March 30, 2005
Government run contest awards $20k in essay contest - but not everyone is allowed to enter
|[Posted by james]|
What's more egregious, the government giving away $20,000 of taxpayer funds to a private party in an essay contest or restricting that contest such that not all taxpayers are eligible to enter? If you ask me, it's a tough call.
Montgomery County, MD seems to disagree with me,as they are doing both for what looks like the ninth consecutive year:
The "Break the Barrier to Home Ownership Contest" provides a $15,000 grant to help with closing costs and a down payment.
To qualify for the reward you must write a 200 word essay titled "What Home Ownership Means To Me."
The contest is in its 9th year. To date, some $72,000 has been awarded.
Along with the essay, contestants must fill out an entry form and live in Montgomery County.
(Editor's Note: the official contest rules say that the total prize is $20,000, not $15,000 as this article states.)
I'm the first to admit that promotion of home ownership is arguably a valid government objective, but I can't for the life of me see how this reasonably works to attain that objective. After all, this plan can help, at most, ONE FAMILY. I can think of thousands of better ways to spend the money than this.
Putting aside the fact that it seems fundamentally wrong for the government to be running giveaway contests like this with taxpayer funds, consider this: this isn't even a random drawing - it's an essay contest, which means that it effectively excludes the very people that it's supposed to be helping, namely uneducated, low-income people.
And then there is this, from the official rules:
To be eligible, applicants must be first- time home buyers who live in Montgomery County, Maryland. The following maximum income limits apply:
Household Size Maximum Income*
3 or more $97,520
So the very people that are paying for this egrigious contest are themselves ineligible to enter - I know that my liberal friends will disagree, but I think that this is also fundamentally unjust. It's not quite the same thing as taxing X to pay Y, which is done all of the time - this is taxing X to run a contest that only a certain subset of people can enter.
Ignoring, for the moment, all other issues and causes of action, I'd point out that
this seems unconstitutional to me in at least one key way: the people intended to benefit, namely low-income first-time home buyers, aren't all equally qualified to win. Many don't have the proper education to write an essay, many are non-native english speakers, which puts them at an inherent disadvantage. It can't be the case that the government can dole out benefits selectively in a such way that disenfranchises members of the targeted group, especially where that targeted group will be disproportionally composed of members of a protected class, otherwise that would be a violation of Equal Protection. (I think i have a Due Process argument along the same lines as well)
Hmmm, as a matter of fact, it just occured to me that the Court might hold this to be a violation of the recently resurrected privileges and immunities clause, ala Roe v. Saenz, 526 U.S. 489 (1999). I'll have to review the case. Anyone with more knowledge of Con Law than me have an opinion on that?
March 29, 2005
Amazing Race Recap-Episode 5
|[Posted by ]|
So, last week I said that "a lot of the tension of the Race is philiminated when you dislike all three of the lagging teams". Well, this week was the complete opposite. Let me tell ya, my heart was pounding when my darling brothers and the evil Ray & Deanna were in a footrace to the Amazing Bathmat. And THANK GOD Brian & Greg won. I adore these two. They're funny and sweet, even if they're not great drivers.
For Ray & Deanna, I hope this wasn't just the end of the Race for them, but also the end of their on-again, off-again relationship. Deanna had it exactly right when she said that Ray needs to learn that relationships aren't just about him. You'd think a man his age would get over some of his selfishness. Wasn't it especially sweet that these were Philiminated before the oldsters Meredith & Gretchen. I'm sure that still pisses Ray off.
I like the addition to the non-elimination penalty. After the first leg of this two-leg episode, not only did Meredith & Gretchen lose all their money and not get money for the second leg, they also lost all of their posessions except for the clothes on their back and their passports. I think that's great. Teams should be harshly penalized for finishing last, even in non-elims.
I should say, that as much fun as I've made of Gretchen, I really admired her tonight. She cut herself pretty badly in the caves and showed a lot of pluck in continuing. Some of the women in this Race and past Races would've cried and whined their way out of the competition. Of course, her injuries prevent me from pointing out her dirty words of the week. Ah well, maybe next time.
Rob & Amber were clearly cast as the villains. Unlike every other team, they didn't stop for Brian & Greg's car accident. Now, I understand it's a race, but all they needed to do was slow down, roll down the windows and make sure that everyone was okay. Plus, you could see that someone was hurt on the ground. You all may not know this, but the camera crews rotate among all the teams, so it's likely that Rob & Amber had traveled with the cameraman who was injured. It's not like this was some stranger. I think they showed a lack of common decency. I'm not throwing in the towel on them, but I do like them much less than last week.
Also, I think this week showed that there are some big chinks in their relationship. You could sense Rob's frustration when he was practically begging Amber to make some decisions. At some point, I want her to at least be an equal partner in the team, but I don't know if that's going to happen. She's seems happiest when she's just coasting along.
Lynn & Alex were a little more tolerable this week, while Ron & Kelly were just as invisible. Those two are good competitors, but there's nothing about them that interests me.
I'm glad that the trip to the orphanage made Uchenna and Joyce think about adoption again. They are so supportive of each other and they seem like they'd be wonderful with children. They could make some kids so happy.
A couple of other notes:
- I was really disappointed with the flight situation. In the past, trips from South America to Africa really required the teams to work the airport hard. This was too easy. I want to see teams scrambling for flights. Heck, I want to see teams on different flights for once.
- There were a couple of great editing moments with the kids in the orphanage. First, Brian & Greg dancing around like dorks and admonishing the kids with "don't do drugs". Later, Meredith & Gretchen told the kids to "be good". Hilariously, while they were saying this we see one kid bonk another kid on the head with a ball. Good stuff.
- I liked the running joke throughout the episode of teams calling Meredith "she". He's the boy named Sue.
- The brothers are still my favorite team. Without Ray & Deanna, I think Ron & Kelly are my least favorites. I don't dislike them, I just wouldn't miss them if they were Philiminated next week.
Episode 4: Mendoza, Argentina to Buenos Aires, Argentina
Episode 3: Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina
Episode 2: Cuzco, Peru to Santiago, Chile
Episode 1: Long Beach, CA to Cuzco, Peru
Democracy v. Stability in the Middle East
|[Posted by ]|
I know Reuters has its biases, but the latest article I read has literally left me gaping in disbelief.
The gist of the peace is that "liberal" Arab "reformers" are worried that America is putting "freedom" (hey, if Reuters insists on putting scare quotes around freedom, why expect me to do any less) ahead of stability in the Middle East.
A liberal Arab diplomat, who asked not to be named, said: "They seem to be supporting chaos and instability as a pretext for bringing democracy. But people would rather live under undemocratic rule than in the chaotic atmosphere of Iraq, for example, which the Americans tout as a model."
How does this "liberal" Arab diplomat know? Did the people vote on it or something? These "liberals" also worry that unfettered democracy will result in extremist regimes. Of course, I'd ask, compared to what? I'd also point them to opinion polls in Iraq, which show the exact opposite of their theory.
But that's not what left me gaping. It's what these "liberal" Arabs claim is the reason America is standing up for freedom. It's not, as Condi Rice has suggested, that:
the United States was willing to take a gamble on "democratic institutions" having a "moderating influence" in the region.
"Can we be certain of that? No. But do I think there's a strong certainty that the Middle East was not going to stay stable anyway? Yes. And when you know that the status quo is no longer defensible, then you have to be willing to move in another direction," she said.
Nope. America doesn't believe in freedom. Instead, Reuters would have us believe, it's all an Israeli scheme to destroy Arab regimes:
Mohamed el-Sayed Said said Rice's approach appeared to have links with a trend in right-wing Israeli thinking that favors destabilising Arab governments and societies.
"We see an emphasis on destruction and we see that Israel is willing to push Arab societies to the abyss without caring for stability. We suspect these ideas came from Israel," he added.
Reuters prints this propaganda, this crap, spewed from "liberal" Arabs with no backup, no balance, no nothing. Their reporter could have written an insightful article about the real challenges of bringing democracy to the Middle East. But instead they choose to spread more of the same old anti-American, anti-Israel propaganda.
Johnnie Cochran Dead at 67
|[Posted by John Tant]|
Fox News reporting Johnnie Cochran died at age 67 due to a brain disorder/tumor.
More info as it becomes available. Our condolences to the Cochran family.
Update: The family has issued the following statement:
Family Statement on Cochran
The family of Attorney Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. and members of The Cochran Firm are deeply saddened by the passing of Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. The world has lost not only a legendary attorney, but an outstanding humanitarian. He passed away at his home today at 12:30pst of a brain tumor.
Certainly, Johnnie's career will be noted as one marked by 'celebrity' cases and clientele. But he and his family were most proud of the work he did on behalf of those in the community. As Johnnie always said, 'an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' It was his rallying cry as he worked to right many wrongs, and as he provided a voice to those who needed to be heard. He was deeply committed to helping and inspiring others- especially young people. His extraordinary law career will undoubtedly stand the test of time. But it was his devotion to his fellow human beings that will remain as his true legacy.
Australian School : Eat Healthy Or Not At All
|[Posted by John Tant]|
While listening to the Cam Edwards show yesterday, I caught a story about an Australian school that had concerns about what their students were bringing in their lunches. So the school instituted a policy...teachers would be handed a list of acceptable foods, and if the lunches did not have those foods the offending items would be taken away from the student. The parents would then be called to a meeting with the school principal.
A few thoughts....
First, have you ever HAD a school-provided lunch? I can only imagine what a Commonwealth lunch would taste like. It ain't Outback, folks.
Second, do teachers really have nothing better to do with their time than audit a kid's lunch? Is that really the opinion of the administrators?
Third, I, the Parent, claim the right and responsibility to feed my kid. If I want to give him the new Burger King Omelette Sandwich then that's my decision. I know the motives of the school are likely pure, but still...
Fourth, if you take away my kid's lunch then I will come down to the school and eat yours. The message here is it's better to starve than to eat a Ding-Dong (and dammit, what IS the deal with starving these days?!? Is this the new liberal cause celebre?!?). Well I want to pack a lunch for my kid to eat, and the standard will be his willingness to eat it, not your willingness to let him.
Fifth, what are you going to do on evenings and weekends? Send the teacher over to my house?
I should point out that after looking into this, it doesn't appear to be an official policy of all Aussie schools. To me the most objectionable thing here is the taking away of the items not on the school's approved list. The Aussies already distribute recommended food lists to parents, and I'm thinking that's about reasonable. Anything more than that, and there are boundary issues.
March 28, 2005
Bobby Seale's Spiel
|[Posted by ]|
Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale will be in Madison Friday night for a speech on the UW-Madison campus. Now, I'm fine with Seale speaking on campus. But, other than the fact that it's what Jimmy Zoole named his cat in P.S. Your Cat is Dead, I don't know a thing about him.
Seale served time for conspiracy and inciting to riot, in the wake of the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention. Since 2002, he's worked on youth education programs with an organization called Reach!
On one hand, good for him. But, on the other, what exactly is he teaching these kids? Read these paragraphs from his website and tell me what the heck he's saying. I have no idea, although "Bush sucks" is probably in there somewhere:
"All Power To All The People!" Righteous down home peoples power is what I advocated in the sixties, and what I say today. That is, "...toward a future world of cooperational humanism!" Beyond the myopic notions and strict doctrinaire ideologies of past "politburo" state control command economy socialism. More important let's get beyond the present extremist practices of avaricious racist corporate monopoly globalizing capitalism having evolved a system which concentrates 90% of all the political-economic power in to the hands of the one percent cooperate money-rich around this OUR earth.
Democracy? HOW ABOUT Greater constitutional "direct" democracy? i.e. greater peoples' decision making participatory Community Control democracy? This form has a greater three dimensional democratic character. A true peoples' democratic synthesis are ideas to begin to get creative with. "All power to all the people," was my BPP sixties creative protest demand.
I need a lefty to English translator.
Living Wills in Wisconsin
|[Posted by ]|
With the Terri Schiavo case on everyone's minds, now is an opportune time to think about making your own Living Will and deciding who will have your Power of Attorney for Health Care.
The State of Wisconsin has these documents available online, and I would imagine most other states do as well. You don't need an attorney to use them. You just need to fill them out and have two witnesses. You should keep a copy and also give one to your physician.
With a Living Will, you are essentially declaring what kind of life-sustaining measures you want if you are in various conditions. The Power of Attorney for Health Care makes it possible for adults to authorize other individuals to make health care decisons on their behalf if they are incapacitated.
My sister (known here as KV Big Sis) has done many Living Wills for clients, and her office provides an ADDENDUM TO THE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE form that gets into more specific detail about what you may want done in specific situations. Some of the types of statements you can agree or disagree to are things like this:
- Do not use feeding tubes, including stomach tubes, nasogastric tubes, which are placed down the nose, or intravenous feedings, except to increase my comfort or reduce my pain.
- Err on the side of over-medication rather than under-medication for pain, even if taking such may result in my death. For me, the goal of pain management is total relief of pain regardless of the risks.
- Remember that I want to be an organ and tissue donor. If the requirements for organ donation conflict with my wishes above, I direct that such actions be taken so as to preserve organ function and permit organ donation to occur.
- Be an active advocate as my Power of Attorney for Health Care. Do not simply give in to decisions that physicians make. Ask questions and understand proposals, challenge assumptions and be prepared to say no to care which I would not want and to demand care that I would want
Their form also goes on to give you the opportunity to describe levels of disability you're willing to accept and declare any other thoughts you may have. Like I said above, you don't need an attorney to do this, but I'd imagine that most attorneys would have forms like this that will help you better communicate your wishes to both your physician and the family member(s) that may have to make decisions for you.
Obviously, this isn't fun stuff to deal with, but better to think and talk about it now than go through what the Schiavos and Schindlers are dealing with.
March 26, 2005
A Study in Belief
|[Posted by ]|
Tonight the Illinois basketball team snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. They defeated Arizona in overtime after trailing by 15 points with 4 minutes remaining. Wow. Hopefully Wisconsin and Michigan State will win tomorrow and join them in the Final Four.
After the game, we decided to read the game thread on Illini Nation. It's a classic study in defeatism, faith and, finally, joy. Here's a sample.
Sorry guys..the fat lady; she be warming up...
It's been a good season.
It's a shame this game had to end this way.
I think I'm going to vomit. This is making me sick to my stomach. I hate Arizona.
I just can't believe that it's over. I simply can't believe it.
the fat beotch has been called off stage
I don't mean to sound like a cynic (I'm not), but I have had a lifetime of disappointments when it comes to my sports teams. I am not surprised.
I'm not watching, but I have seen this before. This is where your heart gets torn out and shown to you before you die!
Holy crap. Please...
THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE!!!!
I LOVE THIS TEAM!!!!!
HAPPIEST OVERTIME EVER!!!!!!!!
OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!! OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!! OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!
Five minutes for the rest of your life and a game NOBODY can EVER take away from you....LET'S GO ILLINI!!!!
