Thursday, March 31, 2005

Bird Blogging

I'll be on a long fly-fishing weekend starting tomorrow, so no more blogging until Monday. Here's a photo of a bird I took yesterday outside my office window. I'm not exactly sure what kind of bird he is. To go with his grey chest he has blue wings that aren't visible in this shot (and this was the best photo I have of him, unfortunately). The Fuji E-550 is turning out to be a great little camera, but I suspect for serious bird photography, one needs a telephoto lens of gargantuan proportions to get really decent shots. Not gonna happen any time soon.

If you see this bird in your neighborhood, run! He's very aggressive, usually chasing all other birds from his tree. He also goes after squirrels and won't quit until they leave the area entirely. It will be interesting when the walnuts come in later this summer. The Ventura Squirrel Gangs vs. The Topanga Bird Mafia will surely wage an epic battle for street supremacy.


Aggrobird (click to enlarge) Posted by Hello

Class and Grace, Schindler Style

I just watched the Schindlers give a press conference. They are good people. They are strong, classy people. Clearly, they loved Terri and I admire the fight they waged for her life. The Schindlers handled themselves with unbelievable grace throughout this entire ordeal and I grieve for them as much as Terri. This is a sad day, indeed.

Canyadiggit?


Gus' krunk toofs Posted by Hello

The Disposable Among Us

Terri Schiavo's death will not, it simply cannot, be in vain. It is up to all of us to make sure that it isn't. Her tragedy will have a profound effect on this country. It already has, in fact. And I'm optimistic that some good can come from her passing. It is time to have a serious national debate on how we treat the infirmed, the elderly, the mentally ill, the injured, those paralyzed, the blind, the helpless, the damaged, the "disposable among us."

None of us is perfect. We are all disposable in one sense or another. A decision was made, then carried out, to kill a woman who could not make decisions for herself. Now that we have killed someone for the crime of being brain damaged, how far are we from killing those whose only crime is being clinically depressed? Schizophrenics? Parkinson's sufferers? Alzheimers patients? Those on Prozac should be frightened by Terri's saga. Those who have ever been to a doctor for a serious medical condition should be equally frightened by the possibilities. Those who can't walk or talk should be frightened. Those children on Ritalin (or their parents) should be frightened. Redheads should be frightened. Diabetics. The morbidly obese. Short people. The list is almost endless. It includes all of us.

Something is wrong with her. No one would want to live that way. Their lives have no value. His existence is unworthy. There's no hope for a recovery. It' too expensive to keep her alive.

These are all dangerous and frightening thoughts. Everyone should be outraged, and everyone should be frightened. If Terri Schiavo was disposable, then we are all disposable, for one reason or another.

God Bless Terri Schiavo

Terri passed away this morning. No real surprise, given the decision to remove all food and water 2 weeks ago. But it's my opinion that her passing is a profound tragedy for both for her family and for this country. I think debate on this matter will continue for many months, perhaps years into the future. I am deeply troubled by the potential for abuse, and the slippery slope we have started down toward killing those people deemed inferior. I will blog more thoughts on this in the coming days, but today my schedule is very busy and I think it wise to collect my thoughts after some of the emotions have receded.

Good Dogs, Bad Habits


"We promise not to spoil our dogs" Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Left Wing is Soft

I applaud the effort to get liberal talk radio off the ground. However, Air America will ultimately fail for two reasons. 1) It is thoroughly unentertaining. 2) Air America suppresses dissent, by not airing callers that hold conservative points of view (this may contribute to #1, by the way). The Air Americans, however, can do what they want with their network. I will simply mock them until they cease to exist.

What's more interesting, are several incidents these past few days that have reinforced the irrefutable fact that many of our friends on the Left are soft. Today, The Drudge Report linked two stories of note. Last night, a liberal protestor threw a pie into Bill Kristol's face while he gave a speech at Earlham College in Indiana.

Also last night, sharp-witted Ann Coulter was heckled while she gave a speech at Kansas University. Several of the protestors were removed. Ann was assaulted with a pie last October in Arizona, as many may recall.

Last week another story surfaced, though at the time I didn't see the point in commenting on it. I guess a (admittedly entrepreneurial) liberal softie has invented a "Fox blocker" which is a cable filter that prevents the Fox News channel from sullying your 65" plasma idiot box.

I've blogged many times on all the hate we see coming from the Left's "fever swamp." Heck, Howard Dean has said how he "Hates Republicans and everything they stand for." He's the head of the DNC, so the fact that his followers are also haters shouldn't be a surprise. Want a taste of some real venom? Go check out www.democraticunderground.com (warning: DU language is revolting and the moonbat quotient is high).

Similarly, recall all the people who threatened to move to Canada after G-Dub was re-elected in November? "Sob, sob, we don't like the results of the election, so instead of rolling up our sleeves and working harder next time around, we're moving to Canada. Oh yeah, and they have free healthcare up there too. What do you mean they club seals? No way! We should organize a protest!"

And let's not forget about the British protestors that got their asses kicked by petroleum traders last month. That's the response we need here that would, um, "discourage" future hecklers and protestors.

The list of feckless left-wing protests is very long indeed, but one point that needs to be made is: the eagerness to suppress any mention of conservative ideas suggests both a lack of confidence and a lack of intelligence by those doing the suppressing. Have our liberal friends given up any hope of actually winning an argument? Are they intellectually out of gas? Do they cling to such weak arguments that they now only attempt to shut down conservative speech, rather than compete for the hearts and minds of reasonable Americans?

Not coincidentally, political dissidents are jailed, tortured, and killed in many countries around the world. Such countries as Cuba, China, and formerly in Iraq, the Soviet Union, many other communist regimes and fascist dictatorships, all dissent is regularly crushed. I won't equate running over someone with a tank to throwing a pie into their face, but the idea is to suppress the ideas of opponents.

Similarly, we see the mainstream media and our colleges and universities almost monolithically liberal. There's no room for dissent on the college campi (as Coulter and Kristol found out) just as there is (Fox exception noted) rarely a conservative point of view on TV or in major print news. I believe that it is precisely this coddling and nurturing of liberal thought that results in their softitude when it comes to making sound, logical arguments. Not surprisingly, the childlike reaction of "I hate you!" is quick to the liberal's tongue when things don't go as planned.

What a sad world it would be if we always hated those that disagreed with us. I know that I would have very few friends indeed if I hated all my liberal acquaintances. And I can't imagine how depressing it must be to go through life without challenging one's self intellectually. It would be like eating a boiled, boneless, skinless, gray, tasteless chicken breast every day. Or more accurately, every meal. What a delicious irony it is that today's American liberals, who came into existence challenging "the status quo" can no longer tolerate it now that the tables have turned.

Three More Terri Schiavo Links

I tripped across several good links today, the first two are both pretty lengthy. Both are well worth the time, in my view. The first link is a Terri Schiavo FAQ (hat tip: Instapundit).

The second link was sent by one of M3C's biggest fans, Toby Espinoza. Thank you Toby! It is a Terri Schiavo "timeline," found here. I learned some new information at each site, so give them a whirl.

Folks, I am more convinced of the terrible act committed on Terri Schiavo each day that she clings to life. She wouldn't have hung on for two weeks if her condition before the feeding tube was removed was so fragile. I dare say anyone reading this blog couldn't have hung on any longer without food or water.

Ben Stein also weighed in this morning (hat tip: Real Clear Politics). It's short so read it all.

M3C BOTW IX

Blog of the Week update: Check out OKIE on the Lam! Mr. Baker is a friend of a friend, and another So. Cal. resident, so there's a little soft spot there for me, to begin with. His blog is really well done, and his coverage the past few weeks of the Terri Schiavo saga has been inspirational and informative. I'm late in getting the BOTW update in this week, and with more travel next week, he'll probably be up for a few extra days. Time to change the name to M3C BOTW&1/2. Heh.

A Dog's Life


Life's tough at the M3C household Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The New Memogate, A Follow-Up

On Thursday I mentioned the new "memogate," last week's alleged GOP "talking points memo" about Terri Schiavo's plight. Yesterday I referenced Michael Barone's essay "No, It Wasn't a Cynical Ploy," found again here.

Also yesterday, one of my heros-John Hinderaker of PowerLine- wrote an excellent analysis in The Weekly Standard, found here. Hinderaker does a great job of showing why the documents are probably fraudulent.

But, Hinderaker and Barone don't address the "numbers," which I just can't seem to make work. (I'm not suggesting that I'm anywhere near the league of these two, just that the intent of their respective pieces wasn't about "making the numbers work"). Most polls, if we are to believe their accuracy, say that somewhere around 80% of Americans do not approve of President Bush (and Congress) inserting themselves into the Terri Schiavo matter.

