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Willisms

« March 2006 | WILLisms.com | May 2006 »

Sunday Night Heidi Weimaraner Puppy Update: 16½ Weeks Old.

Top Ten Interesting Questions/Comments About Heidi:

1. "Is that a 'weimenheimer' dog?" [variations: "heimenmariner," "weimerman," and "rammar.. uh... weimer," just to name a few]

2. "Is that a black lab, or a brown one?" [variation: "what kind of lab is that?"]

3. "Is he albino?"

4. "Are those contacts in his eyes?" [variation: "Where did you get those colored contacts for your dog?"]

5. [young son to father] "Can I have that dog?"
[father to young son] "No, that's a silly weiner dog."
[young son, grabbing Heidi] "WEENULL DOLG!"

6. "Did you know that Hitler gave Weimaraners their blue eyes?"

7. "Was her growth stunted?" [variations: "she's not very big for a Weimaraner," "oh, I didn't realize she was a puppy," and "why is she so small?"]

8. "Does she know how to bark?"

9. "Have you bred her yet?"

10. "What did you do with her tail? ... I would have framed it." [variations: "What did her tail get caught in?" ; "Did you cut her tail off because it was always in the way?" (<--- little kid) ; "Did you use regular scissors, or garden shears, to clip her tail?"]

These are all actual questions I have been asked about Heidi.

There were tons of great Heidi pictures this week, due, in part, to the neat skies we had. I narrowed it down to these five:

cloudinsky.gif

As you can see, she got a new collar.

humongoustongue.gif

It matches her tongue, a little bit.

heiditonguetrail.gif

She loves the trail more than just about anything.

mouthwideopen.gif

And luxuriating in the sun.

tiredheidi.gif

Occasionally, she even gets tired.


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

Last week's update.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 April 2006 07:09 PM · Comments (6)

Pundit Roundtable

Hello everyone! Welcome the PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE, our irregular (of late) expounding on the issues. I am your host, Ken McCracken. Here are our topics for this week:

Topic 1: How did we get into this mess of high gas prices? What is the solution? Give us your plan for getting gasoline to under $2 a gallon.

Topic 2: You have the power of life or death over any two figures from history. You may condemn one to an early death, and save one from their fated demise. Who do you choose and why?

I am pleased to introduce our new guest to the Roundtable, David Anderson of In Search of Utopia. What are your thoughts on this, David?

" I don't claim to be an expert on this one, but I believe there are several factors having an impact on prices at the pump, one is high taxes, from what I understand, taxes represent somewhere around 20 percent of the overall cost of a gallon of gas. I don't know how effectively those tax dollars are being spent, but it needs to be looked at, since government is notorious for wasting our money. Next, I believe the war in Iraq, threats of war with Iran and general instability in the Middle East are also contributing to the problem. Our issues with the Strongman in Chief in Venezuela are also an issue, since the petrol reserves there could go a long way to alleviating the problem. I don't really have a solution other than to suggest our government needs to focus more on long term solutions and energy independence. I tend to be a bit more libertarian when it comes to free market issues. Americans need to learn to conserve more, or not whine about the price. According to the statistics I have read, Oil Companies are making about 4.5% profit on each gallon of gas sold. Looking at it in those terms, I would say that the true gouging going on is from Government.

Topic 2: There are so many easy choices in answering this question. Who could argue against Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao or any number of other sociopath leaders for the early check out. On the other side, Jesus, Buddha, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, yada yada, are also easy choices. My first inclination is to choose Hitler for an early death, but despite the atrocities of his regime, many advances in science may have been delayed if not for the Nazi regime. The Space program and all it begot, can be traced back to German experiments in Rocketry for example. In looking at others like Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot, they have no such legacy. I would go with Stalin simply because the barbarism of his regime matched that of the Third Reich, and the effects of Stalinism lasted much longer. Again, it was a hard choice. As for who I would save, again my first inclination would be Martin Luther King, whom I knew as a child and who did the most for African Americans, but I will go with JFK. I believe that Kennedy was a visionary, someone who had a vision for a greater America, and had he lived and won a second term, I am convinced that this country would have benefited tremendously. We were on the verge of an extraordinary period of political enlightenment in this country, and since Kennedy we have not had a single President, except for Reagan who could inspire us the way JFK did. While my memories of JFK are more than likely somewhat jaded by his legend, I know enough of his Presidency and his vision for America, to believe that if it succeeded, we would have become a greater nation as a result.

Now let's welcome back Roundtable stalwart Jay Tea of Wizbang. Jay Tea?

"It's a simple matter of applied economics, the laws of supply and demand.Demand has increased dramatically in the last few years, while supply has pretty much stagnated. Refinery capacity is nearly maxed, and capacity has not changed in some time. Also, legislative "tweaking" with gasoline formulations, creating various requirements for different blends (I think there are seventeen different formulations for gasoline around the nation) has led to synthetic shortfalls, as producers simply can't shuffle stocksaround the nation to balance out variable demand.

And let us never forget that China and India are increasing their demand for oil at an incredible rate, buying up more and more oil.

I don't see a short-term solution to high gas prices. I wonder if there is a mid-term solution. And I fear if we have the national will and resolve to find a long-term solution.

Topic 2: I have read a lot of science fiction and speculative fiction, and time travel is a very common theme. And I'm a big believer in "The Butterfly Effect," despite what Ashton Kutcher's movie did to the notion.

In the "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" episode "The Wish," one character wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. The result is horrific, with the town being overrun with vampires and several of the main characters dead or made into vampires. In the climactic fight, we see the surviving heroes die valiantly, one by one, until one attempts to smash the artifact that granted the wish, to undo it. The wish-granter challenges him, asking "what makes you so sure the other reality is any better?" He answers, "Because it has to be," and shatters it, undoing the wish.

I don't think that is the case here. I don't think the world is so bad that altering a single aspect of our past would guarantee an improvement. The world today is the sum of all our history, for good or ill, and I would be loath to tamper with it.

The classical example is Adolf Hitler. Let's get rid of him. How might that make things worse today?

With no Hitler, Germany continues to limp along through the depression, still burdened by the crippling results of the Treaty of Versailles. And the Soviet Union, feeling expansionist, starts slowly swallowing up Eastern Europe.

In the Pacific, without Germany drawing the West's attention, Japan's aggression is more keenly watched -- and checked short of war. Since England, France, and the rest of western Europe are not threatened on her doorstop, they far more rigorously protect their colonies and interests. Pearl Harbor is averted.

And without Pearl Harbor to kick the United States into a global war, the depression putters along as FDR's programs still continue, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Eventually, the threat of the Soviet Union will be too great for the West to ignore. However, by this time, there has been no massive mobilization of military might from America. We never built "the arsenal of democracy" that won World War II and, eventually, the Cold War. And without Einstein and several other refugees that fled Nazi Germany, along with the imminent threat of a Nazi bomb, we never developed nuclear weapons. The United States never becomes a superpower, and never amasses the might to check the march of Communism.

By 1950, much of Europe is Communist. The Soviets are looking at Asia and the Middle East. Even Latin America is not off-limits. The United States is finally starting to militarize, but there is no Pearl Harbor, no triggering event that brings war to reality to all Americans. Indeed, some even want to welcome Communism, seeing in it some possible relief to the economic woes that are still troubling us.

So, in a nutshell, I would not tamper in the least with history. I do not believe that things today are so bad that they cannot be made worse -- and I have no interest at all in being proven right.

I am also pleased to announce another Roundtable newcomer, Jay of Accidental Verbosity. Welcome, what do you think?

"People like simple, knee jerk, catch phrase explanations for things, so that is what we hear a lot of on the dramatic recent gas price increases. Pick the right one and you might even win some votes, but that doesn't make you less wrong, or at least unrealistically pat.

The current price behavior is an unfortunate, yet perhaps overdue, confluence of many factors. There's geopolitical forces. It's oil; there's always geopolitical forces. There's the economic growth and therefore increased demand in places like China, but do we really want to go backward and lose the other benefits? There are the forces of environmentalism, NIMBY and regulation. Thus the lack of refining capacity, lack of new nuclear power in the overall mix - none of this exists in a vacuum, lack of new drilling in this country - for what that's worth, given the fungibile nature of oil, seasonal and other blend requirements that make production more expensive and disrupt already tight refining capacity, and fundamental, seasonally variable supply and demand.

The best thing anyone could do for gas prices is to get out of the way. Let economics work. High prices give incentive to develop new sources of oil, as well as alternatives that might reduce the extent to which we depend on same. People will act to conserve, or if they don't then the price isn't so excessive after all. Companies will act to chase revenue and profits available at these prices that might not be at lower prices, and in so doing are likely to make the cost of alternatives or more efficient extraction methods fall.

There seems to be a high income punditry class trumpeting how low gas prices are in historical terms, and they are right. However, your average person has trouble appreciating that long term trend when the price rockets up so quickly. It's as if milk went up another 75 cents in the course of a few months; of course we'd all complain. This is "milk" we buy five, ten, twenty, thirty gallons a week, as opposed to a gallon or two. It really does hurt.

The mistake is rushing to do something political about that pain. We'll adjust. We'll pursue ways to save - or not - and the signals from that will ripple through the economy to reflect in prices and availability. To the extent that we can have an influence given the politicization and regulation of oil, and energy generally.

Where the spike toward $3 was rapid, any fallback to $2 and under will be slow. How long to get that many people driving higher mileage cars? How long to slay the NIMBY Monster and build more refineries? How long to persuade congresscritters to encourage new nuclear, encourage new drilling, etc.- or at least back off of preventing or slowing same.

My plan? Get out of the way and let the economy work. Ultimately this works even if we do nothing to change the nutjob governments in key oil producing countries. Fungibility: Know it, love it.

Topic 2: This is tougher than it sounds, and one of my answers sums that up in one person. My knee jerk thought on who to condemn, partly on the idea so many people would find it a controversial choice, was Lincoln.

I rapidly changed my mind and decided Lincoln was the most logical choice off the top of my head for saving, on the idea he'd done all the harm he was going to do, but was killed before he could do all the followup good we needed. His life may have been about the Civil War, expansion of federal power, and a near dictatorial Presidency, but the founders made that conflict almost inevitable, under someone, by what they had to do and gloss over to make the Constitution happen at all. Even if the muddy status of slavery couldn't be handled, was it really a show stopper to leave the right of states to leave the union implicit rather than explicit? Some tell me it absolutely was.

After the war, things went awry due to the loss of Lincoln, so taking the war we had instead of the war we might imagine could have happened (or not), keep Lincoln alive for the cleanup. That probably makes for a smoother reconstruction and integration of former slaves, and blacks in general, into ordinary society. Imagine no segregation in the 20th century, no need for the civil rights movement, and arguably no need for programs like affirmative action to keep the races disparate. LBJ is on my short list of kill targets, but if we spare Lincoln, perhaps we lose some of the damage of LBJ's war on poverty. So perhaps LBJ can live, if Lincoln does. The ripples go far.

The toughest question of all is who to kill, because there are just too many. Do I go with someone obvious, like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Jimmy Carter? Maybe whoever is responsible for giving up Cuba? (Who is that, anyway? Help me, history buffs, you're my only hope.) LBJ? Not if Lincoln lives. John Maynard Keynes? Imagine, no famed "we're all Keynesians now" quote from Ronald Reagan (who is decidedly not on my short list). As I write this, I lean strongly in JMK's direction, but if we're gunning for "economists," why not Marx? Heck, that's like taking a scythe to multiple follow-ons at once. I could suggest an early demise for Jesus Christ and make the Christians feel persecuted. Oh wait, they already do! Plus if we're being mean enough to suggest that, why not that Paul dude who got it past the mere cult stage. Or I could invite a denial of service attack by suggesting a certain crazy Arab before he can impose his hallucinations on the world. FDR? But like Lincoln, he is a mixed bag of deepest evil and decisive good, and unlike Lincoln he got to live to do the best of the good.

Augh! Can't. Make. Up. My. Mind.

Aw, what the heck. It's obvious, but let's go with Karl Marx. Let the folks with dictatorial impulses find another ostensible muse to justify themselves rather than merely being what they are. Imagine a twentieth century without Marx looming over it like the father of nightmares.

The Host's Last Word: We have a stark and difficult choice when it comes to fuel prices: we can either have heightened tensions in the middle east and troops posted in Iraq, or we can have cheap oil prices.

We can't have both.

The ongoing insurgency in Iraq, and the defiant Iranian mullahs have done more to put fear into the markets than anything else, driving up the price of oil. Alternative fuels, fuel taxes, refining capacity and so on are issues that only come into sharp focus when oil prices spike.

Thus, the best way to reduce oil costs is to appease Iran. Let their nuclear program become a fait accompli and blame Russian and Chinese intransigence for failing to impose sanctions or military action.

The question is, will there be a higher cost to pay down the road if this is the route we take? As an American, would you be comfortable with this?

As for Topic 2, I would recommend going back in time and erasing the greatest mass-murderer of all time, Mao Zedong. This superheavyweight champion of death killed some 60 million of his own people during the Chinese Civil War, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and all the other dark chapters of history he authored.

Would killing Stalin solve the Mao Zedong problem also? Clever! Probably! Except, if there is no Stalin, who stops Hitler? The Man of Steel did stop the Wehrmacht, give him credit for that.

As for extending a lifetime, perhaps Alexander The Great would be the most interesting choice. He died in his thirties after conquering an empire stretching from Greece to the Indus River, and it fell apart nearly immediately after his death. Perhaps a long-lived Alexander could have consolidated and even expanded his gains, resulting in a Pax Hellenica and a vastly different history for Asia and the Near East.

That's it! Enjoy what's left of the weekend, and come back again next week for PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 30 April 2006 12:49 PM · Comments (17)

Quotational Therapy: Part 94 -- Teddy Roosevelt, On Immigration.

Immigration + Assimilation

troose.gif
"In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here does in good faith become an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with every one else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birthplace or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American.

"If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn't doing his part as an American.

"We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile. We have room for but one language here and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, and American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house; and we have room for but one soul [sic] loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people."

-Teddy Roosevelt; January 3, 1919 (.pdf).

I tend to think that we need to allow much more, not less, immigration to this country. Simultaneously, I agree with Teddy Roosevelt. Those immigrants must become Americans. Not hyphenated-Americans. Not Americans second.

The American empire is an empire of ideas and values. As we promote those values abroad, we must enforce them at home, as well. The best immigration plan would be the plan that offers all the economic and political opportunity America has to offer in exchange for-- simply-- buying demonstrably and wholeheartedly into the economic and political values of America.

