MrSpkr's random thoughts . . .
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
An important message from Stop the ACLU
Stop the ACLU is supporting California Conservative's petition drive to urge retailers to stop running away from the term "Christmas" in favor of the bland "Holidays" that so many department stores rely upon today. Read a letter to retailers, sign the petition, and spread the word.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
I've been trying to blog, honest . . .
but things just keep going wrong.
I had a couple of great posts yesterday about the immigration problem and Bush's refusal to address it, but my poor laptop crashed before I could post either one. I think my motherboard and/or video card is thrashed, and, since disposable personal income is not a luxury to which I have access, I can't replace it and must suffer through. When I lose posts, though, it's hard to replace them.
Second, I'm still a bit down in the dumps. Last weekend, my beloved grandparents gave me a large amount of stuff -- old tools, a tool chest, some antique chairs, a pair of ancient firearms, etc., etc. -- that they are trying to get rid of as they prepare to move this February to a retirement community. They are having an estate sale early next year -- I hope I can attend and purchase a few things (unfortunately, the estate sale coordinator had already earmarked a number of items, so I couldn't take them this weekend).
The reason they are having the sale is two-fold: my grandmother has Parkinson's, and my grandfather has Alzheimer's. I knew about the Parkinson's; I was only dimly aware of the Alzheimer's until my grandfather and I spoke about it this weekend. I was too afraid to ask him if he was scared, though I did ask him what his prognosis was (what a stupid question that one is -- like anyone EVER has a good Alzheimer's outlook).
In addition, it is the holiday season, a time that is supposed to be joyful but can often turn stressful fairly quickly. Sigh.
Pray for me and my family. We need it.
Thanks for your continued interest. I'll try to bring back some verve and political fire soon.
Friday, November 25, 2005
All I want for Christmas . . .
okay -- admittedly, this isn't for me. It's for my wife.
But really, it's like lingerie. Technically, it may be a gift for her, but really, it's all about me.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Holidays are so bloody depressing sometimes . . .
all things considered, I think I would rather be back at the office.
We came to Oklahoma to see family last night. I haven't seen many of these people since last year. To see them all, a little older, a little more feeble, a little more ground down by the stress of everyday life is hard.
That's my family. My wife's family is a little livelier, a little happier, more prone to laugh . . . but I have never felt entirely comfortable with them. It's not them, it's me. They have been nothing less than gracious and hospitable to me for the past twelve years.
I don't know why I can't just relax and enjoy life with them, but I find it exceedingly difficult to do. In any event, it is frustrating.
Say a prayer for me. Tomorrow, I go to Tulsa again to visit my grandparents (the part of my family I am closest to emotionally). We are going to spend part of the day scanning some of my Grandmother's photo albums. I'm also going to take some family heirlooms home with me. My grandparents are selling their house of 40+ years this winter, and moving to a retirement community.
That change will be difficult for me to handle, too.
Finally, to add to all this, my father is getting some tests run on Tuesday. His red blood cell count is down significantly, and the doctor suspects internal bleeding. Dad's had Hodgkins, cancer, and type 2 diabetes (the latter since the 1960's). Frankly, his health is declining, and I am not ready to lose him yet. I just started getting close to him again.
You see, Dad divorced my mother when I was fourteen. I'm thirty-eight now, and I spent at least half of the intervening years hating him for leaving. Just when we started rebuilding our relationship, I had to leave Oklahoma in order to make enough money to feed my family. Seeing him twice a year instead of playing golf once a week is hard, too.
Sorry this has become a rather depressing rant. I hope you and yours have had a blessed Thanksgiving. I'll try to cheer up -- meanwhile, thanks for visiting.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
So that's why Michael Jackson is so screwed up . . .
It's not the "sleeping with young boys in his bed" thing.
It's not even the "bad press from dangling my infant son by one foot over an upper floor balcony on television" thing.
No, it's the JOOOOOOOOOOOO-OOOOOS!
