Friday, April 29, 2005

First the exploding toads, now this.

Some years ago, I heard a piece on NPR about the extinction of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Apparently, it isn't really gone after all. I'm sure the Sierra Club will claim victory in its fundraising letters.

And there's renewed hope that we'll yet find the Sasquatch.

I can't wait to hear Lileks' reaction

According to the LA Times and the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit, most pedophiles are Trekkies. The Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons comes to mind. I wonder how many pedophiles are big Simpons (cough--jonahgolberg) fans.

Hard times for the Word of Wisdom

Here's another report that moderate consumption of alcohol is good for you. This one claims that it causes the brain to grow new brain cells. Are they really new or just replacements for the ones killed by drinking?

My brother the Pathologist says that the arteries of winos he has done autopsies on are clean as whistles.

I remain a teetotaller, nevertheless, and a non-smoker. I expect that it's harder to drink in moderation than these studies make it sound.

The abomination of desolation

Daniel Henninger:
For Democrats, judicial philosophy is a cultural Armageddon. Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy have turned the Senate into a Branch Davidian compound.
The piece explains that such radical reactions are the result of years of liberal control of the Congress and the media, during which they became convinced that they had a natural right to run things, and treated conservatives just as dismissively as conservatives now want to treat them. They view the prospect of Bush-appointed justices as the sliding of the east and west coasts into the ocean. The Republicans view it as a restoration of the proper role of the courts.

Sometimes you sound like a nut.

Al Gore's alternate history:
Having gone through that experience [the 2000 presidential election and subsequent litigation], I can tell you-without any doubt whatsoever-that if the justices who formed the majority in Bush v. Gore had not only all been nominated to the court by a Republican president, but had also been confirmed by only Republican senators in party-line votes, America would not have accepted that court's decision.

Moreover, if the confirmation of those justices in the majority had been forced through by running roughshod over 200 years of Senate precedents and engineered by a crass partisan decision on a narrow party line vote to break the Senate's rules of procedure-then no speech imaginable could have calmed the passions aroused in our country.
This is the kind of rhetoric that makes people think he's smart because they can't understand what he's saying. It's a tortured logic that equates filibustering to prevent votes on nominees, when those votes are mandated by the Constitution, to disrespect for the law. Having achieved many of their political goals through court decrees, the left is now opposing any restoration of judicial restraint as a radical departure from our sacred American institutions.

To understand why this issue matters, consider the liberal "constitutional agenda." Rights to engage in homosexual sodomy, abortion, etc. are only the beginning:
The bottom line is that Congress would no longer have the discretion to decline to enact liberal policies [because those policies would become positive rights and government prohibitions would be denied]. The triumph of the left would be constitutionally mandated.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


I rented The Big Lebowski because I liked other films by the Coen brothers, although they often make me nervous with their graphic violence, and I'd read about its cult status. I can see why it didn't do well at the box office; if you took out the profanity, it would be a short subject (But that doesn't really explain why Pulp Fiction did so well, does it?]. I can also see why it's become a cult film. Donny's funeral oration itself is worth the rental fee.

It has the same humor as Raising Arizona and O Brother Where Art Thou? and the shock of sudden violence of Fargo, Miller's Crossing and Blood Simple. The unrelenting profanity and strangeness of the characters make the movie hard to get into, but it certainly is a Coen Brothers movie. John Goodman plays the same cocksure, bubble-off-plumb oddball he plays in their other films, and the rest of the Coen repertoir company, John Turturro, Jon Polito and Steve Buschemi are there too.

I guess what I like so much about these films is the surrealism. All the characters are typical of people we've all known, but taken to bizarre extremes. There's that juxtaposition of banality and stark terror that we see in the news, and that LA noir that Raymond Chandler was so good at, as viewed by an aging stoner. The narration, the 70s music and pop references, and the sequences of The Dude's bouts of unconsciousness when he's been beat up or drugged add to the effect.

Usually, when there's this much weirdness in a movie you expect some kind of message, but there isn't one. It just leaves a taste of how screwed up people can get when they don't have to struggle for survival and/or have more money than is good for them. It's kind of a vision of the American dream on acid. Everybody in this movie is like a bad trip. Bummer, man. At the end you're stunned and slightly hung over, and if you told anybody about it nobody would believe you. It's a lucid dream, of screwy Vietnam vets, nihilists with Arnold accents , profanity, pornography, White Russians, con artists, yappy lapdogs and Hispanic child-molester bowling league champion contenders. The social circle from Hell, man, with an Elvis and country-western soundtrack. Only in America, dude.

