Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Power of Media 

I find it interesting that it took Chavez' gagging of a popular TV station to bring protesters into the streets.

Chavez has been systematically destroying the Venezuelan economy since his last "election" to the Venezuelan presidency, causing shortages of food and other goods, mass unemployment, destruction of productive industries and decaying infrastructure, but none of those things had the effect that closing down RCTV did.

Marx said, "Religion is the opiate of the masses." Perhaps at the time that was true, but today I think it would be more accurate to say that TV is the opiate of the masses. And if you get between an addict and his fix, you'd better watch out!

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Radio Station 

My favorite radio station is KPRI FM, 102.7 out of Encinitas, CA. It is independently owned and plays a mix that I've never found 0n any other station. I am now spoiled from listening to it, and get bored listening to pretty much any other music station.

Unfortunately, they discontinued streaming audio on the Internet on 24 April 2007 due to a decision by the Copyright Royalty Board that drastically increased the royalties that internet radio stations must pay the copyright holders of music that is played, apparently over and above the royalties that are paid for broadcasting over the air. That's a shame, because this is the kind of station the world needs to hear.

If you live in San Diego, your likely to be able to tune in if you're north of I-8 or have a line-of-sight to the station's transmitter in Encinitas. If you're a thinking music fan who likes to hear a little from all genres and a little from all decades from the 60s to the present, and can receive KPRI's signal, by all means try it out.


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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

If You Like Jimmy Carter ... 

you'll love John Edwards.

If he's not blowing smoke to pander to the lefty base, he's obviously one of those people who don't believe that militant Islam represents an existential threat to western, and in particular American, civilization.

If he is blowing smoke to pander to the lefty base, what does he really believe? This is the problem with him, Hillary, and especially Barack Obama. They just don't have enough of a track record to know what they'd do as President, although with Hillary, I think you can pretty much expect euro-style socialism on domestic issues.

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One Teensy-Weensy Little Question .. 

about the immigration bill. (Full disclosure: I haven't read the bill and generally don't know anything about it except what's been reported in newspapers and on TV.)

As I understand it, one of the provisions of the bill is that illegal immigrants will have to pay a $5,000 fine in order to obtain the "Z visa". My question is, what happens to an illegal immigrant who can't or won't pay the fine? If he's not immediately deported, won't that encourage all the 11,999,999 illegals not to pay their fines?

Again, without having read it or even much about it, I'm feeling that the immigration bill is something that's been cobbled together so the pols can say "we addressed the issue," when in reality all they're doing is kicking the can down the road. When we see it again, it'll be a much bigger can--say a 50-gallon drum.

On a gut level, I tend to side with those who want to get the border under control first, then deal with the legal status of those who are already here.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Lawyers Overreaching? 

Today's Wall Street Journal has an editorial titled "A Tort Riot" (not currently available online to nonsubscribers) about how the proceeds of a $10 million class action settlement in a suit against Shell Oil are to be distributed. Mostly, it's about how the lawyers are fighting among themselves for the spoils, but to me the big story is how much "spoils" there are. Out of the total $10 million, the lawyers are divvying up $6.9 million. So 70 percent of the proceeds go to the lawyers and 30 percent go to the poor injured plaintiffs (who, according to the piece, each got "a new fuel gauge and a hundred bucks").

It seems to me that my brethren at the plaintiffs bar have gone a bit too far here.

To my way of thinking, if more than 50 percent of the gross proceeds of a settlement got to someone other than the plaintiff(s), then the purpose of the suit is more to enrich the lawyers and their allies (expert witnesses, etc.) than to compensate the plaintiffs for their losses. As such, I'd think someone could make an argument that the true beneficiaries, not being the injured parties, lack standing to bring the suit, or at least to take more than half of the settlement proceeds from the poor souls who so greatly deserve them. (Of course they deserve those proceeds--don't you believe the lawyers when they relate their clients' sob stories?)

I'd love to see some statutes enacted to ensure that the plaintiff(s) in any lawsuit receive no less than half of the gross proceeds of any settlement or judgment. The trial lawyers will tell you that they can't economically bring these cases if their income is restricted in this way, but I'd respond that if the cost of prosecuting the case is less than the return, it was a bad decision to sue in the first place, and the lawyer, who is the one making that decision, ought to bear the consequences of his poor judgment.

Maybe this idea could help in reducing the congestion in our courts, not to mention the ripple effect on the cost of doing business for every industry but the trial lawyers.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rosie's Mental Illness? 

I was in the grocery store this morning and saw a banner on the National Examiner tabloid along the lines of: Rosie's Battle with Mental Illness!

Rosie O'Donnell mentally ill? Who knew??!!!

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The Repub Debate 

Ron Paul ably represented the McGovern wing of the Republican party, and I'm sure both of his followers thought he did well. Myself, not so much. Whatever good ideas he might have will be completely overshadowed by his take on the Islamofascist war, and is ineptness in expressing himself. For him to continue as a candidate would be (a) embarrassing and (b) a waste of resources.

Tommy Thompson reminded me of Edgar Bergen's character, Mortimer Snerd, without the dumb bumpkin accent. As wooden as Al Gore, with rehearsed answers. Not impressive at all.

