Friday, February 25, 2005

My Oscar Picks

Ok. This is my first Oscars since I started blogging. I have disagreed mightily with the Academy going back to the Forrest Gump Best Picture win of 1994. The stab in the heart that was Titanic beating L.A. Confidential in 1997. Passing up the chance to do the honorable thing and allowing themselves to be bought for Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan or Elizabeth in 1998. Passing up the chance to do something gutsy by choosing Gladiator over Traffic in 2000. The pre-selection of 2001 as "Ron Howard's year", when his above average A Beautiful Mind beat out a field of contenders each one of which was better than Howard's offering.

Everyone seems to agree that (a) no-one has seen any of these films, and (b) consequently no-one really cares who wins. It's been reported that in recent years Oscar drew its best numbers when there was a heavy favorite in the field (think Forrest Gump, Titanic, Gladiator, The Return of the King). I'm sure by now TV execs are hoping and praying that the selection of first-time host Chris Rock will help to offset what are expected to be lackluster numbers. Rock has done his bit to generate buzz for the show by claiming to never watch awards shows and claiming that no self-respecting, straight, black male would.

That being said, here are my picks for the major categories. These picks are based on having seen almost none of these films, actors or actresses. My choices reflect my prediction on how the Academy will behave based on my intuition and knowledge of previous Oscar history.

Best Picture: The Aviator
Best Director: Martin Scorsese
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx
Best Actress: Hilary Swank
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett
Best Animated Film of the Year: Shrek 2

We'll see how I do come Tuesday morning,

You asked for it Impish!

Dear Impish,

Thanks for stopping by again. I'm afraid I am going to have to take issue with your statement that,

"Well no need to prove whose worse among the current crop of leaders. george will win hands down with even authoratarian right wingers and fanatics "

I can list lots of leaders that are worse than President Bush. Kim Jong-Il comes to mind. As does Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. How about Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan? Or Ayatollah Ali Hoseini Khamenei of Iran? I could dredge up lots more examples of leaders with less-than-average respect for human rights and international law. Most right-thinking people would agree that all of these "leaders" represent a greater threat to their own people and to their neighbors than the United States. Your suggestion that President Bush is the worst world leader is pure hyperbole.

And as for "who I actually [am]" you might be surprised. Here are my results:

Your political compass
Economic Left/Right: 5.63Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: 0.15

Now, I have been pretty open and honest in this discussion. Why don't you tell me something about yourself?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Dear Impish,

Thanks for stopping by. I'm sorry you didn't like what you found.

As for "my cup of tea", well, don't I get to decide what is and is not my cup of tea?

A fair reading of my blog would show it to be very clean. I've used "a**hole" once, hell once, and one "F" bomb. In all fairness, the "F" bomb was a quote (from Guido in Risky Business). I didn't say it, but I chose to use it for effect. So, we'll call it half an "F" bomb.

So, that's three swear words in I don't know how many words. has turned off the page statistics, but I used Word and came up with a word count of 14,000 something. I think you'll have to agree two and a half swear words out of 14,000 is pretty clean.

As to my charge that Chirac is an asshole (ok, three and a half), I was basing that judgement on his behavior. Now, you obviously don't like President Bush, but I challenge you to name a time where he behaved as rudely as Chirac did.

It seems kind of typical of someone on the left (as you seem to be) to make assertions instead of arguments.

Happy trails, pardner!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Can't the Left be consistent?

In something other than their hypocrisy, I mean.

I got this item from Chuck Muth's DC Confidential newsletter to which I subscribe (and to which you should, too!)

Take it away, Chuck!


Bring up the issue of illegal immigration and you’ll inevitably hear someone on the left argue that all these folks are trying to do is improve the prospects of a better life for their kids. And who can argue with that?

Um, the left.

That is, when the proverbial shoe is on the other foot. Here’s the deal.

Parents in Lexington, Nebraska, enjoy a certain level of school choice. That is, they are free to send their kids to any public school of their choice; they are not required to send them to the public school nearest their home.

