Monday, February 28, 2005

Obligatory Everybody-else-is-talking-about-it-so-I'll-mention-it-too Post

And what exactly is "it," anyway? The Jeff Guckert/Gannon flap. For the history on this story you're better off reading Kos or a few other high-profile left-leaning bloggers. To read them you'd get the idea that civilization as we know it is at risk because the White House has "allowed" a reporter with debatable credentials access to press briefings and press conferences on a "day pass." I'll leave the 'hard' analysis to Kos, Atrios and Oliver Willis because, quite frankly, I don't see the 'there' there.

But then I saw this at the Corner today:

Today the White House Correspondents' Association released a statement indicating that it will not call for any changes in the White House press credentialing system in the wake of the Jeff Gannon matter. The statement reads, in full: "Since 1914, the White House Correspondents' Association has operated independently of the White House and the White House credentialing process. We intend for the White House Correspondents' Association to remain independent of that process. "Consistent with the First Amendment, the White House Correspondents' Association stands for inclusiveness in the credentialing process so that the White House remains accessible to all journalists. We hope that individual episodes do not obscure the broader principles of a fair and evenhanded credentialing process that serves the goal of free and full exchange of information." Some anti-Bush groups, among them David Brock's Media Matters for America, have called on the White House to limit access to press briefings. White House correspondents have generally opposed such a move, and today Correspondents' Association president Ron Hutcheson (of Knight-Ridder newspapers) told National Review that the organization also opposes any new limits. "If we ever felt like [Bush press secretary Scott McClellan] or anybody else at the White House was applying some sort of ideological screen, we'd raise a stink," Hutcheson said, adding that, "we're not proposing any changes."


Of Local Interest

This appeared in Saturday's Arizona Republic. To me it represents a living example of reckless rhetoric from Senate Democrats. A former Arizona prison official, Terry Stewart, is threatening to sue Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) over remarks he made:

"He (Schumer) tried to link myself and others who risked their lives for their country by going to Iraq to the Abu Ghraib scandal, and clearly there was no link there," Stewart said. "This was simply an effort on his part to use a person in Arizona as a pawn in the political process, and I think it is unconscionable."

This is normally the purview of such as Sy Hersch and the eternal effort to tie Abu Ghraib to administration officials and official policy. Was Senator Schumer using the same anonymous sources? Well, it doesn't appear so but it does seem that he reached some conclusions he ought not to have:

In asking for the investigation last June, Schumer actually did not accuse Stewart or the three other former state prison officials of having direct roles in the prison abuses in Iraq. Stewart was in Iraq as a private contractor in May and June 2003, months before the scandal broke.

Instead, Schumer pointed to lawsuits or other problems linked to their earlier tenures as prison chiefs in their respective state governments. For those reasons, he said, each should have been precluded from being hired to help out in prison rebuilding in Iraq.

It appears that the Senator opened his mouth before engaging his brain. Based on cursory reading of past events in the tenure of Terry Stewart and two other men, Schumer called for a Justice Department investigation. Just what did the Senator believe the issues to be?

In a press release written last year, Schumer alleged that "Stewart, director of Arizona's prisons from December 1995 until November 2002, had "turned a blind eye" by failing to prevent the sexual abuse of female inmates in Arizona." In addition, Schumer referred to three other lawsuits that involved Stewart.

Two suits involved a 1995 allegation by inmates about "inhumane conditions." The third alleged that Stewart's department provided inadequate "protective custody to shield certain at-risk inmates from harm."

While I can understand the motivation, and even impute honest intentions to it, a closer reading of the record would have found the following:

  1. The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division started it's investigation into the sexual abuse of female inmates in Arizona's Department of Corrections facilities prior to Stewart's rise to Director. The quote from the Republic's report: "The CRD indicated that the case was settled after Stewart became director, that no pattern or practice of misconduct by the Arizona Department of Corrections had been established, and that Stewart was active in implementing the settlement agreement," Fine's report states. In other words, he was guilty of nothing.
  2. The first of the lawsuits involving "inhumane conditions," came out of an incident that occurred prior to Stewart's becoming director while the second lawsuit involved an incident that occurred less than a week into his tenure. Again from the Republic: Fine said in his report that "the lawsuits were ultimately tried before a federal district judge and decided in favor of the defendants." And again, Stewart was guilty of nothing.
  3. In the matter of the final lawsuit about protective custody issues, the Justice Department found that (what a surprise!) it also arose out of a previous policy implemented by Stewart's predecessor. Again, Stewart had no direct involvement in any wrongdoing.

In all three cases, the honorable Senator's assumptions were not based on the facts. Mr. Stewart is convinced that Schumer's allegations have harmed him:

Stewart, who now runs his own security systems firm, Hummingbird Defense Systems Inc., said Friday that Schumer's "allegations have had a very detrimental impact on my career in corrections and anything I would want to do in government." But he added that he believes Fine's report has "vindicated" him.

Schumer's rhetoric is careless, and in a situation where it potentially caused harm is inexcusable--even or maybe more-so especially for a US Senator. Sadly, it is also a shining example of politicians protected by position with the ability to say anything no matter how outrageous. Such rhetoric about members of the opposition party is expected, but saying such things about private citizens without any substantiation is just wrong.

Stewart has even sought the help of Arizona senator Jon Kyl in eliciting an apology from Senator Schumer. None has been forthcoming as of yet.

New MBA requirement

Or at least it ought to be. Dilbert captures the inanity of day-to-day operations at large companies better than any comic strip before or since it's inception.

This particular one from last week reminds me of too many 7:00 AM sales-meetings...


From NRO's TKS on Friday:

Just heard from a TKS reader who passes along word from a member of his family serving in Iraq.

We know the U.S. and coalition forces are training the new Iraqi army. Jordan is donating 250 armored vehicles. This reader suggests that the Iraqi forces are being built up to eventually take action against Syria. He adds the military action would be associated with Syria's refusal to police the border with Iraq to prevent terrorists and Baathists from entering Iraq.

This oddly echoes Kevin McCullough’s Pentagon source who said yesterday, “Likely, Syria's meddling in Iraq and the upcoming Lebanese elections will provide sufficient trigger for some "coalition" action. That action may well have an "Iraqi" face.”

Similar comments, two different sources. Hmmmm.

Can you hear the left screaming already? I can...

Sunday, February 27, 2005

My Dogs are Smarter (Or a lazy day in the Valley of the Sun)

A piece in Saturday's Arizona Republic documented exactly how much rain we've gotten here in Phoenix since the first of the year (Short version: Third-wettest Jan/Feb in a century). According to the Republic, rainfall in that short span in the nearby Deer Valley area has exceeded 6-inches. This has certainly been the wettest of our three winters in the Valley since coming here in 2002.

Last week's predicted rain fell a bit short, and has slowly-but-surely given way to clear skies and warmer temps. It was in the high-60's on Saturday and today was a simply gorgeous day with temps forecast for around 70. Accordingly it seemed, the dogs were anxious for more time outside.

All morning, the clawing at the patio- and doggie doors persisted. "Let me out, daddy. Can't you see how beautiful it is, how many birds need chasing off their perches, how much of the back yard demands close inspection from our trusty sniffers!" And so it went.

While she was the only-dog of the house, our Yellow Lab Lacy took up the practice of sunning herself on weekends in the back yard. Of course those were the days when she spent the most time out of her crate, and all the many hours of the day needed new things with which to pass them. Even still, on warm days when we're home we can count on indulging her desire for a tan.

As dogs go, Labrador Retrievers can be considered fairly intelligent. Lacy, as well as she learned her basic commands and even a few things she shouldn't have (how to open doors with levered handles), will never be considered the doggie-equivalent of Einstein. As one of our friends has said: "Good thing she's cute!" In other words, she's more the doggie-equivalent of a dumb blonde.

