Any idea why I live outside the Beltway?

I’ve only given a cursory interest in the ongoing “scandal” about whether or not Karl Rove leaked Valerie Plame’s identity. Honestly, I’d love to see Karl Rove booted from any sort of influence, but please, do I need to spell it out for the stupid? Consider:

“I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime they will no longer work in my administration,” Bush said at a news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Asked on June 10, 2004, whether he stood by his earlier pledge to fire anyone found to have leaked the officer’s name, Bush replied: “Yes.” On Monday, he added the qualifier that it would have to be demonstrated that a crime was committed.

Karl Rove isn’t going anywhere. He never was, even when this scandal had the potential legs of “criminal activity” by Rove. Rove is sleazy in his methods, but that’s nothing new. But he most likely can slither his way out of any criminal actions, assuming he even committed a crime. But short of a prosecutor filing charges against him, Democrats need to refrain from this:

“President Bush backed away from his initial pledge and lowered the ethics bar,” Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said. “Bush should be prepared to keep his word, and to enforce a high standard of ethics in the White House as he promised from the beginning of his administration.”

Yes, President Bush lowered the bar for ousting the (potential) leaker from his administration. Boo, hiss. And big whoop. If Rove is fired, do we think he loses his influence in the Bush Administration? As long as there is a secure phone line in the White House, Rove is free to practice his dark arts at will. So he doesn’t push the buttons to make the politics of diversion happen. He’ll still pull the strings. Personally, I’d prefer Rove in the White House where we can theoretically watch him because Rove behind the scenes scares me much more.

But this is Washington. A potential scandal is more than enough justification for going on the offensive. Better to smear someone because you hate them than because they’ve done something illegal. Victory at any cost, right? So what happens when the White House manages to spin this away? Every talking head on the Right gets to pin this as partisan politics on the Left. Sure, any sane person can decipher the spin to know it’s happening. But will the ideologues care? Remember, these are the people spewing “Liberal MSM” and “activist judges” at every opportunity. This whole scandal reeks of the old adage that “the facts, although interesting, are irrelevant.”

I’d rather win when the battle matters.

Four-year-olds know this already

What Ryan Sager said:

For some years now, I’ve been pondering a little amendment to the Constitution. Nothing too grand, mind you. Just a little something that could fit on a cocktail napkin, yet at the same time provide more legal clarity than 100 Sandra Day O’Connor opinions.

And, so, without further ado, here it is, my 28th Amendment:

Amendment XXVIII.

Granted, it would be the first amendment written in all caps. And I’m pretty sure it would be the first use of an exclamation point, let alone three consecutive, in any of our nation’s foundational documents (“We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor!!!”).

But that all seems like a small price to pay when one contemplates just how invaluable the guidance of this simple — if enthusiastic — amendment could prove to the High Court.

I agree with the rest, too.

Crazy liberal advertising agencies are out of ideas

This afternoon, I received an e-mail from CompUSA advertising an upcoming sale. Consider:

We’re giving you the same discount our own employees get on notebook and desktop computers. Now is the perfect time to upgrade to the machines you’ve been wanting for months.

Friday is my birthday (hint, hint), so the timing is perfect. Yet, couldn’t they put that discount on an iPod&#174, because I already have three two computers and no iPod&#174? That’s not too much to ask, I don’t think.

At least, though, I’d appreciate an original advertising campaign, one not stolen from one two car companies. Thanks.

It is a very precise, and a compricated pran!

An editorial in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times explained in one simple paragraph. Consider:

Hollywood’s box office has hit the skids, and the entertainment media are in overdrive trying to explain why. The most obvious explanation for box office malaise is consistently overlooked: Hollywood’s ruling liberal elites keep going out of their way to offend half their audience.

