Misty and Ryan:
Sara and Kayla:
Ryan and me:
Ryan and Alana:
Alana's complicated carving pattern:
Katherine and Clarence:
I messed up and missed the Carnival of the Cats this week. Whoops!
That's what I get for being busy.
A little bit of contrast…
Snowball rests by an angel.
Church cleans his tail vigorously.
What age difference? At least they aren't growling and hissing at one another so much now.
Eugene Volokh has a piece up today looking at the “findings” at the beginning of S. 397 as more ammunition against the Living Constitution attacks on the Second Amendment.
First, the findings in question:
(a) Findings- Congress finds the following:
(1) The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
(2) The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the rights of individuals, including those who are not members of a militia or engaged in military service or training, to keep and bear arms.
Certainly words for me to like, but why do we care that they are in there? Prof. Volokh explains:
Of course, courts interpreting constitutional provisions are by no means bound by Congress's assertions about the provision's meaning; they may interpret the provision more broadly than Congress urges, or more narrowly. Yet I take it that part of the reason for the findings was that courts sometimes are influenced, at least in some measure, by the judgments of a coordinate branch of the federal government. (At least courts sometimes says that they are thus influenced; query how sincere such assertions are, and to what extent they are just there to support a conclusion that the judges would have reached in any way.)
He goes on to point out other assertions and findings from the executive branch and then attacks the Living Constitution view of the Second Amendment from four quarters. It's definitely worth a read.
I've never doubted that the correct reading of the Constitution maximizes the freedoms mentioned, but it's alays good to see someone else support that view.
“The very purpose of a Bill of Rights,” Justice Jackson wrote in the 1943 flag-salute case, “was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” Words to live by, it seems to me.
The Daily Standard didn't think much of the Washington Post article I quoted today:
All of which brings us to the very bizarre story in today's Washington Post. The article is a rather transparent attempt to rehabilitate Joseph Wilson, casting the current debate about his credibilityas a battle between Wilson's antiwar supporters and his pro-war critics. It fails.
It fails because outside of the pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times, there is no real debate over Joseph Wilson's credibility. He doesn't have any. It is something that Walter Pincus should understand well, having been one of the earliest peddlers of Wilson's fabrications. And one might think that Pincus would be angry at Wilson after the former ambassador accused him of sloppy reporting to cover up Wilson's own misrepresentations.
Stephen F. Hayes goes on to liken the defense of Joseph Wilson's claims to the 60 Minutes II debacle: “fake, but accurate” claims about Iraqi attempts to buy yellowcake because no yellowcake was found in Iraq after the war. Well, I never doubted the Joseph Wilson's credibility was in the mud after the bipartisan Senate intelligence committee had pointed out his prevarications, but now that a random commenter has come by, I've been dragged into the war.
So, I return to my opinion of the Wall Street Journal piece. They summed it up nicely, and Joseph Wilson has a lot of gall making money from a book called The Politics of Truth.
Details on progressive intent with the minimum wage from the Marginal Revolution:
Unlike today's progressives, the originals understood that minimum wages for women would put women out of work - that was the point and the more unemployment of women the better!
They go on to recommend Tim Leonard's paper “Protecting Family and Race: The Progressive Case for Regulating Women's Work” to learn the secret history of the minimum wage.
It's pretty clear that government regulation that forces employers to pay a minimum amount will limit the number of people employers will hire, but this idea that the original intention was to limit the penetration of women into the workforce is new to me.
(Those who do not know the history of the word “staff” will take longer to get the pun.)
It's about time that Senator Patty Murray replied to my Porkbusters prompting. This seems a bit like a form letter, just like Maria Cantwell's response.
Dear Mr. Poulson:
Thank you for contacting me regarding your budget priorities in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I appreciate you taking the time to write me.
Of course, I had similar budget priorities before Katrina, but Katrina made it even more important in the wake of Congress wanting to spend another $220B of taxpayer money.
We have all seen devastating images from Gulf Coast communities as families struggle to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been touched by this disaster. Although the damage has not been completely surveyed, it is widely agreed that Hurricane Katrina alone has caused more economic damage than any recent catastrophe in the United States.
I'm compassionate, see?
When emergencies occur, state and local jurisdictions are generally the first to respond. But when a hurricane or other catastrophe overwhelms the state and local governments, the governor can request that the President declare the area a "disaster" or a "major disaster." The President's declaration then puts into motion long-term recovery programs. These programs are put into place to help individuals, businesses, and public entities that are victims of the disaster.
