Following the assassination of a popular former lebanese Prime Minister, and with tens of thousands of protesters defying orders to break up, the Syrian controlled governmenr of Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karami has stepped down. It's a victory for the people of Lebanon, who are calling for the Syrian army to withdraw from Lebanon, and who are demanding free elections.
This comes on the heels of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's announcement of multi-candidate elections for that country's top position. It would be the first time free elections would be held for President.
Remember that illegitimate elections in the Ukraine and Georgia have been overturned recently, and that free elections were held for the leadership of the Palestinian people, and there's a powerful message to be taken. People everywhere want a say in their governemnt. They want to choose who leads their countries. It's exactly what President Bush has been calling for, and it's further evidence that he's leading this country, and the world, in the right direction.
Do you honestly think that any of these things would have occurred in we had never freed the people of Afghanistan and Iraq? In his State of the Union Address, the President pledged the America's support for people doing just what the Lebanese have done. Let's watch and see what happens; it should be good.
Monday, February 28, 2005
Following the assassination of a popular former lebanese Prime Minister, and with tens of thousands of protesters defying orders to break up, the Syrian controlled governmenr of Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karami has stepped down. It's a victory for the people of Lebanon, who are calling for the Syrian army to withdraw from Lebanon, and who are demanding free elections.
Arthur Chrenkoff has just posted Good News From Iraq - #22. If you haven't heard of this, it's his regular listing of the positive stories coming out of Iraq our mainstream media doesn't see fit to report.
Some of the good:
In the recently held Iraqi elections, many of the big winners were women. Of the 275 members of the newly elected Iraqi Assembly, 86 are women (over 30%).There's so much more. It's always a great read, and it reinforces that most of the major national news outlets don't have any desire to bring the American public the positive stories coming out of Iraq. Arthur Chrenkoff is the only person aggregating these stories and bringing them to the American public.
Iraq's first constitutional conference is underway, working out in broad terms the shape of the nation's permanent constitution.
The Iraqi stock market is showing strong growth, and there's talk of opening up the market to foreign investors. Meanwhile, Iraq's central bank will be allowed to open a deposit with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which will earn it millions of dollars in vital interest income. That interest, over $100 million a year, can be used to improve Iraq's infrastructure.
Foreign banks are moving into the nation.
More passenger airlines are scheduling service to Baghdad.
Initiatives are in place to support development and economic growth in the agriculture sector, and success is being seen.
On the environmental front, one of the world's greatest marshland habitats - and home of an ancient culture - is beginning to show the first signs of recovery after decades of systematic destruction under Saddam Hussein.
Coalition troops are providing vital reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, in addition to providing security. New schools have been built and others are under construction; the health infrastructure is being rebuilt, including some areas of the country often ignored; railroad construction and rehabilitation continues; help for widows and orphans of the Iran-Iraq war is being given by our troops as well.
About 6,000 old bullet-proof vests have been sent from police departments around the U.S. to Iraqi police forces.
Posted by Michael at 9:10 AM
Friday, February 25, 2005
A seven-year-old British girl has been on a liquid diet since birth, after British physicians diagnosed her with a disease that prevents swallowing. A trip to visit doctors here in the U.S. have solved her dilemna... she only had swollen tonsils. She's now eating solid foods and doing fine.
Posted by Michael at 3:21 PM
I've written before about the National Retail Sales Tax, also known as the Fair Tax. The proposal is before the Congress once again, introduced in the House as HR 25 and in the Senate as SR 25. You probably already have some idea about the Fair Tax, but let me share the basics once again. This comes from the Americans For Fair Tax web site, and it spells things out very clearly...
The FairTax proposal is a comprehensive plan to replace federal income and payroll taxes, including personal, gift, estate, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security/Medicare, self-employment, and corporate taxes. The FairTax proposal integrates such features as a progressive national retail sales tax, dollar-for-dollar revenue replacement, and a rebate to ensure that no American pays such federal taxes up to the poverty level. Included in the FairTax plan is the repeal of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. The FairTax allows Americans to keep 100 percent of their paychecks (minus any state income taxes), ends corporate taxes and compliance costs hidden in the retail cost of goods and services, and fully funds the federal government while fulfilling the promise of Social Security and Medicare.
Americans take home their whole paychecks.
Not only do more Americans have jobs, but they also take home 100 percent of their paychecks (except where state income taxes apply). No federal income taxes or payroll taxes are withheld from paychecks, pensions, or Social Security checks.
No federal sales tax up to the poverty level means progressivity like today's tax system.
To ensure no American pays tax on necessities, the FairTax plan provides a prepaid, monthly rebate (prebate) for every registered household to cover the consumption tax spent on necessities up to the federal poverty level. This, along with several other features, is how the FairTax completely untaxes the poor, lowers the tax burden on most, while making the overall rate progressive. However, the FairTax is progressive based on lifestyle/spending choices, rather than simply punishing those taxpayers who are successful. Do you see how much freer life is with the FairTax instead of the income tax?
No tax on used goods. The amount you pay to fund the government is totally visible.
With the FairTax you are only taxed once on any good or service, the sales tax is charged just as state sales taxes are today. If you choose to buy used goods - used car, used home, used appliances - you do not pay the FairTax. If, as a business owner or farmer, you buy something for strictly business purposes (not for personal consumption), you pay no consumption tax. When you decide what to buy and how much to spend, you see exactly how much you are contributing to the government with each purchase.
Retail prices no longer hide corporate taxes or their compliance costs, which drive up costs for those who can least, afford to pay.