Well, it seems Lexington has experienced a marked boost in the Hispanic population in recent years, primarily due to jobs at local meatpacking plants. And as a result, reports the Associated Press this week, “the in-town schools, with an enrollment of 2,500, have 804 students learning English as a second language, and 1,172 who are getting a free or reduced-price lunch. The six outlying elementary schools have about 130 students - none of them learning English as a second language and none of them living in poverty, according to the state Education Department.”

Now get this: It appears that some white families interested in improving the prospects of a better life for their kids are sending their tykes to the uncrowded outlying schools where they won’t be held back, distracted or otherwise have their education inhibited by being in classrooms with kids who can’t speak English. Go figure.

And this, as you can imagine, has the left throwing a conniption, wailing about anti-Hispanic racism and 'white flight.' So it seems that what’s good for the Hispanic goose’s children isn’t good for the white one’s. How do these people sleep with their hypocrisy?"

Not to mention, there's this item which shows such charges to be false!

Crikey, I don't understand how someone can call themselves a Democrat or a liberal and still look at themselves in the mirror in the morning. They are nothing but a bunch of holier-than-thou do-gooders who aren't that good at doing good, and who will stoop to any tactic to try and foist their beliefs on the rest of us.

The rest of us need to keep up the fight!

Jacques Chirac is an Asshole

Pardon my French. (French, get it?) I try and keep this blog clean, but every once in a while I find that le mot juste is an off-color one.

Check out this item from the British tabloid The Sun.

Rarely does one see a world leader as petty and petulant as M. Chirac. Je suis desole, mon ami, but la France just isn't a force in world events any more. Get used to it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Sorry, Anonymous. You're WRONG!

Two days ago I posted a piece on how the NAACP came out against the President's personal retirement accounts reform of Social Security. That same day an anonymous reader left this comment:

"The point is not whether its good or bad. Private accounts defined by the Bush administration is [sic] bad. Read the details. No one inherits anything, no one but a very small group of people can gift their accounts to their heirs. Newsweek has a great article on this plan."

Well, Anonymous is wrong! Check out this document on private retirement accounts on the White Houses' website. It clearly states that personal retirement accounts can be passed on to survivors.

Now, I am shocked (shocked!) that such a reputable, non-partisan, unbiased publication like Newsweek would misrepresent the president's plan in an effort to whittle away support for it from its readers.

You know you're on the right side of an argument...

....when Thomas Sowell agrees with you! Here's an excerpt from his latest column

"People who oppose the privatization of Social Security call it "a risky scheme." But is anything more risky than turning money over to politicians and hoping that they won't spend it before you retire? They have been spending the "trust fund" for decades."


A technology newsletter to which I subscribe had this as their "Quote of the Week:

Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand (Putt's Law)

Monday, February 21, 2005

NAACP doesn't have a firm grip on demographics

Social Security is a bad deal for blacks. Especially black men. But that didn't stop the NAACP from blasting President Bush's proposed Social Security reform.

See, blacks don't live as long as people of other races. According to the CDC, black men born in 2002 have a life expectancy of 68.8 years and black women 75.6 years. That being the case, why would the NAACP, an organization that purports to care about the "advancement of colored people" (that's part of their name, after all) want to force its membership to accept such a bad deal?

Think about it. A black, male child born in 2002 will not be able to begin collecting Social Security benefits until age 67. So, after having contributed to the Social Security pyramid scheme for more than 40 years (in most cases), the average black man born in 2002 can expect to collect Social Security benefits for a whopping 21 months! What's worse, he will not be able to leave any of his Social Security contributions to his heirs.

Why on Earth would the NAACP not support a plan that would allow citizens to invest the money, take advantage of the miracle of compound interest to provide a higher return than Social Security could ever hope to, and be able to leave whatever is left to their heirs?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

American Beauty's not great

I know this is going to seem like heresy, but bear with me.

So, I'm watching American Beauty again last night and I started to cogitate on how exactly I feel about it now that the movie has aged some.

What I decided is this:

In order for me to really know how I feel about the movie, it was necessary for me to disaggregate the movie from the message.

