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Willisms

« May 2005 | WILLisms.com | July 2005 »

Nerd Art: Scrollbars.

Scrollbars:

scrollbars.gif

It's nerdaliciously fun.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 June 2005 03:02 PM · Comments (11)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Twenty-Two.

reformthursdayblue.gif

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:

Millions of Lockboxes.

Last week, Senator DeMint, along with Senators Santorum, Graham, Crapo, Coburn, Sununu, Isakson, Enzi, Cornyn, Lott, Brownback, and Craig introduced the Stop the Raid on Social Security Act of 2005(.pdf).

The bill would take the surplus Social Security is projected to run each year until 2017, and sequester the funds away from the general fund of the United States Treasury, preventing Congress from spending them and running up an even more enormous "I-O-Me" tab than it already has. The funds would go toward millions of Social Security personal account lockboxes owned by individual Americans.

To eliminate the "risky scheme" critique, the personal accounts in the DeMint proposal would be comprised of United States Treasury bonds rather than stocks.

These accounts are not nearly as sexy as the personal accounts envisioned by President Bush and most Americans, but Treasury bonds aren't such a bad deal, either:

Over the very long run Jeremy Siegel’s work shows about a 5 percent annual return for Treasury bonds. Interestingly, since 1977 that return has climbed to nearly 9 percent yearly. Of course these are risk-free bonds backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.


10yeartreasury.gif

More importantly, these lockbox accounts will provide an opening for additional progress on Social Security reform. Once Americans experience the benefits of personal accounts, they will demand more. How could they not?

As Maestro Alan Greenspan put it, Congress needs to:

"...make the phantom 'lockboxes' around the trust fund real."

Making the trust fund real would have many benefits:

1. Unmasking the true size of the federal budget deficit, rather than obfuscating it through the diversion of Social Security funds, would force Congress to focus on fiscal discipline.

2. The assets, rather than vanishing into the federal bureaucracy, would earn compound interest. The accounts would grow at a far better pace than the fake trust fund (click image for .pdf):


stoppingtheraid.gif

Growing real assets. Protecting the surplus. Stopping the raid. Tackling out-of-control entitlement spending, which threatens to harm America's economy over the long-run. Advancing the ball on Social Security reform.

It's a win, win, win, win, win, situation.

And the House of Representatives is pledging a vote on Social Security. While reform is unlikely to overcome Senate filibuster, it is imperative, politically, for the Republicans to fight-- and fight hard-- to end the raid on the Social Security surplus.


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

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).
-Week Seventeen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Eighteen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Nineteen (Reform Needed Sooner Rather Than Later).
-Week Twenty (Global Success With Personal Accounts).
-Week Twenty-One (GROW Accounts: Stopping The Raid).

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 · 30 June 2005 01:22 PM · Comments (3)

Bulldozed On The Fourth Of July?

A monument in Germany...

"...which consists of over 1,000 crosses adorned with the names of those murdered attempting to escape Communist East Germany for freedom, will be bulldozed on the 4th of July!"

checkpointcharlie.gif

Originally, the demolition was scheduled for early July 4, German time. Now, it has been rescheduled for 4:01 AM on July 5, which will be...

"...10:01 PM in New York and 7:01 PM in LA, just about the time Americans will be setting off fireworks to celebrate the anniversary of their independence!"

The Germans can do whatever they want, but the initial choice of July 4, the most well-known independence day in the world, was no coincidence. It's really just tacky, in fact. However, let's examine this calmly.

1. The monument was erected in October of 2004.

2. It is not the actual Checkpoint Charlie site.

3. The property belongs to the bank, and they should have the right to lease-- or not lease-- its land, however it wishes.

So let's not overreact here.

Still, the choice of date is a symbolic and in-our-face gesture of tackiness on the part of those involved.

[Hat Tip on the story: Quid Nimis blog]

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 June 2005 11:24 AM · Comments (0)

Guest Blogging.

I will be guest blogging for the next two weeks at Wizbang blog, while Kevin Aylward vacations.

Fun times.

My first post is a companion post on Google Earth. Incidentally, in about two weeks, WILLisms.com will need a guest blogger or guest bloggers to pick up the slack for about 3 days or so.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 June 2005 09:45 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 93 -- Bird Flu.

AVIAN (BIRD) FLU-

avianflu.gif

In the late 1960s, China's...

...population was 790 million; today it is 1.3 billion. In 1968, the number of pigs in China was 5.2 million; today it is 508 million. The number of poultry in China in 1968 was 12.3 million; today it is 13 billion. Changes in other Asian countries are similar. Given these developments, as well as the exponential growth in foreign travel over the past 50 years, an influenza pandemic could be more devastating than ever before.

Source:

Foreign Affairs (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; Part 61; Part 62; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79; Part 80; Part 81; Part 82; Part 83; Part 84; Part 85; Part 86; Part 87; Part 88; Part 89; Part 90; Part 91; Part 92.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 June 2005 09:28 AM · Comments (1)

Google Earth: Awesome.

Have you tried out Google Earth yet?

Oh, man, you are missing out if you haven't. It's in the top 7 or 8 list of most awesome things ever. Well, it will be eventually, at least.

Here is a little quiz based on Google Earth images.

Where are the following places?

1.

campussmall.gif

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

2.

unsmall.gif

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

3.

sfcbdsmall.gif

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

4.

sjsmall.gif

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


5.

mussmall.gif


Some are easier than others. Some hints:

3 of the 5 are in Texas.
1 is outside of the U.S.

More hints to come, if that's what it takes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 June 2005 11:37 PM · Comments (14)

My New Toy.

Apologies for the less-than-rapid-fire posting rate this week.

Trying to make progress on my thesis.

Trying to catch up on my summer reading (1776) :


1776.gif


And enjoying my new toy:

pooltable.gif


In the meantime, if you're a blogger, go check this out:

Take the MIT Weblog Survey


Oh, and go check out the new World Trade Center design (via Blogs for Bush):


wtc.gif

It's time to stop goofing around, decide on something, and get this thing built. And while we're at it, let's Take Back The Memorial.


Also, go send a supportive message to the troops:

AmericaSupportsYou.mil

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 June 2005 12:56 PM · Comments (2)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 12.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

fountain.gif

The actual caption:

Austin Hilsmier, 3, from Chicago, looks back at his mom as he plays in Chicago's Crown Fountain at Millennium Park Thursday, June 23, 2005. Temperatures are expected to reach the 90's with forecasts nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit by the weekend. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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


Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, July 5. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

senbyrondorgannd.gif

Last week's winners:

1.

Rodney Dill:

"After months of careful analysis I've determined that the Iraq Oil for Food program was just one big Scam. I put this much on my pancakes this morning and they tasted like crap."


2.

Jim Rose:

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., (pictured here, holding his 2nd place ribbon-winning spicy-pickles) is demanding Congressional hearings on alleged voter fraud at this year's Wisconsin State Fair.


3.

Zsa Zsa:

Sen. Dorgan reveals his Secret ingredients for holding his comb-over to the Senate today!...


Caption away! You're all winners in my book.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 June 2005 06:30 AM · Comments (14)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 92 -- Incumbent Fundraising.

Incumbent Advantage-

From January through March, House freshmen raised 43 percent of their campaign dollars from PACs. As candidates last year, they collected just 28 percent from PACs.... PACs accounted for 41 percent of the money raised by all House members in the first quarter of this year.

People like winners. Winners command the cash. In the positioning for 2008, he (or she) who raises the most money, the earliest, will have the inside track for the nomination.


Source:

Center for Responsive Politics.


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


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79; Part 80; Part 81; Part 82; Part 83; Part 84; Part 85; Part 86; Part 87; Part 88; Part 89; Part 90; Part 91.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 June 2005 06:22 AM · Comments (0)

Some Call It A Bonfire/Carnival Of Classiness...

We call it "Classiness, All Around Us."

certifiedclassy.gif
Click to explore more WILLisms.com.

In no particular order, WILLisms.com presents classiness from the blogosphere (now with 50% more classy!):

1.

President Bush Slept Here-


bushhomes.gif

The neo-neocon blog makes the post I have been meaning to make for months (no, really), noting that people are severely mistaken when they assert that Bush was born into a life of extreme privilege:

It also should be noted that GW's father's personal political power and influence (as opposed to family power and influence) did not begin until GW was grown. If you do the math, Bush the elder's first term in Congress began in 1966, when Dubya was twenty years old.

Many critics of the President make the assumption that George W. was a spoiled rich kid, when in actuality his upbringing was decidedly middle-class.


2.

Gerhard Schröder-

gerhardgroveling.gif

Q and O blog examines the German Chancellor's visit to the White House:

Schröder can read the handwriting on the wall as well as anyone. Barring Jesus coming down from heaven, patting him on the back, and saying, "That's my boy!", Schröder's done for, politically. Indeed, in Post-Christian Germany, even J.C.'s approval probably wouldn't be enough to help him.

Mer-kel, Mer-kel, Mer-kel!


3.

Moonbat Attack-


moonbats.gif

The Right Place blog believes you might be a moonbat if....

If you have ever used an asterisk in place of the President's name, or are incapable of saying it without using some combination of the terms "Hitler," "Shrub," or "Chimp" - you just might be a Moonbat!

A moonbaterrific list, to be sure.


4.

Hillary Clinton, college radical-

hillarythesis.gif

The Cassandra Page wonders just what in Hillary Clinton's college thesis could be so incriminating as to take such pains to keep it under wraps:

I don't know what this thesis says, but there appears to be much more to the story. I imagine a blueprint for leftist social, political and economic change that would place the last 40 years in perspective. This document would place into perspective Hillary's own attempts to take over the nation's health care industry. I suggest that this document reveals the real Hillary [which we have always suspected, argued and documented by more than circumstantial evidence]. We would finally see it in her own words. Those who would annoint her President cannot legitimately object to revealing a document that would show her true plans and ambitions.

On the other hand, everyone knows Hillary had left-wing activist tendencies while in college, so the thesis might seem relatively ho-hum. But it would still be great to learn more about Clinton's worldview.


5.

Burning the flag-

oldglory.gif

Captain's Quarters looks at a neat story of patriotism from 1976, adding his own wrinkle to the story:

Watching Monday rescue the flag from two lunatics who tried to hijack a baseball game for their protest, which would have provided the perfect nadir of American morale at that time, the crowd did something no one expected. Lasorda recalled in his book that starting softly, the crowd started singing "God Bless America", completely unprompted, until all of the tens of thousands of Dodger fans had joined together to sing it.

Spontaneous moments of American pride are the greatest moments in patriotism.


6.

Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln-

lincoln.gif

Gateway Pundit (via PoliPundit) believes Barack Obama's self-comparison to Abraham Lincoln is way off base; Obama is closer to Steven Douglas:

Before Obama takes anything away from Lincoln and the huge, courageous step he took for this country and the world, it would be nice if he had a better understanding of the day and age of Lincoln and not just poo-poo his accomplishments.

Can you imagine Obama on Mt. Rushmore?



7.

Paul Krugman-

paulkrugman.gif

Economist Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution blog calls out Paul Krugman for the illiberal demagogue that he is:

Nothing can harm the prospects for world peace more than the vicious idea that we do better when they do worse. The Chinese and Americans people already have enough mercantilists, imperialists and “national greatness” warriors pushing them towards conflict...

Paul Krugman, economist outcast.


8.

Our Greatest American-

generalwashington.gif

John Hawkins makes the case for George Washington as America's Greatest:

If a stray bullet had sent Washington to an early grave -- let's say before Saratoga in late 1777, I believe we would have lost the war. Although a people as independent and rebellious as our ancestors would have shaken off the British yoke eventually -- our nation's freedom could have been delayed a decade or two -- perhaps more -- without Washington to lead the way.

Reading 1776 right now, so, at the moment, at least, I tend to concur, although the choice of Ronald Reagan was not too shabby.

9.

American Anti-Americanism-

iran.gif

The Jawa Report points out left-wing rejoicing about the disastrous Iranian election, because of the liberal belief that it hurts President Bush:

I was willing to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, but is there anything more damning to be said about an intelligence analyst like Larry Johnson than that he's eager to take "elections" in a totalitarian society at face value just to "prove" the neocons wrong?

Conveying Iranian regime propaganda so enthusiastically, for the purpose of scoring cheap political points against the President, is very not classy.


10.

John Kerry's Bad Advice-

johnforbeskerryadvice.gif

The Belgravia Dispatch disassembles John Kerry's poor advice to President Bush:

There is an obsession with "deadlines," isn't there, among the Democrat camp of late? As I've said, and I agree with Rumsfeld on this, talk of deadlines and timetables provides a "lifeline to terrorists". It's a huge incentive to the bad guys to simply wait us out. It's simply bad policy, and it's sad that whoever is advising Kerry on such opinion pieces behind the scenes (Jamie Rubin? Susan Rice? Ivo Daalder?) continues to go on about artificial drop-dead deadines and such.


Kerry lost precisely because of his worldview on national security. Why should or would the President do what Kerry wants?



11.

Cuckooism-


fiftystates.gif

Hoystory looks at the Democrats' delusions of grandeur:

In fact, this never happens in free societies -- one party winning everything. Does anyone really doubt that no matter what they do or how hard they try, Republicans will never win San Francisco? Does anyone believe that Democrats could ever possibly win the electoral votes in Utah?

The Democrats, aiming for a fifty state strategy, may leave vulnerable their flank in the Midwest.




12.

Anti-war political strategy-


donkeydem.gif

Irish Pennants blog wonders what the Democrats are trying to accomplish, going so concertedly anti-war, so early:

Democrats seem mesmerized by the past, but continue to draw the wrong lessons from it. Iraq is like Vietnam because, for Democrats, every war is like Vietnam.

When bad news for America is good news for your political party, you know you are in trouble.

13.

Iraq's Oil Terminals-


iraq.gif

Michael Yon hits the beat with some original reporting and looks at an Iraqi oil terminal:

If the multi-national force guarding the terminals is successful, we will never know the names and faces of the people on watch. But if our people fail their mission, the world will soon know the magnitude of that failure. The finest Navies in the world are there: the UK, the Australians and the US. Iraqis are also sharing in the defense.

Bloggers breaking through, offering in-depth news from Iraq, is really a revolutionary moment in media history.

14.

Quagmire in the Senate-

kennedylevin.gif

Belmont Club picks apart the exchanges between Ted Kennedy and Donald Rumsfeld, and between Carl Levin and John Abizaid:

Levin's (D-Mich.) question accidentally suggested that there was a causal relationship between an American presence and a future Iraqi constitution and national elections, which would in turn imply that without OIF there would be no constitution and no elections. Well, you can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Internal consistency of an argument does not matter much in an age of 4-second soundbites.


15.

Bush = Hitler = Trotsky-

trotsky.gif

Classical Values looks at the latest flavor of poor-analogied name-calling, this time by Seymour Hersch:

....Bush is truly a Trotskyite, a believer in permanent revolution. We have never had one as a president before. He wouldn't understand that, but Wolfowitz would. He truly is. And he's doing it -- what he thinks he has to do, the revolutions he has to create, without any information, without any -- without an ability to absorb information that's counter to what he wants to hear. And so, I don't know where you are when you have a man with as much power as he controls and as much ability to do something. I don't know how we can get at him.

Bush as Trotsky. How far off the deep end has this guy gone?


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


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).

Last Week's Classiness Certification from WILLisms.com:

*June 21, 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. You can also utilize this page to make your submissions. The deadline is each Monday at 11:59 PM Central Time.

Classy.

UPDATE:

The Bonfire of the Vanities, Two Year Anniversary is worth a read-through.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 June 2005 01:02 PM · Comments (6)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 91 -- Lance Armstrong.

Lance Armstrong, Super Humanoid Cycling Dynamo-

lance.gif

...the best way to absorb the magnitude of Armstrong’s physical power and endurance is to compare him to others. In one hour of bike riding, Armstrong can cover 32 miles as opposed to the 21 miles a top runner could cover on a bike and the 16 miles an average cyclist could cover.

Armstrong possesses a large, strong heart that can beat over 200 times a minute operating at maximum capacity and pump an exceptionally large volume of blood and oxygen to his legs—only around 100 other men on earth, who have been tested, have comparable abilities and only two other competitive cyclists that Coyle has tested in the past 20 years have even come close to Armstrong’s 200 heartbeats per minute.

If a normal male college student were to train at a grueling pace for two or more years, the student’s maximum oxygen uptake would not increase above 60 ml/kg/min—Coyle estimates that even if Armstrong became a couch potato, his would not dip below 60 ml/kg/min.

And better with age.

lanceefficiency.gif


Source:

Edward F. Coyle, "Improved muscular efficiency displayed as Tour de France champion matures," Journal of Applied Physiology; read the UT press release here.

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


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79; Part 80; Part 81; Part 82; Part 83; Part 84; Part 85; Part 86; Part 87; Part 88; Part 89; Part 90.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 June 2005 09:53 AM · Comments (4)

Senator John Cornyn: The Antidote To The Kelo Blues.

kelo.gif

The Supreme Court's decision in Kelo got you down?

Cheer up. Texas Senator John Cornyn is on the case. He has introduced legislation to protect the private property rights of Americans, rights which were eroded by the Court's controversial 5-4 decision.

johncornyn.gif

In his floor speech (.pdf), Cornyn explained:

The protection of homes, small businesses, and other private property rights against government seizure and other unreasonable government interference is a fundamental principle and core commitment of our nation’s Founders. As Thomas Jefferson famously wrote on April 6, 1816, the protection of such rights is “the first principle of association, ‘the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.’”

Cornyn then put the Kelo decision in the context of the ongoing struggle to populate the court with the right judges (.pdf):

In a way, the Kelo decision at least vindicates supporters of the nomination of Justice Janice Rogers Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. That nomination attracted substantial controversy in some quarters, because of Justice Brown’s personal passion for the protection of private property rights. The Kelo decision announced last Thursday demonstrates that her concerns about excessive government interference with property rights is well-founded and well within the mainstream of American jurisprudence.

Cornyn's measure, Senate Bill 1313, is limited in scope:

The legislation would clarify government’s exercise of its power of eminent domain to be limited only for public use. ‘Public use’ shall not be construed to include economic development. This standard of protection would apply only to (1) all exercises of eminent domain power by the federal government, and (2) all exercises of eminent domain power by state and local government through the use of federal funds.

Individual states would still need to pass measures to protect private property, but Cornyn's legislation could prevent the federal government from engaging in eminent domain for the express purpose of increasing its tax base.

FULL-TEXT: Protection of Homes, Small Businesses, and Private Property Act of 2005 (.pdf).

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 June 2005 11:20 PM · Comments (3)

The Press, The Military, and The Public.

The Pew Research Center has a new survey (via Daly Thoughts) on public perceptions of the media. By a 2-to-1 ratio, Americans believe the media are politically biased. Ratings of believability also stand at record lows for the print media, local television media, and national television media, alike.

pewsurveymilitary.gif

Note the partisan differences, but also note that perceptions of the media have gotten more negative across party lines.

People clearly want a free and fair media to serve as a watchdog over the goings-on in society and in government, but it's also clear that Americans are feeling increasingly uneasy about the media's complicity in the slander and libel of our nation's armed forces.

If the media don't take note, and shape up, their precipitous decline will only continue.

Michelle Malkin explains:

The MSM has been left in the dust by milbloggers and alternative media. Who needs the NYT with far superior reportage and analysis from the likes of Austin Bay, Michael Yon, Mudville Gazette, Blackfive, Belmont Club, and Victor Davis Hanson--for starters--available at your fingertips?

The media's lackadaisical, biased, sensationalistic reporting on the situation in Iraq has opened up the floodgates for bloggers, many of whom have better sources, better expertise, and a better perspective than the establishment media. Not only that, but many bloggers are gathering primary source data on the situation, in theater, while the media seem to chase flavor-of-the-week anti-administration innuendoes around the halls of the Pentagon.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 June 2005 05:16 PM · Comments (5)

Quotational Therapy: Part 23 -- The Great Communicator On America.

The Great Communicator, On America-

Ronald Reagan was voted the Greatest American in the Discovery Channel series that wrapped up last night.


ronaldwilsonreagan.gif

...there remains the greatness of our people, our capacity for dreaming up fantastic deeds and bringing them off to the surprise of an unbelieving world. When Washington's men were freezing at Valley Forge, Tom Paine told his fellow Americans: "We have it in our power to begin the world over again." We still have that power.

We -- today's living Americans -- have in our lifetime fought harder, paid a higher price for freedom and done more to advance the dignity of man than any people who have ever lived on this Earth. The citizens of this great nation want leadership, yes, but not a "man on a white horse" demanding obedience to his commands. They want someone who believes they can "begin the world over again." A leader who will unleash their great strength and remove the roadblocks government has put in their way. I want to do that more than anything I've ever wanted. And it's something that I believe with God's help I can do.

I believe this nation hungers for a spiritual revival; hungers to once again see honor placed above political expediency; to see government once again the protector of our liberties, not the distributor of gifts and privilege. Government should uphold and not undermine those institutions which are custodians of the very values upon which civilization is founded -- religion, education and, above all, family. Government cannot be clergyman, teacher and patriot. It is our servant, beholden to us.

We who are privileged to be Americans have had a rendezvous with destiny since the moment in 1630 when John Winthrop, standing on the deck of the tiny Arbella off the coast of Massachusetts, told the little band of Pilgrims, "We shall be a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world."

A troubled and afflicted mankind looks to us, pleading for us to keep our rendezvous with destiny; that we will uphold the principles of self-reliance, self-discipline, morality, and -- above all -- responsible liberty for every individual that we will become that shining city on a hill.

I believe that you and I together can keep this rendezvous with destiny.

-Ronald Reagan, Official Announcement of Candidacy for President (November 13, 1979).


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

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; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21; Part 22.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 June 2005 08:12 AM · Comments (3)

The Carnival Of Revolutions.

Welcome to the Carnival of Revolutions!


carnivalofrevolutions.gif

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 necessary for 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-

latinamerica.gif

Cuba-

Babalu Blog notes that Castro's government is shutting down scores of foreign-owned businesses in Cuba.

Paxety Pages serves up a Cuban Cocktail Party.


Venezuela-

From Babalu Blog, "Venezuela's anti-castro rebellion spreads."

Chavez, meanwhile, is actively cracking down on groups seeking change.


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


THE GREATER MIDDLE EAST-

themiddleeast.gif

Terrorism Unveiled offers some suggestions on Fixing Al-Hurra.


Kuwait-

The first Kuwaiti female minister took an oath of office.


Pakistan-

Child camel jockey slaves returned home... but nobody was home to greet them.


Lebanon-

The Pulse of Freedom blog wonders about Lebanon's future.


Iran-

Winds of Change takes note of al-Qaeda in Iran, as well as the nomenclatural challenges in labelling Ahmadinejad.

Who Won Iran's Election? Khamenei.

Publius Pundit notes evidence of low turnout in the run-off election.

The U.S. is not recognizing the legitimacy of Iran's mock election.

The Iranian regime called for President Bush to apologize for calling the elections a sham.


Syria-

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent Syria a warning to stop destabilizing the region, while in the region.


Saudi Arabia-

Condi Rice is walking the walk on the spread of freedom in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.


Israel-

Senator Durbin's comments are stirring up discussion in Jewish circles.


Egypt-

The Liberals Against Terrorism blog looks at the Kefaya demonstrations in Egypt.

The Egyptian government allowed the demonstration to occur without the usual riot police clamping down.

Publius Pundit points out increased American pressure on Egypt to reform.

Indeed, Gateway Pundit has more on Rice's meeting with Egypt's democratic opposition.


Iraq-

The Sandmonkey blog notes al-Jazeera is beginning to treat the terrorists like terrorists, rather than always pretending they are freedom fighters.

Iraq The Model notes media bias.


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


EAST ASIA-

eastasia.gif

Naruwan Formosa ponders Asian Democratic Values.


China-

Ideas in Progress blog takes note of a little-reported uprising in China.

Gullyborg is startled to learn that Gullyborg blog is banned in China.

Daniel Drezner asks: Does China Contradict the Liberal Paradigm?


Korea-

R.J. Rummel looks at the kid-glove handling of Kim Jong-Il.

The Marmot's Hole blog looks at some recent developments in the North Korean nuclear game.


Burma-

The U.S. is applying some serious pressure to Burma for its terrible human rights situation.


India-

The Acorn blog notes how India responded in a very ho-hum manner to attacks perpetrated by Nepal's Maoist rebels.

Quid Nimis, meanwhile, profiles the Naxalites, the Indian insurgent movement.


Singapore-

Free To Choose? Not In Singapore
.


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


EASTERN EUROPE-

easterneurope.gif

Russia-

Siberian Light notes Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Birthday.

Ultima Thule ponders: Putin for a third term?


Ukraine-

Orange Ukraine takes note of the media situation in Ukraine.


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


CENTRAL ASIA-

centralasia.gif

Blogrel examines America's Influence on Democratization in the Caucasus.

Armenia-

Vazgen Manoukian calls for revolutionary change for Armenia.

REMEMBER: Democracy is a process, not an event.


Azerbaijan-

Volodymyr Campaign blog notes that an Azeri opposition reporter was beaten to death by the police.

Publius Pundit notes how Azerbaijan is slowly opening to the West.

Blogrel takes a gander at the significance of the NKR election results.

Try this one out: Imminent Revolution in Azerbaijan?


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


AFRICA-

africa.gif

Nigeria-

Ultima Thule unmasks Nigerian corruption.


Ethiopia-

Ethiopundit notes that a member of the United States Congress wants to link humanitarian aid with property rights.

Meskel Square posts the transcript of an interview with Simon Bereket, Ethopian Information Minister.

Weichegud picks apart the interview.

The Buzz Blog posts an Ethiopian Freedom Watch.


Zimbabwe-

Publius notes how African leaders are copping out when it comes to holding Robert Mugabe accountable for his misdeeds.

More Mugabe Insanity.


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


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 · 27 June 2005 07:10 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 90 -- Cell Phone Taxes.

How To Avoid Exorbitant Cell Phone Taxes-

Americans pay an average rate of of 16.8% on their cellular telephone bills, a level that...

"...has traditionally been levied on products like cigarettes. Americans pay an average of just 6.9% for typical non-carcinogenic goods and services."

The "soak the cell phone user" mentality rampaging through government has only gotten worse in recent years:

Cell phones taxes increased nine times faster than taxes on other goods and services between January 2003 and April 2004, according to one industry study.

The Top Five Worst States For Cell Phone Taxes (highest rates):

1. Virginia
2. Maryland
3. Texas
4. Nebraska
5. Missouri


The Top Five Best States For Cell Phone Taxes (lowest rates):

1. Nevada
2. Montana
3. Idaho
4. Maine
5. Delaware

Source:

Forbes
magazine's "How To Duck Cell Phone Taxes"; and via Political Calculations blog.

Texas' high rate is really an abomination, considering our well-earned reputation as a low tax state. If and when I ever change my cell phone service, I will almost definitely request a Las Vegas number. According to the Forbes article, it could mean a savings of 60+ dollars a year. But it's really more the principle of the thing. It's one of those sneaky stealth taxes, and, as such, it is the responsibility of every taxpayer to revolt against it.

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


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79; Part 80; Part 81; Part 82; Part 83; Part 84; Part 85; Part 86; Part 87; Part 88; Part 89.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 June 2005 06:48 AM · Comments (1)

The University of Texas Longhorns Baseball: College World Series Champions.

Congratulations to the Texas Longhorns for their undefeated run through the College World Series. The University of Texas: 2005 CWS Champs.

texasbaseball.gif

Awesome.

nationalchampions.gif

Hook 'em Horns.

bushhookem.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 June 2005 05:12 PM · Comments (9)

100,000 Visitors.

WILLisms.com just passed 100,000 visitors (since sometime around March 8th or 9th) on the ole sitemeter.

Thanks for making it possible, each and every one of you. You're all classy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 June 2005 01:46 PM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 89 -- Religion and Medicine.

Holy Medicine-

Doctors and religion:

76 percent [of physicians] said they believe in God and 59 percent said they believe in some sort of afterlife. That compares to 83 percent and 74 percent of the general population.

Although doctors were less likely to believe in God or an afterlife, the survey showed that 90 percent of doctors attend religious services at least once a month compared with 81 percent of their patients.

religioussymbols.gif

Moreover:

5.3 percent of doctors are Hindu vs. 0.2 percent of nondoctors

14.1 percent of doctors are Jewish vs. 1.9 percent of nondoctors

1.2 percent of doctors are Buddhist vs. 0.2 percent of nondoctors

2.7 percent of doctors are Muslim vs. 0.5 percent of nondoctors.

Source:

Fox News.