Yes, but the memo says "the pro-life base will be excited" and how it's "a great political issue." Are we to believe that the Republicans (assuming the memo is authentic, of course) are so clueless as to just how large "their base" truly is? How likely is it that the political party that owns both chambers of Congress and the White House would make such a huge miscalculation? In other words, if Republicans are smart enough to win so many national and statewide elections the past 10 years, would they be dumb enough to pursue passing Terri's Bill in such a cynical and partisan manner?

Also, take into consideration the fact that Democrats were nearly split on the issue themselves, with 47 voting to approve the bill (53 against). How could almost all the Republicans and 1/2 the Democrats be so wrong about what the public wants? It's possible, but more likely if the representatives were voting their true beliefs, and not making a political calculation.

Given the bi-partisan vote on Terri's Bill, and Hinderaker's thorough fisking of the alleged GOP memo (in addition to the unlikely scenario where 80% of Americans could agree on anything), I have little doubt that for once in their careers, these politicians acted out of a sense of "reasoned moral convictions" as Michael Barone put it.

UPDATE: 3/30/2005 8:24am: PowerLine posted another update this morning. The original memo got a lot of MSM scrutiny last week, but this week I'm not seeing much coverage of the latest revelations questioning its authenticity. Heh.

Monday, March 28, 2005

I'm Leaving it to the Pros Today

Light blogging today, but I did read two articles by a couple M3C faves that everyone owes it to themselves to check out. Here's a wonderful article by Mark Steyn. I'm still in awe of the clarity, common sense, and humor he brings to his writing. Though the subject matter of today's essay isn't real funny, he still throws this gem in:
Here's a thought: Where do you go to get a living-will kit saying that in the event of a hideous accident I don't want to be put to death by a Florida judge or the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals? And, if you had such a living will, would any U.S. court recognize it?
Lastly, here's a great commentary by Michael Barone that is more about the politics of the Terri Schiavo case, but brilliant nonetheless.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Cynicism is Setting In

On Wednesday I made a bit of a rant about Michael Schiavo being a "piece of garbage." I also mentioned (in the same post) how I didn't understand how he kept winning all the legal challenges and how he must have had "a good lawyer." Read this post at PowerLine yesterday, and for those of us who are not lawyers, maybe a better understanding of what happened will emerge. I'm not saying it's right, and I abhor the result, but clearly Terri's parents were outlawyered. It's probably too early to boil it down so simply, but the sad story of Terri Schiavo looks like another example of the guy with the most money winning. Like OJ and Robert Blake (and many others of lesser fame), you can literally get away with murder in this country if you have enough money.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Life Worth Living

Real Clear Politics linked a wonderful and powerful commentary this morning. It is Whose Life is Worth Living?, written by Orson Scott Card. Read it all, people. Read it twice, in fact.

Here are a few random thoughts I've been collecting over the past few days, totally unrelated to Card's essay:

Wouldn't it be nice if Sean Penn had got as upset about what was done to Terri Schiavo as he did when a few harmless jokes were made about Jude Law at the Academy Awards? What if we told him that there were paparazzi in her hospice?

And what if some paparazzi, rather than sneaking into some gated compound to get pictures of a pregnant Britney Spears, snuck into Terri's hospice and took photos that showed the world her true condition, rather than whatever information Michael Schiavo chooses to release?

The following two thoughts aren't mine, I heard them on talk radio this past week:

"Schiavo" means "slave" in Italian.

What about the irony of Terri's family, the Schindlers, being unable to free their daughter, in a free country no less, from a needless death sentence? Compare that to Oskar Schindler, the German business magnate (of Schindler's List fame) who saved more than a thousand Jews from the gas chambers in WWII Germany, the world's most notorious fascist regime.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Voter Fraud Investigations

I sure hope the DOJ does something about this. No, that's too vague. I want aggressive prosecution of anyone who commits illegal registrations and voter fraud. I want examples made of the perpetrators a la Martha Stewart and Ken Lay. I fear the MSM will ignore this, however. Similar reports for Florida, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania should come in the next few weeks (hat tip: Ankle Biting Pundits).
Those individuals registering these fictional voters were reportedly paid not just money to do so but were, in at least one instance, paid in crack cocaine.

Crack cocaine? Can the Democrats get any lower? Don't people put KitchenAids on their gift registry anymore?


Between Travesty and Tragedy

That's how Charles Krauthammer sums it up. Read it here.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Even More Terri Schiavo Thoughts

Sorry folks, I know it must seem like I'm beating the proverbial dead horse. What an inappropriate cliche that is! I had composed some thoughts on Tuesday morning before I boarded my plane at LAX. Without an internet connection at the time, I saved them in MS Word, then forgot I had them. Here they are, however dated (and however incoherent due to the early hour I wrote them):

I am still appalled by the willingness and even the eagerness with which some people want to see this woman die. Also, the careless mentality of many observers, otherwise good people, who “don’t want to get involved” is depressing. The politicians who say (mostly Democratic politicians, that I have heard) that the government “shouldn’t intrude in private family matters” are forgetting that they do so every day with many types of intrusive legislation. Also, if (God forbid) a father has raped his pre-teen daughter, should the government not get involved in that “private family matter”? What if the child is blind/deaf/mute and isn’t “on record” as to objecting to the torture? Is it okay then? What about beating one's spouse? Are we going to redefine that as a private matter?

Although doctors (many, in fact) have determined that there was no hope for Terri’s recovery, her death was never imminent. Now that she is starving, and being forcibly dehydrated, her death is imminent.

Michael Schiavo has said (I heard this audio tape early Tuesday morning on the Bill Bennett radio show, around 4:20am) that Terri’s brain is mush, and that she can feel no pain. I think he’s trying to say that the barbaric method of starving and dehydrating her won’t make her suffer. But I ask, if she feels no pain, then what is the harm in letting her live? If she isn’t capable of feeling pain, then she wasn’t suffering before the feeding tube was removed. And if she can’t feel pain, then why is she getting painkillers during the starvation process? Why not try to rehabilitate her? Why not let her family care for her? Where is the harm in any of that?

Maureen Dowd Doesn't Have a Clue

If 82% of the public are opposed to Congress passing the Terri Schiavo legislation this week, and 74% think it was "all about politics," then what are left wingers like Maureen Dowd worried about?

If Republicans, standing on principle, are committing political suicide, why is she upset about that? Dowd asks:
Are the Republicans so obsessed with maintaining control over all branches of government, and are the Democrats so emasculated about not having any power, that they are willing to turn the nation into a wholly owned subsidiary of the church?
First of all, I think Dowd is more than a little confused. Is she saying that Democrats are unconcerned with maintaining their own power? Are Democrats just in Washington to play nice-nice and enjoy the monuments? I'm willing to concede that anyone who runs for office is concerned about power, but is she that naive? And does she not understand that when one party wins elections, one of the things they are entitled to is pushing their own agenda? When you get more votes than your opponent, then it follows that the people have approved your agenda, not the losers'. And that includes judicial appointments. I know that must seem like a bit of stiff cheddar, Maureen, but that's the way the system works.

UPDATE: CNN's Judy Woodruff is equally flummoxed. How do these two maintain careers in media?

A New Memogate?

PowerLine is following the curious case of the Republican "talking points memo" regarding the Terri Schiavo case. Looks like another forgery. This time, however, ABC seems to be the duped network. The PowerLine guys are on it just as they were in the Rathergate/forged TANG documents fiasco. This story has been tough for me to follow given my travels this week, so I haven't commented on it before now.

As it relates to Terri Schiavo, I have a few quick thoughts. The first is how shameful it is to use her as a political pawn. If it turns out these documents are indeed fakes, we have another instance of a major network using forged documents in an attempt to bring down Republicans (and again, the Democrats are willing accomplices).

With the recent Supreme Court death penalty decision, judicial arrogance in the Terri Schiavo matter, rogue judges ramming their personal agendas down our throats, and Senate Democrats filibustering President Bush's nominees, my previous statement that "judicial activism is one of the single greatest threats" facing our country isn't far off the mark (the threat of terrorism aside).

Time to roll up our sleeves and focus on the next elections. Out of power in two of government's three branches, the Dems are trying to maintain some power in the one area they have left: the judicial branch. This is not how our nation's government is supposed to work. Forging memos is a dirty trick, one surely to be remembered in November 2006. Ditto filibustered judicial nominees. ABC has shown, as CBS did last September, which side they are taking. I'm sure this case will simmer for weeks before the MSM picks it up.

