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Obama's Night

Well, tonight is definitely a huge night for Sen. Barack Obama. He earned 55% of the Democratic primary vote in South Carolina. My money is now on Obama to win the Democratic nomination.

I'm listening to Pat Buchanan now, delivering the "conventional wisdom," who is claiming that this means very little, that the Clintons are trying to marginalize Obama's win, pointing out that Jesse Jackson one the Democratic caucus in S. Carolina back when he ran for President. Buchanan (who has always been an offensive toad) is correct that the Clintons are trying to do that, but I don't think they'll be successful.

Obama's speech tonight was superb. His delivery is passionate, his message was aimed squarely at what much of the country wants to hear. His crowd was amped up and clearly in love with their candidate.

Hillary's speech, which all the news networks abandoned very quickly, was dreadful. She was saying mostly the same things that Obama was saying, but not nearly as well, without the passion, and without the audience enthusiasm. That's the thing about Hillary, that's why when she and Bill formed their partnership years ago, they decided he would be the office-seeker: she's boring. At heart, she's a policy wonk, not a politician. Her connection to the people who support her is much more pro forma than Obama's.

The Clintons are in a world of hurt right now. According to CNN, over 60% of the voters in South Carolina said that Bill Clinton's campaign activities affected their vote, and a majority of those voters went for Sen. Obama; Bill hurt more than he helped. More importantly, Hillary's strength throughout the entire campaign was the aura of inevitability. Part of that was just old loyalty, part of that was the typical fear/desire for power; the "inevitable" candidate attracts friends who want to hitch their wagon to the right horse early one, or fear punishment if they back the wrong one. When the aura of inevitability wears off, people look for another horse to back.

The chattering heads on MSNBC are talking about Bill Clinton's extensive network, dating back to his days working for the McGovern campaign, across the country. Certainly that is valuable asset. But, as I believe the Clintons are discovering, such political loyalty is not an easily transferrable asset. All those people are political FOBs. When they see more political advantage for themselves to be had by switching sides, they will. It'll be easy for them to do this time, because there is no second act. If Hillary loses, there is no second act for them to fear; the Clinton machine is on its last campaign. They will not be in a position to unlose their fearsome retaliation if they lose.

The remaining wild card is John Edwards. He clearly has no chance at winning. He's in third place in most of the polls, and there's no particular reason to expect that he will move up. The momentum is all Obama, with Clinton as the fallback choice at this point. His strength is among white male Democrats, which are a dying breed. When he gets out of the race, will they go to Hillary or to Barack, that's the question.

My bet, at this point, is that Edwards voters will move to Obama. Although the Clinton and Obama rhetoric is similar at this point in the campaign (as a result, mainly, of Clinton's triangulation), Obama is, despite his "centrist" rhetoric, far more progressive than Clinton. Moreover, we are seeing, in part, the results of Clinton Fatique among Democrats, fatique which can't be blamed on evil Republican Clinton-haters. The Clintons have always distracted attention from their own problems by viciously attacking the opposition. That doesn't work nearly as well when the opposition are good Democrats. Plus, the pattern has become so obvious by sheer repetition that it's not as effective as it once was.

The game is certainly not over. As Tully is fond of pointing out, the political graveyard is full of people who underestimated the Clintons' political skills. But I am starting to think that the Clintons' comeuppance is finally arrived. Obama could still lose it, by misplaying the Florida issue (note to Democrats: you'll never go wrong asking to count all the votes, whining about breaking of "agreements" to ignore an entire state's voters will make you look stupid), or by some other gaffe or bad strategy, but I think the race is now his to lose. Despite what they're saying now, the Clintons fought very hard for South Carolina, and they lost in a big way. A close second would have been fine, but 55 to 27 is a beat-down. Watch for Clinton's lead in the California and national polls to begin to dwindle over the next few days. At this point, Florida won't help Hillary's momentum. If she wins big, it's because the others weren't campaigning that hard. If she barely wins, or worse, if she loses, then that's really very bad for her, because Obama will have won without hardly trying.