Breaking American laws precludes citizenship and economic opportunity. Playing by the rules fast-tracks citizenship and access to the mainstream (rather than underground) American economy.

Sure, that plan is not exactly practical or clear-cut or specific, but it's got to be better than what we have today-- and much better than what some are proposing (amnesty, shutting down the borders, and just about everything in between).

It also seems like a plan Teddy Roosevelt might have endorsed.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Property Taxes Are Marxist

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 April 2006 11:59 PM · Comments (4)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 321 -- Three Cheers For The American Economy.

GOP GDP-

First quarter "real" GDP growth in the United States hit a two and a half year high:

4point8gdpgrowth.gif

4.8%.

That's not half bad, and while it's not likely that we'll sustain that sort of growth throughout the entire year, let's just compare 4.8% to the recent growth in "comparable nations" comment-sniper Michael Tam prefers (Australia, UK, Canada, France, and Germany), as well as a few others (Italy, Japan, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and the European Union).

Using the latest data from the CIA World Factbook, here's the comparison:

gdpgrowthqi2006.gif

Of course, just for reference, Angola grew at a 19.1% pace in 2005, China grew 9.3%, India grew 7.6%, Hong Kong grew 6.9%, and Singapore grew 5.7%. Zimbabwe, meanwhile, contracted to the tune of 7%.

But let's get back to that 4.8% "real" GDP growth in the United States. That "real" number, which is pegged to 2000 dollars for the sake of consistency and comparability, is fantastic, but in current dollars, the annual growth rate was actually 8.2%. In three months, the American economy added 254.8 BILLION dollars to its annual economic output. In twelve months, the American economy added 822.1 BILLION dollars to its annual economic output.

Let's think about what those $254.8 billion and $822.1 billion numbers mean.

254.8 billion dollars compares closely to the entire economy of Hong Kong-- or of Switzerland. It's also greater than the respective economies of Vietnam, Malaysia, Greece, Portugal, Norway, the Czech Republic, Chile, Denmark, Venezuela, Israel, and Ireland, just to name a handful.

In the first quarter of 2006 alone, the American economy added what amounts to the entirety of the island economies of Singapore, New Zealand, Bahrain, and Iceland, combined.

That's not insignificant at all.

Of course, it's even more fun to play with the 822.1 billion dollar figure. You can add the entire economies of Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Lebanon, Honduras, Croatia, and Kuwait, with room to spare.

Then, again, if you want to use the "real" dollar gains, rather than current dollar ones, in the first quarter, it's only an addition of 133.1 billion dollars. In that case, the United States only added a Nigeria's worth of economy in those three months.

Still not insignificant, at all.

When the largest economy in the world grows at a 4.8% annual "real" rate, and 8.2% annual current-dollar rate, it ought to be the top news story, everywhere, all weekend long. We've added several countries-worth of economy to our own in just the past three months. That's HUGE news. The consequences of such economic growth are rife-- and profound. For one, our national debt burden seems a little more manageable. Our ability to project power and influence in the world (as well as take care of things at home) increases substantially.

Incidentally, Reuters is underselling America's economy by roughly 15%:

Economists generally consider the long-term sustainable growth rate for America's $11-trillion economy to be around 3.5 percent.

Hello, Reuters, and welcome to 2003; the rest of us have since moved beyond an $11 trillion economy to more than $13 trillion. Two trillion dollars might not seem like a lot to the moneybags working over at Reuters, but, dad gum it, two trillion still means something on this blog.

Of course, the Reuters explanation would be that they are using the "2000-chained dollars" (11,381,400,000,000) figure instead of "current dollars" ($13,020,900,000,000).

Either way, come on, Reuters, stop living 3 years (if we're talking about current dollars) or 6 years ago (if "real" dollars are the way to go), and stop, in so many other subtle and not-so-subtle ways, underplaying the amazing American economy already.

"Real" (2000-pegged) dollars are great for comparing growth rates across time. It keeps things nice and even. But describing the actual size of the American economy in 2000 terms makes little sense.

So, let's hear it: three cheers for the American economy.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce: "Gross Domestic Product, First Quarter 2006 (Advance)" (.pdf).

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Energy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 April 2006 02:11 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 320 -- Energy Intensity.

The American Economy Depends Less On Oil Than Before-

This week, consumer confidence jumped to its highest point since May 2002:

fouryearhigh.gif

Isn't it weird that consumer confidence could rise to a post-Katrina high with all the talk of record gas prices?

It's actually not that weird.

The economy is storming ahead, and people know it.

Moreover, the economy isn't as dependent on energy as it once was. Our cars, despite the SUV craze, guzzle less gas than they once did. Our doors and windows insulate better than they once did. Our refrigerators, washing machines, and other appliances use less energy than they did in the roaring seventies. Offices and homes and stadiums and theaters and restaurants and airports are all far more energy efficient than they once were.

Greater energy efficiency means that energy spending as a percentage of overall consumer spending remains well below where it was a quarter of a century ago, despite a slight rise over the past few years:

energyintensity.gif

High energy costs once forced Americans to change energy consumption patterns. We became more efficient as a result. The artificially low energy prices of the late 1990s produced the opposite result (in vehicles, at least).

Some of the proposals out there today (sending 100 dollars to each American, gouging "big oil" with higher taxes and more regulations) are just. plain. stupid.

Supply and demand drive energy prices upward today. Changing supply and demand is the only way to drive energy prices back downward. American politicians can do little, if anything, of meaning to change international demand, as the developing world (China, for example) is-- well-- developing and consuming energy like never before. It's also difficult for American politicians to do anything substantive when some of the world's worst tyrants and organized criminals and fanatics control the supply at the state level, outside of normal market forces (.pdf):

oileconomiesfreedom.gif

Does that mean American politicians should give up and accept the world as it is?

Heck no. It just means they should stop treating the American people like we are idiots. We need solutions, not slogans. We need drilling, not demagoguery. We need creativity, not bribery. Most of all, we need a little bit of information and honesty from our elites in politics and the media, rather than partisan platitudes and dumbed-down mumbling and grumbling.

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Tax Freedom Day.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 April 2006 11:58 PM · Comments (6)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Fifty-Four -- It Could Almost Work Out, Or It Could Be Far Worse Than Predicted.

reformthursdayblue.gif

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays. Just because the status quo'ers got their way in 2005 does not mean the problem has gone away. Indeed, it's getting worse with each passing day. Thus, Reform Thursday continues.

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

This week's topic:

Roll The Dice.

One of the more frustrating parts of the Social Security debate last year was the lack of a common language. Liberals spoke of the program's goals glowingly, as if Social Security-- and only Social Security-- could alleviate poverty among retirees. They also often used creative math to show that the crisis was really just a small accounting blip that could be solved with a few minor tax hikes on "the rich."

The rest of us reviewed their numbers and rhetoric and were baffled and bewildered by the blatant distortions and mischaracterizations. Moreover, even official organizations muddied the debate: the CBO reached slightly different conclusions from the Social Security Trustees, who reached different conclusions from some pro-reform groups, which reached different conclusions from left-wing socialist Democrat-affiliated groups.

The establishment media usually sided with the liberal interest groups, unfortunately. The establishment media still set the agenda for the country, like it or not (except when the GOP musters its campaign resources to get directly to the people).

Thus, because these reactionary socialists wanted to maintain the broken staus quo, no reform. That's how it works, folks. The blogosphere (which has plenty of very far-left sites, if you hadn't noticed) and talk radio (which cares more about entertainment than policy reform) and Fox News (which too often follows the establishment media groupthink) are still a blip compared to the rest of the left-leaning media in this country.

It may very well have taken the resources of an entire presidential campaign, complete with nationally-televised convention, an army of paid and unpaid workers spread out across the country, a frantic stump speech schedule, a series of live debates, and two clearly defined choices, to go over the heads of the establishment media on the Social Security issue.

One point of contention was (and still is) the schedule for meltdown, not to mention how bad the meltdown will be. The anti-reform crowd had two basic policy arguments:

1. It's a small problem, not a crisis.
2. The small problem is half a century away.

Well, it could turn out to be a smaller problem than predicted, particularly if the economy consistently grows faster than historical averages. For example, if Social Security tax revenues exceed expectations and benefit payments are much lower than expected, we may only be faced with a marginal crisis, rather than a full blown one:

potentialscenariosforsocial.gif

Notice that the crisis could end up right where we expect it to, it could end up being a minor crisis, or it could end up being a far worse crisis than expected. Not a particularly inspiring group of options.

Also notice that the problem never retreats. It just continues to get worse ad infinitum. On the other hand, reform solutions that would also increase the national rate of savings, boost the economy to the tune of trillions more in GDP growth, and empower hundreds of millions of individuals and their families, do exist. It's just a matter of how painful we want the reform to be. Do it now, it's easy. Do it later, not as much.

If you were a gambler, would you look at the projections in this graph and assert, with authority, that there is no crisis? At best, we'll barely be able to afford to pay for those trillions of dollars in Social Security benefits, with only hundreds of billions in borrowing added to annual federal budget ledgers.

Not a great bet, any way you slice it, unless the payoff is truly astronomical. So, what is the purse that inspires liberals to deny Social Security reform? What on earth could be so special that they are willing to stake the very financial health of the future U.S. economy on there only being a small crisis?

Two possibilities:

1. Old-fashioned political gain. Social Security is called the third rail of politics for good reason. Liberals (including some Republicans) obstructed just long enough to let Bush zap himself on it.

2. Defending Marxism. Social Security, each year, takes hundreds of billions of dollars (that would otherwise earn compound interest) out of the free enterprise system, helps fund big government projects elsewhere, and otherwise maintains dependence on the government. The lack of reform, manifested in 10-12 years, will almost certainly necessitate higher taxes to pay for the escalating costs. And higher taxes are always good, according to Marxists.

So, to recap, it's a long-shot, but we could end up with an almost-non-crisis, slightly later than expected. Or, if we follow the trend lines, we could end up with a more intense crisis, much earlier. Why even take a chance on doing nothing when the crisis is so evident-- and reform has so many peripheral advantages?

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).
-Week Thirty-Eight (Disability Benefits).
-Week Thirty-Nine (Broken Benefit Calculation Formula).
-Week Forty (German Social Security Disaster).
-Week Forty-One (Crumbling Pyramid Scheme).
-Week Forty-Two (Overpromising, Globally).
-Week Forty-Three (Demographic Wave).
-Week Forty-Four (The Jerk Store).
-Week Forty-Five (Defined Benefit Plans).
-Week Forty-Six (Even The Empty Promises Are A Bad Deal).
-Week Forty-Seven (Our Aging Population).
-Week Forty-Eight (The Tax Increases Required To Cover Social Security's Costs).
-Week Forty-Nine (Much Longer To Get Your Money Back From Social Security).
-Week Fifty (A Vote, At Last).
-Week Fifty-One (We Can Do Better).
-Week Fifty-Two (Socialist Security).
-Week Fifty-Three (China Has The Same Problem, Only Worse).

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 April 2006 02:46 PM · Comments (3)

Larry Johnson, Pro-Leaks 'Patriot'

There is a group of ex-CIA employees called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) who are calling for more leaks from the intelligence services. We are likely to hear more from these folks as this leaks issue progresses, so keep your eyes open.

The press is spilling a lot of ink over VIPS member Larry Johnson regarding the Mary McCarthy leaks case, who naturally comes rushing to her defense, and his membership in VIPS is never mentioned. Johnson is probably most famous for his pronouncements that Americans were "bedeviled by fantasies about terrorism" and that "terrorism is not the biggest security challenge confronting the United States" - just two months before before 911.

The press would like us to believe that Johnson is a cool and collected retired CIA agent with no axe to grind, rather than the hotheaded, grandstanding leftist shill that he is. Johnson's blog packages up the whole leftist vacuity on this subject just perfectly: self-righteous pronouncements of fealty to higher purposes, weakening-national-security-is-really-patriotism hypocrisy, endless unsupported assertions, ad hominem attacks (Johnson's SCREAMING BOLD TYPE ADDITIONS TO SOME OF THE COMMENTS are really pretty funny, and in a disturbing way. This guy used to work for the CIA? We are so screwed if they are hiring clowns like this) - the whole thing is a veritable Woodstock of liberal dimthink. No wonder Stephen Spruiell says "it’s this kind of analytical prowess that led Larry Johnson to get the pre-9/11 terrorist threat so unbelievably wrong."

Tom Maquire of JustOneMinute points us to the comments at this particular blog post at Johnson's blog, and here Tom responds to one of Johnson's assertions about the Plame case:

Patrick Fitzgerald has sworn before the U.S. District Court on multiple occasions in the last nine months that Valerie Wilson was a person covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. [emphasis added]

END EXCERPT

I try to learn something new every day, so could we please see even one solid cite to support this?

It would be huge news if Fitzgerald swore that Wilson was covered by the IIPA, and either Johnson is scooping the press here, or . . . he is full of something. Johnson has yet to come forth with any proof, so you decide.

So there you have it. The left just makes stuff up, the press repeats it and amplifies it, the leftist brain-donors fawn and genuflect, and our national security goes down the tubes. Thanks Larry Johnson, for being the true patriot you are.

P.S. - not this Larry Johnson by the way.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 27 April 2006 11:08 AM · Comments (7)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 319 -- Tax Freedom Day.

Freedom From Taxes-

If you are an average American, today was a good day for you. It marked the final day of the year you worked to pay the government. Assuming you've been paying every penny you have earned since January 1 to Uncle Sam and his little nephews (California, Texas, New York, etc.), from here on out, for the rest of the year, what you earn is yours to keep.

Yes, because today is Tax Freedom Day:

taxfreedomlater.gif

Again, if you are the average American, you worked three additional days this year to quench the thirst of the ole big government leviathan.

Awesome.

Compare this to 100 years ago (.pdf):

daysworkedwayup.gif

I'm lovin' it.

There's much, much more information about taxes, with explanations, at The Tax Foundation website. Go check it out. There are many ways to calculate a Tax Freedom Day (and The Tax Foundation's methods have some flaws, to be sure), but this is still one of the better ways to conceptualize the cost of government.

