Saturday, April 23, 2005

"To Dems, It's 1974 Forever"

"If you agree that President Bush has no automatic right to call himself Lincoln's successor just because they are both 'Republicans,' then Democrats have no automatic right to FDR's mantle either. The Democrats and Republicans switched roles while no one was looking...

The filibuster scheme perfectly epitomizes modern Democrats. Republicans want to move forward, confirm some judges. The Democrats' response: Freeze! Or we talk you to death. Democrats are the Stand Still party. They adore the status quo.

Conservatives won't settle for the status quo. They want this nation to champion justice, humanity, democracy. Democrats want America to tip-toe around the globe minding its own business, upsetting no one, venerating the Earth, etc. Why did Democrats leap to label Afghanistan and Iraq "new Vietnams"? Vietnam was 30-plus years ago! But for Democrats it is always 1974. Things change — but Democrats don't...

Many people have noticed that today's political scene is confusing, hard to read — Republicans wanting to save the world, Dems shouting "mind your own business." Republicans worrying about poor people's stake in society, Dems muttering "wake me up when it's over." Republicans sticking up for Israel, left-wing anti-Bush rallies toying with anti-Semitism. It's all terribly confusing, until you notice that you are looking at the picture upside down. Once you understand the Big Switch, everything starts to make sense. "
Interesting editorial in yesterday's LA Times.

NRO Editors on Bolton

The Editors on the John Bolton & Colin Powell on National Review Online: "John Bolton is being attacked precisely because he is a Bush loyalist. The battle over his nomination is a proxy for what has been the essential nugget of so many of the internal fights over Bush foreign policy - whether the president gets to set its direction or not. It is time for Bush to stop making general complaints about "politics" playing a role in the nomination fight and instead call Democrats on what is their real objection to Bolton: that he will be too aggressive in representing the U.S. at the United Nations and in challenging the corrupt and ineffectual status quo at the world body. That will create a debate that Bolton's defenders can win. Bolton was a Bush loyalist; now Bush must be a Bolton loyalist."

Friday, April 22, 2005

Own Any Google?

Google's Earnings Jump 477% : "Google Inc. yesterday reported that its first-quarter profit more than quadrupled and revenue nearly doubled because of surging online ad sales. The news, disclosed after the close of the regular trading day, sparked a rally in the search engine giant's stock price.

For the three months ended March 31, Google reported profit of $369.2 million ($1.29 a share), up from $64 million (24 cents) in the first quarter last year. Revenue, almost entirely from online advertising on Google and its partner Web sites, increased 93 percent, from $651.6 million to $1.3 billion this year.

Google stock shot up nearly $20 in after-hours trading as share prices pushed above $220. Google shares, which started the week trading at about $185, started rising earlier this week following rival Yahoo Inc.'s positive earnings report, which was released late Tuesday. Google went public in August at a price of $85 a share. "

Private Schools Closing Achievement Gap

The Heartland Institute - by Andrew J. Coulson: "A recent analysis of national test score data suggests private schools do a better job than public schools of closing the achievement gap between black and white students as they progress from fourth to 12th grades.

That was true despite the fact that the disproportionately higher dropout rate among African Americans in public schools tends to remove poor performers from the test-taking population of public school seniors.

Closing the achievement gap between black and white students has been one of our nation's overarching goals for half a century. However, there remains a gulf of more than 200 points between the SAT scores of white students and black students, and black children trail their white peers by significant margins on every subject tested by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)."

Similarly, in a study comparing graduation rates of all Milwaukee public school students (of all income levels) with those of the low-income participants in the city's private school voucher program, Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Jay Greene found the voucher students were more than one-and-a-half-times as likely to graduate as public school students.

More remarkable still, Greene found this to be true even when he compared the voucher students with those attending Milwaukee's elite group of academically selective public schools.

This higher graduation rate in private schools is not only a boon in itself; it also casts the private sector achievement gap reductions in an even more favorable light. Dropouts tend to be poor performers academically, so when they leave the test-taking population, the average test scores of the remaining students usually rises.

This dynamic should generally improve the test scores of public high school seniors, which means public schools have an even worse impact on the test score gap than the statistics show."
Read it all for actual statistics and more analysis.

Businesses Need Blog Strategies

Blogs Will Change Your Business: "monitor the blogs to see what people are saying about your company. (An entire industry is growing to sell that service. Even IBM's (IBM ) banging at the door.) Next step: Damage-control strategies. How to respond when blogs attack. He says companies have to learn to track what blogs are talking about, pinpoint influential bloggers, and figure out how to buttonhole them, privately and publicly."