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


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79; Part 80; Part 81; Part 82; Part 83; Part 84; Part 85; Part 86; Part 87; Part 88.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 June 2005 10:25 AM · Comments (1)

Carnival of Revolutions Home Base.

homebase.gif

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 necessary for 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.


Carnival of Revolutions Info:

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: Ben Paarmann
September 12: Quid Nimis
September 19: Commoner Sense
September 26: Am I A Pundit Now?
October 3: Free Thoughts.
October 10: Oneworld Media
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 · 26 June 2005 05:58 AM · Comments (0)

Tom Cruise Killing Oprah Winfrey.

This may be the funniest thing I have seen in months:

tomcruisekillingoprah.gif


Tom Cruise zaps Oprah, a la Star Wars Emperor Palpatine (click for .mov file)
.

Literally in tears right now I am laughing so hard. Make sure you have your sound turned on for the full effect of the video.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 June 2005 11:59 PM · Comments (3)

Rabid Donkeys On The Loose.

rabiddonkeysontheloose.gif

Ladies and gentleman, introducing to you, the leadership of the Democratic Party:

Exhibit 1: Howard "Temper Tantrum McGee" Dean-

howarddeanscreaming.gif

Keeping tabs on each and every inflammatory and outrageous Howard Dean comment is nearly impossible, but here are some highlights--

Dean said of the removal of tyrant Saddam Hussein, that there's a problem with American policy...

...when we pick on dictators that are irrelevant to the United States.
The DNC Chair asserted that many Republicans...
...have never made an honest living in their lives.

After promising to "use Terri Schiavo" as a political issue, Dean kept his promise, noting of Republicans:

"...their government is just big enough to fit inside Terri Schiavo's bed in the nursing home."

At one point, Dean offered:

"I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for."

At another point, Dean claimed that Republicans are:

...a pretty monolithic party. They all believe the same. They all look the same. It’s pretty much a white Christian party.

Dean hates the Republicans and everything they stand for; meanwhile, he thinks the GOP is a party of white Christians.

It's telling.

And if you are a Democrat wondering why your party is in the tank, politically, look no further than Howard Dean.

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

Exhibit 2: Harry "Sticks and Stones" Reid-

senateminorityleaderharryre.gif

Harry Reid is the Senate Minority Leader, arguably the most powerful Democrat in the country. If Democrats were to somehow take control of the Senate in 2006, Harry Reid would almost certainly become Majority Leader.

Reid has become rex obstructum (king of obstruction) of the elected voice of the American people, blocking necessary reforms without offering any alternative. Reid has also become a proliferator of personal insults, telling a high school civics class that President Bush is a "loser" and a "liar," and Bush will get nothing done that he wants. Reid also called Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan a "hack," Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas an "embarrassment," and said that African American woman Janice Rogers Brown wants to take America "back to Civil War days."

Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct.

If that isn't enough, insult, insult, insult.

And it's really no wonder. Reid's fate was determined when, shortly after the 2004 election, he hired a "war room" of seasoned party activists.

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

Exhibit 3: Charlie "We Need A Draft" Rangel-

rangel.gif

Recall the Democrats' manufactured military draft hysteria during the 2004 election, aimed at energizing young voters against the Iraq war. It was Charlie Rangel who spearheaded this effort in Congress; he even introduced legislation on the matter.

More recently, Rangel compared the Iraq war to the Nazi holocaust:

"It's the biggest fraud ever committed on the people of this country," Rangel told WWRL Radio's Steve Malzberg and Karen Hunter. "This is just as bad as six million Jews being killed."

It speaks for itself. If the Democrats take control of the House, Charlie Rangel would be chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Take a moment to contemplate what that would mean: Rangel, socialist tendencies and all, would become a pivotal player in determining America's economic policy.

It's enough to make any believer in America's free enterprise system shudder.

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

Exhibit 4: Hillary "Not From Arkansas" Clinton-

hillary.gif

Hillary Clinton, by leaps and bounds, is the leading candidate to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. She's also consciously attempting to moderate, soften, and bi-partisanify her image.

But she's the woman who brought you Hillarycare, she's a classic 1960s leftist, and among the more ideologically liberal members of the Senate. She's also prone to inflammatory nonsense. Speaking at a fundraiser recently, Senator Clinton asserted:

"There has never been an administration, I don't believe in our history, more intent upon consolidating and abusing power to further their own agenda....

It's very hard to stop people who have no shame about what they're doing.... It is very hard to stop people who have never been acquainted with the truth....

Mrs. Clinton described Republican leaders as messianic in their beliefs, willing to manipulate facts and even "destroy" the Senate to gain political advantage over the Democratic minority. She also labeled the House of Representatives as "a dictatorship of the Republican leadership," where individual members are all but required to vote in lock-step with the majority's agenda.

Calling for America to pursue a "progressive" agenda, Mrs. Clinton also asserted that the media are biased... in favor of the White House.

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

Exhibit 5: Nancy "GOP Majority Insurance" Pelosi-

minorityleaderpelosi.gif

If Democrats were to miraculously take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 (not gonna happen), say hello to Speaker Pelosi. For that reason, and because she is so out of touch with mainstream political thought, Nancy Pelosi is majority insurance for the GOP.

The latest: Nancy Pelosi now claims that raiding the Social Security trust fund HELPS maintain solvency... until 2052.

WHAT??!!??

Clearly, Pelosi is just saying wildly ridiculous nonsense for the sake of being contrarian. If Bush and/or Republicans are for something, Pelosi is automatically against it.

Indeed, when queried on her plan for saving Social Security, Pelosi offered this eye-opening comment:

"...why should we put a plan in? We will go — our plan is to stop him from — stop him. He must be stopped."

Americans are pragmatists at heart. They want something tangible out of Congress. They want solutions, not political games.

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

Exhibit 6: Richard "Whip Crackah" Durbin-

durbin.gif

You may have known little or nothing about Dick Durbin prior to his recent outburst. But he's part of the leadership of the Democratic Party. Durbin is the number two Democrat in the Senate, Harry Reid's hatchet man.

Mark Steyn puts Durbin in his place:

Last Tuesday, Senator Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, quoted a report of U.S. "atrocities" at Guantanamo and then added:

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings."

....

The senator from Illinois' comparisons are as tired as they're grotesque. They add nothing useful to the debate. But around the planet, folks naturally figure that, if only 100 people out of nearly 300 million get to be senators, the position must be a big deal. Hence, headlines in the Arab world like "U.S. Senator Stands By Nazi Remark." That's al-Jazeera, where the senator from al-Inois is now a big hero -- for slandering his own country, for confirming the lurid propaganda of his country's enemies. Yes, folks, American soldiers are Nazis and American prison camps are gulags: don't take our word for it, Senator Bigshot says so.

Durbin really ought to be ashamed of himself. Durbin's non-apology was additionally shameful.


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


The lesson here is clear
:

The radical left owns the Democratic Party. MoveOn.org and DailyKos and the others bought the DNC, and they expect results.

Results they have gotten.

Congrats to the frothing fringe for their Pyrrhic victory.

In 2006, if you are a Democrat running for Congress in a state or Congressional district Bush won in 2000 and 2004, these are your running mates, whether you like it or not.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 June 2005 03:50 PM · Comments (39)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 88 -- Tax Cuts For The Rich.

Tax Cuts For The Rich-

zerotaxliability.gif

Despite the charges of critics that the tax cuts enacted in 2001, 2003 and 2004 favored the “rich,” these cuts actually reduced the tax burden of low- and middle-income taxpayers and shifted the tax burden onto wealthier taxpayers. Tax Foundation economists estimate that for tax year 2004, a record 42.5 million Americans who filed a tax return (one-third of the 131 million returns filed last year) had no tax liability after they took advantage of their credits and deductions. Millions more paid next to nothing.

Source:


The Tax Foundation
.


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


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79; Part 80; Part 81; Part 82; Part 83; Part 84; Part 85; Part 86; Part 87.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 June 2005 11:31 AM · Comments (0)

Iran's Run-Off Election.

I just spent a good amount of time over at the Ramada in Houston. Lots to report. Less fireworks than last Friday, but more interesting information.

I will post my observations, thoughts, and analysis at some point in the near future.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 June 2005 03:42 PM · Comments (3)

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Reformer.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's election as California governor in 2003 was clearly the political story of that year; Arnold instantly became a rising political star and media candidate for the Republican nomination in 2008. There was even a movement to amend the U.S. Constitution to allow foreign-born citizens to run for America's highest office.

So what happened? Today, less than two years later, if you believe the polls, Schwarzenegger has little remaining popular support in California. Nationally, Arnold is rarely-- if ever-- mentioned as a potential candidate for 2008.


arnold.gif

Pete Du Pont, nonetheless, says that Arnold's "19-month career is easily the most visionary and strongest gubernatorial leadership performance in modern American history":

Within hours of taking office he undid Mr. Davis's tripling of the car tax, cutting taxes by about $2 billion. He slashed spending by about $6 billion in a first step to eliminate the state's $22 billion deficit. The current budget is balanced at a level $11 billion less than the projected baseline when he took office. In March 2004 the voters passed Proposition 58, the first Schwarzenegger ballot initiative, requiring a balanced budget, establishing a Rainy Day Fund to accumulate cash to meet future unexpected economic declines, and banning the use of bonds to finance future deficits.

But that was just the beginning. A week ago the governor called a special election for Nov. 8 to vote on three policy changes that the Democrat-controlled legislature has refused to consider: stronger state spending restraints, higher standards for public school teachers, and retired judges rather than legislators drawing legislative district boundaries.


Fiscal discipline-

The most economically important is Measure 1131, which would put additional controls on state spending. Mr. Davis drove spending up by one-third in his five years in office; Mr. Schwarzenegger's proposition would limit spending increases to average revenue growth over the previous three years and give the governor the power to reduce spending if revenue decreases and the legislature fails to act to correct the deficit.

Mandatory fiscal discipline is really the only way to control spending, given the system we have, a system in which voters expect something tangible from their elected officials. Pork barrel and gargantuan new government programs, some people believe, are necessary for reelection. Take away that political incentive, add a mandatory restraint on spending, and you'll be far more likely to see fiscal discipline.


Taking on the teachers' unions-

A second proposition seeks to improve the quality of California public school teachers' skills by requiring five instead of three years of work before they gain tenure and making two consecutive unsatisfactory evaluations sufficient reason to fire a teacher.

How to fix a broken education system: throw more money at it? Or demand results, reward merit, and punish failure? Seems like an easy one. If anything, it does not go far enough.


Redistricting-

Finally comes the most politically explosive Schwarzenegger proposal--mandating the drawing of legislative district lines by retired judges. There is no question that when legislators of both parties work together to draw district lines there is political collusion to safeguard their own seats. As California economist Art Laffer (a supporter of the proposition) pointed out, among the 80 state Assembly seats, 20 Senate seats and 53 U.S. House seats up for election in 2004, "not one seat of the 153 changed party affiliation." The Declaration of Purpose of the proposition has it right: "Partisan gerrymandering, uncompetitive districts, [and] ideological polarization" govern the redistricting process.

Changing redistricting from a partisan process to an ostensibly non-partisan one angers the entrenched establishment in each party. But redistricting reform, in total, is a good thing. The lack of competitive elections in California and elsewhere around the country is startling. It's admirable that Arnold wants to take this issue on.


Because of his visionary agenda, Arnold Schwarzenegger's poll ratings, by nearly any standard, are way down. You read that correctly. Because, not in spite of.

BECAUSE of his visionary agenda, not in spite of it. Because he's taken on such a broad array of special interests, not in spite of it. Because he's a different kind of politician, not beholden to the typical political pandering and rigamarole, not in spite of it.

Arnold ran on a platform of fighting against California's special interests. While many voters rallied behind that idea in principle, California is a grassroots special interest state; many voters belong to the very special interest groups that Arnold decided to take on. Californians wanted Arnold to terminate the special interests, just not their own.

And the same thing is happening at the national level to President Bush. Fred Barnes nailed it when he noted:

Bush doesn't have the second-term blues, his administration hasn't lost its zeal, and he hasn't been troubled by scandal or the lack of a clear policy agenda. Nor is he suffering solely from his single-minded pursuit of Social Security reform. Like Schwarzenegger, the president has taken on a string of big issues--Iraq, a drastic foreign-policy overhaul, judges, plus Social Security--with predictable results. These are issues that generate political conflict. They upset settled practice, rile various institutions, stir strong opposition, and keep poll ratings low. For an activist president, lack of popularity is part of the package.

It's sad but true that our political system, assuming the economy is not in the tank, rewards presidents (and sometimes governors) for doing little.

Arnold's poll problems stem from the fact that he has taken on so many deeply entrenched forces in California politics, and, unlike President Bush, who, no matter how bad the news, maintains a committed baseline of support, Arnold Schwarzenegger's base is far smaller in "blue state" California. Even California conservatives themselves never really coalesced behind the socially moderate (or even, perhaps, liberal) Arnold. Without the ability to rely on a font of steady and dependable support, even an action hero keeping election promises can see his approval rating dip below 40%.

A bet against Arnold, though, is not a particularly wise bet. With California's economy steaming ahead, a win on some of these key ballot initiatives could revive Arnold Schwarzenegger's political fortunes moving closer to reelection in 2006. Win or lose, he'll leave a legacy of taking on big reforms, even when those reforms turn powerful special interests against him.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 June 2005 10:58 AM · Comments (3)

Quotational Therapy: Part 22 -- Karl Rove On Liberals.

THE FEIGNED FIRESTORM OVER ROVE-

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Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.

...and...

I don't know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt when I watched the twin towers crumble to the ground, a side of the Pentagon destroyed, and almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens perish in flames and rubble.

...and...

Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said 'we will defeat our enemies.' Liberals saw what happened to us and said 'we must understand our enemies.

No, really, that's really the extent of it. That, and perhaps this:

"Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year?" Mr. Rove asked, referring to the Senate's No. 2 Democrat comparing U.S. interrogation techniques at the Guantanamo Bay naval base to the Nazi and Soviet regimes. "Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."

... or maybe it was this:

"Conservatives saw the United States as a great nation involved in a noble cause of self-defense. Liberals are concerned about what our enemies think of us, whether every government approves of our actions."

-Karl Rove, speech to the Conservative Party of New York.


THAT'S the cause of all the hubbub? Good grief.


Related:

A fantastic read on how the feigned anger on the part of Democrats was a feat of monumental political idiocy.

UPDATE:

Holy stromboli, John Kerry is lame.


UPDATE 2:

Full-text of Karl Rove's speech
.

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

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; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20; Part 21.

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

Click "Read More" for the full Karl Rove speech to the Conservative Party of New York, in context:

Read More »


Posted by Will Franklin · 24 June 2005 10:02 AM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 87 -- American Wealth.

AMERICANS WEALTHIER THAN EVER BEFORE-

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Source:

U.S. Federal Reserve (page 102; .pdf).


Related (via Blogs for Bush):

The government has hit a financial milestone — taking in more money in tax revenue in a single day than ever before.

After totaling it all up, the Treasury Department announced Thursday that it had collected $61 billion on Wednesday. That surpassed the old one-day record of $56 billion set on Dec. 15, 2000.

....

The government's coffers have been swelling this year as tax receipts from both individuals and corporations have been on the rise, reflecting an improving economy. Because of those increases, this year's federal deficit is expected to fall to around $350 billion, down from the $413 billion record in dollar terms set in 2004.

The American economy, no bones about it, is strong and getting stronger.


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


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79; Part 80; Part 81; Part 82; Part 83; Part 84; Part 85; Part 86.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 June 2005 09:43 AM · Comments (4)

San Antonio Spurs, 2005 NBA Champions.

For the third time in seven seasons, the San Antonio Spurs are the NBA Champions. Not the World Champions, mind you, but the NBA Champions. Congrats to them.

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Posted by Will Franklin · 23 June 2005 10:58 PM · Comments (2)

The Washington Times Picks Up Iran's Sham Election Story.

The Washington Times is on the ball on the Iranian election story:

In recent days, President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and numerous members of Congress have denounced as invalid Iran's presidential election, in particular the fact that Tehran arbitrarily disqualified more than 1,000 of the 1,014 candidates who attempted to run. Unfortunately, thus far, Congress and the administration seem unaware of the fact that the regime has conducted the election in the United States, possibly in violation of U.S. law.

And WILLisms.com was also mentioned, along with other blogs:

On Friday, a clash occurred at one of the polling places, located at the Commerce Hotel in Los Angeles, between security guards working for the Iranian government and anti-regime activists. Aryo Pirouznia, coordinator for the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, tells us he was attacked, sprayed with pepper gas and sent to the hospital by the guards. In Tucson, Ariz., freelance journalist Robert Mayer visited a site at a local school for the visually impaired, where voting officials prepared to count the ballots, phone the results in to Tehran and mail the votes to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. Mr. Mayer interviewed the poll monitor, a visiting scholar at the University of Arizona, who treated him to a bizarre lecture explaining how Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are CIA agents. In Houston, Will Franklin, who blogs on the site WILLisms, posted photos showing how he was nearly arrested by the Houston Police Department when he attempted to write a story and take pictures of the polling place.

Thus far, no word on whether the Iranian regime plans to hold run-off elections at the same locations tomorrow morning. If so, I am there.

UPDATE: Apparently the Iranian regime cancelled the Tucson voting station following Robert Mayer's report. The Houston location will be open. I will see what I can find out, without actually going inside the hotel.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 June 2005 05:28 PM · Comments (7)

Polling On Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GITMO).

Killing terrorists, capturing them, locking them up. Beating the bad guys and keeping Americans safe. Supporting the troops. Good politics, right?

Well, how did the "shut down Guantanamo" meme, which began as a goofy editorial by The New York Times' Thomas Friedman, become the latest craze on the left, and among elected Democrats (and some Republicans), for the month of June?

Well, there was the Amnesty International assertion that Guantanamo is the "gulag of our times." About the same time, Joe Biden, trying to gain traction for a presidential run in 2008, ran with the idea full-bore on the Sunday morning talk show circuit. His compatriots followed suit, not wanting to miss out on a piece of such sweet action. Meanwhile, the establishment media helped keep what should have been a complete non-issue alive just long enough for Dick Durbin to make his now-infamous assertion, in which he hit for a trifecta of anti-American drivel.

In a Fox News poll, conducted June 14-15, the American people wanting to close Guantanamo were outnumbered by the rest of us by large margins (.pdf).

There was, however, room to shape, influence, and win over a surprisingly large number of undecideds and other folks who had simply not thought about the issue for quite some time:

foxnewsguantanamo.gif

For reference, in a similar question commissioned by Fox News in July of 2002, 67% said conditions were acceptable, 8% said they were unacceptable, and 25% were not sure. In 2002, less than a year after 9/11, no Democrat would have been foolish enough to turn Guantanamo into a partisan issue.

Three years later, support for closing Guantanamo remained relatively low, with a sizeable chunk of undecideds:

closeguantanamo.gif

Pollsters also asked:

In purely physical terms, such as food and clothing, do you think most detainees in the Guantanamo Bay military prison are living better or worse than they were in Iraq and Afghanistan?

... to which respondents answered:

Better 59%

Worse 12

(Same) 6

(Not sure) 24


Additionally, Americans were asked about reciprocal treatment:

At the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Muslim prisoners are given copies of the holy Muslim book the Koran. If Muslims were holding Americans as prisoners, do you think the Americans would be given copies of the Bible?

... which elicited an overwhelming response:

Yes 10%

No 75

(Not sure/Refused) 15

Yet, without much else to work with in their hand, the Democrats went all in. With Daily Kos and MoveOn.org now running the show, the elected leadership of the Democratic Party just went for it.

What a political blunder.

The latest Rasmussen numbers on American attitudes toward Guantanamo indicate that the U.S. citizenry is in no mood for play time and moral equivocation when it comes to detaining terrorists. Likely due in large part to the vicious hyperbole of Senator Durbin and others, the undecideds that existed just about a week ago have rallied rapidly against shutting down Guantanamo:

rasmussenguantanamo.gif

20% of Americans believe prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have been treated unfairly. Seven-out-of-ten adults believe the prisoners are being treated "better than they deserve" (36%) or "about right" (34%).

Although there are clear partisan differences on the issue...

partisandifferencesguantana.gif

... even rank-and-file Democrats are not willing to express that there's been abuse at Guantanamo. Want to wager on what proportion of that 30% is made up of the Kos and MoveOn types?

If an issue is wonkish and arcane, like Social Security reform is, the American people often fall prey to even the most lame efforts to distort the debate.

When, on the other hand, an issue is simple, straight-forward, and requires a moral judgement, the American people only need a moment or two to reflect before reaching the appropriate conclusion. Bank on that one.

There's an important lesson here for people in Washington: just because everyone around you, in the media, at dinner parties, and elsewhere, suddenly congeals behind the flavor of the month "let's go softer on terrorism" fad, it does not mean people in real America are on board with such lunacy. Americans demand a higher level of seriousness from our leaders.

What is so fascinating to watch is how in these frenzies of political activity, in these short burst of intense debate on an issue (such as we've seen recently on Guantanamo), if Republicans are willing to stand and fight, the Democrats just can't win.

This pattern has become a truism, underlining the notion that when Americans actually pay attention, they are increasingly inclined toward the GOP.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 June 2005 04:18 PM · Comments (3)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Twenty-One.

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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:

Growing Real Ownership For Workers (GROW) Accounts.

Patrick Chisholm, writing in The Christian Science Monitor last week, observed:

If one compares how Social Security is run to how most companies run their retirement plans, the reckless mismanagement of Social Security becomes obvious.

Indeed. Not only does the antiquated Pay-As-You-Go funding structure, imagined by Otto von Bismarck in the 19th century, resemble a Ponzi scheme, but the alleged trust fund only exists on paper, in a filing cabinet in West Virginia. Like the worst imaginable corporate malfeasance, the trust fund is raided-- and cleaned out-- regularly, to pay for the federal government's myriad other programs.

Beginning in 2017, the U.S. Treasury will not have the luxury of raiding the Social Security surplus to fund the burgeoning government leviathan. At that point, the Social Security system will begin paying out more than it takes in, draining the trust fund each year thereafter.

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Source: Page 19, 2005 Social Security Trustees Report (.pdf).


The Wall Street Journal explains how Americans could benefit from the protection of the surpluses that Social Security will run for the next dozen years:

socialsecuritylockbox.gif

DeMint-Ryan would allow workers to create individual personal retirement accounts and place marketable government bonds worth their portion of the Social Security surplus into these accounts. Think of this as creating 140 million "lock box" accounts, one for every American worker. After three years, workers could trade these Treasury bonds and invest instead in higher-return mutual funds containing a combination of corporate stocks and bonds.

We're talking big dollars for most families. The federal government will continue to run surpluses of about $1.2 trillion through 2016 on a cash basis, and some $3 trillion through 2026 if interest on that cash is also counted. The nearby table shows the scale of the annual surplus cash payments, and how much larger they'd be if interest on them were included. The DeMint-Ryan proposal doesn't currently include interest, though we think it would be improved by doing so.

Workers deserve this interest since it is being paid on money that they earned. And if interest were included, workers would get payments into their accounts for 20 years instead of 10. A worker with a $40,000 salary would get an average of 3% of his paycheck deposited in a personal account, or roughly $1,200 a year. A 25-year-old making a median wage, and earning 4% interest, would have an account worth nearly $100,000 by age 67.

Whether or not this "lockbox" legislation is everything reformers want and more is certainly obvious. It's not.

But it does energize the reform process, injecting new life, politically, into a process that, because it is unfolding in Washington, has appeared bogged down for some time now.


Behold, the reanimation of the reform crowd-

First, and perhaps foremost, you have members of Congress, such as Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin:

While this proposal in and of itself would not completely fix Social Security's solvency problem, it is a clear step in the right direction. And it sends a message to the American people that Congress is getting serious about saving the Social Security surplus for their Social Security retirement benefits.


Grover Norquist, of Americans for Tax Reform:

"Too much of this debate has focused on tax increases and benefit cuts. This proposal puts the focus back where it belongs-personal accounts, savings, ownership, and passing along a nest egg to children and grandchildren.

Make no mistake about it-the best option is for younger workers to voluntarily save all of their Social Security in a personal account that they own and control.

GROW Accounts are a good interim first step that allows us to stop talking about tax increases and benefit cuts and start talking about the ownership society."


Andrew Roth, of The Club For Growth
(the Social Security Choice blog has found new life in recent days, a veritable reform Renaissance):

The bill does not impose investment risk on workers and does not harm the Social Security Trust Funds. It does put us on the path to protecting the integrity of the Social Security program by ensuring that Social Security taxes are only used for Social Security.


Lawrence Hunter and Phil Kerpen of the Free Enterprise Fund
:

The goal of reform is not to make the government’s books balance — it’s to create a better deal for the American worker, something the compromise approach would accomplish with minimal disruption in the financial markets while providing a down-payment on permanent solvency. This compromise plan may not get us all the way there, but it stops the bleeding and starts the healing.


Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute
:

Mr. DeMint is meeting the Democrats on their own terms. Like a good poker player, he is calling their bluff. If their stated objections are removed, what is it that they are opposed to? The very idea of people owning and controlling their own money?

....

Mr. DeMint has cleared away all the smoke and mirrors and put that debate straight in front of us. Now let's see which side the Democrats come down on.



Derrick Max, of Generations Coming Together (.pdf)
:

...we welcome all proposals that will move this process forward, commend those who are offering alternatives, and encourage others to offer their solutions to this growing marketplace of ideas.


Meanwhile, one of the leading Senate Democrats on the issue asserted that Bush must completely renounce all efforts for personal accounts before Democrats are even willing to come to the table:

"They can twist themselves into any pretzel shape they want," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). "As long as privatization is on the table, there will be no compromise on Social Security."

This is not a good-faith negotiation. The Democrats' true colors are shining through here.


So, what is the political fall-out here?

1. It's hard to imagine these interim lockbox personal accounts not creating political inertia for a more serious round of reforms in coming years. Once people get a taste of ownership, they will demand more. Once people realize this is not some hair-brained risky scheme, they will demand more.

2. An optimal and permanent Social Security reform package that utilizes the free enterprise system to give younger workers a better return, without the requisite 60 votes in the Senate, simply will not pass a filibuster by Democrats. Not gonna happen. So this just makes the most of the political reality on the ground.

3. Republicans running for Senate in closely-divided states will have a winning issue in 2006. If and when Democrats knee-jerkedly obstruct on the issue of saving the Social Security surplus for Social Security, simply because it's a GOP idea, Republicans running in states and Congressional districts President Bush won in 2006 are going to have a great political weapon with which to clobber the "party of no."

And don't think President Bush won't take part in the bludgeoning. President Bush will go into those states and districts and take down several of those obstructing his agenda himself.

He's done it before, and he'll do it again.


An Exit Strategy?

Is the lockbox legislation part of the exit strategy on Social Security reform? Yeah, somewhat. It's certainly a way to save face and get something tangible accomplished, rather than committing political suicide by cutting benefits (the brussel sprouts) without the delayed gratification of personal accounts (the baking pie in the oven). But it's also a way to inject new life into the issue.

These latest developments do not mean the President has given up on the idea of a permanent solution for Social Security, complete with personal accounts for younger workers, nor should he give up on the idea. In fact, despite misleading headlines, this latest round of legislation DOES CREATE individual Social Security accounts that the federal government cannot take from you and divert toward paying for the bureaucracy.

Reforming one of the Left's favorite legacies of FDR, one of America's largest entitlement programs, was always going to be a painstaking and long-term process. Democrats believed, going into the debate, that they could obstruct their way back into control of Congress. They were wrong.

Now that "privatization" is clearly not included in the latest serious of Republican proposals, if Democrats still "just say no," they very well might be more dense, politically, than anyone ever even imagined.


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

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).
-Week Seventeen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Eighteen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Nineteen (Reform Needed Sooner Rather Than Later).
-Week Twenty (Global Success With Personal Accounts).

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 · 23 June 2005 11:12 AM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 86 -- Labrynthine Cities.

ROAD RAGE; The Cost of Getting Lost-

Business travel last year grew for the first since 1999.

65 percent agree that there are certain cities they consistently find difficult to navigate, and 57 percent agree that getting lost is one of the worst things that can happen on a business trip. Further, nearly 70 percent of travelers agree getting lost can negatively impact the outcome of their business meeting, and 93 percent said that arriving late to a business meeting as a result of getting lost makes a poor impression.

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Source:

Sperling's Best Places.


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79; Part 80; Part 81; Part 82; Part 83; Part 84; Part 85.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 June 2005 05:08 AM · Comments (1)

Creative Taxidermy.

Would you pay $325 for a "Squirrel Liquor Decanter"?

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How about $450 & up for a "Winged Kitten"?

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$1200 & up for "Freak Lambs and Goat Kids"?

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No?

How about 50 bucks for this "Crouching Tiger"?

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It's almost enough to make a guy want to join People for the Ethical Treatment of Dead Animals (PETDA). Or, better yet, PETA.

Oh, wait, nevermind. Last week, PETA employees made headlines for killing, and dumping, pets:

For a month, Ahoskie police have been finding dead animals.

Surveillance finally led them to a dumpster outside the Piggly Wiggly on Memorial Drive East.

And by the end of their investigation, they had discovered more than 31 dead carcasses.

Police say they found 18 dogs in the dumpster and another 13 animals in a van.

Police arrested 24-year-old Andrew Cook and 27-year-old Adria Hinkle, both of Virginia.

Police say both Cook and Hinkle are employed by PETA and the van they were driving was registered to PETA.

PETA's response:

The tragedy is that there are not enough good homes for all the animals in shelters and pounds. It is only this harsh reality that has convinced us that euthanasia is a kindness for dogs and cats born into a world that doesn’t want them, has not cared for them, and ultimately has abandoned them.

We report. You decide.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 June 2005 08:12 PM · Comments (9)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 11.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

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The actual caption:

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., holds up a bottle of oil to demonstrate America's dependence on foreign energy during a news conference on Tuesday, June 14, 2005, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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


Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, June 28. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

orangutan.gif


Last week's winners:

1.

Hoodlumman:

Ted Kennedy models Banana Republic's new summer line.


2. (co-winners)

John:

No one had the heart to tell Anna Nicole Smith that she was too old to be behaving this way.

...followed by...

Cindy T.:

It's Trim Spa baby!


3.

Am I A Pundit Now?:

Rosie O'Donnell PROVES she is ready and willing to breast feed all takers.

Caption away! You're all winners in my book.

UPDATE:

SECOND PLACE! That's classy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 June 2005 10:22 AM · Comments (32)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 85 -- Endangered Species Act.

The Environment-

Since the Endangered Species Act became law over 30 years ago, only nine of the close to 1,300 species given special protection under the ESA - or 0.6 percent of the total - have recovered.

Source:

The National Center For Public Policy Research.


The Environmental Defense Center for Conservation Incentives takes a look at the few species which have recovered (.pdf):

The Whooping Crane-
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Kirtland's Warbler-
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The Bald Eagle-
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Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle-
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The Endangered Species Act (ESA), an utter failure (notwithstanding the ones mentioned above-- something which may or may not have anything to do with the ESA), has the incentives and disincentives for conservation all backward. It needs serious reform, not more of the same.


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79; Part 80; Part 81; Part 82; Part 83; Part 84.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 June 2005 10:16 AM · Comments (2)

Newt Gingrich Talks Social Security Reform.

Earlier this month, Lance McMurray of Red State Rant and Trey Jackson of Jackson's Junction collaborated on a multi-blog interview on camera with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, soliciting questions from a variety of blogs. WILLisms.com happened to be included, which is totally awesome of Lance.

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Here is my question:

What would your ideal Social Security reform plan look like, both policy-wise, as well as politically? How do you see this debate playing out over the next year or two, and how will the passage (or lack) of reform affect the 2006 Senate and House races?

Go see Newt's response.


UPDATE:

Here is the entire response:

I think that Social Security reform is a very important step forward for America. I think it's very clear to any thinking person that a system which the first year was paid Social Security checks had 42 working taxpayers for every person on Social Security, today has 3 working taxpayers for every person on Social Security; when my two grandchildren who are now 3 and 5 get to be in the workforce, there will be 2 workers for every person drawing Social Security.

You can't have a transfer payment system when you're down to a 2-to-1 number. You've gotta have a different approach to this. So I am very concerned that we recognize that younger Americans, particularly those under 40 years of age, absolutely have to have the right to have a personal Social Security savings account that will build up interest over their entire working lifetime. It would give them 3 or 4 times as much money as there gonna get from a transfer system, it would avoid intergenerational war between the young and the old, it's very important for our economy because that level of savings would lower interest rates and increase the capital available for economic growth.

And the Ryan-Sununu bill-- Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire-- is a very good bill which moves us in this direction.

As to its impact on 2006 and 2008, I think it's a very simple equation. If you focus on the right to have a personal Social Security savings account and the right of young people to have a better retirement, I think it's a big winner for Republicans.

If they allow the Democrats to focus on benefit cuts and other kind of complexities, I think it could be dangerous for Republicans. So I think the Republicans have an absolute interest in focusing on the right of young people to have a personal Social Security savings account.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 June 2005 12:48 AM · Comments (3)

Rick Perry: "Adios, Mofo."

Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) caused a bit of a stir today with a comment made while the camera was rolling (via blogHOUSTON):

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We were trying to get the governor to give us details about his education plan. He's releasing it today, and he didn't want to give out details a day early.

"You'll have to wait until tomorrow. I hate to let you guys in on it and no one else," Gov. Perry insisted.

So we said goodbye, thank you and thought the interview was over.

"You're welcome," Gov. Perry signed off. "So long."

Our questions were not recorded on tape, but in saying goodbye I told the governor, "Try as I may, Governor, I guess I can't win this one."

Eleven seconds after he said goodbye, the camera crew was getting ready for the next interview with another station. That's when Gov. Perry repeated what he thought I'd said, and added a few words of his own with his microphone on and tape still rolling.

"Try as I may, Governor, I'm not going to wait that long," Gov. Perry said. "Adios, Mofo."

"Adios, Mofo." The way he said it was also pretty hilarious.

While some may consider this tacky, or unfortunate, or inappropriate, I happen to think it's awesome. It was unfortunate, however, that Perry felt compelled to apologize.

On a more serious note, with incumbent Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison declaring that she's running for reelection to the Senate rather than for Governor, this race is now Perry's to lose. Another Republican, Carole Keeton Strayhorn (formerly Rylander) thinks she is going to somehow snatch the GOP nomination away from Governor Perry, but it's just not going to happen.

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The food chain:

texasgovernor.gif

With Hutchison out, Strayhorn will have to work toward convincing droves of Democrats to cross over and vote for her in the Republican primary. And that's just not going to happen in the kind of numbers necessary to unseat Perry, particularly as Democrats will be able to vote for Chris Bell, the anti-DeLay.

UPDATE:

Only in America:

adiosmofo.gif

Again, this only benefits Governor Perry, whether his most strident critics realize it or not.


UPDATE 2:

The video
.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 June 2005 11:58 PM · Comments (10)

The 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.

Chernobyl-

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Michael J. Totten (via Damian Penny) wants to go:

There’s nothing quite like marveling in person at the epic-sized wreckage wrought by totalitarian goverments.

Apparently the famous "KIDDofSPEED" site was a hoax, so it's neat to see people poking around Chernobyl.

2.

Breast-feeding hubbub-

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Quid Nimis blog spots the shockingly self-centered comments of Rosie O'Donnell.

Michelle Malkin is also all over the breast-feeding brouhaha. I know some people REALLY hate moms to nurse in public, and there are probably women out there who could be a little more discreet about it, but unlike, say, cigarette smoking, you can be in relatively close proximity with a breast-feeder without necessarily being encumbered or bothered by it. Just look away.


3.

Louis Farrakhan teaching sensitivity training-

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Atlas Shrugs blog takes note that the story has a just conclusion.

4.

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba-

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The Right Thinking Girl blog has an exclusive interview with a Gitmo interrogator:

RTG: Is Gitmo necessary to the security of America?

Smith: Absolutely. There can be no question about the relevance of Gitmo. It’s saved American lives.

An interesting and informative read on the situation.

5.

Batman Begins-

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The Bad Hair blog (via GOP bloggers) believes that Batman is, in all likelihood, a Republican.

Can you even imagine a real-life crime-fighting superhero left-winger? Does not compute.



6.

Terri Schiavo-

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Dean Esmay rips people who pounced on the release of the autopsy report for their Schiavo Triumphalism:

The girl's dead now. What more can be said? I figured it was over. But a few weeks later I got a nasty piece of hate-trackback spammage swearing at me and calling me every name in the book because I'd sided with Terri's parents and siblings. Bizarrely, the writer criticized me for falling silent about her case after her death-by-dehydration. I thought, "Wow, that's bizarre. She's dead. What am I supposed to do? Write daily screeds demanding that they bring her back? The people who wanted her dead got their wish. I hope they were right."

A sad situation indeed.



7.

1940s History-

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Soldier's Angel blog believes America is forgetting its history:

Here we sit in the year 2005, more than 60 years since WWII, and there are few left to remember America as it was then. History books can give us dates, places, battles and names, but it does not remind us of the spirit of our country at the time. The passion, fire and patriotism has been forgotten as those of us too young to have been there raise a new generation of children who will not even benefit from our grandparent's memories. We have forgotten, we have not chosen to remember, and we lose something precious as we move on.

A fascinating collection of 1940s Americana.

8.

Poland's Twin Leaders-

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Arthur Chrenkoff notes that twin brothers, Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski may be the next Prime Minister and President, respectively, of Poland, explaining the two are:

...both conservatives, anti-corruption anti-government waste crusaders, and staunch supporters of the US alliance (as well as Poland's involvement in Iraq).

Poland has been a great ally of the U.S., and it is nice to see that America can likely count on Poland for some time to come.


9.

The Bush Doctrine-

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Gateway Pundit notes how Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is actually promoting the President's freedom agenda, this time in Egypt:

"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither," Rice said. "Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."

Condi actually concurs with, and articulates, President Bush's freedom philosophy in her role as Secretary of State. What a refreshing and novel concept.


10.

The Union Movement-

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Powerline blogs explores how long-term AFL-CIO leader John Sweeney may split the union movement:

At one time, a schism of this magnitude within organized labor would have been a major news story. The press' ho-hum reaction to the threatened split is perhaps a reflection of how far the influence and importance of organized labor has fallen.

...and still in free-fall mode.



11.

24, Indian-Style-

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GOP and the City blog looks at a new Indian television program's eerie similarities to Fox's 24:

Zee-TV should also be free to produce a TV show based on a group of friends who live in a hip section of New Delhi. One works in a coffee shop, one is a Bollywood actor, another works in a museum, and one works at job where no one knows what he does. The group spends their time talking about dating, work, and a naked man who lives across the way.

Some Indians love American culture, others hate it. India's television networks ripping off American show ideas is probably a good sign in the grand scheme of things. We need India as a close ally to check the rise of China.


12.

Iran's election-

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California Yankee (via Instapundit) explores the text-messaging phenomenon in Iran, and how people are trying to circumvent the regime's media crackdown:

...technology is making it more difficult for the Iranian government to control the country's presidential election. Authorities are threatening to prosecute text messagers who insult the candidates.

Tehran mayor Mahmood Ahmadinejad has become the butt of a series of less than flattering jokes and allegations...

Today, text messages; tomorrow, a new regime.

13.

The Do-Nothing Congress-

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Jayson of PoliPundit notes that, despite all the talk of a stalled agenda, the Republicans have gotten quite a lot done over the past 150 days:

Elections matter.

Everything else is background noise.

... if the GOP can pick up a few seats in 2006, the free enterprise agenda will have a bit of additional forward inertia. Let's do it.

14.

Robert Byrd, KKK alumnus-

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Ankle Biting Pundits examines how the "Exalted Cyclops" Robert Byrd got his political jumpstart in the Ku Klux Klan:

... in 1946 he wrote to the then Kleagle "The Klan is needed today as never before, and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia", at a time when he said he had "lost interest in the Klan". He makes no mention of it in the book.

Byrd's is vulnerable for his run in 2006. He needs to go.



15.

Small business hearts Social Security reform-

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Andrew Roth of the Social Security Choice blog notes that, contrary to the claims of Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Dorgan (D-ND), small businesses have the most to lose without reform, as well as the most to gain with personal accounts. Apparently the two never talked to the nation's largest small business advocacy group, the National Federation of Independent Business, which released this data:

- Small business understands the financial problems of the Social Security system and that inaction now could mean a hefty payroll tax increase for them in the future. As far back as 1998, our research shows that at least 90 percent of our members view the problem as very serious (60 percent) or somewhat serious (32 percent),

- A March 2005 NFIB member survey shows that 71 percent believe Social Security should be reformed to allow individuals to invest in personal retirement accounts

It was highly unfortunate that the GOP did not field a strong candidate against Dorgan in 2004. Gotta work on that.


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


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).

Last Week's Classiness Certification from WILLisms.com:

*June 14, 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. You can also utilize this page to make your submissions. The deadline is each Monday at 11:59 PM Central Time.

Classy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 June 2005 01:45 PM · Comments (8)

HELP WANTED: Computer Nerd Type Stuff.

Longtime readers of WILLisms.com will recall that about three weeks ago, WILLisms.com melted down right during a huge traffic surge (which was apparently completely coincidental and had nothing to do with the meltdown), and right as I was leaving town for a long weekend.

I paid the movabletype people 60 dollars to reinstall the program, because the original Berkeley database had been corrupted (what that even means, I have no idea). That's how computer illiterate I am when it comes to the coding type of jargon.
I would give the movabletype people many thumbs down, incidentally, but I won't go into that now.

Well, from that meltdown, I am still having residual problems you may have noticed. The index will go blank when I get a trackback or comment spam sent to the old movabletype platform, which still co-exists somehow out there with my new version of movabletype. I've know this would cause the problem all along, but for some reason, the movabletype people convinced me it shouldn't matter.

I don't know where it is, how to access it, why the old database would still have the power to mess up my site, and so on.

So in addition to the comments and searches having some issues with style, my site goes quasi-down several times a day.

A simple 10-second index file rebuild fixes it, so it's not the end of the world. But I may not check the site for hours in the meantime.

I finally figured out the problem (cause - effect) because of a recent surge in trackback and comment spam (mostly from poker sites) to the old platform, but I am not skilled or knowledgeable enough to fix it. I have tried getting into FTP, but it's all a bunch of nonsense to me.

My mediatemple.net server people are very helpful, but they aren't really able to do anything about this. Staci of Sekimori site design tried to explain what I needed to do, but she might as well been speaking on tongues. I probably am more computer literate than 99% of America, but this stuff is just jibberish to me.

Does anyone know about this stuff? It seems like an easy fix if you know what you are doing, but I have not heard back from the web types I have emailed about this. Help would be appreciated. If it's a bigger fix than I am thinking, I will even pay. If you have a referral of someone, even, let me know. I need to get this fixed, once and for all.

I enjoy writing, I enjoy finding fun stats, and ideas. I enjoy creating cool pictures, neat graphs, neat tables, etc. I enjoy original reporting and having the freedom to write about anything I want.

I don't enjoy the computer programming side of this. At all. In fact, I hate the computer jargon. Hate it. I've spent way too much time dealing with it lately. And computer nerds who do know this stuff are the least helpful people in the world, even when they are trying to be helpful.

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So any help or referral would be appreciated.

UPDATE:

Just happened again, no more than 10 minutes after I posted this. It is the same spammer, and I have no power to ban his IP address, because he's not even sending the pings to my real site. Very frustrating.

UPDATE 2:

And again. I am hoping to have this fixed ASAP, but if nobody can read this message, that's a little difficult, isn't it?

UPDATE 3:

Okay, fingers crossed, but I think it's good to go now. For now, at least.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 June 2005 07:40 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 84 - Education.

THE VALUE OF YOUR DEGREE-

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And look at the differing unemployment rates:

unemploymentrate.gif

Source:


The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (.pdf)
(via Political Calculations 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; Part 61; Part 62; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79; Part 80; Part 81; Part 82; Part 83.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 June 2005 06:46 AM · Comments (0)

The New York Times/CBS News Poll.

Some interesting numbers in the latest NYT/CBS poll (.pdf):

Fifty-one percent of respondents said they did not think Social Security would have the money to pay the benefits they expect when they retire; 70 percent of those under 45 felt that way.

Although critics assert brashly that Bush's push for Social Security reform is dead, take a gander at some of the positive trends in the fundamental questions on reform since January:

reformmomentum.gif

The most recent June survey included 3% less Republicans than the January survey.

January:
REPUBLICAN - 31
DEMOCRAT - 34
INDEPENDENT - 28
DK/NA - 8

June:
REPUBLICAN - 28
DEMOCRAT - 34
INDEPENDENT - 31
DK/NA - 6

Even with asking 6% more Democrats than Republicans, the fundamental impetus for reform moved in the right direction from January to June.

And speaking of impetus for reform, it's hard to defend a program increasing numbers of Americans are not so sure about:

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In terms of when Social Security should be fixed, a deep and broad majority want reform now:

fixsocialsecuritynow.gif

Only 4% say the problems with Social Security are not serious. That's practically low enough to be attributable to survey error of one sort or another.

And, finally, some good signs on the economy. The actual economy has been steaming ahead for some time now, but there has been a long-lingering perception gap. Could that lagging gap be closing? Are Americans (who have been saying their personal finances are great for quite some time) finally realizing the U.S. economy is not completely awful?

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Clearly these kinds of numbers have been higher in other surveys (during the roaring dot com boom, for example), but these are the highest numbers since President Bush took office, with room yet to grow.

Jobs, Jobs Jobs-

Two years of strong job growth is finally showing up in the public consciousness:

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If these positive trends keep up, 2006 will easily break precedent with America's "6-year-itch" trend in which the party of second-term presidents lose seats in Congress.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 June 2005 06:08 PM · Comments (1)

Carnival Time.

This week's Carnival of Revolutions is up. Go check it out.

Also, the Carnival of Capitalists.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 June 2005 10:39 AM · Comments (1)

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: Iran's Sham Election; Houston, Texas; June 17, 2005.

In previous posts (here and here), I dashed out a rough draft of my experience at an Iranian polling station right in my own backyard, in Houston, Texas.

Here's a more detailed account, with full video transcripts (if you are all Iran'd out, this'll be the final post for a while devoted exclusively to my experience on the 17th of June)--

I woke up early Friday morning and read the news at Publius Pundit that there would be an Iranian polling station set up relatively near my house in Houston, Texas.

I weighed whether or not to go.

On the one hand, it could be interesting, I could meet some pro-freedom Iranians protesting the poll, I could interview the pro-Mullah Iranians conducting the poll, I could hopefully get some pictures and/or video of the actual polling stations, and I could see for myself, unfiltered, just how the election was organized.

On the other hand, it could be dangerous-- or worse, a non-event, a monumental waste of time, an underwhelming experience. I could waste an entire day just sitting around a hotel lobby hoping for some fireworks to go off, while missing out on a chance to research and write actual blog posts (and wasting my time, otherwise).

Ultimately, through the wonders of the information superhighway, I discovered the Ramada hotel lobby had Wi-Fi, so I decided to go ahead and go. Worst case scenario, the whole deal is amazingly boring, but I can get a few pictures and jot down a few notes about what I saw. In the meantime, the blogging on other subjects can continue.

Right after lunchtime, I headed over to the Ramada Hotel located at 7611 Katy Freeway on I-10 in Houston, Texas.

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I parked in the hotel parking lot and noticed a Houston P.D. patrol car with officer lurking in the back corner of the lot. As I pulled into my parking space, I noticed two Iranian women with veils getting out of separate vehicles and walking up to the hotel.

So I grabbed my all-purpose equipment bag with my laptop, my digital video camera, and the rest of my equipment and walked inconspicuously toward the hotel, went in, and sat down in the lobby. Very normal. Very usual. Nothing strange going on. The door through which I entered the hotel was not the main entrance (and it was the door I would enter again later). Through that door, I was able to walk past the registation table where the Iranian agents, two women and one man, were stationed. I noticed at least 3 or 4 other, older Iranians milling around, communicating intermittently (and sometimes non-verbally) with the three younger Iranians tending the desk. They were clearly part of the regime apparatus.

So I strided past the table, and noticed two uniformed Houston Police Department officers, sitting and staring straight ahead, looking bored out of their minds.

As I made my way down the long hall into the main lobby area, I noticed the two veiled women I had seen in the parking lot enter and begin to converse with the people at the table. I couldn't hear what they were talking about, but shortly thereafter, the women were allowed into the closed banquet room, presumably to vote (for a regime-approved slate of candidates).

I sat down on a couch in the lobby, cracked open my laptop and placed it on the coffee table in front of me. To the left of my laptop were a stack of Houston Press newspapers (Houston's quasi-left-wing, entertainment/concert/restaurant/massage parlor rag; most larger cities have some permutation thereof).

Yay. My laptop was already connected to the Wi-Fi, so I began my slow, steady, inconspicuous, sleuthy reporting.

How to proceed from here? Hmm. Do I just lay low, and do a kind of sniper/guerilla photography? I could take a few shots, then retreat so as not to draw too much attention to myself. Or I could just go ask the Iranians at the desk if I could chat with one of them. Surely they want to get their story out, otherwise why would they even stage elections in this country?

Maybe instead I should ask people as they leave the poll how they feel about voting. One problem, though: there weren't really many voters. And the voters I did see seemed authentically Iranian. No English. Under veils. Intimidated by young men like myself.

So I sat and ruminated on the information my eyes and ears were gathering and tried to plan my next move. The Iranian agents at the registration table gave me the creeps, so it wouldn't be as easy as I had hoped to simply stroll up and start interviewing one of them. My eerie feeling about the older men milling around was almost immediately confirmed. One of them walked slowly by me, eyeing what I was doing, then out the front door of the lobby, outside. I saw him peer in the window behind me to see what I had on my computer screen. When he saw me see him, he pretended to be looking at his reflection in the window. Not smooth at all.

Then he came back inside, grabbed a Houston Press from next to my computer, walked a few feet away and started pretending to read it while so obviously watching what I was doing. He was onto me from the very beginning. So much for inconspicuous.

When he realized I was onto him being onto me, he leaned way over to put the Houston Press back onto the coffee table, stretching his neck to get a glimpse of my computer screen (this guy could have easily been a character in a really bad spy movie). I quickly tabbed over to this webpage to coldly communicate to him that I was his worst nightmare.

I looked up at him straight between the eyes, smiled, and said something like, "how're you doing?"

He said "hello" before briskly retreating back to the registration table.

I sat there for only about 2 or 3 minutes longer (I had been there a grand total of about 6 or 7 minutes) when a minor verbal scuffle broke out directly in front of me.

Some ACTION! Fun. Thinking it might be the only action all day other than Iranian regime agents profiling me, I whipped out the video camera and walked over to the altercation.

I found Shara Shirvani, plus one other woman, as well as a man in the periphery. The two uniformed officers I had seen earlier sitting in chairs next to the registration table were now arguing with Ms. Shirvani. The first film I was able to gather began thusly:

...that's why these... there are a lot of terrorists are here. They're trying to get the vote from people. And we are anti-terrorist.

And we wanted to see who is coming here. I get the report for the Persia TV. Persian Satellite TV. And I need to know who is coming here, because these people are the people who are getting paid by the Islamic government. These people who are voting.

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And everybody in Iran, nobody votes in Iran. You know, probably, had like less than 2,000 people voting. But I need to know because a lot of people here, they get paid from the Islamic government, and I need to know who those people are.

Me:

And they're not letting you? These gentlemen...

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[indicating the police]?

Ms. Shirvani:

Because I'm not dressed like the Islamic people.

Me:

Oh, I see.

Ms. Shirvani:

Because you have to have a veil. I'm not dressed properly like what they are. And these are the terrorists. And that's why I want to come here to see who is voting, who are not voting.

Me:

Okay.

Then walked over to another Iranian woman, who preferred not be named or shown on camera:

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Me:

How do you feel about it?

Woman (let's call her "Green" because of her clothing color):

Definitely I'm not gonna vote, because I'm against that. I don't see any democracy in Iran and it's not gonna happen with this voting, so there is no reason to vote for [reception desk lady (who would later hang up on me about 20 times when I tried to call to find out more information) then talked way too loud to hear the last word].

Me:

So do you think this is just a sham?

Ms. Shirvani:

Yes.

Green:

This is just for show.

Ms. Shirvani:

Just a show, and they told this officer to not let us go and sit there. And they told us we can't go there. And I need to know who are these people, because these are definitely the people who get paid by the Islamic government.

And I'm going to report it to the Persian TV and Persian radio.

But I need to know why these people, the police officers, why that man told them to not let us go in there. Is it the way we dress? Why? I need to know why?

Me:

Do you think it's because...

Ms. Shirvani:

I don't know, because, because...

Me:

...they just don't want people to watch what's going on?

Ms. Shirvani:

No, because they know that I'm against what they are doing.

nobecause.gif

Me:

Right. Do you think it's possible that they are rigging the election? Like it's just a- they're stuffing the ballot box?

Ms. Shirvani (distracted by her phone ringing):

Stuffing ballot box... well they...

Me:

Fraudulent votes?

Ms. Shirvani:

Yeah, they do that. They have done that all the time. They're not honest people. They're doing the stoning in Iran. They take eyes off. They cut the hands. They do execution. They do lot of things in Iran. They execute woman, you know, pregnant woman. And I'm againt this government. These are terrorist people. They're doing a lot of killing, executing, under the veil, under the name of the God. I'm Muslim, but not that kind of Muslim. These are the terrorists, and I'm here to let them know that the Iranian people are not supporting this government. People, they have to recognize, the Iranian people, they are pro-democracy [interrupted by Green, with a query regarding the phone call].

Give it [the phone] to this police officer.

[to the officer]

Dr., uh, police officer, that is Doctor Ahmad [probably spelling it very incorrectly]

Me:

Who is this on the phone?

Ms. Shirvani:

He's a doctor, doctor Ahman Dihi [I know I am butchering that spelling; would have gotten his info had I not been kicked out so soon]. He's, he was here earlier today. He's a reporter to see who is here, who is not. Then he got a migraine headache and he called me, I came here.

Me:

Okay.

Ms. Shirvani:

Even though I wasn't dressed, you know, I'm not dressed like what they are, but I'm here to see who are these people.

Me:

Well, you shouldn't have to be dressed like they are.

Ms. Shirvani:

No. And my name is Sharareh Shirvani.

mynameisshara.gif

[toward the registration table down the hall, then back to the camera]

My name is Sharareh Shirvani. I'm a realtor in Houston, Texas, and I'm not afraid of anyone.

These people are terrorists. These people, they going to send my name to Iran, so if I go to Iran, or any of my family goes to Iran, they gonna put me in jail, they gonna do a lot of things, torture my family, but it's okay. It's okay. I'm here to support the Iranian people.

At this point, I turned the camera off and told her:

"I'm with you. I am right there standing with you. I admire what you are doing here."

For the next 60 seconds or so, I observed as Ms. Shirvani was denied access to the voting station by the uniformed police officer. I also watched as the Iranian agents popped into and out of the convention room, peeking their heads out to look at what was going on from afar.

At 12:12 PM, I turned the camera back on for a few seconds to film the voting sign, then back off.

electionthatway.gif

Then I turned the camera to the police officer talking on the phone with the journalist who had been there to watch the poll proceedings before becoming debilitated with a migraine.

I couldn't really hear much, but I did pick up from Officer #1:

...I don't have any problems with that, but...

cellphonebuddies.gif

Yes, yes, I'll put her on... here you go ma'am.

[to the man on the phone] Bye bye.

[to Ms. Shirvani] Here's your phone.

Ms. Shirvani:

Is he okay?

Officer #1:

Nah, he said he wants to talk to you. I didn't resolve anything with him.

noentryintopoll.gif

At this point, the peripheral Iranian man enters the scene (let's call him Black, for his shirt):

[to the officers] Do you guys know you're doing something illegal? It's against, it's against, if you listen to President Bush...

[turned the camera toward him]

againstpresidentbush.gif

...said many times this is a terrorist government. So you guys are doing something against President Bush will.

Officer #2:

[condescendingly] No, we...

noofficertwo.gif

Black:

...or CIA, or NSA... I mean...

Officer #2:

No, there's, the C.I.D. officer will be here and he'll explain it all to you.

Officer #1:

He'll explain it all to you.

cidwillexplain.gif

Officer #2:

Yeah.

Me:

What does a "C.I.D. officer" mean?

Officer #2:

Uh, criminal intelligence.

Me:

Okay...

Officer #2:

So he'll answer all your...

Me:

Is he with H.P.D., or?

Officer #2:

Yes.

Me:

Okay.

So I turned off the camera again, and almost immediately, Shara Shirvani tells me, "this guy, he just took a picture of me with his telephone."

beigeshirt.gif

So I turned the camera back on (I would have left it rolling the entire time, but I didn't expect to get kicked out so soon and thought I would need all the space I could get on the digital video tape).

Ms. Shirvani:

...with his telephone.

Me:

Which one?

Ms. Shirvani:

That guy, this guy, with the beige shirt.

Me:

Do you think he's an agent?

Ms. Shirvani:

Yeah, these are all agents. They all get paid by the Islamic government. To kill people and report people.

