Monday, September 29, 2003

I missed 60 minutes last night, but there is a good deal of chat about the Eminent Domain story they featured. In essence, localities are condemning property in order to sell it to big developers to increase their property tax revenue.
“We talked about this when we were dating. I used to point to the houses and say, 'Joanne, one of these days we're going to have one of these houses.' And I meant it. And I worked hard.”

Jim Saleet worked in the pharmaceutical industry, paid off his house and then retired. Now, he and his wife plan to spend the rest of their days there, and pass their house on to their children.

But Lakewood's mayor, Madeleine Cain, has other plans. She wants to tear down the Saleets' home, plus 55 homes around it, along with four apartment buildings and more than a dozen businesses.

Why? So that private developers can build high-priced condos, and a high-end shopping mall, and thus raise Lakewood's property tax base.

The mayor told 60 Minutes that she sought out a developer for the project because Lakewood's aging tax base has been shrinking and the city simply needs more money.

“This is about Lakewood's future. Lakewood cannot survive without a strengthened tax base. Is it right to consider this a public good? Absolutely,” says the mayor, who admits that it's difficult and unfortunate that the Saleets are being asked to give up their home.

The Saleets live in an area called Scenic Park, and because it is so scenic, it's a prime place to build upscale condominiums. With great views, over the Rocky River, those condos will be a cinch to sell.

This is really just an extension of the entire welfare state mentality that insists on taking from the haves and giving to the have-nots. The government was formed to protect property rights not run over them.
If you are interested in the California recall you might want to see this list that Daniel Weintraub puts together of California papers and their opinions on the vote. Most endorse a "no" vote on recall. Here are the positions, and the link will let you read the actual editorials.
The Bee: Vote no on recall

The LA Times: Why the Recall is Wrong

The Mercury: No…and nobody and Davis is Lucky

The Union-Tribune: Davis must go and Arnold the Outsider

Long Beach: Recall Davis, Elect Arnold

Sunday, September 28, 2003


Elia Kazan (1909-2003) was a great director of film and theatre, but he could never escape his involvement in the House Un-American Activities Committee.

The people who liked the HUAC said that Communism was a real threat to our country and needed to be exposed. Those who opposed HUAC said that people had the right to be communists and Russia had no influence on Hollywood or American politics.

Kazan told the HUAC that he was once a communist and then named some other people he knew to be communists. Many people during that era who had associations with Communists that didn’t come clean were blacklisted. Some in the entertainment business have never forgiven him. He was continually passed over for the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The Institute saw fit to honor young Tom Hanks and Schlock movie director Roger Corman instead. He did receive the honorary Oscar in 1999, but it wasn’t without incident. While Meryl Streep and Warren Beatty applauded, Ed Harris and Nick Nolte sat on their hands.

The conventional wisdom has been that HUAC overreacted, and that Joe McCarthy was a demagogue, and that the communist influence was never a threat. McCarthy was certainly self-serving, but KGB documents have since shown that Russia had made real in-roads inside Hollywood and was influencing the content of writers and movies. But instead of blaming McCarthy for his personal indiscretions alone, Hollywood has totally ignored the evidence that shows there was real danger. They blame people like Kazan now for being right.

Regardless of the politics, Kazan was a great director. When he was directing the original Broadway production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” Kazan debated Williams over the script. Williams went back wrote the entire third act of his play when Kazan told him that Big Daddy was too big of a character to not appear in the finale. The idea presented by Kazan changed the entire conclusion of the play and it’s the one we’ve seen in every production since.

As a movie director his films were heavy on message, but they were still entertaining and he got tremendous performances out of his actors. Movies like “Streetcar Named Desire,” “On the Waterfront,” and “East of Eden” are acknowledged classics, but he made a number of great lessor-known films.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1946) – When I saw this film I was surprised at how real and honest it was. It’s only peer in the female (Peggy Ann Garner) coming of age department is To Kill a Mockingbird.

Boomerang (1947) - This is based on a true story and has a definite documentary feel, although it’s a total dramatization. Dana Andrews plays a prosecutor who realizes the man on trial is innocent and proves him so.

Panic in the Streets (1950) – Great thriller with Richard Widmark trying to catch a gang of thugs that are also carrying the deadly bubonic plague. A bunch of great character actors, Zero Mostel and Jack Palance play the thugs, and Paul Douglas plays a police captain.

A Face in the Crowd (1957) – His two long stints on network TV would make you think that Andy Griffith was merely a wink and nod actor, but his performance in this film should have won him the Oscar. A country boy drifter who is made famous by television, Griffith plays jovial, enthusiastic, earnest, duplicitous, treacherous, destitute and remorseful all with directness and believability.

