November 30, 2005

Hit And Run

Post From Hit and Run

The Answer Is: Because It's a Free Country, You Idiot!
The question?
"You can always turn the television off and, of course, block the channels you don't want[....] But why should you have to?"
That's the head of the FCC, Kevin Martin, yammering in front of the Senate yesterday on the subject of "decency" on cable and satellite TV and radio. More here. Martin favors "a la carte" pricing of cable channels, on the theory that less objectionable material would come into the very households paying for such content. Given that he also favors extending federal content regulation to cable and satellite, we should recognize his support for a la carte pricing for what it is: an attempt to limit what consumers can watch and listen to.
God forbid Smellivision ever happens--because you know the FCC will be in favor of blocking adult smells too.
Here's the text of the comment I left:
The argument that you shouldn't have to be bothered to make the effort to not watch the stuff you don't want to see is such crap I can't believe it's even been put forward. That it's been put out there by the head of the FCC is appalling and frightening.
And even if they instituted a la carte cable the same stupid argument could apply. Why should you be bothered to have to not pay for channels that have dirty stuff on them. Just prohibit broadcasting anything racier than "The Wiggles" and no one will have to be bothered with making a choice. Of course those ten channels that show "Law and Order" and "CSI" 24/7 will be out of business but at least we wont be bothered.
Between the F'n Communication Commission and the F'n Election Commission the Right to Free Speech seems to be in pretty sorry shape these days.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:56 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


November 29, 2005

The Glass Is Half... ?

Ever find one of those news stories you don't quite know how to react to? I found one today that has me on the fence between "This Amuses Me" and "This Pisses Me Off."

Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert has ordered that the decorated tree on the Lawn of the Capital will not be called a "Holiday Tree." It will be officially be called the "Capitol Christmas Tree."

On the one hand I am pleased that someone stood up to the politically correct stupidity of "Holiday" Trees. On the other hand I'm thoroughly annoyed that it had to be done in the first place.

The nations capital is not the only place where the name of decorated trees has become an issue. In the city of Boston the name of the tree has become quite a controversy.

The donor of Boston's officially decorated 48 foot tree is not pleased about the impact of political correctness and said he would not have donated the tree if he knew it would be called a "Holiday Tree."

"I'd have cut it down and put it through the chipper," Mr. Hatt told a Canadian newspaper. "If they decide it should be a holiday tree, I'll tell them to send it back. If it was a holiday tree, you might as well put it up at Easter."
Listen up people. There's this holiday every December that we call Christmas. It's origins are rather loosely tied to Christianity and the birth of that particular faith's version of a savior. It is also and intensely secular celebration wrapped in intense consumerism, and office parties with drunks photocopying their asses. As part of this celebration of family friends and stuff, people decorate a lot. People decorate everything. In particular, we chop down an evergreen tree and festoon it with colored lights and all sorts of ornamentation. We call this a Christmas tree. It is as much a symbol of anything religious as a stop sign.

If this celebration offends you, well I'm sorry. You'll just have to be offended. We do our best to not unduly interfere with your traditions we'd kindly ask you to extend the same courtesy.

And as for the name "Christmas Tree," changing that changes precisely nothing. Calling it a Holiday Tree does not magically incorporate the tree into your winter celebratory traditions. Maybe you could try not to be quite so thin skinned.

It shouldn't be necessary for this to require the official intervention of the Speaker of the House. But the Speaker did intervene. As did the Mayor of Boston and the Governor of California. So maybe the glass is half empty, but it used to be three quarters empty so we're making progress.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:29 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


November 25, 2005

Like Lawyers Selling Used Cars

On the Federal level, politicians are scum. Yes, there may be one or two decent honest politicians and maybe even one or two that despite it all have their decent honest moments, but on average they're scum.

That's a pretty sweeping and broad brush condemnation I know. But that does not detract from its essential truth.

Consider this. In the name of eliminating the appearance of corruption politicians created campaign finance reform which does absolutely nothing to reduce the flow of money into politics but put some very specific limits on political speech prior to an election. In essence the only way it limits the appearance of corruption to prohibit anyone running an ad pointing out actual corruption in the most important days of a political campaign.