Anyone with grey matter between his ears will understand that this theory is stupid. Hollywood is full of cultural elites who believe that the Heartland of middle America, the “real” Americans, are dumber than the soil they farm. Gee, thanks, that’s original, and I’m happy that we’ve cleared it up. But that forgets the all-important truth at the heart of Hollywood’s slump. The pink elephant in the corner, the one we’re not supposed to think about, lest it divert us from the culture war being waged by Hollywood, is that story still matters.

We want to be entertained, regardless of perceived politics. Anything short of Fahrenheit 9/11 will draw the ideological ire of only the most partisan hacks. While the conservative radio hosts blather about how Star Wars: Episode III is directed at the Bush Administration, I’m watching Yoda kick ass. Most of the time, for most people, entertainment is just entertainment.

But the editorial’s author doesn’t believe that. Consider:

Did we need to hear from “War of the Worlds” screenwriter David Koepp that the aliens in his movie are stand-ins for the U.S military – and the innocent Americans they attack are stand-ins for Iraqi civilians? Or that Americans are guilty of post-9/11 anti-Muslim “paranoia”? (A question to Koepp: Were we “paranoid” after Pearl Harbor too?)

War of the Worlds is about the military and Iraqi civilians? Hmmmm, I guess I shouldn’t go see the movie if I love America. Since ignoring the screenwriter’s opinion isn’t an option. But, I don’t think I can. No doubt H. G. Wells had that in mind when he wrote The War of the Worlds in 1898. And I’ll bet you anything Orson Welles made certain to imply that in the 1938 radio broadcast that scared so many people. They knew the U.S. military was coming for them, as innocents, so the artistic people needed to get the message out.

Or the movie could represent Hollywood’s refusal to risk new ideas. The only reason I’m debating whether or not to see War of the Worlds isn’t because the writer is a nitwit who overthinks his job. I’ve heard good reviews of the movie and it might be fun to watch space aliens and war and all that in this summer popcorn-movie season, but I’m still debating. Why? Because Tom Cruise is nuts.

The author approaches the idea that Hollywood might be risk-averse but apparently the non-political answer scared her. Consider:

Hollywood could turn things around, but that might mean tolerating films with pro-conservative themes. Hollywood liberals are so consumed with hatred for George W. Bush and the right, they would rather go down with the ship than allow a conservative message. The result is a creative paralysis in which liberals are out of ideas and have to resort to endless sequels and remakes – while conservatives who have new ideas aren’t allowed into the mix.

Right. Liberals aren’t in danger of being shut out because they’re all busy writing a Silver Spoons movie, except in their new version the father will be a rich do-gooder who behaves like a child and let’s his kid play with multi-racial friends from different social classes. And I guarantee that Ricky will be tormented by the social injustice of capitalism to the point where he’ll shoot a film about homelessness in which he and his father are the stars and learn a valuable moral lesson. Those crazy liberals will not stop with the bastardized, ideology-laced remakes.

All is not lost, given that signs of hope abound.

Fortunately, a new conservative film movement is arising to give hope to those on the new Hollywood blacklist. Michael Moore’s emergence showed us we could no longer passively yield Hollywood to the left, and Gibson’s success showed us there was a market for films that lean to the right.

Right, so here’s an idea. How about an abundance of films that lean to story? If Hollywood leans to the right, the left will feel ignored and we’ll get these same boring rants from liberal columnists that we’re now getting from conservative columnists. Remember, President Bush won the last election with 51% of the vote. That’s a majority, sure, but not an overwhelming indictment that the movie-not-going public is pissed off about the screenwriter’s politics. Quality matters above all else. It always has, and it always will.

For example, I watched about an hour of Troy on Sunday. I’d never seen it before since I’d felt no incentive when it hit theaters. I had, and still have, no idea who the screenwriter(s), voted for last year, nor do I care. I skipped Troy because I couldn’t see paying for something I suspected of being poorly written drivel. So is it a surprise when I say that the dialogue was wooden, the story dull, and the special effects stunning? That wasn’t worth my $9 then, and it wasn’t worth lost sleep on Sunday night.

