JATBlog
Thursday, July 31, 2003
 
Check this out (from instapundit via Oxblog):

So, here's what Tony Blair said (as he responded to a question asking whether he would continue to serve as prime minister in a third Labour term in government): "There is a big job of work to do - my appetite for doing it is undiminished."

And here's what the BBC reported in its lede: "Mr Blair, who said his appetite for power remained 'undiminished'...."


Better visit the BBC website fast -- these things have a way of changing once someone points them out.


Sons and daughters that is pretty bad quote-spinning. Only a jerk would do something like that.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
 
I received a response to my letter to the social security administration. I'd previously (see here) discussed what I'd seen on the website, and subsequently written an email asking what the purpose or guiding principles of the social security programs is, and whether it is officially a tax or a fund (involuntary investment). I'll reproduce it in full:

Thank you for your inquiry.

The Social Security program does not guarantee each worker a specific return
on his or her Social Security taxes. Social Security is a national system of
social insurance under which employers, employees, and self-employed people
pay Social Security taxes. These taxes are used to pay benefits to workers
and their families because of the loss of earnings due to retirement,
disability, or death. They also pay hospital insurance benefits for retired
and disabled workers.

Many people tend to judge the value of Social Security by the retirement
benefits they expect to receive in relation to the taxes paid, without
regard to disability insurance and survivors insurance. Because it is a
social insurance program, Social Security spreads the cost of this
protection over virtually all workers and provides the same type of
protection to everyone. Thus, the Social Security program cannot be viewed
merely as a personal savings plan or an investment plan, nor its value
assessed solely by comparing an individual's Social Security taxes and
benefits
. As with other types of insurance, some workers will receive more
in benefits than they paid in taxes, some less.


All revenues from Social Security taxes go into the general funds of the
Department of the Treasury. Then, they are automatically distributed to
three trust funds--one each for old-age and survivors insurance, disability
insurance, and hospital insurance (Part A of Medicare). A fourth trust fund
for medical insurance is financed through the premiums paid by people
enrolled in the supplementary medical insurance program (Part B of Medicare)
and contributions made by the Federal Government from general revenues.

The Department of the Treasury keeps these four trust funds separate from
its general funds. The law requires that these trust funds be used only to
pay Social Security benefits and related administrative expenses. Trust
fund assets not needed for current benefits and administrative expenses are
invested in special obligations of the United States Treasury, the safest
form of investment available. The liability of the Federal Government with
respect to these obligations is no different from that on savings bonds and
the Treasury bonds, bills, and notes that private investors purchase. The
Federal Government must pay a market rate of interest on these investments
and, at redemption or maturity, must also repay the principal. In 2002, the
combined Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Fund
investments earned $80.4 billion, at an effective interest rate of 6.4
percent.

By law, the unified Federal budget now excludes both Social Security tax
revenues and benefit payments in figuring the Federal budget deficit.
However, because the amount of borrowing by the Federal Government is an
important factor in economic policy, discussions about the deficit may
include the financial operations of the Social Security trust funds. When
the deficit is considered this way, Social Security financial transactions
reduce the deficit because Social Security revenues currently exceed
expenditures.

Although income to the Social Security trust funds is expected to exceed
expenditures for many years, reserves will begin to decrease when we begin
to pay benefits to the "baby-boom" generation. At that point, securities
held by the trust funds will need to be redeemed to pay Social Security
benefits.

These rising Social Security cash flow deficits will begin to strain the
consolidated Federal budget unless the non-Social Security budget has
offsetting surpluses. However, the Federal Government has never defaulted
on any outstanding Federal debt or failed to pay Social Security benefits on
time. Bonds held in the trust funds, like marketable Federal securities,
are backed by the "full faith and credit" of the United States Government.
That promise is no less meaningful because the bulk of the trust funds'
holdings are special obligations.


(emphasis in bold mine) Social security is a tax redistributed to old people. The relationship between amount paid in a lifetime of work and the amount received when old is evidently too complicated to reveal, but is obviously not a 1:1 correlation.
The question is not fairness of distribution (are state taxes unevenly distributed to cities vs. rural areas sort of thing) but rather one of responsibility. Are individuals responsible for earning enough to retire at 7.5 years before their life expectancy? Or is the government responsible for funding their retirement? In the view that the government's purpose is to enable equality of opportunity, the government's obligation to old people is to offer them the same civil liberties protections as young people.
That is, do not prohibit old people from owning guns, speaking freely, etc. The government, in self-interest, may also be well-served to allow old people to apply for student financial aid, etc., in the view that even though they're old, they can still have plenty of opportunity to contribute to communities or the nation in general. In no way does funding their retirement fall under any of those descriptions.
A guaranteed payoff at a certain age does not encourage hard work to earn a retirement. A case might be made concerning disabled folks, but government meddling ought to be limited to funding to find ways for those disabled to contribute in a meaningful way in society (i.e. provide them equality of opportunity). (Do disabled qualify for welfare anyway?)
Of course, the question is then how do you change things? You've got millions of people counting on government-funded retirement. Good, honest folks. It would clearly take a long time to wean everyone off this dependency. But quick, easy fixes will always undermine our liberties, and so it would be worth the sacrifice. Otherwise we'd have to wait until socialism takes over completely and have another revolution. And by then there'd be a ban on guns and a revolution would be pretty difficult.
 
A couple long essays discussing political activism and the response of some to terrorism. The conclusions are that, surprise surprise, bad things can come of ignorance + action. (via instapundit)
 
My town of origin wins a special ND state-wide award. Some excerpts:
The Tribune received about 40 nominations from readers. We read each essay and selected 10 finalists. We judged essays on the spirit of the message, not necessarily the writing.
We tossed the 10 finalists in a hat, and the winner was drawn by Tribune Publisher Julie Bechtel. We left the final choice up to chance, because so many towns seemed deserving of the honor.
This section contains portions of as many essays as we could fit. To everyone who wrote or sent photos, thanks for your submissions.
In case you couldn't tell from the cover of this section, Wishek won the award, which brings with it $1,000 for a community betterment project and two road signs proclaiming the honor.

