Saturday, May 25, 2002

Style Change at Regurgablog

I have started using headlines in my posts, to make it easier to figure out what I will be discussing, since many of my posts tend to be longish. It's a shame that automatic headline creation is not supported by Blogger (Blogger Pro has this feature, but it's not free, and I'm, um, frugal). I may slip from time to time, but I will eventually catch myself and add the headline. If this change really pleases or annoys you, let me know. I'm just as big a feedback 'ho as any other blogger out there, and I'd like to make changes that my readers like.

Grocery Club Cards, and those who hate them

An issue that has been receiving lots of press coverage here in Western Washington is the decision by supermarket chain QFC (a division of Kroger) to start tying their savings to a "frequent buyers" style card which tracks the holder's purchases. The idea is not new (I had a card from Ralph's in Southern California in the early 1990s) nor is it new to the northwest (Safeway already has a similar card here, as does at least one other local chain). But to judge from the outraged howls here, one would think that they are executing men, raping women, and selling children into slavery--I cannot believe the opposition to this card. It's positively surreal.

I don't like the cards, as a general rule. Von's (a California subsidiary of Safeway) used the purchase history of a customer to fend off a lawsuit--one of their customers slipped and fell in the store, and sued them. They discovered that he purchased lots of wine, and managed to convince the jury that he slipped because he was drunk. For that reason, I stopped shopping at Von's, and never got a card from them. But that was my choice, as was my choice to shop at Albertson's, because they didn't have a card. If they introduced a card (as they have done in the Dallas area), I would find another grocer to shop. That is my choice.

However, there is absolutely no requirement that a grocery store offer sale prices without some sort of tracking involved. If they wish to institute a policy, they do so knowing full well that they risk losing customers who feel as I do, that they are invasive. They do not require the cards to shop in the store (like clubs such as Sam's and Costco); they simply tie their sale prices to them. It's a quid pro quo--you agree to let them track your purchases, and they allow you to save money on said purchases. If you choose not to use their card, they don't give you a good deal on the food you buy. Fair enough.

The people here in Washington (particularly in the Seattle area) are acting like a bunch of whiny children over this issue, in general. The newspapers are in the thick of it--there have been news articles, columns, editorials, and a whole slew of letters to the editor, all in a furor over this tempest in a teacup. It's not the end of the world, folks. There are at least two other major chains in the area that don't use the cards, and hundreds of smaller independent grocers that don't use the cards and never will. Get over it.

Biaslide in action

A discussion at Cut on the Bias about Instalanches, Biaslides, QuickRushes, and the like comes into sharp focus with this as an example. I made a post on Thursday evening, and last night, Susanna linked to it. This is a cut-and-paste except from my last twenty referrals, from my counter service:


The top half of the second page follows a similar pattern.

(note: I have altered the entries for numbers 13 and 16; I felt they contained information that need not be divulged. My point was to show how a simple link from an established, respected blogger can make a tremendous impact on a smaller blog.)

So, you see, it's not a "barely over the banks wash" when you link someone, Susanna. It's not the thousands of visitors of an Instapundit, or even the 200 of an Inappopriate Response, but it is certainly noteworthy. I think you are selling yourself short by downplaying your impact.

Press releases as news

The View from the Core has a wonderful take on how the press has become a publishing source for a variety of liberal advocacy groups. I sometimes wonder if anyone even reads press releases before inserting them in the newspapers, especially on a busy news day, when fact-checking breaking stories occupies the writers and editors.

Thanks to Media Minded for the link.

McDermott's Tale of the Tape

On Monday, the Seattle Times ran an editorial on Rep Jim McDermott (D-Comfy), that was somewhat less than fawning. It was still more or less positive, but it was very backhanded praise. Even so, it was apparently too much for some of the far-left loons in the People's Republic of Puget Sound, as witnessed by this pair of unhinged responses (I am referring to the first two letters on the page.)

Okay, I have two words for the two letter writers: Linda Tripp.