My opinion hasn’t changed with the current gaggle of movies at the theaters. Consider these movies currently playing in my area:

  • The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D
  • – Four-year-olds love it. I’m not four.

  • Batman Begins
  • – I’ll see it, but it’s still been done.

  • Bewitched
  • – Ditto.

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • – Ditto.

  • Cinderella Man
  • – Based on a true story, so it only half counts as original.

  • Crash
  • – Poorly marketed, so I know nothing about it.

  • Dark Water
  • – Horror, so I don’t care.

  • Fantastic Four
  • – Another comic book movie. I don’t care.

  • George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead
  • – I enjoyed Shaun of the Dead, but don’t care for zombie movies.

  • Herbie: Fully Loaded
  • – This has been done before, and it’s from Disney. No thanks.

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • – Based on the book.

  • The Interpreter
  • – This stars Sean Penn, so I don’t care.

  • Kicking & Screaming
  • – I’ve heard horrible reviews, but at least it’s original (I think).

  • Ladies in Lavender
  • – What the hell is this?

  • The Longest Yard
  • – Oh, what’s this? Another remake? Who would’ve guessed.

  • Madagascar
  • – Animated, but without cursing 8-year-olds, so forget it.

  • March of the Penguins
  • – I want to see this more than anything else. It seems fascinating.

  • Me and You and Everyone We Know
  • – ????

  • Monster-in-Law
  • – Not even Vaughn Michael Vartan can overcome the Jennifer Lopez, so forget it.
    < li>Mr. & Mrs. Smith

    – Not even guns and explosions can overcome the Angelina Jolie, so forget it.

  • Sin City
  • – Don’t care.

  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
  • – Teenage chick flick, based on the novel(s).

  • Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
  • – This was good. And I didn’t even think Iraq.

  • War of the Worlds
  • – See above comments.

For those who subscribe to the vast left-wing conspiracy theory about Hollywood, answer these questions. How many truly original movies are in that list? Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Kicking & Screaming, and March of the Penguins? Maybe Madagascar? And then the art house-type films that no one’s heard about? If we aim for originality and quality, that’s not a particularly stellar list. But liberal? Please.

The author tries to paint the logical idea about quality, but swerves at the end to satisfy the conspiracy theory.

Everyone – liberal and conservative – acknowledges that a once-great film industry is out of ideas and in dire shape. Wouldn’t it be smart, then, to let some new ideas in from the right, and give everybody a real choice again at the box office?

If liberals are so partisan and possess such a tight grip on Hollywood’s purse strings, then why would they acknowledge that opening the industry to ideas from the right is the correct way to solve the lack of ideas? That doesn’t make sense. Pretending that it makes sense only to enable a push for propaganda right-wing approved films is no better than the accusations levied against supposedly liberal Hollywood. It’s so obvious that it dips into pathetic, simplistic folly. Future pushers of this nonsense should try as hard at thinking as they want Hollywood to try at making movies.

(Source: Michelle Malkin)

Who wants to be King Dumbass?

Jann Wenner aimed for the title last week. Consider this post from the useless Huffington Post:

Amid all the optimism surrounding Blair, Bono & Geldolf doing Live 8 and G 8, and the award of that most wonderful and pacific of international institutions and global brotherhood — the Olympics — what a grim thing to have happened.

I have no problems with that, except for the “most wonderful” part. Oh, and the global brotherhood crap. Remember, this is the same institution that just voted, by secret ballot, to remove baseball and softball from the Olympic games. So the whole concept is irrelevant. But I’ll pretend that it’s all true. Yet, Mr. Wenner’s rant is at The Huffington Post, so I’m not certain how long I can make pretend; nonsense is certain to follow.

So what brilliant thoughts come next?

Violence rarely gets us anywhere; the PLO, the IRA, the SLA, among others have achieved so little with their terrorism.

