The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

10 minutes with NPR: The AARP

As I've recently mentioned, I alternate listening to Howard Stern and NPR on my 10-minute morning commute. That's not exactly true. I used to listen to Stern exclusively, but slowly over the last couple of months my radio has been turned toward the low end of the dial. Say what you will about NPR obvious political bias, those guys can kick some serious arty journalism that can make you think.

As thinking is so rare for me, I thought I'd use my oh-so-short time with NPR as an issue sounding board. Thus, this begins the first of my "10 minutes with NPR" posts.

The Story: The only story I caught today dealt with the recent attacks against the AARP by USA Next, the so-called conservative alternative to the AARP. The AARP is currently working to kill Bush's Social Security reform plan. USA Next has been running internet ads alleging the AARP is much more liberal than its membership. Specifically, they point out (according to NPR) that the AARP doesn't support the war and that it does support gay marriage, despite the fact that over 40% of AARP's members identify themselves as Conservative. The implication is that USA Next is using the Social Security debate to score points and members off the monolithic, 35-million member AARP.

The Spin: NPR's mission here is clear: They must restore the bipartisan credibility of AARP. To do so, they point out that they AARP's last major DC battle was to help pass George Bush's Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. The kicker is a couple quotes made during the Medicare debate by Republican leaders Hastert and Frist on the general wonderfulness of the AARP.

My Thoughts:

1. USA Next has definitely stretched the truth in its ads. According to the group, the claim that the AARP doesn't support the war centers around their lack of support for veterens' issues, and the claim that the AARP supports gay marriage stems from the fact that the group's Ohio chapter fought against the state's same sex marriage ban amendment. While I would not have been surprised if the national organization had taken affirmative steps against the war and in favor of gay marriage, this does not appear to be the case.

2. USA Next did not need to stretch the truth and only ended up damaging its own credibility. It has been common knowledge for years that the AARP's leadership is well to the left of its membership. The leadership has consistently supported higher payroll taxes, opposed tax cuts, and advocated copious government spending. In fact, the AARP is an active member of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which is neck-deep in Liberal causes from spreading affirmative action, to supporting so-called "hate crimes" legislation, to fighting against Bush's court nominations. The AARP is a liberal/left advocacy group and there were plenty of smoking guns out there. USA Next didn't need to build their case on such weak evidence.

3. AARP's support for Bush's Medicare plan was not an example of its bi-partisan nature, but happened for two simple reasons: (1) the bill was a liberal spending boondoggle and (2) the AARP pragmatically realized that this was the best it could hope to get with the GOP running the White House and Congress and it either had to swallow this or be completely marginalized.

4. USA Next is not going to make any real difference anyway. Millions of seniors have joined the AARP to get breaks on travel and insurance. As long their rates are reasonable, these individuals will continue to live in ignorant bliss over the political agenda of the AARP's leadership. I encountered the same phenomenon regarding the National Education Association. In a poll I saw years ago, an overwhelming amount of people said an NEA endorsement would make them more likely to vote for a candidate. Hey, they're teachers, right? And everyone loves teachers. Of course, when the pollster explained the NEA's liberal stances on some issues the poll numbers flipped. As with that case, the AARP has and will continue to paint itself as the fair and balanced supporter of senior citizens, and those seniors will continue to shell out cash for low insurance.

5. Lastly, this should also be a lesson to the GOP leadership that praising a one-time ally can come back to bite you. It should also serve as a reminder of an old Russian proverb: He who lies down with dogs, gets up with fleas.
Centinel 1:33 AM # | |

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Centinel's Field Guide to the North American Liberal, p. 11

Preventing Liberals from attending Republican events is violating the Liberals' free speech rights.

Once they get in to Republican events, it's OK for Liberals to assault Republicans or heckle them in an effort to stop them from speaking (coincidentally, this was predicted by Coulter (see par. 4)).
Centinel 3:19 PM # | |

A rose by any other affiliation . . .

