Sunday, July 29, 2007

Science and Foreign Policy

The Washington Post breathlessly reports that "a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health" stopped publication of a 2006 surgeon general's report.

The statement sounds shocking: a non-doctor stopped a medical report. A non-scientist suppressed science.

Does anybody reporting the story actually read the documents? The problem is that this surgeon general's report is not fundamentally a scientific document. It makes a bunch of foreign policy recommendations. Now, of course the administration may wish to allow the surgeon general of the United States to have input on what is important in terms of foreign policy. That is a judgement call regarding foreign policy priorities. However, this is not about science. And medical or public health expertise was not required for a decision on dissemination of the document.

There is plenty about this administration that deserves legitimate criticism. It is hard to understand why its opponents have to resort to these types of attacks that can only be described as nonsense.

"Sometimes I feel like a cripple, but I'm all right. Really. Nobody wants to hear guys like me complain, anyhow"

Currently, there is an important debate taking place off the field regarding the NFL's health care benefits for former players. Many people have no idea of the price that is paid by those who have played the game. Every football fan who wants to better understand what is at stake should read this article about those who played for the 1977 Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys. The frequency and types of physical ailments they now deal with are staggering.

Football is an incredibly popular sport -- I grew up a huge Cowboys fan, and 1977 was a great year I will always remember. The long term effects of playing the game at that level is an issue that affects the continued viability of the game. As the article notes, players do not now stay on the field with the injuries that players often continued playing with in the 1970's. On the other hand, players are considerably larger now. What today's players will look like 30 years from now is an interesting question.

The quote in the title was from Cowboys safety Charlie Waters. He is one of only many former Cowboys described as having severe and debilitating injuries.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Wouldn't That Be a 21 Year Flood?

Sometimes, phrases are used in ways that show that they have completely lost their meaning. As an example, this statement appeared in a news report in today's Dallas Morning News:

Heavy rains have morphed the massive lake into a sprawling flood zone, and it will take about six weeks for the water to inch its way back to normal. It is the third 100-year flood since the lake opened in 1944.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Looking for Abstinence Only Spenders

Captain Ed Morrissey points out another example of the fact that when Congressmen fighting over pork projects kiss and make up, its the taxpayers that get screwed.

Can You Say That Again?

Kay Brooks caught The Tennessean copying itself. The exact same article appeared on the same day in separate sections of the paper earlier this week.

Be Fair: Do It My Way

Ann Althouse is appropriately dismissive of some of the lamentations over the politicization of the courts:

Of course, I know: You want the Court to transcend politics but to transcend it in the direction that squares with your politics. I laugh at that.

Lessons Learned from the War?

Rod Dreher's list of things he no longer believes as a result of the war inspired Joe Carter to compose a list of his own. Both are thought provoking and interesting, and they reflect the differences between various types of conservatives at this juncture in history.

Perhaps This Is Why Most Politicians Decline to Blog

" number one rule of blogging is that if you cant offer an honest opinion, say nothing."

-- Mark Cuban, on why he doesn't write much about the NBA

Please note that I am not really calling politicians dishonest. However, many of them -- people pleasers to the core -- have a difficult time being forthright in their writing. One need not be a fan of shock bloggers to realize that equivocal writing is usually also dull writing.

Parents, Pay Attention

The Associated Press reports that has identified over 29,000 registered sex offenders who have created profiles on its website. Just by surveying media reports, North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper's office turned up over 100 incidents where adults attempted to lure children using the site.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I Favor the Death Penalty for People Like This

According to a report in the Dallas Morning News, a man was arrested in a north Dallas nightclub and charged with having unprotected sex with at least four women while knowing that he is HIV positive.

Actually, that is not a capitol offense -- even in Texas. I say hang him.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I Needed This Laugh

Scrappleface's satire regularly leaves me laughing out loud. A recent example:

Administration spokesman Tony Snow said the White House functioned normally during Mr. Bush’s procedure, and that having the vice president officially at the helm may have even increased executive branch efficiency by “cutting out the middle man.”

