Saturday, April 30, 2005
The committee’s chairman, former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker, has been calling senators and congressmen, urging them not to subpoena the investigator, Robert Parton. Volcker has emphasized the confidentiality agreement in Parton’s contract and the U.N.-appointed committee’s diplomatic immunity, said Mike Holtzman, a spokesman for the Volcker committee.

But Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who chairs the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and has repeatedly called for Annan to resign, released a statement saying that he has ordered his staff to issue subpoenas as soon as possible to Parton and Miranda Duncan, a second investigator who also quit.

“I spoke with Mr. Volcker yesterday and expressed my grave and growing concerns about the credibility and independence of the investigation into the criminal misconduct that occurred in the U.N. oil-for-food program,” Coleman said.

At least two other congressional committees are considering subpoenas for the investigators, said Tom Costa, a spokesman for Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., one of the congressmen Volcker called.

I wonder why Volcker is so concerned about having the former investigators testify? Cover-up anyone?
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Wow. If you figure that each episode is about 24 minutes of content (after taking out advertising), that is 140 hours of content, or 11 2/3 days of watching 12 hours a day....
Pretty surprising to find this in the NYTimes, but look at this:

After comparing our relative payments to our pension systems (since salaries are higher in America, I had contributed more), we extrapolated what would have happened if I'd put my money into Pablo's mutual fund instead of the Social Security trust fund. We came up with three projections for my old age, each one offering a pension that, like Social Security's, would be indexed to compensate for inflation:

(1) Retire in 10 years, at age 62, with an annual pension of $55,000. That would be more than triple the $18,000 I can expect from Social Security at that age.

(2) Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $70,000. That would be almost triple the $25,000 pension promised by Social Security starting a year later, at age 66.

(3)Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $53,000 and a one-time cash payment of $223,000.

You may suspect that Pablo has prospered only because he's a sophisticated investor, but he simply put his money into one of the most popular mutual funds. He has more money in it than most Chileans because his salary is above average, but lower-paid workers who contributed to that fund for the same period of time would be in relatively good shape, too, because their projected pension would amount to more than 90 percent of their salaries.

What is surprising is how unsurprising this result is, yet there is still so much opposition to the privitization of social security. Would anyone be satisfied with the same return they receive from Social Security if they had put that money in a mutual fund? The answer is no. Everyone knows (and expects) to obtain a higher return on investment from their mutual fund than from Social Security (of course that is a pretty low expectation).

So this really begs the question, why would anyone be opposed to privitization of the Social Security program?
Of course one of the reasons there is a showdown at all is that one party (hint it starts with a "D") doesn't understand what democracy means....
"What makes it so dangerous for our country is their willingness to do serious damage to our American democracy in order to satisfy their lust for one-party domination of all three branches of government," Gore said of the GOP in a speech. "They seek nothing less than absolute power."
Hmm. What about the fact that it was American democracy that put one-party in power of all three branches of government (two directly, and one via the Constitutional judicial appointment process)?
Sunday, April 24, 2005
As I mentioned before here, there is significant evidence that the Volcker Committee is engaged in a cover up. Now there is more evidence from Roger Simon, who reports that one of the two senior investigators of that committee has gone public with the fact that he resigned from the committee on principle.


The investigator, Robert Parton, confirmed a report by The Associated Press earlier this week that he had resigned along with another investigator to protest recent findings by the committee that cleared U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan of meddling in the $64 billion program.

Parton's statement comes after a member of the committee discounted reports that the two investigators had left the Independent Inquiry Committee because they believed the report was too soft on the secretary-general.

"Contrary to recent published reports, I resigned my position as Senior Investigative Counsel for the IIC not because my work was complete but on principle," Parton said.

It is ironic that those who claim to support the U.N. continue to support Kofi Annan and attack John Bolton when it is clear to me that both those actions, if successful, will just continue to allow the U.N. to fade into the history books as a slightly longer lived version of the League of Nations....

If you truly support the U.N., and you have any intelligence whatsoever, you would realize that it needs massive reform, including a massive house cleaning. And also people like John Bolton to be the guard dogs against future corruption (which is rampant at the U.N.).
Inflation is surging, wages are flat, all sorts of deficits are exploding — how do we sleep at night? Just imagine how we'd feel if the economy weren't doing reasonably well.

Is that underlying reality of a healthy economy about to change? It's an unsettling question, and one that is getting harder to answer. Hence the return in recent weeks of gut-wrenching volatility on Wall Street. The stock market cares little about the past. It strives to predict where the economy is headed, and watching the latest back and forth between bulls and bears is like watching a ballgame in which the lead keeps changing.
The U.S. economy is indeed in for a troubled future, and I really don't think there is any policy that will change that fact. You cannot legislate demographics (at least not in a democratic nation - so I exclude China from that statement).

The driver of the U.S. economy (and probably all economies) is productivity and consumer spending. Our workforce is disproportionately comprise of older workers - the baby boomers - who are starting to retire. As they retire they likely will spend less since they will have lower income streams. They will also start selling off their investments to fund their retirements, they will start selling their large homes to move into smaller ones, and of course they will no longer be working. At the same time, more and more people will be collecting social security income - starting in about 2017 this will require expenditures from the general tax revenue fund in addition to social security tax income - an additional drain on our government. And perhaps more importantly, these same people will need more and more help from medicare and medicade. And in addition to purely medical related costs there is the incredibly expensive, and largely prefunded expense of long term medical care once these retirees can no longer care for themselves.

So what you have is a major reduction in productivity corresponding to massive increases in the needs for government programs to care for our elderly. The economy will tank when this happens. The only real question is how bad it will get.

I for one plan my future with that 2017 date in mind. I will "only" be 42 on that date, but I want to be financial set at that point. Because it could get really, really ugly. I suspect my generation will not be as bad off as those 20 years behind us who will be entering the workforce at that point. Probably with massive school debt too. For them it is a dark future....
The circulation of daily U.S. newspapers is 55.2 million, down from 62.3 million in 1990. The percentages of adults who say they read a paper "yesterday" are ominous:

• 65 and older -- 60 percent.

• 50-64 -- 52 percent.

• 30-49 -- 39 percent.

• 18-29 -- 23 percent.

Americans ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 6 hours and 21 minutes a day with media of all sorts but just 43 minutes with print media.

I bet there is a good percentage of high school students who hardly know what a newspaper is - that is scary. But really, why should they? They have lived in the internet age since the day they were born essentially. And why would anyone wait to read tomorrow what you can read online today? Really the only advantage that newspapers currently have is portability. You can bring a newspaper with you anywhere and read through it. But whereas content online is free, newspapers carry a price. And as technology improves newspapers will lose their portability advantage. And when that happens, the newspaper industry (as far as being print media) will be dead. It will exist almost essentially online or not at all.

I call it the toilet test. Once I can read online content on the toilet as conveniently as I can read the newspaper now, I will no longer need the newspaper. And I suspect that goes for the vast majority of current newspaper subscribers. It might take awhile, but in 10, 20, or maybe 30 years, newspapers will be essentially non-existent.

Title IX, the 1972 federal law mandating equal opportunity for females in high school and college sports, has helped spur huge changes. But its supporters have trouble believing their eyes. Despite the enormous gains for female athletes, they act as though the gains could be erased overnight.

They are currently outraged by a new Bush administration guideline that offers colleges a new way to show they are not discriminating--by asking all women students if they are interested in participating in athletics. If the number who say yes isn't enough to justify adding teams, a school would not have to do so.

The reaction was swift and harsh. Donna Lopiano, head of the Women's Sports Foundation, called it "incredibly bad policy that will disenfranchise generations of female athletes." The National Women's Law Center said the change "threatens to reverse the enormous progress women and girls have made in sports since the enactment of Title IX."
What about all the men who actually want to participate in sports who have had their programs cut in order to meet the Title IX equality requirements when the schools were unable to pay women to participate? That is right, schools have tried to bribe women into participating in sports and they still can't find any willing participants. Most often schools use rowing programs for women as it is a relatively inexpensive sport. See here, here, here, here, and here.

Essentially many of the Title IX proponents want to force women to play sports or force schools to cut men's programs if they can't find women willing to participate. It is simply a bad policy. The premise seems to be that all women want to play sports, they just don't feel they have the opportunities. Well Bush's new proposal will test that premise, and it is clear that those who make their livings off of Title IX graft are worried that this proposal will demonstrate what most know to be true. Despite the fact that 56% of college students are female, more male college students want to participate in sports than female college students.

Hopefully this proposal becomes the law. Gender discrimination is a two way street, and while it used to be females being discriminated against, the pendulum has swung and it is now male student-athletes who are being discriminated against.

In high school, girls outnumber boys in nearly every extracurricular activity except sports. One type of interest may preclude another. There has been a vast increase in athletic participation by females since 1972, but it has yet to match that of males, even in arenas where discrimination can't explain the gap.

College intramural sports, which are open to all, attract far more males than females. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for example, the ratio is 3-1. At the University of California at Los Angeles, 69 percent of the intramural players are men. Women attending all-female schools are less likely to participate in intercollegiate athletics than men at comparable coeducational schools.

To get women and men to take part in anything close to equal numbers in varsity sports, schools have to do things like create scholarships and do extensive recruiting to fill female crew teams, even though it's hardly a sport in great demand. At the same time, many limit rosters in men's baseball and other sports, even for non-scholarship "walk-on" players.

Feminist groups complain that though women are a majority of college students, they account for only 41 percent of varsity athletes, as though disparity proves discrimination. In fact, it may show only that colleges know better than outside critics what female students want.

After all, these institutions can ill afford to alienate a group that makes up their chief clientele: Nationally, 56 percent of all undergraduates are female. Title IX aside, colleges are under intense competitive pressure to cater to their interests--athletic, artistic and academic. A school that shortchanges women in any way is a school that is inviting its own demise.

Feminists act as though we live in a world in which institutions of higher education are itching to relegate women to second-class status. But thanks in part to Title IX, that world is gone, and it's not coming back.
Well said.

Nicholas Kristof writes about interracial relationships in today's NY Times, but has some pretty absurd arguments when trying to criticize Hollywood for not representing the gains that have been made in society. For example Kristof writes:
The latest "Guess Who" is about a white man in love with a black woman, and that's a comfortable old archetype from days when slave owners inflicted themselves on slave women. Hollywood has portrayed romances between white men and (usually light-complexioned) black women, probably calculating that any good ol' boy seeing Billy Bob Thornton embracing Halle Berry in "Monster's Ball" is filled not with disgust but with envy.
Huh? So it is not good enough that they have an interracial relationship, it has to be the right mix of gender and race.... And the "usually light-complexioned" line just kills me. So according to Kristof some people are not "black enough," for Kristof. What a joke. Should this same logic be applied to affirmative action programs? We could set up two boxes, one for dark skinned African-Americans, and one for light-skinned persons. And only the dark skinned persons would qualify for the programs, because according to Kristof light-skinned minorities don't really count.

Pathetic. And racist really. I wonder why so many people think liberals are idiots, when this kind of logic is floated around.

"Guess who," and movies like that could be criticized for the fact that when a interracial couple is cast in Hollywood it is too often done to perform a plot function (i.e., it is intentional that the relationship is interracial). What we should be seeing more of is movies where race is irrelevant to the plotline, yet there is an interracial relationship.

Kristof tries to think of movies with interracial relationships and doesn't do a very good job. Just off the top of my head you have "Fools Rush In" with Matthew Perry and Salma Hayek; Austin Powers (I forget which one, but the one with Mike Meyers and Beyonce - of course, maybe Beyonce doesn't count per Krisof's "logic"); Monster Ball was named by Kristof earlier; pretty much every Jennifer Lopez movie, but I was thinking primarily of "Out of Sight," where race was totally irrelevant to the plotline; and "The Bodyguard," with Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. I am sure there are plenty more.

So to me Kristof's criticism rings hollow (and certainly seems uneducated). But that doesn't mean there shouldn't be more movies where there happens to be interracial relationships where race isn't a plot line. I can think of a half a dozen movies where I can think of a black actor that would have been much better in the lead role than the white actor. I wonder how many of those movies were cast without ever considering black actors. If any of them were, than that is a problem worth writing about. Kristof should engage is some actual journalism and find that out before he writes on this topic again.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Criminal defense attorney Ronald S. Miller does more than file briefs -- he also takes them off.

Miller has spent days in front of a judge and nights in front of a camera as Don Hollywood, a porn star. His wife, a former accountant, is also a porn star.

''My whole life, I've been one of those people who sees the wet paint sign and has to go up and touch it to see if it's wet,'' said the 56-year-old Miller. ''I want to experience everything, try everything.''

He has appeared in more than 90 films in the past seven years.

My Post 2005 NFL Draft (First Day) Predictions
One of the beautiful things about having a blog is that you can make predictions on them, and then have proof when it turns out you are right. So in that spirit here are a few of mine:

(1) Troy Williamson will do almost nothing in the NFL, he will be a mediocre wideout at best. Mike Williams, on the other hand, will dominate the league (although I suspect that Detroit will have such a potent pass offense that it will be fairly random which WR gets the TDs etc., sort of like with Indy last year).

(2) Mike Williams will have a much better career than Braylon Edwards, and I sort of suspect Edwards will not have a good career. You hear rumors about him driving around campus in a Bentley, and you have to buy stock in the "flameout" category. There is a good chance he will just not put in the work necessary to be a great player, but we will see.

(3) Alex Smith will not be a successful NFL quarterback. I have 2 premises to support this prediction: (a) he will be rushed into starting at SF, and given how messed up that team is he will have no support (any QB at SF would fail right now); (b) he just doesn't have a sufficiently strong arm to be a success. When I see his highlight reel, all I can think is that if those throws were made in the NFL they would have all been picked off.

(4) Jason Campbell will be the starter by the end of the season in D.C., and he will also have a significantly better career than Alex Smith.

