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June 27, 2007

Resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) recently remarked that it was time bring back the Fairness Doctrine, the old regulation that used to require broadcasts to provide equal airtime for opposing political viewpoints. As an editorial from the Examiner points out today, this idea is utterly ridiculous. (Hat tip: Power Line)

The Fiarness Doctrine was a product of a different broadcasting era. Talk radio, cable news, blogs, and the internet had not even been invented yet. The only sources of broadcast news besides commercial radio stations were the three major broadcast networks. National Public Radio had not been created until 1970. Any balanced presentation of political viewpoints needed to be guaranteed by government regulation.

But the proliferation of media outlets, particularly on cable and the Internet has made the Fairness Doctrine obsolete. No longer does a citizen have to rely on very limited sources of information.

The real motive behind the move to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine has absolutely nothing to do with fairness. Because liberals (i.e. Democrats) have been unable to successfully compete with the likes of conservative talk radio stars such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity they want to rely on government regulation.

And as the Examiner points out, if Democrats succeed in bringing back the Fairness Doctrine to talk radio they won't stop there. Then they'll target television and the Internet, also. Given their dislike for Fox News, how long would it be before they figure out a way to put them out of business through government regulation?

The bottom line is this: when Democrats can't compete whether it's in talk radio or the arena of ideas, they always go back to government regulation as a way to impose their will on the American people. It's unlikely that this time they will be able to succeed.

Posted by Tom at 10:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 25, 2007

Supreme Court Rules on Faith-Based Initiatives

The Supreme Court today ruled in the case of Hein vs. Freedom From Religion Foundation which challenged the constitutionality of President Bush's Office of Faith Based Initiatives. The Court dismissed the suit stating that the plantiffs in the case, Freedom From Religion Foundation, didn't have the proper standing to bring the suit.

The ruling is interesting because it doesn't necessarily address whether the President's faith-based initiatives are constitutional. Rather, the argument focused on a narrow issue in Establishment Clause litigation: under what circumstances can an individual or group bring suit against the federal government to halt funding of government program that seems to run afoul of the First Amendment.

Generally speaking, an individual taxpayer cannot bring suit against the government for any reason. However, there is a specific exception that was created by the Supreme Court in its 1968 ruling Flast vs. Cohen. That case requires that the program in question is the direct result of congressional funding.

The Court, in deciding the case, determined that because the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives is funded by the Executive Branch than directly by Congress there was no cause of action under Faust.

While the result will be applauded by conservatives, the Court has again opted to punt on dealing with the more serious issue of whether the Faust exception is constitutional at all. In the end, while the Court may have settled this case they have left the door open for more of this type of litigation to come from separatist groups. One can only hope that the Court can find the way to provide clearer guidance on these and other difficult constitutional questions.

Posted by Tom at 10:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 22, 2007

Liberals Miffed, See Government as Savior

OK, that's a "dog bites man" headline if there ever was one, but here's the latest example. A report by CAP, the Center for American Progress (PDF is here, though I had trouble loading it into Acrobat Reader), entitled "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio" notes how many more conservative talk radio stations there are than liberal ones. No news there.

What the report suggests is that the government should step in and "fix" this. Again, no news there. What's really funny is how they frame it. They play both the race and gender card, and bring up the non sequiter of who owns the radio stations. From the coverage on "Think Progress", here's the two paragraph they quote from the report discussing this (emphasis theirs).

Our conclusion is that the gap between conservative and progressive talk radio is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast, the elimination of clear public interest requirements for broadcasting, and the relaxation of ownership rules including the requirement of local participation in management. […]

Ultimately, these results suggest that increasing ownership diversity, both in terms of the race/ethnicity and gender of owners, as well as the number of independent local owners, will lead to more diverse programming, more choices for listeners, and more owners who are responsive to their local communities and serve the public interest.

So if only more radio stations were owned by women and minorities, we'd have more liberal talk radio.

Short answer: No.

