Tuesday, March 29, 2005

OWNER OF FINGER FOUND

Remember the finger found by the woman at the Wendy's restaurant recently (she has a lawyer already)? Well, the owner of the finger has been found.

Friday, March 25, 2005

OH BOY

Funny. Really funny.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

FUN ADDICTION

You must play this game.

CalPERS INDIRECTLY SUPPORTS TERRORISM

The Center for Security Policy released a study that states CalPERS has over $17 billion dollars invested in 201 companies active in terrorist-sponsored states. Good article here mentioning this fact. A company's alliance with a government sponsoring terrorism may not get it labeled as socially irresponsible, but woe be to the company that does something perceived as anti-union or anti-environment.

BEE VILIFIES THOSE WHO WISH TO SEE TERRI SCHIAVO LIVE

The Bee weighs in on the Terri Schiavo debate in an editorial today and their conclusion is this: Republicans bad, Matsui good.

The Bee criticizes Bush and Republicans for "political grandstanding" and ignoring the urgency of, ironically, Medicare costs and instead choosing to "meddle" in the affairs of a "divided family." The Bee finds it "stunning" that Republicans have compromised their supposed devotion to "states' rights and judicial independence."

The Senate voted for the bill by a voice vote. This means not a single member of the Senate objected. The House passed the Bill by a vote of 203-58. There are 435 members in the House, so over 150 members did not vote. According to one article, the nay votes only accouted for about half of the Democrats who did vote. The Bee saves its wrath for Republicans. Big surprise.

As the Wall Street Journal recently noted:

It is not simply about "states' rights." Conservatives support states' rights in areas that are not delegated to the federal government but they also support federal power in areas that are delegated.

Ann Althouse had this to say about the federalism issue:

Surely, many of those who oppose what Congress did in the Schiavo case do generally approve of intruding on the state to impose a higher standard of individual rights – including the rights for the disabled. They would not normally stand back and allow the states to innovate and experiment with the narrowing of individual rights. Certain matters have traditionally belonged to the states, but there is a long modern trend of re-visualizing these matters in terms of the rights of the individual. Whether one agrees with the conception of rights reflected in Congress's Schiavo law, one should not deny that Congress has an important, well-established role enforcing the rights of the individual and displacing choices made at the state level. And who does deny this role? The disagreement is about what rights are, not what federalism is.

Another good discussion on the federalism issue by a law professor can be found here. The U.S. Supreme Court case Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health involved similar facts and the court held that the federal courts can intervene in such matters. (Abstract here)

It is amusing that the Bee was "stunned" by the Republicans' supposedly hypocrisy on federalism. This implies that the issue is so very simple for the Bee. Well, the issue of federalism is far from simple. I have discussed the Bee's analysis on legal issues before here and here. The Bee is far from having, well, a competent understanding of legal issues. But hey, if it gives you a chance to chide Republicans why not come out in favor of federalism.

Monday, March 21, 2005

HOGZILLA

Speaking of sausage, HOLY CHRIST!

TRIAL BAR IS PISSED I'M SURE

The members of the trial bar salivate for cases such as this. Unfortunately for them it happened in Norway. There is something about an injury or death caused by a sausage grinder that makes a lawsuit instantaneously settleable (neologism alert).

FROM THE "MARKETS ARE EVIL" FOLDER

Marginal Revolution notes the resulting German furor (pun intended) that erupted when a website posted jobs on which freelance workers could bid. German leftists equated a freelancer's voluntary choice to bid on work to slavery. You are seriously out of touch if you find it strange that people underbid competitors to be awarded a contract? It only happens in business . . . .EVERY FRIGGIN DAY!!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

WHO IS ACTUALLY NOT COMPETENT TO HANDLE EGGS?

I thought that California was reigning champ of maintaining useless government programs by having, among many others, a Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. Turns out that Kentucky is giving us a run for the money.

NEOLOGISM ALERT

New York Times starts using euphemism for a soldier deserting, and it's not even a word.

IF ONLY IT WOULD HAPPEN

Iowahawk made another funny.