(5) Aaron Rodgers will be a success. He fell to a perfect situation, he won't have to start since Favre never gets hurt, and he can learn from the best. Plus despite the idiots on TV (only Mel Kiper got this right), Rodgers mechanics are perfect with one exception, he holds the ball to high. Well guess what, he was coached to do that in college. Which means (a) he didn't naturally do that, so it won't be as hard to change back or improve his ball position; and (b) he is very coachable. It probably will take him all of a month to fix where he holds the ball. And once he does that his mechanics are as good as they get. And compared to Smith, Rodgers has a cannon for an arm.

(6) "Pacman" Jones will not be a success. I don't care how fast he supposedly is, it seems to me he had to use that speed too often to recover against college wideouts, and in the NFL he won't be able to do that. Also, against a WR like Mike Williams he is screwed - he is only 5' 9, good luck covering a guy almost a foot taller.

(7) Matt Jones will be awesome. I don't care what position he plays at, he is going to be a huge impact player from day 1.
Someone needs to explain to me why the Vikings took this guy, over Mike Williams. According to most analysts it is because he is the fastest WR in the draft. But if he is so fast, why did he only have 7 TDs and 43 receptions in his Junior year. And why was Mike Williams able to double that production in his freshman year, and do better than double that production in his sophomore year.

And is Williamson really that fast when he ran the 40 slower than Matt Jones, who is going to play tight end after being converted from a QB?

The Vikings are idiots.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Via the Volokh Conspiracy, David Garrow concludes that Justice Blackmun became merely a clerk to his clerks in his final years on the Court. In support he relies primarily on a few notes from one clerk:
[Clerk Michelle] Alexander gave Blackmun a note that read, "This morning at breakfast you mentioned that you would like to release the death penalty dissent by the end of the calendar year. I think that is wise," because several pending cases offered appropriate opportunities. In particular, "there is little chance that a better vehicle for your dissent will come along before the end of the year" than Schlup v. Delo, an "extraordinary" capital case. In closing, she stated, "I would love to hear your thoughts."

Schlup was postponed, however, and Alexander reported that she had reviewed all petitioners with scheduled execution dates. "I recommend that you plan to release your dissent when Malcolm Rent Johnson is executed on January 31," she wrote. Alexander once again concluded her note by saying, "I'd love to hear your thoughts." One week later, with Johnson's execution indefinitely delayed, Alexander advised that "[i]nstead of searching for the ideal vehicle for the dissent, the dissent should be tailored for any death case," so that it simply could be issued whenever the next execution occurred. Two days later, she told Blackmun that she had revised the existing draft to remove the Gary Graham references, but explained, "I have not altered any of the cites. It is therefore unnecessary for you to recheck the cites for accuracy."[WOW!!] . . .

Readers of Alexander's and [clerk Andrew] Schapiro's memos may rightly wonder who was functioning as a justice, and who as a clerk. Alexander twice told Blackmun, "I would love to hear your thoughts" about the opinion, yet her memos suggest that Blackmun was most concerned with whether he should "recheck the cites."

I know nothing about the author of this article, David Garrow, but I strongly suspect he is not a lawyer, or certainly was never an associate at a large law firm (where you work for many masters so to speak). I think the notes are ambiguous at best. I work with many partners that are, how should I say, anal about citations or other similar details. Certain partners (or people more generally) have pet peeves and things they focus on in their work product. So I would be inclined to let them know that the citations didn't change so that they wouldn't have to double check them (or more likely, so that they wouldn't ask me if they had changed - you learn to anticipate questions which may be exactly what this note is doing).

The rest of the note - for example the "I think that is wise," comment is properly respectful and a bit brown nosing at the same time. It is something a good associate would write to a partner. And the "I would love to hear your thoughts," is similar to the way almost all associate to partner communications end - asking for any comments/input or whatever from the partner.

In short, the conclusions reached based on these notes are specious at best.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Via Drudge, here is some strong evidence that the celebrities are pathetic. Of course what that says for people that idolize them is probably just as bad.

I have never understood the celebrity-craze in this country. Most celebrities are some of the biggest losers you will ever meet in life. I certainly respect some of their talents (although more and more celebrities have less and less talent). But I can't imagine caring about their lives the way it seems most Americans do....

On a positive note though, I think there is a backlash against that trend - and it is somewhat intertwined with the backlash against democrats too.
Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, was interviewed for the show Q&A last week on CSPAN. During that interview he displayed his laptop which was adorned with several anti-GOP stickers. sums up the interview by apparently only focusing on those stickers and stating:
Arch political consultant and rising Democratic Party star Markos Moulitsas [] Zuniga of Daily Kos was interviewed on C-SPAN’s Q&A last Sunday, and proudly displayed his laptop computer—a revealing demonstration of the mean-spirited, foul-mouthed, debased state of the modern left.
But as someone who actually watched the entire interview, Kos came across as very reasonable and intelligent. In fact, LittleGreenFootballs, based on this article alone, comes across as the mean-spirited, and unreasonable party.

If you don't agree with Kos, you should probably try to take on his arguments on the merits. And before you criticize him for something, you probably should at least watch the interview. For example, I wonder if LGF knows what Kos said about Fox News? He actually noted that his sticker was inaccurate in representing his views. He thought highly of Fox News vis a vis its power in pushing its ideology. He was just critical of it for claiming it was fair and balanced when it was biased. I would agree with that. But I would also say the same point can be made with equal force about the NYTimes, CNN, etc., and their clear liberal bias.

Kos didn't want to take Fox News off the air, to the contrary, he hoped the left would create their own version of that network. You would think Soros would be all over something like that by now.

Its too bad LGF didn't actually watch the interview before posting about it.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Maureen Dowd has a good column today, until she tries to use political corruption as a partisan attack:

It's a far cry from today's lobbying. Sleazoid lawmakers like Tom DeLay gulp down the graft from sleazoid lobbyists like Jack Abramoff, who took Mr. DeLay, the House majority leader, to play golf in Scotland in 2000 as part of a $70,000 trip with Mr. DeLay's wife and staff, and for a six-day "fact finding" trip to Moscow in 1997.

If there are any ethics questions, Republicans helpfully gut the House Ethics Committee, while DeLay & Co. try to gut the New Deal.

Before he became a $750-an-hour superlobbyist accused of defrauding Indian tribes of tens of millions of their gambling dollars and pitting them against one another to pay for lavish trips for congressmen, "Casino Jack" had never been a White House wise man or spent years in public service. He produced B movies like "Red Scorpion" and "Red Scorpion 2."

Unlike the cultivated Tommy, who was a bit of a Robin Hood, taking care of lots of people who were down and out, Mr. Abramoff leeched off a group that's always gotten gypped and then wrote ugly e-mail deriding his Indian clients as "monkeys" and "idiots."