Woo-hoo! Take that, Carrington!
Wishek may be the 2002 Hometown of the Year, but that doesn't mean the people of Bowman, Beach or Belfield have to feel bad.
As with beauty, which is in the eye of the beholder, if everyone believes their hometown is the best place in the world to live, they're probably right.

Rats. I'd take the award to mean that every other town is clearly inferior to Wishek. Take that, LaMoure!

Some essays about town were included:
To properly walk a goat down Main Street, keep a firm grip on a very short leash, preferably two feet from his collar.
Otherwise he'll eat everything he sees. Goats are easily distracted.
This you learn from Candy Nies upon your arrival in this McIntosh County town of 1,122. Nies brought her goat, Billy, with her from the county seat of Ashley, a nearby (and rival) town. Wishek residents were quick to point out that, yes, they walk goats all the time in Ashley, where the streets are still dirt and electricity should be coming in a week or two.

Ha ha ha! Take that, Ashley. They think they're so superior, what with being the county seat and all. But all those government jobs can't hide the fact that their town is clearior inferior to Wishek (now acknowledged by the state of ND).
The good-natured rivalry has faded as the high school sports teams merged and residents have found it's better to work together in the fight to stay afloat in rural North Dakota.
A sad day, indeed. I think the entire county is one school district, now. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong - does Zeeland have its own school yet?)
To get people together, it put on Summer Fun Days, which included a kiddie parade, Duck Races, Bingo and CakeWalk and concluded with a street dance.
I wonder if that's cow-pie bingo or "binga" bingo.
A group of parents has taken on a major project to replace archaic playground equipment for their children, and is about a third of the way to its $50,000 goal after just a few months.
Drat! I sure hope they're referring to the school playground equipment. That stuff at the park is classic! They just don't make playground equipment like that anymore (possibly for good reason, but I survived it).
Also check out the Bismarck Tribune painting of main street. Its possible that's the only time someone's painted a scene of Wishek, ND!
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
 
Bill Williamson sees the light and repeats what I said. Klein will more than fill in for Chamberlain. But I don't know whether to take this as a good sign or bad:
Kleinsasser, who quarterback Daunte Culpepper says is one of the three best players on the team, has steadily improved his pass catching.
If Daunte, who has sucked horribly recently, things you're great, what does that mean really? That you are crappy and make Daunte look good or that you really are good and Daunte doesn't include himself in the "best three players on the team"?
 
I was thinking about social security for no real reason this morning. In an average month, I pay about $400 towards social security. My "full retirement age" is 67. Many of my relatives have not lived much past this age, if to that age. The average life expectancy in this country is 74.5 years (male). That gives 7.5 years that the average person can expect to receive social security benefits (not including the fact that the "retirement age" creeps upwards every year or so). The calculator states I can expect to receive, in todays dollars, $2000/month when I turn 67. That's a lot of money.
How much would I have put into social security by that time? Assuming I get no raises, $210,600. Now suppose I live to be 74.5 (84 months past full retirement). How much is that per month? $210,600 / 84 = $2240. So in today's dollars, I actually can have more for retirement than if I use social security. My job provides disability insurance and life insurance, so I don't need social security for that, either. But I'm forced to use social security. Why? The only reason I can come up with is that the government thinks it can be more responsible in saving for my retirement than me (even though it costs me $240/month after retirement for the govt to do so).
Lets see if the government website can shed any light on this delicate situation.

This is the mission statement of the social security administration:
To promote the economic security of the nation?s people through compassionate and vigilant leadership in shaping and managing America's Social Security programs.

hmmm... A little vague. I like "vigilant leadership" in government programs, but "compassionate" sort of scares me; somehow that always means taking my money and giving it to those who made choices such that they are not able to earn as much as I. But nonetheless, to get a clearer understanding I need a purpose statement of America's Social Security programs. If this purpose statement is not something like, "The purpose of America's Social Security programs are to redistribute wealth and screw upper-middle-class folks out of $240/month on the off chance they live to be 74.5," I think there is something wrong.

After scouring the website, I found many links regarding the history of social security, but nothing official on its purpose or guiding principles. Thus I turned to transcripts of FDR's speech to congress, where he states:
In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps thirty years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.

Mind you, this was on Jan 17, 1935. The middle of the deppression. The dirty 30's. Americans were more than a little hesitent to invest on their own, and many unemployed and low-wage earners were unlikely to have any means of survival once past a reasonable working age. This made sense at the time. Of course, that was 79 years ago. And the system doesn't work; it's not self-supporting. It ought to be voluntary or abondened completely. Or the government should be honest and call it a tax.

If there's any doubt that the entire system was created out of fear of depressions and economic upheaval, FDR goes on:
The establishment of sound means toward a greater future economic security of the American people is dictated by a prudent consideration of the hazards involved in our national life. No one can guarantee this country against the dangers of future depressions but we can reduce these dangers.

This man was very afraid. His fear is our burden.
Monday, July 28, 2003
 
A high level strategic view of the cause of the war, the reason that the United States became involved in it, the fundamental goals the US has to achieve to win it, and the strategies the US is following

A well-informed summary of things the present administration have told us and a bit of speculation on the future.

What is the root cause of the war?


Collective failure of the nations and people in a large area which is predominately Arab and/or Islamic.


Economically the only contribution they make is by selling natural resources which are available to them solely through luck.


They make no significant contribution to international science or engineering.


They make little or no cultural contribution to the world. Few seek out their poetry, their writing, their movies or music. The most famous Muslim writer of fiction in the world is under a fatwa death sentence now and lives in exile in Europe.


Their only diplomatic relevance is due to their oil.


They are not respected by the world, or by themselves.

 
Planets align for Culpepper
Sean Jensen of the Pioneer Press reports:

The Vikings quarterback knows of no logical reason he can't lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl or return to Pro Bowl form because he has everything he could ever want: a long-term contract, a stalwart left tackle, a cluster of talented receivers, a revamped defense.