UPDATE: 3/24/2005 @ 6:33pm: Josh at In the Agora has really been doing the heavy lifting on this issue. Check it out and scroll around, he has numerous posts on the new memogate.

UPDATE 2: 3/24/2005 @ 11:19pm: The American Spectator has even more.

Control Freak Yes, Maybe Worse

The stunning lack of compassion by Michael Schiavo and his lawyers in Terri's case absolutely amazes me. Yet the failure to use common sense in this situation is even more worrisome. It saddens me and it worries me for the direction our country is headed. How any judge can rule in the estranged husband's favor, and not consider the mountain of evidence screaming "conflict of interest" speaks volumes about our (lack of) justice system. Here's what we know:

The man abandoned his wife (he lives with another women, and has two children with her). Michael Schiavo stands to make money upon Terri's death, somewhere around a million dollars. This money was put into a trust fund after winning a court settlement in 1992. I have actually read reports that he has already spent that money, but I'm not sure yet if those reports are true.

Michael Schiavo has prevented any MRIs from being performed on Terri. He wont allow any therapy to be performed lest Terri's condition improve. He won't allow any stimulation(pictures, music, etc.) in her hospice room and he limits human contact. He won't allow cameras or video to record Terri's true condition.

Why he still maintains legal guardian status makes no sense. Why he is allowed to decide this poor woman's fate seems profoundly wrong to me. And yesterday, he prevented Terri's family from seeing her for over five hours.

I predict that upon Terri's death, he will have her cremated, then either hold those ashes forever, preventing her family from ever having access, or he'll spread the ashes in the Gulf of Mexico from his new boat, again preventing Terri's family from knowing exactly where or when he'll do that.

At the very least, Michael Schiavo is a cruel man. I'm confident of that. Time will tell if evidence of legal and law enforcement corruption helped him kill his wife.

UPDATE: Since I posted this, I have found this, which confirms Michael Schiavo's wishes to have Terri cremated immediately upon her death. Remember my prediction.

Dolphin Logic

Rush just made a good point regarding Terri's plight: the next time a whale or perhaps a pod of dolphins beach themselves, should we go to extraordinary measures to save them or respect their "decision to die?" We save these animals (or attempt to) out of compassion. Their lives have value, at least to some people. If they can't be saved, they are euthanized to prevent needless suffering.

Last night a death-row inmate in Texas was granted a last minute reprieve, a mere five hours before he was supposed to die by lethal injection. It's only a reprieve, as evidence is reviewed one more time.

Yet the starvation and dehydration of Terri Schiavo continues. The cruelty on exhibit in Pinellas Park, Florida is absolutely sickening. She is helpless. She is brain damaged, not brain dead. Evidently her life has less worth than that of a dolphin or a convicted murderer.

UPDATE: 3/24/2005 @ 3:00pm PST: This Peggy Noonan essay, "In Love With Death" was at OpinionJournal.com this morning. I just got around to reading it, and thought it meshed with some of what I blogged this morning. Peggy is a wonderful writer and this piece is a must-read.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Chiblogo post

Still traveling this afternoon. This morning's posts were from the hotel in St. Louis, now I'm in Chicago, blogging it Red Carpet-style. I'm still amazed I can get online as easily as I do "from the road," so half the reason I post is just to see if I can pull it off.

It's tough to get constant updates on Terri's condition, but CNN's airport network is covering the case, so I tolerate their broadcasts as much as I can. I fear that it will soon be time to start the Monday morning quarterbacking. Which means we will need to examine what the heck is going on in our civilization, as it relates to the "culture of death" that has already raced through Europe and is now landed on our shores. I could be wrong, but I don't think I'm over dramatizing the situation to say that now that we have approved killing those that are inconvenient to us, have we taken the first step down a slippery slope where killing other people for different reasons will soon be accepted?

I'm quickly skimming lots of blogs trying to get more information, everyone owes it to themselves to keep checking OKIE on the Lam. He's got a great perspective on it. And here's a wonderful Tony Blankley op-ed (via Hedgehog). Read it all. I'll be back in So. Cal. tomorrow.

Terri Update

My optimism and hope for a happy ending to Terri's plight is fading fast. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to hear the motion that would reinsert her feeding tube (though Judge Charles Wilson's strongly worded dissent made a lot of sense, in my view). She's now entering her 6th day off food and water. Terri's family is now hoping for unlikely help from the U.S. Supreme Court, or possibly some last minute miracle from the Florida legislature.

As an observer, I am truly inspired by Terri's family, the Schindlers. Though desperate, they have handled this heart-wrenching tragedy with strength and grace. They seem like good people, honest and loving, and it's always sad to see good people suffering.

One idea I had last night was to ship food and water to Terri's estranged husband Michael. From now until the end of his life, I hope he's deluged with shipments for which he has no use, as a haunting reminder. Lots of food and water. The more I hear about that guy, the more this whole story stinks. Michael Schiavo is a very wicked man, and I'm afraid such gestures would not produce the shame that he is clearly incapable of feeling. I will have more to say on this piece of garbage in the future. How any courts can grant him guardian rights, then repeatedly rule in his favor as he simultaneously lives with his new family yet refuses to grant a divorce to Terri is beyond me. He must have a very good lawyer.

This is a very sad day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

New Belmont Club URL

The Belmont Club has a new URL. The link on my blogroll is fixed and you can also reach them by clicking here.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Diversity, Just Not Diversity of Thought

Drudge linked this nugget this morning. I reprint here an e-mail he received in case the link goes away anytime soon.

'PLAYGIRL' EDITOR FIRED AFTER OUTING SELF AS REPUBLICAN Mon Mar 21 2005 10:09:48 ET**Exclusive**

PLAYGIRL editor-in-chief Michele Zipp has been stripped of her duties after she revealed how she voted Republican in the 2004 election. Zipp, in an e-mail, claims she was fired after an onslaught of liberal backlash.

"Hello Drudge, "After your coverage of my article about coming out and voting Republican, I did receive many letters of support from fellow Republican voters, but it was not without repercussions. Criticism from the liberal left ensued. A few days after the onslaught of liberal backlash, I was released from my duties at Playgirl magazine. "After underlings expressed their disinterest of working for an outed Republican editor, I have a strong suspicion that my position was no longer valued by Playgirl executives. I also received a phone call from a leading official from Playgirl magazine, in which he stated with a laugh, "I wouldn't have hired you if I knew you were a Republican."I just wanted to let you know of the fear the liberal
left has about a woman with power possessing Republican views
."

It got me to thinking about how much our friends on the Left drone on about "diversity." What exactly does diversity mean to them? Usually the word is paraded out to show how enlightened they are.

See? We're the compassionate party, we accept Lepers! Ex-cons! Asians! Retards! Blacks! Women! Gays and lesbians! Disabled persons! Vegans? Sure, bring 'em on! Homeless people! Star Trek geeks! Philanderers! Have we forgotten anyone? Oh yeah, even the occasional white male! (as long as they don't exceed their quota). We're a big tent, unlike some other political party.

A big tent open to everyone, it seems, except conservatives, or anyone who has ever voted Republican. Liberals won't have any of them. That would be dangerous. Ask old-school Democrat Zell Miller. Or center-left Joe Lieberman, who will likely face a challenger in the next Connecticut democratic Senate primary, since some left wingnuts think Lieberman isn't liberal enough. I wonder how long it will be before a lawsuit is filed by someone who wasn't hired for a job as a result of their political beliefs. Isn't that a form of discrimination? Maybe Michele Zipp has a case.

The Democratic Party will never be able to woo red-state converts if it actively pursues policies of hate. When Howard Dean says "I hate Republicans and everything they stand for" who exactly does he think will read that and say, "Gosh, I know he's talking about me, but I need to rethink my political philosophy and join up with the people who hate me"? How does the suppression of ideas lead to healthy and diverse thought? It all seems terribly immature to me, and certainly not a recipe for future electoral success. Dean once again planted his foot firmly in his mouth yesterday when he called Republicans "brain dead." Way to go, Howard, your timing couldn't be better. Nice rhetoric to use during the struggle to keep brain damaged Terri Schiavo alive.

As for my own anecdotal evidence, Mrs. Three Cents and I recently had an old friend over for dinner at Casa Three Cent. After a nice meal and a couple bottles of wine, our liberal friend commented that she's been reading M3C and she had no idea how conservative my political beliefs were before she read the blog. She then said, "It's like you're deranged."

Yes, it seems like it sometimes. Heh.