[she went back into a phone call, so I turned off the camera once again]

I went back to sit down on the couch to start uploading some video to my computer and start putting some pics on the internet, live, of what was happening. I sat next to Green.

She told me, "don't you realize how dangerous it is, what you're doing? They could kill you."

So I started the camera rolling again.

personaluse.gif

Green:

...you never know what's gonna happen.

Me:

So I shouldn't put you on the internet?

Green:

No, it's very dangerous. I don't recommend that you put that. That's for your personal use, it's okay, you can put that. But not on internet. You can put what we said, but not...

Ms. Shirvani:

See, this is the manager, he's asking us, the manager of the Ramada hotel, he's asking us to leave the hotel. This is the manager.

askingustoleave.gif

handinface.gif

Ramada hotel manager:

Sir, I don't want you to take pictures of me [unintelligible, walking fast toward me with his hand in the camera].

handinface2.gif

I'll ask you to leave.

Me:

What's that?

Ramada hotel manager:

I'll ask you to leave.

handinface3.gif

[so I turned the camera off for less than a second, then immediately back on]

Me:

You're asking me to leave?

Ramada hotel manager:

I'm asking you to leave.

Me:

Okay.

Ramada hotel manager:

Don't, sir.

Police Officer #1:

Sir, put the camera away. This is his property.

putthecameraaway.gif

Me:

Right, well, I'm leaving.

Police Officer #1:

He's asking you to leave, you gotta go.

So I started packing my cords and things, started shutting down the computer, but left the camera rolling. The Ramada hotel manager kept his hand no less than 2 feet from my face at all times [I learned in a college class of all places that people who put their hands in the camera like that are typically guilty of something. So, DON'T DO IT. It looks bad. Juries convict for less than that.]

Me:

I'm leaving!

Ramada hotel manager:

I don't want you to, I don't want your camera on. I don't want your camera on.

Me:

Well, you're going to have to take it from me.

Police Officer #1:

Hey, just, he's asking you to leave.

heyjust.gif

Me:

I'm leaving! I'm leaving right now.

Police Officer #2:

Then why are you hostile toward him?

Me:

Okay, because he's got his hand in my face.

illegalpoll.gif

Why are you protecting the Iranian government?

Police Officer #1:

Okay, put the camera down. Let's go, we don't wanna have to...

Ms. Shirvani:

Bush is against this government! He is against this government.

Me:

This is an illegal poll that you're protecting right now.

Ramada hotel manager:

Sir, if the police is here...

Ms. Shirvani:

I know...

Ramada hotel manager:

...okay, then I'm not breaking the law.

Ms. Shirvani:

Okay.

Ramada hotel manager:

If they are here, that's fine.

Ms. Shirvani:

Okay then.

Ramada hotel manager:

If you want somebody else... another government agency, I don't have a problem. But I do have a problem disrupting an event that's been paid for.

Ms. Shirvani:

You're organizing something that Bush is against it.

Police Officer #1:

Ma'am, that is, that is not our issue.

Ms. Shirvani:

Let's wait until your supervisor comes.

Police Officer #1 points at me as if to say I need to leave.

pointleave.gif

Me, to Police Officer #1:

This is, this is really dispicable.

Ms. Shirvani:

Yes.

dispicable.gif

Me:

Really dispicable.

Police Officer #1:

This is an event that they paid for.

Ramada hotel manager:

Sir, I have asked you to leave. Please do not sit here, please.

Me:

Okay. Shutting down my computer.

[packing up the computer...]

[to the manager]

Are you part of the Iranian regime, as well?

I believe you are.

[I didn't really think so-- because he didn't look Iranian-- until I saw his reaction; I was just pushing him to see what he'd say, and the look on his face was priceless (he specifically said he did not want to be on camera, so I won't show his face here).]

Ramada hotel manager:

You're welcome to your own beliefs, sir. I'm not an Iranian.

Police Officer #1:

You are entitled to your beliefs, to your opinion, but you gotta go.

Ms. Shirvani [to me]:

Can I have your business card, sir?

------

And this part of the tape wasn't important, but I packed up my things, told Ms. Shirvani the name of my website, had her spell her name, made sure who wanted to be on film and who didn't, and so on, before leaving through the front door.

Me:

[to Green] So you don't want to be on?

Ms. Shirvani:

Put my film there.

Me [to Ms. Shirvani]:

But you do?

Green:

No... but you can write my opinion.

[A moment later...]

Ms. Shirvani:

I know they're going to report me to the Iranian government, come and torture me, or, you know, if my family goes to Iran. But I don't care, because I'm protecting all the innocent people in Iran who are in need of democracy and freedom.

reportme.gif

And these people, they cannot protect terrorism. Even they are the police of America, but they cannot protect terrorism.

So I exited unceremoniously through the revolving door, into the tropical humidity of Houston, roughly 15-20 minutes after arriving. The fastest I've ever been kicked out of anywhere.

ramadaparkinglot.gif

Filmed the Ramada sign briefly, walked toward my car, with the camera on myself.

Me:

So I've just been kicked out of the Ramada for trying to report on the election. Pretty ridiculous.

justbeenkickedout.gif

I'm gonna try to go back in, actually, right now."

[So I turned off the camera, got it into position, turned it back on, opened the door I originally entered...

sidedoor.gif

...and addressed the Iranian agent sitting behind the desk.]

Me:

Hi.

Iranian agent:

[unintelligible]

Me:

Good....

How are you guys doing?

Iranian agent:

[unintelligible]

Me:

Is this a free and fair election?

freeandfair.gif

[The look on the Iranian agent's face was amazing.]

journalist.gif

Me:

Free and fair... like anybody can vote for anybody they want to?

Iranian agent:

You want to introduce yourself first, maybe.

Me:

My name is Will Franklin.

Iranian agent:

Okay, and... you're a... journalist.

Me:

Journalist.

Iranian agent:

Okay, which organization.

policehallway.gif

[...at which point the police came barreling down the hallway toward me, so I cut off the camera and left immediately.]

I wish I had left the camera rolling to capture the Jedi mind tricks it took to get out of being arrested, but I didn't want to press my luck.


BUREAUCRATS:

After I left, I drove home, uploaded as much as I could in the first hour or so, and posted it. After that, I called the Ramada to try to get more information.

The woman at the front desk answering the phone slammed the phone down, cutting me off several times, before I was even able to really ask anything. She then put Officer Cram of the H.P.D. on the phone to tell me I was violating the law by calling the Ramada repeatedly (even though she would literally cut me off in the middle of my first syllable).

State Department-

I then called the State Department and talked to two or three bureaucrats. Finally got transferred to a lady working on Iraq's elections. IRAQ! Ugh.

So I gave up on the State Department.

The White House-

I then called the White House and talked to a switchboard operator, then to a very nice and cordial woman who seemed very interested in what I was talking about. She called me "brave" and asked the name of my website, and promised to pass it on to the other folks at the White House. I couldn't ask for much more, unfortunately.

After the White House, I called the Ramada some more. Finally I was able to get Officer Cram back on the line. He told me the Iranian governnment was paying for the event. He asked me what I had against democracy.

I told him the event there was not legal and was patently against American policy.

He said: "Well, in these United States it is legal. Otherwise they wouldn't be allowing it." He also got Iran and Iraq confused.

Infuriating.

The Police Department-

I then called the Houston Police Department. Spoke with several officers, tried to explain to them what the deal was. Finally, someone told me the number for internal affairs, so I spoke with Lt. Alsbrooks for a while about what was going on.

He finally told me, "no.... [skeptical], Iran is not a democracy. They don't have elections. They've got those Mullahs."

Me: "Exactly, but they are having sham elections right here, right now, in Houston, Texas."

He responded that they have a right to have a private meeting. I told him about American policy toward Iran and how the U.S. government considers Iran a terrorist regime. Any other country, yeah. But we do not have relations with Iran. Iranian government agents are not allowed free and unfettered access to America.

In the end, I got nowhere with him. He was clearly ready to leave for the weekend.

The Media-

So I called local NBC affiliate News2Houston's news room to tip them off and explain what I had just witnessed. They had more important stories to cover, such as an infestation of bees at an elderly man's house, a traffic sign with the wrong MPH on it (25 instead of 30), and, of course, Tom Cruise and Joey from Dawson's Creek (Katie Holmes). I talked to a few people in the news room, and one of them told me "we are following that on the wires. If we run it, it'll be a wire story."

I told him, "with all due respect, this is a Houston-specific story. And it may very well be the biggest story happening here today."

He cut me off a few times as I explained myself and said something like, "no, no it isn't."

So I called him a jerk and told him he wasn't listening. He perked up and allowed me to explain. I explained the situation. He said, "...but we don't have diplomatic relations with Iran, so they can't be voting here. That doesn't even make sense."

Me: "Exactly."

He suddenly became enthusiastic about the story, and he promised to send someone over to investigate. As far as I know, nothing happened in the end. The story never appeared on air.

FBI-

So I called the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and spoke with three bureaucrats who seemed thoroughly disinterested. Everyone was ready to go home for the weekend. Bothering them on a Friday afternoon was really rude of me.

Finally I spoke with the Houston FBI contact, and she was amazingly non-chalant about what I was telling her. She said they would take note of it.

On being a crackpot-

I just wish I had somehow been able to record the phone conversations, because some of the lines I heard from these bureaucrats were mind-boggling. Absolutely amazing. Mostly, they all treated me the way bureaucrats treat crackpots.

Dismissive. Disinterested. Disrespectful, even.

In the end, shutting down the polls might have caused more trouble, diplomatically, for the Bush adminstration, than it was worth. In the meantime, I can report firsthand with certainty that Friday's Iranian election in Houston was not free, not transparent, and not truly open to all Iranians who wanted to vote, even just to cast a protest vote.

It was a "private event" paid for by the Iranian regime. In the same way that certain candidates were excluded and others approved from the ballot, certain Iranians in Houston were allowed in, others not.

Iran's election: SHAM.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 June 2005 05:36 AM · Comments (13)

Quotational Therapy: Part 21 -- President Clinton On Social Security Reform.

THE PRESIDENT, ON SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM-

February 2, 1998:

We have a great opportunity now to take action now to avert a crisis in the Social Security system. We have a great opportunity now to be able to tell all these young people who are shadowing their Cabinet and administration leaders that Social Security will be there for them when they retire. We have a great opportunity, those of us in the baby boom generation, to tell our own children that when we retire and start drawing Social Security, it isn't going to bankrupt them to take care of us and undermine their ability to take care of their own children. We need to do this.


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


February 9, 1998:

This fiscal crisis in Social Security affects every generation. We now know that the Social Security trust fund is fine for another few decades. But if it gets in trouble and we don't deal with it, then it not only affects the generation of the baby boomers and whether they'll have enough to live on when they retire, it raises the question of whether they will have enough to live on by unfairly burdening their children and, therefore, unfairly burdening their children's ability to raise their grandchildren.


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


April 7, 1998:

Today the system is sound, but the demographic crisis looming is clear. The baby boomers -- 76 million of us -- are now looking ahead to their retirement. And people, clearly, are living longer, so that by 2030, there will be twice as many elderly as there are today.

All these trends will impose heavy strains on the system. Let's look at the next chart here. You can see that in 1960, which wasn't so long ago, there were over five people working for every person drawing Social Security. In 1997, last year, there were over three people --3.3 people -- working for every person drawing. But by 2030, because of the increasing average age, if present birthrates and immigration rates and retirement rates continue, there will be only two people working for every person drawing Social Security....

This national effort will call on the best of our people. It will require us to rise above partisanship. It will require us to plan for the future, to consider new ideas, to engage in what President Roosevelt once called "bold, persistent experimentation." It will remind us that there are some challenges that we can only meet as one nation acting through our national government, just as there are others we can better meet as individuals, families, communities.

This is also a challenge for every generation. To the older Americans here today, let me say, you have nothing to worry about. For you Social Security is as strong as every. To the younger people here today who may believe that you will never see a Social Security check -- indeed, I saw a poll which purported to be serious that said that Americans in their twenties thought it was more likely they would see a U.F.O. than that they would every draw Social Security. (Laughter.) That skepticism may have been well founded in the past, but just as we put our fiscal house in order, we can and must put Social Security in order.

And above all, to my fellow baby boomers, let me say that none of us wants our own retirement to be a burden to our children and to their efforts to raise our grandchildren. It would be unconscionable if we failed to act, and act now, as one nation renewing the ties that bind us across the generations.

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


October 24, 1998:

As with so many other long-term challenges, if we act now, it will be far, far easier to resolve the problem than if we wait until a crisis is close at hand. I believe we must save Social Security and do it next year....

Unfortunately, some in Congress already may be backing away from this historic opportunity. That would be a grave mistake. As with so many other long-term challenges, if we act now, it will be far, far easier to resolve the problem than if we wait until a crisis is close at hand. I believe we must save Social Security and do it next year.

I pledge to work with anyone from any party who is serious about this task. We cannot let partisanship derail our best opportunity to strengthen Social Security for the 21st century.


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


All of these declarations that Social Security faces a crisis and needs reform could have easily come from President Bush. While President Bush makes similar points all the time, the above words are not his.

wjc42.gif

All these words are belong to President William Jefferson Clinton. Monica Lewinsky happened at the same time, though, derailing any kind of potential for serious and lasting reform.

Clearly, the "There Is No Crisis" crowd in Washington can't really believe that Social Security is "A - O.K." It's just tacky, partisan silliness.

Previous post on Clinton's "Social Security = crisis" declarations:
"Crisis, and opportunity."

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; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19; Part 20.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 June 2005 05:32 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 83 -- Hollywood Movies.

G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17 -

The typical G-rated movie is 11 times more profitable than the average R-rated movie. That only makes sense, as there are so many rated R movies (although fewer than there used to be):

rratedmovie.gif

movieprofits.gif

Source:

The Dove Foundation (.pdf).

It's difficult to imagine G-rated movies remaining bigtime money makers if there were far more of them.


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


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79; Part 80; Part 81; Part 82.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 June 2005 04:10 AM · Comments (0)

Iran's Fake Election.

The Wall Street Journal:

The most astonishing aspect of Friday's presidential vote in Iran is not that the elections will go into a second round but that Tehran managed to convince so many in the West that this is a real demonstration of democracy.

If you missed all the fun, go check out me almost getting arrested here and here.

And although I've already linked to it, be sure to read Robert Mayer's account of the sham polling station in Tucson, Arizona, and DON'T MISS the comments section at the end.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 June 2005 11:25 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 82 -- Iran.

IRAN'S POPULATION-

With the flurry of changes happening today in Iran, it's time to get to know the people of Iran a little better:

iranpopulation.gif

CIA World Factbook.


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


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79; Part 80; Part 81.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 June 2005 08:39 AM · Comments (1)

Yalta: Stalin, FDR, and a Lemon Tree.

yalta.gif

The meeting was cordial and consisted primarily of Stalin’s welcoming the President to Yalta and making sure that he was comfortably settled. Since it was about cocktail hour, the President repeated a ritual he regularly performed at the White House: He made a pitcher of dry martinis. As he passed a glass to Stalin, he said apologetically that a good martini really should have a twist of lemon.

At six o’clock the following morning, when I came down to the main entrance hall, I was astonished to find, just outside the door to the anteroom, a huge lemon tree—I counted some 200 pieces of fruit on it—which Stalin had ordered flown in from his native Georgia so the President could serve his martinis with a twist.

Source:

How would you like to be attached to the Red Army?” (American Heritage, June/July). [via Arts and Letters Daily].

Fascinating stuff. Stalin played the ailing Roosevelt like a fiddle at Yalta. President Bush was absolutely correct when he asserted earlier this year that the agreement reached by the Big Three at Yalta was one of the great wrongs of history, a flawed and unjust agreement which led to the captivity of millions.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 June 2005 12:13 AM · Comments (3)

VIDEO: Iran's Sham Election In Houston, Texas.

You'll want to be familiar with this post before you proceed.

Okay, so here's the video thus far (each video is ~ 900 KB and in .wmv format) It is a little raw, and choppy, because I had to edit out the parts showing the faces of people who fear being recognized.

Part 1-

Shara Shirvani:
"A lot of terrorists are here."
"These people are... getting paid by the Islamic government."
"They told this officer to not let us go and sit there."

video1.gif
Part One.

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

Part 2-

Shara Shirvani: "I need to know why these people, the police officers, that man told them to not let us go in there. Is it because of the way we dress? Why? I need to know why."

"I'm Muslim, but not this kind of Muslim."

"These are the terrorists, and I am here to let them know that the Iranian people are not supporting this government."

"The Iranian people, they are pro-democracy."

video2.gif
Part Two.

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

Part 3-

Hotel manager: "I'll ask you to leave."

video3.gif
Part Three.

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

Part 4-

Hotel manager: "If the police is here, I'm not breaking the law. If they are here, that's fine."

Shirvani: "...Bush is against it."

H.P.D.: "Ma'am, that is, that is not our..."
"This an event that they paid for."

video4.gif
Part Four.

[I was packing up my computer and other equipment here, but left the camera rolling, if you were wondering why I wasn't exiting immediately.]

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

Part 5-

Shara Shirvani:
"Don't you worry about me. I know they are going to report me to the Iranian government... but I don't care, because I'm protecting all the innocent people in Iran who are in need of democracy and freedom."

Me: "Is this a free and fair election? ... Free and fair, like anybody can vote for anybody they want to?"

Iranian agent: "You want to introduce yourself first, maybe."

Me: "My name is Will Franklin."

Iranian agent: "Okay, and... you're a... journalist."

Me: "Journalist."

Iranian agent: "Okay, which organization."

video5.gif
Part Five.

[...at which point the police interrupted the fun. Unfortunately, I stopped filming at that point, not wanting to press my luck.]

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

Some additional reading on Iran's non-election:

National Review's Michael Ledeen explains when an election is not an election:

Ask yourself two simple questions. Does the president of Iran hold any real power? Has any "candidate" (of which there are eight) been chosen by anyone other than the supreme leader and his cronies?

No, and no....

Sensible folks have learned that it isn't about personality, it's about freedom and tyranny. All the totalitarian regimes of the last century staged elections, and they were all meaningless, because the structure of the state concentrated power in the two hands of the dictator, and exercised through the single party.

Meanwhile, even The New York Times (via Jim-Rose) concurs with the "sham" assessment:

Today's presidential election in Iran is an affront to true democracy, just as the past record of the front-running contender, Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is an affront to true moderation. As President Bush rightly noted, the voting was effectively rigged in advance by the council of unelected clerics that decided who would and who wouldn't be allowed to run.

More to come, including transcripts from the portions of the video I had to edit out, as well as more description and analysis of what didn't make it onto the tape (plus, a discussion of the phone calls I made to bureaucrats at the State Department, FBI, H.P.D., news organizations, and so on, throughout the day).

UPDATE:

Robert Mayer offers his report of the Iranian polling station in Tucson, Arizona. Sounds wild, and a little familiar.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 June 2005 01:38 PM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 81 -- China and Oil.

CHINA'S INSATIABLE AND GROWING THIRST FOR OIL-

In 2003, China overtook Japan as the world's second-largest importer of oil, behind the United States. That was only the beginning:

chinaoil.gif

According to the International Energy Agency:

[OPEC] supplies 38 percent of the world's oil, but by 2030 — thanks in part to China's growing demand — the group's market share is expected to zoom to 54 percent.

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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79; Part 80.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 June 2005 08:46 AM · Comments (0)

Look Left, Look Right, The Blogosphere Is Out Of Sight.

Apologies for that title.

Patrick Ruffini has a great post on the differences between the left and right hemispheres of the blogosphere:

Bowers trashes the conservative blogosphere as "aristocratic" and "anti-meritocratic." But if anything, the tables are now turned. Ironically, it is the liberal blogosphere that has adopted the more corporate, top-down approach to blogging: to be heard, you must go to Kos, Atrios, and Josh Marshall. This has the effect of aggrandizing a few superstar bloggers at the top, but leaving smaller liberal blogs scrounging for the all-too-rare link from the top dogs. If you wish to strike out on your own, starting a blog with a flavor all its own, your support structure and your chances of getting noticed will be greater on the right.

Before I even started getting into the "whole blogging thing," I noticed what Patrick describes. DailyKos, "Rex Blogum" (King Blogger), has become a glorified message board.

Another observation: The left-wing blogs also became radicalized during the whole Dean craze of late 2003.

This radicalization also trickles into NPR, NYT, etc. I talked to a low level NPR producer recently (a closet moderate, and occasional Republican), and she told me that she walks around her office and she sees Kos and Talking Points Memo and several other left wing blogs I had never heard of (she was shocked I had never heard of them, being that I am a blogger -- but, frankly, I just don't have the time) on all the computer screens.

The radicalization also bounces back to the elected officials on the left. Case in point: Dick Durbin's recent outrageous comments, almost no different from anything you see on the left-wing blogs.

TRAFFIC VERSUS RESULTS-

What does the left-wing blogosphere have to show for itself for all of its wonderful traffic and community appeal? Almost nothing. No, really, what can they say they have accomplished? Dean as DNC chairman? Yay for them.

The conservative blogosphere, meanwhile, can take credit for a lot of victories of varying degrees of significance. Rathergate and Eason Jordan, just to name a couple.

I also concur with Patrick on the importance of blogs on the GOP side in 2008. The blogs will be hugely influential. Getting the endorsement of the bloggers at Powerline or Captain's Quarters will be huge-- and far more important than any newspaper endorsement.

But getting the endorsement and support of the vast number of medium-sized right-leaning blogs will allow for a true grassroots surge for a relatively unknown candidate. The left doesn't have that same kind of medium-sized blog network. They are mostly monopolized by the few at the top.

As far as Patrick's contention that conservatives should be on the look-out for a new moderation emanating from the left-leaning blogs, I tend to disagree. The blogs are intractably far-left. Moderation will have to come in the form of a Sister Souljah moment, where Hillary or whomever stands up and strongly rebukes the gurgling fever swamps that the left-wing blogs have become. If anything, Hillary Clinton disavowing Kos, et al., once the nomination is wrapped up, could be an artificial-but-important moment of contrast. The wonderfully refreshing moderate denouncing the angry leftist bloggers.

It'll be too easy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 June 2005 10:12 PM · Comments (5)

Iran's Election.

Wandered over to Publius Pundit early this morning, and found this post explaining that Iranians in America can vote at polling locations (.pdf) around the country.

So I wandered over to the Houston Ramada (phone # 713-688-2222) to do a little sleuthing and ALMOST GOT ARRESTED! They took my license and were prepared to book me, but I convinced them that would be a terrible mistake, they would look bad, etc.

Still: Absurd.

The Iranian regime had paid a pretty penny for the hotel's protection. But I talked to some Iranian dissidents on film, some of whom were petrified at the notion of being on camera. Literally, frightened by what may happen to them and their families.

But one woman in particular was willing to stand up and be heard. She said she was even willing to endure torture if they sent agents after her. Freedom in Iran meant that much to her. Another asked me, "don't you realize how dangerous it is, what you're doing? They could kill you."

I told her not to worry about that. She was one who did not want to appear on film. I will carefully edit her out of the sequences.

I will try to have the video up as soon as I can figure out the technology. If someone wants to help with that, let me know. Video is crazy on the bandwidth eating. Maybe I will just post pictures with transcripts.

Before heading over there, I was, honestly, a smidge skeptical of the claims made by the Iranian freedom websites (they are pretty intense claims, after all).

Please forgive me. Please, please forgive me. I now understand fully just what a sham these elections are. These elections are fraudulent, unfree, and unfair. For now, I leave you with the statement issued by the White House:

In recent months, the cause of freedom has made enormous gains in the broader Middle East. Millions of people in Afghanistan and Iraq defied terrorists to cast their ballots in free elections. Palestinians voted for a new president who rejects violence and is working for democratic reform, and the people of Lebanon reclaimed their sovereignty and are now voting for new leadership. Across the Middle East, hopeful change is taking place. People are claiming their liberty. And as a tide of freedom sweeps this region, it will also come eventually to Iran.

The Iranian people are heirs to a great civilization - and they deserve a government that honors their ideals and unleashes their talent and creativity. Today, Iran is ruled by men who suppress liberty at home and spread terror across the world. Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy.

The June 17th presidential elections are sadly consistent with this oppressive record. Iran's rulers denied more than a thousand people who put themselves forward as candidates, including popular reformers and women who have done so much for the cause of freedom and democracy in Iran.

The Iranian people deserve a genuinely democratic system in which elections are honest - and in which their leaders answer to them instead of the other way around. The Iranian people deserve a truly free and democratic society with a vibrant free press that informs the public and ensures transparency. They deserve freedom of assembly, so Iranians can gather and press for reform and a peaceful, loyal opposition can keep the government in check. They deserve a free economy that delivers opportunity and prosperity and economic independence from the state. They deserve an independent judiciary that will guarantee the rule of law and ensure equal justice for all Iranians. And they deserve a system that guarantees religious freedom, so that they can build a society in which compassion and tolerance prevail.

Today, the Iranian regime denies all these rights. It shuts down independent newspapers and websites and jails those who dare to challenge the corrupt system. It brutalizes its people and denies them their liberty.

America believes in the independence and territorial integrity of Iran. America believes in the right of the Iranian people to make their own decisions and determine their own future. America believes that freedom is the birthright and deep desire of every human soul. And to the Iranian people, I say: As you stand for your own liberty, the people of America stand with you.

Standing with the freedom-loving people of Iran!

UPDATE:

Some screen captures, for now:

The luxurious Ramada Hotel, on Interstate 10 in Houston-
ramada.gif

Election sign-
iranelection.gif

Shara Shirvani, pro-freedom Iranian -
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Denied entry-
noentry.gif

A dissident: "...you guys [police officers] are doing something against President Bush..."-
freeiranian.gif

Another anti-regime Iranian, frightened, but brave: "I don't see any democracy in Iran"-
iraniandissident.gif

Uh oh, kicked out-
kickedout.gif

Leaving the hotel, gonna take one last crack at it-
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One last shot at talking to the Iranian agents-
iranianagent.gif

[Re-entry into the hotel (through a different door) was nearly grounds for an arrest on criminal trespassing charges.]

Me: "Is this a free and fair election?"
regimeagent.gif

I guess not (at this point, the police officers ran down the hall after me). They took my information and called it in (I guess to see if they could arrest me on any kind of outstanding warrant), but they came around after some Jedi mind tricks.

Will post transcripts and brief clips soon.

Also going to try to do a follow-up interview with Ms. Shirvani.

UPDATE 2:

Calling Ramada and getting hung up on, time and time again: 713-688-2222. They put a Houston P.D. officer (Officer Cram, Badge # 906) on the phone to tell me calling them again and again (even though they kept hanging up on me) was harrassment. He also told me it was paid for by the Iranian government. I told him it was not a legal poll, because the U.S. does not have diplomatic ties to Iran and considers that nation a terrorist regime.

He said: "Well, in these United States it is legal. Otherwise they wouldn't be allowing it."

Idiot.

UPDATE 3:

Local NBC affiliate is allegedly going to go check it out.

UPDATE 4:

Gateway Pundit reports on the underwhelming polling station in St. Louis.

This will be the final update on this thread. Forthcoming updates will be new topics.

UPDATE 5:

Okay, just kidding. That wasn't the final update. But in all fairness to myself, this update is just to indicate that there's video in a new post.

UPDATE 6:

Click here for a richer narrative on Iran's sham election in Houston.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 June 2005 01:36 PM · Comments (20)

Quotational Therapy: Part 20 -- Barry Goldwater, On Freedom.

BARRY GOLDWATER, ON FREEDOM-

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"The good Lord raised this mighty Republic to be a home for the brave and to flourish as the land of the free-not to stagnate in the swampland of collectivism, not to cringe before the bully of communism.

Now, my fellow Americans, the tide has been running against freedom. Our people have followed false prophets. We must, and we shall, return to proven ways-- not because they are old, but because they are true. We must, and we shall, set the tide running again in the cause of freedom. And this party, with its every action, every word, every breath, and every heartbeat, has but a single resolve, and that is freedom - freedom made orderly for this nation by our constitutional government; freedom under a government limited by laws of nature and of nature's God; freedom - balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the slavery of the prison cell; balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the license of the mob and of the jungle.

Now, we Americans understand freedom. We have earned it, we have lived for it, and we have died for it. This Nation and its people are freedom's model in a searching world. We can be freedom's missionaries in a doubting world. But, ladies and gentlemen, first we must renew freedom's mission in our own hearts and in our own homes."

-Barry Goldwater, from his nomination acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention.


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; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18; Part 19.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 June 2005 07:24 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 80 -- Girl Power.

THE LOST BOYS (or, GIRLZ ROOL, BOYZ DRULE!)-

In a previous post, I noted the high proportion of girls (and low proportion of boys) among the honors grads in my little sister's high school graduating class.

