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November 30, 2004

Corporate Hollywood continues its war against its customers

From the New Haven Register, Nov. 27:

Since the advent of the VCR, and with the arrival of DVD players, those who want to get to the movie have been free to skip past the coming attractions.

The entertainment industry, however, is exerting pressure in Congress with the hope of making it impossible to skip past previews and advertisements at the opening of DVDs.

Legislative language that would have done just that — make it illegal for DVDs to allow fast-forwarding — was struck at the last minute from a copyright bill that passed the Senate late Nov. 20.

The Executive branch is not run by committee

The latest horror from the Bush administration is that the president is stocking his cabinet with people who actually agree with him. This action has elicited precisely the howls of outrage from the Dems and the media that did not occur when President Clinton did the same thing. Cabinet officer "independence" is a virtue only when the executive is a Republican. But you knew that already.

Bret Stephens has written a very useful essay for the Wall Street Journal in which he examines the history of the relationship between presidents and their cabinet officers. Current criticism of President Bush seems to imply that the relationship is supposed to follow the "cabinet government" model, in which this branch of the government is actually run by an executive council; the president always casts the deciding vote, but never without advisory input from the council.

The sensible reader, however, will come away from Stephens' essay with the obvious conclusion:
[A] cabinet is not something a president governs with; and contrary to Andrew Jackson, it is not something a president governs around. Ideally, a cabinet is what a president governs through.
While the president is free to delegate important decisionmaking tasks to his officers, they certainly serve at his pleasure and -- as Stephens points out -- are welcome to look for other employment if they are not willing to be "tools" for the implementation of the president's policies.

November 29, 2004

The Left is blowing a gasket over "values"

Michael Kinsley, in an op-ed rant entitled "To Hell With Values" (registration required):
It's been less than a month since the gods decreed that, due to the election results, American political life henceforth must be all about something called "values." And I gave it my best. Honest. But I'm sick of talking about values, sick of pretending I have them or care more about them than I really do. Sick of bending and twisting the political causes I do care about to make them qualify as "values."
After enjoying the political dominance of his own values for the past few decades, Kinsley can't stand to see opposing values get any traction. He insists that a politician's "values" should not matter as long as he or she is "competent" -- but you just know that Kinsley will judge a pol's competence by his or her fealty to the values that are important to him. And that makes him no different from the people for which he expresses such derision in his essay.

Granted, Kinsley does make the good point that pols typically connive to repackage their pet issues in terms of values, but he seems to jump from this fact to the conclusion that no issue can or should be debated in the context of values. Not true.

November 24, 2004

Herding cats at State

Joel Mowbray has a good essay on the challenges Condoleezza Rice faces reining in the out-of-control foreign service bureaucracy at State, and about whether or not she is up to the task (good intentions notwithstanding).

In naming Condoleezza Rice as his pick for Secretary of State, President Bush is sending his most loyal adviser to his most disloyal agency: the State Department. But no matter what changes she makes—and many are needed—the bureaucracy at State is entrenched almost to the point of being impenetrable, meaning real reform could well prove illusory.

Ms. Rice will soon take the reins of a massive 47,000-employee operation that is literally sprawled out across the world. It is an insular institution that operates remarkably similarly from one administration to the next, typically viewing presidents, as one Foreign Service Officer puts it, as the “summer help.”
State's "insular" arrogance didn't spring up overnight, and it is not likely that reform can take root quickly, but I'd sure like to see Rice have a go at it. It would be worth the price of admission to hear the squeals of rage coming from the lifers there.

Secret provision of spending bill enrages lawmakers

Another wishful-thinking classic from Scott Ott:
Hidden Clause Would Force Lawmakers to Read Legislation

(2004-11-24) -- A secret provision in the proposed 3,600-page omnibus spending bill for 2005 would require members of Congress to actually read the text of legislation before voting.

Buried on page 1,776 of the bill, the hidden clause sparked outrage from both sides of the aisle after it was discovered by an employee of the Congressional printing service.

