she's "living strong," but I've noticed those yellow Lance Armstrong bracelets (I have one, and they are for a great cause) are worn increasingly by chain-smoking, binge-drinking image-conscious kids.

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-------------------------------------------

And, finally, some interesting thoughts on the brain:

One recent discovery to confront is that the human brain can readily change its structure -- a phenomenon scientists call neuroplasticity. A few years ago, brain scans of London cabbies showed that the detailed mental maps they had built up in the course of navigating their city's complicated streets were apparent in their brains. Not only was the posterior hippocampus -- one area of the brain where spatial representations are stored -- larger in the drivers; the increase in size was proportional to the number of years they had been on the job.

It may not come as a great surprise that interaction with the environment can alter our mental architecture. But there is also accumulating evidence that the brain can change autonomously, in response to its own internal signals. Last year, Tibetan Buddhist monks, with the encouragement of the Dalai Lama, submitted to functional magnetic resonance imaging as they practiced ''compassion meditation,'' which is aimed at achieving a mental state of pure loving kindness toward all beings. The brain scans showed only a slight effect in novice meditators. But for monks who had spent more than 10,000 hours in meditation, the differences in brain function were striking. Activity in the left prefrontal cortex, the locus of joy, overwhelmed activity in the right prefrontal cortex, the locus of anxiety.

Very cool stuff. We still know so little about the brain.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 May 2005 09:54 PM · Comments (11)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 40 -- Hillary Baby Name.

Mother's Day Edition:

HILLARY MAKES HER COMEBACK-

The Social Security administration keeps tabs on the most popular baby names. One name with an interesting trend is "Hillary," which fell off the map after President Clinton's election in 1992. In 2004, though, Hillary made a subtle comeback, cracking the top 1000 for the first time since 2001:

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Source:

Social Security Administration.


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38; Part 39.

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 · 8 May 2005 03:46 PM · Comments (9)

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day!

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From WILLisms.com.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 May 2005 10:51 AM · Comments (6)

The Cold End To The Cold War.

When the Cold War ended, the world dodged a major bullet. The Soviet Union was dismantled, and Communism was defeated without the often-predicted nuclear holocaust.

But the cold end to the Cold War also meant that, unlike the rehabilitations of Germany and Japan, Russia has been able to skirt the cathartic act of fully owning up to the horrors of Communism.

David Satter, writing in the The Wall Street Journal, asserts that, since the Soviet regime was not repudiated, the Russian government became the Soviet regime's legal successor:

The re-Sovietization of Russia is possible because when the Soviet Union fell, the new Russian state did not break irrevocably with its communist heritage. To do this, it needed to define the communist regime as criminal and the Soviet period as illegitimate; open the archives, including the list of informers; and find all mass burial grounds and execution sites. None of this was done and the consequences are being felt today.

There is still no legal evaluation of the Soviet regime: It has never been declared criminal and no official has ever been tried for crimes committed under communism. The result is that former communist leaders in Russia are viewed as leaders first and criminals second (if at all), no matter how heinous their actions. Russians, thus, frequently lack the conviction, intrinsic to free men, that an individual answers for his actions no matter what the external conditions.

Indeed, President Bush gave a stirring speech in Latvia this weekend on this very matter, which ruffled some Russian feathers. It's highly recommended reading. Here is a glimpse:

As we mark a victory of six days ago -- six decades ago, we are mindful of a paradox. For much of Germany, defeat led to freedom. For much of Eastern and Central Europe, victory brought the iron rule of another empire. V-E Day marked the end of fascism, but it did not end oppression. The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history.

The end of World War II raised unavoidable questions for my country: Had we fought and sacrificed only to achieve the permanent division of Europe into armed camps? Or did the cause of freedom and the rights of nations require more of us? Eventually, America and our strong allies made a decision: We would not be content with the liberation of half of Europe -- and we would not forget our friends behind an Iron Curtain. We defended the freedom of Greece and Turkey, and airlifted supplies to Berlin, and broadcast the message of liberty by radio. We spoke up for dissenters, and challenged an empire to tear down a hated wall. Eventually, communism began to collapse under external pressure, and under the weight of its own contradictions. And we set the vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace -- so dictators could no longer rise up and feed ancient grievances, and conflict would not be repeated again and again.

Fantastic stuff. For a young, idealistic optimist in America today, George W. Bush is the man.