Update: See Captain Ed's post quoting Jonathan Chait, where Chait finally starts to see the light about the Clintons. That's one of the points I was making before. Now that they're using their tactics against Democrats, the Clintons could find themselves suddenly hitting a tipping point, where all of a sudden, a lot of people jump ship all at once, because a light bulb of sorts finally goes off in their head.

A new candidate in the fray...

Sunny Lucas for PresidentWith Fred out, the race is clearly going to the dogs, so why not support an actual dog? Sunny Lucas, the feisty Rhodesian Ridgeback regularly fed by our friend Rachel Lucas, has tossed her collar into the ring.

I like her platform. She's tough on terror, open-minded on religion, and middle of the road on immigration. She's both female and a minority.

She does have some potential problems, however. Like Obama, there's a concern over past drug use. Like Giuliani, she sometimes dresses in weird clothing. Like Huckabee, she used to have a weight problem and occasionally suggests she has been chosen. Like Hillary Clinton and McCain, she's been known to have a temper when crossed.

I like Sunny's candidacy. I have to admit, however, that I am concerned for our national security when the Chinese discover that she will do absolutely anything for pork or even asparagus.

UPDATE: The kittehs are not amused by the prospect of a Sunny candidacy, and are reacting at internet speed. Expect further opposition from pitbulls and pigs.

We are experiencing technical difficulties

We are currently experiencing some minor technical difficulties accessing the site to add new content. Please bear with us. If you are having similar problems logging in to post comments, which I suspect you are, given the nature of the problem, please e-mail me at stubborn.facts AT gmail dot the usual extension....

Update:

FIXED! Turns out our web hosting company, SiteGround, upgraded to php version 5.2 last night, and that broke something that Drupal's user module relies on. Fortunately, the Siteground folks had a message up explaining how to force the system to use an older version of php. Followed the instructions and we are back in business! Post away, folks.

Any vending machine guys out there?

vending machineI'm looking for somebody who has worked in the vending machine industry to answer a question for me, because for the life of me, I cannot fathom the economics behind their stocking decisions.

Here's the deal. In my office, we have one snack vending machine, very much like the one pictured at right. Pretty typical arrangement, the stuff in the top 2 or so rows is 90 cents, a row or two of smaller items at 60 cents, then a row or two of candy bars again at 90 or 95 cents, with the bottom row being gum. My question is about why they stock it so full of all the whacked-out flavors and obscure chips that people rarely eat?

The top row usually has one line of Cheetos, one line of Nacho Doritos, and (if we're lucky and the stocking guy's been nice to us) one line of an unflavored basic potato chip, Ruffles or Lays. The rest of the machine is packed with chips like: "Kettle Cooked Sweet Chili & Sour Cream," "Spicy Cajun Crawtators," and "Sour Cream & Onions," among others. In the candy row, almost everything available has nuts in it (M&M Peanuts, etc.) or is a less-popular brand (Skittles). By the end of the two week stocking cycle, the Cheetos and Doritos are long gone, and barely a dent has been made in any of the other garbage. It's quite obvious that they are leaving money on the table by not stocking more of the popular items.

Why is that? The only possible economic sense I can make out of it is that they pay a higher price for the good stuff, while the manufacturers give them a good discount on the funky stuff. People will only eat the funky stuff when there's little other choice, so basically the vending machine becomes a dumping ground for the less-desired products, because the customers are a captive audience.

But of course, an alternative explanation is that the stocking guy gets no commission, and so doesn't care too whether his machines sell a lot or not. Do we have any vending machine industry folks who can help us out?

P.S. On the subject of M&M Peanuts, why does almost every machine in the world seem to carry those but not plain M&Ms? I love M&Ms but don't like peanuts. Surely the set of all people who would eat plain M&Ms is larger than the set of all people who would eat M&M Peanuts. I mean, if you loved peanut M&Ms but they weren't available, you would presumably at least be willing to make do with the chocolate alone, but if you won't eat peanuts, then no amount of desperation will lead you to buy the peanut kind. So why aren't plain M&Ms the baseline to put in the machines?

A match made far from heaven....