OK, if by stalwart left tackle he means a big guy who didn't mess up horribly in half a year of play, and "cluster of talented receivers" hasn't applied since we had CC, Jake Reed, and Moss (back when Reed could catch). Then there's the laughable "revamped defense." Sticking a feather up your butt does not make you a chicken. Likewise, getting an under-rated linebacker from a division rival does not make your defense revamped. Did I mention we lost our starting runningback for the season? And pro bowl TE for 4 games? I see a whole slew of reasons why Culpepper (or Kapp or Tarkenton, for that matter) couldn't lead the Vikes to a Super Bowl appearance.
Although I should be happy that the media appears to be optimistic in this case (though hopelessly ignorant).

He's sure he will not repeat his abysmal 2002 season, when he committed an astounding 32 turnovers, because he has learned a valuable lesson.

Please tell me this "valuable lesson" is how to hold on to the football. Or how not to fumble. Or how not to panic when approached/touched by a defensive player.

...because I was trying to do too much."

He wasn't completely healthy, either. Culpepper didn't fully recover from knee surgery he had in December 2001 until last November, and he said he entered training camp at about 80 to 85 percent. He was unable to dunk a basketball or touch the rim when last season ended, something he did easily before.


Rats. Nothing about fumbling or holding on to the ball. How is the ability to dunk a basketball related to the tendancy to fumble is something Sean Jensen sees clearer than I.

"He was fighting through the injury," Clark said, "so to make up for that, he was trying to do more than he was supposed to, and that led to some mistakes."

Oh, cry me a river. Steve DeBerg once played a half with a broken wrist. On his throwing hand. And he played better than Culpepper did most of last year. And he wasn't paid $100 mil.
Nonetheless, we will beat the pack in the opener.



Thursday, July 24, 2003
 
Life in the desert
read the following valuable guide on how to prepare for a deployment to The Sandbox:
...
Assign radically different working schedules to each of your tent mates, at least twelve to sixteen hours a day. Ensure that each person makes plenty of noise and bumps into at least two occupied cots when entering and leaving the tent.

Place the generator as close to the tent as possible. Connect the generator exhaust directly to the tent ventilation intake.
...
Have your loved ones mail letters and packages. Hold onto them for at least a month before distributing, and lose some altogether. Any breakables in the packages should be properly destroyed, and all food should be melted, crumbled or spoilt by the time the packages are opened.

Put up fliers for a USO show at another camp with celebrities, rappers, rock stars, country singers, NFL cheerleaders, and Wayne Newton. Schedule it for a time when nobody at your camp can attend.

Set up a morale tent, with a television. Tune it into a satellite channel that runs the lowest rated programs on television, with low budget public service announcements instead of commercials. Take a vote on which movies to show each night, then play something that nobody wants to watch.
...
Joint Operations Training

Find several people who don't speak English.

Sit down with them at a meeting and discuss, in minute detail, your plan of operations.

Answer any questions they might have.

Execute the plan.

 
The Government Better Make Sure My Kids Aren't Fat!!

Evidently that's exactly what Iowa and Minnesota believe.

At midmorning two or three times a week, one type of fruit or vegetable would be provided free in almost every classroom at Johnston Middle School in suburban Des Moines. Pears were popular. Eggplant was less so. Late in the year, the teachers got creative and tried color-themed weeks, with all green veggies or all orange ones.
...
Growing national concern about junk food, childhood obesity and school vending machines is spurring the debate.
...
Taxpayers are underwriting the test program, costing $6 million for 60,000 students in 100 schools, or about $100 per student for a year. The program has not yet been tried in Minnesota. But if Harkin has his way, it will be expanded to all 50 states and serve 1 million students, at a cost of $95 million a year.


(emphasis mine) $100 per student per year. To provide them free food. This at a time when many schools are charging parents at least $100/student for 'activity fees.' Why not start a program to encourage parents to send fruits and vegatables to school with their kids? This program would be free and have the same results. Oh, wait, that would imply that parents are responsible for raising their own children. And we can't have that, can we?
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
 
Rachel Lucas discusses idiots in positions of power.
Via IMAO

An excerpt:
It really makes you wonder, doesn't it? What if you applied the exact same logic to, say, Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939? Did the Poles have the right to shoot back? But he killed people, so it's not the same, is it? Fine, so what if Hitler (or anybody) simply decided to invade Poland, without bothering to kill anyone? Say they just want the resources of Poland, the wheat and the ports, et cetera. According to Annette Stewart's stunning logic, the Poles have no right to use any sort of violence to expel Hitler's army. I suppose she'd let them pick up the phone and call the U.S. or some other entity, and hope that we got there in time to minimize the plunder and charge Hitler with nation invasion in a proper court of law. In the meantime, the Poles can just shut up, bend over, give the Nazis whatever they want, and wait for it to stop.

Read the post. Its good, and mostly reflects how I feel about the situation, too. But... Of course there's a but.
Its been a long time since I read the Bible. But I do remember some parts. A couple that come to mind are the bits about not killing others and turning the other cheek (when robbed of your money, offer your coat as well). Thus is the path to heaven. Thus there's always a twinge. The meek shall inheret the earth. Or something like that.
Can this and the concepts of liberty and freedom (and the implied defense thereof) be reconciled? I'm assuming they were at some point in the 1600-1800's. Otherwise all those revolutions wouldn't have happened in those Christian Kingdoms. But without looking into that, my guess is that Jesus taught tolerance, love, and more love. A couple hundred years later, the Roman Empire adopted His teachings and sent out missionaries to teach the barbarians. These barbarians were not the type to turn the other cheek. They were more the blood-feud type. I'd say its safe to bet that the Christian religion was put to use to help eliminate specific behaviors no longer deemed suitable, like the blood feud. Perhaps even to the point of stretching a bit what the Bible says Jesus said (popes used to have the power to re-write parts) to achieve social order.
Further, the church (at a much later time) actually controlled and employed armies that defended the church and killed people.
So after all that, I guess I'd agree with Mz. Lucas. Defending yourself and your property against people with no respect for either is not a crime and should not be punished. And judges who think otherwise should be investigate their reasoning to make sure its not accidentally religious.
 