"But that is not the same thing!" they will cry. Well, that's true. The tapes Linda Tripp released were tapes of her own phone calls, as opposed to the tape that McDermott released, which was an illegally intercepted cell phone conversation between Gingrich and several other congressmen, including John Boehner (R-OH). A pair of Florida Democratic party activists taped this conversation, then sent the tape to McDermott, who released it to the media in an effort to embarrass Gingrich (a rather difficult endeavor, as Gingrich was pretty damn shameless). The tape revealed that the GOP was working to time press releases (certainly nothing new in Washington), but it was no "smoking gun" or "plotting against our nation", as the two nitwits allege. Boehner filed a lawsuit against McDermott, which has been dismissed and reinstated a few times (it is currently active, as a federal appeals court refused to dismiss it last week). McDermott did not acknowledge releasing the tape to the media until last week, and flat-out lied when initially questioned about it. ("I only know what I read in the newspaper this morning," he told reporters in January, 1997.) McDermott's lawyers are claiming first amendment rights in the release of the tape, which is a dubious claim at best.

Both of McDermott's supporters are big on his "progressive" agenda, which apparently trumps any ethical concerns that he might present. (Gee, sounds like another prominent Democratic politician that will go unnamed.) The first letter writer notes McDermott's "shining a light on the hypocrisy of the far right", which is breathtakingly stupid. I guess that moral equivalence is okay only when it suits the liberal elements of the Democratic Party; otherwise, it falls under that "shredding the constitution" clause, about which the left is fond of squawking.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Cultural sensitivity for thee, but not for me?

A discussion at work today started a thought in my head--one that begs to be aired. It's not politically correct, but then again, a lot of what I have to say isn't popular with the beautiful people.

The military organization to which I am attached deploys overseas on a regular basis. One of the places to which we occasionally deploy is Saudi Arabia. Before we deploy there, we are given a thorough briefing on the culture and mores of their brand of Islam, and are expected to adhere to a fairly rigorous set of restrictions, in order to avoid offending our hosts. (Similar restrictions are laid out for any military forces that visit the region, including Oman and the United Arab Emirates.) Until recently, American women stationed in Saudi Arabia had to wear an abaya (a head-to-toe robe) when they left the confines of the military base, and had to travel with a male (and in the back seat of the car) when off-base. Legal restrictions such as these, in our country, would be blocked as unconstitional in a heartbeat (and rightly so). However, they are the law of the land in Saudi Arabia.

In any case, all of these restrictions are deployed in the name of "cultural sensitivity". Fair enough--we are in their country, and we should follow their rules. I may not agree with the restricitions (or their religious context), but it is common courtesy to adapt to the laws and customs of a country that one is visiting or residing).

However, when we return to the US, we discover that we are expected to make exceptions for Islamic immigrants and other immigrant groups, again in the name of "cultural sensitivity". What about sensitivity to OUR culture? The multi-cultists claim that they are trying to reinforce the notion that no culture is superior to another (a notion which I disagree with, in and of itself), but their actions seem to indicate that they believe any culture is superior to our own, as long as it isn't European or patriarchal. Those who dare to disagree with their aims are branded racist, sexist, religiously intolerant, or xenophobic (or a combination of these terms).

This debate-in-my-mind recalls the agenda Pim Fortuyn was advocating.He advocated restrictions on immigration because he was afraid that his country's culture (one of the most tolerant in the world) would be destroyed by those who immigrated to the Netherlands, yet steadfastly refused to assimilate, to adopt the values of the country to which they had moved. Holland is not alone is this regard--Germany, France, Belgium, and Sweden all have large immigrant populations that retain their culture, and form an underclass in their societies.

