February 28, 2002

More about telemarketers Community Affairs,

More about telemarketers Community Affairs, Inc. and their association with various state Fraternal Orders of Police.

Posted by wasylik at 10:43 AM

Happy Look-Before-You-Leap Day.

Happy Look-Before-You-Leap Day.

Posted by wasylik at 10:07 AM

February 23, 2002

I know someone who knows

I know someone who knows more about streaming audio copyrights than anyone else on MetaFilter.

Posted by wasylik at 01:00 AM

February 22, 2002

Segway bids now exceed $100,000!!

Segway bids now exceed $100,000!! Crazy.

Posted by wasylik at 11:05 PM

Dineen and I very much

Dineen and I very much enjoyed meeting Dan and Jill tonight, and seeing the rest of the pool-hall hustlers.

Posted by wasylik at 11:01 PM

Krempasky riffs on the school-voucher

Krempasky riffs on the school-voucher case, Zelman vs. Simmons-Harris:

1. Almost all inner-city schools complain about overcrowding.
2. Ohio (in this case) spends more than $6,400 per student each year.
3. The Cleveland voucher is only $2,250 per student.
4. Schools that accept the voucher agree to accept $2,500 (including the voucher) as payment in full per child
5. The public school frees up a desk, and keeps the balance of public funding.

Preach, brother, preach... I made a similar argument myself a couple of years ago:

It's a simple idea and it works, which is why its opponents find it so dangerous: allow every child to choose their school by making their education funding portable to any school, public or private

Just like Doc Searls said about weblogs:

Journalism as Usual is threatened by the blogging movement because blogging enlarges the circle that defines journalism and redistributes power outside the old center... But y'know, it's just power to the people. And that's always been scary.

I got some comments on the Supreme Court argument on a mailing list I'm on. Unfortunately, they were not attributed to anyone in particular, so I'll just paraphrase. First, the opponents of choice argued that the vouchers go mainly to religious schools. The Court seemed suspicious of this argument, wondering what percentage of schools would have to be non-religious to make the program constitutional, and whether such an analysis would require annuals surveys of the proram to determine whether it was in fact constitutional. The Court also wondered whether the proper context was larger than the single voucher program itself, but rather the city's educational aid programs altogether, the predominance of which had no religious taint whatsoever. By contrast, the appellate court below considered only the voucher program in isolation.

If one can rely on oral arguments - and in truth, one rarely can - the Supreme Court seems likely to overturn the Sixth Circuit ruling, and allow some form of school vouchers for disadvantaged Cleveland children.

Posted by wasylik at 04:23 PM

In light of WOIFM's current

In light of WOIFM's current design, this is even more appropriate: The Deadly Follies of Stick Figure Warning-Man and Family. Thanks to Dineen for the link!

Posted by wasylik at 03:24 PM

February 21, 2002

If you're in Austin this

See me Speak at SXSW 2002If you're in Austin this year, you can see me speak at the Freelance Forum: Legal Proceedings panel on Monday, March 11, 2002 at 3:30 p.m. Ben Brown and Jason Kottke are moderating two other panels at the same time, so instead of choosing between them, just come see me.

Posted by wasylik at 05:25 PM

February 20, 2002

Matt's most recent installment on

Matt's most recent installment on his fraternity experience as an alumnus advisor was very timely for me. I spent a recent weekend in faraway Charlotte, NC, at a regional leadership conference for members of my fraternity.

Matt's post made me realize that I haven't seen too many fellow bloggers discuss their own experiences in the Greek system, partly because most bloggers didn't have an experience "in" the Greek system, but from outside it.

Now, I'll admit that in many, if not most places, fraternities have strayed far from the intent of their founders. Some forward-thinking national organizations understand this, and have begun dramatic, fundamental changes - changes which both return to the roots of their founding ideals, but also make the groups relevant to life in the 21st century. I believe that mine is one of those. If it wasn't, I wouldn't waste my time.

I think bloggers, as a whole, are very close to the original ideal of the Greek-letter organizations - intelligent, idealistic, interactive, and just to break my alliteration and parallelism, the bloggers I read value excellence above mediocrity - what some call "elitism."

I'd like to see more bloggers talk about their own experiences in the Greek system, if they had them, and if not, what kind of values an organization would have to hold dear to appeal to them.