No behavior reinforces that idea more than seeing her soaking up the sun and napping serenely in the back-yard. Good thing she's cute.

The Remodel

Played with the site some on Friday. The big reason for the change to the new template was simply the ability for adding links to "personalize" things a bit more. As much as you can do with a cookie-cutter piece of technology anyway...

Friday, February 25, 2005

"Push the button!" (Or, RE: Blox Vogoli 2.2)

Hugh Hewitt asks the blogosphere which approach to getting judges to the floor in the Senate is best; go with the nuclear option or navigate a way around it. I say "Push the button," and let fly!

The courts are the biggest domestic prize of the '04 elections. Allowing Dems the opportunity for blocking votes via the threat-of-filibuster can and should be stopped. Here's why:

  1. If Dems have real reasons for voting these nominees down, force them to articulate them and actually do it!
  2. The public has had 4 years to watch Dems block votes on judges who they know would be confirmed by the Senate-at-large. I believe John and Jane Q. Public understand well the fundamental unfairness of this approach. That equals political capital.
  3. Hugh and many of the other bloggers are correct when they say that Reid and the Dems shutting down the Senate over this is crazy. They don't believe we're at war, but the public does and I can posit no scenario where anyone might think shutting down Gov't. during such a time qualifies as a good idea! Even if the Dems thought they had a way to 'triangulate' and shift blame to the administration or the Republican congress, I believe that the obvious truth (see #2 above!) of the situation would negate the effort.

Finally, as a certain wise man is wont to say: If your enemy is in the process of self-destructing, get out of the way! "Push the button," and let fly!

Quoting people smarter than me

I'm nearly finished with C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. This work is considered by some a primer for non-believers on essential elements of Christianity, a sort of 'Christianity 101' if you will.

In the chapter entitled Making and Begetting, Lewis describes how Christ is not only the embodiement of, but the means to integrating the 'natural' and the 'spiritual' elements of life. Lewis explains that this integration of the two is essential to what Christianity is about, and also that it represents part of the original design for man.

Alas, after the fall the two are separate and this integration can only now occur when the 'natural' man seeks relationship with Christ. Lewis describes the severe trauma this causes when 'spiritual' life comes to 'natural' man as "big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man."

This is the concluding paragraph of the chapter:

And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor's shop. We are the statues and there is a rumour going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.

That picture--for me at least--inspires, encourages and uplifts!

On a side note, I hardily recommend these other of Lewis' works:

Chronicles of Narnia
The Screwtape Letters
The Space Trilogy
The Great Divorce

"I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him!"

Or, "I called you an idiot before I said you were a nice guy."

I've gone around numerous times with this poster at ESPN. I finally committed to leaving that board for good yesterday after that thread. Another poster who recalls as I do that the board has been damaged by the excesses of rhetoric coming from the likes of Spacedoodoopistol, correctly notes that the source of the problem doesn't even recognize that a problem exists.

For me, that's the funniest part. Its as though he can't possibly fathom why I'm disturbed by his characterizations of me. I mean, after all, he thinks I'm a nice guy.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

How the west was Walmart-icized!

The LA Times ran a piece today detailing Walmart's battle to enter the market in California, specifically Los Angeles. Thanks to Hugh for the original link. He discusses the usual suspects and their usual objections:

But the media loves to hate the giant retailer, and local small businesses always put up a predictable cry.

Once again high-volume, low-price retailing is about to sink western civilization. I've discussed this more than once and I can see the reason that some in Small-town, USA might in fact not welcome Walmart. Retail in such small burgs consists of the classic ma & pa market, Joe's hardware and the local pharmacy. In such cases, a successful Walmart operation can in fact pose a competitive risk to these operations. I do not, however, understand those arguments applied to cities like Los Angeles or even where I live, in Phoenix.

Why? Because Walmart will not do anything to ma & pa retailer that the grocery, pharmacy and hardware/home improvement and other chains already in the market aren't doing. For example, aside from a number of ethnic markets there are no independent grocers in this city (the closest thing is Basha's which operates exclusively in the state of Arizona). I know of no such "local" pharmacies or hardware stores currently operating or driven out of the market in the last several years either.

There are 3 super-markets within 2 miles of my house. There are 2 Walgreens pharmacies within 2 miles of my home. There are several Ace Hardware stores within about 5 miles of my home, as well as a Home Depot just one mile down the freeway. Add to this the four separate Walmart operations (Walmart store, Supercenter, Sam's Club and Neighborhood Market) that are all within about 3 miles of my home to the West, South and East.

So my point? In a city of 1.5 million, there are plenty of consumers around, all ably supporting numerous grocery chains, pharmacies, hardware stores and the like. Surely there exist enough such consumers available in a city of more than twice that size?

Obligatory Sports Post

Barry Bonds made quite a 'splash' when he arrived at the Giants' spring training facility this week (Pardon the pun, but we've been getting a lot more rain than usual this winter. Couldn't help it!). A columnist in SF has stepped up to the plate and responded to Barry's diatribe-disguised-as-press-conference:

Barry Bonds is right. I have lied. A lot of sportswriters lie. We cover for athletes all the time.

We did it when we followed Mark McGwire in 1998 and failed to ask the appropriate questions. I was especially guilty, because I believed back then what Jose Canseco is writing now: That McGwire didn't hit 70 home runs on hard work alone. Yet, I said nothing. I thought my silence amounted to fairness, because I didn't have proof. But I remember very clearly thinking: If I were Barry Bonds, watching this spectacle, knowing what is being left unsaid, knowing that I'm twice the player McGwire is, I would spend my offseason looking for the same power boost.

The press, by celebrating McGwire's home-run record without scrutiny, invited every other ballplayer into the world of doping. That's why I have never seen the steroid scandal as Barry-centric. He is responsible for whatever he has done, but he's not uniquely villainous or dishonest. We are all complicit.

I have lied about Bonds, too, but not in the way he meant when he went after the media at his spring-training debut on Tuesday. The first time I saw him in 2001, I said to myself: "He's juiced.'' I didn't say it in this column because, again, I didn't have proof. But I was sure of it.

And there you go. How 'bout it Barry, should the press tell the truth all the time, in every situation? Me thinks I know your answer.

Under 'I' for Irrelevant (Or is it 'R' for Redundant?)

Ralph Nader holds a press-conference and outlines his Iraq policy.

In other news, scientists still have not resolved the age-old question about whether or not a tree falling in a forest makes a sound if no one is there to hear it.

Wead-ing the lawn

Doug Wead is turning over his taped conversations with then-Governor Bush to now-President Bush. Seems that he has had a sudden attack of conscience, but only 7 years too late.

He states:

"Contrary to a statement that I made to the New York Times, I have come to realize that personal relationships are more important than history," Wead wrote in a letter to the show's host, Chris Matthews, that MSNBC released to the public on Wednesday. "I am asking my attorney to direct any future proceeds from the book to charity and to find the best way to vet these tapes and get them back to the president to whom they belong. History can wait."

Yesterday, Hugh Hewitt asked if there were any such thing as a theological justification for secretly taping phone conversations on the part of a "friend." Pastor Mark Daniels is the first to weigh in:

My answer as a pastor of twenty years, a student of the Bible, and the holder of a Master's of Divinity degree, is "No." I can think of no good reason for what Mr. Wead did.

While many delight in anything they perceive damages the President, there is a consensus among some that he comes out looking fairly good in the excerpts released to date. There is also a consensus as Hugh's question seems to make clear, that the one who comes out looking poorly here is the ex-pastor, Douglas Wead.

