Rule of Law

Lately the news shows have been passing on the talking point that Tea Party activists are complaining about high taxes when for most of them taxes have gone down. Obviously one cannot have huge deficits without paying for them some day. In fact, does anyone remember this particular complaint from the Declaration of Independence?

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

The Tea Party activists are clearly concerned that the government will grow to uncontrollable size and look for planets to feed upon like Galactus from the old X-Men comic books. They know taxes will rise, and they know that stopping profligate spending is the only way to prevent it. They are being proactive.

Still, I feel there is another undercurrent in the Tea Party movement, and it is the understanding that the Rule of Law needs to return. The Rule of Law enshrouds the idea that no matter who you are you will be treated the same as anyone else under the law. This governing principle has not been evident of late. Here are some examples.

Organizations have been deemed “too big to fail” and were bailed out, but smaller businesses were allowed to flounder. It was claimed this was necessary to prevent a bigger disaster, but it bends the rule of law. Large corporations really don't mind government regulations. They increase the barriers to entry in markets. Every government regulation pretty much serves to protect incumbents and discourage newcomers. Sounds like every other part of politics doesn't it?

And the War on Small Business is not the only Rule of Law problem apparent lately. When 50% of the people don't pay income taxes, and a large number of those get a refund that's also an apparent injustice. Taxes and payouts should be separate systems, not a complicated mishmash of exceptions that make some people get money back when they don't pay anything in the first place. Tea Party activists can see the writing on the wall: this disparity means that most of them will end up paying for something that other people will use! Once again, they are being proactive.

And then there's health care. The bill recently passed “taxes” people if they don't buy health care insurance! That's a fine in tax clothing. How can it be fair? Sure, you have to have liability insurance if you drive your car on the public street, but the comparable insurance is comprehensive insurance, not liability. Even then, if you have a million dollars in the bank, that's an allowable exception to buying liability insurance anyway.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Apr 20 2010 06:19 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Tax Man

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Jan 24 2010 07:04 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Sea Change?

With Brown winning the election for the Senate in Massachusetts perhaps Obama will divert from his current path of hyperpartisanship—is that the change you had hoped for?—and return to his promised bipartisanship… In fact, this particular loss of the 60th vote may save Congress and the presidency for the Democrats if they can change the tone of the debate before November.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Jan 19 2010 08:37 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

The Spending Is Far Worse For the Economy Than the Deficit

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Dec 15 2009 06:53 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Are You Unemployed?

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Dec 4 2009 07:42 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Don't Believe the New Healthcare Law Won't Cost Us All a Fortune

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 11 2009 01:09 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Stars and Stripes Forever

(Via the Innocent Bystanders.)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Jul 5 2009 09:34 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Cap and Trade

The Tax Foundation brings us a catchy tune explaining Cap and Trade:

(Hat tip to Hot Air.)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Business, Politics” Sunday, Jul 5 2009 09:52 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Patty Murry Asks for Health Care Stories

Looks like Patty Murray, one of my Senators from the great state of Washington, is asking for health care stories to push for Obamacare. This is what I posted:

My wife is a nurse and I have friends on medicare or getting health coverage from the VA.
I don't see any evidence that the government is more efficient or effective in those areas so I'm wondering why the solution is to expand coverage to even more people. The government has no credibility when it comes to promoting efficiency and effectiveness in this area.
Americans are more satisfied with health care in the US than in Canada, why are we copying their desire to have the government be in charge?

I doubt she'll use my story in her speech.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Jun 26 2009 11:28 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

McCain Speaks About Iran

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Jun 23 2009 09:43 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Barack Obama—He's Here to Save the Day!

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Jun 20 2009 05:26 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

What's That?

(Hat tip to NewsBusters.)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Jun 20 2009 04:55 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Five Key Reasons to Reject Class-Warfare Tax Policy

The Center for Freedom and Prosperity has a new video:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Business, Politics” Monday, Jun 15 2009 03:42 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Penny Visualization On Unemployment Predictions

Mr. 10000Pennies is back!

Watch it and really understand what an information dump is.

(Hat tip to Instapundit.)

Update: Via Day By Day we find that 10000Pennies has a blog called Political Math and he posted the video with an explanation there.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Business, Politics” Tuesday, Jun 9 2009 05:24 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Economic Reporting: Then and Now

(Hat tip to Hot Air.)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Business, Politics” Monday, Jun 8 2009 06:13 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Republicans Offer $23B Spending Cut, Whoop-Dee-Do

I should create a “too little, too late” category to characterize the latest effort of the Republicans to decrease the $3.6T budget by 0.64%. What's needed to rescue the economy from the Internet and housing bubble collapses is a sound fiscal policy, a sound monetary policy, and a realistic view of big government spending.

The GOP has no credibility on fiscal restraint, and hasn't since Bush 41, and the Democrats think they are resurrecting FDR in Obama, when instead FDR, Carter, and Obama are all cut from the same cloth. Obama speaks out against deficit spending from one side of his mouth, and spews a $3.6T budget blueprint onto an eager-to-spend Congress from the other.

What needs to be done, now, is to end the stimulus and rescue measures immediately and to focus instead on restoring the capital markets by remaking the United States as an attractive place for businesses that make real things for real people as quickly as possible. That's why I support infrastructure improvements but decry borrowing to make them happen.

I'm unhappy that there appears to be no leader that is making a credible call to end the borrow-and-spend cycle and to strengthen the dollar, but I have no credibility to make them do it myself.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Business, Politics” Thursday, Jun 4 2009 10:35 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Peter Schiff on Spotting the Meltdown Before It Happened

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Business, Politics” Wednesday, Jun 3 2009 10:07 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Tax and Spend Rap

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Apr 12 2009 12:39 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

3xWWII Spending = Drowning in Debt

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Apr 8 2009 01:34 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

The Budget Debate Begins

…and it's started on YouTube:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Mar 18 2009 09:24 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Veterans' Benefits Strawman

It's hard for me not be cynical about the recent antics of the President and the results of such obvious misdirection from real issues. For someone that almost never speaks in public without a teleprompter, it's hard to believe that everything is not going according to Obama's plan.

For example, when the time came to question wide swaths of earmarks/pork in the Spendulous bill, we were treated to personal attacks on Rush Limbaugh and other obvious voices of dissent and even a treat to parsing the term “earmarks.” The bill was passed with tons of pork in place.

Also, when it came time to question the problems at the Treasury Department, including the failure to staff important posts or to notice the effects of failing to read the Spendulous, we were treated to this canard about $165M in bonuses paid to executives at AIG with the full prior knowledge of Treasury and the tacit consent of Congress. Treasury is intact, although finally some are calling for Geithner to resign.

Now we hear the President's new budget does not cover service-related injuries to veterans after they leave the service. What is this mess covering up or setting up? I can't help but think it's the usual canard of some vital service being lost if we don't raise taxes. It's always police, veterans, children, or roads that suffer if we don't shake down the “rich,” isn't it?

Update: Yeah, I didn't mention the “bring back the Assault Weapons Ban to save Mexico from drug dealers” one in this list, because I had mentioned it on the blog before, but it is another good example.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Mar 18 2009 08:51 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

What 9,000 Earmarks Look Like

Georgia Republican House Representative Tom Price (chairman of the Republican Study Committee) shows us what 9,000 earmarks look like:

(Hat tip to Hot Air.)

Of course, people try to obfuscate what earmarks are, either applying it to all localized spending projects or to only spending items introduced by the very specific earmark process, but the general idea is that it's spending not properly in the Federal domain, introduced to appease specific special interests, or horse-traded to get a particular representative's support for a bill all in seeming contradiction to the overall purpose of a bill.

Because of what I think is overly broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause in the Constitution's Article I, Section 8, such things are not considered outright unconstitutional, but it sure seems to bend the intent of limiting the powers of Congress to a select list of enumerated powers.

It takes something really egregious, and William Rehnquist, to reign in Congress's belief in what it can regulate or spend (see United States v. Lopez 514 U.S. 549, coincidentally a gun rights case).

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Mar 7 2009 07:26 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Stimulus Bigger Than $1K/Year For 2000 Years

I hope my kids enjoy paying it off.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Feb 20 2009 07:39 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Where Is Your Money Going

The government has launched recovery.gov to tell us where the stimulus money is going. Today it has this graph on the front page:

moneychart.gif

Already we are being mislead, although there is a “*” there on the biggest category, tax “relief.” If we click through we find out that tax relief is

* Tax Relief—includes $15 B for Infrastructure and Science, $61 B for Protecting the Vulnerable, $25 B for Education and Training and $22 B for Energy, so total funds are $126 B for Infrastructure and Science, $142 B for Protecting the Vulnerable, $78 B for Education and Training, and $65 B for Energy.

Uh, why did all of those things get rolled up into “tax relief” instead of being allocated those other graph lines that are already on the chart? Because they were all tax credits to various companies (and perhaps individuals in the ambiguous “Protecting the Vulnerable” category). However, as has been noted by Fair Tax advocates, these sorts of tax cuts are really just spending measures disguised by using the tax code to send these entities money.

This misleading graphic doesn't give me a lot of confidence.

(Hat tip to Wizbang!.)

Update:

This is what I think the chart should look like:

recovery.png

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Feb 18 2009 06:42 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Our First View of The Spendulous

Republican Reading Committee Chairman Tom Price shows us the consolidated Spendulous Bill he finally got a copy of 11pm last night.

They want votes on this bill combining the House and Senate versions today. So much for the promise that the bill would be available for everyone to examine online 48 hours in advance.

I am highly skeptical that spending our way out of this mess will help, especially since market interference has a history of unintended negative consequences. In fact, the more government messes with things, the lower my confidence and the less likely I am willing to borrow and spend on my own, which is precisely opposite of what a stimulus is supposed to accomplish.

(Hat tip to Hot Air.)

Update: The link to the bill will be posted at ReadTheStimulus.org by midday, but they have a link to the Speaker of the House's website, which is failing under traffic.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Feb 13 2009 08:19 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

“The American People Really Don't Care…”

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Feb 10 2009 04:32 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Obama's So-Called Stimulus: Good For Government, Bad For the Economy

The Center for Freedom and Prosperity brings us a video explaining how Obama's stimulus plan is bad for the economy, and compares it quite unfavorably to past efforts under Bush and others:

I was thinking that reading Atlas Shrugged was pretty much required when Obama won the election. I'm doubly sure of that now.

(Hat tip to Hot Air.)

Amazon.com links:


Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Jan 27 2009 07:44 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Barack Obama Supporters Devastated By Victory


Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 5 2008 02:01 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

McCain Gets Testy On the Economy

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Oct 6 2008 05:32 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Sarah “Barracuda” Palin

People seem to be messing up the metaphors. Last night's speech was a “slam dunk” not a “home run” because she earned her nickname playing basketball, not baseball.

Misty and I listened to the speech last night, and we both liked her a lot.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Sep 4 2008 06:19 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

The False Comfort of Appeasement

Bush addresses Israel's Knesset and made the following remarks.

Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is—the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history

There's already video up of this:

And, of course, Barack Obama has the vanity to assume the President was talking about him.

It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack. George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.

Maybe Bush was talking about Code Pink? Or someone else? Does it have to be about Barack? Or, perhaps, Barack is just a tad sensitive about this because he knows that sitting down to talk to some states without preconditions is a bad idea? I think President Bush struck a nerve.

If you want to know about how important preconditions are, read Hot Air here. There are ways to talk before coming “to the table” to negotiate, and one would expect some concessions towards civility in advance. I never negotiate with anyone that is not willing to come to some mutually beneficial agreement, for example, as it is a waste of time.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, May 15 2008 01:40 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Dismal Barracks at Fort Bragg

(Hat Tip to Hot Air.)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Apr 29 2008 03:28 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Obama Makes A Mistake

In a fundraiser this week, Barack Obama makes a bold statement that rural Americans cling to guns, religion, and xenophobia in response to their dislike of a government that doesn't tax, spend, or regulate enough:

So, it depends on where you are, but I think it's fair to say that the places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people feel most cynical about government. The people are mis-appre… I think they're misunderstanding why the demographics in our, in this contest have broken out as they are. Because everybody just ascribes it to “white working-class don't wanna work—don't wanna vote for the black guy.” That's… there were intimations of that in an article in the Sunday New York Times today—kind of implies that it's sort of a race thing.
Here's how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government, and when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it. And when it's delivered by—it's true that when it's delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama (laugh[t]er), then that adds another layer of skepticism (laughter).
But—so the questions you're most likely to get about me, “Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What's the concrete thing?” What they wanna hear is—so, we'll give you talking points about what we're proposing—close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama's gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we're gonna provide health care for every American. So we'll go down a series of talking points.
But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you'll find is, is that people of every background—there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you'll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I'd be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you're doing what you're doing.

In my opinion people don't cling to freedoms (and if self-defense, faith, and distrust of strangers aren't freedoms, what are they?) because of a lack of government intrusions on their lives, but in response to all the things big city liberals try to force on people with government programs. People distrust (and perhaps are bitter about it, since that's the spinning point on this point on this topic) government because no matter who they vote for the juggernaut gets bigger and involves itself in some new aspect of our lives. It loves complexity and nuance and sheer size. It's connection to the “common man” is tenuous or laughable depending on what's going on that day.

Barack Obama just insulted a huge swath of voters, and it's not going to be explained away as overstepping the characterization of “bitterness.”

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Apr 12 2008 08:25 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Under Pressure

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Feb 20 2008 03:36 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

The FDA Needs an Overhaul

Today's Wall Street Journal had a scathing criticism of the Food & Drug Administration on the editorial page, including a juicy quote it harvested from the Science Board, an independent advisory panel :

The Science Board's most important, and distressing, finding is that the FDA bureaucracy “cannot even keep up with the advances in science”—and not solely due to a lack of funding. While “the world of drug discovery and development has undergone revolutionary change,” the authors write, the FDA's “evaluation methods have remained largely unchanged over the last half-century.” (Our emphasis.)
Think about that: We live amid a revolution in biology, but the FDA still thinks like it did when Sputnik launched.

Having had a glimpse of the FDA approval process when I worked on my Capstone project for my MS degree from OGI, I can only imagine how painful it is to improve the FDA. We were bringing to market a non-invasive product that could revolutionize disease testing, but the expense to do so was crushing to a start-up. Survive 7 years on limited revenues with your investors hounding you? Ouch!

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Feb 6 2008 10:27 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

J. Michael McConnell's Annual Threat Assessment

J. Michael McConnell, the US Director of National Intelligence has released his Annual Threat Assessment to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. John Bolton wrote in the Wall Street Journal today that McConnell would need to explain the highly politicized National Intelligence Estimate from a few months ago. In fact, Bolton calls on him to repair the damage that NIE caused to the intelligence process let alone Bush's foreign policy.

I'll give the 47-page report a read when I get a spare moment, right now I don't have one.

Update:

Some important quotes:

Al-Qa’ida and its terrorist affiliates continue to pose significant threats to the United States at home and abroad, and al-Qa’ida’s central leadership based in the border area of Pakistan is its most dangerous component.

The summary:

We assess that al-Qa’ida’s Homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets designed to produce mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the population.

Iran, and the NIE:

We assess in our recent NIE on this subject that warhead design and weaponization were halted, along with covert military uranium conversion- and enrichment-related activities. Declared uranium enrichment efforts, which will enable the production of fissile material, continue. This is the most difficult challenge in nuclear production. Iran’s efforts to perfect ballistic missiles that can reach North Africa and Europe also continue.

That doesn't seem so rosy to me.

When it comes to our technology infrastructure:

Our information infrastructure—including the internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers in critical industries—increasingly is being targeted for exploitation and potentially for disruption or destruction, by a growing array of state and non-state adversaries. Over the past year, cyber exploitation activity has grown more sophisticated, more targeted, and more serious. The Intelligence Community expects these trends to continue in the coming year.

Energy:

Access to stable and affordably priced energy supplies has long been a critical element of national security. Sustained increases in global demand and the interactive effects of energy with other issues have both magnified and broadened the significance of developments in the global energy system. Oil prices in late 2007 were near record levels and global spare production capacity is below the market’s preferred cushion of 3 to 4 million barrels per day (b/d).

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics, Terrorism” Tuesday, Feb 5 2008 10:06 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

The Gift For The One Who Prevents You From Doing Everything

From the National Archives, give the gift of authentic red tape:

At last—a government term that means exactly what it says. Official United States documents were once bound with red twill tape that had to be “cut through” to gain access. This encased bit of “red tape” is from Civil War documents found in the records of the Union Army, by volunteers of the Civil War Records Conservation Corp at the National Archives…

(Hat tip to Hit & Run, the Reason magazine blog.)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Dec 9 2007 09:01 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

The News Should Be the Debate, Not the Forum

Jay Tea of Wizbang! nails it:

But as the old saying goes, “it's not the crime that gets you, it's the cover-up.” By allowing these shills to make it through the screening process, CNN allowed the post-debate coverage to focus on who they were and not what they asked, and made themselves—and their sheer ineptitude, partisan agenda, or both—the center point of the discussion. And whenever the media becomes part of the story, especially to the point of becoming the most important part of the story, then they have betrayed their duty to report the news—not make it.

I have generally been avoiding the debates as I don't really want to know more about any of the candidates fielded by either major party. I have found warts on all of them and I'm just using the process of elimination to make my choice… and they have all done a great job of eliminating themselves. This debate, however, and the “plant” debacle before it, have drawn so much attention away from the candidates and towards the media that I just have to comment on it.

I despise the way political media is handled. It's simply unprofessional, oversimplified, and clearly biased towards the cult of the omnipotent state. I hate it.

There, I said it.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Dec 1 2007 08:23 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Milton Friedman Choir on School Choice

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 21 2007 12:16 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

I-960 Passes!

Here in the state of Washington, Initiative 960, which requires a 2/3 majority for tax increases, legislative approval for fee increases, and a slew of notification requirements, appears to be winning approval 52 to 47.

Some organizations are worried I-960 would paralyze the state government, but I welcome that idea at the moment. I'm sure there will be constitutional battles waged on this one in the state courts. Still, this initiative, and other tax issues have all fallen on the right side this time around.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 7 2007 08:41 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Terrorism and Immigration Can Be Related?

Whether or not you agree with the current policy of letting only a few people a year visit the country or move here permanently, investigating US employees that help members of known terror groups get into the country would seem to be the highest priority of the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. However, as the Washington Times reports, most reports of such incidents are not investigated “due to a lack of resources.”

Reported problems include the following:

Employees are sharing detailed information on internal security measures with people outside the agency.
A Lebanese citizen bribed an immigration officer with airline tickets for visa benefits.
A USCIS officer in Harlington, Texas, sold immigration documents for $10,000 to as many as 20 people.

USCIS does seem to be trying to build an organization to investigate such reports, but it has been slow in coming.

Scary stuff, but it does seem to be a case of broken priorities. There already exists a $2B organization to handle immigration, and incidents like the above should be far more important for it to deal with than other items.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics, Terrorism” Wednesday, Aug 15 2007 01:35 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

July 17, 2007 National Intelligence Estimate

Already the press is interpreting the National Intelligence Estimate released today, let's look at what's in it. I'll jump straight to the “Key Judgments” section.

We judge the US Homeland will face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years. The main threat comes from Islamic terrorist groups and cells, especially al-Qa’ida, driven by their undiminished intent to attack the Homeland and a continued effort by these terrorist groups to adapt and improve their capabilities.

No surprise here. The terrorist threat has not gone away.

We assess that greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts over the past five years have constrained the ability of al-Qa’ida to attack the US Homeland again and have led terrorist groups to perceive the Homeland as a harder target to strike than on 9/11. These measures have helped disrupt known plots against the United States since 9/11.
  • We are concerned, however, that this level of international cooperation may wane as 9/11 becomes a more distant memory and perceptions of the threat diverge.

    This item is not likely to get a lot of press. We have been successful in stopping attacks against the homeland and there is a danger of complacency.

    Al-Qa’ida is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the Homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while pushing others in extremist Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement its capabilities. We assess the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safehaven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership. Although we have discovered only a handful of individuals in the United States with ties to al-Qa’ida senior leadership since 9/11, we judge that al-Qa’ida will intensify its efforts to put operatives here.
    • As a result, we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment.

    As expected, al-Qa’ida remains our biggest threat and continues to find safe havens in the Middle East. Interesting to see Pakistan called out directly, but not bases in Iran and Saudi Arabian funding.

    We assess that al-Qa’ida will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that al-Qa’ida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.
    We assess that al-Qa’ida’s Homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the US population. The group is proficient with conventional small arms and improvised explosive devices, and is innovative in creating new capabilities and overcoming security obstacles.
    • We assess that al-Qa’ida will continue to try to acquire and employ chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear material in attacks and would not hesitate to use them if it develops what it deems is sufficient capability.

    AQI has become a significant subsidiary unit of AQ. Any presence in the Middle East is always going to be a lightning rod for fanatic elements. Better that we fight them with prepared units than face attacks on unprepared people here, in my opinion. While NBC (nuclear, chemical, biological) threats are listed here, the likelihood of small arms and improvised explosives is greater (far less operational security issues).

    We assess Lebanese Hizballah, which has conducted anti-US attacks outside the United States in the past, may be more likely to consider attacking the Homeland over the next three years if it perceives the United States as posing a direct threat to the group or Iran.

    Hizballah is an emerging threat probably due to the pressure we've been exerting on Iran.

    We assess that the spread of radical—especially Salafi—Internet sites, increasingly aggressive anti-US rhetoric and actions, and the growing number of radical, self-generating cells in Western countries indicate that the radical and violent segment of the West’s Muslim population is expanding, including in the United States. The arrest and prosecution by US law enforcement of a small number of violent Islamic extremists inside the United States—who are becoming more connected ideologically, virtually, and/or in a physical sense to the global extremist movement—points to the possibility that others may become sufficiently radicalized that they will view the use of violence here as legitimate. We assess that this internal Muslim terrorist threat is not likely to be as severe as it is in Europe, however.

    Our first hint of Information Age problems, more below.

    We assess that other, non-Muslim terrorist groups—often referred to as “single-issue” groups by the FBI—probably will conduct attacks over the next three years given their violent histories, but we assess this violence is likely to be on a small scale.

    A little bit of a catch-all indicating that other threats of terrorism are out there, but from smaller groups.

    We assess that globalization trends and recent technological advances will continue to enable even small numbers of alienated people to find and connect with one another, justify and intensify their anger, and mobilize resources to attack—all without requiring a centralized terrorist organization, training camp, or leader.
    • The ability to detect broader and more diverse terrorist plotting in this environment will challenge current US defensive efforts and the tools we use to detect and disrupt plots. It will also require greater understanding of how suspect activities at the local level relate to strategic threat information and how best to identify indicators of terrorist activity in the midst of legitimate interactions.

      We are having problems dealing with the free flow of information on the Internet facilitating the coordination of terrorist activities. This is hardly new. The technology race has always led to problems. Continuous solutions to the asymmetrical warfare problem produce a stream of new of technologies (increased rate of fire, convenient improvised explosives, etc.) beyond simple communications improvements.

      The goal should always be to make choosing the tactic of terrorism so abhorrent that no one would select it. It's clear there are some elements that believe that terrorist is attractive and we must continue to suppress it. My fear is that there are those who believe appeasement is a tactic of anti-terrorism.

      We'll see what the uproar over this intelligent estimate will produce.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics, Terrorism” Tuesday, Jul 17 2007 08:11 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Spotted Owl Ruins An Entire Industry

      According to information dug up by Intellectual Conservative, it looks like the spotted owl was not endangered by the timber industry (“big timber?”) but instead by a more adaptable owl in the same habitat.

      As a result of the hysteria to save the “endangered” owls, U.S. timber sales were reduced by 80-90%, forcing saw mills to close, loggers to go broke and whole towns which depended on the industry to literally disappear. The federal crackdown on the industry caused a shift in U.S. domestic lumber supplies to foreign soils.

      We killed an industry, and then it turns out that we were wrong.

      According to a new government draft plan to save the species, scientists are no longer saying the greatest threat to the Spotted Owl is logging activity. “The draft recovery plan recognizes the primary threat to northern spotted owls as competition with barred owls.” According to the report, barred owls are less selective about the habitat they use and the prey they feed upon and are out-competing northern spotted owls for habitat and food, causing its decline.

      I recently read State of Fear by Michael Crichton, a novel with a central theme of environmental terrorism and long debates between various characters on environmental issues. While what he wrote is controversial one important theme was that scientists disagree on the impact of changes and proposed actions to change things because we don't really understand things well enough. Another important theme was the resilience and adaptability of nature leading to constant change in dominant species. That some species might die out is a natural consequence of evolution towards more adaptable species.

      The spotted owl is losing to another more adaptable owl. I don't think we should try to preserve every species losing out in the natural process of evolution. Why are we pouring money into saving this owl? Why are we destroying industries of poorly-supported science?

      (Hat tip to Free Market News.)

      Amazon.com links:

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Jul 13 2007 08:00 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  1 trackback

      History of Mistakes in Iraq

      I appreciate the irony of a thin Al Gore harassing GHWB about inaction with respect to Iraq and its notorious dictator:

      I'm amazed that in the era of Gotcha! politics this had not been hashed over before.

      Not that anyone cares about the anti-Iraq statements of any Democrat before the vote authorizing military action in accordance with continuous UN resolutions against that rogue state.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Jun 12 2007 03:46 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Do You Like To Hear Good News?

      Mary Katharine Ham strikes again:

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Apr 27 2007 07:55 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      The Great Ironies of History

      Professor Ann Althouse asks, “By the way, what are the great ironies of history? I've never seen that top 10 list.” That's a good web community project if I ever saw one. But first, we have to figure out what kind of irony is relevant here.

      The most common idea is the difference between intention and outcome when trying out great experiments, like the minimum wage hurting low income families. Another form was made famous by Socrates, where one acts ignorant in order to induce another to make statements that can be shown to be ignorant. For the most part, irony is assumed to be saying one thing and meaning another.

      I would expect great historic ironies be based on intentions and outcomes, as politics is fraught with people that say one thing and mean another. So what would be the greatest of these?

      Let me try one: UN General Resolution 181, otherwise known as the 1947 UN Partition Plan, intended to put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict by creating the State of Israel. Instead it has been a focal point for continual unrest in the middle east. It lead immediately to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and further conflicts ever since.

      Or, perhaps, we should poke more at the comic ironies of history, for example The Prince by Nicolò Machiavelli, intended to be a satire but taken seriously by far too many people.

      History must be full of ironies, what are the greatest ones?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Apr 26 2007 11:55 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Baird Fails to Vote

      Yes, my representative, Brian Baird, failed to vote on the infamous House Congressional Resolution 63, a non-binding resolution against the troop surge in Iraq. (They don't want to lose the war or seem to not support the troops, they just seem to want to make the war harder to win.)

      Now Congressman Baird did speak in favor of the resolution so I'm sure he would have voted with the “slow bleed” crowd, but I guess we don't have him on record as voting with them, this time. Up to now, he's always voted against the war. I wonder where he was.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Feb 16 2007 01:36 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Brian Baird's Flawed and Biased Survey

      I got a note from my Congressman, Brian Baird, to take a survey on Congress' Top Priorities. What I discovered was a mess:

      What best describes your opinion on how the U.S. should handle the current situation in Iraq?
      • Maintain current troop levels until Iraq is stable
      • Support President's plan to increase troop levels
      • Begin a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq
      • None of the above

      How about supporting the President's plan to temporarily increase troop levels, Mr. Baird? That's an important word to omit.

      When it come to legislation before Congress as it relates to gun control...
      • Congress should always protect the 2nd Amendment's right to own firearms
      • Congress should pass reasonable and responsible measures to ensure gun safety
      • Both of the above
      • None of the above

      Amendments don't have rights, people do. I would choose a selection that reads “Congress should repeal any measure that infringes the right of citizens to own any personal weapons currently or previously in service to any of world's armed services or militias.”

      What best describes your opinion on how the federal government should balance the budget?
      • A single payer system under which the federal government provides health insurance to all individuals
      • An expanded employer-based system under which the federal government requires all employers to provide health insurance to their employees
      • A system under which the federal government requires all individuals to purchase health insurance with government subsidies for those who can't afford it on their own
      • Do nothing. Leave current system the way it is
      • None of the above

      Hrm, I think the question and the answers don't mesh neatly here. I would choose this answer to the medical insurance crisis: “Deregulate health insurance; ensure competition among health care insurers; cap damage awards in medical liability cases.” I would choose this answer to balance the budget: “Continue to reduce government services and simply other government programs until expenses are at least 10% less than taxes. Invest surplus money in basic research and infrastructure with an eye on long-term returns.”

      Which statement best describes your opinion on future trade policies/legislation?
      • The U.S. should pursue trade policies that protect American jobs and the environment
      • The U.S. should pursue trade policies that open up new markets for U.S. products
      • Both of the above
      • None of the above

      How about, “Support free trade agreements with countries that support basic human rights such as owning property, limiting government interference with commerce, and allowing consumers to choose amongst a broad array of competitors.”

      Which do you agree with most when it comes to environmental issues?
      • The U.S. government should do more to protect the environment
      • Environmental regulations are often too burdonsome
      • Both of the above
      • None of the above

      I choose, “Informed and plentiful consumer choices lead to socially-conscious buying decisions, even about the environment.”

      Aside from the very important issue of the war in Iraq, which ONE of these other issues is most important to you?
      • Making healthcare more affordable
      • Reducing our dependence on oil and gas
      • Balancing the federal budget
      • Creating new jobs
      • Ending illegal immigration

      I choose, “Simplifying and reducing government interference in free markets.”

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Jan 29 2007 12:25 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      More 'News' Pushing for Gun Control

      Melissa Santos of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer laments “Despite shootings, gun control unlikely.” While the piece is more balanced than most, it's still a hit job on the rights of gun owners. One usually expects Seattle's paper to print Washington Ceasefire releases nearly verbatim and call for draconian restrictions.

      I doubt this plea will be heard, however. Despite a Democratic majority in Washington politics, my state legislators are aware that there are very few gun crimes and quite a few gun owners in the state. It doesn't take much for their to be a backlash against Democrats over wedge issues such as gun ownership.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Guns, Politics” Friday, Jan 5 2007 12:39 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Free To Choose

      IdeaChannel.tv has brought us the whole Milton Friedman series Free To Choose here. While we can't download it, we can at least stream it.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Dec 19 2006 08:59 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Barney's Christmas Extravaganza

      The children will enjoy the first Pet's production, Barney's Christmas Extravaganza.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Dec 8 2006 11:01 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Banning Trans-Fats

      Trans-fats, typically produced through a process called “hydrogenation,” have been banned in city restaurants by the New York City Board of Health. While hydrogenated fats have a longer shelf life many believe that they contribute to increased levels of “bad” cholesterol.

      This is likely to become a trend, but I wonder why people worried about trans-fats couldn't just patronize restaurants that publicly tout their “no trans fat” policy? Bloomberg's New York just likes to run your life for you, I guess.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Dec 5 2006 09:16 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      The Anti-Gun Senate Judiciary Committee

      Looks like the Democrats are sending the most anti-gun Senators to their side of the Senate Judiciary Committee (per the Knox fcalerts list):

      The Senate Democrats have already made their committee assignments and stacked the Judiciary Committee with the bottom of the anti-gun barrel - Leahy, Kennedy, Schumer, Feinstein, Durbin, Biden, Feingold, Kohl, Cardin, and Whitehouse, but the Republicans are expected to handle that business over the next week or two.

      There are some folks on that list that have always hated gun owners (and, in general, citizens that want to defend themselves). We need to make sure the GOP side of the committee is not anti-gun as well. Of those on the GOP side from before, we lost one anti-gunner, DeWine, and there are a few that are positively pro-gun. Fcalerts recommends this:

      Please contact Senate Republican Leader Elect Mitch McConnell and Republican Whip Elect Trent Lott, and ask them to keep Coburn, Cornyn, and Sessions on the Judiciary Committee.

      Coburn, you may recall, was also a significant porkbuster in his latest term. He's a good guy.

      You can leave feedback for those building the committee assignments at Senator McConnell's Office and Senator Lott's Office.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Guns, Politics” Tuesday, Nov 21 2006 02:37 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      The Friedman Amendment

      Now that Milton is gone it would be best to honor his memory in some substantial way. Perhaps it would be best to right one wrong he wrought and make the United States better in the process. To that end I offer the Friedman Amendment:

      Amendment XXVIII—Limiting Taxation and Voting to Specific Dates

      1. Each year all Federal, State, and local government shall hold two elections for public offices: a primary election the first Tuesday in May and a general election the first Tuesday in November.
      2. All taxes and set-asides, except the collection of sales taxes by sellers from direct consumers, shall be paid twice annually, due two weeks before the primary and general elections.
      3. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Nov 17 2006 11:38 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  2 trackbacks

      ACLU, SAF Sue Library Over Internet Filter

      The American Civil Liberties Union and the Second Amendment Foundation have joined forces to file suit against the Washington North-Central Library District over the filtering of content on its terminals used by the public to surf the web.

      On information and belief, the NCRL has configured its SmartFilter software to block Web sites in the following categories, or in categories equivalent to the following categories: Alcohol, Anonymizers, Chat, Criminal Skills, Dating/Social, Drugs, Extreme, Gambling, Game/Cartoon Violence, Gruesome Content, Hacking, Hate Speech, Malicious Sites, Nudity, P2P/File Sharing, Personal Pages, Phishing, Pornography, Profanity, School Cheating Information, Sexual Materials, Spyware, Tobacco, Violence, Visual Search Engine and Weapons.

      Looking at that laundry list, it's easy to see where people doing research would run afoul of the filter. The plaintiffs had good reasons to want to search for that kind of information. The SAF is involved primarily because of its publication that was filtered: Women and Guns.

      It's ironic to see the ACLU helping a gun rights organization with a first amendment case, but I'm sure it will work out.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Nov 17 2006 10:36 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      2006 Election Not As Bad For Gun Owners

      Dave Kopel has the scorecard.

      A short summary:

      Governors:
      Net gubernatorial results: -1.5.
      Gains: Ohio.
      Losses: Colorado, Maryland, and half of one in New York.
      Senate:
      Net Senate results: -1.
      House:
      Net House results: -14, which would drop to -15 if Reichert (WA 8) loses his lead.

      I don't like the minuses, but those minuses aren't as bad as they were for the GOP.

      Here's in Washington, however, the net loss was quite bad. Joe Waldron of Washington GOAL put it succinctly:

      In Olympia it will get real interesting. A Senate split 32D-17R will mean reordering of committees. Senate Judiciary will likely switch from 5D-4R to 6D-3R. That means gun bills (plural) may come out of committee, leading to floor votes. With a 32-17 Senate, I'm not optimistic about holding bills there. The fight will shift to the House, where we have a number of pro-gun Dems. Will it be enough? Good question.
      When we put out the call for people to come to Oly for hearings, you'd better come. Legislators are sensitive to this. When we put nearly 400 gunnies into the Senate Judiciary hearing room (and two overflow rooms) two years ago, people noticed.
      Our strength is in grassroots. We'll have several opportunities to prove this in Olympia next year.

      We shall live in interesting times.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Guns, Politics” Wednesday, Nov 8 2006 07:15 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      An Election Not Won But Lost

      The GOP abandoned its libertarian wing and we sat it out, voted for gridlock, or just plain voted “L.” The Libertarian Party website has a long list of candidates that drew more than 1% of the vote, and I'm not sure yet how many covered the margin between a GOP win and a Democrat one.

      Of course, LPers are notorious for stealing votes from the GOP, and I'm pretty sure in this round they may have stolen one or two from the Democrats, but I sure hope that the “tax less, spend less” side of the GOP listens a bit more for a while.

      The Iraq war is being blamed for the GOP losses, but that's certainly not all of the story. I think alienating elements of the base had a lot to do with it as well. I'm sure we'll see Get Out The Vote analysis soon.

      Update:

      From Senator Tom Coburn's press release today:

      The overriding theme of this election, however, is that voters are more interested in changing the culture in Washington than changing course in Washington, D.C. This election was not a rejection of conservative principles per se, but a rejection of corrupt, complacent and incompetent government.

      I especially liked this part:

      This election does not show that voters have abandoned their belief in limited government; it shows that the Republican Party has abandoned them. In fact, these results represent the total failure of big government Republicanism.
      The Republican Party now has an opportunity to rediscover its identity as a party for limited government, free enterprise and individual responsibility. Most Americans still believe in these ideals, which reflect not merely the spirit of 1994 or the Reagan Revolution, but the vision of our founders. If Republicans present real ideas and solutions based on these principles we will do well in the future.

      And he had a condemnation for pork, his pet peeve:

      Republicans oversaw a seven-fold increase in pork projects since 1998. Republicans increased domestic spending by nearly 50 percent since 2001, increased the national debt to $9 trillion, passed a reckless Medicare expansion bill and neglected our oversight responsibilities. While some of these decisions may have helped secure specific seats in the short-term the totality of our excess did not secure our majority, but destroy it.
      There should now be less doubt about whether overspending and pork projects are bad policy and bad politics. This year, in particular, pork did not save our vulnerable incumbents but helped drag them down. The challenges facing our country are too great and complex for members of Congress and their staff to continue to be distracted by endless earmarking.

      Go get 'em Tom!

      Update:

      The Economist:

      Glum Republicans might turn their attention to the Libertarian Party to vent their anger. Libertarians are a generally Republican-leaning constituency, but over the last few years, their discontent has grown plain. It isn't just the war, which some libertarians supported, but the corruption and insider dealing, and particularly the massive expansion of spending. Mr Bush's much-vaunted prescription drug benefit for seniors, they fume, has opened up another gaping hole in America's fiscal situation, while the only issue that really seemed to energise congress was passing special laws to keep a brain-damaged woman on life support.
      In two of the seats where control looks likely to switch, Missouri and Montana, the Libertarian party pulled more votes than the Democratic margin of victory. Considerably more, in Montana. If the Libertarian party hadn't been on the ballot, and the three percent of voters who pulled the “Libertarian” lever had broken only moderately Republican, Mr Burns would now be in office.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 8 2006 07:48 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  1 trackback

      SEFORA Commercials

      Scientists and Engineers for America has highlighted three community-submitted commercials on their blog. The first is quite nice, but has a subtle quirk: it lingers on an image of the World Trade Center and another of prices at a gas station. The second is a total left-wing hit job, focused on funding embryonic stem cell research, imposition of a 33 mpg standard, and intelligent design. The third is kinda tepid, but is a reasonable pitch.

      By no means am I a supporter of Intelligent Design, but I do feel there are alternatives to mandated fuel economy standards and embryonic stem research. Does that make me a support of “more of the same?” I find it interesting that the second commercial makes use of the word “responsible” which I highlighted as a code word for left wing viewpoints on contentious scientific issues. If this word is used it makes a scientific argument into a moral argument, and anything goes. SEFORA is supposed to be about science, not ideology.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Oct 26 2006 08:47 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Bush Endorses Competing on the Edge

      Realizing that “Stay the Course” sounded a little too much like Farragut's “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” President Bush has begun emphasizing a strategy of flexibility in contrast to the staid tone of his earlier catchphrase.

      Changing his language to emphasize “flexibility” over “staying the course,” Bush said the coalition is adapting its strategy to guarantee a win. The president also reassured Americans that despite the lengthy deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq, America is winning the War on Terror.

      From a business warrior's standpoint this is an emphasis of the “Competing on the Edge” strategy over the “Core Competence” model. It's about time. Core Competence emphasizes sustainable advantages and long-term dominance whereas Competing on the Edge emphasizes generating a continuous flow of advantages and reinvention in the face of competition. Amongst its goals it getting out of the mode of reacting to enemies, instead leading to anticipate and eventually lead in the marketplace.

      The strategy in the Global War on Terror needs to be adaptive enough to deal with the hundreds of terrorists cells out there working independently to harm us. Our goal is clear: prevent terrorist attacks on Americans and our allies, but the sub-goals also need to be coherent. I believed tha the tactic of invading Iraq had great goals: remove a terror sponsor; concentrate terrorists on troops, not citizens; allow the exit from Saudi Arabia which inflamed many; remove access to WMDs thought to be owned by Saddam; give us a border with Iran and Syria. Only some of these have been successful. The web did catch a lot of terrorists. We did remove Saddam. However, Iran and Syria seem more of a threat now than those short years ago. There has been too much chaos.

      Competing on the Edge is all about finding the right balance between terror and tyranny. While I won't recant the entire book, it's about a series of traps and how to find the balance between them. The first concerns communication and structure with the two extremes of chaos and bureaucracy and the balancing point being improvisation. If anything, the American approach seems far too structured to support improvisation, and any mistakes made improvising are immediately pounced upon by political elements scoring points. One message is clear, communications within the allied efforts are hardly real-time or loosely constructed to find synergies. They are stifled and second-guessed, as Able Danger has proved.

      The next balance point involves collaboration, closely related to the above. The traps are “lockstep” where everyone collaborates and must get everyone else's approval for everything or “star” where every organization is out for itself and doesn't look for ways the rest of the organization can help. The US Government is definitely in the star trap. The FBI and CIA and the Defense Department seem as much at war with each other as with the terrorists. The Department of Homeland Security was supposed to fix this. It hasn't. The way out is “coadaption” where specific opportunities to collaborate are identified and driven and it is recognized that each part of the government is unique in its approach to the GWOT. I think we could get to the right place on this one fairly easily.

      I could go on, but it's clear that the remaining Competing on the Edge elements of Regeneration, Experimentation, and Time Pacing could be used to balance the US Government's approach to the GWOT, making it flexible enough to deal with the changing threat, but not so flexible as to be chaos. We need to get out ahead of the terrorists and let them dance to our tune instead of us always reacting to their latest threats.

      Amazon.com links:

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Oct 25 2006 08:54 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      The Choice

      Are we really facing Porktrusters versus My Pet Gloat?

      One would expect mainstream Republicans to hate excessive spending and one would expect mainstream Democrats not to wallow in conspiracy theories, but it sure seems like extremist elements rule the day.

      Except that the extremists are the ones fighting pork and not believing in conspiracies these days.

      Update: Bush tries to answer.

      “The Democrats make a lot of predictions,” Bush said. “As a matter of fact, I think they may be measuring the drapes. If their electoral predictions are as reliable as their economic predictions, November 7 is going to be a good day for Republicans.”

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Oct 24 2006 03:41 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Oh, We Owe, We Ooooowe

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Oct 24 2006 12:04 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      NYT Wrong To Publish SWIFT Exposé

      The New York Times ombudsman finally admitted it was wrong to expose the SWIFT data mining efforts. (HT Michelle Malkin.) It wasn't against the law, they only looked at terrorists, and it not exactly secret, just not well-known.

      It's about time.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Oct 22 2006 09:01 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Insta-Mortem

      Instapundit predicts the GOP will lose and lists why it is deserved. My biggest issue has been pork, not social conservatism, immigration, or war. The GOP has always proclaimed themselves to be on top of the spending problem, and promised lower taxes and less invasiveness of government as a result. Not so in the Bush presidency. Bush's father lost because he raised taxes. I think the son will fall because he failed to veto anything significant. (No, stem cell research is not significant.)

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Oct 16 2006 12:52 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Pac. Nw. Shooting Park v. City of Sequim

      In a setback, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against Pacific Northwest Shooting Park, finding that statewide preemption applies only to criminal matters and not civil ones where a municipality or county “acts in a capacity that is comparable to that of a private party.” This is likely to have far-reaching effects.

      I have noted before that preemption prevented municipalities and counties from restricting concealed carry on their various properties but with this ruling I predict the return to a multitude of new regulations to harass our people and eat out their substance. There is a glimmer of light in the opinion of the court:

      The critical point is that the conditions the city imposed related to a permit for private use of its property. They were not laws or regulations of application to the general public.

      Even so, this still implies any private function on public land can now have municipal restrictions on concealed carry.

      Still, the court is being disingenuous here. Governments within the state are not private citizens, and they are of course restricted by RCW 9.41.290. Look at how it's worded:

      The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law, as in RCW 9.41.300, and are consistent with this chapter. Such local ordinances shall have the same penalty as provided for by state law. Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.

      Clearly a contractual agreement has the force of the municipality behind it, and municipalities are specifically preempted from regulating firearms. Regulating by contract is not sufficiently different than regulating by ordinance or policy, especially when it affects the actions of the general public (and the general public is indeed invited to gun shows). Even if they were renting out the convention center for a wedding, this sort of contractual clause runs afoul of preemption. Cities that own public property and use that power to create the effect of regulation are sufficiently appearing to regulate in my humble opinion, and RCW 4.91.290 was specifically written to preempt such regulation.

      The problem crops up in RCW 9.41.300. Convention centers are called out for local regulation except for CCW or “any showing, demonstration, or lecture involving the exhibition of firearms.” Yeah, they managed to weasel on that point. A gun show is not concealed carry or an showing, demonstration, or lecture. It is a gathering to trade firearms.

      Except the section right after the above says this:

      (3)(a) Cities, towns, and counties may enact ordinances restricting the areas in their respective jurisdictions in which firearms may be sold, but, except as provided in (b) of this subsection, a business selling firearms may not be treated more restrictively than other businesses located within the same zone. An ordinance requiring the cessation of business within a zone shall not have a shorter grandfather period for businesses selling firearms than for any other businesses within the zone.
      (b) Cities, towns, and counties may restrict the location of a business selling firearms to not less than five hundred feet from primary or secondary school grounds, if the business has a storefront, has hours during which it is open for business, and posts advertisements or signs observable to passersby that firearms are available for sale. A business selling firearms that exists as of the date a restriction is enacted under this subsection (3)(b) shall be grandfathered according to existing law.

      So, weaseling is not enough. It's pretty clear that gun shows cannot be treated any differently than any other show. Unless the City of Sequim has boilerplate on the sales of firearms to anyone renting the convention center, the gun show in question was treated differently because they were selling firearms!

      Justice Richard B. Sanders's dissent is great:

      The majority concludes Pacific Northwest Shooting Park Association (PNSPA) insufficiently pleaded a claim of tortious interference with a business expectancy because its complaints do not specifically state it expected to do business with vendors and the general public. The majority is wrong. A pleading is sufficient so long as it provides notice of the general nature of the claim asserted. The nature of PNSPA's claim is pellucid and its complaints entirely adequate. It alleges tortious interference with its expectation of hosting a gun show. No additional specificity is required.
      Furthermore, the majority concludes RCW 9.41.300, which prohibits municipalities from regulating gun shows, permits municipalities to regulate gun shows. I am nonplussed. The statute means what it says. City of Sequim lacked authority to regulate PNSPA's gun show.

      Justice James M. Johnson's dissent was also pretty harsh:

      I concur with the dissent; however, I write separately in order to briefly clarify Washington law regarding firearms and their sale, which was misstated or improperly applied by the police chief here. This is particularly important as the Washington constitutional right “of the individual citizen to bear arms” could have also been implicated in this case. Whether this right includes a corollary constitutional right to sell or trade firearms need not be decided since Washington statutory law, correctly understood, allows the sales. I concur with the dissent.
      Police Chief Nelson made a significant legal error in his April 11, 2002 memo, which he personally distributed. The memo restricted gun sales at the show in a manner not allowed by Washington law. It is difficult to find that a law enforcement officer, who surely had access to the RCWs, could incorrectly state the law in good faith.

      I have edited citations out of the opinions here for brevity. Check out the opinions directly for full text and the background information.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Guns, Politics” Thursday, Oct 12 2006 12:16 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      The ACLU's Tax Status

      Jay at Stop the ACLU makes a good case for the ACLU losing its tax-exempt status due to direct involvement in political campaigns.

      The ACLU has consistently abused its tax exempt status by claiming to be non-partisan. However, a simple glimpse at the ACLU’s record shows many examples of how this is untrue.

      The latest non-partisan advertisement from the ACLU attacks Joe Lieberman as soft on civil rights. It appears to be entirely in support of Ned Lamont, the Democratic candidate.

      At least the NRA/ILA (the political arm of the NRA) can point out that it has supported candidates on both sides of the aisle based on their positions on a single issue. The ACLU has championed several issues on one side of the aisle and refuses to recognize the second amendment as defining a right. They are selective in the civil rights they champion and which candidates they support.

      The amusing point of his note points out that the ACLU tried to remove the tax-exempt status of churches that attacked candidates on the basis of their stand on abortion, yet maintained that they were non-partisan.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Oct 12 2006 06:25 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Proposed SEFORA Bill of Responsibilities

      With all rights come responsibilities. I propose the following as a SEFORA “Bill of Responsibilities” for the organization, its leaders, and its members:

      There are these corollary consequences to the stated SEFORA Bill of Rights for Scientists and Engineers:

      1. SEFORA shall not assert any position as true or valid without providing scientifically rigorous reasoning and clear documentation of axioms, research, and data supporting that position. SEFORA members will exhibit the same rigor and diligence SEFORA expects of other scientists and governments.
      2. SEFORA shall not protest published claims as false, invalid, or misleading without providing clear documentation of well-established truths contrary to the position being criticized. Where there is debate on an issue, SEFORA will hold accountable those who claim established truths where there is no consensus.
      3. SEFORA will not issue a statement about the SEFORA's membership without first ascertaining by consensus that the membership accepts the statement as true of them.
      4. SEFORA members shall hold others accountable for sloppy, contrived, or ideologically-driven research, analysis, or positions. SEFORA members are expected to immediately correct sloppy, contrived, or ideologically-driven scientific positions or publications where they are authors, reviewers, or participants.
      5. SEFORA members may hold scientifically rigorous contrary positions without fear of reprisal.
      6. SEFORA leadership positions and committee memberships shall be appointed based on the candidate’s scientific qualifications, not political affiliation or ideology.
      7. SEFORA shall support any science education programs that promote historical accuracy, scientific rigor, critical thinking, and truth-seeking. SEFORA members will seek out candidate science education programs and inform the membership of their existence.
      8. SEFORA decisions on policies and issues shall be made as the result of a fair, transparent, and participatory process.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Oct 10 2006 06:34 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      It Wasn't a Nuke?

      Several leaks say the North Koreans didn't detonate a nuke yesterday according to Bill Gertz of the Washingotn Times, Michael Yon at The Corner, and Fox News does a round-up and their own digging. Dud theories were already going around yesterday based on the lower-than-expected seismic readings from the event.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Oct 10 2006 02:58 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Scientists and Engineers for America

      Prompted by a Wall Street Journal editorial “Under the Microscope”, I looked into the Scientists and Engineers for America. I was intrigued by the editorial's assertion:

      The more disturbing disingenuousness here involves the suggestion in some SEA statements that there is such a thing as absolute, accurate science—a body of facts—that is beyond further investigation. And that certain subjects or findings are not open to interpretation or discussion by nonscientists, including policy makers. In other words, when Americans raise questions about the moral implications of, say, stem-cell research, they are trumping science with “ideology.” Presumably, those who disagree have no ideology or political agenda, only factual knowledge on a case that is closed.

      So I went and looked, expecting some horrible political grandstanding about stem cell research or global warming. Most of the statements on the site are innocuous.

      I did find a blog post on global warming as well as a fairly partisan statement here:

      Concerned about the ideological and partisan manipulation of science, compromising of scientific integrity and harassment of scientists by the Bush Administration and Congress, leaders in the scientific and engineering communities announced the launch of a new organization on Wednesday, September 27th. The group, called Scientists and Engineers for America, is a 527 political organization that will focus on the need to address the current state of science policy by electing new political leadership.
      Over the last several years, scientists have come under political assault and the integrity of science has been compromised. The attacks have ranged from White House rewriting an Environmental Protection Agency report on global warming, to veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, to the promotion of intelligent design to disseminating inaccurate scientific information on federal websites.

      Okay, that's pretty anti-GOP, but there's nothing wrong with that. GOP pandering to evangelical influencers is a long tradition and directly conflicts with the long scientific tradition. I'm one of those Internet Libertarians that popped up when freethinkers were able to (literally) network. Despite this strong kickoff post on the blog, most of the things on the organization's site are appealing to me. I'm a science buff, and a critical thinking buff.

      Also on the blog is a call to stop the

      …politicalization of science at the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA).

      This one is troubling. The NOAA supposedly stripped comments linking global warming and hurricane strength because of legitimate concerns over the science. However, NOAA also forbade scientists from discussing the issue with the press. The first item is, of course, debatable and debate is healthy. The second item is unacceptable and there is evidence of suppressing the scientists in the form of emails and other materials.

      Enough of the blog, let's look at their agenda. On the surface it's all clean, but each item has a link. Under the surface of the energy item we find a line item supporting the Kyoto “emission reduction unit” pay-for-pollution scheme:

      Create tradable permits in greenhouse gases or equivalent incentives to encourage innovation and drive investment in cost-effective technologies;

      I'm not a Kyoto fan. There are thousands of scientists who also don't like it. I don't like Kyoto being touted as a plank in the SEFORA agenda. However, I do support basic research funding (as opposed to public funding of technology productization efforts) and there is a call for that here.

      Under health:

      Remove inappropriate limits on stem cell research and reproductive health policy;

      What “inappropriate” means here is the loaded question. The use of the word inappropriate leaves the comfortable environs of science and delves directly into the sphere of morality. If the purpose of SEFORA is to develop tools to separate fact from opinion in order to have a good debate on the morals of a course of action I'm all for it. If they have pre-supposed moral conclusions I will challenge them.

      The word “inappropriate” is used again in the education section:

      Ensure that inappropriate security concerns do not block American access to the best students and researchers from around the world.

      I wonder what an inappropriate security concern is in the context of a scientific debate. Risk analysis is a science. Political analysis is a guessing game. Collaborating with and training new scientists is a straightforward process, but if those scientists are researching particular technologies in countries with particular political climates it does become a security concern. What scientific tools will SEFORA bring to this arena?

      The rest of the education section is so good, however, that I can't help but support it. Especially the core statement:

      America’s prosperity and security in the twenty-first century depend on our ability to develop scientific and technical talent. Quality of education and equality of educational opportunity are essential to compete in a tightly interconnected global economy. A firm grasp of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is essential for all Americans and so we must ensure that talent is identified, encouraged, and supported without prejudice.

      I did not pick up a undercurrent of foregone conclusions or stifled debate in what I read of the web site. There are some issues that cause me concern, but I'm willing to see how they develop.

      I joined SEFORA this morning. It was a leap of faith.

      Update: I forgot to mention the SEFORA “Bill of Rights” for Scientists and Engineers:

      Effective government depends on accurate, honest and timely advice from scientists and engineers. Science demands an open, transparent process of review and access to the best scholars from around the nation and the world. Mistakes dangerous to the nation’s welfare and security have been made when governments prevent scientists from presenting the best evidence and analysis. Americans should demand that all candidates support the following Bill of Rights:
      1. Federal policy shall be made using the best available science and analysis both from within the government and from the rest of society.
      2. The federal government shall never intentionally publish false or misleading scientific information nor post such material on federal websites.
      3. Scientists conducting research or analysis with federal funding shall be free to discuss and publish the results of unclassified research after a reasonable period of review without fear of intimidation or adverse personnel action.
      4. Federal employees reporting what they believe to be manipulation of federal research and analysis for political or ideological reasons should be free to bring this information to the attention of the public and shall be protected from intimidation, retribution or adverse personnel action by effective enforcement of Whistle Blower laws.
      5. No scientists should fear reprisals or intimidation because of the results of their research.
      6. Appointments to federal scientific advisory committees shall be based on the candidate’s scientific qualifications, not political affiliation or ideology.
      7. The federal government shall not support any science education program that includes instruction in concepts that are derived from ideology and not science.
      8. While scientists may elect to withhold methods or studies that might be misused there shall be no federal prohibition on publication of basic research results. Decisions made about blocking the release of information about specific applied research and technologies for reasons of national security shall be the result of a transparent process. Classification decisions shall be made by trained professionals using a clear set of published criteria and there shall be a clear process for challenging decisions and a process for remedying mistakes and abuses of the classification system.

      The way whistle blower statutes are supposed to work is that when someone cannot correct a criminal situation through their normal avenues they may be protected from retaliation if they go public with the information. While the NOAA event about was dishonest, it wasn't criminal. I'm not sure what they expect to accomplish with item 4. As for #7, I suggest The Joy of Science by The Teaching Company as core curriculum.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Oct 10 2006 10:33 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Labor Department Finds 810,000 Jobs

      Newsbusters noticed that the Labor Department corrected jobs data for the year ending this past March. They found 810,000 jobs missing from the original figures.

      The networks made no mention of the change, which increased the Bush job record to 6.6 million new jobs since August 2003. In all, that's 37 straight months of positive job growth—averaging nearly 180,000 jobs per month.

      The networks must be awfully distracted with negative stories to miss an obvious winner like this one.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Oct 10 2006 10:03 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Secure Fence Act

      Present Bush has not signed the Secure Fence Act, which was to pay for a 700 mile fence along the most-transgressed parts of the Mexican border. This legislation may become Bush's second veto, even if it only a pocket variety. (Bush's first veto regarded stem cell research.)

      That Bush has failed to veto much chapped my hide in the 2004 election, now finally a spending bill goes under. However, it's sure to annoy those Republicans that passed this gesture in hopes of appearing tough on illegal aliens.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Oct 9 2006 12:48 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      North Korea Tests Nuclear Device

      Well, the North Koreans went and did it, either to create chaos, or gain respect, or intimidate, or something. The usual bickering about the details has started, but the main points appear to be these:

      1. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in Seoul, South Korea, today;
      2. South Korean Ban Ki-Moon became Secretary General of the United Nations yesterday; and
      3. Elections in the US sure seem to be coming up fast.

      Don't bother questioning the timing. Kim Jong Il is a notorious grandstander.

      Update: Okay, Ban Ki-Moon is not yet the secretary general, but the formal vote to nominate him was today.

      Update: A second blast of a similar size.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Oct 9 2006 08:12 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Deducting Your Sales Tax from Your Income Tax

      An extension of the sales tax deduction from the Federal Income Tax didn't make it this year as congress has gone home and won't return before the October 15th deadline for changes to this year's tax code. My congressman, Brian Baird, and my Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray actively campaigned for an extension of the tax code change allowing for this deduction. It's not unnoticed by me that all three are Democrats campaigning for what is a tax cut.

      A lot of people retire to states like Washington and Florida because there is no income tax. Apparently the greedy guts in Congress want to at least soak them for sales taxes, too, despite other states having deductible income taxes.

      The Republican National Committee has called me repeatedly looking for money for campaigns and I have flatly turned them down this year because spending is ridiculous. While I appreciate the tax cuts they've delivered in the past, I have to notice this another miss.

      In my last call with a RNC telemarketer I actually said, “Perhaps gridlock is better than what we have now, because a Republican-controlled Congress, Senate, and Presidency spends money like water.”

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Oct 1 2006 10:13 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      What If We Had City-States?

      How would things change if you took the top 50 cities in the US, made them into “city-states” (but with only one senator, not two), politically removed them from the states themselves, and reapportioned congress and representation amongst those states?

      Sure, California would gain senators and possibly lose congressmen, but what else would happen? The boundaries of “metropolitan areas” would certainly change and start to take on meaning. City-states would try to absorb the populous suburban areas, and perhaps the red state/blue state issues would become crystal clear: population centers tend to attract and retain people who vote Democrat; rural areas and suburbs tend to attract and retain people who vote Republican.

      The electoral college would also change, since the electors there are determined by the number of congressmen and senators from a state. Would it more accurately follow the popular vote? Would cities gain influence?

      Would states whose politics are subverted by the cities change radically? Imagine New York without New York City, or Illinois without Chicago, or Michigan without Detroit. The biggest impact would be on these state governments. They would both lose a large tax base and a large expense sinkhole.They would, however, be in charge of most of the resources needed to support cities. Most source of water and energy are not inside the cities themselves. Massive political tugs-of-war would change, for example statewide preemption statutes intended to keep liberal city politics from affecting everyone else. Imagine states maintaining those nice long stretches of interstate highway without having to deal with the congestion centers of the cities. Imagine cities with a federal highway apportionment directly related to the problems they are having.

      In my own case, imagine Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR being the same state and getting the bridge problem over the Columbia River fixed!

      Would people move? Would zoning restrictions change? Would there be a mad scramble to make sure your area was in the Top 50 come census time? The response to the War on Terror tends to differ greatly based on population centers as well, perhaps this would help.

      I think this is a fascinating idea.

      Update: What if we made the cut off point the population of the least populous state? Right now that's Wyoming at 493,782. That would drop 17 cities of my top 50 list. However, once we start doing this as a cut-off we start running in circles.

      In a similar vein, I think just picking the largest city in each state would have negative consequences too.

      My goal is to apply a special case to the big metropolitan areas, and many of those are on state borders.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Aug 20 2006 11:25 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Democracy vs. Despotism

      An ancient Encyclopædia Britannica film on determining if your community is sinking into despotism:

      Sure, it's 60 years old, but it has a message that still resonates.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Aug 5 2006 08:59 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Legal Limits on Journalism

      Ann Althouse reads a ruling from the Second Circuit and finds this gem:

      Learning of imminent law enforcement… and informing targets of them is not an activity essential, or even common, to journalism.

      You see, normally journalists may hide their phone records and sources from the courts in support of whistle-blowing and freedom of the press. Those are laudable goals. However, when a reporter learns of a raid and calls the target of the raid to warn them just to “get their reaction,” they are out of line and deserve lower standards for privacy of their information.

      I suspect that once the phone records are available possible prosecution for obstruction of justice is possible. Did the NYT reporter intend to impair the conduct of the raid? Perhaps no, but a reasonable person probably would expect calling them up and asking them about it to cause a reaction.

      If a tipped off target ambushed the raid and killed the cop, I'd expect the reporter to at least go for manslaughter. (Added: That didn't happen in this case, but it could if the practice continues.)

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Aug 2 2006 07:44 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      How Can We Require Fiscal Restraint?

      Over at QandO Jon Henke has laid out a key challenge for us. We need to elect fiscal conservatives.

      The Republican Party has long pledged to be the party of fiscal restraint, but even for a time of war it has been spending far more than the supposed “tax and spend” Democrats ever did. While there is no guarantee that the Democrats would be any better at fiscal restraint, the Republicans have failed in their promise to rein it in.

      For months I have been telling the RNC telemarketers that I won't send the RNC any money because they spend my tax dollars recklessly. I asked how a President that mouths the words “fiscal restraint” has never vetoed a spending bill. I pointed out the Porkbusters campaign as something more likely to get my time, effort, and money than the Grand Old Party.

      So what do we do? The power we have over either party is swinging the vote. However, as a power base, fiscal conservatives and libertarians are only 5-10%, and that's only if they vote as a bloc. To top it off, most of the time all of our choices are odious so we'd rather just sit out the election!

      The third party alternative is dead in the water. Without severe widespread disaffection with both parties a third party has no chance. Both parties are busily “rushing to the middle” to prevent that from being a problem.

      What's needed is a critical splinter issue that breaks up the normal party lines, like immigration policy. It is doubtful that we can leverage the immigration issue as a spending issue except to say that a giant fence the length of several states is darned expensive. To top it off, the schisms around immigration fracture the fiscal conservatives and libertarians just as much as the major parties.

      Jon's solution is carefully engineered gridlock:

      It seems to me that the optimal libertarian and fiscal conservative strategy is to seek gridlock. And if that means a temporary alliance with the Democrats, well, what of it? The Democrats may be worse than the Republicans in many ways, but a divided government can thwart the ambitions of both.

      With our small voting bloc, I don't foresee engineered gridlock to be doable. We have no locus of grand strategy, no reliable coordination, and no grassroots. Compare the fiscal conservative “movement” with gun owners or environmentalists and you'll see what I mean.

      I certainly will not lend my vote to the Democrats if it means they might win instead of giving us gridlock. Perhaps if we can say “Republicans for Congress, Senate for Democrats” and make it stick we might get there. (Not a lot of work for me. I have Democrats for both my Senators and my Congressman and I voted for none of them.)

      So I have no solution other than to force everyone to watch the following video:

      Maybe indoctrination could work…

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Jul 19 2006 07:55 AM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Evacuating Lebanon by Cruise Ship

      The United States has 25,000 citizens in war-torn Lebanon and plans to evacuate them by cruise ship (hat tip to The Washington Note):

      BEIRUT, Lebanon—A cruise ship escorted by a U.S. destroyer will start evacuating some Americans from war-torn Lebanon as early as Tuesday and more military helicopters will be used to fly others directly to Cyprus, a U.S. official said Monday. Israel appeared to be allowing evacuation ships through its blockade of the country.

      Later in the article the Pentagon indicates the Orient Queen, which usually carries 750 passengers, will do the heavy lifting, directly protected by a destroyer and our nearby fleet.

      Being protected by a destroyer and a aircraft carrier notwithstanding, isn't a cruise ship a big juicy target for terrorists? Not anymore than usual, perhaps, and Hezbollah probably doesn't want direct involvement of the United States in Lebanon, but it does give me a bad feeling. Al Quaeda thrives on destabilizing situations, committing acts of mass murder, and hoping any response from the U.S. will turn Islamic opinion against us.

      However, one has to see the point. A cruise ship can carry a lot more people than planes and smaller craft can. 25,000 is a big number.

      July 18 Update: The Pentagon has ordered five US warships into the area for escort duty, but the cruise ship itself was stopped at the Israeli blockade.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Cruising, Politics, Terrorism” Monday, Jul 17 2006 10:07 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      New York Times Fails Reading Comprehension

      The New York Times, awash in criticism of its own agenda, has come out attacking the Bush Doctrine:

      It is only now, nearly five years after Sept. 11, that the full picture of the Bush administration’s response to the terror attacks is becoming clear. Much of it, we can see now, had far less to do with fighting Osama bin Laden than with expanding presidential power.
      Over and over again, the same pattern emerges: Given a choice between following the rules or carving out some unprecedented executive power, the White House always shrugged off the legal constraints. Even when the only challenge was to get required approval from an ever-cooperative Congress, the president and his staff preferred to go it alone. While no one questions the determination of the White House to fight terrorism, the methods this administration has used to do it have been shaped by another, perverse determination: never to consult, never to ask and always to fight against any constraint on the executive branch.

      The agenda has been perfectly clear, and stated many times, that the United States is at war with the terrorists that attack us and those who harbor, aid, or abet them. Time and time again the terrorists have made good use of their status—that region between individuals and states primarily occupied by non-government organizations—to exploit loopholes and gaps in our security. We have police to combat individuals and small groups. We have the military to combat states that conduct war against us. Global NGOs whose resources outstrip the police and who have no country or territory to attack or occupy are a somewhat more shadowy foe.

      The President and his staff recognize that terrorist organizations are not the honorable opponents than those states that signed the Geneva Accords, and that terrorists captured on the battlefield will attack us again if released. Normal police rules are somewhat insufficient to the task. The armed forces are perfectly capable of destroying any target we give them, anywhere in the world. The trick is finding them. Rare indeed is finding such a locus, and there is intense value in watching terrorists prepare so we can find those who harbor, aid, and abet them.

      That many individuals fall into the widely cast net of observation and investigation is obvious. These folks have associated with terrorists, some of them knowingly. In times of war past Americans gave up some liberty to actively root out real and credible threats here within our country. Sometimes the actions overreached (for example, the questionable Japanese, German, Italian, and other concentration camps in World War II). Sometimes we have underreached (tales abound of spies not caught in our wartime history).

      The New York Times, however, considers increased observation and pursuit of questionable groups a deliberate, malignant grab for executive power. With such paranoia it's no wonder they consider the recent leaks of state secrets brave acts of dissent. One can sense their shock that many Americans consider their publication of working—but secret—systems that were catching terrorists treason in a time of war.

      Apparently the New York Times is not at war. To them the war would be over if Osama Bin Laden comes to trial. Believing that it is more important to catch Bin Laden than it is to destroy his terrorist network—my interpretation of calling him out by name in the opening paragraph—is akin to thinking that he is a lone serial mass murder and not one of many architects and planners of war.

      This is a distinct change from the “why do they hate us?” tone from a few years ago. The NYT seems to have decided they hate us, too. The tone has changed to obstruction and disruption, not of terrorists, but of the allied efforts to conduct the war Osama Bin Laden escalated five years ago.

      And if that is not harboring, aiding, and abetting the terrorists, I'm not sure what is.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Jul 16 2006 10:46 AM  |  Permalink  |  4 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Hunger Strike

      I you really want to lose weight via controlled starvation, use Medifast. You you want to gain weight on a hunger strike, do it the Cindy Sheehan way:

      Next time I need to protest something I need to make sure there's a Jamba Juice nearby.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Jul 15 2006 09:24 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Israel vs. Lebanon

      I know some people are wondering why I have not yet commented on the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah involving military actions in Lebanon and threatening statements to Hamas née Palestine, Syria, and especially Iran. Some decry the actions of Israel (no one is afraid to call it war), others decry what restraint Israel has shown in not spreading the military response to all of its attackers. Others wonder how the kidnapping and brutal murder of soldiers prompted such a response.

      The Wall Street Journal had a pretty good response:

      Israel's military invasion and naval blockade of Lebanon is being denounced in European capitals and at the United Nations as a “disproportionate” response to the kidnapping this week of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah. Israel's decision late last month to invade Gaza in retaliation for the kidnapping of another soldier by Hamas was also condemned as lacking in proportion. So here's a question for our global solons: Since hostage-taking is universally regarded as an act of war, what “proportionate” action do they propose for Israel?

      To be perfectly honest I don't know what's going on over there nor do I have a deep understanding of the relationships of all the players. I understand Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist organizations, propped up by other states via financial and military support. I know Lebanon is tantamount to a puppet state of Syria (a subject I touched upon when I discussed the assassination of Tafik Hariri).

      On our own front, I've heard these accusations that this latest action is a proxy war between the US and Iran and I don't buy them. There are indications that Israel is a free agent and Iran certainly has its proxies fighting the US directly in Iraq. Even so, I can't help think of the Spanish Civil War, a conflict that presaged World War II. It was a proving ground for the tactics and equipment for the next war. I'm sure the military scholars are watching very closely.

      After four days of conflict already, I can only hope that this does not escalate into a wide-scale conflict across the Middle East, but I notice the stock market already has a bad feeling about this. Already the US has become involved by vetoing a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israel. Iran, Syria, and Palestine are certainly involved. Saudi Arabia and Egypt haven't done anything, as yet.

      What worries me is that to attack Iran, Israel has to fly, drive, or fly over Iraq. I'm sure we're doing everything in our power to prevent that. If there's any reason to discount the “proxy war” accusation it's our commitment to stability to Iraq right now. If a conflict in Iran erupts into war it will prevent or delay any lasting peace or democracy in Iraq, especially if the Israelis come across the border.

      Update:

      Why I call this post “Israel vs. Lebanon”:

      Major-General Gadi Eizenkot, head of the General Staff Operations Branch, said in a briefing held at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv that “In the evening hours we destroyed all of Lebanon’s coastal radars. The reason for the radars’ destruction was the part they played in the attack on an Israeli missile boat on Friday, in which one soldier was killed and another three went missing.”

      Hezbollah, as an non-government organization, is a cover for Lebanese Islamic extremist actions, even if Lebanon is trying not to be a puppet of Syria. Somewhere between individuals and sovereign states lay these NGOs, and the response to them has to lie somewhere between police (for individuals) and armies (for states). Hezbollah has become too state-like to be handled by police, just as Hamas has realized when they came to power.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Jul 15 2006 08:48 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Eben Moglen Keynote

      Eben Moglen's 6/6/06 Keynote for the Red Hat Summit is a must hear. I wish they had posted a transcript.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Business, Linux, Politics” Friday, Jun 9 2006 12:58 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Death Tax Doesn't Die

      Disappointingly, the Senate failed to kill the death tax.

      Senators voted 57-41 to advance the bill, but that was three votes short of the 60 needed to overcome objections from a majority of Democrats and a pair of Republicans.

      This dashes my hopes that the Congress would go on to eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) as well.

      Meanwhile someone should vote these pigs away from the trough:

      Two Republicans, Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and George Voinovich of Ohio, broke with their party and voted against the effort. Both said the government, with its annual budget deficits, could not afford the tax cut.

      Cut the earmarks, the spending, and the taxes. Is that such a difficult thing to understand?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Jun 9 2006 10:54 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Death Tax Senate Showdown

      At the moment 56 Senators are willing to vote to repeal the infamous death tax, a measure intended to prevent the horrible repeated events of silver spoons but instead one of the key causes of the death of the family farm. While the death tax repeal gets rid of the 50% tax, the brokered compromise still allows for capital gains taxes on investments.

      The current form of the bill repeals the death tax in 2010 for just a year so one wonders what the fuss is about.

      We've seen a lot of “temporary” tax measures become permanent (like, say, the income tax intended to just pay for the Civil War), but can anyone really imagine a temporary tax repeal becoming permanent? Congress is notorious for passing last minute or midnight provisions to increase taxes but never for eliminating them.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Jun 5 2006 07:09 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Zogby Poll Idiocy

      I just got invited to take the latest Zogby Poll, something in which I participate around once or twice a quarter. They always seem to poll about the latest hot buttons but this one focused on returning rights to felons and not immigration as I had expected.

      This one also refers to the right to vote and the right to own firearms as “privileges!”

      I knew Zogby was biased but this was a slap in the face. A political pollster that fails a basic Civics concept that most legal immigrants would know is a tad shocking.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, May 20 2006 07:57 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Congrats are due to gullyborg!

      Gullyborg, who runs Resistance is Futile! and frequently hosts the Carnival of Cordite, has completed his Juris Doctor. Visit his blog and drop off your congratulations.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, May 12 2006 12:28 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Housecleaning at the CIA

      When Porter Goss became the Director of the CIA in 2004, I mentioned the needed housecleaning in the leaky intelligence organization. He fired a few apparently ineffective middle managers, and I especially highlighted the removal of DDO Stephen Kappes, one of the anonymous leakers. Of course, since then we've seen NIO Mary McCarthy leave as well.

      Now Porter Goss has left, and it is rumored that General Michael Hayden will be brought forward to succeed him (and it will be a fun confirmation process since the General has previously run the NSA). Since the NSA's supposedly low profile activities to gather information on terrorists inside and outside the US have been repeatedly leaked to the Press there will be axes to grind on both sides of the aisle. I hope that pointed questions about Able Danger get raised.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, May 6 2006 09:52 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Hollywood Discovers Darfur, Too Late

      George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, and Oprah have discovered there's genocide in Darfur, although they are coming to the party late. I pointed out the US invoking the UN charter on genocide (the first nation to do so, ever) back in September 10, 2004, earlier than even Michelle Malkin noted in her latest Vent on Hot Air.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, May 2 2006 10:27 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      What Boycott?

      Am I alone in America when I say, “What boycott?” I have seen zero evidence of economic impact out here. Boycotts only matter on the macro level if they last for a long time, not a single day. If they got here illegally and they aren't going to work they should be deported.

      Update: There's a great Vent about this at Hot Air by Michelle Malkin here.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, May 1 2006 03:31 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Ask The Cats

      Laurence Simon at This Blog Is Full of Crap proposes a new feature called “Ask The Cats” and today's question is:

      What do you think about illegal immigrants, professional protestors and their celebrity defenders screwing up The Star Spangled Banner?

      Snowball Composes by Josh Poulson

      Snowball: Shh! I'm writing my own version. Everyone should be able to capitalize on this stuff.

      Church Tries To Sleep by Josh Poulson

      Church: Could someone please turn off Snowball's piano?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Pictures, Politics” Saturday, Apr 29 2006 10:32 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Online Experience Required

      According to Ars Technica, the State of Michigan is now requiring high schoolers to have online experience as part of their coursework:

      Schools and teachers have two general options to meet this requirements: develop entire online courses, or add online components to all of the state's required high school coursework. With the bill signed into law just last week, Michigan becomes the first state to require “online” course work in this way.

      I remember working with Widener University on their basic skills requirements for college students, but this is a pretty interesting requirement for high schoolers. I wonder if this is part of making students more employable after high school?

      I think distance learning will pretty much be a given for adult education, but I think that distance learning providers will have to learn to make their offerings better rather than requiring students to learn to use the flawed systems of today. Still, if students come out of high school exposed to an online discussion where spelling counts the world can only benefit.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Apr 24 2006 09:35 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      April 19

      Last year I pointed this out but it bears repeating:

      So, today is the anniversary of the start of the American Revolution (Battle of Lexington and Concord), the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 (started today and fought on for four weeks), the fire at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1993 (in order to save the children they burned them alive while shooting into the compound) and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 (supposedly as revenge for Waco, but the BATF office was empty and the Murrah Federal Building's daycare center was not).
      If there's a “repeating day of death” today is a front-runner.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Apr 19 2006 05:30 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Free Speech

      From the infamous South Park episode that Comedy Central censored:

      Freedom of speech is at stake here, don’t you all see? If anything, we should all make cartoons of Mohammed and show the terrorists and the extremists that we are all united in the belief that every person has a right to say what they want. Look people, it’s been really easy for us to stand up for free speech lately. For the past few decades, we haven’t had to risk anything to defend it, but those times will come. And one of those times is right now. And if we aren’t willing to risk what we have, then we just believe in free speech, but we don’t defend it.

      (Hat Tip to Patterico's Pontifications.)

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Apr 15 2006 08:36 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Bush Was Right

      The Right Brothers tell us that “Bush Was Right”:

      It's hard to disagree with the items they list, although they don't include immigration and holding back government spending…

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Apr 12 2006 04:02 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      “License to Murder”?

      Let's see if I get this straight. A bill that says I have no duty to retreat from a lethal threat in my own house where my wife and children live is a License to Murder? This particular principle is known as the “Castle Doctrine” and goes back a long way in common law.

      Recently the NRA stirred up a bee's nest by encouraging the various states to make this principle explicit in the law, and it seems to have attracted the attention of the anti-gunners. These folks are agitated about the fact that the law is explicitly giving a positive defense (similar to self-defense) to those that are threatened with lethal force in their homes.

      It doesn't matter that prosecutors across the country have been holding back from going after homeowners that defend themselves, or that grand juries tend to return “no true bill” most of the time when asked. Enshrouding the principle in law is tantamount to conspiracy to murder in their minds.

      I would have thought the NRA's play to make this law explicit was a bad idea, but the negative spin on the side opposing the Castle Doctrine has got to be hurting those folks in the mind of regular American people.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Apr 11 2006 08:41 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      My (Partial) Solution To Illegal Immigration

      We need a constitutional amendment that bans income taxes, both for the Federal Government and for the several states. The only recourse will be property and sales taxes, paid whether you are a citizen or not. At that point the primary complaint about illegal immigration (they get services and don't pay taxes) will be reduced. Everyone that buys products, services, or land pays sales taxes, property taxes, and usage fees.

      To me, the only real reason to have goons on the border is to keep out known terrorists. If others are coming to mooch on our social services, then eliminate or reduce the social services. I don't care if they vote as long as my fundamental civil rights are not violated. If taxes go up, I'll just spend less (like everyone else) and the economy will tank. Even socialists understand that a tanked economy doesn't pay for their agenda.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Apr 10 2006 04:18 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Political Speech

      Wasn't the whole point of free speech to allow public political discourse? Seems like we've gone way downhill if people are getting in trouble for waving the American flag, even if it is at school.

      More and more I'm thinking public schools are government-mandated youth indoctrination camps, not institutions of learning. I don't want my kids to be robot tools, I happen to think it's our collective duty to help them become free thinkers.

      Sure, kids can do stupid things in hopes of annoying one another (anyone else remember the hormonal apocolypse of puberty?) and they need a bit of guidance, but recent zero tolerance efforts, and apparent characterizations of flag-waving as incitement to riot are totally out of hand.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Apr 3 2006 09:19 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Dubai Ports World Boycotts Israel

      A good reason to reject the Dubai Ports World takeover of P&O is that their parent company supports the Arab boycott of Israel. That's a pretty good business reason to resist this takeover.

      (Hat Tip to Tammy Bruce.)

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Feb 28 2006 10:23 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Cartoons of Mohammad

      Flemming Rose discusses the philosophy that lead to the publication of the controversial cartoons of Mohammad at the Washington Post in the aptly titled “Why I Published Those Cartoons”

      I agree that the freedom to publish things doesn't mean you publish everything. Jyllands-Posten would not publish pornographic images or graphic details of dead bodies; swear words rarely make it into our pages. So we are not fundamentalists in our support for freedom of expression.

      So why did they do it?

      By contrast, I commissioned the cartoons in response to several incidents of self-censorship in Europe caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam. And I still believe that this is a topic that we Europeans must confront, challenging moderate Muslims to speak out.

      And the cartoons themselves were not extraordinary.

      We have a tradition of satire when dealing with the royal family and other public figures, and that was reflected in the cartoons. The cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. And by treating Muslims in Denmark as equals they made a point: We are integrating you into the Danish tradition of satire because you are part of our society, not strangers. The cartoons are including, rather than excluding, Muslims.

      Is this level of respect universal? Apparently so:

      On occasion, Jyllands-Posten has refused to print satirical cartoons of Jesus, but not because it applies a double standard. In fact, the same cartoonist who drew the image of Muhammed with a bomb in his turban drew a cartoon with Jesus on the cross having dollar notes in his eyes and another with the star of David attached to a bomb fuse. There were, however, no embassy burnings or death threats when we published those.

      I have always maintained that there's no such thing as a right to not be offended. If such a right were universal communication would be set back hundreds of years. Sometimes the harsh truth needs to be said. Sometimes it's necessary to point the finger of satire at the overblown and overwrought. There would be a safety in experimenting because that's where true innovations and breakthroughs occur.

      After reading The World is Flat and a billion or so blog postings on culture clashes and the global community I am convinced there are a lot of sacred cows in the road to a well-functioning global society. Freedom of speech is not a tenet to be sacrificed. Instead, it is a catalyst for getting to that goal. Flemming Rose explained that they wanted to start a dialog with moderate Muslims because of many cases of self-censorship over fears of offending fundamentalist Muslims. He claims that some victories have been won there, but in the press they are overshadowed by the violent reactions of a minority of opinion.