He gives the example of Netflix (NFLX ). When a fan blog called Hacking Netflix asked the company for info and interviews last year, Netflix turned it down. How could they make time for all the bloggers? Predictably, the blogger, Mike Kaltschnee, aired the exchange, and Netflix faced a storm of public criticism. Now Netflix feeds info to Kaltschnee, and he passes along what he's hearing from the fans. Sounds like he's half journalist, half consultant -- though he insists Netflix doesn't pay him."
This is an excerpt from the current issue of Business Week out today that has a major (long) story on blogs and the importance of the new medium for business. Read it all on line or pick up a copy.

Benedict XVI Loves Cats, Conversation

In German town, Benedict XVI known for love of cats, conversation - Yahoo! News: "The pope loves cats, can't resist Christmas cookies and, three months ago, waxed on about how he dreamed of retiring...

Agnes Heindl has been Georg Ratzinger's housekeeper for 10 years, and she's come to know the new pope well.

She said she often drove then-Cardinal Ratzinger to his house after the brothers had shared Sunday dinner. His favorite foods were Weisswurst - the traditional white Bavarian sausage - and anything sweet. She said he's known for trying every type of Christmas cookie at a party.

She spoke with him again this week. He called on Wednesday morning, after getting busy signals at his brother's house Tuesday night. When she answered, a well-known voice said: "Can I please speak to my brother."

"The Holy Father called, and all I could do was stammer, `So how do I address you now?' He laughed," she said.

She said she's glad she heard him laugh. His new job isn't easy, and he'll need to laugh. She said that when he was relaxing, there was never a mystery about what would make him laugh.

"Oh, cats," she said. " He loves them."
The story is worth a quick read to see the human side of Ratzinger.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Michael Novak on the New Pope

Pope Benedict XVI Posted by Hello

Rome's Radical Conservative: "One of Cardinal Ratzinger's central, and most misunderstood, notions is his conception of liberty, and he is very jealous in thinking deeply about it, pointing often to Tocqueville. He is a strong foe of socialism, statism and authoritarianism, but he also worries that democracy, despite its great promise, is exceedingly vulnerable to the tyranny of the majority, to 'the new soft despotism' of the all-mothering state, and to the common belief that liberty means doing whatever you please. Following Lord Acton and James Madison, Cardinal Ratzinger has written of the need of humans to practice self-government over their passions in private life.
He also fears that Europe, especially, is abandoning the search for objective truth and sliding into pure subjectivism. That is how the Nazis arose, he believes, and the Leninists. When all opinions are considered subjective, no moral ground remains for protesting against lies and injustices.
Pope John Paul II thought the first issue of his time was the murderous politics that resulted from the separation of Europe into two by the Soviet Union. He saw it as chiefly a political issue, to be defeated by moral means.
Pope Benedict XVI, like several of his namesakes back to St. Benedict himself (the founder of Western monasticism and patron saint of Europe), is more likely to take culture as the central issue of the new millennium: What is the culture necessary to preserve free societies from their own internal dangers - and to make them worthy of the sacrifices that brought them into being? "

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Senator Jeffords Will Retire!

Senator Jeffords Says He Will Retire Next Year: "Senator James M. Jeffords, the independent Vermonter whose defection from the Republican Party in the spring of 2001 gave control of the Senate to the Democrats for 18 months, said today he would not run for re-election next year because of his and his wife's health...

...CNN reported this afternoon that an apparently confused Mr. Jeffords had recently appeared in the House of Representatives, where he served earlier, and been told that he was in the wrong chamber...

...Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor whose presidential campaign soared early and flamed out almost as suddenly, had also been rumored to be contemplating a Senate run. But he told reporters today he would stay in his current post, chairman of the Democratic National Committee."
Best wishes to the Sen. and his wife...and with respect I am glad he will be gone.

NYT Editorial: The New Pope

"The new pope is, at 78, not likely to serve long enough to have the kind of impact his predecessor had. But the church has seen men elected as supposedly transitional figures in the past turn into agents for sweeping change. The beloved Pope John XXIII was a recent example. And in an era as fraught with peril as today's, anyone who occupies the throne of St. Peter is given overwhelming power to do good and responsibility to prevent harm. Today, the world can only wish Pope Benedict XVI strength and inspiration as he takes on this extraordinary burden of spiritual, moral and political leadership."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

My Mom the Lobbyist

Mom and Dad in Action Posted by Hello

A personal note: My Mom is in Raleigh for a couple of days representing the library system of Western North Carolina and my Dad is out playing golf today. My Mom is 75 and my Dad is 86. I have indeed been blessed.

Ratzinger on Faith

Quotes by Cardinal Ratzinger, the New Pope: "''Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism... Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching,' looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards.
''We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.''
-- from a homily Ratzinger delivered at Mass hours before the beginning of the conclave that would elect him pope, April 18, 2005."

Ratzinger on Homosexuality

Quotes by Cardinal Ratzinger, the New Pope: "''It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church's pastors wherever it occurs... The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in work, in action and in law.''
-- from Ratzinger's ''Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,'' 1986, as reported by National Catholic Reporter."

Old and Dying In Prison

As inmates age, cost of health care climbs: "Tougher sentencing laws are keeping criminals in prison longer -- often into their 70s and 80s. As medical costs rise, states are struggling to control their prison health care budgets...
...At the state prison in Asheboro, Thomas Taylor walks gingerly with a cane and takes five pills a day. He's had two heart attacks and prostate cancer and now suffers from arthritis and occasionally gout.

Taylor, a convicted rapist serving a life sentence, is at least 88, the oldest inmate in North Carolina's prison system.

The white-haired inmate is among more than 2,950 convicts locked up in the state's prisons who are 50 and over. More than 100 are in their 70s and 80s...
Across the country, state prisons held more than 39,000 inmates age 56 and over in 2002. Two years earlier, there were about 33,000 inmates that age.

The nation's state prisons spent $2.5 billion on inmate medical care in 1996. The price tag in 2001 was $3.3 billion. That's about 12 percent of the prison systems' total operating expenditures.

State prison systems across the country have had to take measures to care for their older inmates. They've set up infirmaries, nursing homes and handicapped-accessible accommodations."

Monday, April 18, 2005

John Edwards the UNC Sponsored Politician

Recall my previous posts questioning Edwards travel and speeches sponsored by UNC. Here's more remarks:

"The person who used to be U.S. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., is now Professor John Edwards, UNC Chapel Hill. The guy who narrowly missed out on being the nation's vice president is now the first director of the UNC School of Law's Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, an initiative created to fit his interests...
...When Ferrell Blount looks at John Edwards, he sees a man running for president.

"John Edwards is not subtle. If he has announced for president in '08, I haven't heard it," said Blount, chairman of the N.C. Republican Party. "But all of his actions indicated that he's running for president again."

Blount is bothered by Edwards' new post at UNC, which he views as nothing more than a vehicle for the former senator to operate his next campaign.

"The poverty center has been set up as a re-launching platform for an '08 bid at the taxpayers' expense," he said. "The state of North Carolina can't afford to be setting up political organizations for Johnny Edwards."
If you're interested in Southern politics a must read.


WSJ: "The plain fact is that Hillary Clinton is actually one of the worst politicians in national politics today. She is feared as a brilliant politician only because she is such an obvious politician, which is actually the key mark of a bad politician. "
Worth a read.

Faith-Based Charity

OpinionJournal - John Fund on the Trail: "It's now time to take the next step and rethink the wisdom of having so much of the responsibility for aiding the poor fall to government bureaucracies rather than private groups. In our daily lives and choices most of us already have done some of that rethinking. Ask yourself: If you had a financial windfall and decided to tithe a portion of it in a way that would best help the less fortunate, would you even think about giving a check or donating time to the government? "


"Whatever the outcome of President Bush's push for personal accounts in Social Security, one of its effects deserves to be damage to whatever credibility AARP had left as a pragmatic and non-partisan organization..."

AARP "...sit[s] across the table from its interlocutors at the White House and pretend[s] to be sincere about its desire for compromise. And it's almost enough to make us long for an intrepid antitrust lawyer to take on the senior lobby. One thing's for sure: We're never going to have a reasonable debate about policies for an aging society as long as AARP has an effective monopoly on that role."

Sunday, April 17, 2005

I Oppose Nukes in the Senate

I oppose the nuclear option. First read Geo.Will from last month - Why Filibusters Should Be Allowed : "Exempting judicial nominations from filibusters would enlarge presidential power. There has been much enlargement related to national security -- presidential war-making power is now unfettered, Congress's responsibility to declare war having become a nullity. Are conservatives, who once had a healthy wariness of presidential power, sure they want to further expand that power in domestic affairs?
The Senate's institutional paralysis over judicial confirmations is a political problem for which there is a political solution: 60 Republican senators...The president believes that Democratic obstruction of judicial nominees contributed to Republican gains in 2002 and 2004. In 2006, 17 of the Democrats' seats and that of Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, their collaborator, are up, five of them in states the president carried in 2004....
No Democratic filibuster can stop the 2006 elections. Those elections, however, might stop the Democrats' filibusters. "
Judicial appointments are very important - my understatement of the day. I respect opinions of the minority as typically I tend to disagree with any majority. I am a believer in republics perhaps more than pure democracies yet believe the opinion of the "common man" is most often better than the opinion of an out of touch professional politician. If we agree the judicial branch is very important, requiring 60 votes to move an appointment forward is not unreasonable. I long for the day America returns to real Senators as our founders envisioned rather than pontificating media hounds determined to be re-elected or become President.-WAA