Last I checked, I had not signed up for a Civics lesson. I wonder why she didn't point out how the Governors of states adjacent to Lousiana acted swifted during Katrina and Rita and had some decent coordinate response to the natural disaster. Odd, that.
We all agree that we must help those displaced by these hurricanes. To date, Congress has enacted two separate emergency supplemental bills providing $62.3 billion in funding for emergency response and recovery needs. Both measures match the funding requested by the Administration and were enacted within one day of the Administration's request. I am concerned, however, that the urgency to pass these, and future, bills has provided a platform for politicizing budget priorities.
I agree that the damage to the national infrastructure has to be swiftly repaired, and that people's whose lives are dislodged should be afforded the fastest opportunity to recover what they can of their property and livelihood. I wouldn't be so bold as to state the presumption as “we all agree.”
The current Congressional Budget Office deficit estimate is also very troubling. At the end of fiscal year 2000, the government's books were balanced, with a unified budget surplus of $121 billion. As a member of the Senate Committee on the Budget and Committee on Appropriations, I was proud of the progress we had made. Sadly, since the current Administration came to office, federal spending has grown by a third, from $1.86 trillion to $2.47 trillion. Couple these numbers with the President’s massive tax cuts and you can understand how our record surplus turned into a $317 billion deficit—representing the third worst deficit in our nation’s history. When you add up the Social Security and other trust fund surpluses, the debt in 2005 will actually increase by $575 billion.
And yet, Senator Murray responds to the Coburn Amendment trying to end the “Bridge to Nowhere” with threats that, when taken in a non-political context, would justify a RICO pretext to seize her assets.
The cost of recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is estimated to reach as much as $200 billion. As a result, we can expect the deficit to be even worse than expected in 2006 and beyond. The current Republican budget plan takes us further down a road of debt and deficits. It calls for spending cuts to Food Stamps, farm supports, student aid and the first cut to Medicaid in nearly a decade. Meanwhile it will extend tax cuts for our countries most fortunate—further adding to our deficit.
Looks like we're heading to the part where she indicates that asparagus research benefits Katrina victims.
I do not believe that we should be cutting the very services that will most help the families who were affected by these hurricanes. Congress must ensure that people across the nation are able to secure their families basic needs: employment or assistance when employment is not available, health care, education, food, energy aid, child care and housing. Some in this Administration , and some members of Congress, have suggested that the Federal government pay for hurricane recovery by cutting the same services that will help Katrina effected low-income people and communities the most. At the same time they request extending the tax cuts passed from 2001-2003 which have cost us $225 billion this year alone. Tax cuts which have primarily served to deepen the pockets of our nations most wealthy. A stable economy and sound budget will not come from passing tax cuts for the wealthy while hundreds of thousands of people loose their homes, jobs and communities.
I need to go find my boots, because it's getting kinda deep here. What I identified as pork in the Federal budget seemed pretty reasonably pork, as did the infamous bridge and other projects. Nothing in there seemed essential.
No one denies that it was the most poverty stricken communities who bared the brunt of this disaster. In order to truly learn from these events we must reach out to those who have asked for help and offer them a hand. We must house those who are homeless and feed those who are hungry. How can we as a nation be proud of ourselves if we deny a student the education they ask for; an education which may be their ticket out from economic disadvantage. Congress has a historical opportunity to address some underlying inequities of this region; in order to do that we must offer families the tools and the opportunities to help themselves.
50 people don't need that confounded bridge, and Senators that suggest removing it don't deserve threats, Senator Murray.
Clearly, we need to change the current priorities of this Administration. I will continue to fight for the rights of those affected by these Hurricanes while promoting sound fiscal policy. We do not need to leave a legacy of debt for our grandchildren in order to help the children of today. We simply need good leadership.
Actually, we need to change your priorities, Senator. Because you are fighting for asparagus subsidies, not Katrina victims.
Please know that I am very concerned about the Congresses current budget priorities and that I will continue to work with Senate colleagues to preserve important programs and promote fiscal responsibility. If you have any further questions or comments please do not hesitate to contact my office.
Here's an idea: Quit spending money on boondoggles and focus on real benefits.
United States Senator
I'm going to enjoy voting against you, Senator.
