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Willisms

« September 2005 | WILLisms.com | November 2005 »

Mr. Right's Halloween Party.

Go check it out. It's also his first blogiversary.

Dang, and some creepy dude over there really doesn't like me.

Posted by Will Franklin · 31 October 2005 05:43 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 202 -- George Bush Cares About Black People.

Recent Improvements In The Lives Of African-Americans-

It's been well-documented that African-Americans are no longer fans of the party of Lincoln. President Bush, frustratingly, was even blamed for the poverty in New Orleans, and for not personally rescuing the folks stranded for a couple/few days, even in the face of unprecedented infrastructure damage and flooding.

Marginally talented hip-hop artist Kanye West infamously took it upon himself to declare (during a Red Cross benefit telethon) that Bush doesn't care about black people. Moreover, many voices from the left announced that the GOP does not get black votes because it does not deserve them.

Well, that's bogus. And ridiculous.

Putting aside the facts on which party in Congress actually supported Civil Rights legislation and which party opposed it, and putting aside President Bush's trust in Condi Rice and other high-profile African-Americans in his administration, it is disingenuous based on the facts in front of us to claim that African-Americans suddenly have it so bad under President Bush.

Let's also put aside these facts:

Since Bush took office... federal anti-poverty spending -- including Medicaid, food and nutrition programs, housing, earned income tax credit and child credits, plus other programs -- increased 42 percent. This is nearly double the rate of increase under President Clinton.

That's all well and good. Bush clearly has not neglected the poor. Perhaps he has not neglected the poor too much for many fiscal conservatives. But what about results?

Crime Victimization-

Crime is the single most pronounced scourge of many African-Americans communities. Crime affects every aspect of life. It drives away jobs. It ruins schools.

You likely already know that America's crime rate is at what is essentially an all-time low (.pdf).

You may be surprised to learn that the African-American victimization rate has also plummeted in recent years:

violentcrimevictimization.gif

During the 1990s, victimization fell dramatically for African-Americans, but it has continued to fall since President Bush took office:

violentcrimedown.gif

There's still a gap between blacks and whites on the issue, but even as crime victimization has been down for everyone, the gap has closed significantly.

Education-

Love or hate No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the results are in, and the racial achievement gap is narrowing:

* In fourth-grade reading, more progress was made from 2000 to 2005 (up 6 points) than from 1992 to 2000 (down 4 points), driven by gains among... African American students (up 10 points).

* In fourth-grade math, nearly as much progress was made from 2000 to 2005 (up 12 points) as from 1990 to 2000 (up 13 points), driven by gains among... African American students (up 17 points).

* Since 2003, African American fourth-graders have made significant gains in both math (up 4 points) and reading (up 2 points).

Earlier this year, African American fourth-graders posted the highest reading and math scores ever.

Education, obviously, is one of the most important components, if not THE most important component, in predicting success in life. And the fact that African-Americans have improved their scores and narrowed those racial achievement gaps so significantly is very encouraging.

Can we do better?

Certainly.

But the positive trend lines under this President are certainly worth noting.


Home Ownership-

As Larry Elder notes, since Bush has taken office, home ownership is way up for blacks:

Half of all minority households are homeowners, an all-time high. In 2002, Bush vowed to increase minority homeownership by 5.5 million families by 2010. Bush pushed for programs on down payment assistance, and called for increased funding for housing counseling services.

While some worry themselves half to death about the impending burst of the housing bubble, others celebrate that so many Americans-- of all races-- now own their own homes. When a family owns a home, they are far more likely to act to increase the value of their home, as well as their community. This means more volunteering, more upkeep on the house itself, and more concern for neighbors. Home owners typically have a much greater stake in their communities than renters, taking more interest in the quality of schools, and contributing more to community initiatives.

Owning a home can transform a family, but it can also transform communities. George W. Bush has made minority home ownership a priority of his administration, and his efforts are paying off nicely.


Jobs-

The unemployment rate gap between whites and blacks is smaller than ever before:

blackunemploymentrategap.gif

We can certainly do better, for all races, but it absurd to claim that this gap has only recently appeared, or that it has gotten more chasmic under this administration.

It's about time President Bush got a little credit for America's booming economy, not because he has micromanaged success (he hasn't), but because he has lowered taxes and has (generally) trusted free trade and free markets to produce robust growth.

Today, we're all benefiting from tax relief.


Entrepreneurship-

One way to improve communities and enrich individuals is through ownership of small businesses. Entreprenurialism is especially important, because people typically run their businesses in their own neighborhoods, hiring their neighbors, providing services for their neighbors, and otherwise improving the lives of those close to them.

James K. Glassman points out that blacks are making very real strides in business ownership:

An extensive government study, released by the Census Bureau in July and covering 2002 data, found that small businesses owned by women rose 20 percent over five years while the number of all U.S. businesses rose by 10 percent. Black-owned businesses were up by 45 percent, Hispanic-owned by 31 percent.

Sure, whites and males had a significant jump start on the other groups, but the growth for minorities and women ought to be very encouraging for those who desire equality. Blacks saw their rate of small business ownership jump four and a half times faster than the national average.

Indeed, there is a difference between Clinton and Bush on black entrepreneurship:

During the last five years of President Clinton’s term — as far back as the data for this analysis goes — entrepreneurial activity among blacks increased 0.02 percent. Since the beginning of the Bush presidency, it has increased 0.04 percent — twice the Clinton growth rate for the available data.

Noticing a trend, yet? African-Americans are catching up to whites in nearly every category, even as whites are making their own advances.

This is good news-- and evidence that George Bush does indeed care about black people.

Blacks, to be sure, have made enormous strides in recent years, but the Republican Party can and should continue to make the political sales pitch until it becomes overwhelmingly clear that the Democrats not only do not deserve the black vote, but that the GOP actually does deserve another shot.

After all, it is home and business ownership, lower taxes and more jobs, less crime and better schools, not Section 8 government housing, failing schools, and welfare checks, that will allow African-Americans to close those infamous inequality gaps once and for all. It is the free enterprise system championed by Republicans, not the soft socialism of the Democratic Party, that will spur continued economic growth in this country. And it is economic growth that will generate even more entrepreneurial success, more jobs, better schools, less crime, and more home ownership. For all.


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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Presidential Election Turnout Rates.

Posted by Will Franklin · 31 October 2005 03:49 PM · Comments (5)

Houston Halloween.

halloween.gif

Today is Halloween, of course, and it's a holiday that takes on special meaning for many folks in this neck of the woods. Not because it is a day off from work (it isn't), not because it has any kind of spiritual meaning (it doesn't), and not because of all the fun and decorations and candy.

No, in Houston, Texas Halloween is a psychological marker for cooler weather. While much of the rest of the country has experienced cool, crisp temperatures for several weeks now, here in Houston, summer usually lingers long into October. You can't really call it Fall until Halloween rolls around. Sure, sometimes climate relief comes a week or two early, as it did this year, but October 31 is a day people who enjoy going outside for more than a few minutes at a time look forward to.

weatherhouston.gif Just look at that wonderfully cool weather, those delightful Fall temperatures. They're definitely still warmer than most of the country, but those temps are a welcome relief from the mid-to-high-90s that lingered until just a couple of weeks ago.

While Houston weather is oppressive from about late May until early October, with heat and humidity and mosquitoes galore, Halloween is the time to celebrate the beginning of several months of mostly beautiful weather. And this pattern goes for more than just Houston, extending into Austin and elsewhere in and around Texas.

But the cooler weather has other benefits. First, Halloween marks an end of $300, $400, $500, or even higher monthly electric bills. The air conditioner does not have to blast all day and all night just to keep the inside temperature under 80 degrees. Moreover, in Houston, most people run the heater for only a dozen or so days all winter long.

Nice.

Next, for football fans (and most Texans are), Halloween marks the official beginning of bearable tailgating weather. Day games are no longer superhuman feats of endurance, requiring frequent electrolyte hydration, even just while sitting there in the stands. Think I am kidding? I just hope that Ohio State's fans visiting Austin, Texas on September 9, 2006 are ready to endure the scorching temperatures. And I hope the Austin paramedics and hospitals are ready to treat scores of these Northerners for heat exhaustion and worse.

I am not exaggerating.

Which is why Halloween is such an awesome day, a true reason for celebration around these parts. It means that this upcoming Saturday, when I attend the Baylor - UT football game in Waco, Texas, the weather will be perfect (as long as it doesn't rain). Long sleeves are even a possibility.

LONG sleeves!

Sometimes people visiting Austin or Houston during the summer look around and observe that Texans are far too casual. Even executives often wear short sleeves to work during the summer-- and certainly no sport coat or jacket. But this isn't some sort of manifestation of hippie human relations nonsense, where employees are supposed to feel more relaxed and comfortable and thus establish a better rapport with co-workers, all because they don't have to wear a tie and a wool suit. It's not a gimmick to get people to work better, or harder. This casual attitude toward dress in the workplace certainly doesn't emanate from the politics in Texas.

No, it's just a necessity.

Which, again, is why it's so great when the weather offers us a bit of relief. Wearing that wool suit is no longer the act of one who has lost his mind. It's just another wardrobe option.

Even more, even just buying groceries becomes a less stressful experience after Halloween. No longer does one have to worry about the milk boiling in the back seat, or the "break and bake" cookie dough becoming full-fledged cookies by the time the car pulls into the garage.

Still think I am exaggerating? I am positive that perishable foods bought at Houston grocery stores last at least a few days longer after Halloween than before.

Perhaps more than anything, Halloween is a great marker for those of us who enjoy spending time outside-- you know-- being active. It's an odd and counter-intuitive thing for much of the rest of the country, but I am pretty sure I gain a few pounds each summer, just because the heat and humidity outside can be so unbearable. Even inside during the summer, I often feel absolutely drained from the heat. Around this time of year, however, spending time outside, running around, riding around, throwing things around, kicking and hitting things around, all become reasonable activities again.

There are an inordinate number of benefits to the cooler weather that may sound trivial, but Houstonians become noticeably less grumpy-- and more relaxed-- about this time of year for a reason. For many reasons, actually.

So, three cheers for Halloween, not for the kids and candy, nor for the evil pagan rituals that apparently happen this day.

No, three cheers, because Halloween has brought us decent weather. These are the months that make living in Houston worthwhile.

Posted by Will Franklin · 31 October 2005 11:38 AM · Comments (6)

Behold The Nominee

Samuel Alito has been nominated by President Bush to be the next Supreme Court Justice. Here is the quick lowdown on Alito:

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, Alito is 52 years old, a graduate from Princeton with a law degree from Yale. He is an appellate court judge for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, appointed in 1990 by George H.W. Bush.

Alito has a very deep resume:
U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey (1987-1990).
Deputy Assistant Attorney General (1985-1987).
Assistant to the Solicitor General (1981-1985).

Check out the breakdown at The Supreme Court Nomination Blog for case summaries of Alito's notable opinions.

The important opinion here is his dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 947 F.2d 682 (3d Cir. 1991), this is the opinion most likely to cause fireworks at his confirmation hearing. This case struck down a Pennsylvania statue requiring a married woman seeking an abortion to "sign a statement indicating that she has notified her husband of her intended abortion." Alito thought this provision should have been upheld - Chief Justice Rehnquist agreed in his dissent when the case came before the Supreme Court.

Alito has a long paper trail, and there is little doubt as to where he stands jurisprudentially. He hasn't earned the nickname 'Scalito' for nothing. This is the big confirmation fight everyone has been expecting . . .

See you at the hearings!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 31 October 2005 10:03 AM · Comments (5)

Quotational Therapy: Part 54 -- Good People With Occasional Bad Ideas.

A Great President With A Terrible Idea-

Compound interest. It's a powerful financial force that tens of millions of Americans benefit from each day.

You earn money on top of money you've earned on top of money you've earned. It's not a particularly difficult concept to understand, compound interest.

So, imagine if the government were to begin treating your earnings in the stock market like they treat the rest of your earnings. Imagine if you had taxes automatically withheld from your investment account(s), as you earn it.

Now, consider all of that compound interest you will be missing out on in the meantime. You'd essentially be robbed of earning money on top of money.

Withholding on interest and dividends is just a bad, bad idea. Terrible, even.

So, without further delay, here is today's quotational therapy:

Withholding 10 percent on interest and dividends will allow the Internal Revenue Service to recover (billions) ….. in otherwise lost revenues over the next 5 years — and that’s without taxing honest taxpayers a penny more than they now pay.

Past experience has proven that withholding is by far the most effective means of combating those who don’t pay their tax bill to the government. The only people who stand to lose under this law are those who haven’t been paying their taxes in the first place, and what’s wrong with that?

….. All of this raises an obvious question. If withholding is nothing more than a more effective collection method, what’s all the controversy about? Well, some of the banking interests seem to think withholding will inconvenience them. But we’ve taken measures to make sure this changeover isn’t burdensome. And as for savers, it will actually be a real convenience for many of them. For example, withholding will free many taxpayers from the chore of preparing quarterly tax payments. It will prevent other citizens from being faced with a substantial accumulated tax bill on April 15th. Most wage earners already prefer to have tax withheld from their paychecks, rather than having to come up with the whole bundle on that annual day of reckoning.

Some of the banks and savings and loans have said withholding will reduce the incentive to save. Well, that just doesn’t make sense. Withholding will have a minimal effect on accrued interest.

….. But I think most Americans would forgo (a little interest) if it meant others who are cheating on billions of dollars of unpaid taxes would have to pay their fair share.

Can you guess who uttered those words?

A hint:

He is a conservative hero.

Read more about this terrible idea, who came up with it, and what it means for President Bush and the Harriet Miers Supreme Court kerfuffle, at BizzyBlog.com.


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

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Hurricanes & Personal Responsibility.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 31 October 2005 09:45 AM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 201 -- Increases In Presidential Voter Turnout.

Increases In Turnout-

The 2004 election was the fifth-largest increase in voter turnout since 1896 (.pdf):

turnoutincreases.gif

1920
Up 44.4%
Change of party from D to R.
Flood of new voters as franchise is extended to women for first time.

1928
Up 26.5%
Status quo affirmed.
Strong religious overtones as Democrat Al Smith becomes first Roman Catholic to win major party nomination.

1952
Up 26.1%
Change of party from D to R.
Ike’s victory ends 20 years of Democratic White House control.

1916
Up 23.2%
Status quo affirmed.
Wilson narrowly reelected as nation debates entry into World War I.

2004
Up 16.0%
Status quo affirmed.
Bush leadership in age of terrorists spurs high-stakes battle.

1896
Up 15.2%
Change from D to R.
First McKinley-Bryan contest puts stamp on a new Republican era.

1936
Up 14.8%
Status quo affirmed.
FDR landslide affirms New Deal and new Democratic majority.

1992
Up 14.0%
Change from R to D.
Perot’s independent candidacy produces lively three-way race.

1960
Up 11.0%
Change from R to D.
Kennedy-Nixon contest features first televised debates.

1908
Up 10.1%
Status quo affirmed.
Taft ratified as Teddy Roosevelt’s choice as successor.

It is interesting that spikes in voter turnout do not necessarily mean the American people are ready to "throw the bums out." It is also interesting that spikes in voter turnout do not correlate strongly with close elections or landslides.

Finally, this chart verifies the seemingly empty rhetoric from 2004 about "this election being the most important in a generation." And if it was the most important election in quite some time, the results ought to matter more than we've seen over the past year.

Elections should matter. Elections with spikes in turnout should matter even more.

In red states in 2004, turnout was up 18.9%, and Bush gained a net of 2,845,510 votes (6,899,716 R to 4,054,206 D), relative to 2000.

In blue states in 2004, turnout was up 13.2%, and Bush still gained a net of 703,840 votes (4,685,738 R to 3,981,898 D), relative to 2000.

In other words, Bush didn't merely draw his increased support in 2004 from white evangelicals in already deep red states. He gained in liberal states, as well. Unfortunately, the mandate President Bush earned in 2004 has not been respected or even really acknowledged by many in the establishment media. Even more unfortunate is that some within the President's own administration, and even more within his own party in Congress, have not projected the kind of confidence that ought to come from an impressive mandate.

Source:
Pew Research Center (.pdf).

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: America's Booming GDP.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 October 2005 02:12 PM · Comments (0)

Pundit Roundtable

Welcome back again to Pundit Roundtable! Once again this is your host, Ken McCracken.

This week we have asked our pundits the following questions on two topics:


Topic 1: Miers Withdrawing Her Supreme Court nomination.

Are the conservatives going to forgive Bush for picking Harriet Miers instead of the next incarnation of Antonin Scalia? Does it matter now that Miers has withdrawn her nomination? Who should the president nominate now, and why?

Topic 2: Lewis 'Scooter' Libby indictment.

On a scale of 1 to 10 on the political richter scale, 1 being a slight tremor, and 10 being a seismic shifting of the continents, how serious a problem for the Bush administration is the Libby indictment and/or the Plame Affair as a whole?

Our first guest is Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit. Jim, what do you think?

Topic 1:

Forgiven … Only a jerk wouldn’t forgive GW. There is too much at stake right now to hold grudges. Everyone must focus attention and energy on the fight ahead. Now that “W” sees the conservative base is willing to fight (although the Senators are a bit wobbly) he is going to come up with a strong conservative candidate. I trust him.

The next candidate should definitely be Janice Rogers Brown. Then we could all watch the Democratic Party self-implode. It would be hard for the liberals to pelt her with slave names without finally more blacks in the country seeing who the real racist party is in the US. There would be rioting in Blue States and at CNN that would dwarf the Paris immigrant riots from this weekend. I’d love to see the Left frog march Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson back to an honest day of work instead of attending racist communist rallies like the Million More Movement Rally in DC. It would be good for the country not to have to worry about Jesse showing up after a natural disaster trying to start a race riot.

And, for this same reason Condoleezza Rice needs to run for president. It would be the absolute end of the Democratic Party and there would be no media spin great enough to hide their racism from the masses.

Topic 2:

As for the Libby indictment… the Left is trying its darnedest to make the country believe that he is a Cabinet Member and that it is really Libby not Rove who is the brains behind George Bush. I hope it is over soon. I hope that Libby has a good defense. I would be surprised if there were more indictments.

I actually see a link between the two topics. If President Bush picks a staunch conservative, the Left will make fools of themselves ripping into the candidate, especially if Conservatives focus on the issues. The slime the Left will throw at the nominee they will end up wearing.

missouriredpic.gif Home State: Missouri.

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

Our next guest is Neo-neocon. How do you see this?

Topic 2:

As with most of these things, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I can only answer how serious it's been so far; if they dig up more dirt on Rove, for example, the situation would change. But, as it stands now, to Bush supporters it's somewhere in the 1-2 category. After what was expected and/or feared, the indictment of Libby for perjury in the absence of any other charges is a palpable relief, amounting to an almost Emily Litella-like "never mind" on the part of the prosecutor.

Ah, but to Bush-haters and/or those who would like the entire Republican Party paid back for the impeachment of Clinton and its other high crimes and misdemeanors, it's about a 6-7 at the moment. But the fervent hope--and expectation--is that the aftershocks will reach 10 levels.

The MSM's role so far has been mixed, depending on the affiliation of the speaker or writer (surprise, surprise!) But there's been a general trend to endeavor to spin the situation towards the higher numbers. This drive is motivated in part by self-interest, the goal being to have a meaty crisis that the MSM can sink its formidable teeth into and thus drive ratings up. If that can't be accomplished so far with facts, then rumor and innuendo will do. "Cheney may have to testify!!" and that sort of thing, said in a certain voice suggesting that the mere act of testifying would somehow implicate him.

In the buildup to the announcement of the indictment/indictments, the function of the MSM seemed to be limited to guesses about who would be implicated. It turns out that, in general, their guesses were as good as anyone's, but no better. So I'm not going to make any predictions about the future of the case, because my guesses would probably be no better than theirs.

newyorkbluepic.gif Home State: New York.

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

Next is a return guest from last week, Hoodlumman from File It Under. What do you say?

Topic 1:

Absolutely conservatives will forgive Bush. Unlike the rabid left, we obviously don't oppose and obstruct for the sake of opposing and obstructing. It shows that lots of conservatives don't march lock-step with the president and all his views, choices and decisions. But what we'll see next, I believe, is Bush selecting someone that will unite most, if not all, conservative bases - a la Roberts - and we'll be back to a selection we on the right will support fully and the left will be frothing and hissing over, just like the politics we've all come to love and cherish. Sort of.

Topic 2:

As someone who really couldn't gather much interest in the whole Plame-gate affair, I give it a reading of a 1. Of course, if you're a Democrat, this stuff is an 11 - or at least you'd like it to be. But it's not. It's a two-year investigation that yielded a few indictments for one person in the administration - some guy in the VP's office that no one would know of if not for this.

When the left didn't get their Rove, it took any huge headlines and fallout off the table. I'd still argue that outside of politically active people, any of this regardless of who/when/where isn't cared about by the general public.

texasredpic.gif Home State: Texas.

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

Next is Dan Morgan from NoSpeedBumps.com. Dan?

Topic 1:

With Harriet Miers withdrawing her nomination, President Bush has a chance to start again. At this point, this is the best outcome for Bush. He now has a clean slate. If he picks a qualified nominee, and someone with a demonstrated philosophy of judicial restraint, all will quickly be forgiven by nearly all of the conservatives that disapproved of his last pick.

In one sense this is a kind of test for the conservative movement. Rarely have disagreements within the ranks been to visible. I predict the rift will disappear quickly, thus showing a core strength of conservatives: They believe in a big tent and a broad range of views are allowed. The litmus test mentality is much more at home on the Left and among the Democrats."