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: OIL!.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 April 2006 09:47 PM · Comments (3)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 53.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

gore.gif

The actual caption:

Former Vice President Al Gore makes talks to the media as he walks into a screening of the documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth' in Boston Tuesday, April 25, 2006. The film, directed by Davis Guggenheim, documents Gore's passionate quest to present the issue of global warming as 'our planetary emergency.' (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, May 2. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

ronaldinho.gif

Winners from last week:

1.

Zsa Zsa:

Mia Hamm Denies Steroid Use in Women's Soccer


2.

Hoodlumman:

Ronaldinho formed the goal posts for Perez in the semi-final match of paper futbol.


3.

Adjustah:

Despised Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best describes the length of his career.


Honorable Mention #1

DaveD:

After talking it over, Ronaldinho's one hand would be sure to know what the other was doing.


Honorable Mention #2

Cox:

An excited Ronaldo prances back to his teammates to share the details of his "unintentional" brush with David Beckham.


Honorable Mention #3

Ironman:

Two-time World Paper Footballer of the Year Ronaldinho believes Brazil can live up to their billing as World Cup favourites and defend the trophy at this summer's table-top finals in Germany.


Honorable Mention #4

Rodney Dill:

"Truth be told, Andrew Sullivan is not a long hitter, if ya know what I mean."


Captioning doesn't grow on trees, you know.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 April 2006 04:51 PM · Comments (28)

Tony Snow: All But A Done Deal

tonysnow.jpg
Tony Snow

I just want to express how pleased I am that Tony Snow has all but been announced to be the new White House Press Secretary.

I always liked this guy. He has a disarming wit, a level head, and does not suffer fools, but does so in the nicest way possible.

He is also quick on his toes, and if he does not get nervous and succumb to flop sweat, he could really terrorize the White House press corps, and make them wish McClellan never left (I am sure they miss him already).

I just hope he has fun skewering the barrage of dumb questions coming his way. Should be fun.


Update: apparently it is now a done deal. Johsua Bolten seems very interested in pressing for personnel moves since his own promotion(like getting rid of Scott McClellan, for example), I wonder if he was instrumental in getting Snow on board also.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 25 April 2006 11:13 PM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 318 -- Black Gold, Texas Tea.

Oil, That Is-

Speaking of gasoline prices and boutique fuels and whatnot, here are some important facts on energy prices:

During the seventeen years between 1986 and 2002, the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil averaged $20.53/bbl. In 2003, the average price for oil reached $31.14/bbl., in 2004 it was $41.44/bbl., in 2005 it was $56.47/bbl., and during the first three months of 2006 the price has averaged $63.35/bbl. On Friday, the price rose above $75/bbl., an all-time high in nominal terms....

After adjusting for inflation, the price of oil is still below its peak of $85/bbl. in the second quarter of 1980. Yes, energy prices are rising rapidly, and consumers are spending $244 billion more on energy per year today than they did in 2001. However, total after-tax incomes are running $1.7 trillion higher. In other words, consumers have $1.48 trillion more to spend today - even after subtracting energy costs - than they did in 2001.

Here's a quick visual of those changes from 2001 to now:

aftertaxafterenergyincome.gif

The black circle is additional after-tax income Americans have added since 2001. The yellow circle is how much of that is eaten away by rising energy costs. Almost shockingly (shockingly, if we buy into the "record" gas price hysteria), inflation in the U.S., including energy prices, has been relatively tame, at or below most long-term historical averages. Take out energy prices, and inflation has been well below normal.

This makes the anecdotal stories of folks pawning off their possessions to pay for gas all that much more ridiculous.

Indeed, if anything, gas prices were deflated far too much, for far too long. Think back when crude hovered around 10 bucks a barrel in the late 1990s, with the price at the pump accordingly low. Funny how that time coincided with other unsustainable ridiculousness (dot com bubble, naivete about Islamic terror, etcetera). Looking at the big picture, over the course of more than two decades, gasoline is just now catching up to increases elsewhere:

gaspricesnotupthatmuch.gif

So, while certain members of Congress are busy feigning outrage about Lee Raymond's retirement package, and complaining about $36.1 billion in profits, and railing about the fact that ExxonMobil is #1 on the Fortune 500 list, and posturing about all the terrible price gouging by the big, bad oil companies, the truth is that gas prices just aren't up that much relative to other products and services.

At the same time, energy industry profit margins aren't even up that much, relative to other industries:

oilandgasprofitmargins.gif

Yet, we have far too many politicians in Washington who believe the solutions to higher energy prices are: 1) to prevent domestic exploration and production (ANWR), 2) block near-shore terminals for more efficient importation of liquefied natural gas, 3) implement windfall profits taxes on top of already-exorbitant energy industry taxes, and 4) otherwise demagogue the issue. Even governmental efforts to support renewable sources of energy are often just pork-fests that do little or nothing to lower the price at the pump in the short-run or long-run.

Meanwhile, let's just be thankful that we don't pay European (or even Asian) prices for gas:

2005gasolinetaxesforeign.gif

That being said, paying roughly 40 cents per gallon in taxes isn't chump change, either. What's even more scandalous than gasoline taxes paid by consumers is how much energy companies have paid in taxes over the years:

...over the past 25 years, oil companies directly paid or remitted more than $2.2 trillion in taxes, after adjusting for inflation, to federal and state governments—including excise taxes, royalty payments and state and federal corporate income taxes. That amounts to more than three times what they earned in profits during the same period, according to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and U.S. Department of Energy.

Yikes. Just who is price gouging whom, here?


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Previous Trivia Tidbit: Awesome Religion Maps.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 April 2006 04:34 PM · Comments (17)

Boutique Fuel Nonsense

President George W. Bush gave an excellent and comprehensive speech before the Renewable Fuels Association this morning about the fuel cost problems we are having today. He suspended purchases for the strategic oil reserves, and rightly noted that our oil addiction is a national security problem.

Another problem he addressed is the irrational requirements for different fuel blends to be sold in various regions of the country, and he stated that he is easing some of these restrictions.

These blends are known as 'boutique fuels', and they also add to the cost of fuel. Bush addressed this issue succinctly:

When you have an uncoordinated, overly complex set of fuel rules, it tends to cause the price to go up.

Federal law requires reformulated gasoline in the following nine metropolitan areas in order to reduce ozone smog: Baltimore, Chicago, Hartford, Houston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, and San Diego. These varying requirements make it difficult for our limited refining capacity (another issue Bush addressed) to efficiently utilize what oil we get, making regions susceptible to unnecessary shortages and expenses. One refinery fire, for example, can spike the price in one region for weeks before refineries are able to plug the gap.

A GAO report released last year lays out the boutique fuels problems:

"The proliferation of special gasoline blends has made it more complicated to supply gasoline and has raised costs, significantly affecting operations at refineries, pipelines, and storage terminals. At refineries, making these blends can require additional investment such as installing new processing equipment and the use of larger amounts of valuable components in the blending process—making it more costly to produce special gasoline blends. Once produced, different blends of gasoline must be kept separate throughout the shipping and delivery process, and the increased number of gasoline blends has reduced the capacity of pipelines and storage terminal facilities, which were originally designed to handle fewer products. For example, several pipeline companies reported that the capacity of their systems has been reduced because they have had to slow the speed of products through the pipelines in order to off-load special blends at specific locations, which raises the average cost of shipping gasoline. Similarly, storage terminals have not been able to fully utilize the volume of their storage tanks because the tanks were designed to handle fewer types of fuel and are often larger in size and fewer in number than necessary for handling smaller batches of special gasoline blends. Further, the proliferation of special blends has, according to several buyers from these wholesale markets, limited the number of suppliers of some of these fuels, posing challenges when traditional supplies are disrupted, such as during a refinery outage or pipeline delay. In the past, local supply disruptions could be addressed relatively quickly by bringing fuel from nearby locations; now, however, additional supplies of special gasoline blends may be hundreds of miles away."

Thanks to Knowledge Problem for this quote, and for this map showing the crazy patchwork of fuel requirements:

boutiquefuels.jpg
Source: Exxon-Mobil

Boutique fuels: a dumb idea that needs to go.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 25 April 2006 11:22 AM · Comments (6)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 317 -- Religion Maps.

Neato-

You really have to go check out some of the most neato and interesting maps I have seen in a long time, and I am a map connoisseur, so that's saying something.


Percentage of people who are religious (in an organized way):

religiousadherents.gif


Which religious denominations dominate which regions:

leadingchurchbodies.gif


Then you can break it down into specific denominations.


Methodist:

methodists.gif


Catholic:

catholics.gif


And much. much more, including Baptist, Lutheran, Jewish, Pentecostal, Mormon, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, Muslim, Unitarian, and so on.

Seriously, go check the larger versions out. Neat stuff. Incidentally, you can tell a lot about a religion or denomination by cross-referencing religion, race, age, geography, party strength locally, income, and so on, but that's for a future post.


Hat tip on this one to Marginal Revolution.

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: National Debt.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 April 2006 05:43 PM · Comments (4)

Quotational Therapy: Part 93 -- Marx's First Commandment.

Communist Property Taxes

You may be familiar with the Communist Manifesto already, but here is a refresher on the ten things Marx believed would be generally applicable in any advanced country adopting socialism:

marxistmarx.gif
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.

Let's focus on that first one. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

Private property. It's under attack in this country. There's the Kelo angle, for one. Then there's the matter of exorbitant property taxes in many states and locales.

Let's think about those for a second. Property taxes above a certain reasonable threshold, in my estimation, amount to a sort of soft feudalism, a system under which you can never truly own property at all.

Let's say you own a 100,000 dollar home, mortgage paid in full. You are retired. You have no serious income. You owe the government, each and every year, a few thousand dollars.

Now, let's say that, many years after you retire, your 100,000 dollar home becomes a 500,000 dollar home, due to a booming housing market in your region. Wham, though you're not suddenly rich, you are suddenly paying the property taxes of a wealthy individual. Tens of thousands of dollars worth. Over the course of a decade, one may end up paying nearly half (or more) of the home's value (at the time of purchase) in property taxes.

It's insane. When property taxes are high, you cannot truly own property. It's just that simple.

Paying for the right to keep something you already own. What 'e' word does that sound like?

Unfortunately, I searched high and low for a quotation or aphorism or speech on the subject, but there's very little on property taxes.

I am guessing the lack of great quotes about property taxes has to do with who traditionally paid property taxes.

Rich people.

But today, as record numbers of Americans own their own homes, property taxes are not just a rich people thing. When property taxes are high, you are really just renting your home from the government. That rent is going toward public purposes.

Marxism.

Now, a good chunk of property taxes wherever you go, around the country, goes toward funding public schools. Many people really like public schools. They are gladly willing to pay thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars in property taxes for those public schools.

Then there's all the folks with no kids in public schools, still paying the thousands of dollars into the system.

Think about how scandalous that ought to be. So very much property tax (rent) money, pumped into public school systems around the country, with such patchy (and often sub-par) results.

Why not cut out the middle man?

Why not allow all of those millions of individuals to choose where their education dollars go, in a competitive market for education? Why are so many people willing to put up with Marxist feudalism (high property taxes) and uncompetitive, unionized, dysfunctional schools (see Marx's 10th Commandment), simultaneously?

Property owners and people with children in public schools (a lot of overlap, there) all deserve better.

Anyway. Wisdom teeth out today. Fun times. Rant over.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 April 2006 05:12 PM · Comments (2)

Ted Kennedy Is A Classy Guy . . .

. . . when he wants to be.

Ted Kennedy told Larry King on CNN he was with Laura Bush on September 11, 2001, and had this to say:

"the phone rang in my office. It was my wife calling. The first plane had crashed ... I thought this is unusual, distressing, bizarre.

"And then the second plane crashed and we obviously knew it was something and tried to get a hold of Mrs. Bush and she was already in the building, in the Russell Building."

"And I remember going out to the door and seeing her walk down the corridor and probably the Secret Service had known just at this time but she was walking down. She was probably 50, 75 yards down the corridor walking in front of her Secret Service . . . [s]he came into our office. Senator Gregg from New Hampshire was there ...

"We sat down in that office at this time and she was enormously elegant, dignified, a woman of great composure, strength.”

[they] "didn't have a real idea of the grasp of the situation, the depth of it, but nonetheless she had her own sort of thoughts and you can imagine her thinking, her husband and children.”[emphasis added]

I found this to be genuinely touching. Good on you, Senator.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 23 April 2006 11:33 PM · Comments (10)

Sunday Night Heidi Weimaraner Puppy Update: 15½ Weeks Old.

Heidi is getting close to 4 months old, which means she'll start losing her baby teeth over the next two or three months.

She has a Snoopy kind of thing happening in this one:

gardensmirk.gif

She's a great little gal.

gardenprofile.gif

She's also a great little pal.

UPDATE: Just weighed her, and she's about 26 and a half pounds or so, although that number seems to fluctuate, hour by hour, day by day, up and down. She will end up at least twice as large as she is now. One vet said that you can take the weight at four months, double it, and add ten pounds to find the approximate early adult weight (before many dogs get old and fat).

--------------------------------------------------
Last week's update.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 April 2006 06:51 PM · Comments (6)

A Vast Leftwing Conspiracy?

What may have motivated Mary O. McCarthy to leak classified information about 'secret prisons' in Europe to the press? (Secret prisons that Rick Moran tells us nobody can seem to find. Wow, is the CIA good or what? Was it a sting operation against McCarthy? If the CIA is that good, we will never know.)

It could be that she is a rabid Democratic partisan, anxious to do damage to her boss, President George W. Bush. The proof? Lots of money donated to Democrats:

  mccarthycontributions.jpg

Let's give her credit for realizing Ohio was a critical battleground state.

She also rubs elbows with lots of Democratic enemies of the Bush administration, including Sandy Berger, convicted smuggler of secret documents, who appointed her Special Assistant to the President in 1998. She has also done work at the Center For Strategic And International Studies (CSIS), which has Wesley Clark and Anthony Zinni as senior advisers. Don't bother looking looking for her profile there, it has been stuffed down the memory hole. There is a cached version here.

McCarthy worked with General Zinni, who was commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command, and Richard Clarke, who was first national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection, and counter-terrorism, on issues related to terrorist camps in Afghanistan, and a supposed nerve gas factory in Sudan. McCarthy was skeptical of the intelligence leading to the bombing of that factory, according to the 911 Commission report.

She also worked on the National Security Council with a chap named Joe Wilson. Tom Maguire reminds us: "Let's duly note her overlap with Joe Wilson on the National Security Council from June 1997 to July 1998."

So noted.