Update: I'm adding this one to the Beltway Traffic Jam at Outside the Beltway.
Oddly enough, the Washington Post has revisited Joseph Wilson's credibility, prompted by the same Wall Street Journal opinion piece I quoted yesterday. It's a decent enough summary, with some good parts:
Wilson has also armed his critics by misstating some aspects of the Niger affair. For example, Wilson told The Washington Post anonymouslyin June 2003 that he had concluded that the intelligence about the Niger uranium was based on forged documents because “the dates were wrong and the names were wrong.” The Senate intelligence committee, which examined pre-Iraq war intelligence, reported that Wilson “had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports.” Wilson had to admit he had misspoken.
He misspoke? He concluded documents he had never seen were forgeries?
That inaccuracy was not central to Wilson's claims about Niger, but his critics have used it to cast doubt on his veracity about more important questions, such as whether his wife recommended him for the 2002 trip, as administration officials charged in the conversations with reporters that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald is now probing. Wilson has maintained that Plame was merely “a conduit,” telling CNN last year that “her supervisors asked her to contact me.”
It is very rare to find a human conduit that doesn't add his or her own value to the information they pass on, nor would it be odd to think that she would have encouraged her superiors to ask for someone she knew well.
But the Senate committee found that “interviews and documents provided to the committee indicate that his wife… suggested his name for the trip.” The committee also noted a memorandum from Plame saying Wilson “has good relations” with Niger officials who “could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” In addition, notes on a State Department document surmised that Plame “had the idea to dispatch him” to Niger.
The CIA has always said, however, that Plame's superiors chose Wilson for the Niger trip and she only relayed their decision.
The CIA's credibility hasn't been so hot since they became politically charged, either.
Wilson also had charged that his report on Niger clearly debunked the claim about Iraqi uranium purchases. He told NBC in 2004: “This government knew that there was nothing to these allegations.” But the Senate committee said his findings were ambiguous. Tenet said Wilson's report “did not resolve” the matter.
Basically Wilson's trip didn't add any new information to the mix, and what he says his report meant, and what the bipartisan committee said it conveyed were different.
It sounds to me like Wilson's credibility is not beyond question, here, so I stand by yesterday's posting.
I think the Wall Street Journal has summed it up nicely today:
Mr. Wilson's original claims about what he found on a CIA trip to Africa, what he told the CIA about it, and even why he was sent on the mission have since been discredited. What a bizarre irony it would be if what began as a politically motivated lie by Mr. Wilson nonetheless leads to indictments of Bush Administration officials for telling reporters the truth.
The fact that Joseph Wilson wrote a book entitled The Politics of Truth about this affair makes it all the more amusing.
Many out there have probably already seen the “Trunk Monkey” advertisements, but for those that haven't, I highly recommend them.
I oppose the Miers nomination.
In my opinion, the nomination of Miers to the Supreme Court was poorly planned and handled, and that the nominee, while intelligent and respectable, is not the kind of person I wanting deciding fundamental matters of law in the highest court of the land. I have not seen demonstrated that she is an extraordinary jurist, like John Roberts ably did before his confirmation hearings. Instead, I have mostly heard about her religious beliefs and her path from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. These two items mean very little to me.
What we were promised was another Scalia. I would have been more happy with a re-nomination of Judge Bork over Miers. That would have been amusing, at least. There are plenty of other women jurists I would have preferred to see over Miers, as well. Ann Althouse seems to have a good head on her shoulders. Ann Coulter would be amusing just to see what would happen in the confirmation hearings. Etc. etc.
As I aluded to in my previous post, I do want to see someone that reads the Constitution with an understanding of its clear meaning. Sure, this must be tempered with law and history and precedent and some thought about consequences, but I want to see a river of argument that flows from this source to a predictible destination. Roberts was a joy to listen to and read. He made clear arguments. He understood the meaning of the words he used. He understood the implications of the laws he interpreted.
So, if Miers were to provide some demonstration of this ability, perhaps I can mellow. Right now, however, I have seen too little to support her.
The Unrepentant Individual has discovered that many of us have been using an abridged Constitution, which has lead to confusion. He presents to us parts of the The Unabridged Version:
Amendment 1.5: Nothing in the preceding text is construed to protect the speech of citizens regarding their elected officials within 60 days of an election. Further, any speech considered in any way offensive to members of non-protected classes (i.e. everyone except white males) is not protected. Last, the prohibitions of promoting the “establishment” of religion refers to “the Establishment,” i.e. “the Man.” Since the recognized Establishment (i.e. “the Man”) in this country is Christian, only the Christian religion is prohibited in public matters.