See, American Beauty was written by Alan Ball. Ball, who is also the creator of HBO's acclaimed drama Six Feet Under, is a middle-aged gay man. As such, it comes as no surprise that he subscribes to liberal orthodoxy. So the viewer shouldn't be surprised to find that in Ball's world, middle-class families are seething cauldrons of dysfunction. That military officers are repressed homosexuals cum homophobes. That corporate executives are depraved reprobates swindling their shareholders and putting honest, hard-working employees out of work for the pettiest of reasons. That middle-aged, married men can come that close to having sex with sixteen year-olds. And that the most normal "couple" in the neighborhood are the openly gay anesthesiologist and his partner, the tax attorney.

Now, despite all this, American Beauty is an enormously enjoyable movie. Superb acting from top to bottom. Kevin Spacey won the Best Actor award and heavily-favored Annette Benning only lost to surprise winner Hilary Swank, (Boys Don't Cry). Excellent supporting cast featuring Wes Bentley, Thora Birch, Chris Cooper and Peter Gallagher. Fantastic direction from first-time director Sam Mendes, who took home the Best Director trophy. And though I may not agree with his views, Ball can flat out write. The Academy thought so, too, as he took home the Original Screenplay statue.

But, let me get back to my original point:

American Beauty, while extremely good, is not great; Conrad L. Hall is.

Conrad L. Hall had the proverbial long and illustrious career in Hollywood. He was the cinematographer for nearly 40 movies. His credits include such hits as Cool Hand Luke and Marathon Man. Hall was nominated for Best Cinematography by the Academy 10 times. He won the award three times.

His first win came for 1970's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He then won back-to-back Oscars for American Beauty and Road to Perdition. The last two were both directed by Mendes. If you haven't seen Road to Perdition and want to see a top-notch cinematographer at the top of his game, check out Perdition. Watching it you can just feel that every shot is deliberate. And beautiful.

This year's Jarhead will be Mendes' first picture without Hall. However, don't expect much of a drop-off. Jarhead will be lensed by Roger Deakins


I promised my most loyal reader (she knows who she is) that I would write about my present location: Djibouti.

Djibouti's not really a country.

Ok. Let me qualify that some. Djibouti is a country in the sense that it has borders and a government and its citizens have passports that say Republique de Djibouti. What I really mean is that it shouldn't be a country. You see, there are no ethnic Djiboutians (pronounced Ji-boo-shuns). The people here are a mixture of Somalis (60%), Afars (35%), Ethiopians, Arabs and French (the remaining 5%).

The former French Territory of the Afars and the Issas became the independent country of Djibouti in 1977. There really is no reason for there to be a country here, though. Djibouti has no natural resources and no arable land. The only real reason for its existence is the French military presence. According to the CIA World Fact Book, "[t]he economy is based on service activities connected with the country's strategic location and status as a free trade zone in northeast Africa".

In fact, if it weren't for the French military presence one can only assume that Djibouti with its strategic location on the Gulf of Aden would have been a prime target for Ethiopia (who has no access to a port since Eritrean independence) or Somalia (for reasons of ethnic solidarity).

The French aren't the only ones here. Sitting astride the entrance to the Red Sea as it does (only 30 miles from Yemen at the narrowest part of the Bab al Mandab), Djibouti has attracted the attention of the U.S. (all four of whose services are represented here), Italian and German militaries. That's a lot of soldiers in a country that is slightly smaller than Massachussetts.

So, what is Djibouti like? Well, in a couple of e-mails to friends and family I've written (tongue-in-cheek) that it's "like Somalia without the warlords". Actually that's not far off. Physically, it's a very arid country (the CIA World Fact book describes it as "torrid"). Here in the capital (also named Djibouti) we are at sea level which means that it is quite hot year round. I'm told that this time of year is the "cooler" time of year; I can only imagine what July and August must be like. It's also quite dusty as the city is basically a desert port.

Djibouti is a small city. You could easily walk from one end of the city to the other in half a day. Unemployment is rife (around 50%) but that's true of most places in Africa. Djibouti has very poor infrastructure with only 364 km of paved roads. In the capital at least many of the paved roads are in extremely poor condition. There are an estimated 9,500 telephones and 23,000 cellphones among a population of 466,000. Life expectancy is a scant 43 years. Infant mortality an alarming 10%. Literacy is 67%, with only 58% of women able to read and write.