Posted by wasylik at 04:13 PM

Tired of Telemarketers?

Tired of telemarketers? You're not alone.

The phone calls that pushed Diana Mey too far came four years ago from telemarketers selling Sears house siding. Repeatedly ignoring her requests that they stop calling, they brazenly broke federal laws and even claimed the laws didn't apply to them.... The Erin Brockovich of the do-not-call laws, Mey also has created a Web site (dianamey.com) to guide laymen on how to take telemarketers to court.

For those days when I'm working out of my home office, a good telemarketer call can actually make my day. The more time of theirs I waste, the better I feel, since volume is their life blood. Does that mean I'm wasting my time? Oh, no, because I'm busy getting name, company name, address, and so on, laying my foundation for them to break the federal laws governing telemarketers, which then entitles me to demand $500.00 per violation - and if they don't pay up, take them to court. Right now, I've got one demand pending against a company that committed twelve violations over a course of two months - despite my polite request that they never call me again, the first time they called. Twelve violations, $500 each. Do the math.

At worst, I'm making it very expensive for telemarketers to call me. At best, they pay for my next car. Or maybe just the middle ground - they lose their jobs because they were rude to me. Satisfaction, guaranteed.

Eventually, they'll get the message and stop calling.

Posted by wasylik at 12:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 19, 2002

Be the first on your

Be the first on your block to buy a Segway! The auction proceeds go to Dean Kamen's charity, FIRST. As I write this, the high bid for has hit $22,600.00 for a Segway.

Posted by wasylik at 02:16 PM

February 18, 2002

After spending five weeks as

After spending five weeks as the lauging stock of the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally signed a head coach. Surprise! If you thought Jon Gruden was off the table, you were wrong. Granted, to get Gruden, the Bucs had to pay through the nose:

ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reports that the contract with Gruden is for five years and $17.5 million. In the compensation package, the Raiders will receive first-and second-round draft choices in 2002, a first-round choice in 2003, and a second-round choice in 2004.

Gruden came with a big-ticket price tag, and a mortgage on the team's short-term prospects for securing fresh new talent, but the team didn't have to give up any of the current roster. With the right coach, the Bucs have the talent to win it all. With Gruden's track record of taking under-achieving players like Rich Gannon and squeezing out every last drop of potential, Jon Gruden is the right choice for a Bucs team that is a non-porous pass protection squad away from the Lombardi trophy.

As an added bonus, Gruden has a long career ahead of him, and he has family roots in Tampa. As long as he keeps performing at his current high level, the financial and psychic compensation of being the Bucs' head coach will keep Gruden around for a very long time.

Posted by wasylik at 08:06 PM

February 17, 2002

Tonight Dineen and I had

Tonight Dineen and I had Chinese take-out for dinner. I thought I was lucky to get two fortunes in one cookie. Then I read what they said.

I guess I should start telling people I'm old.

Posted by wasylik at 09:21 PM

February 14, 2002

House Democrats took advantage of

House Democrats took advantage of the mass hysteria over Enron, forcing through the Shays-Meehan soft-money ban yesterday. There are several reasons why this is bad news for those who love freedom and democracy.

The bill is an answer - and a bad one at that - to a problem that really isn't a problem. Proponents of campaign finance regulation like to say there's "too much" money in politics, but they never explain how much would be "just enough" or demonstrate any negative effects of existing funding levels. All the hard evidence, in fact, shows that the causal relationship is reversed - the money goes to support those who stay true to their own ideologies faithfully. Corruption? To the contrary, the money in politics most often goes to fund the flow of information, raising citizen awareness of issues, increasing public participation, and enhancing the democratic process. Now look at which party strongly opposes that idea.

Every new measure passed to regulate political contributions makes the problem worse in the eyes of the reformers.

But the moderate reform advocates who four years ago put together the ideas that undergird the current McCain-Feingold did not believe that reform would be an eternal panacea, or that the basic problem was too much money in politics. Instead, we saw a system that had careened out of control, partly because of the cumulative consequences of earlier reform efforts and the 20 years that followed them.