Women soldiers can kick just as much butt
via The Daily Pundit

One of Iraq's most wanted generals was run down over the weekend by a young soldier who just a few years ago was running down opponents on the Fort Osage High School track team.
U.S. Army Specialist Heather Baldus, 21, of Independence, was standing guard duty west of Bagdad along the road to Syria.
...
As Baldus approached, she came under fire from unseen gunmen in surrounding buildings. A man bolted from the bush ahead and she pursued, knocking him to the ground with a blow to the head from the butt of her weapon.
"He looked up at her and all he could say was 'You're a woman.' Heather told him 'Yeah, but that doesn't mean I won't put a bullet through your head,' " James said. "Heather has always been outspoken."

Tuesday, July 22, 2003
 
LT Smash discusses Tony Blair's speech more intelligently than I ever could.
 
Waited in line for 45 minutes to change the address on my drivers license and pay my tabs. It would be just plain silly for that system to be put on-line or even by mail. Wouldn't it?
 
The Daily Pundit has a good point of view (i.e. he agrees with me) on health care:
Sure, almost fifty grand a year isn't enough to pay for health care (not health insurance, health care) today, but the reason isn't the wage. It's because back in the fifties, health care insurance hadn't yet become a middle class entitlement, and so market forces could still exert pressure on health care costs.

Now, the insurance pool is nothing more than a honey pot for the health care industry. They know that consumers have no idea what real costs are, as long as their insurance picks them up. Of course, now that as an inevitable result, the cost of insurance is spiraling out of sight, everybody is terrified. Which is why the health care industry is four-square behind "reform" that is nothing more than socialized medicine, the biggest, most expensive honeypot entitlement of all.


Something's got to give with health insurance. How much does the insurance get charged for a 10 min. visit with a family physician to get a prescription allergy pill? How sophisticated and economical would surgeries be if there was a free and open market for them? As I discussed in a previous post I believe the open market is the reason for cheap technology, could it work for other things, too?
 
The Read-Rite Debacle
(Thanks John P. for pointing this out)
Read-Rite declared bankruptcy not too long ago
Former employees of Read-Rite, the Fremont company that made recording heads for hard disk drives until it filed for bankruptcy last month, don't claim to be experts in bankruptcy law.

But they do know that it's better -- for them and for the economy -- to take the 875 or so laid-off Read-Rite employees from the unemployment line and put them back to work.


They mainly supplied Western Digital with recording heads, or sliders. There's only three other companies in the world that make the same sort of volumes of sliders: Seagate, Hitachi (IBM), and Alps. Moral of the story: becoming an expert in slider manufacturing or engineering can severly limit your job options should the unthinkable happen!

``It's very tough,'' he said. ``There's really nothing out there. I've been sending résumés and calling people for a month now and there's nothing.''

First things first - get out of CA.
Monday, July 21, 2003
 
DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ. AFTER 4,000 YEARS OF DESPOTS THE CULTURE IS AGAINST IT.
Howard Veit discusses the history of Iraq in an effort to predict the Iraqis' people response to a western-led democracy effort. via The Daily Pundit

The question posed:
A major question is, does authoritarian government kill culture or create it? A question that the Left always knows the answer to but never explains and an answer Conservatives don't want to face.

Some excerpts:
So what about Saddam Hussein? The culture of Iraq goes back thousands of years before Europe. Most refer to Iraq as the actual birthplace of civilization itself. But what is their culture? Is it Islamic? Now it is, but what was it before Mohammed? Who were the original Iraqis and what influences from way back when still obtain there?

...

It was the ancient Iraqis and not the Greeks who invented the long narrative, they wrote stories down; their most famous narrative includes Noah building a boat to save himself and civilization from a flood, before the Jews and before the Bible. They invented an alphabet and the first calendars. We know they invented bureaucracy and that they had a yearning for some order. We know they had arts, statues, tall buildings called ziggurats, and that they traded with others.

...

Baghdad become the seat of the first Muslim Caliphate and the city became the center of Islamic civilization. Baghdad was important both commercially and culturally as well as a famous center of learning in the Middle Ages. It was regarded in the tenth century as the intellectual center of the world, the cultural capital of the Islamic world, and a center of power in the world. It was where Arab and Persian cultures mingled to produce a blaze of philosophical, scientific, and literary glory. This era is remembered throughout the Arab world, and by the Iraqis in particular, as the pinnacle of the Islamic past.

...

So there you have it, 4,000 years of hostile takeovers for one of the most creative people who have ever hit the planet. Yet democracy is nowhere in their culture.

Read the whole thing, then the following.

My major disagreement is that you could list all sorts of similar things about ancient western civilization. The Roman Empire did great things. Major achievements were made under the Carolingens in medieval France and the Holy Roman Empire in medieval Germany. Does the fact that the west existed and had all sorts of major achievements before democracy make one believe that the west would not function as a democracy? Silliness.
About the only difference (in my opinion) between the Islamic culture and western culture, from the proposed perspective of history, is Martin Luther.
Luther encouraged the idea of individual salvation. The Church was no longer necessary to achieve salvation from God. The importance of the individual and his or her relationship with God became infinitely more important after the publication of his thesis. No longer was Church law the national law (this wasn't instant, but one did cause another). No longer were wars fought for the Church (I didn't say no longer were wars fought about religion, but rather the Church no longer led the wars or declared crusades). After these ideas cultivated for a couple hundred years, poof, the enlightenment. Individual liberties and freedoms became the foundation for revolutions and governments.
For all the great things both Islamic and western civilizations have accomplished in their histories, the enlightenment only occurred in western civilizations. Does the enlightenment only apply to people descended from the Christian Kingdoms? Hardly. Western countries are still trying to understand exactly what it meant and means; it is a changing entity. Just like the concept of individual liberties and freedoms continuously changes. Why should there be anything but optimism that the philosophies of liberty and freedom can evolve to serve the Iraqi people?
My answer to Howard's question would be that any government can be in control while a culture is changing and advancing (i.e. being created) and that no culture is ever done being created. The government in control of a culture, in general, is probably the one that works best with the philosophical views of that culture at the time (discounting aberrations that result from the aftermath of major wars or natural disasters). Whether your average Iraqi appreciates the philosophies on which our government is based is not something I know, and I don't think a voyage 4,000 years back in time gives us any insight. The real question is how much of the enlightenment snuck into Iraq (or the Islamic world in general) over the past 200 years or so, and can the concepts of individual liberties and freedoms take hold?
Saturday, July 19, 2003
 
A post on Porphyrogenitus via Winds of Change discusses Tony Blair's amazing speech.