It's Probably too Soon for Levity

I said earlier that starvation is no way to die. Lt. Frank Drebin of Police Squad/Naked Gun fame had this to say way back in 1988 (ironically, Drebin was standing over Officer Nordberg, played by infamous wife-killer OJ Simpson):
"A parachute not opening, that’s a way to die. Getting caught in the gears of a combine. Having your nuts bit off by a Laplander—that’s the way I want to go!"
How I manage to find humor in the most serious of situations, I have no idea. But I'm quite sure I'm going to burn in Hell. And if you want to join me, send an e-mail request and I'll forward an audio file of Drebin's quote to you.

More Terri Schiavo Thoughts

Today (and over the weekend) the MSM was charging across the airwaves with their typical herd mentality. They are now applying moral relativism to the Terri Schiavo case, saying things like "starvation is the best way to die. It's compassionate, dignified and painless." Nonsense.

Rush had a good point this morning: if starving and dehydration is such a good way to die, then why have we sent so much money and humanitarian aid to Africa and countries where famines occur? Where were all these expert doctors and healthcare workers that could have saved us billions of dollars?

Look, I honestly don't know the true details of Terri Schiavo's situation. There is a lot of emotion on both sides of the case. There is a lot of opposing information to absorb. To make a decision as to her true condition is very difficult for those of us who aren't doctors and aren't there. We will never know for sure if Terri ever actually said she wouldn't want to live in her present condition. Only Michael Schiavo (her "husband") knows that.

But there are few things of which I'm sure, provable, irrefutable facts: Michael Schiavo is living with another woman. He has children with that woman. He has refused all requests from Terri's parents and family to relinquish guardian rights and let them care for Terri. Michael Schiavo wants Terri dead. He may have reasons, and those reasons may or may not be debatable. But make no mistake, Michael Schiavo wants his "wife" dead.

I do know that assigning guardian rights to a man that has abandoned his wife is wrong. Condemning an innocent woman to a "dignified death" that we wouldn't wish on nameless, faceless African children is wrong. Condemning a woman to the inhumane death that we don't allow for our pets is wrong. And sentencing a woman to a slow death (or was it the best death?), one that we don't afford to mass killers here in this country is dead wrong.

Events are happening very quickly and there looks like there may be some breaking news this afternoon. The Vatican weighs in here, read it all. Terri has just begun her fourth day without food or water, so time is of the essence.

M3C BOTW VIII

Miscellaneous Monday morning pre-work ruminations:

First of all, let's call it the "freedom press". We all go through phases in life and after a six month hiatus I'm back to using this for my morning coffee. Plain and simple: it makes great coffee. Much better than the drip models, in fact. It's a little bit more work, and sort of like being back in 7th grade chemistry class. In other words, ratios matter. Water temperature matters. Bean quality definitely matters! And the proper grind is critical. Caffeine lovers unite! Throw off the shackles of tasteless, lukewarm sludge!

I cleaned the window in my office yesterday (inside and out) along with the screen. This was quite the chore (2nd story window), and long overdue. If I can get some pictures of the birds this afternoon I will try to post some. The birds have been plentiful lately (maybe because of all the rains?), many with some really spectacular colors. Anyway, my camera may not get any good shots (it's nice but it isn't uberpowerladen). I'll do what I can, but I suspect the 4x optical zoom will be pushed to it's absolute limit. Then maybe one of you can tell me what the heck I'm looking at, since I don't know much about bird species.

Expect light blogging the next few days. I'm traveling to the midwest tomorrow and will try to post thoughts from the hotel or airport lounges, if possible. Again, I'll do what I can.

And finally, Blog o' the Week has been updated and Victor Davis Hanson is in the house. Vic's writing is brilliant. His website is more a collection of essays than a hastily written blog, but he's definitely worth your valuable time. Victor Davis Hanson is smart and has a very impressive resume. So if you have the time to check out my mindless blather, you owe it to yourself to see what's going on in his little corner of the blogosphere.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

No comparison!

I'm a little loopy after watching some truly great NCAA games today. It's time for a beer so I pass on a few reasons why G-Dub got 4 more years (hat tip: Wes Roth).

UPDATE: Here's a Time article that lists some more lame excuses from a loser.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

VDH on Haters

Victor Davis Hanson has a great piece, "Deconstructing the Hitlerian Slur," which discusses the state of our modern political discourse. Read it all. Hat tip: Real Clear Politics.

Help Terri Schiavo

The case of Terri Schiavo is an absolute tragedy, in my view. I'm not going to make excuses why I haven't blogged this issue before, suffice it to say that I was overly optimistic for a happy ending and clearly made an error (I'll flog myself later). Anyone not familiar with Terri's plight should go here for some background and updates. I'm not sure if anyone has asked this yet, but:

If Michael Schiavo is convinced that his (former) wife "would not want to live this way," has anyone asked if he thinks Terri would want to die by starvation?

Peggy Noonan displayed her usual brilliance yesterday. And also check out OKIE on the Lam for updates. The only ideas I have to help save Terri's life are:
  1. Please keep Terri in your prayers.
  2. Contact you Senators and Congressmen. Call them. Write e-mails. Pressure them.
  3. Contact your friends and relatives. Ask them to also do these simple things.
I have sent e-mails to my representatives; they are posted below. Anyone who wants to copy-and-paste them in order to save time is welcome to do so.

Letters for Terri

Congressman Waxman:

I'm contacting you to urge your help, first as a compassionate human being, second as a representative of our government, in saving the life of Terri Schiavo. Your statement yesterday was a perversion of decency, an utter embarrassment to your office and all your constituents. I urge you to rethink the matter and ask if it is right to starve people to death. If that punishment would be considered "cruel and unusual" for convicted killers, surely it is cruel and unusual punishment for an innocent woman. Please use your office for good. Do the right thing, Congressman, and then next week you can go back to the important task of harassing baseball players on steroids.

Eric Liebegott
liebegot@pacbell.net




Senator Boxer:

I'm contacting you to urge your help, first as a compassionate human being, second as a representative of our government, in saving the life of Terri Schiavo. I know you don't represent Floridians, but surely you agree that when helpless peoples' lives are threatened, being a decent human being overrides state boundaries.

I urge you to think about the matter and ask if it is right to starve people to death. If that punishment would be considered "cruel and unusual" for one of your constituents, Scott Peterson for example, surely it is cruel and unusual punishment for an innocent woman.

Please use your office for good. Do the right thing, Senator, and use whatever tools are at your disposal to help save this woman's life. Next week you can go back to the important task of changing the constitution over judicial nominees.

Eric Liebegott
liebegot@pacbell.net




Senator Feinstein:

I'm contacting you to urge your help, first as a compassionate human being, second as a representative of our government, in saving the life of Terri Schiavo. I know you don't represent Floridians, but surely you agree that when helpless peoples' lives are threatened, being a decent human being overrides state boundaries.

I urge you to think about the matter and ask if it is right to starve people to death. If that punishment would be considered "cruel and unusual" for one of your constituents, Scott Peterson for example, surely it is cruel and unusual punishment for an innocent woman.

Please use your office for good. Do the right thing, Senator, and use whatever tools are at your disposal to help save this woman's life. She does not deserve to die in such a barbaric way.

Eric Liebegott
liebegot@pacbell.net

Friday, March 18, 2005


Look out below! Posted by Hello

Programming Note

I expect to make a few M3C schedule changes over the next few months. As many of you know, the other hobbies du jour are hiking and alpine climbing. The blog takes up a lot of time, as do those other hobbies. The problem is that no one has discovered a 25th hour in the day or an 8th day in the week. So my plan is to scale back blogging for awhile and make it strictly a Monday-Friday affair. Weekend traffic is roughly 1/3 (sometimes less) what I receive during the week, so this change shouldn't upset too many people.

I need to make this adjustment so that I can use the weekends to get into better physical shape for big climbs like Mt. Rainier. This means more hours in the gym, more running, and carrying a heavy pack on the trail. Trail work needs to be done at altitude, which means driving to the local mountains or High Sierra. So blogging quality will remain as good as you've come to expect (boy have I set myself up with that statement), with slightly less quantity. In addition to these changes, I also hope to improve the rather bland look of M3C, by adding spectacular pictures of the mountains.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Reality TV and the Social Security Debate

Yesterday I discussed at length "America's Idol" Nikko Smith, and though his reprieve last night reminded me of Lazarus emerging from the cave, it's a sure bet he'll be gone before March is over.

But it's another reality show, CBS' Survivor, that mimics what is going on in today's Social Security debate. As you all know, Survivor pits contestants against one another in various physical and mental tests. Each week, one person is voted off the island, and the contestants never know what is coming up next. In true Darwinian fashion, adapting and surviving is often just as effective as dominating.