Please don't stomp on my heart Illini.
I'm literally peeing my pants right now.
I can't believe Adams shot just went in.
I think I would have given up my first born for Deron's last shot to go down. (Just kidding).
We're screwed now.
Oh crap, one last shot...we know who its going to.
i'm so nervous. i can't feel my knees
WE'RE GOING TO THE FINAL FOUR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Simply put, the greatest game I have ever seen in my life. Told you there was a run left....
Not to trivialize God but what an EASTER RESURRECTION!!!!
THERE IS A GOD!!!!!! I LOVE LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If You Want To Be A Badger...
|[Posted by ]|
If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me,
By the light, by the light, by the light of the moon.
If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me,
By the bright shining light of the moon.
By the light of the moon, by the light of the moon,
By the bright shining light, by the light of the moon.
If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me,
By the bright shining light of the moon.
Our beloved Wisconsin Badgers are in basketball's Elite Eight. Tomorrow afternoon they'll face #1 seed North Carolina with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Most national pundits won't give the Badgers a chance. And, in truth, Bucky does face a daunting task. But before you decide the Badgers are hopeless or that they don't belong here or that they got lucky in who they've faced so far, think about this: Wisconsin is now 25-8. Of those 8 losses, half are to teams still in the tournament. The Badgers lost three times to Illinois and once to Michigan State (they also beat Sparty once). And while the Badgers haven't been able to beat Illinois, they've given them a good run in every game. In particular, if they had been able to hit free throws, they would have handed Illinois a loss back in January in Madison.
Wisconsin is not a bad team. In fact, they're a very, very good team, and have been for years now. Just how good, we'll find out Sunday.
LET'S GO RED!
March 25, 2005
A Suggestion For Your Living Will
|[Posted by ]|
I found this over at e-Claire:
If someone can really request "an overdose of a pleasure-causing chemical should he be in a terminal condition and unable to communicate", I don't see why you couldn't specify this.
March 24, 2005
My Kind of Republican
|[Posted by ]|
I've been predicting the coming split in the Republican Party for nearly a year now. I'm not the only one. Today alone, Sharp As A Marble said:
I've been battling with something for a while now. I really, really, really want to remove the R from my voter's registration card. I'm not a Republican, at least not in the sense of how the GOP sees themselves. To me, the only difference between Democrats and Republicans these days are basically defense issues. Neither party stands for smaller government, neither respects your right of liberty.
In coming years, political historians might look back and try to pinpoint the day or week or month that the Republican Party shed the last vestiges of its small-government philosophy. If and when they do, the week just past should make the short list. For it was in this last week that the Republican-controlled Congress made it clear that it sees no area of American life -- none too trivial and none too intimate -- that the federal government should not permeate with its power.
My whole life, I've thought of Republicans as the party of liberty, both at home and abroad. Now I'm afraid many of them are nothing but Democrats in hawk's clothing. It's a depressing thought, but luckily it was easy to find some inspiration. To right the Right's course, one need look no further than Barry Goldwater. I just read his classic 1964 nomination speech again. I've never read a finer articulation of conservative ideals. I want to quote nearly everything in it, but I've chosen three passages that should resonate with those of seeking a return to a liberty-loving small government.
I think this one is particularly interesting in light of this week of, as Sager said, "steroids and Schiavo":
Security from domestic violence, no less than from foreign aggression, is the most elementary and fundamental purpose of any government, and a government that cannot fulfill that purpose is one that cannot long command the loyalty of its citizens. History shows us - demonstrates that nothing - nothing prepares the way for tyranny more than the failure of public officials to keep the streets from bullies and marauders.
Now, we Republicans see all this as more, much more, than the rest: of mere political differences or mere political mistakes. We see this as the result of a fundamentally and absolutely wrong view of man, his nature and his destiny. Those who seek to live your lives for you, to take your liberties in return for relieving you of yours, those who elevate the state and downgrade the citizen must see ultimately a world in which earthly power can be substituted for divine will, and this Nation was founded upon the rejection of that notion and upon the acceptance of God as the author of freedom.
Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed. Their mistaken course stems from false notions of equality, ladies and gentlemen. Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.
Even though he was speaking of communism, Goldwater's words still make a hell of a lot of sense when applied to our current War on Terror:
It is further the cause of Republicanism to restore a clear understanding of the tyranny of man over man in the world at large. It is our cause to dispel the foggy thinking which avoids hard decisions in the illusion that a world of conflict will somehow mysteriously resolve itself into a world of harmony, if we just don't rock the boat or irritate the forces of aggression - and this is hogwash.
Finally, I love this quote. Goldwater used the word "diversity" over and over again in this speech and it's interesting to see how, over the last 40 years, diversity has gone from being a natural result of small government to something that must be foisted on us by a far more powerful government:
We see, in private property and in economy based upon and fostering private property, the one way to make government a durable ally of the whole man, rather than his determined enemy. We see in the sanctity of private property the only durable foundation for constitutional government in a free society. And beyond that, we see, in cherished diversity of ways, diversity of thoughts, of motives and accomplishments. We do not seek to lead anyone's life for him - we seek only to secure his rights and to guarantee him opportunity to strive, with government performing only those needed and constitutionally sanctioned tasks which cannot otherwise be performed.
It's long past time that our Grand Party return to some of these Old ideas. Let's put the "O" back in the GOP.
March 23, 2005
A Surefire Way to Pick a Champion
|[Posted by ]|
The NCAA basketball tourney starts up again tomorrow night. I don't know about you, but my bracket is in shambles. You can watch all the games and read everything you can get your hands on, and still not win your pool. Maybe a new approach is needed. Maybe, just maybe, there's an easy way to figure out who is going to win the National Championship.
In that spirit, I'm proud to present my mascot based brackets. The idea here is simple. Rather than worrying about three-point shooting and defense, all you have to worry about is determining which mascot wins a mythical matchup. Here's how I think it would shake out.
Illinois Fighting Illini v. Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers: While panthers are undoubtably fierce cats, we're talking about fighting Illini. That means they have weapons. I think some angry, armed Illini hunters can take down a panther.
Arizona Wildcats v. Oklahoma State Cowboys: Since the cowboys are sure to have guns and horses, I think they can easily take the Wildcats. Pistol Pete rides again!
This sets up the classic matchup of cowboys v. indians. And folks, we know who won that one. So, I look for Oklahoma State to come out of the Chicago regional.
Louisville Cardinals v. Washington Huskies: This is a tough one. Huskies are clearly tougher, but cardinals can fly. So, the cardinal might be able to get away from a husky, but could it really defeat the husky? I think all it could do is poop on its head. The winner, in a TKO, is the husky.
West Virginia Mountaineers v. Texas Tech Red Raiders: What well-matched opponents. To me, this game is decided by the terrain it's fought on. Mountaineers would win in the mountains, while Red Raiders would take the game in the plains. Even then it's tough as Albuquerque is on a plateau. Since both plateaus and plains are nice and flat, I'm going with a Red Raider win.
This leads us to a husky v. Red Raider matchup. I think the huskies will suffer outside of their cold climate and succumb to the Red Raiders' weaponry. In a shocker, Texas Tech comes out of Albuquerque.
North Carolina State Wolfpack v. Wisconsin Badgers: I know badgers are ornery little creatures, but there's no way they can hold their own against an entire wolfpack. One on one, they'd have a shot, but they'll be done in by the plurals of NC State.
Villanova Wildcats v. North Carolina Tarheels: This one required a little research on my part. Apparently the term tarheel is derived from the nickname given to North Carolina troops in the Civil War. Once again we have a battle between armed humans and wild animals. I'm taking the humans.
Ah, but here's the rub. Can a tarheel defeat an entire wolfpack? I don't think so. I think the soldier could take one or two of them, but the rest of the pack would take him down. Therefore, expect North Carolina State to come out of Syracuse.
Michigan State Spartans v. Duke Blue Devils: Spartans were known throughout the ancient world as great fighters, but the devil's the devil. It takes a lot more than that to beat the devil, particularly a super hot blue devil.
Utah Utes v. Kentucky Wildcats: Again with wildcats. Seeing as the Utes probably hunt animals like wildcats all the time, I'm giving them the edge. Some of these schools need to learn that wildcats aren't world beaters.
The Utes match up against the Blue Devils, and, let's face it, all their mystical powers are no match for Satan. Satan, err, Duke wins the Austin regional.
Oklahoma State Cowboys v. Texas Tech Red Raiders: If cowboys could defeat fighting Illini, they'll have no problem dispatching with red raiders. After all, cowboys deal with bandits all the time.
North Carolina State Wolfpack v. Duke Blue Devils: I think blue devils don't just defeat a wolfpack, they control the pack. The pack is powerless against them. Duke should win this one easily.
Our final match up is the Cowboys v. the Blue Devils. This should be a slam dunk for the Blue Devils, right? Not so fast, my blog-reading friend. One thing can defeat the devil and that's the power of good. And, as every red-blooded American knows, the classic symbol of good is the white-hatted cowboy. That means that our next national champion is none other than the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Remember, you read it here first.
The wide, wide, American Idol field
|[Posted by John Tant]|
66% of the Dummocrats staff are into The Amazing Race. Sadly, I've not seen it. I'm an American Idol viewer, which in the pantheon of reality shows tends to put me on a par with the average Wheel of Fortune contestant. Whatever.
I guess I like it because in a former life, I was tangentially connected to the music world, although it was classical and not pop. But still, it's kind of interesting to see the public presentation of the "artiste" on shows like this and know what's likely going on behind the scenes. Suffice it to say it's a crappy world, obsessed with labels and niches (it's no accident that "niche" is Paula Abdul's favorite word...she's probably heard it all her professional life.).
Anyway, after watching last night (and inspired by a Daily Page thread), I thought I'd write up some general thoughts.
It's a wide field, and unusually so in my opinion. I think there are two people who are way out in the Red Zone, and everyone else is wandering on their own 10 yard line. Those two are Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice.
Carrie undoubtedly has the look of the pop singer. She's the young, cute, blonde, non-saggy pop tart. She's non-threatening. Safe. And yes, she has talent in no small amount. My main complaint with her is that she's largely untrained or self-taught. That's fine if you're limited to singing ballads at the Bumbletweed County Fair, but when it comes to the big leagues those limitations become more apparent. With that said, it's certainly reasonable to point out that the majority of the pop audience doesn't even care...I give you Madonna's early career.
Bo Bice is almost the antithesis of Carrie. He's not what you think of when you think pop music. He's older and doesn't seem as approachable. And if you were to badger me incessantly about it, I might admit he doesn't have as much raw talent as others in the show. But what he does have in spades is professionalism and experience. He knows what he's capable of and he excels at it. During the inane parts of the earlier shows (like when they were talking about their astrological signs) you could sense this undercurrent of disgust from him at having to put up with it. That isn't his thing. He's the kind of musician who shows up on time, ready to play, does so very well, and then leaves with no fanfare or diva attitude. He takes his craft seriously. And I respect the hell out of that.
As for the others, I view them as largely unremarkable. Your mileage may vary.
update: Looks like there was a problem with the voting, and we're going to have a do-over:
According to an "Idol" statement released early Wednesday morning, "due to an error with the graphics shown on-screen, incorrect voting numbers were displayed during the performance recap at the end of [Tuesday's show] a live, one-hour show will air Wednesday, 9:00-10:00 p.m. to enable a re-vote. This new show will combine new live elements with encores of Tuesday's performances from the remaining 11 contestants."
March 22, 2005
Amazing Race Recap-Episode 4
|[Posted by ]|
Let me start off by saying that a lot of the tension of the Race is philiminated when you dislike all three of the lagging teams. Let's review:
Ray & Deanna: are hateful. Ray hates Deanna, old people, skinny people and even horses. Deanna probably should hate Ray, but apparently doesn't. At least today (hence the "dating on and off" tag). They have this incredible sense of entitlement about where they should be in the race but have done nothing other than follow Rob's coattails in a leg to earn it. You've got to earn it, baby. Although, to balance this all out with something nice, I did giggle when Ray assured Deanna that her horse wasn't broken. Any reference to Colin's classic "My ox is BROKEN!" exclamation from Season 5 is a good thing.
Meredith & Gretchen: seem like a perfectly nice couple, but they're so damn inept. Tonight they had to be told to catch a cab at the taxi stand. The taxi stand? Who would have thought of THAT? Once you hit a certain age, you must also clearly lose any sense of what the word "hurry" means. Of course, perhaps that just means that Meredith has a "slow hand" if you know what I mean. And believe me, Gretchen does. She's something of a dirty old woman, isn't she? Last week it was asking Meredith if he wanted mouth to mouth, not to mention her sly insinuation of the ways she makes it up to him for being so annoying. This week she referred to the three trailing teams as a "menage a trois". I shudder to think of what she'll come up with next.
Susan & Patrick: are whiners. Well, I shouldn't say that about Susan, but Patrick certainly is. If he "whatever"ed one more time tonight I was ready to leap through the TV screen to give him a piece of my mind. But, to his credit, in his post-Philimination comments, he did seem to gain a little self-awareness. I laughed out loud when he said that maybe he needed to lighten up a little bit. Maybe? You think?
Now on to the teams with a real chance of winning.
Rob & Amber: were simply awesome again. Sure they lucked out in finding the roadblock so easily, but Rob did it quickly enough for them to catch up to the top four teams. I loved the moment where they boarded the plane. The other teams can bitch (and to a certain extent, rightly so) about Rob giving up on the meat roadblock, but the simple fact is that when the teams start at the same point, Rob & Amber inevitably find their way to the lead.
Brian & Greg: have regained their spot as my favorite team. I don't think they're anywhere near the racers that Rob & Amber are, but they're not bad and I'm a sucker for their dorkiness. However, it seems like they're not very careful sometimes. I worry that they'll be the team that misreads a clue and totally blows a detour one of these times.
Uchenna & Joyce: are continuing to charm me. I thought she showed admirable spunk when she got bucked off her wild horse again and again, but got right back on and kept trying to complete the roadblock. I suspect that Deanna would have completely fallen apart in that situation. Of course, Uchenna is a much better partner than Ray too. These two just have an engaging quality about them that I enjoy watching.
Ray & Kelly: are still non-entities to me. In fact, I nearly posted this recap before I realized I had forgotten about them. They're this year's Team Who.
Lynn & Alex: Ugh. These two bug the hell out of me. Their boat is sinking and all they can think about is how happy they are that Rob & Amber aren't near them. Newsflash fellas: the name of the show isn't "The Amazing Race To Beat Rob & Amber". They've got to get over this fixation they have with those two. It's annoying to watch and I think teams have enough to do worrying about themselves, without having to constantly keep an eye out for another team.
Overall, I thought tonight's episode was the worst of the season, although it's still much better than last year. The tasks weren't that interesting and the teams didn't really have any interaction with the locals. Even the animal-related task was a little disappointing.