Anecdotal, that little experiment wasn't. Girls, ever-increasingly, rule the school:

From 1992 to 2000, the ratio of enrolled males to females fell from 82 to 78 boys for every 100 girls. The NCES projects that in 2007 the ratio will be 75 males for every 100 females; in 2012, 74 per 100.

In short, your son is statistically more likely than your daughter to work a blue collar job.

Additionally, a staggering, and troubling, number:

...68 percent of college enrollees from low-income families were female; only 31 percent were male.

And the disparity is projected to increase:


collegeenrollment.gif

Between 2000 and 2013, college enrollment is projected to increase 15 percent for men and 21 percent for women.

Meanwhile, it's more than merely enrollment that the ladies are outpacing the dudes. Women are also out-degreeing men:

In 1999-2000, women received 133 bachelor's degrees for every 100 to men. In the 2009-2010 school year, women are projected to receive 142 bachelor's degrees for every 100 for men.

If you are currently a young male in high school not sure about that whole college thing, what more incentive do you need? Chicks, everywhere. Think about it.


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78; Part 79.

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.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 June 2005 06:49 AM · Comments (0)

Nancy Pelosi, GOP Majority Insurance.

Ever notice how Republicans sort of just go easy on Nancy Pelosi? Unlike the Left's seething resentment against highly effective Majority Leader Tom DeLay, conservatives sort of like having Nancy Pelosi in her slot as Minority Leader.

Personality flaws aside (have you ever seen her speak and/or interact with other human beings?), she has officially gone off the deep end.

She's majority insurance for Republicans.

pelosi.gif

The Raw Story interviewed Nancy Pelosi, and, in friendly territory, she gave some brow-raising responses. Among other things, Pelosi commented on Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL)'s idea of raising the payroll tax cap on those making more than 90,000 dollars annually to solve Social Security's looming crisis:

No. It’s one person, we’re over 200 of us, have stuck together. If Democrats wanted to do that from day one, it’s raising taxes on our base....

On the issue of the Downing Street Memo, meanwhile, she credited left-wing blogs for their perserverence in getting this "very important" story out there.

JustOneMinute agrees that Pelosi is majority insurance for the GOP:

Where can I send my contribution? With her and Howard leading the way, all is well with the world.

Nancy Pelosi is so full of character flaws, not to mention her antiquated "Frisco" ideology, not to mention her oozing ethical hypocrisy, that Republicans can't help but root for her continued success within her own party. In 2006, Republicans running for the House of Representatives around the country will be able to tell voters that a vote for even a moderate, likeable Democrat is really a vote for Nancy Pelosi.

Can you imagine Nancy Pelosi as Majority Leader?

Neither can America. That's why she's majority insurance for Republicans.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 June 2005 01:55 PM · Comments (2)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Twenty.

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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:

Personal Accounts Around The Globe.

"From the Conservative party in Great Britain, to communists in China to a fascist dictatorship in Chile to social democrats in Sweden, the impetus of reform has been the same. Ideology doesn’t matter when you can’t pay your bills."

So sayeth National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) President John C. Goodman.

Indeed, the Bismarckian pay-as-you-go funding structures of pensions found around the world are collapsing for the same basic reason: people, in every corner of the world, stopped making enough babies to support the pyramid scheme necessary to keep pay-as-you-go afloat.

So, facing looming crises, what did governments of various stripes, all around the world, do? Did they say There Is No Crisis? Did they simply say No Dice? Did they hope to pass the problem on to future generations?

NO!

Governments all around the world saw the writing on the wall, got their rear ends in gear, and reformed their Social Security systems for the long-term.

A June 2005 policy study by NCPA, Reforming Social Security: Lessons from Thirty Countries (via Social Security Choice blog) examines pension reforms from a diverse lot of nations, noting that the "way we design the personal account system will determine reform’s winners and losers, the economic status of the elderly as a group as well as the cost to the coming generations, and its impact on the broader economy."

Success of the reforms range from adequate to wildly successful, and we can draw lessons about how to keep administrative costs low, how to minimize investment risk, how to structure benefit payouts (preventing retirees from blowing a hole in their money in one fell swoop), and, most importantly, how to ensure that the elderly are kept out of poverty.

Let's take a gander at the pension reforms around the world. In some countries, the personal account comprises the bulk (or all) of the pension, in others it is only a portion of an overall pension strategy:

Latin America-

reformlatinamerica.gif

With younger populations and relatively small pension obligations (and because of early action), Latin American countries generally opted for larger personal accounts, decisions which have paid off remarkably well over the years.


The countries of the former Soviet Union-

sovietreform.gif

With a couple of notable exceptions, personal accounts in these countries comprise a relatively small portion of their pension systems. Here's why:

Countries of Eastern and Central Europe typically have large implicit pension debts due to aging populations and generous benefits owed to workers and retirees in the traditional systems. These countries were more likely to start relatively small private plans, because they could not afford the high transition costs they would face with a larger shift of contributions. Nor could they afford an add-on in view of their already high payroll tax rates, which often exceeded 25 percent.


Modern economies-

postindustrialreform.gif

An interesting fact, underscoring the power of personal accounts:

...in Sweden, which has the smallest private pillar in relative terms, about 14 percent of total contributions go into the accounts; but 30 percent of total benefits are projected to come from the accounts.


Lessons for U.S. reform efforts:

Compared with other industrialized countries, the United States currently has a trust fund surplus and a relatively small pension debt stemming from our younger population — which makes it easier to divert some of the current payroll tax into personal accounts.

If Democrats continue to obstruct real reform over the next several years, however, our options for an optimal remodeling of Social Security diminish rapidly, policy-wise, as well as politically.


Additional reading: "Social Security: Bad for the Democrats."


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).
-Week Seventeen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Eighteen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Nineteen (Reform Needed Sooner Rather Than Later).

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 · 16 June 2005 01:13 PM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 79 -- Product Names.

NONSENSICAL PRODUCT NAMES-

Ever get fed up trying to decipher what Gatorade's Riptide Rush (just as one example among many) is supposed to taste like? And what does that hazy purply sort of color represent, anyway?


riptiderush.gif

Whatever happened to good ole easy-to-imagine Orange, or Lemon Lime, or even Fruit Punch?

Here's what:

...consumers react positively to imaginative names even if they are not particularly descriptive....

In studies of jellybeans and colored sweaters, the researchers found an overall positive reaction to names that gave little information about what a flavor or product color was really like, such as Millennium orange or Snuggly white....

In an initial experiment testing flavor names, 100 undergraduates were asked to complete an unrelated questionnaire on a computer. After finishing the questionnaire at the computer, the students were told they could take some jellybeans. The jellybeans were in six cups each with a sign attached listing the flavor. Half the subjects saw jellybean names that were common descriptives: blueberry blue, cherry red, chocolate brown, marshmallow white, tangerine orange and watermelon green. The other half saw flavors with ambiguous names: Moody blue, Florida red, Mississippi brown, white Ireland, Passion orange and Monster green. Researchers observed that the less common names were more popular.

As part of the experiment, some subjects were distracted by questions about the computer survey as they selected their jellybeans. In those cases, there was no preference for the unusually named flavors. That suggested that the decision to go with the less common name is a cognitive response indicating a person puts at least some thought into the decision.

Some interesting research. I guess the Gatorade people might know what they are doing, afterall. I always assumed it was because it is exceedingly difficult to artificially flavor something to taste like a fruit. With Cascade Crash and Glacier Freeze, Gatorade could focus on creating a drink that tastes acceptable-- and ambiguous, rather than trying to engineer authentic flavors found in nature. But it probably has more to do with simple marketing psychology.

Source:
Wharton School of Business.

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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77; Part 78.

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 · 16 June 2005 09:21 AM · Comments (0)

The Three 'L's of Politics.

Herman Cain has a great piece on Leaders, Liberals, and Laggards with regard to Social Security:

Leaders make things happen. Liberals stop things from happening, and laggards wait to act until someone else acts first. Leaders, liberals, and laggards are all present in our nation’s Capital, where our elected officials are supposed to work on fixing our big issues. Unfortunately, the leaders are way out-numbered.

Building an Ownership Society looks to be more of a long-term project than many would have guessed following the decisive spankings the Democrats have received in recent elections.

It'll essentially take 60 "leaders" in the Senate, 218 in the House, and one in the White House, before we'll see meaningful, substantive reforms of untenable programs like Social Security. That is, unless some dynamic in the debate changes. The midterm elections of 2006 could serve as the wake-up call that the establishment media's polls are garbage, that America is trending powerfully toward the GOP, that people really disdain obstruction and do-nothingism. But 2002 should have sounded that alarm. Ditto on 2004. 2006, though, could be the third snooze alarm that finally gets people out of bed. If Republicans manage to pick up 2 or 3 Senate seats, in addition to maybe one or two House seats, the inertia for leadership rather than laggardliness may receive an important infusion.

Right now, Republicans control 55 seats in the Senate, but only about 45 are real leaders. In the House, the GOP holds 232 seats, but only 200 or so are true leaders. Democrats, meanwhile, are almost unanimously worthless in the leadership department.

Sixty conservatives in the Senate is a daunting task. With Republicans such as Lincoln Chafee and Olympia Snowe, who even needs an opposition party? The GOP may need upwards of 65 or more seats in the Senate just to get a serious pro-growth reform agenda passed.

Let's get to work on that, shall we? A goal of 65 Republicans may seem absurd, but, by 2015, if the GOP can chip away just two seats per election, that's that. If Republicans can win both Senate seats of every state that Bush won in 2004 by 2015, that's 62 Senate seats. Add in one here or there from Oregon or Washington, from New Hampshire or Pennsylvania or Maryland or the Midwest, and there you go.

Difficult, yeah. Impossible, no. In the meantime, we must win the battles on the issues. Our ideas beat theirs, every time. As members of the majority party, we shouldn't get laggardly in our ability to articulate our ideas.

As Herman Cain would say, we need leaders in Washington, not laggards. For now, we bloggers must be the leaders on Social Security.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 June 2005 12:16 AM · Comments (2)

Carnival of the Optimists.

Boxing Alcibiades has posted this week's Carnival of the Optimists. Very classy. Uplifting news is fantastical.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 June 2005 09:11 PM · Comments (0)

On The Importance Of CAFTA-DR.

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The most important American free trade agreement in a decade, CAFTA (or, CAFTA-DR, or DR-CAFTA-- whichever name you prefer), today faces potential suffocation at the hands of short-sighted members of Congress. A protectionist zeitgeist sweeping the U.S. Congress today could undermine America's commitment to the advance of free markets around the world. CAFTA's defeat would be a major setback for President Bush's freedom agenda in the Western Hemisphere; Democrats, beholden to big labor, are nearly unanimously against it, as some Republicans are getting squishy.

James G. Poulos, in The American Spectator, explains that CAFTA is imperative for U.S. national security:

CAFTA CAN'T BE SOLD on the TV interview circuit as the spearhead of a multilayered intelligent American design meant to permanently guide the Western Hemisphere toward the expression of U.S. objectives. Even today we are inclined to blanch at the idea that free trade agreements should be passed into law in order to accomplish things that have nothing to do with economics. But the Bush administration believes, at home and abroad, that everything has to do with economics. Zoellick: "Free markets, development, opportunity, and hope are the best weapons against poverty, disease, and tyranny." Bush: "By transforming our hemisphere into a powerful free trade area, we will promote democratic governance, human rights, and economic liberty for everyone."

Specifically, China is making a play for Latin America. On a recent trip to Belize, China's influence was unmistakable. Bridges and other infrastructure proudly brandished plaques indicating that the folks back in Beijing were responsible for picking up the tab. Observing such overt and tangible Chinese influence in America's backyward is unsettling, to say the least.

More on the China connection:

China is now Brazil's third-largest trading partner, and Argentina's fourth-largest. China is negotiating a free trade agreement with Chile....

The course of American foreign policy and grand strategy within the ambit of the Monroe Doctrine is something that would be determined, in a perfect world, without having to package it all under the half-ingenuous auspices of a simple free trade agreement. But the difference between CAFTA and NAFTA is not just a matter of years. America's geostrategic play for Latin America as well as the Middle East not only creates barriers to the expansion of Chinese economic influence, but it controls -- one can hope -- the vast arc of disorder reaching from Cali to Kinshasa to Tikrit to Tashkent.

You can learn a lot about a piece of legislation, treaty, nominee, or other Congressional action by observing where key groups stand. The isolationist far right and the socialist far left are unified against CAFTA. Meanwhile, the moderate Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC), along with the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Citrus Mutual, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, and other mainstream groups on both sides of the partisan aisle, are all for CAFTA.

Some background on the CAFTA-DR countries:

Costa Rica-
costaricacafta.gif

Dominican Republic-

dominicanrepubliccafta.gif

El Salvador-
elsalvadorcafta.gif

Guatemala-
guatemalacafta.gif

Honduras-
hondurascafta.gif

Nicaragua-
nicaraguacafta.gif

National Review addresses the criticisms of CAFTA, noting that the assertion that it will kill America's sugar industry is overblown:

CAFTA is, in fact, embarrassingly deferential to the sugar lobby. It would increase sugar imports by only one percent in its first year. After 15 years, that number would rise to a staggering 1.4 percent. Incredibly, even these increases are too much for U.S. sugar producers, with whom the president is under no obligation to remain gentlemanly, and who might attenuate their opposition if Bush, taking up a suggestion from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, threatened to use his executive authority to raise sugar imports by 10 percent if CAFTA is defeated.

Ultimately, though, CAFTA, less an economic treaty than a geopolitical strategy, is a cheap way (from America's perspective) to promote democracy in Central America:

A prosperous Central America will be a Central America whose people are less inclined to cross U.S. borders illegally or participate in the trafficking of narcotics. More important, by bringing greater prosperity and openness to the region, CAFTA will strengthen democracy. The 1983 Caribbean Basin Initiative — which essentially created the Central American textile industry and, with it, a middle class — helped undermine the dictators and Communist revolutionaries who for decades had kept the region poor, violent, and miserable. But the triumph of Central American democracy is not irreversible. Daniel Ortega remains a powerful force in Nicaragua, and, throughout Latin America, the anti-democratic, anti-American message of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez gains ever-wider currency. For the U.S. to reject CAFTA would only strengthen the hand of would-be despots.

CAFTA, for our allies in the region, means the world. Americans of Central American and Dominican descent will remember opposition to CAFTA when they head to the polls. If Democrats want to be the party of no, let them. But Republicans should not fall into the protectionist trap on this issue. Free trade is a winner at the polls. CAFTA is good politics, and it's good policy.

We should not turn our back on America's progress on free trade. Let's pass CAFTA.

UPDATE:

A great debunking of myths on CAFTA.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 June 2005 04:14 PM · Comments (2)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 10.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

orangutan.gif

The actual caption:

Nice shirt! : A Sumatran orangutan dresses herself with a shirt at the Moscow Zoo. (AFP/Yuri Tutov)

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


Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, June 21. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

mexicandwarfbullfighters.gif


Last week's winners:

1.

DANEgerus:

Concerned with a backlash from the Jackson trial and the Catholic Priest scandals, Menudo opts for a new look in 2005.

2.

Andrew:

In a rare moment of solidarity, Congressional Democrats unveiled their new, can't-miss legislative meta-strategy, with an eye to making gains in the upcoming 2006 mid-term elections.

3.

WunderKraut:

After a freak accident with radioactive waste, the band Los Lobos reunites for a world tour.

Caption away! You're all winners in my book.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 June 2005 09:15 AM · Comments (17)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 78 -- College Investment.

The College Investment: Public Or Individual?-

...the evidence suggests that increased public funding for universities doesn't lead to greater prosperity-and may even reduce the chances of it. Compare the growth in real per capita income in states that spend a lot on higher education with that of states that spend less and a few surprises show up. Over the past 50 years low-support New Hampshire outdistanced neighboring Vermont on nearly any economic measure, though Vermont spent more than twice as much of its population's personal income on higher education (2.37% versus 1.15% in New Hampshire). Missouri, with modest state university appropriations (1.32% of personal income), grew faster than its neighbor to the north, Iowa (at 2.41%).

Similar examples abound. Using data for all 50 states from 1977 and 2002, I compared the 10 states with the highest state funding for universities against the 10 states with the lowest. The result: The low-spending states had far better growth in real income per capita, a median growth of 46% compared with 32% for the states with the highest university spending. In 2000 the median per capita income level for the low-spending states was $32,777, 27% higher than the median for the 10 states where higher education got the most state money.

But, how on earth does this make any sense?

Colleges have devoted relatively little new funding over the past generation to the core mission of instruction (spending only 21 cents of each new inflation-adjusted dollar per student on it), preferring instead to assist research, hire more nonacademic staff, give generous pay increases, support athletics and build luxurious facilities. And while in the private sector companies have learned to get more work out of fewer employees, the opposite appears to have happened in higher education. In 1976 American education employed three nonfaculty professional workers (administrators, counselors, librarians, computer experts) for every 100 students; by 2001 that number had doubled.

Other reasons for higher public investment in college not necessarily leading to higher economic growth:

Nearly 40% [of enrolled students] fail to graduate within five or even six years...

Moreover:

Taxes reduce private-sector activity. People who must pay high taxes tend to work and invest less and also tend to migrate to lower-tax areas. In other words, increasing funding to universities means transferring resources from the relatively productive private sector to higher education, which tends to be less productive and efficient.

Source:

Forbes, (via SCSU Scholars).

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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76; Part 77.

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 · 15 June 2005 09:14 AM · Comments (0)

Dependency Index.

Government programs, once established, are difficult to reform, and almost impossible to eliminate. There is a ratcheting up effect in terms of government spending that defies the laws of gravity. That which goes up... must stay up.

Government programs, even in the face of unequivocal, indisputable evidence showing 1) that we can't afford them, 2) that they are un- or counter- productive, or 3) that we can just plain do better than the status quo, tend to create constituencies based on dependence. These constituencies frighten even professed and well-intentioned fiscal conservatives into cowered submission.

The Heritage Foundation believes this culture of dependence has deleterious effects on the very nature our democracy:

...as citizens become more dependent on government, the very nature of our democracy begins to change. A citizenry that reaches a certain tipping point in dependency on government runs the risk of evolving into a society that demands an ever-expanding government that caters to group self-interests rather than pursuing the public good.

So, how are we doing as a nation, dependence-wise?

William W. Beach believes he has the answer.

The number of Americans dependent on the government at some significant level has risen substantially over the years.


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This percentage growth is three times the U.S. popula­tion growth rate over the same period and twice the growth rate of the population age 65 and above.

Clearly, an ever-growing number of Americans (one in six Americans, or 18%) partake in government dependency. If you include government employees, the growth is even more rapid (one in four Americans, or 25%). Government employees, bless them, are a perfect example of a constituency with a vested interest in maintaining or growing, rather than curtailing, government spending.

Per capita, the story is a little different:

percapitadependence.gif

In inflation-adjusted dollars, the number has actually fallen from its heyday in the 1960s, remaining essentially flat since the mid-1980s. But the number has still risen substantially over the years.

Does this mean we should aim to eliminate all of the programs that make up the dependency index? No, not exactly. Some of them are even worthwhile investments in America. Others, not so much.

Going forward, realistically, it is best to rein in the future growth of these programs, while transforming others into programs fitting the tenets of the Ownership Society. Only a few programs on the list, unfortunately, could feasibly be eliminated entirely-- and with great gnashing of teeth.

Social Security is a prime example of a program with a worthwhile purpose that we must transform according to free enterprise principles; giving citizens the choice of less dependence on government is very much the American way, and it's hard to imagine that many Americans would not choose personal accounts. Personal accounts would remove a significant layer of dependence on government, restoring the important correlation between working life input and retirement output.

Beach explains:

At some point, as significant numbers of citizens come to look more and more to government for ben­efits, they come to expect or depend on those bene­fits. In the worst case, some are largely if not completely dependent on the services and benefits provided by government. By the old definition, one is less independent and has less freedom of action. At best, regular economic benefits become a real and substantial interest and bias one’s opinion in favor of maintaining, if not expanding, those benefits.

It's hard to imagine dependency continuing to rise without profoundly-- and negatively-- affecting American democracy. But we still hold the power to reform key programs, confirming and protecting American independence from excessive government intrusion.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 June 2005 06:11 PM · Comments (1)

The 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.

Jesse and Fidel-

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Babalu Blog looks at Jesse Jackson's interesting new relationship with Fidel Castro:

If the U.S. does what Jesse wants, it will free fidel to buy U.S. food on U.S.-guaranteed credit. After that, he can stiff the U.S. farmers when the time suits him. He's stiffed everyone else, he'll do it again.

Jesse Jackson, citzen of the world.

2.

Pollution-eating bacteria-

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Winds of Change blog notes the existence of bacteria that eat pollution and generate electricity. Awesome.


3.

Sweden's Real Unemployment Rate-

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Political Calculations picks apart the official line from Sweden on its unemployment rate:

If correct, how Sweden reports its unemployment rate could make for an entirely new chapter in the book " " How to Lie with Statistics." (If you're not already familiar with this book, I highly recommend it!) At best, this kind of tactic represents a political calculation destined to backfire. The only real question is how long can knowledge of the magnitude of the problem be suppressed before it erupts into public view?

Sweden, exposed.

4.

Aid to Africa-

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Fishkite blog believes that charitable giving to Africa would be more effective than government bureaucracy:

While Bono is busy twisting the arm of Uncle Sam, the contributions of Sam’s nephews and nieces go unnoticed....

America’s private foreign aid donations amount to $52 billion each year, according to USAID. That alone is more than twice Bono’s goal.

An interesting look at the numbers.


5.

The smartest state-

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Jay Tea at Wizbang dismantles a study proclaiming Massachusetts the smartest state in the country, New Mexico the dumbest:

Again, I'm no statistician, but I think I can see what guarantees high scores on this test. All a state has to do is spend big bushels of money on public schools. It'll help if they also keep down private schools, and make it harder and harder to home-school. Just follow their magic formula, and pretty soon every child will be above average.

A nice bit of debunkage.


6.

Debunking Howard Dean on the issues-

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It's fun to point out Howard Dean's always-on-display personality flaws. But Dean also likes to make outlandish and untrue factual assertions. Joust The Facts points out a few of Howard Dean's exaggerations and misrepresentations:

I live in the real world, not in the fantasy world where hopes for the future can claim to be etched in stone as inarguable fact....

Perhaps that is why Dr. Dean is resorting to invective and hyperbole. He may not have a capacity to win on the facts.

Dean cut his political teeth in Vermont, where he could get away with stretching the truth. As DNC Chairman, Dean has consistently distorted the facts-- and he usually gets away with it, typically because people are too focused on his angry rhetoric.

7.

Torture at Guantanamo Bay-

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Captain's Quarters delves into the sheer horror of the American gulag, located on the tip of Cuba:

Readers will be excited to learn of these horror-provoking techniques that Time reveals in its exclusive:

* Standing for prolonged periods (perhaps best referred to as the Disneyland treatment)

* Shaving of facial hair

* Solitary confinement

* Pouring water on his head

* Poking a finger into his chest

* Removal of some clothing

* Puppet shows -- no, I'm not kidding

* Being in the same room as attractive women

Worst of all, the one method on which Human Rights Watch could nail the US military, is the playing of music by Christina Aguilera as a punishment for non-cooperation. Other than Michael Bolton, which I believe would be an explicit Geneva Convention violation, it's hard to imagine a crueler torture.

Patrick Ruffini, meanwhile, believes that Republicans are missing a chance to nail Democrats, politically, for their squishiness on this issue.

Meanwhile, Professor R.J. Rummel catalogues the realities of the Soviet gulag system.

Nickie Goomba pokes fun at the whole situation, noting cruel and unusual plumbing at Gitmo.

The further we get from 9/11, the more squishy Americans will become on the simple issue of beating the bad guys.

8.

Socialized medicine-

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Ankle Biting Pundits heads off the coming socialist health care proposals by Democrats at the pass:

Looks like the lefties might be a day late and a dollar short in their big socialized medicine push.

Socialized medicine, not good.


9.

The Bush economy-

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Polls indicate that Americans, by broad margins, believe that the economy is in the tank. Not their personal economic situation, mind you (about which Americans are far more optimistic), but the overall economy.

Blogs for Bush, wielding the facts, asserts that "It's a Good Economy, Stupid!"

There are so many different indicators telling us that the economy is doing very well, yet only a third of Americans can see it? I just don't get it.

National Review has more positive economic indicators.


10.

Sex slavery-

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Charmaine Yoest explains that sex trafficking is the slavery of the 21st century:

...the State Department estimates that sex trafficking across international borders involves at least 800,000 people every year, with millions more involved within their own countries.

This is perhaps the most important women's rights issue in the world today. Where are the feminist groups on this?

11.

The Senate's Lynching Apology-

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LaShawn Barber is not happy with the Senate's apology for failing to pass anti-lynching legislation:

Perhaps Congress should apologize for decades of bloated socialist programs that caused the black family to disintegrate. Paying unmarried women to have babies is obscene, immoral, and the reason so many (too many) black children have no fathers to speak of. Treating blacks like dummies who require separate (LOWER) standards than every other race is offensive. I’m offended. Where is my apology?

Generations of blacks have been lulled into feeding from the government trough, and the damage it caused will reverberate for generations. And those numbskulls down the street are apologizing for failing to pass anti-lynching laws 100 years ago. Lord, give me strength.

I’m sick of politicians wasting time and money pandering to blacks, treating us like empty-headed children, spoon-feeding us putrid pabulum, and prostrating themselves for every perceived slight...

Fantastic rant.

Patterico believes the media missed the obvious filibuster narrative on the issue.



12.

Stirring democracy in Iran-

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Publius Pundit notes some interesting polling data out of Iran, as well as the Babe Theory of Political Movements in action:

June 17 promises to be an historic event, but more than that, it promises to be an historic opportunity for the people of Iran to take their country back. And ironically, it would be from boycotting the ballot box.

Now, more than ever, the people of Iran are both pro-America and in favor of a free society based on democratic governance. They hate the regime incredibly, and the mullahs know it. The eventual victor doesn’t matter, as they have control the government, but they need a high turnout. If it’s low, or a huge percentage are blank ballots, it would mean an utter rejection of the entire system.

Big things are happening in Iran. Hang on, because it could be a wild ride.

13.

The Downing Street Memo-

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The Jawa Report examines how the left is becoming consumed by bizarre conspiracy theories:

The Left's obsession with The Downing Street memo is not borderline paranoia, it is has become full on paranoia. The truth of the matter is that the paranoid obsession with the grand Bush conspiracy theory runs so deep among the Left today, that no amount of evidence to the contrary could make them disbelieve.

The Downing Street Memo: no legs.

14.

Comment trolls-

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Baldilocks exposes a troll with multiple personalities who asked:

BTW Baldilocks, you look young & fit enough ...

Pro Iraq war?

How come you haven't signed up?

Leftists really think that "you can only support U.S. military action if you are in the military" argument is clever. It's just not.

More on trolls from PoliPundit.



15.

Political nomenclature-

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Jim Rose believes political labels used by journalists are becoming meaningless:

In America, our "right-wingers" are Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, et al. These guys are hardly fundamentalists as they have fought to change many things about our system of government be it domestic or foreign policy. Even the label "conservative" that is widely used today is inappropriate, much as "liberal" is a ridiculous term to use to describe American socialists.

I think the first step to rectify this would be to stop using the terms "left-wing" and "right-wing." But there again, it's hard to not to use these terms when your peers and colleagues use them in abundance. Perhaps another way is to work to change their meaning. Either way, we've got to get the language back.

Right on.


UPDATE:
Also check out the 10 Spot.

UPDATE 2:
Jamming.

------------------------------------------------------------
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).

Last Week's Classiness Certification from WILLisms.com:

*June 7, 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 · 14 June 2005 03:28 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 77 -- France's Economy.

STAGNATION VERSUS ADAPTATION, FRANCE VERSUS AMERICA-

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...not a single enterprise founded [in France] in the past 40 years has managed to break into the ranks of the 25 biggest French companies. By comparison, 19 of today's 25 largest U.S. companies didn't exist four decades ago....

There are 2.5 million small businesses in France, each with anywhere between one and 250 employees. They generate half of France's economic output and employ two-thirds of the total working population of 27 million, according to the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies in Paris. If every one of those small businesses hired just one more person, there wouldn't be any unemployment in France....

According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), taxes here make up 48 percent of the cost to businesses of paying the average production worker. Among OECD nations, only Germany and Belgium impose higher payroll-related taxes. In the United States, taxes on the average production worker account for only 29 percent of labor costs. For a fraction of the amount paid to unemployed workers, who receive 54 percent of their previous pay for up to two years, the French government could provide incentives for employers by easing taxes on new hires.