Liberals once again demonstrate their lack of familiarity with that concept called the "free market". People don't listen to a radio program -- music, talk, news, entertainment, whatever -- based on who owns the station. They listen to what they want to listen to based on content. They have their preferences, and that's what they listen to. This isn't to say a rock-and-roller won't occasionally peek over to the jazz station, or that folks can have very eclectic tastes, but by and large people stick with their preferences.

Now, a radio station stays in business, generally, by making money. (This is central to the "free market" thing. Liberals, please read this. Others can skip to the next paragraph.) They do this by finding a need or want in the community and filling it. Not enough hard rock? Play it! Not enough 18th century classical? Get it! Not enough hard news? Report it! Not enough comedy? Program it! But here's the catch: if you're wrong -- if there is enough 18th century classical music on the radio -- you won't have enough listeners to allow the advertising revenue pay for your expenses.

If you're operating at a loss, generally you go out of business, or try another idea (not enough 20th century avant-garde new age pipe organ music?). Unless you're Air America, in which you just get infusion after infusion of cash from big, corporate rich guys, and if that fails, you legislate.

And that's precisely what CAP is suggesting; making laws to determine how much anybody can own in a market so that they can, maybe, get people to listen to their programs. As I said, a non sequiter. When Air America came to Atlanta, the radio station carried the whole slate of talkers, morning til night. I would occasionally listen to Randi Rhodes on the way home just to hear how the other half thought, but I just couldn't believe that's what the other half really thought. Way too much conspiracy theory. So I didn't listen to her with any regularity. A year or so later, the station is sold (most likely due to coming in last in the market with a 0.0 rating), changes format to an Eclectic Arts station and Air America was off the air in Atlanta. Didn't matter who the owner was. It was unprofitable in the extreme. (And the new owner went from owning 1 to 2 radio stations; definitely an "independent local owner".)

And that's why Air America and "progressive" radio in general isn't out there on the airwaves as much as conservative talk. Hardly anyone listens to them. It's a simple business calculus. But instead of making their product better, the Left seeks to get the government to force the issue.

Are you now waiting for the Left to propose the same thing for the newspaper or broadcast TV media as well? Hold not thy breath. A "Fairness Doctrine" that covers more than just radio? That'll never happen, because those other outlets generally lean left. Which goes to show that when the Left whines about fairness, it's all one-sided. Nothing fair about it.

Posted by Doug at 12:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 21, 2007

Meet the New Boss, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda

From Redstate.org:

Freshman PA Democrat says no new investigations needed

U.S. Representative Chris Carney, under pressure from constituents in his Pennsylvania district to probe fellow Democrat Paul Kanjorski, now says he believes previous Republican Congresses have done all they could to investigate possible corruption and ethical lapses.

Now that they're in power, all of a sudden Democrats are loathe to do anything about "the culture of corruption", especially in their own ranks. "Move along, nothing to see here. The Republicans already cleaned up this mess."
Carney, like most members of his Democrat freshmen class, ran his 2006 campaign on an anti-corruption platform. “I came to Congress with a promise that corruption should not be tolerated from either party,” Carney recently noted.

But following a call to initiate an investigation into a fellow Democrat, Carney balked, with his office telling the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice “if the Republican-controlled Congress chose not to investigate this matter in 2002, I’m unclear as to why the issue would be resurfacing now.”

Carney and his freshmen class should be charged with a "truth in labelling" violation.

And here's his leading indicator of whether or not someone is corrupt.

Not long after being elected, Carney told the Pittsburgh Press Gazette “Jack (Murtha) has our back,” and that he didn’t believe ethical questions would harm Murtha, who has been a controversial figure since being named an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1980s ABSCAM trials.

Despite his anti-corruption platform, Carney has come to Murtha’s defense. “If it's questionable,” Carney said of Murtha’s reported ethical lapses, “why has he been elected with such large majorities over the years?”

Well there you go. If the people love you, you must be OK.