That explains a lot. Here I was thinking that political speech was sacrosanct!
Amendment 4.5: All people enjoy a right to privacy. However, this privacy only applies to what is done within ones own uterus. One has no enjoyment of privacy with the substances one may consume. One does not enjoy a “right” to smoke tobacco, in public or private. Private thoughts deemed offensive to members of protected classes are similarly not acceptable, and can be prosecuted as “hate crimes” if necessary. In fact, all activities outside of abortion are not considered private, and are thus subject to the regulation of Government.
I wonder if this non-right of privacy is where the expanded commerce clause came from.
Amendment 5.5: As with Amendment 4.5, “private property” is legitimately the domain of Government to control its use and seize if necessary. Any requirement of “public use” simply means whatever the Congress, state Legislature, or local Government wish it to mean.
Finally, the fount from whence the gun and drug laws truly spring:
Amendment 9.5: “The people” shall be held to mean Congress, the elected representatives of the people. The enumeration of powers in the Constitution is not intended as a limit on powers of the Congress.
Amendment 10.5: As with Amendment 9.5, any rights not expressly granted to the United States is held to exist within the States or the Congress, with deference always given to the wishes of the Congress.
I'm glad Brad found these items for us. Now we need to figure out when they were added to the Constitution. Clearly they didn't sneak in after the Civil War (like when West Virginia was created without a quorum in Congress), so I'm starting to think they were part of the end of Prohibition.
He didn't quote one other half-Amendment, but I managed to find a source that prefers not to be quoted.
Amendment 2.5: Also, the right to keep and bear legs shall not be infringed. In fact, if you live in Oregon, public sex acts in private clubs are protected as well. By the way, “arms” should not be construed to mean any weapon that is useful for self-defense or in opposition to tyranny.
Doesn't that explain a lot?
Carnival of Cordite #35 is up at Resistance is Futile!
Ya know what, as far as my daughter is concerned, the Internet needs to keep the secret that this one is “Snowball II” and not just “Snowball.”
Let's hope my daughter doesn't actually read my blog as much as she looks at the pictures. Thank you, fine employees of All Pet.
From last weekend, an alert and happy Church and Snowball:
Five days later, the day before before Snowball went into the vet:
Snowball is still at the vet, getting IV fluids and Nutrical, and will be getting X-rays and blood work today.
Update: Snowball passed away today. Most likely cause was FIP. We told the vet to go ahead and test for a cause, but it's pretty depressing to lose such a cute cat.
S. 397 was passed by the House today. As a result the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” has passed in the same form by both the House and the Senate and is on its way to the President's desk. It came through a tortuous to make it here, however.
This particular act started in two forms, S. 397 in the Senate, and HR. 800 in the House. The House version is superior, in my opinion, because it has two less sections.
First, where they agree.
A qualified civil liability action may not be brought in any Federal or State court.
where a qualified civil liability action is defined:
…a civil action or proceeding or an administrative proceeding brought by any person against a manufacturer or seller of a qualified product [firearms, ammunition, and the like], or a trade association, for damages, punitive damages, injunctive or declaratory relief, abatement, restitution, fines, or penalties, or other relief' resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a qualified product by the person or a third party…
It excludes intentional harm or negligence, of course.
Sure, I'd like to see “trainer” or “instructor” in that list, but this is a good start. I'd love for my firearms instruction insurance to go down in price.
But what about where the House and Senate bills are different?
S. 397's Section 5, “Child Safety Locks” requires the inclusion of a trigger lock with every handgun sale, for the stated purposes of
(1) to promote the safe storage and use of handguns by consumers;
(2) to prevent unauthorized persons from gaining access to or use of a handgun, including children who may not be in possession of a handgun; and
(3) to avoid hindering industry from supplying firearms to law abiding citizens for all lawful purposes, including hunting, self-defense, collecting, and competitive or recreational shooting.
There, of course, is the unstated purposes of being a nuisance for handgun manufacturers and dealers, as well as opening the door for potential liabilty if people don't keep their guns locked up all the time. At any rate, it modifies 18 USC 922 and threatens dealers with suspension of their license to sell firearms if they sell a handgun without a lock.