UPDATE:

Mark Noonan has more great thoughts on how Bush "gets it."

Also, Belmont Club looks at the tragedy of Yalta.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 May 2005 11:16 PM · Comments (2)

Lebanon: The Return Of Aoun.

Meet Michel Aoun, the latest wave in the political tsunami currently smashing the Lebanese political status quo.

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He's Christian. He's fiercely anti-Syrian. And he's been in exile in France for more than a decade.

The international establishment media calls him a "divisive," and "hardliner." His return from exile has inspired jealousy in prominent Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt:

“The assassination of Hariri secured the Syrian withdrawal, not the man who is returning to us this afternoon like a tsunami,” Jumblatt told reporters earlier Saturday.

Nonetheless, Aoun's return marks an important development in the journey toward Lebanese liberty, and his supporters are thoroughly energized behind him.


More background on Aoun, from the BBC:

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And he's got some serious babes on his side:

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Aoun's closest allies even have their own fans:

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Beirut is full of energy and ready to move Lebanon into the future:

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Aoun:

"Today is a day of happiness and joy," he said at a news conference at Beirut airport. "Lebanon has been under a black cloud that enslaved it for 15 years. Today, there is a sun of freedom."

In an attempt to intimidate Aoun and his supporters, a "bomb killed one woman and wounded seven people in a Christian port town north of Beirut on Friday."

The Pulse of Freedom blog responds:

We know that it is not coincidental that a bomb blast occurred in Jounieh the night before Aoun’s return to Lebanon. Perhaps they believe that all the victories the true Lebanese voices of freedom have achieved over the past couple of months could be overshadowed by new provocations.

Been there, done that.

We reiterate: beyond the politics and the disputes over the electoral law, there is a base of Lebanese who fundamentally want this country to develop, socially and economically. Stop using our land as a battleground for your petty disputes. We are sick of it…

Is Michel Aoun the figure Lebanon will rally behind in its drive for true freedom and independence from Syrian meddling? If the Babe Theory is good for anything, Aoun is a lock.

UPDATE:

Captain's Quarters has more:

Aoun may have lobbied the international community to get Syria out of Lebanon, but the Cedar Revolution erupted from those within Lebanon, not so much from those without. This dynamic will not be lost on the Lebanese electorate, who may discount that point somewhat with Aoun (who was forced into exile), but will definitely be felt with those who fled Lebanon rather than stick around to work for its freedom. It's a problem we saw with the Iraqi National Congress after the liberation of Baghdad as well.

A unifying leader will emerge in Lebanon. Whether that leader is Aoun certainly remains to be seen.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 May 2005 03:25 PM · Comments (4)

Bush Can Do No Right At The New York Times.

The New York Times often seems happy to blame Bush for just about anything that goes wrong in the world. Their common complaint: Bush's narrow, stubborn focus on Iraq has allowed other problems around the world, in places such as North Korea or China or Iran or South America, to emerge. In short, the Times' editorial complaint is that the Bush administration is asleep at the wheel (it sounds eerily similar to a certain 2004 talking point from a certain Massachusetts Senator), allowing threats to flourish.

By Dawn's Early Light blog has a great post that asks "Does the NYT Editorial Board read the NYT?"

Very recommended reading. Bill Rice dismantles The New York Times' argument in surgical fashion, noting how the paper's gloomy narrative lacks internally consistent logic.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 May 2005 11:46 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 39 -- Congressional Junkets.

THE JUNKET CIRCUIT-

Members of Congress have received over $16 million ($16,168,014) during the last five years traveling around the world at the expense of private organizations.

This includes 605 Members of Congress who made 5,410 trips. Democrat Members took 3,025 trips, Republican Members took 2,375 trips, others took 10 trips.

Source:

Political Money Line.


UPDATE: Wizbang has more on this.

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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37; Part 38.

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 · 7 May 2005 11:12 AM · Comments (2)

Reid Calls Bush a Loser, Immediately Apologizes.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called President Bush a "loser," then promptly apologized.

What a loser.

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Harry Reid is a loser, both politically, as well as on ideas. His comments are oh-so typical of the leader of a party which had been spanked thoroughly the past couple of elections.

As the desperation sets in, the rhetoric will understandably become more and more lame.

UPDATE:

Betsy Newmark has some more thoughts on Reid's (didn't the media tell us last November, after Daschle lost, that this guy is a "moderate") outbursts (via PoliPundit).