I agree with both of these conclusions, but I would add this to the discussion. What concerns me is how this potentially harms the Church (I mean this in the biggest, broadest sense as Christ used it in the gospels). Just as the excesses of Jim and Tammy Bakker and the surreptitious associations of Jimmy Swaggart damaged the name of Christ among unbelieving Americans, so does Mr. Wead's behavior.

Churched or un-churched, many people intuitively understand that what Wead did was un-ethical and improper. As people who already look at Christianity with a skeptical eye learn of his association with the Church, the taint spreads from Wead to the Church and these folks place the shortcomings of people in the Church squarely on the Church itself. Christ's name is tarnished in the process, and that breaks my heart.

UPDATE: Mark Daniels links-back to this post at Better Living. His email was quite kind and as I stated in reply, I thought it only fair since he helped 'inspire' the post and I was quoting him directly!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Memo to Ted Rall

Ted Rall is a self-proclaimed socialist who fancies himself a cartoonist, columnist and commentator. His anti-Bush rants are legendary among people who pay attention to such things.

In his latest column he tackles the blogosphere. In typical Rall fashion there's plenty of raving at plenty of targets, but it is his last two graphs that I would focus on.

Rall writes:

The mainstream media let Bush steal an election and lie his way into two wars. It allowed Condi Rice to be confirmed even though she got caught lying about the existence of Al Qaeda briefing papers given to her by the outgoing Clinton Administration. Lord knows the journalistic conglomerates need a firm boot in the butt, but the right-wing bloggers aren't ideologically inclined to deliver it.

Themes here that he's pounded away on for the last 3 years. Nothing new there, but now it includes a broad-brush characterization of bloggers as ideologically driven extensions of a right-wing power apparatus.

What of course this ignores is something that Scott Johnson of Powerline has explained numerous times: blogs allow intelligent people with expertise and knowledge to focus with laser-like precision on precisely those areas in which they are experts for comments, analysis and information. That summarizes exactly what happened with the CBS TANG memo's; people like Charles Johnson at LGF with years of experience in typesetting brought that knowledge and expertise to bear. No witch hunts, at least not among the responsible bloggers, just a push for the truth of the situation.

Rall finishes by saying:

Bloggers are ordinary people, many of them uneducated and with nothing interesting to say. They're sitting in their rec rooms, regurgitating and spinning what real journalists have dug up through hard work. They don't have sources, they don't report, and no one holds them accountable when they make mistakes or flat out lie. Yeah, there's a new sheriff in town. Unfortunately he's drunk, he's mean, and he works for the bad guys.

Here's where Rall misses the boat. Ted is paid to write and draw. His editor's place his work in their publications and present it to the public. Bloggers have no such luxury. Everybody who reads a blog does so voluntarily.

To find and retain readers, a blog must be well-written, intelligent and most importantly, accurate. If not, it disappears back into the vastness of the Internet and is forgotten.

Hugh Hewitt speaks to this all the time; bloggers are subjected to the harshest scrutiny of all, the marketplace of ideas. If they are irrelevant, if they are inaccurate, if they are uninteresting then they will not be read. Period.

No UPI editor can subject Rall's writings to such scrutiny. Though based on my limited exposure to his work, perhaps they should.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Obligatory Sports Post

It's almost March. Do you understand what that means?

If at all possible, I like to get to one of the local ballparks and see a spring training game or two. It gets the juices flowing and the mind starts fast-forwarding to summer days and nights at the major-league park with a hot dog, bag of peanuts and a beer.

It also starts the wheels turning trying to develop this year's fantasy draft-strategy...

Um, yeah...I'm a geek!

Of Grandpas and Birthdays (Reprise)

The Good

  1. Bowling tournament. Sweeps weekend for our league. Final standings for the purposes of divying up prize money was based on our performance on the final afternoon of scratch-bowling. Since my wife finished second among the women, we pulled in a pretty big haul. On top of that we did receive additional prize dollars based on team standings. Would have been better had we finished higher, but all told our winnings paid for all our gambling and about half our meals.
  2. Family reunion. As I posted earlier, part of our time in Laughlin was spent with family celebrating my grandfather's 94th birthday. As I explained there, it is an event I treasure every year. Highlights? Dinner with my aunt and uncle who were first to arrive in town from Oklahoma (this gathering is about the only time I get to see them anymore); Dinner with the Grandkids (my wife and I, two of my cousins and their spouse/significant other and my grandfather and his wife); Reconnecting with one of my cousins and his wife. We had the opportunity to spend most of two days with them and was pleasantly surprised at the rapport we have as couples. Open invite to visit them at home, which incedentally is where my wife went to school; Opportunity to meet one of my other uncle's new wife.
  3. Outlets rock! We dropped a cool $200 at the outlet mall across the street from "the strip" in Laughlin. Most of that was me, and for $100-$150 bucks I'm set for a while!
  4. Sports book. Won a $5 wager on the alma mater. Bucked the odds, b/c they haven't been good on the road this season, but traditionally play well at Santa Clara.

The Bad

  1. Hotels . As in 4 in 6 nights. We were at the Riverside for 3 nights for the bowling tournament. First time there and while it is the oldest casino/hotel in Laughlin, it is still a pleasant place and includes many additional entertainment options (Movie theater with 6 screens and a 34-lane bowling alley) that are found at none of the other hotels in town. From there it was one-night at the River Palms (Try as we might, we couldn't get an additional night at the Riverside or at the Colorado Belle where we were booked for the last two nights of our time in town). From there to two scheduled nights at the Colorado Belle; Unforeseen events led to us skipping that second night and instead spending the last of 6 nights at the Flamingo. A week of hotel beds is just too hard on my back...
  2. Buffets. I'm buffet-ed out. Dinner, after day after day...

The Ugly

  1. A cockroach in our room at the Colorado Belle. The Belle sits on the river, or more accurately on the riverbed. Roaches like water so I can understand that an occasional visitor can be expected, especially in rooms that open to the exterior of the hotel. What is inexcusable is the hotel promising a visit from housekeeping to go through the room again and not fulfilling that promise by the end of the afternoon. To their credit however, the front-desk agent who helped us check-out did everything right from a customer service perspective.

This is why...

you don't leave open beverages on your desk. 'Cuz when you accidentally bump them they spill everywhere, almost turning your computer keyboard into mush and messing up all the paperwork you leave sitting on the desk.

My Dogs are Smarter (Or what my dogs did on our Winter vacation)

While we were gone we made two arrangements for our dogs. We left on a Saturday and arranged for a friend to house-sit Saturday through Monday and feed the dogs, give them a bit of exercise and just generally ensure they didn't destroy the house.

For the rest of the week, one of the couples that was in Laughlin with us returned home and took the dogs with them on Monday evening back to their home until we picked them up on Friday. So what of their week away?

Both dogs are crate-trained and normally spend the night and any time we aren't home in their crates. When we picked Lacy and Cassie up on Friday we were regaled with tales of how not only did they spend the week roaming freely about the house with 24/7 access to the backyard and the pool, but also managed not to chew, chomp or otherwise destroy a single thing anywhere in the house!

My initial reaction? "Who are you and what have you done with my dogs?!"

Monday, February 21, 2005

Blogging resumes

Returned from Laughlin on Friday afternoon. All in all an enjoyable time, and I'm sure that I'll have stuff to post about the family get-together and all. At this point however, I'm trying to get caught up on all I missed while we were gone.

The world didn't end, but seems a bunch of stuff did in fact happen. For now, just this observation: Laughlin, like Vegas, is a fun little entertainment destination when taken in brief 2-3 day doses. A week? Oy...

Friday, February 11, 2005

Of Grandpas and Birthdays

I won't be blogging next week. Not just a little, but not at all. Why? A couple of things actually.