Mr Speaker, Mr Vice President, Honourable Members of Congress. Thank you most sincerely for voting to award me the Congressional Gold Medal. But you, like me, know who the real heroes are: those brave servicemen and women, yours and ours, who fought the war, and risk their lives still.

An excellent start. Let's see what else he has to say:

There is a myth. That though we love freedom, others don't, that our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture. That freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law are American values or Western values. That Afghan women were content under the lash of the Taliban. That Saddam was beloved by his people. That Milosevic was Serbia's saviour.
Ours are not Western values. They are the universal values of the human spirit and anywhere, any time, ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same. Freedom not tyranny. Democracy not dictatorship. The rule of law not the rule of the secret police.


Very well put. Read some of the early works of America's founders to see similar statements that our nation is founded upon.

Any alliance must start with America and Europe. Believe me if Europe and America are together, the others will work with us. But if we split, all the rest will play around, play us off and nothing but mischief will be the result of it.

I'm not so sure about this comment. It seems to me Europe is, like it or not, tied to North Africa and the Middle East through the bonds of history, religion, and war. America, on the other hand, made a break that is phenomenal, even to this day. We are not recovering from aristocracy nor colonialism, because neither existed here. Our philosophy of liberties, freedom, and national security by necessity vary significantly from Europe's (and Britains'). But there is truth that terrorists will "play us off" if there is a significant breach. They already have been (how much does Iraq owe Russia and France?).

So don't give up on Europe. Work with it.

Is he desperate? Are sensible minds in Europe desperate to achieve an understanding with America?

The United Nations can then become what it should be: an instrument of action as well as debate. The Security Council should be reformed. We need a new international regime on the non-proliferation. And we need to say clearly to UN members: if you engage in the systematic and gross abuse of human rights, in defiance of the UN charter, you can expect the same privileges as those that conform to it.

Heavens, a European suggesting reforms to the UN in a major speech? This is one of the arguments to go to war with Iraq that I found most convincing (you'll have to read newspaper articles from 1-2 years ago to hear about it, though, nowadays they'd like us to believe we went to war because of the Iraq-Niger connection). What good is a UN mandate if it's not backed by the legitimate threat of force?

I want to be very plain. This terrorism will not be defeated without peace in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. Here it is that the poison is incubated. Here it is that the extremist is able to confuse in the mind of a frighteningly large number of people, the case for a Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel; and to translate this moreover into a battle between East and West; Muslim, Jew and Christian.

We must never compromise the security of the state of Israel.

The state of Israel should be recognised by the entire Arab world.

The vile propaganda used to indoctrinate children not just against Israel but against Jews must cease.

You cannot teach people hate and then ask them to practice peace.


The Israel-Palestine situation is touchy, even for those who agree with me on other matters. But I encourage all who seek to understand the mindset of those we seek to propose treaties to to read the Hamas Charter. Will this group ever agree to a cease fire when it is against the very principles with which they formed themselves? Doubtful...

Tell the world why you're proud of America. Tell them that when the star-spangled banner starts, Americans get to their feet: Hispanics, Irish, Italians, Central Americans, Eastern Europeans, Jews; white, Asian, black, those who go back to the early settlers and those whose English is the same as some New York cabbies I've dealt with, but whose sons and daughters could run for this Congress.

Tell them why they stand upright and respectful.

Not because some state official told them to. But because whatever race, colour, class or creed they are, being American means being free. That's what makes them proud.


Sons and daughters, he actually sounds like he (or his speechwriter) gets it! Freedom is freedom of opportunity, the great gift we have in these great states!

Free to earn a living and be rewarded by your own efforts.

Amen!! If this speech doesn't get much publicity it will be a shame (good thing I'm popularizing it on my widely-read blog!!).
Friday, July 18, 2003
 
Comments are evidently back up. Was just a temporary glitch. :-)
 
Comments appear to be down. :-(
I'll wait a while to see if they go back up. If not, I'll change comment providers. (i.e. do not fear, I'm on top of things, figuratively speaking of course)
 
The MAAC hockey conference has been dissolved and the member schools formed a new "Atlantic Hockey" conference, as reported at uscho.com.

The major question is whether the new conference will retain its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. NCAA rules stipulate that a conference must be intact for two seasons, and consist of at least six full-fledged Division I schools in order to qualify for an automatic bid. The NCAA by-laws seem to indicate that, as long as the same schools compete together, it doesn't have to necessarily be as part of the same conference. As a result, Atlantic Hockey is likely to maintain the automatic bid.

The major question is why the MAAC was division I NCAA to begin with. Their college hockey programs are lousy on the D-I level. Nothing against the Lakers of Mercyhurst who played their hearts out at Mariucci last year (although their fans were lightweights and roudy), but they have no business being D-I. The games are a joke; they might compete with Alaska Anchorage or the bottom of the EZAC once in a while. Let's explore what the NCAA was thinking to make this a D-I conference. According to Kurt Stutt:

MAAC hockey was founded in 1997. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference existed before then, but an NCAA regulation that forced all Division I institutions to participate at Division I in all sports compelled the MAAC to form a hockey conference.

Ahhh, NCAA regulations. Where would we be without them? (cough Title IX cough) It gets even better though, when one asks the question: well, where did these teams come from then?

All the schools formerly played as part of the ECAC's "lower classification" structure.

Ha! That's right, this crappy conference is composed of schools formerly too crappy to even get into the EZAC, that bunch of snotty-nosed ivy leaguers trying to play hockey (and occasionally do, as in the painful Harvard incident of 1989). Lets justify that rude comment by looking at the out-of-conference records of the top 3 teams in the EZAC, MAAC, and CHA in 2002-2003 (the last two should not be D-I, the first just gets way too much exposure and gum-flapping in my opinion - remeber the Cornell hype?):

MAAC (a.k.a. Atlantic Conference)
1 Mercyhurst 3-8-0
2 Quinnipiac 4-6-0
3 Holy Cross 3-7-0
Sacred Heart 1-5-3

CHA
1 Alabama-Huntsville 5-9-1
2 Niagara 4-13-0
3 Wayne State 10-10-0
Bemidji State 4-8-4

EZAC
1 Cornell 11-3-0
2 Harvard 5-6-1
3 Dartmouth 7-4-1
Yale 5-5-0

WCHA
1 Colorado College 11-3-0
2 MSU-Mankato 5-5-3
Minnesota 13-2-2

I added the WCHA for comparison. OK, so Cornell's NC record wasn't bad. Rats. I was hoping to give them some flak. But my point is, I think, well proven for the MAAC and CHA. In closing, I hope that the NCAA redeems themselves a tiny fraction by refusing to give the Atlantic Conference an automatic bid. Its a worthless, throwaway game in the tournament and ought to be eliminated. (and no, I don't believe its justified because two years ago Mercyhurst came close to almost tie-ing Michigan in the first 2 periods of play)
 
For days I've been reading the Pioneer Press sports page for some hope of something interesting to read. Today there's a report on the Twins' latest acquisition, but it fights for coverage (in the on-line version) with Kobe.
It seems as though there's always a front (web-)page story on the antics of athletes off-the-field. Its sort of plausable when it involves Vikings or Twins players (as it all-to-often does), but when its just a case of a "national celebrity" (who happens to be an athlete) doing something stupid (or accused of doing something stupid) it should go in the "variety" section or gossip column. Not the fargan' sports page.
 
The result of years of wrangling on which is worse, Kansas or NoDak? Clearly this proves that NoDak is worse. (picture courtesy of the future Dr. Morris)
works best if you save it then view it in word or something
Thursday, July 17, 2003
 
Good stuff from IMAO:
We're pretty sure North Korea has nuclear weapons, and this would be a serious and scary affair if their leader wasn't so damn goofy looking with his poofy hair and all. He's like the clown prince of evil dictators. Still, Bush seems comitted to a diplomatic solution, and, while I favor... uh... what's the opposite of a diplomatic solution? Oh yeah, a bomb the crap out of them solution. As I was saying, while I favor that, here are some ideas for a diplomatic solution:

TOP TEN DIPLOMATIC SOLUTIONS TO THE NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR CRISIS

10. Offer free coupon for SuperKutz in exchange for nuclear warheads.

9. At talks, say, "Hey! Look over there!" Then grab nuclear warheads and run away while laughing (laughing makes you run faster).

8. Ask Kim Jong Il to "Please dismantle nukes." If that doesn't work, raise to pretty please. Then put sugar on top. Then offer to be his best friend.

7. Have people negotiating with Kim Jong Il have even larger and poofier hair so that he is shamed.

6. Make nuclear armament a symbol of gay pride. Joke to Kim Jong Il, "I didn't know you swung that way."

5. Dress up cruise missiles in suits and ties so they look like diplomats. Have then be tough, but fair, and then explode.

4. Buy a big meal from KFC and eat it in front of his people while saying, "Mmmm... this is good chicken! I just wish I had citizens of a country which isn't proliferating nuclear weapons to share it with."

3. Have Bush challenge Kim Jong Il to kung fu fight for the warheads. Cheat like all 'ell.

2. Say we will exchange his nuclear warheads for even better ones. What we give him instead are spray painted automatic bread makers.

And, the number one diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis...

Do that "Got your nose!" trick to Kim Jong Il. Say you won't give his nose back until he dismantles his nuclear weapons program.


His hair is, indeed, poofy.
 
Some of my readers might not know what I was referring to in the previous post(s) about Niger-Iraq. So here it is:
(via damnum absque injuria via instapundit)

BushLied (TM) for Dummies
Last night, while watching a discussion on Hannity and Colmes over the "Bush Lied" meme, Mrs. Xrlq asked me what all the fuss was all about. After explaning the basics to her, it occurred to me that many other people might have been wondering the same thing, but were afraid to ask. Here it is, in a nutshell:

Shortly before President Bush's State of the Union address, the British government learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
President Bush, in his State of the Union address, uttered the infamous 16 words: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
The CIA signed off on the speech, noting that the British government had indeed learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
British intelligence still stands by its findings.
The CIA has subsequently backed off from its position, apparently on account of some new intel showing that the average Democrat is too stupid or lazy to distinguish a statement prefaced by "the British government has learned that ..." from one prefaced by "the CIA has independently confirmed that ..."
So there you have it. Seriously. Of course there are other details to thes story, but that's all they are, details, and for the most part, distracting ones to boot.

 
The Perfect Response to the Niger-Iraq Connection
via Hoystory

The decision to go to war was not based on 16 words in the State of the Union. In fact, that address was delivered more than three months after both houses of Congress had already authorized Bush to take military action against Iraq. Lest we forget, that resolution was endorsed by Democratic Sens. John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards and Rep. Dick Gephardt, all of whom are now carping that they were deceived by the president. They must have been pretty clairvoyant to have been deceived by a claim that Bush had not yet made.