Establishment Lights Go Out in Georgia?

In the election to replace the late U.S. Representative Charles Norwood, a poorly funded conservative, Dr. Paul Broun, prevailed over the choice of the Republican establishment candidate. John Fund suggests that the outcome should serve as a warning to establishment Republicans insufficiently aware of the electorate's anger over excessive spending.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

He Didn't Even Bring up Briley Parkway....

When Newt Gingrich says that government does not work as well as it used to, it is hard to argue with him:

The transcontinental railroad was completed in six years. Today, it takes twenty-three years to add a runway to the Atlanta airport.

Chicago, San Francisco, and Galveston were rapidly rebuilt largely with private money after turn of the century disasters devastated the cities. Today, much of New Orleans looks not altogether different than it did immediately after the flood waters receded despite billions of taxpayer dollars spent.

The 1.1. mile Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel in Zion National Park was completed in less than three years. The so-called “Big Dig” in Boston took so long that soon after it was completed, it already needed repairs.

The Manhattan Project took two years, eleven months and three days. Neil Armstrong took the first steps onto the lunar surface a mere six years, ten months, and eight days after President Kennedy vowed to put a man on the moon. There is currently no comparable effort to achieve energy independence and NASA has just announced a thirty year plan to get to Mars.

More disturbingly, it took America less than five years after Pearl Harbor to mobilize, build the largest Navy the world have ever seen, and then fight and defeat our enemies. We are now approaching the six year anniversary of 9/11 and still struggling as a nation not only to define a strategy for victory, but to define who it is we are fighting.

It is clear that the machinery of government is broken. It’s been so corroded by red tape and the bureaucratic self-preservation of members of permanent government that we are reaching a crisis of competency in our government’s capacity to execute its core functions.

Lady Bird Johnson's Charitable Example

The Associated Press reports that a few weeks prior to her death, Lady Bird Johnson made a $300,000 donation to St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, where she worshipped for around 50 years. The donation was revealed by church members.

The Oracle lauds this generosity on the part of the late first lady for two reasons. First, Ms. Johnson declined an offer to have a garden at the church named in her honor. Second, it seems that Ms. Johnson did not call her publicist to issue a press release praising her for providing this gift. The fact of the gift would have never been widely known if not for the church members.

In this day when it is so common for public figures to make sure that their charitableness is widely known, Ms. Johnson's example is refreshing.

Middle Class Entitlements

According to the Dallas Morning News, over 700 college students are receiving letters this week informing them that loans they thought they would be receiving from the state of Texas will not be available. Under the state's "B on Time" loan program, students can apply for interest free loans that will be forgiven if the student graduates in four years with at least a B average. Many students who were previously told by their schools that they would be receiving the money are now learning that funds are not available.

This is, of course, unconscionable. Financial aid officers knew that there was some question about the availability of funding, but still chose to include it in expected financial aid packages for new students. These school officials claim to be "caught in the middle," but it is simply unacceptable essentially to promise money that may not be available to students and families making decisions.

Nonetheless, it is interesting to see the response of one such student, Brad Barmer. As reported by the DMN, Mr. Barmer does not want to take out an alternative loan which charges interest and that does not offer the possibility of being written off. As a result, he is pursuing another way of dealing with the unexpected loss: Basically, I'm trying to earn $5,000 by the end of the summer. I'm working an insane amount of overtime."

That is laudable, but it makes clear that this popular government program, which mostly benefits middle and upper middle class students (a separate grant program is targeted toward lower class students), uses taxpayer money to help those who could help themselves. Why should this middle class welfare program exist, when students can work at summer jobs and come up with the money themselves?