Next week, on the other hand, looks well, amazing. The teams head to Africa and, in the 30 second preview we saw: Meredith falling and bleeding badly, Uchenna and Joyce (who haven't been able to conceive) on an emotional visit to an orphanage and Brian & Greg in a terrible car crash (oh no!). It looks fantastic and I can't wait.
Another take on the episode from the Viking Pundit.
Dems Still Seeking An Election They Can Win
|[Posted by ]|
The good folks at Madison's Capital Times have come up with another beauty of an idea today. They want Madison to join San Francisco and some communities in Vermont in holding a referendum on the Iraq War.
Local lefty John Nichols says:
Unfortunately, when Madison voters go to the polls two weeks from today, they will not have an opportunity to register their sentiments. And, because this is a so-called "off year" for elections, Madisonians won't have another regularly scheduled local election until next February.
That does not mean, however, that Madisonians have to wait almost a year to send a message to the president.
The Madison Metropolitan School District is planning to hold a special referendum in May. Polling stations will be staffed, ballots will be printed and citizens will be expected to cast their ballots anyway. Why not place an advisory referendum regarding the war on the May ballot?
Didn't Madisonians and the rest of America have a chance to "send a message to the President" back in November? Is Nichols' problem that Madisonians can't send a message now, or is that he didn't like the "keep up the good work" message that Americans did send the President?
It's especially interesting that Nichols suggests that this vote be coupled with the school district's referendum. The school district has already been widely criticized because many think they've purposely scheduled their vote to make sure the turnout's low. They're afraid that if the referendum was held at a regular election time, they'd lose the fight for more funding. In other words, like Nichols, they're doing all they can to find an election they can finally win.
Minnesota School Shooter Message Board Posts
|[Posted by james]|
Weise may have posted messages on a neo-Nazi Web site expressing admiration for Adolf Hitler, going by the nickname "Todesengel," which is German for Angel of Death. In the first posting under that name, the writer identified himself as Jeff Weise of the Red Lake Reservation
An example excerpt:
Title: Re: Native American Nationalists?
Post by Todesengel on Apr 19th, 2004, 11:41pm
Hmn, after a recent discussion with some misinformed people I had to ask you guys, why are people so close minded?
By the way, I'm being blamed for a threat on the school I attend because someone said they were going to shoot up the school on 4/20, Hitlers birthday, and just because I claim being a National Socialist, guess whom they've pinned?
Separating the NCAA heroics from the true Heroes
|[Posted by james]|
CBS Sportsline hits the nail on the head with this piece that lists the top 10 heroic moments of the tourney so far. Fittingly, the honor of being #1 goes to a little known coach for actions that took place off the court:
The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament saw a handful of heroic performances, but only one hero.
1. Kevin Kuwik, Ohio: The Ohio assistant coach left early Tuesday for Iraq, where he will complete the second half of his 18-month tour of duty with the U.S. Army. Kuwik, a captain in the Army reserves, used his 15-day leave to be with the Bobcats in the NCAA Tournament. He's the biggest hero on this list. The only hero, frankly.
I couldn't agree more - - it's the actions of heroes like Kevin Kuwik that afford us the luxury of enjoying March Madness to its fullest. If you see a serviceman over the next few weeks, be sure take a few minutes from your heated discussion about which #1 seed is "really" the best to thank him for making certain that's the most pressing controversy in your life.
Choosing How It Ends
|[Posted by ]|
I really don't want to discuss Terri Schiavo. I feel like a) the facts of the case are in dispute and you can read conflicting things all over the Internet about it and b) people far smarter than me have tackled some of the legal aspects of it.
Then, I read Rachel Lucas' take on the whole thing:
Let's see. I have a dog named Sunny, as many of you know. I signed a contract at the pound taking responsibility for her and I clearly am her legal "next of kin." Now, it's very likely that some day, Sunny will have arthritis in her hips and legs, and she might eventually be unable to move around on her own.
So! Who knows Sunny better than me? No one! So you must take my word for it when I say that I "know" Sunny would not want to suffer from arthritis to the point that she couldn't even walk around. Really, she wouldn't. I am telling you.
So here's my idea to (1) save time and money, (2) to fulfill Sunny's "wishes", and (3) to enforce her "rights": when she gets to the point where the arthritis in her hips and legs is so severe that she can't even stand up and/or walk over to the food and water bowls....WE JUST LET HER LAY THERE AND DIE!!
That's what gets to me about this case. Why does she have to be starved to death? That's what's so horrific to me. We don't really know how much she's aware of, but I do know that her family and the people who have taken care of her for all of these years are aware of it. Even if Terri Schiavo doesn't know and can't feel what's going on, these people can. Imagine how hard it would be to lose a loved one to a vegetative state and then imagine how hard it would be to watch them starve to death. Just imagine, for a moment, that everyone agreed that Schiavo was beyond hope and had expressed a wish to not be kept alive. Why in the world couldn't she receive a lethal injection instead? For Badini's sake, when Go For Wand broke her leg in the 1990 Breeder's Cup, they didn't just leave her hobbling on the track, they put her out of her misery. Why don't people get the same consideration?
I know that some of our readers have drafted living wills and here's my question. Could I write a living will that says that if I'm in a vegetative state and there's no hope, that I want to die, but that I don't want to be starved to death? Could I legally state that I wanted to be killed with a lethal injection?
I'd guess that this falls under the same laws as physician-assisted suicide (an aside-I support physician-assisted suicide, but I have to say that Dr. Kevorkian did his cause no good by being such a creepy lover of death), but it's not quite the same thing. I'd like to know specifically what would stop me from demanding how my life be ended.
The Schiavo case is really horrible, but maybe some good can come out of it. Maybe more people will get living wills and maybe we'll change some laws (if necessary) so that we'll be as humane to our fellow men and women as we are to our pets.
March 21, 2005
Coming Soon: The Left's Glenn Close Moment
|[Posted by ]|
The usual suspects marched in Madison and throughout the world this weekend to protest the Iraq war. And, while it's fun to reflect on the irony of the "Not In My Name" folks in the aftermath of the Iraqi elections and the Arab spring, I'm really struck by this quote in a Capital Times article about the protests:
Carol Hannah, an organizer with the group Peace North, said Americans aren't paying enough attention to the ongoing loss of life and millions of dollars being spent in Iraq.
"This is a silent war, and people are ignoring it. They're not hearing what's going on, they're not listening to it," Hannah said, adding that soldiers overseas are aware of the lack of interest at home. "We wanted to send a real strong message that says you are not forgotten. We support you, and we want you home."
Iraq is a "silent war"? Is she kidding? Her problem isn't that people are ignoring Iraq, it's that they're ignoring her.
Driving around Madison, I've often seen cars with bumper stickers saying "If You're Not Outraged, You're Not Paying Attention". That seems to be the current message of the Left. There's no room for legitimate differences of opinion. If you don't fall into line with the conventional wisdom of the Left, you're "brain dead" or "evil" or you're a victim of biased alternative media outlets.
What I'm afraid of it that sooner or later the Left is going to have a Glenn Close moment. They "will be not be ignored!". What's the political equivalent of boiling a bunny?
March 20, 2005
NCAA Basketball Tourney Update
|[Posted by ]|
Yahoo! is pretty slow to update the overall scores in our pool, so I took a look and ran the numbers and here's where we all stand.
|Team Name||Current Points||Sweet Sixteen||Elite Eight||Final Four||Champion|
|Countertop's Dummocrats Picks||50||11||6||3|
|Not Going To Win||45||10||6||3||Duke|
|Longhorn Mafia||44||9||6||3||North Carolina|
|John Tant's Horrible Picks||43||9||4||2||North Carolina|
|Sir Chums-A-Lot||41||7||4||3||North Carolina|
|Foul Weather Fan||41||9||5||3||North Carolina|
|March Hares||39||7||5||3||North Carolina|
|Mike With A Glock||30||6||4||2||Oklahoma State|
Countertop has led throughout, but with his championship pick of Wake Forest out, can he maintain that position? And, check out boomshakalakah with 7 of her elite eight picks still in the mix!
Personally, since I was one of the few people in our pool to not have North Carolina in the Final Four, I hope that Wisconsin disposes of both North Carolina and NC State next weekend and goes on to meet Illinois for the fourth time this season, this time for all the marbles. Yeah, I know it's not going to happen, but a girl can dream.
On a negative note for fellow Badger fans, the basketball team will play the early game Friday night in Syracuse, while the puck drops for the hockey team in their first round NCAA game at nearly the same time in Grand Rapids, MI. It really sucks that we can't watch both.
March 19, 2005
Banned By The BBC
|[Posted by ]|
Now that I have my iPod, I've been spending a lot of time going through my CD collection to put songs on it. It's like rediscovering old friends. One such old friend is the wonderful Split Enz's song "Six Months in a Leaky Boat". For those of you who aren't familiar with the early 1980s New Zealand pop scene, Split Enz is most famous for hits like "I Got You" and "One Step Ahead". The band also later spawned Crowded House, who hit it big with "Don't Dream It's Over".
Anyway, with the release of "Six Months in a Leaky Boat", Split Enz were poised to make it big internationally. Unfortunately for them, the BBC banned the song because, at a time when England was fighting the Falklands War, the title was considered "too provocative". Here are the lyrics to this scathing, anti-war song:
When I was a young boy
I wanted to sail around the world
That's the life for me, living on the sea
Spirit of a sailor, circumnavigates the globe
The lust of a pioneer, will acknowledge
I remember you by, thunderclap in the sky
Lightning flash, tempers flare,
'round the horn if you dare
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Lucky just to keep afloat
Aotearoa, rugged individual
Glisten like a pearl
At the bottom of the world
The tyranny of distance
Didn't stop the cavalier
So why should it stop me
I'll conquer and stay free
Ah c'mon all you lads
Let's forget and forgive
There's a world to explore
Tales to tell back on shore
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Six months in a leaky boat
Ship-wrecked love can be cruel
Don't be fooled by her kind
There's a wind in my sails
Will protect and prevail
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Nothing to it leaky boat.
Yep, that's it. While they were at it, I hope the BBC also banned pretty much everything by Jimmy Buffet. Not to mention "Brandy".
Hollywood liberals and singers from Linda Ronstadt to the Dixie Chicks have spent parts of the past couple of years whining about the "chilling of dissent" in "John Ashcroft's America" (I guess now it's "Alberto Gonzalez's America"). It's worth noting that those who opposed the likes of Michael Moore, Natalie Maines and Sean Penn were individual Americans exercising their own First Amendment rights. There's a huge difference between that and the restrictions on free speech made by the governments of other countries.
In America, both conservative wingnuts and liberal moonbats enjoy freedom of speech. Contrast that with the restrictions on speech in such "enlightened" countries as Canada, the Netherlands and yes, the UK.
Of course, we have to be ever-vigilant against those who would restrict our rights. We need to pay more attention to actual attempts to restrict speech and less to the whining of those whose real complaint is that too many people disagree with them.
Road to the Roses-Week 2
|[Posted by ]|
While the NCAA Tournament has most of the nation's bettor's attention, some of us are already dreaming of the first Saturday in May.
This weekend features four big prep races around the country. Here's a quick look:
Tampa Bay Derby: Nick Zito (yum), who seems to have about 300 good Derby prospects this year, runs Sun King here against an overmatched field. In fact, anything but a runaway victory by Sun King would be something of a disappointment. My pick: Sun King (I'm no fool).
Result: Sun King wins it!
Gothom Stakes: The nicely named Galloping Grocer was supposed to be the big horse in New York this spring. He hasn't quite panned out, but he gets another shot here. Galloping Grocer likes to run on the lead and he's very vulnerable if he gets caught up in a speed duel early in the race. Naughty New Yorker was able to take advantage of that last time and beat Galloping Grocer. In the Gothom, however, they'll both have to contend with Survivalist. Survivalist hasn't accomplished that much yet, but he has a great trainer and is bred to be a champion. My pick: Survivalist. I don't really think he's that good, but I'm not sold on his competition in here either.
Result: I'm right again as Survivalist wins and pays a healthy $8.90.
Rebel Stakes: This prep for the Arkansas Derby has a small field with three outstanding runners. The folks who brought you last year's Kentucky Derby winner, Smarty Jones, are back this year with the undefeated Rockport Harbor. This is his first race of the year, however, and I'm willing to bet he won't be at 100%. Afleet Alex has only finished worse than 2nd once in his career. But, the further they run, the less I like him. So, that leaves Greater Good. Rockport Harbor will probably turn out to be the better horse, but for today, my pick is Greater Good.
Result: Wow, today is just tragic. I have no money on any of these races, but all my picks are winning. Greater Good takes this one and pays a cool $11.20.
San Felipe Stakes: This final prep for the Santa Anita Derby is the biggest race of the weekend. Most of the good California horses will line up in the starting gate. Roman Ruler is one of my favorite three-year olds and I think he's incredibly talented. However, I don't expect him to run well in the wet conditions. Wayne Lukas will have Consolidator ready for a good effort and the stretch-running Breeders Cup Juvenile winner Wilko should be a factor too. But, I think the race comes down to two other closers: Giacomo and Don't Get Mad. This week, my pick is Don't Get Mad, but later in the season I think that Roman Ruler will get even.
Results: And my streak comes to an end as Consolidator, who I dismissed, wins it. The lesson? Never count out Mr. D. Wayne Lukas.
March 18, 2005
|[Posted by John Tant]|
I have been giving the Terri Schiavo situation quite a bit of thought as of late.
Ace has done a series of posts which I think are largely on the mark and make some pretty compelling and reasonable arguments. His main theme seems to be that Terri's "husband" (whom I call a HINO: Husband In Name Only) has a conflict of interest which is impairing his ability to be considered a reasonable guardian, and I have to agree. How else to explain the appalling lack of care for Terri? After reading about the neglect she has suffered, can anyone seriously doubt that this story would be reported much differently if Terri were, say, a ward of the State of Florida? If she were in a nursing home, the operator would be incarcerated, and rightfully so. Yet there seems to be little or no outrage over this.
And how to explain the Persian Bazaar-type diagnosis given by Dr. Cranford? This is a guy who seems to see PVS everywhere he turns, even in patients who can move around on their own. If Cranford is such an expert, why the resistance over having his conclusions evaluated and his defensiveness over his diagnosis?
Bottom line (and as Ace pointed out), this does not fit into the relatively neat cookie-cutter right-to-die concept (a concept I generally support, incidentally). It has to do with the scads and scads of reasonable doubt that permeates this case. Until there's a definite, non-slapdash diagnosis of PVS, I say we give the lady the benefit of the doubt and refrain from starving her to death.
Update Ace with yet more.
March 17, 2005
Hillary On My Mind
|[Posted by ]|
Earlier today, I was mulling writing a post about who I'd rather see inaugurated in 2009: John McCain or Hillary Clinton. I was inspired by an "anybody but Hillary" ad over on Ace. It got me to thinking, that actually, there are a lot of people I'd vote for Hillary Clinton over.