John McCain has my respect and admiration as a true hero, a true patriot, a truly honorable man and has some good ideas, but I don't think he's the man for the job. Anybody who's as willing to compromise as he is will get rolled by Congress, no matter which party is in the majority, not to mention the leaders of other nations.

I'll sign on with the conventional wisdom and agree that Giuliani won the evening, thanks to Ron Paul's "blame America first" analysis of Sept. 11. Romney did pretty well, too. The rest of the pack didn't hurt themselves and occasionally expressed some interesting ideas, but in the main didn't hit any home runs, with the possible exception of Huckabee's "John Edwards in a beauty shop" quip.

I say send Tommy Thompson and Ron Paul to the showers and put in Gingrich and Fred Thompson, and that would produce a much more interesting debate.

BTW, Fox News' "text-in" post-debate voting that had Paul leading in the "who won" category was obviously stuffed by Kos Kids and their ilk. It's a stupid gimmick that produced no useful information and ought not to be used again.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The People Have Spoken ... 

... but what did they say?

The Democratic leadership has made much of the fact that they won the last midterm election and achieved narrow majorities in both houses of Congress. Pelosi and Reid interpret this as meaning that the voters have repudiated everything the Republicans did while they held the majority, not least the Iraq war. I don't think that was the message the voters were sending. I think the so-called swing voters who decided the 2006 election (and almost every election in recent memory) were merely telling the Republicans that they had breached the promises made in Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" and had become much too comfortable with the trappings of power, handing out pork, not to mention the instances of corruption and self-dealing (Duke Cunningham and Jack Abramoff, e.g.).

In fact, the Dems "mandate" from the American people is mostly a figment of their collective imagination. America is mostly purple, with only a few places all blue or all red, and control of the two houses of Congress depends on the outcome in a small percentage of the voting districts because gerrymandering has made most seats "safe" for the incumbent party. These maps illustrate my point, and in fact were what inspired the wording in the preceding sentence. Also, scroll down to the "Recent Election History" graphic here. The races in the 31 House seats that changed parties in 2006 (effectively 30, because Vermont's single seat had been occupied by Socialist Bernie Sanders, and was won by a Democrat) were generally quite close. This Wikipedia article describes what happened in those districts. In most cases, a change of only 3 to 4 percent in the balloting would have led to a different outcome.

In light of these facts, I think the Dems are overplaying their hand, and might very well be shocked come November 2008.

As for Iraq, it may be true that American public opinion wants the Iraq war to end, but that's a "motherhood" argument (i.e., who in his right mind can be against motherhood--we are all here because of it). Even people like me, who think the effort in Iraq was the right thing to do, want the war to end. And I think horrendous mistakes were made after Saddam was overthrown--primarily during the time the Coalition Provisional Authority was running things, but continuing to the present. I think the vast majority of the mistakes have been made by the politicos and diplomats, rather than the military, primarily because the military is results-oriented while the politicians and diplomats are process-oriented. Being process-oriented when battling a foe like Islamofascist terrorists is, I fervently believe, a recipe for disastrous failure in the larger war for the preservation of Western civilization. (And yes, I do believe that's what is at stake.)

That said, I think the absolute worst thing we can do is to withdraw our troops before a clear outcome has been achieved. Contrary to what Sen. Reid says, we have not lost, but neither have we "won" the occupation. In a world where we still have troops in Europe more than 60 years after victory in WWII, it is folly to believe that we can safely leave Iraq to fend for itself before achieving some level of stability.

What about public opinion, you might ask. Well, since the lamestream media decided a long time ago to view the Iraq situation through its Vietnam lens, they have presented nothing but bad news since almost day one of the campaign. As noted above, due to misjudgments, ignorance and stupidity by (primarily) the political and diplomatic types, there has been ample bad news to report, but the media generally have done a piss-poor job of putting things in perspective and showing the strategic context of the effort in Iraq. The American people, who mostly know no more than what they hear on the evening news, have internalized the simplistic, negative message put out by the media and naturally they take a dim view of the situation. I won't go so far as to say the lamestream media are committing what amounts to treason, but if they were subject to the same legally enforceable professional standards as doctors, lawyers and engineers, they'd be sued for malpractice, and probably would lose big.

I welcome what appears to be a recognition of reality with respect to Iraq, dim and blurry as it may be, by the Democratic leadership following President Bush's veto of the pork-laden surrender bill, but they've got a long way to go, and I still think that they are more interested in seeking political gain than achieving any level of success in Iraq. As I've noted before, Dems talk about ending the war, but Repubs talk about winning it. At the very least, the Dems need to think about the strategic impact of what they propose. The American people would certainly like to see our troops home from Iraq, but I firmly believe that they don't want to see us crawling home with our tail between our legs like a beaten dog.

I also think the American people are tired of "business as usual" feasting on pork and are tired of corruption in both parties. A lot of folks are pretty disappointed in the difference between the Dems' promise of honesty in government and the reality of their control of Congress. If the Dems think otherwise, the next election will teach them the truth.

"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss," is a Who lyric many like to quote. What I'm hoping is that the American people in the next election will finally embrace the real point of that song: "Won't get fooled again."

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