Did you know that hidden income taxes and the cost of complying with them currently make up 20 percent or more percent of all retail prices? It's true. According to Dr. Dale Jorgenson of Harvard University, hidden income taxes are passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices - from an average 22 percent on goods to an average 25 percent on services - for everything you buy. If competition does not allow prices to rise, corporations lower labor costs, again hurting those who can least afford to lose their jobs. Finally, if prices are as high as competition allows and labor costs are as low as practical, profits/dividends to shareholders are driven down, thereby hurting retirement savings for moms-and-pops and pension funds invested in Corporate America. With the FairTax, the sham of corporate taxation ends, competition drives prices down, more people in America have jobs, and retirement/pension funds see improved performance.
The income tax exports our jobs, rather than our products. The FairTax brings jobs home.
Most importantly, the FairTax does not burden U.S. exports as they are with the current income tax. So the FairTax allows U.S. exports to sell overseas for prices 22 percent lower, on average, than they do now, with similar profit margins. Lower prices sharply increase demand for U.S. exports, thereby increasing job creation in U.S.manufacturing sectors. At home, imports are subject to the same FairTax rate as domestically produced goods. Not only does the FairTax put U.S. products sold here on the same tax footing as foreign imports, but the dramatic lowering of compliance costs in comparison to other countries' value-added taxes also gives U.S. products a definitive pricing advantage which foreign tax systems cannot match.
The FairTax strategy is revenue neutrality: Neither raise nor lower taxes so consumer costs remain stable.
The FairTax pays for all current government operations, including Social Security and Medicare. Government revenues are more stable and predictable than with the federal income tax because consumption is a more constant revenue base than is income.
If you were in a 23-percent income tax bracket, the federal government would take $23 out of your paycheck for every $100 you made. With the FairTax, if the federal government gets $23 out of every $100 spent in America, the same total revenue is delivered to the federal government. This is revenue neutrality. So, instead of paycheck-earning Americans paying 15.3 percent of their paychecks in Social Security/Medicare payroll taxes, plus an average of 18 percent of their paychecks in federal income tax, for a total of about 33 percent, consumers in America pay only $23 out of every $100. Or about 30 percent at the cash register when they elect to spend on new goods or services for their own personal consumption. And this tax is collected only on spending above the federal poverty level, providing important progressivity.
Tax criminals - don't make criminals out of honest taxpayers.
Today, the IRS will admit to 25 percent non-compliance with the code. FairTax.org will be generous and simply take the position that this is likely a conservative estimate of the underground economy. However, this does not take into account the criminal/drug/porn economy, which equally conservative estimates put at one trillion dollars of untaxed activity. The FairTax will tax this - criminals love to flash that cash at retail - while continuing to provide the federal penalties so effective in bringing such miscreants to justice. The substantial decrease in points of compliance - from every wage earner, investor, and retiree, down to only retailers - also allows enforcement to concentrate on following the money to criminal activity, rather than making potential criminals out of every taxpayer struggling to decipher the current code.
So, in a nutshell, the Fair Tax would allow workers to bring home virtually all the money they have earned, and would only tax them on new retail purchases. No taxes on used products (house, car, etc.) or on purchases up to the poverty level. The less you spend, the less taxes you pay. Imagine a tax system that you actually have control over.
It's simple mathematics...
The current system taxes you on every dollar you earn. You pay tax again when you make a purchase (indirect taxes included in the costs of goods and services). You invest the money you've earned in stocks or bonds, and pay taxes on it again when you cash out. Leave those earnings for your heirs, they are taxed again.
Under the Fair Tax, your money is ONLY taxed when you make purchases. Invest your earnings in a retirement account, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.... no taxes.
Under this plan, all visitors to this country would contribute to the tax base when they make retail purchases. Even the wealthiest Americans would pay. No tax code, no loopholes.
I encourage you to look into the idea, study it, get to understand it. It's really not all that complex. See what you think. It's fair, it's simple, it's so much better than the system we have today.
Posted by Michael at 1:54 PM
Thursday, February 24, 2005
WARNING: Liberal philosophy follows. It's ugly and distasteful, so read at your peril...
Thomas Naughton, columnist for the University of Massachusetts-Amhurst Daily Collegian, writes about those yellow "Support Our Troops" ribbons. He's a liberal, so you can guess his feelings about the ribbons. He sounds like a slightly more extreme version of Bob Sommer. If this is the direction the Libs want to go with their politics, I say fine. Here's a bit of what Naughton says:
I will never say, "support the troops." I don't believe in the validity of that statement. People say, "I don't support the war, I support the troops" as though you can actually separate the two. You cannot; the troops are a part of the war, they have become the war and there is no valid dissection of the two.For some reason, I think this guy probably sees Howard Dean as too centrist to be leading the Democratic Party.
I look into the cars of people with "support the troops" ribbons as I speed past, trying to find some trace of recognition on their face, recognition of their guilt and the fact that they have given up. I usually see nothing; just a mouth moving robotically, singing the pop hits of today or the contemporary country wine of fake cowboys who share a lot with George Bush: no shame.
Those ribbons are yellow for a reason, they are not the mark of armed forces support, they are the mark of cowards.
Posted by Michael at 2:25 PM
Today's lesson in mindless public school administration brought to you by Liberty Middle School in Orange County, Florida. Seventh-grader Robert Gomez, age 12, picked up a rubber band off the floro and put it around his wrist. His teacher asked him to give the rubber band to her, so he tossed it on her desk. For that act, he's been suspended for 10 days, and faces expulsion, for threatening her "with a weapon". That weapon... the rubber band!
Posted by Michael at 7:38 AM
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Alex Kunhardt, a teacher at JHS 51 William Alexander (Junior High) in New York City, encouraged his sixth-grade students to write letters to a US soldier stationed near the DMZ in South Korea. When Pfc. Rob Jacobs opened the letters, he wasn't prepared for what he saw. Many letters were filled with insults, political rhetoric and demoralizing predictions. It's apparent that the children were either coaxed by, or had letters written by, either parents or the teacher himself.