Splendor in the Grass (1961) – Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood struggle to please their parents in the 1920s. Teenage hormones had never been given this much weight in a Hollywood film. Though treated seriously here, it was certainly a precursor to comedies like Porky’s and American Pie.” It doesn’t hurt that Beatty’s character is named “Stamper.”

Friday, September 26, 2003


You’ve probably heard about those rascals around the country selling cookies on college campuses according to race and gender. It’s a clever way to make a statement about how we treat some groups differently. Southern Methodist University shut down a similar bake sale yesterday, because it created a “potentially unsafe situation.” There was some shouting it says.
"This was not an issue about free speech," Tim Moore, director of the SMU student center, said in a story for today's edition of The Dallas Morning News. "It was really an issue where we had a hostile environment being created."

If speech didn’t cause a hostile environment once in a while it wouldn’t need to be protected. In fact, closing the bake sale proved the point better than the bake sale itself. Who would have had the guts to close down a “diversity” bake sale? Only diversity of opinion scares people anymore.
"My reaction was disgust because of the ignorance of some SMU students," said Houston, who is black. "They were arguing that affirmative action was solely based on race. It's not based on race. It's based on bringing a diverse community to a certain organization."

I love this current argument about “bringing a diverse community to a certain organization." That’s the best spin I have ever heard. How can the argument that diversity helps an organization be supported? Is there an aggregate measurable benefit other than fewer lawsuits? The minorities that go to these schools usually segregate themselves anyway reducing any theorized benefit. "Bringing a diverse community. . . " sounds like typical white guilt for the sins of our forefathers rinsed out in the sink and made anew with a catchy pronouncement.

Affirmative Action really stems from a lofty notion that some people are too inferior to compete without special considerations. It’s always masked in a “society is to blame” statement, but that’s so progressive racists can feel good about their racism. What happens to the minorities that earned their way into college or the workforce by merit? They’re many times suspected of the kid glove treatment and looked on with a degree of skepticism.

The people who pat themselves on the back for supporting diversity probably still wonder when they see a minority in power if they actually earned it. It's easy for do-gooders to support it in general, but how many people are happy when they come face to face with it? Losing a job, a promotion or a spot in the Michigan Law School can make anyone wonder if politics caused their misfortune. Today’s institutionalized racism can just as easily come from the policies that were supposed to eradicate racism. We're chasing our tails by creating more of what we're "trying" to eliminate.

Why have a Martin Luther King Day if we’re not going to judge people as individuals? Why hold Dr. King up as the gold standard if his words about a colorblind society are inconvenient to modern wisdom? We’d be better to honor Al Sharpton’s birthday. He's a better advocate for today's thinking anyway.
For my film fan friends, here's an early review of Kill Bill. (courtesy of Drudge)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003


Since all we hear in the media is how disappointed the Iraqis are with our presence, it's interesting to see the recent Gallop Poll that says 67% of Iraqis think their country will be better off in five years. NPR was hilarious this morning stating that the poll wasn't scientific since the Iraqis have no phones. NPR didn't bother to mention that their sound bytes featuring disgruntled Iraqis weren’t scientific either. In fact, it might be nice to hear NPR tell listeners that none of their man-on-the-street interviews are scientific. I would be interested in hearing how many Rah Rah Rah Iraqis NPR has to cross of the list before they find a disgruntled one. For fairness though, NPR ended their several minute Bush bash with an Iraqi woman who said that people should have patience, things will get better.
China fears people reading Hillary's uncensored book in the privacy of their homes.

Hillary's home state fears people smoking in the privacy of their own cars.

Why are people so compelled to control other people?

Monday, September 22, 2003

Some speculation that General Clark is really clearing out the field for Hillary.
Suspend disbelief for a moment and consider the scenario. For Clinton to run, she needs more time to shake her pledge to New York voters that she would not seek the presidency this soon. The massive media buzz surrounding Clark's nascent campaign buys her time by diverting attention from the only threat to a Clinton bid — former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's dazzling rise in the nomination race.

Husband Bill publicly launched the pledge-dodge maneuver for his wife just as Clinton loyalists working for Clark leaked word to the media that the general would definitely run.

If Hillary thinks Bush is beatable, she will run. Those books sales convinced her that she has enough following to win now. It's a gamble either way. She could jump in and lose in 2004 and be done early, or she might sit out and watch someone else win the election and hold the job for 8 years. She would rather Bush win and get a crack at the open field in 2008, but is that the smartest strategy?

If I were Hillary, I would get into this. Her star power diminishes anytime other Democrats get the spotlight. Howard Dean has proven that nobodies become somebodies when their poll numbers increase. Let Dean win a couple of primaries and Hillary will slide further off the front page. Whoever heard of Bill Clinton 13 months before he became President? The Gephardts, Bidens and other prominent Democrat stars never recovered from his winning in 1992.

If you want something you cannot always wait for the perfect opportunity. You have to strive for what you can when you can.

Friday, September 19, 2003


Rob’s Shout Out reminded me of Eric Alterman’s book, “What Liberal Media?” so I gave it a go last weekend. Alterman’s a good writer and his blog is a good bet when you want to gauge the leftwing pulse. I haven’t read Coulter’s or Goldberg’s book on the biased media, but this book doesn’t seem to be a refutation of the points I have seen them makes in interviews. Alterman's book instead seems to be a re-definition of what is liberal.

Alterman does a fine job making his own case, but he seems to approach the material from a different set of premises than those who decry the bias. Alterman lists the areas of the media like talk radio that are dominated by conservatives. He then names all the famous conservative pundits on political shows. He also examines the number of conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation.

What he doesn’t refute or even examine is the conservative point that talk radio thrives simply because conservative ideas weren’t getting play anywhere else. Alterman thinks that through the punditry Conservatives are getting all kinds of time on the air. I can name more conservative pundits too, but Alterman goes further. He also lists Democratic pundits like Morton Kondracke and Christopher Mathews as conservatives. Cokie Roberts, the daughter of a Democratic House member, is a conservative. He even suggests that David Broder is a conservative.

He quotes Broder quite throroughly praising Reagan’s approach while criticizing Clinton’s. What he doesn’t address is Broder’s almost religious faith in the Federal Government and politicians to solve people’s problems. I remember reading Broder’s criticism of term limits. Broder couldn’t imagine how anything would get done in Washington without a permanent political class to run things. To Alterman, all criticism of Clinton is inherently conservative. He can’t imagine that liberals are frustrated that an engaging President missed an opportunity to promote liberalism, because of his own character flaws. It’s the same reason Broder might like Reagan’s style, wishing a liberal could turn up with such good political instincts. Never once does Alterman cite a quote of Broder praising Reagan’s tax cut or military buildup. To Alterman, it is enough that that he shows Broder praising the politician.

When it comes to economics, Alterman uses NAFTA as an example of how big media is economically conservative, but to attack NAFTA would have put the media to the left of the liberal President of the United States, Bill Clinton. What Alterman doesn’t mention is that the media constantly derides supply side economics. The fact that every major news anchor and player in the media speaks of tax cuts in terms of what they cost is a great example of liberal bias. Ignoring that tax cuts spur growth and create a larger amount of revenue never gets any play either among the big fish. Not once after Reagan’s tax cut in the 1980s did the government take in less tax revenue than the year prior. How often is that reported? The idea that taxes are actually the citizen’s money is never explored is any major media outlet.

The argument that these big corporations are controlling the mouths of the media is no where demonstrated in the book. Brent Bozell’s Cyber Alert newsletter is packed everyday with 4-6 examples of Major Media hosts taking the liberal line and Alterman doesn’t once address Jennings, Rather and Brokaw, Couric, or Gumbel. To him, the media is George Will’s 15 minutes at the end of the George Stephonopolis show.

He does spend a lot of time exploring the Heritage Foundation and Talk Radio, but it would seem obvious to me that these entities exist and thrive because they are a counter to the everyday media as we know it. Would there be any reason to listen to Sean Hannity if Peter Jennings were saying the same things? Would we need a Heritage Foundation if the New York Times were espousing personal liberty over equality? Would we need George Will if George Stephanopolis hadn’t spent his career working for Democrats? Regardless of who you pin as a conservative, it must be apparent that they are labeled conservative because their presence is to counter the opinions coming from the “objective” person.

At the bottom of page 109, Alterman completely yields the entire argument that conservatives make about media being liberal, but then ignores the point and continues his argument against the fact. Alterman says that even the New York Times isn’t liberal. Who is liberal? The NATION magazine alone is liberal in America, Alterman concludes. That’s like saying only the John Birch magazine, THE NEW AMERICAN is the only conservative voice.

His justification is that the whole continent of Europe is to the left of America and plenty of liberal magazines like the NATION thrive there. I would say that neither the NATION nor most of Europe is liberal. They are socialists. Just like the NEW AMERICAN people are isolationists. Both magazines are fringe elements that are ignored and not influential among policy makers. If you spent a day reading both magazines, you wouldn’t be surprised at how much they are opposed diametrically, but it might surprise you to find them in total agreement on trade issues and the like. They complete the circle, if you will, by being on the fringe.

The Democratic party is the leftwing party in this nation as the Republican party is the rightwing party. I would ask Alterman or anybody else to make a list of Democratic Party positions that aren’t supported by the mainstream press. Alterman made a good case that the media isn’t totally socialist, but his refusal to engage the specific criticisms that come from conservatives must mean that he has yielded those points.
Has it really been Monday since I have blogged? I've been busy this week working freelance in the morning and regular job in the evening. There are some issues that have been jiggling around in my head. Expect some action on a slower Friday.