In addition, it should be noted that this and other government aid programs have the unintended effect of raising tuition rates. Tuition at state colleges has risen by 40% in Texas since 2004. Tuition will rise consistent with the willingness and ability of students to pay, and that willingness and ability rises with the availability of loan programs that defer the pain of payment. It is no accident that the two areas of the economy in which price growth has greatly exceeded the overall inflation rate in recent years, education and health care, rely heavily on funding sources from government and other third parties, rather than the individual consumer.

Golf Has Johnny Miller....

Cincinnati Reds' Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennamen has always been known for his willingness to be straightforward about his team's deficiencies, and his new partner in the booth, Jeff Brantley, calls the game in the same way. A broadcast earlier this week, during which Reds relief pitcher Todd Coffey pitched well when entering the game and then faltered the next inning after the Reds took the lead, featured the following exchange:

Brennaman: "Well, it's hard to understand how a guy can come in when a team is behind and pitch so well, and then come in to try to protect a lead ... There's ball three. It's just truly amazing."

Brantley: "You can't throw the ball with your right hand if your right hand is on your throat. You can't do both."

That's strong.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Extreme Rhetoric

Of course, everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but that doesn't give The Tennessean's editorial writers the right to just make things up. Today's editorial refers to a Supreme Court decision striking down government forced racial discrimination as being in opposition to freedom of association. They refer to a narrow ruling that a school can restrict speech by students advocating drug use as one that "squelches freedom of speech."

Then, they say that another ruling will lead to higher prices on all manner of goods. That ruling said that vertical cost controls should not be prohibited automatically, but that they should be subject to the "rule of reason."

It is understandable that The Tennessean has difficulty with the concept of reason.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Artless Dodgers

While free markets are better than any of the alternatives in most respects, they clearly have not benefited the arts and culture. Dana Gioia, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, puts it this way:

But we must remember that the marketplace does only one thing--it puts a price on everything. The role of culture, however, must go beyond economics. It is not focused on the price of things, but on their value. And, above all, culture should tell us what is beyond price, including what does not belong in the marketplace. A culture should also provide some cogent view of the good life beyond mass accumulation. In this respect, our culture is failing us.

Read the rest here.

Keep the Public Eye on the Ball

In Tennessee, Williamson County Sheriff Ricky Headley finds it "scary" that about 1/3 of those arrested in his county are illegal immigrants. He is evidently far less terrified that the leading law enforcement official in Williamson County was arrested earlier this year for allegedly receiving "thousands" of pills of prescription painkillers without a prescription.

Update. A.C. Kleinheider was kind enough to link to this post. A commenter at that site, Slartibarfast, accused me of delivering an "irrelevant cheapshot." I strongly disagree with that characteization.

The shameless sheriff is clearly trying to identify himself with popular causes in an effort to help people forget about his alleged criminal activity. Last week, he also managed to get himself quoted in The Tennessean regarding a traffic stop of the unpopular Pacman Jones. I am of the opinion that the sheriff should not be allowed to get away with this PR diversion (which explains the title of the post).

Of course, Mr. Headley has something in common with Mr. Jones: neither of them has been convicted of any crimes -- yet.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Health Care State

In his speech in behalf of the Barry Goldwater presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan stated the following:

You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down--up to a man's age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order--or down to the ant heap totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

Those thoughts should be kept in mind when considering the various calls for government to step in and solve what is being termed a health care crisis. Whenever the government decides to pay for something, it always also, with some good reason, exercises its right to maintain some control over what it has agreed to pay for. Americans have up until now opted for a health care payment system that relies on a combination of government and employer based insurance coverage. As costs continue to grow, the notion is gaining currency that those costs are not borne individually, but societally. That being the case, more people are beginning to clamor for greater societal control over individual life style choices that would tend to increase healthcare costs. The implications of that should be disturbing.