Perfect! How is all the papers and news channels, with their investigative reporting, couldn't bring this tidbit to light? Doesn't look like it took too much investigating to make all the "Bush lied to me!" complaints collapse in this case. Our local news is sure to bring hidden cameras and journalists to bars to report on the horrors of that extra hour of drinking (open until 2AM now! Run for the hills!), but they couldn't check the senate or house voting records and compare the dates with the date of the state of the union. Hacks.
 
NY Times Headlines
via instapundit

First the headline:


In Ohio, Iraq Questions Shake Even Some of Bush's Faithful

Ok, now with this headline you're thinking that Republicans in Ohio are starting to doubt President Bush right? Well, let's see what kind of damning quote the Times can dig up. Here is one shaken faithful:

"I'd like to know whether there was any deliberate attempt to deceive," said Mr. Stock, 70, a retired public school administrator. "My feeling is there was not. But there was an eagerness in the administration to pursue the battle and to believe information that wasn't quite good."

Whoa! That sounds like trouble brewing to me. After all he would like to know what happened. Oh sure he doesn't think there was any intentional deception but what about that reference to "information that wasn't quite good" - pull on that string and it might lead anywhere! Let's look at another faithful Bush backer and see how his faith has been shaken:

Mr. Kleeberger, 44, said he remains convinced that the invasion was a good thing, whether or not the president was wrong about Iraq's nuclear weapons program. Eventually, he said, he believes prohibited weapons will be found in Iraq.
"It would take many more mistakes for me to question the credibility and decision-making of the government," he said. "We'd like to think intelligence is 100 percent right 100 percent of the time. But it's a human system and there's human error."

Doesn't sound very shaken does he? In fact the article comes straight out and admits that the headline was just a trick to get you to read the article:

In conversations here with nearly three dozen voters, the vast majority said they generally like President Bush and believe he is doing a good job. Many people said they remained convinced that Iraq posed a threat, even though no chemical or biological weapons have been found. And there was a broad consensus that the result of the war — the ousting of a brutal dictator — was good for Iraq as well as the United States . . . Despite Democratic efforts to use the intelligence issue to undermine Mr. Bush's credibility, most people interviewed here, including Democratic voters, said they did not think Mr. Bush had knowingly used bad intelligence. Most said they believed the president had been motivated by a sincere desire to counter what he considered a real threat.

I find it amazing that the Times can work so hard to create a sense of "trouble brewing" when practically everyone they interview supports Bush and the Iraq invasion. The headline simply doesn't match the story - so why create the story in the first place? If you are attempting to drum up doubts about the President this is a pretty lame way to do it.


Then there's the first comment:
To me, the excerpts you quote from the article have the condescending tone of the New York elite: "Those poor, benighted Midwesterners out there in the hinterlands who aren't clued in to how deceptive our government really is. How quaint, they really trust and believe the Bush Administration."

Why, oh why, do newspapers seem so intent on making everyone feel miserable? I'd think the quotes from "regular people" in this article would suggest a thoroughly optimistic headline, like: DESPITE PROLONGED IRAQ OCCUPATION, MIDWESTERNERS HAPPY WITH PRESIDENCY. They wouldn't even have to mention "Bush" or "Republican presidency" or anything partisan in the headline; just make it reflect the feeling of the article!
 
Jerry Springer & Jonah Goldberg on National Review Online
Daily Pundit comments on a possible Jerry Springer campaign:
And that's the point. If it takes a Jerry Springer - or a Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, or Al Sharpton to drag you to the polls - do us all a favor (yourself included) and give some hard thought to continuing to stay home on election day.

I disagree. Without these yahoos running for office from time to time (Jesse Ventura?) and dragging out all the "slack-jawed yokels, hicks, weirdoes, pervs, and whatnot" to the polls, we might not realize how desperately a large portion of the population needs a better education! If Jerry gets an Ohio senate seat, maybe it'll prompt both Dems and Republicans to enable vouchers and more low-interest or no-interest student loans to prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again!
If a goal is an educated populace participating in self-government, these incidents serve to show how far we really are from achieving it!
 
Send someone you love a Kritter Card today! They are wicked-awesome.
 
Just added comments via Blogout! Isn't that exciting? Tell your friends!
 
Just in case anyone forgot
 
Speaking of sophisticated, there was an article in the Star Tribune yesterday (that I can't link to because I'm not a member of startribune.com) about a fatal car accident in Eagan (southern suburb of St. Paul). It went something like this: Its night. A pickup pulls up behind a car at a stoplight. The pickup is one of those new ones that is at least 1' higher than it needs to be. Women think pickup has brights on (due to relatively high placement of lights) and get upset. Both vehicles turn into on-ramp for 35E. Women drive car very slowly, annoying said pickup whose driver flashes his brights (thus prooving that his brights were, in fact, not on). Women not appeased. So the dude in the pickup passes the women on the interstate, but they pull up behind him and ride his tailgate. Eventually the fellow gets tired of this and taps his breaks. Women run into him, he runs into median, there is much flipping of cars and the two women die. Police believe the fellow did more than "tap" his breaks and may have slowed down as much as 10 mph, causing the accident.
What idiots. In both cars (though mostly the women, in my opinion). Who would get that upset over someone having their brights on anyway? I've been on plenty of 2-lane county roads and oncoming traffic leaves their brights on. It sucks and is hard to see, but I never turned around and followed them! City-slickers.
 
Serbs, Croats fight at soccer match
Europeans are so sophisticated.
 