It also has a curious addition:
(A) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person who has lawful possession and control of a handgun, and who uses a secure gun storage or safety device with the handgun, shall be entitled to immunity from a qualified civil liability action.
(B) PROSPECTIVE ACTIONS- A qualified civil liability action may not be brought in any Federal or State court.
(C) DEFINED TERM- As used in this paragraph, the term `qualified civil liability action'--
(i) means a civil action brought by any person against a person described in subparagraph (A) for damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of the handgun by a third party, if--
(I) the handgun was accessed by another person who did not have the permission or authorization of the person having lawful possession and control of the handgun to have access to it; and
(II) at the time access was gained by the person not so authorized, the handgun had been made inoperable by use of a secure gun storage or safety device; and
(ii) shall not include an action brought against the person having lawful possession and control of the handgun for negligent entrustment or negligence per se.
A compromise within a compromise! One can almost imagine the point and counterpoint of congressmen amending each other's amendments to make oddities like this. Does this mean we at least get some relief from civil liability if we make a decent attempt to secure a handgun and it gets sprung or stolen? It will probably take some time to put this to a test, but it's an interesting development.
The more insidious piece is the next section, Section 6, “Armor Piercing Ammunition”. This outlaws the manufacture or importation of armor piercing ammunition, with certain exceptions, and asks the Attorney General to do a study and report:
(1) STUDY- The Attorney General shall conduct a study to determine whether a uniform standard for the testing of projectiles against Body Armor is feasible.
(2) ISSUES TO BE STUDIED- The study conducted under paragraph (1) shall include--
(A) variations in performance that are related to the length of the barrel of the handgun or center-fire rifle from which the projectile is fired; and
(B) the amount of powder used to propel the projectile.
(3) REPORT- Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall submit a report containing the results of the study conducted under this subsection to--
(A) the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate; and
(B) the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives.
A typical compromise measure is to order studies into issues at dispute in order to create a new bureaucracy that studies question endlessly. Most likely a study will find that anything suitable for hunting deer is also likely to defeat most piece of body armor comfortable enough for a police officer to wear in normal duty, therefore more study is required. Studies generally require there to be somewhat friendly bureaucracies to be present. Imagine what would happen if zealots who wish to ban all guns and ammunition were able to conduct such a study.
So, S. 397 passed. What's the reaction?
From the NRA, we have this:
Commenting on the passage of this landmark legislation, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said, “This is an historic victory for the NRA. Freedom, truth and justice prevailed, and today S. 397 is one step closer to becoming the law of the land. No other industry is forced to defend themselves when a violent criminal they do not know, have never met and cannot control, misuses a legal non-defective product. American firearms manufacturers will now receive the same fair treatment.”
Joining LaPierre in commenting on this victory, NRA Chief Lobbyist Chris W. Cox added, “Our judicial system has been exploited for politics and Congress put a stop to that. Passage of the 'Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act' would not have been possible without the support of the 257 House co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. We appreciate the tireless efforts of Rep. Cliff Stearns and Rep. Rick Boucher and the Republican members of House leadership who worked to move the bill in this chamber.”
If only they could have brokered a deal where HR. 800 was passed instead of S. 397.
The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) has similar praise for passage of S. 397:
“This important legislation will stop the anti-gunners cold in their attempts to bankrupt firearms manufacturers, distributors and retailers,” said CCRKBA Chairman Alan M. Gottlieb. “It closes an important loophole through which extremist gun grabbers have been trying to use the courts to crush gun ownership in this country, when they could not get Congress or state legislatures to do their bidding.”
“This common sense legislation,” added CCRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron, “is long overdue. It sends a clear signal to the anti-gun lobby that mainstream America has had enough of their attempts to have their political agenda forced on us all by the courts.”
What about pro-gun organizations that are not as happy about S. 397? I haven't seen a release from Gun Owners of America yet, but they were pushing hard for HR. 800 instead of S. 397.
The Oregon Firearms Federation sent out a release, though, stating
This bill, strongly supported by the NRA, was intended to protect gun makers and sellers, however it came at a cost of more gun control in the form of mandatory gun locks and other provisions which are dangerous to gun owners.
While we are pleased that gun makers and sellers will get a measure of protection against baseless lawsuits, we are disappointed that the NRA and other groups were so eager to pass this bill instead of the House version, HR 800 which would have accomplished the same thing without giving up more of our rights and freedoms.
We've long known that gun owners have more friends in the House than in the Senate, and it's not just because of the battle lines drawn between the Republicans and Democrats. Even so, those who feel citizens should be subjects have vowed to fight on (as quoted from the OFF release):
In a press release sent immediately after the bill passed, the “Coalition To Stop Gun Violence” stated: “We plan to move forward with our lawsuit against the gun makers and dealers involved in the sale of guns to Buford Furrow, the convicted felon, ex-mental patient, and white supremacist who went on a shooting rampage at a Jewish day care center near Los Angeles, and we believe nothing in the new gun industry immunity bill will prevent us from obtaining a judgment against these companies.”
I haven't seen the Brady Campaign's reaction, but I'm sure it will be similar.
Update: More reactions as relayed by Fox News:
“This legislation will make the unregulated gun industry the most pampered industry in America,” said Kristen Rand, director of the Violence Policy Center.
Update 2: I'm adding this to the Beltway Traffic Jam at Outside the Beltway.
Snowball went into the vet today, who determined she was dehydrated and suffering with a fever of 106. She had been getting less and less active, and was starting to hide instead of being social like before, so Misty's instincts kicked in. I was surprised that Snowball was that sick (she had even lost weight since we took her into the vet 3 weeks ago). She'll be there overnight why they try to get her liquids and food up and her temperature down.
Misty caught Church and Snowball in a sibling embrace:
I caught them fighting:
It calls for a new “tea party” where we send our local representatives a letter complaining about their spending habits with our money, and enclosing a tea bag to give them some historical perspective. He warns us to send it to local offices because nothing organic will make it through the biohazard testing in DC, but I wonder if even the local offices will accept tea bags.
Perhaps we could include the above picture, which is free of copyright?
At any rate, my electronic messages to my representatives have been unsatisfying. Only Maria Cantwell responded, and she sent me a form letter. I doubt she even knew I sent anything except for a tick mark on her “conservative wacko wants babies to die of starvation” column on her constituency checklist.
Yesterday my employer did another in a long series of firsts by coming out against the use of genetic data of its employees.
During our lifetimes, the practice of medicine and society's approach to healthcare have changed in fundamental ways. But what lies ahead—perhaps in the next decade alone—seems likely to eclipse that progress dramatically.
Along with any change in an important area of science or society, new and often difficult policy questions inevitably arise. And that's uniquely so for healthcare. Business, government and the research community have a responsibility to address these issues. I am writing today to tell you about an important step that IBM is taking to do so.
Of all the work now taking place across the life sciences, none perhaps has the transforming potential of the pioneering efforts to unlock the secrets of the human genome. IBM is already engaged in many of the technology innovations springing from the revolution in genetics and IT—from “information-based medicine” (which seeks to transform care by marrying genomics with clinical treatment); to our Genographic Project, where we're helping National Geographic to map the scientific history of our genes' migration; to the innovation flowing from our Blue Gene supercomputer.
This work is enormously promising—but it also raises very significant issues, especially in the areas of privacy and security. The opportunity the world has to improve life in the century ahead through genomics-driven, personalized medicine and preventive care will only be realized fully if it also takes into account the protection of genetic privacy. We must make this a priority now.
For that reason, I have signed a revision of IBM's equal opportunity policy, first published by Thomas J. Watson, Jr., in 1953. IBM is formally committing that it will not use genetic information in its employment decisions, a policy we believe is the first of its kind for a major corporation. You should know that IBM does not actively seek to collect genetic information—but at times, and increasingly in the future, employees or their family members may choose to share it, for example, in order to facilitate participation in information-based wellness programs. In anticipation of such circumstances and other situations that we cannot fully anticipate, we are today establishing that business activities such as hiring, promotion and compensation of employees will be conducted without regard to a person's genetics.
It has been IBM's long-standing policy not to discriminate against people because of their heritage or who they are. A person's genetic makeup may be the most fundamental expression of both. So, we are taking this step today because it is the right thing to do—for the sake of the innovation that lies just over the horizon, and because it is entirely consistent with our values and with who we are as a company.
Samuel J. Palmisano
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
There have been news stories about this, but I figure people would actually like to know what the memo said.
Ryan has too much fun in the bath.
More Church and Snowball.