Those thoughts came to mind today during a meeting I attended on the subject of prospective mandatory wellness programs (regrettably, I will not be able to cite sources for this post). An increasing number of employers are beginning to offer wellness programs to their employees involving such things as onsite health screenings, weight loss programs, smoking cessation classes, health tips, and so forth. While many of these have been shown to be effective in reducing employer health care costs, many employer groups are arguing that this is not enough. They contend that more aggressive, mandatory programs should become common place. They also make clear that laws protecting individual privacy or prohibiting discrimination against various groups should not be allowed to get in the way of such programs.

Thus, a court case is now pending in Massachussetts, where an employee was fired for not following the company's wellness requirements, as revealed by a failed nicotine test. Advocates of this approach argue that employers should be allowed to reduce employee health benefits if employees are "preventably obese." They also argue that employers might be allowed to condition a job offer or benefit levels on an employee's agreement to participate in an exercise program. It was further stated that it is not sufficient merely to have "goals" for such programs: requirements must be mandated as standards for employment or benefits.

The attorney presenting these notions contends that the costs of health care to employers -- and to government -- provide adequate justification for these intrusions on "personal lifestyle choices." In fact, for those who protested what this would do to employer/employee relations, he offered as a worse alternative an example from England, where he said that persons could not have certain surgical procedures unless they certified that they had been smoke free for 60 days. The presenter also used militant language in arguing that these mandatory programs must be implemented -- "recognition of wellness as a corporate asset demands a full-fledged attack;" "have to be ruthless;" "unstoppable force" -- along with nanny state lingo (repeated references to "tough love").

What was surprising to me was the extent to which the audience accepted these notions as the inevitable wave of the future -- a friend attending along with me (a mainstream conservative businessman), expressed frustration at how unhealthy people drive up company health care costs and expressed support for these ideas. I find them alarming. I am all for wellness. But allowing employers -- and ultimately the government -- to define healthy living and then insist I abide by it, or else, is more intrusion into my private sphere than I can accept.

Monday, July 16, 2007

More Bills than They Could Ever Read

In New York, over 15,000 bills were introduced in the state legislature this year. Fewer than 800 passed. The number of introduced bills is significantly higher than any other state.

Those numbers have led some legislators to support legislation limiting the number of bills that can be filed. Legislative leaders oppose such limits on the grounds that lawmakers should not be restricted in their ability to represent their districts.

In theory, that argument should carry the day. However, pressure to remedy the insufferably inefficient and expensive system comes about because legislators abuse the process. Most of these bills are filed for political reasons (as favors, or to show off to constituents at election time) with the knowledge that they will never receive any consideration. This problem is growing. While New York is far ahead of everyone else, many other states are seeing record numbers of bills filed.

Dispatch from Austin

The Oracle is in Austin, Texas this week on business. Though it is the capitol of the state, Austin is not at all a typical Texas city. The enormous state university located here and a large arts community help to make this city much more liberal than the rest of the state. However, for someone fortunate enough to have a local guide, there are an uncountable number of dives with great food and atmosphere.

I have become aware of a couple of other Austin quirks during my visit here. As dusk approaches, a large number of people regularly gather on a bridge near downtown over the Colorado River. Thousands of bats live on the under side of the bridge, and promptly at sundown, in tandem they swoop out from under the bridge and give the appearance of a large dark cloud heading out for the east. The sight is impressive enough to draw a cloud nightly.

Then there's Leslie.

Leslie is a homeless man who hangs out near the corner of Congress and 6th Street, only a few blocks from the state capitol and has become locally famous for his high heels and fishnet stockings. In 2000, he ran for mayor and finished second.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Legislative Pay in All States

For a table showing how much state legislators make in each of the 50 states, see here.

The other day, I posted on a situation with regard to legislative pay in California that I considered to be unconscionable. Legislators there received per diem travel and meal allowances even though they never travelled and ate or attended a single legislative session the entire term. However, it occurs to me many of these salaries are too low. While no one should expect to get rich serving in a state legislature, some of these pay packages simply do not reflect the amount of time and effort that is required to serve.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Did Any Strangers Come by the Office Looking for a Snack Machine?