      Amazon.com links:

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Feb 19 2006 07:58 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      HIPAA Violation

      In the age of HIPAA, isn't it a bad idea to talk about the name and medical condition of a lawyer on national television?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Feb 15 2006 07:09 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Gonzales States the Obvious

      US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has submitted a piece titled “America Expects Surveillance” to the Wall Street Journal supporting the use of eavesdropping on suspected Al Quaeda members:

      The president, as commander in chief, has asserted his authority to use sophisticated military drones to search for Osama bin Laden, to deploy our armed forces in combat zones, and to kill or capture al Qaeda operatives around the world. No one would dispute that the AUMF supports the president in each of these actions.
      It is, therefore, inconceivable that the AUMF does not also support the president's efforts to intercept the communications of our enemies. Any future al Qaeda attacks on the homeland are likely to be carried out, like Sept. 11, by operatives hiding among us. The NSA terrorist surveillance program is a military operation designed to detect them quickly. Efforts to identify the terrorists and their plans expeditiously while ensuring faithful adherence to the Constitution and our existing laws is precisely what America expects from the president.

      This is certainly a “Well, duh!” kind of issue, as I've pointed out many times before. It all boils down to this:

      The AUMF is not a blank check for the president to cash at the expense of the rights of citizens. The NSA's terrorist surveillance program is narrowly focused on the international communications of persons believed to be members or agents of al Qaeda or affiliated terrorist organizations.

      If it was all communications of those suspected to be involved with Al Quaeda, I'd be far more worried, but because the communications are to those outside of the country, the use of the NSA facilities and the lack of warrants makes plenty of sense. Can we move on from this now?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics, Terrorism” Monday, Feb 6 2006 06:54 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Justice Alito

      After threat and counter-threat of Armageddon, Sam Alito was sworn in as a Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, replacing Sandra Day O'Connor. After weeks of invective and vitriol, a party-line vote in committee, an overwhelming vote for cloture (ending debate and the possibility of filibuster), and a comfortable 58-42 vote today, Alito was quickly sworn in and Ms. O'Connor can finally comfort her dying husband. Already we know that in the future if the Democrats swing to power, and bring another Ruth Bader Ginsberg to the table, that it's all right to say things about a competent but politically opposite candidate we'd never say in front of our mothers or in front of opposing spouses.

      So ends another chapter of Bork Barrel politics.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Jan 31 2006 10:02 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Hamas Wins

      Hamas has apparently done well in yesterday's elections in Palestine, winning 76 seats in the 132-member parliament. Hamas has run on a platform of armed conflict, no peace negotiations, and no recognition for the state of Israel.

      Fatah, the old party in power, only won 43 seats. Fatah had supported a cease fire and peace negotiations with Israel.

      Hamas has deep ties with terrorist organizations in Palestine, and the elections results do not bode well for improving stability in the region.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics, Terrorism” Thursday, Jan 26 2006 11:40 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Supreme Court Upholds Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law

      Gonzales v. Oregon: Amazingly, in a 6 to 3 vote, the Supreme Court has voted for states' rights: Oregon's 1994 Physician-Assisted Suicide Law trumps the Federal power to regulate doctors!

      Justice Kennedy has a strong start for a case with moral, ethical, and Federal implications:

      The question before us is whether the Controlled Substances Act allows the United States Attorney General to prohibit doctors from prescribing regulated drugs for use in physician-assisted suicide, notwithstanding a state law permitting the procedure. As the Court has observed, “Americans are engaged in an earnest and profound debate about the morality, legality, and practicality of physician-assisted suicide.”

      The first issue is whether a Federal agency gets to bend and interpret the law without explicit authority from Congress to do so, even though it has wide law-making powers granted to it by Congress. The Attorney General issued an interpretive rule claiming that physicians that used CSA-regulated drugs to assist suicide could have their licenses revoked.

      “…assisting suicide is not a ‘legitimate medical purpose’ within the meaning of 21 CFR 1306.04 (2001), and that prescribing, dispensing, or administering federally controlled substances to assist suicide violates the Controlled Substances Act. Such conduct by a physician registered to dispense controlled substances may ‘render his registration… inconsistent with the public interest’ and therefore subject to possible suspension or revocation under 21 U. S. C. 824(a)(4). The Attorney General’s conclusion applies regardless of whether state law authorizes or permits such conduct by practitioners or others and regardless of the condition of the person whose suicide is assisted.” 66 Fed. Reg. 56608 (2001).

      The SCOTUS didn't like that “interpretation” instead thinking that this was upending the intent of the law.

      The regulation uses the terms “legitimate medical purpose” and “the course of professional practice,” ibid., but this just repeats two statutory phrases and attempts to summarize the others. It gives little or no instruction on a central issue in this case: Who decides whether a particular activity is in “the course of professional practice” or done for a “legitimate medical purpose”? Since the regulation gives no indication how to decide this issue, the Attorney General’s effort to decide it now cannot be considered an interpretation of the regulation. Simply put, the existence of a parroting regulation does not change the fact that the question here is not the meaning of the regulation but the meaning of the statute. An agency does not acquire special authority to interpret its own words when, instead of using its expertise and experience to formulate a regulation, it has elected merely to paraphrase the statutory language.

      Another question is whether states have any powers at all, which is obvious here, because the CSA explicitly indicates the states have an interest, and powers:

      “No provision of this subchapter shall be construed as indicating an intent on the part of the Congress to occupy the field in which that provision operates… to the exclusion of any State law on the same subject matter which would otherwise be within the authority of the State, unless there is a positive conflict between that provision… and that State law so that the two cannot consistently stand together.” §903.

      So, what follows is pages of point by point knockdown of a list of reasons the Federal folks cited for their interpretive rule being appropriate, but they all fall:

      For all these reasons, we conclude the CSA’s prescription requirement does not authorize the Attorney General to bar dispensing controlled substances for assisted suicide in the face of a state medical regime permitting such conduct.

      And we end with a states' rights smackdown:

      The Government, in the end, maintains that the prescription requirement delegates to a single Executive officer the power to effect a radical shift of authority from the States to the Federal Government to define general standards of medical practice in every locality. The text and structure of the CSA show that Congress did not have this far-reaching intent to alter the federal-state balance and the congressional role in maintaining it.

      Amazing to see this after Kelo, isn't it?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Jan 17 2006 09:00 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Cops With Switchblades

      Washington State Senator Jerome Delivin has introduced SB 6295 allowing law enforcement to carry switchblades here in Washington, but hasn't gone so far as to allow gravity knives, brass knuckles, or silencers. Makes sense to me—sometimes you only have one hand free to work your knife when you're dealing with a situation. But law enforcement is hardly unique in needing knives. <irony>However, private citizens with spring-loaded knives are scary.</irony>

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Jan 14 2006 08:12 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      WSJ Washington Wire

      Looks like I missed the online launch of the Wall Street Journal's “Washington Wire”. Sorry about the oversight.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Jan 9 2006 10:40 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Congressional Research Service on NSA Wiretaps

      The Congressional Research Service has released a report, “Presidential Authority to Conduct Warrantless Electronic Surveillance to Gather Foreign Intelligence Information” on the recent NSA surveillance issue:

      Recent media revelations that the President authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect signals intelligence from communications involving U.S. persons within the United States, without obtaining a warrant or court order, raise numerous questions regarding the President’s authority to order warrantless electronic surveillance.

      The Washington Post has offered its own conclusions in “Report Rebuts Bush on Spying”:

      A report by Congress's research arm concluded yesterday that the administration's justification for the warrantless eavesdropping authorized by President Bush conflicts with existing law and hinges on weak legal arguments.

      But Powerline's John has indicated we should actually read the doggone thing:

      The Post's coverage of the CRS report is deeply misleading.

      I love such a simple disagreement, so let's take a look! The report has a ton of background information and the following conclusion:

      Whether an NSA activity is permissible under the Fourth Amendment and the statutory scheme outlined above is impossible to determine without an understanding of the specific facts involved and the nature of the President’s authorization, which are for the most part classified. If the NSA operations at issue are encompassed in the definition of “electronic surveillance” set forth under FISA, it would seem consistent with Congress’s intent that such surveillance must be carried out in accordance with FISA procedures. Although section 109(a) of FISA does not explicitly limit the language “as authorized by statute” to refer only to Title III and to FISA, the legislative history suggests that such a result was intended. The exceptions to the criminal prohibition under Title III, however, are specifically limited to those mentioned within Title III. Even if the AUMF is read to provide the statutory authorization necessary to avoid criminal culpability under FISA, it does not necessarily follow that the AUMF provides a substitute authority under FISA to satisfy the more specific language in Title III. To the extent that any of the electronic surveillance at issue may be outside the sweep of FISA or Title III, Congress does not appear to have legislated specifically on the subject, nor, by the absence of legislation, to have authorized or acquiesced in such surveillance.

      We start with a mixed bag. We're not sure what the issue is, and as a result we have to look in a variety of areas. The last sentence leads to a discussion on whether not Congress can limit Presidental authority by statute.

      Whether such electronic surveillances are contemplated by the term “all necessary and appropriate force” as authorized by the AUMF turns on whether they are, under the Hamdi analysis, an essential element of waging war. Even assuming that the President’s role as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces is implicated in the field of electronic surveillance for the collection of foreign intelligence information within the United States, it should not be accepted as a foregone conclusion that Congress has no role to play. By including the emergency authorization for electronic surveillance without a court order for fifteen days following a declaration of war, Congress seems clearly to have contemplated that FISA would continue to operate during war although such conditions might necessitate amendments. Amendments to FISA in the USA PATRIOT Act and subsequent legislation further demonstrate Congress’s willingness to make adjustments. The history of Congress’s active involvement in regulating electronic surveillance within the United States leaves little room for arguing that Congress has accepted by acquiescence the NSA operations here at issue.

      It's patently obvious that electronic surveillance is essential to conducting a war. All it takes is a simple understanding of the effect of Enigma intercepts on the conduct of World War II to illustrate that, let alone the millions of other examples. The leap here is that because we are at war with terrorist organizations that seek to undermine the US, its democracy, and its interests, we need to conduct such intelligence operations whenever and wherever the terrorists operate. Sophisticated intelligence gathering is required to combat an enemy that uses the civilian population as concealment and as a target, but I'm not the one writing this report.

      To the extent that the Administration seems to base its interpretation of the AUMF and FISA on the assumption that a reading contrary to the one they rely upon would be an unconstitutional violation of separation-of-powers principles, it appears to regard the matter as deserving the highest level of deference under Youngstown’s first category simply by virtue of the assumption that it would survive scrutiny under the third category. To conclude that Congress’s enactments are unconstitutional and therefore could not reflect Congress’s intent seems to beg the question.

      Legal trick denied, sorry. Use of a legal trick undermines the entire argument as well. I do not put a lot of weight on this argument or it's counter. They are side issues.

      Court cases evaluating the legality of warrantless wiretaps for foreign intelligence purposes provide some support for the assertion that the President possesses inherent authority to conduct such surveillance. The Court of Review, the only appellate court to have addressed the issue since the passage of FISA, “took for granted” that the President has inherent authority to conduct foreign intelligence electronic surveillance under his Article II powers, stating that, “assuming that was so, FISA could not encroach on that authority.” However, much of the other lower courts’ discussions of inherent presidential authority occurred prior to the enactment of FISA, and no court has ruled on the question of Congress’s authority to regulate the collection of foreign intelligence information.

      An appellate court (the FISA Court of Review!) takes the President's authority for granted and doesn't think FISA limits it in this area, but other courts are silent on the issue. Score one for precedent for the President.

      From the foregoing analysis, it appears unlikely that a court would hold that Congress has expressly or impliedly authorized the NSA electronic surveillance operations here under discussion, and it would likewise appear that, to the extent that those surveillances fall within the definition of “electronic surveillance” within the meaning of FISA or any activity regulated under Title III, Congress intended to cover the entire field with these statutes. To the extent that the NSA activity is not permitted by some reading of Title III or FISA, it may represent an exercise of presidential power at its lowest ebb, in which case exclusive presidential control is sustainable only by “disabling Congress from acting upon the subject.” While courts have generally accepted that the President has the power to conduct domestic electronic surveillance within the United States inside the constraints of the Fourth Amendment, no court has held squarely that the Constitution disables the Congress from endeavoring to set limits on that power. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has stated that Congress does indeed have power to regulate domestic surveillance, and has not ruled on the extent to which Congress can act with respect to electronic surveillance to collect foreign intelligence information. Given such uncertainty, the Administration’s legal justification, as presented in the summary analysis from the Office of Legislative Affairs, does not seem to be as well-grounded as the tenor of that letter suggests.

      So, Congress did not authorize the intercepts, domestic intercepts are indeed regulated, so it all depends on the nature of the intercepts. On the court side, there is a little evidence for the Administration's interpretation but definitely a danger that once the nature of the intercepts is determined, of the justification being tenuous.

      Looking at the report, I have to say that the Washington Post has pretty much done a hack-job here by cherry-picking the parts of the conclusion it likes. John at Powerline is right in that actually reading the CRS report brings us to a different conclusion than “Report Rebuts Bush on Spying.”

      In fact, John points out a set of court precedents that support the power of the President to conduct warrantless surveillance on foreign powers:

      The critical issue, as I have argued repeatedly, is the President's inherent power under Article II of the Constitution to take military actions appropriate to protect the nation's security. That inherent power has been recognized again and again by the federal courts. In at least five appellate decisions, as I noted here, the federal courts have specifically held that the President has the inherent constitutional power to order warrantless intercepts to gain foreign intelligence information (which is defined to include information on terrorism).

      I'm still siding with the President on this one, and certainly not with the cherry-picking of the Washington Post.

      Update: I went a little crazy with my highlighting, so I've backed it off and added to my discussion slightly as to why I highlighted what I did.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Jan 7 2006 11:06 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Quote of the Day (Drucker)

      From The Daily Drucker (by Peter F. Drucker with Jospeh A. Maciariello) entry for January 4th:

      Eventually every activity becomes obsolete. Among organizations that ignore this fact, the worst offender is government. Indeed, the inability to stop doing anything is the central disease of government and a major reason why government today is sick. Hospitals and universities are only a little better than government in getting rid of yesterday.

      Having worked with government, in universities, and hearing horror stories from Misty—a RN who has worked both VA and regular hospitals—I have to say this claim is true of our experience.

      Amazon.com links:

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Jan 4 2006 04:12 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Yet More Analysis on NSA Spying in the USA

      Orin Kerr, at The Volokh Conspiracy, boils it down:

      The legality of the NSA surveillance program raises two different questions: 1) Does the NSA's surveillance program violate a provision of the Constitution?, and 2) Does the NSA's surveillance program violate any constitutionalily valid statutes? The two are quite separate issues: Whether executive branch action violates a statute is different from whether it violates the Constitution.

      In many people's opinion (and obviously opinion varies), the monitoring itself was not unconstitutional. However, stronger opinion exists that it violated FISA, and was therefore illegal. If this sounds familiar, it's because I said it before on December 20th.

      Perhaps this firestorm of debate will spark a case about the nexus of military and civil jurisdictions, war powers, and war authorizations. That's where the problem (and the memorable #8220;wall” between the spy agencies and the FBI investigations into terrorism) originates. Harvard Law Review has looked into it, but I don't think the nation has. There are plenty of blogs that have, for example Power Line here and the Daily Kos here.

      Are we at a state of war or not? I believed so, and accepted that the nexus had moved a little more toward military realities. After all, full-scale war with a terrorist organization expert in concealing activities and having no central local of control is quite different than defending against a nation. We are interdicting emerging organizations, interfering with, or infiltrating, what we can discover of their command and control, and doing what we can to control whatever assets of mass destruction they can obtain.

      International terrorists are moving into and out of the country using local resources to communicate abroad. The NSA has extensive capabilities to intercept, monitor, and decrypt such communications. It makes sense that a war would spark the use of any and every capability to confound and defeat the enemy. We should accept that sometimes mistakes are made because of the need for timely action. We should also accept that such mistakes are far less frequent now than they have been in the past. After all, people raise the specter of internment of American citizens of Japanese descent in World War II, and believe we are inches away from doing the same with Muslims today. I doubt Guantanamo is equivalent in scale to our recent history here.

      However, there are others that apparently think we are not at war at all. The arguments revolve around the weasel-worded congressional authorization for (and, perhaps, temerity about) the Global War on Terror. Some clarity is necessary here, and in politics clarity is often a stated—but routinely subverted—goal.

      I have great hopes that this situation will stimulate an appropriate national debate, and not a flame-fest. However, George W. Bush takes too long to respond to firestorms. He took forever to respond to criticisms about Iraq, and I feat he will take too long on this issue as well. We certainly can't trust the mainstream media to frame the debate without bias, of course, so it's up to people on both sides of the debate to make noise.

      Update: There's a link-farm on this subject collected here at Kierkegaard Lives.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Dec 27 2005 11:28 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Ann Coulter's “Live and Let Spy”

      There are times I think Ann Coulter says stuff just to get a outraged reaction from the moonbat left:

      Which brings me to this week's scandal about No Such Agency spying on “Americans.” I have difficulty ginning up much interest in this story inasmuch as I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East, and sending liberals to Guantanamo.

      It's pretty clear Ann will never be nominated to the Supreme Court.

      At any rate, compared to the legal analysis I've already linked to, her latest essay is just red meat for the Right. Normally I look for her columns as a counterpoint to the obvious slant of most news coverage, but today's essay left me a little flat.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Dec 22 2005 09:08 AM  |  Permalink  |  26 comments  |  No trackbacks

      More Legal Review of Al Qaeda Eavesdropping

      Orin Kerr of The Volokh Conspiracy has also looked into the recent NSA eavesdropping issue. The depth is certainly better than Hugh Hewitt's posting I mentioned earlier.

      Summary? NSA intercepts don't violate the Fourth Amendment, but they may be running afoul of the Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA). There is some question as to what kind of intercepts are being performed, which complicates the analysis.

      The posting itself is good reading, but don't miss the comments.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Dec 20 2005 09:36 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Besides, It's Legal To Spy On Foreign Powers

      Hugh Hewitt does a legal analysis and concludes

      Overlooked in most of the commentary on the New York Times article is the simple, undeniable fact that the president has the power to conduct warantless surveillance of foreign powers conspiring to kill Americans or attack the government. The Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable” searches and seizures has not been interpreted by the Supreme Court to restrict this inherent presidential power. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act … cannot be read as a limit on a constitutional authority even if the Act purported to do so.

      As the blogosphere is fond of saying, read the whole thing.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Dec 18 2005 09:08 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Bush Admits to Using NSA to Spy

      On Friday the New York Times revealed that Bush had authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on people in the United States. This was a re-reviewed authorization that has been renewed on a 45-day schedule thirty times since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Congressional leaders had been briefed over a dozen times that this kind of activity was being authorized.

      It is interesting that this information was leaked in the middle of the filibuster against renewal of the Patriot Act provisions allowing closer scrutiny of activities within the borders of the United States. Normally the spy agency is restricted to activities abroad and domestic affairs are rightly the province of the FBI or other Justice Department agencies.

      There were scandals involving the NSA in domestic espionage before with a program called Echelon. In that case the accusation was that the NSA was using foreign spy services to obtain information on activities within the US.

      There is considerable fear that eavesdropping on people in the the US without oversight violates the rights of US citizens, who have strong protections against unreasonable search. Part of those protections require their being probable cause that a crime has been or will be committed by the person whose privacy is being violated.

      In these cases, Bush has asserted that the eavesdropping by the NSA has been limited to international communications of those known to be associated with Al Quaeda. Normally when one party to an international communication is in the United States, the issue has been left up to the FBI.

      These are the remnants of the “wall” between the military and domestic intelligence agencies, and the reason it was erected. With the passage of the Patriot Act this wall had been partially breached in order to better coordinate gathering intelligence on terrorists targeting the US. Now that the Patriot Act is up for renewal, and is being filibustered, tactics that were obvious results of the Patriot Act are being leaked in order to scare people against it.

      For my part, I am unsure that the Department of Homeland Security has made significant strides in improving our situation when it comes to international agents coming to the US and conducting operations here. Clearly there is a need for an integrated approach to handling this. We can't be constantly shipping files all over Foggy Bottom, Langley, Justice, the Pentagon and back just because Al Quaeda sympathizers in the US are sending email to friends in Pakistan and Syria. Yet, there needs to be oversight of any activities that involve people in the US, because of our strong belief in reasonable protections of their privacy.

      I don't know enough about how the Patriot Act, and its proposed renewal, changes things in this delicate balance. All the coverage I've seen is more slant than fact, and leaks such as Friday's only complicate the matter. I'm hoping that my representatives in Washington, DC actually know what they're doing. But, since those representatives think that Al Quaeda builds schools for the underprivileged or that Saddam Hussein wasn't a threat, I have little hope of that.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Dec 17 2005 08:49 AM  |  Permalink  |  4 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Bill of Rights Day

      Today is the anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the US Constitution) in 1791. Exercise at least one of those rights today—if it's still legal.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Dec 15 2005 07:59 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Faulty Intelligence

      The President gave an address today, and the big news, apparently, is that he's admitted we went to war in Iraq based on faulty intelligence:

      “It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. As president I am responsible for the decision to go into Iraq,” the president told the Woodrow Wilson Center on the eve of elections to establish Iraq's first permanent, democratically elected government. “And I'm also responsible for fixing what went wrong by reforming our intelligence capabilities. And we're doing just that.”

      I suspect there will be a lot of second-guessing on the “much” part. What intelligence was wrong? Certainly specifics on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, but there were material breaches of the treaty that stopped the first Iraq war. We found enriched uranium, chemical warheads, long-range rockets that could reach Israel and other material. We didn't find mobile labs and full-scale active programs. It is suspected a lot of similar material went over the border into Syria and some of that material showed up in Jordan.

      Unfortunately, Bush is also making an “ends justify the means” claim:

      “We are in Iraq today because our goal has always been more than the removal of brutal dictator,” he said. “It is to leave a free and democratic Iraq in his place… My decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision. Saddam was a threat and the American people and the world is better off because he is no longer in power,” he said.

      If we had had this as the centerpiece of the arguments to go to war, that would have been better. Of course, it could never be the centerpiece in an argument to the UN, but we should have stuck to the rhetoric of “material breach” of standing agreements. We had that. It should have been compelling.

      We'll see if Bush fighting back against Iraq criticism will work. He got a small jump in approval ratings that has already eroded so far.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Dec 14 2005 09:41 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Restless Europe

      Today is the anniversary of The Coup of 18-19 Brumare, which led to the rise of Napoleon. It is the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch led by Adolf Hitler, a stepping stone on his rise to power. 15 years later we have the Kristallnacht. Lately we have Muslim youths rioting all over France.

      Is this just a traditionally restless day in Europe?

      For those that love The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein, you'll be interested in De Doc's analysis.

      I find myself thinking of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. The novel’s heroes wish to overthrow the rule of the UN, and form a cabal to that end. They plan and work, carefully, diligently, towards being able to mount such a revolution. But the revolution happens spontaneously, as the result of a gang rape carried out by a squad of the UN’s troopers. The cabal finds itself swept up in the spontaneous riot…
      and turns it INTO an uprising, and then a revolution.

      It's a swell book, but I wouldn't use it as a blueprint for revolution. I do believe, however, that it has insight into organizations that sweep into power vacuums.

      Amazon.com links:

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 9 2005 07:50 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Plame-age Control

      Geesh.

      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.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Oct 25 2005 09:59 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Minimum Wage vs. Staff Jobs

      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.)

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Business, Politics” Tuesday, Oct 25 2005 05:09 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      (Non-)Response From Washington Senator Patty Murray Re: Porkbusters

      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.

      Sincerely,
      Patty Murray
      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.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Oct 25 2005 03:52 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

      Plame Game Revisited

      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.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Oct 25 2005 01:37 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Plame Game

      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.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Oct 24 2005 08:24 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      I oppose the Miers nomination

      Prompted by Ann Althouse, I am throwing my hat into the ring on Miers. The Truth Laid Bear is prompting bloggers to take a stand on this Supreme Court nominee.

      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.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Oct 22 2005 01:06 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      The Unabridged Constitution

      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?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Oct 22 2005 10:58 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      A New Tea Party

      Via Carnival of Liberty #15 at Combs Spouts Off we find this article at Eric's Grumbles Before the Grave.

      Tea Bag

      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.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Oct 11 2005 06:35 PM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  No trackbacks

      RNC Comes By Looking For Money

      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?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Oct 6 2005 08:25 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Is it time to reform the Sarbanes-Oxley Act?

      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.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Oct 3 2005 07:22 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Dear Mr. Poulson

      I got a prompt reply!

      Dear Mr. Poulson,
      Thank you for writing to express your views on the nomination of John G. Roberts to be Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. I appreciate your thoughts on this critical issue.

      We'll see how much she appreciates them below.

      In a 78–22 decision, John Roberts has been confirmed by the Senate to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. As you may know, I opposed the confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts. I made this decision after much deliberation and a thorough consideration of his testimony.
      Most troubling to me is Chief Justice Roberts' ambiguous position on the right to privacy. We are at a time when individuals are concerned about protecting their most personal information from being compromised for commercial gain or by an overreaching federal government. Washingtonians have a deep tradition of respect for individual privacy. A right of privacy is guaranteed in article I, section VII of the Washington State Constitution. Personal freedoms and privacy are integral to the U.S. Constitution and I cannot support a nominee who does not make clear his intent to protect fundamental American privacy rights.

      Unless there's some odd interpretations or code words at play here, I can't agree that Judge, now Justice, Roberts doesn't believe in a right to privacy. Also, he seemed pretty explicit about it when he testified.

      Let's look at the record:

      Senator Arlen Spector: “Do you believe today that the right to privacy does exist in the Constitution?”
      Judge John Roberts: “Senator, I do. The right to privacy is protected under the Constitution in various ways.
      “It's protected by the Fourth Amendment which provides that the right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, effects and papers is protected.
      “It's protected under the First Amendment dealing with prohibition on establishment of a religion and guarantee of free exercise.
      “It protects privacy in matters of conscience.
      “It was protected by the framers in areas that were of particular concern to them. It may not seem so significant today: the Third Amendment, protecting their homes against the quartering of troops.
      “And in addition, the court has—it was a series of decisions going back 80 years—has recognized that personal privacy is a component of the liberty protected by the due process clause.
      “The court has explained that the liberty protected is not limited to freedom from physical restraint and that it's protected not simply procedurally, but as a substantive matter as well.
      “And those decisions have sketched out, over a period of 80 years, certain aspects of privacy that are protected as part of the liberty in the due process clause under the Constitution.”

      Okay, maybe that part isn't ambiguous. Maybe if a Democrat was questioning? Let's look at a later exchange:

      Senator Joe Biden: “Now, you have already said to the chairman that you agree that there's a right to privacy. And you said the Supreme Court found such a right in part in the Fourteenth amendment. My question is: Do you agree that—not what said law is—what do you think?
      “Do you agree that there is a right of privacy to be found in the liberty clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?”
      Judge John Roberts: “I do, Senator. I think that the court's expressions, and I think if my reading of the precedent is correct, I think every justice on the court believes that, to some extent or another.
      “Liberty is not limited to freedom from physical restraint. It does cover areas, as you said, such as privacy. And it's not protected only in procedural terms but it is protected substantively as well. Again, I think every member of the court subscribes to that proposition.
      “If they agree with Bowling against Sharpe, as I'm sure all of them do, they are subscribing to that proposition to some extent or another.”
      Biden: “Do you think there's a liberty right of privacy that extends to women in the Constitution?”
      Roberts: “Certainly.”
      Biden: “In the Fourteenth amendment?”
      Roberts: “Certainly.”

      I'm left to conclude that Maria did not watch the same confirmation hearings that I did.

      Let's go back to Maria's email:

      During his nomination hearing, Chief Justice Roberts refused to comment on what specific rights of privacy are included in the U.S. Constitution. Nor did he ever express his views on a person's private decision to end medical treatment. Chief Justice Roberts has also raised questions about Congress' power to enact environmental protections and civil rights laws, and these unqualified statements concern me.

      The first claim is hogwash. Judge Roberts went into great depth as to where the right to privacy could be found. Maria has transformed these into a set of nonspecific rights, here, however. If she specified what they were we could understand her statement. Most likely she is claiming that the right to abortion is one of the rights of privacy.

      The second two are clearly cases that could come before the Judge at the Supreme Court. Judge Roberts was careful not to comment on a question that was likely to be decided by that court. If you express an opinion in advance, you make it hard to have a fair hearing on an issue. If you make no statements, people are more likely to accept that you are being fair.

      Another specific concern involves Chief Justice Roberts' commitment to upholding a woman's right to choose. The people of Washington State have made clear their support of this right. In 1970, Washington voters enacted protections for a woman's right to choose, a full 3 years before the Roe v. Wade decision. 21 years later, in 1991, Washington voters went further to protect the right to choose by voting to codify the Roe v. Wade decision. As a Senator of Washington State and a firm supporter of a woman's right to choose, I felt it was necessary on my part to take this issue into consideration when deciding on the confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts.

      Finally abortion is brought up, which is apparently the core reason to oppose Roberts. Frankly, I consider abortion to be a side issue.

      If Roe v. Wade were overturned, the issue would go back to the individual states. Since Washington is in such good shape—as she points out—I'm not sure what her complaint really is. My position on Roe v. Wade is that it was an egregious usurpation of states' rights.

      As Chief Justice, John Roberts will have the immense responsibility of guiding the nation's highest court through the most pressing and important issues for many years to come. I could not support someone who failed to assure me he would protect our personal rights, as well as the rights of future generations who will no doubt be affected by decisions made by the Supreme Court.

      Of course, Maria doesn't support my second amendment rights, which makes me vote against her at every opportunity, using the same reasoning she uses above.

      In her use of the words, however, Maria is looking for a judicial activist who would legislate from the bench. Not only that, she's hoping for someone that would legislate her particular world view and values, which are hardly universal, even in Washington.

      Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. Finally, you may be interested in signing up for my weekly update for Washington state residents. Every Monday, I provide a brief outline about my work in the Senate and issues of importance to Washington State . If you are interested in subscribing to this update, please visit my website at http://gp1d.senate.gov/mailman/listinfo/cantwell-weekly-update. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.

      Please sign up for my propaganda list, so you may too be assimilated.

      Sincerely,
      Maria Cantwell
      United States Senator

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Sep 29 2005 03:37 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Dear Senator Cantwell

      I just sent this from here:

      Dear Senator Cantwell:

      I am disappointed in your partisan vote against Judge John Roberts today. From what I saw of the confirmation hearings he is an honest and honorable man, a highly capable jurist, and a thorough and knowledgable scholar of law. He is eminently qualified to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but you voted against him apparently on ideological grounds. This seems without precedent in the Senate and smells of sour grapes.

      Please don't let it happen again.

      Thank you,

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Sep 29 2005 01:34 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Justice Brown?

      Gullyborg at Resistance is futile! predicts the nomination of Janice Rogers Brown to the Supreme Court based on an analysis of code words used by George W. Bush. I like his reasoning. Basically, Judge Brown has served on a State Supreme Court, was recently appointed to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and is a black woman. Make sure you read the whole thing.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Sep 26 2005 12:54 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Washingtonians Set Out to Repeal Gas Tax Hike

      Washinton Gas Prices

      From Americans for Tax Reform:

      Washingtonians who do not want to see their gas tax to go up, will have to vote yes on a related ballot measure that is up for a vote on November 8, 2005.
      I-721 would repeal the 9.5 cents gas tax hike passed by the legislature earlier this year. Once fully implemented, this would amount to a tax increase of 33%. The first stage, an increase of 3 cents per gallon, was implemented this summer.

      Actually, this should be Initiative 912.

      The big spenders in Olympia have been hard at work trying to silence Washingtonians’ voices. The tax hike legislation included an “emergency clause” to prevent the voters from being heard through the less onerous referendum process. As a result, the citizens of Washington were left with 30 days to complete the initiative process, which requires more signatures than a referendum.

      I've mentioned the emergency clause before. For example, the repeal of I-601 was a fiscal emergency and the attempt to make a Washington Assault Weapons Ban was an emergency. The effect of the emergency clause is to allow a bill to take effect immediately and make it not subject to referendum.

      Despite obstacles, volunteers gathered over 420,000 signatures in barely 30 days—almost double the number required. On November 1st, Washington voters will have the chance to send a message to Olympia’s big spenders: Hands off our gas tanks!

      As long as we remember that this is Initiative 912 and not 721, that is. I look forward to my ballot.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Sep 20 2005 10:25 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      (Non-)Response From Washington Senator Maria Cantwell Re: Porkbusters

      I think I just got a form letter from Sen. Cantwell's office in response to my query as to what specific pork she would trim from the budget (I'm the one adding the links, not the Senator's office):

      Dear Mr. Poulson,
      Thank you for contacting me regarding government spending and the federal budget. I appreciate your comments on this important issue. The budget is a national blueprint, and it is paramount that the policies we support promote long-term national growth.

      Thank you for selecting “budget” from the pulldown on my email-the-Senator web page.

      It is one of my top priorities to maintain a balanced budget and to use discipline in federal spending. As such, I am deeply concerned about our escalating national debt. The President's $2.4 trillion budget for fiscal year 2005 is expected to bring with it a deficit of $521 billion, the highest deficit in the history of our country. When measured as a percentage of GDP, the deficit is expected to reach 5.5 percent—the highest since 1992, and close to the record high of six percent in 1983. When combined with the President's intent to extend his tax cuts and the rise in spending for Homeland Security and Defense programs, the budget deficit will only continue to grow. When President Bush took office, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported a $236 billion surplus in the U.S. Treasury and projected a $5.6 trillion surplus from 2002 to 2011. The projections from January 2004 indicate a $2.18 trillion deficit through 2011.

      Tax cuts are bad! Bad! The only way to save the country is to spend more and tax more!

      What is, of course, missing from this response is anything about what programs have to be reduced in order to handle the obvious important priority of preventing further terrorism on U.S. soil, or that the appropriate response to deficits is to reduce spending. If you spend too much, then you drop lower priority items until you can cover the cost. Surely that's taught in school somewhere.

      When the Senate passed the FY 2005 Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res. 95) on March 12, I voted against its final passage. This budget will be used over the course of this year as a framework for all areas of government spending from defense to education to workforce training. I voted against this budget resolution because, like the President's Budget Proposal, I believe it does not succeed in addressing our nation's highest priorities and it fails to exercise much-needed fiscal discipline.

      I do not share the President's vision, as we need to spend more and tax more.

      Specifics are not forthcoming.

      Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. Finally, you may be interested in signing up for my weekly update for Washington State residents. Every Monday, I provide a brief outline about my work in the Senate and issues of importance to Washington State. If you are interested in subscribing to this update, please visit my website at http://cantwell.senate.gov. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.

      Let's just be friends.

      Sincerely,
      Maria Cantwell
      United States Senator

      So, Maria's office staff was not able to send me specifics on what pork needed to be cut at this time. Maybe they'll send me something later, but I doubt it.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Sep 20 2005 08:25 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  2 trackbacks

      Life, Liberty, Property

      full size LLP button

      I've joined the Life, Liberty, Property community.

      Give those other blogs a look.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Sep 19 2005 09:33 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      I Took A Political Test…

      …but I don't think I failed:

      Political Test Results

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Sep 19 2005 09:09 PM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Porkbusters Submission

      Instead of sending money to the pork barrel, let's send it to help Katrina victims!

      Porkbusters

      Submitted to :

      $8,345,000 for projects in the state of Senate appropriator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and the districts of House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee member George Nethercutt, Jr. (R-Wash.) and House appropriator Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), including: $3,000,000 for the Agricultural Research Laboratory in Pullman; $325,000 for the Wine Grape Foundation Block; and $250,000 for asparagus technology and production. Washington State University and Michigan State University are jointly researching methods to reduce labor costs in the asparagus industry. The industry’s labor costs, combined with federal anti-drug and trade policies that have led to a disproportionate increase in imported asparagus, have left Washington’s asparagus industry at a competitive disadvantage. Sen. Murray included language asking USDA to purchase asparagus in 2005 for domestic feeding programs.

      (from Citizens against Government Waste)

      Update: I'm adding this to the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Sep 18 2005 09:25 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Dean Scam

      This pretty much says it all…

      Screenshot of Dean letter

      Update: Looks like Ann Althouse got the same email.

      We keep trying to talk about feelings and all he wants to talk about is—gasp!—law! How can we trust someone like that to be a judge?

      I didn't delve deeply into Dean's op-ed. I don't have the stomach for it as I'm coming down with a cold.

      Update #2: I used a smaller image for the letter, because the other one wasted whitespace.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Sep 15 2005 11:30 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Sic transit gloria mundi

      No, it's not a new pope, but the passing of the “glory” of the world.

      Roger L. Simon has posted the epitaph for the United Nations:

      Even after the revelation that the United Nations had presided over the greatest financial scam in world history, the Iraq Oil-for-Food programme, the organization was not able to make the most paltry effort at reforming itself.

      I won't miss the UN, but I sure wish it would go away quickly. Perhaps I should make a powder blue and black strip armband.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Sep 14 2005 11:04 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Katrina Timeline

      Thanks to Rightwing Nuthouse, here's an excellent timeline of the response to Katrina. He's still updating it as people post information and contradictory articles.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Sep 6 2005 10:34 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Blame Game

      Politicians are hard at work at what they do best, shifting blame. The criticism and vitriol has been flying fast and thick in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. There has been far less attention fixed on looking at what was working and what came apart and more attention on the statements of semi-elected officials. (When incumbency rules the roost, it's hard to think of these self-absorbed jerks as elected.)

      Example comes from information posted by Paul at Wizbang, who quoted the Washington Post. It appears that the Federal government asked to take control of the New Orleans evacuation before Katrina struck. The Bush Administration had declared a state of emergency three days before the Governor Lousiana did.

      We have heard plenty in the press from the Governor, but I haven't heard much about her failures.

      The Mayor of New Orleans has been quick to criticize, too, but:

      Nagin is not without his warts… While he did save hundreds of thousands of lives, his abject stupidity should not and will not be ignored. He not only did not understand the strength of this hurricane but he failed to execute a long standing plan properly.

      But, Governor Blanco drew most of the ire:

      …Kathleen Blanco killed thousands of people. When she met with Bush and Bush tried getting control of the situation she told him she needed “24 hours to think things through.”
      Blanco's lack of ability to think on her feet was evident in the debates she had during the election… now it cost lives…

      I have watched the stupid antics of placing blame and taking potshots at the rescue efforts. This is hardly the time to armchair quarterback. It is time to do what is necessary and discard what is not. I sure wish the politicians would remember that.

      Update: So, it appears that both the state of Lousiana and the Federal Government declared a state of emergency at the same time, a couple days before the evacuation order. This doesn't deflect much of my criticism of her blame game aimed at Bush and FEMA.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Sep 4 2005 09:10 PM  |  Permalink  |  10 comments  |  1 trackback

      Bush Urges Americans to Conserve Gas

      Bush is asking Americans to conserve gas:

      Bush said they all agreed the storm's damage to the gas supply was a “temporary disruption” and urged Americans to use prudence in filling up over the next few weeks.
      “Don't buy gas if you don't need it,” he said in Oval Office remarks with his father and Clinton at his side.
      Gasoline sellers have been fast to raise prices, to more than $3 a gallon and in some places far higher, because of a sudden drop in supplies, prompting accusations they are artificially setting high prices to profit from the disaster.

      Looks like I need to accelerate my work-from-home campaign. I'm waiting for Qwest to finish my T1. ELI is ticked, they want to start billing me.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Sep 1 2005 02:50 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Memory Lane

      Wretchard at the Belmont Club takes us down memory lane:

      When Hitler's troops reoccupied the Rhineland in violation of its treaty obligations to restore German dignity, stormtroopers parading before the Reichschancellery sang “for today we own Germany and tomorrow the entire world.” The echo of that refrain reverberates in the United Nations.

      Why is there an echo? Because the UN funded a bunch of things for the Palestinians, including banners that read “Gaza Today. The West Bank and Jerusalem Tomorrow.”

      The irony is exact. The French Left remained passive in what Churchill called the last moment in which Second World War could have been prevented. Instead it allowed that Hitler had a legitimate grievance and met him with renunciations of militarism and expressions of understanding. For what, they asked, could be more German than the Rhineland? One could have rhetorically asked whether a Nazi Rhineland was the same thing.

      One can only hope that this victory of a million Palestinians over 8500 Israeli settlers does not embolden them, but with banners like the one above, it must be a false hope. Muslim extremists in the region want nothing more than to eradicate the Israeli state.

      I was recently polled by Zogby and answered a lot of questions about the UN. As is typical in political surveys, I wasn't entirely satisfied with the answers offered in the survey. I, for one, welcome the irritant John Bolton will be at the UN, because perhaps it has a chance to make a pearl.

      I believe the role of the UN is to grease the wheels of international agreement, nothing more. Zogby's possible answers for the role of the UN, which I don't recall well anymore, were about humanitarianism, military intervention, sanctions and the like. It is when the UN does these other things, like manage Oil for Food, the Bosnian conflict, the IAEA, or push gun control, that it falls flat. The Security Council, in particular, is lousy. I feel the Security Council is an anachronism of the balance of superpowers, and should not have the power to commit the member nations of the UN to anything. Clearly there's no teeth in such agreements, so why do we go through the motions. The UN does not govern its member nations, no matter how much people wish it were true that it did.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Aug 18 2005 07:54 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Highway Spending

      I'm torn.

      While I understand the need to continually improve and extend infrastructure that's strained to its limits, the latest Federal highway spending bill of 286.4 billion dollars seems like good money chasing after bad. What the heck could cost so much?

      Today's Wall Street Journal indicates that there is indeed a lot of pork in this latest bill, despite what I'm looking for is relief of the massive traffic problems between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. I drive through there to go to work, and it's miserable because so many people who used to live in Portland have escaped to the tax-friendlier city across the Columbia.

      I live north of Vancouver and work west of Portland. The bridge is the choke point. I spent two hours driving 38 miles last home last night. The commute home has been getting progressively worse.

      As a result I have been investing in working from home. While that's pretty much impossible for a manager, my latest duties at IBM make it a reality. I have a T1 going in, since I can't get DSL or broadband cable out where I'm at, I just got a PolyCom Soundstation2, which I call the “Klingon War Phone” but is really just the absolute best speakerphone you can have for frequent meetings. When the T1 goes live, I'll be using Vonage to handle my calling around instead of my local POTS (plain old telephone service).

      Include in this package is that I no longer have to send 9% of my income to Oregon (a state which seems to be rapidly imploding). On the radio last night they indicated that several thousand people had moved from Portland to Vancouver in the past year, primarily because of its local income tax, on top of Oregon's. Portland is now the third most expensive United States town to live in.

      What's my point? I wonder if the government should instead be looking at how to juice the services that are making it easier for people to work from home, or from anywhere, rather than investing so much in what could be yesterday's technology. Clearly the pork virus has infested this latest bill, and the President does not appear to have been holding this Congress to any kind of spending limitations.

      I'm tired of traffic and low choice about working in tax hells. Enable me to work from anywhere (in this country, that is, it's easy to work here from India already, thanks) and we can reduce congestion and pollution, thank you very much.

      Amazon.com links:

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Jul 29 2005 08:27 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      The Commerce Clause

      Are the confirmation hearings of Judge John Roberts going to center on the Commerce Clause and not on abortion and gun control like most people expect? In an editorial in this morning's Wall Street Journal it is deftly pointed out that in Rancho Viejo v. Gale Norton the circuit court judge wrote the ruling:

      The panel's approach in this case leads to the result that regulating the taking of a hapless toad that, for reasons of its own, lives its entire life in California constitutes regulating “Commerce… among the several States.” U.S. Const. art.

      The WSJ editorial opines:

      This implies a less expansive view of the Commerce Clause than the current Supreme Court majority, and suggests he would have joined the four dissenters in Raich, the Supreme Court's recent decision to let the federal government overrule state laws on regulating medical marijuana.

      What's all the stink about? The Commerce Clause is more technically known as Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the US Constitution. Section 8 enumerates the powers of Congress, and Clause 3 reads thus:

      To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

      This particular clause, like the emergency provisions in Washington law I've mentioned before, has been particularly abused in order to justify the weirdest largesses of the Federal government. The Raich case mentioned above ruled that a person growing marijuana for themselves in their back yard was somehow interstate commerce because marijuana could be sold across state lines.

      If that strikes you as a little odd, you're not alone. I'm hoping that Roberts is a little more rational on the Commerce Clause and that particular rationality will lead to some better rulings on control control, abortion, emminent domain, environmental protection, telecommunications, and so on.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Jul 21 2005 08:30 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      The Downing Street Memo

      Since there seems to be a belief that the Downing Street Memo is a “smoking gun” indicating a conspiracy to manufacture evidence of WMDs in Iraq, I figured I'd give it a read. It all revolves around this paragraph, and in particular one word (which I have highlighted below):

      C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

      Taking the memo as legitimate, which is always doubtful when presented by a journalist, I wonder what the big deal is. It's pretty clear to me that the term “fixed” is being used in the sense of focused energy. Even so, prominent Democrats (eager to remind everyone that at least they whine about important things and to help others forget that they seldom offer solutions to the problems they whine about) continue to hype the secret memo.

      The rest of the memo points out the difficulty of removing Saddam from power, and the political realities of the situation.

      Even so, this is hardly the smoking gun people think it is.

      A sentence on the second page of the article doesn't say Saddam has no WMDs, only that he had less than others:

      Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.

      Also,

      Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD.

      And,

      For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.

      Nowhere in the memo or its conclusions does it say that Iraq had no WMD. Nowhere in the memo or its conclusions does it say intelligence was being fabricated to indicate that Iraq had WMD. Where's the smoking gun?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Jun 26 2005 12:10 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Kelo et al v. City of New London

      The Supreme Court has given the government permission to use eminent domain powers to seize homes and businesses for private development. This 5-4 decision by the court will up the ante in the eminent domain debate. The court's reasoning?

      “The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including—but by no means limited to—new jobs and increased tax revenue,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

      All it takes to steal my neighbor's property is a business plan? Previous precedent required evidence of a blighted neighborhood to allow this sort of a taking. Now, as Justice O'Connor warns, it has been widened:

      “Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random,” Justice O'Connor wrote. “The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.”

      There are prominent examples of that in Las Vegas already, and in Oregon similar kinds of takings due to zoning were combatted with Measure 37:

      the owner of private real property is entitled to receive just compensation when a land use regulation is enacted after the owner or a family member became the owner of the property if the regulation restricts the use of the property and reduces its fair market value.

      Will the Supreme Court come along and throw out Measure 37 as well? Will it take a national constitutional amendment to set the limits on what the government can take? I will be interesting to see what the Castle Coalition says about this new development.

      Update: I'm adding this to the Beltway Traffic Jam.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Jun 23 2005 09:17 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Online Coalition Comments to the FEC

      I just signed the Online Coalition's comments letter to the FEC. I encourage others to do the same.

      The main part of the letter:

      The electorate is best served when the Commission crafts rules that remove actual corruption while encouraging more participation, opinions and choices to permeate the democratic process.
      It is in this spirit and for the reasons stated below that the Commission should move forward with its proposal to include the term “paid advertisements on the Internet” under the definition of “public communication,” to extend the protections afforded to volunteers to include individuals and groups of individuals, and to treat certain online publications as falling under the “media exemption” rule.

      Keep the Internet free of government intervention.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Jun 2 2005 08:11 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      MOVE Day

      Instapundit points us to Blog O'Stuff reminding us that twenty years ago today Mayor Wilson B. Goode decided the best way to deal with barricaded MOVE activists was to drop a satchel charge from a helicopter to the top of their makeshift fort in Philadelphia. The resulting fire destroyed two city blocks (61 homes) as firefighters were kept at bay by the surviving MOVE residents shooting at firemen. Eleven people were killed, including five children. The names John and Ramona Africa were on the news for months after that, although Ramona was the only adult to survive.

      No members of the police department, fire department, or Mayor Goode's administration were ever prosecuted. Wilson Goode went on to win reelection two years later.

      I lived in nearby Media, Pennsylvania at the time, finishing my junior year at Penncrest High School. I remember the flurry of activity and I also remember being shocked that Mayor Goode won reelection two years later. I guess it was an early lesson in government excess. While it's not okay to be a violent to your neighbors, I'm pretty sure getting bombed because you barricaded yourself in and starting shooting at anything that moved is pushing it.

      The theory of using the satchel charge was to breach the fort so police could use tear gas on the militants, but no one involved seemed to understand that the satchel charge was way too big for the purpose. (There is no standard on satchel charges since it's just a bag of explosives lit with a fuse.)

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, May 13 2005 07:23 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Border Patrol Covering Up Effectiveness of Minutemen

      Quite the story in the Washington Times tonight:

      U.S. Border Patrol agents have been ordered not to arrest illegal aliens along the section of the Arizona border where protesters patrolled last month because an increase in apprehensions there would prove the effectiveness of Minuteman volunteers, The Washington Times has learned.
      More than a dozen agents, all of whom asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, said orders relayed by Border Patrol supervisors at the Naco, Ariz., station made it clear that arrests were “not to go up” along the 23-mile section of border that the volunteers monitored to protest illegal immigration.

      If true, this is amazing. The law enforcement officers of the Federal Government have been asked not to do their job better because it would validate the efforts of motivated volunteers! The official denial:

      Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar at the agency's Washington headquarters called the accusations “outright wrong,” saying that supervisors at the Naco station had not blocked agents from making arrests and that the station's 350 agents were being “supported in carrying out” their duties.

      Also, an official explanation of previous statistics:

      During the Minuteman vigil, Border Patrol supervisors in Arizona discounted their efforts, saying a drop in apprehensions during their protest was because of the Mexican government's deployment of military and police south of the targeted area and a new federal program known as the Arizona Border Control Initiative that brought manpower increases to the state.

      I'm not sure what to think of the Minuteman group myself. I'm one that believes in open borders, but I have to agree that we have immigration law here because people take advantage of our luxurious social programs. If we have to support the programs, then I suppose it follows that we have to limit the number of people that can just come here and become citizens. This was my opinion before 9/11.

      After 9/11 I feel that it's easy to spot criminal activity is a sea of legal activity than it is to spot terrorists amongst a bunch of lawbreakers.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, May 12 2005 10:06 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Media Failures

      Richard Miniter has a cute piece on what he calls “Media Failures” on his blog. He highlight three kinds of bias: story, location and source.

      We're all familiar with story bias. For example, shark bites and firearms accidents are reported well out of proportion with the number of incidents compared to, say, child drownings and deaths caused by incorrect prescriptions. Miniter applies this idea to Iraq:

      The press rightly covers the so-called insurgency's bomb attacks. (No one calls them what they are: anti-democratic terrorists.) But they do not prominently cover the American military's many counter-attacks.

      He attributes some of the story bias on location bias: the reporters are simply not where they can see the American successes anymore.

      It is no accident that the general tone of the coverage changed when the major newspapers and networks stopped participating in the “embed” program. (The embed program is not dead; a U. S. Army Ranger officer told me in Baghdad that the military is actually begging journalists to participate.)

      Location bias happens elsewhere, too. How many times have you seen a story about something you know about but the reporter was too lazy to come down to the scene and figure things out? Location bias can cause factual and continuity errors in journalistic reporting, far worse than seeing a movie shot in a location you know well. Portland-area moviegoers laugh at Short Circuit where the intrepid Number Five watches the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean in Astoria, but how often do we laugh at the press when they can't get basic geography right?

      Location goes beyond geography, of course, but the point is that journalists report about things where they are, and not where they aren't.

      The last bias Miniter covers is towards sources:

      Many networks use “fixers,” Arabic speakers who bring local officials and community leaders to be interviewed (either “on background” or on the record). For better or worse, these fixers essentially decide who is interviewed.

      The Press folks I run into keep a stable of experts on a variety of subjects they go to again and again. Anti-gun activists are particularly good at getting their own people installed as experts on firearms legislation so they can spin events in their favor. When I go to the Press with my credentials (NRA Training Counselor, a person that trains and recommends firearms instructors for certification) they ignore me as a “pro-gun activist.” Yet, I have more real knowledge of firearms, firearms instruction, and firearms effects than your typical Brady Center zealot.

      In Iraq, people who should be heard are also ignored:

      As a result of this source bias, the American media has overlooked key emerging figures such as Mithal Jamal Hussein Al-Alusi, a liberal Iraqi politician, or the outgoing Iraqi Minister of Human Rights, who holds press conferences that the English-language press doesn't bother to attend.

      Ann Althouse has commented on a piece Adam Cohen writes for the New York Times about journalistic ethics. Cohen advocates a code of conduct for bloggers. (You may recall that I wrote about a Weblog Code of Ethics before.)

      Althouse isn't receptive.

      The journalistic code didn't keep Jordan and Rather in line. It was the bloggers, invoking their own standards—not a code but an evolving culture—that called them to account. Any bloggers with any kind of high profile will be similarly called to account if they violate the blogosphere's cultural norms. And Jordan and Rather can take up blogging any minute they want. Our practice is open to anyone who wants to join.

      That's the whole power that bloggers have brought to the Information Age. Because the information is readily researched and posted and searchable and linkable a whole new form of fact-checking has emerged to combat media failures.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, May 8 2005 07:47 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

      Was Yalta a Mistake?

      President George W. Bush is in Latvia today and made some interesting remarks:

      Bush said the agreement in 1945 at Yalta among President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet leader Josef Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill “followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.” The decisions at Yalta led to the division of eastern Europe and creation of the Soviet bloc.
      “Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable,” the president said, opening a four-nation trip to mark the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat. “Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable.”
      “We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations—appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability.”

      Wow, there's a debatable topic. Would it have been better to fight Stalinist Russia at the end of World War II to preserve the freedom of the Soviet client states? If not then, when? That's a tough question. Remember one of the many reasons we used nuclear bombs in Japan was to warn the Soviet Union not to expand. The Soviets had more men and equipment in the field than anyone else. I'm sure it was somewhat frightening to have our exhausted but triumphant troops in Germany facing an oncoming Soviet juggernaut. Many of our efforts were still divided in a two-front war. A negotiation that led to apportionment of “spoils” to the Soviet was probably the easiest way out.

      Bush goes on:

      “The great democracies soon found that a new mission had come to us: not merely to defeat a single dictator but to defeat the idea of dictatorship on this continent. Through the decades of that struggle, some endured the role of tyrants, and all lived in the frightening shadow of war.
      “Yet because we lifted our sights and held firm to our principles, freedom prevailed.”

      And some more comments that will have the anti-preemptove-war zealots wringing their hands:

      “The idea of countries helping others become free—I would hope that would be viewed as not revolutionary, but rational foreign policy and decent foreign policy and humane foreign policy,” Bush said. “I think countries ought to feel comfortable with having democracies on their borders.
      “I will continue to speak as clearly as I can to President Putin that it's in his country's interests that there be democracies on his borders,” Bush said.

      Democracies may be likely to vote themselves bread and circuses but at least they're far less likely to resort to terrorism to fulfill their goals. This led to my split with the anti-war libertarians a few years ago. I believed that state-sponsored terrorism deserved preemptive war. They did not.

      Hat tip to Clayton Cramer for a link to this story.

      Update 5/8/2005: Belmont Club has even more comments on Bush's Yalta comments, along with a lot of insight, including:

      Yalta marked the moment from when Winston Churchill first openly called the Soviet Union a menace to the Free World. With Nazi Germany clearly dying, Stalin had replaced Hitler as the principal menace to Britain.

      Also, this sour comment about the effect of Bush's remarks:

      But George Bush's apology is really addressed toward his perception of American historical intent. He seems to be saying “yes my predecessor intended to carve up the world with Josef Stalin. He had no right to deliver people into bondage and we will never do it again.” It is a moral apology, no less futile than regrets over slavery or the dispossession of the Indian tribes.

      Bush's comments might serve to stir up the radical left, though. Isn't that worth it?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, May 7 2005 09:27 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rossi Wins Important Pre-Trial Motion

      From Chelan county we have a crucial ruling:

      Republicans won a crucial victory in their legal battle to overturn the Washington state governor's election on Monday, when a judge decided they'll be able to use “proportional analysis” to subtract votes from Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire.
      But Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges balanced that GOP win with a ruling that will allow Democrats to present their own evidence of election errors they say helped Republican candidate Dino Rossi.

      So, why is this important? Because the GOP believes they can subtract a lot more Gregoire votes than Rossi votes:

      Republicans claim they've identified more than 1,000 illegal votes—mostly felons, but also unverified provisional ballots and a few dead voters. Using the proportional analysis method, they want the court to subtract illegal votes from both candidates' totals according to precinct voting patterns. For example, if 10 illegal votes came from a precinct that voted 60 percent for Gregoire and 40 percent for Rossi, the Republicans would deduct six votes from Gregoire and four from Rossi. Most of the illegal votes Republicans have identified come from King County, which went 58 percent for Gregoire.

      It will be interesting to see what Stefan Sharkansky over at Sound Politics thinks of this. For now it looks like the massive problems at King County will finally bite them. They've had errors well out of proportion with their size.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, May 2 2005 03:36 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Social Security

      Many, many interpretations of George W. Bush's proposals for reforming the Social Security system are floating around the Press and the Blogosphere. They all seem to be arguing points that are different than what I saw last night.

      Number one: Dubya is proposing that benefits be paid on the basis of means-testing. If you paid in a lot then you probably don't need as much back from the existing system. This sends me this message: “Don't count on significant benefits when you retire.” I've maxed out the system for years. No one currently retired, or about to retire in the next few years would face this.

      Number two: If you put aside money sent to SS into a private investment account then it cannot be used to support pay-as-you-go, nor can it be reduced by the above scheme, instead it can bring me an appropriate rate of return ranging from T-bills to aggressive stock plans with corresponding risk. You don't have to do this, but it's a good idea. No one currently retired, or about to retire in the next few years is affected by this. The reduction to pay-as-you-go is partially offset by the lowered future payout (SS does not pay out the benefits of personal accounts) and is also partially offset by the slanted payout of point number one.

      So there it is. Number one eases the pressure on the system as the number of retirees per works increases. Number two also eases the pressure because the money put aside for personal accounts reduces the future payouts of the SS system.

      People seem to be harping about point one or point two, but they're not looking at them together. I believe Dubya's insistence that the two be combined into a single system is the key here. It gets government out of the SS game a little bit, and partially reforms the system so it can remain solvent longer.

      Imagine if they went a step further and just said, “the American people will pay off the benefits of those still in the system and from now on you are forced to invest 6% of your income and not collect the benefits of that investment until you reach the age of 70 or you die and the benefits are distributed to your heirs. In return, we will lower your taxable income by 6%.” That's even better, but it would hardly pass the bread and circuses crowd in DC.

      Since the Democrats have no plan (hat tip to Blogs for Bush) and everyone's know this would be a problem, Dubya should be applauded for making it a key agenda item to fix this in his second term and making a serious try.

      Let's we what trickles out of the debate.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Apr 29 2005 09:21 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Aren't We Done With Abu Ghraib?

      Today's Wall Street Journal has an editorial about the latest developments in the Abu Ghraib investigations. It's more of a condemnation of those who continue to spread Abu Ghraib conspiracy theories since the JFK assassination is moving out of the national consciousness.

      We'd have thought every American would be relieved to learn that 10 major inquiries, sworn statements from 37 high-level officials, and information gleaned from dozens of courts martial and criminal investigations have cleared most senior civilian and military leaders of wrongdoing in the Abu Ghraib scandal and other Iraq prisoner abuses.

      I'm glad that millions of dollars have been spent tracking all of this down. If there really was a problem at high levels I wanted it rooted out and all the participants to be jailed. Now, however, it seems it was just a few idiots with poor judgment.

      The media and Congressional Democrats flogged the Abu Ghraib story for months throughout the 2004 election year, with a goal of stripping the Iraq War of moral authority and turning President Bush into another LBJ. But now that their worst chain-of-command conspiracy hypotheses haven't panned out, they refuse to admit it.

      Yes, what was done last year was clearly overblown from the beginning because the cries of “cover-up” and “whitewash” didn't mesh with the facts that were clearly available on the net for folks the find.

      The abuse reports went up the chain of command on January 13 last year; within a day an Army criminal probe had started. Two days after that, Central Command issued a press release notifying the world of that investigation; on March 20 it was announced in Baghdad that criminal charges had been brought against six of the soldiers involved. A month earlier, meanwhile, Major General Antonio Taguba had completed an internal investigation of what had happened. This is all before the infamous photos were leaked to the press one year ago this week.

      What made it sensational was the release of photographs. It just reminds us all that taking pictures of (criminal) stupidity is a bad idea.

      Senator Ted Kennedy all but blew a gasket yesterday, essentially accusing both the U.S. military and Bush Administration of moral perfidy. “Our nation will continue to be harmed by the reports of abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, the failure by top officials to take action, and the abandonment of our basic rules and traditions on human rights,” he said. He even stooped to the moral-equivalence canard that some in the U.S. chose “to stoop to the level of the terrorists” and “deserve to be held fully accountable.”

      Apparently it's okay to be stupid in the Senate.

      No evidence has been produced to support allegations that the abuses were “systematic” or that they were inspired or condoned by superiors up the chain of command. As Mr. Schlesinger also noted, by any statistical measure—such as the rate of reported abuse incidents per detainee—treatment of detainees in the overall war on terror has been exemplary. In short, the so-called “torture narrative” that was so hyped by the media last year was entirely false.

      I wonder how much more of a landslide the election would have been if all of this garbage hadn't been spread around in hopes of undermining the War on Terror? Unlike the Swift Boat Vets, who had evidence and who are still waiting for John Kerry to sign the 180 to release his records, there has been no truth to the rumors that the CIA has been torturing Iraqis in Abu Ghraib. I wonder how long before other conspiracy theories about torturing terrorists fall by the wayside in the next few years?

      Update: I'm adding this one to the Beltway Traffic Jam.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Apr 27 2005 08:00 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Take Back the Night

      Jacqueline Passey observed a march through her neighborhood called “Take Back the Night,” apparently yet another egregious male-bashing public display. Her own comments?

      Personally, I believe that there are two key ingredients for women's empowerment: handguns and birth control. Those two things neutralize the general advantage that men have over women.

      I have been doing reading on career management, as well. As a rule, women should also push for the solid development jobs that get them experience with breadth. Women are already far better at networking than men, in my experience, but they don't do as good a job at properly pacing their career development or selecting jobs with the appropriate stretch goals.

      If feminists are serious about empowering women against violence and sexual assault, their time and money would be far better spent organizing (and advertising widely!) subsidized defensive handgun classes for women than putting on hostile, exclusionary marches.

      Hear, hear. Some of us down in Portland have been doing break-even (or even below cost) firearms instruction for women for years!

      Update: I'm adding this post to the Beltway Traffic Jam.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Apr 22 2005 09:03 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rossi Should Have Won By 100 Votes

      Via Daily Pundit we find this article about the statistical analysis given by the GOP to the courts over the 2004 election for governor in the State of Washington:

      Without ballots cast by felons, dead voters and non-citizens, Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire would have lost the 2004 election to Republican Dino Rossi by about 100 votes, according to a statistical report cited by the GOP in its legal challenge to Gregoire's victory.

      All well and good, but will it matter at this point?

      But it's uncertain if the courts will buy the statistical arguments, which are a key to the GOP effort to overturn Gregoire's 129-vote win. Democrats say state law doesn't allow such arguments.

      Weird. I remember them saying that the court challenge couldn't succeed unless it was shown that the improper voting could have changed the result! In fact, the judge said so:

      In pretrial rulings, Judge John Bridges has said it won't be enough for Rossi to show the number of improper votes exceeded Gregoire's margin of victory. According to state law and previous court cases, the GOP will have to demonstrate that Gregoire owes her win to illegal votes, Bridges said.

      I'll believe the judge and not the Democrats, thank you.

      So, how did we get to this +100 number? After all, earlier allegations claimed over 1000 improper votes, but post-analysis the margin changed by approximately 250. Well, they were smart:

      Two political science professors—Jonathan Katz of the California Institute of Technology and Anthony Gill of the University of Washington—broke down the data for the GOP.
      Both subtracted improper votes from the candidates in proportion to the overall vote each received. When possible, precinct returns were used to establish the pattern; otherwise, county results set the percentages. For example, if Gregoire received 60 percent of a vote in Precinct A and Rossi 40 percent, and there were 100 improper votes from that precinct, Gregoire's total would be reduced by 60 votes and Rossi's by 40.

      Sounds fair to me.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Apr 20 2005 10:12 AM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Hanoi Jane Unwilling Expectorant Recipient

      According to Wizbang a man spat tobacco in Hanoi Jane's face and got arrested for it. One of the commenters wryly wondered that if it had been a pie the man would have walked.

      I'm one of those folks that thinks Jane Fonda hasn't really apologized for her activities during the Vietnam War, but I have trouble agreeing with spitting in someone's face, just like I don't think people should have been spitting on the veterans returning from that conflict.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Apr 20 2005 10:03 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      The New Food Pyramid

      Far be it for government and insurance companies to tell us what to do. Whoops! That was alternate reality speaking. The government is looking out for us again, with new dietary guidelines.

      The old food pyramid is gone, along with the four food groups (what were they? salt, sugar, grease, and caffeine, right?). Now we have a new pyramid that allows people to make an individually targeted plan. We have more than four groups now:

      • Grains
      • Vegetables
      • Fruits
      • Milk
      • Meat & Beans
      • Oils
      • Discretionary Foods

      Clearly vegans aren't going to like the “milk” group, but at least they can go to beans instead of meat. I'm not a vegan, but I do dislike cheese in a very significant way.

      I stuffed in the settings for a 36-year-old moderately active male and got a 2600 calorie program (much more than the 1700 Bally's Total Fitness wants me to eat) letting me eat 9 ounces of grains (4.5 ounces of which should be whole grains), 3.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruits, 3 cups of milk and 6.5 ounces of meat and beans per day. It also wants me to limit my oils and discretionary foods to 8 ounces a day.

      While this system is better than the old one, perhaps, it still is not targeted very well. It does not take into account my height, muscle mass, genetics, stress level, and many other aspects of health that affect the efficacy of their plan for me. Hopefully the insurance companies won't be considering mandating compliance with these guidelines.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Apr 19 2005 08:41 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Four Anniversaries

      So, today is the anniversary of the start of the American Revolution (Battle of Lexington and Concord), the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 (started today and fought on for four weeks), the fire at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1993 (in order to save the children they burned them alive while shooting into the compound) and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 (supposedly as revenge for Waco, but the BATF office was empty and the Murrah Federal Building's daycare center was not).

      If there's a “repeating day of death” today is a front-runner.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Apr 19 2005 08:21 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Golly! 93 More Ballots

      I waited a while to report on this in case of April Foolery, but it appears to be true. 93 more unopened absentee ballots have appeared in King County, Washington. Even OpinionJournal's John Fund agrees this looks bad for the Democrats fighting against invalidating the election. He wrote in today's “Political Diary:”

      The lawsuit's contentions certainly received a boost with the discovery of the 93 extra ballots in the “archives” of King County Election Director Dean Logan. The response was immediate. Six council members, all Republicans, signed a letter asking U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to investigate the election. Democrats called for an outside audit of Mr. Logan's office and expressed anger that they had only learned about the magical ballots in the press. Council Chairman Larry Phillips, a Democrat, told reporters it would be “premature” for him to call for Mr. Logan's resignation. Bob Ferguson, another Democratic council member, accused Mr. Logan of badly misjudging how to handle the bombshell news.

      Regular readers of Sound Politics will note that Pierce County also found some uncounted ballots.

      King County, however, always wins the prizes. The quote of most interest comes from an email from Donald Porter:

      On my instructions, all untabulated ballots found during this investigation have been secured in the same manner as untabulated ballots are secured during the course of an election. I have instructed that no list of voters names associated with these ballots is to be released, nor, of course, are the ballots to be opened and counted absent a court order.
      I had intended to release this information to you as soon as the investigation was completed so that we wouldn't have another situation of changing numbers. I expected that to be this afternoon. In any case, even if the investigation were not complete by this afternoon it was my intention to brief you all on this no later than Monday so that you would have the information before Tuesday's status hearing. Now, it appears that someone made a call to the media and REALS is responding to press inquiries on this, so I wanted you to have this much information immediately.

      Will we ever get to know the names of the disenfranchised voters?

      4/6/05 Update: I'm adding this post to the Beltway Traffic Jam.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Apr 5 2005 11:56 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Sandy Berger and the Pants of Obstruction

      I waited until April 2nd so people wouldn't think I was posting an April Fools.

      Sandy Berger is finally pleading guilty to a lesser charge over the events where he stole classified documents from the National Archives and destroyed them. Not only was it deliberate that he took the documents in question—he hid them in his pants—but that he later destroyed three earlier drafts of intelligence documents related to a plot to bomb the LAX airport during the millennium celebrations.

      Originally, Berger was only accessing the documents in order to refresh his memory before testifying to the 9/11 Commission. Supposedly he had only mistakenly taken the classified documents home and shredded them. The big stink over this theft and destruction of evidence comes from the fact that various administration officials had written notes in the margins of the intelligence memo drafts in question. They might have been extremely important evidence concerning the thinking of anti-terror officials during the Clinton administration. Now we'll never know.

      Fox News has a source that apparently saw what was in those documents.

      One source told FOX News that the report was critical of how the Clinton administration handled Al Qaeda threats to the U.S. homeland and that the missing report made security recommendations that were never implemented.

      That particular information was buried at the bottom of the Fox News story. I suspect they don't consider that information very credible.

      Back to the plea bargain. It's an good tactic to plead guilty to a minor offense than to face Contempt of Congress and Obstruction of Justice. Obstruction of Justice is a felony for little people like you and me. Only Bill Clinton can get away with it under full public scrutiny. Sandy Berger is able to borrow some of the teflon to get a plea bargain down to a misdemeanor and a fine:

      The charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.
      However, under a plea agreement that Robinson must accept, instead of jail, Berger would pay a $10,000 fine, surrender his security clearance for three years and cooperate with investigators.

      It's not just the memo drafts that were taken by the way, but also personal notes.

      “In his plea, Berger also admitted that he concealed and removed his handwritten notes from the Archives prior to a classification review, in violation of Archives rules and procedures,” reads the DOJ statement. “Those notes have been returned to the government.”

      At least the notes were returned. I think that removing his notes from the archives (notes about classified material, after all, become classified themselves) might qualify as a misdemeanor, but facilitating the misrepresentation of the Clinton administration as hard on terror is the felonious crime here.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Apr 2 2005 09:42 AM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Terri Schiavo

      This morning everyone is reporting that Terri Schiavo has died.

      The political mess has only just begun.

      I recall seeing web pages about Terri Schiavo many months ago and only recently has it become something that entered the national consciousness (if not the national conscience).

      How many others are suffering similar plights?

      Will this lead to changes in procedural law about findings of fact? Will it lead to improved definitions for various medical conditions? Will it lead to an understanding of the legal definition of abuse?

      Maybe, but in my experience the national memory for such things is very very short.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Mar 31 2005 08:27 AM  |  Permalink  |  5 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Castle Anthrax

      Charles J. Hanley of the Associated Press reports in The Washington Times that Dr. Rihab Rashid Taha dumped deactivated anthrax near oneo f Saddam's palaces in 1991. The information was buried in the Iraq Survey Group report, “a 350,000-word document issued Oct. 6.”

      An Iraqi scientist has told U.S. interrogators that her team destroyed Iraq's stock of anthrax in 1991 by dumping it practically at the gates of one of Saddam's main palaces, but never told U.N. inspectors for fear of angering the dictator.

      That's not the only major revelation in the report either. Saddam did seem to be making more anthrax at one point. Gasp!

      The anthrax mystery had bedeviled U.N. inspectors since the 1990s, when Iraqis said that they had made 2,191 gallons of the bacterial substance before the 1991 Gulf War.
      The U.N. specialists, who scoured Iraq for banned arms from 1991 to 1998 and again in 2002 and 2003, confirmed anthrax had been dumped at Hakam. But they also found indications that Iraq had produced an additional, undeclared 1,800 gallons of anthrax.

      So, did Saddam's culture of fear ultimately lead to the second war in Iraq?

      Australian microbiologist Rod Barton, who took part in Iraq Survey Group interrogations, said in a recent Australian Broadcasting Corp. interview that the disposal was carried out in July 1991, when Iraqi orders were issued to destroy all bioweapons agents immediately.
      Then, through the years, Mrs. Taha and other Iraqi officials denied the “missing” anthrax ever existed.
      “The members of the program were too fearful to tell the regime that they had dumped deactivated anthrax within sight of one of the principal presidential palaces,” the Iraq Survey Group says.

      So, if “hubris” is overweaning pride, what is it called when overweaning tyranny leads to your downfall? I call it “justice.”

      Update: I'm adding this post to the Beltway Traffic Jam.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Mar 29 2005 09:15 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      The New Libertarian, Volume 1, Issue 1

      The folks over at QandO and The Neolibertarian Network have published the first issue of The New Libertarian here. The printable version is quite nice looking and I'm giving the articles a glance right now. It has 16 pages of contributions from Dale Franks, Bruce McQuain, Matt Barr, Max Borders and Jon Henke. If I have time later I'll comment directly on the articles.

      I suppose I should take a little time to write an essay for it myself, but I'm finishing one class and starting two new ones. That's pretty hefty when you include my 10-hour-a-day daytime job.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Mar 29 2005 08:43 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Conservatives, Judges and Schiavo

      From the New York Times:

      Conservatives, already disdainful of the way judges have handled subjects like same-sex marriage and abortion, say the court treatment of the Schiavo case illustrates a judiciary that is willing to ignore the will of the public and elected officials.

      It's not the court's job to interpret the will of the people. It's the court's job to interpret the law. They did not talk to conservatives in this article, they talked to authoritarians with a conservative bent.

      Law Professor Ann Althouse responds:

      What Judge Whittemore did is very dramatic proof of the judiciary's deep commitment to the rule of law and its firm resistance to political pressure and emotional entreaties.
      And what do “conservatives” really think of judges? Do they want them—as the third paragraph in that block quote says—not “to ignore the will of the public and elected officials?” I thought good conservatives wanted judges to set aside political preferences and faithfully follow the dictates of the law. The criticism of “activist” judges is that they abuse the law by making it into what they prefer politically, but the solution isn't that they should do more of what other people prefer politically. It's that they ought to do what the law requires.

      Some have said that the Republicans will lose if Schiavo dies. I think they have already lost by stumbling around and destroying their coalition with strict constructionists. “Right to life” could have been approached much more cleanly than this law.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Mar 23 2005 06:40 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      “The Era of Big Government Is Over”

      Grand Old Pragmatists, Cox & Forkum, 3/22/2005

      (Cox & Forkum's “Grand Old Pragmatists”)

      Lately I've been troubled. It all reminds me of a Bill Clinton quote (originally from his 1995 State of the Union Address, but expanded later) from 1996:

      We will meet these challenges, not through big government. The era of big government is over, but we can't go back to a time when our citizens were just left to fend for themselves.

      That was hardly true then, and hardly Bill Clinton's intention. What's going on now? The Grand Old Party is in (nominal) charge of two branches of government and often claims to be the party of smaller more accountable government. But these last few weeks we have seen some intrusiveness that can hardly be overlooked.

      Ryan Sager noticed too:

      In coming years, political historians might look back and try to pinpoint the day or week or month that the Republican Party shed the last vestiges of its small-government philosophy. If and when they do, the week just past should make the short list. For it was in this last week that the Republican-controlled Congress made it clear that it sees no area of American life—none too trivial and none too intimate—that the federal government should not permeate with its power.

      I've resisted commenting on steroids and Schiavo, myself. They are really none of my business.

      Frankly I think there should be two sports communities: one where everyone is natural and tested to an outrageous extent, and another where people can do whatever they want. Let the market decide what it wants. There might be enough interest in both. There may only be enough interest for one.

      As for Schiavo, I think it's a mess I know little about. What I feel is that if there is someone competent willing to take care of her then Michael Schiavo should be able to completely sever himself from her (marriage, inheritance, lawsuit awards, whatever) and go on with his life as if they had never been together. The law made them together and it can make them apart. Unlike the abortion debate, there's no biological connection clouding the issue.

      But in both of these cases the GOP has clouded the issue. In the Schiavo issue, instead of making a law protecting rights, they performed some sort of machination that allowed a Federal judge to review a State case. If there's anything broken about the legal aspects of this it's that there has been no way to produce any additional or reviewed findings of fact. Only one court had that power. If courts can review and re-review findings of law, should there not also be a way to re-review findings of fact? I'm no lawyer, but that part mystifies me.

      It also mystifies me that it's legal to starve this woman to death but not a dog in the state of Florida.

      In the steroid issue they held a hearing where they threatened to regulate an industry. I'm all for hearings. Congress should have the power to inform the public about a matter of national interest. Baseball players are public figures and are heroes to some youth, they should promote activities in the best interests of those youth. I'm not about to force them to do it, though. However, it didn't stop there. It seemed to me like there really was interest in regulating as an undercurrent in the affair. Ryan Sager points out one:

      Still, such concerns didn't deter supposed small-government conservative Sen. John McCain from suggesting that “we ought to seriously consider… a law that says all professional sports have a minimum level of performance-enhancing drug testing.”

      I've never liked Senator McCain since he came to Oregon to promote regulating gun shows, but don't let my bias throw you.

      Oh well, I've never really liked sports and I stopped watching long ago. I hope I don't have to give up watching politics because they ticked me off too… Clinton's quote still resonates in my ears all these years later: “…we can't go back to a time when our citizens were just left to fend for themselves.” What we are left on our own to deal with dwindles every year, and it's not just because of middle-left Democrats like Clinton and middle-right Republicans like McCain, it's because of authoritarians who obscure the difference between the two parties with their lust for forcing everyone to their righteous path.

      Update: I'm adding this to the “Beltway Traffic Jam.”

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Mar 22 2005 11:02 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Washington State Senate Repeals I-601 Taxpayer Protection

      Don Benton sent the following alert.

      The headline in the Seattle P-I tells the story: “Senate passes amendment to I-601, making it easier to raise taxes.”

      On Tuesday, in a late night session, Senate Democrats pushed aside the last obstacle blocking a massive tax increase this year. They passed Senate Bill 6078 without a vote to spare: 25 to 21.

      Senate Floor Leader Tracey Eide and Ways and Means Chair Margarita Prentice led the tax increase effort.

      For twelve years, Initiative 601 has protected Washington taxpayers by requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to raise taxes. The new law allows a simple majority to raise taxes. It contains an emergency clause so it will take effect immediately and it cannot be subjected to a voter referendum.

      The “emergency” will allow Gov. Gregoire and the Democrats to raise taxes without consulting with Republicans. They hold majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

      “This is the final nail in the coffin of Initiative 601,” Republican Senator Joe Zarelli said. “It gets rid of, forever, the requirement that to raise taxes we actually need to talk to each other."

      For 12 years the Legislature had some restraint on raising taxes but now the party's over. Or for the Democrats, the party's just begun.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Mar 21 2005 09:25 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

      Felten's Law

      Edward Felton of Freedom to Tinker points out that when it comes to the copyright and pornography debates the positions of the debaters switch changing from subject to subject.

      The law:

      As a copyright policy discussion grows longer, the probability of pornography being invoked approaches one.

      And a corollary:

      When the topic of a copyright policy discussion switches to pornography, each side suddenly adopts the other side's arguments.

      And an example:

      For example, Hollywood argues that filesharing will lead to a shortage of movies, because nobody will make movies they can't sell. But when the topic switches to pornographic movies, suddenly they start arguing that filesharing increases the creation and availability of content.
      Similarly, some P2P vendors who say they can't possibly filter or block copyrighted content, suddenly decide, when the topic switches to porn, that they can provide effective blocking.

      This is a great insight, and makes it clear to me that there are fundamental biases driving the debate as opposed to a search for solutions. When it comes to life online, people like content to be free for everyone else to see and they also look for ways to avoid content they don't want to see. From there we get search engines and ad blockers.

      Perhaps this is not such a great shift when pornography is invoked, because the desired effect has shifted as well.

      So, let me make my observations.

      1. People who produce content are performing work
      2. If they provide you that work it's either because they wanted you to see it or you may have paid to see it
      3. If you send it to someone else, it's because you want them to see it, or they want to see it.
      4. If they want to see it without paying and get it from you without compensation to the originator, that's wrong
      5. If someone sends you something you didn't want to see, but they wanted you to see it, that's spam

      So, the reason for the switch in the pornography debate is that pornography is most often sent as spam (no one admits to looking for pornography), in hopes of getting people to buy the full content. P2P vendors want acceptance of their products and a customer requirement is the protection of children from pornography. We all know how well spam is filtered, so this seems like a vacuous claim on the part of P2P vendors.

      There are tons of people (after all, someone is paying for all this stuff) that will want pornography available via P2P and they will most likely be copyright violators.

      The copyright debate is all about making sure originators or distributors are paid for their content that people are getting to see without paying. P2P vendors derive a lot of use from people sharing copyrighted content that have purchased that they want to provide to their friends. They also want to look at their friends' copyrighted content. The tragic excess from P2P comes from the extension of the concept of “friends” to, essentially, the entire planet.

      Solutions elude us, as a society, at the moment. It's far too easy to spam and to copy material so these activities are rampant. There is no strong cultural bias against these activities either. Strong penalties applied to people that perform these activities seem excessive to most in our society (a lawsuit and a $2,500 damage award against a 14-year-old girl in Montana, for example).

      The only way out of this is to change the model. Let's hear your solutions.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Mar 19 2005 09:11 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      A Pledge

      I've said it other ways before, but I'll also take Patterico's challenge.

      If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

      I'll go one further. If any government institution makes rules or threats that limit my right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

      Of course, I've followed campaign finance rules as closely as I knew them (far more of an issue when I ran for office than now) but when it comes to limiting what I say I have to draw the line.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Mar 18 2005 05:56 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      “Sue Everyone” v “Volunteer”

      Philip K. Howard, chairman of Common Good, an organization dedicated to legal reform, has an editorial “Charity Case” in today's Wall Street Journal decrying a local Wisconsin case that may have a chilling effect on volunteerism.

      Like a lake receding from its shores, the area of our freedom continues to diminish with each new theory of liability. The latest casualty is volunteerism. Last month, a jury in Milwaukee found the Catholic Archdiocese liable because a volunteer for a Catholic lay organization, driving her own car, ran a red light and caused an accident while delivering a statue of the Virgin Mary to an invalid. Although the church does not direct the activities of this group, called the Legion of Mary, its meetings are held on church property. The jury decided the Archdiocese should pay $17 million to the paralyzed victim, an 82-year-old semi-retired barber.

      There's plenty of volunteer activities involving larger organizations I see around here. Beside my own efforts with NWSAFE and “Camp White Feather” for the Boy and Girl Scouts, there's Habitat for Humanity, SOLV, Junior Achievement, National Engineers Month and many other volunteer activities popular with folks in my workplace. We all drive and IBM supports our time and efforts applied to these activities.

      None of us will want to incur liability for our employer or for these fine organizations (although I keep my NWSAFE activities completely independent of my workplace activities).

      Should charities be accountable for the driving of their volunteers? Charities, unlike business, don't typically hire and fire their volunteers. Charities aren't organized to maximize profits—they're trying to help society. Charities open their arms—come in and help make life better for our community. How many charities carry $17 million of insurance? And will $17 million be enough for the next accident?

      At least with NWSAFE and White Feather our instructors have their own insurance of some form, although never to the tune of millions of dollars. That's hardly the case for the other volunteer organizations I mentioned.

      Mr. Howard's argument rings true, however. Juries have no standards to apply in these cases and as a result look solely at the merits and not the intentions of the parties involved. There needs to be policy set to handle this (hardly unique) circumstance. Why is the liability so easily transferred to the volunteer organization that hardly governs the activities of the individual? The individual is not an agent of the volunteer organization, for example. There are very clear obligations in such a case.

      Restoring trust in society requires a shift in the goals of justice, which is supposed to provide the foundation of freedom, not just a mechanism to resolve disputes. A system that tolerates wildly disparate results from one jury to the next promotes fear, not freedom. For Americans to feel free in daily choices, judges and legislatures must reclaim the responsibility to set the boundaries who can sue for what. That's what it means to live under the rule of law.

      Consistency is a virtue, especially when it comes to law.

      Amazon.com links:

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Mar 17 2005 08:24 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Widener University Offers Scholarships to Iraq Orphans

      According to DefenseLink, my alma mater Widener University is offering four scholarships to the children of soliders killed in Iraq:

      “It’s just the right thing to do,” said Widener University President James T. Harris said during a telephone interview with the American Forces Press Service.
      The genesis of the idea came when faculty and students at the four-year undergraduate school began being called up and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. “I was speaking with a fellow faculty member,” Harris said, “and we wondered if there was something we could do.”
      Harris said he went back to his office and began “crunching numbers.” He found enough money in the scholarship budget to offer four full scholarships to the university. The offer equals $100,000 for one student for a four-year degree.

      As an alumnus I definitely applaud this use of the endowment to support our troops overseas.

      It’s called Widener CARES—for Children of Active and Reserves Educational Scholarships. The program is open to the sons and daughters of servicemembers killed in action in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. It is a national program.

      I'm tempted to send Widener some more money because of this, but I'm not quite up to naming a computer classroom in Kirkbride Hall.

      (Hat tip to Outside the Beltway.)

      3/17/05 Update: Michelle Malkin has found out about this story and finds that only Oklahoma is offering anything close to this same offer for our troops.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Mar 14 2005 09:32 AM  |  Permalink  |  5 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Black Helicopters and Pajamahadeen

      The FEC debacle was covered again by John Fund in the Wall Street Journal Political Diary today. One quote that caught my eye:

      Ellen Weintraub, one of the Democratic commissioners singled out by Mr. Smith for needling, has responded with her own bid to promote the FEC's newfound celebrity status in Internet postings. “People have images in their minds that the FEC has black helicopters ready to sweep down on people sitting in their pajamas at their computers. I assure you, we have no intention” of engaging in such activity, she told Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper.

      Well, duh. We all know that the FEC uses green helicopters.

      All joking aside, the American people and especially the blogosphere has learned that no proposed government crackdown is ludicrous. Having run for office myself, I remember all the reporting requirements and laws about “undue influence.” Mrs. Weintraub's pooh-poohing of valid concerns has a note of elitism in it. It's as if she knows that Republicans are winning because of the excessive unregulated political contributions of the pajamahadeen.

      If they want to regulate speech on the Internet let them solve the identity theft, wire fraud and spamming problems first before they turn to the one type of speech expected to be protected by the Constitution: political speech. I've said it before, the First Amendment wasn't written to protect pleasant conversation.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Mar 11 2005 10:20 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      New Bridges, New Taxes

      Washington State Senator Dan Swecker has proposed raising the Washington Gas Tax by a penny per gallon per year for the next five years, and continuing for a total of twenty years, in order to pay for some new highway projects in Washington. The bill is SB 6083. Doesn't seem like much at first, but it adds up:

      His proposal would generate $12 billion over the next two decades, with $4.6 billion earmarked for local projects and $7.4 billion available for state and regional highway projects.

      At the end of the run the gas tax would have been increased five cents a gallon after a five cent per gallon increase just two years ago.

      I drove across the Columbia River from Washington in Oregon when I commute to work, so I am definitely sensitive to the need to improve that particular commute. There are some road problems in Oregon that routinely back up into Washington. I have to leave home around 5:30am in order to make my 38 mile commute in 45 minutes. If I leave later the time increase. When I head home it can take over an hour, two at the worst.

      Many other improvements are covered by the bill. What's not clear to me is whether this bill would also fund fixing the serious problems on the Oregon side of the bridge. I'm especially sensitive to that since I pay Oregon a 9% income tax even though I live in Washington. No unilateral solution on either side of the river will fix this commute problem. I work from home when I can, but as a manager I should really show my face at the office from time to time.

      A gas consumption tax seems an awful lot like a use fee—which I prefer to general taxes—but the raising of the tax by a penny per year is akin to stories of “boiling the frog.”—if you throw a frog in boiling water they'll jump right out again, but if you put a frog in warm water and heat it slowly you can boil the frog without him escaping.

      Washington's gas tax is already 28 cents a gallon. At the end of this bill it will be 33 cents a gallon. That's a pretty severe increase. At least it's not described in terms of a percentage of the total, which would greatly increase the tax as the price of oil fluctuates.

      “We need a long-term and stable funding plan that allows us to address our transportation needs without being a financial burden on drivers,” he said. “This plan qualifies on both counts.”

      Five cents a gallon doesn't seem like much to most people, but I'm pretty sure most people don't know how much gas they use each year or have a budget that describes how much they spend on it.

      Swecker's plan also adopts a pay-as-you-go approach, using cash for projects rather than selling bonds.

      This, however, I like. Paying for projects with current money instead of future money at least better ensures that they will get done.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Mar 10 2005 08:28 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      National Concealed Carry Reciprocity

      Gun Owners of America has sent notice that Rep. John Hostettler will be introducing a bill for national concealed carry reciprocity:

      Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) will soon be reintroducing his national reciprocity bill that protects the right of citizens to carry their firearms into other states.
      Hostettler's language has a huge advantage over other reciprocity-type bills in that it does not punish states for being too pro-gun. His bill would not penalize citizens from states like Alaska and Vermont, because his proposal doesn't require a citizen to first get a permit to enjoy reciprocity in another state.

      I call upon all those folks that helped push the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 reciprocate by supporting this bill. We got nationwide concealed carry for law enforcement, now let's see nationwide concealed carry for citizens who qualify for concealed carry in their home state.

      If you need to know more about the patchwork of concealed carry laws, there is no better source than packing.org

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Guns, Politics” Tuesday, Mar 8 2005 03:50 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Terror Watch Lists and Gun Purchases

      The New York Times is scooping Lautenberg's newest anti-gun initiatives, this time to encourage keeping lists of gun buyers:

      Dozens of terror suspects on federal watch lists were allowed to buy firearms legally in the United States last year, according to a Congressional investigation that points up major vulnerabilities in federal gun laws.

      Well, forty-seven purchases out of fifty-eight attempts over nine months. How many other legal purchases of firearms were made in that same period? And who has characterized this as “major vulnerabilities” other than a reporter with an agenda, perhaps one Senator who a history of anti-gun bills, and a anti-gun lobbying organization? What is the percieved value of combatting these perceived vulnerabilities versus the privacy rights of millions of people? In 2003 126,000 purchases were denied out of 7,831,000 applications, so “millions” is the right word to use, here.

      People suspected of being members of a terrorist group are not automatically barred from legally buying a gun, and the investigation, conducted by the Government Accountability Office, indicated that people with clear links to terrorist groups had regularly taken advantage of this gap.

      Last I checked, if there was a clear link, we charged them with a crime under the PATRIOT Act. If the link is unclear, however, then there's not enough evidence to charge them with a crime. Is that enough evidence to infringe upon their rights?

      Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, law enforcement officials and gun control groups have voiced increasing concern about the prospect of a terrorist walking into a gun shop, legally buying an assault rifle or other type of weapon and using it in an attack.

      Buying an assault rifle, under the National Firearms Act of 1934, is not as trivial as buying a regular firearm. This is the standard conflation of “assault weapon” and “assault rifle” regularly practiced by anti-gun pundits. Since the press is regularly corrected on this issue, misuse of this terminology must be deliberate. Buying an assault rifle (made before 1986, that is, those made after that are just plain unobtainable by legal means) requires BATFE sign off, as well as the sign off of your local Chief Law Enforcement Officer (usually your sheriff), paying the $200 tax, undergoing inspection, and a long list of annoyances that Lautenberg would like applied to regular firearms purchases.

      One would like to talk to these unattributed law enforcement officials, too.

      F.B.I. officials maintain that they are hamstrung by laws and policies restricting the use of gun-buying records because of concerns over the privacy rights of gun owners.

      What? More unattributed officials? I'm sorry, but I can't take them seriously unless they are identified. So far all I really see here is the bias of Eric Lichtblau.

      The legal debate over how gun records are used became particularly contentious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, when it was disclosed that the Justice Department and John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, had blocked the F.B.I. from using the gun-buying records to match against some 1,200 suspects who were detained as part of the Sept. 11 investigation. Mr. Ashcroft maintained that using the records in a criminal investigation would violate the federal law that created the system for instant background gun checks, but Justice Department lawyers who reviewed the issue said they saw no such prohibition.

      An easy spot-check of liberal bias is the deliberate call-out of John Ashcroft. More unattributed lawyers in the Department of Justice. Of course, the reasons for lack of attribution (hidden in the details on the second page) is because the report has not yet been released.

      Ultimately Lautenberg's bill is really all about mandating long-term record-keeping of those who might buy guns. It's all about back door registration of gun owners. So, even though the system might have allowed those on watch lists buy guns, Lautenberg really only seems to care about getting guns out of everyone's hands, little by little.

      (Hat tip to Just One Minute.)

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Guns, Politics” Tuesday, Mar 8 2005 02:51 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Neolibertarianism

      Neolibertarian Network logo

      Dale Franks has revisited “neolibertarianism” in light of the debate over whether the Libertarian Party harms the libertarian movement. He and John Henke have started the Neolibertarian Network:

      First, we are kicking off the Neolibertarian Network (NN). This will be an aggregation of blogs that fall within the Neolibertarian ideological framework. To this end, we now are using the new URL “neolibertarian.net.” Here's how it will work. If you have a neolibertarian blog, contact one of us for inclusion in the Neolibertarian network…

      Back in December, and again in February, John Henke examined the definition of “neolibertarianism:”

      The libertarian ideal of a truly limited government is an utopian dream. In the real world, where powerful interests—individual and collective—compete for the reigns of power, there will be violations of the ideals libertarians hold. After all—as a result of their disavowal of power—libertarians are uniquely unqualified to defend their ideals against political opposition.

      I almost disagree. Libertarian gathers are known for factional disputes and power brokering just like any other political gathering. The difference between what I see the “true” libertarians doing and what the LINOs do is the difference between gathering consensus and manufacturing consent.

      So, doctrinaire Libertarians are fighting an uphill battle against human nature. And they do so, precisely because they refuse to accept human nature as a part of their political calculation. Economics is the study of how humans allocate scarce resources. Politics is merely a social corollary to economics—the study of the allocation of values.

      Now that is certainly true. Libertarians love “enlightened self-interest” but decry the fact that a lot of humans don't look deeply enough at what may be in their self-interest.

      There's far more libertarian representation on the Internet—and in the blogosphere—than in any other forum for political activity. Local activism is important, but Neolibertarians need presence. Neolibertarians, if we expect to retain some semblance of influence within the Party system, need numbers and we need organization.

      To sum it all up, Dale Franks puts it this way:

      Let me chime in with my two cents here, too. It seems to me that the Neolibertarian ideal is characterized by a few simple, general propositions:
      When given a set of policy choices,
      • The choice that maximizes personal liberty is the best choice.
      • The policy choice that offers the least amount of necessary government intervention or regulation is the best choice.
      • The policy choice that provides rational, market-based incentives is the best choice.
      In foreign policy, neolibertarianism would be characterized by,
      • A policy of diplomacy that promotes consensual government and human rights and opposes dictatorship.
      • A policy of using US military force solely at the discretion of the US, but only in circumstances where American interests are directly affected.
      Obviously, there's a lot of wiggle room for personal variations in that simple set of propositions, and it leaves plenty of room for debate. But it seems to me that this is as good a start as any in defining the outlines of Neolibertarian policy.

      This is definitely aimed at a more practical level than the Covenant of Unanimous Consent, of which I am a signatory. I certainly believe that my writings here, and my support of the War on Terror, put me into the neolibertarian camp. It has certainly led to my estrangement from many of my local libertarian friends, who were solidly against the war.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Mar 8 2005 10:39 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      McCain-Feingold Insurrection

      pirate_flag.jpg

      Based on our latest FEC noise I have joined the McCain-Feingold Insurrection.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Mar 5 2005 10:40 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Followup on the FEC

      Don Singleton came by and commented on my posting criticizing the potential FEC regulation of political blog content. Over on his site he indicates Trevor Potter doesn't agree with Bradley Smith's warning that bloggers could be next and that—similar to my musings about my NRA Press credentials—a Texas radio station has offered to fabricate press credentials for all the bloggers that need them.

      In the meantime, Professor Stephen Bainbridge points out that Bradley Smith is a good guy:

      BTW, please don't blame Brad Smith. Polipundit called Smith a “powerful, unelected government official” and, at least by implication, suggests Smith is a party to “this crushing of free speech and the destruction of American liberty.”
      In fact, Brad Smith is a First Amendment hero. As a law professor before he joined the FEC, Smith wrote many law review articles condemning campaign finance regulation. As a result, when Smith was nominated to the FEC, McCain and Feingold orchestrated a massive smear campaign against him. Since then, even while faithfully enforcing the statutes his Commission oversees, Smith has consistently been on the side of free speech.

      So, was this a deliberate attempt to rile up the free speech advocates? If so, it has the potential of starting a groundswell of right and left political bloggers who want the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 amended.

      Even so, I like the idea of a starting a “Become a 527” service…

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Mar 4 2005 10:29 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      1,135 Felons and 45 Corpses

      Today the GOP released the names of 1,135 felons and 45 corpses that voted in the 2004 election for governor of Washington State.

      “It's one more significant piece of evidence that this past election was not only deeply flawed but that we don't know who won,” said Mary Lane, a spokeswoman for Republican opponent Dino Rossi, who is challenging the results in court. “Christine Gregoire is not the legitimately elected governor.”

      That would be the case if Gregoire's 129 vote margin depended on these ineligible voters. Past history has shown that felons are more likely to vote for Democrats by a significant margin, however. Dead people tend to vote for Democrats in Chicago, but I'm not sure about Washington.

      (Hat tip to Jayson at Polipundit.)

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Mar 4 2005 06:40 AM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  No trackbacks

      What Part of “Shall Make No Law” Don't You Understand?

      Amendment I
      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      Why should I remind you of these hallowed words? Well, batten down the hatches, bloggers, the Federal Government is coming to save us from ourselves! It turns out that the unregulated nature of uncensored discourse is exposing the world to excessive political speech. If we were to quote a portion of a political press release (and I've done so on this blog, for example) we're making a political donation, which can be regulated under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (brought to us by senators John McCain and Russ Feingold).

      A national committee of a political party (including a national congressional campaign committee of a political party) may not solicit, receive, or direct to another person a contribution, donation, or transfer of funds or any other thing of value, or spend any funds, that are not subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements of this Act.

      Bradley Smith, of the Federal Election Commission, was recently interviewed by Declan McCullagh of CNET News. What he said may have a chilling effect on political blogging.

      In 2002, the FEC exempted the Internet by a 4–2 vote, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last fall overturned that decision. “The commission's exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines” the campaign finance law's purposes, Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

      Republicans tried to overturn this provision, but were stymied by the Democrats. I suspect if blogging went the other way the GOP would want McCain-Feingold to apply to the Internet and the Democrats would fight it. Either way, maybe I can make a fortune creating 527s for bloggers.

      [Smith:] The judge's decision is in no way limited to ads. She says that any coordinated activity over the Internet would need to be regulated, as a minimum. The problem with coordinated activity over the Internet is that it will strike, as a minimum, Internet reporting services.
      [Smith:] They're exempt from regulation only because of the press exemption. But people have been arguing that the Internet doesn't fit under the press exemption. It becomes a really complex issue that would strike deep into the heart of the Internet and the bloggers who are writing out there today.

      Bloggers don't qualify as Press. I wonder if my NRA Press credentials would earn me a free pass.

      [Smith:]I'd like someone to say that unpaid activity over the Internet is not an expenditure or contribution, or at least activity done by regular Internet journals, to cover sites like CNET, Slate and Salon. Otherwise, it's very likely that the Internet is going to be regulated, and the FEC and Congress will be inundated with e-mails saying, “How dare you do this!”

      Captain Ed, trusty soul that he is, has risen to this call. My favorite paragraph of his open letter:

      We may debate about the effect of unregulated cash on our electoral system, but if this new FEC effort comes to pass, the only people debating will be the corporate-owned media and the politicians. The rest of us will have been effectively bound and gagged, unable to contribute in any way thanks to the efforts of those who fear their own constituents. You can be assured that none of us in the blogosphere will fail to recognize those who do not act to defend our rights to free and unfettered political speech, and regardless of political party, none of us will rest until those voices of repression are stripped of office by the voters they hold in such low regard.

      Grassroots movements have removed politicians before, and the blogosphere is about as grass roots as you can get. We'll see what happens next and the gloves will come off.

      3/5/2005 Update: I posted a comment to join the (threatened) insurrection of Geek with a .45.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Mar 3 2005 09:44 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  2 trackbacks

      More Want Syria Out of Lebanon

      Via Captain's Quarters this morning we find that Russia and members of the Arab League have joined the calls for Syria to leave Lebanon. Russia's removal of support is significant. I believe that it has realized that it has been on the losing side of history in several middle eastern conflicts.

      Putin may have feared diplomatic isolation on this point, as France has partnered with the US for the first time in ages on a point of international politics, and Germany's Gerhardt Schroeder has also publicly demanded a Syrian withdrawal. With Europe and the US tightly united on Syria, Putin may have decided that backing Assad has become a losing bet.

      Russia is seeking a new balance between the status quo and the US call for complete withdrawal:

      Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said: “Syria should withdraw from Lebanon, but we all have to make sure that this withdrawal does not violate the very fragile balance which we still have in Lebanon, which is a very difficult country ethnically.”

      With this much international support, Syrian military dominance of Lebanon may have become a thing of the past. The question now revolves around what happens to the spies, terrorist camps and training facilities that managed to operate there.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Mar 3 2005 07:34 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Economic Report of the President—2005

      Following on the heels of my criticism of the President's budget for basic research on February 18th, 2005 we come across more ripe material in the Economic Report of the President for 2005. Chapter 6 discusses “Innovation and the Information Economy.” It has a nice introductory explanation:

      The innovative process involves the invention, commercialization, and diffusion of new ideas. At each of these stages, people are spurred to action by the prospect of reaping rewards from their investment. In a free market, innovators vie to lower the cost of goods and services, to improve their quality and usefulness, and—most importantly—to develop new goods and services that promise benefits to customers. An innovation will succeed if it passes the market test by profitably delivering greater value to customers. Successful innovations blossom, attracting capital and diffusing rapidly through the market, while unsuccessful innovations can wither just as quickly. In this way, markets allow capital to flow to its highest-valued uses.

      My argument in my previous discussion of research funding pointed out that basic research has a hard time attracting capital. The above quote points out that successful innovations (usually products built upon a foundation of basic research) attract capital. Therefore we are pumping public capital into Defense and Homeland Security products because we don't have time to wait for commercialization of those products.

      The report heads off on a cautionary note:

      This engine of growth can falter, however, if government policies distort the market signals that guide innovative activity. Well-meaning policies to promote the diffusion of a service or foster entry into new markets can have unintended consequences. A policy to subsidize an existing service so that more people will consume it can deter development of innovative new services that people might otherwise prefer. In addition, pioneering investors forced to share the fruits of their investment with new entrants would find it less profitable to invest in the first place, and a new market may never be developed. When government regulation, instead of a competitive process, “picks the winners,” people tend to lose.

      So I guess it's okay to pick the winners for defense and homeland security. Perhaps this is why the defense department, and NASA, have thousand dollar hammers?

      This chapter of the report has four main points, which I'll quote and cover one at a time.

      Information technology is a key contributor to economic growth and productivity, and its importance to the economy is growing.

      Well, I'm not going to disagree that managing and communicating information is the key driver of the information age. We are living that age.

      Competition drives the broad diffusion of innovative low-cost, high quality information services. This has held true in markets for mobile wireless telephones, satellite television, and dial-up and broadband Internet services.

      One only has to look at the growth of the industries listed to see their importance. however, satellite is faltering and broadband is limited to high-density areas. Why do I say this? I have to use satellite broadband because I live in the boonies. It's hardly perfect.

      As circumstances change and industries evolve, existing government regulations may need rethinking. In particular, economic regulations aimed at correcting an absence of competition may lose their rationale when competition from new technologies emerges.

      The report goes on to indicate that cable television and phone lines are natural monopolies. This is a shock to me! They would not be monopolies at all if it wasn't for government regulation. Why do we have government monopolies on cable television and phone lines anymore? There are efficiencies to be gained by allowing competition here. They use the concept of high barriers to entry as a way to define natural monopolies. However, the key barrier to entry in this space is regulation. They argue that the massive investment in copper that was needed before is fading and therefore these industries may not be natural monopolies for much longer.

      I think this is a subtle argument for deregulation.

      People are motivated to invest by the prospect of earning returns on their investment. Government thus has an important role to play in defining and protecting property rights in intellectual and physical capital so that entrepreneurs will be spurred to innovate.

      This one is troubling. I believe that funding basic research is a government function (and that research should be royalty-free). I also believe that people should be able to profit from their hard work and good ideas. However, I am troubled by the magnitude of abuse of patents (and software patents in particular).

      The only major IP discussion is about copyright infringement. This is missing much of the boat when it comes to the issues in this area.

      I haven't read the whole report, and I doubt I'll have time, but my friends in high-tech industries should at least skim through Chapter 6 to get a feel for the landscape of high-tech in the national economy.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Mar 2 2005 10:47 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Syria out of Lebanon Now!

      The fallout from the assassination of Rafiq Hariri continues.

      The US government has followed up on its temporary recall of its ambassador “for consultations” with a strong statement (from a Fox News article):

      “The free world is in agreement that Damascus' authority over the political affairs of its neighbor must end,” Bush said. “The world is speaking with one voice when it comes to making sure that democracy has a chance to flourish in Lebanon and throughout the greater Middle East. And when democracies take hold, the world becomes more peaceful.”

      The United States will brook no further interference:

      “We've seen words. What we want to see is action that moves in that direction. Syria needs to quit interfering in Lebanon. The Lebanese people are standing up, in the streets of Lebanon and saying we want to reclaim our sovereignty and independence, free from outside interference.” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. He added that not only must troops withdraw, the secret police must go as well and the nation must be permitted to run its own political affairs.

      The is strong support from middle eastern countries as well as a dusty UN resolution calling for Syria to leave Lebanon. Even so, Syria has stated its own concerns:

      Syria's ambassador warned that a quick withdrawal of his country's soldiers, could leave a power vacuum and rekindle the sectarian violence the Syrians suppressed.

      Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters puts it rather well:

      Assad knows that Syria is through in Lebanon. He may drag it out to June or July, but he's finished there, and he knows it. The Lebanese may not allow them to wait to the end of March to get out, “technical” issues or not. Those demonstrators won't stop until Syria leaves, and Assad knows the US won't let up either.

      I believe that the discussion of a “power vacuum” is apt. Syria is looking for a way to maintain control. It may not be through an insurgency like what is being attempted in Iraq, and it may not be a “scorched earth” policy either, but they will look for some way to retain control of the buffer state between them an Israel.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Mar 2 2005 04:42 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

      SF-180 Clock

      From Blogs for Bush we get the SF-180 Clock (requires Javascript):

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Mar 1 2005 09:57 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      GOP Schisms Followup

      Randy Barnett muses that having a Libertarian Party might be a problem for libertarianism.

      I think that the creation of the Libertarian Party has been very detrimental to the political influence of libertarians. Some voters (not many lately) and, more importantly, those libertarians who are interested in engaging in political activism (which does not include me) have been drained from both political parties, rendering both parties less libertarian at the margin.

      I think I agree with him. The LP has been an escape valve for dissatisfied activists. However, since those who head for the LP are not necessarily coalition builders, the LP suffers from far worse factional infighting than the parties those individuals escaped!

      Libertarians value principles quite highly, and many deride compromise. That makes it hard to build a power base.

      While some libertarian political activists are certainly Republicans and Democrats, the existence of the Libertarian Party ensures that there are fewer activists and fewer voters in each major party coalition than would otherwise exist. Therefore, each party's coalition becomes less libertarian.

      Has this marginalized position also led to the difficulty of selling limited government to the people? I'd like to think that it's large population clusters like the big cities that make people comfortable with a powerful government, and not the learned behavior of the voters after thirty years of being told not to “waste your vote.”

      Perhaps it is time to dissolve the Libertarian Party and take the fight back into the organizations that spurned us.

      I said something similar earlier today replying to Gideon Strauss at Pejmanesque.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Feb 23 2005 01:03 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      GOP Schisms

      Because of Instapundit and a few other posts I've seen today, I see that there's a new factional fight brewing in the GOP.

      When the Libertarian Party agreed to partially fund the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to reach out to other organizations it was a bit of a gamble. Would they manage to appeal to fiscal conservatives without annoying the social conservatives? After all, I went with the GOP pretty strongly in the 2004 election primarily because of my split with many in the Libertarian Party that disagreed with the War on Terror.

      Well, apparently there was some friction at CPAC. Ryan Sager noted it in his article on the event entitled “The Right's Right:”

      No, the arrogance that will prove problematic, ultimately, was that directed at the libertarian-leaning conservatives by the social conservatives. The message in that regard was clear: We Christians can do this alone, y'all who ain't down with J.C. best be running along.

      Such an attitude is unfortunate. After all, there were a lot of organizations there:

      More than 90 organizations sponsored the event, including the Objectivist Center, Americans for Tax Reform, the NRA, the National Taxpayers Union, the ACLU, Heritage Foundation, Bureaucrash, the Drug Policy Alliance and a host of others.

      The LP tried to leverage the event and obviously failed:

      “While we aren't aligned with the political views of these other groups on all subjects, the other groups didn't necessarily line up on every issue, either,” said LP Executive Director Joe Seehusen. “By taking part in this CPAC conference, we hope to show that Libertarians are the true fiscal conservatives—much more so than the Republicans are.”

      Various speakers were booed for their divergent views. It prompted Ryan Sager to write,

      In fact, if there was anything particularly striking about this year's CPAC, it is to just what extent Republicans have given up being the party of small government and individual liberty.
      Make absolutely no mistake about it: This party, among its most hard-core supporters, is not about freedom anymore. It is about foisting its members' version of morality and economic intervention on the country. It is, in other words, the mirror image of its hated enemy.

      That's a pity. The people I meet from the GOP at a local level are very nice people that respect my differences of opinion. They even respect that I don't consider abortion and gays to be important topics of discussion and that I don't think government should be in the business of minding other people's business.

      Bill at INDC Journal also noted Ryan Sager's column and added a warning of his own:

      I would advise all of my respected socially conservative friends and fellow bloggers to take note: a lurch towards sane national defense and fiscal policy by a charismatic Dem or three (it could happen), coupled with one too many sneering “RINO” jokes from you hard righties, and this moderate—and many like me—are gone. One day we'll simply snap, our better judgment overwhelmed by a wacky sense of humor and stewing anger, and you'll wake up to a nightmarish world where the senior senator from Mass rides into the sunset as SecState and Billary is floating doomed socialized medicine schemes out of the Oval again.

      What can I say besides, “hear, hear!” …although I would probably add gun rights to the list. I didn't so much vote for Dubya as much as against Kerry and his ilk. It was the same in 2000 when I votes for Dubya because Al Gore was a gun-grabbing taxaholic goof.

      Ramesh Ponnuru responded to Sager on National Review Online's The Corner

      If conservatives brush off libertarians more often--and I'm not sure that they do--that may reflect the simple fact that conservatives have a stronger position within the Republican coalition. If Sager's got any evidence or even an argument that the party's political success requires increased libertarianism, I'm sure a lot of people would be interested in hearing it.

      Sager quickly wrote back:

      I’d say that while a big chunk of the Republican base wants to believe that that 2004 election was won on “moral values,” the fact is that it was won on the War on Terror.
      While much has been made of the fact that 22 percent of voters chose “moral values” as their most important issue when asked in exit polls—making it the most popular of the options given—that was only because “terrorism” and “Iraq” were listed as separate choices. Together, those foreign-policy topics were the deciding factor for 34 percent of voters.

      Right on.

      I was strongly in favor on the response to 9/11 and skeptical about Iraq. Ultimately it appears it was all proved correct.

      I also believe that, long term, the Republican Party can only grow its base by shedding the stigma of being the party of intolerance. President Bush seemed to understand this when he took office, and he’s made inroads in the black and Hispanic communities by asking for the votes of blacks and by dropping the un-American crusade against illegal immigrants. But he’s made a short-sighted political calculation—perhaps based on electoral math in states like Ohio—to use gay marriage as a wedge issue.

      Gay marriage is a good example. My opinion is that government has no business regulating marriage. The fact that they want to have a massive spat about it clearly indicates that other people have different values. I can accept that but I'm not changing my position for them.

      Ramesh Ponnuru gets the last word, though.

      Most sets of positions on contested political issues bring advantages and liabilities to the party that holds them. It is certainly true that social conservative positions—and the attitudes these positions are perceived to signify—alienate some voters… But they also bring in voters. The same can be said of opposition to big government: It too appeals to some voters and alienates others (at least when it's put in terms of opposition to specific government interventions).
      If you want some of conservatism's libertarian elements to be strengthened—and I join Sager in wanting this—getting a clear view of our actual political circumstances is a prerequisite. Sager's a smart guy, but I think that his political prescriptions reflect wishful thinking on his part.

      That's all well and good, but those that lean libertarian like me don't like it at all. What are the principles that drive the party? What are the values? It's when pandering to the base comes about that makes libertarians sneer “Demopublican or Republicrat, what's the difference?”

      I dropped Bush senior like a rock for two reasons. First was his assault weapons ban. Second was his comment about atheists. That's when I knew the GOP did not have my values at heart.

      Jon Henke at Q&O also comments on this growing dispute:

      The “Fusionist” alliance that long-existed between Traditionalists and Libertarians is being strained by the near-total abdication of “limited government”—the principle around which we could rally—by the current leadership of the GOP.
      There's a schism coming, and the fight will be between the libertarians (us, for example, as well as many of our readers), the fiscal conservatives (Gingrich, Kemp, et al) the moderate/centrists (Christine Todd Whitman, Giuliani, Schwarzenegger) and the social conservatives. (Falwell, Dobson, Santorum)

      This struggle is the warning shots for the fight over who runs for President in 2008, though.

      I have to say I don't like the anti-gun Whitman, Giuliani and Schwarzenegger (or, for that matter, the anti-gun mouthings of Bush) and I don't like the “true believer” attitudes of Falwell, Dobson and Santorum. I pretty much distrust true believers of any stripe, be it religion, economics, environmentalism or even gun owners.

      For obvious reasons (limited government), we Neolibertarians can form an alliance with fiscal conservatives. We can even work with the Centrists, who share many of our socially tolerant views. The Social Conservatives, on the other hand, seem far less interested in limited government. In fact, they seem just fine with an expansive government, so long as that government is working towards their own social/cultural ends.

      If Ramesh is right and limited government positions lose the GOP votes (the LP sure ain't stealing too many elections from them) then there has to be some sort of (unholy) alliance to save the soul of the GOP from the true believers that put their faith before the best interests of the country.

      Jon says the same thing:

      When they lose power—and they will—the GOP must have a faction, and a person, who will create a new coalition during the interregnum. As Dale has written before, such “socially tolerant, fiscally conservative” moderates as Schwarzenegger, and Rudy Giuliani may prove unbeatable on the national stage. If we want to remain a voice within the GOP, I suspect we'll need to hitch our wagon to their coalition, while we still have some political capital. Such a coalition will require uncomfortable compromises, but I really don't see any other possible alliances.

      I'm all for it, so long as I don't have to lose my guns. That's the only place where I distrust the center-right.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Feb 22 2005 03:09 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

      Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) Believes

      Little Green Footballs has a scoop! They have an audio file of Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) accusing Karl Rove, if not the Bush White House, of planting the fake memos that discredited Dan Rather.

      Probably the most flagrant example of that is the way they set up Dan Rather. Now, I mean, I have my own beliefs about how that happened: it originated with Karl Rove, in my belief, in the White House. They set that up with those false papers.

      The audience member recording the event asked Hinchley if he had any evidence, and he first responded “Yes I do.” but quickly recanted in a followup question. I can see not understanding the question being asked, so we can give the Congressman a pass on that. However, the accusation is so outrageous that it will quickly become moonbat mantra. We've heard it before, but coming from a congressman's lips turns it into truth. The “Bush lied” mantra routinely comes from Senator Ted Kennedy, after all, even though he didn't seem to care that Clinton agreed with Bush on the presence of WMDs in Iraq.

      This new item is quickly being taken up by others in the blogosphere, but the credit goes to LGF for breaking the story of an elected congressman that is just a little too far “out there.”

      Update: Since I'm already drawing the ire of those on the left side of aisle, I'm reminded of Lilek's comment about a different tape:

      recall, in the happy halcyon 90s, when Linda Tripp taped Monica? There was great ire poured on her for doing such a despicable thing. I wonder if the same parties will summon up an equal amount of dudgeon now.

      All too often people play both ends against the middle, and I deliberately used the technique in my responding comment in the comments section. People who believe that Karl Rove is controlling anti-Bush operatives in order to get them to annihiliate one another are tin-foil hat crazy.

      Update2: Even Wonkette thinks Hinchey is nuts.

      God that Rove character is busy! Running White House hustler rings, cloning little Cheneys, making Hillary Clinton get bad haircuts, flying planes into the Pentagon…

      Update3: Welcome Daou Report readers! I don't know why this posting in particular was suggested, but the real story is at Little Green Footballs, not here. Read the hundreds of comments on that post for extra added fun.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Feb 21 2005 09:10 AM  |  Permalink  |  4 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Portland, OR Retains “Little Beirut” Title

      As I mentioned before, George Herbert Walker Bush once called Portland, OR “Little Beirut” because of protesters he observed when visiting this city. His son has encountered similar behavior when he has come by. I remember seeing the displays when I used to live downtown. Now I live far, far away from downtown Portland and I'm glad.

      Last night Howard Dean and Richard Perle debated at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Just after the former Pentagon adviser began his comments, a man named Bruce C. Charles threw a show at him and yelled “Liar! Liar!”

      This sure is the kind of activity for which I like Portland to be famous.

      Howard Dean was well-liked in the Portland area and folks around here were unhappy that Kerry won the nomination (although I saw my share of Kucinich stickers, if you are looking for someone even more radical). The sheer snarkiness of the louder (converted from Dean, to be sure) Kerry/Edwards supporters here drowns out most hope of reasonable public discourse.

      Update: Our latest protestor has drawn the attention of Drudge and Paul at Wizbang.

      For those of you still clinging to hope the Democratic party can ever again represent the mainstream, do you give up yet?

      I had to comment in Paul's post that Bruce C. Charles doesn't represent the Democrats, just our local moonbat fringe, which I call “the Howard Dean and Dennis Kuchinch wing of the communist faction of the Democratic Party.”

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Feb 18 2005 09:10 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      USS Swamp Rabbit

      (Rabbit picture)

      (Photo courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum.)

      Via the Little Green Footballs article “Carter vs the Swamp Rabbit” we discover that there are pictures (thanks to the nice folks at narsil.org) of the rabbit that attacked President Jimmy Carter on April 20th, 1979. What's even more amazing is that the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum is happy to furnish the photograph, which they say is in the public domain.

      (Rabbit closeup)

      (Photo courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum.)

      Since the Navy is about to commission an attack submarine in Jimmy's honor, perhaps it should be nicknamed the “USS Swamp Rabbit” in honor of this fearsome beast that held the leader of the free world in abeyance.

      Update: Vodkapundit points out that it's a “Bad Omen” for Jimmy to get an attack submarine named after him, because of previous nicknames for submarines.

      Paul at Wizbang is having difficulty with the idea of Jimmy getting an attack submarine. (Me, I am amused by the fact that this is the last Seawolf-class boat. Wolves eat bunnies.)

      Finally, day by day has an excellent comic on the subject, with no rabbit:

      (<em>day by day</em> cartoon)

      Update2: Jay Tea at Wizbang posts “What's In a Name?” sneering at our antics but also relating an amusing history of ship-naming in the United States and England.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Pictures, Politics” Wednesday, Feb 16 2005 05:00 PM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rafiq Hariri

      The car bomb assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, on Monday has certainly drawn some negative attention to neighboring Syria. Of course, this neighboring country has been occupying Lebanon in some form for three decades, but it has not always carried the perception as a state sponsor of terrorism.

      The first paragraph in the Washington Times article, “U.S. Recalls Envoy From Syria” illustrates this recent, but unsubstantiated, belief as it relates the recall of the US Ambassador to Syria:

      The Bush administration turned up the pressure on Syria yesterday, recalling the U.S. ambassador for “urgent consultations” in Washington, but it stopped short of accusing Damascus of being behind former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri's assassination in Beirut on Monday.

      We may have stopped short, but we were not unclear in the rest of our rhetoric:

      Nevertheless, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Mr. Hariri's assassination was the “proximate cause” of Ambassador Margaret Scobey's return and that Syria's “stated reason” for its de facto occupation of Lebanon “the country's internal security” is no longer valid.

      Why do we allow Syria to occupy Lebanon again? Many may remember their civil war in 1975–1976, incited by clashes with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). While their refugee camps along the border with Israel had been unmolested by previous agreements, their incursions into Israel drew retaliatory raids. The Encyclopedia Britannica described the growing civil war thus:

      Hardly a day passed after the beginning of full civil war in April 1975 without a battle somewhere in Lebanon. The country was torn apart, and the central government virtually ceased to exist. The army, long the mainstay of the government, largely dissolved while the combatants, amply supplied by various foreign groups, turned upon one another with a ferocity—and firepower—almost unequaled in such a small area of the world.

      This disastrous time for Lebanon led to an unlikely coalition between Syria and Israel supporting the Christian faction in Lebanon over the pro-PLO forces there. Syria did not want a Israeli intervention in a county on their doorstep. In 1976 Syria occupied Lebanon with 20,000 troops, partitioning the country until a longer-term solution could be found. The continued foreign intervention prevented full-scale open war, but the country was ruined regardless.

      Even so, Israeli intervention came in 1981, when they bombed PLO headquarters in West Beirut. in 1982 they invaded and pushed the Syrians back.

      Under supervision by an international (U.S., French, and Italian) force, PLO leaders and troops left Beirut for a number of Arab countries in late August. Because Syria supported the PLO forces remaining in northern Lebanon and in al-Biqa' valley, the forces could not be compelled by Israel to leave, but the Syrian backing was used to foster a PLO leadership that opposed the PLO chairman, Yasir 'Arafat.

      Eventually the Israelis left after the situation again deteriorated and partitioning of the country (perhaps even engulfment) again loomed.

      Lebanese of nearly all factions and groups rejected the possible disappearance of their country. Instead, the chief issue became which one of the groups would dominate a newly reunited Lebanon. In March 1989 General Aoun launched a “war of liberation” against Syria and its Lebanese allies; despite Iraq's covert assistance, this war failed, and in September Aoun accepted a cease-fire.

      With Syria back in control and forcing political changes, the parliament was reconstituted to force power sharing between the Christian and Muslim factions. This gave them a buffer between their country and Israel. After all, who wants terrorists striking a powerful enemy from your own territory?

      Since then the country has had an uneasy balance of Sunni, Shiite, and Christian factions. It was during this time that Rafiq Hariri came to power and worked hard to revitalize the country and its economy. Hariri wasn't entirely influential however, as Fox News reports, Syrian occupation has continued for many years:

      Syria has an estimated 15,000 troops in Lebanon and has been adamant about keeping them in place, despite demands for withdrawal by the late Hariri and others, including the U.S. and the United Nations. U.N. resolution 1559 was passed in attempt to get Syria to leave Lebanon, to no avail.

      An estimated 200,000 people came to Hariri's funeral, many of them yelling “Syria Out” as an indication that they suspected who might have been behind the bombing. Hariri's ability to unify the various factions was evident in the funeral:

      Breaking with Islamic tradition, hundreds of weeping women waving white handkerchiefs joined men in the march. This and the participation of Sunni Muslim clerics, white turban-wearing Druse religious leaders and ordinary Lebanese Shiites and Christians demonstrated Hariri's great popularity and ability to reach across potentially volatile sectarian divides.

      Why was he no longer part of the government? Because of his distaste for Syria's influence:

      Hariri resigned last year amid opposition to a Syrian-backed constitutional amendment that enabled his rival, the pro-Damascus [Emile] Lahoud, to extend his term as Lebanon's president.

      Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had some tough talk in her comments about the recall of the ambassador.

      “We are not laying blame; it needs to be investigated,” Miss Rice said.
      “When something happens in Lebanon, Syria needs to help to find accountability for what has happened there,” she said. “This is a part of the destabilization that takes place when you have the kind of conditions that you do now in Lebanon thanks to Syrian interference.”

      Sounds like an echo of Hariri, doesn't it?

      Syria has already been on our short list, from remarks made by President Bush in the State of the Union address this year, to the Syria Accountability Act.

      The Syria Accountability Act, which Congress passed in May, banned all U.S. exports to Syria except for food and medicine, as well as flights between the two countries. Some on Capitol Hill, however, have been pushing for prohibiting all American investment.

      An editorial in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Syria's Dead Hand” called the Syria Accountability Act all but a paper tiger, but did add this:

      In January, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage went to Damascus, ostensibly to read Bashar Assad the riot act. But we're told his main message was a demand that the Syrians hand over Saddam's half-brother Sabawi Ibrahim Hassan (a.k.a. Sabawi the Tikriti), who is almost certainly supporting the insurgency [in Iraq] from Syria. Damascus has yet to cough him up, though now perhaps it might in an act of token cooperation.

      The editors of the WSJ want the recall of the ambassador to be permanent and for significant diplomatic pressure to be applied to end the occupation of Lebanon. All of this would have to be under threat of direct action from the United States. With the recent policy of pre-emption, it has to be having some effect on Syrian politics.

      To be fair, lots of scandal has been heaped Syria's way since before the Iraq War. It has been rumored that personnel, valuables, and WMD was rushed over the border before and after the war started. The discovery of chemical weapons in Jordan in the hands of Al-Quaeda was supposedly through this link. In fact, Iraq-to-Syria smuggling was an open secret that perhaps US Intelligence had a pretty good eye on, but didn't thwart in order to maintain our tabs.

      At any rate, if the intention of the terrorists was to provoke a reaction, they've succeeded. If they wanted to build unrest, they've succeeded. The real question now is whether the situation can be resolved and whether Lebanon will ever return to being an inclusive democracy that had Shiites, Sunnis, and Christians working together, before it was undone by the PLO.

      Update: Captain Ed, at Captain's Quarters, adds his own comments in “Who Killed Rafik Hariri?.” One comment I particularly enjoyed was

      So why would the Syrians want to assassinate Hariri? Well, they claim they didn't, and instead blame the Israelis. However, the Israelis have even less reason than Damascus to pull such a stunt. They want the Syrians out of Lebanon, not to give them a reason to dawdle. Besides, car bombs aren't Israel's style. The Syrians need to ensure that they have a firm political grip on Lebanon if they ever intend to leave it to the Lebanese, and with the recent push for the end of the occupation, the Syrians may have decided—rather unwisely—that a message had to be delivered in preparation for their evacuation.

      I didn't delve too deeply into motivations myself so I'm glad to hear this insight.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Feb 16 2005 12:03 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

      Clark County Election Reform Task Force Meeting

      We arrived late, but Misty and I attended the 2/10/2005 Election Reform Task Force Meeting down here in Clark County. While I didn't get up to speak because everyone else was doing such a good job, I did get to see what everyone else was doing. (If anyone else was there reading this, I was apparently the only on present with a blaze orange collared shirt.)

      There were a lot of orange shirts there. Around 150 concerned citizens, many of whom were wearing orange bandannas, armbands, or clothing, got up to testify about how disillusioned they were with voting in the state of Washington. There was also a noticeable amount of press, scribbling quickly in their notebooks.

      It was a peaceful assembly. Many opinions were brought out. Not everyone was for a revote, but many were. A contingent from the Green Party talked about Instant Preference Balloting and were heard politely. A few people involved in working with the election had suggestions, too.

      Military ballots and the revote and the troubles in King County were all aired multiple times. Solutions were offered, many reminding me of the list of suggestions from the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.

      One gal wondered aloud if we would be there if the results of the election had been different. I have to say that if the election was broken but had gone my way I probably wouldn't have been as passionate about being there, but I dislike broken election systems. I have a long history of that.

      Don Carlson brought up the issue of accurately counting the votes of those in assisted living, which made Misty happy. Other representatives were there as well, like Rep. Curtis.

      One response I heard, more than once, is that if a revote were to occur with the current broken system similar results could be expected. I have to agree with that. Secretary of State Sam Reed said that the judge in Chelan County admitted that he could not force a revote, but he could vacate the governorship, requiring that it be filled at the next regular election.

      Our favorite Sam Reed quote was that it was not time to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. I have to agree. Voter confidence was not very good with the crowd that was there.

      All in all, it was a good time. We'll have to see if the other meetings go as well.

      Update: Andrew Garber of The Seattle Times was there and has filed a report.

      More than 100 people showed up at a Clark College auditorium to vent their frustration to the four-member task force chaired by Reed and former Democratic state Sen. Betti Sheldon. Comments ranged from technical advice to outrage.

      Bill Stewart of The Oregonian also reported on the events last night:

      Most of the estimated 100 people attending the hearing at Clark College called for a revote, but members of the Green Party asked Reed to endorse an “instant runoff vote” in which candidates are ranked by voters, then the second choices are used if the tally is a tie. A bill has been introduced in the Legislature to allow that system in Vancouver city elections.

      I'm pretty sympathetic to instant runoffs elections myself. One person said that they didn't want an Ireland here because of the multiple factions and other problems overseas. I didn't get a chance to point out that those problems come from the parliamentary system, not instant runoff elections.

      Update2: Vancouver's The Columbian has an article by Tom Vogt.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Feb 10 2005 09:16 PM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  No trackbacks

      A Note From Sharon Gilpin of Revote Washington

      I just got a note from the folks that run the revotewa.com web site…

      Dear ReVote Washington Supporter:

      The past month has been an intense and fulfilling exercise in direct democracy.

      The Revotewa.com site went “live” on December 31, 2004 and with only word of mouth—the petition had 5,000 by New Year's Day. The next day Revotewa.com's petition had 10,000 signers—by that week's end the petition had 135,000 signers.

      Yesterday, February 3, 2005 we turned in over 241,000 petitions asking the Legislature of Washington State to order a re-vote of the Governor's race.

      We submitted the original 8.076 paper petitions and a CD containing the name, address and city of all 233,647 cyber petitioners to the Counsel for the House (Tim Sekerak). We also submitted a copy of the petitions and a CD to the Counsel for the Senate (Marty Levenger) yesterday at 1 p.m. in Olympia.

      Both Counsel have informed us that the petitions will be considered public documents. The Legislators will be able to access all documents as they wish.

      So, aside from the nearly quarter million Washingtonians who signed on with you, where does the entire state as a whole stand on re-vote?

      Various organizations and media outlets throughout the month have conducted opinion polling and while the question varies, Washington voters have made clear they want the “election mess” fixed with a revote. The Survey USA poll (posted on the site under “Opinion”) had these results this week:

      Regardless of who you voted for in November’s gubernatorial election, would you favor another election for governor to resolve the election?
      Yes: 53%
      No: 35%
      Undecided: 12%

      As a majority of state citizens clearly are still demanding a re-vote we are going to keep our website alive to help facilitate that effort.

      So far we have raised just under $43,000 and spent close to 90% of that on TV spots asking for a re-vote. As we may need to raise our media campaign again in the wake of upcoming court decisions, please consider making a small donation—we will put it to good use.

      In any case, thanks again for your support…and keep up the letters, emails and word-of-mouth with your family, friends, and especially your TV, radio and newspapers. A re-vote will only happen if we make it happen!

      Thank you!

      Sharon Gilpin
      The Gilpin Group
      www.thegilpingroup.com

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Feb 8 2005 04:39 PM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      The President's Fiscal Year 2006 Budget

      So, President Bush has submitted his budget for the 2006 fiscal year of the United States Government. Congress will now hem, haw, hack, and cough up the money for another year of “the Feds.”

      So, what's in this 2.57 trillion dollar beast? This is a 3.6% increase over the last fiscal year.

      We start with tough talk about restraint from the Press Briefing for the release of the budget:

      Because of this increased spending restraint, deficits are below what they otherwise would have been. In order to sustain our economic expansion, we must exercise even greater spending restraint than in the past. When the federal government focuses on its priorities and limits the resources it takes from the private sector, the result is a stronger, more productive economy. The President's budget proposes that enhanced restraint.

      How much of that is true? The Wall Street Journal reporter Shailagh Murray says,

      Fiscal conservatives will find the most to like in Mr. Bush's plan. While administration documents describe the cut in non-defense, non-homeland security domestic discretionary spending as a 1% reduction, the real cut is about 2% when the numbers are adjusted to take out foreign aid.

      Seems reasonable. Again, how much of this is true. Chris Edwards and Alan Reynolds Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal is less rosy:

      At first glance the budget sounds pretty tough this year, with a promise to cut or terminate 150 federal programs. But even if Congress passed all those cuts, 2006 spending would be reduced by less than 1%. Last year's budget likewise proposed terminating 65 programs, but only five were actually ended.

      Let's look at the technology side of the fence, one of my interests. ZDnet's Russel Shaw highlights four measures in the budget that got his attention. The patent and trade office gets a 10% increase. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) gets a 7.5% increase. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gets a 6.5% increase. Finally, the National Science Foundation (NSF) would get a 2.7% increase. Seems to me like a decent focus on infrastructure although a barely ticking promotion of basic scientific research. It's my hope is that this will spur businesses to get more involved in basic R&D.

      It's been said that the good thing about this budget is that with deficit spending there's far more pressure to cut bad programs and trim fat budgets. While this is a decent approach to keeping the legislature under control, it does nothing to save us from a tax-and-spend executive taking the reins in four years.

      Democrats are already howling. On some issues they are right to complain. This budget holds aside the issues of changing the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which is not inflation-adjusted and is therefore affecting more individuals and businesses each year. The other is the costs of changing the Social Security System.

      I'll keep an eye out on what Congress changes. More later…

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Feb 8 2005 12:40 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Clark County Revote Rally

      An alert that came my way from the Clark County GOP…

      Vancouver is the first stop of four to be made around the state. Come and join us for a rally and provide constructive input on election reform at this public hearing next week! Wear something orange. We encourage you to bring constructive homemade signs and any revote signs you may have. The greater the attendance, the greater the message!

      What:Task force appointed by temporary Gov. Gregoire will take public comments on improving elections.
      Who:Secretary of State Sam Reed, former state senators Betti Sheldon and Larry Sheahan, and former Washington State University President Sam Smith comprise the task force.
      When:6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday Feb. 10, 2005
      Where:Clark College Foster Auditorium
      1800 E McLoughlin Blvd., Vancouver

      Please remember that this is a peaceful rally as we are a peaceful Party!

      Approved By: Josephine F. Wentzel, Political Director, Clark County Republicans

      Suggestions: One of our Elected Officials suggested that we come early and register inside to ask questions at the public meeting, as this is a very controlled one. The following issues were suggested to bring up, so chose one. (It doesn't matter if the same question is asked 30 times).

      When you attend, please stick to the following subjects. Other points will be addressed in Olympia. But these will be left out unless you stand up and demand change.

      1. Re-registration: Cleaning the voter rolls so everyone on the rolls is a legitimate voter. We need to remove the felons, non-citizens and graveyard residents from the voter rolls.
      2. Identification: Asking voters to prove their identity before casting their vote. We need to know who is actually voting.
      3. Reconciliation: Requiring the number of ballots that go out match the number of ballots that come in. When these numbers don't match up, we know we have a problem. It just makes common sense.
      4. Standardization: Creating statewide rules for administering provisional ballots and verifying absentee signatures. We can't have King County counting non-verified provisional ballots, and we need to make a standard for how signatures are checked. Right now it is different in every county.

      Other facts and figures to use:

      • During the last governor's race, nearly 2.9 million votes were cast. Vast discrepancies and utter chaos between the rules and processes of the various auditors' offices require immediate changes. Voter confidence must be restored in the election system.
      • Voter confidence has dropped. Several polls indicate people want a revote. A recent Elway poll showed that 30 percent said the election was over but the outcome is not legitimate; another 26 percent (for 56 percent combined) said the election is not over and the outcome is still in question. In addition, 47 percent, almost half of those polled, felt that the outcome and process of the recount were unfair.
      • Out of 16,000 respondents to a KIRO-TV poll, 76 percent said there should be a revote in the governor's race. A KING 5/Survey USA poll showed that 53 percent think Dino Rossi should NOT concede the race. Of those surveyed, 56 percent said they think Rossi won the race. And 59 percent of the Survey USA participants say that a revote is necessary.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Feb 7 2005 11:51 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Voting Should Be Inconvenient, Laws Should Expire

      Since election reform is a hot topic in Washington, I figure I should throw in my suggestions. At the moment I'm a permanent absentee voter because I work in Oregon, 38 miles from my home. Obviously spending the 2–3 hours necessary to come home and head back to work in the middle of the day is out of the question for me.

      Or is it?

      I agree with L. Neil Smith. Voting should be inconvenient. It should never be trivially easy to give your rights away. It should never be the case that people vote without really understanding what they are voting for.

      For example, here's what he thinks about majoritarianism, from an essay called “The Tyranny of Democracy”:

      Some claim that majoritarianism, despite its faults, is an alternative preferable to physical conflict. They're wrong: majoritarianism is physical conflict. Elections are a process of counting fists, rather than noses, and saying, “We outnumber you—we could beat you up and kill you—you might as well give in and save everyone a lot of trouble.” Majoritarianism, to put it straightforwardly, possesses the full measure of nobility manifested by any other form of extortion.

      He goes so far to point out that the best system is one where those who haven't voted for something can opt-out of the effects of whatever was voted in, similar to those who order pizza as a group.

      That's pretty far afield. However, a piece of that analogy holds. Trying to be all things to all people often results in bad decisions. If everyone is forced to abide by bad decisions people are dissatisfied with the result. It should be harder to make bad decisions.

      So I oppose vote-by-mail. I oppose vote-by-phone. I oppose vote-by-Internet. I don't oppose mechanisms that make voting more accurate, but I oppose mechanisms that make voting easier. Not because of the security risks of these remote voting schemes, which are certainly tangible, but because when it is too easy to vote people don't pay attention.

      People who know me recall that I prefer bodies divided by multiple factions and the requirement of a supermajority to pass measures that usurp the rights of the membership. I always err in favor of having a minority voice be heard, but I also always favor having rights be retained by the membership. For example, I push for members having the final say on bylaws changes, not some shadowy board. This is a foreign concept to the OHSU Student Council. It's held with some skepticism by ASLET.

      In Oregon and Washington the initiative process is pretty strong, but has been hamstrung. In Oregon there is a less-than-ethical Secretary of State, Bill Bradbury. In Washington we have the “emergency” clause that I mentioned here before.

      What makes me believe in voting is how much people have tried to circumvent bad laws by changing them directly through the initiative and referendum processes. Perhaps what we need to change in the Constitution is the concept of inertia. it should be hard to add things to law, and easy to remove them. I'm not talking just line-item veto stuff. I want bad laws to go away automatically.

      A long time ago I suggested the idea of expiration dates based on the how large a majority a law enjoyed. For example, a unanimous law like outlawing murder would have a one hundred year lifespan and would need renewing infrequently. A popular law with 75% support, like the outlawing of gay marriage, would last fifty years. A barely tolerable law, like a tax increase, just eking out at 51%, would last until the next legislative election (two years in some states, six years for the Senate).

      At any rate, the reason I mention L. Neil Smith is my memory of a meeting of the Confederate Congress in The Probability Broach. The location of the congress was in the middle of nowhere, because it made it harder to vote. Admittedly, it also featured a proxy-voting system that made it easier to vote as well, so maybe the Confederacy isn't perfect either in his utopia. Stories about perfect worlds are boring, anyway.

      Amazon.com links:

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Feb 7 2005 10:41 AM  |  Permalink  |  5 comments  |  No trackbacks

      More Judge Bridges Rulings (WA Election Contest)

      My previous posting on the rulings from Judge Bridges need some tweaking.

      From Timothy Goddard's The Flag of the World, more interpretation:

      First off, Bridges made a statement that most people appear to have missed. (I’ll have to paraphrase until the transcript comes out, probably next week.) He said, essentially, if the Republicans can prove their allegations as they have stated them, then their election contest will prevail. This is, obviously, quite good news.

      I admit that I had missed this point, but I'm relying on second-hand reports in the press and on the blogosphere. for example, KGW still has the erroneous headline, “Judge says he can't order recount of Wash. governor's race,” along with a shortened quote of the ruling that pretty much hands the Democrats victory if you see it and nothing else. Also, KGW has this cute bit:

      At one point, Bridges talked about one of the cases cited in the lawsuit, a late-1800s election challenge in Arkansas. Both governors had their own militia, and state Supreme Court judges were kidnapped, he said.
      “We think this is not what should go on in this system” Bridges quipped, “not that I don't wish I were kidnapped so I didn't have to make these decisions.”

      Back to Timothy's analysis:

      Second, the he ruled that he won’t be ordering a special election because he doesn’t have the authority. Some people have said this means “no revote,” which would be pretty deadly, but that’s not exactly true. Before Bridges even made his ruling, the Republican counsel said that the question before the court at that point was not “whether” to have a revote, but “when.” That is to say, would the court be able to order an election immediately, or wait until the next general election in November? The court has essentially said that the soonest there could be another Rossi-Gregoire showdown is in November, because the court’s power doesn’t extend far enough to order a new one immediately. The likely outcome of a successful contest now would be for the election to be nullified, Gregoire booted from office, leaving it vacant, meaning that the Lt. Governor Brad Owen would take over until November. While Republicans are dissappointed with this ruling, it’s hard to be too bummed about a judge admitting that his powers aren’t infinite.

      Well, with the gun bills and other fluff trying to get pushed through, I'm a little nervous about waiting until November to correct this problem in the Governor's office.

      Next, Timothy and Sound Politics both point out that the Seattle Times' reporter John Postman spun things in the Democrats' favor in this article:

      The good news for Democrats was Bridges’ ruling in Chelan County Superior Court that Republicans must show any illegal votes were cast in favor of Gregoire, and not Republican candidate Dino Rossi. There would have to be enough illegal Gregoire votes to erase her 129-vote victory margin.

      Matt Rosenberg at Sound Politics saw something different in today's Seattle Times, amounting to a correction:

      Bridges…denied a Democratic motion to limit any challenge to issues of fraud and illegal votes, saying misconduct or neglect by election officials would also be sufficient grounds for setting aside the election.

      Timothy sums it up, “Republicans get the present, Democrats the bow.”

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Feb 6 2005 08:56 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Revote Lawsuit Continues Without the Counties

      According to KGW, “Judge dismisses 39 counties from Wash. gov. lawsuit.”

      What really happened? The judge has ruled on many items:

      • The Democrats' motion to dismiss was denied.
      • The Democrats' motion to declare Rossi “not a proper party” to bring suit was denied.
      • The counties' motion to dismiss due to lack of timeliness was denied.
      • The judge ruled that affadavits were sufficient as evidence to contest the election.
      • The Democrats' motion that the case should be decided by the legislature was denied.
      • The Democrats' motion to take the case to the Supreme Court immediately was also denied.
      • All 39 counties and their auditors were dismissed from the case, but they are still expected to respond to any discovery order.

      The press may try to spin this Gregoire's way, out of sympathy I suspect, but even that keeps the revote effort in the public eye.

      Keep reading Sound Politics for more up-to-date information. I'm pretty far from the fight in Clark County.

      Update: No sooner do I shut down my computer and head home than the judge in Chelan county rules that his court does not have the authority to order a revote. Democrats take this as a victory, but it just sets up the appropriate appeal to a court high enough to order such an action. The Republicans remain confident.

      Here's an interesting note on the KGW story:

      Should the Republicans prevail in their lawsuit, it was not immediately clear what relief might be available. In some past successful Washington state election challenges in smaller races, a judge has simply awarded victory to the challenger.

      I doubt a county judge has the authority to order the state to accept Rossi as governor any more than he can order a revote. It most likely needs to hit a higher court.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Feb 4 2005 04:08 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

      State of the Union Emotional Moment

      the_hug.jpg

      (picture from Lucianne.com via Lori Byrd's Byrd Droppings.)

      I only caught part of the State of the Union address on the radio last night, as well as part of the Democratic response, so I don't have a lot of analysis on those as of yet. I suppose I should have TiVoed it.

      However, I heard the commentators after Bush's speech explain the long period of applause after the President introduced the parents of Sgt. Byron Norwood, who had been killed assaulting Fallujah. The parents stood and the mother, Janet Norwood, was hugged by another guest, Safia Taleb al-Suhail, daughter of a man slain my Saddam Hussein's intelligence service. Earlier in the speech she had been identified and had raised his purple-stained index finger in a salute to the recent Iraqi election.

      It was a visual confirmation of the appreciation the Iraqi people felt for the sacrifice of American troops. For me it was a visual picture until I found various postings this morning. Even over the radio, the commentator's description got to me. If anything undercut the weeks of Democratic sniping at the Iraqi election it was this moment.

      If I dig them up from audible.com I'll comment further on these speeches.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Pictures, Politics” Thursday, Feb 3 2005 08:59 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Oil for Food

      Paul A. Volcker gives us a short report of the findings of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nation's Oil for Food Program in today's Wall Street Journal:

      We have found in each case that the procurement process was tainted, failing to follow the established rules of the organization designed to assure fairness and accountability. Perhaps not surprisingly, political considerations intruded, but in a manner that was neither transparent nor accountable.
      The audit process, underfunded and undermanned, was unable to meet effectively the challenge posed by a really unique, massive and complex program of humanitarian assistance. Despite the skill and dedication of auditing professionals, the independence, the clear reporting lines and the management responsiveness critical to achieving a fully effective auditing process were lacking.
      The management of Program administrative funds appears free of systematic or widespread abuse. But even there, a clear lapse from disciplined judgment has been found.
      More disheartening are our findings with respect to the performance of the Executive Director in administrative charge of the Program, Benon Sevan, a long-term senior United Nations official. The evidence is conclusive that Mr. Sevan, in effectively participating in the selection of purchasers of oil under the Program, placed himself in an irreconcilable conflict of interest, in violation both of specific United Nations rules and of the broad responsibility of an international civil servant to adhere to the highest standards of trust and integrity.

      One wonders how one can become a figure prominent enough to get considered for high-profile UN jobs without having substantial international interests, but the conflict of interest charge is interesting. What really is the problem here is widespread graft and corruption.

      Mr. Volcker goes on to highlight the need for international organizations as evidenced by the recent tsunami disaster, but he tempers that with a warning that international organizations have to hold themselves to high standards.

      A detailed report will come this summer. I'm sure we will all be curious about the billions of dollars that have disappeared, and the billions of dollars that turned into gold and luxuries for Saddam instead of food for his people.

      Update: Report is here.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Feb 3 2005 08:17 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Lethal Force Redefined by Ninth Circuit

      Although the Ninth Circuit seems to get reversed a lot, they have another lethal force decision. This one appears to muck with the legal definition. In Smith v. City of Hemet they look at a police excessive use of force case, but they also get an opportunity to rewrite law:

      We also take this occasion to bring our circuit into line with the others with respect to the definition of “deadly force.”
      … We also hold that in this circuit “deadly force” has the same meaning as it does in the other circuits that have defined the term, a definition that finds its origin in the Model Penal Code. We define deadly force as force that creates a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury.

      Why is this important to the case? Because Smith's behavior was supposedly not enough to warrant excessive force…

      By even the defendants’ account, the force used against Smith was severe. The Hemet Police Department’s use of force policy, General Order U-102, classifies the use of both pepper spray and a police service dog as “intermediate” force. Defendants acknowledge that they employed both types of force, and that “intermediate” force is the most severe force authorized short of deadly force.

      More severe than “intermediate”? You decide:

      Under the facts as we must assess them for purposes of this appeal, the officers slammed Smith against the wall, threw him to the ground, slid him off the porch while face down, pepper-sprayed him repeatedly, and either permitted or instructed Quando [the police service dog] to attack him on three occasions,6 at least one such attack occurring while the officers had him pinned to the ground. The canine assault resulted in Quando’s teeth puncturing the skin on various parts of Smith’s body.

      This is some discussion that concludes that the police did not need to use lethal force, and the police pretty much agreed.

      Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not explicitly define what constitutes deadly force in Garner, and the definition that we have previously announced is incorrect. In Vera Cruz v. City of Escondido, 139 F.3d 659, 663 (9th Cir. 1998) (as amended), this court considered the meaning of the term. In that case, we held that deadly force means “force reasonably likely to kill.” Id. at 660. In doing so, we expressly refused to add “or result in serious bodily injury,” a phrase that appears in the definition employed by all other circuits that have defined the term. Id. at 661-62. Similarly, we deliberately chose “reasonably likely” rather than “creates a substantial risk,” the phrase employed by all other courts of appeals to have confronted the question. Id. at 662-63. The definition the other circuits have adopted and that we adopt today is identical in most respects to that set forth in the Model Penal Code. See Model Penal Code § 3.11(2) (1962).

      This time I think the Ninth Circuit is heading in the right direction, Deadly force should include “serious bodily injury” as such injury creates a finite possibility of getting killed. This new definition more closely follows the basic definition I use when teaching on the subject of deadly force:

      That force which a reasonable and prudent person would consider capable of causing death or grave bodily harm.

      This comes the Mas Ayoob's Judicious Use of Lethal Force coursework, and my subsequent certification to teach that same material.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Feb 2 2005 06:02 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Ayn Rand

      Ayn Rand would have been one hundred years old today. She is best known for her books Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead and Anthem, all of which were intended to teach us her philosophy of Objectivism.

      I came across objectivism and Ayn Rand after I had already received a dose of libertarianism from the works of L. Neil Smith. I found Smith's works to be more fun and less stark. I did not like how sex in Ayn Rand novels seemed to be a game of dominance and repression. Smith appreciated sensuality and a fun roll in the hay. Also, I've found Smith's libertarians (or “propertarians”) to be a lot nicer to other people than the elitist snobs in Rand's utopia.

      Rand did have a more rigorous philosophy, though. She carefully expresses certain parameters to objectivism:

      Metaphysics:Objective Reality“Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed”
      Epistemology:Reason“You can't eat your cake and have it, too.”
      Ethics:Self-interest“Man is an end in himself.”
      Politics:Capitalism“Give me liberty or give me death.”

      Libertarianism and objectivism are related, as Edward Hudgins points out in his tribute to her 100th birthday:

      Rand developed an ethos of rational self-interest, but this “virtue of selfishness” was not an anti-social creed for predators. Instead, it led Rand to her great insight that there is no conflict of interest between honest, rational individuals. Since individuals are ends in themselves, no one in society should initiate the use of force or fraud against others. All relationships should be based on mutual consent. This became the credo of the modern libertarian movement, found today in think tanks, publications and public policy proposals.

      So, I consider Ayn Rand to be influential on my life and certainly my philosophy during my early college years. However, I would have to say that there are other great works that are equally influential, like The Lord of the Rings, Unintended Consequences, The Nagasaki Vector and The Cathedral and the Bazaar.

      Today, I still remember the key point: Facts are facts (“A is A”). Ayn Rand's insistence on there being an objective reality is certainly one leg of my philosophical table. While I agree with objectivism in general terms, it is the absolutist form that I object to. I can be nice to other people without ruining them, although being too nice can make them dependent.

      For example, I blog not just for my own benefit, but for the benefit of my readers.

      Farewell, Ayn, I'm glad you made an impression on several generations.

      Amazon.com links:

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Feb 2 2005 04:12 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Right & Left

      Ann Althouse writes:

      I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm a political moderate. More than any ideology, I care about rational discourse. In the year that I've been blogging, I've taken a lot of different positions, some left and some right. What I've noticed, over and over, is that the bloggers on the right link to you when they agree and ignore the disagreements, and the bloggers on the left link only for the things they disagree with, to denounce you with short posts saying you're evil/stupid/crazy, and don't even seem to notice all the times you've written posts that take their side. Why is this happening? I find it terribly, terribly sad.

      I like to self-identify as a political moderate, although I agree with the War on Terror, disagree with gun control and support contesting in 2004 Washington election, which apparently puts me between Mussolini and Hitler in a lot of people's books.

      In my sad experience those on the right actively seek out similar voices because they feel they are not heard by the general public and those on the left actively suppress contrary voices because they feel those voices are heard too much and need to be quelled. Because I have identified with both libertarians (I feel government is far too complicated and controlling) and gun owners (I'm a tool user that resents being told he can't own something because it might be misused) and been intimately involved with the politics of these groups that are deliberately shunned. I notice a lot of similarities. Both groups feel as though they are not taken seriously nor given a fair shake in the press. When I was involved with both groups I've seen them shouted down and insulted by smug, superior contrarians.

      I wish I had a far left example. I have been involved with the ACLU before, but dumped them over the gun control issue. I have been involved with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but I haven't been a regular contributor.

      I have been arguing about gun control online since the mid-1980's. I've run into a lot of smug, superior contrarians. They don't read what you say unless they want to pick it apart. They ignore the meat of your arguments and look for subtle claims to strawman and disassemble. If they're losing they do it in private emails to their friends or, nowadays, on their own blogs.

      One interesting experience came from when I appeared on a cable access show with other libertarians, including the veteran congressional candidate Bruce Alexander Knight. At the time (mid-1998) all of us were running for office. We had a discussion (I wouldn't call it a debate) on various issues, but the gun control points apparently struck a chord with one of the women that worked the camera. After the show, in a local pizza shop, she got into a knock-down row with us because she felt that self-defense, in and of itself, was immoral. We were shocked. That was well outside our experience. It made me get involved in more local political groups outside my own. I needed to expand my view to understand such huge gulfs of thought.

      I learned a lot from Tammy Bruce, for example. I got interested in audible.com and listened to these people talk. I had spent a long time with books and Usenet and I lost the emotional content of discussion that pervades real life. I even met people on the swpdx mailing list that I regularly debated remotely. The theory is that you wouldn't say the same thing to someone's face as in an email. The debates I had on swpdx were far more interesting than the petty, spiteful, in-politics I find in groups of like-minded people.

      However, I discovered I'm different than some.

      The most interesting thing I've discovered is that like-minded thinkers like to point out other people's postings and swoop down upon them like righteous fury. They haven't read your entire blog. They only look at individual postings one of their group found interesting. This is why I find trackbacks so interesting, although many blogs have disabled them because of trackback spammers.

      Amazon.com links:

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Jan 31 2005 04:07 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      737 Illegally Cast Votes

      So, the latest count from the GOP in Washington has 737 illegally cast votes in the 2004 election for Governor: 186 felons in King County, 54 felons elsewhere in the state, 44 people who died before mailing their ballots, 10 who voted twice, 6 who voted in two states, and our old friend, the 437 provisional ballots mixed with the general votes instead of being kept separate in three different counties.

      Gregoire's margin was 129 votes.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Jan 27 2005 07:37 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rossi v Gregoire

      So, the Judge in Chelan county has ruled:

      • the case will go forward
      • the case will not have the expedited schedule the GOP requested
      • the case will not have a delayed discovery process that the Democrats requested

      The Democrats have also not backed away from legislators saying that it's something for the courts to decide and also asking for a dismissal because election contests are something the legislature should decide.

      I think that too many obvious shennanighans will cause a backlash against the Democrats in this contest. I get a feeling that is what motivated a lot of the base (on both sides) in the 2004 elections for President. I still have my “Sore Loserman” T-shirt, and I did wear it in the days after the election when many wanted to make Ohio into the new Florida.

      The GOP mantra is at least consistent. “The only way out of this is a revote.”

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Jan 21 2005 10:42 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Timmothy Goddard Finds Democrat Doublespeak

      Timoth Goddard discovered through an alert commenter that the Democrats who represent us in the Washington Legislature appear to be talking out of both sides of their mouth, telling constituents that the election contest is up to the courts to decide while at the same time attempting to get the case thrown out of court because it's really the legislature empowered to invalidate elections.

      He has collected quotes from ten different legislators at the time of this posting, pointing towards a very likely “party line” on the response to the election contest.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Jan 17 2005 01:23 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Foulkes v. Hayes and the Washington Revote

      Timmothy Goddard examines the Washington voting contest precedent of Foulkes v. Hayes.

      The fact that in 1975 those extra votes came from fraud, and that today they came directly from the negligence itself is moot. The law clearly draws no distinction between fraud and negligence for the purposes of an election contest, and the Supreme Court decision clearly stated that it was the negligence, not fraud, that led the the revote.

      A lot of folks think that the voting problems have to be proven to be deliberate for the contest to succeed. By looking at this precdent it's clear that fraud did not have to be present, just negligence.

      The only argument that I can see that Democrats can make against this is that it’s not clear that Gregoire gained any votes from the irregularities—this is notably different than the argument currently being made by Democratic officials, that it’s not clear that the irregularities were enough to alter the election. As we’ve seen, that’s not necessary. To make this new argument, Democrat lawyers will have to argue—with a straight face—that irregularities that added new ballots to the pot in the most overwhelmingly Democratic county in the State (let alone provisional ballots) might not have increased the Democrat’s lead.

      When Victoria Taft had Rossi on her show Thursday Night, he seemed optimistic and upbeat, although he was more concerned about the delay tactics in the court case tiring out the public attention. Gregoire has gone for fait accompli by getting inaugurated as quickly as possible, but that has no bearing on contesting the election.

      Rossi says that if everything goes well and there's no further delay we're looking at an election in March or April. With delay tactics who knows how long it might take.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Jan 15 2005 12:52 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      People Moving to Warmer Political Climates

      In today's OpinionJournal Political Diary John Fund notes that more and more people are moving to where their politics are more acceptable:

      Political scientists are turning up evidence that people are increasingly relocating to states where residents share their basic political values. Count the Motor City Madman, rocker Ted Nugent, as one of them. The lifelong Michigan resident, an enthusiastic conservative and gun owner, has pulled up stakes and turned Texan. He's even donating his services to help the local Crawford High School band raise the money needed to perform at the inauguration on January 20. He will hold a concert tomorrow night that he expects will raise a grubstake of $25,000.

      Nugent had a wonderful outfitting store in Michigan (although it is somewhat dwarfed by Cabela's). I wonder if he will try to open up a similar concern in Texas. Competition will certainly be stiffer.

      The idea is hardly new. Libertarians got together and proposed the Free State Project where a significant number of libertarians would join together and move to New Hampshire in order to dominate the local political scene.

      The primary red versus blue determinant appears to be density, however. The closer together people live the more it seems that they must erect dependency on government services. I can understand police and fire departments, but there does seem to be a movement towards socialism when one's available piece of the landscape diminishes. Perhaps people demand government control of property because what they can afford is so miniscule. I live outside of town so I can afford 15 acres. I used to pay though the nose for 1,000 square feet in downtown Portland.

      I don't miss it. And I don't miss the “tax them to death” mentality of my neighbors. Even so, I was not alone. When I ran for office in 1998 I got 15% of them to vote for me.

      Amazon.com links:

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Jan 14 2005 01:45 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Timothy Goddard on What Matters in the Washington Revote Debate

      (Hat Tip to Sound Politics)

      Timothy Goddard examined the law and the issues over at The Flag of the World and came up with a list of what issues matter in the Revote debate:

      Broadly speaking, the only thing that matters is the Washington State Supreme Court decision that will be made after the Chelan court decision is appealed. Within that, though, there are a lot of things that matter, based on Washington law, and a lot of things that don’t–and it can be easy to confuse the two.

      He then examines the law and divides the issues into the important ones and the side issues.

      What's on the “hot” list?

      • 50,000 ballots enhanced illegally (it must be possible to revisit original intent)
      • 1,800 voterless ballots (far more of these than the margin of victory)
      • 348 unverified provisional ballots mixed in (also much greater than the margin of victory)
      • Felons voting (at 89 so far, very close to the margin of victory)

      What's on the “not-so-hot” list?

      • Dead voters (not enough of them)
      • Systemic problems (we have to use the system we have)
      • Gregoire’s inauguration (it doesn't change anything)
      • Polls and petitions (these don't affect trials)
      • Voterless voting is not atypical (but when voterless voting exceeds the margin of victory it is important)
      • Double voters
      • Invalidating all close elections (margins like these don't happen very often)
      • Intention to defraud (election law doesn't care about intent, only results)
      • Ohio (margin there was thousands of times greater)

      There is one issue remaining that have not been allocated to the hot list, or the not list: military voters. King County may have messed up their absentee ballots but it's unclear if they broke the law and invalidated the election.

      Mr. Goddard has another post that has a marvelous coincidence:

      Care to see something kind of spooky and completely irrelevant? If you take the total difference between Rossi’s initial margin of 261, and Gregoire’s current margin of 129, you get 390. If you subtract from that Rossi’s second margin of 42 votes, you get 348–which is the exact number of provisional ballots mixed in with regular ballots. Ooooh–spooky.

      It's quite unlikely that the numbers are related, but it is a cute observation.

      Update: Tim Harris of BIAW has identified an additional 76 felons who voted.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Jan 13 2005 10:13 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Majority of Washingtonians Support Revote

      Via Stefan Sharkansky at Sound Politics we find that KHQ-TV in Spokane conducted a poll on the revote and 62% of Washingtonians support it. The MSNBC page says the survey was based on the responses of 600 people in the Spokane area, but Stefan looked at the raw data and says it was based on statewide polling.

      Stefan's entry also reports that the www.revotewa.com petition has over 221,000 signatures. If you have not signed it yet and you think the recent election was dysfunctional enough to have invalid results, please go sign it.

      Update: John Fund comments on Gregoire's inaugural ball in today's OpinionJournal Political Diary:

      The public reaction, along with the possibility that a court may yet order a revote, has certainly put a damper on Ms. Gregoire's inaugural festivities. About 1,000 tickets to her inaugural ball tonight remain unsold, and many other tickets were bought by supporters of Mr. Rossi, who was leading the vote count until December 23. The Rossi supporters aren't eligible for refunds and, so far, neither are voters who would like to see November's tainted election thrown out and replaced with a new, clean election instead.

      Amazon.com links:


      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Jan 12 2005 03:40 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

      Busy Day in Olympia

      There was a Revote Rally in Olympia today. Stefan Sharkansky of Sound Politics, amongst others, spoke to the crowd of over 1,000:

      We can all see how our elections process, the core of our democracy, has broken down. It’s kind of a metaphor for all that ails our political institutions. Underperforming, untransparent, unaccountable. Is it really “good enough for government work” to have 3,500 or 2,000 or whatever is the number du jour more ballots than voters? The airlines figured out years ago how to count both boarding passes and the people sitting in the airplane and come up with the same number. Why can’t our elections officials figure out how to match the number of ballots cast with number of eligible voters who cast them?

      He didn't get to read all of what he prepared, but he did post his speech.

      Even so, Gregoire was certified by the Democrat-controlled legislature as the winner of the election.

      The vote to delay failed on a 65-80 vote (65 in favor of delay, 80 opposed, with two members excused for health problems).

      Despite problems in King County, tomorrow she is scheduled to be sworn in.

      In fact, the saga in King County continues.

      Initially, King County's records showed 3,539 more ballots cast than people credited with voting. Elections officials worked to reconcile that number and announced last Friday they had accounted for all but 1,217 of the votes.
      In reviewing the reconciled list, however, state Democratic Party officials noticed a mistake: The names of many voters appeared twice.

      This puts it at approximate 1,800 more ballots than people counted as voting, in a county that voted for Gregoire far more than it did for Rossi. Add this to 348 provision ballots that were mistaken added to the mix without being verified and while we don't have proof of fraud, we have proof of a failed election.

      More and more I support the revote. Go to www.revotewa.com to join the petition. I don't know if it is relevant once she is sworn in, but one can only hope that it is.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Jan 11 2005 06:15 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Anonymous Email From a King County Elections Worker

      Sound Politics' Stefan Sharkansky has received anonymous email from a King County Elections worker telling about the total mess inside the office. His article is titled “Omerta Breaks” referring to the mafia word for the code of silence.

      Some key items from the email:

      Here are some things from the inside view that seem like they should be important to this election.
      1. I think you should ask Bill or Dean point blank if there were any problems with the military ballots and see what they tell you…
      2. …if you want any documents for a recount or for any lawsuits, better ask King County for them now, because we have been told to delete things…
      3. I think someone needs to do the math and find out where the extra mystery 10K ballots really came from, because we sure don't know and we work here…
      4. The Democrats asked to see just the provisional ballots that had no signature. If they were aware of what is really going on, they should have also looked at the provisional ballots that are being set aside and not counted because the voter is "not registered". We were so far behind with putting registrations in the computer that at one point the supervisors just made a set of boxes with thousands of registrations "disappear" overnight…

      Read the whole article and the pleas for more information from workers.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Jan 10 2005 03:52 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      “Embalm the Vote”

      Embalm the Vote

      (From Cox & Forkum)

      Even the political cartoonists have discovered our Washington Election.

      Amazon.com links:

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Jan 9 2005 07:58 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      King and Snohomish Counties Violate Election Law

      Stefan Sharkansky at Sound Politics has dug up evidence that King and Snohomish counties have violated election law because they cannot give a list of eligible voters for the 2004 election, or they have violated election law for not complying with a request under the Public Disclosure Act.

      He also determined that there have been problems with King County's handling of votes before (from Secretary of State Sam Reed):

      The county is not consistent in their ballot enhancement procedures. The reviewer observed that ballot enhancement, while done in full view of political observers, did not use the procedures outlined in the Washington Administrative Code. Inconsistencies in how this procedure is handled significantly increase the possibility of a successful election contest.

      Illegal ballot enhancement is a long-term problem, apparently.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Jan 9 2005 04:00 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rossi's Basis for Contesting the Election

      Brian Crouch has listed the bases for a contest of the 2004 Gubernatorial election in Washington over at Sound Politics.

      The Election Contest Petition sets forth a series of errors, omissions, mistakes, neglect, and other wrongful acts by election officials that make it impossible to determine with certainty who won the 2004 election for Governor of Washington.

      There's a long list of specific claims, which I won't include here… just click on the link above.

      The Contest Petition seeks an order setting the election aside; declaring that any certification of the results of the election and any certificate of election issued as a result of the election are void; and directing that a new election be conducted as soon as practicable.

      My name is supposed to be on that petition somewhere, since I signed it at www.revotewa.com.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Jan 8 2005 03:52 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rossi to Contest 2004 Election

      There's loads of information at Sound Politics and plenty of interest from across the blogosphere, but first we start with KGW's report, although much of it comes from the much-maligned Associated Press:

      Republicans have been building a case over the past few weeks, gathering evidence of voting irregularities, including illegal provisional ballots and a handful of votes cast by dead people. They are pushing for a revote, an unprecedented step in a statewide election.

      Unprecedented? It's been done before in Washington. It's being done in the same 2004 election in North Carolina! In fact, the news conference the AP covered in this election, Rossi mentions this. Kinda stupid to say it is unprecedented, unless you mean it only to cover elections for governor in Washington in 2004.

      Brian Crouch at Sound Politics covered the same press conference and got a little bit different tag line for it:

      Governor-elect Dino Rossi, standing before a sign reading “Every vote should have a voter,” just announced that his campaign will be contesting the election results.

      Since I don't trust the AP anymore (just search my blog and you'll see why), I'm more inclined to believe Brian's assessment.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Jan 7 2005 11:07 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Michelle Malkin on the USS Abraham Lincoln

      Michelle Malkin's column in the Washington Times is a good read. Choice quote:

      I wish I had room to print the name of every sailor, pilot, rescue swimmer, technician and engineer who serves in this strike group—and on every other U.S. ship, plane and helicopter on its way to help the tsunami victims. You deserve to be seen and known and thanked and remembered. You make America proud.

      Much of the article evokes shame from the radical left on how it hates the military, except when it's helping.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Jan 7 2005 10:59 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      revotewa Update

      Since “www.revotewa.com” is my most popular posting, I should post a follow-up. The main place people should look for updates, however, is Sound Politics2004 Governors Race” category archive. Those guys are able to be more on top of the King County debacle and are even closer to Olympia than I am down here in Clark County.

      Even so, things are moving. Instead of this coming Monday, the Democrats will vote to certify the election this coming Tuesday, Janaury 11th. That's the same day that a revote rally was expected:

      On Tuesday, January 11 at 10:30am, there will be a rally in support of a revote in front of the Clark County Elections Office at 1408 Franklin (Mill Plain & Franklin). This will be held on the same day a rally in Olympia will be held asking for a revote. In honor of the recent successfully sought revote (and result reversal) in the Ukranian national elections in the face of allegations of fraud, bring an orange ribbon if you can.

      (That's from the Clark County GOP)

      I don't know if the opposition actively reads my blog, but I do know that far more revote supporters than detractors do, so I'm going to post that info.

      KGW reports that there have been two different court challenges filed against the election.

      Daniel P. Stevens of Fall City sent the court a one-page notice saying he was contesting the election because the margin of victory is within the election's margin of error, “to the point that error must be assumed as a certainty.”
      Arthur Coday Jr. of Shoreline filed an 11-page brief arguing that the hand recount was fatally flawed for several reasons and asking the high court to inaugurate Rossi as governor.

      I pointed out in a comment on my original revotewa posting that the hand recount is considered the best count, which is why Gregoire is ahead. However, looking through RCW 29A I have not found that statement of priority. It must be a administrative rule.

      Update: Captain Ed has his own comments and observations. He also noticed this great quote:

      “These are not indications of fraud,” said Bill Huennekens, King County's elections supervisor. “Fraud is a concerted effort to change an election.”

      (From an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.)

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Jan 7 2005 10:26 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Abu Ghraib Test

      Via Instapundit I found The Mudville Gazette has a ten question test on the facts about Abu Ghraib. I didn't do very well on it, but that's partly because I didn't really pay attention to the individuals involved but rather to the larger details. Even so, the details appear to be misunderstood by many.

      Give it a look.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Jan 7 2005 09:29 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Democrats Stage Hissy-Fit in Joint Session of Congress

      Despite John Kerry's quote from yesterday,

      Despite Widespread Reports Of Irregularities, Questionable Practices By Some Election Officials And Instances Of Lawful Voters Being Denied The Right To Vote, Our Legal Teams On The Ground Have Found No Evidence That Would Change The Outcome Of The Election.

      (from GOP.com's roundup of quotes about Ohio, the full letter is here)

      …Democrats have interrupted the normally symbolic acceptance of the electoral college votes to challenge the Ohio results. California Senator Barbara Boxer and Ohio Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (both Democrats) officially contested the results. According to the Fox News report both houses will quickly decide what to do and report back.

      After the two-hour debate in each chamber, the House and Senate are to vote separately on whether to uphold the objection or go back and certify the president. The two bodies are expected to reconvene later in the day in a joint session to report their respective actions.

      I wonder how seriously these folks in the Capitol are taking the very real possibility that abuse, fraud, and incompetence changed an election here in the State of Washington?

      At any rate, this exercise, while intended to point out real problems with the voting system, will serve nothing more than to energize the “moonbat left” in their belief that the election was stolen and the “annoyed right” in their belief that Democrats will do anything (legal or otherwise) to steal, or at least disrupt, an election.

      Update: Lt. Smash liveblogged the hissy-fit. Great reading!

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Jan 6 2005 12:19 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) Press Release

      I just received this BIAW press release from the Clark County GOP:

      ELECTION NOT OVER—ROSSI AND BIAW CONTINUE TO FIGHT
      While the state’s liberal newspapers are calling the election over and are calling for Dino Rossi to concede, Rossi (winner of two out of three ballot counts) continues to press forward in his effort to ensure a clean and fair election result in the Governor’s race. The Rossi campaign believes the only way this will now be accomplished is through a revote to determine the winner once and for all. BIAW members and staff are continuing to do everything possible to assist Dino Rossi in finding the necessary ammunition to legally challenge the election.
      BIAW Activities
      Over the last two months, BIAW members and staff have actively participated in the recount process. BIAW has done everything from coordinating recount observers in key counties to providing in-house attorney support to challenge voting irregularities and arbitrary decisions of county election officials. BIAW even filed a brief in Supreme Court two weeks ago challenging King County’s decision to count an additional 700 plus votes.
      Evidence is Mounting
      Since Gregoire’s apparent margin of victory is 129 votes, election law requires that at least 130 fraudulent votes must be found in order to contest the election. Assuming Gregoire’s supporters would steal the election, BIAW staff set out in mid-November to find as many fraudulent votes as possible. Starting with an initial list of 400, BIAW found felons, voters who voted twice and even voters who said they didn’t sign affidavits from Democrat campaign workers attempting to harvest more absentee ballots for Gregoire. Armed with this initial success, BIAW staff working over the Christmas holiday expanded the search and discovered a large number of fraudulent votes were cast in Pierce County. Dozens of Pierce County felons voted in the past election. Under law, convicted felons are prohibited from voting unless they have applied for and are granted voting rights from the court. BIAW is now in the process of comparing the list of felons to voters in both King and Snohomish Counties. In addition, BIAW has uncovered instances of potential signature fraud and even a couple of instances where it appears dead people have voted.
      Armed with these illegal votes, along with the fact that the number of ballots cast in King County exceeds the number of registered voters by over 3,500, Rossi and BIAW have a decent chance at getting the election thrown out.

      I think they misspoke here. It's 3,500 more ballots than the number of people counted as voting, not registered to vote, if I understand correctly.

      What’s Next?
      The Legislature is scheduled to certify the Governor’s race on January 12. All of the evidence of voter fraud will be presented to the press, public and Legislature before certification. Although the Legislature can throw out the election and call for a new one, it is expected that the Democrat controlled House and Senate will certify Gregoire as the winner. At that time, if enough evidence of voter fraud is collected, you can expect the Rossi Campaign to go to court in order to ask for a revote. In the meantime you can assured that BIAW is doing all it can to uncover more instances of voter fraud.
      What Can You Do?
      If you know of any instances of voter fraud or election irregularities in your County, call Brian Minnich at 1-800-228-4229.

      Sounds like they made a pretty good case.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Jan 5 2005 07:14 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      King County and Gregoire Update

      This latest quote, via Sound Politics but really from OpinionJournal's John Fund in his “Poltiical Diary” daily, which I used to subscribe to and maybe will again:

      A handwriting analyst hired by the state's home-building industry believes there is strong evidence that one person may have signed over 300 provisional ballots cast in a controversial precinct [1823] in which hundreds of voters listed the county's administration building as their home address.

      As usual, I will advise you all to read Sound Politics, because they already noted that the quote is questionable, since the fellow hired to do the handwriting analysis has not issued a report.

      They did find something else:

      …their investigation has revealed a substantial number of illegal votes cast by felons!

      In the past couple days my entry on “www.revotewa.com” has drawn a couple hundred visitors looking for the site. Welcome!

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Jan 4 2005 08:39 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      www.revotewa.com

      Just got a note, www.revotewa.com is live. As the web site says,

      Revote Washington has been created in response to a true “crisis of democracy” facing all of us in Washington: a Governor’s election that has produced no clear victor at a time our state is in need of mandate for strong and decisive leadership in Olympia.

      However, I liked the way Jim Keough said it in his email announcing the launch of the site to the GOP County Chairs:

      Yet, there is almost no way to resolve many of the questions to the point that the people of Washington will feel confident that who is determined the winner actually received the most amount of legal votes. On top of these questions, there are the many Washington residents who are proudly serving in our military who were never given the opportunity to vote in this election.

      In my opinion a revote won't fly, but I'm certainly curious in how it goes. Frankly, I think the obvious cheating will lead to a Senator Rossi when Cantwell is up for re-election.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Dec 31 2004 08:16 PM  |  Permalink  |  25 comments  |  2 trackbacks

      Stefan Sharkansky Finds Magical Mystery Ballots

      Over at Sound Politics, who readers hear will remember I recommended as the way to find out about the recent election in Washington, Stefan Sharkansky has been running a deep statistical analysis of the results. He has also looked at very specific results and pointed out some odd precincts. His analysis has come up with even more startling results:

      …684 out of 2,616 precincts have more voters than ballots, for a total of 1,512 ballotless voters.

      This information is tempered by the fact that some voters have voted in the wrong precincts.

      Inter-precinct migration explains only 1 of the Precinct 3301's 2 ballotless voters. There are still at least 353 voters who cast ballots in Precinct 3301 on the day of the election, but only 352 of these ballots were counted.

      In other news, the Seattle Times has credited Stefan with finding discrepancies

      Conservative blogger Stefan Sharkansky pointed out the discrepancy Wednesday, and by yesterday it was Topic A among Rossi backers and Republican Party officials.
      Party Chairman Chris Vance said it could be the “smoking gun” needed to overturn the election.
      The number of King County ballots counted in the final tally was 899,199—3,539 more than the number of participating voters reported in the county's list.

      Chris Vance might call it a smoking gun, but Stefan shies away from calling it that.

      I'll personally hold off on calling anything I've found a smoking gun. But the unanswered questions keep piling up.

      Here in Clark County the GOP have been sending me notes about a revote meeting to coordinate activities. I'm still on vacation that day so I might go see it, although I seldom have time for activism these days.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Dec 31 2004 09:02 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rossi Asks Gregoire For a Revote

      Here's the copy of the letter I received in an email from the Clark County GOP:

      December 29, 2004
      Attorney General Christine Gregoire
      1125 Washington Street
      Olympia, WA 98504
      Dear Attorney General Gregoire:
      The Secretary of State will certify you as governor-elect tomorrow. Although you will be certified, with all the problems that have plagued this process there won’t be many people in our state who believe with certainty that you actually won the election. The uncertainty surrounding this election process isn’t just bad for you and me—it is bad for the entire state. People need to know for sure that the next governor actually won the election.
      We’ve now had three counts—I was certified the victor after Counts 1 and 2, and you will be certified tomorrow as the victor of Count 3. Throughout the entire process, King County Elections staff changed the rules about which ballots would count and, at the end, the Supreme Court also changed the rules. As it now stands, some people in King County had the rules changed so their votes could count, while other wrongfully disenfranchised people across the state—including many members of our military—have been denied the opportunity to have their votes counted.
      Additionally, I don’t believe you’ll find many people in this state who think the hand recount was more accurate than the first two counts. Even some Democratic elections officials have said hand counts are less accurate. So we’re now in a situation where nobody really knows who won this election.
      Our next governor should enter office without any doubt about the legitimacy of his or her office. The people of Washington deserve to know that their governor was elected fair and square. Unfortunately, the events of the past few weeks now make it impossible for you or me to take office on January 12 without being shrouded in suspicion.
      The law allows me to contest the election. An election contest would bring every questioned aspect of this election before the Legislature or a court for review. It would take many weeks, perhaps months, to complete. At the end, even if the results were to change back in my favor, the state would have suffered from the long, drawn-out process.
      For several weeks, former Secretary of State Ralph Munro has argued that this election will never be seen as legitimate and that the best option is to put it back into the hands of the voters for a revote. If our roles were reversed, if you had won twice and I had only won in the less-accurate hand recount, I would support a revote. I would not want to enter office with so many people viewing my governorship as illegitimate.
      The only good answer is for the people to decide, once and for all, who is the next governor. A revote would be the best solution for the people of our state, and would give us a legitimate governorship. If you and I were to join together and ask the Legislature to pass a bill calling for a special election, the bill would pass quickly, as soon as the 2005 session begins. The revote could be held as soon as possible.
      I hope you will agree that a revote makes the most sense to build back people’s trust in our election process, and I look forward to your response.
      Best regards,
      Dino Rossi

      I have to say I agree with him. I don't think this vote was legitimate by any means. The margin was so close that it's clear that cheating may have made a difference. In most votes it doesn't… I hope.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Dec 29 2004 10:18 PM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  No trackbacks

      Autopen

      Anne Coulter savages those who complain about Rumsfeld's autopen:

      On the bright side, this is the first war America has been in where the number of casualties is small enough that it would even be theoretically possible for a Defense secretary to sign each condolence letter personally. When Democrats were running the Vietnam War, letters of condolence often began, “To whom it may concern” and were addressed to “occupant.”

      She's got a point, though. Almost all politicians use an autopen for even letters the rest of us would consider sensitive. I have a collection of letters from politicians (on the left, the right, and the center) thanking me for my support, when in fact I took them to task for voting in a manner not consistent with representing my opinion.

      Anne surmises that politicians routinely autopen responses to those with dying children. Perhaps it's true.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Dec 29 2004 10:02 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Gregoire Jubilant

      King County, after getting a dubious Supreme Court ruling, has counted more magical mystery ballots and added to Gregoire's 8 vote lead (which became 10 overnight) and she now leads Rossi by 130.

      This is far from over, as there are even 91 veterans that want their votes counted too. However, there's now no avenue other than legal investigation. Evidence of fraud already is turning up, with people being multiply registered and homeless people who have alternative addresses in Switzerland.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Dec 23 2004 05:16 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Gregoire Over Rossi By 8 Votes?

      Before the official results have come in, Democrats have been jubilant over their expected win of the hand recount, by the span of a paltry eight votes. Sound Politics recounts (pun intended) their victory lap here and tops it off with what should be a common observation:

      The only thing stunning about all of this is the Democrats' unmitigated gall.

      Blogs for Bush has their own choice comment:

      It's just a coincidence that Democrats somehow managed to count a Democrat victory right? Eight votes? In a manual recount, I think that's within the margin of fraud.

      (Emphasis in the original.)

      Captain Ed's observation is similar:

      The only sure fact this morning is that Washington's electoral process is a mess.

      At any rate, it's premature to declare a winner, as King County still has problems. From the KGW report:

      Berendt and Democratic party officials concluded Gregoire would win after crunching numbers supplied by King County, the state's largest. The county has finished recounting its 900,000 ballots, but election officials said they still need to reconcile differences in the precinct totals.

      They still can't figure out what the real precinct totals are but they are declaring victory?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Dec 22 2004 12:28 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Washington Governor's Race Insanity

      Efforts continue to steal the election from Dino Rossi. King County is discovered uncounted ballots here and there, to the tune of 723 new ballots! However, efforts to add these new ballots to the already-completed election were blocked by a judge.

      At any rate, the hand recount continues, and the latest update I saw was that Rossi was still ahead and that those extra ballots in King County were needed to manufacture a win for Gregoire.

      No matter how nasty this goes, I think the next Senate race in Washington will be very interesting. Maria Cantwell is not exactly a sharp tack and the GOP will be pretty brassed off no matter how this election fares. What the difference will be is who will run for the seat.

      Keep watching Sound Politics for updates.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Dec 17 2004 10:13 PM  |  Permalink  |  3 comments  |  No trackbacks

      The Probability Broach

      The Probability Broach, by L. Neil Smith, whose Nagasaki Vector arguably got me interested in libertarianism and guns, is available as a graphic novel. Oddly, I didn't like this book as much as Nagasaki Vector and Tom Paine Maru although I pretty much have every book he's written.

      Update: Another L. Neil Smith initiative, The Libertarian Enterprise, celebrates its 300th issue.

      Amazon.com links:


      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics, Science Fiction” Wednesday, Dec 15 2004 02:02 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      American Education, Lack Of

      Today's Wall Street Journal has an editorial entitled “America's C-.” Much of the opinion piece centers on how certain countries are pulling ahead of the United States and Europe when it comes to education.

      But why?

      The OECD researchers identified several key characteristics that most successful school systems share—namely, decentralization, competition and flexibility. These aren't exactly the hallmarks of your typical American school system, where choice and accountability aren't usually on the curriculum.

      I have to agree. I prefer schools that compete on the basis of actually teaching people something useful. This year we gave up on the Ridgefield public school system and moved Alana and Ryan to a private Christian school (even though I'm not a Christian). The change has been dramatic. Alana actually likes going to school. She also seems to be learning something.

      The situation is dire:

      U.S. dominance in technology, science and business has largely been carried on the shoulders of the generation of workers who went to high school when the Beatles were still together. With an ever-higher percentage of the work force expected to be employed in knowledge-based industries, school reform is a question of U.S. economic survival.

      Being someone in the business of applied technology, I have to agree. While I can get a workforce from anywhere (which really annoys people here), why would anyone hire me to manage it if they can hire local?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Dec 15 2004 07:58 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Manual Recount and Latest News

      The manual recount continues. So far Dino has gained more than Christine, but the results from the more populous counties are not in yet.

      In other news I'm on vacation now, except for the occasional meeting I'm still calling in for. Tomorrow, for example, I present a plan for my department to my Vice President. Not exactly a minor duty.

      Light posting lately, mostly because I've been busy with the end of my work year (vacation until next year!) and the high winds knocking out our power most of yesterday. I would have liked to post.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Dec 13 2004 04:17 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Another Career Ruined By a Housekeeper

      Kerik has withdrawn his name from consideration for heading the Department of Homeland Security because of questions into his past actions and because of the status of one of his housekeepers. It's amazing how many people want to pay others to perform housekeeping and nanny duties and how easy it is to hire people of doubtful immigration status.

      Among other questions that needed investigation,

      Before Friday, the only moderately troubling information uncovered about Kerik was news that he had earned $6.2 million by exercising stock options he received from Taser International, which did lucrative business with the Department of Homeland Security, this official said.
      Kerik has been a consultant for the company and still serves on its board of directors, although the company and the White House said he planned to sever the relationship.

      Well, at least he didn't have a PhD from a diploma mill…

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Dec 10 2004 09:09 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rumsfeld Questions Planted By Embedded Reporter

      Via Drudge we discover Edward Lee Pitts, embedded with the 278th Regimental Combat Team, is a reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. What's more, he coached soldiers who were asking Rumsfeld questions yesterday (from a note he sent the staff at the Times Free Press):

      I just had one of my best days as a journalist today. As luck would have it, our journey North was delayed just long enough see I could attend a visit today here by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. I was told yesterday that only soldiers could ask questions so I brought two of them along with me as my escorts. Before hand we worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appalling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat have. While waiting for the VIP, I went and found the Sgt. in charge of the microphone for the question and answer session and made sure he knew to get my guys out of the crowd.
      So during the Q&A session, one of my guys was the second person called on. When he asked Rumsfeld why after two years here soldiers are still having to dig through trash bins to find rusted scrap metal and cracked ballistic windows for their Humvees, the place erupted in cheers so loud that Rumsfeld had to ask the guy to repeat his question. Then Rumsfeld answered something about it being “not a lack of desire or money but a logistics/physics problem.” He said he recently saw about 8 of the special up-armored Humvees guarding Washington, DC, and he promised that they would no longer be used for that and that he would send them over here. Then he asked a three star general standing behind him, the commander of all ground forces here, to also answer the question. The general said it was a problem he is working on.

      So, while it may be a real problem, is this a case of bias in the Press changing the debate? After all, according to Rumsfeld, as relayed by Fox News:

      He also said military vehicles that go into Iraq without full armor are used only inside U.S. compounds, rather than used on street patrols where they are vulnerable to roadside bombs. And he said those vehicles without full armor are moved into Iraq on transport vehicles rather than being driven.

      So, perhaps a question was asked that was great for sound bites and low on content. I'd expect that sort of behavior from a TV reporter, not a newspaper.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Dec 9 2004 10:23 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Terry McAuliffe Unites the Country

      Terry McAuliffe on Pearl Harbor Day:

      While we as a nation are united in this fight, there are clearly deep divisions within the Republican Party, divisions that are impeding our fight against terrorism.
      Moving forward, it is my sincere hope that the Republicans running Washington will stop playing their political games and start fighting for the American people, just as our honored veterans did 63 years ago.

      This scathing attack brought to you by Democrats pooh-poohing concerns Republicans had about the timeliness of battlefield intelligence due to changes proposed by the Intelligence Reform bill. As I mentioned earlier today, those concerns had been eased by changing the language of the bill.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Dec 7 2004 01:25 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      The Intelligence Bill S.2845

      Many eyes are on the upcoming vote on the Intelligence Reform bill, S.2845. The ACLU dislikes the centralization of intelligence work, others decry the absence of immigration reform as part of the package. Such is the art of compromise.

      Key features of the new bill is the creation of the office of a National Intelligence Director:

      (Sec 101) Establishes as an independent executive entity the National Intelligence Authority (NIA) to, among other things: (1) unify and strengthen efforts of the intelligence community (IC); (2) operate the National Counterterrorism Center and national intelligence centers; and (3) establish clear responsibility and accountability for counterterrorism and other intelligence matters relating to U.S. national security. Requires the NIA to be headed by a National Intelligence Director (Director), who shall: (1) serve as the head of the IC; (2) advise the President on intelligence related to national security; and (3) direct and oversee the National Intelligence Program (formerly the National Foreign Intelligence Program).

      So, we have someone who stays out of the chain of command for the military but otherwise directs and controls the intelligence efforts of the entire government. As you can see, it also creates a national counterterrorism center to centrally coordinate those efforts. Even so, the key stroke is to ease the sharing of information between the CIA, FBI and Department of Defense. In addition it creates a national counterproliferation center, intended to track and interdict the supplies of WMD to terrorists, states and others out there.

      Of course, the challenge has always been between groups having enough autonomy to pursue lines of investigation that interest them and then having enough authority to pursue such efforts wherever they might lead. The challenge has been the combination of local and foreign activities and that there was no government entity that made it easy to pursue and coordinate such mixed investigations.

      The danger of centralization is that a singular focus always allows edge cases to slip in under the radar. Everyone involved seems to understand this, so we'll have to see how this goes.

      Many of the recommendations for this bill came from the 9/11 Commission Report, which recommended several areas of unity where currently several efforts are evident. However, border security's absence is noted.

      Captain Ed has similar reservations.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Dec 7 2004 10:37 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Beldar on Noonan on Rather

      Beldar reviews Peggy Noonan's column on Dan Rather. While Beldar seems to appreciate her efforts—at first—but I think his appreciation of her ability to write did not disguise the message she was delivering.

      This is very gracious and generous. It reflects well on Ms. Noonan. But it's far, far better than Dan Rather deserves.
      The Rathergate forged documents scandal was not just an aberration as part of a long and otherwise distinguished career. It was simply the capstone of a long series of incredibly biased and dishonest incidents. This one was deliberately timed and intended by Mr. Rather and his co-conspirators, upstream and down, to change the outcome of a crucial presidential election. Mr. Rather and CBS News ignored—nay, brazenly flouted, and then tried to cover up their breach of—practically every fundamental written principle of journalistic ethics. Was he alone is this conspiracy? Of course not. Does that in any way excuse him? Of course it does not.
      Dan Rather and his cohorts didn't just make a mistake. They didn't just have a lapse. They didn't just let their biases color their reporting. They didn't just make an error in judgment. Instead, they conspired together with should-be felons, with forgers, to pass off as genuine, as truthful “news,” a set of bogus documents that defamed the record and the integrity of the President—and in so doing, they fundamentally betrayed the entire reason for their profession's existence. They actively hid the fact that their own hired experts were telling them—before the first broadcast—that the documents were fakes. Then they tried to demonize those (including me and my fellow bloggers) who'd helped expose their ploy, and to justify their lies as “fake but accurate.”

      (Emphasis in the original)

      I agree. Rather's lapse here is almost as egregious as his predecessor Walter Cronkite's assertion that we did not win or lose the Tet Offensive, and that we did not hit back very hard and prevent the strategic goal of that offensive, and he claimed the war itself was a stalemate. I feel that Cronkite lost Vietnam for us by spearheading the war on the morale of the country. For a detailed analysis, check out Digger History, but here's the summary:

      The people of the South refused to rally to the cause as the NVA leaders had hoped and the whole thing was a military disaster. NVA General Giap was devastated. He felt that the gamble was a total waste.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Dec 3 2004 08:23 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Proposed Cabinet Members

      Bush has nominated Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns to be Secretary of Agriculture (replacing Ann Veneman). He appears to be a lawyer who grew up on a dairy farm. Maybe he can keep Mad Cow under control.

      Bush has also nominated former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to be the new Secretary of Homeland Security, replacing Tom Ridge. I don't know much about him, but New York is not an easy place to secure.

      It also appears we have lost John Danforth as our ambassador to the United Nations. I wonder if he is going to be the pick for National Security Advisor.

      (In Washington, the state, recount-mania continues, although it appears Gregoire hasn't raised enough money to pay for a statewide recount. The $750,000 required is certainly a steep bill.)

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Dec 2 2004 03:48 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      CEO of Kellogg Co Carlos Gutierrez to Become Commerce Sec'y

      Bush has selected Carlos Gutierrez to become the new Secretary of Commerce, replacing Don Evans. Once again he has selected a diverse and interesting candidate who happens to be a conservative. Even so, I expect the height of liberal discussion of the subject to be on the level of calling him a “flake.”

      Among his many exploits, he rose through the ranks after first being involved in sales in Mexico. In his tenure as CEO he acquired and employed the Keebler elves. Also, he sat on the board of Colgate-Palmolive. I expect all of that responsibility with be trusted away from his direct influence due to the nature of his new job.

      James Jenness is coming in to run Kellogg after Gutierrez leaves. He is CEO of Integrated Merchandizing Systems LLC, but also sits on the board of Kellogg.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Business, Politics” Monday, Nov 29 2004 09:04 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rossi Wins Recount By 42 Votes

      I suspect the Democrats we'll keep demanding recounts until they win. King County hasn't found another pile of ballots in a while.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 24 2004 09:35 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Dan Rather Drops Anchor

      So, Dan Rather has retired from his role as CBS anchor, probably to prepare for his run for Hillary's open seat when she runs for President. Dan's legacy is huge, overshadowing the liberal bias of his predecessor Walter Cronkite (best known for losing the Viet Nam war by failing to point out that we actually beat the bad guys in the Tet Offensive and instead insisting that we lost).

      No news on the probe into the forged documents. Perhaps they forgot that the issue could have been ignored only if Kerry won.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Nov 23 2004 09:45 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Counts

      Bush 60,645,844
      Kerry 57,313,461

      Rossi recount +25 = 286

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Nov 22 2004 10:23 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rossi Wins

      So, apparently Rossi wins, by 261 votes. Machine recount coming, but all the weirdness came from hand counts. I'm amazed that King County didn't find another 10,000 mystery ballots.

      Lots of roundup at Sound Politics here.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Nov 18 2004 04:00 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rossi vs Gregoire Update

      I drew a comment from Murdoc Online who predicts a Rossi win. The current numbers are better than last night:

      Rossi 1,367,365
      Gregoire 1,367,346

      I am not exactly thrilled by the giant lead of 19 votes.

      The folks at Sound Politics are still optimistic that Rossi will win by a few hundred points.

      However, since it's less than 2,000 in their projections that generates an automatic recount. I suspect the recount will be somewhat different because of the counting improprieties we've had so far.

      Frankly, I'm glad my absentee ballot was likely to have been counted. Every little slip of paper in each precinct seems to matter.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Nov 16 2004 07:37 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      CIA's “Anonymous”

      I got it wrong. The “Anonymous” author within the CIA was Michael Scheuer, a senior CIA official even George Tenet told to shut up.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Nov 16 2004 09:29 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rossi Still Ahead

      Latest counts from vote.wa.gov:

      Dino Rossi 1,349,384
      Christine Gregoire 1,347,396

      Update at 5pm:

      Gregoire 1,357,854
      Rossi 1,357,197

      Still more counting to go.

      Update at 7:30pm:

      Gregoire 1,360,871
      Rossi 1,360,713

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Nov 15 2004 03:37 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      Resignations and Purges

      The nation seems to have greeted with a yawn the announced resignations of Sec'y of State Colin Powell, Sec'y of Education Rod Paige, Sec'y of Energy Spencer Abraham, and Sec'y of Agriculture Ann Veneman. Much of these changes have been forseen as part and parcel of the tradition of cleaning house even if an incumbent is reelected. After all, before today we saw Sec'y of Commerce Don Evans and most visibly Attorney General John Ashcroft submit their resignations. So far only Alberto Gonzalez has been put forward as a replacement, destined to be the top cop.

      What is more unusual is Direct Porter Goss's continued cleanup of the CIA where he has been rooting out disloyal leakers an ineffective middle managers in order to comply with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. DDO Stephen Kappes and his immediate deputy, Michael Sulick are only the latest to leave. After all, this purge started with the one-retained Clinton appointee George Tenet. We saw other high-profile resignations, like Deputy Director John E. McLaughlin. Heck, the CIA hasn't been in the headlines this much since a secret agent recommended that her husband be sent on a diplomatic mission to discover the truth behind Nigerian yellowcake and turned Joe Wilson into the biggest liar to overshadow Sandy Berger's documented underwear.

      However, Kappes is special. He is the “anonymous leaker” that has been undermining Bush to the delight of the anti-war left. Goss brought in his own staff, and has ignored the pleadings of an entrenched bureaucracy… one that hasn't seen a purge like this since the Clinton administration.

      We can only hope that there's less politics and more effectiveness as the source of these latest changes. Bush, as the first MBA president, hopefully knows how to set clear objectives and put aside interpersonal differences to accomplish them. I expect him to say something about implementing 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley today, since we have reached another deadline.

      Update: Via Drudge we discover ABC News is reporting that its inside sources at the White House say Powell's replacement will be National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Nov 15 2004 02:24 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

      Oil-For-Food Scam

      According to Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters Blog, the haul for Saddam from the corrupt UN Oil-For-Food program was twenty-one billion dollars!

      Apparently this new figure only includes those transactions that the committee could verify. Coleman told reporters that he was angered at the UN's refusal to cooperate more fully with their probe. This lack of cooperation should temper any enthusiasm for using the UN to solve global issues of any import, let alone nuclear disarmament and security. Saddam proved that the UN could be bought, along with a healthy chunk of the Security Council, and the Senate committee final report hopefully will point out who bought whom, and at what price.

      Getting close to the Enron scam record of thirty billion dollars…

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Nov 15 2004 01:23 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      SCOTUS Packing

      Ann Althouse, being a law professor, has some interesting commentary on a New York Times article on what sort of Supreme Court Dubya will be packing with foaming-at-the-mouth conservative justices.

      She derides the idea that law schools are churning out Scalias:

      I very much doubt that many law students are being “reared and trained” to think like Justice Scalia! My sense is that the Warren Court vision of constitutional law still prevails among law professors. In fact, it's probably safe to guess that Justice Scalia's positions are routinely derided in most law school classrooms!

      Since my Dad is a 3L at a fairly conservative law school, I eagerly await his opinion.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Nov 14 2004 09:13 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Latest Counts

      Bush 60,480,193
      Kerry 57,122,374

      Rossi 1,347,865
      Gregoire 1,345,945

      No idea how many votes are left to count. The news sources are pretty clueless.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Nov 13 2004 08:27 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rossi 3,594 Votes Ahead

      I should include the Washington Governor stats too: Rossi at 1,328,611, Gregoire at 1,325,017. Counting of provisional ballots continues. Approximately 85,000 ballots remain to be considered.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Nov 12 2004 08:31 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Bush Above 60M

      This morning's stats: Bush has 60,358,656 vs Kerry's 56,931,166. Still ahead by just a little under 3.5M, but he's made it over the 60M mark!

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Nov 12 2004 08:25 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Popular Vote

      Via Polipundit we get this quote from GayPatriot:

      Only 3 Democratic candidates for president—in U.S. History—Andrew Jackson, FDR & LBJ have received a higher percentage of the popular vote than did our man W in last week’s presidential election.

      That would be a “Put that in your pipe and smoke it!” kind of quote to give back to any whiners.

      Update: I forgot to add, it's 59,769,829 vs. 56,308,724 in the overall popular vote at the moment, and in Washington Dino Rossi is ahead of Christine Gregoire 1,286,534 to 1,284,411.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 10 2004 08:57 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Alberto Gonzales To Become New AG

      Via Drudge we discover that Bush has selected Alberto Gonzales to be the successor to John Ashcroft as Attorney General. Gonzales is the White House counsel, so now we need to find someone to do that job. The dominos start to fall.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 10 2004 08:50 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Ashcroft and Evans Quit

      Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Attorney General John Ashcroft have resigned today. This will take away a lightning rod from the liberal elites. They loved to hate Ashcroft.

      Choice quote from Ashcroft's resignation letter:

      The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved. The rule of law has been strengthened and upheld in the courts. Yet, I believe that the Department of Justice would be well served by new leadership and fresh inspiration.

      Well, that was the objective after 9/11. What about his objectives before then?

      Now the fights begin on fresh meat for the confirmation process.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Nov 9 2004 05:14 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Numbers

      As of the moment, 59,582,796 vs 56,086,834 still shows about a 3.5M lead for Bush.

      But, if you're looking for good reading, try “The Liberal Heart Still Bleats” at The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler.

      Forgive the language, but his caustic wit is well-aimed:

      We're supposed to take strategic advice from a group that tried and failed to pick-up 0.001% more votes than Gore. Endless blather about Al-qaqaa and quagmires, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, and Hitler; unbelievable press bias; forged documents, and moving the goal posts from the end zone to the parking lot; and still all they managed was to turn certain victory into ignominious, stark defeat. Frankly, I've met more successful eggplants in the produce department.
      They staged the largest protests in the history of the entire fucking world and all they manage is to take home a lousy T-shirt. They thought marching in clown suits and skeleton masks, throwing bottles at police before shitting on the sidewalk under signs emblazoned with “Hitler” would do the trick, but the rest of America sat back, popped open a beer, stared in disbelief at the TV, and said “Jesus those people are fucking stupid.”

      Off to see The Incredibles.

      Update: In the time it took to edit out the typos on this post, the popular vote went up to 59,609,600 vs 56,116,134… and we still don't know who the governor of Washington will be.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Nov 5 2004 04:47 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Perspective from Polipundit

      Jayson at Polipundit gives us a little perspective on the election we just had.

      In 1991, the Democratic Party held 267 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
      As of today’s date, with three contests not yet called, they hold 200 seats.
      In 1991, the Democratic Party held 56 seats in the U.S. Senate.
      Today, they hold 44 seats…
      … The last time a Democratic nominee pulled 51 or more percent of the popular vote was back in 1964.

      Beyond the numbers there is analysis of conservative turnout. It could have been better and it faced the full onslaught of what the left could muster. After all, the MoveOn folks were the largest employer in Ohio for that fatefull day…

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Nov 4 2004 06:52 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Wizbang Articulates a Mandate

      Here's Wizbang's list:

      • Bush is the first President to be re-elected while gaining seats in the House and Senate since 1936 and the first Republican President since 1924 to be re-elected while re-electing Republican House and Senate majorities.
      • The first President to win a majority of the popular vote since 1988.
      • He received 57.4 million votes—more than any other candidate in history. He broke President Reagan's 1984 mark of 54.5 million. (96% reporting)
      • He increased the popular vote by seven million votes since 2000—more than twice Clinton's increase from 1992 to 1996.
      • He improved his percentage in every state except four (MD, OR, VT and WY). This includes a four percent increase in John Kerry's home state, Massachusetts.

      Even so, only 68% of the people that could vote did so. What does it take?

      Me, I think voting should inconvenient enough for people to take it seriously when they do it, but geesh, it's pretty doggone easy. What does it take? Internet voting? I dread the day.

      Of course, I sat there with my absentee ballot, the voters' pamphlet and a web browser and researched my choices. That was pretty cool.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 3 2004 04:58 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Kerry Concedes

      According to the AP, Kerry has conceded.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 3 2004 08:10 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      An Interesting Night

      I think Andy Card's statement this morning has the important detail:

      We are convinced that President Bush has won re-election with at least 286 Electoral College votes.

      And, the critical 58,362,962 to 54,844,299 popular vote:

      And he also had a margin of more than 3.5 million popular votes.

      And, to put to rest the Badnarik and Nader “spoiler” issue:

      President Bush's decisive margin of victory makes this the first presidential election since 1988 in which the winner received a majority of the popular vote.

      Even so, my dashboard shows three states as not confirmed. Ohio is the big one, but what we do have has Bush ahead there 51% to 49%. Iowa and New Mexico are %50 to 49% in favor of Bush.

      While this is hardly over, I think the lawsuits and divisiveness will be missing from this round. Florida was won by a wide margin. Election procedures were improved in most areas. Now we are not arguing about hanging chads but rather we are now interested in provisional and absentee ballots.

      In the state of Washington, however, things are not as good. At the moment Dino Rossi is less than a thousand votes ahead of his Democratic challenger. Bin Laden apologist Patty Murry handily beat Nethercutt for the Senate seat. Brian Baird beat the pro-gun Crowson in my district.

      In the far more local races, Republicans Zarelli, Curtis and Orcutt appear to have won. The local C-Tran measure appears to have failed. Betty Sue Morris beat Mielke, but Marc Boldt beat Jeanne Harris. The local fire district didn't get it's tax increase and the Ridgefield local property tax measure for the schools lost badly.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 3 2004 07:06 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Michael Moore and 9/11

      Ideoblog reminds us of Michael Moore's comments the day after 9/11:

      Well, the pundits are in full diarrhea mode, gushing on about the “terrorist threat” and today’s scariest dude on planet earth—Osama bin Laden. Hey, who knows, maybe he did it. But, something just doesn’t add up. Am I being asked to believe that this guy who sleeps in a tent in a desert has been training pilots to fly our most modern, sophisticated jumbo jets with such pinpoint accuracy that they are able to hit these three targets without anyone wondering why these planes were so far off path? Or am I being asked to believe that there were four religious/political fanatics who just happened to be skilled airline pilots who just happened to want to kill themselves today? Maybe you can find one jumbo jet pilot willing to die for the cause—but FOUR? Ok, maybe you can—I don’t know…
      [O]ur recent domestic terrorism bombings have not been conducted by a guy from the desert but rather by our own citizens: a couple of ex-military guys who hated the federal government.
      From the first minutes of today’s events, I never heard that possibility suggested. Why is that?
      Maybe it’s because the A-rabs are much better foils. A key ingredient in getting Americans whipped into a frenzy against a new enemy is the all-important race card. It’s much easier to get us to hate when the object of our hatred doesn’t look like us…
      In just 8 months, Bush gets the whole world back to hating us again. He withdraws from the Kyoto agreement, walks us out of the Durban conference on racism, insists on restarting the arms race—you name it, and Baby Bush has blown it all…
      Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who did not vote for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes’ destination of California—these were places that voted against Bush! Why kill them? Why kill anyone? Such insanity… Let’s mourn, let’s grieve, and when it’s appropriate let’s examine our contribution to the unsafe world we live in.

      So, Howard, here's the deal. This is the man the far left loves, and the day after 9/11 he's upset because terrorists killed Democrats. If there's anything that makes me angry at the left, it's this attitude. Blinded so much by ideology they no longer make informed consent but practiced sniping to gain power for their side. I have seen so many organizations fail when overtaken by such attitudes it makes me wonder for the self-interest of the human race.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Oct 31 2004 08:54 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Al Qaqaa and the Election

      Wizbang looks at the the effect of the Al Qaqaa explosives story on Kerry's standings.

      Kerry was on a roll, gaining momentum quickly, but that changed just as quickly. As could be expected, his momentum latest 24 hours after the news broke but then his fixation on the story started working against him. It is clear that Al Qa Qaa is not helping John Kerry. From his all time peak of 50 points, he has dropped a point per day. Meanwhile, Bush who had leveled off at 48% is now up to 50%.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Oct 30 2004 08:07 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Neighbors

      My friend Howard posts that it's time to get to know your neighbors and not be afraid of them because they might be opposing you ideologically.

      Me, I like my neighbors that are voting for Kerry. And they understand why I'm voting for Bush. Howard and I are friends to, despite the fact that we're on opposite sides of the aisle.

      The interesting thing is that Howard and I have agreed on many things, and disagreed on others, but mainly it's a question of priorities. Everyone has values, and how they rank those values is really what makes them unique. Heck, I have been distanced somewhat from my libertarian friends because I support the war on terror. These same friends were dismayed when Hospers (and Tom Cox) endorsed Bush, although Bob Barr endorsed Badnarik.

      I have encountered vitriolic resistance on the left. I have been called a baby-killer because I have an NRA sticker on my car. I have been called a fascist. I even got called a red-neck! I have been shouted down in online discussions. I have been flipped off on the road. I have been given the thumbs-down. I have never seen my friends on the right do anything like that.

      So, Howard, I do make an attempt. I just wish I could believe there could be an honest difference of opinion anymore without threats and posturing.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Oct 30 2004 07:54 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Oh, Those Explosives

      If it wasn't enough for people to start comparing numbers on IAEA seals, it all got moot when Major Austin Pearson said that his unit moved and destroyed 200 tons of explosives that are supposed to be missing.

      It would have been a good time to point out that hundreds of thousands of tons of explosives have been eliminated in the course of the Iraq War.

      Wizbang helps stop the wondering why 200 equals 377. It's 194 tons of HMX and 3 tons of RDX…

      This October Surprise is a non-starter. As is the Bin Laden tape. As is the Azzam the American tape. What's left? Rocket Scientists using Photoshop to show Bush has a spine?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Oct 29 2004 03:16 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      The “Less Than Honorable Discharge” Returns

      We have rumors from Polipundit and Blogs for Bush that there is confirmation that Kerry's initial discharge was “less than honorable.” Additionally, he may have had his status fixed by Jimmy Carter as part of the amnesty for war protestors (starting with EO 4483).

      Say Anything points out a possible Kerry lie on the extent of release of his military records.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Oct 29 2004 03:07 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      The Choice

      The Choice

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Oct 28 2004 04:05 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      A Big Day For Explosives

      So today's big news is the Washington Times story “Russia Tied to Iraq's Missing Arms”:

      Russian special forces troops moved many of Saddam Hussein's weapons and related goods out of Iraq and into Syria in the weeks before the March 2003 U.S. military operation…

      There's also the last item in the piece:

      Officials believe the Russians also can explain what happened to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.

      Captain Ed of Captains Quarters Blog has some choice comments in his piece “Did 'Starving Soviets' Back The Moving Van Up To Al Qaqaa?”:

      The new question is how the IAEA managed to hoodwink the New York Times, CBS, and the John Kerry campaign into thinking it did its job in securing the weapons from Saddam. Far from providing stable security, they actively fought to keep the HMX and RDX from being destroyed by UNSCOM, and then watched as it disappeared without a trace in 2001 and 2002.

      Wizbang has been focused on the perfidy of the New York Times. A comprehensive piece is “CBS/NYT Times Story Crumbles Tonight.” Choice quotes:

      The Russians probably moved the explosives, the Department of Defense has satellite images that might prove it and Mohamed ElBaradei might have mislead the United Nations Security council about the amount of explosives missing. And for good measure we learn the bunkers were never really sealed!
      On Oct 10, 2004, Mohamad Albardi told the UN Security council that 350 tons of explosives were missing based on a search of the compound done in January including 141.2 metric tons of RDX and 194.7 metric tons of HMX.
      However, the actual “Action Report” from January that Albardi was supposedly relaying to the UN says that only 3 tons of RDX were missing. No explanation for the discrepancy has been given yet but apparently there are about 130 US tons less explosives missing than we thought.

      Hugh Hewitt's column at The Daily StandardThe Commander-In-Chief” points out Kerry's attacks on the explosives issue were not exactly beneficial to the Kerry campaign:

      This week he embraced an already discredited account of missing munitions to attack the reputation of the 3rd Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne. Make no mistake, that is exactly what Kerry is doing when he asserts that deadly weapons went unsecured and unreported as these two divisions rushed to liberate Baghdad. And not just these divisions, but every officer and soldier who had a hand in drawing up the war plan. If the negligence that Kerry charges the military with was real, additional troops would not have made a difference. The initial search would still have been conducted by the 3rd I.D. and the site pronounced clear. The 101st would still have spent 24 hours in the munitions complex before moving on.

      Other online articles have been just as gleeful in pointing out the errors of John Kerry, the New York Times, and CBS. For example, there's the New York Post's Ralph Peters article “The Myth of the 'Missing Explosives': A Shameless Lie” and Roger L. Simon's “Liar, Liar, Al Qaqaa Pants on Fire.” We've also had different names for this disaster, from explosivesgate to the apt NYTrogate.

      Another great day for bloggers, another miserable experience for certain of the mainstream media.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Oct 28 2004 01:20 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Cheney on Kerry, the Armchair General

      Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters Blog reports on Cheney's reaction to Kerry's attack over the missing HMX and RDX:

      If our troops had not gone into Iraq as John Kerry apparently thinks they should not have, that is 400,000 tons of weapons and explosives that would be in the hands of Saddam Hussein, who would still be sitting in his palace instead of jail.

      I'm concerned that the Bush/Cheney campaign has not responded nearly forcefully enough on this issue.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Oct 27 2004 08:41 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      “War Plan Orange”

      The Belmont Club's “wretchard” has made an excellent post comparing the Iraqi efforts before and during the war to thw War Plan Orange retreat to the Philippine Bataan Penninsula at the beginning of World War II.

      Faced with an invasion of Iraq in 2003, Saddam carried out his own sideslip maneuver into a redoubt. The Duelfer report notes that Saddam may have begun moving his WMD materials into Syria as the US vainly attempted to get UN authorization to topple his regime.

      He continues his analysis of the tactics:

      The major modern innovation of the Arab Way of War has been its radical new conception of defense in depth… Unlike Ushijima's Shuri Line with its tunnels in rock, the Arab redoubt was founded on establishing an underground of terror in the civilian populace. From the anonymity of crowds, they could emerge to attack the enemy from the rear as the Imperial Japanese Army once had done from tunnels. Faced with superior United States forces, this 21st century War Plan Orange was the natural choice of the Arab strategists. By denying the United States proof of its WMDs and grinding them down through occupation warfare—the one mode of combat at which they excelled, they had a reasonable hope of holding America until a politician willing to treat with them was elected into office.

      Read the whole posting. It's great.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Oct 26 2004 11:05 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      HMX and RDX Missing?

      So, the New York Times rolls with a story about 380 tons of HDX and RDX from a Al Qaqaa (spellings vary) depot that had wandered off after the US took control.

      Via the Daily Recycler we see NBC News respond with a report from one of their embedded reporters that was on the scene when the 101st Airborne hit that depot. They say the HMX and RDX wasn't there even then. NBC suspects the article on news which had been known in 2003 was politically motivated since it came a week before the election. More good coverage of this story is over here at the Belmont Club.

      The Drudge Report tells us that CBS had intended to do a 60 Minutes story on the same supposed incident the day before the election. Fortunately for them they were scooped by the Times. One would wonder if their intentions were politically motivated too.

      Is it any wonder that people readily believe stories of bias in the mainstream media?

      Update: James Taranto's “Best of the Web” column today in OpinionJournal has this comment:

      The New York Sun notes that the Times/CBS report was based on a letter from Mohamed ElBaradei, who is seeking a third term as head of the International Atomic Energy Commission. The Bush administration opposes ElBaradei's reappointment, so one suspects that this was a foreign effort to influence the outcome of America's presidential election, aided by our domestic partisan liberal media.

      The plot thickens!

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Oct 26 2004 10:48 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Team America: World Police—Best Documentary!

      The best way to combat idiots: nominate Team America: World Police for best documentary.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Oct 25 2004 08:35 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Why Does The Kerry UN Security Council Memory Breach Matter?

      Sure, the issue of Kerry lying again seems like a non-starter, but it is important, ultimately.

      Captain Ed says it best:

      We have a presidential candidate who has repeatedly accused George Bush of lying to the American public on the thinnest of evidence, and yet Kerry felt no compunction about telling this lie directly to the cameras during a presidential debate. Kerry spent the past week accusing Bush of using scare tactics to get re-elected, and yet Kerry has spent the past several weeks spreading the lies that Bush has secret plans to start a military draft and to steal the pensions of senior citizens. Kerry and his allies have made wild accusations about Bush's military record but have squealed like schoolgirls every time people ask him to sign a Form 180 to release his own complete military file.

      Perhaps he would lie better if he wasn't so darn precise! Lori Byrd, at Polipundit also comments:

      I was amazed by the specificity of the recollection of the meeting.

      One would hope he had learned from his infamous Christmas in Cambodia canard. But no, instead he falls into a pattern. Roger L. Simon points out:

      …the obvious point remains—he has a casual relationship with the truth and has been willing to bend it for his own purposes for decades.

      Finally, Redstate has collected a list of Kerry's specific quotes on the matter.

      Christmas in Cambodia again? You bet!

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Oct 25 2004 03:08 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Another Kerry Reality Breach

      Football Fans for Truth have noted a seeming problem with Kerry's seared, seared memory of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Either that or he has a clone that goes to banquets over a hundred miles away.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Oct 25 2004 02:27 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Security Council Members Deny Meeting Kerry

      This morning's Washington Times has an article claiming that Kerry never met with the members of the UN Security Council as he had claimed in more than one occasion, including the debates.

      Kerry's quote:

      I went to meet with the members of the Security Council in the week before we voted. I went to New York. I talked to all of them, to find out how serious they were about really holding Saddam Hussein accountable.

      The Times' research:

      But of the five ambassadors on the Security Council in 2002 who were reached directly for comment, four said they had never met Mr. Kerry. The four also said that no one who worked for their countries' U.N. missions had met with Mr. Kerry either.
      The former ambassadors who said on the record they had never met Mr. Kerry included the representatives of Mexico, Colombia and Bulgaria. The ambassador of a fourth country gave a similar account on the condition that his country not be identified.

      It could be that Kerry will claim that those other countries didn't count and he only met with the permanent members of the council or some such garbage. This is similar to his discounting of many members of the coalition of the willing. He did meet with some members:

      After conversations with ambassadors from five members of the Security Council in 2002 and calls to all the missions of the countries then on the panel, The Times was only able to confirm directly that Mr. Kerry had met with representatives of France, Singapore and Cameroon.
      In addition, second-hand accounts have Mr. Kerry meeting with representatives of Britain.

      So, his comments were perhaps only puffery, but he has made a big deal about integrity lately…

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Oct 25 2004 06:59 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Kerry Will Fight Terrorism Like He Fought the Viet Cong

      Captain Ed accurately points out It was a mistake to tell the American public that

      With the same energy… I put into going after the Viet Cong and trying to win for our country, I pledge to you I will hunt down and capture or kill the terrorists before they harm us. And we will wage a war on terror that makes America proud and brings the world to our side.

      Captain Ed makes it pretty clear that the energy Kerry put into the Viet Cong was at best misdirected:

      John Kerry went after the Viet Cong for only one-third of his commitment, bailing out by using a little-known regulation that allowed a reassignment after three in-theater Purple Hearts, which he collected for uncommonly minor wounds (and at least one of them under less-than-honest circumstances). He was the only Swiftboat officer to leave the theater before one year without suffering a disabling injury. After his return, he attacked the United States and its soldiers in Vietnam, publicly siding with the Viet Cong and denouncing our efforts to “go after” them as mass murder. He rejected the fight against the Viet Cong so thoroughly that he organized massive demonstrations against it, even publicly repudiating his own service by tossing his medals/ribbons/whatever over the White House fence.

      If Kerry put as much energy into execution as spin-doctoring maybe he could be somebody. However, he sounds more like a “merit badge collector” than one who displayed real meritorious conduct.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Oct 24 2004 05:03 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Tammy Bruce on Kerry's Comment About Mary Cheney

      Tammy Bruce has a few comments about Kerry and Edwards commenting on Mary Cheney. She believes the “gay elite” dislike Mary Cheney because she doesn't toe their party line on how to be gay and so they encouraged Kerry to comment on her. Of course, most of us thought it was a distasteful display of political opportunism to bring it up at all.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Oct 24 2004 04:57 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      The Great Duck Hunt

      Wonkette uncovers the pool report on the Great Duck Hunt in Ohio today. The reporters were not allowed to accompany so they began speculating. Most popular speculation:

      He returns victorious, but with Osama bin Laden, who had been hiding out in the backside of the farm. Turns out that immediately after President Bush outsourced the capturing of him in Tora Bora to the Afghan warlords, Mr. Bin Laden climbed into a container of poppy gum and arrived through a port in Newark. The container, of course, went uninspected. With so few police officers on the street, Mr. Bin Laden had no problem wandering America unmolested.

      At least they have a sense of humor about Kerryganda.

      Still no word on whether he shot his own duck or someone did it for him. It's the difference between a sitzpinkler and a hunter, in my humble opinion.

      Not far away in geological terms my Dad won a car at a Judge's trap shoot with fellow law students. I'm sure he could get a duck if he wanted to, but he prefers the wiley untamed turkey.

      Update: Cheney, who is also in Ohio, could not resist commenting:

      I understand Senator John Kerry is in Ohio today too, the Senator who gets a grade of F from the National Rifle Association went hunting this morning. I understand he bought a new camouflage jacket for the occasion. Which did make me wonder how regularly he does go goose hunting. My personal opinion is that his new camo jacket is an October disguise, an effort he’s making to hide the fact that he votes against gun owner rights at every turn. But my fellow sportsmen, this cover-up isn’t going to work. Because you and I know the second amendment is more than just a photo opportunity. Senator Kerry’s spokesman says that the hunting trip and going, watching baseball games are part of an end of the campaign plan to give voters quote, “a better sense of John Kerry, the guy.” Of course he does need a little image repair along those lines. You know he said his favorite Boston Red Sox player was Eddie Yost, but of course Yost never played for the Red Sox. And Senator Kerry is the guy who believes Buckeye Football is played in Michigan. So, well, we’ll see.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Oct 21 2004 03:38 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Josh and Misty Have Voted, Leave Us Alone, Please

      We watched all four debates. We looked at and rejected the after-debate spin and poll. We looked up quotes. We met candidates at the county fair. And last night we looked through the voter's pamphlet, poked out our hanging chads, and voted absentee. I mailed the completed forms from the Chevron this morning.

      Please stop sending me hit pieces designed to change my vote. It won't work (legally) at this point.

      I'm Josh Poulson and I approve this message.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Oct 18 2004 03:28 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      What Kerry Wrote and Got Passed

      As the T-shirt (or bumper sticker) says, “I worked 20 years in the Senate and all I got was this lousy record.” The Volokh Conspiracy rounds up the facts on Kerry's record on writing bills and getting them passed:

      Five for sure:

      • S.791: Authorizes $53 million over four years to provide grants to woman-owned small businesses. (1999)
      • S.1206: Names a federal building in Waltham, Massachusetts after Frederick C. Murphy, who was killed in action during World War II and awarded (posthumously) the Medal of Honor. (1994)
      • S.1636: A save-the-dolphins measure aiming “to improve the program to reduce the incidental taking of marine mammals during the course of commercial fishing operations.” (1994)
      • S.1563: Funding the National Sea Grant College Program, which supports university-based research, public education, and other projects “to promote better understanding, conservation and use of America's coastal resources.” (1991)
      • S.423: Granting a visa and admission to the U.S. as a permanent resident to Kil Joon Yu Callahan. (1987)

      Two with minor modification:

      • H.R.1900 (S.300): Awarded a congressional gold medal to Jackie Robinson (posthumously), and called for a national day of recognition. (2003)
      • H.R.1860 (S.856): Increased the maximum research grants for small businesses from $500,000 to $750,000 under the Small Business Technology Transfer Program. (2001)

      And four joint resolutions:

      • S.J.Res.158: To make the week of Oct. 22–Oct. 28, 1989 “World Population Awareness Week.” (1989)
      • S.J.Res.160: To renew “World Population Awareness Week” for 1991. (1991)
      • S.J.Res.318: To make Nov. 13, 1992 “Vietnam Veterans Memorial 10th Anniversary Day.” (1992)
      • S.J.Res.337: To make Sept. 18, 1992 “National POW/MIA Recognition Day.” (1992)

      Sure seems like a lot for twenty years. Perhaps if he actually showed up for work it would have been better.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Oct 18 2004 12:25 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Tax “The Rich”

      So, much analysis has been done on Theresa Heinz's publicized portions of her tax return and it while I'm sure she intended to deflect criticism, I think she is sure to draw it.

      Bottom line from the Wall Street Journal article “:Teresa's Fair Share:”

      Mrs. Kerry paid $627,150 in taxes, for an overall average federal tax rate of only 12.4% on her $5.07 million in total income.

      How could that be? Because $2.78 million of that income came from tax-exempt interest on “state, municipal and public entity bonds.” Finally we get a picture of the rich fatcats that her party appears to despise: people that can afford to invest in such tax avoidance schemes. The top 50% of taxpayers paid an average rate of 15.9%, and the average rate of all people that paid taxes is 14.2%. Both numbers are significantly higher than hers.

      So the Kerry solution is to tax everyone making more than $200,000 at higher rates, except for the fact that such shelters would still exist. Half of her income would still be tax-exempt, but the remainder would be taxed at a higher rate.

      So who really suffers? The Journal article today lays it out in black & white:

      The people who won't be able to escape these higher rates are two-earner couples on mid-career salaries, or small-business owners who pay taxes as subchapter S companies at individual rates, or pensioners who've saved all their lives to build a nest egg and are now living off dividends. Mr. Kerry calls these people “the rich,” but we know a lot of them who are decidedly middle-class and who certainly can't afford the five homes that the Kerrys own.

      Frankly, I like the idea of a nationwide sales tax at 10%, a statewide one at 5%, with no exceptions for any purpose, and a constitutional amendment illegalizing income tax and property tax. Let the government run on its ability to enhance productivity and perhaps use fees, and not its ability to siphon away the lifeblood of the economy.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Oct 18 2004 12:08 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      John Kerry vs. The Terrorism Nuisance

      The New York Times magazine interviewed John Kerry and the subject, oddly enough, turned towards terrorism and what he would do about it:

      We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance.
      As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.

      This quote is rather telling, and there's a reason why the Bush/Cheney campaign has picked up on it. It speaks to denial of a problem. It's a pity that Wednesday's debate is unlikely to spend any significant time on it.

      OpinionJournal's “Best of the Web” mailing picked up some comments on this. James Lileks says it the best where he says

      But that's not the key phrase. This matters: We have to get back to the place we were.
      But when we were there we were blind. When we were there we losing. When we were there we died. We have to get back to the place we were. We have to get back to 9/10? We have to get back to the place we were. So we can go through it all again? We have to get back to the place we were. And forget all we’ve learned and done? We have to get back to the place we were. No. I don’t want to go back there. Planes into towers. That changed the terms. I am remarkably disinterested in returning to a place where such things are unimaginable. Where our nighmares are their dreams.
      We have to get back to the place we were.
      No. We have to go the place where they are.

      This is the idea that I have so much trouble getting across to people, although I've tried many ways. It is not enough to defend ourselves by securing the border. It is not enough to defend ourselves by putting more cops on the street. Cops deter some by their presence but for the most part they are responders. Securing against a threat and responding to a threat are indeed two legs of the secure response. But it is not enough.

      There are several security strategies, as often commented upon by Bruce Schnier in respect to computer security: barriers, authentication, compartmentalization, trusted people, and counterattack. We need to press on all these fronts.

      It's hard to get across to people that we cannot close the borders. We couldn't do that if we had ten times the military we have today. They are huge! We have strengthened those barriers, but not much.

      It's hard to get across to people that we need to be able to identify people and their past history. The libertarian in me hates the idea of universal identification, but I'm more and more of the opinion that people need to know who everyone is and what their background is. My recent troubles with whom I affectionately term “The Loch Ness Contractor” and his past failed business ventures and his current so-to-be-legal trouble with me make that clear.

      It's hard to get across to people that we do not need to centralize, and that it's better to have decentralized autonomous units doing the work we need to do. In fact, I like the idea that I live over ten miles from a major population center. I like the idea that I rely on satellite traffic for my Internet access (sometimes, boy it can be slow). I like the idea that if the head is knocked off of any organization to which I belong it can regrow and continue.

      Trusted people. This concept does not get pushed as much as it should. Certain types of organizations and people don't like them. Look at the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program that barely allows certified and tested pilots to carry guns in the cockpit after a year of arduous crap and volumes of rules. It's ridiculously overengineered and is only there because of massive public outcry. Annie Jascobsen's frequent columns on Air Marshals paint a similar picture. Frankly, I am a believer in “expert” driver's licenses and concealed carry permits because it gives the opportunity for people to learn more than some bare minimum and get duty, recognition and responsibility for it.

      Finally, there's counterattack. It's not enough to minimize the impact of terrorist activity. We have to go after them and destroy their ability to continue and punish them for what we can prove. It's obvious to me. I don't care how big and strong your shield is. You will eventually fail while that gladiator is banging away on it. The saying goes that they only have to be right once and we have to be right every single time. It's a horrific equation.

      Kerry is right in one respect. There will always be people tempted to commit terrorism. However, if we make it expensive, difficult, and likely to fail and make it clear that there is no safe haven in the world (once identified), there will be a lot fewer people willing to go through with it. If that's what John Kerry meant, he should have said it a great deal better. Saying “We have to get back to the place we were” does not speak of progress, it speaks of putting the genie back in the bottle.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Oct 12 2004 08:41 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Forgot To Add One

      From Beldar Blog we are reminded that John Kerry forgot at least one person in the room that earned enough to be affected by his proposed tax hike, but he remembered her by the end of the day.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Oct 9 2004 02:11 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Duelfer Report

      What you hear in the press and what really isin the Duelfer Report are probably wildly diverging. Let's look at some important issues after first pointing you to Fox News's copy of the summary.

      The President said that the Duelfer report shows Saddam Hussein was gaming the system to get himself money. From the key findings on the first page of the summary we have these items:

      He [Saddam Hussein] wanted to end sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) when sanctions were lifted.

      Also,

      By 2000–2001, Saddam had managed to mitigate many of the effects of sanctions and undermine their international support.

      But the real shocker comes in the fact that while Saddam had no WMD, and no WMD program, it was a surprise to his top generals when he admitted it just before the war started.

      This reminds me of the story of the man who complained about getting shot by a cop. He was asked, “Why did you point a gun at the cop?” The answer? “I wanted to scare him.” But when you scare a cop he doesn't run away, he deals with the threat.

      The other shocker is that Saddam Hussein appears have bribed Jacques Chirac into voting against sanctions and war against Iraq.

      Memos from Iraqi intelligence officials, recovered by American and British inspectors, show the dictator was told as early as May 2002 that France—having been granted oil contracts—would veto any American plans for war.

      (Quote from news.scotsman.com via Captain's Quarters Blog.)

      Captain Ed thinks this is a blow to the remaining credibility of the UN. I think it is also a blow to the credibility to Kerry's assertion that current coalition is a bad one, and Kerry's would be a good one. Well, who would be in Kerry's coalition that isn't in the current one? Which allies in our current coalition remain in Kerry's now that he has insulted many of them, including the Iraqi leaders and defense forces themselves?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Oct 7 2004 01:04 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Seminal Moments

      EDWARDS: […] Not only that, 90 percent of the coalition casualties, Mr. Vice President, the coalition casualties, are American casualties. Ninety percent of the cost of this effort are being borne by American taxpayers. It is the direct result of the failures of this administration.

      IFILL: Mr. Vice President?

      CHENEY: Classic example. He won't count the sacrifice and the contribution of Iraqi allies. It's their country. They're in the fight. They're increasingly the ones out there putting their necks on the line to take back their country from the terrorists and the old regime elements that are still left. They're doing a superb job. And for you to demean their sacrifices strikes me as…

      EDWARDS: Oh, I'm not…

      CHENEY: …as beyond…

      EDWARDS: I'm not demeaning…

      CHENEY: It is indeed. You suggested…

      EDWARDS: No, sir, I did not…

      CHENEY: …they shouldn't count, because you want to be able to say that the Americans are taking 90 percent of the sacrifice. You cannot succeed in this effort if you're not willing to recognize the enormous contribution the Iraqis are increasingly making to their own future. We'll win when they take on responsibility for governance, which they're doing, and when they take on responsibility for their own security, which they increasingly are doing.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Oct 6 2004 10:51 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Debate Tactic: Agree, Then Say “But”

      In the fruitless search to differentiate himself in the electorate, John Forbes Kerry seems to have found a groove. Via Blogs for Bush we find a round-up of Kerry debate quotes collected by James Taranto's “Best of the Web” column at OpinionJournal. They have a curious pattern where Kerry says something reasonable (sounding a lot like Bush) and then adjusting the position with the word “but.” Seems like a debate tactic because it is used so much.

      • “I'll never give a veto to any country over our security. But…”
      • “I believe in being strong and resolute and determined. And I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are. But…”
      • “We have to be steadfast and resolved, and I am. And I will succeed for those troops, now that we're there. We have to succeed. We can't leave a failed Iraq. But…”
      • “I believe that we have to win this. The president and I have always agreed on that. And from the beginning, I did vote to give the authority, because I thought Saddam Hussein was a threat, and I did accept that intelligence. But…”
      • “I have nothing but respect for the British, Tony Blair, and for what they've been willing to do. But…”
      • “What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground. And you have to do that by beginning to not back off of the Fallujahs and other places, and send the wrong message to the terrorists. You have to close the borders. You've got to show you're serious in that regard. But…”
      • “I couldn't agree more that the Iraqis want to be free and that they could be free. But…”
      • “No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to pre-empt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But…”
      • “I've never wavered in my life. I know exactly what we need to do in Iraq, and my position has been consistent: Saddam Hussein is a threat. He needed to be disarmed. We needed to go to the U.N. The president needed the authority to use force in order to be able to get him to do something, because he never did it without the threat of force. But…”

      This will be explained away as nuance. To me it sounds like marketeering. “We can do everything that other product can do. But, wait, there's more!”

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Oct 2 2004 08:04 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      First Debate Cartoon

      Cox and Forkum submits this response to the “global test”

      (Global Test)

      Hat tip to Demure Thoughts

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Oct 1 2004 08:09 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Government Balance Sheets

      The Wall Street Journal September 28, 2004 edition ran an editorial by John Steele Gordon about entitled “We'll Know When They're Serious.” The opinion piece covered the ballyhooed surpluses of the government budget and the ultimate effect on our national debt. This paragraph sums it up nicely:

      Just consider. In FYs 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001, the federal government ran up “surpluses” amounting to $558.5 billion. So the national debt was reduced by $558.5 billion in those years, right? No, it increased by $1.312 trillion.

      Well, what the heck happened? It turns out that the generally-accepted accounting principles (GAAP) that businesses are required to use do not apply to the government that enforces them!

      If we were dealing with a company, we would try to calculate its cash flow by taking the net income, add back depreciation expenses and accounts payable, subtract capital expenses, accounts receivable, and, if it made products, inventories.

      Obviously our net income is the difference in the debt. We should compare that to the cash flow to see if there is some funny booking. Was there some sort of reserve that was being filled through debt financing? What the heck made us incur so much debt when we were supposedly spending so much less money? Were there some expenditures deferred to some future fiscal crisis so we could let out the balloon and get the crisis behind us? Was a large amount of capital written off?

      You'll know when the politicians are actually serious about dealing with the federal deficit when they subject themselves to the same accounting strictures that every corporation faces. Until then, it's just talk—pay no attention.

      Until some strict standards are applied to government accounting by an outside entity, we'll nevera really know what's going on. I'm glad that the government has its first MBA President ever, but he's been too busy to do the hard work to make government finances transparent to its public.

      I recently had to read an article in The New York Times called “When a Rosy Picture Should Raise a Red Flag” where many of these ideas for detecting corporate shenanighans arose. Obviously something is up.

      The advice I give to those reading out there is never let an organization express its financial situation in any other way than GAAP. You cannot compare it to other organizations and you can't be sure everyone's definitions are the same without it. Sure, you might have to learn a little about accounting and finance to understand it completely, but it's worth it.

      In fact, start with the book How To Read a Financial Report by John A. Tracy.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Sep 28 2004 03:05 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Debate Season

      According to Stolen Thunder, Kerry has already lost the first debate:

      What I see here, is a match-up between a President who will speak plainly, without all that much detail, but he will be able to sell his ideas, and a Senator who seems to be preparing to ignore style and personality, planning to overwhelm his opponent with data, but who may not see beyond the audience in the hall.

      Perhaps Bush can ask what allies Kerry will have left by the time he gets to the presidency.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Sep 27 2004 11:48 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Flippity Flippity Flop

      The Bush/Cheney campaign has a new commercial out today, borrowing a page from the Swift Vet playbook. The commercial is all Kerry quotes from the last couple of years. How can you trust someone who doesn't know where he stands, indeed.

      I look forward to the debates. I can see that Bush is setting the tone. I hope he has memorized every position Kerry had and when he had it.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Sep 27 2004 10:00 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Rudy Is Sorry

      In the Washington Times we have this week's “Inside the Beltway”'s revelation that Rudy Guiliani is offering an apology to George Bush:

      Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani told President Bush this week that he is sorry.
      “I owe you an apology,” Mr. Giuliani began. “I made a mistake during my [Republican National Convention] speech... I said that with 64 days to go, John Kerry could change his mind five or six times about what to do in Iraq. Well, he's already changed his mind four or five times and I'm going to be proven wrong again because I think we're looking more like eight or nine times.”

      Gotta love him.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Sep 24 2004 04:13 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Douglas Brinkley Backs Off From His Kerry Claims

      In today's New York Times we find an analysis of the Vietnam attacks on both candidates. hidden within is this jewel:

      “Every American now knows that there's something really screwy about George Bush and the National Guard, and they know that John Kerry was not the war hero we thought he was,” said Douglas Brinkley, the historian and author of a friendly biography of Mr. Kerry's war years, acknowledging that Mr. Kerry's opponents had succeeded in raising questions about his service.

      Even Brinkley doesn't believe Kerry's exaggerated claims of his four months of service anymore, and Brinkley had access to more notes than we did.

      Even so, many refer to the Swift Vets as “discredited” as if saying it was so enough times would make it so.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Sep 24 2004 03:41 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

      WSJ reacts to Kerry

      The Wall Street Journal's reaction to Kerry's comments yesterday were even stronger than my own:

      While Mr. Kerry has every right to criticize U.S. conduct of the war, one would think he'd be wiser than to attack Mr. Allawi for saying it will be possible to hold the same elections that Mr. Kerry said just this Monday were his own exit strategy from Iraq. Or to accuse Iraq's Prime Minister of painting an unrealistic picture about a country the Senator has never visited. Having described the U.S. allies who liberated Iraq as a “coalition of the bribed,” Mr. Kerry now insults the Iraqis he'd be working with if he becomes President.

      Frankly, I can accept Allawi's comments that they are doing everything possible to have a legitimate election in January, but John Kerry appears to think that getting votes from the “Bush Lied” camp is more important that keeping good relations with the very democracies we've helped create.

      Allawi apparently had some choice comments aimed at Kofi Annan:

      Mr. Allawi politely suggested that the Secretary General “probably is misinformed” about the real situation on the ground. He added that he hoped the U.N. would respect its own Resolution 1546 and “do whatever it takes to ensure the elections” are held on time.

      It's hard to see what kind of game Annan is playing. Clearly he is dragging his feet on the “Food for Oil” scandal and he is doing little things in order to derail Bush's reelection and US involvement in the rebuilding of Iraq. Why would he do such things?

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Sep 24 2004 10:07 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Allawi, Kerry, and Racicot

      Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of Iraq addressed Congress today. He said a few things about Iraq that were curiously unreported by the Press.

      First, there is this:

      We are succeeding in Iraq.

      Secondly, there is:

      Every day we grow in strength and determination to defeat the terrorists and their barbarism... As we mourn these losses, we must not forget the progress we are making … we are fighting for freedom and democracy, ours and yours.

      Finally, there is:

      We Iraqis know that Americans have made and continue to make enormous sacrifices to liberate Iraq, to assure Iraq's freedom... I have come here to thank you and to promise you that your sacrifices are not in vain... My friends, today we are better off, you are better off and the world is better off, without Saddam Hussein... Your decision to go into Iraq was not an easy one, but it was the right one.

      Kerry, apparently, didn't like this.

      I think the prime minister is, obviously, contradicting his own statement of a few days ago, where he said the terrorists are pouring into the country... The prime minister and the president are here obviously to put their best face on the policy, but the fact is that the CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operations and the troops all tell a different story.

      We went on to attack Bush

      George Bush let Usama bin Laden escape at Tora Bora... George Bush retreated from Fallujah and other communities in Iraq which are now overrun with terrorists and threaten our troops. And George Bush said on the record we can't win the war on terror.
      And even today, he blundered again saying there are only a handful of terrorists in Iraq... I think he's living in a make believe world.

      Kerry's nuance is that a few hundred people cannot both be a handful and a flood. I suppose he's right. It doesn't change the fact that a few terrorists are causing trouble for 30 million people, but yet a new democracy is being born and at least those terrorists are not terrorizing outside of the war zone.

      It's an empty hope of mine that they'll stay there, but for sure some of them are there, wasting money and material that could be used over here. If they ever stand up they get shot down by the finest army in the world.

      Obviously the Bush/Cheney campaign wasn't going to let Kerry's statement stand:

      Today, John Kerry showed he lacks the judgment and credibility to lead the United States of America to victory in the War on Terror.
      His attacks on the veracity of the Iraqi Prime Minister's historic address to Congress reveal a stunning propensity to take political cheap shots for his own benefit by denigrating our allies in this important struggle against a global terror network. President Bush is proud to stand with Prime Minister Allawi while John Kerry attacks progress and resolve and advocates a policy of retreat and defeat in the face of terror.
      John Kerry said today, “And when you people judge me and the American people judge me on this, I want you to judge me on the full record.” We're confident the American people will.

      To me it appears that Kerry is so willing to win that he's willing to sacrifice our current allies in hopes of building new ones later. Even the new ones, however, and not exactly friendly. What he doesn't understand, perhaps, is that Al-Quaeda would like just as much to cause him pain as Bush.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Sep 23 2004 11:23 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Dan Rather Statement

      Again, via Drudge:

      Last week, amid increasing questions about the authenticity of documents used in support of a 60 Minutes Wednesday story about President Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard, CBS News vowed to re-examine the documents in question—and their source—vigorously. And we promised that we would let the American public know what this examination turned up, whatever the outcome.
      Now, after extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically. I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where—if I knew then what I know now—I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.
      But we did use the documents. We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.
      Please know that nothing is more important to us than people's trust in our ability and our commitment to report fairly and truthfully.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Sep 20 2004 09:21 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      CBS Finally Concludes It Was Misled

      Via Drudge we find CBS's mea culpa in the New York Times.

      After days of expressing confidence about the documents used in a 60 Minutes report that raised new questions about President Bush's National Guard service, CBS News officials have grave doubts about the authenticity of the material, network officials said last night.

      It turns out that the earlier evidence of a smoking gun was correct:

      But officials decided yesterday that they would most likely have to declare that they had been misled about the records' origin after Mr. Rather and a top network executive, Betsy West, met in Texas with a man who was said to have helped the news division obtain the memos, a former Guard officer named Bill Burkett.

      And someone has been identified to take the fall:

      Mr. Rather interviewed Mr. Burkett on camera this weekend, and several people close to the reporting process said his answers to Mr. Rather's questions led officials to conclude that their initial confidence that the memos had come from Mr. Killian's own files was not warranted. These people indicated that Mr. Burkett had previously led the producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, to have the utmost confidence in the material.

      And one feeble attempt to shift blame:

      Mr. Howard also said in the interview that the White House did not dispute the veracity of the documents when it was presented to them on the morning of the report. That reaction, he said, was “the icing on the cake” of the other reporting the network was conducting on the documents. White House officials have said they saw no reason to challenge documents being presented by a credible news organization.

      I love the White House's quote, however.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Sep 20 2004 06:31 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Eric S. Raymond's “Top Ten Reasons I'm Neither a Liberal Nor a Conservative”

      I visited a satirical ESR post a couple days ago, and now he reposts an old item outlining his top ten reasons he's neither a liberal or a conservative.

      Oddly, I agree with all of his reasons for not being a liberal, but not all of his reasons for not being a conservative. For example I would add “religious zealotry” and remove “Ronald Wilson Reagan.” At any rate, I would think from looking at this list that I'm a right-leaning moderate, but I reject the left/right dichotomy as it is.

      I agree with the libertarians. There's another axis: authoritarianism. I tend to agree that both sides of the coin are far more authoritarian than I like. If we can be trusted to vote, the government should trust us a great deal more than it does.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Sep 19 2004 10:19 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      What Blogs Have Wrought

      The Weekly Standard's article “What Blogs Have Wrought” is required reading.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Sunday, Sep 19 2004 09:18 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Another Nail in the CBS Coffin

      Via Blogs for Bush we get this ABC News exclusive report:

      “I never pressured anybody about George Bush because I had no reason to,” Staudt told ABC News in his first interview since the documents were made public.
      ...
      “He didn't use political influence to get into the Air National Guard,” Staudt said, adding, “I don't know how they would know that, because I was the one who did it and I was the one who was there and I didn't talk to any of them.”
      ...
      “He was highly qualified,” he said. “He passed all the scrutiny and tests he was given.”
      ...
      “No one called me about taking George Bush into the Air National Guard,” he said. “It was my decision. I swore him in. I never heard anything from anybody.”

      Seems to pretty much settle it without having to raise the ghost of Jerry Killian.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Friday, Sep 17 2004 02:41 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Captain's Quarters Fingers Bill Burkett as CBS Memo Source

      Captain Ed has found the smoking gun. All we do now is roll it all up. ABC and The Washington Post are both eagerly digging themselves.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Sep 16 2004 05:00 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      CBS & SCO Charge: Bush Stole Unix!

      The infrequently posting Eric S. Raymond awakens to post a satirical look at the altered reality that SCO and CBS must live in to believe their own statements. I remember Eric's notoriety in the mainstream press when his IPO made him rich and he told the world he was going to get a tricked-out 1911. Me, I know him best from The Cathedral & The Bazaar, The Art of UNIX Programming and his essays on bug reports.

      Anyway, let's get to the meat:

      In a startling and unexpected joint press conference, CBS and SCO, Inc. announced today that President George W. Bush had conspired with IBM to steal Unix code while Linus Torvalds was AWOL from the Finnish army.
      Standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the podium, Dan Rather and Darl McBride flourished what they said was documentary proof, in the form of source code listings found in a wastebasket at Texas Air National Guard offices.

      A week ago such a posting would be unbelievable, but today it has the ring of truth to it.

      Onward to a rare look into what I do at work.

      “SCO is seeking additional discovery from IBM,” added Darl McBride. “We have confidence that if we can just get our hands on every IBM code listing from the dawn of time and depose every IBM employee living or dead, we will be able to drag this case out long enough to swing not just the the 2004 elections but the 2008 ones as well!”

      Drat, for now I though I'd avoid being deposed by SCO even though I manage the EVMS and JFS teams. So far some of my engineers have been mentioned in press releases, but I've been untouched.

      Josh Poulson

      Posted in category “Politics” Thursday, Sep 16 2004 04:43 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

      Knox Credible on Memos, but Not On Bu