Here's a sample of what the 11 and 12 year olds wrote:
"Even thoe [sic] you are risking your life for our country, have you seen how many civilians you or some other soldier killed?"The stories I've read don't indicate why Pfc. Jacobs was singled out.
"I know your [sic] trying to save our country and kill the terrorists but you are also destroying holy places like Mosques."
"From what I see on TV and in the newspaper, I don't think the US is even close to obtaining Iraqi freedom."
"I'm concerned that George W. Bush is president for four more years, because he doesn't want to get troops out, so you might end up staying longer."
"Bush thinks he's brave . . . in his safe little white house with as many guards as he thinks he needs."
"By the way, when you shoot someone, is it great or horrible?"
I know things have changed in the twenty-plus years since I was their age, but I don't for a minute believe these children wrote these things on their own. They had to be coached, which makes the situation even more despicable.
Responses from readers to the original NY Post story are here. The best comment:
Please tell Pfc. Rob Jacobs not to be too upset about the letters he received from the sixth-graders. These are, after all, New York City schoolchildren being taught by New York City public-school teachers. In other words, they are uneducated.
Posted by Michael at 1:44 PM
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
California blogger Digger, of Digger's Realm, has been documenting the saga of two liberal Berkeley lawyers, husband and wife, who have been hanging an American soldier in effigy on their home in Sacramento (LINK WARNING: Some graphic language). Steve and Virginia Pearcy, the couple in question, have been quite outspoken in their support for the forces our troops are fighting in Iraq. It's a pretty disgusting display, quite frankly. The effigy is torn down, the Pearcys put it back up. The sign in their Porsche (nice Liberal ride!) is utterly obscene.
Further evidence that most on the Left have no idea what it means to be free, don't understand the responsibilities that go with freedom, and are unwilling to support what must be done to protect the liberties that they take for granted.
Posted by Michael at 8:32 PM
I mentioned the comments of Howard Dean last week concerning the Republican Party and Black voters. The comments outraged many on the Right, who saw them not only as race-baiting, but also as a backhand racist comment. Of course, there was silence from the Libs.
Anyway, it brings me to this fine column (printed below) by National Review contributing editor Deroy Murdock. It's a comparison of Republican and Democratic history in regards to the Civil Rights Movement. Read it, understand it, share it with others. By the way, Deroy Murdock is African-American.
Grand Old Party
Blacks might be surprised to compare Republican history with the Democrats’.
Today marks the 90th anniversary of a very special White House ceremony. President Woodrow Wilson hosted his Cabinet and the entire U.S. Supreme Court for a screening of D. W. Griffith's racist masterpiece, Birth of a Nation. The executive mansion's first film presentation depicted, according to Griffith, the Ku Klux Klan's heroic, post-Civil War struggle against the menace of emancipated blacks, portrayed by white actors in black face. As black civil-rights leader W.E.B. DuBois explained: In Griffith's 1915 motion picture, "The freed man was represented either as an ignorant fool, a vicious rapist, a venal or unscrupulous politician, or a faithful idiot."
Thumbs up, Wilson exclaimed. The film "is like writing history with lightning," he remarked, adding, "it is all so terribly true."
This vignette — recently recounted in Ken Burns's PBS documentary, Unforgivable Blackness — was neither the first nor last time a prominent Democrat plunged a hot knife in black America's collective back. Each February, Black History Month recalls Democrat Harry Truman's 1948 desegregation of the armed forces and Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson's signature on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the greatest black legislative victory since Republican Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in 1863. This annual commemoration, however, largely overlooks the many milestones Republicans and blacks have achieved together by overcoming reactionary Democrats.
The House Policy Committee's 2005 Republican Freedom Calendar offers 365 examples of GOP support for women, blacks, and other minorities, often over Democratic objections. Among its highlights:
"To stop the Democrats' pro-slavery agenda, anti-slavery activists founded the Republican party, starting with a few dozen men and women in Ripon, Wisconsin on March 20, 1854," the calendar notes. "Democratic opposition to Republican efforts to protect the civil rights of all Americans lasted not only throughout Reconstruction, but well into the 20th century. In the south, those Democrats who most bitterly opposed equality for blacks founded the Ku Klux Klan, which operated as the party's terrorist wing."
Contemporary partisan hyperbole? Consider this 1866 comment from Governor Oliver Morton (R., Ind.), who is immortalized in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall: "Every one who shoots down Negroes in the streets, burns Negro school-houses and meeting-houses, and murders women and children by the light of their own flaming dwellings, calls himself a Democrat," Morton said. "Every New York rioter in 1863 who burned up little children in colored asylums, who robbed, ravished, and murdered indiscriminately in the midst of a blazing city for three days and nights, calls himself a Democrat."
White supremacists worked club in hand with Democrats for decades:
May 22, 1856: Two years after the Grand Old party's birth, U.S. Senator Charles Sumner (R., Mass.) rose to decry pro-slavery Democrats. Congressman Preston Brooks (D., S.C.) responded by grabbing a stick and beating Sumner unconscious in the Senate chamber. Disabled, Sumner could not resume his duties for three years.
July 30, 1866: New Orleans's Democratic government ordered police to raid an integrated GOP meeting, killing 40 people and injuring 150.
September 28, 1868: Democrats in Opelousas, Louisiana killed nearly 300 blacks who tried to foil an assault on a Republican newspaper editor.
October 7, 1868: Republicans criticized Democrats' national slogan: "This is a white man's country: Let white men rule."