Wait, I agree with that. Is there some form of common sense taking over? I’m ready to accept that logic can come from the strangest places. So I read the conclusion.

If the London bombings are the work of an Al Qaeda offshoot, then you have to fairly say, in the same way we condemn other’s terror, this is in part the result of Bush’s War on Iraq.

This is in part the result of Bush’s War on Iraq? Wait… what? Terrorism is bad and we condemn other’s terror, so President Bush is to blame for this? As opposed to condemning the actual terrorists who planted four bombs on London transport? Oh, yeah, that makes sense.

Mr. Wenner should drop out of Irrational Liberal Guilt 101 and enroll in the local community college version of Logic 101.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan, because I stopped paying attention to The Huffington Post about four minutes after it debuted.)

Those guys think they’re revolutionaries

Here’s an interesting business lesson:

Apple Computer Chief Executive Steve Jobs has a reputation for thinking different. But now he might be planning a move for Apple that will leave even his biggest fans surprised–becoming a phone company.

It might sound far-fetched, but the pieces are in place for it to happen later this summer. Apple is already developing a hybrid iPod/cell phone with handset maker Motorola. And companies ranging from the Virgin Group to The Walt Disney Co. are proving that a new network model can allow all kinds of businesses to easily enter the mobile market.

Essentially, this entails Apple releasing an iTunes-branded cell phone, with the cellular network leased from an existing company such as Sprint or Cingular. The startup cost is minimal compared to the early days of cell phones because the network infrastructure is already in place. And Apple benefits from popularity currently unparalleled in customer electronics. It seems like a reasonable idea. But why would Apple want to go through the trouble when it could simplify this opportunity with an iTunes application for mobile phones?

But Apple might have a problem getting the devices into customers’ hands. Carriers will probably be loath to sell and support it, since they want to sell their own music downloads–not have customers upload tunes from home. “The carriers don’t like it,” says analyst Rob Enderle, head of The Enderle Group. “They want Apple to change the design so the phone has to sync through their networks, not with a PC.”

Of course the carriers don’t like it. They want to pretend that customers care more about the gatekeeper than what comes through the gates. customers may like the gatekeeper (Apple is the perfect example), but content is more important. Where the carriers go wrong is believing that exclusivity and control of content aren’t important. If customers thought the way carriers believe they think, AOL would still dominate.

Perhaps an example… Last year I decided to switch cell phone carriers. I’d had minor issues with Sprint so I opted to transfer my phone number to Verizon. After purchasing a new phone with exciting features, I impatiently waited for the phone to charge so I could upload my unique ringtones. Reading through the instruction manual, I found no references to uploading ringtones. I searched the internets to figure out how to do it. And that’s when I found out Verizon’s little secret. Despite all the nice features of the phone, I was beholden to their wishes. I could have any content I wanted as long as Verizon sold it. No personal ringtones, no fancy pictures, no diversionary games.

Five days later I returned the phone to Verizon and became a Sprint customer again because Sprint allowed me to use the phone I purchased in the way I wanted to use it. Today, when my brother calls me, a Hokie gobble announces the call.

Customers aren’t always rational, but they’re not stupid. If the customer has an iTunes account, why would Verizon think she wants a middleman to sell her music from iTunes? The existing carriers imagine monopoly powers where they don’t exist. They will learn the lesson, but as the lesson often is for large companies, the lesson probably won’t be pleasant. Competition dictates an adapt or die mentality; Apple understands this better than most.

Although an Apple phone may not happen, some form of an iTunes-capable phone will. It makes too much sense and Apple has the clout to make it happen. In the scenario I imagine, Verizon, Sprint, Cingular, and every other cellular carrier should not be surprised when cell phones show up next to iPods and PowerBooks in every Apple retail store.