Then, I read a good post on Population 665 about some Republican self-examination of their criticism of Clinton. I've been saying this all along. If the "Hillary is the Devil" folks keep it up, in 2008, the Republicans will be in serious danger of sounding just like all the Bushhitler moonbats we make fun of today.
Finally, I took a peek at our Site Meter. Lo and behold, look at what I saw:
For those of you that don't remember, Rose Law Firm was Hillary's employer in Little Rock.
I wonder what it all means.
The Evolution of a Wisconsin Winter
|[Posted by ]|
With the recent rash of violence in the upper Midwest, some of you might be wondering what's going on with the supposedly mild mannered folks of the region. I have a theory. I believe some of these acts of violence, as well as thousands of unreported incidents are caused by Winter Induced Rage (or WIR).
Here's a quick look at how Winter Induced Rage develops in Wisconsin:
November: "Oooh, it's snowing! How new and exciting!"
December: "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!"
January: "30 below? Oh, that's nothing. We're tough!"
February: "It's snowing again, but hey, at least winter's almost over."
Unfortunately, WIR is now a raging epidemic in Wisconsin and the only known cure is a good dose of Spring. Keep us in your thoughts, good readers.
Irish Braised Beef
|[Posted by John Tant]|
Happy St. Patrick's day, everyone! In honor of the day, how about some Irish Braised Beef? Beats boiled leg of lamb....
3 pounds stew meat, the cheaper the better
All purpose flour
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tblsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tblsp tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
1 can or bottle of Guinness (Any beer will work, really)
Salt and pepper to taste
Dust the stew meat with the flour and working in batches, brown at high heat in a heavy, lightly oiled skillet. Remove meat from skillet and place in a dutch oven.
Add Guinness to the skillet and deglaze, scraping up all the brown bits with a wooden spatula. Add the liquid to the dutch oven along with the rest of the ingredients. Bring it up to a boil, give it all a stir, lid up your dutch oven and place in a 300 degree oven for 2-3 hours. It's done when the meat is fork tender.
Tant's Express Method:
Instead of using a dutch oven, get your grandmother's pressure cooker. Prepare the ingredients as above and toss it all in the pressure cooker, bring it to a boil, clamp on the lid and place it on high heat until you're at full pressure. Back off the heat and maintain your pressure for about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat, carefully release the pressure, and serve.
March 16, 2005
Bring Out Your Brackets
|[Posted by ]|
March Madness begins tomorrow! Join in on the fun in our Dummocrats NCAA pool.
Here's the scoop: Create a team on Yahoo! Then join our group. Here's the info you'll need:
Group ID: 35443
It's free to play and we will be giving away a fabulous cash prize of $25 to the winner! But, that's not all. Other prizes may include:
- A play-doh bust of James (Bust of what, you ask? You've gotta play to find out!)
- Texas-shaped homemade sugar cookies
- An autographed copy of our upcoming sitcom script
- Dinner with an exclusive cadre of fabulous female bloggers
- An all-expense paid trip to Dummocratsia
So for Badini's sake, what are you waiting for? Get your team now!
Violence v. Wrongful Violence
|[Posted by james]|
In his post about the recent case in which a federal district court held that a high school student couldn't be stopped from wearing a t-shirt bearing the Marine creed, Eugene Volokh had (yet another) highly quotable passage:
And they got it wrong because they made a basic error that's unfortunately far too common: They confused violence with wrongful violence.
Using guns to kill innocent classmates is obviously a heinous crime. Using a gun to defend yourself is perfectly proper. An American marine's using guns to kill the enemy is a necessary (though sometimes regrettable) duty. And while we should generally want to create a culture of law-abidingness, a culture of pacifism -- or a culture in which the Marine Creed is treated as the equivalent of gangsta rap -- is a recipe for national disaster.
Robert Blake Not Guilty
|[Posted by james]|
Robert Blake was just found not guilty of the murder of Bonnie Blakeley.
Was justice done, or is this another O.J.?
DC eyes medical malpractice reforms - Should Virginia and Maryland be worried?
|[Posted by james]|
DC Mayor Anthony William is pushing for medical malpractice reform in the District, blaming skyrocketing insurance costs for driving doctors away from the city:
The company that insures most doctors in D.C. says annual premiums for obstetricians and gynecologists have shot up from about $75,000 in 2000 to nearly $140,000 this year. It's projected to hit more than $235,000 by 2010.
The Medical Society of D.C. says 88 percent of OBGYN's it surveyed last year have moved, or plan to move their practice out of the District. ...
Williams says he'll reintroduce a bill he put forth last year, which would cap non-economic damages at $250,000, provide litigation immunity for health care workers at free clinics, and develop a system for reporting medical errors in hospitals.
I'm not sure how I feel about this legislation - I recognize that the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance is a problem, however, I'm not sure that capping lawsuit recovery amounts is the best way to deal with that problem. Rather, I think that the real problem lies in the fact that the whole sector doesn't operate on free-market principles, but that's the subject of another post.
I'm more interested in the immediate short-term effects of this legislation on the DC area medical community. Assuming that the law is passed, Maryland and Virginia physicians should be sufficiently incented to move their offices to the District, thus leaving a physician-vacuum in those states. This would lead to DC becoming a physician-rich area, which in turn would benefit the local economy and supplement the tax base.
The increase in the supply of services would bring with it an increase in demand as well, so at least initially the supply/demand curve may be unchanged. But it probably wouldn't stay that way for long - given the disparity in the laws between jurisdictions, and the ease of travel, the rational patient should prefer to see a doctor in Maryland or Virginia, while a rational insurance company should prefer that the patients travel to the District for his medical care. Due to the unequal bargaining power between the parties, the insurance companies would likely win, leading to a shortage of availability of medical services in DC. (i.e. 10 times more docs, but 30 times more patients.)
In addition, this disparity could also lead to a tiered system of medical care in the DC region - - those able to afford more expensive insurance would be treated in Bethesda and Arlington, while those least able to afford medical care would be stuck with a newly created and overburdened system plagued by long wait times and possible substandard care.
Are my concerns in this area warranted? If so, then it seems to me that Virginia and Maryland residents have a huge stake in the outcome of the upcoming council hearings.
Iraqi Parliament Sworn In Today
|[Posted by John Tant]|
Congratulations to the Iraqi Parliament, sworn in today and holding their first meeting as Iraq's first freely elected government in 50 years. And kudos for your courage to do so in the face of terrorists who would prefer you didn't.
Also, thanks to the Washington Post Foreign Service for taking a break from looking for things President Bush is hiding and deigning to write about this. Further thanks for the extra drama you injected into your story.
Update: Hugh Hewitt reports that Phil Bennett's interview with the Chinese state paper "People's Daily" was creatively edited. Whether his line about looking for what Bush is hiding in Iraq was his or added post-interview by the paper's editor is still unanswered. However, if the choice comes down to believing Phil Bennett or a communist newspaper editor (I know, some choice...), my sense is to give Bennett the benefit of the doubt on this one.
March 15, 2005
Amazing Race Recap-Episode 3
|[Posted by ]|
Update: Read the episode 4 recap here.
Oh that dastardly Rob. Now normally, the Amazing Race really is just about getting from here to there the fastest. But Rob's added a whole new level of genius. He was smart enough to quickly realize he couldn't complete the meat-eating roadblock and persuasive enough to convice Ray & Deanna and Meredith & Gretchen that they couldn't either, thereby guaranteeing that he and Amber wouldn't finish last. It was a brilliant maneuver. Rob and Amber couldn't outrace this leg's winners, Lynn & Alex and they couldn't out-eat Uchenna & Joyce, Brian & Greg or Ron & Kelly, but they are well on their way to outwitting the entire field. Bravo, I say. Bravo!
As for the Philimination, I was a little sad to see Debbie & Bianca go, as it would be nice for an all-female team to do well. But, not only did they drive over 2 hours in the wrong direction, they also mocked the locals who basically told them they weren't driving toward Argentina.
The Amazing Editors were fantastic tonight. My favorite bit was when Susan & Patrick were on their way to the roadblock and hoping that they'd be able to "get a bite to eat there". I will say, however, that they should have thrown in a little ominous music to complete the moment.
Rob & Amber: They played the roadblock well, but I do wish they would have completed it. Sure, this is a game, but I want a team to accomplish the tasks, not just figure out ways to get around them. I still really like them, but I want to see them excel more.
Brian & Greg: I'm back to loving these guys again. They're dorks, but they're my kind of dorks. I love their singing and imitations, and they did a great job tonight, even though they had some bad luck when their bikes broke down.
Uchenna & Joyce: I originally called them "Team Sob Story", but I think they're really Team Exuberant. Joyce rocked in the rafting detour and Uchenna was a tremendous eating machine. And they had so much fun doing it!
I'm neutral on:
Ron & Kelly: They're perfectly nice and capable. But, at the same time, they're perfectly bland. If they stick around hopefully they'll start to show some personality.
Lynn & Alex: I really want to like these guys and they did a great job in this leg. But, I'm so annoyed by their obsession with Rob & Amber. It's not about beating Rob & Amber! If they'd just run their own race they'd be fine.
Ray & Deanna: Ray seems like a giant ass and Deanna does nothing but put up with it. We've seen that dynamic too often in the last few races and I don't want to see it again. I hope they're gone soon.
Meredith & Gretchen: Actually, I've got nothing against Meredith, but Gretchen annoys the crap out of me. To her credit, she knows she's annoying. I was seriously creeped out by the implications of what Gretchen might do to "make it up" to Meredith for putting up with her. Yikes!
Susan & Patrick: How could they drive around Santiago for nearly TWO HOURS without stopping and finding someone to help them get out of the city. You can't be that helpless on the Race. You know, I'm interested in seeing the relationship between a mother and son and how they do the Race together, I just don't personally like these two that much. It's disappointing.
Next week: animals. I'm sure that wacky hijinks will ensue.
United Nations Double Standard
|[Posted by John Tant]|
Travel with me if you will to an alternate, John Titor-type universe.
It's 2005. The United States has troops in Iraq as a peacekeeping measure while the Iraqi interim government gets their country put together. A story comes out about what the Pentagon calls "sexual misconduct." Namely, US troops have been going to clubs in Iraq which are frequented by young girls, some barely 12 years old, and engaging in sex acts with them. In return, the troops give the girls ten bucks or some food.
Further developments show this is probably the least objectionable action taken by US troops. In other areas, troops were actively looking for teen and pre-teen girls and sexually abusing them. When reached for comment, a Pentagon spokesman said simply "Boys will be boys." This on the heels of further revelations of US troops operating brothels and used US equipment to traffic women from other countries.
That would be pretty damned outrageous, wouldn't it? You think Tailhook was a scandal...the press would never let go of this story and I'd wager we'd get a Presidential resignation (if not impeachment) out of it.
Why then, oh why, the virtual silence on this exact story when the cast of characters is not the US military or the Iraqi people, but the United Nations, their "peacekeepers," and the residents of such countries as Liberia, Haiti, Burundi, and other countries? Frankly, I'm amazed the Washington Post covered it at all, although I do note it's on page A22 of the Sunday paper, so I wouldn't exactly call it vigorous coverage.
But look at the euphemisms used by the story. A "culture of sexual permissiveness?" Give me a break. This isn't sexual permissiveness...this is rape. And it isn't like we're looking at any serious incentive for these people to stop with their "permissiveness" either. From the story:
But senior U.N. officials say they have signaled their seriousness by imposing new reforms and forcing senior U.N. military commanders and officials to step down if they do not curb such practices.
Um....step down. That's it?!? Trafficking in 12 year old girls and forcing them to perform sex acts for your command is merely worthy of a resignation? And not even a resignation from the military, but merely as a UN commander or an official? And that's only if they get caught, ridiculous when the people responsible for catching them say things like, as Yasushi Akashi (top UN official in Cambodia) said of similar "permissiveness" in Cambodia: "Boys will be boys."
The UN had (note past tense) some serious potential as a force for good in the world, potential which was squandered. The faster we disassociate ourselves from this worthless organization until they get their act together, the better. In fact, I think we should create a better, faster UN and call it The Justice League of America. I know what their first mission would be.
March 14, 2005
Top Ten Real Reasons Why There Are 'No' Female Bloggers
|[Posted by ]|
Once again, bloggers and mainstream media reporters are wringing their hands over the perceived lack of female bloggers. I've written about this before, but the issue just won't go away. Today Chris Nolan of Politics from Left to Right gives her own top ten reasons.
Like Chris, I too am a female blogger cursed with a "Pat"-like name. Because of that, and because of some of the topics I tackle, readers often assume I'm a man. People that actually know me would find this hilarious. In my circle of friends, even the girliest girls won't pass up a Badger game. A love of sports, like a love of blogging, isn't necessarily passed down to just those with a Y chromosome.
But then again, maybe we should all just embrace those feminine stereotypes. And in that spirit, I present:
10. Her monitor is full of white-out.
9. Still too weak in the knees to type after reeling from the overwhelming sexual attractiveness of John Kerry's and John Edward's lush, full heads of hair.
8. Deathly afraid of mice.
7. Hasn't figured out how to solicit political opinions from Fluff Fluff and Mr. Huggins.
6. Can't figure out how to read the map of the blogosphere.
5. The Manolo, he has already cornered the market for the blogging of the shoes.
4. Can only blog 25 days out of every month.
3. Political polls are too much like math.
2. Tragically confused about the term "link whore".
1. Still hasn't found the right pajamas.
A Picture is Worth Hundreds of Thousands of Words
|[Posted by ]|
In a continuing display of oneupmanship, Little Green Footballs posts on anti-Syria protests in Beirut.
Apparently, unlike the previous anti-Syria protests, this one also included many Sunni Muslims. It must be an exciting time to live in the Middle East. We saw what happened in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s: when people get just a whiff of freedom, it's hard to stop them from demanding more.
Viva la Cedar Revolution!
Another photo, found at WesRoth.com
Richard Hatch: IRS Cheat
|[Posted by John Tant]|
I was originally going to post this as a comment on the Daily Links page, but this story was riddled with so much goofiness that I wanted to make it a post.
It concerns Richard Hatch (no, not Apollo...the large, naked, homosexual Richard Hatch from Survivor) and his failure to pay income taxes on his Survivor prize money, as well as money paid to him by a Boston radio station.
I'm an accountant, and guys like Hatch are the reason why I hated dealing with taxes and tax filers. You always find some dolt who says this:
Richard Hatch, the first winner of CBS' "Survivor," said he thought the network was responsible for paying the taxes on his $1 million prize and that's why he didn't pay them.
and then follows it up with this:
Hatch told AP Radio Friday in an interview from Los Angeles that he was "absolutely not guilty."
Sir, you had income, and by your own admission you didn't pay taxes on it. Sounds guilty to me. Oh, but it gets better:
Hatch's lawyer, Michael Minns, told AP Radio that under California law, Hatch should have been classified as a CBS employee and therefore CBS was responsible for withholding taxes from his winnings.
"He was under the impression that they were either going to withhold from the check or pay the tax, and apparently neither occurred," Minns said.
OK, if he was under that impression, where did he ask about not having a pay stub attached to his check that showed the deduction? Why no alarm at not receiving a W-2? Seems to me that's something any "employee" would wonder about. So if he thought he was an employee, did he not call Mark "Marky Mark" Burnett or some CBS bigwig about it? In fact, let's look at the legal theory his lawyer is putting forth. He's saying Hatch should have been classified as a CBS employee. But that's not the way TV works, at least as I understand it (I used to be a bank examiner in Los Angeles and had the rare treat of looking through a network's financials as part of a loan review...and no, I won't say which network or which bank.). The ever luscious Jorja Fox of CSI is not a CBS employee...she is an employee of Alliance Atlantis Communications, which produces CSI. AAC then sells the show to CBS to air. CBS turns around and sells commercial time during the CSI broadcast, which is how it makes money.
Similarly, if Hatch was considered an "employee," it would have been with Castaway Television Productions Ltd., not CBS. But even Minns' reasoning is goofy, because as an "employee" Hatch would have had to fill out a bunch of employment paperwork, paperwork I bet he never was given -- because he was never an employee. Further, I'd bet his contract for appearing on the show covered the payout and specifically said he was responsible for paying the taxes, hence his lawyer's odd phrasing that Hatch "should have been" classified as a CBS employee.
Well, he wasn't. And he shouldn't have been. If anything, he was an independent contractor and I bet the contract language reflected that. In fact, I'm pretty sure Hatch did receive a 1099 showing receipt of the mill....after all, that's how the IRS knew about it, right? Or are we supposed to believe there are IRS employees who do nothing but watch for reality TV show winners and look through their subsequent tax returns? For you tax "honesty" proponents, don't bother answering...it's a rhetorical.
Anyway, it gets better. Hatch also failed to disclose $321,000 which was paid to him by a Boston radio station. Well, notice there isn't an excuse for that oversight. What, did his mythical status as a CBS employee hold him tax exempt for payments from New England radio stations?
Evidently not...rather it's something else:
Hatch said he was unfairly targeted by the IRS and prosecutors.
"I'm being used as an example, as a scapegoat. And I'm innocent," he said. "This is nothing more than their effort to use my notoriety to get other people to pay taxes."
Is that doublespeak for "I'm being targeted because I'm gay?" Even if I'm being paranoid about Hatch's statement, he still makes no sense. The laws apply to everyone. That he's a "notorious" figure (which I doubt...I still say most people who recognize the name Richard Hatch still think 70s television) doesn't indemnify him from tax laws.
It could be this is an honest mistake on his part. I vigorously doubt it, but the possibility exists. Still, mistakes hold consequences, even honest ones. Even assuming Hatch's explanation is correct, he was still negligent because it is his responsibility to make sure the taxes are all squared away...not anyone else's.
Future reality show winners, take note.
March 13, 2005
Dummocrats' NCAA Basketball Pool
|[Posted by ]|
It's Selection Sunday and, if you're like us, you'll be spending part of the next couple of days filling out your various brackets. So, why not add one more to the list. We are going to run a pool through Yahoo! You need to create a team here and then join the Dummocrats group. Our info is:
Group ID: 35443
It's free to play and we will be giving a fabulous cash prize of $25 to the winner! We'll also throw in a fun, smaller prize. We're not sure what that'll be yet, so please throw some suggestions our way.
Yahoo doesn't count Tuesday's play-in game, so you have until Thursday morning to make your picks. The scoring system gives you one point for the first round, 2 for the second, 4th for the third and so on.
A few final notes:
1. I always finish last in pools. So don't worry about competing with me.
2. Since I'll have a team in the field, there's no way you can finish last, so even if you know nothing about basketball, have some fun and join us!
3. Go Badgers!
To help you all out, CBS has a nice printable bracket here. And, if you're not a basketball fan, but still want to play (and please do!), CBS also has some expert picks that should help you fill out your bracket.
|Update: We already have 14 teams signed up. Don't wait until the last minute, because our group is limited to 50 teams!.|
Quote of the Day
|[Posted by ]|
Victor Davis Hanson has an excellent column reviewing the success and failure of American policies since 9/11. I'm really drawn to this quote:
The Middle East is in flux, as the autocracies in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia reel from the earthquakes in Afghanistan and Iraq. Like it or not, this is not the time for half-measures, but rather the hour for a uniform American policy that promotes democratic reform and thus predicates our aid, weapons, friendship — almost everything — on the degree to which Middle Eastern societies are free.
This what the Bush Doctrine will be known for: the faith that a free people will prosper and will no longer be a threat to the outside world.
A couple of weeks ago, James, John and I (as well as many of our readers) took a Moral Politics Test to visually see where we all fell on the political axis. James noticed that on the shorter two-question test that the only way to get into the Republican category was to say that most or all people are fundamentally bad. I think that notion is fundamentally flawed. And this just perfectly illustrates why. Conservatives believe that, if freed, most people will do good things and reject terrorism and fundamentalism.
This is still a pretty radical notion, as Hanson says:
How odd that conservatives, usually derided for their multicultural insensitivity and blinkered approach to the world abroad, had far more confidence in the Arab street than did liberals at home and Euro elites who patronized Arabs as nice "others" who were "different" rather than oppressed by murderous thugs in the manner of former Russians, Hungarians, Bosnians, and Afghans.
Let's hope that the Arab spring blossoms into a full blown summer. If it does, the world will be a much safer, freer place for us all.
You Might Remember Him From Such Events As The 2004 Presidential Campaign
|[Posted by ]|
P.J. O'Rourke has just a stellar John Kerry quote in his latest Weekly Standard column. Kerry was picking up the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library "Distinguished American Award" when he decided to take a jab at the 1st Amendment:
We learned that the mainstream media, over the course of the last year, did a pretty good job of discerning. But there's a subculture and a sub-media that talks and keeps things going for entertainment purposes rather than for the flow of information. And that has a profound impact and undermines what we call the mainstream media of the country. And so the decision-making ability of the American electorate has been profoundly impacted as a consequence of that. The question is, what are we going to do about it?
Wow. Does Kerry really think that the government should do something about bloggers and talk radio and the like because they're threatening the mainstream media's information monopoly? It's one thing to have some sour grapes, it's quite another to subtly suggest that the alternative media needs to be kept in check simply because they all didn't tow the mainstream media's pro-Kerry party line.
It's been over four months since the election and the Dems still think they lost because of Fox News, because the Republicans cheated and because Middle America is stupid.
March 12, 2005
The Road to the Roses-Week 1
|[Posted by ]|
In eight weeks, they'll run the 131st Kentucky Derby. In my long lifetime as a horse racing fan, I've picked exactly two Derby winners, but that doesn't stop me from trying.
This year, my two favorites, the two-year old champion Declan's Moon and the $4.5 million Fusaichi Samurai, are already out of the running with minor injuries. Even so, there's a few colts (and one filly) I have my eye on around the country. I'm going to try to post Dery updates here weekly and hopefully by the first Saturday in May I'll have picked a winner and made a few of you in horse racing fans.
Here's what's going on around the country.
Without Declan's Moon, the class of California is probably Roman Ruler. He's been hampered in his training by the terrible weather out West this winter, but he should make his 3-year old debut next week. If all goes well he'll probably be my new Derby pick (God help him). I also like Going Wild who finished a good second to Declan's Moon last weekend, Don't Get Mad who'll do better as the distances get longer, and the wonderful, towering filly champion Sweet Catomine. Last year's Breeders Cup Juvenile winner Wilko is also in California, but I'm just not that impressed with him.
The Louisiana Derby is today and the favorite is likely to be the stretch-running A.P. Indy colt Scipion. Another one to watch is Kansas City Boy. Down in Arkansas, Afleet Alex ran a tremendous race last weekend and, in light of Declan's Moon's injury, is probably the new Derby favorite. But, he will have to face Rockport Harbor soon. This colt has the same connections as last year's Derby winner Smarty Jones. We'll see if lightning can strike twice.
The sexy trainer Nick Zito has four legitimate Derby horses in his stable: Sun King, a son of 1999 Derby winner Charismatic, who will run in next week's Tampa Bay Derby, Andromeda's Hero, a colt by 2000 Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, Noble Causeway, and last week's Fountain of Youth winner High Fly. I also rather fancy Bandini, yet another son of Fusaichi Pegasus. These Florida & New York horses will really sort themselves out starting next weekend with the Gotham Stakes in New York.
1. Roman Ruler
4. Sun King
5. Don't Get Mad
March 11, 2005
Top Ten New Names for the Washington Redskins
|[Posted by ]|
With the movement to remove Native American nicknames from the sports world in the news in Wisconsin (again), our thoughts naturally turned to the most offensive team in sports (no, not the Minnesota Vikings): the Washington Redskins.
How this team manages to keep their name boggles the mind, especially when you consider that DC's basketball franchise had to go from the Bullets to the Wizards because that was too offensive. Anyway, we suspect it's only a matter of time before the Redskins are forced to go the way of the Bullets. And, because we're nothing if not helpful, we've prepared our own Top Ten New Names for the Washington Redskins.
10. Let's just get the obvious out of the way. The Washington Crack Hos would be a great name. It references DC history and describes some natives. The could also be conveniently shortened to just the "Hos" (like the Avs and Nats). Furthermore, sports writers would have fun saying things like "The Hos really cracked their opponents today."
9. Along those same lines, the Washington Bitches is our next choice. What we like about this name is the obvious motto: "We'll Set You Up!"
8. Our next name gives the franchise a couple of options. They could go with the more traditional sounding Washington Swamp Monsters or opt for the trendier sounding Washington Swamp. Personally, I prefer The Swamp. Once again, this name would be gold for local sports writers, although I'm sure the locals will get sick of reading headlines about the team getting "swamped" by the opposition.
7. The Washington Cherries would give the team an obvious local flavor. However, what I really love about this name is the double entendre. Call me a 12-year old boy if you must, but I would so giggle and blush everytime someone made a remark about the Cherries "popping" someone or something. Heh. I love it.
6. For a topical choice, the team could do worse than changing their name to the Washington 911. However, according to DC natives, the team would probably have some major problems with holding.
5. Wouldn't a name like the Washington Taxmen strike fear in the hearts of the rest of the NFL? I know they'd scare the crap out of me! Plus, with Michael Jackson's legal troubles, I think it's quite likely that he'd be willing to sell the rights to The Beatles' song to the team. Beware: the Taxmen cometh!
4. The Washington Panderers would combine the characteristics of natives like Mei Xiang and Tian Tian and um, every politician in the city.
3. For truth in advertising, since the Skins actually play in Landover, you can't beat the Maryland Sprawl. Plus, it's another trendy-sounding name. Of course, I'm sure there are some eco-terrorists out there that'll be all offended because they'll claim the team name glorifies suburbia. They can bite me.
2. If the team is more interested in being fun, than fierce, we think that the Washington Party Animals would be a good choice. Plus, it's a bipartisan name that everyone could get behind. And isn't agreeing all the time what politics is really all about?
1. Finally, at number one we have the Washington Red Tape. Talk about fearsome! The Red Tape should have no problem foiling the opposition both on the field and in the front office. I'd expect this team to have both byzantine defensive schemes and some serious talent at juggling the salary cap.
March 10, 2005
The Apprentice: Line of the Week
|[Posted by james]|
This weeks reality show "quote of the week" has to be this one by Apprentice contestant Stephanie, who says, in all seriousness:
"John looks at Erin and I as a pretty face, with no brains behind the face."
Now that's funny right there, I don't care who you are.
The FEC $100,000 Post
|[Posted by John Tant]|
Well, the FEC is poised to make life easier for regular folks by subjecting their blogs to CFR regulations.
That's the legislation from a couple of Senators, with the support of a few friends, that supposedly reforms the system. Most people from a certain party supported it, as well as some who should have known better. It isn't clear if links to 527s will become regulated as well, but certainly regulation of the Internet and Email is on their minds...there was a successful lawsuit over it.
So blogs would have to be careful about where they link lest those links be considered an in-kind contribution. It doesn't matter if the link is to someone in dire need of ridicule and abuse. What matters is the supposed monetary value of the resulting Instalanches.
Right Wing Terrorists...redux
|[Posted by John Tant]|
Investigators early today said a man who shot himself in the head during a traffic stop in Wisconsin had a suicide note claiming responsibility for the slaying of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow's husband and mother last week.
Members of the task force of Chicago police and federal agents said a van driven by Bart Ross, whose last known address was in the 4500 block of North Bernard Street in Chicago, was stopped in West Allis, near Milwaukee, about 6 p.m. As officers approached the car, Ross killed himself with a gunshot to the head, officials say.
Investigators said the man had a suicide note that included an admission that he shot the judge's family.
The note included details in the case that were not released to the public, investigators said. Sources close to the investigation added that there was a list in the van of all the people who had mistreated him, including judges.
In the vehicle were about 300 .22 caliber shells. Investigators found three casings of the same caliber in the Lefkow home this week. Investigators also said they should have enough physical evidence, including DNA, a fingerprint and other items from the crime scene, to make a definitive comparison.
Sources close to the case said the judge had ruled against Ross in a civil matter. He was not immediately thought to have ties to any hate group.
Prison for Homicide? Sacre Bleu!
|[Posted by james]|
Madison's Channel 3 is questioning whether a convicted killer out on parole after being convicted of homicide by drunken driving should be sent back to prison for violating her probation (for the third time) by using alcohol:
Woman May Go To Prison For Drinking While On Probation
MADISON, Wis. -- The state has begun probation revocation proceedings against a convicted drunken driver.
Cara Erickson, 23, could be sent to prison after a hearing on April 4, News 3 reported. She is accused of drinking alcohol in violation of her probation.
It's her third probation violation.
She was convicted in 2001 of homicide by drunken driving in the death of Jason Skaaning of Sun Prairie (pictured, right).
Erickson served a year in jail with work release and was then placed on probation for 15 years for homicide by drunken driving. The judge also ordered an extra week in jail each year, starting Dec. 19 -- Jason's birthday -- and ending Christmas Day.
A condition of Erickson's probation is that she is forbidden from drinking for the next 12 years.
Erickson was riding in a car stopped for speeding on Madison's east side. One of the officers recognized her and took her to jail after she allegedly refused a breath test.
Police later confirmed she had been drinking at an Atwood Avenue bar.
Look at the caption that the station is using in their image: "Punishment fitting crime?" Gee, I don't know, Channel 3, it seems pretty fair to me to send someone to prison for HOMICIDE.
Let's not forget what "probation" is - you get a prison sentence, then are fortunate enough to have that sentence reduced for good behavior or some other mitigating factor, on the condition that you fulfill certain requirements. Here, the state said to Ms. Erickson, "OK, you can get out of prison 15 years early if you agree to not drink alcohol. You are free to decline the terms, and if you do, you will stay in prison." She obviously agreed to the condition that she not consume alcohol.