GYNECOLOGY ON ICE

Is he lucky or unlucky?

BUSH / KERRY PHOTO ESSAY

This is damn amusing, if I may say so my damn self.

OMISSION OF FACTS

There isn't enough time in the day to keep up with the misleading 'facts' that sprinkled the articles in the Bee. In an article by the Bee News Service on March 18 titled "Senate panel sets up a battle," the author makes it a point of mentioning twice that the Republicans are trying to "end the tradition of unlimited debate on presidential appointees" and may engage in a "sharp departure from the unlimited debate traditions."

First, there has never been an "unlimited debate tradition." Never. Debate ends if there are enough votes to invoke 'cloture.' Senate rules establish that in order to vote on any measure under consideration by the Senate, the debate process must be stopped by a vote of at least 60 Senators. The vote is otherwise known as 'cloture.'

Second, according to Senator Orrin Hatch, the percentage of cloture votes used for judicial nominations jumped 900 percent during President Bush's first term compared to the previous 25 years. While the article in the Bee noted the "tradition" of "unlimited debate," it failed to tell the reader that the Senate rules regarding cloture votes has been changed multiple times.

The initial rules of the Senate provided that there would have to be unanimous agreement before debate would end. Specifically because the minority used this rule to prevent vote from occurring, the rule was changed in 1917 to require a 2/3 majority to end debate. The tactic to prevent votes from occurring continued and the Senate changed the rule again in 1975 to require at least 60 votes to end debate.

And if tradition is important to the article's authors, why did the article not mention the "sharp departure" from the past in using the filibuster to block judicial appointments. A 900 percent increase is a friggin' "sharp departure."

The article ends with this selected factoid:

Since his election in 2000, Bush has had 204 of his 214 judicial nominee confirmed by the Senate, a confirmation rate of 95 percent, roughly the same as during the Clinton presidency.

This fact is inserted to make the point that nothing unusual is going on. This is so misleading. The problem is that the Democrats are using the filibuster to block the vote on nominees that everyone knows has the support of the majority of the Senate. Got it. The Democrats are using a procedural rule (note: not a constitutional requirement) to create a supermajority voting requirement for judicial confirmations. While the Bee makes it seem like everything is proceeding normally, what the authors don't say is that the filibuster is fast becoming an everyday tactic to use in the confirmation hearings.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

AP TO START OFFERING 'OPTIONAL' NEWS

As discussed at Captain's Quarters, the AP will offer 'optional' news that is nothing more than creative writing, which of course means the injection of opinion. I am sure this is a direct result of the explosion of the blogosphere and the blogosphere's many personalities that are reflected in the writing found throughout.

"CHUTCH" - EPISODE 2

Iowahawk has episode 2 of Chutch: "Curse of the Puu Puu."

For those who missed episode 1, it is here.

Both are damn funny.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

DAMN AMUSING

For those following the Ward Churchill story.

MEDIA GUIDE

Oxblog provides a guide to understanding the national media.

Friday, March 11, 2005

BLEAK NEWS FOR NEWSPAPERS

A report by Prudential Equity Group states that circulation numbers are down. For some newspapers, the numbers are down big time.

BLEAK NEWS FOR NEWSPAPERS

A report by Prudential Equity Group states that circulation numbers are down. For some newspapers, the numbers are down big time.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

THE BBC GOLIATH

Oxblog comments on the gargantuan budget of the BBC. With a budget like that, you can imagine the number of employees/dependents it has. A welfare agency with another name.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

ANOTHER FICTION WRITER AT THE N.Y. TIMES?

There are allegations that journalist Chris Hedges of the New York Times made up his reports about a battle in Iraq in 2002.