Joe Wilson and Mary McCarthy are both West Africa experts, Wilson having served as Ambassador to Gabon, and McCarthy having written a book Social Change and the Growth of British Power in the Gold Coast (University Press of America, 1983). I am sure they had much to discuss, including Niger yellowcake possibly . . . some are wondering if McCarthy sent Wilson on his trip to Niger.

 911commissionbanner.jpg

What other motives might she have for trashing the President? How about covering her own backside - she was on watch against terrorist threats during the Clinton years, the 'golden age' of terrorism (Khobar Towers, USS Cole, Tanzania, Kenya, etc.), and needless to say the performance of that bunch was catastrophic. McCarthy made this statement before the 911 Commission decrying the lack of a terrorist warning system. I wonder if she knows the mirror looks back at her.

Not to mention she had been demoted from her post of influence when the Bush administration took over.

So, does this all point to some kind of conspiracy? All things being equal, never assume conspiracy when stupidity will suffice. These folks seem to have a visceral dislike for the President, and access to secrets and the press that can be used to embarrass him. They don't need to coordinate their efforts to decide what to do however, they probably all share the congenital impulse to break and/or bend the law for partisan purposes.

After all, never forget, the left serves higher purposes than a mere constitution. They don't need to discuss it, it is assumed.

P.S. - As for the CIA's investigation, "This is just the beginning."

Update: Thank you SA commenter Bat One for pointing us to this from Thomas Joscelyn, regarding McCarthy's questioning of the intel leading to the bombing of Sudan -

"But as Daniel Benjamin, another former NSC staffer, wrote in October of 2004, McCarthy had changed her tune by April 2000:

The report of the 9/11 Commission notes that the National Security staff reviewed the intelligence in April 2000 and concluded that the CIA's assessment of its intelligence on bin Laden and al-Shifa had been valid; the memo to Clinton on this was cosigned by Richard Clarke and Mary McCarthy, the NSC senior director for intelligence programs, who opposed the bombing of al-Shifa in 1998. The report also notes that in their testimony before the commission, Al Gore, Sandy Berger, George Tenet, and Richard Clarke all stood by the decision to bomb al-Shifa.

Now, of course, Clarke and Benjamin argue that: (a) the decision to strike al-Shifa was justified because (b) the intelligence connecting Iraqi chemical weapons experts to al Qaeda's chemical weapons efforts was sound, but (c) this doesn't mean that Iraq and al Qaeda had a significant relationship because (d) somehow this collaboration occurred without either party realizing that it was working with the other! Sound bizarre? It is.

Oh no, it is not bizarre at all when you are on Planet Moonbat, where logic and facts serve partisan interests rather than the other way around. Remember, al-Qaeda and Saddam never cooperated on anything, and the survival of the Democratic party pretty much depends on this 'fact'.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 23 April 2006 05:00 AM · Comments (4)

Half A Million Visitors. Or More?

Since March of 2005, WILLisms.com has accumulated 500,000 visitors, according to Site Meter.

But my server, mediatemple.net, shows different stats, going back to January 18, 2005, when I made my first real post here:

mediatemplestats.gif

So, yeah, that's obviously a lot more sessions and pageviews and hits than Site Meter is indicating.

Just for reference, some highlights of the top 100 referrals:

~60% of WILLisms.com sessions have had no referral. People have just typed in the address or used a bookmark on their web browser and gone to the site. Roughly 9.5% have come from google image searches. Nearly 3% have come from regular google searches. If you add up all the separate foreign google referrals, it would add up to a few percent or so. Same with the various yahoo searches.

Roughly 1.5% have come from Instapundit. Roughly .75% have come from Michelle Malkin. Neal Boortz is responsible for .32% of WILLisms.com sessions, and Wizbang isn't that far behind, at .26%.

File It Under has contributed .04% of the sessions, just under the .05% both Gateway Pundit and Wunderkraut have contributed, and well behind the .10% Viking Pundit has sent my way.

File It Under is, however, ahead of GOPinion, PoliPundit, Patrick Ruffini, Outside The Beltway, and Little Green Footballs.

Beyond that, we're outside the top 100 referrals.

And speaking of referrals, just a skim of the list of countries indicates that North Korea may very well be the only country on the entire planet not represented. The top countries after the United States:

1. Mexico
2. Canada
3. Malaysia
4. Germany
5. Saudi Arabia
6. Netherlands
7. Italy
8. United Kingdom
9. France
10. Australia

I am not entirely sure how meaningful the country stats are, though. It seems as if only a relatively small number are actually registered.

Oh, and here's some interesting and weird search terms:

searchterms.gif

Beyond those, it's a lot of combinations of the same. Oprah and Tom Cruise. Kanye and Bush. Etc. But there's also lots of encouraging search terms, like, "why+taxes+are+bad" and "social+security+ponzi" and "reggie+bush+overrated" and so on.

The most requested individual posts (by other computers), beyond the main index and monthly archives, are:

1. June 7, 2005: Carnival Of Classiness.
2. June 9, 2005: Social Security Reform Thursday.
3. June 8, 2005: Make Or Break Moment For John McCain.
4. January 20, 2005: 62,041,268.
5. March 29, 2005: Johnny Cochran Has Passed Away.
6. April 25, 2005: Carnival Of The Capitalists.
7. January 22, 2005: Roe v. Wade Turns 32.
8. March 21, 2005: More On The Babe Theory of Political Movements.
9. June 25, 2005: Rabid Donkeys On The Loose.
10. June 2, 2005: Jacques Chirac, Fin.

Not necessarily my best 10 posts there throughout the top 10, but definitely some good ones in there.

Anyway, yeah, half a million. Up a hundred grand from February 21.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 April 2006 07:19 PM · Comments (8)

Quotational Therapy: Part 92 -- Socialists.

Self Worth & Success

Socialists make the mistake of confusing individual worth with success. They believe you cannot allow people to succeed in case those who fail feel worthless.
kennethbaker.gif

-Kenneth Baker, July 13, 1986.

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 April 2006 11:35 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 316 -- National Debt.

Record Highs, Or Not? Both, Sort Of-

$8,349,277,698,254.18

That's our public debt, courtesy of the Bureau of the Public Debt. Yes, a governmental bureau with that name actually exists.

And surely you've seen or heard about the National Debt Clock in New York City. Ticking away, frantically. Retired briefly. Then out of retirement again.

Debt clocks are nice and all, but you might want to check out the Best Debt Clock In The USA, by the Skeptical Optimist.

It shows more than debt. It includes America's GDP for reference. Otherwise, it's just a number. The Skeptical Optimist's version also includes the Debt-to-GDP ratio, which, unsurprisingly, doesn't frantically increase every few seconds.

And you may want to also take a gander at the history of America's public debt as a percentage of our economy (.pdf):

historicalpublicdebt.gif

So, public debt isn't exactly at an all time high? Or is it?

That depends whether we are making a political point, or whether we are being intellectual honest. I tend to believe our national debt is too high right now, but I also like to keep things in perspective.

Not that we ought to compare ourselves to the fiscal mess that is Europe, but the U.S. ranks 35th in the world in terms of public indebtedness, which means we have a lower Debt-to-GDP ratio than Italy, France, Germany, Singapore, Israel, Belgium, India, Japan, and a panoply of other countries.

Let's also think about what comprises our debt, who holds our debt, and so on.

I own some of the debt, personally. I have some bonds I could cash whenever I please, in exchange for money. I tend not to be that worried about that particular portion of the National Debt. Public debt isn't that awful when you think about those millions of private individuals out there who own a little piece of it, earning small bits of reliable interest over time.

$4,828,395,378,375.03 of the National Debt is debt held by the public.

$3,520,882,319,879.15, meanwhile, is intragovernmental debt, which includes money for government trust funds, pensions, and Social Security.

Remember those hundreds of billions in IOUs the government owes itself on Social Security? Yeah, that's going into the National Debt.

That Social Security portion (also called the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund) is by far the largest individual portion of intragovernmental debt, as well as the fastest growing individual portion (.pdf) (see page 30, Table FD-3).

In other words, it all goes back to entitlement spending.

This is the same entitlement spending, so gargantuan already, that is also growing so rapidly. An unpleasant thought.

There's also been a lot of attention paid to foreign ownership of the debt, the implication being that China owns the United States now.

Well, here's how foreign ownership of U.S. public debt breaks down:

Of debt held by the public (as opposed to that intragovernmental debt discussed before), roughly 50% is owned by foreign investors, foreign governments.

Governments such as (.pdf):

foreigninvestmentindebt.gif

So China owns what amounts to 3% of America's National Debt. You can be the judge on just how egregious or not egregious that is.

Not all of that is held by foreign governments, either. About 2/5 of foreign-owned debt is held by private foreign investors, rather than central governmental banks (.pdf):

governmentorprivate.gif

What seems to get overlooked in these discussions is this: people and other entities are buying American debt because they ultimately believe in the strength and stability of America's economy.

Furthermore, the National Debt has increased primarily during a period of ridiculously low interest rates. So, essentially, these foreign investors (including governments) are loaning the U.S. government money at grotesquely cheap rates.

Two things:

1. We're just not hovering near any sort of scary or unprecedented debt breaking point, as many want us to believe.

2. It is not fair to pin responsibility for recent National Debt increases on President Bush or even a pork barrel loving GOP Congress. Look where the largest increases in spending have come over the last few years. It's not from bridges to nowhere; it is overwhelmingly from entitlement programs.

My suggestions:

1. Reform entitlement programs. Drastically.
2. Put a freeze on non-defense discretionary spending, as well, or at least index it to inflation.
3. Major tax reform to supercharge the economy.

Do those things and the Debt-to-GDP ratio will shrink faster than the National Debt Clock can roll the numbers backward.


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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Index Of Leading Economic Indicators.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 April 2006 05:57 PM · Comments (11)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Fifty-Three -- Chinese Pay-As-You-Go Failure.

reformthursdayblue.gif

Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays. Just because the status quo'ers got their way in 2005 does not mean the problem has gone away. Indeed, it's getting worse with each passing day. Thus, Reform Thursday continues.

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

This week's topic:

China's Demographic Crisis.

This week in the U.S., the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics released data showing that the annual number of American deaths dropped by nearly 50,000 in 2004— the sharpest decline in nearly 70 years:

deathratesfellsubstantially.gif

Meanwhile, life expectancy crept upward yet again:

lifeexpectancyrisesagain.gif

Awesome news.

It's a testament to science, medicine, and technology. The 25 year trend is also a testament to economic progress.

This is also terrible news for the long-term solvency of Social Security and other unreformed entitlement programs.

Pay-as-you-go funding systems, the pyramid schemes that they are, are doomed to fail. Everywhere. Always.

Unless you can somehow guarantee a combination of immigration, birthrates, and economic growth that indefinitely outpace medicine's ability to keep us alive longer, pay-as-you-go systems will fail. Period.

As The Economist points out, even China is learning this fact:

Over the next 10-15 years, the rapid ageing of the population will increasingly make itself felt. As the labour force begins to shrink, the current pay-as-you-go pension system will become unsustainable. Life expectancy in China is high by the standards of developing countries and is likely to go on rising…

The government has been trying to develop a new pension system, including elements of both pay-as-you-go and funding, whereby it invests on behalf of workers and then pays them pensions from their individual accounts. But it will be many years before China has a sufficiently mature bond and equity market to make this workable… With no expansion of pension coverage, liabilities for future pension payments could amount to 70% of current GDP.

China is particularly hard hit because of its "one child" policy:

chineseyouthdecline.gif

Increasing numbers of retirees, plus decreasing numbers of young workers, equals major problems.

Sound familiar?

That's because pay-as-you-go funding systems are not sustainable over the long run. Anywhere. Ever.

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).
-Week Thirty-Eight (Disability Benefits).
-Week Thirty-Nine (Broken Benefit Calculation Formula).
-Week Forty (German Social Security Disaster).
-Week Forty-One (Crumbling Pyramid Scheme).
-Week Forty-Two (Overpromising, Globally).
-Week Forty-Three (Demographic Wave).
-Week Forty-Four (The Jerk Store).
-Week Forty-Five (Defined Benefit Plans).
-Week Forty-Six (Even The Empty Promises Are A Bad Deal).
-Week Forty-Seven (Our Aging Population).
-Week Forty-Eight (The Tax Increases Required To Cover Social Security's Costs).
-Week Forty-Nine (Much Longer To Get Your Money Back From Social Security).
-Week Fifty (A Vote, At Last).
-Week Fifty-One (We Can Do Better).
-Week Fifty-Two (Socialist Security).

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 April 2006 02:24 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 315 -- Index Of Leading Economic Indicators.

Not So Shabby-

The Conference Board released this month's Index of Leading Economic Indicators this morning. Down 0.1%. Practically unchanged. The overall trend is pretty good, though (.pdf):

The leading index decreased slightly in March, and February's decrease was revised down due to data revisions in several underlying components. Despite the weakness in the leading index in February and March, its six month growth rate picked up to an average of 3.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter, up from an average growth rate of 2.7 percent in the fourth quarter, which was higher than its average growth of 1.8 percent in 2005. In addition, the strengths among the leading indicators have been widespread in recent months.

Remember when the networks used to show the following graph (.pdf) on a regular basis? And CNBC showed it several times a day, even weeks after its most recent release?

indexofleadingeconomicindic.gif

I do. I was somewhat of a CNBC junkie in the late 1990s. And they showed this graph so much, a few of the anchors started calling it the "LEI" or the "LEI Index" without any further explanation.

For those who were not CNBC junkies in the late 1990s, the Index of Leading Economic Indicators is supposed to put the economy into big picture perspective. So often, folks were chasing one or two economic indicators up and down, fretting and cheering the economy from one day to the next. The index takes into account the following: 1) manufacturers’ new orders for nondefense capital goods, 2) real money supply, 3) average weekly manufacturing hours, 4) manufacturers’ new orders for consumer goods and materials, 5) interest rate spread, 6) vendor performance, 7) index of consumer expectations, 8) average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance (inverted), 9) building permits, and 10) stock prices.

As an optimist, I tend to believe the economy is in decent shape currently-- and that it will remain in decent shape over the next few years. But government policies matter.

If Congress lets tax cuts expire (which is essentially a tax hike), continues blocking foreign investment in the U.S., erects trade barriers, demagogues relentlessly about "outsourcing" and "price gouging," and fails to reform any entitlement program, we could easily see an economic bonk.