The War in Iraq Continues
Why does every news report on the war seem so negative? This gloomy article reports that there are now as many American casualties as in the Gulf War. How could any patriotic American resist putting a positive spin on this article? Big, bold letters: REGIME SUPPORTERS CONTINUE FIGHTING; AMERICAN CASUALTIES LOWEST IN RECORDER HISTORY OF WARFARE. The article then goes out of its way to make it appear as though the chain of command is confused, accusing a general's description of the combat as guerrilla warfare of contradicting Rumsfeld's description of the continuing battles. It closes with a comment that soldiers in the Army are pissed at the high command for putting of their return trip home. What a shock!! But I wonder how many of the soldiers really feel that way and how many are happy to serve in Iraq as long as necessary. I wonder if some with the latter point of view were interviewed, but deemed not worthy of press. Again, why the negative spin? Are journalists trying to make us feel miserable, rather than bolstering our spirits? What would be the point of that? [insert favorite conspiracy by the left here]
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
 
College Sports Sellout
via The Conservative Crust
Title IX implementing the demands of gender activist groups instead of female athletes, atheletic directors, coaches, etc.? Shocking.
Last year at the University of Minnesota a new women's hockey arena was unveiled. That same year the library was forced to cancel subscriptions to over 100 technical engineering and physics journals and tuition was raised significantly. Water down the sciences and make it more difficult for middle-income students to attend, but at least the women don't have share a state-of-the-art men's hockey facility! How awful that must have been! That's not really fair -- the women's arena was not built based on complaints of the athletes; they were probably more than happy to share Mariucci. It's the perceived unfairness seen by activists that leads to boondoggles like this.
 
More Turds Floating to the Top
Daily Pundit points out an item coming to light concerning the Niger-Iraq connection. You know, the 1-sentence comment in the state of the union speech that quite suddenly is front-page news (remember when museum looting was front-page news?). There appears to be some rumors that the French and British intelligence communities believe the link is there. Will these rumors be front-page headlines? Or will they merely cause the Niger-Iraq connection articles to slowly wither away?
Does anyone bother to read newspapers anymore?
Monday, July 14, 2003
 
Let's Stand With Bush's America
via instapundit
An editorial with a point of view not often heard

Even after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC, America continues to open its gates to the world, albeit with more caution. Those who get in have only themselves to blame if they fail to join the endless list of rags to riches stories that abound in the land.

...only themselves to blame... This is true of everyone in the USA. They have not the community, city, county, state, or federal government to blame. Only themselves. The government's job is to enable that 'rags to riches' by making political and economic opportunities equal for all citizens.


Sunday, July 13, 2003
 
Bob Sansevere comments on the Vikes latest stroke of un-luck. Bennett is out. Not that this guy was Barry Sanders last year, but he broke some amazing runs. Highlights in an otherwise miserable season. Now we have no runningback or quarterback (Daunte's going to be guilty until proven innocent here). Fortunately, the loss of Byron Chamberlain, who, incidentally, went to Wayne State, better known for its Division I (ha!) hockey program, most recently pummelled by CC at the MidWest Regionals, can be alleviated by the superstar nodak Jimmy Kleinsasser, the greatest TE ever to come from Carrington, ND, a beautiful German-Russian prairie town. Just keep feeding him the ball. Maybe even snap directly to him; limiting Daunte's chances to fumble the ball (sometimes without even being touched!).
Despite the obvious problems, I fully expect the Vikes to win the opening game. And that's one of two games this season that will actually count. We'll see what the "greatest fans in football" decide to throw at Hovan this year.
 
Old news. But a few days ago I was going to check out the Minneapolis Star Tribune online and was greeted with a login screen (after clicking on a story headline). Evidently, in order to increase revenue the website needs to know a bit more about me than that I read the newspaper online. I've got nothing against making as much money as you can (while still getting people to put up with it), but I've got so many fargan' online accounts (for realplayer, yahoo, credit card account, bank account, work accounts, computer game registration/update pages, etc.) that I truly can't keep track of them. I've got a sheet of paper with all the different logins/passwords and am just waiting to lose the thing. I know this is a rather silly rant, but it really irritated me. I shot them an email and they responded by saying that my browser would remember the password and they were sorry I wasn't going to read their paper anymore. Well, when at work alot of applications are via the on-line company intranet and the browsers cookies and passwords, etc. have to be deleted every so often to get those extremely unreliable applications to work.
The biggest down side of this will be that I won't get to read Rachel Blount's (whom I'd link to but can't because I'm not a Strib "member") discussion of Gopher Hockey Good thing St. Paul has a paper, too and also covers Gopher Hockey (although because it's on the "twincities.com" server it occasionally crashes my computer by failing to properly load up the ads).
 
In Defense of Cowboy Culture
Courtesy of High Plains Observer. An interesting article except that Teddy Roosevelt lived in North Dakota! For cryin' out loud, the state can't claim much, but give them that! One of their state mottos is, in fact, "roughrider state." And that's not because Roosevelt was in SD. And High Plains Observer, being in SD, should know that.
 
And future history books will say...?
Econopundit discusses prescription drug benefit policy.

And here's a second discussion question: Imagine we're back in the year 1980, and government announces a huge new entitlement called the "home computer purchase benefit." How does the tech sector change as a result? Does Intel arrive at the 286 and 386 chips earlier as a result? What's the impact on tax revenues and the trade deficit?

Exactly. If the semiconductor technology sector was government-subsidized I speculate we'd not even have a 386 chip by now. The industry is fueld by the desire to drive prices down (because the industry is not subsidized) and increase capacity (because there needs to be a reason to upgrade). Moore's Law would not exist if the industry were subsidized; the industry would be crippled. Perhaps I need to explain more. In this industry we watch our competitors very closely, especially their prices. If all the companies knew that the American market was subsidized, striving to keep the price down would not be as large a concern. You'd not believe the implications of this! From the size Si wafer to use (4" vs. 8"), whether to automate the factory, whether to use environmentally unfriendly materials and pay extra to dispose of them properly, how thick to make the films in the transistor interconnects, and so on. Sure, some of that is driven by capacity and speed requirements, but a large amount of the revolutionary ideas that keep Moore's Law afloat come out of the need to make things cheaply. That's where innovation really happens. There's lots of neat ideas to improve performance, and they might make super patents, but they are utlimately left on the way-side because they're expensive. Subsidizing the technology sector would reduce the quality of the product and the rate at which the product is improved (and alot of inefficient ideas would be implemented because they wouldn't be screened as harshly). Has this happened with other sectors that have been subsidized? This is a comparison I've often thought of but never before seen expressed.

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