Tuesday, November 29, 2005

CONGRATULATIONS, CAPTAIN ED

YOU'VE CAUGHT UP TO THE LIBERALS

OrbusMax linked to a well-written piece by Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters today; kudos to both. The Captain is always a worthy read:

http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/

The Captain is following, as he did on the 17th of November, the ever-widening scandal of Jack Abramoff's attempts to buy government.

Ed notes "Democrats have tried painting Jack Abramoff's sleazy and allegedly criminal lobbying efforts as a strictly Republican scandal for the last several months... However, as the investigation into Abramoff continues, more and more ties to Democrats have emerged..."

The piece on the 17th does a pretty good job detailing the "who's who" of Jack's list.

Note the Captain views this as a Republican vs Democrat issue, not a liberal vs conservative issue. On the 17th he notes: "If the name Jack Abramoff hasn't come up in quite a while, it shouldn't surprise anyone. After having had a turn as the favorite Democratic bogeyman on Republican corruption, the issue inexplicably slid off the radar...

It occurs to me to ask: Who's radar? At the risk of putting words in the Captain's mouth, I assume he means the issue hasn't received much coverage from major media outlets - the ones conservatives call the "liberal press" and liberals call the "MSM," short, of course, for Main Stream Media.

Message to Captain Ed: This never fell off the "liberal" radar. People who call themselves - not the same as are called by others - "liberal" or "progressive" have been all over this all along. And they're just as disgusted with the Democrats as they are with the Republicans.

It's good to see you've caught up...

This isn't a poke at the good Captain. It's an observation for him and others who are proud to be called conservative:

True liberals don't like the Democrats. They hold their noses and vote Democrat as often as not because they think they need the Democrats to protect them from the more retrograde elements of the Republican faction, especially the religious right.

For these Democrats by default it isn't "good choice - bad choice;" rather it's "bad choice - worse choice."

If the real conservatives ever manage to muzzle the social conservatives the liberals will jump ship on the Democrats so fast they'll be out of sight before you hear the splashes, Captain.

IN CASE YOU WONDERED

YOU MIGHT HAVE READ Russia and China are bringing in "chemicals" to help treat the chemical spill in the Songhua River. The "chemicals" are activated carbon.

Explainer over at Slate does a pretty good job explaining what activated carbon is and what it does:

http://www.slate.com/id/2131130/?nav=tap3

One thing Slate omits is the fate of the carbon itself once its spent - once it has adsorbed all the organic pollutants it can. Details may vary in Russia or China, but here in the US, depending on the nature and volume of the adsorbed contaminants, spent carbon would be:

1) Landfilled in a hazardous waste approved landfill if the contamination was minor - not an option in this case.

2) Mixed with waste paint, solvent, or oil and used for "A" fuel - "A" for alternate - at an approved facility like a cement kiln. This would be most likely in the case of benzene.

3) Finally, if the contaminants were really nasty - DDT or Pentachlorophenol, for example - it would go to an incinerator where full destruction via high-temperature, high oxygen combustion would be assured.

While it is possible to recycle activated carbon, the cost is great enough it's cheaper to destroy it and make more.

Monday, November 28, 2005

SOMETHING YOU CAN'T BLAME GWB FOR

NOT THAT IT WILL STOP PEOPLE FROM TRYING...

The Observer UK relates comments by Ayad Allawi, who served as Prime Minister for the Interim Iraqi government until April 2005:

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1651789,00.html

Stating "'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse... It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things," Allawi relates a bleak story of Iraqi turned against Iraqi with accelerating violence and degenerating methods.

He singles out the now in control Shia as being "responsible for death squads and secret torture centres."

The Observer concludes with remarks from a Liberal Party spokesman: "The assertions by Mr Allawi simply underline the catastrophic failure to have a proper strategy in place for the post-war period in Iraq."

Really, now... What would that strategy have looked like? What stratagem applies to the governance of a newly liberated people who only want to cut each other's throats?

An exercise in empathy:

Iraq in 1979 was superficially a pretty nice place. The country was, by middle eastern standards, religiously diverse and socially liberal. The people were relatively well-educated and well-off; there was a lot of money from oil.

Iraq had a lot going for it.


How did a bastard like Saddam Hussein seize and hold power in Iraq for over twenty years? The Baathists were never more than a large, well-organized minority.

Well, who was the opposition?

There wasn't one, at least not a popular plural one. Just factions, of which the Baathists were the baddest. Eliminating Saddam Hussein's control apparatus has let the genies out of the bottle.

But it didn't create them.

Almost everyone accepts the idea that Saddam had to go and screw the details. Even among the people who want to use the details to screw GWB you find zero support for Saddam Hussein or his former regime, a fact that sometimes leaves antiwar extremists conflicted.

It may be argued that the current violence could have been and even was predicted and that the dislocations of war abet it but neither amounts to causation. Is anyone willing to argue the cause is the overthrow of the Baathist regime? If this is causual, do you argue for their return?

Who will champion this argument?

The reason there are death squads in Iraq today is that Iraqis want to kill Iraqis, and we're not responsible for that. They are, and therefore only they can effect a remedy.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

CONTESTANTS, PICK YOUR JEOPARDY!!!

WILL THAT BE SINGLE, DOUBLE, OR ENDLESS???

DRDGE is reporting via DrudgeFlash - sorry for the visual -

http://www.drudgereport.com/flashst.htm

That in the unlikely but apparently completely unthinkable chance that Saddam Hussein is found "not guilty" the administration vows "There will be more charges filed against him, and more charges after that, if needed... he has committed tremendous crimes..."

In other words, if he's found innocent of being a tyrannical bastard the first time, they're going to keep going... Just because...

So we now have three kinds of Jeopardy! Ordinary "Single Jeopardy" that applies to most of us, special two-tiered court system "Double Jeopardy" applied to rich SOB's like OJ and Robert Blake...

And now, for ex-heads of defeated States, there's "Endless Jeopardy"!!!

Saddam's a bastard. He used to be our bastard, then he was his own bastard. Now he's an old, broken, beaten bastard. No matter what, he won't live much longer.

So what, other than the ugly impulse of vengeance and the love of spectacle can propel suggestions such as our venerable bottomfeeder reports today?

The funny thing is, most of the people in the Bush administration claim to be Christians, which means they revere a man who forgave his killers as they killed him. But they can't forgive a killer who has nothing left but the long slow slide to a dotard end.

Send him to the Old Tyrant's Home on Saint Helena Island. And show you're better than he.

SILVER-LINED CLOUD

IT'S BEEN TWO WEEKS today since an explosion at a petrochemical plant in Jilin, NE China, dumped a big mess into the Songhua river, source for the drinking water for millions of Chinese and Russian citizens. Particularly hard-hit was Harbin, where almost 4 million people went 5 days without water service, which was restored early today. AP wraps it up via My Way here:

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20051127/D8E4P7380.html

We've been hearing about the cloud. Let's talk silver lining.

Silver lining #1:

A lot has been made out of the size of this spill. A fifty-mile long section of the river flow was affected, and 100 presumably metric tons of benzene spilled along with nitrobenzene and ???

Benzene has an especially nasty reputation, likely worse than it deserves. Because of this, the "aceptable" levels are quite low. 100 tons is about 30,000 gallons, or about 5 or 6 big highway tankers.

The nitrobenzene also spilled is about ten times as toxic and just as carcinogenic, but this is politics, not science...

Neither chemical dissolves in water hardly at all, and benzene is lighter than water. The mix should form a discrete hydrophobic layer. Both are fairly volatile, and neither are persistent. There are a lot of other worse things they could have spilled.

This is no Exxon Valdez... Or Bhopal...

Wild guess: Nitrobenzene finds a lot of uses in the textile industry. This plant made feedstocks for dyes and maybe fabrics and plastics.

Silver lining #2:

A lot of Western environmentalists worry China is an environmental time bomb. Some of us think the west is "exporting" its pollution by relying on Chinese manufacturing. American, Japanese, and European environmental standards are a lot stricter.

Stricter today, that is. Thirty years ago there were rivers in America's industrial heartland that were known to catch fire. Thirty years ago the Willamette river at Portland, Oregon, was dead.

Back then, slicks of goo were common.

Then people got mad and did something about it.

China isn't the US nor is it "western" in most senses. Skeptics will point to China's often brutally strict government and usually subservient people as obstacles to better standards. Somehow, I doubt their reasoning. Several million people were just scared silly and left without water. The incident will have repercussions to Sino-Russian relations.

They blew a big chemical plant clear to hell, and millions of dollars with it.

The Chinese leadership is strict but not stupid nor deaf. I think "the people" are going to have something to say here and the government is going to listen. I think this incident, which isn't the first but just the most recent, is going to help to underscore a reality: If you want a competitive technological economy you have to have aggressive environmental standards. Workers need healthy cities to live in, and the costs of incidents like this one are unsupportable. Here the ounce of prevention principle applies. China has poured a lot of money and hard work into modernizing and it will go for naught if its squandered in this fashion.

Environmentalism makes sense - competitive sense. I think when the cloud moves on the Chinese are going find a way to profit from that silver lining.

A TURKEY OF A LAW

BY NOW you've probably read of the latest oddity to manifest itself in the great? State of Massachusetts. It seems that due to a complaint - from a competing business, of course - the Attorney General's office is investigating violations in the mandatory business closure on Holidays law, specifically Thanksgiving.

One link of many, from AP:

http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/11/25/D8E3ORNO0.html

There is something schizophrenic about Massachusetts... Homosexuals and lesbians can marry, but you better not sell food on Thanksgiving!

But it is heartening that so little is amiss in the Commonwealth that the Attorney General can afford to spend the public's resource on this issue...

Still, the Attorney General has declined to elaborate on the statute or penalty. So for those interested, there is the internet:

http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/gl-136-toc.htm

Chapter 136 covers "Observance of a common day of rest and legal Holidays." Thanksgiving, while not mentioned, is covered under section 13, although one might argue the exception of section 14 applies:

"dancing or any game, sport, fair, exposition, play, entertainment or public diversion, including events authorized under chapter one hundred and twenty-eight A, may be conducted on any legal holiday and any labor, business or work necessary or incidental thereto may be performed on any legal holiday"

So you may eat, drink and be merry, and if necessary conduct the business of eating, drinking, and merrymaking...

Oh, penalties? Section 5 states "a fine of not less than twenty dollars nor more than one hundred dollars for a first offense, and a fine of not less than fifty dollars nor more than two hundred dollars for each subsequent offense, and each unlawful act or sale shall constitute a separate offense."

Which is damn disappointing! I had hoped for stocks or the ducking stool at the least, and perhaps even a good flogging!

Damn liberals...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

LOOK OUT! HE'S GOT A CIGARETTE!

AND WHAT'S THAT IN HIS OTHER HAND???!!!

Just in case you've ran out of important things to worry about, there's this fellow who just couldn't wait...

"Passenger Urinates In Aisle, Diverts Orlando Flight"

http://www.local6.com/news/5406673/detail.html

Seriously, we're diverting planes for this? Couldn't they just wrap him in a jumbo-sized Pampers and put him somewhere?

Like the slipstream???

Maybe that's the answer... Planes with trap doors.

SANTA IN PARIS

There's a note floating around the internet claiming "Paris Hilton believed 'Santa' was real until 17!"...

Here's one link... FWIW...

http://news.webindia123.com/news/showdetails.asp?id=172773&cat=Entertainment

I have to wonder. Is she the girl in the Playboy cartoon, the one waiting by the fireplace because she couldn't sleep until Santa came?

Just wonderin'...

A LITTLE BALONEY FROM MALONEY

I know it's a tacky lead, but it fits...

Radio Equalizer Brian Maloney had several interesting observations yesterday in his blog

"Trees, Turkeys and Muslim Brotherly Love"

http://radioequalizer.blogspot.com/2005/11/trees-turkeys-and-muslim-brotherly.html

Interesting not so much for what they say as what they demonstrate about the Rabid-Right mindset...

Maloney begins with a comment about two property assaults by groups purporting to represent The Nation of Islam. In both cases, liquor stores owned or operated by Moslems were attacked and their inventories destroyed. In one case, an attacker was heard to comment “They said ‘[You're] Muslims,’ and selling liquor to the community, that [you] ain't supposed to be doing that.” Corrected for illiterate syntax...

Maloney ends by asking "Is this the start of a larger, violent muslim movement in the increasingly dangerous East Bay?"

Don't forget to check under your bed, Bri...

And look up Carry Nation some day. Busting up liquor stores is as American as fire and brimstone preachers...

Then he goes after the Amerinds...

Commenting on the annual "unthanksgiving ceremony" held on Alcatraz Island Maloney finds meaning here:

"It was the saddest day for us. It was a big mistake for us to help the Pilgrims survive that first winter. They betrayed us once they got their strength."... [bolding Maloney's]

According to the root story, "Groups representing Palestinian, Aztec and African indigenous people joined Native Americans in dancing, chanting and prayers."

Maloney ends... "Yes, it really was a shame Palestinians, Aztecs and Africans helped the Pilgrims that winter in Plymouth, isn't it?"

Thanks for perpetuating the non-sequitur, Brian. Do you have anything significant to add?

One more affluent inheritor who can't face the truth: His fortune is based on the blood of others...

OK, that's a many-sided story. But the Amerinds have a point: The European colonization of America was a disaster for those people. Even if you want to argue, as some bigots have argued about slavery, that today's Amerinds are better off because of their past, you still don't erase the unintentional decimation by epidemic, the occasional slaughter, and the appropriation of a vast land already inhabited - more inhabited than the Maloney's of this world can admit.

And last for notes on Falwell's jihad...

We go to Boston, where the Reverend unChrist Falwell and the donor of a White Spruce - tax deductable, I'm sure - are up in arms - and up to their armpits in lawyers - over Boston's decision to call the tree a "Holiday tree."

My Merriam-Webster claims "Holiday" is twelfth century English, "Haligdaeg," literally "Holy Day."

Now what kind of Christians object to "Holy Day?" The kind who don't want their faith to be one of many but rather the only one.

I don't get Falwell's point, anyway. Christmas is pre-twelfth century English for "Christ's Mass," a Catholic feast. So he's out in the cold anyway, as are all non-Catholics...

If you need proof there is no god-creator, Jerry "unChrist" Falwell is exhibit "A." No supreme being could make such a blunder...

But the first and last of Maloney's pieces certainly tie the whole together nicely. Islamic religious bullies, Christian religious bullies. All the same. The lust for power is its own beginning and knows no end.

I accept the pacifistic protestations of no fanatic at face value.

And that's important to recall, I think. Don't believe for a second the Falwells, Robertsons, and Dobsons of this world - and their followers, including those in government - aren't capable of terrible violence. Legal action itself is a kind of violence and often terrible. The fact they don't resort to grosser measures merely indicates they have better ways... Today...

Thanks again, Brian...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

TWO ON IRAQ FROM SLATE

Christopher Hitchens assumes the role of National scold in "Nowhere To Go,"

http://www.slate.com/id/2130883/

which does a good job of offering nothing new and still staying readable... Mr. Hitchens decries the level of the debate as he thinks his way around the inside of the box...

If nothing else, the article is a front-runner for the "most question marks in a single paper" award...

Meanwhile, Fred Kaplan does a good job parsing the remarks of Representative John Murtha in "What Murtha Meant,"

http://www.slate.com/id/2130794/nav/tap2/

Kaplan concludes Murtha's confrontational statements need to be viewed in the context of a plan many insiders believe to be "the plan," which Murtha likely picked up from Pentagon insiders.

The plan? Put shortly, get out, but not very far. Exactly where "very far" is either hasn't been determined or more likely isn't being openly discussed due to its sensitive nature.

Why the plan? Two broad pressures:

First, most players have endorsed the consensus the American presence is doing more to promote the Iraqi insurgent uprising than quell it. Even the Iraqi government is suggesting it's time for us to go, or at least start looking for the door:

"Iraqi Leaders Call for Pullout Timetable"

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051122/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_conference

But most importantly, the logistical structure of the US military is such that continuing the war effort will inevitably precipitate a political disaster at home or a humiliation overseas - or both.

The dilemma:

Remember the peace dividend and the 21st century Army that grew out of our "winning" the cold war? That leaner, smarter force without peer in dishing out shock & awe?

It's got no staying power. Peerlessness in getting in there and kicking ass has been bought with the coin of endurance. The army we have is just about all we can man and equip without breaking the bank and/or reinstating the draft, either of which is political suicide.

And just as shock & awe wears off so the equipment of shock & awe wears out...

A long time before GWB became President military professionals tried to peer into the future of war and thought they saw a place where shock & awe would trump the need to hold the ground.

This despite fifty years of military presence in Europe and forty in Korea.

They planned accordingly. They built an army that had maybe four years of fight in it without major reconstitution. Now we're almost three years into a conflict that has no end in sight and we'll be looking at those hard decisions just in time for the next election cycle.

Iraq isn't Vietnam. None of the many implied historical similarities are more than superficial coincidence. Yet in one uncanny way Iraq could be Vietnam all over again:

Our enemy doesn't have to beat us. All they have to do is wait for us to get tired of beating them.