The Anchoress blog asks:

Mr. Reid, and his pals…what exactly have they brought to the table in the last four years beyond sneers, jeers and the incessant “NO,” can anyone answer that? Anyone? Anyone? Can someone tell me Mr. Reid’s solution to the Social Security situation? To terrorism? To Immigration? To teenage angst? Anyone? Anyone?

What a deafening silence. What a freaking LOSER.

Spot on.

UPDATE 2:

The White House responds.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 May 2005 11:44 PM · Comments (2)

Quotational Therapy: Part 8 -- Democrats, On Judicial Nominations.

Name That Speaker-

"I cannot recall a judicial nomination being successfully filibustered. I do recall earlier this year when the Republican Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and I noted how improper it would be to filibuster a judicial nomination." -Pat Leahy

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"But I have had Senators come up to me and say, [Senator], here is the deal. We will let the following judges through in my state if you agree to get the President to say that I get to name three of them. Now folks, that is a change of a deal. That is changing precedent. That isn't how it works. The President nominates. We dispose one way or another of that nomination. And the historical practice has been—and while I was chairman we never once did that—that never once that I am aware of did we ever say, 'By the way, we are not letting Judge A through unless you give me Judges B and C.'"
-Paul Sarbanes

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"I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, this is not a legacy of which one should be proud. My colleagues need to move these nominations. If there are some nominees whom they do not like, vote them down or do not bring them forward, but let's get these numbers up this year into the fifties or sixties."
-Harry Reid

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"I just submit to you this game ought to stop. We ought not to be playing with the Federal courts in this way. If people have a legitimate objection to a particular nominee, they ought to voice that objection and vote against them and try to persuade their colleagues to vote against them. But this is crippling the courts." -Joe Biden

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"I have been calling for the Senate to work to ensure that all nominees are given fair treatment, including a fair vote for the many minority and women candidates who remain pending."
-Pat Leahy (again)

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Source:

NAME THAT SPEAKER, from Senator John Cornyn (R) of Texas
.

Previous Quotational Therapy Sessions:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 May 2005 10:41 AM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 38 -- Real Estate Nomenclature.

COMMON REAL-ESTATE AD TERMS-

An analysis of the language used in real-estate ads shows that certain words are powerfully correlated with the final sale price of a house:

Five Terms Correlated to a Higher Sales Price

* Granite
* State-of-the-Art
* Corian
* Maple
* Gourmet

Five Terms Correlated to a Lower Sales Price

* Fantastic
* Spacious
* !
* Charming
* Great Neighborhood

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.


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36; Part 37.

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 · 6 May 2005 09:31 AM · Comments (2)

Reform Thursday: Week Fourteen.

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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, we examine the five Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) funds all federal employees can choose from for their retirement. Social Security personal accounts would be modeled along similar lines.

One thing to note is how each fund, over the past decade, has delivered positive and significant returns, even through slumps in the market. In each of these models, we calculated what would have happened to $10,000 in each fund from 1995 to the end of 2004:

Fund C-

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And a look at the current incarnation of the Thrift Savings Plan's C Fund, since its inception (.pdf):

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Fund F-

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And a look at the current incarnation of the Thrift Savings Plan's F Fund, since its inception (.pdf):


fundf.gif

Fund G-


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And a look at the current incarnation of the Thrift Savings Plan's G Fund, since its inception (.pdf):


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Fund I-


ifund.gif

And a look at the current incarnation of the Thrift Savings Plan's I Fund, since its inception (.pdf):

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Fund S-

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And a look at the current incarnation of the Thrift Savings Plan's S Fund, since its inception (.pdf):

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This is why personal accounts are so attractive. They would provide real options, without burdening inexperienced investors with the responsibility of picking individual stocks. There would be a choice of extremely conservative and safe funds, or more aggressive funds with a better overall payoff over the longer term.

Social Security Reform is about younger workers using compound interest to get a better deal, which would smoothly and easily offset the President's proposed progressive indexing. All progressive indexing does is say to lower income workers that they will not see any change in the growth of their benefits; benefits will still be pegged to wage growth. In other words, nothing changes for lower income workers, except the possibility of earning more through personal accounts. Lower income workers still pay into the system, so the claim that President Bush wants to turn Social Security into "welfare program" is just not the case. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Under progressive indexing, what changes is that middle and upper income workers will see the growth of their benefits pegged to inflation rather than wages. To make up for (and then some) that gap in benefit increases, personal accounts will allow any worker who chooses to benefit from investing a portion of his or her payroll taxes into a personal savings account resembling those found in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

These funds, incidentally, have average fees of less than sixty cents per thousand dollars (less than 6 basis points). Social Security's Actuaries estimate personal accounts would have fees of about 30 basis points, or three dollars per thousand dollars, but, as Don Luskin points out, economies of scale might be able to keep those fees even lower.