"This sneak-and-peek provision is a violation of our fundamental rights as legislators," said one unnamed Republican Senator. "If you require lawmakers to actually read the text of bills, then they would lose plausible deniability and become accountable for their votes. This would shake the foundations of our constitutional republic."

November 23, 2004

The Cult of Molech releases this year's holiday cards

As the Christmas season gears up, Planned Parenthood has once again profaned the birth of Christ by offering this year's edition of "Choice on Earth" holiday cards.

These folks truly are heirs of the cult of Molech, infamous for their practice of child sacrifice.

Kudos to the NAACP for defending Condi Rice

The NAACP is infamous for remaining silent when black conservatives come under attack. It is therefore refreshing to see that the organization has issued a statement defending Secretary of State designate Condoleezza Rice against the "racial slurs and ethnic stereotypes" that have been leveled against her by some on the left:

[NAACP President & CEO Kweisi] Mfume said, “Her counsel is respected and valued in her field and in the upper echelons of her political party.” Moreover, “Rice, a PhD and former Stanford University Provost, is an example of how far hard work, education and determination can take one to new heights,” said Mfume.

He went on to say that “attacks on Rice by the radio host and political cartoonists who use stereotypes and racial caricatures are just as bad as those who hide under sheets and burn crosses. This is something the NAACP has fought against for more than 95 years and something we will continue to oppose.”

November 18, 2004

Another defeat for Tom Daschle

In the wake of 9/11/01, Tom Daschle led the Democrat charge to make airport security screeners federal employees, famously declaring that you can't "professionalize unless you federalize". After only three years, the Transportation Security Administration is now allowing airports to "apply to leave the federal security screener system", according to this Washington Post article.

This experiment revealed much of what is generally wrong with central planning -- for example, the inability of the TSA to respond in a timely manner to changes in staffing needs at specific airports.

At least two Washington-area airports (BWI and Dulles) are tired of the customer service nightmare that the TSA-run security process has brought, and they are beginning to understand that you can't really professionalize unless you privatize.

This really hasn't been a good month for soon-to-be-former Sen. Daschle, has it?

November 17, 2004

Why the L.A. cross controversy matters

Dennis Prager, a Jew, explains why he's front-and-center in the protest against the L.A. County supervisors' decision to remove a small cross from the county seal:

First, I fear those who rewrite history.

As I noted in a previous column on this subject, when I was a graduate student at Columbia University's Russian Institute, I learned that a major characteristic of totalitarian regimes is their rewriting of history. As a famous Soviet dissident joke put it: "In the Soviet Union, the future is known; it's the past which is always changing." Given the relationship between changing the past and totalitarianism, those who love liberty ought to be frightened by the ACLU and the Board of Supervisors.

Second, I fear intolerance. And the move to expunge the singular Christian contribution to an American county and city is intolerant to the point of bigotry. No religious Christians, despite their deep opposition to paganism, ever objected to the pagan goddess that is many times larger than the cross. I have found over and over that most Christians who preach faith are more tolerant than most leftists who preach tolerance.

Third, and most important, I fear the removal of the Judeo-Christian foundation of our society. This is the real battle of our time, indeed the civil war of our time. The Left wants America to become secular like Western Europe, not remain the Judeo-Christian country it has always been. But unlike the Left, I do not admire France and Belgium and Sweden. And that is what the battle over the seal of America's most populous county is ultimately about. It is not about separation of church and state. It is about separation of a county from its history. And it is about separation of America from its moral foundations.

November 16, 2004

How to avoid the poverty trap

Steven Malanga has written an excellent essay in City Journal that thoroughly dismantles the left's view of poverty in America. He focuses his attention on forty years of literature that claims that the vast majority of those in poverty now are doomed to remain there, and that poverty leads to all kinds of personal failure and social dysfunction.

The supposed economic immobility of the underclass is easily refuted by Malanga.