Monday, November 21, 2005

BOB GRAHAM ON THE IRAQ WAR VOTE

A PORTRAIT OF A POLITICAL SOB...

FORMER SENATOR Bob Graham has penned a rebuttal to the President's claim Congress had the same information as the administration, available via the Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/18/AR2005111802397.html

The former Senator writes as someone who not only voted no on the 2002 war resolution but can claim to have had access through committee to classified information and assessments.

Shorn of the daggers thrown at GWB, Graham's claim is simple: Congress was given a watered down version of the NIE threat assessments mostly redacted of dissenting opinions.

The NIE assessments came from CIA, not the White House directly, and were produced at Graham's insistence.

So let me get this straight, Senator... According to your account:

1) The White House for unspecified reasons did not request the preparation of a "National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)"... including a "rationale for a preemptive war in Iraq." You explain, "An NIE is the product of the entire intelligence community, and its most comprehensive assessment."

2) You and your fellows requested the NIE.

3) The provided classified document, in your eminently experienced and superbly informed opinion, badly undermined the case for war.

4) You then requested a declassified version of the NIE be provided to Congress.

5) The requested redacted version of the assessment was materially altered in that it contained none of the information that undermined the case.

6) You knew this and did nothing. You hid behind that "classified" designation and let your fellows vote this Nation into a war based on crap.

You sonofabitch.

A man - someone worthy of being the heir to men who pledged their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor" - would have thrown the rules to the dogs and shouted the truth from the Capitol steps.

Whatever you are, Bob, you're no man - and no American, either.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

JUST STAY THIS SIDE OF THE DATELINE

It looks like George W Bush got caught in one of those bloopers only a Bush can bloop...

"Locked doors thwart Bush's bid to duck question"

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/20/AR2005112000211_pf.html

But at least he didn't throw up on a fellow Head of State...

IMO, the Bush family should just stay out of the Orient. The place just doesn't agree with them.

MORE FROM THE HELL HOUNDS OF HINDSIGHT

A LOON THEY CALLED CURVEBALL

The LA Times is running a long, chronological narrative of intelligence community incompetence today discussing a key Iraqi informant dubbed "curveball."

"How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball'"

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-curveball20nov20,0,2053900,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines

You've probably read it all before... This was the fellow that apparently spun the story of the Iraqi biological weapons production trucks from his own imagination into a major part of the President's case for war... Spun it, that is, with the help of the intelligence [dis]services of at least three Nations...

Those who either aren't familiar with this saga or believe GWB deserves 100% of the blame for any Iraqi mis-steps need to read this carefully. Maybe you'll read this differently than I. What I read is the story of an international professional community whose outputs help to define the political relations between all the world's Nations...

Run completely amok. Lost in agenda-driven politics. Susceptible to almost comical gullibility.

Taken in by a loon...

The tale begins with the arrival of an anonymous Iraqi "chemical engineer" in Germany in 1999. One of many who attempted to gain State favor by providing intelligence, "Curveball" apparently lucked out by telling the right people what they wanted to hear. The information perked piecemeal through the intelligence services of Britain and the US over the next three years. By the time the fact-checkers tediously began to unravel the claims, the information was enshrined as fact zealously protected by people who wanted to believe it and had staked their reputations on it.

And all this before it got anywhere near the inner circles of GWB's administration.

Sympathy for the devil...

I remember - a lot of us remember - that GWB had long publically espoused the view that Iraq was "unfinished business." We remember he voiced this view as a candidate in 2000. We know he wanted Saddam Hussein destroyed.

A lot of us think he and his senior people picked and chose among the information available to make the case for war. But just how many people are so morbid as to think they penned it outright themselves?

Let's just say the President had went to CIA in 2002 and said "I want evidence of Iraqi violations worthy of war and I don't care where you get it." It's a doubtful muse but let's just say.

And let's say the reply was "Mr President, no such evidence exists." Do you think the President could have invented this with the entire intelligence community against him?

I don't. And I don't think he would have made the attempt.

In any case he didn't have to. There were a whole gaggle of bureaucrats in three countries that were busy digging everywhere for anything according to their own purposes to support their own agendas. They were hard at it long before GWB was elected. They prodded, they edited; they ran over their fellows who objected to the prodding and editing.

They gave GWB curveball. They threw him all kinds of curveballs...

I have to wonder - I think Americans should ask - what curveballs are they concocting today? Garbage in, garbage out. Where in the world will the garbage mis-lead us next? On what wild errand will the GIGO team help send our army, and who will die for nothing more than a fool who wanted safe haven and was willing to say anything to get it?

When enough time has finally passed for history to recount this sorry episode, let's hope the recounters remember not just the President who believed the story he wanted to believe but also the liars who gave him the lie to believe.

And let's hope the next chapter they write is about the lied-to President who later went after the liars.

Friday, November 18, 2005

TROUBLE ON THE HORIZON

FoxNews reported yesterday more evidence the end of the long boom in housing construction may finally be in sight:

"Economists: U.S. Housing Market Heading South"

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,175927,00.html

Bad news; worse implications.

First, the construction industry - commercial and residential - has been one of the bright spots in the American labor picture for some time. Construction is by its nature resistant to deflationary pressures such as outsourcing. Combined with favorable wage laws governing the public sector and fairly strong unions, this natural immunity has helped to buoy the wages in the construction trades.

Indeed, many economists believe the construction sector has become the single most important prop for the living standards of blue-collar America, which have otherwise suffered a long erosion.

But given a downturn in housing starts, the industry could easily become its own worst enemy, falling into a tailspin of cost-cutting, creating downward pressures on wages through labor surpluses.

Then there is the deflationary effect on the prices of existing properties. Millions of people have purchased, refinanced, and capitalized on the assumption of continued inflation in house prices. The downturn could spell intense hardship for overextended homeowners counting on appreciated values - and utter ruin for speculators, realtors, and developers.

Ominously, all it has taken to knock the wind out of the boom is a 1% rise in long-term mortgage interest rates. When you consider our still quite low interest rates are hostage to the continued goodwill of foreign investors and their appetite for dollars and dollar-denominated investments, the weakness of our national house of cards becomes obvious.

WORTHY READ ON ROE

Michael Kinsley over at Slate makes many interesting points on the abortion law controversey and its hamstringing of the judicial nomination process:

"What Abortion Debate?Why there is no honesty about Roe."

http://www.slate.com/id/2130607/

Beginning with observations on the flimsiness of stare decisis in the face of changing public standards, the author then relates this to the Alito nomination, noting the very real ways the bad mix of a volatile issue and a hidebound process make for an environment of Machiavellian dishonesty.

Noting Americans have a disproportionate fascination with the subject, he further suggests that the very people who expect to benefit from the seating of a conservative justice may be the ones being conned:

"The last thing in the world that Republican strategists want is the repeal of Roe. If abortion becomes a legislative issue again, all those pro-choice women and men who have been voting Republican because abortion was safe would have to reconsider, and many would bolt. Meanwhile, the reversal of Roe would energize the left the way Roe itself energized the right. Who needs that?"

I think the author is spot-on. And I must add I think this speaks very poorly of the American body politic...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

DR. WILL ON WHAT AILS CONSERVATISM

George Will, always a worthy read, asks "What Next For Conservatives" in a piece today available at Townhall:

http://www.townhall.com/opinion/columns/georgewill/2005/11/17/175897.html

His analysis begins with observations on education and the Intelligent Design controversy as a highlight of the growing rift between limited-government conservatives and social conservatives.

He notes Thomas Jefferson said, "It does me no injury, for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.'' Mr Will then adds "But it is injurious, and unneighborly, when zealots try to compel public education to infuse theism into scientific education."

He ends with observations on the expansion of government spending under "conservative" leadership...

Depressing the good doctor often is...

Readers of Mr. Will will already be familiar with his belief that the conservative impulse is dead at the hands of "conservatives" who don't walk the walk. I would ask all to ponder what else has died with it. Not died all at once or just now, but by imperceptable increments over a very long time. Submitted as an axiom:

The more "our" government does for "us," the more my business is yours and yours mine, and the less freedom "we" all have.

In Jefferson's day, it wouldn't have mattered if one group taught Darwin and another taught Genesis because there were no public schools supported via taxation.

Today, the institution of public education is so entrenched that the desire to opt out of those schools is met with suspicion and resistence. Suggest that people should have the right to spend "their" share of school monies in an alternate environment and the fight is on.

Jefferson's standard, "It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg," today is at best quaint and at worst downright unAmerican. How many government edicts on any level would last by that standard? What if government was only involved with that which picks pockets or breaks legs?