My wife and I will be in Laughlin for the weekend with friends as part of a season-ending celebration for our league. We'll spend a couple of nights at the Riverside, lighting money on fire and otherwise enjoying what Baby Vegas has to offer. We'll also likely shop a bit at the outlets on Casino Drive as our wardrobes could stand some supplementing. Sounds like fun, and it should be.

Later in the week comes the real party. My maternal grandfather celebrates his 94th birthday this week and as we've done for the last 5 years, as much of the family as can will meet in Pappy's favorite place for a few days of celebration.

My grandfather and his wife (not my grandmother; part of a really long, involved family history that while entertaining isn't really important to the post) moved to Kingman, Arizona in 1988. To hear them tell it they're not even sure how and why they ended up there. Prior to that they had been in Escondido, CA near my uncle and before that they had "retired" to Vegas; truly, my grandfather's favorite place on earth!.

Pappy gambles, and how! Ever since discovering the game of craps at the age of 15, he has loved the experience of playing the odds in a crowded casino. With Laughlin a short 30-minute drive from Kingman, it is no wonder that when asked for the first time about where he'd like to celebrate his birthday with family, there was no hesitation.

We've done this every year since 2001. While we sometimes must endure some of the same "family" stories from year-to-year, this is a gathering that I treasure and would not miss for the world. It's a first-hand-view of Americana; stories about Las Vegas in the '30s, stories about the building of Hoover dam, stories about LA's San Fernando Valley when it contained far more orange groves than houses and so on. Between my numerous aunts and uncles and my grandfather it's a living history lesson that covers the last century.

Obligatory Sports Post

Karl Malone is retiring. 19 seasons in the NBA with 18 in one place, the number-2 scorer of all-time yet he will most likely go down as one of the best-to-never-win-an-NBA-title. I hated that man.

As a Laker fan, I think back to the 1986 playoffs and Malone's trademark fist-clenching-and-pump after every successful play no matter how routine. How annoying, I thought.

Fast forward a decade to the mid-90's and the annual playoff thumping he and Stockton would dispense to Shaq and Kobe every year. Being beaten all night long by such a wonderfully simple play as the pick-and-roll is maddening. I hated it as much for it's relentless application as for it's lethal precision.

Jump ahead another few years to 2003 when Karl joins the Lakers along with Gary Payton as a free-agent in pursuit of the elusive championship. First-hand appreciation for the discipline, tenacity and toughness that was Malone's game came quickly. I think it a compliment of an athlete to say that you loved him when he played for your team but that you hated him when he played against your team; you don't say such things about inconsequential players. In that sense, Malone always mattered when he played even if his team lost.

I was frustrated to see him sit out 39 games last year with a bum knee, and saddened to see it hobble him in the NBA finals. Had he been healthier, perhaps the Laker's season goes differently though completely dismissing Detroit in the finals with a healthy Laker roster is foolish. Maybe it ends differently though...just maybe.

Congratulations Karl on a career that will always be considered one of the best-ever at Power Forward.

I don't get it

What is so great about

"I think it's my duty to listen to Rush. I think Rush has actually yet to get the credit he is due because his audience for so many years felt they were in the wilderness of this country. No one was talking to them. I think Rush helped to give birth to a movement. I think he played his part in the contract with America. So I hope he gets his due as a broadcaster."
--NBC News Anchor Brian Williams,
C-SPAN Interview December 26, 2004

"I think it's my duty to listen to Adolph. I think Adolph has actually yet to get the credit he is due because his audience for so many years felt they were in the wilderness of this country. No one was talking to them. I think Adolph helped to give birth to a movement. I think he played his part in the contract with Germany. So I hope he gets his due as a broadcaster."
--Deutsche Radio News Anchor Bruno Villams, Völkischer Beobachter Interview, December 26, 1934

I mean, are you kidding me with this kind of crap?

UPDATE: More from TKS: Jim Gerahty invoking "Godwin's Law" in the Eason Jordan debate. Applies here too. First one to Nazi loses...

The Constraints of Paper

The US has no interest in bi-lateral talks with NK, at least according to the AP:

The Bush administration said Friday that it wasn't interested in one-on-one
talks with North Korea about its nuclear programs outside the six-party
negotiations involving the communist nation's neighbors.

"It's not an issue between North Korea and the United States. It's a
regional issue," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "And it's an
issue that impacts all of its neighbors."

I have supported this approach to North Korea since it was first articulated. Many of the opponents of the Six-way talks seem to think that countries like Japan, South Korea and even China have no interest in the question of a nuclear North. I must say, to my ears, that sounds like they wish they could dismiss Kim-Il Jong like a small child throwing a temper-tantrum, or that they honestly don't have the mettle to stand up to the Brat and tell him "No!"

While I stop short of calling the Agreed Framework of '94 appeasement, I do think it represents an idealistic rather than realistic approach to foreign policy that is dangerous in it's consequences. I believe that Jimmy Carter acted in good faith, that is to say that he believed he was accomplishing something important and effective. I also believe that history says that the Agreed Framework was not effective.

In November, 2002 Jim Hoagland wrote a piece for the Washington Post detailing the suspected time-line:

"We developed hard confirmation of the program this summer," says a senior
Bush administration official, who cited "shards of evidence" of the North
Korea-Pakistan nuclear relationship going back to 1997. "Those turned into
pretty clear suspicions by 1998, and by 1999 the North Koreans committed to this

Clinton administration officials confirm that timeline. Like Bush
aides, they say they cannot know whether Pyongyang always intended to subvert
the 1994 agreement or inexplicably changed course. But it is clear that the
program predates President Bush's election and his placing of North Korea on the
"axis of evil." The trigger for the deceit happened on Clinton's more amiable

Whether the North's disregard for the agreement existed at it's inception or came later is irrelevant; the constraints of paper did not prevent them from realizing their nuclear goals. Yet again, Democracy assumed that it's enemies would keep their word. To my mind, this epitomizes naivete.

What is more realistic? Involving other nations with a vested interest in the situation and backing up any agreements with the threat of force (as a side note, I still sit in amazement as I watch the Administration pilloried for it's unilateral approach to Iraq get pilloried for it's multi-lateral approach to the Korean problem).

Ultimately, I do not believe that even Kim-Il Jong thinks he can fire nuclear weapons at the US and survive. Having said that, resisting the temptation to give in to demands even in the face of nuclear saber-rattling is foolhardy. The US and it's allies in the region must continue to put pressure on North Korea that leads to it's 'De-nuclearization.' To assume again that Democracy's enemies will honor their word is foolishness that we can't afford.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and doggone it, people like me.

It appears that Al Franken might actually run for the Senate. I expect these guys will have a field day with it all over the next 2 years if Al is serious.

UPDATE: Say it here, it happens there:

"HINDROCKET adds: The Republican front-runner is our friend Mark Kennedy. Mark is a terrific guy, bright, serious and hard-working. He would make a great Senator. He is, however--no offense, Mark--not the most charismatic guy around. In fact, he accountant. Which raises the possibility that if Franken gets the nomination, Mark may run against the only man in America who is NOT funnier than he is."


Captain of the JV squad

This speaks for itself.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

How I know I live in Arizona

My wife and I ate lunch at our local Rubio's on Sunday afternoon, just prior to the bi-weekly trip to Fry's for all the groceries that are fit to buy. While sitting at our table, I noticed a gentleman with his 3 kids at the counter.

Aside from the garish yellow sweatpants, the most notable thing about him was his t-shirt. Huge block lettering with the generally accepted red/blue color scheme that read "Bush/Cheney '04."

I thought to myself, "Never happen if we were in San Francisco..."