Ruth Anne, official punster to all the coolest blogs, paints a chilling picture of a "love child" made in a place much warmer than heaven:

It's late and [she] has a weird voice which sounds like the love child of Harvey Fierstein and Carol Channing after a night of chain-smoking.

I get the shivers just imagining what that voice might sound like. Take a guess as to who the "she" is before popping over to Ruth Anne's place to see the accompanying pictures and how Ruth Anne misheard the news last night.

What are you doing here?

Pity the poor husband. He works hard all day, comes home to a so-so meal and a grumpy wife. His only source of relief is to sneak out of the house from time to time for a visit to a local establishment for some R&R.

Pity the poor wife. She works hard all day, cooks food for a grumpy, unappreciative husband who doesn't make enough to buy her the occasional new dress or a better cut of meat. Her only source of relief is to sneak out of the house from time to time to work for a local establishment for some extra cash.

Pity the both of them when they happen to run into each other at that establishment... a local brothel!

According to Reuters, this recently happened in Poland. The wife had told her husband she was working at a store in a nearby town. He had taken advantage of her absence to head down to the local brothel. Alas, the couple, married for 14 years, are divorcing. Which is probably for the best.

Welcome to our new registered users...

I am inspired to welcome all of our recently registered users to the Stubborn Facts community. We hope you'll enjoy the debates, and we (I'm pretty sure I speak for all of us) encourage you all to participate in the comments regularly!

To those of you lurkers out there, well now's your chance. If you register, then your comments will appear immediately, without waiting for one of us to approve them. Plus, Tully will probably buy you a pony beer*.

[*--Restrictions apply. Offer limited to two beers per person, four beers per household. Personal pick-up only, restricted to twenty-mile radius from offerer's physical location at time of offer fulfillment. Offer restricted to persons 21 years of age or older. Any other use without the express written permission of Major League Blernsball™ is strictly prohibited. SCRATCH HERE TO REVEAL PRIZE.]

Ron Paul and the Big Boy Rules for Scandals

Ron Paul wants to be President, but he doesn't want to play by the big boy rules of political scandals. Vile, racist statements were made repeatedly in a newsletter entitled the Ron Paul Survival Report (which he began publishing in 1985). Paul says he's not racist, he admires Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, and those nasty statements were written by a ghostwriter (whom he has never named), not him. (see this PoliGazette post for the basics, if you've been asleep today). To the army of Paulites across the 'net, Paul's blanket denial of racism, and his support for libertarian principles, means he can't possibly be a racist, and that's all the response that's needed.

But that's not the way it works for the folks wearing big boy pants (and skirts). Bill Clinton denied having sex with that woman, but guess what, he really did. Hillary Clinton says Whitewater was all on the up-and-up; the special prosecutor said otherwise, though he didn't think he could convince a jury. Richard Nixon said he was not a crook; we know how that turned out. A blanket denial means very little.

Even taking Paul at his word, that somebody else was responsible for the newsletter at that time, there are many questions which this issue raises about his judgment. To begin with, note that in neither this Reason interview nor his formal campaign response nor in any of the sources cited in the Wikipedia article does Paul flatly deny being aware of what was being published in his name at the time. He says the articles were written by someone else, but he doesn't say he never knew about them until scandal erupted, at least as far as I've been able to find. According to some sources in this story, columns were often published in his name, of which he was unaware until "later," but it's not clear whether "later" was before or after it became a scandal in the '96 campaign.

Certainly it's a common practice in political circles for PR people and others to write columns in the name of a candidate or political leader. But the big boy rules of politics require that you bear more than just "moral" responsibility. There's a serious political cost to be paid if somebody you hire or authorize to speak for you starts talking about black people as "animals." By claiming "moral responsibility" but passing this off as no controversy, Paul is revealing himself as a typical politician, wanting to have his cake and eat it too. Accepting moral responsibility for that vileness means making amends, means not associating with neo-nazis, it means returning their campaign contributions (or donating it to charity) and denouncing them as evil. Paul refuses to do that.

Even taking Paul at his word, how much did he profit from the racist editions of this newsletter? Who was responsible for the day-to-day oversight of the publication? Is the editor of the magazine from back then still a friend of Paul's? Is he on the campaign staff, is he and adviser of some sort?