April 20, 1871: The GOP Congress adopted the Ku Klux Klan Act, banning the pro-Democrat domestic terrorist group.
October 18, 1871: GOP President Ulysses S. Grant dispatched federal troops to quell Klan violence in South Carolina.
September 14, 1874: Racist white Democrats stormed Louisiana's statehouse to oust GOP Governor William Kellogg's racially integrated administration; 27 are killed.
August 17, 1937: Republicans opposed Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Supreme Court nominee, U.S. Senator Hugo Black (D., Al.), a former Klansman who defended Klansmen against race-murder charges.
February 2005: The Democrats' Klan-coddling today is embodied by KKK alumnus Robert Byrd, West Virginia's logorrheic U.S. senator and, having served since January 3, 1959, that body's dean. Thirteen years earlier, Byrd wrote this to the KKK's Imperial Wizard: "The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia." Byrd led Senate Democrats as late as December 1988. On March 4, 2001, Byrd told Fox News's Tony Snow: "There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time; I'm going to use that word." National Democrats never have arranged a primary challenge against or otherwise pressed this one-time cross-burner to get lost.
Contrast the KKKozy Democrats with the GOP. When former Klansman David Duke ran for Louisiana governor in 1991 as a Republican, national GOP officials scorned him. Local Republicans endorsed incumbent Democrat Edwin Edwards, despite his ethical baggage. As one Republican-created bumper sticker pleaded: "Vote for the crook: It's important!"
Republicans also have supported legislation favorable to blacks, often against intense Democratic headwinds:
In 1865, Congressional Republicans unanimously backed the 13th Amendment, which made slavery unconstitutional. Among Democrats, 63 percent of senators and 78 percent of House members voted: "No."
In 1866, 94 percent of GOP senators and 96 percent of GOP House members approved the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing all Americans equal protection of the law. Every congressional Democrat voted: "No."
February 28, 1871: The GOP Congress passed the Enforcement Act, giving black voters federal protection.
February 8, 1894: Democratic President Grover Cleveland and a Democratic Congress repealed the GOP's Enforcement Act, denying black voters federal protection.
January 26, 1922: The U.S. House adopted Rep. Leonidas Dyer's (R., Mo.) bill making lynching a federal crime. Filibustering Senate Democrats killed the measure.
May 17, 1954: As chief justice, former three-term governor Earl Warren (R., Calif.) led the U.S. Supreme Court's desegregation of government schools via the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. GOP President Dwight Eisenhower's Justice Department argued for Topeka, Kansas's black school children. Democrat John W. Davis, who lost a presidential bid to incumbent Republican Calvin Coolidge in 1924, defended "separate but equal" classrooms.
September 24, 1957: Eisenhower deployed the 82nd Airborne Division to desegregate Little Rock's government schools over the strenuous resistance of Governor Orval Faubus (D., Ark.).
May 6, 1960: Eisenhower signs the GOP's 1960 Civil Rights Act after it survived a five-day, five-hour filibuster by 18 Senate Democrats.
July 2, 1964: Democratic President Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act after former Klansman Robert Byrd's 14-hour filibuster and the votes of 22 other Senate Democrats (including Tennessee's Al Gore, Sr.) failed to scuttle the measure. Illinois Republican Everett Dirksen rallied 26 GOP senators and 44 Democrats to invoke cloture and allow the bill's passage. According to John Fonte in the January 9, 2003, National Review, 82 percent of Republicans so voted, versus only 66 percent of Democrats.
True, Senator Barry Goldwater (R., Ariz.) opposed this bill the very year he became the GOP's presidential standard-bearer. However, Goldwater supported the 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights Acts and called for integrating Arizona's National Guard two years before Truman desegregated the military. Goldwater feared the 1964 Act would limit freedom of association in the private sector, a controversial but principled libertarian objection rooted in the First Amendment rather than racial hatred.
June 29, 1982: President Ronald Reagan signed a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The Republican party also is the home of numerous "firsts." Among them:
Until 1935, every black federal legislator was Republican. America's first black U.S. Representative, South Carolina's Joseph Rainey, and our first black senator, Mississippi's Hiram Revels, both reached Capitol Hill in 1870. On December 9, 1872, Louisiana Republican Pinckney Benton Stewart "P.B.S." Pinchback became America's first black governor.
August 8, 1878: GOP supply-siders may hate to admit it, but America's first black Collector of Internal Revenue was former U.S. Rep. James Rapier (R., Ala.).
October 16, 1901: GOP President Theodore Roosevelt invited to the White House as its first black dinner guest Republican educator Booker T. Washington. The pro-Democrat Richmond Times newspaper warned that consequently, "White women may receive attentions from Negro men." As Toni Marshall wrote in the November 9, 1995, Washington Times, when Roosevelt sought reelection in 1904, Democrats produced a button that showed their presidential nominee, Alton Parker, beside a white couple while Roosevelt posed with a white bride and black groom. The button read: "The Choice Is Yours."
GOP presidents Gerald Ford in 1975 and Ronald Reagan in 1982 promoted Daniel James and Roscoe Robinson to become, respectively, the Air Force's and Army's first black four-star generals.
November 2, 1983: President Reagan established Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a national holiday, the first such honor for a black American.
President Reagan named Colin Powell America's first black national-security adviser while GOP President George W. Bush appointed him our first black secretary of state.
President G.W. Bush named Condoleezza Rice America's first black female NSC chief, then our second (consecutive) black secretary of State. Just last month, one-time Klansman Robert Byrd and other Senate Democrats stalled Rice's confirmation for a week. Amid unanimous GOP support, 12 Democrats and Vermont Independent James Jeffords opposed Rice — the most "No" votes for a State designee since 14 senators frowned on Henry Clay in 1825.