The same could be said of the United States, where Latino and Asians who immigrate and assimilate prosper, but those who do not suffer from stagnant wages and lack political currency. Previous waves of immigration brought people who were unskilled, illiterate, and ignorant of English, but they ensured their children grew up as Americans, rather than Irish, or Greek, or Italian, or Dutch, or whatever. It is only in the past 30 years, with the rise of multiculturism (the multi-cult), that this trend has changed. Now, immigrants are encouraged to "retain their heritage", rather than adapt to and enrich our American culture. The result is staggeringly high dropout rates, high unemployment, elevated crime levels in their communities, and more calls for reduced immigration. Immigration isn't the problem, lack of acculturization is the problem. It won't be solved until the hyphenated-American ethnic pressure groups stop destroying the urge to assimilate our new American citizens.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Bush Says He Has Never Respected Arafat

Ouch. Bush has touched upon this subject before, but he elaborates his views in a discussion with European reporters.

How much do you want to bet that this honesty will result in a flood of hostile articles in the European press attacking Bush for his "simplistic" support of Israel? Remember, you heard it here first.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

This report, from the Jordan Times, is too stupid to rebut, but you should read it anyway, to get further evidence that Palestinian apologists here in the US will stop at nothing to smear Israel.(The author is a professor at Marist College in New York, and a Jordanian citizen.)

One thing is notable--there is not a single incident in his article that I had not seen before. The fact that he finds incidents that *were* reported in US media is telling; if there were a vast conspiracy such as he claims, I doubt these stories would have seen any play. His effort to spin these into a major Israeli terrorist offensive against the US is laughable.

Former Congressman John Miller has a column in today's Seattle Times that should be required reading for all who claim that conservative support for Israel is hypocritical. His rebuttal to Times columnist Bruce Ramsey is thorough and detailed. Check it out.

Ugh. Blogspot crashed again.

I may be moving off Blogspot. Stay tuned.

Buried in her comments section, Emily Jones at Give War a Chance comes up with a wonderful metaphor for continuing the sanctions against Cuba:

I just don't like the rationale that says that the hard-line isn't fully providing the results that we were hoping, so let's call the whole thing off. That's sort of like saying all these years of cancer research, and still no cure, so why should we bother.

Thought provoking.

Monday, May 20, 2002

Today's blast of idiocy comes from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Pacific Northwest's answer to pre-1990 Pravda. It concerns Jimmy Carter's recent trip.

Si to Carter, no to Bush

Making sure we know what their aim is, right up front.

Today in Miami during a re-election fund-raiser for his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Bush is expected to announce even more stringent measures to isolate Cuba.

If he does, it will be a mistake.

It's well understood that the Bush brothers' political fortunes are dependent on keeping the good will of Florida's expatriate anti-Castro Cuban community. But issues of more import are at stake here: It is in this nation's self-interest to normalize relations with Cuba.

It must be simple vote-counting. It could not possibly be that the Bushes agree with the Cuban-American view on sanctions.

President Bush should exhibit the risk-taking statesmanship shown by former President Jimmy Carter on his historic visit to Cuba last week and adopt a more enlightened and productive strategy for improving U.S. relations with that country.

Risk-taking? Isn't the left still pissed at Bush for his "reckless" diplomatic honesty for admitting that we were not going to ratify the Kyoto Treaty (which still has not been ratified by any industrialized nation), or that we were not going to participate in the International Criminal Court (aka the "Israelis are Criminals Court")? I thought that they were upset at Bush's "cowboy" risk-taking, but apparently I was misinformed.

Speaking in Spanish during an unprecedented live television address to the Cuban people, Carter said:

"Our two nations have been trapped in a destructive state of belligerence for 42 years, and it is time for us to change our relationship and the way we think and talk about each other. Because the United States is the most powerful nation, we should take the first step."

Why? Other than feel-good rhetoric, Carter provides no justification for why we should drop sanctions.

He made clear the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba is not the cause of that country's economic woes, but he rightly urged that it be abolished as a sign of good will.

If he felt so strongly about this, why did he wait until *22 years* after his term in office had expired? Why did he keep silent during the eight years of the Clinton administration, where his arguments might have been seen as a suggestion to the administration? What is the good will we are attempting to generate by lifting the embargo? Does he expect Bush and Castro to embrace like long-lost brothers if the embargo is lifted? Please...