George Will thinks that is part of the appeal, especially to liberals - permanent employment on a job never finished. If everything the regulators have done until now has only aggravated the problem in their eyes, then why do we let them keep "fixing" it? If throwing gasoline on the fire hasn't worked yet, can it possibly be because we haven't thrown enough gasoline yet?

The Shays-Meehan bill has many pernicious effects. As Patrick Ruffini recently noted, Big Media is all in favor of increased regulation of private citizens' speech because it enhances their own voice and inflates their bottom line.

The media's jihad to cleanse politics of self-interest is itself motivated by self-interest. Unlike, say, education or Social Security, the media has a very definite stake in this fight. Campaign finance reform means less paid advertising at election time (the very ads the media like to rip to shreds in their "ad watches"), and that means the media's voice only gets louder in covering campaigns. Less paid political advertising also means that local affiliates get to fill these new ad slots at higher rates than campaigns have to pay. With campaign finance reform, the media gets more power.

The new regulations dampen candidates' ability to communicate about themselves and limits third-party participation by interested citizenry. Who's left? Your political information will be delivered more and more by the establishment media, whose bias is unnoticed by the masses and whose self-interest will always sway stories. We’ve all signed an intellectual suicide pact, by surrendering our rights to the sole possession of Big Media like AOL-Time Warner, NBC, and the Washington Post. Does that surrender make our democracy stonger, or tear at its roots?

Campaign finance regulation interferes with democracy a second way - by protecting incumbents. As if the current retention rate - in excess of 97% - weren't bad enough, campaign finance regulation makes it harder for challengers to raise money and communication their challenging messages. Hard money flows to the incumbents disproportionately:

Studies show that House incumbents start every election with roughly a built-in $500,000 advantage, thanks to name recognition, the ability to pass out pork and go to ribbon-cutting ceremonies, and, of course, to the free campaign literature that congressional offices can mail out at taxpayer's expense during the year. Let's call it Head Start for incumbents.

Soft money has been one way for parties to make up the gap and mount credible challengers to the other party's incumbents. Banning soft money will skew the playing field even further than it already is.

To make incumbency protection worse, the Shays-Meehan bill doubles the amount of hard money incumbents may accept. Yes, challengers may also accept more hard money... if they can find it. Raising the hard-money limit while banning soft money at the same time doesn't just add to, but multiplies the advantage incumbents have in every election. Shays-Meehan will make incumbents safer and challenges riskier, at the expense of real electoral choice.

Eliminating soft money may also hurt minority participation, says Rep. Albert Wynn.

Many of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus are concerned that the original purpose for soft money - voter registration drives and party building - is being lost. More, not less, needs to be spent on voter mobilization.

Let me repeat that last - more, not less.

Banning soft money from parties reduces the accountability of those parties, and instead encourages advocates to channel money into third-party special interest groups - whose real agendas may or may not be known. Banning soft money will swell the flow of money to ad-hoc shell organizations which disappear quietly after the election, rather than the political parties which have a stake in maintaining long-term credibility. What kind of effect can we expect that to have on the current low-brow state of political discourse?

Shays-Meehan has an answer for that, though - ban genuine issue advocacy by legitimate third party groups - like the NRA, the ACLU, Greenpeace, Right to Life, Planned Parenthood, even Public Citizen and Common Cause.

Another provision, aimed at curbing thinly veiled attack ads by outside groups, would ban corporations, unions and advocacy groups from targeting candidates by name in "issue ads" within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary.

But bans on political speech of legitimate third party groups cannot survive a court challenge. Political speech is at the core of the First Amendment’s zone of protection, and courts will look at such provisions with the harshest scrutiny.

Even the ACLU has come out strongly against this provision:

The only individuals and groups that will be able to characterize a candidate's record on radio and TV during this 60 day period will be the candidates, PACs and the media. Further, members of Congress need only wait until the last 60 days before an election (as they often do now) to vote for legislation or engage in controversial behavior so that their actions are beyond the reach of public comment and, therefore, effectively immune from citizen criticism.

They correctly note that the new law will limit the ACLU's right to get involved in issue advocacy just at the time such advocacy is most important.

Proponents of the regulations say the 60-day ban is desirable because ads run outside the allowed window have "much less impact." But they forget that the constitution nowhere allows limits on political speech based on increased effectiveness. In fact, such an effect makes it more likely that the regulation will fail a court challenge.