Leftie and Proud Democrat Oliver Willis has an interesting post happening over at Like Kryptonite for Stupid regarding bloggers and party identification. The meat of which states:
I've found this to be a remarkable phenomenon. In the blogosphere, you have almost a reverse dynamic to that found in the media. Overwhelmingly liberal bloggers identify themselves directly as Democrats. Yes, there are many who see the party as the lesser of two evils, and in their hearts would prefer Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader, but overwhelmingly I've found bloggers on the left have no problem saying "yep, I'm a Democrat" (I obviously count myself among that group).

But among bloggers on the right, it always seems that great pains are taken to make it clear that they are "independents" or "libertarians" - these are people who usually endorse much of the GOP agenda and reliably vote for Republicans - and they don't identify as "Republican". Yes, there are some like GOPBloggers who identify with the party, but that was essentially a recent development.
In wrapping up with a "What does it all mean?" paragraph, Willis concludes that it may be because Democrats are more proud of their party than the GOP and asks, "for all the handwringing of 'where do we stand' could it be that the donkey triumphs over the pachyderm?"

In addressing the post, Kos takes it one step farther by somehow coming up with the counterintuitive reasoning that the Left is much more likely to take on their party than is the Right "who are loathe to stray too far from Approved Party Orthodoxy." In an unsurprising finale of rhetorical excess, he closes with the following questions:

Is it the Fox News Effect? Do they think they are more effective or persuasive if they pretend to be unpartisan? Or are they simply embarrassed of being associated too publicly with the party of hate, war, and religious extremists?
I have no idea if Willis' assertion is true, but as a crazyrightwingnut who has not been affiliated with a party in years, I'm willing to accept it. As far as it goes, I'm also willing to accept the first part of Willis' statement that the Left is more proud of the Democratic Party than the Right is of the GOP. Of course, that doesn't really mean anything. Looking at it logically, this would most likely result from the fact that the Left believes the Democrat party achieves its goals more than the Right believes that the GOP achieves its goals. But wait -- isn't that counter to the Democrat mantra that the GOP has been "captured" by the extremists on the right while they are the party of the middle?

For what it's worth, I think Kos's comments are nothing more than red-state baiting. If those on the Right really were fearful of challenging the "Approved Party Orthodoxy" then why do more of us disassociate ourselves from the party? Additionally, Kos seems to be assuming that those disassociating themselves from the GOP are so-called "moderates," whereas it seems clear from Willis's commentary that the bloggers in question are, like me, philosophically to the right of the party.

While I can only speak for myself, I can speculate on the answer to the underlying questions. I believe that the tendency of Conservative/Libertarian types to eschew the GOP label draws from several sources:

1. As alluded to by Willis, true Conservatives aren't big joiners. We believe in the decentralization and the power and the responsibility of the individual to better himself. Most of us don't feel the need to bond together to support our political beliefs.

2. The GOP is simply not as Conservative as the Democrat party is Liberal. Despite mounds of Leftie rhetoric, the GOP is generally more centrist than portrayed. Look at Bush's accomplishments: increased Medicare spending, increased general spending, McCain-Feingold, increased immigration. These are hardly right-wing mantras. And the "centrist" Democrats? They nominate the most liberal member of the Senate to carry their presidential banner. Sure, Bush pays lip service to opposing gay marriage and abortion-on-demand, but that hardly puts him to the right of the American public. The fact is, Liberals don't flee the Democrat party because they really have no reason to, but Conservatives often don't have a voice in Republican party matters.

3. Conservatives are simply less inclined to accept the lesser of two evils. Whether it is due to principle, political strategy, or both, Conservatives don't like to compromise on their core beliefs, and, as discussed in #2, the GOP often forces Conservatives to do just that. So contrary to Kos's assertions, we leave the party not because it is too extreme, but because it is too much like the Democrat party.

Personally, I don't care if the Left calls themselves Democrats or Democratic Socialists, it doesn't change the fact that their policies are bad for the country. I also don't care what the Republican Party calls itself, if it continues to compromise what once was its core beliefs then I will always be an independant.
Centinel 1:16 PM # | |

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Can you hear yourself?