It's regrettable that the administration rejected Carter's pleas with the tiresome bromide that free trade with Cuba would "prop up an oppressive regime."

Apparently it is only a tired bromide when it is employed by conservatives. I am sure the Post-Intelligencer supported Carter's boycotting of the 1980 Moscow Olympics (an embargo in all but name), the sanctions placed on South Africa until the transition to black-majority rule, the sanctions Clinton slapped on Yugoslavia (the Serbian part) when that country disintegrated, and so forth. All of these sanctions were imposed to send a message to the regime in power, and to deny them the use of US monies to further their oppressive policies.

Speaking in Havana with Cuban President Fidel Castro at his side, Carter bluntly, and quite correctly, criticized the Cuban government's failure to allow democracy in Cuba. And he endorsed Project Varela, a grass-roots movement seeking a voters' referendum on whether to grant Cubans the right of free speech, free assembly and the freedom to create a business. Carter also acknowledged that Cuba's socialist revolution had in some respects brought improvements for Cubans compared with life under corrupt former regimes.

Does anyone that that Project Varela will actually succeed in pushing Castro into allowing Cubans the right to free speech? No communist regime (and very few dictatorships of any kind) have survived the right to a free press; Castro knows this, and will ignore Project Varela, which will quietly vanish, as have other movements in Cuba and elsewhere.

As to Carter's dicovery that Cuba's dictators were corrupt--Duh! Cuba has never had a free government. What Castro has done is level out the misery so that virtually nobody lives well; everybody lives in abject poverty. Whether or not that is an improvement is debatable.

But he pulled no punches in deference to his host. Democracy, he told Cubans, "is based on some simple premises: All citizens are born with the right to choose their own leaders, to define their own destiny, to speak freely, to organize political parties, trade unions and non-governmental groups and to have fair and open trials. Your constitution recognizes freedom of speech and association, but other laws deny these freedoms to those who disagree with the government."

Carter actually said something sensible. The only reason this part of the speech was aired was for the propaganda value of a former US president speaking against his country. Carter would never have been able to say this if it had not been squeezed into his denunciation of US policy.

Carter wisely acknowledged that, "My nation is hardly perfect in human rights," citing among examples this country's high rate of incarcerating its citizens and its lack of universal health care. But he stressed that "guaranteed civil liberties" offer U.S. citizens the opportunity to legally change injustices.

GIVE ME A BREAK! Our high incarceration rate is due to a high crime rate; the drop in crime seems to track fairly closely with the longer sentencing that began during the Reagan administration. Cuba had plenty of criminals in jail, too, until Castro sent them to the US in 1980, during (what a coincidence!) the Carter administration. And a lack of universal health care is not a human rights crime, despite what the left-wing extremists in the Democratic Party would have us believe.

Bush's prescription for changing Cuba is to do more of what has not worked. Carter's strategy for bringing democracy to Cuba has far more promise of success.

When has what Carter suggested ever worked?

The biggest grip that I have about Carter is the fact that he won't shut up. Unlike LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Reagan (for obvious reasons) and Bush I, Carter seems to think it is his duty to be a "diplomat without portfolio", heedless of the views of the current administration. His trip to Cuba was very wrong. I won't call it treasonous, but it borders perilously close. Carter is a private citizen now, and it would do him well to follow the example set by his predecessors in office, who stayed out of the political arena once they were out of office. If Carter wants to play politics, he can run for office and see if anyone in the US really wants him representing them. I would tell Clinton the same thing, lest he get the urge to play hero, which appears to be the direction he is heading.

Yes, more goofy Which <whatever> are you? quizzes...

You are Kermit!
Though you're technically the star, you're pretty mellow and don't mind letting others share the spotlight. You are also something of a dreamer.

And this...

Whole Brain Dominant
leaning to the left

You enjoy structure and work best when you can devote your attention to one task at a time. You also work well with abstract ideas and can visualize theoretical situations.

test yourself at

I found both of these on the FAQ page for Dawson.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Suicide Bomber Kills Three in Israel

Yet another one. This one was carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. PFLP is a typical marxist group, which "aims to mobilize and lead the struggle of the Palestinian masses for the return to Palestine, self-determination, and the establishment of a Palestinian state. These, in turn, are steps along the path of defeating the Zionist entity, liberating all of Palestine, and establishing a democratic Palestinian state where all citizens enjoy equal rights, free from discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or religious belief. Beyond this, the PFLP aims at the establishment of a democratic socialist society." Among other links, they have the arabic words to The Internationale, the "worker's anthem", on their site.

Something tells me that a "democratic socialist" Palestinian state would not be free from discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or religious belief. The fact that their website has a picture of Al-Aqsa mosque dominating the home page would seem to indicate a predisposition towards Islam. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

Robert Scheer is at it again. Today's Los Angeles Times column is another mindless screed against Enron, desperately attempting to tie Bush and Cheney to the latest round of allegations against Enron's machinations in California. Apparently his January broadside failed to convince enough people, so it's time for a reload. He's still off base (and off his rocker). (Registration required to view the articles)

Now that the Enron culprits have been caught red-handed, might not the media inquire of the president whether he takes any responsibility for nearly bankrupting California by refusing to come to the state's aid in a timely fashion?

It is not the federal government's job to bail out California because of a botched energy restructuring.

I am not a disinterested bystander; I had a $500+ electric bill *for one month* (without air conditioning) due to the fiasco. However, that does not make it Washington's responsibility to fix California's mistakes.

Forgotten in all the excitement of the damning revelations of internal Enron memos describing the energy company's dastardly techniques for market manipulation is the apparent stupidity, if not complicity, of the Bush administration that made Enron's chicanery possible.

Hmmmm. let's see, most of the rolling blackouts and insanely high bills occurred in 2000, before George Bush was in the White House. Witihin a few months of his inauguration, there were no more rolling blackouts. However, in Scheer's tiny little mind, Bush is apparently responsible for something that happened on Clinton's watch, or while Gray Davis was governor of California.

Too rough, am I? Just go back a year, when rolling blackouts were helping to wreck California's massive economy while the Bush-Cheney team stood insufferably aloof, blaming the victim. Exonerating Enron and other energy traders, President Bush refused to impose wholesale federal price caps to end the gouging. Couldn't do that, the Bush administration said, because that would intrude on the supremely rational free market. But now we know that the Invisible Hand was actually the grasping tentacle of Enron, and probably other Texas-based energy hustlers, whose antics must have poor Adam Smith spinning in his grave.

The Cato Institute had an article last year that totally demolishes what Scheer is trying to spin. The highest charges for energy came from Seattle Light and Power and BC Hydro, followed by other publicly owned utilities. Enron, Dynergy, and Reliant were charging less than the market average for power, which is hardly screwing the consumers.

It is true that Bush refused to intercede, and his decision was the right one. Imposing caps on the market would have simply prolonged California's crisis, as the boom in power plant construction probably would not have occurred. California was importing 25% of the state's energy consumption from outside the state, which was a recipe for disaster. Other states had to put up with the negative effects of the power plants, while California used the energy those plants provided.

A year ago, Dick Cheney said the Bush administration viewed wholesale price caps as "a mistake" because "there isn't anything that can be done short-term to produce more kilowatts this summer." Yet, at the same time, Enron was grabbing electricity from California and selling it in Oregon at an obscene profit. Federal price controls would have prevented Enron from playing one state against another. If Cheney didn't know that, he must not have learned anything from his own enormously lucrative days in the Texas energy racket.

If Enron was making such obscene profits, why are they bankrupt? Besides, a year ago the problem was in Oregon, which due to drought, not only could not send power to California (as had been the case previously), but they could not even provide enough power for their own customers.

And could Bush himself not have guessed that his Texas buddies were gaming the market? After all, his vaunted business experience was also in Texas--and in the energy industry. But let's assume he saw no evil when he was on the inside of the energy biz; wouldn't it have behooved him to have done some due diligence research on his top campaign donor? Could it be that he wasn't too eager to find out that his political career was hugely indebted to money siphoned from Enron's apparently ill-gotten gains?

This trope, undoubtedly the most bloody overused chorus against Bush, is a total red herring; it is complete and utter bullshit. If Bush was so indebted to the oil industry, he would have permanently blocked the Clinton administration's last-minute regulations on diesel fuel emissions, which are expected to cost the oil companies *billions of dollars* annually, and he would not be proposing a plan that will cause a drawdown in coal-fired power plants (which will reduce pollution).

Enron was his largest donor--so what? He was governor of Texas for six years, and Enron was the largest company based in Texas. Why wouldn't he get a lot of money from Enron?

Surely Army Secretary Thomas E. White could have tipped off his commander in chief to what was brewing, since he had been recruited by the administration from his position as head of Enron Energy Services--a subsidiary of the collapsed energy giant--which was deeply involved in ripping off California consumers.

Oh, I see. Because Bush hired an Enron employee, he must have known what was going on.

Or maybe Poppy Bush could have warned his son, since as president he had signed into law the 1992 Energy Policy Act, which opened the way for electricity to become a tradable commodity, and an appointee of his, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairwoman Wendy L. Gramm, had sealed the deal by exempting electricity trading from the regulatory oversight afforded other commodities. (Gramm, wife of a Texas senator, herself moved on quickly to join Enron's board of directors, even serving as a member of the board's ill-fated audit committee.)

I see--Scheer is attempting to smear the whole deregulation process. Well, it took eight years for their labor to bear fruit. Is Scheer actually crediting Bush I, Bush II, and Wendy Gramm with the foresight necessary to profit, eight years down the road, from their actions in 1992? If that is the case, more power to them--I want people who can successfully run a business running the government. Governance is not intended as a for-profit venture, but demonstrated knowledge of personnel and fiscal management is a good thing.

In any case, during its first year, the younger Bush's administration catered to every whim of Enron chief and Bush family sponsor Kenneth Lay. After six meetings with Lay and other Enron executives, Cheney came up with an energy plan that did nothing for California but used the state's woes as justification for nuclear power and further deregulation, accompanied by the planned rape of pristine wilderness areas.

Enron has never operated a nuclear power plant.

The "planned rape of pristine wilderness areas" refers to the less than 1% of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that Bush proposed to open for drilling. The ANWR is larger than 10 states, so there will be plenty of unspoiled natural area left is drilling is ever permitted.

Out West, California officials were spending billions of taxpayer dollars to secure power to keep vital services functioning, while inside Enron a memo admitted that the company "may have contributed" to a Stage 2 power emergency, pushing the state to the brink of widespread blackout. If some wacko damages a transformer in a hospital to cause a power outage, it's jail time. But these Enron characters deliberately denied Californians energy needed to sustain life while Bush blithely covered for them.

More lies. How Stuff Works has a nice page on the operation of the California Independent System Operator ISO). The page mentions that hospitals are exempted from blackouts. (I cannot find anything on the ISO webpage, because it is mostly charts and graphs relating to current conditions. They might have a statement somewhere that delineates exemptions). While it is not mentioned here, people with special medical conditions are also exempted from the blackouts, if they contact their power distributor. In short, nobody's life was endangered by a stage 2 alert, which doesn't even prompt blackouts.

Another memo detailed the company's so-called Death Star strategy: jamming transmission lines in order to collect payments for fixing problems they created.

Enron's actions have been described in great detail. None of these articles have explained why the federal government was supposed to step in and deal with the problem California created.

When the mob does things like this, we call it blackmail and extortion. Now that a glossy corporate giant cozy with the president has done such things, what does the Justice Department propose we call them?

I guess the multiple investigations against Enron and Arthur Anderson are not enough for Scheer, because they don't implicate Bush or his administration in any illegal activity. (A list of current investigations against Enron and Arthur Anderson can be found at the Boston University Law Library website.)