Yesterday, DEA agents in Dallas raided a "groomed marijuana field" within a few hundred yards of DEA and FBI offices. Some of the plants were 12 feet tall, and the estimated value of the crop was over $250,000.

No arrests have been made.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Bad Place to Be Single and Male?

This map would indicate that I have made a serious mistake.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

Congressional Porkbusters

The National Taxpayers Union identifies those congressmen who have a 100% voting record in 2007 in opposing earmarks in appropriations bills.

The Oracle appreciates this group for respecting the notion that the money they spend comes from someone else's pocket.

Hat Tip: Bill Hobbs

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Thrill Is Gone

When I introduce myself in Dallas as having just moved from Nashville, people have brought up several topics. Some talk about country music. Others mention the Titans. The third topic of conversation? The new law that anyone buying beer in a store must be carded. Yes, it is true. If Granny Clampett wants to buy some Bud Lite, she is required to produce her ID to prove that she is at least 21.

Of course, nearly everyone other than the legislators who voted for it think that the law is an inane waste of time. However, The Oracle has noted that some of the most virulent criticism of the requirement has come from women. I have a theory on that, though I will probably regret stating it.

The truth is that up until now, women have loved to be carded. Women over 30 especially love to be carded. The Oracle could retire from his real job and blog full-time if he had a dollar for every time he has heard a woman laugh about being asked for an ID. Such a seeming inconvenience permits a woman to enjoy the delusion that with the help of hair color that came out of a bottle and sufficient amounts of appropriately applied make up filling in the crow's feet, that she looks to be in the neighborhood of 21. In fact, a woman will sometimes provide as proof that she looks young for her age the fact that she still gets asked for her ID. Of course, men know this and ask for ID's just to provide women with this illusory joy.

Now, that thrill has been taken away. Sure, our 32 year old friend who vainly wishes to be mistaken for 22 will be asked for her ID. But, so will Granny Clampett.

Inhumane Treatment

The past week has provided two new vivid examples of the cruelty of America's modern soap opera culture. Last week, the son of a former Vice-President was arrested on drug charges. One can assume that the Vice-President and his family have the normal familial affections for the young man that other families do. However, they dealt with that personal disappointment and tragedy in the environment of a torrent of taunting and ridicule. It is difficult enough for a family to deal privately with the pain of a loved one who has been arrested and who would appear to have some sort of addiction. How much more difficult is that to work through in the midst of curiosity seekers and mockers.

This week, a United States Senator has been found to have visited a prostitute. The Senator says that he confessed these sins to his wife some years ago. Now, the wife and the rest of the family endure the reopening of those wounds while an entire nation watches and knows. Reconciliation after such violations of trust is a difficult task -- some would consider it personally impossible. How much worse it would be to try to recover from such a betrayal of trust while in the eye of the entire nation.

We regularly treat public figures as cartoon figures, and fail to grasp or care about their humanity or their emotions. Sure there is wrongdoing in both of these instances, but steep prices would have been paid even without all of the public's piling on. What is worse is that many seem to take joy in the spectacle, especially if the individual involved is of a different political persuasion.

Sometimes drawing lines is difficult. Those who choose to be public figures inevitably find parts of their lives being public that weren't planned on. Character also matters in public life, and so, to some degree, private matters deserve to be part of the public discussion. But what is to be said for the character of a society that gazes upon the personal destruction of fellow human beings and takes pleasure in the view?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Beginning of the End

For an insider look at what seems to be the final stages of the McCain campaign, see Politico here.

Hat Tip: DallasMorningViews

Conservatives and the Fall of McCain

Many conservatives are expressing glee that the presidential campaign of John McCain appears to be in free fall. They are mistaken.

Senator McCain made enemies of various conservative constituencies by insulting the religious right, championing campaign finance reform, and favoring comprehensive immigration reform over an enforcement only approach. Conservatives will be quick to claim that those issues killed his campaign, but they are wrong. The love affair that the press and many independent voters had with the Senator ended because of his ongoing, principled support of the war. The loss of that support made it more difficult for him to mend fences within the party and re-establish a conservative constituency.

Notwithstanding the above issues, Senator McCain has had a consistently conservative voting record for much of his political career. He stood by the war effort even though he knew it would cost him. He rightly understands that it is one thing to criticize the entry into and conduct of the war. It is quite something else to support a quick withdrawal. That policy will result in a Middle East disaster, and the Senator was willing to say so at great personal cost.

Conservatives have much to complain about with regard to Senator McCain. Still, he deserved better.

Caps on Damage Awards Result in More Doctors Wanting to Practice in State

Those who don't believe that an out of control medical malpractice system has had an impact on adequate access to available medical care should read this report in the Austin American-Statesman. According to the article, since Texas legislation capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice awards took effect, the state has had so many doctors moving here and seeking licensure in the state that the legislature had to approve additional funds to help the Medical Board process all of the applications. Many of these new doctors are moving to areas of the state that were previously experiencing a shortage of doctors.

Just as a reminder, caps only applied to NON-ECONOMIC damages -- pain and suffering, punitive damages, etc. There are no caps on economic damages -- medical bills, replacement of lost income, help with assistive living, etc. A malpractice lawsuit can still result in payouts of millions of dollars. What is removed from the system is the unpredictability of large damage awards by runaway juries.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Legislative Welfare

According to information gathered by Statenet, legislators in California have it pretty good. The 6-figure annual salary is supplemented by a per diem travel and food allowance of $169 when the legislature is in session. Of course, being a legislator in California is a full-time job, and the cost of living is high, so these figures may be regarded as not extravagant, even if they are significantly higher than legislative pay in a typical state.

However, an arguably good pay package becomes unconscionable when considering the examples of two of the state's legislators, Assemblywoman Nell Soll and Senator Edward Vincent, who collected a combined $35,000 in per diem allowances while failing to attend a single legislative session due to illness. Collecting the per diem while staying home while sick is legal under the legislature's policies, and President Pro Tem Don Perata defended the practice.

One can only say that legislators who would collect a per diem travel expense for staying at home are not the sort of folks likely to take a hard line on spending.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Political Blogger's Role

Hugh Hewitt argues that with regard to the 2008 race for the Presidency, "center-right pundits make the best use of their time in this long presidential campaign replying to attacks on the GOP frontrunners rather than inviting them."

Professor Stephen Bainbridge disagrees, stating:

Seriously, whether you agree with Hugh depends on what you think is the proper role of a center-right pundit. Should they be mere apologists for the GOP or advocates for the conservative movement? It seems to me that uncritical support is the last thing the GOP needs right now. The GOP and the conservative movement have suffered major setbacks as a result of the Bush administration and the K Street gang. The conservative house needs to be set in order, which includes putting the contenders for leadership under a microscope.

It is an interesting discussion that requires consideration of both long term and short term, practical and ideological, concerns. That being said, the writer of this blog views his task more along the lines of what Professor Bainbridge describes.

More in Common than They Think

Some people say that those who took pleasure in the recent widely publicized arrest of Albert Gore, Jr.'s son are jerks.

Some other people say that those who took pleasure a while back in the drinking problems of George W. Bush's daughters are jerks.

The two sets of claims are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are both accurate.

And the fact that someone else did it is no excuse for anyone above the age of kindergarten.

Readers of this blog know that The Oracle is no fan of Mr. Gore. That has nothing to do with personal tragedies. My prayers are with the Gore family.

Television News Jumps the Shark (Again)

In the opening scene of the 1987 hit movie Broadcast News, an earnest boy hands a mediocre report card to his father. After the father solemnly praises his son for doing his best, the question is left hanging as to what the future career options will be for someone who tries hard but is just not very smart.

It turns out that he became a network news anchor. At the time, some pundits suggested, and the filmmakers denied, that the lead character, played by William Hurt, was modelled after CBS news anchor Dan Rather. Whether that particular story was true or not, those both inside and outside of the television news business recognized that the movie's premise was all too often reality.

This is helpful background for the national news media controversy now being generated in Tyler, Texas, where the local CBS affiliate, KYTX, has brought in former Barker beauty and WWE ring-card girl Lauren Jones as its new 5:00 p.m. news anchor. Ms. Jones, who has neither journalism credentials nor much evidence of an IQ that exceeds her bra size, was brought on as the star of an upcoming Fox "reality tv show" to be called Anchorwoman. In a comment that makes one wonder whether he is a liar or a fool, station manager Phil Hurley is quoted as saying, "We're not doing it just for the money. These are strategic decisions...."

Critics of the stunt say that it demeans the profession, and Al Tompkins, who teaches broadcast journalism at the Poynter Institute, dismisses it as a "clown show." Of course, that is correct, but it is hardly unique in that regard. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the dean of Mr. Tompkins' school, in response to criticisms of false reporting with regard to events in New Orleans, stated on PBS that the job of a journalist was to keep telling the story until it is gotten right, and that spirit hardly elevates the profession in the mind of the public. In addition, anyone who watches local (or national, for that matter) news programming knows that KYTX is hardly the first television outlet to hire attractive television reporters who know nothing about the news they are covering. The only difference in this case is that they are doing it intentionally.

That is not to say that the station is undeserving of criticism. They expose themselves as lacking seriousness about the news they claim to be covering. However, that only furthers a longstanding trend. Thoughtful people, unless it is only out of careless habit, simply do not any longer watch television to get their news.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Media Interaction

The growth of blogging now enables the reported on to quickly react to the content of the reporting. In that vein, Mark Cuban laments devolving standards of mainstream media:

Thats how the media has evolved in 3 years. In 2004 they misused quotes. Today, they don't even require quotes. They just make things up

A writer from the Dallas Morning News responded to Mr. Cuban's thoughts here. Mr. Cuban has replied to that response here.

Liberalism and Illiberalism

Perhaps the editorial board of The Tennessean, which bemoans a lack of "transparency" in President Bush's Supreme Court appointees, should, in the interest of transparency, state its own positions:

The Tennessean opposes the free speech rights of those who are not in the media business.

The Tennessean favors racial discrimination.

The Tennessean favors the judicial micromanagement of the other branches of government.

Those positions emerge in today's editorial, which is otherwise notable for its breezy indifference to the actual facts or complexities of the cases that it flippantly references. To the extent that the positions coherently state what has come to be regarded as progressive orthodoxy, they only serve to emphasize the illiberalism of early 21st century liberalism. Today, it is conservatives who make the cases, in opposition to the illiberal left, in favor of free political speech and in opposition to racial discrimination.

Those who bemoan the "conservative" victories in these cases should perhaps be concerned at how vast they must regard the conservative constituency. The decision in Wisconsin Right to Life versus the Federal Election Commission was favored by the AFL-CIO and the ACLU. No less than Washington Post columnist David Broder finds it "astonishing to me that a decision grounded in the First Amendment right to address basic public policy questions should be objectionable to people who consider themselves liberal."

Meanwhile, The Tennessean accuses Chief Justice John Roberts of "twisting logic" by invoking Brown vs. Board of Education in the recent racial discrimination case, but George Will more aptly observes the following:

[Justice Stephen] Breyer said that last week's decision abandons "the promise of Brown." Actually, that promise -- a colorblind society -- has been traduced by the "diversity" exception to the equal protection clause. That exception allows white majorities to feel noble while treating blacks and certain other minorities as seasoning -- a sort of human oregano -- to be sprinkled across a student body to make the majority's educational experience more flavorful.