It's a win-win, people.

Let's please get over this "benefit cuts for the middle class under the President's plan" business.

Awesome.

UPDATE:

Political Calculations has more on the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

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.
-Week Thirteen.


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

Posted by Will Franklin · 5 May 2005 05:03 PM · Comments (9)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 37 -- Turnout and Direct Mail.

DIRECT MAIL AND VOTER TURNOUT RATES-

In 1994, Karl Rove + Company initiated the Republican realignment of Texas through direct mail and a young George W. Bush, keeping tabs on the effectiveness of each piece of mail:

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- The more mail a household received, the more likely it was to turn out, ranging from a 15.45% for those receiving one piece of mail to 50.83% turnout for those receiving three.

- Turnout peaked at 57.88% for those receiving seven pieces of mail and declined to 52.67% for those receiving eight pieces.


Source:

Karl Rove + Company 1994.

Also found in The Atlantic Monthly.


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35; Part 36.

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 · 5 May 2005 10:25 AM · Comments (1)

Social Security Roundup.

Patrick Ruffini:
Public Opinion 101

Social Security Choice:
A Lefty Speaks Off the Record on Social Security

Beltway Buzz:
Thomas Promises Social Security Legislation By Next Month

The new-look Political Calculations:
Slashing Social Security Benefits

PoliPundit:
The Key Numbers On Social Security

UPDATE:

Blogs for Bush:
Doing Nothing Means Higher Taxes and Lower Benefits


Despite light blogging, Reform Thursday will appear as usual this week.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 May 2005 11:54 AM · Comments (4)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 4.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

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The actual caption:

A Burmese cat named 'Doogal' is seen in this combo picture as it sits on a toilet in Sydney on May 3, 2005. Doogal's owner, Jo Lapidge, invented a toilet training system for cats called the 'Litter-Kwitter.' Lapidge said she was inspired by the cat 'Mr Jinks' in the Hollywood film 'Meet the Fockers,' and invented the toilet training system after teaching 'Doogal' how to use the loo. (Reuters/Handout)

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


Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, May 10. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

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Last week's winners:

1.

Rodney Dill:

The new Sith Lord, Darth Couture, did not go over with Star Wars fans nearly as well as Lucas would've liked.

2.

Blogger Buckley F. Williams:

Soprano's star and E-Street Band member Stevie Van Zandt is seen exiting an LA courthouse with his good friend Antonio "Huggy Bear" Fargas. Earlier Van Zandt pleaded "no contest" to charges of aggravated overacting.


3.

Kristel Franklin (the wife):

Woman, I told you not to wash my pearl ivory suit with your red undies.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 May 2005 11:29 AM · Comments (12)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 36 -- Climate Change.

THE CLIMATE CHANGE MONOCULTURE-

According to an international survey of climate scientists:

...fewer than one in 10 climate scientists believed that climate change is principally caused by human activity.

How interesting. The impression one gets from leading scientific journals and certain news/political organizations is:

1. scientists are in agreement on this issue, and
2. you might be crazy, ignorant, or stupid if you believe humans have only a small or negligible effect on climate change.

Very interesting indeed.

Source:

The UK's Telegraph.

UPDATE:

Some engaging reading out of M.I.T. on Environmental Heresies.


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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34; Part 35.

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 · 4 May 2005 10:25 AM · Comments (2)

The Orange Revolution's Unsung Hero: Sign Language Interpreter.

Amazing story, centering around television sign language interpreter Natalia Dmytruk, of Ukraine:

On Nov. 25, she walked into her studio for the 11 a.m. broadcast. "I was sure I would tell people the truth that day," she said. "I just felt this was the moment to do it."

Under her long silk sleeve, she had tied an orange ribbon to her wrist, the color of the opposition and a powerful symbol in what would become known as the Orange Revolution. She knew that when she raised her arm, the ribbon would show.