Last night's Survivor brought an interesting plot twist, where two contestants were sacked, instead of the customary single dismissal. One tribe, Koror, has completely dominated the rival Ulong tribe all season. Through 5 episodes, Koror has yet to lose an immunity challenge and they are methodically wearing down their opponents.

This morning, Real Clear Politics had two must-read articles concerning the Social Security debate. The first is written by Ramesh Ponnuru, found here at Tech Central Station. Ponnuru parallels how Republicans have gained power in all facets of government while the investor class has slowly grown. Since the advent of IRAs and 401(k)s, nearly 2 million Americans per year have joined the "investor class."

The second article, found here, is from The New Republic of all places. N. Gregory Mankiw discusses the reasons why Democrats oppose Social Security reform. In summary, he believes their reasons are:

  1. The Democrats will oppose anything President Bush proposes, in hopes they will finally hand him a humiliating political defeat.
  2. Social Security reform could end the other long-time Democratic wedge issue pitting "the working class" vs. "Big Business."
  3. Democrat elites think they are smart enough to manage their own retirement accounts, but the unwashed masses are incapable of doing so.
The reason Ponnoru's piece is relevant is because it explains how the U.S. political landscape is changing. It's also important to note that there are many other changes going on in our world, not just a growing investor class (the blogosphere is another important example of modern change). None of us know exactly what surprises tomorrow brings. It's the same in Survivor. The Mankiw piece shows how the Democrats either refuse or are unable to adapt to those changes in the political landscape. And also like Survivor, the tribe that can't adapt loses.

It remains to be seen if the Democrats will adjust their strategery in the Social Security debate. So far they have not. Like the hapless Ulong tribe, the Democrats will have to come up with some answers if they hope to pick up congressional seats, win back the white house, or set this country's political agenda any time soon.

Gray Lady, Thy Name is Hypocrisy

From The Weekly Standard, a couple of New York Times quotes to chew on:

A January 1, 1995, Times editorial on proposals to restrict the use of Senate filibusters:

In the last session of Congress, the Republican minority invoked an endless string of filibusters to frustrate the will of the majority. This relentless abuse of a time-honored Senate tradition so disgusted Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, that he is now willing to forgo easy retribution and drastically limit the filibuster. Hooray for him. . . . Once a rarely used tactic reserved for issues on which senators held passionate views, the filibuster has become the tool of the sore loser, . . . an archaic rule that frustrates democracy and serves no useful purpose.
A March 6, 2005, Times editorial on the same subject:

The Republicans are claiming that 51 votes should be enough to win confirmation of the White House's judicial nominees. This flies in the face of Senate history. . . . To block the nominees, the Democrats' weapon of choice has been the filibuster, a time-honored Senate procedure that prevents a bare majority of senators from running roughshod. . . . The Bush administration likes to call itself "conservative," but there is nothing conservative about endangering one of the great institutions of American democracy, the United States Senate, for the sake of an ideological crusade.
Heh. Stack the courts already!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Nikko Smith: Undead Radioactive Singing Cockroach

Last night I put down Michael Medved's latest book, Right Turns, in order to watch American Idol. For those who watch the A.I., things are getting interesting. Last night truly was a bloodbath. Almost all of the final 12 contestants had an absolutely horrendous night. Maybe it was a collective case of butterflies, I don't know. I think there also must have been some sound monitor problems on stage, because almost everyone choked, "big time" as our Veep would say.

Of the 12 finalists, maybe three sounded good (including my darkhorse favorite, Scott Savol). And it wasn't as if there were a bunch of average performances, THEY WERE REALLY TERRIBLE. Which brings us to the curious case of Mr. Nikko Smith. Mr. Smith was actually voted off last week (he would have placed 13th or 14th overall, I guess) but was hastily reinserted into last night's show because another contestant, Mario Vasquez, mysteriously quit over the weekend.

So Nikko performs last, and comes out with what I felt was far and away the evening's worst performance. Not this bad, but you get the picture. Nikko no doubt did his best but was way off key (very "pitchy", as judge Randy would say). Also, he decided to do the Jackson 5 tune, "I Want You Back" (a song I normally enjoy, by the way). I had to laugh at not only how bad his performance was, but the irony of the entire situation. Like he chose that song because we want him back? How about YOU want you back?

Evidently, Mario Vasquez did some background vocals for Michael Jackson in 2001. Maybe Nikko was sending out a tribute to the guy he replaced. Even more amusing is the fact that Michael Jackson is on trial right now for child molestation. Is Nikko utterly incapable of picking up a newspaper? Did he think this would win him some sympathy votes from, I don't know, pedophiles? What on earth was he thinking? Anyway, putting all that aside and just judging the performances on their merits, Nikko's got to go.

If he survives tonight's cut, then I'll be convinced Nikko Smith is the demon spawn of a vampire father and nuclear cockroach mother. The undead radioactive singing cockroach zombie doing a lounge act. Heh.

Don't Listen to Joe Sixpack, We Know Better.

P.J. O'Rourke has a funny piece called "Mass Transit Hysteria" at OpinionJournal.com this morning. It's entertaining and rather infuriating at the same time. O'Rourke says, "There are just two problems with mass transit. Nobody uses it, and it costs like hell."

I had no idea how sparingly people use mass transit in our country. Nationally, it is only 4% and even in New York City, it's less than 25% of commuters. As a Californian, I assumed everyone rode the subway to work in the Big Apple! Nationally, the costs run into the billions of dollars each year (actually, that's just L.A.). Talk about a boondoggle. Everyone pays taxes to build systems that are used by a few. And because next to nobody rides mass transit, we all have to pay more in taxes for transit subsidies. These subsidies keep the empty trains running, fares affordable and the metropolitan transit authorities "solvent," I presume.

If we're talking in environmental terms, just how much are we doing when only 4% of commuters use mass transit? And are we really reducing traffic congestion by any measurable amount? When I read the O'Rourke piece I was reminded of a maddening L.A. Times article I read a few years ago. I wish I had a blog back in 2002. Miraculously, I found the article here (archived on another website). This paragraph says a lot (emphasis mine):
"Lots of people are opposed to transit," said Mike Ward, an OCTA board member and Irvine councilman. "But we are trying to make decisions that will affect the county 20 to 25 years from now, when we will have 600,000 more people."

It wouldn't matter if there were 10 million more Orange County residents in 20 years! (The OC has roughly 3 million now). This OCTA bureaucrat was quite comfortable jamming a light rail system down the throats of Orange County's residents. Forget that citizens don't want it. Forget that the numbers don't work and it will never pay for itself. Orange County is too geographically, um, diverse, to make economical sense out of a light rail system (in other words, Countie L'Orange is too spread out!).

Don't believe me? Look at the numbers from the OCTA itself. Total cost is estimated at $1.1 billion (expect this to go up, as most cost estimates do). They expect 15,000 daily riders (that's only 0.50% of all residents, and ridership estimates rarely meet expectations anyway). If you amortize the capital costs over ten years, it works out to over $700 per month per rider. O'Rourke is correct, giving each rider a BMW X-5 would be cheaper.

Fortunately for those behind the orange curtain, it seems their rail project is dying on the vine. What is troubling though is the elitist mentality of a few bureaucrats who get behind their pet projects and lose sight of the greater needs of society. Whether it's judicial activisim of varying sorts, or other unelected bureaucrats running our lives, one thing is certain: these big government types will do what they want, not what Joe Sixpack wants.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Philadelphia Exit Strategy

Matt Drudge linked this article about the recent spate of killings in Philadelphia (aka "The City of Brotherly Love"). The real question is:

What is our exit strategy from Philadelphia?

We need to withdraw from Philadelphia before more innocent lives are lost. Ed Rendell rushed to Harrisburg without a plan to win the peace in Philadelphia. His unilateralist policies have alienated citizens and created an environmental holocaust. Rendell lied, people died. It's time to get out.

Gus Needs Botox

It's amazing how fast puppies grow up. Here's Gus, showing how well he has learned to "sit." He also knows how to "shake" and "poop outside." He's got a few loose baby teeth as well, which means he's too young to need botox. But darned if he doesn't.....


Gus Needs Botox Posted by Hello

"Main Title and First Victim"

Blogging has been especially light the past few days, sorry for the laziness. Work is still very busy, no end in sight. Also, the in-laws just departed this morning after using the M3C mothership as a base of operations for their week-long west-coast intel-gathering ops. A good time was had by all, but two misbehaving dogs, a one year-old baby, and a house that feels this big make for a potent stress recipe. The tri-tip was good though. Damn good. Ditto the cannoli.

I'm working on a few blog drafts, however it's quite possible none of them will make the final publishing cut. So I withhold leaking topics in case they don't pan out. Nothing too mind boggling, so everyone REMAIN CALM. In other news, I'm busy filling out brackets.

And I'm also really enjoying the iPod. I have imbibed generously from the Kool-Aid pitcher (mmmmm, dyed sugar water) and my head is already shaved, so the last things to pick up will be the purple shroud and a roll of quarters. Only then will I be a full-fledged iPod cult member. In all seriousness, the ability to purchase one song on the internet for $.99 is genius, and my most recent purchases have all been soundtrack music. It's going to be a long process to put together an entire CD, but slowly, an eclectic list is coming together. I'm really trying to put together a good musical compilation, even if the movies are crap or the musical styles vary widely (they do). E-mail song or musical score suggestions to liebegot@pacbell.net.

Conflicted Thoughts on Judicial Killings

I've blogged in recent weeks on the subject of judicial activisim, calling it "one of the biggest threats to our society." I am troubled, however, by the recent killings in Atlanta and Chicago, clearly targeting judges (or their families). I think these two cases are simply examples of nutjobs gone wild, but I also think it unwise to dismiss all such killings so cavalierly.

Although violent crime may be on the decline in our society, we see senseless killing every day and obviously any murder is a profound tragedy. There is something about killing judges, though, that for some reason, strikes me as especially sinister. Killing judges also seems to be an attack on our country's foundation, the rule of law.

I must admit that my thoughts on this are not fully developed. Maybe what bothers me is that these recent cases have shown how people are targeted for simply doing their jobs. Would it be any more acceptable if someone got a sour lemonade at Hot Dog on a Stick and decided to throw the teen slacker behind the register into the fryer? Probably not, but don't get me started on telemarketers. I deplore the taking of innocent life, it matters not the victim's sex, adult or child, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or their profession. If we are all equal in God's eyes, then each murder is equally tragic. And clearly each murder is wrong in terms of how our legal system views them. Yet still, for some reason, the killing of judges seems like the first step down a slippery slope towards a society of fear, lawlessness, corruption, feckless enforcement, and total anarchy.

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Sleepy Time Posted by Hello

M3C BOTW VII

It's time to change the Blog of the Week feature, and I've put a new member "on the board," Lowell Brown's The Hedgehog Report.

Earlier this morning I linked a few articles on the Illegal Immigration issue, well-written stuff by people way smarter than me. It seemed as fast as I could read/post/update, Lowell was also updating and adding posts on the issue. Ah, the beauty of the blogosphere.

Anyway, keep checking The Hedgehog Report for updates, he's doing a great job covering this complex and heated issue.

Illegal Immigration Debate

Back on January 31st, I posted a short piece titled "Border Security." Yesterday I read "Illegal Immigration: The Issue The GOP Simply Must Get Right" at the Hedgehog Report (hat tip:H2). I urge everyone to take a few minutes and read the Hedgehog's take on the issue. It's sane and practical, and he lists four principles that we must adhere to in fixing the system:

More importantly, he's pushing for the conservative blogosphere to debate the issue and come to a consensus in terms of the steps to take in fixing the immigration/border security problem.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Buried in the Sand

If there were no WMDs in Iraq, then why the need to bribe WMD inspectors? Surely, a master strategist like Saddam Hussein would be too smart to make such an expensive mistake (Hat tip: Wes Roth).

Friday, March 11, 2005

Rendition Update

OpinionJournal.com has an editorial this morning entitled "Rendering Al Qaeda." On Tuesday I blogged a piece entitled "Outsourcing Torture?" which also discussed the United States' rendition policy, so this is a good time for me to clarify some thoughts on the issue.

First, a look at the big picture. Our country is currently engaged in an epic struggle against a fanatical and violent foe. Militant Islamic fundamentalists have no problem killing anyone who isn't also an Islamic fundamentalist. They shoot people. They set off roadside bombs. They drive explosives-laden trucks into buildings. They strap nails and explosives to themselves (or retarded kids, or women, or donkeys). They fly planes into buildings. They behead those they consider "infidels" (again, defined loosely as anyone who isn't a militant Islamic fundamentalist). And they kill their own people suspected of not being sufficiently pure of thought.

For many years, these foes have killed thousands of Americans. Only since 9/11/2001 has the United States begun to fight back. We need to do all that we can to defeat this enemy. That includes, but isn't limited to, intelligence gathering, military action, diplomatic negotiations, regime change, fostering democracy reforms worldwide, rebuilding countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, and yes, stringent interrogations of captured terrorists. The last three paragraphs of the OpinionJournal.com piece sum things up:

Keep in mind that al Qaeda detainees enter U.S. custody trained to deal with U.S. interrogators, and well aware of our legal limitations. U.S. forces have found al Qaeda training manuals that explain in detail what they can expect. This removes the most powerful tool any interrogator can have in dealing with detainees, which is the anxiety that comes with uncertainty. The prospect of rendition creates that uncertainty.

Yet even this would be banned under legislation introduced by Democratic Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey. "Torture is morally repugnant whether we do it or whether we ask another country to do it for us," he says. Which is true, except that nobody in the Bush Administration is suggesting the U.S. practice torture, and there would be no need to render suspects in the first place if American interrogators were not already, and increasingly, constrained.

To win the war on terror, the U.S. will require vastly better intelligence than it has had so far. Terrorist suspects are potentially among the most valuable sources of intelligence, yet the expanded use of renditions only indicates that the U.S. itself is incapable of mining these assets. No one we know wants to "outsource torture," but critics of the practice are obliged to say what tactics they will sanction that can extract information from terrorists when it might save American lives.

At the end of the day, we are talking about saving American lives and providing for the security of our nation. We need to do this by adding tools to the arsenal, not by fighting with one hand tied behind our back. As the quote above says: the most powerful tool any interrogator can have in dealing with detainees is the anxiety that comes with uncertainty. Let's use it.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Social Security

The Social Security debate rages on. Today, Real Clear Politics linked a Robert Reich editorial on the subject, entitled Social Security's Generation Gap. (Robert Reich was the nation's Labor Secretary under President Clinton). RCP followed that up with some commentary of their own:
The vital omission here - one which Democrats have been making since the Social Security debate began - is that no one is obligated to do anything under Bush's plan. Those who have anxiety over the idea of a personal account or worry they may end up worse off down the road (however unlikely that might be) can simply stick with the current system.

Sounds eerily similar to what I said in my Tortured Logic post (March 4th).


Euro Bashing

I've mentioned Captain's Quarters several times before and read it regularly. Captain Ed really does some good work in bringing news and analysis on many issues that just aren't covered in the MSM. Yesterday he posted an update on Europe's habit of killing babies, which is terrible news and one more reason to NOT visit France or Holland. The Groningen Protocol is a very important story, and I urge you to check out that link.

Today Captain Ed lightens up a little and has a piece about how IKEA, the furniture company, is being targeted for gender bias. Evidently their assembly manuals only feature pictures of men assembling the furniture, and this has upset some women's rights activists. Sound stupid? It is, but what's even lamer is IKEA's response to the "uproar." Read it for yourself, it's quite breathtaking.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Reader Poll

I'm curious if any M3C readers actually read the links I provide in my daily posts. I like to provide them as factual support for my opinions and also as topic starters (i.e. I saw this article and this is what I think.....). So I ask a favor, I'm looking for e-mail responses to the following questions:

1) Are the links useful?

2) In general are there too many links, not enough, or just right?

Any help you can give me is greatly appreciated, it shouldn't take any longer than 60 seconds to dash off a quick e-mail. Please send responses to liebegot@pacbell.net with "Reader Poll" in the subject line. And feel free to add other suggestions on ways to improve the blog (several readers have already suggested topics they would like to see blogged). No guarantees that I will take your advice (in fact, all CPAs will be summarily ignored), but I do read them all. Last, I will probably move this post to the top of the blog each of the next few days, so it stays "front and center." Scroll down to see new posts and thanks again!

Fisking Paul Krugman's Bankruptcy Analysis

Yesterday Paul Krugman had one of his classically lame op-eds in the New York Times. Krugman normally uses his space in the NY Dog Trainer as nothing more than an opportunity to bash Republicans, and he's usually totally ignorant of the facts. It's no different this time.

