Friday, April 29, 2005

My Ears Are Aiken

Okay, I'll say it: I've never seen "American Idol," and I'm frankly sick of hearing about it.

C'mon, people, it's glorified karaoke. And at least karaoke bars are smart enough to serve copious amounts of alcohol to make it more listenable.

Enough already with the "American Idol." Read a book. Rent a movie. Take a nap. Something.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Logic Must Be Another "Risky Scheme"

It looks like Al Gore went into one of his delusional MoveOn.org rants again yesterday, this time over the possibility that the Senate might change it's filibustering rules to allow President Bush's judicial nominees a full Senate vote.

According to a news report, Gore called possibly changing the filibuster rules "a poison pill for America's democracy." Think about that for just a minute. In Al Gore's universe, those who want judicial nominees to actually be voted on in the full Senate are administering a "poison pill" to democracy itself.

And this guy once won the popular vote for president.

Gore went on to say (sweatily, I'm sure) :
[I'm] genuinely dismayed and deeply concerned by the recent actions of some Republican leaders to undermine the rule of law by demanding the Senate be stripped of its right to unlimited debate where the confirmation of judges is concerned.
Like all Al Gore quotes, this one merits a fair amount of parsing. Characteristically, it turns out that hardly a single word of it is true. Let's take a look.
"I'm genuinely dismayed and deeply concerned by the recent actions of some Republican leaders to undermine the rule of law..."
The filibuster procedure is not a "law" in any way, shape, or form. It does not constitute any "rule of law"; it's an internal rule that was invented by the Senate and can be (and has been) changed at any time by the Senate.

And even if it were a law, in what Bizarro universe can working to change a law be construed as "underming the rule of law?" Doesn't going through the process of bothering to change a law (something Democrats have recently eschewed in favor of ruling via majesterial court decrees) actually demonstrate respect for the "rule of law?"
"...by demanding the Senate be stripped of its right..."
I'm not sure what Al was out doing the other night, but how does stripping get brought into this? Nobody's stripping anything, with the possible exception of the presumable parade of escorts streaming through the Chappaqua home of Al's former boss. Only in Al Gore's puffy, Twinky-engorged brain could a body that, by majority vote, decides to change it's own rules be considered to have been involuntarily stripped of something.
"...stripped of its right to unlimited debate where the confirmation of judges is concerned."
Think about what his words mean there. "Unlimited debate." What Gore is claiming there is that the Senate has an iron-clad, inalienable right to debate without end. Furthermore, he's claiming that this right neccessarily trumps its constitutional mandate to "advise and consent." They couldn't, according to Al, even change this themselves without endangering the "rule of law" in America.

Does anybody really believe that the Senate has a precious, immutable right to debate an issue forever without allowing a vote on it? Because that's what he's literally arguing for when he defends the Senate's supposed "right to unlimited debate."

Whatever you think of the filibuster, can anyone really believe that the Senate changing its own rules amounts to a constitutional coup d'├ętat? Well, I suppose anyone who would cast a vote for Al Gore could.

Close, But No Cigar

You probably won't believe me if I tell you that I almost put Mason Adams on yesterday's "Can't Believe They're Still Alive" list, only to ultimately leave him off because I thought he was too obscure and you probably wouldn't have recognized him.

But it's true.

If you don't know who he is, he's a character actor who also appeared on the "Lou Grant" show, and also did the voiceovers on Smucker's television commercials right up to the present.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Stayin' Alive II

More people of whom I find myself greatly surprised that they are still alive:
  • Jack LaLanne
  • Kitty Carlisle
  • Buck O'Neill
  • Ingmar Bergman
  • John Forsythe
  • Rose Marie
  • Don Adams
  • Al Molinaro
  • Barbara Billingsley
  • Karl Malden
  • Jane Wyman
And, of course, the great:
  • Larry Storch

Monday, April 25, 2005

Conservative Pantywaists?

While I was gone, I see that just about everybody got their shorts all in a wad about yesterday's "Justice Sunday" simulcast. The Sunday morning news shows (which I watched at a hotel on the road before church) were breathless in their debates on the propriety of it. At one point, I think Juan Williams got so riled up about it he actually soiled himself.