Picks pockets? Who picks those pockets more than government on all levels?

And that is where we find the real problem. The long slow growth of our government has been pushed by groups of all persuasions for myriad reasons and none of those pushing took into account human nature and the nature of the bureaucracies man creates. Those bureaucracies take on a life of their own, engaging in what economists call rent-seeking. A program or law has outlived its usefulness? Those whose job it is to promote the program will find a new use.

How many of our powerful bureaucracies would exist in a Jeffersonian democracy?

The Presidents come and go, the party control changes variously, but those bureaucracies persist and grow. When was the last time government eliminated anything? The most we ever see are reforms, never abolitions.

The great Texas liberal Lyndon B Johnson championed the greatest expansion of the "welfare state" up to his time. Now the great Texas conservative George W Bush has expanded much of it even further. His championing of medicare expansion is just one more pressure moving the entire Nation to socialized medicine.

Where it goes I can't say but wherever it goes we're all going there lock-step. When we get there, we may be safe and affluent, but we won't be free anymore.

Will "we" be happy? Somehow I doubt it.

PASS IT ON

WE NEED A FENCE

http://www.weneedafence.com

An organization promoting the construction of a fence from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas.

It's a hell of a note the situation has come to this, but I would agree it has. According to USA Today, the arrest rate of illegal aliens has declined over 80% in San Diego since the construction there of a more modest fence.

And it's a big arrest rate. We need a fence notes there were 872,395 border apprehensions in 2004 along the US - Mexico border.

872,395 people stopped. An entire mid-sized city tried and failed to enter the US from Mexico. How many tried and succeeded?

Just one question. The Bush administration is against this idea, thinking it an 8 billion dollar boondoggle.

Why?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

MAKING MY CASE FOR ME

MORE ON WMD'S

Linked through Orbusmax we have this excellent article from Frontpage Magazine. It's an interview with Bill Tierney, a widely known and much respected voice on the subject.

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=20154

Wonky but very much worth it. He adds great detail to many of the points I made yesterday.

However, while he mentions the Syrian connection, he stops short of claiming that's where the weapons are - or were.

Almost three years. If the Syrians ended up with significant quantities of the weapons, they have had almost three years to hide or disperse them.

Praying yet?

THEN THERE'S THE INVERTERBRATE-IN-CHIEF...

Via Jerusalem Post from AP:

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1132053866236&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Bill Clinton is insisting - that is, insisting for the moment - that the Iraq invasion was a big mistake. "It was a big mistake. The American government made several errors ... one of which is how easy it would be to get rid of Saddam and how hard it would be to unite the country."

Nice to have you aboard, Willie. A lot of us thought the real problem would be the peace. But I don't recall you saying this in 2003... or 2002... And certainly not when you were in the hotseat.

Then again, when Slick Willie was President, did he ever take a firm position on anything?

Not that I can recall... Not even on Monica...

AND NEWSMAX IS LOOKING UNDER THE BED AGAIN...

"New Documents Reveal Saddam Hid WMD, Was Tied to Al Qaida"

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2005/11/16/122915.shtml

The article is a tease for the 11/21/05 issue of The Weekly Standard. We're led to expect some real meat this time.

We'll see. Maybe this won't be another re-hashing of copies of the same old paperwork. So far, we have far more pounds of paper about WMD's than we have pounds of actual WMD's...

And I can't imagine how anyone could claim that isn't a good thing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

TIMEOUT ON WMD'S

TIME TO STOP POINTING FINGERS -

AND START COUNTING BLESSINGS

It's the fight "we" love to fight. It's got all the ingredients: Scary technology, political intrigue, blurred, not quite 20-20 hindsight, success in failure and failure in success.

The war "we" maybe didn't have to fight. Maybe... And the excuse we used to talk "ourselves" into it.

We didn't need an excuse. In terms of International Law, Saddam Hussein's regime provided plenty of justification through repeated violations of the cease-fire agreement of the First Gulf War.

But somehow "legal" wasn't enough, or so the war's supporters thought. It had to be popular.

Enter the worse-case scenario. Exit common sense.

It ought to be obvious that piecing together the activities of a group - any group - that wishes to conceal those activities is a dicey proposition. Criminal gangs, rouge Nations, your neighbor with the pot patch in the spare room, it's all the same. Guesswork, the occasional lucky clue, and the "testimony" of those who claim insider knowledge but deny insider responsibility: All add up to cases subject to interpretation.

In the case of Iraq's weapons, conventional and unconventional, the worst-case was sold and eagerly bought.

The troops went in prepared for the worst, expecting to be hit with at the very least poison gas.

It didn't happen. There's your first blessing.

Then our forces turned the country upside down and found... Next to nothing. No huge ready to go weapons industry, no vast hidden stockpiles of weapons reported destroyed or never admitted to. Only a few odd, mostly deteriorated chemical munitions and some fuel-grade uranium already known to exist. A few pieces of a lab bench scale centrifuge.

Junk.

In two and a half years, there have been no significant unconventional attacks. Nobody's been gassed, infected, or irradiated. There's another blessing.

What I want to hear from George W Bush:

"I was wrong about Iraq's weapons programs. I looked at the world situation and the evidence and I did what leaders do: I led. I think we made the better choice."

Leaders lead. Every war this Nation ever fought was sold to the public using facts later seen to be less than factual in some aspect or other. Part of the President's job is to articulate policies he thinks are in the Nation's best interest. It would be naive to insist the absolute truth and the National interest are always synonymous.

Going to war isn't done by a recipe, like baking a cake. It's an act of faith. So conquer we must, if our cause it be just...

What I want to hear from the invertebrates in Congress who voted yes and now say they meant "yes, but..."

"We voted based on our own views. We could have asked more questions and we didn't. We and we alone are responsible for the positions we took, the information we accepted, and the votes we cast."

To the few of us that got this "right" from the get-go: Just shut up. I told you so isn't a position, it's an irritation.

Finally, to the neocon rearguard - the ones who use NewsMax as a homepage:

Stop pointing to those bits and pieces and yelling WMD! WMD! And start counting those blessings.

Start hoping you really were wrong, wrong, wrong. Shout out loud "I'm glad I was wrong!"

This time, being wrong is a wonderful thing.


There is after all another possibility. Let's say those large stockpiles of weapons we were told about actually existed.

We didn't find them.

They are still there, or??? They have been removed.

What if they have been removed? Where are they? Syria? Your backyard, Mr. Believer? How about in Detroit, Senator Levin?

This might have gone far worse. It still could. If you pray, pray it doesn't.

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS

VERY GOOD NEWS:

From FoxNews "Spilling the Good News"

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,175357,00.html

Ben Leiberman of the Heritage Foundation relates that despite a record-breaking hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico, almost no oil was spilled from drilling platforms offshore.

It seems that since the psychologically devastating Santa Barbara spill of 1969, "we" have gotten one hell of a lot better at this...

As Leiberman notes, this result should serve as a powerful case in point for the resumption of offshore drilling. MOST of the best remaining oil exploration prospects in the US are either in protected areas of the Gulf or on the ample Continental Shelves off both American seaboards.

In my view it would be far better National policy to develop these resources and leave ANWR lay until Prudhoe Bay is exhausted. And all North Slope oil should go to Northwest refineries.

As for California: Climb off of your ecological hobby high-horse and drill your own oil along your own seaboard...

AND PERHAPS VERY BAD:

Insight Magazine is reporting that GWB has adopted an almost bunker-like attitude in the wake of recent reversals on many issues. It is reported he has daily contact with only four people: First lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes.

Interestingly, all women...

More interesting, the original link to Insight Magazine, reported via Drudge, has been replaced there with a Drudge "flash." http://www.drudgereport.com/flash4.htm

I wish I had a nickel for every time I saw an incediary link like this vanish...

But it's downright disturbing. This is the second thing I have read about GWB in the last month that vividly reminded me of Nixon...

WEIRD BUT INTERESTING

Arianna Huffington recounts dinner at a Japanese restaurant with Ahmad Chalabi.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/chillin-with-chalabi-my_b_10651.html

Currently Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr. Chalabi is well known to Iraq watchers, being a longtime patriot at a distance - or traitor, I suppose, depending on your allegiance - who did much to advance the case for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

He is also "credited" with some of the WMD information that went into the now largely discredited case for war, as Arianna takes pains to remind all...

This much is certain: If we're going to throw eggs over might-have-beens, a couple of dozen need to end up on this man's face...