How ridiculous and irritating would it be for Congressional Republicans to wreck the free market boom we're currently experiencing by turning into nativist, populist, anti-market, anti-reform tax-hikers? We already have Democrats for that.


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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Morality Of Skirting Taxes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 April 2006 01:21 PM · Comments (1)

Flashpoint: Strait of Hormuz

In addition to controlling huge reserves of the world's oil resources, Iran also controls the critical Strait of Hormuz chokepoint. How critical is it? The Energy Information Administration (a statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Energy) informs us in its Persian Gulf Oil and Gas Exports Fact Sheet:

In 2003, the vast majority (about 90%) of oil exported from the Persian Gulf transited by tanker through the Strait of Hormuz , located between Oman and Iran. The Strait consists of 2-mile wide channels for inbound and outbound tanker traffic, as well as a 2-mile wide buffer zone. Oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz account for roughly two-fifths of all world traded oil, and closure of the Strait of Hormuz would require use of longer alternate routes (if available) at increased transportation costs. Such routes include the approximately 5-million-bbl/d-capacity East-West Pipeline across Saudi Arabia to the port of Yanbu, and the Abqaiq-Yanbu natural gas liquids line across Saudi Arabia to the Red Sea. The 15.0-15.5 million bbl/d or so of oil which transit the Strait of Hormuz goes both eastwards to Asia (especially Japan, China, and India) and westwards (via the Suez Canal, the Sumed pipeline, and around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa) to Western Europe and the United States. [emphasis added.]

Iran is serious about using its strategic leverage here, in addition to its burgeoning nuclear program:

Tehran, Iran, Apr. 05 [2006] – The Supreme Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, described on Wednesday the Strait of Hormuz on Iran’s southern shores as “the economic lifeline” of the West and said it could be used to put pressure on Iran’s enemies, state television reported.

. . . The general said that the area was of “immense military and geo-strategic importance” and that it linked the seaways of three continents – Africa, Asia, and Europe.

“Many industrial countries are dependent on the energy from this region. Japan gets 70 percent of its oil from this region, likewise 70 percent of certain European countries’ energy comes from this region”, he said, adding that every day the equivalent of 20 million barrels of oil travelled through the Strait of Hormuz.

“The Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf are … the corner stone of [Iran’s] defence. The Strait of Hormuz counts as a point of economic control and pressure in the transfer of energy for aggressive powers from beyond the continent that want to endanger the security of the region”, General Safavi said.

Iran blockaded the Strait during the Tanker War of 1984-87, which drew in U.S. involvement when the U.S.S. Stark was hit by an Iraqi missile.

Take a look at the chokepoint:

Strait of Hormuz

Iran has placed Silkworm missiles on Abu Musa island, which it has militarily occupied since 1971 and is disputed territory with Oman, in addition to placing missiles on Qeshim island. A variation of the Soviet SS-N-2 Styx missile, the Iranian Navy used Silkworms during the Tanker War.

Silkworm Missile

Have a nice day!

See also Flashpoint: Iran

Posted by Ken McCracken · 20 April 2006 11:59 AM · Comments (3)

HappyNews.com

Are you sick of the drone of pessimism emanating from the establishment media? Are you more of an optimist than the left-wing-dominated media want you to be?

Well, then Mrs. WILLisms.com found a website for you.


HappyNews.com
.

Very classy.

happynews.gif

I like it.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 April 2006 09:26 AM · Comments (3)

North Korea: U.S. Is Counterfeiting Its Own Money

No, this is not from The Onion, but Reuters:

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has charged the United States with counterfeiting its own currency and shifting the blame to Pyongyang, adding artists with "blood-shot eyes" in Japan are making cartoons attacking Pyongyang's leaders.

A spokesman for the Ministry of People's Security said in a statement the North had obtained "shocking evidence" Washington and Tokyo are producing false material that gives the impression Pyongyang is a criminal state, the North's KCNA news agency said late Wednesday.

Now where in the world would anyone get the idea that North Korea is a 'criminal state'?

Apparently, it's all George Bush's fault! But you knew that.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 20 April 2006 03:53 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 314 -- The Morality Of Cheating On Taxes.

Taxes For Thee, But Not For Me-

Conservatives hate taxes. Liberals love them.

Conservatives admire Adam Smith and Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan. Liberals admire Karl Marx and Noam Chomsky and Che Guevara.

That's the dichotomy we all know and love.

To be a socialist, or not to be a socialist. That is the question.

But fiscal issues aren't everything in politics; there's also the question of ethics, morals, faith, and values.

When, in 2004, a fifth or so of exit poll respondents said they voted for President Bush because of morals/values (those 22% who said "moral values" was the most important issue of the election went 4-1 for Bush), some of them clearly meant faith in God. Others just chose the category because it was a vague category that generically covered a little bit of everything.

So which group is more likely to think it's morally wrong to cheat on your taxes? The group that hates taxes? Or the group that loves them?

Well, liberals are actually more likely than conservatives to say that not reporting all of your income on your taxes is not a moral issue (.pdf):

moralityoftaxes.gif

Interesting. And somewhat surprising. One might assume that more conservatives would believe it is actually a positive good to not pay the full amount in taxes, as a protest against big government leviathanism.

One might also assume that liberals believe it's not a moral issue to skirt paying taxes because they don't want to fund "Bush's war" or "global warming" or "inequality" or whatever other cause du jour is most urgent to the lefties at the moment. Well, one might be wrong.

If you look at responses on a variety of issues (.pdf), liberals are far less likely to take a stand on much of anything. On abortion, for example, a plurality of liberals say it's not a moral issue, one way or another.

Still, one can't help but wonder if some liberals (mega-wealthy ones like George Soros, for example) push for tax increases they never intend to pay personally, knowing all those "rich" conservatives will be good citizens and sticklers to the tax code.

Source:
Pew Center (.pdf).

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: An artist and a commenter named Michael Tam are misleading you; here's the truth.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 April 2006 02:08 PM · Comments (7)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 52.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

ronaldinho.gif

The actual caption:

Two-time World Footballer of the Year Ronaldinho believes Brazil can live up to their billing as World Cup favourites and defend the trophy at this summer's finals in Germany.(AFP/Filippo Monteforte)

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

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

Last week's photo:

amehnininjadad.gif

Winners from last week:

1.

Hoodlumman:

Hasan drew the short straw and was forced to check the temperature as the thermometer shortage of 2006 showed no signs of ending.


2.

Cox:

"If this is Uranium, why does it smell like goat cheese?"


3.

bullwinkle:

Yes, Mr. President, we have captured Walt Disney! As soon as he's thawed we will have some serious entrants for our "Holocuast never happened" cartoon contest.


Honorable Mention #1

Hoodlumman:

"Using this highly diluted solution of Spanish Fly and chick peas, just crop dust the areas where you will speaking to get your approval ratings above 15%."


Honorable Mention #2

Ken Summers:

"See? You didn't drop your contact lens in the patient, it's right here."


Honorable Mention #3

radio free fred:

"This Is Where We Store The Fruit-Cake."


Honorable Mention #4

Rodney Dill:

"No Soup for you!"


Captioning is futboltastic.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 April 2006 09:09 AM · Comments (12)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 313 -- Spending Too Much On The Military?

Too Much Mandatory Spending-

Last night, Hoodlumman directed me to this very neat graphic titled "Death and Taxes," which offers a neat visual of how our tax money is spent:

deathandtaxes.gif

There's an extremely large version over at deviantART, as well.

Anyway, it's a look at America's 2004 Federal Budget. It's very, very well-done.

It's also flawed in a major way.

Setting aside that the final numbers all ended the year different from the depiction (not the artist's fault), the artist tries to make the point that the United States spends too much on the military and not enough on other priorities. (Here):

militarynonmilitary.gif

In order to make such a claim, the artist uses a misleading sleight of hand to exclude mandatory/entitlement spending such as Medicare and Social Security from the picture, then has the nerve to claim that President Bush is misleading folks for including those gargantuan programs in his budget report.

Well, here's the truth.

Even if we do pretend entitlement programs did not exist in FY2004, far more discretionary dollars went to non-military spending than expected (.pdf):

budgetsummary2004.gif

Again, not the artist's fault. He made his graphic with the best information available at the time, prior to the money actually being spent.

It is, however, the artist's fault that his entire otherwise awesome graphic is worthless without putting mandatory spending into perspective.

So, let's put it into perspective (click for a larger version):

deviantrevision.gif

And, actually, to be truly proportional to budget reality, we'd need to shrink down the circles in the top left and increase the circles in the top right just a bit.

If that defense spending circle is worth $398 billion (something the artist assumed at the time), then the entitlement spending circles are proportional.

And one more tidbit:

According to the CIA World Factbook, the United States spent roughly 4% of GDP on the military, which positioned America in 26th place in the world in military spending as a percentage of its economy. Despite that relatively low level of spending (the U.S. spent in the double-digits throughout much of the 20th century), the United States still spent more than six times more than second place China in actual dollars. That's, perhaps, one reason why many left-wingers at home and abroad want to destroy America's economy with high taxes, overzealous environmental and labor regulations, and other Marxist ideology-in-action. America's enormous, booming economy allows for substantial force projection in the world, all at a relatively low cost.

Unfortunately, as those mandatory spending elements, which, for the most part, were set into action under the New Deal and Great Society, grow unsustainably over the next few decades, American taxpayers will no longer be able to choose priorities on the top left or top right.

It's sinister, the lack of entitlement reform in this country.

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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Texas Tax Reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 April 2006 11:04 AM · Comments (9)

Thanks To All The Guest Bloggers.

Thanks to WunderKraut and Hoodlumman and Rob Port (and of course, Ken) for holding down the fort over these past couple of weeks. Lots of fresh content is on its way.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 April 2006 04:08 PM · Comments (4)

Quotational Therapy: Part 91 -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, On Trade.

On The Benefits Of Trade

ralphwaldoemerson.gif
The philosopher and lover of man have much harm to say of trade; but the historian will see that trade was the principle of Liberty; that trade planted America and destroyed Feudalism; that it makes peace and keeps peace, and it will abolish slavery. We complain of its oppression of the poor, and of its building up a new aristocracy on the ruins of the aristocracy it destroyed. But the aristocracy of trade has no permanence, is not entailed, was the result of toil and talent, the result of merit of some kind, and is continually falling, like the waves of the sea, before new claims of the same sort.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Young American," a lecture read before the Mercantile Library Association, Boston, February 7, 1844. Read the entire thing here.

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Instant Democrats

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

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 April 2006 12:47 PM · Comments (3)

Sunday Night Heidi Weimaraner Puppy Update: 14½ Weeks Old.

The two personalities of Heidi.

twopicsofheidiinone.gif

Fun times.

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

Last week's update.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 April 2006 09:35 PM · Comments (9)

Health Nazis Strike Again

The Health Nazis are hard at it again. It seems that they are now worried about teenage girls and eating disorders. They want cheerleaders to start covering their midriffs...and I thought there was an obesity epidemic going around...***

Australian cheerleaders have been banned from baring midriffs by officials of the sport who fear displays of skin may encourage eating disorders.

Gymnastics Australia has ordered cheerleading troupes to find new uniforms by the end of the year.

Nerine Cooper, national cheerleading manager for Gymnastics Australia, said the decision, which followed similar moves in the United States and elsewhere, was needed because cheerleaders often performed in front of family groups.

"We don't want girls to feel under pressure to lose weight because of uniforms," she told Sydney's Sunday Telegraph.

Yeah right. Because we all know that teenage girls get ALL their standards of beauty from what the latest cheerleading outfit looks like. All the waifs on EVERY TV show and in EVERY magazine have nothing in the world to do with what they perceive as beautiful.

I wonder how long until we see our first lawsuit against Seventeen or Cosmo for causing some poor kids eating disorder? Hey, don't laugh. 10 years ago people laughed at the idea of suing McDonalds.

In a related story: An All Points Bulletin has been issued for WunderKraut for aiding the spread of the obesity epidemic. If you see this man:

Yes that is me

Please tell him to put his shirt back on because the sight of his whale like body may cause other men to go out and value-size their next McDonalds order, thereby directly leading to their deaths from obesity. Plus he is scaring the kids.

*** Yes I know eating disorders are a serious thing that many girls/women/boys/men go through, but come on...

WunderKraut is morbidly obese at WunderKraut.com

Posted by Wunderkraut · 16 April 2006 05:54 PM · Comments (16)

Happy Easter.

happyeaster.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 April 2006 12:32 PM · Comments (1)

U.S. Military Operations Underway In Iran?

This actually sounds more like Iranian paranoia than anything, but just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you . . .

The United States should be working to destabilize the Iranian regime through diplomatic, military, political and covert means. Given that Iran is working hard using these methods to destabilize Iraq, turnabout is fair play.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 15 April 2006 03:36 PM · Comments (2)

Taxes As They Should Be

Rumor has it that taxes need not be postmarked until midnight, April 17th this year, but today is APRIL 15th which of course is the traditional tax day.

If only it were like this:

postcard.jpg

I'd like to take this opportunity to recycle a little rant I have at my old blog called Flat Tax Cure For Oppression:

I have always thought that the federal tax code 'disenfranchises' citizens by being so large and complex that no ordinary citizen could possibly take the time to properly understand it.

I don't mean literal disenfranchisment by being deprived of the vote, but a disenfranchisement of a citizen being alienated from their own governing process by a set of laws so impenetrable, that taxpayers must often hire a guru such as an accountant or tax lawyer just to figure out what to pay the government. In effect, you must pay an accountant or lawyer 'tax' just for the privilege of not screwing yourself over while figuring out what you owe. It is a form of minor oppression, but an oppression nonetheless, that puts a 'priestly caste' between the citizen and an understanding of their own government.

Take at look at the sheer size of the United States Code sometime. Or the CFRs, the Code of Federal Regulations. We live in a technically advanced society governed by the rule of law, and I understand that the size, breadth and depth of federal law is necessary. The downside of this is that it makes good citizenship harder and harder all the time, because it becomes harder and harder for the good citizen to even know what the rules are that governs his conduct.

Therefore the simplicity of the flat tax alone is a virtue sufficient to recommend it, regardless of what other disadvantages it may have. The tax process is the average citizen's most direct contact with the federal government - and so what a wonderful starting place for simplification it is.

Breaching the gap between citizen and government is only one of the myriad benefits of flat taxes, as explained in this analysis by Will Franklin.