Ironically, these very regulations may come back to haunt the media most, because ultimately, the courts will have to decide who is entitled to disseminate information about politics and who is not. Why does the McLaughin Group have a greater right to broadcast their political views than I do? Why does the Washington Post have a greater right to publish their editorials than I do? I don’t think they do, and the courts won’t, either. But obviously, Congress does.

Other parts of the bill are highly likely to perish in the court system, too. It is clear that Americans would not and should not tolerate similar limits on their speech in any realm other than the political. Limit money for religious broadcasting? No way. Limit money for just about anything else? No way.

As to whether limits on political spending abridge freedom of political speech, consider the Supreme Court's analogy: Would the constitutional right to travel be abridged if government limited everyone to spending only enough for one tank of gasoline? Or would the First Amendment right of free exercise of religion be abridged if government limited the right to spend money for church construction or for proselytizing?

The courts won’t even let Congress crack down on porn – the least likely area for protection under the First Amendment. Can anyone think they will look favorably on new limits on political speech?

Probably not. The Supreme Court has been very clear that regulation of political contributions treads a fine line:

[T]he Supreme Court has said repeatedly that, under the First Amendment, campaign contributions and expenditures are protected speech. Thus, more precisely, the Court has said that regulations of political contributions and expenditures will be upheld only if they achieve a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means - the most difficult of constitutional hurdles.

The Court's previous actions in striking down much of prior so-called reforms are called loopholes by regulation junkies, but the First Amendment is not a loophole. It is a core freedom of our nation. This is ultimately why campaign finance regulation is not only unconstitutional, but undemocratic.

Let's make a bet. If the proponents of Shays-Meehan are right, then we'll see less money coming into politics, greater citizen participation, and lower rates of incumbent retention as a result. If I'm right, then over the next ten years, we'll see exactly the opposite - more money in politics, less citizen participation, lower voter turnout, and incumbent retention in excess of 99%. Nice results, "reformers." You really stuck it to democracy this time.

Posted by wasylik at 12:42 PM

February 12, 2002

Michael Krempasky riffs:The Arlington Young

Michael Krempasky riffs:

The Arlington Young Democrats are sponsoring a "Buy a Date With A Democrat" charity auction. So...without the expected remarks about family values, corruption, or anything remotely close to prostitution...I'm thinking of going.
After all, my house needs cleaned, my car needs waxed, my laundry is piling up, those IRS forms need filling out - and I've always wanted to actually see a real-live Democrat do an honest day's work.

Best... post ... ever!

Posted by wasylik at 07:03 PM

A Cable Modem in Our Future

Dineen and I will be moving (just down the road) within the next two months. Since ADSL service is apparently not available at our new address, it looks like we're going to have to get a cable modem. Judy Sammuel's story makes me wonder if we should.

Posted by wasylik at 04:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 07, 2002

Bucs Flailing Around for New Coach

After flailing around for weeks, trying to find a suitable replacment for Tony Dungy - first wooing, then losing Bill Parcells; next having Al Davis turn down the keys to Fort Knox hand-delivered by Warren Sapp in a Raiders jersey, just for permission to talk to Jay Gruden - the Bucs have set their sights on Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.

On the one hand, thank goodness - the Bucs were probably prepared to pay far too high a price for Gruden. But Lewis? Granted, he's done a terrific job on the Ravens defense, but the Bucs defense is just fine, thank you. The team needs someone who knows how to put points on the board.

At least the Bucs front office seems to realize this. They have effectively told Lewis that he'll get some input into who will run his offense, but that the front office will maintain a high degree of control over the ultimate hire. They've even begun filling out some of the mid-level coaching positions on the offensive side, despite the vacancy at the top.

It's going to be another long, frustrating year for Bucs fans.

Posted by wasylik at 09:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 04, 2002

7 Ways to Protect Your Home PC

Recycled Link7 ways to protect your home PC.

Found through Cornerhost.

Posted by wasylik at 03:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2002

Bookmark: Several cool fonts

Bookmark: Several cool fonts available at emerald city fontwerks.