Monday, March 07, 2005

COMEDY RELIEF - "TRUNK MONKEY"

Ran into these funny commercials on the Internet. The clips are on the right-hand side of the web page. When the ad starts playing (upon entering the site), rightclick on the ad and toggle off the "Play" command.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

BEE IGNORES SENATOR BYRD'S REMARK ABOUT NAZIS

On March 1, Senator Byrd of West Virginia compared Republican moves to modify Senate rules of procedure to those tactics employed by Adolph Hitler. Senator Byrd made these comments on the floor of the Senate. To date, the Sacramento Bee has not mentioned this fact in its newspaper. The Bee has also not bothered to mention that multiple Jewish groups (including the Anti-Defamation League) blasted Byrd for making this comparison. I'm guess the Bee believes the conduct of the Republicans and those of Adolph Hitler are morally equivalent.

BEE MISREPRESENTS FACTS ABOUT UNINSURED

An article in the March 4 edition of the Bee shows how the Bee slips in a misleading statistic about uninsured persons in America. Absent an explanation, the statistic implies a much starker problem than what actually exists.

In an article entitled "Promised discounts may not materialize," Bee Staff Writer Lisa Rapaport explains how some people are being swindled by companies selling "health discount cards." These cards supposedly entitle the holder to discount health care coverage, but many times the cards do not entitle the holder to any discount.

Although it ads nothing to the thrust of the story, Rapaport interjects the following misinformation:

There are more than 44 million uninsured people nationwide, including more than 6 million in California.

Rapaport does not cite any source for the "44 million" figure she asserts (which you think should be there), but it highly likely that it comes from often-cited Current Population Survey (as summarized here). Here is what the survey asked: "did you have health insurance at any time in the 12 months ending two months ago?"

The problem is that the "44 million" figure is incredibly misleading unless further explanation is given. Without an explanation, the statistic paints a fairly stark picture. But, that may be Rapaport and/or her editor's purpose. As explained here, the "44 million" uninsured "include diverse groups of individuals, each of which is uninsured for different reasons."

As a reader, wouldn't it be important to know whether or not the "44 million" statistic meant that "44 million" people were without health insurance for most of or the entire year the survey was conducted? (It includes people who didn't have insurance for even one day) Would you want to know if the "44 million" includes people who have voluntarily chosen not to have health insurance? (It does.) This begs the question why didn't Rapaport or the Bee clarify the statement. Did they even think to investigate the number?

The fact is that the "44 million" statistic includes people who lose their insurance for only a brief time, such as a recent college graduate or a person between jobs. Some studies suggest that about 25% of the number (about 10 million) refuse insurance from their employer. (Source) The Census Bureau apparently admits that the "44 million" number is too high. (Source)

WHO NEEDS EVIDENCE

HonestReporting has an interesting piece on a journalist who wrote in his newspaper that although he has no evidence, he believes Israel killed Yassir Arafat.

FUNNY

Iowahawk exclusive describes MoveOn.org blowing the winds of freedom.

MARXISM = "LEFT-LEANING"

This CNN article about the Italian journalist who was recently free as a hostage in Iraq describes the journalist's newspaper Il Manifesto as "left-leaning." There is no dispute that Il Manifesto is a newspaper run by Italian communists. Describing the newspaper as "left-leaning" is simply an attempt to give credibility where none is warranted.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

PUFF PIECE

The Sacramento Bee ran a cover page story written by Bee writer Sam Stanton on March 4 about arson suspect Ryan Lewis. Ryan is accused of taking part in the fire bomb attacks on various building developments in Placer County. The piece drips with sympathy for Ryan while describing his background. The agenda of this story, I believe, is revealed in the closing lines of the story: "Our biggest concern is that this not be spun out of control. That would be a travesty of justice."

Curious. The story described a kid who went from model citizen to firebombing in a very short period of time. Should people be concerned if firebombing buildings is the pinnacle of his criminal life or the very beginning. I think so. Journalist Stanton should have provided much more perspective in this story rather than specifically trying to cultivate sympathy for Ryan.

Friday, March 04, 2005

SUPREME COURT

An undereported U.S. Supreme Court decision here: "US marriage dowries 'must include three non-diseased oxen.'"

Other ruminations on possible Supreme Court rulings found here: "May have to conduct court from 'Moses-Free' trailer."

FUNNY

Wuzzadem had some problems with some MSN searches.