Topic 2:
This is a 1 on the Richter scale, and a big fizzle for eager Democrats. With Rove and others apparently now not in line for indictment, and Libby indicted for things other than revealing a CIA agent's identity, this is not going to get the seismic shifting of the continents hoped for by Democrats. In fact, with Libby now gone from the White House, this will all quickly be forgotten. Libby's trial will be for an ex-government worker.

With this out of the way, the hope now is that President Bush gives a renewed effort at Social Security reform, including adding the Personal Retirement Accounts component. Vastly improved security along the southern border should also be a high priority issue, but so far Republicans in Congress and the Bush administration still look like deer frozen by on-coming headlights. So Social Security reform may be the most conservatives can hope for.

pennsylvaniapic.gif Home State: Pennsylvania.

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

Now we turn to Will Franklin for his views. Will?

Topic 1:

Conservatives are reasonable people, and many conservatives of all stripes (social and fiscal) were willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt on Miers. Still, you could feel a sigh of relief coming from most everyone on the right that Miers had withdrawn. The small-but-vocal cadre of angry conservatives who were pontificating about how they have given up on Bush and this and that will forgive the President-- AND THEN SOME-- if he nominates a brilliant young jurist with clear evidence of a conservative judicial philosophy.

I would love to see any of Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, Miguel Estrada, Karen Williams, Emilio Garza, Maureen Mahoney, Diane Sykes. or Edith Jones, if the choice must be a minority or woman. Alito, Luttig, McConnell, and so on would be great picks, as well. Basically, two rules: No stealth nominees. Nobody who could even remotely be construed as a "crony."

If President Bush nominates any of these candidates, it will provoke a debate on judicial philosophy, a debate which conservatives are ready, willing, and eager to have. It will also be a debate that conservatives will win, despite the media's favoritism the other direction.

Topic 2:

This could have been an 8 if the left's wildest dreams had come true and indictments had come down on several folks, including Karl Rove, for actual crimes that could jeopardize national security. Right now, it's about a 3 or 4, only because Karl Rove is technically still under investigation. Without that confusing cloud still hanging over the administration, it could have been a 2, because, after all, the crimes Libby allegedly committed only materialized in the course of the grand jury investigation itself.

texasredpic.gif Home State: Texas.

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

And now we get the host's last word.

Topic 1: if Bush nominates an obvious conservative this time around, not only will the conservatives forgive him, they will hoist him on their shoulders. The fight against Miers was a very principled one I think. The critics of Bush complained that he was not delivering on what is perhaps the top issue in the nation today next to the War on Terror, that is, reforming the judiciary and removing activist judges on the Supreme Court. If Bush can finally make good on this, I think his poll numbers will jump. Not that poll numbers rule all, but it would show how reinvigorated the base will become.

My favorite pick would be Janice Rogers Brown. No one doubts her qualifications - even the ABA has rated her 'well-qualified'. She is eloquent, and there is no mystery about where she stands. She has a compelling life story - she really had to struggle to get where she is, and so the complaints about John Roberts that he was some pampered and isolated son of privilege would be quite inapt here. The fact that she is black and a woman is important too. The great thing about that is, no one could really claim that she was chosen solely for that reason - her resume and philosophy would make her a standout if she was a white male. So why not go with a black female? It will drive the libs bonkers. Maybe this next nomination should be about driving the libs bonkers, among other things.

I'd be perfectly happy with any of the nominees Will mentioned also.

As for the Plame affair, I give it a two on the political richter scale. I understand why everyone else seems to be giving it a 1 - heh, I have been a Plame affair junkie though so I am biased in its favor. Plus, the administration still needs to deal with the fallout from this, even though the whole thing has been ginned up by the press. There is also the remote possibility that more will come from the investigation. Let's hope not.

illinois.gif Home State: Illinois.

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

That's all for this week. Thank you pundits for participating, and see you next Sunday!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 30 October 2005 10:41 AM · Comments (2)

Drudge Irony Alert

Matt Drudge is known for writing catchy headlines at the Drudge Report. I think he is also known for ironic placement of such headlines:

Now, what do you think the chances are that the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks in New Delhi were practitioners of that religion of peace and love, Islam? Who knows, maybe we will find out that these murderous crimes were committed by Buddhists. Or Unitarians.

Doesn't even matter. The prince still needs to buy a clue.

Update: well surprise surprise. The attacks were committed by Islamic militants seeking independence for Kashmir. I know it was not a very difficult guess, but still.

Okay JS Narins, I am waiting for my apology.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 30 October 2005 02:14 AM · Comments (5)

The Best Of The Trivia Tidbits Of The Day.

The Trivia Tidbits Of The Day: they're not always exactly trivia, nor are they tidbits, but they are world famous, and they do appear every day.

Now that WILLisms.com has posted its 200th Trivia Tidbit Of The Day, here's a look at a few of the best from the past 100.

Click on the images to go to the original posts.

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#115: Ubiquitous Polling

publicopinionpollssmall.gif Polling. It's great, right?

Well, maybe.

A brief rant:

Polling has gotten out of hand. There are literally dozens of public polls on a variety of subjects in any given week-- many of which directly contradict one another, many of which ask leading, irrelevant, or inaccurate questions designed to promote the media's left-wing narrative, all of which are used by ideological and political partisans to undermine or bolster their respective agendas.

Polls are crystal meth for the media. For Chris Matthews and Tim Russert and others, polls are indisputable truth, and every poll that fits or promotes a left-of-center partisan agenda is good, no matter how poorly constructed and conducted. I've also seen lots of other well-done polls marginalized or ignored by the establishment media. Polls are worse than worthless when conducted shoddily. In odd years, for instance, nearly all pollsters include anyone and everyone rather than registered or likely voters.


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#127: Free Trade

freetradesmall.gif Free trade. Let's jump right to my prior comments:

Clearly, partisanship and the "Washington scoreboard" played a role in these decisions. Presumably, when President Clinton was in office, more anti-trade Democrats voted against their ideological leanings in order to give the President a political win....

There are arguments on both side of the free trade issue, and concerns about "outsourcing" are well-taken, but protectionism is terrible for any economy in the long run.

As CAFTA passed by a hair, many in the media spoke of an eroding consensus on trade. Not. All the squeaker of a vote really indicated was that elected Democrats have moved to the left. The Democrats have run away from trade. And there's ample evidence the Democrats have moved to the left on dozens of other issues in order to appease the MoveOn/Kos crowd, which has become the base.


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#128: America's Ridiculously Big Economy

twentylargesteconomiessmall.gif Perspective. Sometimes it is difficult to understand the relative size of things. This post was all about explaining just how large the large economies of the world are-- and how dramatic the dropoff is for those medium-sized economies. Some observations:

This explains how the United States can spend such a relatively small amount of our GDP on our military and still have, far and away, the largest military force in the world. It also explains how the U.S. can offer, far and away, more than any other country, in economic aid to poorer countries, yet still get criticized for not doing enough.

What's even more amazing is that the American economy is not only larger than many of those other economies, but it also grows faster than most of the industrialized countries.

It will be interesting to see these numbers in a couple of decades, after year after year of explosive Chinese growth and European stagnation.

It is also important for Americans to understand how important it is to capitalize on our status as the world's lone superpower to shape the world for the better while we can. Carpe diem. All that good stuff.


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#134: Productivity Growth

productivitygrowthsmall.gif This post examines the economic concept of productivity. This is thoroughly underreported. Here's the summary:

It's good, all around, to see rapid productivity growth, but it's not necessarily the best news for the incumbent's short-term political fortunes, as employers have little reason to hire additional employees in times of high productivity growth....

When productivity growth goes hand-in-hand with job growth (even manufacturing job growth), you know the economy is in good shape, for now and for the foreseeable future.

Notice how strong productivity growth has been over the past few years.

Now, think about reporting on the economy. How many times have you heard about booming productivity?

Few, or none, I bet.

Coincidence? Or just another page in the "Bush can't win in the media" story? I will let you be the judge of that one.


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#148: Net Migration Rate

netmigrationsmall.gif This post came to me after reading an article about how French youth were emigrating from their homeland because of the lack of available jobs. Here's the recap:

Notice how low France is, even with significant and well-known inflows of immigrants from North Africa and former French colonies. Sort of validates this article:

FRANCE is facing an unprecedented new-generation exodus as many of its disillusioned younger people leave in search of a better life abroad.

French organisations offering help to those seeking to emigrate have reported an increase in requests for assistance from young people.

Fed up with a country they describe as rigid, racist and old-fashioned, French youngsters are opting for a new start in Britain, Canada, America or New Zealand where they can find housing and jobs more easily than in France.

Unemployment among the under-25s in France stands at 23.3 per cent, and 40 per cent of 18-30 year-olds describe their financial state as "difficult".

So sad.

And that sadness was not sarcastic. France is a great country. I hate to see the French people shooting themselves in the proverbial foot.


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#150: Shrinking Unemployment Rate Race Gap

unemploymentratesmall.gif This late August post came just before Hurricane Katrina, and the information apparently was unknown to the folks pushing the "look at how much worse things are getting for African-Americans in this country" narrative. At the time, all I wrote to accompany the graph was this:

An interesting and underappreciated trend, to be sure.

Little did I know that just a couple of weeks later, the entire media establishment, from Oprah Winfrey to Shep Smith, would be whining about Bush's negligence and incompetence on African-American issues, and how that therefore made Bush responsible for Katrina.

Although Katrina did expose wealth inequalities in the United States, it was shame that there was no context to the story. Everyone sort of just pounced on the "Bush has been bad for black people" bandwagon, without noting that African-Americans have seen significant improvements while Bush has been in office. The racial gap in the unemployment rate, for example, has closed, even as the overall unemployment rate has fallen dramatically over the past couple of years.

This is good news, but we can obviously do better. The next question becomes whether we ought to go down the road Democrats have championed, the European social model, with even higher levels of unemployment than we've sniffed in the past quarter century in America, or whether we should pursue pro-growth policies that unleash the power of the free enterprise system.


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#157: Hurricanes

hurricanessmall.gif So often in this active hurricane season, we've heard about how global warming is to blame for Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and so on. The establishment media love sensationalism. But few reported these facts about hurricanes striking the U.S.:

The average number of hurricanes per decade is 17.7, with 6 "major hurricanes" (category 3, 4, or 5, on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale) over the same frame.

We may very well exceed the decade average from 2001 to 2010 at the rate we're going. But we're unlikely to hit the 1940s mark in serious hurricanes-- nor in overall hurricanes.

It is also pertinent to note that the general trend actually seems to be that of slight decline over the years. Imagine that.

Amazingly, from 1851 to 2004, the U.S. averaged only 1.2 category 4 hurricane strikes per decade, and only three category 5 hurricanes have hit the U.S.

181 (two-thirds of) hurricanes have been category 1 or 2.
92 (one-third of) hurricanes have been category 3, 4, or 5.

Free your mind. Put recent record hurricane seasons in historical context.


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#175: What Is Europe's Deal?

oneandthreesmall.gif An examination the weird anti-Americanism and Marxism that are taken so seriously in European politics. It is important to look at what other countries are doing economically, so we can emulate the good and avoid the bad. Germany, for example, has it wrong. And over time, this could have stark consequences:

The American economy is roughly 12 trillion dollars large.

Now, let's take that 12 trillion dollars, with a 1% annual rate of return, compounded daily, for forty years: $17,901,798,281,182.28 - Nearly 18 trillion dollars.

Now, let's take that 12 trillion dollars, with a 3% annual rate of return, compounded daily, for forty years: $39,839,438,447,474.09 - Nearly 40 trillion dollars....

Incidentally, the U.S. GDP growth rate was 3.1% in 2003 and 4.4% in 2004.

The German GDP growth rate, meanwhile, was -0.1% in 2003 and 1.6% in 2004.

In a generation or two, if we make the right choices and Europe continues making the wrong choices, we could be two drastically different societies. In a few decades, Germany could very well seem like a third world country, relative to the United States.


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#179: Religion

religioussmall.gif This post generated quite a bit of hate email and furor. I don't write controversial things for the sake of controversy, but it's sometimes a bit fun when people have a strong response to something you've written. I never would have thought this particular post would have made people so angry:

Now, it does not make someone a better person for donating time and money to charity, nor is someone a bad person if they do not donate time and money to charity.

But if I were down on my luck, I would clearly prefer the help of a faith-based organization to that of a bureacratic government program. And let's not forget that religious folks are happier than secular people.

Religion, it would seem, is a force for good. The "Armies of Compassion" should be unleashed, not maligned or marginalized.

And this is important. Whether you are religious or secular, you have to admit that religion is a net positive force in America. And if you're a small government secular libertarian type, you should applaud the good works churches do in communities. They mitigate the need for large government programs to address social problems.


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#189: Hurricane "Medicare"

medicaresmall.gif An important look at the Medicare storm that lurks just off the coast:

Notice how Medicare spending growth sort of stalled out at the same time that the federal government ran budget surpluses. In 1999, there was even a rare contraction in spending on Medicare.

It wasn't an accident. It was the same deal with other entitlement programs.

Demographics.

Temporarily, in the late 1990s, there was a lull in the growth of new retirees. But it was the calm before the storm. Right now, we've got the bands of the Baby Boom storm just barely beginning to batter us.

This ought to be a wakeup call for everyone. I am not quite sure how those who have this information, but still reject doing anything about it, think we're going to be able to afford the impending spending explosion. Can we grow our way out of deficits? Sure, when our economy is growing the way it is today, and when "pork" is the extent of the spending problems. No problem.

But will this lurking fiscal storm have a neutral impact on our economy? Not likely.

We won't be able to grow our way out of this one, folks.


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The Entire List, 101-200:

101: Economic Growth Means Smaller Deficits.
102: School Choice Hypocrisy.
103: Attractive People Earn More Money.
104: American Stock Ownership Way Up.
105: Eminent Domain Failure.
106: Supreme Court Nomination Trivia.
107: Syrian Instability.
108: Elephant Calls.
109: Growing Global Energy Demand.
110: Carbon Emissions In Developing World.
111: Presidential Vetoes.
112: Global Energy Production.
113: John Roberts.
114: America's Historical Unemployment Rate.
115: Too Many Opinion Polls.
116: Largest Tax Revenue Increase Ever.
117: American GDP Growth Carries On.
118: Interest Rates Historically Low.
119: U.S. Home Boom.
120: Economic Literacy.
121: Globalization.
122: Global GDP Growth.
123: Union Influence.
124: Off-Court Trouble In The NBA.
125: The Amazing American Economy.
126: Recess Appointments, Historically.
127: Partisanship & Free Trade.
128: Perspective On America's Huge Economy.
129: Political Gender Gap.
130: More & More Jobs.
131: U.S. Personal Savings Rate.
132: Tourism To U.S. Back Up.
133: Inflation Remains Low.
134: Productivity Growth.
135: Shrinking Budget Deficits.
136: Religion In The Senate.
137: Religion In The House Of Representatives.
138: Research & Development.
139: Jobs.
140: Deficits/Surpluses As A Share Of GDP.
141: Monetary & Financial Conditions.
142: Crime Rate Down.
143: Air Travel Operations Up Again.
144: Suicide Rates.
145: Business Fixed Investment.
146: Corporate Profits.
147: U.S. Senate Historical Productivity.
148: Global Immigration Rates.
149: Regional Housing Bubbles.
150: Racial Gap In Unemployment.
151: Peacetime Military Deaths.
152: Supreme Court Nomination Stats.
153: Government Spending & Unemployment.
154: Consumer Confidence Index.
155: Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
156: U.S. Job Creation.
157: Hurricane Strikes Per Decade.
158: Medicaid Spending Way Up.
159: Democrats & Religion.
160: Supreme Court Nominations.
161: Test Scores Up In America.
162: Partisanship & Israel.
163: Pre-Katrina New Orleans.
164: Katrina Rescue Efforts.
165: Gender Achievement Gap.
166: Corps Of Engineers Funding.
167: Mary Landrieu's 2008 Hopes.
168: Economic Freedom's Power.
169: Immigration To America.
170: U.S. Poverty Rate.
171: Katrina Evacuees.
172: Benefits Of Economic Freedom.
173: The Flat Tax Works.
174: Economic Freedom & Political Rights.
175: European Social Model Failure.
176: Gasoline Taxes.
177: Houston's Hurricane Evacuation.
178: U.S. Energy Refining.
179: Religion.
180: Best Places To Do Business.
181: The Rich & Taxes.
182: Middle Class.
183: The Peace Dividend.
184: Tort Reform.
185: Top Collegiate Logos.
186: Government Revenues & Spending.
187: Drowning In Entitlement Spending.
188: U.S. Housing Bubble.
189: Medicare Spending.
190: China's Housing Boom.
191: Life-Cycle Effects Of Earning.
192: Declining Newspaper Circulation.
193: Laundered Political Money In Texas.
194: Free Economies.
195: Gas Prices.
196: Guns & Gun Crime.
197: Excess Profits Tax.
198: Oil Industry Profits.
199: Latino Vote.
200: America's Roaring Economy.

Hopefully you'll be able to find something worthwhile and interesting.

Also see the retrospectives on the first 50, as well as the second 50. And stay tuned for more trivia tidbits. Collect them all!

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 October 2005 11:45 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 200 -- America's Roaring Economy.

THIRD QUARTER 2005: 3.8% GDP GROWTH-

America's economy is booming.

No, really. You hadn't heard?

Our economy, by far the largest in the world, is also growing faster than just about every industrialized country on the planet.

In the third quarter of 2005, America's economy grew at an annual rate of 3.8%.

3q2005gdpgrowth.gif

This marks 16 straight quarters of growth. 16 quarters, of course, is the same as four straight years of economic growth. 3.8% may not sound spectacular, but it is very strong. For example, in 2004, Japan grew at a 2.9% rate, Canada grew at a 2.4% rate, Germany grew at a 1.7% rate, France grew at a 2.1% rate, and the United Kingdom grew at a 3.2% rate.

So why do polls and surveys continue to show such poor attitudes from Americans on the American economy?

One might be tempted to say that it's because the statistics on GDP growth are meaningless or inaccurate, or that those gains are not trickling down to average Americans. This would be a mistake. Oddly enough, throughout this economic boom, Americans have expressed confidence in their own personal economic situations, just not the American economy overall.

Not only that, but people have continued to "vote with their feet" on the economy, regardless of what they have told pollsters. People are still buying homes and cars and computers and other consumer goods in strong numbers, not exactly the kind of behavior we would expect from people who are worried about losing their jobs or the economy going sour.

What could all of this mean? How are consumer confidence numbers so low, while measurable consumer spending itself is so robust? How is it that Americans are so concerned about outsourcing and jobs, when millions of jobs have been added in the past couple of years? How is it that Americans express doubts about the overall U.S. economy, with so many consecutive quarters of positive GDP growth?

Maybe that the media have done a typically poor job reporting on the economy. Maybe that the consumer confidence surveys are less meaningful than they once were in terms of predicting recessions.

Whatever it is, the overwhelming accumulation of good news has to sink in someday, right? Preferably before November of 2006.

UPDATE:

BizzyBlog.com has more astounding trivia tidbits you probably didn't know about the American economy, past and present. Go check 'em out.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: The Still Emerging Latino Vote.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 October 2005 10:12 AM · Comments (2)

Wow, What A Week.

For a week that was supposed to destroy the Bush administration, I feel strangely upbeat.

Miers withdrawing her nomination was a great cathartic release - just the right type of relief for the White House on the eve of the breaking of yet another overcooked scandal in the Plame Affair.

Which utterly fizzled.

We waited two years for this? The entire Plame Affair has been about how rotten it is to out a covert CIA operative - only to find that none of the indictments even deal with this?

The markets laughed it all off - the politically sensitive dollar made good gains against the euro yesterday .

With the White Sox winning the series this week and all, I am going to have a great weekend!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 29 October 2005 06:51 AM · Comments (2)

Quotational Therapy: Part 53 -- A Personal Responsibility Revolution.

Spoiled By Dependency-

This hurricane season has been pretty intense for a lot of Americans (and Moose). I even got caught up in the craziness, myself. If there's anything people should have learned from this summer, it's that you have to be prepared. You have to be ready to take care of yourself, because depending on the government for your health, safety, and comfort-- in the middle of an unprecedented crisis-- is just a bad idea.

But it seems like a lot of folks still haven't gotten "it."

Spotted in a story on the Fox News website earlier this week (underlining mine):

Items Americans usually take for granted — a bag of ice, a fast-food burger, a gallon of gas — have taken hours of patience to get since Hurricane Wilma made its destructive sweep.

Nine hours after she got in line Tuesday at one designated relief-supply location, Fanie Aristil, 23, of North Miami wearily left for home with 28 pounds of ice and six liters of bottled water.

"All that time," Aristil said. "This is all we get?"

Is this the new standard in America? Have we become such a deeply entrenched dependency society that we expect the government to swoop in on every single emergency situation, deus ex machina style, and make sure that all of our wildest dreams come true?

Hurricane Wilma gave Florida ample of heads up before it hit. The government urged people to get out of the way and/or stock up on supplies.

While I have compassion for people who have lost everything in these monster storms, people should not complain about receiving only 28 pounds of ice and several liters of water in the first couple of days after the storm strikes.

From here on out, people living along the Gulf Coast have no excuse for not preparing ahead of time for at least a few days worth of food, water, and other supplies.

Jeb Bush understands this, and spoke bluntly about it:

People had ample time to prepare. It isn't that hard to get 72 hours worth of food and water.
jeb.gif

Jeb Bush: telling it like it is.

More from Gary Becker on government dependency and emergencies.


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

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Ben Bernanke, On Fiscal Policy.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 October 2005 07:07 PM · Comments (1)

FITZGERALD CASE: Americans Need To Search Deep Into Their Souls And Ask Themselves...