During my morning commute, I alternate days between listening NPR and Howard Stern. It's a little odd, I know, but sometimes Stern gets in touch with reality and I have to listen to NPR to get pulled back into inane "blue state" land. I actually got a good chuckle out of one of the stories this morning. It seems that the "far right" National Democrat Party in Germany is having a spate of political success recently due to the bad economic fortes that have hit much of the country. In an effort to fight back, according to NPR, Chancellor Schroeder and his Social Democrats, after unsuccessfully petitioning the courts to ban the NDP, are distributing leaflets explaining how to avoid allowing right-wingers to use your facilities and encouraging private groups to kick them out (which at least one soccer club has done). What killed me is that immediately following this the commentator stated that many Germans view the NPD as a "threat to democracy."

I have no love for Neo-Nazis-- to quote Samuel Jackson, "Yes, they deserved to die! I hope they burn in Hell!" That said, I don't know what I find to be more ironic: that the German lefties think that banning political groups is the way to save democracy, or that they are trying to stop Neo-Nazi political activity using Hitler's tactics.
Centinel 1:10 PM # | |

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday Spies

For lack of better entertainment, I once again wade into the sludge that is your Good Friday Spies.

1. What blog, other than your own, do you read the most?

It's all I can do lately to read anything, but when I do read it's probably Begging the Question (I believe they included this question to stroke their own egos). I also read Soupie's BBQ & Daycare pretty often, as well. Why? Most likely because these two are at the top of my own blog list, and I'm usually so worn by Milbarge's latest 6,000-word post on the legal issue of the day that it's a wonder I can go on with my life at all, much less continue sifting through the nuggets of wisdom and skill represented by the blogs to your left.

2. Are you a gadget person? Do you have the latest thingamajigs and whoozits and geegaws? What sort of gadgets do you own?

Yeah, I usually have an assortment of gadget type things laying around. They include my RCA Lyra, my projector, my Blackberry, my digital camera, 3 smaller mp3 players, my video camera, and I even have a mini-disc player that I don't use. In my defense, I don't have any video-gaming systems or an iPod. My next toy will likely be satellite radio. I would likely be up to my whoozit in geegaws if I didn't have the calming, yet restrictive, influence of my lovely wife.

3. If I gave you $1000 on the condition that you couldn't spend it on something responsible (e.g., bills), or save it, what would you do with the money? (Can you tell that a Democrat is asking that question?)


4. What are your five favorite sitcoms of all time, other than "Seinfeld" and "The Simpsons"?

South Park, M*A*S*H, Blackadder, Family Guy, Night Court

5. Organize a film festival based on a theme. Choose a theme and a handful of movies with that theme, and tell us what you've chosen.

My theme is "Alienation and man's attempt to find his place in the world."

1. "Out of Time" Relentless French film about a seemingly normal man who has become spiritually adrift after losing his job, and the bizarre things he does in his attempt to find purpose.

2. "Ikiru" Kurosawa's intimate film about a dusty, closed-off bureaucrat who is forced to recognize his humanity when he discovers he is dying.

3. "The Breakfast Club" Best treatment of the confusion of being a teenager. Brilliant, yet funny.

4. "Oldboy" Disturbing Japanese film about a man who is released after being held captive in a private prison for 15 years without knowing why he is there. Viscerally touches the core of the need to know who we are. [Ed.: Nod to the well-spoken free spirit, j-a, for pointing out that Oldboy is KOREAN not Japanese.]

5. "In America" Touching story of an Irish family's attempt to rebuild themselves by immigrating to America.

6. "Grosse Pointe Blank" Shows that no man is an island, and that sometimes the path to redemption leads backwards.