Posted by wasylik at 11:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Michael Moore Loses It

Recycled LinkThe shrill, off-balance rantings of Michael Moore make Dan Burton look coolly, soothingly rational:

When it's all over in a couple months, and you're packing up your pretzels and Spot and heading back to Texas, what will be your biggest regret? Not getting out more often and seeing the sights around Rock Creek Park? Never once visiting the newly-renovated IKEA in Woodbridge, Virginia? Or buying your way to the White House with money from a company that committed the biggest corporate swindle in American history?

Moore demonstrates quite convincingly that President Bush knew former Enron head Kenneth Lay pretty well - no surprise to most Americans. Moore further demonstrates that the administration sought the input of Lay - head of one of the largest players in the energy industry - in formulating its energy policy. Again, no surprise - if I want advice about landscaping, I'm going to call someone who's familiar with the business end of a rake. Michael, if you're concerned that Enron usurped governmental powers for its own benefit, the surest way to prevent that is to abide by the Constitution and strip government of powers it shouldn't have.

Ultimately, the best Moore is able to do is complain that the administration "did nothing," and that the administration's inaction were the reason that "...[t]ens of thousands have lost their jobs. Thousands more have lost their savings and their retirement." In other words, Moore parrots Henry Waxman. Funny thing - when all those dot com firms went bankrupt over the last two years, I didn't hear Moore or Waxman complaining that the Clinton administration failed to protect their shareholders and employees.

In fact, something else Moore, Waxman, and other Democrats have failed to offer is a plan as to exactly what they think the administration should have done to prevent the collapse. Bailout? Criminal investigation? No one knows, and they won't say. They're content to rail against Bush for imagined breach of a duty he didn't have.

If the administration had known of potential lawbreaking at an early stage, then they might have intervened. Other than that - zip. There's nothing the administration could or should have done.

By October - the same month in which Enron chief Lay was begging the administration for help they refused to give - the public was already well aware of Enron's troubles, and the stock was already in the tank, due to Enron's failed dealings with outside partnerships.

In any event, no one - except one group - has derived any benefit from Enron's shady dealings. The company is bankrupt, Lay and others face potential criminal charges, and any money they may have spirited out of the company is already subject to a feeding frenzy of trial lawyers, eager to get their one-third share of the class action settlements. Does that sound like anyone has benefited from government influence at this point?

That one group that has hit the jackpot is the trail lawyers, who stand to gain millions, if not billions, out of the dozens of shareholder lawsuits already pending. Once they get their hooks into that jackpot, who do you think will benefit from their largesse in the next elections? Oh, maybe that's why every Congressional Democrats with a subcommittee has already scheduled hearings.

Link from Medley.

Posted by wasylik at 12:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 02, 2002

Democratic Positions Hurt Most Dem Candidates

According to a private poll commissioned by Democratic Caucus chair Martin Frost, the positions of the national Democratic Party are going to make it almost impossible for Democratic incumbents and challengers to get elected in so-called "marginal" (i.e. competitve) districts - the only seats in which the Democrats must do well in order to prevent a huge Republican surge in the House.

Fortunately for Dems, there's one way in which these candidates might save themselves:

...one way marginal candidates are likely to be looking for inoculation in the months ahead is by aligning themselves with President Bush, whose poll numbers are strong even among Democratic base voters.

Just months ago, Democrats had been licking their chops for this year's Congressional elections, counting on the mid-term jinx historically afflicitng the President's party in Congressional elections. Sounds like Dems have stopped chop-licking and started preparing to take a licking.

Posted by wasylik at 04:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2002

Debating Abstinence Education

Benjamin Kepple and Oliver Willis are debating the effectiveness of abstience education.

Look, we had forty years of hare-brained liberal inventions that will never die. So far, liberals only apply the "it doesn't work" standard to the ballistic missile shield and abstinence education. They fiercely resisted its application to Keynesian spending, tax hikes, welfare and entitlement programs, the entire public education system, foreign policy under Carter and Clinton, and lord knows what else. Liberals have never in the past been troubled that their ideas were "unrealistic" or "pie-in-the-sky" - why should they start now? More importantly, is this a shift in thinking, or merely an expedient pretext?

Let's embrace our left-leaning fellows and their new pragmatism - it means the wholesale dismantling of the bureaucracy they love so dearly.

Pass me the sledgehammer.

Posted by wasylik at 12:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack