May 31, 2006
Bookmobile vs. the Bad Guys
I know Reading is Fundamental but this is ridiculous.
"I Don't Know Where to Laugh or Cry"
Veteran Sues Michael Moore
Michael Moore is getting sued by an Iraq War vet Peter Damon who claims the rotund director used a video clip of him without permission.
I wondered why the $85 million lawsuit was filed now. Later on in the NY Post story I have my answer:
Lawyer Dennis Lynch said he took the case last year and they held off filing the lawsuit in a bid to settle the matter.
Candidates Pounce on Inactive Lautenschlager
Attorney General candidate JB Van Hollen jumps on Peg Lautenschlager for being silent after Milwaukee's violent Memorial Day Weekend:
She's AWOL on fighting violent gun crime in Wisconsin's largest city.
Fellow GOP candidate Paul Bucher went after both Lautenschlager, Gov. Doyle, and dawdling local officials:
Doyle has been too busy to focus on the 28 shootings in Milwaukee over the past few days, I suppose, since he's been wasting time vetoing reasonable pieces of legislation (including one requiring verification of citizenship to get state benefits) and he's been too busy dodging questions about why the man he named Parole commissioner released two cop killers.
"Lautenschlager Needs to Fight Real Crime"
"Lautenschlager and Doyle AWOL on Gun Violence"
Charlie's Show Prep #106
May 30, 2006
Other X-Men 3 Reviews
Thomas on Zinmeister
Helen Thomas continued to prove she's too old and crotchety to be at White House briefings. Here's Thomas questioning Tony Snow about new domestic policy advisor Karl Zinsmeister:
Q Why did the President pick a man who is so contemptible of the public servants in Washington to be his Domestic Advisor -- saying, "People in Washington are morally repugnant, cheating, shifty human beings"? Why would he pick such a man to be a Domestic Advisor?
In Old Woman Helen's world only those with the "proper respect" for Washington should be advising the President. Calling people in D.C. "morally repugnant, cheating, shifty human beings" fits when talking about Jack Abramoff, Congressman William Jefferson, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and convicted Congressman Duke Cunningham.
Heaven forbid someone at a distance from the capital's insularity could offer ideas to improve the government and think Washington isn't the Emerald City full of pure hearts and good intentions.
Wait until Old Woman Helen reads this Editor & Publisher article that quotes Zinsmeister calling embedded reporters in Iraq "whiny and appallingly soft."
[Added to OTB's Beltway Traffic Jam.]
Accused Milwaukee Cop Commits Suicide
Officer Alfonzo Glover who was charged with "first-degree intentional homicide in the March 2005 death of Wilbert Javier Prado" posted $25,000 bail, went home, then killed himself.
Patrick at Badger Blogger and Phelony Jones wonder if District Attorney E. Michael McCann charged him to improve his standing with some in the public. This is man who only charged one cop in a fatal shooting during his 37 years in office.
McCann has blood on his hands. He has some explaining to do.
"Officer Charged in Murder Takes Own Life"
WSJ Wrong on Raid
Paul Gigot and the Wall Street Journal editorial board get it wrong for once. This time with regards to the FBI raiding Congressman William Jefferson's office. They oppose the raid mentioning the Speech and Debate Clause multiple times. Yet they don't explain their reasoning. They don't even bother to quote from the constitution. Here's the portion they referred to:
They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
The WSJ editorial board are conservatives. It's safe to assume they're constitutional originalists. I see no where in the text about Congressmen's offices protected from search warrants. The raid of Congressman Jefferson's office had to do with a bribery investigation not preventing him from speaking in the House or casting a vote.
UPDATE: McQ at QandO praises Sen. Frist for not opposing the raid.
Policy Advisor Doctors Text
Karl Zinsmeister, President Bush's new domestic policy advisor admits he fiddled around with an interview with a news weekly and posted the edited version on his magazine's website. Here is the original version from the Syracuse New Times, and here's the doctored version on The American Enterprise website.
Zinsmeister told the Washington Post he edited it to correct errors. However, he wrote this to the New Times reporter Justin Park,
I really appreciate your professionalism and kindness. You wrote it straight up, which is the best and hardest kind of journalism. Let me know when I can next help out your journalism.
If Zinsmeister felt there were errors with the interview he had a great opportunity to make them known.
Zinsmeister engaged in intellectual dishonesty. Obviously he was embarassed with some of his words. He could have not published the article on his magazine's website letting it sink into the information quicksand or he could have added his comments after the unedited version. Zinsmeister took the "foolish" route.
Still, Zinsmeister will be just a policy advisor. He will be offering policy suggestions to the President. He won't be running a bureaucracy or implementing regulations. This is a stain on his writing and editing reputation, nothing more.
"New Policy Adviser Admits Altering Text"
"Questions Arising Over Quotations Of Zinsmeister"
Paulson Nominated as Next Treasury Secretary
John Snow resigned and President Bush nominated Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson as the new Treasury Secretary.
Snow has been the most quiet, least public Treasury Secretaries in modern times. Today, President Bush said, the Treasury Secretary is the "chief spokesman for my economic policies." Snow's lack of exposure (whether his fault or the White House's) made him a failure. The economy isn't in recession yet a malaise infest the public's attitude toward it.
Being a long-time Wall Street veteran Paulson will have the investment community's ear. Whether that will translate into getting President Bush more credit for the economy will have to be seen.
The AP has already jumped on Paulson's environmental work. He is chairman of The Nature Conservancy. Unlike most environmental groups it uses donated money to buy land and use rights for protection. They take advantage of the power of private property rights.
"President Bush Nominates Henry Paulson as Treasury Secretary"
"Bush taps Paulson for Treasury Secretary"
"Goldman Sachs Chair Paulson Replacing Snow at Treasury"
UPDATE: Wonkette is occasionally funny. "Paulson: does he have a cold or does he always talk like “Macho Man” Randy Savage?"
Charlie's Show Prep #105
May 29, 2006
Memorial Day 2006
May 28, 2006
Milwaukee's Parks Problems
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an article about the fiscal troubles with the Milwaukee parks system. Blame Tom Ament for putting county employee pensions and benefits ahead of maintaining the parks. This is how bad it's gotten:
Consider: Though parks staffing has fallen by two-thirds since 1986, fringe benefit payments have nearly doubled the last 10 years and are now at $6.5 million of a $37 million parks budget. The hypergenerous pension and sick-leave deal of 2000-'01 and skyrocketing retiree health insurance costs factor in.
The problem isn't too few taxes. Milwaukee residents are taxed way too much. The problem is irresponsible past decisions that are hanging around the necks of County Executive Scott Walker and the County Board.
There's mention of closing down little-used pools, opening waterparks to increase revenue, renting out space to business and special events, and increasing private donations. I'd feel more sympathy with Parks Director Sue Black but Fox 6 news reported last night there was free admission yesterday to the Cool Waters waterpark in Greenfield Park. Yesterday was the warmest day of the year so far. There was no need to get people out to the park. That was a lost opportunity to get some much-needed revenue.
"County Parks Sinking Fast"
X-Men Has Great Box Office Opening
I did my part in making X-Men 3 the second-highest opening movie of all time. It was fun with it being full of action and wild scenes that make a comic book movie good. There were some surprises along with more heart than what I would have expected from a summer blockbuster.
"Movie Review: X-Men: The Last Stand"
May 27, 2006
Those youngins at Power Line are four-years old. Boots & Sabers turned three. Keep it up. Someday you might get as old as TAM.
FBI Investigates Illegal Access to Gossip Mags' Computers
Paparazzi competition may have reached a new low. The FBI confiscated the computer of a former Us Weekly editor to see if she used it to illegally access the magazine's computer systems. The NY Post's Page Six tosses ex-madam Heidi Fleiss' name in for good measure.
"FBI Probes Hacking Incident at Us Weekly"
"Former Us Staffer Especially Didn't Steal Info on Charlie Sheen"
May 26, 2006
Desparate Housewives Reality Clone Set for CBS Summer
It's sure to be "must-not-see-tv" for me.
"CBS Reveals the Identities of its Tuesday Night Book Club Women"
What Are You Doing Here?
It's Memorial Day Weekend. If you're reading this STOP. Go see a movie, find a bar, fire up the grill. It's the unofficial start of summer. That's a whopping three months here in Wisconsin. We have to take advantage of each precious moment.
If some big event happens in the next few days I'll be covering it. Other than that I'll doodling around with whatever catches my eye.
Have a great weekend.
Charlie's Show Prep #104
May 25, 2006
Congressman Ron Kind's constituent service made a boo-boo. A banker sent him a letter on a bill taxing credit union and got two different responses. Joey at Wide White writes,
He holds small community banks "in the highest regard," but he is also "opposed to taxation of credit unions" because those same small banks are "focusing on maximizing profits."
Kind's GOP opponent is Paul Nelson.
"Two Letters. Different Opinions. Same Consituent. Oops!"
"Off the Wall"
Alderman Thriller pumped out a press release. And I'm here to fisk it:
Although I know “Thriller” is considered the top-selling album of all time, I want to make it clear that I am not trying to change my legal name to “Michael Jackson” (as some people have been led to believe).
Only morons who can't read a newspaper article think McGee/Jackson wants the name of the disgraced pop star. The Journal Sentinel article was pretty clear in telling us what is going on.
I am trying to legally change my name to Michael Imanu McGee because I would like to obtain a U.S. Passport for international travel. However, I’ve had difficulties doing this because when I was born, my father was using his birth name, Michael Jackson, so the last name on my birth certificate is “Jackson.”
The reason for the name change makes sense. Too much sense for a race-baiting, rabble-rouser like McGee/Jackson. Where does he want to go? What does he plan to do? I'll take a flier: he'll soon announce he's converted to Islam and wants to go to Mecca.
I was born when my father was serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. After my father returned home from the war, he was adopted, and then started using “McGee” as his last name because it is the last name of his adoptive father. In turn, I was then given the McGee last name, as well, and have used it ever since.
Owen Robinson caught the whopper right away:
How did his dad “get adopted” after returning from Vietnam? Did his dad go into the Army at age 12, or did someone adopt a 25 year old man? Or, as is most likely the case, is McGee/Jackson lying again?
Again, I have been told by federal authorities that because my last name does not match the last name on my birth certificate, I must have my name legally changed to McGee to meet the legal requirements that will allow me to get a U.S. Passport.
I wonder if a passport-seeking McGee/Jackson will be considered a flight risk in his upcoming hearing for threatening his ex-lover in court.
For more Patrick at Badger Blogger has a bad photoshop (but it feels so right) and McGee/Jackson admitting to a tryst he earlier denied.
A Question about Michael McGee/Jackson?
Whatever the alderman's name is I wonder if Michael McGee/Jackson really is Michael McGee, Sr.'s son. Who is his mother? The Jackson had to come from somewhere--maybe from "Thriller's" warped mind.
U.S. Government: "Best Judge" of State Secrets
A Justice Department lawyer said, "the United States government, not any court, is the best judge of whether to keep programs such as its controversial effort to eavesdrop on citizens a secret." In a filing to a San Francisco federal court Peter Keisler, an assistant attorney general, wrote,
In cases such as this one, where the national security of the United States is implicated, it is well established that the executive branch is best positioned to judge the potential effects of disclosure of sensitive information on the nation's security.
The case involves a lawsuit between the Electronic Freedom Foundation and AT&T over NSA spying.
The government has a good argument. Courts don't determine foreign and defense policy. That role is left for Congress and the President. But this issue involves fourth amendment protections. The courts should have some say seeing as their mission is to judge government actions as being in line with the constitution.
"US Says Government Should Judge Spy Secrets"
Charlie's Show Prep #103
May 24, 2006
Jeb Bush as NFL Commissioner
The possibilty of Jeb Bush replacing Paul Tagliabue as NFL commissioner "was broached during a recent meeting with Patrick Rooney Sr., owner of the Palm Beach Kennel Club." Rooney is the brother of Dan Rooney, Pittsburgh Steelers owner. Bush said, "I met with Mr. Rooney and I said I'm doing my job until I'm finished and then I'm going to consider other things. But I'm not going to do anything until I finish." Tagliabue intends to leave in July. Bush's term as Florida governor ends in January 2007. If Tagliabue stays past July then the Jeb Bush buzz will really strengthen. I have a feeling team owners won't want to wait until next year for a new leader. I also don't think they'll want someone who has the real potential to leave to run for President. Tagliabue has served about 16 years. Before him, Pete Rozelle served 29. They'll want someone with a long-term committment.
"Gov. Bush Quietly Approached to Become Next NFL Commissioner"
Congressmen Concerned about FBI Raid
From a PR standpoint it's a bad idea for Congress to claim the FBI as part of the Executive Branch can't search a Congressman's office. There's a "speech and debate" clause protecting Congressman but it's not like diplomatic immunity which deals with questions of sovereignty. Appearing to protect a Congressman accused of bribery and others involved with Jack Abramoff's escapades won't help an already disliked Congress going into November's elections.
"F.B.I. Raid Divides G.O.P. Lawmakers and White House"
"Now They’re Worried about Sep of Powers?"
Tim, Make a Decision
Tim Michels as a Tommy Thompson-like pol who likes his ego stroked? That's what Deb Jordahl thinks,
Having said all that, Tim Michels should realize that his fifteen minutes of fame are just about up, and he’d better use it or lose it. Michels needs to stop playing cat and mouse with the Republican Party just to keep his name in the press. If he wants a future in Republican politics, Michels should get off the sidelines and use his popularity to help Mark Green, Paul Bucher or any number of vulnerable legislative candidates throughout the state.
I'm still mad at him for how badly he ran his general election campaign against Sen. Feingold in 2004. Still, he could do much to build up his image with Republicans and conservatives. Deciding to run or not run against Sen. Kohl, regardless of what Tommy Thompson does, would be helpful.
"Tim Michels Should Use it or Lose it"
Charlie's Show Prep #102
May 23, 2006
Getting My 24 Fix
The final two hours of 24 are safely on my computer. Yes, it's piracy but that's too bad. mininova is my friend. Thanks, Patrick.
BitTorrent has a long way to go to be a mainstream way to download content--even with a broadband connection it takes a while to download an entire show, but it got the job done.
Lloyd Bentsen, R.I.P.
Former Texas Senator, Vice-Presidential candidate, and Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen died. I remember him best for his dig at Dan Quayle:
In the Oct. 5, 1988, vice presidential debate, Quayle said: "I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency."
"Former Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen Dies"
Charlie's Show Prep #101
My TiVo didn't talk very well with my cable box and failed to record the 24 season finale. I know it's sort of wrong but if anyone knows of a bittorrent for it I will give you a virtual peck on the cheek (a full smooch if you're female). Or else I just wait, buy it off iTunes and put up with the mediocre experience.
May 22, 2006
A Political Butterfly Effect
The National Hurricane Center predicts 15 hurricanes this season. How much do they stand behind their prediction? Let's ask them how much money they want to bet. I'll bet you it wouldn't be much.
Then we have David Paulison, the guy temporarily running FEMA telling people, "We have to be able to take care of ourselves for the first 72 hours. What it does when we don't take care of ourselves is stop our first responders in the street from helping those really in need." If people had those expectation pre-Katrina there wouldn't have been such a loss of confidence in governmental leaders, especially the President. A better public attitude toward the federal government would mean better (but not great) poll numbers for Bush and the GOP Congress. Better poll numbers would mean a slightly better attitude among conservatives and not as much talk about a November electoral debacle.
In describing chaos theory it's been said a butterfly can cause a hurricane. Taking it to its absurdity that butterfly could cause the impeachment of a President.
"Experts: Hurricane Season Won't Match '05"
The evil geniuses at Haliburton are at it again. Expect the Bush administration to purchase $3 billion worth of SurvivaBalls in a no-bid contract.
[via Electric Venom]
Smith-La Russa: Not on Each Other's Christmas Lists
There's bad blood in St. Louis. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith are taking it out on each other in the newspapers.
Ozzie is still bummed La Russa didn't play him enough in his last season. La Russa has publically disinvited him to spring training. La Russa went farther and said, "I won't ever be around when he's around. Cardinals fans can embrace him all they want to, and it won't be uncomfortable because I won't be there."
"Tony La Russa on Ozzie Smith: 'He's Not Welcome'"
While I was watching Mark Green accept the GOP endorsement Jenna at Right off the Shore was watching Tommy Thompson:
After his speech, he sat on the bleachers behind Green, and proceeded to ignore every word Green said. At one point, someone said he saw him check his Blackberry, and he slumped, holding his head in his hands. It looked a tad disrespectful. But whatever--he did want the job.
"My Day-Late Notes"
Charlie's Show Prep #100
May 21, 2006
Running around a political convention for a day and a half is exhausting. A 28-hour pause from the computer was a good thing. Seeing the MSM working the same beat always impresses me. They've got better stamina than me.
May 20, 2006
Straw Poll Results
WisPolitics.com held a straw poll at the GOP convention:
GOP activists voting in the annual WisPolitics.com Straw Poll this weekend favored JB Van Hollen for attorney general, Tommy Thompson for U.S. Senate and George Allen for president.
Van Hollen continues to do well among activists. However his opponent Waukesha District Attorney Paul Bucher should do well in populous Southeast Wisconsin. I'm still neutral in the race (despite the Van Hollen ad you see to the left). Both appear to be good replacements for Peg Lautenschlager.
Tommy winning hands down means he still has tremendous Republican support. But the convention would have been an ideal time to annouce he was challenging Sen. Kohl. Tommy likes to be the man in charge instead of one voice among 100. I don't see him running.
Sen. George Allen edging out Rudy Giuliani shows the GOP Presidential race is wide open. No one has an edge or seems to be getting activists to support them early. I'm not surprised the top two have executive experience. In war time people will want someone who they feel has experience making tough decisions.
Sen. McCain was a distant sixth. He can try all he wants by speaking at Jerry Fallwell's Liberty University he's burn too many bridges to have conservatives support him in the primary season. Now, in a general election against say Hillary Clinton? That's a different story.
"Allen, Thompson & Van Hollen Favored in WisPolitics GOP Convo Straw Poll"
Green Sits Down With Webloggers
After accepting his party's endorsement for governor Congressman Mark Green sat down with Boots & Sabers, Lakeshore Laments, and The American Mind. We talked about the conservative divide, stem cells, and the UW System.
On mending the wounds from the Taxpayers Protection Amendment debacle Green acknowledges the problem. "They're clearly has been a fracture" in the Republican Party. "We've got to pull it together" in order to have a "governing conservative majority." He told us, "The legislature is missing a Republican governor. They need someone who can carry the message to every part of the state. The one person who has the big megaphone, the bully pulpit." He wants to make Republicans comfortable to know "they are running with a guy who supports lowering the tax burden" and limiting government. Green's solution to uniting conservatives is to hammer on taxes. "You would think that lowering the tax burden is about the best issue to unite the party."