Now, after her THIRD probation violation, News 3 is asking "Does the punishment fit the crime?" Newsflash, Channel 3: the crime is homicide, not "drinking alcohol." The fact is, we send prisoners back to prison for parole violations all of the time - for not checking in with their parole officers regularly, for crossing state lines without permission, for venturing too close to an elementary school. And no one, especially Channel 3, so much as raises an eyebrow.
Why would they latch on to this as their latest cause celebre I can't even begin to imagine. Is it their position that a person shouldn't be expected to abide by the terms of an agreement that she made? Do they think that it's cruel and unusual punishment to deny a convicted homicidal drunken driver the "right" to consume alcohol?
I understand that people make mistakes, and that everyone deserves a second chance. But this woman had her second chance when she got out on probation, 15 years short of serving her full sentence. She had her third chance after the first probation violation, her fourth after her second, and her fifth chance after being caught drinking, in public, in a blatant violation of her probation terms.
This woman was told "if you drink, you go to jail," and she went out to a bar, in public, and drank!
You know, maybe I agree with Channel 3 on this one: Does the punishment fit the crime? No, it doesn't - Erickson should serve the 15 years for homicide, and then have an additional 10 years added to her sentence for stupidity.
March 09, 2005
Scalp 'Em Raiders
|[Posted by ]|
Native American leaders used the first-ever State of the Tribes address Tuesday to call on the state Legislature for action to ban school nicknames, such as the Waunakee Warriors, the Osseo-Fairchild Chieftains, the Poynette Indians, the Belmont Braves and the Potosi Chieftains.
Okay, timeout for full disclosure here. My high school's nickname is still the Red Raiders. And yes, the mascot is a Native American. Back in the day, we had some kid who would dress up in an Indian headress and everything. Oh, and it gets worse. Way back in the day, according to reader KV Big Sis, the students would even do "Scalp 'em Raiders" chants at games (hence the title of this post).
And, to be honest, I think names like the "Red Raiders" or the "Washington Redskins" really are offensive and they should be changed. However, these Native American leaders aren't doing themselves any favors by going after such ridiculously inoffensive names like "Braves", "Chieftans" or "Warriors".
The Wisconsin Indian Education Association says that "Indians are people, not mascots", as if the two are mutually exclusive. They're not. That's why we've managed to tolerate nicknames honoring, in the NFL alone, meat packers, pirates, patriots, Vikings, cowboys, Texans, gold prospectors and saints.
And, it's not just athletic teams that have Indian names. You'll note that Wisconsin is derived from an Indian word, and, of course, as Alice Cooper famously noted, Milwaukee is Algonquin for "the good land".
Generally speaking, you don't choose a name as a way to denigrate something or someone. In America, sports teams are given names that have some local flavor and sound like they'll prevail in a battle: hence the Warriors, the Braves, the Illini and the Fighting Sioux.
I posted earlier this week about the misguided quest for perfection in public policy. I feel that these Native American leaders, and those who support them, are trying to create some kind of perfectly inoffensive society. That's impossible. Yes, there are some very offensive nicknames out there. But to most people, there's a huge difference between the Red Raiders and the Braves. If Native American leaders refuse to make that distinction, they will fail to change any names at all.
Case in point, one of the latest issues here in Madison is with a bay on Lake Monona scandalously named "Squaw Bay". People are beginning to see how ridiculous and difficult it is to offend no one:
"I think there are better things to worry about than changing the name of something that's been named for like a hundred years," said resident Bruce Barlow, who has lived on the bay for three years. "But, I guess it's politically incorrect, so somebody's going to make a big deal out of nothing."
Concerned Squaw Bay resident Jim Guilfoil maintains the issue is about civil rights: first Jews, then blacks and women, and now Native Americans, he said.
"I feel we've learned a lot since World War II about what racism is," said Guilfoil.
Guilfoil says the word "squaw" is derogatory, referring to women's genitalia.
"Squaw is a translation -- an English word used by settlers to refer to a lesser woman," said Guilfoil. "That's no longer acceptable. I don't care how long people have done it, it's just not acceptable."
Monona Mayor Robb Kahl is willing to listen but concerned about where the debate could lead.
"This could open a can a worms because Winneque is a major road in our city and name of a middle school," said Kahl. "It apparently means Winnebego squaw. I don't think anyone is in a rush to change Winnequa. I'm certainly not."
A few people may think "squaw", or "brave" or "warrior" is derogatory, but the vast majority are eventually going to get sick of being pushed around but a shrill, vocal minority that tries to equate high school mascots and nicknames with the Holocaust.
Silly Liberal Bumper Sticker of the Day
|[Posted by ]|
In Madison, the Mecca of looney liberaland, it's not uncommon to see two or three silly liberal bumper stickers on a typical drive through town. Tonight, I spotted a new favorite. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me, so I'll have to describe what it said:
Before you assume this is just some misguided ex-hippie living in denial, it's important to note that, because of the University, Madison does have a relatively large international population. And frankly, if this sticker was on the back of some Chinese man's or Italian woman's car, I'd think it's pretty clever. So, I quickly considered that possibility, but then I noticed the sticker on the other side of the car:
Yeah, so this really was some goofy native out of touch with reality. Do you think they have any idea how ridiculous they are? You can't erase the facts just because you don't like them. What would they think of this bumper sticker:
They'd think it was utterly idiotic. How in the world is this any different?
Schumer and Oil
|[Posted by John Tant]|
Today we heard calls from some Senators, including NY Senator Charles "Ban That Mythical Armor Piercing Gun!" Schumer for President Bush to release oil stocks from the Strategic Oil Reserve in order to push down gas prices.
First, didn't Clinton try this? Wasn't the net price decrease something like one cent?
Second, considering the refining capacity of this country, will a supply shock of crude really do anything anyway? I realize this is a complex issue, but considering all of our refineries are already at or very near capacity, I don't see what dumping more crude will accomplish.
Third, if Schumer is truly upset about gas prices, enough so that he'd countenance the drawing down of our strategic reserves, and if he really does think inadequate supplies of crude is the major reason behind increasing gasoline prices, then maybe he shouldn't have voted against getting oil out of ANWR.
Quote of the Day
|[Posted by james]|
Today's quote of the day (a somewhat sporadic site feature) comes from Eugene Volokh:
I regret that this has gotten my colleagues involved in all this, but this is America and I'm not going to be nice to Nazis to try to get them to go away.
Excellent attitude, excellent point.
The next bit is pretty great as well:
So, yeah, we're Jews. Yeah, we're overrepresented on university faculties, in law and medicine, in the Senate, on the Supreme Court. Speaking of Nazis, we were overrepresented on the Manhattan Project, too.
I admit, the above quote makes me smile. I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't mention that the topic of his post is certainly no laughing matter. Frightening (and perplexing) that there are people in the world who would do the things he links to, isn't it?
March 08, 2005
Amazing Race Recap - Episode 2
|[Posted by ]|
How do Rob & Amber rule? Let's count the ways:
1. They asked what times buses arrive at the destination, not just when they depart.
2. By bribing their bus driver to only open the front doors, they, in fact, determined who would finish where in the leg (note that the top four teams were the teams that sat in front and helped bribe the driver).
3. By doing the bribing, but secretly not contributing to the bribe money, they had a little extra cash in what appeared to be a money-tight leg.
4. Showed excellent communcation skills throughout the whole leg. Language never seemed like a problem for them.
5. Realized that the shopping detour would cost them money to do. Some of the other teams were really done in by a lack of funds at that point.
6. Used their brains, not just their brawn, in completing the detour. I loved that Rob was able to use his construction background to figure out how to best stack the books so they only needed to make one trip.
7. Showed respect by not shouting in Chile's Library of Congress.
8. And finally, they seriously smoked the competition. In a leg that was designed to keep the teams together, they finished well in front of the pack. Some of the other teams don't like them, but this isn't a popularity contest.
So, let's see, Team Barbie (Megan & Heidi) were eliminated. They weren't that annoying tonight, but given that they were almost eliminated last week, it's doubtful they were going to be a competitive team anyway. No big loss.
- Rob & Amber: duh
- Uchenna & Joyce: She showed a little more personality tonight. I like her and he's pretty good looking. That'll do for now.
- Brian & Greg: I'll overlook their Barbie-loving ways, because they still managed to show a sense of humor. These two are so athletic, but they've gotta learn to stop and use their brains.
- Ron & Kelly: Good job with the second place finish, although they do owe a lot of that to Rob & Amber. Last week, I thought they were just blander than bland, but this week he was really outgoing and cute doing the shoeshine roadblock and she's starting to show some admirable backbone. I kind of like that they're having problems with who is making the decisions. In the last two seasons it seemed like all of the male/female teams were dominated by the men. I'd be refreshing to have a woman be a more equal partner.
- Ray & Deanna: Team Backslide had a good leg and finished third tonight, but they really just benefitted from Rob & Amber's work. Ray seems to just dismiss Deanna. His body language (as well as his own words) says that he doesn't think he's part of a team. He wants to win and to him she's just along for the ride.
- Meredith & Gretchen: They are just so whiney. I almost thought they were going to give up when they couldn't find the pit stop. They lack gumption. What's wrong with old folks these days?
- Susan & Patrick: I liked this mother/son pairing more than last week. Patrick showed a sense of humor, which was surprising because he certainly looks like a humorless young liberal. But, I don't think they're long for this race. Their little meltdown over money doesn't bode for how they'll react when things really get tough.
I'm neutral about:
- Lynn & Alex: I loved these guys last week, but this week they ticked me off. The way they berated the fish vendor was absolutely unnecessary. They went out of their way to be dicks, when the nicer and faster option was just to suck it up and buy another fish.
- Debbie & Bianca: Honestly, I'm just "meh" about these two. I'll form a stronger opinion if they stick around for awhile.
All in all, great episode. I love when the teams are forced to interact with locals and deal with confusing situations (like crowded marketplaces & trying to sell shoeshines). I'm already looking forward to next week's show!
See Viking Pundit, for another take on last night's episode.
Irony: Middle Eastern Style
|[Posted by ]|
The AP reports that 500,000 demonstrators rallied in Beirut today in support of Syrian. Remember folks, take that 500,000 number with a grain of salt, as the media has certainly been known to play fast and loose with their coverage of protests, particularly if those protests are anti-American. Also, note this, which was buried near the bottom of the story:
At least one opposition leader said the pro-Syrian government pressured people to turn out Tuesday and some reports said Syria bused in people from across the border.
Makes sense. After all, the Syrians are still in charge.
Anyway, on to the irony. I love this little description of the protest scene:
Large cranes hoisted two giant red-and-white flags bearing Lebanon's cedar tree. On one, the words, "Thank you Syria," were written in English; on the other, "No to foreign interference."
Alanis, where are you when we really need you?
Viewer Mail : Star Spangled Contradiction
|[Posted by John Tant]|
Reader Daddy writes in:
Last week John posted about how Canadian flags are everywhere in Canada. And today on foxnews.com, there's a picture of Lebanese protestors with a SEA of Lebanese flags. It sent a chill down my spine.
Why is it OK for everybody else to be patriotic, except for Americans? One step further--why do we tolerate strong nationalism for others, but when we express it, we're fascists?
It's the Northglenn Stoner Syndrome.
Let me explain. I went to Northglenn High School in Northglenn, CO. It's a fairly typical high school, or at least it was when I went there. We had all the cliques represented of course, running the gamut from freaks to geeks...and stoners. You know the type. They may not have actually done any drugs, but you couldn't tell by looking at them. And the best I could tell, they only found meaning in their lives by dumping on other people's fun. Think Buddy Repperton, and you start to get the idea.
So they'd show up at pep rallies and make a point not to stand or cheer. They'd show up at games and act all dour, or cheer the other team. And they HATED school spirit. Anyone who showed any kind of pride for The Norse was automatically "lame" (yes, this was awhile ago). In fact, there was a cadre who wished they were attending Thornton High School instead and took the opportunity to sing its praises. In that group, it was cool to be anti-Norse, and a fair minority of students did need tacit approval of that group.
And I have to say, I can't help but wonder if those guys grew up and became Lefty icons.
Rambling story aside, let's consider a few things. Based on the mini debate James and I had with a reader in the thread in question, the complaint against American patriotism is that it's "jingoistic." I have to say I don't understand that viewpoint. I do tend to wonder from time to time how patriotism became a sacred cow that couldn't be questioned (we saw that from Teresa HEINZ Kerry, whenever anyone questioned her husband it was automatically portrayed as an attack on his patriotism and therefore invalid.) except by the Left. I think it's actually reasonable to question the patriotism of people if and when those people give you cause to question it. For instance, ANSWER protesters liked to hoist signs proclaiming the US to be an imperialistic fascist state. I think it's safe to say those folks don't have deep love of this country.
But what about your everyday guy driving around in a Ford with an American flag sticker? Is that "jingoistic?" I'd have to say your average guy deserves the benefit of the doubt. I don't think it's valid to proceed from the assumption that patriotism is insincere unless proven otherwise. If we do, then reductio ad absurdum the ANSWER-type rallies could similarly be judged invalid. After all, how many of those marchers were there not because they believed in the sign they held but because of access to easy ANSWER poon?
Is this woman insincere? Or these girls? If overt and gratuitous displays of patriotism are grounds for judging someone insincere, then look at all these phony people. But of course they aren't...because they aren't Americans, and the Northglenn Stoners of the Left have decreed that it's uncool to love your own school but quite acceptable (indeed, expected) to love another. Love of country is judged provincial and quaint and unsophisticated. Well, it's judged beneath Americans, but OK for those provincial, quant, unsophisticated foreigners, isn't it?
Don't we see this on display when we're talking immigration? How many breathless declarations of admiration have we heard from Cocktail Party Lefties about the "culture" that their immigrant acquaintances (like their maids and their gardeners) are holding onto? How many of those Lefties latched onto embracing the culture those immigrants left behind? Think about the outcries we've heard from them over suggestions that we eliminate bilingual education. It's portrayed as forcing these poor people to turn their back on their heritage. Well, I may be old school but I can't help thinking the mere act of emigrating from one's country is closer to turning one's back than expecting their kids to speak English. And think of how immigrants who embrace America wholeheartedly tend to be portrayed in pop culture. They're dupes and comic relief.
So far I've indulged in a little ranting, but haven't really addressed Daddy's question. I think it's twofold. First, the idea that pride in America is misplaced has been quietly entrenched in our society for quite some time now. Think back to the 60s, if you can. America was portrayed as the problem by the intelligentsia. And wasn't that reinforced throughout the 70s, culminating with Jimmy "Never Met A Dictator I Didn't Like" Carter? Reagan did a lot to reverse that outlook among the general population, but I don't think it ever really left certain quarters of our society, like college campuses. And nowhere is raw American patriotism sneered at more than on college campuses. In fact, it's so turned around there that being actively anti-America IS judged patriotic. How often have we heard the sniveling? "Well, I am hyper critical of this country because I love it so darned much." Puh-leeze. You're in love with what you want America to be in your own mind, not what America actually is.