I realize that a 29-cent stamp wouldn't get Joe Sixpack's taxes very far, but I love the young Elvis stamp!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 15 April 2006 02:58 AM · Comments (7)

Happy Berfday, Will Franklin!

happybirthday.jpg

President George W. Bush sends his regards:

I had no idea what a mess Social Security was until I started surfing the internets and came across WILLisms.com. I'd like to wish Will a happy birthday, and HOOK 'EM HORNS buddy! Heheheheheheh."

WILL adds:
Thanks, everyone. And what an honor to hear from the Commander-in-Chief himself.

That cake looks a little bit like the one Mrs. WILLisms.com made for me:

bdaycake06.gif

And let's not forget the mountain of gifts:

presentpyramid.gif

I have opened four of them. Still have many, many to go.

Fun times.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 14 April 2006 12:26 AM · Comments (14)

Creatures Of Habit

Something happened the other day that threw me for a loop. It made me think and I have been thinking about it for the past day and a half and it finally hit me this morning in the shower.

We, you and I, are all creatures of habit. Gee, you don't say? I know, I know. That was not very profound, but after what happened the other day, I started noticing how I do things. You know, what steps I take to get something done. It was rather frightening to see how predictable I am and seeing that, how utterly boring I am.

Every morning the alarm goes off at 6:20 AM. I roll out of bed, grab a pair of underwear from my sock drawer and turn the shower on. In the shower I bathe the left side of my body first, then my right, then my right leg, then my left leg. I wash my face and then my hair. Then I shave. Even that has been ritualized. I lather the shaving cream on and start with the right side of my face, then left, then upper chin, then upper lip (center, right, left) and finally under my chin and jaw line. Getting dressed I put my right leg in first then my left. Same with my shirt. I brush my teeth, kiss the wife and kids and head to work with a pop-tart for breakfast.

This happens EVERY SINGLE work day. Every day. The same thing. Nothing changes. If my life were a computer program, someone would have written a programming script to handle the first 30 minutes of each work day morning. When the alarm goes off I should be able to hit Ctrl-b to jump to where I am dressed and in my car on the way to work. But instead, I have to manually go through the steps each and every morning.

The end of my days are just as predictable. Luckily, my work day is anything but predictable and routine.

That is until lunch.

That brings me to the other day.

There is a Subway® 30 steps from the back entrance to our office building. It being so close and because I could eat a sandwich everyday of my life, I am a frequent customer. The three girls that work there (the manager and two helpers) are extremely friendly and they know their customers. Just walking in draws hellos and jokes. They always know how I like my sandwiches and their friendly smile is a bright spot in my day.

So imagine my shock and horror when I bopped on in the other day to find new people. Where were the familiar faces? Where was the friendly banter? Who the hell were these people and what had they done with the people who were supposed to be there? I asked them these questions and I got an answer that the manager is opening a new location, one girl quit and the other transferred so we are your new people.

It just was not the same. Something felt wrong. I ordered and enjoyed my meal, but something just did not feel right. It sounds silly, but a small wave of depression swept across me. I know it is ridiculous, but it happened. Why? I was not friends with the now gone workers. I never had a beer with them. I barely knew their names and that was only because of their name tags. But in some ways I felt I knew them. I knew they had kids and one was having problems in a relationship. But still, I did not KNOW them. Yet, I was sad when I found out they were gone.

Creatures of habit.

When I gave up blogging a month or so ago, I walked away from something I had done every day for over a year. I just walked away. Yet I was sad. There was a feeling of loss. But now, even just one month away from making that decision, it seems like a long time ago and I am left wondering, "Was I ever a blogger? Strange. It seems like I recall doing that, but it was so long ago".

The same with my Subway® friends.

Did you even ever exist?

WunderKraut is trapped in an infinite loop at WunderKraut.com

Posted by Wunderkraut · 13 April 2006 12:38 PM · Comments (5)

Who's to Blame?

Here's a nice, short article that accurately reflects my views on high gasoline prices.

Who's to blame?

[B]ut blaming Big Oil for high gas prices is a little like blaming McDonald's for obesity.
That's very correct. But don't let that get in the way of political grandstanding and a sound-bite collection convention.
Big Oil makes its money by pumping oil out of the ground, not refining and selling it as gasoline. Of Exxon's mammoth haul, only a tiny fraction came from making and selling gas in the U.S.
This is where most anti-Big Oil tiraders stick their heads in the ground. OPEC and rising foreign demand on limited supplies? You can't get votes and write a screed about that on a protest sign!!! Stay local! Bitch and moan to your congressman!!

American politicians love to grill big oil execs about the ethics of their business. Stop for a moment and let that irony soak in. Also note that large percent of our Senators and congressfolk probably own stocks or bonds from... oil and gas companies (hint: they're a very solid investment - especially if you like dividends).

But, what they never do is mandate higher mileage standards for cars.

Because Americans love large SUVs, trucks and cars with high horsepower. And all of those things aren't fuel efficient. So rather than look at ourselves, realize that we're the problem and start burning less fuel on our end, we applaud our representative bloviators for really stickin' it to those evil oil CEOs.

So in summary, tired of high gas prices? You can drive a smaller, more efficient car and/or invest in oil and gas companies to recoup some of the expenses of driving.

Just think, with the money you'll save and earn, you can buy that 400HP Corvette you've always wanted!

Cross-posted at File it Under.

Ken adds: one of the big reasons that oil prices are so high is that too much of the world's oil reserves are controlled by jerks. Hugo Chavez, the Saudis, the Iranian mullahs, and Vladimir Putin are all overt enemies of the United States, or crypto-enemies in one fashion or another. They all have an interest in using oil as leverage against us.

Sorry Hoodlumman, bet you had no idea anyone would tamper with your post.

Posted by Hoodlumman · 13 April 2006 10:21 AM · Comments (3)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 51.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

amehnininjadad.gif

The actual caption:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) and Gholamreza Aghazadeh (L), head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation visit the Natanz uranium enrichment facilities, February 2006. The administration of US President George W. Bush would likely spark a costly and unpredictable conflict should it strike Iran's suspected nuclear sites, analysts said after reports that such strikes were under review.(AFP/Mehr News-HO/File)

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, April 18. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

kissingbabies.gif

Winners from last week:

1.

Hoodlumman:

After a good-luck kiss from her long-time coach, Maria was tossed a record 36 feet, 4 inches.


2.

SgtFluffy:

MMMMMMM....taste like chicken


3.

Rob B.:

Even after Rep. Cynthia McKinney went for the bald look, she forgot her Congressional pin. This, of course, lead to her call for action against the mexican government for years of "racist explotation" after Mexican Presidental hopeful Roberto Madrazo kissed her and told her that he loved her work in "Good Times."


Honorable Mention

Rodney Dill:

'tis better to have loved a short girl than never to have loved a tall.


Captioning is ninjatastic.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 April 2006 10:50 AM · Comments (30)

Frost Fairy

Why don't I blog more than I do? Because I am often busy working on stuff like this:

frostfairy.jpg

Click to enlarge a perhaps NOT ENTIRELY WORKSAFE full version.

This is a WIP and not finished, but you get the idea. Done in Photoshop 7 with a Wacom tablet.

You can see more of my stuff here.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 12 April 2006 12:23 AM · Comments (10)

Iran Has Enriched Uranium

Drudge posted the headline 'Iran Joins Nuclear Club' today, on the news that the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization announced that it had enriched uranium.

At first glance it looks like 'wow, Iran has the bomb', but it is nothing close to that. Iran has enriched some uranium to 3.5% U-235, which is usable in nuclear energy production, but nowhere close to the 90% or so enrichment required for weapons.

Iran only has a reputed 164 centrifuges used to enrich uranium in operation right now, but has plans to have 3,000 online by the end of the year. That is when real, large-scale weapons enrichment can begin, and we can really start worrying.

See Flashpoint:Iran for more details on Iran's nuclear program.

Update: Commenter Zsa Zsa asks where the centrifuges come from. According to this report, Iran builds its own centrifuge components, and then assembles them in a facility at Natanz specifically for that purpose (click to enlarge):

natanz.jpg

Posted by Ken McCracken · 11 April 2006 07:14 PM · Comments (3)

Back To The Future: Cheney Shot During Hunting Trip

. . . back in the late 1990's apparently, while Cheney was still an executive working for Satan Halliburton.

And who is 'breaking' this rather old story? The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, the same paper that broke the Whittington shooting story.

Hat tip to intrepid commenter/poster 2Hotel9 at SayAnything.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 11 April 2006 06:16 PM · Comments (1)

Quotational Therapy: Part 90 -- Instant Democrats?

This probably wasn't a slip of the tongue.

QT90.jpg

"Marches will only get you so far. There has to be an electoral component to get the Republicans out of the majority."
It seems for some, the issue isn't really about the rule of law, border security, or economics.

Armando Navarro sees millions of potential democrat voters who's sole purpose will be to vote out Republicans.

Amnesty will generate lots of new Democratic votes. Armando knows this.

Also from the article:

Voter registration and citizenship education initiatives are set to begin in several states after a "Day Without An Immigrant" campaign planned for May 1, an event that asks immigrants nationwide to stay home from work and school, and refrain from buying U.S. products.
New proposal. A day without illegal labor.

For one day (or many more) no U.S. business or individual will hire an illegal alien employee for work of any type. What effect would this lack of demand have on the flow of immigrants to the U.S? How many millions of dollars would be lost towards Mexico's economy? Who's economy would be hurt worse?

I know which one I'd bet would endure for the long-haul.

Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Greed is Good

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

Hoodlumman usually blogs (legally) at File it Under.

Posted by Hoodlumman · 10 April 2006 11:16 PM · Comments (5)

Life Phases - For Geeks

***Updated***

I had a very nice opening paragraph written about my kids and watching them grow up and remembering back to when I was a kid and stuff like that. But then after writing these phases I realized that only a certain group of kids go through these particular phases: geeks/nerds. Oh well, this pretty much sums up my life.

Phase I: Discovery of the Beatles

This hit me around age 13. I found my Mom and Dad's old Beatles records. I played Rubber Soul and was hooked. What inevitably ensues is a rush to find out as much obscure Beatles trivia and then to bore your parents and friends with said trivia.

Such as:

Kid: You know that the Beatles were a huge influence on (name ANY generic rock band)

Friend: Uh huh...

Kid: Yeah, they totally rocked for their time and every band in the world owes something to them.

Friend: Rolls eyes.

There may also be violent arguments about whether or not The Monkeys were a real band or not.

Phase II: Discovery of Mel Brooks Movies

This is the first phase that involves reciting verbatim all of Mel's movies. Don't forget such classics as Young Frankenstein and Blazzing Saddles. Don't get me wrong, I love both movies and own them both and still make my wife roll her eyes by quoting them. It is just that going around quoting fart jokes or being appalled/shocked/humored at how Mel Brooks can get away with using the N-word can get on peoples nerves. Some of your friends will think you are huge geek as well.

Phase III: Discovery of Monty Python

This phase and the previous phase almost go hand in hand. About the time I saw a Mel Brooks movie for the first time, I also saw an episode of Monty Python on public television. They were showing almost all the old episodes late at night. I was flipping channels to get to MTV when I passed a naked woman on PBS. Naturally, I HAD to watch that channel to find out why there was a naked woman on TV and would they show more naked women. I found out that they liked to use old vintage "porn" shots in some of Terry Gilliam's montages. But a few episodes in and I was hooked. Then it was watching The Holy Grail and The Life of Brian and then quoting all the sketches and lines. I even had the complete scripts for each show.

Needless to say, my parents and most of my friends did not "get" the joke. But I found a small group of fellow nerds who did and all one had to say was "The larch" and everyone would start laughing.

Phase IV: Discovery of Led Zeppelin

I was actually older when this happened to me, but for most kids it happens around the middle of High School. It can be accompanied by first time pot smoking or trying to impress some girl. This phase is much like the Beatles phase. You collect posters, CD's and trivia about the band. You quickly explain away all the magic or Druid/Celtic messages in the songs. You bring up how cool it is that they reference The Lord of the Rings books. Of course you buy a guitar and learn to play the opening to Stairway to Heaven and then play the opening until your parents ears bleed.

I know that there are many, many more phases that kids go through, but having gone to a geeky college, I can tell you for a fact that most of my buddies went through these phases. At the time, you felt very intense about whatever it was you were into. I remember thinking and saying "If they only understood how awesome the Beatles were..." No wonder I did not get many dates in high school.

Quoting movies continued through college and I still find myself quoting them when a particular life moment just screams for a Simpsons quote, a Monty Python quote or a Pulp Fiction quote.

*Sigh* I guess I am still a geek at heart.

I almost forgot to add this all important phase:

Phase V: Playing D&D or Any Other Game That Involves Dice and Hit Sheets

I never played D&D...BUT I was big into Squad Leader. It was a board based squad level World War II game. The game had the interchangeable terrain boards with a grid of hexes and you rolled dice to determine if you hit and the damage done. It was great. We would set a point amount to spend "building" our forces (each type of unit had a point value) then we would spend hours and hours setting up and planning our strategy. Then we would play for a total of 45 minutes. Why only that long? Well, by then who ever was playing as the Germans had already wiped out all the opposing US tanks and then it was no fun. At least German vs Russian was a little more balanced.

So it was not D&D and we were not the geeks who talked about their Level 5 Elf with +5 Melee Attack. But, we were geeks who talked about tank side armor values, whether or not a artillery piece counted as a vehicle for hit purposes and got excited when our .50 machine gun crew spotted infantry moving in the open.

WunderKraut no longer writes at WunderKraut.com because he is a bureaucratic tool and does not have time anymore.

Posted by Wunderkraut · 10 April 2006 08:20 PM · Comments (8)

Army Reenlistment Is Up

We should be proud to know that reenlistment among our young people is strong in the U.S. Army:
The Army was 15% ahead of its re-enlistment goal of 34,668 for the first six months of fiscal year 2006, which ended March 31. More than 39,900 soldiers had re-enlisted, according to figures scheduled to be released today by the Army.
And also . . .
"The Army has met or exceeded its goals for retention for the past five years, records show."
This is bad news for the left, which has been peddling the lie that no one will reenlist knowing they will be sent to that quagmire in Vietnam, er, Iraq.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 9 April 2006 11:57 PM · Comments (5)

Sunday Night Heidi Weimaraner Puppy Update: 13½ Weeks Old.

Heidi, the Weim pup, is around 23 pounds all of the sudden.

heidibartoncreek.gif

She has perfected sitting, staying, and coming. She is also getting close to perfect at rolling over. There's still some work to go on "heeling."