The newscaster was reading the officially scripted text about the results of the election, and Dmytruk was signing along. But then, "I was not listening anymore," she said.

In her own daring protest, she signed: "I am addressing everybody who is deaf in the Ukraine. Our president is Victor Yushchenko. Do not trust the results of the central election committee. They are all lies. . . . And I am very ashamed to translate such lies to you. Maybe you will see me again -- " she concluded, hinting at what fate might await her. She then continued signing the rest of officially scripted news.

"My legs became so heavy. I was terribly scared," she said.

Dmytruk's live silent signal helped spread the news, and more people began spilling into the streets to contest the vote. She returned to work to give the 3 p.m. news, but was not admonished by her superiors. When she finished, she went into the technicians' studio and told them what she had done. They hugged her all at once. "You are terrific, Natalia," she said they told her.

She showed up for work the next day, and still her manager did not utter a word about what she had done.

Slowly, she became confident that she had won. A rerun of the runoff was scheduled for December, and this time, Yushchenko was declared the winner.

Bravo to her and all those she will inspire in other countries struggling to overcome tyranny.

Joining the traffic jam.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 May 2005 12:49 AM · Comments (1)

Reminder Of Light Blogging.

Thanks for your patience, my loyal readers, for this lull in posts. WILLisms.com will be back in all its usual gloriousness after May 10.

It'll be bloggeriffic!

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 May 2005 09:18 PM · Comments (4)

Some Call It A Bonfire/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 (truncated version for this light-blogging week):


1.

Blogs for Bush notes that, based on intercepted correspondence, the terrorists in Iraq seem to have low morale.


2.

Marginal Revolution examines the six million dollar turtle, noting that engineered gadgets may be able to help certain animals overcome their failings. Very interesting stuff.


3.

Captain's Quarters blog looks at how those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Democrats, facing a certain boomerang effect, may live to regret their attacks on Tom DeLay.

4.

PoliPundit looks at the numbers on America's gay marriage backlash.

5.

Patterico's Pontifications examines the big media lie on judicial filibusters.


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 Advancing The Ball On Social Security, He Wishes He Had John Bolton's Reputation, Castro and Chavez: "The Axis Of Subversion."

Also, don't miss this week's Bonfire of the Vanities, at File It Under.


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
; and April 26, 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 · 3 May 2005 12:37 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 35 -- Sun Exposure.

BOYS WILL BE BOYS-

...older teen boys (aged 15 to 17) are the least careful when it comes to protecting their skin from sun exposure -- with only 32 percent of those surveyed reporting that they are very or somewhat careful... compared to 58 percent of girls of the same age....

Considerably fewer boys reported wearing protective clothing and seeking shade when outdoors for long periods of time compared to girls, and only 33 percent of boys said that they apply sunscreen when they are going to be out in the sun vs. 53 percent of girls....

When asked about how careful they are to protect their skin from the sun, 52 percent of the younger teens reported that they are very or somewhat careful vs. only 43 percent of older teens....

...5 percent of boys reporting that they used a tanning bed last year vs. 19 percent of girls. The majority of girls who used a tanning bed (39 percent) noted that the reason they did was to get a tan for a special occasion, such as a wedding or prom.

Source:


American Academy of Dermatology
.

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; Part 32; Part 33; Part 34.

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 · 3 May 2005 10:50 AM · Comments (2)

Star Wars Nerd Alert.

You can actually buy one of these:

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JL421 Badonkadonk Land Cruiser/Tank

Awesome.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 May 2005 10:01 PM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 34 -- Russia's Economy.

The Russian Bear-

They once ruled half the world, but, although Russia's economy has grown 6.5% per year since 1998, it is still only slightly larger than that of Los Angeles County:

By most indicators, Russia is now a Third World country, yet it is second only to the U.S. in its number of billionaires.

With the end of the Cold War, Russia lost half its industrial output. Each year, Russia's population declines by a stunning one million people. At this rate, by 2050 its population will have shrunk by a third. Male life expectancy is 58 and falling (it's 75 in the U.S.). One cause, according to a parliamentary report, is "stress generated by people's lack of confidence in their futures and those of their children." Another is alcoholism. The suicide rate between 1995 and 2000 was quadruple that of Europe. A sodden, depressed Russia can only be further eclipsed on the international stage.