Monday, September 15, 2003


The circus continues until March so says the 9th Circuit Court.
The court wrote today, "The choice between holding a hurried, constitutionally infirm election and one held a short time later that assures voters that the 'rudimentary requirements of equal treatment and fundamental fairness are satisfied' is clear. . . . These issues are better resolved prophylactically than by bitter, post-election litigation over the legitimacy of the election, particularly where the margin of voting machine error may well exceed the margin of victory.

Hummm. Florida has trouble with punch card ballots in 2000. People decided that punch card ballots were bad. 2002 California Gubernatorial election occurs with same punch ballots and no one remembers how undemocratic they are. Recall election planned for 2003 and someone remembers that they disenfranchise voters. Is the Davis victory in 2002 any more legitimate than what could be expected by an October 2003 vote?

If you polled the actual people who can't figure out the punch card system what percentage do you think could name the Secretary of State, the Speaker of the House, the Chief Justice, or even their own Congressional delegation? My bet is that less than 20% could name them all and less than half even know their own Congressmen.

It’s getting to be a semi-annual event where the media talks about voter apathy and the perils it causes democracy. But has anyone considered the perils we put democracy through when a court insists that simpletons are more important than the election itself? A real danger is that America becomes so apathetic that only the simpletons bussed to the polls with fresh $20 bills in their dukes will even care to vote.

The country would probably be better served if there was no California recall and Americans could get a glimpse of what happens to a state where the politicians insist on giving away all the money they can steal and borrow. But postponing the election because some people are too dense to understand how to vote is good indicator of why federal judges have too much power over the democratic process, and how we have watered down the voting franchise to the point where citizens aren’t responsible for anything but showing up and pushing the computer read-out screen.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Are the Network anchors biased?

Remember when conservatives were trying to slow the growth of government in early '95 with the Contract With America? Dan Rather characterized that as a "legislative agenda to demolish or damage government aid programs, many of them designed to help children and the poor."

ABC used to have a regular segment called "The American Agenda," which spent a lot of time explaining how government bureaucrats could fix your life--with things like socialized medicine--if only they had the power. Introducing one such piece, Mr. Jennings said "the best child care system in the world . . is in Sweden. The Swedish system is run and paid for by the Swedish government, something many Americans would like to see the U.S. government do as well."

One reason conservatives chide the networks is because they tend to believe any government program is more effective than a free market solution. Another reason is that they purport the sovereign nation myth by comparing any government on the face of the Earth as the equal to America. They do this by going to Cuba and interviewing Castro or going to Iraq and interviewing Saddam. Would these people interview Hitler if he were alive today? Would Barbara Walter lean in and smile and say, “De Fuhrer, what is it about your regime that the allies misunderstand?” “Benito, why isn’t Italy given enough credit for the trains running on-time.” “Generalissimo Franco, you’ve nearly eradicated illiteracy, what is it the world can take away from experiences in Spain?”

And that’s the big tell that it really is a bias. The networks tend to treat any totalitarian government that isn’t fascist in nature as legitimate, even as these countries slaughter their own citizens just for trying to leave.

Now maybe it can be said on the Left that the media takes other issues and sees them through the scope of rightwing thinking. It’s true that the networks were more gung ho early in the war than I would have thought, but I tend to think that was a reaction to FoxNews beating them in the ratings. Now that the major fighting is over, we’re hearing the chorus of critics with the Vietnam analogies.

When was the last time that supply side economics was given a fair treatment in the mainstream press? You’d think it was discredited despite Milton Freidman and Friedrich Hayek winning Nobel Prizes for purporting it. When the country boomed in the 1980s, it was described as the Decade of Greed. When the same thing happened in the 1990s it was cheered as Clinton’s economic program as if Clinton’s economy could have flourished under the pre 1981 tax rates.

It just seems like the basic idea that Americans can succeed without a federal government program is lost on the mainstream media. Can anyone think of examples where the mainstream media supported the free market over government intervention other than abortion?

Thursday, September 11, 2003


I was impressed with Rob's reply to my Natural Law arguments from a few days ago. Here’s my reply via the Plato method. The conversation concerns the validity of the Declaration of Independence as a defense for God in public life. Rob may have misunderstood my argument to be a defense of Judge Moore, and he spent a good deal of his reply on the Ten Commandments themselves and what they mean in legal terms. I agree with him that the Alabama case was certainly sensationalism to make a larger point.

The issue made me reconsider Natural Law. My larger argument was that God can and should be invoked in government locations for the sake of keeping alive in the notion that our rights do not come from our fellow men who can abuse them, but from a higher power.