It does nothing to eliminate actual political corruption, because politicians like corruption. Corruption makes them rich. Corruption buys them dinner. Corruption buys them travel. There are no doubt many in Congress who earn more money on the side action than they get in salary.

The New York Times is reporting on a Justice Department investigation into large scale political corruption.

The investigation centers around former congressional leadership aide Michael Scanlon and lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Scanlon and Ambramoff have tied to Tom Delay. Also involved in the investigation is Representative Bob Ney (R-Ohio). Scanlon has pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy, while Ney denies that he was beholden to Scanlon because of contributions and other perks.

Former Louisiana Senator now lobbyist John Breaux (D) sums up the limitations of the spoile system this way

"Contributions can only take you so far," said former Senator John B. Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat who has relocated to a K Street law firm and is now advising clients on lobbying strategy. "I tell them, 'Look, you can give to an elected official and take them to lunch, dinner and breakfast. But if you are asking them to vote yes on an issue and they have 2,000 letters from home telling them to vote no, then you have a problem.' "
Your problem apparently is either that you just waisted a lot of money trying to buy a vote or you just didn't spend enough. I wonder if Breaux and other lobbyists have a formula for how much it takes to overcome the effect of a hundred or a thousand constituent letters.

If you follow the link to the second page of the Times article you will discover that this corruption is not limited to Republicans in the House.

The Associated Press reported this month that various lawmakers of both parties had asked the Interior Department to reject a casino application from a tribe that was a rival to one of Mr. Abramoff's clients. The lawmakers later received campaign aid from the tribe and Mr. Abramoff. Among the beneficiaries was the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, who received a $5,000 contribution to his political action committee shortly after sending a letter to the department in 2002.
Now it could just be a coincidence that Abramoff happened to make a donation to Reid's PAC shortly after Reid took action favorable to one of Abramoff's clients. Abramoff probably meant to send the money long ago but couldn't find his checkbook. Yeah... that's the ticket.

We need to change the system so that a seat in Congress is not a ticket to wealth and luxury. Give them all salary of $100k adjusted annually according to growth in GDP. Then shut down all of the rest. No lobbyist dinners. No lobbyist trips. Members of congress should derive no financial benefit from their elected position beyond their salary. Anyone convicted of doing otherwise is out of the Congress and into federal prison.

Forget campaign finance reform. What we really need is Congressional finance reform.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:28 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


November 24, 2005

Does The Times Understand Blogs Or The Internet?

So the New York Times runs a story titled A Party Girl Leads China's Online Revolution. It a story about a blogger in China who goes by the name Mu Mu. (side thought: Maybe I should nominate her for MuNu, then her url could be MuMu.Mu.Nu) There are pictures of Mu Mu There is even a good description of what Mu Mu is doing online."I don't know if I can be counted as a successful Web cam dance girl," that early post continued. "But I'm sure that looking around the world, if I am not the one with the highest diploma, I am definitely the dance babe who reads the most and thinks the deepest, and I'm most likely the only party member among them."

Thus was born, early in July, what many regard as China's most popular blog.
Sometimes timing is everything, and such was the case with the anonymous blogger, a self-described Communist Party member from Shanghai who goes by the pseudonym Mu Mu.
A 25-year-old, Mu Mu appears online most evenings around midnight, shielding her face while striking poses that are provocative, but never sexually explicit.
She parries questions from some of her tens of thousands of avid followers with witticisms and cool charm.
In fact it's a fairly good fairly in-depth story. With on huge glaring omission. No Link.

Here's a bit of unsolicited advice for the Times and it editors. If you're running a story about a blogger in your online edition, you might want to add a link. It doesn't matter if we can't read a word of what's on the site. Add the link.

(hat tip Instapundit)

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:31 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


Giving of Bloggy Thanks

Thank you to everyone who has come here to read this stuff.

Thank you to everyone who has ever found some of this stuff worthy of comment. You are too kind.

And a special thank you with pie to Pixy Misa who makes this stuff possible and works tirelessly (o.k. I'm pretty sure he gets tired sometimes) to keep the bad stuff from getting in the way of the good stuff.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:00 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


November 23, 2005

Time Passages

It is a sobering moment when you discover that the music you listened to on the Classic Rock station while you were in high school is now played on the Oldies station. The music of your day is now played almost exclusively on the Classic Rock station. And you have little tolerance for much that is new and current.

However a good deal of that pain was erased the other day when my kids complained that I had turned the radio up too loud!

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:17 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


November 21, 2005

Will There Be Blogs On The UNternet?

I have been giving a good deal of thought lately to the words of the Declaration of Independence that read "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Its a tough concept to wrap my mind around when I put this in context of some of the things I see happening.

The Supreme Court of the United States looked at a piece of legislation designed to limit political speech and judged it against language that reads "Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech" and ruled that it stands.

The same court ruled that a town taking property from a private citizen to hand over to a developer who can bring the town better tax receipts meets the standard of "public use."

Little by little individual rights and freedom are being eroded and for a significant portion of the population, it seems as though it is being done with the consent of the governed.

One of the last wide open spaces of freedom is the internet and now it too is under threat.

We should not be too comforted by the recent compromise in Tunis that kept control out of internet governance out of the hands of the United Nations. It is at best a temporary stay. The agreement in Tunis established the Internet Governance Forum which as of now, has no authority over any aspect of the internet. Yet.

And make no mistake the U.N. push for internet is not over and it has little or nothing to do with the management and distribution of domain name databases. This is about control of internet content. The free flow of information is too hazardous to too many of the U.N.'s member despots.

When you consider what a U.N. controlled internet would like like remember that this is the organization that was about to put Hussein's Iraq in the chair of its non-proliferation commission and Libya in the chair of it's human rights commission.

What will happen to the free flow of information when internet governance is in the hands of a U.N commission which will have members like China, Cuba, Iran or Syria?

Will there be blogs on the UNternet?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:07 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


November 18, 2005

They Just Don't Matter

The solons of the FEC are apparently going to allow us to keep our right to free speech. I suppose they expect us all to kiss their rings in gratitude. Well they can kiss my ass.

They should not be deciding who gets to say what and when. The First Amendment of the Constitution is supposed to protect our right to free speech from just such abuses by the government. When free speech becomes something the government can decide to allow you it becomes something they can decide to deny you.

Government does not exist to hand out rights as exemptions to legislation designed to curtail them.

The FEC can take their exemption and shove it. I have the right to speak and I will do so regardless of what the FEC decides to try to do.

"If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules."

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:45 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


November 16, 2005

Let's Get Started

Do you know this woman?

You probably should. She is potentially doing more for the future of America than any other woman on the planet.

She is Jeanine Pirro. She is running for the Senate in New York.

She no doubt faces an uphill battle in her bid to unseat the current Junior Senator from New York and potentially derail her hopes for the presidency in the process. Do what you can to support her. Go to her website and contribute if you can.

Note: This is post was not paid for by anyone. If the FEC has any problem with it, well that's too damn bad.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:12 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


Constitutional Quiz

Raise your hand if you think the First Amendment gives you the right to free speech.

Raise your hand if you think the Constitution or the government grants you any rights.

If you have a hand raised - make it into a fist and punch yourself to save me the trouble.

Now, go read a dictionary, The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and try this test again when you know what a right is.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:50 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


November 15, 2005

So Much For Airport Security

WCBS News in New York in reporting two stories of very serious security problems at area airports. Problems that in a post 9/11 world should probably not be happening at any airport.

The first security breach happened at JFK and involves a missing radioactive device that arrived on a passenger flight. The device called a Minatron is used in oil exploaration. The 4 foot long device was shipped via DHL Air Express to the oil company Schlumberger for repairs. The device disapeared and has been missing since October 6, 2005.

WCBS interviewed Dr. Edwin Lyman Who said that radioactive isotopes in the minatron could be dangerous if ingested or inhaled in large quantities. Neither Dr. Lyman nor WCBS stated if the minatron contained sufficient amounts of radioactive material to be dangerous.

Dr. Lyman did add "The minatron is actually a triple threat. I would be greatly concerned if it falls into the wrong hands as a radiological weapon. To use the neutron beams to cause radiation injuries or deaths."

Stephen Harris, an official from Schlumberger disputed the dangers saying "The equipment does not require shielding and does not represent a danger."

According to WCBS the Nuclear Regulatory Commission also says the device is not dangerous, but notes that it did contain radioactive material when it was shipped.