Regarding the alleged effects of poverty, research indicates that the Left is wrong on all counts. Referring to a book by Joanna Lipper on the abundance of poverty, drug abuse and teen pregnancy in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Malanga writes:
[...] Lipper has reversed cause and effect. She sees social dysfunction in Pittsfield and blames it on poverty. But it typically is personal failure and social dysfunction that create poverty. To stay out of poverty in America, it's necessary to do three simple things, social scientists have found: finish high school, don't have kids until you marry, and wait until you are at least 20 to marry. Do those three things, and the odds against your becoming impoverished are less than one in ten. Nearly 80 percent of everyone who fails to do those three things winds up poor.
Read the whole essay.

(Credit: Boortz)

Cosby starting to have effect?

Newsday's Sheryl McCarthy has written a very encouraging essay on comedian Bill Cosby's quest to force America's black community to accept responsibility for the current state of its youth. In the face of often withering criticism (which focuses on him instead of on the issues he raises), Cosby is refusing to back down.

November 15, 2004

Ben Franklin, another cold-hearted right-wing extremist

Repeal that [welfare] law, and you will soon see a change in their manners. ... Six days shalt thou labor, though one of the old commandments long treated as out of date, will again be looked upon as a respectable precept; industry will increase, and with it plenty among the lower people; their circumstances will mend, and more will be done for their happiness by inuring them to provide for themselves, than could be done by dividing all your estates among them.

-- Benjamin Franklin
Ben Franklin, incurable optimist. His observation is correct, but what he doesn't mention is the fact that if all of the assets of "the rich" were somehow confiscated and divided among "the poor", the lot of the poor would not be substantially improved.

(Courtesy of The Federalist's "Founders Quote Daily")

November 8, 2004

Paramount blames conservatives for movie's poor showing

(Yes, I'm supposed to be gone, but I couldn't let this one get by)

Hollywood is drawing some interesting lessons from the presidential election. The New York Times relates that Paramount may have had an epiphany of sorts:

Paramount's "Alfie," a remake of a romantic comedy about a roguish womanizer starring Jude Law, opened to a dismal $6.5 million in more than 2,000 theaters, far below expectations. The tepid response was the latest blow to Sherry Lansing, the chairwoman of Paramount who last week announced her plans to leave the job when her contract expires in 2005, and whose movies have performed poorly this summer and fall.

Wayne Llewellyn, the president of distribution at Paramount, said that the conservative ethos reflected in last week's election results might have hurt the film.

"It could be the mood of the country right now," he said. "It seems to be the result of the election. Maybe they didn't want to see a guy that slept around."

Don't hold your breath waiting for Paramount to stop making movies about guys who sleep around.

November 7, 2004

Yet ANOTHER hiatus

I need to put the blog on hold yet again for a few days. I should be back online by Saturday the 13th.

Clarence Thomas for Chief Justice?

Drudge, Nov. 7:
President Bush has launched an internal review of the pros and cons of nominating Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as the chief justice if ailing William Rehnquist retires, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

A top White House source familiar with Bush's thinking explains the review of Thomas as chief justice is one of several options currently under serious consideration. But Thomas is Bush's personal favorite to take the position, the source claims.
Thomas would be an outstanding choice. President Bush has shown how resolute he can be in the face of withering criticism. If he is truly inclined to make this nomination, I hope he will stand his ground.

November 5, 2004

No rest for weary conservatives... Arlen Specter is still at large

Arlen Specter is one of the top possibilities for chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and this week he has made clear his pre-emptive opposition to any pro-life judges President Bush might nominate. Conservative organizations are already mobilizing their forces to prevent Specter from being appointed Judiciary chairman. A new blog, NotSpecter.com, appears to be a good place to go for information on this issue.

Netherlands awakening to War on Terror

...sort of. Following the murder of a filmmaker who made a movie critical of radical Islam, prominent Dutch politicians have been forced into hiding because of death threats by Muslims promising the same for them.

One of the politicians, Hyaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali woman and ex-Muslim, is one of the country's most outspoken critics of government policies that do not encourage immigrant populations -- including one million north-African Muslims -- to assimilate. Her solution to the recent actual and promised terrorism, however, does not seem to be proportional to the threat. Referring to a law that currently allows immigrants to maintain dual citizenship:
She said that the law would be changed "so that when a person is suspected of planning or involvement in extremism or serious crimes, we will take away their Dutch passport."
Yeah, that'll teach them.

Russia ratifies Kyoto treaty; treaty now takes effect

From UPI:

The completion of Russia's ratification process, which began last month when Moscow's legislature passed an enabling bill, brings the protocol into effect more than seven years after the pact was adopted in December 1997 at a U.N. climate change conference in Kyoto, Japan.

This was an easy call by Russia. They will be able to trade pollution "credits" to higher-polluting countries in exchange for cold, hard cash.

US refusal to ratify the protocol is yet another reason for Bush-haters around the world to hate Bush (a search on the key word "kyoto" in Google News reveals many current examples).

The article gives an explanation for the timing (related to getting assurances of EU support for Russian acceptance into the World Trade Organization), but I think it's significant that this happened just three days after the U.S. election. For all of the disagreements between the two countries, President Putin appears to genuinely like President Bush. I can't help but think he was persuaded (or decided on his own) to wait until now to avoid the ratification becoming an issue against Bush before Nov. 2.

November 3, 2004

Bad news for Democrat political refugees

If Tuesday's election results have you packing your duffel bag and getting ready to flee north, you may have to suffer through the Bush dictatorship up to another year before your paperwork gets processed, according to a Reuters article that appears to take the possiblity of an exodus seriously.

November 2, 2004

Non sequitur alert

Tonight's non sequitur award goes to Reuters:
In the midst of a key national election on Tuesday, Texas, the leading death penalty state, took time out to execute a man for a 1990 murder.

Why it matters: Reason #172384

Many have mentioned in this election season that whoever is president in the next four years will be able to name one or more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. This is now a virtual certainty, with the news that Chief Justice Rehnquist has thyroid cancer, which is typically fatal. Although he has not yet resigned his position, he won't be returning to the bench any time soon.

I have no intention whatsoever of minimizing Rehnquist's illness, but the point must be made that once he is off the court, a President Kerry would waste no time adjusting the ideological balance more to his liking. (Conservatives and constitutionalists planning to vote third-party, please take note).

A grateful nation turns out to endorse their Dear Leader

Scott Ott gives us a vision of what we'd see in the paper today if all of the Looney Left's dark accusations were really true:
Exit Polls Show 100 Percent Turnout, All for Bush

(2004-11-02) -- Early exit polling, even before precincts had opened on the east coast, shows that today's voter turnout will be 100 percent of those registered, and all voters enthusiastically support the Bush regime.

"His popular support rivals Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il and his close friend King Fahd," said an unnamed spokesman for the United Nation's election monitoring team. "Some people are literally marking their ballots with their own blood to show their devotion to this dear leader."

Read the whole thing, have a good laugh, and then GET OUT AND VOTE!

(But only if you're voting for the Dear Leader, of course)

November 1, 2004

Kerry gets the best press coverage in a generation

No surprise that the press is rooting for Sen. Kerry, but the degree to which they're pulling out the stops is unprecedented in recent decades, as the Washington Times reports:
Sen. John Kerry has gotten the white-glove treatment from the press, garnering more praise from journalists than any other presidential candidate in the last quarter-century, according to a new analysis of almost 500 news stories released today by the Center for Media and Public Affairs.

"It's not just that John Kerry has gotten better press than President Bush before this election, he's gotten better press than anyone else since 1980. That's significant," said Bob Lichter, director of the D.C.-based nonpartisan research group.
(Credit: Best of the Web)