(Link via Slashdot)

Profit and Proper aren’t mutually exclusive

There have been many stories of potential identity theft and fraud making the news in recent months. (Here’s one of the most recent, just as an example.) An individual’s ability to protect himself is possible, though this ability seems to fade with each new technological advance. The reach of information is almost beyond comprehension. Yet, there is one tool, however primitive, that can be used: the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.

The FACT Act allows consumers to request one free credit report every 12 months. Right, I’m thinking the same thing everyone is. Nice baby step, but when my data can be stolen by a diligent hacker with little more than an internet connection, how am I supposed to protect myself with that? That’s valid, and the consumer information industry should be doing everything it can to protect us police its business model. If it doesn’t… Okay, even if it does, legislation is coming. But we have to start somewhere and the credit report is the simplest method.

Equifax CEO Thomas Chapman doesn’t like this. Consider:

“Our company felt, and still does … that it’s unconstitutional to cause a public company who has a fiduciary responsibility to return profit to shareholders to give away the product,” Chapman said to reporters following a speech at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco on Monday [6/27]. “Most of my shareholder group did not think that giving away our product was the American way.”

Chapman was referring to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, which since last December has required credit agencies to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report every 12 months to check for inaccuracies and fraudulent activity. Chapman said that viewing a credit report once a year wouldn’t protect consumers against fraud.

“That’s like turning on the smoke alarm once a year,” he said.

His point is correct but wrong. Once per year is not enough and it won’t really do much to protect fraud. It will, however, allow individuals to see the information sold, at a profit by companies like Equifax, that could affect whether or not they can purchase renter’s insurance, to name an example that erroneously happened to me. So, even though it won’t likely prevent fraud, it can help to clear mistakes. Except, it’s notoriously hard to “encourage” credit reporting agencies to fix mistakes. But Equifax is now motivated to do the right thing for its business model.

Or does it?

To ward off excessive legislation, Chapman supports the idea of tougher industry standards pressuring companies to encrypt data. He suggested that increased funding for enforcement of data-theft laws would help reverse a trend in which few identity thieves are ever prosecuted.

Chapman also discussed the need to educate consumers about monitoring their credit records on a regular basis and being wary of giving out sensitive information. He noted that during a recent visit to a museum with his grandchildren, the cashier asked for his social security number as well as his home address and phone number when he tried to buy tickets with his credit card.

To ward off excessive legislation. May I offer protecting consumers (your supply) as a worthy goal from the beginning rather than only when something goes wrong? Where business fails to protect in accordance with reasonable standards (and even where it protects, but that’s a different rant), government steps in with regulation. Welcome to America in 2005. And if you think a business subject to high profile “disasters” is going to escape extra scrutiny and governmental “care”, you’re smoking something now regulated by interstate commerce, even when it doesn’t cross state lines. As for educating consumers to monitor their credit records on a regular basis, the technology exists, but you didn’t do it because it didn’t improve the bottom line. I seem to believe that’s why Congress, correct solution or not, passed the FACT Act. And it only gets worse from here, especially if you pursue this line of logic instead of catching up to your real starting point. Just a hunch.

(Consider reading No Place to Hide by Robert O’Harrow, Jr. for more insight into many of the issues surrounding information sharing. There are examples relevant to this story. Also, request a free credit report every 12 months from

Put it back, Mr. Thomson. The King will remain a tyrant.

A distinct change has taken over America in the last few years (I’ll round it to 4&#189 years, just as a “random” estimation). This change affects how we interact with each other and what we believe is permissible. What really fascinates me, though, is that it affects how we enforce what is permissible. Gone are the days when we called our local sheriff to complain about a neighbor participating in “impropriety”. Today, we call the FBI or our Congressman. This solution might not be as quick as the sheriff, or even appropriate for the determined offense, but it is much more helpful to society as a whole because it’ll impact more than just our own neighborhood. We can save our brother in Cedar Rapids the effort of dealing with his local version of the incorrigible town malcontent. Our best friend’s mother-in-law won’t have to worry about undesirable behavior next to her duplex in New York City. The positive benefits are endless. We all know America is better for this. We are realizing the Utopia of National Conformity Unity.