7 "Eraserhead" Bizarre, macabre, and unforgettable film that will almost make you feel alienated by just watching it. Everything in this film speaks to spiritual isolation. Creepy.
Centinel 3:41 PM # | |

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The other white meat

To the unenlighted, my general fiscal conservatism may be viewed as nothing more that deficit-hawk tendencies. The truth is, I'm much more reactionary than that. Sure, I'm not too thrilled about constantly running deficits, but I wouldn't be happy if the government was running in the black if it continues to spend on business it . . . well, has no business in. My mindset is a simple one, and one that I believe the Founders shared:
If it can be done by the private sector, let the private sector do it. If it can't be done by the private sector, leave it to the states. If it can't be done by the states, and it is necessary for the country's general administration (treaties, embassies, weights and measurements, currency, etc.) or survival (military), then, and only then, should the federal government get involved.
Of course, this is a simplistic sketch and is rather draconian as viewed by today's, shall we say, socialized standards. I really don't want to get into a point-by-point analysis of what this would actually mean for the country -- I spend an entire semester of Con Law fleshing it out in daily battles instigated by my professor, and I still don't think we got anywhere -- but suffice it to say that I think Congress has taken it's "power to lay and collect taxes ... to pay the debts and provide for the ... general welfare of the United States" beyond the dreams of the individuals who wrote, debated, and adopted those words.

That being said, it's always amused me to see just how far the federal government's spending power reaches. The good folks over at Citizens Against Goverment Waste are preparing to reissue their appropriately named "2005 Congressional Pig Book," which chronicles the how ridiculous our pork-loving politicians have become more interesting purchases of our esteemed leaders. Among recent year's gems:

- $50 million for an indoor rain forest in Iowa
- $102 million to study screwworms which were long ago eradicated from American soil
- $273,000 to combat goth culture in Missouri
- $2.2 million to renovate the North Pole (Lucky for Santa!)
- $50,000 for a tattoo removal program in California
- $1 million for ornamental fish research
I for one am impressed by the federal government's foresight in address the invading Goth hordes. The Western Roman Empire ignored the Goths and now the Romans are forced to drive Vespas on cobblestone streets, which has got to really smart.

But I kid. Looking at this list I can see that perhaps I've been a bit hasty about condemning most government spending. I mean, on occasion they do some good. With that in mind, can anyone tell me how to score some of that $50K for tattoo removal? I've got this "Rockin' with Dokken" tat on my back that I'm having second thoughts about.
Centinel 7:56 AM # | |

Monday, March 14, 2005

They didn't teach that in law school . . .

Wandering through the blawg universe is sometimes like returning to law school. You hear terms that you haven't had to ponder in years, like the "rule against perpetuities" and "spring break." Having practiced for a couple of years, it's interesting to look back on what I didn't know about the practice of law -- even after clerking during the summer. I figured that some of these students and wannabee students would like a glimpse into practice that they may not normally see (outside of the Anonymous Lawyer's fictional accounts). I must add this caveat first, however: My experiences are limited to litigation practice in one large, urban, general practice firm. As such, they may not be universal.

I also recognize that it can be damn near impossible to get a straight answer to questions about the private practice of law. So if you have a question, feel free to jot it down and I will answer it if I can. I will post on this as the mood strikes, so until then I give you

Surprise #1 -- In the long term, private law practice is as much about sales as it is about law.

Law firms don't expect you to bring clients into the firm as a first or second year, but the hope is that, as you approach partner, you are bringing in enough new work to sustain your practice without outside help. This isn't always possible, but it is the hope. In theory the average practice should go like this:

Start work => Begin acquiring knowledge about your field and the general practice of law => Assist partner with client => Begin handling small matters/clients for partners => Begin taking your own calls from client.
(Note: Most good partners support this natural progression, but there are always some partners who are afraid to see anyone taking their work -- beware these louts).

There is a statement that often gets passed around to young associates: "The partners are your clients." This is essentially true. When you first begin practicing, everything you do will likely be read, proofed, and filtered by a partner. If you do good work, the partner will continue calling on your assistance. If you don't, the partner will likely dial up another associate next time. If you can't "sell" partners, you won't get work, and you won't make hours (which is a story for another day). Eventually, you won't need to impress the partners because you'll be "hanging out your own shingle," or as it's known in the real world, "collecting unemployment." Therefore, the first rule of private practice is simple: Do good work.

Assuming you can meet this standard, you will need to start thinking about "outside" business development. You would be wise to put together a business development plan that you periodically update so that you can stay on track. The idea is to take baby steps that will ultimately lead to your own incoming business. Toward that end, you will be forced to socialize with clients during social events (football games, dinners, etc.) that help you connect with the clients' decision makers (e.g., general counsels), which is an important first step for cultivating them as contacts of your own. Additionally, you are encouraged to be aware of situations where classmates and/or acquaintances get moved into in-house gigs. These individuals have business to give.

Firms also generally like it when you get out into the community because it helps establish the contacts that when fostered may bloom into new business several years down the road. You will likely be poked and prodded to get involved with charity organizations (for which you will be forced to cough up money), professional associations (the ABA, the local Young Lawyers, etc.), and other civic groups (the symphony board, church, the local chamber, etc.) The idea is that you will become a respected member of the community and will meet people who will eventually think of you when there are legal questions to be asked.

All of this doesn't happen overnight. Some firms rely on mentors and partners to pass down the message by example. Others make a point of teaching business development early on through speakers or small groups and to encourage associates to develop their practices. Whatever the case, if you ever expect to become partner at any reputable firm, you must be prepared to at least look like you can bring in additional client business, which oftentimes is dependent more on your ability to sell than your ability to practice law.
Centinel 12:36 PM # | |

Friday, March 11, 2005

Friday Spies ©

As the regular reader of this electronic screed sheet knows (Hey, Honey!), I don't do very "personal" posts because, well, I'm not very interesting. I work, I drink, I'm slowly dying, really not much to tell. In an effort to be more sociable, I'm going to join the "cool kids" and answer the BTQ Boyz "Friday Spies" ©. I reserve the right never to do this again. Ever.

1. Tell me what's in your desk drawers right now.

I actually have something like 72 desk drawers in my office. What I don't have is a system of organization, so you are likely to find just about anything in any given drawer. For instance, in drawer #25 I have a copy of my resume (sad) and what appears to be a bunch of research I did on a case, like, 8 months ago. Drawer #8 contains a box of business cards (mine) with a stack of Texas Bar Journals. The following is a random sampling of items from my central drawer #1: an unpaid parking ticket, a small Sega electronic hockey game, random business cards, a small bottle of contact solution, a cigar, a Montreal Expos (deceased) Zippo lighter, a cd copy of the Doves There Goes the Fear EP, a Subway club card with 7 of 8 stamps, a Chinese yo-yo that looks like the American flag, a small temporary tattoo of a black cat, and two ride tickets from the Texas State Fair. I couldn't make this up.

2. How many states have you visited or lived in, and which of the
others do you most want to visit?

I've visited the following states:

create your own personalized map of the USA

I have lived in the following: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and Montana. I would most like to visit Alaska, because I hate people and there are so few of them there.

3. What was the last cd you purchased, and what was the last movie you rented/bought a ticket to?

I actually bought a cd last night from a band called Silvertide whose local show I attended. They rock. Other than that, I bought the Doves' new disc, Some Cities last week.

I don't see too many movies at the theater, nor do I rent. The last movie I bought was Ong Bak, a Thai martial arts film that's currently in limited release in America. Martial arts isn't really my bag -- I prefer Asian gangster movies like Infernal Affairs and The Mission -- but I heard good things about this one. The story is rather simplistic, but Tony Jaa is a rockstar. This guy is going to be the new Jackie Chan if he ever learns English. Hold that, Jackie Chan never really learned English.

4. Have you ever sung karaoke? If not, what song would you be willing
to sing in front of people?

I've sung karaoke on occasion to mixed reviews. I have overreached my minimal talent on several occasions in embarrassing drunk escapades. However, I have some small talent at singing the standard You Never Even Called Me By My Name by David Allen Coe (coincidently, whose grandson I met a couple of weeks ago). I actually turned it into a duet with a former American Idol star a few months ago, but that's a story for another day.