It's also extraordinarily dirty. This is where I will get into the more subjective portion of my assessment of DJibouti. You see, I don't judge a country's worth by how good the food is (not very). Or whether or not they have cute shops to buy souvenirs (they don't). Or how many museums they have (none that I've seen). Or whether or not there are sights to see (there are a few, but they are all natural attractions and outside of the city). No, I judge a place by how civil the people are. And I judge how civil they are by how they treat one another, how they treat visitors to their country and how they treat where they live.

So, by my standard, Djibouti isn't a very nice place. People here seem to have the dimmest awareness that others exist, but that doesn't stop them from refusing to queue or driving like they own the road. On several occasions I had people bump into me while I was walking on the street (sure sign of obliviousness) and on two occasions I wasn't sure if vehicles were going to let me get across an intersection. (Thanks, pal!)

They still seem to regard foreigners with more curiosity than I would have expected (given that the French have been here for at least a hundred years - of course, it could just be me walking around in a brightly tie-dyed Luigi's t-shirt and my "Eric Banas"*). They seem friendly enough, often shouting out greetings to me as I walk to the embassy on the weekend. However, often as not they are trying to hawk something (watches and sunglasses most commonly) and that may explain their gregariousness.

Of course, not every one is so welcoming. Yesterday afternoon as I was walking back to the hotel a young woman (incongruously dressed in a Muslim head scarf and - I'm not making this up - an Eminem t-shirt) began to berate me. I think because I was wearing shorts. Although that doesn't make a lot of sense because part of the French Foreign Legion's uniform are very short shorts (reminiscent of the old shorts they used to wear in the NBA) and those guys are all over everywhere. She wasn't yelling at me in French, that's for sure.

As for the trash, well, look, just because you're poor doesn't mean you have to live in squalor. It doesn't mean you can't put trash in a trash can. This just shows lack of empathy and foresight and just plain laziness.

I think some of this attitude - especially the laziness - can be attributed to khat. Khat is a plant (shrub, really) whose leaves and stems contain a mild stimulant. It produces a mild euphoria when chewed. I think tht national productivity is held back by the chewing of khat. Most economic activity takes place in the mornings. Then, after about 1:00 pm, things grind to a halt and the khat chewing begins. Economic activity doesn't resume until after the sun goes down. Khat chewing is endemic. Walking down the street in the afternoons, just about every male you see has a huge bulge in his cheek from khat. And it's not only the men who chew it; the women do, too, although to a lesser extent.

Last week there was a short crisis when Ethiopia suspended its normal khat shipment to Djibouti. Apparently the Ethiopians were trying to raise the price per kilo and the Djiboutians cried foul. Luckily, the Somalis and Yemenis came to the rescue with an emergency shipment. Still, for two days there were a lot of miserable young men. The local paper reported that restaurants reported an uptick in business. Khat reduces the chewers appetite. I guess it's the reverse of the "munchies".

Well, that's Djibouti for ya. Not much to tell. I can't wait to get to Brazil!

(* - i.e., the Oakley Penny sunglasses worn by Eric Bana in Black Hawk Down a.k.a. the COOLEST SUNGLASSES IN THE WORLD!)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Yet another good reason to abolish the U.N.

Michelle Malkin has this great piece about yet another scandal at the U.N. This one isn't getting nearly the ink that "Oil-for-Food" is getting (which itself isn't getting nearly the public airing it should). That is a shame because this one is at least as disturbing as "Oil-for-Food" involving as it does the sexual exploitation of young women by U.N. "Peacekeepers".

This is the kind of organization over which Kofi Annan is presiding? The man really has no shame.

And I'll bet you haven't heard a peep about this one either, have you?

I think I'm going to be sick.

I found this on the highways and byways of the Internet.

What the hell were they thinking?

Only in New York

I found this on the Drudge Report.

You couldn't pay me enough to live in New York.

Lawrence Summers flap, Pt. 3

For those of you that are interested, you can read the entirety of Lawrence Summers' remarks at the at NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce here.

For what it's worth, having read Summers' comments, I think this story is even more of a tempest in a teapot than before. Even a cursory reading of Summers' speech will show how loaded with qualifications his remarks were. In fact to the extent that Summers suggest that there are innate differences in ability between the sexes, he says so very obliquely and with huge qualifications.