That a radioactive device can go missing from an airport whether that device is dangerous or not, points to some very serious dangers in the level of security.

The second incident occurred at Newark Liberty Airport.

A Chevy Avalanche, a vehicle that in its smallest configuration has a payload capacity of 1,387 pounds, crashed through a security gate and into the secured area of the airfield. Security at the airport was unable to locate the vehicle for 45 minutes - only apprehending the driver when he tried to exit the secure area.

Fortunately for everyone, the driver was not a terrorist with a truckload of explosives but a drunk driver who took a wrong turn.

According to the WCBS report the TSA was not notified until 13 hours after the incident.

Given the fact that an unattended suitcase will prompt the evacuation of a terminal, if not the whole airport is shocking that no action was taken. If this had been a terrorist attack a good deal of the Newark Liberty passenger terminal would likely be rubble and we would be focusing our efforts on recovering bodies.

I think I'm going to develop a good case of aviophobia. Does anyone know what John Madden does with his used busses?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:38 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


November 09, 2005

An Answer To Congress

Here's the statement oil company executives should be making to congress. But probably won't.

There probably hasn't been an oil exec with the balls to do it since Cheney retired from Haliburton.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:35 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


Funniest Radio Moment Ever

Heard on the way to work this morning.

First story the French riots. There was an interview with a french youth of indeterminate ethnicity. His major quote (typed phonetically -read with heavy French accent) "Keeds ave no ope."

Then came the lead in to a report on Mary Mapes ongoing defense of her bogus story and fake documents. The opening sound bite, "Keeds ave no ope."

I don't know if it was an error or a bit of political commentary but either way I want to thank the engineer for one of the best laughs I've had in a long time.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:08 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


November 07, 2005

Drive By Blogging

I've reached that point where I can't focus on anything enough to write anything with any depth because there are just many things happening both in the world, and closer to home and in the office and everywhere else. So It's quickie time.

France
Whether you subscribe to the argument that the riots are just the outcry of disaffected youth who are just coincidentally muslim, or if you think the whole thing is muslim plot to take over France and all of Europe. or if you think that is started out as the former and is evolving into the later, you have to agree that it probably sucks being French right now.

Alito
The left has so far been unable to mount any serious opposition to his nomination. I think this is because they are confused about the enthusiastic reaction of conservatives. The left assumes that because they would want a nominee who's focus would be to advance a liberal political agenda via the court, that conservatives would want a right wing version of the same. (This is also the same mistake President Bush made when he nominated Harriet Miers.)

Scootergate
Two years of investigation into a crime that apparently didn't happen that results in indicting a relatively minor player for indicted perjury and obstruction. The Democrats wanted Rove so badly and all they got was a grown man who goes by the name Scooter. It must suck to be one of them right now too. And now, ever so slightly, the spotlight seems to be once again edging toward Joe Wilson. I doubt he's at all happy about the direction it's shining from.

Bird Flu
Every year there is a new Flu. Every year there is a threat of a flu pandemic. Hundreds of thousands are likely to die. Every year there is a massive shortage of vaccine. Every year smart people point out how government regulation and price controls are the reason for the shortages. But no one dies and nothing gets done. So this year we're doing it again and people are screaming "The Sky Is Falling."

Free Speech
Bloggers everywhere are upset that legislation that would have guaranteed them an exemption from the speech regulation of MaCain/Fiengold did not pass in the House. My thought is we don't need an exemption from a law that never should have been passe. Never should have been signed. And most certainly never should have been sanctified by the SCOTUS. Overturn McCain/Fiengold and return the First Amendment protection the right to free speech.

That's about all I've got for today.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:36 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


November 03, 2005

Remember Dick Durbin?

Remember when Dick Durbin compared the U.S. run terrorist prison camp at Guantanamo Bay to the Soviet Gulags, Nazi Concentration Camps, and Pol Pot's Killing Fields? You might have to think back a bit - it was in June. On June 18 I wrote to my congressional representation and expressed my outrage and urged them to do so as well. Today I heard back from Congressman Christopher Shays. I'll shrug off the fact that he seems to think I called him to the volume of communication his office handles. I hadn't intended to Fisk the letter when I started typing it, but I just can't some of this go without comment.