Source:

The Washington Post.


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75; Part 76.

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 · 14 June 2005 08:32 AM · Comments (0)

Michel Aoun, Anti-Syrian.

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Back on May 7, WILLisms.com profiled Michel Aoun, the fiercely anti-Syrian Lebanese ex-general who returned to Lebanon after years in exile. The prediction-- an Aoun victory:

"If the Babe Theory is good for anything, Aoun is a lock."

The Babe Theory prevailed. Aoun won.

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In a few ways, Aoun was the George W. Bush to Walid Jumblatt's John Kerry:

Mohammad Farchoukh is a member of Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement and is among the remaining few who maintain the small protest at Martyrs' Square....

He says: "He is always on the right path for Lebanon - whereas [Druze leader Walid] Jumblatt is always turning around and changing his policies.

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Jumblatt, the aloof, elitist, left-wing (Progressive Socialist) flip-flopper?


Or, perhaps, a better American parallel for Jumblatt is Howard Dean, based on his rash rhetoric:

"Michel Aoun is a small tool" of Syria, Jumblatt told Lebanese television.

More bitterness from Jumblatt:

"The Christian extremists have vanquished the moderates." Jumblatt called Aoun "a dangerous man. He doesn't believe in democracy."

The Pulse of Freedom blog examines the ramifications of Aoun's election triumph:

After March 14th, we all supposed that the ‘Opposition’ Deputies representing us there would subsequently represent us in parliament… The days to follow however proved that they were incapable of reaching a unanimous agreement on anything. Their comings and goings, bickerings, and aberrations from the grand calls for national unity made us skeptical. They told us to hold politicians accountable. Guess what? We held them accountable....

The oppostion candidates failed to instil in us any hope of a tangible future. We wanted change, a radical change from the previous puppet regime, and we wanted it now....

In any case, Aoun made it in Mount Lebanon. Let’s hope this flood will help nourish this barren land, rather than wipe it out.

The Lebanese wanted a true opposition figure, someone representing change, someone willing to transcend the old tribal politics of the country, someone adamant about reform. The so-called "anti-Syrian opposition" rested on their laurels, reverting to oldschool chieftain politics in a modern Lebanon. An entire generation of younger Lebanese want no part of the old sectarian divisions, but only Aoun tapped into the yearning for a true national unity.

The media coverage is decidedly muddled, which is understandable given Lebanon's byzantine politics. Take note of these headlines:

Pro-Syrian veteran wins Lebanon seat (Business Day, South Africa)

Or is Aoun anti-Syrian?


Anti-Syrian Christian leader scores major upset in Lebanese parliamentary elections
(China Post, Taiwan)

Or, could Aoun be a cousin of John McCain?

Christian maverick makes surprise comeback in Lebanese election (Guardian Unlimited, UK)

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Or, perhaps, a more ambiguous headline is suitable:

Returning Lebanese General Stuns Anti-Syria Alliance (The New York Times)

The Times lede on the right-leaning Aoun is less than ambiguous, however:

The bright promise of the "Cedar Revolution" in this fractious, bloodied country is dissolving in old vendettas and the unsettling re-emergence of a powerful figure, Gen. Michel Aoun.

Oh, okay.

Lame.

Sounds exactly like the Times' thesis on President Bush's "divisiveness." Opposing politician Walid Jumblatt goes off the deep end with bizarre and single-minded personal vitriol against Aoun, yet the Times can't help but place blame on the recipient of the angry rhetoric. The word "unsettling" belongs on the editorial page, not the opening paragraph of an ostensibly objective news piece.

Even if the Times has no clue, the Lebanese people saw right through Jumblatt's inflammatory nonsense:

Surely the most deceitful line coming out of the elections in Mount Lebanon on Sunday was the warning by the Druze leader [Jumblatt] that the victory of the Aounist movement placed Lebanon on the threshold of a new civil war.

Indeed, Jumblatt's campaign could be described as "rapacious," displaying "astonishing arrogance," "unmatched conceit," and "bitterness."

Lebanon has one more round of elections to go, and Michel Aoun, the anti-Syrian, is in a great position to lead. Whether he ultimately delivers is a different matter, but it is difficult not to admire Aoun's political craftsmanship, as well as his sincerity of purpose. And don't forget those Aounite babes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 June 2005 05:02 AM · Comments (1)

Michael Jackson Not Guilty.

Glad it's over. Michael Jackson not guilty on all counts. Wishful thinking says:

"Hey, maybe they'll stop obsessing over Michael Jackson in the media."

But then it'll be someone, or something, else.

As far as newsworthiness goes, there were a couple of legitimately newsworthy events in the Michael Jackson saga:

1. When Michael Jackson was charged.
2. The verdict.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 June 2005 04:25 PM · Comments (4)

The Newt Gingrich Blog Interview.

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Red State Rant is at it again, organizing a multi-blog interview of a major political figure. Last time, it was Zell Miller. This time, Newt Gingrich.

Go check out the first segment and second segment.

Jackson's Junction has video.

More to come...

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 June 2005 08:53 AM · Comments (2)

Carnival of Revolutions.

Lots of news from around the world this week in the Carnival of Revolutions. Go check it out.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 June 2005 08:18 AM · Comments (0)

Quotational Therapy: Part 19 -- Ronald Reagan On Wonder.

NO LIMIT SOLDIER-

"There are no such things as limits to growth, because there are no limits on the human capacity for intelligence, imagination and wonder."
-Ronald Reagan.

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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; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; Part 18.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 June 2005 06:52 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 76 -- The Brain.

BRAIN FOOD-

According to research published in 2003, kids breakfasting on fizzy drinks and sugary snacks performed at the level of an average 70-year-old in tests of memory and attention....

Brains are around 60 per cent fat, so if trans-fats clog up the system, what should you eat to keep it well oiled? Evidence is mounting in favour of omega-3 fatty acids, in particular docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. In other words, your granny was right: fish is the best brain food. Not only will it feed and lubricate a developing brain, DHA also seems to help stave off dementia. Studies published last year reveal that older mice from a strain genetically altered to develop Alzheimer's had 70 per cent less of the amyloid plaques associated with the disease when fed on a high-DHA diet.

Source:

New Scientist magazine
(an interesting read, all around).


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74; Part 75.

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 · 13 June 2005 06:50 AM · Comments (0)

Barack Obama: Not Moderate.

Barack Obama. He's a media darling. He routinely receives praise for being a "moderate" from talking heads and columnists alike.

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So what did Obama do to earn such esteem? What specific actions or words earned him his moderate reputation?

It couldn't have been his October 2002 speech to a group of anti-war activists:

"What I am opposed to is the attempt by potential hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics."

So the liberation of Iraq was cooked up by the ubiquitous, mysterious Karl Rove in order to distract Americans from a (Bush-induced, of course) Hooverian economic meltdown.

Do moderates typically accuse the President of the United States of concocting wars for political purposes? Sounds more Michael Moorean than Nelsonian (as in, moderate Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson) or Breauxian (as in, moderate former Senator John Breaux of Lousiana).

Obama even got so upset about being classified as a moderate while gearing up for his 2004 Senate race that he went out of his way to fire off a letter to The Black Commentator disavowing any connection to the DLC (the *relatively* moderate Democratic Leadership Conference), typically the voice of sanity within the otherwise Deaniacal Democratic Party. In the letter, Obama came across as anything but moderate:

I'm proud of the fact that I stood up early and unequivocally in opposition to Bush's foreign policy (and was the only U.S. Senate candidate in Illinois to do so). That opposition hasn't changed, and I continue to make it a central part of each and every one of my political speeches. Likewise, I spend much of my time with audiences trying to educate them on the dangers of both the Patriot Act, Patriot Act 2, and the rest of John Ashcroft's assault on the Constitution.

Obama went on to describe in the letter how, in the preceding 3 months as state representative, he was responsible for "25 pieces of major progressive legislation."

Twenty-five pieces of major progressive legislation in three months!

Unadulterated Obama, entirely in his own words. Does that sound like the handiwork of a moderate? Not even close.

Obama, before becoming a Senator, enjoyed bragging-- very publicly-- about his liberal record, something moderates typically do not do. Take this ad the Obama campaign took out in the Windy City Times, Chicago's gay newspaper, boasting, among other things, about Obama's "100% Pro-Choice voting record" (.pdf):

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Every candidate, Democrat or Republican, moves to the left or right for party primaries, then back to the center in the general election. That's how the game is played. But Obama's pandering to the left-wing of the Democratic Party was decidedly atypical, spanning his entire career as State Representative:

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But, hasn't Obama moderated since his election?

Well, if voting against confirming Janice Rogers Brown, voting against giving John Bolton an up-or-down vote, voting against confirming Priscilla Owen, voting against confirming Alberto Gonzales, and voting against bankruptcy reform, all makes one "moderate," sure.

But Obama is not moderate. He wasn't a moderate before his 2004 election, nor has he become moderate since joining the Senate.

Indeed, Obama recently went out of his way to compare President Bush's vision for an Ownership Society to "Social Darwinism-- every man or woman for him or herself," in a commencement address at Knox College:

It’s a tempting idea, because it doesn’t require much thought or ingenuity. It allows us to say that those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford—tough luck. It allows us to say to the Maytag workers who have lost their job—life isn’t fair. It let’s us say to the child who was born into poverty—pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And it is especially tempting because each of us believes we will always be the winner in life’s lottery, that we’re the one who will be the next Donald Trump, or at least we won’t be the chump who Donald Trump says: “You’re fired!”

This kind class warfare, so typical on the left, completely mangles the fundamental features of an Ownership Society, while ignoring America's historical exceptionalism, rooted in free enterprise.

Obama is no moderate. His Senate voting record, moving forward, will make his leftist credentials indisputable. His left-wing record, interestingly enough, will place Barack Obama on the inside track to win the Democratic nomination for President in 2008.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 June 2005 09:33 PM · Comments (7)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 75 -- Congressional Elections.

THE VANISHING COMPETITIVE CONGRESSIONAL SEAT-

Will the Democrats take over the House of Representatives in 2006? Not likely. There just aren't many opportunities for that to happen.

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While the American population and electorate have more than tripled since 1910, the number of total congressional seats has not once wavered from 435 since then (other than, as our astute readers have pointed out, a brief period following the admission to the Union of Alaska and Hawaii, when the total number of seats was temporarily raised to 437).

What, then, has caused the political landscape to be so polarized? Redistricting?

Maybe a little.

...migration and demographic changes have been the prime culprits responsible over the long term for regional polarization of party support and fewer opportunities for mapmakers to carve out districts featuring relative party parity.

In other words, people are moving to places with people who think like them, politically. This is happening on a national scale, with people moving South and West to find employment, escape higher taxes, own their own homes, raise kids, and have an overall better quality of life. Within regions of the country, people are segregating themselves by politics. Even within cities, more people are moving into or out of neighborhoods to fit their politics, sometimes unwittingly or out of necessity. But it's happening.


Source:

David Wasserman and Larry J. Sabato, U.Va. Center for Politics-- Sabato's Crystal Ball.


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73; Part 74.

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 · 12 June 2005 11:07 AM · Comments (1)

The Copenhagen Consensus.

copenhagenconsensus.gif


An interesting read on saving the world:

Adopting the Kyoto Protocol to curb carbon dioxide emissions, for instance, might reduce warming to 6.1 degrees centigrade by the year 2300, compared with an anticipated 7.3 degree warming if nothing is done. This "achievement"--a world that is on average 1.2 degrees cooler than it otherwise would be in 300 years--comes with a price tag of about $94 trillion (in 1990 dollars)....

Devoting limited financial resources to a problem that's a few centuries off is both wasteful and unethical when there are lives to be saved now.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 June 2005 11:04 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 74 -- Budget Deficit.

"RECORD" BUDGET DEFICITS-

...the 12-month moving average of the deficit has plummeted from 3.9% of the economy in April 2004 to 2.8% today-a reduction of 28% in just one year.

budgetdeficit.gif

Source:

Americans For Tax Reform.


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72; Part 73.

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 · 11 June 2005 07:04 AM · Comments (2)

The New York Times Distorts Reality On "Big Oil."

Big Oil, in addition to its well-known culpability for destroying the environment, is putting our nation's very safety in jeopardy. So goes the narrative of The New York Times editorial page.

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Just look at the alarmist NYT editorial entitled "Inside The Kill Zone (.pdf)," which appeared on May 22, 2005:

Chalmette Refining, a joint venture of Exxon Mobil, is one of more than 15,000 potentially deadly chemical plants and refineries nationwide. More than 100 of them put a million or more people at risk. These time bombs are everywhere, from big cities like Los Angeles to small towns like Barberton, Ohio. Many are so inconspicuous - a chlorine plant may be a couple of tanks and access to a railroad line - that the people in the kill zone do not even know to be worried....

The security holes at chemical facilities are glaringly obvious. On a recent visit to Chalmette Refining, a Times editorial writer had no trouble standing in the nearby park for 15 minutes with a large knapsack...

One glaring problem, however: The New York Times failed explain that the Chalmette Refinery employees did everything precisely how they should have. The facts don't match the hyperbole. ExxonMobil responds [a WILLisms.com exclusive]:

June 1, 2005


Mr. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.
The New York Times
229 W. 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036-3959


Dear Mr. Sulzberger:


I am writing this letter to express Exxon Mobil Corporation's concern
over a recent editorial in The New York Times (May 22, "Inside the Kill
Zone") which we believe created a serious misimpression through omission of key facts. Frankly, we're most concerned that the citizens of
Chalmette, LA, where the refinery is located, be told the truth. In this
case, the Times did not provide its readers with the full truth.


In the editorial, the Times singled out Chalmette Refining, LLC as "an
ideal staging ground for a terrorist attack." Your publication reported
your writer "had no trouble standing in the nearby park for 15 minutes
with a large knapsack" -- implying that his presence was never challenged
or noticed by the Chalmette, LA, refinery's security.


What the Times first failed to report -- and when confronted with the
facts, refused to report -- was that the Chalmette refinery security
manager walked outside the gates and across a road just outside the park
to confront the writer after observing him in the park. He advised the
writer that refinery security had him under surveillance while he was in
the park adjacent to the refinery and that his presence was causing
concern.


When ExxonMobil contacted The New York Times to ask why these important facts were not included in their editorial, we were told in an e-mail response from your deputy editorial page editor that these facts were "not relevant." ExxonMobil also provided your paper with photographs of the writer in the park, which were taken with a hand-held camera while the writer was under surveillance by security. Your editor dismissed the photos as simply "proof that our writer was there." While the Times does not deny the writer was challenged, the Times e-mail stated that your editorial did not result "in any omission in reporting that created an inaccurate impression."


We couldn't disagree more. The challenge by the security guard and the
photographs are proof that the writer was under surveillance in the park.
It certainly appears that the Times wanted a report on lax security at
the Chalmette refinery to support your editorial, so your paper simply
suppressed key facts. The action taken by our security personnel was
appropriate and professional. Despite your paper's denial of a
correction, clarification, or retraction, we continue to strongly believe
your readers and especially the citizens of Chalmette, LA, deserve to
know this full story. For this reason, we are sharing these facts with
our Chalmette employees.


ExxonMobil places the highest priority on safety and security at all of
the company's manufacturing facilities. We strive every day to be the
best in the industry in these two disciplines. We're trying our best to
do our job. However, the sad fact is that in today's world, no plant
operator can guarantee absolute security. We rely on local, state and
national authorities to assist us in this important activity. The Times
can assist the nation in this effort by reporting all the facts -- even
if they don't support your editorial stance.


Sincerely,


K. P. Cohen


The New York Times did not print the response, nor did it offer a correction, retraction, or even a clarification.

Doing so wouldn't fit its anti-energy industry agenda.

Meanwhile, The New York Times' editorial goes on to assert that "common-sense safety measures are being blocked by special interest politics," then, citing (ironically enough) a Greenpeace activist, demands five distinct new layers of federal regulatory burden on the energy industry. To not take these actions, according to the editorial, would be "grossly negligent."

The New York Times, in conjunction with its friends at Greenpeace, essentially seeks to make it so cost-prohibitive for energy companies to do business, that they either shut down or move operations overseas. The real motive for the Times is not safety; rather, the true force behind its misleading editorialization is its unhealthy engrossment with all things Europe, Kyoto, and global warming:

Here is another issue where the rest of the world seems to be rushing past Mr. Bush. In January, Europe imposed emission quotas on thousands of power plants and other industrial sites in an effort to meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement repudiated by Mr. Bush in 2001.

One glaring problem with faulting Bush for not agreeing to Kyoto:

Europe is not even projected to meet its obligations, all while emerging competing economies (and heavier polluters) like China are not subject to Kyoto.

It is perfectly fine, even admirable, for The New York Times to promote its position on global warming. The exchange of diverging ideas is part of any healthy democratic process. But the paper ought to be more candid about its true motives, not to mention more precise in its reporting.

Rather than an additional round of cumbersome regulation on top of the already labrynthine rules governing the energy industry, we need a coherent and balanced energy policy in this country that encourages both domestic energy exploration and development. A solid energy bill would also include incentives for the development of renewable sources of energy, as well as meaasures aimed at conservation. Ultimately, though, any energy bill should be pro-growth, should consider America's national security interests, and should be grounded in reality.

The New York Times editorial page, intensely partisan, holds a diametrically different worldview on the purpose of an energy bill. Rather than promoting domestic energy resources, the Times believes a good energy bill really ought to be more of an environmental protection bill; any energy legislation that does not punish the energy industry is not acceptable to the Times.

You may have already noticed above, but Jon Corzine's website is hosting the Times piece (.pdf), which praises the New Jersey Senator for his proposed legislation.

joncorzine.gif

How convenient for Corzine, who, incidentally, is gearing up to run for governor of New Jersey in 2006. One wonders how much "help" the Times had from Corzine's office in crafting its editorial.

So, The New York Times has the nerve to distort the basic facts to serve its "the-sky-is-falling" claims, and it has the gall to claim that those opposing additional layers of bureaucratic regulation on the energy industry are somehow pawns of special interests, even as it promotes the notorious anti-business agenda of laughably far-left special interest group Greenpeace.

Greenpeace!

Not only that, but the Times has the audacity to allude to the questionable editorial for another attack piece on Republican Representative Joe Barton on a similar issue.

joebarton.gif

By now, the true agenda of The New York Times should be perfectly evident-- derailing the President's push for an energy bill by the end of this summer. Americans want an energy bill, not more left-wing obstruction spearheaded by the out-of-the-mainstream NYT editorial page.

This kind of glaring partisan editorial bias, unfortunately (because it still generally drives the overall media agenda) is par for the course from The New York Times. Would you expect anything more from them? After all, these are the same people who recently called for a national 55-MPH speed limit to solve our nation's energy problems.

THE NEW YORK TIMES: WEAK.

UPDATE:

National Review's Stephen Spruiell is all over this story.

Plus, pictures:

chalmette.gif


Full disclosure:

Read More »


Posted by Will Franklin · 10 June 2005 02:18 PM · Comments (12)

Paul Anka's Rock Swings.

A quick time out from the usual blogging. A quick music review:

You'll either really love this CD, or really hate it. A collection of jazzy covers of rock songs, it's called Rock Swings. Paul Anka is the artist.

Yes, Paul Anka.

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The songs Anka covers:

1. It's My Life

2. True

3. Eye of the Tiger

4. Everybody Hurts

5. Wonderwall

6. Blackhole Sun

7. It's a Sin

8. Jump

9. Smells Like Teen Spirit

10. Hello

11. Eyes Without a Face

12. Lovecats

13. Way You Make Me Feel

14. Tears in Heaven

Listened to almost the entire album recently on Sirius Satellite radio. It is pretty hilarious stuff.

The amazon.com customer reviews are decidedly mixed:

The Good-

fivestars.gif I dig it!, June 9, 2005

Reviewer: Lisa Mychols (California)

I think this CD is freakin' amazing! First of all, you have a guy with a fantastic voice and amazing talent. Then you have this swinging sizzle production and beautiful orchestration.

Paul Anka brought these covers into a classic genre with not an ounce of pretension that I can see (unlike a couple "American songbook" artists I have heard lately-ugh!) He is sort of on the same path as the Michael Buble' thing but yet different...I think it's pretty cool! I find it to be one of the best things I have heard lately.
Oh, and when I first heard his Michael Jackson cover on the radio it caught my ear which rarely happens! I was like who is that! I need to get it! It's genuine stuff, regardless of, "oh my gosh! He is covering...oh forbid a NIRVANA SONG!" please! Get over that. If you don't like this kind of music you might not like this-big deal why are you even here? For the rest of us- don't pass this one up!

fivestars.gif Oh God...what is going on? This is actually very cool., June 9, 2005

Reviewer: D. Hill (Dallas, TX)

Its probably not suitable for IQ 50 (cent) fans, but this is targeted for a very specific audience and its actually great.

Lounge-cover versions of rock tunes, including grunge staples by Nirvana and Soundgarden have been done before, but not by an artist of this caliber. The arrangements are incredible and the musicianship is excellent. Plus, its great for a little humor to find yourself listening to a scotch-sipping Vegas-lounge smooth version of music you used to headbang to in your first car, while wearing stylishly dirty, mis-matched clothes.

Probably the vast majority of music fans won't quite know what to make of this. If you fall into that 27-35 age bracket and have any sense of humor or appreciation for diverse music styles, then this is one CD worth forking over the cash for. Otherwise, continue downloading... :)

The Bad-

twostars.gif Don't know if I like this or not, June 9, 2005

Reviewer: Elrayox (Chicago)

His voice sounds great, the band sounds great. But when he sings "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and the lines "I feel stupid and contagious", well it just sounds silly. Same with a lot of the other songs.


The Ugly-

onestar.gif Oh my god!, June 9, 2005

Reviewer: Catherine "Catherine" (Manhattan)

Oh my god! Smells Like Teen Spirit?!....Jump?!... oh my god! Wasn't there anyone with the balls to stop him, I mean oh my god! Are they kidding with this?!

onestar.gif One word: Travesty, June 9, 2005

Reviewer: mgbit (US)
Paul Anka's attempt to cover Nirvana brings to mind a comment that Thom Yorke made upon seeing a sweater of the recently dead Kurt Cobain showcased under glass at a Hard Rock Cafe: "the sickest f***ing thing I've ever seen."

I tend to identify with the positive reviews; the songs are uniquely Anka's, and he is not mocking the songs. Anka smoothly and classily treats the songs like old standards. You might not even recognize the songs as if you weren't paying close attention (in part, because of Anka's clear articulation, which many of the originals lack). It's just feel-good music in so many ways.

Ultimately, though, this CD (though not gimmicky) could probably wear thin on someone after the novelty wears off. Initially, it's hard not to enjoy the music, but a few months from now, it might begin gathering dust.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 June 2005 11:40 AM · Comments (2)

Quotational Therapy: Part 18 -- Ronald Reagan, On America's Greatest Weapon.

ON AMERICA'S GREATEST WEAPON-

Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have.

-Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address.

reaganronald.gif

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; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 June 2005 10:06 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 73 -- WiFi.

Wireless Internet-

wifihotspots.gif

Source:

The Seattle Times.

Also, see Intel's full list of the top 100 wireless cities in the country.

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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71; Part 72.

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 · 10 June 2005 05:54 AM · Comments (2)

McCain Marginally Passes Early Primary Test.

Yesterday, WILLisms.com joined Americans For Prosperity in calling for Arizona Senator John McCain to give Rock the Vote a ride on the straight talk express when accepting his Rock the Nation award from the left-wing group.

mccainrockthevote.gif

While McCain missed an opportunity to deliver a decisive dagger to the heart of Rock the Vote's far left agenda, he did speak up on behalf of the need for Social Security reform:

A group of about 50 people in support of Social Security reforms marched outside the dinner to protest Rock the Vote's opposition to President Bush's proposed Social Security plan.

"Rock the Vote claims to speak for the youth. But a Zogby poll found that 66 percent of Americans under the age of 30 support Social Security reform. So [Rock the Vote] is not speaking for youth," said Mark Harris of rockthehypocrisy.com.

The group had called on McCain to confront Rock the Vote regarding the group's opposition to President Bush's Social Security reform, and McCain did note the importance of reforming the Social Security system while accepting his award.

Sean Higgins, in National Review, reports that McCain had "a bit more lead in his pencil" than Jack Kemp:

After warming up the crowd by saying he would become the fifth Black Eyed Pea, “McFunk,” he briefly challenged RTV.

“We’ve got to do something about Social Security,” he told the audience during his award acceptance speech. “You’re not going to get the benefits your parents and grandparents got because the money isn’t going to be there.” But McCain's lone discordant note passed quickly.

A marginally passing grade for McCain (who is truly more conservative than many give him credit for) on this one, but a passing grade nonetheless. If McCain wants to win the GOP nomination, he'll need to toss the party faithful some more rhetorical red meat.

The aging Republican Senator, if nominated, would roll in 2008, but GOP primary voters still need McCain to give them a reason to trust that he'll fight hard for their values rather than making choices based on what pleases the establishment media.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 June 2005 02:05 PM · Comments (4)

Reform Thursday: Week Nineteen.

reformthursdayblue.gif

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:

Reform Is Needed Sooner Rather Than Later.

Social Security reform, according to some, is not an imperative or pressing issue. We have all the time in the world, they assert.

Well, take a gander at just how much more painful the adjustments to the system will be if we delay reform (.pdf):

ssreformearlier.gif
Click image for original 77 page GAO .pdf report.

Our options for reform would also become severely limited, the longer we wait. Acting sooner has the following advantages:

1. Changes could be phased in, rather than abruptly implemented, giving people time to plan for the future.

2. Changes sooner rather than later would improve America's fiscal credibility in international markets. It would represent a willingness to tackle out-of-control entitlement spending, the most significant cause of U.S. budget deficits.

3. Imagine what the infusion of otherwise stagnant and neglected capital into the world's economic engine, the U.S. free enterprise system, could do for economic growth. Instead of sitting in a filing cabinet in West Virginia, Social Security funds could fuel investment, invigorate research and development, and rejuvenate productivity, spurring greater technological advancement and stronger long-term economic growth.

4. Finally, for each day without personal accounts, younger workers are being denied the power of compound interest.


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

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).
-Week Seventeen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Eighteen (Debunking Myths).

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 · 9 June 2005 11:33 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 72 -- Brazil's Economy.

BRAZIL, BAD FOR BUSINESS-

brazil.gif

Source:


SCSU Scholars
, from The Wall Street Journal.

The Heritage Foundation's 2005 Index of Economic Freedom has similar numbers (1 = most free; 5 = least free).

U.S. = 1.85.
Czech Republic = 2.36
Mexico = 2.89
Brazil = 3.25
China = 3.46


With a population approaching 200,000,000, Brazil should be poised to become a global superpower over the next couple of decades. Whether it actualizes such a status is, in large part, a matter of the policy choices Brazil's government makes today.


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70; Part 71.

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 · 9 June 2005 08:38 AM · Comments (0)

Checking In On That Emerging Democratic Majority.

Ruy Teixeira must feel like a real fraud. Or maybe more of a dunce, a joke, a jester-- fodder for regularly-scheduled right-of-center schadenfreude. Or, perhaps, he just feels like a personal failure.

ruyteixeira.gif

After all, Teixeira has devoted his life to analyzing politics, but he is so incredibly wrong, so much of the time. His book (and website that shares the nomenclature), The Emerging Democratic Majority should make any political junkie chortle in taken-aback astonishment.

The thesis of Teixeira's book, which ought to be fairly evident from the title, goes thusly:

Demographic groups that tend to support the ideas and candidates of the Democratic Party are growing rapidly as a percentage of the electorate. Groups that support Republican ideas and candidates are growing slowly, if at all. Not only are traditionally democratic voters such as African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and single women becoming a larger part of the voting public, but democratic-leaning white-collar professionals and the highly educated are increasing as well. At the same time, many blue-collar voters who defected to Ronald Reagan and the Republicans in the 1980's returned to the Democratic Party in the 1990's to vote for Bill Clinton.

Teixeira asserts that America's changing population will inevitably return Democrats to the majority status they held for much of the 20th century.

It's really unbelievable just how wrong, on nearly every level, The Emerging Democratic Majority has been so far-- and looks to be in the future.

When The Emerging Democratic Majority was published, in 2002, there were 211 Democrats, 222 Republicans, and 2 Independents, one aligned with each party. The Senate, at that same time, was comprised of 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and one Independent (Jim Jeffords) who was aligned with the Democrats.

Today, in the House of Representatives, there are 232 Republicans, 202 Democrats, and 1 Independent aligned with the Democrats. In the Senate, there are 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and 1 Independent aligned with the Democrats.

emergingdemocraticmajoritys.gif

Teixeira is just bad at this stuff. There's almost no other way to put it. He stinks up the place with his spot-off political analysis.

The reason for his incessant (and increasingly hilarious) mistakes: he is a Democrat apologist living through a "rolling Republican realignment." This week on his blog, however, Teixeira admitted that the future for Democrats may be more dire than he ever imagined:

I’ve documented how poorly Democrats have been faring with white working class voters (defined here as whites without a four year college degree). In 2004, Bush beat Kerry by 23 points among these voters, according to the National Election Pool (NEP) exit poll, up from the 17 margin Bush enjoyed among these voters in 2000. Also according the NEP exit poll, white working class voters were 43.3 percent of all voters in 2004.

That certainly sounds like Democrats have to improve their performance among these voters, and quickly, if they hope to build a majority coalition.

Last week, I presented some data from the newly released Census voter supplement data on the age, race, and education distribution of voters in 2004. Further analysis of these data to look at the specific question of white working class representation among voters in 2004 reveals that the Democrats’ white working problem isn’t as bad as suggested by the NEP data. It’s worse.

That’s because the NEP data underestimate the proportion of non-college-educated in the voting pool and, therefore, the proportion of white working class voters. The Census voter supplement data indicate that white working class voters are actually a majority (51.5 percent) of all voters, rather than the 43.3 percent indicated by the NEP exit poll.

A big challenge for the Democrats just got a little bigger.

Maybe Texeira is starting to understand that his thesis is indefensible; however, if he really "got it," he'd revise his book and change the title to something like The Vanishing Democrat Voter.

But, you may ask, shouldn't we give Teixeira at least until 2010 to let the predictions play out?

Sure.

But, the demographics look pretty awful for the Democrats.

In 2004, Bush won 97 of the 100 fastest growing counties in the country. Latinos swung toward Bush (.pdf) in a big way in 2004. Republicans (generally) tend to have more kids, while Democrats have more European birthrates.

Not only that, but the U.S. Census projects that in 2010, states that voted for Bush in 2004 will make a net gain of 6 additional Congressional seats (as well as Electoral College votes), while states that voted for Kerry will lose 6 (.pdf) [note- pink is +1, red is +3; light blue is -1, dark blue is -2]:

2010censusreapportionment.gif
Click map for full .pdf.

The demographics of America are, simply put, stacked against just about every theory found in The Emerging Democratic Majority.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 June 2005 03:58 PM · Comments (14)

Make Or Break Moment For John McCain.

Tonight, ultra-liberal, anti-reform AARP tagalong (Rock the Vote) celebrates 15 years of lame laughingstockness, along with its one fleeting moment of glory and relevance (1992: "boxers of briefs").

Because Rock the Vote gains significant financial advantages by operating as a "non-partisan" and "non-profit" (Contributions to the 501c3 Rock the Vote Education Fund are tax deductible.) organization, it plans to honor not only the Black Eyed Peas, Barack Obama, and William Jefferson Clinton, but also Republican John McCain.

McCain, the beard, the token, the lone "maverick" Republican worthy of Rock the Vote.

johnmccain.gif

McCain is to receive a "Rock the Nation" award (Obama is also receiving one; apparently, by winning a single Senate race against another African-American, he "represents the promise of a new generation that is more tolerant than any generation to come before."). RTV explains why it chose McCain:

This award is given to an individual who demonstrates the very essence of what it means to effectively work towards changing the world, usually working on a national level or on an issue that brings about national influence and change. Senator John McCain’s courageous leadership for campaign finance reform has helped restore young people’s interest and faith in politics and government. Few national political leaders have captured the imagination of America’s youth as Senator John McCain, and his consistency to his own values and beliefs has served as a model for public service to Americans of all ages.

Campaign finance reform (a.k.a. BCRA 2002; a.k.a. McCain/Feingold) has been a thorough failure in achieving its stated purpose; in the meantime, it spawned a variety of 527 organizations, through which ultra-wealthy donors like George Soros could give tens of millions of dollars in one fell swoop. If the point of campaign finance reform was to get big money out of politics, reassuring the public about the integrity of campaigns and governance, it failed miserably. Meanwhile, campaign finance reform has had rife unintended consequences, even, potentially, FEC crackdown on blogs.

Think about that. The law of unintended consequences in action.

In other words, Rock the Vote chose McCain for all the wrong reasons.

Americans For Prosperity's "Rock The Hypocrisy" is calling for John McCain, a purported supporter of Social Security reform (and personal accounts), to tell it like it is to Rock the Vote:

WASHINGTON – The free-market grassroots group Americans for Prosperity Foundation today called on U.S. Sen. John McCain to use his acceptance speech at this week’s Rock the Vote Awards Dinner to confront the left-leaning organization about its hypocritical opposition to Social Security reform. Sen. McCain, a supporter of Social Security reform and allowing young workers to invest some of their Social Security taxes in higher-yielding personal retirement accounts, is scheduled to accept the “Rock the Nation” award from the anti-reform youth group on Wednesday night.

“Senator McCain has a built a reputation for straight talk, and we certainly hope his ‘Straight Talk Express’ rolls into Rock the Vote’s Awards Dinner on Wednesday night,” said Americans for Prosperity Foundation Executive Vice President Michelle Korsmo. “Young workers have the most to lose if the current Social Security system is not reformed, and Rock the Vote is not acting in the best interests of young people when they fight against letting them have a little more control over their own tax dollars. Hopefully, Senator McCain will confront Rock the Vote’s hypocrisy head on.”

This is a make-or-break moment for John McCain. If he fails to seize the moment, if he fails to advance the cause of Social Security reform, he will have missed an opportunity to impress 2008 GOP primary voters. Rock the Vote is honoring McCain because he, unlike RTV, "demonstrates the very essence of what it means to effectively work towards changing the world, usually working on a national level or on an issue that brings about national influence and change."

Ahem, cough, Social Security, anyone?

As Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman recently iterated on Meet The Press, when asked about John McCain's 2008 hopes:

I think what voters in--who are going to think about things in 2008 are going to say is, "In 2005 when you did do to help make sure we confirmed good men and women as judges? What did you do to help save Social Security? What did you do to help make sure that we have those tax cuts and make them permanent? What did you do to help make sure we continue to win the war on terror?" And then next year, "What did you do to protect and preserve the majority?" I think that these are very important questions that come out before people start thinking about the long term.

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Mehlman added later:

...in many ways the first primary of the 2008 election cycle is what you do this year, and the second primary is what you do to protect the majority next year.

It's a make or break moment for John McCain. Will he bask in Rock the Vote's fawning adoration over campaign finance reform? Or will Senator McCain begin proving himself as someone Republican primary voters can trust to advance a free-enterprise agenda?

Incidentally, does anyone else find it funny (yet typical) that AARP is the top 2005 "Rock the Vote Awards Dinner" sponsor:

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Who drives Rock the Vote's agenda?


Left-wing blogs
, left-wing activist groups, and retired persons, that's who.

John McCain:

We, the actual young people of America, are watching. Will you willingly go along with Rock the Vote's masquerade, or will you stand up for your professed convictions on Social Security?

Be a leader.

Give Rock the Vote a ride on the straight talk express.

UPDATE:

McCain marginally passes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 June 2005 10:52 AM · Comments (9)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 9.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

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The actual caption:

A team of Mexican dwarf bullfighters and a clown pose for a group photo at a small bullring in central Mexico, May 29, 2005. The Mexican 'dwarf bullfighters' are carrying on a tradition born in Spain along with regular bullfighting. They say the ring showcases their skill and comic artistry, making them more than just a curiosity. ( REUTERS/Oliver Ellrodt)

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


Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, June 14. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:


missuniverse.jpg


Last week's winners:

1.

Rodney Dill:

"I named him William Hung. Why do you ask?"

2.

lowery21:

"That's NOT where I put the peanuts."

3.

J at TAotB:

Is that a trunk in my pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Caption away! You're all winners in my book.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 June 2005 08:34 AM · Comments (18)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 71 -- Chinese Pollution.

CHINA'S POLLUTION PROBLEMS-

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China, with its frenetic pace of economic development, is learning all about environment problems that come with industrialization and urbanization:

More than half of 500 Chinese cities failed to meet national air quality standards last year.

The areas suffered potentially harmful air quality, a survey of 500 cities by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) claims.

And nearly one-third of non-industrial sewage in the cities went untreated. In 193 other cities, no treatment was carried out at all, the report revealed....

There are 661 cities in China -- home to 41.7 per cent of the population, [and] generate 65.5 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product...


Source:

China Daily
.

Now, consider this:

China (along with India and other developing nations) was specifically exempted from the Kyoto Protocol. No wonder the United States Senate voted 95-0 against it (the Byrd-Hagel Resolution of 1997).


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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69; Part 70.

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 · 8 June 2005 08:30 AM · Comments (3)

The 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.

Medical Marijuana-

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SCOTUSblog has a great series on the Gonzales v. Raich case, recently decided by the Supreme Court, which struck down a California statute allowing marijuana for medicinal purposes, which contradicted federal law on the matter, including this visual guide to the opinion:

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BlameBush! blog, a satirical site devoted to one of the left's favorite pastimes (pinning anything and everything, no matter how farcical, on the President), has a hilarious take on the matter:

Bowing to the orders of his Big Pharmaceutical Buddies, Bush has cruelly yanked the macrame hemp rug of hope out from under all those who suffer from chronic illness. My spine is beginning to twitch already.

But we'll fight on. Just as Rosa Parks defied an unjust law and inspired John F. Kennedy to free the slaves, we will fire up our orthopedic hookas and send a clear message to Bush and his big pharmaceutical buddies that...

whoa...dudes...what was I talking about?

It would be even funnier if it weren't so spot-on true.

2.

Venezuelan Opposition Babe-

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Venezuela News And Views blog (via Publius Pundit) notes the importance of Maria Corina Machado's visit to the White House:

* By receiving the leader of SUMATE the US declares that in Venezuela there is a problem with free and fair elections (to Hell with the Carter Center who somehow managed to convince Colin Powell that all was fine and dandy down here).

* By receiving SUMATE, the most organized and efficient and democratic component of the Venezuelan opposition, the State Department sends a clear message to the opposition: be democratic, be organized, work hard, and we will help you if needed to make sure that elections are fair.

* By receiving Maria Corina Machado, the US looks at the new class of Venezuelan politicians, modern folks, not encumbered by the weight of the corrupted past AND present.

* And perhaps most important, by receiving Maria Corina Machado, likely political prisoner of Chavez, Bush goes beyond extending protection: he tells Chavez that all his B.S. of recent weeks is having no effect on the US administration who will chose its friends as it pleases.


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Machado is one dama atractiva, and if the Babe Theory is good for anything, watch out Chavez.

3.

The Dutch Nee-

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Peaktalk examines the thorough Dutch rejection of the European Union Constitution (liveblogging and analysis):

On a more practical level the EU Constitution in its present form is dead. Despite Michael Totten’s helpful suggestions it begs the question if there really is an immediate need for such a document. As mentioned before, the voters did not vote on the constitution but on broader issues and even if a simpler document had been presented we would probably have seen the same outcome, minus one or two percent.

Constitutions should guarantee rights, not empower bureaucrats.

4.

100 Homicides-

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Michelle Malkin and Gateway Pundit together debunk Ceci Connolly's claim on Fox News Channel that the military had committed 100 homicides against detainees.

Trey Jackson has the video if you want to see Connolly make her ridiculous claim.



5.

Howard Dean, The Disaster-

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Patrick Ruffini has a great take on just how atrociously dreadful Howard Dean's tenure at the helm of the DNC has been thus far:

As it turned out, Dean was perfectly programmed to succeed in that in-between period (2003) where the activists are paying attention, but when the general public has yet to tune in. Once they did tune in, and the focus turned to personality over process, Dean flopped. The Dean chairmanship now is effectively the bookend to the Dean Scream.
When voters start paying attention again, just before the election in 2006, Republicans running against Democrat incumbents in red states and districts need to make Howard Dean an issue. Nationally, Republicans need to pound away at the idea that Howard Dean is the symbol of the DNC.

Meanwhile, the GayPatriot blog asserts that Hillary Clinton has become another Howard Dean Democrat.



6.

Peak Oil-

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Outside The Beltway examines the idea of "peak energy" in-depth (Part 1, Part 2), responding to Kevin Drum's posts on the matter:

It semed inexorable that Malthus' numbers were going to lead to massive world wide starvation and misery...didn't happen. Did anybody see the solution (improvements in technology) when Malthus put forth is theory? My guess is no. Many people thought Ehrlichs views on feeding humanity were inescapable, but he was totally and completely wrong. The Club of Rome figured millions would die as we ran out of resources, but they too were wrong. Now none of this means that the Hubbert/Peak Oil/End of the World believers have to be wrong. But do you want to bet they are right? The doom-n-gloomers have a poor track record, but hey, maybe this will be the big success for them.

Obviously, there are limited fossil fuel resources. They could theoretically run out one day. But that day wasn't 1970, it wasn't 2000, and it almost certainly won't even be 2030.



7.

Acting White-

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Marginal Revolution blog looks at some startling figures on the link between high GPAs and high popularity:

Among whites, higher grades yield higher popularity. For Blacks, higher achievement is associated with modestly higher popularity until a grade point average of 3.5, when the slope turns negative.

As Bill Cosby has pointed out, this mentality needs to change, in a big way, and in a hurry.

Here's a look at the differences between and among the races, adapted from the original paper (.pdf):

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Really amazing stuff. The power of culture.



8.

Kerry, Biblical Scholar-

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Red State Rant points out how John Kerry should probably stay away from the religion talk, offering this advice to the Senator:

You may want to be more careful in the future. If you're hoping to give folks the impression that you're biblically informed, comments like these hurt more than help--except among people who are not biblically informed.

Right on. John Kerry, like many Democrats, are clearly at their most uncomfortable when discussing religion. No wonder most of them just don't even try.



9.

Michael Moore-

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The Blue State Conservatives blog takes note of Michael Moore's reward to one of his student heroes:

As for the campus cops being racists, lets look at the facts.
Of the 7,365 students enrolled at the school in the fall of 2004, 207 -- about 3 percent -- were black.

According to police department statistics, eight out of 121 people arrested on campus last year -- about 7 percent -- were black.

Those racist pig cops arrested EIGHT black people last year. Just eight. If these cops were really out to get black people don't you think they would have arrested more than eight?

The more people are discussing Michael Moore, the better it is for Republicans. No wonder there's been so little attention paid to him in the establishment media.

10.

Al Gore-

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Speaking of people we haven't heard much from lately, Tim Blair notes Al Gore's increasingly absurd (but popular in places like San Francisco) rhetoric:

When he wasn’t presenting charts about rising levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere or speaking about the ways global warming rapidly sucks moisture out of the Earth’s soil at high levels...

“Sucking at high levels”. Could be the title of Gore’s autobiography.

Hilarious. Al Gore, the further from 2000 we get, looks less and less presidential.


11.

Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe-

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Samizdata asks why there is not more outcry over the situation in Zimbabwe, which is spiraling out of control:

Robert Mugabe continues his insane demolition of houses and businesses as he increasingly starts to look like Pol Pot reborn, seeking to depopulate the cites and drive the now homeless and unemployed population into the countryside to eke out an even more miserable living, thereby dispersing and isolating people from communities which might oppose his tyrannical rule.

And where are the marchers in the west? Where are the protesters calling for justice in Zimbabwe? Where is the outrage from those tireless tribunes of the Third World, the UN? Why can I not hear the snarls of fury from the alphabet soup of NGOs?

Small Dead Animals blog answers:

There are no protest marches against Mugabe, because protest organizers are on Mugabe's side.

Mugabe is truly a monster and responsible for an inordinately high level of suffering on the African continent.



12.

President Clinton's Lacking Legacy-

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No Left Turns blog takes note of President Clinton's third-tier presidency:

Ever since Clinton left office I have been waiting for liberal revisionists to begin recognizing him for the disaster he has been for Democrats. After all, it was during the Clinton years that Democrats began their slide into the wilderness, and for what? If Clinton had got universal health care, gay marriage, or peace in the Middle East, it might have been worth it. Instead they got welfare reform, a balanced budget, the first capital gains tax cut in 20 years, and a Republican Congress.

Indeed. Back when I was writing for the school newspaper, I interviewed a dozen University Democrats together (my own little focus group), asking them what specific policy made them become Democrats. They bounced around a few ideas, before settling on a consensus: Bill Clinton's welfare reform.

I politely informed the group that welfare reform had been a major cog in the 1994 GOP Contract With America (.pdf). They, not even knowing my political slant, flatly refused to believe it. "It was Clinton's reform!" one of them declared, to approving grumbles.


13.

XM and Sirius-

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Wunderkraut blog takes a look at the future of radio, noting that satellite radio is where it'll be:

Alternative stopped being alternative around 1995 once EVERYONE started listening to it. I guess it is a moot point now.

Viking Pundit, meanwhile, adds this bizarre anecdote, one that happens every day all around the country:

This past Friday afternoon, WCBS-FM 101.1 played their last song – “Summer Wind” by Frank Sinatra – and, without warning to their baby boomer audience, launched into “Fight for your Right (to Party)” by the Beastie Boys.

As a Sirius customer, satellite radio makes roadtrips immensely more leisurely. It seems like satellite radios could also serve as Wi-Fi portals for laptops and other devices in the near future. One big question: is there room in the market for both XM and Sirius? In the meantime, competition between the two is a great thing.


14.

Gulag-

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The Jawa Report explains what should be obvious, the differences between the USSR's gulag archipelago and Guantanamo:

Making any sort of comparison, even as a rhetorical device, between Camp X-Ray and the Soviet gulag system is problematic at best and grossly immoral at worst.

For Amnesty International to stoop to the low of making such a comparison reveals their ignorance of history and their political bias against the United States. While the US, like all nation-states, is not perfect, her flaws do not begin to compare to the oppression of Communist states in general and of the gulags in particular.

Shame on you Amnesty International, I will never take your accusations seriously again.




15.

Bush, Better Than Kerry In Every Way-

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Wizbang blog notes than John Kerry's grades at Yale were less-than-stellar:

...here's the real bombshell: Bush was a better student overall.

In his freshman year, Kerry had a 71 average (a C-). He raised that to a 76 by the time he graduated. Bush's average for the four years was a 77.

It's even more telling that in Kerry's freshman year, his two highest grades were in a political science course (79) and a French course (77). His highest grade over four years was an 89 in another political science class.

More:

Evidently the erudite persona Kerry has worked tirelessly over the years to create wouldn't allow him to acknowledge his own failures. He paid a hefty price for his stubbornness - the Presidency.

Ace of Spades adds:

You wouldn't slam an athlete for deciding his best career path was athletics. (Or at least I wouldn't; it's a rational economic decision, even if a risky one.) Likewise, there's little sense in slamming the noble-born for pursuing the non-academic path through college.

And yet the media did this as regards George Bush. Kerry refused to release his grades, suggesting he was not an A student (I don't see Kerry as the modest sort), and the press did not dig.

PoliPundit, which was so instrumental in getting Kerry to sign the release form for the press to review his military records, also has a highly relevant poll on the subject.

Roger L. Simon notes:

...I was reminded of Woody Allen's famous crack about 90 percent of life being about showing up. Evidently, not for Kerry. And this even though one of the not so secret secrets about Ivy educations is that once you're admitted, it's pretty hard to flunk out. In fact it's pretty hard to get less than a B average.

Bush also had higher scores than Al Gore, incidentally.


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


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).

Last Week's Classiness Certification from WILLisms.com:

*May 31, 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 · 7 June 2005 05:55 PM · Comments (7)

Gorgeous George Galloway At It Again.

Gorgeous George is at it again, shooting his mouth off, this time before a friendly audience.

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George Galloway, emboldened by his recent election victory over Oona King and the support he received from the global radical left following his appearance before the U.S. Senate, is at it again, demonstrating just how rotten his moral compass truly is (and yet, the left-wing blogosphere, in lockstep, cheers him on).

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) notes that Galloway ratcheted up his delusional, Marxist rhetoric on a recent al-Jazeera television appearance:

"Bush, and Blair, and the prime minister of Japan, and Berlusconi, these people are criminals, and they are responsible for mass murder in the world, for the war, and for the occupation, through their support for Israel, and through their support for a globalized capitalist economic system, which is the biggest killer the world has ever known. It has killed far more people than Adolph Hitler. It has killed far more people than George Bush. The economic system which these people support, which leaves most of the people in the world hungry, and without clean water to drink. So we're going to put them on trial, the leaders, when they come. They think they're coming for a holiday in a beautiful country called Scotland; in fact, they're coming to their trial.

To George Galloway and his buddies on the Stalinist left (including, even, some groups closely allied with the Democratic Party), the free enterprise system is worse than Adolph Hitler's genocidal holocaust.

Yet, so much of the left just keeps hanging on this man's every word, proving once again that there is nothing left, intellectually, morally, or otherwise, on the left.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 June 2005 12:39 PM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 70 -- Broadway Theatre.

BROADWAY BOUNCES BACK-


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Recall that after 9/11, Broadway went into a deep slump. This was indicative of a greater slump in NYC tourism, which was indicative of America's amazingly brief post-9/11 economic downturn.

Well, now, Broadway is back. In the 2004-2005 season, Broadway had a banner year:

For the 52-week period between May 31, 2004 and May 29, 2005, paid attendance to Broadway was 11.53 million. Box office grosses totalled $768.6 million, the 4th highest year in paid attendance in addition to second in grosses....

The last 13 weeks comprising the spring portion of the season grossed $222.1 million, the highest in history, with 3.34 million in paid attendance. Last season brought in a $201.9 million gross, and 3.13 million paid attendance for the same period, marking a 10% increase in grosses and a 6.8% increase for attendance.

As for tourism last year, domestic visitors to Broadway theatres reached record highs of 5.8 million (49.7% of the total audience), for the 2003-054 season. International tourism is also up 1.2 million in attendance (11% of the Broadway audience). This is now back to the pre-9/11 levels.

Good for them. And good for the otherwise left-of-center-inclined theatre-goers for rejecting the most ardent anti-Bush, anti-war themed shows, which are so common today:

What makes political artists think they can get away with such shoddy work? In New York and other American cities of similar political disposition, the answer is plain to see. Look at the 2004 election returns: 82% of Manhattan residents voted for John Kerry. No doubt Mr. Bush did rather better in the suburbs, but there's every reason to think that most art-loving New Yorkers are as unswervingly liberal as that statistic suggests. Yet there is no less reason to think that a substantial number of them expect more out of art, and refuse to accept less.

The English novelist Christopher Isherwood, who started out as a left-wing pacifist with strong Communist sympathies, started to change his tune by the end of the 30s. Writing in his third-person memoir "Christopher and His Kind" about a shipboard conversation he had in 1939 with his friend W.H. Auden, Isherwood recalled:

One morning, when they were walking on the deck, Christopher heard himself say: "You know, it just doesn't mean anything to me any more--the Popular Front, the party line, the anti-fascist struggle. I suppose they're okay but something's wrong with me. I simply cannot swallow another mouthful." To which Wystan answered: "Neither can I."

It strikes me that we've been living in an age that bears a certain resemblance, aesthetically speaking, to the bad old days of the Popular Front. (Witness the near-hysterical obituary tributes recently paid to Arthur Miller, a second-rate playwright whose leaden style was founded on the simplifications and crudities of Popular Front-style dramaturgy.) And it further strikes me that a growing number of aesthetically sensitive liberals may be growing as tired as did Auden and Isherwood of the various ways in which politics has removed the creative impulse from contemporary art. My playgoing friend's shamefaced response to "The God of Hell" is a sign of that exhaustion, as was the tepid audience response to "Guantánamo," not to mention the fact that the highly publicized "Embedded," even though it was written and directed by a movie star, failed to transfer to a Broadway theater. Nor should it be overlooked that the two most stringently politicized musicals of last season, Tony Kushner's "Caroline, or Change" and Stephen Sondheim's "Assassins," failed to please a sufficiently large number of playgoers and had their runs cut short as a result.

Somehow, I don't think Robert Reich's new anti-conservative show would make it on Broadway.


Source:

Broadway World.


Previous trivia tidbits:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16; Part 17; 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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68; Part 69.

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 · 7 June 2005 08:26 AM · Comments (1)

How About A Game Of Tug-Of-Peace?

Just got back from Tulsa, Oklahoma for a wedding (it's that time of life; weddings galore). Tulsa, incidentally, is a vastly underrated city-- and thoroughly "red state." For example, the mega-church steeples surge high into the horizon, serving as landmarks for the respective neighborhoods around the city. Tulsa (it seems, at least) is powerfully fecund; there are kids everywhere, and they, like so many other "red state" kids, play contact sports and keep score from a very young age.

Meanwhile, back in blue state America, there is a troubling trend. Have you ever heard of tug-of-peace?

Neither had I.

But it doesn't end there:

It seems that many adults today regard the children in their care as fragile hothouse flowers who require protection from even the remote possibility of frustration, disappointment or failure. The new solicitude goes far beyond blacklisting red pens. Many schools now discourage or prohibit competitive games such as tag or dodge ball. The rationale: too many hurt feelings. In May 2002, for example, the principal of Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica, Calif., sent a newsletter to parents informing them that children could no longer play tag during the lunch recess. As she explained, "In this game, there is a 'victim' or 'It,' which creates a self-esteem issue."

Protecting the feelings of our little ones, at all cost, is creeping into the psyche of America's education establishment. And, while the elimination of competitive contact sports in our public schools isn't grounds for a new American Revolution, it's certainly not a positive development in our nation's history either. Think about how European soccer (and basketball) players flop onto the ground with the slightest touch. Think about how the U.S. is really the only country where football (not futbol) is king (Australians get credit for rugby, Canadians for hockey). We're a competitive nation. It's what makes us great. If you have talent, if you have merit, you will succeed in an America with competition.

And the elimination of true competition has implications in a global economy:

Children who are protected from frank criticism written in "harsh" colors are gravely shortchanged. In the global economy that awaits them, young Americans will be competing with other young people from all parts of the world whose teachers do not hesitate to use red pens.

Ideally, America's recent trend of protecting our kids from ever experiencing disappointment, shielding them with bizarre, reinvented nomenclature to describe activities in a more "non-threatening" manner, will one day be but a comical footnote in our history.

Boosting self-esteem is great, but come on. The "kid glove culture" is getting out of hand.

Some adults, fed up with the wimpification of our nation's kids, are fighting back. The backlash against the prohibition of dodgeball was even the plot of a Hollywood movie. In Houston, Texas, there is an ongoing adult dodgeball league which meets near my house about once a week. May have to go check it out.

Throwing spherical rubber projectiles at one another, however absurd, is precisely the kind of competition that has made America so exceptional. Competition is worth fighting for.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 June 2005 10:31 PM · Comments (4)

The Carnival Of Revolutions.

Publius Pundit is hosting this week's Carnival of Revolutions. It's democracy-tastic.

And, while we're on the subject of Carnivals, be sure to submit your classiest posts to the Carnival of Classiness.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 June 2005 08:48 AM · Comments (1)

Quotational Therapy: Part 17 -- Mark Twain, On America.

ON AMERICA'S GREATEST INVENTION-

We are called the nation of inventors. And we are. We could still claim that title and wear its loftiest honors if we had stopped with the first thing we ever invented, which was human liberty.
- Mark Twain, Foreign Critics speech, 1890


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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; Part 15; Part 16.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 June 2005 08:43 AM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 69 -- Middle Class Politics.

THE PARTY OF THE MIDDLE CLASS-

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Among white voters, President Bush got a majority of support beginning at an income threshold of $23,300 -- about $5,000 above the poverty level for a family of four....

...the Massachusetts Democrat lost the middle class -- defined by the report as voters living in households with incomes between $30,000 and $75,000 -- by six percentage points. Among white middle-class voters, the gap was 22 percentage points.

Voters from middle-class households made up 45 percent of the electorate last year, those making less than $30,000 constituted 23 percent of the vote, and households above $75,000 accounted for 32 percent of the vote. The median income among the voters was $54,348. ...

...Mr. Kerry [lost] married parents of young children by 19 percentage points, taking 40 percent of the group compared with Mr. Bush's 59 percent. Those parents made up 28 percent of the electorate.


Democrats are not in good shape moving into the future.

Source:

The Washington Times.

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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67; Part 68.

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 · 6 June 2005 08:29 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 68 -- Red State Democrats.

PURPLE DEMOCRATS-

purpledemocrats.gif

Although Republican control of the House of Representatives is narrow - a margin of just 30 seats out of 435 total - some 20 percent of House Democrats come from districts that President Bush carried in 2004. Only 8 percent of Republicans come from districts carried by Sen. John Kerry in the presidential vote....