Summers' remarks also raised the question, at least in my mind, so women are underrepresented in sciences and engineering. So what? As Summers himself points out, white men are underrepresented in the NBA, Catholics in investment banking and Jews in agriculture. And yet there are no efforts by society to correct these imbalances.

Disingenuous Reporting on Social Security Reform

MSNBC is carrying this item from the Washington Post under the headline "Poorest face most risk on Social Security".

This is so typical of much of the reporting done by the Post. Jim VandeHei writes, "No group of Americans would be affected more by President Bush's Social Security plan than those earning the least. Just ask 46-year-old Brent Allen."

VandeHei then goes on to describe how Mr. Allen has just been laid off from a his job at a Massachussetts paper mill and is facing the prospect of retirement with only Social Security benefits as income. We are told that Mr. Allen is a former investor. "I have had stocks, and have had them for six years, and I have lost money continually".

Well, then for sure there's no money to be made in the market. Thanks, Brent. I'm going to cash in my investments and put all that cash in my mattress. Hey, I won't be making any money, but I won't lose it either.

VandeHei then continues to mislead readers by omitting relevant facts. We are told that "nearly half the U.S. population, ...has no pension or savings to speak of" and that "more than 60 million Americans 25 to 64 years old reported incomes of less than $25,000 in 2002". What is relevant here, and what VandeHei doesn't tell us, is whether or not the half of the population with no pension or savings, or the more than 60 million Americans with incomes less than $25,000 are heads of their households.

If the answer is yes, then clearly this would be a cause for concern. If the answer is no, then we really need to examine the financial health of the heads of households. Clearly in a population this large there are going to be some heads of households who fall into this catergory. It would be informative to know how many do.

Gee, and I'm just spitballing here, could it be that Mr. VandeHei is a Democrat who is against Social Security reform (and anything else President Bush is trying to accomplish)? Could that be why he omitted relevant facts in his piece?

This is great!

The Times of London is reporting how a group of 35 Greenpeace protesters illegally entered the International Petroleum Exchange in London with the express purpose of paralyzing trading.

What they got was a HUGE surprise! Enraged petroleum traders kicked the crap out of the protesters.

Of course, now the Greenies are bitching and moaning about what thugs the traders are. Boo-hoo!

I am reminded of one of Joe Pantoliano's (Guido the Killer Pimp) lines from Risky Business, "In times of economic uncertainty, never ever fuck with another man's livelihood."

Friday, February 18, 2005

"I hate Republicans"

Thus spake new DNC chairman Howard Dean.

Dean spoke these words on February 12th at the Roosevelt hotel in New York at the final DNC forum before the election of a new chairman.

Now, when he said these words Dean added "...and everything they stand for..." So, let me ask you. In the interest of civility, couldn't Dean have said "I hate everything Republicans stand for"? Of course he could. But then he would have been lying by omission. See, I have no doubt that Dean really does hate Republicans.

The point I really want to make is this: did you read about this in the paper? did you see a news report about Dean's "controversial remarks"? Of course you didn't. The only thing even close to a major news organization that carried this story when I did a Google search of "I hate Republicans Howard Dean" was the New York Daily News.

Now, let me ask you: do you think ABC, CBS, NBC or CNN would have carried this story if George Bush or Ken Mehlman (Dean's counterpart at the RNC) had said "I hate Democrats"?

But there is no such thing as liberal bias in the media, right?

Doesn't the FBI have better things to do?

I mean, really. Al-Qaeda could be trying to launch an attack in the United States and the FBI is investigating the Boy Scouts?

Folks, I've said it before and I'll say it again, you can't make this stuff up.

Let the whinging begin!

MSNBC is reporting that U.S. ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, will be the first "National Intelligence Czar".

First, let me just say that I was against this reform mainly for the reason that it is redundant. We already have a national intelligence czar. He's the Director of Central Intelligence. Contrary to what most people think, the DCI is not just the head of the CIA. The National Security Act of 1947 established the DCI as the head of the entire U.S. intelligence community, not just the CIA - a fact that even the State Department's website gets wrong (see sub-chapter 1, section 403) . Now, admittedly, it did not give the DCI budgetary authority over all the different agencies. But this could have been corrected without adding another layer of bureaucracy to an already red-tape heavy government sector.