Monday, November 14, 2005

KILLER SUV'S:

A STUDY IN THE PROGRESSIVE MINDSET

VIA HUFFINGTON POST

Richard Bradley blogs on the "Tragic victims of SUV menace"

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-bradley/tragic-victims-of-suv-me_b_10608.html

Bradley cites data presented in an article from the New York Daily News

http://www.nydailynews.com/11-13-2005/news/story/364931p-310807c.html

that SUV's are significantly more likely to kill pedestrians and are disproportionally responsible for pedestrian deaths. The article goes on to state that the problem is design related.

Apparently if you're a pedestrian in a collision, cars break your legs but taller vehicles like SUV's break your head...

Noting that some manufacturers are working on better designs, the story ends with standard issue second guessing from Public Citizen's President, Joan Claybrook: "These vehicles shouldn't be so high to begin with, The manufacturers should have paid attention to this long ago"

I must be a total Neanderthal. I thought ground clearance went along with utility...

But Bradley goes beyond the Post. Since "SUVs have made New York City streets increasingly dangerous, especially for pedestrians..." Bradley asks "When is someone going to take the logical and urgent next step, and file a class action lawsuit against the manufacturers of SUVs? Irresponsible and dangerous in ways that their manufacturers surely knew, they have degraded the quality of all our lives."

The Progressive mindset in spades. "They" have degraded "our" lives... And the manufacturers "surely knew"...

It's them against us, and we're just helpless victims.

So it's time to drag the bastards into court! After all, Court-imposed, sanction based "solutions" work far better than free markets...

It's oft said that a communist is a socialist with a gun. I note a progressive is a liberal with a lawyer and an attitude.

And you can do a lot more damage to a free society with a lawyer as your weapon than with a firearm anyday...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

BILL O'REILLY: BULLISH ON DEFENDING AMERICA

EXCEPT SAN FRANSISCO, THAT IS...

http://www.kron4.com/Global/story.asp?S=4107018&nav=5D7l

The oft controversial Bill O'Reilly reacted to San Fransisco's passage of Proposition I, a non-binding resolution which discourages military recruiters on public high school and college campuses, advising President George W. Bush to withdraw any military protection for the city.

"...If al-Qaida comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it...You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead"

It's so nice Having Bill around... You never know when you may need a good example of an ass...

San Fransisco Supervisor Chris Daly has stated he will introduce a resolution before the Board of Supervisors asking that Fox News fire Bill O'Reilly...

The reaction of John Hanley, president of the San Francisco Firefighter's Union, leads one to suspect he'd rather set O'Reilly on fire...

"Coit Tower is a monument to the bravery of the men and women of the San Francisco Fire Department... Mr. O'Reilly, maybe we should bring you into some of our burning buildings," Mr Hanley suggested, "and see how brave you are."

I don't know. But I wouldn't be surprised a lot of San Fransiscans would gladly swap "military protection" for freedom from Federal meddling and taxation...

If they got O'Reilly's head on a plate thrown in, the deal would be a slam-dunk.

THE EVOLUTION OF PAT ROBERTSON

CURMUDGEON EMERITUS Ken Schram takes issue with the validity of evolution

http://www.komotv.com/stories/40214.htm

based on the evolutionary "progress" illustrated by Pat Robertson.

In comments made to the citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania,

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9995578

Robertson opined that by ousting a pro-intelligent design school board, Dover had "rejected God..." and should not expect God's help in times of trouble.

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected him from your city..."

The Gospel according to Saint Pat...

Master curmudgeon, I must demur: Pat Robertson is a fine proof of evolution. Evolution predicts populations will be defined by a Gaussian distribution. Somebody has to bring up the rear of the curve.

And I'd say there isn't much left behind Pat... In fact, I'll bet the intemperate and irreverent "Reverend" has a tail...

A NUMBER TO WATCH

FoxNews summarizes the continuing slide in crude oil prices in a piece published yesterday:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,175269,00.html

The last paragraph of the story is especially worthy of note:

"OPEC's reference crude basket price dropped to $51.30 on Thursday, the latest available number, only just above the $50 a barrel level that OPEC ministers have said they would seek to defend."

$50 a barrel. That's the new "floor." Dead reckonnin', that makes my gas price, which tends to be higher than the national average, somewhere around $2.50 a gallon.

We best get used to it.

AFTERTHOUGHTS ON ARMISTICE DAY

AND PICKING UP EUROPE'S DIRTY LAUNDRY

87 YEARS AGO YESTERDAY at eleven in the morning the guns fell silent, marking the end of the greatest, most terrible war man had ever fought.

For my family, it meant that soon my grandfather would be returning from the Argonne Forest where he had stood against the army of the land from which his father had emigrated less than forty years before.

For the world, the "peace" was but a pause. The treaty that ended that great war became the catalyst for the great century of war to follow. The injustices of Versailles and the arrogance of the Colonial fops who penned it foredoomed mankind to wars that continue to this day.

The nation of Iraq was invented at Versailles.

Four score and seven years ago, the silence of the guns punctuated the greatest strategic error the US ever committed. Not the error of choosing the wrong side, but the error of choosing a side at all. Led by Woodrow Wilson, the most educated, intelligent fool to ever reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the US inserted itself into the centuries-old conflicts between nations whose cast-off masses had become the great free people of our land.

For Europe, the outbreak of general war in 1914 wasn't a beginning; it was a continuation. For Wilson, the original American Neoconservative empire-builder, it was an opportunity deliberately capitalized on. Our government, while technically neutral, nevertheless allowed and even encouraged trade with the belligerents, especially the British, trade which gave American industry a stake in the conflict while putting Americans in harm's way.

Our faux neutrality drove the events that "forced" the US into that awful contest.

We didn't have to get involved, but once involved there was no turning back. From the failure of the League of Nations through WWII, the Cold War, and even to this day we're still picking up the dirty laundry of Europe's colonial truculence, while by and large the heirs of "Old Europe" look on and laugh.

Had enough yet?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

JONI BALTER: MISSING THE POINT AS USUAL

VOTERS JUST SAID NO TO "NO"

Bloviator extraordinaire Joni Balter of The Seattle Times offers an explanation of the failure of I-912:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2002614443_joni10.html

Crouching her analysis in the vernacular of the [strong-arm liberal] "Progressive" Joni B opines the failure of I-912 is "the sound of change whistling through Washington politics..." away from "the anti-government, anti-community principle..."

She goes on to take a few shots at her perennial political foes as she makes her case, which overall merits Ken Shram's "pony in a pile of manure" designation in spades.

You have to look hard to find the pony, but it's there: I-912 was "a plan to do nothing."

A lot has been written in the aftermath of 9-11 about the attitudinal changes of Americans the attack fostered. I think most of those changes can be summed up simply:

Americans have had a gutfull of "NO."

Political analysts across the spectrum were flummoxed by the outcome of the 2004 general election. Conventional wisdom suggested GWB was weak on many fronts, but he beat the odds.

Why? All the opposition offered was "NO." Vote for me, I'm not him...

Hard work and geopolitical good fortune left this Nation second to none by the middle of the 20th century. Since then, in many ways "we" have become our own worst enemies, dividing ourselves for reasons sometimes grand and sometimes petty. "NO!" became a powerful tool.

Want to build an oil refinery or nuclear plant? Not in my back yard!

Legislative action "peeves" you? Drag it into Court. Time is money and actual victory can be had by delay even if you finally lose.

I recall a quip I once read on a bulletin board in the Swan Island [Oregon] Naval shipyard: "There comes a time in the life of any project when it is necessary to shoot the engineers and begin the work."

I think Americans are coming to realize that endless debate is paralyzing and that even if we stand still the rest of the world moves on. If we don't command our future it will be commanded for us.

That's why the Democrats got creamed in 2004. They offered no better alternative to the policies of those they opposed. Today, as those policies falter due to their own flaws, intransigence is costing the Republicans dear.

Republican or Democrat, "NO" isn't a policy. It's just a mule kicking down the barn, and a mule has no future.

Washington's voters cherish the Initiative process and have oft used it well. Furthermore, the aftermath of the 2004 gubernatorial election demonstrated the weakness of "Queen Christine" and her faction. The transportation plan she championed was ovbiously unpopular, as the 412,000 signatures I-912 garnered demonstrated. Ultimately it failed because all it offered was another year lost coping with the inevitable.

I-912 would have passed handily if it had said more than "NO."

MORE GOOD NEWS FROM ADAM SMITH'S DEAD HAND

FROM AP VIA BREITBART:

"Appalachian mountains buzz with oil drilling"

http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/11/10/051110150119.4418n1qz.html

As I noted on this page 10/18/05, among the positive effects of rising petroleum prices are the innovative economic activities the opportunity stimulates. According to Brandon Nutall, a geologist with the Kentucky Geological Survey:

"Nestled among Kentucky's famed coal mines are about five billion barrels of oil reserves. Most of the oil is in small fields that sit relatively close to the surface which makes for cheap drilling and long production cycles. The fields are too small to interest big oil companies, but that hasn't stopped nearly 2,000 small ones from registering to operate in the state.