When did Paul first realize that racist statements were being made in his name? Why didn't he at least read those articles after publication, and step in after the first racist comments?

In politics, particularly Presidential politics, proximity to a politician is a source of power, intended or not. The president's brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, and friends are treated with favor and respect by people who wish to curry favor with the powerful. That is why it is crucial that presidents, and presidential candidates, disavow, publicly and forcefully, those who might misuse their proximity, either for corrupt purposes, or merely to gain attention for their own dangerous political viewpoints. Paul cannot end this scandal simply by convincing us he is not himself a racist. He must demonstrate that he holds no truck with racism, that he will not tolerate it among his associates, friends, and business partners. To end this scandal, to convince us that he has the judgment to be president, he must disclose what happened, who wrote in his name, why he didn't bother to pay closer attention, how much he profited from this vileness, and show us that he does not maintain ties to those who hold these despicable views.

I predict he won't. But then, I've long said he's too loony to wear big boy pants.

We're Number One!

G E A U X    T I G E R S!

LSU won handily over Ohio State to secure the BCS National Championship for the 2nd time in 4 years, becoming the first college football team to win the BCS championship twice. We had a party at my house, and it was the most comfortable game to watch of the season. Many of my friends needed Dick Cheney-style implanted defibrillators after a slew of heart-attack-inducing games like Florida (won on a final drive that required going for it 5 times on 4th downs), Alabama (scored the tying touchdown with under 3 minutes to go, then caused a fumble to get the ball back and score again with under 1:30 left), and Auburn (scored the game-winning TD with 1 second on the clock). And that's not even counting the two losses in triple overtime! (One of our press wags had the best spin of the year, declaring LSU to be "undefeated in regulation!"... the kid's got a real future in politics)

Regular reader ArmyMom forwarded this photo, from some of our troops in Iraq yesterday. I'm glad the team came through for them.

Marines for LSU!

Check out the local paper's coverage here, main story here.
Excellent coverage at the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
And of course ESPN.

UPDATE: Final AP results are now available LSU #1, Georgia #2, USC #3, Missouri #4, Ohio State #5. That's 2 SEC teams in the top 5, with three more in the top 20. Note that the top 6 teams all have 2 losses, much to the undoubted chagrin of Kansas, the one-loss team in 7th place, and Hawaii, the one-loss team in 19th place.

Congratulations to all the teams for an absolutely great year of college football. This was a season where any team really could, and did, beat any other team on any given Saturday. Quite a few rent-a-win games turned into rent-a-losses. So here's to the Appalachian States, Stanfords, and ULMs of the world... you guys are why people love college football so much!

Sony to drop DRM!

Somebody pass me the smelling salts, the 800 lb gorilla of Digital Rights Management is giving up the fight. BusinessWeek is reporting that Sony BMG will soon announce that it will drop DRM and sell songs online without copy protection. While it's the last of the 4 major labels to do so (Warner, EMI, and UMG have already done so), this is huge news. Sony has always been a restrictionist sort of company. They don't want people to hack into their toys, they promote proprietary "standards," and of course they supported DRM so strongly just 2 years ago that they installed spyware on the computers of everybody who bought their CDs.

I made my hostility to DRM clear last April when Apple and EMI dropped DRM for all EMI songs available via iTunes. Since I got an iPod for my birthday last year, I've bought a fair amount of music from iTunes. While it hasn't been all DRM-free, much of it has been, songs I wouldn't have purchased otherwise. Heck, I've even bought downloaded copies of CDs I already own, because it was easier than ripping the CD (generally I've only done this with small artists who I really want to support).

The free market is finally sorting things out the right way. Sony BMG is taking this step because of competitive pressure from Apple. They'll be offering their music not on iTunes but through Amazon.com's MP3 download service. Sony and other labels want the flexibility to charge different prices for different songs. Steve Jobs and Apple insist on a uniform price for all songs, 99 cents. More competition. I love it.

Kudos to Sony BMG for finally pulling its head out of its rear and giving its customers what we want.

Related stories:

Horry for Apple! DRM-free songs... long live the free market!
A desperate bid for relevance

Merry Christmas!

I've been busy enjoying my family today, as have, I'm sure, Tully, Simon, Rafique and Fern. I've got no deep thoughts to pass on, except to say that if you are fortunate enough to be with family and friends, enjoy them as much as you possibly can. Even if you don't always like them, they're still family, and they may not like you much either, but find a way to enjoy each other's company all the same... because so many billions of people on the planet aren't nearly as fortunate as we are.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Seasons' Greetings to each of you.

May you and yours be filled with peace and joy, now and throughout the coming year.

Immanuel Kant, Wrong for America

I guess I share Pastor Jeff's odd sense of humor, because I found this video as funny as he did:

This could be a Stubborn Facts YouTube challenge, folks! Anybody want to have some fun? How about some attack ads based on real elections of the past? Pare down the Lincoln-Douglas debates to a couple of 30-second attack ads. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson attack each other.

If you have teh skilz, then do your own YouTube video, and I'll post it prominently on the front page here. Don't have the time or the skills to do it yourself? Give us the script, or the outline for the script, or at least the basic idea for your attack ad from the past in the comments. If we like it, maybe we'll produce it ourselves!

By their marks shall ye know them...

weird Star Wars stormtrooper tattooSo I went to the Renaissance Fair this weekend, with my younger brother. Let me tell you, this world is full of some interesting people. I had a good time, naturally. All the people dressed up in complete costume were nice, pleasant folks. But quite a number of the non-period-attired folk put me in mind of Rachel Lucas' recent rant about the coarser portions of humanity.

Chief among those making me fear for the future of humanity was the guy sporting the tattoo shown over at the right. Now, I don't have any tattoos and don't want any, but I can understand why some people get certain types of tattoos. George Schulz's tiger on his rear, for example, was undoubtedly obtained as part of a bonding ritual with fellow soldiers. I know women who enjoy a small, tasteful animal or fleur-de-lis somewhere on their anatomy. I can even understand the tough guys who have pictures of naked women on their arm (saw one of those this weekend, too). But I'm not sure I understand anything about why this guy got this tattoo.

To deconstruct it for those of you having difficulties... The main component appears to be a cross between a stormtroopers's helmet and a beer can helmet. If you look closely (and I wish I hadn't), you'll also see what looks like some type of Romulan or Klingon warbird or bird of prey serving as the logo for the beer can on the left. I have another picture which I may post later showing the can on the right, which may have a death-star logo, though it's hard to tell. The mixing of Star Wars and Star Trek genres is, I believe, generally seen as quite the faux pas among the cognoscenti. [UPDATE: I am informed by a certain uber-geek that the insignia on the beer can is, in fact, the Rebel Alliance logo, and thus the miscreant at left, while still guilty of many terrible things, is not guilty of mixing two separate sci-fi dominions. My bad.]

The fellow, who appears to have fathered offspring (a little 5 year old girl was clutching his hand) also had Alice's white rabbit, pocket watch in hand, running up his left forearm. I know it takes all kinds of people to make this world go round but really... do we really, really need this? What was this guy thinking when he got this stormtrooper-beer helmet tattoo? Shouldn't the designated driver taking his drunk ass to the tattoo parlor have intervened? "Dude, I know beer can storm trooper helmet sounds totally wicked right now, man, and it's cool, it really is. Really, man, I wouldn't lie to you, it's totally awesome and I'm so amazed that you thought of it. But you know what would be even MORE awesome? Waiting to get that tat until tomorrow. Seriously. I've got some ideas to make it EVEN BETTER. Let's head home without the tat, and we'll come back tomorrow? Ok, buddy?" That's what friends should be for, dang it.

Self defense, or manslaughter?

You're at home during the day when you spot two men breaking into your neighbor's house (where no one is home). You call 911, but the police don't arrive before you see the men start to leave the house. Do you:

1) watch from a window to get a description of the men and hope the police arrive in time;
2) stay safely inside your house to protect your own life and property; or
3) leave your house armed with a shotgun and kill the burglars?

