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Willisms

« July 2006 | WILLisms.com | September 2006 »

United Nations: You Have No Right To Self-Defense

Glenn Reynolds points to a UN report that attempts to minimize the most basic and premier human right of all: self-defense -

20. Self-defence is a widely recognized, yet legally proscribed, exception to the universal duty to respect the right to life of others. Self-defence is a basis for exemption from criminal responsibility that can be raised by any State agent or non-State actor. Self-defence is sometimes designated as a “right”. There is inadequate legal support for such an interpretation. Self-defence is more properly characterized as a means of protecting the right to life and, as such, a basis for avoiding responsibility for violating the rights of another.

If a guy breaks into your house with a gun, and you shoot him, you are 'violating his rights' according to the UN, not engaging in your right to self-defense. The UN's notion that there is "inadequate legal support" for the idea that self-defense is a human right is an agenda-driven wilful misreading of texts on the issue. The right to self-defense is the first among all human rights. Even Thomas Hobbes recognized that "summe of the Right of Nature" is "by all means we can, to defend our selves." Enlightenment literature and legal thought is replete with the concept of self-defense as the cornerstone of all natural rights. As an example, the Pennsylvania Declaration of 1776 stated that "the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state." In criticizing the UN report, the Claremont Institute points out that the very founders of international law itself, who would count for something at the UN one would think, Grotius and Emmerich de Vattel both recognized the concept.

The UN is most eager to deny that self-defense is a right, because this would obligate the UN to defend the concept of individual self-defense. Since unarmed self-defense in a world full of weapons is too often meaningless, this puts the UN in the position of having to defend the individual right to bear arms. Quelle horror! Is there anything more vulgar to a silk-suited euroweenie diplomat than individual gun ownership? This should not baffle you - the UN and its supporters are proponents of a single world government, under the ludicrous belief that a unitary government would hold a monopoly on all arms throughout the world, thus abolishing violence. Then, once violence is abolished the UN may disarm itself and the glorious new age of peace, love and rainbows can ensue.

The report goes out of its way to clear up any silly confusion about self-defense for States, including totalitarian regimes, as somehow also applying to lowly individual human beings:

"Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations applies to the States acting in self-defence against armed attacks against their State sovereignty. It does not apply to situations of self-defence for individual persons."

How ironic, that the preeminent human rights organization in the world, the UN, gives the full panoply of protections and immunities under international law to someone like Kim Jong-Il, whereas if you engage in self-defense you are 'violating the rights of another.' This goes to the heart of an entire belief system rampant in the world today that thinks that all violence is bad regardless of circumstances and context, and that the problems of violence are caused by weapons and not those that wield them. We saw this in the 80's with the unilateral disarmament movement. They believed that reducing nuclear arsenals somehow reduced the chance of war breaking out. If we have an arsenal of 10,000 warheads and we reduce that arsenal to 5,000 warheads - voila! - we have reduced the chance of war by 50%! As if each warhead was just itching to detonate itself, so the fewer the better. And so it is with guns. Every gun is just waiting to go off, and so reducing the number of guns will somehow reduce violence. And as we all know, the mere possession of a gun causes the urge to violence in otherwise perfectly sane and law-abiding owners. So, if everyone just put their guns down, and put their full faith in sovereign government instead to protect them, we can begin to initiate the Reign of Peace.

Anyone see any holes in this logic?

P.S. As for the unilaterial disarmament argument, proponents of the argument that fewer warheads make war less likely get it exactly backwards. Fewer warheads makes it easier for an enemy to destroy those warheads, thus actually inviting attack. Shrinking nuclear arsenals can actually be destabilizing. Is this, then, an argument for more weapons?

An armed society is a polite society.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 31 August 2006 09:38 PM · Comments (13)

The Gaza War Continues

Michael Totten delivers another corporate-free dispatch from the Middle East, this time from a kibbutz in Southern Israel, where he proves that the Israelis are tough! To paraphrase Nietzsche, "whatever doesn't kill me, only makes garden art."

Posted by Ken McCracken · 30 August 2006 04:57 PM · Comments (5)

Questions About The San Fran SUV Rampage

Omeed A. Popal, 29, was arrested yesterday after a vehicle rampage straight out of Grand Theft Auto. He is an Afghani, and Muslim, and his attacks took place in a 'jewish' neighborhood of San Francisco, ending up in front of the Jewish Community Center at Presidio and California streets.

Is this a potential act of 'terrorism'?

The Code of Federal Regulations defines terrorism as "..the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85)

It is possible for a lone deranged wacko to be found guilty of terrorism - there need not be an organization or a coherent plan for it to be a terrorist attack. You may remember the case of Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, an Egyptian who shot and killed two Israelis at the El Al counter at the Los Angeles International Airport on July 4, 2002. Hadayet was killed by a security guard. The FBI did a thorough investigation of the attack, and determined that this lone gunman had in fact committed an act of terrorism. One report concluded that " Hadayet hoped to influence U.S. government policy in favor of the Palestinians."

KTVU in San Francisco televised a report including a statement from a witness that Popal said he was a terrorist. However, a cousin of Popal's reported that he had "recurring nightmares about someone coming to kill him", and another that Popal was stressed about his recent arranged marriage in Afghanistan. So, is he a terrorist, a crazed paranoid, or a stressed-out newlywed? Or all three?

Another question people are asking is whether this is a 'hate crime' under California law. The California hate crime statute is defined as follows:

As defined in California Penal Code section 422.55, hate crime means “a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim: (1) Disability, (2) Gender, (3) Nationality, (4) Race or ethnicity, (5) Religion, (6) Sexual orientation, (7) Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.”

'Hate crimes' in California are not crimes in and of themselves, but are sentence enhancements of 1-3 years imprisonment for other crimes that are found to include one of the elements noted above.

There were 137 hate crimes convictions in California in 2005, with anti-Jewish crimes being the most common among crimes based on the victim's religion.

If Popal indicates to the authorities that anti-Jewish sentiment was at all responsible for his attacks, he will most likely spend extra time in prison when he is convicted. And convictions look assured at this point.

Hate crimes are a bad idea. As odious as it would be for Popal to have committed these attacks out of racial hatred, this does not make his victims any more dead or injured than if he just did it for laughs. Or because he wanted to try driving on the sidewalks of Liberty City.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 30 August 2006 01:25 PM · Comments (0)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 68

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

cricketer.jpg

Here is the actual caption:
Pakistan's Captain Inzamam-ul-Haq adjusts his padding as he bats against England during their Twenty20 international cricket match at the county ground in Bristol, south-west England, August 28, 2006.

Oh sure, that's what they want you to think is going on here. Please help us write a proper caption.

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

Last week's photo:

castrochavez.jpg

Winners from last week: 1. Hoodlumman

The road to hell is not paved with relaxed men.
2. Sedosi:

Duck, Duck, Duck.....Goose!!!!!

3. Jim Rose:
A recipe from the Idi Amin cookbook.

Honorable Mention #1 Rodney Dill:

Adnan Hajj produces more pictures of the Lebanese holocaust

Honorable Mention #2 Radio Free Fred:
"This Will Be The Last Time We Complain About Pot Holes."

Honorable Mention #3 Sgt. Fluffy:
This is another fine mess you've gotten us into Ollie....

Captioning is the cure for what ails. Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 30 August 2006 11:44 AM · Comments (22)

The Long Knives Come Out

Simply delicious . . .

I've noted on multiple occasions the whiny tendencies of Rahm Emanuel. Rather than running on a progressive winning set of messeages [sic], Rahm has decided that primping before the press as 'Rahmbo' while whining about progressives will give him a win-win. If we win the house, he's a hero. If we lose the House, it's because of bloggers/Al Sharpton/Lamont/ Moveon/Soros/Pelosi. [snip]
And I hear a lot that even though progressives don't agree with him, he's at least a strategist. Let me just say that no he is not. Party strategists do not scream at major donors in public to journalists, because if they do then they create a disincentive for participation. Party strategists do not attack progressives in a progressive year and create policy platforms that immediately discount Democratic ability to accomplish anything. Party strategists do not race-bait against African-American leaders. Party strategists force candidates to do a good job, not to hire the right consultants. Party strategists do not call a right-wing Independent that needs Republican votes to win in Connecticut a 'Democrat'.

Rahm Emanuel is not a party strategist. He is an extremist ideologue, a Bourbon Democrat, and he will be a huge problem for progressives moving forward. Progressives would do well to develop our own set of strategic coordinators, rather than thinking that someone like Rahm Emanuel is at this point anything but destructive and selfish.

From the would-be Robespierre of the Nutroots Revolution, Matt Stoller of MyDD (as condensed by RealClearPolitics). Hey Matt, Rahm Emmanuel at one time worked in the White House because, you know, he helped Clinton win an actual presidential election to get there. Meanwhile, your buddy Kos probably won't even get Lamont out of Connecticut and into the Senate.

What's in your portfolio other than a lot of whining?

No, I am not defending the execrable Rahm Emmanuel here, just sitting on the sidelines enjoying the crap out of your little catfight, to which I say: more!

A pox on both your houses.

P.S. Tom Bevan at the RCP link above rightly notes the irony of Matt Stoller, of all people, calling Emmanuel an 'extremist ideologue'. Heh, I am scratching my head over that one. Surely Stoller isn't claiming that Emmanuel is to his left, is he? Or . . . is he implying that by not drinking the Kos Kool-Aid, Emmanuel must be some kind of neocon . . . ? I know it makes no sense, but look at who is making the accusation. Maybe Stoller means that Emmanuel is a centrist, which would make him an extreme right-winger among Democrats these days, wouldn't it.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 28 August 2006 09:40 PM · Comments (1)

Biden: Vote For Me, I'm From A Slave State!

Poor Joe just can't help himself, can he.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 28 August 2006 06:19 PM · Comments (4)

Hell Freezes Over

. . . but even more cataclysmic, Al Franken gets published at National Review Online.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 28 August 2006 05:35 PM · Comments (3)

Cycle Of Terror And Tragedy

911.jpg

Graydon Parrish painted this interpretation of the 911 attacks as a commission to memorialize the tragedy.

Quite stunning technique, and a very dramatic depiction. Parrish was trained in the French academy atelier style, which is why this painting looks so 19th century. Parrish pulls it off with respect without falling into sentimentalism. Very impressive.

Details of the painting further down here.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 28 August 2006 03:28 PM · Comments (2)

YouTube Fun

Why should Dean Esmay have all the YouTube fun? Dean worries about whether he links to too many YouTube movies, to which I say as long as they are good, interesting or entertaining clips - what's to complain about?

Here's a favorite song of mine, GANGSTERS by The Specials!

Heh, see if anyone can tell me what is going on in this video. I guarantee you it is not really that exciting, but if you are patient you might learn something.

 

We live in an age of marvels.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 24 August 2006 02:54 PM · Comments (5)

Mark Steyn Hosting Rush Today

steyn.jpg

Rush's audience won't know what hit 'em.

Steyn is every bit as entertaining and informative live as he is in print, and he is the one guest host who might be able to properly fill Rush's big golf shoes while he is gone.

You can hear it all online at Rush's flagship station, WABC New York, starting at 12:00 pm. EST.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 24 August 2006 10:34 AM · Comments (1)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 67

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

chinamud.jpg

Here is the actual caption:
People enjoy mud therapy at a nursing home in Anshan, east China's Liaoning province August 21, 2006. The mineral mud is believed to be able to alleviate pain from rheumatoid arthritis, sequela of traumatisms and peripheral nervous system diseases. Picture taken August 21, 2006.

I don't know about you, but I don't trust these Reuters captions! Tell us what you think it should really say.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, August 29. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

castrochavez.jpg

Winners from last week: 1. Julie:

No matter how positive a spin they tried to put on it, they both knew the communist knockoff light saber was a piece of crap.

2. Hoodlumman:

Hugo chuckles as he shows that Fidel was roughly two quarts low.

3. Jim Rose:
Coming this Fall: "Brokeback Mountain II: Ride 'em Comrade!".

Honorable Mention #1 Adjustah:

For you, Excellency. A gift from your supporters in Miami...

Honorable Mention #2 Rodney Dill:
Now you know what happens if you don't seek immediate medical attention after 4 hours.

Honorable Mention #3 Mr. Right:
HUGO: "Geez, Fidel! No wonder your intestines were bleeding!"

Captioning may well be the most important thing you do all day. Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 23 August 2006 01:42 PM · Comments (19)

Facing the real foe

One of the more disturbing aspects of social change over the fast few decades has to be the depersonalization of responsibility. The trend has been, more and more, not to blame people for their actions, but the objects they use in the commission of their misdeeds.

I initially thought this was a partisan phenomenon, but the longer I considered the matter, the more I came to realize that it pretty much crossed party lines – the difference is in how it is expressed.

Let’s start off with drugs. We have very strong, very strict drug laws in this country. Manufacturing, transporting, selling, possessing, and using illegal drugs all have very strict penalties attached to them.

Speaking strictly personally, I have never been harmed by cocaine (just to pick one drug). I have nothing against it, and it has never hurt me. The reason for that is simple – I’ve never taken it. I have no interest in cocaine whatsoever, so it is utterly harmless to me.

I am far more concerned with the actions of addicts than their addiction itself. If treating their addiction will reduce the crimes they commit, then wonderful. But the vast majority of addicts first tried their substance of choice willingly, and the consequences of that choice should solely rest on their shoulders.

Another odd byblow of the war on drugs is the idea of the government filing charges against inanimate objects. “The United States vs. $125,000 in various bills” is one such case going around, when people found to be transporting large sums of cash have it taken from them. Other cases I can recall involve buildings and motor vehicles.

The obscenity of this practice is only surpassed by its absurdity. I simply don’t understand how any halfway competent lawyer hasn’t embraced the silliness and destroyed the practice through sheer ridicule.

“Officer Jones, you were the arresting officer who took this briefcase of money into custody?”

“I am.”

“When you arrested it, did you read the cash its Miranda rights?”

“Um… yes, sir.”

“And did the cash indicate that it understood these rights?”

This doesn’t even begin to address the issues of the accused pile of money being given its other rights, such as the right to choose its own counsel, the right to confront its accusers, and trial by a jury of its peers. I also wonder if the accused cash could offer up a portion of itself as bail.

On the left, we have the fascinating issue of gun control (or, as some 2nd Amendment advocates are starting to call it, “victim disarmament”). The idea seems to be that guns are inherently evil and dangerous, and the instant they touch human flesh they transform the person into a psychotic killing machine.

Again, like cocaine, guns have never harmed me. I’ve held a few, even shot them a few times, and I am no better or no worse off for the experience.

Firearms, though, unlike drugs, are Constitutionally protected. Which makes it a trifle more difficult for the nanny-staters to take them away from law-abiding citizens before they are transformed into unfeeling killing machines.

Finally, we have the item that prompted my recent thoughts: the banning of most liquids from airline flights. The reasoning is sound, on the surface – there is strong and compelling evidence that some people in England were planning to bring down several airliners with liquid explosives, smuggled aboard in carryon packages disguised as ordinary, harmless liquids. In the wake of that, all sorts of liquids and gels – drinks, shampoos, cosmetics -– were banned from the cabins and banished to the holds.

This was done, they say, in the interests of safety and fairness. We should not and dare not exempt anyone from these measures, so everyone gets treated equally –- and all are equally scrutinized.

This is not just wrong, it is wrong-headed.

To repeat my earlier point, no airliner has ever been destroyed by a bomb. They have been destroyed by terrorists who used bombs, but the bombs themselves bore no malice and had no intent. Just as no hammer ever built a house and no computer ever created a virus, the bomb was a tool, a simple means to an end.

We have focused far too much of our effort on finding the tools, and skimped on seeking out the tool’s user. That is purely a defensive strategy, and the danger of such an approach is that the attacker can try again and again with impunity –- and only has to succeed once. The defender has to be perfect each and every single time, for a single slip-up can be fatal. And there is no provision for ending the attacks.

And so that is why it is time to start looking not just for bombs, but bombers.

“Profiling” has acquired such an ugly reputation among many, and that is unjust. Profiling, in its truest sense, is evaluating known common characteristics of past perpetrators and using them to identify others who may be likely to commit (or have committed) the same offense. It’s also known as “good police work,” “noticing,” or simply paying attention.

So far, the vast majority of terrorists have fit a certain profile: Middle-Eastern men, ages 18 to 45, of the Muslim faith.

Of course, I am NOT calling for the mass roundup of everyone who might fit that description. But I think it is no great violation of our Constitution if people like that, especially if coupled with suspicious behavior, get a little extra attention from security officials.

Profiling may not be pretty, but it can work. I speak as a single white male in his late 30’s who is a bit of a loner -– no family connections, very few friends. If there’s ever a serial killer here in Manchester, I fully expect the police to give me a looksee. And if that were to happen, I would cooperate with them as fully as I could to eliminate myself as a suspect, so they could get on with finding the real killer.

Some critics of the profiling approach say that it will become useless, as the terrorists will find more people like Richard Reid or John Walker Lindh, neither of whom readily fit the profile, to commit their deeds. But that is oversimplifying the problem.

The vast majority of the terrorists do fit that profile, and xenophobia –- fear of strangers -– is a key element of their theology and ideology. For all their proclamations of how Islam is the great equalizer, how all people are the same in the eyes of Allah and all Muslims are brothers, they still have some very bitter prejudices that show through. The different denominations of Islam are quite virulent when it comes to the violent extremists. There are also tribal and nationalistic differences that can lead to very unpleasant friction.

Toss in one final element: they know that they are hunted, and at every opportunity their enemies (us) are looking to infiltrate them. With all those factors calculated in, their success in finding, recruiting, training, and using non-profiled individuals is quite slim –- and our opportunities for discovering and infiltrating them goes up accordingly.

We must never forget that we are not fighting bombs, or bullets, or hijackings, or missiles, or rockets, or even box-cutters. We are fighting human beings who use those items as tools to wage war. If all we do is to continually disarm them, they will continue to find new weapons and keep fighting.

And as the attacker, they can fail a hundred times, a thousand times, for each success, and still declare victory.

Posted by Jay Tea · 22 August 2006 12:00 PM · Comments (11)

Quote Of The Day

The inimitable James Lileks:

I’m not going to defend McCarthy, because he was a brute and boor and a butter-eating drunk who set back the anti-Communist cause four decades. To say that he was sorta right, in the sense that there were Commies about, is like saying that J. Robert Oppenheimer had a salutory effect on Japanese urban renewal. I’m not interested in those debates right now. I’d just like to point out that it’s a little late in the game to trot out a play about the mean old witch-hunts. The bravery of the scrappy idealists! The piggish philistinism of the anti-commie brutes! The smothering wet quilt of Conformity that held America motionless until it was thrown off by the undulating hips of Elvis! (Did you know they didn’t show him below the waist on TV, at first! True! It was horrible, the Fifties; no one had sex without weeping in shame afterwards. Sometimes during.) It's just interesting how Westerners think that that Red Scare was a historical event of such towering proportions it trumps the tales of the Soviet Union in the same period. US version: communist sympathizers frozen out of screenwriting jobs, justly or unjustly. USSR version: actual communists killed in ghastly numbers by a parody of a legal system underwritten by brute force and an industrialized penal system built on slave labor. Why is the latter ignored, and the former celebrated?
Right on, man!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 21 August 2006 02:15 PM · Comments (4)

ACLU v. NSA Blowback

The reaction to this week's opinion by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in the ACLU v. NSA case has been lopsidedly negative, except among those who care not a whit about legal reasoning and are happy to see the rule of law trashed in order to embarass President Bush.

Check out some of these criticisms:

"Yes, sure, it is true that the judicial opinion issued yesterday is very weak, in places borderline incoherent, in its reasoning with regard to some issues. Anyone can see that. Most everyone who commented on it, including me, pointed that out."

"Unfortunately, the decision yesterday by a federal district court in Detroit, striking down the NSA's program, is neither careful nor scholarly, and it is hard-hitting only in the sense that a bludgeon is hard-hitting. The angry rhetoric of U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor will no doubt grab headlines. But as a piece of judicial work -- that is, as a guide to what the law requires and how it either restrains or permits the NSA's program -- her opinion will not be helpful."

The opinion "isn't quite ready for prime time".

These are responses from Glenn Greenwald, the Washington Post editorial board, and Orin Kerr respectively, three who have criticised the legality of the program in the past. Nearly everyone who has read and understands the opinion, left, right and center, all agree that it is a mediocre and unreasoned opinion. Hell, even at least one Kos diarist thinks it was an awful opinion. (h/t Powerline).

Scott Johnson at Powerline delivers the coup de grace - "anyone who knows what legal analysis and legal argument look like -- anyone who knows the requisites of legal reasoning -- must look on the handiwork of Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in the NSA case in amazement. It is a pathetic piece of work. If it had been submitted by a student in my second year legal writing class at the University of St. Thomas Law School, it would have earned a failing grade."

Folks, lawyers criticizing a federal judge for this lack of intellectual power is nearly unprecedented. This type of language is reserved for the truly horrid opinions in American law, such as the Dred Scott decision or Korematsu now relegated to the jurisprudence Hall of Shame.

ACLU v. NSA now resides there as well.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 19 August 2006 10:21 AM · Comments (4)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Sixty-One -- Entitlement Spending Versus Defense Spending.

reformthursdayblue.gif

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

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

This week's topic:

Social Security (& Other Entitlements) Are Outpacing Defense Spending.

I recently had the pleasure of spending a bit of time around a few hundred young liberal activists. One refrain I heard over and over again was that the military-industrial complex in the United States was growing larger than it has ever been, taking into account the entire course of American history. Creeping toward totalitarian fascism, we apparently are.

Well, not quite. In fact, military spending is as high as it has ever been. But the American economy is also as high as it has ever been. As a percentage of the American economy, military spending today is not particularly outrageous:

defensebudgetandgdp.gif

Although the U.S. spends far more-- and more per capita-- than ever before, on the military, the trajectories of entitlement and defense spending are diverging as a percentage of GDP:

defenseversusentitlements.gif

In other words, as entitlements become 10%, then 11%, then 12%, then 13%, then 18%, then 20%, then even more of our economy, it will impair our ability to retain a military advantage over emerging threats, without much economic pain at home. Then again, maybe that's actually another reason why the Lamont Democrats are so vested in allowing Social Security and other entitlement programs to grow into such a gargantuan portion of the American economy. They want to tie our hands behind our backs with Social Security (and Medicare, and Medicaid) rope, so we can't afford to defend ourselves against Islamist terrorism.

It's time for reform.

The clock is still ticking:


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

Read More »


Posted by Will Franklin · 17 August 2006 09:51 PM · Comments (6)

Free Speech Rights For Terror Suspects?

The Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan today granted partial summary judgment to the Plaintiffs in the ACLU v. NSA wiretaps case, stating that the NSA wiretap program violates the Administrative Procedures Act, the Separation of Powers doctrine, the First and Fourt Amendments, and FISA. The court dismissed the Plaintiffs' claims in regard to data-mining.

I just want to focus on one aspect of the opinion here. In order to bring a case such as this, the plaintiff has to prove that they have standing to bring the case. Not just anyone can bring any case - you must prove that you have been harmed in some way. So check out the court's reasoning for granting such standing -

"Plaintiffs here contend that the TSP has interfered with their ability to carry out their professional responsibilities in a variety of ways, including that the TSP has had a significant impact on their ability to talk with sources, locate witnesses, conduct scholarship, engage in advocacy and communicate with persons who are outside the United States . . . [plaintiffs] indicate that they must conduct extensive research in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and must communicate with individuals abroad whom the United States government believes to be terrorist suspects or to be associated with terrorist organizations."

Get it? Ivory tower intellectuals having unfettered communication with terrorist suspects is more important than preventing these terrorists from murdering people apparently. The court then laments the increased financial burdens and 'inefficient' means of communication that our all-important eggheads must now endure, all due to mere speculation that someone might possibly be tracking their call. Mind you, the plaintiffs never proved that any such thing was going on, but the mere whiff of suspicion that it might be happening is enough to justify bringing the entire program to a crashing halt. And it isn't really that the free speech of the plaintiffs has been chilled - oh no, the problem is that it chills the terrorist suspects from communicating with learned professors! Heaven forbid!

I am actually being unfair here. The entirety of the case does not rest on the critical need of scholars to communicate with suspected terrorists. This issue of standing was only one of many that the court addressed, including the state secrets doctrine, the separation of powers and so on. But . . . to read the priorities the courts assigns here is to wonder if they followed a white rabbit down the hole in deciding that the chilled free speech of terror suspects should be the deciding factor in the critical Standing argument.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 17 August 2006 02:58 PM · Comments (8)

The Original Islamofascist

A documentary about Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and his collaboration with the Third Reich and his incitement to the Holocaust.

It contains actual film footage of the odious Husseini.

(h/t LGF)

arafat.jpg
Don't Watch That Video!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 16 August 2006 05:58 PM · Comments (7)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 66

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

castrochavez.jpg

Once again, there is no actual caption for this photo . . . but man, it sure screams for one! From a series of photos entitled Unforgettable afternoon between brothers, published by Granma.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, August 22. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

Winners from last week: 1. Ironman:

Star Wars fans were thrilled today as dazzling computer generated scenes from the upcoming sequel "Attack of the Cloning Tool" were released to the Reuters news agency....

2. Sgt. Fluffy:

(Reuters)Israeli Air force jets once again attacked Lebanon using Microsoft Flight Simulator 2005. After IDF programmers added more buildings and a darker hue to the hue to the Lebanon.mod file the devastation was horrific.

3. Chris:
The international community condemned recent Israeli actions which are clearly contributing to global climate change. We offer this proof of the Zionist plot to control the weather. It may be fake, but it's accurate. Really, we mean it. Come on, you can trust us.

Honorable Mention #1 Rob B.

While the "hide behind civilians and Iranian assistence feature add to the experience of this new "Grand Theft Auto: Hezbollah Hammering" the repetitive backgrounds and poor smoke object rendering really distract from the game play.

Honorable Mention #2 Buckley F. Williams:
Jack Bauer wuz here.

Honorable Mention #3 Charles Austin
Hizbollah wishes to remind everyone of the dangers of second-hand smoke; and third-hand smoke; and fourth-hand smoke; and fifth-hand smoke; and sixth-hand smoke; and seventh-hand smoke...

If we don't caption, the terrorists win. Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 16 August 2006 09:37 AM · Comments (30)

Fearful victory

Today marks the 61st anniversary of "V-J Day," the surrender of the Empire of Japan, that signaled the end of World War II.

"Victory." Such a simple word, yet so hard to define.

It's not an easy word to define. And I've found the best way to understand it is to grasp its antonym, "defeat."

In any conflict, if there is a victor, there must be one that is defeated.

Defeated, meaning "forced to acknowledge that one's goals are not achievable, and one is utterly at the mercy of one's enemy."

The key element in defeat is not physical, but psychological. It is the acceptance of defeat, the giving up of one's goals and aspirations, the sublimation of one's wishes to those of your conqueror.

In World War II, there were clear winners and losers. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were crushed, wiped out of existence, their leaders deposed and killed or imprisoned, nearly all traces of those governments eradicated, and the nations rebuilt in the image and to the wishes of the Allies.

Other wars weren't won so decisively.

World War I ended with an armistice, a humiliating treaty that the Central Powers signed to preserve their own existence, at great expense. The leaders who started the war were allowed to remain in power, but at the price of degrading and crippling concessions. It brought peace for almost two decades, but fed German resentment until Adolf Hitler rose to power -- his support largely fired by those feelings -- and helped bring about World War II.

In Korea, we fought the North Korea (and their sponsors, the Soviets and the Chinese) to a standstill, then signed a treaty suspending hostilities. That agreement has largely held for almost 50 years, but even to this day North Korea remains not only a regional threat, but with its nuclear ambitions more of a danger than ever before.

In Viet Nam, we again signed an agreement that ended the hostilities. That signature was barely dry before it was violated, and we were driven out -- a defeat that left long scars on our nation, and our international regard.

And in the first Gulf War, our defeat of Saddam Hussein might have been definitive, but the terms of his surrender -- and the inept and lackadaisical enforcement thereof -- led to cheating and corruption on a tremendous scale, and eventually led to the 2003 invasion that finally deposed Saddam and his thugocracy.

On the surface, it seems simple: war is bad, fighting is bad, and stopping it as quickly as possible, minimizing those killed and that damaged, is a good thing.

But like so many things, our instincts may be misleading us and the right answer could be counterintuitive. Cutting tax rates should not lead to increased tax revenues. Giving stimulants to hyperactive children should be a recipe for disaster. And ending a conflict quickly should be a good thing.

Some times, it is. But some times, it is not. It is the greater mercy to allow the fighting to conclude on its own, to allow the fighting parties to settle the matter once and for all, to bring a finality and sense of closure to the conflict.

In the Middle East, Israel has fought war after war after war for its right to existence. And each time the pattern has remained the same: when Israel's enemies are on the ropes, outside forces intervene to pressure the combatants to end the fighting.

Israel has a tenuous peace with some of her neighbors. Egypt and Jordan, having been beaten in war, have been relatively good neighbors to Israel. Syria, on the other hand, has been an unending source of trouble, both for Israel and the West in general. The major difference I can see is that Israel decisively beat both nations, while Syria has never been fully brought to account for her aggression.

There's an old saying: "he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day." It's advice often given to the one losing the struggle, to persuade them that retreat is not an unthinkable option, and losing a battle doesn't necessarily mean the war is lost. But it is also a good reminder to the other side; an opponent driven off, but not defeated, can (and very often will) return again, rested, re-armed, and ready to resume the fight -- perhaps to win this time.

The anti-war crowd is tragically short-sighted. To them, ongoing war is the greatest of evils. They cannot conceive of the notion that they are not averting tragedy, but merely postponing it -- and making the next round far bloodier than the carnage they averted today.

"Justice delayed is justice denied." And, sometimes, war averted today is war multiplied, magnified, maximized tomorrow.

Posted by Jay Tea · 15 August 2006 08:00 AM · Comments (15)

It's the Tax Cuts Stupid

The mid-term elections in 2006 will answer one fundamental question--Are the American people so upset about Iraq that they forget about the Economy? Will 4-5% GDP Growth, Massive Deficit Reductions, Sustained Job Growth, and Rising Wages and Productivity be thrown out the window over Iraq. Ultimately, a better question is--Are you willing to repeal the tax cuts and stagnate the economy in order to implement a cut and run strategy in Iraq.

Clearly, Americans feel safe right now. The stock market was essentially unmoved by the terror news from London. Terror arrests don't mean much. Terror attacks do. Egyptian students who overstay their visas--meaningless. London plot to blow up jetliners--meaningless. Detroit men buying thousands of cell phones--don't care, too busy worrying about Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton. Economy humming along, so what?

As if catching terrorists, passing the Patriot Act, the tax cuts, economic growth, etc., mean absolutely nothing to the average American, but the wellbeing of 135,000 VOLUNTEER MILITARY MEMBERS who continuously vote overwhelmingly Republican and who are enlisting and re-enlisting at numbers far exceeding goals and expectations is the only issue that matters. Just ask Ned Lamont. Throw out well respected politicians and throw away things like tax cuts, the Patriot Act, and protecting the nation with programs like SWIFT so that we can cut and run.

It is important that the folks realize that this election is about more than Iraq. Sure, the war is polarizing and many just want it to be over. At the end of the day, the folks advocating cut and run are the same that advocate tax and spend and that advocate things like Universal Healthcare, higher Estate Taxes, higher Dividend Taxes, and ignoring Social Security.

Consistently, the Democrats go to the bait and switch tactic.

Q. "Chairman Dean, today's economic numbers exceeded expecations for the umpteenth consecutive quarter. Does this indicate President Bush's taxcuts are working?"
A. "Ask that of the Soldier's wife whose husband just died in Iraq. Ask her how the tax cuts are going to help send her orphaned children to college and pay for the rising tuition costs."
Q. "Senator Reid, Social Security is a looming crisis and your party has said repeatedly that privatization is not the answer. How do the Democrats in the Senate propose to save Social Security for today's workers?"
A. "President Bush has spent $200B on the War in Iraq. We propose to end this spending and use the money at home for programs to save social security, feed the hungry, provide caregivers to pet puppies and kittens, and cure the bird flu."
Q. "It has been 5 years since 9-11. What has changed that has helped keep America free from terror attacks since 2001."
A. "America may not have had a terror attack, but Spain and Great Britain had major attacks on Madrid and London. And Al Qaeda has said repeatedly that their reason for attacking these nations is their participation in the War in Iraq. Clearly the world is not any safer now based on terror attacks across the globe as well as in Iraq. We need new leadership to ensure that the entire world is safer."

Q. Is the sky blue?
A. War in Iraq.
Q. What year did Columbus sail the ocean blue?
A. Iraq.

Same old routine and same old tired media failing to report the economic, jobs, and domestic War on Terror issues facing us. Over and over are stories from Iraq. While it would be nice to be at peace and live in September 10th perpetually, we don't anymore. And while the Dems promise to get us out of Iraq, they were handed their collective political asses in 1994 for a reason. Economic policies do matter. Higher Taxes and Government Red Tape as well as national security (besides the Iraq War) matter.

What remains to be seen is whether Americans are so angry over Iraq that they not only return to September 10th, but to October 1994.

Posted by Justin B. · 14 August 2006 03:18 PM · Comments (2)

What Does It Say About Our News Media?

That this information is relegated to the "Opinion" section:

This year... the deficit will be $260 billion, or $111 billion less than the CBO estimated in March. For 2006, the government deficit will be 2 percent of gross domestic product, down from the old baseline prediction for 2006 of 2.6 percent. On Aug. 17, when the more extensive annual Update of the Budget and Economic Outlook appears, that 2 percent figure is likely to show up more definitively. But neither the budgeteers' news nor the prospect of a confirmation of it is generating much discussion.

This is surprising. The Economic Report of the President shows the federal deficit for 2004 was 3.6 percent. A narrowing of more than 1 1/2 percentage points in such a short time is itself a story.

The U.S. deficit is worth comparing, for starters, with the data for European nations. In the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, European leaders set a deficit goal of 3 percent of GDP. EU member countries have had trouble meeting that target since.

A shortfall of 2 percent of GDP is also news in the U.S. context. Sure, there was the surplus in the second half of the 1990s. But 2 percent is below the average for the federal deficit between 1980 and 1995.

Tax cuts stimulated an ailing economy. A robust economy has delivered record tax revenues. Indeed, although nobody can question President George W. Bush's tax-cutting credentials, he's technically raised taxes. "The rich" are paying more, post-tax cuts, than they did before. And although the American economy has been booming for the past three years now, tax revenues as a percentage of the economy are also higher than they were before the President's tax relief:

Extra corporate taxes also flowed in and are 27 percent higher than in the year-earlier period. Overall, the data suggest that tax revenue as a share of the economy for 2006 will be 18.4 percent of GDP, above the average for the past 30 years.

Had spending been kept in check, we'd have room for even more much needed tax relief. However, if we lump all spending into one big category, we're obfuscating the real story. Even if we had halted entirely the growth of non-military discretionary spending over the past half decade, we'd be in essentially the same fiscal position we are in today.

It's the end of the false peace dividend of the 1990s, coupled with the outer bands of the Baby Boom hurricane beginning to whip the shoreline, that have produced the bulk of government spending increases. Entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) that are mostly on auto-pilot are responsible for deficits (that are either "record highs" or historically lower than average, depending on how you measure) we have today. Unreformed entitlement programs will be responsible for actual record deficits-- and potential government bankruptcy, even with staggering tax increases-- tomorrow, if we fail to modernize and reform them.

What does it say about our news media that we so rarely hear about any of this? And when we do, it's classified as mere "opinion."

I would just direct you back to this post from February, with this graph and accompanying information:

entitlementsdwarfpork.gif
Since 2001, annual pork spending has gone up by several billion dollars.

Since 2001, annual Social Security spending has gone up by $121,782,000,000.

Since 2001, annual Medicare spending has gone up by $125,603,000,000.

Since 2001, annual Medicaid spending has gone up by $62,960,000,000.

Pork is bad for its own reasons. It is corrupting. It is wasteful. It breeds a sense of government having an expensive answer for every minor problem, anywhere. It is unfair, often going to states and cities for political, rather than policy, reasons. Pork confuses the spending issue, directing attention away from the fundamental fiscal crisis we face, onto more symbolic spending abuses. Pork is awful. But eliminating pork-- and stopping the growth of discretionary spending, overall-- wouldn't change the seismic demographic forces at play in America.

We've got to tackle entitlements. The fate of future tax rates depends on it. The fate of our economy depends on it. The fate of capitalism itself depends on it.

Our media have failed to tell these stories, about tax relief producing record tax revenue; about "the wealthy" paying more in taxes now than before; about how many among "the poor" pay little, no, or even negative taxes; about dramatically smaller-than-expected short-term deficits; about our resilient and robust economy itself; and about the potential for gargantuan long-term deficits in the absence of entitlement reform.

All of this is par for the course for this media establishment. It will be funny to hear how shocked, confused, and surprised folks in the media will be when, in the near future, we once again have federal budget surpluses without tax hikes. It won't be so funny to hear how shocked, confused, and surprised folks in the media will be when the Baby Boomer retirement tsunami hits and we have genuinely out-of-control federal budget deficits, with tax hikes.

Fortunately, we make our own destiny, and I wouldn't blog about this stuff if I thought the situation was hopeless. We just need a bit of economic literacy in our news media and the United States Congress.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 August 2006 12:12 PM · Comments (4)

Vince Young vs. Reggie Bush -- Round II

Will posted last year about Vincy Young being the right pick for the Heisman. I, well, disagreed, but it was just after Reggie Bush lit my ASU Sun Devils up for 150 yards and SC came back from being down 21-3 at halftime and my sunburn from sitting in the North endzone at Sun Devil Stadium had still not healed.

Texas Quarterback Vince Young (a junior) is unquestionably the best player in college football and the only serious candidate worthy of the Heisman trophy. USC all-purpose dynamo Reggie Bush (also a junior) is certainly fun to watch, and he's definitely important to his team, but his prodigious and ubiquitous Heisman hype in the media is entirely unwarranted.

Well, they ain't seniors this year, so we don't get to see them dueling for the Heisman, but we did get to see the Number 2 and Number 3 overall picks playing some football tonight against each other.

Bush 6 carries for 59 yards (including a highlight reel Sportscenter play)
Young 4/11 for 56 yards

Now I am not going to claim this demonstrates anything more than that it is much more difficult to learn Norm Chow's offense for a Quarterback than a Running Back. Chow had the chance to draft a player he personally coached in college (and whose number 7 Cardinals Jersey I am currently wearing), Heisman Trophy Winner Matt Lienert, but instead the Titans went with Young. Bush and Young will forever be linked in much the same way Peyton Manning and San Diego Charger draft pick Ryan Leif are still linked. OK, bad comparison.

But the point of all of this--IT IS FOOTBALL SEASON! I just got back from watching Arizona play Pittsburgh at the brand spanking new indoor stadium in Glendale, Arizona, that features a retractible natural grass FIELD to go along with the retractible roof. It was 100 degrees walking up to the stadium, but I almost needed a light jacket for the 68 degrees inside.

So since Will is slacking on his posts, I guess I better say "hook'em Horns" and let's see what Texas has to replace Vince Young. And let's hope that the Houston Oil...er...the Titans get better play from VY. TGIF--S as in Football Season.

Posted by Justin B. · 13 August 2006 02:23 AM · Comments (4)

The Woes of Being a Moderate Democrat

It seems that the best chances the Republicans have of remaining in power and expanding the Majority are to take back Congressional and Senate Seats in the Red States that have "moderate" Democrats in office. Most Red State Democrats are scared to get too far out on the moonbat fringe with the Pelosis since they still have to win elections at home. So, for Republicans, places like Montana with Baucus or Nebraska with Nelson or even North Dakota are good targets,despite the fact that they are not particullarly competitive in the races due to the porkbarrell power of incumbency. What we saw with Daschle was indicative of winnable battles for Republicans. Far more difficult is beating Blue State Democrats out of office.

So we have two things going on. First, Republicans by nature are targetting Moderate Democrats in Red States as these are our easiest victories. Second, moveon.org and others are targeting Lieberman and other moderate Democrats in Blue States in the primaries.

It is a bad time to be a Democratic Moderate. Think about it for a second. Support the troops and the War and Moveon is gonna get you. Fail to support the troops and the war, and you lose all Red State appeal. Finally, even if you support the WOT as a Democratic moderate, the direction your party is moving and the national impression of the cut and run strategy is so severe that it casts doubt even on the strongest Democratic military backers.

Conversely, I think it is a fairly good time to be a Republican Moderate. First, Republicans continue to cut taxes. Republican Moderates vote for tax cuts. Republican Moderates that question "STRATEGY" and "EFFECTIVENESS" of the War in Iraq can question the handling of the war and distance themselves from the Administration, yet still ultimately support the War. They are not being picked off by Extreme Right Wing Republicans in primary elections for questioning the direction the war is heading. Republican Moderates often tend to be Fiscal Conservatives, but Social Moderates, supporting Stem Cell Research, Abortion, and maybe not taking a hard line stance on Gay Marriage, etc. The Religious Right is not targetting these folks in Primaries.

This bodes well for the Republican Party in 2008. The Presidential Primary will have a dozen candidates encompassing the entire spectrum of Republican beliefs. RINO's like McCain. Moderates like Rudy. Conservatives like Frist and Allen. A diverse group of ideas and candidates. On the Democratic Side, there will be plenty of voices, but no diversity. They will be screaming and screeching in unison things like Bush Lied Kids Died and No Blood For Oil. Lieberman is gone from the Party like a moderate cancer and when the purge finishes, the face of the party will further alienate Red State Voters and may result in folks like Baucus and Conrad and Nelson having a tough time choosing between siding with the party nationally or losing elections at home.

Posted by Justin B. · 13 August 2006 02:02 AM · Comments (3)

Senator Ben Nelson Looks Like A Character From One Of Those Rankin & Bass Christmas Specials.

Ben Nelson must be feeling a bit neglected these days. With so much attention on Joe Lieberman as "every Republican's favorite Democrat," Nelson's probably wondering how he was so suddenly dethroned from that position. To win as a Democrat in Nebraska, you MUST be every Republican's favorite Democrat.

Well, I'm here in Nebraska, where Senator Ben Nelson debated Republican Pete Ricketts this weekend. Unfortunately, although Nebraska is as Republican as they come, it's hard to see Ben Nelson (who is probably to the right of Lincoln Chafee, Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe, and a few other GOP Senators) getting knocked off this fall.

Anyway, I've always thought Ben Nelson looked familiar. I finally know why. Watching his head bob around as he spoke, it's clear to me that Ben Nelson is actually one of those animated puppet characters from the old TV Christmas movies.

I really couldn't find the particular images I was thinking of on the interweb in order to prove my point, but here's some proof:

bennelson.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 August 2006 07:29 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 349 -- Tax Revenue Growth Continues To Outpace Spending Growth.

Tax Relief Can Produce Strong Tax Revenue Growth-

In 2005, tax revenue growth far outpaced spending growth in government, because of (or in spite of, for some) President Bush's tax relief. Just for reference, that's the same tax relief nearly all Democrats a) voted against and b) want to turn back the clock on.

In 2006 so far, tax revenue growth has once again outpaced spending growth, according to the very latest Monthly Treasury Report (.pdf):

taxesandspendinggrowth2005t.gif

Just for reference, although three major categories saw actual declines in spending, and a few other categories showed microscopic growth rates, the bulk of spending increases from last year to this year came mostly from (in millions of dollars):

1. Net Interest: 34,773
2. Medicare: 30,762
3. Community & Regional Development (Katrina): 29,479
4. Social Security: 25,433
5. National Defense: 23,883

There are also other Katrina-related expenses that show up on the ledger. But it's mostly the kind of spending that just automatically happens, without a lot of discussion, debate, or deliberation. Combine the two major entitlements on the top five list, and their growth dwarfs everything else. Next in line are interest payments, with miltary spending just behind.

We also spent more, in total, on Social Security (460,916 million dollars) than anything else, by a healthy margin (second place was National Defense, at 434,489 million dollars).

Despite the continued breathtaking growth of entitlement spending, tax revenue growth still won. Without tax increases.

We need to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, and we need to build on those tax cuts. If you have been a disgruntled Republican voter on overspending or immigration, there's still room to hop back aboard the bandwagon. Taxation is too important an issue to sit this election out. We need to send a message that tax cuts are more than good policy, they are good politics.

Folks, it's no secret that nearly all Democrats (and a small number of Republicans) want to raise tax rates. They want to let Bush's tax cuts expire. They want to invent new kinds of taxes, on new categories of Americans. Democrats, being the Marxists they are, love more and higher taxes. On rich people. On middle class people. On success. On entrepreneurialism. On anything and everything they can get their regulatory hands on.

We cannot afford to allow Charlie Rangel, who would become the Ways & Means Committee Chairman if Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, near our nation's tax policy.

It's time for Republicans to rally on the issue of taxes. Stand up and declare that President Bush's tax cuts have worked. Stand up and demand that they become permanent, and then some. We need more tax relief, not less. We need to build on our successes. We have the facts on our side. Tax cuts grow the economy. Tax cuts flood the Treasury with revenue. It's time that we defended low taxes, and fought against the high taxes Democrats would force on us, vigorously, in the political arena, together.

Because here's the deal: President Bush can and will veto tax hikes. But he can't veto inaction; Bush cannot veto the lack of an extension of tax cuts. Bush can't sign more-- or permanent-- tax cuts if they never come to his desk.

Disgruntled (and formerly disgruntled) Republican voters ought to be at least somewhat heartened by the victories of Tim Walberg and Doug Lamborn this week. It proves that the anti-incumbent sentiment out there, manifested by the Lieberman and McKinney losses, is not proof of a political shift to the left in this country.

What's happening out there is that Republicans want Republicans to act like Republicans. Democrats want Democrats to act like Democrats. And the former middle has been consumed and subsumed by Republicans and Democrats.

When Republicans act like Republicans and Democrats act like Democrats, Republicans win. Every single time. Our ideas are better than their ideas.

Fact:
There are more conservatives than liberals out there in America.

Fact:
There are more traditionalists than progressives out there in America.

Fact:
There are more libertarians than socialists out there in America.

We're all willing to vote for Republicans when they act like Republicans. Now that Democrats are finally talking about actual ideas (albeit bad ones), Republicans need to stop reacting, stop playing defense. We need to put our ideas back on the offense.

We need to defend the War On Terror (foreign AND domestic), rather than allow Democrats to unilaterally declare American retreat and defeat.

We need to defend against socialized Hillarycare, fight against frivolous lawsuits, and promote market-based solutions, including Health Savings Accounts, to health care.

We need to continue fighting for Social Security and other entitlement reform.

We need to remind people that judges matter, and it's possible that we'll see another retirement or death of someone on the Supreme Court in the next couple of years. Justices Roberts and Alito are proof that elections matter in judicial appointments.

These issues are all major winners for Republicans. These are all issues with which we can and should play offense. Ultimately, though, the Republican coalition is built around tax cuts. Want to excite the conservative Republican base?

Put tax cuts on the ballot this fall.

Tax cuts work. They are good policy. They are great politics. Everybody knows it. It's high time that Republicans started talking about them.


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

Previous Trivia Tidbit: The Awful Sar-Box Is Just Awful.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 August 2006 04:56 PM · Comments (7)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Sixty -- Declining Rate Of Return.

reformthursdayblue.gif

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

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

This week's topic:

Social Security Has An Increasingly Abysmal Rate Of Return.

Just a quick reminder about Social Security's underlying demographic crunch, from Heritage's 2006 Candidate Briefing Book:

coveredworkers.gif

More retirees. Fewer workers. People are living longer. Benefit increases have outpaced inflation. Long-term structural forces have contributed to an untenable entitlement system. To fix Social Security temporarily, Congress-- at various points in time-- has pushed the retirement age back, raised the tax rate, and expanded the tax base.

Social Security's problems go much deeper than that. The fix is not as easy as soaking the rich... or the middle class.

Social Security needs structural reform. It needs strengthening. It needs modernization. It needs a radical transformation. Social Security needs to move beyond 1935. It is outrageous-- and a bit awe-inspiring (and not in a good way)-- that the shortsightedness of policymakers more than a century before my retirement could continue to have such a deleterious impact over so many trillions of dollars.

It's even more outrageous that we now, in 2006, are missing a clear opportunity to transform Social Security from a malfunctioning Depression-era relic into a wealth-generating powerhouse for Americans of all income levels.

It's sad that so much of America's Gross Domestic Product is being siphoned off into such an inefficient boondoggle. It's a shame that so many dollars of American income (1 of every 8 dollars earned, for many working Americans) are being footled into a program with such a poor investment return:

implicitrateofreturn.gif

Those dollars ought to be growing. Compounded. Into real wealth. Into significant, substantial, Republican-creating wealth.

Americans deserve a better deal. We deserve a modern Social Security system. In a global economy, we can't afford anything less.

It's time for reform.

The clock is still ticking:


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

Read More »


Posted by Will Franklin · 10 August 2006 12:00 PM · Comments (3)

Closed Primaries and the Lieberman Effect

Joe Lieberman is certainly not a conservative. He is barely a "moderate" in this new Era where the definition of a "moderate" is someone that does not believe Bush and Cheney to have started a war for oil, Haliburton to be the root of all evil, and the Bush administration to be behind the collapse of the twin towers. But Lieberman stands behind the invasion of Iraq. And as of yesterday, he is no longer a member of the Democratic Party.

What happened in Connecticut is this--of the entire registered voter population, 33% are registered Democrats. Of those Registered Democrats, approximately 45% actually came to the polls and voted. And of those, Lamont was able to get 52% to vote for him. That means that 52% of 45% of 33% = approximately 7.7% of the total voters in Connecticut determined the candidate for the Democratic Party. Let's break that down a little bit. Of the 2M registered voters in Connecticu, 702,000 are registered Democrats. Less than 350,000 voted. Of those who voted, Lamont won by 52-48%, by 10,000 votes.

We have a two party system where there is no middle ground in part because primaries allow both parties to elect candidates that represent their ideological bases, and further, that represent the most appealing candidate to the small segment of the population that votes in the primary. The 15% of the total registered voters that vote in primaries are usually not the fence leaning moderates. Daily Kos and the far left may not control the majority of any particullar electorate, but they certainly can appeal to the most active and radical 10% of the far left wing of the Democratic Party. And when motivated in a primary, these folks can control the party. If you want to win primaries, you better pander to Daily Kos. That means not compromising one inch on your hatred of ChimpyMcHitlerBurton. That means being a Progressive and a Liberal and a Pacifist. Again, that means running as far left of center as possible. If the Radical left controls just 10% of the total registered voters in Connecticut, this percentage was sufficient to throw out Lieberman.

This is a dangerous precedent for the Democratic Party, just as consistently electing ideologues like Pat Buchanan would be for the Republicans. Or electing someone like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell or Rush or Hannity or Ann Coulter. And trust me, these folks could win primaries. Just not the general elections. And again, that is the problems the Democrats face. Candidates such as Lamont do not have national appeal. Candidates from California and Massachussets and now Connecticut are at the helm of the Party. What is gained in fear and motivation for the existing members of the Party that now are scared to death to cross Kos and Moveon is lost by the offset voters that are scared by the new faces of the party and the new agenda.

But why are we sitting debating whether Joe Lieberman signals the end of the Democratic Party, etc., or acting like Lamont is a far left wing radical that is unprecedented when the Democratic Party Apparatus has been taken over by Howard Dean and when Dennis Kucinich actually got votes in the Democratic Primaries in 2004. Democrats are now held hostage by closed primaries where 52% of 45% of 33% of the voters in a state can throw an incumbent out of office. It is clearly an indication of the way the closed primary system works. Independants do not count and in Connecticut and often do not count nationwide. There is no third party. And as the Democratic Party moves from center-left toward the far left, the middle ground and room for compromise in DC is disappearing. And consequently, the room to attract moderate voters in Red and "purple" states is also disappearing.

This is not our war as Republicans. This is a civil war much like Iraq is "supposed" to turn into. This is a Quagmire. The Democratic Party has huge potential for implosion because of the competing factions within it. How does big labor reconcile their need for high paying jobs with the environmental wing? How about the race baiting wing? The anti-WTO, Communist wing reconcile with the slightly business friendly wing? We have seen that the Progressive Radical Left can influence Primaries. They can influence the direction of the Democratic Party. Now it remains to be seen if this change in the Democratic Party can influence the direction of entire elections or of the nation.

Updated because I realized that not only can't I type, but I am incoherent before my morning coffee.

Further update. A second set of eyes at Say Anything (thanks Rob) asked me to clarify the percentages again. I fixed the grammer and spelling. I think my wife dropped me on my head last night because I am barely literate today.

Posted by Justin B. · 9 August 2006 11:41 AM · Comments (4)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 65

**SPECIAL EDITION**

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

princecharles.jpg

There is no actual caption - this photo has been killed by Reuters! As if we can believe anything they'd put in the caption anyway. Tell us what Reuters should have put in the caption if they were, you know, honest.

I admit this will be a hard one to caption, but maybe you can win acclaim for writing the definitive caption for the most infamous photo of all.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, August 15. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

rice-abbas.jpg

Winners from last week: 1. Rodney Dill:

He may be keeping the stiff British upper lip, but other features required closer scrutiny.

2. Mr. Right:

Prince Charles was determined to find his last shred of dignity, even if it took resorting to the most drastic of measures!

3. Sedosi:
An elated Prince Charles reacts to news that the fine print in his wedding agreement allows for concubines.

Honorable Mention #1 DaveD:
Worth a look, but still not king size.

Honorable Mention #2 SgtFluffy:
Now that he has found his willy again, Prince Charles will now go forth and finally consumate his marriage.

Honorable Mention #3 Ken S:

Excuse me while I whip this out...

Captioning is too important to be left to Reuters. Enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 9 August 2006 06:49 AM · Comments (23)

How Big Is The Reuters Photo Scandal?

When that now-infamous photo cropped up my reaction was to chuckle a bit about the horrible clone job. Yeah, I thought it was definitely newsworthy in its dishonesty but I didn't think it merited a -gate appellation as a major scandal. But as other examples of blatant and possible manipulations keep piling up as the hours go by, it is becoming clear just how widespread and deep this dishonesty goes. We are now finding out that fabricated news stories, staged events and photomanipulation are an entire frickin' industry in the Middle East:

Exhibit A: Taxonomy of Press Dishonesty

Zombie lays it all out in a brilliant breakdown -
The four types of photographic fraud perpetrated by Reuters photographers and editors are:

1. Digitally manipulating images after the photographs have been taken.

2. Photographing scenes staged by Hezbollah and presenting the images as if they were of authentic spontaneous news events.

3. Photographers themselves staging scenes or moving objects, and presenting photos of the set-ups as if they were naturally occurring.

4. Giving false or misleading captions to otherwise real photos that were taken at a different time or place.

All of these forms of fraud have the same intent: to serve as propaganda for Hezbollah, and to make the Israeli attacks look as brutal as possible. And, taken together, they raise a very serious question: can any of the coverage by the entrenched media [be] trusted?

Read the whole thing.


Exhibit B: Pallywood

This is an eye-opening little documentary about the information war being fought in another battlefront in the War on Terror in Palestine:

This is all starting to bury Rathergate in significance. This is enemy propaganda, or dishonesty that just happens to aid the enemy, that has infected Reuters (and AP and the New York Times as well) spreading out to the thousands of news outlets that rely on them. This isn't about a presidential election, this is about an information war on our doorstep manipulating the carnage of war to benefit Islamofascism.

Fortunately, the uncovering of this disinformation campaign can now be tallied as a victory for the good guys in the asymmetric War on Terror, that will hopefully close or at least improve this pernicious theater of the war.

fighting101s.jpg

Who says the 101st Fighting Keyboardists can't win real battles?

Thank you, Charles Johnson!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 9 August 2006 05:42 AM · Comments (8)

Lamont's Absurd Victory

Right now there is probably a tremendous amount of gloating going on in the leftist blogosphere over Ned Lamont's primary victory over Joe Lieberman. I wouldn't know, I rarely venture there, but I can say with certainty that the Nutroots will misconstrue this 'moral victory' for the real thing. This isn't even a win for Kos & The Gang, this is merely a shot at the title later in November (a contest the Democrats will lose by the way). Thus Lamont's primary victory is a triple whammy for the dems: the Democrats lose a seat in the Senate, the entire nation now sees the Democratic party for the shrinking tent it really is, and the choice this November is laid out in even starker relief.

How pathetic really, that the Nutroots' only victory is a democrat beating a democrat. Their desperation for victory will no doubt lead the liberal pundits to conclude that a New England leftist winning a democratic primary is somehow a kind of national referendum on the War in Iraq, with the Democrats ascendant (naturally). There are signs that the Democrats might win one or both houses of Congress this fall, but Lamont's win ain't one of 'em.

Let's see how far this re-McGovernization (and McCarthyism) of the party goes. I wish upon the Nutroots all the influence and publicity they crave.

Update: Is Lieberman going to caucus with the Democrats? Ace thinks Kos might push Joe completely over to the dark side.

P.S. Would the Republicans even want Lieberman?

The liberal group Americans for Democratic Action gave Lieberman’s 2003 voting record a “liberal quotient” of 70 (out of 100), putting him only slightly to the right of center in a caucus in which six members earned a 75 while Nebraska’s Ben Nelson clocked in at 45. Harry Reid, the Democrats’ new leader, had an identical score to Lieberman’s.

The American Conservative Union, meanwhile, gave Lieberman a zero for 2004 and 2003, offering him a lifetime 17. This puts him to the left of uncontroversial Democrats like Blanche Lincoln (21), Thomas Carper (18), Tim Johnson (20), and, again, Reid (21). Indeed, in 2002 and 2003, Lieberman scored slightly to the left of John Kerry and John Edwards.

Yikes.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 9 August 2006 04:54 AM · Comments (0)

Fargin' SPAM

spam.jpg
I just have to blow off some steam here.

The comment and trackback spam is just getting ridiculous around here. I don't often look at my old posts, so I had no idea how bad it was getting. I am still trying to prune back the spambacks and spamments in the archives, but it is a long project (though not a thankless one. Will always does a great job keeping things clean and classy when he has the time, and he thanked me for trying to sort it all out).

It is just embarrassing to look at these posts that I put effort into polluted with trackbacks and comments for some really wretched stuff.

It used to be that only posts that were a few weeks old were getting clogged with this garbage, but now posts that are only a week or two old are now regularly getting infected.

Who are these people, anyway? Can we deport them?

If I ever see the words 'texas hold 'em' again it will be too soon, which will be in about another hour when I plunge in there again.

Argh.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 8 August 2006 10:53 PM · Comments (7)

Rightroots: Give To Republican Candidate Van Taylor, Part II.

rightrootsclassy.gif

In a post last week, I urged folks to give to Republican Congressional candidate Van Taylor. Thank you for responding.

Van Taylor is running against liberal Democrat Chet Edwards in the 17th Congressional district of Texas. This is a district that gave Bush ~70% and Kerry ~30% in 2004.

This is perhaps our best chance to play offense in the entire country. No other House seat held by a Democrat went so strongly for Bush in 2004. TX-17 is a conservative Republican district, any which way you slice it. It boggles the mind that a liberal Democrat (and Chet Edwards is decidedly liberal, as noted last week) occupies this seat. Chet Edwards should not be underestimated as a campaigner, but the more light that's shined on his liberal record, the more vulnerable he becomes.

But Van Taylor is not just "not Chet Edwards." He put his life on the line for freedom in Iraq. A 7th generation Texan, Van Taylor is a genuine conservative. He's an accomplished entrepreneur who understands that high taxes harm small businesses. He's a family man. He's an energetic, optimistic campaigner, and a rising star in the GOP. Van Taylor deserves your support.

finallyvantaylor.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 August 2006 01:03 PM · Comments (1)

Third Party Politics

Ross Perot, Jesse Ventura, Ralph Nader,... Joe Lieberman?

Tomorrow is a defining moment in National Politics and comes down to a few hundred thousand voters in Connecticut. Imagine the entire fate of a political party's direction during a critical wartime coming down to a primary election in Connecticut.

When it comes to the hate Bush vote, surely Lieberman should win that hands down. I mean, Bush's defining moment was stealing the election. The Bush haters have almost forgotten the stolen election and disenfranchisement of all Black voters of 2000 because they have been so busy with the whole blood for oil thing and the Frog Marching of Karl Rove out of the Whitehouse. But when it comes to people with a bone to pick against GW Bush, I think Lieberman probably has that one down. Al Gore gets all the good "are you bitter" questions, but Joe is called Bush's stooge. I bet Joe conspired with Bush to lose Al Gore the election so that the two of them could go to war in Iraq for Haliburton. Thankfully my wife just brought me the tinfoil to line the hat with.

So one of two things happens, the Dems veer away from Daily Kos, Media Matters, MyDD, and the radical left; or they take the collision course right into Oblivion. My choice would be to nominate Lamont and let every Republican congressional race ask if Howard Dean and Lamont and Cynthia McKinney and Ted Kennedy and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi were the people you want running the country. But even better would be for Joe to lose the Primary and then win the General Election.

I like Joe Lieberman. I would vote for him against my own Senator, a guy named McCain. Left, right, or center, he is a good man. He showed his character by not disappearing to Tennessee to grow a beard and talk about Global Warming. He soldiered on and did what he thought was right even though it meant supporting his adversary that kept him from being a heartbeat away from the Presidency. He is classy and funny and is getting a lot of love by the Republicans. And ironically, it is the appeal to the moderate Republicans that may be his undoing among Democrats. If the Republicans and Bush like it, it must be bad.

In all this time of the Democrats talking about Bush being a divider, not a uniter, they are throwing their own man overboard. Bush is not dividing the Democratic Party between the Progressive Doves and the working man, they are doing that themselves. If Bush is a divider, what is MyDD.com, Daily Kos, Soros Money, Media Matters, and Lamont? Uniters? Only at uniting in hatred against Bush.

Posted by Justin B. · 7 August 2006 06:39 PM · Comments (9)

Please, Let The Torment Continue

Well isn't this precious -
Leftist intellectuals and human rights activists from around the world pleaded with the United States on Monday not to interfere with Cuba while Fidel Castro recovers from intestinal surgery.

Many of the 400 signers of the open letter are from Latin America, and numerous Nobel Peace laureates are listed, such as former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and activist Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala.

Do as I say, not as I do - notice how none of the signers actually live in Cuba.

These 'intellectuals' insist that the everyday people of Cuba should continue to suffer under red fascism to maintain their daffy illusion that it is a real 'workers' paradise' (one of the great oxymorons of all time).

For these hypocrites it is more important to shore up the crumbling shrine of near-extinct communism than it is to alleviate the suffering of the second-worst standard of living in the Western Hemisphere.

The real humanitarian course of action is to undermine the Castro regime at every possible turn, and finally put a stake through the heart of this monster. We can only hope Bush is working on that.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 7 August 2006 05:11 PM · Comments (15)

Reviewing The Reagan Record In Light Of The War On Terror

On Dafydd Ab Hugh's blog, Big Lizards, he has an analysis comparing President Reagan's efforts against the Soviet Union with President Bush's in the War On Terror. Dafydd makes an interesting argument, one that brings up some points I had not considered.

Historically, I have often faulted Reagan's actions in regards to the rising threat of Islamist terror. In fact, I have said that Bush is having to deal with the mistakes of his four immediate predecessors, as each had opportunities to confront and deal with Islamic terrorism, and in each case chose the easier, simpler, softer approach -- decisions that led to the current state of affairs.

President Jimmy Carter was confronted with the challenge of Iran seizing our embassy in Teheran, taking our citizens hostage. By any definition, this was an open act of war and a full military reprisal would have been fully justified. Instead, Carter dithered and dawdled and fretted, reinforcing the perception of the United States as a toothless tiger.

The first President Bush did a superb job in uniting much of the Muslim world to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, and in my opinion made the only choice he could when he refrained from going further and removing Saddam from power. I fault him not for that decision, but for not laying the groundwork in advance with our nominal allies in the Muslim world to commit to deposing Saddam before the fighting began.

President Clinton was not elected as a foreign policy president, and it showed. He allowed our peacekeepers in Somalia to change into a peace-making force, then denied them the weapons and equipment to succeed. The following slaughter of United States Rangers and ignominious retreat reinforced the image President Carter had fostered with his weak response to Iran's taking of our embassy.

Clinton was also either incapable or unwilling to see the rise of Islamist terrorism as a palpable threat. He treated each attack as an isolated incident, one more of a crime than an act of war. The first World Trade Center bombing, the African embassy bombings, the Khobar Towers bombing, the near-sinking of the USS Cole -- each was given to law-enforcement officials for resolution, not the intelligence or military communities.

But Reagan did far more -- both by commission and omission -- to foster the current crisis with Islamist terrorism than any other president. His arms-for-hostages deal with Iran (and its proxies, Hezbollah) established the currency for the lives of the innocent, and prolonged the Iran-Iraq war. His support for the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan gave militant Islam its first real victory against a Western power, planting the seeds for the rise of the Taliban and the genesis of Al Qaeda. (Osama Bin Laden got his first taste of violence in that war.) His sending US troops into Lebanon under absurd rules of engagement as "peacekeepers" placed far too many Americans in harm's way with no reasonable way to protect themselves, and the sudden retreat when the inevitable Hezbollah attack occurred sent the unmistakable message: if you kill enough Americans, we will retreat.

In each case, though, Reagan was handling the situation in the context of the larger conflict, the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The arms-for-hostages deal had the benefit of propping up Iran against Iraq's assault, as a badly wounded Iran would be vulnerable to an Afghanistan-style Soviet invasion, giving them direct access to the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz. The support for the Afghan resistance was a direct assault on the Soviets, hoping (and succeeding) to bleed them dry in their own Viet Nam, leaving their military demoralized and bogged down. And the Lebanon intervention was intended to show that we could intervene on behalf of Arabs and Muslims, who were quite eager to align themselves (somewhat) with the Soviets.

The Soviets were keenly aware of some of their major strategic weaknesses. One of those was access to a warm-water port. Their only one was Vladivostok, and that was on the far end of the country from the center of power. Their northern ports freeze over in the winter, the Black Sea is choked by Turkey, and the Baltics were checked by Denmark and Norway. Control of Iran -- a long-term Soviet goal -- would not only give them Iran's oil, but its access to the Indian Ocean and de facto control of the Persian Gulf at the Straits of Hormuz.

Reagan, whether consciously or not, had to choose not between the right and wrong side, but the greater immediate threat versus the lesser, building threat. Many people are too young to remember the Good Old Days when we were confronted with an enemy that possessed enough nuclear weapons to blow up the entire world 3, 4, 5 times over or more, that possessed a mighty army, a fierce (albeit limited) navy, an honest-to-goodness space program that beat us at every milestone except landing a man on the moon, and held an empire that stretched all the way from central Europe to the Pacific, with client states in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

In that context, the choice Reagan made was clear and correct: deal with the Soviet Union now, and worry about the Islamists later.

It is telling that nearly 20 years have passed since Reagan left office, and the greatest threat we face today is still by far the lesser threat than the Soviets posed -- or, for that matter, the threat the Nazis or Imperial Japan posed.

This is not a commentary on the intentions and desires of the Islamists, however. They would gladly emulate the accomplishments of those reprehensible people cited above, but merely lack the wherewithal to achieve such deeds.

They are eagerly seeking the wherewithal to do so, but thus far lack it.

Yes, in a certain sense, the current problems can be laid at the feet of Ronald Reagan. But it must be recalled that those were part of the price paid for ending the far greater threat that was the Soviet Union.

Posted by Jay Tea · 7 August 2006 07:00 AM · Comments (9)

The New Court-Ordered Texas Redistricting Map.

A couple of weeks ago, I commented on the likely new Congressional district maps in Texas.

Well, here's the new map:

finalnewmap.gif

Also, see more detailed maps in .pdf format here.

I am now represented by far-left Democrat Lloyd Doggett, rather than Republican Lamar Smith. I feel disenfranchised. Lloyd Doggett is not my candidate of choice. Nor is he the candidate of choice of thousands in my neighborhood.

Meanwhile, according to the 2000 Census, Latino Republican Henry Bonilla's new district is now 65.1% Hispanic, with Hispanics comprising 61.2% of the Voting Age Population. Meanwhile, only 54.2% of currently registered voters in the new TX-23 are Hispanic. This is now a relatively competitive district, if not this year, then in future years.

Ironically, far-left netroots-favored Democrat Ciro Rodriguez, who lost to fellow Democrat Henry Cuellar in Democratic primaries in 2004 (by just 58 votes) and in 2006 (by a small percentage), lives in TX-23. He'll run a vigorous campaign against Henry Bonilla (R).

Folks, a court just eliminated a safe Republican U.S. House seat. Just like that. While Henry Bonilla ought to be relatively safe this year, the odd primary structure might mean a run-off election with extremely low turnout. In December.

Over the next two years, you can bet that Ciro Rodriguez (D) will raise a ton of money to challenge Bonilla (R). He'll organize. He'll mobilize. And he'll watch Bonilla like a hawk when he speaks or votes or raises money.

Bonilla, a fairly reliable Republican vote in the House, may now have to watch his back on policy issues. We'll see.

Here's how the election will work:

* March Primaries in five altered districts are vacated, essentially voiding a major act of democracy with the stroke of a judge's keyboard.

* The new filing deadline is August 25th for potential candidates.

* Ballot will be formally certified September 6th.

* Primaries and General Election run concurrently on November 7th. In most races, we'll vote for real. For House races, we'll vote Louisiana-style.

* To win and avoid a run-off, a candidate must receive 50% of the vote. If a candidate fails to receive 50%, a runoff election will include the top 2 vote getters.

* Texas Secretary of State will set the date for the run-off election, if necessary. Likely, it will be 3-5 weeks after the November 7 election.

Weird, weird deal.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 August 2006 11:59 PM · Comments (1)

Blatant Press Dishonesty Staring You In The Face

Check out this graphic lie and pro-Hezbollah propaganda photo, published by Reuters:

beirutfakepic.jpg

Apparently Reuters does not consider an unaltered picture of Beirut quite 'exciting' enough, and so they decided to make it a little more sexy by clumsily using a clone tool to make it look a bit more grim.

Their tacky Photoshop skillz are most apparent in the plumes of smoke, which have repeating identical patterns. Charles Johnson points out other examples of duplication at LGF.

It is such a bad job, it should insult your intelligence.

I keep saying this, but it needs repeating: always presume that the press is lying to you, serving some agenda other than the truth. Only when something is proven conclusively true from many sources should you even think about believing it.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 5 August 2006 07:37 PM · Comments (6)

Apologia

The other day, a prominent left-wing blogger posted a Photoshopped image of Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) in black minstrel makeup and garb. I won't recap the details here, because my Wizbang boss Kevin Aylward did a superb job already. Rather, I'm going to look at Jane Hamsher's apology for posting the picture.

Hamsher devotes the opening paragraph of her posting to apologizing, then spends the rest of it defending the gist of the graphic, discussing the role of race in the Lieberman/Lamont race in Connecticut for the Democratic nomination for Lieberman's Senate seat. The full text of Hamsher's apology is here:

I sincerely apologize to anyone who was genuinely offended by the choice of images accompanying my blog post today on the Huffington Post. It’s also important to note that I do not, nor have I ever worked for Ned Lamont’s campaign. However, at their request, I removed the image earlier today.

To my way of thinking, that's not much of an apology.

Perhaps it's a product of my upbringing in rural northern New Hampshire. Or, perhaps, having read too many comic books as a child, back when heroes were actually noble and heroic. But I have a very clear image of what constitutes a true apology.

First, the offender must acknowledge that the action was wrong. There must be a clear admission of error, and that the action was indeed offensive.

Second, the offender must make it clear that they regret the action itself, and not merely its consequences.

Third, the offender must clearly demonstrate they understand precisely why the action was wrong.

Fourth, the offender should make a commitment to learn from the error and strive to make certain the error is not repeated.

Hamsher's non-apology meets none of these criteria. Rather, it is far too typical of what are becoming the de facto standard for apologies these days: "I'm sorry if you were offended." It's a slightly politer version of saying "while I was fully justified in my actions and you are wrong for taking offense, but I will apologize anyway for the sake of civility." There is not a single element of what I was taught makes up a true apology.

I find myself speculating what might have led to this sorry state of affairs. My first notion is that it is an outgrowth of the toxic "self esteem" movement, where the notion that one's own image of oneself is the predominant determining factor, and must be protected at all costs. Under this model, admitting fault is admitting error, and that is damaging to one's ego. Whether or not it is justified, it should not happen.

The danger here is that we are all human, and we all make mistakes. To continually postpone the confrontation between ourselves and reality is to make that inevitability even more disastrous. The sooner we learn how to accept our own failures and shortcomings and move beyond them, the better off we are.

Another is that apologizing has come to be seen as a sign of weakness. Some people may fear that to admit error in one instance can call into question their judgment in other cases, and can be brought back time and again in the future. "Joe, remember how wrong you were on the Greenfield matter? How can you be sure you're right this time?"

I have had some success against that tactic. I simply say "As you point out, I was wrong on that one. And I admitted it. I have no problem admitting when I am wrong on something. This time, I'm not. Where's your proof that you're correct, and you're not just running on ego?"

Whatever the reason, the decline of the simple, sincere, heartfelt apology in today's society is a bad sign. It enhances the coarseness, the toxicity, the venom of modern discourse. And in these times, we need to get beyond that and try to settle our differences in a more civil fashion.

Posted by Jay Tea · 5 August 2006 06:00 AM · Comments (12)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Fifty-Nine -- Social Security's Effect on Retirement Investment Decisions

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

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

(Check that, Will offered a Chart or Graph, I just offer words. But, hey, Will isn't paying me so live with it people.--Justin)

This week's topic:

Retirement Myths and Lump Sum Thinking--The Effect of Social Security on Private Retirement Funds.

Less facts and figures this time, but an important point to review. Will sent me this link to a discussion from Wharton illustrating some of the problems with private retirement funds and the decisions people make with their own investment portfolios.

Imagine being 67, finally retiring without a pension, but with sizable 401(k) assets and a nice home. Living a modest life until now (and if you read ski-blog.com you will realize that I am spending my kids' college funds and my retirement skiing in Utah) and saving and investing, you have a home that is paid for worth in today's dollars $500,000 and an additional $500,000 in 401(k) money. So hypothetically, you are worth approximately $1M. I get my annual Social Security statement and for today's Justin in today's dollars, my benefit is approximately $1800 per month. So we will use that for reference. What is the plan and how does Social Security influence your decisions and what would your decisions be if you did not have Social Security to depend on?

The big problem is that the conventional wisdom is wrong. The conventional wisdom is that as you get older, you should become more conservative in your investment portfolio. So, as I go into my 50's and I'm approaching 60 -- let's say 65 is the magic age -- the conventional wisdom is I should start making my investment portfolio more and more conservative. Yet a couple at age 60 today has a 62% probability that one of them will be alive past age 90. So we're not planning for 15 years, we're planning for 30 years or more.

If I have a 15 year plan for my 401(k) and Home Asset that includes buying an RV and travelling the country to see the grandkids and towing my new Jeep behind it, BAM, there goes 1/4 of my net worth. Maybe we downsize the house and buy our RV, but either way, that money is gone and the new assets depreciate. Not just depreciate, but the loss of that $250,000 of net worth effectively takes away the investment income it would generate--which conservatively is $10-25,000 a year. No big deal, I still have Social Security and $750,000 to live my 15 years. Maybe I love classic cars and buy my dream Camaro. Maybe we just decide we have saved and skimped and sent the kids to college and we should enjoy our retirement, so we spend that little bit extra that we could otherwise save and invest.

There are a lot of businesses that offer solutions:

Condron: There are a lot of challenges around that because the concept of reverse mortgages is wonderful. If I have a million-dollar house and I borrow $500,000, I can create income for myself and settle up the debt at the time of my death, and so forth. But the problems with it are that on the front end, it tends to be expensive for the client because there are a lot of mouths at the trough. There are the mortgage people, there are the investment people -- there are a lot of fees, and that's the challenge.

Demographics and healthcare add to the worries:

I think that you have to remind them that they are going to live for a long time. And, I think that is the one piece [of information] that people are shocked at. For example, people tend to think, "If I'm 65, I've got a 15-year life expectancy" -- because life expectancies for children born today are somewhere around 80 years. But the fact is, if you [make it] to age 65, your life expectancy is a lot longer. And then you get into the probabilities because what we found is -- going back to the point I made earlier -- if you're a couple that is age 65, there is a 62% probability that one of you is going to live past age 90. That's the year 2000 data, the most current data we have. In the 1970 data, you had a 40% probability that one of you was going to live past age 90.

But the biggest problem is the Lump Sum Illusion:

Condron: I want to pick up on the "lump-sum illusion," because it's a problem in the way that the financial industry has taught people to think. You know we've developed retirement plans and defined contribution plans which pay off in a lump sum. We sell life insurance to people in a lump sum. People aren't equipped to really make the calculation and the conversion from a lump sum to income -- because it's all about income.

Now let's get to our real topic--Social Security. How does Social Security play into all of this? Social Security is anything but "Secure". We all know the insolvency issues that are coming. The income stream from Social Security is not going to keep pace with inflation, and retirement age is a moving target. People are living even longer and will live longer in the future.

We talk a lot about Social Security helping the poor old widow not have to eat cat food, but the idea of a safety net provides a backup and almost incentive to spend lavishly early in retirement to travel, see the kids, etc. And many retirees see Social Security as an endless benefit. Why use my private funds as simply a supplement to Social Security, when I have plenty of money to enjoy life. I am a damned millionaire. Social Security will make up the shortfall and we are only going to live another 15 years.

Social Security is going to require tax increases or benefit decreases. And guess what--Social Security is only half the battle. So will Medicare. Medical Costs are rising. Benefits can only decrease or bankrupt the country. And if property taxes, dividend taxes, and income taxes continue to rise to pay for Social Security, well off retirees will pay higher and higher rates of income and dividend taxes on their investment distributions. This further deflates the value of the smart investor that has saved for his/her own retirement. This acts to discourage these retirees from making good decisions with their private money and that runs contrary to the purpose of Social Security.

Higher taxes and lower benefits are only part of the problem. The other part is that multiple industries prey on Retirees with investment schemes. The government preys on older people with the dividend taxes, estate taxes, and rising property taxes. And Social Security and the illusion of a lifetime benefit to make up for bad choices allows retirees to make bad decisions with their money.

Private Accounts for Social Security create a sense of Social Security as a fixed asset that is part of your investment portfolio, not a simple government entitlement. It becomes part of your net worth and forces you to think of your entire retirement funding strategy as a whole. Most retirees do not view Social Security and the revenue stream as anything more than an endless entitlement until they die. It cannot be passed on. And when you have endless government money, why not enjoy spending your own savings when you have the safety net of someone else paying for you to live when you make mistakes.

It is 10 years after welfare reform was enacted. And at the end of the day, when people understand their benefits are finite, they act in their own best interest which in turn is society's best interest. We insulate people from bad investment decisions and that encourages them to make them and costs all of us.

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).
-Week Fifty-Four (Potential Crisis Size).
-Week Fifty-Five (The Crisis Moves Closer).
-Week Fifty-Six (Big Brother Social Security).
-Week Fifty-Seven (Personal Accounts Are Awesome).
-Week Fifty-Eight (Private Accounts and Presidential Proposals).

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

Posted by Justin B. · 3 August 2006 11:41 AM · Comments (6)

E pluribus unum, or "everything that rises must converge"

A little over a year ago, Russ at TacJammer composed a piece on how group blogs tend to... well, have quality issues. His thesis is that changing a solo author blog into one maintained by several writers tends to dilute the essential "flavor" that drew the readers in the first place, and the resulting miasma of opinions, styles, and voices tends to muddle the former unified perspective.

Russ raises valid concerns. It is a serious danger, and has been the downfall of some very good blogs. To cite an example of which I am passingly familiar, Polipundit suffered a major meltdown, when the site's owner passed edicts about his staff taking certain positions contrasting with his own on issues he felt most strongly about. The consequences were extreme: several of the most popular writers up and left, taking with them many of their devoted readers.

On the other hand, if managed carefully, expanding the author pool can improve a blog tremendously. To blow my own horn here, Wizbang was an excellent site when it was just run by Kevin Aylward. Then he needed some time off, so he brought in a group of guest posters. Six of them filled in for a while, then moved on. Two of us stuck around, and Wizbang ended up a group blog entirely by accident. We now have a regular staff of four or five (there's some ambiguity about one of us), as well as several sub-pages with their own staffs, and our ranking and traffic have never been higher.

(In an aside, one of those subpages, Wizbang Politics, is pretty much run by the Polipundit expatriates. In a nearly unrivalled coup in the blogosphere, Kevin scooped up DJ Drummond, Alexander McClure, and Lorie Byrd and gave them free rein over "Wizbang Politics" -- a move only topped by Michelle Malkin's luring of AllahPundit out of retirement for Hot Air.)

But far more important than whether group blogging is a good or a bad thing is that I am coming to believe that it is essential, and mandated by one of the fundamental forces of nature:

Entropy.

A blog needs to be continually refreshed, given new material, new topics, or it will wither away and die. Blogging is still a relatively new phenomenon, but we are already seeing the toll of having to post new material, new thoughts, on a regular basis, day in and day out, month after month, year after year. It's far too much for any one human being to sustain. (Unless, of course, you're Laurence Simon. He took a very successful group blog -- Amish Tech Support -- and dissolved it, choosing to return to a solo blogger. But he's not human, so he doesn't count.)

A perusal of The Truth Laid Bear's remarkably useful and educational Ecosystem shows the inevitability of this move. Of the top ten blogs, only Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, and Eschaton are solo sites. (Ironically, Glenn Reynolds is on vacation this week, and has at least four people trying to pick up his slack.) The vast majority of the successful blogs are the product of two or more people.

For good or ill, group blogs are the future. The audience demands far more than almost any one person can sustain. The key is to forge groups where the writers are complementary. Those that do, will prosper. Those that do not, will dissolve into chaos and fall into obscurity.

Posted by Jay Tea · 3 August 2006 08:00 AM · Comments (12)

Rightroots: Give To Republican Candidate Van Taylor.

Republicans can and will maintain the House and Senate this year... with a little help. More astonishingly, Republicans can actually play offense this year... with a little help.

There are competitive districts around the country, including "flyover country" (a.k.a. Bush country) that are currently held by Democrats.

One district in particular, TX-17, is in desperate need of a party flip. This is a district that includes Bush's Crawford ranch, Baylor University (now with dancing!), Texas A&M University (and the George Bush Presidential Library), the Texas Ranger Museum, and farms and ranches galore. This is a district that Bush won by roughly 40 percentage points. This is a district that Democrats have no business holding, especially considering what is at stake nationally (Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, Charlie Rangel as Ways and Means Chair, John Dingell as Energy and Commerce Chair, etc.).

Democrat incumbent Chet Edwards eeked out a victory two years ago, with roughly 51% of the vote, over weak Republican candidate Arlene Wohlgemuth in the newly drawn district.

Van Taylor is no Arlene Wohlgemuth. He served in Iraq. He's an aggressive campaigner. He's a true conservative. He's worthy of your support. If you are thinking about giving money to a candidate or political party, but perhaps you are irritated with certain Republican incumbents right now (*cough* Lincoln Chafee *cough*), this is your chance to help an up-and-coming conservative defeat a tax-hiking Democrat in a very, very Republican district.

That Chet Edwards is even in this race, let alone favored by most prognosticators, proves the awesome power of incumbency. Edwards is running on a record of bringing home the pork for his district-- which is working, to an extent. While he's not as liberal as Tom Daschle was in the Senate, Chet Edwards has been effective at talking one way in Texas and voting another way in Washington, DC.

For example, according to Project Vote Smart: Chet Edwards got a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2004. In 2005, Edwards voted with Americans for Tax Reform only 12% of the time, but voted with the far-left NEA 100% of the time, the radically feminist organization NOW 86% of the time, Americans for Democratic Action 85% of the time (Murtha only scored a 75), and the absurdly anti-Republican NAACP 78% of the time.

Meanwhile, Chet Edwards received an embarrassing 26% rating from Citizens Against Government Waste. He's received failing grades on the 2nd amendment, he's almost always supported unions, he's ardently against Social Security reform, and he's all over the map on free trade. Most importantly, Chet Edwards has voted against many important tax relief measures over the years.

edwardsandpelosi.gif

He's a Nancy Pelosi Democrat, plain and simple. And he's got to go.

This is where Rightroots comes in.

vantaylorrightroots.gif

If you have some money to donate to worthy candidates, but you're still unsure where those dollars ought to go, consider a donation, via Rightroots, to Van Taylor.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 August 2006 12:59 PM · Comments (1)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 64

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:

princecharles.jpg
The actual caption:
Britain's Prince Charles, known in Scotland as the Duke of Rothesay, enters the microscope room during a visit to the Environmental Research Institute at North Highland College in Thurso, Scotland August 1, 2006.
Oh puh-leaze what a lame caption. Give us a real caption!

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, August 8. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at mccracken.ken@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:

rice-abbas.jpg

Winners from last week: 1. SgtFluffy:

You you there, get me some metamucil...Stat!

2. Jim Rose:

"What you have to realize, ladies and gentlemen, is that I am a tool.

What the?! Wait a minute! Who's been messing with my note cards? YOU!"

3. Fersboo:
Oh no he didn't. I'm going to slap him back to the 10th century if he keeps wagging that finger in my face!

Honorable Mention #1 Radio Free Fred:
"Your Not Fooling Me, Your David Letterman In A Chick Suit!"

Honorable Mention #2 Dave D.:
"This meeting has brought good understanding. Am I supposed to rub your shoulders now?"

Honorable Mention #3 Rodney Dill :
"...yes and my wife really likes your show, Oprah."

Captioning is magical - enter today!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 2 August 2006 11:29 AM · Comments (17)

Hezbollah Infrastructure Destroyed

click to enlarge

. . . at least that is what Ehud Olmert is claiming - "The infrastructure of Hizbollah has been entirely destroyed. More than 700... command positions of Hezbollah were entirely wiped out by the Israeli army. All the population which is the power base of the Hezbollah in Lebanon was displaced." Israel sent 60 D-9 Bulldozers to flatten all Hezbollah lookout posts and spider holes along a 1.2 mile deep zone along Israel's border.

Israel has struck deeper into Lebanon, capturing several Hezbollah fighters from a hospital in Baalbeck in the Bekaa valley. Fighting is reported as far into Lebanon as Qana and the Christian city of Mayjaroun. The IDF has some 10,000 troops inside Lebanon now.

Israel has changed course, listened to Israeli public opinion, and is now aggressively rooting out Hezbollah.

Damascus is doing a little saber-rattling: "SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad has placed his military on full alert, citing "regional challenges", and vowed to continue supporting the "Palestinian and Lebanese resistance more than ever".

We are lucky to have such a capable and brave ally in Israel. The Lebanese in general don't seem to see it this way, but Israel is doing for Lebanon that which it cannot do for itself. Lebanon will never be truly independent and sovereign until it rids itself of the Hezbollah terrorist mini-state in its midst. If that happens, Israel will have secured the Cedar Revolution, and Lebanon will ultimately be grateful.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 2 August 2006 05:21 AM · Comments (4)