On stem cells Green finds it "terrible that the governor would take an issue that is pretty sensitive" and use it as a "political sledgehammer." Green doesn't "believe that any research should be persued without some idea of there being ethics and morality to it." In contrast Gov. Doyle "apparently believes that any research is fair game." Green is "thrilled about the biotech explosion down in Madison" but doesn't think we "have to leave our moral compass behind."
I asked Green about what could be done to make UW-Milwaukee a regional center for economic growth. I mentioned the possibility of a name change. While not offering an opinion about a name change he did stress the importance of the university. Because graduates of that university are likely to remain in the Milwaukee area Green sees investment there as very important. "Everything that we invest in UW-Milwaukee... is going to pay off so much for our state. Because we know these folks are staying," said Green.
A second question I asked Green was whether he thought there were too many UW campuses. Should some be closed? I mentioned the three schools so close to each other in Western Wisconsin. Green doesn't want to close any schools. He joked that while going to college in Eau Claire there were three colleges within one hour of his apartment. Each school had its own "deputy vice-assistant chancellor." He offered the idea of "regionalize administrative services." The savings "would go back into access, back into affordability."
My questions allowed Green to go off on how disaffected he was with the UW System. He called it "burearucratically out of control." "Too much of the money that is getting spent in my estimation is getting eaten up in that bureaucracy, and that has to change." As a product of the UW System he remains loyal to it. He just wants reforms. "They're great. I just don't think they've been led very well."
Here's the audio.
Perking Up Petri
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Craig Gilbert made Congressman Tom Petri's valium-like droning seem like something semi-exciting. That, my friends, takes talent.
"Sleeping With the Enemy"
Paul Bucher's whistle-blowing supporters (I'm blaming Jessica McBride for the idea) chased me out of the convention hall. Since neither Bucher nor J.B. Van Hollen will get the party's endorsement there's no need for me to be in the ballroom.
I recorded both Tommy Thompson's and Mark Green's speeches. Both were pretty good. I was impressed with Green's. I also recorded Green's press conference. As a bonus Green gave webloggers a few minutes to ask him questions. I'm working on writing those up and will try to get some audio posted.
Tommy Was Here
The rumor of Tommy Thompson ditching the convention was false. He showed up, delivered the ra-ra speech he's good at, beat up Gov. Doyle, told everyone to support Mark Green, then promptly left town. Greg Bump guesses Tommy was in Appleton all of two hours.
Mark Green on Ethics
A big issue in the governor's race will be ethics. Here are excerpts from Mark Green's upcoming speech:
Excerpts from Green's acceptance speech:
Walker Nominates Green
Scott Walker nominated Mark Green and received a standing ovation. The rank-and-file love Scott for bowing out of the Governor's race. Walker told the convention, "Jim Doyle is fundamentaly wrong for Wisconsin." "Jim Doyle doesn't beleive in anything except getting re-elected." Mark Green has an "uncommon level of common sense" and "has a plan to move our state forward."
The current rumor floating around the convention is "Will Tommy Thompson will show up?" A Green staffer told me Tommy would be introducing Mark Green then they would do a joint press conference after Mark's speech. An hour later the rumor was Tommy wasn't in Appleton and wouldn't be coming. Tommy not showing up would be the first surprise at the convention, and it would be a big one with political watchers wondering. If Tommy shows up I wonder how fast he will leave. Word has it he has a flight scheduled late this afternoon.
Mark Green on Taxes
Along with education taxes will play a prominent part in Mark Green's acceptance speech:
"We must stand strong for lowering the tax burden - because it's robbing families of their dreams and sapping this state of her strength.
Excerpts from Mark Green's Acceptance Speech
Around 2:30 p.m today, Tommy Thompson will introduce Mark Green. After the speech both will do a press conference.
Before that is the endorsement process. Scott Walker will nominate Green.
The Green campaign has released some excerpts from is acceptance speech. Mark will be pushing hard on education:
Excerpts from Green's acceptance speech:
Elected officials get their moment to speak before the convention. Here are a few thoughts from the Congressmen.
Congressman Paul Ryan divided politicians into "doers" and "be-ers." The doers get elected because they want to push ideas and policies. The be-ers just like the power, perks, and privileges of power. Ryan admitted there were be-ers in the Republican Party. The 1st district Congressman went on to chide members of his party for their big-spending, pork barrel ways.
Congressman James Sensenbrenner received warm applause for his illegal immigration efforts. He gave the audience a little history lesson about a previous attempt to deal with illegal immigrants and warned Republicans who wanted to deal with Massachusetts' senior Senator. "When you go to bed with Ted Kennedy you get more than a good night's sleep." Sensenbrenner reiterated his illegal immigration points: demanding a secure border with a 700-mile fence; give local law enforcement in border states money to fight crime resulting from illegal immigrants and be well-armed to combat coyote smugglers. Sensenbrenner eagerly awaits the Senate to pass an immigration bill and considers the future conference to be the toughtest thing he's done in Congress.
Congressman Tom Petri: Zzzzzz.
NRA Takes on Doyle
It sounds like there was a little more political passion in Milwaukee at the NRA meetings than at the state GOP convention in Appleton. In Milwaukee "Dump Doyle" signs were everywhere. In Appleton we got stuck with Tim Michels doing bad comedy.
"'Dump Doyle' Resounding Cry as Convention Opens"
Judging the Hospitality Suites
Campaign hospitality suites are about offering food, drink (hard and soft), entertainment, and well hospitality. Some suites accomplished their mission better than others. Here are the first (and possibly only) TAM Hospitality Suite Awards.
Congressman Mark Green gets the overall award. It was called a "Tailgate Party" playing off the Green Bay Packers in Green's backyard and his "Green Team" of supporters. There was beer and soda but only some cheese, crackers, and pretzels. Hey, the guy needs to save his cash to beat the tar out of Gov. Jim Doyle. Charcoal grills filled with Green Team footballs were consistent with the tailgate theme. Bonus points were given for having a television on showing the Milwaukee Brewers game.
Congressman Paul Ryan claims the best food award. His spread had veggies, cheese, mini egg rolls, meatballs, and full cans of soda. When you don't have much competition in the fall you can afford some good eats at the convention.
Honorable mention goes to State Treasurer Jack Voight who was "sweet" enough to offer his guests a chocolate fountain. Chocolate-covered pineapple. Yum! Yum!
I'm sorry to say Terri McCormick lost major points for having karaoke.
In the all-important campaign knick-knack category we have a tie between Mark Green's little footballs
and Jean Hundertmark's plastic beer mugs
Mark and Jean are running on the same ticket so it's fitting.
Congratulations, winners. For the rest of you better luck next year...if you still have political careers that require hospitality suites.
May 19, 2006
Michels Doesn't Announce Senate Run
Tim Michels gave a few remarks during Friday night's GOP convention banquet. After offering a few jokes he mentioned the "elephant in the living room" i.e. the possibility of Michels challenging Sen. Herb Kohl. Instead of announcing he was running he wanted convention goers to focus and appreciate all the hard work the state-wide candidates are doing. It appears he isn't running. The state GOP's search continues.
USA Today Reporter Exposed
Leslie Cauley is the USA Today reporter who reported last week that the NSA was in cahoots with telephone companies to build a phone call database. She has also been very silent and has written nothing since BellSouth and Verizon claim her story is false. NewsBusters did a little research into her background:
A search found a listing for "writer and journalist" Leslie Cauley, indicating she gave $2,000 to Gephardt on June 30, 2003, when Gephardt was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. And that seems not to be her only tie to Democratic politics.
She also helped a Democratic big-wig write a book. That's more than can be said for Editor & Publisher's few paragraphs about her.
Before my right-wing knee-jerk readers shout, "See! See! She's biased! The story has to be fake!" realize this information doesn't mean the story's false. If the story is on par with RatherGate it tell us why Cauley ran so hard with a story based on anonymous sources that is being strongly denied by BellSouth and Verizon.
"USA Today Reporter a Democratic Donor; Phone Company Demands Retraction"
"Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before..."
Iraq Has a New Government...Sort Of
Iraqi leaders have agreed on a national unity government to be presented to parliament on Saturday, negotiators said on Friday, adding that the key interior and defense ministries would be filled later.
No word on how long it will take to fill the defense and interior ministries. Baby steps forward are better than steps backward.
"Iraqis Agree on Government"
Once upon a time Congressmen and Senators stood before their respective bodies and quoted from great thinkers like Cicero, Montesquieu, Washington, and Jefferson. My how have times changed. Behold the Capitol Police's favorite Congressman, Cynthia McKinney:
Ms. McKINNEY. Mr. Chairman, the Congressional Black Caucus budget is a better statement for our country’s values. Educators are asking for a fully funded No Child Left Behind because America’s children are being left behind; seniors deserve accessible health care, but Medicare part D is leaving everyone confused; and veterans are only asking to receive the health care that recruiters promised them and that they deserve. But, you know, Tupac observed a long time ago that there’s money for war, but we can’t feed the poor.
"Come Back To Us, Cynthia McKinney"
Kos Jumps Shark
It's really, really weird (even "surreal") seeing Markos Moulitsas AKA "Daily Kos" peeking (stalking) into someone's house then charging in with a few of his
Allahpundit is right. Ned Lamont, unintentionally, made a Mentos ad.
Tim Michels Considering Senate Run
The Wisconsin GOP needs someone, anyone to run against Sen. Herb Kohl. When no one, not even Tommy Thompson who has the Badger State's biggest ego, will jump at the challenge go for a past loser. Tim Michels who ran a miserable general election against Sen. Russ Feingold two years ago is considering running again. WisPolitics interviewed State GOP chairman Rick Graber:
Ross: Have you talked to Tim lately, you know, about running for U.S. Senate?
Later, Graber goes goofy:
Ross: A big-time campaign and big-time money; does Tim Michels have that right now? Does he have the capability to do that?
With the GOP potentially losing both the House and Senate the "national folks" won't be wasting money on either Michels or Thompson against Kohl's fat wallet. Graber's living in la-la land.
"Interview with State GOP Chair Rick Graber"
Offshore Oil Drilling Vote Count
Kudos go to Representatives Mark Green, Jim Sensenbrenner, and Paul Ryan for voting to open up more of the U.S. coast to oil drilling. To the rest of Wisconsin's House delegation: you have no integrity when talking about high gas prices.
Parsing Phone Company Statements
In a comment DJ left a link to The Technology Liberation Front which quotes from a subscription website that parses the BellSouth and Verizon denials that they help the NSA build a phone call database. Since we live in the Age of Clinton where we have to deeply examine the meaning of the word "is" it's no surprise the analysis depends are what terms the phone companies use.
The biggest weakness for the baby bells' denials was the amount of time it took for them to boldly declare they didn't assist the NSA. But that's just the cynic in me.
What I want to see is who is USA Today's anoynmous source. Does this person have any more information to help us get to the bottom of this? Does this source have an agenda with the Bush administration? Is this person even in a position to leak such sensitive information?
Mayor Barrett, Read the Damn Bill
Yesterday, instead of welcoming the NRA and its thousands of supporters to Milwaukee Mayor Tom "I am a Freedom Fighter" Barrett complained the civil rights organization--which the NRA is--opposes the government sharing gun trace information with among law enforcement by supporting H.R. 5005. Too bad that's not true. Read page 8, section 9.
"Lies from the Other Side"
Charlie's Show Prep #99
May 18, 2006
Romney Cancels Wisconsin Trip
Possible GOP Presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney canceled his keynote address at the Wisconsin GOP convention Friday night. Flooding in Massachusettes prevents him from attending. GOP national chairman Ken Mehlman will replace him Friday night.
"Romney Cancels State GOP Visit to Appleton"
USA Today Retraction Demanded
BellSouth now wants USA Today to retract that it took part in a NSA phone database:
BellSouth Corp., the No. 3 U.S. local telephone company, on Thursday demanded USA Today retract claims in a story that said the company had a contract with a U.S. spy agency and turned over customers' telephone records.
"BellSouth Demands USA Today Retract NSA Claims"
Photo ID for Federal Elections
Sen. Mitch McConnell has an amendment to the immigration bill that would require voters to show photo ID before casting a ballot in a federal election. Since I don't think showing an ID is such a burden I have no problem with it.
Of course you will soon hear Democrats scream "disenfranchisement."
McGee, Sr. Opens His Big Mouth Again
Michael McGee, Sr. is the most paranoid man I've ever heard on the radio. Patrick at Badger Blogger caught him rambling on about how his son Alderman Michael McGee, Jr. was cheated in athletic competitions and given bad grades just because he was a McGee. With all that oppression how did junior ever become an alderman? The Man must have let his guard down.
In response to his son being arrested for violating a restraining order McGee, Sr. rambled, "Vietnam Syndrome is going to take over and I'm going to go down there and mess up a bunch of them, that’s for sure." I'm still waiting for him to fulfill his threat to--paraphrasing Jonathan Coleman--roll burning tires down the freeways.
"McGee Sr. Blames Everyone Else"
Pay to Play, Journal Sentinel Style
Charlie Sykes asked Milwaukee Journal Sentinel publisher Betsy Brenner if there would be a special section in the newspaper similar to the one when the NAACP came into town last year. Here's Brenner's response:
I don't want to accuse the newspaper of being unethical, but to this layman's ears it sounds like an organization can buy a section of the newspaper. Publishing a daily newspaper costs a lot of money and the Journal Sentinel is part of a public company beholden to its stockholders--which probably haven't been too happy. Many magazines today have special advertising sections filled with articles that don't look like ads. Usually along the top of the pages it mentions it's a paid ad. The Journal Sentinel does something similar in its Sunday automotive section which is sponsored by local car dealers. Did the newspaper point out to its readers that the special section only existed because the NAACP funneled advertising their way? If the section on their website devoted to last year's convention is any indication the answer is no.
NRA's Gun Pledge
Before their meetings have really begun the National Rifle Association has made news in Milwaukee:
The National Rifle Association said today it will ask all of the nation's mayors and police chiefs to sign a pledge stating they would never confiscate weapons from law-abiding citizens, such as in periods of emergency.
It's no surprise the City of Milwaukee didn't take too kindly to the pledge:
"The rhetoric to say we are going to disarm law-abiding citizens is a little over the top," Deputy Police Chief Brian O'Keefe said at a City Hall news conference. Police have neither the time nor the legal authority to raid innocent citizens' homes and grab their guns, O'Keefe said.
Mr. O'Keefe needs to read Boots & Sabers who found this NY Times story that begins:
Waters were receding across this flood-beaten city today as police officers began confiscating weapons, including legally registered firearms, from civilians in preparation for a mass forced evacuation of the residents still living here.
The situation got so bad the NRA got a federal judge to issue a restraining order to stop the confiscation.
To Deputy Police Chief Brian O'Keefe such facts are a "little over the top."
In other NRA meetings news Daniel Suhr reports Marquette University won't be holding a party for the NRA like it did when the NAACP came to Milwaukee for its convention last year.
UPDATE: Phelony Jones hopes "the NRA can put a smoking barrel under the ginormous ass of Wisconsin and therefore help motivate us to get concealed carry."
Charlie's Show Prep #98
May 17, 2006
Gatlin Now Shares World Record
Sprinter Justin Gatlin really hates rounding errors:
Gatlin was timed at 9.76secs at an IAAF GP meeting in Doha on May 12, a mark one-hundredths of a second faster than the existing best set by Asafa Powell in 2005.
"Gatlin Loses His 100 Meters Record"
Charlie's Show Prep #97
Verizon Denies Helping NSA
The USA Today phone database story takes another hit. Verizon denies helping the NSA:
"One of the most glaring and repeated falsehoods in the media reporting," the statement said, "is the assertion that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers' domestic calls. This is false."
Here's an extended portion of Verizon's statement:
One of the most glaring and repeated falsehoods in the media reporting is the assertion that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers’ domestic calls.
That's pretty catagorical.
I can understand the administration neither admitting nor denying the existence of the program. They don't want to tip off the enemy to what the government is or isn't doing.
Verizon and BellSouth both say they weren't even asked for phone records. But Qwest was and refused to turn them over. Is it possible the NSA talked to Qwest first then gave up asking the other Baby Bells for help after Qwest's refusal? That would fit with what ex-Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio has stated along with BellSouth's and Verizon's comments. Did the NSA go the long distance route by working with AT&T (before being bought by SBC) and MCI (before being bought by Verizon)? Was the story a set-up to out leakers in the intel community?
Chad Evans has a couple questions:
So just like the story on the CIA having so-called “secret prisons” accross Europe that there is no evidence of, is this leak to the press yet another attempt by a leaker to attack the Bush Administration aided by poor reporting? Or is this some plot hatched by the CIA to pass off bogus information to reduce the credibility of leaked sources?
Brian at Iowa Voice writes:
Aren't anonymous sources great? You can say pretty much anything you want in a news article, claim an "anonymous source" told you, and then when it falls apart, pull the old Dan Rather defense....that until such information is proven false, they will report it as being true.
Josh Marshall just thinks Verizon is "lying."
CBS's Public Eye has it right: "Given the administration’s refusal to confirm or deny the report, the company denials and the anonymous sources, it may be time to ask how we’ll ever get the truth out of this story."
It's interesting Jim Drinkard wrote this latest story. Leslie Cauley who broke the story last week merely contributed to this one. What's also interesting is USA Today's PR person talked instead of Cauley. She broke the story. She should be the one doing the explaining.
On a humorous note NewsBusters Gaggle comic strip takes a shot at the paper.
"Verizon Says it isn't Giving Call Records to NSA"
Assorted Hollywood Stuff
May 16, 2006
Jenna at Right off the Shore isn't on my list of immigration restrictionists. She doesn't fear immigrants, legal immigrants:
If we are increasing legal immigration by upping the quotas on the number of legal immigrants allowed in each year, that's fantastic. I think it's great that so many folks want to enter our country. I'd love to seem millions come on in...LEGALLY.
There are many people out there who agree with Pat Buchanan that we need a moritorium on all immigration. These people are hiding their feelings behind a legitimate concern about our laws being broken willy-nilly by illegal aliens. What isn't being hidden is their smell of xenophobia. If we make entering the United States easier legally then there will be less incentive to enter illegally. Some kind of guest worker program might work for those who actually want to work in the U.S. temporarily. What I don't want is to see a guest worker program create restless immigrant enclaves like those that exploded across France earlier this year. If someone wants to temporarily work in the U.S. the law should make easy for that person. Both sides benefit: the worker gets some work and the employer reaps the benefits of that worker's production.
I'm not endorsing or opposing the bill in the Senate since I don't know all the details. The devil is in the details. I'm just trying to shine the light on those who not only oppose illegal immigration but also want curbs on legal immigration.
"Bill to Allow More Legal Immigrants...But How?"