Another lobbyist, Tongsun Park, a South Korean at the center of a Congressional bribery scandal in the 1970's known as Koreagate, blasted back from the past this week. Mr. Park has been charged with secretly collecting at least $2 million from Saddam Hussein for clandestine help setting up the corrupt U.N. oil-for-food program and carting away bags of cash from Iraq's diplomats in New York, partly to bribe a U.N. official.

Not exactly broad daylight with a brass band. More like midnight in the sewer.

I am all for indicting dirty politicians, and trying to clean up politics. But it is naive, to say the least, to think that either party is "less dirty," than the other. So if you are trying to push a partisan agenda, you might not want to choose this route for your attack strategy....
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Great info, as always, from Roger Simon, including linking to this NY Sun article, that states in part:
The lawyer for a key witness who cooperated with the U.N. committee investigating the oil-for-food scandal says the panel allowed itself to be manipulated into discrediting his client by Secretary-General Annan's attorney, Greg Craig, a former aide to President Clinton.

The lawyer, Adrian Gonzalez, who represents Kojo Annan's former business partner Pierre Mouselli, said the Volcker committee was persuaded to discount the testimony of his client by Mr. Craig. Kojo Annan is the secretary-general's son.

Mr. Craig, a Washington attorney who was chief White House strategist in the Clinton impeachment proceedings, "was able to contact the committee to pressure them, and the committee allowed itself to be manipulated by him," Mr. Gonzalez told The New York Sun in an interview.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Democrats have been using a web-based "calculator" to generate individualized answers to the question, "How much will you lose under Bush privatization plan?" For young, low-wage workers it projects cuts of up to 50% in benefits. And a $1-million TV advertising campaign is amplifying the claim, saying, "Look below the surface (of Bush's plan) and you'll find benefit checks cut almost in half."

In fact, the calculator is rigged. We find it is based on a number of false assumptions and deceptive comparisons. For one thing, it assumes that stocks will yield average returns of only 3 percent per year above inflation. The historical average is close to 7 percent.

The calculator's authors claim that they use the same assumption used by the Congressional Budget Office. Actually, CBO projects a 6.8 percent gain.
. . . .

Independent economists consulted by the bipartisan Social Security Advisory Board in 2001 said stocks might not do quite so well in the future, but their range of estimates was still between 5.5 percent and 6.5 percent -- or roughly double the figure used by the Democrats' rigged calculator. Peter A. Diamond, Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told, "values around 6.0% or 6.5% seem to me appropriate for projection purposes." John B. Shoven, Professor of Economics at Stanford University, wrote, "My own estimate for the long-run real return to equities looking forward is 6 to 6.5 percent." And the lowest estimate came from John Y. Campbell, Professor of Economics at Harvard University. He wrote that "A rough guess for the long term . . . might be a geometric average equity return of 5 percent to 5.5 percent." Compounded yearly over a working lifetime, even a 5 percent return would produce vastly higher benefits than a 3 percent return.

What CBO Says

To justify their lowball 3 percent figure, the calculator's authors state that it is "the same assumption used by the CBO for its Social Security analysis." That's not entirely true.

It's a fact that the Congressional Budget Office did publish a study of a proposed system of individual accounts in which it used a "risk-adjusted" figure of 3 percent for one part of its analysis. But in another part of the same study the CBO assumed that stocks would return an average of 6.8 percent. A series of 500 different computer simulations of possible future outcomes showed a very low likelihood that actual future returns would be as low as 3 percent, and a decent probability that returns would be even better than 7 percent.

The "risk-adjusted" figure is an arcane concept that we won't attempt to dissect here, except to say that it is essentially equal to the expected return on risk-free, interest-bearing Treasury securities. And by using that figure in one set of calculations, CBO was not predicting stock gains of a measly 3 percent over inflation. That would be a massive turn for the worst in the economy.

Just to be sure about that, we checked with the CBO's director, Douglas Holtz-Eakin: Does CBO's use of a 3 percent "risk-adjusted" figure constitute a prediction by CBO that equities (stocks) will return only 3 percent in the future?

Holtz-Eakin: That's the way its been portrayed. That's wrong. We assume that equities will return 6.8 percent in the future.

. . . .
Both the calculator and the ad also employ other misleading assumptions. Both assume that Bush's plan involves pegging the rise in future benefits to prices, rather than to wages as under current law. Because prices rise more slowly than wages, that would indeed produce future benefit levels that are lower than currently promised, essentially freezing benefits at the buying power they have today. The current system of "wage indexing" is expected to push the purchasing power of future benefit levels to nearly double what they are today over the next 75 years.

However, whether freezing benefit levels at their current buying power would thus constitute a "cut" is debatable, to say the least. In fact, Bush hasn't actually proposed "price indexing" or any other specific plan to restore solvency to the system. He has ruled out tax increases, implying he'd lean most heavily if not entirely on holding down benefit growth.

Compared to What?

Both the ad and the calculator use benefits promised under current law as their basis for comparison, but they fail to mention that current tax rates can't support those benefit levels beyond 2041. According to the latest projection of the Social Security trustees, benefits would then have to be cut 26 percent at that time, and that reduction would grow every year thereafter. Compared to the actual level of benefits that can be supported by the current system, Bush's supposed "cuts" would be much smaller.

Put another way, maintaining benefit growth at the level assumed by the calculator and the ad would require a tax increase, something not mentioned.

Much more at Essentially the Democrats are engaged in outright fraud. This is what is wrong with politics in America, no one can just make their point on the merits they have to rely on outrageous claims and, as in this case, pure deception and fraud to try to support their positions. If your position really has merit, why do you need to bolster it via such deception?

Taxpayer groups need to start suing.
Via Powerline:

Senator Pat Leahy, on the Senate floor, March 7, 2000 (p. S 1210):

The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court said:
The Senate is surely under no obligation to confirm any particular nominee, but after the necessary time for inquiry, it should vote him up or vote him down.
Which is exactly what I would like.

Senator Charles Schumer, same day (p. S 1211):

The basic issue of holding up judgeships is the issue before us, not the qualifications of judges, which we can always debate. The problem is it takes so long for us to debate those qualifications. It is an example of Government not fulfilling its constitutional mandate because the President nominates, and we are charged with voting on the nominees. The Constitution does not say if the Congress is controlled by a different party than the President there shall be no judges chosen. But that is sometimes how the majority has functioned.

I also plead with my colleagues to move judges with alacrity—vote them up or down. But this delay makes a mockery of the Constitution, makes a mockery of the fact that we are here working, and makes a mockery of the lives of very sincere people who have put themselves forward to be judges and then they hang out there in limbo.

I am sure there are many (many) more examples of this type of thing. The filibuster and Constitution aside, how can a Senator claim to be truly representing the people if he or she refuses to allow votes to happen? If the judicial nominee is really so unworthy, don't you think you should be able to convince a half dozen moderate Republican senators of that fact? And vice-versa when it is a Democratic president.
In today's NYTimes, Nicholas Kristof notes the almost total lack of trust and confidence in the press:

A recent report from the Pew Research Center, "Trends 2005," is painful to read. The report says that 45 percent of Americans believe little or nothing in their daily newspapers, up from 16 percent two decades ago.