The credibility of journalists (or anybody, really) is badly damaged when they make provably false statements. In other words, if someone says, "2+2=5" then we have no reason to believe them if they say "the sky is falling." So why should we believe any of Krugman's pap when he throws out the whoppers below? Read "The Debt-Peonage Society" for the complete context of Krugman's editorial. As usual, he's light on supporting data, cites nothing, and heavy on the melodramatic cliches. Here you go:

"A vast majority of personal bankruptcies in the United States are the result of severe misfortune. One recent study found that more than half of bankruptcies are the result of medical emergencies. The rest are overwhelmingly the result either of job loss or of divorce."
A citation here would be nice, like naming the study. How about spending beyond one's means? Is that ever a reason for bankruptcy filings? Where does personal responsibility come in to play? Look at these statistics, where I found this quote: "The typical family filing for bankruptcy in 1997 owed more than one and a half times its annual income in short-term, high-interest debt. A family earning $24,000 had an average of $36,000 in credit card and similar debt." Federal Reserve (1997). Sounds like people who file for bankruptcy are, for the most part, being financially irresponsible and looking for the government to bail them out. Are there exceptions? Of course, but Krugman paints a picture like it's the other way around.

Medical emergencies are cited in my source above in half of bankruptcy filings, so I give Krugman credit for being close to the truth on that one. But it's still unclear if that's the only reason for those filings or merely another factor. Divorce is hardly a "severe misfortune" in most cases. Usually it's a choice made by one or both partners in a marriage. That we should all pay for their decision to get a divorce (and the debt they incurred prior to that divorce), to me, is deeply offensive.
"To the extent that there is significant abuse of the system, it's concentrated among the wealthy."
So only the wealthy are guilty of taking advantage of bankruptcy laws? This is an absurd statement. What about his vast majority of uninsured families where dad just got laid off and mom was hit by a bus?

"...over the past three decades the lives of ordinary Americans have become steadily less secure."
Again, some sort of citation or study would be nice. The last time I checked, the nation's economy was humming along. Unemployment is around 5%, interest rates are still near historic lows, and home ownership is at all-time highs. So the opportunity for success exists in this country. If people choose to spend more than they should, I'm sorry, but that is their (unfortunate) decision and they should be held responsible.

"Job stability has declined; spells of unemployment, when they happen, last longer; fewer workers receive health insurance from their employers; fewer workers have guaranteed pensions....Health insurance coverage is declining...."
Is he just making this stuff up? What are Krugman's sources? My goodness, we live in the greatest country, with the greatest economy the world has ever seen. There is more opportunity here than in any other country, and people are literally dying to come here and work. We have the highest standard of living and one of the highest lifespans, on average.

"...the current administration wants to phase out Social Security."
This is one of the Left's recurring mantras in their struggle against Social Secuirty reform. Show me one quote where President Bush has said this. Social Security is not being phased out! Updated, improved, fixed, yes--use whatever verb you want. Privatization, if implemented, will be: a) a small part of the total Social Security package, b) in addition to standard payouts, and c) completely optional, in other words, each person can decide for themselves if they want to put money aside into their own personal accounts (or not). Krugman throws this argument in at the end of his editorial, as if it has anything to do with the subject of his editorial, bankruptcy laws.

Look, there definitely is abuse of the system when it comes to people filing for bankruptcy. I believe that most bankruptcies are a result of people spending too much, or beyond their means. Rich people do it and poor people do it. Neither class has anything to do with how honest people are. Changing the bankruptcy laws and making it tougher for people to file may help people to control their spending.

I will also concede that the credit card companies make it tantalizingly easy for people to get themselves into trouble. It's too easy to get credit cards, run up big bills, and then decide you can't (or shouldn't have to) pay for the goods. But in the end, people are responsible for their own actions, their own purchases and their own financial stability.

I write this today (even though I really started it yesterday) because the Senate is about to pass a law reforming bankruptcy laws. To me, it seems like a good idea. I offer a few more links, here and here, for those interested in reading more on the subject.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Outsourcing Torture?

Last night there were a few reports on TV about the CIA's "rendition" policy. ABC linked a transcript here, and MSNBC covered it here. I'm not sure yet about other network coverage, but it looks pretty clear, despite the Agency's lack of official comments, that CIA planes are taking terror suspects from here in the United States to other countries that use or endorse torture as a means of extracting information from said terror suspects. These chartered flights also fly terror suspects from one foreign country, like Pakistan, to others like Egypt, as was done in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The Washington Post had a good piece on this policy back on December 26th, probably missed by many due to the Christmas holiday and tsunami coverage (it's linked here). Naturally, the bleeding heart wing of our culture has a problem with our rendition policy. They probably have conveniently forgotten that President Clinton actually began the policy, according to the WaPo piece:
The CIA has the authority to carry out renditions under a presidential
directive dating to the Clinton administration, which the Bush administration
has reviewed and renewed. The CIA declined to comment for this article.

Personally, I don't have a problem with what's been reported thus far (most of what I have linked seems pretty sterile, quite frankly). There are lots of reports of one private plane in particular taking off and landing in airports all around the world. Big deal. And a few reports of men claiming they were tortured, which in all honesty, warrants further investigation.

I contend that a certain segment of our citizenry (not just Senate and House Democrats) will object to whatever the Bush administration does. Similarly, they object to the use of force, the use of the intelligence community, and the use of the military to defend ourselves. They made way too much out of the Abu Ghraib "scandal" and will object to any method of interrogation, period. I see this as one more desperate MSM attempt to stir up the general public over a non-issue.

UPDATE: CBS and Fox News have also covered this issue in the past two days.


Presidential Aspirations

I would like to end all speculation right now, and announce to every member of my dedicated and passionate grassroots readership, that I will NOT be running for president in 2008. I know, to many, this will come as a great disappointment. But I urge you to remain strong, and above all else, DON'T PANIC! There is much work to do. If it is any consolation, another story was broken last night on Hardball, and evidently AlGore recently made the same decision. Whew, looks like the country dodged two bullets this week.

M3C BOTW VI

Yesterday seemed like a really busy day and I forgot to update the Blog of the Week feature. So today I've moved Real Clear Politics into the spotlight. They've been on the board for awhile, and are really an aggregator for news and political articles. You will find 10-15 links covering each day's news, and usually there are articles covering the entire political spectrum. There's something there for everyone.

I first became aware of Real Clear Politics last summer. They did a lot of great work on the presidential campaign, especially tracking the unbelievable number of state presidential polls. Given our current electoral system, it makes a lot more sense to follow the polls in a state-by-state manner rather than looking at the daily national polls offered up by the networks, Gallup, Zogby, Rasmussen, et al. But with a dozen or more polls covering 50 states, with many of them updated every few days, one can see quite quickly what a big job that is. Since the election RCP has morphed a little, and I'm confident all y'all will find it very efficient in looking for links to current events and political commentary.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Cancel Your L.A. Times Subscription

I try to avoid the L.A. Times at all costs, and have for a long time now. Last week The LAT got into some hot water for printing a pro-North Korea puff piece. Today I saw how Susan Estrich is upset at the Times for not employing enough female op-ed writers (hat tip: PowerLine). Come on Susan, is that the biggest problem we face these days? It's not enough that all the L.A.Times editorials show hardcore left-wing bias, now they have to be hardcore left-wing and female-penned?

Today Drudge linked this article by Scott Collins on Dan Rather's impending retirement. In addition to all the confusion and poor morale now engulfing CBS, it describes some of the ups and downs of "Hurricane Dan's" career. Buried deep in the article was this nugget (emphasis mine):
Less than two months before the election, Rather, a correspondent on "60
Minutes Wednesday," presented a report that suggested Bush received preferential
treatment while serving in the Texas Air National Guard. It was based, in
part, on documents that could not be authenticated.

Is "could not be authenticated" the best Collins can do? He must be kidding. I may be making too much out of this, but "forged" or "fraudulent" would be more accurate terms for the TANG documents. Judging by the tone of most of his article, I don't think Collins was trying to protect Rather from further embarrassment. But it does seem like sloppy reporting.


James Lileks Knows Stuff

James Lileks has a brilliant piece in Today's Bleat. The key quote is "I have a greater obligation to my family than to strangers." Folks, in case I haven't said it enough, Lileks needs to be on everyone's daily reading list.

Today he discusses the Social Security debate. He's uncovered some more really lame reasoning from those who believe we're discussing a non-crisis. I wish this was available before I wrote Tortured Logic, I could have added it to the list. Enjoy.

The Dog Whisperer

I happened to catch a little bit of "The Dog Whisperer" on National Geographic Channel this weekend. It stars Cesar Millan and the show focuses on correcting behavioral issues with dogs (which is almost always a problem with the dog owners). Payton is unimpressed, as you can see below, but I liked the show. I think most dog lovers would too. May I suggest that the SoundClown TiVo it some time?