Here’s the point by point:

ROB: Religious proponents have a long history of invoking the "Creator" passage in the Declaration of Independence, usually failing to acknowledge that it has no legal weight whatsoever. The Declaration of Independence is precisely what the name says: a statement by representatives of the British colonies that the colonies were no longer subject to the rule of either King or Parliament. The Declaration is the poetry and romance of the Night Before; The Constitution provides the messy, mundane practicalites of the Morning After.

TOM: The Declaration was certainly a legal document, even if it was written well. It was debated and amended and eventually signed by the Second Continental Congress. It had enough legal weight at the time to throw us full force into a war. If delegates had trouble with the creator language it would have been expunged. Instead, the creator gave justification for disobeying a king. The weight it holds today is in the eye of the beholder. There is no rulebook as to how to form a country. Legal weight or no, it has an important philosophical importance as to how the Constitution was drafted.

While the Constitution is not poetic, it doesn’t disavow the Declaration, it in fact, continues the essence of Natural Law by spelling out a Bill of Rights. The Constitution doesn’t say that government will decide your rights ad hoc according to the fads of the day. We had already disavowed a king who did that and we disavowed that king by invoking the Creator. By the time the Constitution was written it was a given that man’s rights came from God. Not even agnostics or Unitarians suggested that our rights should derive from some committee. That’s why they passed a 9th amendment to protect rights not spelled out.

ROB: Leaving that aside for a moment to address the proffered argument that the Declaration of Independence grants God a privileged place in American government, I find the position untenable. Reference is made to an unspecified "Creator" as a font of "self-evident" rights for self-realization. The point is not that the Constitutional Congress rejected a terrestrial ruler for a heavenly one; the point, rather, is that they innately possessed the right to rule themselves. This comports entirely with their prevailing Deistic viewpoint that, however we came into being, we're on our own.

TOM: We don’t need to decide as a nation that God is a Christian or Hindu, but God needs to be acknowledged to the extent that we remember that our rights do not originate from kings. It’s not important what each person visions when they hear God invoked, what is important is that everyone sees God as the idea that keeps men from tyranny. If the founders had only intended to rule themselves and the “Creator” was just poetry then they wouldn’t have needed a Bill of Rights, because they already had self-rule. The founding of America was about more than just getting the power back.

ROB: Sadly, little attention is paid to the immediately succeeding passage: "That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

That is, the law is the law not because God says so, but because WE say so.

TOM: But by ourselves we have no weight. What keeps us from being as corrupt as the last king? Why bother fighting a revolution to be ruled by another set of despots. In most revolutions since ours, a group of revolutionaries overthrow a government only to be under them thumb of a new dictator. What made us different is the invocation of a creator and the acknowledgement of natural law, followed by a Bill of Rights that spells out the convenant between Nature and man that cannot be infringed upon. This principle has secured our freedom as other countries reel in chaos.

This is why the current Judiciary attitude is so dangerous. It is taking political questions of the day away from the legislative branches and deciding law based on their own values and whims. WE don't say so anymore through the elective branches of government. THEY say so.

ROB: It''s my observation that judicial activism is consistently the scourge of the same group: the losers. The Far Right would have had no problem with the Supreme Court upholding the Texas sodomy law in defiance of the 14th Amendment; nor did it seem to mind when the most vocal states-rights conservatives interfered in the Florida recount. My point is that judicial activism is a tool readily utilized by whichever side has the votes; the moral high ground is pretty well vacant on that one.

TOM: I definitely agree that anyone group can benefit in the very specific, but I argue that we all lose in the general. Even your example of the Supreme Court getting involed in the Florida recount wouldn’t have happened had the Florida Supreme Court correctly ruled that they didn’t have jurisdiction in the case. Since Florida law states that elections are certified by the State Legislature, the Florida Supreme Court should have remanded the decision to them. Had the Florida court followed the law, there never would have been a need for the high court.

As time has passed more judges have transgressed the line between interpretation and legislation. Judges have gone from disinterested mediators to regents. Everything we hated about King George is becoming something that we can hate about our court system. The Creator is the last authority that stands between them and total rule.

If this was just an attempt to free the state from religion then the court wouldn't have ruled unconstitutional a moment of silence in lieu of actual school prayer. That’s the giveaway that their opposition isn’t Christian in nature, but philosophical. They use the Christian argument as a sort of tyranny of the majority, but what they actually resist is acknowledgment of something that has jurisdiction over them. If the court can be successful in eliminating Natural Law from the dialogue, then the coup will be complete. The Creator is the last authority that stands between them and total rule.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003


I think about how everyone was unified after the attacks on 911, and now we're in the midst of the most partisan shrieking I can ever remember. In some ways it is to be expected. The Republicans went after Clinton and for good reason, but like Connery says in the UNTOUHCABLES "They put one of your guys in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue." Clinton changed how we view our leaders for better or for worse. Clinton supporters are trying to put some in the morgue.