Just who is this Libby Plame chick, anyway, and exactly what did she have against Veronica Wilson?


.....................

The entire indictment can be read here (.pdf).


Posted by Will Franklin · 28 October 2005 01:11 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 199 -- Latino Vote Yet To Fully Materialize.

Latino Population Rapidly Growing, But Voters Yet To Enter Political Process-

The Latino vote is a highly coveted voting bloc, actually comprised of several regional and ethno-national voting blocs. There are Mexican-Americans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Central and South Americans, to name a few of the distinct groups.

Republicans believe their platform of family/religious values and low taxes appeals to Latinos. Democrats secure their portion of the Latino vote primarily through good old fashioned machine politics. Just one example of this is Los Angeles, where the Latino community has been almost uniformly unionized-- and votes for the Democrats similarly uniformly.

Interesting, though, has been just how untapped the Latino vote truly is. Right now, it's still mostly potential driving the "get the Hispanic vote on our side" quest of each party.

Just look at how many Latinos we have added to our population over the years, but how relatively few Latino voters we've added, accordingly:

hispanicvotingdisparity.gif

Part of this phenomenon is that many Latinos are not citizens, but the reason Latinos are so highly sought after stems from the fact that large proportion of Latinos are under the age of 18. Get those folks on your side, and when they do begin voting, the results will be quite significant.

eligiblevoters.gif

So, what's the best way to woo the Latino vote?

Well, there's the obvious answers. There's pandering. There's milestone appointments, such as to the Supreme Court. There's personality politics, getting Latino celebrities and role models out there supporting Republicans, running for office as Republicans, and so on.

There's also the policy answers. Frame the GOP as the party of the American Dream. Hard work. Entrepreneurial spirit. Upward mobility. Creation of wealth. Owning your own home. Material success. All with well-grounded moral values.

In 2006, the immigration issue is likely to take center stage in policy debates. Some Republicans will walk on eggshells to avoid controversy on the issue in either direction, while other firebrands will take the "we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore" route. Still others will take the side they believe to be the way of the future, that is, "pro" immigration at any cost, so as to avoid the backlash from the Latino community.

Meanwhile, those on the left will throw around disingenuous, dishonest characterizations of Republicans. Racist. Anti-immigrant. And so on.

All of this is unfortunate, because most Americans want something pragmatic accomplished on immigration. A pragmatic accomplishment on any issue with so many wrinkles and constituencies requires a serious and honest debate, which I am beginning to believe cannot happen in today's political/media climate.

It's unfortunate but true.

That isn't to say we won't see some sort of comprehensive immigration reform plan in 2006. It's just that we'll see more than a bit of demagoguery on the issue, all geared toward gleaning support from that all-important emerging Latino vote.

Source:
Pew Research Center (.pdf).

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Oil Company Profiteering.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 October 2005 10:50 AM · Comments (0)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Thirty-Eight -- Disability Benefits.

reformthursdayblue.gif

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays. And reform is a long-haul process, not a fleeting event. So we're going to keep plugging along with the case for reform, even as the issue goes off the political radar screen.

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

This week's topic:

Reform = Better Disability Benefits.

Social Security reform is dead. Dead as a doornail. Fin. The feigned/manufactured hurricane controversy drove the final nail into the Social Security reform coffin.

So says the common wisdom.

Well, instant gratification would have been nice, but I've expected all along that this would be a marathon process.

First, you have to convince people there's a problem. Check.

Next, find a solution that can get enough votes in Congress. BZZZT. Does not compute.

Actually, though, just before Katrina hit, there was considerable-but-fragile political inertia behind a watered down Social Security reform plan. It would have stopped the raid on the Social Security surplus and devoted that money to the creation of private investment "lock box" accounts.

The fragile political will behind reform was washed away by the flood waters of Katrina.

But President Bush has not given up on Social Security reform. He's a true believer on the issue. In fact, I recall Bush speaking eloquently and authoritatively on the issue to a group of youngsters (me included) in 1995 or 1996, when he was Governor of Texas, far before any inkling of a serious White House run.

Bush believes Social Security reform is part of the solution to the poverty America became so upset about following Katrina:

"One way to spread ownership throughout our society, into neighborhoods where some may not own anything, is to allow (young people) to save some of their own (money) — their choice — in a personal savings account as part of Social Security reform," Bush said.

Ironically, paying for the hurricanes has made Americans refocus on government spending, and you cannot make significant spending cuts without addressing the big entitlement programs such as Social Security.

So I wouldn't count reform out entirely just yet. Yes, a great opportunity has come and gone, but if conservatives can regroup as a team, prospects for reform remain solid.

Herman Cain adds:

The direct threats to our national economic security come from moderate House and Senate Republicans who are too afraid to lead, and just as afraid to follow the leadership of conservatives who propose responsible solutions. The direct threats also come from nearly every Congressional Democrat. The majority of Congressional Democrats are too willing to stand on the sidelines of political debate and then obstruct the president on his every proposal.

That being said, one of the arguments anti-reform folks made regularly was that Social Security privatization would leave workers and their families in a precarious situation in the event of a sudden disability.

This argument was disingenuous, as Bush's proposals left the disability part of Social Security untouched.

But let's assume, for the sake of debate, that the disability portion of Social Security were to be "privatized." How would that affect benefit levels?

The National Center for Policy Analysis has the answer, based on actual results from three Texas counties (Galveston, Brazoria, and Matagorda), which opted out of Social Security in the early 1980s:

* A 60-year-old low-income worker is likely to receive more than twice as much in monthly disability income from the private plan as from Social Security ($2,106 vs. $1,013), while a high- income worker is likely to receive 3.4 times as much ($6,304 vs. $1,869).

* A single, 40-year-old middle-income worker receives $1,169 monthly under Social Security, and $1,753 if there is a dependent spouse, but that worker gets $2,201 a month under the private plan, regardless of marital status.

* A low-income, 21-year-old disabled worker under the private plan gets $829 a month, compared to $2,479 for a high-income worker, but a 21-year-old disabled worker under Social Security gets nothing.

And see the graphic:

disabilitybenefits.gif

Who would have guessed that a private plan could have offered better benefits for a disabled individual than Social Security?

Shocking, right?

Not.

It's time for reform.


The clock is ticking.


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

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).
-Week Twenty-Two (Millions of Lockboxes).
-Week Twenty-Three (Support for Ryan-DeMint).
-Week Twenty-Four (KidSave Accounts).
-Week Twenty-Five (Latinos and Social Security).
-Week Twenty-Six (AmeriSave).
-Week Twenty-Seven (Cost Of Doing Nothing).
-Week Twenty-Eight (Chile).
-Week Twenty-Nine (Entitlement Spending Out Of Control).
-Week Thirty (Reform Better Deal Than Status Quo).
-Week Thirty-One (Social Security As A Labor Cost).
-Week Thirty-Two (Social Security And Dependence On Government).
-Week Thirty-Three (Social Security, Currently A Bad Deal For African-Americans).
-Week Thirty-Four (Longer Life Expectancies Straining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Five (Howard Dean & Salami).
-Week Thirty-Six (Growing Numbers of Beneficiaries Draining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Seven (The Crisis Is Now).

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 October 2005 08:08 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 198 -- Oil Industry Profits.

Oil Industry Profits-

It's earnings season at the NYSE.

Today ExxonMobil announced record profits, which has renewed called for "excess profits" taxes on oil and gas companies.

This morning, ExxonMobil took out this advertisement (.pdf) in a newspapers to put the profits into a bit of contest:

This week, ExxonMobil’s earnings are in the news. But is there more to the story than the headlines?

Our earnings are indeed at a record high, driven largely by the price of the commodities we sell. But if you compare profits per dollar of revenue across a wide range of U.S. companies — a true "apples to apples" evaluation — you see that oil earnings are not out of step with other major industries.

As the chart shows, oil and gas industry earnings averaged 7.7 cents per dollar of revenue during the second quarter compared with the overall U.S. industry average of 7.9 cents. ExxonMobil earned 8.6 cents for every dollar of revenue.

The total earnings numbers in the news reflect not just performance but also the company’s significant scale and global scope. For example, ExxonMobil’s investment of $106 billion in property, plant and equipment alone exceeds the GDP of many of the countries of the world.

These earnings, over two thirds of which stem from non-U.S. businesses, enable us to take on the challenge of meeting the world’s vast and growing energy needs. Last year alone, our new capital investments approached $15 billion, primarily in new exploration and production, but also in refining capacity and new energy-saving and environmental technologies.

While earnings rise and fall with oil prices, our investments do not. That $15 billion was invested in a year when the oil price averaged
just below $40 and earnings were high. But we also invested $15 billion in 1998, when oil dipped to $10 a barrel and annual earnings — at $8 billion — were far lower. In fact, averaged over the last ten years our annual capital investments for the future of the company exceed our earnings.

Ours is a capital-intensive business where investments can take many years to develop. A thoughtful, long-term approach to investment
— regardless of the volatility in prices and earnings — ensures the apple tree continues to bear fruit in the best and worst of times.

Included was this graph (.pdf):

averageindustryearnings.gif

And yet, Marxist Democrats like Senator Cantwell of Washington, Senator Reed of Rhode Island and Senator Dorgan of North Dakota want to punish the oil companies for their success. Words like "profiteering" and "price gouging" are thrown around, willy-nilly.

What exactly is the difference between profiting and profiteering, anyway? The type of industry in which one is involved?

Want to place blame for "high" oil prices?

Look no further than the government, itself:

Environmental regulations, backed by activists who mix demonstrations and lawsuits, create delays and inflate costs.

One Arizona project begun a decade ago is still at least five years away from completion.

Over the last 10 years the industry has invested $47 billion to comply with new environmental controls rather than construct new capacity, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Compliance with sulfur standards alone cost about $20 billion.

Although the recent energy bill included provisions intended to spur refinery construction, it added a new ethanol mandate - a political payoff to agricultural interests - which will force expensive technical adaptations at refineries. Air pollution rules require different gasoline formulations for "nonattainment" areas, reducing economies of scale.

While consumers target gas stations with their ire, the bulk of recent price hikes have gone to refiners. In contrast, distributors, marketers, and retailers receive just a penny more than in 2004.

Even today, prices at the pump are constrained by local competition. If gas stations could charge as much as they desired, they would have been doing so already.

Government also pushes up prices through taxes, which average 42 cents a gallon nationally. In Hawaii, where the state government has imposed price controls, the combined state and federal tax is more than 50 cents.

It boggles my mind that so many communists are still allowed into the halls of Congress.


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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Oil Taxes & Profits.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 October 2005 03:58 PM · Comments (8)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 197 -- Oil Profits.

"Excess" profits taxes-

In recent months, as the price of a gallon of gasoline has hit nominal highs, we've heard calls from some Democrats for a special "excess profits tax," applicable exclusively to energy companies.

What the heck kind of Marxist nonsense is an "excess profit," anyway?

The Tax Foundation explains that oil industry profits are cyclical:

energytaxesandprofits.gif

Meanwhile, if oil company profits are high, what does that make the taxes on them?

Exorbitant:

Due in part to substantial hikes in the federal gasoline excise tax in 1983, 1990, and 1993, annual tax revenues have continued to grow. Since 1977, governments collected more than $1.34 trillion, after adjusting for inflation, in gasoline tax revenues—more than twice the amount of domestic profits earned by major U.S. oil companies during the same period.

Maybe we should impose an "excess tax refund" when gas tax collections are above corporate profit levels. Incidentally, what other industry is taxed as much as the oil industry? Cigarettes? Booze?

And it's because the government is addicted to those revenues:

...there have been only three years (1980, 1981, and 1982) in which domestic oil industry profits exceeded government gas tax collections. In the remaining years, gasoline tax collections consistently exceeded oil industry profits, reaching a peak in 1995 when gas tax collections outpaced industry profits by a factor of 7.3.

The oil business is a boom and bust business. The good times are good, but the down times are terrible-- and terrifying for families employed by energy companies, large, medium, and small. I say this as someone who grew up in small oil towns. People dwell on the good times but don't ever talk about the down times, the times when oil prices are so low that layoffs are just about the only way for these companies to remain profitable. In 1999, as I was nearing graduation from high school in Midland, Texas, the price of a barrel of oil dipped below $10, after remaining below $15 dollars for more than a year. It wasn't good. Many people relocated. Many were forced into early retirement. Many were just laid off. Midland's economy took quite a hit during that time. It wasn't pleasant for a lot of good folks.

The point of this anecdote is not that you should feel sorry for small oil towns when oil prices drop and their economies shatter. It's more that you should understand just how up and down the oil business is. The good times are not infinite, nor are they even really as great as you might imagine. The good times are a reward for hanging in there during the bad times. And smart companies try to level things out during downturns with profits earned during the fleeting upswings.

So, to those advocating an "excess profits tax" on oil companies, shame on you. You, Senator Dorgan (.pdf), are communist scum.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Guns & Gun Crime.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 October 2005 11:58 PM · Comments (2)

Congrats to the Chicago White Sox, MLB World Series Champs.

It hurts. 0-4 sweep.

But congrats to the World Champion Chicago White Sox, their first championship in 88 years.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 October 2005 11:03 PM · Comments (1)

White Sox Win World Series!

Un-frickin'-believable.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 26 October 2005 11:03 PM · Comments (2)

Union Victory In Katrina Rebuilding: Reinstatement Of Davis-Bacon.

We've all seen the devastation on television (and maybe even in person). Hurricane Katrina will have a lasting impact on the Gulf Coast region for quite some time.

The rebuilding is not going to be completed overnight, nor will it come cheaply, but government can certainly hurt or help its own cause.

One way to jump-start the rebuilding process would be to eliminate all the red tape, regulations, rules, and restrictions. For example, contractors for federal projects must follow a set of rules known as "Davis-Bacon." The U.S. Department of Labor's Davis-Bacon regulations (40 U.S.C. 3141-3148), now more than 70 years old, essentially require that companies awarded contracts play by union rules, particularly on wages.

After 35 House Republicans pushed for the temporary suspension of Davis-Bacon, President Bush went one step further and suspended the rules indefinitely on September 8 in order to speed up the reconstruction in designated areas in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Now, however, some conservative bloggers (via Instapundit) are none too happy about President Bush's decision to reinstate Davis-Bacon on federally funded recovery and reconstruction projects in the Katrina disaster zone:

This latest decision, along with the lack of vocal White House support for the Coburn amendments last week and the growing fiasco of the Harriet Miers nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court could well ignite an open revolt on the Right that could seriously damage Bush's ability to get anything through Congress for the rest of his second term in the presidency.

It is indeed frustrating to see a Republican president, with a Republican Congress, cave to union pressure on this or any other issue. But let's put this move into context.

First, check out this triumpant email from the AFL-CIO I received today:

davis-bacon.gif
-click for larger version-

The text (I am obviously not an AFL-CIO e-Activist, but that's okay):

Dear Working Families e-Activist,

News alert: Your activism is restoring decent pay for Gulf Coast workers!

Faced with massive public outrage, President George W. Bush is restoring wages he cut for the construction workers who will rebuild the hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast.

Right after Hurricane Katrina hit, President Bush signed an executive order allowing federal contractors to pay substandard wages to construction workers who will rebuild the Gulf Coast—workers who already had lost so much and were struggling to rebuild their lives and their communities.

But you and other working family activists made the difference. You sent more than 350,000 messages to Congress and the White House—and it worked: 37 House Republicans urged the White House to reverse the suspension, and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) led unanimous opposition by Democrats to the president’s suspension.

We won. Gulf Coast workers won. President Bush is lifting his pay cut as of Nov. 8.

Now he must reinstate affirmative action requirements for contractors in the Gulf and end his attempts to slash programs for working families while adding new tax breaks for the rich—we’ll keep working on that and, of course, ask you to do your part.

You are a powerful force for working families. Thank you for restoring decent pay for Gulf Coast workers.

In solidarity,

Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO
Oct. 26, 2005

While the Bush administration, like all administrations, usually places floods of "grassroots" form letters into appropriate context, 350,000 messages, many of which likely more than mere form letters, from angry union members, in a short period of time, is hard to ignore.

Could conservative bloggers and/or other right-of-center folks so upset by the President's action produce anything close to those kinds of numbers to combat the union surge? With intense feelings on the issue?

Let's get real, here. Suspending Davis-Bacon was clearly the right policy decision, and good policy (in the long run) makes for good politics. But in the here and now, Bush received no substantial credit from conservatives on the issue; meanwhile, there was substantial political inertia from the media and from within the GOP itself to end the suspension. It was all downside with no upside whatsoever, politically.

But it wasn't the Bush administration that first caved on this issue. It was... you guessed it... "moderate" Republicans. Thirty-seven of them, to be precise. Mostly from Congressional districts with high proportions of union members.

Right now, there are 231 Republicans and 203 Democrats (including socialist "Independent" Bernie Sanders) in the House of Representatives (.pdf).

So, 37 House Republicans plus 203 Democrats is 240 Representatives supporting the reinstatement of Davis-Bacon. That leaves 194 on the President's side. You have to wonder, with only 35 conservative Republicans signing their names to that letter urging the President to temporarily suspend the Davis-Bacon Act, would all 194 remaining Republicans have had Bush's back on this one if it had become a bitter national battle?

Not likely.

At any rate, the point is academic, as 194 is a minority, and the suspension has been lifted.

Interestingly, Bush was criticized by some on the right for suspending Davis-Bacon, because without stringent labor rules governing those hundreds of billions in federal contracts, New Orleans was becoming a mecca for cheap Latino (illegal) immigrant labor.

Again, context. As the media have remained fixated on the inequality and poverty Katrina exposed, Bush's position was politically untenable. In this era of ever-smaller soundbites, it was difficult to justify something that cuts wages for workers, particularly with no significant conservative support on this (or nearly any) issue.

It was just a lose-lose-lose, politically, to keep the suspension active. Critics galore. Defenders few and far between. There were dozens of powerful constituencies against the President on the issue, with few (if any) conservatives actually willing to stick their necks out for him on the issue.

When the suspension does expire, it will have been 2 months from the President's declaration, which obviously has not been enough time to rebuild the entire disaster area. But it has been enough time to make a difference-- abeit a small one-- on initial recovery efforts.

So let's put this suspension into context. There have been three other suspensions of Davis-Bacon since 1931 (.pdf):

1. FDR, yes, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 1934.

In 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt suspended the act in what appears to have been for administrative convenience associated with New Deal legislation. It was restored to full strength in less than 30 days with few people, seemingly, aware of the suspension.

2. Nixon. 1971.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon suspended the act as part of a campaign intended to quell inflationary pressures that affected the construction industry. In just over four weeks, the act was reinstated, the President moving on to different approaches to the problem.

3. George H. W. Bush. 1992.

In 1992, in the wake of Hurricanes Andrew and Iniki, President George H. W. Bush suspended the act in order to render reconstruction and clean-up in Florida and the Gulf Coast and in Hawaii more efficient. The impact of the suspension is unclear for the act was suspended on October 14, 1992, just days prior to the 1992 election. President William Clinton restored the Act on March 6, 1993.

So, three brief suspensions.

I can make one prediction for conservatives trying to paint Bush as a "RINO" or "not conservative" or whatever because of this issue: keep up the unreasonable hand-wringing, and you'll create a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you abandon him, writing him off, Bush will have no political incentive for the rest of his 3 years in office to work on behalf of the controversial conservative ideas that evoke the most ire from the establishment media, Democrats, et al.

And be honest with yourselves, conservatives. Since reelection in 2004, and really throughout his entire presidency, President Bush has stuck his neck out on issue after issue. He's taken risks he didn't have to take, on behalf of the conservative movement. And, he's gotten hammered for it, again and again, in the media and the polls. If Bush were an ace pitcher in the majors, you could say he's had poor run support from his team this season. Give the man a little credit already.

Let's repeal Davis-Bacon, the entire thing, by all means, and let's do it in Congress. But put the current situation in context and don't pin the blame for its very existence on President Bush. That's the left's little league modus operandi.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 October 2005 10:46 PM · Comments (1)

Whitehouse Scandal For Fun And Profit!

Tom Maquire of Just One Minute, who is basically the go-to guy covering the Plame Affair, is requesting ideas on how to best play a spread on the chances of Rove and/or Libby being indicted over at TradeSports:

FWIW: Last night there was a bit of a "Rove rally" at TradeSports. Well, "rally" for Sinister Righties - the market odds of a Rove indictment fell to about 45%. Libby was holding tough at around an 80% probability of indictment.

Currently, as of Wednesday morning: the probability of a Rove indictment is at 63%; Libby is at 76%.

OK - folks who want to back my play should SELL the Rove contract, which is headed to zero; profit will be a full $6.30 per contract.

Buy the Libby contract and try to pocket the difference when the contract rises from 76 to 100, for a profit of $3.40 per contract.

And ideas for clever spread trades? Maybe buy two Libbys for each sale of Rove, figuring there is no way that Rove is indicted and Libby walks? Very clever, but we don't give investment advice here, we just speculate. For educational purposes only, of course.

Whaddya bet George Soros is long on these contracts?

Posted by Ken McCracken · 26 October 2005 10:30 AM · Comments (3)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 28.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

sumobeatles.gif

The actual caption:

Sumo wrestlers, dressed in their traditional Mawashia, cross Seventh Avenue in New York, on their way to a 'weigh-in', October 20, 2005. They are participating in the 'World S.U.M.O. Challenge - Battle of the Giants' at New York's Madison Square Garden on October 22, 2005. (Seth Wenig REUTERS/Reuters)

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, November 1. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.


Last week's photo:

wolfowitzchina.gif

Winners from last week:

1.

The Babaganoosh:

With Michael Jackson in hiding somewhere in Bahrain, Paul Wolfowitz is forced to perform Thriller in front of the restless Neverland crowd.


2.

Rob B.:

Considering the success the US had with Jerry Lewis and the French, no one was suprised that Paul Michael Glaser, or "Starsky", would be such a big hit in the Chinese chalk drawing circles.


3.

John:

In an effort to emulate actor/singer David Hasslehof's wild popularity in Europe, aging rocker Davey Jones takes his new Chinese daily variety show "Super-Terrific Monkee Hour" on the road.


Captioning. It does a body good.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 October 2005 01:33 AM · Comments (40)

0-3

:(

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 October 2005 01:22 AM · Comments (3)

VIDEOS: Utah State Fair Advertisements With Napoleon Dynamite.

If you are a Napoleon Dynamite fan, go check out these hilarious ads for the Utah State Fair.

This year's fair has come and gone, but the ad campaign will live on forever.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 October 2005 09:28 PM · Comments (0)

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

We call it "Classiness, All Around Us."

certifiedclassy.gif

Click to explore more WILLisms.com.


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

1.

Let's Get Quacking-

debategoeson.gif

Social Security Choice blog notes that, as I have noted all along, reforming Social Security is going to take a longer haul debate. The good news is that people understand there is a problem:

Americans still want reform. Citizens just have to keep putting pressure on Congress to fix a broken system.

... Which is why the Reform Thursday series goes on, focusing on both problems and solutions. So stay tuned. You never know when the reform tide will turn.

We'll be ready.


2.

Media Bias Hurting Media's Bottom Line-

biasbadforbusiness.gif

Random Numbers explains how left-wing media bias ultimately hurts the bottom line:

...if you can’t sell a liberal newspaper in either New York or D.C. where can you sell one?

I sure as heck wouldn't want to own any shares of the big left-of-center media stock, for the short-term, OR long-term. With no changes, it's a dying business.


3.

Howard Dean-

deansdemocrats.gif

DANEgerus blog chronicles the ongoing absurdity of Howard Dean.

He's mad, in more ways than one.

Yeeeaaaargh.


4.

Good Guys & Bad-

schumer.gif

The Anchoress notes that the collective establishment media has little interest in Chuck Schumer's scandalous dirty tricks:

There are lots of things about which the press is not interested. It is not interested in any connections which may be found between their beloved United Nations and Al Qaeda or Saddam. It is not interested in fund-raising violations unless the violations are made (or even if they’re not) by people with R’s after their names. They are not interested in setting straight exactly who it is that pays the bulk of taxes in America. They are not interested in protest babes in the Middle East. And considering how quick the press is to embrace the narrative that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” well…the press doesn’t seem interested in genocide in Zimbabwe, if the guy in charge is a communist.

A nice roundup of media bias via omission. And Chuck Schumer's snooping into private credit card files of an up-and-coming African-American Republican is a glaring and startling omission.


5.

Bernanke-

whoisbenbernanke.gif

Marginal Revolution blog offers a nice bit of detail on Ben Bernanke, and specifically the global savings glut:

The bottom line is this: some Asian countries have high levels of savings, but poor financial institutions. They invest their savings in the United States, and often we invest in back in Asia. In essence they are "outsourcing" their savings to foreign financial institutions. This recycling of Asian savings may help explain what is going on in the global economy. It also suggests that the current U.S. position is at least temporarily sustainable.

Bernanke is a great choice. Although the Federal Reserve handles monetary policy, the Fed Chief is also increasingly influential on the direction of fiscal policy. And Bernanke gets "it."


6.

Katrina Coverage-

faceofpoverty.gif

Captain's Quarters blog points out that bodies were recovered in poor neighborhoods and rich neighborhoods alike in New Orleans after Katrina:

I'd like to issue a challenge to the Exempt Media. Someone tell me, other than the position of Hurricane Katrina, what significant part of the story the media got right during the first two weeks of the coverage, especially regarding the effects on the city of New Orleans. I doubt we'll come up with a single point, despite their self-obsessed celebration of their reporting shortly after the catastrophe.

A great point. I have never seen such self-congratulatory nonsense than from them media in the immediate aftermath of Katrina.


7.

Noam Chomsky-

noamchomsky.gif

Right Wing News takes a closer look at the left's favorite intellectual:

Unfortunately, Chomsky is as influential as he is wrong and, therefore, it's not enough to simply write him off as a political quack.

Read the whole fisking.


8.

Perspective-

iraqbodycount.gif

File It Under blog puts things in perspective:

Still for a moment, let's look at a few things while acknowledging that in a perfect world there wouldn't be any violence in the middle east.

First, in the US, the average number of deaths was about 5500 per day, or about 165,000 in a 30-day month. That's no small number. Now while that isn't all due to violence, it hardly makes the news either.

The body count game is so stupid, and as one who prefers to put things in proper context, I just can't stand the way the media focuses on some things to the exclusion of others. Liberals have been salivating at the thought of the ticker passing 2000 for quite some time. It's tellling.


9.

Saddam Hussein, Media Hero-

saddamtrial.gif

The neo-neocon blog is fed up with the nitpicking over Saddam Hussein's trial:

Can the Times spare a word in the editorial for any sort of satisfaction that the day of reckoning has come for one of the worst murderous tyrants of recent memory? No. On this momentous day of the trial's beginning, it seems our Blue-Gray Lady's editorial board can't manage to muster up even a smidgen of happiness, only a tongue-scolding for the all-too-imperfect prosecution.

The trial of Saddam Hussein is a truly momentous occasion, and something too long in coming. I don't think Iraq can fully overcome its terrorist/insurgent problem and transition to a healthy democracy as long as Saddam Hussein lives.


10.

European Anti-Americanism-

antiantiamericanism.gif

The Brussels Journal blog hopes that Condi Rice understands just how serious Western Europe's anti-Americanism has become:

And yet, there is also a foreign policy reason for why anti-Americanism has grown even deeper than it was twenty years ago at the height of the Transatlantic debate over the deployment of American cruise missiles in Western Europe. At that time the Left in Western Europe succeeded in convincing part of West European public opinion that the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, were basically of the same, evil, nature. This was the theory of moral equivalence, where some regarded the US as an “occupying” force in Western Europe on a par with the Soviet Union’s occupation of Eastern Europe. While the East Europeans had to liberate themselves from the warmongering Soviets, the West Europeans were told that they had to “liberate” themselves from the warmongering Americans. This explains why in the early and mid 1980s hundreds of thousands took to the streets in anti-American “peace demonstrations” in various West European capitals. These were the largest mass demonstrations that Europe had ever seen.

Interestingly, the moral equivalence idea was shared by others. This is where the Muslim radicals and the West European Left meet.

A very worthwhile read.

I tend to believe that Rice and others in the elected portion of the U.S. government do understand just how damaging anti-Americanism truly is in Europe. But if you are Secretary of State, you have to temper your statements significantly. You have to be... diplomatic.

But it's a great read on the causes and consequences of anti-Americanism in Europe. Go read it.


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


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:

*October 18, 2005.

WILLisms.com offers a weekly classiness roundup as a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 10 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 · 25 October 2005 03:49 PM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 196 -- Crime & Gun Crime.

Firearm Manufacturers-

At the end of July, the U.S. Senate voted 65-31 (with 4 not voting) to shield gun manufacturers from lawsuits resulting from misuse of the firearms. 14 Democrats (plus Jim Jeffords) voted yes, while only 2 Republicans voted no.

Last week, the U.S. House joined the club, passing legislation 283-144 (with 6 not voting) to protect firearm manufacturers against lawsuits when their products are used in an illegal fashion-- you know, by criminals... who, by definition don't follow the law. 59 Democrats (plus Bernie Sanders) voted yes, while only 4 Republicans voted no.

Incidentally, gun crime is down in America, along with overall crime:

crimegunviolence.gif

Sue the perpetrators of crimes. Lock them up. All of that. Don't sue someone creating a product specifically mentioned in the United States Constitution as legal to own.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Energy Prices.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 October 2005 10:42 AM · Comments (6)

New (To Me) Currency

Okay, I am slow about some things, and I had no idea the U.S. Mint had come out with a new buffalo nickel. I was literally looking around for change on the floor, when I saw this beauty -


With that image of Thomas Jefferson there on the front, the word Liberty in his own handwriting, and with the classic throwback buffalo design on the obverse (with In God We Trust, no less), I think this is the handsomest piece of currency I have ever seen.

My point? Sometimes the government does things perfectly.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 24 October 2005 09:25 PM · Comments (8)

Off With Their Beards.

Baseball players are among the most superstitious people you'll ever meet. Diehard fans can be superstitious, too. That's why I've been growing a beard along with the Houston Astros players.

After two tough (unlucky?) losses against the Chicago White Sox, the Astros are eschewing their beards in favor of goatees.

So I tried doing that, too, the goatee thing. I had one briefly when I was 15 or so. But this time around it just looked silly, with my symmetrical patches of bare skin below and to the left and right of my mouth. So I shaved the whole thing off.

Here's to better luck against the White Sox in Games 3, 4, 5, and 6. Clean-shaven, woo!

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 October 2005 07:28 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 195 -- Gas Prices & Oil Prices.

Oil Prices-

When Mrs. WILLisms.com and I were at a winery recently in Napa, California, we were prompted awkwardly by a woman to buy a raffle ticket to benefit the local symphony. The prizes were violins with colorful painted hand-painted images on them. Not really my sort of thing.

Anyway, in the course of the conversation, it came out that Mrs. WILLisms.com works for a major worldwide energy company. The first thing the woman asked was something about how the stock price had done that day. She said it almost authoritatively, as if she knew, for sure, that it had shot up that day.

We had not been following the news, so we wondered if she meant that something specific had happened, a big explosion or fire or lawuit or geopolitical event or something else. No, she commented, just that oil prices are so high. She seemed to think we must've been multi-millionaires or something, with our bundles of ever-higher-astronomically-reaching oil crony stock.

Weird.

Mrs. WILLisms.com just told her, "no, well, it goes up, it goes down..."

And I gave the woman a look like, "what kind of question was that?"

Anyway, long story short, we didn't buy her stupid raffle tickets, and in the newspaper the next day I noticed that the big giant oil company stock in question was down more than a dollar the previous day, and down more than 5 dollars in just the previous ten days or so.

Stock prices aside, what about oil prices themselves? We hear so much about record energy costs, but somehow the economy keeps steaming ahead-- and with relatively little inflation.

So what's the deal?

Well, adjusted for inflation, the cost of a barrel of oil is really not all that outrageous. In fact, Americans were spoiled in the late 1990s with historically low (probably far too low) prices. Check out the progression (and click the image for a larger version of this Department of Energy graph):

oilprices.gif

And this is just through August of 2005. In case you hadn't noticed ( and I don't blame you, as falling energy prices are never newsworthy the way rising energy prices are), we've seen a significant erosion of those nominal record highs from earlier in the summer.

Next (back to the discussion of why high oil prices are not destroying our economy), unlike the situation during the oil crises of the 1970s, we now have a Strategic Petroleum Reserve and a stronger military/diplomatic position in the Middle East. No more embargoes. No more sudden price hikes to punish us for supporting Israel or, say, going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This also underscores the point that the climb in energy prices from the late 1990s has been driven by strong demand from economies in the United States, China, India, and elsewhere. Turmoil and mayhem and the threat of terrorism do factor into the price of oil, to be sure, but not the way revolutions and upheaval once did.

And one last thing to consider, and I've mentioned it before, is that the American economy is less dependent on fossil fuels than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Our cars get much better gas mileage. Our appliances are more energy efficient. And even our economy itself has transitioned from a more industrial/manufacturing/transportation economy to an information-age economy.

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Free Economies Are Better Economies.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 October 2005 04:05 PM · Comments (1)

Quotational Therapy: Part 52 -- Ben Bernanke, New Fed Chief.

Ben Bernanke-

President Bush has named Ben Bernanke as his choice to replace for Federal Reserve Chief Alan Greenspan. It's a great choice.

bernanke.gif

So what is Bernanke all about?

Bernanke, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers spoke on the American economy at the National Bureau of Economic Research Conference on Tax Policy and the Economy, September 15, 2005:

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a critical objective for policy will be helping to restore the communities and the economy of the Gulf Coast . We must also continue the types of economic policies that have brought us through these shocks and that will ensure continued healthy growth. These policies include making tax relief permanent, reducing the budget deficit by limiting spending, strengthening retirement and health security through efforts like Social Security reform, fostering a healthy and well-educated workforce, promoting fair and open trade, and enhancing energy security.

Good tax policy is an important source of economic growth. Tax relief played a central role in the economic recovery of recent years by reducing marginal tax rates, increasing disposable income, and creating incentives for firms to invest and hire workers. The President continues to work with Congress to make tax relief permanent. The President has also appointed an advisory panel to make recommendations on how the tax code can be reformed to make it simpler, fairer, and more conducive to growth. Because of the need for the Administration and Congress to focus their energies on responding to the impact of hurricane Katrina, the panel's work has been briefly delayed, but their recommendations will be presented in due course and will doubtlessly be a valuable contribution to the tax policy debate.

To make tax relief more effective, government spending needs to be controlled. This year the President's budget proposes to cut non-security discretionary spending by 1 percent from last year's level; it does this by eliminating or substantially reducing numerous duplicative programs and providing only limited increases to others. We are already on track to reduce the budget deficit over time. In the mid-session review of the budget, the Office of Management and Budget was able to report that strong economic growth this past year increased tax revenues more than expected, reducing the estimated 2005 budget deficit by $94 billion (to $333 billion, or 2.7 percent of GDP). As of June, tax receipts were running 13.8% higher than a year earlier. This development puts the federal government ahead of schedule to meet the President's target of cutting the deficit in half by 2009. The costs of rebuilding after Katrina are of course substantial and will add to the budget deficit in the near term; incurring those costs is essential if we are to repair the unprecedented damage wrought by that natural disaster. This necessary spending should not, however, jeopardize the President's long-term deficit reduction goals.

For the longer term—I am speaking now of the outlook over the next few decades—budget discipline will require controlling entitlement spending, notably spending on Social Security and Medicare. The President has called for reforms to Social Security to make it permanently solvent and to do so in a progressive manner that will keep the system an effective safety net for lower-income retirees. Social Security has an $11 trillion unfunded liability that cannot be ignored for long.

The President has also proposed to give all workers, including low-income workers, the opportunity to build retirement wealth by investing a portion of their payroll taxes in a voluntary personal account. Voluntary personal retirement accounts in Social Security would give workers a greater sense of ownership and control over their retirement assets; by enhancing financial education, they may also stimulate workers to do additional saving on their own.

Read the entire thing here.

I support this nomination strongly. Strongly.

He's for lower government spending before tax hikes to get the federal budget in order. He supports Social Security and Medicare reform. He believes in the power of the American economy. And he's not quite as cryptic and ambivalent as Alan Greenspan when talking about these issues.


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

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Tom DeLay, On Terrorism.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 October 2005 12:52 PM · Comments (3)

Litigious Vultures Circling Katrina Disaster Zone.

Most attorneys in this country are good people, but there are significant numbers of lawyers who do hair-pullingly annoying things to justify all those lawyer jokes. Indeed, Americans view lawyers less favorably with each passing year; since 1977, in surveys of prestige, lawyers have slipped from 36% to 17%.

The latest legal frivolity/counterproductivity is on display in the Louisiana and Mississippi. Lawyers are suing oil companies for causing Katrina. And the threat of lawsuits is scaring away people from participating in the relief effort.

Financial Times (thanks to reader Carolynn):

Plenty of people have been blamed for the devastation of the US Gulf coast after Hurricane Katrina - but most of them cannot be sued.

Suing the federal government, or the much-maligned Federal Emergency Management Agency, is very difficult. So now enterprising lawyers - many of whom hail from the south - are trying to hold insurance companies, oil companies and mortgage lenders responsible.

Post-disaster lawsuits are a fixture of modern American life: many were also filed in the aftermath of September 11, and many get nowhere. But the US Chamber of Commerce says post-Katrina suits are hampering the relief effort. It is pushing for legislation to protect companies involved in relief and reconstruction efforts from liability.

Big oil companies such as Shell, ChevronTexaco and Exxon Mobil are being sued on the grounds that their refining and production activities in the Gulf cause global warming, which in turn caused Katrina. Lawyers are trying to turn that lawsuit into a Mississippi-wide class action.

So what's the answer for this silliness?

In Texas, we have a Good Samaritan law to protect those dispensing disaster relief/aid from ridiculous lawsuits. Junior Texas Senator John Cornyn wants to extend this law to the hurricane disaster zones.

His bill is called the GIVE Act of 2005 (S.1747), also known as the Good Samaritan Liability Improvement and Volunteer Encouragement Act of 2005 (.pdf), which would eliminate some of the propensity of lawyers to circle the scene like vultures looking for get-rich-quick lawsuits.

Here's to seeing it pass. The prognosis is good, too, as it already has 10 cosponsors:

Republicans (9):
Sen. Allen, George [VA]
Sen. Brownback, Sam [KS]
Sen. Cochran, Thad [MS]
Sen. Coleman, Norm [MN]
Sen. Grassley, Chuck [IA]
Sen. Hutchison, Kay Bailey [TX]
Sen. Lott, Trent [MS]
Sen. Thune, John [SD]
Sen. Vitter, David [LA]

Democrats (1):
Sen. Landrieu, Mary L. [LA]

I wonder how many more Democrats, who draw so much of their cash and support from trial lawyers, will join Landrieu in supporting this imperative.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 October 2005 11:23 AM · Comments (0)

Are We Winning In Iraq?

Michael Yon, who has his boots on the ground over there seems to think so, judging from his recent dispatch in The Weekly Standard entitled All Quiet On The Baghdad Front, regarding the (non)events in Iraq's capital during the recent constitutional referendum.

If you haven't read any of Yon's dispatches from the front, Gates Of Fire is an absolute classic of blog reporting.

Required reading, in fact, and I don't say that very often.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 24 October 2005 04:07 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 194 -- Freer Economies Are Stronger Economies.

Ireland's Miraculous Half Decade-

economiesfguui.gif

Because of its small population, Ireland has a tiny GDP, relative to Germany and France and others, but check out the growth in recent years. And check out the Gross National Income per person (GNI).

Ireland went from the bottom of the barrel to second place in just five years. How'd they do it? Well, it's become part of the wealth-creating world. Relatively low taxes. Free markets and trade. And less government spending as a proportion of the economy.

More on this to come, soon.

Also, if you were wondering why the numbers don't quite match up, it's because of adjustments for inflation.

Source:
The World Bank.

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Texas Political Money.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 October 2005 09:37 PM · Comments (2)

Pundit Roundtable

Hello, this is NOT George Stuffinenvelopes, but Ken McCracken, bringing you PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE, your blog alternative to the Sunday morning talking head shows.

Our classy pundits this week have been asked these questions: Tom Delay was indicted and arrested this week - is this a real prosecution or political payback? Did Delay make himself a target? Is this really bad for the Republicans, or could it backfire on Democrats? Will there be any long-term effects from this going into the 2006 elections?


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


Our first guest is Rick Moran from Rightwing Nuthouse. Rick, what do you think?

I'm not sure that DeLay is entirely innocent in the matter. He's certainly guilty of violating the spirit of the law if not the letter.

That said, Ronnie Earle is a tool. He reminds me of New Orleans prosecutor Jim Garrison who absolutely destroyed the life of Clay Shaw by indicting him for the murder of President Kennedy. Oliver Stone has obscured the prosecutorial misconduct of Garrison who publicly declared on more than one occasion that the murder of Kennedy was a homosexual thrill killing. Garrison was a threat to the justice system because he sought to use the prosecution of an innocent man to achieve high office; he wanted to run for governor. Earle is a threat to the justice system precisely because he has abused the process to achieve a desired political end. DeLay may be guilty - but Earle should be disbarred.

I don't think the effect in '06 will be quite what Democrats hope. The feeling of revulsion that swept the Democrats from power in 1994 built up over many years. But unless Bush can find a way to energize the base, I believe there is an outside chance that the Democrats can win the Senate. Several Republican candidates with state-wide name recognition and access to funds could have challenged incumbent Democrats but decided against it. I take this to mean internal polling for these candidates show that 2006 could in fact be a Democratic year.

They may be right.




illinois.gif Home State: Illinois.


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Our next guest is Rob Port of Say Anything. Rob?

Tom Delay was indicted and arrested this week - is this a real prosecution or political payback?

I'm no legal expert, but from what I've heard of the situation it took Earle three separate grand juries to finally get DeLay booked on a crime. The first grand jury refused to indict. The second indicted him for violating a 2003 law in 2002. The third grand jury was presented evidence that the prosecutor has now "lost." Is this a weak indictment? It sure looks that way to me. Is it politically motivated? Given what we know about Earle, it sure sounds like it. Unless there is evidence presented during the trial that isn't public now I can't see DeLay getting convicted of anything. I think this all had more to do with Earle getting DeLay in front of a mugshot camera. Its all about muddying the waters.

Is this really bad for the Republicans, or could it backfire on Democrats?

I'm not sure anyone can say right now. The way DeLay handled that mugshot was a master stroke. He hasn't backed down one bit, and I think that will have some people taking a long, hard look at what Earle is doing. On the flip side, a lot of people who aren't paying close attention are just going to read the "DeLay Indicted" headlines and jump to the conclusion that he's guilty. We Americans have a way of doing that to big-name defendants. Once somebody is indicted, as far as most Americans are concerned, its up to that person to prove their innocence. If DeLay gets a quick acquittal I think it will end up looking the Democrats look stupid. But really only to the people who are paying attention. To everybody else DeLay will just be "that guy who got indicted." Which was probably Earle's point to begin with.