Joe Horn, a 61-year-old resident of Pasadena, Texas, chose option #3, after remarking to the 911 dispatcher several times that he wasn't "going to let them get away with this." Here's the 911 call, from beginning to end, including the gun shots which ended the lives of the two human beings who were burgling the house.

The post comments over at Patterico have links to and a solid discussion of applicable Texas law. As Horn well knew (he references the Sept. 1 effective date of the law), Texas recently adopted a "defense of property" statute expanding the right to use deadly force to defend property. However, the author of that "castle doctrine" bill says he never intended it to allow gunning down fleeing burglars in broad daylight, according to this report at Below-the-Beltway:

But the legislator who authored the “castle doctrine” bill told the Chronicle it was never intended to apply to a neighbor’s property, to prompt a “‘Law West of the Pecos’ mentality or action,” said Republican Sen. Jeff Wentworth. “You’re supposed to be able to defend your own home, your own family, in your house, your place of business or your motor vehicle.”

In my view, any "defense of property" justification for deadly force should be used (and allowed) only to avoid any dispute over whether the victim of the property crime had a reasonable fear for his life. In other words, if somebody is stealing your stuff out of your garage, you have a right to shoot them only because it's reasonable in those circumstances to assume that the burglar could attack you. When the guy's on your property, stealing your stuff, that means, by definition, that you should have a reasonable fear for your life.

When you are safe in your own home, however, and nobody is trying to break into your home, or into any other home where you believe innocent people to be, then you should stay safe in your home. You do not have a license to take the law into your own hands by leaving the safety of your home and seeking out trouble, simply to apprehend thieves. Leaving any legal issue aside, it's dangerous to you and other innocent people. If the burglars in this case had had guns, a gun battle could easily have ensued, endangering not just Mr. Horn but any innocent people in the homes nearby.

I'm in favor of an individual interpretation of the Second Amendment. I'm in favor of "shall issue" concealed carry permits. I'm opposed to a "duty to retreat." But with those rights come responsibilities. Mr. Horn violated his responsibilities here. His lawyer reports that he is remorseful and is "no cowboy." I'm sure that's true. But he shouldn't have done what he did. If Texas law does not provide a defense for his actions, he should be convicted of manslaughter. If Texas law does provide such a defense, it should be promptly changed.

The Launch of the PoliGazette

Abra cadabra, hocus pocus, alakazam! What once was the parochially named Van der Galiën Gazette is now the erudite and clearly politically oriented Poligazette. Our friends and blog-partners Michael van der Galiën, Jason Steck, and Pieter Dorsman have a new brand, and a new URL. This is the culmination of months of hard work behind the scenes by those guys, so go by and check them out. As part of the launch festivities, they'll have guest posts from some seriously major bloggers throughout the day. Meanwhile, update your bookmarks and blog rolls to reflect the new name. Best of luck to Michael, Jason, Pieter, and the rest of the crew over there on the new venture!

Breaking news...

As most of you should be aware, there is a hostage situation at Senator Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire campaign headquarters. Details are still sketchy, but apparently a man with a bomb strapped to his chest walked into the office. Some hostages have been released. Check CNN or FoxNews for the latest.

In other news, Evel Kneviel has passed away at age 69. Rest in Peace, Evel. I enjoyed watching you, as a child. Even had one of your action toys, where you cranked up the motorcycle and let it fly (always wound up scraping my knuckles on the driveway concrete when I did that)! You defied the odds and died of old age. Our condolences to Robby and the rest of the Kneviel family.

My quaint, old-fashioned policy... don't speak ill of the dead.

My quaint and apparently old-fashioned policy against speaking ill of the dead has our friend MR (full name not posted to avoid search-engine connecting it to his blog) much agitated. Over at Sideways Mencken, he calls me out, alleging hypocrisy in my refusal to permit his posts taking a pot shot (admittedly a true one) about Rep. Henry Hyde in my recent post lamenting his passing.

Michael believes that being nice to the dead is "mere superstition on a par with a rabbit's foot or knocking wood," and thus foolish.

As with most of mankind's treatment of the dead, however, my policy has little to do with the deceased himself and much to do with those who survived him.