Some argued Clinton was the victim of a well-funded smear campaign or a cast right-wing conspiracy. A conspiracy would imply that the campaign against Clinton was secretive. But he was a polarizing leader from the start. We'd never had a 60s generation liberal in the White House before. He loathed the military, he cheated on his wife, and to buy her off he let her try to nationalize the entire healthcare system. These were unprecedented in American politics. Conventional liberals like Bob Kerry or Paul Tsongas or Michael Dukakis wouldn't have been so polarizing.

Even as important was the fact that 1992 was supposed to be a throwaway election. The top tier candidates were sitting out waiting for 1996. The conventional Wisdom was Bush 41couldn't be beat. Mario Cuomo, Richard Gephardt, Joe Biden and Al Gore had their eye on the next election. Republicans felt that a decent field of Democrats would have weeded out a charlatan like Clinton, but now because of Perot and the surreal aspects of the 1992 election we were stuck with someone that neither Republicans nor Democrats wanted.

The Democrats I knew at the time were uncomfortable with having Clinton win the nomination. Though some eventually voted for him, many considered voting for Perot. Gore was polarizing too. My liberal college friends weren’t happy about Tipper Gore’s Music labeling crusade nor Gore’s flip-flops on abortion. The thing I remember on election night was how many people were truly surprised that Clinton got elected.

His first two years were treacherous starting with gays in the military. It seems like a small issue now, but it reminded people at the time how little regard Clinton had for the military. Hillary’s health care initiative was so misguided that it led to the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. It was that event that galvanized Clinton as the Democratic standard bearer.

Suddenly I heard the Democrats who were embarrassed about Clinton attack Newt Gingrich in the way we had been attacking Clinton. Now, Speaker Newt was being treated like a President. I remember the day after the election Rush Limbaugh said that Clinton was irrelevant. Clinton actually answered Rush in a speech a few days later and said that he was relevant. By losing Congress in 1994, Clinton was able frame himself against the less affable Newt Gingrich. This was enough to ensure his re-election in 1996.

Even with re-election, the 1990s were a tough time for Democrats. They lost both houses of Congress and their two-term President was impeached. They wanted to think that it was nasty Republicans who were going after a good president, but if a non-controversial Democrat like Tsongas or Gephardt had been elected in 1992, I don’t think the Democrats would have lost Congress. Neither of those guys would have been impeached. Things would be much different today. The thing most certain is that Democrats wouldn’t be attacking Bush at the level they are now doing.

There is a message coming out of the media and the mouths of Democratic aspirants that Iraq was a big mistake and we’re in a quagmire. You wonder if these guys wouldn’t jump for joy at another terrorist attack on our soil. I keep hearing some vague strategy like we should be gathering up Al Qaeda instead, when everyone knows that Al Qaeda is being dismantled simultaneously. Little said is that the World Trade Center was first attacked in 1993, and it wasn’t treated as a national security risk. That was the biggest blunder of the 1990s, beating even public health care. Think about the lives that would have been saved if that first attack was treated seriously. Think about the lives that would have been saved if Clinton had made Iraq live up to the cease-fire agreement signed at the end of the Gulf War. Eight years of backsliding has led to war.

Listen to Joe Lieberman. He knows about the National Security dangers. He attacks Bush for being a cowboy, but that’s just empty rhetoric. Even liberals like John Kerry and Richard Gephardt backed the war in October of 2002 because they saw its necessity and realized its popularity. They didn’t expect Howard Dean to get all of the attention for his anti-war views.

I remember a friend who voted for Gore reacting to 911 saying that he was glad that Bush was President, because Bush would do something. Many democrats felt the same way at the time. Something has been done now. When Americans decide who is going to be the next President they need to ask if someone else would have done it better.

Anybody who has had a fair weather friend that begs and begs for help and then acts ungrateful when they get it can understand what Bush is going through now.

In the movie Room Service, the hungry Groucho Marx offers a bellboy a part in his play if he can delivery him and his friends some Room Service. Once Grouch has eaten he has changed his mind and says so. Another character asks Groucho, “You mean you promised him the role just to get the food?”

Groucho answers, “No, when I was hungry I intended on giving him the part, but now that I have eaten I see things in a different way.”

Not too unlike guys who run for President and people who vote for them.

Monday, September 08, 2003

An interesting article in Ad Age says that times are changing. . .
A huge, black man raises his arms to gloat obnoxiously over a foosball goal, and this vile underarm stench overpowers everyone in the room.

It's a Right Guard commercial, and it's wonderful.

Actually, the BBDO, New York, ad itself -- starring Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Warren Sapp -- is pretty ordinary, a sort of generic argument for deodorant with a brand name attached. What's wonderful is that the big stinker isn't white.

Try to imagine, say, 10 years ago, a commercial in which the butt of that joke would turn out to be African-American.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Robert Alt says that racism was behind the Miguel Estrada controversy.
Indeed, if Congress were an ordinary employer and a federal judgeship were treated as a job under federal antidiscrimination law, then Estrada would likely win on a claim of employment discrimination. . .