Where are we going?, part II

Jim Gerahty at TKS responds to yesterday's post via email. He raises a couple of important points related to the whole issue of bloggers motivations in chasing down Eason Jordan on this:

"I'm starting to think some bloggers
A) want to "get" Jordan the way it was widely perceived that the blogs "got" Dan Rather and
B) use this event to promote their blog and get mainstream media appearances, writing gigs, etc. "

Simply put, I agree. Here, he lays out the most-honest approach the blogs need to take in this:

"All of this is putting the cart before the horse. Job one is: Just what did Jordan say?"

Points A and B above are not ends in and of themselves; they are by-products of the pursuit of the truth. The LGF's, Powerline's and others who chased down the truth of the forged doc's at CBS gained notoriety not because they pursued it, but because they diligently chased the truth at the heart of the story.

Likewise with Jordan, bloggers who hunt down the truth and best explain it will see their just rewards. Those who seek the notoriety first only do themselves and the blogosphere in general a big disservice.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Where are we going?

I write in response to this at NRO's TKS. It's a good question, one that needs asking even if it doesn't get answered quite yet:

"Are bloggers tracking this story attempting to “professionally crucify” Jordan?"

I wrote a post last week in response to the Godfather's questions about Jordan's testimony. There, I included two questions of my own:

"Aside from "forcing" the resignation of Jordan, what is there to accomplish? Can CNN be shamed into behaving better?"

Jim Gerahty's question and mine both get to the same point as raised by Jay Rosen; why are we doing what we're doing? Earlier today, I responded to a Powerline post via email asking essentially the same question. Assume that all the "blogosphere" fears about Eason Jordan and his motivations proves true? Then what?

Do we want Jordan removed? If so, why? Do we think pushing him out of his position will result in better journalistic behavior on the part of CNN? On the part of other members of the MSM?

I don't think the answers, whatever they be, necessarily mean that the discovery of the truth in this situation ought to stop, or as a result of those answers take another avenue. I do think though that the blogosphere needs to have an idea where they're going as they pursue this rather than simply follow the trail not caring where we all end up.

Watching the JV Practice

(Or why I love reading the ESPN Boards)

This pretty much summarizes things. So caught up in their intellectual superiority, they can't even see what they're doing...

UPDATE: They're up to their usual tricks, but this caught my eye. As background, this poster and I used to engage in heated discussions (putting it mildly) on a weekly basis. One of our only points of agreement on anything comes on the greatness of Baseball.

Baseball and my weekly struggles in any and all Fantasy leagues were frequent topics of many an Obligatory Sports Post. I have no doubt that won't change just because I'm writing here and not there!

Monday, February 07, 2005

Inside Deep Throat

Not that Deep Throat, this Deep Throat!

NRO's The Corner has been a-buzz all afternoon with speculation on the identity of 'Deep Throat,' after the publication of John Dean's piece in the LA Times. Most of it humorous, but there is this from the blog Front Burner, via the Corner:

I think I know who it is: Chief Justice William Rehnquist.....

McCarthy makes a case that at least on the face of it seems plausible. Makes for interesting political fodder, but does it really matter 31 years later?

On to other critical concerns...

Obligatory Sports Post

Super Bowl XXXIX is history and brings to an end yet another NFL season (No, next weeks Pro Bowl doesn't count). Here are a few random reflections on things having to do with NFL football:

  1. The Pats are damn good. 3 SB victories in 4 seasons in today's environment is no small feat. Credit to the entire organization starting with Coach Belichick and his staff all the way up to owner Robert Kraft. They know talent and they do what they have to do to keep it. Numerous other franchises could study and learn from their approach to the game.
  2. How is it I can win 2 Fantasy Baseball championships in 3 seasons, one Fantasy Football title and 2 Div. championships in a freebie-league, yet when money is on the line in an auction-league I look like a guy who was just introduced to the game of football last week?
  3. Did Eagle coach Andy Reid think there is a 10-pt play in football? Why did he have his team operating late in the 4th quarter--down 10 pts and needing two scores--like it was the First quarter and the game was tied at 7? This I don't get. Appears other folks don't quite get it either.
  4. Andy Reid's (mis)handling of the clock last night makes me feel a little better about putting up with Mike Martz in St. Louis.
  5. As much as I admire and enjoy what the Pats have accomplished in the last several years, I can think of no group of football fans I dislike more. Maybe they've mellowed, but my experience post-SB 36 led me to conclude that there is no group of people less-deserving of a winner.
  6. I hate the fact that the Super Bowl is being played in February. I mean, why not give each team a few bye-months and we can play the Pro Bowl 3 weeks before training camp starts. All hail the mighty TV-dollar!

My Dogs are Smarter (Or how I found the best Dog-toy ever)

Every year the city of Glendale hosts an annual holiday celebration at Murphy Park and the surrounding quarters in downtown Glendale where 59th Ave., Glendale and Grand Avenues meet. Glendale Glitters begins Thanksgiving weekend and runs through the Christmas holiday and even into January. The park and the environs around the square hang lights everywhere--red, green, blue, yellow, an assortment of bright, festive colored lights all over the place! The local shops (best antique shopping in the Phoenix-area for my money) stay open later and craft booths and street performers dot the park landscape. The final weekend in January loses the crafts, but includes live music and a number of hot air balloons.

Last year our only visit to Glendale Glitters was on Saturday night of the final weekend. We wandered through the streets enjoying the music and browsing the local shops north of the park. There we found a cute little specialty-shop devoted to cats and dogs.

Our lab Lacy is what they call a "hard-chewer." This animal demolishes raw-hides in less than 5 minutes. Hard rubber toys would without fail be torn into pieces and rendered un-usable. Up to this point in time, we'd never found any soft chew-toy that could last more than 5-10 minutes with her. Invariably, the poor stuffed-whatever-it-was developed a huge gash and it's innards begin pouring forth as the dog dances about, shaking it's prey wildly. Is there nothing we can give this dog that won't end up in the trash can?

Yes, there is! It called to us from high on a shelf near the cash-register. It comes to us from the good folks at Planet Dog. Of what or how it is made, I do not care. I only care that it is indestructable!

It is just a rubber ball, but one that must incorporate some super-secret rubber technology as it never hardens and cracks nor can your dog tear at it or chew it apart. We are 388 days removed from the purchase of Lacy's first Orbee ball and it still is as soft and pliable as it was on day one. It also shows no signs of being "compromised" by hard-chewing.

We love this thing so much that we turned around and ordered two more for Christmas--another for Lacy and one of her own for younger sister Cassie. Got a hard-chewer? Buy one; buy can't go wrong with these things!

Friday, February 04, 2005

It's all over except for the celebrating

But exactly who will be celebrating?

According to this story, Howard Dean has secured enough votes to win the race for DNC chair:

"One week before the Democratic National Committee votes on a new leader, the outspoken former Vermont governor has more than 250 public pledges from DNC supporters, according to the political newsletter Hotline -- well more than the 214 needed to win."

At this point it appears only Roemer and Fowler are left in the race with Dean. What once was a seven-person field has dwindled down to three, but really only one. So now what?

"While some Democrats are anxious about putting Dean in charge of the party machinery, others say the strengths he exhibited during his presidential run will serve him well in the organizational post.

"The DNC chairman's job is to raise money, fire up the base and beat up on the Republicans every chance you get," said Kathy Sullivan, chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, who has endorsed Dean. "Howard Dean can do all of that."

Gordon Fischer, outgoing Iowa state chairman, said Dean's plain talk was part of his appeal but Democrats knew it could also land him in hot water. As DNC chair, however, Dean would not be the party's only national voice, he said, and he had proven his effectiveness in confronting Republicans."