First, if it was my relative who passed away, I would be quite agitated to have to put up with such nastiness, such bitterness, while mourning the loss of my loved one. My policy is partly aimed at being respectful to the bereaved. I don't believe in saying something publicly which I wouldn't say to the face of the people most directly involved. I would not walk up to a son on the day his father died and criticize his dad for having an affair. It's rude. As Brutus said, the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. On the day of death, and at least through the funeral, I don't think it's too much to ask to focus on the good a man did, not the ill.

Second, and more importantly, politics is a nasty, divisive, bloody battle. In politics, in business, in life, we spend a lot of energy fighting each other. During those battles, it is far too easy to lose sight of the simple fact that we are all on the same team. We all want a good life for ourselves, our family, and as many of our fellow human beings on the planet as we can manage. We are all born, make our way as best we can through life, and then die. Along the way, we do some good, we do some bad; we succeed sometimes and we fail sometimes. Those are universals. If we're going to continue to live together successfully, however, we must remember those shared universals, lest our battles force us too far apart. Since death is the universal equalizer, I believe that the occasion of a death, in the political realm, should be used as an occasion to come together, not be pushed apart.

My policy holds for both Republicans and Democrats. Should, God forbid, Bill Clinton pass away any time soon, I would say, as I said for Hyde, that I hope he is remembered for the good that he did, not for the more tawdry aspects of his life. Were MR to pass away (I won't say God forbid, as MR is a staunch atheist, but I certainly hope that doesn't happen for a long, long time as I enjoy his company most days and still owe him some Scotch), I would likewise focus my comments on what I liked about him, his accomplishments as a family man and as an author, rather than his bull-headedness when it comes to politics.

This does not mean, however, that we must forever white-wash history. I have no desire to erase the historical record, or demand historical judgments based only on the good. But that can, and should, wait. I simply ask (and demand, in forums I control) that you maintain your mother's dictum, if you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all, until at least a day or two after the funeral. After that, have at, if you must.

Finally, some wonder whether this policy applies when the likes of Osama Bin Laden or Fidel Castro pass away. Yes and no. Discussing Osama's acts of mass murder is wholly different in kind from a cheap shot about a politician's affair which had little if any bearing on the lives of the rest of us. Osama and Fidel are in the public eye precisely because of the evil things they have done; it would not be possible to say much of anything about them at all without discussing those things. And yet still I will not exult in their deaths. I will be relieved that they can no longer continue to harm people, and I will believe that their deaths were just, but I will not take joy in them. As a Christian, I will be sad that they persisted in their evil actions, and I will hope and pray that they saw the light before they died and that God will give them the forgiveness which we mere humans will not be able to.

As John Donne put it:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

Henry Hyde, RIP

Former Representative Henry Hyde, an Illinois Republican who served the nation in the House of Representatives for 32 years, passed away this morning, around 3 am. National Review has the announcement, less than a month after being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush.

NRO believes his principle legacy should be the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the expenditure of federal funds to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, and where the life of the mother would be endangered without it. Prior to the 1976 passage of the amendment, according to NRO, the federal government paid for some 300,000 abortions per year for poor women. Unfortunately, his war time and other services to our country will likely be overshadowed in media coverage by his role as chief "prosecutor" in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

Whatever you think of his politics, he devoted his life to public service, for which we should remember him well. Thank you, Henry Hyde, and rest in peace.

UPDATE: I will be deleting comments which gratuitously speak ill of the dead... and, as per our standard policy, comments which complain about our comment policy.

Didn't you always suspect? CBS "news writers" next to strike...

Why does a news organization need "writers"? Reporters, yes. Journalists, even. But unionized "writers"? Apparently they do. As the New York Post reports, CBS news writers may be the next to strike. I had no idea that news organizations employed professional "writers," not just actual reporters. This explains so much. No wonder the MSM focuses so much on the narrative instead of the facts!

According to the Who Is? section of the Writers Guild of America, East website, about one-third of its members work on staff, in such jobs as:

News Writers; News Editors; Desk Assistants; Graphic Artists; Continuity Writers; On-Air Promotion Writers; Researchers; News Production Assistants; Production Assistants; News Assignment Deskpersons; Viewers; Producers.