"I'm like, really tired" Posted by Hello

L.A. Marathon XX

Here's a picture of Gayle aka Mrs. M3C right after she finished her first Marathon yesterday. She finished in 6:27:57. Gayle trained for many months leading up to the marathon and I'm very proud of her for persevering and completing her goal. It was a beautiful day yesterday, which has been a rare thing in L.A. in recent months, but it made for pretty good running weather. (In my own bit of post-marathon euphoria, I apparently had the new camera in the wrong mode, thus the excessive brightness. Sorry).


Gayle' Post Marathon Euphoria Posted by Hello

UPDATE: Mrs. M3C has decided she will do the marathon again next year, we may even make it a family affair. And here's a photo of the finish line area on the corner of 3rd and Flower Streets.


Finish Line Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 05, 2005

What is he talking about?

Honestly, I don't know why I waste time mentioning this loser. I guess it's that trainwreck fascination some of us have. Can anyone decipher lame John Kerry when he says, "There is something wrong with who is arbitrating the truth." (hat tip: Wes Roth). What does that mean?

Is Kerry complaining that it is the media who decides what the "news" is each day? I doubt that is what he's saying, though I would certainly agree with him were that the case.

Is he complaining that he, John Kerry, doesn't get a fair shake from the media? There's no doubt he believes this absurdity, but I don't think that is what he's talking about either.

Or, most likely, is he complaining that there is something wrong with the public for believing the "truths" promulgated by that unfair media? In other words, since Americans heard John Kerry's "Christmas in Cambodia" story, and decided he wasn't telling the truth, they're the ones who are screwed up.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Weekend Homework Assignment

OpinionJournal.com is going to run a show on PBS this weekend entitled "Called to Account." It will cover the Social Security debate, evidently with a special focus on Chile's reforms. There are many PBS stations around the country, so check your local listings for broadcast days and times. Ed Crane of the Cato Institute will be a guest, which is a nice coincidence, given that I linked a couple of Cato articles in my "Tortured Logic" post last night. Scroll down for those links. I will update if I'm able to catch the show this weekend.

UPDATE: Click on this link to find out when "Called to Account" will be broadcast in your area. You enter your zip code, and PBS will tell you when it broadcasts in your area. Here in Los Angeles we can look forward to a 2am Saturday broadcast. I know, I know, it's time to get a TiVo.

Tortured Logic

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I feel the need to again post on the subject of the Democrats, this time focusing on their tortured logic in the current Social Security debate.

The nation's Social Security program faces a looming financial crisis. Our population is aging. The "baby boomer" generation is nearing retirement age and more workers will be receiving S.S. benefits as fewer (younger) workers are paying into the system. More money going out, less money coming in, it's that simple.

I'm nearly 35 years old, but my generation isn't the only one affected. Since all retirees are eligible for Social Security, and all workers pay into the system, everyone should be interested in a workable solution. Though I have stated before that I do not intend to rely on S.S. come retirement time, it would be nice to have a "Plan B" in place, just in case. Add to that the fact that I'm paying a lot into the system right now, and I'd like to see that money do something more productive than just drop into a bureaucratic black hole. Someone please help me understand the following:

First, the Dems said, "There is no Social Security crisis!" "President Bush is fear-mongering" and "playing generational warfare."

If anyone is truly guilty of "fear-mongering" then it must be our friends at MoveOn.org (now effectively in charge of the Democratic party). Here's an analysis of their latest ads by FactCheck.org, a bipartisan think tank. Read the whole article and decide if groups that play so loose with the facts maintain any credibility while making other arguments. Then determine if Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are saying anything different than their comrades at MoveOn.

Dems say that the Medicare situation is far worse than Social Security. That's a telling statement, and it's probably true. But besides being a tacit admission that there is indeed some sort of problem with Social Security, it's got the added bonus of being a total non-sequitur. Medicare may indeed face a crisis, but that has nothing to do with Social Security and whether or not we should repair it. There is no rule in life that says we can only deal with the biggest problems first.

We heard a similar argument from our friends on the Left before, during, and after the Iraq invasion. All of a sudden North Korea and Iran posed bigger threats, and why weren't we doing anything about those thugs? Does this mean we shouldn't repair potholes nor arrest rapists, since there are bigger problems facing this country? It is defeatist, one-dimensional thinking and I dare say it underestimates even that which Democrats could achieve (how's that for a backhanded compliment?). Forget about the fact that both programs may be in trouble, or that one program may be in worse shape than the other. That argument is weak and off-target.

Now the Democrats say that privatization isn't the answer to fixing Social Security. You remember Social Security, it's that program they just told you doesn't face a crisis, and the crisis it does face isn't as bad as the Medicare crisis---sorry, it's called "tortured logic" for a reason. Privatization, like personal IRA accounts or 401k plans, is not a workable solution? I guess that must be one of the reasons that Democrats conveniently forget to mention that personal accounts, if implemented, will be optional. In other words, if you're happy with Social Security as it is, you're free to stick with it without fear of reduced benefits. But if you prefer to put a portion of your Social Security benefits aside for your personal account, that will be your decision.

I also happen to believe that this is a strategic error by the Democrats, for two reasons. The anti-privatization argument will be lost on the millions of Americans who already own personal retirement accounts and who through their own experience know better. And it seems more than a little hypocritical that Democrats want people to have choice when it comes to, oh I don't know, abortion, but they won't trust you to make a choice with your own money.

Another reason why Democrats say privatization isn't the solution to Social Security's problems (even though S.S. still isn't in crisis-remember!) are the costs associated with implementing personal accounts. This is false. There are no higher "costs" in moving to a market system versus maintaining the current inefficient government bureaucracy.

Here's one more article to read, it's a bit lengthy, but well worth the time. It's from The American Enterprise Institute and explains that other countries like Chile and Russia of all places already have personal retirement accounts. Chile has had personal accounts since 1981, and it has been a huge success there. I mention this only because it is a great example that Social Security reform and personal accounts are not such radical ideas after all.

Lest anyone still cling to the notion that Social Security is just fine, here's what Democrat über-hero Bill Clinton said awhile back (from the Washington Times):

On Feb. 9, 1998, Mr. Clinton delivered a speech at Georgetown University devoted to "sav[ing] Social Security for the 21st century" and explaining "why it is so important" to do so.

Referring to a then-recent poll revealing that "young people in the generation of the students here felt it was far more likely that they would see a UFO than that they would draw Social Security," Mr. Clinton warned seven years ago about "the looming fiscal crisis in Social Security." He acknowledged to the students that "every one of you know that the Social Security system is not sound for the long term."

Elaborating, Mr. Clinton argued: "This fiscal crisis in Social Security affects every generation. We know that the Social Security trust fund is fine for another few decades. But if it gets in trouble and we don't deal with it, then it not only affects the generation of the baby boomers . . . when they retire; it [also] raises the question of whether they will have enough to live on by unfairly burdening their children, and, therefore, unfairly burdening their children's ability to raise their grandchildren."

What did Mr. Clinton think about this? "That would be unconscionable," he said, "especially since, if you move now, we can do less and have a bigger impact." That was seven years ago.

So enough with all their nay-saying! The only thing left to discuss is what the Democrats are proposing since they feel that none of the above proposals will work. Good question, I haven't seen one suggestion from them. Other than raising taxes, I wouldn't expect much. This key quote from the Feb. 14, 2005 Washington Post sums it up:

Democratic lawmakers intend to hold back on their ideas for now and instead hammer away at Bush's proposal.

In other words, they have nothing constructive to add, so the Democrats will just complain, twist the facts, change their story and in general, obstruct the President's plan to the best of their abilities. Not a novel approach, and not a plan to be proud of.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Larry Sabato Peeks into the Crystal Ball Again

Last Sunday I linked an interesting, completely speculative piece by Larry Sabato on who the Democrats might nominate for president in 2008. And those paying attention know I've been pretty tough on the Dems lately. Don't worry, there's more M3C scourging on the way for our liberal friends, and soon.

But in the interest of adhering to all tenets of the fairness doctrine, today I link Professor Sabato's crystal ball analysis for who the Republicans might put up in 2008. It's not all good news for conservatives, either. There is much work to do, and holding the party together will be crucial to future electoral success.

As poorly as the Democrats are performing lately, there is a lot of time for them to turn things around. Catastrophic events (or major Republican blunders) can change the political landscape overnight. Remember, it's all speculation at this point.

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