In this kind of environment, it's not surprising that journalists are headed for jail. The safety net for American journalism throughout history has been not so much the First Amendment - rather, it's been public approval of the role of the free press. Public approval is our life-support system, and it is now at risk.

Since 1973, the National Opinion Research Center has measured public confidence in 13 institutions, including the press. All of the other institutions have generally retained a good measure of public respect, but confidence in the press has fallen sharply since 1990.

Those of us in the press tend to get defensive about our dwindling credibility. We protest that we've been made scapegoats by partisan demagogues, particularly on the right, and I think that's true. But distrust for the news media, even if it's unfair, is the new reality - and we will have to work much, much harder to win back our credibility with the public.

In any case, it's not just right-wingers who distrust the media these days. The Pew Research Center found that while only 14 percent of Republicans believe all or most of what they read in The New York Times, even among Democrats the figure is only 31 percent. Other major news organizations face the same challenge. The Fox News Channel is considered credible by fewer than one-third of the Republicans - and an even smaller number of Democrats. Indeed, it's a rare news organization that is trusted by more than one-third of the people in either party: the one thing Democrats and Republicans agree on is that the news media are not trustworthy.

But Kristof, while suggesting reforms and improvements fails to accept these criticisms at face value. The fact is, as a collective group, the main stream media does tend to be arrogant. And more importantly, ignorant. Until that changes these numbers will never increase. Hiring the same type of people with different ideological viewpoints won't change that. And being more transparent about the process, and more willing to issue corrections won't change that.

The press needs to start researching stories thoroughly and writing them objectively and accurately in the first instance. And reporters cannot continue to search for stories that simply confirm their personal ideology (no matter what ideology that happens to be).

Frankly, until the press becomes dominated by non-partisans, people with no true party affiliation, trust will never really be restored in the press.
Monday, April 11, 2005
Patrick Byrne, a 42-year-old bear of a man who bristles with ideas that have made him rich and restless, has an idea that can provide a new desktop computer for every student in America without costing taxpayers a new nickel. Or it could provide 300,000 new $40,000-a-year teachers without any increase in taxes. His idea -- call it the 65 Percent Solution -- is politically delicious because it unites parents, taxpayers and teachers while, he hopes, sowing dissension in the ranks of the teachers unions, which he considers the principal institutional impediment to improving primary and secondary education.

The idea, which will face its first referendum in Arizona, is to require that 65 percent of every school district's education operational budget be spent on classroom instruction. On, that is, teachers and pupils, not bureaucracy.

Nationally, 61.5 percent of education operational budgets reach the classrooms. Why make a fuss about 3.5 percent? Because it amounts to $13 billion. Only four states (Utah, Tennessee, New York, Maine) spend at least 65 percent of their budgets in classrooms. Fifteen states spend less than 60 percent. The worst jurisdiction -- Washington, D.C., of course -- spends less than 50 percent.
Very interesting. And after just a quick review, a very solid idea. I hope the referendum in Arizona passes so that it can act as a trial state.
Robert Novak writes in today's Chicago Sun Times:
On March 24, former Congressman Bob Livingston was sent an e-mail by a New York Times editorial page staffer suggesting he write an op-ed essay. Would Livingston, who in 1998 gave up certain elevation to be House speaker because of a sexual affair, write about how Majority Leader Tom DeLay should now act under fire? In a subsequent conversation, it was made clear the Times wanted the prominent Republican to say DeLay should step aside for the good of the party.
When did the New York Times officially become a PAC? And don't they realize this will just backfire? When Fox News and its ilk dominate mass media, and 70% of voters are Republicans, don't say I didn't warn you.

Computer keyboards are havens for some nasty superbugs that can live nestled in among the keys for at least 24 hours, a new study finds.

The study led by epidemologist Dr. Gary Noskin finds that keyboards get easily contaminated by germs.

And that's especially bad news for hospitals. There, these germs can take the form of antibiotic-resistant germs that can contaminate the hands of nurses or doctors and then are passed on to patients.
. . . .

Best defence

Given the challenge in cleaning keyboards, Noskin advises that frequent handwashing is the best defence.

For health care workers, he noted that hand washing before using a computer is "superfluous," as "contamination can be transmitted from the keyboard to the hands of health-care workers.''

"So the best intervention would be to wash your hands (after using a computer) before you have direct contact with a patient,'' he tells The Canadian Press from Los Angeles, where he's presenting his findings at the annual meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

For the study, Noskin's team contaminated some keyboards with three types of bacteria commonly found in hospitals: VRE; methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA); and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Both VRE and MRSA survived on a keyboard 24 hours after contamination, according to the study.

VRE can cause urinary tract infections and infections at the entry sites of intravenous or dialysis lines.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa, meanwhile, can cause pneumonia, urinary tract and bloodstream infections. The study found that this bacteria can last up to an hour on keyboard surfaces.

Noskin says that cleaning the keyboards with soap and water proved ineffective. A hospital-grade germicide did do the job, but regular use of these solutions could take a toll on the devices.

Sounds like it is time for someone to invent some sort of disposable keyboard, or keyboard cover....
Via Volokh Conspiracy:

Charlie Rose: If [somebody came in] and said, we believe there is the absence of progressive opinion as people now believe on cable news, would that have been successful as FOX has been? My question said another way: Is it the fact that they have some, a formula, and it doesn`t matter what the politics are, or the politics make a difference?

JONATHAN KLEIN: They've tapped into an outrage that's lurking among a certain small segment of the population, mostly angry white men, and those men tend to be rabid. They tend to be habitual. They tend to like to have their points of view reinforced. And a, quote/unquote, "progressive" or liberal network probably couldn't reach the same sort of an audience, because liberals tend to like to sample a lot of opinions. They pride themselves on that. And you know, they don't get too worked up about anything. And they're pretty morally relativistic. And so, you know, they allow for a lot of that stuff. You know, the -- FOX is very appealing to people who like to get worked up over things.

By "small segment," I guess he means a population about 10 times larger than the viewing audience of CNN? I should note, I don't watch FOX News, and frankly for the most part can't stand to watch it. But CNN can be just as bad too. And MSNBC is just awful the two times I watched it for 5 minutes in the last year or so....

And in my experience Democrats are as judgmental if not more so than Republicans (I think using party descriptors is more accurate than ideological tags for this point). Granted most of the issues Democrats tend to focus on are shallow and materialistic - is that what moral relativism means? :) As someone who truly is in the center, and who really does keep an open mind for the most part, I find both Democrats and Republicans tend to be pretty closed minded. The main difference I see, is that Republicans tend to think their positions are morally superior, and Democrats tend to think their positions are intellectually superior.