Darfur Genocide

Kristof in The New York Times: "If the Bush administration has been quiet on Darfur, other countries have been even more passive. Europe, aside from Britain, has been blind. Islamic Relief, the aid group, has done a wonderful job in Darfur, but in general the world's Muslims should be mortified that they haven't helped the Muslim victims in Darfur nearly as much as American Jews have. And China, while screaming about Japanese atrocities 70 years ago, is underwriting Sudan's atrocities in 2005.
On each of my three visits to Darfur, the dispossessed victims showed me immense kindness, guiding me to safe places and offering me water when I was hot and exhausted. They had lost their homes and often their children, and they seemed to have nothing - yet in their compassion to me they showed that they had retained their humanity. So it appalls me that we who have everything can't muster the simple humanity to try to save their lives. "
Kristof has done an admirable job pointing out our (US) and the world's (UN) failure on this horrible tradgedy.

Taxes by Snail-Mail Down 84% since 2001

"...[S]lightly more than half of individual taxpayers will file online, the largest number yet. US Postal Service spokeswoman Joanne Veto said that Post Office branches probably will handle about 6.5 million pieces of tax-related mail today. That compares to 40 million pieces on April 15, 2001. It's important to note that the Internet doesn't account for all of that dramatic shift. Many people take their returns to professional services, which then file them electronically. And to give some idea of relativity to these numbers, the Postal Service handles approximately 100 million letters, cards, packages and other material every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. "

Contra View to Santorum Below: 'Don't Alter The Filibuster'

From Steve Moore, et. al., Don't Alter The Filibuster: "...we are deeply troubled by the talk in the Senate of overriding the rule that requires 60 votes to close off debate. This rule has been a critical protection of the minority against simple majority rule in the Senate.
Senate Republicans, who are in the majority today with 55 votes, seem to forget that throughout the 1950s, '60s and '70s, it was they who were in the minority and who used the filibuster to great effect against a tide of Democratic initiatives. When the political winds shift, Republicans will be back out of power in the Senate and will be reminded of the virtues of the filibuster in protecting their minority positions.
Some critics say that it is illegitimate to use the filibuster against judicial nominees when the Senate is performing its "advise and consent" function. But in the past, filibusters have been used to block judicial appointments.
What troubles us most is that the "nuclear option" could become a routine tactic for the majority party in the Senate to push legislation through with only a 51-vote requirement for passage. The Senate was always envisioned by the Founders to be the deliberative body in Congress, in which the heated emotions of the moment's debate could cool before new laws or judges were approved. The filibuster and the 60-vote cloture rule are nearly indispensable in facilitating full debate and strong consensus for legislative action. "

Sen. Santorum on Judicial Nominations

Majority Vote Should Trump Minority Rule : "the Democratic leadership has written the American people out of the Constitution's system for appointing judges. The people have only two methods for influencing the selection of federal judges: their votes for president and their votes for senator. In November they rejected the presidential candidate who vowed to impose an ideological litmus test on all judicial nominees, and they chose the one who promised to appoint men and women who would uphold the law. They voted out the Senate minority leader who devised these destructive judicial filibusters and returned a Republican Senate with an enlarged majority. Senate Democrats, however, have opted to disrespect the people's voice and continue their audacious and constitutionally groundless claims for minority rule.
If a senator opposes a nominee, that senator should go to the Senate floor and explain why -- to the American people and the Senate. The senator should try to convince 50 colleagues that they ought to vote against the nominee. And when the nomination comes to a vote, the senator should vote no.

For over 200 years, that was how senators opposed nominees. The time has come for the Senate to reestablish that tradition, to end these destructive judicial filibusters and to give all judicial nominees the up-or-down vote they deserve. "

George Will: 'Suicide by Secularism?'

George Will: "Europe itself is withering. On the day of John Paul II's funeral, the European Union's statistics agency reported that the decline of birthrates means that within five years deaths will exceed births in the European Union. By 2013 Italy's population will begin to decline; the next year Germany's will begin to drop. After 2010 Europe's population growth will be entirely from immigration. By 2025 not even immigration will prevent declining fertility from accelerating what one historian calls the largest 'sustained reduction in European population since the Black Death of the 14th century.'
In his new book "The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God," George Weigel, biographer of John Paul II, argues that Europe's "demographic suicide" will cause its welfare states to buckle and is creating a "vacuum into which Islamic immigrants are flowing." Since 1970 the 20 million legal Islamic immigrants equal the combined populations of Ireland, Denmark and Belgium.

"What," Weigel asks, "is happening when an entire continent, wealthier and healthier than ever before, declines to create the human future in the most elemental sense, by creating a next generation?" His diagnosis is that Europe's deepening anemia is a consequence of living on what he considers the thin gruel of secular humanism that excludes transcendent reference points for cultural and political life."