Obligatory disclaimer: Neither party has a lock on the "culture of corruption". Washington, DC and any seat of power foments it. The problem is that the American people have been sold on the idea that if there's a problem, it requires a central government solution, and thus money and power flow in ever increasing measure to one place. We need to decentralize both to reduce the corruption in Washington and bring the solutions back to the states (who are closer to the problem and have a better track record in general). I'm not saying the states are pure as the driven snow, either, but the locals keep better tabs on their own close to home. If you really want to reduce corruption, the solution is smaller government.

Posted by Doug at 12:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Christians Persecuted, Major Christian Group Silent

Meryl Yourish gathers up the information. First off, here's the first paragraph from the World Council of Churches web page about "Who Are We?":

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is the broadest and most inclusive among the many organized expressions of the modern ecumenical movement, a movement whose goal is Christian unity.

So this is a specifically Christian organization. Yet their "Latest News" page, as of now, has an article condemning the Israeli "occupation" and how it hurts human dignity, but absolutely nothing about this 3-day-old story on Muslims in Gaza attacking a Christian school and church. How about any stories about the endless rockets launched into Israel from Gaza ever since Israel held up their part of the peace process and pulled out? Nothing.

Nope, Israel is the big problem. Odd, then, that those in Gaza are fleeing...to Israel.

Many Christians said they were prepared to leave the Gaza Strip as soon as the border crossings are reopened.

Where they can't get along and where they kill innocents in order to take power, the WCC is silent. But they condemn the country where the refugees flee to. What an awful double-standard.

Posted by Doug at 11:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Only At the UN Does This Pass For "Reform"

I've criticized the UN on human rights before. Their Human Rights Commission was a sham and a joke, often headed by countries with the worst human rights abuses, and very often condemning those with better records on it while ignoring egregious acts by member states.

The Commission was disbanded in a "reform" move, and the Human Right Council was created. Living up to my low expectations, the Council is virtually identical to the Commission in its actions.

Members of the UN's new human rights watchdog on Tuesday formally agreed to continue their scrutiny of Israel while halting investigations into Cuba and Belarus - a move that immediately drew fire from Canada and the United States.

Palestinians are trying to get into Israel to escape the human rights abuses in Gaza (the subject of an upcoming post). Yet they excuse Cuba, ignore Hamas and Fatah, and single out Israel. Such "myopic zeal".
The United States - which is only an observer to the 47-nation body - has been skeptical since the beginning.

Any wonder?
The large Muslim and African groups, which dominate the council, had lobbied hard to minimize the scope for naming and shaming countries over their human rights records, ...

Any wonder?
...but make an exception for Israel, the only government explicitly criticized so far by the body.

This is absolutely preposterous. The United Nations has absolutely no credibility in this area, and its pronouncements on this should no longer be taken seriously.

And if this is what they call "reform", they make their own case for dismantling.

Posted by Doug at 11:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 20, 2007

Mixing Science and Religion (It Can Be Done)

Richard Dawkins, scientist, atheist, and author of "The God Delusion":

Refusing to believe that science and religion could ever be happy bedfellows, the self-confessed atheist said that professional scientists who did promote that theory needed to prove the existence of god because it was a scientific question.

Emphasis mine, to point out that there have been many scientists who indeed were very religious. For instance:
Three-century-old manuscripts by Isaac Newton calculating the exact date of the apocalypse, detailing the precise dimensions of the ancient temple in Jerusalem and interpreting passages of the Bible — exhibited this week for the first time — lay bare the little-known religious intensity of a man many consider history's greatest scientist.

Newton, who died 280 years ago, is known for laying much of the groundwork for modern physics, astronomy, math and optics. But in a new Jerusalem exhibit, he appears as a scholar of deep faith who also found time to write on Jewish law — even penning a few phrases in careful Hebrew letters — and combing the Old Testament's Book of Daniel for clues about the world's end.

Any scientist who does that today would no doubt be considered a nut by Dawkins and his supporters. And yet I'm certain that Dawkins has no problem accepting the scientific conclusions of someone he'd consider a religious fanatic today.
In one manuscript from the early 1700s, Newton used the cryptic Book of Daniel to calculate the date for the Apocalypse, reaching the conclusion that the world would end no earlier than 2060.