Will there be any long-term effects from this going into the 2006 elections?

DeLay is up in 2006. If it impacts anybody it will hurt him. I don't see this really playing into any other Congressional races.




northdakota.gif Home State: North Dakota.


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


Next is Laurence Simon, who I bet has an opinion on this -

Tom Delay recently said that there was no more room for cuts in the federal budget. I don't care if he's a saint that makes campaign money fall from the sky or if he rapes and murders puppies to raise money from perverted psychopaths with big checkbooks - it takes a special kind of asshole to say such a thing and that kind of asshole doesn't need to be in Washington representing any portion of this country.




texasredpic.gif Home State: Texas


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Now we turn to Hoodlumman of File It Under, what do you think?

This is a pretty solid case of political payback. Between the lack of evidence and the fact that it took a few grand juries to get an indictment, I can't imagine anything will come of this. I can see Delay emerging from this even stronger in the scenario where he is exonerated and Earle's gets the tables turned on him with his witch hunt.

I don't think it'll backfire on the Dems for the same reason I don't think it'll affect the 2006 elections: people will forget. I think the only people paying attention to this are the ones that can't be swayed one way or another.




texasredpic.gif Home State: Texas.


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


Dean Esmay is our next guest. Dean, whaddya say?

I have no idea whether the charges against DeLay are legitimate or political payback or not and to be honest with you I'm not entirely sure whether I or anyone should care at this point. I'll make my judgements once both sides have had their day in court.

Politics in this country has been blood sport since about the late 1980s from what I've seen. So would I be surprised if DeLay were guilty? No. Would I be surprised if he were innocent and it were a partisan set-up job? No. Both look plausible to me. Yes, the prosecutor's defenders say he's prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans, and that's true, but it's also true that most of those prosecutions were from a time when Texas was a one-party solidly Democratic state and the conservative Democrats hated the liberal Democrats.

It's also the case that our nation's campaign finance system is a horrible mess, and Texas laws have just confounded a horried mess further. It's entirely plausble for someone who doesn't even mean to do anything wrong to violate these oppressive, 1st amendment trashing laws. We won't get clean campaign finance laws until we do the right thing, stop limiting campaign contributions to parties or candidates, and merely require full disclosure over the internet of all donations made to any candidate or party, and end it there, allowing voters to make up their own minds over what seems dirty and what doesn't.

That said, if DeLay goes down I won't shed a tear because anyone who's been in Congress for more than 20 years is corrupt in some fashion anyway, morally if not legally.




michiganbluepic.gif Home State: Michigan.


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Now we turn to Will Franklin to get his view, I know he has something to say on this -

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones, and if we're really moving to a climate where we prosecute run-of-the-mill fundraising practices, you can bet that dozens of high level Congressional Democrats are now worrying, privately, that this thing may boomarang back on themselves. Think back to the silly ethics controversy over junkets. Turned out that Democrats were the kings of junkets. So, like clockwork, the story went away in a hurry.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: Tom DeLay didn't line his own pockets with these relatively minor amounts of campaign cash. He didn't change his mind or his position because of any individual or corporate or other contribution to his PAC. Tom DeLay is a conservative warrior, a true believer, who simply sought to raise as much money as possible, in a fashion that has been accepted as not only legal but expected, in order to advance his philosophy. Not only that, but the relatively small amount of money in question hardly could have influenced the 2002 election, especially as the Democrats outspent Republicans by leaps and bounds during that campaign cycle.

Everyone knew the stakes of the 2002 elections in Texas. Democrats pumped in millions upon millions of out-of-state money into the races. Democrats also leaned on tens upon tens of millions of self-financing from Tony Sanchez. Democrats believed they had a "dream team" assembled, with every demographic group and region of the state represented. How could they lose?

But Texans rejected the Democrats, yet again. Despite being outspent and outmanned and out-yard-signed and out-media'ed by Democrats, Republicans still won every statewide position in the state.

And that's what the American people need to realize here.

And ultimately, Americans like winners, especially in these sorts of prosecutions. DeLay can beat this and storm back onto the scene triumphantly, flaunting his success in beating the spiteful partisan prosecution against him.




texasredpic.gif Home State: Texas


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Because I am the host, I get the last word. Tom Delay did make himself a target. He is an effective, very partisan member of Congress, who didn't exactly endear himself to the opposition. That doesn't make him a criminal.

This 'prosecution' is not about campaign financing violations, or any other wrongs committed by Tom Delay. It is about punishing Delay for house redistricting in Texas, which produced a seismic shift in Texas politics in favor of the Republicans. It is about demonizing an effective political enemy, and having a new whipping boy to enable the DNC and MoveOn.org to raise money for '06.

I gotta say though, that mugshot makes Delay look like a cuddly Sunday school teacher.

One who puts the interests of party ahead of fairness and the law is the very definition of a partisan hack, and this makes Ronnie Earle the ultimate party hack. When this is all over, I hope the Texas bar considers disbarring him.

As for the effect on the '06 elections, I think the Democrats will get as much out of this prosecution as the Republicans did for impeaching Bill Clinton - that is, not much. These scoundrels have a way of making themselves look lovable in their most dire hours.




illinois.gif Home State: Illinois


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That's all for this week, thank you pundits for participating, and tune in again next Sunday for PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 23 October 2005 10:11 AM · Comments (7)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 193 -- Money In Texas Politics.

Political Money Sent From Washington To Texas-

Having trouble figuring out all this Tom DeLay stuff? Well, here's the gist of the allegations:

I. Spending corporate money in politics is illegal in Texas, but not most places.
II. DeLay raised corporate money in Texas, but didn't spend it.
III. DeLay sent the corporate money to Washington.
IV. Washington sent a different amount of non-corporate money to Texas at a later date.
V. This "laundered" money was spent on state races in 2002.
VI. This was a particularly important election because it led to the long overdue redistricting of Texas to finally reflect the political ideology and partisan affiliation of most Texans.

FollowTheMoney.org notes that Tom DeLay and the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (TRMPAC) have been unfairly singled out (.pdf):

nationalpartycontributionsr.gif

The Republican National Committee (RNC), the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) sent nearly 11 million dollars to the Republican Party of Texas in 1998, 2000, and 2002.

Now, the Democrats.

nationalpartycontributionsd.gif

The Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) gave quite a bundle of money to the Texas Democratic Party during the time in question.

And Democrats "laundered" (if that's what Ronnie Earle wants to call it) plenty of campaign cash, via soft-for-hard money trades (.pdf):

“The Institute found eight trades of soft money for hard money, all between the Democratic National Committee and the Texas Democratic Party. In two trades in 1998, the DNC sent $172,500 in soft money to Texas, and the state party sent back $150,000 in hard money. In two trades in 2000, the DNC sent $150,000 of soft money and received $125,000 in hard money. And over a series of four trades in 2002, the DNC gave the state party $255,000 in soft money, and the Texas Democratic Party sent $225,000 in hard money to the DNC.”

Not only that, but former Democratic Congressman Martin Frost perfected the ole soft money, hard money switcheroo, too:

Frost established the Lone Star Fund in July 2000 and raised $282,689 from corporations, individuals and political action committees, according to a 2002 Internal Revenue Service filing. That includes a $75,000 check from Stanford Financial Group, $100,000 from Houston attorney John O’Quinn and a $5,000 donation from Bacardi USA Inc., one of the companies involved in the TRMPAC probe.

The fund then sent at least $92,500 to three national Democratic campaign committees, including the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Each of the aforementioned committees then sent considerable money back to the Texas Democratic Party through donations and direct wire transfers.

In addition, during a period between Oct. 17 and Nov. 25, 2002, the Lone Star Fund also made nine donations to the Texas Democratic Party for a combined $140,566.67...

And Earle knew about this. He just never pursued it. Because, unlike DeLay, Martin Frost was his political kin. Frost was also a victim of big mean Tom DeLay's redistricting.

The more I delve into the hard-to-decipher FEC reports on this, the angrier I get. Money flows back and forth all the time. The amount Earle has targeted DeLay for is practically insignificant, under 200 thousand dollars. Spread out over many candidates. It wasn't even enough money to buy television air time.

It's nearly impossible to look at the facts and conclude that TRMPAC-- and only TRMPAC-- is guilty of wrongdoing.

We need true campaign finance reform in this country, beginning and ending with the elimination of nearly all campaign finance laws. Campaign finance laws are supposed to shield the political process from corrupting influences. Campaign finance laws are supposed to make Americans feel confident that their votes and their voices, in our democracy, are meaningful.

All the laws really do is drive the money further and further underground, forcing candidates and parties and other groups to jump through flaming hoops and hire teams of lawyers just to hopefully comply.

The rules are so arcane and vague and cryptic, so awkwardly enforced, that they invite rampant and creative shenanigans.

Then, liberals are trailblazers, brashly and consistently defying the spirit of the campaign finance laws they've championed (and bankrolled) over the years, essentially creating and defining the rules in the process. Conservatives consequently get in trouble for playing by those rules. In 2004, liberal 527 groups raised and spent 120 million dollars more than similar Republican groups (which were late to the party). They raised so much money through small numbers of mega-chunk contributions from mega-donors like George Soros and Peter Lewis.

Oh, but it's not any of those bloated left-wing groups that gets in trouble. No, it's the relatively small and scrappy-- and genuinely grassroots-- conservative 527 group, The Club For Growth that gets sued by the FEC.

What a sham this whole thing is.

Is it just me, or is this entire thing jaw-droppingly stupid? And infuriating. The more I research this stuff, the more I just steam. mad.gif

Because ultimately, what the DeLay case boils down to is this:

Democrats can't win on their ideas. Not in Texas, and not nationally. This is partly because Democrats rarely, if ever, articulate any actual political ideas; but it's also because the rare times they do articulate ideas, they promote socialism at home and defeatism abroad. Not big winners there with the ole American people.

So Democrats go to plan B, the criminalization of conservatives. It should infuriate you. You should be smashing through walls right now just thinking about it.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Declining Newspaper Circulation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 October 2005 10:14 AM · Comments (4)

Quotational Therapy: Part 51 -- Tom DeLay, On Terrorism.

Tom DeLay, & Why Conservatives Should Support Him-

Tom DeLay needs our support, as overzealous partisan prosecutor Ronnie Earle attempts to criminalize conservative political success.

Fortunately, DeLay is not backing down from Earle. In some ways, he's even getting the best of Earle. Take his "mug shot," for example:

tomdelay.gif

Tom DeLay delivered a speech to the Israeli Knesset a couple years back, telling the Israelis, "Be Not Afraid."

Here's a portion:

The solidarity between the United States and Israel is deeper than the various interests we share.

It goes to the very nature of man, to the endowment of our God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is the universal solidarity of freedom. It transcends geography, culture and generations.

It is the solidarity of all people — in all times — who dream of and sacrifice for liberty.

It is the solidarity of Moses and Lincoln. Of Tiananmen Square and the Prague Spring.

Of Andre Sakharov and Anne Frank.

And in its name I come to you — in the midst a great global conflict against evil — with a simple message: "Be Not Afraid."

I do not say this as a foreigner, cavalier in my estimation of the dangers that surround you.

Instead, I say it as an ally, in spite of the terrifying predators who threaten all free nations, especially Israel.

My country is not ignorant, nor are we indifferent to your struggle.

We know our victory in the war on terror depends on Israel's survival.

And we know Israel's survival depends on the willingness of free nations — especially our own — to stand by all endangered democracies in their time of need.

We hear your voice cry out in the desert, and we will never leave your side.

Because freedom and terrorism cannot coexist.

Terrorism cannot be negotiated away or pacified.

Terrorism will either destroy free nations, or free nations will destroy it.

Freedom and terrorism will struggle — good and evil — until the battle is resolved.

These are the terms Providence has put before the United States, Israel, and the rest of the civilized world.

They are stark, and they are final.

Those who call this world-view "simplistic" are more than welcome to share their "sophisticated" theories at any number of international debating clubs.

But while they do, free nations of courage will fight and win this war.

Please, please read the entire speech.

DeLay is worth fighting for, people. He is a principled and effective conservative, which is precisely why Earle has targeted him with these ridiculous charges.

Of course, this speech, or DeLay's effectiveness as a conservative leader, should not reasons alone to support someone charged with serious crimes (any felony is serious, although it's difficult to justify this alleged crime being worthy of felony status). You should support DeLay because Earle's case is a joke. His evidence is literally non-existent:

Travis County prosecutors admitted Friday they lack physical proof of a list of Republican candidates that is at the heart of money-laundering indictments against U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and two of his associates.

Earle, of course, went to multiple grand juries, until he finally found one that would indict.

And the judge now overseeing the case (Bob Perkins) is a MoveOn.org contributor:

Perkins made donations to the Democratic Party just days before the case against two of DeLay's associates cases were assigned to his courtroom.

If you are unfamiliar with MoveOn.org, they are a zealous far-left group that irrationally hates all things Republican/conservative. They are socialist on economic issues. They are hostile toward religion. They are European on national defense. They are ardently anti-Bush and anti-DeLay.

This entire crusade against DeLay is just political sour grapes. And it is disgusting.

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

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Yogi Berra.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 October 2005 12:16 PM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 192 -- U.S. Newspaper Circulation.

Newspaper Circulation Down-

newspapercirculation.gif

Source:
Newspaper Association of America (NAA).

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Tax Brackets.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 October 2005 11:25 AM · Comments (3)

You Are What You Read.

Recently, Time magazine released its list of the top 100 English novels from 1923 to the present. You may have seen some discussion of this elsewhere.

I had only read about twenty of them, and mostly for school. It might be a good idea to read at least ten more or so over the next couple of years. Gotta stay culturally literate for a potential Jeopardy appearance down the road, after all.

That Time list is literature.

What about recent political books? They were everywhere in 2003 and 2004, and the ones that got the most free media attention were generally anti-Bush screeds. Each week, a new Bush-bashing book drove the news cycle. There were books by Clintonites, by left-wing activists, and by establishment bureaucrats (often labelled "administration officials").

There were also some pro-Bush books, but they were largely an afterthought. Many were poorly-written, rushed rebuttals to the liberal books. Others were decent, but nothing you couldn't read online.

Buying those books was almost as important to political activists as buying bumper stickers and yard signs.

During the early stages of the campaign, as the Democrats held "debate" after "debate," a.k.a. exhibitions on who could bash the president best or most, the anti-Bush books outsold the pro-Bush books.

At the time, many in the media suggested that the proliferation of anti-Bush books was evidence of a strong, underlying grassroots surge against Bush, and against the GOP. How could these books, one after the next, not persuade Americans to vote Bush out of office? After all, he was an idiot, an evil neocon warmonger, a manipulative genius, a puppet, a bigot, a liar, incompetent, a cowboy, a unilateralist, a job outsourcer, a Christian zealot, and a heartless corportation-loving businessman.

All of those. All at once.

These books, many people predicted, would turn the election. They were supposed to persuade on-the-fence Americans.

Wrong.

These books were read almost unanimously by people who hated Bush already. The average American, generally, does not read books to expand his worldview or learn a new perspective. People, increasingly, read to reinforce their beliefs. That goes for blogs and magazines and newspapers, as well.

Take a look at the social network for recent political books (click for larger version:

politicalbooks.gif

The purple ovals are books that I read.

Conservative social network books-

I. A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat.

By Zell Miller, of course. This book SHOULD be a must read for Democrats, if they care about improving their electoral chances.

II. Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.

This book is great. The title explains it all. If you still feel the networks are fair and/or balanced, read this book and get back to me.

III. Bush Country.

A so-so book. Sort of weak, actually.

IV. Ten Minutes from Normal.

Karen Hughes' book. It's decent, but I don't think I was the target audience as a young male.

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

Liberal social network books-

I. Bushwhacked : Life in George W. Bush's America.

This book is atrociously bad. Just a lot of anger, no facts. Lots of lies. Just bad.

II. Dude, Where's My Country?

Michael Moore at his worst.

III. MoveOn's 50 Ways to Love Your Country.

#51- Move on, already.

IV. Plan of Attack.

Funny enough, this book was listed on the Bush campaign website as a recommended book. But it had a few mildly controversial items the media focused on, so it became a big seller on the left.

V. Stupid White Men.

Michael Moore again. Blah. Terrible.

VI. The Great Unraveling.

Paul Krugman. An attempt to run down the booming economy and blame Bush for everything that went wrong with the economy from about 1998 through much of his first term. Lots of predictions that have been very, very wrong.

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

Non-aligned social network books-

I. Colossus.

A nice book. Lots of statistics and such. The thesis of the book is that the world is best when America leads, and Americans shouldn't shy away from their duty to do just that. Also, lots of focus on America's unsustainable entitlement programs.

II. Bush at War.

The earlier Woodward book, it's just a nice look at Bush after 9/11.

III. Rise of the Vulcans.

Leftists were probably disappointed to read this book and not find any damning "neocon cabal" references. It is mostly just a flattering look at the brilliance and talent of the president's advisors.

IV. All The Shah's Men.

CIA, Iran, espionage, revolution, and so on. What's not to like?

V. Ghost Wars.

Same deal. An interesting look at some of the stuff we never hear about. But there is most certainly a war on terror raging underground. And we're generally winning.

VI. Charlie Wilson's War.

A fantastic book written pre-9/11, it tries to take credit away from Ronald Reagan for bringing down the Soviet Union. Interestingly, it gushingly gives credit to Charlie Wilson, an East Texas Democrat, and his CIA buddy. Sound like not exactly the type of book I would like? Just read it. It's surprisingly great stuff.

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

For me, it's interesting and a bit surprising that I read nearly all of the "middle" books and so few of the conservative books. For the most part, those middle books are far more worthwhile than the others. The worst of the lot, of course, were the left-wing books, which were riddled with factual errors, seething with bitterness, and just otherwise terrible. But people kept buying them and presumably reading them.

In 2006 and 2008, you can bet that there will once again be a proliferation of books that have compartmentalized readership.

So what does this tell us?

Polarization is real. In many ways, there are two Americas. And it is evidenced by all the things people read (not just books). We could be moving toward a country without any consensus media sources both sides of the aisle can agree are trustworthy and fair and accurate.

That's not exactly a great thing.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 October 2005 08:53 PM · Comments (8)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 191 -- Tax Brackets & Income Inequality.

Life-Cycle Effects Of Earning-

The Tax Foundation has been on a roll lately, churning out lots of great information on the American tax system. As a tax reform discussion approaches, it is important to have a grip on who pays what-- and how, when, and why they pay.

The folks on the left like to talk quite a bit about income inequality, without much context. The predictable refrain of, "Republicans want tax cuts for the rich," is the tried and true talking point for Democrats.

But here are some important points to note:

1. America remains a country where upward mobility is not only possible, it's probable. The overwhelming majority of us aren't locked into a class or income level from birth.

2. Many American voters would be surprised to learn they are not "Middle Class," as Democrats use the term. It only takes a little more than 70,000 in annual income to each the top quintile of taxpayers. Few Americans realize that being married with two middle class incomes (say, $45,000 and $35,000) thrusts a couple well into the top 20% of income earners.

3. Life-cycle effects are also something many Americans overlook or are just plain unaware of. Democrats love to play to this lack of knowledge. Let's turn that around a bit.

As an individual moves through life, it's rare that he or she will earn the same level of income, year after year, even adjusted for inflation. More likely, an individual will pursue more than one career, with several different employers. There may be a year or two with no employment in the middle. There may be an occasional taxable bonus or windfall of some sort that jolts someone up briefly into a higher income tax bracket. The next year, they could be back in the middle somewhere.

In other words, income is rarely stable. It's more of a snapshot. But on average, older workers make more, while younger workers make less. And that just makes sense. It's called a "starting salary" or "entry level salary" for a reason.

So let's look at some facts on life cycle effects:

...higher-income taxpayers are 50 percent older than their low-income neighbors. Overall, the lowest-income taxpayers (those in the bottom 10 percent) have a median age of 31 years. Looking at the remaining income groups reveals the progression of taxpayers’ incomes as they age in the workforce. Taxpayers in the middle 10 percent group have a median age of 40, while those in the top 10 percent have a median age of 47.

This is not shocking news.

ageandincome.gif

So, older Americans make more than younger Americans. That's not groundbreaking. Pair that with the fact that taxpayers who pay the most are more likely to be married.

That would mean that slightly older married couples, likely with children, are the wealthiest taxpayers. These are couples who may have children of driving age, in college. These taxpayers have children getting married. These taxpayers likely still have years of payments left on a mortgage, not to mention property taxes galore. These newly over-the-hill taxpayers may have large medical bills they never had to deal with when they were in their 20s and 30s.

So it's not so clear cut. We should be quite a bit more careful when we talk about "rich" and "poor" Americans in the context of tax reform.

More on life-cycle effects of earning from The Tax Foundation.

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Previous Trivia Tidbit: The Chinese Housing Boomlet.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 October 2005 04:40 PM · Comments (2)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Thirty-Seven -- The Crisis Is Now.

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Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays. And reform is a long-haul process, not a fleeting event. So we're going to keep plugging along with the case for reform, even as the issue goes off the political radar screen.

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

This week's topic:

No Social Security Reform Will Lead To Mammoth Deficits.

We all like to complain about huge federal budget deficits. They are just not sustainable ad infinitum. We can't go on borrowing forever.

But there's some good news. As GDP growth remains strong, the government is collecting record revenues to pay for all that record spending. It's not enough, however. And it will not be enough in the coming decades, as entitlement spending ramps upward drastically.