It's not suprising that liberals would be hot and bothered about this. They regularly issue ominous warnings about "theocracy" and "Christian Taliban" whenever evangelicals get involved in a political cause (though strangely these fears seem to suddenly abate in the event of Democrat candidates campaigning directly from the pulpits of black churches, a phenomenon which occurs weekly on the campaign trail).

But more suprising to me is the conservative hand-wringing going on about it. I'm not talking about those who have an entirely legitimate theological concern that the church not too closely align itself with a political party. I'm talking about relatively secular conservatives who are going all wobbly because of a few strong statements coming from the right regarding the runaway judiciary.

A few examples.

John Leo says:
The advance rhetoric has been extreme. [Family Research Council president Tony] Perkins's message on the Family Research Council website says, "For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the ACLU, have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms." Must we talk this way? I agree with the sentiment about the American Civil Liberties Union. It has degenerated into a pressure group of the left that specializes in stripping the public square of every vestige of religion, from the removal of a tiny mission cross in the seal of the County of Los Angeles to attacks on Christmas trees near city halls. But I don't understand what it means to work "under the veil of the judiciary" or how the excesses of the ACLU are involved in the issue at hand-the Democrats' determination not to let the Senate vote on some judges.
Uh, yes, John, we must talk this way.

What Leo (and some fellow conservatives) amazingly still fail to understand is that the judiciary is the Left's arm for implementing its agenda. Liberals are content to let conservatives pass laws, win elections, lobby, cajole, and whatever else, but they will under no circumstances allow them to reclaim the court's role of applying the text of the Constitution. They know their hold on the judiciary renders all those other things moot.

The entire reason the filibusters are occuring is because the Democrats will spare no effort in keeping conservative, textualist judges off the bench. A judge who reads the Constitution and finds no "emanations and penumbras" that would make abortion or homosexual sodomy constitutional rights endangers the Left's entire agenda--an agenda they've successfully imposed on America against the will of the people through the judiciary. The ACLU has been the engine of most of that, and all of it has tilted decidedly in one direction.

And we must also keep in mind that all anyone is asking for here is that these judges simply be voted on by the Senate--something every other judicial nominee in history who passed through committee has received. Liberals are still welcome to work to defeat these judges. But if you keep up with folks like NARAL, you'll soon realize that the judiciary is the hill on which they are willing to die, because it is the source of all their power.

Meanwhile, Charles Krauthammer decries the "flailing, sometimes delirious attacks" on the judiciary in the wake of the Terri Schiavo case, saying:
Let us have a bit of sanity here. One of the glories of American democracy is the independence of the judiciary. The deference and reverence it enjoys are priceless assets.
Well, no, they're not "priceless assets." That's nothing more than a flowery way of renaming the problem: that the judiciary has no significant check or balance on its power. There's no question that the judiciary should be "independent" (if by that we mean "independent" in the same way the executive or legislative branches are independent). It's another thing altogether to say it should be unaccountable, which is the present situation.
Even worse was a Washington meeting of over-the-top activists led by Phyllis Schlafly that issued a manifesto for the restoration of God to our constitutional system.
There's that conference again. Never has more been made out of less (with the possible exception of the career of Paula Abdul) in American history. Incidently, Schlafly had nothing to do with "leading" the conference, but I suspect Krauthammer is simply relying on things he's seen fifth hand in the media anyway.

Krauthammer's column does at least show that he has a crystal-clear grasp of the problem. He says:
Have that independence and supremacy been abused? Grossly. What other advanced democracy would radically legalize abortion by judicial decree rather than by democratic will expressed through legislatures or referendums? What sane democracy allows four unelected robed eminences in Massachusetts to revolutionize the very definition of marriage, the most ancient institution in society?

This is not just deeply undemocratic. It is politically crazy. Democracies work as stable social entities because when people are allowed to settle issues themselves by debate and ballot, they are infinitely more likely to accept the results when they lose. To deny them that participation is to risk instability and threaten social peace.
I couldn't agree more. And that's what makes his conclusion so confusing to me:
...[T]he answer is not to assault the separation of powers. Certainly not to empower Congress to regulate judicial decision-making by retroactively removing lifetime appointees. The non-deranged way to correct the problem is to appoint a new generation of judges committed to judicial modesty.
Great. But isn't that what this whole filibuster issue is about to begin with? If we could get those judges confirmed, that'd be great. But the same group that has so successfully implemented its will through activist courts is using every means available to block "judicially modest" judges from the bench! And weak-kneed Republicans have chosen, at least up to this point, to do nothing.

If the "overheated" rhetoric of Tom DeLay and John Cornyn help to push the confirmation process along, it will have served its purpose. When everyone was playing nice, nothing was getting done.

Soul Food

On the long drive back to South Florida from Tennessee this weekend, we listened to some John Piper messages from Reformission 2004, a church planting conference held by Mars Hill Church in Seattle last Novemeber.

Quite simply, it's some of the best stuff I've ever heard.

All told, there's over 4 1/2 hours worth of Piper's stuff there. Download it. Listen to it. Burn it on CD's to keep. Give it to your friends. Give it to your pastor. It's better than anything you'll hear on Christian radio this entire year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

R & R

You may have wondered why I haven't been here for a few days. As you may have guessed by now, it's because I was just elected pope.

Actually, we're taking a little vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. I'll be back next Monday.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Johnnie B. Goode

Rock 'n' roll pioneer Johnnie Johnson died this week in his adopted hometown of St. Louis at the age of 80. It was Johnson, who played piano for Chuck Berry in the '50's and was the namesake for "Johnnie B. Goode," who really invented Berry's sound, which in turn helped to usher in the rock 'n' roll era.

Johnson profoundly affected many rock musicians who followed after him. I remember once reading an interview with Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, where Richards said something along the lines of "Whenever things get tough, it helps me keep going to remember that tonight, in some bar in some part of St. Louis, Johnnie Johnson is playing his piano."

I had a brief chance to meet Johnson once in the 1980's. He was sitting in with a band (I don't even remember who they were, but they were way overachiving to have Johnnie Johnson sitting in with them) which was playing a huge Halloween party at the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis. I was the DJ for the event, playing music during the band breaks to keep the crowd going. He was reserved but polite, and having already heard many of Richards' many quotes about him, I knew I was in the presense of largely-unrecognized greatness and did the best I could to soak up the experience.

Tonight Johnnie Johnson won't be playing his piano in some bar in St. Louis. But he helped create an entire art form, which isn't a small legacy to leave behind.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Uh, So You Didn't Like The Conference?

Max Blumenthal from the left-wing magazine The Nation attended the judicial conference I was at last week, and evidently he wasn't too pleased.

He particularly hated the Thursday night dinner I mentioned as the high point of the conference:
At a banquet the previous evening, the Constitution Party's 2004 presidential candidate, Michael Peroutka, called the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube "an act of terror in broad daylight aided and abetted by the police under the authority of the governor." Red-faced and sweating profusely, Peroutka added, "This was the very definition of state-sponsored terror."
Funny thing is, I didn't see Peroutka sweating or red-faced. But you know how its been since about 1970--every journalist wants to be Hunter S. Thompson. If it moves the narrative along to say he was sweating profusely or turned into a lizard or something, who's to niggle about facts?

Blumenthal then gets to David Gibbs III's (who was the Schindler family's attorney) speech at the banquet, and the subsequent prayer:
Gibbs described his visit to Schiavo's hospital room after her feeding tube had been removed. Schiavo lay in bed "with her eyes sunken deep in her head...she was skeletal," Gibbs recounted. "Then she turned to her mother suddenly, like she wanted to speak, and she just started sobbing." By now, members of the audience were crying.

As soon as he left the stage, one of the event's planners asked all the men in the room to get down on the floor and pray. With no other choice, I moved my plastic-upholstered chair aside, took to my hands and knees and listened as plaintive voices arose all around me with prayers for Schiavo's parents and maledictions against judicial tyranny. A saccharine version of Pachelbel's Canon emanating from the player piano in the hotel lobby seeped through the banquet hall's open doors, suffusing the ceremony with a dreamlike atmosphere. When I finally dared to look up from the ground, I realized that my head was only inches from an enormous posterior belonging to William Dannemeyer, the former congressman who once issued a letter to his colleagues listing twenty-four people with some connection to Bill Clinton who died "under other than natural circumstances."
I'm afraid I cannot vouch for the facts one way or the other here. Unlike Max, not once at the conference was I tempted to check out the other men's butts.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Eye In The Sky

This is the coolest website ever.

Click on "satellite" when you get there and find your home from outer space.

(Hat tip to Jon Barlow)

Monday, April 11, 2005

Journalistic Apoplexy

Not suprisingly, the mainstream media was having kittens over the conference I attended, ominously implying that criticism of activist judges is only one step removed from assasinating them.

The Washington Post was particularly aggrieved. In a column today regarding the conference, Ruth Marcus writes that:
[T]he current uproar is particularly worrisome -- both because of the extreme nature of the restraints being proposed and the degree to which such sentiments are being voiced not by a powerless fringe but by those in positions of authority. It's not just Phyllis Schlafly anymore.
Dana Milbank, who is supposedly a reporter (rather than a columnist), leads his story on the conference on Friday's page 3A thusly:
Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is a fairly accomplished jurist, but he might want to get himself a good lawyer -- and perhaps a few more bodyguards.
Nice.

This because some have dared suggest that Justice Kennedy be impeached for his reliance on foreign law in his rulings when the United States Constitution declares the Constitution the "supreme Law of the Land." But it's not as if the text of the Constitution has ever meant much to those who would defend the current judiciary. Milbank also mentions that the mother and husband of a federal judge were recently murdered, generously leaving the reader to draw his own conclusions.

The Los Angeles Times predictably wet its collective pants, sputtering:
Just when we'd think the ethically bloodied House majority leader, Tom DeLay, would try to lower his profile, he's intensifying a crusade (in every sense of the word) for congressional control over the judicial branch of government.

…He spoke by video to a conference titled "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith." Its sponsor was the Traditional Values Coalition, social-issue reactionaries who back legislation to restrict federal courts from ruling on anything involving God or basing any rulings on the precedents of foreign courts (for instance, in death penalty cases).

…Judicial independence is one of this nation's distinguishing traits and a hallmark of our constitutional scheme. To endure, our democracy requires that legislators respect the independence of the judiciary, even when it comes to decisions they don't like.
Considering that the courts have been the vehicle the Left has used for more than 50 years to shove its agenda down the throat of an unwilling public, you can see why they’d suddenly be so hot and bothered by a conference attended by, at most, 150 people in a Washington hotel discussing the available constitutional remedies to the problem. They see their entire supreme reign being jeopardized and will stop at nothing to defend it.

On the good side (and this is only fair to note), the New York Times’ story was (surprisingly enough) absolutely fair, accurate, and down-the-middle. Somebody must have had the day off.

Conference Report

The first couple of hours of the Confronting the Judicial War on Faith Conference were televised on C-SPAN Thursday, and are archived (for a week or two) here (Real Player required).

And making certain my eventual audit after Hillary Clinton is elected president, my frightening visage can be found at 48 minutes and 55 seconds into the broadcast with the Grand Dame of conservatism, Phyllis Schlafly, over my right shoulder.

The high point of the conference, for me, was the Thursday night dinner when David Gibbs III, the attorney for Terri Schiavo's parents, described his first meeting with Terri, in which he found her "200 times" more responsive and aware than he had expected from watching the videos of her. Gibbs described her attempts to communicate, her noticable reactions to certain people, and even her sense of humor. He also described her skeletal appearance, shallow breathing (towards the end, Terri was literally panting like dog on a hot day) and black, sunken eyes at a time when death lawyer George Felos was out before the TV cameras describing her death throes as "beautiful."

Immediately after, the assembled group (which included former Constitution Party presidential candidate Michael Peroutka, Judge Roy Moore, William J. Federer, Herb Titus, Rev. Peter Marshall, and scores of others) got on our knees to pray that God would grant this nation repentence, and to ask Him to forgive the Church for letting things get to this point.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Don't Know Much 'Bout Geography

On the flight back from D.C. to Ft. Lauderdale this afternoon, my two seatmates were a disaffected 19-year old girl and a member of the entourage for a reggae musician called Elephant Man. (Elephant Man himself was in the next row up.)