She is also officially faster than any human, as of very recently.

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

Last week's update.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 April 2006 10:54 PM · Comments (4)

Michael Yon: There Is A Civil War In Iraq

When coiffured talking heads in Washington say there is a civil war in Iraq, it is very easy to dismiss. These people too often have an ideological investment in Iraq's failure (and zero understanding of what is actually happening over there).

But when Michael Yon says there is a civil war in Iraq, you should at least take notice:

I checked my website to see if the United Arab Emirates had shut me down for saying Iraq was in a Civil War. They had not. More interestingly, though a few military leaders politely disagreed with the statement that Iraq is in a state of civil war, a larger number of Iraq-experienced military officers agreed (off-the-record) that Iraq is in a civil war, and thanked me for saying it.
His whole post is about much more than Iraq - he covers his recent forays into Thailand and the UAE, and takes a little jab at the U.S. over the ports deal . . .

Posted by Ken McCracken · 8 April 2006 05:10 PM · Comments (0)

Junk The Junk Science

I hate Junk Science. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? I am talking about the studies that come out and pretty much say we are all screwed and we are all going to die!!!!!!!!

OMG!! Get the Government in here! SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!!!!! Think of the CHILDREN!!! We need a billion dollar government grant!!!!! DO SOMETHING! Doom! Gloom! Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!!!

I can tell from the looks I am getting that you are with me. What? You didn't know I could see you while you read this blog? Ain't technology great?

Anyway, back to Junk Science. Steven Milloy runs a website called JunkScience.com where he debunks or links to studies that debunk Junk Science. FoxNews.com often posts articles written by him and today he has a rundown entitled: Top Ten Junk Science Stories of the Past Decade

The Top Ten are:

  • Dioxin will kill you

  • Cell phone-induced brain cancer

  • Electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) cause cancer

  • Pesticides and PCBs disrupt hormones which cause bad things to happen

  • Soot in ambient air causes tens of thousands of premature deaths every year

  • Obesity statistics

  • Bio-tech and genetic engineering

  • PETA: Milk drinking makes for future felons

  • Acrylamide in French fries will kill us all!

  • Global Warming
  • It is a good list, but there are some others to add as well.

    Remember when eating eggs would kill you on the spot? That was sometime in the late 1980's. If you ate an egg, you were taking your life in your own hands. But now we have "The incredible, edible egg!". Ok, maybe they aren't as bad for you as we said. Our bad, sorry. It's a good thing too, I love eggs.

    How about fiber will help reduce colon cancer? Remember the great Phil Hartman sketch on Saturday Night Live for Colon Blow cereal? Now a recent study says:

    Taken together, the results from two clinical studies - the Polyp Prevention Trial and the Wheat Bran Fiber Study - failed to show any evidence that adopting a low-fat, high-fiber, fruit- and vegetable-enriched eating plan reduces the recurrence of colorectal polyps

    Opps.

    Then there is the disputed study about autism and vaccinations that says that maybe, just maybe the rise in autism is a function of better diagnosis. 30 years ago, autistic kids were lumped in with those suffering from mental retardation and mental illness. Are there really that many new cases of autism? Or do we just know what to look for now?

    The point is that people and the MSM latch onto whatever study comes down the pike that promises doom and gloom. I know people who will tell you with a straight face that they will not drink anything with aspartame because that stuff will kill you or who won't eat hotdogs because they cause cancer or who won't get their kids immunized because of the autism fear. Look, if you want to have whacked out ideas about things that only affect you, have at it buddy, but when your kooky fears start affecting others and more importantly your kids, it's time to stop drinking the Kool-Aid and think for a change.

    In the spirit of Junk Science I hereby proclaim that: BREATHING WILL KILL YOU! Think about it...EVERYONE who dies was breathing BEFORE they died....

    Think about it.

    WunderKraut once blogged over at WunderKraut.com but has lost his blogging Mojo. Plus "The Man" is keeping him down.

    Posted by Wunderkraut · 7 April 2006 11:14 AM · Comments (7)

    Playboy Hits Jakarta, Is Porn Good For Islam?

    American porn takes on the Muslims world...

    JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- A toned-down edition of Playboy magazine went on sale Friday in Indonesia, defying threats of protests by Islamic hardliners who called the publication a form of moral terrorism in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

    The magazine does not feature nude women, and its photos of female models in underwear are no more risque than those in other magazines already for sale in the country. More explicit photos appear daily in local tabloids.

    Protesters hit the streets in towns across Indonesia when the magazine announced in January it was planning a local version, but it remains to be seen whether demonstrations will pick up again after people have read it.

    One hardline group, the Islamic Defenders Front, pledged to forcefully remove the magazines from shops.

    "The first edition might be tame, but it will get more vulgar," said group spokesman Tubagus Muhamad Sidik. "Even if it had no pictures of women in it, we would still protest it because of the name."

    Muslim leader Yusuf Hasyim said the magazine posed more of a threat to Indonesia than the terrorism from al Qaeda-linked militants that has killed more than 240 people in the sprawling country in recent years.

    "This is a kind of moral terrorism that destroys the way of the life of the nation in a systematic and long-term way," state news agency Antara quoted Yusuf Hasyim as saying, calling on Muslim youth not to attack shops selling the magazine.

    You read that correctly. Islamic zealots actually think that pictures of women in their panties are worse than terrorism.

    All joking aside, this publisher is a brave soul. Remember that cartoons published in a Danish newspaper through the Muslims world into violence and riots. Just imagine the risk he's taking by publishing pictures of Arabic women in their panties.

    I sometimes wonder, though, if it isn't people like this publisher who will end up being instrumental in winning the war on terrorism. It seems to me that spreading western culture to the oppressed middle east is a good way to push back said oppression. People in Jakarta are going to hear their leaders proclaim that this magazine is "worse than terrorism," and then they're gonig to look at the actual magazine and think to themselves that maybe their leaders are exaggerating. After all, for someone who lives with terrorism in their lives it is hard to reconcile pictures of scantily-clad babes with being as bad as innocent women and children being blown up. And once this realization begins to dawn on the populace in the middle-east how long will it be until they begin questioning their leader's other proclamations about the "evils" of the "great Satans" in the west?

    If western culture can get a toe-hold in the Muslim world (and I'm not just talking about pornography - not that this watered-down version of Playboy is "porn" by western standards - but also books, movies, music, plays, etc.) I can't help but feel that it will have a positive impact in that it will expose them to new ideas and perhaps lure them into becoming a modern liberal society.

    Of course, I'm simplifying things a bit as cultural changes like this can take generations, but you see my point.

    Playboy may well be the best thing to have happened to Indonesia in a long, long time.

    Posted by Rob Port · 7 April 2006 11:04 AM · Comments (2)

    Quotational Therapy: Part 89 -- Greed Is Good.

    And Capitalism Is Good Too-

    gordongecko.jpg

    "The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good.

    Greed is right.

    Greed works.

    Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.

    Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind.

    And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA."

    Oliver Stone seems to have intended his movie Wall Street to be an indictment of capitalism. Yes, the very system of capitalism that made millions for Stone, but never mind. Stone inadvertently came up with a trenchant defense of capitalism through Gordon Gecko's speech at a shareholders' meeting, which is one of the better soliloquies in cinema.

    If you don't like the term 'greed', perhaps the more polite term 'enlightened self-interest' suits you more. They amount to the same thing.

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

    Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

    When Good News Equals Disaster

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

    Posted by Ken McCracken · 7 April 2006 09:03 AM · Comments (7)

    Quote Of The Week

    Ed Morrisey of Captain's Quarters won The Week Magazine's award as blogger of the year. Congratulations, Captain!

    To which Saint Paul at Fraters Libertas responded:

    "Winning an award with Arianna Huffington as your competition is roughly equivalent to being the greatest salsa dancer in Canada."

    Oh well, the award is well-deserved anyway.

    Runner up: Christopher Hitchens on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, discussing the immigration debate and lamenting his difficulty in obtaining U.S. citizenship (paraphrasing): "Terence said 'nothing human is alien to me.' The Department of Homeland Security seems to think that 'nothing alien is human to me.'"

    Posted by Ken McCracken · 6 April 2006 05:56 PM · Comments (1)

    Abu Tir: Jews Control Christianity

    Abu Tir

    According to Abu Tir, number two candidate in the recent Palestinian elections:

    "Even the churches where the Americans pray are led by Jews who were converted to Christianity, but they were converted to keep controlling the Americans."
    This sounds like Maxwell Smart - "look chief, it's the old convert-to-christianity-to-dominate-the-world trick. That's the second time this week."

    Dig the orange beard, looking very much like a leprechaun in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. No doubt Hamas sends a contingent every year.

    According to Wikipedia, Islam forbids the use of black hair dyes, but not other colors, and Muhammad himself dyed his beard with henna, as Abu Tir now does.

    Here is another Abu Tir quotable, from Newsweek: "Stop your support for Israel. Stop calling us terrorists. This policy creates a feeling of oppression. The feeling of oppression can lead to disaster."

    In other words, stop calling us terrorists, or we might blow you up.

    Posted by Ken McCracken · 6 April 2006 03:55 PM · Comments (4)

    The Case For The Fence

    Thomas Friedman sums up my feelings on the immigration issue with one phrase:

    America today is struggling to find the right balance of policies on immigration.

    Personally, I favor a very high fence, with a very big gate.

    Be sure to read the whole thing.

    For the past couple of years this is the approach to immigration policy that I have favored.

    I believe that our immigration laws should be vigorously enforced. For over a decade we just haven't taken the issue seriously. Millions of illegal immigrants have wandered across our southern border and taken up residence in our communities. They drive down wages and avoid paying certain types of taxes like payroll taxes and income taxes.

    Some would have us believe that these illegals are "good" for our economy. That they "contribute" just as much as any American. That is nonsense. Rich Lowry pointed out in a recent column that the average illegal immigrant will consume $89,000 more in government services than he/she pays in taxes over a lifetime. Many estimates put the number of illegal immigrants in this country at 11,000,000. If that's true, those 11,000,000 illegal immigrants will end up costing this country approximately $979 trillion tax dollars over their lifetimes. As more illegals cross our southern border that number is only going to go up.

    You know what comes after "trillion" in our numbering system? Quadrillion. Sound scary? It should be, and we are getting dangerously close to it.

    Read More »


    Posted by Rob Port · 6 April 2006 10:38 AM · Comments (6)

    Do Us All A Favor And Improve Your Writing

    Many people moaned that the advent of the internet would degrade writing skills, and a jaunt into just about any chat room usually confirms this notion.

    However, I would argue that the blogosphere is teaching the value of good, crisp writing to a whole slew of folks who would otherwise have no need for it, and that readers demand it. Clear writing in and of itself is a great persuasive tool, because it keeps the writing from getting in the way of the message. Read the big bloggers and you will see what I mean - they craft punchy sentences that are effective because they are readily comprehensible.

    There is a teachable method to good writing, and Poynteronline's Fifty Writing Tools is a great roundup of writing tips and tricks.

    You gotta love it when the first lesson is called Branch To The Right.

    Almost sounds like a blog.

    As Kenny Banion might say, "Its gold Jerry, gold!"

    Posted by Ken McCracken · 5 April 2006 08:29 PM · Comments (3)

    Brief Hiatus.

    As some of you know, Mrs. WILLisms.com works in Africa for a few weeks, then has a few weeks off here at home, back and forth. Well, she's home right now, and I am going to take a blogging hiatus for the next couple of weeks to spend more free time with her.

    mrswillismsdotcom.gif

    We're also doing some do-it-yourself bathroom remodeling and landscaping and other projects. Just lots going on, really. Time to blog is scarce, and I can't stand being sloppy or un-thorough or otherwise less-than-excellent, so I would prefer just to take a break rather than force mediocre content.

    I hate to leave Ken hanging, so I have some fantastic guest bloggers lined up over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I will still run the caption contest as normal.

    Expect me back around April 17 or 18.

    Posted by Will Franklin · 5 April 2006 01:21 PM · Comments (6)

    Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 50.

    This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

    kissingbabies.gif

    The actual caption:

    Mexican PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) Presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo kisses a woman during a campaign event in Huejotzingo, Mexico, March 28, 2006. (Imelda Medina/Reuters)

    Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

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

    Last week's photo:

    hillaryfein.gif

    Winners from last week:

    1.

    Bob:

    Hillary, you're getting my Irish up.


    2.

    WunderKraut:

    Hillary grabs Gerry Adams by the b*lls and whispers in his ear, "We'll always have that week in Poughkeepsie."


    3.

    Charles Austin (via email):

    “A manly smell, but I like it too.”


    Honorable Mention #1

    Zsa Zsa:

    Hillary whispers to Janet Reno at a party... Janet it has been so long! I hardly recognized you! Let me give you the name of my plastic surgeon. He has a great laser hair removal practice!...


    Honorable Mention #2

    Mr. Right:

    "My, Mrs. Clinton, what a big set of buns you have!" "All the better to stick my head up!"


    Honorable Mention #3

    Gary Johnson (via email):

    Sen. Hillary Clinton hugs Sinn Fein leader Steven Spielberg as he arrives for meeting on Capitol Hill.


    Honorable Mention #4

    Maggie:

    "...and then for breakfast, you can show me your Lucky Charms."


    Honorable Mention #5

    Izzy:

    "Remember: no tongue"


    And, from the...
    "So Bad It's Good Files"

    Rodney Dill:

    If you think bumping noses in a kiss is awkward, wait until they bump penises.


    Captioning is part of a balanced breakfast.

    Enter today!

    Posted by Will Franklin · 5 April 2006 12:12 PM · Comments (10)

    Saddam's Reckoning For Genocide

    Saddam Hussein
    Saddam Hussein has been formally charged with genocide, in addition for the crime of killing 148 men and boys in the Shiite village of Dujail for which he is already standing trial. Saddam is now charged for the so-called 'Anfal Campaign' he waged in 1988 against the Kurdish people of Iraq, including chemical attacks. Ali Hassan al-Majid, or "Chemical Ali" is also charged.

    The Anfal Campaign was only one aspect of Hussein's genocide of the Kurds - he is not charged yet with the March 16, 1988 attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja, in which nerve agents were used to kill at least 5,000 civilians. The Halabja gas attack included use of VX, mustard gas, Sarin, Tabun, and possibly hydrogen cyanide.

    Ironically, Iraq has been a signatory of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide since 1959.