I generally find on issues where some superiority is asserted to support the position, the position usually has problems that the proponent fails to address.
According to Paul Krugman, the U.S. has a health care crisis. As evidence, Krugman cites the rising costs of health care in the U.S. He also states:
Finally, the U.S. health care system is wildly inefficient. Americans tend to believe that we have the best health care system in the world. (I've encountered members of the journalistic elite who flatly refuse to believe that France ranks much better on most measures of health care quality than the United States.) But it isn't true. We spend far more per person on health care than any other country - 75 percent more than Canada or France - yet rank near the bottom among industrial countries in indicators from life expectancy to infant mortality.
I don't know if the U.S. or France has a better healthcare system. But I do know that the things Krugman states above don't shed any light on the answer to that question. Cost has no bearing on quality (except you would think the higher the cost the better, but perhaps Americans overpay). Neither does life expectancy or infant mortality. Infant mortality is probably due to factors other than the health care system, I highly doubt many of those infants die because of poor treatment. And life expectancy probably has a lot more to do with lifestyle choices than health care.

Krugman concludes:

The fact is that in health care, the private sector is often bloated and bureaucratic, while some government agencies - notably the Veterans Administration system - are lean and efficient. In health care, competition and personal choice can and do lead to higher costs and lower quality. The United States has the most privatized, competitive health system in the advanced world; it also has by far the highest costs, and close to the worst results.

Over the next few weeks I'll back up these assertions, and talk about what a workable health care reform might look like, if we can get ideology out of the way.

Given the lacking analysis in this piece, I don't have very high hopes for his vision for heath care reform....
Sunday, April 10, 2005

Kerry also cited examples Sunday of how people were duped into not voting.

"Leaflets are handed out saying Democrats vote on Wednesday, Republicans vote on Tuesday. People are told in telephone calls that if you've ever had a parking ticket, you're not allowed to vote," he said.

At least no one did anything illegal like slash the tires of all the transport vans used to offer rides to the polls... oh, wait, the Democrats did that in Wisconsin...

Update: Powerline weighs in on this too. As usual, much more eloquently than me.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
I've talked about this before on this site, but it turns out those red light cameras (which are supposedly justified by trying to reduce accidents - but really are just about revenue production), actually increase accidents. While this would seem counter-intuitive, I actually think it is very intuitive. Running a red light rarely ends in an accident because there is a delay in time between the change in light for cross traffic and also, in theory, those drivers look for speeding cars. On the other hand, when someone slams on their breaks at the instant the light turns yellow, bad things happen.

So I say good riddance to these things. The tickets they issue are probably not enforceable anyway.
Via Powerline:

Yesterday Yale Law School grad ('00) Leah Mesfin wrote to alert us to this weekend's doings at the law school. Leah noted that she'd started reading us in connection with our coverage of the Republican convention this past September. She wrote:

Recently I got an invitation from the YLS to register for an upcoming conference at YLS called "The Constitution in 2020." Their plan is simple - they plan to congregate to produce a vision of what the Constitution should be for 2020 and then to collaborate on how to use their influence and judicial power to accomplish it. Their posts with their plans for the conference are here.

I wrote this because I thought you and the rest of your readers might be interested in knowing how these elitist moronic are conveniently drafting us a new Constitution since we're too dumb to govern ourselves. The posts and the whole project are so deeply offensive on a variety of different levels. Who do these people think that they are that they can effectively draft a new Constitution for the rest of America? They're a handful of elitist, unelected, out of touch, narcissistic, overpaid, underwriter, downright foolish liberal intellectuals that think they are more righteous than God, and therefore, by divine right, are the only ones worthy of the task.

Even if I agree with many of the values and principles of this movement, the anti-democratic way they are trying to push their agenda bothers me. Of course, given the idiocy of the way the Democratic party is run, and the fact that things like this just push more people to vote Republician, I am pretty sure this will backfire. And we will end up with a more and more extreme right-wing judiciary, and a correspondingly more conservative/traditionalist interpretation of the Constitution as the binding law.

There is much more to this post over at Powerline.
David Brooks, as usual, has an excellent op-ed piece in today's New York Times. A very good read.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Now that it has been confirmed that the Schiavo talking points memo was indeed written by a Republican staffer, Powerline still can't let go. Yes, there still are unanswered questions. But are they really important ones? Not really. It is fairly clear that the memo states what many of the Republicans were thinking anyway -- we can score political points with the religious right by passing this bill. (Obviously, they weren't thinking about the law when they drafted the bill - they didn't even attempt to draft a bill that would pass constitutional scrutiny).

I would rather see a correction/apology from Congress and the Senate than the Washington Post at this point. But I don't think one will be forthcoming from any of the above.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Pelosi states:
This is the first time that a President of the United States has declared that we, the United States Government, will not put the full faith and credit of the federal government behind the Social Security trust fund. What this President is saying is, we have two kinds of debt. Let's see how we get the debt first. It is in deficit spending, so we have to go borrow in order to keep the government going.

So where does he borrow? He borrows from the Chinese. He borrows from the Japanese. He borrows from the trust fund. And what he is saying now to the American worker: "We will honor our debt to the Chinese and the Japanese, but we are treating you differently. We are not honoring our debt to you." These are funds that workers and their employers put in the account to have a trust fund to cover any shortfall that would be there to cover their retirement benefits. And this President is openly declaring that he has no intention of paying the trust fund back what he has taken from it.

First, I am pretty sure Bush never said that. Second, even if he did - he couldn't do anything about it. He will have been out of office for a decade by the time the decision needs to be made as to whether we pay back funds to the trust fund or not. Also, there is a bit of robbing Peter to pay Paul here that Pelosi doesn't understand or simply decides not to discuss. Who is the "we" paying back funds to "the American worker," it is the American worker.

What a pretty circle.
According to the NYTimes, Delay's wife and daughter were getting paid $4,000 a month by his PAC. His defense? Everyone is doing it man!
His spokesman, Dan Allen, said Mr. DeLay would not agree to an interview with The Times on Wednesday. "The fact that The New York Times is targeting Congressman Tom DeLay is the height of hypocrisy. The fact is that Democrats are doing the same thing, and The New York Times is not singling them out on the front page."
So? I say we send DeLay to jail first, then go after all these others - we have to start somewhere. Sounds like a plan to me.
David Brooks thinks it is, at least in part, that it is a party of diverse viewpoints and corresponding debate:

Conservatives have not triumphed because they have built a disciplined and efficient message machine. Conservatives have thrived because they are split into feuding factions that squabble incessantly. As these factions have multiplied, more people have come to call themselves conservatives because they've found one faction to agree with.

In the early days of National Review, many of the senior editors didn't even speak to one another. Whittaker Chambers declared that the writings of Ayn Rand, a hero of the more libertarian right, reeked of fascism and the gas chambers. Rand called National Review "the worst and most dangerous magazine in America."

It's been like that ever since - neocons arguing with theocons, the old right with the new right, internationalists versus isolationists, supply siders versus fiscal conservatives. The major conservative magazines - The Weekly Standard, National Review, Reason, The American Conservative, The National Interest, Commentary - agree on almost nothing.

This feuding has meant that the meaning of conservatism is always shifting. Once, Republicans were isolationists. Now most Republicans, according to a New York Times poll, believe the U.S. should try to change dictatorships into democracies when it can. Meanwhile, 78 percent of Democrats believe the U.S. should not try to democratize authoritarian regimes.

I think he is right. As someone who could just as easily vote for a Democrat as a Republican (ideologically speaking), one thing that tends to turn me off from Democrats is that they push a message even when it is made apparent that message is wrong, or doesn't account for certain facts. They come across as liars (or, alternatively, as too stupid to understand they are wrong). This may work on less educated voters, but it doesn't work on people who think for themselves. Perhaps this is part of the recent trouble for Democrats, more and more people are becoming college educated, and thinking critically.

This is one of the reasons I despised Kerry. He attacked Bush for saying there was a problem with Social Security. Well guess what, anyone with a clue about Social Security knew there was a problem. A mere few weeks after Kerry lost that is a universally accepted fact - no one doubts that Social Security has a problem. The only debate is how to solve that problem.

Nothing changed factually between the campaign months and now - so it is obvious that Kerry was in fact lying when he said Social Security was fine. Not a good strategy. Bush won despite the fact most people disagreed with his foreign policy (especially the Iraq war) because people believed him. He actually says what he believes.

If Democrats ever want to win again, they need to figure out what they stand for, why that is a good thing, and then honestly explain it to America. This "I have a plan," but I am not going to tell you what it is crap won't fly. Nor will simply saying that things are fine when you know they aren't. The Democrats should have been leading the charge to fix social security, not claiming it was fine. What idiots. And liars. Do they still wonder why they lost?
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
DailyKos writes:

Can we quit with the "popular president" schtick?
Here are the ratings for presidents as recorded by Gallup in the March following their re-election:

Truman, 1949: 57%.

Eisenhower, 1957: 65%.

Johnson, 1965: 69%.

Nixon, 1973: 57%.

Reagan, 1985: 56%.

Clinton, 1997: 59% .

Bush, 2005: 45%

There's a "mandate" for you. 11 points less popular than the next least popular president at this point in their term.

What does it say for Democrats that they couldn't even beat such an unpopular president? This coupled with John Fund's analysis of election results should be scaring the hell out of the Democrats.
Apparently Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has done the exact same things as Tom DeLay vis-a-vis PAC funding of trips.
"Given the actions of the minority leader vis-a-vis the majority leader and other Republicans, I'm having a little trouble finding where the outrage is coming from these groups that continue to pound on Republican members," a senior Republican lawmaker said on the condition of anonymity.
The lawmaker said nothing distinguished Mrs. Pelosi's actions from those of Mr. DeLay and other Republicans that she has criticized. He also said the questions about Mrs. Pelosi rise to the point of an ethics complaint.
"I think the minority leader ought to be subject to the same type of scrutiny as other members," he said.
Campaign-watchdog groups said it doesn't appear that Mrs. Pelosi or her staff member broke any rules, but said the timing looks bad.
"Anytime a member of their staff gets trips to Europe, it raises questions," said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. "Add to it the idea that the organization is thanking Pelosi, it just adds to it."
Ken Boehm, chairman of the conservative National Legal and Policy Center, which has challenged Mrs. Pelosi's campaign fundraising in the past, said the trip looks shady.
"I think it looks like she's doing legislative favors for donors, because she is," he said.
Mr. Boehm said Mrs. Pelosi's actions are starting to look like a pattern. He has questioned Mrs. Pelosi's earmark in early 2003 of $1 million to a University of San Francisco research center named after Leo T. McCarthy, who has been treasurer of her political action committees.
I say a pox on both their houses.
From the Volokh Conspiracy:

My favorite candidate name for the new pontiff: Pope Lando II.

I agree. Now they just need a really hairy cardinal to be his running-mate....
According to Krugman that is the reason why. Pretty humorous (even if unintentionally so) op-ed piece.

Part of the explaination is also probably that losing politicians and their staff/advisors need to find something to do, and since more often than not the loser is a Democrat, that explains some of the population imbalance too....
Sunday, April 03, 2005
In a Star Tribune op-ed, Senator Coleman writes:

After reading Wednesday's error-ridden and specious editorial, I feel compelled to review the facts behind my call for the resignation of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

For six months, I have insisted that Annan be held accountable for the U.N.'s gross mismanagement of the Oil-for-Food Program. Last week, the U.N.'s own investigators issued a report criticizing Annan's own conduct -- including his failure to resolve a serious conflict of interest concerning his son -- and the conduct of his chief of staff.

The Volcker report did not "exonerate" Annan, as many have claimed; to the contrary, it pointed the finger directly at him. Indeed, one member of Volcker's committee, Mark Pieth, made that point loud and clear: "We did not exonerate Kofi Annan."

With that in mind, I reiterate my call for Annan's resignation.

Let's review the facts: Nearly one year ago, as chairman of the Senate permanent subcommittee on Investigations, I initiated a bipartisan, comprehensive investigation into the Oil-for-Food scandal. Our investigation showed that the U.N. terribly mismanaged the program.

Annan, as the U.N.'s CEO, is ultimately responsible for the organization's performance. My call for Annan's resignation was not, and is not, based on the misconduct of his son; instead, Annan must be held accountable for his failures and his organization's widespread ineptitude. In short, the buck stops with Annan.

Since I called for his resignation, an avalanche of evidence concerning the U.N.'s mismanagement of the program emerged:

• Volcker's investigators exposed the corrupt activities of Benon Sevan, Annan's hand-picked chief of the program. Our subcommittee released evidence showing that Sevan received lucrative oil allocations from Saddam Hussein, including documents from the Iraqi Oil Ministry estimating Sevan's profits at $1.2 million.

• The U.N. investigators also released 58 internal audits that revealed numerous instances of rampant mismanagement by the U.N., exposing a program rife with sloppy stewardship and riddled with "overcharges,"double charge[s]" and other "unjustified" waste of more than $100 million.

• Our subcommittee disclosed overwhelming evidence that a U.N. agent took a bribe of $105,000 to help Saddam cheat the Program.

• The Volcker committee determined that the U.N.'s process for awarding three multi-million-dollar contracts in the program was "tainted."

Last week, the avalanche continued. Specifically, the Volcker report found that the secretary-general failed to adequately investigate or remedy a serious conflict of interest -- namely, that the U.N. had awarded a massive contract to the company that employed Annan's son.

Most disturbing was the Volcker panel's finding concerning Annan's chief of staff, who -- on the day after the Volcker committee was created -- authorized the destruction of three years' worth of documents. This report did not "exonerate" Annan -- rather, it chastises him for yet another serious lapse of management, and identifies more serious misconduct by Annan's hand-picked advisers.

This newspaper, like Volcker's committee, was mistaken when it wrote that "the secretary general is not involved in procurement decisions."

The program's rules clearly obligate the secretary-general to appoint the U.N.'s inspection agents. The agreement between the Secretariat and Iraq states: "The arrival of goods in Iraq purchased under the plan will be confirmed by independent inspection agents to be appointed by the Secretary-General." The rules of the Security Council committee similarly obligate Annan to appoint the inspection agents.