"The first Republican I knew was my father, and he is still the Republican I most admire," Rice has said. "He joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did. My father has never forgotten that day, and neither have I."
"We started our party with the express intent of protecting the American people from the Democrats' pro-slavery policies that expressly made people inferior to the state," wrote Rep. Christopher Cox (R., Calif.), who authorized the calendar last year as House Policy chairman. "Today, the animating spirit of the Republican Party is exactly the same as it was then: free people, free minds, free markets, free expression, and unlimited opportunity."
"Leading the organized opposition to these ideas 150 years ago, just as today, was the Democratic Party," Cox continued. "Then, just as now, their hallmarks were politically correct speech; a preference for government control over individual initiative...and an insistence on seeing people as members of groups rather than as individuals."
But what about racial preferences? The GOP's embrace of color-neutral policies parallels Martin Luther King's dream of racial equality over racial scale tipping. "The constitutional amendments that the Republican party supported after the Civil War did not advance preferences by race," Cox told me. "They made government view every person as an individual, not as a member of a racial group."
Alas, even as Republicans promote work over welfare, educational choice, and personal retirement accounts, all of which would empower blacks, some 90 percent of blacks vote Democrat as reflexively as knees kick when tapped with rubber mallets. After inspecting the Democrats' handiwork — e.g. the tar pit that is public assistance, the Dresden that is the ghetto school system, and the pyramid scheme that is Social Security (which robs too many blacks who die before recouping their "investment") — black Americans should ask Democrats: "Yesterday's gone. What have you done for us lately?"
Posted by Michael at 1:20 PM
Monday, February 21, 2005
You've probably all seen the Anheuser-Busch commercial from the Super Bowl showing Marines walking through an airport and getting applause. Here's an actual letter from a Marine, talking about the commercial, the way the media reports on the job he and his comrades are doing in Iraq, and the response he received when returning to the States. It's a must read. Thanks to Alpha Patriot for the heads-up.
Posted by Michael at 12:56 PM
From Little Green Footballs:
Yesterday Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) hosted a community forum in Ithaca, New York, on the future Of Social Security.
An LGF operative was present in the audience and happened to be recording as Rep. Hinchey launched into a barking moonbat conspiracy rant worthy of Democratic Underground, telling the audience he believed the fake CBS memos were planted by Karl Rove to discredit Dan Rather, and divert attention from President Bush's "draft dodging."
When our operative asked Hinchey if he had evidence for these charges, he first said, "Yes, I do," but when asked a second time he admitted he did not.
Our operative pressed the issue, "Don't you think it's irresponsible to make charges like that?" Hinchey replied, "No, I don't, I think it's very important to make charges like that ... I think it's very important to combat this kind of activity in every way that you can, and I'm willing, as most people are not, to step forward in situations like this and take risks."
For more on this, including transcripts and audio of the whole exchange, courtesy the guys at LGF, click here.
Posted by Michael at 8:25 AM
Friday, February 18, 2005
Disney is auctioning off cars from two of their Disneyland rides: Space Mountain and the Skyway sky buckets. Right now, the Space Mountain car is going for $2700, and the sky bucket car is up to $4200.
Posted by Michael at 10:08 AM
"Whether it's been newspapers, magazines, TV or radio, the opportunities to reach an audience has been limited to a finite number of local and national gatekeepers. Just outside those gates, knocking on the door, trying to be heard for the past 100 or more years have been wanna be Woodward and Bernsteins. People with information, ideas and concepts that they know the populace would respond to have been turned away, again and again.
"Its payback time . The bloggers are here, and they are ready to knock down the gates and get their pound of flesh. The traditional media has no idea what is about to hit them.
"In every major conference, at every major speech, sitting at tables in restaurants, there is going to be a blogger or podcaster with microphone, PDA, Videophone, laptop or paper and pencil in hand. Listening. Taking notes. That information is going to be transmitted to and from a blog entry and placed in the hands of "the readers".
"Unlike celebrities who hear or see the flash of the camera, the gatekeepers don't know they are there. Blogging in plain site. Questioning everything.
"Dan Rather and Eason Jordan were just practice laps. Let me assure you that from now on, EVERYTHING said. Every video shown. Every picture presented from any traditional media source is going to be scrutinized. The level of scrutiny will make your editors blush.
"The gatekeepers are under attack. I'm not saying its right or wrong, but it is the new reality."
Posted by Michael at 9:32 AM
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Here's a pretty interesting political leaning quiz from the folks at OkCupid.com. It's pretty thorough, with about 40 questions. According to this quiz, I'm a social and economic conservative, and can best be described as a Republican. Also, I "exhibit a very well-developed sense of Right and Wrong and believe in economic fairness." Guess that about says it. Interestingly, you can see your results in two ways. Here are mine...
Give it a whirl...
Posted by Michael at 2:19 PM
Bob Sommer, commentator for NPR's All Things Considered, recently opined on the yellow ribbon car decals and magnets saying "Support Our Troops". He says he's finally figured out what the message "Support Our Troops" really means:
That curious phrase, "support our troops," on those yellow ribbon magnets seems to accuse me of not doing my part. Then I realized that "support our troops" is a code! It requires parsing. Here's what I think it means: Those who presumably need to be admonished to support the troops are those who oppose the decisions of the administration. "Support our troops" means, then, that we should be supporting the war. I believe that most yellow-magnet bearers want support not just for the troops, but for the mission, the presence, the president. Maybe the magnets should say: "Shut up and support our troops."Seems that Sommer takes an awful lot of offense at three simple words. I'm not sure how someone who appreciates the sacrifices our soldiers and sailors make could make hte comments he does. Maybe he doesn't actually support our troops at all. It's like my Dad said, "The bit dog always barks."