And second, embracing other cultures is a way for your Cocktail Party Lefty to demonstrate his own open-mindedness. It's a tacit way of saying "Look at me, I'm so open-minded I appreciate all these other cultures and do not judge them." Come to think of it, if a person is appreciative of another culture not because he's actually appreciative of it, but instead as a way to show others he's open minded, is his sincerity not in question? Is he not, to use a now-familiar term, jingoistic....?
March 07, 2005
News Flash: Bjorn Nittmo will not be running for President in 2008
|[Posted by james]|
Drudge has the following "news flash" up:
FLASH: CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: The 2008 presidential campaign will not include Al Gore. I'm reporting here tonight that the former vice president and 2000 presidential nominee will not run for president in 2008. I've been given this scoop from a perfect source, I must say, who informed me that the purpose of this disclosure at this time is to end speculation about a campaign that will never occur.... Developing...
Drudge must be making fun of Matthews with this quip, right?
I can't imagine that this is a serious post Drudge "flash."
Hey, maybe if I call Matthews and tell him that _I_ won't be running either he'll air that too.
New Comment System
|[Posted by james]|
ok, commenting is back on now. it may be spotty for a little bit, as i work the kinks out.
as you might notice, i've written & implemented a new commenting system, and have converted all of the old comments over to the new system. (kris, you maybe wanna update the "comverted comment" user profile to be something explanatory and/or funny? ;-))
you now need an account to post comments. you dont need to provide an email address to get an account.
right now, you can start posting right away. however, i may soon make it so that you cant post comments for at least 24 hours after registering. any thoughts on this idea?
let me know if you run into any problems
The Changing Nature of Alliances
|[Posted by ]|
In the comments to James' latest post, someone accused the Bush administration of, among other things, coming close to destroying NATO. It got me to thinking about alliances in the modern world.
To my mind, there are two major types of alliances: in keeping with my love of reality television, let's call them "Survivor" alliances and "Amazing Race" alliances.
Parties in a Survivor alliance pledge eternal allegiance to each other. They'll do whatever it takes to help each other, whether it's in their own best interests at that moment or not. These are defensive alliances. They are formed to protect each other from a shared threat (whether it's Nazis, Commies or the tribe on the other island). When people talk about Bush "ruining" alliances, these are the kind of alliances they're talking about.
Conversely, Amazing Race alliances are transitory. These offensive alliances are based on a temporary mutual need. They are formed to get things done and when the task is complete, the parties are free to go their separate ways. These alliances are pragmatic in nature and do not require, nor inspire, loyalty. The "coalition of the willing" in Iraq or the international groups that coordinated tsunami relief are great modern examples of Amazing Race alliances.
Both types of alliances have their place in the world. Some countries are bound together for the long haul. For example, whether they like us or not, Canada will have to rely on the United States for protection. But, right now we're seeing the major problem with Survivor alliances. These alliances naturally fall apart when the external threat is eliminated. On the TV show, a group can vow to make it to the Final Four together, but once the threat of being booted is gone, they tear each other apart. Self-interest trumps all. Likewise, once the evil empire of the Soviet Union was toppled, the NATO states were free to scramble and fight in their own self-interests. And that's what they did.
The United States has attempted to build a new Survivor alliance against the threat of Islamofascist terrorism. But, since most of our allies have yet to be touched by this threat, they're unwilling to pledge allegiance to this new alliance. We're going to be forced to fight the War on Terror with a succession of Amazing Race alliances. The role of "New Europe" is a great example of an Amazing Race alliance. These countries joined us in Iraq not because they've pledged eternal allegiance to the United States of America, but because it was in their best interests to do so at that moment. Yes, the Poles are a gallant people who are willing to fight for freedom, but, at the same time, Poland knew that they had much to gain economically by helping the United States.
At the end of Survivor, the two finalists are judged by their former allies. The person who wins is usually the one who is perceived as being most loyal to that old alliance. In the Amazing Race, the team that wins is the one that crosses the finish line first. Alliances are a means to an end, not an end onto themselves. While Survivor alliances are best suited to a reality TV show that's essentially a popularity contest, I contend that Amazing Race alliances are what's best suited to the real world. And, as much as we might sometimes wish otherwise, we do live in the harsh real world.
March 06, 2005
Right Wing Terrorists
|[Posted by james]|
I was just watching a Fox News panel of experts opine on the tragedy that was thrust upon Judge Lefkow and her family. On the panel was one Geoffrey Fieger, an expert criminal defense attorney from Detroit. In sharing his opinion that proud white supremacist Matthew Hale and his followers were behind the murders, the good Counselor just couldn't resist pushing a tired political agenda, making statements to the effect:
"these right wing organizations need to be stopped... these right wing organizations are terrorists, domestic terrorists!"
To Fieger, white supremacists, terrorists, and the right wing are all one and the same.
What an idiot. Want further proof of that?
I looked at his law firm's website and almost bust out laughing.
In Pursuit of Perfection
|[Posted by ]|
Our regulars know that there are few things I love more than my Wisconsin Badgers. So, you may be surprised to learn that I'm really bummed that the Illinois basketball team suffered their first loss today. Now, don't get me wrong, I'd be thrilled if the Badgers, rather than Ohio State, had done the deed. But, since they didn't, what I feel is disappointment that a perfect season was ruined.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way. As a sports fan, you want your team to win, but you also want to see the special, the extraordinary and the perfect. And sometimes, it's not just fans, but fellow competitors who feel that way. I'm reminded of the jockey William Knapp, who rode Upset when he defeated Man O'War. It was the only loss of Man O'War's career and it was the result of a great ride by Knapp and lots of bad racing luck for Man O'War. Knapp said:
If I'd just moved over a bit, he would have gone through and beat me by a mile. Sometimes I'm sorry I didn't do it. So great a champion as Man O'War deserved to retire undefeated.
I'm not sure Illinois deserved to go undefeated, but I would have loved to have them trying to do so in the National Championship game.
Of course, sports isn't the only arena in which we pursue perfection. Too often, I think, we look for the perfect public policy. A good example of what I mean is illustrated by the reaction to the Patriot Act:
One of the odd things about debates over the Patriot Act is that even its harshest informed critics actually only oppose a very small part of the Act; the overwhelming majority of the statute is uncontroversial among the fairly small number of people who understand what's in it.
The Patriot Act enables government agencies to work together more efficiently. But no, it's not perfect. Because of that, it's been demonized. That's such a stupid reaction. Those opposed to the Patriot Act, or other pieces of legislation, should work to change the parts they dislike. Instead, they want to throw away the baby with the bathwater.
Locally, this makes me think of the saga of the Ken Kopps building near Camp Randall stadium. Ken Kopps was a neighborhood grocery store in this overwhelmingly liberal part of town. The store closed over 5 years ago and ever since this prime spot of real estate has been vacant because the neighborhood can't find the "perfect" new tenant. They've turned down numerous passable, but not perfect, businesses, and still have the gall to complain about being stuck with an empty eyesore.
Yes, we all seek perfection, but sometimes we're better off settling for "pretty good".
March 05, 2005
The Infamous Wisconsin State Quarter Thread
|[Posted by ]|
Last month, James wrote a post about (and had pictures of) the errors on the new Wisconsin state quarter. Through the magic of search engines, this post has become one of the most read stories on Dummocrats. And one of the most commented on.
Of course, you might think that readers are simply talking about this quarter and speculating about what it might be worth. You'd be wrong. Somehow, James' innocent post inspired people to engage in a vigorous political debate (hmmm, I'm blaming our name for all of this). The original post is buried in our archives now, so most of you have never seen it, so I thought you might enjoy a sampling of the comments:
Why is it called dummocrats, why not dumbrepublicans, there are more dumb republicans in charge now days. Look at the mess they've made, they can't even make enough good money to take care of the debt they caused. They only make more money to waste more. I wish I could make more money, not to spend more nor to be rich, but to afford to go to my doctor for my medicines. Dumb republicans don't ever have to worry about money for medicines because they line their pockets with money and then they still want more.
I'd love to hear about some of these rich people try to live on $20,000.00 a year (now that would make a real good realty show) que no? Yea, put that Thump, Hump, Frump,You're Fired guy, whatever his name is on a show and give him only twenty thou and maybe another 20 thou to his new wife and see if they can survive on that much. But they can't have access to their cards or other money. Of course, they have to work for their 20 thousand. They can't have their fancy clothes or cars, they have to have a jalopy so they have to pay to fix it or they have to be able to fix it themselves. Yup, that would be a great show. ;-)
Thump, Hump, Frump, You're Fired guy? Heh, actually that's an awesome description of Donald Trump. There's more:
This has to be the stupidest f&*%^$% site I have ever been to.
Of course, not all of the quarter fans are liberals, although they're all apparently fans of ALL CAPS and poor spelling...
people just dont understand that BUSH gave us a tax break and kept all of our small business' IN BUSINESS , and that he only gives tax breaks to companies who send the low paying jobs and only like 13 percent or around there over seas that way that company can afford to pay AMERICAN workers more money and give them better jobs .....SO outsource yourself to all you liberal idiots out there .. and open your eyes we was in a recession because of a crooked democrat now we are growing strong and safer then ever , because of bush and our TROOPS (GOD bless them all) we havent been attacked again our homeland!!!!! and John kerry and kennedy say our troops are the problem well i think their our problem thats why its Taxacheusetts!!! LIBERALS SUCK!!!!!!!!!! and our just trying to control the people of the U.S. by keeping us at low paying jobs i know their tricks and THATS WHY IM A PROUD REPUBLICAN .
The whole thread is just kind of scary. It's full of some of the worst, shrill, ignorant commentary imaginable from both ends of the political spectrum. Not surprisingly, most of this kind of political debate degenerates into yet another round of "Bush sucks!"/"No he doesn't". It's like being invaded by both the Democratic Underground and the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy at the same time. We're stuck in the middle with only the delete key as a weapon.
And, in fact, it'd be easy to just ignore or delete all these crazy comments. But, like 'em or not, these commentors do represent a portion of the American electorate and, let me tell ya, it's been mighty enlightening to read what they have to say. Yikes.
Judge adds ten years to man's sentence for courtroom outburst
|[Posted by james]|
Twenty-two-year-old Austin Later had just been sentenced to five years in prison for an aggravated battery charge when the judge asked him if he had any questions. Besides threatening the prosecutor, Later also threw a file, hitting the judge's clerk in the face. After the outburst, Judge Jon Shindurling added another ten years to Later's sentence. He'll now serve 15 years, and could be charged for his actions and words.
Wow. The judge effectively trippled this man's sentence for his little outburst. On the one hand, this seems a little like a case of the judge being a power mad tyrant. On the other, though, keep in mind that the man was convicted of kidnapping in connection with a drug deal, so it was likely in the judge's discretion to sentence the man to 1, 2, or even 15 years in prison.
My guess is that the convict pleaded for a light sentence on the grounds that he wasn't dangerous, that he just made a mistake, that he was on drugs at the time, etc. If the judge based his decision on statements to that effect, then the man's outburst easily proved that the judge was wrong to have relied on them. Viewed in that light, I can't say that the judge was being "power-hungry" or vindictive at all. If the man cant control his temper in a courtroom, how can he be expected to control it out in public?
It pays to be respectful in courtroom. I'm still continually amazed that many criminal defendants don't even bother to dress up for court. Are their lawyers completely retarded?
March 04, 2005
Men in Black: The Supreme Court Run Amok
|[Posted by John Tant]|
Mark "The Great One" Levin has recently penned a very interesting book called Men In Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America. It's particularly interesting in the wake of the Supreme Court decision earlier this week that declared capital punishment for "juveniles" unconstitutional. But let's start from the beginning.
Levin's main thesis is that the Supreme Court has amassed a great deal of power, more than the Framers had intended them to have, and have done so in a grossly unconstitutional fashion starting with Marbury v. Madison. In that 1803 case, Chief Justice John Marshall invented (according to Levin) the idea of judicial review by asserting that the Court would decide what is or is not constitutional. On its face, judicial review may sound like a dandy thing, but when you look behind the curtain you see it is often abused as a way for justices to veto the constitutional actions and decisions of the other two branches of our government. Levin argues there was no legitimate reason for Marshall to make that assertion and no Constitutional provision granting this far-reaching power to the Court. These days it's gussied up by legal scholars, but in fact it was a power grab by the then dying Federalist Party. Before the decision, the Court's power was limited...justices would go to various circuits and hear cases, and their influence was pretty limited when compared to today.
But if Marbury v. Madison opened the door to judicial abuse, it was FDR and the New Deal which took it to all new levels in the 1930s. Recall from history class that the Court overturned many of FDRs programs on the basis that they were regulating economic activity that had nothing to do with interstate commerce. At that point FDR issued his famous threat to pack the Court. We know he didn't succeed in that, but during FDR's long time in office many of those justices retired or died...leaving FDR free to appoint justices who WOULD uphold those programs. The result now is that the federal government can regulate basically any kind of economic activity that it wants to. And the Warren Court took it even further, issuing their dictats on topics from contraceptive use to the Miranda warning. And as we saw as recently as this week, this current Court is going even further. As a fun exercise, try to think of one thing that is NOT subject to judicial review. I bet you can't.
None of this is helped by the other two branches of government which have apparently surrendered their authority to the Court. There are checks and balances written into the Constitution which are supposed to prevent this sort of thing. For instance, Congress may impeach judges who are acting improperly, but the chances of that happening are on a par with Michael Moore passing up a coupon for a free Chipotle burrito. In the current lexicon, an impeachable offense has come to mean a criminal offense, which is unfortunate. The other check is the authority of Congress to determine the jurisdiction of the courts. That's right, Congress can deny the Court the ability to rule on certain issues. That's something Congress has neglected for too long.
Levin also offers a few other suggestions in his book.
For instance, he suggests limiting judges and justices to 12 year terms instead of life terms (requiring a Constitutional amendment, I think). The idea seems reasonable...if judges are going to serve as de facto legislators, then there is no compelling reason to grant them the power for their entire life. Originally, the Framers were concerned that the judiciary would be overwhelmed by political pressure from the other two branches, which is where the lifetime appointment came from. But now the problem is reversed...we have nine unaccountable people exercising unchecked and nearly unlimited power, who serve for life. The thing is, we are supposed to have representative government, and are supposed to bow to the wisdom of the people. It's an either/or proposition. If we are going to respect the idea of representative government, then we have to actually respect it.