    Genocide is defined as follows:

    Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    There is no reasonable doubt that Saddam Hussein is guilty of these crimes, and his conviction is rightly a foregone conclusion. Should he be found innocent by some odd miscarriage of justice, perhaps Iran would like him extradited to their country to stand trial for chemical attacks he conducted during the Iran-Iraq War.

    Posted by Ken McCracken · 4 April 2006 11:25 PM · Comments (8)

    Snow On The Outs?

    Treasury Secretary John W. Snow
    Lost amid the news that Tom Delay will not be running for reelection, is the news that Treasury Secretary John W. Snow will likely be replaced in another administration shakeup. The New York Times reported last week that new Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten wanted Snow out, because Bolten wanted "someone who could more forcefully portray the strength of the economy."

    There is something to that. The economy is booming, and yet the perception is that the souplines are going out the door and around the corner. The administration just is not getting the word out as it should that the US economy is in overdrive.

    Another sticking point is that Snow has not been perceived as forceful in getting China to revalue the Yuan upward from its artificially low levels, which propels Chinese exports.

    Update: President Bush this morning stated that Snow "has been a valuable member of my administration, I trust his judgment and appreciate his service."

    He didn't say Snow was staying, however, which seems like damning with faint praise.

    P.S. I have to pat myself on the back for being an old HTML dog that learned a new trick - word wrapping HTML around pictures!

    I didn't say I was a skilled dog, just an old one.

    Posted by Ken McCracken · 3 April 2006 11:53 PM · Comments (4)

    Tom DeLay.

    freetomdelay.gif

    Meh.

    Well, that's the end of something, anyway.

    Posted by Will Franklin · 3 April 2006 11:47 PM · Comments (4)

    Quotational Therapy: Part 87 -- When Good News Equals Disaster.

    Why People Are Down On The Economy-

    abcanchorreporter.gif
    Anchor Elizabeth Vargas: "In Washington, the Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy added 470,000 new jobs last month. The Bush administration was quick to claim this was good news, but is it really? We turn now to ABC’s Betsy Stark for some perspective."

    Reporter Betsy Stark: "Elizabeth, this may sound like good news, but investors are terribly nervous. More jobs mean fewer people in the unemployment line, and that means unemployment offices will lay off workers. More people with money in their pockets could drive up inflation, and oil prices could soar. And more new homebuyers could mean a further expansion of this huge housing bubble, indicating a possible crash ahead. That could leave a lot of families out on the street, Elizabeth."

    — ABC’s World News Tonight, April 1.

    Source: Media Research Center.

    Ridiculous. And very enlightening. I don't watch network news, so this sort of thing does explain quite a bit of the weird poll numbers on the economy.

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

    Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

    Abe Lincoln, On Public Opinion.

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

    Read More »


    Posted by Will Franklin · 3 April 2006 10:57 AM · Comments (7)

    Sunday Night Heidi Weimaraner Puppy Update: 12½ Weeks Old.

    Apologies for the lack of posting this weekend. My Meem (grandma) is in town for a few days. In the meantime, here's your update on the pup:

    bitingstuff.gif

    She's pretty much a chomping canine automaton these days, as evidenced by this picture.


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

    Last week's update.

    Posted by Will Franklin · 2 April 2006 11:43 PM · Comments (4)

    Pundit Roundtable

    Hello again! Welcome back to PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE, our weekly roundup of blustering opinion. I am your host, Ken McCracken. Here are our topics for this week:

    Topic 1: Where do you stand on illegal immigration? Is it primarily a security, economic, or cultural issue? Do we need a fence?

    Topic 2: Give us three words (not sentences) that describe you in a good or neutral way. Give us one word that describes you in a negative way.

    Now I'd like to welcome back Jay Tea of Wizbang for his thoughts on these topics. Jay Tea?

    "My stance on illegal immigration is simple: it's ILLEGAL. We have some of the loosest rules in the world for coming into our country, and even that isn't enough for some people. I have no problems rounding up illegals and deporting them wholesale. John McCain talked about the logistics of deporting 12 million people, and my sole response is: if it's that much work, we better get started. As the Chinese say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

    As far as why it is so important to me, I'd have to say the primary reason is economic. Illegal alien advocates often cite a net economic benefit from their presence, but the costs of that gain are far too high. Hospitals in the Southwest are suffering mightily under the burden of providing free care for illegals. Schools suffer. And many small businesses are suffering from being unable to compete with other companies that employ cheap, illegal labor.

    Secondarily is the security aspect. The government not only has the right to enforce its borders, but the obligation. A nation without clearly-defined and well-regulated borders isn't a nation at all, and leaves us vulnerable to anyone and anything getting into our country, for any reason.

    I don't think of the "culture" issue much at all. I find those who talk about "defending the culture" a bit silly -- but that might be influenced by my general contempt of the French, who have a whole government bureaucracy dedicated to "protecting the French culture and language." I think of culture as a pretty Darwinian process -- any culture that deserves to survive will simply outlive others. I can see fighting for certain principles and policies and beliefs, but a "culture" as a whole that needs such efforts to preserve it would most likely stagnate and probably doesn't
    deserve to survive.

    Topic 2: Sheesh, you're ruining my whole "self-deprecating modesty" schtick here. OK, 3 words that describe me in a good or neutral way: male, single, heterosexual. And negative: balding.

    Whoops, this isn't a singles ad. Let me try again.

    In relation to my Wizbang persona, I think I'd have to go for "intelligent," "literate," and "sincere." Those are the elements I try to stress whenever I'm preparing something for publication -- it must be original, it must be clearly written, and it must be honest. I don't always hit all three marks every time, but they are my ideals.

    On the negative side, I'd have to say "lazy." I procrastinate a lot, I don't do as much research as I should, I don't link to others as much as should, and I don't post as much as I think I should. I think a good part of it is I didn't start from ground zero as a blogger; Kevin Aylward had already built up Wizbang quite a bit before I jumped on board, and never had to struggle as a beginning blogger. Hence I never learned all the basic lessons that most everyone else did on their way up.

    There's an old saying: "he was born on third base, but thinks he hit a triple." A better way of putting it would be that I was born on first or second base, because I think that I did play a role in Wizbang's increase in popularity since Kevin took me in, but I remind myself every day that I did NOT hit a triple, and will always be grateful for him for letting me hitch on to his wagon.

    Our next guest is returning pundit Giacomo of Joust The Facts. What do you think?

    "There are several facets to the question of illegal immigration that need to be considered. First and foremost is the fact that these people have broken the laws of this nation in coming here. I do not believe it is in the country's best interest to accelerate citizen status for those who have "jumped the line." Amnesty, for me, is a non-starter. Then, are there circumstances that would make me consider allowing illegals to become citizens? Sure. They'd need to do a number of things my version of "A Modest Proposal:"

    1. Finally, they'd need to be holding down a job. Any illegal unemployed for more than six months, even after registering, should have to return to their homeland.
    2. If they are a felon already, or commit a felony before reaching citizenship, then there is no path to citizenship. Ever.
    3. They'd need to wait more than the 5 years that legal immigrants are required to wait for citizenship, perhaps twice as long, to show that they really are dedicated to this nation.
    4. They'd need to learn both English, the language of interaction in this nation, and American civics.
    5. They need to rectify their illegal status and register both here and in their own country.

    Satisfy all of those points, and they've got it made. Finally, there are carrots and sticks. One of the carrots that encourages illegal immigrants coming to America is citizenship for their offspring. That should be denied if the individual is here illegally.

    Now I am all for legal immigration, as I wrote on my site:

    This nation is all about the American spirit, and the American dream. Come to the nation legally, learn the benefits of the American system, and assimilate into the America that you will grow to love, as my father did, and I will hold out my arms to you in welcome. You have my word.
    Do we need a fence? Not necessarily. But we need to remove some of the "carrots" that entice people to come here illegally. And we need to make it clear that if you want to be here, even legally, for your own economic reasons then this nation now comes first for you, or you are not welcome. Further, the border security issue is certainly not just about illegal immigrants, as the threat of Al Qaeda attacks on our turf still looms. Use technology to accomplish what fences would otherwise be necessary to do.

    Topic 2: I'll let Mrs. Giacomo, Gwendolyn answer this question, as she knows both my good sides and my bad (and yes, I'll plead guilty to the bad.)

    Her answer -
    the good: Perfectionist. Persistent. Compassionate.
    the bad: Perfectionist.

    Our next guest is newcomer California Conservative. Folks, if you ever want to see a really luscious blog design, go have a look, its beautiful. Anyhow, what do you think CC?

    "We stand firmly opposed to illegal immigration. Going further, we even recommend a moratorium for legal immigration regarding all unskilled labor.

    Is it primarily a security, economic, or cultural issue? Do we need a fence?

    Yes on all counts. While we do not contend that all illegals are criminals (beyond their status of being illegal), the onslaught of immigrants has impacted America negatively in ways that affect our nation's economy (see the state's burden), culturally, and security. (what borders?) We need a fence, whether physical or "virtual," leveraging the latest technologies. Tracking and stopping illegal entry along our border is possible.

    Three words to describe CaliforniaConservative.org: Outspoken. Provocative. Politically-incorrect.

    One word: Irreverent (sometimes)

    Here's a few articles:

    Is It ‘Amnesty’ or ‘Earned Citizenship’?
    They Pledge Allegiance To The Flag…
    Only In America: Illegal Immigrants And Their Allies
    Rally To Protest Law Enforcement
    Wells Fargo: Banking Illegals Since 2001

    Much more in our Immigration archives

    Residing in (and blogging from) California, you might say we're in the belly of the beast. It ain't easy. But we keep fightin' the good fight.

    Finally we have our very own Will Franklin, blogmaster of WILLisms.com. Will?

    "This picture, from the Dallas Morning News(number 4 in the slideshow), captures my feelings on illegal immigration:

    immigrationrally.gif;

    A few things:

    This Dallas-area middle school student, Michelle Marquez, is doing the politically astute thing in holding an American flag. If all the folks at all the rallies all around the country has been waving American flags and holding signs that say things like, "I am a proud American," and "USA: Land of Opportunity," "I'm American, Too," and "WE [HEART] AMERICA," there would hardly be a peep of discussion about shutting down the borders and/or building a wall. Americans just want to know that we're not being invaded, reconquista-style, by a foreign culture that is hostile to our history and our values and our economy and everything else that makes us such an important global migration destination. Fortunately, the vast majority of Latino immigrants are, unlike Europe's immigrants, good immigrants who buy into free enterprise, freedom of religion, free elections, and the American Dream. Unfortunately, as the Mexican flag waving that we've seen so much in recent days indicates, a) MEChA is alive and well; b) immigrant-rights folks clearly need the help of a political consultant.

    One interesting tidbit about California politics is this: most people associate the state's left-wing politics with San Francisco and hippies and Hollywood. In reality, however, if you took away the unionized Latino vote of Los Angeles (just hypothetically, of course), California would be a reliably Republican state. Meanwhile, if you took away those same unionized Latino voters of Los Angeles County, California (the Cesar Chavezites), the overall national Latino vote would look far more pro-GOP and pro-Bush than it does currently.

    Democrats would love to replicate that L.A. situation nationally, since it is really their own chance, over the long term, to ever again win majorities in Congress. Republicans, meanwhile, view illegal immigration less cynically. For most conservatives, illegal immigration is a cultural issue and, in the age of global terror networks, a security issue.

    The Latino vote, the non-unionized Mexican-American in particular, is largely up for grabs, so both parties must have both short-term and long-term plans for appealing to Hispanic immigrants. Democrats take a more oldschool approach and wish to lock down the Latino vote the way they have locked down other demographics. Republicans, with substantially less historical success ghettoizing and enclaving certain demographics into machine politics, can really only hope to win 55-60% of the Latino vote. I wouldn't bet on Latinos, nationally, buying what the Democrats have sold to African-Americans for decades now.

    As I have been predicting for several months now, immigration is going to be one of the primary issues of the 2006 elections. In other words, there's no avoiding it any longer. The most unfortunate part of this debate is the mischaracterization of President Bush's immigration plans (as "amnesty" by some on the right, as "anti-immigrant" or "racist" by some on the left). I don't like debates that are so divisive.

    Topic 2: Good or neutral: Solomonic, encyclopedic, optimistic

    Negative: picky

    The Host's Last Word: I think there are actually many positive things about illegal immigration: the United States is probably receiving the most ambitious, intelligent and entrepreneurial citizens of Mexico, who are fleeing the corrupt and economically backwards nature of their homeland for greener pastures in the US. America has always benefited from receiving the best and brightest from abroad. It isn't their fault that they come here seeking a better life. It is our fault for having let it go for so long that now it has become a huge issue, and for having let this culture of illegal entry grow and flourish.

    Who is going to stay behind and build Mexico, however?

    Nor am I even opposed to a latin-ization of the U.S. The nation could turn hispanic for all I care as long as the underpinning of our democracy remain in place: free markets, the Rule of Law, and the Constitution. These are human principles, not reserved solely for white europeans, and WASPs are not the only group that can make these principles work.

    Illegal immigration is a real security issue however. We simply have to know who is coming and going in and out of our country. Of course not all illegal immigrants are savory: witness the growth of vicious street gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha. Al-Qaeda is not even our sole concern here. And we cannot have laws on the books that we simply ignore - this damages the Rule of Law and respect for the law.

    A fence is necessary for much, but not all, of the border. In more densely populated areas such as near San Diego, security fences are already in place and working quite well. In very sparse places such as the desert, a 'virtual' fence may be a much better security option than a fence that can be demolished or surmounted by the 'coyotes', in that sensors would allow a beefed-up border patrol to swarm in and take care of business.

    We could build a fence across the entire border if need be. If tiny Israel can build a 400-mile security fence, then surely the United States can build a 700-mile fence.

    As for my description, I would say Charming! Suave! Gorgeous!

    People who know me, however, would say Absent.Minded.Professor.

    And sloppy. Verrry sloppy.

    That's it! Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and come back next week for our next PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!

    Posted by Ken McCracken · 2 April 2006 03:36 PM · Comments (14)

    United States Is BIG On Immigration

    This is an accurate map of the world!

    immigration.png

    Because it graphically displays the proportion of immigration each nation receives.

    WorldMapper, the source of this map (and many other cool maps also) tells us "those territories with net emigration (greater emigration than immigration) have size zero on this map."

    Which is why Mexico has disappeared from the map.

    Posted by Ken McCracken · 1 April 2006 08:58 AM · Comments (6)