WASHINGTON ELECTION STOLEN?

The best evidence released to the public thus far indicates that the govenor's race was won through fraud. Very interesting assessment here.

ANY BOURBON DRINKERS OUT THERE?

A friend of mine, and his brothers, recently re-opened their ancestor's bourbon distillery (Old Pogue Bourbon) after it was shut down during Prohibition. They are using their ancestors old recipes. They made the first batch last Spring.

PROSPER MAGAZINE

A relatively new business magazine (Prosper) primarily focused on Sacramento region business and stories can be found here. Sign up online for complimentary copies of the magazine.

CARTOON

A fairly accurate assessment of today's GOP over at the Sacramento Union can be found here.

WHAT'S THE LAW GOT TO DO WITH IT

The lead editorial in today's Bee states that "wisely and compassionately ruled that the execution of defendants who were 17 and younger when they committed capital crimes is a violation of the Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment." If the editorial writers at the Bee had a modicum of understanding of constitutional law, they would understand that the March 1 decision in Roper v. Simmons is probably one of the worst legal reasoned decision in a long time. I believe the death penalty should be applied to juveniles (ages 16 to 18) should be applied more sparingly than adults, but the Court's decision is based on utter nonsense.

The Bee tries to draw a stark contrast between the rights of juveniles and the death penalty in the initial sentences by stating that juveniles can't vote or drink, cannot sit on juries, are too immature to see certain movies, and cannot even smoke in some states. Why then, the Bee impliedly asks, should juveniles be put to death. There is absolutely no relevance and analogical significance of the issue in the Roper case with whether a person is mature enough to handle voting, drinking, attending certain movies, or any other right.

As explained by Justice Scalia in the case of Stanford v. Kentucky:

[Those rules] do not represent a social judgment that all persons under the designated ages are not responsible enough to drive, to drink, or to vote, but at most a judgment that the vast majority are not. These laws set the appropriate ages for the operation of a system that makes its determinations in gross, and that does not conduct individualized maturity tests for each driver, drinker, or voter. The criminal justice system, however, does provide individualized testing. In the realm of capital punishment in particular, individualized consideration [is] a constitutional requirement. . . ."

Scalia stated in the Roper case that "it is absurd to think that one must be mature enough to drive carefully, to drink responsibly, or to vote intelligently, in order to be mature enough to understand that murdering another human being is profoundly wrong, and to conform one’s conduct to that most minimal of all civilized standards."

The Bee shows that it does not understand the court's ruling when it states the court concluded "that those under 18 lacked the maturity to be held fully culpable for their crimes, the court said they should not be subject to the death penalty." This is not what the court stated. The majority recognized that individuals under 18 could be just as mature as adults who warrant the death penalty. The Court stated "The qualities that distinguish juveniles from adults do not disappear when an individual turns 18. By the same token, some under 18 have already attained a level of maturity some adults will never reach. . . . however, a line must be drawn."

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor countered this by stating in her dissent the following:

Adolescents as a class are undoubtedly less mature, and therefore less culpable for their misconduct, than adults. But the Court has adduced no evidence impeaching the seemingly reasonable conclusion reached by many state legislatures: that at least some 17-year-old murderers are sufficiently mature to deserve the death penalty in an appropriate case. . . . Chronological age is not an unfailing measure of psychological development.

The Bee misstates the facts when it asserts in its editorial that "Thirty states have outlawed the death penalty for juveniles." In fact, 18 states have outlawed the death penalty for juveniles. The Bee adds to this 12 states that have outright banned the death penalty. The Bee just simply asserts a falsehood.

Considering the fact that the Bee editorial writers exhibited such a lame understanding of constitutional jurisprudence, it is very amusing that they opined that Justice Kennedy's ruling as "right" when he "acknowledge[d] the overwhelming weight of international opinion." There is a good discussion here about one of the problems with the court's reasoning at the New Republic online. Can read more about it here and here (see comments also).