Five billion barrels. Half as much as the hotly debated ANWR reserve.

The pattern is being repeated all over the world. Oil formerly not worth extracting being extracted.

There is a lot of confusion as to exactly what is meant by the term "proven reserves." Many note that there are more proven reserves today than 30 years ago, 30 years of consumption notwithstanding. This fuels the claim the whole thing is a smokescreen.

It is not.

Like any publically traded commodity, the terms used to discuss petroleum are legally defined. The current [I think] definition of "proven reserves" can be found here.

http://www.sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/forms/regsx.htm#gas

It's quite involved, but is summarized in subsection 2:

"Proved oil and gas reserves are the estimated quantities of crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids which geological and engineering data demonstrate with reasonable certainty to be recoverable in future years from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions"

Existing economic and operating conditions. Raise the price, and suddenly there are 5 billion "extra" barrels in Kentucky.

W will never run out of oil. Long before we do, the rising price will prompt the development of alternative after alternative.

Long live the dead hand.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

JOHN MCCAIN: I HAVE ANGER ISSUES

VIA NEWSMAX:

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2005/11/8/113442.shtml

Speaking to Fox News [radio] Channel's Brian Kilmeade, McCain remarked ""I constantly, throughout my career, have had to work on getting angry and frustrated and losing my temper... I'm happy to say that I've managed almost always not succumb to that problem..."

Thank you Senator for that soul-bearing... And thank you, NewsMax, for bringing it to our attention... I think NewsMax is an excellent place to discuss anger management. They have so much experience with anger...

But I'm having a hell of a time fitting this into a successful Presidential campaign.

"Vote for McCain! He almost never loses his temper!" No...

Make it a plus, perhaps:

"McCain's the man: Mad, and not taking it anymore!" No...

"Vote for McCain! He'll vent for you!" No...

"Angry? Vote McCain! He understands!" Maybe...

I know! "Vote John! Pissed off beats pissed on!"

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

T'WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE VOTING

A TALE OF THE ALL-MAIL VOTE

T'was the night before the election. Mrs. Possum and I sat down to mark our ballots, having put it off for no particular reason. We opened our "Official Election Mail" and removed...

Punchcards and a paper template, formatted similarly to the cards a voting machine would sport.

What the fuck?

When do I get my voting machine?

This state of affairs is likely old hat to many. But I have never voted by mail. I've never missed a general election, although I have occasionally neglected local bond issues and I did skip the fake primary earlier this year. I have always followed a personal election ritual:

1) Drink a gallon of beer. 2) Drive to the Firehall. 3) Swear at the ballot; punch the card...

Repeat steps 3 & 4 - The spoilsports running the polling place won't let me repeat step one...

I thought this" new" wrinkle a bit ridiculous. I won't repeat the thoughts expressed by Mrs. Possum... Despite the fact she has no problem cutting out dress patterns to sew, she was infuriated by the expectation she should line up this cheesy little paper template with a punchcard and mark the card with an improvised stylus.

I feel her pain.

Oh, it's a minor hassle. I can plainly see that if, for example, I want to vote "no" on I-912 I must punch out the number "15" on my card. There is no need to attempt any tedious lining up of card and template, as the instructions suggest.

I understand why I have been sent a punchcard. I realize the cards are counted by machine, and this is the mechanical format the State uses. They can't just switch, for example, to the "black the oval with a pencil" system testors generally prefer, which was Mrs. Possum's suggestion.

We have the counting machines we have and we have to use them.

And I assume absentee balloters have been putting up with this for a long time.

But they asked for this, I didn't. And I think this is a small but very telling example of the arrogance of our State government. In your mind's ear, you can hear the deliberations of the powerful:

"This isn't a Burger King, and we don't care how you want it. You're getting what you get. Cope or don't participate!"

I'm betting for a lot of people, it will be the latter. I want my polling place back.

It's two gallons of beer for the trip to the Auditor's office to drop these ballots off. And a lot of VERY LOUD swearing...

HOLD YOUR NOSE IT'S TIME TO VOTE

POSSUM'S LAST-MINUTE ENDORSEMENTS

I-900: An unenthusiastic yes.

It can't hurt, but I doubt it will help...


I-901: An unenthusiastic no.

I would vote yes if a mechanism were included to allow opt-outs for taverns and restaurants. As it is, this is just one more reason for people to patronize tribal gaming establishments. And encouraging that is just plain stupid.


I-912: HELL NO! Two lines of reasoning:

1) The tax is necessary. We're not spending enough on roads even with the increase. Someday we will awaken to one of the "Chicken Little" scenarios come true, and then what?

And 2) I am a little disgusted with the way the "pro" campaign was ran. I cannot shake the intuition there is a sizeable "screw Queen Christine" component in this effort, and if the Republicans were in charge they would be proposing a plan not materially dissimilar. Why do I say that? Because too many traditional Republican supporters are against I-912.


I-330: HELL NO!

As written, the only practical effect of this action will be to screw the poor. "Noneconomic damages" are all some victims have. I suspect it will also make it more difficult for poor people to get competent legal counsel.

Now if all it screwed were the Lawyers, I'd be voting yes...


I-336: Another unenthusiastic yes...

My gut says this will help a little but not much.

At the risk of being branded a flaming commie, I think that eventually those of us who said "HELL NO!!!" to Hillarycare are going to have to cop to being wrong, wrong, wrong. The entire financial underpinnings of American healthcare are rotten - far worse, I suspect then the rest of the economy - and I-336 is a baby step toward the inevitable. Yes, I realize this is just malpractice under review, but that is part of the larger issue.


SJR 8207: Yes.

I am persuaded by the fairness argument.


Finally, to my friends in King County: A very reluctant endorsement of David Irons. It's not I think he will do a better job so much as I think you need a major shakeup in County government.

Monday, November 07, 2005

GEORGE W BUSH: WE DO NOT TORTURE

BUT WE MIGHT WANT TO... MAYBE... SOMEDAY...

At least that's the sense I get out of the Administrations schizophrenic position on the "McCain Torture Amendment," a defense spending authorization rider passed by the Senate last month.

Several accounts of the issue are available; for a low-vitriol one, FoxNews is good:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,174764,00.html

From Fox: "Our country is at war and our government has the obligation to protect the American people," Bush said. "Any activity we conduct is within the law. We do not torture."

Senator McCain Demurs: "...our image in the world is suffering very badly, and one of the reasons for it is the perception that we abuse people that we take captive..."

Perceptions...

Common sense insistes any torture "ban" will be largely symbolic and will lend itself to endless second-guessing, including second-guess driven prosecutions...

But Mr President, I would offer you a thought: "Any activity we conduct is within the law..." has the distinctly Nixonian ring of "If the President does it it isn't illegal."

And we know what happened to Mr. Nixon.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

KING COUNTY GOP: PROVING IT CAN'T BE DONE

We said the job couldn't be done,

But with a smile they went right to it!

They took on the job that couldn't be done,

And they couldn't do it...

The ditty, a personal favorite, goes through my mind as I read David Goldstien's ongoing account at http://www.horsesass.org/ of the withdrawal of about 150 - numbers reported vary - of the 1900+ voter registration challenges filed by the King County Republican Party.

That's almost an 8% boner rate... You guys need to lay off the stupid pills...

But over at The Stranger, Dan Savage smells blood. The accusation has been published via The Slog that at least some of these challenges were known to be meritless at the time of filing.

http://www.thestranger.com/blog/archives/2005/10/30-05.php#a002193

There are calls to indict on charges of perjury Lori Sotelo, the unfortunate person whose name is on the affidavits challenging the registrations.

Since the prosecutor's office hasn't acted, it isn't known at this time whether that would be real perjury or Texas-style Kate Hutchinson technical perjury...

Take a time out... And wipe your chins... Do you boys really think somebody would try something illegal and provably so in a situation this closely watched?

Goldy at Horsesass sees the same thing here I do: "As the GOP’s incredible fuckup has just illustrated, the process of cleaning the voter rolls has never been as simple as the Republicans have tried to make it out..."

But unfortunately he then follows Savage Dan off the conspiracy cliff...

Everyone, nose in the corner and stay there. This system will never meet the standards of people who want irrefutable results for two million vote elections that are decided by less than two hundred votes.

It can't be done.