Folks I know, liberal Democrats, Greens and even people who belong to parties-that-don't-exist-that-are-farther-left than that all backed Dean in '03 in part at least because he was far enough left that he appealed to their liberal-progressive ideals but he also was 'serious' enough to be 'mainstreamed.' In other-words since it was obvious that Dennis Kucinich and his Department of Peace wasn't setting the world on fire, Dean's fiery anti-Bush positions and progresive views would do. Some still feel this way now.

"Dean promised to make the party competitive in more states and focus not just on the White House but also congressional and state races.

"Howard Dean gets it, he understands fundamentally the things Democrats need to do. The DNC needs to change to help state parties more," said Joe Erwin, South Carolina state party chairman and a Fowler backer who said he would be satisfied with a Dean win. "

I understand their desire for 'fixing' things at the state level and broadening and mobilizing the base. The problem as I see it is that all of Dean's passion, his anger and his 'straight talk' combined with his plans for change within the party do nothing about solving the Dem's real problem; they are too far to the left of the American electorate. Exciting 20-year old college students who wish they'd lived through the '60s or even 60-year old party activists who did is great and all, but it only goes so far.

Americans in November, whether they agreed wholly with the President on the issues of Iraq and terrorism, sided with the President and in so doing, repudiated the liberal-progressive's ideas for dealing with these issues. Democrats didn't lose because they refused to enunciate enough liberal ideas, they lost because they incorporated too many! So why then would they elect the very embodiement of those ideals to a position as the Head of the Party!?

There will be celebrating all right come the 12th, but the identity of some of us lifting our glasses and making toasts just might surprise!

Is it finally starting?

Here is an Australian radio report that is quite heartening and for proponents of the President's policy in Iraq, long overdue!

"The ABC's Middle East Correspondent, Mark Willacy, is in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Mark Willacy, we've heard reports about the high voter turnout, but now there are reports of how some voters have taken on the insurgents in order to vote, you know, the people are fighting back.

MARK WILLACY: That's right, Tony. The Iraqi police have investigated a case in the village of al-Mudhariya, which is just south of Baghdad. The villagers there say that before the election insurgents came and warned them that if they voted in last weekend's election, they would pay. Now the people of this mixed village of Sunni and Shia Muslims, they ignored the threat and they did turn out to vote. We understand that last night the insurgents came back to punish the people of al-Mudhariya, but instead of metering out that punishment the villagers fought back and they killed five of the insurgents and wounded eight. They then burnt the insurgents' car. So the people of that village have certainly had enough of the insurgents."

If true, it might indicate that Sunday's elections were indeed the corner-turning that so many of us have hoped for! I pray that it is true and that indeed, we've turned a corner! Even if we haven't though, it's heartening to hear that ordinary Iraqi's are standing up to the thugs!

Ordinary Iraqi's 1, Insurgents 0

The Next Blogstorm, part deaux

I mentioned the Eason Jordan-Davos comment flap here the other day. Sure as shootin', it seems people are slowly being drawn in.

The Washington Times has an op-ed about it today, and the Godfather has a transcript of Q&A (maybe by email?) b/t himself and Rony Abovitz. If Abovitz is accurate, this is some amazing stuff!

Abovitz's answer to the Godfather's first question is a stunner, and to my mind cuts straight to the heart of the matter:

"I believe that Congressman Frank was dragged into all of this after the fact. Mr. Jordan gave us all a monologue that evolved from his personal experiences in Iraq about this idea of U.S. soldiers targeting U.S. and foreign journalists. I first challenged Mr. Jordan, and then moderator David Gergen (of Harvard's JFK School of Government) brought Frank in as a member of the U.S. government to respond to claims that shocked all of us. I remember Gergen in particular being flabbergasted and disturbed to a very high degree by Mr. Jordan's statements. Congressman Frank told the audience that his briefings indicated that all the journalists killed to date in Iraq were due to "collateral damage". Jordan disagreed, and gave us an example of U.S. soldiers deliberately shelling a hotel in Iraq which was known to all as a haven for journalists covering both sides of the war. Congressman Frank was pretty much a bystander being dragged into all of it. "

Abovitz essentially seems to think that Jordan was in fact saying that journalists were/have been/are targeted by the US Military, though does not explicitly state so strongly in answer to the Godfather's direct question. What of the Times' piece?

To me, the interesting thing here is the highlighting of Jordan's backpedaling:

"Mr. Jordan's almost immediate backpedaling seems to confirm this. In a statement to blogger Carol Platt Liebau, Mr. Jordan said, "To be clear, I do not believe the U.S. military is trying to kill journalists in Iraq. I said so during the forum panel discussion. But, nonetheless, the U.S. military has killed several journalists in Iraq in cases of mistaken identity." He added, "three of my CNN colleagues and many other journalists have been killed on purpose in Iraq." He didn't elaborate by whom."

Juxtapose those lines, one against the other:"I do not believe the US Military is trying to kill journalists in Iraq," but, "three of my CNN colleagues and many other journalists have been killed on purpose in Iraq." It's almost Kerry-esque...

So where are we? Rony Abovitz just wants to get to the truth of what was, wasn't or might have been said. This is the necessary first step, though where it ought to lead isn't quite clear to me. Aside from "forcing" the resignation of Jordan, what is there to accomplish? Can CNN be shamed into behaving better?

As to Jordan himself, what animates such thoughts truly does escape me. It seems clear from the comments above that he understands how's he has stepped in "it" with these comments and the backpedaling reveals that. As the Godfather stated earlier today:

"No wonder Eason Jordan won't answer any questions. He is hiding out and hoping the video doesn't surface."

You'd think however that after watching what happened to Dan Rather and CBS in their bunker, that CNN would realize that the "Ignore-it-and-it-will-go-away," approach just isn't going to cut it!

UPDATE: Jim Gerahty at TKS also questions the bunker mentality:

"I'm shaking my head, seeing Rather and the memos, or Kerry and the Swift Boat Vets. Get out of the bunker, guys. Come out, on camera, and take questions. Face the music and answer the questions as clearly and directly as possible."

UPDATE: La Shawn Barber's blog headlines the newest list of blog-posts now showing up at the Godfather's house. Yours truly is also mentioned. Does this mean I'm famous!? (I doubt it but I get the sense this is maybe what it feels like to be published and I am appropriately giddy!)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Of Local Interest

Phoenix is the 5th largest city in America. Surely, things of interest happen here, right? Well, not much actually.

Then there's stuff like this.

The Weekly World News published photos in its Feb. 7 issue of the "top 10
ugliest people." Among the images was one of Jason Schechterle, a Phoenix police
officer who suffered fourth-degree burns to his hands and face in an on-duty

When I first heard this on local radio yesterday, I was disgusted. As the Republic's piece details, Schechterle was injured in early 2001 when his patrol car was rear-ended and exploded. He suffered serious burns and literally had his face removed by surgeons simply to save his life!

Another local radio report today had the Weekly World News chalking the whole thing up to ignorance. I understand it's a tabloid, but ignorance!? I guess if by ignorance they mean no fact-checking and due diligence, I suppose I'll bite.

"I understand my appearance is going to bring a lot of attention, both positive and negative, but this was over the top," he [Schechterle]said. Indeed!

Obligatory Sports Post

Now Ric Bucher is suggesting that Phil would come back to LA?

It's not often anyone can return to the scene of an accident, unhook the
mangled vehicles, review the mistakes made and resume the course they were on
prior to the collision. Phil Jackson and Kobe
have that chance.

To pass on it -- or do anything less than their best to convince Los Angeles Lakers
owner Dr. Jerry Buss to provide that chance -- would be a monumental mistake by
both of them.
Jackson's imperious style irritated Bryant, but it may be what
he and the Lakers need.
"It's unfinished business," says Lakers executive VP
Jeanie Buss. "Kobe has a throne to take. Phil has something to prove. There's
more to their story."