I can imagine people in bars and frathouses reciting memorable lines (You human paraquat!) and laughing about just about every scene in the film. The Dude abides, along with ears bitten off and severed digits in the Wendy's chili.

Well, I'll be an exploding toad!

Harry "Loose Slots" Reid

That's what Hugh Hewitt calls the Senate Minority Leader. I've never really understood what that referred to, but when I heard Reid suggested that the Democrats would be willing to trade John Bolton for a Republican retreat on the filibuster issue, I started to figure it out. He claimed that the Republicans would have to break the rule in order to change the rule. Got that? He's arguing that the Democrats could filibuster any attempt to change the cloture rule. It's baloney, but it sounds like the idea that going to the State Line Casino will make Utahns rich.

The idea of a tradeoff of Bolton for the filibuster sounds a lot like extortion. He doesn't have any more of a right to block Bolton than he does to block votes on judicial nominees, but he's offering a Sophie's Choice anyway. If he has the votes to block Bolton go for it. If he's threatening to filibuster a vote, it'll just give the Republicans more reason to do away with it.

Living forever

I'm not interested in fighting aging. I'm more interested in resurrection. Immortality in this body, would be unbearable.

Sauce for the Goose

It just occurred to me that If the Democrats' logic for disqualifying John Bolton is correct, it should also disqualify Hillary! from serving as president. Remember the stories of her screaming and throwing things at Bill? They don't seem to care whether Bolton had a good reason for getting angry or tough or rude, only that he did on a few occasions over the years.

This is the Clarence Thomas hearings but with less evidence against the nominee.

Joseph Epstein (requires subscription) points out the benefits of having a reputation as a pit bull:
If I could begin my life again I should like to arrange things so that the word got out that I am a fairly decent fellow, not entirely charmless, but with a mean streak that, wrongly provoked, has been known to run to violence. "I know a guy," I shouldn't at all mind having it reported of me, "who once saw Joseph Epstein so angry he strangled a bulldog."

Without in the least wishing it, John R. Bolton, the undersecretary of state who is President Bush's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, has acquired, without going to the trouble of strangling that bulldog, the reputation I so desire.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan was hard to get along with when he was our U.N. Ambassador, and I remember Adlai Stevenson demanding an answer from the Soviet Ambassador saying he was prepared to wait until Hell freezes over.

The Democrats seem to want a milquetoast so that we won't estrange ourselves from the international community. Maybe they would prefer John Kerry.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

What's changed

Pete du Pont has a primer on the history of the filibuster, and a nice report on the hypocrisy of Democrats who have opposed the filibuster before they were in the minority.

Filibustering the Constitution

Mickey Kaus:
The Constitution does say "advise and consent," but as Weisberg notes it doesn't say anything about filibusters. That leaves the Senate to structure the "advise and consent" process as it sees fit.
Huh? I'd say it requires the Senate to vote on the nominees.

Since when has "consent" been defined as requiring a super-majority? Until the whole Senate votes, it has not consented for not consented. The distinction between this function and filibustering legislation is that advice and consent is an explicit Constitutional function, which requires a response from the Senate, not delays and refusing to act because some Senators are opposed to a nominee. Advice and consent requires an up or down vote by the whole Senate. I don't think a committee, sub-committee or even individual senators should be allowed to prevent a nominee from being voted on. They're entitled to make their objections in debate, but filibusters to prevent such votes should be disallowed. Republicans shouldn't do this kind of stuff either.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Comedy masquerades as Comity

One thing I really like about Hugh Hewitt is that he replays excerpts from important speechs, although sometimes he overdoes it. I've heard more than I really wanted about the Old and the New Popes, and enough John Kerry to hold me for life. But today, he played a clip of Chuck Shumer extending a conciliatory hand to the Republicans who might vote not to change the cloture rule, pleading for comity and the "sacred" rule allowing filibusters. The militant threats are gone. Do they really think people won't notice the sudden shift? Last week it was all playing to the Angry Left base, but now it's "Come let us reason together," and compromise.

I'm sure that a lot of Republicans would like to keep that filibuster ace in the hole, but it really isn't consistent with the Constitution to allow a few or even 40 Senators to prevent the whole body from giving the president's nominees a vote on the floor. They should just accept that. It's not a "nuclear option." It's what the Constitution calls for.

How to rebuild CBS news.