You Have One Day
Because many conservatives aren't happy (read a few weblogs and listen to Rush Limbaugh) with President Bush's immigration speech I'm giving them one day to rant, rave, and act foolish. You have one day to get it out of your system and then get serious. Threatening to stay home in November, six months away, calling for the President's impeachment, or claiming anyone who doesn't love the Minutemen are opponents to U.S. sovereignty are all counterproductive. Glenn Reynolds writes, "If you find yourself sounding like a Kos diarist, step away from the blog and take a break, lest you do for your cause what the Kossacks have done for theirs."
Apple's New MacBook
Apple's new MacBook.
A 13.3 inch screen, Intel Core Duo, and Apple industrial design. This is my next notebook. Now, I just need to find some cash. If any Apple-loving TAM readers want to help me make the "switch" drop some coin into my tip jars on the left.
Gasoline as a Percentage of Income
Glen Whitman whipped up some economic perspective that goes beyond adjusting current gas prices for inflation. He found that gasoline prices as a percentage of household income hasn't reached their early 1980s peak. He writes,
Even looking at the poorest fifth of the population, the fraction of income required to buy gasoline is still lower than it was in the early '80s.
It still doesn't ease the emptiness of my wallet.
Bush's Immigration Speech
In a related story the Washington Times has news that will scare every Minuteman, Michelle Malkin fan, and restrictionist around:
The Senate immigration reform bill would allow for up to 193 million new legal immigrants -- a number greater than 60 percent of the current U.S. population -- in the next 20 years, according to a study released yesterday.
Since I think legal immigrants add so much to our economy and culture I have no fears. Bring them in, there's plenty of room.
"Bill Permits 193 Million More Aliens by 2026"
Charlie's Show Prep #96
May 15, 2006
NSA Phone Database Story Found Wanting
There's a serious hole in the USA Today story that the NSA is receiving phone call information from phone companies. BellSouth claims they never gave the NSA any records. There's this from the AP:
In a story in Tuesday's editions, USA Today said it contacted BellSouth the day before it published its initial story last week and that the company did not challenge the newspaper's account of the NSA database program.
So the newspaper ran with an annoynmous source versus no comment. That's not very responsible journalism.
"BellSouth Says It Gave NSA No Call Records"
UPDATE: Here's a pertinent part of the USA Today story:
USA TODAY first contacted BellSouth five weeks ago in reporting the story on the NSA's program. The night before the story was published, USA TODAY described the story in detail to BellSouth, and the company did not challenge the newspaper's account. The company did issue a statement, saying: "BellSouth does not provide any confidential customer information to the NSA or any governmental agency without proper legal authority."
BellSouth isn't giving the NSA information, yet they don't want a correction. I don't know what to make of that. I think it's time we find out who the annonymous source is. They burned USA Today so they should feel no obligation keeping him/her secret. It would be nice to know what position the source holds, any agenda they might have, and whether this might have been a set-up to see where classified security leaks are coming from.
"In Statement, BellSouth Denies Giving Information to National Security Agency"
Authorities Using Phone Records to Find Leaks to Reporters
Brian Ross and Richard Esposito of ABC News reports the federal government is tracking the phone numbers called by reporters:
ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.
This is getting close to being Nixonian and impeachable. If the numbers are being tracked to find a leaker of classified information, fine. But if they're doing it to intimidate reporters then the administration has crossed an authoritarian line. Marshall Manson writes,
They’re simply doing what they’re supposed to do — keeping us all informed. That’s their job. And it’s an important one because only an informed population can prevent a government from drifting inexorably towards tyranny.
Podhoretz on Republican Immigration Woes
Jon Podhoretz envisions political catastrophe over the immigration debate:
If a more sober reckoning of political reality does not intrude here, the Right will hurtle headlong toward schism, division, a third party and all sorts of other "pox on all your houses" actions. The cost of this is what I detail in the direst parts of my book Can She Be Stopped? — the easy transfer of power on Capitol Hill and the White House to the Democrats, and particularly to Hillary Clinton.
How over-the-top of him. The flaw in Podhoretz's thinking is the Presidential election is two years away. Who knows if Hillary will even claim the Democratic nomination. But such dire talk certainly helps plug a book.
Charlie's Show Prep #95
May 14, 2006
Tommy's Not Running
The buzz surrounding Tommy Thompson running to for governor went "kaput!" He's not running:
After serious consideration and many conversations with my family and people around Wisconsin, I have decided not to run for Governor this year. I have come to this conclusion for two simple reasons: my family's unanimous opposition against another campaign and because I am convinced that Mark Green is the right candidate to lead our party and will be victorious in November.
In between Tommy making some cash in his non-government life I hope he travels the state often to cheerlead for Mark Green. He's a tremendous campaigner who can really rally the troops.
UPDATE: Here is the Green campaign's statement:
Today, Congressman Mark Green, the Republican candidate for governor, announced that former Wisconsin Governor Tommy G. Thompson will serve as his campaign’s honorary chairman. Following this announcement, Green made the following statement:
May 13, 2006
Bus Driver Requests Urine from Student
There's no requirement one must be smart to drive a school bus:
A Milwaukee-area school bus driver for the Lakeside Co. has been fired over allegations that she tried to solicit urine from a 14-year-old middle school student to help her pass a drug test.
"Bus Driver Fired For Allegedly Soliciting Urine From Student"
Nobody's for Tommy
Judging from the responses at the Badger Blog Alliance [here, here, here, here, here, and here ] conservative news junkies don't want Tommy Thompson challenging Gov. Doyle in November. We remember Tommy as a good campaigner and policy visionary who made us feel good about Wisconsin, but none of us remember Tommy as a fighter for limiting government. Of course some of us (me included) were too young to know what was going on in Madison.
The Power of Prices
Economics shows that when the price for something goes up consumers look for substitutes. We're seeing an example of this with the Air Force testing a new jet fuel:
In a series of tests — first on engines mounted on blocks and then with B-52's in flight — the Air Force will try to prove that the American military can fly its aircraft by blending traditional crude-oil-based jet fuel with a synthetic liquid made first from natural gas and, eventually, from coal, which is plentiful and cheaper.
As the price of oil goes up synthetic fuels made from coal, which the United States has lots of, become more cost effective.
Minuteman Kooks in Washington
Ted Hayes is on the level of uber freak. Today at a Minuteman Project press conference/pep rally I caught on C-SPAN tonight he spoke of the ancient Aztec practice of ripping the beating hearts out of human sacrifices. What the hell does that have to do with Latin Americans entering the United States illegally? Is there some secret Mexican government plan to establish the practice in the Southwest U.S.? Or is it just demogogery to up the ante in the Minuteman's xenophobia?
These Minuteman guys give me the creeps. They run around along the border playing soldier and come to Washington, D.C. decrying human sacrifice. There's not a hint of empathy for illegals immigrants risking their lives to cross the border. They're not crossing as part of some Mexican government plot to invade the United States. If you think that you're hereby declare you a kook.
In order to maintain the respect for law we must secure the border and not grant amnesty to those who've come here illegally. What we must also do is not be afraid of immigrants and make it easier to have them enter the country legally. Lower the costs of entering and working in the U.S. and you will lower the demand for coyotes to sneak illegals across the border.
"Minutemen Assail Amnesty Idea"
Guns N' Roses Album Out in Fall
Axl Rose said the long-awaited Guns N' Roses album will be out this fall.
When I see it on the shelf in a music department I'll believe it.
"Axl Rose Heralds New Guns N' Roses Album"
May 12, 2006
Hot for Teacher
Oh to have been in this teacher's classroom:
A teacher at West Boca Raton High School is under investigation after school district officials learned about risque photos of her on a Web site.
Insert Van Halen Reference Here.
"Florida Teacher In Hot Water Over Swimsuit Photos"
Even More Thoughts on NSA Phone Database
Over a day has passed since USA Today reported on the NSA call records database. (It is a new, important story because the public knows more of the details and the extent of phone company cooperation.) I've dulled my fervor. I'm going to take back one sentence. In my first post on the story I wrote, "A database containing all that information without a court order is unacceptable." Given Orrin Kerr's reference to Smith v. Maryland there are constitutional situations where such a database is acceptable.
In my mind this program is different from the program discovered by the NY Times last December. In that case one end of the call is international. In NSA monitoring instances will come up where one end of a monitored international call will be in the U.S. Since people calling into the U.S. from overseas have no presumption of fourth amendment rights I don't see that surveilence as unreasonable. It would be silly if the NSA were only allowed to listen to the international end of the call or ignore anything pertinent found on the domestic side. Thus I am not bother by that program.
Thankfully the blogosphere is working up different angles and providing insight to help me better evaluate this issue.
My main concern is with fourth amendment protections against "unreasonable searches and seizures." Orrin Kerr, no Bush syncophant writes, "The Fourth Amendment issues are straightforward. It sounds like the program involves only non-content surveillance, which means that it presumably doesn’t implicate the Fourth Amendment under Smith v. Maryland."
That doesn't mean any law was broken. In a later post Kerr writes:
My still-very-tentative bottom line: The companies were probably violating the Stored Communications Act by disclosing the records to the NSA before the Patriot Act renewal in March 2006, although the new language in the Patriot Act renewal at least arguably made it more likely that the disclosure was legal under the emergency exception.
Jessical McBride made a great point on her radio show last night. She mentioned all the data the IRS has on every man, woman, and child who has ever filed a tax return. They have a lot more detailed and personal data than what's in the NSA phone records database. Yet there are few complaints. On her weblog McBride devulges the dirty little secret that the MSM data mines when researching stories. As for the ACLU Stop the ACLU points out the civil liberties organization has a data mining problem on its not-so-clean hands.
Steven Taylor wonders why the NSA needs all that phone data. Steve Verdon has a possible explanation involving Bayes' Theorem. In short, the filter needs to trained so it notices the bad guys and not the good guys.
Glen Greenwald went overboard with his claim that President Bush has crowned himself king and can do anything he wants. He writes, "The attribute which most singularly defines this administration is its insistence that our Government is based on unilateral and unreviewed Presidential Decree." If that's the case then Qwest couldn't opt out of the NSA program. Bush would have forced the company to send its call data to the NSA. That didn't happen. In fact the government is paying Verizon, AT&T, and BellSouth. Odd for an authoritarian to compensate its victims. Glen does remind us that the NSA is now pointing its ears at the United States, something it never was intended to do. The NSA was created to spy on the Soviets.
Rep. Edward Markey said, "The NSA stands for Now Spying on Americans." Not quite Congressman. Stephen Spruiell reminds us, "Reporter Leslie Cauley makes clear that this program doesn't monitor the actual content of domestic communications." And because the database is so big the vast majority of it will never appear before a spook's eyes. It's not spying on Americans, but it's close. That means we must be very wary of who handling the data.
On Qwest bucking the other telephone companies Steven Taylor writes,
If this program is wholly legal and if the NSA is fiercely protesting the privacy of American citizens, then why not obtain proper legal authorization in this process? Even more to the point: why balk at obtaining authorization when asked to do by Qwest?
What I see is an administration wanting to do all it can to protect the nation but unwilling to ask Congress to pass the appropriate legislation. I would like to know how classified legal changes were handled in the past. I'm sure since the establishment of the CIA, NSA, and other spying agencies past Presidents and Congresses had to deal with similar issues. Those debates probably included information that the Soviets and other enemies would have loved to learn. For years the government didn't even acknowledge the NSA's existence.
I'm already tired of people like John Hinderaker who state it's only liberals who have issues with this lastest spying news. I'm a strong Bush supporter, but I'm no knee-jerk cheerleader. Knowing a government agency has a record of every phone call I've made since Sep. 11, 2001 discomforts me. Questioning the bounds of government is healthy.
Shoving a poll at me telling me the American public doesn't mind the call record data base doesn't move me one bit. Public opinion has no bearing on a program's legitimacy or value. Bush defenders who use the poll for that are engaged in faux populism, populistic stylings to gain political advantage.
My bottom line: The database doesn't violate the fourth amendment since it only collects information about calls not the calls themselves. However, laws may have been broken. Even though the agency appears to be acting in a constitutional manner we should be a little disturbed the NSA's mission now includes monitoring the homeland. The Bush administration has done a poor job working with Congress to craft legislation and explaining themselves about oversight. I am not so much worried about the current administration as I am future ones--think Hillary--especially when the Islamist War has ended.
I have one final point. An interesting angle that can't be discounted is the timing of the USA Today story. Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the NSA is nominated to run the CIA and magically this story appears. Coincidence? Uh uh. For good or ill someone is trying to bury Hayden's nomination.
Charlie's Show Prep #94
May 11, 2006
Mont Pelerin Society Essay Contest
A dream of mine is to attend a meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, a group of classical liberal, libertarian, and conservative thinkers. The organization's website states, "Its sole objective was to facilitate an exchange of ideas between like-minded scholars in the hope of strengthening the principles and practice of a free society and to study the workings, virtues, and defects of market-oriented economic systems." Past members include Ludwig von Mises and my intellectual hero Friedrich von Hayek. Current members include Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, Gary Becker, and Ed Feulner.
If I get my act in gear and write one hell of an essay I could win and be invited. The topic is on this Hayek quote:
From the first establishment of (trade) which served reciprocal but not common purposes, a process has been going on for millennia which, by making rules of conduct independent of the particular purposes of those concerned, made it possible to extend these rules to ever wider circles of undetermined persons and eventually might make possible a universal peaceful order of the world.
That quote contains mini-summaries of Hayek's ideas: the importance of the rule of law, free trade, how dispersed knowledge is used to coordinate economic actions, and how we would have a better, more peaceful world.
Any essay of mine will draw upon Hayek's "The Use of Knowledge in Society." His The Constitution of Liberty and The Road to Serfdom will also have meaningful material. What I will need is a unique angle or hook to get the judges' attention. A few years ago I won an essay contest sponsored by Laissez Faire Books. My winning essay was title "Hayek's Alien Abduction." My hook was having the great economist kidnapped by aliens then transported to the present to see if his fears in The Road to Serfdom came to fruition. I'll need something more substantial to have a shot in the Mont Pelerin Society contest. If you've read any Hayek or have any thoughts on the above quote leave a comment or send me an e-mail.
Still Not Happy with NSA Revelations
With a little bit of sleep my head is slightly clearer considering the NSA having a record of billions of phone calls made since Sep. 11. I'm not anymore relieved. A database containing all that information without a court order is unacceptable. It's ripe for abuse. One thousand secret FBI files fell into the hands of cronies during President Clinton's term. A record of every phone call made would offer too much temptation for some overzealous or unethical flack.
James Joyner sees the program's harm as "infinitesimal while the potential gain in security is huge." True, since the Sep. 11 showed our intellegence agencies had a poor time dealing with the abundance of information at hand. Many items of interest will hide forever in that giant database. However, the idea the NSA has a record of all my phone calls is creepy.
There has to be a better, constitutional way to keep an eye out for terrorist bad guys while not subjecting everyone who picks up a telephone to surveillence. Unfortunately I don't have any alternatives. Supporters of the program will pounce on that. There are already those who show no concern for the program. Michelle Malkin has declared, the "NSA [is] doing its job!"
One other thought came to me. It hasn't gotten big yet, but encryption could become the big word now. Use VoIP so you can encrypt your phone conversations, encrypt your e-mail, encrypt your web browsing. NSA supercomputers might have ways to break it would take time and effort--unless your 24's Chloe who can crack any code in 20 minutes. Expect to see software companies tout the secrecy elements in their products.
"The NSA Knows Who You Have Been Calling"
Charlie's Show Prep #93
NSA Collecting Data on Domestic Phone Calls
Next time you pick up that phone to make a call realize a record of it will soon rest in a National Security Agency database. USA Today exposes more of the post-Sep. 11 world we live in:
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
My initial reaction was "They went overboard." After a little thought--only a little since it's 2:30 am--I realize this data is already available. The NSA could previously get it from the phone companies. The new program just cuts out the constant step of asking for updates.
Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.
That won't reassure many. We can also figure the database is so big that 1-900 call you made on that "dark and lonely night" won't be noticed by a spook.
The reader has to make his way to the middle of the story before getting a substansive quote from a named source:
Paul Butler, a former U.S. prosecutor who specialized in terrorism crimes, said FISA approval generally isn't necessary for government data-mining operations. "FISA does not prohibit the government from doing data mining," said Butler, now a partner with the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington, D.C.
In other words collecting and analyzing phone calls has happened before, and it's legal.
Obviously we're on trickly constitutional ground. I would be more comfortable if the legality of this program came from bill that passed through Congress. A back-and-forth debate would hash out some of its broadness. How that would take place without the enemy learning the details of the surveilence program I don't know. USA Today specifially points out Qwest isn't a part of the program. If terrorists want to have a better chance of not getting their calls noticed they now know to hang out in Qwest's backyard.
What I am sure of is Michael Hayden's nomination to run the CIA is toast because he won't be able to answer any questions about the NSA programs. Republicans like Sen. Arlen Specter will give Democrats plenty of bipartisan cover to let them blast the hell out of the Bush administration. However, let us remember a certain Democratic administration was engaged in something called "Carnivore." Even assuming all parties and administrations are acting with the best of intentions no one has carte blanche to spy unreasonably. There's that fourth amendment in the way.
"NSA Has Massive Database of Americans' Phone Calls"
May 10, 2006
Bin Laden's Ideology and the Seeds of Democracy
Amr Hamzawy sees Osama bin Laden on the ideological defensive:
The second remarkable aspect of bin Laden's videotape was his addressing, albeit by assailing them, Arab liberals. In previous videotapes, he accused pro-Western Arab governments and official religious institutions of seducing their populations away from the path of jihad. But this time he blamed Arab liberal intellectuals and writers for betraying the true spirit of Islam. For bin Laden, the liberals disseminate "blasphemous ideas" of democracy, human rights, and moderation, and in so doing diminish the degree of popular support for Al-Qaeda's jihad. The Al-Qaeda leader's decision to open a front against Arab liberals may threaten them, but it is also a testimony to their moral and political influence in the Arab world of today.
Austin Bay sees this as Arab moderates being "emboldened." Why? "For years Arab moderates have said “you must help us pull the gun away from our heads” (ie, protect us from the dictators and the terrorists). That is what Iraq is about, pulling the guns away (literally and figuratively) from the heads of Arab moderates and liberals."
He goes on to write,
There appears to be an emerging public consensus that democracy is the only viable way ahead. Bin Laden is right in fearing this development, since it undermines the logic of his terrorist agenda. Indeed, liberals in Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia have proven as effective in combating terrorism as various "hard" security measures. Al-Qaeda is on the defensive not only because of the geographical but also the political isolation of its leaders: Its radical, militant blueprints have lost a great deal of their appeal as Arabs have had a change of heart.