Critics, sometimes with good reason, have criticized the tendency of those categorized as "social conservatives" to favor big government solutions to their particular set of concerns. The more blatant inconsistency occurs on the left, where the most illiberal means are zealously advocated if they are thought to achieve desirable ends.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Pushers and Parents

In barbaric societies, parents sometimes compel obedience in children by swatting them on their backsides. Of course, increasingly the United States is moving beyond such inhumane measures. Instead, we drug our children into submission.

According to this news article, nationally, nearly one out of every 12 children is being diagnosed with a debillitating mental condition known as attention deficit disorder. Though the article says that the cause of this condition is unknown, being a boy seems to have much to do with it. Nearly one in nine boys is considered to have this illness.

In Tennessee, the percentages are still higher: 1 out of every 10 children has this mental illness. One out of every 15 take drugs to subdue them. Approximately 1 in 10 boys is on drugs required to subdue them.

Do some of these children legitimately have a disorder that requires medication? Absolutely. However, these high percentages, which vary widely by geography based on the school of thought of local health care providers, give evidence of societal child abuse by drugging. The drugs used are controlled substances. Often, what is being medicalized is normal childhood, especially boyish, behavior.

I am frankly glad I grew up in a more barbaric age. I prefer having endured a stung bottom, as opposed to a subdued brain.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Another "Rendezvous with Destiny"

Regrettably, prior to opening this book this weekend I had never read the famous speech that Ronald Reagan gave in support of the unsuccessful 1964 Barry Goldwater campaign for President. That speech launched Mr. Reagan's political career. While many of the particulars of the speech are unique to that time frame, philosophically the speech remains current today. In fact, with many conservatives believing that they are on the outside looking in on today's political environment, the current milieu bears some resemblance to that earlier period. What is certain is that no Republican politician since Mr. Reagan has spoken to the nation at large with such philosophical clarity.

You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down--up to a man's age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order--or down to the ant heap totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the "Great Society," or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a "greater government activity in the affairs of the people." But they have been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves--and all of the things that I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say "the cold war will end through acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism." Another voice says that the profit motive has become outmoded, it must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state; or our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century. Senator Fullbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the president as our moral teacher and our leader, and he said he is hobbled in his task by the restrictions in power imposed on him by this antiquated document. He must be freed so that he can do for us what he knows is best. And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as "meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government." Well, I for one resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me--the free man and woman of this country--as "the masses." This is a term we haven't applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, "the full power of centralized government"--this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don't control things. A government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.

Conservative critics of Mr. Reagan sometimes point out that his administration did not roll back government to the extent that this speech described as ideal. While that criticism is accurate, one must remember that Mr. Reagan did not restrict himself to giving speeches about political principles -- he ran for office and governed in a real world that required implementing principles in the face of political realities. Those who recall the lead up to the Reagan administration can not deny that President Reagan rolled back the rate of government growth and successfully changed the terms of the debate. It was Mr. Reagan's long shadow that forced Bill Clinton to declare, prematurely it must be said, that the era of big government was over.

Sadly, the current Republican administration, by expanding domestic spending rapidly, has undone much of the good accomplished by Mr. Reagan. Once again, debates are not centering on the legitimate role of government; they only focus on the extent and direction of new spending. Some have dismissed the wish for "another Reagan" as misplaced nostalgia. However, who can deny the need for a political figure who can clearly communicate to a national audience that our choices are not merely about the creation of new entitlements? The choices are about freedom and tyranny.

Today's politicians mostly live on the public policy fringes, promising this or that, but not explaining both the means and ends of good government. We should be able to do better.

So, You Think Your Job Is Bad?

Here is my new nomination for a list of worst jobs in the United States:

Researchers from Stanford University have studied bacteria growing in babies' poop during their first year of life.

Just think how many years of education were required before engaging in the study of new born baby poop! The Oracle is glad that his degree is in a liberal arts related field.