Still, Negroponte has been selected so as the Brits would say, "Let the whinging begin!" (I love that word.) Expect groups such as Amnesty International, the International Red Cross and Human Rights Watch to vigorously oppose his nomination. Expect to hear a lot about how Negroponte has no respect for human rights due to his having been ambassador to Honduras during the early 1980s. (You might recall that the United States was trying to prevent Communist expansion into our hemisphere during that time.)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Howard Dean, Part Deux

My man Jonah Goldberg wrote a column about Howard Dean's upcoming reign as the Democratic National Committee chairman.

What was so hysterical was the anecdote at the end. I can't tell it any better than the J-man, so I'll just let him:

"Later, at another gathering, Gloria Nieto, vice chair of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus, broke into sobs, wondering aloud whether the Democrats would remain a welcoming home for lesbians. Dean immediately 'leaped off the stage into the audience to hug her,' writes [Christianity Today's Tony] Carnes. 'With a sob of his own catching his voice, he brought the audience to standing ovation' when he declared, 'That's why I am a Democrat.'"

Folks, this is not a serious party.

Harvard Faculty to Lawrence Summers: Waaaaah!

CNN is reporting that members of the Harvard faculty confronted president Lawrence Summers over his remarks at a conference on women and minorities in the sciences. (See my previous posts on this tempest in a teapot here and here.) Apparently some even questioned whether he should remain as president of the university.

My Dad has a saying that he's fond of and that I picked up. I haven't had occasion to use in quite some time, but it's a propos here. These people are holding up their thumb to the sky and insisting the sun does not exist.

Would these same faculty members want their daughters to have to run track against the boys? Or play volleyball? Or soccer? Or basketball?

Of course not. Why not?

Because they would get clobbered.


I can't believe I even have to write this, but for the Harvard faculty out there, I'll write slowly:

Because - men - and - women - are - different.

This is a fact. You can look it up.

Now, does this mean that we shouldn't encourage women to participate in every field of human endeavour?

Absolutely. (Just kidding. I wanted to see if you were paying attention.)

Women are underrepresented in certain fields. If the education establishment decides that one of its goals is to increase their representation, don't you think they would do a better job of devising strategies for attaining that goal if they talked honestly about the problem instead of just insisting that girls are boys with boobs?

And, honestly, does anyone think that we are denying any opportunities to girls in the United States in this day and age? In Somalia? Definitely. In The United States? Definitely not.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Social Security Reform

Proponents of reforming Social Security via private retirement accounts (and I am one) often point to Chile as an example.

A think tank called The Century Foundation published this analysis of Chile's experiment with private retirement accounts. The good folks at the Century Foundation don't think partial privatization of Social Security is a good idea because the Chileans' program hasn't had the intended results.

Well, gosh, if the Chileans couldn't make it work, then I guess we can't either. Let's just keep the current, unsustainable pyramid scheme we have. I don't mind subsidizing people who already have more money than I do.

Boycott Destiny's Child

Ordinarily I could give a toss about R&B supergroup Destiny's Child. However, occasionally I am stuck at a post with limited TV options and I find myself watching something I wouldn't normally waste time on.

Here in Djibouti the local cable channel (from South Africa) plays a music video or two in between programs. The other day I watched a little bit of a Destiny's Child video. The video was called "Soldier".

Silly me, I thought the song might be a tribute to our men in uniform. What was I thinking? Of course it wasn't!

Instead the song is about how gang members get them all hot and bothered. I won't bother analyzing the song. It's typical hip-hop stuff, glamorizing a bunch of illiterate thugs with droopy pants and gold teeth, complete with a male "guest rapper" who proceeds to remind us all how tough and rich he is and how many women he has slept with. Yawn.

Personally, I don't care if Beyonce and crew want to immortalize these goons in song and video. (Hey, this is the woman who is purportedly engaged to Jay-Z, after all.) What I have a problem with is her equating these guys with soldiers. Real soldiers.

Gang-bangers are cowards and punks. How brave is it to kill someone by means of a "drive-by"?

If you, or anyone you care about, is serving in uniform, I urge you to think about this song before paying any money for a Destiny's Child CD, DVD or concert ticket.