PROSECUTE A CASE TO MAKE A POINT

In a March 2 editorial, the Bee endorsed the prosecution of two Elk Grove city council members for violating state law, even though the District Attorney stated that the evidence does not rise to the level that could overcome the "beyond a reasonable doubt" legal standard.

The Bee's editorial stated "The grand jury and Scully could have sent a strong and important message that public misconduct at a certain point won't be tolerated in Sacramento County and will be prosecuted, win or lose, with all the legal tools available."

Prosecute people to make a point. I can't think of a standard more susceptible to political influence.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

BEE ENDORSING FREE MARKETS? NOPE

Remember the Klamath River Basin problems in Oregon that happened several years ago? The federal government restricted the amount of water that could be diverted to irrigation because drought conditions reduced the amount of water flowing in the rivers. This reduced water level purportedly threatened endangered species living in the rivers. Now, the farmers are in jeopardy of losing their subsidized electricity when an agreement with the local utility expires in 2006. If the farmers were charged the market rate, the rate they pay would over 10 times the amount they currently pay.

In a March 1 editorial, the Bee stated that the electricity problem is simply solved by forcing the farmers to pay 2005 prices for electricity instead of the low rate they have been granted under a long-term agreement. (Online version) The Bee's sole reason for justifying the end to the subsidy is to achieve efficient allocation of water between the farmers and the fish. Whoa. This sounds downright . . . laissez faire.

What is the Bee's devotion to the free market grounded in? Well, it isn't a love for the free market, as it routinely attacks free market principals and endorses regulation, various subsidies, and preferential treatment of citizens based on, well, how about skin color, income, age, etc. In a February 19, 2005 editorial, the Bee supported the concept of subsidizing farmers if it results in "contributing . . . to the state's environmental health." You see, market rates are good to enhance efficient allocation of resources even if it wrecks havoc on communities, but market rates are bad if it prevents the extra allocation of resources to projects that enhance the "environmental health." People bad, environment good.

No doubt the farmers should pay the market rate for electricity. The problem with the editorial is that the Bee is dishonest in its characterization of the problem faced by the the water users in the Klamath Basin. Charging the farmers the market rate for electricity to many of the may not be easy.

According to the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA), "the farmers of the Klamath Basin have certain legal rights that are reflected in the conditions on the current FERC license, and any entity that acquires a new license will be required to offer low cost power to the farmers, or equivalent consideration." (Cite) The KWUA summarizes, "In essence, the water users have a right to power benefits. . . .[because the] Reclamation Act was enacted in 1902 to encourage irrigation and homesteading in arid western states. It was anticipated that the irrigation would require two interrelated resources: water and power." Needless to say, all sides are represented by lawyers and are negotiating the matter.

Also, the reason charging the market rate is not so simple is because the government explicitly created the various dams, canals and water delivery system to arid regions of the Klamath Basin in order to attract farmers to the area. ("185 miles of canals, 516 miles of lateral ditches, 45 pumping stations, and 7 dams"; this fact from here) That is a lot of investment that may become useless if high electricity prices drives out many of the farmers. The agricultural communities supported by cheap water and electricity would be significantly affected by the price hike currently contemplated.

So why endorse the market here? Because they know exactly what the outcome will be. Marginally profitable farmers will go bust, thereby freeing up water for use by the fish. Environment over people at just about any cost. After all, the solution for the is simple.

BEE ENDORSES MATSUI FOR REASONS UNKNOWN

In an unintentionally amusing editorial by the Sacramento Bee on March 1, the Bee endorced Doris Matsui for Congress (didn't see that coming, did you?) The editorial is amusing because the endorcement was so half-hearted and littered with questions about possible ethical problems.

The Bee also stated that "if elected she could end up being both an effective advocate for Sacramento and a reasoned voice on issues such as Social Security and health care." What a low hurdle. She "could" be an effective advocate, but then again she "could" not be. The Bee fails to support its speculative assessment of her ability to be a "reasoned voice" on social security with any facts of any kind. You would think that the Bee would insert some positions set forth by Matsui that are instructive for the Bee's editorial writers for supporting Matsui. Nope.