They seem to be always sleeping, but they are not always cute when sleeping:
Some have noticed that there is a character named Church in Red vs. Blue. It's not a coincidence, although Church is also named thus because he was abandoned at a church.
The Republican National Committee gave me a call last night looking for money. I was pretty adamant about not wanting to send them anything right now because the old GOP fiscal restraint appears to be gone. When one party controls the Congress, the Senate and the office of the President, it should be able to match its talk with actions, and this has been a disappointing round.
Not only that but the RNC should have noticed by now that I generally send money to individuals or to very focused PACs, not to slush funds.
I told the nice lady on the phone—every time she asked for a little less money, but seemed to ignore what I was saying—that with Tom Delay out of the way, perhaps the GOP has a chance to cut a little pork from the budget.
For a while now I've been unhappy about priorities (for example, I agree with government funding of basic research, not so much with profiting from technology transfer) and spending, and been turned off by the absolutist “do not defend America from terrorism” message coming from the Libertarian Party. (It will be interesting to see what happens now that the LP has stopped charging dues.) Even the revered Thomas Jefferson was the first president to invade a foreign country, and he had a good (although some considered it trumped up) reason.
I have no home. Where are the pro-liberty, pro-commerce minarchists—those who believe in minimizing government, not eliminating it—who agree that fighting bad people over there is better than fighting them over here?
The Real Story of Informix Software and Phil White should prove to be an interesting book. I was with Informix from August of 1997 until the database business of Informix was bought by IBM in 2001. I joined just after Phil White had left the company under a cloud due to needed restatements of earnings that changed the very positive Informix Software from a big seller to a slow loser. Great products, but something happened to suck its life away.
From the Sterling Hoffman newletter the author Steve W. Martin gives us this tidbit:
If you had bought $32,000 worth of Informix stock at its 1991 low you would have made $1 million in just two short years. The incredible success of Informix Software and its growth to $1 billion in sales by the end of 1996 should rightly be credited to Phil White, Informix's President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board. Although White engineered one of the most stunning turnarounds in Silicon Valley history, he was also the person responsible for its shocking collapse in 1997.
He makes it sound like I joined a sinking ship. However, I believed pretty strongly in Informix's products, and worked to make them even better. Such is life, eh? While there was a shocking collapse before I joined in 1997, it was well on its way to recovering its lost ground. I believe the later collapse had other causes, key of which was the Ascential acquisition.
More on this after I read the book some day. (School is busy again.)
Bob Dole and Tom Daschle have an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal calling for reform of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), which encourages ethical behavior by our publicly-traded corporations. I don't exactly trust these two former Senate Majority Leaders, but let's see what they have to say:
SOX and the corporate scandals have led corporate boards and executives to focus like never before on issues of proper accounting, internal controls, fraud detection and appropriate reporting of financial results.
Yes, this is true. And accounting and IT consulting companies have greatly benefited from this need. SOX had a short timeline, almost guaranteeing companies needing outside help to get to the new regulatory level.
SOX has imposed across-the-board guidelines for all publicly-traded companies so that both investors and the public have a higher confidence that companies are reporting financial results in a similar manner.
This I'm not so sure of. I think investors are appreciative of the increased rigor of SOX-compliant companies, but I bet they are being more careful too. I suspect investment has been spurred more by the reduction of capital gains taxes than by the reduced fear of fraud due to SOX.
Now for the downside.
Although increased auditing fees amount to a small burden for Fortune 500 companies as a percentage of revenue, the doubling or tripling of auditor bills, accompanied by additional accounting and legal fees, can be the difference between a profit and a loss for emerging businesses. Studies have shown that the additional cost per company for compliance averages $1.4 million to $4.4 million. Recognizing the significant burden on small-cap companies, the SEC extended (for a year) the time for companies with under $75 million in market capitalization to comply with SOX's internal control requirements.
So, it costs a lot of money to comply (big surprise), and smaller businesses are exempt. Which businesses are more hungry for capital? Which businesses still don't offer the kind of security blanket SOX offered? Was SOX really intended to strengthen people's belief in their own retirement plans at their faceless corporation?
Dole and Daschle seem to agree:
The Wall Street Journal reported that the number of companies delisting their shares from the stock exchanges tripled in 2003. When public companies go private, investors lose potentially beneficial investment options. More importantly, emerging businesses often cannot grow to their maximum potential unless they can afford access to the public markets—to the detriment of both competition and innovation.