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

MSNBC had this piece about American high school students' thoughts on our First Amendment rights.

Saying the results are disturbing is like saying Bill Clinton has a wandering eye.

More than a third of respondents said that the First Amendment goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees to us. Only half of the students said that newspapers should be able to publish stories without prior government approval. Fully 17% said that citizens should not be allowed to express unpopular opinions.

Think about that for a minute.

Now, as bad as these results are (and they are really, really bad), I think the point it makes is not that our current crop of high school students are dictators-in-waiting (or mullahs-in-waiting). Rather I think it highlights the dismal performance of teachers in America.

If our high school teachers were doing such a great job, how is it American kids believe that burning the flag is illegal? Where could half of American high school students have gotten the idea that the government can ban material on the Internet that it deems indecent?

Like Wanda tells Otto in A Fish Called Wanda, "These are all mistakes. I looked them up."

All I can think is that I am glad I won't have to live long with this cohort of Americans running our society.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Republicans Get Their Dream DNC Chairman

I don't get it. Have the Democrats completely lost it?

It's like the Democrats have gotten together and discussed it among themselves and decided, "Well, we're so much smarter and more enlightened than those troglodytic Republicans that beating them in an election is just too easy. It's not fair. So let's tie one hand behind our backs. Yeah, that's what we'll do."

How else do you explain the election of Howard Dean as the DNC chairman? As if Terry McAuliffe and Bill Clinton didn't do enough to wreck the Democratic Party already.

Oh, wait. I get it. They're crazy all right.

Crazy like a bunch of abortion demanding, U.N. loving, race baiting foxes!

They're trying to lure the Republicans into a false sense of security. They're waiting for us to decide that beating them is just too easy so that we decide to tie one hand behind our back.

Either that or they are trying to use the strategy that Homer Simpson used when he was a professional boxer: let the other guy hit you until he's so tired that you can knock him out with just a tap.

Yet another sign the Apocalypse is imminent

Folks, I won't elaborate much on this one. It's so outrageous as to defy comment. Read for yourself here.

You've been warned!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Lawrence Summers flap, Pt. 2

Syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg makes an excellent point (here): why are the free speech types giving Ward Churchill a pass and not Lawrence Summers?

You don't know who Ward Churchill is? For shame! He's the chairman of the Ethnic Studies department at the University of Colorado who wrote in a speech that the people working in the World Trade Center were "little Eichmanns" and deserved their horrific deaths.

Now what I find most interesting is this: by almost any measure, Churchill is a fraud. His main claim to his position as chairman of the Ethnic Studies department at CU-Boulder is that he is an American-Indian. He does not hold a Ph.D. so it's not his academic credentials. (Frankly, ethnic studies departments are about the only departments you are likely to find with tenured professors who are not Ph.Ds.) It must be his heritage.

Except that Churchill isn't an American Indian as it turns out. Others have detailed his fraudulent claims far better and more extensively than I can (check out Ann Coulter's take). What I find interesting is that so many people are willing to give this pinhead the benefit of the doubt, but not Lawrence Summers.

Now, Lawrence Summers really is a professor - in a real discipline (not some pseudo-discipline like Victims Studi - er, I mean, Ethnic Studies). He has a Ph.D from Harvard in economics. He taught economics at Harvard before entering public service in 1991 as the chief economist of the World Bank. His public service career culminated in 1999 as secretary of the treasury. Summers became president of Harvard in July 2001.

Here's another little factoid (again, credit to Goldberg) that you may not have heard. At the particular portion of the conference during which Summers made his "controversial" remarks, participants were encouraged to think unconventionally. And during the course of his speech, Summers warned his audience that he was trying to be provocative!

Good grief! MIT biologist Nancy Hopkins seems like even more of a twit now than before.

And yet you haven't heard one peep from so-called "free speech advocates" in support of Summers, have you? Of course you haven't. Because what he said does not conform to liberal dogma (i.e., white people and men especially, bad; people of color, especially women, good).

Lawrence Summers flap

Lawrence Summers is the president of Harvard. During an academic conference on minorities and women in the sciences Summers had the audacity to suggest that one of the reasons there aren't more women professors in science and engineering may be due to innate differences between the sexes.