Posted by Michael at 1:35 PM
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Today's zero-tolerance fiasco comes from Cook County, Minnesota, where a Senior at Cook County High School turned in a creative writing assignment that played on the title of Michael Moore's "Bowling in Columbine". When all was said and done he had been suspended and the police, Child Protective Services and the County Prosecutor had all been involved.
The student's essay talked about the killings at Columbine High School in Colorado. The Cook County attorney said the writing raised the concern that (the student) might be a danger to himself or other students or teachers at the school. But the student's mother said she is outraged by the incident.
"He wrote a story for a creative writing class," she said. "There were no boundaries set. It was written last fall."
She said she, her son and family were shocked when the sheriff's deputies knocked on their door last week and escorted him to the hospital in Duluth for observation. The school called the police, the police involved Child Protective Services (CPS). CPS got a court order to seize the child, did not inform the parents, and showed up at the door unannounced to take him away for testing and evaluation. County prosecutors then evaluated whether to charge the boy for an unspecified crime.
The county found that there was no crime, and no specific danger involved, and eventually returned the child to his parents.
The public school insanity goes on...
Posted by Michael at 4:03 PM
Howard Dean (Aaarrgghh!!), new chairman of the Democratic Party, spoke on Friday with members of the Democratic Black Caucus. Looking at the crowd he said:
"You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room? Only if they had the hotel staff in here."You know that if a Republican had made a "hotel staff" type comment, they would have been called racist by the leaders of the nation's Black community. When it's a Lib... never a word. You've got to love double standards.
Posted by Michael at 8:38 AM
Monday, February 14, 2005
Consumer Reports has rated the nation's cell phone providers, and topping the list again is Verizon. They were followed closely by T-Mobile. The same companies are ranked first and second by J.D. Power and Associates, as well. At the bottom is Cingular, which recently gobbled up AT&T Wireless.
Incidentally, Verizon is the only major cell service NOT putting its subscribers names into a cell-phone directory to be made available to marketing companies. They don't want their customers to be bombarded with junk telemarketing calls and text messages.
Posted by Michael at 8:54 AM
Friday, February 11, 2005
A wild turkey in Whittier, Iowa has died doing what he did best - chasing cars.
Scientists discover that one of Saturn's moons actually looks like the Star Wars Death Star.
German postal services are still delivering mail addressed to Hitler. Good news: he might have just won $10 million from Publishers Clearinghouse.
South Dakota man with 30+ DUI convictions arrested again.
Middle school student makes like Monty Hall, gives away many, many $100 bills in school.
Posted by Michael at 4:12 PM
Thursday, February 10, 2005
If you know me or have been reading this blog for very long, you'll know I work in the television business. Like nearly all industries, more and more of our work involves computers. Ninety-nine percent of what we produce is done on computers. Everything is digital, the video we shoot and the audio we use. Yesterday, in post-production for our weekly TV show, the digital gods reinforced that it's truly their domain, and we are all at their mercy. Murphy's Law really applies, with extreme prejudice, in the digital world.
When problems arose in an analog editing suite, they were generally easy to diagnose. In our digital suites... forget about it. Digital routers, video with embedded digital audio, serial interfaces, digital-to-analog converters, analog-to-digital converters, AES/EBU, SDI, 4:1:1 and 4:2:2 compression, bitrates, firewire, RAID storage, high definition... there's too many places for problems to lurk. Yesterday, we were reminded that the digital world is different.
And now, we're preparing to move another step forward. It's called Final Cut Pro, and it's apparently the hottest thing in digital editing. The movie "Cold Mountain" was edited using it. The TV show Scrubs is put together with it. Exciting sure, but after a day like yesterday, excitement tempered with great fear. Don't upset the digital gods!
Posted by Michael at 8:55 AM
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Augsburg College, a Lutheran institution in Minneapolis, is hosting a lecture event called the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. As part of the forum, a seminar is scheduled titled, "Fighting Terrorism with Empathy: a Model for Peace". Here's the actual description:
The word terrorism strikes a deep nerve among Americans today--having sparked an entire nation to the defense of its country and the subjugation of those who stand in opposition. One of these men who stand in opposition is the man who planned the September 11 attacks. In November 2004, Osama Bin Laden released a tape giving his recipe for a healthy nation. This seminar would dissect his message and use audience participation in doing so. Discussion points would include counterterrorism methods, the possibility of peace, empathy etc. The aim of this seminar would be to help understand the position of Osama Bin Laden as presented in the video and explore in what ways the origins of terrorism are to be found, not in some foreign citizen, but in the actions we take out of fear, hate and retribution.Guess it's safe to say that Augsburg College is a LIBERAL arts school, huh?
Posted by Michael at 6:40 PM
Monday, February 07, 2005
The annual Super Bowl bash went well this year. We had seven people, not too big, but an improvement on recent years. A good time was had by all, and it was a good game.
I made one of those spur of the moment impulse decisions today and picked up something new for the house. It's a digital video recorder (DVR) from my cable company. This joker's got fifty hours of record time, it can record two programs on two different channels at the same time, and it accesses the HD channels the cable comapny delivers. I don't have an HD set, but they still show as widescreen (letterboxed) channels on my TV. It's really cool.
Posted by Michael at 8:07 PM
Friday, February 04, 2005
The annual Super Bowl Party is on for this weekend, and it looks like we'll have a house full of folks. I hope the game's good, but I'm not predicting a close one. I wasn't too far off with last year's guess; let's see if I can get closer this time...
My prediction: New England 37, Philadelphia 23.