"It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner," Newton wrote. However, he added, "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."

In another document, Newton interpreted biblical prophecies to mean that the Jews would return to the Holy Land before the world ends. The end of days will see "the ruin of the wicked nations, the end of weeping and of all troubles, the return of the Jews captivity and their setting up a flourishing and everlasting Kingdom," he posited.

This is not someone with just a passing interest in a popular religious text of the time, this is someone who takes it seriously. Oftentimes, this sort of religious display is handwaved away as purely cultural, but I don't think you can do that here.
Yemima Ben-Menahem, one of the exhibit's curators, said the papers show Newton's conviction that important knowledge was hiding in ancient texts.

"He believed there was wisdom in the world that got lost. He thought it was coded, and that by studying things like the dimensions of the temple, he could decode it," she said.

The Newton papers, Ben-Menahem said, also complicate the idea that science is diametrically opposed to religion. "These documents show a scientist guided by religious fervor, by a desire to see God's actions in the world," she said.

They are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by Doug at 12:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 18, 2007

BBC Internal Report Admist Bias

As if we needed them to tell us this.

The BBC has failed to promote proper debate on major political issues because of the inherent liberal culture of its staff, a report commissioned by the corporation has concluded.

The report claims that coverage of single-issue political causes, such as climate change and poverty, can be biased - and is particularly critical of Live 8 coverage, which it says amounted to endorsement.

OK, first off, major kudos to the BBC for looking into this and admitting it. However, this is long, long overdue. The Biased BBC blog could have told them this, for a lot less money, I'm sure.

Continuing on in the Telegraph story comes another "shocking" revelation.

The report concludes BBC staff must be more willing to challenge their own beliefs.

It reads: “There is a tendency to 'group think’ with too many staff inhabiting a shared space and comfort zone.”

Indeed when it's pointed out that 80+% of American journalists voted for Clinton, the retort is that it doesn't matter since they can still be impartial. However, the lesson from this is that the herd mentality is stronger than the Left gives it credit for, and that real diversity in the newsroom should consist more of diversity of opinion than just skin color. After all, the news businesses' product is information, and "group think" (or perhaps "myopic zeal") is more likely to slant news coverage than ethnic makeup is.

And this is just rich.

A staff impartiality seminar held last year is also documented in the report, at which executives admitted they would broadcast images of the Bible being thrown away but not the Koran, in case Muslims were offended.

No real need to expound on that; the bias (and fear) speaks for itself.

So now what? The Times of London's editorial on this nails it.

That the BBC should investigate itself is perhaps admirable, but only if it acts on the conclusions. The likelihood is that it will lament its shortcomings, pledge to do something and carry on much as before. Changing its cosy culture will take more than a report; some who have worked there say it would require a small neutron bomb. The BBC is a self-perpetuating liberal arts club. Recruitment is the key. It needs to employ more nonconformist journalists whose paper of choice is not The Guardian.

Indeed, diversity of opinion is what's required. Will it happen? Well, another arena that supposedly encourages full debate on subjects is academia, and the Left is heavily entrenched there as well, and they show no signs of wanting their orthodoxy and stranglehold challenged. A prediction that the Left in the media will do so is equally slim.

Posted by Doug at 09:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 13, 2007

Congressional Approval Ratings Tank

I'm not a big fan of polls, but there have been so many on the left who have trumpeted Bush's low approval ratings that I just had to report on this.

Fueled by disappointment at the pace of change since Democrats assumed the majority on Capitol Hill, public approval of Congress has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.

Just 27% of Americans now approve of the way Congress is doing its job, the poll found, down from 36% in January, when Democrats assumed control of the House and the Senate.

And 63% of Americans say that the new Democratic Congress is governing in a "business as usual" manner, rather than working to bring the fundamental change that party leaders promised after November's midterm election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the first woman to hold that position, has also failed to impress many Americans. Only 36% approve of the way she is handling the job, the poll found.

In contrast, 46% of Americans in the current poll said they approved of the way Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia handled the job after he led the GOP into the majority in 1994.

Live by the poll, die by the poll.

Frankly, the Gingrich number surprises me. Perhaps the emotions of the time, and the awful press coverage ("The Gingrich Who Stole Christmas", indeed) have ebbed so that folks are looking more objectively, and comparatively to what's happening now. Or perhaps it's just they've forgotten their specific qualms with Newt. But really, to have the general public looking more fondly of the Gingrich past than the Pelosi / Reid present doesn't speak well of the Democrats.

Again, polls like this don't mean much to me. I want a President or Congressman to lead, not follow the polls. But I've had Bush's poll numbers used as some sort of argument against him, so I just thought these numbers worth noting.

Posted by Doug at 12:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Deaths During the Iraq War

Almost 5 and a half million have died during the Iraq war, and you hear virtually nothing about them on the news. They were not killed with guns, bombs, chemicals or nukes, but the mass destruction is real, all the same. And the killing continues day after day. If you really care about violence and deaths, this is where we should start.

Abortion as WMD may sound over-the-top, but consider that George Bush has been called the worst terrorist on the planet because of deaths one or two orders of magnitude lower than this. Some perspective is in order.

(Click on the graphic to be taken to a page with how the stats are arrived at.)

Posted by Doug at 10:09 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

June 12, 2007

Book Review: Ten Tortured Words

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."
- First Amendment of the United States Constitution

The words seem so straightforward and simple. Yet no other part of the Constitution of the United States is so misunderstood and misconstrued as the First Amendment, particularly the first ten words which deal with freedom of religion. Bestselling author Stephen Mansfield delves into the history of the amendment that has caused more uproar and more court battles than any other in his outstanding new book Ten Tortured Words: How the Founding Fathers Tried to Protect Religion in America...and What's Happened Since.

Mansfield, who has spent many years working on behalf of religious liberty all over the world, starts with a careful examination of the Founders original intent in crafing the First Amendment. He takes the reader back inside the debates within the Constitutional Convention and the amendment is being debated. By relying on the transcripts from the Convention, he shares the Founders thoughts in their own words. As the original intent behind the amendment is revealed it is easy to see how these ten words have been so twisted over time.

But the story doesn't just end there. In fact, the drafting of the amendment is really only the beginning of the story. Mansfield moves on to a detailed examination of the man whose words in a private letter have become the basis for almost all battles over religious liberty in the United States for the past sixty years: Thomas Jefferson.

On January 1, 1802, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut. The Danbury Baptists had written to Jefferson regarding concerns they had about the government's role in religion. Jefferson's reply included a phrase that has since become familiar to many Americans: "a wall of separation between church and state". Although Jefferson's intent was to simply emphasize that the First Amendment prohibited the federal government from establishing any particular religion (similar to the Church of England in Britain), many courts have taken the phrase to mean that the government should not have any role in religion and vice versa.

It was the Supreme Court, in the case of Everson vs. Board of Education (1947) that would first use the "wall of separation" phrase. What's most interesting about this decision is not so much the case itself (although the case is quoted in the appendices and reveals the convoluted logic the Court used to arrive at its decision) but the personalities behind the case, particularly Justice Hugo Black who authored the decision.

Perhaps most surprising is the chapter on the ACLU and their involvement in First Amendment litigation. Many readers will no doubt be shocked to learn how the ACLU has turned this type of litigation into a profit-making endeavor by taking advantage of loopholes in current civil rights statutes.

Ten Tortured Words brings history alive through its engaging narrative. Mansfield avoids the trap of getting bogged down in legalese in discussing the court cases and instead focuses as much attention on the personalities involved in the battles. As a result, it is a highly entertaining and informative book.

Posted by Tom at 05:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Speaking Truth to Evil

Twenty years ago today, the President of the United States did what every single diplomat told him not to do, but he did it because he believed it was the right thing to do.

And it was.