The other two-thirds of their membership work primarily freelance, in such jobs as:

Motion Picture Screenwriters; TV Dramatic Writers; TV Episodic Series Writers; TV Daytime Serial Writers; TV and Radio Documentary and Public Affairs Writers; TV Comedy Writers; Children's TV Writers, Sitcom Writers; Animation Writers and more.

We're not talking just a few writers, kept around for the odd documentary, either. According to the Post, "[i]f a strike is actually called, it would affect 500 CBS News writers in New York, L.A., Chicago and Washington, D.C."

If the CBS news writers go on strike, will the stories become more factual? Will the network spend more time getting the actual facts correct and less on making them fit into the desired, scripted storyline? What will they do when there's no one around to write the all important narrative?

At least the WGA,E is honest about the nature of their work... it freely acknowledges that its members are part of a "creative" community. Well, we already knew that from long, painful experience of watching Dan Rather read the words they wrote, but it is refreshing to hear it admitted straight from the horse's mouth. From the history of the Writers Guild of America, East:

Out of these diverse roles and many talents the Writers Guild East has forged an impressively effective organization, united in the common purpose of promoting and protecting the professional and artistic interests of our creative community. (emphasis in original)

We warned you, Hugo...

When Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez decided to whip inflation by lopping three zeros off the value of the Bolivar last February and imposing price controls on food, we warned him what was ahead. I asked:

Can anybody point to a single time in the last 2 centuries when price controls increased the availability of the goods subject to the mandated prices?

Commenter BoRevNet disagreed:

"Price controls have worked as temporary stop gaps, especially if they have some flexibility built in. For obvious reasons, these are going to have to be adjusted. (Actually, they were, today, in conjunction with a decrease in the Value-added tax)."

In response, I tossed a little snark his way:

I see in Business Week that not only will Chavez throw price control violators in jail, he may also nationalize supermarkets and grocery stores. Yeah, that always makes food availability go up dramatically. Amazingly enough, some stores are actually not selling their inventory of staple foods because selling them at the controlled price would make them lose money! Imagine that, a merchant not selling a product for less than he paid for it.

In the immortal words of Gomer Pyle, USMC, surprise, surprise, surprise! What do you know, Tully and I (along with every rational, knowledgeable economist in the world) were right. Today's Reuters headline: Venzuelans scramble amid oil opulence.

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan construction worker Gustavo Arteaga has no trouble finding jobs in this OPEC nation's booming economy, but on a recent Monday morning he skipped work as part of a more complicated search -- for milk.

The 37-year-old father-of-two has for months scrambled to find basic products like cooking oil, beef and milk, despite leftist President Hugo Chavez's social program that promises to provide low-cost groceries to the majority poor.

"It takes a miracle to find milk," said Arteaga, who spent two hours in line outside a store in the poor Caracas neighborhood of Eucaliptus. "Don't you see I'm here slaving away to see if I can get even one or two of those (containers)?"

Venezuelan consumers are increasingly facing periodic shortages of basic food products as the economy shows signs of overheating amid record revenues from an oil boom.

Notice the reporter's questioning of a poor Venezuelan at the end, who speaks out in favor of Chavez. The reporter doesn't ask one crucial question of the woman: "Do you have more milk today than you had before the price controls?" I mean, Chavez' stated goal is to help the poor people. Is it too much to ask one simple question of a poor person for a fairly basic fact like that?

At any rate, this is sure to get much worse before it gets better. Oil wealth is supporting tremendous economic growth in Venezuela, at least superficially. Even the Chinese Communists ultimately learned that economic growth is not sustainable without free markets of some sort. One day, the oil money will dry up. If Venezuela doesn't diversify its economy a lot before that happens, then it will be in for a world of pain. The economy will not diversify by government fiat. People, human beings, don't work well like that, by government fiat telling them what to do, where to go, how much to charge for their products, how much they're allowed to buy.

H/T: Marc Moore at the Gazette

Other posts about Venezuela can be found here.

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