Am I really reading this? Wasn't that relationship the problem?

"You represent a viral strain of political thought"

"You represent a viral strain of political thought," or so I'm told. This was told me during a discussion of Sunday's election results at Initially, I wasn't quite sure how to react; that either deserved a laugh or an angry retort.

As I've thought over it since I think this represents a significant-- if not 'the' most significant-- problem with political discourse in today's environment: the unwillingness on the part of some, both left and right, to acknowledge that political opponents hold strong views, many in direct opposition to their own, in good faith. In otherwords, their world-view sees circumstances, actions and events in a different way leading to different conclusions.

To be honest, from my perspective on the right I see this as more of an issue coming from the left. Daily in discussions on that forum I was attacked as an apologist and a sycophant (and worse!) because I supported Bush administration policies and actions. Nowhere was this more evident than the discussion of Iraq, pre- and post-invasion.

Over the course of the last two years, any attempt at arguing the Bush Doctrine or the numerous tacit reasons for engaging Iraq as a front in the WOT outside of the explicitly stated reasons surrounding the Admin's WMD claims, the response was fast and furious: There are no other reasons than what was given and to so claim is to embrace and defend the Bush lies about the war. If you believe that you were'nt lied to, you are either ignorant or a fool. End of discussion.

What bothers me more than anything in that debate is the message sent repeatedly about how the right is ignorant, foolish or worse. The argument is wrapped in condescension and rife with an elitist sense of intellectual superiority. Both of which are debate killers that spoil the discourse and injure the political process.

So what to do? How do we overcome such a barrier as a complete lack of respect for one side's views, not because they're wrong necessarily, but because they're conservative?

Simple analysis from a simple man

I've heard some say that if you want to be relevant, you need to address big things and add your own voice to the discussion of said big things. Well, this is attempt #1...

While I am not a policy wonk, I have opinions; and while I'm also not an economist, I have opinions; and while I likewise am not an expert in politics, I have opinions. What follows then is my 'analysis' of the President's State of the Union address; essentially comments and opinion.

I welcome the bipartisan enthusiasm for spending discipline. I will send you
a budget that holds the growth of discretionary spending below inflation,makes
tax relief permanent, and stays on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.
(Applause.) My budget substantially reduces or eliminates more than 150
government programs that are not getting results, or duplicate current efforts,
or do not fulfill essential priorities. The principle here is clear: Taxpayer
dollars must be spent wisely, or not at all.

Bravo! Bravo! This is the point, is it not when it comes to questions like deficits and debt? For too long we've granted that everything we can and/or do spend money on should be done. And we have the debt to show for it.

I applaud the effort, assuming of course it's serious and substantive. Not just because I want him to get credit for it, but because I think changing the thinking behind the process important.
Of course the devil is in the details; what programs fit in this category? Whose pet-programs risk the ax? Already, no doubt, the cries have started about how the President is targeting 'social spending' and the less-fortunate who generally are recipients of aid from programs under this umbrella. Never mind of course that the bulk of such spending (Social Security, Medicare as the obvious examples) does not fall in the category of discretionary spending and thus not subjected to such cuts. But anyway...

From here, a quick hop-skip-and-a-jump to the question of taxes:

I've appointed a bipartisan panel to examine the tax code from top
to bottom. And when their recommendations are delivered, you and I will
work together to give this nation a tax code that is pro-growth, easy to
understand, and fair to all.

The hints have been coming for months. Recall the talk during the campaign last year about House Republican's pushing for tax reform--even before and above tackling the Social Security issue. Also, big and important!

I've been a fan of a simplified tax code for a decade, since the days of Dick Armey's one-page flat-tax proposal! Something I really love about the quote from the President here is the reference to a 'pro-growth' stance. If we can find a way to reduce regulation, promote growth and risk-taking while avoiding the unintended consequences of things like corporate scandals, corporate malfeasance and corruption, imagine what a major step this could be!

From here the President jumped right into Point #1 of the evening's Double Whammy: Social Security Reform.

One of America's most important institutions -- a symbol of the trust
between generations -- is also in need of wise and effective reform. Social
Security was a great moral success of the 20th century, and we must honor its
great purposes in this new century. (Applause.) The system, however, on its
current path, is headed toward bankruptcy.

This is the crux of the whole point; without change, minor, major or in-between, the system will outstrip it's ability to pay it's obligations. We'll get to argue about the 'how,' but to argue the 'why,' seems absurd. After all, the train is coming. Whether it arrives in 2042 or 2053 is irrelevant. It will arrive, and if we're caught sitting on the tracks we're gonna get run over.

This is obviously his highest domestic priority, and I thought he did a masterful job of walking through it in what is obviously not designed as a policy speech. First, this:

I have a message for every American who is 55 or older: Do not let anyone mislead
you; for you, the Social Security system will not change in any way.

This does two things. First, it directly reinforces to seniors that they are not a target of anything as some will say. Second, it says to those who would make such claims "I see you!"


And instead of sixteen workers paying in for every beneficiary, right now
it's only about three workers. And over the next few decades that number will
fall to just two workers per beneficiary. With each passing year, fewer workers
are paying ever-higher benefits to an ever-larger number of retirees.

Addresses one of the major legs of the Social Security stool that is subject to failure. Fewer employees paying more benefits to more beneficiaries. Without changes, this is unsustainable. Period.

Then to this:

So here is the result:

Thirteen years from now, in 2018, Social Security will be paying out more than it
takes in. And every year afterward will bring a new shortfall, bigger than the
year before. For example, in the year 2027, the government will somehow have to
come up with an extra $200 billion to keep the system afloat -- and by 2033, the
annual shortfall would be more than $300 billion. By the year 2042, the entire
system would be exhausted and bankrupt.[...]the only solutions would be
dramatically higher taxes, massive new borrowing, or sudden and severe cuts in
Social Security benefits or other government programs.
This summarizes the entire concept of unfunded liabilities. While it is a simple explanation of what is going on, it is also the most direct and easy to understand: the system's obligations to pay benefits will outstrip it's ability to pay and is thus unsustainable.

Finally, he gets specific and begins pointing out previously offered fixes for this mess:

Fixing Social Security permanently will require an open, candid review of the
options. Some have suggested limiting benefits for wealthy retirees. Former
Congressman Tim Penny has raised the possibility of indexing benefits to prices
rather than wages. During the 1990s, my predecessor, President Clinton, spoke of
increasing the retirement age. Former Senator John Breaux suggested discouraging
early collection of Social Security benefits. The late Senator Daniel Patrick
Moynihan recommended changing the way benefits are calculated. All these ideas
are on the table.

From a political standpoint, its a master-stroke pointing to numerous options offered by Democrats. In light of the turn many have taken recently in insisting that Social Security is solvent and strong as ever, it is even more masterful!

Finally, here the President pushes the issue of bi-partisanship:
I know that none of these reforms would be easy. But we have to move ahead with
courage and honesty, because our children's retirement security is more
important than partisan politics.