5. What was the best concert you've ever attended, either because of
the performance or because it was otherwise memorable?

My favorite was The Who's Kid Are Alright Tour back in 1989 because it was the first concert I went to out of town, I was drunk, and it was The Who. What more reason do you need, really? The craziest concert I ever saw was a friend of mine's band recently reprising the band Glasspack during their last show at the legendary Texas Jam '78 for a soon-to-be-released documentary of the occasion. During the show, they took shot breaks, he fell off the stage twice and sprawled, there were two streakers, hot chicks rushing the stage, several knocked over amps, and one destroyed drum kit. That's the way every concert should be.
Centinel 3:54 PM # | |

I'm gonna be on the campaign trizzy too, 24/7. You know, kissin' babies and whatnot.

"Election season" has become a rather redundant phrase. Most good pols begin running years ahead of time -- gathering friends and chits, if you will. With that in mind, the National Journal has begun handicapping the '06 Senate races. It causes me to ponder one of those conservative philosophical questions: If Lincoln Chafee is beaten, is that really a loss for Republicans? For anyone?

Update: You can move Paul Sarbanes' seat up a few notches with his announced retirement, but not too far in this traditionally Dem-dominated state.
Centinel 1:11 PM # | |

Thursday, March 10, 2005

GOP love is like bad medicine.

I've made no bones about the fact that I didn't vote for Bush in 2004. No, I didn't think that Kerry was "better," but I did believe that the creeping socialism that we've come to expect from Democrat administrations was moving like kudzu in the summer during GWB Term I. Sorry, but I will not support bad policies just because they are "less bad" than the other side's.

Now it appears that Bush can't even claim "less badness." Recently, the Center for Medical Progress ("CMP") released a study on the gem in Bush's policy tiara, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act ("MMA"). From the get-go, Conservatives were shouting to the rafters that the MMA was a first order governmental boondoggle and a political bribe to the wrinkles and cansata set. Yet despite that fact that the U.S. was pouring billions into nation building in Iraq, Bush still signed off on this deficit fertilizer. Why??? Because he's a Compassionate Conservative, of course, and I'm a heartless bastard who wants to force the elderly to eat dog food because they can't afford real food and Viagra. I'm just kidding, Bob Dole was eating dog food long before the MMA.

What really bastes my Butterball, however, is that Republicans have become impossible to move on this issue. Maybe it's because the word "Medicare" causes eyes to glaze; maybe it's because everyone wants Grandma to be able to afford her Codeine. "Sure," they say, "this is going to cause the deficit to rise, but it's worth it." It's as if most people think we can legislate ourselves healthy.

The problem with the focus on the MMA is that it measures costs and benefits in terms of tax dollar spent and access to drugs gained. It doesn't recognize the hidden costs that come from tampering with the free market. I know, I know. Here I go again about the sanctity of the Market, and laissez faire, and I'll probably mention the invisible hand. I won't. Much.

What CMP has done is to try to put a number to the hidden costs of the MMA. What they've hypothesized is worse than even I imagined. Their method was fairly simple, they used past drug price controls to determine the market effect of increased Government purchasing on drug company research and development. The theory is that as the Federal Government jumps into the market, it is able to use its God-like leverage to squeeze drug companies until they pop. As a result, the drug companies begin cutting prices and profit, which leads to a drop in the amount they spend on R&D, which equals fewer advances in health care. Here's your money quote:
Applying this same analysis to the future, we predict that the increased government influence on drug purchases under the MMA will dramatically reduce both real drug prices and R&D spending. We estimate that real drug prices will decline by 67.5 percent (or about 49 percent lower than pre-MMA levels) if purchases under the MMA are treated in the same manner as drug purchases under Medicaid and the VA have been treated historically. We further estimate that this decline will reduce R&D spending by 39.4 percent, or $372 billion over the lifetime of the act. This translates into a reduction of 277 million life years.
Yep. There's the hidden cost: 277 million life years. As a country, we are now approaching the 300 million population mark, which, for those of you playing at home, means that, over time, we're averaging one year lost per person. So, do you think cheaper drugs are worth a year of your life?* I didn't think so. Thank you, Mr. President.

*Before there's a bunch of yelping, let me admit the following:
1. Yes, the study is not perfect, but it is well researched and relies on the proper assumptions.
2. Yes, I realize that the MMA will not lead to every person losing a year off their lives. It is spread among the population. However, it shouldn't change your cost/benefit analysis.
Centinel 4:46 PM # | |

Zoom, zoom, zoom . . .

The new Hillary 300Z -- accelerates from Liberal to Moderate/Conservative in 4 years.
Centinel 9:24 AM # | |

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics.*

Recent comments by Bradley A. Smith, the chairman of the Federal Election Commission have ignited minor debate -- and if not hand wringing, then at least head scratching -- in the blogosphere on the nature of political blog speech and how it should be regulated. Currently, the FEC administers the nation's campaign finance laws. As everyone who has ever suffered through a Newsweek write up on McCain-Feingold knows, there are a plethora of statutory and regulatory limits on who can give, how much they can give, and the amount of disclosure that is necessary for both the donors and the donees. The intention is to preserve fair elections while allowing for as much freedom of expression as possible. The results, of course, have been less than spectacular.

So far, there has been much less regulation of the internet than there has been of the traditional media. Mr. Smith has suggested that this distinction may soon be over. If that is so, we can soon expect new regulation against bloggers who can be seen as making in-kind contributions to candidates. One example being bandied about is nailing bloggers who have direct links to federal candidates' websites. The theory is that if Kos links to Dean's campaign contribution page he is indirectly providing Dean with thousands of dollars, and therefore his action should be considered a campaign contribution and regulated the same way as if he had sent a check to the Dean Campaign for the total amount in his name. (Of course, no one can say where that ferris wheel ride ends. If both my readers -- Hi, Mom & Dad! -- were to visit one of my links, would that qualify as an in-kind donatation?)

Facially, as an issue of fairness, it makes sense. We would expect that would be held to the same standard as The Washington Post itself. The problem is that such regulations are restrictions (albeit constitutionally permissive restrictions) on political speech and they are generally ineffective for two reasons: (1) there are always loopholes and ways around restrictions and (2) political pros will always be willing to exploit those holes (Is there anyone out there who believes that an endorsement on the New York Times editorial page is not worth $2,000?). So the FEC, like a little kid playing Whack-A-Mole, jumps from (loop)hole to (loop)hole, one step behind the violators, bashing away anything that looks like a violation.

While I would argue that campaign spending statutes and FEC regulations run the gamut from useless to counterproductive as currently written and enforced, I believe there are valid reasons for the FEC to leave the blogosphere alone.

First, the market that justified halting undue and undocumented election influence is gone. No longer are we living a time where a single newspaper and a couple of TV stations dominated the media in any particular location. In that closed market it was only too possible for wealthy parties and groups to influence elections through spending. Now, much like the sale of internet goods which has blossomed due to the lack of taxation, the absence of regulation of the internet speech has spawned a near-infinite variety of political voices. Never in the history of mankind have Americans had easy access to such a rainbow of opinion and thought. More importantly, never has the information universe been so closed to domination by a single entity or group. For every person who would donate to Dean because they felt that Kos's link was an endorsement, there are thousands who have become more knowledgeable political consumers thanks to the open dialog of the web.

Second, the self-policing nature of the internet severely decreases the need for disclosure. The Armstrong Williams/pay-for-buzz scandal is a good example. (Off the subject, but has anyone every really been influenced by the writings of Armstrong Williams?). Where we once were forced to rely on a few reporters attempting to ferret our illicit deeds, now thousands of would-be-internet Bernsteins are digging through the electronic trash of the rich and powerful and exposing everyone's streaked undies. Concerned that George Soros is secretly funneling millions to liberal Democrats? Believe me, Soros will think twice knowing that it is only a matter of time before some nerd gets a whiff of smoke and yells fire so loud that it becomes common knowledge.

Don't get me wrong. I believe that there were always be a threat of Boss Tweedism(particularly on the state level were races are subject to much less scrutiny), but I also believe that an unregulated internet will ultimately decrease the threat of illegal campaign financing and undue influence, not increase it, and that the chilling effect on free speech does not justify the proposed benefits.

Simply put, this is a bad idea. Of course, when has that ever stopped a federal agency?

* Will Rogers
Centinel 4:28 PM # | |

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Movin' on out

You know things aren't going well when you can't get good press from a fellow traveler. Just ask the poor, misguided souls over at, who have just had their collective soft, liberal underbellies exposed to the world by that bastion of political thought, Rolling Stone. In their expose, RS doesn't exactly break new ground, but they do effectively demonstrate that the brains behind the MoveOn operation really don't have a grasp on how the creek they are mucking in actually flows, but, dammit, they're going to continue mucking until something good happens.

The MoveOn phenomenon actually reminds me of a guy I used to work with named Richard. Richard wasn't an idiot, but performing brain surgery wasn't in his future either. Outwardly, he was a regular guy in most respects, but once you got to know him you realized he was a tenacity incarnate. No matter what Richard set about doing, he did it with such commitment and aggression that it was shocking. However, giving him a project was like sending a hyper dog get you the newspaper, you were more likely to end up with a littered lawn than with something to read on the toilet. The key to dealing with Richard, then, was to keep him focused on your ideas and not give him time to think for himself, because that was when he became the Fifth Horseman on the Apocalypse.

Like Richard, MoveOn is clearly filled with enthusiasm that can only come with zealotry. In politics we used to refer to this as a "White Knight" complex -- "I will win because my heart is pure." Despite their vim and vigor, MoveOn has resembled Don Quixote more than Sir Galahad. As RS points out, MoveOn has lost almost every fight they've fought and have often hurt their own side in the process.

As with most monumental blunders, MoveOn's downfall is not its action or inaction, but within the founding philosophy of the movement itself. To wit: While it is MoveOn's intention to motivate Americans to support Democrat candidates, their political viewpoint and choice of medium actually turns many voters off. Even before MoveOn had their "Bush=Hitler" commercial debacle, many conservative types (your humble yet handsome commenter included) believed that every time a liberal made a statement comparing the President to the Fuhrer another group of "centrists" moved to the right. Far from being concerned, we were thrilled whenever the Far Left got it's patchouli-wearing face in front of the American public, because we knew that the best argument against liberalism is liberals.

What amazes me is that despite huge losses in the past election cycle, the MoveOn folks haven't recognized that their extremist views are counterproductive when broadcast to a wide audience. I'm reminded of a state election I worked on several years ago. I received a call one day from one of my friends who had just come into possession of a flyer from the area gay and lesbian society endorsing the Democrat slate. The society had evidently been distributing them in gay clubs in the urban district (no, I don't know how my friend came to possess one, and I didn't ask). I asked him what he was going to do with the endorsement. "Make about a 3,000 copies and mail them to every independent voter in the district," he said. "Why shouldn't I help the Gay & Lesbian Alliance get their message out to a wider audience?"

Despite its woeful record, MoveOne has finally placed a notch on its belt with the ascendancy of Howard Dean to the DNC throne. Dean is their boy (as well as the new can tied around the Democrats' collective tails), and MoveOn claims this as their victory. Perhaps it is, but only because they were able to move the only majority they really speak for -- Democrat activists.

Of course, such a "victory" can only encourage MoveOn to continue spreading their divisive and losing message to the masses, which, in turn, will help further marginalize candidates on the Left. So, speaking as a conservative American, I say "Fight on,!" Your ignorance is my bliss.
Centinel 5:23 PM # | |

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Centinel's Field Guide to the North American Liberal, p. 10

Liberals believe guns are evil...

...unless they are being used to protect liberal anti-gun activists (or if liberals just need to shoot someone).
Centinel 12:59 PM # | |