Here's an actual conversation that took place between them as our plane was on approach for landing...in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Girl (having just opened window): What ocean is that?

Elephant Man lackey: Uh.......(silence)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Taking My Place With The Wingnuts

I'm taking a work trip up to D.C. tonight for the "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith Conference" on Thursday and Friday.

Considering the events of recent days (and events soon to come, like the so-called "nuclear option" in the Senate--though I'll believe it when I see it), it should be very interesting.

The Left Wing

As I've mentioned before, though I obviously disagree with their political slant, I enjoy watching "The West Wing." It's well-written and well done, though I continue to wish someone would turn a light on in that place before someone ruins their eyes. It doesn't matter what time of day it's supposed to be--there's always golden, afternoon, autumn sunlight pouring through the blinds in their offices. Every government building I've ever been in has been characterized mainly by flourescent white, but on TV I suppose that would make government apparatchiks appear less romantic.

Anyway, you have to give it to the "West Wing" producers for open-mindedness as they spin their election storyline. Believe it or not, they're positively portraying a Republican on the program this season!

Of course, the Republican is played by Alan Alda.

And he's pro-abortion.

And he's an atheist.

Other than that, though, he's quite a Republican. He's the rare "smart, thoughtful Republican," as the characters on the show say.

In fact, he's just the kind of Republican a "West Wing" character (and the media) can love: a Democratic one.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Bent Polls

Remember those polls being cited in the media that supposedly showed an overwhelming majority of Americans believing that someone in Terri Schiavo's condition should be allowed to die? The implication was that it was only religious kooks who had an interest in "interfering in a private matter."

As was pointed out at the time, the questions in these surveys were ridiculously biased--and usually inaccurate.

Well, Zogby has done some further polling using some different, more accurate questions, and predictably found that the phrasing of the question went a long way toward determining the result.

Zogby asked the question, "If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water?"

79 percent said the patient should not have food and water taken away. 9 percent said that they should.

They also asked, "When there is conflicting evidence on whether or not a patient would want to be on a feeding tube, should elected officials order that a feeding tube be removed or should they order that it remain in place?"

More than twice as many people said elected officials should order it to remain in place than said they shouldn't (42%-%18), a far cry from the indication that has been given in the mainstream media.

One wonders what the outcry on the Schiavo story would have been if the media had actually been reporting the facts of the case. I found over and over again that when people were made aware of the actual facts, they were outraged.

Deflating Air America

For those who are interested in specifics on how Air America is faring in the ratings (since the HBO documentary, while showing the network with all it's warts, ends with an indication that the network has gone on an upswing), Brian Maloney at The Radio Equalizer has a lot of specifics. And they're not pretty for the Great Liberal Hope.

Aside from the recent, desperate signing of Jerry Springer as a host, there's even worse news. The ratings stink. I mean, they smell....bad.
...Air America's flagship station [WLIB in New York] has declined to a tiny 1.1 share of the audience. There's a full year of data to look at now and the picture isn't pretty for lib talk.

This is below where the station stood a year ago with its previous Caribbean specialty format and a drop from a 1.2 share last month. In the Fall 2004 Arbitron survey, WLIB had a 1.4 share of the radio listening audience, so it is safe to say it's actually shrinking in popularity.

This figure gives WLIB a ranking of 24th place overall in the New York City metro area, a place that ought to be liberal radio-friendly.
Maloney adds that Air America is sinking fast in Boston, San Diego, Philadelphia, Detroit, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., most of which are liberal bastions. The network's stations are ranking in the 20's--in cities where they're showing up in the ratings at all.

So A Guy Walks Into A Bar....

After ten years, an escaped convict who ran off with the warden’s wife has been found. I just know there’s a great joke in there somewhere. Feel free to write your own. I’ll start:

“That’s the dangerous thing about that game--things can really get out of hand.”