Here's a little-explored fact:

In 2000, when then-Governor Bush was running for President, Social Security cost the government 406 billion dollars. This year, Social Security cost the government 519 billion dollars. That's an increase of 113 billion dollars, or nearly 28%. So, when budget hawks (correctly) harp on out-of-control government spending, they need to understand what comprises that increased spending.

Are we really to believe that President Bush, his administration, and the GOP-controlled Congress, are all responsible for that ginormous increase in Social Security spending?

Come on.

Just look at the past ten years of spending on Social Security, as well as the projections of the next ten years:

ssspendingup.gif

In just 10 years from now, the U.S. government will spend nearly a trillion dollars per year, just on Social Security. That number does not include anything else.

The only mitigating factor preventing an exploding federal budget is that, until 2017, Social Security will be able to collect more than enough in payroll taxes to pay for the spending.

But think about all that money down the tubes in the meantime. Think about all those trillions of dollars that could be so much more productive, earning even a modest rate of compound interest in personal savings accounts. Instead of adding to the federal government's belly fat, those payroll taxes could be working on behalf of the American free enterprise system. Those dollars could fuel the greatest engine of commerce the world has ever known.

That market-driven growth could add trillions to our GDP, which would, in turn, maximize our competitiveness relative to a rapidly burgeoning China.

In the meantime, consider this increasingly ridiculous fact:

Congress is spending those temporary surplus "trust fund" dollars, willy nilly, on all sorts of projects and programs.

No reform make Will angry.

Obstruction of Social Security reform should make you angry, too.
Channel that anger. Let's elect more conservative Republicans, less weak-willed or "moderate" ones. And let's throw out all the bums who are so satisfied with the current broken Social Security system.


The clock is ticking. And this is an urgent situation. There is a crisis, and it is now.

UPDATE:
The Commies are declaring victory on Social Security.

Let me repeat that: THE COMMUNISTS are rejoicing their success in blocking reform.

Ugh.


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

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).
-Week Twenty-Two (Millions of Lockboxes).
-Week Twenty-Three (Support for Ryan-DeMint).
-Week Twenty-Four (KidSave Accounts).
-Week Twenty-Five (Latinos and Social Security).
-Week Twenty-Six (AmeriSave).
-Week Twenty-Seven (Cost Of Doing Nothing).
-Week Twenty-Eight (Chile).
-Week Twenty-Nine (Entitlement Spending Out Of Control).
-Week Thirty (Reform Better Deal Than Status Quo).
-Week Thirty-One (Social Security As A Labor Cost).
-Week Thirty-Two (Social Security And Dependence On Government).
-Week Thirty-Three (Social Security, Currently A Bad Deal For African-Americans).
-Week Thirty-Four (Longer Life Expectancies Straining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Five (Howard Dean & Salami).
-Week Thirty-Six (Growing Numbers of Beneficiaries Draining Social Security).

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

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

Houston Astros, 2005 National League Champions.

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Congratulations to the Houston Astros, NL Champs. Their first World Series appearance... ever.

Awesome.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 October 2005 10:22 PM · Comments (9)

How Corrupt Is Your Nation?

Berlin-based Transparency International has come out with its Corruption Perceptions Index of 159 countries, surveying business people about corruption in their countries.

Who is corrupt? Who is honest?

The squeaky-clean scandanavians and northern Europeans dominate the standings, with Iceland, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden all in the top 10 for honesty.

Who is most corrupt? Chad and Bangladesh.

The United States came in at a semi-respectable(?) no. 17 - but that made the U.S. more honest than Japan (21), Taiwan (32) and China (78).

Posted by Ken McCracken · 19 October 2005 05:19 PM · Comments (10)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 190 -- Chinese Housing.

China's Explosive Growth-

Think the U.S. might be subject to a bursting housing bubble, or regional housing bubbles, in the next few years? Worried about an economic meltdown?

Well, how about the situation in China (via Marginal Revolution):

shanghaibubble.gif

An astounding fact:

This year alone, Shanghai will complete towers with more space for living and working than there is in all the office buildings in New York City.

Dang!

Lots of interesting facts about China's housing boom here.

Sometimes it is difficult for people to conceptualize just how rapidly China is growing right now. Hopefully this helps a bit.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Medicare Spending.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 October 2005 12:57 PM · Comments (2)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 27.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

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The actual caption:

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz talks to students in Dongxiang county, northwest China's Gansu province, October 13, 2005. Wolfowitz prodded China on Tuesday, October 18 to give more power to the people for the sake of sustaining strong economic growth. REUTERS/China Newsphoto

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, October 25. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.


Last week's photo:

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Winners from last week:

1.

Buckley F. Williams:

Unable to recover the fame he found in the early '80's as lovable sitcom dad "Phillip Drummond", actor Conrad Bain now ekes out a living as a John Mainstone impersonator.

In a related story, Bain was voted "Most Successful Former Cast Member" in a landslide at a recent Diff'rent Strokes reunion.


2.

Rodney Dill:

Ted Kennedy: "NO! I said I wanted to get liquored up!"


3.

Laurence Simon:

Sharing the Nobel Prize for Mathematics this year, Professor Rudolph Twirly demonstrates how to make counting to ten "fun and exciting."


Captioning is swell.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 October 2005 11:05 AM · Comments (16)

End Of 'Catch And Release' For Illegals?

"Return every single illegal entrant — no exceptions," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, drumming up support for a guest worker program.

The Bush Administration opposes a blanket amnesty for illegal aliens, and so strict border enforcement and deportations are the only way a guest worker program will not degenerate into a de facto amnesty.

We'll see if they mean it or not.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 19 October 2005 06:06 AM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 189 -- Hurricane "Medicare."

Medicare Spending & Surpluses-

The Wall Street Journal's Brendan Miniter:

Even with scrutiny it's more likely than not that the cost of "entitlement" programs--Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the like--will continue to grow apace and consume ever larger portions of the budget. Eventually Congress will have to face one of two options: fundamentally reform entitlement programs or hike taxes. It appeared to many conservatives that we had reached that point when Treasury Secretary John Snow declared after Katrina that renewing some of the Bush tax cuts would probably have to wait.

Conservatives are noticeably frustrated with Republicans in Congress because there appears to be no plan on the table or even under development to head off such an entitlement driven eventuality. Earlier this year, Congress passed up its best opportunity in a generation to reform Social Security. There's little dispute on the right that private accounts would have relieved taxpayers of billions of dollars in liabilities in the coming decades, but Republicans in Congress blinked. Even the House plan to put "surplus" Social Security dollars--those paid into the system now that aren't used to pay benefits--into private accounts isn't going anywhere because of a lack of interest in the Senate. On Medicare and Medicaid a few modest reforms have been put on the table, while a massive new federal Medicare drug benefit has been created.

Count me as one of those frustrated conservatives. But I am also somewhat frustrated with certain fellow conservatives (bloggers included) who gave up on Social Security reform early on.

If right-of-center bloggers, columnists, and members of Congress had committed a fraction of the time and energy they spent on silliness toward Social Security reform instead, we may have seen a meaningful reform package we could now build upon. We may have developed a model for reform of Medicare, for example.

But no.

In my quest to get Americans to understand the how and why of government spending, I've often noted that demographics favored lower spending in the late 1990s.

Here's what I mean:

medicarespendingup.gif

Notice how Medicare spending growth sort of stalled out at the same time that the federal government ran budget surpluses. In 1999, there was even a rare contraction in spending on Medicare.

It wasn't an accident. It was the same deal with other entitlement programs.

Demographics.

Temporarily, in the late 1990s, there was a lull in the growth of new retirees. But it was the calm before the storm. Right now, we've got the bands of the Baby Boom storm just barely beginning to batter us.

The eye lurks just offshore.

If we do nothing, it won't be pretty.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Housing Bubble.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 October 2005 11:21 AM · Comments (4)

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

We call it "Classiness, All Around Us."

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Click to explore more WILLisms.com.


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

1.

Agenda Journalism-

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Angry in the Great White North blog explains the difference between organized and staged:

There's a difference.

Yes, there is.

And if you saw the "staged" flood scene on The Today Show, you know that the media manipulates and manufactures stories. Thusly, where do they get off complaining the president-- any president-- is "staging" an event?


2.

Fiscal Responsibility-

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Ankle Biting Pundits notes that Republicans in Congress might be wising up on spending:

This move towards fiscal sanity is long overdue, but we're going to hold off popping the champagne cords for a few reasons. First, it doesn't appear the cuts hit the real problem - growth in entitlements like Social Security and Medicare.

Exactly. It's nice to see someone who understands this. Trimming the fat is admirable, but it's not everything.


3.

Dozens More-

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The NoSpeedBumps blog notes that the Millions More Movement has missed the point in a big way:

The sad thing is that there are few black leaders standing up and saying what needs to be done. There are none in Congress that I know of. Instead, they demand more of the same – more welfare, not less.

I was watching a little late night C-SPAN a couple nights ago, and the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus perpetuated the claim that the Bush administration somehow does not care for African-Americans. He was asked for solutions to problems, and the answer was always a vague "more funding."


4.

Presidential Approval-

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Don Surber offers up the headline of the week, and this tidbit:

You conservatives who don't trust the president's judgment have forgotten who appointed Brown, Ownen, et al, to the federal judiciary. He hung tough for four years while Republicans in the Senate sat on their hands. This demand for a battle royale overlooks the fundamental fact: The president would stand alone.

Go for the headline, stay for the sensical rant.


5.

Hillary-

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The California Conservative offers a bit of wisdom on what to look for in 2008:

...if the war is still raging and Hilary - among others - is perceived as not having stood up to the Bush Administration, it does leave an opening for a Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich to fire up the liberal troops.

It could be McCarthy-Humphrey all over again.

In 2003 and 2004, the mantra of Democrats was "U-N-I-T-Y." Anything, anything, anything to beat that dastardly Bush. In 2008, with no President Bush to rally against, you better believe that the increasingly angry and vocal far left will demand Armageddon against the more reasonable liberals and moderates in the party. For all the chatter about a conservative crack-up, the Democrats are a mess of divergent and disagreeable interests.


6.

White Supremacists & Black Gangsters-

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Michelle Malkin is right on top of the senseless rioting in Ohio, and the remarkably inaccurate reporting on it:

Pat yourselves on the back, Toledo rioters/looters/gangsters. You probably stoked more racism than the idiotic white supremacists could have ever dreamed of spreading--and you made their inconsequential demonstration of hatred a smashing success. Literally.

How many people are there in the American Nazi Party?

A few dozen? A few thousand?

I'll never understand people who pay these weirdoes any respect, as if they are some relevant force in America. Why legitimize these goons?

The real answer, sadly, is that the gangsters may have merely used the Nazi rally as an excuse to behave abominably.


7.

Terrorist Letters-

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The recently redesigned The Nose On Your Face blog submits a bit of satire, lampooning a fake intercepted phone conversation of our terrorist enemies:

Zawahiri: Most unfortunate. How is your disguise working?

Bin Laden: Quite well. Apparently 7 foot tall Elvis's are not at all unusual in this town.

On a more serious note, if that now-infamous intercepted letter was real, the terrorists are hurting, bigtime.


8.

That Incessant CIA Leak Story-

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Rightwing Nuthouse offers a nice explanation of the boring and arcane story that is the "Plame/Wilson/Miller/Rove" story:

As Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald readies his indictments against probable targets Lewis I. “Scooter” Libby and Karl Rove, the unfortunate truth is that any criminal proceedings against these or other current and former White House officials will validate the partisan political tactics used by the CIA to undermine the Bush Administration’s case for war.

This was not a case of a faction at the CIA resisting White House blame shifting. It was not a case of “setting the record straight” or “protecting the integrity” of the CIA. It was a case of naked, power politics played out at the highest levels of government as a small, partisan group of CIA analysts and operatives sought, through the use of selected leaking of cherry-picked information to friendly reporters, to influence the Presidential election of 2004.

It is rather ironic that this administration has been known for a frustrating (for journalists) zero tolerance policy on leaks to the media, AND that this administration has been such a frequent victim of leaks perpetrated by left-wing career government bureaucrats, yet this silly investigation threatens to be "the 2nd term scandal" that plagues every administration.

Of course, there could be a surprise in store from Patrick Fitzgerald.


9.

The Environmental Movement-

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Darius, at File It Under, explains just what we mean when we say the Democrats are a cobbled together coalition of diverging and sometimes-overlapping special interest groups:

You see, one of their Windmill farms was constructed outdoors, and since their are birds outdoors, some birds occasionally fly into the windmills and get shredded. This has brought war between the Animal Rights Moonbats and the Green Energy Moonbats, and has forced a compromise. The Green Energy Moonbats have agreed to only allow half of their windmills to run at once, so that only half of the birds might get shredded. Make sense? I didn't think so either.

Even the environmental movement itself, almost unanimously left-wing, splinters on issue after issue. The environmental narrative, after a while, becomes utterly incoherent and impossible to follow.


10.

All the news that's fit to print-

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Half A Pica Distance offers some evidence of a hurting medium, print newspaper:

As long as people want to hold an advertising circular in their hands, as long as people want to get those coupons in their Wednesday and Sunday papers, there will be a newspaper. So, what has been the anathema of many news room editors is their salvation. Without a public demand for these ads, there would be no newspaper (at least, not much longer).

Very interesting. A newspaper subscription, for increasing numbers of people, is just not worth it. For some others who do still subscribe, it may just be for the movie listings, coupons, or wedding/engagement announcements. The average American can get better hard news, editorials, and even sports, all online for free. Without having to keep track of that recycling bin.


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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:

*September 27, 2005.

WILLisms.com offers a weekly classiness roundup as a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 10 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 · 18 October 2005 10:32 AM · Comments (2)

Quotational Therapy: Part 50 -- Yogi Berra.

Yogi Berra-

In the spirit of Major League Baseball playoffs, why not a few Yogi Berra-isms?

yogiberra.gif
"It ain't over 'til it's over."

"When you come to a fork in the road....Take it."

"It's deja vu all over again."

"You can observe a lot by watching."

"The future ain't what it used to be."

Source:
YogiBerra.com.

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

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Adam Smith.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 October 2005 10:53 AM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 188 -- Housing Appreciation, 2004.

Regional Housing Bubbles-

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House prices recently have tended to rise rapidly in the East and West... Nevada house prices rose 34 percent in 2004, followed by Hawaii, 25 percent; California, also 25 percent; and the District of Columbia, 23 percent. In contrast, Texas experienced an increase of only 4 percent.

The increases are not limited to regions of the U.S., either:

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Since 1999... home prices have jumped more than 110 percent in the U.K. and nearly 60 percent in the United States.

Part of this is demand. But don't forget supply. Unlike, say, England or New England, Texas has a lot of room. And it's relatively easy and inexpensive to buy up some mostly flat farmland near a city and build a few thousand homes.

housingstock.gif

So, even as Texas has grown rapidly in recent years, there has not been the same drastic home price appreciation that some parts of the country have seen.

Will the housing bubble burst, as the prognosticators predict, causing an economic meltdown?

Maybe in ridiculously overvalued areas on the coasts. But not where land is plentiful and cheap and available (much of the country).

Source:
The Dallas Fed.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Entitlement Spending.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 October 2005 10:26 AM · Comments (0)

Iraq 'Milestone' Constitution Probably Passed.

According to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Iraq has most likely approved a new constitution, despite terrorist attacks and a large Sunni no vote.

President Bush called the constitution vote a 'milestone', and its passage is a major victory for the administration, and for democratic hopes throughout the middle east.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 16 October 2005 03:23 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 187 -- Drowning In Entitlement Spending.

Entitlements Will Be The Death Of Us-

Liberals, moderates, fellow conservatives, WAKE UP. Seriously. Open your eyes.

I dislike chicken littles. I am annoyed by constant hyperbole. I can't stand eternal pessimists. I roll my eyes at those who constantly talk about how such and such is "for the children." I reject that whole "being outraged perpetually" thing.

But this is important.

Entitlement spending (which means Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid) is going to drown the American economy over the next century. Without changes-- and soon-- my children and grandchildren (not to mention members of my own generation) are going to feel the hurt. It's going to be a painful situation.

And this plea is aimed at my fellow conservatives: GET REAL. Pork is an irritant, but it's a drop in the bucket and a distraction from the real crisis looming in the federal budget.

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*Entitlements consume nearly 60% of all program spending and a record 10.8% of GDP.

*Entitlement spending is projected to nearly double over the next decade. Medicare is expanding by 9% annually, Medicaid by 8% annually, and Social Security by 6% annually.

And we ain't seen nothin' yet.

The total cost of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is projected to leap from 8.4% of GDP in 2005 to 18.9% of GDP by 2050.

...depending on GDP growth, of course.

If you think the above line is steep, you won't want to see what the next 15 years will bring.

As noted yesterday, government revenues are outpacing government spending. But we're nearing a new era in spending. An explosion. The Baby Boomers are nearing retirement. It'll be nearly impossible for revenues to continue outpacing that kind of spending.

PORKBUSTERS is an admirable idea, and one I support, but pork is largely symbolic relative to entitlement spending. It is easy to point out the wasteful nature of bridges to nowhere, programs to combat teenage goth culture in small towns, and research programs on obscure insects. Republicans running for and holding office should understand that elections are all about symbolism. Ergo, although pork is pocket change relative to entitlement spending, it is going to get attention. And it will undermine the serious work of getting spending under control.

How can anyone trust a political party to get entitlement spending under control when said party can't get symbolic pork barrel spending under control?

At this point, Congress should have passed a Social Security reform package. We should now be thinking about how to apply the same principles of reform to Medicare and Medicaid. But we're going to have to wait until we have more Tom Coburns and Jim DeMints, with less Olympia Snowes and Arlen Specters.

It'll take not a majority of Republicans, but a supermajority of true fiscal conservatives, to get this thing accomplished. In the meantime, the disgruntled conservative base may shoot itself in the foot (or cut off its own nose to spite its face, choose your own metaphor) by sitting out the 2006 or 2008 elections.

And years later, if we do miraculously get that necessary burst of political inertia behind reform of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, we will have allowed entitlement spending to become trillions of dollars larger-- and more psychologically entrenched with the American people.

This is serious.

So, let's all get real here.

The demographic iceberg is coming. Will we continue to ignore it forever? And when we do address spending growth, will we get hung up on pork, or will we work to address the real fiscal crunch that looms around the corner?


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Government Revenues & Spending.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 October 2005 11:48 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 186 -- Government Revenues & Spending.

Record Government Revenues, But Lots Of Spending, Too-

The latest Treasury statement is out, and, once again, there's both good and bad news (.pdf):

First, the federal budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2005 (which is now over) was $318.6 billion. This is down from $412.8 billion in FY2004, but still too high.

So how did it happen?

Government revenues increased by 14.6%.
Government spending, meanwhile, increased by 7.9%.

Although spending was up bigtime, the deficit closed somewhat, as the economy boomed, delivering record tax cha-ching to the government's coffers (.pdf):

fy04fy05.gif

And where did the bulk of that increased spending come from? Was it all that pork we hear so much about?

No. It was mostly from entitlement growth and increased spending on national security.

Social Security was the largest individual program in terms of spending in FY2005, eclipsing national defense spending by roughly 30 billion dollars. Few Americans realize this.

More should.


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: College Logos.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 October 2005 10:41 AM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 185 -- Top College Logos.

Top-Selling Collegiate Licenses-

The Collegiate Licensing Company represents most major universities in America, keeping tabs on royalties from sales of officially-licensed logos over the course of the year. For 2004-2005, here are the top 10:

Top-50 Universities

(1.) University of North Carolina

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(2.) The University of Michigan

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(3.) The University of Texas at Austin

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(4.) University of Georgia

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(5.) The University of Oklahoma

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(6.) University of Notre Dame

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(7.) University of Tennessee Knoxville

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(8.) University of Florida

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(9.) Louisiana State University

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(10.) The University of Alabama

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The rest:
(11.) Auburn University
(12.) University of Kentucky
(13.) Florida State University
(14.) The Pennsylvania State University
(15.) University of Illinois
(16.) University of Wisconsin
(17.) University of Nebraska
(18.) University of Miami
(19.) University of Arkansas Fayetteville
(20.) Oklahoma State University
(21.) University of South Carolina
(22.) University of Maryland
(23.) University of Kansas
(24.) Clemson University
(25.) Purdue University
(26.) The University of Arizona
(27.) Kansas State University
(28.) Syracuse University
(29.) University of Missouri
(30.) Duke University
(31.) University of Connecticut
(32.) The University of Virginia
(33.) Texas Tech University
(34.) University of Pittsburgh
(35.) University of Louisville
(36.) Georgia Institute of Technology
(37.) University of Washington
(38.) Washington State University
(39.) University of Mississippi
(40.) University of Colorado
(41.) Stanford University
(42.) University of Cincinnati
(43.) University of Utah
(44.) Marshall University
(45.) Brigham Young University
(46.) The University of Montana
(47.) Colorado State University
(48.) U.S. Military Academy
(49.) Georgetown University
(50.) U.S. Air Force

Clearly, a few notables are missing (Texas A&M, for one, is not included), but you get the gist. Want your school to move up the list? Buy some of your alma mater's stuff.


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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Tort Reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 October 2005 01:56 PM · Comments (5)

Quotational Therapy: Part 49 -- Adam Smith.

Adam Smith-

adamsmith.gif
The uniform, constant and uninterrupted effort of every man to better his condition, the principle from which public and national, as well as private opulence is originally derived, is frequently powerful enough to maintain the natural progress of things toward improvement, in spite both of the extravagance of government, and of the greatest errors of administration. Like the unknown principle of animal life, it frequently restores health and vigour to the constitution, in spite, not only of the disease, but of the absurd prescriptions of the doctor.

Source:
Adam Smith Institute.

As individuals work toward improving their own lives, there will be economic growth. The public good is often promoted far more effectively through the accumulation of individuals working on their own behalf, than through any top-down government program.

For economic growth, the best government action is often no action. But even an inept or overbearing government can oversee a thriving economy if each individuals has the incentive to better his own lot in life.

Economies are not zero sum; people do not necessarily have to profit at the expense of others as they fight for a finite pool of wealth. Wealth can be created, not merely passed around.

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

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

George W. Bush On The War On Terror.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 October 2005 06:25 AM · Comments (1)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Thirty-Six -- Lots More Beneficiaries Draining The System.

reformthursdayblue.gif

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays. And reform is a long-haul process, not a fleeting event. So we're going to keep plugging along with the case for reform, even as the issue goes off the political radar screen.

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

This week's topic:

More Beneficiaries.

A) Social Security has increasing numbers of beneficiaries (.pdf):

morebeneficiariesss.gif

And more projected in the coming years. It's not rocket science.

B) Is there a commensurate increase in the number of workers to pay for those beneficiaries?

No.

Again, not rocket science.

So, the solution we're seeing from nearly all Democrats and some Republicans: just ignore the entire reform process and hope the problem goes away. Politically, it easy to be a coward and avoid tough choices, dodging short-term consequences. It is harder, in the here and now, to be bold and do the thing that history will ultimately judge favorably.

It's a shame there are so many cowards in politics today.

The clock is ticking.


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

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).
-Week Twenty-Two (Millions of Lockboxes).
-Week Twenty-Three (Support for Ryan-DeMint).
-Week Twenty-Four (KidSave Accounts).
-Week Twenty-Five (Latinos and Social Security).
-Week Twenty-Six (AmeriSave).
-Week Twenty-Seven (Cost Of Doing Nothing).
-Week Twenty-Eight (Chile).
-Week Twenty-Nine (Entitlement Spending Out Of Control).
-Week Thirty (Reform Better Deal Than Status Quo).
-Week Thirty-One (Social Security As A Labor Cost).
-Week Thirty-Two (Social Security And Dependence On Government).
-Week Thirty-Three (Social Security, Currently A Bad Deal For African-Americans).
-Week Thirty-Four (Longer Life Expectancies Straining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Five (Howard Dean & Salami).

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 October 2005 08:29 PM · Comments (3)

Torn On Miers.

Harriet Miers deserves to be confirmed as justice of the Supreme Court. Although it is obvious now that she is no Antonin Scalia, but merely a cipher, she could nevertheless bloom into a grand federalist. Attaining the bench does unexpected things for some people.

Even if she becomes, as predicted by some, a weak member of the bench, without a real legal philosophy of her own, the nation can survive that. We have before and will again. The nation can even survive actual damage to the Constitution - the Republic has not collapsed because of the withering Fourth Amendment, nor because of recent assaults on the First Amendment via campaign finance reform.

Granted, you hate to grudgingly give support for someone who could turn out to be Souter-lite, but give the President his nominee. Bush's personnel choices deserve a lot of deference, because he makes so many good ones. Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Ashcroft, Gonzalez, Bolton, Roberts and so on have all been great choices in my book. I do indeed have faith in Bush's wisdom here. I am also intrigued by the president's faith in Miers, given the caliber of the many other women he could have nominated.

Barring taint of corruption or legal ineptitude, the President is entitled to confirmation of his nominee. The choice of replacement justices is a prime responsibility of the President, deserves great latitude, and disagreement with a judge's theories as a basis for non-confirmation is precisely the type of process politicization that the mediocre mendicants in the Democratic Party choose to employ. Were I a senator, I would have voted to confirm Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, much as I disagreed with their approach to the law. What's fair is fair.

I am torn though, you see, because I was rooting for Janice Rogers Brown. I can live with Harriet Miers however.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 13 October 2005 07:27 PM · Comments (5)

Hi Folks!

Will has bravely decided to add me as a contributor to WILLisms.com, which is further proof that the vast rightwing conspiracy is indeed alive and growing.

Will and I decided that my coming on board here would be mutually beneficial, in that I can add content here and help keep things rolling along, while I no longer have the need to maintain a daily blog (which I have been remiss in doing lately). Rather than quit blogging altogether, I approached Will about going from being guest blogger to semi-permanent blogger, and he agreed.

Just so you know, I am a recovering lawyer, and the proprietor of Am I A Pundit Now? which I am now putting to rest. I am also a fantasy artist, and I have lots of stuff here at Epilogue.net.

I am open to suggestions and criticisms, and I can take a joke! (except about my momma).

Above all, I vow to remain Classy at all times.

Update: Will also extended to me the privilege of adding a few things to the blogroll, and I am adding Rightwing Nuthouse, Just One Minute and Patterico to our list of esteemed punditry.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 13 October 2005 04:57 PM · Comments (5)

Welcome Aboard, Ken.

Now, the big site news I have been promising.

You know him from his recent guest blogging, Ken McCracken, from Am I A Pundit Now? blog, is joining WILLisms.com on more permanent basis.

Welcome aboard, Ken.

I will still blog at about the same pace as before, but Ken and I will together be able to offer more and better coverage of politics, policy, ideas, and ongoing events at home and around the world.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 October 2005 03:11 PM · Comments (8)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 184 -- Tort Reform.

Tort Reform-

Americans ought to be able to sue in a court of law when they have been unjustly aggrieved.

But our society has become so thoroughly litigious over the past several generations that some of the lawsuits in recent years have been downright silly.

The frivolity of some multi-million dollar lawsuits costs Americans money, jobs, and economic growth. Astronomical insurance costs, due to the spectre of litigation, can drive good doctors out of practice. Frivolous lawsuits and mega-bucks class action lawsuits line the pockets of a few bold lawyers, give "harmed" consumers 10 bucks here or there, while hurting the overall entrepreneurial business atmosphere. Why should a pharmaceutical company invest billions of dollars developing a drug, then wait several years for FDA approval, and otherwise take the economic risk and initiative to improve lives, if, like clockwork, they will be immediately and overwhelmingly sued into smithereens, no matter how safe their product is?

Think about skyrocketing medical costs.

Now know that skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums are at least in part to blame. Those premiums cover patients who have legitimate claims against doctors and hospitals and such, but, unfortunately, only 22% of the cost of the insurance actually goes to paying out economic losses. Meanwhile, 54% goes toward legal fees. And 24% goes toward pain and suffering.

malpractice.gif
That's where tort reform comes in.

We make it harder to file frivolous lawsuits. We raise the bar. We cap extravagant rewards. Class action lawsuits have to meet basic standards.

Some assert that tort reform puts consumers in harm's way, that making it more difficult to sue and win might cause companies to behave in a wreckless manner.

But there is research that seems to indicate that tort reform might actually save lives:

Most individual tort reforms lead to statistically significant reductions in death rates, although some lead to increased rates. Specifically, we found that caps on noneconomic damages, caps on punitive damages, a higher evidence standard for punitive damages, product liability reform, and prejudgment interest reform led to fewer accidental deaths, while reforms of the collateral source rule led to increased deaths. (The collateral source rule says that victims can collect both from their own insurance company and from the injurer; reforms limit this ability to collect twice.)

Overall, we found that the risk-reducing effects of tort reform greatly outweigh the risk-increasing effects. Tort reforms in the states from 1981-2000 have led to an estimated 14,222 fewer accidental deaths.

Very interesting information.

And it makes sense. If we assume that tort reform will prevent good doctors and pharmaceutical companies from becoming discouraged and withdrawing from the marketplace, we may end up with more doctors, more miracle drugs, more groundbreaking surgical procedures, and a healthier and safer population as a result.

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: On Surpluses & Big Government.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 October 2005 02:55 PM · Comments (1)

Updates To The Ole Blogroll.

As promised, the blogroll is now more robust.

We've added (in no particular order):

1. Protein Wisdom
2. Bullwinkle (Random Numbers)
3. DANEgerus
4. The Anchoress
5. California Conservative
6. BizzyBlog
7. Sortapundit
8. Ace of Spaces HQ

In the interest of keeping the blogroll fresh and useful, there will be further subtractions and additions in the coming months.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 October 2005 11:50 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 183 -- The Peace Dividend & Surpluses In The 1990s.

The End Of The Cold War = 1990s Budget Surpluses-

Small government conservatives often wring their hands and sigh and otherwise whine about the failure of the GOP to control spending. We had surpluses, afterall, in the 1990s. Wonderful, wonderful surpluses. Yay for surpluses. Hip, hip, hooray.

But why did we have those surpluses? Was it the wonderful fiscal discipline of President Clinton? Or was it the Republican Revolution?

Maybe it was neither.

Maybe it was just a booming dot-com economy, which lined the government coffers, and the post-Cold War peace dividend, which allowed the government to keep overall spending levels in check. Spending increased mightily in the 1990s on all sorts of things. President Clinton and the Congresses of the 1990s were just fortunate enough to have that wonderful peace dividend:

peacedividend.gif

Clinton-- and even Republican Congresses in the mid-1990s-- do not deserve accolades for controlling discretionary spending. Quite to the contrary:

Newly released data from the Congressional Budget Office show that, as in other areas of his life, Clinton didn't exercise tremendous self-control when it came to domestic spending — contrary to the image now put forward that the 1990s was an era of unprecedented fiscal rectitude.

It's true that government spending in the 1990s increased on average only about 3% a year, which was well below GDP.

Reduced military spending contributed to federal budget surpluses in the late 1990s. Increased military spending has contributed to budget deficits today (underlining mine):

But this can be accounted for by the post-Cold War reduction in defense and the savings in interest associated with it. Defense expenditure dropped from 5.6% of GDP in 1989 to only 3% a decade later, while interest came down from 3.1% in 1989 to 2.5% in 1999.

Spending as a proportion of GDP in all other areas over the same period increased from 12.5% to 13.2%.

So it was defense reductions that account for the fact that spending overall dropped from more than 21% of GDP on the eve of the 1990s to well under 19% at the end of the decade.

With annual defense spending increasing from $306 billion in 2001 to more than $450 billion in the post-9-11 world of today, a repeat of the kind of defense cuts seen in the 1990s seems impossible.

Spending has gone up in recent years, but as I have noted often, the big increases have been in a few specific areas.

1. National defense. We have a war on terror. The peace dividend is gone. Afghanistan. Iraq. Et al.
2. Entitlements. We, meanwhile, have social welfare spending demographics catching up to us. These same demographics favored us in the 1990s. But now the edges of the age-based iceberg are upon us. Medicare. Medicaid. Social Security. Etc. This is spending that was locked in long ago. That hurts.

If we want to be intellectually honest, let's focus on where Bush and the GOP have been weak on spending.

1. Education. No Child Left Behind. Something Bush campaigned on in 2000.
2. Farm subsidies. Unfortunately, something Bush campaigned on. And something a lot of those red state members of Congress campaign on each go-around.
3. Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit (which hasn't even yet contributed to the budget problems). This is also something Bush campaigned on in 2000.

These three areas are not that big compared to the massive, hardly-optional increases in military/defense spending and entitlements. So, while it's certainly admirable to bust up that nasty pork and to keep our team honest on their principles, let's all keep it in perspective, por favor.

Because, honestly, it has gotten a little tedious reading and hearing, over and over, without any context whatsoever, about how terrible the GOP has been on spending in recent years, and how wonderful the 1990s budget surpluses were.


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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Middle Class.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 October 2005 10:41 PM · Comments (3)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 26.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

nobelprizewinner.gif

The actual caption:

John Mainstone of the University of Queensland, Australia poses before the 2005 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mainstone won the Physics award for research on globs of congealed black tar dripped slowly through funnels(AFP/John Mottern )

This is not a bad caption, but you can surely do better.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, October 18. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.


Last week's photo:

bushpoint.gif

Winners from last week:

1.

Rodney Dill:

"Sorry Fella's I'm all out. I gave the last of my beads to Helen Thomas."


2.

Hoodlumman:

And you, ma'am... You take the left flank. We'll de-beach Kennedy if it takes all of us all day.


3.

Laurence Simon:

Thanks for showing up to make some homes. I hear that Jimmy Carter's still off building 10,000 coffins.


Captioning is fun for the whole family.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 October 2005 12:09 PM · Comments (23)

Thanks To The Guest Blogging Crew.

As you could probably tell, I am back from vacation. It was fantastic.

Untitled-2.gif

1) We flew to Los Angeles from Houston early on September 30, retrieved Mrs. WILLisms.com's grandmother's Honda Civic from her uncle's house, hit the road on Highway 1, and were in 2) Cambria, California (near San Simeon) by afternoon.

It was quite a relief from the incessant Houston heat and humidity. Cool, even. We stayed two nights right on the beach. Got up close and personal (but not too close) to some seals. Did the Hearst Castle tour. Looked at the real estate prices. Yikes. It was a great place, but come on.

The scenery was great:

kristelhearst.gif
Apparently there was a 4.4 magnitude earthquake in Cambria the day we left.

The further up Highway One we went, the higher the gas prices seemed to get.

But Highway 1 was beautiful. And interestingly, other than the hippie VW Eurovans aplenty, there was little evidence of that good ole California liberalism on vehicles. We saw more pro-Bush stickers than left-wing stickers, by far.

En route to 3) Napa, California we stopped for a late lunch with a good friend from high school and college who lives in a fun part of San Francisco. San Francisco is the weirdest looking city I have ever seen, but it's a neat place.

Two nights in Napa, we did the whole Napa thing. Wineries. Good food. Nice weather. Walking around. Picking fruit and eating it. Art galleries. The whole deal.

Then, onto Las Vegas. Driving through the interior of California is like driving through a fruit salad. A very good salad. Almonds, melons, oranges, artichokes, avocados, cherries, strawberries, grapes, peaches, apples, not to mention milk cows and so many other crops. Even cotton. Everyone drove about 95 miles per hour or more through that stretch of highway, so we were to Vegas in a hurry.

4) Las Vegas was gaudy and tacky and extravagant and glorious. We stayed just one night at a 5-star hotel, The Venetian. We did very little gambling. We threw in 2 quarters into a slot machine and got 5 back. Las Vegas is a perpetual boom town. It had grown so much since I had been there last.

Love the Vegas.

From Vegas, onto 5) Zion National Park in Utah. Did the 18-19 mile bike ride through the park. Also hiked up the river from the "Temple of Sinawava" through "The Narrows." We got outfitted with quick-dry water gear and waded through the slow-moving river upstream through the canyon. At times, the canyon was only 15 feet or so across, and hundreds of feet straight up on both sides. The 52 degree water was mostly knee level or below, but it became a few feet deep at times.

Zion National Park was fantastic. I felt like we were in bizarro-Germany, as English was clearly the secondary language of the park. There were just so many German tourists, it was surreal. Lots of Japanese tourists snapping photos, as well, but none of them made it up the river hike.

While I was there, I kept thinking how neat it would be to be an architecture professor. I felt like I could teach an advanced course strictly by visiting National Parks and Monuments and studying the landscape.

After Zion, we drove through some of the most beautiful territory in the U.S., through Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. We only made it to 6) Winslow, Arizona for a quick night and early start the next day. We were sure to stand on a corner there, just so we could say we've done so.

Then, onto 7) Oklahoma City to stay with my grandmother (hi, Meem) for a couple of nights. The pace of Oklahoma is just so nice. Everything just seems less stressful there. And gasoline was $2.27 a gallon.

Had a great time in OKC.

Then back to Houston to drop off the car and get back to normal.

There's something about a ~3000 mile road trip that you can't quite get from flying from stop to stop. You can't help but feel that you've connected a little to the real America, the people and the cities and the land. And what a country we have.

I would love to return to every single stop we made, and several stops we didn't make.

Many thanks to the illustrious bloggers (from Wunderkraut, Am I A Pundit Now?, and File It Under) who filled in while I was gone.

Coming tomorrow: the big site news promised before.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 October 2005 11:09 AM · Comments (7)

Oneworld Revolution

Oneworld Multimedia is hosting this week's Carnival of Revolutions.

Go check it out.

If you'd like to sign up to host a future week, let me know. There are empty slots.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 October 2005 01:26 PM · Comments (0)

All great things must come to an end...

With the return of Will comes the return of Rob and myself to File it Under.

It's common for these sign-off posts to plug the guestblogger's blog. And of course, I'll oblige that tradition with full force.

But before I go, I want to spotlight the talent of fellow blogger Rob. Rather spontaneously, one day, he designed a couple of memorial ideas on the subject of 9-11.

Flight 93

flight93.JPG

The Pentagon
pentagon.JPG

Those are drastically reduced for size contraints but each one lists those who died at those sites on September 11th, 2001.

We've opened up a Cafe Press store for each design: Flight 93, The Pentagon.

For every shirt sold, 100% of the profit ($2.00 per shirt) will be donated to Operation Gratitude.

From their mission statement:

Hundreds of thousands of American troops are deployed indefinitely in remote parts of the world, including the Middle East, Afghanistan, Africa, the Korean Peninsula and on ships throughout international waters. The physical conditions they must endure are difficult and they may be separated from loved ones for long periods of time. OPERATION GRATITUDESM, together with the California Army National Guard, 746th QM BN, Van Nuys, seek to lift troops' morale, and bring a smile to their faces by sending care packages to service members overseas. OPERATION GRATITUDESM care packages contain food, toiletries, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation, all wrapped with good wishes of love and support.

So if you like the design(s) you'll be buying one for a good cause. You can also bypass the t-shirts and make a direct contribution to Operation Gratitude! Everyone would agree: Very classy.

Thanks for letting us have the keys, Will and if time away ever strikes again, well, you know where to find us.

Hood and Rob normally blog at Instapundit.

Posted by Hoodlumman · 11 October 2005 12:29 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 182 -- What Is Middle Class?

The Middle Class-

"Middle class" is an interesting term. Statistically, it refers to that middle 20% of income-earners (roughly $25,000-$42,000 per year), but culturally, it means so much more. If you ask just about any American to self identify based on "class" (itself such a nebulous, almost un-American concept), you'll unanimously hear some variation of "middle."

And that's because Americans, by and large, are not obsessed with class. Americans are not perpetually conscious and resentful and/or proud of class differences like citizens of some countries. And Americans making well over $42,000 per year, even over $100,000, may very well consider themselves solidly Middle Class (and with good reason).

Indeed, as The Tax Foundation notes:

Only 2 percent of U.S. adults consider themselves upper class, and fully 79 percent say they are lower-middle, middle, or upper-middle class.

Clearly, 4-out-of-5 Americans cannot be middle class, statistically. Haven't we been told that the middle is shrinking while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?

Americans know better. Culturally, 4/5 of Americans are Middle Class, whether they fit neatly into that middle income quintile or not.

But class differences are effectively exploited in demagogic fashion by many on the left, even today. These Kucinich-types, who identify with Marx's view of a constant class struggle, with rigid and immobile class markers, are able to tap into a potent and dangerous stream of political support. But such support is ultimately shallow on the national stage, as most Americans believe in their own probability of upward mobility.

But let's take a look at the changing complexion of America's Middle Class. We can't make sound judgments about tax reform without understanding the true nature of "the middle class" in America.

As tax reform takes center stage, domestically, here's a prediction. We're going to hear quite a bit about "tax cuts for the wealthy" from Democrats. We're going to hear about how proposed tax reforms "benefit the rich at the expense of the middle class." We're going to hear it all.

So let's look at a few facts, first, about the changing nature of the typical American tax filer over the past few decades.

First, singles, unlike in 1960, are now by far the most common type of American taxpayer:

singles.gif

Now, note that the lower end of the tax scale coincides with more singles, while the higher end coincides with married couples:

Among the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers, 84 percent are single while just 16 percent are married. By contrast, 86 percent of those taxpayers in the top 20 percent are married while just 14 percent are single. As we’ll see later, many of these high-income married couples are simply dual-income. It’s easy to see that with two incomes, working couples appear twice as wealthy as single individuals.
incomesinglemarried.gif

This is an important development, and something to keep in mind when we hear the rhetoric from high-tax-loving Democrats about the rich not paying their fair share at the expense of working Americans. With two-income families becoming the norm among married couples, we're seeing two very much middle income folks joining their incomes and suddenly becoming part of that high-income quintile. It's hard to imagine two junior high school teachers, married to each other and filing their income taxes jointly, considering themselves "rich."

But that's precisely what many on the left would have us believe.

So, soaking the rich as a solution to all of our income tax problems may really mean that we're soaking solidly Middle Class Americans who just happen to be married.

Source:

The Tax Foundation.

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: The Rich Pay Plenty In Taxes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 October 2005 12:17 PM · Comments (1)

Thanks For The Memories

Well gang, Will is back from vacation and so it is time for me to return to my humble digs at WunderKraut.com.

It has been fun guest blogging. Will's site is indeed Classy!

If you get the chance, take a gander at the goings on at my site. I try to have important, thought provoking posts, (i.e. Heroes) as well as some that are just for fun. (i.e. The Mullet Post)

Take it easy and thanks again Will.

Posted by Wunderkraut · 11 October 2005 07:03 AM · Comments (1)

Quotational Therapy: Part 48 -- Bush On Iraq.

The War On Terror-

Late last week, President Bush rearticulated the case for winning the War On Terror, focusing on finishing the job in Iraq, in a speech at the National Endowment for Democracy.

It was an important speech. And it was a new speech. It offered quite a lot of new wrinkles. And although I was on vacation, I happened to catch nearly all of it, live, just before a great hike through Zion National Park.