Since I want to continue our progress, I have an idea. This idea, while appearing quite strange and radical at first glance, will revolutionize the way government happens in America. Society will benefit. America will be stronger. Gridlock will vanish. Creativity will soar. America will drive the new Golden Age of civilization. It will be beautiful.

Before I reveal my idea, I must confess that I don’t think it took as much of an imaginative leap as it might at first seem. It feels more like an extension of our present path. All I’ve done is wipe away the extraneous. But it’s a good cleanse, I think. So, what’s my idea? Are you sitting down? If not, you should; this idea is so stunning and new and spectacular that you just might faint. Have you taken my advice? Are you ready? Good, I’m going to tell it to you now. Beginning in 2008, each presidential candidate must propose, alongside his or her platform, an updated United States Constitution with which he or she plans to govern for the next presidential term.

I know, you can’t believe what you’ve just read. Brilliant, isn’t it? Especially because it’s so simple. And obvious. It really modernizes government, doesn’t it? And humanity, really. I can think of no flaws. None. And I’ve thought about this for at least five minutes.

Even though I know you know it’s brilliant, I’m sure you have questions about how this will work. Since you’ve grasped that the “why” is self-evident, I’ll skip ahead to your question. Each candidate must lay out a framework of the basic principles for the next administration. It can be a modified version of the sitting president’s constitution, or it can be a new version intended to scrap and reverse the old. Either way, the country gets to live under revitalized governance with current thinking injected every four years to shake off the cobwebs of the quaint past.

In this Information Age, time is almost meaningless as a measure of change. Our old methods sustained us when society encountered evolutionary adaptations and growth. Now our growth is revolutionary, with an idea life-cycle so short as to be beyond meaningless. Under this plan, it’s much more practical than to change based on our current election cycle than to rely on a constitution as old as our existing document. Every four years is better than every two centuries (or more). Who could disagree?

I do suspect that proposed constitutions will not differ for the candidate from the sitting president’s party, but that’s just a guess. Regardless, there will still be a variety of ideas proposed every four years. This can’t be bad.

Again, no restrictions would be placed on the proposed constitution because we want the law of the land to be responsive to ever-changing needs. That’s a good thing. And the proposed constitutions could be debated throughout the election campaign. Glaring inconsistencies or omissions could be rectified. Each candidate can clarify why the most important aspects of the new constitution may not be what seemed obvious. This all leads to election day, when the president-elect’s constitution is ratified according to his or her popular vote. If it makes it easier, think of each presidential candidate’s proposed constitution as his or her second running-mate.

Think about it. It’s a perfect solution. You think marriage should be only between a man and a woman? Vote for that constitution. You think Congress shouldn’t be able to prohibit flag desecration? Vote for that constitution. You think only socialist health care should be available? Vote for that constitution. You think only 14″-wide books should be allowed for novels or that only Toshiba televisions should be allowed for watching cartoons? Vote for that constitution. You think the judiciary is too activist? That worry is gone, too, because you can vote for the constitution that says only Punxsutawney Phil determines whether new laws satisfy the new strictures of the new constitution. How much simpler, not to mention the impartiality, can you get?

Hell, think bigger. Just imagine a world in which an official at publicly-funded buildings is required to read a Curious George book at 4:13 p.m. every day. You don’t think that would win votes? You haven’t thought hard enough, let me assure you. Or think how much the economy could soar with the need to print new constitutions every four years. Timber companies would grow. Or what about the financial benefit from the requirement that all public-school teachers wear a different puffed-paint headband for every lesson. I’m already counting the trickle-down riches, and they’re not just monetary.

Our children and grandchildren will no longer curse or mock us. They can choose their own society when they turn eighteen, unburdened by our antiquated choices. Wow.

If we act today, the magic can begin. Election 2008 is three short years away.