Dear Stephen:
Thank you for you phone call expressing concern about the statements by Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois comparing the treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba to techniques used by the Nazis and the Soviets. As you may know, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and others have interpreted these words as questioning the patriotism of those who do not support the War on Terror and specifically the War in Iraq. I appreciate your taking the time to let me know your views.
First of all, what the hell does Karl Rove have to do with this? Is this the scope of Shays' response to say "Yeah well so what Karl Rove said this?" Really what does that do to lessen the appalling nature of Durbin's statements. I had to go back to your website just check my memory that you are a Republican. Counter attacking with Rove is so Democratic. And for what it's worth, comparing the U.S. Military to the Nazis, the Soviets and the Khmer Rouge (you forgot them) is hardly the hallmark of a great patriot.
First, let me say that we do a disservice by contributing to the partisan, acrimonious climate that all too often characterizes political debate. It seems to me that the American people want us to be American's first, and Republicans and Democrats second. When we do this, we get things done.
I agree. Every American whether Republican, Democrat, independent, or Green should have been equally outraged by the Senator's statements. As far as the government getting things done, since they are more often doing things to the American public (see McCain/Fiengold for one example) I don't have much of a problem if a little partisanship gets in the way.
That having been said, it is worth noting that Senator Richard Durbin, of whom Mr. Rove was specifically critical in his speech, has in fact apologized for the comments that led to Mr. Rove's observation. it Seems to me to me that the senator was right to apologize. I share the concern that "Al Jazeera now broadcasts to the region the words of Senator Durbin, certainly putting America's men and women in uniform in greater danger," and believe the senator will choose his words more carefully in the future.
Three cheers for Mr. Rove for being critical of Senator Durbin, too bad you don't seem to be able to bring yourself to do the same. As for the Senator's apology, I heard that too. After more than a weak of defending his statements he was very apologetic that his statements offended anyone. "Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line to them I extend my heartfelt apology." I guess if you don't feel he crossed the line he still stands by what he said.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office again. Because mail is delayed by Anthrax screening, e-mails, phone calls, faxes and in-person visits are the most effective ways to communicate with my office. I have also begun a periodic e-newsletter and would be happy to send it to you. To request this e-newsletter, and for other information, please visit my website at www.house.gov/shays.
You can bet that as long as you are the closest thing to a Republican that can be elected to represent Connecticut, I will likely be contacting your office again, and again, and again. And I will be happy indeed to receive your periodic e-newsletter. I'll even be happy to share it with my readers.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:10 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


November 02, 2005

This Shouldn't Be Necessary

UPDATED

John Hinderaker at Powerline posts to let us know that


Later today, the House of Representatives will vote on the Online Freedom of Speech Act, which is expected to pass easily.


Gee thanks guys but if you hadn't passed the horrific Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act, AKA McCain/Fiengold, this wouldn't be necessary at all now would it.


If we had a President who kept to his promise and vetoed this piece dreck in the first place, this legislation wouldn't be necessary. (But then again I'm not so sure he's even vetoed pretzels as a presidential snack food.)


If we had more justices sitting on the Supreme Court who could look at congress making a law that abridges freedom of speech and think "Hmm. Maybe this is contrary to the rather plain language of the Constitution that says 'Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech'" this legislation wouldn't be necessary.


I appreciate the efforts of those who are pushing this legislation but if you guys hadn't all gotten together and screwed it all up in the first place this wouldn't be necessary. So forgive me if not all that ready to give you a pat on the back for fixing something you never should have broken in the first place.


We already have an "Online Freedom of Speech Act." We more commonly refer to it as the First Amendment.


UPDATE: Apparently, the members of the House of Representatives think so little of citizens right to free speech they couldn't even bring themselves to pass an unnecessary and redundant piece of legislation aimed at undoing the greater harm they already done.

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Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:41 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


November 01, 2005

Grow Up Already


Isn't there some sort of clause in the Constitution about members of the Senate having to be grown ups? I mean don't they have to be at least 35?


When things don't go quite my son's way he will occasionally go into his room close the door and scream. He's only five so we call it a tantrum.


If he's still doing it in 30 years we'll call it a closed session.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:37 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


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