So what do they prescribe? A less intensive process for smaller businesses:
It could grant the SEC the authority to require certifications for smaller businesses less frequently than once a year. Smaller companies, with revenues of less than, say, $500 million, which necessarily pose less risk to the economy, could be permitted to undergo less intensive audits in most years, with auditors providing so-called "negative assurance" that nothing came to their attention following a less intensive review. These smaller companies could have the more intensive review every other year or every third year to reduce costs but still ensure appropriate auditor oversight.
“Less risk to the economy”? This is not about risk to the American economy, this is about risk to the investor in American markets, I thought.
Another area where smaller businesses are particularly affected is the accounting change to treat options as a compensation expense. Although there were sound reasons for the change, smaller companies have difficulty attracting and keeping top talent without option-based compensation. Consequently, the requirement to expense options can be a real impediment to growth.
Expensing options makes no sense at all, after all. Options dilute the value of the stockholders. They are not an expense! While it is important to report the dilution of stockholder value, doing it as an expense is silly.
Accurate financial reporting by public companies is the goal of SOX reforms. These changes to SOX may come in the form of revisions to SEC regulations or, if necessary, new legislation. When Congressional hearings or regulatory review take place, there are likely to be a range of good ideas about how to achieve public protection and lower costs. Fine-tuning legislation or regulations is never glamorous work, but some reform of the reforms can preserve the important benefits of SOX while curbing its unintended consequences for emerging businesses and the competition and innovation they provide.
Congress loves fine-tuning. It allows tearing down any compromises that have been reached and granting favors to those that will support incumbents. I don't think anything offered here does much for the individual investor, so it's not fine-tuning, it's putting lipstick on a pig!
The real question is what measures would restore investor confidence, especially individual investors. SOX seems a lot like early work on quality within the various big firms. And, I think, the real value is in looking at accounting with the same quality focus that manufacturing and marketing have done over the past few decades. Who uses the data? Why? Is it current? Is it correct? Is unnecessary work being stopped? Is something important missing? SOX focuses on accuracy, and, above, they raise an issue of relevance. Still, this is a minor adjustment to a baby step in this area.
Carnival of the Cats #80 is up at Music and Cats. Church and Snowball got top billing in Sergei's selections.
Last night I went to watch Serenity with Misty and our buddy John McEnroe. For a science fiction flick there was definitely a feel of a lot of fans of the television series Firefly present, but I have not seen the series. I haven't watched any significant television since Babylon 5 finished. After that, I was worried that the “arc” television series was a rare breed.
Instead I focused on DVD's of series that had strong appeal. I have the aforementioned Babylon 5 alongside many other great arc-based series. It was on the advice of friends I trust that I tried Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Stargate SG-1. I never saw more than the first season of Star Trek: Voyager or any of Andromeda or, with apparent misfortune, Firefly. Even so, I went into this movie with an open mind.
Perhaps there was less time spent on the characters because of the pre-existing series, but I understood well enough. I don't think I was as invested in some of the folks as much as others in the audience. I liked the bad guy, but I had to take some time to understand the dynamic. Emotions were drawn in broad strokes and I was worried that everyone was going to be a caricature. I wanted some of those feelings that seemed real and not overdone that I had enjoyed in some of the better moments of Buffy and Angel. Sure, they had their overwrought angst at times, but the target demographic is into that.
First thing that struck me as different than recent episodes of Star Wars was that the folks in Serenity had decent dialogue that the actors enjoyed delivering. Comparison of this movie with the love scenes of Star Wars reminds you that oppressive gloom still exists in some people's lives. There was plenty of violence, and a plot that, while driven reasonably openly, made you wonder who was going to survive at the end. If I had been more invested in the characters I would have been on the edge of my seat. Who was a red shirt? Who was a star? I couldn't tell, and I liked it.
As for the story itself, I don't want to ruin it. It was decent, had some good ahas and twists, and didn't require extensive foreknowledge of the universe to follow. It also made me wonder what I had missed from the series, as some of the jokes, meaningful looks, or references seemed to be connected to something that had happened before.
If you are a sci-fi fan that likes a bit of weirdness, go see it.
Update: I'm adding this one to the Beltway Sunday Drive at Outside the Beltway.
Carnival of Cordite #32 is up at Resistance is futile!