(For the record, last year I said N.E. would beat Carolina 27-20, and the final was 32-29)
Posted by Michael at 3:26 PM
While participating in a news conference Wednesday, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback fielded an awkward question from a paralyzed 17-year-old boy.
"Hey Daunte," said J.T. Townsend. "Can I get some ice?" -- a reference to the $100,000, diamond-encrusted necklace around Culpepper's neck.
With cameras rolling, Culpepper walked over to Townsend and thrilled him by hanging the necklace around his neck. Later, Culpepper sought out Townsend and put the chain back on. At Culpepper's request, Townsend's parents wrote down his address and contact information. Culpepper promised to send him gifts and memorabilia.
A genuine moment, showing the nice side of a professional athlete. Yet, the media tried to make Culpepper look bad by saying he gave the necklace to the boy, then took it back when the cameras stopped rolling.
The true story comes from Kevin Seifert of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Here's what he witnessed first hand:
We were standing at Culpepper's side when the transaction took place. There was no animosity, no hurt feelings and no accusations of impropriety -- only thank-yous from Townsend, his parents and a doctor nearby.Unfortunately, stories from Mark Long of the Associated Press and other outlets, like the Detroit Free-Press, present a mistaken view of what happened, and give a terribly wrong impression of Culpepper.
The AP version of the story, however, in essence painted Culpepper as a spoiled athlete who "sheepishly" took away a gift from a paralyzed teenager once the cameras stopped shooting. Newspapers and Internet sites picked up the story nationally. One problem: Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Anyone who has met Culpepper knows he wears the necklace every day. He has for years. Garish as it might be -- its main ornament is a 6-inch hot pepper -- it carries sentimental and personal value. Since when is anyone -- athlete, actor, politician or average schmoe -- obligated to hand over personal possessions permanently when someone asks? Or should Culpepper have shot down the request and embarrassed Townsend on television?
If that's your story, then the next time someone asks you for your wedding ring or a sweater your grandmother knitted, you better cough it up. Or else find some real news to write about.
As the folks at Scout.com put it, "Why let the facts get in the way of a juicy story?"
Posted by Michael at 2:58 PM
During a press conference in San Diego on Tuesday, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Mattis won many supporters, and inflamed bed-wetting pascifists, with the following comments:
"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."Gen. Mattis commanded troops in Iraq and Afhganistan, and is slated to be portrayed by Harrison Ford in a new movie. He knows first-hand the kind of people we face over there. The left hates these comments, but I sure like them.
Posted by Michael at 8:50 AM
Atlanta Falcons running back Warrick Dunn has been chosen to receive the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, the NFL's only award recognizing a player's work in the community. A nice award for one of Atlanta sports' really good people.
Posted by Michael at 8:39 AM
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Who Was Charles Ponzi and What's He Got To Do With You?
Charles K. Ponzi was born in Italy in the early 1880s, and immigrated to Canada in 1903. He would later be convicted of forgery and serve time in a Canadian prison. Shortly after his release, we was caught smuggling people across the border into the U.S. That led to two years in the Atlanta Federal Prison. Apparently a lifetime con artist, Ponzi achieved his greatest notoriety in New England in 1920.
Ponzi came up with a scam that would forever bear his name. He convinced investors to give him money, with which he would by postal reply coupons.
About Postal Reply Coupons
This is very general, but should give some background. Say someone in the U.S. sent a letter to a person in Austria, and wanted that person to write back. They couldn't send a postage-paid reply envelope, because American stamps would be no good in Austria. Instead, they would purchase and send a postage reply coupon. In theory, the coupon would hold the same value in all participating countries. After World War I, though, currency values had raised the value of these coupons in some countries over their value in others. The money required to buy one coupon in one country might buy two or more coupons in another country. That gave Ponzi an idea.
The Ponzi Scheme
Charles convinced his investors that he could take advantage of the differences in value by trade these postal reply coupons like currency, promising as much as a 50% return on invbestment money. He sold people on the idea that he was purchasing the coupons, at a discount, in depressed economies and making a profit by exchanging them here. He claimed to have a network of foreign agents gathering coupons abroad to keep up with the demand. He would use money coming from investors to pay off other investors. In actuality, none of his story was true. He would pay off the earliest investors entirely out of money paid into the scheme by newer investors, then those new investors would be paid by subsequent new investors. Of course, Ponzi was the central moneymaker in the scheme. Eventually it collapsed, like all such schemes will, and Ponzi was jailed and, later, deported.
The term "Ponzi Scheme" came to refer to any simple fraud whereby initial investors are paid exceptional dividends as interest cheques from the deposits of a growing number of new investors. "Profits" to investors are not created by the success of the underlying business venture but instead are derived fraudulently from the capital contributions of other investors. A few people invest in the scheme, then as news of the offer spreads, more investors are drawn in. Usually there is no actual investment involved, contrary to your understanding, just money being shipped in from new investors to the earlier ones.
What This Has To Do With You
Read that last sentence again: "...just money being shipped in from new investors to the earlier ones." This is the reason such an idea doesn't work. Eventually, you'll have more people owed money than you have money coming in to pay them. When that happens, the scheme fails. And it always happens.
If you have taken time to read about Social Security, and to understand how it actually operates, you already know where I'm going. You see, the money that's paid out in Social Security benefits to retireees today comes from the Social Security tax paid by American workers today. The beliefis that recipients are getting their money back from their 30 or 40 years in the workplace. Sorry, but it just ain't so. The money we pay into Social Security this year goes to retirees in Social Security payments this year.