There may be something significant to the seeds of representative and limited government in Arab lands. However, these embryonic ideas might be used in tribal-religious positioning. With his statements bin Laden is probably doing the same. He's performing the age-old dance of attempting to play some parts of the umma off against another (Arab liberals).
These seeds need time to grow into civil institutions. To Western eyes we will see young Arab democratic as corrupt with money and favors flowing behind the scenes. In David Pryce-Jones' The Closed Circle you will understand that that Arab's aren't incapable of cleaner government it's that they apply the political skills of the body they're most familiar with, the tribe. Posturing and the preserving of honor, thus strength, become very important. He writes, "One and all, the Arab states are incomplete, partially formed, neither defined nor defended by proper institutions or jurisdictions, and therefore at the mercy of the power holder." Pryce-Jones goes on, "Their identity is at stake, even at risk, until such time as political processes evolve, and successful power-sharing and nation-building introduces values more open to compromise, not requiring defense through violence."
"Al-Qaeda Faces an Ideological Crisis"
Charlie's Show Prep #92
May 09, 2006
My internet connection seems to be working fine now. I don't know what happened. Usually when I have connection problems I unplug the cable modem and plug it back in. If that doesn't work I do a combination of unplugging and plugging the modem and restarting the computer. That didn't work this afternoon. But tonight I just mess with the modem and *POOF!* I'm back online.
Don't worry, I didn't break into hives or start shaking because I couldn't instantly google something. This outage reminded me I can read quite a few pages in a book when I'm not staring at a computer screen.
The lack of posts isn't because I've given up weblogging and ran off with the circus. For some reason my cable modem and/or cable company (Charter again) aren't liking me. I hope to be up and running as soon as possible.
May 08, 2006
Nintendo Goes Contrarian with Wii
One mantra of modern business management is "Listen to your customers." Nintendo didn't do that with Wii their new video game console:
The hard-core gaming community is extremely vocal--they blog a lot--but if Nintendo kept listening to them, hard-core gamers would be the only audience it ever had. "[Wii] was unimaginable for them," Iwata says. "And because it was unimaginable, they could not say that they wanted it. If you are simply listening to requests from the customer, you can satisfy their needs, but you can never surprise them. Sony and Microsoft make daily-necessity kinds of things. They have to listen to the needs of the customers and try to comply with their requests. That kind of approach has been deeply ingrained in their minds."
Sometimes good business is making something customers didn't even know they wanted. "Wii" will see if Nintendo pulls it off with Wii.
How to Really Protest
Jay Tea thinks the Vatican should get with the times and really do something to protest The Da Vinci Code:
1) Issue a death sentence against Dan Brown, the book's author.
In Defense of Algebra
One would think a defense of learning algebra wasn't needed, but Kenneth Silber feels compelled since he points out a few pundits have bashed the branch of mathematics. The Washington Post's Richard Cohen told a high school dropout, "You will never need to know algebra. I have never once used it and never once even rued that I could not use it." I'm sure that's just what employers want to hear. Instead of finding workers who can employ algebra's analytic reasoning Cohen blows it off by leaving all that number stuff to the "computer or a calculator."
Here's a semi-important real-world application: look at a sales receipt and determine the sales tax rate. (I'll leave finding the formula as an exercise for the reader.) You would then know if the store was using the correct rate. You say, "Big deal"? Knowing how much the state takes out of your wallet is good citizenship.
There are plenty of on-the-job examples involving production yields or rates or some other unknown quantity needing to be discovered. Training manuals can only take you so far. Sometimes a problem arises that goes beyond any training or formula in a book. That's when a pencil, a piece of paper, and some high school algebra can do wonders. For Cohen sitting in his office bloviating on the latest Washington happenings that never happens.
Like any technology algebra (and mathematics in general) has its place. As an Austrian economics sympathizer heavily influenced by Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek I understand running an entire economy using mathematical models is a hopeless cause. The Soviets' attempt at that led to decades of suffering. Yet without abstract mathematics like algebra our control over physical forces would be quite limited.
It would take a lot of Cohen's literary reasoning to develop the technology needed to make the tools he uses to tap out his columns. Thankfully we have algebra and more advanced mathematics to help design the logic that runs computers and organize the flow of good and services. Cohen's admitted ignorance gives him no right to bash a foundation of the modern world. Instead he should be downright thankful someone learned their algebra in high school.
"Algebra and Its Enemies"
Charlie's Show Prep #91
May 07, 2006
How One Area Deals with Illegal Aliens
After reading how Fox Valley institutions deal with illegal aliens you'll throw your hands up in frustration even if you're like me and don't mind immigration per se. Local police say even if they ask about a person's immigration status they "don't have enforcement authority." Employers just want enough paperwork (real or fake) to cover their tuckus. Health care providers understandably want to focus on healing the sick no matter the patient's status. Public schools care more about parental involvement than immigration status.
If we want to get serious about illegal immigration all these groups have to do their part. Just as most of us would call the police when we saw a group running down the street throwing rocks into people's windows each of us have to do their small parts in maintaining our nation's rule of law. Immigrants maintain America's dynamism. They bring new ideas and add to our culture. They are a great benefit. However, our rule of law keeps our nation from becoming an anarchy.
"Immigrants at Home in Valley"
May 06, 2006
Florida High-Rise Collapse
Being buried alive is a horrible way to die:
A support frame collapsed at a high-rise construction project Saturday, killing three workers who became trapped in quick-drying concrete as co-workers dug to try to free them, authorities said.
My prayers are with the victims' families.
"3 Killed in Florida High-Rise Collapse"
A Damn Expensive Post
While not as expensive as the Power Line post that lead to Dan Rather's demise the CEO of Raytheon took a hit to his wallet because of this weblogger.
New Bucks Uniforms Next Season
Rumor has it the Milwaukee Bucks will be getting new uniforms next season and going retro. I liked the purple but don't mind the colors from the days when Sidney Moncrief and company dominated the Central Division. I hope they keep the fierce-looking buck in the team logo. Even as a kid I wasn't fond of the cartoon Bango.
"Bucks Will Attempt to Change their Luck Next Season by Changing Uniforms"
May 05, 2006
Patrick Kennedy Goes to Rehab
A responsible politician with a history of substance abuse would not only go into rehab but resign his office and stop embarassing his constituents. But Rep. Patrick Kennedy isn't responsible. He's a Kennedy. They think must be in office or in Patrick's words, "I need to stay in the fight." Other than his inner demons what has he been fighting? What has he accomplished? I hope Patrick finally gets the help he needs to get his life together.
"Rep Kennedy Seeking Addiction Treatment"
"Breaking News: Rep. Patrick Kennedy to Enter Rehab"
Islamists' Video Games
Islamists are using modified video games for training and propaganda purposes:
Tech-savvy militants from al Qaeda and other groups have modified video war games so that U.S. troops play the role of bad guys in running gunfights against heavily armed Islamic radical heroes, Defense Department official and contractors told Congress.
Every technology will be used in this war. Islamist terrorists are (or were) using satellite and mobile phones, e-mail (probably encrypted), graphics programs to whip up propaganda pictures, the whole gamut of communications technologies. Employing new technology has been the norm in warmaking since there have been wars. One of the most famous instances was the Battle of Agincourt where English forces defeated the French with their long bow. Groups of people are working to make video games useful for training troops. It's not a surprise the enemy is doing the same.
There's at least one online gamer who doesn't mind the enemy playing video games. He offers some "advice."
"Islamists Using US Video Games in Youth Appeal"
Questioning a Poll
Xoff found a problem with the Strategic Vision poll that had Tommy Thompson trouncing Gov. Doyle: we have no idea who sponsored it. It would be hilarious if we discover Tommy was behind the poll.
I'd like to know the poll questions. Wording can drastically change a poll's results. "Hillary Rodham Clinton" polls better than "Hillary Clinton."
Yes, Bill Christofferson makes some sense every once in a while.
"Who's Paying for these Polls?"
Charlie's Show Prep #90
NOTE: There would be links to Journal Sentinel stories but I can't access the site.
May 04, 2006
TPA Dies in State Senate
When the pathetic, wimpy version of the TPA passed the State Assembly last week the whole project died. Tonight's vote in the State Senate was simply symbolic. We can see which state senators care about limiting government and its hunger for more and more taxes. Owen Robinson decided to pay attention and list the names. In a few weeks the state GOP will hold their convention in Appleton. I hope conservatives give certain legislators an earful.
It Pays to Be a Dictator
Become a communist dictator, hold on to power with an iron fist, and you too can be worth $900 million like Fidel Castro. All of that is blood money.
"Castro Worth $900 Million: Forbes"
UPDATE: Babalu Blog: "Some embargo, eh?"
Stick It to the World
Chris at Spotted Horse will be really cheering on the U.S. during next month's World Cup for one big, no huge, reason:
I really hope the US team can win it for one reason. It will drive the rest of the World insane because the American General Public WONT CARE. To have the rest of the World have to suffer 4 years of the Cup being in the not caring hands of the evil Americas would be a taste sweeter than wine.
I've started my chant. USA! USA! USA!
"My 2006 FIFA World Cup Dream"
Al Jazeera, Fox News Most Trusted
A media poll has something in it to bug everybody:
Asked to name the news source they most trusted, without any prompting, 59 percent of Egyptians said Al Jazeera, 52 percent of Brazilians said Rede Globo, 32 percent of Britons said the BBC, 22 percent of Germans said ARD and 11 percent of Americans said Fox News, each leading their respective nations.
Right-wingers will be bugged over Al Jazeera's trustworthiness while blue-staters will be indignant that anyone could think the network of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity could be worthy on any praise.
"Fox, BBC, Al Jazeera Most Trusted: Poll"
A Picture is Worth a Few Billion Words (or Dollars)
Steve Verdon noticed Tim Russert had a little trouble understanding oil company profits. Being the econ geek he is he whips out some graphs.
"Helping Tim Russert"
Chris' wife took London pictures. *SIGH* I need to get back there.
"The Gruppenfuhrer Excellent London Adventure Part 2"
Charlie's Show Prep #89
May 03, 2006
Using the Word "Wetback"
If you're a Milwaukee radio talk yapper who calls Hispanics, "wetbacks" on-air you get suspended while protests outside the radio station call for your firing.
What will happen to Susana De Leon a University of Minnesota Mexican-American studies instructor? At a illegal immigration rally she said, "Yes, people from Europe are wet backs man... their backs so wet because they had to cross an ocean to get here."
"Calling White People 'Wetbacks?'"
Schools Sans Sodas
Soft drink companies have agreed to take their sugar-laden liquids out of public schools. Busy bodies will see this as the industry "taking responsiblity." It's just a way for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, et al to cover their rears for when some trial lawyer (or state attorney general) slaps a multi-billion dollar class action lawsuit on them for "targeting children" and making them get fat.
Deal is more symbolic than anything. "Financially, on the big companies, it will have virtually no impact," said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest.
For a little perspective I didn't encounter vending machines in school until high school (and I'm not that old). Some parents will be happy because their kids won't bug them more change for the soda machine. If kids really need their bubbly, cola fix the machines could start stocking Coke Zero. It's much better than Diet Coke.
Of all the people to talk about obesity President Bill Clinton, Mr. Krispy Kreme himself, isn't one of them. Self-control isn't his forte.
The impact on youth obesity will be minimal. Thirsty kids will wait until after school to get their high-calorie fix. But for Big Soda it's a defense against the inevitable lawsuit.
Charlie's Show Prep #88
May 02, 2006
Brian Hagedorn survived Northwestern law school. Beware, another conservative, Federalist Society lawyers is on the loose.
Plame Worked on Iran Nuke Issue
James Joyner comments on the story that Valarie Plame was working on Iranian nuclear issues when she was outed by Bob Novak:
Whoever blew her identity–and it’s far from clear that Rove was the first to do so, even discounting the fact that Aldridge Aimes had already done so years before–ruined whatever prospects she had for returning to work as an undercover officer in the future. That’s a bad thing. Depending on intent and the sequence of events, it’s also illegal. Peter Fitgerald and company are working on that angle as we speak. As Matt Drudge would say, it’s “DEVELOPING . . . ”
"Plame Working on Iran WMD When Outed"
Charlie's Show Prep #87
May 01, 2006
TIME 100: Waste of Time
The TIME 100 list is full of conventional wisdom (Hillary Clinton, Matt Drudge, President Bush), self-congratulations (Bill & Melinda Gates, Bono TIME's 2005 people of the year), and those that got on the list because their publicists did a good job kissing up to the magazine to promote their new albums (Paul Simon, the Dixie Chicks). Then there's Elie Wiesel. He spoke out at yesterday's Darfur rally. Other than that he hasn't done anything substantial in years. He most recent claim to fame is being an Oprah Winfrey book club selection.
Day of Rememberance
A Note About the Blogosphere
English isn't the dominant language. In fact, "English isn't even the primary language of one third of all posts that Technorati tracks anymore."
Just blame the Japanese.
"State of the Blogosphere, April 2006 Part 2: On Language and Tagging"
Ignorance of Prices Allows Demagoguery
Brian Fraley found a great column by Thomas Sowell (they rarely aren't). Fraley emphasises this point:
One of the beauties of an economy coordinated by price movements is that nobody has to understand it in order for it to work.
F. A. Hayek called that a "spontaneous order." No single mind is needed to coordinate all that goes into the market. In fact, no single mind can compute the ratios of labor, land, and capital needed to effectively run an economy. That's the reason communism failed in the Soviet Union and why China has moved, slowly, toward capitalism.
However, people's ignorance of the price system means politicians can demagogue and label companies as "price gougers" and "greedy." Gov. Jim Doyle was in Brookfield, WI today calling for a cap on oil company profits. Give me a break!
Sowell has something to say about "unfair" profits:
If politicians seize the windfall profits and leave windfall losses alone, what that means over a cycle of years is that the average rate of return on oil production falls below what is needed to attract the investments that greater oil exploration and production require.
Consider Gov. Doyle ignorant of history and economics.
"Sowell's Take on Oil Prices"
Day Without Illegal Immigrants
The illegal immigrant boycotts and protests haven't shut down cities yet, but the fun has just started. Judging by a Zogby poll the hightened activism of illegal immigrants and their sympathizers may be hurting their cause.
On the positive side some Latinos worry about having their movement being associated with the Stalinist ANSWER gang:
Some local Latino leaders said they worry about being associated with a Los Angeles-based group, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), that has been active in promotion of the boycott. They said they fear that the group's broad-based opposition to Bush administration policies could hinder attempts to win allies for immigration reform on Capitol Hill.
One thing organizers could have done was to not hold the boycotts and protests on May Day, the communist holiday.
"Citizens Losing Sympathy For Illegal Aliens"
UPDATE: ReadDebateWisconsin declares Christine Neumann-Ortiz, leader of Voces de la Frontera and organizer of the illegal immigration protests in Milwaukee as the "most powerful woman in Wisconsin."
United 93 Review
Chaos. Uncertainty. Fear. On a cloudless day--at least in New York City and Southeast Wisconsin--on September 11, 2001 the nation was submersed in all three. The hijacking of four passenger planes threw air traffic controllers and the FAA for a loop. No one had violently taken over an American airliner in decades. When the first plane slammed into one of the Twin Towers news outlets thought it was a small aircraft not a jet filled with jet fuel that would burn through the tower's infrastructure causing its collapse. With a second plane crashing into the other Twin Tower, this time caught on live television, fears of a new war dropped on our souls. Only this war would play out on U.S. soil.
Imagine being on United flight 93. Because of a traffic delay at Newark Airport that flight's passengers learned what the end result would be of their hijacked flight. The movie United 93 tries to turn those awful events into a narrative that piques our emotions, patriotism, and intelligence. While taking artistic liberties the film shows us the power of individual initiative and self-sacrifice. It also shows a government ill-prepared on multiple levels.
For months teams of Islamist terrorists planned their attacks by gathering money, learning to fly commerical jets, and studying airport security weaknesses. They understood that in hijack situtations pilots and authorities assumed hijackers would offer demands for their hostages' release. Other than some novelists few envisioned terrorists would turn the planes into human-controlled cruise missles and crash into buildings. From the chatter of the air traffic controllers and the FAA staff the thought of a suicide mission never crossed their minds. Even when American Airlines 11 disappeared off radar and the first plane hit the north tower it took a while for both events to connect in people's minds. It was only then that the military began asking their superiors if fighter jets could shoot down other threatening planes. That there had not been an American hijacking in years made them slow to evaluate the situation, but there was also an understandable lack of imagination. No one person or organization has the mental capacity to plan and prepare for any situation. We were not in a war mindset.
The Cold War forced the United States to prepare for a large-scale world war on multiple fronts and/or a firey nuclear conflict. An age of triumphalism came with the death of the Soviet Union. Our leaders and the public did not see a major threat on the horizon. The Gulf War showed even regional powers were no match for the U.S. military. Terrorism was not on our radars. We tolerated hijackings and bombings as long as they were far away from the homeland. We even accepted an attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 and Timothy McVeigh's bombing in Oklahoma City as law enforcement cases. It took the coordinated hijackings of four airplanes to make us realize war was again upon us.
The passengers on United 93 became the first soldiers to strike back. Upon learning via air phones and mobile phones the fates of the other airplanes they knew what the conclusion of their journey would be. It is as this point where artistic license has to be applied. Only God knows if Todd Beamer and his band reached the cockpit or if the Islamist pilot knew he would not accomplish his mission and drove the plane into a field. We know they were planning to retake the plane. They evaluated the situation, planned a strategy, and acted. Someone said, "Let's roll." In the movie the passengers gathered any item they could find as weapons. They quickly mentioned their individual strengths and skills. One man knew judo and could quickly break the arm of a terrorist. Another man knew how to fly single-engine planes. If they took control of the cockpit he might be able to land it. The act of making something out of nothing is so entrepreneurial, so American. Those patriots did not accept the status quo because it meant death, not just for them but for any innocents caught in building United 93 was targeting.
United 93 does have a problem with its timing: it did not come out soon enough. We should not have had to wait four-and-a-half years for a movie expressing the most important event of our lives. The September 11 attacks changed our nation's path. It brought us to war. Two invasions have occured because of those attacks. We fear the spread of WMDs more than ever. Oil prices have increased. For good or ill many debates now contain a terrorism element. We worry about balancing security with civil liberties. Those attacks have deeply affected all of us. Only in an age of therapeutics and Oprah emoting can one really say it is "too soon" for such a movie. The September attacks are forever a part of who we are. That cannot change. We should be a little like the United 93 passengers and make due with what is at hand, and deal with the world as it is.
Charlie's Show Prep #86
For a half hour of your life you can't have back you could do worse than to listen to the first "Week in Preview" podcast Aaron and I did. In it you can listen to us talk about Darfur, immigration protests, and knitting. You will also get to hear me call Arianna Huffington an "intellectual whore."