Powerline highlights Peter Robinson's story of how he researched and then wrote a speech to be delivered by Ronald Reagan at West Germany's Brandenburg Gate. It was Robinson who wrote the lines, "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." No one at the State Department or the National Security Council liked it because it was too confrontational and raised false hopes.

Indeed it was confrontational, but you don't slink away from confronting evil. It only raised false hopes if you had no faith in your cause and a belief in the ultimate victory for what was right. If you didn't want to offend evil, and if you didn't think winning was really possible, you really wouldn't like that tone.

But that tone was what was needed then. And too many haven't learned the lesson even today. Read the whole thing to find out what Robinson learned in Berlin that gave him the idea for the line.

These days, the world talks tough to countries like Iran and Syria, and groups like Al Qaeda. But the difference is that Reagan acted on his words. He walked away from the table in Iceland when he determined the Soviets were acting in bad faith. The Left was hysterical, condemning this action as confrontational. They were right, it was. But they were wrong, because they didn't realize that that's the language the Soviets understood. They learned that Reagan would act on what he said, and they respected it. And thus, without the nuclear exchange the Left was sure Reagan was leading us to, very soon the gate did open and the wall did come down.

Bin Laden's lesson from observing America's retreat from Somalia was that we would tuck tail and run at the first sign of a serious resistance. That is why he was bold enough to plan the 9/11 attacks; because a different President sent a different message.

BIN LADEN: We experienced the Americans through our brothers who went into combat against them in Somalia, for example. We found they had no power worthy of mention. There was a huge aura over America -- the United States -- that terrified people even before they entered combat. Our brothers who were here in Afghanistan tested them, and together with some of the mujahedeen in Somalia, God granted them victory. America exited dragging its tails in failure, defeat, and ruin, caring for nothing.

America left faster than anyone expected. It forgot all that tremendous media fanfare about the new world order, that it is the master of that order, and that it does whatever it wants. It forgot all of these propositions, gathered up its army, and withdrew in defeat, thanks be to God.

To bin Laden and his supporters, this is not a policy war, nor a political war, but a religious war. It must be fought differently than the Cold War, but some things never change. Speaking truth to evil, and backing up your words with confident actions, whether on the diplomatic field or the battle field, are required to defeat that evil. Reagan understood that. It's a lesson that needs to be relearned by the diplomats of our present time.

Posted by Doug at 10:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 11, 2007

"Stop Sending Us Aid!"

An Kenyan expert in economics, James Shikwati, was interviewed by the German magazine Der Spiegel. The interview got off to a quick start as Shikwati surprised the journalist.

SPIEGEL:Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...

Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

Massive injections of money, good intentions, and virtually nothing to show for it. Sounds just like the welfare state here. The journalist is confused, bewildered.
SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Why is it a paradox if it simply a case of doing what doesn't work on a much larger scale? This exposes the incredibly simplistic assumption on the part of liberal ideology that throwing money a a problem really should work...in theory. As conservatives have been arguing for decades, however, an understanding of economics helps explain this "paradox". In answer to the question, Shikwati explains.
Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

Being taught to be beggars, dependence on government, dampening entrepreneurship, and government corruption involved in the cash transfer. Sounds just like the welfare...well, you get the idea.

Well, now our journalist is flummoxed. Doesn't someone have to help them? Shikwati slaps down this dependency thinking, and explains how food shipments both prop up corrupt governments and at the same time destroy the local economy's incentive.

SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.

Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there's a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program -- which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. It's only natural that they willingly accept the plea for more help. And it's not uncommon that they demand a little more money than the respective African government originally requested. They then forward that request to their headquarters, and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa ...

SPIEGEL: ... corn that predominantly comes from highly-subsidized European and American farmers ...

Shikwati: ... and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle.

And it just gets better after that. It included an admission from a tyrant that they indeed waste the aid, a exposure of exaggerated AIDS numbers for profit, and an African biochemist stuck being a chauffeur to aid workers. You simply must read the whole thing. It really turns on its head the idea that huge amounts of aid helps a nation, or even a continent. Giving to the poor is one thing. Destroying the individual spirit by destroying their livelihood is entirely another. The interview concludes with the journalist, playing the part of the liberal to the hilt (and, based on the full interview, not really play-acting) asking in desperation...
SPIEGEL: What are the Germans supposed to do?