Some good advice for CBS News:
Especially in the new, splintered universe of news, there are enough people out there to serve--people who crave more than they're getting and will reward sponsors for bringing it to them. And a lot of those people are the prized viewers in their 20s and 30s who are bored to tears by most of what they see on television newscasts, and have come to distrust much of it.
I'm not in that demographic, but I'd be willing to watch if they focused on covering both sides of issues without the patronizing liberal attitude toward their audience. This is an opportunity to really do something great, but I'm not holding my breath that Les Moonves will have any bright ideas.

They could, and probably will, do worse than imitating the Newshour or Special Report with Brit Hume. I imagine they couldn't get an hour, because their affiliates wouldn't go along, but a fresh approach and some experimentation is in order. The star system has been dead for 20 years, but the media just don't know it yet. Maybe giving a headline rundown at the beginning, with links to the full story on CBS' website, and giving more time to one issue each day with real balanced coverage and explanations as to why we should care would be nice, but no yelling, and fewer media pundits and politicos.

On the other hand, a show like Washington Week In Review with a round table of people who can explain and ask intelligent questions about various top stories could work. C-Span's Washington Journal, which plays off the daily newspapers might work, but it would have to lose the call-ins. The main considerations are balance, compactness and accuracy. You can't get perfectly unbiased reportage, but you can make a consistent effort to get different viewpoints, instead of the same tired parades of liberals. And giving a minute to some humorists as a sort of live editorial cartoon, as Brit Hume does, couldn't hurt.

I smell a rat

AFP reports the death business is booming in Baghdad. Of course, it's only about one guy who makes coffins. He attributes his success to all the suicide bombers and IEDs. I guess when Saddam was killing people they went into mass graves without any coffins.

What other explanations could there be for his booming business? How about that people have more money to spend on such things? He's obviously a good promoter and a hard worker, but that wouldn't have anything to do with it, would it? Someone needs to check this out.

Liars, Damned Liars and Polls

The latest WaPo poll is a definite push poll. It asks whether you support or oppose "changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees." 66% were opposed. Nothing was said about preventing nominees from even gettin a vote.

It's being dissed and refuted all over the place, and with good cause.

The chutzpah of big liberal newspapers never ceases to amaze me. However, it probably won't matter much. The Democrats are scrambling to avoid a showdown, and have changed their tune about "shutting down the Senate." Senator Dick Durbin talks like this whole thing was just a misunderstanding and spreads his reasonableness on thick, as if he never used a nominee's Catholic faith as an excuse to bottle his nomination up in committee and filibuster it to keep it from ever coming to a vote by the whole Senate. Gag me with a spoon!

Everything you need to know about Social Security.

William Voegeli looks into the origins of Social Security. I wish there were some way to make every American read and understand it. It discusses how we were persuaded to support a system where regressive taxes was sold as a "savings" plan.

Here are some interesting quotes:
Chris Suellentrop:

Liberals are willing to keep paying rich people Social Security in the hopes that the payments will keep those rich people from figuring out that Social Security is a redistributive transfer program.

Wilbur Cohen:

[P]rograms only for the poor have been lousy, no good, poor programs. And a program that is only for the poor--one that has nothing in it for the middle income and the upper income--is, in the long run, a program the American public won't support.

Franklin D. Roosevelt:

Those taxes were never a problem of economics. They are politics all the way through. We put those payroll taxes there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.
Smart politician, that FDR.

The gist of the piece is that Social Security was structured and sold as insurance, a savings program, when in fact it is nothing more than a system of redistribution of wealth from the working population to retirees, and it violates liberals' professions of desiring equality all over the place.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Conventional, Ephemeral Wisdom

A couple of senators are asking for a study on the effect of wildfires on air quality:
Currently, federal agencies track industrial emissions, but not those related to wildfire, Republican Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon and Larry Craig of Idaho said in a letter to Forest Service chief Dale Bosworth.

New research shows that forest fires are a major and increasing source of dioxins, ''greenhouse'' gases and other harmful fumes, Smith and Craig wrote.
Of course, the left will denounce this, because the current line is that we caused these terrible fires by preventing forest fires in the past. That's a pretty ludicrous idea, but all it takes is a few press releases to elevate a questionable theory into Hard Science these days. I didn't know that forest fires release dioxins. I thought those were only made by factories and power plants. I did know that living trees fix carbon dioxide, while burning them releases it.

Maybe every area of a wildfire be treated as a Superfund Site and buried. Then we could do away with the US Forest Service.

Witness for the Prosecution

Lynne Finney, the woman who accuses John Bolton of screaming at her in in late 1982 or early 1983, is turning out to be a flake. Her website recounts recovered memories of childhood abuse, and she is a High Priestess of the New Age. Her page begins [italics mine]:
These pages, updated sporadically, are dedicated to each one of you. My mission is to help people overcome limiting beliefs, realize who we really are, tap into our inner power, live with passion, and discover the amazing power of our minds - and see the miracles all around us.