Essentially, the question is bigger than who is precisely right and who is wrong on how and when solving the problem is appropriate and he urges them to act appropriately! Last on this subject is his making the case for- and defense of private accounts:
Here's why the personal accounts are a better deal. Your money will grow, over
time, at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver -- and your
account will provide money for retirement over and above the check you will
receive from Social Security. In addition, you'll be able to pass along the
money that accumulates in your personal account, if you wish, to your children
and -- or grandchildren. And best of all, the money in the account is yours, and
the government can never take it away. (Applause.)
The goal here is greater security in retirement, so we will set careful guidelines for personal accounts. We'll make sure the money can only go into a conservative mix of bonds and stock funds. We'll make sure that your earnings are not eaten up by hidden Wall Street fees. We'll make sure there are good options to protect your investments from sudden market swings on the eve of your retirement. We'll make sure a personal account cannot be emptied out all at once, but rather paid out over time, as an addition to traditional Social Security benefits.[...]Personal retirement
accounts should be familiar to federal employees, because you already have
something similar, called the Thrift Savings Plan, which lets workers deposit a
portion of their paychecks into any of five different broadly-based investment
funds. It's time to extend the same security, and choice, and ownership to young

For my money, this addresses all questions about personal accounts or so-called privatization with the exclusion of one, transition. Setting that aside as he did (it's a big question all by itself and falls in the 'how' category and will get it's own debate), it answers the question of how much money goes to these accounts, how it is invested, and how it gets protected. All important questions that needed addressing.

The last point about the Federal Thrift Savings Plan is just good clean political fun! "If it's good enough for you Mr. Federal Employee, why is it not good enough for the people you represent!?"

Point #2 of the Double Whammy, Foreign policy was an effective reminder of why we consider Iraq a part of the WOT, regardless of how we concluded that moving on Iraq was the right move. Likewise, the spotlight re-focused on Syria and Iran served as a not-so-subtle-reminder that we're watching with expectations, these nations responses to our actions in the region. The reference to Egypt and Saudi Arabia also serve a similar function. The heat is being turned up, and rightly so!

My last thought on any one particular point is this:

Recently an Iraqi interpreter said to a reporter, "Tell America not to abandon
us." He and all Iraqis can be certain: While our military strategy is adapting
to circumstances, our commitment remains firm and unchanging. We are standing
for the freedom of our Iraqi friends, and freedom in Iraq will make America
safer for generations to come. (Applause.) We will not set an artificial
timetable for leaving Iraq, because that would embolden the terrorists and make
them believe they can wait us out. We are in Iraq to achieve a result: A country that is democratic, representative of all its people, at peace with its neighbors, and able to defend itself. And when that result is achieved, our men and women serving in Iraq will return home with the honor they have earned.(Applause.)

This ought to be copied and delivered by name as a separate memorandum to each Congressional Democrat who insists on finding a camera and braying on about an "Exit Strategy." This is a clear enunciation of what I would call the ultimate Exit Strategy; Victory.

All in all, a fine speech. Full of bold ideas across a spectrum of issues, it called Americans to stand up and address things head-on. For that I call it inspirational. For the issues addressed specifically, Social Security and foreign policy, I call it important.

"Thank you and may God bless America," indeed!

The Next Blogstorm

That's what Jim Gerahty at TKS is calling the so-far-not-reported story of Eason Jordan's comments at Davos about the US Military and what he alleges as 'targeting' of journalists in Iraq. Strong stuff, eh!?

The Godfather has a rundown as of early yesterday evening. There is more to report even this morning and both Gerahty and the Godfather are good places to stay on top of things like this.

Proof yet again that the Godfather's insight and understanding of the blogosphere is spot on. Learn and grow folks, learn and grow!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Obligatory Sports Post

(A staple from the ESPN board...) is reporting that LA Laker head-coach Rudy Tomjanovich will be stepping down as head coach after tonight's game against the Portland Trail Blazers. While apparently not a serious issue, his health is said to be in part at least driving this decision. That, and the fact that his team is simply not very good (23-19, 7th in the Western Conference) and not currently playing well. Not that they were playing particularly well prior to Kobe Bryant's ankle-injury.

Not sure what to think here...last time the Lakers had to rebuild they only had to suffer one losing season ('93-'94) and two years as a #8 seed in the playoffs ('91-'92, '92-'93). This time around, I'm not so sure...

I haven't spent alot of time "pondering" the issue, but I'm not sure there's another Del Harris out there who is going to come in, settle down the team and restore respectability on the court. Likewise, who is the next Shaq--the big FA signing that all by itself changes the on-court fortunes of the franchise? I just don't know...

In the meantime I fear it may get ugly before it gets better given the antics of Kobe, and the lack of supporting talent aside from Caron Butler and Lamar Odom.

Intellectual Honesty

Mark Brown, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times steps up to the plate today and asks the question "What if Bush has been right about Iraq all along?"


  1. Kudos to Mr. Brown for having the integrity and honesty to approach the issue. Too much of the debate on Iraq both pre- and post-war has been about who was right and who was wrong and trying to prove both points at all costs among some.
  2. Mr. Brown now understands there is a bigger picture here. I wish more on the American left would address the issue similarly.
  3. People don't need to reach Mr. Brown's conclusions. If they feel it's still not a right policy and they can make a coherent, logical case for it, thats fine by me. What I can't stand is the idea that the issue is no more complex than having two people screaming at each other from opposite ends, one yelling "There were WMD's!," and the other shreiking "No, there were not!"

UPDATE: Apparently Jon Stewart and Mark Brown are sharing a brain today. Who'da thunk!?

Don't make ASSumptions!

Over at NRO's TKS Jim Gerahty makes a point about one of my pet peeves. Namely, what he calls "unfounded, unverified, unproven speculation about opponents’ motives?"

Amen and Amen! Part of why I've struck out on my "own" here is a predeliction on the part of my fellow posters at ESPN to assume they know better than I what I mean. To boot, I often had to deal there with folks who loved nothing more to dismiss any and all arguments in oppsition to their own by simply assuming that my postings are the result of parroting others; implying a lack of critical or independent thought. From there, it's an easy walk across the street to imputing motives to the "opposition." Nothing used to infuriate me more.

This attempt to dismiss arguments by assuming that your opponent doesn't mean what he says, that you know better than he why in fact he comments on something is an instant debate-killer. If in fact the goal of such things as the ESPN message boards in particular and the blogosphere in general is conversation--nay, debate!--why on earth would you do this!?

Argue the points as Gerahty remarks: "When I propose policy X, and say it will lead to good results, my opponent has a choice. The first option is to say policy X will lead to bad results, and explain why. Then my opponent and I can argue about the likely results of the policy." That's called debate; assigning motive and insulting the intelligence of your opponent is called nonsense.

My Dogs are Smarter (Or how I settled on the name of my blog)

My wife and I own two dogs, a Yellow Lab named Lacy and a Rottweiler mix, Cassie (Yes, I really should be Cagney and Lacy, but alas; Cassie was a shelter animal who came to us already named). As anyone with pets can testify, each day is an adventure in dumb animal behavior and ours are no different.

One night in early 2004 Lacy decided it would be fun to rummage through the laundry room when we inadvertantly left the door open. Out into the rest of the house she ran with a pair of socks hanging out her mouth. Thus ensued another round of "Chase me!," a game we play near nightly after one of the dogs has grabbed something they shouldn't and refuses to drop it into our hands on command.

My wife and I chased her through the living room, back into the kitchen, into the hallway and back around into the living room again several times. At one point I was able to recover one of the socks after falling from her mouth. One more circle through the downstairs and I was trying to coax her into submission. As I stared her down from across the room, suddenly I noticed the sock ever-so-slowly disappearing into her mouth. Another lap through the house and desperate cry to my wife later, I had her cornered and pried her mouth open to discover---NOTHING!

She swallowed the sock. No chewing, just sucked it up, in and down the gullet it goes. To make a long story short, after several conversations with the local 24-hour emergency vetrinary clinic we 'coaxed' it back up with a small dose of Peroxide.

Pretty dumb, eh?

Well, sad to say but I've seen some real live, thinking, breathing human beings exhibit even more stunning stupidity.

I'll talk about that, I'll talk about sports, movies, books, my dogs, my wife...pretty much whatever strikes my fancy!

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