Paying off earlier investors from the deposits of new investors... this plan works only as long as there are more working Americans than there are retirees drawing benefits. Eventually, with advances in health care and longer lifespans, those numebrs do reverse. That's the situation we're going to be facing in the very near future. There will be millions of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age. They'll start to draw that money they "invested" in Social Security. There will be more retirees than workers in this country. Before long, the government will be paying out more to them than they will be collecting each week from you and me. What happens then?
Like all Ponzi Schemes (and don't kid yourself, this IS a government-run Ponzi), the plan will collapse. Either the investors (us) will realize our money isn't going to be around and we will demand change, or the game will continue until one month retirees receive Social Secutriy checks for only a portion of their benefits. Or maybe they receive no check at all.
Don't believe me? Do the research. Do the math. Look into it and see the truth for yourself. There are changes being proposed that would make the future of today's workers a little bit safer. Older generations scoff at the idea that Social Security will not be around for us "youngsters". How many of them, though, believe the money they get every month is actually what they put in? They don't realize that the money they paid into Social Security was gone almost as soon as they paid it .
Now, they're getting our money.
Posted by Michael at 8:44 AM
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Certainly one of President Bush's best speeches. He was very assertive, very clear and concise. I thought he did a fantastic job of setting the agenda for the next four years.
The first half of the speech was domestic issues, including Social Security reform. He clearly laid out his reason for promoting reform. It was a shame to hear some of the Libs groaning and muttering while he spelled out the future being predicted for Social Security. The system is in trouble, and of this there can be no denial.
Thirteen years from now, in 2018, Social Security will be paying out more than it takes in. And every year afterward will bring a new shortfall, bigger than the year before.
For example, in the year 2027, the government will somehow have to come up with an extra $200 billion to keep the system afloat, and by 2033, the annual shortfall would be more than $300 billion. By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt. If steps are not taken to avert that outcome, the only solutions would be drastically higher taxes, massive new borrowing, or sudden and severe cuts in Social Security benefits or other government programs.
The Dems would argue that President Bush is exaggerating the situation in 2042 by calling the program "bankrupt." They would tell you that there would still be 70 cents in the pot for every dollar promised to retirees. If you only had 70 percent of the money you needed to pay your bills, you couldn't get very far before you had to declare bankruptcy. I think the term fits.
An impressive maneuver on the President's part was naming off several prominent Democrats and proposals they had made to reform Social Security.
Private retirement savings accounts are such a great deal for younger Americans. They would earn better returns than Social Security, plus the government would be unable to touch them. Also, the money could be passed on to one's heirs.
Other fine points: working to make the tax code fair, easy to understand, and pro-growth; implementation of new immigration policy; and support for faith-based community groups and initiatives.
The second half of the speech covered international matters and the war on terror. He said we're going to stay in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East until we finish the job. He promised support for those who stand up for freedom in the Middle East. Moreover, he all but called out Iraq...
Today, Iran remains the world's primary state sponsor of terror, pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing, and end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.Republicans across the House chamber held up fingers with blue ink on them, in symbolic support of the eight million Iraqis who voted in that nation's election last Sunday. The most touching moment, and one that brought a tear to so many eyes, was the introduction of the parents of a soldier killed in Fallujah.
The President pledged to continue encouraging the spread of freedom around the globe.
If you missed the speech, or would like to read what was said, here's a complete transcript of the speech...
As Franklin Roosevelt once reminded Americans, "Each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth." And we live in the country where the biggest dreams are born.
The abolition of slavery was only a dream until it was fulfilled. The liberation of Europe from fascism was only a dream until it was achieved. The fall of imperial communism was only a dream until, one day, it was accomplished.
Our generation has dreams of its own, and we also go forward with confidence. The road of providence is uneven and unpredictable, yet we know where it leads: It leads to freedom.
Posted by Michael at 10:34 PM
The athletics department at Savannah State University is in the midst of a momentous, historic run. Unfortunately, not in a good way. The men's basketball team is 0-24 this season, trying to avoid becoming the second Division I team in the last 50 years to go winless. And that's just the beginning of the problems. The school made the jump up from Division II in 2002, and it hasn't been easy. Among their other problems...
- Last year the Savannah State women's basketball team set an NCAA record for fewest points in a half, scoring three in the first half of a 107-28 loss to Florida State.
- The softball team was winless, and was outscored 166-0 in its last 20 games.
- Baseball coach Jamie Rigdon, whose 279 victories are the most in school history, has sued three school administrators, including the president, for racial discrimination. (Rigdon is Caucasian; the defendants in the suit are African-American.)
Posted by Michael at 3:04 PM
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
I missed it with the ice storm last weekend, but Saturday was A Word From The Right's (gratuitous link!) first anniversary. It doesn't seem like a year since all this began, but 250 posts and approximately 70,000 words later, here we are. I want to thank all of you who I know read this mess pretty regularly, as well as those who lurk secretly. Please feel free to comment on what I've written, suggest links, call me on something, or whatever. And click on the ads to the right and visit the sponsors. It helps pay the bills! (I know I'm a sellout.)
Also, if you have a blog you'd like me to link to, that'll work. I'd appreciate a link on yours as well.
Thanks for a great first year. I'll try to do better in year two.
Posted by Michael at 5:42 PM
Howard Dean wants to run the Democratic National Committee, and boy I hope he gets it! We need to reinforce the line that seperates conservatiles and liberals, and what better way to do it than to get this buffoon in charge on the blue party. These were Dean's comments to a crowd of Democrats last Saturday:
"I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for... We cannot be 'Republican Lite' if we want to win elections ever again."I agree. Let Dean lead, and follow his example. Give the nation a clear choice conservatives and liberals. The Democrats have been in a bit of a rut. Maybe a swing even farther to the left will help. I say go for it!
Posted by Michael at 8:30 AM