Since September 11, many people have experienced fear and uncertainty. However, we have also been seeing powerful positive changes and transformation coming out of these tragic events. Many heroes have emerged and we are becoming kinder to each other, taking care of each other, and realizing that we are all connected. We are becoming One.

These events are a jump start into a new reality and new ways of dealing with challenges. This is a time of rapid evolution and intense transformation for us all. New discoveries in quantum physics, psychology, and spirituality are revealing ways to create wonderful new realities. It's estimated that more than 14 million people have already become enlightened or Self-realized. Some are visible but most lead ordinary lives. Each time someone reaches Self-realization, it affects the collective Mind. Things are heating up. Like popcorn, we are all popping faster and are reaching enlightenment at a rapid rate. At times, it may be challenging to keep your faith and to realize that God/Love/Truth/Beauty/ Universe/Light/ Spirit/Energy/your true Self are in control and all is well. Go inside in silence and know that it is true. All the answers you need are inside you.

You are spirit, energy, light, consciousness, a divine creation, powerful beyond imagining, perfect, and part of all that is. I can only offer insights from my journey to help you remember what you already know. All answers and healing come from the infinite power of your own mind. My intention is to help you overcome limiting beliefs and discover who you really are - and have fun along the way.

The most powerful technique I found for awakening to my true Self is the Self-inquiry technique I learned from Tibetan monks and Master Nome in Santa Cruz, California, a disciple of one of India's most revered saints, Sri Ramana Maharshi. This Self-inquiry technique is part of my new CD, Connecting with the Universe - Meditations for enlightenment and Self-realization.
I think I smell something Finney.

I don't think she's becoming One with John Bolton, but Barbara Boxer seems to be channeling her in the Senate. Senator Voinivich, call your guru.

Dissing the Courts

There's a lot of frenzied denunciation of Tom Delay over his attack on the courts. Ted Olson is the latest critic, but he ends his piece with this point, which I've been making:
No discussion of the judiciary should close without reference to the shambles that the Senate confirmation process has become. It does no good to speculate about how or when the disintegration began, which political interest has been the most culpable, or the point at which the appointment of judges became completely dysfunctional. That sort of debate is both endless and futile. The only hope for an end to the downward spiral is for the combatants to lay down their arms; stop using judicial appointments to excite special-interest constituencies and political fund-raising; move forward with votes on qualified, responsible and respected nominees so that those who have the support of a majority of the Senate can be confirmed, as contemplated by the Constitution; and remove the rancor and gamesmanship from the judicial selection process.

We expect dignity, wisdom, decency, civility, integrity and restraint from our judges. It is time to exercise those same characteristics in our dealings with, and commentary on, those same judges -- from their appointment and confirmation, to their decision-making once they take office. [Italics added]
The reason the confirmation process is a shambles is that the Court allowed itself to be used as a political branch. It should have understood that making abortion and homosexual sodomy matters of Constitutional rights would result in just this situation, and avoided them. This remains a democratic government, and if the courts get too far out ahead of the people, it will blow back in their faces. Now SCOTUS has adopted international standards as a guide to interpreting our Constitution. I don't think that most Americans care for that, and they could very well support some measure to make the justices more accountable. I hope it's not so severe that it makes a politicized court permanent.

Puffy Annan

Claudia Rosett is the go-to journalist on the Oil-For-Food corruption case. The following is written with a sneer:
The United Nations has already put in place a sweeping set of improvements, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan reorganizing and streamlining the world body to bring about, according to a U.N. reform dossier, "a culture of greater openness, coherence, innovation and confidence." A blue-ribbon panel has "set more stringent standards for judging the performance of peacekeepers, in the field and at Headquarters." And there is now a system for dealing with U.N. staff, that "gives more precedence to merit and competence and less to tenure and precedent."
Of course, that sounds like Bill Clinton's promise that his administration would be the most ethical in history. It's the kind of rhetoric that makes you want to check your pockets to see if they've been picked. It's what we've come to expect from the U.N.--high flown, idealistic promises masking cynicism and corruption. It's the kind of promising you get from a used car dealer, called "puffing," which is allowed under the caveat emptor principle.

John Bolton and George Bush are aware buyers. The liberals attacking Bolton don't seem to think there's anything wrong at the U.N. and that we shouldn't offend the New World Order, but the first step to dealing with a problem is admitting that you have one. What's so wrong with a good old-fashioned intervention?