In phone messages obtained by ABC News, theobviously prejudiced pop star likens Jews to "leeches" and claims they conspired to leave him "penniless."
"They suck...they're like leeches...I'm so tired of it," Jackson tells former adviser Dieter Wiesner in one of them. "The Jews do it on purpose.". Wow. Just when you thought Mikey couldn't score any higher on the Freak-o-Meter.
What a putz. I guess he'll be happy living near the Persian Gulf, huh?
I bet this drives Andrew Sullivan nuts . . .
The document, which says the Church can admit those who have clearly overcome homosexual tendencies for at least three years, is due to be released officially next week.
But it said practicing homosexuals and those with "deep-seated" gay tendencies and those who support a gay culture should be barred, a stand which was welcomed by conservatives both in the Catholic Church and in other religions.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
A-MEN to Dick Morris . . .
and his comments on the student loan "industry" that preys on college students.
Morris urges Bush to take on some pending legislation that would further restrict students' ability to deal with student loan debt. Right now, it is almost impossible to write off student loans in bankruptcy, and you can only refinance or consolidate student loans _one_ time (which means that kids with lots of late-1980's student loans are locked into interest rates much higher than the market would provide today). In addition, most states have laws that provide for the revocation of professional and trade licenses for people who are delinquent on their student loan payments.
Couple all this with Sallie Mae's market dominance. Sallie Mae used to be a quasi-independent federal agency. Most student loans went through Sallie Mae. It has since morphed into a completely independent corporation, but still enjoys the protections it had as a quasi-governmental agency. Sallie Mae opposes any deregulation of the student loan industry because Sallie Mae makes a lot of money off the current system (over $1 billion in profit last year alone).
Frankly, in my opinion, Morris' call for deregulating student loans is only a start. The problem is not merely student loans -- it is dysfunctional codependent relationship between colleges and universities on the one hand, and government willingness to throw money at them through increases in student loan and other federal student aid on the other. This steadily increasing supply of money essentially removes any market forces from limiting tuition increases. The end result has been a constant increase in tuition prices well in excess of inflation for the past twenty or more years.
But hey -- what's the problem as long as the feds keep throwing money at it, right?
No big deal . . .
we'll just bar them from flying to the United States.
The European Union's transfer of airline passenger data to the United States -- part of U.S. efforts to fight terrorism -- should be declared illegal, an adviser to the European Union's highest court said on Tuesday.You know, I have no idea whether that is an accurate statement of the law in Europe. Frankly, it wouldn't surprise me one bit.
Since May, 2004, the EU has shared with U.S. authorities 34 categories of information on airline passengers flying to U.S. destinations, including name, address, all forms of payment information and contact phone numbers.
The agreement sprang from one of the anti-terrorism laws passed by U.S. Congress in response to September 11, 2001, attacks using hijacked aircraft.
A court statement said: "Neither the (European Union) Council decision approving the agreement nor the (European) Commission decision holding that information be sufficiently protected by the United States have an adequate legal basis."
If the European Court of Justice accepts the advice of its adviser the data-sharing system will be made illegal.Well, that's fine. And the proper American response is pretty simple. Bar all such flights from entering U.S. airspace.
The Luxembourg-based court will likely rule next year. It follows the lead of its advisers in most cases.
I suspect that would put an end to that policy fairly quickly. I guess Europe could reciprocate, but tourism to Europe is already down -- what would they do to keep their feeble economies hobbling along without a bunch of fat American tourists with even fatter American wallets to prop them up?
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Woohoo if true . . .
al Zarquawi may have committed suicide in Mosul. This is actually mixed news -- capturing him and milking information would have been preferable, but his death is certainly a blow to the al Quaeda terrorists in Iraq.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Irony, thy face is Republican Congressional leadership
"One of the things that we cannot leave to that next generation is a huge deficit that they can't afford,' House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said after enactment of a $50 billion deficit-reduction bill."
Shortly after making this statement, the Speaker of the House (and he defames us all) joined fellow Republicans in passing a $3100 pay raise for all Congress-critters.
That's an additional $1,348,500 per year in Congressional salaries.
But hey, they are serious about reducing the budget, right?
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Lawyers love clients like this -- at least, at first. . .
then the client usually redirects their rage at the lawyer for not achieving the unattainable. Or for not paying the legal bill (or worse -- incurred outside charges, such as copy costs or deposition fees).
Then, those clients suck, because they tend to lash back at the lawyer for not obtaining instant results for a minimal amount of money.
Meet Paul Deignan. Mr. Deignan is a graduate student at Purdue. Recently, he got into a tiff with another blogger by posting comments on her blog. The blog owner, who goes by the pseudonym BitchPhD, banned him from further comments.
Meanwhile, another commenter on BithcPhD's site took umbrage at Mr. Deignan's posts and sent an email to Deignan's graduate advisor at Purdue. Deignan has now threatened legal action for libel. Additionally, through his blog, Deignan is slowly releasing information he has gathered that could reveal the true identity of BitchPhD.
If this reminds you of a playground spat or two siblings arguing at the dinner table, then you are probably not alone. Frankly, this is the sad side of the internet. I won't comment on the merits of any particular legal position. My sole observation is that, as a lawyer, I think clients such as these are wonderful so long as they pay a large retainer up front. Of course, the lawyer must diligently and scrupulously document everything he is doing for the case and obtain authorization for any actions (confirmed in writing to the client). Generally, clients with this kind of slavish devotion to righting a perceived infraction on their honor will spend a lot of money up front to obtain revenge, but become very jaded as the bills pile up, the passion winds down, and the realization that a succesful legal action is long, expensive, and arduous sinks in.
Those of you interested in more details of this spat can look to Creek Running North and PZ.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Anonymity behind the net is easier said than done.
I enjoyed Article III Groupie's blog, Underneath Their Robes. It was a gossip site about federal judges -- not normally my cup of tea, but useful as a resource when considering/speculating as to appellate and supreme court nominees. The blog has now disappeared, and Article III Groupie's identity revealed.
The lesson from this is twofold. First, you can never be totally anonymous, even on the internet. Don't do or say anything you wouldn't be willing to do or say directly to your audience.
Second, be wary of what personal information people divulge on the internet. You see, while Article III groupie specifically adopted a feminine web persona, "she" is actually a "he" -- David Lat, a 30 year old assistant U.S. attorney in Newark.
I wonder how many law nerds (you know, the guys who thought staying in the library until closing every night of the week so they could actually read each day's cases before class) had their fantasies crushed by this, err, expose?
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Cindy rewinds clock, demands fifteen minutes of fame be repeated
Really, I have sympathy for anyone who loses a son or daughter.
But this woman needs to get over herself and deal with her grief.
Tancredo is correct . . .
President Bush has always been out of touch with his base on immigration issues. In fact, some of Bush's earliest disputes with the conservative base were over immigration policies, such as the "temporary guest worker" program that many conservatives (including this writer) saw as little more than a "delayed" amnesty program. Most conservatives prefer the President simply enforce existing laws.
Recently, Bush attempted to reconnect with the base by announcing a "zero tolerance" policy on illegal immigration. The impression the administration gave was that we were finally going to get serious about keeping illegal immigrants out, and were going to begin deporting those already here.
That impression was highly misleading. The fact is, Bush's immigration plan ignores the greatest source of illegal immigrants to the United States: Mexican nationals crossing our southern border. Those illegal immigrants would apparently be eligible to stay in the United States under a "temporary worker program".
What, again, is the difference between a "guest worker program" and a "temporary worker program"?
Thankfully, conservatives have not been fooled by the administration's semantics. Unfortunately, that has not deterred those in Washington from acting against the desires and best interests of the American people on immigration issues.
The latest outrage is the recent enactment of a law shielding religious organizations from prosecution for knowingly transporting, concealing, harboring or shielding an illegal immigrant, so long as that immigrant is volunteering in a religious capacity (which includes working soup kitchens, doing mission work, or, presumably, any other sort of outreach work for the religious organization) (warning: .pdf file). The provision in question is on page 46, Section 796 of the measure (ostensibly a bill dealing with Agriculture and related appropriations).
At first blush, the law may seem benign, or even benevolent. I mean, Christian missionary work is a fine and noble thing, right?
Well, consider the fundamentalist Islamic jihadist who can be brought to the United States illegally and be harbored, fed, and sheltered by a radical mosque. Yes, we may be able to get the illegal immigrant out, but there is no repercussion on the fundamentalist mosque for its role in subverting federal law.
Or, consider the church group that believes it is a crime to keep non-citizens out of this country, and thus decides to begin actively helping illegal immigrants cross the border (for free) and delivers them to nearby metropolitan areas where they can try to blend in with the local population. Suppose they even use church busses to increase the efficiency of their operations?
They can now do so without fear of retribution or repercussions.
The sponsor of the measure, Bill Bennett (R-UT), says that it is a narrow exception to immigration law and that it could not possibly help terrorists in any manner.
Tom Tancredo (R-CO) puts the lie to that rather outrageous assertion. Read it all for yourself; then read Tancredo's own proposal (which is still flawed, but markedly better than Bennett's free pass).
When it rains, it pours
The night before last, the laptop decided to throw another wrench into the works. The hard drive, which had not given me any trouble previously, suddenly and mysteriously began buzzing.
Now, it won't boot up. I think it has a failed initial sector; in any event, it is D - E - A - D.
Replacement drives run about $100 - $150, which my wife quickly informed me was outside of our budget.
So, no gaming/blogging/surfing from home until we get this taken care of.
Monday, November 14, 2005
NCAA continues its march towards political correctness hell
On Friday, an appellate committee of the NCAA decided that the University of Illinois mascot, Chief Illiniwek, was a "hostile and abusive" image of American Indians. That means the University of Illinois must dump the mascot or be barred from hosting NCAA post-season events after February 2006.
I've blogged on this issue here and here. Frankly, this is sheer stupidity. The same folks that couldn't get the Atlanta Braves to ditch their team name or their "Tomahawk Chop" symbol found a way to impose PC-ness on colleges.
One would almost want to ask why terms like "Fightin' Irish" aren't deemed "hostile and abusive", but what's the point?
Friday, November 11, 2005
A different sort of prostitution . . .
but prostitution it is, just the same.
What are you . . . .?
| You scored as Batman, the Dark Knight. As the Dark Knight of Gotham, Batman is a vigilante who deals out his own brand of justice to the criminals and corrupt of the city. He follows his own code and is often misunderstood. He has few friends or allies, but finds comfort in his cause.|
Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with QuizFarm.com
Threatening changes in a local microcosm
Here in Dallas, one of the hottest economic topics concerns whether Congress should repeal the Wright Amendment. The Wright Amendment is a statute enacted by former U.S. Speaker Jim Wright that severely limits long-haul air travel out of Dallas Love Field. The law was originally passed in the 1970's as a measure to protect the newly created DFW International Airport. In effect, the Wright Amendment (and subsequent amendments thereto) states that passenger service could only be provided from Love Field to locations within Texas and the four neighboring states (Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico). Subsequent amendments have extended this zone to include Louisiana and Mississippi. The law specifically bars airlines from issuing tickets designed to get around the Wright Amendment (for example, issuing a ticket from Dallas Love to Houston Hobby, then from Houston Hobby to, say, Los Angeles).
In other words, the Wright Amendment grants DFW an effective monopoly on long haul air service in one of the nation's fastest growing metropolitan areas. The effect? Ticket prices for long-haul travel are much higher for North Texas residents than for comparable flights in any other part of the country.
Now, Southwest Airlines is engaged in a major campaign to get the Wright Amendment repealed. DFW, largely backed by American Airlines (the 800 pound gorilla at DFW) is fighting Southwest's campaign tooth and nail. Yesterday, Congress held hearings on the matter.
American/DFW's stand is, essentially, that the number of airline passengers will not increase much at all, and that repealing the Wright Amendment will hurt American and DFW because a portion of the long haul passengers will use Dallas Love Field. If DFW is correct, then it follows that reallocating a finite number of passengers between the two airfields will hurt DFW. Call this argument the "protectionism" argument.
Southwest's argument, however, is that lower fares will grow the size of the airline passenger market. Southwest believes that, by introducing more competition into the marketplace, fares will be reduced and more people will be able to afford to fly. Call this the "capitalism" argument.
In the end, I think Southwest is correct. Deregulation of the airlines industry has resulted in exponential growth of the airline's passenger base. This has happened time and again in markets served by multiple airports, like Miami, Houston, New York, Chicago, etc., etc. The impetus for Southwest's political campaign arises from hundreds of thousands of people fed up with more of the status quo -- overpriced fares at DFW.
In short, the real dispute is whether DFW/American should continue to enjoy an effective monopoly in the local market. Understandably, American does not want to allow competition to force it to roll back fares. DFW says it is afraid that it will lose passengers to Love Field and that the passenger base will not expand anytime soon, but the argument seems disingenuous considering that DFW recently completed a multi-billion dollar expansion project adding a new terminal. DFW is ten times Love's size, has lots of room to expand, and is about to be connected in on passenger rail service in the metroplex. Love, however, cannot expand -- it is hemmed in by business and housing -- and could not accommodate a vast influx of passengers even if it wanted to. Moreover, Southwest's business model would not work at DFW due to DFW's high fees in comparison to Love Field.
So why is this important? It is a great demonstration of how and why some economic mindsets succeed, and how others, more entrenched in their views, want little more than to enjoy a current advantage without regards to the benefits a change might bring. Apply the mindset to Congress. In 1994, Republicans were in the Southwest mindset -- let's bring some change to the marketplace of ideas; let's modify the status quo and see what we can accomplish for our base and the public; let's stop catering to special interests and make Congress for the people. Let's voluntarily impose term limits on ourselves, so that we can avoid becoming like the Democrats.
Now, ten years later, the Republicans in Congress are more like DFW/American -- we have power, we can do what we want, and we don't have to do anything more than throw a few scraps to our base. We certainly do not want to change the status quo because that might be dangerous to our grip on power. And term limits? Hah. We don't need no stinking term limits.
A rough analogy, but applicable. Wright will eventually be repealed. DFW and American will have to adapt to the changes, or founder.
The same applies to Republicans in Washington. Discontent among conservatives fueled the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress. Discontent among conservatives may well lead fracture the party and hand control back to Democrats unless Republicans can recognize and adapt to conservative demands for change.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
What I'm watching right now . . .
Johnny Cash in San Quentin. Powerful stuff, this . . .
Not just the music, mind you. Johnny Cash wrote some mighty powerful lyrics -- and I am not generally a country music fan, but Johnny's music transcends the genre. -- but he also knew how to reach out to the poor and downtrodden. And making a difference where he could.
I "discovered" Johnny Cash in my early twenties. I wish it hadn't taken so long.
Well worth your time to watch.
Wow. That took a little longer than I expected . . .
apparently, our blocking software listed Blogger and Blogspot as very naughty websites. I am back, however, and should resume normal blogging shortly.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
So accurate it's scary.
You are Leviticus.
Which book of the Bible are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
New to the Blog roll
Little Miss Attila, a fiesty conservative lass who first caught my attention when she questioned whether Boston Legal had gotten too political. Good reading.
Oh, and the answer to that particular question is "yes".
By the way, I know I have been neglectful lately. For some reason, the office anti-porn software now considers all blogger subdomains to be pornography. I think we got the issue resolved today, but won't know until the system recycles overnight.