On a bankruptcy bill that Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi said would create "modern-day indentured servants," 73 Democrats voted with the Republican majority. Fifty Democrats voted with GOP leaders on class-action reform; 42 on tightening requirements for driver's licenses, 42 for a permanent repeal of the estate tax, 41 on the energy bill, 71 on a gang deterrence bill that some Democrats said unfairly targeted immigrants, and 54 on abortion notification.

For many of these votes, about half of the Democratic swing support came from the so-called purple-district Democrats, who may be positioning themselves for the 2006 elections....

More than half of the Democratic votes for repeal of the estate tax, dubbed by Republicans the "death tax," came from Democrats in districts that Bush carried in 2004.

Similarly, nearly half the votes for bankruptcy overhaul and class-action reform came from this same 20 percent of the Democratic caucus.


Those Bush-district Democrats would be wise to get on board with Social Security reform, or face the electoral wrath of President George W. "Coattails" Bush.

Source:

The Christian Science Monitor.

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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66; Part 67.

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 · 5 June 2005 08:35 AM · Comments (1)

Happy Blogiversary.

Happy 1 year birthday to File It Under blog.

Go check it out. You can even win a 25 dollar gift certificate if you are funny enough.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 June 2005 03:03 PM · Comments (3)

Recovering...

After the Great Software Meltdown of '05, I think WILLisms.com is back up, good to go. PLEASE, PLEASE email me if you see something amiss (broken links, stuff not showing correctly). This past 24-hours or so has been excrutiating.

I feel like I've just knocked out Mike Tyson. I won, but I still need to get my bearings. Thanks for your patience.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 June 2005 09:26 AM · Comments (10)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 67 -- Japanese Demographic Crunch.

Japan's Demographic Challenge-

Think our Baby Boomer demographic age crunch is difficult? Try Japan on for size:

Japan's fertility rate hit a post-World War II low of 1.29 in 2004....

The rate -- the average number of children that a woman bears in her lifetime -- was 3.65 in 1950 and fell under 2 for the first time in the mid-1970s, raising the specter of a shrinking population where pensioners outnumber workers.

Urban areas were hit hardest by the declining trend in fertility rates, with Tokyo registering a record low of 0.9987 in 2004, Kyodo news agency said....

Japan boasts the longest life expectancy in the world.

Men can now expect to live for 78 years, while the life expectancy for women is 85. Experts say the population is likely to start declining in 2007....

Nearly one in five Japanese is aged 65 or older and the figure will jump to one in four over the next decade, according to government data.


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; Part 57; Part 58; Part 59; Part 60; Part 61; Part 62; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65; Part 66.

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 · 4 June 2005 09:05 AM · Comments (3)

Quotational Therapy: Part 16 -- Churchill On Enemies.

ON UNITING AND DIVIDING-

I have always felt that a politician is to be judged by the animosities he excites among his opponents.

- Sir Winston Churchill.

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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; Part 15.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 June 2005 10:56 PM · Comments (3)

Mentoring Paul Wolfowitz.

Paul Wolfowitz, earlier this week, assumed his role as head of the World Bank, pledging to fight poverty in Africa, among other things.

paulwolfowitzworldbank.gif

Somewhat surprisingly, he's getting mostly positive reviews thus far:

Although some activists remain hostile, development experts and non-governmental organisations who have met him over past weeks say they have been reassured by their early encounters with the urbane Mr Wolfowitz.

Mohammad Akhter, chief executive of InterAction, an alliance of 160 US-based development organisations, has admitted to being "pleasantly surprised" and said the bank was "in good hands".


Foreign Policy magazine offers an array of advice for Wolfowitz from five experts on international development, some thoughts better than others.


Put Growth Ahead of Aid
:

Seven years of growth at 5 percent in India reduced national poverty by 6 percent. During the same time period, 6 percent economic growth in Vietnam reduced national poverty by 7 percent; 8 percent growth in China reduced national poverty by 8 percent.

If Africa could achieve growth rates of 4 to 5 percent over a decade—half the rate in China—the resulting poverty reduction would be far greater than what would result from a doubling of the foreign aid budget to the troubled continent.


Great advice.

Put the Bank to the Test:

As an international organization charged with fighting poverty, the World Bank should devote meaningful resources to fund randomized evaluations, ideally in conjunction with other private, public, and international donors, and create an “innovation fund” devoted to such evaluations.

A little vague, but decent advice.


Put Your Faith in Microfinance
:

Typically, poor people have no property and, hence, no collateral. Without collateral, they have no means to secure a loan. So the entrepreneurial ability and ambition of poor people is blocked by their lack of access to credit. Microfinancing unleashes that entrepreneurial ambition by offering small loans—normally in the hundreds of dollars—as start-up capital at normal interest rates. The global repayment rate for microfinance loans is about 98 percent. These loans allow families to get out of poverty, send children to school, and finance healthcare costs. They also help poor people garner the resources necessary to defend their freedom and democratic rights.


LOVE the microloans.

Put Borrowers On Notice:

The developing world would be better served if the bank linked its overall volume of lending—subject to broad, prespecified criteria—to spending on critical institutions, such as basic education, basic health, and nondiscriminatory legal frameworks. In this way, the bank would fund the very things that drive growth, be it infrastructure or higher education.


You mean, actually mandate that aid dollars go toward the ultimate goal of self-sustainability? Groundbreaking.


Put the Brand First
:

To develop an integrated, unique, viable, and sustainable mission—and to correspondingly align the brand and internal culture—is Wolfowitz’s biggest challenge at a time when the mission is in dispute, the brand is in doubt, and the culture is amorphous.

Some decent advice, all around.

UPDATE:

More advice for Wolfowitz:

With all of its good intentions, the World Bank has failed to achieve its goal of ending poverty and, in some cases, has left recipient countries poorer than when lending started decades ago. Paul Wol­fowitz, the new president of the World Bank, has an opportunity to change this disappointing record and turn the World Bank into a more transparent, more accountable, and more effective organization.

This effort should start with setting a more appropriate mission for the World Bank: encourag­ing poor nations to bolster the rule of law and to increase economic freedom. It is these policies that will remove obstacles for economic growth and pave the way to reducing poverty.

Key elements in the strategy include focusing assistance on low-income countries that have good policies but lack access to capital markets and pro­viding that assistance through performance-based grants that have quantifiable benchmarks. These changes will help the poor to cope with the desper­ate life they live while giving countries incentives to implement sound policies, to reform, and to pro­mote a strong rule of law, which is the only path to eliminating poverty.

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 June 2005 10:54 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 66 -- Anonymous Sources.

ANONYMOUS SOURCES, 1981 versus 2001-

A new non-partisan study indicates that the use of anonymous sources in media coverage of the President is less rampant under the Bush administration than under the Reagan administration:

*Overall, the use of anonymous sources declined by 33%, from nearly 1 out of 4 sources (24%) cited during Reagan's first year in office, to 1 out of 6 (16%) in Bush's first year.

*The Washington Post and New York Times cited unnamed sources nearly 1/3 of the time (30%) in covering the administration in 1981 but only 1/5 (20%) of the time in 2001. The decline was sharper at the Post-- 37%, compared to the New York Times' 28% drop.

*The use of anonymous sources in local papers fell even more sharply, a 42% drop from 1 in 4 sources (24 percent) in 1981 to 1 in 7 (14 percent) in 2001.

*The broadcast networks had the lowest proportion of unnamed sources during both administrations but still cut back on their use of unnamed sources, from 16 percent in 1981 to 14 percent in 2001.

Two potential explanations:

1. Journalists have determined that anonymous sources, although they helped uncover Watergate, ultimately make the public more skeptical about the news they are consuming.

2. More likely, President Bush, and his administration, run a notoriously tight ship. Leaks are not tolerated.


Source:

Center For Media and Public Affairs (.pdf).


Related reading:

More on curbing the use of anonymous sources.

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; Part 63; Part 64; Part 65.

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 · 3 June 2005 10:52 AM · Comments (1)

Technical Difficulties...

Having major technical issues, should be resolved soon... thanks for your patience.

Posted by will · 3 June 2005 06:44 AM · Comments (3)

I Don't Give A Blank About Deepthroat.

I don't care one lick about Deepthroat. Seriously. I really don't care. It must be a generational thing, because I just don't care. I don't care. I am sick of hearing about it. Sick of reading about it. Sick of being asked about it. Who cares. Mark Felt is a has been. Always will be.

It's not even really a news story, but, rather, more of an excuse for the media to wax nostalgic, collectively, about its once-glorious past. Peggy Noonan has a great take on the lameness of the whole Felt story.

30 years ago, it was important. Today, not at all. This will be the first and last post on the matter, unless something really neat comes out of it (I'll just bet nothing will).

By the way, here's an actual question asked (the first one asked) at the President's Oval Office meeting with South African President Mbeki regarding genocide in Darfur:

mbeki.gif

Q Yes, Mr. President. First, for you -- what are your thoughts about the fact that Deep Throat has been outed --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes -- (laughter.)

Q -- and also the fact, Mr. President, is he a hero in your mind?

And, Mr. President, on the issue of Darfur, Sudan, a new survey came out by the Zogby International Poll that finds 84 percent of Americans polled feel that the U.S. should not tolerate an extremist government committing such attacks and should use its military assets, short of using military combat troops on the ground to protect civilians there.

No. Seriously. That was the first question asked.

Ugh. The sheer disgustingness of the media's self-absorption on this issue makes me sick. Seriously. A two-part question, part one dealing with whether the President admires Deep Throat, part two dealing with the murder of countless Africans.

Shameful.

However, President Bush missed a perfect opportunity to call out the reporter for asking such a silly question while the focus ought to have been on the important and pressing human rights issues in Darfur, Sudan. Bush could have scored, but, instead, he sort of fumbled over the Deep Throat question when it was asked again 20 seconds later.

Yes, you read that correctly. Whether President Bush believes Deep Throat is a hero was asked, again, 20 seconds later.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 June 2005 06:26 PM · Comments (5)

Jacques Chirac, Fin.

jacqueschiracfrance.gif

Jacque Chirac's political career is, effectively, over.

The latest French polls show his popularity at an all-time low, following the resounding rejection of the E.U. referendum.

Today, only 24% of the French approve of Jacque Chirac.

24%.

You could fit the approval rating of two Jacque Chiracs inside of President Bush's, with room to spare:

chiracandbush.gif

Jacques Chirac, done.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 June 2005 04:18 PM · Comments (6)

The O.C.

This one is for my little sister (hi, Carly):

With roughly 1/3 of a year remaining before the start of a new season of Fox's The O.C., some of the show's loyal fans, who also happen to be loyal WILLisms.com readers, are likely already developing delerium tremens just thinking about how long it'll be until their weekly addiction is satisfied.

The show, like so many television programs these days, has political undertones and overtones, archetypes and nuances, preachiness and vérité, weaved in and out. On the very first episode of the show, which aired on August 5, 2003, the show's otherwise quiet and brooding protagonist, Ryan Atwood (played by Benjamin McKenzie, who in real life spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention), explained why he wasn't all that concerned about his future:

Modern medicine is advancing to the point where the average human life span will be 100. But I read this article which said Social Security is supposed to run out by the year 2025, which means people are going to have to stay at their jobs until they're 80. So I don't want to commit to anything too soon.

benjaminmckenzie.gif

Ryan Atwood, Social Security reform advocate, before it ever became a petty partisan political issue. After he uttered that line, I was hooked. A Republican-minded character on television! What's not to like about a tougher, buffer version of Alex P. Keaton, who also just happened to come from the wrong side of the tracks? This was too good to be true.

Alas, it was too good to be true; Ryan is now essentially apolitical, while the potential political intricacies found in the pilot have not materialized. However, unlike Law and Order's recent character assault on Tom DeLay, for example, the political dialogue is not too overbearing. It's even organic-- dare I say "fair and balanced"-- much of the time.

The Weekly Standard, of all publications, critiques the teenage drama, noting its realities, its omissions, and its politics:

The O.C. is a Hollywood fantasy about what life in the O.C. surely must be like--if anyone from Hollywood ever bothered to go there and find out....

Despite the county's tripartite socioeconomic division, nearly all its inhabitants vote the same way: Republican. There are a few blue islands here and there in the sea of red: Laguna Beach, a onetime starving-artists' colony that's now high-end boho, the University of California at Irvine, and the Hispanic neighborhoods of North Orange County (although in declining numbers, as we know from the last presidential election).

This is where the makers of The O.C. go awry, for they insist upon imposing on Orange County, whose riches are nearly all nouveau and entrepreneurial, the political template of Hollywood, where the elite is overwhelmingly on the left.

Indeed, in a recent episode, while Ryan and Seth were in Florida for Spring Break, Seth nearly gets beaten up by an angry mob of muscle-bound Christian college students from Bob Jones University-- an obvious, and caricatured, dig at red state America.

For fans of The O.C., the Standard article is a must-read. For everyone else, eye candy (the real reason anyone watches):

Mischa Barton (a.k.a. Marissa):
mischabarton.gif

Rachel Bilson (a.k.a. Summer):
rachelbilson.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 June 2005 01:22 PM · Comments (2)

Reform Thursday: Week Eighteen.

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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, Part 2.


MYTH #1

The international experience with Social Security "privatization" in countries like Chile is disastrous, proof that personal accounts could never work.

[Sources for this claim: The LaRouchers, Paul Krugman, various Marxist groups, The American Prospect, etc.]

Wrong. Social Security reform in Chile, nearly a quarter of a century later, has proven to be overwhelmingly successful.

chilejosepinera.gif

Chile's architect of Social Security reform, Jose Piñera, explains that a system based on ownership, choice, and personal responsibility works best. He asserts the program has led to greater prosperity, with a more wise economic policy:

Since they have a personal stake in the economy, workers cheer the stock market's surges rather than resenting them, and know that bad economic policies will harm retirement benefits. When workers feel that they themselves own a part of their country's wealth, they became participants and supporters of a free market and a free society.

That's all well and good in theory, you may be saying to yourself, but show me the money. Did personal accounts work in Chile?

Definitely.

While columnists like John Tierney of The New York Times have offered some powerful anecdotal evidence of Chile's success with personal accounts, let's allow the numbers speak for themselves:

chilesocialsecurityprivatiz.gif

Not only have the personal accounts delivered far more meaningful returns for workers, but the pro-growth nature of Chile's 1981 Social Security reform has helped its economy, less encumbered by public sector pensions, to flourish.

Can we count on an inflation-adjusted annual rate of return of 10.3% for our Social Security personal accounts? No. Nor should any reformer make that kind of promise. But, if the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), the retirement plan open to members of Congress and other federal employees, is any guide, returns would be solid and entirely worthwhile.

While our version of reform would clearly look different from Chile's, we could draw important lessons from the successes there, shaping our Social Security system to maximize America's competitiveness in an increasingly interconnected global economy.


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


MYTH #2

We have plenty of time; there's no pressing need to reform Social Security right away. There are more pressing agenda items than Social Security reform.

[Sources for this claim: There Is No Crisis, Daily Kos, Nancy Pelosi, Professor Bainbridge, Harry Reid]


Stephen Goss, Chief Social Security actuary, fiercely non-partisan professional, disagrees:

Democrats have resisted President Bush's proposed changes to Social Security, arguing its problems are far off. The program's top analyst says they're flat wrong.

Stephen Goss, the nonpartisan chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, says the nation will face a pinch in 2009 when excess payroll taxes that have been flowing into the program start to decline, halting the growth of surplus money that Congress has been tapping to fund other government programs.

There are three key dates to keep in mind in the Social Security reform debate.

2009 - Excess payroll taxes (a.k.a. "the surplus") begin to decline.
2017 - Benefit payments exceed payroll tax revenues.
2041 - The "trust fund" no longer buffer the deficit in Social Security.

Anyone claiming we can just wait until 2041 to start worrying about Social Security is either delusional and ignorant or unscrupulous and demagogic. The system is in a very real crunch, very soon.

Very rarely is Washington presented with such an opportunity to solve a crisis before it becomes a full-blown crisis.

Think about it.

We can see the avalanche coming, and if we act soon, we'll easily avoid it, but some in Washington believe they can wait until the last minute before darting away.

Now, consider just how powerful special interest groups representing older Americans have become in the legislative process. Right now, those over 65 make up roughly 20% of the American population. In ten years, that number will rise to 24%. In fifteen years, 28%. In twenty years, 32%:

oldagedependencyratio.gif

By 2035, those over 65 will comprise 37% of America's population. Every single poll on Social Security reform shows that younger people overwhelmingly want reform, and they want it sooner rather than later, while older Americans are, dare I say, stubbornly against reform. [That characterization might not be fair. After all, older Americans are the group most susceptible to fear mongering by disingenuous lobbying groups on the issue.]

The point of noting the increasing proportions of older Americans is that, politically, as the American populace grays, it will become more and more difficult to pass a meaningful reform package.

Finally, consider the cost of inaction. When the 2005 Social Security Trustees Report came out, there was a frightening figure very few took note of. One year passed, and the 75-year unfunded liability of Social Security increased by 300 billion dollars. Social Security actuaries estimate that, soon, each year that passes without reform will add up to 600 billion dollars to the unfunded liability. Think about that. A decade later, and we'll have unnecessarily accumulated SIX TRILLION dollars in additional debt.

Put into perspective, repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) would eliminate roughly 600 billion dollars from the federal revenue stream, over 10 years.

Some people dispute the 600 billion figure, but even Joe Lieberman, who does not even support personal accounts, fired off an agitated letter to The New York Times in response to Paul Krugman's erroneous assertion that the 600 billion number was some kind of Bush-manufactured lie. The inordinately high cost of inaction, unfortunately (because do-nothing obstructionists wield so much power in this debate), is very real.

Bottom line, whether it's one or several hundred billion in additional unfunded liabilities, each year that passes without reform is a wasted opportunity for younger workers to earn compound interest on a personal account in Social Security. Meanwhile, it makes no sense not to reform Social Security just because we might face other problems. Indeed, Social Security reform could serve as a launching pad for Medicare or other entitlement reforms.

These are just a few of the reasons why reform, sooner rather than later, is imperative.

UPDATE:

A great read on Progressive Indexing.


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).
-Week Eighteen (Debunking Myths).

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 · 2 June 2005 12:48 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 65 -- CAFTA.

CAFTA-

CAFTA-DR (U.S.-Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement), the treaty between and among the U.S. and the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and the later-added Dominican Republic, is generating a moderate level of controversy. Together, those six countries represent the 10th largest export market for U.S. products. Here are some figures to consider:

Tariffs will be eliminated immediately on more than 80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products, and the remainder will be phased out over 10 years.

The agreement will expand U.S. farm export markets—over half of current U.S. farm exports to Central America will become duty-free immediately, and most other tariffs will be phased out within 15 years....

The new agreement would provide for greater reciprocity. The CAFTA-DR countries already enjoy significant duty-free access to U.S. markets because of several existing preferential agreements, such as the Caribbean Basin Initiative. Some 80 percent of their total exports to the U.S. already arrive duty-free. Currently, too, over 99 percent of their food and agricultural products exported to the U.S. face no tariffs.

What might CAFTA do for inflation here in the U.S.?

Since 1997, prices for many heavily traded goods have actually fallen: 86% for computers and peripherals, 68% for video equipment, 36% for toys, 20% for women’s outerwear, 17% for men’s shirts and sweaters. Prices of goods and services not subject to foreign competition have fared less well: college tuition and fees, up 53%; cable and satellite television, up 41%; dental services, up 38%; prescription drugs and medical supplies, up 37%.

Moreover:

When fully implemented, CAFTA-DR will give U.S. consumers, households, and taxpayers greater access to foods, goods, and services—some not produced in the U.S.—lower prices, resulting in an overall increase in welfare from $135.31 million to $248.17 million, according to U.S. International Trade Commission estimates.

The economic affect is only part of it. CAFTA is a crucial cog in the President's freedom agenda for Latin America.

The Heritage Foundation has a new blog devoted to the issue, the CAFTA Corner. Go check it out if you want to understand more about the agreement.

Source:

Competitive Enterprise Institute: "Can Free Trade Hold Up to Special Interest Siege?"

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; Part 63; Part 64.

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 · 2 June 2005 09:12 AM · Comments (0)

The Cell Phone Gender Gap.

Some interesting numbers on the almost counter-intuitive gender gap in cellular telephone use:

...men talk on mobile phones 35% more often than women....

...on average men make use of 571 airtime minutes a month compared to 424 for women. In addition, the research showed that men and women use mobile phones for different purposes. Approximately 82% of women use their phones to talk to family and friends, compared to 62% of men, and men spend twice as much time using their mobile phones for business.

Tell that to the parents of any teenage daughter.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 June 2005 06:03 AM · Comments (2)

Rock The Hypocrisy.

Rock The Hypocrisy: watching Rock The Vote so you don't have to.


Posted by Will Franklin · 1 June 2005 11:41 PM · Comments (3)

Indoctrinating Jihad.

In the U.S., we debate whether schools should teach intelligent design along side evolution.

In Kuwait, they debate whether schools should teach jihad.

Recently, Kuwait has made giant strides in becoming a modern, democratic society, but this debate shows just what Kuwait's reformers are up against.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 June 2005 10:41 PM · Comments (0)

Hillary Clinton's Presidential Hopes.

Hillary Clinton will never become President of the United States of America. Not in 2008, not in 2012, and not beyond that. It's simply not gonna happen.

hillaryrodhamclinton.gif

Hillary's lack of a real shot at the White House does not mean she should be taken lightly. On the contrary, Hillary is a shrewd and calculating politician, a voracious fundraiser, and much of the establishment media desperately wants to see her elected. But she's still not going to be elected president. Count on it.

In an attempt to wound Hillary's electoral chances early enough, a new 527 group called Stop Her Now has put team Hillary on high alert. It's website notes:

Hillary Clinton has already started her political make-over, and the mainstream press has no interest in exposing her as the political chameleon she is.

In response, "Friends of Hillary" sent out an email this morning on behalf of the Senator, noting:

While we are fighting back in Washington, Republicans are raising tens of millions of dollars to defeat me in 2006. "Whatever it takes," says the New York state Republican chairman. "STOP HER NOW" urges a new "independent" 527 committee.

They're going to find out that I am not easy to stop.

Unlike John Kerry, Hillary Clinton knows that responding immediately and overwhelmingly to groups such as Stop Her Now is crucial.

Stop Her Now's website is still somewhat shoddy, and to maximize its potential, it needs to add a blog, which would allow the site to publish ever-fresh content. Scared Monkeys blog concurs on this point.

As Hillary Clinton maneuvers to appear moderate on broad-based, right-leaning (and winning) issues such as cracking down on illegal immigration and supporting the military, she hopes that, within another couple of years, the American people will view her as a moderate. Simple news searches indicate she's already receiving ample aid on the matter.

Scott Rasmussen, one of the few pollsters who got it right in 2004, offers a regular survey feature, the Hillary Meter, which aims to gauge both support for the former First Lady, as well as public perception of her ideology.

The freshest numbers from the Hillary Meter indicate that 41% of Americans would definitely vote against Mrs. Clinton, while only 26% would definitely vote for her:

hillarymeter.gif

At the same time, 45% of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Hillary Clinton, while 38% view her favorably. These numbers will assuredly fluctuate, perhaps even wildly, over the next year or two. One troubling number in Rasmussen's Hillary Meter is that, since early April, roughly 1/3 of Americans have viewed Hillary Clinton as moderate:

hillaryliberal.gif

Hillary Clinton is anything but moderate, and never really could be, despite her overt and symbolic gestures toward moderation. This, remember, is the woman who nearly sunk the Clinton administration in its infancy with her delusions of socialized health care.

Americans For Democratic Action ratings for Hillary-
2001: 95% (.pdf)
2002: 95%
2003: 95%
2004: 95% (.pdf)

The American Conservative Union gives Hillary mirror-image ratings:

2004 - 0%
2003 - 10%
2002 - 10%
2001 - 12%

Does this seem like a moderate Senator?

On specific issues, Hillary also reveals herself as a far-left politician.

Abortion-

NARAL (National Abortion Reproductive Action League) has given Hillary a rating of 100% each year she has been in the Senate.

In the National Right to Life Committee's ratings, meanwhile, she has not cracked 0%.


Taxes-

National Taxpayers Union:
2004 - 11%
2003 - 21%
2002 - 17%
2001 - 3%

Americans For Tax Reform:
2004 - 10%
2003 - 5%
2002 - 5%
2001 - 5%

Citizens Against Government Waste:
2003 - 16%
2002 - 6%
2001 - 0%


Labor and business-

AFL-CIO:
2004 - 100%
2003 - 85%
2002 - 92%
2001 - 100%

U.S. Chamber of Commerce (scores near 50 do not necessarily mean "moderate"):
2004 - 50%
2003 - 35%
2002 - 45%
2001 - 43%

On issue, after issue, after issue, after issue, Hillary Clinton has proved to be quite left-leaning. So, clearly, she has A LOT of work to do to reshape her image for 2008. But, you can bet that the elite media will assist her every step of the way.

But, why does Hillary have no shot in 2008 or beyond?

She is poison in the red states. Name a state that Bush won that Hillary Clinton could win. Hard to do, isn't it?

She is way too close to Hollywood. America hates that.

Think about it. She is a liberal, (ostensibly) from the Northeast, and she is in the Senate. Is that really a winning comination?

President Bush defeated John Kerry in the Electoral College, 286-251 (with 1 accidental vote for John Edwards). That's 34 electoral votes to make up. After the 2010 Census and subsequent reapportionment (.pdf), it's likely that the states Bush won will gain a net 6 Electoral College votes, while the states Kerry won will lose 6. In 2012, Democrats would have to find a way to win 40 Electoral College votes worth of red states, while defending their precarious hold on Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, not to mention Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Oregon.

There was much cacaphony about how close Ohio was, but it only had the 5th closest percentage margin of victory, behind Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, and New Hampshire.

Not only are the swing states generally becoming more Republican, but already-Republican states are becoming much deeper Republican. It's just generational and regional demographics at work. And it will be that much more difficult for a Democrat to break through with each subsequent election.

Bottom line, Presidential races are about the Electoral College, and Hillary does not have what it takes to win enough seats in 2008 away from Republican control. Americans will be ready for something new in 2008. The thought of the White House exclusively occupied by someone named Clinton or Bush from 1989 to 2013 (or 2017) is enough to make the average American shudder.

A few predictions:
1. The first female President of the United States will be a Republican with ample foreign policy experience.

2. A woman will not win in 2008.

3. Hillary Clinton's best shot, per the Electoral College, is in 2008. In 2012, the map will be much harder to win. She knows this and will go all in in 2008.

4. If the moderate score of Rasmussen's Hillary Meter gets above 45%, while her liberal score gets below 40%, she will perform roughly as well as John Kerry. If her scores remain where they are today, expect Michael Dukakis-like numbers against any competent Republican.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 June 2005 03:12 PM · Comments (17)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 8.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:


missuniverse.jpg

The actual caption:

Natalie Glebova, the newly-crowned Miss Universe 2005, from Toronto, Canada, poses with 8-year-old 'Lucky' at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok. 23-year-old Glenbova will spend her year-long reign traveling around the world making special appearances on behalf of the Miss Universe Organization, its sponsors and affiliated charities(AFP/HO/Miss Universe/Patrick Prather)

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


Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, June 7. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

holydean.gif


Last week's winners (a clean sweep):

1.

JWebb (File It Under intern):

"Dear Heavenly Father: RRRAAAHHHHRRRRGGGHHH! In Jesus' name, Amen."

2.

Hoodlumman:

Dean found it odd that every time he shook hands with Harry Reid, his hand smelled like turnip greens.

3.

Rob B.:

"If i can get a few more nuts in my mouth pouch, I'll be the happiest squirrel this winter."

Caption away!

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 June 2005 09:23 AM · Comments (6)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 64 -- Competitive Congressional Elections.

Congress and the lack of competitive districts-

In the 2004 U.S. House elections, only 5 challengers in the entire nation succeeded in defeating an incumbent. Of the 435 seats in the House, only 22 were decided by a margin of less than 10 percentage points....

In the 2000 House elections, 96 percent of safe Democratic districts were won by Democrats and 91 percent of safe Republican districts were won by Republicans. Of the districts classified as competitive, 53 percent were won by Republicans and 47 percent by Democrats....

In 1976, 20 states with 299 electoral votes were decided by a margin of less than five percentage points. In 2004, only 10 states with 106 electoral votes were decided by a margin of less than five percentage points.


Source:

"Don't Blame Redistricting for Uncompetitive Elections," by Emory Professor Alan Abramowitz, via Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball.


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; Part 63.

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 · 1 June 2005 09:19 AM · Comments (0)