John Roberts was asked relatively few questions during his confirmation hearing, while Estrada was pummeled with over 200. Roberts, nominated the same day as Estrada, was confirmed by the Senate on a voice vote, while Estrada was denied the opportunity to even have a vote.

Democrats will inevitably respond that they opposed Estrada because they believed that he was conservative. But they had less reason to believe he was conservative than Roberts. This demonstrates what is at the heart of the issue: They opposed him more vehemently because he was perceived to be a conservative Hispanic, and as such is thought to be a viable Supreme Court nominee.

Democrats have long used threats of prejudice and racism to gain power. That's why Trent Lott is a racist and Robert Byrd is an elder statesman. Whether denying Estrada is racist or not, I don't know, but it fits the criteria for things they consider racist. If the media were conservative or even centrist, these kinds of contradictions would be lead stories on the nightly news.

Thursday, September 04, 2003


I have always been interested in how the Separation of Church and State seems to come up so often in a country founded by religious people. The Ten Commandments debate in Alabama made me look at the actual constitution again. Here is what the first amendment says.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

It says pretty plainly that Congress cannot establish a religion. It doesn’t say that Alabama cannot. It also says that they cannot prohibit the free exercise thereof. Does anyone think that means that the Supreme Court was designed to do whatever it wants, but Congress is limited? Nowhere in the document are the words, “separation of church and state” used. That was a 1960s idea put forward by the Supreme Court led by Earl Warren.

What did Jefferson say about God in the Declaration of Independence?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--

Jefferson’s words "endowed by their creator" are the essence of why the United States exists. Before America, your rights were something given to you by a king or pope. The king throughout history was thought to be God’s vessel and his decisions were sanctioned by God. This is why Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. By being the head of his own church he could not be questioned on any matter religious or public.

During the age of enlightenment, philosophers re-examined the relationship between ruler and ruled. The idea of Natural Law came into the consciousness. Natural Law states that human beings have rights separate from the will of popes and kings. This is the foundation of how America could come into being. Once rights were understood to have come from God and not kings, then they were “unalienable” as Jefferson would say.

Our founders believed that England was infringing on the rights of free men and started the revolution. The Constitution of the United States took this idea further by spelling out a Bill of Rights that the government couldn’t infringe upon. The founders were worried that future leaders would try to become kings and rule by fiat. This couldn’t be done if the Bill of Rights protected specific rights.

Alexander Hamilton was actually against the Bill of Rights. He thought that you couldn’t list every single right in a document and that someday the government would infringe on understood rights that weren’t spelled out in the writing. Madison won out and we have a Bill of Rights, but Hamilton’s fear was incorporated into the 9th amendment. The 10th Amendment leaves everything not spelled out as a Federal issue to state governments. Between the two, the Federal Government was left powerless to decide local issues.

So enter Earl Warren and his take on the Supreme Court’s place in society. His belief that any mention of God was contrary to the Constitution was not backed up by the Bill of Rights, but invented in order to push forward other social policy. Once the Supreme Court denied the presence of God in public life, people forgot the importance of God in political life. I don’t mean in the religious sense, but the philosophical sense. These mentions of God were throughout society not only for worship, but to justify Natural Rights. So long as God is recognized the idea that our rights derive from him can live. You don’t have to be a Christian to respect the importance of that. Thomas Jefferson himself was not sure of Christ’s divinity, he thought of Christ as more of a philosopher than a God. But he invoked God into the document because it is the key component of Natural Rights.

When Natural Rights are taken out of public life, where do our rights come from? A king, of course. Who has become the king? The Supreme Court. The court has jumped and decided a number of questions that were really the province of the legislative branch. They now write laws by ruling on cases finding phantom constitutional rights in some place while denying actual constitutional rights in other places.

We can’t even put people on the federal bench, because the court has become so important that Democrats mostly, but even Republicans have won decisions there that they cannot win inside the halls of Congress. The judges have become so important that we fear the addition of a few new ones will change the whole structure of a “progressive” society.

In the past, important questions were decided by the legislative branch, because it was closest to the people. Groups may win or lose a law, but they always knew that an election could turn that law around. That is why we have elections. The people debate and vote and the law is decided. The court is there to obey the rule of law and brings justice accordingly. Instead, the court is becoming a place where politicians get what they want independently from what the people want.

Our rights are no longer protected by the Constitution when the Constitution can mean whatever the judges want it to mean. Natural Rights are not even talked about anymore. The judges are usurping the power that was hard won by a revolution and a civil war. They did it by convincing Jews, Muslims, Druids, Witches, Atheists, Agnostics and other non-Christians that the dominant religion wasn’t inclusive enough, therefore invalid. The judges divided the people by their own prejudices and then conquered the constitution that was limiting their power. They didn’t explain to non-Christians that the recognition of God was protecting their rights. They used the example of religious zealots to scare non-believers.

By eliminating God have we entered into a new age of enlightenment based on reason alone? No, now we worship religions like diversity and multi-lateralism, and other fads that depend on faith. We transfer our belief in the divine to a belief in equality. We trade the idea of heaven for the idea of heaven on Earth. Who will provide that new heaven? The King, of course. Thus, the confirmation of judges is becoming the coronation of kings.

That's the real issue in Alabama. The courts have done everything to stamp out the public acknowledgement of the one thing more powerful than they are. Aside form the speculation of whether Judge Moore is a devout Christian or a political opportunist, the debate has been a religious one. The speculation that the court might be ruling to protect its own power has not even come up. This is worrisome to anyone who loves liberty.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003


Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer was on the radio this morning being interviewed by the normally conservative hosts who didn’t seem to understand the economic implications of Mayor Dyer’s new idea. Dyer wants every business downtown to pay their employees a minimum of $8.50 and hour. These kinds of local minimum wage boosts have happened in other cities and are popular among workers that make less money, but inflated wages just inflate the cost of doing business and that inflates prices.

Buddy Dyer wants people to make a living wage without acquiring the necessary skills to do so. Does he understand what the consequences on “compassion?” Is he so caught up in populism that he doesn’t understand basic economics?

One result is that entry-level workers at the NYPD Pizza joint downtown will suddenly make more than their counterparts working at the NYPD Pizza place in Metro West. Since the higher wages won’t come with higher productivity, the downtown location will either have to charge more or have fewer employees than their eatery in Metro West. The result is that patrons will either get a cheaper price or better service outside of the city limits. Restaurants like NYPD Pizza do a good business during the day with people who work downtown, so the higher volume may help them in one area, but it’s that higher volume that makes the rent more expensive downtown also. The most likely result is businesses like NYPD Pizza will start closing after banker’s hours to make up for the slower traffic.

Downtown already has parking disadvantages and lacks a movie theatre. It’s not a tremendous draw to the average family. The relatively lower prices downtown compared to Downtown Disney and Universal’s City Walk gave downtown its one advantage. But places like Winter Park Village, Waterford Lakes and Pointe Orlando to a lesser extent are still much more attractive to locals trying to enjoy a night. Why should anyone go downtown when restaurants become fewer and prices become higher?

The end result will be fewer aggregate employees working downtown. With less demand for downtown storefronts, property will decrease in value. When property value decreases so will the property tax revenue derived from such. This will cause a deficit or a greater cut in city spending and services.

There is no free money. Every action the government takes will result in some reaction. When you start messing with people’s businesses, you run the risk of putting them out of business. If Storefront rent and regulation are cheaper outside the city, why should they choose to stay?

This sort of thing has been happening in bigger cities all over the country. Politicians that want to get re-elected steal from business and property owners to pay for their re-election. What good does any campaign finance reform do when politicians can just transfer money from a group with few votes to a group with many votes?

John Lindsey nearly wrecked New York City in the 1960s trying to provide all things to all people. It took 30 years to turn the city back around. Orlando shouldn’t let Buddy Dyer make the same mistakes.

Monday, September 01, 2003

It was a shame that I was introduced to Charles Bronson (1921-2003) at a time when he made his worst movies. Luckily first impressions didn't stick. I came to find Bronson a very compelling though understated actor. A shame he wasn't given better material through his career. At least there are a few classics to consider.

Here are my favorites:

THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963) - Bronson was part of the large ensemble that featured Steve McQueen most prominently. I've seen it several times even at its nearly three-hour length. Bronson plays the tunnel digger that gets a bad case of claustrophobia.

THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967) - A great ensemble film with Bronson one of the most heroic of prison inmates that are let out of jail to kill some Nazis.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) - Bronson plays the loner who seeks the killer of his brother. Jason Robards plays the roguishly heroic outlaw. Henry Fonda plays a believably eerie villain. Sergio Leone made too few films and this might be his all-time best.

THE MECHANIC (1972) - Not a great film, but an entertaining one with Bronson not changing oil, but killing for hire.

DEATH WISH (1974) - Not to be confused with the endless and worthless sequels. Bronson's wife is murdered and his daughter is raped. The cops are no help. They probably have speeding tickets to write. Bronson takes to the streets and starts killing bad guys, wherever he may find them. It's a great psychological study especially as Bronson starts to enjoy the job.

HARD TIMES (1975) - This movie isn't talked about nearly enough. Charles Bronson plays a depression era street fighter for money. James Colburn plays the promoter who gets the action. The men have a falling out and then are forced back together. Both actors are great. Walter Hill wrote and directed.