Shikwati: If they really want to fight poverty, they should completely halt development aid and give Africa the opportunity to ensure its own survival. Currently, Africa is like a child that immediately cries for its babysitter when something goes wrong. Africa should stand on its own two feet.

Rugged individualism, combined with personal, not massive, charitable giving. That is the responsible position.

Posted by Doug at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 07, 2007

Will They Step Up and Do the Right Thing?

Republicans have ejected legislators in the recent past who have done wrong (Foley, Ney). Now the Democrats, who ran on the issue of getting rid of "the culture of corruption" in Washington -- a culture they attributed to Republicans -- have a chance to finally stand up for that conviction of theirs.

An indictment charging Rep. William Jefferson, D- La., in a long-running bribery investigation is being announced Monday, federal officials said.

The indictment is being handed up in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. A press conference was being organized for late Monday in Washington to discuss the case.

A Justice Department official familiar with the case said the indictment outlining the evidence against Jefferson is more than an inch thick and charges the congressman with crimes that could keep him in prison for up to 200 years. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.

Almost two years ago, in August 2005, investigators raided Jefferson's home in Louisiana and found $90,000 in cash stuffed into a box in his freezer.

Jefferson, 63, whose Louisiana district includes New Orleans, has said little about the case publicly but has maintained his innocence. He was re-elected last year despite the looming investigation.

As I've noted before, Republicans have plenty of examples to point to of people who are gone -- not censured, not reprimanded, gone -- such as Foley, Ney, Cunningham, DeLay, and Livingstone. The Democrats have an opportunity to show that, unlike how they handled Bill Clinton, they can kick out those in their party who break the rules.

It's not like Jefferson is the current Majority Leader (as was DeLay) nor nearly the next Speaker of the House (as was Livingstone). If Republicans could do that, Democrats should be able to do this.

True, Jefferson hasn't yet been convicted, so technically speaking he's still innocent in the eyes of the law. The news story notes, however, that two associates (who have already pled guilty) and a videotape are waiting in the wings as witnesses for the prosecution. Things are not looking good for the Congressman.

But he's not convicted yet. If he is, the question is, will Democrats hold their own accountable? If they do, Washington and the nation will be better for it, and I'll be glad to give them their due credit. Accountability is key. If they don't, the Democrats completely lose any moral high ground they've claimed.

It's not that one party's politicians are more corrupt than the others; humanity is what it is. It is all about accountability. Without that, there is no check on the fallibility of our elected representatives.

Posted by Doug at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 04, 2007

Dems Demonstrate Why Smaller Government Is Needed

I'm shocked. Or not.

After promising unprecedented openness regarding Congress' pork barrel practices, House Democrats are moving in the opposite direction as they draw up spending bills for the upcoming budget year.

Democrats are sidestepping rules approved their first day in power in January to clearly identify "earmarks"-lawmakers' requests for specific projects and contracts for their states-in documents that accompany spending bills.

Rather than including specific pet projects, grants and contracts in legislation as it is being written, Democrats are following an order by the House Appropriations Committee chairman to keep the bills free of such earmarks until it is too late for critics to effectively challenge them.

Smaller government is the only way this kind of abuse can be reduced, not just a change in party power. The more Washington does -- the more responsibility we hand over to them -- the more money they get. The more money, the more abuse of it. Divide up some of that power into 50 pieces (commonly referred to at "states"), and you have more accountability and less abuse, mostly because when you centralize things in Washington, abusers have one-stop shopping for largesse.

Posted by Doug at 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 01, 2007

Serve Me, Or Else!

With a tip of the hat to Ron Coleman at Dean's World comes word of a certain clientele that will take a company to court for not catering to them.

