Current Affairs Archives

October 3, 2003

Ah-nold: Damage control

I have to admit, as an ex-pat Californian, even I was surprised by the success of the recall campaign. California politics has long been under thrall to a single party, and the budget meltdown over the past two years (as well as Gray Davis' lying about it during the last gubernatorial race) seemed heaven-sent for California Republicans. After all, California was the laboratory for the more radicalized elements of the Democrats, and it was turning into a quagmire. All that the Republicans had to do was to stay out of the way, and they were assured of significant gains in the next couple of election cycles. Well, as usual, California Republicans had to show that they are bested by no one in shooting themselves in the foot. After pushing through an almost-unprecedented recall of a governor, who incidentally is not accused of any special malfeasance except being an idiot and...

Damage control (cont)

The fallout continues, or sort of. Arnold's back on the campaign trail, being greeted by cheering fans -- er, voters -- but after his apology and non-acknowledgement of the Hitler reference (from almost 30 years ago!), he's keeping his mouth shut. As a strategy, this is probably as much of a winner that he'll come up with at this point of the campaign. I wonder, though, if a third shoe is being prepared for the Sunday edition... Arnold may be under attack, but the LA Times appears to be suffering the damage . Susan Estrich gets her shots in from the editorial page of the LA Times itself: So this is the October surprise? The Los Angeles Times headline that Arnold Schwarzenegger groped and humiliated women? ... But none of these women, as The Times emphasizes, ever came forward to complain. The newspaper went looking for them, and then waited...

The Franco-American War

Here's another reason to hate the French, courtesy of Merde in France. Does anyone still think that if we had just tried harder to woo the French, we could have gotten their support?...

David Kay's report explained in better detail

Power Line's Big Trunk has posted an e-mail he received from author Dr. Laurie Mylroie that explains more about the David Kay report. Go now and read the entire message, and while you're at it check out all of Power Line. It's a great blog. Also, they have an entry two posts below the Mylroie e-mail with a link to an article in the Sun, a British newspaper, on the Kay report....

Damage Control, etc

Mickey Kaus continues to have fun with this story. Unfortunately, he's probably right about the transient nature of the bounce; it's likely a result of Ah-nold trying to "terminate" the scandal with a quick mea culpa, as well as the high level of disgust at the LA Times for spending several weeks specifically to dredge up this kind of crap. It's not that I don't think that the women are lying, although the fact that four of the six won't identify themselves, and all six never availed themselves of the legal system, does not give me confidence. Arnold himself acknowledged that he's done something, after all. And the incidents in the report are all ugly. But for crying out loud, after all the screeching the Times did over the Clinton sexual peccadiloes (that occured while he was in office, with staff underlings, on the public dime) being blown out of...

Oh, here come the protests

I can see PETA protesting this -- perhaps they'd prefer Cheney or Wolfowitz take a turn as a beefeater. Or, better yet, Bush could do the tasting to keep the mice safe....

October 4, 2003

Who says we ain't got couth?

President Bush surprises everyone with his deep, artistic side by writing poetry. This ought to silence those of his foes who dare to challenge his intellect, eh?...

Damage Control, etc II

Here's an AP update to all the Schwarzenonsense from the past 24 hours or so. According to an Austrian news source, California's leading candidate for Governer terminated a meeting of neo-Nazis when he was 17 years old, hunting them down and dispersing them. There's been five more women who've come forward with more groping stories, which Mickey Kaus covers in his latest entry....

Somalia Anniversary

Courtesy of Little Green Footballs -- today is the tenth anniversary of the battle in Mogadishu that became the focus of the film, Black Hawk Down. Particularly interesting are Osama bin Laden's comments from a 1997 interview with Robert Fisk....

Minnesota Politics: Down and Dirty

Hindrocket blasts off at Minnesota Democrats on the Powerline blog. It certainly looks like Mike Hatch is flailing at anything to ruin Pawlenty. Maybe he's a protege of Gray Davis....

Israel Sabotages Peace Again

Once again, those darn Israelis have sabotaged peace again by having the arrogance to die in large numbers when a Palestinian freedom fighter blows herself up in a Haifa restaurant. You can check out the blogosphere reaction at Little Green Footballs (where it's about what you'd expect), Power Line, and Roger Simon....

David Kay redux

A guest column by Andrew Apostalou puts it all into perspective. (Thanks to Roger Simon.) From what I see, we may be the first nation to have such poisonous debate over a war we won, with minimal losses on both sides, and that resulted in liberating over 20 million people (not to mention removing a dangerous regional threat). Does anyone else find this as silly as I do? We knew he was a brutal dictator; we know now that he was actively avoiding compliance with UN resolutions and the terms of the truce that left him in power. At the same time, a significant amount of our overseas military was pinned down enforcing the terms of that truce, and our presence in Saudi Arabia was not helping matters. Eventually we would have to have left, with Saddam in power, which would only embolden other dictators and bin Laden wanna-bes. The...

Oman stages first free elections - Oct. 4, 2003

This is more good news, and a good indicator that our campaign is bearing fruit in other areas. The only way we will ever be safe is to transform dictatorships and creaky monarchies into liberal democracies......

Did he sell Gray Davis a brain?

Okay, this is just a bit grim, don't you think? I'd hate to think where all these parts eventually ended up. I do think it's interesting that this guy was sentenced to a lot more prison time for selling dead body parts than most drunk drivers get sentenced for vehicular homicide -- in fact, about six times more....

Third-year slump

I'm not sure if Hindrocket over at Power Line has had a chance to read this Fred Barnes article at OpinionJournal, but maybe it would make him feel a little bit better. The impression I get so far is that the Democrats are doing all the talking, and that's accounting for the slipping numbers. As Barnes points out, that's natural; it's Presidential election season, with the first round of the primaries coming up in three or four months. When Dubya has a chance to focus on the election, the numbers will move back, probably significantly, unless something goes disastrously wrong in the war....

Opening a Window on North Korea's Horrors (washingtonpost.com)

North Korea: a horror show. Read the whole thing. (via Instapundit)...

October 5, 2003

Israel attacks training camp in Syria, IDF says

This ... is not good. No word on Syria's reaction yet, although I doubt it will be very friendly....

Steve Lopez again

Damn ... I still don't agree with him on everything, but you have to admit, he makes a pretty good point here. I just wish the Times covered Gray Davis like they covered Arnold. Then I wouldn't have a gripe....

Officer Charged in Sex Deal with Teen Defendant

Yeah, I know that there would be a different reaction if this involved a female defendant and a male officer, but I still can't help but have some small part of me think that this kid really lucked out. He got dinner, booze, pot, and lucky, and now as a result, he will probably wind up having the charges against him dropped or at least a very lenient sentence....

Mary Carey, uh, Enlarges Leno's Ratings

Set your TiVos -- Mary Carey has an ad that will run on Monday night's "Tonight Show". Please submit any puns this inspires!!...

One sign of the impending apocalypse

Frog eggs fall from the sky onto home in Berlin...

Makes a fella proud to be Minnesotan

Idiots. Maybe the best course of action would be to cancel next year's homecoming. It's one thing (still bad) when economically and socially repressed groups riot; while you don't condone it in any way, and you prosecute those responsible, there's some understanding of the desperation involved. What do we have in Mankato? A bunch of spoiled, rich kids who decided to piss all over their surrounding neighborhoods, beat people up, and destroy property. Everyone involved should be expelled, tried, and thrown in jail for a few weeks. It's only at times like this that I wish we had a military draft....

Gray Davis: Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Oh, man ... if you want to read why Gray is going down, just read this article from today's Times. Here's a great quote of the master at work: "We need immigrants to pick our food and put it on our tables," he said as the audience — middle-class Latinos, primarily — shifted uncomfortably. "We need immigrants to clean our hotels and office buildings and take care of the elderly." And: "That work is important.... Whether people are janitors or maids or busboys or cooks, it's all part of the experience we enjoy when we're at a restaurant or a hotel." If any of the Latinos in the studios of the Spanish-language station Univision felt patronized, they didn't say so. But the governor's words landed with a dull thud Monday night, creating one of many awkward moments as he fought for his political life in the final week of the...

Why the recall will win

Here's a great article by Daniel Weintraub about why the recall came to be, and why it will win. Money quote: Although Davis ridiculed the recall as sour grapes from sore losers and attacked it as a right-wing coup, he realized too late that it was much more than that. The movement might have begun on the far right, but it became a deep, almost cathartic expression of frustration on the part of voters who felt cheated in the 2002 election by the governor's meddling in the opposition party's primary, by two unsatisfactory candidates who ran uninspiring, negative campaigns, and by a political elite who seemed to relish leaving them out of the game. Couldn't have put it any better....

Was McNabb a ruse?

An interesting theory from Frater Libertas. Hmmmm .... Dittoheads should reserve judgment (not that I've ever been one; Rush irritates the snot out of me)....

October 6, 2003

Budweiser for Bustamante!

Let's face it, Bud sucks anyway ... but I sure as hell won't be buying any of their beer now (third item). I wonder what all the anti-globalists and anti-corporate idiots who support Gray Davis, Algore, etc think about this corporate sponsorship. Could it be that, as opposed to Republicans who actively support businessmen and job creation, these guys spout off platitudes to hoodwink socialists while selling out to the corporate interests they supposedly oppose? True. True....

Jill Stewart speaks out on LA Times, Gray, & Arnold

Jill Stewart, who wrote an article on Gray Davis that I linked a couple of days ago, puts the Times story in perspective at the LA Daily News. Main thrust: After my story ran, I waited for the Times to publish its story. It never did. When I spoke to a reporter involved, he said editors at the Times were against attacking a major political figure using anonymous sources. Just what they did last week to Schwarzenegger. Be sure to read the whole thing....

October 7, 2003

He was running?

Bob Graham drops out of presidential race; polls show no one knew he was in it to begin with....

Gary Davis and his supporters in the home stretch

Daniel Weintraub has a hilarious bit on last minute campaigning by Gray Davis and his supporters. This, of course, could only take place in San Francisco: As [Mayor Willie] Brown spoke, a man with an oversized Arnold Schwarzenegger mask strapped to his face, money in his hands and a large blue E symbolizing Enron pursued a woman dressed in pink around the plaza, groping her between faux slaps in the face. And here's something that will make Davis sleep easier: Charles Duff, 24, a student at San Francisco State University, sat with his back to the rally. I asked him what he thought of the recall. “Crazy,” he said. “It’s crazy.” What’s crazy about it? I asked him. “The idea that you can take out a guy and have all these people running to replace him.” So you’re going to vote against the recall? “When’s the election?” he asked before...

LA Times Blows Its Credibility

If anything should finally underscore the fact that the LA Times has become a Democratic Party shill, this ought to do it. Bill Bradley at the LA Weekly (as mentioned before, no friend to conservatives) reveals a pre-publication leak of the Ah-nuld hit piece to the Davis campaign, who took the ball and ran with it with suspicious "alacrity". More: [T]he paper Monday backed off its previous contention that none of the women in subsequent stories came forward at the urging of Schwarzenegger’s opponents in the wake of the Weekly’s revelation that Jodie Evans, who pushed one of the women to come forward, is not merely the peace activist described by the Times but also a former close colleague of Governor Davis and longtime friend of chief Democratic hit man Bob Mulholland. This is, of course, what the LA Weekly has reported before, and is finally getting out to the...

Ambivalence

Chris Muir captures my own ambivalence perfectly....

Gay marriage: What's the problem?

Here's where I part company with the Right, and my annoying libertarian streak comes out. AndrewSullivan covers this topic in great detail, as he should; he's got a much larger stake in this than I do. (Full disclosure: I'm hetero, married, Catholic, pro-life, anti-death penalty.) He covers a USA Today poll showing the public is evenly split over this topic. And here's my take on this. Marriage, in my faith, is considered a sacrament between a man and a woman which exists for the glory of God and the perpetuation of God's primary creation, etc etc etc. That is my faith, and I subscribe to that view. However, the Church is perfectly free to set those rules for itself and its members, and it's perfectly free to tell members who don't comply to take a hike. Most Christian denominations view marriage in a similar, but not exact, way. Civil marriages...

Playing Keep-Away from Chads

Here's a good interim report on Recall Day in California from the Post. The post I'm reading is from 2:30 PM, and it looks like a heavy turnout in California. Terry Neal points out that there's been some efforts to educate voters on the punch-card ballot process, but I voted in California for almost 20 years and I can tell you that every ballot I every used was punch-card, and most of those were of the notorious butterfly configuration. Californians aren't as stupid as Democrats would have you believe Floridians are. There's an interesting point in one of Neal's earlier dispatches (10/6 11:10 PM): Davis, the final speaker, was introduced by his wife, Sharon Davis, who alluded to the allegations against Schwarzenegger. "My husband has never been accused of anything worse than being dull," she said. Maybe Sharon hasn't read this yet....

Fox News Predicts Possible Landslide in Recall

No link -- I'm watching Fox News, and Brit Hume used the phrase "possible landslide" for the recall. Interesting. They're predicting Ah-nuld the winner, based on exit polling. 69% of voters opposed giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Oops!...

Heavy Voter Turnout Marks Historic Election

Maybe the ACLU can explain why this is undemocratic: The secretary of state said that turnout by late afternoon was running on target at about 60%, according to department official Terri Carbaugh. That turnout is consistent with earlier predictions that the rate would fall roughly between the 70.94% turnout in the last presidential election and the 50.6% turnout in the gubernatorial election last November. The high turnout indicates that "voters are highly attentive and highly engaged," Carbaugh said....

Trouble Already??

This didn't take long. Wesley Clark's presidential campaign is already in disarray: Wesley K. Clark's campaign manager quit yesterday in a dispute over the direction of the Democratic presidential bid, exposing a rift between the former general's Washington-based advisers and his three-week-old Arkansas campaign team. Donnie Fowler told associates he was leaving over widespread concerns that supporters who used the Internet to draft Clark into the race are not being taken seriously by top campaign advisers. Fowler also complained that the campaign's message and methods are focused too much on Washington, not key states and the burgeoning power of the Internet, said two associates who spoke on condition of anonymity. Keep in mind that this organization is only three weeks old, at least officially. If he can't avoid this kind of chaos in his own organization in that period of time, what does that say for his ability to manage...

Numbers holding for a landslide

With 13% of precincts reporting, CNN reports that the recall is winning by 12%, and Arnold leads Cruz Bustamante by a margin of almost 2-1. I wouldn't get too complacent yet, but this is looking pretty darn good for the Terminator -- excuse me, the Governator....

October 8, 2003

Recall Results

With 94% of all precincts reporting, the results are clear -- Californians spoke clearly for a sea change in state government. Recall: 54% Yes, 46% No Part B: Schwarzenegger 48%, Bustamante 33%, McClintock 14% This means that in a statewide election, where Democrats have a registration lead of at least 10 percentage points, 62% voted Republican and only a third voted for the only major Democratic choice. Granted, Republicans may have been more motivated to go to the polls, but that excuse only flies if the overall turnout was low; instead, it was a record high for a non-presidential election. The state Legislature has to be very, very nervous now. Wait for the elections next year -- we'll see how pissed off the electorate is and will remain....

At least they're leaving ...

... even if they couldn't leave with a vestige of class and grace. (via California Insider) This type of insult-based dirty campaigning explains why Gray Davis' approval ratings are below Richard Nixon's post-resignation ratings. Good riddance. Take Cruz with you....

Day By Day again

Another good point made by Chris Muirabout the Big Lie of dissent-crushing in America these days. I get so tired of people screaming in the streets and all over television that the Bush administration is forcing them to stay silent, without any sense of irony whatsoever. Quick way to see if you live in a free society: If you call the leader of your country a Nazi, which happens in a fascist state? 1: You're arrested and spend 20 years in a prison or mental facility; 2. You get put on TV and Hollywood sends you cash. If you're too dense to pick Option 1, perhaps you aren't qualified to speak to any other issues....

Numbers firming up

It looks like a ten-point margin of victory for the recall, and Arnold took 46.4% of the second part, against 31% for Bustamante and 12.8% for McClintock (99% of all precincts reporting now). This means that slightly under 60% in a record turnout voted Republican against a lone Democrat. Also, since Proposition 54 went down in flames (64% no), you can't chalk it up to a conservative turnout. If anything, Prop 54 turns out to be the bellwether, the control group if you will, on who voted in this election. The 7.7 million people who voted were completely representative of Californians statewide, and they enthusiastically rejected Gray Davis and the Democrats. Unless Arnold [that's Governor Arnold to you, ex-pat boy!] screws up, this is trouble for the Democratic visegrip on California politics....

Steve Lopez crosses the line

Roger Simon is right about this title and article; Steve Lopez takes a cheap shot (specifically about the Fuhrer part of it). Otherwise, bitter as it may be, it's still a pretty good article. I'm happier about the outcome than Lopez, but he is right in that the situation that created the recall in the first place -- gridlock, Gray Davis in office, mandated spending -- was created by California voters in the first place. Gray Davis only made it a hell of a lot worse than it had to be....

Doesn't anyone in Europe believe in enforcing treaties?

The Euro took another baby step towards oblivion by ignoring France's economic violations of its underlying agreements. Isn't this the same country that insisted that countries could not act unilaterally in defiance of the community of nations? Sweden's looking smarter and smarter every day....

Wasn't this guy supposed to be the competent Democrat?

Just three weeks into his campaign, and Wesley Clark is already self-destructing. First his campaign manager quits after three weeks on the job, and now it looks like the General is breaking federal election laws: Under the laws governing the financing of presidential campaigns, candidates cannot be paid by corporations, labor unions, individuals or even universities for campaign-related events. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) considers such paid political appearances akin to a financial contribution to a candidate. Clark is getting paid as much as $30,000 for speeches, according to people familiar with his arrangement. He has two more scheduled for next week. Clark, like any other candidate, would likely be permitted to deliver the paid speeches only if they did not "expressly" cover his campaign or his political opponents, the experts said. But in his speeches, Clark has talked about his campaign positions and criticized President Bush's policies. At DePauw,...

Strib idiots strike again

Comparing California voters to unruly toddlers, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune spouts off again on a subject about which they know little. Most parents have witnessed a version of the Toys "R" Us scene in which a child, caught up in the frenzy of toy overload, cries out, "Mommy, I want it, and I want it now!" California politics, always a raucous affair, has become over the last 30 years more shrill, impatient and petulant, more of a toy-store experience. This may be a funny metaphor but sells voters short. California didn't get rid of Gray because of shiny, cool Arnold: they got rid of Gray because Gray has repeatedly sold out Californians to his contributors, and Californians got tired of it. Or perhaps the Strib never bothered to research sweetheart deals like the Oracle contract. Voters in the largest state knew what they didn't want -- more Gray Davis, whom they...

October 9, 2003

One large helping of grapes, extra-sour please

California Democrats are mighty grouchy today. It's like waking up with a huge hangover, I guess. (via California Insider) Aides to Sen. John Vasconcellos confirmed the liberal San Jose Democrat called Republican Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger "a boob," said voters "made a mistake," and announced that when the Legislature reconvenes in January, "I'm not sure I'll go back... If people want this actor to govern ... they don't need or deserve me." Which just goes to show you that Arnold really does get results. Is this what the Democrats has picked as a new strategy? Picking up their ball and going home? Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said he will introduce legislation he dubbed "Arnold's Law" to increase the penalty for sexual battery in the workplace. At least that has some wit to it. In what would be a pointed show of dissatisfaction, some Democrats may boycott Schwarzenegger's State of the...

Strange Bedfellows

Arnold the Governator has picked his transition team, and it's certainly unusual. There will be 65 people from such diverse viewpoints as Mayor Willie Brown, the former King of the Assembly (I'm not kidding about that), Bill Simon Jr, Susan Estrich, and Rep. David Dreier, a well-connected Republican with close ties to the Bush administration: Today, he characterized the transition team that he will head as widely varied, made up of people who are both "very liberal and very conservative." "I will tell you this will be a somewhat unusual group," Dreier said. "The reason I'm so convinced we can have a diverse group is the strength of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's in a position where he will get a wide range of recommendations from people throughout the state and from around the country." Arnold obviously wants to project an inclusive, healing image for his new administration, and I'm sure Willie...

Has the LA Times No Shame?

Seldom do you see a major news outlet sell itself out so completely, but the recall seems to have unhinged the editors of the Los Angeles Times. I read the Times on the Internet, as you will see if you scroll through my archives, but I do so with the knowledge that this newspaper has almost no credibility in its news coverage. Consider the following: The Los Angeles Times said it "corroborated" its stories that Schwarzenegger groped or humiliated more than a dozen women over a nearly 30-year period. But in no case did an eyewitness substantiate for the Times any of the tales despite the fact that the alleged incidents took place while hundreds of crew members on movie sets were present. As for the important "second source" news organizations often require on sensitive stories, the Times usually used a friend or relative who heard about the incidents afterward...

October 10, 2003

This is what happens when people don't learn history

Power Line features an excellent essay on the history of the Liberty Bell, and how the historically ignorant are misrepresenting it in its new setting.

Heh heh heh ...

I'm more a fan of green, myself ......

Kobe plays a nasty defense

Lawyers, as officers of the court, are expected to play by the rules. One or two slips is forgivable, but six times should have resulted in a contempt charge. Kobe's lawyers knew that they weren't supposed to identify the alleged victim by name during the hearing. It looks like this will be going to trial soon. Let's hope the judge gets more control over the court. Kobe's going to have enough problems as it is; if he's really innocent, he won't want a OJ-style circus that will undercut the validity of an acquittal with the general public....

Let Immigrants Run?

Despite the results of the recall, letting foreign-born citizens run for President is a bad idea. As the descendent of immigrants -- I am third-generation on my mother's side -- I do not see the need or the benefit of a foreign-born citizen filling the role of head of state. The Washington Post editorializes: The nation has profited from the service of naturalized citizens in sensitive posts such as secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and American public life is rife with people whose commitment to this country is one of choice, rather than birth. In every other sphere, American law welcomes such citizens and acknowledges parity between them and the native-born. Yes, I agree, although Kissinger's loyalties were often questioned during and after his tenure. Look at the vitriol thrown at American-born Jews in the Bush administration, such as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle....

Steve Wynn explains tiger "attack"

I have to admit, what Steve Wynn says about the tiger "attack" makes sense. It's a real shame that it happened, but it appears to be an outrageously unlikely fluke. One question, though: if your tiger is going to be distracted by "big hair", why would you use that tiger in Las Vegas? Have you ever seen the women in the audience for these shows?...

October 11, 2003

"Zero tolerance" rules make zero sense

I understand the motivation behind dress codes such as this, but when they're implemented in an inflexible manner, it makes everyone look ridiculous. An 11-year-old Oklahoma girl has been suspended from a public school because officials said her Muslim head scarf violates dress code policies. Board officials met Friday to discuss the fate of suspended sixth-grader Nashala "Tallah" Hern, who was asked to leave school in the eastern Oklahoma town of Muskogee on October 1 because she refused to remove her head scarf, called a "hijab." "Zero tolerance" rules really mean "zero thinking", and this is a great example of it. Gang members do identify themselves through clothing, including headgear, usually with professional sports merchandise. Prohibiting such displays makes sense, and public schools should try to eliminate them. However, instead of exercising some judgment or making the effort to determine what is and is not acceptable to wear, administrators take...

Lawyers outta control

I'm sorry that this little girl got paralyzed, but I fail to see how you can blame it on anyone but the drunk driver. The parents of a girl paralyzed in a car wreck caused by a drunken football fan have sued the National Football League, claiming it should be held responsible for the girl's injuries. The lawsuit, filed Thursday, contends the league promotes the type of behavior that led the fan to drink 14 beers at a New York Giants game in 1999 and then drive home. Why include the NFL? Because you won't get that much money out of a guy who's serving several years in prison for the crime. Tailgating is not inherently a bacchanalia; most people handle their alcohol respectably, and there's a lot of other things that go into tailgating, like grilling food, etc etc. It frustrates me when lawyers attempt to hold people responsible...

Next up, on America's Most Wanted ....

How the heck do you let a guy like this escape? A suspect in the murders of five people whose bodies were unearthed from his backyard escaped Friday night from the jail where he was awaiting trial, officials said. Hugo Selenski, who was charged Monday in two of the deaths, and another inmate used bedsheets to escape from the Luzerne County Correctional Facility around 9:30 p.m., officials said. I'm thinking about Ted Bundy, and what happened when he escaped ... I hope they catch this guy quick. I hope that the Luzerne County Correctional Facility changes its security procedures ASAP....

Haunted House of Ill Repute?

Here's an idea whose time, apparently, has not quite come -- an adult haunted house, complete with simulated genital mutilation and lesbian scenes: To open, a couple of exhibits had to be toned down, including a mock mutilation of male genitals, as well as a couple of women kissing. Says one performer, "They've completely violated our right to free expression." But due to the adult content, and the fact that many of the actors are minors, Wentzville city officials decided the haunted house needed an adult entertainment permit. I suspect it was the lesbian kissing scene (oh! I'm so shocked!) that really got panties in a twist, but the simulated male genital mutilation certainly seems beyond the pale and qualifies the exhibit as adult entertainment. I certainly can't imagine allowing kids to work there or go through the house, but not everyone agrees: A much different opinion comes from event...

Robertson Declares 700 Club as a Nuclear Power

If there was still any doubt at all, Pat Robertson has made it clear that he is a dangerous lunatic with no credibility at all to speak on issues. Last seen exhorting his mindless sheep to pray for the deaths of certain Supreme Court justices, now Robertson has decided that it's quicker to nuke the State Department rather than praying for the 10,000 or so heart attacks it would take: "I read your book," Robertson said, according to a transcript of the interview posted on his Christian Broadcasting Network's website (www.cbn.com). "When you get through, you say, 'If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom, I think that's the answer'," he said. "I mean, you get through this, and you say, 'We've got to blow that thing up.' I mean, is it as bad as you say?" Robertson asked. The State Department, oddly, takes offense to suggestions...

October 12, 2003

A Winning Strategy in a Fractured State: Unite and Conquer

Steve Lopez, in today's LA Times, nails the recall election in another funny column: Conservatives eagerly abandoned sacred covenants and joined moderates — and even some liberals, for God's sake — in voting for a serial groper who smoked dope, skipped elections and was a poster boy for Hollywood's gun violence and mayhem. Who would've thunk it? Lopez not only notes that, but actually understands what this means for the California electorate: We're politically polarized beyond caricature, undermining any useful problem-solving, and great hordes of people need to be locked in their rooms. But as far as anyone can tell so far, Arnold appears to be somewhere in the middle — a fiscal conservative and social moderate. If so, that would put him more in touch with California than Gray Davis, who pumped helium into the state budget, or any of the knuckle-draggers the GOP keeps sending into the game....

PETA: People Empty of Tact and Aptitude

I'm surprised it took PETA this long to take a life-threatening tragedy and crassly use it for their own purposes. The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals held a rally Saturday outside the Mirage hotel-casino to urge entertainers Siegfried & Roy to retire their felines after Roy Horn was nearly killed by a tiger during a performance. Carrying signs reading, "The Strip Is No Place for Tigers" and "Big Cats Big Danger," about two dozen demonstrators gathered near the entrance to the resort's large Siegfried & Roy marquee. It's understood that PETA opposes animals in entertainment, or in almost any other contact with humans, so it's not surprising that they want Siegfried & Roy to eliminate the tigers from their act. In fact, I believe they've protested the act several times previously. But since it's pretty clear that the act will be off the stage for a long...

A breath of fresh air from the Democratic Leadership Council

For those who may not know, the DLC is the centrist Democrat group that promoted Bill Clinton as a potential party leader as early as 1988. Now they're trying to keep California Democrats from going off the rails by giving them a major reality check. After acknowledging the right-wing origins of the recall, it tells them [I]t's clear the success of the recall effort was no mere right-wing conspiracy. Californians are deeply frustrated by what they perceive as a political establishment -- in both parties -- that's not listening to their concerns, acting on their needs, or paying much attention to anyone who does not belong to a bedrock partisan constituency group. Then they warn some of the radical elements of the party against following through on threats made on Election Night: There's already talk of Democrats going to the mattresses, denying cooperation to the Governor-elect, or even launching petitions...

October 13, 2003

Coleman straddles the fence

Sen. Norm Coleman tries to eat his cake and have it too on the issue of school vouchers. He proposes putting a school voucher plan in place for Washington DC schoolchildren, but tries to claim he's not considering any application to any other state, including Minnesota: "I'm not going to push for vouchers for Minnesota kids," Coleman said in an interview. "I'm not going to push for a national program. But I will certainly support the local mayor in his effort to provide greater opportunity for his kids." Well, why not? I understand that DC schools are especially poor performers, but there are certainly schools like that in Minnesota, too, and elsewhere. Are those schoolchildren any less trapped by the educational monopoly? Why are DC schoolchildren special cases? I suspect it has a lot less to do with geography than with mollifying Education Minnesota, the state NEA outfit, who weighs...

What would Winston do?

Today's Strib features a column by Isaac Cheifetz titled "What would Winston do?" It doesn't give any answers to that specific question but instead talks about a little-discussed side of Winston Churchill: the accomplished manager. I found it interesting, since Churchill is one of my favorite historical figures, and I believe his life and philosophy are so applicable to today's global issues. Afterwards, check out the post that pointed me to it at Power Line....

The Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in America

No, this is not a David Letterman list, but it's really the most hazardous jobs in America, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 most dangerous jobs are: 10. Truck drivers 9. Construction workers 8. Farm occupations 7. Electrical "power installers" (as opposed to workers?) 6. Roofers 5. Drivers - Sales Workers (incl. pizza delivery, vending machine workers) 4. Structural metal workers 3. Pilots and navigators 2. Fishers And the most dangerous job in America is ... 1. Timber cutters!...

Saudi Arabia to Hold First Elections

In a move that indicates the US is beginning to make a major impact on the Arab world, Saudi Arabia announced its first ever free elections: Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, announced Monday it would hold its first elections to vote for municipal councils, seen as the first concrete political reform in the Gulf Arab state. ... Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States -- in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis -- Riyadh has come under intense pressure by key ally Washington to implement social and political reform in the kingdom which is the cradle of Islam and the world's largest oil exporter. ... "The council of ministers decided to widen participation of citizens in running local affairs through elections by activating municipal councils, with half the members of each council being elected," the state news agency SPA said. It's not just the election,...

Ed Asner: Historical Idiot

I don't know what's more disturbing about this story on Ed Asner: his predilection for mass-murdering tyrants, or his swollen ego regarding Rush Limbaugh, or just his entire, pathetic schtick ever since he started taking himself seriously after Lou Grant was canceled. I first read this story at Andrew Sullivan's site this morning, and it's been picked up by Instapundit (who discussed it in his MS-NBC column, too), but here's the original story, from Kevin McCullough at WorldNetDaily: "Mr. Asner, I do have a question ... if you had the chance to play the biographical story of a historical figure you respected most [emphasis mine] over your lifetime, who would it be?" "I think Joe Stalin was a guy that was hugely misunderstood," said Asner. "And to this day, I don't think I have ever seen an adequate job done of telling the story of Joe Stalin, so I guess...

Dean's 'Urban Legend'

I recall when this happened, and how the Dean campaign tried backing away from it at warp speed. Quite frankly, I just considered it to be a typical reaction from the no-war-for-any-reason set, and in that context it makes perfect sense: "Questioned about the deaths of Saddam's sons, Odai and Qusai, in Iraq, Dean dismissed suggestions that it was a victory for the Bush administration. `It's a victory for the Iraqi people . . . but it doesn't have any effect on whether we should or shouldn't have had a war,' Dean said. `I think in general the ends do not justify the means.' " Nevertheless, when challenged on this, Dean has gone on the attack rather than explain what he meant, or more likely, that he forgot he said it because he shot his mouth off without thinking about it at the time: "I never said that. I never...

Israeli raid on Syria alters a 30-year-old 'proxy game' in the Mideast

I found an interesting article on the decades-long proxy game between Israel and Syria, and how Israel is looking to change the rules, with the first gambit being the attack on the terrorist training camp last week: No matter how much violence raged around it, the Israeli-Syrian border has been quiet since the armistice following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. If the bitter foes wanted to fight, they squared off on the battlefield called Lebanon, or deployed various proxy forces. The attack a week ago Sunday on what the Israelis said was a Palestinian terrorist training camp changed that formula, perhaps forever. This article gives a much clearer explanation of what the attack means to both Israel and Syria and what Israel hopes to gain from the escalation: The Syrians say they give no logistical support to the Palestinian groups, but cannot expel Palestinians who have lived legally here for decades....

Gun Control Fails Miserably in Great Britain

Good luck on reading anything about this in the New York or LA Times, but Strange Women Lying in Ponds (a cool Monty Python reference, for those who don't know) picked up on a story in the Guardian which details the effects of banning all handguns: Handgun crime has soared past levels last seen before the Dunblane massacre of 1996 and the ban on ownership of handguns introduced the year after Thomas Hamilton, an amateur shooting enthusiast, shot dead 16 schoolchildren, their teacher and himself in the Perthshire town. It was hoped the measure would reduce the number of handguns available to criminals. Now handgun crime is at its highest since 1993. SWLIP reacts: Let's see, when Britain passed the handgun ban, many pro-gun ownership types predicted that Britain would eventually see a rise in violent gun crimes as guns became readily available on the black market for criminals, and...

October 14, 2003

The Soviet Republic of Texas (washingtonpost.com)

The Washington Post rails against the latest redistricting plan in Texas, but misses an important point. The current district plan was not implemented by the Texas Legislature but was imposed as a temporary plan by a federal court. Districting is a function of the Legislature and not the courts and it was entirely appropriate for Texas to redistrict, even if it was oustide the census cycle. That being said, the Post has a point about the results of the plan, and ultra-partisan districting plans in general: YOU MIGHT THINK America's rigged system of congressional elections couldn't get much worse. Self-serving redistricting schemes nationwide already have left an overwhelming number of seats in the House of Representatives so uncompetitive that election results are practically as preordained as in the old Soviet Union. In the last election, for example, 98 percent of incumbents were reelected, and the average winning candidate got more...

The President's End Run

The Washington Post reports that President Bush will start bypassing the national, traditional media and start focusing on regional and non-traditional media in order to get his message out more clearly and with less editorial filtering. Power Line links the story in its essay on the decision and its possible impact. Read the entire essay; it's excellent, although I disagree with it in one respect: And he and other administration officials should criticize Democratic jounalists and news outlets by name. The Democratic news media have overplayed their hand, and everyone knows how biased they are. (I'll link to a recent Gallup poll on this issue later in the day.) Why should hacks like Dana Milbank get a free pass to attack the administration on behalf of the Democrats, in the guise of objective journalism? I'll have to disagree with Hindrocket on taking such a confrontational strategy. Bush and the senior...

A Hope for France?

I'm not shy in sharing my views on France, but this article in Reason gives hope that change may be coming in the person of Sabine Herold, a 22-year-old Opposition leader in Paris: Herold, the 22-year-old leader of Liberté, J’ecris Ton Nom (Freedom, I Write Your Name), has in the last few months emerged as the massively popular and highly photogenic leader of -- zut! -- a burgeoning pro-market, pro-American counterculture in France. Earning comparisons to Joan of Arc, Brigitte Bardot (!), and Margaret Thatcher in the panting British press, she represents something French politics hasn’t seen in years: a public figure eager to take on the country’s endlessly striking unions. Herold's youth, passion, and eloquence earned her enough of a following that she was able to draw 80,000 to a protest against union strikes early this summer in Paris. I've read about her before, mostly through Merde in France...

Pledge to be Reviewed by Supreme Court

The Volokh Conspiracy has an excellent series of posts on this subject, starting (or ending, I suppose) with this one. I hadn't heard that Justice Scalia had recused himself, but considering his ill-advised commentary, it's probably for the best. It's not the content of the commentary that is a problem; he shouldn't have been commenting on the case at all, since it was always likely to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. It was a rare example of bad judgment on his part....

Pawlenty to Tie Drivers Licenses to School Performance

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has proposed making underage drivers licenses dependent on school attendance. Pawlenty describes the link between truancy and criminal behavior and says: "I have no hesitation linking expectations around school attendance and the privilege of driving," Pawlenty said. "We need to make sure we have the horse before the cart." "Students need to understand the importance of education and that there are consequences if they don't take it seriously," Pawlenty said in a statement. "Chronic absenteeism is one step away from crime and we need to do everything we can to stop it." Right now, the only consequences of truancy are borne by the parents; if the truancy becomes chronic, the parents can be taken to court to correct the situation. Truancy undoubtably underlies a significant part of teen crime, and the failure of the system to provide any significant consequences to the teens themselves doesn't do...

Name-calling as political discourse

Speaking of Amygdala, I noticed that he has posted (way down the left column) Farber's First Fundamental of Blogging: If your idea of making an insightful point is to make fun of people's names, or refer to them by rilly clever labels such as "The Big Me" or "The Shrub," chances are high that I'm not reading your blog. On the way home from work this afternoon, I listened to The Patriot, the conservative talk-radio outlet here in the Twin Cities. At my drive-time, Michael Medved is on the air, and I have enjoyed Medved from when he wrote The Golden Turkey Awards back in the 70s. It's out of print now, but it's hilarious. Anyway, unlike some of the other hosts on the Patriot, such as the screechy and utterly reactionary Michael Savage, Medved is thoughtful to his callers and encourages those who disagree with him to give him...

October 15, 2003

Jill Stewart's Rebuttal to John Carroll

Jill Stewart has penned an extensive and detailed rebuttal to John Carroll's "explanation" of the groping stories at the LA Times and how they were nothing more than good journalism. (John Carroll's editorial had been listed in a featured position at the top of the Times' web site for several days; today is the first day it's gone.) Stewart writes: Carroll claims that the groping story was published as soon as it was done. In fact, in journalism, a story is done when the boss says turn it in. Carroll himself saw to it that the story was strung out until the last. That is why some staffers continue to insist to me that the story was sufficiently nailed and should have run two weeks beforehand. One of Carroll's major gripes with Stewart -- whom he never bothered to name -- was that she claimed he held the story back...

Woman Gets Jail In Assault On Boy, 4 (washingtonpost.com)

Who wants to keep tabs on this woman's baby for the next 18 years? A woman who chased a 4-year-old boy through a McDonald's restaurant in Montgomery County, pinned him in a headlock and screamed obscenities as she smeared his face with hot french fries was sentenced yesterday to four days in jail and ordered to attend anger management and parenting classes. Milikia Hayes, 18, of Gaithersburg was nearly nine months pregnant with her first child when the incident took place in May. The boy, whom Hayes did not know, accidentally smeared ice cream on her clothing at a McDonald's in Germantown, authorities said. She should be getting lots of follow-up visits from Children's Services as well....

Demosophia: Mr. Moore's Neighborhood

I avoided commenting on the latest foolishness spewing forth from Michael Moore during an appearance on CNN's Crossfire, with Robert Novak and Julian Epstein, who sounds as if he couldn't suck up enough to the pseudodocumentarian. EPSTEIN: And, in your book -- I love you. I think you say a lot of useful, important things that need to be said to shake the system up. Yeah, well. Anyway, Moore said in the course of the interview: MOORE: I'd like to ask the question whether September 11 was a terrorist attack, or was it a military attack? We call it a terrorist attack. We keep calling it a terrorist attack. But it sure has the markings of a military attack. And I'd like to know whose military was involved in this precision, perfectly planned operation. I'm sorry, but my common sense has never allowed me to believe since that day that...

October 16, 2003

That's okay, he can inspect home-schooling parents

It's decisions like this that make an even bigger joke of scare stories like the one from CBS News that argues that home-schooling is dangerous because there is no government oversight: At the same time that Donald Leonard Keys was being investigated on suspicion of having an illegal sexual relationship with a 16-year-old Woodbury boy, he was granted a renewal of his social worker's license. The renewal was approved by the Minnesota Board of Social Work despite knowledge that the 58-year-old St. Paul man had convictions for attempted sodomy with a child in 1971 and for fraud, for bilking an elderly man in Hennepin County in 1996. But it's okay, really, he's had a criminal background check .... he's licensed ......

Leaks, and the leaking leakers who leak them ...

Man, I had a tough time trying to decide whether this White House leak qualified as Current Affairs or Humor: Concerned about the appearance of disarray and feuding within his administration as well as growing resistance to his policies in Iraq, President Bush - living up to his recent declaration that he is in charge - told his top officials to "stop the leaks" to the media, or else. News of Bush's order leaked almost immediately. I feel bad for Bush, I really do. I can just imagine the scene in the Oval Office this evening: Bush has his staff gathered around him in the Oval Office, chewing them out for allowing this last leak to occur, and soon as he turns his back to face one person, all the others grab notepads and scribble furiously until he turns around again. Every modern President has had to deal with leaks,...

Isn't this the ultimate goal of the nanny state?

It looks like the jig is up for an ex-patriate German just trying to make ends meet on a German disability pension in Florida: Maybe it is the image of a German pensioner, deeply tanned and dipping his toes in the surf on Miami Beach, while retired people here trudge windswept streets in dismal German burgs. Or maybe it is the notion of a housekeeper, paid for by the German government, to keep the fellow's apartment tidy. Whatever the reason, the curious case of Rolf John, a 64-year-old former banker who is living a sun-dappled retirement in Florida on $2,200 a month in German welfare checks, has driven people here batty. Germany currently pays over $6 million a year in pensions and benefits to just over a thousand German citizens living abroad in 88 countries. Rolf John's monthly benefits include: * $1,023 for rent * $854 as a "living allowance"...

October 17, 2003

We're Sorry You Can't Comprehend Our Genius

The Malaysian government, after being scolded for the remaks of its Prime Minister at the OIC the day before, tries a little bit of damage control: "I'm sorry that they have misunderstood the whole thing," Syed Hamid, the foreign minister, told The Associated Press. "The intention is not to create controversy. His intention is to show that if you ponder and sit down to think, you can be very powerful." If that was his intention, then I suppose he failed miserably, considering this: Mahathir said the world's "1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews," but suggested the use of political and economic tactics, not violence, to achieve a "final victory." Final victory, final solution, Jews running the world ... they didn't ponder or sit down to think, they're just channeling the Nazis. "Please forget about anti-Semitism," Syed Hamid told reporters. No, we wish you Muslims would...

October 18, 2003

Man who accused officers of assault denies he's an informant

A journalistic kerfluffle of another sort has erupted in Minneapolis, as the man who has accused Minneapolis police officers of sodomizing him with a toilet plunger denies that he is a police informant: "I'm not an informant, never will be," Stephen C. Porter said, responding to a story in the Star Tribune that reported he'd worked for the police. He asked his friends to believe his word. "Stick with me, I need you," he said. He added that his friends no longer talk to him. Members of the community were outraged that the Star Tribune printed the story that Porter worked with police in the past, and questioned the motivation of both the newspaper and its sources: Spike Moss, vice president of The City Inc., lambasted the media for reporting that Porter was a confidential informant for Jindra. "Why would you participate in a setup to get him killed?" Moss...

Three Americans Jailed in Bizarre Mexican Land Dispute

This story underscores the difficulty in doing business with Mexico, a country that has never fully respected private property rights and whose law enforcement efforts have always been a bit questionable: Three U.S. citizens, including a man dying of cancer, have been jailed here and face up to 14 years in prison in a land dispute involving a member of President Vicente Fox's cabinet. ... Ames and his wife lived together on the land until Jean Ames died in 2000 at age 92. Then, in May of this year, Ames was served with an eviction notice by the university, giving him nine days to vacate the property and ordering him to pay nearly $40,000 in back rent -- $1,000 a month since the death of his wife. Ames said he was stunned and angry. In this case, a 92-year-old widower has been ordered off of his land by the Mexican...

October 19, 2003

The Clouds May Be Clearing for Bush and GOP

Today's LA Times practices a bit of balanced editorializing regarding prospects for President Bush and the GOP: Like the Chicago Cubs, though, the Democrats may have peaked too soon. Bush's poll numbers have stabilized. Arnold Schwarzenegger's victory in the California gubernatorial recall election has sent a thrill through the Republican Party. In Iraq, the violence continues, but the lights are now on, kids are returning to school, Turkey has agreed to send troops to the most dangerous part of the country (Sunni Iraq) — and the Bush administration won unanimous support from the U.N. Security Council for its plan for Iraq. That's not to say that Bush & Co. can expect easy sailing, either, at home or abroad: The French, Germans and Russians still steam over the U.S.-led invasion. They remain worried that a new Iraqi government, with U.S. backing, may try to repudiate some of the debt Hussein contracted...

October 20, 2003

Report: Army unit massacred 100s of Vietnamese civilians in 1967

The Pentagon's investigation into Army war crimes in Vietnam in 1967 has apparently stalled out before it was made public: An elite unit of U.S. soldiers mutilated and killed hundreds of unarmed villagers over seven months in 1967 during the Vietnam War, and an Army investigation was closed with no charges filed, the Toledo Blade reported Sunday. ... The Army's 4 1/2-year investigation, never before made public, was initiated by a soldier outraged at the killings. The investigation substantiated 20 war crimes by 18 soldiers and reached the Pentagon and White House before it was closed in 1975, the Blade said. The Pentagon had a difficult task in trying to piece together a case from actions that took place 36 years ago, but the level of atrocity of which the volunteer Tiger Force is accused was disturbing: Soldiers of Tiger Force, a unit of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, dropped...

Colorado teen found after Amber Alert

Another example of how well the Amber Alert system functions: A 16-year-old girl who was apparently abducted in Denver, Colorado, early Sunday was found alive and unhurt hours later, after police issued a statewide Amber Alert, police said. ... Police were still looking for a man in a white Honda who had apparently kidnapped Mitchell, she said. Investigators said the man was 25-30 years old, about 5-foot-4, with a pot belly. He was described as having short, thinning black hair, a thick mustache and thick eyebrows. When last seen, he was wearing a light black jacket, a white shirt with stripes and jeans. Police described the vehicle as a white, 4-door Honda with a gray interior and dark-tinted windows. It has a scorpion decal in the rear window. Let's hope they catch the man responsible before he tries this again....

Two Democrats Decide Discretion Is The Better Part of Retreat

Lieberman and Clark are bailing out of the Iowa caucus: Democratic presidential candidates Joe Lieberman and Wesley K. Clark have decided not to campaign in the initial caucus state of Iowa, gambling on winning the nomination with a later surge in the primary race. Lieberman and Clark have decided not to spend their money in a state they probably have no chance of winning. Their decisions allow them to shift money to New Hampshire and other states with later contests. This makes some sense for General Clark, who just started in the race (and just started being a Democrat) and may not have a strong enough organization yet to really work the caucus. Lieberman, on the other hand, has been running or threatening to run since Bush finished saying the oath of office. He doesn't want to go up against Dean in Iowa, but feels comfortable tilting at Dean in...

A Question of Accountability

Merde in France asks a good question, in his inimitable style, in the wake of French President Jacques Chirac representing Germany and France simultaneously at the European Summit: Where certain numb minded brainwashed individuals, stuffed full of dogma through their every orifice like cheap streetwalkers, see an elegant gesture, we see further proof that the EU is nothing more than a complete con job whose purpose is to smelt national sovereignties into a bland rotten broth of concentrated non-thought served up as a snack to feed a political void. Who answers to the German people now? Schroeder or Chiraq? Did it occur to Germans when the EU was launched that their head of state would casually assign representation of their sovereignty to a French politician? It would be equivalent to George Bush telling Canada to sit in for the US at the next Security Council meeting. This was no low-level...

Why Did Willie Brown Join Arnold?

Mickey Kaus answers one of my questions regarding the Schwarzenegger transition team: Brown had been widely expected to run for the Bay Area Senate seat now held by powerful Senate President pro Tem John Burton, who will be termed out next year....But Schwarzenegger is wildly unpopular in this district--teaming up with the Governor-elect would seem suicidal for Brown. It makes sense only if you assume Brown has abandoned plans to run for the seat. Why might he do that? Perhaps because he's seen private polls like the one kausfiles just saw--showing him with an unfavorability rating in the district of 40 percent, way above that of potential rivals. Brown's no dummy, and he's not about to pick a fight he's likely to lose, but I can't help thinking that once he got serious about the race that he would win it anyway, despite the early polling numbers. This is the...

Update on War Crimes Post

I've added an update to my earlier post on war crimes in Vietnam, in order to clarify the timeline. You may want to reread the entire post with the new information in mind. Why did this come out now? I assume that one of the veterans involved had either too much guilt or too much anger to keep quiet about it and talked to the Toledo Blade, who then checked it out and discovered the Army investigation in the 70s. Now that it's out, the question is what to do about it. I think staying silent is a poor choice. If we are to lead the world militarily, we must project complete professionalism and competence, and demonstrate that we will not tolerate war crimes on anyone's behalf....

Which quote was accurate?

Yet another reason not to trust the "traditional media" outlets. This was Howard Dean, according to the Washington Post, speaking to a group of Arab Americans on October 18th: "Because John Ashcroft touts the Patriot Act around the country does not mean John Ashcroft is a patriot," Dean said to rising cheers. "That American flag over there belongs to every American -- not only to John Ashcroft, Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson." But according to Reuters, this is what Howard Dean said: "It does not belong to General Boykin, or John Ashcroft, or Rush Limbaugh or Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson," the former Vermont governor said to cheers in the packed hotel conference room in the Detroit suburb which is home to one of the highest concentrations of Muslims and Arabs outside the Middle East. Bear in mind that the addition of Boykin is no small matter. When...

October 21, 2003

I'm Sorry You Can't Comprehend My Genius

Malaysian PM Mahathir attempts to explain what he really meant in the Bangkok Post: "In my speech I condemned all violence, even the suicide bombings, and I told all Muslims it's about time we stopped all these things and paused to think and do something that is much more productive," Mahathir told the Bangkok Post. "That was the whole tone of my speech, but they picked up one sentence where I said the Jews control the world." But just in case no one misses the point, Mahathir helpfully added: "The reaction of the world shows that they [Jews] do control the world," he told the Post. Mahathir is often described by Western leaders as a "moderate" in the Muslim world. Isn't that just peachy?...

St. Paul's Outreach Program Gets Results ....

... only maybe not the ones they're hoping for: Patrons at Lucy's Saloon watched in amazement around 1 a.m. Sunday when the man they say started a bar-clearing brawl began barking orders at police officers who arrived to quell it — and the officers responded. The man turned out to be St. Paul police Sgt. Jon Loretz, the son of Police Chief William Finney. On Monday, the department referred an investigation into the fight to the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to avoid a conflict of interest, Finney said. For Sgt. Jon Loretz, "outreach" involves "scream[ing] slurs against homosexuals" and getting into a number of "scuffles", such as these: "This guy, this big guy — he was actually swinging on women," Hill said Monday. He was choking one woman when bar security stopped him, she said. Then he began to verbally attack Noble, who was trying to kick Loretz out...

October 22, 2003

Just when you thought it was safe ...

Showing the wit and intelligence long associated with the white-supremacist movement, Richard Butler, the Aryan Nations founder, is running for mayor in Hayden , Idaho, where the organization used to have a large facility until they lost a $6 million lawsuit: "I'm not really anxious to become mayor," Butler, 85, said recently. ... Butler said his campaign is intended to restore Christian ideals, especially the Ten Commandments, to public life. But in truth, Butler admitted, Hayden is "running pretty well." Okay, Dick ... can I call you Dick? ... You don't want to become mayor, and Hayden's running all right without you at the helm, but you're running for mayor anyway. Do I have that right? Hmmm ... kind of plays hell with that whole "superior race" thing, doesn't it? White supremacists have not had good luck running for office in northern Idaho. Several years ago, Butler supporter Vincent Bertollini...

Senate Dems Fight GOP Efforts at Tort Reform

Senate Democrats are threatening yet another filibuster, this time to protect their trial lawyer constituency: Moving the cases to federal court would curb frivolous lawsuits and keep trial lawyers from getting millions of dollars in fees while their clients get little compensation, GOP senators say. Federal courts are assumed to be less likely to issue multimillion-dollar verdicts against big corporations. [In] both the House and Senate versions of the bill, class-action lawsuits in which the primary defendant and more than one-third of the plaintiffs are from the same state would still be heard in state courts. But if less than one-third of the plaintiffs are from the same state as the primary defendant, the case would go to federal court. Under the Constitution, anything affecting interstate commerce falls under the scope of the federal system, and most class-action suits have interstate impact, even if they're filed on a state-by-state basis....

Alan Dershowitz Speaks Out Against Self-Representation

Alan Dershowitz, noted appellant lawyer, Constitutional scholar, author, and a member of the OJ dream team, proposes that self-representation be banned in capital crime trials: Should a defendant facing the death penalty have the right to defend himself, even if his defense will be unprofessional and could result, potentially, in his own execution? That may be the question the U.S. Supreme Court eventually faces in the case of Virginia vs. John Allen Muhammad, the alleged mastermind of the D.C. sniper murders. Dershowitz discusses the cases of Colin Ferguson (the Subway Shooter) and Doctor Jack Kevorkian, who won in court three times while represented by counsel but lost when he chose to represent himself. There are success stories as well that Dershowitz only touches briefly on: Angela Davis and Clarence Darrow, but of course Darrow was a brilliant attorney. The only real strategic advantage of defending one's self is this: In...

Update: Sniper Defendant No Longer Acting as Attorney

According to the Star Tribune and the AP, John Allen Mohammed has ceased acting as his own attorney and rehired his "advisory" attorneys as his new counsel: Prosecutors complained about Muhammad's self-representation Tuesday and asked the judge to rescind it. They said Muhammad was receiving too much help from Shapiro and Greenspun, whose role as standby counsel was supposed to be limited. Fortunately for Mohammed, he had not had the opportunity to do too much damage to his case, and even at that point his rehired attorneys were able to reverse some of it: After today's announcement, Greenspun launched a series of objections during the testimony of Chris Okupski of Trenton, N.J., who sold Muhammad the Chevrolet Caprice prosecutors believe was the vehicle used in the sniper attacks. Greenspun won many of his objections, something that happened only rarely while Muhammad represented himself....

Power Line on Terri Schiavo

I believe Gelernter has it backwards. I believe that we became numb to the value of human life and so then supported widespread abortion, as well as capital punishment, assisted suicide, euthanasia, etc. That there are arguments, good arguments, to made on behalf of all of these to some extent is not in dispute. There are good arguments to be made for a lot of bad policy decisions based on honest and heartfelt beliefs and experience. It doesn't make the outcome any less wrong. The saying "Life is cheap" is so common and trite that is has become essentially meaningless, but was it always thus? I don't believe so, although capital punishment has certainly been around long enough. I think that in the post-Holocaust, post-nuclear world, we began to accept a fundamentally nihilistic and existential view of life. Nothing mattered when you could have 6 million people die in camps without even hearing about it until years later. Life meant nothing under the threat of nuclear annihilation. Once you accept these as everyday truths, then the litany of life-destroying policies makes sense and sounds perfectly reasonable.

October 23, 2003

British Patrols Walking Tall in Basra

Here's an update on our staunch British colleagues, winning hearts and minds in southern Iraq: Battersby's men here in the nation's second-largest city wear soft berets and patrol neighborhoods at a leisurely pace, enjoying a level of contact and trust with residents that still eludes many U.S. units in and around Baghdad. ... But unlike the areas west and north of Baghdad — heavily populated by minority Sunni Muslims, who dominated Iraq under Hussein — there is little public sympathy for the resistance here. Many of the city's residents are Shiite Muslims, who suffered under the former regime and say they are grateful that U.S. and British troops chased Hussein from power. "We don't say 'leave,' we say 'thank you,' " said Wael Abdulatif, governor of Basra province. Basra has always been a center of anti-Saddam sentiment, and of course Basra is also where an insurrection was attempted after the...

People For the American Way Fights Free Speech?

People for the American Way, a leftist group that is "fighting to maintain and expand 50 years of legal and social justice progress that right-wing leaders are trying to dismantle," weighs in against free speech in their campaign against Janice Rogers Brown, the latest Bush judiciary nominee. While there are reasonable limits to free speech in a workplace, it's up to the employer to set them, not the state, and I think Eugene Volokh is dead on with his excellent post today. Read through Justice Brown's opinion in the case PFAW cites and see what, if anything, you find "very disturbing". Remember this when you hear about PFAW and its allies screeching about the stifling of free speech in John Ashcroft's America....

Have They Finally Gone Too Far?

Make sure you read this post from Power Line as soon as possible. Ask yourself if the cartoon used by the Black Commentator, the NAACP, and PFAW were used by conservatives to protest a Clinton judicial nominee (or hell, in any context) what the scope of outrage would be amongst the Left. Every physical stereotype of African-Americans are included in this depiction of Justice Janice Rogers Brown. It's crude, it's disgusting, and it should be unacceptable for anyone interested in fair-minded debate. I'm not saying it should be outlawed -- they have a right to create this -- but it should generate outrage from the same people who are using it to further their purported political goals of equality and fair treatment. I don't know what Justice Brown's credentials are for the position -- I haven't read enough yet to have a grasp -- but I do know that if...

October 24, 2003

Strib and Pioneer Press burying bad news about Dayton?

Minneapolis's local NBC led its morning news with this story, but the Star Tribune, which strongly endorsed Senator Mark Dayton last election, buries this story deep within its web site: An office manager for Sen. Mark Dayton who says he was fired after developing a heart condition was found sleeping on the job and terminated for "exceptionally" poor job performance, according to new court filings. That account, provided by attorneys for Dayton's office, represents the Minnesota Democrat's most aggressive attempt yet to head off a lawsuit brought by Brad Hanson, his former state office manager. Hanson, giving his first extensive account of the case Thursday, called Dayton's assertions "blatantly false" and an attempt to smear him in the press. It would be an attempt to smear him in the press, if the press was interested in reporting bad news about Dayton. The story, which is fair and balanced, cannot be...

Media Bias Explained (in a Fair and Balanced Manner)

OxBlog's David Adesnik posts one of the clearest definitions of media bias: The implicit premise of Matt's statement is that any factually correct statement has a legitimate place in the news. Yet surely a professional journalist such as Matt knows that editorializing is not just a matter of expressing subjective opinions, but emphasizing certain facts at the expense of others. Check out the example that David uses, and how he rewrites it in a completely factual manner but changes the entire tenor of the piece. This should be required reading for any of us who express frustration at media bias and get challenged to define it....

A Tale of Two, er, Three Headlines

'Tis a far, far, more biased headline the LA Times writes, than has been written before (otherwise known as It Was The Worst of Times, and the Even More Worst of Times): LA Times, 10/24/03: Immigrant Wal-Mart Janitors Arrested Reuters, 10/23/03: Feds Arrests 300 Wal-Mart Workers AP, 10/24/03: Sources: Wal-Mart Knew of Illegal Workers Aha! It took the AP to put the word "illegal" into the headline. The Times just uses the word "immigrant" as if there is no difference between legal and illegal immigration, like the government was rounding up janitors for no reason, and Reuters doesn't bother to note immigration as an issue at all in its headline. Federal agents investigating Wal-Mart seized documents from an executive's office Thursday and raided 61 stores across the country, arresting about 250 illegal immigrants working on cleaning crews, authorities said. The investigation grew out of two earlier probes into the use...

Do student loans do more damage than good?

Michael Kantor over at The Calico Cat posts an intriguing and provocative question regarding the value of students loans to our society and their effect on tuition: The article mentioned how the cost of college education has been increasing faster than the rate of inflation, but the issue of why was never addressed. I believe student loans are part of the reason. By making more money available to students, this just gives the colleges the leeway to raise tuition even more. I know it's very anti-mainstream to question the value of a college education, but I'm going to go ahead and question it anyway. My experience is that the majority of college students are just in it for the piece of paper they get at the end which they think will be a ticket to a "good job." Yet we have so many college students graduating with no job awaiting...

October 25, 2003

Lieberman would tap McCain for administration

He later claimed he was joking, and John McCain laughed it off, but this only makes Lieberman look more attractive than any of the other defeatist Democrats: Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman said Friday that if elected president, he would tap Republican Sen. John McCain as defense secretary. Doing little to dispel the criticism that he's a closet Republican, Lieberman told Don Imus' syndicated radio program that he would want the Arizona senator, a colleague and a friend, for the Pentagon post. Such a move would attract centrist voters who want to remain strong on defense but feel that the Bush Administration have gone off the rails on other issues. In fact, despite what the White House leaks about being "scared" of Gephardt, Lieberman is the only Democrat who could seriously challenge Bush for the centrists in 2004, and the center will be critical. What this announcement will repel are...

Arguing over the Iraqi Victory Must Be Getting Old

The LA Times revists another US military victory to question tactics, strategy, and necessity: As U.S. troops wrestle with an intervention in Iraq, the success of the Grenada invasion 20 years ago might be seen as inspiring evidence of long-term payoffs for determined campaigns to put a troubled world in order. But even here, where military action was a comparative cakewalk once troops got past 800 Cuban construction workers, deep divisions persist over the value of that Cold War-era intervention. Are we really going to argue over Grenada again? Wasn't that over in about 15 minutes? Although most Grenadians agree they are better off as a result of the American action, they tend to see the storming of their tropical shores not as a rescue mission to evacuate students from the U.S. medical school, as the Pentagon claimed, but as an aggressive strike to thwart the spread of communism in...

Spain Asserts Its New Leadership in Europe

Being on the right side of history pays off for Spain (via Merde in France): All the same, until the Iraq war, Spain's notion of a New Europe - defined in cooperation rather than rivalry with the United States and reflecting loyalties, interests and instincts different from those of decades of postwar European habit - was largely talk. But in blocking, with the British and others, what it regarded as an attempt to turn the war into a European confrontation with America under a French and German banner, Spain achieved a new visibility in its effort to be seen be as a singular - even global - player. Spain has used Old World charm to vault itself into a leadership position by aligning itself as a medium between the Anglosphere on one hand and the emerging EU nations from the east, already inclined to support Anglo-American goals of democracy and...

Power Line Is Humming

Power Line has an impressive series of posts this morning on a number of issues. First, Big Trunk posts about appearing on a panel at the National Lawyers Guild convention this week in Minneapolis, and how far left this organization goes: Entering the convention precincts was a little shocking; the ambience, the displays, and the literature really marked the convention as hostile territory. Many handouts touted the cause of the only Cuban prisoners championed by the Guild -- "the Cuba five." The five, of course, are not any of Castro's prisoners, but rather are five Cuban men held in federal prison on conviction of offenses including espionage against the United States. The cause of the Cuba five is part of the Guild's old-time religion. The Guild's PATRIOT Act panel demonstrated how the Guild has moved seamlessly from defending America's Communist enemies to defending America's Islamofascist enemies. The common denominator between...

Your education dollars at work

Ho hum, another day, another protest staged by the last organized apologists for Stalinism. The Belligerent Bunny Blog went out and visited the vast crowd at the Washington protest and brings back pictures of the International ANSWER event. Check out all of the pictures -- they'll make your day, trust me, especially Clowns for Saddam. No, I know it could describe everyone there, but I'm talking about actual clowns. Best quote in Anna's post, under a picture of a sign that uses a swastika in Bush's name: Honestly if you're going to introduce the National Socialist trope, you could pick a better venue than a rally organized by a national, Socialist organization. Oh the irony! Somehow, I am sure the irony was lost on all of the attendees. (via Instapundit)...

October 26, 2003

North Korea Joins Iran in Acquiescing

"Speak softly, and carry a big stick." That was Theodore Roosevelt's foreign-policy philosophy, and it's paying off for George Bush in North Korea, at least so far: In its first concession after months of hostility, North Korea on Saturday signaled that it would consider President Bush's offer of written security assurances in return for dismantling its nuclear program. The conciliatory statement, first reported by the North Korean news agency, marked an abrupt about-face for the government in Pyongyang, which days earlier had ridiculed Bush's offer as "laughable" and "not worth considering." ... Iran also bowed to international pressure several days ago, saying it would suspend its uranium enrichment program and sign an agreement permitting international inspections. China put more pressure on North Korea to consider the Bush Administration's offer of written security assurances in lieu of a formal non-agression pact (which would undermine the military alliance with South Korea). Iran...

Big Trunk on TV in the Twin Cities

In a common-sense way, we can view the 90% level to test its reliability. How often does a police officer pull abreast of you before pulling you over? In my experience, unfortunately in multiple experiences, never. At least half of all stops occur in night conditions, where it's impossible to see the skin color or race of a driver until you are already stopped or have lit up the interior of the vehicle with door-mounted spotlights, and that only happens when you've committed to stopping the vehicle.

Nancy Pelosi: Enforcing Immigration Laws "Terrorizes" People

According to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the INS and FBI are terrorist organizations for enforcing immigration laws: U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Friday police raids on dozens of U.S. Wal-Mart stores in the search for illegal immigrants this week amounted to "terrorizing" workers. "It instills a great deal of fear in people who are only trying to earn a living and put food on the table for their family," Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters on a Congressional visit to Mexico. I believe that we need to create a mechanism that will allow us to track migrant workers and still allow them to work in the US. Despite what reactionaries on the right proclaim, such workers fill a vital need in the agricultural industry, as well as some service industries. However, until Congress develops such a program, it's still illegal to come into the US without...

October 27, 2003

Who's Laughing Now?

New Yorkers who had a great time poking fun at the California recall have discovered that direct democracy isn't even an option in their city: It started during the summer when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a Republican in a heavily Democratic town, placed an initiative on the city's Nov. 4 ballot that would ban partisan local elections. The mayor has contributed $2 million of his own money to pass the measure, which would reduce the traditional clout of the Democratic Party in New York City politics. He also took steps to block voters from considering an initiative signed by 115,000 residents that would compel the city to form a commission on chronic overcrowding in public schools. Bloomberg, like other mayors before him, invoked a little-known state law that bars other initiatives from appearing on a municipal ballot once a charter-reform measure is placed on it. The Mayor of New York...

South Park Republicans

In the Autumn 2003 edition of City Journal, Brian Anderson asserts that the right is no longer losing the culture wars: The Left’s near monopoly over the institutions of opinion and information—which long allowed liberal opinion makers to sweep aside ideas and beliefs they disagreed with, as if they were beneath argument—is skidding to a startlingly swift halt. The transformation has gone far beyond the rise of conservative talk radio, that, ever since Rush Limbaugh’s debut 15 years ago, has chipped away at the power of the New York Times, the networks, and the rest of the elite media to set the terms of the nation’s political and cultural debate. Almost overnight, three huge changes in communications have injected conservative ideas right into the heart of that debate. Though commentators have noted each of these changes separately, they haven’t sufficiently grasped how, taken together, they add up to a revolution:...

The Power of Modern Fads

Robert Bartley has written an excellent essay in today's OpinionJournal about instant cultural obsessions and the price paid for them: In an age of instant communications, we become members of a huge world-wide tribe, in constant contact with the thoughts and emotions of our fellow members everywhere. This carries many blessings, not least in undermining of local totalitarian regimes. But like tribal societies throughout the ages, it's vulnerable to sudden surges of emotions, to shared if unexamined assumptions that harden into instant fads. Bartley reviews two cases championed by the Wall Street Journal: the Amirault child-abuse conviction and the forced bankruptcy of Dow Corning caused by pseudoscientific hysteria about silicone breast implants. In the Amirault case, the best that Bartley can claim is a draw; Gerald Amirault is getting paroled without ever acknowledging any kind of confession in the supposed child-abuse cases for which he was convicted. Amirault and Bartley...

Well, geez ... would he lie?

Bill Clinton's idea of helping Tony Blair with his heart problem doesn't ease the angina one bit: Downing Street says it is "mystified" by reports that Tony Blair discussed his health problems several years ago with Bill Clinton. Mr Blair's spokesman insisted that his irregular heart beat, which caused him to be hospitalised briefly last week, had never happened before. But ex-US President Clinton was quoted in the Sunday Mirror as saying: "I've known about this for a long time. He told me about it quite a few years ago. As soon as I heard what happened, I called to check he was OK. We had a talk and he sounded in good shape." Excuse me for having a memory and a brain, but if anyone remembers, Mr. Clinton has a reputation for being a bit loose with the truth, and while we're at it, does anyone think this sounds...

October 28, 2003

In case you thought City Journal is biased

Either this is the meme of the moment, or we are truly seeing a striking social phenomenom. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune: While the liberalism of young adults has long been taken for granted, there is accumulating evidence that conservatism is making inroads. Recent polls and election results show that, at the least, this group of potential voters is up for grabs, prompting Republican and Democratic strategists to scramble to win their loyalty. Apparently this has been the dirty secret of Academia, at least up to now. As I said yesterday, this threatens the leftist (as opposed to liberal) hegemony that currently exists on university campuses, as these students will eventually replace existing faculty and curriculum management. In fact, that's what they're specifically aiming to do. What reason do they give for this sea change? "As far as the baby boom generation is concerned, Vietnam demonstrated that the United States...

Clark waning, liberals waxing in primaries

Oh so predictable: supposed White Knight General Wesley Clark is sliding in the polls, while support for liberal candidates is increasing: The small boom of support for retired Gen. Wesley Clark, which pushed him to the front of national polls in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, appears to be ebbing, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. ... Among registered Democrats queried about their 2004 choices, 15 percent chose Clark, down from 21 percent who expressed support for him in early October, when he led the field less than a month after joining the race. In the latest poll, Dean was in first place, with 16 percent support, just a whisker ahead of Clark and within the poll's margin of error. Clark, pushed into the race by the Clintons and staffed with a number of Clinton supporters, has been an embarrassment on the stump. Either he can't come up...

Gangs Won't Let You Rest in Peace

Despicable behavior by gangs is nothing new, but this has to be a new low: A shootout at a mausoleum during a funeral Monday sent hundreds of mourners and visitors at Inglewood Park Cemetery crouching or running for cover as bullets were fired by suspected gang members and police. At least two men were hit, but both appeared stable and conscious, paramedics said. Police, who were investigating the crime scene six hours later, said they had no information on the men's conditions and only sketchy details about what happened. ... The 27-year-old mourner said Bailey's chrome casket was being put into a wall in the mausoleum at the end of the burial service, and the words "ashes to ashes and dust to dust" were being recited when gunfire broke out and people began screaming. She ran outside and saw police firing their weapons, she said. Another witness, a 19-year-old man,...

The inevitable results of socialized medicine

How would you feel if the government-controlled medical care -- for which you've paid -- decides to deny you medicine based on where you live? If that sounds good, then by all means keep pushing for "universal" health coverage: The government has vowed to end so-called "postcode prescriptions" which result in some patients being denied potentially life-saving cancer drugs because of where they live. Health Secretary John Reid said on Monday he had ordered an inquiry into why some local health authorities are prescribing new drugs to combat cancer while others are not -- even though the drugs have been approved nationally. Yes, I know, the British government has vowed to end the practice of denying cancer medication based on patient location, but it's creepy that the practice exists in the first place....

Munich in 2003?

DEBKAfile postulates that certain European government officials are considering sacrificing Israel to appease the Arabs: Nineteen days before the New York article appeared, a DEBKAfile informant dining at a Knightsbridge restaurant with a highly-placed British intelligence official heard him drop this remark: “Some people in the West have come to the conclusion that the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 was a mistake.” When asked to explain whether this meant that the Jews were to be evicted from the Middle East, he replied: “Certainly. Israel has a little more than 5 million Jews. If the United States and NATO were to finance their relocation in other countries, that would solve many Middle East problems.” ... In October 2003, the same British intelligence officer once again dropped a warning of schemes being spun in secret in Brussels to de-legitimize the Israeli democracy, whittle away its independence and eventually bring...

October 29, 2003

Second guesses follow Wellstone memorial

As part of a fortnight-long retrospective on Paul Wellstone's death, the Star Tribune today features a story about the controversial Wellstone memorial and its impact on state and national politics. Unfortunately, it's also the cause of some blame-shifting as well: In a gathering counterattack aimed at revising the conventional views of the memorial, liberal commentator and comedian Al Franken in his recent book castigates state and national conservatives for their take on the memorial. Franken blasts Republicans from Rush Limbaugh to Peggy Noonan to former Minnesota Congressman Vin Weber for claiming that a Jumbotron screen prompted the audience (the words on the screen were closed captioning for the hearing impaired); claiming that "20,000 people" booed Majority Leader Trent Lott (only some jeered), and constantly alleging that the event was scripted. ... Nonsense, responds Weber, a key adviser to Coleman whose immediate denunciation of the event as a "complete, total, absolute...

Why Condi? Why Not Condi?

Instapundit pointed out a new web site pushing Condoleeza Rice as Bush's running mate in 2004. In the Why Condi? page, the site explains its zeal to dump the current Vice President: Conventional wisdom has long held that the first woman, or first African-American in the White House, would be a Democrat. It would be the ultimate double-whammy to beat the Democrats at their own game. The beauty of it all is that she would not be not chosen because of her merely being a woman or an African-American, but rather because of her intelligence, qualifications, talents, experience and confidence of the president. I'm actually a fan of this idea, but this explanation sort of boggles the mind. On one hand, we want to "beat the Democrats at their own game", by electing a female African-American on a Presidential ticket, but, ah, not because she's a woman or an African-American....

And on the other side ...

After an attack by Al Sharpton, calling Dean's agenda 'anti-black', how can Dean respond affirmatively? Howard Dean's opposition to affirmative action, his current support for the death penalty and historic support of the NRA's [National Rifle Association's] agenda amounts to an anti-black agenda that will not sell in communities of color in this country," Sharpton said in a statement. Can this be a tripwire to the Dean campaign? After all: Until now, the Dean campaign's brushes with racial issues have been less vitriolic. Earlier this year, some critics, noting that Dean comes from a heavily white state and campaigns extensively via the Internet, questioned his ability to reach low-income and minority voters. Taking a page from my previous post, would the Dean campaign consider Carol Mosely-Braun as a potential VP choice? She's obviously not going to be a factor in the primaries and is running primarily to rebuild her reputation...

But does he wear boxers or briefs?

Governor Dean apparently struggles with some confusion issues: Dean declared himself a "metrosexual," the buzz phrase for straight men in touch with their feminine sides, as he touted his accomplishments in "equal justice" for gay and lesbian couples. But then he waffled. "I'm a square," Dean declared, after professing his metrosexuality to a Boulder breakfast audience with an anecdote about being called handsome by a gay man. "I like (rapper) Wyclef Jean and everybody thinks I'm very hip, but I am really a square, as my kids will tell you. I don't even get to watch television. I've heard the term (metrosexual), but I don't know what it means." Okay, so what this supposedly razor-sharp genius says is that he hears words he doesn't understand and then likes to use them in campaign speeches to impress voters. People talk about Bushisms -- is anyone keeping track of Dean's hoof-in-mouth disease?...

Zell Miller Endorses Bush

Retiring Georgia Senator Zell Miller endorses George Bush for the presidential election in 2004: Miller said Bush is "the right man at the right time" to govern the country. The next five years "will determine the kind of world my children and grandchildren will live in," Miller said in an interview. And he wouldn't "trust" any of the nine Democratic presidential candidates with governing during "that crucial period," he said. "This Democrat will vote for President Bush in 2004." Fred Barnes writes about Miller's discontent with the Democrats, both in the Senate and as a national political party. Miller's dissatisfaction has been known for some time and was recently vented in his new book, A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat, in which, among other items, he dismisses Howard Dean as "shallow". Miller's endorsement is certain to cause problems for the eventual Democratic nominee, especially in...

Don't make me pull this car over!

Seems like a squabble has erupted between the Dean and Gephardt campaigns: The incident occurred during a Gephardt speech at a Des Moines, Iowa, senior center Tuesday. A Dean campaign worker got into an altercation with members of the Gephardt staff and was escorted from the event, according to Rod Boshart, a reporter for The Gazette, of Cedar Rapids. In a letter to the Gephardt campaign late Tuesday, Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi said, "I urge you to find the staff member responsible and fire him, and send a strong signal to the rest of your staff that behavior of this kind will not be tolerated." Erik Smith, spokesman for the Gephardt campaign, said Wednesday, "this guy was belligerent and we escorted him out." He referred to the incident as political dirty tricks. Now, now, boys ... Late word out of the Dean camp says that the Gephardt people started...

October 30, 2003

U.S. Slowly Scaling Back Role in Israel

The above headline is quite misleading; the US isn't pulling away from Israel, they're telling the Palestinians to start meeting their obligations before expecting anything else from us: Call us when you're serious about disarming militants — that's the message Palestinians are getting from U.S. mediators who have scaled back their presence in the region. The apparent disengagement comes amid a deadlock in the U.S.-led "road map" peace plan, Washington's growing troubles in Iraq, and the distractions of the U.S. presidential election campaign. Unless the AP defines Israel as inclusive of the West Bank an Gaza Strip. Now that would be news! Israeli and Palestinian critics warn that reduced U.S. involvement will likely lead to more bloodshed, further harm America's image in the Arab world, and in the end bring on another round of U.S. mediation. With the sides here so far apart on the issues, many previous peace moves...

Bad News for Democrats

The headline in today's Washington Post: Economy Grows at 7.2 Percent Rate in Third Quarter: The economy grew at a scorching 7.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter in the strongest pace in nearly two decades. Consumers spent with abandon and businesses ramped up investment, compelling new evidence of an economic resurgence. The increase in gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy's performance, in the July-September quarter was more than double the 3.3 percent rate registered in the second quarter, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The 7.2 percent pace marked the best showing since the first quarter of 1984. It exceeded analysts' forecasts for a 6 percent growth rate for third-quarter GDP, which measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States. Could it be that the tax cuts, designed to put more cash into the hands of middle-class consumers, may be working...

Wait ... Michael Moore tells lies?

Quite frankly, I'm having a little trouble deciding for whom to root: James Nichols, the brother of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, says he was tricked into appearing in the documentary "Bowling for Columbine," according to a federal lawsuit filed against filmmaker Michael Moore. Nichols also alleges in the lawsuit, filed Monday in Detroit, that Moore libeled him by linking him to the terrorist act. Nichols accuses Moore of libel, defamation of character, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. His lawyer is asking for a jury trial and damages ranging from $10 million to $20 million on each of nine counts, the Detroit Free Press reported. It's sort of like trying to figure out, at a Oakland Raiders - St. Louis Rams game, who you want to see lose more: Al Davis or Georgia Frontiere....

October 31, 2003

Video cell phones causing unforseen issues, pardon the pun

Quite frankly, this issue never occurred to me until I read this article: It's a health club patron's nightmare: Someone surreptitiously snaps a digital photo of said patron in a shower or locker room, then shares the snapshot far and wide via e-mail or by posting the picture on a Web site. The likelihood of this happening has dramatically increased in the past year or two as digital cameras have shrunk in size and become inconspicuous parts of everyday devices such as mobile phones. Now, local health-club chains are scrambling to preempt such mischief. The latest is Eden Prairie-based Life Time Fitness, which has just banned any cell-phone use in locker room areas. Northwest Athletic Clubs and the YWCA of Minneapolis also have instituted similar bans, according to a check of area clubs by the Pioneer Press. Health clubs have banned film and video cameras in the past for these...

The Definition of Insanity ...

... is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result: Senate Democrats yesterday blocked President Bush's selection of Charles W. Pickering Sr. for a federal appeals court after a two-year struggle that evoked conflicting interpretations of the past, present and future of race relations in Mississippi and Pickering's role in them. It's far past the time that Senate Republicans should have forced the Democrats to really filibuster a nominee, instead of the Filibuster Lite that they've allowed so far. Force the Democrats to shut the Senate by continuous speechifying, all the while on C-SPAN, preferably with that political cartoon of Justice Brown on the dais behind them. If the Democrats choose obstructionism, force them to do it for real. Let the country see what they are. Either that, or dump the nominees and find new ones, because this process has been grossly unfair to them....

This Accident Brought To You By ...

As Warren Brown says in this column, I'm a free-market kind of guy, but there are limits: Some Internet entrepreneurs, apparently more interested in cash than in road rage, or the possibility of a fatal crash, have been offering MIRT and MIRT knockoffs for $300. Their pitches are quite tempting: "Never wait for a red light again!" and "Tired of Waiting for Red Lights?" and "Changes Stop Lights From Red to Green in Seconds." Of course, there are buyers; and at the moment, the commerce is legal. MIRT transmits an infrared beam, instead of a radio wave. The Federal Communications Commission regulates the use of radio waves. Infrared transmission falls outside of the agency's purview. As a result, currently, there are no federal laws restricting civilian use of MIRT technology. Federal regulation would help keep these off the market, but individual states can and should make sale, possession, or use...

Defector: N. Korea's Kim Is World Problem

In keeping with Roger Simon's challenge, here's what North Korea's highest-ranking defector says: The only way to combat North Korea's dictator is for the world to unite against him as it has against terrorism, North Korean's top-ranking defector said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday. ... On his first trip to the United States, Hwang Jang Yop also said he believes North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is fully prepared to start a war and that there's no telling whether Kim will ever give up his nuclear program. "It's like ... asking whether a venomous snake will bite or not," Hwang said in the interview. Roger feels, and I agree, that the pledge made in 1945 -- never again -- has transformed definition from 'never allowing genocide to happen again' to 'never recognizing genocide again'. We missed it completely in Cambodia after the much-derided "domino theory" came...

November 1, 2003

Bam-Bam Lives

In a unique and, shall we say, fantastic defense, a father on trial for the beating death of his infant daughter claims that the real cuplrit is his 2-year-old son: A jealous 2-year-old battered his infant sister so badly that it left her vulnerable to death when her father tripped in their St. Paul apartment and dropped her last November, Said Moussa Gouleed's lawyer said Friday, the first day of Gouleed's murder trial. Six-week-old Faduma Moussa Gouleed died from the accidental fall, not from a beating by her father, lawyer Eric Olson said. They're not called the "terrible twos" for nothing, I guess. Let's see what this brawny baby managed to inflict on Sis: An autopsy disclosed evidence that the baby had been repeatedly injured before her death, including several broken bones and a previous skull fracture. Olson said pre-existing injuries inflicted by her brother, coupled with the accidental fall...

Ain't Got Time for Green

Has anyone asked Ralph Nader how it feels to be potentially replaced by Jesse Ventura? Do you suppose Nader may be a bit reluctant to spend a year campaigning on behalf of a party of environmentalists who wanted to throw him overboard for a pro-hunting, pro-snowmobiling, pro-boating candidate?

The Pot Calls The Kettle Black

The LA Times features an article today on how Fox News intentionally skews its news writing to support a conservative bias: A veteran producer this week alleged that Fox News executives issue a daily memorandum to staff on news coverage to bend the network's reporting into conformity with management's political views, refocusing attention on the partisan bias of America's most watched cable news operation. The charges by Charlie Reina, 55, whose six-year tenure at Fox ended April 9, first surfaced Wednesday in a letter he posted on an influential Web site maintained by Jim Romenesko for the Poynter Institute, an organization that promotes journalistic education and ethics. (Romanesko's site, BTW, is on my blogroll to the left.) Read on for a taste of delicious irony: The corporate boards and family investors who control most of the American news media generally feel obliged to maintain a wall of separation between news...

Howard Dean, Confederate Racist?

It's an old story for acclaimed "metrosexual" candidate Howard Dean -- Open Mouth, Insert Foot: "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks," the former Vermont governor was quoted as saying in Saturday's Des Moines Register. "We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats." Say, Yankee boy, don't you know them's fightin' words, at least among the Northeastern-elite-style Democrats? "I don't want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks," Gephardt said in a statement. "I will win the Democratic nomination because I will be the candidate for guys with American flags in their pickup trucks." Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts contended that Dean's "pandering" to the National Rifle Association gave him an inroad to "pander to lovers of the Confederate flag." Will the Democrats be as quick with the BUSH...

November 2, 2003

Maureen Dowd Watch

The Belgravia Dispatch posts a fisking, of sorts, on Maureen Dowd's latest column (via Instapundit): But here's the point. Bush, for a good while now--including back during his September speech to the United Nations--has increasingly made reference, not only to terrorists opposing the U.S. in Iraq, but also regime "holdouts." Put differently, he's been more frank about the somewhat variegated nature of the opposition in Iraq recently. So my concerns at least, as someone who has followed the issue pretty closely, have been allayed somewhat recently. But then MaDo comes in and ignores all the evidence to the contrary to facilitate her slanted, anti-Bush op-ed writing process. Gregory Djerejian then provides the specifics on various Bush speeches where he specifically speaks about the difference between terrorists in Iraq, who mostly come from somewhere else, and regime holdouts like the Saddam Fedayeen and ex-military officers. Djerejian lumps Dowd in with Stephen...

Is this the end of 'the West?'

I don't know what breakfast cereal Thomas Friedman's been eating lately, but the man is on fire, this time asking if Europe has thrown in the towel, "Europe" mostly meaning France and Germany: At the Madrid conference, Saudi Arabia pledged $1 billion in new loans and credits for Iraq — and Germany and France pledged zero new dollars. The bottom line is clear: Saudi Arabia cares more about nurturing democracy in Iraq than Germany and France. Ah, you say, that’s unfair. Germany and France opposed the war, so why should they pay more than their share of the paltry EU contribution? Actually, it’s not unfair, when you remember that before the war France and Germany were obsessed with the lifting of UN sanctions on Saddam’s regime — in the name of easing the suffering of the Iraqi people. Friedman sheds quite a bit of light on the disconnect between the...

Minnesota teen dies while being a good samaritan

I normally like to finish on an up note, but that's not possible when you read something like this, which happened in North Carolina but involves a Minnesota teen: When Nolan Myers saw somebody was in need he was always willing to lend a helping hand, his family and friends said. ... He and three friends came upon the accident and stopped to be good samaritans. As Myers, 18, of Carver, Minn., reached one of the injured motorists, the driver of a speeding van plowed into the vehicles and the bystanders, killing five people, including Myers. A sixth person died en route to the hospital, authorities said. You may ask how someone driving by an accident could kill six people standing by the site. Take three guesses: The driver of the van, Larry Robert Veeder, 32, was charged Sunday with driving while impaired and with six counts of involuntary manslaughter,...

November 3, 2003

Good Luck Selling This to the Pelosi/Boxer Crowd

A group of centrist, concerned Democrats have published a manifesto that attempts to fight the McGovern tilt amongst the Presidential candidates: Last week, an impressive group of centrist Democratic foreign policy thinkers released a thoughtful document urging the party to adopt a "progressive internationalism" built around a strong defense, free trade and American leadership through international alliances "to shape a world in which the values of liberal democracy increasingly hold sway." ... Signed by prominent party thinkers like Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, and Iraq expert Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, the paper updates for a new century the vision advanced by Democratic presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. In that tradition, the authors envision an America that expands its own security by working with allies to encourage the spread of trade and freedom around the globe — but defends its interests with...

First Zell Miller, Now This

Another Democrat appears to be poised to defect in a major election, this time in the Louisiana gubernatorial race: Mayor Ray Nagin, a Democrat, crossed party lines Monday to endorse Republican Bobby Jindal in the Nov. 15 runoff election for governor. Jindal faces Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco in the election. Perhaps the Democrats should call in the UN -- 2004 is looking more like a quagmire every day. But this news, combined with the Zell Miller bombshell a few days back, and the sudden retirement announcement of Bob Graham in Florida, and it's becoming clear that the Democrats are losing the South. Despite their recent decision to abandon gun control, the South isn't likely to trust that Dem policy to be permanent, and the screechiness of the anti-war themes at the Presidential debates may play well in Hollywood and San Francisco, but among the NASCAR dads and the Confederate flag...

November 4, 2003

Kerry's wife calls presidential debates 'silly'

... and I completely agree with Theresa Heinz Kerry: Heinz Kerry said debates have become about scoring a punch with quick soundbites. "It's just silly," she said. "I think those debates are really unproductive and they made it hard for all of them to (get their message across)." In fact, I would call them exceedingly silly, made so by live audiences who ooh, aah, gasp, titter, and applaud the most banal and trite comebacks. These debates embody the vacuity of modern hight-tech media sound bite-ism. The formats do not allow for thoughtful policy discourse, and in fact are designed to eliminate any hope of that. They are entertainment, at least in theory, a type of gladiator arena where the fight is not so much between the gladiators themselves as it is between the audience members to stay awake long enough to punctuate their champions' verbal jabs with the appropriate sound...

Building character through sports

If intramural sports exist to build character for young adults, then one of the best success stories can be found in Nate Haasis, a Springfield, IL high-school quarterback: Nate Haasis dropped back for one more pass as the clock wound down on his high school football career. But this one was different: As he threw a 37-yard completion, his opponents just stood around and watched. With that, Haasis became the new all-time passing champion of the Central State Eight Conference, with a record 5,006 yards. But it turns out the two opposing coaches in the Oct. 25 game orchestrated the play to ensure Haasis' place in history. And now the 17-year-old senior wants to nullify the pass and give back the record in a dispute that has roiled this football-crazed city and led to a debate over honesty and fair play. Some in the community have made the coaches out...

November 5, 2003

Republicans Make Gains in the South

The Democrat position in the South continued to erode, as the Republicans gained two governorships in elections yesterday: With a presidential campaign only months away, Republicans picked up two governorships in the South, ousting Mississippi's Democratic incumbent and seizing Kentucky's top job for the first time in 32 years. GOP Washington lobbyist Haley Barbour unseated one-term Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, while in Kentucky, three-term Republican Rep. Ernie Fletcher defeated Democratic Attorney General Ben Chandler. In an echo of the California recall, neither election was as close as pre-election polls indicated, especially in Mississippi, where newspapers had the race as a dead heat; Haley Barbour wound up winning by eight percentage points, far larger than the margin of error in the polls. Fletcher won by 10 points. Mississippi Democrats criticized Barbour for his connections and years spent in Washington as Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites) and other...

Barbra Streisand Decries Right-Wing "Censorship"

As expected, Barbra Streisand leaps to the defense of her husband and his movie: I am deeply disappointed that CBS, the network that in 1964 gave me complete artistic control in creating television specials, now caved in to right wing Republican pressure to cancel the network broadcast of the movie The Reagans. (And I say MOVIE - because this is NOT a documentary - it's a television drama.) She has a point -- this is a movie, after all, not like Michael Moore's supposed documentaries, although I doubt she'd hesitate to defend his intellectually dishonest works. All crying aside, the movie will still be broadcast, just on a different Viacom outlet. However, this part of her argument made my eyes roll back into my head: I don't believe Democrats often, if ever, try to muscle the First Amendment like this. Let's see ... it wasn't more than a few years...

Dean's Confederate Comment Reverberates on Internet

Over the past few days, I have observed a fascinating phenomenon: my post on Howard Dean and his outreach to people who have a Confederate flag on their trucks gets over 10 hits an hour from various search engines, notably Google. Despite the fact that I post regularly on political topics and the War on Terror, this is by far and away the most-requested post from search engines. Granted that this is not a scientific sample, and the Internet is not necessarily representative of the nation as a whole (and some of these searches are originating internationally), but it appears that Dean's comments have inflamed a large number of people who are looking for something on the Internet. No one has posted any comments on my original post, so I can only guess as to what it specifically means, but in general, those comments have resonated to a greater degree...

Weight Isn't The Most Important Thing

My talented and very good-looking friend, Haddayr Copley-Woods, has a new column in the Minnesota Women's Press regarding society's obsession with weight: As a feminist, I am ambivalent about having lost weight at all. Fat is a feminist issue, and although my weight loss was well within the scientific standard for my height and frame, I feel in a way as if I have betrayed the sisterhood. We should love ourselves for who we are, I tell myself, and people should love us for what’s inside. We should not be afraid to take up space. Also, I used to look a little tougher. Quit laughing. I said “a little.” Make sure you read the whole thing, and check out her previous columns as well. Haddayr always delivers an intelligent and entertaining column, I suppose even when we disagree, although so far that hasn't happened....

The DNC Discovers Humor

Nothing that has happened in this tempest in a teacup is scarier than the DNC's statement. This isn't a fringe group, for crying out loud, these people want to run our government! Either they're about to drive off a cliff in the next year, or centrist Democrats need to stage a palace coup and eject Terry McAuliffe. They have become delusional in their bitterness.

Howard Dean's Foot Strikes Again

Howard Dean, a man reportedly so intelligent that he is allowed to prescribe medication for people, needs something for his chronic foot-in-mouth disease: Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean told a Tallahassee audience today that southerners have to quit basing their votes on "race, guns, God and gays." Is Dean trying to lose the nomination? He traveled all the way to Tennessee just to tell Southerners to their faces that they're idiots who only vote on the basis of bigotry, religious fanaticism, and homicidal rage. Oh, and please stop doing that. What's next on the Dean itinerary -- a stop at the Bar Association to tell a few bad lawyer jokes, followed by an appearance at the NEA to tell the teachers that they should learn how to read first before trying to teach kids? It's one thing to tell voters what they need to hear (for instance, on entitlements) when...

November 6, 2003

Democratic Pickup Lines

George Will writes an excellent column in today's Washington Post, one of three at least nominally about Howard Dean, but Will expands his review to the entire Democratic field of candidates: For Dean and Deanites, the idea of courting the Confederate-flag-and-pickups cohort gives them the frisson of walking on the wild side, the tingle of keeping bad company, like a professor in a biker bar. But Dean's statement, which dripped a kind of regional disdain, was a clumsy attempt to make a sensible point: Disdain no voters. The other candidates, instead of getting past the clumsiness (a Dean trademark), jumped all over Howard Dean to prove their own diversity chops, missing the point entirely. Dean sees that the South is about to depart from the Democrats for a generation, in part because the same disdain that dripped from Dean's statement has been part of the radical Left since the Civil...

The Meme of the Moment: Saint Ronald?

It didn't take long for the left to spin the CBS decision to cancel the "Reagans" miniseries and shift it to Showtime instead. Now we are about to be bombarded with accusations that right-wing nutbars are insisting that Ronald Reagan be portrayed as a saint. Consider this from Timothy Noah in Slate: It isn't especially troubling that CBS would bow to angry protesters in canceling The Reagans, given that the miniseries itself, if at all typical of the genre, is likely a piece of hackwork. (Those who live by popular tastes, die by popular tastes.) But it is troubling that the public, or at least a highly influential segment of it, has apparently ruled any criticism of President Reagan out of bounds. When did the Gipper become St. Ronald? The answer is, of course, that he didn't, and no one is insisting that he was. What generated the vehement protests...

And There Was a Great Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

... at least amongst Democrats, as productivity continues to rise and jobless claims fell to their lowest rate in almost 3 years: Productivity — the amount an employee produces per hour of work — grew at an annual rate of 8.1 percent in the July-to-September quarter, the fastest pace since the first quarter of 2002. That was up from a 7 percent clip in the second quarter, the department reported. ... In a second report, new applications for jobless benefits last week plummeted by a seasonally adjusted 43,000 to 348,000. That marked the lowest level since the week ending Jan. 20, 2001, and was much better than the 380,000 level that economists forecast. The four-week moving average of new claims, which smooths out weekly fluctuations, dropped to 380,000 last week, the best showing since the week ending March 10, 2001. So now that the economy and the job market are...

November 7, 2003

Jesse Jackson says Iraq is a 'quagmire' akin to Vietnam

Jesse Jackson runs off at the mouth again: Rev. Jesse Jackson on Friday said the U.S. occupation of Iraq was a "quagmire" similar to that seen in Vietnam and that the United States must form alliances through the United Nations if it is to withdraw from the country peacefully. ... While the United States is viewed as an occupying force, the United Nations could be seen as a liberating force, he said, adding that "the key to that is to really appeal to China, to France and to Germany to come in as partners under the umbrella of the U.N." Once again, we get the tired recitation of who needs to approve our foreign policy before the US can take any action in its own interest. This is the first time I've heard China trotted out; as far as I know, China wasn't threatening to veto the 17th resolution. France...

The Partisan Diet

It loks like the "clubby" and "bipartisan" atmosphere of the House Appropriations Subcommittee may be a thing of the past -- and the winners will be American taxpayers: Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), who chairs the subcommittee that controls spending on education, health and jobs programs, recently stunned Democrats by announcing plans to reject every "earmarked" project they are seeking in the final, compromise version of the bill, which funds the departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor. His reason: When the House passed the bill on July 10, all 198 Democrats present voted against it, several of them saying it shortchanged education programs. The bill passed, 215 to 208. So what happened was that the subcommittee loaded up the bill with both Republican and Democratic pork, and then the Democrats stiffed the Republicans when it came to voting on the bill in the House, including (apparently) Democrats who...

Voting Without a Choice

The Washington Post sends out a clear warning signal about the effects of radical gerrymandering on democratic processes: VIRGINIANS CAN FLATTER themselves that they held an election this week, and in some technical sense they did. Votes were cast, and by day's end candidates had won state offices. Yet there was one glaring problem, which should gnaw at everyone who left the polls with a cheery "I Voted" sticker: Most of the legislative races were hardly more competitive than elections in the old Soviet Union. And just as it is in non-democratic societies, this absence of meaningful competition was the product of deliberate manipulation -- in this case the gerrymandering of legislative districts by the politicians who then run for reelection from those districts. Most results were known before a single vote was cast. This problem occurs more frequently than ever in more and more states, and why this is...

QandO: Job Recovery Fastest in 20 Years

Jon at QandO sheds a little light on the "bleak" job recovery progress. Job recovery to a 6.0% unemployment rate from past recessions took 57 months after the 1982 recession and 41 months after the 1991 recession. Recovery time for this recession? 23 months. Now, compare our previous post-recessionary periods with our current post-recessionary period and try to figure out why this unemployment rate is being called unusually bad. Oh. Right. Elections. My bad. When Jon observes, Jon gets it right. Check out the entire blog, if you appreciate rational and fact-based argument. (Hell, check it out even if you don't.)...

It Seems A Little Odd for a "Jobless" Recovery

I know we're in a jobless recovery, because all of those truth-tellers like Al Sharpton keep telling us so, but shouldn't the primary characteristic of a jobless recovery be one that doesn't create jobs? The economy has created nearly 300,000 new jobs in the past three months after a half-year drought, pushing unemployment down to 6 percent in October and leaving little doubt that the jobs market is bouncing back. The Labor Department reported Friday that payrolls grew by 126,000 last month, many more than economists had predicted. That followed a revised 125,000 new jobs in September, more than double what initially was reported. U.S. companies added 35,000 to their payrolls in August. 250,000 jobs added in the last two months. At that rate, we'll add 1.75 million jobs by Election Day next year. We aren't out of the woods economically, though: The new jobs added last month mostly were...

Rip Van Wepner

I know boxers tend to get a little slow in their old age, but this is ridiculous: The boxer who was the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone (news)'s "Rocky" films plans to file a lawsuit against the actor for illegally using his name to promote the films and other merchandise, attorneys said Friday. Chuck Wepner, 65, is seeking $15 million in damages from the right of publicity claim, said his attorney Anthony Mango. The suit will be filed next week in New Jersey State Court. Uh, Chuck ... Rocky first came out 27 years ago, pal. Why the delay? Mango said Wepner waited almost 28 years before filing the suit because he always expected Stallone to compensate him. "Stallone said there was going to be something in this for Chuck. But he was giving him shallow promises to placate him. Chuck took him as a man of his word, but then...

Finally, the Strib figures out finance, sort of

Okay, maybe this is a sign of the impending Apocalypse, but even the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has figured out that the economy is improving: For the second time in two weeks, the economy has delivered terrific news for President Bush -- and all Americans. The employment report released Friday shows that the nation's long jobless recovery has come to an end, and that the recovery's job-creating phase probably started last summer, earlier than analysts thought. Coupled with a strong report on gross domestic product released last week, the data suggest that the economy finally is picking up steam after two years of lackadaisical expansion. But, being the Star-Tribune, it simply cannot allow that Bush's economic policies may have been correct all along: More worrisome are the long-term consequences of the president's budget policies. Rather than offer temporary stimulus -- the solution prescribed by a broad spectrum of economists -- the White...

November 8, 2003

Subtleties of Media Bias

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit discusses an apparently common experience in media -- reporters who go into an interview with a predetermined agenda. I won't excerpt it as Glenn mostly uses an article by Roger Ebert to illustrate his point. Glenn relates this to interviews specifically, but I suspect that this phenomenon is more widespread in journalism. I would guess that reporters already know what their approach to a story will be before they ever write a word or spend an hour investigating. Read Glenn's post; it's very illuminating....

Michael Moore: Man of the People

As if we needed another reason to dislike Michael Moore, try reading this letter (3rd item): Recently, a co-worker asked me if I had seen the movie Bowling for Columbine yet, I told her absolutely not! My answer surprised her, given the fact my son, Matthew, was one of the 13 murdered during the deadliest school shooting in our country's history. I explained to her that prior to the public release of the movie the families of the injured and dead were invited by Michael Moore to attend a preview screening. How thoughtful. Our family and others considered attending because we were genuinely interested in his message to the public regarding gun control and school violence. However, once we discovered he was going to charge us admission we refrained from doing so. It's laughable that Moore attempts to portray himself as an anti-establishment liberal who is the voice of the...

Republicans Going to the Mattresses?

Today's Washington Post offers hope to those Republicans who believe that the Senate has allowed the Democrats a pain-free filibuster option for too long on federal judiciary nominees: A brewing rebellion by conservative activists has prompted Senate Republican leaders to plan to devote at least 30 straight hours of debate next week to their bid to confirm a handful of judicial nominees being blocked by Democrats. The Republicans are bringing in food and cots for the "Justice for Judges Marathon," scheduled for Wednesday night through Friday morning. It seems like they may be starting to take the filibusters seriously. No one has ever filibustered federal judiciary nominees before (with the exception of Abe Fortas' Supreme Court nomination in the sixties), and the Democrats have done it four times this session. But their obstructionism hasn't gotten a lot of play because the Republicans have allowed them to filibuster without actually doing...

November 9, 2003

Demosophia on John Edwards

John Edwards is increasingly irrelevant, except as a Quayle-like VP candidate, but that doesn't stop Demosophia from one of the best political skewerings I've heard this election cycle: He's the kind of guy who would try to make a horse out of parts from a zebra, a hippo, and a giraffe, and then blame the resulting bloody mess on the poor quality of the animals. The actual post is not too much longer than that -- go read and enjoy....

The System is Broken

The continuous front-loading and jockeying of state primaries has led several states to cancel presidential primaries as a waste of time and money: Several states have moved to drop their presidential primaries next year, worried about costs in still-tight financial times and wondering if the political exercise would serve any purpose. Some say they can't afford the millions of dollars it costs to put on an election. Others say the decisions reflect the lopsided nature of modern primaries: The front-runner gets anointed by the media and campaign donors after the first few state primaries and the rest of the primaries are formalities. Quite frankly, it's well past time for Congress to take a hand in this process. What happens now is that presidential campaigns start up to eighteen months prior to the election, a lot of money and time gets spent, only to have candidates fall by the wayside early...

Continue reading "The System is Broken" »

Drug War Insanity

This one is all over the blogosphere today, and I hesitated to link to it, but it's just too outrageous to ignore: Gun-toting police burst into a South Carolina high school, ordering students to lie down in hall ways as they searched for drugs. The commando-style raid has parents questioning the wisdom of police tactics. The raid occurred Wednesday at Stratford High School in Goose Creek, S.C. Surveillance video obtained by CBS Affiliate WCSC in Charleston shows the police waving their guns and searching lockers as students lie flat on their stomachs or sides. Police officers burst in on a bunch of high-school kids, waving automatic weapons around and acting much like you'd expect from takeover-style bank robbers, and for what? "We received reports from staff members and students that there was a lot of drug activity. Recently we busted a student for having over 300 plus prescription pills. The...

November 10, 2003

Welcome to Sacramento, Mr. Governator

It didn't take long to indoctrinate Governor-elect Schwarzenegger into backstabbing, Sacramento style: The mystery began a month ago, when Lockyer revealed to a crowd of consultants, political scientists and journalists that he had broken ranks with the Democratic Party and voted for Schwarzenegger in the Oct. 7 recall election. Lockyer also seemed to trivialize allegations that Schwarzenegger mistreated and groped women over the span of three decades, dismissing the conduct as "frat boy" antics. But last week, Lockyer said in a news conference that the allegations aren't about to fade and deserve to be investigated — and he shared a few nuggets from a conversation with Schwarzenegger on the topic the day before. That infuriated Schwarzenegger's transition team, whose spokesman a few hours later accused Lockyer of betraying a confidence, in violation of attorney-client privilege. The battle escalated the next day. Lockyer told San Francisco radio station KGO that he...

But they were doing so well!

Not a great shock: CNN is reporting that Senator John Kerry has fired the manager of his struggling campaign: Democratic candidate John Kerry fired his campaign manager Sunday night in an attempt shake up his beleaguered presidential bid, The Associated Press learned. ... [Jim] Jordan will be replaced by longtime Democratic operative Mary Beth Cahill. Cahill has worked for Emily's List, a lobbying group on behalf of women's political issues and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. Kerry was supposed to be the front runner, but as events unfolded, it appears that both Kerry and Howard Dean have been surprised by Dean's pole vault to the front of the pack, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor. I think Dean expected to be able to sit around #2 or #3 until the primaries, snipe at Kerry and maybe Lieberman from behind and keep expectations low, and then claim momentum from a...

Dowd Watch x2 at the Daily Dish

Andrew Sullivan hits Maureen Dowd with two blasts today from his blog. I won't excerpt; just go read both, especially the second, where Andrew discovers the source of the "imminent" claim that's been obsessing Maureen of late....

Tommy Franks Rejects Wes Clark as Presidential Material

The Clark campaign took another broadside from a former senior military commander: Gen. Tommy Franks, who retired after leading the first stage of this year's war against Iraq, says in a new report that Wesley Clark, another former general, would make a lousy president. "Absolutely not," said Franks, when asked if Clark, who recently joined the pack of presidential wannabes, would make a good commander-in-chief. This follows the comments previously made made by General Hugh Shelton, which alluded to integrity and character issues. That two former senior military peers would openly disparage General Clark's presidential campaign is unprecedented; in the military, normally great care is taken to support former comrades-in-arms, at least in terms of their leadership and their service. Nor is this the only odd thing about the Post story. He insinuates that his termination as commander during the Kosovo conflict was engineered by Secretary of Defense William Cohen...

November 11, 2003

CNN: Creating the News as We See Fit

CNN reportedly wrote and distributed questions for the Rock the Vote debate and required audience members to ask them, according to an LA Times report: CNN, which has marketed itself as an outlet for serious news, planted a question about computer preferences at last week's debate of the Democratic presidential candidates, according to the student who posed the query and on Monday wrote about it in an online forum of Brown University's Daily Herald. During the debate, cosponsored by the nonprofit Rock the Vote organization, Alexandra Trustman asked the candidates whether they preferred the PC or Mac format for their computers. Despite uncertainty about the relevance of the question, Trustman was told that she could not ask her own question: But when she arrived in Boston for the debate, she wrote, she was "handed a note card" with the question and told she couldn't ask her alternative "because it wasn't...

Kerry Campaign Turmoil Deepens

The turmoil in the Kerry campaign deepened as two key officials quit in protest over Jim Jordan's firing: Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (news - web sites)'s press secretary and deputy finance director quit Tuesday, adding to the bitter turmoil on Kerry's team after the dismissal of his campaign manager. Robert Gibbs, chief spokesman for the Massachusetts lawmaker, and deputy finance director Carl Chidlow quit in reaction to the firing of Jim Jordan, abruptly let go by Kerry Sunday night. Both expressed dissatisfaction with the campaign, according to officials. Kerry initiated the shake-up by firing Jordan, his campaign manager, to demonstrate that he intended to reverse the poor showing of his campaign against Howard Dean. Some Democrats feel that Kerry was the problem more than the people in his campaign, acting as if the nomination was his "entitlement". and allowing Dean's energy to blow him off of the stage. But...

November 12, 2003

It's The Diva in All of Us

Syl Jones, a writer I don't normally recommend, has a good column in today's Strib about the growing sense of uncivility in today's society: At twilight a few weeks ago, on I-394 East, I witnessed yet another sign of our impending demise as a species. A young man held a "Howard Dean for President" sign on an overpass, waving at the passing cars. Directly in front of me, a bull-necked idiot driving a Jeep Wagoneer leaned out of his window and violently thrust his middle finger in the air, causing a temporary loss of vehicle stability that put me and several other drivers at risk of injury. To say that some people are angry these days is an understatement. The streets are boiling with unhappy, impatient and selfish people just spoiling for a fight. Sometimes, it's hard not to give them one. Jones presents a new theory of Divalution; if...

Best of Veteran's Day

In honor of my father (Korea), father-in-law (WWII, Korea, d. 1991), paternal uncles (WWII, Korea, peacetime), maternal uncles (Vietnam, peacetime), and cousins (peacetime, current), here are a few posts around the blogosphere that represent the best of the blogosphere's remembrances of Veteran's Day... Power Line has the best veteran's story, one of an unrecognized hero: Capt. Harry Hornbuckle. Venomous Kate reminds us of the everyday sacrifices of military families. Leave her a message telling her how much we appreciate both her and her husband. Michelle at A Small Victory has two notable posts about Veteran's Day. In the first, she talks about how much of our lives we take for granted, and how much of that is possible only due to the sacrifice of our military. In the second, she notes how a few mouthbreathers spent their Veteran's Day disrespecting that sacrifice. To our soldiers, past and present: thank you...

Executive Life, Now Dead, May Come Back to Haunt the French

Forbes has an update on the fallout of the Executive Life scandal, which may ensnare prominent French politicians (via Zonotics and Instapundit) : In April 1991 a California insurance company called Executive Life, having gone bust, became the object of an investigation by the state of California. In 1992 what had once been France's most successful bank, Crédit Lyonnais (now a decrepit institution), put together a deal whereby the bank would buy Executive Life's junk bond portfolio, and a new French insurance company would take over Executive Life's insurance business. At the time of the deal, Crédit Lyonnais was owned by the French state. Under U.S. federal law banks could not own insurance companies; under California law state-owned companies could not own insurance companies. The deal was agreed to because U.S. insurance regulators were assured that the new insurance company was independent of Crédit Lyonnais. ... The clash of cultures...

Kristof: Hold the Vitriol

Some words of warning to the left (and the right), courtesy of Nicholas Kristof in today's NY Times: Liberals have now become as intemperate as conservatives, and the result — everybody shouting at everybody else — corrodes the body politic and is counterproductive for Democrats themselves. My guess is that if the Democrats stay angry, then they'll offend Southern white guys, with or without pickups and flags, and lose again. We could argue about the origins of this polarity or who was angrier earlier, but at this point, both sides are equally guilty of irrational political hatred and it needs to stop, or at least those who indulge in this sort of behavior need to be marginalized. We are all Americans, and most of us come to our beliefs through heartfelt experiences, observations, and philosophy. We can learn from one another and we can compromise where necessary so that we...

Filibuster: Your Remedy for Insomnia

I'm not linking to anything specific here, but just a couple of bipartisan thoughts on tonight's debate in the well of the Senate. I've been flipping back and forth (I can't miss a new episode of South Park, after all), and my insistence on watching the marathon debate claimed its first victim: my wife. She fell asleep at 7 pm and went to bed. My insomnia seems to be more resistant to the blathering, but it's getting to be a close-run thing. Right now, I'm watching Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who had a clever moment earlier. He claimed he had a chart showing the administration's efforts to create jobs, and put up a blank white board. He then said, "If you turn it around, it shows the exact same data." Despite everything, he's pretty entertaining. Now, Charles Schumer, D-NY, keeps pointing at the score, 168-4, saying that the 4 were rejected,...

Poll: Bush Approval Rating on Economy Up

I haven't seen too much of these poll numbers today -- it's enough to make one believe in that mythical left-wing media bias: Public approval of President Bush's handling of the economy has increased amid signs that the economy is recovering, according to a poll out Wednesday. Half in the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, 50 percent, approved of Bush's handling of the economy, up from 43 percent who approved two months ago. Bush's overall job approval was at 51 percent, with 44 percent not approving. That's largely unchanged from that same poll two months ago - when he was at 49 percent. Despite the relentless carping Bush has endured, his polling continues to improve on the economy. Since his economic packages were passed by Congress, we've had growth in every quarter, and now the employment numbers are falling into line, too. The AP released this story at 7:32 pm today....

November 13, 2003

We're From the Government, We're Here to Help

A Minneapolis couple who called for medical advice after a home birth nearly lost custody of their children -- and now they're suing the city and the police: As they had with many of their eight other children, Daniel and Karen Mathias chose for Karen to give birth to Gabriel in their Minneapolis home last Christmas. Their call to a hospital the next day seeking advice on the newborn's eating behavior ended with child protection workers phoning, police knocking on their door and what the couple contend was a forced trip to a hospital. ... A hospital staff member who called back that evening "became agitated" on learning the baby had been born at home and insisted that he be brought in immediately and examined. Karen Mathias didn't believe it was necessary. The baby appeared happy and healthy. She said in an interview that she intended to take the child...

Generalissimo Franco Is Still Dead

I noticed this morning that the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times still have not put Bush's rising poll numbers anywhere on their main web pages. The Minneapolis Star Tribune doesn't even carry the story on its Politics section. MS-NBC has a prominent link on their main web page, but since NBC sponsored the poll, that makes sense. CNN? Nothing on its main page, nothing on its Politics page. Seattle Times? Nothing, not even on its wire service. AP wire on Yahoo? It's right there, in time order. Remember when Bush's numbers were falling? Did you have to search all over the place for that story, or was it headline news? But there's no such thing as a left-wing bias in the media. Riiiiiiiiiiiiight....

Moore No More: Alabama Chief Justice Removed

But -- but -- that order was a lawful order, given by a superior court with proper jurisdiction, and Moore was bound by his oath as an officer of the court to obey it. An oath, by the way, invoking the same God he claims to defend!

November 14, 2003

But Mumia Is a Martyr

Aaron McGruder, who draws the "Boondocks" comic strip, considers Condoleezza Rice a "murderer", and apparently the NAACP agrees: NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said over the weekend that he agreed with political cartoonist Aaron McGruder's characterization of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as "a murderer." ... "I don't like her because she's a murderer," the cartoonist announced. The charged drew immediate condemnation from Armstrong Williams, who complained, "That is totally out of line to say she's a murderer." Unfazed, McGruder repeated the accusation, stretching out his words, "S-h-e'-s a m-u-r-d-e-r-e-r." What did Julian Bond, longtime civil rights activist and now the chairman of the NAACP, have to say about McGruder's accusation? Certainly not words of temperance or support for a successful African-American woman in high government office: "I generally agree with his politics 100 percent and I think he explained himself well," the NAACP chief said. The NAACP's message is clear...

Lileks Is On Fire

Today's Bleat is unbelievably good; go read it now. Need convincing? Then Ted Rall wrote a column called “Why We Fight” in the voice of an Iraqi “resistance” fighter. I suppose it’s intended to help us understand the mindset of the enemy. Eh. The French have a saying: his head, it is filled with urine. Or they should have such a saying; I’m sure it would sound elegant and dismissive. These people aren’t the loyal opposition anymore; they’re just the opposition. They may say they love America, but they love some idealized nonexistent America that can never exist as long as there’s individuality and free will. They’re like people who say they love women and beat their wife because she doesn’t look like the Playboy centerfold. I’m sick of the lot of them. As for Rall, who cares about him? He’ll get his reward: the great yawning indifference of history....

And You Thought a 40-Hour Talk Marathon Was Stupid

Do you want to know how ridiculous this Senate nomination debate has become? Then check out the flap over the comments made by Sen. Zell Miller regarding Justice Janice Rogers Brown: "The Democrats in this chamber refuse to stand and let her do it. They're standing in the doorway, and they've got a sign: Conservative African-American women need not apply. And if you have the temerity to do so your reputation will be shattered and your dignity will be shredded. Gal, you will be lynched," Miller said. Well, Zell's fellow Democrats were aghast at Zell's choice of analogies, as you might imagine, and all of the rhetorical cannons were fired: "I was offended. I think it was unfortunate," Daschle said. "I think those within the civil rights leadership who have commented and have asked for an apology are right." ... "Either Senator Miller has conveniently forgotten a frightening period of...

November 16, 2003

Dixie Democrats and States Rights

The Washington Times published an analysis of Southern Democrat attitudes rolling into this election cycle, and just the number of Democrats talking on the record should be discouraging for the Dean campaign's desire to reach out to Southerners: Interviews with Democratic chairmen throughout the Southern and border states elicit a range of surprisingly frank emotions about the party's feisty, Northeastern front-runner — from impressive to wait-and-see discomfort to fear that his liberal views on Iraq, tax cuts and social issues once again would allow Mr. Bush to sweep the region, as he did in 2000 against Al Gore. Most acknowledge the growing conservatism that dominates their region, and some concede it will be difficult, if not impossible, to carry many Southern states if the nominee is out of step with mainstream Southern values. What struck me was the number of people in Democratic leadership posts that were willing to be...

November 17, 2003

India & Syria: The New Laurel & Hardy

Who knew that when India and Syria decided to get together that it would produce such comedic possibilities: India and Syria want the United Nations (news - web sites) to play a major role in Iraq (news - web sites) where the priority must be to restore security, said a joint statement to mark the departure of Indian premier Atal Behari Vajpayee. The two countries said it was "vital that the Iraqi people take charge of their own destiny", and for the United Nations to "play a large role in the economic and political reconstruction of Iraq". Wow, wouldn't that be great! Oh, wait a moment -- the UN buggered out of Iraq when their security forces allowed terrorists to bomb their facility. Their security forces, of course, were their former Iraqi Intelligence Services minders under the Saddam Hussein regime. So we should allow the UN to use Saddam's Gestapo...

He Still Doesn't Get It

Gray Davis, who is out of a job as of today, apparently still entertains notions of apolitical domeback, despite his recent recall: After five years in office, Gray Davis leaves the Capitol today on an ignominious note, the only California governor ever recalled by voters. But far from being chastened, the 60-year-old Democrat has surprised longtime associates with a reaction that some characterize as deep denial of his fate. He has hinted at a political comeback — sometimes in a joking fashion, at other times seriously — noting that his removal from office so early in his second term means he still could serve another term as governor, said people close to Davis, all speaking on the condition of anonymity. Nothing is impossible in politics -- after all, who would have thought that Gore could have screwed up a "gimme" Presidential election in 2000, partly by losing his own home...

QandO Fisks the Latest E-Mail Trash

Jon at QandO does a terrific job of fisking the latest e-mail blitz: George W. Bush's "resume". A sample: We garnered the most sympathy for the U.S. after the World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later I made the U.S. the most hated country in the world, the largest failure of diplomacy in world history. Losing sympathy was the largest diplomatic failure in world history? Gosh, I'd have thought it was, you know, the tiff that started WW1, or something. Do tell.....what did we plan to do with that sympathy? Was there some sort of bank account in which it would have gathered interest and paid for our funeral after we'd ignored the threat for a bit longer? And could the US possibly be the most hated, because of government controlled media propaganda like this? The United States wasn't "loved" even in the halcyon days of the...

Promises Kept, But Miles To Go Before He Sleeps

Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn into office today after a historic recall election, and immediately kept a key campaign promise: Newly inaugurated California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an order rolling back a 300 percent increase in state vehicle registration fees Monday, just hours after taking the oath of office. Executive Order No. 1 repealed the $4 billion increase in the "car tax," imposed earlier this year to help shrink a massive budget shortfall from $38 million to $8 million. Analysts believe the fee hike contributed heavily to his predecessor's defeat. Reversing the car tax was one of actor Schwarzenegger's leading campaign promises. The revenue loss will complicate his goals of balancing the budget, but perhaps at this stage it is more important to keep promises and build trust with an electorate whose trust has been badly bruised the past few years. His first legislative target appears to be the enormous workers-compensation...

Let's Keep the British Protests in Perspective

All we're hearing in our newspapers is that Britain's about to erupt with anti-American hatred in response to a visit from President Bush. Well, it's a bit overblown, as the Guardian reports in a new poll taken amongst the British electorate: The survey shows that public opinion in Britain is overwhelmingly pro-American with 62% of voters believing that the US is "generally speaking a force for good, not evil, in the world". It explodes the conventional political wisdom at Westminster that Mr Bush's visit will prove damaging to Tony Blair. Only 15% of British voters agree with the idea that America is the "evil empire" in the world. Just as here, the UK has a large, diverse population, and it's not difficult to come up with a few thousand mouthbreathers that would be happy to loudly protest damn near anything, especially a representative of capitalism and military strength. Supposedly, Tony...

November 18, 2003

Mass. Court Strikes Down Gay-Marriage Ban

I'm sure this news will fan the flames of the blogosphere and talk radio for the next few days: Massachusetts' highest court ruled 4-3 Tuesday that the state's ban on same- sex marriage is unconstitutional and gave lawmakers 180 days to come up with a solution that would allow gay couples to wed. ... "Whether and whom to marry, how to express sexual intimacy, and whether and how to establish a family — these are among the most basic of every individual's liberty and due process rights," the majority opinion said. "And central to personal freedom and security is the assurance that the laws will apply equally to persons in similar situations." "Barred access to the protections, benefits and obligations of civil marriage, a person who enters into an intimate, exclusive union with another of the same sex is arbitrarily deprived of membership in one of our community's most rewarding...

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November 19, 2003

Great Security at Buckingham Palace

Security breaches like this happen here in America, too, but with all of the protests going on over President Bush's visit, you'd think a little bit of double-checking would be in order: The Daily Mirror newspaper, claiming to have exposed a security breach at Buckingham Palace, said its reporter had been given full access to Queen Elizabeth II's residence on his first day on the job two months ago. The Mirror said reporter Ryan Parry had been due to serve breakfast Wednesday morning to key Bush aides. It said Parry quit his job as a royal footman at midnight Tuesday. It's not unusual for new hires to begin working ahead of receiving their security clearances, but very unusual to be given complete access to the most sensitive areas, regardless of where you work: Parry said he gave one real reference and one fake reference when he applied for work at...

Don't We Look Peachy?

I know every media outlet in the nation is covering the Michael Jackson/Neverland Ranch search story, instead of something a bit more useful, but our national shame has reached international status. Merde in France has posted about this, linking to a Canadian story, with this lovely little quote from The King of Pop: Jackson denounced media coverage of the search in a statement released by Backerman to The Associated Press. "I've seen lawyers who don't represent me and spokespeople who do not know me speaking for me. These characters always seem to surface with dreadful allegations just as another project, an album, a video is being released," the Jackson statement said. Yes, it's not enough that this well-known creep manages to embarrass us internationally, he also manages to plug his latest project along with it. Hey, I guess there's no such thing as bad publicity, is there? Also, Merde in...

Nolan Myers' Family Speaks Out

Some of you may remember this post regarding the death of a Minnesota teen in North Carolina, who was hit by a drunk driver while being a Good Samaritan and trying to assist stranded motorists on Route 54. Nolan was one of six people killed by Larry Robert Veeder, whose blood alcohol level was .18, which is over twice the legal threshold in most states, including North Carolina. Veeder was charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter. This was the story as I excerpted it from the Star Tribune (links no longer valid): When Nolan Myers saw somebody was in need he was always willing to lend a helping hand, his family and friends said. ... He and three friends came upon the accident and stopped to be good samaritans. As Myers, 18, of Carver, Minn., reached one of the injured motorists, the driver of a speeding van plowed into...

November 20, 2003

Update on Miss Afghanistan

For all of you fans of beauty in the cause of freedom, the Los Angeles Times has an update to the story of Miss Afghanistan, who made headlines around the world when she competed in the Miss Earth pageant in Manila: Miss Afghanistan knew she was taking a risk when she strutted across a Manila catwalk in a bright red bikini. ... But she did not know she would be denounced by the government of her native land, criticized by fellow Afghans — even in the U.S. — and at the same time hailed by others as a role model for girls and women in the "new Afghanistan." All because of a bikini — and a modest one at that. Where is Vida Samadzai now? She's at Cal State Fullerton, my alma mater, where I managed to avoid graduating by avoiding classes. She's studying international business and communications, and is...

They Don't Just Eat Donuts in Eagan

In Eagan, Minnesota, the police chief isn't a desk jockey, at least not full time: A teenager who allegedly burglarized eight Eagan homes in less than three hours Tuesday didn't realize who was waiting for him when he headed for the street. ... Out of the unmarked squad stepped Eagan Police Chief Kent Therkelsen. Therkelsen drew his gun and ordered the 16-year-old boy to the ground. The youth complied, going face down. Less than a minute later, officer Paul Maier pulled up to assist his boss. Chief Therkelsen has an engaging sense of humor about the incident: Therkelsen said he doesn't want to turn Tuesday's arrest into "the Kent show." He credits the hard work of his officers and the quick action of citizens. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time, he said. "My theory is this guy was looking for the oldest cop...

All Your Foreign Policies Are Belong To Us

Thousands of British protestors are storming the streets ... well, sort of, as David Carr lets us know at Samizdata:

Behind The Protests ... Same Old Crowd

Hindrocket returns from Britain with perspective on President Bush's visit and the protests that have ensued. Power Line posts Hindrocket's extensive post, which is definitely worth a read: What was most striking to me was the utter lack of substance in most coverage of the visit. The focus was almost exclusively on the security precautions attending the trip, which were pretty universally frowned upon, and the demonstrations against President Bush, which were hoped-for, salivated over, and covered with gusto. No one spoiled the mood by reminding readers that these were the same tired demonstrations (and largely the same tired demonstrators) who have greeted past American presidents. The BBC, for the most part, disdained to cover the visit at all. Hindrocket spent quite a bit of time in England and had a chance to look into the guiding spirits behind these tired, and oddly absent, demonstrators. Not surprisingly, some familiar faces...

News You'll Never See

I'm trying to avoid the whole Creepy Jacko thing, but certain odd points just seem to beg for a bit of blogging. Take this, for instance, from his brother Jermaine: Jackson's brother Jermaine denounced the allegations in a CNN interview as "nothing but a modern-day lynching." "This is what they want to see: him in handcuffs. You got it. But it won't be for long, I promise you," Jermaine Jackson said. Modern-day lynching? Tom Daschle had this to say about Jermaine's choice of words: "I was offended. I think it was unfortunate," Daschle said. "I think those within the civil rights leadership who have commented and have asked for an apology are right." And this from the LCCR: "Either [he] has conveniently forgotten a frightening period of American history, or he is willfully demeaning all those African-Americans who were hung from trees throughout the period of racial segregation in the...

November 21, 2003

Lileks: Brilliant as Always

James Lileks is a Minnesota treasure, and his take on Nightline's decision to bump coverage of the President's bellwether speech at Whitehall to cover, of all things, Michael Jackson is a terrific example: You know what? Michael Moore is right. There are many Americans who are ignorant of the world around them. And they’re all TV news producers. Two big bombs in Istanbul, and what’s the big story of the day? Following around a pervy slab of albino Play-Doh as he turns himself into the police. I was stunned to discover last night that Nightline not only covered the Jackson case in detail, but bumped coverage of the Whitehall speech, which was the most important speech since the Iraq campaign began and arguably the most important speech of the war, period. You would expect that a major commercial media outlet like ABC, with a supposedly top-notch news program like Nightline,...

November 26, 2003

Positive Medicare Coverage from the Strib!

Imagine my surprise when I read this article, entitled "Medicare drug plan helps poorest most," featured on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's web site: The poorest and the sickest older Americans will benefit most from the Medicare legislation passed Tuesday by the Senate and sent to President Bush for his anticipated signature. ... "This bill, we know it is not good enough," said Michele Kimball, Minnesota director of AARP, which supported the legislation. "The perfect plan would have cost $1 trillion. This is the best we could do. But, bottom line, it will help millions who have no help." There has been a lot of heat and smoke about this proposition, and not just from Democrats, either. Plenty of Republican conservatives are scratching their heads wondering what happened to the party of fiscal responsibility when it just expanded an entitlement program widely believed to be marching towards bankruptcy. But what good is...

November 28, 2003

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Although this is not well known in many areas, it is popular in Minnesota to deep-fry turkeys for Thanksgiving; the process seals in moisture and cooks the bird rather quickly. However, it is not without its dangers, and it seems that every year brings stories like this: Bill Fickett wanted to give his wife a break from the kitchen on Thanksgiving, so he offered to cook the turkey. His gesture ended up setting their garage on fire and causing about $14,000 in damage. ... Fickett was heating up about 3 gallons of oil for the turkey right before the fire started. He adjusted the temperature to the recommended 350 degrees, then stepped into the house to get the bird. Smoke was pouring out of the garage when they came back. When St. Cloud firefighters arrived about 2:15 p.m., the garage was in flames, said Gene Kostreba, acting assistant fire chief....

Dana Milbank Spouts Off Again

Dana Milbank, whose reporting leaves no doubt about his feelings for the Bush administration, attempts an in-depth analysis and only manages to state that Bush is "indelibly" tied to results in Iraq -- as if that's breaking news: Iraqis may be reassured that the United States will put down the insurgency and restore order in their country. Or they may take the image of Bush landing unannounced at night without lights and not venturing from a heavily fortified military installation as confirmation that the security situation in Iraq is dire indeed. But one thing is certain. Bush's Thanksgiving Day surprise ties him, for better or worse, ever more tightly to the outcome of the Iraq struggle. Well, excuse me for stating the obvious, but duh. "Insurgents" -- otherwise known as unreconstructed Ba'athists who would like nothing better than to re-install Saddamism/Stalinism -- have access to SAMs and explosives and relatively...

November 29, 2003

Flying Home, with France On My Mind

Today we're flying back to Minneapolis, after a great vacation with the family. These times are never long enough, but it will be great to sleep in our own beds again. No other posting today, as I will be too danged busy, but you should check out this post at Jennifer's History and Stuff about France. I spent my blogging time today writing an extensive comment on why and how the French irritate the livin' snot out of me. (If you read this, Jennifer, sorry about the length.) Tomorrow, we'll have the 500th post at Captain's Quarters!...

December 1, 2003

Dru Sjodin Breaking News

This wasn't the kind of news we were hoping was coming when the media announced a break in the Dru Sjodin case: A Crookston, Minn., man has been arrested and is facing a kidnapping charge in the disappearance of Dru Sjodin, police said. Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 50, was arrested on Monday at 7:20 p.m. in Crookston, Grand Forks police said. What's most disturbing is the last paragraph in the necessarily terse statement: Police said a search for Sjodin is ongoing. Police said no further information will be released until a press briefing on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately for the Sjodin family, an arrest without recovering Dru alive looks like we're not going to get good news in tomorrow's briefing. I'm trying to keep my hopes up, but this is tough to hear. I'm not sure why this case resonates with me so much. I suppose it could be that Dru is...

December 2, 2003

When Ideology Trumps Common Sense

You can file this one under "What Are These People Smoking?" In fact, that would make a good category here: Fired for walking into his office drunk, toting a loaded, sawed-off shotgun and saying he was looking for his bosses, a Canadian man wants his union to help him get his job back. ... The city of Moncton dismissed him, but a week later Pavlovsky went to his union to protest the firing and members agreed the union should help him try to get his job back once he finishes his prison term [emphasis mine]. Someone tell me this is satire, because this is something I'd expect in a fevered-nightmare hypothetical from the fringe right wing. The union is going to fight to get this guy back in the office, after showing up for work with a loaded illegal weapon, intending to kill people? Cases like these are why non-idiotarians...

Gun Control: A Consistent Failure

According to the Fraser Institute, restrictive firearms laws and gun confiscation programs have been expensive failures in various Commonwealth countries (via Instapundit). In England and Wales: Both Conservative and Labour governments have introduced restrictive firearms laws over the past 20 years; all handguns were banned in 1997. Yet in the 1990s alone, the homicide rate jumped 50 percent, going from 10 per million in 1990 to 15 per million in 2000. While not yet as high as the US, in 2002 gun crime in England and Wales increased by 35 percent. This is the fourth consecutive year that gun crime has increased. In Australia: While violent crime is decreasing in the United States, it is increasing in Australia. Over the past six years, the overall rate of violent crime in Australia has been on the rise – for example, armed robberies have jumped 166 percent nationwide. The confiscation and destruction...

December 3, 2003

LA Faces An Election Scandal

The LA Times breaks a story today about alleged election fraud in mayoral and City Council elections: [John] Archibald and 13 of the Casden firm's subcontractors were indicted last month on charges of conspiring to illegally funnel more than $200,000 in campaign contributions during 2000 and 2001 to Los Angeles City Council members Jack Weiss and Wendy Greuel, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo and Kathleen Connell, who was a candidate for mayor. Archibald and the subcontractors have pleaded not guilty to the felony charges and are free on their own recognizance. Prosecutors said the Casden firm, which has a $100-million Westwood development pending before the city, had sought to buy influence with the contributions. Larry J. Higgins, owner of a Sun Valley termite-control company, testified that he had the impression that he needed to make the political donations as a condition for getting a contract from the Casden firm. He has...

QandO Firing on All Cylinders

I don't have a Blog of the Day type of category, but if I did, Jon at QandO would get the prize today. Check out his takes on the following: * Washington, DC government offices are now installing dispensers for free condoms * Jon gives the best explanation of rational libertarianism I've heard. * The economy is expanding even faster than we thought -- it's looking like a boom. * Jon doesn't believe that Hillary will run for president in '04. I'm not sure I agree, but he makes a good argument about her strategy of late. If you haven't blogrolled QandO, be sure to do so now!...

That Valerie Plame -- She Sure Knows How to Stay Concealed

This has been going around the blogosphere all day, but I figured I'd throw in my two cents, and then post a few links to other reactions. Here, from the original Washington Post story by Howard Kurtz, is the covert agent's current top-secret project: Former ambassador Joseph Wilson has been quite protective of his wife, Valerie Plame, in the weeks since her cover as a CIA operative was blown. "My wife has made it very clear that -- she has authorized me to say this -- she would rather chop off her right arm than say anything to the press and she will not allow herself to be photographed," he declared in October on "Meet the Press." Here's the woman who will not allow herself to be photographed in the Vanity Fair issue that went on sale today: It's not that Plame has dropped out of sight. In October, as...

December 4, 2003

We're So Desperate We Make Stuff Up

Mike Allen at the Washington Post wrote an article questioning Bush's integrity, but wound up damaging his own (via Instapundit): In the most widely published image from his Thanksgiving day trip to Baghdad, the beaming president is wearing an Army workout jacket and surrounded by soldiers as he cradles a huge platter laden with a golden-brown turkey. ... But as a small sign of the many ways the White House maximized the impact of the 21/2-hour stop at the Baghdad airport, administration officials said yesterday that Bush picked up a decoration, not a serving plate. ... Some of the reporters left behind at Crawford Middle School, where they work when Bush is staying at his Texas ranch, felt they had been deceived by White House accounts of what Bush would be doing on Thanksgiving. Correspondent Mark Knoller said Sunday on "CBS Evening News" that the misleading information and deception were...

Fraters Libertas Weighs In on the "Liberal Radio Network"

Now that the Al Gore/Al Franken Liberal Radio Network has new investors with some experience in the entertainment world, the buzz has increased on a possible launch, including the news that the consortium may purchase five radio stations for their programming. The guys over at Fraters Libertas do an excellent job of deconstructing the various reports, referencing a Byron York column at NRO, but applying some local knowledge of the people involved: Liberal radio hasn't been entertaining for a non partisan audience. But it's hard to appreciate Walsh's insight through his condescension. Notice how he's subtly blaming the listeners for not appreciating the substance of the “progressive side,” because it has an “air of education to it.” And in their minds that doesn't work with the talk radio crowd. (Which is why all I want for Christmas is a drool cup, for when I'm listening to the education-free mumblings of...

I Am Angry

I look at my beautiful 18-month-old granddaughter, who has so much spirit and joy at life, and I am saddened to think that soon, I will have to say to her, Sweetheart, let me explain something to you. You are developing into God's most beautiful creation: a young woman. That means you will need to live the rest of your life in fear. Stop smiling, honey. Don't make eye contact with anyone. Stop walking through parks and admiring the flowers and the trees, or someone will grab you by your beautiful strawberry-blonde hair and do things to you that are unspeakable. And if you're lucky enough to survive, we'll all tell you what you did wrong to deserve it.

December 5, 2003

More Bad News about Dru

Evidence of Alfonso Rodriguez' involvement in the Dru Sjodin case has, unfortunately, taken a grim turn: Bloodstains matching Dru Sjodin's blood type were found in the car of Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., the repeat sex offender charged with abducting her outside a Grand Forks mall, sources close to the investigation said Thursday. That evidence is perhaps the most revealing detail in the case that North Dakota authorities are building against the 50-year-old Rodriguez, who has been charged with kidnapping in the University of North Dakota student's disappearance two weeks ago. Detectives have remained tight-lipped about their investigation, even having many of the facts in court records sealed from public view. A blood type match is not the same as a DNA analysis; that will take much longer to determine. However, this explains why the police were eager to arrest Rodriguez....

Power Line's Favorite Democrat

Don't put off reading this, if only to remember that there are patriots to be found in both parties, and that courage in defense of freedom and liberty is not dead, no matter how passé it may be thought in certain circles. Go through Power Line's archives and read more about Zell Miller. I'm thinking about writing him this weekend and asking him not to retire, but to run for one more term, even as a Democrat. He'd be one I would be delighted to support, although he represents another state.

Zero Tolerance = Zero Sense

Another bit of zero-tolerance nonsense, this time at a Louisiana high school: A student expelled from Parkway High for a year for having Advil, an over-the-counter pain reliever, will not be allowed to return to the school. Kelly Herpin and daughter Amanda Stiles, a sophomore, appealed the one-year expulsion to a Bossier Parish School Board committee Thursday night, spending about 10 minutes with the board's administrative committee behind closed doors. The committee and the full board voted unanimously to uphold an administrative decision that Stiles be expelled to the alternative school. I understand the necessity of rules regarding medications for students on school grounds. The schools want to dispense the medications themselves so that they are not passed around. This makes perfect sense for prescription medication; it makes less sense for over-the-counter medication like Advil, which do not easily lend themselves to abuse. Even so, rules are rules, and Ms....

It Must Be Official: Even the Strib Printed It

A new AP-Ipsos poll has Bush's numbers rebounding, significantly enough that even the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is carrying the report: People are increasingly comfortable about job security for themselves and for those they know -- 44 percent now, compared with 35 percent in early October. And more approve of the way Bush is handling the economy -- 50 percent compared with 45 percent earlier, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs. Support for his handling of other domestic issues such as education, health care and the economy, at 47 percent, has not shifted significantly. However, the Strib being the Strib, it just can't print this story without this editorializing in the middle of it: The economy is showing mixed signs of recovery: rapid growth that surprised most economists last quarter, indications the job market could be turning around, a rebound in the stock market over the past...

December 6, 2003

Another Argument for School Vouchers

I am not much of a fan of lawsuits. I tend to think that civil litigation has morphed into a version of Legal Lottery in too many cases, where people wildly exaggerate their damages in order to redistribute wealth, rather than recover reasonable damages. News stories about lawsuits raise my suspicion, for two reasons. First, I look at whether the alleged action actually caused damage and to what extent; second, why does a particular lawsuit get press coverage? In this case, the suit itself has some legal curiousity, but I suspect that the depth of reporting is intended to cast doubt on the idea of school vouchers. Otherwise, I'm not sure why this educational malpractice lawsuit, which has dubious odds of succeeding, would get so much attention from the Star Tribune: But when one mom discovered a couple of years ago that her fifth-grade daughter at the school was doing...

December 7, 2003

A Day That Might Live in Infamy

Today is the 62nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and I was curious to see how it would be addressed by the media, especially now that we're a couple of years past 9/11, this generation's Day of Infamy. So far, it's pretty difficult to find anything without using site search engines. Not many papers are featuring Pearl Harbor stories on their main web pages. In our area, we have two major dailies. The Star Tribune has four paragraphs -- four! -- on the anniversary. (Don't strain yourselves, folks.) They also reprint a superficial AP article by Matt Sedensky . This is the Sunday edition; there's plenty of room for more insight than this. The Pioneer Press does a better job; they have a few articles on Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, one of them is an opinion piece by David Broder that uses Pearl Harbor to excoriate President Bush for not getting an...

Opus: A Bad Idea?

A while back, I posted about the return of Berke Breathed to the comics page with Opus, an extension of the popular character from the seminal and brilliant Bloom County comic strip of the 80s and early 90s. So far, I haven't had a chance to see any of the new stuff from Breathed, but if you read this review from uBlog, I haven't been missing much: The bad news: it's terrible. Somebody said "witty" and Breathed heard "brittle." They beamed "This is a landmark opportunity" and Breathed came away with "Make it ham-handed flummery." I keep thinking about the Sex Pistols' late-90s "reunification" tour, the first of several nostalgia-reapings: Q. Mr. Lydon, why are you and the other sexagenarian Pistols on the stage again, performing full-throated anthems about fatalist nihilism to fans one-third your age? A. Eh, what's this about rebellion? We're here to nick the last bob out...

December 8, 2003

DNA Evidence in Dru Sjodin Case: PD Sources

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports in tomorrow's edition that the police have matched the DNA of the blood in the suspect's car to Dru Sjodin: A preliminary DNA analysis of blood found in Alfonso Rodriguez's car matches DNA taken from a toothbrush belonging to missing North Dakota college student Dru Sjodin, two sources close to the investigation told the Star Tribune on Monday. They and a third source close to the investigation confirmed Monday that investigators had found a knife in Rodriguez's car in a search conducted on Nov. 28, the day after Thanksgiving. Someone close to the investigation wants to let people know that they have the right man, although the evidence is sealed at the moment. That may change later this week after a judge reviews a motion to vacate the seal order. The leaks may complicate efforts to bring Rodriguez to trial, but that's not what everyone is...

December 9, 2003

Grand Forks Sheriff: Dru Sjodin Not Likely Alive

Following the release of the affadavit unsealed by the court in the disappearence of Dru Sjodin and the arrest of Alfonso Rodriguez, the sheriff's office appeared to have given up hope of finding the young woman alive: Hopes of finding a missing college student alive faded Tuesday, as authorities confirmed a finding of her blood in a suspect's car and revealed that they had found one of her shoes near the Red Lake River. .... Grand Forks County Sheriff Dan Hill said he thinks it unlikely that she is alive. "I certainly hate to be discouraging to the family or anyone, but it looks to me now that it's more of a recovery mission than a rescue,'' Hill said, in an interview with The Associated Press. Sjodin's mother, Linda Walker, said family members were "outraged'' by Hill's assessment. Maybe it's just me, but I hardly think it helpful to tell...

December 10, 2003

Burn All the Flags You Want -- Just Don't Speak

Conservatives profess a love for literal interpretation of the Constitution; liberals call for a conceptual interpretation; but I don't know who came up with the idea that the Constitution means everything except what it explicitly says. However, the Supreme Court has upheld major provisions of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform act: A divided Supreme Court upheld the broadest restrictions on campaign donations in nearly 30 years Wednesday, ruling the nation is better off with limits on the financial influence of deep-pocket donors even if money never can be divorced from politics. Rooting out corruption, or even the appearance of it, justifies limitations on the free speech and free spending of contributors, candidates and political parties, the court said in a 5-4 decision. After decades of unusual behavior being recognized as "speech" and freed of all reasonable restrictions -- like nude dancing or burning flags, for example -- the Supreme Court has...

You Wouldn't Read This in the Strib

Joe Soucheray writes an excellent article about the odd way we handle sexual predators, both specifically in Minnesota and in general: Ever since Rodriguez was arrested for his possible involvement in Sjodin's disappearance, we have all learned a great deal about Level 3 sex offenders. That's what Rodriguez is. When you reach his level, it means you are likely to commit another sex crime. Imagine that. No other criminals get their own levels. There are no Level 1 ticket scalpers as opposed to Level 3 ticket scalpers. There are no Level 3 bank robbers, or Level 1 purse snatchers. And yet, when it comes to sex offenders, we give them levels. We do attach levels to criminal actions; there are different classes of felonies, for example, although I couldn't tell you what the thresholds are. Felons themselves are not given levels, as Soucheray states, except sex offenders. Why do we...

Leaving The Kids With Dad Is An Improvement?

When I first heard this story, I thought that the police had handled it properly, but then I read it a bit closer: Four young children and the teenage baby sitters who reportedly took them were found safe inside a South Minneapolis apartment building Tuesday afternoon. Police returned the children to their joyous father around 10:45 p.m. The teenagers, however, faced possible kidnap charges, police said. The children were returned to their father, and the teenagers have been arrested. A happy ending, you say? Ah, but then you missed this, like I did at first: Addison had last seen his children Sunday morning as he headed off to church. He left them in the care of longtime baby sitter Benetta Daidii and her friend, Elisha Harris, both 13. The girls lived doors apart in their South Minneapolis neighborhood. He maintains he made the right decision to leave his children with...

December 11, 2003

Volokh Conspiracy Posts on SCOTUS Campaign Reform Decision

The Volokh Conspiracy, one of the best lawblogs in the blogosphere, has a series of interesting posts about yesterday's decision to uphold major sections of the McCain-Feingold reform laws. Eugene Volokh supported the restrictions on soft-money contributions, but not the free-speech restrictions on corporations and labor unions: Rehnquist and O'Connor switching sides: I tentatively think the Court's decision on soft money contributions was probably correct, or at least quite plausible. As I've argued before, I do think that contributions (as opposed to independent expenditures), should be more subject to restriction. I think the Court was wrong, though, to uphold restrictions on business corporations' (and some nonprofit corporations') and labor unions' right to express their support or opposition to candidates. There's a precedent for this -- Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) -- but I think that it was mistaken, largely for the reasons Justice Scalia mentioned in that case,...

France Settles Executive Life Claims - Again

France has agreed in principle to yet another settlement in the Executive Life criminal lawsuit, one sore point among many between France and the US: Negotiators from France and the United States have reached a $760 million settlement in principle with United States prosecutors over charges related to the failed California insurer Executive Life, French officials and lawyers involved in the negotiations said today. The settlement, which both sides hope to complete by Monday, involves both a federal criminal investigation as well as a civil lawsuit filed by the California insurance commissioner, who is seeking damages to compensate policyholders of Executive Life. As I posted earlier on this topic, I lost a small sum of money in the Executive Life collapse. At the time, Honeywell (my employer) had invested a significant amount of its retirement and 401k accounts in this company, and when it went under, we all felt the...

December 12, 2003

The Definition of Insanity, Part II

This community still has learned nothing about violent repeat offenders: A 25-year-old Anoka man was sentenced to 27 years in prison this morning for murdering a Minneapolis cab driver last August. Salvador Anthony Pacheco had pleaded guilty to second-degree intentional murder for shooting Mohamed Ahmed Salah in his Red & White cab early in the morning of Aug. 8. 27 years for shooting Salah in the back of the head while Salah was driving his cab. Even if Pacheco serves his entire sentence behind bars, he will get out at age 52, shockingly similar to another violent offender who just reoffended: Alfonso Rodriguez. And if you think I'm stretching the point, what do you think Pacheco was doing a couple of months before blowing Salah's brains out? Two months prior to the shooting, Pacheco was released from prison after completing a sentence for a gun-related offense in Washington County. Why...

December 16, 2003

A Class Act All The Way

Singer Lauryn Hill, after being invited to perform at a Christmas concert at the Vatican, paid back their hospitality by insulting her hosts and their religion: American singer Lauryn Hill, from a stage used by the Pope, shocked Catholic officials at a concert by telling them to "repent" and alluding to sexual abuse of children by U.S. priests. The broadside came during the recording Saturday night of a Christmas concert attended by top Vatican (news - web sites) cardinals, bishops and many elite of Italian society, witnesses said. Pardon me, but having a hip-hop artist telling anyone to repent is somewhat akin to having a drunk lecture you on the evils of cocaine. While I am aware that the Amrican Catholic Church has a big problem with sexual-abuse scandals -- and should be a lot more cooperative with investigators, especially in Los Angeles -- what Lauryn Hill said and did...

A Visit to Srebrenica

Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota, and his wife Mary are in Srebrenica visiting Minnesota National Guard troops standing guard as part of the NATO effort to keep Muslims safe in Bosnia: The weather turned suddenly ominous on Monday as Gov. Tim Pawlenty and First Lady Mary Pawlenty were finishing their tour of the memorial site of the worst massacre in Europe since World War II, walking somberly past gravesite after gravesite of newly buried victims. Gray clouds enveloped the small valley where 7,000 Muslim men and boys were rounded up to be executed later by Serb forces in July 1995. Thunder rumbled in the distance as the Pawlentys, finishing the second day of a two-day tour of Bosnia, looked at photographs in a small basement museum. Governor Pawlenty's trip has been chronicled for the past few days, as he performs the happy task of visiting Minnesota reservists and reviewing their...

December 17, 2003

Chirac: Let's Blame the Victims

France's Jacques Chirac, under pressure to respond to exploding religious violence, has come up with the novel approach of blaming the victims for the assaults: Despite protests from Muslim leaders, France must outlaw Islamic head coverings, Jewish skullcaps and other obvious religious signs in schools and regulate them in the workplace, President Jacques Chirac announced Wednesday. Such action (news - web sites), the French president said in a televised national address, is needed to reaffirm France's secular foundations. "It is not negotiable," he asserted. Islamic head scarves, Jewish yarmulkes or outsized Christian crosses "have no place" in public schools, Chirac said, and called on parliament, where his conservative government has a majority, to pass a law banning them ahead of the school year that starts in September 2004. So rather than doing something to stop the thugs that beat, rob, and rape people based on their religion, Chirac and France...

December 18, 2003

Minnesota Legislature Finally Addresses Sex-Offender Sentencing

Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature next year will address the woeful sex-offender sentencing failures that led to Dru Sjodin's disappearance last month. Democrats offered an intial willingness to consider the proposal: Minnesota House Republicans on Tuesday proposed legislation to ensure the worst sex offenders would never get out of jail. Under the plan, "convicted violent sexual predators and sex offenders who target children and vulnerable adults" would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release. Currently, that's a sentence reserved for the worst murders. ... Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger and House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, both DFLers, said they could support something similar to the GOP proposal. Sen. Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley, chairman of the Senate's Judiciary Committee, said new sex offender sentences would have be put in the perspective of all criminal sentences. Life sentences without parole will protect society from these violent sexual predators, who...

December 23, 2003

California Earthquake Kills Two

As many of you already know, California earthquakes are rarely deadly; construction standards have been so successful that only the strongest earthquakes cause much damage at all. Unfortunately, throughout Central California there are a number of picturesque older communities that have structures that were built well before the newer standards (mostly implemented after the devastating 1933 Long Beach earthquake) were put into place. One of the most quaint of these is Paso Robles, a small town where my mother lived for a short period of time, and where she still has friends, and a community where at least two people have died from yesterday's quake: A deadly magnitude 6.5 earthquake shuddered through California's Central Coast on Monday morning, crumpling a historic building here and killing two people. The temblor — the strongest in the region's modern history — smashed shop windows, set off house fires and interrupted power service through...

December 24, 2003

Oh, Well, As Long As It's Her First Time

Here's a disturbing story from Indiana -- a 13-year-old girl has been arrested for a DUI (via Drudge Report). She managed to hit a utility pole and knock out power to a few hundred houses: The driver also had a blood-alcohol level of .089, slightly above the legal limit, police said. The girl's older sister said she had never driven before. It's her first time driving? Well, that's certainly a relief....

Support American Servicepeople!

Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics has asked the Northern Alliance to promote several ways in which our readers can support American fighting men and women this holiday season. I'll ask you all to read his post, which contains a number of links to sites designed to do just that. If you have any others that RCP left out, please feel free to post them in the Comments section (it's HTML-enabled!), and that way we can spread the joy as widely as possible. Remember, folks, regardless of your political views, these fine young men and women are putting their lives on the line for us. Let's remind them why....

Why Not Just Improve Your Food?

Silly lawsuits with astronomical asking figures seem to be more and more the norm than the exception. This, then, should come as no surprise: The owners of Lucky Cheng's, a cabaret-restaurant with cross-dressing male waiters and entertainers, have filed a $10 million lawsuit accusing the Zagat Survey of libel for giving the restaurant a low rating for its food. The suit said Lucky Cheng's has lost about $30,000 a week since Oct. 14, 2003, when the 2004 Zagat guide was published with the low food rating — 9 out of a possible 30. Zagat's calculates its ratings by compiling feedback from patrons of the restaurant, and then publishes the results in a popular guide. Low ratings means bad business, no matter how many cross-dressing entertainers and waitstaff you hire, as Lucky Cheng's has found out. Normally, when businesses get low ratings from its patrons, they work to improve the product...

December 26, 2003

US Among International Donors to Iran Aid

Iran suffered a devastating earthquake yesterday, and the death toll is expected to rise above 10,000: Most of the historic Iranian city of Bam was destroyed in an early morning earthquake Friday, and government sources said more than 20,000 people were killed. Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency put the death toll at 5,000-6,000, and officials said they were worried that the number could climb. News service reports quoted government officials as saying more than 20,000 died. Several blogs have demanded US involvement in emergency aid to Iran in order to support the pro-US younger generation in Iran as well as for humanitarian reasons. Hugh Hewitt and Blog Iran are two amongst many who point out that our assistance will underscore our insistence that we are at war with terrorists and not Muslims. I doubt that our assistance will convince anyone who already thinks that we are at war with...

December 30, 2003

Hugh Hewitt's Predictions for 2004

National Review Online asked several of its contributors for their predictions of 2004, and the Commish, Hugh Hewitt, has a few provocative choices. There are a couple I disagree with: * Evan Bayh as Dean's VP candidate: I can't see Bayh jumping onto a rolling train wreck, even for the sake of the party. Edwards has less to lose and more to gain, and a stronger connection to the South. That change gives Bush Indiana and Maryland, loses him at least South Carolina, but overall makes no difference in Bush's landslide victory. * I don't think Cheney stays on the ticket in 2004. I think Bush thanks Cheney for his service, but Cheney bows out due to "health issues", and Bush picks either Rudy Giuliani or possibly Condoleeza Rice or Olympia Snowe to round out the ticket. Bush likes bold, historical moves, and any of these three could help him...

December 31, 2003

Brazilian Judge: Fingerprinting = Genocide

A Brazilian judge, angry at the new US policy of photographing and fingerprinting incoming immigrants and visitors with visas, retaliated yesterday by requiring US visitors to Brazil to be photographed and fingerprinted as well. It's the kind of tit-for-tat petty revenge that often occurs in diplmatic relations, although rarely does the judiciary figure into it. However, the judge's comments were shocking: "I consider the act absolutely brutal, threatening human rights, violating human dignity, xenophobic and worthy of the worst horrors committed by the Nazis," said Federal Judge Julier Sebastiao da Silva in the court order released on Tuesday. Photographing and fingerprinting are "worthy" of gassing millions of people to death? "Worthy" of cruel and medical experiments on helpless prisoners, including and especially children? I guess the Brazilians should know, seeing as they harbored the Nazis for decades after the end of World War II, especially the Angel of Death himself,...

January 2, 2004

Visit North Korea -- See Our Lovely Bombs

North Korea has invited the US to inspect its nuclear facilities prior to the next round of nonproliferation negotiations: North Korea has agreed to allow a U.S. delegation to visit its main nuclear complex next week, the first such inspection since the isolated communist country expelled United Nations monitors more than a year ago. The visit appeared to be an effort by North Korea to prove that it has built a nuclear bomb - or capable of doing so - and strengthen its negotiating position ahead of planned talks with the United States and four other nations on ending the nuclear standoff. Pyonyang could also be signaling its willingness to allow more extensive inspections in the future - if Washington meets its demands for humanitarian aid and a promise not to attack the North. While the notion that Pyongyang can prove it has a bomb sounds unsettling, it would merely...

Damned If You Do ...

It didn't take long for Iranian expressions of gratitude for the 150,000 pounds of relief materials given by the US to quake victims in Bam to turn into this: Hardliners in Iran's government criticized U.S. relief efforts after the devastating earthquake that killed more than 30,000 people and flattened the ancient city of Bam, accusing Washington of trying to meddle in Tehran's affairs. ... Khatami has thanked Washington for its support but hardline clerics within the government expressed suspicion about the motives behind U.S. aid: State radio, a mouthpiece for Iran's clerics, on Friday charged that Bush had "once again demonstrated that America's interfering and hostile policy against Iran has not altered at all." And if we hadn't sent aid, we'd be vilified as demons who won't share our wealth to save unfortunate victims of disasters. The issue? President Bush reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring Iranian nuclear programs be brought...

The Race Education of a White Guy

Howard Dean inserted his foot yet again, this time on the subject of race, and Mickey Kaus is all over it: "Dealing with race is about educating white folks." Howard Dean seems to have said this. That'll bring in those Southern pickup guys! They love being singled out for 'education'! ... Is there really nothing in "dealing with race" that involves changing African-American attitudes along with white attitudes? Dean's comment would be more depressing if weren't also the sort of cluelessly pre-Clinton utterance that virtually guarantees he will never be president. It's the sort of mindless pandering that has become emblematic of the Dean campaign. He wants to bolster his standing among African-Americans, but in his greed, he steps on his tongue again. Dean wants to return to the demonization that has characterized race politics for decades, something that Clinton tried to change. The problem with race relations and civil...

January 3, 2004

Look For The Union Parable

Los Angeles has been struggling through a weeks-long grocery strike and lockout, which was in full swing when I visited family at Thanksgiving. I've avoided writing on the subject of the strike because it only affects the people of Southern California and I'm too far away to know all of the issues involved, most of which appears to be centered around management's refusal to keep paying 100% of the union's medical insurance. Apparently, union tracts being handed out to shoppers defying the picket lines -- when strikers aren't screaming harassment at shoppers, that is -- features a parable about a man and a goat. (No, I'm not making this up, and get your mind out of the gutter.) The parable tells the cautionary tale of "a man who is granted his wish for a goat and another man who is jealous and is granted his wish to kill the goat....

January 6, 2004

Power Line: CLE Test Case Continues

The Big Trunk at Power Line continues his excellent series on the continuing legal education requirement for Minnesota lawyers on "elimination of bias" today with a recap of Eliot Rothenberg's hearing before the state Supreme Court: My day-job colleague and Power Line reader Peter Swanson attended the Minnesota Supreme Court hearing in the Elliot Rothenberg case yesterday. ... Peter has kindly forwarded us his notes on the hearing, in bullet point form organized by topic. Swanson's notes make for fascinating reading. It becomes apparent that Rothenberg cuts an impressive figure before the bar, and the justices are loath to revoke or suspend his license for his principled stand. Nevertheless, they interrogate him and opposing counsel Assistant Attorney General Ruth Flynn thoroughly, if professionally and politely. Read all of Swanson's bullet-point notes, but the conclusion is certainly a bit breathtaking, considering Rothenberg's livelihood is on the line: · The final question...

January 8, 2004

Did Angelina Jolie Get Duped By Adoption Scam?

This story is disturbing: HOLLYWOOD actor Angelina Jolie may be forced to hand her adopted son back to Cambodian authorities if claims he is not an orphan are true, it was reported today. The Sydney Morning Herald reported Cambodian child welfare workers as claiming that Maddox, the son Jolie and her former husband the actor-director Billy Bob Thornton adopted two years ago, was sold by his poverty-stricken mother. The agent that arranged the adoption, Lauryn Galindo, is facing charges in the United States of visa fraud and money laundering amid claims that Maddox's mother sold him for $US100 ($130). Jolie has said that she would never rob a mother of her child. There's more details at this link. It doesn't appear that Jolie was aware of the scams allegedly run by Galindo, which will make this case doubly tragic if the child is removed from her custody. On the other...

January 11, 2004

It's Not Difficult At All

The Star Tribune asks the wrong question in a featured article today about the disposition of released, high-risk sex offenders, titled "Is it too hard to commit dangerous sex offenders?" The case of Alfonso Rodriguez, who allegedly kidnapped the still-missing Dru Sjodin last year, has made the question of civil commitment for high-risk sex offenders a hot topic in Minnesota: The Rodriguez case has horrified the public, putting the commitment process under the spotlight and making it an explosive political issue. The public attention prompted the Corrections Department to send 145 new commitment cases to county attorneys for review. If, as expected, that review increases the number of sex offenders who are committed, taxpayers will have to pay millions more every year for their treatment in secure psychiatric facilities. There are now some 200 sex offenders held at secure psychiatric facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter. Each costs state...

Stiff Sentences for Hardened Criminals?

Okay, if I am a firm believer in tough sentencing laws for sex offenders (see my previous post), then these guys need to be given some stiff penalities for smuggling: A federal grand jury on Friday indicted a Los Angeles man on charges of trafficking in counterfeit tablets of the anti-impotence drug Viagra that he purportedly obtained from a drug company in China, a U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman said. ... Agents seized about 10,000 blue pills stamped with the same markings as Viagra tablets, including the name of Pfizer Inc., the world's largest pharmaceutical company and the maker of Viagra. ... The charges of conspiracy, trafficking in counterfeit goods and selling a counterfeit drug carry a potential maximum penalty of up to 18 years in federal prison and a $2 million fine. Please feel free to come up with your own puns and drop them in my comments section. However,...

January 15, 2004

Kinsley: O'Neill A Lame Man In Room Full Of Heavyweights

While I am not normally a fan of Michael Kinsley, today's review of Paul O'Neill's book at Slate made me laugh out loud: O'Neill, according to O'Neill, is a man on whom praise and compliments fall thick as a winter snowstorm. "Paul, you have the balls of a daylight burglar," he quotes a subordinate as telling him years ago. He also quotes himself telling the story to another subordinate. Elsewhere he recounts, with prim disapproval, watching George W. Bush call on White House Chief of Staff Andy Card to rustle up some cheeseburgers. O'Neill believes, he says, that a CEO should be judged by how he treats "whoever is at the very bottom," a remark Card may find somewhat more insulting than the cheeseburgers that inspired it. Later, with characteristic subtlety, O'Neill quotes himself offering to get his secretary a cup of coffee. Very nice. But she might be thinking...

January 16, 2004

Bush Appoints Pickering To Court, Bypasses Senate

George Bush took the long-overdue step of bypassing the obstructionist minority in the Senate and gave federal Judge Charles Pickering a spot on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals: Bush installed Pickering by a recess appointment, which avoids the confirmation process. Such appointments are valid until the next Congress takes office, in this case in January 2005. … Pushing for Pickering's confirmation last year, Bush said, "He is a good, fair-minded man, and the treatment he has received by a handful of senators is a disgrace. He has wide bipartisan support from those who know him best." Pickering has been a target in the Democratic campaign to curtail Bush’s prerogative in appointing federal judges and appellate justices, and Pickering may have been the most ill-treated of them all. Democrats accused Pickering of being a racist – a characteristic hotly disputed by colleagues of all backgrounds, including James Charles Evers, the...

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January 17, 2004

Just Because He's Crazy Doesn't Make Him Stupid

... but it does make the Missouri legislature look foolish: A convicted sex offender says he broke out of a sexual-predator unit in 2001 knowing that a legal loophole would prevent Missouri authorities from charging him with escape. ... Under the civil commitment programs in Missouri and 15 other states, sex offenders who complete their prison sentences can be held indefinitely in a mental hospital if they are deemed likely to commit new sex crimes. But when Missouri enacted the program in 1998, it did not specify that escaping from a civil facility was a crime. As a result, authorities could pursue Ingrassia only on a charge of felony property damage, for cutting the fence. The crime carries up to seven years in prison. Thomas Ingrassia had been convicted of four sexual attacks in the 70s and was released from prison in 1997. He had to be committed because he...

January 20, 2004

State of the Union Address Tonight

President Bush delivers his State of the Union address to Congress tonight, starting at 9 pm EST. I'll be watching tonight on C-SPAN and intend on posting stream-of-consciousness commentary during the speech and a wrap-up at the end. I hope you'll drop by and check it out. Assuming, of course, that I can stay awake ... it's been a long day....

January 24, 2004

Aussies Want Republic, Not Monarch

A poll by the Australian newspaper Daily Telegraph finds that a 2-1 majority favors eliminating the British monarch as head of state and officially becoming a republic: Fewer than one in three (30 per cent) believe the Queen should remain as head of state while 64 per cent favour an Australian in the position. The national poll of 1200 people shows that support for removing the Queen has grown significantly since the referendum on the Republic in 1999, which was defeated 55 to 45 per cent, and a Newspoll in December 1995, when 56 per cent supported the change. Most Americans may not even be aware that Queen Elizabeth is the official head of state for Australia as well as the UK. Five years ago, Australia held a referendum on the continuance of this tradition, which was approved by 10 points. The public mood has shifted considerably in the past...

January 26, 2004

Union Leaders Paid Like CEOs

The Southern California region has suffered through a 15-week-long grocery worker's strike/lockout which has damaged everyone concerned -- the workers, the stores, and the customers. Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times notes that the group shouldering the most blame for the current stalemate receives eye-popping compensation for their recent mediocrity: Take Rick Icaza, the head of Los Angeles-based Local 770, which has 30,000 members. Icaza earned $273,404 in 2002, the latest period for which the figure is available. That was nearly a 10% raise over the prior year. Icaza, 69, out-earned even John Sweeney, the national president of the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor organization. Sweeney earned a salary of $247,500 that year. ... The phenomenon of overripe compensation at the UFCW starts with International President Douglas Dority, whose $329,792 made him the best-paid president among the AFL-CIO's 64 member unions in 2002. That's the case even though the...

January 27, 2004

Al Franken, Free-Speech Thug?

Al Franken thinks of himself as a free-speech advocate. In fact, he's so determined to allow candidates the right to speak that he'll assault anyone who pipes up around them: Wise-cracking funnyman Al Franken yesterday body-slammed a demonstrator to the ground after the man tried to shout down Gov. Howard Dean. ... Franken emerged from the crowd and charged one male protester, grabbing him with a bear hug from behind and slamming him onto the floor. Why has the normally pacifist, anti-war Franken suddenly taken to unilateral attacks? "I'm neutral in this race but I'm for freedom of speech, which means people should be able to assemble and speak without being shouted down." Oh, so Franken is for freedom of some speech, and also for vigilantism. I certainly hope Al's available to work security for the protest area during the Republican convention. Oh, wait, he'll probably be one of the...

January 28, 2004

Blair Cleared In Scientist's Suicide

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, under fire and accused of releasing the name of the scientist that was the source of a discredited BBC report, has been cleared of any wrongdoing according to a leaked copy of the investigation's final report: A judge's probe into an Iraq weapons expert's suicide has cleared Prime Minister Tony Blair of blame, according to the Sun which has published what it says is a leak of the report. ... The Sun said the BBC, which had asserted in a report that Blair's government "sexed up" intelligence about Iraqi weapons to make its case for war last year, was accused of being "at fault" over a story that should have been checked more closely. "The document...is a devastating indictment of the BBC and its defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan," wrote the Sun's political editor Trevor Kavanagh. "Tony Blair is sensationally cleared of any 'dishonourable or underhand'...

The French Exodus

French Jews no longer have confidence in France to protect them, and immigration to Israel has almost tripled: Growing anti-Semitism in France has prompted a big rise in the number of French Jews emigrating to Israel. Figures released in Israel yesterday showed that 2,380 moved last year and 2,556 the year before. In the 1990s only about 800 French Jews emigrated to Israel each year. One suspects that this presents a bit of a mixed bag to the Muslims responsible for attacks on Jews in France. On one hand, forcing Jews to leave must delight them, but I doubt they're happy to see them go to Israel. What exactly is driving France's Jews out of Europe? Natan Sharansky, an Israeli minister, said on Sunday: "Last year the number of anti-Semitic incidents in France doubled and 47 per cent of all anti-Semitic attacks in western Europe occurred there." ... He said...

January 29, 2004

Arts Funding Increase? Why?

The New York Times reported yesterday that President Bush will request a substantial increase in funding for the National Endowment of the Arts: President Bush will seek a big increase in the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest single source of support for the arts in the United States, administration officials said on Wednesday. The proposal is part of a turnaround for the agency, which was once fighting for its life, attacked by some Republicans as a threat to the nation's moral standards. I don't think it's a threat to the nation's moral standards; daytime soap operas present more of a threat than art-house displays of Robert Mapplethorpe's rear end ever could. It's a nonproductive waste of money and it's completely unnecessary. Artists sell their wares in a free market here in the US. Artists who can't make a living out of it on their own...

January 30, 2004

French Corruption Scandals Grow

The French just capped off a glorious week of scandal and corruption with the conviction of former PM Alain Juppé, a crony of Jacques Chirac: In a stinging reverse for President Jacques Chirac, the former French prime minister Alain Juppé was banned from office for a decade yesterday after being found guilty of corrupt party financing. ... A court in Nanterre in the Paris suburbs found him guilty yesterday of "taking illegal advantage" of public funds. He was given an 18-month suspended sentence and ordered to serve the mandatory 10-year suspension from elected office. More than a score of other serving or former party colleagues or associates of M. Juppé and M. Chirac were given suspended prison terms. ... The legal conviction of M. Juppé also amounts to a political indictment of M. Chirac. The offences of which M. Juppé was convicted - embezzling the money of Paris taxpayers by...

February 4, 2004

Chase-Related Crash Wasn't

My local police department has discovered that a state-patrol crash just before Christmas that supposedly resulted from a perp chase was actually caused by a speeding trooper giving another trooper a lift to a hockey game: A state trooper intent on getting an off-duty colleague to a hockey game allegedly used her squad car's lights and siren and reached speeds of up to 126 mph before crashing into a civilian car in Eagan in December. The trooper then told investigators she had been pursuing a violator when the accident took place, and told an Explorer Scout riding with her to lie about what happened, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday. ... According to the complaint: [Jennifer Lee] Schneider initially told a trooper investigating the accident that she was on her way to the Eagan Civic Arena to watch her husband — also a state trooper — play in a...

Massachussets Supreme Court: Gay-Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

The Massachussets Supreme Court has ruled that civil unions are not adequate substitutes for marriage and has ordered the Commonwealth to recognize marriage for same-sex couples: The Massachusetts high court ruled Wednesday that only full, equal marriage rights for gay couples -- rather than civil unions -- would be constitutional, erasing any doubts that the nation's first same-sex marriages could take place in the state beginning in mid-May. The court issued the opinion in response to a request from the state Senate about whether Vermont-style civil unions, which convey the state benefits of marriage -- but not the title -- would meet constitutional muster. ... The much-anticipated opinion sets the stage for next Wednesday's constitutional convention, where the Legislature will consider an amendment that would legally define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Without the opinion, Senate President Robert Travaglini had said the vote would be...

February 6, 2004

Sauce For The Goose

In the midst of the outrage du jour -- outsourcing -- India responds with a big "so what": Most jobs going to India are in the high-technology and professional-services sector. Data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show, however, that U.S. job losses are taking place mainly in manufacturing and retail services. In the professional and business sectors, U.S. employers added workers in the last quarter. Although jobs did shrink — for many reasons, including a burst stock market bubble — employment in computer and mathematical occupations has grown since June last year by more than 150,000. According to the Information Technologies Assn. of America, only about 2% of 10 million computer-related jobs have gone abroad. In U.S. manufacturing, jobs have been declining, but they have been gradually doing so over two decades. Investments by U.S. companies in India's manufacturing are still quite modest. In India's fast-growing automobile...

Reverberations From A Rack

Variety writes at length today about the continuing aftershocks in the entertainment industry from the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake breast-baring incident: The rehabilitation of Jackson has begun in earnest, and taking the lead is MTV sister network BET. The vehicle: a series of 10 30-second vignettes featuring a subdued, furrowed-brow Jackson, dressed almost dowdily in conservative black, speaking directly to cable viewers about dignified African-American personages ranging from Sidney Poitier and Harriet Tubman to Marion Anderson and Paul Robeson. Forget about what BET calls Jackson's "edgy and sexy persona," which exploded during the halftime of last week's Super Bowl game when Justin Timberlake ripped her costume, baring her right breast live before an estimated audience of 90 million people. In the BET spots, Jackson comes off like the mother superior of a nunnery. "Her tone is serious and focused," says a BET statement, and she takes on the "air and diction...

Blair May Be Headed For Trouble

Tony Blair, America's staunch ally in the war on terror, may be heading for some electoral problems according to a story in tomorrow's Independent: Our poll puts the Conservatives, with 36 per cent, one point ahead of Labour, on 35 per cent. This is the first non-internet poll to put the Conservatives ahead since Michael Howard became leader last November. When NOP themselves last polled at the end of September, the Tories were on 29 per cent, nine points behind Labour. In contrast to his two predecessors, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith, the new leader has made a favourable first impression on the electorate. As many as 47 per cent say he is doing a good job; only 15 per cent think he is doing a bad job. Perhaps just as importantly, only 13 per cent do not have a view about him. Mr Howard is evidently no "quiet...

February 8, 2004

We're American Airlines, Proselytizing As We Do Best

You know your flight is about to turn weird when the pilot asks you to raise your hand if you're sure ... that you're a Christian: American Airlines is investigating reports that a pilot asked passengers to identify themselves as Christians so non-Christians on board could talk to them about their faith, a spokesman said Sunday. ... Kincaid said the pilot, whose name was not released, reportedly asked Christian passengers to raise their hands before suggesting that the other passengers should discuss Christianity with those passengers. The pilot, who had just returned from a mission to Costa Rica, reportedly said he would be available at the end of the flight for further discussion, Kincaid said. You would think that a pilot might have other things on his mind than a religion check -- like actually flying the plane. Next, he'll be asking to change the boarding classes from first class,...

February 10, 2004

First, They Came For The Smokers ...

The forces of those who know what's best for you are gathering again to strip more personal choice from you -- this time aiming at your diet: "Clearly, the obesity epidemic over the last 20 years is driven by something in our environment," says Robert Jeffery, professor and interim chairman of the division of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. He also researches public policy for the Minnesota Obesity Center. "Our basic biology has not changed." ... "To get the most bang for your buck, if we want people to change, then we should change the price structure of food," Jeffery says. Higher costs for unhealthful foods are one way, as is done elsewhere through taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. But the public resists those costs, Jeffery notes. The Minneapolis Star Tribune has pushed this issue over the past year or so, quoting liberally from those who want to either...

February 13, 2004

Greenspan: Make Tax Cuts Permanent

Alan Greenspan yesterday testified before the Senate Budget Committee in favor of President Bush's plan to make the Bush tax cuts permanent: Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said Thursday that Congress should make President Bush's tax cuts permanent and cover the $1 trillion price by trimming future benefits in Social Security and other entitlement programs. Greenspan told the Senate Budget Committee that Congress, "as a first order of business," should restore budget rules that cap discretionary government spending and require increases in entitlement benefits or cuts in taxes to be offset by other program cuts or other tax increases. Greenspan was asked how he would come up with the decade-long cost of $1 trillion to pay for extending the 2001 and 2003 individual tax cuts. "I would argue strenuously that it should be taken out on the expenditure side," he answered. Greenspan delivered the traditionally conservative position of smaller government,...

February 14, 2004

Mr. Bush Can Play Hard-to-Get Too, M. Chirac

Jacques Chirac, who reneged on promised support to George Bush and Colin Powell, now waits by the phone and can't understand why they don't call: The official invitation has been lying in his in-tray for several months, but President George W. Bush has failed to let the French know whether he will attend the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in June. France's president, Jacques Chirac, is expecting at least 15 heads of state to be present at the commemorations marking the decisive Allied offensive against the Germans in Normandy on June 5, 6 and 7. 15 heads of state will be on hand to celebrate, huh? Won't it be embarrassing for Chirac if the US president has something better to do the first week of June, even more so since this will be the first time a German Chancellor has been invited to attend. On the other hand, it's...

February 18, 2004

Jealousy Is Such An Ugly Emotion

Jacques Chirac -- the jealous type? Apparently, Tony Blair has been makin' time with Jacques' main diplomatic squeeze, and he's not happy about it: Tony Blair put himself squarely at the heart of European decision-making last night by breaking into the Franco-German axis and persuading it to speed up economic reform. He brushed aside criticisms from Italy and other countries which have been left out in the cold by the decision of the EU's three most influential powers to join forces and give a lead to the rest. ... But he was publicly rebuked by Jacques Chirac, the French president, who showed his unease at Mr Blair's intrusion into what he said was the EU's most "intense" relationship. France fears that Germany is edging closer to Britain, a shift underlined by Joschka Fischer in an interview with The Telegraph three weeks ago. Chirac and Schroeder famously exchanged places at a...

February 19, 2004

Economic Expansion Continues

The Bush economic plan continues to expand the economy and points to strong growth for the year: A key economic forecasting gauge advanced a strong 0.5 percent in January, suggesting that the nation's economy will expand further in coming months. The business-funded Conference Board said Thursday its Composite Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose to 115.0 last month following gains of 0.2 percent in December and 0.3 percent in November. Analysts had expected a rise of about 0.3 percent for January. Ken Goldstein, the business group's economist, noted that the index has been gaining since last spring. The rise points to "sustained economic growth, perhaps through the first half of this year," he said. And guess what's fueling the strong growth in the economy? Tax breaks, which are enabling increases in both exports and business infrastructure investment. Jobless claims dropped in the past week as well, demonstrating that job growth...

February 22, 2004

Minnesota Finally Gets Tough With Sexual Predators

A bipartisan panel recommended a long-overdue get-tough policy for sexual predators in Minnesota on Friday, proposing a mandatory life sentence without parole for first-degree sexual assaults and a discretionary LWOP sentencing option for other sexual offenses: All other felony sex offenders could be imprisoned for life as well, at a review board's discretion, under the plan, the most sweeping response yet to the arrest last fall of a released convict in the disappearance of University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin. Just to refresh everyone's memory about the Dru Sjodin case, Dru disappeared late last year after work at the mall. Alfonso Rodgriguez, Jr. was eventually arrested for her disappearance and a search of Rodriguez's car revealed Dru's blood inside. Rodriguez had been released from prison less than six months before Dru's disappearance after serving 23 years for kidnapping and sexual assault, and it turned out that it was the...

February 23, 2004

Inappropriate

Cathy Young, contributing editor to Reason magazine, writes an op-ed in today's Boston Globe about the stunning decision of Amherst Regional High School to stage The Vagina Monologues, a sexually explicit and controversial play that's gained recent status as a feminist icon: The idea of teenage girls performing Ensler's monologues -- complete with graphic sexual descriptions, in-your-face vulgar language, and reenactments of orgasmic moans -- in front of an adult audience is rather freaky. ... One particularly questionable monologue deals with a 16-year-old girl who learns to love her genitals and, by extension, herself after a sexual encounter with a 24-year-old woman. In the original version of the play, the girl was 13 and the monologue included the statement, "If it was rape, it was a good rape." This segment has repeatedly caused controversy, and Ensler has toned it down in response to criticism. Yet even with the changes, we...

BIA Officials Attempt to Cash In

The Washington Post reports that dozens of Bureau of Indian Affairs officials and their relatives have made themselves members of a tribe under their jurisdiction and now want to establish a casino on new land: A once-tiny, nearly destitute American Indian tribe is pushing hard to build a $100 million casino, but traditional tribal members are not the ones seeking the riches. Hundreds of people have been newly added to the Ione Band of Miwok Indians' membership rolls, which were opened by regional Bureau of Indian Affairs officials. Among the new members are several BIA employees and dozens of their relatives. ... Amy Dutschke, a member of another Indian group whose family has roots in the Ione area, was the BIA's acting regional director in June 2002 when she authorized the Ione Band's last leadership election, documents show. Now Dutschke and 68 of her relatives are on the tribe's official...

February 24, 2004

No One to Blame But Themselves

As I have often predicted, the radical activism of the judiciary in imposing changes in the basic social unit in opposition to the will of the electorate has resulted in an equally radical reaction -- a full-fledged mainstream constitutional amendment process to permanently define marriage: President Bush said Tuesday that he supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to "prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever." ... "On a matter of such importance, the voice of the people must be heard. Activist courts have left the people with one recourse. If we're to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America. Decisive and democratic action is needed because attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country." He called on Congress to "promptly pass and send to...

February 25, 2004

Count TNR Among the Clueless

While I don't have a subscription to The New Republic, the short blurb on their headline article on gay marriage is enough to demonstrate TNR's complete cluelessness on the issues involved in the amendment proposal: Opponents of gay marriage have sought to frame the debate over their proposed constitutional amendment as a matter of shielding voters and their elected representatives--that is, state politicians and local officials--from the whims of allegedly activist judges. But by allowing city officials to issue wedding permits to same-sex couples, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has thrown a major wrench into this strategy. Newsom, after all, is an elected official, and he is therefore part of the very group gay marriage opponents have long claimed they are trying to protect. All Joseph Landau proves in this statement is that he has never read the Constitution and has no familiarity with the law-making process in the United...

February 26, 2004

Blast From The Past

Just when you thought it was safe to go to Orange County, he's back: Now, eight years out of office and with a stint as a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host under his belt, the 70-year-old [Robert] Dornan attempts a return to the political stage by seeking the GOP nomination in next week's primary for the 46th Congressional District, which stretches from Palos Verdes Estates to Newport Beach. His opponent: veteran incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), a former friend whose views on defense, the economy and social issues are very similar to his own. B-1 Bob, as he once insisted on calling himself during his nine terms in the House, spent 18 years as an embarassment to Orange County Republicans. Dornan's schtick was wearing mortally thin when Loretta Sanchez challenged him in 1994. While it's true that his district had morphed demographically over the years, Dornan still could have...

Broadcast Channels, Government Monopolies, and Responsibility

After updating my original post on Howard Stern's suspension from Clear Channel stations this morning about a dozen times and staying abreast of the feedback from Jeff Jarvis' diatribe from yesterday, I want to restate my entire perspective on broadcast responsibilities, just to eliminate some gaps caused by what I thought were basic assumptions regarding their nature. In 1934, after commercial radio expanded rapidly as a medium, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act which created the FCC to control commercial broadcast stations. Control was necessary because up to then, radio stations could step on each others' signals, creating an environment where the most watts won. Instead, Congress gave the FCC the authority to require commercial broadcast licenses, which were government-granted local monopolies on the broadcast frequency and protection from any potential interference from nearby frequencies. In return for the monopoly and its enforcement from the FCC, private-enterprise broadcasters agreed to air...

February 29, 2004

Brilliant Stewards of Money

In yesterday's Los Angeles Times, David Pierson wrote about the re-election campaign of Assemblyman Ron Calderon, a first-term Democrat representing southeast Los Angeles County, including some of my old stomping grounds. Calderon apparently has interesting notions on how to spend his campaign money, something my fellow Angelenos should consider at the voting booth: California Assemblyman Ron Calderon has obliterated his campaign war chest months before he faces an opponent in November, spending the money on Las Vegas hotels, restaurants and cigars, according to campaign spending reports. Calderon, whose 58th Assembly District encompasses southeast Los Angeles County communities, including Whittier, Downey and East L.A., raised $342,600 last year in contributions and spent $427,300, according to financial records filed with the California secretary of state. Having been born, raised, and lived most of my life in that general area, I'm not too sure about how relevant Las Vegas hotels are to East...

LA Times Endorses Schwarzenegger's Referenda

In an unusual twist, today's Los Angeles Times endorsed both Propositions 57 and 58, the twin budget-rescuing referenda pushed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Times still thinks that tax increases will be necessary, but at least agrees with Arnold that the road to fiscal sanity starts on the March ballot: Even with Proposition 57 and Schwarzenegger's proposed cuts, the state still faces a deficit of $6 billion or so in its next budget. Schwarzenegger, unlike most of the Legislature's Republicans, has never said "never" to taxes. His next campaign may be inside the Capitol, persuading members that more cuts and a modest temporary tax are unavoidable. But Proposition 57 and its companion, Proposition 58, must pass first to clear the decks. Schwarzenegger clearly said to Tim Russert on last week's Meet the Press that he would only consider new taxes in an emergency, and ticked off a few that the...

March 1, 2004

Economy Continues to Improve

The Commerce Department reports today that consumer spending continues to increase, growing at a rate of 0.4% in January, in line with investor expectations and continuing to demonstrate the strength of the economic recovery: The over-the-month increase reported by the Commerce Department on Monday matched analysts' expectations. The advance came after a bigger 0.5 percent rise in December, which was slightly stronger than first estimated a month ago. Disposable incomes what's left after taxes rose by 0.8 percent in January, up from a 0.3 percent increase the month before. January's sizable increase was helped out by a number of factors, including a reduction in federal incomes taxes and pay raises for government workers and those in the military. The news gets even better when you look at non-durable spending, like food and clothing, and services, both of which grew faster than the overall rate. Personal savings is up...

The Strib Endorses Blackmail

The Star Tribune predictably shrieks with hysteria today about the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Firearms Act, which the Senate is about to pass after the House has already done so. For those not in the know, the PLCFA protects gun manufacturers from the same sort of tort extortion that the tobacco industry has endured over the past several years. Trial lawyers love these class-action lawsuits because they have the potential of nine-figure legal fees; Micheal Ceresi's firm received over $400 million from the eventual multi-billion settlement for Minnesota in the tobacco lawsuits. However, unlike true liability cases where a defective product was knowingly sold to consumers, causing injury, these lawsuits are intended on extorting huge sums of money from gun manufacturers for producing their legal products at all. The lawyers intend on banning guns by bankrupting their manufacturers -- while stuffing their own pockets -- and they're not even...

March 2, 2004

Someone's Confused

Warren Grantham, executive director of the Minnesota Education League, has resigned his position from both the MEL and apparently the Taxpayers' League due to an inflammatory e-mail he sent to various state legislators: The executive director of the Minnesota Education League and an advocate of the No Child Left Behind law, resigned last Friday in a dispute over an e-mail he wrote that attacked several legislators for their opposition to the law. ... Grantham said the e-mail to legislators, which he characterized as "very, very critical, using some inflammatory images," led to a disagreement between him and his boss, Taxpayers League of Minnesota president David Strom. That led to Grantham's resignation. The basics of this story are fairly straightforward so far -- Grantham wrote an e-mail that somehow offended its recipients, among them current Minnesota legislators opposed to the No Child Left Behind federal law, including some Republicans. His boss...

March 3, 2004

Same-Sex Solutions That Make Sense

In the middle of all the heat and noise about same-sex marriage, the Bush administration is quietly pushing a same-sex solution for education that may wind up enraging some on the Left, but will make educating our daughters more effective: The Education Department plans to change its enforcement of Title IX, the landmark anti-discrimination law, to make it easier for districts to create single-sex classes and schools. The move would give local school leaders discretion to expand choices for parents, whether that means a math class, a grade level or an entire school designed for one gender. U.S. research on single-sex schooling is limited, but advocates say it shows better student achievement and attendance and fewer discipline problems. Critics say there is no clear evidence, and that single-sex learning doesn't get students ready for an integrated world. At least 91 of 91,000 public schools offer a form of same-sex education...

March 4, 2004

Nighthorse Won't Run

Colorado Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell, one of the more colorful members of the Senate and a strong favorite for re-election this year, has abruptly left the race, citing health concerns: Campbell, 70, made the surprise announcement Wednesday, citing declining health. He was treated for prostate cancer last year. His Washington office also faces allegations that a longtime aide had taken kickbacks. Campbell's decision gave Democrats another open Senate seat to target in November and threw the Colorado Senate race wide open. Pollsters suggested heavyweights like GOP Gov. Bill Owens and former Democratic Sen. Gary Hart might get into the race, but there was no immediate word from them. Hart earlier declined to seek the seat. Obviously, this sets back Republican hopes of expanding its control of the upper chamber. This creates a vacuum and a relatively short campaign where name recognition may be the deciding factor. Pollsters are already looking...

March 5, 2004

Wrong on Many Levels

The Washington Post tells about a teacher in the DC area who somehow got a copy of The Passion of the Christ and showed it to his students in class -- at an elementary school: As a teacher showed sixth-graders at the District's Malcolm X Elementary School parts of the movie "The Passion of the Christ," 11-year-old Cutairra Ransom was growing upset by the violence unfolding in front of her. ... After about 15 minutes of watching the R-rated film about the final hours of Jesus's life, Cutairra said she walked out of the room. She was one of the 16 to 20 students who were shown the movie Tuesday at the public school, which is in the Congress Park neighborhood of Southeast Washington. D.C. school officials, who said sixth-graders should not be shown R-rated movies at school, have placed the teacher, Ronald Anthony, on leave with pay pending an...

March 6, 2004

Barbra Streisand, Deadbeat

Barbra Streisand's $10 million lawsuit against software developer and environmentalist Kenneth Adelman backfired on her recently, with a judgment against her for over $200,000 in legal fees and court costs to be paid to Adelman. So far, the reclusive entertainer has yet to comply with the court order: A man sued by singer Barbra Streisand for posting photos of her Malibu mansion on the Internet claims she is refusing to pay his $220,000 legal bill after he won the case. A judge in December dismissed Streisand's $10 million invasion of privacy suit against retired software entrepreneur Kenneth Adelman, his Internet service provider and a photo agency that distributes his work. The singer was ordered to pay his legal fees and costs. Adelman filed papers Thursday in Superior Court seeking another court order that Streisand pay an estimated $204,000 in legal fees from the original case, along with $15,000 in fees...

March 8, 2004

Sea Change in Europe?

The Greeks have resoundingly endorsed their conservatives and have sent Socialists to defeat, reversing twenty-three years of governing: With nearly 98 percent of votes counted, the New Democracy party led the Socialists 45.4 percent to 40.6 percent in Sunday's vote as part of a deep reshuffling of Greece's political order. Papandreou conceded defeat after exit polls showed New Democracy with a strong lead. New Democracy was poised to take an overwhelming majority in the 300-seat parliament. Under the Greek system, the winning party takes the lion's share of seats for a four-year term. Although the Greek economy is expanding at a rate of 4.7% -- the best in the EU -- most of that production involves the upcoming Athens Olympics, which played a large role in the election, especially regarding security. Even with that robust growth, unemployment has remained at 9%. The New Democracy movement promises to cut taxes and...

Here's A Novel Idea!

Who says an old Democrat can't learn new tricks? Not the LA Times, who reports that the party strategy in California has changed somewhat after their pet proposition to make raising taxes easier got stomped 2-1 last week: Democrats recognize that tactics of the past simply advocating tax increases to protect the needy won't work, and they are trying to take a page out of Schwarzenegger's playbook, embracing a strategy that looks for waste first and relies heavily on economic arguments. "We're not saying tax first," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata). "We have an obligation before we ask people for taxes or cut any services to people to reduce state government spending in every way we can." What a novel concept -- rather than running the tab up further on California taxpayers, the Democrats propose to actually look at the budget first to get rid...

Labor Fading?

Tomorrow's New York Times looks at the decline of the modern labor movement and its associated political power, especially focusing on a few recent events: As the nation's labor leaders gathered at a luxury seaside hotel here, they were struggling on Monday to find ways to keep the union movement from sinking further after it suffered several recent setbacks. In the biggest confrontation in years, a 138-day dispute involving 59,000 California supermarket workers, the companies trounced the union, obtaining a two-tier contract that means lower wages and fewer health benefits for new employees. Organized labor also appeared badly disorganized as unions split over endorsing Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri or Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, for the Democratic presidential nomination and then appeared woefully ineffective when both of the preferred candidates flopped. And labor was embarrassed by a January government report showing that union membership fell by nearly...

March 9, 2004

Domestic Terrorist Arrested

The FBI captured an alleged domestic terrorist this afternoon in Southern California, a Caltech student suspected of torching dozens of SUVs in attacks on car dealerships last year: A Caltech graduate student allegedly affiliated with an eco-terrorist group was arrested today in connection with last summer's arson attacks aimed at Hummers and other sports utility vehicles at four dealerships in the San Gabriel Valley. Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested William Jensen Cottrell, 23, on federal charges of arson and vandalism, said FBI Assistant Director Richard T. Garcia. ... Cottrell, using the alias Tony Marsden, sent several e-mails to the Los Angeles Times claiming responsibility for the arson attacks and confirming his affiliation with the Earth Liberation Front, according to the FBI. In the messages, which were sent one month after the fire bombings, Cottrell gave specific details of the attacks to prove his involvement. The Earth Liberation...

March 11, 2004

California Supreme Court Enforces the Law -- Finally

This afternoon, the California Supreme Court finally called a halt to the flouting of state law going on in San Francisco, ruling that same-gender couples cannot be married pending review of a court challenge to the applicable law approved 2-1 by referendum: The California Supreme Court today ordered San Francisco officials to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the court can hold a hearing on gay marriages. The hearing would be held later this spring. The question of whether same-sex couples can legally marry exploded into Americans' consciousness in the month since San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered gender-neutral marriage licenses to be issued. He argued that to prohibit same-sex marriages violated the equal protection clause of the state Constitution. ... More than 3,800 licenses have been issued to same-sex couples in San Francisco. And from city halls to the streets to the capitols in several states, there...

March 12, 2004

The Folly of Minimum-Wage Increases

The Minnesota Senate will begin consideration of a series of increases to the state's minimum wage, currently set at the federal level of $5.15 per hour, the Star-Tribune reports: Minnesota's minimum wage, frozen at the federal rate of $5.15 an hour for the past seven years, would rise to $6.65 over the next 16 months under a bill sent to the Senate floor Wednesday. A party-line vote of eight DFLers in favor and six Republicans opposed in the Jobs, Energy and Community Development Committee produced one of the rare legislative movements on the state's wage floor since it was increased from $4.75 per hour in 1997. Proposals to increase minimum wage provide an opportunity for Democrats to throw some red meat to their base and normally appear, as this bill does, in election years. The Strib takes its normally biased approach, accepting the statements of the bill's proponents without rebuttal...

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Minnesota Manufacturing Sector '03 Q4 Strong, '04 Stronger

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, usually a Chicken Little on economics during Republican administrations, contradicts the Democratic party line on jobs and manufacturing -- at least in Minnesota: Minnesota's factories are starting to hum, and so are some of the people who run them. Two state government reports released Friday showed the sector finishing 2003 with a crescendo, and expecting 2004 to start out strong, too. The state said manufacturing export growth hit a record pace in the last three months of 2003, showing a gain of 17.3 percent compared with the same period of 2002 -- more than double the comparable 8.6 percent rise in U.S. exports. Separately, a survey of Minnesota manufacturers showed a surge in optimism about this year, with a rising number expecting more sales and hiring against a background of improving economic conditions. Both reports come on the heels of recent declines in initial unemployment claims and...

March 16, 2004

Pawlenty Helps Poor, Unions and NGOs Thwart Attempt

Love him or hate him, you have to tip your hat to the political skills and nerve of Minnesota's first-term Governor, Tim Pawlenty. During the first ten days of the bus strike, all of the media coverage has focused on the poor, the homeless, and the handicapped who have been left in the cold -- literally, with pictures -- by the lack of bus service. Yesterday, Pawlenty turned the tables on the unions by offering to use the $200K per day that the Transit District is saving during the strike to fund non-profit groups that offer ride services in assisting these poor unfortunates -- and the unions and Council of Nonprofits have had to take the position of opposing relief for them: Gov. Tim Pawlenty's plan to provide rides for poor people stranded by the bus strike turned into a political hot potato that some social service agencies found too...

March 17, 2004

The Balkan Quagmire Arises Again

While MoveOn.org and its political mouthpieces like Howard Dean have been loudly proclaiming the Bush-led liberation of Iraq a quagmire, the real quagmire in the Balkans may be exploding yet again, as it has a number of times over the last ten or twelve years: Ethnic Albanians rose against the Serb minority across Kosovo yesterday in co-ordinated attacks on them in the worst bloodletting in the province since the 1999 war. A French peacekeeper was one of at least 11 people killed in grenade attacks and gun battles. About 250 were injured as the five-year peace in Kosovo was shattered. The trouble started in the ethnically divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, where thousands of Albanians armed with heavy automatic weapons and hand grenades clashed with Serbs. The explosion of ethnic violence apparently was provoked by reports that two ethnic Albanian children had drowned in the Ibar River...

March 18, 2004

Minnesota DFL Reeks of Desperation -- And Stupidity

In all of my running around yesterday, I managed to miss this story, but it shouldn't go without comment. Yesterday, Minnesota Democrats (called DFL up here) unveiled an ad attacking Governor Tim Pawlenty over the issue of sex offenders, accusing him of doing nothing to stop their release from prison. They got the ads on the air just in time, too -- considering that the gubernatorial election is only 32 months away: Accompanied by menacing music, the 30-second spot zeroes in on Pawlenty's face as a narrator says, "These eyes just watched as administrative bungling and the wrong budget priorities let rapists and sexual predators back on our streets." It goes on to accuse the Republican governor of distracting the public from that issue by "playing death penalty politics" in his proposal to restore capital punishment for particularly heinous murders. Pawlenty lashed back at several public appearances Tuesday, calling the...

Justice Kennedy Endorses Judicial Disregard of Congress

In an era where a sitting state Supreme Court justice had to be impeached from office because he refused to remove a three-ton monument to the Ten Commandments -- a decision with which I heartily agreed -- SCOTUS Justice Anthony Kennedy's remarks yesterday seem jarringly at odds with respect for the law: Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy yesterday praised federal judges who are willing to buck sentencing rules that were enacted for what the justice suggested were political motives. ... "I do think federal judges who depart downward are courageous," Kennedy told the House Appropriations Committee during a hearing on the court's budget. Judges should not have to "follow, blindly, these unjust guidelines," he said. ... "The mandatory minimums enacted by the Congress are in my view unfair, unjust, unwise," Kennedy said. When determining sentencing guidelines, "there are two different philosophies. One was the tough-on-crime argument, the other was...

March 19, 2004

Assassination Attempt on Taiwan President, VP

CNN reports that the president and VP of Taiwan were both wounded in an assassination attempt during a motorcade campaign appearance just before midnight CT: Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Annette Lu have been rushed to hospital after an assassination attempt while campaigning for Saturday's election. Chen was shot in the stomach at 1:45 p.m. (0545 GMT) Friday but his condition was not critical, the Presidential Office said. Lu's leg was grazed by a bullet. The office said both Chen and Lu were in a stable condition and that the president had urged calm. So far, there is no word on suspects, and the Taiwan authorities have made no arrests. Initially, no one knew Chen had been shot; the Chinese traditionally celebrate with firecrackers, and the sounds of the gunshots must have been lost in all the other noise. (Taiwan's security forces should reconsider the wisdom of allowing...

Even DFL Standardbearer Hates New Ads

Yesterday, I posted about the new DFL ads targeting Tim Pawlenty on the early release of sexual offenders, a problem that has been decades in the making and on which the DFL has proposed no solutions on their own. The new ads are so stupid, even uberliberal Doug Grow initially thought that they were satires of political advertisement before DFL officials said, "No, we're serious." Now, former DFL gubernatorial candidate and current state Senator John Marty has called for the ads to be pulled from the air and an apology issued to Minnesotans, invoking a bogeyman from the Democrats' past: "I am ashamed to see my party produce a mean-spirited attack ad that is no better than the infamous Willie Horton ad," Sen. John Marty, Roseville, wrote to state DFL Chair Mike Erlandson. "Political consultants may think such an ad is clever. I think it is sick." ... "It cheapens...

March 20, 2004

Gun Control Still Failing in UK - Murder Rates Skyrocketing

The London Telegraph runs a story in its Sunday edition that reports murder rates skyrocketing in London, primarily fueled by firearms, even though guns have been banned in the UK: The murder rate in London has doubled in 12 months to reach one of its highest levels ever, according to the most recent Home Office statistics, which have been leaked to the Telegraph. In the final three months of last year there were 61 murders in the capital, compared with just 31 in the same quarter, the previous year. The figure is the highest total for the last three months of any year, according to the Metropolitan Police's published figures. In the final three months of 2000, for example, there were only 40 murders, while in the same period of 2001 and 2002 there were 43 and 31 respectively. Police blame drive-by shootings between gangs fighting turf wars over drug...

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March 22, 2004

The Left Tastes MoveOn's Meddling

MoveOn.org, a thorn in the side to Republicans and the Bush Administration and the group most involved in the rise of Howard Dean, has branched out from presidential politics to involve itself in environmentalism. However, not all of the environmentalists are happy about this turn of events at the Sierra Club -- and MoveOn isn't the only outside group agitating there: The Southern Poverty Law Center is known for fighting hate groups but is not usually a player in environmental politics. Neither is the neo-Nazi group White Politics Inc. But in the Sierra Club's current board elections, they are just two of a potpourri of groups seeking to influence the outcome of a contest that could radically reshape the 112-year-old organization. ... The controversy centers on three insurgent candidates, including former Colorado governor Richard Lamm (D), who are intent on curbing immigration to the United States in the name of...

March 23, 2004

Russian Nuclear Fleet Collapsing?

A Russian admiral ordered a nuclear cruiser back to port today, warning that the Northern Fleet was on the verge of collapse and that this cruiser might suffer a nuclear explosion: The flagship of Russia's northern fleet has been ordered back to port as it is too dangerous to be at sea, says Russia's naval commander-in-chief. Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov said the nuclear cruiser Peter the Great "could go sky high at any minute". ... "In those places on board where the admirals actually go, everything's fine, but where they don't go, everything's in such a state it could go sky high at any minute," he said. "And by that I also mean the state of the nuclear reactor. "It is this attitude to the upkeep of their ships on the part of commanders that is leading to the collapse of the fleet." While the BBC speculates that this could just...

Five-Year-Old Boy Brings Marijuana to School

The AP reports on a new low in child care -- Miami police report that a kindergartener brought a bag of marijuana to school and sprinkled some over another student's lasagna at lunchtime: A 5-year-old boy took a bag of marijuana to school and was sprinkling it over a friend's lasagna like oregano when a monitor intervened, police said. The lasagna was confiscated before the other boy had a chance to eat it Monday in the cafeteria at Gratigny Elementary School. ... Police and child welfare authorities were investigating the boy's family. "The focus is on the child's environment and what issues could have led to a child having a bag of marijuana in school,'' Villafana said. Police also were looking into whether an older friend may have asked the boy to hold the bag. Also on Monday, authorities in Indianapolis said a 4-year-old boy took crack cocaine that police...

March 24, 2004

Scientologists Get Special Tax Breaks?

A lawsuit resulting from an IRS audit has revealed that the IRS reached a secret agreement with the Church of Scientology to allow tax breaks for religious education that it denies to all other religions, the New York Times reports in today's paper: A trial is to begin here on Wednesday morning to determine whether a Jewish couple can deduct the cost of religious education for their five children, a tax benefit they say the federal government has granted to members of just one religion, the Church of Scientology. The potential ramifications are huge, for a ruling in favor of the couple could affect the millions of Americans who send their children to religious schools of all types. At stake is whether people of all religions can deduct the cost of religious education as a charitable gift, as Scientologists are allowed to do under an officially secret 1993 agreement with...

Bad Fiction, Worse Reality

If someone wrote this as a detective novel, it would never sell -- but unfortunately, this one's a true story: A French policewoman who led a double life as a prostitute appears in court tomorrow as police investigate suspicions that she conspired to murder her rich elderly husband. ... Since arresting Mlle Louis, the police have found that before her marriage, while she worked as a police officer, she led a second life as a call girl under the name of Maud, specialising in rich old men. Mlle Louis, who denies the conspiracy accusations and will apply for bail tomorrow, says she heard a strange noise in a wheel of their car as they drove in Spain. Her husband got out to investigate and was run over by a white 4 x 4, which then sped off. I suppose if a woman wanted to make a living as a call...

Georgia Sinking Towards Civil War

No, I'm not talking about Zell Miller's endorsement of George Bush and his leadership of Democrats for Bush, although he's certainly making news today. The other Georgia -- the former Soviet 'republic' -- may be on the verge of civil war, after a breakaway region's leader had his passport revoked in response for barring Georgia's president from entering: Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has annulled the diplomatic passports of the leader of the breakaway region of Ajaria and 500 other officials. He also accused Ajaria's authorities of planning to bring in mercenaries to fight in a possible conflict. The latest move is part of a continuing war of words between Tbilisi and Ajaria's leader, Aslan Abashidze. The two sides stood on the brink of war after Mr Saakashvili was denied entry into the region earlier this month. Ajaria borders Turkey to its north, sharing the Black Sea shoreline, and not too...

March 25, 2004

Ukrainian Missiles Missing?

The BBC has a disturbing report from the Ukraine about their inability to account for several hundred ballistic missiles that were decommissioned after the collapse of the Soviet Union: Ukrainian Defence Minister Yevhen Marchuk has said that several hundred of his country's missiles are unaccounted for. The weapons were supposed to have been decommissioned in the years that followed the break-up of the USSR. But it is now being claimed that there is no record of them being destroyed. ... "Each of the missiles contained gold, silver, platinum. But where are the results of their recycling?" he asked. Call me a worry-wart if you will, but I hardly think that the most pressing issue of losing several hundred ballistic missiles is their potential recycling revenue. I'm a bit more concerned about the warheads and the fuel that those missiles carried, either or both of which may have wound up in...

Minnesota Soft Money Goes to Democrats

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune notes that the amount of "soft" money spent in 2002 put Minnesota fourth nationwide, coming in behind only Florida, New Jersey, and California, despite being ranked 21st in population in the US: The Minnesota DFL and Republican parties and affiliated organizations pulled in just under $40 million, the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity found. Only Florida, New Jersey and California state parties pulled in more. The report's author, Derek Willis, noted that Minnesota had two prominent statewide races in 2002 - for governor and the U.S. Senate. ... The study found that DFL and affiliated groups raised $22.7 million in the 2001-02 election cycle, while the state Republican Party and affiliated groups pulled in $17 million. The money went toward things like voter registration efforts and advertisements. Most of the state party money came from national parties in the form of ``soft money,'' the large, unregulated contributions...

Minn. Supreme Court Rules For CLE Bias Courses

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled, as expected, to uphold the state Continuing Legal Education requirement for anti-bias classes. Eliot Rothenberg had refused to comply with this requirement, as the state had certified a number of unusual courses for the CLE requirement, including a panel on the merits of Islam and a rally for Lynne Stewart, an attorney currently under indictment for supporting terrorist activities. The high court noted, however, that there were a number of other courses that would satisfy the requirement, bypassing altogether the issues of the flawed study that initiated the CLE for bias in the first place. Power Line has blogged extensively on this issue. Start here and work your way forward through their excellent series....

Congress Passes Organ-Donation Funding

In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the Senate passed a funding bill for live organ donors on a voice vote, after the House passed it 414-2: The legislation would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to spend $5 million a year, beginning October 1, to reimburse qualified donors. It authorizes an additional $15 million in 2005 for grants to states, public awareness efforts and studies on how to increase recovery and donation rates. It also would finance new programs at hospitals and organ procurement organizations to coordinate organ donations. The Minnesota Legislature is considering a similar bill, but using tax deductions rather than direct reimbursement for donors. Either way, it represents an important and substantive support for people who selflessly give of themselves -- quite literally -- to save lives. Typically, a live donor has to undergo rigorous medical testing before surgery, and then the surgery and recovery...

March 28, 2004

French Voters Rejecting EU?

French voters sent a message to the center-right government of Jacques Chirac, who tried to rein in government spending in order to comply with EU budget restrictions. The electorate doesn't approve of Chirac's cutbacks in social spending, and the Socialists are poised to take control: President Jacques Chirac's government suffered humiliating defeats Sunday in the second round of regional elections in what was seen as a backlash against his painful economic reforms. The results, which breathed life back into France's left-wing opposition, will increase pressure on Chirac to reshuffle his conservative government and perhaps even ditch his prime minister, the unpopular Jean-Pierre Raffarin. The French, who already had reneged on their EU obligations for debt reduction, now wants to continue adding to their budget deficits by either maintaining or expanding their social services as their population continues to skew older. Chirac once had designs on controlling the EU by partnering...

March 29, 2004

How To Win Friends and Influence People

Imagine that a group of people would like to win your support for their cause, or at least try to convince you to listen to their side of an issue. Do you think that this is the most effective way to make the case? Several hundred people stormed the small yard of President Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, yesterday afternoon, pounding on his windows, shoving signs at others and challenging Rove to talk to them about a bill that deals with educational opportunities for immigrants. Protesters poured out of one school bus after another, piercing an otherwise quiet, peaceful Sunday in Rove's Palisades neighborhood in Northwest, chanting, "Karl, Karl, come on out! See what the DREAM Act is all about!" ... The protest was organized by National People's Action, a coalition of neighborhood advocacy groups based in Chicago. Leaders said they want Bush to advocate for the Development, Relief...

Pickering, Revisited

60 Minutes reviewed the recess appointment of Charles Pickering, the Mississippi federal judge that ran into the partisan buzzsaw of the Senate Democrats, and strangely enough came up with a much different picture of Pickering than that painted by Daschle, Kennedy, and Company. Needless to say, this has disappointed the Commissar at the Politburo Diktat, who counted on CBS to stick to the party line: Comrades, get out hatchets. Hack away at Ms. Gambrell. Give her the full "Justice Thomas, Colin Powell, Condi Rice" job. Maybe she is Pickering's lover, da? Maybe she is lesbian. ... No, need 21st Century slur ... Maybe she "accused someone else of being lesbian." Is more up-to-date smear, da? Perhaps she opposes gay marriage. Comrades, if you find nothing, do not worry. Follow Comrade Schumer's example: Just make it up. Be sure to read the Commissar's revealing look at the interview with Deborah Gambrell,...

March 31, 2004

World Court Not Political?

President Bush received a storm of criticism when he withdrew the US from the International Criminal Court, claiming that its mandate was much too broad and checks on its power too few, which would lead it to pursuing political ends through bogus criminal prosecutions. Well, if it the World Court is any guideline, it looks like Bush's critics may owe him an apology: The International Court of Justice on Wednesday ruled that the United States violated the rights of 47 Mexicans on death row and ordered their cases be reviewed. The United Nations' highest judiciary, also known as the world court, was considering whether 52 convicted murderers had received their right to assistance from their government in a case filed by Mexico. ... In hearings in December, lawyers for Mexico argued that any U.S. citizen accused of a serious crime abroad would want the same right, and the only fair...

April 1, 2004

Economy Still Steaming Forward

Two stories in today's USA Today demonstrate the strength of the economic expansion. Manufacturing, which the Democrats have used to beat George Bush over the head, turns out to be expanding even faster than the overall economy: The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index registered 62.5 in March compared with 61.4 in February. The new reading beat the expectations of most analysts, who had forecast a figure of 59.5. ... It was the 10th consecutive month of expansion in the sector, which makes up less than a fifth of the U.S. economy. The ISM said its monthly employment index climbed to 57.0 versus February's 56.3. February's reading was its highest level since December 1987 [emph mine]. The ISM measures 20 manufacturing industries and reports expansion in all twenty. That may account for the dropping numbers of jobless claims, which indicate that companies have stopped trimming payrolls in the...

April 2, 2004

Michael Moore: The Jerry Lewis of Germany?

The Boston Globe informs us this morning of a disturbing phenomenon in Germanny: the balooning of Michael Moore's popularity. In an article today about a visit made by Colin Powell to a group of high-school students, Glenn Kessler provides background on the source of German anti-Americanism: When you want to send a message to a nation that gobbles up the anti-Bush ideas of Michael Moore, whom do you call to deliver it? Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, of course. ... Most were two or three years old when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989; their parents had grown up under communism. Many told reporters they detested President Bush, and several said they learned a lot about foreign policy by reading Moore's books. Even those who hadn't said one of the school's music teachers manages to talk at length about Moore's condemnations of the Bush administration while kids are tuning...

Job Growth Soars in March

Job growth may finally be catching up to the roaring economy, as 308,000 jobs were added in March: U.S. payrolls grew at the fastest pace in nearly four years in March, the government said Friday, in a report that soared past Wall Street's expectations and could play a pivotal role in Fed policy and the presidential election. ... Payrolls outside the farm sector grew by 308,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department reported, compared with a revised gain of 46,000 in February. When these numbers were released, stock prices jumped and the bond market dropped, indicating that Wall Street was surprised at the strength of the new job creation. It's hard to understand why. Capital investment jumped upward the past few months, indicating that businesses were gearing up for higher production that would require higher employment. Now that the economic recovery is an undisputable fact and job growth seems to...

April 3, 2004

Is Germany Awakening From Its Socialist Coma?

The London Telegraph profiles a new German book that is flying off the shelves in Berlin and around the country, arguing that Germany may be in a fatal economic decline. The book, Germany: Decline of a Superstar, points out the crippling effect the nanny state has had not only on German productivity but also on its inventiveness and its self-sufficiency: The book argues with a brutal frankness that Germany needs to be completely restructured and that it has been poorly run since 1945. The result, according to Mr Steingart, is a country where industry is on its knees, where the welfare state is deep in debt, whose inventive minds have been forced into exile, and whose citizens largely hate work. ... "It is simply not profitable or viable to have German workers, who cost considerably more than they produce," Mr Steingart says. "Our productive core is melting away and Germany...

European Parliamentarians Committing Fraud: MEP

The UK Independent reports that a Member of the European Parliament has secretly been tracking the attendance and participation of other MEPs, and has discovered that many of them falsify their records in order to collect the large per-diem fees paid when the EP is in session: A senior member of the European parliament yesterday exposed what he claimed was widespread corruption at the Strasbourg assembly by revealing that nearly 200 of his fellow Euro MPs had faked attendance at parliamentary sessions in order to pick up generous daily allowances. Hans-Peter Martin, an Austrian Social Democrat MEP, said he had seen scores of colleagues signing on for parliamentary sessions which they had missed, to claim a daily attendance allowance of 262 (175). "I have witnessed almost 200 MEPs hurrying to the central register to sign on for a session and then watched them drive to the nearest airport or station,"...

April 7, 2004

Jeb Paints Himself Gray

Florida Governor Jeb Bush may need new glasses. Apparently, when he read about former California Governor Gray Davis' decision to approve a bill authorizing illegal immigrants to receive state drivers' licenses, Jeb must have thought that made Gray more popular with his constituents: Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed a bill on Monday to allow illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses. Under the bill, illegal immigrants seeking licenses would be fingerprinted and required to show identification like an employee card, said Senator Rudolfo Garcia Jr., a Hialeah Republican and a sponsor of the bill. The brief article goes on to assure people that illegals would have to also prove they own or lease a car, and get a background check from their consulate proving that they have no criminal record -- even though their status in Florida gives them a de facto criminal status. Anyway, if they could do all that, why...

And You Thought US Schools Were Tough

The London Telegraph reports on two teachers who have been given pensions due to abuse they suffered at the hands of their elementary-school students and, in one case, the parents: Jo Redmond, a mother of five children, said she struggled on for as long as she could "as a matter of professional pride" despite being spat on, kicked, punched and cut by a makeshift weapon of glass strapped to two pencils. Mrs Redmond, 51, said she was "devastated" to be forced to give up her job through ill health after being diagnosed as suffering from psychological as well as physical injury which had destroyed her confidence. Redmond finally left her job after being hit in the face with a carton of orange juice and losing a tooth, being spat and urinated on, and getting hit with a fire extinguisher, breaking her wrist. Another man left teaching for much the same...

April 8, 2004

Power Line Live-Blogging Rice Testimony

My colleague Hindrocket at Power Line will be live-blogging today's Condoleezza Rice testimony before the 9/11 Commission. I'll be listening but unable to blog until lunchtime (since I do have to work). Be sure to keep up with Rocket Man's excellent commentary as the news unfolds, both for his opinion and his ability to put it into the broader context. (Updated with proper link)...

Rice's 9/11 Testimony

I just finished listening to Dr. Condi Rice's testimony to the 9/11 Commission -- as much as I could catch at my office -- and I'm equal parts disappointed and ticked off. First, I can't tell you how irritating it is to have a live audience at these hearings, and even over the radio you could tell which commissioner was playing to them -- Richard Ben-Veniste. This shouldn't be the forum for one-liners and zingers, but certain members of this commission have decided that it's suddenly appropriate to deliver them, along with long speeches, to witnesses. Further, the questioning seemed to go far afield when former Senator Bob Kerrey started his "questioning" by blasting the military strategy being used currently in Iraq. What?? When did the 9/11 Commission suddenly become the Joint Armed Services Committee? It was a political cheap shot, in a morning full of them, all designed (despite...

April 9, 2004

Poll: What's Your Opinion of the 9/11 Commission?

You know my opinion of the 9/11 Commission -- now I'd like to know yours. Below is a poll that I believe gives four fair options on how people view their performance. Please vote -- I'll keep this open for at least several days to get a fair view of CQ readers. What do you think of the 9/11 Commission so far? They're doing a great job, treating everyone the same and asking the tough questions we want answered Their balance has worked well and they are on the right track They lean to the left but the work may be salvageable The public testimony has revealed a fatal bias and it's nothing but a political hack job    Free polls from Pollhost.com Keep checking back! Note: Sorry about the funky spacing -- I can't figure out why the poll does that ......

April 10, 2004

The Spectre of Alar Returns

The US has issued an advisory on a specific type of tuna and its higher-than-desired mercury levels, and as usual, the American public moves towards full panic mode: When Joseph Ugalde, 38, a San Francisco marketing executive, goes out for lunch, he orders the Chinese chicken salad, the turkey avocado sandwich or sometimes the chicken pesto melt. But as of last month, one thing he will not order is tuna fish. No tuna salads. No tuna sandwiches. No tuna melts. "I loved tuna melts," Mr. Ugalde said somewhat wistfully. "Or I did." Now, however, Mr. Ugalde is boycotting tuna, which he used to eat once or twice a week, because of federal advisories about mercury in it. ... Consumers like Mr. Ugalde are the tuna industry's nightmare as they react to a federal warning about the mercury content in albacore tuna. More than $1.5 billion worth of canned tuna is...

April 12, 2004

Guardian: Labour Rolls "Plummet"

According to the London Guardian, Tony Blair's political party has bled subscribing members since the Iraq war began last year and has now dropped below that of the Tories: A collapse in the number of Labour party members is jeopardising the party's election prospects, amid claims that the total has hit a 70-year low. The latest published figure of 248,294 is equivalent to fewer than 390 members per parliamentary constituency but Save the Labour Party, a party group formed by activists concerned at plummeting numbers, argues that that figure has been inflated by including lapsed members, and does not take account of many who left in the wake of the Iraq war. A shortage of volunteers to put up posters, stuff envelopes, deliver leaflets, canvass and knock on doors to get people to vote threatens to undermine the campaign in June's local and European contests as well as next year's...

April 13, 2004

Capital Punishment, la Francaise

French authorities have repeatedly refused to extradite murder suspects to the United States due to the possibility of defendants being sentenced to death. The most notorious of these cases was Ira Einhorn, the aging hippie who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, in absentia after fleeing the trial just before the conviction came in. Once he was discovered in France, Pennsylvania prosecutors and the State Department tried for years to get the French to deport him, but were met with Gallic obstinacy and disdain while Einhorn continued to live with his girlfriend in a country villa. The French refused to allow Einhorn to return to the US not only because of the death penalty but also because it believed his rights had been violated by his conviction in absentia. Finally, after signing a pledge not to seek the death penalty and granting Einhorn a new trial 20 years after his...

Autistic Man Possessed Ricin: FBI

The FBI arrested a man Friday for possession of ricin, one of the most deadly poisons known to man and one considered to be a likely agent for use in terrorist attacks: Robert M. Alberg of Kirkland, Wash., was arrested at his apartment Friday and charged with one count of possession of a biological agent or toxin. "It is enough that it could cause concern that it could harm someone -- could kill someone," FBI spokeswoman Roberta Burroughs told KING-TV on Monday. Alberg was held pending a hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court. He is described in court documents as having autism, a developmental disorder featuring a spectrum of symptoms including impairments in communication and repetitive behaviors such as finger tapping or head banging. Federal criminal justice sources told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer they do not believe Alberg had political motivations for making the ricin and had no plans to use...

More Evidence of Economic Boom

Retail sales rose to a level that exceeded expectations by about 200% in March, demonstrating the strength of the economic expansion: Shoppers turned out in force in March, a Commerce Department report Tuesday showed, pushing retail sales to their strongest gain in a year. The Commerce Department said retail sales rose an unexpectedly sharp 1.8% in March to a seasonally adjusted $333.01 billion, the biggest gain since March 2003. Excluding cars and trucks, sales gained 1.7%, that category's best performance since March 2000. Wall Street analysts had expected both figures to advance 0.6%. February sales were also revised upward, to a 1.0% increase from the previously reported 0.7% gain. February ex-auto sales were revised to a 0.6% increase from a previously reported flat reading. In a further indication of consumer confidence, home-improvement spending rose over 10%, demonstrating homeowner security in the overall economy. Wall Street expected to see only moderate...

Prayers for Cindy McCain

I've had my differences with Senator John McCain this year, but politics is politics -- this is reality: Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain, suffered a small stroke and was hospitalized in stable condition Tuesday. "According to her physician, the prognosis is cautiously excellent," McCain said in a statement Tuesday. Cindy McCain, 49, had a small bleed in her brain and her speech is mildly affected, said Robert Spetzler, director of the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital. Senator, just know that you have the prayers of all your fellow citizens for your wife's quick and complete recovery, and for your and your children....

April 15, 2004

New York Times: 9/11 Commission Talks Too Much

Jim Rutenberg wrote an analysis for today's New York Times that questions the relentless public-relations efforts by members of the 9/11 Commission, who have appeared on talk shows and written numerous opinion pieces during their work on evaluating America's failure to predict and defend against the al-Qada suicide hijackings. Rutenberg notes growing discontent from Republicans and Democrats alike over their open discussions of the evidence and voicing their preliminary conclusions before all of the evidence and testimony has been received: Democrats and Republicans alike have raised concerns about the degree to which commission members are discussing their deliberations on television and, even, in newspaper columns to the point that they are spinning their views like the politicians that many of them are. Americans can hardly turn on a television or pick up a newspaper these days without seeing or reading about a member of the commission. From the Fox...

April 17, 2004

Russia Says "Nyet" To Oil-For-Food Investigation

The New York Times reports this morning that the oft-stalled investigation into bribery and corruption allegations surrounding the United Nations' Iraq oil-for-food program has hit another roadblock. Although UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has nominated Paul Volcker to lead the committee and the other members are ready to start, Russia has refused to approve rules that would enhance the independence of the investigation: United Nations officials said Friday that Mr. Volcker, 76, had been selected for the panel along with Mark Pieth, 50, a Swiss law professor with expertise in investigating money laundering and economic crime, and Richard J. Goldstone, 65, a South African judge who was chief prosecutor for the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia. But the nominations stalled Friday when Russia said it would not agree to a Security Council resolution that Mr. Volcker said he needed to give him the authority to conduct the wide-ranging...

The Governator Wins Another One

Arnold Schwarzenegger, California's new celebrity governor, continues to score big victories in California politics, this time by pushing through long-overdue reforms to the state's workers-comp program: Despite enthusiasm from labor and business circles that was only muted, the final product was a significant political achievement, just the latest in what has become a growing list for Mr. Schwarzenegger. In the six months since ousting Gov. Gray Davis from office in a historic recall election, he has broken gridlock in Sacramento and delivered on a string of campaign promises, from rescinding drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants to reversing $4 billion in car tax increases to winning public approval of a state bond issue addressing the state's vast fiscal problems. "Of course the first thing I heard when I came to Sacramento in November is that it can't be done, that it is impossible," Mr. Schwarzenegger said at the Capitol after both...

April 19, 2004

Mother of Drunk Driver Sues Everyone In Sight

I have decided that I have no more sympathy left for people who take personal tragedies in their lives and attempt to cash in on them in every single way they can. Today's case in point is the Nevada mother of a 19-year-old drunk driver who got himself killed by wrapping his car around a light pole at 90 MPH. Jodie Pisco retaliate by filing lawsuits against everyone except the light pole: Jodie Pisco, of Reno, contends Coors has failed in its duty to protect the country's youth from drinking. Her son, Ryan, was killed in 2002 after he drank Coors at a party and drove his girlfriend's car into a light pole at 90 mph, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Washoe County District Court, seeks unspecified damages. It accused Coors of "glorifying a culture of youth, sex and glamour while hiding the dangers of alcohol abuse...

April 20, 2004

Italy: 1000s of Automatic Weapons Bound for US

Italy announced that they have seized a ship with thousands of Kalishnikov rifles, apparently illegal, bound for the US -- raising the question of their intended use: Police in southern Italy say they have seized a large illegal arms shipment from Romania destined for the US. Customs officers in the port of Gioia Tauro, in Calabria, discovered 7,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles after noting irregularities in the documentation. The cargo, estimated to be worth some 6m euros (3.9m, $7.15m), was declared as arms for civilian, not military, use. Italian authorities stopped the shipment when they discovered "discrepancies" between the goods and the customs declaration by the shipper. The cargo included such accessories as reloading devices and bayonets. While the so-called assault rifles are legal for collectors, 7,000 of them seem to be a bit much for that market niche, and the Italians became very suspicious of their intended use. The receiver...