In the day or two following the speech, the only media coverage I saw of the speech focused on whether the U.S. had indeed stopped 10 terror attacks since 9/11 as Bush had claimed. Nothing else. This unserious, off-topic silliness, so typical of the so-called "mainstream media," was unfortunate, given the magnitude of the speech.

Be sure to read it or watch it online.

bushiraqspeech.gif
...Islamic radicalism, like the ideology of communism, contains inherent contradictions that doom it to failure. By fearing freedom -- by distrusting human creativity, and punishing change, and limiting the contributions of half the population -- this ideology undermines the very qualities that make human progress possible, and human societies successful. The only thing modern about the militants' vision is the weapons they want to use against us. The rest of their grim vision is defined by a warped image of the past -- a declaration of war on the idea of progress, itself. And whatever lies ahead in the war against this ideology, the outcome is not in doubt: Those who despise freedom and progress have condemned themselves to isolation, decline, and collapse. Because free peoples believe in the future, free peoples will own the future.

Read the entire speech here.


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

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Barry Goldwater.

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 October 2005 03:04 PM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 181 -- The Tax Burden.

Taxes-

The rich, even after Bush's "tax cuts for the wealthy," still pay nearly all of the federal income taxes collected by the government (via Kip Esquire):

federalincometaxburden.gif

Kip adds:

Of course, most of those filers in the "tax-free" lower half of returns are only free of income tax. They are not exempt from Social Security taxes. The rich are oppressed by income taxes; the working poor are oppressed by Social Security taxes. Therefore, those who champion the working poor ought to be less interested in income tax reform and more interested in Social Security reform. Indeed, they ought to be the most ardent advocates of Social Security reform, including voluntary partial privatization. Go figure.

Great points.

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Best Places To Do Business.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 October 2005 02:35 PM · Comments (1)

Monsters... dot com

CPA spots available in New York.

Engineering positions available in Dallas.

Architecture openings available in California.

Video production and media coverage positions in Palestinian territories?

The London-based Asharq al-Awsat said on its Web site this week that al Qaeda had "vacant positions" for video production and editing statements, footage and international media coverage about militants in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Chechnya and other conflict zones where militants are active.

Now that's being resourceful.

Think of the perks: Global travel, rustic boarding, virgins and mad cash, right?

Asharq al-Awsat said the advert did not specify salary amounts, but added: "Every Muslim knows his life is not his, since it belongs to this violated Islamic nation whose blood is being spilled. Nothing should take precedence over this."

Hmm... no salary figures. Well, I'm supsicious.

"Hey, Mossad, I just got accepted by al-Qaeda for a spot in Chechnya!"

"Bitchin'. What's it pay?"

"Well, I'm not real sure. But they needed someone who could type 10 words a minute, was handy with a digital camera and hack-saw, and 'liked being an underdog..'"

"What does that mean, Malik?"

And here's Reuters for you - keeping in mind that they don't call these guys terrorists:

Islamist insurgents fighting U.S. forces and the U.S.-backed government in Iraq have often posted slick montages of their military activities, including beheadings of hostages, on the Internet.

How "slick..."

The headline of the article is "Need Work? Consider Al Qaeda..."

If anyone knows, it's Reuters. They've been willing employees for years now.

Hoodlumman thinks Reuters is a collective group of assholes at File it Under, too.

Posted by Hoodlumman · 10 October 2005 07:55 AM · Comments (6)

'Nuff Said

Ken Says: I hereby place this image into the public domain - feel free to use, abuse, or profit from this image. If you DO make money off this image, you will keep me in mind, won't you?

Ken also says to bring your neighbors, bring your family and bring your pets to Am I A Pundit Now?

Posted by · 6 October 2005 09:27 PM · Comments (6)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Thirty-Five -- Will Franklin on Vacation

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays. And reform is a long-haul process, not a fleeting event.

That's why WILLisms.com offers a chart or graph (or picture of the DNC head swinging a kielbasa), every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.

This week's topic:

Will is off this week and Howard Dean is a moron.

Will offers the best weekly Social Security series on the net (34 weeks strong and going). Every Thursday he posts yummy data and solid points on the necessity and urgency of reform.

But Will can't answer the blog right now. So we offer this:

MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the president can claim executive privilege?

DEAN: Well, certainly the president can claim executive privilege. But in the this case, I think with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can't play, you know, hide the salami, or whatever it's called. He's got to go out there and say something about this woman who's going to a 20 or 30-year appointment, a 20 or 30-year appointment to influence America. We deserve to know something about her.

salamidean.jpg

Howard Dean waving a salami. (h/t Scribal Terror)

Will returns on the 10th. I swear.

Rob and Hood DO NOT play hide the salami at File it Under.

Posted by Hoodlumman · 6 October 2005 06:00 PM · Comments (8)

What Is Wrong With You People?

My Senator, Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga), is trying to extend the MASSIVE farm subsidies bill. I usually do not agree with The Washington Post, but today they are making too much sense:

Some of the spending "cuts" turn out, on closer inspection, to involve large new commitments to the federal government's worst programs -- such as its subsidies for farms.

The new farm commitment is tucked into the spending cuts proposed by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Mr. Chambliss was told to come up with $3 billion in spending cuts over five years. This shouldn't have been difficult, because taxpayers spend $15 billion to $20 billion each year on wasteful farm subsidies, most of which go to a small minority of wealthy growers while penalizing developing countries that aspire to export their way out of poverty. President Bush has rightly called for a complete elimination of these subsidies, and his administration has proposed a way of saving $5.7 billion over 10 years. The suggested cuts would hardly be too painful: One of them involves capping the subsidy available to each farmer at $250,000 per year.

I do not get it. What happened to fiscally responsible Republicans? I was happy Chambliss got elected, but come off it already. Farm subsidies must go. The most recent Farm Bill to clear Congress is the most pork laden thing. It is on par with the massive Highway Pork Bill recently passed.

I wrote a post last week in which I longed for the days when Republicans actually were for small government. Saxby, you are doing what we used to get mad at your Democratic colleagues for doing. Kill the pork, you can do it.

But:

Yesterday he proposed to cut a mere $1.1 billion in farm subsidies over five years, to be supplemented with cuts in conservation programs and food stamps. His plan says nothing about capping subsidies to the richest farmers; thus 300,000 lucky recipients will continue to divvy up about $10 billion a year. But the Chambliss proposal does include language that would extend farm subsidies beyond 2007, when they are currently due to expire, for a further four years.

Great, just great. The thing that pisses me off even more is that President Bush will sign the darn thing. Where are my small government Republicans? What happened to you guys? Don't tell me that power has corrupted you to the point that on paper it is hard to distinguish you from the Democrats.

The Washington Post's editors have the best summation I have seen concering pork and an out of control, spending like drunken Democrats, Congress:

Using a measure that is ostensibly about spending restraint to extend the egregious farm program would mark a new low for Congress. The Agriculture Committee is due to vote on the Chambliss proposal today. It should reject it.

I have a sneaking suspicion I will be writing a letter to my Senator today.

Mike is slaving away in his basement writing angry letters to Congress under a single light bulb over at WunderKraut.com

Posted by Wunderkraut · 6 October 2005 07:29 AM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 180~ish -- Harriet Miers, How Some Scoff at Thee

This is more of a quiz than a tidbit o' trivia-

I haven't done any blogging on Bush's selection to replace Justic O'Connor here or at my blog.

But unless you've been under a rock for the past few days, you know that Harriet Miers' nomination has raised a minor stink amongst conservatives *gasp*!

miers_raaarrr.jpg

Which of the following is the best reason (as a conservative) to not approve of Miers' nomination?


  1. Miers has never been a judge.
  2. She's gettin' on up there in age.
  3. She's donated to the DEMOCRATS!!!
  4. Cronyism!
  5. All of the above

Well whether you like a single item or letter 'e', a great counter to all of those arguments is here.

For example:

Miers never has been a judge: Neither had William Rehnquist, and that turned out rather well.
[snip]
She contributed to Democrats. Let's see a show of hands: Were any of us formerly Democrats who changed parties? There's Ronald Reagan, anyone else? Oh, yes...

Go read the whole thing. It's worth it regardless of where you stand on the issue.

Full disclosure: And were do I stand on the issue of Miers? Well, I haven't seen Serenity yet, but given the rave reviews and my general enjoyment of sci-fi, I probably will see it and enjoy it.

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Best Places To Do Business.

Hoodlumman purposely uses a no. 3 pencil on his Scantron quizzes at File it Under.

Posted by Hoodlumman · 5 October 2005 09:34 AM · Comments (14)

If It's Fall, It's Time For Mullets!

Ah, mullets. What’s not to love about them? A buddy of mine sent me a short presentation on mullets. It was very educational and I can now spot many species and sub-species of mullets. Fascinating. Two of the better ones are:

Femmullets Femmullets

Mini-Truck Mullet
Mini-Truck Mullet

I have to admit that while I never had a pure bred mullet, I DID have a mini-mini-truck mullet going when I was in 11th grade. I need to find a picture. But come on, who here does not have a mullet from the past hiding in the closet?

Come on in, the water is nice. After all, confession begins the healing.

Hat tip to loyal reader Crotalus.

Mike is mulletless and thoroughly hip at WunderKraut.com

Posted by Wunderkraut · 5 October 2005 08:35 AM · Comments (9)

Quotational Therapy: Part Four-Eight Niner Roger, Roger -- Captain Clarence Oveur, Pilot

Clarence Oveur, Damn Fine Pilot-

Will usually has awesome staples that he posts regularly (Quotational Therapy, Carnival of Classy, Caption Wednesday, Reform Thursday, Trivia Tidbits) here at Willisms. I've decided to fill that temporary void with Quotational therapy from the great Capt. Clarence Oveur.

Captain Clarence Oveur

Awesome...

Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?

I know I do.

You ever seen a grown man naked?

If you say no, you must be lying.

Joey, have you ever been to a Turkish prison?

Who hasn't?

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

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Barry Goldwater.

The right quote can be therapeutic like gladiator movies, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday whenever guest-bloggers hijack the series.

Hoodlumman never sees grown men naked at File it Under. That's a good thing...

Posted by Hoodlumman · 4 October 2005 09:35 AM · Comments (13)

The Left vs. The U.S.

Seeing how I am guest blogging for a Texan, it makes sense to write about a Texas politician who in many ways was larger than life: Lyndon Johnson.

I could write about the Great Society or Medicare or the Civil Rights Act, but not today. While any one of those accomplishments would be worthy book material, I wanted to zero in on the main failure of his Presidency: Vietnam.

The Left has been trying to turn the current war in Iraq into President Bush's Vietnam. So far they have been unsuccessful. Bush has stuck to his guns and the all volunteer military continues to do a splendid job. But still, the Left tries to make Bush into another Johnson.

They want a Vietnam analogy; I will give them one that actually will fit Vietnam, if the Left has their way.

My father fought in Vietnam. His tour was from 1966 to 1967. He saw some furious combat and luckily escaped unscathed. His unit was a very professional, highly trained unit. They fought the enemy hard and believed in the cause in which they were engaged in. I would suspect that a large percentage of our combat troops during that time frame felt the same way. By the winter of 1967 and the spring of 1968 the American public had begun to lose confidence in the war. We still were winning every engagement but the press had turned against the U.S. after Tet and were actively seeking to undermine our mission and our President.

By the spring of 2004, the war in Iraq had entered a new phase. The growing terrorist presence in the country and the deployment of improvised explosive devices (IED's) began taking a large toll on our troops. New tactics were developed to fight the new threat faced by taking on the IED's. As if on cue, the MSM began to hammer the administration for failing to predict this new phase of combat. They began asking asinine questions such as why didn't we have plans to deal with this threat before it surfaced and why weren't our weapons functioning as planned? The famous answer by Rumsfeld that you go to war with the army you have, infuriated the press, but no truer words have ever been spoken.

1968 and 2004. Both were election years. Both sitting Presidents were embroiled in a war that was beginning to wane in popularity. Both faced a hostile, if not borderline treacherous press. How did each man act?

President Johnson, like President Bush sat down to talk to the American people to explain that things may look bad, but that if we are strong, we will prevail. President Johnson:

Even while the search for peace was going on, North Vietnam rushed their preparations for a savage assault on the people, the government, and the allies of South Vietnam.

Their attack--during the Tet holidays--failed to achieve its principal objectives.

It did not collapse the elected government of South Vietnam or shatter its army--as the Communists had hoped.

It did not produce a "general uprising" among the people of the cities as they had predicted.

The Communists were unable to maintain control of any of the more than 30 cities that they attacked. And they took very heavy casualties.

But they did compel the South Vietnamese and their allies to move certain forces from the countryside into the cities.

They caused widespread disruption and suffering. Their attacks, and the battles that followed, made refugees of half a million human beings.

The Communists may renew their attack any day.

They are, it appears, trying to make 1968 the year of decision in South Vietnam--the year that brings, if not final victory or defeat, at least a turning point in the struggle.
This much is clear:

If they do mount another round of heavy attacks, they will not succeed in destroying the fighting power of South Vietnam and its allies.

President Bush:

We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who exploded car bombs along a busy shopping street in Baghdad, including one outside a mosque. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who behead civilian hostages and broadcast their atrocities for the world to see.

These are savage acts of violence, but they have not brought the terrorists any closer to achieving their strategic objectives. The terrorists -- both foreign and Iraqi -- failed to stop the transfer of sovereignty. They failed to break our Coalition and force a mass withdrawal by our allies. They failed to incite an Iraqi civil war. They failed to prevent free elections. They failed to stop the formation of a democratic Iraqi government that represents all of Iraq's diverse population. And they failed to stop Iraqis from signing up in large number with the police forces and the army to defend their new democracy.

But there is one huge difference: President Johnson turned his tail and ran. Bush stood his ground. Johnson may not have pulled the troops out and left the South Vietnamese to fend for themselves, but his pulling out of the Presidential race had about the same effect. Some 40 years after the fact, when I watched the replay of his address to the nation those haunting words sent chills down my spine:

With America's sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office--the Presidency of your country.

Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.

Can you imagine the shock on the American people? But more importantly, can you imagine the shock on the men in the field? After all, if the President is getting out because it has gotten tough, then why should they stay, fight and die?

If the Left wants a Vietnam analogy, they will have one if Bush does what they want. The Left (I am specifically directing this at you Cindy Sheehan) wants the U.S. to pull out right now. If we do that, it will be the same as Johnson announcing he is quitting. The effect on our enemy is known. Just look at how North Vietnam played it to their advantage. Look at the loss of prestige America suffered all through the 1970's. In many ways our weakness in Vietnam and after emboldened the terrorists we now fight. So I ask you, look at history and see what happens when you tuck your tuck your tail and run. Our men end up having died for nothing and out enemy is emboldened, which guarantees that future generations will one day have to finish the job that the current generation should have finished. If you want Vietnam, you will get it if Bush pulls a Johnson. Just remember that the consequences will be far reaching. The Left thought they won a great victory when the U.S. failed in Vietnam. If so, then they have the blood of thousand upon thousands of innocent people on their hands. Our failure and weakness afterwards led to where we are today.

Mike is a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy over at WunderKraut.com

Posted by Wunderkraut · 3 October 2005 07:53 PM · Comments (13)

Free Thoughts Revolution.

Free Thoughts blog is hosting the Carnival of Revolutions this week. Go see the developments for yourself.

And if you'd like to sign up to host in a coming week, shoot me an email.

That is all. Back to vacation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 October 2005 11:23 AM · Comments (5)

They may take our contributions - But they'll never take our FREEDOM!

Last week, a true American Patriot was indicted on one of the most serious charges a public official can be guilty of:

Possibly sorta tied to some kind of conspiracy to launder or is it redirect (?) contribution money very sneakily when, in fact, it can be done other-wise legally... maybe.

That's right.

And, of course, he's guilty until proven innocent. But probably guilty anyway.

Why guilty?

  1. His political party starts with the letter 'R'
  2. He's from Texas - not many innocent folks there
  3. He has, as some point, shaken hands with Smirky McHitlerburton
  4. He has kicked Democrat ass nationally and in the state of Texas, including un-gerrymandering Texas to represent its voters
  5. Rumored to have worn Stetson cologne at least once

But I say that isn't enough!!

I say that his conviction is wrong!!

I say he's been the victim of abuse of power!!

I say you should be able to be from Texas!!

And I say you should be able to wear Stetson cologne!! (in reasonable dosages)

I say, FREE DELAY!!

Join the movement now! Grab this banner! Put it on your blog! Print it out and put it on your car! Put in on your refrigerator next to the grocery list and your kid's drawing of Spot and/or Fido! Put it on your office bulletin board!! Blow it up and put it on a protest sign then picket your local Starbucks!!

HELP FREE DELAY NOW!

FreeDelay.jpg
Hoodlumman speaks truth to power at File it Under.

Posted by Hoodlumman · 3 October 2005 07:25 AM · Comments (5)

Cedar Revolution Not Out Of The Woods Yet

Lebanon is still under a state of siege, as Syria fights a terrorist rearguard action against the Cedar Revolution. Anti-Syrian journalist May Chidiac lost an arm and a leg last week after a bomb exploded in her car, and now this weekend Syria (or their Hezboallah proxies) attempted to assassinate Judge Nazem Khoury, who probably saved his own life when he foiled an attempt to put a bomb in his car. He happened to look out the window and noticed someone tampering with his vehicle, and the would-be assassin then sped off on a motocycle. Police are now inspecting the vehicle.

Judge Khoury is a critical official in the Lebanese government: he is the investigator of the Banque Al-Madina scandal, which is a huge news event in Lebanon. Banking is big business in Lebanon, and "relative to the overall size of its economy, Lebanon has the largest banking sector in the world, with deposits of roughly $40 billion in more than 70 private banks." The Banque Al-Madina failure, which sent shockwaves through the Lebanese economy, was run as an alleged money laundering enterprise by Gen. Rustom Ghazaleh, ex-head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Martyr's Square in Beirut is again filled with protestors, demonstrating against a wave of bombings throughout Lebanon. There have been 13 car bombings in Lebanon since the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the event that sparked the Cedar Revolution. This wave of bombings has unfortunately received only scant attention in the press. The Australian has a great rundown of the precarious events of late in Lebanon - you might want to bookmark The Australian by the way, they have consistently excellent analysis and well-written articles on international affairs.

In honor of the Cedar Revolution and democratic movements everywhere, I present a gratuitous protest babe pic:

Hee!

This is guest usurper Ken McCracken, normally found hatching nefarious plots at Am I A Pundit Now?

Posted by · 2 October 2005 10:21 PM · Comments (2)

Who You Callin' A Monkey?

The Monkeysphere. What? Never heard of it? Yeah I know, I hadn't either until now:

What do monkeys have to do with war, oppression, crime, racism and even e-mail spam?

You'll see that all of the random ass-headed cruelty of the world will suddenly make perfect sense once we go... Inside the Monkeysphere.

And off we go:

Picture a monkey. A monkey dressed like a little pirate, if you wish. We'll call him Slappy.

Imagine you have Slappy as a pet. Imagine a personality for him. Maybe you and he have little pirate monkey adventures and maybe even join up to fight crime. You'd be sad if Slappy died, wouldn't you?

Now, imagine you get five more monkeys. Tito, Bubbles, Fluffy, Marcel and ShitTosser. Imagine personalities for each of them. Maybe one is aggressive, one is affectionate, one is distant and quiet. And so on. They're all your personal monkey friends.

Now imagine a hundred monkeys. Then a thousand.

How long until you can't tell them apart? Or remember their names? At what point, in your mind, do your beloved pets become just a faceless sea of monkey? If you get enough monkeys, you'll eventually have enough that you no longer even care if one of them dies.

Now, each of these monkeys is every bit the monkey that Slappy was. It's just that you don't give a rat's ass any more.

That, my friends is the Monkeysphere.

You must go read the entire essay. Everything makes perfect sense now. Basically it boils down that we can only really know/relate to about 150 people. Those people make up our Monkeyshere. Anyone not part of that group is just a faceless shape in the crowd. Not that we do not like our fellow man, but that we can only relate to so many people. For example:

Or think of it this way: Which would upset you more, your brother dying, or a dozen kids across town getting killed because their bus collided with a truck hauling killer bees?

Which would be bigger news to your neighbors, those dozen mutilated bus children across town or 15,000 dead in an earthquake in Iran?

They're all humans and they are all equally dead. But the closer to our Monkeysphere they are, the more it means to us.

Mr. Wong offers some very good life pointers. You may be the funniest, smartest, coolest person in your Monkeysphere, but to other people outside of your Monkeysphere, you could be the biggest, dumbest jerk in the world. It is a matter of perception and of being able to relate to someone, rather than just seeing them as some jerk who cut you off in traffic.

Also, we all have the capacity for abject failure. I know I have done many a thing that I am none to proud of. Buy me a beer one day and I may tell you. Keep that in mind when you idealize your heroes. Remember:

Don't pretend politicians are somehow supposed to be immune to all the backhanded f**kery we all do in our daily lives and don't laugh and point when the preacher gets caught on video snorting cocaine off a prostitute's ass. A good exercise is to picture your hero -- whoever it is -- passed out on his lawn, naked from the waist down. The odds are it's happened at some point. Even Gandhi most likely has hotel rooms and dead hookers in his past.

Amen brother. Now, my monkey friends, go forth and read the entire essay. You WILL thank me. Oh yes, you WILL.

Mike's Monkeysphere can be found over at WunderKraut.com

Posted by Wunderkraut · 2 October 2005 08:21 PM · Comments (1)

Revenge is a dish...

What happens when you let a rival alum guest blog on your blog?

Nothing until this post happened...

Read More »


Posted by Hoodlumman · 1 October 2005 03:38 PM · Comments (5)