So following that thought is Levin's idea that Congress have the power to veto a Court decision. And it makes sense...if Congress can override a Presidential veto, they certainly should be able to set similar limits on judicial power run amok. We've had maybe 100 justices in our history, and they haven't all been paragons of virtue. Yes, we've had criminals. Yes, we've had racists (paging Hugo Black...). Yes, we've had geniuses and average joes, clear thinkers and some with mental issues. But at the end of the day, we're talking about nine people who, in the final analysis, are little different from you and me. They aren't perfect just because they wear a black robe to work. So the question becomes...are we going to allow nine people to make heavy impact decisions about our lives? Are we going to respect the idea of representative government, or aren't we?
So far, it doesn't seem we have to will to do so, and the judiciary has taken notice. See, part of the function of the judiciary is to respect We The People. But now judges spend time looking for ways to impose their will on us. How else to explain the Court's sudden love affair with international law? In the final analysis, the decision earlier this week basically said executing juveniles is bad because other countries don't do it. Well, doesn't that beg the question....what ELSE do we do that other countries don't like...? I have a safe at home filled with a few items Cuba would prefer citizens don't own, for example. Every justice on that court took an oath to uphold the US Constitution, and yet here a majority of them are relying on decisions made by people who Americans have no involvement with. I hate Roe v. Wade because it took portions of the Constitution and turned them upside down (something for which Harry Blackmun received fan mail...FAN MAIL...). But this is an entirely new thing, and exponentially worse.
Levin paints a bleak picture of things, but I agree with him that there's a way out. It involves We The People reasserting our authority over a runaway Court. Our Constitution creates a framework for the judiciary, but Congress has the authority to fill in the blanks...an authority they've largely ceded. The first step therefore becomes getting our elected representatives to take their responsibility seriously and protect us all from judicial overreach. They have to set limits on the jurisdiction of the Court. The structure of the lower courts can stand to be reviewed, Congress should be given the power to veto Court decisions, and in my opinion the granting of lifetime terms can also stand a little "Congressional review." We need to get back to the idea of representative government, so if a Court decision comes forth that is so repugnant to us there is recourse, instead of the dictat of five lawyers wearing black robes. The bottom line is there's an imbalance that exists between the Court and the other two branches of government, and it needs to be rectified.
March 03, 2005
The Churchills: Winston vs. Ward
|[Posted by ]|
I'm afraid that Ward Churchill is giving all "Churchills" a bad name. So, in the spirit of reminding the world that "Churchill" hasn't always been synonymous with "asshat", here's a handy chart to help differentiate between Winston and Ward.
|Some of his ancestors were...||American||American (pdf)|
|Famous for putting _____ in his mouth||Cigars||His foot|
|As a young man fought in...||The Sudan and in the Boer War, where he famously escaped after being captured||Vietnam, where uh, no one seems to really know what he did|
|Learned...||How to fly as part of establishing the Royal Naval Air Service||How to make bombs and passed those skills on to the Weather Underground|
|Nazis...||Were "a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime."||Inhabited the World Trade Center|
|America...||Was a great ally, "linked in a righteous comradeship of arms".||Should be off the planet. Out of existence altogether."|
|_____ is "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma"||Russia||His academic background|
|Political philosophy...||"Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."||Took and taught lots of classes in Marxism|
|Embodied...||British resiliance||American asshattery|
|Famous quote...||"We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."||"If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it."|
Messin' with Texas
|[Posted by ]|
Yesterday was Texas Independence Day. Some of my favorite bloggers are Texans, so a quick trip around the web brought some of these comments on the day:
Texans don't lack confidence. Our travel and safety departments boast memorable slogans like, "Texas, it's a Whole Other Country," and "Don't Mess With Texas." And the flagship of our state's higher education system markets itself with a simple, straightforward phrase: "We're Texas."
Forgive us for our arrogance, though, because we only take after our forefathers, who gave the finger to a tyrranical empire and when it came time to back it up, they never backed down. Many paid the ultimate price, but freedom prevailed.
From Law & Alcoholism:
Texas isn't just a state - it's a state of mind. There's really something different in the air there - I notice it whenever I go back home. It's pride - the ruggedly independent frontier spirit that's been with us since Stephen F. Austin brought 300 settlers to found a colony. It's honor - the courage of 189 men refusing to surrender to an army of over 2,000, of fighting till the last man and killing 1,600 of their foes in the process. And it's friendliness - no one thinks twice about saying "mornin'" as they pass a stranger.
Finally, from Send Lawyers, Guns & Money:
When was the last time you went to a person's house in New York and you saw a big map of New York on their wall? That was never. When did you ever drive through Oklahoma and see their flag waving on four businesses in a row? Can you even tell me what the flag in Louisiana looks like? I damned sure can't. But I bet my ass you can't drive 20 minutes from your house and not see a business that has a big Texas flag as part of its logo. If you haven't done business with someone called AllTex something or Lone Star somebody or other, or Texas such and such, you hadn't lived here for too long.
When you ask a man from New York what he is, he'll say a stockbroker, or an accountant, or an ad exec. When you ask a woman from California what she is, she'll tell you her last name or her major. Hell either of em might say"I'm a republican," or they might be a democrat. When you ask a Texan what they are, before they say, "I'm a Methodist," or "I'm a lawyer," or "I'm a Smith," they tell you they're a Texan.
I got nothin against all those other places, and Lord knows they've probably got some fine folks, but in your gut you know it just like I do, Texas is just a little different.
Texans really think Texas is the greatest place on Earth. Initially, that attitude annoyed me. But then I examined why I felt that way. It wasn't, I realized, because I thought the Texans were arrogant. It was because I thought they were wrong. Wisconsin is the greatest place on Earth!
So, how could I hate Texans for thinking the way I do? And, in fact, I love Texans. I think they're fun, friendly people and I can completely relate to the way they love their state. I think Wisconsinites and Texans share a similiar love of their homelands. People from both places consider themselves a Badger (or Texan) first, and an American second. Only a Texan would say (and I remember Colby from Survivor saying this) that when they wake up in the morning the first thing they do is thank God they're alive and thank God they're a Texan. And, only a Wisconsinite would proudly travel around the country with foam cheese accessories.
So, without further ado, I'd like to present my quick guide to Texans & Badgers.
|Are obsessed with preparing and eating...||Chili||Brats|
|Drink local beers like...||Shiner||Point|
|Think America's Team is....||The Cowboys||The Packers|
|Fly...||American & Lone Star flags||American, Packer and Motion W flags|
|Know how to...||Two-step||Polka|
|Think their State Capital building is _____ than the US Capital||Bigger||Better|
|Are sure their state is...||God's country||God's country|
|Remember...||The Alamo||The Ice Bowl|
Walmart & Innovation
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Internet marketing guru Seth Grodin tackled Wal-Mart in a recent blog post. Grodin's theory is that Wal-Mart stifles product innovation:
Walmart wants to sell classics and heavily advertised hits. And they want to do it at close to cost. This appears to be good for consumers--get a Barbie for $12 or whatever.
The problem is that NEW toys aren't classics and it's hard to make the bet that new toys should be heavily advertised.
The second problem is that once you reach the level of success of a classic, selling at cost is no fun at all.
The end result is that the toy guys don't have the guts to launch the new and the remarkable. They are boxed in, encouraged by Wall Street and management to play the Walmart game, which leads to short-term revenue and long term destitution.
Sure, Walmart has driven some other toy stores out of business. But the only thing that has to do with innovation is that those stores chose not to innovate. Walmart is, in so many ways, the world's most innovative retailer. FAO Schwartz or Toys R Us could have tried to change their business model to compete with Walmart. They could have forged relationships with exciting new toymakers. But they didn't. They chose to do the same old, same old and then whine because they couldn't beat Walmart on price.
Walmart's dominance is, in my mind, a win-win. Consumers get lower prices. Other retailers have the opportunity in niches that Walmart doesn't cover. Walmart is interested in breadth, that leaves a whole lot of run for specialty retailers to provide customers with product depth. Think about it. As a consumer would you rather have 5 toy stores all providing the same 10 products at around the same price, or would you rather have 1 retailer providing 10 products at a better price and 2 other retailers providing 200 products in that category? I know which one I'd choose.
Similarly, toy manufacturers would no longer have to try to sell to 5 different retailers who are all interested in hitting the same target market. New niche retailers may now actually be interested in their most innovative, imaginative products, where the FAOs and Toys R Us wouldn't give them a second look because they didn't fit their high volume model.
The answer is to tell Walmart to go away. Toy companies are beginning to discover that they can't win this game. The answer is to find a new and better and more consistently profitable way to launch the remarkable stuff.
And that's happening. It's happening when they sell online, or through local stores, or directly to people who care. No, this isn't mass. This isn't a fraction of what an endcap at Toys R Us was worth. It's still the best deal in town. Over time, consumers will be trained that the toys they need are only available in places that aren't Walmart.
Maybe he's half right. Without Walmart, these new outlets would never have opened up. The answer isn't for Walmart to go away. The answer is for other retailers to answer Walmart's challenge. How will they innovate to be successful? Without Walmart they would never even have asked themselves that question.
March 02, 2005
Snap Judgements of the Latest Amazing Race Teams
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Tonight a new season of the best show on television, The Amazing Race, kicked off. If you're not yet watching the Race, you really need to start. Heck, even James watches, even though he likes to pretend that he doesn't ;-).
I still have a hard time figuring who's who, but even so, it's never too early to judge. Let's take a quick look at the latest batch of teams racing around the world for a cash prize of $1,000,000.
Debbie & Bianca: Team Just Friends. Or are they "just friends"? For some reason, I get the feeling they may really be a romantic couple. I guess we'll find out. Anyway, Debbie & Bianca seem like they handle travel and communication problems well, but when things don't go exactly right they freak out a little. That could be a problem as teams never go the whole race without a few bumps in the road. My personal ranking: 6th of the 11 teams
Susan & Patrick: Team Thinks They're On Survivor. This mother and son team really benefited in the first leg by tagging along with the Spanish-speaking Debbie & Bianca. I don't know how they'll do on their own. Plus, they seem to think they're on a manipulation-based game like Survivor. Come on people, it's not about screwing other teams, it's about racing fast yourself. My ranking: 8th.
Rob & Amber: Team Really Was On Survivor. Reality TV fans already know these two from their appearances on Survivor. While some might hold that against them, I actually like them. It helps that Rob is kinda hot (especially with the Boston accent). I think they'll be a great team: they're smart and athletic. Plus, already in this first leg when things went wrong, they were able to laugh about it. Teams that don't waste time & energy fighting each other have got to do better in the long run. My ranking: 3rd.
Brian & Greg: Team Brothers Braff. I think these guys bear more than a passing resemblence to Zach Braff from Scrubs, especially Greg. Let's face it, they're handsome devils. Plus, they've shown an appealing combination of humor and dorkiness so far. I love 'em. They came through this leg unscathed, so I can't tell how they'll act towards each other when the going gets rough. My ranking: 1st.
Lynn & Alex: Team Jaybird. Lynn reminds me so much of Project Runway's Jay. Together, they remind me a little bit of season three's beloved Team Cha Cha Cha. They aren't as fabulous as Danny & Oswald (who is?), but they're very funny. Of course, the funny teams never win. :-(. My ranking: 2nd.
Meredith & Gretchen: Team Dandy (for Dandy Don Meredith). I know these guys are supposed to be the lovable grandparents, but I don't like them one bit. They, like Susan & Patrick, seem to think this is Survivor or Big Brother. Just shut up and race. My ranking: 9th.
Ray & Deanna: Team Backslide. These on-again, off-again daters are another blah "couple" team. Actually, they're worse than blah as I think that Ray was a huge asshat tonight. He was really mean to Deanna, who was really struggling with the high elevation in Peru. I hate it when a player just rags on their teammate like that. My ranking: 10th.
Uchenna & Joyce: Team Sob Story. One of this married couple worked for Enron, while the other worked for Worldcom. On to that add the fact that they've been trying to get pregnant for years with no luck. They want to use any money they win for more in vitro. Now, hate them if you will for airing their personal sob story, but hey, to get on the show you have to have some kind of hook, right? Anyway, it looked like they got off to a slow start, but once they hit the llamas they did a much better job of working together. They could go far. My ranking: 5th.
Ron & Kelly: Team POW. He's a former POW in the Iraq War, she's a pageant queen. He annoyed me when he made a special point to tell Ray about his POW past and how he'd use the money to help disabled vets. What was the point of that? Did he expect Ray to just roll over and let him win? But, other than that moment they seemed okay, if unmemorable. In fact, they're both pretty dorky. Normally, that would endear them to me, but in this case not yet. My ranking: 7th.
Megan & Heidi: Team Barbie. These two identical friends made an early statement that they weren't dumb blondes. Unfortunately, they then proceeded to do dumb things like digging in a pile for tickets for a 7:40 flight when there were still 7:00 tickets to be had. Maybe they'll redeem themselves, but for now their ranking is dead last: 11th.
Ryan & Chuck: Team Hillbillies. Ask not for whom the fiddle twangs, it twangs for these guys, the first team Philiminated. I really liked this team. Sure, they made the same mistake as Team Barbie, but they were so funny and so personable and so surprising (one of them just happened to speak Portugese!). I wish they would have gotten a better cabbie at the end. My ranking: 4th.
So there you have it, ten teams remain and the race is on! I love this cast compared to last season's: fewer models and more quirky types. Hopefully this season will also have less bunching, less Europe, more airport strategy and more cranky animals. Lemme tell you something, cranky animals are comedy gold.
March 01, 2005
Welcoming Ward Churchill
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Ward Churchill will be at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to give a talk today.
Even though Whitewater is just a hop, skip and jump away from Madison, my local media is barely covering the event. However, the ever-expanding Wisconsin blogosphere is all over the story, the Badger Blog Alliance will be reporting from the event, while blog-friendly columnist and radioman Charlie Sykes will also be on the scene. And, I'm sure more Wisconsin blogs will chime in with their post-speech reactions.
Speaking of speech, there's a particularly funny juxtaposition of stories in the news here this morning. On one hand, Churchill's appearance in Whitewater is framed this way:
Meanwhile, Mattmiller says the campus controversy continues with College Democrats scheduled to step out in support of free speech as College Republicans protest the Colorado History professor's comments comparing victims of 9/11 to Nazis.
Former Marine and current student David Hamilton says he doesn't want anything to do with Churchill, but he does defend his right to speak.
"That's the beautiful thing about America, you know, that's why I was glad that I volunteered my service in the military because everyone does have the right to speak what they want."
However, elsewhere in Madison, an alderman is trying to ban moving advertisements. I heard this story on the news last night and almost fell off the treadmill. While this article talks about how the advertisments are a distraction, in the interview I heard, the alderman was basically making the proposal because he thinks the advertisements are an eyesore.
I support Ward Churchill's 1st Amendment rights. I also support the 1st Amendment rights of the people who don't like what he says. Supporters and detractors of Churchill will wax poetic about how this demonstrates the beauty of free speech. I don't disagree with them. I just wonder how some of the same people can turn around and be so willing to restrict speech because it's an "eyesore" or because it's "hate speech" or because it's in the form of a political donation or advertisement.