However:

Russia possesses one-third of the world's natural gas, 7% of its oil, one-fifth of its precious metals, endless forest and farmland, ports on seven seas, the world's second-largest nuclear stockpile, and 140 million patient and educated citizens—all spread across eleven time zones. This means that no matter how stormy its progress, Russia will matter.


Source:

The Claremont Review of Books.

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; Part 32; Part 33.

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 · 2 May 2005 01:49 PM · Comments (2)

Quotational Therapy: Part 7 -- Liberty.

"Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth."
-George Washington, letter to James Madison, March 2, 1788.

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Source: The Founders' Almanac, by Matthew Spalding.

Previous Quotational Therapy Sessions:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 May 2005 01:28 PM · Comments (5)

Until After May 10: Light Blogging.

Swamped until May 10.

Very light blogging until then. After that, KA-POW!

Expect an explosion of way classy (and astonishingly in-depth) posts after May 10. No, really. It'll be awesome and not lame at all.

-Will

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 May 2005 08:48 PM · Comments (6)

The Middle East: Two Great Reads.

First, Stephen Hayes, on Paul Wolfowitz, in The Weekly Standard:

"How do you feel about building a new Middle East?"

Next, Fawad Gergez, on Middle Eastern democracy, in the Yale Global:

Most Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East are fed up with their ruling autocrats, who had promised heaven but delivered dust and tyranny. These sentiments clearly show that there is nothing unique or intrinsic about Arab and Islamic culture that inhibits democratic governance. Like their counterparts elsewhere, Arabs and Muslims have struggled to free themselves from the shackles of political authoritarianism without much success, thanks partly to the support given by the West, particularly the United States, to powerful dictators....

There is no denying that there is fresh thinking in Washington regarding the need to support the aspirations of democratic voices in the area, as well as to keep a healthy distance from Arab dictators. Only time will tell if this appreciation gets institutionalized within the decision-making process, or whether US policymakers will ultimately revert to the simple business-as-usual approach with Arab dictators.

UPDATE:

How about another for good measure:

L. Paul Bremer, on Iraq's increasing chances of long-term success, and overcoming the lingering challenges from the Saddam Hussein regime:

Despite the amazing progress in Iraq in two short years, some armchair experts carp that we should have moved even faster. Frankly, it's hard to understand what they are thinking. Newly liberated Iraq was a traumatized place. For almost four decades under Saddam, Iraqis lived in a country where the rule of law had been replaced by the rule of one man and his cruel whimsy. Whenever a provision of Iraq's old constitution got in his way, he simply ignored it. Saddam admired Hitler's and Stalin's ability to control their societies. He modeled his Baath party on theirs and required his officials to read "Mein Kampf." The party permeated every nook of Iraqi life, and, like the Nazis, even recruited children to spy on parents and neighbors. Expressing political views could be fatal.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 May 2005 02:39 PM · Comments (4)

Iraqi Sandstorm.

An email:

This is what a real sand storm looks like. The pictures were taken by a Brown and Root worker at Ba'Qubah at camp Warhorse.

The pictures were taken in Iraq on April 26, 2005 (click images for larger versions):

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sandstorm4.jpg

sandstorm5.jpg

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sandstorm7.jpg

sandstorm8.jpg

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Beautiful.

Similar to, but far more magnified than, the dust storms in West Texas.

NASA:

Winds that gusted up to 63 miles per hour (101 kilometers per hour) pushed a thick curtain of dust across Western Texas on February 19, 2004. The storm caused up to 30 car accidents on U.S. Highway 84 near Lubbock, the Associated Press reported, and forced the road to close for several hours.


satellitestorm.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 May 2005 12:54 PM · Comments (19)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 33 -- Internet Advertising.

Internet Advertising Revenue-


globalinternetadvertisingrevenue.gif

THIS year the combined advertising revenues of Google and Yahoo! will rival the combined prime-time ad revenues of America’s three big television networks, ABC, CBS and NBC....

Google recently announced a net profit of $369m in its first quarter from revenue that soared to $1.3 billion, up 93% compared with the same period a year earlier. Yahoo!’s first-quarter net profits more than doubled to $205m on revenue of $1.2 billion, up 55% from a year earlier....

...many big firms still allocate only 2-4% of their marketing budgets to the internet, although it represents about 15% of consumers’ media consumption—a share that is growing. Many young people already spend more time online than they do watching TV.

Source:
The Economist.

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; Part 32.

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 · 1 May 2005 10:16 AM · Comments (2)