The secretary-general's failings, however, are not limited to past mismanagement. For instance, he has failed to strip Sevan's diplomatic immunity, despite the wealth of evidence establishing Sevan's misconduct. Worse, the U.N. also agreed to reimburse Sevan out of oil revenues from the program for his hefty legal fees resulting from its investigation. That the U.N. would pay for Sevan's defense, when it has found him responsible for unethical misconduct, is beyond comprehension.

Only after an international uproar did the U.N. reverse its decision.

Despite this evidence, this newspaper alleged that my call for Annan's resignation was motivated by some connection with the White House. That claim is patently false. The administration disagrees with my call for Annan's resignation, and offered its support: "We continue to support Secretary-General Annan in his work at the United Nations." While we agree that the U.N. desperately needs reform, we simply disagree on whether Annan is the right person to effect those reforms.

The U.N. is a vital institution for the United States and the world, with the unique ability to lead an international response to global problems like nuclear proliferation, the horrifying spread of HIV-AIDS, economic and political rebuilding in war-torn regions, and worldwide poverty.

Because of its rarefied position, the U.N. must regain its credibility and fulfill its obligations with impeccable integrity.

These are the facts. And those facts point to an inescapable conclusion: For the good of the U.N., Kofi Annan must step aside and a true reformer be appointed. The time for half-measures passed long ago.

Exactly. Anyone who cares about the U.N. as a viable institution should demand Annan's resignation. Those who want the U.N. to go away loved it when Annan said "hell no" when asked if he would resign.

Instapundit links to another report along similar lines.
Confronted with soaring home prices, Californians are adopting a "buy now, pay later" strategy on a massive scale. The boom in interest-only loans -- nearly half the state's home buyers used them last year, up from virtually none in 2001-- is the engine behind California's surging home prices.

But all that borrowed money might be living on borrowed time. When higher bills start coming due, Herron and hundreds of thousands of other homeowners in the state will have to find ways to cope -- or will have to sell.

In the most dire scenario, if they owe more on the home than it's worth, they'll simply walk away. Abundant foreclosures could spark a downturn in the entire housing market, leading to the long-feared bursting of what some call a housing bubble.

Interest-only loans, and other forms of so-called creative financing that are far riskier than the traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, have allowed more people to afford homes in California even as prices have skyrocketed.

Interest-Only Mortgages - simply brilliant.... This can't end well.

Via Powerline, Zogby asked the following question, and somehow people are taking this to have some relation to the Terry Schiavo situation:
If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water," the poll asked.

A whopping 79 percent said the patient should not have food and water taken away while just 9 percent said yes.

So what this means to me is that 21 percent of the people understood what the question was trying to ask, and the others didn't want us to start starving people in wheelchairs. This question defines the class of people way too broadly. Someone with carpal tunnel syndrome falls into this question. The question almost seems to be about torture or some sort of Logan's Run solution for disabled people. It is just a really bad question, and is so flawed it has no real value whatsoever.

I wonder why the results are "quite different" than other polls...
More from Roger Simon. If Kofi cared at all about the U.N. he would have resigned months if not years ago. But clearly he does not care about the institution at all.

On a related point, that just shows how worthless the U.N. has become under Kofi: 6 of the 18 nations on the list of the world's most oppressive regimes also serve on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house...

The U.N. is such a joke its opponents don't have to do anything, they just are letting it destroy itself. Way to go Kofi.
Interesting op-ed piece by Michael Kinsley. In short, he writes:
Statistics back to 1959 make this clear. A consistent pattern over 45 years cannot be explained by shorter-term factors, such as war or who controls Congress. Maybe presidents can't affect the economy much, but the assumption that they can and do is so prominent in Republican rhetoric that they are stuck with it. So consider:

Federal spending (aka "big government"): It has gone up an average of about $50 billion a year under presidents of both parties. But that breaks down as $35 billion a year under Democratic presidents and $60 billion under Republicans. If you assume that it takes a year for a president's policies to take effect, Democrats have raised spending by $40 billion a year and Republicans by $55 billion.

First, why didn't Kinsley look at who controlled congress versus which party held the presidency? I think using the presidency is a flaw in and of itself. But the bigger problem is that Kinsley doesn't seem to consider at all what I think is the most important variable: whether the Republicans are forced to pass spending increases by the Democrats in order to pass other legislation that the Republicans want. Obviously this would take a great deal of time and effort to study most likely, but that doesn't mean it isn't the factor that explains this data.

So, while interesting, Kinsley's op-ed piece is pretty meaningless really since he doesn't even attempt to address the most obvious (and probable) explanation for the data.
According to the Sun-Times:
Never in its 60 years of existence has the United Nations been so awash in scandal. The institution set up to engender world peace has been besieged by reports that its officials were on the take, that its soldiers raped women and girls in Congo, that the son of its secretary-general was engaged in a serious conflict of interest. In terms of managing its business, the United Nations has become sorely dysfunctional.

Much of this, unfortunately, has happened under the watch of Secretary-General Kofi Annan. There is no question that if any of these incidents had occurred at a major U.S. corporation, Annan would have been quickly ousted from his job as CEO. But this is the United Nations, where back-room politicking and power struggles seem to trump sound business practices.

Of course corporations are answerable to their shareholders, whereas the U.N. continues to get billions from the U.S. taxpayers and other nations regardless of whether it is all being pocketed by U.N. leadership.

The U.N. is the best get-rich-quick scheme in history.
Saturday, April 02, 2005
I find this part of the story interesting:
The pope was known for his energy, intellectualism and activism on the global stage. His health had been deteriorating severely for several weeks and he had battled Parkinson's disease and crippling arthritis for years.

John Paul II had been slipping in and out of consciousness on Saturday after his heart and kidneys started to fail after a urinary tract infection.

Navarro-Valls said that despite his precarious health, the pope had decided to remain in his residence at the Vatican, rather than returning to Gemelli hospital in Rome, where he had been hospitalized twice since February.

So it is okay for the Pope to allow himself to die despite the availability of medical care that could have kept him alive longer? Interesting.
Friday, April 01, 2005
Per the Smoking Gun, another Idol contestant has a checkered past, with an arrest for a domestic dispute in which he allegedly shoved his fiance, and threw a phone that struck her chest causing the phone to break....

If the producers didn't know about this, they either are fools for not running background checks, or they need a better investigation service.
Vodkapundit points out that Friedman makes, what I consider, an unforgivable error in attempting to use a poker analogy.

Friedman wrote:
And this poker hand is seven-card stud, no-limit Texas Hold 'Em.
Which, as Vodkapundit points out, makes no sense (although I suppose technically Texas Hold'em is a form of seven-card stud - so perhaps Friedman got this from some poker website that was explaining variations of poker - but it still makes no sense).

In context, I think Friedman was trying to make the point that secretary of states have to deal with issues that are determined by randomness and luck. So I think the best analogy would really have been five card stud - you get five cards and you are stuck with them. No matter how crummy they are you have to play them (or fold them).
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