Monday, April 04, 2005

Monday Morning You Sure Look Fine

Being so caught up in the (ultimately futile) Terri Schiavo situation, I missed a few of the other significant things going on in the world. A few quick observations on other recent news:
  • As a Reformation Christian, I have deep, significant theological differences with the Pope. I don't wish to gloss them over, because I believe that they, above all things, are of eternal import. But having said that, Pope John Paul II was man of significance. As one of the major figures in the fall of communism, the world owes him a great debt. And I deeply respected his inflexibility on important matters when many in the Church (particularly on the American side of things) wanted him to "change with the times."

    The word "secular" comes from the Latin saeculum , which literally means "right now," "the present world." Those who believe that the preferences and fashions of the day should rule everything are secularists in the truest sense of the word--whatever religious garb they may put on. Whatever JPII's faults, the man was no secularist, to his great credit.
  • Former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger pleaded guilty on Friday to stealing classified documents from the National Archives and destroying them. You remember this story, don't you? It's the one that completely disappeared from the mainstream media through the entire 2004 election cycle, even though at the time Berger stole the documents he was working as an advisor to the John Kerry campaign.

    Oh, and he stole them during the 9/11 investigation, while doing "research" on the Clinton Administration's response to terror threats. Do you think if it had been, say, Condoleeza Rice stuffing top secret documents on the Bush Administration's handling of the terror threat into her bra, we might have heard something about it occasionally during the presidential campaign?
  • How unfortunate that Dan Rather threw away his entire career trying to pass off forged documents on President Bush's National Guard service, when he had at his fingertips a real story about a Democratic national security advisor who was advising a presidential campaign stealing and destroying classified documents—a story which Rather completely ignored.
  • Last week I watched HBO's documentary about the launch of the liberal Air America radio network. It reminded me of every bad experience I ever had working in the sleazeball world of commercial radio. The malformed egos, the desperate, pitiful need for constant approval, the relentless narcissism...and that's just Randi Rhodes.

    My favorite part is where she complains about her name not being included in any of the initial Air America promotions, telling anyone within ear shot "I'm the only real radio person here. I'm the only one whose ever scored huge ratings on a radio show." She says it about a hundred times.

    But being a South Floridian, I know something about Randi's "huge ratings." Her "huge ratings" were in the heaving metropolis of West Palm Beach, Florida (market #47, behind Greensboro/Winston-Salem, NC and Austin, TX), perhaps the only town in America both small enough and liberal enough to make her "successful." Her radio company then tried to put her on in the #12 Ft. Lauderdale/Miami market, an experiment which lasted a few months and ended in dismal, ratings-less failure.

    As far as HBO's picture of the network in general, I'll say this: when the most seemingly decent, centered person on your staff is Al Franken, you know you've got problems.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Songs In The Keyes Of Life

Alan Keyes discredited himself with his bizarre fill-in Senate candidacy in Illinois last year, but when it comes to framing pro-life issues there is still no one--and I mean no one--better.

From his column published after Terri Schiavo's death yesterday:
[In the Weimar Republic], as now, the corruption of conscience began under the specious pretext of saving disabled people from the supposedly oppressive burden of living out their lives. By undermining the people's sensitivity to atrocity against innocent, vulnerable individuals they prepared them callously to ignore and explain away massive atrocity against large groups and whole races and nations. If the death of one innocent helpless person counts for nothing because it is sanctioned by the formal appearance of legality, then the death of millions counts for nothing when it appears in the same disguise – a million times nothing is nothing.

This is the calculus of evil. The judicially mandated murder of Terri Schiavo shows that it is already deeply in our midst. Already we find the guards who will deny food and water to those shriveling with starvation; already we find the jurists and media hounds who will order or advocate their destruction; already we find the public officials who acknowledge the injustice but do nothing, when their sworn duty is to defend and protect constitutional right.
One of the strong memories I will take away from this episode will be Jeb Bush's effeminate, quivering plaintiveness as the supreme executive of the state of Florida was faced down by a county judge and some sheriff's deputies.

But he felt the Schindler family's pain, and in 21st century clintonized America that's even better than actually doing something about it.