Predictably, Summers has had to back off his comments and issue an apology after a hue and cry went up from the victimization lobby in the U.S. If you haven't heard about this controversy, you can read about it here .

What I found hysterical was the reaction of one of the female attendees. (I have to thank George Will for this observation (you can read his columns here )). Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at MIT, said that upon hearing Summers' remarks she said that if she hadn't left, she "would've either blacked out or thrown up."

So, this is the progress women have made in academia? Someone says something with which she doesn't agree and she gets a classic case of the "vapors"?

God forbid she engage Summers in a debate on the merits of his argument.

Ding Dong, Eason Jordan's Gone

MSNBC is reporting that CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan is resigning amid protests over comments he made about American military forces in Iraq (here).

During a panel discussion at the Davos World Economic Forum (where the "anointed" (read your Thomas Sowell here) gather every year to remind themselves how much smarter and more enlightened they are than we "red staters"), Jordan claimed that American military forces were deliberately targeting journalists. He claimed that the American military had killed 12 journalists. Of course, he could offer no evidence to support such a claim.

Predictably, he is now saying that his remarks were "misunderstood" and that he never meant to say what he really did say. He claims that he is resigning to prevent the controversy from "unfairly tarnishing" CNN's image.

Doing its part to quell this budding controversy, both the Davos organizers and CNN are refusing to release a videotape of the incident. Curious, since if Jordan's comments really were "misunderstood" or taken out of context, a video record would settle the matter once and for all.

It's a little late to worry about tarnishing CNN's image, Eason. You've already tarnished it plenty (and fairly, I might add). Some of you may recall that last year Jordan admitting to tailoring CNN's coverage of Iraq so as not to upset the Hussein regime and thereby risk losing access.

Also, anyone remember the 1998 Tailwind scandal? Where Peter Arnett claimed that the American military had poisoned its own troops in Laos with sarin gas.

You remember Peter Arnett, right? He was the "journalist" that MSNBC and NBC fired in April 2003 after "...the journalist told state-run Iraqi TV that the U.S.-led coalition’s initial war plan had failed and that reports from Baghdad about civilian casualties had helped antiwar protesters undermine the Bush administration’s strategy" according to an Associated Press report reprinted here.

Wonder why CNN didn't have this?

Good riddance, I say.

Quick Hitter About the EU

CNN has a piece on their website (here) about how some European astronauts are going to take a copy of the EU's constitution into space with them.

Now, if we could only put all the EU bureaucrats on that same rocket and launch them into space...

Oh, wait. CNN reports that the astronauts plan on bringing the charter back with them.

Never mind.

End the "Gentleman's Filibuster"

"Filibuster" is one of those odd words that most people are familiar with. It conjures images of the Senate chamber in the 1950s with some Senator reading from a telephone book to block a piece of Senate business.

The sad fact is that used to be a filibuster. Today we have the "gentleman's filibuster" - and it is being used to obstruct business in the Senate, particularly when it comes to judicial nominees.

Traditionally the filibuster was a measure of last resort. It is a drastic measure intended to prevent a particular piece of business from coming to the floor. It signaled one side's commitment to blocking that piece of business. The catch was that they actually had to get down on the floor and actually filibuster. Basically, it's a contest to see who will blink first.

With the "gentleman's filibuster", all a Senator has to do is signal his intent to filibuster and that blocks that particular bill (or nominee, as the case may be) from a floor vote. The problems with this rule are so axiomatic, I'm not sure I can explain it any more clearly.

Let me try: Imagine you're at an auction, and an item which you wish to purchase comes up for bid. Now, in a real auction, I would actually have to bid against you to win the right to purchase the item for an indicated price. But let's say Sotheby's rules were like the Senate's. Say when that item came up for a bid, I signaled my intent to pay 10 million dollars for it. Recognizing how serious I am about purchasing this item, you decide not to bid. And then I walk up and purchase the item for a dollar.

This is what the "gentleman's filibuster" allows Senators to do. It allows them to block legislation or nominees without going through the tiresome business of actually blocking it. I think the potential for abuse is fairly clear. It allows even one Senator to hold any piece of business hostage.

This is very un-republican (remember, the United States is not repeat not a democracy) and the practice should be abolished.