Bird Flu Strikes the US



     Our way of life, the American Dream and the virginity of our daughters are under attack… well maybe not yet. George “our sacred protector” Bush has announced that he will save us from the deadly bird flu. Only by allowing the US pharmaceutical companies to pillage the treasury can we be spared. Bold new restrictions on foreign interests will contain the viral threat to the evil perpetrators who have allowed the threat to fester unchallenged.

     Pushing the Pause Button on my tirade, Lets review a few facts.
  1. Transmission is almost exclusively from bird to bird with only a very small percentage of bird to human transmission

  2. Further mutation is needed before bird to human transmission can be considered more than a statistical anomaly.

  3. There has been no known human-to-human transmission to date.

  4. There is no way to predict the fatality rate of the disease if it does mutate into a human-to-human disease.

GWB will certainly go down in history as creating the most fear in order to smother that fear with huge sums of money. Let us be thankful that generations of liberal politics has bloated the federal govmint to the point that we can now use the phrase “billions of dollars” without hardly batting an eyelash.

Are we to believe that meaningful restrictions on travel are possible for a nation that can’t even slow the human tidal wave pouring across our borders?

I am confused, when did the GOP become the liberals?

If  you are not yet properly terrified by the prospect of a pandemic flu outbreak, check out http://www.pandemicflu.gov/ .
  

HIGH THAMES

Via Yahoo today we have a report on cocaine use in London. You might call this an "end of the line" study...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20051106/od_afp/afplifestylebritaincocaineoffbeat_051106124030;_ylt=AuF9RIXsnrcKMO6Rb_qQ0ses0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3NW1oMDRpBHNlYwM3NTc-

Using the same strategy employed by researchers in Northern Italy earlier this year, samples of the Thames River were analyzed for cocaine. Results allowed an extrapolated estimate of cocaine use in London to be made, and indicated that almost four kilograms of cocaine were consumed in the city daily, two kilos of which survived relatively unchanged to end up in the river.

Interestingly, just as in the earlier study of the Po river in Italy, "end of the line" analysis indicated a far higher level of cocaine consumption than was officially acknowledged...

I'm not sure this information should have been released...

If you advertise the fact that two kilos a day get dumped into the river, it's a sure bet some maniac will go out there and try to get it back...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

DUELLING STUDIES ON WAL-MART

AND THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM

We have two reports on the economic impacts of Wal-Mart today, one from AP via Breitbart and another treatment from FoxNews:

http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/11/04/051104175027.waok0hd4.html

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,174592,00.html

The reports rely on studies from both admirers and detractors of the gigantic retailer and its business model. No one can dispute the success of that model: The first Wal-Mart opened in Rogers, Arkansas 43 years ago. Today, Wal-Mart employs almost a full percent of America's workforce.

What's debated is whether this is good or bad. Wal-Mart's model matches rock-bottom prices with a bare-bones atmosphere and a compensation package some think irresponsibly paltry. Critics claim, as Fox reports, "that its devotion to low prices ends up hurting the economy as profit-pinched suppliers shift jobs overseas to meet Wal-Mart's rigorous pricing requirements."

Macroeconomically, it's agreed Wal-Mart has depressed overall prices approximately 3.1%, whereas it has similarly depressed wages 2.2%. At the same time, Wal-Mart is thought to put considerable strain on public services. According to Tracy Sefl, spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Watch, a leading critic of the company, her group's research, based on data from congressional reports, concludes that Wal-Mart benefits from at least 1.5 billion dollars in public subsidies each year. Additionally, Sefl noted other reports showing that nearly half of the children of Wal-Mart employees qualify for the government's Medicaid health program for the needy.

What does it mean to Joe Averageman?

That 1.5 billion in "subsidies," unspecified, could be anything: Boeing got subsidies to NOT MOVE the Dreamliner project out of the Puget Sound region... Corporate welfare is an equal opportunity pork barrel. And how many of those "Medicaid kids" would be in the same boat without Wal-Mart we cannot say.

Fox related last week the average wage in the US is around $16.40 an hour. If we assume $16, Wal-Mart has cost that average worker about 35 cents an hour.

On the other hand, there is that 3.1% price decrease. Common sense says that effect will be more pronounced in markets where Wal-Mart is competitive: You should expect a greater retardation of the price of cookware than lumber. Broad category data provided by AP is supportative:

"over the 1985-2004 period, Wal-Mart led to to 9.1 percent decline in food prices, a 4.2 percent decline in prices of other goods and a 3.1 percent decline in overall consumer prices."

So it probably depends on how you spend your money.

I live in a Wal-Mart town, and I'll keep personal anectdotes out of the discussion. I don't shop there much, but their parking lot is usually busy. When they first came to My Little Town, they told the Town Fathers that 125 million dollars in retail sales were leaving the county and they could "keep" 75 million of it "at home." Smaller businesses, already on thin ice, feared the worst, and some are gone now.

Still, there is one kind of race even the winner loses: The race to the bottom. Just as you can't conserve your way to plenty or save your way to riches, there is an end to how far the cost-cutter's tricks can stretch. You must have resources to conserve and money to save.

When everyone reaches the bottom, there will be neither. I just wonder if Wal-Mart will see the bottom before they hit it.

YOU CAN'T TIP A COW

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1858246,00.html

We have reason to rejoice today! The UK Times brings us word from our noble neighbor to the north, British Columbia, where actual scientific research has demonstrated that you can't tip a cow over.

OK, maybe Arnold in his terminator guise could, but nobody else...

It leaves one filled with feelings of... of.... of... ??? Is there a word to describe the debt of gratitude we all owe to these intrepid scientists and the Republic which funds their efforts... We're so lucky to have them for a neighbor.

I feel so much better now. Don't you?

Friday, November 04, 2005

ABORTION WITHOUT ROE

AND AS PART OF A LARGER SUBJECT

It has long been my view that the overturning of the infamously famous Supreme Court decision "Roe v. Wade" would have less practical effect than many on either side of this bitter debate would admit, but being unschooled in Law I have avoided the subject, hoping to encounter a more learned exploration of this position.

While perusing the archives of FowNews I encountered this somewhat dated article in the politics section. From 9/22/05, " Experts See Legal Abortion Without Roe." Note this work predates the Miers controversy.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,170078,00.html

Clearly, Roe is only one brick in the wall, even if it is the Keystone.

Why don't we hear this from advocates on either side?

The reason for this omission from the pro-abortion side is fairly clear, I think. In the almost 40 years since Roe, abortion has become a rallying point, a multifaceted industry, and an absolute "right." Few rights have been so consistently upheld by the Supreme Court.

When you have nothing left to win, you can only lose.

Furthermore, if Roe goes and nobody is affected, there may be a lot of pink slips at NARAL and Planned Parenthood…

The anti-abortion side's motives are more obscure, I think, because they are more philosophical and religious. For many on the "anti" side, overturning Roe is like reaching the Promised Land. To suddenly find it full of stones, thorns, and scorpions is unsettling. The goal of many that oppose abortion is its complete eradication, and for people focused on this goal, realizing this milestone is but the beginning of a larger fight will be a bitter thing.

There is also a larger issue here, I think, a confluence of many smaller issues connected to the precious intangible, privacy.

Once upon a time there was a land called America where the Church was very important in people's lives. America in 1800 was a land whose laws relied heavily on tradition, including religious traditions like the Ten Commandments.

But law was law and sin was sin.

To people today, those laws had some surprising omissions. There were no laws against abortion, suicide, the taking of drugs, or self-medication. In fact, most abortions attempted at the time relied on self-administered potions.

But true to the aggressively evangelical atmosphere of the times, gradually over the next 120 years or so America saw the criminalization of sin. This trend peaked with the failure of prohibition, and has slowly reversed since.

It seems even the Godly need some sin…

Many people see this as a retreat from what they earnestly but erroneously believe is an ancient, time-honored system of values, even a God-given one, not just something of the 19th century.

This has become the great battle of our times.

Enough philosophy. Spirited debate is stimulating but constant, intractable conflict is debilitating to a society. Enough of "Penumbras" emanating from the Constitution and its Amendments which never in fact mention Privacy directly. I think it is time the whole issue of privacy and personal autonomy was addressed as one inclusive subject in a Constitutional Amendment.

This isn't a one-sided issue. It's everyone's issue:

If privacy protects one's right to seek an abortion, it also protects one's right to home-school.

Where one man might argue a "right" to take drugs at home as a matter of privacy, another may argue the right to carry a concealed weapon.

The private "right" to self-medication isn't all that far removed from the right to take natural remedies, herbs, and vitamins unsupervised - a right currently under assault. The complexity of the whole affair is seen in the relation of this issue to the morning after pill that many think should be sold over the counter…

A right to die? Gay and Lesbian rights? Rights of unmarried cohabiting adults?

How about the privacy of your "informational person?" Your medical records?

Your DNA???

Even the mundane harbors privacy implications. How about "Do Not Call" laws? Unlisted phone numbers?

And what of those new invasions technology will certainly make possible?

The basic Privacy right touches all this and much more.

As a battle fought piecemeal, the issues are inevitably subjected to the whims of the popular cause, the powerful interest, and even the squeaky wheels. No truly equitable, coherent, fair solution will arise from such treatment.

The Constitution isn't perfect. If it had been perfect as written, us white male landowners would be running the show and America would likely be unrecognizable. Many issues were avoided or tabled by those long-ago thinkers. Many certainly never occurred to them. I very much doubt "privacy" was ever a concern to Thomas Jefferson of James Madison. I expect for them it was water to a fish, something taken as God-given, and not to be forfeited short of the seat of that Almighty God.

It's time to settle this once and for all.

Or at least for the next century or so…

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A FUTURE WE MUST AVOID

FRANCE DEMONSTRATES THE FOLLY OF LIBERAL IMMIGRATION POLICIES

There's a lot going on these days, a lot of issues being covered by media on many levels.

Here's one I hope doesn't get ignored in the press of the more urgent and personally important:

Riots in France.

The BBC has been covering the situation for some time; via Drudge, we have the latest report

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4401670.stm

FoxNews is also following the story

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,174409,00.html

Let's ignore for the moment some of the details here. It's somehow too easy, considering the animosity many today feel for Islamic peoples, to just pigeonhole this situation as one more black mark for Islam. I would like to posit that in situations like this, immigrant ethnicity is far less important than the attitude of the host Nation towards those immigrants and immigration in general.

France and the US have a lot in common, more than many Americans are comfortable admitting these days. Both Nations face a quandry brought about by social evolution - or devolution, if you prefer: Both Nations need immigrants because the native-born birthrates are too low.

And both Nations have a kind of "liberal" non-policy on the subject of immigration, legal or otherwise. Both Nations have in the past encouraged groups to maintain their identities, to not assimilate.

Truth to tell, the French are more "conservative" than we on this matter, having better controls of their borders. Yet their social policies have encouraged the development of minority communities instead of communities of new citizens. Outsiders on the inside.

Today, approximately 10% of the French population fits this description.

The US, we often remind ourselves, is a Nation of immigrants. What we often forget is the qualifier "assimilated." This omission may be our great fatal error, the seed of a kind of national suicide.

National defense is perhaps the Federal State's paramount duty. Common sense says that defense begins at our borders. Yet common sense is the thing most lacking in our border control and immigration non-policies. George W Bush, arguably the most conservative President in living memory, has virtually abandoned the immediate defense of our borders, despite entreaties from across the political spectrum. The President's "solution" to the illegal immigration crisisis an expanded guest-workers program... Vastly expanded.


At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security insists it is their intention to deport every illegal immigrant, yet nobody has the foggiest idea how many that is or how to go about it. No serious proposal exists to fund such a gargantuan undertaking. Instead, we get "showcase" operations like the one conducted recently in Tacoma, which "bagged" 105 suspected illegal immigrants. http://www.oregonlive.com/newsflash/washingtonstate/index.ssf?/base/news-16/113099604439970.xml&storylist=orwashington

105 out of how many millions?


Federal abdication has resulted in a chaos of responses from other quarters. Private citizens form vigilante groups to enforce the laws INS agents cannot or will not enforce, while State governments bounce between railing at the costs "undocumented" aliens impose on their welfare systems to bending over backward to make life easier for those aliens.

Illegal aliens with legal documents like driver's licenses. Illegal immigrants may even be voting... Illegally, of course, but counted nonetheless.

At the same time, the President of Mexico argues for even more lenient treatment of Mexican citizens and groups like MECHA openly advocate the American Reconquista and for the establishment of a new nation carved out of northern Mexico and the southwestern US...

Oh, but it's all just debate, just earnest discussion between reasonable people, right?

The mind's ear hears this echoed from France not so long ago.

Europhiles like to insist Europe today is America tomorrow. Maybe there is some truth to that. If the flames of Paris today light the way to our possible tomorrow, I hope "we" are watching.

It's a future we must avoid.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

SPANISH SEX STORM

Drudge is reporting today "Guide for girls sparks Spanish sex storm"

http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/11/02/051102163433.opvik71t.html

Oh, read it yourself... There is apparently some dispute over the content of "educational materials"...

This much is certain: America isn't the only place traditional values are being questioned - or assaulted, some might say.

All I can add is my heartfelt opinion that "Spanish Sex Storm" would be an awsome name for a girl band composed of black-haired hotties in skimpy outfits. They could open for Cheryl Crowe.

LET'S MAKE A DEAL

From FoxNews and others this morning come remarks from the President on a possible and presumably peaceful nuclear energy program for Venezuela:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,174278,00.html

Mr. Bush is quoted "I guess if I were a taxpayer in Venezuela, I would wonder about the energy supply that Venezuela has," Bush said. "But maybe it makes sense. I haven't really studied the proposal."

Here's my suggestion. The People of the United States should give the People of Venezuela the largest, finest nuclear power facility the mind of man can create.

All we ask in return is they bury Hugo Chavez under it...

If this works out, maybe we can make a deal with the People of Cuba...

SO CAN I DO THIS?

The Washington Times reports on the spirited campaigning for the soon to be vacated Senate seat in Maryland currently held by Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/metro/20051101-104932-4054r.htm

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, Republican candidate, has been on the receiving end of what ordinarily would be considered unacceptably racist attacks, including being pelted with oreo cookies...

It's OK in this case, according to many on the Democratic side. Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, Democrat from Baltimore , said Mr. Steele invites unflattering comparisons because his conservative political philosophy is, in her view, anti-black.

"Because he is a conservative, he is different than most public blacks, and he is different than most people in our community," she said. "His politics are not in the best interest of the masses of black people."

It must gladden the hearts of the black masses that they have people like Salima watching out for them. It is, after all, vitally important that black candidates for public office be black enough. Black voters might get confused were it not for the vigilance of their bro's in the Democratic party, who stand ready to "point out the obvious," an activity which should never, ever be confused with name calling.

"There is a difference between pointing out the obvious and calling someone names," said a campaign spokesman for Kweisi Mfume, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate and former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

There you have it. And straight from the office of Kweisi Mfume, who is, after all, a paramount expert name-caller...

But I have to ask: Does this mean a fat white guy like me can get away with oreo bombs now?

Somehow I doubt it...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A BETTER IDEA FOR KIRBY & JOHN

IT HAD TO HAPPEN...

IT was inevitable, I suppose, once America started sliding down that slippery slope on the backside of the first amendment and began regulating political speech by regulating the money that buys it.

Some loudmouthed hawking prevaricator - excuse me, I mean commentator - being paid to perch behind a microphone and rouse rabble would rouse the ire of someone eager to test the "new" first amendment.

Enter Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson of KVI radio. Caught in the fervor of their crusade to repeal the recent gas tax increase, they used their microphones and their locally dominant market positions to not only advocate for the repeal but to materially aid it with organizing efforts, fundraising, and signature gathering. Last July First, Judge Christopher Wickham of the Thurston County Superior Court ruled these activities are in-kind contributions, not ordinarily protected speech.

The Seattle Times, using what can only be described as a "brother prevaricators under the skin" logic, upbraids the court here

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/editorialsopinion/2002594361_wickhamed31.html

while curmudgeon emeritus Ken Schram blasts the Times and KVI for supporting the kind of irresponsibility that created the situation http://komotv.com/news/story.asp?ID=40011

All in all, the whole thing is one more good example of the folly of this kind of regulation in the first place.

Still, if you believe "fair" is more than a place to look at cows & chickens, you might be irritated that Kirby & John are using KVI's broadcasting license not just to advocate for but to materially advance causes personally important to them and are being paid to do it, instead of having to pay for the privilege of a publically licensed microphone, which is what the rest of us would have to do. Quite a fringe benefit, that...

You might remember that when John Carlson's work and on-air advocacy on I-200 some years back generated controversy, John left KVI to avoid even the appearance of impropriety on his part or KVI's.

Perhaps the Times gives us the seed of a better idea when they remark "Paid speech can be regulated — not by what it says, but by limiting the money available to buy it. Unpaid speech cannot be regulated."

Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson, in my opinion, should:

1) Contribute that portion of their salaries earned while hawking for I-912 to the opponents of I-912, and

2) Pay KVI the $20,000 Brett Bader estimated the in-kind help was worth to the campaign for I-912.

It is, after all, supposed to be "free" speech... Pony up, boys.

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