Now, would it make sense for used of Macintosh computers to sue software companies that only write for Windows, complaining that they should have equal access to that software as well? No, it would be silly, and certainly not allowed. I mean, after all, those Windows programmers know the PC, not the Mac. You'd want someone who knows the hardware you're using to write for it. And besides, can't a company choose it's market?

Perhaps not. Depends on who you are.

The popular online dating service eHarmony was sued on Thursday for refusing to offer its services to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

A lawsuit alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Linda Carlson, who was denied access to eHarmony because she is gay.

Define "denied access" for me, will you?
Lawyers bringing the action said they believed it was the first lawsuit of its kind against eHarmony, which has long rankled the gay community with its failure to offer a "men seeking men" or "women seeking women" option.

They were seeking to make it a class action lawsuit on behalf of gays and lesbians denied access to the dating service.

So to "deny access" means to not offer the specific options in a service that you want. Mac users, your time is coming if this lawsuit makes it through the court system.
eHarmony was founded in 2000 by evangelical Christian Dr. Neil Clark Warren and had strong early ties with the influential religious conservative group Focus on the Family.

There might even be some anti-Christian bias going on here. But that doesn't even really have to enter the picture to show how meritless this suit is, or should be. Using my previous example, would you want Windows programmers writing your Mac software? Dr. Warren has said that he doesn't consider himself an expert in homosexual relationships, and eHarmony is essentially selling his knowledge.
eHarmony could not immediately be reached for comment. Commenting in the past on eHarmony's gay and lesbian policy, Warren has said that he does not know the dynamics of same-sex relationships but he expects the principles to be different.

Let's sue the butcher for not knowing how to prepare tofu.

And this is just silly...

"This lawsuit is about changing the landscape and making a statement out there that gay people, just like heterosexuals, have the right and desire to meet other people with whom they can fall in love," said Carlson lawyer Todd Schneider.

How in the world does one business not catering to you somehow deny you the right to do...anything? The very first comment at the "Likelihood of Success" blog (second link above) puts the lie to this immediately.
I’m happily married now for 18 years, so I have zero experience with the on-line dating world. So it was news to me that eHarmony didn’t offer same-sex services.

But it wasn’t news I learned here. No, I learned it when one of their competitors’ ads came on: a somewhat clever ad where a guy looks at some listings of attractive women, and then says, “Nope. Still gay.” Point made: “Hey, if eHarmony won’t help you, we’ll be happy to.”

So the market has already solved this problem: eHarmony’s business choice created an opportunity, and a competitor is taking advantage of the opportunity. If this leads the competitor to get better known and better liked overall, then you can bet eHarmony will reconsider. If this remains a niche market and doesn’t have any carryover impact on brand loyalty, then eHarmony will continue to ignore the niche, and the competitor will find it a profitable niche to serve.

Problem solved. Leave the courts out of it.

(I've left off the last line of his comment, since it would become obvious where I got the Mac/Windows analogy from.)

If this lawsuit succeeds, it will cement homosexuality as a seriously privileged class, and be a giant step towards telling churches that consider homosexuality a sin that they don't have the religious freedom they thought they did. If this lawsuit does not succeed, it will not be because society is homophobic. When Catholic adoption agencies decide not to give children to same-sex couples due to religious reasons, it's the same situation. And in both cases, the market can, and has, dealt with it. A lawsuit over it is just narcissistic.

Posted by Doug at 03:04 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Real Human Shields

Before we went into Iraq, there were folks who volunteered to be human shields to protect the country. But instead of being placed near schools and hospitals, these folks were shocked to find out that they were being located, by Saddam, near army bases. Having been whacked by reality, they bailed out.

But today's human shields have a lot more honor and courage. And they know who the real enemy is. This picture highlighted by Gateway Pundit, and appropriately tagged with a Psalm by Military Motivator, is what a real, honorable, human shield looks like. A soldier mom commenting at Gateway Pundit describes it best.

The boy doesn't know why or care why that soldier is in Iraq: he simply has learned that the American soldier is the Good Guy and that the Soldier would give his own life to protect the child.

Posted by Doug at 02:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack